The Broadway world is a buzz with the news that the legendary two-time Tony Award®-winning Bernadette Peters, capping a 60-years-long career of triumph after triumph as “the most accomplished musical comedy star of her generation” (The Washington Post), will take on the title role in the most successful and beloved Broadway production of the year: Hello, Dolly!. Ms. Peters will begin performances Saturday evening, January 20, 2018, prior to a Thursday, February 22 opening night.
Bette Midler, who received universal raves and every Broadway acting honor for her performance as Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly!, including the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, will play her final performance on Sunday, January 14.
In a statement, Ms. Peters said, “I’m absolutely thrilled to continue in the tradition of the incomparable Bette Midler, Carol Channing, and all of the other wonderful actresses who have played Dolly Levi, and I look forward to joining this wonderful company at the Shubert.”
Ms. Midler said, “I cannot imagine leaving Dolly Levi in better hands than those of Bernadette Peters. She has created more historic roles in more legendary musicals than any living Broadway star, and most of the dead ones, too. I cannot wait to see her in the show from my very expensive premium seat in Row G which I know I will have to pay for. She is joining the greatest group of people I have ever worked with, and when my run in this amazing show — and in this amazing part — is over, I will miss all of them more than I can express. I know they will take care of her the way they have taken care of me — with the heart and generosity they have shown me since day one of rehearsal.”
The upcoming Broadway revival of Carousel got even starrier. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s 1945 musical will star Tony winner Jessie Mueller as Julie Jordan, Tony nominee Joshua Henry as Billy Bigelow, Betsy Wolfe, currently starring as Jenna in Waitress, as Carrie Pipperidge, Alexander Gemignani (King George in Chicago’s Hamilton) as Enoch Snow, Margaret Colin as Mrs. Mullin and opera star Renée Fleming as Nettie Fowler, marking her first role in a Broadway musical.
Jack O’Brien, will direct and New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck will choreograph; Amar Ramasar and Brittany Pollack (both dancing for NY City ballet) will take on Jigger and Louise.
Phillipa Soo (Hamilton, Amélie)and Marton Csokas (Loving, The Lord of the Rings) have joined the cast of The Parisian Woman on Broadway. They join the previously announced Uma Thurman, Josh Lucas, and Blair Brown. Beau Willimon the House of Cards writers new play will debut at the Hudson Theatre beginning November 7, for a November 30 opening.
The Parisian Woman is inspired by Henry Becque’s late 19th century comedy La Parisienne and will be directed by Amélie director Pam MacKinnon. A tale of drama and politics set in present-day Washington, D.C., Thurman and Lucas will play a power couple angling to secure an important judicial post.
Soo will play the role of Rebecca, and Csokas, making his Broadway debut, will play Peter. The Parisian Woman was commissioned and developed by The Flea Theater in New York City and was originally produced by South Coast Repertory.
Alison Pill completes the powerhouse trio of actors at the center of the Broadway premiere of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece Three Tall Women, which will play the Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street) next spring. Ms. Pill joins the previously announced stars, two-time Academy Award® winner Glenda Jackson and Tony Award® and three-time Emmy Award® winner Laurie Metcalf, in a production directed by two-time Tony winner Joe Mantello. Beginning preview performances on Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Three Tall Women opens on Thursday, March 29.
Alison Pill received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play for her Broadway debut in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Her other Broadway appearances include The House of Blue Leaves, The Miracle Worker, and Mauritius. Off-Broadway credits include This Wide Night, reasons to be pretty, the American premiere of Blackbird (Lucille Lortel Award nomination, Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, Drama League Award nomination), On the Mountain (Lortel nomination), and the American premiere of The Distance From Here, for which she and her co-stars won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance. She was last on stage in the Geffen Playhouse’s production of Wait Until Dark. On television, she will next be seen in “American Horror Story: Cult.” She recently starred in the ABC drama “The Family.” She was a series regular on the acclaimed HBO series “The Newsroom” and the second season of the HBO drama “In Treatment.” Other credits include NBC’s “The Book of Daniel” and the ABC miniseries “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows.” Last fall, Ms. Pill starred in the political thriller Miss Sloane. Her other film credits include Zoom; Hail, Caesar!; Snowpiercer; To Rome With Love; Midnight in Paris; Goon; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Milk; Dan in Real Life; Dear Wendy; and Pieces of April.
