Monday, August 25, 2014

The Very Best Extra Performances from the Emmy-Winning 2013 Tony Awards

The Emmy Awards are finally upon us, and not only will we all have our share of fangirling over Jon Hamm (of Mad Men) and hard-core girl-crushing on Kerry Washington (of Scandal), but the Broadway community has been honored yet again this year. The 67th Annual Tony Awards telecast (2013) was nominated for a record 7 Creative Arts Emmy Awards and took home two:

Outstanding Special Class Program – Ricky Kirshner, Executive Producer, Glenn Weiss Executive Producer and Neil Patrick Harris, Host/Producer

Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics “Bigger!” – Music by Tom Kitt, Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

This is the third year in a row that the Tonys have won in these categories! There's still a chance that they'll take home more Emmys though, because at tonight's Emmy broadcast for the categories we care about (it's true though), the winners of Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special will be announced. The fact that an awards show can be nominated for an award is really confusing to me, but awesome. So if you're like me, you probably are having a hard time remembering what exactly was on the 2013 Tony Awards, so allow me to remind you. Here are the top two extra performances from last year's Tonys!

"Bigger!" - 2013 Tony Awards opener
In this classic Neil Patrick Harris opener, NPH parodies the Best Musical winner from the previous year, Once and dances with casts from the year's new Broadway shows like Kinky Boots, Motown, Pippin, Bring it On, Matilda, A Christmas StoryAnnie, Newsies, Cinderella, then the cast of just about every musical on Broadway. This opener has my favorite line to describe last season which was full of kids on Broadway, "They're the reason this whole season seems to look like Chuck E. Cheese," and "Can I have my Tom Hooper, Les Mis cloesup please?"

"I Like to Be on a TV Show" - Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Megan Hilty, and Laura Benanti
This mash-up parody about the pains of trying to be on TV is hilarious! It features parodies to "America" from West Side Story, "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch," from Company, and of course "What I Did for Love," from A Chorus Line. Megan Hilty has a great closing line in this one about why actors are in the business.

What were your favorite performances from last year's Tony Awards?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why the 5 Essential Components of a High School Musical Have Made Me Hate The Sound of Music

With the school year starting, we're all about to get accosted with Facebook invites to all the grade school kids' theatrical endeavors. Then around October, BroadwayWorld's SIP articles will be made up almost entirely of high school drama kids' selfie collections. Yes folks, it's time to gear up to see your best friend's little sister totally rock it as Townsperson #3 and get ready to see pictures from a couple one-act versions of Into the Woods. If you're like me, then through the years you've started to realize that schools tend to all do the same shows. It's true! It's because every school musical has to match certain criteria, so we all end up seeing the same 10 or so shows over and over again. I'm onto this system. I've definitely cracked the whole high school musical code. There are about five musicals that every institution that is confined by needing to be mostly PG-rated do. And I blame this formula for my secret loathing hatred dislike of The Music Man and The Sound of Music.

Essential Components of a High School Musical
  1. Big cast- Have you ever seen a high school perform Little Shop of Horrors? No. The main point about high school theatre is that everyone gets to try it out, so what fun would it be if the cast was small? Politics of lead roles in high school are scary enough without getting into who does and doesn't get to be in it at all.
  2. Easy (ish) music- While you'll have the three geniuses in your high school theatre department who can sight-read Sondheim and end up on Broadway (and we all know at least one and think, "What am I doing with my life?"), the rest of the plebes will not be as gifted. They need some basic harmony and descanting.
  3. Simple (ish) set- Before Annoying Actor Friend jumps down my throat describing the intricate, multi-layer set his school used for their production of Beauty and the Beast, I will say that high school sets can be very good and multi-dimensional and that sort of thing. But at the same time, no one usually chooses a show that requires trap doors, moving sidewalks, or flying apparati.
  4. Kid-friendly- This stipulation just makes me think of one of my favorite Sue Sylvester quotes of all time, "That was the most offensive thing I've seen in 20 years of teaching. And that includes an elementary school production of Hair." They always use shows that dominantly have (but kiddish) themes about friendship, honesty, loyalty, etc.
  5. Recognizable- Last but not least, the shows are always famous ones. While I would have been ecstatic had a local high school done The Scarlet Pimpernel (which meets all the other criteria), none ever did. I think this final component is mostly there because people want to come see shows that they have heard of, and more than that, love. That's why a lot of the musicals that high schools do were previously movies.
So here are just a few musicals that follow this criteria:

The Music Man
Why I hate it: While the lyrics are very clever and the stylistic songs are very clever, there's nothing particularly stellar about itI was in it twice, my brothers were in it, I saw it at a community theatre, all before I was 12. Too much.

