Posts Tagged ‘stephen schwartz’

NJPAC: Bernadette Peters and Fall Concerts

October 23rd, 2015 Comments off
Bernadette Peters (Photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

Bernadette Peters (Photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

Last week Broadway icon Bernadette Peters graced the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). Draped in a sequined lavender gown (with dyed satin shoes to match), Peters delivered many of the songs she’s become known for, beginning with a jazz hot rendition of “Let Me Entertain You” from Gypsy.

In spite of some sniffles, the 67-year-old bombshell had the audience on its feet, and at other times in tears as she worked her way through her Sondheim repertoire, including “Buddy’s Eyes,” “Losing My Mind,” and “Send in the Clowns.” While her patter was charming, those who have seen her before recognized her bits between songs (no, she still hasn’t sold the house in Florida).

Backed by a combo that included Joseph Thalken (musical director/piano), Cubby O’Brien (drums), and Kevin Axt (bass), Peters captivated on sultry numbers like “Fever” and “Come On-A My House,” proving her musicality soars far behind the heartfelt ballad. Though the song list leaned heavy in the back-to-back ballad department, one can’t deny that she’s the real deal and a true Broadway star.

Fall programming continues with NJPAC and NJTV’s American Songbook Series, hosted by Ted Chapin:

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

October 25, 7 p.m.
Defying Gravity: Stephen Schwartz and Friends
Featuring Jessie Mueller, Jarrod Spector and Marilyn Maye

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

(Photo provided by NJPAC.)

October 26, 7 p.m.
Our Time: KT Sullivan & Jeff Harnar Sing Sondheim
Featuring Catherine Russell, Seth Rudetsky, and special guest Christine Ebersole

And there’s more!

November 9, 7 p.m.
The Real Sinatra Songbook
Featuring Tom Wopat, Sue Raney and Kevin Mahogany

November 21, 6 p.m., 8:30 pm.
Laura Benanti

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Broadway Magic: Pippin’s New Spellbinding Production

April 28th, 2013 Comments off
The cast of “Pippin.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

I can count on one hand the number of breath-catching moments I’ve had sitting in a Broadway theater (Cherry Jones’ leap of faith in the final moment of Pride’s Crossing and Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald singing “Wheels of a Dream” in Ragtime just to name two.) Pippin, which recently opened at the Music Box Theatre in a mesmerizing production directed by Diane Paulus with choreography by Chet Walker and circus creation by Gypsy Snider is packed with them. Some are of the good ole’ Broadway hoofer variety, others rely on ingenious theatrical craft.

Pippin opened on Broadway in 1972. It had been a student project of composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz. He had scored big with Godspell in 1971 and after some sage advice from Harold Prince, Schwartz revamped the project with help of book writer Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse got wind of the project and the rest is musical theater history… sort of.

The response from critics was lukewarm but Pippin’s producers pulled their own magic, placing the first ad for a Broadway musical on television. Sales picked up and audiences responded. The show ran for 1,944 performances.

Take the jump for our review…

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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 for more information.

VIP Access: Megan Hilty, Broadway Backwards and more…

January 24th, 2013 Comments off

The theater season is kicking into high gear, not just on Broadway but also with special performances and benefits popping up all over town. File your taxes early and use that refund to snag seats to one (or all) of these unique events:

Megan Hilty (photo provided by Dan Dutcher PR)

Luck Be a Lady: Megan Hilty Sings Sinatra and More
March 8
Carnegie Hall

The New York Pops continues its 30th season with an evening of swinging favorites in “Luck Be a Lady: Megan Hilty Sings Sinatra and More.” Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke – described by The New York Times as “young and vigorous, with a playful attitude” (and who doesn’t love that?) – will lead the orchestra as it tips its hat to the Rat Pack, Ella Fitzgerald, Marilyn Monroe and other stars from the golden age of entertainment. The performance features Broadway and TV starlet Megan Hilty and Ryan Silverman, one of Broadway’s favorite leading men. The program will include “Luck Be a Lady,” “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” music from “Smash” and more.

Tickets $18.50 – $112
Click here for tickets.



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From Broadway with Love: A Benefit Concert For Sandy Hook

January 23rd, 2013 Comments off

It has been a little more than a month since tragedy struck Sandy Hook Elementary School and our nation mourned with the residents of Newtown, CT. As the town continues to recover, Broadway stars, producers, writers, and directors will lend their voices in support. “From Broadway with Love: A Benefit Concert For Sandy Hook” will take place on January 28, 2013 at 7:00 pm at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT, 20 minutes from Newtown. All proceeds and donations will go to United Way of Western Connecticut’s Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

“From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert For Sandy Hook” will feature song, dance, and other appearances from some of the biggest names on Broadway, together with select students from various Newtown choirs and dance groups.

Tony award-winner Christine Ebersole is one of the many talents scheduled to perform. (©Christine Ebersole)

Renowned Broadway performers scheduled to appear include Brian Stokes Mitchell, Linda Eder, Stephen Schwartz, Micky Dolenz, Marc Shaiman, Michael Cerveris, Christine Ebersole, Frank Wildhorn, Philip Boykin, Richard Kind, Nikki Blonsky, Mary Testa, Alan Muraoka, Jan Maxwell, Robin De Jesus, Julia Murney, Capathia Jenkins, Janet Metz, Lance Guest, Erik Hayden, Randy Redd, Dan Mills, and Victoria Matlock, Lee Rocker of the Stray Cats as well as members of the touring cast of “Sister Act” and Muppets and cast members from “Sesame Street”.

