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Bring on the Monsters: ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’

By Samuel L. Leiter

Chris McCarrell in 'The Lightning Thief.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Chris McCarrell in ‘The Lightning Thief.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Perhaps, like me, you didn’t notice that, beneath the Harry Potter hoopla of the past two decades, a series of young adult novels about another boy with supernatural powers was gaining huge popularity. That boy, Percy Jackson, came to life in the imagination of a middle school history/English teacher named Rick Riordan, who entertained his second-grade son, afflicted—like Percy—with ADHD and dyslexia, by making up stories based on Greek mythology.

Those stories inspired a best-selling series that led not only to several sequel series but (thus far) to a pair of box-office blockbuster movies. Now, with a book by Joe Tracz and music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki, the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief, has been transformed into an energetic, generally entertaining rock musical for the seven-years-old-and-up crowd. They gave it a standing ovation when I attended.

Produced by Theatreworks, renowned for its high-quality, young-audience shows, The Lightning Thief is a fast-paced, decibel-blasting, theatrically frisky take on the original story. Unlike the visually bloated film, the show uses only seven actors, all of them adults, most playing multiple roles.

'The Lightning Thief.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Lightning Thief.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Tracz’s by-and-large faithful book—which expresses several themes, such as that normalcy is a myth and everyone is special, and that parents can be idols with feet of clay—begins with teenager Percy (Chris McCarrell)—he’s twelve in the book—having a weird experience during a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Later, after his mother, Sally (Carrie Compere), vanishes following his victorious battle with a Minotaur (James Hayden Rodriguez), Percy and his best friend, Grover, by now revealed as a satyr, enter the strange Camp Half-Blood.

Here Percy discovers he’s actually Perseus, a demigod, half-human and half-god, the son of Poseidon. If Perseus is here, can Medusa (Jonathan Raviv, in drag) be far behind? He also encounters other demigod kids, including Annabeth (Kristen Stokes), daughter of Athena; Luke (James Hayden Rodriguez), son of Hermes; and Clarisse (Sarah Beth Pfeifer), daughter of Ares.

Percy’s in hot water because his father, brother of Zeus and Hades, violated an oath never to have any more children; moreover, Percy alone can prevent war among the gods by locating Zeus’s stolen thunderbolt. This sends Percy, Annabeth, and Grover on a nation-crossing, monster-quelling quest to retrieve the bolt from the likeliest suspect, Hades (Raviv), in whose realm Sally is a prisoner and Charon (Compere) is an overstuffed, Beyoncé-like, pop singer in a sequined minidress. And where, by the way, we glimpse Kurt Cobain (Raviv), Janis Joplin (Pfeifer), and Mozart (Rodriguez).

Percy, with his magic sword and special powers (a comic surprise unlike what the book describes), must fend off an unexpected foe before all comes to its foregone happy conclusion. (The fun fight direction is by Rob Kinter.)

Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell and George Salazar in 'The Lightning Thief.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

Kristin Stokes, Chris McCarrell and George Salazar in ‘The Lightning Thief.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniels via The Broadway Blog.)

To pack all this in, the show, directed with verve by Stephen Brackett and spiritedly choreographed by Patrick McCollum, adopts an air of deliberate, even self-deprecatory playfulness; this keeps the budget down and highlights its air of tongue-in-cheekiness. It’s the kind of thing where someone, hearing about hell’s musical stars, asks if Josh Groban is there; more such jokes would be welcome, even if they soar over most kids’ heads.

Rokicki’s conventional rock score—played on keyboards, drums/percussion, guitar, and bass—is a listenable, efficient engine for keeping the show moving but most of its songs are of the undistinguished, volume-up variety; only two even hint at standard balladry.

This is a solid ensemble, with good work from all, including the slender, tousle-haired McCarrell; the dynamic, big-voiced Compere; and the comic Salazar, who scores as both the sidekick satyr and the always-shouting Dionysus (he’s the god of drama, after all).

