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Theater Buff: Transport Group’s David T. Patterson

March 22nd, 2017 No comments

This month’s Theater Buff offers you a slice of Americana via the good looks and charm of David T. Patterson, currently starring in Transport Group’s ambitious William Inge repertory of Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba.

(Photo provided by David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

(Photo provided by David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

Name:
David T. Patterson

Hometown:
Tampa, Florida

You’re tackling two William Inge plays: Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba. That must have been an intense audition process — what was it like?
The initial audition was just another day at Pearl Studios. But the callback process was a trip. It was a chemistry read with the four girls they were considering for Madge, and it was the scene (spoiler alert) where my character breaks down, kisses her passionately, and then carries her offstage.

I remember frantically googling “do you kiss in a callback” on the J train heading over that morning, ’cause I had no idea what the protocol was for that. In what felt like a truncated episode of The Bachelor, I did the scene twice with each different girl. The scene was so different every time, which I loved, and thankfully I brought ChapStick and Listerine breath strips that day.

David T. Patterson in 'Picnic.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

David T. Patterson in ‘Picnic.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

For those not familiar with Inge’s work, how would you describe these plays in terms of their place in American theater history?
Inge was a contemporary of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and was actually more initially successful than they were. These plays explore American loneliness, and yearning like no other playwright since. Inge has a beautiful mix of the poetic and the quotidian.

Picnic is a true ensemble piece. There are no set changes and no real breaks in storytelling. Come Back, Little Sheba was also groundbreaking in that it was one of the first plays to ever open a discussion on alcoholism, gender roles and domestic abuse. Both shows have very strong, beautifully written female characters, and Come Back, Little Sheba is told completely from one of their points of views. Inge was way before his time in a lot of ways.

What has been director Jack Cummings III’s approach to these plays?
It’s been all about the text and the acting with these productions, which is so exciting. It’s pared down. Simple set. With a beautiful, original score by Michael John LaChiusa featuring the vocal stylings of our very own Hannah Elless and some really gorgeous lighting. Jack gave the cast a lot of freedom to explore and embody these characters, which is so appreciated. He made a point to honor what Inge intended and focused on the humanity, loneliness, and yearning of the two pieces.

Transport Group

In Picnic, you portray Hal, a ‘drifter.’ If you were to wander off for a few months, where would you head and why?
I’d backpack through Europe. There is so much history and so many cultures to explore, as well as cuisines to try and people to meet. You can be in a completely different world in less than two hours. Also, I’ve always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Make the jaunt up from Georgia to Maine, then roam around New England some. I love being in nature and I love eating lobster. Win-win.

If I weren’t a performer, I would be: 
In advertising. Don Draper, minus the chauvinism, womanizing, and secret past.

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? 
Intermission. The show is under way, those initial nerves are gone, you’ve established a rapport with the audience. Plus, I can go back to the dressing room and goof off with John Cariani.

The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment on 49th Street in midtown is super classy and near all the theaters. Good Old Fashions, with a cozy Old World feel. And for a solid beer list and a quieter spot to talk, Hurley’s Saloon is a great spot to decompress after a show. Unless it’s fight night.

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to: 
Either of New York City’s botanical gardens. They’re both far away, so it’s definitely a trek, but worth it! I’m a big fan of the Orchid Festival in the Bronx and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Brooklyn. I also love Smorgasburg, which is a huge food truck/stand outdoor market. The one in Williamsburg is great because it’s right on the water. And I love the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I’m a park guy. #sorrynotsorry

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Montana. Near Big Sky. On my own ranch.

My workout “secret” is:
Meal prep. Technically it’s outside of the gym, but the kitchen is where the real progress is made. Making/bringing your own meals isn’t only healthy, but it’s also cost effective. And don’t skip leg day.

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

(Photo courtesy of David T. Patterson via The Broadway Blog.)

When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
A great smile and laugh. A sense of humor is super important to me. As well as good dental hygiene.

My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
Duolingo. Technically it’s an app, but it’s free and can help you learn a language on the go. Factcheck.org is also a pretty useful site these days, too…

People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Was very sickly and scrawny as a kid. Severe peanut allergy, severe asthma, plus lactose intolerant. I was “that” kid. The kid who sat alone in a corner every day during lunch because if I were near a PB&J I’d break out in hives and pass out.

When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
Batman.

Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Batman.

Transport Group’s Picnic and Come Back, Little Sheba play through April 16 at The Gym at Judson. Click here for tickets. 

 

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

‘Broadway Backstage’ Heads to Brooklyn

March 21st, 2017 Comments off
Daniel C. Levine in Broadway Backstage (Photo:  Daniel C. Levine Productions via The Broadway Blog.)

Daniel C. Levine in Broadway Backstage (Photo: Daniel C. Levine Productions via The Broadway Blog.)

On April 1, Broadway Backstage will give audience members a behind-the-scenes look at Broadway with an all new show. Six Broadway stars will belt out tunes from the world’s grandest stages and share backstage gossip, on-stage mishaps, “big break” moments, and other insider stories. The show will take the audience beyond the glitz and glamor and give them a rare opportunity to see what really goes on backstage during a Broadway show, with stories of how the stars got their big break, costume mishaps and more.

On Stage at Kingsborough, a leading performing arts presenter located at Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community College presents its 2017 spring season, featuring world-class artists from around the globe. On Stage at Kingsborough brings internationally renowned performing artists to Southern Brooklyn with an eclectic roster spanning multiple genres including music, dance, theater and family programming. The full 2016-2017 season began September 24, 2016, and runs through May 20, 2017.

Tangled: Keen Company’s ‘When It’s You’

March 19th, 2017 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

Ana Reeder in 'When It's You.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Ana Reeder in ‘When It’s You.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Courtney Baron’s When It’s You, the Keen Company’s latest offering, is a one-person play about a woman coming to terms with her grief. For 70 minutes, she stands on a bare stage and relates a rambling, sometimes disconnected, but occasionally moving tale about two people she’s recently lost; the play offers her the opportunity to react to these losses and reexamine her life. Why she’s speaking to us is never explained but, by the time the piece concludes, we can be forgiven for feeling like we’ve been part of a grief counseling session listening patiently to a member’s lengthy account of her trauma and what she’s learned from it.

The locale is Dallas, Texas, where Ginnifer (Ana Reeder), still single at 37, has grown up and to which she’s returned after living and working in St. Louis for 17 years. A “dutiful” daughter, she came back when her mother was dying of cancer and moved into hospice care. After her mother died Ginnifer took over the family house, where her mom’s stuff became hers.

Ana Reeder in 'When It's You.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Ana Reeder in ‘When It’s You.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The practically bare setting, designed by Steven Kemp, offers a minimalist platform, being little more than walls and pillars painted a tasteful shade of pale gray. A wooden chair with a carton on it stands at center. Atmospheric variations are supplied by Josh Bradford’s subtle lighting and Justin West’s unobtrusive projections.

Ginnifer’s family issues, explained by Reeder in a dead-on Texas accent (although she mispronounces “ogle”), are intermingled with her recitation of a far more traumatic recent event. This is a mass killing and suicide by her high school sweetheart, Jason Hanley, whom she dated for five or six months, but hadn’t seen in 20 years. No reason is given for the slaughter but the ease with which Jason was able to buy his weapon offers a brief, if peripheral, reflection on America’s gun culture.

As the former girlfriend of a mass murderer, Ginnifer naturally draws attention from those who think she might be able to offer some clues to explain an atrocity that took everyone by surprise. Jason, after all, came from a decent Christian family and showed no warning signs, unlike the local tornadoes that give you notice that they’re coming. As would anyone, she’s stumped by the dilemma of how much any of us ever know about other people. Or how much we even know about ourselves, as suggested by the Cabbage Patch doll in the carton, a memento her mother left for her that reminds her of herself at ten.

Ginnifer’s tangled narrative, which moves around in time, requires patience as it slowly comes into focus. She herself refers to it this way:

There is a ball of yarn. You think you are a ball of yarn, so you think that everything from every time of your life is close together, but you have to untangle it. You have to untangle the yarn. And I think you will find. You will find that in order for the yarn or string to make a ball, it must be a long string.

As Ginnifer untangles her “ball of yarn,” we become enmeshed in her “unbearable loneliness,” her wondering if she actually loved Jason, and her concern over whether she can bring herself to forgive him. But the narrative surrounding these themes isn’t especially novel or interesting. Boiled down to its core, When It’s You is little more than a character study of a lonely woman whose mother died of cancer, and whose high-school boyfriend, with whom she’s been out of touch for decades, turned out many years later to be a mass murderer.

