Archive for the ‘The Buzz’ Category

Take a Bite: Broadway Bakes, May 15-19

April 30th, 2017 Comments off
Broadway Bakes
Schmackary’s, New York’s uniquely gourmet cookie company, will host its Fifth Annual Broadway Bakes event May 15-19, 2017. Over 20 of the biggest names on Broadway will join together to work behind the counter at Schmackary’s each day from 3-7 p.m. selling delicious, freshly-baked cookies to the public in support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Half the proceeds from cookies sales and 100 percent of the tips generated while the Broadway stars are working at Schmackary’s will go directly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In the past three years, Schmackary’s Broadway Bakes event helped raise more than $38,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Zachary “Schmackary” Schmahl, owner, creator and cookie master of Schmackary’s believes it is very important to give back to the Broadway community, noting Broadway performers and workers have been among the five-year-old store’s best customers since its inception. “Every step of the way, the backing of the theatre community has helped our little cookie company grow into a huge success story,” Schmahl said. “So when it came time to give back, Schmackary’s wanted to assist the Broadway community in any way possible. Broadway Bakes was born, and the stars have come out twice now to help us give back and support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.”

Some of the stars scheduled to appear at Broadway Bakes include (subject to change): Christian Borle (Two-time Tony Award Winner, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Andrew Rannells (HBO’s Girls, Falsettos),Stephanie J. Block (Falsettos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Brandon Uranowitz(Falsettos, An American in Paris), Corey Cott (Bandstand, Newsies), Laura Osnes (Bandstand, Cinderella), Gavin Creel (Hello Dolly, Hair), Lesli Margherita (Matilda, Dames at Sea), Derek Klena(Anastasia, Dogfight), Christy Altomare (Anastasia).
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Last Chance: ‘The Fantasticks’

April 28th, 2017 Comments off
Madison Claire Parks as The Girl and Andrew Polec as The Boy in 'The Fantasticks.'

Madison Claire Parks as The Girl and Andrew Polec as The Boy in ‘The Fantasticks.’

Try to remember… when The Fantasticks wasn’t playing Off-Broadway. The production opened in 1960 and has been a fixture for nearly 60 years. But catch it while you can. Producers announced that the long running musical will close on June 4, 2017. At the time of its closing the production will have played a total of 21,552 performances in New York City: 17,162 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse and 4390 performances at Jerry Orbach Theater 1627 Broadway.

A modern twist on Romeo and JulietThe Fantasticks (music by Harvey Schmidt, book, lyrics, and direction by Tom Jones) is the quintessential story of a boy and girl who fall in love and then quickly grow apart when they realize they want to experience the world.  What follows is a hilarious and heartwarming story appropriate for all ages. The score, which includes the hit songs “Try To Remember”, “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “They Were You”, is as timeless as the story itself.

During its original run at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village, The Fantasticks logged a record-breaking 17,162 performances. When the original production closed in 2002, news of the closing made the front page of The New York Times. In 2006, the revival opened at The Theater Center, directed by Tom Jones (author and lyricist). Variety calls the revival, “A close re-creation that happily replicates the original’s charms.” The Fantasticks continues to run at The Theater Center, making record-breaking history with each performance.

The play has become a true New York institution. For many people, seeing The Fantasticks when visiting New York is as important as seeing The Statue of Liberty or The Empire State Building. Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended the New Year’s Eve performance of the show before ringing in 2008 in Times Square. In 1992 The Fantasticks won The Tony Award for Excellence and remains the only Off-Broadway show ever to have won a Tony.

The cast of The Fantasticks features Bradley Dean as El Gallo (The Narrator), Emily Behny as Luisa (The Girl), Nathan Goodrich as The Boy (Matt), Dan Sharkey as The Boy’s Father (Hucklebee), Dale Hensley as The Girl’s Father (Bellomy), MacIntyre Dixon as The Old Actor (Henry), Michael Nostrand as The Man Who Dies (Mortimer) and Aaron Wright as The Mute. The production also features Scott Willis, John Thomas Waite, and Samantha Bruce.

