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Ooops They Did It Again and Brought Mediocrity To Broadway With & Juliet

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Think Head Over Heels meets Moulin Rouge bumps into the High School Musical franchise on acid without Michael Mayer, Alex Timbers or Kenny Ortega. That is Broadway’s newest musical & Juliet.

Stark Sands, Betsy Wolfe Photo by Matthew Murphy

This jukebox musical imagines William Shakespeare’s (Stark Sands) Juliet (the sassy Lorna Courtney) not killing herself over Romeo, a boy she’s known four days. This revision is due to Shakespeare’s very dissatisfied wife Anne Hathaway (Betsy Wolfe), who asks “Why, does Juliet have to die?”

Lorna Courtney, Betsy Wolfe, Justin David Sullivan, Melanie La Barrie Photo by Matthew Murphy

Anne writes herself into the story along with a new BFF for Juliet (Justin David Sullivan, though at my performance Michael Evan Carrier) who is not a girl and not yet a woman, along with her nurse Angelique (the unintelligible Melanie La Barrie). Together they go to Paris to help Juliet escape becoming a nun.

Philippe Arroyo, Justin David Sullivan Photo by Matthew Murphy

In the meantime, Juliet again falls for another in fewer days than her first romance. In Paris, she and her friends attend a ball given by Lance DuBois (an embarrassing Paulo Szot), whose cute nerdy son François (Philippe Arroyo) falls for Juliet and then May. It gets complicated by the surprise return of Romeo (Ben Jackson Walker)

Paolo Szot, Melanie La Barrie Photo by Matthew Murphy

The music is by Karl Martin Sandberg aka Max Martin, a Swedish record producer and songwriter. 29 of his songs are squashed into this production. Think hits by The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Céline Dion, NSYNC, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Kesha, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Bon Jovi,  Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake and The Weeknd. None of them are that wonderful or sung that well. When will Broadway understand pop, rock and musical theatre are different formats, no matter how loudly the cast screams the songs at the audience?

Lorna Courtney and & Juliet cast Photo by
Matthew Murphy

The book by David West Read is not very funny or very deep. An example: Juliet insists on calling François DuBois  “Frankie DeBoy,” making her sound not very bright and this is supposed to be a feminist musical. Also, Juliet is supposed to marry François, but her BFF May hits on him and gets him…..some BFF!

Luke Sheppard’s direction is frantic, the choreography by Jennifer Weber spastic. Soutra Gilmour’s clever set design is flashy. Paloma Young’s costume design seem to have used all the colors of the rainbow, as she mashes the centuries together. Howard Hudson’s lighting design, Gareth Owen’s sound design and Andrzej Goulding’s video & projection design add to the spectacle.

The cast delivers, but not in subtlety or depth. Only Courtney, Sands and Arroyo give us performances to care about.

For a show about feminism, self-destiny, empowerment, chosen identity and pride, after two and half hours my takeaway was disappointment of the lack of any of that.

& Juliet: Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 W 43rd Street.

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

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sweeney Todd’s New Cast

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Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster joined the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd February 9th, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. They replaced Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford, who both earned 2023 Tony nominations for their leading performances in the production.

The Tony Award winning Tveit stepped into the role of Sweeney Todd, which is his first Broadway role since he originated the lead, Christian, in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. He is also known for his performances in Wicked, Catch Me If You Can, Hairspray, and Rent. Tveit has also portrayed several musical theatre roles on screen, such as Enjolras in the film adaptation of Les Misérables (2012), as well as Danny Zuko in Fox’s Grease: Live (2016). In television, he was Gareth Ritter on BrainDead, Tripp van der Bilt on Gossip Girl, Mike Warren on Graceland, and Danny Bailey/Topher in Schmigadoon!.

Foster’s last Broadway role was Marian Paroo in the 2021 revival of The Music Man, which earned her a Tony nomination the following year. She has earned six additional nominations and she is a two-time Tony winner for Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes. Her other credits include Violet and Little Women. In 2016, she starred opposite Aaron Tveit and Betty Buckley in the Stephen Schwartz revue Defying Gravity in Australia. She appeared in the Off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity and was in the miniseries Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life opposite her ex-husband, Christian Borle. She made guest appearances on The Good Wife and Mad Dogs, she is known for her role as Liza Miller in Younger. A month earlier she wow’d audiences as Winfred in the Encore production of Once Upon A Mattress.

Now the two are winning raves in this macabre masterpiece of musical theatre,

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Museum of Broadway Celebrates Black History Month

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Museum of Broadway, 145 W. 45th Street, upcoming February Events

Saturday, February 24th | 12:00 PM

The Museum of Broadway Presents: A History of Minstrelsy with Ben West 

Join musical theatre artist and historian Ben West, author of the upcoming book The American Musical, for a journey into the history of minstrelsy, including its legacy of blackface on Broadway, its trailblazing Black artists, and its impact on the development of the American musical. Note: This talk will involve mature content.

– Event link here

Monday, February 26th | 11:00 AM

The Museum of Broadway Presents: A Conversation with Black Broadway Creatives

Join in celebrating and honoring the lives, careers, and experiences of Black Broadway creatives in the American theater.  Panelists include Ken Hanson, Dante Harrell, Destiny Lilly, Zane Mark, Thelma Pollard and Virginia Woodruff, in-conversation with Erich McMillian-McCall of Project 1 Voice.

– Event link here

Wednesday, February 28th | 12:00 PM

The Museum of Broadway Presents: Mary & Ethel…And Mikey Who? 

