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Streaming the Phenomenal Indecent On BroadwayHD

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Many years ago, a good friend of mine said to me, “This is what theatre exists for” after seeing the Broadway musical, Once and also after the Roundabout Theatre production of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter.  She’d say it again if and when she finally sees the intensely beautiful Indecent that is now streaming on BroadwayHD, filmed when it was playing at the Cort Theatre on Broadway. It’s in the blending of theatrical forms and ideas, symbols and styles, all entwined with wonder and creativity, to tell a story, unlike any other seen before. When I saw it live, I could feel the communal pull on our collective hearts, experiencing something that I thought was only available and reserved for live theatre. I had thought that no film could capture what this piece of theatrical art was trying to accomplish; the images, the art, and deep expression of emotionality and history bubbling up from the creators’ imagination into many many staggeringly beautiful moments, and I still somewhat hold onto that notion, although not entirely.  Indecent had an Off-Broadway run in 2016 at the Vineyard, followed by its Broadway run in 2017. The play was nominated for three Tony Awards and won Best Direction of a Play for Rebecca Taichman and Lighting Design in a Play for Christopher Akerlind. The piece flourishes still in its streaming version on BroadwayHD, and the goal set out by the creative minds of Paula Vogel (playwright co-creator) and Rebecca Taichman (director, co-creator) remains clear and consistent. The visually powerful imagery and magic that cascades forward on that Broadway stage within the first five minutes, as the ashes fall, is still more emotionally engaging than most shows could hope for in their entirety. And that is some powerful stuff to behold either way.

Indecent follows the real life creation and production of the infamous play, God of Vengeance.  This piece of playwriting changed the lives of all who were involved, from its first reading in 1906 Warsaw to its scandalous run on Broadway in 1923 and then beyond. This incendiary play by Sholem Asch is really the star of this magnificently powerful piece of theatre.  To call it a play within a play seems to belittle what transpires in this 90-minute creation. Thanks to the impeccable direction of Taichman (NYTW’s Sing Street, PH’s Familiar), it’s a much grander and yet, simple and meaningful engagement of all our senses. The design is utterly magical in its threadbare creation of this play within a play starting with the simplistic, but beautiful staging design by Riccardo Hernandez (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill), the subtle emotional lighting from Christopher Akerlind (RTC’s Merrily We Roll Along), the intense delicate costumes by Emily Rebholz (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen), the gloriously musical sound design from Matt Hubbs (Signature’s Boesman and Lena), and powerfully astute projections by Tal Yarden (Broadway’s The Crucible). With sensual and exciting live music (songs and music by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva; music coordinator: John Miller) performed by an insanely talented eclectic group of musicians, Matt Darriau (clarinet, bass, clarinet, tin whistle), Gutkin (violin, mandolin), and Halva (accordion, baritone ukulele, percussion) and luminous choreography weaved in by David Dorfman, the journey we take is beyond description and one that luckily for us all is available online.

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After the initial introduction of the gaggle of glorious actors, in a manner that carries a tremendous amount of emotional punch, the tale begins with the passionate Asch, played to perfection by Max Gordon Moore (2nd Stage’s Man from Nebraska) reading his newly finished first play to his wife, the enthusiastic Madje, wonderfully portrayed by Adina Verson (PH’s Wives).  From that point on, Madje is joined by others who see this play as a majestic piece of Yiddish theatre, breaking all barriers and stereotypes, while also challenging morality and what is considered decent.  Many at the roundtable’s first reading that one night in Warsaw see this play as dangerous and blasphemous. The men in the literary circle privy to hearing it read out loud for the first time become enraged. They call it literally fuel for anti-Semitism as the play contains a central character, a Jewish patriarch, Yekel, who runs a brothel from his basement.  This dramatic scenario, surprisingly, is not the straw that breaks the proverbial back of these men; it is the scene when Yekel’s virgin daughter falls madly and deeply in love with one of the prostitutes who work for him.