The Fantasticks
The Jerry Orbach Theatre in the Snapple Theater Center
210 West 50th Street
Through June 4

Sentimental Journey: ‘Bandstand’ on Broadway

April 27th, 2017 Comments off

By Samuel L. Leiter

'Bandstand' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Bandstand’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

There’s a lot of heart and a considerable amount of talent off and onstage in Bandstand, a sincere, upbeat, but overly sudsy and clichéd musical that’s moved to Broadway after premiering in 2015 at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse as The Bandstand. A respectful, well-produced look at the social, psychological, and career difficulties faced by GIs returning from World War II, it invites comparison with other stage and screen treatments of similar problems, like 1946’s powerful film, The Best Years of Our Lives.

Knottiest of the show’s problems is the score by Richard Oberacker (music) and Rob Taylor, his collaborator on the book and lyrics. They deserve a chutzpah Tony for creating a show in which the central characters are musicians who play, not the actual big band swing of 1945, when the show is set, but pastiches.

The jukeboxes of 1945 played such unforgettables as “Sentimental Journey,” “Till the End of Time,” “Candy,” “It’s Been a Long, Long Time,” and “There! I’ve Said It Again,” while bobby soxers swooned to greats like Peggy Lee, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, and Nat King Cole. When Bandstand specifically introduces a song it calls a “standard,” “First Steps First,” it’s tempting to call it faux-gettable.

'Bandstand' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Bandstand’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Bandstand is about Donny Novitsky (Corey Cott), a handsome, Italian-Polish singer-pianist-composer who comes home to Cleveland from fighting in the Pacific only to find himself unable to land a paying gig. A national radio talent contest for a band, whose prize will be to have their original song used in a movie, inspires him to assemble one made up entirely of veterans (James Nathan Hopkins, Geoff Packard, Brandon J. Ellis, Joe Carroll, and Alex Bender). The guys, of course, are all saddled with war-related conditions, ranging from alcoholism to memory troubles.

Donny, dubbing himself Donny Nova, overcomes the reluctance of the beautiful church soloist and Gold Star wife Julie Trojan (Laura Osnes) to serve as the band’s vocalist. Faithful to her late husband, Michael, Donny’s best buddy, Julie refuses to change her own name, despite its being juvenile joke bait.

As per the conventions of such plots, the band overcomes various obstacles—including Julie’s possible defection—and takes its sentimental journey to New York to compete in the radio show’s finals. At the last minute, though, a band member interested in the law notes a problem regarding the rights to their big song, for which Julie wrote the lyrics. Not to fear, the ever-resourceful Donny comes up with a resolution that, contrived and corny as it is, leads to Julie’s defiantly sung, ironically titled, 11:00 number, “Welcome Home.” Unsurprisingly, it got a standing O when I attended.

bandstand broadway While Bandstand never overcomes the impediment of its ersatz tunes, exciting director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton) keeps our eyes and ears glued to his inventive staging and period-inspired dance numbers. The show, with a cast of 27, and a pit orchestra of 11 supplementing the onstage players (making it hard to determine where some of what we’re hearing is coming from), is excellently performed; the character-musicians—percussion, trumpet, trombone, and bass—are highly polished and their music, if not its melodies, replicates the old-time sound.

Osnes (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella), lovely as ever, makes as much of Julia as could anyone. It’s disappointing, though, to hear her impressive pipes employed in a standard 2017 Broadway mode; it has nothing in common with the distinctive sound and manner used by girl bandstand singers of the day.

Corey Cott (Gigi)—looking a tad like a young Monty Clift, and tickling the ivories with finesse—likewise sounds more like a present-day Broadway star than a 40s crooner but he leaves a strong impression as the manically driven Donny, a role with plenty to chomp on. Beth Leavel as Julie’s levelheaded mom provides much of the show’s humor; she gets a warm response for her solo, the sensitively sung “Everything Happens.”

David Korins’s scenery, expertly lit by Jeff Croiter, has two contrasting styles: the first shows a shabby Cleveland nightclub, also used for other locales, including the battlefield; the second, more abstract, serves for later scenes, like those on a New York-bound train or at the radio station. Paloma King’s period costumes are inconsistent, some looking authentic enough, others, mainly the men’s, not so much.

