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Our Favorite Broadway Love Songs

February 14th, 2014 Comments off
Margo Seibert and Andy Karl in "Rocky." Photo by Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.

Margo Seibert and Andy Karl in “Rocky.” Photo by Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.

There’s nothing more romantic (besides diamonds, a trip to Paris or a home cooked meal) than a Broadway love song. Here are our top picks for beautiful belters, dulcid duets and passionate patter songs.

No matter your style, there’s a wee bit of musical theater that can tell your story better than you.

From Kerrigan-Lowdermilk Live at last year’s New York Musical Theater Festival, Jeremy Jordan sings one of  the songwriting team’s signature tunes, “Run Away With Me.” And we’d like to do just that.

“One Second and a Million Miles” is one of Jason Robert Brown’s soaring melodies from The Bridges of Madison County, opening February 20 at The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

While the revival of Pippin is receiving well-deserved accolades, this throwback clip of William Katt and Leslie Denniston singing “Love Song” holds its own special charm.

Want more? Take the jump!

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If They Could See Me Now: Shirley MacLaine Receives Kennedy Center Honor

December 30th, 2013 Comments off
Shirley MacLaine  (photo: Greg Gorman)

Shirley MacLaine
(photo: Greg Gorman)

Last night was the 36th annual Kennedy Center Honors, which pays tribute to living individuals who throughout their lifetimes have made significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts. Among the highlights was our favorite transcendental diva, Shirley MacLaine.

MacLaine says, “I see life as a creation each of us paints for ourselves. We do create our own reality in order to be aligned with our destiny.” With a career spanning more than 60 years, her destiny has made an indelible impact in the world of theater, television and film. She has earned four Best Actress Oscar nominations (including a win for Terms of Endearment), but it was her breakout performance from understudy to star  in original production of  The Pajama Game that started it all.

Last season fans of Downton Abbey appreciated her guest appearance as Martha Levinson and she returns again in season four. Film icon Meryl Streep credits MacLaine for giving voice to actresses of a certain age, saying, “I like that you didn’t disappear into those tricky middle years, from 45 to 65. In fact, you’re the one who cut the path for all of us because you have done some of your greatest work… in what we call ‘middle age.’ And you’re writing the template for how to have a challenging, creative later career. That gives hope to everybody, not just actors.”

Congratulations, Shirley!

New York Musical Theatre Festival Concludes Season 10

July 31st, 2013 Comments off

The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler recaps Icarus at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and shares the NYMF Awards for Excellence. 

The cast of "Icarus."

The cast of “Icarus.” (photo: Chris McIntosh)


The New York Musical Theatre Festival
concluded another whopping year of new works, concerts, symposiums, workshops and readings that celebrate the craft (and challenges) of music, lyrics, dance and storytelling. As you might imagine, the 20-day festival had its fair share of triumphs and tribulations, but all should be commended for tackling such an indelible art form.

The final show I caught was Boston-based Liars & Believers’ production of Icarus. The musical tale, told through innovative puppetry, movement and music is based on the Greek myth of the same name, though this interpretation was set in an unconventional Depression-era sideshow. Nathan Leigh’s music and lyrics have soaring potential, but were somewhat limited by an inexperienced cast. Austin Auh as the title character lacked the emotional connection to the story while his romantic interest, Penny (played by Lauren Eicher) was also missing the dynamic range to help Icarus fly.

As an ensemble piece, Icarus is filled with visual splendor — so much so that I wish Tim Gunn was around to edit some of the creative team’s work. Puppetry (by Faye Dupras), costumes (by Kendra Bell) and set pieces (by Aaron Sherkow) occasionally get muddled, but there is enough genuine, organically created inspiration that you can’t help but root for this production. With more seasoned performers, Liars & Believers have great potential for telling more emotionally truthful theatrical stories.

As for the rest of the festival, the closing night party revealed audience favorites and some forerunners as to what you may see on the commercial stage in seasons to come.

Take the leap for NYMF Awards for Excellence and a peek at scenes from Volleygirls, the “Best of Fest” Audience Winner.
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Gotta Dance! Astaire Award Winners

June 5th, 2013 Comments off

New Jersey's The Art of Dance. (photo: David Dubuy)

Guest contributor Lindsay B. Davis kicks up her heels at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards.

For performers used to being seen not heard (unless they are triple threats who can skillfully sing, story tell and do a grand jeté), last night’s Fred and Adele Astaire Awards was an out loud affirmation of the art of movement. Broadway performers, Hollywood celebrities and cultural critics were on hand to honor the best in dance and choreography on Broadway and in film.

