Joanna Gleason in "Sons of the Prophet". Photo by Joan Marcus.
You never forget your first love.
From the moment my best friend in high school eagerly slipped me a homemade cassette copy of Into the Woods, I fell for Joanna Gleason–as only a young, music-theater-lover-in-training can do. Tony voters were similarly smitten and gave her the award for Best Actress in a Musical for her sensible, sexy and deeply relatable Baker’s Wife.
The ardor was long and lingering (to this day friends of mine can still stop conversation with a perfectly timed imitation of her exasperated, stunned, “I need your shoes!”). Any time she unexpectedly appeared on a movie screen (think of her terrifying mother in Boogie Nights or priceless discomfort in Hannah and Her Sisters) or returned to the stage (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, etc.), it was met with a sigh of satisfaction, the warm glow of fond memories and reawakened appreciation for her talents.
So, this is all a long-winded way of saying Joanna Gleason is back on the New York stage in a new play, Sons of the Prophet, currently in previews…and the world feels right again. Let’s watch a few video highlights from her career to welcome her back…
The "Follies" Girls. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s legendary musical, about nostalgia and regret at a reunion of Follies girls, haunts Broadway in a lavish revival.
“This Follies looks back as much in anger as in fondness. That’s what makes it so vibrant.” New York Times
“Rather than a seamless whole, the show feels like barely connected musical numbers of varying quality.” New York Post
“Follies is the disease and the cure in one package: I’d advise you to catch it.” New York Magazine
“If this revival that comes to Broadway via an early-summer run at the Kennedy Center isn’t flawless, its transcendent moments more than offset its imperfections.” The Hollywood Reporter
“It’s head-spinning stuff, one delicious bite of candy followed by another…” Associated Press
Photo by Joan Marcus.
Fire up those speakers, grab a microphone/hairbrush, and warn the neighbors—it’s cast album day at the Broadway Blog!
The inimitable Sutton Foster and her shipmates from the Tony Award-winning revival of Anything Goes make digital waves today as the official cast album is made available for download. For those who still associate the term “jewel case” with music and not a glittering collection of diamond tiaras, the Ghostlight Records release will also be available in “physical” copies as of September 23. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this rousing collection of Cole Porter gems.
Not to be outdone, PS Classics announced they will be heading into the studio to capture the new Broadway revival of Follies for a showtune-loving, history-correcting, two-disc set (the original Broadway cast album was notoriously cut down to a single disc). Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, and the rest of the company (not to be confused with the cast of Company) will record the album October 3 & 4, in time for a late November and holiday gift-giving release. If you think you might be on Santa’s naughty list, pre-order your own copy here.
With all this talk of cast albums (never “Soundtrack,” Philistine), everybody hop into the comments and tell me which Broadway recordings you listen to the most. To get the ball rolling, my top three songs (via an embarrassing and shockingly Sondheim-free look at my iTunes “most-played” list) are…
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…)
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 Godspell.com.
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 Mecca — starting 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 Deadline.com, 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.
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…
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:
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”:
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).
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…