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He Says: Second Stage Serves Up the Tastiest of Sandwiches with Clyde’s by Nottage

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Inside Clyde’s, it’s all about the recipe, the composition, and the layering. It’s a clever orientation, and as we watch these fine fine actors do their little tango becoming “one with the sandwich“, we can’t help but be mesmerized by the intense interaction that exists between these four characters that stand side by side in the kitchen, doing the main grunt work that makes that place, and in this piece of theatre thrive. Gathered together in the hot-fired heart of this fascinatingly adept new play by Lynn Nottage (Mlima’s TaleThe Secret Life of Bees) making its Broadway premiere at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater, the mystic poetry of these cooks in the kitchen is on fire with dreamy energy and a solid spiced-up spark. Directed with force by Kate Whoriskey (Signature’s Fabulation, Or the Re-Education of Undine), Clyde’s is an intoxicating toxic, watching them create magic out of a chicken sandwich in a standard roadside diner. It is true theatrical art, crafting a layered sandwich of a play with this much flavor and heat. Dishing it up strong, the play’s strength is all in the electric writing and the enacting of it that makes the seasoned creation sparkle. Clyde’s doesn’t have the weight or the sting of her Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, Sweat or Ruined, but for what it lacks in grand themes, it certainly makes up for in personal storytelling and connection. 

As the magnificently layered set opens up, giving us a window to see beyond the service counter, designed with an impeccable eye for reality and fantasy by Takeshi Kata (2ST’s Man From Nebraska), we are drawn to the fiery tough-as-nails owner of the place, Clyde, played with epic deliciousness by the amazing Uzo Aduba (Trafalgar Studios’s The Maids; “Orange Is The New Black“). She’s the powerhouse in this room, controlling it with every move of her meticulously crafted presence, thanks to some strong aggressive work by costume designer Jennifer Moeller (Public’s Tiny Beautiful Things). It’s a strong and intimidating character, and the fiery energy given off is almost visible, especially to the kitchen’s Zen master sandwich-maker, Montrellous, portrayed strongly by Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us“), who tries with all his might to find salvation in his epicurean dreams. 

In his desire to elevate the art of sandwich-making in this run-of-the-mill diner, controlled with almost a cruel fist by Clyde, he’s basically a luncheonette Shaman; an inspiration and safety net to the others who work there, all just-released convicts, who can’t find any other establishment that would take them. With Clyde as their devilish gatekeeper, the diner is their lucky break while also being their internalized jailhouse torture chamber, keeping them safe but never letting them forget why they are trapped inside those kitchen walls. Almost capsizing the ship-like kitchen with her moves and her fierce attitude, Letitia, a single mother, fantastically played to the hilt by Kara Young (MCC’s All the Natalie Portmans), finds freedom to move to her own beat. Struggling to take care of her daughter, the energy she gives off is a survivor scared of what might be coming just around the corner, but holding tight to the security she finds in that hothouse kitchen. 

Standing alongside her is the lovestruck former addict Rafael, powerfully portrayed by Reza Salazar (Public’s Oedipus El Rey), who is, along with Letitia, who he nervously is smitten with, constantly trying to rise up to the hypnotic and esoteric level of their sandwich mentor, Montrellous. The backstories of these three slowly sift out, and their connection and attachment only add to the sharp edge that cuts through the air of Clyde’s. But one of the most arresting souls to walk through those doors is the newcomer, naturally, the hard-looking but complicated Jason, beautifully portrayed with layers of vulnerability by Edmund Donovan, a detailed and intuitive actor who was absolutely magnificent in both LCT‘s Greater Clements and Rattlestick‘s Lewiston/Clarkson. He serves up a soft internal underbelly to this damaged white man, covered in Aryan Nation-style tatts, who just got out of prison, and is finding the road to stability and connection much harder than he ever imagined. He is the meat to this theatrical sandwich, with the other three cooks the tasty spicy condiments, and Clyde and Montrellous the opposing slices of bread. 

