Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 5 Christmas Songs From Musicals

What I love most about Christmas is that it's celebrated in different ways all around the world. So of course, it's fitting that musicals- which are performed and adapted worldwide- have their own spin on the most wonderful time of the year. Due to the holiday release of films like Annie and Into the Woods, movie musicals are on everyone's mind! (Ok, so maybe some people are thinking about which teams will go to the Super Bowl, but not the cool kids) And y'all, as much as we elitist theatre people like to make snide remarks about the inferiority of the screen (guilty...), Hollywood has produced some lovely movie musicals, particularly around the holidays.

Below, check out my top 5 Christmas moments in musical movies! Note: these do not all necessarily include Broadway. I know, I'm betraying my people for a far less superior art form. I'm working on it.

The Top 5 Christmas Songs From Musicals

5. We Need a Little Christmas 
I can't hear this one on the radio without hearing my dad's voice saying, "That's not a Christmas song! That's from Mame!" It's true. This song was written by Jerry Herman for the 1966 musical starring Angela Lansbury, which was later made into a movie starring America's favorite redhead (except her hair wasn't red in the movie...), Lucille Ball. I love that a Broadway tune that's not even from a Christmas show became a Christmas classic, but I've never liked the song itself that much. Here's the movie version. Do you like Lucy's portrayal?
4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas*
Disadvantages to growing up in a theatre home: you hear famous musical songs in context, and it's kind of ruined. For instance, had I heard "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line out of context, I would have adored it, but it's so depressing in context! And the first time I heard "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," a song which is considered an uplifting, hopeful holiday classic, was in the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis. The film transferred to Broadway much later, in 1989. And y'all, it's a super depressing moment of the movie, and it took me a long time to begin to enjoy the song rather than feel sad when I heard it. Judge for yourself. 
3. White Christmas*
Many people mistakenly think that this song originated in the movie of the same title. This now classic Irving Berlin tune actually comes from the movie Holiday Inn, and  actually won an Oscar in 1943, beating out "Love is a Song" from Bambi. Just like in White Christmas the more famous movie, Bing Crosby sings this song in Holiday Inn. Although, astute music nerds will notice that the key is higher in the Holiday Inn version than the White Christmas one. Click on the picture below to watch Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds sing a lovely duet version in the original film!
"White Christmas" 
2. Silver Bells*
What does a sweet, simplistic tune and uplifting Christmas message have to do with the best comedian of the 20th century? Apparently, the two are integral to one another. "Silver Bells" was originally performed by none other than Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in The Lemon Drop Kid. The 1951 comedy hardly seems the place for this classic Christmas melody, and maybe that's why the first released recording of the song- which pre-empted the release of the film- was by Carol Richards and Bing Crosby, a name already synonymous with soothing holiday music. Watch this humorous rendition of the song below!
1. Baby It's Cold Outside
If we're being honest, I think everyone would say they secretly love "Baby It's Cold Outside." And I'm sure those who have seen it in its original version love it even more. Tony Award-winner Frank Loesser wrote this song as part of the score for the 1949 film Neptune's Daughter. Keep in mind, this was before Loesser's successful shows like Tony Award-winning Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Despite the film's lack of lasting fame, the song won the Oscar over "Lavender Blue" from Disney's So Dear to My Heart. Poor Disney just couldn't get a break when up against Broadway composers. The original version of the song features two couples and an unexpected gender reversal. It's adorable! 

Merry Christmas from Singular Sensation!

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

*Denotes song from an actual Christmas movie

Monday, December 15, 2014

Interview: Lorna Luft Talks 54 Below Debut, New York at Christmas, and More

If I've learned anything, it's that New Yorkers are generous, wonderful people. At least, that's what singer and New York City enthusiast Lorna Luft says.

When I spoke to Ms. Luft a few weeks ago, the topic was her 54 Below cabaret debut on Dec. 17, but she turned a good portion of the interview into a love letter to New York at Christmas. And it was beautiful. She colorfully elaborated about her many affectionate memories of the Big Apple, adamantly emphasizing the perfection of the city during the holidays.

As she listed her favorite NYC Christmas activities, she kept saying things like, "You have to go see the Rockettes. It's just the law." She also spoke passionately about the art form of cabaret shows and how excited she is for them to be slowly making a comeback.

So, I went in expecting to have a regular conversation about a 54 Below concert, and the interview took an unexpected turn into very deeply personal reflections from the heart. Read the full interview here!

Below, check out a special, intimate conversation* with a lovely, talented woman.

Can you tell me a little bit about your show and what we can expect?

Yeah, it's got holiday music, but it's not only holiday music, it's really also a tribute to the lyrics of Johnny Mercer, who was a great part of my growing up and me learning how to really, really understand, respect, and admire lyricists. Sometimes, I feel that they get the short end of the stick. I think that composers are always toted as, you know, the great musical wonders- and they are- but let's not forget about who wrote those words. And I'm such a huge fan of lyricists! Because I just think that we all have our favorite songs, and none of them start with just "la-la-la-la-la." You know? And I wanted to put a show together that incorporates family stories about Johnny Mercer and the holidays and all that. So that's basically what the show at 54 Below is going to be.

