Michael John LaChiusa’s and Ellen Fitzhugh’s Los Otros Shines With Heart and Soul
Photo courtesy of Richard Hillman PR
It felt like last night was the opening, with an air of excitement as musical theatre and cabaret stars were in attendance. In the audience; Michael John LaChiusa, Mary Testa, Allison Fraser, Tally Sessions, Ann Talman, Alex Rybeck, Lorna Dallas, Steve Marzullo, Dominique Plaisant, and those were the ones I knew. Los Otros, now playing at the A.R.T/New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd Street, runs through October 8th and is a happening. If you are an actor, singer, musician or musical theatre lover, this is a do not miss show.
Michael John LaChiusa’s music is haunting, subtly powerful and embeds itself into your soul. It is passionate with pulsating life, as he weaves the era of the 30’s all the way up to 2000. From bebop, to pop, to jazz, the music is lush, sweeping and masterful. The on-stage three piece band is led by musical director J. Oconer Navarro on piano, Cole Davis on bass and Meghan Doyle on guitar. The sultry orchestrations are by the incomparable Bruce Coughlin.
The words and lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh are funny, poignant and touching. They tell the tale of two very different people who intersect and by doing so change each other for the better.
Director Noah Himmelstein allows his actors to tell their stories simply, with ingenuity and heart.
We first meet Carlos (Samayoa) at 70, who tells us, he looks good because “Cheekbones are the bras of old age.” I think this is now one of my favorite lines from a play. In a split-second Carlos is four years old, it is 1933, as he survives a deadly hurricane. He goes on to say that he was part of a wave of gay Mexican accountants who breached the border. In between we see him discover his sexuality, meet his husband and embrace life. Carlos embodies hope, joy, innocence and a love of life. In Samayoa, Carlos is a wonder, full of expressions, an energetic ball of fire who makes us love him and want the best for him.
Lillian (Mason), begins her tale at 11. Dirt poor and living where Mexican migrants make their escape, she and her two friends witness a Mexican family jump from a moving train with a baby. Her affinity goes beyond her circumstances to help this young family. Unfortunately, her life does not go as planned. Two divorces, two daughters and alcoholism. Lilian struggles to stay alive. In the meantime, she smuggles and helps a Mexican women and takes the virginity of a young Mexican worker. Lillian is not a victim, but a product of circumstance she cannot get past. Because her story is not as cheerful or as hopeful as Carlos’, the character of Lillian could fail to connect, but with the casting of Mason, we see the glimpses of humanity as she cares more than she can admit. We see her hope, her light and lemons in her life turned into lemonade.
Both performances are masterful and genius in their sincerity and depth.
Meet The Playwrights of The NY Summer Theater Festival: Dan Brown Brings His Profound Sense of Writing of The Human Condition To Life
Dan Brown is a writer/director from NYC. In 2013 he released the documentary film- John Cori Warned You. In 2020, Dan published a collection of fiction writing- The Sometimes Why. In ’21 he directed the theatre production-Tales From the Sometimes Why. In January ’23 he debuted the stage show; The Eleven Story Drop. His play- The Mollies was selected to the Queens Short Play Festival.
In Sunshine Unlimited a 14 minute play at The New York Festival we meet Martin who was promoted to management. He is the first African American to be elevated to an executive position, but it seems not just , fanfare within the company is linked to the promotion. Months later when his hiring is still being celebrated, Martin experiences doubts about his boss, and himself. Is racism still wrong when the perpetrators have good intentions. Is one truly a victim when racism come with a raise and window view?
Step Inside The New Musical The Gospel According to Heather
Tony nominee Paul Gordon’s new musical The Gospel According to Heather will premiere Off-Broadway this summer at Theatre 555, with performances beginning June 14 ahead of a June 22 opening night. The limited run will continue through July 9.
On Monday the cast premiered a few of the numbers and talked to the press. In this video meet Brittany Nicole Williams (The Prom), Maria Habeeb, Carlos Alcala, Lauren Elder (Hair), Carson Stewart, Donna Trikoff the artistic producer of Amas Musical Theatre, Katey Sagal (The Connors, Sons of Anarchy, Married with Children) as “Agatha,” Jeremy Kushnier (Atomic, Footloose) and composer, lyricist and book writer Paul Gordon.
In The Gospel According to Heather, Heather Krebs wants a boyfriend, but how can she navigate her way through high school if she might be the new Messiah? A small town in Ohio grapples with politics, religion, and teenage romance in the pop musical featuring a book, music, and lyrics by Tony nominee Gordon (Jane Eyre).
The Gospel According to Heather is being presented by Amas Musical Theatre in association with Jim Kierstead, Broadway Factor, Linda Karn and David Bryant.
All video’s by Magda Katz
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Sunshine Unlimited Soars With Truth at The New York Theatre Festival
Dan Brown’s Sunshine Unlimited was part of The New York Theatre Festival shorts. Sitting through four other shorts Brown’s powerful words, superb direction also by Brown and the strong acting choices by Sean Philips were refreshingly riveting. These were not the words from a first time playwright, but of someone who understands language and how people feel.
Sunshine Unlimited is about how the African American, Black male resents being a quota, paraded around, being classified by his skin color and having to act as if it is ok. Martin (Philips) has been the executive director for his company for years, yet the poster saying he is the First African American Executive Director still stands in the lobby. The fact that there have been no other African American’s promoted is part of the problem. His girlfriend (Alonda Jones), is proud of him for opening doors for their people and doesn’t want him to rock the boat.
