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Three to See: April

April 5th, 2016 Comments off

April showers are raining on Broadway this month with last-minute openings for productions to be eligible for this year’s Tony Awards (the cut-off date is April 28). It was tough list to narrow down, but these are the three that we’ve got our eyes on (with a bonus show just for good measure!)

Jessie Mueller in 'Waitress.' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Jessie Mueller in ‘Waitress.’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Waitress
Broadway’s favorite darling and Tony winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful: The Carol King Musical) leads the cast as Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker in a small town who dreams of a way out of her loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. With music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson, and direction by Diana Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland), this team of female powerhouses promises to deliver a heaping serving of musical theater.

Waitress
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street
Opening night: April 24

fully committedFully Committed
Our favorite funny man Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) finally returns to Broadway in a hilarious revival of Becky Mode’s one-person play, which was originally an Off Broadway tour de force.

You think you’re having a bad day at work? Meet Sam. He covers the red-hot reservation line at one of New York’s most exclusive restaurants, juggling desperate diners, scheming socialites, name-dropping wannabes, celebrity divas, panicked waiters and a fame-hungry chef. And in this sidesplitting comedy, Ferguson plays all 40 characters!

Fully Committed
Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45th Street
Opening night: April 25

 

shuffle along

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 And All That Followed
If there’s one show that might have just as much historical resonance and reinvention than runaway hit Hamilton, it’s this star-packed, behind-the-scenes look at the 1921 musical that redefined Broadway.

This retelling is helmed by director George C. Wolfe and stars Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, Brooks Ashmanskas, and features choreography by Savion Glover. Put on your tapping shoes, this is going to be one wild ride! 

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 And All That Followed
Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th Street
Opening night: April 28 

BONUS PICK

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.)


Skip the pond and head to the English National Opera’s revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring its original Broadway leading lady, Glenn Close. Critics are raving about her performance!

Sunset Boulevard
English National Opera
Through May 7, 2016.

Breaking News: Audra McDonald Returns to Broadway

March 14th, 2015 Comments off
Audra McDonald (S. Buckley/Shutterstock)

Audra McDonald (S. Buckley/Shutterstock)

She’s already won six Tony Awards. Will Audra McDonald’s return to Broadway bring lucky number seven? USA Today reports about the new show, to be directed by George C. Wolfe and choreographed by Savion Glover.

McDonald will star in Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, a new musical telling a story behind an old one. 1921’s Shuffle Along, featuring an all-black cast, featured music and lyrics by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. Against all odds, it was a success, helping to propel such names as Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson.

 

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Review: Live Broadcast & New Recording of “The Sound of Music”

December 6th, 2013 Comments off

Contributor Scott Redman reviews the live broadcast of  The Sound of Music.

Carrie Underwood in "The Sound of Music." (photo: Will Hart/NBC)

Carrie Underwood in “The Sound of Music.” (photo: Will Hart/NBC)

Truth be told: Last night NBC attempted a feat nearly impossible: a live telecast of the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music. Was it amazing? No. But was it inspiring and nostalgic to see a musical brought to life before your eyes on primetime television? Absolutely. The thought of wrangling and organizing the logistics seems overwhelming in such a multi-layered project.

The “live” factor of doing a musical has many variables: multiple scenes, costume changes for the lead characters, synching the orchestra with the singers, timing commercial breaks, etc. It was interesting to see the show come together in real time and view the natural mishaps destined to occur on a live telecast. At one point a man stepped on Elsa Schraeder’s dress (played eloquently by Laura Benanti) during the dinner party scene and she gave him a sordid glance to let go! It was also enjoyable to see Broadway favorites Christiane Noll (Ragtime) and Jessica Molaskey (Sunday in the Park With George) in nun habits as well as silk-voiced soprano, Ashley Brown (Broadway’s original Mary Poppins) standing in the corner with a serving tray graciously playing a maid! The stars came out full force to support this endeavor, which reportedly cost NBC an estimated $9 million to produce.

Carrie Underwood stars as Maria and gets an A+ for effort and bonus points for having the gumption to play a role originally created on Broadway by Mary Martin and most famously portrayed by Julie Andrews in the original feature film. Underwood’s voice is plenty big enough to give the songs “The Sound of Music,” “My Favorite Things,””Do-Re-Me” and “The Lonely Goatherd” the power and precision they deserve. Her acting never quites makes the transition from postulant to governess to wife and stepmother. Many of her lines are delivered in monotone sound bytes as if she is a talking computer program. Stephen Moyer as Captain von Trapp is dashingly handsome and has a sense of command about him but plays his scenes without nuance and fails to establish a true connection to the other actors. Moyer and Underwood have very little on-camera charisma as a couple and it felt awkward seeing them kiss.