While not much of a play, the vaguely titled When It’s You offers Ana Reeder an extended acting exercise in which she offers a lovingly constructed performance, one that fully captures the emotional toll of Ginnifer’s experiences. As smartly directed by Jonathan Silverstein, she renders the woman’s ordinariness with telling honesty, showing us a simple, friendly (on and off Facebook), unassuming human being expressing her bewilderment at how her life has transpired, and what she sees when she looks in the mirror or clings to a childhood doll when seeking the answer to who she is.

When It’s You
Clurman Theatre/Theatre Row
410 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through April 8

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out!’ Heads to Chicago

March 18th, 2017 Comments off

concert for americaDon’t miss CONCERT FOR AMERICA: STAND UP, SING OUT! Featuring Chita Rivera, Melissa Manchester, Alice Ripley, Ana Gasteyer, the Chicago cast of Hamilton, Sharon Gless, Lynne Jordan, Marya Grandy and Emily Bear, the third edition of CONCERT FOR AMERICA will take place on Monday, March 20 at 8 p.m. at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago (50 E Congress Parkway).  Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.

A concert of songs, comedy, and commentary, CONCERT FOR AMERICA has been hailed by the New York Times as “striking for its emphasis on the importance of faith in the United States and optimism about its future.” The innovation of Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, who also organized the Broadway For Orlando/What the World Needs Now is Love recording, CONCERT FOR AMERICA: STAND UP, SING OUT! debuted its monthly series at New York City’s The Town Hall on Inauguration Day and performed the second concert there in February.

Proceeds from CONCERT FOR AMERICA: STAND UP, SING OUT! will benefit five national organizations working to protect human rights: Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center, The Sierra Club Foundation, NAACP and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Tickets range from $18 to $103 and are available at my.auditoriumtheatre.org and at the Auditorium Theatre box office. Participating performers are subject to change.

For those unable to attend CONCERT FOR AMERICA in person, it will be broadcast via Facebook Live and at ConcertsforAmerica.com, beginning at 9 p.m. EST on Monday, March 20.

CONCERT FOR AMERICA: STAND UP, SING OUT! is created and organized by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, in association with Your Kids, Our Kids, as well as the generous support of The Actors Fund.  It is co-produced by Joey Monda and Frankie Dailey. CONCERT FOR AMERICA will be directed by Tony nominee Lisa Mordente.

The next CONCERT FOR AMERICA will return to New York in April.

Categories: Show Folk, The Buzz, Way Off Broadway Tags:

Telly Leung to Debut at The Green Room 42

March 17th, 2017 Comments off
Telly Leung (Photo: Lesley Bohm via The Broadway Blog.)

Telly Leung (Photo: Lesley Bohm via The Broadway Blog.)

Telly Leung — the Broadway and television star of “Glee,” Godspell and Rent, currently starring on Broadway in In Transit — will debut at the new concert space The Green Room 42 at Yotel (570 Tenth Avenue at 42nd Street) for one show only on Sunday, April 23 at 7:30 pm.. The show has a $30 cover with no minimum.

Leung, who recently returned to Broadway after a two–year hiatus with a “star turn” (NBC New York) in Allegiance opposite George Takei and Lea Salonga, will offer an intimate and deeply personal evening of music and personal showbiz anecdotes, in addition to highlights from his solo albums on the Yellow Sound Label – “I’ll Cover You” and “Songs for You” – and the musical talents of some of Broadway’s finest musicians.

Telly comments, “I have had an amazing time harmonizing and singing a-cappella with my Broadway cast mates at In Transit — but I’ve really missed making live music with a band! I am very excited to perform with some of my favorite musicians on Broadway, and also get the opportunity to perform in a chic, new, intimate venue in Hell’s Kitchen!”

Songs for You features familiar classic music from the worlds of Pop, Jazz, R&B, and Broadway done with a new and innovative twist, accompanied by lush musical arrangements. The album includes songs originally recorded by Michael Jackson (“Human Nature”), Oleta Adams (“I Just Had to Hear Your Voice”), Mama Cass Elliot (“Make Your Own Kind of Music”), John Denver (“Leaving On A Jet Plane”), Des’ree (“You Gotta Be”) and more.

