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Baden Baden 1927 Opens in New York

October 25th, 2013 Comments off

Baden Baden 1927

By Christopher Ludgate

Gotham Chamber Opera’s opening night gala of Baden Baden 1927 in New York City last night was an engaging visual feast for the senses. The production is an unwavering nod to the company’s mission to continue to facilitate the creative evolution of opera in a post modern era of mixed-media landscapes. Many houses around the globe are beginning to take this trend seriously, but Gotham, in its 12th season, proves with Baden that they continue to be keenly on the pulse of lively and relevant productions.

A fully-staged re-creation of these four one-act opera’s, that were originally performed in a festival in Baden, Germany in July, 1927, Baden Baden 1927 consciously takes you on a provocative journey through each of its quarters. Beginning with Darius Milhaud’s and Henri Hoppenot’s L’enlèvement d’Europe (The Abduction of Europa), the audience is lured to merge with spectators at a gallery and all are provoked to explore the meaning and direction of art, and the evening becomes an intimately honest one, as it often does with Gotham.

Scottish director, Paul Curran’s refreshing concept of constant dramatic physical movement illustrates this by making full use of a talented chorus with the attractive principals including the voluptuous Maeve Höglund, adorable Daniel Montenegro, John Cheek, Matthew Tuell, and Michael Mayes at the helm with a passionate score powerfully conducted by Neal Goren.

Goren and Gotham both begin to shine even brighter with the perfectly paced and unexpectedly accessible production of Ernst Toch’s and Benno Elken’s The Princess and the Pea. The engaging comic timing of the whole team, including that of Jennifer Rivera, Ms. Höglund, Mr. Montenegro, is infectiously effective. But, above all, the charms of the legendary soprano Helen Donath, who makes her return to the New York stage in an outstanding performance as the matriarch of a somewhat pompous, albeit royal family in this piece, is one of the major highlights of evening. It could be reality TV at its best.

Gotham Chamber Opera

Successfully facilitating the generous and tasteful art direction of Georg Basiletz, the collaboration of the lighting and the video design, by Driscoll Otto and Paul Hackenmueller respectively, works in unison throughout each piece, and continues to keep an up-tempo visual in Paul Hindemith’s Hin und zurück (There and Back), presenting a challenging temporal poetry and nostalgia that reflect a romantically feminine experience with humor and heart.
What may be the most evocative piece of the set is Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel. The relevance and cynicism of dystopian fears amongst the early industrial and modern ages during the rise of fascism are juxtaposed with some of the eerily similar issues that appear to be repeating themselves in today’s socio-economic and political landscapes, reflecting both an individual’s desire for freedom and escapism from the existential.

The engaging and intimate narratives are enjoyably executed with nonstop but also non-gratuitous multi-media backdrop enhancements during the two-hour production, and elaborate the quick journey of the production as a whole which can easily leave one refreshed, substantially satisfied, and more than willing to go with this new direction of opera.

The remaining limited dates for Gotham’s Baden Baden 1927 at the Gerald Lynch Theater at 524 West 59th Street in NYC are October 26th and 29th with a few tickets still available.

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‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ — 100th Showing of ‘Forever Dusty’

February 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Love was in the air last week at New World Stages as a packed house celebrated Valentine’s Day with “Forever Dusty”‘s 100th performance sing-along show. While some in the audience sat with blond bubble wigs in their laps—soon to be squiggled on their heads—all awaited the appearance of Kirsten Holly Smith as the iconic Dusty Springfield. And “Yes She Was” the incarnation of the iconic, sultry “Great White Lady of Pop and Soul and Queen of the Mods” in all her wounded and wonderful glory.

At once fragile, Kirsten Holly Smith rocked the rafters with her vocals: sparkling in sequined/beaded maxi dress and blond wig—bedazzling against the black-and-white backdrop images of the the legend’s turbulent life and times. Christina Sajous as Claire (a composite of Dusty’s loves), shimmied and shook and mesmerized with a voice to capture any heart.

The audience sang out all-along, while white lyrics scrolled down over a brick facade—to 20 songs in 90 minutes. By the second encore, we shook our booties, bobbed our bouffants, and belted out “Son of a Preacher Man” (heart & soul) with the best of them off-Broadway.

So, dip a brush into some black liner, break your (inner blond) wig out of the box, and GO see the show. Oh yes we DO ‘have to say we love you’ Dusty—FOREVER!

