Posts Tagged ‘Broadway musicals’

Celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th Birthday with a Musical Tribute Sunday Night

The Broadway community comes together, separately, to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday as only the theater community could do.  Giving of themselves to raise money for ASTEP, a galaxy of stars will bring their talents to the musical library of Sondheim’s many songs on Sunday, May 3. The tribute will be broadcast at 8pm on www.Broadway.com or the Broadway.com YouTube channel.

The all-star special online concert, “Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration,” is a free show, hosted by Raúl Esparza, a true Sondheim fan who wowed audiences with his portrayal of Bobby in the 2006 revival of Sondheim’s Tony-award winning Company. The scheduling coincides with the date of the 50th anniversary of the opening night of Sondheim’s original production of Company on Broadway on April 26, 1970. A new production of Company with groundbreaking role reversals was set to open this spring. With the opening date of Broadway still to be determined, the updated Company remains on hold.

Courtesy of Broadway.com

The show’s stars represent some of the greatest talents of musical theater, many of whom have appeared in Sondheim musicals.

Annaleigh Ashford, Laura Benanti, Melissa Errico, Beanie Feldstein, Josh Groban, Jake Gyllenhaal, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Kuhn, Linda Lavin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Platt, Randy Rainbow, Lea Salonga, Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Mandy Patinkin, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Iain Armitage, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Stephen Schwartz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani and Ann Harada will perform songs of inspiration from the Sondheim catalog.

There will also be special appearances by Victor Garber, Joanna GleasonNathan Lane and Steven Spielberg.

Writer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is revered for the many musicals that he brought to Broadway. Highlights of his prolific work include Company, Sweeney Todd, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Follies, A Little Night Music, Gypsy, West Side Story, Sunday in the Park with George, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Assassins, Passion, Anyone Can Whistle and Road Show.

This special online event is a fundraiser for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), the organization conceived by Broadway Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Juilliard students to transform the lives of youth using the most powerful tool they had: their art. Today, ASTEP connects performing and visual artists with youth from underserved communities in the U.S. and around the world to awaken their imaginations, foster critical thinking, and help them break the cycle of poverty.

Get Your Tickets Now! It’s a Laugh a Second at Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation at the York Theatre Company

Run, don’t walk to The York Theatre Company to see Gerard Alessandrini’s latest rendition of Forbidden Broadway, this time called Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation. It’s indeed next generation, advancing the beloved show from its 1982 roots to a new version that gives it a 2020 vision. This is a show that will leave you breathless with laughter as well as breathless in general as you try to keep track of all the Broadway  shows (and some TV series) lampooned here. It’s like trying to tally up the song snippets included in Moulin Rouge, but this time mashed up into 90 minutes of Broadway parody.

Opening with a familiar shout out to Merrily We Roll Along which closed quickly after its premiere and the brilliantly choreographed “God I Wanna See it 2019” spoofing Chorus Line’s impassioned opener “ I Hope I Get It,” Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation introduces the Broadway scene of today.  Prepare yourself for a rollicking journey through the plays and musicals presently on Broadway as well as an insightful dissection of everything that could be considered less-than-perfect on the stage.

Take, for instance, the show’s mockery of the current obsession with jukebox shows or with turning old movies into musicals and you’ll get the idea. There’s a spin-the-wheel segment called “It’s Got to Be a Musical” where Hal Prince’s Broadway roulette wheel lands on any number of novels or movies and turns them into instant musicals. It kind of reminds you of “Something Rotten” where the Bottom brothers devise a brilliant plan to save their acting company by producing a musical. Has Broadway found its salvation by turning everything into a musical? You can draw your own conclusion after watching.

Five performers and one accompanist (Fred Barton) bring Alessandrini’s ingenious lyrics to life enhanced by masterful creative direction by James Morgan, costumes by Dustin Cross and choreography by Gerry McIntyre

Immanuel Houston is instantly recognizable as André De Shields in Hadestown, extolling the New York subway train as the train to the underworld. Chris Collins-Pisano, a visual body double for Jake Gyllenhaal, plays a mean Danny Burstein in Moulin Rouge! as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda in that little show you’ve heard about, Hamilton. The two female performers, Jenny Lee Stern and Aline Mayagoitia, are skilled chameleons who portray Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters as well as characters in shows like The Ferryman (Aunt Maggie and Caitlin) and Sweet Charity with believable exaggeration. In a tour de force performance belying his age, 13-year-old Joshua Turchin, the youngest performer ever in a Forbidden Broadway show, wows as Dorothy Michaels from Tootsie and Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen.  And those are just a few of the scene-stealing performances that you’ll see.

