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He Says: Mother of the Maid and the Girl From the North Country Add Starry Power to the Public

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The season at the Public Theater in downtown NYC has begun with a starry bang. I’m not sure who is the biggest draw these days and nights in the East Village, Broadway and Screen star Glenn Close starring as the Mother of the Maid, or the iconic Bob Dylan, credited with the music and lyrics and the brilliant Conor McPherson, credited with the writing and direction of the new musical, Girl From the North Country.  Both are attracting buzz and excitement in the lobby of the Public, battling it out for the better review. If it were a match made in big-named talent heaven, the Girl might edge out the Mother on overall style and substance, but the Mother may triumph on singular appeal and performance.

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The company of Girl from the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson, with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, running at The Public Theater. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

Following a sold out run at London’s Old Vic and a West End transfer, the astonishingly gifted Conor McPherson (The Weir, The Seafarer) along with the phenomenal Bob Dylan (Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, 2016) brings to the stage the achingly beautiful story of a band of frustrated and down-trodden souls struggling to make sense of their rooming house misery in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934.  Utilizing Dylan’s inimitable songbook as the emotional core of the piece, the story floats out like a lyrical poem tinged with perfectly orchestrated music and songs, courtesy of music director, Marco Paguia (Broadway’s Everyday Rapture, SpongeBob…), orchestrations, arranger & musical supervisor Simon Hale (Broadway’s Finding Neverland), and music coordinator, Dean Sharenow (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit), effortlessly and gently blending with the emotionally painted movement and dance by movement director Lucy Hind (RSC’s Miss Littlewood). The backdrop weighs heavy on the soul, even as love and devotion are wrapped along the sides, but as styled with warmth and compassion by all involved, epitomized by the kind thoughtful and caring Dr. Walker, embodied by the empathetic Robert Joy (Public’s Head of Passes) in a small but important role, the peace floats out to us, gently, like dust stirred up by the sweeping of an old wooden floor, dancing in the angled light from a window.

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Kimber Sprawl and Sydney James Harcourt (foreground) and the company of Girl from the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson, with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, running at The Public Theater. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

The Girl from the North Country is exactly as I thought it would be from the first visual; a bass laying on its side in a expanse of dark space, highlighted by a spot casually streaming in from a low angle.  Filling out that dynamic tableau, there is an upright piano tucked into the side, and a drum set on the other, with old fashioned parlor lamps illuminating the cozy area. It feels folksy and exactly right, thanks to the thoughtful creation of scenic and costume designer Rae Smith (Lincoln Center’s War Horse), for a musical that sweeps us up as we watch the band and the cast of characters flow in from all directions. Trench coats and old fashioned hats adorn their frames as they make their way through the wet streets to the guest house of Nick Laine, played strongly by Stephen Bogardus (Broadway’s Bright Star) and his far-away but shrewdly observant wife, Elizabeth, portrayed dynamically by the always spectacular Mare Winningham (PH’s Rancho Viejo). Both are just trying to keep everyone alive another day, as the serve up stew to the forlorn. Elizabeth’s demented persona feels distracted and absent, obstinate but clear-eyed, especially when it comes to the efforts of Mrs. Neilson, portrayed smoothly by the fantastic Jeannette Bayardelle (Deaf West’s Big River) to help out with more than just chores around the house.

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Mare Winningham and Stephen Bogardus in Girl from the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson, with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, running at The Public Theater. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

The highlight for me is when Joe Scott arrives late one night looking for a dry place to sleep, and finds himself doing battle in a fight that seems pointless and unneeded. Sydney James Harcourt (Broadway’s Hamilton) is powerfully appealing as the captivating Joe Scott, heroically taking center stage at the microphone and delivering a knock down performance with ever pivot. He’s majestic and intriguing, especially when saddled up to the complex and lost Marianne Laine,  portrayed with grace and grit by Kimber Sprawl (Broadway’s A Bronx Tale). She’s the young daughter of the guest house owners who finds herself in a bit of trouble and in need of an escape. She’s layered and dynamic in her need, but solidly defiant, if she has any say in the matter, of not by being shoved into the arms of her father’s intended savior, the well-off old man, Mr. Perry, played to perfection by the subtle Tom Nelis (Broadway’s Indecent). Her brother, the equally troubled son of the owners, Gene, played laconically by the handsome Colton Ryan (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen) has his focus clearly set on a bottle of whiskey but his eye on the desperate and torn Kate Draper, played sweetly in both style and voice by the lovely Caitlin Houlahan (Broadway’s Waitress). She’s making her escape on the arm of another man, all the way to Boston, but can’t quite wrap her head around leaving Gene.