Any show built around the musical tastes of World War II is going to be swathed in nostalgia; audience members who grew up then may not be able to ignore their memories in favor of a less-satisfying substitute. While not, like Bandstand, specifically about music making, Grease is an example of a show able to create songs from a particular era that sounded like (and satirized) its inspirations, making new hits as it did so. For this child of the early 40s, Bandstand is no Grease.

Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 W. 45th St., NYC
Open run

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 (





Benefit Reading: Keri Russell in ‘An American Daughter’

April 24th, 2017 Comments off
KeriRussell (Photo: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com_

KeriRussell (Photo: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com_

Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wendy Wasserstein’s prescient play An American Daughter returns to New York on May 8, 2017 at 7 p.m. for a one-night-only benefit reading at the Tony Kiser Theatre (305 West 43rd Street) directed by Emmy, Golden Globe, and Academy Award winner Christine Lahti.

All proceeds will benefit She Should Run, a nonprofit organization “working to create a culture that inspires women and girls to aspire towards public leadership.” Tickets are available now.

“The reading of An American Daughter is an exciting opportunity for She Should Run to join forces with the Indigo Theatre Project as they elevate the story of one woman’s political journey,” said Erin Loos Cutraro, Co-Founder & CEO of She Should Run. “We are truly grateful for the support of our mission to encourage and inspire more women and girls to consider public office.”

The reading will star Golden Globe winner Keri Russell as “Dr. Lyssa Hughes” with Emmy Award nominee Hugh Dancy as “Walter Abrahmson”, two-time Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff as “Morrow McCarthy”, four-time Tony Award nominee Victor Garber as “Senator Alan Hughes,” Tony Award winner Julie White as “Charlotte ‘Chubby’ Hughes,” Emmy Award nominee Zoe Kazan as “Quincy Quince”, Tony Award nominee Raúl Esparza as “Timber Tucker” and Obie Award winner Quincy Tyler Bernstine as “Judith B. Kaufman.”  Additional casting will be announced shortly.

A prophetic reflection of the modern political era, Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter follows Lyssa Dent Hughes (Keri Russell), an accomplished doctor and the President’s newly-named nominee for Surgeon General. While her confirmation at first seems inevitable, Lyssa is stunned when the vetting of her past leads to a scandal that threatens to derail her future.

The evening is produced in arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc. by The Indigo Theatre Project (Nick Gereffi, Artistic Director; Rachel Sussman, Executive Producer), a theater company that strives to unite passion with purpose by producing high-profile readings to benefit thematically relevant charitable organizations.

For more information, visit


Healthcare and the Church: ‘Rebel in the Soul’

April 21st, 2017 Comments off

By Samuel L. Leiter

Sarah Street and Patrick Fitzgerald in 'Rebel in the Soul' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Sarah Street and Patrick Fitzgerald in ‘Rebel in the Soul’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Rebel in the Soul, a brisk, compact biodrama by musician/composer/writer Larry Kirwin, is set in Ireland a few years after World War II but its tale of Dr. Noel Browne’s failed efforts to establish a state-sponsored healthcare system couldn’t be timelier.

Crisply staged by Charlotte Moore, The Irish Repertory Theatre’s artistic director, it’s consistently gripping although it too often substitutes expository monologues for dramatic action. However, several scenes, especially a riveting discussion toward the end between Browne (Patrick Fitzgerald) and Dr. John Charles McQuaid (John Keating), the Archbishop of Dublin, make up for the playwright’s overdependence on direct address.

It’s in those long speeches that we learn, for example, that Noel Browne (1915-97) was the offspring of a poverty-stricken family, many of whom succumbed to tuberculosis. After his father died of TB, when Noel was seven, he fell under the wing of a prosperous foster family, eventually becoming a physician.

Browne joined the politically radical Clann na Poblachta party in 1948 and campaigned to eradicate TB—of which he, too, was a victim—from Ireland. This led to his becoming Health Minister at 32 when the party, under Sean McBride (Sean Gormley), briefly took power.

