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One Night Only: Kate Baldwin

October 26th, 2015 Comments off
Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan in Keen Company's John & Jen (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan in Keen Company’s John & Jen (photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Keen Company presents Keen OnKate Baldwin, an evening of songs with Tony Award and Drama Desk nominated star Kate Baldwin (John & Jen, Giant, Big Fish, Finian’s Rainbow) and special guests.

Kate Baldwin and Norbert Leo Butz in "Big Fish." (photo: Paul Kolnik)

Kate Baldwin and Norbert Leo Butz in “Big Fish.” (photo: Paul Kolnik)

An audience favorite, Kate Baldwin will be joined by Katie Thompson (Giant, Big Fish) and Graham Rowat (Mamma Mia!, Guys and Dolls). The evening will showcase Baldwin’s unique range and ability, featuring diverse material by The Dixie Chicks, Stephen Sondheim, Georgia Stitt, Andrew Lippa, and more. The eclectic evening will have Musical Direction and accompaniment by Georgia Stitt, with percussion by Michael Croiter, and bass by Brian Hamm.

The one-night-only event will be held  Monday, November 2 sat 7 p.m. at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street)—home to Keen’s current MainStage production of Grahm Greene’s Travels With My Aunt.

General admission tickets are $60, Premium tickets (including champagne toast with the artists) are $150, and available at telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200, or at the Theatre Row box office (410 West 42nd Street).

Here’s a peak at Kate Baldwin’s recent performance at SubCulture in New York City.

 

Review: John and Jen

February 26th, 2015 Comments off

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Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan in "John & Jen" (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan in “John & Jen” (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

It’s been 20 years since the original production of John & Jen, a song cycle musical by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald. A lot can happen in two decades. Lippa has gone on to write the theatrical oratorio I Am Harvey Milk (in which he has also appeared), The Addams Family, and a retrospective of his work, Life of the Party, was presented at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory last summer. Greenwald is the author of the young adult book series, Charlie Joe Jackson. People grow up and move on—and occasionally bear the weight of life on life’s terms. Such is the subject matter of their endearing, if sometimes saccharine riff on sibling/parent relations and letting go, now receiving a respectable revival by Keen Company.

Conor Ryan and Kate Baldwin in "John & Jen" (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Conor Ryan and Kate Baldwin in “John & Jen” (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Starring Conor Ryan as John (The Fortress of Solitude, Cinderella), and Tony Award nominee Kate Baldwin as Jen (Big Fish, Finian’s Rainbow), the musical’s first act follows the course of brother and sister respectively as they find coping mechanisms for an abusive father. Jen as the older sibling makes a promise she can’t keep: to protect her little brother and always be there for him. But as they grow older and transition from 1950s America to the Vietnam Era, Jen’s tolerance for violence informs her decision to stay away from the family and ultimately move to Canada, leaving her brother at home to fend for himself. He joins the military and prior to deployment, the pair has an uncomfortable reunion. It’s the last time they’ll ever see each other.

The second act picks up years later and there is a new John in Jen’s life: her namesake son. As a single mom, Jen smothers (albeit with love) her son, desperately trying to keep the memory of her brother alive. You can imagine how that goes. Through some innovative theatrics, including a talk show sequence where the actors have a brief reprieve from their main characters, the mother-son relation finds resolution and the bird—so to speak—is set free to fly.

Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan in "John & Jen" (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan in “John & Jen” (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Baldwin and Ryan do their best to navigate the material. As sister then mother, Baldwin is tasked with a vast range of age and emotion. While less believable in the first act, she hits her stride in Act 2, where the maternal instincts (and age range) feel like a more natural fit. Ryan, who has skyrocketed onto the New York theater scene since his graduation from the University of Michigan last year, displays an adept physicality as well as restraint when appropriate. Each has his or her shining moments, though the physical production doesn’t do them any favors.

Steven C. Kemp’s oppressive set feels more suited to a futurist production of King Lear, with gloomy and foreboding geometrical shapes jutting in all directions in the Clurman Theatre’s wide proscenium. Josh Bradford’s lighting feels misplaced and over saturated. Combined, these elements exude an unnecessary weight on a production that would be better served by more fluidity and space.

Directed by Keen Company’s Artistic Director Jonathan Silverstein and featuring musical direction by Lily Ling, John & Jen reaches for emotional summits and occasionally finds them. For musical theater fans, the show offers insight into the Lippa cannon, offering early glimpses of his current status as one of the more prominent theater composers of this generation. And while the musical may not always soar to new heights, it is an endearing exploration of the human spirit.

John and Jen
Presented by Keen Company
Clurman Theatre, Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
Through April 4

Matthew Wexler is the editor of The Broadway Blog as well as the national style and travel editor for EDGE Media Network. Follow him on Twitter at @roodeloo.

Big Lies in Murky Waters

November 26th, 2013 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler reviews Big Fish and Lies My Father Told Me.

Kate Baldwin and Norbert Leo Butz in "Big Fish." (photo: Paul Kolnik)

Kate Baldwin and Norbert Leo Butz in “Big Fish.” (photo: Paul Kolnik)

An unusual theme appears on the New York stage this fall as two musicals, each in its own way, tackles the subjects of fatherhood and deception. Big Fish, a new musical based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and subsequent film, is a splashy hodgepodge of forgettable music by Andrew Lippa set against the backdrop of a fantastical world created by scenic designer Julian Crouch and costume designer William Ivey Long (with some blurry projections by 59 Productions). The story brings to life the bigger-than-life tales of Edward Bloom as recounted to his son. Downtown, you can catch Lies My Father Told Me (based on the works of Ted Allan and film by the same name), a memory play with music that follows the musings of lead character David as he recalls his tender relationship with his grandfather and the volatile verbal abuses of his father. Neither show manages to find its emotional core, despite moments of honest theatricality that occasionally bubble to the surface.

There were big expectations for Big Fish, which opened in early October and has already posted its closing notice. (Its last performance is scheduled for December 29.) With Tony winners Susan Stroman as director/choreographer and Norbert Leo Butz taking on the lead role, it seemed like a sure-fire hit. But Broadway overflows with rough waters and Big Fish never found its audience. As Edward Bloom, Butz pulls out all the stops and may well be one of the hardest working men on Broadway right now as he attempts to carry the show along. I rooted for Bloom as he tackled the mammoth tales of a life fully lived, trying time and again to impart his wide-eyed enthusiasm on his son before it’s too late.

But Andrew Lippa’s uninspired score doesn’t do him any favors. Co-stars Kate Baldwin as his dedicated wife, Sandra, and Bobby Steggert as his beleaguered son, Will, create a compelling and conflicted family unit, but the show’s ensemble appears to be floating in the nether regions of someone’s imagination and none are tethered to the same reality.  During the particular performance that I saw, they appeared vacant and detached (with the exception of cameos from the ever boisterous Brad Oscar and Broadway newcomer Ciara Renée).

Stroman, who achieved astronomical commercial success with The Producers and critical acclaim with The Scottsboro Boys, is overshadowed by the production’s “wow factor.” I knew I was in trouble when the visually engineered trees blowing in the upper reaches of the set enraptured me. The subtlety and intelligence of Stroman’s choreography is lost in The Neil Simon Theatre and a sea of yellow daffodils. Big Fish is a big disappointment and a harrowing reminder that a Broadway hit is a tough fish to catch.

Jonathan Hadley, Russel Arden Koplin and Jonathan Raviv  in "Lies My Father Told Me." (photo: Michael Priest)

Jonathan Hadley, Russel Arden Koplin and Jonathan Raviv in “Lies My Father Told Me.” (photo: Michael Priest)

Unlike Big Fish, the National Yiddish Theatre’s production of Lies My Father Told Me relies on more traditional storytelling and fares marginally better than its uptown counterpart. The story follows the memories of David as he recounts his childhood in an immigrant community in early 20th century Montreal. As older David, Joe Paparella is tasked with the nearly impossible task of narrating a series of scenes that individually resonate but cumulatively doesn’t offer much dramatic arc.

