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Benjamin Evert, Matthew Spangler, Albatross

All Photos by Carole Goldfarb

Benjamin Evert, Matthew Spangler, Albatross

Benjamin Evett, (co-writer with Matthew Spangler), the solo performer of the Albatross at 59E59 Theaters, enters lugging a large heavy trunk onto a bare stage with only ropes and pullies as ornaments (amazing work by set: Cristina Todesco; costume: Frances McSherry; lighting and projection: Garrett Herzig). The metaphorical meaning of the title is most definitely on display when he speaks to the spirits, and to us, of his endless wandering on this earth. The burden of this man’s existence, the proverbial albatross on his back, will be the raison d’être of everything he has to say.

Benjamin Evert, Matthew Spangler, Albatross

Based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, “The Rise of the Ancient Mariner” (1798), Evert and Spangler have expanded on the premise to give us a bit more psychological depth in the dynamic. In the poem, a sailor who has just returned from a long sea voyage stops a man on the street to tell him a story. The stranger’s reaction fluctuates between bemusement, impatience, horror to fascination as the mariner’s story progresses (the emotional response is said to be evident in the language of the poem). In the play’s context, we are privy to the story straight from the mariner’s own mouth, and our response is very similar. In the telling, a broader view is created into the mariner’s existence while also being given the opportunity to fully ingest the burden he will eventually have to carry as his penance or curse. He winks at the audience with full knowledge of the poem, but wants to speak of the tale more directly to us. It’s definitely an attention grabbing opening, and one that doesn’t let us down moving forward.

Benjamin Evert, Matthew Spangler, Albatross

In his exhilarating tale, the mariner is snatched away from his wife and sickly child on a drunken night out, and forced to navigate on a ship bound for South America. He is sick with remorse that he isn’t there for his child, but also thrilled with the bounty he has been awarded on this journey. After floundering at sea in a dense fog, an albatross arrives and lands on the ship. To the crew this is considered a sign of good luck. However, in a moment of boredom or insignificant thought, the mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, killing it dead, much to the horror of the crew. His thoughtless act is seen by all as the beginning of a curse falling over the ship. The luck fluctuates from being good luck at first (the fog lifts and the wind blows north) to bad (the wind disappears in the heat of the sun). A terrible fate does eventually fall upon the ship, and as the crew pay the price for his mindless act, the mariner feels the blame burning into his skin with every look and glance for the crew as they wither under the heat of the sun. As punishment, the albatross is tied quite literally across his back, fixing the guilt deep in his soul for eternity.

Through the vessel that is Evett and the direction of Rick Lombardo, we are given a rowdy and engaging telling of this tale of guilt and remorse. One that is deeply felt and detailed, expressively told, and creatively enacted.The overall theme, one that a segment of my brain kept searching for impatiently, is the idea of individual responsibility for the repercussions of our thoughtless behaviors, mostly expressed in the realm of Mother Nature. Evert and Spangler seem to be telling us that even the most insignificant of acts may have intense implications to our world, and the people around us (i.e. climate change, income and human inequality, environmental concerns). The cruelty of the human race on this planet is deadly, and not performed for any other reason beyond boredom and greed. A mindfulness needs to be embraced; realizing that our fates are intermingled. If not, we will end up like this mariner wandering the earth for over 300 years lugging a huge and heavy piece of baggage, telling our tale to all that are in need of hearing it.

As the mariner explains initially, we are the ones that are in dire need. At moments, partially because of the inventive set, lighting, and projection design, Albatross feels like we are all kids huddled around a roaring campfire being told an exciting adventurous tale by a master storyteller. Filling us with the thrills and chills of the mariner’s journey and slipping in a moral at the end. It’s an exciting tale, shocking, moving, and arresting. Magically and effortlessly told (or so it seems, as this intensely physical telling must be exhausting for the actor), Evert grabs us and yanks us willingly throughout this 85-minute monologue, leaving us fulfilled and uplifted on the shore of our newly acquired awareness.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Broadway

Summer Listening: Here We Are, Water for Elephants, Days of Wine and Roses, Harmony, How to Dance in Ohio, The Great Gatsby, Lempicka, The Outsiders, Stereophonic and Suffs  

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Today Concord Theatricals Recordings released the original cast recording of Here We Are, on CD and digital platforms worldwide. The album will be available on 2-LP, 180g baby blue vinyl on Friday, September 6. Here We Are (Original Cast Recording) has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, and music supervision and additional arrangements by Alexander Gemignani, conducting a 14-piece orchestra. The album was recorded and mixed by Ian Kagey and mastered by Oscar Zambrano. The album packaging was designed by Derek Bishop. Complete production credits can be found in the album booklet available for free download HERE.

Stream, download or purchase the album HERE.

