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American Theatre’s Most-Produced Plays 2019

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American Theatre magazine, published by Theatre Communications Group (TCG), earlier this week released its annual October Season Preview issue, which includes lists of the Top 10 Most-Produced Plays and Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights for the new season. It’s exciting news, and there are a few firsts for the list, with the most exciting being that Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) is the first Native American/Indigenous playwright with The Thanksgiving Play landing on the Most Produced Plays list. Lauren Gunderson (I and You, Silent Sky) was named the most-produced playwright in this upcoming season, with 33 total productions. Lauren Yee, who wrote Cambodian Rock Band and The Great Leap was second on that list. Two plays I’ve never seen, sadly. These lists appear online at AmericanTheatre.org, as well as in the October 2019 Season Preview issue of American Theatre magazine.

This year’s 14 most-produced plays excitingly includes works by 7 female playwrights and 6 male playwrights, while the 22 most-produced playwrights comprises 12 women and 10 men. There’s also 6 playwrights of color on the most-produced playwrights’ list,  tying with last year for the most racially diverse it’s ever been. That’s very good news.

“In 1994, when we first began compiling and reporting on our Member Theatres’ seasons, those lists were comprised almost entirely of cisgender white men,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG. “The encouraging statistics from the past few years demonstrate the impact of our field coming together in a shared commitment to equitably reflect the diversity of our country.”

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A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath on Broadway with Jayne Houdyshell, Laurie Metcalf. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 tops the Most-Produced Plays list for the second consecutive year, not surprisingly, tying this year with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens.

American Theatre’s Top 10 Most-Produced Plays of 2019-20 (actually 14 due to ties):

  • A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath  12
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens            12
  • Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan, with Jonny Donahoe           10
  • Bright Star  by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell    9
  • Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau          9
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Nia Vardalos  8
  • Admissions by Joshua Harmon            8
  • Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee 8
  • School Girls or, The African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh  8
  • The Children by Lucy Kirkwood            8
  • The Great Leap by Lauren Yee             8
  • The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse    8
  • The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe             8
  • Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express by Ken Ludwig          8

American Theatre’s Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights of 2019-20 (actually 22 due to ties):

  • Lauren Gunderson 33
  • Lauren Yee 18
  • Lucas Hnath 17
  • Tennessee Williams 17
  • Dominique Morisseau 16
  • Karen Zacarias 15
  • Ken Ludwig 15
  • August Wilson 15
  • Joshua Harmon 13
  • Simon Stephens 13
  • Neil Simon 13
  • Margot Melcon 12
  • Duncan Macmillan 11
  • Kate Hamill 11
  • Lynn Nottage 11
  • Quiara Alegria Hudes 11
  • Sarah Ruhl 10
  • Paula Vogel 10
  • Jen Silverman 9
  • Steve Martin 9
  • Lucy Kirkwood 9
  • Steven Dietz 9
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Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau at LCT with Karen Pittman (foreground), Namir Smallwood (background).Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Based on the 2019-20 seasons reported by 387 TCG’s Member Theatres, these lists customarily omit holiday-themed shows (The Santaland Diaries and A Christmas Carol) as well as works by Shakespeare. For more information about the American Theatre Top 10 Most-Produced Plays and Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights lists, visit: http://www.americantheatre.org.

Tiny Beautiful ThingsPublic Theater Newman Theater
Tiny Beautiful Things at the Public Theater Newman Theater .Based on the Book by Cheryl Strayed Adapted for the Stage by Nia Vardalos. Co-Conceived by Marshall Heyman, Thomas Kail, and Nia Vardalos Directed by Thomas Kail Featuring Teddy Cañez, Ceci Fernandez, DeLance Minefee, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Nia Vardalos, and Natalie Woolams-Torres

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

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

THE NEW OUTLAWS — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Willie Nelson has announced the lineup and dates for his 2024 Outlaw Music Festival Tour.

