Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Sondheim’

“Losing My Mind” Over Follies

August 16th, 2011 3 comments

Ron Raines & Bernadette Peters. Photo by Joan Marcus.

A co-worker of mine (who just happens to be a very tough critic and the most delightful cranky-pants I know) motioned for me to duck into his office the other day. Fearing the worst, he stared at me and said, “I saw that new Follies last night. Best thing I’ve seen in years.” As I walked dazed back to my cubicle, I officially began to regret pre-ordering tickets to see the Broadway revival (currently in previews) for some time in September . Mid-September?! Why am I not going now? Why am I standing in the middle of the floor, not going left, not going right…and all that jazz?

Yes, it’s official, I’m losing my mind. But for those, like me, who have a long wait ahead before seeing the show and deciding for themselves if Bernadette Peters and company have hit the bulls-eye, let’s wallow in a trough of bizarre and wonderful versions of that torch song of all torch songs.  (Cut to the video after the jump…)

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Hunter Parrish is Jesus, Sondheim is Displeased and More Theater News

August 12th, 2011 Comments off

Holy Moly, it’s been a wild week in theater news. With all the religious imagery, beatific boys, and epistles from on high, I don’t know whether I’m covering Broadway or the Vatican. So say a little prayer for me and let’s get to it:

  • Hunter Parrish. Image via

    Hunter Parrish, the twinktastic cutie from Weeds, has been cast as Jesus in the upcoming Broadway revival of Godspell. (Why do I suddenly feel the need to confess some impure thoughts?) In all seriousness, I saw Mr. Parrish when he stepped into Spring Awakening and can vouch for his music theater skills; this could be interesting.

  • Clearly, one Son of God on Broadway isn’t enough. The New York Post reports that talks are under way to transfer the acclaimed Stratford production of Jesus Christ Superstar to New York in the upcoming season. Any day now, I expect to hear that Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi is being revived; you know, just to complete the trinity.
  • God himself, Stephen Sondheim, was in a smiting mood this week, having written a very stern letter to the New York Times concerning the upcoming “reimagining” of Porgy and Bess. Debate ensued. My favorite (and most Sondheim-worthy) response came from the star of the show, Audra McDonald, on her twitter feed, “Here’s what I think…to quote the greatest musical theater composer of our time… ‘Art isn’t easy.'” Indeed.
  • Praise the Lord, the ravishing Carla Gugino is returning to Broadway opposite the stellar  Rosemary Harris and Jim Dale in Athol Fugard’s The Road to Meccastarting December 16 at the Roundabout. When she last appeared on the New York stage in the divisive revival of Desire Under the Elms, Gugino’s rivetting, performance made me a believer (and nearly converted me to heterosexuality.)  Amen!
  • Broadway's "Mamma Mia". Photo by Joan Marcus.

    Speaking of Greek goddesses, the producers of the Abba-riffic Mamma Mia are kicking off ten weeks of ten big events to celebrate the musical becoming the 10th longest-running show in Broadway history and to commemorate its 10th anniversary, October 18. Clearly, they enjoy a good theme. I’ll refrain from making a perfect 10 joke and simply encourage you to check their website for info on ticket giveaways, sing-a-longs and charity benefits.

  • Finally, in a move that seems to be tempting the Gods, another Spider-Man is coming to Broadway. According to the, the webslinger in the upcoming film franchise reboot (not to mention accomplished star of The Social Network and Never Let Me Go), Andrew Garfield, will be joining Philip Seymour Hoffman in Death of a Salesman on the Great White Way. The spring 2012 production will be directed by the masterful Mike Nichols and you know what we say to that: OMG.
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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: Fall Broadway Preview

August 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Danny Burstein in "Follies". Photo by Joan Marcus.

It’s August on Broadway, which means the tourists are risking second degree burns in the TKTS line and little puddles of melted stage make-up dot the sidewalks from the Theater District to Hell’s Kitchen. (Hell’s Kitchen is the neighborhood where half the chorus boys live–hence its very appropriate nickname “The Dance Belt”.) And, for our purposes, August also means there’s a calm before the September storm of openings and big news. So instead of our usual review round-up, let’s look ahead at three musicals and two plays worth getting excited about in the months ahead…

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Rebecca Luker Takes “A Holiday”

August 1st, 2011 Comments off

Rebecca Luker and Michael Siberry in "Death Takes a Holiday". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Early in the second act of the new musical Death Takes a Holiday, the serene matriarch of an aristocratic Italian family gazes into a mirror, but instead of looking admiringly at herself, she sees what is missing: the son she lost in The Great War. Singing “Losing Roberto” with intricate detail but unshowy fragility, like a lovingly worked piece of lace, three-time Tony-nominee Rebecca Luker provides the undisputed musical and emotional highlight of the evening…and she accomplishes this without once raising her voice in roof rattling emotion.