And of course you'll be singing songs made famous by your mother, the wonderful Judy Garland. Will you be singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"?

Now, how can I go into New York in December and not sing that? Are you kidding? Things would fly off the table and hit me on the stage! Yeah, of course. You know, there are very, very few people in this industry that can say that they have a holiday classic song written for a member of their family. You know, whenever you go into stores, or whenever you go into any kind of place where they're playing Christmas music, that song always comes on, and whenever I hear it, I think, "That's part of my family."

Yeah, it must be very special, especially at Christmastime when family is extra important.

You know something? I really, really believe and I try to do this, but I think Christmas is every day. I really do. I don't think we should just wait for one day a year to do something nice for another human being or get your family together or write a check to your charity that you like, or go out and sing for a benefit. I don't think we should do that just once. I think that should be every day.

...

What I find is cabaret is an art form that is dying off, because we don't have the rooms to sustain all of the artists. And because of my age, I was able to go learn and be educated by some of the great, great cabaret artists in the world. And all of the television, movies, and all that, it started to die off, and all of those cabaret rooms around the United States closed. There was no place for us to really go and try out an act and do things and run to see people do their new act at a certain plaza, in wherever we were. It's just so interesting that now because of places like 54 Below and Birdland, and all of these wonderful cabaret places, cabarets are coming back, and not only coming back, but they're being frequented by a younger crowd. That's really cool.

It seems like all the really awesome Broadway people are having their own 54 Below shows, and some are even releasing live CDs, so that's really helping the popularity of these shows.

Right, and it is an art form. It really is, and I have seen some fantastic cabaret acts, and I have seen some cabaret acts that really and truly you want to say, "I think maybe you should rethink this." Because, you know how with Broadway theatre, we used to always have out-of-town tryouts that went to the Shubert in New Haven and this that and the other. With cabaret acts, they did the same thing. And then they'd come to New York, and they'd be perfect.

But those rooms aren't there anymore. So, it's interesting. It's not a lot of places that a lot of us can go. And I just hope that with the success of this, people want to, you know, go out, brave the weather, and see cabarets being brought back into being a great American tradition.

So, what makes a good cabaret show, in your experience?

Aha! Yes! I love when you ask me that! Ok, a good cabaret show was taught to me by great artists who used to write them and direct them and who put them together and all of that, and they always told me that they have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, just like a show. If you get up and you start having no thru-line and/or reason to be doing this show, except for these are a bunch of songs you like, the audience doesn't really care. They don't. But if you're bringing the audience into your journey, through whatever the material is, but something personal so they can be filled in, because you've got to remember, cabaret rooms are small.

This is like getting up in front of your friends in your living room. And there's no hiding. It's the most vulnerable position you'll be in, in a cabaret, because there's no third wall. So you're not playing a character. It's the hardest thing you're doing, and it's the hardest thing for most artists that come from the theatre or come from movies and television, is to be yourself. And I had a terribly tough time when I first started out learning how to do that, because I thought I had to be 800 different people.

Wow, that sounds very emotionally vulnerable and challenging! And you mentioned before that you were highlighting lyricists, like Johnny Mercer, but do you think there are any other big overarching themes to your show?

No, I think the holidays and being in New York City, because I have to say, you can have Christmas in any part of the world, but for me in my growing up, the only place to be at Christmas is New York City. I have spent the last six years in New York. There's an energy, there is a feeling of the holidays that you don't get any place else in the world. You really don't. Now, we'll have an argument in London about it. But I have to say, I lived in New York, and I am an absolute fan of the Broadway theatre and everything that New York stands for, and my son was born in New York, and I've just become a grandmother.

So for Christmas, to go around into the stores- yes, it is crazy, but it's that fun kind of crazy that makes you sometimes stand outside for five minutes and take a couple of deep breaths before you go into the store and brave those crowds and brave the weather! There's nothing better than walking down the streets of New York City at Christmas, because the whole city looks like a snow globe.

What are your New York Christmas traditions?

I always go to Radio City and see the Rockettes. You have to. You have to do it. It's the law, ok? You have to see that show at Christmas, it is the law. And you have to go to Rockefeller Center and see the tree. That's the law. And you have to see the feeling of being swept up in the craziness as the holidays get closer and closer and also, how giving people are. New Yorkers give like no one else. They really do. And when you get invited to events at Christmas, that are for charities and all of that, I mean, people are just so generous. They really dig deep in New York. That is one thing, every time I come to New York, I think, "I am honored to be in this city."

Did you have any notable Christmas performances with your family that stand out? I know your performance debut was on your mother's show singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Yes, I did that, and then we played Madison Square Garden when it first opened, at the Felt Forum, it was a theatre at Madison Square Garden, and we played there for Christmas. And of course my mom played New York at Christmas a lot.

Sounds like a dream!

