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Seth Rudetsky at Tony Awards Pop-Up Shop

June 2nd, 2015 Comments off

Seth's Broadway Diary Cover.jpgDo you have Tony Awards madness? The Tony Awards and Dress Circle Publishing announce a special fan experience at the Tony Awards Pop-Up Shop. Author and Broadway personality Seth Rudetsky will be joined by Broadway favorites Julia Murney (Wicked), Priscilla Lopez (In The Heights, the original cast of A Chorus Line), and more who will be reading excerpts from Seth’s Broadway Diary, on Wednesday, June 3  from 6 – 7:00 p.m.  The Tony Awards Pop-Up Shop is located at the Paramount Hotel and is open daily to visitors.

Seth’s Broadway Diary is a compilation of Seth’s hilarious, Broadway-centric “Onstage and Backstage” columns for Playbill.com, chronicling his unique life on and around the Great White Way. Seth’s Broadway Diary is full of his personal Broadway experiences, such as going to the final performance and party for Rent, watching in terror as Jeff Bowen was dragged off the stage during [title of show] and the night he saw Spring Awakening and helped Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele break (-ish) the law. Plus, inside scoop on what it’s like performing with tons of fantastic stars like Rosie Perez, Andrea McArdle, Betty Buckley, Bernadette Peters and more.

“I love reading from Seth’s Broadway Diary with the actual celebrities who are featured in it.  Especially because the stories about them are usually embarrassing and it’s fun to watch a Broadway star verbally recount something mortifying,” said Seth. “Furthermore, the Tony Awards are always so thrilling and I love that now there’s an entire store dedicated to them.  My only devastation is that the store isn’t open all year. NOT cool.”

Seth Rudetsky’s Broadway Diary fan experience will take place on Wednesday, June 3rd from 6:00 – 7:00PM, and the Tony Awards Pop-Up Shop, located at the Paramount Hotel on 46th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Seth Rudetsky will be signing books following the reading.

About the Tony Awards Pop-Up Shop
Located at the Paramount Hotel (on 46th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue), The Tony Awards Pop-Up Shop is open to the public seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., through the day of the CBS Tony Awards® telecast on Sunday, June 7.

Pick up exclusive merchandise including t-shirts, pins, posters, mugs, sweatshirts, onesies, hats, binoculars, umbrellas and more. The Pop-Up will also have merchandise available from Tony-eligible shows of the 2014-2015 Broadway season. Tony Awards memorabilia celebrating the last 69 years of the Awards will also be on display.

Last Chance: “The Landing” at The Vineyard Theatre

November 19th, 2013 Comments off
Julia Murney and David Hyde Pierce in "The Landing" at The Vineyard Theatre. (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Julia Murney and David Hyde Pierce in “The Landing” at The Vineyard Theatre. (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Extended through November 24, it’s your last chance to see a charming (albeit somewhat melancholy) new musical at The Vineyard Theatre. The Landing features book and lyrics by Greg Pierce and music by Broadway legend John Kander.

The one-act musical moves swiftly between three scenes: “Andra,” “The Brick,” and “The Landing.” With a cast of four, which includes Tony Award-winner David Hyde Pierce and Broadway belter Julia Murney, each story in it’s own way explores the theme of loss. From a young boy longing for a father figure to a stylized fantasy piece and the final scenario in which a gay father sees the cryptic vision of his own future, The Landing gently trots along, with the most tender and honest moments delivered from Pierce.

Bobbie, who’s dozens of directing credits span both Broadway and off-Broadway, seamlessly maneuvers the action, while choreographer Josh Rhodes (currently represented on Broadway with First Date and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella) makes the most out of pedestrian movement and even throws in some ballroom for Murney and Pierce, who joyously meet the challenge.

Paul Anthony Stewart and Frankie Seratch in "The Landing." (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Paul Anthony Stewart and Frankie Seratch in “The Landing.” (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Where The Landing slightly falters is with Kander’s score, which feels more like an exercise than a fully realized piece. It lacks the defining sound of recent works such as The Scottsboro Boys and A Family Affair. It is neither hummable or haunting, yet his astute craftsmanship manages to keep The Landing afloat.

Critics responded somewhat warmly to the show, which has been extended through November 24. And while it may not be earth-shattering theater, catching the likes of such high caliber talent in an intimate setting is not to be missed.

Here’s what the critics had to say…

“Mr. Kander’s music for “The Landing,” which opened on Wednesday night in an elegantly slender production directed by Walter Bobbie, is on a smaller scale. Often it has the chiming simplicity of children’s songs. But linked and woven into the book and lyrics by the young playwright Greg Pierce (in Mr. Kander’s first full collaboration with a new partner since Mr. Ebb’s death in 2004), these innocent melodies shade into sorrow and sourness, a bit like those tinkling music-box motifs so beloved by makers of horror movies.” The New York Times

“Throughout all three [stories], Kander’s music mixes his street-smart show-biz signature with yearning romantic ballads and, here’s the surprise, snatches of rhythmic colors that suggest Sondheim. Pierce’s characters all have detailed, original specificity beneath their everyday lives. Kander recently described his new collaborator as “a present someone gave me.” It appears the gift, in this small package, was also given to us.” Newsday

“Directed with a nimble hand and a full heart by Walter Bobbie, and featuring the talents of David Hyde Pierce (Greg’s uncle) and some lesser-known but similarly facile performers, TheLanding consists of three vignettes exploring love and loss, discovery and disenchantment. The parts are uneven, but the whole is haunting, startlingly original and deeply moving.” USA Today

The Landing
The Vineyard Theatre
108 Est 15th Street
Through November 24

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Read more at roodeloo.com.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Wizard

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

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

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

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

Stephen Schwartz (photo: Richard Termine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHOW FOLK: The Writer & Cast of “Falling” on Love, Family & Autism

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

Daniel Pearce, Celia Howard, Daniel Everidge, Jacey Powers & Julia Murney in "Falling". Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Mothers often say that they’d give their life for their child–but what happens when the child she loves is truly a danger to her and the rest of the family?

