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Meet Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken Monday November 19th at 1pm at the Imperial Theatre Box Office

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Ruben Studdard , Clay Aiken
Ruben Studdard , Clay Aiken

Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken

The Imperial Theatre Box Office (249 West 45th Street) will open Monday November 19that 1pm for Ruben Studdard and Clay Aikenin Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show (aka “Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show”), the monumental, one-of-a-kind Holiday spectacular Broadway show that will begin performances on Broadway Friday, December 7th, with Opening Night set for December 11th.  This limited engagement runs through December 30th only.

To celebrate the Box Office Opening, Ruben and Clay will be on hand from 1pm to 2pm, distributing special Christmas gifts including signed limited edition posters to the first 100 folks on line, a Collectors Edition Holiday Ornament to the first 250 people to arrive, and tasty treats courtesy of Nuchas Artisan Hand-Held Foods!  There will also be chances to win tickets for Opening Night, upgrades to VIP Packages, and more!

Audiences will see Ruben and Clay journey through a fusion of holiday music and entertainment featuring lighthearted comedy, astounding versatility and, as always, Ruben and Clay’s magnetic stage presence. “American Idol’s” fan favorite odd couple will give fans the reunion they have been asking for when the duo takes to the stage for this limited engagement holiday event. The extravaganza marks the first time Ruben and Clay have performed together on a national stage since their dramatic finale in 2003.

In true holiday spirit, the duo aims to give back with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the National Inclusion Project, one of the leading voices for the inclusion of children with disabilities.

Ruben and Clay are thrilled to reunite on Broadway 15 years after captivating audiences during their historic run on the second season of Fox’s “American Idol.”  Both plucked from the relative obscurity of their hometowns in the South, the unlikely pair quickly became audience favorites instrumental in helping propel “Idol” to the top of the Nielsen ratings, nearly tripling the viewership of the previous season, and securing it’s place as one of the most consequential TV series in American history. Over 38 million viewers tuned in to hear the results of more than 124 million votes cast during their finale making it the most watched “Idol” episode in history and the highest rated regularly scheduled, live, non-sporting television episode of the 21st century. Combined they have recorded twelve albums, sold more than eight million albums worldwide, toured the country 14 times, won four Billboard Music Awards, an American Music Award, and have been nominated for two Grammys.

Clay Aiken returns to Broadway ten years after his critically lauded debut in Monty Python’s Spamalot.  On the heels of Idol, he became the first artist in history to have his first single debut at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. His subsequent album, “Measure of A Man,” also debuted at #1 with the highest first week sales by a debut artist. His 2004 holiday release, “Merry Christmas with Love,” set a record for the fastest selling holiday album of the SoundScan era and remains tied for the highest charting debut of a holiday album in Billboard history. He served 9 years as a UNICEF Ambassador and in 2003, he co-founded, with Diane Bubel, what is now the National Inclusion Project to advocate and increase opportunities for children with disabilities to be included in extracurricular activities (such as summer camps and after-school programs) with their non-disabled peers. Additional TV appearances include: “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Scrubs,” “Days of Our Lives,” and “Law & Order: SVU.” Additional 2nd place finishes include: “’The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2012 and the NC 2nd District US House race in 2014. Beyond all of his successes (and near successes) his proudest accomplishment remains his son, Parker.

Ruben Studdard makes his Broadway debut following his critically acclaimed album and national tour, Ruben Sings Luther – a musical celebration of Luther Vandross that Variety Magazine said “elicited tears and cheers” and “left you breathless.” His 2003 platinum-selling debut album, “Soulful,” debuted at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and garnered him his first Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. His follow-up album, “I Need an Angel,” became the fastest and biggest selling gospel album of 2004 and made him one of only two men in history to have a solo gospel album chart in the top 20 of Billboard‘s Hot 200. In addition to his extensive recording career, he has found success in television and on stage, including his performance as Fats Waller in the 2008 national tour of Ain’t Misbehavin’ which garnered Ruben his second Grammy nomination. This followed a national tour with Robin Givens in the comedy-drama, I Need a Hug. Additional screen credits include: 8 Simple Rules, Life On A Stick, Scooby Do 2: Monsters Unleashed, and NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” The 2003 Teen Choice Award winner for Choice TV Variety Star continues to live up to the name given to him by R&B legend Gladys Knight: America’s “Velvet Teddy Bear.”