Following his successful efforts in fighting TB, Browne sought to reduce widespread infant mortality by creating a Mother and Child scheme, where children, up to the age of 16, could get free healthcare regardless of family income. He was blocked, though, by conservative interests, principally the Catholic Church, which found ethical and social reasons—including fears of contraception, abortion, and socialism—to oppose such a program.

Sean Gormley and Patrick Fitzgerald in 'Rebel in the Soul.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Sean Gormley and Patrick Fitzgerald in ‘Rebel in the Soul.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The best parts of Rebel in the Soul are the scenes during which Browne seeks the support of McBride and argues his case with McQuaid. Both men are charismatic, gifted expositors of their political, social, and religious viewpoints; Kirwan gives them plenty of rhetorical fuel to fire their debates with the frustrated, impassioned, and equally articulate Browne. You can expect these arguments to offer, among other things, biting invective contrasting Irish theocracy with English atheism.

Also serving as a sounding board is Browne’s pretty wife, Phyllis (Sarah Street), with whom, in one scene, he dances to a pastiche period tune by Kirwan himself.

The production is in the Irish Rep’s tiny, downstairs venue, where John McDermott’s simple set, representing several locales, is little more than two desks on either side of the stage, and a chesterfield chair on wheels at center. There’s a projection screen at rear for Chris Kateff’s sometimes scratchy images of period events and architectural features.

Michael Gottlieb did the efficient lighting and Linda Fisher the period costumes. The latter look fine even from a first-row seat where you can see their weave and feel the whoosh of the archbishop’s robes swinging past.

Fitzgerald gives a colorful performance, hacking cough and all, as Browne although he sometimes seems almost manic in his intensity. Gormley’s McBride is every inch the smooth-talking, sharp-edged politician (he also plays a British physician), Keating makes the archbishop a craftily pompous debater, and Street is suitably persuasive as Mrs. Browne.

Patrick Fitzgerald and John Keating in 'Rebel in the Soul.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Patrick Fitzgerald and John Keating in ‘Rebel in the Soul.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Theatregoers who normally use listening devices should have no trouble hearing these players, who speak their heavily broguish lines with as much vigor as if they were upstairs on the mainstage; given the room’s intimacy, though, it wouldn’t hurt for the men to lower the decibel level a bit and stress the realism of their intentions over the grandiosity of their rhetoric. Also, during the monologues, looking directly at specific audience members, instead of over their heads, might make the speeches more personal and less oratorical.

America’s fight for universal healthcare may not have Ireland’s Catholic Church as its principal opponent; it does, however, have a party in power that holds fairly similar views, even if not couched in specifically theocratic terms. Rebel in the Soul makes no overt attempt to conflate what happened in Ireland in 1951 with America in 2017. Audiences can do that for themselves.

Rebel in the Soul
Irish Repertory Theatre/W. Scott McLucas Studio Theatre
132 W. 22nd St., NYCThrough May 21

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 (

‘Sunday in the Park with George’ Revival Announces Cast Recording

April 20th, 2017 Comments off
Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford in 'Sunday in the Park with George.' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford in ‘Sunday in the Park with George.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The producers of the hit Broadway revival of New York City Center’s productionSunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford, announced today that the show will live on past its critically acclaimed, sold-out limited engagement, with a cast album to be released this summer by Warner Music Group.

The New York Times’ Ben Brantley declared this to be “one of those shows that seems destined to be forever spoken of with misty-eyed bragging rights by anyone who sees it.” Now this cast recording will allow those who couldn’t see it live to hear Gyllenhaal in his Broadway musical debut, and experience this beloved Sondheim score in a new way.

The cast recording, produced and mixed by Bart Migal, will include the entire Broadway company and will be recorded later this month.

The producers also announced today that Sunday in the Park with George has recouped its entire investment in just 56 performances, making it the first show of the 2016-2017 season to do so.

The Sarna Lapine-directed production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday in the Park with George began previews on February 11 and officially re-opened the historic Hudson Theatre(139-141 West 44th Street) on February 23, 2017.  The show was filmed at the matinee performance on April 19 for the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library’s Theatre on Tape and Film Archive and ends its sold-out, critically acclaimed limited run this Sunday, April 23.

