Monday, December 30, 2013

The 7 Reasons Why FROZEN is Disney's Version of WICKED

Image: IMDb 2013
About a month ago now, a beautiful new animated Disney musical arrived in theatres utilizing the talents of some of today's most pronounced Broadway names. Frozen was Disney's first animated musical since Tangled (2010), but almost more significantly, it was the first hugely successful one with which Alan Menken was not involved since Tarzan in 1999.

As I was watching the movie though, all I could think was that Frozen is strikingly like Wicked. Granted, I'm sure that Wicked was on the brain for many Broadway fans as they watched Frozen and heard the voice of Wicked's original Elphaba coming out of a little cartoon blonde princess (am I the only one who was thrown off by that sight/sound combination?). Regardless, this Disney hit is undeniably like Broadway's best musical of the decade (as Entertainment Weekly called it), and here's why:

1. Both Frozen and Wicked are centered around two girls (rather than just one, as is more traditional), portrayed by a Kristen and Idina. Mind blown.

Idina Menzel (Elphaba) and Kristin Chenoweth (G(a)linda) in Wicked, Photo by Joan Marcus

2. In Frozen and Wicked, Idina plays the unpopular, almost pessimistic daughter of a prominent political official (Elsa in Frozen, and Elphaba in Wicked) who is struggling to find her identity.

3. Both Elsa and Elphaba (similar names, right?) have an inexplicable power they cannot control but decide to embrace and sing a big empowerment solo about it. I think we could seamlessly throw "So if you care to find me..." into any part of "Let it Go," and no one would notice.


4. Both Elsa and Elphaba unwillingly have powers which get them shunned, necessitating fleeing to the nearest available remote castle (or just making one, as Elsa does).

5. Kristen Bell voices Anna in Frozen who, like Kristin Chenoweth's G(a)linda in Wicked, is a peppy, fun-loving girl who just wants to live a fairy tale with her perfect man. Both Anna and G(a)linda immediately fall in love with a guy who turns out not to love them back, and have to eventually grow up in their own ways.

6. Both shows have music by a Broadway-turned-Disney composer/lyricist. Frozen's composer Robert Lopez first wrote music and lyrics for Avenue Q and Book of Mormon before joining the prestigious House of Mouse. Similarly, Wicked's composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz had Pippin and Godspell under his Broadway belt before he collaborated with Alan Menken on Disney's Pochahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Enchanted (not to mention going solo on the non-Disney Prince of Egypt).

7. BONUS: Frozen hit theatres almost exactly 10 years and 1 month after Wicked officially opened on Broadway.

Some of these could have been more than one reason I suppose, but did I miss any similarities between Wicked and Frozen? What other plot comparisons have you made?

Read More:
Frozen (IMDb)
Wicked (PlaybillVault)
Tangled (IMDb)
Robert Lopez (PlaybillVault)
Stephen Schwartz (PlaybillVault, IMDb)
Alan Menken (IMDb)

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Midtown Men & More Broadway Stars Featured in BroadwayWorld's Photo Flashback!

BroadwayWorld.com
BroadwayWorld.com is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year (much like Wicked!), and one of the articles they featured was a look back at the photography of Linda Lenzi throughout this decade. Looking through the highlights of her years as photographer is like looking back through history. She got to capture some great moments featuring some of today's biggest names on Broadway, like Audra McDonald, Megan Hilty, Ian McKellen, Sutton Foster, and many more. But of course my favorite Broadway singers (about whom I endlessly post), The Midtown Men made the cut.

Below are a few of my personal favorite of Lenzi's pictures from the article, but be sure to check out the entire thing on BroadwayWorld.com here!

It's my favorite guys!!
The Midtown Men: Daniel Reichard, Michael Longoria, Christian Hoff, and J. Robert Spencer
Probably my favorite picture in here. Who knew on that night that Wicked would be so successful?
Idina Menzel, Joel Grey, and Kristin Chenoweth at the Wicked opening night party (2003)
All of these guys are so young! And check out Matt's oh-so-cool glasses and hair.
Matthew Morrison, Chad Kimball, Barrett Foa, Christopher Sieber, Ben Strothmann,
Jai Rodriguez, John Tartaglia and Max von Essen (2005)
More with some of The Midtown Men, plus our very own Rob Diamond!
Christian Hoff, Robert Diamond (BWW.com editor), Bruce Dumpflmaier, Daniel Reichard,
Felicia Finley, and John Lloyd Young (2006)
Wow... what a throwback! That 'stache though, Mr. Gallagher...
Original Spring Awakening cast members Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, and John Gallagher Jr. (2006)
Original Jersey Boys cast members: J. Robert Spencer, John Lloyd Young, Daniel Reichard, Christian Hoff with
Joe Long and original "Jersey Boys" Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and Tommy DeVito (2007)
Wait... what? This one gets points for the overbearing awkwardness.
Original "Lucy" from Wildhorn's most famous flop, Jekyll & Hyde, Linda Eder, with 2013 J&H revival  "Lucy," Deborah Cox (2013) (oh yes, Wildhorn couldn't let it stop at flopping once. He had to revive it to see it fail even more miserably than the first time)
The photo tribute was a great stroll down memory lane for me. What are some of your favorite moments from the last 10 years of Broadway?

