Monday, February 24, 2014

8 Videos to Watch in Anticipation of Disney's ALADDIN on Broadway!

Aladdin Broadway poster
Who else has been waiting since 1992 for one of Disney's best animated musicals, Aladdin, to come to Broadway? Fess up! Yeah, pretty much everyone. Fortunately, this year all our dreams are coming true. A slightly revised version of Aladdin starts previews on Tuesday, February 26 and officially opens on March 20 at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York.

Aladdin played at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in summer of 2011 and just finished its Toronto tryout at the Ed Mirvisch Theatre. In those shows, some songs and even characters which had been cut from the movie were added back. Adam Jacobs (Marius in Les Mis) and Courtney Reed (In the Heights) star as Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively, with James Monroe Iglehart (Memphis) as the Genie, and Jonathan Freeman reprising the role of Jafar, which he originated in the movie.

I know Disney fans need no excuse to be excited about this show, but here are some videos to help those speechless fans out there articulate their feelings.

1. Aladdin is bigger than life with additional material (much of which was cut from the movie) that stays true to the original, beautiful movie. This "making of" video featuring interviews with the creative team says it all.

2. The marquee is up. That means it's almost time for previews!

3. Adam Jacobs is wonderful. In this video, he talks about his love for the movie as a kid and learning to tap dance. Just look at that smile!

4. James Monroe Iglehart is incredibly stoked to be playing his favorite Disney character of all time. This video includes a clip of his reaction to the news that he was cast!

5. Courtney Reed was literally moved to tears by "A Whole New World" at one of the first rehearsals. Check out Adam Jacobs awkwardly trying to console her as she shyly cries! It's pretty good.

6. They have the most beautiful costumes ever.

7. Book-writer/additional lyrics-writer Chad Beguelin based the script off of the late Howard Ashman(Aladdin lyricist)'s original vision for the show.

8. Jasmine has a solo. Nuff said.

I have high hopes for this show! As much as we're not supposed to compare Broadway shows, everyone's thinking it: will it be the success that Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were, or will it be totally forgotten like Tarzan?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
Aladdin photos
Aladdin reviews from Toronto
Aladdin on

Monday, February 17, 2014

The 6 Elements of the Winning Disney Formula

Original Little Mermaid poster
Ok, I'll say it. Frozen is the best Disney musical since Hercules. And it's not just for the plot, though I love that. It's because of the music. I have been contemplating this for weeks, trying to understand why the music in this movie was so refreshing. At first I thought it was because Frozen finally brought in a new songwriting team (I love composer Alan Menken, but Tangled felt mechanical, and his heart did not seem to be in it). I realized it's really that Frozen had returned to the lost Disney musical structure, which was used for the awesome "2nd generation" Disney movies. I am referring to the late '80s-'90s when the Disney animation studio was inches away from being shut down completely but was saved by a resurgence of animated musicals, including the Menken/Howard Ashman ones: The Little MermaidBeauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. These all followed a very similar song pattern, which, until Frozen, had been largely abandoned by Disney movie-makers as of the 21st century. Below is the breakdown of what types of songs make a winning Disney movie.