In addition to headlining sets by the 90-year-old country legend and recent Rock & roll Hall of Fame inductee, this year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour will include performances by Bob Dylan each day throughout its 25-date run.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will also play on select dates, alternating appearances with John Mellencamp.

Nelson’s Outlaw Tour debuted in 2016 and has since featured Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young and ZZ Top.

“This year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour promises to be the biggest and best yet with this lineup of legendary artists,” Nelson said in a press statement announcing the shows. “I am thrilled to get back on the road again with my family and friends playing the music we love for the fans we love.”

Brittney Spencer, Celisse and Southern Avenue will also perform at this year’s Outlaw Music Tour Festival. Billy Strings will join the tour for one concert at Washington’s The Gorge. You can see the tour’s complete run dates and lineups below.

General public ticket sales start on March 1 at 10 a.m. local time. Citi card members have access to presale tickets starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time until Thursday at 10 p.m. local time. More information can be found at the tour’s website.

SHORT TAKES — Boy, that Andy Cohen news sure disappeared quickly. I guess Brandi Glanville’s lawyers were right when they said NBC/COMCAST was making too much money from Cohen, to dismiss him. Sure, Andy apologized, but that was it …

Joe Manganiello is hosting the new Deal Or No Deal Island. With one of the worst haircuts, I’ve ever seen, he was on Monday’s Today Show -3rd hour- with Jenna and Hoda assisting him. There were so many rules in the intro, I was immediately thrown. All these game shows seem to be the thing these days – cheap to produce; easy to write; and B and C actors are certainly available …

Jenny Boyd

Jenny Boyd – sister to Patti and married twice to Mick Fleetwood – has a new autobiography out, Jennifer Juniper. Here’s a great piece from Spin on it: https://www.spin.com/2024/02/60s-muse-turned-psychologist-jenny-boyd-explores-rocks-greatest-icons/

Patti Boyd-Harrison

Not to be outdone, sister Patti Boyd-Harrison has an exhibit with Christie’s in London. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHBWT_HKDJ8 … Markos Papadatos has a great new interview with John Oates in Digital Journal, but strangely, nothing about his ongoing dispute with Daryl Hall. Methinks it was more of a PR-move to quickly extinguish any and all reference to it, as it just dragged their legacy (Hall & Oates) down … way down. Take a read: https://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/john-oates-talks-about-his-new-music-and-his-tour/article?fbclid=IwAR0T42cxA0lJtXRJZ0db1D0mNakjsjVUJYmerGNzTMXdPNotaHrmuPoPmFI … One more trailer for Kevin Costner’s epic Horizon. Pundit Roger Friedman quipped the Indians don’t look too happy in this one. To be honest, I see much of Yellowstone in the trailer. And, Danny Huston who was in the series is in the movie too. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYsReoZMj1k … As of this writing, subway crime in NYC up 22% from this time last year! Reminds me of the 70’s here these days … Big, big layoffs at both Atlantic and Warner’s. The later about 600 employees. To me, they got rid of all the people who knew exactly what to do and when to do it. Sad for sure … SIGHTINGS: PR-pasha David Salidor at Brooklyn’s Table 87

Mike Scott

And, one of the greatest forgotten about bands is Mike Scott and The Waterboys. Just tremendous and timeless music. Check this article out from The Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/27/how-we-made-waterboys-the-whole-of-the-moon-mike-scott… RIP McCanna “Mac” Anthony Sinise.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Gene Cornish; Steve Walter; Jane Blunkell; Markos Papadatos; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Anthony Noto; Anthony Pomes; Kent & Laura Denmark; James Edstrom; Alec Baldwin; Lee Jeske; Andrew Tobin; Jewel Smithee; David and Delia Jones; and ZIGGY!

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Broadway

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Maury Yeston and Victoria Clark

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I am so pleased to announce our guests for this Wednesday’s show on February 28th are two time Tony winner Maury Yeston and two time Tony winner Victoria Clark.

Yeston and Clark first worked on his musical Titanic, which was written in 1997 and he won two Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score and was nominated for Grammy Award. This year Titanic is part of the Encore series.