Sydney Maresca has crafted numerous, clever, cost-cutting designs, like, for example, that for Chiron (Raviv), the centaur. In the film, Pierce Brosnan’s lower body is digitally morphed into that of a horse. Here, the character needs only a white shirt, sports jacket, leather slacks, high shoes, a bushy tail, and some equine movements to make you see a human horse.

The same don’t-take-this-seriously approach affects the various monsters whose deliberately cheesy scariness is heightened by smoke and David Lander’s fancy lighting, much of the latter in eye-catching, rock concert mode. It works well with set designer Lee Savage’s use of metal scaffolding fronting a background of graffiti-scrawled Greek pillars; the walls and their backstage equipment are exposed, and a pair of rolling scaffold-platforms is deployed for miscellaneous purposes. Ryan Rumery’s ingenious sound effects complete the package.

Finding a show most kids would enjoy can be like catching lightning in a bottle. Bringing a kid to The Lightning Thief might be like bringing your own bottle.

The Lightning Thief
Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher St., NYC
Through May 6

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).

 

 

 

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On Sale: Drama Desk Award Tickets

Michael Urie (Photo: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Michael Urie (Photo: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Tickets went on sale this morning, April 4,  for the 62nd Annual Drama Desk Awards, and can be purchased at www.DramaDeskAwards.com. This year’s awards, hosted by Michael Urie, will be held at The Town Hall (123 W. 43rd Street) on Sunday, June 4.

Laura Benanti (She Loves Me, Gypsy) and Javier Muñoz (Hamilton, In the Heights) will announce the nominations for the 62nd Annual Drama Desk Awards on Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 10 a.m. at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 W. 54th Street).

The nominations announcement news conference and the awards show will be live-streamed on www.TheaterMania.com.

The Drama Desk Awards, which are presented annually, honor outstanding achievement by professional theater artists on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. What sets the Drama Desk Awards apart is that they are voted on and bestowed by theater critics, journalists, editors, publishers, and broadcasters covering theater.

For the sixth consecutive year, TheaterMania will present the awards ceremony and Joey Parnes Productions will produce and manage the show. Gretchen Shugart is the Managing Executive Producer of the Drama Desk Awards. The Awards show will be written by Bill Rosenfield and directed by Mark Waldrop (Not That JewishHoward Crabtree’s When Pigs FlyBea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends).

The Drama Desk was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theater and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theater in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955, and it is the only critics’ organization to honor achievement in the theater, with competition among Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions in the same categories.

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Categories: The Buzz

Murphy’s Law: ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

By Samuel L. Leiter

'The Play That Goes Wrong.' (Photo: Alastair Muir via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Play That Goes Wrong.’ (Photo: Alastair Muir via The Broadway Blog.)

A bit of advice: if you’re going to see The Play That Goes Wrong make sure you visit the facilities first. Otherwise you’re going to have a hard time not peeing in your pants at the show’s avalanche of ridiculous mishaps descending on a troupe of amateur British actors. The nearly continuous laughter filling the Lyceum Theatre when I went indicates that what began in a tiny fringe venue before moving to the West End (where it’s now in its third year) is two hours of lowbrow manna from comic heaven. This is a show you can laugh, chuckle, giggle, chortle, snicker, guffaw, hoot, titter, and roar at as a farcical illustration of Murphy’s Law, i.e., if it can go wrong it will go wrong.

Thanks to the zany brilliance (or brilliant zaniness) of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, who not only wrote the play for London’s Mischief Theatre (which began as an improv group emerging from LAMDA) but are also in it, the nonstop nuttiness stems from a production of the fictional Cornley University Drama Society’s production of The Murder at Haversham Manor, a 1920s-style murder mystery in the Agatha Christie mode.

The play-within-the-play is amusingly introduced by its director, Chris Bean (Henry Shields), who also plays the John Cleese-like Inspector Carter, called in to solve the murder of the wealthy Charles Haversham (Greg Tannahill), found dead in his dressing gown on the drawing room divan.

'The Play That Goes Wrong.' (Photo: Alastair Muir via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Play That Goes Wrong.’ (Photo: Alastair Muir via The Broadway Blog.)