Lenk

It is, as many proclaim later on (and one we will bare witness to), the most powerful scene in the whole play, watching with glory, the two women consummate their love for one another, kissing passionately during a rainstorm on the street outside the brothel, and giving their hearts to the other with utter pure abandonment. Enraptured by this emotionally charged scene, the two actresses, played most impressively by Verson and Katrina Lenk (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit) find a transportive depth portraying these two women lovers and actors on tour with this play. They forge a deep beautiful connection that parallels the love and desire they represent nightly on stage. As the older actress, Lenk, a kissing violin-playing wonder, embodies the passion and deep sense of guttural attachment to her lover, this play, and all that it stands for. Her performance is something beyond sensual. Her role as actress and as the part she is playing within Asch’s play is deeply moving and highly engaging, so much so that we can’t help but fall for her, for them, and for this play in its entirety.

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One man who also falls for this scene and this play hard is Lemml, played with a sweet wide-eyed innocence by the magnificent Richard Topol (ATC’s Anatomy of a Suicide), a simple tailor who by luck of the draw and a family favor, finds himself at the initial first reading. Deeply moved by the depth of emotion that exists in this play, he devotes himself to Asch and the God of Vengeance, becoming the stage manager when it is produced in Berlin and beyond until the bitter end.  In Berlin, the play is met with wild applause, and starring the famed actor Rudolph Schildkraut, played majestically by Tom Nelis (Broadway’s The Visit), the play begins its successful tour throughout Europe, eventually landing on the shores of America. The rest of the cast, Mimi Lieber and Steven Rattzaai, along with Lenk, Verson, Moore, and Nelis, all play numerous parts, magnificently and smoothly.  It’s a seamless and spectacular wonder.

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It is in New York City, Broadway in particular, that this Yiddish play loses its connection of its emotional center. The love of the two women is lost in order to make its way onto the more commercial Broadway stage, and with that edit, God of Vengeance loses its focus and inner connective power. But even with that heartbreaking sacrifice, the play with a play does not save itself from being shut down. The entire cast, along with its producer and one of the owners of the theater, are convicted on charges of obscenity.  But this is not the end of the play, nor is it the end of the play within the play, as one would think.  The ramifications continue. Asch falters in his faith in the humanity and the world.  This is not because of his play’s run in with the law, but from what he witnesses all across Europe. So disturbed by what he has seen, he can’t even speak about the horrors to his faithful wife when he returns to Staten Island. The rise of anti-Semitism plays a substantial and deep role in this impressive piece as we watch the world move forward towards war.  The last third of the play is powerfully upsetting, as it always is when we begin to see the Star of David being literally attached to the actors’ jackets.

The writing of Indecent at this stage wobbles a bit on its strong legs. Vogel (How I Learned To Drive) making her Broadway debut, gets lost a bit in all that she is trying to say at the end, but that doesn’t take away the intensity of the imagery, the music, and the story. When I saw it on Broadway, a woman one row ahead of me was crying in a way that seemed almost inconsolable. And I could at the time completely understand how the piece was able to take her there. I remember, as we are all told to at the beginning of this powerful play, a note in the program that I am simply going to quote here once again.

“The song ‘Wiegala‘, heard near the conclusion of Indecent, was written by Ilse Klien, a nurse at the Children’s hospital at Theresienstadt. She sang this lullaby for the children in the wards. When it came time for the children to be transported to Auschwitz, Ilse Klein volunteered to go with them. It is said she sang this song in line to the chambers.”

This is the kind heart at the core of play that utilizes a story and a song layered and stitched with such deep sadness as a thing of beauty.  Indecent is meaningful and poetic, while also being heart wrenchingly sad and disturbing, in a style and structure that exemplifies all that is important and needed by us all in live theatre.  Asch’s play, God of Vengeance, in a touching way, finally got its deserved Broadway run, and what a glorious package it arrived in. On stage, it was a marvel. On the small screen, it continues to resonate its power, but not as completely. Live, this production attacked all my senses. I smelt and felt the ashes enter my system, transforming my emotional insight and deepening my connection to humanity. Streaming it, it still touches and breaks our heart. It is worthy of our time (and our subscription to BroadwayHD), as it remains one of the best play I’ve seen in my lifetime.

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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

Get Ready For Broadway in Bryant Park

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The most popular shows on and off Broadway will perform their biggest hits in the park starting this Thursday the 11th! Head to the the lawn at Bryant Park and enjoy Broadway for lunch. The performances will happen on four summer Thursdays, hosted and presented by LiteFM.