At the center of the conflict is David’s father Harry (Jonathan Raviv), an angry wannabe inventor who is constantly borrowing money and making empty promises. Young David finds solace in his relationship with his grandfather Zaida (Chuck Karel). This is “Tevye-light” and Karel exhibits the mannerisms and anecdotes you’d expect to see in a production of Fiddler on the Roof but without the fire in his belly. Add the grumpy neighbor Mrs. Tanner (overzealously played by Renée Bang Allen), young David’s beaten down mother Annie (Russel Arden Koplin) and uncle (Jonathan Hadley) and a handful of locals and you’ve got yourself a Canadian Street Scene.

Elan Kunin’s score has moments of great theatricality, from the opening “Rags, Clothes, Bottles” to Harry’s rage-filled “What’s With The Knees” and Annie’s wistful 11 o’clock ballad “Maybe Someday,” but the larger company numbers are undermined by choreographer Merete Muenter’s staging. Muenter seems wholly determined to have the cast of actor/singers turn, shuffle and knee-slap their way around John C. Dinning’s towering set. Their movements are often without purpose or motivation—nor do they feel inspired by the era. Director Bryna Wasserman (who also adapted the piece) is unable to take the reigns and ultimately delivers a production filled only with glimmers of truth.

Big Fish
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street
Through December 29

Lies My Father Told Me
Baruch Performing Arts Center
55 Lexington Avenue
Through December 15

Hanks, Breakfast at Tiffany’s & More Hollywood on the Hudson

October 22nd, 2012 Comments off

It’s no surprise anymore when Broadway attempts to add some extra pizazz to the marquee by sprinkling some Hollywood stardust, whether through film star casting or name brand titles. But four recent news tidbits caught my eye as particularly covered in tinsel (town):

  • Emilia Clarke. Image via O+M.

    It’s official: two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is coming to Broadway April 2013 in Lucky Guy, a play by the late, beloved Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle). A tale of New York journalism during the 1970’s, this play adds additional cache with its director George C. Wolfe (The Normal Heart). I imagine tickets are already sold out before they go on sale but…a boy can dream.

  • If that’s not “old hollywood” enough for you, how about a new adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Truman Capote’s classic is getting a fresh (and supposedly more faithful than the Hepburn film) adaptation by Tony-winner Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out). Those who are more fantasy geek than Tiffany’s chic will also have reason to check it out; the February 2013 bow will star Game of ThronesEmilia Clarke.
  • Multiple Emmy-nominee Sarah Paulson (Game Change, American Horror Story) may not have above the title multiplex stardom, but to me she’s A-list. And now comes news that she is coming back to the stage to star in Roundabout’s revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Talley’s Folly. Paulson will be joined in the sweet love story by recent Broadway everyman Danny Burstein (Follies…perhaps he should do La Cage aux Folles next and continue the pattern?).
  • Don’t count out true Broadway glitter, though. The bigger than life new musical Giant, based on the Liz Taylor – Rock Hudson – James Dean classic, is heading to the Public starring Blog favorites Brian d’Arcy James (Smash) and Kate Baldwin (Finian’s Rainbow). Watch the video from their recent promo shoot (after the jump below) and tell me the Great White Way can’t be just as glamorous.

Read more…

“Mamma Mia”, That’s a Spicy Photo Shoot

July 26th, 2012 Comments off

Graham Rowat of "Mamma Mia". Image via YouTube.

It would seem that there’s a new cast of the long-running, Abba-tastic musical Mamma Mia and a video has surfaced showing behind-the-scenes of a recent publicity photo shoot. Now, normally I’m not one to just pass on PR of this type without some underlying news but there’s something about this clip that made me grin.

