Monday, September 29, 2014

Top 10 Broadway Stars Who Need to Voice Disney Characters

Ok, so I'm going to go out on a limb and venture to say that Disney movies are more popular now than they have ever been. I think this can be attributed to the fact that those of us who were little when the classics came out are now grown up and are not about to stop loving Disney movies, old or new (though I do draw the line at Princess and the Frog. That just didn't do it for me). I'll also say that Broadway is oddly almost mainstream. When my parents told me that back in their day, "The Impossible Dream" was a popular song, I thought that was so beyond where our culture could ever be in terms of Broadway popularity.

But then, I think we came pretty darn close when "Let it Go" from Frozen (ever heard of it? Yeah, it's a cute little film) climbed the charts and is still played on the radio in at least one small town in Georgia that I know of. So with all of this Broadway and Disney crossover, I couldn't help but think that there are a few Broadway actors that have thus far been left out of the Disney club, which is becoming the place for Broadway stars (actually, it's been the place for years, but I think it's becoming more of a thing now). There are so many that are no-brainers to join the House of Mouse, so what's Disney waiting for?

Top 10 Broadway Actors Who Need to Voice Disney Characters

1. Laura Benanti- Obviously, they'd have to incorporate some LB side-eye into the animation, but can't you see her playing a princess (actually no, I could see her playing someone's mother) or someone with a stirring 11 o'clock number with her beautiful soprano?

2. Liza Minnelli- Y'ALL. Why didn't Disney think of this 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago? I just can't imagine. Her character voice is SO Disney!

3. Sutton Foster- This Tony Award-winner just needs to be a Disney princess. End of discussion. Like, why has this not happened yet?

4. Sherie Rene Scott- I think her voice needs to be used mostly because it's beautiful and very distinctive and almost quirky. Perfect for a Disney princess or the princess's mentor or something.

5. Kerry Butler- I'll be the first to admit that Kerry Butler's voice actually annoys me a bit (I know, I'm sorry), but it is impressive. She would make a wonderful Disney princess because of how distinctive her voice is.

6. Norbert Leo Butz- He's probably a bit old to be voicing a prince (sorry, Norbs!!), but his pipes are off-the-chain! He absolutely has to voice some Disney character, like a villain with an awesome solo like "Be Prepared" or "In the Dark of the Night." The more I think about this the more excited I get. Isn't his portrayal of Hanratty in Catch Me if You Can pretty Disney-like?


7. Jim Dale- Jim Dale is basically the king of voice acting at this point, having recorded the audiobooks for the entire Harry Potter series (which you need to listen to yesterday if you haven't already), but he hasn't voiced an animated character in a movie yet. Again, we all know he has a character voice, so Disney definitely needs to take advantage of that.

8. Mandy Patinkin- I think we all have a soft spot for Mandy Patinkin, if for no other reason than he was Inigo Montoya in the best movie of all time, The Princess Bride. And he has a wonderful, unique singing voice. It would be great for just about any adult Disney character.

9. Joel Grey- SHUT THE FRONT DOOR. HE'S NEVER BEEN IN A DISNEY MOVIE?! Yeah, it's a crime. Again, this issue should have been addressed 40 years ago. Come on Disney, let's pick up the pace. He would be perfect for  (name that male character of any age) .

10. Douglas Sills- Oh my gosh, I think every little girl would fall in love with whatever prince he voiced. Just give him some kind of gorgeous, heartsick song, and I'll be satisfied. Whew let's just review why he needs to be a Disney prince...


Honorable mentions: Robert Goulet (boy, did they miss their chance on that one! What were they thinking?!), Carol Channing (like, HELLO! haha that pun actually started out unintended, but once it was realized, you best believe I'm taking credit for it), Elaine Stritch (yeah, who didn't see this coming?), Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett. All of these people should have been in a Disney movie. Of course, I will admit that the Disney animation studios were dead for the prime years that these individuals could have been cast.

I'm not including Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bernadette Peters, or Kelsey Grammer, because though they have not voiced Disney characters, they have voiced characters in animated musicals already (bravo, DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox).

What do you think of this list? Who did I leave out? Who shouldn't have been included?