Read More:
Linda Lenzi on BroadwayWorld.com
The Midtown Men official website
The Midtown Men on Facebook
The Midtown Men on Twitter

Stay up-to-date with everything awesome:
Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Laura Benanti and Christian Borle Steal the Show in THE SOUND OF MUSIC Live!

Last weekend, it was impossible to ignore the premiere of the live recording of The Sound of Music, starring Carrie Underwood, "The Sound of Music Live!" on NBC. Indeed, #SoundofMusicLive was in the top 5 trending topics in the USA on Twitter for over 24 hours! It also garnered record ratings (ratings=viewership) which were higher than some major sporting events in the past. I must admit, I was not expecting everyone and their grandmother to be watching it because 1) it's a musical, and 2) it's an old Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Since when has any of that been cool? Nevertheless, it seems that the Julie Andrews movie adaptation from 1965 was a big part of everyone's life at some point, and they were all determined to see Carrie Underwood ruin their childhood by not being Julie Andrews.

Given the ridiculously large number of viewers, it would be expected that from the time Ms. Underwood started singing to well into the next day, everyone would be Tweeting away and bashing the show. I expected to hear criticism primarily from the Broadway community and for everyone else to think it was fine, like what happened with Les Miserables. But with the weight the first movie held for everyone, there were several things about this show that the non-theatre viewers just hated. Admittedly, this Broadway blogger did use the word "sacrilege" to describe the casting of  the American Idol star in this iconic role, but I was willing to give her a chance.

I need to start by clarifying what this television event was and what it wasn't. It was not a remake of the Julie Andrews movie. Nobody would be stupid enough to actually do that. It was a live staging of the original Broadway version from 1959 starring Mary Martin. So actually, the 1965 Julie Andrews movie was a remake. In fact, "I Have Confidence" and "Something Good" were both added for the 1965 movie, while "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It" (or, as Anna Kendrick called it, the "What's the big deal about Nazis?" song) were left out.

Unfortunately, as everyone now knows, Carrie Underwood cannot act. There's no getting around that, but we all know she can sing, and for a show with this many songs, (she had about 10) she had a chance to at least slightly redeem herself. However, audience members were mostly upset simply over the fact that she wasn't Julie Andrews. I think had viewers accepted the show (and Ms. Underwood) for what it was and not compared it to anything else, they would have enjoyed it more.

But Stephen Moyer (of True Blood fame), who played Captain Von Trapp, was debatably worse. His singing was lacking to say the least, and he was very stiff and expressionless much of the time. Consequently, there was no chemistry between him and Ms. Underwood. Because of the awkward combination of these two actors, I found myself thinking that the Captain's breaking up with Elsa had nothing to do with his love for Maria, but was completely based on political disagreements.

Tony Award-winner Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher) was wonderful as freeloader Uncle Max. He and fellow Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti (Gypsy), who played Elsa "The Baroness" Schrader, were a great team. Without a doubt, they stole the show. I was already looking forward to "How Can Love Survive?" and of course Mr. Borle and Ms. Benanti did not disappoint.

The most surprising thing about the event was how popular Ms. Benanti became. In the space of three hours, a self-proclaimed "betrayed" 18 million viewers turned to Ms. Benanti who was doing the opposite of Ms. Underwood by far exceeding expectations. Ms. Benanti brought charm to the role, which made her irresistible. Granted, whereas in the 1965 movie, Elsa was just this woman who ruined everyone's fun and dreams, the Broadway version makes her a bigger, more human role. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Laura Benanti, but I could not have foreseen her fame skyrocketing like it did.

"The Epic Shade"
And those children! The way they interacted made me believe they were real siblings, and their love for Maria/Ms. Underwood was almost contagious. From where I was sitting, I could almost see all the parents rejoicing over the commencement of their children's new musical careers as "Do Re Mi" finished.

Particularly, the soprano talent of Joe West, who played Kurt, was quite impressive. "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" was a beautiful, Underwood-free break. I was not a fan of the vocal talents of Liesl and Rolf (Charmian Carr and Daniel Truehitte) in the original movie, so hearing this clear, lovely rendition by Ariane Rhinehart and Michael Campayno was quite refreshing. Hear that? It's the sound of Rhinehart and Campayno's Broadway careers taking off.


The highlight of the night was when five-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald brought down the house with "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" at the end of the first act. Ms. Underwood herself was even in tears! I am at a loss to adequately describe the brilliance that is Ms. McDonald, but she perfectly conveyed her character: the Reverend Mother who has rules to follow but understands her ultimate goal is counseling a young girl and helping her find her true calling in life. Ms. McDonald was full of an honest grace which was unbelievably powerful.

Overall, I was so pleased with the ratings, which seem to indicate that Broadway is on the rise in popularity. Without a doubt, it was a triumph for the theatre world. The next question, of course is which musical will NBC do live next? I have some ideas, but what do you think? Bonus for including hypothetical casts.