The Sound of Music
Why I hate it: I didn't grow up with it, so I don't have the emotional attachment that many of my peers do to the movie. That being said, I saw two community theatre productions of it, then saw the movie, and was never super impressed. And everyone and their mother sings "Do Re Mi" way more than they need to.

Guys and Dolls
Why I love it: I've heard that everyone has an irrational attachment to the first musical they saw live, and that's how it is for me with Guys and Dolls. My brother was in it, so I saw it a lot between going to a few of his rehearsals and performances. I've seen it only once since then, so I've never personally gotten a G&D overload.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Monday, August 4, 2014

'At This Performance...' Clips from 4 Great Broadway Understudies

One of the first Broadway shows I ever saw was the 2010 revival of Promises, Promises, starring Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes. I didn't realize that KCheno was still part of the cast the night my tour group (made up of mostly theatre nerds my parents' age and older) and I went, but it didn't matter, because I ended up seeing her understudy, Sarah Jane Everman.

Naturally, there was a general hum of discontent over not being able to see a Tony Award-winner, but you know what? SJ was brilliant! Was she KCheno? No, but she was adorable and had a ridiculously amazing voice. Despite that, some of the people in my group actually left at intermission (side note: why you'd leave a $200 show at intermission when you have no chance to exchange your ticket is beyond me) because they couldn't stand not getting to see the "real star."

Whatever. Broadway has some awesome understudies, and I've gotten the chance to see a couple of them (and not just on YouTube!). I think that the Broadway community is very supportive of understudies in general, because they know how hard they work, often without getting to perform the role they understudy. So here are four of my favorite understudy videos below. Normally I'd consider 4 to be a wimpy, noncommittal number for a blog post, but since today is the 4th (and I don't have a 5th understudy), I'm making an exception.

1.  Bryan Fenkart, Memphis
I saw Memphis the same week as Promises, Promises, and I ended up seeing Bryan Fenkart go on for Huey instead of Chad Kimball. The main thing about that performance was that I had the best seat ever, but also I really loved Fenkart opposite Montego Glover! So much so, that when I heard he would be leading the national tour, you best believe I went to see it in my city, and I totally did the stage door thing, like the adoring fan I unashamedly am. #FangirlingIsCool... Anyway, check out this Bryant Park clip of him singing "The Music of My Soul."

2. Sarah Jane Everman, Promises, Promises
I pretty much already explained all about SJ, but see what I mean?! Here's a great performance of hers from Broadway in Bryant Park, singing "Say a Little Prayer."

3. Alex Ellis, Catch Me if You Can
Because of her YouTube series, "Diary of a Chorus Girl," I'd venture to say that Alex Ellis is one of the more famous understudies on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in 2011 in Catch Me if You Can understudying the role of Brenda (played by Kerry Butler), which she did get to perform at least once that I know of (a friend of mine was at that performance, and he said that at the curtain call, co-star Norbert Leo Butz told Alex Ellis something sweet like, "I'm so proud of you."). So check out this video of her singing the iconic 11 o'clock number, "Fly, Fly Away."

4. Jessica Phillips, Next to Normal
I've been told Jessica Phillips had a bit of a fan base while she was understudying the role of Diana in Next to Normal, possibly because she definitely seems different from Alice Ripley, who won a Tony for the role. Below is a great audio montage of clips from just about all of her songs that shows off her theatrical range very well. And this is definitely a YouTube gem!

What understudies have you seen that you loved and/or fangirled over?

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook: