Posts Tagged ‘broadway’

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.

A Hot Theater Opening and Plays about to Disappear

Quick!  These are shows that you need to pay attention to:  one has just opened and is hotter than hot. Two others are closing soon or have limited runs. I can only encourage you to jump on your computer and book any or all of these as quickly as you can.

Just Opened and Hot, Hot, Hot

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is the Broadway extravaganza translation of Baz Luhrmann’s enormous film hit which starred Nicole Kidman as Satine.  With a playlist of 71 songs that extend into current music phenoms like Lady Gaga, Pink, Katy Perry as well as perennial faves like Elton John and the Rolling Stones, this show will have you paying attention as you play “name that tune” throughout. The set is gorgeous with the theater transformed into the Moulin Rouge that you’ll recognize from the movie.  As Satine, Karen Oliva wows as do Danny Burstein as Harold Zidler, and Aaron Tveit as the lovestruck playwright Christian. You’ll be covered with confetti before you leave.  Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th Street, 212-239-6200, www.moulinrougemusical.com

Limited Run

Oklahoma! is the re-imagined Rodgers and Hammerstein favorite, done up in a way that’ll make you look twice at the classics.  The band is on stage, playing a countrified version of singalongs like “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” or “Surrey with the Fringe on the Top.” The costumes are contemporary, and there’s a daring use of light and dark. Plus you’ll be treated to an intermission refreshment of vegetarian chili and cornbread. Ado Annie is played by wheelchair-bound Ali Stroker in a role that won her a Tony award for best featured actress in a musical. For a special experience, try to score a seat at one of the floor tables – you’ll be right in the center of the action. The show closes in January so you have a little time, but not that much.  Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 West 50th Street, 212-239-6200, www.OklahomaBroadway.com.

Closing Soon

The Cher Show is to Broadway what Cher’s Farewell Tour is to Las Vegas – a tribute to one of the greatest music divas of our times. Spanning Cher’s five-decade (or longer) career, The Cher Show has three Chers, each portraying a span of her life. Babe is the young Cher, discovered by Sonny Bono.  Lady is the Cher of Sonny and Cher and the solo Cher. And Star, in a tour de force Tony-winning performance by Stephanie J. Block, is the mature Cher who continues to find and re-invent herself.  Cher fans will know every song, while fashionistas will marvel at the array of Bob Mackie costumes. I wish this one were playing longer, as I’d really love to see it again, and I’ve already seen it twice.  Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd Street, 877-250-2929, www.TheCherShowBroadway.com.

It’s Broadway Week! Time for Two-for-one Broadway Tickets and Great Eats

Broadway Week, from September 3-16, lets you buy two-for-one tickets to 24 of Broadway’s hottest shows. Several of the shows are already sold out, but some of the hottest ones available include SpongeBob SquarePants (catch it before it closes this month), My Fair Lady (at Lincoln Center), The Play That Goes Wrong (hilarious British farce), Tony-award winner Once on This Island, Waitress and family-fave Wicked. https://www.nycgo.com/broadway-week

There are many places where you can dine near the theaters, but here are some of my favorites for both family and date-night dining.

Sen Sakana (28 West 44th Street, 212-221-9560)

New York City’s first modern Nikkei restaurant is set in an expansive two-level restaurant closer to the Sixth Avenue theaters. Offering a four-course prix-fixe menu from 5pm-6:30pm Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday, Sen Sakana invites you to start with either chicken or miso soup; select an appetizer from a list including house-crafted tofu, Japanese chicken curry empanadas, spicy tuna maki and Black Feather chicken wings (my personal favorite). For the main course, Chicken Nanban is a must-order as well as the sushi combination plate or ton katsu. The restaurant has an extensive craft cocktail menu including a variety of sakes and piscos, complementing the mix of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine served, along with a global list of wines. The perfect ending? Sen Sakana’s unusual ice creams.