His father Matin Sr. (Jaymz Nylon) worked for the railroad and on the day he started, so did another man with his same name, so throughout his entire time with the company he was known as “Black” Martin, even when the “White” Martin was promoted. When he complained, he was told the “White” Martin was ok with this so why wasn’t he. His wife (Linda Nesbit Floria) silently supported him, though in fear.
One day the younger Martin gets feed up and destroys the poster and his boss (Alexander D. Carney) asks him why. Martin tells him his truth and asks for more African American’s to be hired. Instead of being fired, Martin does open the doors.
This play is more of a 14 minute monologue, where you see the other people, but they do not talk. I would love to see Sunshine Unlimited expanded, so that each of the characters explains their thoughts as succinctly as Martin does. With the generational gaps and gender versions of how we see life, this could prove to be Pulitzer Prize winning. I know I sat on the edge of my seat the entire time and saw this problem with new eyes.
Sean Philips gives an award winning performance as he draws you into Martin’s plight. I would love to see more of his work, as well as more content from Mr. Brown.
This is a playwright to keep on your radar, as he is so prolific and I think has much to say that is worth listening to.
Sunshine Unlimited: The New York Theatre Festival, closed.
Theatre News: Doubt: A Parable, Here Lies Love, Prayer for the French Republic, Eisenhower and Hell’s Kitchen
Tyne Daly and Liev Schreiber will star in a revival of Doubt: A Parable on Broadway. The production is to begin performances next February at the American Airlines Theater.
The new production is produced by the Roundabout Theater Company, and will be directed by Scott Ellis, who has been serving as the nonprofit’s interim artistic director since the death of artistic director Todd Haimes in April.
The play, by John Patrick Shanley, is about a nun who suspects a priest has sexually abused a student at a Catholic school. In 2005, the year it first opened on Broadway, it won both the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play; it was later adapted into a film and an opera.
Daly, who will play the nun who serves as the school principal, and Schreiber, who will play the parish priest, are both Tony winners. Daly, is known for her role in “Cagney & Lacey”. She won the 1990 Tony Award for her portrayal as Mama Rose in the revival of Gypsy. Schreiber, is the star of Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.” He won a Tony Award in 2005 for a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross.
Doubt is one of three plays to be staged by Roundabout this coming season. The others are I Need That, a new play by Theresa Rebek starring Danny DeVito alongside his daughter, Lucy, and Home, a 1979 revival, directed by Kenny Leon, by Samm-Art Williams.
David Byrne, Fatboy Slim and Here Lies Love are causing controversy with their July Broadway debut. The show’s extensive use of prerecorded music has the American Federation of Musicians’ Local 802, up in arms. The Local’s Broadway musical contract stipulate that productions employ 19 live musicians.
In response to the union’s concerns, Byrne and the show’s PR team released a statement on Instagram to lay out the production’s revolutionary format and genre-bending originality. Here Lies Love is not a traditional Broadway musical. The music is drawn outside of the traditional music genre. The performance of the live vocals to pre-recorded, artificial tracks is paramount to its artistic concept. Production has ripped out the seats in the theater and built a dance floor. There is no longer a proscenium stage. The Broadway Theater has been transformed into a nightclub, with every theatergoer immersed in the experience.
Here Lies Love is on Broadway because Broadway must support boundary-pushing creative work. Broadway is also the venue for a well conceived, high-quality show that highlights the valued traditions of specific cultures whose stories have never been on its stages. Here Lies Love does not believe in artistic gatekeepers. Here Lies Love believes in a Broadway for everyone, where new creative forms push the medium and create new traditions and audiences.
I saw Here Lies Love at The Public and not sure what kind of fast talking this is, but this statement rings false and full of how can we cut the costs while sticking it to the audience.
Prayer for the French Republic, by Joshua Harmon is coming to Broadway this season.This award-winning Off Broadway production played to rave reviews at The Manhattan Theatre Club. The production was the winner of the 2022 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play. Broadway performances will begin previews on Tuesday, December 19, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, with an official opening night on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. David Cromer directs.
Off Broadway: Tony winner John Rubinstein starts previews June 13 at St. Clement’s in one-man show Eisenhower.
Alicia Keys’ musical Hell’s Kitchen will run at The Public Theater from October 24 – December 10, starring Shoshana Bean. Inspired by Keys’ own life, the new musical features an original score by the 15-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, with a book by Kristoffer Diaz. Hell’s Kitchen will be directed by Michael Greif and choreographed by Camille A. Brown.
Leading the cast will be Maleah Joi Moon as Ali, opposite Bean as Ali’s mother Jersey, with Brandon Victor Dixon as Ali’s father Davis, Chad Carstarphen as Ray, Vanessa Ferguson as Tiny, Crystal Monee Hall as Crystal, Chris Lee as Knuck, Jackie Leon as Jessica, Kecia Lewis as Ali’s piano teacher Miss Liza Jane, Mariand Torres as Maria, and Lamont Walker II as Riq.
Completing the cast are Reid Clarke, Chloe Davis, Nico DeJesus, Timothy L. Edwards, Raechelle Manalo, Sarah Parker, and Niki Saludez, with understudies Badia Farha, Gianna Harris, Onyxx Noel, William Roberson, and Donna Vivino.
The musical is described as a coming-of-age story set in a cramped apartment in the neighborhood of the title near Times Square, where 17-year-old Ali is desperate to get her piece of the New York dream. Ali’s mother is just as determined to protect her daughter from the same mistakes she made. When Ali falls for a talented young drummer, both mother and daughter must face hard truths about race, defiance, and growing up.
The production has set design by Robert Brill, costumes by Dede Ayite, lighting by Natasha Katz, sound by Gareth Owens, and projection design by Peter Nigrini.
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