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Suzan-Lori Parks Venus is Racially Tilted

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Venus, Zainab Jah
Zainab Jah

Zainab Jah and company

Come look at the freaks
Come gape at the geeks
Come examine these aberrations
Their malformations
Grotesque physiques
Only pennies for peeks
Come look at the freaks

 Zainab Jah

Zainab Jah

The exploitation of the human race, is one of the most deplorable things on this planet. In the revival of Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), 1996 Venus, follows a true life tale of Saartjie Baartman’s (Zainab Jah) otherwise known as the Hottentot Venus. Like most racially charged plays, a major fact has been bastardized. In the play the person that sells her into exhibitionism and slavery is a white man, but the truth was he was a black man, a slave owner.

From the beginning and through out the play Venus is given choices. Due to her enormous buttocks, she arrives in London in 1810 to be placed into a theater of human oddities. In real life she was exploited for economic profit by two men, Baartman’s black South African master and Hendrik Cesars. In Venus,  gone is the black man and Cesars is there for a nano second, leaving the villainy to a women, who never existed in history. Venus, was abused, but was into the power of money. When abolitionists in London, try to rescue her, Venus herself seals her fate by denying the charges. Her choices were return to South Africa, where she would go back to being a servant or be exploited and  received a small wage and her freedom.

John Ellison Conlee,  Zainab Jah

John Ellison Conlee, Zainab Jah

In act two Georges Léopold Chrétien Cuvier a French scientist (John Ellison Conlee) appears, claiming to be in love with the Venus Hottentot and wants to rescue her. He makes her his lover and uses her for scientific experiments in which she is needs to be postmortem to continue. He sells her out and she dies with the clap, freezing, naked and to be cut up and used in museums until it was deemed cruel. Again this part is also embellished because the Venus Hottentot was sold to an animal trainer who abused her and then to Cuvier. Saartjie Baartman died at 26, broke, misused and unloved.

Plays like The Elephant Man and the musical come to mind as the play is highly poetic, theatrical with a bleeding of song. The script skips around in time so in a way things are never fully coherent and seem dream like, well more of a nightmare. Zainab Jah is prolific as Venus. She shows us her Venus layer by layer, as she is stripped and pawed. Mr. Conlee and Kevin Mombo as the narrator of sorts, stand out and bring grounding to the piece.
Lear deBessonet staging is interesting as he adds a macabre circus like staging to jar us out of complacency.
The set by Matt Saunders and Lighting by Justin Townsend are first rate.
Thanks to Ms. Parks, I learned a part of history, I did not know. I just wish she had gotten who sold Saartjie into slavery right, for though the whites continued the crime, the original sinner was one of color.
Venus: Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. until June 4th.

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

Off Broadway

Brooklyn Laundry a Touching and Comedic New York Love Story

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John Patrick Shanley’s Brooklyn Laundry is heartbreaking, soul searching and will hit home, especially if your life has not always been a bed of roses. This imperfect love story, is touching as we meet a hardened disillusioned Fran (Cecily Strong), as she enters her local laundromat and meets upbeat owner Owen (David Zayas). The two seem an unlikely match, but opposites attract and these two both desperately need and want love. Owen asks Fran out and she says yes, but first she has to deal with some horrifying problems that are weighing her down.

David Zaya, Cecily Strong photo by Jeremy Daniel

First up her older sister Trish (Florencia Lozano) is dying. The father of her two children is a dead beat dad, so Fran gives of her own life to routinely goes upstate to help out.

When Fran and Owen do go on their date, it takes chocolate magic mushrooms to break the ice. They both have unrealistic versions of their wants and expectations. Fear over sexual performance, commitment and finances in raising children plague Owen. The two hit it off and are looking forward to their next encounter, except Fran’s other sister, Susie (Andrea Syglowski), whose loveless marriage and disable child, are about to make Fran’s burden even heavier. Fran can not catch a break. Even when she stands up for herself she is saddled with responsibility and familial tasks.

Can this connection win over insurmountable odds?

Shanley, also directs. I found this play so real, where you laugh, because if not, tears will come streaming down your face. Right now it seems as if most of our lives are out of control and how you cope, becomes the question of the day.

Each of these actors infuses warmth, humanity and longing for what should, could or will be, that we are right there with them. Zayas and Strong’ have such a palatable chemistry, that you root for the happy ending that may seem more of a miracle.

Santo Loquasto’s revolving set is rather spectacular involving a realistic laundromat, two homes and a beautifully lit  restaurant by Brian MacDevitt.

