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Audra McDonald

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On of the most exquisite nights I have spent in a theatre, was Monday night when Seth Rudetsky presented Broadway @ Town Hall with six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald. These two friends with a 30 year old history, dished about music, backstage fodder and life, while Audra lent her voice to some glorious music. We learned how she was expected to go into opera at Julliard, but her heart was more into musical theatre.

Seth Rudetsky, Audra McDonald

Seth Rudetsky, Audra McDonald Photo Credit: Sachyn Mital

First up was “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles as Audra’s childhood in Fresno comes into play. “Fres-yes!” the witty actress stated. What I learned that night was how amusing Ms. McDonald is. Hyperactive as a kid she poured out her energy into dinner theatre and a high school for the arts. She audition for Juilliard because an upperclassman had done so and was revered for it. During her trip to audition for Juilliard, McDonald saw Into the Woods with Phylicia Rashad, because the actor playing Cinderella’s prince was also from Fresno. McDonald wrote a letter to Bernadette Peters she thought he could deliver. She felt a simpatico relationship with Peters because they both had curly hair. Sadly she never answered. We were treated to a medley of “Children Will Listen (Into the Woods) and You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific. Ms. McDonald’s clear vocals were emotionally connected to the lyrics.

Seth Rudetsky, Audra McDonald

Seth Rudetsky, Audra McDonald Photo Credit: Sachyn Mital

Audra’s happiest day at Julliard was when Barbara Cook came to teach a master class. She did not sing for Cook, but the two did become friends and perform together later in life. For that segue we were treated to “Vanilla Ice Cream” from She Loves Me.

Seth Rudetsky, Audra McDonald

Seth Rudetsky, Audra McDonald Photo Credit: Sachyn Mital

On the night of the Tony Awards when Audra, Norm Lewis, David Alan Grier, and Philip Boykin were up for Porgy and Bess, a chatty Liza Minnelli stopped by. With little time to spare to get ready and rush over to the red carpet McDonald was at a loss to tell her idol she had to leave. “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret lead into a hilarious “The Facebook Song” by Kate Miller-Heidke. What a seriously fabulous song.

When getting to meet her idol Barbra Streisand, the funny girl was none to nice, not once but twice. Since then the two have become friends as Audra belted out the “Cornet Man” from Funny Girl.

Rudetsky decided to punish Audra as they have a disagreement about how they met. McDonald is convinced they met during auditions for a production of Evita in Bucks County. So…..Rudetsky disagrees, had her sing an Evita medley with Rudetsky singing one line, and McDonald finishing the musical phrase.

McDonald related that as a child when cast as the witch in Hansel & Gretel, McDonald asked if after the Witch dies, she could come back and sing a song. The teacher said yes, even though this was a play not a musical. As a result the audience was treaded to an emotional version of “The Rose”.

At the Sondheim Gala she sang “The Glamorous Life” from A Little Night Music, however at the PEN Gala honoring the Tony-winning songwriter McDonald went up on the lyric because she saw how big her mouth was on video screens that had not been there during the sound check. She sang it perfectly on Monday.

Having just heard “I’ll be Here” from Ordinary Days, I was thrilled to hear Audra sing it. Audra the night before sang “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music who had just sang it for the memorial in tribute to Craig Zadan.  Zadan was the one who felt she should be cast as Mother Abbess.

As an encore “Summertime “from The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess unplugged. What a musical high and a thrilling way to end the evening. What a fabulous New York night.

Seth returns January 12th with Kelli O’Hara and on March 11th with Jeremy Jordan. These are concert not to be missed, as they are more of events. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.thetownhall.org.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Broadway

The Wiz’s Eases Back Onto Broadway

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There is much to love about the Broadway revival of The Wiz, which opened tonight at the Marquis Theatre. This beloved musical originally opened on Broadway in 1975, was made into film in 1978 and is back with a score by Charlie Smalls, that sparkles due to the orchestrations by Joseph Joubert and vocal arrangements by Allen René Louise. I love the Lalo Schifrin sound.

Nichelle Lewis, Melody A. Betts Photo By Jeremy Daniel

Directed by Schele Williams and an updated book by Amber Ruffin, what this revival has is heart, what it is missing is style.