Victoria has two solo discs available through PS Classics:Fifteen Seconds of Grace and the recent reimagining of Maury Yeston’s acclaimed song cycle December Songs.

Maury Yeston

Maury Yeston is a composer, lyricist and music theorist. He has written the music and lyrics for several Broadway musicals, a classical orchestral and ballet composer.

His musical Nine in 1982, also won Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score and was nominated for Grammy Award. Rumor has it that this show could come back. He also was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for two of his new songs in the film version of Nine.

His show Grand Hotel in 1989, received a Tony nomination for best score and Drama Desk Awards nominations for his music and lyrics, and one for his incidental music to The Royal Family in 2009.

His musical version of the novel The Phantom of the Opera, titled Phantom (1991), has received more than 1,000 productions worldwide and will be done in a concert version later this year.

His off-Broadway musicals include Death Takes a Holiday (2011), nominated for eleven Drama Desk Awards. Other works include December Songs, a classical crossoversong cycle commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its centennial celebration; An American Cantata: 2000 Voices (a three-movement choral symphony commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for its millennium celebration); Tom Sawyer: A Ballet in Three Acts, a full-length story ballet commissioned by the Kansas City Ballet for the opening of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City; a cello concerto, premiered by Yo-Yo Ma; and other pieces for chamber ensembles and solo piano.

Yeston was an associate professor of music and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Music at Yale University for eight years, authoring two books on music theory. He also presided over and taught the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop in New York City for more than two decades beginning in 1982. Yeston has won two Tony Awards, two Drama Desk Awards and an Olivier Award, and has been inducted into The Theater Hall of Fame.

Victoria Clark

Victoria Clark is a Tony-Award winning actress, director and educator. She is currently starring on Broadway in her Tony award winning role as Kimberly Akimbo. Her first Broadway job was understudying in the original production of Sunday in the Park with George in the same theater she plays Kimberly in 38 years ago. Ms. Clark has starred or appeared in a total of twelve Broadway shows, and countless off-Broadway and regional productions. She received the 2005 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her luminous portrayal of Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza, and received three additional Tony nominations for her work in Sister Act (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations), Cinderella, and Gigi

Clark is also an avid educator and director, Her breadth of experience and knowledge make her a highly sought-after star and collaborator in this country and around the world. Trained at Interlochen Music Academy, Yale University, The Mozarteum (Salzburg), and New York University’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, Victoria’s experience spans across classical and contemporary idoms, encompassing both existing and new work, in plays, musicals, opera, film and television.

Other Broadway shows include The Snow Geese,How to Succeed…, Urinetown, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls and  A Grand Night for Singing. Off-Broadway she was in When the Rain Stops Falling (Drama Desk nomination), A Prayer for My Enemy, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, The Agony and the Agony, Marathon Dancing, Follies (L.A.), Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, and Katisha in The Mikado, both at Carnegie Hall. International: Madame Sousatzska in Sousatzska.

In film you can find her in The Happening, Cradle Will Rock, One Royal HolidayWanderland, Archeology of a Woman, Harvest, Tickling Leo and Main Street.

In television PoseThe Blacklist, Almost Family, Law & Order/SVU, The Good Wife, Mercy, and Carrie Mathison’s mother Ellen on Showtime’s Homeland.

She is also a wonderful director, directing: “Come to Jesus,” for MasterVoices’ virtual production of Adam Guettel’s Myths and HymnsThe Dance of Death by August Strindberg (Classic Stage Company); Love Life for New York City Center Encores! (cancelled due to CoVid-19); Scaffolding by Jeff Blumenkrantz starring Rebecca Luker for Premieres! (Barrow Group Theater); Paper Piano by Mary Jo Shen (Joe’s Pub); Hansel and Gretl and Heidi And Günther (Village Theater Festival of New Musicals); Newton’s Cradle, NAMT Festival, (Best Director Award); The Trouble With Doug/Fredericia Theater, Denmark; The Impresario (Philadelphia Opera Theater); eight productions for Texas Opera Theater, the touring arm of Houston Grand Opera, introducing students of all ages to opera and musical theater; Shakin’ The Blues Away: An Irving Berlin Revue (Goodspeed Opera House).