“To have a beloved Sondheim / Lapine musical be the one that re-opens the historic Hudson Theatre has been an absolute triumph,” said Adam Speers, Executive Producer for Ambassador Theatre Group. “We’re so proud that audiences have embraced it as they have and beyond thrilled that Jake, Annaleigh and the rest of the cast’s brilliant performances will be preserved on a cast recording.”

California Dreaming: Audra McDonald to Perform in Beverly Hills

April 20th, 2017 Comments off
Audra McDonald (Photo: Autumn de Wilde via The Broadway Blog.)

Audra McDonald (Photo: Autumn de Wilde via The Broadway Blog.)

Audra McDonald heads west! The record-breaking, six-time Tony Award-winner makes her anticipated debut, as part of the acclaimed Broadway @ series, at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, a one-night-only event featuring two intimate concerts at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 11. Produced by Mark Cortale, the Broadway legend will be joined on stage by Broadway @ series host and pianist Seth Rudetsky, who recently starred in the London premiere of his Broadway musical Disaster!

“Audra is a true Broadway legend, and we are thrilled to welcome her, along with Seth, to The Wallis in May,” said The Wallis’ Artistic Director Paul Crewes. “Our audiences are in for an unforgettable evening seeing these renowned performers in our beautiful and intimate Bram Goldsmith Theater.”

Seth Rudetsky (Photo provided by The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.)

Seth Rudetsky (Photo provided by The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.)

The evening features a seamless mix of intimate behind-the-scenes stories from one of Broadway’s biggest stars—prompted by Rudetsky’s probing, funny, revealing questions—and McDonald singing some of the biggest hits from her musical theater repertoire. This spontaneous evening of hilarity and show-stopping songs is not to be missed.

Since opening its doors in October 2013, The Wallis has produced or presented more than 100 dance, theater, opera, classical music and family programs to an ever-expanding audience. Located in the heart of Beverly Hills, California, The Wallis brings audiences world-class theater, dance and music, performed by many of the world’s most talented and sought-after artists.



Tormented in Life and Art: ‘Fragmented Frida’

April 19th, 2017 Comments off

By April Stamm

Andrea Dantas in 'Fragmented Frida.' (Photo provided by the production via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrea Dantas in ‘Fragmented Frida.’ (Photo provided by the production via The Broadway Blog.)

A life so rich with pain and beauty and so complex with love and betrayal can be enticing and daunting to take on in performance. Many have tackled the challenge of Frida Kahlo’s colorful and storied life on the stage and the screen, and in Fragmented Frida at BAM Fisher Space, writer, creator, and actor, Andrea Dantas gives us her take.

Frida Kahlo was a physically broken woman by her own estimation, “I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.” Surviving polio as a child and a horrific traffic accident as a teen spurned medical issues her entire life, leaving Kahlo frequently bedridden and in great pain.

As if her physical torments weren’t enough, Kahlo’s emotional life was fraught with passion, both exhilarating and devastating. Her relationship with her parents was complicated and frequently troubled; Kahlo herself describing the feeling in her home as a child as “very, very sad.” Her adult life was full of revolution and art; her active membership is the Mexican Communist Party, her tumultuous relationship with husband Diego Rivera, and her devotion to both her Mexican heritage and her beliefs in the strength and importance of women when such thoughts were not even starting to dawn on the masses.

Andrea Dantas in 'Fragmented Frida.' (Photo provided by the production via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrea Dantas in ‘Fragmented Frida.’ (Photo provided by the production via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrea Dantas’ Kahlo is center stage during this one-woman show and backed by voiceovers of her parents, Diego Rivera, school children, etc. The play starts when Kahlo is a child and takes us very close to her death. Made up of a series of short scenes, each jumping ahead in Kahlo’s life three to six years, the piece feels rushed.

The choice to take on the entirety of Kahlo’s life in a 90-minute play is misguided. With each scene, the audience just begins to sink into the fascinating life that is Frida Kahlo’s just to be ripped out again and whisked forward. Kahlo was arguably one of the greatest artists of her time (and many have said of all time) and her life was full of more than has been able to be put in hundreds and hundreds of pages of books. Why choose to take the whole thing on in such a short performance?

