Monday, January 27, 2014

What's New on Broadway? Spotlight on 2013-2014 Plays

We are officially in the thick of awards season, and though I know that by the time the Tony Awards nominations come out, the rest of the country has already forgotten who won in every other awards show, I don't care. That's one thing that makes Broadway special, right? Sure. Anyway, I still reserve the right to go ahead and start getting excited about this year's Tony Awards (June 8) and the new season.

And let's be real, I've been getting excited about this year's Tony Awards ever since I heard that Norbert Leo Butz was returning. And Idina Menzel. And Sutton Foster. WHAT?? The musicals this year are stacked! And then there's the plays... If you're like me and can honestly admit you have no idea what's going on with the plays, this post is for you.

Today's spotlight is on this year's plays. It should be noted that each of these is eligible (and will likely be nominated for) the Tony Award for Best Play.

Outside Mullingar

Date: January 23, 2014 (currently running, open run)

Stars: Debra Messing, Brian F. O'Byrne

Nickname to remember it by: The Irish Skit

So next time you're at a party with Broadway people and someone inevitably mentions this show, you can look cool if you know this is an Irish rom-com, and it's Debra Messing's (Julia from Smash) Broadway debut.

Snow Geese

Date: October 24, 2013-December 14, 2013 (open run)

Stars: Mary-Louise Parker, Danny Burstein, Victoria Clark

Nickname to remember it by: No Geese Being an Adult is Hard

I'm fairly certain no one will bring this up in conversation, but for that rare occasion, just know this is one of those depressing but supposed to be uplifting shows about what happens when your world falls apart.

A Time to Kill

Date: October 20, 2013-November 17, 2013 (open run)

Stars: Sebastian Arcelus, John Douglas Thompson

Nickname to remember it by: A Time to Kill a Mockingbird

The most important thing to keep in mind about this show is that it's a courtroom drama (based on a John Grisham novel). And though it involves black vs. white people in a Southern court, and at first glance reminds us all of To Kill a Mockingbird, know that it is NOT.

To those of you who are about to say I left out all the Shakespeares (you know who you are), remember this is only the new plays. Check back in weeks to come for spotlights on the play revivals, new musicals, and musical revivals! What shows are you excited about?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
Shows eligible for Tony Awards
Everything you need to know to prepare for the Tony Awards

Monday, January 20, 2014

Can NBC Give New Life to 6-Time Broadway Nightmare, PETER PAN?

Peter Pan on Broadway 1954
Yesterday, NBC finally announced that their second annual live family musical will be... Peter Pan! Coincidentally, just like last year's The Sound of Music, this show starred Mary Martin in the original Broadway cast.

I think this choice comes as a surprise to many theatre people. Most commentators were thinking NBC would select a classic big-company show like West Side StoryGuys and Dolls, or even another Rodgers and Hammerstein like South Pacific. But from a business standpoint, I do believe that Peter Pan is one of the best family-friendly, yet well-known Broadway musicals they could have chosen. I think the best thing about this choice is that unlike The Sound of Music, the role of Peter Pan is not nearly iconic enough for people to tear to shreds whoever plays the role like they did Carrie Underwood.

Though Peter Pan is best known as the taped stage show (also starring Mary Martin) from 1960, as well as the more recent remake in 2000 starring Cathy Rigby, its Broadway attempts were shaky, to say the least. Oh, and I should clarify that this is definitely not the Disney version.

But seriously, this show had the craziest Broadway romp I've ever seen.

The original Broadway version, starring Mary Martin as the title character, opened in October 1954 and played 152 performances, closing the following February. Though the short run may not indicate popularity, it won all three Tonys for which it was nominated, including Best Actor (major Broadway veteran Cyril Ritchard) and Best Actress (Mary Martin), as well as Best Stage Technician, an award which was discontinued after 1963.

It was revived at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1979 starring Sandy Duncan who received her 3rd Tony nomination for the role. Sadly, she never won. The show stayed a semi-respectable two years, but garnered only two Tony nominations and one Outer Critics Circle nomination, none of which they won. Of course, it opened the same year as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, which just about cleaned up. Check out the performance below!