Broadway’s Harmony Sounds Great But Lacks Emotive Power
I don’t think I knew, going in, that Harmony, the new musical from book/lyric writer, Bruce Sussman (Ted Tally’s Coming Attractions) and music writer Barry Manilow now on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, is based on a true story. But as it sings itself out to us, it starts by taking us back to the Carnegie Hall stage of 1933, but then shifts even further back to Berlin, Germany 1927, giving us a clearer picture of what might be coming at us. Panning out in tones not so subtle and utilizing the narrative structure of a standard memory play, a narrator, played by the endearing Chip Zien (Broadway’s original Baker in Sondheim/Lapine’s Into the Woods), stands forward, center stage, ushering us into the past and this story. His name, he tells us, is Rabbi, and he once was, back in the day, a member of a comedic singing group in Berlin made up of six young men who could harmonize and craft a joke like few others could. The group, ‘The Comedian Harmonists‘, was an internationally famous, all-male German close harmony ensemble that performed between 1928 and 1934. As one of the most successful musical groups in Europe before World War II, they steadfastly rose to fame and fortune as the Nazis came to power in Germany, and within that historic framework, the dye has been cast and the stage set.
Zien is most definitely an affable figure, one guaranteed to take us through this complicated and emotional story with expert ease, and we feel safe in his testimony. The elder Rabbi pulls us in, ushering us back to the first days of the group, and joining in with the fun whenever he can. It’s a tender beginning, and as directed and choreographed with energy by Warren Carlyle (Broadway’s After Midnight), we are forever cognizant of where this all will be heading. Zien quickly lets us into the framework, informing us that he is the only surviving member of this long-forgotten troop of singers, and he’s here to tell us their story so they won’t be forgotten. Noting the historical landscape, we can’t help but know where we are being delivered to, and it’s not all that shocking where we will end up.
With a group name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, they come together with a joyful clarity, delivering the cool notes of a well-cast harmonic group. The crew of six, including a very good Matthew Mucha (CFRT’s Memphis)-an understudy for the absent Danny Kornfeld (Barrington’s Fiddler on the Roof) who usually plays the parallel part of Rabbi, younger and sweetly entwined with the other five; Sean Bell (HBO’s “Succession”) as Bobby; Zal Owen (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit) as Harry; Eric Peters (National tour: Motown the Musical) as Erich; Blake Roman (Paramount+’s “Blue Bloods”) as Chopin; and Steven Telsey (National tour: The Book of Mormon) as Lesh; come together neatly. They all fit into nicely categorized stereotypes that sing, make scene jokes, and travel the world entertaining their audiences with an ever-increasing amount of success, all under the watchful, but pseudo-approving eyes of the Nazis.
The six singers, all delicious and delightful to watch, deliver the goods solidly, even with songs that aren’t exactly memorable. But they sure look and sound good (and sometimes even great). No wonder they are seen as good public relations personas to the world, especially with their diversity, but as an audience member who knows what’s coming, it doesn’t sit so easily in the pit of our stomachs. The Nazis, as embodied by Andrew O’Shanick (“Pitch Perfect“) as Standartenführer – who claims to be a fan – don’t even seem to mind that a number of the group members, but not all, are in fact Jewish. This comes as a surprise, as most Jews and their equivalents were being robbed of their livelihood, their money, and their passports. But not these boys. Even when they push the boundaries of their PR protections outside of Germany, nothing happens, at least not right away.
