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Don’t Miss: ‘Falsettos’ Cast Album Release Event on 1/27

January 23rd, 2017 Comments off

falsettosGhostlight Records will celebrate the cast album of the critically acclaimed Broadway revival of William Finn and James Lapine’s Tony Award-winning musical Falsettos with a special in-store performance and CD signing at Barnes & Noble on Friday, January 27 at 7:00 p.m.

The date also marks the album’s worldwide digital release, with physical copies also available and two-disc set available online and in stores. Barnes & Noble will welcome cast members Stephanie J. Block, Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Brandon Uranowitz and Betsy Wolfe, in addition to the show’s composer/lyricist William Finn as special guest. The store is located at 150 East 86th Street, between Lexington and Third Avenues on the Upper East Side. Fans who purchase the CD at the store will be offered priority seating. Call (212) 369-2180 for details.

'Falsettos' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Falsettos’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The first-ever full cast album of the musical includes a 60-page full-color booklet with complete lyrics, production photos, and an essay from Lincoln Center Theater’s Producing Artistic Director, André Bishop and Musical Theater Associate Producer Ira Weitzman. The cast album was produced by Kurt Deutsch with Lawrence Manchester serving as co-producer.

William Finn and James Lapine’s groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning musical Falsettos (Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Scorerecently returned to Broadway in an all-new production from Lincoln Center Theater. Lapine returned to direct an extraordinary cast featuring Stephanie J. Block (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Tony nom.), Christian Borle (Something Rotten!, Tony Award), Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon, Tony nom.), Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Brandon Uranowitz(An American in Paris, Tony nom.) and Betsy Wolfe.

Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells in 'Falsettos.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells in ‘Falsettos.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

“Growing up with Falsettos was a game changer musical for me. With its gorgeous score and trailblazing takes on love, life and crisis, Falsettos is one of our great musicals and we’re honored to preserve the new Broadway cast album on Ghostlight Records,” says the label’s founder Kurt Deutsch. “Having released Finn’s wonderful 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, we’re thrilled to add this recording to our catalog, especially featuring such an unbelievable cast breathing such magnificent life into this ‘tight-knit family.’”

According to The New York Times, “There’s hardly a moment in the exhilarating, devastating revival of the musical Falsettos that doesn’t approach, or even achieve, perfection. It feels as fresh and startling as it did back in 1992.”

Time Out New York raved, “few musicals have the range, idiosyncrasy and emotional punch of this profoundly unconventional and personal work.” Newsday called the show “brave and hilarious, a charming and deeply moving treasure” and added “Finn matches his jaunty and vaudevillian, then haunting, music to enormously quotable, conversational lyrics that catch in the throat as often as they stick in the mind.”

The Chicago Tribune heralded the show as “a musical that throbs with passion and compassion, a masterwork.  It is a unequivocal pleasure to let Finn’s music and lyrics return to your consciousness.”

Falsettos was directed by James Lapine, with choreography by Spencer Liff, sets by David Rockwell, costumes by Jennifer Caprio, lighting by Jeff Croiter, sound by Dan Moses Schreier, and musical direction by Vadim Feichtner, conducting Michael Starobin’s original orchestrations.

 

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Love is Blind: ‘Falsettos’ on Broadway

November 22nd, 2016 Comments off
'Falsettos' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Falsettos’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Falsettos in many ways, is a love letter to a time gone by. Originally conceived as the second and third installments in a musical trilogy that follows Marvin and the evolution of his family as he embraces his homosexuality, the segments appeared individually at Playwrights Horizons and other theatres from 1979 to 1990. In Trousers (1979), March of the Falsettos (1981), and Falsettoland (1990) bear the mark of an era, including the haunting notes of the AIDS crisis.

The latter two premiered on Broadway in 1992 as a two-act musical and won Tony Awards for Best Score (William Finn) and Book (William Finn and James Lapine). By that time, AIDS had ravaged not only the theater community, but also the American psyche.