It’s quite the inventive sandwich and backroom tale which is really about those three ex-convicts answering to the ding of the order bell, with the other two characters, also ex-convicts, mainly adding opposing fuel to the hot fire that is building up in that kitchen. Their engagement and survival of Clyde’s abusive treatment is something that is totally hypnotic to witness, reaching levels that are almost heroic. “Social hour’s over.” Clyde states, “Pick up the pace, or tomorrow I can get a fresh batch of nobodies to do your job. And I’ll make sure you go back to whatever hell you came from.” The way she walks in the room throws a scorching level of heat to the moment, making everyone in arm’s reach nervous that they might be the one whose hand is held close enough to the fire to be burned. It’s tense and disturbing, but it is also the spark that pushes these three together, and helps them try to rise about the monotony and blandness of the sandwiches they prepare at this particular truckstop diner.

Casting this character’s shadow back to Nottage’s Sweat, Donovan’s just-released Jason seems to be the product and outcome of the violent Jason that brought havoc to that Pennsylvania factory town in that 2017 play. His development through Clyde’s is the juice that makes this play sizzle in our mouth. Taking in his undercurrent of energy and anger, Donovan is masterful as he stands up or down to the soul-crushing art of Clyde’s epic swing and power stance. The displays of fierceness and fear that sautés in the heart of Jason, and really everyone who has to endure Clyde’s brutality, is the fuel to this dynamic fire. It’s what makes us lean in and take note, and even though Aduba’s devilish demeanor rules the roost, decked out in black and red leather flourishes, the focus never leaves Jason and his two cohorts making sandwiches in record time and dreaming about a more flavourful and free future. 

Never fully diving into the surreal, as suggested in some spectacular moments of flash and fire by lighting designer Christopher Akerlind (Broadway’s Indecent), Clyde’s stays true to its course. Montrellous is the man who is part guru savior and graceful father, giving each of those souls something to hold onto and dream of. The crimes that put them in jail sometimes feel a bit too easy to feel empathy for, except for maybe Jason’s more violent act, the one that he has such a hard time forgiving himself for. And if you can ignore the drug relapse that doesn’t get much air time beyond a plot device, Clyde’s delivers up the spiritual sandwich with a delicious formulation, worthy of the paralleled rave the local newspaper critic gives the place, much like the play itself. 

I’m interested in the composition, it’s not merely about flavor. Dig?” Montrellous states, and we agree. Totally. And although it isn’t the heaviest of meals, something akin to a half-hour sitcom, something, oddly enough, that closely mirrors the set-up of the iconic TV show, “Taxi“, as someone wisely said to me post-show. But for a lunchtime/late-evening bite, this Second Stage production of Clyde’s is as tasty and filling as one could order up. There is a dark layer inside everyone’s dream, and if you are interested in a second helping of dreams and demons, the production recently announced that the final two weeks in January of Clyde’s limited engagement will be made available for live streaming. So slide up to that Second Stage counter, and order up one of their tasty layered sandwiches. Trust me and Montrellous, you won’t be disappointed.

For more from Ross click here

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

Broadway

Stephen Schwartz To Be Inducted into The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame

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Legendary Award Winning Broadway and Movie Music Composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) will be inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) on Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 at 7pm.

There will also be concert emceed by Musician Paul Shaffer (from the David Letterman Show) who worked with Schwartz early in his career.

Schwartz has won 4 Grammys and 3 Oscars among other awards in his career that spans over 50 years both on Broadway and on the silver screen. Additionally, Schwartz has contributed music and lyrics to several movies such as “Pocahontas” (1995), “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996), “The Prince of Egypt” (1998), and “Enchanted” (2007).He was also involved with the upcoming feature film adaptation of Wicked to be released in the fall.

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Ani DiFranco and Lola Tung Join Hadestown

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The Tony and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical Hadestown is currently stars Grammy Award winner Ani DiFranco as Persephone singing “Our Lady Of The Underground”.

 Lola Tung (“The Summer I Turned Pretty”) as Eurydice, Jordan Fisher (Dear Evan Hansen, Grease: Live,) as Orpheus here singing “All I’ve Ever Known”.

Grammy Award nominee Phillip Boykin as Hades, and Tony Award winner Lillias White as Hermes.

They are joined by Belén Moyano, Kay Trinidad, and Brit West as the Fates. The chorus of Workers is played by Emily Afton, Malcolm Armwood, Chibueze Ihuoma, Alex Puette, and Grace Yoo. The cast includes swings Sojourner Brown, Brandon Cameron, Tara Jackson, Max Kumangai, Alex Lugo, and Tanner Ray Wilson.