Read more:
The 7 Reasons Why FROZEN is Disney's Version of WICKED
From CINDERELLA to FROZEN, Broadway Voices Overtake Disney One Classic at a Time
The 6 Elements of the Winning Disney Formula
"Let it Go" Becomes Disney's 12th Best Song Winner at the Oscars!
Disney/Broadway crossover

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Watch the 5 Best MISS SAIGON Performance Clips in Honor of the 25th Anniversary

Yet another Boublil and Schonberg hit has successfully celebrated 25 years since its initial opening on the West End. But unlike their first hit to reach that milestone, the international smash hit Les Miserables, this one has not won as many awards, nor is it as popular. However, it is the 12th-longest-running show on Broadway and won three Tony Awards.

This weekend, the Miss Saigon West End revival cast celebrated the with a special live cast recording and plans are already in place for some kind of 25th anniversary concert version (think Les Mis, but hopefully minus Nick Jonas).

So after 25 years since Boublil and Schonberg's second- and arguably last- hit musical, there have been quite a few milestone productions and events relating to the show. Naturally, the only thing to do is look at a countdown my five favorite Miss Saigon videos, don't you think?

5. Brian Stokes Mitchell Sings "Bui Doi"
Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell has never been in Miss Saigon, but he performed the stirring song "Bui Doi" for a concert one time, and luckily, a rehearsal is enshrined on YouTube. This song is a great inspirational way to start out your Monday!


4. Miss Saigon Revival Teaser
Back when the casting for the 2014 West End revival of Miss Saigon had just been announced, the following video was released, giving us a taste of who was in the show. This is a great montage of the talents that converged on this show.


3. Will Chase and Lea Salonga sing "Last Night of the World"
I can safely say that in the last two weeks since I wrote about Will Chase on his birthday, I've become more and more of a fan. I watched the first part of a really poor quality bootleg of the final Miss Saigon performance, starring Lea Salonga (who won a Tony Award for originating the role of Kim in 1991) and Will Chase, which was in 2001, and that solidified my love for Chase. I recommend it simply because there is nowhere else that you can hear him sing that whole score. Of course Lea Salonga just, you know, is Kim, so the combination of the two singing the couple's first love song is incredible.


2. "The Heat is On: The Making of Miss Saigon
This one is technically four videos, but they make up the Miss Saigon documentary that I, like a good geek, totally devoured and loved. It's a very cool chance to not only see baby Lea Salonga, but also the composition process, multiple rehearsals (including tech!), and the opening night bows. For those remotely interested in the process of putting on a show from the concept, to the auditions, to the opening, this is a must!! (y'all, I promise they're not paying me to promote this)


1. Jonathan Pryce sings "The American Dream" at the Tony Awards
If you've been following my blog for a while, you had to know this was coming. Jonathan Pryce won a Tony Award as well as an Olivier Award for his portrayal of the Engineer, and with good reason. He's brilliant. Watch him perform his famous 11 o'clock number, "The American Dream" at the 1991 Tony Awards and try to imagine what it would be like if you were as skilled a performer as he.

("Top 10 Best Tony Awards Performances of All Time" #5)

So happy 25th anniversary, Miss Saigon! Can't wait to see it return to [insert pithy helicopter pun here] Broadway in the near future!

Read more:
MISS SAIGON Barely Reached Broadway in 1991, Film to Follow?
The 6 Ways LES MISERABLES and MISS SAIGON are Identical

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Producer Judith Abrams Talks KINKY BOOTS, Richard Rodgers, Pixie Judy Troupe, and More!

BWW Interviews: Judith Ann Abrams: A Dreamer With a Magic Touch
Judith Ann Abrams
Photo credit: BWW Interviews...
This week, I got to interview an awesome woman who has done everything. Broadway/West End producer Judith Ann Abrams has not only been involved in hits like Spring Awakening and Kinky Boots, but she also founded the first Broadway family theatre troupe- at age 23! Oh, and she called in a favor from Mr. Broadway Musicals, aka, Richard Rodgers. Excuse me, WHAT?!

Our conversation was beyond amazing, but way too long for the BroadwayWorld.com article, so guess what? Here on Singular Sensation, you can see the rest* of it!

"Looking at your resume and your bio, you have such an extensive list of credits! It seems like you've been involved in so many hits in recent years.