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Caitlin Houlahan and Colton Ryan in Girl from the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson, with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, running at The Public Theater. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

How does it feel to want another so badly, sings the two, accentuating the song’s emotional core gloriously in front of a pair of old fashioned microphones, thanks to solid sound design by Simon Baker (Broadway/Old Vic’s Groundhog Day). They stand, breaking our hearts in moody pools of light, designed with impeccable clarity by Mark Henderson (Broadway’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses), and wind swept horizons. The smooth and gently soulful piece, filled to the brim with desperation and hopelessness, blends compassion with desire, especially when Winningham stunningly sings to be on her own.  The rest watch patiently from the edges, as the cast of forlorn characters float around dishearteningly the songstress, reminiscent of the 1930’s dust belt of America that Rags Parkland spoke so sweetly of in his own futuristic folktale. The shady Reverend Marlowe, played with a con-man’s air by the wonderful David Pittu (Broadway’s The Front Page) will sell you a bible for $2 to find salvation, while systematically try to sell freedom for a great deal more. The ploy revolves most dynamically around the topic of simpleton Elias Burke, played spectacularly by Todd Almond (Public Works’ The Tempest) and his demeanor. He tugs at our sympathetic heart, like a slice out of Mice and Men, but it is in the frame of Marc Kudisch (Broadway’s 9 to 5) as his father, Mr. Burke who tries to protect him from the world that swirls around his boy. His red hot lush of a wife, the dynamic Luba Mason (York Theatre’s Unexpected Joy) adds another layer of frustrated love and pain, thrilling us all, especially when Mason gets behind that drum set and harnesses all the attention away from almost anyone else. The ensemble; Matthew Frederick Harris,  John Schiappa, Rachel Stern, Chelsea Lee Williams, add to the landscape with their presence, raising the roof with illustrious dancing and emotive silhouettes, creating of piece of lustrous beauty and poetic emotionality. The music wraps us in sadness and warmth, all at the same time, ushering us into and out of something so mystically beautiful, that it is almost too difficult to pin down.

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Glenn Close and Grace Van Patten in the New York premiere of Mother of the Maid, written by Jane Anderson and directed by Matthew Penn, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Glenn Close (Broadway’s Sunset Boulevard) though,is a whole other ball of mystical star power. As Isabelle Arc, the Mother of the Maid, she mesmerizes, forcing by pure majesty to make us pay attention to this simple non-majestic soul.  I did not know what the term ‘the Maid’ referred to when I first accepted the press ticket, to be honest, until days before when I told another what I was seeing, and he asked, wisely, “is the play about Joan of Arc?”  I must admit I was taken aback; that just by the title he knew, far more than I did (as I rarely read press releases before I see anything) about the fascinating new play by writer Jane Anderson (“The Wife” starring Glenn Close). I admitted quite honestly that I had no idea, but it starred Glenn friggin’ Close, so it was obvious that I would go, regardless what it was about, or what anyone had to say about it.

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Grace Van Patten and Andrew Hovelson in the New York premiere of Mother of the Maid, written by Jane Anderson and directed by Matthew Penn, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Now the story of Joan of Arc has never really captivated my heart or soul, to be frank. It seems to be a tale of passion and power that resonates with many. Last season, when I was heading to the MTC production of Shaw’s Saint Joan starring the Tony nominated actress Condola Rashad, I couldn’t help but ask the same question that I asked the night I saw the Mother. “Why oh why am I going to see this?”  And the answer still evades me after watching another telling of the tale, this time, as directed with determination and drive by Matthew Penn (Barrington”s Typhoid Mary), Joan Arc (as she’s called here), played with some style and assurance by the game Grace Van Patten (TNG’s The Whirligig) is not the center, but the sidelined star of her own story.  Playwright Anderson has shifted the focus onto her questioning and concerned mother, Isabelle, who guides us through her journey from the beginning of the visitations by St. Catherine (“She’s a lovely saint“) to the bitter tragic end.

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Dermot Crowley and Glenn Close in the New York premiere of Mother of the Maid, written by Jane Anderson and directed by Matthew Penn, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

The backdrop is magnificent, with scenic design by John Lee Beatty (Public’s Sweat), obvious but detailed costuming by Jane Greenwood (MTC’s The Little Foxes), dynamic lighting by Lap Chi Chu (Public’s Oedipus El Rey), and solid sound design by Alexander Sovronsky (Broadway’s Cyrano de Bergerac) that raises the visual to heavenly heights. And with extraordinary days ahead and miles to cover, the Mother of the Maid rightfully exclaims, “Aren’t I something“.  Well, to be honest, the play’s a bit forced and casually written, somewhat similar to the much smarter and deeper Doll’s House, Part 2, in the way it blends a modern flair of language with characters we know from theatrical history.  Kelley Curran (TFANA’s The Winter’s Tale) sparkles as Lady of the Court (a part normally played by Kate Jennings Grant), and she adds an extra layer of insight into a pretty dull 300 mile walk through the mud led by a magnetic and excited guide. But this leader has little to add to the journey above and beyond what we already know. She is pretty fun to watch and listen too though, making a hard trek a little lighter and more pleasant.

Dermot Crowley (Broadway’s The Weir) portrays her husband, Jacques Arc solidly, as a man who has a hard time wrapping his logical brain around almost anything besides his daily life on the farm. That doesn’t mean he isn’t wise and percise, especially when it comes to the spiritual explanations of Father Gilbert, played clearly by Daniel Pearce (Public’s Hamlet). It feels more and more like a game of wills and strategies, sword play for men who want to win regardless of the moral cost (sorta like the GOP). He uses the Church generously as armor for protection against any accusations of misinformation or misleading directions. Joan’s brother, Pierre, played heroically by the very willing Andrew Hovelson (NYTW’s An Ordinary Muslim) fluctuates as quick as a pendulum from torturing big brother to avid believer and support system. Basically he is the self-serving relative, armoring himself in whatever way suits his enlivened life style and heightens his own ambition.