The drama of the musical’s story is played out with conviction on a straightforward uncomplicated set by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt (Broadway’s New York, New York), with formula costuming by Linda Cho (Broadway’s Take Me Out) and Ricky Lurie (Gallery Players’ Godspell), inventive lighting by Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer (Broadway’s Gary), and a solid sound design by Dan Moses Schreier (Roundabout’s Trouble In Mind). It charges forward, but oddly, doesn’t hold us emotionally tight in its arms, running too long, and feeling soft-focused and sometimes generic in tone and form.
Can’t Wait For Boop To Come To Broadway
At the CIBC Theatre in Chicago, BOOP! The Musical, the new Broadway-bound musical extravaganza is making its debut . Actress Jasmine Amy Rogers is currently bringing her to life in Chicago, as she proves in this exciting song “Where I Wanna Be”.
The show is created by Tony Award®–winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, La Cage aux Folles, Hairspray) who brings the Queen of the Animated Screen to the theater with celebrated multiple-time Grammy®-winning composer David Foster (“I Have Nothing,” “After the Love Is Gone,” “The Prayer”), Tony-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead (Working, Jelly’s Last Jam), and Tony-winning bookwriter Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone, The Prom).
I am obsessed with the songs already. First was “Something To Shout About” and now “Where I Wanna Be”.
For almost a century, Betty Boop has won hearts and inspired fans around the world with her trademark looks, voice, and style. Now, in BOOP!, Betty’s dream of an ordinary day off from the super-celebrity in her black-and-white world leads to an extraordinary adventure of color, music, and love in New York City—one that reminds her and the world, “You are capable of amazing things.” Boop-oop-a-doop!
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Michael Urie and Ethan Slater
With the holidays, my caricature of Spamalot is taking time, so I decided to highlight the two performers who for me stood out.
I have drawn Michael Urie several times, but I love this picture with him and my drawing of him in Buyer and Seller. Urie as Sir Robin, shows a new side of him that is truly funny.
Ethan Slater should have won a Tony for Sponge Bob Square Pants. My guess is he will be nominated again for his multiple roles in Spamalot.
Up next my caricature of Spamalot
Spamalot Gives Them The Olde Razzle Dazzle
Somehow I missed the original Monty Python’s Spamalot, based on the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” that played 18 years ago. So seeing this production at the St. James Theatre was fresh for me.
This show which runs over 2 1/2 hours is jammed packed with frat boy jokes, an uber talented cast and lots of razzle dazzle by director/ choreographer Josh Rhodes.
Satirizing the Arthurian legend, written by Eric Idle with music and lyrics by Idle and John Du Prez. The plot follows King Arthur (James Monroe Iglehart), as he is searching the kingdom for his Knights of the Round Table with his trusty sidekick Patsy (Christopher Fitzgerald). This is much like Don Quixote and Sancho, without those glorious songs. Instead we get “Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”
Arthur recruits Sir Bedevere the Wise (Jimmy Smagula), Sir Lancelot the handsome and incredibly violent (Taran Killam), Sir Galahad the Pure (Nik Walker) and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave (Michael Urie). Arthur leads the knights to Camelot, but, after a Las Vegas Style review, he changes his mind, deeming it “a silly,” and they go off to find the Holy Grail.
In the meantime the Lady of the Lake (Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer) is rather peeved that her role has been cut. Kritzer tears down the house and the scenery with her vocal pyrotechnics and her attitude. She almost steals the show.
Ethan Slater plays the historian, not dead Fred, a baby, a nun, a mine and a minstrel, as well as wimpy Prince Herbert, and a demonic killer bunny. To each of these roles, he is like a chameleon and morphs into a comedic clown. He is truly funny.
Michael Urie, as Sir Robin, is hilarious and has the politically incorrect number “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway,” (if you don’t have any Jews). I am seriously surprised it has not been pulled considering parodies seem to be no longer appropriate.
Paul Tate dePoo III’s set is serviceable, but the projections are fabulous.
Many will like this show and if I had watched their performance on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I too would be buying tickets.
Monty Python’s Spamalot: St. James Theatre, 246 W 44th Street.
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