Deborah Cox


Now Dorothy (a terrific Nichelle Lewis, a newcomer making her Broadway debut) has moved to Kansas to live with her Aunt Em (Melody A. Betts, who shines as  the beloved Aunt, but isn’t evil enough as the wicked witch Evillene, due in part to the sound designer Jon Weston and costume designer Sharen Davis). Dorothy has lost her parents and apparently her dog (no Toto), is being bullied, feels lost and alone, until a tornado sends her hurling to Oz. Her house still kills the wicked witch of the East, but Dorothy is introduced to golden glittery Glinda (Deborah Cox), by Addaperle ( a vocal glorious Allyson Kaye Daniel). She is sent to meet the powerful Wizard (a phenomenally grounded Wayne Brady) to get back home. Along the way meets the scarecrow (Avery Wilson) in need of a brain, the tinman (Phillip Johnson Richardson) wanting a heart and a lion (Kyle Ramar Freeman) in need os some courage.

Avery Wilson, Nichelle Lewis, Phillip Johnson Richardson Photo By Jeremy Daniel

All shine in their performances and vocals though the sound design threatens to derails them. Ms. Cox who is gloriously in voice, is not well mic’d, nor is anyone else. I was in the sixth row and it was hard to hear and I really did want to as the vocals were terrific.

Wayne Brady and Emerald City Photo By Jeremy Daniel

The choreography, by JaQuel Knight, is clunky with numbers seeming not to gel with each other. Each number looks like it belongs in a different show. However the individual performances take the movement to levels that work. Mr. Wison’s scarecrow, is all limbs and displays his flexibility and acrobatic tricks to the nth degree. Mr. Richardson gives the tinman a heart with his soulful “What Would I Do If I Could Feel”. Freeman’s lion, is an amusing scaredy cat who breaks though.

Kyle Ramar Freeman, Nichelle Lewis, Wayne Brady, Phillip Johnson Richardson, Avery Wilson wanting a heart and a lion Photo By Jeremy Daniel

Wayne Brady is a standout as The Wiz and I was wow’d by him.
Lewis is a find as the teenager trying to find herself. “Home”, is now the final song and she nails it making us fall in love with this revival despite it’s designer flaws.

The Oscar-winning production designer Hannah Beachler and costume’s look like they were designed on acid with no filter and no funding. The color choices and styles all look tacky. I really wanted to rip the tablecloth looking skirt off the lion and still do.

I have such fond memories of this show and I left with them intact. Sometimes things do not have to be perfect in order to shine.

The Wiz: Marquis Theatre, 210 W 46th Street, until April 18th.

 

 

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Entertainment

Tribeca Festival Announces Thrilling Feature Film Lineup for 2024

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The 2024 Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, today unveiled its features lineup, offering a diverse array of narrative, documentary, and animated films. Scheduled to run from June 5-16 in New York City, this year’s Festival promises a thoughtfully curated program and includes everything from timely documentaries addressing political and social concerns to independent narratives showcasing award-winning actors. Additionally, the opening night event, presented in partnership with OKX and City National Bank, was announced.

Tribeca kicks off on Wednesday, June 5 with the world premiere of Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge, an intimate look at the life of the fashion designer and cultural luminary. The film captures Diane von Furstenberg’s impact as a creative icon, who challenged the status quo with the bold inquiry, “Why shouldn’t a woman do what a man can do?” Directed by Tribeca alumni Trish Dalton and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Woman in Charge opens the lineup of features.

The 2024 selection of feature films includes Jazzy with Lily Gladstone; Daddio starring Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn; Firebrand starring Alicia Vikander and Jude Law; BRATS, directed by Andrew McCarthy, with Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, and Lea Thompson; Sacramento, directed by Michael Angarano, starring Michael Cera, Kristen Stewart, and Maya Erskine; Winter Spring Summer or Fall starring Jenna Ortega and Percy Hynes White; and Liza: A Truly Terrific Absolutely True Story with Liza Minnelli. Comedic stars are in Group Therapy, including Neil Patrick Harris, Mike Birbiglia, and Tig Notaro; All That We Love stars Margaret Cho and Jesse Tyler Ferguson; and Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution features Lily Tomlin, Wanda Sykes, Rosie O’Donnell, Hannah Gadsby, and Joel Kim Booster.

Music documentaries highlight the boldest voices of each generation with They All Came Out To Montreux with Prince, Sting, Carlos Santana, Aretha Franklin, and Keith Richards; Satisfied about Renée Elise Goldsberry; Linda Perry: Let It Die Here with Linda Perry, Dolly Parton, Brandi Carlile, and Christina Aguilera; and Avicii – I’m Tim with Tim “Avicii” Bergling, Chris Martin and David Guetta. Renée Elise Goldsberry and Linda Perry will be performing following the world premiere of their respective films.