The broad-where-a-farce-should-be-broad action swarms with stereotypes, like Charles’s stiff-upper-lipped friend, Thomas Colleymore (Henry Lewis), dressed in tweedy knickers; the butler, Perkins (Jonathan Sayer), his silver hair painted on, his lines printed on his hands; Florence Colleymore (Charlie Russell), Thomas’s femme-fatale sister and Charles’s fiancée; Cecil Haversham (Dave Hearn), Charles’s white flannelled, anyone-for-tennis? brother and Florence’s lover; and Arthur (also Hearn), the doofus gardener, carrying a chain attached to an absent dog named Winston (the real one’s gone missing).

Each actor, by the way, is credited with the name of the one they play (thus Jonathan Sayer plays Dennis Tyde who plays Perkins) and gets a faux program bio to boot.

But even before director Bean arrives, nothing’s been going right, as worried cast members have been wandering the aisles searching for a lost Duran Duran CD and that missing dog. The scenery’s so iffy that an audience member is recruited to help fix it. Then, as The Murder at Haversham Manor unfolds, disasters follow in legions: wall props fall off, lines are forgotten, props catch fire, actors get knocked out, scenery falls apart, words are mispronounced, sound cues get bolloxed up, spotlights are misdirected, and on and on.

(l to r) Henry Sheilds, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Lewis in 'The Play That Goes Wrong." (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Henry Sheilds, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Lewis in ‘The Play That Goes Wrong.” (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Under Mark Bell’s inspired, precisely timed, slapstick staging, everything works to make it seem like nothing’s working, including a truly remarkable set by Nigel Hook—perfectly lit by Ric Mountjoy—that deserves a special award for ingenuity and acting prowess. I actually whooped at its often spectacular antics. Of course, a good reason all the physical havoc works is the sangfroid with which the show’s gifted mummers play their idiotic characters, reveling in straight-faced aplomb as they doggedly advance in perpetual combat with walls, windows, floor boards, pillars, doors, heads, and props.

The deliciously overacting, plummy-voiced ensemble—vivaciously well-costumed by Roberto Surace—is so faultlessly cast it’s difficult to single anyone out. I got a kick out of Dave Hearn’s mindless goofball who uses every moment to bask in the audience’s reactions. Also bathing in self-glorification is the Florence of Charlie Russell, whose “fits” exemplify good bad acting. Henry Lewis has a show-stopping bit of acrobatic acting on a scenic precipice, and there’s also Nancy Zamit’s doofus Annie, the stage manager who takes over for Florence when she’s flattened by a door, and eventually overcomes her jitters to battle Florence when she wants to resume her role.

Of course, The Play That Goes Wrong follows a path already blazed by plays about theatrical mayhem like The Torch Bearers and Noises Off, but it does so with such panache that it should be subtitled Or the Play That Goes Right.

The Play That Goes Wrong
Lyceum Theatre
149 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 (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

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Categories: To See or Not To See

‘Hello, Dolly!’ Shatters Shubert Theatre Box Office Record

hello dolly

The new Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler has just, in its third week of preview performances, shattered the house record for the highest weekly gross of any show in the history of the Sam S. Shubert Theatre.  (The Shubert Theatre was built in 1913.)  The record-breaking gross of $1,965,673.00 was achieved in just seven performances over the week ending Sunday, April 2.  The previous record, of $1,902,189.44, was set by Matilda over the 9-performance week ending January 1, 2017. 

This production of Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman’s masterpiece, Hello, Dolly!,  has quickly become the hottest ticket of the year, having previously broken the records for the best first day of ticket sales and the largest pre-performance advance sale in Broadway history.

Directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle,Hello, Dolly! began performances at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre on March 15, 2017, and will officially open on April 20, 2017

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Categories: The Buzz

The Fight for the American Dream: ‘Sweat’

 

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

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

Sweat, a new play Lynn Nottage, may make you do just that. It’s an occasionally squirmish drama that delves into the lives of a handful of residents in Reading, Pennsylvania, an industrial town weighted down by the outsourcing of factory jobs oversees.