Read More:
The original Sound of Music on Broadway
The Sound of Music Broadway revival, eventually starring Laura Benanti

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Monday, November 25, 2013

Watch MISS SAIGON Revival's Eva Noblezada and More in This Preview!

Eva Noblezada
I could not be more excited about the new London revival of the 1989 musical Miss Saigon, coming in May 2014! On Thursday, they released the official casting announcement, revealing that Eva Noblezada will be playing the lead, Kim.

It seems fitting that producer Cameron Mackintosh found this 17-year-old who has no experience besides high school shows, because that kind of background is very true to the character, who is actually supposed to be 17 at the beginning of the show. According to BroadwayWorld.com, Mackintosh has voiced what many of us have also thought: that her casting is very similar to another young star from the '80s, Lea Salonga.

Additionally, a video came out on Friday in which Mackintosh, and composers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg introduce the other principals. In this video, we see Noblezada sing Kim's "I'd Give My Life for You," the show's John sings the Act 2 showstopping opening "Bui Doi," their Gigi sings "The Movie in My Mind," and of course the Engineer sings the 11 o'clock number, "The American Dream." Also introduced in this video are Chris and Ellen.


Yes. The picture below is that ginger adolescent from the above video who has been cast as Chris, Alistair Brammer. Feeling more at peace with his casting? Me too.

Alistair Brammer
As the video said, Brammer played Marius on the West End in Les Miserables, so I'd say it makes sense that he'd be playing Miss Saigon's equivalent character (no seriously, besides the accents, the characters/vocal ranges/songs are exactly the same). Brammer also starred as the title character in the 2008 UK Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Right now, he is in War Horse at the National Theatre.

I feel like clarification is in order regarding Noblezada's casting: yes, she will be playing the iconic role at a young age, but she will only be playing four shows a week so she can continue with school. Interestingly, her aunt, Annette Calud, was in the original 1991 Broadway cast as a bar girl and the Kim understudy, later taking over as the Kim alternate. So, in case there was any doubt in your mind from her audition whether Noblezada is a good choice, watch her perform "With You" from Ghost at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards this year.


What do you think of the casting? Was there someone you wanted to see in this new cast who was snubbed? I'm sure there is. At any rate, this ginger Broadway nerd can't wait to see that helicopter land on a West End stage again after so many years.

Read More:
Miss Saigon on Broadway
"17-Year-Old Eva Noblezada to Star in MISS SAIGON in the West End"
Miss Saigon barely makes it to Broadway
Video: The Making of Miss Saigon Part 1
Video: The Making of Miss Saigon Part 2
Alistair Brammer on Twitter
Rachelle Ann Go on Twitter

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Monday, November 18, 2013

News and History: Matthew Morrison Talks Boy Bands, Returning to Broadway "right after Glee," and More!

Matthew Morrison in SOUTH PACIFIC on Broadway
Glee star and Broadway alum (original Link in Hairspray, original Lt. Cable in South Pacific revival) Matthew Morrison has been extra popular for about the last month or so. He's brilliant and definitely deserves it, but this attention is largely coming from the fast-approaching release of his first Christmas album, "A Classic Christmas." But for real, everyone has been interviewing him, and even more than that, Billboard even gave an exclusive preview of his album!

He Skyped with HuffPost Live on November 7 for about 15 minutes, and it was so entertaining (see the many expressions of Mr. Morrison below). Here's a quick look at the highlights:


Not surprisingly, he first discusses his Christmas album and post-Cory Monteith Glee. He says of the tribute episode, "I'm glad it's behind us so we can just move on." Then he shares that they were currently filming their Christmas episode, calling the atmosphere, "Very jovial and gleeful." *see what he did there*

At 7:44, they show clips from the best jokes about Mr. Shue's hair on Glee through the years. Of course they are all Sue Sylvesterisms, and Morrison thought them all hilarious.

Most notably, he says, "Right after Glee, I definitely want to get back on stage. That's kind of the reason I put out a lot of these albums is because I'm a creature of the stage, and I love to perform in front of a live audience, and that reciprocal feeling that you get from a live audience- that's what really feeds my soul." He says he wants to play someone different from Mr. Shue either on Broadway or the West End. Yes, you heard that right. He said that very definitively. Welcome back to Broadway, sir!

Lastly, he addresses "the boy band thing," revealing that he has been a part of 6 boy bands in his past including LMNT, (which released their hit song "(Hey) Juliet!" after he quit) and "Fresh Step" which he called a "fake boy band). He says he didn't really love the boy band experience, because he's a solo artist. "If there's a mess-up on stage, it's my mess-up... I don't trust other people, I guess."


To brighten up your morning, I bring you some golden, wonderfully ridiculous Matthew Morrison footage from when he performed with "Fresh Step" on Letterman. Heehee this is probably the best thing I've ever seen.


I'm sorry, but all I heard from the HuffPost interview was the part about him wanting to be on Broadway soon! We'll welcome him back gladly, I'm sure. Since all celebrities go the revival route, which roles would you like to see him in?