Loving the ability to give back she is a master teacher in U.S. and abroad. She is on the visiting faculty for Yale University, Artist-in residence, Duke University, and Pace School of the Performing Arts, where she directed The Light in the Piazza.

She is on the board of New York City Center and The Kurt Weill Foundation.

But her favorite role is Thomas Luke’s mom. Victoria resides in New York with her husband Tom Reidy and their rescue Golden Retriever Ollie.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a new show that will be filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here second episode click here and for our third episode click here.

Hope you can join us for what will be one fabulous musical night.

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Broadway

Betty Buckley Returns to Joe’s Pub

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Tony Award-winning, stage and screen icon Betty Buckley returns to Joe’s Pub in New York City for six live performances on May 16-18, 2024. She is joined by her long-time collaborator and Grammy® nominated pianist/MD Christian Jacob, Tony Marino on bass and Jamey Haddad on drums.

The Joe’s Pub concerts will take place on May 16-18, 2024 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. respectively). Joe’s Pub is located at The Public, 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets now on sale HERE.

Most recently, Ms. Buckley is co-starring in the upcoming horror film Imaginary, set for U.S. release March 8, 2024, presented by Lionsgate and Blumhouse. From Blumhouse, the genre-defining masterminds behind Five Nights at Freddy’s and M3GAN, the film explores the universal idea of imaginary friends and childhood connections to them and what otherworldly realms they may inhabit.

Additionally, Ms. Buckley wrote, narrated and produced The Mayfly, an animated short film that will have its world debut on March 24, 2024 at the American Documentary and Animation Film Festival (AmDoc Film Festival) in Palm Springs, Calif. Tickets are available to the public HEREThe Mayfly is directed by award winning animator, Sue Perrotto, and the music is composed by Christian Jacob. BluBlu Studios in Poland is the animation house.

Ms. Buckley will also perform in a tribute concert A BROADWAY BIRTHDAY: Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, and Friends! in Costa Mesa, Calif. The show takes place at the Segerstrom Concert Hall on Thursday, March 28 at 8 p.m. Joining her in performance are Kerry O’Malley, Liz Callaway, Aaron Lazar and Alex Joseph Grayson. Visit www.scfta.org/events/2024/sondheim-lloyd-webber-and-friends for tickets and more information. Her upcoming calendar includes a Master Class and concert at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA on April 19 and an evening with Christian Jacob at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY on May 11.

Betty Buckley is a legendary, multi-award winning actress/singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around the world. She is a 2012 Theatre Hall of Fame inductee and the 2017 recipient of the Julie Harris Awards from The Actor’s Fund for Artistic Achievement and received The Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Songbook Association in 2023.

She won a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS and received her second Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a musical for her performance as Hesione in Triumph of Love.  She received an Olivier Award nomination for her critically acclaimed interpretation of Norma Desmond in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, which she repeated to more rave reviews on Broadway.

Ms. Buckley co-stars in the film Imaginary for Blumhouse Productions and to be released by Lionsgate in March 2024.  She co-starred with James McAvoy in the M. Night Shyamalan hit film Split, one of the top international box office hits of 2017.  She received a Saturn Award Nomination for Best Featured Actress for her work in the film.

Her other films include her debut in Brian de Palma’s screen version of Stephen King’s Carrie, Bruce Beresford’s Tender Mercies, Roman Polanski’s Frantic, Woody Allen’s Another Woman, Lawrence Kasden’s Wyatt Earp and M. Night Shyamalan’sThe Happening.

Her other Broadway credits include 1776, Pippin, Song and Dance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Carrie.  She headlined the first National Tour of the new Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! in 2018/2019.