It seems this is the year of Shanley, with the Off-Broadway revival of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and the Broadway revival of Doubt, but if they are all like this, count me in for this absorbing 80 minutes fable of love.

Brooklyn Laundry: Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center, 131 West 55th Street through April 14.

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Dance

A Sign of the Times Off-Broadway Dreams of the Dawn of a New Day

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It’s the dawn of a new day, says A Sign of the Times, the latest jukebox musical that opens itself up to a sweet nostalgia of American postwar at the New World Stages off-Broadway. It’s overflowing with well-known songs from the 1960s, beautifully performed and glowing, with melodies made popular and iconic by Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, and Lesley Gore. With such a strong playlist at its core, the new musical, created by producer Richard J. Robin (Memphis) with a somewhat contrived book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman (MacGyver the Musical), tries valiantly to stitch together the tale of a young woman, Cindy, played with wide-eyed determination by Chilina Kennedy (Broadway’s Paradise Square) who is trying with all her might to find a different way of living outside the heteronormative Ohio small town community she rings in the new year with. It’s a well-formulated beginning, possibly because of the fine crew surrounding her, especially her two gal pals, portrayed wonderfully by the very talented and funny Alyssa Carol (Broadway’s Bad Cinderella) and Maggie McDowell (Broadway’s Kinky Boots) giving it their all. The two are conflicted, wanting her both to stay and marry her handsome, epic raspy-voiced boyfriend, Matt, played deliciously croon-worthy by Justin Matthew Sargent (Broadway’s Spider-Man…) giving off a dreamy Luke Perry/Dylan vibe in abundance, but they also would love for her to get out of Ohio and follow her photographic dreams in the big city of New York. Like any good friend would.

J Savage, Alyssa Carol, Justin Matthew Sargent, Chilina Kennedy, and Cassie Austin in A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

But the well-strummed “I Only Want to Be with You” proposal, delivered smoothly by Sargent’s Matt, is not enough to hold down the “Who Am I?” questioning for Cindy, and off she goes on an awkwardly tight bus ride to the Big Apple in hope that “Round Every Corner” there might be some morsel of career success. It’s an empowering first chapter to Cindy’s adventure, even with the all too true and too funny apartment hunting shenanigans. Packed in with it all also comes about every culturally significant political movement that existed in those formative years, passively aggressively shoved into this tale of a time and a place in our cultural history. None of which have gone away. It’s a grand attempt, overflowing with issues and meaning, as this musical tries its best to give us another shiny and splashy Hairspray. That comparison, I know is an ‘apples to oranges jukebox’ one, but that show, back in its day, magically and deftly found its way to encapsulate segregation and racism in 1962 Baltimore with originality and musical gold, but unfortunately, with this show’s heavy-handed book, A Sign of the Times doesn’t hold its shape as strongly as that aerosol can of Ultra Clutch was made to do for those dos. Even with all of these stellar songs and performances brought to life at New World Stages.

But the cast of pros can not be held back by this book, as each and everyone delivers those iconic songs with charm, vitality, and style on a slick stage design by Evan Adamson (Le Petit Theatre’s A Christmas Carol) with expert lighting design by Ken Billington (Broadway’s New York, New York), determined and fun costuming by Johanna Pan (Barrington’s James and the Giant Peach), and a solid sound design by Shannon Slaton (Broadway’s Melissa Etheridge: My Window). Their voices ring out infectiously strong, leading us through the chance encounters and “Count Me In” moments that basically “Rescue Me” and everyone around them, particularly Crystal Lucas-Perry (Broadway’s Ain’t No Mo’) as the aspiring singer/quick-change artist Tanya, who even though she was under-mic’d in the first act, still managed to captivate, even when given dialogue that was as corny as Corny Collins. “Something [does] Got a Hold on Me” when she starts to sing, so “why am I dreaming about something else?“.


Crystal Lucas-Perry and Chilina Kennedy in Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

There is also the political activist/protestor and Tanya’s handsome man, Cody, played solidly by the well-voiced Akron Lanier Watson (Broadway’s The Color Purple revival) who tries to engage us and her with the cause. On the other end of that police baton, there is a slimy advertising executive Brian, played true to form by Ryan Silverman (Broadway’s Side Show), who uses his power and privilege to woo the determined Cindy. Yet, even with all those red flags flying, she continues to hold on to her dream of being a photographer, even as we watch her fall for this creepy businessman who charms her into not seeing the ugly blending of professional and personal that is rampant in their workplace and in his demeanor. It’s a stretch of the “Gimme Some Lovin’” imagination to believe Cindy, let alone the more worldly Tanya, can not see clearly through his harassment schtick from that first walk home, but I guess we can relax through this two-and-a-half-hour show knowing that it has to come eventually in this “Five O’clock World” gone wild.

