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NYCC Encores’ Soars High Into The Woods

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All those wishes and rhythms that make up Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical, Into the Woods, are on full display at the New York City Center Encores‘ deliciously good production. As always, the series has brought together the best of the best, this time to usher forth a magnificently fun retelling of those classic fairytales, and what really happens after that seemingly final ‘Happily Ever After‘. Sondheim’s fairytale adventure is a forever joy, delivering a connected, clever piece of storytelling, that takes smart twists and turns with several well-known children’s bedtime stories, weaving them skillfully together into a magical musical about wishing and wanting, and what happens when you actually get what you dream for. All played out in the white birch woods of the majestic New York City Center, but also, deep inside the darkness of a child’s inner fear. “Lions and Tigers and Bears” are nowhere to be seen, but well-dressed wolves are certainly prowling around just waiting and wishing for a young girl to wander off the path.

Denée Benton, Gavin Creel, Neil Patrick Harris, Sara Bareilles, Ann Harada, Cole Thompson, and Kennedy Kanagawa in Into the Woods. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Assembled so beautifully well in this Encores! production, the piece unwinds the magical and the haunting, creating a bit of wonderfully insightful escapism for us all to devour like a wolve in gramma’s clothing. Trouble lurks outside, in the air, and in our politics, as big and scary as a big, old giant falling from the skies, and all we can do is keep our eyes peeled so we don’t get crushed. Directed with a joyful acknowledgment of the fine cast collected, Lear DeBessonet (Public/Disney’s Hercules; Public’s Miss You Like Hell) executes the task most affectively and efficiently, finding its joy inside Sondheim’s smart words and melodies. The overlaying is magnificent, and although I thought the piece could use a bit more intrepid introspection into the darkness and sensuality of the lyrics, the production steadfastly unearths a straightforward innocence deep in the entangled darkness. There is a gentle clarity to the nostalgic magical moments of fear and frustration, yet “nice is different than good” one might add. But, all and all, it doesn’t hurt this production, mainly because it is full of wildly wonderful performances and equally fun comedic play unpacked and delivered with bravado by a phenomenal cast within a wonderful classic musical tale.

Under the excellent musical direction of Rob Berman, Encores! music director (Broadway’s Bright Star) and the ultra-fine Encores! Orchestra, the fine cast illuminates the tales within with precise gloriousness. They are all outstanding, particularly – and it’s not surprising as they are the best parts of Into The Woods – the incomparable Heather Headley (Broadway’s The Color Purple) as the witchiest of wonderful witches. She finds the fun in the fierceness, embracing the distortions and the transformation with glee and a solid well-founded sense of confidence. Her deformed initial appearance radiates menace and surprising humor, but she also finds power and deliciousness in her (not so magical) glam role switcheroo, courtesy of costume designer Andrea Hood (Public’s Twelfth Night), which only accentuates her star power and bravado. Her Act Two powerless motherly witch persona, desperate for attachment and love, finds a glorious edge in her ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Children Will Listen’, which are both equally emotional and utterly outstanding. It’s an exciting performance and is as playful as it is powerful.

Kennedy Kanagawa, Neil Patrick Harris, and Sara Bareilles in Into the Woods. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Two other standouts that enhanced the whole is the always phenomenal Neil Patrick Harris (Broadway’s Hedwig) as the Baker, who unearths unknown humor and grief in every aspect of the storyline, while also holding tight to a perfect partner in Sara Bareilles (NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar), who gives us a Baker’s Wife who is rich in maternal emotional depth, yet filled with sardonic charm. They both seem to carry a complex desperation to bear a child, while forever finding each other within the trouble and complexities. Bareilles is a gifted earthy singer, who always can find the authentic heart and deep need in her rich vocals, but when it comes to Sondheim, I wasn’t quite sure if she would be able to find her way into these woods. Most delightfully, she does, radiating an authentic fractious relationship from within, giving us a couple who can bicker, stray, and fight, and still be basically ok. That’s a powerful statement, one that should never be taken lightly.

This art, something that is explained to the wonderfully engaging Julia Lester (“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series“) as the scene-stealing greedy Red Riding Hood, finds a simple truth in the dynamic and only secures their parenting relationship as more meaningful than first realized. Under that red cape, we find a young female force not to be toyed with, especially when her protective energy is unleashed. What’s missing a bit, and here is my only real complaint with the show in general, is her lusty attraction to the devilish wolf, played appealingly, but not seductively enough by Gavin Creel (Broadway’s She Loves Me; Hello, Dolly!) is never fully realized or examined. It’s an entertainingly festive scene that radiates pure theatrical pleasure in the acrobatics of the engagement, but little of the sexual energy that I think those two could have bitten into. Much like many moments in this sly sexual musical. When Creel dons the exquisite frock to play the Prince who captivatingly seduces the Baker’s Wife in ‘Any Moment’, he’s a joy to behold, but not so seductive. He says it’s for love, but we can tell it’s really for something quite different. And it isn’t exactly oozing carnalities in this production. Maybe for him, it’s ego-driven? External validation? Regardless, it’s fun, but not so complex or deep.

