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Carolee Carmello Embraces the Big Picture in Estella Scrooge, A Christmas Carol with a Twist

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Estella Scrooge is most wisely “A Christmas Carol” with a uniquely blended twist, comprised of theatre, film, and cutting-edge animation, streaming direct into our living rooms just in time for the holidays. The new holiday musical, starring Betsy Wolfe (Waitress) is a modern day Scrooge named Estella, a young Wall Street type tycoon who, like Ebenezer, has lost a connection to the spirit of Christmas. With a dastardly penchant for foreclosures, Estella returns to her hometown of Pickwick, Ohio, to personally, as she likes to do, lower the boom on a hotelier who has defaulted on his mortgage. Arriving at Harthouse, she discovers that the man at the center of this business and property is none other than her childhood sweetheart, Pip Nickleby, played by Clifton Duncan (The Play That Goes Wrong), a good and generous soul giving shelter to the sick, dispossessed, and homeless.If that wasn’t annoying enough, a sudden freak snowstorm forces Estella to take refuge there that night, and as it did with her ancestor Ebenezer, she is haunted by three visitations that very Christmas Eve, with the hope that Estella will see the light and the error of her humbug ways.

It’s a story we all know and love, and in this modern day version of Charles Dickens’ beloved 1843 novella, A Christmas CarolEstella Scrooge inventively and wittily incorporates characters and plot lines from Dickens’ other great novels, Great ExpectationsLittle Dorrit and Bleak House, among others. With a book by John Caird (Les MisérablesNicholas Nickleby) and Paul Gordon (Jane EyrePride and Prejudice), who also wrote the music and lyrics, director John Caird has delivered on his holiday promise, filming all the actors, including Tony Award nominees; Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill), Patrick Page (Hadestown), and Danny Burstein (Moulin Rouge!) as Ebenezer Scrooge, individually in front of a green screen using strict social distancing practices, to give us this timely and meaningful gift during this strange yet festive season. They have creatively combined all of these filmed segments with hundreds of images, animations and digital environments, blending it together in post-production to deliver this dazzlingly cinematic musical theatre adventure magically to life for us all to stream in and enjoy. 

One of those illustrious actors is the incredibly talented Carolee Carmello portraying Marla Havisham. She is a three-time Tony Award nominee and a 5-time Drama Desk nominee, winning the 1999 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Lucille Frank in Parade. Not only that, she has wow’d us on numerous Broadway occasions in 1992’s Falsettos as well as 1776, Mamma Mia!, The Addams Family, and Finding Neverland. Today, she has kindly joined me in conversation about the preparation, the process, and the finished product, Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist, the first fully-realized musical to be planned, produced and digitally captured entirely during the pandemic. 

Carolee Carmello.

Ross: Good day, Carolee, so tell me, how is it that you came to be involved with this show, and what excited you about it and the show’s vision?

Carolee Carmello: Hi, Ross! Well, I got a call back in August about the project and as soon as I heard that John Caird was involved, I was ready to jump in! I just think he’s so talented and kind and supportive and I was excited to have a chance to work with him again (after my very brief experience with him on the Les Miz National tour 30+ years ago).

Ross: Estella Scrooge is based on one of the most classic Christmas stories around. Tell me what you believe makes this new holiday musical “with a twist” so exciting? What is most intriguing about the unique spin your show is bringing to the Christmas table? 

CC: Well, I think it’s very modern … characters that we can relate to in 2020 … some of them very successful, and some really struggling. It’s pretty universal, I suppose, which is why this Dickens story lives on and gets told over and over. And one of the interesting twists is the addition of other Dickens characters, like “Miss Havisham” (who I play) from ‘Great Expectations‘!

Ross: Tell me a bit more about your first exposure to the piece? That first reading… 

CC: It was on Zoom, of course, and I remember being so impressed by the cast! What a group! Betsy Wolfe, Clifton Duncan, Danny Burstein, Patrick Page, Megan McGinnis and so many other talented people. It was thrilling to know that all of these great actors would be telling this story together (well, separate, but together).

Carolee Carmello as Marla Havisham in 
ESTELLA SCROOGE: A Christmas Carol with a Twist. 
Photo by © Tyler Milliron.

