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Sunday in the Park, Jake Gyllenhaal, Annaleigh Ashford

Jake Gyllenhaal, Annaleigh Ashford

So I’m going to begin by asking for your indulgence. Sunday in the Park with George besides being a masterpiece by Stephen Sondheim (Music and Lyrics) and James Lapine (Book), is just simply one of my all time favorite shows with numerous very special memories attached. This is the third production I have seen, and one of those, the 2008 Roundabout revival/West End transfer starring Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell, I saw numerous times. Three to be exact. The show literally makes me weep, every time, and in both acts. I’m not quite sure why it triggers such a response in my emotional core, but it appears that I only need to hear the initial chords of a few particular songs for the tears to begin. Many car drives by myself listening to the cd will attest to that. One of my strongest memories was a night in 2006, when I saw Russell playing the role of Dot, the mistress, in the West End production. I had just arrived that day into London, and maybe it was the jet-lag but, but the tears started flowing in Act 1, and only intensified in Act 2. So much so, that the sweet Bostonian lady sitting beside me started to maternally stroke my arm in an attempt to settle me down a bit. Bless her.

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It will always be very difficult to top that spectacular production (which in my opinion was much better than the Peters/Patinkin Broadway original that I saw in 1985), but the production for the New York City Center Annual Gala, lovingly directed by Sarna Lapine, didn’t disappoint. Walking in, I was excited, but also extremely nervous. How would the two leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford, measure up? I was clueless whether Gyllenhaal could live up to the memory of Mandy Patinkin, my all time favorite George (sorry Evans, it’s just the truth). With that hanging over my head, I prayed he wouldn’t be a disaster. I had also forgotten that Ashford was my favorite thing in Kinky Boots a few years ago, but playing the role of Dot felt like a huge jump. But I was willing to take that leap with these two brave souls, and cross my fingers.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal

Thankfully, Gyllenhaal was spectacular in the role. Devastatingly good right from the beginning. Such an impressive performance especially knowing how little rehearsal time they all had, and who knew his voice had that power and range? At times, he almost sounded like Patinkin, which is a huge compliment for me to give. His bravery in taking on this technically difficult part was never more apparent than during the complex song, ‘Putting it Together ‘. So much going on within the song, within the lyrics, and with all those around him, I found myself breathless and amazed from start to finish. His George had a sweetness unlike any of the others, while still maintaining the detached focused artist. His Act 2 George was even more appealing in the scared lost professional artist, struggling to find himself again, while also pretending to have it all together.

Sunday in the Park with George

Ashford took a bit more convincing at the beginning. Straight off, I thought that she sounded too modern and American in her tone, and with her body language. But quickly, as she wound her way through her first number, ‘Sunday in the Park with George‘, I was forced to give in to her. Her singing was so beautiful and she gave such a heartfelt, warm, and fun portrayal, that I had no choice. With each moment, her performance grew in depth and emotionality, and I was under her spell. There is something deep and raw about this part; her resilience balanced with her distress and sense of loss, and Ashford delivered. She wants George to choose her over his art, but she also knows he can’t, and won’t. Ultimately, she understands that his focus and determination is what she loves about him. In Act 2, Marie, modern George’s grandmother and Seurat’s daughter, destroys me every time with the lovely and sad, ‘Children and Art’. Ashford again succeeds as both Marie, and then again as Dot returning to help George ‘Move On’. It’s a beautiful moment that these two share, and somewhere in the back of my mind I could only think, “what would these two be like in a fully staged production, with a real rehearsal schedule?” I can only guess that it would be sublime.

Jake Gyllenhaal

The cast

The rest of the cast also didn’t disappoint, keeping up the high level of expertise set by the two leads. Phylicia Rashad was perfection in her dual roles of the Old Lady (Seurat’s mother) and Blair Daniels, the art critic. (It’s a fascinated exercise; comparing the dual parts, and why the same actor is playing each in relation to the other. One could write a dissertation just on that.) Same could be said about Carmen Cusack as Yvonne in Act 1 and Naomi Eisen, the composer in Act 2. She brought such dignity to Yvonne, the ignored snobbish wife of Jules, (played by Zachary Levi), and such madcap fun as Eisen, the composer working with modern Act 2 George. Levi did well enough as a much kinder and gentler Jules, the other artist, who puts down George’s work, while also placing him up on a pedestal. As Yvonne says, jealousy is also sign of praise. He did better at playing Bob Greenberg, the Museum Director in Act 2. All the others do a grand job playing the dual parts required of them in the very different Acts. They are all pros and it shows in every moment and every detail. This is a difficult piece of musical theatre, every song, and it all came together magnificently. The glorious wall of sound that fills the theatre at the end of Act 1 is just plain exhilarating.