It is! It is! New York at Christmas is the most special place in the world. I mean, it's a fantastic city 24/7, but at Christmas, it's pretty spectacular.

Interjection: At around this point in the conversation, I told her that sounded awesome and that I had never been to New York at Christmas... She was shocked and of course fervently told me to do that as soon as possible. I said I would do my best!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

I'm just, I'm very, very pleased that people are going and supporting 54 Below. I'm very pleased that people are going out and celebrating the other rooms also, in New York. That people are going out and supporting artists who are doing cabaret shows because it's so important for the art of cabaret to not be forgotten about, and put into a place of, you know, years ago. And it became that way, but slowly but surely, it's making a comeback, and it's a wonderful thing to be able to do, and for a whole couple of generations to learn how this used to be with supper clubs.

Go see her special show on Wednesday and find out what a real cabaret looks like!

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

Photo credit: Facebook

*Italicized text indicates content published on BroadwayWorld.com

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy [Belated] Birthday, Frank Wildhorn!

Frank Wildhorn (Twitter)
This past week, the Broadway community celebrated the birthday of a composer whose work has not only been on Broadway, but has also had particular popularity in Asia. I wrote a piece on Frank Wildhorn for BroadwayWorld.com, so make sure to check out the full thing here! My favorite fun fact about Wildhorn is that he is one of the only composers (I think Andrew Lloyd Webber is the other one) to have three show running on Broadway simultaneously.

Below, check out the piece I wrote and watch clips from his Broadway and international shows, including one of my favorite Broadway shows ever, The Scarlet Pimpernel!

JEKYLL & HYDE
Broadway run: April 28, 1997-January 7, 2001
Stars: Robert CuccioliLinda EderChristiane Noll
JEKYLL & HYDE is based on the Robert Louis Stevenson book in which Dr. Jekyll's (Cuccioli) experiment to find a cure for his father's illness goes wrong, and he instead unleashes Jekyll's evil alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. The show received four Tony nominations, including Best Actor in a Musical for Cuccioli. It incidentally featured the Broadway debut of THE KING AND I's Kelli O'Hara. Below, watch Noll and Eder perform, "In His Eyes" on the Today Show.

Side note: a performance of this starring David Hasselhoff was taped, and at one point was on Netflix.



THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Broadway run: November 9, 1997-January 2, 2000
Stars: Douglas SillsTerrence MannChristine Andreas
The second of Wildhorn's literary-based musicals, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, takes place during the Reign of Terror in late 18th-century France. Percy Blakeny (Sills) is a shallow nobleman by day, and by night, a Robin Hood-like character named The Scarlet Pimpernel who leads a band of men to save French aristocrats from going to their death at the guillotine. It marked Sills' Broadway debut, earning him a Tony nomination and a Theatre World Award. Below, watch the cast perform the rousing, "Into the Fire" on the Tony Awards.
Side note: I've had this show memorized forever, so it holds a dear place in my heart. That being said, The Scarlet Pimpernel was really a flop that overstayed its welcome on Broadway, unfortunately. It held together mostly because of Sills who ad-libbed profusely. Some of his added humor was used in later versions of the script.

THE CIVIL WAR
Broadway run: April 22, 1999-June 13, 1999
Stars: Michel BellGilles Chiasson, and Cheryl Freeman
Told from the perspective of Union and Confederate soldiers as well as slaves during the American Civil War, this show featured multiple music genres, including Gospel, Folk, Country, Rock, and R&B. It received two Tony Award nominations, including Wildhorn's first Best Score nomination. Below, watch the cast perform "Freedom's Child" on the Tony Awards.

Side note: I think this show came along at the height of Wildhorn's popularity.


DRACULA THE MUSICAL
Broadway run: August 19, 2004-January 2, 2005
Stars: Tom Hewitt and Melissa Errico
DRACULA is based on Bram Stoker's intriguing novel about Count Dracula (Tom Hewitt) from Transylvania who seduces multiple women for their blood. It received no award nominations, though both of the show's stars went on to receive a Tony nomination. Watch Errico and Darren Ritchie sing "Over Whitby Bay," below.

Side note: Can we just take a moment... There was really a Dracula musical... It was not received well by critics, so I have no idea why it ran for so long without transferring theatres or anything!

WONDERLAND
Broadway run: April 17, 2011-May 15, 2011
Stars: Janet DacalDarren RitchieKate Shindle
WONDERLAND is a new musical adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It featured Wildhorn's first pop score and earned choreographer Marguerite Derricks an Astaire Award nomination. Watch highlights from the show below!

Side note: This show was absurd. Unfortunately, it was Wildhorn Flop #1 of 2011 alone.


BONNIE & CLYDE
Broadway run: December 1, 2011-December 30, 2011
Stars: Jeremy JordanLaura Osnes
BONNIE & CLYDE is based on the true story of how an aspiring actress, Bonnie Parker (Osnes) desires to be more famous than Clara Bow and falls in love with an aspiring criminal, Clyde Barrow (Jordan), who wants to be more notorious than Al Capone. Together, the two become bank robbers and ultimately murderers. Though this show closed very quickly, it enabled Jordan to star in the Broadway hit, NEWSIES, for which he received a Tony nomination. BONNIE & CLYDE received two Tony nominations, including Best Actress in a Musical for Osnes. Below, watch highlights from the musical!