This week from 12:30pm-1:30pm 106.7 LITE FM Host: Helen Little will host. For the pre-show: A special performance by the students of AMDA College of the Performing Arts. Then get ready for performances by Back to the Future, Hell’s Kitchen, The Who’s TOMMY, The Wiz and
Water For Elephants.

In coming weeks look from The Outsiders, SIX: The Musical, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Wicked, Chicago and & Juliet.

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway:​ Happy Birthday Audra McDonald

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On July 3rd, Audra McDonald celebrated her 54th birthday. The 1970 American Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning theatrical and operatic singer, and stage and screen actress (Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill; Sweeney Todd; Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny; TV Private Practice, The Good Wife), was born in West Berlin, West Germany (now Berlin, Germany)

As been announced six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald will return to Broadway this fall, as Mama Rose in Gypsy.

Performances begin Thursday, November 21st, at Broadway’s newly renovated Majestic Theatre. Happy Thanksgiving! The show will open on Thursday, December 19th. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah.

The last show to play the Majestic Theatre was The Phantom of the Opera, which concluded its 35 year-run on April 16, 2023.

This upcoming revival will be directed by the legendary five-time Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe. The choreography will be by four-time Tony Award nominated Camille A. Brown.  Additional casting and creative team members will be announced at a later date.

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Coming In August Broadway Barks Returns to Shubert Alley

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The 26th anniversary of the star-studded dog and cat adoption event, Broadway Barks returns to Shubert Alley on Saturday, August 3, 2024 to benefit New York City animal rescue groups. The event, co-founded by Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, features Broadway celebrities who use their star power to help find loving homes for animals in need from 24 NYC area adoption and rescue groups.

Bernadette Peters and Sutton Foster. Photo courtesy of Broadway Barks.

Bernadette Peters and Sutton Foster will co-host this year’s festivities! Other celebrity participants to be announced soon.

Photo by Daniel Roberts, © Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Barks begins at 3pm with a ‘meet and greet’ of all the adoptable pets; from 5–6:30pm, adoptees make their Broadway debut on stage alongside some of Broadway’s favorite stars for the celebrity presentations.Produced by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the adoption event takes place in Shubert Alley (located between 44th and 45th Streets, between Broadway and Eighth Avenues).

Photo by Daniel Roberts, © Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

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Shows to Keep Your Eyes On: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Death Becomes Her and The Queen of Versailles

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The new musical Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is based on John Berendt’s 1994 non-fiction book and makes its world premiere this summer at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. The book is by  Taylor Mac and music and lyrics by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown, performances are scheduled for June 25–August 4 in the Albert Theatre. Tony winner Rob Ashford will direct the production with choreography by Tanya Birl.

Tony winner J. Harrison Ghee, is The Lady Chablis; Tony nominee Tom Hewitt as Jim Williams; and Olivier nominee Sierra Boggess as Emma Dawes.

The company also includes Lance Roberts (The Best Man) as Bobby Lewis, Austin Colby (The Great Gatsby) as Danny Hansford, Bailee Endebrock (Parade) as Corrine Strong, Shanel Bailey (The Book of Mormon) as Lavella Cole, Jessica Molaskey (Sunday in the Park with George) as Alma Knox Carter, Brianna Buckley (the ripple, the wave that carried me home) as Minerva, Mary Ernster (War Paint) as Serena Barnes/Dawn Avery, McKinley Carter (Turn of the Century) as Vera Strong, Maya Bowles (The Wiz) as Stacey Brown, DeMarius Copes (Some Like It Hot) as Jeremiah Jones, Sean Donovan as Luther Driggers, Jason Michael Evans (Anastasia tour) as Colonel Atwood/Burt, Christopher Kelley as Bubbles/Gregory, Andre Terrell Malcolm (Hamilton tour) as Josiah Domingo, Aaron James McKenzie (A Beautiful Noise) as Jethro Myles, Wes Olivier as Jack the One-Eyed Jill, Kayla Marie Shipman as Millicent/Mary, and Rory Shirley as Stefanie Davis.