Talkback and Book Signing with award-winning author Stephen Cole joined by famed cabaret star Klea Blackhurst and special guest Anita Gillette

– Event link here 

Thursday, February 29th |10:30 AM

The Museum of Broadway Presents: Spotlight on Black Broadway Producers

Join acclaimed award-winning producers Rashad Chambers, Sade Lythcott & Brian Anthony Moreland in-conversation with Merrily We Roll Along’s Krystal Joy Brown

– Event link here

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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

MORE MURDER — (Via Deadline) Sophie Ellis-Bextor is gearing up to tour around North America for the first time and adding more cities for fans to see her perform “Murder on the Dance Floor” live.

The British singer’s song is featured in the final scene of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, where Barry Keoghan’s Oliver dances naked around the manor. After the scene went viral, the song, co-written by Ellis-Bextor and Gregg Alexander, also went viral on social media. “Murder on the Dance Floor” was originally released in 2001, but it never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 until now, peaking at 51 recently.

Ellis-Bextor recently made an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon where she performed the viral hit and the star is now embarking on a North America tour.

The artist announced her first-ever live show in NYC, set to take place on June 6 at Webster Hall, and the date quickly sold out. Ellis-Bextor has now announced more dates across the U.S. and Canada that will take her to San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

“Oh my… the New York show sold out in a day! Thank you thank you thank you,” Ellis-Bextor said in her newsletter announcing the additional tour dates. “So – how about some more shows in some more cities?! My band and I are coming for you! Super excited. Come and dance with me….”

May 30: August Hall (San Francisco, CA)May 31: The Observatory North Park (San Diego, CA)June 3: 9:30 Club (Washington D.C.)June 4: Royale Boston (Boston, MA)June 5: Union Transfer (Philadelphia, PA)June 6: Webster Hall (New York City, NY)June 8: Danforth Music Hall (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

I love this record, because its an actual song. Sure, they repeat the title about three-dozen times, but its a great track.

Neil Diamond and Micky Dolenz

NOISE CLOSES — (Via Deadline) Broadway’s A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical will play its final performance on Sunday, June 30, before launching a national tour this fall, producers announced today.

The musical, which began previews on November 2, 2022, at the Broadhurst Theatre and opened that year on December 4, will have played 35 preview performances and 657 regular performances when it closes.

As I’ve said, early reviews of the show, kind of stopped me from going to this. An artist who is even referenced in the play said to me ‘why would I go to a play that got bad reviews.’ Understood.

But, I did see it and absolutely loved it. Of course, I’m somewhat on the business side and loved all the insider-nuances. And, I saw it with the original performers in it.

There will be a national tour and I predict it will be a huge hit as Diamond’s music is multi-generational. As I’ve said, I preferred Diamond’s “Solitary Man”-period more than “America” and “I Am, I Said.” Although, “Turn On Your Heart Light” (written with Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach) was a great record.

An icon for certain.

SHORT TAKES — Warner’s second Aquaman movie; Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will stream on MAX on February 27. The first Aquaman movie, out in 2018, remains the highest-grossing DC film of all time. The sequel, after a plethora of media, mostly about Amber Heard, disappeared in a matter of weeks … Broadway-journeyman and Rockers On Broadway-creator Donnie Kehr recupping. Get well soon brother! … Keith Girard’s New York Independent featured an interview with 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long. Check it out: https://www.thenyindependent.com/music/1704991/kjersti-long-17-explores-her-jersey-roots-by-way-of-utah-with-power-pop-style-video/

Pet Shop Boys

Just listened to the Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls.” What a tremendous record that hold up amazingly well all these years later. It came out in 1984 and produced by Bobby Orlando … Amazon shuttering Freevee? First off, as an offshoot of Amazon, this has got to be one of the worst monikers ever! I mean, FreeVee ... always sounded like frisbee!  Adios … Thursday’s Law & Order was the ode to Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy-character (Last Dance).

Sam Waterston

After 404 episodes, we had to say goodbye. It wasn’t the greatest episode, but when McCoy took over the case and presented it to the jury, Waterston shone brightly. When McCoy said to Hugh Dancy (Nolan Ryan), it was a hell of a ride, it resonated terrifically. Thanks Jack! …

True Detective

I loved the finale on HBO of True Detective with Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. I didn’t understand it all, but the look and direction (by Issa Lopez) and Jodie Foster was just superb. I had forgotten just how good an actress Foster was. Sure, she was good in Nyad, but it was a supporting role. Here, she was just stellar. I’d like to see more of her …

Micky Jones

It was a grim week medically speaking as talk-show hostess Wendy Williams was diagnosed with aphasia and dementia and Mick Jones of Foreigner, with Parkinson’s. Sending prayers to both … And finally, news surfaced Thursday that an “inebriated” Andy Cohen harassed Brandi Glanville. I don’t know Andy at all, but his bad-boy antics of the last several years were clearly leading to something like this. Glanville’s lawyers even invoked NBC’s Matt Lauer in their brief. Expect a huge media brouhaha over this one. Sad for sure … Happy Bday Lou Christie; Niki Avers and Chloe Gaier.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Walter; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Kent Kotal; Ace Frehley; Alex Saltzman; Lush Ice; Tony King; Barry Zelman; Justin Ridener; Kent & Laura Denmark; Mark Bego; Mark Scheerer; Barbara Shelley; and SADIE!

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

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

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

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

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Ani DiFranco and Lola Tung Join Hadestown

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

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

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

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

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

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