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Encores! Off-Center Is “Working” Wonders

Encores! Off-Center Is “Working” Wonders

Encores! Off-Center always sparkles up the summer months with fun and wild experiements, and I’m happy to say this summer is no exception.  I was lucky enough to see the first production, just before jetting off on my summer vacation.  My plan was to write about it on my plane ride, but it was such a mitigated disaster, due to a thunderstorm that was barely anything, that sleep was the only response to finally getting on my way. So here, from the summer shores of Portugal’s Atlantic Ocean coastline, I’d like to report, days after it closed, that Artistic Director Anne Kauffman chose well for the Encores! Off-Center first production of the summer. Nina Fasso and Stephen Schwartz’s Working: A Musical floated in an a lovely little dream.  It seemed joyful and endearing, and as directed with wise authority by Kauffman with music direction by Alvin Hough, Jr. and choreography by Avihai Haham the show sparkled with talent and nobility.

Encores! Off-CenterWorking: A Musical
Christopher Jackson. Encores! Off-Center Working: A Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.

I had never really heard of the show, but the more I talked about it with other wiser and more knowledgable musical theatre folks, the more I realized I had missed a slice of musical theater history. Based on the best-selling Studs Terkel book of the same name, Working: A Musical, with the contributions of songwriters; Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, James Taylor, and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who composed two new songs added to recent productions), brings to the front and center the unsung heroes of America, the simple worker striding forward into the future with resilience and hope. With a strong cast of actors; Drama Desk winner Andrea Burns (Broadway’s On Your Feet!), the engaging and sweet faced Mateo Ferro (Broadway’s In the Heights), the captivating David Garrison (Broadway’s Titanic),the strong storyteller Helen Hunt (TV’s”Mad About You“), the powerhouse Christopher Jackson (Broadway’s Hamilton), the enticing Javier Muñoz (Broadway’s In The Heights), and the national treasure Tracie Thoms (Broadway’s Falsettos), we are given a glimpse into the life of the hardworking waitress to the worn out millworker, each with their own iconic song to sing. The musical numbers, each one a gem, exudes dignity, and a strong sense of purpose shared. It’s a “living, breathing testament to the people who make this country run”, and after seeing the show and its construct, I totally get why its celebrated within the musical theatre community, especially those who studied the art. Each number is a jewel of characterization, and the roles encompass a fascinatingly wide web of people, places, and things, giving a chance for each cast member to shine bright, like they all did here at the Off-Center production. Celebrating their 75th Anniversary, the wise maestros of the evening even found a way to honor those City Center employees who help bring us in from the streets to our seats nightly, incorporating their stories inside the solid structure of Working: A Musical.  It’s a beautifully done salute to the working person, especially to the employees of City Center. We are thankful, every night, as we take in all the gloriousness that Encores! has to offer.

Encores! Off-CenterWorking: A Musical
Tracie Thoms. Encores! Off-Center Working: A Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Encores! Off-Center
Working: A Musical
June 26  – 29, 2019

From the book by Studs Terkel
Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso
With additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg 
Songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor
Choreography by Avihai Haham
Music Director Alvin Hough, Jr.
Directed by Anne Kauffman

Encores! Off-CenterWorking: A Musical
Daniel Ching, Andrea Burns (center), Malik Shabazz Kitchen. Encores! Off-Center Working: A Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Coming up next: 

eoc19_promenade_679

Encores! Off-Center Artistic Director Anne Kauffman announced casting for the Encores! Off-Center production of Promenade (July 10 & 11) as part of New York City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season.

Directed by Laurie Woolery, with music direction by Greg Jarrett, and choreography by Hope Boykin, Promenade follows two escaped prisoners, known only as 105 and 106, as they run through The City, mingling with an assortment of characters from the poor and homeless to the extremely wealthy. This absurdist look at the haves and have-nots, with book by Maria Irene Fornes and music by Al Carmines, will star Mark Bedard (Jailer),Becca Blackwell (Mayor), Eddie Cooper (Mr. R), Daniel Everidge (Mr. T), Carmen Ruby Floyd (Miss I), Marcy Harriel (Miss U), James T. Lane (105), Bonnie Milligan (Miss Cake),Bryonha Parham (Servant), Don Darryl Rivera (Soldier/Driver), Soara-Joye Ross (Miss O), Steve Routman (Soldier/Injured Man), Saundra Santiago (Mother), and J.D. Webster (Mr. S). Casting for the role of 106 will be released later.

eoc19_roadshow_679

Encores! Off-Center Artistic Director Anne Kauffman announced casting for Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Road Show,the final production of the 2019 Encores! Off-Center series and conclusion of the City Center 75th Anniversary Season.

Directed and choreographed by Will Davis, with music direction by James Moore, Road Show tells the somewhat true story of the Mizner brothers who inherit a small fortune at the turn of the 20th Century and set out to grab their piece of the American Dream in a country where anything seems possible. The production will star Chuck Cooper (Papa Mizner), Raúl Esparza (Wilson Mizner), Jin Ha (Hollis Bessemer), Mary Beth Peil (Mama Mizner), and Brandon Uranowitz (Addison Mizner).

The ensemble includes Brandon Contreras, Rheaume Crenshaw, Daniel Edwards,Marina Kondo, Jay Lusteck, Liz McCartney, Matt Moisey, Shereen Pimentel, Sharone Sayegh, and Vishal Vaidya.

#frontmezzjunkies can not wait.

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

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

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