The show tracks an antiques dealer through four trials for murdering a male prostitute in Savannah, Georgia. The story is modeled on the real-life shooting of Daniel Lewis  Hansford. The work won the 1995 Boeke Prize and was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. A film adaptation was released in 1997 starring John Cusack and Kevin Spacey.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was a seminal book for me as a young queer person, coming out in the late 1980s and early ’90s,” added Mac. “The eccentricities of Savannah, and how they were celebrated by such a large readership, seemed to say, the things that made me odd and an outcast in the world were actually things I should cherish. Likewise, musical theatre has always had a similar effect on me. Singing our thoughts is such an eccentric way of expressing ourselves—yet so perfectly aligned with my personal liberation and joy. So turning Midnight into a musical, and with such master craftspeople as Jason, Rob, and Tanya is essentially an extension of celebrating the joy and liberation from exposing what’s hidden.”

“When I am deciding to start a new show, the two most important questions I ask myself are: 1) Does it sing? and 2) Do I get to work with fun people? With Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I knew the answers to both questions immediately,” stated Brown. “The book’s milieu, so rich with mystery and romance and history, sings with every sentence, deeply passionate, slyly comic, emotions threatening to boil over on every page. And to work with Rob Ashford, whose transformative production of Parade at the Donmar Warehouse in 2007 reinvigorated not only the show’s reputation but my creative process, was a no-brainer. But then add to that the brilliant, joyful, radically inclusive mind of Taylor Mac, and there was no way I could resist. Creating this world with these mad geniuses is, in true Savannah tradition, a grand and great party. I can’t wait for the world to join in.”

Madeline Ashton (Tony Award® nominees Megan Hilty (Wicked, “Smash”)) is the most beautiful actress (just ask her) ever to grace the stage and screen. Helen Sharp (Jennifer Simard (Company, Disaster!)) is the long-suffering author (just ask her) who lives in her shadow. They have always been the best of frenemies…until Madeline steals Helen’s fiancé (Christopher Sieber (Spamalot, Company)) away. As Helen plots revenge and Madeline clings to her rapidly fading star, their world is suddenly turned upside down by Viola Van Horn, a mysterious woman with a secret that’s to die for.

After one sip of Viola’s (Grammy® Award winner Michelle Williams (Destiny’s Child, Chicago)) magical potion, Madeline and Helen begin a new era of life (and death) with their youth and beauty restored…and a grudge to last eternity.

Death Becomes Her, based on the classic 1992 film, is a drop-dead hilarious new musical comedy about friendship, love, and burying the hatchet…again, and again, and again.

Life’s a bitch and then you die. Or not!

Death Becomes Her is coming to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on October 23, 2024, ahead of an opening night on November 21, 2024.

The Queen of Versailles, the new Stephen Schwartz musical starring Kristin Chenoweth and F. Murray Abraham as billionarie-couple Jackie and David Siegel, begins performances at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre on July 16 and will now run through August 25.

The cast will feature Stephen DeRosa (Boardwalk Empire) as John, Greg Hildreth (Company) as Gary, Tatum Grace Hopkins as Jonquil, Tony Award nominee Isabel Keating (The Boy from Oz) as Debbie, Melody Butiu as Sofia Flores and Nina White as Victoria Siegel.

The company will also include Anna Bakun, Stacie Bono, Yeman Brown, Amanda Jane Cooper, David Aron Damane, Drew Elhamalawy, Sara Esty, K.J. Hippensteel, Diana Huey, Cassondra James, Andrew Kober, Jesse Kovarsky, Pablo David Laucerica, Travis Murad Leland, Michael Mulheren, Michael McCorry Rose and Grace Slear.

The Queen of Versailles is an adaptation of the 2012 documentary of the same name about socialite Jacqueline “Jackie” Siegel, the book is by Lindsey Ferrentino (Ugly Lies the Bone) and direction by Tony winner Michael Arden (Parade).

From computer engineer to Mrs. Florida to billionairess, Jackie Siegel sees herself as the embodiment of the American Dream. Now, as the wife of David “The Timeshare King” Siegel and mother of their eight children, they invite us to behold their most grandiose venture yet: They’re building the largest private home in America in Orlando, Florida—a $100 million house big enough for her dreams and inspired by the Palace of Versailles. But with the Great Recession of 2008 looming, Jackie and David’s dreams begin to crumble, along with their lavish lifestyle. The Queen of Versailles explores the true cost of fame, fortune and family.