Legendary Film & Broadway Composer Marvin Hamlisch Dead at 68

August 7th, 2012 Comments off

Image via Marvinhamlisch.com

One of the most acclaimed Broadway and film composers, Marvin Hamlisch, passed away at the age of 68 due to an unspecified illness. Best known for his work on the musical A Chorus Line and movies like The Way We Were and The Sting, the celebrated composer was no stranger to receiving praise for his work—during his career he received a Tony, Emmy, Grammy, and Academy Awards (He is also one of only two people to have won all four of those prizes and also a Pulitzer Prize). Hamlisch was behind the music in cult classics like Ordinary People, Sophie’s ChoiceTake the Money and Run, and James Bond hit The Spy Who Loved Me (helping to write “Nobody Does It Better” with Carole Bayer Sager). His prolific career on Broadway included credits in They’re Playing Our Song, The Goodbye Girl, and Sweet Smell of Success. Among many others, Hemlisch also worked with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli. [USA]

In Memory of Martin Pakledinaz

July 10th, 2012 Comments off

Our contributing correspondent Andrew Glaszek remembers the life and work of Tony-winning costume designer Martin Pakledinaz, who passed away July 8.

Martin Pakledinaz. Photo by Ken Howard.

I went to a performance-based program, in Detroit at Wayne State University, which meant that we did a season of 5 fully produced shows each year at a 1200 seat proscenium arch theatre in addition to a season of studio productions and two touring shows at the same time that the graduate company was doing 8 full productions in rotating repertory in their own theatre. (breath) On top of our class loads and training, of course. We did everything. And we did it with our blood, sweat, and tears. All three of which ended up on the costumes – plenty of it was mine.

When I wasn’t on stage or in rehearsal (which was a hell of a lot), I worked in the costume shop to pay my rent and buy my booze (and some groceries sometimes, I guess…) I stitched, ripped, surged, washed, dyed, and pressed, blocked hats, cut patterns, pulled together looks, loaded in to the theatre and loaded out again… and again. I also learned the skills to make a lil side career as a designer. Working there was life changing, especially due to my mentor, professor and friend Mary K. Copenhagen. The costume shop is where the heart is – where actors are able to meet, not only their character’s presence, but the creative process in action.

At WSU, we had a hero – Martin Pakledinaz. Marty had gone to WSU for theatre many years before but, at the time I was in school, he was reaching the height of his success as a costume designer on Broadway and starting to pick up TONY nom after TONY Nom. – 10 with 2 wins! Show after show, we were able to revel in the fact that one of our alum had made it big. He had worked under the best, Theoni V. Aldredge, to be the best. Here’s Marty in his own words describing his start:

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APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE: Hail to the Chief, Lynne Thigpen!

February 8th, 2012 Comments off

Bernadette. Patti. Some Broadway performers don’t need a last name. But what about amazing theater talents that never get that kind of widespread, iconic acclaim? In a new column, I’ve invited friends of the Broadway Blog to write about the stars that they love who deserve a little extra applause. Looking at their lives, great roles and video clips, it’s a Theatrical 101 that will hopefully give you some new divas to worship. First up, actor and music theatre addict Andrew Glaszek (also known as the man who helps me find our Theater Buffs, so he basically deserves sainthood) shares his love for a truly singular actress…

Lynne Thigpen. Image via PlaybillVault.com.

To its credit, Hollywood ain’t dumb… it can recognize a good thing and has a history of putting our favorite Broadway Babies to work, but not all get the One Day At A Time (Bonnie FranklinApplause) or Gimme A Break (Nell CarterAin’t Misbehavin’) treatment or the current Smash build up that is putting the name Megan Hilty on everyone’s screen. I’ve always gotten a kick from knowing the theatrical pedigree of sitcom stars (ie. Megan Mullally, Beth Howland, Florence Henderson, et al.) or the crime scene & court room characters (thank you for keeping Loretta Devine working!) but there’s a small screen actress that has a place in this diva-lovin’ heart… Lynne Thigpen.

Her long list of credits include guest spots and roles on thirtysomething, The Cosby ShowRoseanne, L.A. Law, Law & Order, All My Children, The District… but many know her best from the after-school schooling that she made entertaining as “Chief” on Where in The World Is Carmen Sandiego. But if you only know her from her TV work, you might be surprised to find out that she had an award-winning, stage career including an LA Drama Critics award for Fences, Obies for Boesman and Lena and Jar the Floor, and a Tony for An American Daughter. And thanks to Gimme A Break! we got to see her sing and dance along with Telma Hopkins and the show’s star, another Broadway belter, Nell Carter (sadly both Ms. Thigpen & Ms. Carter died “before their time” in 2003.) Skip to 4:42 of this clip for their 60’s Medley.

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Win Two Tickets to See Patti and Mandy!

November 22nd, 2011 Comments off

Image via Serino Coyne.

The Broadway Blog has a voucher for two free tickets to see An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, a once-in-a-lifetime limited engagement, running through January 13th. Instead of keeping it for ourselves, we’re offering the tickets to our readers and fellow theater lovers. Now you can join the two Broadway legends as they embark on “an entirely original evening: a musical love story, rendered through the songs of Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Kander & Ebb, Loesser and more.”