“Each year, the Tribeca Festival reflects our culture, capturing the essence of the present moment. We’re thrilled to showcase our 23rd edition, delving into captivating explorations of artificial intelligence with Demis Hassabis, thought-provoking discussions on the future of democracy, and so much more,” Tribeca Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “Storytelling possesses a remarkable ability to bring us together, offering hope in these challenging times. We eagerly anticipate engaging with audiences on difficult yet timely subjects.”

The 23rd edition of Tribeca reflects our activist roots, to showcase a slate of films that speak to today’s political moment and inform voters ahead of the upcoming election. Hacking Hate, directed by Simon Klose, questions the role of social media in amplifying hate speech and extremism. McVeigh, directed by Mike Ott, portrays right-wing extremism with chilling modern implications. America’s Burning, directed by David Smick and narrated by Michael Douglas, dives into the economic root of hate and division.

At the core of our mission is the belief that art can spark change, particularly in the aftermath of global conflicts. The Cranes Call, directed by Laura Warner, spotlights war crimes investigators for the Clooney Foundation for Justice, led by Amal and George Clooney, as they risk their lives traveling across Ukraine to build cases against Russian soldiers and commanders. Antidote, directed by James Jones, digs into the truth about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deadly regime. Checkpoint Zoo, directed by Joshua Zeman, documents the daring rescue of thousands of animals trapped behind enemy lines in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As War continues to affect regions like the Middle East and Ukraine, art serves as a powerful reminder of our shared humanity.

“In a year of record high submissions, despite industry-wide challenges, and global tumult, our incredible filmmaking community delivered again with some of the most surprising, inspiring, hilarious, galvanizing, boundary-breaking, and downright entertaining work we’ve had the privilege to feature at the festival,” said Tribeca Festival Director and SVP of Programming Cara Cusumano. “Whether grappling with everything from the crisis of global democracy to the most intimate of human dramas, it was heartening to be reminded of the undeniable power of a great film to illuminate our world.”

For the first time, Tribeca’s signature Viewpoints section of bold original visions and innovative perspectives will be in competition. The interdisciplinary program encompasses U.S. and international films across narrative, documentary, and animation, including the animated feature Boys Go to Jupiter starring Elsie Fisher, Tavi Gevinson, Julio Torres, and Sarah Sherman, and the narrative thriller Darkest Miriam with Britt Lower. Documentaries include Champions of the Golden Valley, directed by Ben Sturgulewski, an inspiring sports fable and portrait of people in profound political and social transition, and Searching for Amani, directed by Debra Aroko, a 13-year-old’s dramatic quest to investigate his father’s mysterious murder in one of Kenya’s largest wildlife conservancies.

The final selections were chosen from a record-breaking number of submissions (13,016). This year’s program includes 103 feature films from 114 filmmakers across 48 countries. The lineup comprises 86 world premieres, two international premieres, six North American premieres, and eight New York premieres. Half of the films in competition are directed by women. Additionally, 35% (36) of feature films are directed by BIPOC filmmakers. There are 30 films directed by first-time filmmakers and 25 directors returning to Tribeca with their latest projects.

The Tribeca Festival is curated by Festival Director and SVP of Programming Cara Cusumano, Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer; VP of Shorts Programming Ben Thompson; Senior Programmers Liza Domnitz, Faridah Gbadamosi, Jarod Neece, José F. Rodriguez; Programmers Casey Baron, Jason Gutierrez, Jonathan Penner, and Madison Egan; VP of Games and Immersive Casey Baltes and Immersive Curator Ana Brzezińska; EVP of Artist Relations Nancy Lefkowitz and VP of Artist Relations Meredith Mohr; Curator of Audio Storytelling Davy Gardner; Music Programmer Vincent Cassous; along with a team of associate programmers; supported and inspired by the legendary Paula Weinstein.

The full feature film lineup is detailed below. For more updates on programming follow @Tribeca and #Tribeca2024 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. A Tribeca Membership or 2024 Tribeca Festival passes and ticket packages can be purchased at tribecafilm.com.

 

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

LET IT BE AGAIN — (Via SHOWBIZ 411) I told you yesterday the Beatles are releasing a restored version of “Let it Be,” the film, on Disney Plus. Peter Jackson, who made the “Get Back” series, did the work with his lab of mad scientists. “Let it Be” will begin streaming on May 8th.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot all the footage in 1969 and then made the final film. It played in theaters briefly, then disappeared. The rumor always was that Paul McCartney didn’t like the film. But when Jackson released “Get Back,” those reasons didn’t make sense.