The production will feature choreography by Lauren Yalango-Grant and Christopher Cree Grant, music supervision by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, scenic design by Dane Laffrey, lighting design by Natasha Katz and sound design by Peter Hylenski, as well as costume design by fashion designer Christian Cowan.

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Remembering Marilyn Clark Langner

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by Lee Roy Reams

I heard the sad news on Saturday, June 22nd, 2024, that my dear friend, Marilyn Clark Langner, had died in her Central Park West apartment with her family at her bedside. Like the classic column  in the Reader’s Digest Magazine, Marilyn Clark Langner was one of my “Most Unforgettable Characters.”

Growing up in Covington, Kentucky, I always dreamed of a glamorous show business life like the movies I watched on late night TV.  Having lunch with Kitty Carlisle Hart at a beachside restaurant in Barbados, cocktails with Gena Rowlands at Harry’s Bar in Venice, perhaps a late night supper at a rooftop restaurant in Athens celebrating the First Lady Of The American Theatre, Helen Hayes, on her 90th bithday, were just the kind of things I dreamed about. I got all of this and so much  more from Marilyn and Philip Langner during my tenure as artistic director of their trail blazing and truly amazing project called Theatre At Sea.

Theatre Guild

Marilyn was born in Spokane, Wadhington, on September 28, 1924. Even as a child Marilyn was drawn to the theatre.  Marilyn attended UCLA and set her sights on a show business career. She moved to New York City and hit the jackpot when she met and fell in love with Philip Langner, the only child of Lawrence Langner and Armina Marshall, co-administrators of the Theatre Guild and arguably the two most important figures in the history of the American Theatre.

Marilyn played roles in four Broadway plays including The SevenYear Itch and Absurd Person Singular.  A cast mate in The SevenYear Itch named Gena Rowlands became a life long friend. Marilyn played roles in a number of feature films including several films written and directed by John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands’ husband.

Loretta Swit in SHIRLEY VALENTINE had a very succesful national tour winning a Sarah Siddons Award for Ms. Swit in Chicago.

Perhaps Marilyn’s most lasting show business legacy will be the creation of Theatre At Sea. Long before the current Broadway style entertainments on cruise ships including Playbill At Sea, Marilyn and Philip Langner and Armina Marshall paved the way  by creating Theatre At Sea.

Lee Roy Reems and Tammy Grimes

Their casts were made up of legendary stars of both theatre and film including Lillian Gish, Roddy McDowall, Tammy Grimes, Dean Jones, Carol Channing, Cyril Ritchard, Patrice Munsel, Eli Wallach, Loretta Swit, Ed Asner, Donna McKechnie, and many more. On an early cruise on board the SS Rotterdam, a musical evening was created called MUSICAL JUBILEE which transferred after the cruise to a Broadway theatre. An “out of town tryout at sea” of a musical called Ruthless! lead to a tranfer to the Players Theatre in New York City. Ruthless! won the Outer Critics Circle Award that year  for Best Musical.

Ed Asner played the role of FDR. The one man show played first on ship and then around the country.

Stars including Loretta Swit, Ed Asner

Jean Stapleton captured the unique spirit of one of America’s most admired first ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt.

and Jean Stapleton performed plays on ships that went on to successful national tours. Academy Award winner Patricia Neal and Joel Vig created a version of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, which played around the country for many years.

Academy Award winner Patricia Neal and Joel Vig played A CHRISTMAS MEMORY on ship and then around the country for decades.

Marilyn Clark Langner will be remembered both as a savvy artistic producer and also as the perfect hostess for these remarkable voyages.   Whether sailing up the Amazon River with a final performance in the legendary Manaus Opera House or a Meditteranean cruise ending with a reception in the Princess Grace Theatre in Monaco hosted by Prince Albert II, Marilyn was always charming and elegant with an air of whimsy and a wonderfully wicked sense of humor. When Marilyn and Philip Langner were honored with.the Gold Medal at the National Arts Club in December of 2010, stars of more than thirty years of unforgettable Theatre At Sea cruises expressed their gratitude for the gift.and honor of being part of the Theatre At Sea legacy.

Marilyn Langner: a Most Unforgettable Character.

Marilyn is survived by her husband, Philip, two daughters Lola and Eve, and two grand daughters Lauren Kennedy and Brielle Kennedy.

 

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