The Trapp kids are charming and look and sound just fine. Araine Rinehart is a stand out as Liesl, the oldest in the lineup who is slow to warm up to Maria’s antics. Rinehart embodies the youth and vibrance of what the future of Austria could be if the Anschluss wasn’t knocking on the back door. Michael Campanyo as the gentleman caller, Rolf, does a fine job and the dance sequence during “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” is one of the most captivating moments in the telecast, which ends with the two young lovers rolling down the mountainside entangled together.

Jessica Molasky as Sister Berthe, Elena Shaddow as Sister Sophia, Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess, Christiane Noll as Sister Margaretta. (photo: Will Hart/NBC)

Jessica Molasky as Sister Berthe, Elena Shaddow as Sister Sophia, Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess, Christiane Noll as Sister Margaretta. (photo: Will Hart/NBC)

The supporting roles, all played by Broadway’s leading men and women, add credibility to the production. Audra McDonald is a powerhouse and sings “Climb Every Mountain” with a rich and smooth delivery. McDonald’s experience shines through the often low caliber camera and sound technology that surrounds her. In a pre-broadcast interview, Underwood described McDonald’s voice as if “butterflies were flying out of her mouth.” I couldn’t agree more. McDonald is a no-fail actress that can tackle any role given to her.  Christian Borle’s performance as Max twirls his mustache a time or two too many and has a cartoon swagger about him. Laura Benanti adds a needed elegance playing the Baroness, Elsa Schrader. Benanti has a natural edge for the camera and a voice that matches her prowess.

In terms of production value, scenery was constructed in a way that made live filming possible, yet it at times felt thin. There were a couple of transitions where directors Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy Miller embraced the theatricality of the show by flying out a wall from the von Trapp mansion to reveal the walls inside the Abbey or pulling back a drape to reveal the stage at Kaltzberg Festival. It was during these brief moments where the team embraced the medium of television while keeping the theatrical sensibility of the musical form intact. Sound effects, better lighting and sound engineering would have given texture and filled the occasional static void between dialogue.

soundofmusic_recordingA cast recording of the telecast score has also been released and beautifully captures the golden melodies and poetic lyrics of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The music supervisor, David Chase, has done a fantastic job recreating the original score. Doug Besterman has revised the original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett into a symphonic sounding dream. Kerri Underwood’s talent is best showcased here as a vocal recording artist rather than musical theater actress. The new recording will be a welcomed addition to anyone who is a fan of The Sound of Music.

The Sound of Music is one of the most beloved musicals of all time and was the last collaboration between the legendary song writing team Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hamerstein II. The original film has become the epitome of “family movie night” and has spurned the notorious movie-sing-a-longs that have created a sub-culture of their own. (Ted Chapin, President of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, makes note of this in his recording linear notes.) Whether or not the telecast could have been better is somewhat subjective but it still is a coup that the broadcast exposed a brand new generation to the spirit of musical theater and the American masterpiece, The Sound of Music.

 

“Giant” Sings, “The Performers” Swings & More Theater News

November 16th, 2012 Comments off

The Cast of "Giant". Photo by Joan Marcus.

The circle of life isn’t just a lyric sung while Julie Taymor puppets circle The Lion King; it’s the natural progression on Broadway. In this theater news round-up, we celebrate the eternal constants of birth, death and taxing reviews…

  • Daniel Breaker & Cheyenne Jackson in "The Performers". Photo by Carol Rosegg.

    You can’t have a sunrise without a sunset (don’t believe me, go see Fiddler on the Roof). And we can’t have openings without closings.  The Broadway porn/romantic comedy The Performers opened this week to less than vociferous reviews and already announced it will close Sunday.  Those wishing to see Cheyenne Jackson in a loin cloth had best hurry.