Well, someone’s died and gone to Heaven! That would be me, sitting second row, gaze affixed upon a little podium and very large stage filled with Bebe Neuwirth, Harry Belafonte, Marge Champion, Judith Jamison, Charlotte d’Amboise, performance selections from Contact, 42nd Street, and Carousel, plus video montages highlighting the nominees and honoring the career of Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and 93-year-old dance legend, Marge Champion.

My working emotional age throughout the evening was probably around nine, which is how old I was when I gleefully interviewed Cassie and Diana from the original A Chorus Line in 1986 for a school project and could be found taking ballet, jazz and tap classes hoping to become their replacements (that didn’t happen). My guess is the audience that filled NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts for the entertaining, upbeat and oft-times very touching 2-½ hour ceremony held equally powerful memories and appreciation of the art form Martha Graham called “the hidden language of the soul.”

There were simply four categories, two achievement awards and one scholarship recipient (see full list of winners below) so the presenters and performances were as much a central focus as the actual awards. Performance stand-outs included “Simply Irresistible” from Contact (that Yellow Dress!) presented by American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, New York City Ballet dancers Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild’s breathtaking rendition of “Pas de Deux” from Carousel, the “Audition” number from 42nd Street and “Dancin’ Fool,” presented by the adorable and energetic children of Chester, New Jersey’s Art of Dance. Pass me a tissue, please!

Presenters lit up the stage as well, including Broadway heavies Susan Stroman, Karen Ziemba, Cady Huffman and Kathleen Marshall, writers Rex Reed and Michael Riedel, plus TV personalities Carson Kressley, Dancing With the Stars’ Tony Dolovoni and The Real Housewives of New York City‘s  Countess LuAnn de Lesepps, but the night belonged to the winners. Each one shared personal stories about the importance of dance and arts community support in their lives.

Winner Charlotte d’Amboise (center) and Billy Porter (left). (photo: Charles Dubuy)

Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show recipient, Eric LaJuan Summers (Motown), recounted how he came to dance late in his career after training mainly as an actor/singer. He was moved to tears by the honor. Another team MOTOWN winner, Warren Adams, became a choreographer only after an Achilles tendon tear ended his dance career. His co-collaborator and winner, Patricia Wilcox, recounted her childhood in dance therapy that eventually led to dance performance followed by choreography. Charlotte d’Amboise (Pippin) won the Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show award and in her excitement actually dropped the trophy (which broke in half)—endearing her to the entire audience. She went on to thank her extraordinary cohorts at Pippin (three of whom were also nominated in the same category) and incredibly supportive husband, Terrance Mann.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Marge Champion with Rex Reed. (photo: Charles Dubuy)

But the most heart-warming moment came when Marge Champion, of MGM musicals, Walt Disney, and The Marge & Gower Champion Show fame, accepted her Lifetime Achievement Award from Harry Belafonte. His introduction followed by her speech captured the essence of the night — that love and dance are inseparable. Dance, said Champion, taught her that other people can do the same thing but do it their own way. That dances are none other than love scenes and a graceful, curtsey never gets old. She closed by sharing one of her own favorite quotes, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain.”

The Winners:

Outstanding Choreographer in a Feature Film: Sidi Larbi Cherkaouit (ANNA KARENINA)

Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show: Charlotte d’Amboise (PIPPIN)

Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show: Eric LaJuan Summers (MOTOWN)

Outstanding Choreographer of a Broadway Show: A tie between Chet Walker (PIPPIN) and Patricia Wilcox & Warren Adams (MOTOWN)

Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award: Marge Champion

Outstanding Achievement in the Preservation of Musical Theatre: Ted Chapin

Adele Astaire Scholarship Award: Connor Yockus

Lindsay B. Davis is an arts/culture journalist, actress, playwright and director. She resides in New York City.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Wizard

April 16th, 2013 Comments off
Stephen Schwartz’s 65th Birthday Celebration with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. (photo: Richard Termine)

While most teen boys probably want to sneak a six-pack and get drunk behind the bleachers for their 16th birthday, I reveled in a mix tape artfully crafted by two of my favorite show-choir girls. Their heartfelt (albeit somewhat flat and lacking vibrato) rendition of Stephen Schwartz’s “Day by Day” left me as inebriated on musical theater as if I had bathed in an overflowing tub of champagne — or in those days Bartles & Jaymes sparkling wine coolers.

It was my first introduction to Schwartz’s folk/rock chamber musical Godspell and I was hooked. I then discovered Pippin, followed by a spat of a piece called The Baker’s Wife, which everyone knows because of the mega-belting “Meadowlark” but I fell in love with “If I Have to Live Alone” because it was in my baritone range and suitably depressing for a teenager.