How do you enter for the chance to win? Go to The Broadway Blog’s facebook page and click “like” before November 30. We’ll select a winner at random from that list and announce the results here on the blog. If you’ve already clicked “like”, thank you and you’re eligible, too!

And just to get you more excited, find out what the critics are saying (and our own two cents about the show) by reading the review round-up.

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Investors Pull Out of “Funny Girl” Revival—Show Scrapped

November 6th, 2011 Comments off

Lauren Ambrose (photo via Passport)

The revival of the hit Broadway show “Funny Girl” looked a lot more like funny business this week as last-minute investor pullouts forced producer Bob Boyett to scrap the revival all together. The original 1964 production, and the subsequent 1968 movie, made a star out of the then-unknown Barbra Streisand, though it appears that this time around investors in the $12 million reboot weren’t after creating a star, but banking on an established actress to propel ticket sales (a common casting practice when reviving hit shows: “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” [Daniel Radcliffe], “Anything Goes” [Sutton Foster], and “Follies” [Bernadette Peters]). The musical had already cast “Six Feet Under” alumna Lauren Ambrose as Fanny Brice, who critics were expecting to deliver a (dare I say it) comparable performance to Streisand. Investors were also reportedly nervous about Funny Girl going up against The Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” and “Evita.” The cast is reportedly devastated, but no one more so than Boyett who has spent the past eight years working on the revival. [NYTimes]

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The Summer of Shakespeare, Coming to a Theater Near You

June 27th, 2011 Comments off
The Merry Wives of Windsor

Mistress Page, Sir John Falstaff, and Mistress Ford of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by John Tramper.

Avid theater fans who have dreamed of the days when Shakespeare ruled the Globe Theater are in luck; starting today, the stage is alive once again as The Merry Wives of Windsor, performed in the 1997 reconstruction of the historical theater, is screened in select movie theaters nationwide.

The comedy of revenge, class clashes, and scenes of love and marriage will be shown with extra behind-the-scene footage as part of the NCM Fathom Shakespeare’s Globe London Cinema Series. Online tickets are available at FathomEvents.com.

The series will continue throughout the year, with Henry IV part one playing Monday, August 1, Henry IV part two on Thursday, August 18, and Henry VIII wrapping the event up on Thursday, September 15.

And if you prefer your Shakespeare al fresco instead of “al popcorn,” Shakespeare in Central Park continues in New York in July, beginning with the recently-opened All’s Well That Ends Well. Alongside the NCM Fathom Series, anyone with an inkling of interest in the theater great will definitely find a place to get their fill this summer.

Watch a preview of what is to come after the jump…

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“Priscilla” Takes on the New York City Pride Parade

June 24th, 2011 Comments off

Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon, Nick Adams, and the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is taking it to the streets to celebrate this year’s New York Pride.

The stars of the musical (about three fabulously attired drag queens driving and dancing across the Australian outback) kicked things off by headlining last Saturday’s Pride Rally. What’s next for the troupe? The parade, of course! The stars of the show, including Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon, and Nick Adams, will hop aboard the famed bus of the title and drive right down 5th avenue in full, show-stopping, Tony-winning-costume style. And with all those sequins and wigs, something tells me you won’t be able to miss it.

All silliness aside, Priscilla‘s story of acceptance and friendship is a perfect fit for this weekend’s festivities. Check out the cast’s “It Gets Better” ad and be inspired, after the jump…

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“Broadway Bares XXI: Masterpiece” Finally Revealed

June 17th, 2011 Comments off

Photo by Andrew Eccles.

This Sunday, more than 200 of Broadway’s most stunning dancers will strip down for an auction-themed burlesque show at this year’s Broadway Bares XXI: Masterpiece at Roseland Ballroom. Produced by and benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), the sizzling performance features stars and starlets of the stage engaging two crowds of theatre enthusiasts (9:30pm and midnight) with their interpretations of the scantily clad subjects of famous art pieces.

Special guests will include Tony and Emmy nominees and winners from a number of Broadway shows, including Judith Light, Rory O’Malley, Jim Parsons, David Hyde Pierce, Roger Rees, and Christopher Sieber, as well as New York Post columnist Michael Riedel. Tony Award winner Beth Leavel will perform the opening original song and the show will end with a number by Tony nominee Patina Miller.

Broadway Bares has become one of the signature events of BC/EFA, with 20 editions of the show raising more than $7.5 million. BC/EFA is a nonprofit fundraising and grant-making organization devoted to helping people with AIDS and other critical illnesses throughout the United States.

Don’t miss this chance to see Broadway’s most talented dancers bare it all!

(And after the jump, get a little video preview of what’s in store…)

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