The hope of every playwright who enters new work in a festival is that he will meet a producer who might want to move his work forward commercially. Gene Fisch, Jr., Producer and founder of the New York New Works Theatre Festival, now onstage at the Acorn Theater in Theater Row through September 22, is determined to make that happen. He put this festival together to showcase a number of shows in a short time, and he has been successful in getting producers to come see them. Several shows have been optioned out of the festival, so he’s clearly doing the right thing.
Each festival presentation is limited to 25 minutes, under the generally true assumption that the quality of the project should be evident from that. A typical festival program has four different shows. The audience will vote for their favorites, and six winners of that vote will be presented next weekend in encore performances as the Best of Fest.
Over two days, I saw six presentations which varied widely in quality. But the fun of a festival like this is to see the range of creativity, and hope you stumble upon a shiny nugget of a show.
Flower of Iowa by Lance Ringel, based on his novel, introduced us to two soldiers in France during World War One, one Briish and one American, who spend a night together that blossoms from friendship into what presumably will become a gay relationship. The dialogue was honest and real. The two young actors, Ben Salus and Bradley Johnson, are both very touching under the subtle and tasteful direction of Chuck Muckle. I was intrigued to see how the rest of the show develops, which is the reaction producers of these shows hope to elicit.
Inamorata by Fred Kramer, on the other hand, was a turgid, enervated, amateurish tale of an aging woman reflecting on her life with two alter egos as her younger self. Susan Dougherty as the older woman was so low energy I thought she would fall asleep along with me. The two girls playing her younger selves, Oakley Friedman and Nancy Kimball, were barely more interesting. The show’s young director, Dylan Alexander Kaplan, did nothing to help this show make the right impression. Whatever might have been interesting in the writing was buried in this presentation.
The other four shows were all one woman presentations which showed a wide range of talent, or lack of it.
Heather Massey performed as Hedy! The life and Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, which she also wrote. Under the direction of Blake Walton, Ms. Massie very much captures the style and beauty of this famous performer. The show also emphasizes that Hedy was also a woman of science, whose invention of frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology was the foundation of our wireless device world. Ms. Massie is interested in inspiring young women to seek careers in science through her show, which is noble. But it’s not necessarily great theater. Her show is just so much, “this happened then that happened,” with no dramatic tension in the story telling. When you write a show about someone’s life, it’s incumbent on the author to deliver not just the series of events in someone’s life, but the struggles and conflicts which make it interesting. From what I could tell, Ms. Massie hasn’t captured that.
Much more successful was Cindy Marinangel as Dietrich, in a one woman play written by Willard Manus about Marlene Dietrich, directed by Michael V. Doane. The play is set on the eve of her return to Germany after the war, as a performer in 1960. Marlene Dietrich was seen by the Nazis as a traitor to Germany. She faced death threats if she chose to go on. This dramatic context adds important tension to the show. As she is deciding whether or not to face her audience, she is visited by an American soldier who is a reporter for what I presume to be the Army paper, Stars and Stripes, to whom she tells the story of her life. The excellent musical accompaniment was by pianist Russell Daisey.
Ms. Marinangel is a powerful beauty in her own right, who skillfully draws us into Dietrich’s world with a smart sexiness as much her own as Dietrich’s. This looks like a show which should go somewhere, with a charismatic star you don’t want to miss. Fingers crossed you’ll have another chance to see it in the finals next weekend.
In The Pink Hulk, actress Valerie David shares with us her personal journey through not one but two bouts with cancer. There’s no faulting Ms. David for her energetic, often light hearted, and always deeply felt memoir. This writer/performer is on a highly personal mission to raise awareness for a cause. Ms. David is engaging and honest in her performance, as directed by Padraic Lillis. But it never seems to rise dramatically above her personal passion. It should continue to find success in festivals and private presentations, although probably not commercially.
Finally, there was Queen Kong En Chaine, written and performed by Dana Block. This show, and Ms. Block, were like a car wreck you couldn’t look at and couldn’t look away from. It is promoted as a play about Hitler’s favorite film maker, Leni Riefenstahl. The title refers to Ms. Riefensthal’s desire, concocted by Ms. Block, to make a feminist, female version of King Kong to restore her film career. When Ms. Block comes on stage she is supposed to be a hundred and three years old (actually, Riefenstahl died just after her one hundred first birthday.) But Ms. Bloch was inappropriately dressed in black leatherette like a Wiemar biker chick. Her show was also full of bizarre and inexplicable story turns. At one point, she introduced a Barbie doll and then became a Barbie doll like figure herself. She concluded her presentation with an expletive filled monologue about her vagina. I couldn’t imagine suffering through any more of Ms. Block’s tasteless theatrical self-indulgence.
So, you never know what you can dig up when panning for theatrical gold. Next weekend will feature a reading of an unproduced play by Bernard Pomerance, the deceased author of The Elephant Man. Be sure to check out the Best of the Fest next weekend as well.
Asi Wind’s Inner Circle Where Cards Are Magical and Slight of Hand is Astounding
My guest absolutely loved Asi Wind’s Inner Circle pre, but if you have been to Speakeasy Magick at The McKittrick Hotel, much of what is here will seem repetitive, though still amazing.