National Inclusion Project (NIP)operates on three simple core beliefs: Every child can participate, every child can make a friend, and every child can succeed. NIP is the product of a special friendship between a college student, a mother, and her 13-year-old son: Clay Aiken was pursuing a degree in special education from UNC-Charlotte when he met Mike. Mike was 13 years old and had been diagnosed with autism. As part of his education, Clay was working with a variety of people with disabilities; but he and Mike quickly developed a unique bond. The friendship soon extended to include Mike’s mother, Diane Bubel, as well. Clay and Diane soon discovered they shared more than just a connection to Mike; they shared a vision. Clay and Diane had often witnessed children with disabilities being turned away or excluded from activities and programs open to other children.  They believed that as a society we could do better. They believed that every program and organization could include all children—and everyone would benefit from that. Clay and Diane made it their mission to bring this to fruition. In July 2003, the National Inclusion Project was born. With their three core beliefs in mind, NIP made it its mission to see that children with and without disabilities can laugh, learn, and play together! Working with community organizations and recreational programs, NIP provides the training, tools, and support they need so that children with disabilities can participate in all of their activities and programs. NIP has established itself as one of the leading voices for the inclusion of children with disabilities by partnering with some of the country’s largest youth organizations and most prestigious educational institutions.  NIP has developed cutting-edge inclusion models, trained hundreds of industry leaders, and facilitated inclusive opportunities for thousands of children across the nation. For more information or to learn how you can help, visit inclusionproject.org

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

Broadway

Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman and More At The Museum of Broadway As Harmony Is Honored

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On Thursday, April 18th Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman, The Comedian Harmonists Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman and Steven Telsey, as well as Company members including Chip Zien, Kate Wesler, Kyla Stone, Matthew Mucha, Stuart Zagnit, Zak Edwards, and more TBA will be at The Museum of Broadway to unveil a brand-new window display dedicated to the Broadway musical Harmony. Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman brought the long-forgotten story of The Comedian Harmonists, a German singing group of six young men whose fame was abruptly cut short by the rise of Nazism, to life in the 2023 hit Broadway musical Harmony.

The Museum of Broadway will honor their story with a dedicated window featuring exclusive items donated by Manilow and Sussman, and historical items dating back to the 1920s.

The program will include a special a cappella performance by the OBC Comedian Harmonists.

Harmony, featured an original new score by legendary Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award® winner Barry Manilow with lyrics and book by Drama Desk Award Winner, Bruce Sussman. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle (The Music Man, Hello Dolly!), this timely and captivating rags-to-riches story lost to history came to dazzling life with a sensational cast of Broadway favorites.

Based on an unbelievable true story, the musical told the tale of the most successful entertainers you’ve never heard of. . . until Harmony. In the 1920s and 30s, The Comedian Harmonists sold millions of records, made dozens of films, and sold-out the biggest theaters around the world. Their heavenly harmonies and musical comedy antics catapulted these six talented young men from singing in the subway tunnels of Berlin to international superstardom.  What happened next was the story of Harmony.

The female-founded award-winning Museum of Broadway is the world’s first-ever permanent museum dedicated to the storied history and legendary artists, creators and stars of Broadway musicals and plays, past and present. Offering unrivaled “backstage” access, the Museum of Broadway goes behind-the-scenes to show guests of all ages how a Broadway show is made from conception to curtain call.  A one-of-its-kind entertaining and educational celebration of Broadway for the theatre enthusiast and insider alike, the Museum of Broadway transports visitors visually through centuries of time.  Experience a stunning, ever-evolving curation from the 1700s-present day one dazzling, unforgettable exhibit, costume, prop, rendering and rarity at a time. Through each piece, the Museum of Broadway honors the legacies of those who paved the way for today’s Broadway and the next generation of theatregoers and creators.

Founded in November 2022, the Museum of Broadway highlights more than 500 showstopping and hidden gem productions across three floors of exhibits.  Open seven days a week and welcoming thousands of guests weekly from all over the world, the museum also offers free educational programming, special events with your favorite Broadway casts and creatives, a membership program, merchandise from your favorite shows, and so much more. A portion of proceeds from every ticket sold is donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Be sure to follow @MuseumofBroadway on all social channels for the latest artifact drops, special offers, events and happenings and visit themuseumofbroadway.com to complete your perfect day on Broadway.

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Lempicka Brings An Artist Work Back To Life

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In 1984, I saw the interactive show Tamara based on the life of the artist Tamara de Lempicka in LA and fell in love with it, so much so that it has stayed one of my favorites to this day. Lempicka is a new musical based more on her sexual choices than her stylized Art Deco portraits that changed and inspired generations. She was one of the first feminists, as Tamara choose art, sexual freedom and a lifestyle in a time of war and destruction.