Is it the fact that it features handsome young men barely in wetsuits? Why I am appalled at the suggestion. Is it the presence of great Broadway regulars like the dreamy Aaron Lazar and the hysterical Felicia Finley (who are too young to be playing the “older” set, aren’t they? Please say they are!)? Love them but that ain’t it. Is it that I feel compelled to dish about the new Sky, he of the gleaming smile? Maybe over cocktails later.

No, it’s the simple fact that it shows the very manly, oh so dashing, “always will be in Les Miz to me” Graham Rowat in platform boots, codpiece and deep V disco gear. I hope his lovely, elegant wife, Tony-nominee Kate Baldwin, is enjoying this as much as I am. And hopefully you will too…

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Happily “Ever After”, “Downton Abbey” on Broadway & More Theater News

May 18th, 2012 Comments off

The 2011 Alliance Theatre Production of "Bring It On". Image via BringItOn.com.

Sisters are doing it for themselves in a theater news round-up energized by some serious girl power…

  • The award-winning songwriting team of Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich had a great week with Heisler winning the coveted Kleban Prize (of $100,000) for most promising theater lyricist and the team’s film to stage adaptation of Ever After getting the green light for a Broadway launch in 2013.
  • "Priscilla Queen of the Desert". Photo by Joan Marcus

    Sad news though for the “gals” of Priscilla Queen of the Desert; the disco-tastic musical posted a closing notice for June 24 after more than a year on Broadway.

  • Gimme a B for Broadway because the cheerleaders of Bring It On are making a surprise limited-engagement trip to NYC this summer. Producers announced that the national tour will stop on the Great White Way in July.
  • Speaking of going back to school, the actress and (delightfully parodied) Fashion Plate Chloe Sevigny (Big Love) will head to Vassar this summer to star in a developmental workshop of Abigail/1702, a sequel of sorts to The Crucible by playwright Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa. Is it too much to hope that Tituba shows up?
  • OK, so this one is about a boy but somehow it still feels right. Dan Stevens, otherwise known to TV watchers as the dreamy, middle-class heir to Downton Abbey, will be wooing Jessica Chastain’s The Heiress when it opens on Broadway this fall. With these two roles, he is now officially the poster boy for marrying up.
  • Finally, Broadway Blog favorite Kate Baldwin is taking on another iconic role from the golden age of music theater; she’s Marian the Librarian in the Arena Stage production of The Music Man. If simply imagining that casting isn’t enough to get you down to DC (which it should), take a listen to her singing “My White Knight” in rehearsals (at 1:13 in the following video):

Read more…

On the Record

May 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Jenny Powers and Matt Cavenaugh. Photo by Mariana Blanco.

  • Have you ever met a couple that you kind of want to date, together? No, I don’t mean in a 1970’s key party way; I mean in a “I’d like to share breakfast over the Times and go for a walk hand in hand with them” kind of way. Well, it’s hard not to feel smitten with Broadway’s favorite young marrieds Jenny Powers (Happiness, Dangerous Beauty) and Matt Cavenaugh (West Side Story, the upcoming Death Takes a Holiday). They’re both charming, talented, attractive (I think we all recall Matt’s publicity stills for Urban Cowboy but I’m not linking; you’ve got to work for some things), and now they’ve released an album together. Available for sale on iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby, “Gonna Make You Love Me” features an eclectic mix of pop songs and standards, all charting a couple’s journey toward love. So maybe if you play the album, tucked into bed with the Style section and a glass of OJ, you can pretend they’re singing it just for you.
  • In other music news, Playbill.com is reporting that Broadway Blog favorite Kate Baldwin recorded her recent Feinstein’s tribute to Sheldon Harnick, She Loves Him. Featuring duets with Harnick himself, the live album will be released early this summer. So congratulations to Kate on delivering another bundle of joy (following the birth of her first child last month!)
  • I’m also going on record today (ok, that’s a thematic stretch…deal with it) with a few long shots and prayers for tomorrow’s Tony Award nominations. Please, nominating committee, don’t forget about: the sweeping romanticism and delicate magic of Brief Encounter; the loopy wonder of Tammy Blanchard in How to Succeed; the show-stopping supporting work of The Book of Mormon‘s Rory O’Malley; and the wrenching yet centering performance by John Benjamin Hickey in the current revival of The Normal Heart.