"You just have to live long enough and work with enough people to know which ones are going to make it. But even then, it's dodgy.

"And, you ended up working with some big names like Richard Rodgers. How did those relationships develop?

"Well, I created a company called the Broadway Pixie Judy Troupe, which was the first real professional family theatre, musical theatre, for children. One of the performances Richard Rodgers came to see, and he came backstage after and said that he loved what we were trying to do for children, and if he could be of any help, to please give him a call. Well, when you're 23 years-old, you pick up the phone and call anybody, but when it's Richard Rodgers, I did hesitate a little bit. But, I did call him, and went to his office, and he said, "I know it must not be easy," because at that time, there were no...or very few...professional family theatres. I mean, Broadway people were doing our shows.

"So, [Richard Rodgers] decided to underwrite three of our original cast albums, and he sent me to London to record them with the London Symphony Orchestra, and that was really a turning point for us. After that, I had a special program to introduce inner city children to live theatre. When we were performing, we would do certain performances and rehearsals for them and bus in children from some of the inner city areas."

(Exclusively on Singular Sensation!)
And you were involved in Kinky Boots, and Spring Awakening, but there was quite a gap between those two. Why didn't you produce anything in that time?

I actually turned down doing five shows during that time. Three of them never made it, two of them lasted- I think one was about a week, and one was one night. Nothing touched my heart. Nothing- if you see KINKY BOOTS or SPRING AWAKENING, the messages are so beautiful, and I think that it’s so hard to get a show done, that if you don’t have passion for a message, or really believe in something. And I must say that it’s very important who the management is. I say that to anyone who’s thinking of going investing in theatre or whatever. You’ve got financial reports, you gotta know what’s going on. I have been so blessed in these last years with working with really great management, great producers, so it’s very important. I’ll tell you for the first time, I have just incorporated, and we’re having investors join with us, because we have a really good track record now, but it took years and years to be able to pick shows that at least have a chance, because the management is terrific. And because your fellow producers really know what they’re doing. I am absolutely passionate about the word “producer” meaning “marketer,” and if you don’t market your shows right, you can kiss your money goodbye.

So what exactly drew you to SPRING AWAKENING, KINKY BOOTS, and ANNIE GET YOUR GUN?

First of all, what drew me to ANNIE GET YOUR GUN was the music and Bernadette Peters. I thought, “This is a combination that’s made in Heaven.” I thought as a revival, there were so many people that had never really seen it, and it’s a timeless story with a wonderful message. And that’s really what drew me to it. What drew me to SPRING AWAKENING was my niece, Crystal Rose, who, at that time, was just entering college, and we would try to have informative or discussions about that, kinda, when I was with her and her friends, and it just didn't happen. And I got them all to see SPRING AWAKENING, she helped me put together a focus group, and it opened the doors to speaking to young people about things that really bothered them out in the world that they had to face. And SPRING AWAKENING and KINKY BOOTS are two of the shows that I’m most proud of, because they deal with issues that everybody has to deal with, but they do it in such a way that it opens doors for conversation, and it does it in entertaining ways, without preaching, which I think is a basic part of theatre: if you can entertain and have a wonderful message that people can relate to, you've won half the battle.

So you’re looking for not just great music and a great story, but also great heart, and a great message, and great ways to open doors and educate people.

Absolutely, but without being preachy. Without talking down. That was the success of the Pixie Judy Troupe: we never talked down to kids. And I think that’s the success of any show that tries to get a message across to the audience. I think you’re destined for failure if you do it any other way. We have a show, for example, opening in London called MADE IN DAGENHAM that I’m doing with my partner, Adam Blanshay, and the show created equal rights for women in England, and it’s a musical! It’s got  a great message, but it doesn't hit you over the head.

Yeah, exactly, because no audience wants to be preached at. That would make them run out of the theatre.

It would make me run out of the theatre! But I think you've got it, Sally. The shows we’re doing now, like, IT’S ONLY A PLAY, which we’re some of the investors in, really shows what it’s like and how hard it is to do a Broadway show, but it does it in such an amusing way that you walk out saying, “Wow, that’s amazing that anything gets on!” But it does it through having a good time, and I think that’s so important, especially with what ticket prices are today, which is a little bit hefty, I must say.
Yeah, and IT’S ONLY A PLAY is another one of those that has every star you can think of, basically.

