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Spreading my theatrical wings a bit wider than normal, I ventured far west to the lovely Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College where the New York City Opera has set up residence for two days to premiere a never seen before pairing of two famous European one-act operas, with one being an American premiere. Both are based on the story of Pygmalion, a fantastical story most familiar because of a narrative poem by Ovid in the Metamorphoses and later, inspirational to George Bernard Shaw in his 1913 play by the same name, and eventually My Fair Lady (book/lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner; music by Frederick Loewe, in previews at the Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont).  The myth also was influential to the story of Pinocchio, in which a wooden puppet is transformed into a “real boy”, and a statue of Queen Hermoine in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (soon to open at TFANA) also comes to life, revealing herself to be Hermoine.  All the versions that were derived from this Greek legend chronicles a similar tale of a sculptor who, after creating a beautiful piece of art, in this case a statue, falls madly and desperately in love with the form.  Pleading with the Gods for help, Venus, the goddess of love, takes pity on him and brings the statue to life. Ovid’s tale is a tad more misanthropic and abstractly risqué, as Pygmalion’s obsession is born out of his mistrust for all women, dressing his statue in fine clothes and jewellery and taking the inanimate object of his desire to bed long before Venus makes his statue flesh and blood.
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Jessica Sandidge, Piotr Buszewski in Gaetano Donizetti’s Il Pigmalione. Photo by Sarah Shatz.
In some ways, this tale has become increasingly relevant in the modern society we find ourselves living in, where objects of desire and fantastical love is blossoming between people and others through virtual engagements. Relationships are being created and embraced without the two people ever actually meeting. Many would say this is coming out of a very similar and deep mistrust of people in general; a fear to interact with those that are living and breathing close by, with fear being the most important word in this scenario. That kind of real and physical interaction is seen as too risky and uncomfortable, and a love relationship borne inside one’s own mind, developed and projected with all our internal fantasies onto another persona feels safer and easier.
This concept definitely spiked my real world psychotherapist persona, causing me to run wild with this formulation, especially after reading in the program that in the first half of the twentieth century, modern psychiatry was prepared to diagnose a person with a disease called ‘Pygmalionism’, first described by Havelock Ellis in 1927. The sufferer of this disorder, although no one actually was ever diagnosed with it officially, is when a person has fallen in love with a statue. Literally. But, one can make a leap psychotherapeutically, and come to the conclusion that if someone has fallen in love virtually, describing a relationship based solely on a Facebook profile, an Instagram feed, or text messages of any sort, without ever actually meeting that person face to face, or even through FaceTime (although I’d even venture to question that interaction), then possibly that could be diagnosed as ‘Pygmalionism’. Because, to be frank, it’s almost the same thing. And as the world gets more and more disconnected with real life interactions and turn inward towards their projected idealism and virtual interactions, then one might see a rise in the phenomenon of ‘Pigmalionism’.
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Piotr Buszewski in Gaetano Donizetti’s Il Pigmalione. Photo by Sarah Shatz.
Gaetano Donizetti’s 1816 creation, Il Pigmalione, the first in this two-part program, as directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford (NYCO’s Los elementos, Broadway’s My Life/choreographer) seems to dive into that modern schema portraying a man floundering and falling obsessionally in love with the statue he has created. His torment is internal and desperate, and one could question whether he is having some sort of psychological break with reality. The young Polish tenor, Piotr Buszewski (AVA’s Lucia di Lammermoor) in modern garb by Janet O’Neill, the costume designer, languishes in despair and heightened frustration as he struggles with his uncontrollable desires. He calls out for the Gods to help him, but do they respond, or is it his own delusion when Soprano Jessica Sandidge (PTA’s upcoming La Bohéme) as Galatea starts to sing from a different dimension and space, slightly separated by a tall window-like screen on John Farrell’s set. Galatea, interestingly is the name of the statue of the sea-nymph of Galathea, although sometimes referred to as Elise, based upon the variants in the story of Dido/Elissa (Hello, Mr. Shaw). Sandidge’s voice is gorgeous and their attachment profound but psychologically disturbing. The physical separation of statue and singer added a fascinating level of psychological disturbance that only created more drama and dementia to process. I was surprised by the small giggles from the crowd when Pigmalione caresses the inert statue, showing his physical lust for this creation (come on people, grow up), and although the piece lingers on and on, possibly too long to be completely engrossed from start to finish, his tormented debate with himself and his Gods creates a deep and moving representation of obsessive love and delusion that is gripping and beautifully rendered.