Set back and forth between 2000 and 2008, the story follows two generations of families—one white and one black—as the impact of corporate fiscal responsibility and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) slowly chip away at the livelihood of those who have grown up in the factory.

Stan (James Colby) runs the local dive bar, which this night is occupied by a trio of women in various degrees of inebriation. The sharp-tongued Tracey (Johanna Day), the go-getter Cynthia (Michelle Wilson), and the passed-out Jessie (Allison Wright). But this is no comedic 9 to 5. These hard-working women know that the lives they are destined to lead revolve around the town’s central steel plant. An opportunity for a promotion comes up and the possibility that a move from the factory floor to a management position becomes a power play among Cynthia, who is ripe and ready for the job, and Tracey, who also throws her name into the running but with a much more skeptical perception.

Khris Davis and Lance Coadie Williams in 'Sweat.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Khris Davis and Lance Coadie Williams in ‘Sweat.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

We’re also introduced to Tracey’s son, Jason (Will Pullen), and Cynthia’s son, Chris (Khris Davis) as well as her drug-addicted husband, Brucie (John Earl Jelks). Jason and Chris represent the new generation of Reading, Pennsylvania, and while Jason seems to be content with a future at the factory, Chris has his eye on college and getting out.

Tensions begin to rise as it becomes clear that something is amiss at the factory and equipment is removed. Cynthia has earned the promotion, driving a divide in her longtime friendship with Tracey, and when the union decides to go on strike, the tension becomes palpable. Stan’s barback, Oscar (Carlo Albán), a U.S.-born Colombian-American, decides to cross the picket line in order to earn a higher wage, and in a bubbling fit of rage, a brawl breaks out with him and the two young guys that ends in an unanticipated tragedy.

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

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

Nottage, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Ruined, paints a complex picture of race, politics and economy in a story that could easily be pulled from today’s headlines. But in order to hit such hot-button topics, the play often feels heavy on exposition with characters talking about a situation instead of living it. As the two millennials, Pullen and Davis deliver the most complex and captivating performances, showing us how the ravages of a spiraling economy can do irrevocable damage. Albán, too, delivers an endearing performance as someone discovering the cost of pursuing the American dream. The women are painted in broader strokes, but generally speaking, the cast embraces Nottage’s big themes.

Director Kate Whoriskey keeps things moving at a brisk pace, while John Lee Beatty’s inventive sets create a moody background for the action to unfold. Sweat, at times, feels stilted in its narrative, but there’s certainly enough thematic complexity to warrant its transfer from the sold-out run at the Public Theater.

Here’s what the other critics are saying:

Though it is steeped in social combustibility, “Sweat” often feels too conscientiously assembled, a point-counterpoint presentation in which every disaffected voice is allowed its how-I-got-this-way monologue. And this thoughtful, careful play only seldom acquires the distance-erasing passion of Ms. Nottage’s “Ruined,” the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner about female casualties of the Congolese civil war. The New York Times

Gripping and timely though Sweat undoubtedly is, it’s not as polished or galvanizing as Nottage’s previous work. The second half grows repetitive, rolling toward a predictable violent climax. At times, the dialogue grows preachy or on-the-nose, ticking off points about NAFTA or intersectional racism. Time Out NY

Sweat
Studio 54
254 West 54th Street
Through September 17

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

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Categories: To See or Not To See

Guns, God and Government: ‘Church & State’

by Samuel L. Leiter

Rob Nagle in 'Church & State.' (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

Rob Nagle in ‘Church & State.’ (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

Despite its title, Church & State, a thoughtful but patchy political dramedy by Jason Odell Williams, has very little to do with the separation of powers as mentioned in the Constitution’s first amendment. That’s the one that says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” More germane here is the second amendment.

Not that religion doesn’t play an important part in the play’s treatment of Senator Charles Whitmore (Rob Nagle), a North Carolina “compassionate conservative” seeking reelection. The good Republican’s dilemma occurs when, after witnessing the results of a mass murder at his children’s primary school, he makes a grief-stricken admission to a blogger doubting both God’s existence and the efficacy of prayer. Click! It goes viral on Twitter.