Brett Boles, author of the musical “Foreverman,” and Broadway producer Van Dean, both from the Newtown area, are the original conceivers of the benefit concert. The Tony Award-winning producer and the emerging musical theater writer decided to put together this concert as a way to lift the spirits of a town so close to their hearts and show that Broadway cares.

“The outpouring of love and support from the Broadway community has been incredibly heartwarming,” noted Dean, “and everyone was looking for a way they could use their talents to bring something positive to the community. ‘From Broadway With Love’ provides them with the perfect outlet to do so.”

“From Broadway With Love” provides a free night of entertainment for the impacted families, first responders, and the Sandy Hook Elementary community. The Palace Theatre seats approximately 2,600 and a limited number of tickets are now on sale for the general public, ranging from $50 to $250. To purchase tickets or make a tax-deductible donation, visit

This benefit event is made possible, in part, by the generous donations from many companies and individuals including Bermuda Limousine International, One Dream Sound, the Palace Theater of Waterbury, CT, Atomic Rental, Consulting for a Cause, The Silent Orchestra and more.


We’ve Got Magic To Do. Pippin Returns to Broadway!

January 17th, 2013 Comments off

The cast of Pippin at American Repertory Theatre. (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

The circus is coming to town but it’s not your average Ringling Bros. Oh, no. Diane Paulus’ reimagined revival of “Pippin” is taking flight with the help of Gypsy Snider and Les 7 doigts de la main, a Montreal-based circus troupe. (Remember our post from a few week’s back, “Berlin’s Bedroom?” Same creative team!)

“Pippin,” which snagged four Tony awards for its original 1973 production starring Ben Vereen as the Leading Player, returns to Broadway this April after an initial run at American Repertory Theatre that left audiences spellbound, both by its theatrics and its deep emotional connection. Paulus says she knows Stephen Schwartz’s score inside and out. That familiarity has opened the door for this new interpretation that still pays homage to Bob Fosse’s original work with choreography by Chet Walker.

Patina Miller as the Leading Player (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

“Pippin” tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. The score includes high school talent show favorites “Magic to Do” and “Corner of the Sky.” Guiding the action is the Leading Player, a role that snagged Ben Vereen a Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical. This time around, the role will most likely be played by a woman — Patina Miller — who originated the role of Deloris van Cartier in the West End and Broadway productions of “Sister Act.” While most reviewers were kept at bay, said of of her performance, “the sultry vocal powerhouse Patina Miller takes her slithery song and dance talents even further to create a taunting, tantalizing spiritual guide.”

Casting has yet to be confirmed, but if the creative team sticks with the principal performers from the A.R.T. production, we’ll be  also be seeing Matthew James Thomas (Pippin), Charlotte d’Amboise (Fastrada), Terrence Mann (King Charles), and Andrea Martin (Berthe) back on Broadway this spring.

Our Broadway Blog prediction: this will be the hot ticket of the 2012-13 season.
Follow “Pippin”‘s journey to broadway at

Win Tickets to “Over the Moon” Concert Event

April 19th, 2012 Comments off

"Over the Moon". Image via

How would you like to see some of your favorite Broadway stars live (including Donna Murphy, Marc Kudisch and recent Tony-winner Nikki M. James), singing original songs by Stephen Sondheim, Tom Kitt, Stephen Schwartz and more?  We’ve got two pairs of tickets to give away to a star-studded concert celebrating the release of Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project, a 2 CD/book/e-book/documentary initiative featuring original lullabies written and performed by music theater’s best. With proceeds from the project supporting breast cancer charities and the event being hosted by the fabulous Edie Falco (The Sopranos), it all sounds like an unmissable, one-of-a-kind evening of song and good deeds.

So how can you attend the concert on May 7 at 8pm at the Stephen Sondheim Theater on West 43rd? Just tell me in the comments below which Broadway star you’d most like to come to your bedroom and sing you to sleep. Leave your comment by the end of the day Wednesday, April 25. I’ll randomly select two winners to receive a pair of tickets each and notify them via a reply to their comments on this post. [Do check back on Thursday to see if you’ve won and how to claim your tickets.]

And as a little preview, here’s some video of the record session for one track on the CD, “This Little World” by Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and performed by Raul Esparza.

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PRIME CUTS: First Song Written for “Wicked”

March 5th, 2012 Comments off

Jackie Burns in "Wicked". Photo by Joan Marcus.

In our continuing series, we’re taking a look at songs cut from Broadway musicals to see what happens in the making of a show. Next up, the first song finished–and revised–from the mega-hit musical Wicked

Like the set of the wizardly Wicked, a musical has to click together like clockwork. Each piece should serve the greater whole and be intensely focused on the story and themes. In a conversation with Carol de Giere at, the composer Stephen Schwartz reveals how this idea played into the cutting of one early part of the score:

“Making Good” was the first song Stephen Schwartz finished for his witches of Oz musical Wicked, and the first to be revised. Scene two and its song were crucial for setting up Elphaba’s desire line for the entire show. “Making Good” explored her ambition to “making good” in both senses of the phrase, “that is, to do things which were good, and in doing so, to make good in the sense of succeed,” Schwartz explains. But there was something too mild about it, so he wrote a second version, which still wasn’t hitting the mark. Then the songwriter reconsidered what Elphaba wanted. “It’s got to be about the Wizard,” he said to bookwriter Winnie Holzman in their next phone call. “What does she want? She’s gotta want to meet the Wizard because she thinks that’s going to solve her problems, just like everybody else in The Wizard of Oz.” He asked Holzman to write a monologue that would express the ideas, and spun “The Wizard and I” from there.

Think he made a “good” decision? Listen to Stephanie J. Block singing the cut song “Making Good”: Read more…