Much has been made of the lopsidedness of Act 1 and Act 2. Brantley of the NYTimes once wrote: “a lopsided piece — pairing a near-perfect, self-contained first act with a lumpier, less assured second half” and although he felt the 2008 Broadway revival brought it forward a long way, I have never really felt that unevenness. I love Act 1. It is nearly perfect. Even though Act 2 contains the awkward ‘Chromolume #7’ which I have never really seen visualized well, every other song in Act 2 resonates with such power and dynamic energy, that it always leaves me devastated, wanting more. I will say the same about this production. Musically gorgeous thanks to Music Director Chris Fenwick, this production succeeds marvelously, even in its simple staging. It still resonates with such joy and passion that it only makes me want to see it produced again in all its visual glory. Sunday in the Park with George thrills any day of the week.

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

Chip Zien Is Honored at Sardi’s and The Original Cast of Falsettos Unite

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The iconic Chip Zien was honored with his portrait at Sardi’s. Sierra Boggess roasted him to the hilt

Zien has spent almost 50 years on Broadway.


Zien was the Baker in the original 1987 production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods filmed by the PBS.

The Baker’s Wife Joanna Gleason

In the 90’s he replaced Michael Jeter is Grand Hotel.

Stephen Bogardus, Chip Zien, Alison Fraser, Mary Testa

In 1992 he was Mendel in the groundbreaking William Finn and James Lapine musical Falsettos. He appeared in all of the “Marvin Trilogy” musicals by Finn: In Trousers (1979), March of the Falsettos (1981), Falsettoland (1990) and Falsettos (1992).

Carolee Carmella

Alison Fraser

Gregg Edelman, Barbara Walsh, Stephen Bogardus, Chip Zien,  Carolee Carmello, Mary Testa, Alison Fraser

Gregg Edelman, Barbara Walsh, Stephen Bogardus, Chip Zien, Carolee Carmella, Mary Testa, Alison Fraser

In 1998 Zien was featured in another Finn musical A New Brain. He received a 1999 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for this role.

Anne Nathan and Mary Testa

He appeared in the Off-Broadway play Isn’t It Romantic by Wendy Wasserstein and was nominated for the 1984 Drama Desk Award, Featured Actor in a Play.

Gregg Edelman, Carolee Carmella, Christine Pedi

In 2005, Zien played the part of Goran in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway.

In 2007, Zien was a replacement in the Broadway revival of Les Misérables in the role of Monsieur Thénardier.

Richard Kind

From April 1 to June 19, 2011, Zien appeared in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of The People in the Picture, which played at Studio 54 on Broadway.

Sierra Boggess

Zien appeared in the Broadway musical It Shoulda Been You at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

Chip signing his portrait

In 1973, Zien made his television debut on an episode of Love, American Style. More guest roles followed. In 1981, he appeared on Ryan’s Hope and began a two-year run in Love, Sidney, then Reggie. He provided the voice of the title character in Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck. Zien later starred on the short-lived CBS drama Shell Game in 1987.

Carolee Carmello, Joanna Gleason, CHip Zien

In the 1990s, Zien was part of the ensemble cast of the CBS sitcom Almost Perfect and had regular roles in the daytime soaps Guiding Light and All My Children, until 2001.

Stefano Da Frè, Chip Zien, Sierra Boggess

From 1999 to 2000, Zien had a recurring guest role on the CBS primetime drama Now and Again and  appeared repeatedly as Attorney Cromwell on Law & Order.

During the 2002–03 season, Zien was the announcer on daytime’s The Caroline Rhea Show, and in 2006, he appeared in the critically acclaimed film United 93 was in the vampire comedy film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead.

Joy Hermalyn

He was also in Caroline or Change on Broadway.

Bruce Sussman

Sierra Boggess, Chip Zien, Danny Kornfeld

Blake Roman, Steven Telsey,Sean Bell, Chip Zien, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, Zal Owen

His last show was Harmony, the musical by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. His role as the adult Rabbi, the last surviving Harmonist was hailed by the critic’s and audiences alike. He was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his portrayal.

It was so fitting that this prolific performer hang on these hallowed walls. Congregations this was well deserved.

Up Next for Chip Zien is Titanic at City Centers Encore series.

 

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Broadway

Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman for Hamony at The Museum of Broadway

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On Thursday, April 18th, The Museum of Broadway located at 145 W. 45th Street, just east of Times Square, presented a brief A Cappella performance by The Comedian Harmonists played by Steven Telsey, Blake Roman, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, Sean Bell and Zal Owen, welcoming remarks were made by Julie Boardman, Co-Founder Museum of Broadway, Chip Zien the lead in Harmony was in attendance, as were Barry Manilow & Bruce Sussman.

The reason for this event was the unveiling of the Museum of Broadway’s Harmony-inspired window dedicated to The Comedian Harmonists.


In Berlin, 1927, The Comedian Harmonists were six remarkably talented young men form a singing group who become international sensations: They sold millions of records, starred in major motion pictures, and played the biggest theaters around the world. By 1935, they were never heard from again. What happened? That’s the extraordinary true story of Harmony that played on Broadway. Now The Museum of Broadway is keeping their memory alive.

Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow

The Comedian Harmonists and Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow

Julie Boardman, Co-Founder Museum of Broadway

Steven Telsey, Blake Roman, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, Sean Bell and Zal Owen, and Chip Zien

 

 

 

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Entertainment

Tribeca Festival Announces TV Lineup

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The 2024 Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, today announced its lineup of television and original indie episodic series. The Festival, which takes place June 5-16, showcases highly anticipated world premieres of new and returning programs from networks and streamers at the forefront of groundbreaking storytelling including Apple TV+, AMC, HBO, Hulu, Paramount+, and more.

This year’s TV lineup features 11 series premieres and two first looks at returning classics. World premieres include Hulu’s Mastermind: To Think Like A Killer, executive produced by Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning, an in-depth exploration of Dr. Anne Burgess’ career and her successful journey to closing some of America’s most infamous criminal cases; Hollywood Black, executive produced by Justin Simien, an examination of the Black experience in Hollywood featuring conversations with Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Ryan Coogler, and Ava DuVernay; and Apple TV+’s Presumed Innocent, a legal thriller starring and executive produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, hailing from David E. Kelley and executive producer J.J. Abrams, also with Ruth Negga and Peter Sarsgaard.

The program also spotlights docuseries from ESPN’s In the Arena: Serena Williams, a masterclass in professional sports excellence, exploring the most pivotal and intimate moments of Serena Williams’ life and career; MSNBC’s The Turning Point: To Be Destroyed follows Dave Eggers in a fiery investigation of a local school district’s banning of his novel; and Paramount+’s Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken, an impactful two-part special about Melissa Etheridge’s bond with incarcerated women at the Topeka Correctional Facility and the power of music as a conduit of empathy and healing. Etheridge will perform a short acoustic set at the Beacon Theatre following the world premiere, presented by City National Bank.

Fan favorite shows include a return to The Walking Dead universe with season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon – The Book of Carol, which follows Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in a post-apocalyptic France and Carol Peletier’s (Melissa McBride) journey to find him, and the final season of HBO’s My Brilliant Friend finds Elena (Alba Rohrwacher) and Lila (Irene Maiorino) entangled, once again, amid the political violence and social unrest of the late 80’s in Italy.

“The episodic realm is rich in phenomenal storytelling, and Tribeca’s 2024 TV and NOW program delivers the very best of narrative and documentary series. Audiences can look forward to diving into the testimonies of brilliant visionaries like Serena Williams, Melissa Etheridge, and the original subjects of the Stanford Prison Experiment, all of whom will be joining us at the Festival to present their stories,” said Tribeca Senior Programmer Liza Domnitz. “We’re also thrilled to present international adaptations of beloved books from award-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo with Mr. Loverman and the farewell season premiere of Elena Ferrante’s stunning My Brilliant Friend.”