The choice to take on the entirety of Kahlo’s life in a 90-minute play is misguided. With each scene, the audience just begins to sink into the fascinating life that is Frida Kahlo’s just to be ripped out again and whisked forward. Kahlo was arguably one of the greatest artists of her time (and many have said of all time) and her life was full of more than has been able to be put in hundreds and hundreds of pages of books. Why choose to take the whole thing on in such a short performance?

Portraying Kahlo as tough yet sometimes introverted, beautiful yet self-hating, Andrea Dantas does a valiant job with such a complex figure. She is able to express Kahlo’s physical pain without making that the only focus of the character. Her ponderences, many using actual quotes from Kahlo, have depth and nuance. The one misstep in her performance speaks more to the structure of the play than Dantas’ acting skill. In the first scene, Kahlo as a child is being teased by a chorus of voiceover school peers. “Playing” a child as an obviously grown adult is a huge mountain to climb and Dantas trips.

Working against her nearly spot on performance, are the voiceover’s included as foils for Kahlo. Not only are they stilted and sound “read,” but they consistently tear the audience out from the character they actually came to see. They add nothing to the piece that couldn’t be accomplished through Dantas’ performance itself.

Frida Kahlo’s art and life were full of harsh and beautiful reality. Fragmented Frida feels like a grand generalization instead of the in depth look it could be. The acting talent is there, but the script takes on more than it can chew.

April Stamm is a theatre, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to Edge Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center.

Don’t Miss: Tennessee Williams Festival, May 3-7

April 17th, 2017 Comments off

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

St. Louis again celebrates its world-renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright—Tennessee Williams—with the 2nd Annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, May 3 – 7, in venues across the Grand Center Theatre District.

“The magic of the other” is a thread through all of his hundreds of plays, poems, stories, and essays. “Some of us fear and reject strange people and ideas. Williams understood that by confronting and embracing the other, we can be elevated and mysteriously transformed. This is not just the magic of theater… it is the magic of the other,” explains TWFSTL Executive Artistic Director, Carrie Houk.

Tennessee Williams FestivalHighlights include the unacknowledged Williams masterpiece Small Craft Warnings, a breathtaking Spanish-language (with English supertitles) production of Deseo; and “The Playwright and the Painter,” an exhibition of acclaimed Tennessee Williams’ paintings on loan from Key West. There is something for everyone: plays, live music, movies, paintings, readings, panel discussions, and tours.

“We thrive on the vibrancy of Grand Center. Mary Strauss and Ken and Nancy Kranzberg have embraced us. We are thrilled to have been invited by the Kranzbergs to be an anchor arts organization at the .ZACK!” boasts Board President, Scott Intagliata. “We premiere Small Craft Warnings at the .ZACK theater and it will be our hub. Patrons can settle in to discuss the festival and enjoy a drink or a meal.”

Anita Jackson in 'Bertha in Paradise.' (Photo: TWFSTL via The Broadway Blog.)

Anita Jackson in ‘Bertha in Paradise.’ (Photo: TWFSTL via The Broadway Blog.)

All programming is within walking distance of the .ZACK. “Bertha in Paradise,” featuring St. Louis’s Grammy-winning Anita Jackson, kicks off the festival on Wednesday, May 3, at the Curtain Call Lounge. In a bluesy cabaret performance, Jackson conjures up a continuation of her hauntingly unforgettable character of last year’s “Hello from Bertha.” An opening night party follows.

The remarkable showcase, “Tennessee Williams: The Playwright and the Painter,” is a major coup for St. Louis. These 18 deeply personal paintings, only once before shown outside of Key West, illustrate how William’s magical poetry brilliantly suffuses every art form he undertakes. Exhibited at the St. Louis University Museum of Art, they are on loan from the Key West Art & Historical Society and the owner of the paintings, Williams’s longtime friend David Wolkowsky.

The marquee, must-see production of the festival is the little-known but critically heralded Williams play Small Craft Warnings. Richard Corley, one of America’s most praised Williams directors, directs a cast of St. Louis’s top performers. The cast is headlined by New York’s much-lauded Williams interpreter Jeremy Lawrence as Doc, a role Williams himself played in its original New York City run.