Green Fig (570 Tenth Avenue, 646-449-7790)

A short walk from the Broadway theaters, Green Fig in the Yotel has a beautiful outdoor rooftop and indoor space for dining on Mediterranean fare. The menu features dishes such as fried cauliflower, flatbreads, kebabs and salads. The terrace also has a new grill where you can order grilled watermelon steak (it’s amazing), burgers, hot dogs and more. Refreshing cocktails like The Purple Bee, a gin, lemon juice and honey-lavender syrup potion; and the Watermelon Moonlight made with watermelon, ruby red moonshine and lemon juice are popular choices. Take a few minutes to check out the cabaret entertainment line-up at Green Room 42 on the same floor as the main dining room.

Carmine’s (200 West 44th Street, 212-221-3800)

Legendary Carmine’s Italian Restaurant is the go-to for family dining. Known for their large portions, Carmine’s serves all dishes family-style including meatballs, chicken parmigiana, and gluten-free and regular pastas, and veal dishes. Just as huge and every bit as popular is their enormous Titanic ice cream sundae for dessert. Plan to bring your appetites and enjoy! Carmine’s is close to most of the Broadway theaters as well – perfect for kids!

Virgil’s (152 West 44th Street, 212-921-9494)

Sister restaurant to Carmine’s and also set in the center of Times Square, Virgil’s specializes in real BBQ with Southern (and Midwest) flavors. All Virgil’s meats are slow cooked over indirect heat for maximum tenderness and flavor. Around-the-country favorites include Memphis-style pork spare ribs, Texas beef brisket, Carolina pulled pork and Kansas City fried chicken. For the kids, place mats for coloring and a special menu will keep them satisfied before their Broadway experience.

An Insider’s Guide to Broadway and Off-Broadway: What to See, What to Do, Where to Eat

No visit to New York City is complete without sampling two things: theater and restaurants. You may consider yourself a world traveler, and you may have dabbled in international cuisine and some touring shows, but nothing compares to the bright lights and shiny plates of the Big Apple.

A trip down Manhattan’s Great White Way offers up a confusing and varied selection of musicals and plays, some veteran productions that are now crisscrossing the US and others seen only in Manhattan.  My advice is to skip “Kinky Boots” and “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” (you’ve probably already seen them this year), or “Phantom of the Opera” (it’s now in its 31st  year on Broadway) and go for the newer shows that theater divas rave about.

I Want to Hear Some Singing

Come from Away

Among musicals, two should be on your “don’t miss” list. “Come from Away,” a 100-minute jewel box of a show, wins the hearts of theatergoers every performance with its touchingly humanitarian story of travelers stranded outside of the US in the days following 9/11. Cast members play multiple roles, the songs are memorable, and the story strikes a chord. The equally captivating “Dear Evan Hansen” is a narrative about a topic that resonates with many families. Written by director Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen will have you remembering just how important musicals can be in building awareness of difficult topics. TONY winners “Once on This Island” (best musical revival, 2018) and “The Band’s Visit” (best new musical, 2018) should also be on your go-to list. For a night of pure fun, “Mean Girls” does the trick.

But Drama is What I Prefer

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

It’s filled with magic and the characters that you love, so don’t delay in sourcing a ticket to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the two-part spectacular that was an enormous hit in the West End and is currently wowing audiences on Broadway. It’s a drama that the entire family will appreciate, especially if they’ve read all the books.  Do you love farce?  Then you absolutely have to see “The Play That Goes Wrong,” another British import that will have you laughing until your sides hurt.  Seriously.  You may want to see it twice, just to catch all the lines that you miss in this rapid-fire silly show.

There’s More to Broadway than Broadway

Jersey Boys

Off-Broadway refers to a number of smaller theaters located minutes away from traditional Broadway houses or in other parts of the city. The shows in these alternative venues may have stripped-down sets or may function as tryout spaces for future Broadway runs. This is where current Broadway mega-hits like “Hamilton” and “The Band’s Visit” started, and, if you see a director, story or cast member that appeals, it’s a great chance to explore. It’s also the place where larger-scale, popular Broadway shows sometimes return for a second incarnation. If you loved “Avenue Q,” “Jersey Boys,” or “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,”  here’s a chance to see them again, refreshed.