Tribeca Festival’s NOW program continues to uncover compelling independent episodic work, including short and long-form pilots and series. The 2024 NOW showcase focuses on seven standout titles, including a special Untitled Tim Burton Docuseries, a journey of Tim Burton’s excellence in melding the ominous and the frightful with a sense of whimsy created by Tara Wood; Yanqui, a story of love and life’s unexpected outcomes directed by award-winning filmmaker Kyle Hausmann-Stokes; and Juice, Mawaan Rizwan’s hilariously surreal BAFTA TV nominated series, co-starring Russell Tovey (Feud).

Over the years, Tribeca’s TV program has world-premiered numerous award-winning series, including season one of FX’s The Bear with Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Ayo Edebiri; HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel; HBO’s Chernobyl with Jared Harris, Emily Watson, and Stellan Skarsgård; and more.

The Tribeca Festival is curated by Festival Director and SVP of Programming Cara Cusumano, Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer; VP of Shorts Programming Ben Thompson; Senior Programmers Liza Domnitz, Faridah Gbadamosi, Jarod Neece, José F. Rodriguez; Programmers Casey Baron, Jason Gutierrez, Jonathan Penner, and Madison Egan; VP of Games and Immersive Casey Baltes and Immersive Curator Ana Brzezińska; EVP of Artist Relations Nancy Lefkowitz and VP of Artist Relations Meredith Mohr; Curator of Audio Storytelling Davy Gardner; Music Programmer Vincent Cassous; along with a team of associate programmers; supported and inspired by the legendary Paula Weinstein.

The full TV and NOW lineups are detailed below. For more updates on programming follow @Tribeca and #Tribeca2024 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and to purchase passes and ticket packages for the 2024 Tribeca Festival, go to tribecafilm.com/festival.

 

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Book Reviews

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Four Award-Winning Musical Theatre Writers Who Turned to Writing Books

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Douglas J Cohen, Stephen Cole ,Alison Louise Hubbard and David Spencer, musical theatre writers, who all have books out.

We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

I am so grateful to my guests Douglas J Cohen How To Survive A Killer Musical: Agony and Ecstasy on the Road to Broadway, Stephen Cole Mary & Ethel… and Mikey Who?, Alison Louise Hubbard The Kelsey Outrage, The Crime of the Century A historical true crime novel and David Spencer The Novelizers: An Affectionate History of Media Adaptations and Originals, Their Astonishing Authors—and the Art of the Craft

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

We hope to see you there on April 24th. We will be announcing our guests tomorrow.

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Events

Jackie Siegel’s New Premium Brand, Queen Of Versailles Coffee Is A Luxurious Coffee Delight

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Jackie Siegel, American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe and brand partner Michael Glovaski

I was invited to an intimate tasting of a fabulous new premium brand coffee co-hosted alongside Queen of Versailles Coffee’s Brand Partner, Michael Glovaski. I headed to 8 East 48th Street to Benny John’s where socialite, actress, model and philanthropist turned entrepreneur, Jackie Siegel — AKA, ‘The Real Queen of Versailles’ brought her new venture Queen of Versailles Coffee to New York’s influencers.

Jackie Siegel

The ground coffee and espresso beans are picked, sorted, and specially blended on-site in the volcanic mountaintops in Acatenango, Guatemala. The flavor has a rich taste of sweet honey, warm vanilla, and smooth bourbon notes. It was truly the best coffee I have ever tasted.

American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, and Suzanna Bowling

Adam Weiss and Angela Gorman

On site was also American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, the writer of the new musical Queen of Versailles Lindsey Ferrentino, Gordon Winston, Italian restaurateur and master coffee blender Matteo and Pilar.

Jackie Siegel and Gordon Winston

Jackie Siegel, American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe

Siegel, alongside Miami-based Glovaski and the Italian-Guatemalan Droccos, are introducing an unmatched level of luxury to the coffee industry. Catering to the modern connoisseur, the brand provides not just a superior coffee experience, but an escape into the world of supreme elegance with every canister.

The event was well done, serving treats but most of all, a taste of this exquisite coffee, that you will be addicted to once you taste it.

Available at https://qvcoffee.com/

#jackiesiegel/ #qvcoffee/ # queenofVersaillescoffee

 

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