Fela! The Concert at Queens Theater in the Park
On Saturday, July 16th the temperature in New York hit the mid 80’s but in the Queens Theater in the Park it was even HOTTER! The air conditioning was working just fine; but, the excitement of the almost sold-out audience hit fever pitch. Fela! The Concert electrified this wonderful gem of a theater with some of the original cast members of the Tony award nominated Broadway show.
Fela! Is called a jukebox musical; but you won’t find many of these songs available in your local bar or diner which makes each song and performance new and fresh for an unfamiliar audience. Many of the audience that night were familiar with Fela! and when the talented two-time Tony nominee, Sahr Ngaujah, playing Fela Anikuloapo-Kuti, asked for song requests from the crowd there were many to be heard.
This was a concert version of the original Broadway show but it still contained the amazing dancing that earned it a Tony Award for best Choreography. Those dancers were amazing with their jumps, gyrations, and fluid movements that were both a feast for the eyes and an incentive for me to start exercising again. Can nonprofessional dancers ever get in shape to do some of those moves? That question was answered when Sahr/Fela asked audience members to come up to the stage and dance; at least 20 did and those remaining in their seats cheered with approval especially when one older woman with a cane showed that cane or not she can move.
As I said the dancers led by dance captain, Afi Bijou, were tireless throughout the over 90 minutes on stage. Iris Wilson, who was in the original Broadway cast and Whitney Leigh Brown, who has been performing on the Broadway tour since 2016 were energy, grace and joy personified. The male dancers, Ismael Kouyate and Jason Herbert, who has also been touring with Fela! match the ladies’ energy with somersaults and high jumps that would shame some NBA pros.
The music of Fela! is what is known as Afrobeat, an African music genre that combines West African music with American funk and jazz. Fela Kuti was known as the pioneer of this musical genre and was one of Africa’s most charismatic performers. Sahr Ngaujah radiates that same charisma throughout the evening in such a way that he can actually get an entire theater filled audience up on their feet and move their hips while he sings The Clock which asked us all to move our hips from 3 to 9 to 4 to 10 to 6 to 12. In or out of his shirt he raises the temperature of that audience with his deep vocals and expressive face.
The lyrics of most of the songs are in either Nigerian Pidgin English or the Yoruba language; but, not knowing the words does not matter when the music has the wonderful beats played by a band that includes strings, drums and brass. Greg Gonzalez is musical director and drummer as he was in the original Broadway production of Fela! along with guitarists, Bryan Vargas and Ricky Quinones; Jordan McLean on trumpet, Morgan Price on tenor saxophone and Alex Harding on baritone sax. The newcomers to this band, David Smoota Smith on trombone; Rasaan “Tula” Green on conga and djembe; Lollise Mbi, percussion; and Timothy James Allen on bass meld perfectly with the original band members to blow the roof off this 472 seat theater.
As this was a concert, audience participation was an important element of this joyful evening with dancing in our seats and joyful approving shouts of Ya Ya. Queens is the most diverse borough in this beautiful melting pot of New York City. This evening was a great example of that melting pot as the audience was a diverse group of people wearing clothes that represented so many cultures. At the end of the evening Sahr/Fela pointed that out to us all and asked us all to honor the sovereignty of our minds be it via the food we eat; the clothes we wear or the thoughts we think. It was a joyful evening of song, dance and camaraderie.
Queens Theater is a beautiful theater located in Flushing Meadow Park, home of the 1964-65 World’s Fair and the birthplace of the United Nations. The 472 seat Claire Shulman Theater, the 90 seat black box theater and the Cabaret are all housed in the beautiful structure designed by Philip Johnson located under the New York Pavilion (which is currently being renovated and is more commonly known as the space crafts from the film, Men in Black.) It is a fantastic destination for theater, concerts and entertainment and readily accessible via car or 7 train. If Fela! the Concert comes to any venue near you go see it and if you get a chance to see something at the Queens Theater in the Park go to it.