  • And some shows are just a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. Producers announced this week that they are in early stages of developing a juke box musical based on the songs of pop hit-maker Diane Warren (“How Do I Live” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”) and an adaptation of the Savannah-set bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and music from the catalog of Johnny Mercer.  Celine Dion ballads vs. murderous society gays…not as antithetical as one would think.
  • Finally, Broadway’s hottest married duo Audra McDonald and Will Swenson are kicking off a kickstarter campaign for Facing Eastan independent film to be directed by Swenson based on an off-Broadway play by author Carol Lynn Pearson. The story sounds moving and topical (a mormon couple deals with the suicide of their gay son) and the incentives to donate are amazing (McDonald singing to you on your birthday!). Watch the teaser video after the jump…

Read more…

“Golden Boy” Ticket Winner & Your Favorite Broadway Knockout

October 31st, 2012 Comments off

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner! Daniel M. is going to see Lincoln Center’s new production of Golden Boy on us.

But today, everybody wins because readers submitted their favorite “knockout” Broadway performances as part of their entries. I’ve read them, removed the ones I absolutely disagree with on a fundamental aesthetic level (I’m kidding) and am now posting some of the best quotes.  So sit back and enjoy some of the best of Broadway, at least according to our fabulously tasteful readers…

Reba McEntire in "Annie Get Your Gun". Photo by Andrew Eccles.

  • Reba McEntire in Annie Get Your Gun was the most perfect pairing of role and performer I have ever experienced.  I saw the show 7 times with her and even paid for 5 of the times!!” David L.
  • “I remember seeing Gary Sinise on Broadway in The Grapes of Wrath. He was mesmerizing. Wish he would do more plays.” Linda Z.
  • The Scottsboro Boys.  I was completely entranced from beginning to end. So clever, new, brilliant performances. 90 minutes of beauty.” Betsy D.
  • “Knock out performance? Audra McDonald in…well, in just about anything she’s ever been in. But particularly, Carousel. What a revelation.” Adam M.
  • Sutton Foster in Anything Goes. A true triple threat.  AND she made it look effortless!!! She is the reigning “Broadway Heavyweight” in my book!” Jamey W.
  • “My parents took me to see A Chorus Line on Broadway when I was about 12. It was astonishing to me in so many ways, starting with the sheer talent and artistry that my young self had never encountered, and ending with the subject matter that struck me hard emotionally — a knockout.” Pam W.

And what of our winner’s entry? He certainly wins with this answer, too. Love me some Cherry Jones.

  • Cherry Jones knocked me out in A Moon For The Misbegotten back in 2000. Her combination of tenderness and toughness, her gutsy physicality and hardened humor — astonishing.” Daniel M.

“Rebecca” Crashes, Audra Mashes, Kong “Smashes” & More Theater News

October 8th, 2012 Comments off

The Set for "King Kong". Image via kingkongliveonstage.com.

It’s not often theater news makes it on to the front page of major papers, but some recent Broadway stories have been seriously buzz-worthy. So let’s catch up by taking a quick scan of the headlines with links to the full story…

  • Broadway’s Rebecca Flames Out:   The New York Times’ Patrick Healey has been doing extensive investigative work into the mysterious disappearing investor that hastened the collapse of the Broadway bound show — on the eve of its first rehearsal.
  • Star-Studded Cast Reads Into the Woods Film for Investors:  Nathaniel at The Film Experience has a picture of the program from last week’s invite only reading of the Sondheim masterpiece’s film adaptation, including info on which Oscar-laden lady is being circled as a possible “Witch”.
  • King Kong Stomps Into Melbourne Theater:  Over the weekend, producers of the mega-musical, Australian adaptation of King Kong took over the internet for an unprecedented live-streaming, global introduction to the show, its cast and some of its songs.
  • Bleep Magazine Goes Broadway:  The internet magazine released a full issue devoted to the stars of New York theater including Broadway Blog favorites Nick Adams, Julia Murney and more.

Stars, Snubs and Surprises at the 2012 Tony Awards

June 11th, 2012 Comments off

James Corden, Audra McDonald, Nina Arianda & Steve Kazee. Photo by Walter McBride/Retna.

All that’s left of this year’s Tonys is a trail of body glitter left on the 1 train by some hungover chorus boy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relive them with a look back at the night’s big winners and losers. (Get the full list of Tony winners here.)

Biggest Winner: With a pack leading eight wins, Once, the little show that could proved to be a freight train mowing down the competition. Given that it was based on a small independent film, expect Sundance to be swarmed by music theater writers next year. Pack extra leg warmers.

Best Reason to Watch the Tonys vs. the Oscarsother than dancer butt: The Tonys aren’t afraid of comedy. James Corden’s triumphant, masterclass in low comedy wouldn’t even have been nominated for an Oscar let alone won one. Somewhere, Steve Martin is shaking his fist and thinking, “Why didn’t I do All of Me on Broadway?!”