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Andrew Hovelson and Glenn Close in the New York premiere of Mother of the Maid, written by Jane Anderson and directed by Matthew Penn, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: 

I’m still not sure what the point of this version of Joannie’s tale is, as her mother is want to call her. We’ve seen it all before in Shaw’s play, and this telling, even with the lovely third person monologues that frame the piece, does little to broaden or deepen our experience of that flawed woman and saint. It takes itself as seriously as Joan did, and look where it got her. Like Close, she will be remembered as a Saint, and a Star, but the actual journey is painful slogging through the mud on a long journey to a place we’ve already been to before.

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Kate Jennings Grant, Olivia Gilliatt, and Glenn Close in the New York premiere of Mother of the Maid, written by Jane Anderson and directed by Matthew Penn, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

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

Off Broadway

A Sign Of The Times Revists The Sounds of The 60’s

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I grew up with the songs of Petula Clark, The Monkeys, Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield and Lesley Gore, so I could not wait to see this production. These songs from my childhood are all featured in the new off-Broadway show A Sign of the Times, playing at New World Stages. The problem here is Joseph Church’s orchestration, musical direction by Britt Bonney and dance arrangements by David Dabbon don’t do justice to “I Know a Place,”“The Boy From New York City,” “It’s A Sign of The Times,” “Call Me,”“Downtown,” “The Shoop Shoop Song,” “Rescue Me” and more. They also for the most part, do not have singers who understand the genre, which has a pop sound not a musical theatre cadence.

The book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman (based on a story by Richard J. Robin), is over the top camp in the first act, but settles down in the second. Gabriel Barre’s direction is also inconsistent, which you wish for both of these element to be better as they take on issues such as sexism, racism, women’s rights and the Vietnam War.

Chilina Kennedy (center) stars in the off-Broadway premiere of A Sign of the Times, directed by Gabriel Barre, for the York Theatre Company at New World Stages. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

We begin in Centerville, Ohio New Year’s Eve 1965 as Cindy (Chilina Kennedy) decides she wants a career and not marriage to her boyfriend Matt (Justin Matthew Sargent). Cindy longs to go New York City, and make it in the world as a photographer.

Akron Lanier Watson (center) plays Cody in A Sign of the Times, directed by Gabriel Barre, for the York Theatre Company at New World Stages. Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

On the bus to NYC Cindy meets Cody (Akron Lanier Watson) “President Emeritus of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, University of Buffalo Chapter.” He is on a mission to improve race relations.

Cindy finds an apartment with Tanya (Crystal Lucas-Perry) who wants to make it in the music business.

Cindy gets a job and a romance with sexist Brian (Ryan Silverman), as Tanya hooks up with Cody, as Matt is sent to Vietnam.

In the end a happy ending transpires and you are left with some moments that leave you singing the soundtrack that is oh so singable.

As the lead Ms. Kennedy does not have a powerful singing voice until Act 2, where she excels in “You Don’t Own Me”. She also makes you understand Cindy’s dreams and longing for independence.

Who steals the show is Lucas-Perry singing “Rescue Me” and “Somethings Got A Hold On Me”.

Matthew Sargent in the beginning vocally lapses into the musical theatre genre, but when he allows his voice to get gravelly “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Eve of Destruction,” he excels.

Lanier Watson also has moments, but isn’t as strong as he should be vocally.

Silverman is strong vocally and makes chauvinism as creepy as a snake shedding it’s skin.

The choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter, is a hit and miss with some of the ensemble making it look effortless and the other half making it look like they are trying too much.

Johanna Pan’s costumes are also hit and miss.

In the second act  “Gimme Some Lovin” “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)””Don’t Sleep In the Subway” and others really make you miss this infectious music that guided our lives.

What does shine is Evan Adamson’s scenic design; Ken Billington’s lighting; Shannon Slaton’s sound design; Brad Peterson’s projection design; and J. Jared Janas’ hair, wig and makeup. Also before the show old TV commercials put you in the mood.

What does make A Sign of the Times shine is that you really get to hear the lyrics of these songs and really see how songwriting was done. Ahh to have the music and innocents back again.

A Sign of the Times: New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street.

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Broadway

Theatre News: Here We Are, Water For Elephants, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Tempest: A Surround Sound Odyssey, FIVE: The Parody Musical, Forbidden Broadway

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Producers Tom Kirdahy, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, and The Stephen Sondheim Trust announced today that the critically acclaimed world premiere production of Here We Are, the new musical from David Ives and Stephen Sondheim that debuted at The Shed’s Griffin Theater in 2023, was filmed by the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and added to its collection. The complete show was filmed by TOFT in December of 2023 and is now available and free to view by anyone with a library card.

 Here We Are is directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, and features Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos.

The musical features a book by Tony Award nominee David Ives, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and is inspired by two films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel.

Here We Are opened on October 22, 2023 at The Shed and performed its final show on January 21, 2024.

Water For Elephants is announcing their Tent Talkback Series with members of the creative team following selected Saturday matinees between March 2 through April 6, at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street).  Creative team members will include book writer Rick Elice and composers and lyricists PigPen Theatre Co.  The Water For Elephants Tent Talkback Series will be a moderated 15-minute discussion about the creative process and development of the show and commence at the conclusion of selected Saturday matinee performances.

Tent Talkback Series Schedule

Saturday, March 2, matinee performance

Saturday, March 9, matinee performance

Saturday, March 30, matinee performance

Saturday, April 6, matinee performance

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 three-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher), a soaring score by the acclaimed PigPen Theatre Co. (The Tale of Despereaux) and is directed by Tony Award nominee Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo).

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 Ross Beckwith McLeish, Michael Mendez, Samuel Renaud, Marissa Rosen, Alexandra Gaelle Royer, Asa Somers, Charles South, Sean Stack, Matthew Varvar and Michelle West.

After losing what matters most, a young man jumps a moving train unsure of where the road will take him and finds a new home with the remarkable crew of a traveling circus, and a life—and love—beyond his wildest dreams. Seen through the eyes of his older self, his adventure becomes a poignant reminder that if you choose the ride, life can begin again at any age.

The award-winning Sea Dog Theater’s production of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, based on the book by Albom, directed by Erwin Maas (NY Times Critic’s Pick for Poison and A Kid Like Rishi), starring Tony Award winner and Emmy nominee Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd original cast, CBS’s “Blue Bloods”) and three-time NYIT “Best Actor” nominee Chris Domig.Tuesdays with Morrie runs March 1 – 23 in a limited engagement at St. George’s Episcopal Church (209 East 16 St.) Opening night is March 7.Two post-show talkbacks are scheduled during the run. On Monday, March 4, Len Cariou and Judy Kaye will discuss working with Stephen Sondheim. On Monday, March 18, Len and Abigail Hawk will discuss working on CBS’s “Blue Bloods.”Tuesdays with Morrie is the humorous and poignant story of career-obsessed journalist Mitch Albom, who sixteen years after graduation serendipitously learns that his former sociology professor Morrie is battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. What starts as a simple visit, turns into a weekly pilgrimage and the last class in the meaning of life.Featuring vocalist Sally Shaw. Original music written and performed on piano by Chris Domig.

The Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC, Executive Director Khady Kamara Nunez and Artistic Director Bill Rauch) announces complete casting and creative team for An American Soldier at the new performing arts center at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.  An American Soldier will premiere in New York during AANHPI Heritage Month with performances starting May 12 through May 19, 2024.

An American Soldier will feature principal cast members Hannah Cho, Alex DeSocio, Nina Yoshida Nelsen and Brian Vu. Ensemble members include Ben Brady, Cierra Byrd, James C. Harris, Shelén Hughes, Joshua Sanders, Christian Simmons and understudies, Misoon Ghim, Luke Harnish and Angela Yam. Photos of the company are available here.

An American Soldier features scenic design by Daniel Ostling, costume design by Linda Cho, lighting design by Jeanette Yew and multi-media design by Nick Hussong, joining the previously announced creative team members Huang Ruo (composer), David Henry Hwang (libretto), Carolyn Kuan (conductor), and Chay Yew (director).

On October 3, 2011, Chinese-American Army Pvt. Danny Chen was found dead in a guard tower at his base in Afghanistan. Based on his story and the ensuing courts-martial of Chen’s fellow soldiers, this New York City premiere opera tells the powerful true story of a young soldier from Manhattan’s Chinatown who sought to serve his country, only to find his biggest threat was the very people who swore to protect him.

Told through the multidimensional music of Huang Ruo (M. Butterfly, Book of Mountains and Seas) with libretto by Tony and Grammy winner David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Soft Power), and directed by Obie Award winner Chay Yew (Cambodian Rock Band, Sweatshop Overlord), An American Soldier is a powerful and unforgettable experience.

Due to popular demand, Knock at the Gate producers Joseph Discher and Sean Hudock announced a two-week extension of their audio immersive streaming production of The Tempest: A Surround Sound Odyssey, now available to stream virtually through Saturday, March 16.

Tickets for the stream are $9.99 and are available for purchase at KnockattheGate.com. The broadcast is available worldwide on all internet connected devices with a dimmable screen and a pair of headphones. Audiences will receive a link and password to access the listening portal prior to the broadcast.

The cast includes Hale Appleman (SyFy’s “The Magicians,” FX’s “American Horror Story”) as ‘Ariel,’ Tony® and Grammy® Award nominee Emily Skeggs (Broadway’s Fun Home) as ‘Miranda,’ Joel de la Fuente (Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle) as ‘Prospero,’ and Derek Wilson (Amazon’s “Gen V,” Hulu’s “Future Man”) as ‘Caliban.’ Rounding out the cast are Michael Daly, Sean Hudock, Greg Jackson, Maurice Jones, Raphael Nash Thomspon, Shane Taylor, Patrick Toon.

Due to popular demand, producers of FIVE: The Parody Musical have put a new block of tickets on sale through April 21. The world-premiere production, initially announced as a limited four-week engagement, will now play an additional 6 weeks Off-Broadway at Theater 555 (555 W 42nd St, NYC). For tickets and further information, visit www.FiveTheMusical.com.

Look out SIX, here comes FIVE: The Parody Musical. Henry VIII and his six wives had nothing on Donald, the 45th, and these five ladies. Poised to make America laugh again, FIVE is an 80-minute, irreverent musical comedy revue starring some of the women in the life of America’s past President. Ivana, Marla, and Melania are joined by crowd favorite Stormy and daddy’s girl Ivanka as they each take the spotlight and sing their hearts out for your vote.

Presented by Five Musical LLC, FIVE: The Parody Musical features a book and lyrics by Shimmy Braun & Moshiel Newman Daphna, music and lyrics by Billy Recce (A Musical About Star Wars, Little Black Book), and direction and choreography by Jen Wineman (Dog Man: The Musical, F#%king Up Everything).

FIVE: The Parody Musical features Anyae Anasia as Ivana, Gabriella Joy Rodriguez (The Color Purple Tour) as Marla, Jaime Lyn Beatty (Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical, Starkid Founding Member) as Melania, Gabi Garcia as Stormy, and Hannah Bonnett (Legally Blonde National Tour) as Ivanka, with a special appearance by drag legend Jasmine Rice LaBeija as Hillary Clinton.

Forbidden Broadway will open on Broadway titled Forbidden Broadway on Broadway: Merrily We Stole a Song. It will begin previews on July 29 and open August 15 at the Hayes Theater. Creator Gerard Alessandrini, a Tony honoree for the musical’s Off-Broadway stagings, will direct the Broadway production and it will play a limited run through November 1.The musical revue will feature a five-person cast, who will be joined weekly by guest stars. The production will parody Back to the Future, Company, The Great Gatsby, Hell’s Kitchen, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, The Notebook, Sweeney Todd and Water for Elephants. Forbidden Broadway on Broadway is produced by Broadway & Beyond Theatricals (Ryan Bogner, Victoria Lang and Tracey Stroock McFarland) in association with John Freedson and Harriet Yellin.”

 

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Events

A Look At The Vineyard Theatre’s Starry Gala

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Photo Patti LuPone and Jesse Tyler Ferguson© Bruce Glikas @bruglikas@broadwaybruce_

Here are photos from the Vineyard Theatre’s 2024 Annual Gala honoring Tony Award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Take Me Out) held Monday, February 26, 2024, at the Edison Ballroom, the festive evening included performances by Sara Bareilles with Rosie’s Theatre Kids, Patti LuPone, Lea DeLaria, Celia Keenan-Bolger and more. Sarah Saltzberg served as host and Hiram Delgado, Bill Heck, Ken Marks, Michael Oberholtzer and Eduardo Ramos paid hilarious tribute to their Take Me Out co-star.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson at Vineyard Theatre 2024 Gala © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Chelsea Clinton at Vineyard Theatre 2024 Gala © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Also attendance to support were Chelsea Clinton, Kevin Cahoon, Crystal Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden, Brandon Victor Dixon, Renata Friedman, Montego Glover, Michael R. Jackson, Haskell King, Christine Lahti, John Lavelle, Luke Macfarlane, Justin Mikita, Deirdre O’Connell, Hadi Tabbal and Rolanda Watts.

Celia Keenan-Bolger, Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton, Sara Bareilles, Kevin Cahoon, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Lea DeLaria © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Christopher Shinn, Emily Bergl and Luke Macfarlane © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Celebratory toasts were also given to Rosemarie Bray, Educator at Union Square Academy of Health Sciences and Christina Poon, General Manager of W Hotel – New York – Union Square. The Gala will be

Montego Glover, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Sara Bareilles © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

The Gala was co-directed by Leigh Silverman (Suffs, Harry Clarke, Sandra) and Colin Hanlon (DOT, “Modern Family”) with musical direction by Vadim Feichtner (Spelling Bee, Falsettos, New Brain).

Sara Bareilles and Rosie’s Theatre Kids © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

The Gala host committee includes the Patrick J. Adams, Blavatnik Family Foundation, John Barrie and Betsy Smith, Kathleen and Henry Chalfant, Ken and Rande Greiner, Mark Lerner and Steven Frank, Padma Lakshmi, Sue Marks, Justin Mikita, David J. Schwartz andTrudy Zohn, Annette Stover and Richard Feiner and Julia Vitullo-Martin. Under the artistic leadership of Douglas Aibel and Sarah Stern, Vineyard Theatre develops and produces new plays and musicals that push the boundaries of what theatre can be and do. For over 40 years, The Vineyard has nurtured a community of fearless theatre makers whose work has expanded the form, the field, and the larger culture. Vineyard Theatre has transferred eleven shows to Broadway, seven directly after their acclaimed Vineyard premieres: Lucas Hnath’s Dana H. and Tina Satter’s Is This A Room (both New York Times Best Theatre of 2021); Paula Vogel’s Indecent; Nicky Silver’s The Lyons; Kander, Ebb and Thompson’s The Scottsboro Boys; Bell and Bowen’s [title of show]; and Avenue Q by Marx, Lopez and Whitty (Tony Award, Best Musical). In recent years, four additional shows launched at The Vineyard have been revived in their first Broadway productions: Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive; Lanie Robertson’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar And Grill; Becky Mode’s Fully Committed; and Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Three Tall Women. From our home in NYC’s Union Square, The Vineyard develops and premieres new plays and musicals which go on to be seen around the country and the world. Recently, Jeremy O. Harris’ play “Daddy” (2019) received its London premiere at the Almeida; Ngozi Anyanwu’s Good Grief (2018) and David Cale’s Harry Clarke (2017) were recorded by Audible; Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Gloria (2014), a finali st for the Pulitzer Prize, transferred to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre; Paula Vogel’s Tony Award-winning Indecent (2016) aired on PBS’s “Great Performances” and was one of the most-produced plays nationwide in 2019; and Oscar Nominee Colman Domingo’s Dot (2016) is being adapted into an AMC series. The Vineyard’s first major digital work, Lessons in Survival, was named one of the top theatrical experiences of 2020 by the New York Times and has been viewed by audiences in more than 40 countries. The Vineyard’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, Susan Stroman Directing Award, and Colman Domingo Award provide residencies to early-career artists and our education programs serve over 700 New York City public high school students annually, culminating in Developing Artists’ REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival. The Roth-Vogel New Play Commission is awarded annually to a mid to late-career playwright to create and develop a new play with The Vineyard. Our work and artists have been honored with numerous awards including Pulitzer Prizes and Tony Awards, and the company is proud to be the recipient of special Drama Desk, Obie, and Lucille Lortel Awards for artistic excellence and support of artists. 

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Broadway

More Theatre News:  James Monroe Iglehart, Bonnie Milligan, J. Harrison Ghee, Santino Fontana, Len Cariou, Peter Filichia and Patricia Birch

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After winning rave reviews in New Orleans and Chicago, Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Disney’s AladdinHamiltonSpamalot) will star as jazz legend and American icon Louis Armstrong in A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical on Broadway in Fall 2024.

Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart will play
Louis Armstrong in A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical,
opening November 11, 2024 at Studio 54. ©Jeremy Daniel

Produced by Thomas E. Rodgers, Jr., Renee Rodgers, Martian Entertainment (Carl D. White and Gregory Rae) and Vanessa Williams and Elizabeth Curtis, A Wonderful World will open on Monday, November 11, 2024 at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). Previews will begin on October 16, 2024. Tickets will be available at CriterionTicketing.com, with the on-sale date to be announced in coming weeks.  With a book by Aurin Squire (“This Is Us,” “The Good Fight”) and featuring songs made famous by Louis Armstrong, A Wonderful World is co-conceived by Drama Desk Award winner and Tony Award nominee Christopher Renshaw (The King and ITaboo) andAndrew Delaplaine, and directed by Renshaw.  Cast and full creative team for A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical will be announced soon.  Last fall, Iglehart starred in the pre-Broadway production of A Wonderful World in New Orleans and Chicago, where he won raves for his performance. The Chicago Tribune called him “just fabulous! – a knockout Louis Armstrong.” The Chicago Sun-Times, cheered, “James Monroe Iglehart gives a phenomenal, dynamic and vivacious lead performance as the wondrous Louis Armstrong.”  “I am so excited to bring this wonderful brand-new musical to Broadway,” James Monroe Iglehart commented. “American music wouldn’t be what it is today without Louis Armstrong and what is Broadway if not American music? ‘Pops’ doesn’t get enough credit for his contribution to our entertainment industry or our country. I know I have never studied, researched, or prepared for anything as much in my career as I have for this role. I feel such a strong connection and an obligation to bring his voice, his music, and his story to the one place where it can be presented in all its glory – Broadway! I can’t wait for you all to become a part of A Wonderful World.”

Maestra Music, the Obie Award-winning nonprofit organization founded by Georgia Stitt to support the women and nonbinary musicians in the musical theatre industry, is pleased to announce hosts Tony Award-winner Bonnie Milligan and Tony Award-winner J. Harrison Ghee for this year’s Amplify 2024, directed by Jessica Ryan (Between Riverside and Crazy Live Broadcast). This fourth-annual concert and fundraising event features stories, conversations, and musical performances from an impressive array of Broadway stars, composers, music directors, and more. Amplify 2024 will take place on Monday, March 25, 2024, at 8:00 pm at Sony Hall (235 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036). Tickets for the in-person event are on sale now at maestramusic.org/amplify/.

Amplify 2024 celebrates the rich creativity and ingenuity of Maestras in musical theatre, ranging from legendary to emerging talents.

The performers showcasing the musical brilliance of renowned composers and lyricists in this diverse and dynamic lineup embody the spirit of creativity and inclusivity in musical theatre including Tony Award-winner Santino Fontana (Tootsie), Two-time Tony Award-nominee Amanda Green (Mr. Saturday Nightand Hands on a Hardbody), Brooke Ishibashi (Into the Woods, Broadway), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Parade, Broadway), Mary Kate Morrissey (Wicked, Broadway), Liam Pearce (How to Dance in Ohio, Broadway), Jasmine Amy Rogers (BOOP! The Musical, Chicago), Sushma Saha (Interstate, Off-Broadway), Jordan Tyson (The Notebook, Broadway), Joy Woods (Six, Broadway), and Grammy Award-winning Nicole Zuraitis.

The celebrated composers and lyricists include Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen), Susan Birkenhead (BOOP! The Musical), Amanda Green (Female Troubles), Rebekah Greer Melocik (How to Dance in Ohio), Brandy Hoang Collier, Clare Fuyuko Bierman, and Erika Ji (Yoko’s Husband’s Killer’s Japanese Wife Gloria), Christine Lavin (InunDATED), with newly added Bree Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan (The Mad Ones), Melissa Li and Kit Yan(Interstate) Ingrid Michaelson (The Notebook), and Lynne Shankel.

Music Director Julianne B. Merrill (My Son’s A Queer) leads a band made up entirely of Maestra members: Monica Davis (violin), Ann Klein (guitar), Mary Ann McSweeney (bass),  Merrill (piano), Noelle Rueschman (reeds), Shirazette Tinnin (drums), and Clerida Eltimé (cello). Kristy Norter serves as the Music Coordinator and Lexi Vollero is music assistant.

  • Date & Time: Monday, March 25, 2024, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:30 pm)
  • Venue: Sony Hall, 235 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
  • Tickets: maestramusic.org/amplify/

Len Cariou

The Theatre World Awards Board of Directors has announced two of the individuals to be honored at 78th Annual Theatre World Awards to be held on Monday evening, June 10, 2024 beginning at 7:00 p.m. at a Theater Venue TBA. Tony Award winner Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Little Night Music, Applause) will receive the 11th Annual John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, while acclaimed theatre journalist Peter Filichia will receive a 2024 TWA Special Awardfor his quarter-century of service to the organization. The recipient of the 15th Annual Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater, and the 2024 Theatre World Award Honorees for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance will be announced in early May.

Hosted annually by well-known theater journalist, Peter Filichia, the 78th Annual Theatre World Awards Ceremony will be produced by Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors/Dale Badway. The Musical Director is Michael Lavine.

Theatre World Award winner (1979) Ken Jennings who played ‘Tobias’ in the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd will perform in a musical tribute to Len Cariou.

Patricia Birch, Harold Prince, Candide

Patricia Birch, Choreographer, Harold Prince, Director Photo Stephen Sorokoff

Amas Musical Theatre (Donna Trinkoff, Artistic Producer), New York City’s award-winning pioneer in diversity and multi-ethnic casting in the performing arts since 1968, will celebrate its 55th Anniversary at its annual Gala Benefit Concert on Monday, May 13, 2024 at Baruch Performing Arts Center (Engelman Recital Hall) One Bernard Baruch Way (25th Street -between Lexington & 3rd Avenues). For more information, please visit http://www.amasmusical.org/. The evening will benefit Amas Musical Theatre’s education programs.

The gala evening will begin at 6:00pm with a champagne toast. At 7:00pm the evening continues with a concert performance of “A Lotta Night Music,” directed by Jonathan Cerullo. A cast of Broadway luminaries will perform songs from such shows as Grease, They’re Playing Our Song, and A Little Night Music, among others. Teens from The Rosetta LeNoire Musical Theatre Academy will be part of the evening.

The evening will culminate with the presentation of the 2024 “Rosie” Award to Honorees award-winning choreographer and director Patricia Birch (A Little Night Music, Parade), Tony Award-wining actor Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd, Applause), and Butler Tibbets, a beloved corporate sponsor for Amas programs for many years.

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Broadway

Theatre News: Legacy: An Evening with Maria Friedman and Friends, Heart of Rock and Roll, Melba Moore, Gun & Powder and Bordello The Musical

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The new, one-night-only concert event Legacy: An Evening with Maria Friedman and Friends will celebrate the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim, Marvin Hamlisch and Michel Legrand on Monday, March 4, 2024 at 8PM at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre (141 West 44th Street). The evening will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Stephen Sondheim Foundation and The Marvin Hamlisch International Music Awards. Tickets, which start at $100, and VIP sponsorship packages are now on sale at broadwaycares.org/mariafriedman.

Four-time Olivier Award winner and director of this season’s critically acclaimed Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along, Maria Friedman has crafted a special one-night-only concert, with friends old and new, that will explore the legacies of three titans of 20th century musical theatre. The evening will showcase Maria Friedman, Santino Fontana, Savy Jackson and a special company of extraordinary young talent performing from the songbooks of celebrated composers Stephen Sondheim, Marvin Hamlisch, Michel Legrand, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Bernstein, along with a special surprise performance from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in which Friedman famously starred as The Narrator alongside Donny Osmond.

 Collaborating with musical director and pianist Theo Jamieson, Legacy: An Evening with Maria Friedman and Friends is directed by Tony Award Winner Christopher Gattelli.

Corey Cott

Producers Hunter Arnold, Tyler Mitchell and Kayla Greenspan welcomed the company of The Heart of Rock and Roll as rehearsals began for the upcoming Broadway musical, which is set to begin previews on March 29th, 2024.

Hunter Arnold, Huey Lewis, Gordon Greenberg, Lorin Latarro

The Heart of Rock and Roll, the new musical inspired by the iconic songs of Huey Lewis and The News, will open on Broadway at The James Earl Jones Theatre (138 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036) on Monday, April 22, 2024.

Hunter Arnold and Huey Lewis

The principal cast features Corey Cott, McKenzie Kurtz, Josh Breckenridge, F. Michael Haynie, Zoe Jensen, Tamika Lawrence, Raymond J. Lee, John-Michael Lyles, Orville Mendoza, Billy Harrigan Tighe and John Dossett.  

McKenzie Kurtz

The cast also includes Mike Baerga, Tommy Bracco, TyNia René Brandon, Olivia Cece, Taylor Marie Daniel, Lindsay Joan, Ross Lekites, Robin Masella, Kara Menendez, Joe Moeller, Jennifer Noble, Fredric Rodriguez Odgaard, Michael Olaribigbe, Kevin Pariseau, Robert Pendilla and Leah Read.

Kevin Pariseau and John Dossett

Set in 1987 and jam-packed with Huey Lewis megahits like “Do You Believe in Love”, “Hip to Be Square” , and “If This Is It,” The Heart of Rock and Roll centers on a couple of twenty-somethings on the cusp of their futures—Bobby, a rock and roller who’s traded his guitar for the corporate ladder and his boss Cassandra who’s always put the family business first. When they both get a second shot at their dreams, it’ll take “The Power of Love” and a little help from their friends — to figure out what kind of life they really want.

Tommy Bracco

The Heart of Rock and Roll premiered in San Diego at The Old Globe, helmed by Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director Barry Edelstein and the Audrey S. Geisel Managing Director Timothy J. Shields, in 2018.

Melba Moore is paying tribute to the ladies of Broadway and taking a look back on her own career with a new production opening March 15 and 16 at 54 Below.

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee- Producing Artistic Director; Michael Stotts- Executive Director), recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award, is pleased to announce the full cast and creative team for the new musical Gun & Powder, with book and lyrics by Angelica Chéri and music by Ross Baum. Directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, choreographed by Tiffany Rea-Fisher and music directed by Austin Cook, the production will play April 4 – May 5, 2024 at Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive). Opening night is Sunday, April 14.Gun & Powder will feature Liisi LaFontaine (West End: Dreamgirls, Moulin Rouge!; Regional: Born for This) as Martha Clarke,Ciara Renée (PMP: The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Broadway: Waitress; TV: “The Flash,” “Arrow”) as Mary Clarke, Jeannette Bayardelle (Broadway: Girl from the North Country, The Color Purple) as Tallulah Clarke, Aaron James McKenzie (Broadway: A Beautiful Noise; TV: “Bull”) as Elijah, Hunter Parrish (Broadway: To Kill a Mockingbird; TV: “Weeds,” “The Other Black Girl”) as Jesse Whitewater, and Jisel Soleil Ayon (National Tour: Hamilton, Waitress) as Standby for Mary and Martha.The ensemble of Gun & Powder will include Rickens Anantua, Reed Campbell, Carrie Compere, Meghan Olivia Corbett, Joann Gilliam, Francesca Granell, Aaron Arnell Harrington, Mary Claire King, Malik Shabazz Kitchen, Rayshun LaMarr, Zonya Love, Tiffany Mann, Tony Perry, Adam Roberts, Hank Santos, Christine Shepard, Katie Thompson, Aurelia Williams, and Jason SweetTooth Williams.

Gun & Powder is a new musical inspired by the true story of Mary (Renée) and Martha Clarke (LaFontaine), African American twin sisters who take extraordinary measures to settle their mother’s sharecropper debt and save her home. In 1893 Texas, the Sisters Clarke—passing as white—embark on a remarkable Wild West adventure that examines race, family, and identity with two electrifying women who transformed from farm girls to outlaws to legends.

The company of Gun & Powder at Paper Mill Playhouse. Photo by Billy Swann.

The production features orchestrations by John Clancy (Broadway: Kimberly Akimbo, The Notebook), scenic design by Beowulf Boritt (PMP: The Wanderer, Murder on the Orient Express; Broadway: Harmony; New York, New York; The Scottsboro Boys), costume design by Emilio Sosa (PMP: On Your Feet!; Broadway: Sweeney Todd; Ain’t No Mo’; Good Night, Oscar), lighting design by Adam Honoré (PMP: After Midnight; Broadway: Purlie VictoriousAin’t No Mo’), sound design by Connor Wang (Broadway: How to Dance in Ohio; American Repertory Theatre: Evita), wig, hair, and makeup design by J. Jared Janas & Tony Lauro (PMP: Clue; Broadway: Sweeney Todd, & Juliet), fight direction by Sordelet, Inc./Rick Sordelet (PMP: The Wanderer, Fiddler on the Roof; Broadway: Take Me Out), and intimacy direction by Crista Marie Jackson (Broadway: Between Riverside and Crazy; Film: Dumb Money, No Hard Feelings). Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting. Jakob W. Plummer is the Production Stage Manager.

The York Theatre Company (James Morgan, Producing Artistic Director, Marie Grace LaFerrara, Executive Director) “Where Musicals Come to Life,” will present developmental readings of Bordello, The Musical, with book by Barbara Bellman and Joan Ross Sorkin, music by Emiliano Messiez, lyrics by Barbara Bellman, music direction by Steven Gross and directed by Will Pomerantz. The presentations by invitation only will take place on Thursday, February 29 and Friday, March 1. These presentations are part of The York Theatre Company’s Developmental Reading Series. General Management by Hillel Friedmanfrom Evan Bernadin Productions. Executive Producer is Rashad Chambers.

Synopsis: Set in the colorful world of Buenos Aires in 1920 and inspired by historical events surrounding Raquel Liberman, Bordello is the story of a Polish immigrant who is forced into prostitution and risks everything to bring an international Jewish sex-trafficking ring to justice. This never-been-told-before tale of love and bravery has a musical theatre score that incorporates tango, klezmer and other sounds of the period.

Cast: Dana Aber, Harrison Bryan, Emily Brockway, Ellie Biron, Alison Cimmet, Omar Cepero-Lopez, Cicily Daniels, Ryan Duncan, Jamie LaVerdiere, Jillian Louis, Benjamin Magnuson, Samantha Massell, Shereen Pimentel, Cheryl Stern, Pablo Torres, and Eric Van Tielen. Stage Manager is Michael Wizorek.

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