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It all comes down to “Micheal In the Bathroom“. The celebrated song, sung with a comical and emotional depth by the delicious George Salazar (off-Broadway’s The Lightning Thief, tick, tick… BOOM!) made it big on YouTube long before the show debuted on the Diamond Stage at the Pershing Square Signature Center. The video music sensation, garnered thousands of views, standing at 2,373,347 today and growing, and delivers the teenage angst-essence that resonates far outside the simple recording.  I’m guessing I’m not really the demographic nor the standard youthful YouTube viewer who floats around the video library source looking and searching for the trending and exciting new things out there. And I guess that also means I might be missing out on solid stuff like this. Who knew? But because of this video and the original Cast Recording existing out there online, the buzz that is floating around the current staging of the musical, Be More Chill, couldn’t be bigger and more electric. And as guided with ADD enthusiastic energy by both the formidable Stephen Brackett, the director of the powerful The Mad Ones at 59E59/Prospect Theater, and choreographed by the talented Chase Brock (Public’s First Daughter Suite), it deserves every bit of the hyper hype it has accumulated.

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A scene from BE MORE CHILL.
photo by MARIA BARANOVA.

The theatre is just buzzing with excitement before the show even begins, with stories of money being saved from after-school jobs and allowances just so some of these teenagers from all over the country could get themselves to New York City to see Be More Chill live and in person.  And no wonder, it’s a young and feisty Mean Girls musical, mixed with the Sci-Fi out of this world Little Shop of Horrors, with a light outsider touch of a humorous Dear Evan Hansen layered on top of its catchy soundtrack.  With super strong and festive music and lyrics by Joe Iconis (Broadway Bounty Hunter) and a compelling and comical book by Joe Tracz (Poster Boy) based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, the crowd is as stoked as you can imagine. Everyone is instructed to “deactivate” and set their phones to ‘silent & enjoy’. They can all barely contain themselves in their seats, and the fever is catching (especially after listening to the cast recording over and over again as I write this), as they and I wait for that first chord to reverberate through the theatre.

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George Salazar in BE MORE CHILL.
photo by MARIA BARANOVA.

They are not disappointed in the least, as the music and the projected graphics shout out a thrilling electronic welcome, thanks to the strong music direction of Emily Marshall (Broadway’s Mean Girls), and orchestrations/music supervision by Charlie Rosen (Prince of Broadway). The highly effective scenic design by Beowulf Boritt (Come From Away), frames the piece to computer-like perfection, with spot-on lighting by Tyler Micoleau (The Band’s Visit), solid sound designer Ryan Rumery (“CIty of Gold“), and amazing and exciting projection designs by Alex Basco Koch (Barrow Street’s Buyer & Cellar).  It has a “Hello Baltimore”/Hairsprayfeeling, that first number, but creatively, it transitions beautifully towards something bigger than just a good morning. “More Than Survive” is Jeremy’s anthem and mantra as he slumps towards another uncomfortable day at the generic Mean Girls High School. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a Janice or a Damien to help him navigate the halls where he is, most definitely, not the cool guy, but the one who’s left out; which is such a meta-theatrical moment. Performed expertly by the oh-so-wonderful Will Roland (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt“), he sings gloriously of being uncomfortable all day long, and never being the Robert DeNiro of this tale, but in the real world, it is quite obviously the opposite.  After years of playing the obnoxiously incredible cousin to (Dear) Evan Hansen opposite Ben Platt, Roland is now the leading man of his own loser story, and even though he sings majestically about being said loser, Roland is most definitely not, as there is no other way to see his performance in Be More Chill other than stupendous and star-making. And the same can be said of side-kick Salazar as his best buddy in this “Two-Player Game“.

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Tiffany Mann, Katlyn Carlson, Lauren Marcus, Britton Smith and WIll Roland in BE MORE CHILL.
photo by MARIA BARANOVA.