Them’s fighting words. When the pol’s bibulous, Bible-quoting wife, Sara (Nadia Bowers), and dogged campaign manager, Alex Klein (Christa Scott-Reed), learn not only of his potentially damaging gaffe but that he means to defend it by going off script in his last pre-election speech, he seems well on his way to voter perdition.

(l to r) Nadia Bowers and Christa Scott-Reed in 'Church & State.' (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Nadia Bowers and Christa Scott-Reed in ‘Church & State.’ (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

In dramaturgic terms, however, Charlie’s crisis of faith is secondary to the playwright’s real target, the need for saner gun control. To NC conservatives, that’s as sinful as denying the Lord’s existence.

For many of its 75 uninterrupted minutes, snappily directed by Markus Potter, Church & State uses this promisingly provocative material for behind-the-politics domestic comedy. The good senator fights to overcome the shock to Sara’s religious system (she created his campaign slogan, “Jesus Is My Running Mate!”) and to her fondness for her Baby Glock. Meanwhile, Alex does damage control to prevent a debacle at the polls.

Set in a greenroom backstage at a bunting and campaign poster-adorned Raleigh theatre (set by David Goldstein; lighting by Burke Brown) where Whitmore is scheduled to speak, the play teeters uncomfortably between broad comedy and grave issues, seeking every opportunity to garner laughs and argue politics and religion.

Ultimately, after yet another tragic event, it devolves into a gun control admonition, which liberals will relish (the play originated in Los Angeles). It should be interesting to learn of its eventual reception down South, where, reportedly, productions are planned.

Jonathan Luis Dent in 'Church & State.' (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

Jonathan Luis Dent in ‘Church & State.’ (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

For all the potential interest in Church & State’s polemics, everything is abridged for immediate gratification, with too many cheap jokes that create an air of superficiality and implausibility. Williams is an Emmy-nominated writer but he’s no Aaron Sorkin.

It’s hard to believe that, even if the senator’s Chapel Hill-educated wife is written as a stereotypically ditzy, blonde, y’all-drawling, good ol’ gal, she’d be clueless enough to call ticker tape “sticker tape,” refer to a blogger as a “blobber,” confuse “petard” with “retard,” or cite Twitter as “the Twitter.” (That last is a running gag even harder to swallow when, in the age of Trump, it comes from the senator’s mouth.)

Would she really call Alex, with whom she has a flinty relationship, a lesbian, and then counter the denial with, “You’re a Democrat from New York—it’s the same thing”? At any rate, the silly belle we see early on is far from the sober one we encounter toward the end, suggesting a character disconnect.

There are too many similar flat notes. It’s doubtful, for example, that the liberal, skeptical Alex would manage a Republican’s campaign. Or that, as a holidays-only Jew, she could she so readily cite an Old Testament reference by chapter and verse, just to set up a joke. And when the play’s most perceptive religious commentary suddenly springs from the innocuous campaign assistant, Tom (Jonathan Louis Dent), you can be forgiven for squirming.

Fortunately, Nagle gives the play ballast by making Whitmore believably sincere and emotionally vulnerable; his big, emotional speech about guns is especially well handled. Bowers’s Sara is colorfully brassy but can’t avoid cartoonish overkill, while Scott-Reed’s Alex is sharply determined, and Jonathan Louis Dent’s four small roles are nicely differentiated. Dianne K. Graebner’s costumes help make everyone look their parts.

Judging by Church & State, when it comes to political issues, North Carolinians have little but God and guns on their minds. Even, one supposes, when they go to the bathroom.

Church & State
New World Stages
340 W. 50th Street, NYC
Through July 2

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Way Off Broadway

It Only Takes a Moment: Bette Midler’s Gracious Gesture

Bette Midler in 'Hello, Dolly!' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Bette Midler in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

It’s no surprise that Bette Midler’s Broadway arrival is generating big buzz. Hello, Dolly! producers reported a record-breaking $9 million in first-day sales. But what happened during last night’s preview—though small news for some—shows just how classy this diva is.