I laughed and guffawed through the entire show, nodding in non-vocal acquiescence to some very insidery comments about theater today as well as the lifestyles of stars well-known from the Great White Way. But it really doesn’t matter if you’re not familiar with all of the shows parodied, as most of the stars will be recognizable and a good number of the songs, including many classic Broadway show tunes, will have you pondering, “Which show is that from?”

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation also takes a stab at some of the Broadway-themed shows and personalities that have appeared on TV of late, like Fosse/Verdon with stars Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell or Billy Porter’s cross-dressing appearances on multiple talk shows. How do you feel about the move into movies by stars playing stars like Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland? There’s no equivocation here.

Choreography, performances and costumes all have their moment over the theatrical coals.  Alessandrini spares nothing and has a keen eye for pointing out the lunacy of much that has captured popular attention. If Broadway’s dissolution into jukebox musicals has you pining for the Broadway musicals of yore, you’ll immediately relate to several of the skits with some shows positioned as thinly veiled remakes of each other. If the tone of a various type of play – in particular, Irish theater – has you weeping from the very first line delivered, you’ll laugh instead when you see how this is treated by Forbidden Broadway. Perhaps the most hilarious spoof is that of Fiddler on the Roof’s recent remount in Yiddish, with the rhetorical question, do we no longer need to understand theater but just conceptualize it? “Brush Up Your Yiddish” indeed. Cole Porter must be rolling in his grave. As must Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein in theirs… you’ll see what I mean.

I don’t want to give too much away as a good part of the momentum is the build from one hilarious spoof to the next, often with an unexpected change-up of songs midstream that circles and reverts, catching you off-guard with the brilliance of Alesandrini’s lyrics, the vocals and the character impersonations. Rest assured, however, that the current lineup of hits and flops on Broadway have all been skewered here. The show is very much of the moment in that regard, but as the writer notes at one point, Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation, like all Broadway, “stands on the shoulders of the last generation” so you’ll see much of the past reflected as well.

Given all the hilarity, it is indeed sad that this show runs only for a month. The brilliant writer and performers should have their day in the sun, or, at least, on-stage. I can only hope for a transfer of this show to another theater should the space at the York not be available past February 16. Tickets , www.yorktheatre.org, 212-935-5820. York Theatre Company, Citicorp Building, entrance on 54th Street just East of Lexington Avenue, New York City.

All photos by Carol Rosegg.

Catch the Leading Ladies on Broadway Before the TONY Awards – Sunset Boulevard, War Paint, Hello Dolly!, The Little Foxes

It’s countdown time to the Tony’s. This year it’s a diva dash and you can still catch most of the leading ladies who have graced the Broadway stages this season, albeit most in limited runs.

First, the play ladies. Sally Field has been nominated as Leading Actress in a Play for her role as Amanda Wingfield in the highly touted re-imagining of The Glass Menagerie. Sadly, the show’s lack of overall nominations forced a closing six weeks earlier than planned. You’ll have to wait for the next revival of this Tennessee Williams classic or, perhaps, for a future tour with Sally (we can only hope).

Not to worry. There’s still much female power that shouldn’t be missed. Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon are the chameleon actresses in The Little Foxes exchanging roles every other night. In an interesting twist, Ms. Linney has been nominated as Leading Actress for her turn as Regina, while Ms. Nixon received the nod for Featured Actress as Birdie. The Lillian Hellman play, nominated for Best Revival of a Play, closes on July 2. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street , 212-239-6200.

The big diva story, however, lies with the musicals.

Bette Midler is an instant hit, and a Leading Lady nominee, as meddling matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levy in the Tony-nominated revival of Jerry Herman’s and Michael Stewart’s masterpiece Hello Dolly! (Sam S. Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44th Street, 212-239-6200). Pitted against each other, Patti Lupine and Christine Ebersole create a bravura War Paint dance at the Nederlander Theatre (208 West 41st Street, 877-250-2929) as cosmetics industry titans, with both ladies nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.