Read More:
MatthewMorrison.com // Twitter: @Matt_Morrison // Facebook: FB.com/OfficialMatthewMorrison
Matthew Morrison on Broadway
"Matthew Morrison on His New Holiday Album, Lea Michele, and Being Like a Real-Life Mr. Schue" (Elle)
"Matthew Morrison, 'A Classic Christmas': Exclusive Album Premiere" (Billboard)
"Matthew Morrison LIVE (Video)" (HuffPost Live)

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Monday, November 4, 2013

Best of YouTube: Aaron Tveit and Norbert Leo Butz Sing in a WICKED Face-Off

Aaron Tveit
Writing last week's Wicked Week articles totally renewed my love for that amazing show. And you know what? Even though I posted just about a zillion Wicked-related videos every day, there were still some that I left out! Since I'm not quite ready to let go of my Wicked high, I'll share another video with you. Wait, did you miss last week's tributes? Check them all out here!

The video below is from Broadway's "Miscast" concert in 2009, in which Norbert Leo Butz (original Fiyero in Wicked, one of my favorite actors of all time) and Aaron Tveit (a Fiyero replacement, original Gabe in Next to Normal, Frank Abagnale in Catch Me if You Can) sing a great song from Wicked which, as the concert title might suggest, they would normally never sing. And then there's a hilarious surprise in the middle involving the famous Fiyero pants.



This requires a little bit of background information though. Those Fiyero pants have a reputation for being ridiculously tight, which Norbert just found funny, because he felt like he was a little old to be playing the young college guy, much less wear some tight pants (Read here about when they ripped during a performance). An interesting thing to bear in mind: this performance was before he and Aaron Tveit adorably starred together in Catch Me if You Can (2011).

Since then, they have apparently had many discussions about the fact that Norbert will always be the original Fiyero and therefore the one who wore the pants the best. Do you concur?

Read More:
Aaron Tveit on Broadway
Norbert Leo Butz on Broadway
Norbert Leo Butz interview: too old for Fiyero

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Friday, November 1, 2013

WICKED Week: Bloopers & Extras & Mishaps, Oh My!

10th Anniversary Special
The most successful musical of this generation, Wicked, celebrated a great milestone on Wednesday. As of October 30, they have been on Broadway for 10 years. Check out tributes from every day this week, including documentaries, interviews, original rehearsal footage, bootleg performance videos, and more as I have highlighted the road to Broadwaythe Fiyerosthe Elphabas, and the Glindas(Scroll down to the bottom for a synopsis and main character list)

For the final tribute to bring Wicked Week to a close, I want to show some videos that are not usually seen and share some stories from the 10 years of this incredible show on Broadway.

Back in the day, Norbert Leo Butz had a website with some hilarious anecdotes about Wicked. Unfortunately, said website is no longer around, so you'll just have to take my word for these:

So in the scene where Elphaba and Fiyero save the lion cub, Elphaba (Idina Menzel) says something like, "Isn't it terrible to keep animals in cages?" as she was saying that line or a little before it one time, a cell phone went off in the audience. So then Norbert ad-libbed, "I think people with cell phones should be kept in cages."

Another time, when Norbert was flying in to say "Let the green girl go!" on a rope in those famous Fiyero pants, his pants totally ripped all the way up, and that was apparently a night that some school kids were there. He had nothing on underneath except a dance belt.

Below is the audio for "Which Way is the Party?" which was sung by Fiyero in the San Francisco tryout, but was later replaced by "Dancing Through Life."



Other cut/replaced songs (of which I am aware) include "Making Good," replaced by "The Wizard and I," and "As if By Magic," (this recording was from a reading, so you can hear someone reading stage directions!) sung by Dr. Dillamond, Fiyero, and Elphaba. Today if you go see the show, you will hear an extra song, which I love. It's sung by Nessa bemoaning her life in the scene where Elphaba comes back to find that Nessa is the dictator of the Munchkins, and it's called "Wicked Witch of the East."

Here's an ad-lib from Kristin Chenoweth's last performance of Wicked. Right before "One Short Day," Idina totally went off-script, and Kristin was in tears. Check it out below!


According to The Grimmerie, the book about the making of Wicked, Stephen Schwartz originally wanted every song to either have the word "good" or "bad/wicked" in the title. After a few though, he realized he couldn't keep that up. So you can get an idea of what order he wrote the songs in when you think about which titles follow that pattern, like "No One Mourns the Wicked," "For Good," "Something Bad," etc.

The most famous mishap in the show was not funny at all, though. Listen to Idina Menzel tell in her own words about her serious injury that happened when she only had 2 or 3 performances left.


If you've seen this video before, I'm sure you knew it was coming. Here is the video of Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel rehearsing their emotional last duet, "For Good." In The Grimmerie, Stephen Schwartz says that he had consulted his daughter for that song, asking what she might say to her best friend if they would never see each other again. He says some of these lyrics are pulled directly from that conversation.


Favorite line:
Fiyero: There is no pretense here. I happen to be genuinely self-absorbed and deeply shallow.

