Gone But Not Forgotten Theatres and Theatre Companies Part 2
Yesterday we discussed the Pearl Theatre Co. in part one. Now onto the WPA and Circle Rep.
The WPA was founded by Kyle Renick (a producer), Howard Ashman (a playwright) and Stuart White (a director) and specialized, as did Circle Rep, in American realism. Mostly, they did new plays, although I saw memorable productions there of Tennessee Williams’ VieuxI Carre and a dramatization of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, by Owen and Daniel Davis, which was produced originally in 1936 and was a great success for Ruth Gordon and Raymond Massey and many fine performances by the likes of Jay O. Sanders and Dann Florek. Their biggest hits were Tom Toper’s Nuts, directed Steve Zuckerman, which moved to Broadway and then became a successful film starring Barbara Streisand and Richard Dreyfus, Robert Harling’s Steal Magnolias (also a hit film), Larry King’s The Night Hank Williams Died, Kevin Wade’s Key Exchange and, of course, Ashman and Menken’s Little Shop Of Horrors, which started at their tiny theatre in 5th Ave. at 18th St. and moved to the Orpheum (where Stomp has been running for years), running for eight years before becoming a successful film starring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Ellen Greene, recreating her role as Audrey from the Off Broadway production.
After a few years at their original location in 5th Ave., the WPA moved to the Chelsea Playhouse, a brand-new theatre in W. 23rd St. at 10th Ave. By this time, Ashman and White were dead, lost to AIDS, but Renick kept it going until the building’s owners decided to tear it down and put luxury condos in its place. Since there weren’t any other viable Off Broadway spaces for not-for-profit companies (the Cherry Lane and the Theatre de Lys were commercial rental spaces at the time, and this was before the construction of the Theatre Row and New World Stages multiplexes) Renick decided to fold. I have fond memories of the many WPA productions I saw over the years, several of which were designed by their brilliant in-house set designer Edward (“Hawk”) Gianfrancesco, one of which was a play I placed there, Don Nigro’s Grotesque Lovesongs. Hawk’s splendid set was a two-story house with a greenhouse attached. The buzz on this production was very good – until, that is, the Times sent their cabaret critic, Stephen Holden, who dismissed it with a syllogism: plays about Midwestern families are boring/ Grotesque Lovesongs is about a Midwestern family/Grotesque Lovesongs is boring — which killed any chance the play might have had to transfer.
Circle Rep was founded in the late ‘60s by Marshall W. Mason, Rob Thirkeld, Tanya Berezin and Lanford Wilson. Mason, the Artistic Director, was its driving force; Wilson, its resident playwright. They had an affiliated group of actors, such as Conchata Ferrell, Trish Hawkins, Judd Hirsch, Jonathan Hogan, Jeff Daniels and William Hurt, many of whom moved on to TV and film, but their “star” was Lanford Wilson, who came up with Mason in the off off Broadway scene in the 1960s, often working at Caffe Cino. They got themselves a loft on the Upper West Side, where they opened the play which was to establish their reputation, Wilson’s The Hot L Baltimore, which transferred to Circle in the Square Downtown, in Bleecker Street, where it had a long run in the early 1970s. They then built a theatre in what had once been a garage in 7th Ave. South, just below Sheridan Square. It was here that they produced many plays by Lanford Wilson, including Talley’s Folly, which won the Pulitzer Prize, The Fifth Of July and Burn This – all of which moved to, and succeeded on, Broadway – and William Hoffman’s As Is, which was the first play to deal with the AIDS crisis.
When Mason decided to move out to Los Angeles to work in film, sadly Circle Rep folded two or three years later, burdened by too much debt to keep going. Mason never got a film career going and wound up chairing the Theatre Dept. at Arizona State University. Trish Hawkins, the original Sally Tally in Talley’s Folly, and The Girl in The Hot L Baltimore, ditched her acting career and joined Mason at ASU, where she taught for many years.