Christian Dante White (Photo: christiandantewhite.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Christian Dante White (Photo: christiandantewhite.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Merely two weeks into previews, actor Gavin Creel, who plays Cornelius Hackl, was unable to perform, catapulting understudy Christian Dante White (Shuffle Along…, The Scottsboro Boys, The Book of Mormon) into the exhilarating opportunity to take on the role. They say the show must go on, and so it did… flawlessly.

Anyone who has worked in the theater knows that understudies are notoriously under-rehearsed, often left to watch from the wings and move through the action during separate rehearsals with the stage manager. A “put-in” usually happens the day that the understudy is to go on, or is often the case, mere hours before the performance.

Without going into great detail as Hello, Dolly! is still in previews, let’s just say that White was a charmer and a consummate professional. And it wasn’t only the audience that took notice. The Grammy Award-winning Midler, who herself received a standing ovation mid-show and thunderous applause at the curtain call, took a step to the side and ushered forth White to take the final bow. The sense of support among the cast was palpable.

Midler is a class act, and if you can snag a ticket, Hello, Dolly! promises to be a revival for the record books.

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Categories: Show Folk, The Buzz

Broadway.com Announces Audience Choice Awards, May 25

Glenn Close in 'Sunset Boulevard' at the English National Opera. (Photo: Richard Hubert Smith via The Broadway Blog.)

Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ at the English National Opera. (Photo: Richard Hubert Smith via The Broadway Blog.)

Broadway.com announced today that the 18th Annual Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards will be presented at a private reception on Thursday, May 25, 2017.  Each year, the excitement of the Broadway season culminates at this consistently star-studded ceremony, as the theater world’s most democratic award is handed. In recent years, the ceremony has featured award winners Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, Helen Mirren, John Gallagher, Jr., Megan Hilty and the entire Hamilton principal cast, including Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The Broadway.com Audience Choice Award is the only major theatrical prize awarded solely by votes cast online by audience members. Awards are presented in traditional categories as well as several unique to the Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards, including “Favorite Diva Performance,” “Favorite Breakthrough Performance” and “Favorite Onstage Pair.” In addition, an award is presented for national tours to encourage the participation of Broadway fans not only in New York but across the country. All awards are decided solely by the voting of theater fans on Broadway.com.

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Categories: The Buzz

MCC Theater Announces $2.5 Million Challenge Grant

MCC TheaterMCC Theater announced today the launch of a matching gift challenge made possible by The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust. The Trust has awarded a $2.5 million challenge grant in support of MCC’s first permanent home and expanded programming. The campaign has raised $30 million to-date. Upon the Theater completing the dollar-for-dollar matching challenge by April 30, 2018, the company will meet the campaign’s $35 million goal. MCC’s new home will unite the company’s diverse roster of programs under one roof for the first time in its more than three-decade history.

Set to open with the Theater’s 2018/2019 season, the facility will also allow the company to expand its programming and establish it as a cultural anchor within the Clinton neighborhood. One of New York’s leading nonprofit Off-Broadway companies, MCC Theater fosters the dynamic exchange of ideas between artists, audiences, and students through its production of world, American, and New York premiere plays and musicals, a robust playwright development initiative, and one of the nation’s leading arts education programs. 

Stefania LaVie Owen and Lucas Hedges in 'Yen' at MCC Theater. (Photo by Joan Marcus.)

Stefania LaVie Owen and Lucas Hedges in ‘Yen’ at MCC Theater. (Photo by Joan Marcus.)

Robert W. Wilson was a well-known and successful investor from the mid-1960’s to the mid-1980’s. After his retirement, he devoted his life to philanthropy. Wilson was a transformative philanthropist, primarily funding worldwide organizations in the preservation and conservation areas.