Ross: What was it like to be involved in the creation of this new musical version? What is it like to step into something new, especially in this new way of telling a tale virtually? 

CC: It was challenging! Learning music in my living room with a recording, rather than being together with Brad Haak (our great musical director). Saying lines to myself, rather than rehearsing with my scene partners … it’s hard to get used to, but I think everyone did an amazing job of rising to the challenge!

Ross: I was told that everyone was filmed individually in front of a green screen, and that post production work used hundreds of animations and digital effects to bring you all together in a scene. How was that experience? 

CC: It was fascinating! I had never worked with green screen before. I really relied on the guidance of Tyler Milliron (our Director of Photography) who was in the room with me, and John Caird who was on a monitor from his home in England. They talked me through the movements and where I should focus, etc. Since there was no set or audience to ground me in the space, I really needed their help to figure out where to go and where to look so that in the final edit it would all make sense. Then I had to try to forget all that and just sing the song! It was tricky for sure!

Ross: What song(s) or moment(s) really speak to you? 

CC: Oh, I had so much fun performing “Wall Street Baby Superstar!” The tune is great and the lyrics (both by the amazing Paul Gordon) are witty and playful. And as a ghost who can move around the space in supernatural ways, I felt really cool!

Ross: What’s been the most challenging part of this process for you?

CC: I really missed being able to look into the eyes and hear the voices of my fellow actors. That part was really hard because so much of acting is reacting, right? I had to imagine what they might do in order to play off of that. 

Ross: The most rewarding?

CC: I guess the most rewarding part for me was seeing how it was all assembled by the amazing editors! They took individual performances and put us all together in a beautiful digital set with a fully orchestrated score … pretty fantastic!

Ross: What do you want the audience to get from watching this show, its unique new spin, and from your character? 

CC: I hope people will feel a sense of being in a theater with this cast and even getting some close-up views that you might not get from the front mezz! (See what I did there? Hahaha)

Ross: Love it! So sweet. I’ve been a fan of yours for some time, ever since I saw you in the original Broadway cast of Falsettos, followed by Kiss Me, Kate and Urinetown. You’ve been involved in so many exciting Broadway and off-Broadway productions, from City of Angels to the lovely Tuck Everlasting. How has been throughout this crazy year to maintain your emotional connection to live theatre, musical theatre, and performing? I must say, that I miss the community and communal experience that theatre gives so much. How have you been doing through it all? 

CC: It’s been a very difficult year. I’ve definitely had some dark days. I was so lucky to be playing “Dolly” on the tour of Hello, Dolly! when the shutdown happened. What a joyous show and role! I miss it a lot. I think most of all, though, I miss the people. I miss the actors and the stage managers and the dressers and the musicians and the crew and the audience! I just keep trying to see the big picture … this will be over (next year, I hope) and we’ll all gather together again and tell stories and sing songs and we’ll appreciate that more than we ever have before. Until then, one day at a time.

Ross: I, for one, couldn’t agree more. It is all about the big picture. And I can’t wait for that day as well, to sit in a theatre, and watch all you amazing people tell us some stories and sing us some songs once again. Thank you for your time and energy, Carolee Carmello. I’m looking forward to your take on Marla Havisham in Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist.

Danny Burstein as Ebenezer Scrooge, Betsy Wolfe as Estella Scrooge in
ESTELLA SCROOGE: A Christmas Carol with a Twist.
Photo by © Tyler Milliron.