Stay tuned to part 3.
Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and More To Perform at TheaterWorksUSA Spring Gala
TheaterWorksUSA, currently presenting the hit family show Dog Man The Musical at New World Stages, will host its annual Spring Gala on Monday, April 24 (cocktails begin at 6 PM) at The Current at Chelsea Piers.
100% of the net proceeds from the event will support our mission to create exceptional, transformative theatrical experiences that are accessible to young and family audiences in diverse communities across New York City and North America.
This year TWUSA will honor Lisa Chanel (TWUSA Board Chair 2019-2022), Andréa Burns (Award-winning Broadway actress & educator), Peter Flynn (TWUSA alumnus and award-winning director, writer, and educator), and Holly McGhee (Founder and Creator of Pippin Properties, New York Times best selling author). The event will feature appearances by some of Broadway’s biggest stars, including Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Kevin Del Aguila, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and more.
On behalf of TheaterWorksUSA’s Board of Directors, we are thrilled to celebrate the people who have generously supported our mission, making it possible for us to bring high-quality theater to young audiences of all backgrounds throughout the country. We look forward to recognizing Lisa, Andréa, Peter, and Holly publicly at this very special event. – Tracy A. Stein, Board Chair
It’s a privilege to honor these individuals for playing such an important role in the work we do. Their vision, creativity, and ongoing commitment to our mission is truly something to celebrate. They are very much a part of our TheaterworksUSA family.- Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director
TheaterWorksUSA (Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director; Michael Harrington, Executive Director) has led the Theater for Young and Family Audiences movement in New York City and across North America for over half a century. At TWUSA, we believe that access to art—and theater, in particular—is vital for our youth. Since 1961, the 501(c)3 not-for-profit has captured the imaginations of 100 million new and veteran theatergoers with an award-winning repertoire of over 140 original plays and musicals. Acclaimed alumni include Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Disney’s Frozen), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), Jerry Zaks (The Music Man), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen), Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton), Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America), and Chuck Cooper (Tony award-winning actor, The Life). WWW.TWUSA.ORG
Theatre News: Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, Parade, The Shubert Organization Donates to ECF and Millennials Are Killing Musicals,
Tovah Feldshuh, Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton at Opening Night of Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’. Photo by Emilio Madrid
The curtain was raised last night at The Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street) as Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, the American showbusiness legend’s landmark musical tribute to the artform that defined his life, opened on Broadway 45 years after the original smash-hit production premiered. The production’s direction and musical staging is by Tony Award-winner Wayne Cilento, one of the stars of the original Broadway production, and is produced in cooperation with Nicole Fosse.
In attendance on opening night were Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, Nicole Fosse; original A Chorus Line cast members Baayork Lee, Donna McKechnie, Priscilla Lopez; Chita Rivera; Erich Bergen; Jordan E. Cooper; Tovah Feldshuh; J. Harrison Ghee; Jane Krakowski; Adam Lambert; Ralph Macchio; Abby Lee Miller; Audra McDonald; Casey Nicholaw; Justin Peck; Tiler Peck; Bernadette Peters; Tonya Pinkins; Tony Roberts; David Rockwell; Krysta Rodriguez; Christopher Sieber; Jennifer Simard; Will Swenson and more.
Dancin’is Fosse’s full-throated, full-bodied celebration of dancers and dancing. Utterly reimagined for the 21st century, this Dancin’brims with a level of warmth, emotion, and color seldom seen in modern interpretations of Fosse’s influential style and features some of his most inventive and rarely performed choreography. With New York’s hottest cast performing wall-to-wall dance, including Fosse classics such as “Mr. Bojangles,” and “Sing Sing Sing.” Dancin’ delivers the quintessential Broadway experience for Fosse fans and first-timers alike. You think you’ve seen dancing, but you’ve never seen Dancin’like this.