Lincoln Center Theater’s revival, currently playing at the Walter Kerr Theater in a limited engagement through January 8, is faithful to the original with some modern sensibilities, notably choreography (mostly staging) by Spencer Liff, who invigorates the material with plenty of movement and keeps the ensemble agile within the recitative-heavy score. David Rockwell’s set—a seemingly endless pile of grey building blocks—also distracts from the fact that Finn’s material doesn’t have a lot of forward momentum.

Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells in 'Falsettos.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells in ‘Falsettos.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

But those familiar with the composer/lyricist’s work (Little Miss Sunshine, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, A New Brain) know that Finn’s strengths lie in his ability to create character, and Falsettos offers juicy material for the seasoned ensemble. Marvin (Christian Borle) is at the plot’s epicenter. In Act One he comes to terms with the end of his marriage to Trina (Stephanie J. Block) and eventually the demise of his relationship with Whizzer (Andrew Rannells). Meanwhile, Trina falls for Marvin’s neurotic psychiatrist (Brandon Uranowitz), all the while trying to keep her pre-teen son (Anthony Rosenthal) from spinning out of control.

Act Two takes place two years later. Marvin has reconciled with Whizzer and the couple befriends the “lesbians from next door”: Charlotte (Tracie Thoms), a doctor facing the as-yet-unnamed virus, and Cordelia (Betsy Wolfe), her kosher caterer girlfriend. Jason’s Bar Mitzvah looms in the near feature as Whizzer faces a bleak diagnosis.

While it might be hard for millennials to grasp Finn and Lapine’s intentional vagueness, in 1981 there were 234 known AIDS-related deaths. The Gay Men’s Health Crisis had yet to be born and it would be another six years before ACT UP was founded. By the time the musical migrated to Broadway in 1992, this was still unchartered territory in the world of musical theater (the Gershwin mash-up, Crazy For You, won the Tony Award for best musical that year and Angels in America would arrive on Broadway a year later).

In short, show a little respect, kids. Falsettos is quirky in structure, a “tight-knit” family unraveling into something entirely new. Borle has been quoted regarding his enthusiasm to tackle a “three dimensional person” coming off of Something Rotten! and Peter and the Starcatcher. His restraint, though, often reads as negative and snarky. Marvin isn’t the most likeable character but the audience needs to understand why Trina and Whizzer have both fallen for him, and it’s only in the Act One finale, the beautifully touching “Father to Son” that we see a glimmer of his soft side.

As his ex, Trina, Block pulls out all the stops with a voice that reaches the rafters and comedic timing that stops the show midway through Act One with “I’m Breaking Down,” a song that laments her crumbling marriage. Unfortunately, busy staging masks her Act Two 10 o’clock number, “Holding to the Ground.” (Whizzer gets the 11 o’clock slot).

Uranowitz as her nebbishly hippy psychiatrist husband is quite the charmer with just enough shtick to offset the gravitas, while Rannells isn’t too off course from his character on HBO’s Girls. Thoms and Wolfe deliver due diligence in underwritten roles that appear out of nowhere (and go nowhere) in Act Two, while Rosenthal is more believable as a tween than a 13-year-old facing adulthood. Across the board, there’s not a lot of chemistry among the cast, which feels amiable but not deeply rooted.

Stephanie J. Block and Brandon Uranowitz in 'Falsettos.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Stephanie J. Block and Brandon Uranowitz in ‘Falsettos.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

What is most resonant about Falsettos in 2016 is its message of diversity, tolerance and acceptance—themes that are running amok these days in other circles. In the original script Whizzer’s passing is implied and not so literally staged as in this revival. As his family of choice gathers around his tombstone, Mendel sings:

Homosexuals.
Women with children.
Short insomniacs.
We’re a teeny tiny band.
Lovers come and lovers go.
Lovers live and die fortissimo.
This is where we take a stand.
Welcome to Falsettoland. 

Thanks for the reminder, William Finn. This is where we take a stand.

Falsettos
Walter Kerr Theater
219 West 48th Street, NYC
Through January 8

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him social media at @roodeloo

Opening Night: ‘Falsettos’ on Broadway

October 27th, 2016 Comments off

falsettosThe much-anticipated revival of William Finn and James Lapine’s Falsettos opens tonight on Broadway with an all-star cast that includes Stephanie J. Block (Wicked), Christian Borle (Something Rotten!, Peter and the Starcatcher), Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon, Hamilton), Tracie Thoms (Rent), Brandon Uranowitz (An American in Paris) and Betsy Wolfe (Bullets Over Broadway).