THANK YOU for joining me in Wicked Week for the past few days! Did I miss any memorable videos/stories from Wicked over this week? What are your favorite memories from the past decade of Wicked? Please share your thoughts/insights!

Wicked is about Elphaba (later known as the Wicked Witch of the West) who goes to Shiz University as a social outcast and ends up rooming with Glinda. Despite the odd pairing, the two become best friends. The story is about loyalty and friendship as it follows their journeys as they have to decide who they want to be as opposed to who other people think they are. The original cast included Idina Menzel (Tony Award, Elphaba), Kristin Chenoweth (Tony nomination, Glinda), Norbert Leo Butz (Fiyero, the ridiculously good-looking and self-proclaimed shallow guy at Shiz), and Joel Grey (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Read More:
Wicked the Musical on Broadway
Wicked the Musical official website
Full Wicked cast list (from 2003-2013, click on the box on the right that says "expand replacements")

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Thursday, October 31, 2013

WICKED Week: Spotlight on the G(a)lindas

Kristin Chenoweth
The most successful musical of this generation, Wicked, celebrated a great milestone on Wednesday. As of October 30, they have been on Broadway for 10 years. (Scroll down to the bottom for a synopsis and main character list) Check out tributes from every day this week, including documentaries, interviews, original rehearsal footage, bootleg performance videos, and more as I have highlighted the road to Broadway, the Fiyeros, and the Elphabas!

The tribute for Day 4 of Wicked week is another character spotlight, this time on the other leading lady, Galinda. At the beginning of the story she is the ridiculously beautiful and popular girl at Shiz. And she does silly things to get attention, like act even ditsier than she is and change her name to Glinda. Her character change is one of my favorites, because there are definitely different stages of it as you see her make choices that affect her entire life. She realizes that even though in her mind, she is the beautiful cheerleader who gets whatever she wants (including the guy), life doesn't actually work that way. By the end, she has been sobered by her experiences with a best friend like Elphaba.

I must say that it is such a shame that she was too big of a character to be eligible for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. It would have been so great to see both of the Wicked girls take home a spinning statue that night, but unfortunately, they were competing against each other. So watch this video from the original Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth's last time ever to sing her big solo, "Popular." She ad-libs quite a lot, and it's hysterical.



Another now well-known girl who has put on that fabulously sparkly blue dress is Megan Hilty, now of "Smash" fame (I'll totally be that annoying actor friend though, and let you know that I liked her from Wicked way before she was on television). Her Galinda is very different from Kristin's, and it can only be described as feisty. Check it out!


Here's an interesting montage of a bunch of different Glindas singing just "I couldn't be happier today" from "Thank Goodness." Based on this, my favorites are Kristin Chenoweth, Katie Rose Clarke, and Suzie Mathers.



Other Galindas include Annaleigh Ashford, Alli Mauzey (who is playing the role now), and many more, listed below from PlaybillVault.com.



Keep checking Singular Sensation daily for more videos and fun facts about the show this week!

Wicked is about Elphaba (later known as the Wicked Witch of the West) who goes to Shiz University as a social outcast and ends up rooming with Glinda. Despite the odd pairing, the two become best friends. The story is about loyalty and friendship as it follows their journeys as they have to decide who they want to be as opposed to who other people think they are. The original cast included Idina Menzel (Tony Award, Elphaba), Kristin Chenoweth (Tony nomination, Glinda), Norbert Leo Butz (Fiyero, the ridiculously good-looking and self-proclaimed shallow guy at Shiz), and Joel Grey (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Read More:
Wicked the Musical on Broadway
Wicked the Musical official website
Full Wicked cast list (from 2003-2013, click on the box on the right that says "expand replacements")
Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway
Megan Hilty on Broadway

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WICKED Week: Spotlight on the Elphabas

Idina Menzel
Ladies and gentlemen, the day has come. The most successful musical of this generation, Wicked, is celebrating 10 years on Broadway at the Gershwin Theatre TODAY, October 30! I can't believe it!

In my humble opinion, it is one of the best, if not the very best musical ever put on stage for many reasons, most important of which is that it really is for everyone. Out of all the non-musical lovers and die-hards I have come across, none disliked it when they saw it. It perfectly combines spectacle with actual plot to form a truly delightful live experience. (translation: to you Phantom fans like me who memorized the soundtrack and were disappointed when you saw the production, realizing it was literally just visual and no plot, this will not happen with Wicked)

Today's spotlight is on the girls who have played the Green Girl herself, Elphaba. Elphaba is the protagonist of Wicked who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, but all it takes is her first solo, "The Wizard and I," for the audience to realize that she is not wicked at all. She is your average young lead who just wants to find her place in life. Everyone can relate to her feeling like an outcast because she is different, which is one of the many things that makes this character so good.

Idina Menzel (the original Elphaba) pretty much is Elphaba. Everyone else who has played her has been awesome, of course, but there's something magical (ha! see what I did there...) about that original cast member. From the videos I've seen, she had a great understanding of the character and did not overdo it, which is probably partly attributed to the fact that there was not as much hype around it then as there is now. So watch this incredible (and ridiculously good quality) video of Idina Menzel (and Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth) performing "Defying Gravity" on Broadway. I still get chills every time I watch her launch into the air!