An avid New Yorker, he was also involved with a number of New York’s cultural institutions. He was a major supporter of, and held leadership roles with, the Whitney Museum and the Metropolitan Opera, where he was a board member for many years. In addition, he and the Trust support the New York Public Library, Central Park Conservancy, BAM, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This matching gift marks the Trust’s first grant to a theater company.

“We are very grateful for the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust’s generosity and we’re proud to launch this matching challenge with their support,” said Bernie Telsey, Co-Artistic Director of MCC Theater, speaking on behalf of the company’s artistic leadership. “As we wrap up our 30th anniversary season, it’s thrilling and truly humbling to consider where we started—operating out of a studio apartment—and the bright future for MCC Theater as we move closer to opening the first home of our own. From new plays and musicals, to workshops developing the next generation of bold artists, to the voices of students in our Youth Company from across the five boroughs, our home will be a vibrant hub of activity in the Clinton neighborhood. We’re eager to open its doors to everyone.”

Groundbreaking at MCC Theater (Photo courtesy of MCC Theater via The Broadway Blog.)

Groundbreaking at MCC Theater (Photo courtesy of MCC Theater via The Broadway Blog.)

Designed by Andrew Berman Architect, the 27,000-square-foot space will advance MCC’s mission and act as a hub for all of its programming, allowing the institution to better serve its growing audiences and broaden its offerings—increasing its productions from four to six per season, supporting a broad and diverse roster of young writers developing new work exploring a range of contemporary topics, and expanding its groundbreaking arts education programs for New York City public school students both at its new home and in classrooms across the five boroughs.

“We are thrilled to support MCC Theater at this important moment of expansion for the company,” said Richard G. Schneidman, a trustee of the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust. “Bob enjoyed and supported cutting-edge theater. We admire the impact MCC has had on the American theater landscape, and its commitment to supporting emerging artists and young people. We invite the cultural community to join us in supporting this great New York company as it broadens its reach and embarks on this exciting period of growth.”

MCC Theater’s new home will feature resources for rehearsals, workshops, meetings, public conversations, and two state-of-the-art theaters, with 249 and 100 seats, respectively, designed to accommodate both traditional and non-traditional stagings. Adjacent to a public lobby that invites connection between the outside courtyard space on 52nd Street and the interior, these two theaters will be the heart of the new home.

The 249-seat theater will be named for Ruth and Harold Newman and Marianne and Steve Mills, who serve as campaign co-chairs alongside Board members Judith Light and Julianna Margulies, in recognition of their leadership gifts. Mr. Newman and Ms. Mills are also longtime board members who have provided significant support for MCC Theater’s education and artistic programs. Mr. Newman is the lead individual donor to one of MCC Theater’s renowned arts education programs, the in-school and after-school partnership programs at George Washington High School in Washington Heights, where he is an alum. Ms. Mills served as MCC’s Miscast gala chair for a decade, helping shape the evening into one of the most anticipated fundraising events each season. The 100-seat theater will be named for Susan and Ronald Frankel in recognition of their campaign gift. Mr. and Mrs. Frankel have been active with the company since 2015. They are proud to be a part of MCC Theater’s development and education of artists and NYC high school students.  Mrs. Frankel is also an MCC Theater board member.

“MCC Theater’s journey to our first permanent home continues to be a thrilling time for everyone at MCC,” said Susan Raanan, Chair of the Theater’s Board of Directors. “I want to thank our entire Board for their leadership and support of this campaign as we take this great leap forward and acknowledge the generosity of the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust. We invite everyone to help us meet this matching gift challenge as we continue building support for this exciting next phase in MCC Theater’s history.”

“Having the support of our partners at the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust means the world as we build a home to serve our artists, audiences, and students for generations to come,” said Blake West, Executive Director of MCC Theater. “The Trust’s generous challenge grant will have an extraordinary impact on this transformational project. As we look forward to welcoming everyone to this great new space for our 2018/2019 season, we invite our entire community to join our campaign.”

An engine for creative exchange, the company’s new home has been designed by Andrew Berman Architect to provide fluid connections between spaces dedicated to performance, behind-the-scenes development, and front-of-house—all of which will provide greater freedom for MCC Theater’s artists and give audiences greater access and insight into the company’s work. Raw materials are employed throughout, including concrete and warm woods, reflecting the process-based nature of theater-making to which the facility is dedicated.