The musical starts out on a park bench in LA as an older Tamara (Eden Espinosa) reflects on her life. Flash back to Warsaw, Poland as Tamara is to be wed to Lempicka (Andrew Samonsky) an aristocrat and is to live a life of luxury. Then the Bolshevik’s in prison her husband, she uses sexual favors to free him and they flee to Paris with their daughter. When her husband is unwilling to work she becomes a painter and uses the name Lempicka. There she is befriended by a wealthy art patron (Nathaniel Stampley) and his wife (Beth Leavel), is influenced by Marinetti (George Abu), the founder of the Futurist art movement, and is inspired and in love with Rafaela (Amber Iman). Both Lempicka and the musical come alive at this point. Tamara finds friendship and solace with a nightclub owner, Suzy (Natalie Joy Johnson), who gives her and others like her a refuge, until the Nazi’s invade. In the end, while breaking ground Lempicka’s life style becomes rather self centered or should I say one of self preservation as she loses her husband, her daughter and her lover.

Amber Iman, Eden Espinosa Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

Matt Gould’s music and Carson Kreitzer’s lyrics are well sung and the show sounds glorious. This is a new take on pop music. The problem here is the minor characters get the songs that make the show come alive. Iman, Abu and Johnson almost steal the show with their numbers. Level gets the 11 O’Clock number and breaks our hearts. Though Espinoza has some good numbers and sells them, none of them really stand out.

George Abud photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman)

Kreitzer also conceived the book and wrote it with Gould. Again the show does and doesn’t work. Instead of focusing on Lempicka’s art, the changing world around her and the fact that she was one of the first feminists, the story is more focused on lesbian repression. The show is billed as a triangle of love, but her husband once they get to Paris is in his own world until she gets together with Rafaela a prostitute. Rachel Chavkin’s direction makes the scenes between Rafaela and Lempicka beautiful and in a strange sense if feels a little like Indecent, however the show as a whole doesn’t jell.

Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

I did like Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography that seemed to evoke the changing world around.

Riccardo Hernández’s set of steel, seems like the world is on the verge of collapse and rebuilding. The lighting by Bradley King and projections by Peter Hylenski and Justin Stasi added to that effect. Paloma Young’s costumes missed the mark and seemed like they were in two different stories.

The reason to see Lempicka is it is sung and acted gloriously.

Once you see Lempicka, you will realize how much Tamara de Lempicka’s art change and influenced the world of art. This was a woman who survived at all costs and that should always be admired.

Lempicka: Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street.
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Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: The Outsiders

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These boys are taking Broadway by storm Jason Schmidt, Sky Lakota-Lynch, and Brody Grant. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1967, the hardened hearts and aching souls of Ponyboy Curtis, Johnny Cade and their chosen family of “outsiders” are in a fight for survival and a quest for purpose in a world that may never accept them. A story of the bonds that brothers share and the hopes we all hold on to, this gripping new musical reinvigorates the timeless tale of “haves and have nots”, of protecting what’s yours and fighting for what could be.

The Outsiders opened on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.

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We Say Good Bye To Costume Designer Extraordinaire Carrie Robbins

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I met Carrie Robbins at an art gallery with Louis St Louis, Baayork Lee and Judy Jacksina. The four of us stayed well into the morning talking, laughing and having a fabulous time. Carrie and I bonded after that as she turned to playwriting. It broke my heart to learn that on the evening of April 12, 2024 Costume Designer extraordinaire Carrie Robbins passed away.

Carrie’s work has been featured in over 30+ Broadway shows, including Class Act, Grease (original), Agnes of God, Yentl, Octette Bridge Club, Sweet Bird of Youth (Lauren Bacall), Frankenstein, Happy End (Mary Streep), Boys of Winter, Cyrano (Frank Langella), & Shadow Box (Mercedes Ruehl).

Her awards and nominations included: 2012 recipient of the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Theatre Development Fund & the tdf/Costume Collection with the support of the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund. 2 Tony (Noms.), 5 Drama Desks, Maharam, USITT/Prague International, L.A. Dramalogue, Henry Hughes, F.I.T-Surface Design, & Audelco, among others.

Robbins’ costumes for the Irving Berlin musical White Christmas played major cities in the USA, Broadway, and Great Britain. Her regional work included M. Butterfly and On the Verge, for director Tazewell Thompson (Arena Stage) and the Gershwin musical American in Paris by Ken Ludwig for director Gregory Boyd (Alley Theatre, Houston) as well as The Tempest (Anthony Hopkins as Prospero) & Flea in Her Ear (director Tom Moore at Mark Taper Forum), many productions for the Guthrie (MN), Williamstown, and many others from Alaska to Buffalo.