Almost 10 years later, in 1990, it was revived again, playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, now starring former Olympic gymnast, Cathy Rigby. This installment, however, made the other two look like smash hits, running only 3 previews and 45 performances and receiving only two award nominations at all (both Tonys).

Then 10 months later, it was transferred to the Minskoff Theatre- still starring Cathy Rigby- where it played 48 performances and received a single Outer Critics Circle nomination, but no Tonys.

But third time's the charm, right? Seven years later (1998), they tried yet again to mount a successful revival starring everyone's favorite gymnast-turned actress, Ms. Rigby. This one did slightly better than the other two Rigby attempts, with five previews, 48 performances, and finally an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical (the only award for which it was nominated). To put it in perspective, remember that this is just two years after Rent opened. No one was interested in family, feel-good shows; they just wanted some hard-hitting, gritty, rebellion. Nonetheless, check out the Tony Awards video starring Ms. Rigby below!

Seriously, will this show never die? Yet a fourth time, Cathy Rigby starred in Peter Pan, this time at the Gershwin Theatre, just three months after it closed at the Marquis. This run lasted a staggering- by Peter Pan on Broadway standards- 126 performances, and the Outer Critics Circle finally took pity on the poor lady and gave her the award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. Oh and as usual, guess what show was nominated for and again did not win the Tony Award for Best Revival?

I grew up watching the Mary Martin Peter Pan movie, and I really loved it. Watch this clip of Mary Martin performing "I"m Flying."

How insane is that? I've never heard of a musical being revived five times like that!

Cathy Rigby reprised her role again (no really, what connection can she possibly have to the character/show at this point? I'm thinking there's some Stockholm syndrome in there) in the recent National Tour.

So the main questions I'll be asking about NBC's broadcast are, will they cast a girl in the title role as is traditional, or will they change it to a boy (a change some regional theatres have made)? Will Nana the dog be played by a person again? And will the song "I'm Flying" receive the award for worst choreography ever like it has in every other version? (Peter Pan just gliding from side to side? Really?)

So any predictions- both cringe-worthy and legitimate- on which former Olympian or pop singer NBC will pull in to play the title character? More importantly, and I know we're all thinking it, who will Laura Benanti play?!

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
Peter Pan Original Broadway (1954)
Peter Pan First Revival (1979)
Peter Pan Second Revival (1990)
Peter Pan Third Revival (1991)
Peter Pan Fourth Revival (1998)
Peter Pan Fifth Revival (1999)
Peter Pan Movie (1960)
Peter Pan Movie (2000)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Vintage Clip: Brian d'Arcy James Sings TITANIC the Musical

Brian d'Arcy James & Martin Moran in Titanic
Macbeth (It's only bad if you say it out loud, right?) concluded its limited engagement on Broadway* yesterday starring, most importantly, two-time Tony Award-nominee Brian d'Arcy James as Banquo, and some guy... Oh yeah, Ethan Hawke, as the title character. Brian d'Arcy James is one of my favorite actors ever, (as evidenced by the plethora of BDJ-related posts on here), and I really discovered how much I loved him from his performance in Titanic the Musical in the '90s.

Titanic had a respectable two-year run, winning all five Tony Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Musical, as well as three other awards. It's crossed from the realm of unpopular to unknown, but BDJ's part in it was wonderful.

Brian d'Arcy James is most recently known for his role as Frank, aka, Julia's rejected husband, in Smash. It should be noted that the show's ratings plummeted during the season that he was kicked off... Interesting. But seriously, I was so excited to hear that he was in the show, but felt betrayed when they took him out.

He also played Dan in the Off-Broadway production of Next to Normal and eventually did take over the role on Broadway. His long bio and brilliance deserve an article of their own, but for now, a video will have to suffice.

Below is one of those YouTube gems I found a few years ago from a 1997 appearance on the Rosie O'Donnell show. So watch BDJ and Martin Moran perform this gorgeous duet "The Proposal/The Night was Alive," from Titanic in which a lovesick Frederick Barrett (BDJ) is dictating to Harold Bride (Moran) a ridiculously sweet telegram for his girl.

Is there anything more precious? I just melted. Absolutely melted (in a sweet way, like, I'm totally in love, not like I'm the Wicked Witch of the West).