Deseo, the festival’s first-ever international entry, provides a thrilling re-interpretation of Williams’s most famous play from the perspective of the Cuban experience. It remains true to the essence of Williams, while freshly channeling the unfamiliar challenges faced by of immigrants and exiles. It is a co-production of Lilian Vega’s Miami-based El Ingenio and the world-renowned Teatro Beundia in Havana, guided by Raquel Carrio and Flora Lauten. In Spanish, with English supertitles, at the Marcelle.

The historic Stockton House, everyone’s favorite venue last year, returns as the stage for Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis? Local favorite Jeff Awada directs the first professional production in fifty years of this intimate, funny, poignant play. The scarcest ticket in town last year was for the immersive St. Louis Rooming House Plays at the Stockton House, so theater-goers should get their tickets early and often.

The Tennessee Williams New Playwrights Initiative makes its debut this year. The winner is Jack Ciapciak’s Naming the Dog, also the recent winner of NYU’s Goldberg New Playwright Award. The play presents us with millennials who live near Ferguson, veering between attempts to cope with racial unrest and the apparently more consequential task of naming their new puppy. Ciapciak leads a Q&A after the staged reading at the Kranzberg Studio.

Tennessee Williams Tribute: Magic of the Other features scenes, songs, and poetry as interpreted by special guests including Ken Page, Lara Teeter, Elizabeth Teeter, Anita Jackson, Michael James Reed, Jeremy Lawrence, and a surprise vocalist from the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. This program will again be curated by Thomas Keith, editor of the continuing series of Williams’s newly collected works for the New Directions Press in New York.

The festival’s 17 distinct elements, receiving 39 performances, include many of last year’s favorites: educational panels, a bus tour of Williams locations, Beatnik Jam, films at the Nine Media Commons, a photo exhibit, and, of course, the crowd-pleasing Stella Shouting Contest (to win Stella beer!).

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis looks forward to building on last year’s critical success and exceeding its 2016 attendance. “I’m gratified that Tennessee’s hometown is now embracing our greatest playwright,” says Houk. We look forward to continuing to offer theatrical, artistic, and educational programming to the community, and becoming a major destination event.”

Coming Soon: ‘Dreamgirls’ Original London Cast Recording

April 15th, 2017 Comments off

Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in 'Dreamgirls.' (Photo: via The Broadway Blog.)

Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in ‘Dreamgirls.’ (Photo: via The Broadway Blog.)

Masterworks Broadway proudly announces the release of the highly anticipated Original London Cast Recording of Dreamgirls. The new double album will be available via online retailers and streaming services April 28 (preorder available now), with the 2-CD set following May 12.

Recorded live in its entirety at the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End, the album captures the on-stage exhilaration of the original cast, the 14-piece band and audience. Dreamgirls’ legendary score features the unforgettable songs “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” I Am Changing,” “Listen” and “One Night Only.”

The Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording is produced by composer Henry Krieger and mixed by Andy Bradfield. The cast recording features Amber Riley as Effie White, Liisi LaFontaine as Deena Jones and Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell Robinson—making up the soulful singing trio ‘The Dreams’; Joe Aaron Reid as Curtis Taylor Jr, Adam J. Bernard as Jimmy Early, Tyrone Huntley as C.C. White, Nicholas Bailey as Marty and Lily Frazer as Michelle Morris.

The long-awaited UK premiere of Dreamgirls opened at the Savoy Theatre in December 2016 to widespread critical acclaim, 35 years after originally opening on Broadway. It is directed and choreographed by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Disney’s Aladdin and Something Rotten!), with set design by Tim Hatley, costume design by Gregg Barnes, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone, sound design by Richard Brooker and hair design byJosh Marquette. The musical supervisor is Nick Finlow, the orchestrator is Harold Wheeler, with additional material by Willie Reale.

Dreamgirls transports audiences to a revolutionary time in American music history. It charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago called ‘The Dreams’, as they learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous.

With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony Awards. The original cast recording won two Grammy Awards for Best Musical Theater Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’ In 2006 it was adapted into an Oscar winning motion picture starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.