To honor his Broadway roots, Telly also includes songs by his favorite theater composers Stephen Sondheim (“Being Alive”), Jerry Herman (“I Am What I Am”) and Stephen Schwartz (“Dreamscape”), in addition to the world premiere recording of “Second Chances” from the pre-Broadway engagement of AllegianceTelly’s debut CD I’ll Cover You is an eclectic collection that features a variety of genres. It includes songs from Broadway (“Before The Parade Passes By” from Hello, Dolly!, “Children Will Listen” from Into The Woods and the disc’s title track, which he performed in the final Broadway cast of Rent) and fresh interpretations of pop hits (“Firework” by Katy Perry, “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna and “Galileo” by The Indigo Girls).

Categories: Show Folk, The Buzz Tags:

All That Jazz And More: The New York Pops Celebrate Kander and Ebb

March 16th, 2017 Comments off

By Ryan Leeds

Tony Yazbeck, Steven Reineke, and Caissie Levy. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Tony Yazbeck, Steven Reineke, and Caissie Levy. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

There was more than enough razzle dazzle to blind Manhattan on Friday night as The New York Pops presented Life is a Cabaret: The Songs of Kander and Ebb. The always-stunning orchestra was joined by the equally fine talents of stage stars Tony Yazbeck and Caissie Levy. Yazbeck, who made his Broadway debut at the tender age of 11 in the 1989 revival of Gypsy, went on to star in the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line and the 2008 revival of Gypsy starring Patti LuPone. He received a Tony nomination for his role as Gabey in 2014 revival of On the Town.

Levy’s resume is also nothing to scoff at (nor is her astounding voice). The Canadian native has been seen on Broadway in Les Misérables, Ghost, Hair, and Wicked.

Near the beginning of the two-hour evening, conductor Steven Reineke mentioned that he had been wanting to do the concert for some time, but it seemed particularly appropriate to do it in March as composer John Kander turns 90 years old on March 18. Mr. Kander was in attendance, seated beside Tony-winning director Susan Stroman. The two worked together in 2010’s The Scottsboro Boys and by the end of the night, it was announced that they would be joining forces once again on a new musical called The Beast in the Jungle.

Tony Yazbeck and The New York Pops. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Tony Yazbeck and The New York Pops. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

To whittle down the body of work that Kander and his collaborator, the late Fred Ebb created is a near impossible task, but Reineke did an excellent job of selecting many notable songs.

The Pops kicked off the night with a suite from Chicago. It included “All That Jazz,” “Me and My Baby,” and  “Mr. Cellophane.”  Since the 1996 revival, the show has become ingrained in American culture and is still entertaining audiences at the Ambassador Theatre as the longest-running American musical on Broadway. It is one thing to hear this score on the original cast recording. It is yet another to hear it played by the full, lush New York Pops. The night started on a high point and continued to climb into the stratosphere.

Levy, in one of her many Liza Minnelli moments during the show, took to the stage with  “Sing Happy” from Flora, The Red Menace and struck a naughty spell with  “Mein Herr,”  from Cabaret. Levy, like Ms. Minnelli, proves herself a consummate performer, combining vocal finesse with the keen ability to act a song.

Yazbeck joined her on the complex, patter heavy “Money, Money” and the title song from Cabaret. Yazbeck charmed audiences with “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” from 70, Girls, 70. 

Chicago was revisited with four selections: “Hot Honey Rag,” the jazzy orchestral number that begs for Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon, who masterfully executed Bob Fosse’s trademark choreography in the original production. “Roxie,” sung by Levy followed. Yazbeck closed the portion with “Razzle, Dazzle” and “All I Care About.” It was then announced that he would once again be joining the Broadway cast as Billy Flynn.

Caissie Levy performs with The New York Pops. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Caissie Levy performs with The New York Pops. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Act I ended with a rousing rendition of “Ring Them Bells,” another showstopper from Levy that was first performed by Minnelli in the television special, Liza With a Z in 1972.

Kiss of the Spider Woman earned Kander and Ebb seven Tony Awards for their 1993 hit and the Pops paid tribute to it, opening the second act with “Gimme Love.”

Although it wasn’t a critical success, Funny Lady (the film sequel to Funny Girl ) did yield an Academy Award-nominated song and Levy revived the Streisand classic, “How Lucky Can You Get.”