Locally, in NYC, Robbins designed for many productions for The Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, Chelsea Theatre at BAM, Acting Company at Juilliard and NY Shakespeare Festival.

She also designed for the Opera and they included Death in Venice for Glimmerglass (’08 Prague International Design Exhibit), Samson et Dalila (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand, more), and many productions for Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston. Her work has also been seen at the Hamburg StatsOper.

For film Robbins designed the movie “In The Spirit” (Elaine May, Peter Falk, Marlo Thomas); TV design included: Saturday Nite Live, PBS Arts in America, & several unseen pilots.

Robbins has designed clothes for several seasons of Queen Esther Marrow and The Harlem Gospel Singers’ European Tour. She also did the designs for The Cincinnati Ballet’s new Nutcracker, in December of 2011

Robbins was an MFA grad from the Yale School of Drama and was Master Teacher of Costume Design at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts for many years. She is extremely proud of the extraordinary number of award-winning, successful young costume designers and costume teachers across the country who came out of her classes.

Besides being a costume designer Carrie also was a playwright. In August 2010, her play, The Death & Life of Dr. Cutter, a Vaudeville, based on the true stories told by her husband Dr. R.D.Robbins, had its 4th reading at the Snapple Theatre Center; it was chosen by Abingdon Theatre Co, NYC, to be part of its First Readings Series in Fall, 2009. In 2011-12 the  League of Professional Theatre Women chose The Dragon Quartet as part of its 30th year anniversary celebration. In 2012-13, La MaMa (oldest off-off-Broadway theater in NYC at 51 years) chose The Diamond Eater for its “Concert Reading Series”. In 2013: TACT (The Actors Company Theatre, chose Sawbones for part of its newTACTics New Play Festival. In 2014 both The Diamond Eater and Sawbones  received 6 Nominations from N.Y. Innovative Theatre Awards (the most nominations given out in the 2014 season). In 2015, Le Wedding Dress, was a semi-finalist in NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016: Obsessions Of An Art Student chosen by NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016, The Actress, was a finalist in NY Thespis Summer Festival. In 2017, My Swollen Feet, chosen by NY Summerfest Theatre Festival/ Hudson Guild Theatre. In 2018 The Diamond Eater , semi-finalist at the 14th St. Y competition War + Peace/2018/19 season and The Dragon Griswynd, was chosen by Theater for the New City for its “Dream-Up Festival” In 2019 Pie Lessons, was invited by Crystal Field, Exec. Artistic Director of Theater for the New City, to be part of “Scratch Night at TNC”.

The last thing Carrie was working on was For The Lost Children Of Paris. This play was about how the Nazis, with help from the Vichy Government, collected French-Jewish schoolchildren and delivered them to Auschwitz. Excellent German record-keeping revealed 11,400 children were taken. At the liberation, only 200 were found alive. This is the story of one classroom’s collection day and its aftermath.

She did this play using puppets as the children.

Carrie had a voice that she used in a multiple of ways. She was a caring friend, a dedicated teacher, a prolific writer and costume designer, who always cared about others first. Carrie you will be missed.

 





 

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Patti LuPone Returns to Broadway and The Big Screen

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Three-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, who gave up her Equity card in 2022, will star opposite Mia Farrow in Jen Silverman’s new play, The Roommate. The production will be directed by Jack O’Brien and will begin previews at the Booth Theatre in August ahead of a September opening.

The Roommate tells the story of Sharon, in her mid-fifties, who is recently divorced and needs a roommate to share her Iowa home. Robyn, also in her mid-fifties, needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets, they encourage her own deep-seated desire to transform her life completely. A dark comedy about what it takes to re-route your life – and what happens when the wheels come off.

The Roommate premiered at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in March 2015, and has had several regional productions including at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2017.

Ms. LuPone will star in the upcoming Marvel series, WandaVision spinoff series Agatha: Coven of Chaos. She’s in a coven of witches, playing Lilia Calderu, who is hot, with a great body and hair. Calderu, first appeared in Marvel comics in 1973 as a 450-year-old Sicilian witch whose power is divination and whose trial is tarot. The other witches are Kathryn Hahn, Aubrey Plaza, and a familiar who is played by Joe Locke. Locke, is currently on Broadway in Sweeney Todd.

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