Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Singular Sensation Spotlight: THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL

With all the ridiculously popular awesome musicals like Wicked, Les Mis, and Phantom, it seems like a lot of great musicals get totally overlooked. And every few months, I need a new musical to listen to but have trouble figuring out which ones are lost treasure, and which are forgotten for good reason. However, I will attempt to shed some light on truly underrated Broadway tunes.

To mark the milestone of my 100th post on Singular Sensation, I decided that it's only fitting that it should be about my favorite show of all time, The Scarlet Pimpernel. In 1997, Douglas Sills made his Broadway debut in the title role opposite Terrence Mann as the villain, Chauvelin, and Christine Andreas as Marguerite, the ingenue. Frank Wildhorn composed the music, and at the time, the original Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde was also on Broadway. So when Civil War opened in 1999, Wildhorn had three shows running at the same time, one of the few composers to ever claim that.

Despite scathing reviews, The Scarlet Pimpernel ran for a respectable three years. I didn't get to see the original production, but I fell in love with the show through the original Broadway cast recording. High points are definitely "Into the Fire," "The Riddle," "Only Love," "She Was There," and all of Terrence Mann's solos. Listen to the original cast recording below, and you should see what I mean!

This is definitely in, if not at the very top of, my must-listen Broadway albums list. So brighten up this lovely Wednesday by listening to this gem!

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The Scarlet Pimpernel on

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Matthew Morrison, Aaron Tveit, and 13 More Stars Appeared in HAIRSPRAY First

Matthew Morrison
Yesterday was the anniversary of the opening of Hairspray on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre in 2002. In honor of that, I featured a Hairspray video on Monday and the tribute continues today.

As I reviewed the list of actors who were in Hairspray over the course of the run, I can't tell you how many times I said, "Wow! He was in that before he was famous?!" And most of them were making their Broadway debut too! Here's a list of people who were in Hairspray before I knew them from something else. Those in bold are the only ones who had previously appeared on Broadway.

  • Matthew Morrison (as the original Link Larkin) before Glee. Let's take a moment to talk about his headshot that was in the Playbill for Hairspray in 2002 (pictured to the left). You're welcome.
  • Aaron Tveit (as a Link replacement) before Next to Normal (2009), Catch Me if You Can (2011), and the Les Mis movie (2012)
  • Michael Longoria (as a Swing) before Jersey Boys (2005) or The Midtown Men
  • Andrew Rannells (ensemble, then a Link replacement) before Book of Mormon (2011)
  • Cameron Adams (many roles over time) in the middle of her journey to being in every Broadway ensemble ever, but after playing Zaneeta in The Music Man (2000)
  • Jackie Hoffman (Velma's understudy) before The Addams Family (2010)
  • Shoshana Bean (Velma's and Tammy's understudy) before Wicked (in 2005)
  • Kerry Butler (original Penny) before Xanadu (2007) and Catch Me if You Can
  • Caissie Levy (Penny replacement) before Ghost (2012)
  • Laura Bell Bundy (original Amber) before Legally Blonde (2007). And before her promising Broadway and/or country music career came to a screeching halt
  • Brynn O'Malley (Amber replacement) before thie Annie revival (2012)
  • Ashley Spencer (Amber replacement) before Priscilla Queen of the Desert (2011) and her marriage to Broadway star Jeremy Jordan
Check out this bootleg video of the Hairspray cast, including Diana DeGarmo and Aaron Tveit, singing "Without Love." Aaron Tveit's movements in this remind me of his performance of "I'm Alive," (from Next to Normal) so much so that I realized that was him before seeing his face.

And then there were the token celebrities who made their Broadway debuts after their time in the limelight:

  • Alexa Vega (Penny replacement) after playing Carmen in Spy Kids. An appropriate reaction is, "WHAT THE WHAT?"
  • Diana DeGarmo (Penny replacement) after being runner-up on American Idol Season 3, but before marrying Broadway star (but mostly Idol alum) Ace Young. And fun fact about her: she took over the role of Penny after Cassie Levy had taken a turn. The next year, in 2010, she took over for Caissie again, this time for the role of Sheila in the Hair revival.
  • Haylie Duff (Amber replacement), aka: "Hilary Duff's Older Sister" (it's funny cuz it's true) after 7th Heaven
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Monday, August 12, 2013

No Really, Everyone was in HAIRSPRAY on Broadway

Original Hairspray Playbill, 2002
What has crazy bright colors, feel-good upbeat music, and even semi-random lessons about racism that would make Dr. King proud? A recent (ish) Broadway show that is now a beloved favorite, as well as a high school staple.