Now the general public will see the film. (I saw it back in the day.) It should be exciting.

“Let It Be” contains footage not featured in the “Get Back” docuseries, bringing viewers into the studio and onto Apple Corps’ London rooftop in January 1969 as The Beatles, joined by Billy Preston, write and record their GRAMMY Award®-winning album Let It Be, with its Academy Award®-winning title song, and perform live for the final time as a group.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Michael Lindsay-Hogg says, “’How often do you get to see artists of this stature working together to make what they hear in their heads into songs. And then you get to the roof and you see their excitement, camaraderie and sheer joy in playing together again as a group” …“I was knocked out by what Peter was able to do with ‘Get Back,’ using all the footage I’d shot 50 years previously.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled that Michael’s movie, ‘Let It Be,’ has been restored and is finally being re-released after being unavailable for decades,” says Peter Jackson. “Over three parts, we showed Michael and The Beatles filming a groundbreaking new documentary, and ‘Let It Be’ is that documentary – the movie they released in 1970.”…“I now think of it all as one epic story, finally completed after five decades. The two projects support and enhance each other: ‘Let It Be’ is the climax of ‘Get Back,’ while ‘Get Back’ provides a vital missing context for ‘Let It Be.’

As much as I liked the Peter Jackson-version, the original still burns in my head. I well remember when it came out – with a greatphoto book I still have on my shelf. When all the chatter began about how much fun they really had come out; I sort of didn’t believe it. Face it, if the Fab Four didn’t like Hogg’s version back then … it never would have come out.

I think there was a backlash of sorts and that’s why the original is finally coming out again, though Jackson ‘s involvement is curious. The first time in 50 years no less!  If you want to see it unvarnished and how it really was … watch it.

DON IS BACK — (Via Deadline) Don Johnson is set to star opposite Joshua Jackson in Dr. Odyssey, a new ABC drama series from Ryan Murphy, which is targeting a fall launch. It hails from 20th Television in association with Ryan Murphy Television.

As is the case with any Ryan Murphy series, no details about the premise are being revealed. As the title suggests, Dr. Odyssey is believed to be a medical procedural. According to sources, it is set on a cruise ship.

Details about Johnson’s character are being kept under wraps.

Dr. Odyssey is written, and executive produced by Murphy, Jon Robin Baitz and Joe Baken. Paris Barclay is directing and executive producing. Eric Paquette, Alexis Martin Woodall, Eric Kovtun, Scott Robertson and Nissa Diederich also executive produce alongside Jackson.

Johnson is known for his roles as Det. Sonny Crockett on the classic 1980s NBC series Miami Vice and as the title character in the 1996 CBS series Nash Bridges, which he also reprised in the 2021 Nash Bridges movie for USA. Recent credits include the Emmy-winning HBO limited series Watchmen, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out and the Book Club feature franchise. He has coming up Book Club 2: The Next Chapter and Rebel Ridge.

Tokyo Vice

SHORT TAKES — Watched the second season of MAX’s Tokyo Vice-toplining Ansel Elgort; Ken Watanabe and Rachel Keller. Was a great run, though the ending seemed somewhat somber. Sure the bad-guy was offed, but it was his wife who did the most damage. Great show. Michael Mann is one of the Executive Producers and you can see his hands on everything … Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals at SONY Hall on May 17 …

(Via Deadline) Financier and producer Participant is shuttering after 20 years. Founder Jeff Skoll alerted staff at 10:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday, Deadline has confirmed. Sources say Skoll did an audit of the company and wanted to pivot from entertainment. We understand that most of the 100-person staff is being let go except for core employees who will settle out remaining productions and oversee outstanding commitments to the catalog. Participant’s m.o. was to bring content to the world that was socially conscious, read its Oscar Best Picture winners Spotlight from Open Road and Universal’s Green Book, as well as DreamWorks’ Oscar winner Lincoln. All in, Participant counts 135 films, five series, 21 Oscars — including the two Best Pictures, four Best Documentaries and two Best International Features — 18 Primetime Emmys and north of $3.3 billion in global box office

Pam Anderson joins Liam Neeson in a Naked Gun re-boot? Yes indeed …

Ripley

Steve Zaillian’s Ripley on Netflix is a staggeringly spellbinding take on Ripley; the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Not quite the often comedic-romp that was Matt Damon’s take, but rather a very stylish re-construction. Michael Scott as Ripley is pretty awesome and shot in black-and-white, the images are stunning. After the first few episodes that meandered a bit, I’m definitely into it. Very much recommended.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — John Boulos; Manny’s; Al Roker; Roger Friedman; Roy Trakin; Alec Baldwin; Ken Sharp; Surf Ballroom; My Father’s Place; Eppy; Chuck Pulin; Joel Diamond; Billy Amato; Ray Free; Al Teller; Joel Diamond; Robey; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Glenn Friscia; and SADIE!