It is no wonder that Idina Menzel won a Tony Award for this performance! Watch her acceptance speech below. This one is definitely heartfelt, but it's also hilarious, because she's got this giddy laugh going on and the frenzied franticness about her, which is normal for someone who has to go down a huge list of people to thank. But she can't stop grinning from ear to ear, and she's really not put together, which I think is wonderful.


Below, check out this list (from PlaybillVault.com) of all of the women who have undertaken this insanely important role on Broadway, currently being played by Lindsay Mendez.


This next video is one I only just found, of Stephanie J. Block, who was on tour at the time (before taking over the role on Broadway in 2007), showing how the flying machine works in "Defying Gravity." Wow! Take a look!


Wicked is about Elphaba (later known as the Wicked Witch of the West) who goes to Shiz University as a social outcast and ends up rooming with G(a)linda. Despite the odd pairing, the two become best friends. The story is about loyalty and friendship as it follows their journeys as they have to decide who they want to be as opposed to who other people think they are. The original cast included Idina Menzel (Tony Award, Elphaba), Kristin Chenoweth (Tony nomination, Glinda), Norbert Leo Butz (Fiyero, the ridiculously good-looking and self-proclaimed shallow guy at Shiz), and Joel Grey (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Read More:
Wicked the Musical on Broadway
Wicked the Musical official website
Full Wicked cast list (from 2003-2013, click on the box on the right that says "expand replacements")
Idina Menzel on Broadway
Stephanie J. Block on Broadway

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WICKED Week: Spotlight on the Fiyeros

Playbill.com
The most successful musical of this generation, Wicked, is celebrating a great milestone on Wednesday. As of October 30, they will have been on Broadway for 10 years. (Scroll down to the bottom for a synopsis and main character list) Miss yesterday's tribute with documentaries, interviews, and original rehearsal footage? Check it out here!  

Wicked Week continues today with a spotlight on the leading man, Fiyero. Fiyero has become one of those parts that everyone plays. It's like a right of passage. So here is a look at some of the men who have played that charismatic, wonderful Winkie Prince.

Here is a screen-shot (PlaybillVault.com) of a list of all of Broadway's Fiyeros:
Clearly a zillion brilliant guys have played this role on Broadway alone (according to PlaybillVault.com, Derek Klena is currently playing the role), so I want to highlight footage from a couple of my favorites.

1. Norbert Leo Butz
The first man to play Fiyero was Norbert Leo Butz, and if you have been reading my blog for an extended period of time (I realize I'm pretty much just addressing my mother), it is no secret that I deeply admire this guy (Exhibit A... Exhibit B... Exhibit C...). Though playing the role at age 36, even he says that he was a little old to be the rebel college heart-throb, he completely embraced the character and made it believable. The best example of this was his big solo, “Dancing Through Life,” in which Fiyero has just arrived at Shiz University and is telling all of his fellow students to just have fun and relax rather than work hard. Whether he is hanging from a set piece or dancing across the stage, everything in his body communicates a scarecrow-like fluidity that resembles instability and imbalance. This isn't the best video of this performance, because it's pretty short, but it's what I could find.

I don't know about you, but those dance moves (especially on the statue) totally bring to mind his rendition of "I'm Alive" from Next to Normal. Anybody? I love this guy.
3. Adam Lambert
Yes indeed. He was in the first national tour as a Fiyero understudy before American Idol! He looks so young though, that this seems a little creepy, but you decide.


Below, check out a YouTube mix of lots of different Fiyeros singing "Dancing Through Life," including Adam Lambert, Aaron Tveit, Clifton Hall (to whom I'm very partial, because he's the only Fiyero I've seen live), and many more from Broadway, touring, and even some British casts.


Keep checking Singular Sensation daily for more videos and fun facts about the show this week!

Wicked is about Elphaba (later known as the Wicked Witch of the West) who goes to Shiz University as a social outcast and ends up rooming with Glinda. Despite the odd pairing, the two become best friends. The story is about loyalty and friendship as it follows their journeys as they have to decide who they want to be as opposed to who other people think they are. The original cast included Idina Menzel (Tony Award, Elphaba), Kristin Chenoweth (Tony nomination, Glinda), Norbert Leo Butz (Fiyero, the ridiculously good-looking and self-proclaimed shallow guy at Shiz), and Joel Grey (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Read More:
Wicked the Musical on PlaybillVault.com
Wicked the Musical official website
Full Wicked cast list (from 2003-2013, click on the box on the right that says "expand replacements")
Norbert Leo Butz on PlaybillVault

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Monday, October 28, 2013

WICKED Week: The Road to Broadway

The most successful musical of this generation, Wicked, is celebrating a great milestone on Wednesday. As of October 30, they will have been on Broadway for 10 years. (Scroll down to the bottom for a synopsis and main character list)

So let's start off the week by taking a look back at what it took to reach Broadway. Here is a short documentary (from the last episode of PBS's Broadway: The American Musical) about the journey of the Wicked team from a rehearsal room to their opening in San Fransisco, and finally to opening night on Broadway.