Co-book writer and original director James Lapine is back to helm this new production being brought to Broadway by Lincoln Center Theater, the company behind 2015’s Tony winning best revival The King and I.

Take a look behind the scenes…

Three to See: October – Revival Edition

October 4th, 2016 Comments off

It’s show time! After a gloomy late summer when Broadway shows were shuttering like a hurricane was about to blow into town, things are picking up with a slew of new openings. This month, what’s old is new again with three revivals that hope to capitalize on big stars, Tony Award-winning composers, and creative visions for classic material. We’ll see what sticks!

The Front PageThe Front Page
Written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page first opened at the Times Square Theatre in 1928. Nearly 90 years later, this revival marks the sixth production to hit the boards.

The play takes place in the press room of Chicago’s Criminal Courts Building, which is buzzing with reporters covering the story of an escaped prisoner. When star reporter Hildy Johnson (John Slattery) accidentally discovers the runaway convict, he and his editor Walter Burns (Nathan Lane) conspire to hide the man from the other reporters, while they chase the biggest scoop of their careers.

Often cited as the greatest play ever written about the newspaper business, The Front Page has also been a hit on screen. A 1931 film version starred Adolphe Menjou as Walter Burns and Pat O’Brien as Hildy Johnson. The 1940 film adaptation, His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant as Walter Burns and Rosalind Russell as a now-female Hildy Johnson, is considered one of the classics of the screwball comedy genre, and in 1993 was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The Front Page
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street
Opening night: October 20

 

The cast of Lincoln Center Theatre's 'Falsettos.'

The cast of Lincoln Center Theatre’s ‘Falsettos.’

Falsettos
What other show could open with “four Jews in a room bitching” other than William Finn and James Lapine’s 1992 look at love and life through the lens of the AIDS crisis?

The groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning musical Falsettos comes back to Broadway this fall in an all-new production from Lincoln Center Theater. Lapine returns to direct an extraordinary cast featuring Stephanie J. Block (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Christian Borle (Something Rotten!, Tony Award), Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon), Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Brandon Uranowitz (An American in Paris) and Betsy Wolfe (The Last Five Years).

Falsettos revolves around the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin, his wife, lover, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door. It’s a hilarious and achingly poignant look at the infinite possibilities that make up a modern family… and a beautiful reminder that love can tell a million stories.

Falsettos
Walter Kerr Theater
219 West 48th Street
Opening night: October 27

Les Liasons Dangereuses

Les Liasons Dangereuses

Les Liasons Dangereuses
Talk about a power play. Live Schreiber, Tony Award winner for Best Actor in Glengarry Glen Ross and star of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan”; and Janet McTeer, Tony winner for Best Actress in A Doll’s House, return to Broadway in one of the sexiest plays ever written.

Les Liasons Dangereuses begins with two ex-lovers who scheme to ruin the reputation of an innocent young aristocrat. As their game of seduction and manipulation becomes more intricate, they quickly discover that the stakes are higher than they bargained for… and their last encounter may be their most dangerous by far.

Direct from London, McTeer reprises her role in the Donmar Warehouse’s critically acclaimed, sold-out production. Written by Academy Award winner Christopher Hampton, re-imagined by Olivier Award nominee and Donmar Artistic Director Josie Rourke, and brought to Broadway by the Tony-winning producer of Red, this staging promises to breathe a bold new life into one of the theater’s most provocative and intriguing plays. 

Les Liasons Dangereuses
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street
Opening night: October 30

Three to See: March

March 5th, 2016 Comments off

The 2015-16 season is kicking into high gear, with three unique musicals opening this month that are sure to catch your attention. Here are our top picks of what not to miss…

southern comfort

Southern Comfort
Transgender themes continue to prevail in 2016, with Southern Comfort as the latest theatrical endeavor to tackle the topic. Based on Kate Davis’ 2001 Sundance Award-winning documentary, the new musical tells the true story of a group of transgender friends living life on their own terms in the back hills of rural Georgia. Tony-winning lyricist/composer of Falsettos William Finn calls Southern Comfort, “remarkable,” with a score that “mines the country’s heart, and unveils, along its way, surprising pathways to a new world.”