Jeremy doesn’t want to be a hero, at least that is what he says, but he does want to get to know Christine Canigula, played with epic energy by the magnificent Stephanie Hsu (the sadly just closed Broadway’s SpongeBob Squarepants) a whole lot better. She hyper-energetically rules the stage, especially during her fantastically witty number, “I Love Play Rehearsal“, making it impossible not to love and adore her just like Jeremy. She’s “passionate, a lot“, so it makes sense when high school bad boy Rich, played strongly by the multi-layered Gerald Canonico (Broadway’s Groundhog Day) offers up “The Squip Song“. Jeremy quickly makes his way to Payless after that hilariously uncomfortable bathroom scene to gulp down the offer enthusiastically, and “then, then, then, he got a squip“, direct from Japan and in the delicately alcohol-intolerant format of the wonderfully smooth-talking Jason Tam (Broadway’s If/Then, Lysistrata Jones).  In beautifully Matrix-like costumes forever being enhanced by designer Bobby Frederick Tilley (2ST’s All New People), the Squip magically and chemically becomes Jeremy’s “Upgrade” teaching him how to “Be More Chill” and talk to the girls like Brooke, played dynamically by the very funny Lauren Marcus (Barrington’s Company). “Do you want to ride?“, she asks most emphatically, but her BFF, Chloe, played with a crisp and ridiculous Regina George veneer by the delightful Katlyn Carlson (off-Broadway’s The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin) is a bit more complicated in the bedroom, mainly because of the solidly funny turn of Britton Smith’s delightfully stereotyped Jake Dillinger.  There’s also one magnificent turn by the powerhouse Tiffany Mann (TNG’s Jerry Springer the Opera) as tossed around Jenna, who, with her two oddly attached girlfriends, bring down the Signature Center house with the wickedly perfect cheerleader song, “The Smartphone Hour (Rick Set A Fire)“.

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Will Roland and George Salazar in BE MORE CHILL.
photo by MARIA BARANOVA.

Even with the fire and the hormones raging, it’s all pretty straight forward stuff to be honest, morality-wise, even with the premise being so out-there and diabolically unique. Jeremy just needs a secondary reboot to figure out just what is the most important thing in life, especially high school life. What he really needs is a bit of Best Friend devotion and a Dad “so strong“, played to perfection by Jason Sweettooth Williams (Signature/La Jolla’s Freaky Friday) that he knows he has to pull it all together (and on) for his son’s survival. Their solidly funny duet, “The Pants Song” made it all come together for me.  This, I could now see, is ‘the loser’ story that so many in high school know all too well.  It’s told with much a less serious or raw emotionality than the hit, Dear Evan Hansen, but this touching and humorous song and musical delivers something just as dynamically.  It’s definitely lighter in touch, with a bit more comedic and sci-fi drive, but that wink and a smile still tweaked on my heart strings just as realistically. There’s “never been a better time in history to be a loser“, says Be More Chill, and the cast and creative team certainly know what they are talking about.  This amazingly funny and charming show delivers the goods, and “O-M-G- Chlo, answer me, Woah, wait until I tell you what I heard!“. Happily, Be More Chill just announced a transfer to the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway starting February 13, 2019, and with the crowd cheering these characters on at every turn, it seems destined to be a survivor out there in the big scary world of Broadway. Even without some Mountain Dew Red to do its magic.

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A scene from BE MORE CHILL.
photo by MARIA BARANOVA.

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

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Times Three

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It’s going to be some Shakespeare-heavy months ahead, especially around those famously doomed lovers named Romeo and Juliet, as I fly into the Stratford Festival (formally called the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) here in Ontario, Canada for their first big opening week of six shows. The week will start with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night followed by the musical comedy about Shakespeare, Something Rotten, and then Shakespeare’s Cymbeline on night three. The fourth night will be the opening of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler; the fifth, La Cage Aux Folles, followed by, lastly (at least for this coming week) the final opening of this particular opening week, show number six, Shakespeare’s ultimate romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. (Much more follows over the summer of Canada’s fantastic Stratford Festival.)