Off-Broadway shows usually have limited runs and are announced periodically. Check online for performances at the Public Theater, Signature Theatre, Atlantic Theater Company and Vineyard Theatre among others to see what’s playing when you plan to visit. Then check the reviews – it’s good to experiment!

So, Where Should We Eat?

If the show has an early curtain (7pm instead of 8pm), or a runtime of 90 minutes (instead of 2 ½ hours), you’re probably safe dining after the show. If the thought of eating at 10pm after a longish play makes you queasy, then consider one of the quicker pre-theater options that locals enjoy instead of the overcrowded (and bland) choices that fill Times Square.

Obao

My recommendation is to head to the small, ethnic restaurants on Ninth Avenue.  Give yourself an extra 10 minutes to walk from the theater to these, and you won’t be disappointed.  From 42nd Street to the low 50s, an array of ethnic options offers authentic international dining, the antithesis to Epcot Center. Among the many Thai restaurants, two-story Obao is a standout, offering reasonably priced pan-Asian choices in a casual setting with quick, attentive service. Nearby upscale Marseilles satisfies with lovely French cuisine in a pretty room – the bouillabaisse is an instant ticket to the South of France. Italian Bocca di Bacco will please any oenophile. Other choices are the aptly named Turkish Cuisine and Five Napkin Burger for terrific Istanbul and American dining.

Food halls are the rage in Manhattan, with one of the newest located in the Theater District. Atop the Row NYC hotel, City Kitchen is an upscale version with a carefully curated variety of stalls. Here, local favorites like Luke’s Lobster (lobster rolls), Whitmans New York (cheesesteaks), and Gabriela’s Taqueria (tacos) let you create a smorgasbord of quick-food choices. Grab a seat in the picnic-like area, eat as quickly or as slowly as you’d like, and then mosey off to your show.

The Marshall

After the curtain falls and you’ve gotten an autograph by the stage door, you can continue stargazing by heading to after-show cast favorites like Joe Allen’s, Orso and The Marshall. Or descend the staircase to subterranean Sake Bar Hagi, an izakaya hideout of the photographer set.

Three Ways to Score the Least Expensive Seats

The TKTS booth at 47th Street in Times Square offers deeply discounted tickets for same-day shows, starting at 10am (matinee days), or 2pm (Tuesday) or 3pm (rest of the week).  Other TKTS locations in Brooklyn, at the South Street Seaport and at Lincoln Center have shorter lines. Check the hours of operation online. https://tdf.org/nyc/7/TKTS-Overview

Take your chances on where you’ll go with Broadway Roulette. You indicate whether you want a musical or a play, exclude up to six shows that you don’t want to see, and provide your dates. Broadway Roulette selects the show with the best seats.  https://www.broadwayroulette.com/

Book ahead with Today’s Tix, a theater concierge service that has discounted tickets to many shows and delivers them to you outside the theater.  https://www.todaytix.com

The hitch? With these options, you can’t pick your seats.

Broadway News: A Good Cause and Good Eats

For Broadway nerds like me, The Actor’s Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids are important organizations, providing much-needed health and other services to the Broadway community.

At this year’s recent Easter Bonnet Competition at the Minskoff Theater, the casts of Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen performed a brilliant version of “Together” as an ensemble, as their entry into the competition. The competition raised $5.8MM for this worthy cause. Thank you to the members of the Bucket Brigade who help collect donations at the theaters. And to presenters Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Victor Garber, and Andrew Garfield.

And, if you’re looking for some nearby places to eat — here are a few to consider:

Opry City – at 47th Street and Broadway, a four-story tribute to Nashville and country music with a two-floor restaurant, two music stages, and a shop.

Junior’s — expanding their Broadway cheesecake and deli empire into a mega-space at 49th Street and Broadway. The original Times Square location is still on 45th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

Tender Steak and Sushi — in the Sanctuary Hotel, a polished loungey restaurant offering up solid Asian and American fare. There’s also a bar where you can dine on a more casual menu. 47th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue.

Haven Rooftop — also in the Sanctuary Hotel, a year-round rooftop bar and restaurant that’s in high demand, particularly during the warmer months

Planning a trip to NYC?