Southern Comfort
The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
Opening night: March 7

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in 'She Loves Me.' (Photo: Joan Marcus the The Broadway Blog.)

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in ‘She Loves Me.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus the The Broadway Blog.)

She Loves Me
The Roundabout’s 50th anniversary season continues with a revival of She Loves Me, a beloved musical that served as inspiration for the hit film You’ve Got Mail. Scott Ellis directs a star-studded cast including Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, Jane Krakowski, and Michael McGrath.

She Loves Me follows Amalia and Georg, two parfumerie clerks who aren’t quite the best of friends. Constantly bumping heads while on the job, the sparring coworkers can’t seem to find common ground. But little do they know the anonymous pen pals they have both been falling for happen to be each other! Will love continue to blossom once their identities are finally revealed?

She Loves Me
Studio 54
254 West 54th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 17

The cast of 'Bright Star' (Photo:  Joan Marcus - Kennedy Center production, via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Bright Star’ (Photo: Joan Marcus – Kennedy Center production, via The Broadway Blog.)

Bright Star
Grammy winners Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have teamed up to write a moving tapestry that tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and 40s. When literary editor Alice Murphy meets a young soldier just home from World War II, he awakens her longing for the child she once lost. Haunted by their unique connection, Alice sets out on a journey to understand her past—and what she finds has the power to transform both of their lives. Tony winner Walter Bobbie (Chicago) directs.

Bright Star
Cort Theatre
138 West 48th Street, NYC
Opening night: March 24

Review: ‘Three Days to See’ at Transport Group

July 31st, 2015 Comments off
The cast of 'Three Days to See' (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Three Days to See’ (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

“How did Helen Keller burn her cheek? She answered the iron.”

“If Helen Keller fell in the woods, would she make a sound?”

“Helen Keller walks into a bar. Then a table. And then a chair.”

Most of us have heard—or told—a cruel Helen Keller joke. The rapid-fire succession of such one-liners is how Jack Cummings III’s Three Days to See, a new theater piece presented by Transport Group, begins. The diverse company of seven actors storms the stage, each grabbing a mic as if they were in the finals of Last Comic Standing.

(l to r) Barbara Walsh and Zoe Wilson in 'Three Days to See' (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Barbara Walsh and Zoe Wilson in ‘Three Days to See’ (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

“This is ridiculous,” blurted the patron sitting behind me, so offended by the onslaught of insensitivity. But that’s exactly where Cummings wants to begin: at the epicenter of what pop culture has made Helen Keller. The real woman, born in Alabama in 1880, was struck blind and deaf by the age of two. Most are familiar with The Miracle Worker and the arrival of her tutor, mentor, and friend, Annie Sullivan, who helped Keller reconnect to the world through finger spelling.

Keller’s journey from unruly child to world-renowned social activist is the subject of Cummings’ work, portrayed en masse by the company, each taking his or her turn to embody Keller’s words. The play’s dialogue—and that word is used loosely for the majority of it is narrative—is entirely drawn from her writings. Cummings can only occasionally craft dialogue based on referenced conversations, and that lack of engagement pigeonholes the company into an often-presentational performance style.

Those who transcend the fourth wall tend to capture the most heartfelt moments, including Barbara Walsh (Falsettos, Company, Hairspray), who embodies both Sullivan and Keller at different points and magically creates a sense of time and place with each nuanced movement. In contrast, Marc delaCruz (If/Then) has the joyful thread of following Keller’s journey through the reading of Gone With the Wind in braille. Punctuated throughout the evening, he steps center stage as if he’s cracked open the door for a secret slumber party. Others are less successful, either in their ability to connect with the audience or lack of physical dexterity.

The cast of 'Three Days to See' (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Three Days to See’ (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Cummings asks a lot of the company. Choreographed in a pedestrian spirit similar to the work of Steven Hoggett (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Once, Peter and the Starcatcher), I almost wish that Hoggett had choreographed the piece to up the ante in terms of movement vocabulary. Even so, there is plenty to take in visually as well as with the other senses. Lighting designer R. Lee Kennedy makes the most of the stage at New York Theatre Workshop, transforming a blank slate into an endless number of locales.