This first video is mostly more of an overview with short clips featuring many members of the creative team, including composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz, director Joe Mantello, as well as leading ladies Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, giving insight into the production from rehearsal to the opening on Broadway.


The next part of this documentary transitions into a more detailed look at the formative stages, with footage from the San Fransisco tryout production. This is probably my favorite one, because there is a great sequence where we get to see choreographer Wayne Cilento setting a number, which was actually cut, called "Which Way's the Party?" I don't love the song itself, but the choreography was great! Please check out Norbert Leo Butz's awesome moves. It was eventually replaced by "Dancing Through Life." There are also interviews with book writer Winnie Holzman, as well as Joe Mantello, Stephen Schwartz, and producer Marc Platt.


The last video takes a closer look at the insanely detailed and elaborate costumes by costume designer Susan Hilferty (who received a Tony Award for her designs), in addition to scenic details with lighting designer Ken Posner. There are also interviews with the leading ladies.


Wicked is about Elphaba (later known as the Wicked Witch of the West) who goes to Shiz University as a social outcast and ends up rooming with Glinda. Despite the odd pairing, the two become best friends. The story is about loyalty and friendship as it follows their journeys as they have to decide who they want to be as opposed to who other people think they are. The original cast included Idina Menzel (Tony Award, Elphaba), Kristin Chenoweth (Tony nomination, Glinda), Norbert Leo Butz (Fiyero, the ridiculously good-looking and self-proclaimed shallow guy at Shiz), and Joel Grey (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Monday, October 14, 2013

Best of YouTube: LES MISERABLES Takes on A CHORUS LINE

(added 10/18/13)
Broadway has a lot of golden moments which have fortunately been captured on video and with this new-fangled 21st-century technology, we can all watch them! So I'm starting a new column on Singular Sensation dedicated to the very best in those long lost YouTube treasures. Some of these will be bootlegs of Broadway bloopers, but mostly it's just great, sometimes rare, performances that everyone needs to see but might not have seen.

So today's Broadway YouTube video is a performance from 11 years ago when Les Miserables had just passed A Chorus Line in number of performances and became Broadway's longest-running show. In this video, they celebrate that milestone by having many original cast members (yes, Colm Wilkinson, aka, Mr. Les Mis) come on stage for curtain call. As might be expected, they reprise the show's most famous song, "One Day More," but they also sing another fitting song which was not expected.


From the video I could only identify one cast member in that performance, who of course is Lea Salonga, and based on when it was (and looking up actors on the Les Mis cast list on PlaybillVault.com) I will assume that J. Mark McVey was playing Jean Valjean and Philip Hernandez was Javert. Other than that I have no guesses. Could anyone identify any of the other cast members from the video?

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Norbert Leo Butz Sings New BIG FISH Song

Two-time Tony Award-winner Norbert Leo Butz, the best actor on Broadway and one of my favorite actors ever, is in the new musical adaptation of Big Fish, based on the movie of the same title. As his first return to the Broadway musical stage in two years, the show finally opened this past Sunday (October 6). Back in March, I posted an audio of him singing one of the iconic songs, "Fight the Dragons" in which the character (Edward Bloom) gives a glimpse into his adventures.

As part of The New York Times's "In Performance" series, Norbert sings "Fight the Dragons" in the simplistic video below. Click the picture below to check it out!


It opened to what seemed like ambivalent reviews, saying that it is a fun show with a great spectacle. Most of the reviewers pointed out how wholesome it is and the fact that family-oriented Broadway musicals are rare these days. Of course they all loved Norbert. Check out the full reviews here!

With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family), and book by John August, Susan Stroman directs/choreographs this fantasy-driven musical and (fittingly, I think) William Ivey Long designed the costumes fresh off of his Tony Award for Cinderella.

Read More:
Norbert Leo Butz on Broadway
Big Fish on Broadway
Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin sing Big Fish

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Monday, September 16, 2013

Brian d'Arcy James Talks LES MISERABLES, Stage Door Fans, SMASH, and More

Stage Door Dish, a great new Broadway fan site, recently interviewed one of my favorite performers, Brian d'Arcy James. It's really in depth, but for those of you like me who have a short attention span, I've picked out the highlights of the interview. He's hilarious and insightful, so there were some funny moments as well as sincere quotes about what it's like to experience the hard world of acting. Make sure to read the whole thing on StageDoorDish.com which has way more content, including a lot about BDJ's 54 Below show, TV vs. Broadway, his admiration for Mark Rylance, and much more!

"Stage Door Dish: Now you’re singing Billy Joel songs in concert at 54 Below. How does that feel? Did you grow up with Billy Joel’s music?

Brian d'Arcy James: I did. Nothing has changed. I won’t be wearing the same yellow sweater that I wore in eighth grade in my gym. I had many ways that I received music, mostly through my parents, who had a really great, eclectic taste in music. By the time you get to eighth grade, you find out what you like and gravitate toward the things that resonate with you.
...

SDD: Have you kept in contact with anyone from the cast of Smash?