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Melanie Long, Samarie Alicea, Thor Arbjornsson, and NYC Opera Chorus (background) in Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s Pigmalion. Photo by Sarah Shatz.
In this first half, we don’t see the morphing nor the physical appearance of Cupid and his/her arrow like we do in Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s 1748 Pigmalion, a one-act acts de ballet, which was first performed at the Opéra in Paris.  This work, generally considered Rameau’s best one-act creation, was said to be written in just eight days.  In this piece, the period is represented more clearly in O’Neill’s costuming, and the statues that are scattered around the space are real humans, waiting to come alive with Cupid’s arrow, played with effervescent joy by Mezzo-soprano Melanie Long (Stewart Wallace’s Hopper’s Wife).  In the notes, the message of this opera-ballet is clear: “an encounter with beautiful things is of crucial importance in the formation of the human mind”. It’s an idea that strips the piece of its internal torment and reaches for other ideals, particularly in the fact that the statue doesn’t become completely human until she is taught to dance.
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Thor Arbjornsson, Samarie Alicea in Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s Pigmalion. Photo by Sarah Shatz.
Following Ovid’s scenario more directly, the sculptor, Pigmalion, sung by the sublime Thor Arbjornsson (Cleveland Orchestra’s Le Rossignol) creates and declares love for his beautiful statue.  His girlfriend, Céphise, played with stoic straightforwardness by Mezzo-soprano Julia Snowden (NYCO’s Dolores Claiborne) begging for attention from his lover, is pushed away, spurred for both the statue and his disdain for women in general.  He wants to deny the world outside and exist solely in his creation. Entreating the Goddess Venus to bring his statue to life, the Cupid praises Pigmalion for his artistry and faith, magically enlivens the statue, played lovingly by Samarie Alicea (NYCO’s Los elementos) to sing and dance. Much celebratory singing and dancing follows (NYC Opera Dancers: Sarah Buscaino, Kelly Loughran, Sarah Marchetti, Adam Rogers, Joseph Tudor, Jessica Wu) as the crowd of gallery strollers (NYC Opera Chorus: Maria Palombo, Kathryn Supina, Sishel Claverie, Kat Liu, Chritopher Hochstuhl, Victor Starsky, Kyle Oliver, Makoto Winkler) enter and see what the power of love can accomplish.  It’s gloriously playful, and one can hear the music alter as the statue comes to life, with the harmonies changing color and the orchestra breathing out a warm and magically constructed chord, by conductor Gil Rose (founder of Odyssey Opera).
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Melanie Long, NYC Opera Dancers, Samarie Alicea, Thor Arbjornsson (forefront) in Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s Pigmalion. Photo by Sarah Shatz.
Rameau’s creation is filled with much more dance and joy than the first one-act opera by Donizetti, playfully celebrating Cupid’s arrow and the love that it can bring to the world. All kinds of love are celebrated within this piece, as we see Cupid bringing love to the discarded Céphise, but also granting love between two men and also two women. Bravo! They dance and sing with joyous smiles, free of the torment of internal or obsessional love.  And although this piece is definitely more active. pretty, and entertaining, my psychotherapist heart remains with the more stark and darker Donizetti.  His leading man, lost in a delusional adoration of his creation, pulled me in with the simplicity of  his internal dialogue drenched in conflicted thought and uncontrollable passion.
Both of these artistic creations, celebrated in different ways at the time of their conception, will stick with me now forever, especially when I sit down next month for the Lincoln Center‘s production of the musical, My Fair Lady.  This is one of the many reasons I love writing about theatre, the layers of inspiration and history that are piled below the surface, adding depth and solidness to their foundation, and taking us down so many alleyways of thought and artistry.  I am in love with the art, and love when it comes to life in front of me, but don’t diagnose me with ‘Pigmalionism’, please. I’m not quite fallen that far down the rabbit hole.
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Julia Snowden, Thor Arbjornsson, Melanie Long, Samarie Alicea, NYC Opera Dancers and Chorus in Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s Pigmalion. Photo by Sarah Shatz.