Yazbeck delivered one of the more poignant moments of the night as he sat on a stool, accompanied only on piano and sang a painfully beautiful version of “Sometimes A Day Goes By,” from Woman of the Year. Then the debonair triple threat shifted gears with the rousing  “City Lights” from The Act.

Levy followed with “Colored Lights” from 1984’s The Rink. The show was one of Kander’s proudest musicals but failed to win the hearts of critics. Still, it included the lovely waltz, performed to absolute perfection by the night’s leading lady. Next came  “Everybody’s Girl,” from Steel Pier.

The Pops reclaimed the spotlight with “Minstrel March” from The Scottsboro Boys.

Yazbeck channeled his inner diva for the following two numbers: “You, You, You”, a song that was originally written for Chita Rivera in 2015’s The Visit, followed by “And the World Goes ‘Round,” which Minnelli made famous in the film New York, New York. 

Levy ended the night with a heartfelt rendition of “Maybe This Time,” from Cabaret. Thunderous applause ensued and an encore of “New York, New York” followed.

John Kander and Fred Ebb had their share of hits and flops throughout their decades-long partnership, but they remain two of the most dynamic writing teams in musical theater history. Kudos to Reineke and The New York Pops for showcasing their work and choosing two amazing talents to carry out this vision.

The NY Pops’ next concert will be You’ve Got a Friend: A Celebration of Singers and Songwriters on April 21 at Carnegie Hall.


Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter 
@Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

 

 

2017 Drama League Special Recognitions Announced

March 16th, 2017 Comments off

The Drama League

The Drama League will honor two outstanding stage luminaries at this year’s 83rd Annual Drama League Awards, set for Friday afternoon, May 19, 2017, at the Marriott Marquis Times Square.

The 2017 recipients are:  Bill Berloni will receive the Unique Contribution to the Theater Award; Tony Award-nominee Michael Greif, represented this season on Broadway by Dear Evan Hansen and War Paint, will receive The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing. A third honoree for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater will be announced shortly.

Dear Evan Hansen (Photo: Matthew Murray via The Broadway Blog.)

Dear Evan Hansen (Photo: Matthew Murray via The Broadway Blog.)

These Special Recognition Honors are in addition to the five competitive categories. The 2017 Drama League Nominees for Outstanding Play, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Musical, and the much-coveted Distinguished Performance Award will be announced on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. at Sardi’s, and will be streamed live via  BroadwayWorld.com. The Nominee Announcement will be hosted by Resolution Life, the proud Lead Season Sponsor of The Drama League and supporter of the arts.

The 83rd Annual Drama League Awards Ceremony and Luncheon includes a nominees cocktail reception, luncheon, and awards presentation and will be held at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in the Broadway Ballroom on Friday, May 19, 2017, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

First awarded in 1922 and formalized in 1935, The Drama League Awards are the oldest theatrical honors in America. The Drama League Awards recognize distinguished productions, performances, and exemplary career achievements. The first Drama League Award was presented to Katharine Cornell in 1935; since then, the Distinguished Performance Award has been accorded to a roster of theatre legends such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chita Rivera, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, Liam Neeson, Hugh Jackman, Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Liev Schreiber, Sir John Gielgud, Harvey Fierstein, Cherry Jones, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, Helen Hayes, Jeremy Irons, Mary-Louise Parker, Sir Ian McKellen, Bernadette Peters, and Christopher Plummer.

Categories: The Buzz Tags:

Billy Porter: The Soul of Richard Rodgers

March 15th, 2017 Comments off

Billy Porter Soul of Richard Rodgers Album CoverTony and Grammy Award-Winner Billy Porter’s new studio album, Billy Porter Presents The Soul of Richard Rodgers, will be released April 14, 2017 and is now available for pre-order. The album, which features new, soulful takes on classic Richard Rodgers songs, includes solos and duets from the following artists (in addition to Porter himself): Tony and Grammy Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix and India.Arie, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton), alongside YouTube sensation and Kinky Boots star Todrick Hall and multiple Grammy Award nominees Deborah Cox and Ledisi.

Billy Porter is a Tony and Grammy Award-winning singer, composer, actor, playwright and director from Pittsburgh, PA. As a recording artist, Porter’s solo albums include his first CD, Untitled, on A&M records, At the Corner of Broadway + Soul – LIVE on Sh-K-Boom Records, and Billy’s Back on Broadway, on Concord Records. He originated the role of ‘Lola’ in the Broadway hit Kinky Boots, which won him 2013 Tony, Grammy, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards.