BDJ: I haven’t seen anyone recently, but we’re all friendly. I haven’t seen anyone lately but I ran into Will Chase not that long ago. That’s really it. We’re not having sleepovers or anything, but I look forward to seeing any and all of my cast mates from that show.
...

SDD: What has been your favorite role that you’ve worked on?

BDJ: One of them that comes to mind is a play that I did by Conor McPherson called The Good Thief, which was a one-man play about a man who has gotten in way over his head and things go awry. There’s this beautiful love story that develops. Conor McPherson is a playwright who I absolutely adore. His writing is extraordinary. The story was exquisite. The challenge of doing a monologue that’s 65 minutes with just yourself on stage is interesting. It was a technical challenge, which I love. The fact that it was received well and had many lives—we did it in New York and Los Angeles and London and Ireland—was wonderful. I think I’ll come back to it because the narrator, as he’s called, is a timeless character, and I think I’ll be able to play him when I’m 70. It’s kind of this magical little thing, a box that I hope that I get to open up again.
...

SDD: That being said, is there a role that you’d be interested in playing someday?

BDJ: I never used to have an answer to this until I got tired of myself not having an answer. My answer now is that I’d love to get a shot at playing George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I love that play and I’ve seen it a number of times. It’s just a kind of play that is so extraordinary and has such a pedigree and is twisted a little bit. It seems kind of ridiculous to say that I want to play that, especially in light of the long, tall shadows being cast by these amazing actors who have played it before. The first time I saw that play was in college and how a dog tilts his head when he hears a strange sound, I’ve always had that reaction watching that play. Something about that is really appealing to me.

SDD: A lot of people have said that you should play Jean Valjean someday.

BDJ: Wow.

SDD: Would you be interested in that?

BDJ: It’s hard to see myself in that role, only because I spent a year on the road playing Joly. If I was ever in Les Mis, I’d only be able to play Joly. That’s very flattering to hear. It’s such a vocally challenging role to play. I would definitely have to go back to school and learn how to sing."
...
Side note: BDJ sang "Bring Him Home" almost exactly a year ago for The Passionists' 160th anniversary celebration. Check it out below!


"SDD: What’s been your most memorable fan experience at the stage door?

BDJ: I was very, very touched by the people who would stick around after Shrek because it took me a good hour to get out of there. In the winter, when it gets cold outside, I would walk out there expecting everyone to be gone. There would be some people who were out there waiting and wanted to say, ‘We love the show. Great job.’ That always was really touching for me. That was a great source of energy for me because that was a lot of work and a lot of energy. It was always very uplifting and rewarding to see another young person or an adult who loves theatre saying, ‘Great job.’ They were committed, just sticking around. That always made me smile.

SDD: Who do you think you’ve learned the most from, out of all of the shows that you’ve been in and all of the performers that you’ve worked with?

BDJ and John Lithgow in Sweet
Smell of Success
BDJ: John Lithgow. He’s an extraordinary actor, as everyone knows, and he’s a beautiful person. I met him right when I was becoming a father. He’s a father who is also an actor. He has a family and he loves acting. It’s fun to watch him do his thing up close when I had the chance but also I get to appreciate him. I know him and I feel lucky to have that insight into who he is as a person and seeing who he is. He’s a genuinely good guy and I got to see how that infuses into his work as a good actor and how that becomes such an interesting and necessary component to how he works. I guess I learned a lot from him, in terms of how to be a leader if you’re in a show where you’ve got a lot to do and people are looking to you to carry the ball. I think there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. He wears that all very well. The list goes on and on, but I think I learned quite a bit from John.

SDD: It sounds like you trust your instincts a lot when you’re picking jobs, going onto the next career move. Do you think that’s correct?

BDJ: Yes and no. That’s a really good question because I think that experience breeds knowledge. The more time you spend doing something, you can allow yourself to follow your instincts. You can tally up how many times they’ve led you in the right place and they usually do. But on the other hand, the flip-side of that coin of having a good chunk of time in this business…I go back to something that John Lithgow said, which is apropos, he said, ‘Whatever decision that you make in this business, just know that it will be the wrong thing.’ It was his funny way of saying that you just never know. You never decide to do something because it’s going to get you something or it’s going to get you some place. You just have to do it because you want to do it. I’ve tried to kind of give up being strategic about decisions I make. It’s kind of a mix of following your instincts but also not being too concerned about getting it right.

SDD: Do you have any current obsessions?

BDJ: I don’t think I do. I guess I’m boring. The closest thing might be this bakery here on the Upper West Side called Levain Bakery where they make these cookies. Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s my obsession. Luckily, I don’t act on it. L-e-v-a-i-n. I always spell it out so that maybe they’ll send me a box of cookies. They’re amazing cookies.

SDD: Do you have any secret talents that nobody knows about?

BDJ: Let’s see. No, I don’t. I guess being an actor, you say, ‘Here’s my talent, for better or for worse.’ No, I don’t think I do. I do a terrible impression of Donald Duck. That’s really it. I have a banjo that I don’t know how to play. Those are my two answers."

Read More:

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway