Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Favorites from the Day: Darren Criss, Audra McDonald, and 101 Years of Broadway

"101 Years of Broadway"
On BroadwayWorld.com today, I covered a lot of random events that are hard to categorize... Some were readings, a lot were some kind of one-night concert, and I think I only covered one actual play. 

However, I did get to post a video of Darren Criss (A Very Potter Musical, Glee) announcing his 2013 summer tour, a few pictures of Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, and I wrote about a revue I've seen and loved called "101 Years of Broadway."

Check out my top 2 below!

STAGE TUBE: Darren Criss Talks Summer Tour, New Album, and More!
Spoiler: He's releasing an album! :)

Photo Flash: Audra McDonald Honored with Matrix Award
Audra McDonald, who last year tied the record for the performer with the most Tony Awards, just received an award honoring her contribution to the communications industry. This honor, called a "Matrix Award," was presented by the New York Women in Communications organization. I posted a couple pictures of her from that ceremony. (Please notice her gigantic stone on her engagement ring!)

Audra McDonald

Neil Berg's 103 Years of Broadway Revue Returns to San Rafael
Composer Neil Berg made this musical revue "100 Years of Broadway" a few years ago, and every year, he adds 1 to the "100"... So now it's up to 103! In the show, five former Broadway stars basically sing Broadway favorites, some of which they themselves have performed before. I saw it when it came to Statesboro, and it was a really a wonderful performance. The highlight for me was hearing Ron Bohmer (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables) sing "Into the Fire" from one of Frank Wildhorn's many Broadway flops The Scarlet Pimpernel (in which he starred at one point, replacing Douglas Sills). Bohmer is married to fellow cast-member Sandra Joseph, who holds the record for the longest-running Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, and together they perform "The Phantom of the Opera/Music of the Night."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Broadway Reviews are the Best!

I'm currently obsessed with all of the reviews coming in for the shows that are opening on Broadway in such rapid succession these days! Since BroadwayWorld.com is the best Broadway website out there, it of course has a section where you can look at all of the reviews for the shows as they open. 

The problem then, is that honestly, while nerds like me might want to actually read whole reviews (my favorites are Entertainment Weekly and NY Times), a lot of times you just want to know what critics said overall. So "Review Roundups" give a brief snippet from each one with a link to read more if you want to.

Click on the headlines below to read some Review Roundup highlights for Broadway 2013!

New Plays

Review Roundup: Holland Taylor Opens in ANN on Broadway!

Review Roundup: VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: LUCKY GUY Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: THE NANCE Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: ORPHANS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: THE BIG KNIFE Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Still to come:

Play Revivals

Review Roundup: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, Starring Scarlett Johansson Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: MACBETH Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Still to come:

New Musicals

Review Roundup: HANDS ON A HARDBODY Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: KINKY BOOTS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: MATILDA Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: MOTOWN Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Musical Revivals

Review Roundup: CINDERELLA Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Review Roundup: JEKYLL & HYDE Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!

Still to come: 



Review Roundup: THE RASCALS: ONCE UPON A DREAM Opens on Broadway

For the full list of shows this season, visit PlaybillVault.com/Seasons.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to Tony Award-Winner Christian Hoff!

Christian and Melissa Hoff (IMDb)
Today is the birthday of another brilliant Broadway actor! Like Norbert Leo Butz, J. Robert Spencer, and others I have highlighted on Singular Sensation (in Spotlight articles), he is one of my all-time favorites. Tony Award-winner Christian Hoff is currently part of the oft-spoken about group, The Midtown Men.

Christian Hoff started his professional acting career with film at age 12, most notably playing Young Walt Disney in the show "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color," in his long list of film and television appearances spanning 1980-2011. He made his Broadway debut in The Who's Tommy in 1993, then took a hiatus from the Great White Way for 12 years, during which he cultivated his screen career.

Perhaps he was biding his time, waiting for just the right role before his Broadway return. Whatever the reason, his success was worth the wait. When he returned in 2005, he won a Tony Award for his performance as the bad-boy Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys, a role which also earned him Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations. Upon winning the Tony, he delivered the most heart-wrenching acceptance speech I have ever heard. He literally touched on every possible tear-jerking element you could think of, including but not limited to references to his wife (pregnant and looking radiant), children, and immigrant family! It's incredibly sweet, and you just have to watch it.

He returned to Broadway for the Pal Joey revival in 2008, but due to a foot injury in about the first week of previews, he had to drop out.

Besides Broadway, his other stage credits include leading roles in Los Angeles/regional performances as well as National Tours in many shows including Rocky Horror, Big River, Jesus Christ Superstar, and more. 

Most of all, I love Christian Hoff because he clearly has his priorities in order. He has been married to Melissa Hoff for a while, and they have five children. Five! How sweet is that? Being from a big family myself, I'm quite partial to couples (especially actors) who have lots of children. 

Celebrate his birthday by watching this performance of Christian Hoff in a Jersey Boys concert!

Trivia: Christian Hoff set a Guinness Book of World Records record for voicing the most characters in an audiobook for Tell Me How You Love the Picture and was named by Entertainment Weekly the "master of mimicry." A record previously held by Tony Award-winner Jim Dale for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hoff voiced 241 characters including actors Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey, and more.

Keep up with Christian Hoff online and on social media:

Read more about...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

News and History: A Marilyn Musical? NBC's SMASH Tributes Past Broadway Flops

Towards the beginning of the first season of Smash, the audience sees characters Julia and Tom trying to write a new musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. They are a songwriting team who has not produced a hit in a while, but currently have Heaven on Earth, a musical, playing on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre. As it happens, these two show ideas weren't as original as audiences might think, but were presumably a nod to past Broadway failures.

Marilyn on Broadway 1983
First of all, there has already been a Marilyn Monroe musical on Broadway. In the 1980s, a huge writing team consisting of five co-composers/lyricists, plus a librettist, wrote Marilyn: An American Fable. Unfortunately for them, more writers did not mean more awards (or performances for that matter). Following 34 previews, it opened November 20, 1983 and had exactly half as many performances as previews. It was directed and choreographed by High School Musical director/choreographer Kenny Ortega as his only Broadway venture, about ten years prior to his first film which was Newsies.

Alyson Reed (who then played Cassie in A Chorus Line the movie) was nominated for a Tony and a Drama Desk for her portrayal of the title character, but won neither. And based on Frank Rich's review in the New York Times, it's a wonder this show got nominated for anything. He said, "On top of its many other failings, Marilyn is incoherent to the point of being loony. I defy anyone to explain - just for starters - why 10 chorus boys dressed in pink plumbers' costumes sing a song about bubble baths at the climax of Act II." He absolutely tore this show to shreds.

Heaven on Earth 1948
Heaven on Earth is the name of a Broadway musical with music by Jay Gorney, book and lyrics by Barry Trivers. It opened in September 1948 at the New Century Theatre and closed after only 12 performances, and of course they had no previews back then, so that was it. PlaybillVault.com describes the plot as this, "A man who lives in a Central Park treehouse has trouble finding more suitable living quarters for himself and his bride-to-be." No wonder it had such a short run. Its only slight claim to fame is that it did star David Burns, who won two Tonys later in his career. While shows that opened a year earlier could use the excuse that they didn't win a Tony because the Tonys were not around yet, this show opened in the first season that the Tony Awards were invented, when Kiss Me Kate won.

Read more about...
Heaven on Earth the 1948 musical
Marilyn: An American Fable
"Marilyn Musical About Monroe's Magic" by Frank Rich

Thursday, April 11, 2013

News and History: MISS SAIGON Barely Reached Broadway in 1991, Film to Follow?

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the Broadway opening of one of the greatest, but also most controversial musicals ever, Miss Saigon. It tells the story of a Vietnam GI who falls in love with a young Vietnamese girl at a brothel in Saigon, a plot loosely based on Madame Butterfly.

Starring Lea Salonga, Miss Saigon was written by the creative team from Les Miserables. It won all but one of the possible acting awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for Salonga, Best Actor for Jonathan Pryce, and Best Featured Actor for Hinton Battle. Willy Falk was also nominated for Best Featured Actor, and he actually has not been back on Broadway since his loss to Battle. It seems appropriate to adapt a Mean Girls quote for this moment, "And... none for Willy Falk."

Since the fame of Les Mis soared in recent years, Lea Salonga is the most famous of the winners in this list, but at the time, Jonathan Pryce was the one everyone came to see. He had earned a Tony a decade previously for Comedians, and critics absolutely raved about his portrayal of the ultra-sleazy pimp who calls himself, "The Engineer." Watch his performance from the Tony Awards in 1991!

The Broadway production became almost infamous because of some deep controversy surrounding the supposedly racist casting. According to an Entertainment Weekly article written by Tim Appelo before the Broadway run, the American Actors' Equity argued that Pryce should not be playing the role of the Eurasian (half-Vietnamese, half-French) Engineer on Broadway (which he had just played on the West End). Appelo called this, "the ugliest transatlantic arts controversy in recent memory." 

Though Frank Rich of the New York Times likened Jonathan Pryce's performance to Joel Grey's famous portrayal of the M.C. in Cabaret, the American Actors' Equity managed to declare Pryce ineligible to reprise his show-stopping role for the Broadway stage, calling his performance, ''an affront to the Asian community.'' Upon those offensive racism accusations creating a "poisoning atmosphere," the show's big-shot producer Cameron Mackintosh actually canceled the Broadway run in August, 1990! 

That set off even more of an uproar, which resulted in profuse debates and arguments, including one by Charlton Heston who resigned from the union in protest. At that point, the Equity authorities changed their minds on the grounds that Jonathan Pryce was an internationally acclaimed star. As Pryce put it, they basically said, "We'll let you in, but you're still a racist — a star racist.'' 

Of course, Rich also pointed out that excluding Pryce from this role would also mean they should have excluded, "Lawrence Olivier's Othello, Pearl Bailey's Dolly Levi, and the appearances of Morgan Freeman in The Taming of the Shrew and Denzel Washington in Richard III in Central Park this summer."

With all of that drama out of the way, the show of course did eventually open on Broadway on April 11, 1991 and ran for almost 10 years. Yes, Cameron Mackintosh has been talking about making this into a movie (ever since 2009, actually), but there have been no more details. Since the success of Glee and the movie version of Les Miserables, I think this is the best time to do a musical film, as musicals are cycling back into the main stream. Might this produce an era of musical movies like in the '60s with hits like Oliver! and West Side Story which both won best picture? We'll see.

Read more:
Entertainment Weekly: "Storm Over Miss Saigon" (Sep 7, 1990)
New York Times: "Jonathan Pryce, 'Miss Saigon' and Equity's Decision" (August 10, 1990)
New York Times: "'Miss Saigon' Arrives, From the Old School" (April 12, 1991)
PlaybillVault.com: Miss Saigon