Luker’s career has been a string of such performances, musically peerless yet never diva cries for attention. From her rise in The Secret Garden and Show Boat to her tenure as the golden-noted soprano of classic revivals like The Music Man, she trusts in her floating, flawlessly controlled soprano, her unusual mixture of regal yet homespun beauty and her sensitivity as an actress to bring the audience to her.

Seeing Luker, even in a smaller supporting role, reminded me that she was one of the first Broadway stars that I ever met in person. Fresh out of college and on a trip to New York, I’d stumbled into an alumni of my university who, discovering my interest in being a lyricist, offered to let me join him for the final dress rehearsal of Sondheim’s Passion…as long as “his friend” didn’t mind giving up her seat. After a quick phone call, the gentlemen said that his friend agreed as long as we met after the show and told her all about it. Later, giddy with pleasure after sitting directly behind my writing idol as he took notes on the show, I was escorted over to an old theater haunt where I was introduced to my seat benefactor, Rebecca Luker. I’d had Secret Garden repeating on my cd player so I was in awe, but she didn’t seem to notice. Lovely and relaxed, she grilled us, happily bubbling with questions and caring about my opinion. It was an amazing night and one that I’ll always recall for the warmth and generosity of Ms. Luker; she showed me the kind of family that the New York theater community can be at it’s best.

After the jump, let’s watch Rebecca Luker at her best, sensitively shaping a lyric with her timeless voice:

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VIP ACCESS: The Best of Broadway on Twitter

June 22nd, 2011 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 acting like the birdies on Jaybird Street…

Tom Cruise in "Rock of Ages". Image via @adammshankman.

Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. With its 140 character limit, rabid followers and echoing retweets, Twitter is either a revolutionary communication force or the end of civilized interaction as we know it. Or maybe it’s just a great way to feel like you’re chatting with the theater’s brightest stars. Given The Broadway Blog’s mission to welcome everyone into a theatrical cocktail conversation, I’ll vote C for now and let history be the judge.

As a newbie–@BroadwayBlogTom–I spent the last week diving in headfirst and trying to learn the rules of the road (and, clearly, mixing metaphors haphazardly). Other than the possibility of getting lost in a T-Hole for hours, Twitter turns out to be a pretty amazing way to learn about ticket deals, hang out with your theater idols and meet some new ones as well. Here are my top ten recommendations for twitter feeds to “follow”:

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Hal to Be “Prince of Broadway” in New Musical

June 21st, 2011 Comments off

Image via Google.

After coercing operatic stalkers, murderous barbers and fascist dictators into singing, legendary Broadway Producer and Director Harold “Hal” Prince may be tackling his most difficult subject matter of all: himself. Producers announced the creative team for a new musical titled Prince of Broadway and featuring selections from his nearly 60 years in the theater. Prince will co-direct alongside director/choreographer Susan Stroman (The Producers), with a book by David Thompson (The Scottsboro Boys) and new vocal and dance arrangements by Jason Robert Brown (Parade). The production is aiming for a summer 2012 tryout in Toronto and a “Main Stem” debut the subsequent fall.

It sounds like Prince is getting the full Jerome Robbins’ Broadway anthology treatment, which begs the question: which musical numbers from his blockbuster shows would you most want to see recreated or reinterpreted?  Tell me your top choices in the comments.

To get the conversation going, I’ll start with three darkly unorthodox choices that might shake-up the crowd-pleasing blockbuster tone and showcase Prince’s adventurous side. One note: although Prince of Broadway will feature songs from shows he produced, I limited myself to his directorial efforts; feel free to roam the full catalog (West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Damn Yankees and more).

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Broadway Breaking News, Sneak Peeks, Book of Mormon & More!

June 17th, 2011 2 comments

It’s time for another round-up of the week in theater news:

  • It may not have Hugh, but the Arena Stage production of Oklahoma took DC by (dustbowl) storm last year. Now you can get free tickets to opening night of its return engagement by “liking” their Facebook page.  Hmmm, that sounds familiar

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SHOW FOLK: Nancy Opel Goes Walking In “Memphis”

June 8th, 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. For June…

Photo by Nancy Opel.