After a few commercial flops, Schwartz disappeared (and I moved on to Les Misérables). Not really. He went to Hollywood and cranked out lyrics for a bunch of Disney animated features only to return to Broadway in 2003 with Wicked, adapted from the fantastical novel by Gregory Maguire.

Stephen Schwartz (photo: Richard Termine)

With a career spanning more than 40 years (watch out for Houdini, slated for Broadway 2014), it seems only fitting that Schwartz recently celebrated his 65th birthday at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops. Helmed by Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke, the concert featured stars of stage and screen, including Jeremy Jordon, Julia Murney, Jennifer Laura Thompson and Norm Lewis, along with the Essential Voices USA choir.

The concert was the final hurrah in the Pops’ 30th anniversary season and its fifth sold-out event of the year. The program spanned Schwartz’s diverse career with selections from his musical theater compositions as well as lesser heard works from his opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon and a powerful choral piece titled “Testimony” that was originally written for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Julia Murney, who played Elphaba in Wicked on the national tour as well as on Broadway, shared a story of first auditioning for Stephen Schwartz back in 1996 for a review of the composer’s work. He was so taken with her voice that he asked her to sing “Meadowlark,” a notoriously difficult song. She did it on the spot (“after throwing up in my mouth a little bit”) and hadn’t sung the piece again since that audition.

Jennifer Laura Thompson (left) and Julia Murney. (photo: Richard Termine)

Revisiting the number, she shook the rafters of Carnegie Hall but was not to be outdone by Jennifer Laura Thompson, who tackled the equally difficult “West End Avenue” from The Magic Show. The men of the evening had their shining moments, too — particularly Jeremy Jordan, whose soaring tenor voice seemed to effortlessly glide over powerful ballads from Children of Eden, Godspell and Pippin.

Schwartz took to the stage to share some backstory on the creation of “The Wizard and I” from Wicked. Originally conceived as a song titled “Being Good,” he and writing partner Winnie Holzman revisited the song several times, taking into account original actress Idina Menzel’s strengths and crafting a song and situation that would fit more naturally with her voice. Murney delivered her rendition of the piece in an appropriately emerald green dress.

This was the final concert in this season’s series, but you can celebrate the New York Pops’ 30th birthday at their star-studded gala on April 29. The event honors artistic collaborations and the work of Frank Loesser, Jule Styne and Danny Kaye.

“I am thrilled,” says Dena Kaye, “and so very touched, that The New York Pops has chosen my father, Danny Kaye, to honor at their 30th Birthday at Carnegie Hall, as we continue a year-long tribute of the Danny Kaye Centennial. As my father was born and raised in New York, this is the perfect celebration for a man who has brought his laughter and joy to generations through his talent as an actor, singer, dancer, conductor, comedian and humanitarian.”

Next season’s performances have also been announced and include Chris Botti, Tony award-winner Montego Glover, Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley and others. Season tickets start at $150.
Visit www.nypops.org for more information.

We Love You Broadway, Part IV

February 13th, 2013 Comments off

Today’s picks come from the Executive Director at Richmond CenterStage, Richard Parison. No stranger to producing and directing, Richard also served as Producing Director at Barrington Stage Company, Associate Producing Director of the Prince Music Theater and the Assistant Producing Artistic Director at the Walnut Street Theater, both in Philadelphia, PA.

With an eye (and ear) for some quirkier selections, here’s what Richard had to say…

“Love Who You Love,”  A Man of No Importance
“I love this song because love should be simple… ‘There’s no fault in loving, no call for shame… everyone’s heart does exactly the same. And once you believe that, you’ll learn how to say… I love who I love, who I love.’”
“Call from the Vatican,” Nine
“I love this song because love is more than just romantic love.”

 

“These Boots Were Made for Walkin’,” Nancy Sinatra
“While not a Broadway love song, I love it because, hey, sometimes love just doesn’t work out.”

 

We Love You Broadway, Part III

February 12th, 2013 Comments off

For today’s picks of the best Broadway love songs, I turned to Duncan Stewart and Company, one of Broadway’s hottest up and coming casting agencies. Duncan Stewart and Benton Whitley have a keen eye for talent and are responsible for all of those unexpected star turns in the revival of Chicago. Other projects include the Tony award-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles and the much-anticipated revival of Pippin directed by Diane Paulus.

Duncan Stewart and Company was profiled in the June 2012 issue of Passport Magazine. Their meteoric rise on the New York theater scene is no surprise given their introspective takes on what makes for a great Broadway ballad. Here’s what they have to say…

Duncan’s Picks

“I love complicated love songs — ones that pull at the heartstrings and move me, yes, but the ones that really induce heartache are the songs that deal with both love and loss.”

“Goodbye Old Girl,” Damn Yankees
“This song has moved me since when I was young. A man loves his wife, yes, but he also needs to leave her to discover and re-awaken something in himself that has been missing for years. As his wife sleeps upstairs, he pens her a note, ‘Goodbye, old girl. My old girl. When you awaken I’ll be gone. Can’t tell you where I go, It isn’t fair, I know but trust in me and carry on.’

At the end of the song he sings, ‘Our love will keep old girl, till then, my old girl, goodbye.’ While in complete distress, Meg seems to understand that her husband has gone to find ‘himself’ and holds the torch for his ultimate return. I believe Meg and Joe are soul mates and that this kind of love is true, messy, complicated and unconditional… and in the biggest sense of the word, isn’t that what ‘love’ is all about?”

 

“How Could I Ever Know,” The Secret Garden
“A perfect example of love’s eternal flame. Archibald, in despair, cries out to the universe (and to the spirit of his deceased love, Lily) ‘How in the world, tell me how in the world, can I live without your love?’ Just as he is about to utter the word ‘gone’ she appears in a vision to calm him. Coming back from the grave to comfort the love of her life, Lily sings a most beautiful melody — that both lovingly soothes and reassures him: ‘How could I know I would never hold you? Never again in this world, but oh – sure as you breathe I am there inside you…”

“True love that lasts is not about cards, candy, flowers or heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate. True love transcends struggles and strife, uplifting, beholding and celebrating both parties (as individuals and as a coupled unit) and yes, carrying on in eternity.”

Take the jump for Benton’s picks…
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We Love You Broaday, Part II

February 11th, 2013 Comments off

As part of this week’s series of our favorite Broadway love songs, I turned to Broadway producer extraordinaire, Eva Price. Her Broadway producing credits include “Annie,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony” among others.

Our little secret: Eva’s got a soft spot for some of the best Broadway ballads as well as a couple of quirkier picks — a sure sign that she’s got an eye for what will be the next big hit. Here are some of her favorites…

“As Long As Your Mine,” Wicked
“This is a gorgeous, sexy, passionate song. Out of context it’s gritty and somewhat sexual. And then you stop and think, two people of two different races (essentially) who aren’t necessarily supposed to be together are so fused by desire that they are tearing each other’s clothes off, AND singing to each other. Totally beautiful!”

“Little Fall of Rain,” Les Miserables
“A totally heartbreaking moment. Unrequited love always gets me and this is a raw, real, and tragic ending to a love that will never be. Whoever sings this song (Broadway, West End, movie… even amateur productions that I’ve seen) blows my mind and breaks my heart with those killers voices and emotional delivery.”

http://youtu.be/_ROpEc7nywA

Take the jump for more of Eva’s picks…
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Applause, Applause: Judy Kuhn, Just Around The Record Label?

November 19th, 2012 Comments off

In his continuing series, Andrew Glaszek pays tribute to music theater greats deserving of diva status. Today, he looks at an actress who has been in some of the biggest hits of the last few decades but still isn’t a household name…

Judy Kuhn "Just in Time". Image via Amazon.

To some, life would just be bland and banal without The Broadway Album, It’s Better with a Band, Way Back To Paradise, or Matters of The Heart. And though I respect Barbra, love Barbara, Audra, and worship at the altar of Patti, my life (and repertoire) wouldn’t be the same without the album Just In Time: Judy Kuhn Sings Jule Styne. It’s a recording that is, start to finishfantastic.

This should be no surprise to anyone who fell in love with Ms. Kuhn in the revival of She Loves Me  (TONY Nom), was blown away by her “Just Around The Riverbend” as Disney’s Pocahontas, or found her Betty Schaefer better than the leading actress in the Broadway Sunset Boulevard. Choosing a favorite song or performance by her is a tough task since this is the same wonder woman who leaves people obsessed with her soprano in Les Miserables (TONY Nom) and her belt in Chess (Tony Nom)! This season, Judy hit the NY stage and filled the house in the Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s Fun Home at The Public and is sure to tear up the town as Fosca in Classic Stage Company’s upcoming revival of Sondheim’s Passion.

It’s also great to have the prospect of a new solo album on the horizon that should include songs by Sondheim and Porter amongst others. Without a record label backing this project, she’s taken to kickstarter for financing of this, her third solo recording after Just In Time… in ’95 and Serious Playground – The Songs of Laura Nyro from ’07. Check out her campaign for a video and incentives.

So while you get your tix for Passion and help kickstart her new album, get your Judy Kuhn fix with these clips (and go buy Just In Time: Judy Kuhn Sings Jule Styne on iTunes!)…

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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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