Everybody March!

March 31st, 2011 Comments off

Arcadia. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb but clearly “they” weren’t talking about Broadway theater. It’s like a twenty car pile-up of show openings out there, everyone trying to crash the party before the Tony eligibility deadline on April 28. Right now, there are overworked publicists surviving on nothing more than leftover pigs-in-a-blanket and fumes from their overheating blackberries. Pray for them. Here are a few bits and bobs to keep our energy up:

  • The new play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens tonight for a limited 16 week run on Broadway. The critical reaction to Robin Williams’ performance should be interesting to watch (and I’ll chime in next week in April’s  “To See or Not To See” round-up.)
  • The box office results are in and it looks like people are responding to the fizzy (and slightly filthy) fellas of Priscilla Queen of the Desert as well as the revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. In a perfect world, Arcadia would be raking in Wicked-dough for years to come.

We’ve made it through our first month and I want to thank everybody for reading and commenting; this should be a conversation between friends so jump on in and let me know what you’d like to see more (or less) of.  Keep up with posts by joining us on Facebook. And, finally, take a look back at some popular stories from March you may have missed:

SHOW FOLK: Kate Baldwin on Babies, Bikinis and Kissing Cheyenne Jackson

March 9th, 2011 1 comment

Once a month, a member of the theater community will pull up a chair to our cyber table and join us for a little conversation. I’ll edit the transcripts (removing the truly libelous parts) and post the results here every second Wednesday. First up…

Kate Baldwin & Cheyenne Jackson. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Singer/actress Kate Baldwin had a star-making year in 2010 with her Tony-nominated leading role in the acclaimed revival of Finian’s Rainbow, but she’d long been building an enviable reputation among music theater heavy-weights with her crystalline voice and her elegant beauty. Best known for portraying the poised and plucky heroines of classic music theater, in person she lets fly with an infectious, bawdy laugh that suggests there’s more than a bit of sassy dame brewing under those regal ingénues.

I caught up with Kate a few weeks ago at the Brooklyn apartment she shares with her husband, fellow actor Graham Rowat (White Christmas, The Boys in the Band). It had been less than a month since moving in and there was barely a box in sight; the girl doesn’t mess around. Glowing even more than usual, she was preparing for a week of performances at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency (showcasing the lyrics of Sheldon Harnick)–and the arrival of their first child in the Spring. After a quick tour of the new place, we staked out the kitchen table and chatted about her mission to bring new listeners to classic songs, the roller-coaster ride of the business and what it’s like to lock lips with a certain hunky co-star.

Tell me about your show at Feinstein’s, She Loves Him.  What inspired you to do an evening devoted to the songs of Sheldon Harnick?

Last year was Sondheim-tastic. Sondheim mania. He had a theater named after him. He had birthday parties all over the place.

Sondheim ice cream treats.

And he should be celebrated. He is our premier composer-lyricst. He’s the father of modern musical theater. But I kind of thought that if it weren’t for him, Sheldon Harnick would be the lyricist of our times. Because of his work, because of his willingness to be a part of the scene now, and the fact that he’s still trying and still writing things.

And you have a special guest who’s going to be there with you…

Sheldon is going to be joining me. Because, as we know, he is out there, he is gregarious and he loves to tell stories. And he loves the spotlight. I know no better showman than Sheldon Harnick. He loves it.

Do you enjoy performing in a smaller room, something that’s more intimate?

It’s a completely different experience because I have control over all the content. So whether or not a joke lands or an arrangement is good, it’s my fault. I can’t hide behind anybody else. Finian’s Rainbow? Anything anyone didn’t like, I can say, “I didn’t have anything to do with that.”  (laughter)  It can feel a lot more personal and risky and scary because there’s more at stake.

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