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

Broadway

James Monroe Iglehart At The Drama Desk and A Rap For A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical

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T2C was at the Drama Desk Awards and talked to our friend James Monroe Iglehart. Years ago I learned that James could make up raps instantaneously, so I had him do one at the Hamilton opening night for Lin Manuel Miranda. Since James is opening up in October in A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical, I ask him to do a rap to pug his show. This is the result.

James’s new musical is about the life and loves of Louis Armstrong and Tony Award® winner James Monroe Iglehart is the legendary American icon. A Wonderful World charts Armstrong’s incredible journey from the birth of jazz in his native New Orleans through his international stardom. It features beloved songs recorded and made popular by Armstrong, including favorites like “What a Wonderful World” and “When You’re Smiling,” among many other standard favorites.

The show is conceived by Tony Award® nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Christopher Renshaw (Broadway’s The King and I, Taboo), and novelist Andrew Delaplaine. Book by Aurin Squire (“This is Us,” “The Good Fight”). Directed by Renshaw, with choreography by Rickey Tripp (Associate Choreographer for Broadway’s Hell’s Kitchen, Once on This Island, and Choir Boy). Featuring classic songs from Armstrong’s catalogue.

We look forward to seeing James and this new musical.

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Jill Zarin’s Luxury Luncheon Set for Hamptons Return

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TV Personality Jill Zarin is happy to announce the return of her invitation only event, MEND Skincare Presents Jill Zarin’s Luxury Luncheon by Laifen & Ticket2Events, will take place this again in Southampton, NY.

The event will be produced by Sean Koski and Brian Kelly, celebrity event planners and co- founders of Ticket2Events, and will feature a red carpet, VIP entrance to their curated showcase of the greatest companies in categories such as fashion, spirits, home decor, beauty, technology, and tourism, all in support of Cancer Research and to honor Jill’s late husband Bobby Zarin.

The one-of-a-kind luncheon experience presented by MEND Skincare will treat invited guests to a day of complimentary on-site activations performed by top tier brands. Amongst the activations will be a gifting suite, known as the beauty bar, where giveaways from brands such as Mend Skincare, a luxury new skincare that blurs the line between science fiction and skincare, Laifen Technologies, who’s blow-dry bar will keep guests hair perfect, Oneisall, Coola, Corckcicle, Hanky Panky, Colleen Rothschild & so much more. The Beauty Bar will also feature on-demand wellness services from Laifen & MEND skincare, complimentary consultation with celebrity injector to the stars, Jennifer Anne Di Landro of Dolce Aesthetics NY, hair accessories from Teleties, Beachwaver and more.

Pop-up shops at the event will grant guests a one-on-one shopping experience with designers from places who are normally online only like chic furniture by CHITA, paw friendly gifts from Oneisall & Glow Pups, Derek Lam, Modus Rio & Jewelry by KC Chic Designs. Friends of Jill Zarin and Ticket2Events, Heather Rouffe at Atlas Event Rentals will be making the travel from Palm Beach to The Hamptons to showcase the event rentals for the entire event and GLASS HOUSE BOCA Raton, a modern luxury residence by Douglas Elliman will share an exclusive look at what’s in store for buyers interested in the booming South Florida market.

To keep guests cool Ticket2Events curated beyond just a rosé bar with a premier lounge featuring Gin Cocktails by Dillons Small Batch Distillers a hydration station that will feature LaCroix, Vida Life Science and ZEN WTR and even a temperature regulating device from Embr labs – the Ember Wave will be the official wristband for VIPS. A taste of the Hamptons will be available this time around too and is slated to feature fare from Shrimpy’s Burrito Bar, Suja Organic, OWYN and more.