I think it’s a necessary situation to try to get a name because of the ticket prices, and I think ticket prices are high, I mean I wish- but if people really search on the internet, they can find a lot of discounts. You can find affordable ticket prices. It’s the premium tickets that Mel Brooks started at $450 for THE PRODUCERS. We’re selling premium tickets at KINKY BOOTS, and we just don’t bring- for example, the national tour of KINKY BOOTS just started in Las Vegas, and 30 or 40 performances are already sold out. We had to add performances! So I think if people really want to see something, and it’s worthwhile, they’ll find the money somewhere.

...

"I made [my mother] my partner. Thank goodness that she did live to see me get the Tony [for Best Revival of a Musical for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN] which was really special. If you have any family behind you, it's a good plus.

"So did your mom get to go to the Tonys ceremony that year with you?

"No. Unfortunately by then she was quite ill, and she had to watch it from home. But I had my cell phone with me, so I was in contact, and at that point, she had something like Parkinson's, and she really couldn't speak, and I said to the [healthcare girls with my mother], "Does she realize what- you know?" And they said, "Yes! Her eyes are all lit up!" So it was a pretty moving moment for me.

"That is so sweet!

"Yeah, you know, you have these dreams that you're gonna make everything happen so your parents are proud of you, and I guess that I fulfilled that one dream."

Doesn't that just make you want to cry? That bit about her mom is too sweet! Make sure to read the rest of it on BroadwayWorld.com!

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

*Note: Portions in quotation marks were published on BroadwayWorld.com.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy [Early] Birthday, Stage & Screen Star Will Chase!

Because I'm tired of headshots... It's a Twitter profile pic!
@WillChaseMe
It's no secret that there is a ton of crossover these days between screen and stage actors. This is nothing new, and in fact, I would venture to say that there is less crossover now than there used to be back in the Golden Age of both performance media. It just so happens that this week, a slew of stage/screen crossover actors are celebrating birthdays, with three (Will Chase, Jennifer Hudson, and Emmy Rossum, who I know has not technically been in a full Broadway show, but I'm including her anyway) sharing a birthday on Friday, September 12! So today, I'm going to focus on the one who has the most Broadway credits, Will Chase.

Now known for his recurring role as Luke Wheeler in ABC's TV show, Nashville, Will Chase got his start with Broadway, as all the cool kids do.

In his Broadway career, which has as of now spanned 15 years, he managed to be involved in two of the most famous, long-running Broadway shows of the '90s and ended up being in the final Broadway casts of both. Well played Chase, well played.

He made his Broadway debut in 1998 as Chris in Miss Saigon, eventually playing opposite THE Kim, Lea Salonga (who won a Tony Award for originating the role on Broadway after she'd won an Olivier for originating the role on The West End). He played that role until the show closed its 20-year run in 2001.

As usual, I found a total gem. This is Will Chase and Lea Salonga performing the famous duet from Miss Saigon, "Last Night of the World." I'm not sure what context this performance was in, but it does not appear to be on Broadway. He's not my favorite Chris, but of course he's still brilliant, he just plays it differently than others.


He also appeared in Rent, for a few months in 2008, as Roger/Mark understudy. He later took over the role of Roger, and was again the last to play that role on Broadway, just like in Miss Saigon.

He has since starred in three original Broadway casts, including Lennon, High Fidelity, The Story of My Life, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but none of them has run for longer than four months. However, he did get nominated for a Tony for Edwin Drood, so that four months paid off.

Here's a much less popular performance clip: Will Chase performing the most famous song from The Story of My Life, "The Butterfly." I only just discovered it within the last 24 hours, but it's lovely and sweet!


Of course, I will admit that I first knew him not from Broadway (I know, I'm a failure), but from- what else?- his role as homewrecker actor Michael Swift on NBC's Smash! See, everything comes back to Smash, eventually. He has also had numerous screen appearances, mostly on TV shows, but I'd say he is a pretty solid Broadway/screen crossover actor.

What are your thoughts on his portrayals of these iconic characters?

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

Friday, September 5, 2014

Interview: Elena Shaddow Talks BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, 54 Below, and More!