Not even when the old Ohio boyfriend, Matt, whom we are all starting to warm up to a bit more with each Brian/Cindy “Call Me” moment, calls himself asking her to take the “Last Train to Clarksville” before he heads off to Vietnam after getting drafted, does Cindy falter in her dream of photography career success. But it’s hard to quibble about too many hot topics for one show when the cast is having so much fun kicking up their heels to the strong choreography of JoAnn M. Hunter (Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and her “The Shoop Shoop Song” energy. The playfulness shines when used in the right moments, exemplified in the “The ‘In’ Crowd” party, hosted by the wildly fun, pop artist, cheekily named Randy Forthwall, played joyfully by Edward Staudenmayer (Broadway’s Girl from the North Country) who also adds that same flair to a dozen other minor roles. It is exactly the formula this show needs a whole lot more of and is the bus ride that could bring it success.

Edward Staudenmayer, Melessie Clark, Lena Teresa Matthews, Alyssa Carol, Erica Simone Barnett, Kuppi Alec Jessop, and Crystal Lucas-Perry in Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Director Gabriel Barre (Broadway’s Amazing Grace) does his best to keep the engine running, but sometimes he stalls it with a few heavy-handed approaches to some bigger issue moments, like Tanya’s “Society’s Child“. It’s touching but somehow too light and in need of a stronger punch, but I also have a feeling that Lucas-Perry could have handled that one all on her own without the dramatization playing out awkwardly over to the side. Yet, once again, the music is what delivers the energy and charm of this piece “Downtown” for our pleasure under the direction of music director Britt Bonney (Broadway’s Camelot) with music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Joseph Church (Broadway’s The Lion King). But as with many jukebox musicals, the songs are the gold here, even when the lyrics only fit marginally into the storyline. The belting and the wildly colorful embodiment of the period are exactly what the piece needs to take it to the finishing line. Not the clumsy overwrought storyline and dialogue, checking as many boxes as one could hope for, that stops it in its soundtracks.

Trying hard to be a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people, Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times does find its way to be filled up with a ton of 1960s musical delights, performed wonderfully, all lined up in a row. Unfortunately, it is also a show with a storyline spit out by a computer program to cover all the issues of the time and place (and beyond, maybe “ten years ahead of wherever“) shoved in between and inside the cracks awkwardly. It never really finds its way into the well-balanced heights of its counterpart Hairspray, but it does entertain you well when it embraces the music it wants to share with us. Brad Peterson’s projection design (Off-Broadway’s Broadway Bounty Hunter) tries his best to add dimension and the weight of the decade with his projected photographs of activists and social movement moments, but the energy of the music presented here is really what drives this musical to its destination.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Off Broadway

A Sign Of The Times Revists The Sounds of The 60’s

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I grew up with the songs of Petula Clark, The Monkeys, Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield and Lesley Gore, so I could not wait to see this production. These songs from my childhood are all featured in the new off-Broadway show A Sign of the Times, playing at New World Stages. The problem here is Joseph Church’s orchestration, musical direction by Britt Bonney and dance arrangements by David Dabbon don’t do justice to “I Know a Place,”“The Boy From New York City,” “It’s A Sign of The Times,” “Call Me,”“Downtown,” “The Shoop Shoop Song,” “Rescue Me” and more. They also for the most part, do not have singers who understand the genre, which has a pop sound not a musical theatre cadence.

The book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman (based on a story by Richard J. Robin), is over the top camp in the first act, but settles down in the second. Gabriel Barre’s direction is also inconsistent, which you wish for both of these element to be better as they take on issues such as sexism, racism, women’s rights and the Vietnam War.

Chilina Kennedy (center) stars in the off-Broadway premiere of A Sign of the Times, directed by Gabriel Barre, for the York Theatre Company at New World Stages. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

We begin in Centerville, Ohio New Year’s Eve 1965 as Cindy (Chilina Kennedy) decides she wants a career and not marriage to her boyfriend Matt (Justin Matthew Sargent). Cindy longs to go New York City, and make it in the world as a photographer.

Akron Lanier Watson (center) plays Cody in A Sign of the Times, directed by Gabriel Barre, for the York Theatre Company at New World Stages. Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

On the bus to NYC Cindy meets Cody (Akron Lanier Watson) “President Emeritus of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, University of Buffalo Chapter.” He is on a mission to improve race relations.

Cindy finds an apartment with Tanya (Crystal Lucas-Perry) who wants to make it in the music business.

Cindy gets a job and a romance with sexist Brian (Ryan Silverman), as Tanya hooks up with Cody, as Matt is sent to Vietnam.

In the end a happy ending transpires and you are left with some moments that leave you singing the soundtrack that is oh so singable.

As the lead Ms. Kennedy does not have a powerful singing voice until Act 2, where she excels in “You Don’t Own Me”. She also makes you understand Cindy’s dreams and longing for independence.

Who steals the show is Lucas-Perry singing “Rescue Me” and “Somethings Got A Hold On Me”.

Matthew Sargent in the beginning vocally lapses into the musical theatre genre, but when he allows his voice to get gravelly “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Eve of Destruction,” he excels.

Lanier Watson also has moments, but isn’t as strong as he should be vocally.

Silverman is strong vocally and makes chauvinism as creepy as a snake shedding it’s skin.

The choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter, is a hit and miss with some of the ensemble making it look effortless and the other half making it look like they are trying too much.

Johanna Pan’s costumes are also hit and miss.

In the second act  “Gimme Some Lovin” “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)””Don’t Sleep In the Subway” and others really make you miss this infectious music that guided our lives.

What does shine is Evan Adamson’s scenic design; Ken Billington’s lighting; Shannon Slaton’s sound design; Brad Peterson’s projection design; and J. Jared Janas’ hair, wig and makeup. Also before the show old TV commercials put you in the mood.

What does make A Sign of the Times shine is that you really get to hear the lyrics of these songs and really see how songwriting was done. Ahh to have the music and innocents back again.

A Sign of the Times: New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street.

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Broadway

Theatre News: Here We Are, Water For Elephants, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Tempest: A Surround Sound Odyssey, FIVE: The Parody Musical, Forbidden Broadway

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Producers Tom Kirdahy, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, and The Stephen Sondheim Trust announced today that the critically acclaimed world premiere production of Here We Are, the new musical from David Ives and Stephen Sondheim that debuted at The Shed’s Griffin Theater in 2023, was filmed by the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and added to its collection. The complete show was filmed by TOFT in December of 2023 and is now available and free to view by anyone with a library card.

 Here We Are is directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, and features Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos.

The musical features a book by Tony Award nominee David Ives, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and is inspired by two films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel.

Here We Are opened on October 22, 2023 at The Shed and performed its final show on January 21, 2024.

Water For Elephants is announcing their Tent Talkback Series with members of the creative team following selected Saturday matinees between March 2 through April 6, at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street).  Creative team members will include book writer Rick Elice and composers and lyricists PigPen Theatre Co.  The Water For Elephants Tent Talkback Series will be a moderated 15-minute discussion about the creative process and development of the show and commence at the conclusion of selected Saturday matinee performances.

Tent Talkback Series Schedule

Saturday, March 2, matinee performance

Saturday, March 9, matinee performance

Saturday, March 30, matinee performance

Saturday, April 6, matinee performance

Water For Elephants is based on the critically acclaimed and New York Times Bestselling novel by Sara Gruen. The new musical has a book by three-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher), a soaring score by the acclaimed PigPen Theatre Co. (The Tale of Despereaux) and is directed by Tony Award nominee Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo).

The cast stars Grant Gustin (“The Flash”, “Glee”) in his Broadway debut, Isabelle McCalla (The Prom, Shucked), four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman (City of Angels), Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Award nominee Paul Alexander Nolan (Slave Play), Stan Brown (“Homicide: Life in the Streets”), Joe De Paul (Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion), Sara Gettelfinger (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and Wade McCollum(Wicked) and features Brandon Block, Antoine Boissereau, Rachael Boyd, Paul Castree, Ken Wulf Clark, Taylor Colleton, Gabriel Olivera de Paula Costa, Isabella Luisa Diaz, Samantha Gershman, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Nicolas Jelmoni, Caroline Kane, Harley Ross Beckwith McLeish, Michael Mendez, Samuel Renaud, Marissa Rosen, Alexandra Gaelle Royer, Asa Somers, Charles South, Sean Stack, Matthew Varvar and Michelle West.