As directed by Sam White, the founding Artistic & Executive Director at Shakespeare in Detroit, Shakespeare’s great romance Romeo and Juliet slides in at the Festival Theatre on Saturday, June 1st, 2024, starring Jonathan Mason (Stratford’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Vanessa Sears  (CS/Obsidian/Necessary Angel’s Is God Is) as those starcrossed titular characters and lovers. As with the whole season, I’m hoping this production, and all the others, will live up to the festival’s high standards, and be just the beginning of a spectacular year of Shakespeare. And of these two young lovers.

Kit Connor and Rachel Zegler. Photo by Sam Levy.

After that jam-packed week in Stratford, Canada, it doesn’t end for this theatre junkie and his faithful companion. Jetting off soon after to London, England, we have another week of theatre planned. As scheduled, the two of us will see an onslaught of plays, including Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard at Donmar, two National Theatreproductions; Hills of California and the Olivier-winning Standing at the Sky’s Edge, as well as Ian McKellen in Player Kings (Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 & 2), the Royal Court Theatre’s Bluets, and (of course) the much-talked-about production of Romeo & Juliet, directed and produced by Jamie Lloyd. It just opened this week at the Duke of York’s Theatre, running from Saturday, May 11 through Saturday, August 3, starring Tom Holland as Romeo and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Juliet.

#RomeoJulietLDN production photography by Marc Brenner

From the photos popping up on Facebook, Lloyd’s pulsating new vision of Shakespeare’s immortal tale of wordsmiths, rhymers, lovers, and fighters is sure to be something to see. It will definitely be talked about all over the world, yet it was truly disheartening to read about all the hateful postings around the casting choice of Lloyd’s Juliet. It says, sadly, so much about our world right now, but it seems to have quieted down some (although the sting and stink must still be lingering in the air for us all), and although the reviews of this West End production came out today, I will try to stay away from them until long after. Whether the production will follow the successful path of other Lloyd hits, including the pared-down stagings of A Doll’s House that starred the incredible Jessica Chastain or the phenomenal Betrayal with Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox, and Zawe Ashton, remains to be seen, but I am curious if it will also find its way across the pond to Broadway.

If it does, it will have some pretty fierce competition, as another Romeo & Juliet, this one starring Heartstopper‘s Kit Connor and West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler will begin Broadway performances on Thursday, September 26, at Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening night set for Thursday, October 24. The run, directed by Sam Gold, is a strictly limited, 16-week engagement, and I can not wait to get in to see it as well. All three really. And I won’t have to ask the forever question, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” I’ll just have to ask which Romeo are we looking for? And which Juliet.

See video here. 

Often called the greatest love story of all time, Romeo + Juliet has captivated audiences and artists for centuries and provided the inspiration for hundreds of films, ballets, operas, novels, including the iconic Broadway musical West Side Story.

Stratford Festival’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet officially opens on June 1 and runs until October 26 at the Festival Theatre. Tickets are available at stratfordfestival.ca

The West End’s Romeo & Juliet officially opened on May 23rd at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, and runs until Saturday, August 3. Tickets are available (although probably sold out) at https://www.thedukeofyorks.com/romeo-and-juliet

The Broadway production of Romeo + Juliet at Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening night set for Thursday, October 24, and running for a limited engagement of 16 weeks. Tickets will be available at https://romeoandjulietnyc.com/

For tickets and more information, click here.

 

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Off Broadway

The Lonely Few Rocks Big and True at MCC

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Diving into the emotionally turbulent world of rock and roll, courtesy of MCC Theater, The Lonely Few demands to be heard. It sings out loud and true with an immersive clarity, taking over the MCC space with its power and emotive energy. It’s destined to make us engage and fall in love with its guitar riffs and maddingly good vocals, as well as its two rock and roll lover leads. It carries a freshness and rawness within its more traditional power ballads and less traditional spins, and with music and lyrics by Zoe Sarnak (A Crossing; Galileo) and a book by Rachel Bonds (Roundabout’s Jonah), the achingly touching story strides and strums forward with fierce determination and a strong musical backbone, mainly because of the compelling force that lives, breaths, and sings out from the magnificent Lauren Patten (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) as its center stage star, Lila.

