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In Lonesome Blue, as directed by Katherine Owens at The York Theatre Company, attempts to dive into the myth and mystery surrounding the true and fascinating story of blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929). Born blind, Jefferson found release singing his “Match Box Blues” songs on a street corner in Dallas Texas.  His “Broke and Hungry Blues” reflect his deepest emotions, triggering an empathetic response of shared pain and connection.  His “Rabbit Foot Blues” gave him the luck to be discovered on that very street corner out front of a barber shop, leading his “Shuckin’ Sugar Blues” to the creation of more than 80 records over the next four years. This man, who definitely has “Got the Blues” became one the most prolific and influential performers of his generation propelling the growth of rhythm and blues, soul, doo-wop, rap, and hip-hop forward in a most spectacular way.

LONESOME BLUES Production Photo 9
Akin Babatundé. Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg.

The one man showpiece, written by Alan Govenor and Akin Babatundé after extended research, tries to dive into the deep inner life and psyche of this powerful singer and song writer. Their writing attempts to channel the spirits of men and women alike who were a part of this singer’s journey from street to recording studio.  Accompanied by the amazing David Weiss on guitar, Babatundé plays the legendary singer, along with more than ten other roles, as he sits on the sidewalk waiting for a ride on the day of his death, December 19, 1929, in Chicago. Utlizing a very long list of songs and monologues, he parcels out a meandering tale of inspiration and the ascendance of Blind Lemon Jefferson with passion and a whole lot of sweat and tears. It’s obvious from the list of musical numbers, Jefferson’s influence is strong, but unfortunately, the storytelling in this creation is a tad convoluted, rarely finding its spirit and the internalized beat.  The singing wanders around from good to impressive but never hitting that emotional high we keep waiting for.  Oddly enough, Babatundé is more engaging when he takes on the voice and mannerisms of the ladies who came into his life.  He seems to connect to their internal life more clearly, as the rest of the time, the threads of Jefferson don’t come together in a compelling narrative.

LONESOME BLUES Production Photo 10
Akin Babatundé and David Weiss on Guitar. Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg.

The guitar playing is powerful, and the backdrop by scenic designer James Morgan, with costumes by Gelacio Eric Gibson, lighting by Steve Woods and sound design by Jason Johnson-Spinos, takes us to a very specific time and place, but the characterization doesn’t do the trick of pulling us in.  It did inspire me to want to read more and look into this slice of musical history that I wasn’t aware of, but mainly because the details and the transformative spirit  were more troubling and vague than evocative. Blind Lemon Jefferson is considered by many as a musical icon in the development of American popular music influencing such various artists such as Lead Belly, B.B. King, Carl Perkins, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles, but this one man show fails to establish his power or his story solidly enough to do the man justice.  Although it did inspire me to want to know more and listen to his “Chritmas Eve Blues“.

LONESOME BLUES Production Photo 7
Akin Babatundé. Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.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

Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Kelley Curran and Frank Wood

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We are so pleased to announce our guest this week are Kelley Curran and Frank Wood

Kelley Curran

Kelley can be seen, as Turner, in Julian Fellowes The Gilded Age for HBO. Prior to the intricate characters she will now tackle in The Meeting: The Interpreter, she appeared off-Broadway in Half-God of Rainfall at NYTW; at The Public Theater opposite Glenn Close in Mother of the Maid, and as Clytemnestra in Ellen McLaughlin’s world premiere of The Oresteia at The Shakespeare Theatre Company. Kelley has also appeared on Broadway in Present Laughter with Kevin Kline, and at The Signature Theatre, Classic Stage Company, Theatre For a New Audience, and LAByrinth Theatre Company, among others. She made her network television debut on NBC’s The Blacklist, and recently appeared on the CBS drama God Friended Me. In 2019 she made her feature film debut in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot.  Kelley was nominated for a SAG Award, won The Callaway Award, Emery Battis Award, NTC Emerging Professional Award, and in 2016 was nominated for a Drama League Award alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Michelle Williams and Lin Manuel-Miranda. She has also been nominated for both a Princess Grace and Helen Hayes Award.

Frank Wood

Frank Wood was first celebrated for his work on the Broadway production of Side Man, a performance that earned him both a Tony Award and a Drama League Award. His portrayal of Gene, a jazz musician grappling with personal and professional turmoil, highlighted his profound emotional depth and versatility. It’s a role that parallels the soul searching experience of The Interpreter in many profound ways. Wood has an impressive array of Broadway credits, including notable performances in The Great Society, Network, The Iceman Cometh, Clybourne Park, August: Osage County, Born Yesterday, and Hollywood Arms. Off-Broadway, he earned a Lucille Lortel nomination for Toros at Second Stage and has graced stages at Signature Theatre, Vineyard Theatre, Lincoln Center, Atlantic Theater Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Playwrights Horizons. His filmography includes roles in acclaimed films such as She Said, Joker, St. Vincent, Changeling, Dan in Real Life, Thirteen Days, In America, Down to You, and The Royal Tenenbaums. On TV, he appeared in series like Billions, The Blacklist, The Night Of, Mozart in the Jungle, The Newsroom, Girls, Flight of the Conchords, The Sopranos, and had a recurring role on

Law & Order: SVU.
These Two brilliant actors are starring in The Meeting: The Interpreter, a new play written by Catherine Gropper and directed by Brian Mertes, Previews begin Monday, July 29 with an opening night set for Sunday, August 4 at the Theatre at St. Clements 423 W 46th Street .

Set against the backdrop of the infamous Trump Tower Meeting of 2016, the play tells the story of an international interpreter thrown up against government systems of congressional and senate interrogations, catapulting him into circumstances beyond his control. “This man could be everyman … one of us,” says playwright Catherine Gropper.

This play is about the loss of individuality and privacy is based on actual events (a chance meeting between the playwright and an actual government interpreter). This two-person play supports a cast of thousands thanks to Mertes’ production scheme including puppetry, film sequences, projections, and intricate lighting and sound.

We are so proud and thrilled that Variety Entertainment News named us one of Summer’s Best Picks in the category of Best Television, Radio, Podcasts.

Host Suzanna Bowling was also just named Most Engaging Hosts on TV, Radio and Podcasts on “The Daily Geek Report.” We are so grateful.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here, fourteenth here, fifteenth here , 16th here, 17th here, 18th here, 19th here, 20th here, 21st here and 22nd here.

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Off Broadway

Oscar, Tony, And Pulitzer Prize WinnercJohn Patrick Shanley New York Debut Of Banshee At The Chain Summer One-Act Festival

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Chain Theatre, Kirk Gostkowski, Artistic Director, Rick Hamilton, Managing Director, Christina Elise Perry, Director of Development, is pleased to announce the 2024 edition of the Chain Summer One-Act Festival, featuring the New York premiere of Banshee by award-winning writer John Patrick Shanley,  the world debut of the Jesse Eisenberg-produced Catch by Jeryl Brunner, and two new plays by 2024 ScreenCraft Stage Play Competition grand prize winner Matthew McLachlan. The festival will feature over 50 new plays at the Chain Theatre (312 W 36th St, 3rd Floor, New York, NY, 10018). The festival begins Thursday, August 8 and continues through Sunday, September 1.  Tickets will be $23 in advance and $26 at the door. More information available at www.chaintheatre.org

Now one of the largest theatre festivals in New York City, The Chain Summer One-Act Festival will celebrate over 50 plays this summer. The festival is a hub for new work by established and emerging artists. Chain Theatre is once again opening its doors to New York City’s playwrights, actors, and directors for a festival of original works. All productions are carefully curated and designed to create a ‘mix-tape’ of Live Theatre. Past festivals have included original works by Broadway’s Lyle Kessler (Orphans) and award-winning actor, and writer Eric Bogosian (AMC’s Interview With The Vampire).  Show your support for the arts and join us for an exciting festival of live performances created by the best artists at one of the top independent theatre venues in New York City.

Three highlights of the festival include:

  1. The New York premiere of Banshee by John Patrick Shanley. Starring Elizabeth Bays (Off-Broadway Simpatico) and Erik Betancourt (Broadway’s Cost Of Living, Between Riverside And Crazy) directed by Chain Summer One-Act Festival. (Off-Broadway Simpatico), Banshee is a mystical comedy about a banshee, a fantastical Irish spirit, who pays an ailing teacher a visit and makes him an otherworldly proposal.
  2. Academy Award-nominee Jesse Eisenberg returns to the Chain as the co-producer of Catch by Jeryl Brunner. Eisenberg and Brunner originally collaborated on the critically acclaimed Dill during the Chain Winter One-Act Festival, which marked Eisenberg’s stage directorial debut. Eisenberg co-produces Catch with Anna Strout and Barbara Toy.
  3. Lastly, Matthew McLachlan returns to the Chain with two new plays: Online Dates Are Hard To Handle, directed by David Zayas Jr., and Who You Are To Me, directed by Lee Zayas. McLachlan is the 2024 ScreenCraft Stage Play Competition Grand Prize Winner for This G*D Damn House, which was a world premiere at the Chain Theatre in 2023.

Chain Summer One-Act Festival boasts a production team featuring Spencer Giles (Hofstra University Graduate), Uma Rao-Labrecque  (Simpatico), Evie Brandford, Stewart Harrison, and Megan Sophie Gore. Publicity by Katie Rosin, Kampfire PR.

Running Time: 60-90 minutes depending on the program block

Website: www.chaintheatre.org

IG: @chaintheatrenyc FB: ChainTheatre

Chain Theatre always seeks to reflect and react to the world around us. Culturally. Politically. Socially. Audiences can find investment in the work at the Chain, because the work is about them, no matter what it might be. It’s a place where artists and audiences can expand their perspectives.

The critically-acclaimed Chain Theatre (NYT Critic’s pick macbitches) is a premiere Off-Broadway producing organization in midtown Manhattan. Chain Theatre produced the World Premiere of ​Garbageman​ by Emmy-nominated Keith Huff (A Steady Rain, Mad Men, House of Cards) and has also collaborated with Tony Award winner David Rabe (Streamers) Past award-winning productions include ​Hurlyburly​ by David Rabe, ​One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest​ by Dale Wasserman, and ​Talk Radio​ by Eric Bogosian. Most recent hit productions include A Will to Live, This G*d Damn House, and What Passes for Comedy. Chain Theatre is located at 312 W. 36th Street, 3rd and 4th Floor, New York, NY 10018 For more about the Chain Theatre visit ​www.chaintheatre.org @chaintheatrenyc

Chain Theatre is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.

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Broadway

Theatre News: Teeth, Soft Power, Redwood, BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical and Pre-Existing Condition

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Jenna Rose Husli, Wren Rivera, Alyse Alan Louis, Phoenix Best and Helen J Shen in Teeth (Photo: Chelcie Parry)

Teeth is coming back to New World Stages in the fall for an open-ended run. The transfer begins on October 31, Halloween night, as its official opening. While casting for the commercial remount is yet to be announced, the Playwrights Horizons cast featured Alyse Alan Louis, Steven Pasquale, Will Connolly, Jason Gotay, Jared Loftin, Courtney Bassett, Phoenix Best, Jenna Rose Husli, Lexi Rhoades, Wren Riveras and Helen J. Shen.

The off-Broadway cast album for Teeth, written by written by Pop! creator Anna K. Jacobs (book and music) and Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop creator Michael R. Jackson (book and lyrics), is now available to stream on all major music platforms. The physical CD will be released August 30. Teeth opened its off-Broadway world premiere at Playwrights Horizons in March with direction by Sarah Benson and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

Based on Mitchell Lichtenstein’s screenplay for the cult-classic 2007 horror comedy, Teeth is a tale of revenge and transformation that tears through a culture of shame and repressed desire one delightfully unhinged song at a time. The musical follows Dawn O’Keefe, an evangelical Christian teen struggling to be an exemplar of purity amongst her community of fellow Promise Keeper Girls. As Dawn’s desires become tested and twisted by the men in her life, she discovers a deadly secret not even she understands: when men violate her, her body bites back—literally.

I loved Jeanine Tesori and David Henry Hwang’s SoftPower when it appeared at The Public, now it’s coming to the Signature Theatre in Washington  D.C., newly revised production and directed by Signature Associate Artistic Director Ethan Heard. The show opens August 6 and runs until September 15. Could NYC be next? The cast will feature Steven Eng as DHH, Daniel May (Flower Drum Song) as Xue Xing, and Grace Yoo (Hadestown) as Hillary Clinton with Eymard Cabling (Miss Saigon national tour) as Randy Ray and others, Andrew Cristi (A Christmas Story) as Chief Justice and others, Jonny Lee Jr. as Bobby Bob and others, Quynh-My Luu as Waiter and others, Christopher Mueller as VEEP and others, Ashley D. Nguyen as Jīng and others, Chani Wereley as Betsy Ross and others, Nicholas Yenson as Holden Caulfield and others, and Sumié Yotsukura as Flight Attendant and others. Olivia Clavel-Davis, Brian Dauglash, Emily Song Tyler, and Joey Urgino are swings.

After the 2016 election, when a Chinese American playwright is attacked by an unknown assailant, he hallucinates a Golden Age musical comedy about a Chinese theater producer and Hillary Clinton falling in love. Hilarious and biting, this political satire dares to ask: Does American Democracy still work? And is it worth believing in?

An exhilarating ride through political absurdity with a faceoff between Chinese and American exceptionalism, Soft Power makes an electric debut in the nation’s capital.

Idina Menzel, will open at the Nederlander Theatre in Redwood. This new Broadway musical starts previews January 24,  with a February 13 opening. Written and directed by Tony Award nominee Tina Landau, Redwood features music by Kate Diaz and lyrics by Diaz and Landau. The show is conceived by Landau and Menzel, with additional contributions by Menzel. The musical premiered earlier this year at La Jolla Playhouse. “I made my Broadway debut at the Nederlander Theatre in Rent almost 30 years ago, so to be returning there with Redwood is very emotional for me as it feels like a real homecoming. It has been such a gift to collaborate with Tina and Kate on this show, and I’m so proud to bring it to Broadway” stated Menzel. Redwood follows Jesse (Menzel), a successful businesswoman, mother and wife who seems to have it all, but inside, her heart is broken. Finding herself at a turning point, Jesse leaves everyone and everything behind, gets in her car and drives. Thousands of miles later, she hits the majestic forests of Northern California, where a chance meeting and a leap of faith change her life forever.

BOOP! The Betty Boop Musical has found is set to open at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre on April 5, 2025. Tony Award®-winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell brings the Queen of the Animated Screen to the theater  with celebrated multiple Grammy® Award-winning composer David Foster, Tony Award®-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead and Tony Award®-winning book writer Bob Martin. This score is fabulous and we can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

Edie Falco Photo by Emilio Madrid

Today, producers O’Henry Productions, The Cohn Sisters, Jessica Chase, Taylor Williams, David Blum, Jesse Eisenberg and Charlie Kaufman announced that Pre-Existing Condition by Tony Award® nominee Marin Ireland will extend for two weeks through August 17 and will star Emmy Award® winner Edie Falco in the rotating role of “A” beginning on August 6

Pre-Existing Condition, directed by Maria Dizzia, is currently playing at the Connelly Theater (220 East 4th St.) in the intimate 60-seat Upstairs space. The play was originally set to close on August 3.

Pre-Existing Condition is a play exploring the challenges, shared community, and everyday indignities of learning to move forward after a life-altering, harmful relationship.

About the play, Ms. Falco said, “I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of something that moved me so much as a spectator. It involves an intimacy and vulnerability that I’ve sorely missed in the theater. I can’t wait to work with these people who I deeply respect so that hopefully more people can see and feel what I did when I saw the play.”

The role of “A” has rotated throughout the production and is currently played by Tony Award® winner Deirdre O’Connell (Dana H.). Tavi Gevinson (“American Horror Story”) will play the role from July 24-August 3 with Ms. Falco starting August 6-August 17. Previously, the role was played by Emmy Award® winner Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”), Julia Chan (Uncle Vanya) and Tony Award® nominee Maria Dizzia (In the Next Room).

The cast also includes Sarah Steele (“The Good Fight”), Dael Orlandersmith (Pulitzer Prize Finalist, Yellowman), Greg Keller (Alliance); with Raquel Chavez (Uncle Vanya) and Gregory Connors (The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window), understudies.

Tony Award® nominee Anne Kauffman (Mary Jane) serves as Creative Consultant on the production. In addition to Ms. Kauffman, the creative team includes Louisa Thompson (A Simulacrum), Set Designer; Tony Award® nominee Enver Chakartash (Stereophonic), Costume Designer; Tony Award® nominee Isabella Byrd (Enemy of the People, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club), Lighting Designer; Tony Award® nominee Palmer Hefferan (The Skin of Our Teeth), Sound Designer. Taylor Williams is Casting Director, Ashley-Rose Galligan is Production Stage Manager, Eric Nolan Mattingly is Assistant Stage Manager with Wagner Johnson Productions serving as General Management.  Associate Producer is Joe Meyer. David Manella at Loeb & Loeb LLP serves as Production Counsel.

For information on performance dates, ticketing lottery information please visit preexistingconditionplay.com. Tickets start at $49.

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Off Broadway

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme Is a New Play Still In Its Embryonic State

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In the press release and on their own site Coney Island Nursery Rhyme sounds so intriguing. This historical fiction set in Connecticut and New York in the 1930’s is based on a true story. They state; Follows the esteemed incubator-doctor, showman, and unofficial father of Neonatology, Martin A. Couney. In a time where eugenics-focused medical culture refused to employ incubator technology. Martin A. Couney took it upon himself to save premature babies in his own incubators at a sideshow at Coney Island where funds were used to hire nurses and essentially create an unofficial hospital. We focus on Beatrice Winthrop, a woman from the American gentry who seeks Couney’s assistance after giving birth prematurely.

This is what we are told, but what the play is about, is less about the doctor and more about Raymond Abbot (Zachary Speigel) a fool who has a secret to confess. His friend Beatrice Winthrop (Jessica Noboa) has had a premie and her mother Candace Lahey (Phyllis Lindy) thinks the child would be better off dead. The doctor in charge (Judge Boothby) doesn’t hold out much hope and wants to send the child to Chicago. In the meantime Lt. Peter Petrovick (Pete Marzilli), wants to capture the killer of Mrs. Winthrop husband who was shot dead by his friend.

Jessica Noboa

The play by Lubomir Rzepka spends the first hour teaching us nothing about eugenics, making us wonder why we are here. We are introduced to Martin A. Couney (Mike Timoney), but Mrs. Winthrop dismisses him, until Raymond Abbot steals the child, saving the child’s life.

Mike Timoney, Jessica Noboa, Phyllis Lindy

Rzepka also directed the piece, but this was a mistake, as the actors for the most part scream for two hours.

Mike Timoney, Zachary Speigel

So little is spent on “The Infantorium”, in which visitors paid 25 cents to view prematurely born babies displayed in incubators. Thanks to Couney, who was one of the first advocates for premature babies, and his Infantoriums have become widely accredited with saving the lives of over 6,500 premature babies in the 30’s. Couney is additionally recognised as one of the first pioneers of neonatological technology. Now that is interesting.

Coney Island Nursery Rhyme: 754 9th Ave 4th floor (word of warning NO elevator). Premiering for 8 select shows July 12 through July 20th as an Equity Approved Showcase at the NuBox Theatre.

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Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway:​ Inspired By True Events A New Play by Ryan Spahn

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Off-Broadway’s Out of the Box Theatrics is presenting Inspired By True Events, a new play by Ryan Spahn.

In the green room of a community theater in Rochester, the Uptown Players are getting ready to play to a full house after opening to rave reviews the night before. When their star actor arrives in a dangerously unhinged state, they must improvise on and off stage in ways they could not have imagined. By turns hilarious, harrowing, and horrifying, Inspired By True Events follows a tenacious group of show people who must determine at what cost the show must go on.

Inspired By True Events received development workshops with New York Stage & Film, Vineyard Theatre and EST.

Knud Adams is directing, and the cast will feature Lou Liberatore, Jack DiFalco, Mallory Portnoy, and Dana Scurlock. The play opens July 17 at 154 Christopher Street (formerly the New Ohio Theatre). The play was developed by Michael Urie.

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