Francesco Simeti has been commissioned to create two new visual art installations as part of New York City’s Percent for Art program. For the 53rd Street façade, Simeti will create a collage of historic images of New York City that speaks to the cultural and ecological history of the neighborhood. Utilizing digital printing on Mylar interlayers between glass panels, “A Tale of a City” (working title) will incorporate illustrations and references to native weeds and flowers that are now extinct in New York, as well as elements of the botanic, natural, and the human-made urban environment. In a second floor interior public space, the artist will install a tapestry composed of historic imagery relating to theater, sets, masks, and props from cultures all around the world.

Located on West 52nd Street at 10th Avenue, the facility occupies the ground floor of the Avalon Clinton complex, which also includes residential units as well as office and performance spaces for A.R.T./New York and the 52nd Street Project. The $35-million project broke ground on March 22, 2016 and is funded by a public-private partnership between the Theater and the City of New York, which has contributed $25.5 million to the project. The campaign supports construction and expanded artistic and educational programming. Several naming opportunities are still available, including public lobby and backstage areas.

MCC Theater’s annual Miscast gala will be held on April 3 at The Hammerstein Ballroom. This year’s event celebrates MCC’s 30th anniversary and features an all-star lineup of performers, including Tony® winners Annaleigh Ashford, Norbert Leo Butz, Jennifer Holliday, and Kelli O’Hara. Proceeds support the Theater’s artistic and education programming. The company’s final presentation of its 30th anniversary season, the American premiere of Matthew Perry’s new play The End of Longing begins at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on May 18.

 

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Don’t Miss: Broadway Cares Benefit at Don’t Tell Mama

rainbows and ribbons“Rainbows & Ribbons,” a new show by Ross Hewitt, will be presented tomorrow, Saturday, March 25, at 5:00 p.m. at Don’t Tell Mama (343 West 46th Street, New York City).  This is a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and all proceeds will go the organization. Musical director for the production is Phil Hall.  Director is Alyson Reim Friedman.

The show will feature songs from musical theatre and films including: The Colors of My Life (Barnum), Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here (On A Clear Day…), It Couldn’t Please Me More (Cabaret), Do You Love Me? (Fiddler On The Roof), A Little More Mascara (La Cage aux Folles), My Time of Day/I’ve Never Been in Love Before (Guys and Dolls) as well as other songs from Funny Girl, Hello Dolly, Oklahoma and other musicals.  Mary McKinley will also join Ross and perform other numbers.

Dr. Ross G. Hewitt has been involved with the AIDS epidemic since its beginning, caring for some of the country’s first patients as a medical student at Bellevue Hospital in 1981. He completed training in Internal medicine and Infectious Diseases and became the first Medical Director of the AIDS Designated Center Program at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, for 18 years.

Dr. Hewitt was an active clinical researcher, conducting trials that helped usher in the first 15 antiretroviral medications. He moved back to New York City, his hometown, in 2004 and since has worked in Harlem with the HIV programs at Heritage Health Care, North General Hospital and currently, the Institute for Family Health – Family Health Center of Harlem. He became the Associate Medical Director for HIV services at MetroPlus Health Plan in June, 2015, where he oversees the quality of care delivered to over 8,000 HIV+ members.

$20.00 cover/2-drink minimum.
Reservations can be made by calling (212) 757-0788 or by clicking here.

Facebook Twitter Bookmark Don’t Miss: Broadway Cares Benefit at Don’t Tell Mama  at del.icio.us Google Bookmarks Digg Don’t Miss: Broadway Cares Benefit at Don’t Tell Mama Mixx Don’t Miss: Broadway Cares Benefit at Don’t Tell Mama Bookmark Don’t Miss: Broadway Cares Benefit at Don’t Tell Mama  at YahooMyWeb Bookmark using any bookmark manager! Print this article! E-mail this story to a friend!
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