The album features the cast of Joe Mantello’s celebrated world premiere production: Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannaval

Ghostlight Records has announced that Water for Elephants: Original Broadway Cast Recording, which preserves the show’s soaring score by the acclaimed PigPen Theatre Co., is available in streaming and digital formats today, Friday, May 17. A CD is being planned for this summer. The show has been nominated for seven 2024 Tony Awards, including “Best Musical.” Produced by Peter Schneider, Jennifer Costello, Grove Entertainment, Frank Marshall, Isaac Robert Hurwitz, and Seth A. Goldstein, Water for Elephants is currently running at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). Water for Elephants is based on the critically acclaimed and New York Times-bestselling novel by Sara Gruen. The new musical has a book by four-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher) and is directed by two-time Tony Award nominee Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo). The album is produced by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Ian Kagey. Stream or download the album at ghostlightrecords.lnk.to/WaterForElephants

Water for Elephants is currently running at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). The cast stars Grant Gustin (“The Flash,” “Glee”) in his Broadway debut, Isabelle McCalla (The Prom, Shucked), four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman (City of Angels), Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Award nominee Paul Alexander Nolan (Slave Play), Stan Brown (“Homicide: Life in the Streets”), Joe De Paul (Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion), Sara Gettelfinger (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and Wade McCollum (Wicked), and features Brandon Block, Antoine Boissereau, Rachael Boyd, Paul Castree, Ken Wulf Clark, Taylor Colleton, Gabriel Olivera de Paula Costa, Isabella Luisa Diaz, Samantha Gershman, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Nicolas Jelmoni, Caroline Kane, Harley McLeish, Michael Mendez, Samuel Renaud, Marissa Rosen, Alexandra Gaelle Royer, Asa Somers, Charles South, Sean Stack, Matthew Varvar, and Michelle West.

Days of Wine and Roses written by Adam Guettel, features powerful songs like “Forgiveness” and “There Go I”, performed by Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James. Stream the Tony Award-nominated score here.

Harmony has a score by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. The cast recording was released last August. You can still stream the cast recording here.

How to Dance in Ohio released an original Broadway cast recording on January 19, 2024. To stream the album, which features “Building Momentum,” click here.

The Great Gatsby has a new score by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, they will release a cast album digitally on June 21, 2024. Ahead of the album’s release, hear a sneak preview of tunes “For Her” and “My Green Light”performed by Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada.

Lempicka has songs that were fabulously sung by Eden Espinosa, Amber Iman, Andrew Samonsky, George Abud, Natalie Joy Johnson and Beth Leavel. The new score from Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer will be available to stream on May 29, 2024.

The Outsiders new score by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay & Zach Chance) and Justin Levine will be available to stream on May 22, 2024. The songs were written by Academy Award nominee and Grammy Award winner Will Butler. You can get a sneak preview of the song “Masquerade” here.


Well Suffs is the show that will win the Tony for Best Musical and Score. The book, composer, lyricist, and star is Broadway darling Shaina Taub. The cast recording, produced by Atlantic Records, will be available to stream on June 14, 2024.

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Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Jana Robbins and Tim Tuttle

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 now in the conference room at the Hotel Edison.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Jana Robbins and Tim Tuttle. Jana Robbins is starring in A Final Toast, which opens at The Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th Street #3rd Floor, this Friday. Her performance this Thursday, which is an invited dress is dedicated to the memory of her beloved mother Edythe Elaine Eisenberg May 16, 1922 – Oct. 24, 2022.

Tim Tuttle, wrote the book, music and lyrics for 44 Lights: The Musical that opened last night at the AMT Theatre, 354 W 45th StreetTuttle worked as a trader on Wall Street, until September 11th, 2001. He turned to music to heal. 44 Lights is a chance for Tim to tell his story, to remember the many who didn’t come home, and find a way to keep their memories alive forever.

We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.
I am so grateful to my guests Jana Robbins and Tim Tuttle.

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

We are so proud and thrilled that Variety Entertainment News just named us one of Summer’s Best Picks in the category of Best Television, Radio, PodcastsThe company we are in, has made us so humbled, grateful and motivated to continue.

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

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Off Broadway

TBTB’s I Ought to Be in Pictures Zings Out One Liners Solidly

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When you think of snappy one-liners or biting comebacks, there is one playwright that comes to mind. That is the one and only Neil Simon who has a writing credit of almost 50 plays. Probably his most well-known is The Odd Couple. It was revived recently on Broadway with an all-star cast. Now one of Simon’s plays that has not been seen on or off Broadway since the early eighties is back. I Ought to Be in Pictures, produced by Theater Breaking Through Barriers, is playing at Theater Row on 42nd Street starring Makenzie Morgan Gomez (Off-Broadway Debut) as Libby, Pamela Sabaugh (Off-Broadway’s Richard III) as Steffy and Chris Thorn (Off-Broadway’s Pride and Prejudice) as Herb.