The script is also driven into high gear by its accompanying soundtrack, which I assume was the collaboration of Cummings with sound designer Walter Trarbach. Benny Goodman’s Sing, Sing Sing, is the auditory backdrop to an epic battle to teach Keller to eat with silverware. The musical choices sometimes overwhelm the action, with familiar overtures from the Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook as well as a notable portion from Elmer Bernstein’s Academy Award-nominated score from To Kill a Mockingbird.

In its final moments, Three Days to See addresses its namesake, playing out what Keller wrote as her three-part “miracle.” It is a beautiful sequence of dreams unlived, and a reminder that our senses are a gift not to be taken lightly.

Three Days to See
Transport Group
79 East Fourth Street, NYC
Through August 16

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on Twitter and Instgram at @roodeloo.

Review: Mighty Real, A Fabulous Sylvester Musical

September 21st, 2014 Comments off

Contributor Marcus Scott gets real with the new musical about legendary performer Sylvester.

(l to r) Jacqueline B. Arnold, Anthony Wayne and Anastacia McCleskey in "Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical" (photo: Nathan Johnson via The Broadway Blog).

(l to r) Jacqueline B. Arnold, Anthony Wayne and Anastacia McCleskey in “Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical” (photo: Nathan Johnson via The Broadway Blog).

A star is born with the green light on Broadway chorus boy Anthony Wayne, known for his roles in celebrated shows Pippin and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, performing in a jukebox revue as one of the world’s most innovative underground acts. With Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical, the bio-musical following the life and times of disco diva Sylvester James, Jr. From his days as a gospel choir boy in a Pentecostal church in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood where he was persecuted for his sexuality to the 1988 Castro Street Fair where crowds chanted his name to an ear-splitting crescendo, Wayne handles the role with ethos and charisma. The song-and-dance man obviously did his homework, going as far as giving the audience a look behind the man by providing some of his favorite church hymns and perfecting the iconic performer’s ticks.

For diehards, the 90-minute musical spares the often-desired sordid details of the singer’s life, instead opting for a more straightforward approach of telling the story from birth to death; a no-no when it comes to most stage plays. Rather than transporting the audience to a moment in time (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill) or focusing on the early life of the artist (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), the play follows the protagonist from childhood to dying breath and beyond the grave.

Anthony Wayne in "Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical." (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Anthony Wayne in “Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical.” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Sadly, the story is told as more as a history presentation with live music. It is because of this, though heavily entertaining, the show suffers from a thin plot that is crafted and orchestrated only to introduce the next song. Instants that could create tension or prompt more dialogue are washed over for the sake of getting the next bullet point on an otherwise colorful saga of one of the world’s premier falsettos. Moments of catharsis are reduced to empty sentiments that could be stronger if Wayne and company simmered in the grit of the times. After all, there was no one more connected to the zeitgeist of the gay underground in the age of decadence than Sylvester, who lived long enough to see many of his friends contract AIDS and fade away before perishing of the same in 1988. Much of this information is told almost in passing, written only for the occult followers of the gay icon music and legacy.

That’s not to say, the show isn’t the promenade of confetti and footlights it promises in its title. Much like the climax of George C. Wolfe and Susan Birkenhead’s 1992 dramatic bio-musical opus Jelly’s Last Jam, Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical is more of a going away jamboree for one of the most prominent black queer heroes. Co-directors (and life partners) Anthony Wayne and Kendrell Bowman treat their narrative with tender love and care, evident with their eagle-eyed precision with a retro ‘70s lighting and scenic staging by David Lander and costume designs, also by Bowman. Bowman gets “two snaps” for his period-heavy stitches that mirrored the singer’s most emblematic fashion statements. Operating on a shoestring budget of $21,000 from their successful Kickstarter campaign, Wayne and Bowman did the impossible in bringing a neon flamingo like Sylvester to life off stage. Provided there is a transfer, one could only hope for more costume changes in that department, however. After all, when it comes to the subject of Sylvester, theatricality was the artist’s ambrosia.