Asi, is good looking, charming, amusing and has a wonderful slight of hand. The Gym at the Judson has been designed and lit by Adam Blumenthal to make the space warm and inviting. The space only has 100 seats so you are up-close and personal.
Before the show starts audience members are asked to write their names and initial on a blank card with red or black sharpie’s. These are the cards he uses as his deck, so that each night the show is personalize.
Wind is a wonderful storyteller and loves his craft. He is infectious about his passion and in so brings his audience in. Each trick is celebrated as he builds his momentum. You will have seen most of these tricks before, if you have been to The McKittrick, but Asi makes it fun and exciting.
My guest could not wait to bring her grandson and throughly enjoyed the show. That alone made the performance special.
Asi Wind’s Inner Circle: Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street, until May 28th.
Theatre News: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bad Cinderella, John Kander, KPOP and The Rewards of Being Frank
A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber
I am absolutely devastated to say that my eldest son Nick is critically ill.
As my friends and family know, he has been fighting gastric cancer for the last 18 months and Nick is now hospitalised.
I therefore have not been able to attend the recent previews of Bad Cinderella and as things stand, I will not be able to cheer on its wonderful cast, crew and orchestra on Opening Night this Thursday.
We are all praying that Nick will turn the corner. He is bravely fighting with his indomitable humour, but at the moment my place is with him and the family.
Opening Night Performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Bad Cinderella is Thursday, March 23, 2023 at Imperial Theatre, 249 W 45th Street.
Red Carpet arrivals of celebrity guests including Afyia Bennett, Senator Barbara Boxer, Alex Brightman, Tory Burch, Kandi Burruss, Jordan E. Cooper, Erin Dana Lichy, Lamar Dawson, Machine Dazzle, Bethenny Frankel, Mandy Gonzalez, Amber Gray, Jae Gurley, Amber Iman, Ashley Longshore, Carson Kressley, Judy Kuhn, Loosey LaDuca, Luann de Lesseps, Marcia Marcia Marcia, Martyna Majok, Ingrid Michaelson, Andy Mientus, Minnie Mills, Pablo Montalban, Justin Peck, Wendell Pierce, Zac Posen, T. Oliver Reid, Krysta Rodriguez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Sylvester Stallone, Elizabeth Stanley, Alex Timbers, Tommy Tune, Tanairi Sade Vasquez, Ana Villafane, Anna Wintour and the cast and creative team of Bad Cinderella including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Linedy Genao, Carolee Carmello, Grace McLean, Jordan Dobson, Sami Gayle, Morgan Higgins, Cameron Loyal, Christina Acosta Robinson, Savy Jackson, Mike Baerga, Raymond Baynard, Lauren Boyd, Tristen Buettel, Alyssa Carol, Gary Cooper, Kaleigh Cronin, Josh Drake, Ben Lanham, Angel Lozada, Mariah Lyttle, Robin Masella, Sarah Meahl, Michael Milkanin, Chloe Nadon-Enriquez, Christian Probst, Larkin Reilly, Julio Rey, Lily Rose, J Savage, Dave Schoonover, Tregony Shepherd, Paige Smallwood, Lucas Thompson, Alena Watters and more.
John Kander celebrates his 96th birthday on Saturday, March 18, six days before New York, New York, his 16th original Broadway musical begins performances at the St. James Theatre., giving him the distinction of being the oldest composer to open a new musical on Broadway. To honor the legendary composer Susan Stroman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colton Ryan, Anna Uzele and the cast and creative team of New York, New York surprised John Kander with a Big-Apple-sized rendition of “Happy Birthday.” You can watch the video here.
A titan of the American Theatre, John Kander made his Broadway debut as the rehearsal pianist for the original production of Gypsy starring Ethel Merman in 1951. The first Kander & Ebb musical, Flora The Red Menace, debuted in 1965 and starred Liza Minnelli in a Tony-winning performance. What followed was a string of legendary musicals including Chicago, Cabaret, Steel Pier, Curtains, The Visit and The Scottsboro Boys, all culminating in this new musical set in post-war New York, inspired by the 1977 Martin Scorsese film of the same name, which features the iconic song “New York, New York.” New York, New York marks the 15th Kander & Ebb musical to open on Broadway.
New York, New York marks the first new John Kander & Fred Ebb musical to open on Broadway since 2015’s The Visit, which was nominated for 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The legendary duo is also currently represented on Broadway with Chicago, which holds the distinction of being the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.