  1. Opening song or narration- In the same way that overtures at the beginning of musicals are becoming few and far between, the opening song/narration in Disney movies is a dying art, as you can see (note: I believe the only reason Enchanted had one was because it was primarily a caricature of previous Disney movies). I've always appreciated opening songs, because they set the scene and give me a basis to start from, telling me what to expect. The openers are usually sung by external, undeveloped characters. I'm not totally sure why this is, but it's another pattern.
    • Frozen: (2013) "Frozen Heart"
    • The Little Mermaid: (1989) "Fathoms Below"
    • Beauty and the Beast: (1991) "Prologue"
    • Newsies: (1992, not animated) "Prologue"
    • Aladdin: (1992) "Arabian Nights"
    • Lion King: (1994) "Circle of Life"
    • Hercules: (1997) "The Gospel Truth I"
    • Enchanted: (2007, half-animated) "True Love's Kiss"
  2. Everyday life song- It usually comes right after the introductory song. Whereas the opening sets the scene for the plot as a whole, this one hones in more specifically on the home/direct surroundings of the main character(s) without really going into their character.
    • Frozen: "Do you wanna build a snowman?"
    • The Little Mermaid: "Daughters of Triton"
    • Beauty and the Beast: "Belle"
    • Newsies: "Carrying the Banner"
    • Aladdin: "One Jump Ahead"
    • Lion King: "Morning Report" (this was added for the stage version, so it was not technically in the movie)
    • Hercules: ------
    • BONUS* Anastasia: (1997) "Rumor in St. Petersburg"
    • Enchanted: "Happy Working Song" (I'm not totally sold on this one)
  3. Angst/"I want more" song- This is probably the one of which I am the most picky, because it is the most important. This song focuses in on the main character's struggles specifically, and it is one of the first songs, after the audience has seen the big picture. This is when the audience sees that this character has a deep need that absolutely must met, or s/he may actually die. Thus, the tune is crucial. The most effective angst songs have a tune that is thoughtful, serious, and more often than not, slow. This is to fit the tone, which is yearning bordering on despair. 
    • Frozen: "Let it Go"
    • The Little Mermaid: "Part of Your World"
    • Beauty and the Beast: "Belle (Reprise)"
    • Newsies: "Santa Fe"
    • Aladdin: "One Jump Ahead (Reprise)"
    • Lion King: -----
    • Hercules: "Go the Distance"
    • Anastasia: "Journey to the Past"
    • Enchanted: -----
    • Tangled: ----- (Some may argue that "When Will My Life Begin?" from Tangled should be on this list, but I disagree on the grounds that the tune is way too upbeat. And even the lyrics do not fully convey the tone either. From the lyrics, I have never gotten the impression that Rapunzel absolutely needs to be free, but just that she would prefer to experience freedom sometime) 
  4. Friend/mentor solution song- There is always a friend/sidekick/mentor who gets the spotlight for a moment to encourage the main character and take the pressure off, reassuring them that they're not alone. It is usually very up-beat and fairly introductory, but the lyrics are more important than the tune in this case, because the tone can be either inspiring or funny and lighthearted. 
    • Frozen: "Fixer Upper"
    • The Little Mermaid: "Under the Sea"
    • Beauty and the Beast: "Be Our Guest"
    • Newsies: "Seize the Day" / "King of New York"
    • Aladdin: "Friend Like Me"
    • Lion King: "Hakuna Matata"
    • Hercules: "One Last Hope"
    • Anastasia: "Learn to do It"
    • Enchanted: -----
  5. Love song- This is obviously sung between the main character and his/her love interest towards the end of the movie. At the conclusion of this perfectly romantic song, it appears that the finale will be in the next scene. Inevitably, of course, something comes up that almost foils their lives forever. Spoiler: They're ok in the end.
    • Frozen: "Love is an Open Door"
    • The Little Mermaid: "Kiss the Girl"
    • Beauty and the Beast: "Beauty and the Beast"
    • Newsies: ----- (while there is a love interest, she's actually a pretty small character, and they don't get to sing a song together. Though, they do have that romantic scene on the roof. Few things say "romance" like a clothesline full of shirts)
    • Aladdin: "A Whole New World"
    • Lion King: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"
    • Hercules: "I Won't Say I'm in Love"
    • Anastasia: "Learn to do It (Reprise)" 
    • Enchanted: "That's How You Know" / "So Close"
  6. Finale- This one is also a dying art and has mostly been replaced by instrumental tracks leading into the credits song. But it's one of my favorite elements, because just as the opening song set the scene, the finale brings closure. Most of these finales (which were short-lived) were primarily instrumental with only a few bars of actual singing, usually by a swelling chorus, but the fact that it was there completed the show.
    • Frozen: -----
    • The Little Mermaid: "Happy Ending"
    • Beauty and the Beast: "Transformation"
    • Newsies: "The World Will Know (Reprise)"/ "Carrying the Banner (Finale)"
    • Aladdin: "A Whole New World (Reprise)"
    • Lion King: "King of Pride Rock"
    • Hercules: "A Star is Born"
    • Anastasia: -----
    • Enchanted: -----
I was conflicted about a few of these, so what do you think?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

*Though Anastasia actually utilized some of these elements, it was 20th Century Fox, not Disney.

Monday, February 10, 2014

10 Tips About How to Talk to a Theatre Nerd

I spent most of last week at the Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), learning about critiquing, trying my hand at writing reviews every night, as well as two other general pieces. So I bring you one that I loved, originally titled, "How to Talk to a Theatre Nerd at KCACTF." Click here to view the original article on the KCACTF website, and click here to see all the articles I wrote this week at the festival!