Side note: Honestly, this was one of Wildhorn's best in a long time, evidenced by the fact that Wildhorn received his second Best Score nomination. So why did it have the second-shortest run of any of his shows? No idea. Oh, and super fun fact!! In that same year, there just so happened to be another Bonnie and Clyde musical, written by Hunter Foster, that was slated to debut in Atlanta. When it was clear that Wildhorn's show would be on Broadway that season, they quickly changed the name to Clyde 'n' Bonnie.

So let's run the numbers really quick:
Total Tony nominations for Wildhorn personally (Best Score): 2
Total Tony nominations for Wildhorn shows: 10

Happy birthday, Frank Wildhorn!

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: BROADWAY'S NEXT H!T MUSICAL Showcases Strong Performances in a Hilarious Evening of Entertainment

I attended a touring show at Georgia Southern University's Performing Arts Center on Nov. 6 called "Broadway's Next H!t Musical." And let me just tell you: this musical improv show was the most ridiculous, off-the-wall thing I've ever seen, and being someone who loves to laugh more than anything, I enjoyed myself way too much. My favorite song of the night was called "Dance in the Fountain of Banana Pudding," because for one thing, it was hilarious, but possibly funnier than that was the fact that my good friend sitting with me was singing along to this improvised song. Anyway, I reviewed it for BroadwayWorld.com...

Do you ever go to a night of theatre positive that you’ll leave there feeling something? Going into “Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” I was pretty sure the show would either be really funny or ridiculously lame. I went to a different touring musical revue last year at the same venue, and none of the actors seemed to be enjoying the show itself, or each other. It really is a horrible combination. The experience was painful for everyone involved. Even the encore at the end involving seven choruses of “Oh What a Night” just couldn’t redeem it. Fortunately for me and my sanity, “Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” was far from lukewarm.
“Broadway’s Next H!t Musical” is billed as musical improv. Yes, that’s a thing. Before the show, the event supervisors were taking song title ideas from audience members on slips of paper, and during the show, an actor would select one of the pieces of paper from a bowl and make up a song with that title. But not just that- the performer would make up a speech on the spot about the entire fictitious show that featured this musical number, including plot, audience reception, and anecdotes. See what I mean about hit or miss with this one?
As the host of the evening, called “The Phony Awards,” Robb Coles’ comedic antics- which included a satirically fangirlish commentary following each song- did not land with this South Georgia audience. Bless his heart.
The strong ensemble was a joy to watch as they embraced the complete awkwardness that comes with trying to improv an entire (15-20-minute) musical. One of their strongest qualities was that rather than skipping over obvious inconsistencies within their songs- like accidentally changing a character’s identity or ignoring a previously pantomimed wall- and trying to make it seem natural, they blatantly made fun of themselves. Thus, they created an intimate experience that made the audience feel like they were part of a joke between friends.
Deb Rabbai, who also serves as co-producer and co-artistic director for the group, creatively transported the audience to a magical world in, “I Graduated Today,” and seamlessly sang her improvised lyrics with confidence that made me honestly question whether or not this was actually made up on the spot. (Especially since it was the first song of the evening, I was still unsure of the entire structure of the show to begin with)
Rachel Bouton tackled a very fast song, entitled “Oh, That Perfume.” Though like any professional actor, she committed to everything about the song and the world of the song, she stumbled over creation of lyrics and struggled to continue any sort of rhyming scheme. She also began the scene with a Jersey accent that flew completely out the window by about the end of the first verse.
Robert Z. Grant, whose unusually tall stature (especially for an actor, let’s be real) was alluded to multiple times, employed a comedic, Dick Van Dyke-like movement vocabulary. Despite his beautiful voice and physicalities, he produced lackluster lyrics.
Easily the highlight of the evening was co-producer/co-artistic director Rob Schiffman. His creative mind is full of rhymes and childlike creativity that was refreshing. He listened to his fellow actors brilliantly, so much so that he could sing in harmony or descant with them and (usually) successfully made a well-structured musical number. The entire time, I could not decide whether he should go into writing or acting, because the former would seem a waste of a brilliant character actor, and the latter a waste of a brilliant writer. Thus, I believe he has found his niche in improvisational musicals. I will say that his vocals were wanting at multiple times, but this is the first case in which I can genuinely say that such a flaw didn’t matter at all. Particularly, he and Grant read each other very well, to the point that their scenes together seemed rehearsed. The scenes that they shared were the highlight. 
The whole evening had an air of childlike creativity and wonder. And honestly, it was refreshing to see such an uninhibited, raw production that was made from the minds of creative people just having a good time making art together and sharing it unpretentiously with an audience. There was an unmistakable bond between the performers and audience.
So I’m telling you, I was laughing the entire evening. And so was my friend who was sitting beside me. She even sang along to these new songs on multiple occasions. Neither of us wanted it to end. (Click here to read the full article)
If this show comes to your city, go see it! Easily one of the most entertaining and creative pieces of art I've seen in a long time. The unbridled creativity of it is why we make art in the first place.