The cast also includes Megan McGinnis (Little Women) as Betty Cratchit, Adam Halpin (Dear Evan Hansen) as Bob Cratchit, Sarah Litzsinger (Beauty and the Beast) as Sissy Jupe, Tom Nelis (The Visit) as Dedlock, Em Grosland (Emotional Creature) as Smike, Phoenix Best (Dear Evan Hansen) as Charity & Mercy, David Bryant (Original Marius in Broadway’s Les Misérables) as Mr. Podsnap, Gabrielle Reid (Beautiful: The Carol King Musical) as Mrs. Pumblechook, Samuel Lee Roberts (Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular) as Mr. Flopson, Michael Francis McBride (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) as Mr. Dombey, Michele Lee (Nutcracker Rouge) as Mrs. Noggs, Kristen Faith Oei (The King and I) as Ms. Skiffins, Meg Gibson (The Gabriels) as Molly, William Youmans (Wicked) as Magwitch & Bagstock, Kevyn Morrow (Moulin Rouge!) as Jasper Jaggers, Joziyah Jean-Felix (The Lion King) as Young Pip, Brooklyn Shuck (“Evil”) as Young Essy and Willow McCarthy (The Ferryman) as Tiny Tammy. Serving on the creative team are musical supervisor Brad Haak, director of photography and editor Tyler Milliron, production art designer Zach Wilson, costume designer Somie Pak, hair and makeup designer Dena Olivieri, props designer by Katherine White, and choreographer Natalie Lomonte, with casting by Tara Rubin Casting.

Producers Michael Jackowitz of Witzend Productions, David Bryant and Michael Alden, in partnership with Streaming Musicals, are pleased to herald the arrival of this new holiday musical, the World Premiere of Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist

Estella Scrooge will premiere on Friday, November 27, 2020 at EstellaScrooge.com. Tickets ($24.99) go on sale on Tuesday, November 17 at Ticketmaster.com 

EstellaScrooge.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

KNIVES OUT AGAIN — (Via Deadline) The next installment in the Knives Out series has its title. Writer/director Rian Johnson announced on social media this morning that the film will be called Wake Up Dead Man. It was also confirmed that the film would come out sometime in 2025 and that production would be under way soon with Daniel Craig returning to star.

Johnson returns as the writer and director of the series and will also produce the pic with his partner Ram Bergman. Plot details are unknown and as of now Craig is the only talent involved.

The most recent pic, Glass Onion, bowed in 2022 with Craig returning as world famous detective Benoit Blanc. The film premiered on Netflix after the streamer made a record setting $450 million deal for the two sequels with this being the third in the series.

SHORT TAKES — The trailer for Beverley Hills Cop 4 is out. Here it is:

Harold Faltermeyer

The theme for the movie sounds like a cheap re-working of “Alex F” an electronic instrumental track by German musician Harold Faltermeyer …

The Wallows

The Wallows, who I’ve never heard of, kicked off the Today Show Summer Concert series. When interviewed, each of them said they used to watch the show before they went to school. My, I wonder how that made the hosts feel? Even Carson Daly, who’s no kid either, must have batted an eye. Interesting band. Nothing special I saw, but good luck to them …

David Krumholtz

SIGHTING: David (Numbers) Krumholtz at the Factory Bar Friday for Trivia Night … (Via Theatermania) Grammy

Stephanie Mills

Award winner Stephanie Mills will return to Broadway to play Hermes in the Tony Award-winning musical Hadestown. Her first performance will be July 2, coinciding with the start dates of Maia Reficco and Yola. Mills takes over from Jon Jon Briones, who plays his final performance June 30. Mills originated the role of Dorothy in the first Broadway production of The Wiz in 1975. Her last appearance on Broadway was for a special concert in 1989 … The Washington Post will go full AI. Check out this story: https://futurism.com/washington-post-pivot-ai

Tracker

… A short Memorial Day-vacay in East Hampton was great. Checked out Sakura and was introduced to CBS’ Tracker with Justin Hartley. Smartly done and directed by Ken Olin from Thirtysomething. Impressed for sure …

Billy Joel

The Long Island Musical Hall of Fame abruptly canceled their June 7 event, honoring Billy Joel at Tilles Center.  Performers at the event were to be Run-DMC; Debbie Gibson; and Felix Cavaliere.  Joel said a family event would prevent him from attending …

RIP producer

Al Ruddy

. He produced The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby. Check out Deadline’s obit: https://deadline.com/2024/05/al-ruddy-dead-godfather-million-dollar-baby-1235942541/

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Marsha Stern; Jane Berk; Randy Jones; James Edstrom; Chuck Scarborough; Bill Adler; Dan Zelinski; Bobby Shaw; Mike Greenly; Mark Bego; Roy Trakin; Crispin Cioe; Steve Walter; Steve Paul; Lou Reed; Foreigner; Bobby Watman; Bobby Orlando; Adriana Kaegi; Thomas Silverman; Seymour Stein; Barry and Marissa Zelman; Dan Zelinski; and ZIGGY!