The cast, consisting of some of the best of Broadway’s elite dancers includes Ioana Alfonso (Hometown: Miami via DR/PR), Yeman Brown (Hometown: Tallahassee, FL), Peter John Chursin (Hometown: San Francisco, CA), Dylis Croman (Hometown: Dallas, TX), Jovan Dansberry (Hometown: St. Louis, MO), Karli Dinardo (Hometown: Melbourne, Australia), Tony d’Alelio (Hometown: Roanoke, VA), Aydin Eyikan (Hometown: Fairfield, CT), Pedro Garza (Hometown: Abilene, Texas), Jacob Guzman (Hometown: Brockton, MA), Manuel Herrera (Hometown: Charlotte, NC), Afra Hines (Hometown: Miami, FL), Gabriel Hyman (Hometown: Chesapeake, VA), Kolton Krouse (Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona), Mattie Love(Hometown: Layton, UT), Krystal Mackie (Hometown: Brooklyn, NY), Yani Marin (Hometown: Miami, FL), Nando Morland (Hometown: Colombia / Denver, CO), Khori Michelle Petinaud (Hometown: Centreville, VA), Ida Saki (Hometown: Dallas, TX), Ron Todorowski (Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA), and Neka Zang (Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ).
Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ is produced by Joey Parnes, Hunter Arnold, Kayla Greenspan, Rodger Hess & Michael Seago, Jay Alix & Una Jackman, Bob Boyett, The Shubert Organization, James L. Nederlander, Tim Forbes, Carson Gleberman, Park West Productions, McCabe Ventures, Fran Kirmser & Jodi Kaplan, Greg Young, The Fabulous Invalid, Julie Hess & Tommy Hess, and The Old Globe in cooperation with Nicole Fosse.
Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ originally opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 27, 1978 and later transferred to the Ambassador Theatre. The production ran for 1,774 performances. Dancin’ was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and brought Fosse his seventh Tony Award for Best Choreography.
This production of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ premiered at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre from April 19, 2022, to June 5, 2022.
Interscope Records is proud to announce the cast album for the “brilliant” (Variety) 2023 revival of Parade — Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown’s award-winning musical, which opened on March 16 at New York’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre to rave reviews. Parade (2023 Broadway Cast Recording) features the vocal talents of Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award® winner Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond and conducted by composer Jason Robert Brown, and will be released on Thursday, March 23. Pre-order it HERE.
Leo and Lucille Frank (Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond) are a newlywed Jewish couple struggling to make a life in the old red hills of Georgia. When Leo is accused of an unspeakable crime, it propels them into an unimaginable test of faith, humanity, justice, and devotion. Riveting and gloriously hopeful, Parade reminds us that to love, we must truly see one another.
The current revival of Parade, which is directed by two-time Tony Award nominee Michael Arden, has received overwhelming acclaim since its debut. Entertainment Weekly called it “a phenomenal production that feels more poignant and powerful than ever,” while Variety said, “Ben Platt stuns in a powerful Broadway production of an essential American musical.”
Platt (Dear Evan Hansen, The Book of Mormon) and Diamond’s performances (The Cher Show) were singled out for praise. Deadline gushed “Ben Platt has no trouble reminding us just why he’s become one of Broadway’s most beloved performers. His vocals here are stunning in a pitch-perfect performance,” while The Guardian raved that “Micaela Diamond’s singing voice is luminous.” “Micaela Diamond, as Lucille Frank, breaks your heart with no affectation whatsoever, and a voice directly wired to her emotions,” wrote The New York Times in its Critic’s Pick review. Tickets are available now at www.paradebroadway.com.
Parade (2023 Broadway Cast Recording) showcases their voices, as well as other members of the all-star cast, while capturing the essence of a musical that, Entertainment Weekly writes, “is the most gorgeous production on Broadway.” Viewers will get a special preview of the musical on March 23 when Platt and Diamond perform its signature ballad “This Is Not Over Yet” on NBC’s Today accompanied by Jason Robert Brown on piano.