New York, New York stars Colton Ryan (Girl From The North Country, Hulu’s “The Girl From Plainville”) as Jimmy Doyle, Anna Uzele (Six, Apple TV+’s “Dear Edward”) as Francine Evans, Clyde Alves (On The Town) as Tommy Caggiano, John Clay III (Choir Boy) as Jesse Webb, Janet Dacal (In The Heights) as Sofia Diaz, Ben Davis (Dear Evan Hansen) as Gordon Kendrick, Oliver Prose as Alex Mann (Broadway Debut), Angel Sigala (Broadway Debut) as Mateo Diaz, and Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner (Side Show) as Madame Veltri. The ensemble includes Wendi Bergamini, Allison Blackwell, Giovanni Bonaventura, Jim Borstelmann, Lauren Carr, Mike Cefalo, Bryan J. Cortés, Kristine Covillo, Gabriella Enriquez, Haley Fish, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Richard Gatta, Stephen Hanna, Naomi Kakuk, Akina Kitazawa, Ian Liberto, Kevin Ligon, Leo Moctezuma, Aaron Nicholas Patterson, Dayna Marie Quincy, Julian Ramos, Drew Redington, Benjamin Rivera, Vanessa Sears, Davis Wayne, Jeff Williams, Darius Wright. New York, New York begins performances Friday, March 24, 2023 and officially opens Wednesday, April 26, 2023 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre (246 West 44th Street).
Featuring music and lyrics by Tony, Emmy & Grammy Award winners and Academy Award nominees John Kander & Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret), written by Tony Award nominee David Thompson (The Scottsboro Boys, Steel Pier), co-written by Sharon Washington (Audible’s Feeding The Dragon) and featuring additional lyrics by Pulitzer, Tony, Emmy & Grammy Award winner and Academy Award nominee Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In The Heights), New York, New York will be directed and choreographed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman (The Producers, The Scottsboro Boys).
It is 1946, the war is over, and a resurgent New York is beginning to rebuild. As steel beams swing overhead, a collection of artists has dreams as big and diverse as the city itself.
Among them is New York native Jimmy Doyle, a brilliant but disillusioned musician looking for his “major chord” in life: music, money, love. The odds are against him getting all three until he meets Francine Evans, a young singer just off the bus from Philly, who is destined for greatness. If they can make it there, they can make it anywhere.
Tickets for New York, New York are now on-sale at www.NewYorkNewYorkBroadway.com. Tickets start at $59.
This new musical is inspired by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Motion Picture New York, New York written by Earl M. Rauch.
Sony Masterworks Broadway, along with producers Tim Forbes and Joey Parnes, share new track “Super Star” from KPOP – Original Broadway Cast Recording – listen here. Featuring vocals from chart-topping Korean songstress and show lead Luna as well as the show’s talented cast of performers, “Superstar” is the second track to debut from the album, which arrives digitally on Monday, May 8 and on CD Friday, May 12. “Super Star” premieres today alongside an accompanying video featuring Luna – watch here.
Available for preorder and presave now, KPOP – Original Broadway Cast Recording was produced by Helen Park, Matt Stein, and Harvey Mason jr.(NCT 127, Red Velvet), and features music, lyrics, music production and arrangements by Park and music and lyrics by Max Vernon. The first-ever Broadway musical to celebrate Korean culture with Korean, Korean-American, and API representation on and off-stage, the album features a star-studded cast of performers from the world of K-pop, including chart-topping superstar and lead Luna, BoHyung (from the K-pop group SPICA and half of the duo KEEMBO), Min (from the K-pop group Miss A), Kevin Woo (from the K-pop group U-KISS), and more.
The Rewards of Being Frank, currently running through March 26, 2023 at the Mezzanine Theatre at ART/New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street), is now available for streaming, also through March 26 only. The World Premiere play, written by Alice Scovell, is a sequel to Oscar Wilde’s immortal 1895 comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest. https://ci.ovationtix.com/35099/store/donations/49755 The cast for The Rewards of Being Frank feature Moboluwaji Ademide Akintilo (New York Classical’s The Importance of Being Earnest (Two Ways), Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Frank, James Evans (The McKittrick Hotel’s The Woman in Black) as Algernon, Kelly Mengelkoch (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company) as Gwendolyn, Tora Nogami Alexander (The Acting Company’s Twelfth Night) as Cecily, Jeremy Dubin (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company) as Ernest, and Christine Pedi(Broadway’s Chicago, Talk Radio, Off-Broadway’s Forbidden Broadway) as Lady Bracknell. Oscar Wilde’s much-loved The Importance of Being Earnest receives a hilarious sequel in this world premiere. Set seven years after Wilde’s play, see what happens to our characters when they meet Frank. After all, the only thing more Important than being Earnest, is being Frank! Performances are Tuesday-Sunday at 7:00 PM with matinees on Wednesdays at 2:00 PM. Running time is two hours including intermission. Tickets are available on the NY Classical website. Advance reservations are $35 per seat. These reservations are refundable—in cash, at the theatre—following each regular performance.* All NY Classical programs are free and open to the public. Pending seating availability, FREE admission will be available beginning one hour before curtain, on a first-come, first-served basis.The Rewards of Being Frank is a co-production of New York Classical Theatre (Stephen Burdman, Founding Artistic Director, Matthieu Chapman, Literary Director) and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (Brian Isaac Phillips, Producing Artistic Director). Mr. Burdman directs. The streaming version of The Rewards of Being Frank is available for a donation of $10 or higher. You can watch the recording as often as you wish and at any time. The link will expire at 10:00 pm on Sunday, March 26, 2023. To order, or for more information, please visit:
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