Images on this page have been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Backstage with Richie Ridge Presents

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Drama Desk and OCC member Richie Ridge, of Broadway World’s Backstage with Richie Ridge, will moderate a discussion with Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James, both Drama Desk nominees for Lead Performance in a Musical for Days of Wine and Roses, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29 at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Robin Williams Center (247 West 54th St., opposite Studio 54). Drama Desk members are invited. The doors will open at 1:30 p.m., and attendance is first come, first served. Latecomers may not be admitted.

Based on the 1964 movie about a couple falling in love in 1950s New York and struggling to maintain a family in the face of alcohol addiction, Days of Wine and Roses, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel and a book by Craig Lucas, opened at Studio 54 on Jan. 28, 2024. O’Hara and d’Arcy James are both Tony nominees as well.

SAG-AFTRA Foundation and BroadwayWorld have partnered for a filmed Conversations Q&A series to recognize and celebrate the vibrant theater community in New York City and the actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen.

If you would like to attend, please fill out the form here. Be sure to select the Non-member option.

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Backstage with Richie Ridge Presents The Outsiders

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Richie Ridge, of Broadway World’s Backstage with Richie Ridge, will moderate adiscussion with stars of the new Drama Desk– and Tony-nominated musical The Outsiders at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 31, at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Robin Williams Center (247 West 54th St., opposite Studio 54). Members of the Drama Desk are invited to attend. The doors will open at 1:30 p.m., and attendance is first come, first served. Latecomers may not be admitted.

Participants in the panel will be Drama Desk and Tony nominees director Danya Taymor and lead actor Brody Grant, along with Tony featured actor nominees Sky Lakota-Lynch and Joshua Boone. With music and lyrics by Justin Levine and a book by Levine and Adam Rapp, The Outsiders, is a nominee for both Drama Desk and Tony Awards for best musical, opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on April 11, 2024.

SAG-AFTRA Foundation and BroadwayWorld have partnered for a filmed Conversations Q&A series to recognize and celebrate the vibrant theater community in New York City and the actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen.

If you would like to attend, please fill out the form here. Be sure to select the Non-member option.

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Richard M. Sherman Songwriter for Mary Poppins and Jungle Book Passes On

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Richard M. Sherman, was a nine-time Academy Award nominee along with his brother Robert. The Sherman Brothers wrote more than 200 songs for some 27 films and 24 television productions. Their film credits include Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Parent Trap, Summer Magic tv, The Sword in the Stone, That Darn Cat!, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, The Happiest Millionaire, The Aristocats, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

The won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, taking home the trophies for Best Score – Substantially Original and Best Original Song (for “Chim Chim Cher-ee”). They won three Grammy awards and received 24 gold and platinum albums and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 and received the US National Medal of the Arts in 2008.

They also wrote the score on Broadway for Over Here.

The brothers were portrayed in the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks, which told the story behind the making of Mary Poppins.

Sherman died of age-related illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills. His brother Robert died in 2012.

 

 

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The Outer Critics Circle (OCC) Awards And You Are There Part 2

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Yesterday we gave you part 1 of The Outer Critics Circle (OCC), awards ceremony held at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for The Performing Arts 111 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC).

In this part Steve Guttenberg gives the award to Outstanding Featured Performer in an Off-Broadway Play: Jay O. Sanders – Primary Trust


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

Current President David Gordon introduced Andrea Martin who gave away the awards for Outstanding Direction of a Musical: Jessica Stone – Water for Elephants

A special award was given to Harry Haun longtime OCC member who served on the board as well.

Outstanding Choreography (Broadway or Off-Broadway):Justin Peck —Illinoise

And the tie for Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Play: William Jackson Harper, Primary Trust

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play: Primary Trust

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical: Dead Outlaw

Kelechi Watson presented the awards for Outstanding Featured Performer in a Broadway Musical: Kecia Lewis  Hell’s Kitchen

Outstanding Direction of a Play: Daniel Aukin – Stereophonic

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


Outstanding New Broadway Play:
 Stereophonic

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Outstanding New Broadway Musical: Suffs

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

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