The Marvelous Marilyn Maye Received Twelve Standing Ovations At The New York Pops
Karen Akers, Jim Caruso, Tony Danza, Jamie deRoy, Max von Essen, Melissa Errico, Bob Mackie, Susie Mosher, Sidney Myer, Josh Prince, Lee Roy Reams, Rex Reed, Randy Roberts, Mo Rocca , Mark Sendroff, Lee Roy Reams, Brenda Vaccaro and David Zippel were there to see and honor Cabaret legend and Grammy nominee Marilyn Maye. Maye who turns 95 April 10th, made her at Carnegie Hall solo debut last night with The New York Pops, led by Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke.
Maye is a highly praised singer, actress, director, arranger, educator, Grammy nominated recording artist and a musical treasure. Her entire life has been committed to the art of song and performance and it showed with the 12 standing ovations she received.
Maye appeared 76 times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, she was “discovered” by Steve Allen and had a RCA recording contract, seven albums and 34 singles.
The evening started out with the superlative New York Pops Overture of Mame, which Maye had played the title role.
Next a Cole Porter Medley with “Looking at You,” Concentrate On You,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” It’s Alright With Me,””Just One of Those Things,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “All of You”. This was Marilyn’s second standing ovation. The first was when she stood on that stage for the first time and the audience was rapturous.
A terrific “It’s Today” from Mame with high flying kicks was the third ovation and wow can that woman kick.
A rainbow medley included “Look To The Rainbow” from Finnian’s Rainbow, the iconic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the jazzy “Make Me Rainbows” and of course “The Rainbow Connection.” And with that another standing ovation.
“Put On A Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie.
Frank Loesser’s Joey, Joey, Joey brought on a fifth standing ovation. This song was a masterclass in acting and vocal nuance. For that matter every song that comes out of Ms. Maye’s mouth is perfection. Part of the brilliance of this night is her musical director, arranger, and pianist Ted Firth. That man is a genius.
Lerner and Loewe’s “On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady ended the first act with a sixth standing ovation.
The overture from Hello Dolly! and then Cabaret shows Marilyn Maye also starred in opened the second act. The New York Pops sounded phenomenal as always.
“Your Gonna Hear From Me” from “Inside Daisy Clover was an appropriate starter for this next round as the audience got to its feet.
Maye’s most requested song “Guess Who I Saw Today” from New Faces of 1952 was followed by a show stopping “Fifty Percent” from Ballroom and of course another standing ovation.
Her next song was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to be included in its permanent collection of recordings from the 20th century. Her recording of “Too Late Now” is considered by the Smithsonian to be one of the 110 Best American Compositions of the Twentieth Century and Ms. Maye showed us why and again another standing ovation.
A proclamation from The City of New York read by Steven Reineke to Marilyn Maye made this day Marilyn Maye Day. This treasure cried with joy as she sang Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.” Though she forgot some of the lyric, Ms. Maye proved performing is all on the intent and connecting to the audience. Two more standing ovations were added here.
For encores, I was thrilled to hear James Taylor’s “Circle of Life” and “Here’s To Life,” which is my personal favorite, finally going back into “It’s Today” with those high kicks and a twelfth standing ovation. Bravo Ms. Maye!
If you are a singer and do not catch Ms. Maye live, you really do not care about your craft. Last night Ms. Maye made it clear why she’s been celebrated as one of America’s greatest jazz singers for more than 50 years and this was a night I will always remember. Thank-you New York Pops.
Don’t miss the Pop’s 40th Birthday Gala: This One’s For You: The Music Of Barry Manilow on Monday, May 1st. The gala will star Sean Bell, Erich Bergen, Betty Buckley, Charo, Deborah Cox, Danny Kornfeld, Norm Lewis, Melissa Manchester, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, Billy Stritch, Steven Telsey, Max von Essen, Dionne Warwick, and more to be announced. This will be yet another New York Pop’s Night not to miss.
T2C Sends Our Prayers to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lea Michele
Saturday, March 25, 2023
A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber
I am shattered to have to announce that my beloved elder son Nick died a few hours ago in Basingstoke Hospital. His whole family is gathered together and we are all totally bereft.
