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Austin Scott Lombardi

Austin Scott Lombardi

I was looking forward to seeing Fiorello, as I only knew of it from it’s score and Tom Bosley on the Tony Awards. Fiorello, is based on Fiorello La Guardia New York’s greatest mayor and someone America could use as a candidate right now. He was a man who fought for the rights of others and helped take down the mob and corruption. He refused to become part of a continuing problem. He was a war hero and a short, not so attractive man. Fiorello, ran on Broadway from 1959 to 1961 and showed how he rid the city of the corruption of Tammany Hall and how he became mayor. It won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and shared the Tony Award for new musical, with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.  Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s songs come off as nostalgic pieces with “When Did I First Fall In Love?,” “Little Tin Box,”“I Love a Cop” and “Gentleman Jimmy,” standing the test of time. Sadly the score sounds thin with the two keyboards and a violin, though the cast for the most part excellent voices.

Rylan Mosbach

Rylan Mosbach

The problem with this show coming from Berkshire Theatre Group’s home in Stockbridge, Mass. is that the cast is extremely young and it feels like a non-union college production. Austin Scott Lombardi seems more into himself than the plucky “Little Flower.” Physically he is just wrong and is not a powerful enough singer with stage presence to carry off the role. Stealing the show is Rylan Mosbach, as Ben, the man who helps make his career. You almost wonder why Mr. Mosbach is not playing Fiorello, except his performance in “Little Tin Box,” is the highlight of the show. Mark my words this kid will become a star! Also walking away with her role is Chelsea Cree Groen who is reminiscent of a young Leslie Ann Warren. Rebecca Brudner is lovely as Thea, LaGuardia’s first wife, who dies from tuberculosis. As Marie, La Guardia’s pinning secretary, Katie Barenboim, acts well, but again is lacking in vocal prowess. Maureen Glessner brings home the tuneful “Gentleman Jimmy.”

Rebecca Brudner

Rebecca Brudner

Bob Moss’s direction and choreography by Michael Callahan is in constant motion, instead of leaving room for tender moments. The book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott is outdated and it is a shame it wasn’t tweaked to give it a fresh take. Carl Sprague’s cardboard set is interesting, but the best part of this revival is the costumes by David Murin that are so well done.

I would love to see Mark Kudish take on this role, but there is not enough singing in it for him.

Fiorello!, East 13th Street Theater, 136 E. 13th St. through Oct. 7th.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Broadway

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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Broadway

The Outer Critics Circle (OCC) Awards And You Are There Part 1

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The Outer Critics Circle (OCC), awards ceremony for the winners was held on Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for The Performing Arts (111 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC).

Current President David Gordon and  Vice President Richard Ridge welcomed everyone. There were celebrity presenters and Tony Danza proved why he is a comedy star. The first award given out was to Outstanding Video/Projections: Peter Nigrini – The Who’s Tommy.

Danza also gave out the awards to Outstanding Orchestrations Marco Paguia – Buena Vista Social Club.

Outstanding Costume Design: Linda Cho – The Great Gatsby

Outstanding Lead Performer in a Broadway Play: Jessica Lange – Mother Play

Receiving the John Gassner Award for New American Play (preferably by a new playwright): Oh, Mary! and a tie for Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Play (tie): Cole Escola left a video message.


Next to present was Montego Glover who gave Outstanding Featured Performer in an Off-Broadway Musical (tie) Judy Kuhn – I Can Get It For You Wholesale

and to Thom Sesma – Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Book of a Musical and Outstanding Score Shaina Taub – Suffs

Outstanding Scenic Design (tie): Paul Tate dePoo III – The Great Gatsby

Outstanding Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt  The Outsiders

Outstanding Featured Performer in a Broadway Play: Kara Young – Purlie Victorious

Next up Steve Gutenberg gave awards to Outstanding Revival of a Play: Appropriate

Outstanding Sound DesignRyan Rumery – Stereophonic

Outstanding Solo Performance: Patrick Page – All the Devils are Here

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.

Tomorrow Part 2.

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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.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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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.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
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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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