Out of the Box Theatrics (Elizabeth Flemming, Founder and Producing Artistic Director; Ethan Paulini, Associate Artistic Director) is pleased to announce that Grammy and Emmy Award winner Kristolyn Lloyd (Dear Evan Hansen) will star in the Off-Broadway developmental production of Millennials Are Killing Musicals, written by Drama League songwriting contest and NAMT Challenge winner Nico Juber. The production, to be directed by Ciara Renée(Waitress, Frozen), will play a limited engagement from May 7-28, 2023, at Theatre 71 at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament (152 West 71st Street). Opening night is May 15. Tickets are on sale now at Ovation Tix.
The Entertainment Community Fund, formerly The Actors Fund, the national human services organization supporting the needs of those working in the entertainment and performing arts industry, today announced that The Shubert Organization has made a $5 million gift to the Fund to support expansion of The Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey, and affordable housing and a community arts center at The Hollywood Arts Collective in Los Angeles.
The $5 million gift will be used to expand doctors’ offices and services at The Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, with additional support to the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, NJ. Funds will also be used to bolster the construction and programs of The Hollywood Arts Collective, a new affordable housing and community arts center located in the heart of Hollywood where the Central Gardens will be named in honor of The Shubert Organization.
The Shubert Organization has long supported the Fund’s ongoing work to help people in performing arts and entertainment. In 2017, The Shubert Organization unveiled The Shubert Pavilion: an expansion to the Actors Fund Home, an assisted living and skilled nursing care facility located in Englewood, New Jersey. The Shubert Pavilion houses a 25-bed short-stay rehabilitation center available to the general public and intended for people who are recovering from illness or surgery, as well as 14 assisted living beds. The facility also includes a fully equipped gym for physical, occupational and speech therapies.
Robert E. Wankel, Chairman and CEO of The Shubert Organization, also serves as Chair of The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation Board of Directors, a role in which he supports and guides the development of affordable housing for the performing arts and entertainment community to improve lives, create jobs, foster economic development and revitalize communities. In 2022, Wankel received the Entertainment Community Fund’s Medal of Honor, an award presented at the Fund’s annual gala that recognizes individuals who have had a profound impact on the entertainment community.
“The Entertainment Community Fund is honored by the long-standing commitment of The Shubert Organization and the countless ways it supports our work to provide a safety net for people in the performing arts community,” said Fund Board Chair Brian Stokes Mitchell. “A special thank you to Bob Wankel for his continued leadership not only at The Shubert Organization, but also with the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation Board of Directors.”
“The Shubert Organization is proud to strengthen the Entertainment Community Fund’s ability to provide affordable housing, medical care, emergency financial assistance and so much more to those in our industry,” said Robert E. Wankel. “We look forward to all that’s to come in our ongoing collaborations, from Englewood to Times Square to Hollywood and beyond.”
Asi Wind’s Inner Circle Where Cards Are Magical and Slight of Hand is Astounding
My guest absolutely loved Asi Wind’s Inner Circle, but if you have been to Speakeasy Magick at The McKittrick Hotel, much of what is here will seem repetitive, though still amazing.
Asi is good looking, charming, amusing and displays a wonderful sleight of hand. The Gym at the Judson has been designed and lit by Adam Blumenthal to make the space warm and inviting. The space only has 100 seats, so you are up-close and personal.
Before the show starts, audience members are asked to write their names and initials on a blank card with red or black sharpies. These are the cards he uses as his deck, so that each night the show is personalized.
Wind is a wonderful storyteller and loves his craft. He is infectious about his passion and so brings his audience in. Each trick is celebrated as he builds his momentum. You will have seen most of these tricks before if you have been to The McKittrick, but Asi makes it fun and exciting.
My guest could not wait to bring her grandson and thoroughly enjoyed the show. That alone made the performance special.
Asi Wind’s Inner Circle: Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street, until May 28th.
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