Read more on Singular Sensation...

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interview: FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR's Joseph Marcell on Original Shakespeare, KING LEAR, and More

Joseph Marcell in King Lear
I recently got to chat with stage and screen actor Joseph Marcell. I think most normal people remember him as Geoffrey, the butler, in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Yeah, that guy!), but I'm ashamed to admit that I have only seen an episode and a half of that in my life... I know, I didn't have a childhood. Anyway, check out what he has to say about playing a pretty opposite role from his '90s sitcom days, the title role in King Lear on international tour with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (currently at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA).

Make sure to read the full article on BroadwayWorld.com here!

I've heard that some of the double-casting plays into Shakespeare's irony. Can you tell me about that?
The casting of multiple roles being played by one actor is how Shakespeare did it. That comes down to us from the Bard. And it allows actors to delineate various roles by simply changing hats or changing a coat, changing a jacket, or whatever. And it's not a Hollywood production, unfortunately, it's simply about the words, and the only thing we have from Shakespeare is the words. We don't have his productions. They were not filmed, and so the Globe has decided that because it's called "Shakespeare's Globe," and the globe being the world, that the only thing that Shakespeare's left us are the words, and therefore the words are the most important. 
In this production, you're playing the title character, and you're of course costumed in normal, not really royal, clothes. So what goes into playing the character of Lear? 
What we have done is we have presented a medieval interpretation of the play as would have been presented by Shakespeare's company of eight actors. We do not have the facility to have a jewel-encrusted crown and all that kind of stuff. The special effects, the sights of the production are not the important thing. What is important is the words that Shakespeare's written, which are much more interesting than what we can do with it or how we can dress it. For me, playing the role is extraordinary, it's awfully hard work, I get terribly hungry by the end of it, and it's a challenge. It continues to be a challenge, and every day, every performance is a discovery of my perception of a certain moment in the play.
But our production of KING LEAR is that of a touring theatre company that arrives in a town, let's say a town like Oxford in England, or Cambridge, or somewhere, and they enter the marketplace, they put up their set, their stage, they go around telling the town that, "we're in town, come and see us, come and see us, we're going to be doing this production of KING LEAR," and they're dressed as normal people. The king wears a crown, but you know, he's dressed like kings were in those days. They were the true renaissance men. They had brains and brawns. They led from the front, they were not administrators, especially in Lear's time. He led armies, and he was a vigorous man. It's simply that he could not wield a broad sword for eight to twelve hours anymore. His arms were tired, but he certainly wasn't frail. And that is simply what we've done. So what we're presenting is a king who leads, who leads by example and discovers that there's a difference between the monarch and the man. And the man cannot deal with the stuff comes across from the family, and in the end, it's a family drama really.
I so want to see the show! If it comes to your city, GO TO IT!!

Read more interviews on Singular Sensation...

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

Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz/Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Monday, November 3, 2014

Interview: Conductor Todd Ellison Discusses Fast-Paced ENCORES! Schedules, THE WILD PARTY, and More

Photo credit: ToddEllisonMusic.com
I think every time I conduct an interview, I finish and say, "That was my favorite interview yet." But I might just be serious this time. Todd Ellison's musical career is ridiculously impressive, having conducted and/or music directed not only Broadway shows, but the Rockettes Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, as well as many others. Oh, and then he's also composing musicals on the side, like ya do. He was such a pleasure to talk to (and slightly geek out with)! I was technically interviewing him about his upcoming conducting engagement, The Band Wagon, at Encores!, but of course I couldn't help but ask him about his experience with The Wild Party! Make sure to read the whole interview* on BroadwayWorld!