That’s the heartbreaking question at the center of Falling, the intense and emotionally evocative Off-Broadway play which opened last night. Inspired by playwright Deanna Jent’s own experiences, the drama (with some decidedly unexpected and welcome big laughs) follows one family as they try to figure out how best to care for an autistic son who has grown to adulthood–and whose violent outbursts can no longer be completely controlled. Supported by a deeply committed cast, acclaimed singer/actress Julia Murney (Wicked, Wild Party) anchors the play as a woman torn between her desire to escape her life and her duty as a mother; the New York Post raves “superbly staged by Lori Adams and wonderfully acted…Falling soars.”

After a recent performance, the cast, director and playwright sat down to talk to the audience about the inspirations for the show and their preparation for doing this moving work. Here are a few excerpts from the conversation:

Read more…

“Forbidden” Returns, Cheyenne Jackson Goes Porn & More Theater News

July 27th, 2012 Comments off

In honor of the Olympic games, this week’s theater news wrap-up will be extra speedy (with, I hope, bonus points for style). On your mark, get set, GO…

Marcus Stevens, Natalie Charlé Ellis, Jenny Lee Stern and (kneeling) Scott Richard Foster in "Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking". Photo by Carol Rosegg.

  • Something wicked (and wickedly awesome) this way comes as the ever-popular, star-skewering Forbidden Broadway makes a triumphant return this week. The limited run officially opens in September and promises all-new parodies of Porgy and Bess, Once, The Book of Mormon and Spider-Man. And if I were Ricky Martin, I’d be preparing myself for some ribbing about left arm acting.
  • The hit Off-Broadway revival of Closer Than Ever is getting two new leading ladies for its extension, Jacquelyn Piro Donovan (Miss Siagon) and, one of our faves, Julia Murney (Wicked). I’m checking it out this weekend so watch for a review later this week.
  • Another Off-Broadway hit is proving pundits wrong and settling in for a longer run. The acclaimed drama Tribes announced an extension through January 6, 2013.
  • And finally, two dates to add to your calendar: the always-popular free concert Broadway on Broadway is scheduled for 11:30am on September 9th and the Broadway transfer of the London smash Matilda: The Musical is scheduled to begin previews March 4, 2013 at the Shubert Theatre.

Broadway Belters Hit Your B Spot

July 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Sutton Foster in "Anything Goes". Photo by Joan Marcus.

“Belting (or vocal belting) is a specific technique of singing by which a singer produces a loud sound in the upper middle of the pitch range.” Wikipedia

Sure, that’s the technical definition. But theater types know belting as that spine tingling, vocal chord busting, earsplitting, sometimes heartbreaking sound that makes grown men weep and every little girl wish she were Annie. Love it or hate it, belting is the sound of modern Broadway and the holy miracle that creates diva worshippers as devoted as any Delphic priestess. (Personally, I’m a mix man but that’s for another day…)

Need a little belt booster shot? Watch this hysterical/awe-inspiring video compilation of some of the best belters ever, followed by some choice quotes from the diva’s themselves about their voices…

Read more…

VIP ACCESS: Broadway Gets Cool with 54 Below

March 28th, 2012 Comments off

Every fourth Wednesday of the month, the “VIP Access” column will serve up advice on how to make your theater-going experiences cheaper, easier and more fulfilling with inside scoop from the experts. This month, we’re introducing you to the coolest new kid on the block…

54 Below Cabaret. Sketch by John Lee Beatty.

You know the scene. It’s a black and white film set in New York City. The impossibly urbane leading couple finds their way to the swankiest club in town for some delicious banter–all to the latest Broadway chanteuse singing from the stage. Heaven. Too bad a place like that doesn’t exist today, right?

Well, the glamor and pizzazz of a real Manhattan night club might be back–with a hip, young Broadway twist–at the June opening of 54 Below. Designed by Tony-winner John Lee Beatty and architect Richard Lewis, lit by Tony-winner Ken Billington, and with sound by Tony-nominee Peter Hylenski, the new lounge (tucked under the legendary Studio 54) promises to combine fine dining with a star-studded selection of performers.

54 Below Booths. Sketch by John Lee Beatty.

They’re kicking things off with the one and only Patti LuPone, and the rest of their current bookings are a who’s who of music theater and cabaret ranging from class acts like Liz Callawy, Jenifer Lewis and Rebecca Luker; to a sprinkling of Smash with Megan Hilty and Brian d’Arcy James; and on to artistically adventurous types the old fashioned supper clubs wouldn’t normally feature like songwriter Joe Iconis, downtown icon Mx Justin Bond and Lea DeLaria.

The Bottom Line: I know what you’re saying; cover charge and drink minimums make these places a money pit. I won’t lie, if you want to see Patti, you’re going to be paying upwards of $100 a person, however the cover/food charges for other artists come down significantly to a respectable special night out at $55 a seat for top-line entertainment. If you want to sample the atmosphere without breaking your budget, “The Green Room” offers after hours seating and live music with no cover or minimum.

Pick Hits: Glancing through the schedule, you can’t go wrong with almost any night you’re in town. But, if I had to create a package, I’d make a tour of next generation Broadway divas and catch:

Read more…