Nancy Opel is the real deal, an actor/singer with fearless comedic instincts and a resume that can’t be contained by a mere 100-word program bio. (She was the matinee “Eva” in the original Broadway Evita for goodness sake!) She’s got an Obie–as well as Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Lucille Lortell nominations–and a whip smart theatrical mind that makes her a writer’s best friend. Case in point: by some miracle, she agreed to be the titular lead in a Fringe Festival show I co-wrote called For the Love of Tiffany: A Wifetime Original Musical, about a washed-up TV diva angling for a comeback amidst her soap-operatic life. With little to no budget, we had been lamenting how we’d love to have publicity shots from some of “Tiffany’s” TV movies. At the next rehearsal, Nancy marched in and announced she had gone out on her own, found the perfect Meredith Baxter-Birney wig and posed for a series of photos “in character”. Not only were the pictures hysterical (“gauzy” doesn’t even begin to do them justice), they were a testament to Nancy’s absolute immersion in her work. Funny and fiercely committed, she’s the performer you want on your team.

We caught up recently, battling allergy symptoms and recording difficulties, to discuss her current role in Broadway’s Memphis, uvulas and some composer guy named Steve.

You’re appearing in Memphis now as “Mama”, a role that was originated by Cass Morgan. Is it daunting to step into a role after someone else?

I didn’t feel like the creators were asking me to copy Cass’ show exactly. I’d worked with these writers before [Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, who also wrote Toxic Avenger] and had done several readings for the director, Christopher Ashley. I was quite delighted that they called me and asked me to join the company.  They know what I can do and trusted me to bring that certain something to the role.

That must have given you a great sense of freedom.

I didn’t change the timing of the show or anything. But little things. I felt that I had a lot of freedom to try what worked for me. Plus I only had two weeks of rehearsal.

That’s crazy.

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And the World Goes Round-Up

May 27th, 2011 Comments off

We’re spanning the globe for some quick links and tidbits from the week in theater news:

  • Let’s start it out like a song with the announcement of New York City Center’s Encores! upcoming season, which includes the life-in-reverse Sondheim/Furth musical Merrily We Roll Along. It should be a must-see given that the show’s score is as tuneful and heartbreaking as anything Sondheim has ever produced Indianapolis.
  • Mark Rylance. Photo by Simon Annand.

    You’ve got another chance to see the Holy Land…at least the theatrical kind. Producers announced that they are extending the run for Jerusalem, the invigoratingly epic new British play featuring an astonishing central turn by Mark Rylance. Tickets are now on sale through August 21.

  • Speaking of great performances, do you regret missing out on the divine Cate Blanchett in A Streetcar Named Desire? Learn your lesson and grab tickets for the Sydney Theater Company’s Uncle Vanya, starring the Oscar winner and making its only currently announced U.S. stop at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in August. Tickets go on sale June 1 for members and June 10 for the rest of us.
  • The Drama Desk Awards were handed out and the Book of Mormon, War Horse and Anything Goes juggernauts rolled on. Three surprises worth noting: Norbert Leo Butz took Outstanding Actor in a Musical for Catch Me If You Can, Bobby Cannavale (The Motherf—-er with the Hat) beat out the blockbuster competition for Outstanding Actor in a Play and a limited-run Off-Broadway show, See Rock City, shockingly took the prize for Outstanding Book of a Musical from those seemingly unstoppable Mormon boys.

Stage Hits on the Big Screen? Why I Never!

May 16th, 2011 Comments off

"The Importance of Being Earnest". Photo by Joan Marcus.

In the olden days (you know, like maybe five years ago), the only way you could see the latest Broadway hit at the movies was in a high class adaptation, opened up to make it feel less stage-bound and cast with big stars on an Oscar hunt. Now, thanks to the Metropolitan Opera’s innovative and highly successful The Met: Live in HD program, theater producers are packaging special screenings of plays and musicals, filmed live and then shown for very limited engagements at movie theaters. Tickets cost a fraction of Broadway seats and the quality of the filming is highly accomplished; a friend of mine actually called a recent screening of Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, “live” from the National Theatre in London, his favorite theater experience of the year so far. So, ignore that slightly dubious feeling and grab your tickets now for these three blockbuster “stage to screen” engagements, currently scheduled for June:

  • The Tony-nominated revival of The Importance of Being Earnest, starring the glorious Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell, quips its way into digital movie theaters beginning June 2. Tossing in a little added value with the bon mots, the screenings will feature behind-the-scenes footage hosted by David Hyde Pierce and an expert’s take on Oscar Wilde during intermission.
  • "The Cherry Orchard". Photo by Jim Naughten.

    Did you get tickets to the star-crammed concert version of Company at the New York Philharmonic this spring? Neither did I. But now you can see Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone and more on the big screen and feel sorry/grateful for yourself. Sondheim’s boundary-pushing look at marriage and “being alive” beams into select movie theaters starting June 15.

  • London’s calling again with screenings of the National Theatre’s The Cherry Orchard beginning June 30. Starring Zoe Wanamaker in a new adaptation by Andrew Upton (that’s Mr. Cate Blanchett to cinema buffs), this production is sure to be worth a look.