"So, what can you tell me about the upcoming Encores! production of THE BAND WAGON, starring one of my favorites, Brian Stokes Mitchell?"Oh yeah, he's great. Well it's a whole reworking of the show. It took all this time until now to figure out a venue for it, and they decided to have it at City Center as part of an Encores! production, so we're doing basically, an Encores! production of this show, then everyone will decide whether they want to move forward with it or not. It's with an orchestra and 16 ensemble kids, and Tracey UllmanMichael McKean- a fabulous cast and a really fun story. 
...
"And what else have you done with Encores! in the past?"Yeah, I conducted ON THE TOWN for them, and I had the good luck of having done the show before- I worked on the Broadway revival as well as the one with Shakespeare in the Park- so I knew the show well, and I knew that Bernstein music very well. So that was a real treat to do it with a full 30-piece orchestra. It was incredible.
"Also, there's a two-piano part in the show NO, NO, NANETTE, and I grew up on that album, so when my friend Joe said, "Hey, I'm going to go play the first keyboard part for the NO, NO, NANETTE Encores! show; I need someone to play the second part," I was like, "I'll do it!" And because I was conducting SPAMALOT on Broadway at the time, he was like, "No, no, you're not going to leave a Broadway show to go to Encores! and do five performances of this." I was like, "Yes I am! I've waited my whole life to do this show!" And so we had a hilarious time. We were on two grand pianos in front of the orchestra, playing this great, great arrangement of songs.
"It was incredible. I love Encores! but I haven't done one since ON THE TOWN, which I think was 2007 or 2008? So it's been fun to return here, because it's intense pressure, but it reminds you that you're alive, you know? There's no escaping that fact. You just get up there and do it, and it's kind of fun. And then it happens, and Monday morning, after it's over, you press delete and move on, you know? It's crazy. It's been so intense that your brain goes, "Ok, I can't take it anymore, let it go."" 
...
"Sounds perfect! You're not only conducting THE BAND WAGON this year, but your musical, THE BLACK AND WHITE BALL is going to be fully-staged.
"Yeah, we're going to be presented by the FWD Theatre Project in Chicago, and they're giving us a fully-staged reading. So, they're providing the actors, a space to do it, promoting it, and opening it up to all the theatres in Chicago to see if they want to further develop it, which is incredible. So here we had our little show, and we didn't quite know what to do with it, and my writing partner submitted it to them- they had a notice that said, "Submit your musicals to us." Out of 220 submissions, they chose five shows, and we are the first one up. We got to do a concert in September of four songs from our show, and each show did four songs. Then the venue sold out immediately. It was crazy! 
... 
"And how cool to do it in a place where they're all about doing new works, and they really understand your piece. It sounds like this is a good opportunity for your piece to be done very well.Absolutely. Then we found this incredible fifteen-year-old girl to play the main role, a little girl who wants to go to the ball, and she blew the place apart in our opening number. I mean, it was almost like we'd just created a little star there in Chicago, and she was phenomenal that night. She was absolutely phenomenal! So I'm really looking forward to working with her, and we have a great guy who's playing Truman. These people have been so nice to us, just incredible. So I think that we're going to spend a week in Chicago in January, then put on our presentation and see what happens. 
... 
On that note, you can actually listen to the music from The Black and White Ball on his website, here. You're welcome.
...
"So, you’re conductor, music director, and composer. How many musicals have you worked on thus far? 
"I’ve conducted 12 Broadway musicals and worked on 16 productions all together. My first one was SHE LOVES ME, then HOW TO SUCCEED with Matthew Broderick, then ONCE UPON A MATTRESS with Sarah Jessica, and then ON THE TOWN, then THE WILD PARTY, with Mandy Patinkin, then 42ND STREET, which is one of my favorite shows- I conducted exactly 1000 performances of that, and then I left to do MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT, and then I did two, sort of, “bombs.” One was called AMOUR, by Michel Legrand, and LESTAT with Elton John, a musical which, he won’t even let the cast album be released, because I don’t think he liked the show that much.  I did one called, A CLASS ACT, and that didn’t last long either. I did LA CAGE AUX FOLLES with Kelsey Grammer, love him, nicest man in the world, then ANNIE was the last one I did. It closed in January." 
Oh, did you know my friend David Rossetti? He was the swing. 
Of course, yeah! He’s doing JOSEPH, or something now, right? Yeah, David’s very talented. He was the greatest swing, because he has such a period look, so he looks like he’s from the ‘30s, so he can dress as anyone. He can play Rooster, and he could be the butler, or he’s able to be so versatile. 
"And I saw you also did THE WILD PARTY, and that was such a strange time for Broadway and Off-Broadway, because THE WILD PARTY was playing on Broadway, and a totally different production of THE WILD PARTY was playing Off-Broadway… At the same time. 
"Yeah, I had friends who would attend a Saturday matinee of Off-Broadway, and Saturday evening of the Broadway one and just get immersed in the whole thing. It was crazy. And they were so completely different. The musical styles were so completely opposite ends of the spectrum.
"Yeah, after listening to them, there’d be no mistaking the two whatsoever. 
"Sure. Yeah, one is very very very dark, the one we did was dark musically and tonally, and it had an edge to it. But a lot of people didn’t respond to it. It was too hard."
Did you see any weird effects of having shows of the same title and source material on at the same time? 
I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t think that peple who seek out Off-Broadway things were- I think people who seek out Broadway htings rarely go to Off-Broadway stuff. So, the Broadway audiences always go for the Broadway things. And our show was so out there, so we closed after two months. And I think it was interesting for people to be able to compare the two and compare the story. All of it had gone into public domain, at one point, so both people picked it up around the same time, and started working on it at the same time, unbeknownst to each other. And to find out that both productions were happening at the same time was crazy. It didn’t hurt or harm us. They both stood very equally on their own two feet and did their thing. I think Michael John LaChiusa’s was interesting and fabulous and a little bit ahead of its time. 
"I’m glad that both shows even though they did not run for very long, they both have a cast recording, so that’s very important that we can listen to that and revisit that. 
Yes, thank goodness. You know, that’s one that I put on one or two tracks occasionally and go, “What did we do?” And it’s like I’ve never heard it before in my life. That show was just so out there. It was just really cool stuff." 
I finally got to chat with someone who was involved in one of The Wild Party musicals! I figured the middle of the interview wouldn't be the best time to say that I had memorized the Off-Broadway version rather than the Broadway one... 