Makenzie Morgan Gomez and Chris Thorn Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

The play begins as aspiring actress Libby shows up at screenwriter Herb’s door and announces that she is his daughter whom he abandoned 16 years ago and she wants him to help her get into “pictures.” Hair/make-up artist Steffy is Herb’s one-night-a-week girlfriend for the past two years.

Makenzie Morgan Gomez, Pamela Sabaugh, and Chris Thorn Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

Thorn seems to embody Herb, the talented and once successful writer, mired in the lonely world of self-doubt who can’t trust his craft, his ideas, or his ability to keep pushing in the competitive “younger” world of the entertainment business. His anger has turned to resignation as his confidence has faded. Thorn can join in the quick and cutting war of words in the Simon script and still carry that heavy weight of failure that’s dragging him down. As Libby, Gomez is like a haboob that has swirled into Herb’s life. Her rapid-fire delivery gives the daughter the edge keeping anyone from reeling her in or rearranging her plan.

Gomez plays Libby a bit young for someone who has crossed the country traveling with a bus ticket and the rest with her thumb (think the 1970s) to get into the “pictures”, an industry she knows nothing about. But Gomez is up to the task.  Her monologues are spot on even though she can get a bit high-pitched in the excitement and her scenes with Herb ring true. Pamela Sabaugh’s Steffy is right on point. You can see her affection for both Libby and Herb and you can feel her desire to see her relationship with Herb grow. Having Libby meet Herb’s “girlfriend on Tuesdays” at the door gives Steffy some added weight in the plot and Sabaugh takes it in and runs with it.

Directed by Nicholas Vitelli (TBTB’s God of Carnage)I Ought to Be in Pictureshas a real feel for its characters and their environment, moving them around the drab living space of the dad’s small West Hollywood apartment in the late 1970s. Scenic and lighting designer Bert Scott (TBTB’s Brecht on Brecht) gives the tired apartment touches that show how Herb sees himself, tumbling on the way down; old appliances, and smudges around cabinet pulls and light switches emphasize the decline.

Theater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB) production of  I Ought to Be in Pictures is a funny and touching comedy, hitting all the right notes with a cast that fits together seamlessly. What we have here is vintage Neil Simon giving us his classic verbal sparing that has the audience continually holding their breath waiting for the next one to zing in. TBTB is “dedicated to advancing and celebrating the work of professional artists with disabilities.” The performance included an audio description of the set and characters before the performance began and script text during the play.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Broadway

The Outer Critics Circle Winners: Stereophonic and Suffs Take The Lead

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The Outer Critics Circle (OCC), has just announced the winners of the 2024 Outer Critics Circle Awards, honoring the 2023-2024 Broadway and Off-Broadway season.

The awards ceremony for the winners will be held on Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for The Performing Arts (111 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC).

Founded during the 1949-50 Broadway season by respected theater journalist John Gassner, The Outer Critics Circle is an esteemed association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, broadcast stations, and online news organizations, in America and abroad. Led by its current President David Gordon, the OCC Board of Directors also includes Vice President Richard Ridge, Recording Secretary Joseph Cervelli, Corresponding Secretary Patrick Hoffman, Treasurer David Roberts, Cynthia Allen, Harry Haun, Dan Rubins, Janice Simpson and Doug Strassler. Simon Saltzman is President Emeritus & Board Member (Non-nominating) and Stanley L. Cohen serves as Financial Consultant & Board Member (Non-nominating). Lauren Yarger serves as the Outer Critics Circle Awards ceremony executive producer.

Outstanding New Broadway Play: Stereophonic

Outstanding New Broadway Musical: Suffs

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical: Dead Outlaw

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play: Primary Trust

John Gassner Award for New American Play (preferably by a new playwright): Oh, Mary! 

Outstanding Revival of a Musical: I Can Get It for You Wholesale

Outstanding Revival of a Play: Appropriate

Outstanding Lead Performer in a Broadway Play: Jessica Lange – Mother Play

Outstanding Featured Performer in a Broadway Play: Kara Young – Purlie Victorious

Outstanding Lead Performer in a Broadway Musical: Kelli O’HaraDays of Wine and Roses

Outstanding Featured Performer in a Broadway Musical: Kecia LewisHell’s Kitchen

Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Musical: Andrew Durand Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Featured Performer in an Off-Broadway Musical (tie): Judy Kuhn – I Can Get It For You Wholesale and Thom Sesma – Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Play (tie): Cole Escola – Oh, Mary!  and
William Jackson Harper – Primary Trust

Outstanding Featured Performer in an Off-Broadway Play: Jay O. Sanders – Primary Trust