Off-Broadway credits include the world premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends for which she received a Drama Desk Nomination in 2014, White Lies, Lincoln Center’s Elegies, the original NYSF production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Eros Trilogy, Juno’s Swans and I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road.  Regional credits include The Perfectionist, Gypsy, The Threepenny Opera, Camino Real, Buffalo Gal, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Old Friends at Houston’s Alley Theatre and Grey Gardens at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY and The Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles in 2016 for which she received an Ovation Award Nomination.

In London, she starred in Promises, Promises for which she was nominated for An Evening Standard Award and in the 2013 British premiere of Dear World.

On television, Buckley has a recurring role on “Law & Order SVU” for NBC and guest starred on the Fox/Warner Bros. TV show “The Cleaning Lady.”  She co-starred in the third season of AMC’s hit series “Preacher” and has guest starred on The CW hit “Supergirl”, the NBC Series “Chicago Med” and ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.”  For HBO, she has appeared on “Getting On”, “The Leftovers”, “The Pacific” and for three seasons on OZ.  She starred as Abby Bradford in the hit series “Eight is Enough.” She appeared twice on The Kennedy Center Honors and was a guest star in numerous television series, miniseries and films for television including Evergreen, Roses for the Rich and Without a Trace. She has been nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards® for her work on Taking a Stand, an After School special.

In 2022, she released the compilation recording Betty Buckley Sings Stephen Sondheim as a tribute to the late composer. The recording comprises 24 songs Buckley has recorded of Sondheim’s music over the span of her career.  She has recorded 18 CD’s: including Ghostlight, produced by T Bone Burnett released in 2014, Story Songs in 2017 and Hope in 2018.  Buckley tours in concert worldwide with her ensemble of musicians and in 2015 was featured in the Royal Albert Hall concert of Follies, in celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 85th birthday.

She received a Grammy Nomination for Stars and the Moon, Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar. She received her second Grammy Nomination for the audio book The Diaries of Adam and Eve.

For over forty years, Ms. Buckley has been a teacher of scene study and song interpretation, giving workshops in Manhattan and various universities and performing Arts Conservatories around the country.  She has been a faculty member in the theatre department of the University of Texas at Arlington and teaches regularly at the T. Schreiber Studio in New York City, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX and in Los Angeles, Denver and Oklahoma.

In 2009, Ms. Buckley received the Texas Medal of Arts Award for Theater and was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2007.  In 2015, she was awarded The Stephen Bruton Award by The Lone Star Film Festival for her work in film and music. In 2018, she received the Sarah Siddons Award for outstanding theatrical performance in a Chicago theatrical production. She has two honorary doctorates from The Boston Conservatory and Marymount College and has been honored with three Lifetime Achievement Awards for her contributions to theater from the New England Theater Conference, The Shubert Theater in New Haven and the Terry Schreiber School in NYC.

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Art

Bonnie Comley Nothing To Wear

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Bonnie Comley stepped into the art world last night. She and ChaShaMa presented a piece called “Nothing To Wear”, at 340 East 64th Street, which is an interactive installation, a thought provoking look at fast fashion and body image. This provocative look at our relationship with our clothing choices as it pertains to our self image, fast fashion and textile waste, challenges the fashion industry to create an alternative to current business models and the global appetite for consumption. “Nothing to Wear”, asks viewers to question dress codes like the current policing of women in political office, facilitates self-reflection on biases regarding our own clothing and the community around us as uniform, self-expression, or just protection from the elements of weather.

Also involved were Sarah DeMarino – Co-Producer/Director, Leah Lane – Soundscape Monologue Writer and Jasper Isaac Johns the Exhibit Designer.

Sarah DeMarino and Dallas Bernstein

At the opening and on certain dates Hannah Durant Joe Guccione and Dallas Bernstein perform monologues that coincide with the project. These mini playlets were insightful and thought provoking.