The Jill & Ally brand is expected to showcase their latest products, which will include Pickle Ball paddles, home decor, and the latest scents from their stellar candle collection.

Jill Zarin’s Luxury Luncheon will also treat guests to the most talked about gift bag that is now valued up to $5,000 made by Quilted Koala and will include all of summer’s “must have” products noticed in newly launched Hamptons Storyboard magazine which was transported from Palm Beach to the Hamptons with the help of Roadway Moving. Anticipated products include items from Safely,,MEND skincare, Hanky Panky, GDFEY shoes, ALOAH collection, SkinMedica, Grande Lash, Nutrafol, V-Spot, Beachwaver, Jill & Ally, Foot Petals, Flat Socks, TONGO, LMNT, Manta Sleep, Bloom Essentials, Colleen Rothschild, Big Mouth floats and SO much more!

Invited guest include, but are not limited to; Real Housewives of New York Jill Zarin, Kristen Taekman, Ramona Singer, Luann de Lesseps, Real Housewives of New Jersey Margaret Josephs, Real Housewives of Atlanta Cynthia Bailey, Real Housewives of Miami Marysol Patton, Alexia Echevarria, Real Housewives of Potomac Gizelle Bryant, Real Housewives of Dallas LeeAnne Locken, Real Housewives of Dubai Caroline Brooks, Real Housewives of Dubai Caroline Standsbury, Real Housewives of Dubai Taleen Marie Real Housewive of Toronto Kara Alloway, Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip Phaedra Parks as well as additional notables such as Ally Shapiro, Joey Sasso (The Circle), Kristen Doute (Vanderpump Rules), Hannaher Berner (Comedian), JoJo Fletcher ( ABC’s The Bachelorette) Food God, Dina Lohan, Wendell Holland (Survivor), Patti Stanger (Millionaire Matchmaker), Carl Radke & Jason Cameron (Summer House), Chrissy Monroe ( Love & Hip Hop) Tayshia Adams (The Bachelorette), Shannon St. Claire (Netflix’s Love Island) Paola Mayfield ( Amazon Prime & 90 day fiancé) & So much more

 

 

 

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Tribeca Festival Celebrates ‘Between the Temples’

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Roxstar Entertainment’s popular Cinema Center continued it’d Tribeca Festival run with a VIP hosted premiere party for Sony Pictures Classics’ film “Between the Temples” last night at Little Sister Lounge in the East Village.   Nathan’s film showcases comedic performances by the likes of Jason Schwartzman, Carol Kane, Robert Smigel, Celia Weston, and Dolly De Leon. With C. Mason Wells he wrote the funnhy written script which is the ultimate vehicle for this pitch-perfect ensemble to lovingly needle the conventions of religion, family and relationships.

The event was hosted by Sony Pictures Classics Co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard who celebrated with filmmakers and cast for the film “Between the Temples” including cast Carol Kane, Jason Schwartzman, Robert Smigel, and Director, Nathan Silver.Guests enjoyed a gourmet selection of canapes including lobster rolls, spring rolls, wagyu sliders, and spicy tuna crisps, as well as featured cocktails by Hendrick’s Gin including the Hendrick’s Cucumber lemonade and Grapefruit Collins.

The Cinema Center will cap off the series with the closing night festival film “Satisfied” held Saturday night celebrating the 10-year anniversary Broadway debut of “Hamilton” with the original cast including Ariana Dubois. Lin Manuel, and Renée Elise Goldsberry.

“Roxstar Entertainment is pleased to continue to support independent filmmakers and distributors especially in its mission to get movie fans back into their true intended viewing medium, the movie theaters.  We are so grateful to be able to work with like-minded companies to sponsor and support the events and help drive the promotion and celebration for the films, filmmakers, and respective casts,” says David Manning, Roxstar Entertainment’s Executive Producer of the Cinema Center.