Read more:

Broadway's 3 Most Entertaining Tweeters Interview: Phyllis Newman Talks Broadway, Showbiz, Beating Barbra Streisand Out of a Tony, and More!Producer Judith Abrams Talks KINKY BOOTS, Richard Rodgers, Pixie Judy Troupe, and More! 'Wild Party' of Two: Broadway vs. Off-Broadway


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

*Portions in quotation marks were featured on BroadwayWorld.com; other portions are exclusively on Singular Sensation!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Broadway's 3 Most Entertaining Tweeters

I might be slightly addicted to social media. I'm all about that Facebook-stalking life, and I spend what I would call a reasonable amount of time daily on Twitter.

But confession: I think I follow a total of 10 of my actual friends on Twitter. Other than that, I really just use it to keep up with Broadway-related people and news. While I follow mostly theatre personalities under the pretense that it's for work, a lot of them I follow just because they are ridiculously entertaining! Not gonna lie, there was a point in my life when I lived for Jennifer Damiano's tweets every week. If you love Broadway, you have to check out my favorite Broadway Twitter users!



Broadway's 3 Most Entertaining Tweeters

Honorable mentions- A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
This obviously isn't a person, but I love that not only do the Twitter managers answer everyone who tweets to them, but they do it in character! They also make little graphics related to each show that opens or closes on Broadway, which is cute of course, but I'll sideline and point out what a good marketing ploy that is.
My fav recent Tweet:

3. Jennifer Damiano
My fav role of hers: Natalie in Next to Normal
My fav recent Tweet:
2. Lin-Manuel Miranda
(I only just started following him, but he's hilarious! Tip: the best people to follow are probably going to be writers)
My fav recent Tweet:
1. Laura Benanti
My fav role of hers: the Baroness in The Sound of Music Live!
My fav recent Tweet:
Who are your favorite Broadway tweeters?

Also on Singular Sensation...
Review: "GSU's ALMOST MAINE- That Time Absurdity and Hooligans Didn't Ruin a Show"  
CABARET Never Gets Old... But Alan Cumming Does (AKA: the reason a Tony Award-winner called me out on Twitter)

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

Photo credit: Twitter

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: "GSU's ALMOST MAINE- That Time Absurdity and Hooligans Didn't Ruin a Show"

My school recently staged a fully student-produced version of Almost, Maine, which I reviewed it for BroadwayWorld.com because I can. So, I know I usually don't post multiple times in one week, but it's 62 days until Christmas, so anything can happen (how d'ya like that logic?). Before reading it, I'll have to warn you: sass and hair flips ahead, and yes, in fact I do use the word "hooligan."

"During Georgia Southern University's one-act production of John Cariani's ALMOST, MAINE, the most frequent question I asked myself was first, "Why did those hooligans on the front row come to see this show?" and second, "Is that a new character?" Student shows of course come with student patrons, but unruly ones have great potential to ruin a production- and these distracting young people very nearly did. And I must say that in a show full of short vignettes, concentration was vital. Thus from a "kids these days" approach did I view this play, wishing I had brought a cane to wave in frustration. 
"It's very important to preface this with the fact that this production was completely student-produced by the student theatre organization, Theatre South. Making her directorial debut, Ibiwumi Owolabi has a work to be proud of. 
"Each actor played at least two characters, if not four. Though, it is very likely I would not have realized that some of the actors were portraying more than one character had the program not told me. By its nature, the structure of the show was driven by an interesting artistic choice, having actors portray multiple roles, but was lacking in clarity of the character's identities. I frequently wondered if we were meeting a new character or not. This weak execution lay more in the script's infrequent re-iteration of each character's name than anything else. Fortunately, the character identities were not confounding enough to detract from the show itself, which proved to be an absurdly entertaining romp around some kind of metaphysical city in Maine, which included components similar to those found in The Phantom Tollbooth..."

Read the rest of the review on BroadwayWorld here!

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

Read more:
Review: GSU's HAMLET- Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark- But Awesome in the State of Georgia!
Interview: Phyllis Newman Talks Broadway, Showbiz, Beating Barbra Streisand Out of a Tony, and More!
Producer Judith Abrams Talks KINKY BOOTS, Richard Rodgers, Pixie Judy Troupe, and More!
Top 10 Broadway Stars Who Need to Voice Disney Characters

Monday, October 20, 2014

Interview: Phyllis Newman Talks Broadway, Showbiz, Beating Barbra Streisand Out of a Tony, and More!

That awesome moment when you're nominated for a Tony Award against Broadway legend Barbra Streisand and win. But it's slightly tainted when your producer leans over to you and says, "I voted for Barbra." For Phyllis Newman, that's pretty much how the 1962 Tony Awards went.