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

*which I believe was the Scottish Play's 67th Broadway engagement since 1849

Monday, January 6, 2014

From CINDERELLA to FROZEN: 21 Broadway Voices Overtake Disney One Classic at a Time

Lea Salonga
Happy Monday! Last week, I talked about the uncanny similarities between Disney's newest animated musical, Frozen and Wicked the Broadway musical. Besides Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel, Broadway veterans Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, and Santino Fontana also lent their voices to the Scandinavian princess tale. That's an unusually large number of legitimately famous Broadway names in a Disney movie, and I am so proud of Disney for fully utilizing Broadway talents like this.

It feels like the first time Disney has really enlisted Broadway help, but did you know that many of the most successful Disney musicals in the last few years have used Broadway voices? Because of my love for Disney and Broadway, it seems fitting that my first post of 2014 should be about both. Check out this list below!**

Cinderella: Marni Nixon (IMDb) (known mostly for singing as Maria in the West Side Story movie and as Eliza in the My Fair Lady movie)- as ensemble

Oliver and CompanyBette Midler- sang "Perfect isn't Easy"

Little Mermaid*: Tim Curry (original Frank 'n' Furter in The Rocky Horror Show)- as emsemble

Beauty and the Beast*: Angela Lansbury (5-time Tony Award-winner, known for Mame, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd)- as Mrs. Potts; Jerry Orbach (original Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway)- as Lumiere; Liz Callaway (original Ellen in Miss Saigon on Broadway)- as ensemble

Aladdin*: Lea Salonga (original Kim in Miss Saigon on Broadway and the West End)- as Jasmine singing voice; Craig A. Meyer (Meet Me in St. Louis OBC)- as additional voice for "A Whole New World"

Lion King*: Matthew Broderick (original Leo Bloom in The Producers, J. Pierrpont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying revival)- as Simba; Nathan Lane (original Max Bialostock in The Producers, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum revival, Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls revival)- as Timon, and Jeremy Irons as Scar.

PochahontasJudy Kuhn (original Cosette in Les Miserables on Broadway)- as Pochahontas

HerculesSusan Egan (original Belle in Beauty and the Beast)- as Meg

Mulan: Lea Salonga- as Mulan; Harvey Fierstein (original Edna Turnblad in Hairspray)- as Yao; Marni Nixon- as Grandmother Fa (singing voice)

FrozenIdina Menzel (Wicked)- as Elsa; Santino Fontana (currently Prince Topher in Cinderella)- as Prince Hans; Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening)- as Christophe; Josh Gad (Book of Mormon)- as Olaf; The following are billed as "additional voices": Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots), Maia Nkenge Wilson (Book of Mormon), Lewis Cleale (BOM), Jennifer Perry (Kinky Boots), Benjamin Schrader (BOM).

...and this is just the ones in animated movies, which does not include people like Dean Jones (who was in many live-action Disney movies and in the original Broadway cast of Company) or Max Casella (who was in the Newsies movie then played Timon in the original Broadway cast of The Lion King).

Additionally, Disney has a tendency to include winks to past Disney greats in their newest movies, like when Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid), Judy Kuhn (the voice of Pochahontas), Paige O'Hara (the voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast), and more all appeared in Enchanted. They continued that tradition in FrozenJesse Corti, better known to Disney fans as the voice of Lefou in Beauty and the Beast provided his vocal talents to this newest animated musical.

(Random tangent: Corti made his Broadway debut a few years before Beauty and the Beast in the original Broadway cast of- wait for it- Les Miserables as Courfeyrac/ensemble. Having come 19 years into his film career, his role in Beauty and the Beast was hardly his big break and has been followed by another successful 22 years of screen appearances. However, he never returned to the Broadway stage after Les Miserables.)

Below, watch some old footage of classic Disney voice actors whose voices you've known your whole life.

Do you know any other Broadway actors who have worked with Disney or vice versa?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More: everything Broadway everything movies

*indicates a Disney movie which has been/has plans to be on Broadway.
**after publishing, some of my readers informed me that they wanted to know more about which characters each actor voiced. I added that information on 3/25/14. And I know I still didn't get them all!