Another splendid moment is delivered by Denée Benton (Broadway’s Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet) who runs away with the confused dynamics of a kind Cinderella with a prince complex chasing her through the woods. She stumbles most enchantingly on every entrance, and her charming phrasing of ‘On the Steps of the Palace’ does the job lovingly in Act One, but it is really in Act Two where she finds her footing, so to speak, unleashing the real girl within and the tenderness she can deliver. The same could be said for Harris, who plays it up in Act One, having the time of his life running through the woods, but it is in Act Two where we all of a sudden find ourselves tearing up as he struggles to find his place in this new world. It’s a tremendous achievement, and he works more magic than we ever expected to come our way.

The opposite could be said of Jack, played solidly by a very well-voiced Cole Thompson (just check out that video up above) who finds an innocence that almost makes us feel most fatherly in Act One. He’s trying so hard to grow up before our eyes. Yet, somehow he never really manages to expand on his take on the boy as the whole musical piece, overall, attempts to find greater maturity in Act Two. He is pricelessly funny though in his authentic honesty, particularly when he talks of his two best friends, a cow and a harp, to the exasperated sigh of his Mother, hilariously portrayed by the always excellent Ann Harada (CSC’s Pacific Overtures; “Schmigadoon”). Delivering a deliciously funny counterpoint to Jack, she, like almost every fine performer in this magical musical, gives us humor and charm that feels perfectly attuned to this straight-shooting sunny revival. She’s one of the gold egg treasures of the piece, not seen enough, but glistening when on stage.

Heather Headley (center) as the Witch with the Encores! cast of Into the Woods. Photo: Joan Marcus.

As Into The Woods reacts to the culminating Giant dilemma set before them in Act Two, the Giant’s Wife, wonderfully voiced by the greatly loved Annie Golden (off-Broadway’s Broadway Bounty Hunter) – who also plays a most wonderful Grandmother and Cinderella’s Mother, brings about the crashing of everyone’s wish with a threatening stomp. Death, loss, and grief are grappled with, emphasized by two large not-so-effective giant shoes, stomping their way clumsily about. It’s one of the only weakly orchestrated visuals inside this inventive staging with puppets designed by James Ortiz (LCT’s The Skin of Our Teeth), scenic design by David Rockwell (Broadway’s Local Hero), lighting by Tyler Micoleau (Broadway’s American Buffalo), and sound design by Scott Lehrer (Broadway’s The Music Man). The cow, Milky White, on the other hand, is tremendously well-executed (literally), beautifully brought to life (and death, and life again) by the inventive and tuned in Kennedy Kanagawa (Keen Co.’s Adventurephile) who, in a sharp moment of wit, assists the witch in such a wonderful moment of pure stage magic. This is what theatre is all about, as my friend Cheryl would say. That moment, and it shines bright thanks to that inventive fun formulation and conviction to the art of theatre.

Jordan Donica (Broadway’s My Fair Lady), who was first announced to play Rapunzel’s Prince opposite the very fine Shereen Pimentel (Broadway’s West Side Story) as Rapunzel, was unfortunately replaced on the night I attended. In the performance I saw, the prince was played, well, quite princely, by the wonderful Jason Forbach (Broadway’s Les Misérables). Stepping in to the part, he grandly delivered, most notably opposite Creel in the wonderfully silly “Agony”. The others within this strong cast; Ta’Nika Gibson (Broadway’s Ain’t Too Proud) as Lucinda, Albert Guerzon (Broadway’s Ghost) as Cinderella’s Father, Brooke Ishibashi (La Jolla’s To the Yellow House), Lauren Mitchell, an original Broadway cast member of Into the Woods, as Cinderella’s Stepmother, and the very sharp David Turner (Broadway’s Sunday in the Park…) as the Steward, find their light and joy inside, delivering, like all the others, perfect renditions of this fine musical by Stephen Sondheim with a book by James Lapine.

Featuring the choreography by Lorin Latarro (Broadway’s Mrs. Doubtfire) within the intricate plots of both the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, the direction sweetly explores the true-life consequences of the characters’ wishes and dreams, including all of the terrifying fears of separation and aloneness in a beautifully voiced production. Into the Woods finds its centeredness within the piece and unveils a new Encores! tradition; celebrating the community-building potential of iconic American musicals by ushering in a multigenerational community chorus of New York City seniors and public-school students for a big-lunged finale that highlights the many ways theater can connect us across time.

All the layers of moralistic familial conflict and connection unfold with subtle surprising care under the threat of a dead giant’s familial vengeance. Everyone is someone’s child, they tell us, and revenge can bounce along hurting more and more for eternity if we let it. Harris beautifully finds the heart of the piece, reminding us of what loss and love can feel like, as well as what family means in the end. Into the Woods does the job beautifully, reformulating and expanding so we can understand the idea that fairytales are often childhood fears played out to understand and resolve issues within, much like dreams and nightmares. When the long-lost father, played by David Patrick Kelly (Broadway’s Once), the same actor as the Narrator, keeps reappearing, it all makes sense, even when being mysterious. A happy ending after all, in a way, one that lives solidly in the real world and in our tear-filled eyes. It’s no surprise this beautifully crafted production found its way to New York City Center’s Encores! series a few years after it gloriously played in Central Park and also London’s Regent’s Park, and I was glad to be there to welcome it.

Gavin Creel (Wolf) and Julia Lester (Little Red) in Into the Woods. Photo: 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

Entertainment

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Maury Yeston and Victoria Clark Rescheduled

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I am so pleased to announce that on March 13th we are rescheduling our interview with are two time Tony winner Maury Yeston and two time Tony winner Victoria Clark.

“Live From The Hotel Edison 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. To see our first episode click here second episode click here and for our third episode click here.

Hope you can join us for what will be one fabulous musical night.

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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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Iconic New York City Restaurant Serendipity3 Celebrates The City and “The Notebook”on Broadway, Opening in March

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Though I’ve lived in New York for many years, a stop at Serendipity3, the decades-old restaurant on East 60th Street, eluded me. Until now. Thanks to a recent connection with the romantic musical The Notebook — in previews on Broadway — a new dessert specially designed to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the show was unveiled. And I got to sample it in all its super sweet glory.

The Notebook Hot Chocolate Affogato Sundae features a marshmallow rimmed Serendipity goblet filled with two towering scoops of vanilla ice cream, a giant pillow of creamy whipped cream, romantic Valentine’s sprinkles. Once the server pours a carafe of super-rich and thick hot chocolate (made with semisweet and bitter-sweet chocolates, rich cocoas, heavy cream, Maldon sea salt and Madagascar vanilla paste) over the ice cream, it’s ready for consumption. The dessert is also topped off with a dusting of iridescent edible glitter, an edible frosting-sheet with The Notebook logo, as well as a field of edible butterflies and flowers. Available at the restaurant for $24.95, it became my introduction to this glittery and iridescent palace of pop culture.

Like The Notebook — first experienced as Nicholas Sparks debut novel and then as feature film starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams —  Serendipity3 is a quintessential piece of 21st century pop culture. Not only does it offer classic restaurant fare such as sumptuous hamburgers and salads but many, many desserts especially sundaes.

When Serendipity3 added The Notebook to their list of Broadway collaborations, it was hardly the first. The restaurant is known for bringing extravagant desserts and world-record-breaking menu items to the table. These menu items have captivated a worldwide audience and a celebrity following for decades.

Founded in 1954, it is one of the city’s unique dining experiences. The home of decadent desserts such as the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, Serendipity has been captivating millions of patrons since its inception. It’s a quirky place where artists got their inspiration and actors fulfilled their cravings. Beginning with Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in the ‘50s, continuing with a celebrity following that includes Cher, Candice Bergen, Melanie Griffith and Ron Howard, the restaurant continues to attract celebrities such as Beyoncé, Ryan Reynolds, Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian. In addition, the restaurant has been the setting of three major Hollywood productions, “One Fine Day” (1996) with George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer, Serendipity (2001) with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, and Trust The Man (2005) with Julianne Moore and David Duchovny.

Produced by Kevin McCollum and Kurt Deutsch, “The Notebook” features music and lyrics by multi-platinum singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and a book by playwright Bekah Brunstetter (writer and producer on NBC’s “This Is Us,” The Cake). The production is directed by Michael Greif (Dear Evan Hansen, Next to Normal) and Schele Williams (Aida, The Wiz), with choreography by Katie Spelman (Associate Choreographer on Moulin Rouge! The Musical).

The show tells of Allie and Noah, both from different worlds, sharing a lifetime of love despite the forces that threaten to pull them apart, in a deeply moving portrait of love’s enduring power. The cast features Tony Award®-winner Maryann Plunkett as Older Allie, Dorian Harewood as Older Noah, Joy Woods as Middle Allie, Ryan Vasquez as Middle Noah, Jordan Tyson as Younger Allie, John Cardoza as Younger Noah, Andréa Burns as Mother/Nurse Lori. Playing various roles are Yassmin Alers, Alex Benoit, Chase Del Rey, Hillary Fisher, Jerome Harmann-Hardeman, Dorcas Leung, Happy McPartlin, Juliette Ojeda, Kim Onah, Carson Stewart, Charles E. Wallace and Charlie Webb.

With a book that has sold millions of copies worldwide and a film that’s one of the highest-grossing romantic dramas of all-time, the musical adaptation of The Notebook comes to Broadway following a critically acclaimed world premiere engagement at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the fall of 2022.

As for Broadway’s The Notebook, it’s now in previews at the Schoenfeld Theatre (236 W. 45th Street, NYC) and opens Thursday, March 14th.

For tickets and more info, visit www.NotebookMusical.com.

Serendipity3

225 E 60th Street

Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. EST

For more information or to book a reservation, visit www.serendipity3.com

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