I got to talk to this amazing 81-year-old Broadway veteran about her career as well as her husband's. Oh yeah, not only did she beat Babs out of a Tony, but she was also married to Broadway lyricist Adolph Green who penned On the Town, On the Twentieth Century, both of which are being revived on Broadway this season, Peter Pan (which will be broadcast live on NBC in December), and many more. He earned five Tonys in all- a little misleading, considering his first hit was written before the Tony Awards existed. I think most people know him by his song, "New York, New York."

So check out this excerpt from my interview with this lovely woman who had nothing but wonderful things to say about her late husband, who would have been 100 this year. She was really sweet and adorable. She kept saying, "It's true! Every word of it. It's all true."

"How was the concert at 54 Below honoring your late husband, Adolph Green?
"Well, I didn't get to it because I had to do other things, but my children were there; my daughter [Amanda Green] sang. It was just wonderful, I gather, end-to-end, just hearing some of the material he's written and some of the people who were in the original shows. The idea that- this is the staggering part- is that last year, I was saying to my family, "What are we going to do for Daddy's 100th birthday with his body of work?" And I thought, "A benefit? No, oh gosh everybody does that... I don't know!" And then suddenly all of these things happened, as if directed by Adolph himself. First, On The Town, which was his first [Broadway musical] and a great, great love of his life, and then PETER PAN on NBC in December. And ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY is going into rehearsal in December, close to his birthday. It's incredible! I couldn't have planned it. Only he could have planned it.
"How special that ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY will be around his birthday!
"It goes into rehearsal to make it part of his birthday, a day or two before his birthday, which was December 2, 1914. Even Encores! is doing an adaptation of their original story and screenplay of BANDWAGON, so it's just ridiculous. It really is! Happy ridiculous.
"So, On The Town opens Oct. 16. Have you seen the previews yet?
"Oh, sure! I'm working very closely with everybody on the show. So I'm very, very involved with it because I'm the owner of the rights, and because of John Rando, who's a great director. He and I have very much the same view and vision. We've exchanged scripts. I give suggestions for cuts, etc., and it goes back and forth. I see it and give thoughts, and we have a great working relationship. So what could be better, you know? Because I do have the final say. In other words, I could say, "You know what, I don't really like this," but I'm happy to say I love it!
"I see that in your bio from the first revival of On The Town, it says, "Upon crossing the Hudson River, she not only managed to land a role in a hit Broadway musical (BELLS ARE RINGING), but also a husband, Adolph Green, co-author of the show."
"Right! It's true, it's true. And when I won the Tony, it was for a show of Adolph's also, called SUBWAYS ARE FOR SLEEPING, and I had to audition five times. In a towel! This was a very long time ago, when I was very young and very cute, but nevertheless, five times auditioning. And I always said, "It's the first time I ever heard of not sleeping with the author to get the part. But it's totally true! We were happily married with a baby, and I had to audition five times, because David Merrick, the fabled meanie producer just wanted to, I don't know, show his power or whatever. But you know, he got his, because I won the Tony. And he had Barbra Streisand in I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE. When they announced my name, David Merrick turned to me and said, "I voted for Barbra." It's absolutely all true. Every word of it. So, it's a real theatre life we've had.
"Wow, yeah when I read that you had beaten out Barbra Streisand for a Tony, I was amazed!
"I know. I must say not only is she phenomenal, as we all know, but every time I see her, when she invites me to her concerts, she always goes, "There's some woman out there, I don't know, maybe she got the Tony..." You know, and she's very funny. I go back, and I say, "Well Barbra, let's let bygones be bygones." So we both have a good laugh over it. She's always been one of my favorite performers of all time. 
...
"I'm excited about the PETER PAN broadcast, because I grew up watching the VHS of the Mary Martin version.
"Isn't that amazing? So many young people tell me that they watched that old VHS with Mary Martin. I'm always surprised! It's a beautiful production. It's a wonderful show, a wonderful score. I'm very excited about that. But you know where its fame has stuck? All over the country all the time. I know, because I get the reports of the performances, and it's always being done. Every day, somebody somewhere is doing PETER PAN at schools, colleges, community theatres. It's the most performed of their shows. Well it's funny, there have been a million attempts at PETER PAN, but this version is the one that stuck. 
"And there were a lot of revivals of PETER PAN on Broadway, at least five.Oh yeah, they were terrific. It's a great story! And Cathy Rigby was wonderful doing it. Her gymnastics were incredible. And Sandy Duncan was marvelous. I didn't see Mary Martin live, I only saw it on the same VHS you saw!"

She also kept calling me "honey," at the end, and apologizing for it. It was very sweet.

Make sure to read the whole interview here!

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

Read more:
Yes! He Sings AND Dances! 3 Lesser-Known Hugh Jackman Performances
Producer Judith Abrams Talks KINKY BOOTS, Richard Rodgers, Pixie Judy Troupe, and More!
Top 10 Broadway Stars Who Need to Voice Disney Characters

Photo credit: Facebook