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Events

Lin Manuel and The Miranda Family Honored by The Jazz Power Initiative

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Lin-Manuel greeting Jazz Power Initiative’s Eli Yamin, Co-Founder, Managing and Creative Director at 20th anniversary celebration where The Miranda Family were honored. Photo by Ttsiana Kulesh

On a rainy New York evening it was all sunshine, joy and music at 1 Vanderbilt Avenue, where the 20th floor, location of TD Bank’s Conference Center, had been transformed for the 20th anniversary celebration of Jazz Power Initiative, an organization founded by two friends: writer/educator Clifford Carlson, and jazz musician/educator Dr. Eli Yamin.  Over the last two decades, under the leadership of Dr. Yamin who is now managing and artistic director, the organization has become an influential part of the NYC arts education community.


Through the power of Jazz and the Afro-Latin rhythms that have contributed to the growth of this truly American music genre, and the inclusion of original jazz musicals, written by Clifford Carlson and Eli Yamin for the children, the organization has transformed the lives of young people from Upper Manhattan, Washington Heights, and the Bronx.  Engaging young people in music, theatre, and dance programs, that are taught by award-winning professional artists, helping them find their creative voice, fostering positive self-expression, and building community – is what JPI does so well.

Lin-Manuel greeting Jazz Power Initiative’s Eli Yamin, Co-Founder, Managing and Creative Director at 20th anniversary celebration where The Miranda Family were honored. Photo by Ttsiana Kulesh

This year the organization was delighted to honor three unwavering supporters who have helped them achieve incredible success and growth, and who have been there continuously.  The staunch support of people and organizations over the past 20 years – including the leadership of those being honored – has helped Jazz Power Initiative to achieve its mission in Northern Manhattan.  They have been able to serve thousands of New Yorkers and visitors annually – including students, teachers, artists, families, and general audiences ages 6-80, to build more creative and inclusive communities through jazz music, arts education, and performance.

The Honorees

Tanya LeMelle, an executive with TD Bank, and a Jazz Power Initiative board member talked about the corporate giant’s investment in the communities they serve.  “TD Bank is a long-standing supporter of the Jazz Power Initiative and our community focused efforts, which closely align with the bank’s own work to support and create dialogues in arts and culture that reflect diverse voices.”

The organization was the recipient of the Corporate Social Responsibility award presented to TD Bank and accepted by Ralph Bumbaca, TD Bank’s Market President-Commercial for the New York City Market, who echoed the sentiments expressed by his colleague.

The extraordinary, award-winning founder of The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, leader of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, an educator, composer – Arturo O’Farrill took the podium to introduce his friends, The Mirandas.  His remarks began with the words, “Jazz is sacred music!” And it proved to be just that when the young Zah! group took the stage that night. He went on to list the contributions made over the past 40-years, by The Mirandas, as champions of community activism, and their support of institutions like Jazz Power Initiative that have “uplifted underserved populations in upper Manhattan, including those across New York City, across the country and in Puerto Rico.  And their continued commitment and advocacy for education in the arts and social justice.”

Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda, the matriarch of the family, flanked by members of her family, Lucecita Miranda-Crespo, Lin-Manuel and Miguel Towns were all on hand to receive the inaugural Philanthropy Award.  “Music is very important to our family,” she began. “When Luis and I met, one of our many connections was around our shared love of music.”  She spoke about the importance of music and the arts in teaching and imbuing young people with empathy.

The youngest member of the family, Miguel Towns spoke about the power of music and quoted Stevie Wonder, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.”  He went on to explain what music represents, “…it is the only art which is experienced through sound and lets us experience or convey emotions with one another, in a way unique to the human experience.”

Miguel was followed by Lin-Manuel who was exuberant about being on-hand to receive the inaugural Philanthropy Award, on behalf of his family.  “Thank you all for being here, and thank you for this tremendous honor,” he said, before reminding his friend Arturo, that one of the great moments of his life as a composer, was having Arturo do an arrangement of Piragua, from In The Heights.   He went on to reflect on “how much Eli and Jazz Power” have been a part of his life and childhood community. “I come not just as a musician, but as a product of the privilege of a wonderful public-school arts education, which underscores the importance of what Jazz Power does.”