Outstanding Solo Performance: Patrick Page – All the Devils are Here

Outstanding Book of a Musical: Shaina Taub – Suffs

Outstanding Score Shaina Taub – Suffs

Outstanding Orchestrations Marco Paguia – Buena Vista Social Club

Outstanding Direction of a Musical: Jessica Stone – Water for Elephants

Outstanding Direction of a Play: Daniel Aukin – Stereophonic

Outstanding Choreography (Broadway or Off-Broadway):Justin Peck — IllinoiseOutstanding Scenic Design (tie): David ZinnStereophonic and Paul Tate dePoo III – The Great Gatsby

Outstanding Costume Design: Linda Cho – The Great Gatsby

Outstanding Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt The Outsiders

Outstanding Sound DesignRyan Rumery – Stereophonic

Outstanding Video/Projections: Peter Nigrini – The Who’s Tommy

Shows with Multiple Award Wins
4: Stereophonic
3: Dead Outlaw, Primary Trust, Suffs
2: The Great Gatsby, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, Oh, Mary!

Broadway Productions Considered in FullGrey House, Once Upon a One More Time, The Cottage, Back to the Future, The Shark Is Broken, Purlie Victorious, Melissa Etheridge: My Window, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, Gutenberg! The Musical!, I Need That, Monty Python’s Spamalot, How to Dance in Ohio, Appropriate, Days of Wine and Roses, Doubt, The Notebook, An Enemy of the People, Water for Elephants, The Who’s Tommy, The Outsiders, Lempicka, The Wiz, Suffs, Stereophonic, Hell’s Kitchen, Cabaret, The Heart of Rock and Roll, Patriots, Uncle Vanya, The Great Gatsby, Mother Play

Only New Elements of the Following Productions Were Considered: Just for Us, Here Lies Love, Merrily We Roll Along, Harmony, Prayer for the French Republic, Mary Jane

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Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Jana Robbins and Tim Tuttle

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Our guests this week are Tony and Olivier Award winning Broadway actor and producer Jana Robbins and book, music and lyric writer Tim Tuttle. Join us Wednesday May 8th at 5pm.

Jana Robbins is thrilled to be back on stage with A Final Toast.  As an actor she has appeared in leading roles on Broadway in Good News, I Love My Wife, Crimes of the Heart, Gypsy  – covering Tyne Daly as Mama Rose while playing the “bump it with a trumpet” stripper Mazzeppa – and The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife – where she covered both Linda Lavin and Michele Lee and starred opposite Valerie Harper in the National Tour.  Jana has played leading roles across the country in National Tours, as well as many of our well know theaters and repertory companies, including Seattle Rep, The Alliance Theater, Cinncinati Playhouse in the Park, Papermill Playhouse and many more. On TV she has appeared in Cheers, Babylon 5, The Good Wife, Law And Order, SVU, Nurse Jackie and more.  Her favorite film credit was working with Annette Benning and Meg Ryan in The Women. Jana’s Broadway and West End producing credits include Little Women, Ragtime, Company on Broadway and in the West End, (Tony and Olivier Award) and most recently The Shark Is Broken. Off-Broadway, Ms. Robbins was also the lead producer of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish directed by Joel Grey (Drama Desk Award).  As Pinnacle Productions, with producer Haley Swindal, she recently produced Rose at The Ambassadors Theatre (West End), as well as Death Note – The Musical at London’s Palladium and The Lyric Theater.  Just last month, they produced Your Lie In April at The Royal Drury Lane in the West End which transfers to the Harold Pinter Theater in the West End in June. They  also have a Broadway musical revival coming up, to be announced soon.  Jana is a proud recipient of The Jewish National Fund’s “Tree of Life” Award.  www.janarobbinsproductions.com

Her performance is dedicated to the memory of her beloved mother Edythe Elaine Eisenberg May 16, 1922 – Oct. 24, 2022

Tim Tuttle wrote the book, music and lyrics for 44 Lights: The Musical opening Wednesday nightTuttle spent a decade working as a trader on Wall Street, he moved to the world of commodities at the World Trade Center in the mid 90’s. On September 11th, 2001, everything changed. He got away safely that morning from Ground Zero, but he was forever altered by what he witnessed. The evening of 9/11, he wrote his first song. A song that would attempt to express the pain and loss he was suffering in the aftermath of the most tragic day in modern American history. He sang it to his wife Barbie in the darkness of their apartment. He kept writing as the list of friends and neighbors he knew had not returned home. He turned to music to heal. On the first anniversary of September 11th, he perform a memorial concert called “Music from Ground Zero”. 44 LIGHTS is a chance for Tim to tell his story, to remember the many who didn’t come home, and find a way to keep their memories alive forever.

44 Lights: The Musical, will begin Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 7pm, for a limited engagement through Saturday, May 25, 2024 at AMT Theater (354 West 45th Street – between 8th & 9th Aves). Visit 44Lights.com for more information.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here and our thirteenth episode here.

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