Hannah Durant Joe Guccione and Dallas Bernstein

In attendance were:

Anita Durst and fashion designer Shani Grosz

Cooper Lawrence, Dr. Robi Ludwig, Errol Rappaport, Bonnie Comley, Quinn Lemley, Suzanna Bowling, Shani Grosz and Merrie Davis

Anita Durst and Bonnie Comley

Danielle Price, Bonnie Comley and Andrina Wekontash Smith

Sylvia Hemingway and Bonnie Comley

Bevin Ross and Bonnie Comley

Alyssa Ritch Frel and Bonnie Comley

Shady Kerko and McLean Mills

Frankie Lane, Bonnie Comley and Lenny Lane

Riki Kane Larmire

Bonnie is a three-time Tony Award-winning producer. She has, also, won an Olivier Award and two Drama Desk Awards for her stage productions. She was recently re-elected as the Board President of The Drama League. She is a full member of The Broadway League and the Audience Engagement and Education Committee. Comley has produced over 40 films, winning five Telly Awards and one W3 Award. She is also the founder and CEO of BroadwayHD, the world’s premier online streaming platform delivering over 300 premium live productions to theatre fans globally. The theatre community has honored Comley for her philanthropic work; she is the recipient of The Actors Fund Medal of Honor, The Drama League Special Contribution to the Theater Award, The Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons and The Theater Museum Distinguished Service Award.

Stewart F Lane and Bonnie Comley

ChaShaMa helps create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world by partnering with property owners to transform unused real estate. Currently, they present 150 events a year, have workspace for 120 artists, and have developed 80 workshops in under served communities. They have awarded 11 million dollars worth of real estate to artists and have subsidizes another 300 with work spaces. They provide over 215 free art classes and have supported over 75 businesses with free space

To see Nothing to Wear click here

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Broadway

Days of Wine and Roses” the Musical Ages Like Cut Flowers, Rather Than Wine in its Transfer Uptown to Broadway

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This is my second shot of The Days of Wine and Roses, after seeing it at the smaller Atlantic Theatre off-Broadway stage, and unlike the wine mentioned in the title, time played with it like the roses. The musical, about a doomed couple destroyed by alcoholism, did not thrive, like fine wine, but wilted like cut flowers in a bigger vase. The larger stage of Studio 54, as hoped, did not make this drink taste any better for me, but it did make me notice some of the sharper tones that I must have overlooked before, leaving a slightly bad taste that still lingers in the back of my throat after swallowing.

With a book by Craig Lucas (I Was Most Alive with You) and distancingly complex music, lyrics, and orchestrations by Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza), Days of Wine and Roses does continue to deliver musical “magic time” in an effort to give us some abundance. It flows forward, trying to make us drunk with its intricate chocolate flavors of a Brandy Alexander, but left me cold outside in the murky waters that it tries to overlook. “What’s your tragic story?” he asks, as the two soon-to-be lovers drift forward, far too abruptly, into the choppy suburban sea of coupledom, isolation, and cocktail hours, shaken and stirred with complicated textured notes of sadness and need.

The music is soaring, in an operatic repetitive way, melodramatically hitting high, without giving much depth, much like what lives at the core of the 1958 teleplay and 1963 movie “Days of Wine and Roses” on which this new musical is based. Although the film, starring the magnificent Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, never gives these two characters a moment to sing, even as the two fall madly in love, the premise is ripe for some introspection and investigation. These are their days of wine and roses, we are told, but here, in this sometimes compelling, but surprisingly distancing musical, the songs fling themselves out like a distress call for help from an isolated island, heaving with the intense feelings of being stranded, desperate, and seemingly on their own, but flailing in the choppy waters trying to connect. Even during the more enjoyable drunk song numbers, which are more fun and entertaining than some of the other more ‘meaningful’ songs.

Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara in Broadway’s Days of Wine and Roses. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The musical’s ideas have depth and courage, and are delivered pitch perfectly by the two magnificent leads who carry most of the vocal weight and baggage. Brian D’Arcy James (Broadway’s ShrekInto the Woods) vocally ushers forth a Joe Clay that swings wide and true, sounding, quite possibly almost as brilliant as Kelli O’Hara (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate) in her role as the beautifully kind Kirsten Arnesen, the young secretary (that’s what they called them back then) who had not found the flavor of alcohol appealing until that fateful night. We watch with nervous anticipation as the drink is lifted to her lips, knowing what is in store. We hope that she doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid that Joe keeps pushing. And then they are off to the races, finding melancholy melodies in both the drunken pleasures and pain of addiction.