As a director, Porter’s credits include Topdog/Underdog and The Colored Museum (both for Huntington Theatre Company); Film/TV: “Law & Order: SVU,” “So You Think You Can Dance” (as a guest judge), “The Broken Hearts Club,” “Shake Rattle & Roll,” “The Big C,” The Humbling, starring Al Pacino, Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down.

Porter’s concerts credits include opening act for Rosie O’Donnell and Aretha Franklin, Carnegie Hall, John McDaniel and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, as well as The Buffalo Philharmonic, Peter Nero and The Philly Pops, soloist for President Bill Clinton and various benefits throughout the United States.

The complete track listing for Billy Porter Presents The Soul of Richard Rodgers is as follows:

  1. Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (Pentatonix & Billy Porter)
  2. My Romance (Leslie Odom Jr.)
  3. If I Loved You (Renée Elise Goldsberry & Christopher Jackson)
  4. With a Song in My Heart (Brandon Victor Dixon & Joshua Henry)
  5. I Have Dreamed (Patina Miller)
  6. My Funny Valentine (Cynthia Erivo)
  7. I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair (Todrick Hall & Billy Porter)
  8. This Nearly was Mine (Deborah Cox)
  9. Bewitched (Ledisi featuring Zaire Park)
  10. Carefully Taught (India.Arie & Billy Porter)
  11. Lady is a Tramp (Billy Porter featuring Zaire Park)
  12. Edelweiss (Billy Porter)

“I like to think of this as the Richard Rodgers version of the Hamilton Mixtapes,” Porter said.  “These are classic songs that everybody knows and loves, and I’m so excited for people to hear them in a brand new way.”

Billy Porter Presents The Soul of Richard Rodgers marks Porter’s fourth studio album, and his first as producer and content curator, with collaborators James Sampliner and Michael “Lofey” Sandlofer.

This month, Porter launches a national tour that kicks off in Bayside, NY on March 19. Full tour schedule below:

March 19 – Queensborough PAC – Bayside, NY
March 29 – Embassy Theater – Fort Wayne, Indiana
March 31 – Ocean Reef Cultural Center – Key Largo, FL
April 2 – Aventura Arts – Aventura, FL
April 3 & 4 – Crest Theater – Delray Beach, FL
April 6 – Nugent-Custer Performance Hall – Columbus, IN
April 7 & 8 – The Columbia Club – Indianapolis, IN
April 21 – Adelphi – Garden City, NY
April 22 – Kean University – Union, NJ
May 5 – Emelin Theater – Westchester, NY
May 14 – Venetian Room – San Francisco, CA
May 20 –Goodman Theatre Gala, Fairmont Hotel – Chicago, IL
June 17 – Playhouse Square Gala –Cleveland, Ohio
July 15 – Willow Valley Communities Cultural Center Theater – Lancaster, PA
August 14 – Bay Street Playhouse – Sag Harbor, NY
August 19 & 20 – Paramount Theater – Provincetown, MA

Then and Now: ‘The View UpStairs’

March 15th, 2017 Comments off

By Ryan Leeds

The cast of 'The View UpStairs.' (Photo: Kurt Sneddon via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘The View UpStairs.’ (Photo: Kurt Sneddon via The Broadway Blog.)

Thank goodness for Max Vernon, the 28-year-old wunderkind who continues to carry the torch of gay history to a new generation. Vernon, an NYU graduate, is the author, composer, and lyricist for the thoroughly thoughtful and entertaining Off-Broadway musical, The View UpStairs.

Loosely based on an actual event, this disco-spiked show begins with Wes (Jeremy Pope), a know-it-all millennial fashionista who returns to his native town of New Orleans in 2017 to renovate what was once a very popular gay bar known as the UpStairs Lounge.

Much to his surprise and dismay, the realtor (Nancy Ticotin) failed to inform Pope that the lounge had serious fire damage. Just as Wes is ready to throw in the towel, the locals who used to frequent the establishment visit him in a hallucinogenic Dickensian style) by. Suddenly, he is transported back to 1973.

Frenchie Davis in 'The View UpStairs.' (Photo: Kurt Sneddon via The Broadway Blog.)