As co-director, all eyes are on Wayne, a veteran Broadway ensemble member who has twirled out onto center stage without batting an eye. It is also one of the hardest roles to play Off-Broadway: As Sylvester, the Duchess of Disco, Wayne has the burden of reviving a legendary bon vivant recording artist who thrived on pushing buttons and fanning fires. He succeeds. A Molotov cocktail of guts, gospel and glitter, Sylvester’s short though prolific career rivaled that of other disco queens Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and Evelyn “Champagne” King. Once dubbed “Queen Of Disco,” Sylvester turned heads with his flamboyant and androgynous façade, often being dubbed a drag queen, which he denounced throughout his career. But with such exquisite taste in lavish furs, sparkling gold lame, rhinestones and champagne—not to mention his profoundly mascara’d face and lip-glossed mug—he was one in a million.

Read more…

A Night On the Town

July 1st, 2014 Comments off

Writer Lindsay B. Davis hit the streets of NYC to catch the best of Broadway at Inside Broadway’s Beacon Awards and the final concert of Broadway by the Year at Town Hall.

Jersey Boys at Inside Broadway's Broadway Beacon Awards (photo: Elena Olivo) via The Broadway Blog.

Jersey Boys at Inside Broadway’s Broadway Beacon Awards (photo: Elena Olivo) via The Broadway Blog.

Sometimes I take for granted that on any given night in New York City, I can see some of the best theatrical talent in the world. Other nights, I pause to imagine all the curtains going up in unison and know I could never live anywhere else. My night on the town courtesy of The Broadway Blog provided another perspective, with Inside Broadway’s Beacon Awards at Essex House followed by an impressive Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1990-2014 concert at Town Hall.  Nostalgia was definitely the main course on a delicious menu.

My indoctrination into the world of theatergoing happened by way of my parents, who felt an obligation to culture me by driving from Exit 43 on the Long Island Expressway into Manhattan for dinner and a Broadway show as often as possible. When I saw Phantom of the Opera with my father, I was hooked. For more than 20,000 New York City children, the non-profit organization Inside Broadway provides a similar opportunity to fall in love. Not only does it offer kids the chance to see musicals but it also allows them to participate in the creative process by way of its educational programming, exposure to Equity performances and performance workshop opportunities.

Anika None Rose at at Inside Broadway's Broadway Beacon Awards (photo: Elena Olivo via The Broadway Blog).

Anika None Rose at at Inside Broadway’s Broadway Beacon Awards (photo: Elena Olivo via The Broadway Blog).

Each year since its inception in 1982, the organization presents the Beacon Awards to honorees aligned with their mission. This year’s recipients included Tony nominees Anika Noni Rose (A Raisin in the Sun) and Andy Karl (Rocky), both of whom I spoke to on the red carpet. It’s easy to see why these two inspirational Broadway actors were chosen. For Rose, theater is a vital force for youth. “I think it’s very important. It allows children to express themselves in ways they aren’t normally allowed to do. When you snatch art out of the school, violence goes up and grades tend to suffer because kids don’t have a way to express themselves outside of ‘What have I memorized and what am I regurgitating on this piece of paper?’ You need so much more for your mind to be nourished. Theater does that for children.”

Andy Karl is equally passionate about what theater can do to enhance children’s lives, albeit from a different angle. “I look at theater as like a sport. I was always involved in Little League baseball and learned the way to keep practicing, get better and have fun. With any sport and any theater as well, if you’re not having fun then you might as well not do it. You have to have a passion for it and there’s also this amount of levity.”  The evening was hosted by Good Morning America’s Ginger Zee and featured a performance fromthe musical Jersey Boys and a musical theater medley performed by the eager and talented children of Brooklyn’s P.S. 97.

Watching a group of elementary school students perform was enough to throw me back to the aforementioned Phantom moment, something akin to the thunder bolt seen in the Godfather. Sold! Your number sir? Thank you. Lot 665 ladies and gentleman, a papier machet musical box in the shape of a barrel organ… I would repeat the prologue from Phantom Of the Opera playing multiple parts, botching lyrics and diving into a sea of multiple accents. Phantom was the first Broadway spectacle I fell in love with and my gateway to a lifelong romance with musical theater. The dazzling dancers of 42nd Street, the barricade bashers of Les Miserables, the eternally optimistic chorus performers of A Chorus Line, to name only a few I saw before I was nine, transformed me into a girl that could not only dream but believed in the beauty of others’ dreams.

Take the leap for a recap of the final concert in Town Hall’s Broadway by the Year series.

Read more…

“Southern Comfort”: A Transformative New Musical at Barrington Stage Company

July 19th, 2013 Comments off
Scenes from "Southern Comfort" (photos: Matthew Murphy)

Scenes from “Southern Comfort” (photos: Matthew Murphy)

I had the good fortune of interviewing Tony Award-winner William Finn last year as part of a feature about the Berkshires for Passport Magazine. The composer/lyricist is known for his humanely funny and poignant works, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, A New Brain, and Falsettos, among others. This fall his latest project, Little Miss Sunshine, will appear Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre, starring powerhouses Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase. At the moment, Finn is ensconced in Pittsfield, Mass, contributing his creative talents at Barrington Stage Company (BSC) where he oversees the nonprofit theater’s Musical Theatre Lab, but during our conversation all those months ago, there was one show that put a sparkle in his eye — an unconventional musical about transgender friends in rural Georgia. With the collaborative efforts of BSC, Finn has helped shepherd the production of Southern Comfort, which begins performances tonight.

The world premiere production of Southern Comfort features book and lyrics by Dan Collins, music by Julianne Wick Davis, and direction by Thomas Caruso. A musical with a folk/bluegrass score, Southern Comfort is a true story based on Kate Davis’ 2001 Sundance Award-winning documentary.

Annette O'Toole as Robert Eads. (Photo: Matt Murphy)

Annette O’Toole as Robert Eads. (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Winner of the Jonathan Larson Award, Southern Comfort is the story of male transgendered Robert Eads (Annette O’Toole) and his trans girlfriend Lola Cola (Jeff McCarthy) as they navigate life and its challenges in the back hills of ‘Bubba Land’ Georgia. A celebration of a uniquely American family living life openly, honestly and courageously in the community they have grown to love.

“From contemporary country to Appalachian bluegrass, the score mines the country’s heart, and unveils, along its way, surprising pathways to a new world,” says Finn. “The remarkable Southern Comfort is about transformation, love, and redefining family.

Southern Comfort
BSC’s St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center
36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA
Tuesday-Friday at 7:30pm
Saturday at 4pm and 8pm
Sunday at 3pm
Tickets start at $40.

Tickets to performances July 19 & 20 are $15.
Seniors: $32 all matinees.

July 25, 4:00 p.m.
Free Conversations with… Event:
Join Julianne Wick-Davis and Dan Collins, along with members of the Berkshire transgendered community, as they discuss gender identity and social acceptance in today’s world.

BSC’s St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center
36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA
Free, although reservations are highly recommended. All seating is general admission.
Call the Box Office at 413-236-8888.

Tony Award Time Machine: 1992

May 25th, 2012 Comments off

"Crazy for You". Image via Google.

In prep for the upcoming Tonys, we’ve been taking our time machine out for a spin and doing a little decade hopping. We saw those damn hippies take over Broadway in 1972 and Jennifer Holliday tear down the house in 1982. So what will we find on Tony night in the glorious year of 1992

…oh, sorry, I nodded off there. Sure, there are some solid and quite moving things from 1992. The Irish drama Dancing at Lughnasa kicking up its heals as Best Play. Another showdown between scrappy underdog and tourable crowd-pleaser in Best Musical (Falsettos vs ultimate winner Crazy for You.) And who can we fault any year when the grand dame Glenn Close gets some hardware (Best Actress in a Play for Death and the Maiden). So why does it all feel a little, ho hum? I suppose because as great as the performances are nothing cries out to be watched again and again at a gay bar on music theater mondays. None of this year’s clips have that train wreck quality or transcendent brilliance that makes them unforgettable.

But I have to spice this up somehow so as we watch the clips, I’ll reveal a little personal dirt. Yeah, now you’re hooked…

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