On this day 11 years ago, Hairspray was in the throws of previews, just days away from celebrating its official opening on Broadway. With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Jack O'Brien directed and Jerry Mitchell choreographed. It won 8 out of the 13 Tony Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Musical. (Bonus: this same creative team did Catch Me if You Can in 2011, which did not fare nearly as well as Hairspray)

But looking at the cast lists from Hairspray, I've come to the conclusion that being in this show became like a right of passage (kind of like how you find out every other actor has been in Les Mis at some stage in life).

For instance, before he was the sweet but awkward Glee coach Mr. Schuster, Matthew Morrison was the original heart-throb Link Larkin in Hairspray.

Also in the original cast were: Kerry Butler (Catch Me if You Can) as Penny Pingleton, and Laura Bell Bundy, who hasn't done much since then besides starring in Legally Blonde and unsuccessfully trying to be a country music star, as Amber (remember her before the nose job in the movie Jumanji? I don't think I"ll ever forget).

Other familiar replacements included: Alexa Vega (of Spy Kids movies) and Caissie Levy (Ghost) as Penny, Aaron Tveit and Andrew Rannells as Link, Ashley Spencer (I'm not gonna lie, I primarily know her as Jeremy Jordan's wife) and even Haylie Duff as Amber.

Check out this video of the OBC at the Today Show featuring Tony Award-winner Marissa Janet Winokur as Tracy, and of course Matthew Morrison. Just watching this ridiculously high-energy performance of "You Can't Stop the Beat" makes me want to take a nap.

Hopefully this performance was just what you needed to get an energy boost on this Monday morning. Happy Monday!

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

THE JUNGLE BOOK's Anjali Bhimani Fangirls Over Mary Zimmerman's Inspired Techniques

"Actress Anjali Bhimani is quite possibly Mary Zimmerman’s biggest fan. After working with Zimmerman many times, Ms. Bhimani raves about the successful director’s notoriously organic, inspiration-led process. She is clearly in love with the Zimmerman method." ("Mary Zimmerman Creates 'Theatre Nirvana' Through THE JUNGLE BOOK" by Sally Henry on

This week I got to write the above words based on a wonderful interview with Anjali Bhimani, who plays the mother wolf in The Jungle Book at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

Basically this whole interview was a little unusual in the sense that it really isn't about Anjali, but it's about her experience with renowned director Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses). Anjali was so great to interview, because she was so excited about this show and was overflowing with praise for her director. When I first said, "I want to ask you about Mary Zimmerman and her very... different style," she said something like, "Oh yeah! I'm the perfect one to interview, because I've worked with her in lots of shows." And in reference to my title, yes "fangirl" is totally a verb used by the cool kids these days. If you don't know what it means, look it up on Urban Dictionary.

There were so many times where she would say something, and in my head I thought, "YES. This will be a great quote!" Unfortunately, I couldn't include all of those. Fortunately, only on Singular Sensation can you get some exclusive extras that couldn't publish!

"[Mary Zimmerman] is very visually inspired"

Working with Mary Zimmerman: "It's a lesson in trust... being willing to experiment"

“It’s not just her audition to see who works well together,” says Bhimani. “But it’s also for the actors to kind of audition her and decide if this process is for them.” Even at auditions, Zimmerman is very open to input from the actors and, as Bhimani says, “really wants to bring the best out of the people she has.”

“She’ll bring in three pages, or she’ll bring in thirty pages,” says Bhimani, explaining that Zimmerman would enter rehearsals for The Jungle Book with a few key scenes specifically in mind, but was constantly experimenting. 

(And actually, there was an element that I touched on in my original, uncut version of the article that I took out of the original, which was the idea of how this measures up to the Disney Broadway classics:) 

While she knows this show will inevitably be compared to the most successful Disney shows, namely The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast, as well as The Jungle Book movie, she above all wants people to see the story as new.

“If theatre audiences in general come to the theatre being willing to enjoy the thing that they’re seeing on stage for what it is, not for what they expect it to be, the experience can be really transcendent, because it’s less about ‘Ok, now, entertain me!’ than, ‘So where are we going to all go together?’”

Check out the interview on!