Hadestown originated as Anaïs Mitchell’s indie theater project that toured Vermont which she then turned into an acclaimed album. With Rachel Chavkin, her artistic collaborator, Hadestown has been transformed into a genre-defying new musical that blends modern American folk music with New Orleans-inspired jazz to reimagine a sweeping ancient tale.

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Broadway

Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents Goes Live With Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane

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Photo of Bonnie Comley, Stewart F. Lane and Suzanna Bowling

“Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is a new show that is filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. We will run the video on our site every Thursday and then it moves onto the podcast networks.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Broadway royalty and longtime married couple Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane. We talk about the Palace Theatre, Broadway HD and so much more.

We were also so excited because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

I am so grateful to my guests Bonnie and Stewart for joining me. Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Edison Hotel for their kindness and hospitality.

We hope to see you there on February 21st for our guests the creator of Times Square and Hampton Fashion Week Dee Rivera, Celebrity hairstylist Samantha Smoker and Fashion Designer Shani Grosz.

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Book Reviews

Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley

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I am so pleased to announce our guests for Valentine’s Day are Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, the founders of BroadwayHD.com, an online streaming service on a mission to promote and preserve live theatre, extending the reach of Broadway and Broadway-caliber shows to anyone, anywhere. BroadwayHD currently has a catalog of over 300 full-length stage plays and musicals available for streaming on demand, so when you can’t get to Broadway, go to BroadwayHD on your tv, phone, or tablet!

Mr. Lane and Ms. Comley have collectively produced over 40 films and 45 Broadway shows, garnering nine Tony Awards and another 14 Tony nominations. They have also won Olivier Awards, Drama Desk, Drama
League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for their stage productions. Lane has co-owned Broadway’s famous Palace Theater for almost 40 years.

The theater community has honored the couple for their philanthropic work, including The Actors Fund Medal of Honor, The Drama League Special Contribution to the Theater Award, The Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons, and The Theater Museum Distinguished Service Award. The stage at Boston University’s new theater center is named in their honor, as is the Music Theater Program. The Musical Theater Society Room bears their name at Emerson College, and the 500-seat theater at the University
of Massachusetts Lowell is known as the Comley Lane Theater. Lane is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award at Boston University, and Comley is Distinguished Alumni of both Emerson College and UMass Lowell.

Mr. Lane is a theater historian and playwright and has written the critically acclaimed “Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way” (Square One Publishers), “Jews on Broadway” (McFarland Publishers), “Let’s Put on a Show” (Working Arts Library), and the plays “In The Wings (published in spring 2008 by Hal Leonard), “If It Was Easy” (published by Performing Books and nominated for Best New Play by the American Theatre Critics Association), and the musical “Back Home Again” (with music
and lyrics by John Denver) which he was awarded The 2011 John Denver Spirit Award for his work.

“Live From The Edison Hotel Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is a new show that will be filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here.

Originally our guest was Maury Yeston, but he had to reschedule. He will be our guest at a later date, however Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, our guests for Valentine’s Day could not be more perfect. They are the epitome or Love and Broadway.

See you at The Edison Hotel.

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Broadway

Chita Will Be Honored As Lights Dim

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Broadway will dim its marquee lights to honor the two-time Tony-winning star of the original West Side Story Chita Rivera. This iconic star died January 30 at the age of 91.

The dimming of Broadway marquees will occur for the traditional one minute on Saturday, February 17 at 7:45 p.m./ET.

“Chita Rivera was Broadway royalty, and we will miss her with all our hearts,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League. “For nearly seven decades she enthralled generations of audiences with her spellbinding performances and iconic roles. The triple threat actor, singer, and dancer leaves behind an incredible legacy of work for which she was honored with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.”

Rivera’s Broadway career began in 1950 with Guys and Dolls. Her signature role came in 1957 when she played the original “Anita” in West Side Story. Other Broadway credits include Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, The Visit and The Rink. She was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning for The Rink in 1984 and Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993. She received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018.

We give you the talented Ken Fallin’s drawing of Chita in The Visit.

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