It’s a quick dive into the dark and dirty waters of this quicksand river. It jumps forward with wild drunken abandonment, never really feeling authentic this time around, but somehow forced and perplexing. Each song, particularly the more dramatic ones, seems to stop the story in its tracks, like a drunk trying to regain its balance as it walks down the street. The moments feel somehow true and isolated from us all at the same time, keeping us at a distance and never really engaging with us enough to want to join in with the emotional story. When the Kirsten character asks Joe if they can go somewhere other than that first scene party, it struck me as odd, as the book up to that moment has painted Joe in pretty negative annoying tones. Why she was the one who suggested that an intimate outing would be something she wanted at that exact moment didn’t really make sense. But if he had been the one asking, I could have believed, that after a little thought, she might have agreed to it, but this way around? It didn’t sit authentically true for me.

The music hangs big and bold between them, delivering the depth of their destructive ways, while keeping them isolated from the outside world (including us) that keeps shining a light on the problems that are approaching. The voices of the two leads are really the best part of this construction, with the other characters, under the direction of Michael Greif (2ST’s A Parallelogram), doing their best to step into that light, especially David Jennings (Broadway’s Tina) as Joe’s AA sponsor, Jim Hungerford, who wisely underplays this pivotal role rather than presenting a sermon. There is also the troubled father of Kirsten, played intently by Byron Jennings (Broadway’s Harry Potter…), who flounders a bit in the foreground, worried and angry about the road his daughter is taking, yet seeing clear that he has little power to challenge her path.

Brian d’Arcy James and Kelli O’Hara in Broadway’s Days of Wine and Roses. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Guettel pours out song after jagged song, exposing the twisted engagements that are taking over their lives. It’s troubling and upsetting to watch, and sometimes very difficult to follow along with the lyrics, even when so beautifully sung. The songs teeter on melodrama and mayhem, and the two leads strive forward, wobbly, leading us through the tangled path they are taking. The ideas and formulations don’t exactly mesh and blend in with each other, separating songs from the action, and the heart from the formula, all on an awkwardly complicated set designed by Lizzie Clachan (National Theatre’s The Witches). The piece somewhat stays far too close to the expanse of the film version, struggling to keep up, and crowding the stage more and more as it gets closer to the final blackout. I went in hoping that with the larger Broadway stage, a sharpening of its visual could have settled the piece, simplifying the locations and finding other ways to tell this tale without bringing a room full of plants, coffeeshop counters, and a motel room into the already crowded picture.

With determined costumes by Dede Ayite (Broadway’s Topdog/Underdog), simple lighting by Ben Stanton (Broadway’s Good Night, Oscar), and a solid sound design by Kai Harada (Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo), the piece never shuffles with ease. This isn’t a hummable show, more akin to an opera led by two, at least in the beginning, before their daughter, Lila, dutifully portrayed by Tabitha Lawing (Atlanta Opera/Alliance’s The Shining), begins to join them in their vocal union, expanding what is at stake, from a pair to something more. Lila and her mother’s correspondence is one of the few moments that actually registered on the emotional spectrum inside, while the rest blurred together like a movie viewing after one too many martinis.

Under the watchful eye of choreographers Sergio Trujillo (Broadway’s Next to Normal) and Karla Puno Garcia (Netflix’s tick, tick…BOOM!), and backed most gorgeously by the score courtesy of music director Kimberly Grigsby (Broadway’s Camelot), The Days of Wine and Roses rolls forward drunkenly playing a tender but blurry game of hide and seek, teasing us with highend music and magnificent performances, but leaving us, somewhat unsettled and distant from this fragmented and choppy musical melodrama.

Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James in Broadway’s Days of Wine and Roses. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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