The message that resonated most during the night, as Lin-Manuel emphasized was the importance of Jazz Power’s contributions – “it brings music to young people at the most important time in their lives; when they are connecting music to their own emotions and how they are feeling.”

Filmmaker, Phil Bertelsen, who received two extraordinary introductions, due to traffic.  Rachel Dretzin, who has worked with Bertelsen on Who Killed Malcom X (Netflix series) and author/educator, Donald Bogel who was supposed to introduce him, but arrived late due to New York traffic congestion, recalled how impressive he was as a student of his at NYU, and how later he hired him to help research a book on Dorothy Dandridge that he was in the midst of writing.

Phil received the Changemaker Award from the organization he has had the pleasure of working with for some time now.  For him, the moment was humbling, “Change is not something that comes easy and it’s not something we do alone.” He acknowledged many of the people who have had a hand in helping him along the way as he made his “avocation, his vocation.” Phil has won numerous awards, among them a Peabody and an Emmy for his work which he considers a way of paying it forward by telling interesting and important stories that make a difference.

What began as an idea in 1998, thanks to a grant from Meet the Composer/New Music for Schools, in tandem with funding from the Louis Armstrong Education Foundation awarded to acclaimed jazz musician and educator Eli Yamin, led to the first iteration of the organization.  In 2003 it incorporated as The Jazz Drama Program, and later underwent another evolutionary transition to become a nonprofit organization in 2004.  Then it rebranded in 2017 as Jazz Power Initiative the organization that has become a permanent fixture in schools and in the communities it services.

In its 20-year existence, under the leadership of a brilliant staff headed by Dr. Eli Yamin – the organization has touched the lives of over 6,000 young people; engaged the knowledge and experience of some 1,000 educators; and cultivated an inclusive audience, of over 100,000, reached through live performance attendance and virtual participation.

Eli summed up the evening and his joy at being at the helm of this important organization as follows – “As a child of the 1960s, born in 1968, I find myself often wondering about that time and how it shaped me through my parents, my mentors, and my friends.  I watched a documentary about Bobby Kennedy and when asked what drove him to do the work he was doing, he said:  ‘What I think is satisfying…what makes it worthwhile is that you feel that you can have an effect and perhaps do some good for other people…that there is the possibility that if you make the right kind of an effort that their lives are going to change and that therefore their whole existence is going to change and therefore, their children’s lives are going to change…’”. Jazz Power Initiative has been changing lives and adding a sense of joy through their various programs:

-Jazz Power Youth – provides vocal, dance and theatre training in culturally diverse environments, to build courage, curiosity, and compassion.
-Jazz Power Community – provides education in jazz music, dance, and theatre to inspire and empower.
-Jazz Power Musicals – through the creation and commission of original jazz musicals that address socially relevant issues, JPI hopes to inspire and unite audiences.
-The Power Pro – offering professional, experiential training to educators and business leaders.
The evening wrapped with a call to action to make the next 20 years of Jazz Power Initiative even better.  Felix Hernandez, WBGO Radio personality and host of Rhythm Revue on Saturdays and Sundays, turned the night into a dynamic party to remember.

If you wish to get more information about the organization, or if you would like to donate to Jazz Power Initiative, please go to www.jazzpower.org.

Jazz Power Initiative (JPI, a dba of The Jazz Drama Program), a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization founded in 2003, serves thousands of New Yorkers and visitors annually – students, teachers, artists, seniors, and general audiences, ages 8-80+, to promote music education, and build more creative and inclusive communities through jazz music, theater, dance education, and performance.   