Thank you for all your thoughts during this difficult time.
The 75-year-old Oscar-winning composer son Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps and was a successful composer in his own right, having written Fat Friends The Musical. He was married to musician Polly Wiltshire, who appeared on the soundtrack of his father’s 2019 movie Cats.
During his career, Nicholas also scored music for an adaption of The Little Prince as well as composing numerous TV and film scores, including for the BBC1 drama Loves, Lies, and Records.
Nicholas previously spoke about making his own way in the theatre world away from his famous family name in a 2011 unearthed interview.
He said he wanted to be ‘judged on his own merits’ so dropped his surname when working to see what the reaction would be.
Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.
Also on Saturday Lea Michele updated her fans on the status of her two-year-old’s health via her Instagram after he was hospitalized earlier this week. Her son Ever was in the hospital, but is now out due to a ‘scary health issue. She posted a picture backstage in her dressing room ahead of her Broadway performance in Funny Girl. Lea had been out to focus on her family.
“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for just so much love and support this week. I really really appreciated it”.
Events In April Bring Easter, Spring and Flowers Galore.
Photograph: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy’s, Inc.
Join the Judy Garland and Fred Astaire tradition with the Easter Bonnet Parade on Fifth Avenue. There is also the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden or right at home the flower show at Macy’s. On select Fridays every month, you can enjoy Free Admission to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum between 5 pm and 9 pm.
Until 4/9: Macy’s Flower Show. The show includes beautiful, bright floral arrangements, special events including live music, and kids’ activities.
until 4/23: This is The Orchid Show‘s 20th year. Reconnect with nature while experiencing the picture-perfect beauty of the orchids. On select nights, adults can experience the exhibition through Orchid Nights, with music, cash bars, and food available for purchase.
4/1-30: Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival, hosted by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, celebrates Japanese culture and the arrival of spring. It features a variety of cultural performances and activities, as well as a small flea market, tea ceremonies, and crafts. The highlight is the magnificent display of cherry blossom trees, with over 200 trees in full bloom. Visitors can admire the pink and white blooms and enjoy a traditional Japanese atmosphere. Tickets are usually around $40 for adults, though seniors and students get a reduced rate of $35.
4/7-16th: The New York International Auto Show. The first new york Auto Show took place in 1900, for over 120 years now they have been sharing what’s new and interesting in the auto industry.
4/9: The Easter Parade starts near St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 10am. The tradition dates back to the 1870s, where elaborate bonnets and fashion galore is full frontal.
4/9: “Georgia O’Keeffe: To See Takes Time,” comes to MoMA.
4/15: The Tartan Day Parade is an NYC tradition that offers attendees a unique way to celebrate and honor Scottish culture. For the 25th year, there will be bagpipes, dancers, and even Scottish dogs marching in the parade. Attendance is free and open to the public. In addition to the parade, expect a whole week of Scottish-themed events and festivities.
4/15: Pillow Fight in the Park at Washington Square Park.
4/15: The New York Restoration Project is giving out 3,500 free trees to New Yorkers across all five boroughs. To get one of the 3,500 free trees that will be given away, register in advance on this website, where you’ll also get to browse through the current list of distribution dates, times and locations.
4/15 and 29: f the likes of udon, yakitori, ramen, and taiyaki make your mouth water, then mark your calendar for Japan Fes in Chelsea. The event will be held from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is considered a paradise for Japanese foodies and cultural enthusiasts.
4/16: Holi in The City demands food, music, dance, and fun while embracing people and organizations from all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
4/22: Earth Day celebrated in NYC with a festive, family-friendly outdoor fair in Union Square. There will be dozens of exhibitors, interactive displays, a green-vehicle show, family activities, music, and entertainment. 12-6pm.
4/27: Attend The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience
4/27- 30: Antiquarian Book Fair now in its 63rd year, this festival for book collectors at Park Avenue Armory for a full weekend of first editions, maps, manuscripts and other treasures from literary epochs past from nearly 200 exhibitors.
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