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Broadway

Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman and More At The Museum of Broadway As Harmony Is Honored

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On Thursday, April 18th Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman, The Comedian Harmonists Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman and Steven Telsey, as well as Company members including Chip Zien, Kate Wesler, Kyla Stone, Matthew Mucha, Stuart Zagnit, Zak Edwards, and more TBA will be at The Museum of Broadway to unveil a brand-new window display dedicated to the Broadway musical Harmony. Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman brought the long-forgotten story of The Comedian Harmonists, a German singing group of six young men whose fame was abruptly cut short by the rise of Nazism, to life in the 2023 hit Broadway musical Harmony.

The Museum of Broadway will honor their story with a dedicated window featuring exclusive items donated by Manilow and Sussman, and historical items dating back to the 1920s.

The program will include a special a cappella performance by the OBC Comedian Harmonists.

Harmony, featured an original new score by legendary Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award® winner Barry Manilow with lyrics and book by Drama Desk Award Winner, Bruce Sussman. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle (The Music Man, Hello Dolly!), this timely and captivating rags-to-riches story lost to history came to dazzling life with a sensational cast of Broadway favorites.

Based on an unbelievable true story, the musical told the tale of the most successful entertainers you’ve never heard of. . . until Harmony. In the 1920s and 30s, The Comedian Harmonists sold millions of records, made dozens of films, and sold-out the biggest theaters around the world. Their heavenly harmonies and musical comedy antics catapulted these six talented young men from singing in the subway tunnels of Berlin to international superstardom.  What happened next was the story of Harmony.

The female-founded award-winning Museum of Broadway is the world’s first-ever permanent museum dedicated to the storied history and legendary artists, creators and stars of Broadway musicals and plays, past and present. Offering unrivaled “backstage” access, the Museum of Broadway goes behind-the-scenes to show guests of all ages how a Broadway show is made from conception to curtain call.  A one-of-its-kind entertaining and educational celebration of Broadway for the theatre enthusiast and insider alike, the Museum of Broadway transports visitors visually through centuries of time.  Experience a stunning, ever-evolving curation from the 1700s-present day one dazzling, unforgettable exhibit, costume, prop, rendering and rarity at a time. Through each piece, the Museum of Broadway honors the legacies of those who paved the way for today’s Broadway and the next generation of theatregoers and creators.

Founded in November 2022, the Museum of Broadway highlights more than 500 showstopping and hidden gem productions across three floors of exhibits.  Open seven days a week and welcoming thousands of guests weekly from all over the world, the museum also offers free educational programming, special events with your favorite Broadway casts and creatives, a membership program, merchandise from your favorite shows, and so much more. A portion of proceeds from every ticket sold is donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Be sure to follow @MuseumofBroadway on all social channels for the latest artifact drops, special offers, events and happenings and visit themuseumofbroadway.com to complete your perfect day on Broadway.

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Cabaret

My View: Dick Robinson’s Birthday Continues at 54 Below with Marilyn Maye

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Marilyn Maye (96) and Dick Robinson (86), a decade apart in age… both have a youthful exuberance for the music and performance of The Great American Songbook. The Songbook is played on Robinson’s Legends Radio stations worldwide ‘round the clock’ and Marilyn is singing it around the country in nightclubs and concert halls.

The “old jock”, as Dick is affectionately referred to may not be able to do that Marilyn Maye kick when she sings “IT’S TODAY” but he sure was swinging along with the rest of us last night at 54 Below. Dick was celebrating his 86th birthday while watching Marvelous 96 year old Marilyn celebrate her Birthday Month with another phenomenal show.

MARILYN MAYE

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DICK ROBINSON

DICK ROBINSON & SALLY ROBINSON

DICK & SALLY ROBINSON, MARILYN MAYE

MARILYN MAYE

TEDD FIRTH & MARILYN MAYE

MARILYN MAYE

MARILYN MAYE

MARILYN MAYE

MARILYN MAYE

JIMMY, MISSY,JILL ROBINSON & ROB RUSSELL

DICK & SALLY ROBINSON

JILL ROBINSON, MISSY ROBINSON, EDA SOROKOFF

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