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Events

The Musical Titanic Successfully Sails onto the Stage at City Center

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Titanic The Musical proves that the music and story does not need the special effects of a sinking ship to send the audience on an emotional journey. Twenty-five years ago when Titanic opened on Broadway, after reading headlines about the  malfunctioning unsinkable set, I skeptically went to the show; but, those first 18 minutes turned out to be the greatest opening number I had ever seen. The show is currently being performed at City Center in the Encores! Series and this score can stand alone without the trappings usually required to produce a Broadway spectacle. The opening number not only introduced us to the three focal people who each in their own way contributed to the disaster of the iceberg: Captain E.J. Smith (Chuck Cooper), Thomas Andrews (Jose Llana), J. Bruce Ismay (Brandon Uranowitz); but, also the members of all three classes aboard the ship and the crewmembers. As the 32 member cast raises their voices in beautiful harmony to cheer “Sail on, great ship Titanic” the hopes of the third class passengers, the wonder of those in first class and the pride of the crew are all felt by the audience. So moving is this song that we can suspend reality and wish that the maiden voyage of this “floating city” actually successfully makes it to New York.

This is not the Rose and Jack story that fictionalized a love story between a third and first class passenger but an even more beautiful story based on real people who either survived or were left onboard as the ship broke apart.


The music and lyrics by Maury Yeston are thrilling, cheerful, romantic and haunting. The story and book by Peter Stone who had previously done justice to the telling of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 again brings history to the stage with wit and suspense despite knowing the eventual tragedy.

Over twenty songs fill this musical score with a variety of styles and themes. Each one perfectly delivered by this amazing team of actors and singers briskly directed by Anne Kauffman. There is not a bad song in the mix nor a disappointing performer; but, in addition to that opening number I must highlight a few.

Lady’s Maid sung by the 3rd class passengers brings me to tears as three Irish lasses all named Kate start by telling their fellow travelers their dreams for America. Samantha Williams, Lilli Cooper, and Ashley Blanchet play the ‘three Kates’ and are joined by the ensemble all singing their own individual ambitions – to be a constable, engineer, and governess, etc. It fills my heart with pride that America is such a land of opportunity and then it breaks when I realize that some of these dreamers will never make it to their destination.

A pairing of two male singers, Ramin Karimloo and Alex Joseph Grayson, playing coal stoker Barrett and radio operator Bride, respectively sing two love songs one to his fiancé and one about his career choice is a magical duet where each voice is given a chance to shine.

Another example of Yeston’s genius is a song where three voices combine but certainly not in love; the ship’s owner, designer, and captain Blame each other for the inevitable sinking. It is a dramatic song that is rarely seen in such a show but too often seen in human nature.

The real life owner of Macy’s department store was actually onboard the Titanic with his wife. Chip Zien and Judy Kuhn portray the elderly Isidor and Ida Straus whose love proved even stronger than the two youngsters in the James Cameron film. Ida chose not to get on a lifeboat without her life long partner and that love is beautifully sung in their duet Still.

Love, anger, hope and desire are all represented on the stage but it is second class passenger Alice Beane that gives the tension a bit of comic relief. Wonderfully sung and acted by Bonnie Milligan, Mrs Bean dances into the first class salon and in one of the few choreographed numbers brings joy to the festivities. She and her husband Edgar (Drew Gehling) sing I Have Danced – a song that depicts the struggle of a happily married couple when ambitions are not in line.

We know the ship is going to hit the iceberg but as Matthew Scott as the ship entertainment sings the rhythmic tune Autumn coupled with the Company repeating the haunting No Moon the suspense grows as the ship sails in the night.

Anne Kauffman directs the cast seamlessly from scene to scene not only allowing the songs to tell a fantastic story but to bring out the wit and passion of Peter Stone’s words.

Rob Berman, the Encores! Music Director, again conducts this 30 piece orchestra with incredible ease despite the complicated orchestrations created by Johnathn Tunick. With every violin string, trumpet note, drum roll and cymbal clash the music envelops the huge theater yet touches every individual in it.

Encores! Began 30 years ago to honor scores that are not often revived. With minimal rehearsal time for this limited run some actors are still on book but that does not diminish either the music, story or the talent on the stage. Much has been written about the cost of producing on Broadway so a production with this many cast members and musicians may never be transferred to a Broadway theater as Encores other 2024 title, Once Upon a Mattress will be doing so do not hesitate to buy a ticket. Do not be left on the dock waving goodbye to this magnificent creation.

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