Helen J Shen and Damon Daunno in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

As the compelling lead of a mildly successful local rock band called The Lonely Few, Patten is astonishing, and the impact of the band’s musical rendering is intense and very satisfying. It’s powerfully driven and performed, with the exceptional cast giving it their all during their standing gig at Paul’s Juke Joint in their small Kentucky town. It’s a sharply defined space, courtesy of scenic designer Sibyl Wickersheimer (TFANA‘s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar) with solid costuming by Samantha C. Jones (The Gift Theatre’s Hamlet), captivating lighting by Adam Honoré (CSC’s Carmen Jones), and a solid sound design by Jonathan Deans & Mike Tracey (ATC’s Buena Vista Social Club), immersing many inside the world of the Juke Joint, and even when the space almost gets in the way of the unraveling, it lives and breaths an air of authenticity and connectivity. Backed by her loving bandmates, played engagingly by Damon Daunno (Broadway’s Oklahoma!) and Helen J Shen (Playwrights Horizons’ Teeth), making it hard to imagine they aren’t more successful, the band seems to carry the room and all of us inside with an open heart and a thrilling voice, like a well-tuned and lovingly regarded local band would, and we can’t help but join in adoringly.

Taylor Iman Jones and Thomas Silcott in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

The narrative is pretty straightforward, wrapped in musical performances built on a conventional landscape with a slight twist around a push and pull. This is a tenderly told woman-meets-woman love story, played out on stage, off stage, and somewhere out on the road, that plays its first chords when a far more famous rockstar and songwriter by the name of Amy, played strong and true by Taylor Iman Jones (Broadway’s Head Over Heels) stops by Paul’s Juke Joint. She’s there mainly to say hello to an old friend, musician, and bar owner, played lovingly by Thomas Silcott (Signature’s Boesman and Lena), and it is a tender unpacking that exists in their history, unveiled in song and storytelling. But the real sparks fly when Amy hears Lila take over the stage, the club, and the microphone with such power and emotional energy. It’s hard not to be swept up by Patten’s vocal performance and captivating presence, and Amy is smitten. As are we.

Granting us with a sharply tuned glimpse inside the lives of rock musicians living somewhat large on the road, playing the stage and their world straight from their hearts, this exquisite cast finds momentum and connection within a book that digs deep, even as it holds on to a few wrinkles in its outstretched hands that need to be ironed out. The love story is pure and connecting, even if it needs fleshing out, but we are totally forgiving and determined to believe in them as we feel the power of attraction almost as soon as they do. It’s as hypnotic as the songs and vocals we are being gifted with, courtesy of music supervisor Bryan Perri (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) and music director Myrna Conn (Broadway’s Pretty Woman), taking us on an emotional journey and tour of the backroads of America while navigating the music industry that these tender souls want to experience life within.

Lauren Patten and Peter Mark Kendall in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

Adding to the emotional heart is the disturbing sad arc that has Lila leaving her older and troubled brother, played well and true by Peter Mark Kendall (ATC’s Blue Ridge), to follow her dream and heart on the road with Amy. There is an ache that feels so complicated and authentic in their unpacking, thanks to the fine work done by director Trip Cullman (Broadway’s Lobby HeroSix Degrees of Separation) and director/choreographer Ellenore Scott (Off-Broadway’s Titanique), and even in the quick harshness of how it plays into the story, we stay tuned in to the engagement and complications that are thrown their way.

There is conventionality in the story, and an unconventionally in its unraveling, with emotional heartstrings pulling hard by each of the character’s dreams and fears. There is clarity and compassion in this rock musical that is getting its NYC premiere off-Broadway at MCC Theatre with some compelling back stories and attachment figures that make The Lonely Few even more powerful and electric than the performances and their songs. There is quiet engagement, even in the musical’s loudest moments, taking us in and holding us tight throughout.

Taylor Iman Jones and Lauren Patten in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

For tickets and more information, click here.
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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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