Best Audition for the Next Spider-Man Villain: When the every-peppy cast of Godspell jumped into the audience, Andrew Garfield was seen recoiling in fear from a swirling apostle attempting to pull him into the aisle. It would seem that all you need to stop Spidey is a tube of greasepaint and a follow spot.

Read more…

Bonnet Tops, “Faith” Drops, “Submission” Pops & More News

April 27th, 2012 Comments off

Audra McDonald & Ricky Martin & the Cast of "Mary Poppins" at the 2012 Easter Bonnet Competition. Photo by Monica Simoes.

It’s time to dress you up in our love of theater with a very fashion forward news roundup…

  • Broadway put on one heck of an Easter Bonnet this year as the proverbial hat was passed to the tune of $3,677,855 raised for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The winning chapeau went to the company of Mamma Mia during a song and dance packed event featuring big stars like Audra McDonald and Ricky Martin.
  • John Carrol. Photo by Kevin McDermott.

    In any sort of clothes (or out of them) our very own Theater Buff John Carroll is a special guy. And now the Advocate magazine has named him one of their Forty Under 40, “leaders in media, politics, sports, and science, [who] are facilitating our future”.

  • Cinderella is getting another makeover…and we aren’t just talking a snazzy dress made by mice. A new version of the classic fairytale is headed to Broadway next season using Rogers & Hammerstein songs from their various TV incarnations and from their catalog and featuring a new book by Douglas Carter Beane (Lysistrata Jones). Laura Osnes (Anything Goes) and Santino Fontana (Brighton Beach Memoirs) will star and Mark Brokaw (The Lyons) is slated to direct.
  • Feel like getting decked out in gold? How about just lining yourself with the latest awards nominations from the Drama Desk. Their list is out and features a mixture of Off-Broadway and Broadway, a bunch of shows not eligible because of previous consideration (to confuse you Tony predictors) and a pack leading 10 nominations for Follies and Death Takes a Holliday.
  • Everyone’s favorite theater-inspired web series Submissions Only ends its second season today with a totally bedazzled final episode, embellished with some serious spangly star power. Guest stars included Jessie Tyler Ferguson, Nick Jonas, Harvey Fierstein, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the dancing boys of Newsies.

SHOW FOLK: Gavin Creel on Gay Marriage, Loving Audra & Very Bad Dogs

April 11th, 2012 Comments off

Gavin Creel at Birdland. Photo by Monica Simoes.

Two-time Tony-nominee Gavin Creel is on a roll–and it’s rolling him into a theater near you. Producers just announced that he’ll be playing the lead in the first national tour of the smash hit The Book of Mormon. But that’s just the latest in a string of bold moves for the charming and handsome Creel. From a new pop album to his groundbreaking work for marriage equality with Broadway Impact, he’s long been winning hearts and minds far beyond the Great White Way.

Two months ago (and sadly before I could grill him about Mormon), I caught up with Creel via phone to interview him for the May issue of “Passport Magazine” (hitting newsstands any day now). However, we had so much to chat about and so much that was too juicy for the print edition, it couldn’t be contained in one article–so I thought I’d share the extras here. Serious or silly, whether discussing his own wedding dreams or his codependent relationship with his dog, Creel proves why he’ll always be one of our favorite leading men…

Hi Gavin. How are you doing?

I’m good. I’m literally standing on a marina in Key West so I’m going to step outside so we can have a little chatty poo.

I’m sorry to interrupt; I didn’t realize it was vacation time.

I’m not on vacation; I’m doing a Broadway Across America concert. Doing a little presentation for eleven new musicals for next season. Just coming down to sing a song. I literally flew in an hour and a half ago and am flying out tomorrow morning.

Fun times.

Crazy. That’s the life of being a show business whore.

[laughter] Honestly, the first thing I have to do is thank you. My partner and I of eleven years just got engaged last week.

Oooh! Congratulations!

It truly is because of people like you that we were able to do this.

I appreciate that; it’s very kind of you but I’m not getting married or engaged yet so it’s people like you who are doing it. Even though we’re still fighting for the rights it takes people like you to do it, to stand up and face all the stupid that might come your way even though it’s legal.

Have you had a chance to attend any weddings since it became legal in New York?

No gay weddings yet.

None! Oh no…

I’ll be looking for the invite.

It’s in the mail now.

[laughter]

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