It’s a shame we don’t have the opportunity to award Glenn Close another Tony – she isn’t eligible for her reprise as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard because she’s already won a Tony for that role. It’s also a shame that the category of musical revivals was reduced to only three contenders this year, thus also closing out the show from another potential award.

Nonetheless, Sunset Boulevard is a musical that you should not miss, and don’t let a non-appearance on the Tony Awards roster nor on the stage of Radio City Music Hall on June 11 deter you. Ms. Desmond’s non-acceptance of her relevance as an aging silent-screen actress spiraling out of control is a powerful story that evokes admiration and pity. Think Follies meets Grey Gardens. It’s a privilege to watch Glenn Close take on the same role she played 20 years ago in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tour de force, this time with a maturity and presence even more in keeping with the story line. The songs strike with pathos and stay with you long after the curtain falls. Grab any ticket you can; the end date is June 25. You can even buy a keepsake to remind you of this glorious musical evening, a beautiful replica of Norma Desmond’s jewelry specially curated for the show. Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway at 47th St., 877-250-2929.

Plan Ahead for BroadwayCon 2018 — Take a Look at BroadwayCon 2017

If you weren’t able to travel to BroadwayCon in NYC, here’s what you missed. The conference at the Jacob Javits Center attracted several thousand Broadway fans of all ages, from all parts of the world. Enjoy TheaterMania’s condensed version of the 45-minute opening number.

(A plea to the Jacob Javits Center: Could you please add some real restaurants for those of us attending a three-day conference like this that goes long into the night?  Those pre-packaged, dried-out chicken wraps are really awful. Twizzlers for dinner just doesn’t cut it.)

BroadwayCon 2017 Opening

“Stars in the Alley” Offers Free Broadway Concert on May 21

Do you love live theater? The Tony Awards, honoring the “best of Broadway,” will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall on June 8. Tickets are sold out, so you’ll have to resign yourself to watching from your home if you want to see Hugh Jackman host the black-tie event. www.TonyAwards.com

However, Broadway fans have an opportunity to enjoy another theatrical event — live  on Broadway —  as only New York City could hold. And it’s free!!  The event will be held rain or shine.

Stars in the AlleySTARS IN THE ALLEY, presented by United Airlines and produced by The Broadway League (www.broadwayleague.com), will take place on Wednesday, May 21 from 11am-12:30pm in Shubert Alley, between Broadway and 8th Avenue, Manhattan. Entrance to the concert is on 44th Street. An annual event leading up to the Tony Awards, the FREE Broadway show gives you a tasting menu of what’s hot on the Great White Way this season, in an outdoor setting in the heart of the Theater District. www.broadway.org/info/stars-in-the-alley.

Stars in the Alley

Courtesy of broadwayworld.com

The outdoor concert celebrates everything Broadway with star appearances from this year’s Tony nominees and songs from nearly 25 shows, accompanied by a live 12-piece orchestra. Non-musicals will also be included, with performances from a variety of current shows.

Hedwig

Courtesy of broadwayworld.com

2014 Tony-nominated actors/actresses scheduled to appear include Adriane Lenox (After Midnight), Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder), Kelli O’Hara (The Bridges of Madison County), Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Andy Karl (Rocky), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Tyne Daly (Mothers and Sons) as well as performances from all 2014 Tony Award-nominated musicals now in performance on Broadway including After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, The Bridges of Madison County,  Bullets Over Broadway, Cabaret, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, If/Then, Les Misérables, Rocky and Violet.

Norm Lewis

Courtesy of broadwayworld.com

The show will be hosted by star of stage and screen Norm Lewis, who has just taken over the legendary title role in Broadway’s record-breaking The Phantom of the Opera.

PARTICIPATING MUSICALS INCLUDE:

After Midnight

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Aladdin

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

The Bridges of Madison County

Bullets Over Broadway

Cabaret

Chicago

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

If / Then

Kinky Boots

Les Misérables

The Lion King

Mamma Mia!

Motown The Musical

Newsies

Once

The Phantom of the Opera

Pippin

Rock of Ages

Rocky

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Violet

Wicked

WITH ADDITIONAL APPEARANCES FROM:

Act One

All the Way

Casa Valentina

Holler if Ya Hear Me

Mothers and Sons

Of Mice and Men

On the Town

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