"KCACTF is like Hogwarts for theatre people.
It really is. It’s this magical place where as a theatre kid, you get to spend time with all of your favorite people (theatre people, of course) while doing what you most love all day every day. This is one of the few places where you can safely say that a group of 600 strangers will think it totally natural when you start discussing the worst Tony Awards tragedies of all time. And instead of giving you weird looks when you burst into some Broadway tunes, these strangers would more than likely pick up the harmony and join you.
However, there are definitely some at KCACTF who are theatre people but not theatre nerds. That is, they love theatre but have yet to fully catch on to the culture. My heart goes out to them as they receive incredulous looks for not knowing who Patti LuPone is or the number of minutes in a year.
So to rescue those people, I have compiled a list of the top facts you simply must know in order to converse with the theatre nerds.
  1. THEATRE. It’s “theatre,” not “theater.” Theatre nerds will tell you that the only people who spell it the latter way are posers who know nothing.
  2. OBC. This stands for “Original Broadway Cast” and is probably the very first step to understanding nerd-speak. There’s also “OBCR,” which stands for Original Broadway Cast Recording. On that note, never call an OBCR a soundtrack. Nerds will remind you that  soundtracks are pre-recorded, and Broadway would never ever use those.
  3. Ensemble. No one refers to the “chorus” anymore. The cool kids say “ensemble” instead, because chorus sounds like it refers to the members of the company who are less important, which they certainly are not. But seriously, don’t say chorus.
  4. Eight times a week. This refers to the number of performances each Broadway show has per week, and Broadway people say this phrase way too often. But realize that when someone says it, it will usually be part of what they consider to be a really profound statement.
  5. Tony Award. The most prestigious honor a Broadway collaborator can receive. It’s like the Academy Awards for Broadway. Fun fact: The Producers holds the record for the most Tony wins for a musical with 15. That’s not essential information, but you have my blessing if you want to pull it out next time you desire to impress a theatre nerd.
  6. Colm Wilkinson. Aka, “Mr. Les Mis.” This brilliant guy was the original Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on the West End and Broadway in the ‘80s. He fittingly played the bishop in the Les Mis movie as well. Because he’s perfect.
  7. Idina Menzel. I dearly hope anyone who steps foot in a theatre now knows her name, so this is for the truly lost souls out there who don’t. She originated the role of Elphaba in Wicked, for which she won a Tony Award. And she voiced Elsa in Frozen. And she’s perfect.
  8. Aaron Tveit. He’s the “it” guy right now, having made himself known through his appearance as Gabe in Next to Normal, then his role in the Les Miserables movie as Enjorlas. He’s ridiculously attractive, only just 30, and everyone and their mother is in love with him.
  9. Andrew Lloyd Webber. British composer who wrote CatsPhantom of the Opera, and many more musicals. He’s incredibly overrated, but his works are constantly produced. And they will never die (with the ironic exception of the Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies).
  10. Broadway is always better. If you tell a theatre nerd that you loved Les Mis after only seeing the movie, you’ll get the death stare. Even worse would be if you were foolish enough to say you actually liked a movie soundtrack better than an OBCR. Rule of thumb: Michael Crawford beats Gerard Butler any day."
Do you concur? I'm sure I left out some though... What do you think is essential to know when talking to a theatre nerd?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Jersey Shore Gets a 19th Century Makeover, Starring FROZEN's Santino Fontana

Santino Fontana Playbill headshot
Last week, Santino Fontana laid down his crown for the last time as he concluded his stint as Prince Topher in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway, for which he received a Tony nomination at the 2013 Tony Awards. Actually this guy seems to be forever type cast as a handsome prince, because he also voiced Prince Hans in Disney's recent hit Frozen.

But before his identity as the ultimate prince was discovered, he played Algie in the Importance of Being Earnest Broadway revival in 2011. That was all good and well, but a real gem came from their trying to promote the Oscar Wilde classic (which ran less than six months). One of the ways they promoted the show was that Playbill did a special short video series in which Fontana and fellow star, David Furr, delivered lines from the absurd reality TV show, Jersey Shore, except they did so in the style of Oscar Wilde. And in full costume.

In this hilarious series of five short parts, Fontana and Furr somehow manage to deliver every line completely seriously and deadpan. The best way to start a Monday is through funny videos, and these clips are a great Monday pick-me-up (especially if you happen to be a Broncos fan).

Up next, Santino Fontana will star as Broadway writer Moss Hart in Act One, which will open on Broadway in April. It should be noted that he will neither be singing and dancing nor appearing in a cravat. Shame.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
The Importance of Being Earnest (Broadway 2011)
R&H's Cinderella 2013
Santino Fontana on Broadway