I did not publish a blog post on my usual day this week, Monday, because I wanted to wait to bring something extra special: an interview I did for BroadwayWorld.com! Last week, I got to talk with an amazing performer who basically has the voice of an angel. Elena Shaddow will be performing at 54 Below tomorrow night, and I'd say it's about time that she had a solo concert!

So check out some excerpts below, but make sure to read the whole interview on BroadwayWorld.com!

"So you have a 54 Below concert coming up on September 6; can you tell me about that?

"Yeah! It's titled "Always Better: The New Golden Age of Broadway," and it's sort of a combination of some of my favorite things that I've sung over my career, but also I'm singing songs by composers that have really inspired me, and whose music speaks to me as a performer. I like to explore some of the newer composers that are out there... I'm opening with an Andrew Lippa song called "Spread a Little Joy," and then I'm singing a song that I was supposed to be singing on Broadway this fall, in TITANIC. I had booked TITANIC also, the smaller, scaled down version of it, and they were adding songs back in to the revival. They were adding a song in that had not been in the original, and I was going to premiere it. So I'm singing that, and that whole show has been sort of put on a shelf, unfortunately. I was hoping to sing it on Broadway, but I'll sing it at 54 Below. And then, I'm singing a trio with my friends Caitlin Kinnunen and Jessica Vosk, who are my friends from BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY...

"So there's quite a spread of styles in there. I'm also singing a Sara Bareilles song. I'm pretty much staying very true to the Broadway core, though, and staying true to the fact that I called it "The Golden Age of Broadway," so there's like a reason for the other songs I'm singing, which will be detailed in the show when I perform it. There are some very beautiful, lyrical, interesting, very acting-based songs. I always like to choose those...

"I've seen you use the word "legit" to describe the singing style of the songs your singing and how you sing, so can you explain that concept?

"Yeah, well for me, "legit" is, I mean, it's a voice type. A legit soprano is a voice type, so usually it's a singer who doesn't usually get into their chest voice as much, or they sing in a more lyrical fashion, and it's not as quote, "belty," and, you know, that doesn't mean that a legit soprano can't be contemporary, but it's a voice type more than anything. I think that in a world of Sutton Fosters and Idina Menzels and Lea Micheles that have these incredibly strong, powerful voices, sopranos tend to be thought of as maybe not as exciting, and I think that couldn't be further from the truth, it's just what our pop culture has supported lately...

"And then of course, you also did the premiere of Bridges of Madison County. How did that go?

"Bridges was complicated, and I think it something probably a lot of people are hearing about, what my experience was with that, but the thing is, that I knew going in that Kelli O'Hara was going to take the role back to Broadway, when I had the chance to originate it out of town. And for me, that alone was the payoff, just having the opportunity to create in a room with Jason [Robert Brown] and Bart[lett Sher] and Marsha Norman.

"I know that my influence on the staging and my influence on the book and on some of the acting detail was in the Broadway production, for sure, and that's something that I can be proud of and say that I created that. I created that walk, or that was my idea to go back around that way or whatever, or that inflection. I didn't expect to connect to it so deeply. And that's not to discredit Kelli, who is an incredible actress and a beautiful singer, obviously, and the kindest, strongest woman I've ever met, and so for her to step in so gracefully and to be A. a new mother, B., have to be like, "Ok, well now this is mine," I think that she is incredible, and she taught me a lot. And so overall, the experience was wonderful, and I wouldn't change a thing. It was just, like I said, it was just complicated. But beautiful and so, so special."

Watch her sing "One Second and Million Miles to Go" from Bridges of Madison County!


"Besides that, you've gotten to do some great ingénue roles in your career. Which ones have really stood out to you?

"Well, I really loved playing Lili in CARNIVAL. For me, that was a huge step forward in my acting and in my singing, because the character, the way that our director envisioned the show, was a little bit darker, a little less conventional. I got to really explore the darker side of- if there could be a darker side of- an ingénue. And that was fun for me. I think a lot of people were on board with my portrayal of Lili, but there were some people who were not happy about my portrayal."

This talented actress could not have been more gracious when speaking about her career, and particularly those she has worked with. If you're in NYC, definitely try to go see her!

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