Frenchie Davis in ‘The View UpStairs.’ (Photo: Kurt Sneddon via The Broadway Blog.)

The bar’s regulars include Henri (Frenchie Davis), the butch lesbian matron of the joint, Richard (Benjamin Howes), a pastor who conducts weekly church services here, Freddy (Michael Longoria), a spritely Puerto-Rican drag queen whose mother (played in a dual role by Ticton) not only supports her son’s lifestyle but also offers assistance with everything from make-up to tucking (he politely refuses the latter.) The watering hole also attracts some less desirable characters including Dale (Ben Mayne) whose only crime appears to be poverty and wanting to be noticed. Buddy (Randy Redd) serves as the glue to this gay “Cheers,” and Patrick (Taylor Frey) provides the romantic plotline, along with Wes, who is somewhat wary of this blast from the past pretty boy.

Of everyone in this cornucopia of carefree spirits, it is Willie (Nathan Lee Graham) who commands the most attention. Graham, whose antics never tire, could read a business card and turn it into a carefully executed work of dramatic art. Here, he is the “old queen” who is quick with a quip and an arched eyebrow with the tacit implication:  “I will cut you and keep on walking.” Graham is a stunning performer who knows precisely when and how to respond to his fellow castmates but is also careful not to pull focus from the main scene. His work in this piece is a master class in the art of acting.

Vernon is mostly wise to utilize the vocal talents of his cast. Willie’s “Theme Song,” which evokes memories of the good ‘ole days, is something to cherish.  A touching moment occurs when Dale, an outcast, sings “Better Than Silence,” a plea for wanting to fit in better with this tightly knit clan. The show’s main song, “Some Kind of Paradise,” is an upbeat anthem that exalts both the lounge and its inhabitants.

The score is terrific, but I wish that Vernon had showcased Davis a bit more. From American Idol fame to Broadway’s Rent, Davis has wowed audiences with her remarkably soulful voice. Unfortunately, she has little opportunity to share it.

(l to r) Randy Redd, Benjamin Howes, Michael Longoria, and Jeremy Pope in 'The View UpStairs.' (Photo: Kurt Sneddon via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Randy Redd, Benjamin Howes, Michael Longoria, and Jeremy Pope in ‘The View UpStairs.’ (Photo: Kurt Sneddon via The Broadway Blog.)

With kitsch knick-knacks and Christmas lights adorning Jason Sherwood’s detailed set, one might think that this is a dive bar—maybe it is. But to the customers, it is a haven of friendship and community that nurtures face-to-face human connection, something that is sorely lacking for Wes, whose only concern is erasing valuable history and collecting followers on social media.

Vernon’s commentary is astute and on target. In April last year, Michael Musto wrote a piece in the New York Times regarding the death of gay clubs, thanks to a combination of mobile apps, high cover charges, and increased real estate costs. Connection has become transactional.

The View UpStairs also covers eerily prophetic territory as Patrick describes what will happen to the gay community before 2017. It is a vital reminder to young generations of what those who have gone before us have suffered, sacrificed, and endured.

It should be noted that, while the characters in Vernon’s piece are fictitious, the event that inspired it was tragically factual. The UpStairs Lounge was located in the French Quarters of New Orleans and on June 24, 1973, it was the victim of an arson attack that left 32 people dead. It remains to this day an unconvicted crime and—until the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando—the worst attack on a gay establishment in U.S. history.

The View UpStairs, smartly directed by Scott Ebersold, is an important retrospective of the gay community: where we’ve been, where we are, and who we could—and should—be.

The View UpStairs 
Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project
45 Bleecker Street, NYC
Through May 21

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

 

Curtain Up! All Broadway Shows Will Perform Tonight

March 14th, 2017 Comments off

Glenn Close in 'Sunset Boulevard.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

All Broadway shows will perform evening performances tonight as scheduled. For questions about exchange policies, theatregoers should contact their point of purchase.

Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, said, “The show must go on! For visitors who are staying in hotels and can’t get home, it’s a great time to see a show. Locals can see a hot show in a warm theatre! As always, the safety and security of theatregoers are everyone’s primary concerns, so those who can’t get into the city should contact their point of purchase for questions about exchange policies.”

Check Broadway.org for updates and to link to official show websites. Weekly performance schedule can be found at: http://broadway.org/performance-times

 

 

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