After losing what matters most, a young man jumps a moving train unsure of where the road will take him and finds a new home with the remarkable crew of a traveling circus, and a life—and love—beyond his wildest dreams. Seen through the eyes of his older self, his adventure becomes a poignant reminder that if you choose the ride, life can begin again at any age.

The award-winning Sea Dog Theater’s production of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, based on the book by Albom, directed by Erwin Maas (NY Times Critic’s Pick for Poison and A Kid Like Rishi), starring Tony Award winner and Emmy nominee Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd original cast, CBS’s “Blue Bloods”) and three-time NYIT “Best Actor” nominee Chris Domig.Tuesdays with Morrie runs March 1 – 23 in a limited engagement at St. George’s Episcopal Church (209 East 16 St.) Opening night is March 7.Two post-show talkbacks are scheduled during the run. On Monday, March 4, Len Cariou and Judy Kaye will discuss working with Stephen Sondheim. On Monday, March 18, Len and Abigail Hawk will discuss working on CBS’s “Blue Bloods.”Tuesdays with Morrie is the humorous and poignant story of career-obsessed journalist Mitch Albom, who sixteen years after graduation serendipitously learns that his former sociology professor Morrie is battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. What starts as a simple visit, turns into a weekly pilgrimage and the last class in the meaning of life.Featuring vocalist Sally Shaw. Original music written and performed on piano by Chris Domig.

The Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC, Executive Director Khady Kamara Nunez and Artistic Director Bill Rauch) announces complete casting and creative team for An American Soldier at the new performing arts center at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.  An American Soldier will premiere in New York during AANHPI Heritage Month with performances starting May 12 through May 19, 2024.

An American Soldier will feature principal cast members Hannah Cho, Alex DeSocio, Nina Yoshida Nelsen and Brian Vu. Ensemble members include Ben Brady, Cierra Byrd, James C. Harris, Shelén Hughes, Joshua Sanders, Christian Simmons and understudies, Misoon Ghim, Luke Harnish and Angela Yam. Photos of the company are available here.

An American Soldier features scenic design by Daniel Ostling, costume design by Linda Cho, lighting design by Jeanette Yew and multi-media design by Nick Hussong, joining the previously announced creative team members Huang Ruo (composer), David Henry Hwang (libretto), Carolyn Kuan (conductor), and Chay Yew (director).

On October 3, 2011, Chinese-American Army Pvt. Danny Chen was found dead in a guard tower at his base in Afghanistan. Based on his story and the ensuing courts-martial of Chen’s fellow soldiers, this New York City premiere opera tells the powerful true story of a young soldier from Manhattan’s Chinatown who sought to serve his country, only to find his biggest threat was the very people who swore to protect him.

Told through the multidimensional music of Huang Ruo (M. Butterfly, Book of Mountains and Seas) with libretto by Tony and Grammy winner David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Soft Power), and directed by Obie Award winner Chay Yew (Cambodian Rock Band, Sweatshop Overlord), An American Soldier is a powerful and unforgettable experience.

Due to popular demand, Knock at the Gate producers Joseph Discher and Sean Hudock announced a two-week extension of their audio immersive streaming production of The Tempest: A Surround Sound Odyssey, now available to stream virtually through Saturday, March 16.

Tickets for the stream are $9.99 and are available for purchase at KnockattheGate.com. The broadcast is available worldwide on all internet connected devices with a dimmable screen and a pair of headphones. Audiences will receive a link and password to access the listening portal prior to the broadcast.

The cast includes Hale Appleman (SyFy’s “The Magicians,” FX’s “American Horror Story”) as ‘Ariel,’ Tony® and Grammy® Award nominee Emily Skeggs (Broadway’s Fun Home) as ‘Miranda,’ Joel de la Fuente (Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle) as ‘Prospero,’ and Derek Wilson (Amazon’s “Gen V,” Hulu’s “Future Man”) as ‘Caliban.’ Rounding out the cast are Michael Daly, Sean Hudock, Greg Jackson, Maurice Jones, Raphael Nash Thomspon, Shane Taylor, Patrick Toon.

Due to popular demand, producers of FIVE: The Parody Musical have put a new block of tickets on sale through April 21. The world-premiere production, initially announced as a limited four-week engagement, will now play an additional 6 weeks Off-Broadway at Theater 555 (555 W 42nd St, NYC). For tickets and further information, visit www.FiveTheMusical.com.

Look out SIX, here comes FIVE: The Parody Musical. Henry VIII and his six wives had nothing on Donald, the 45th, and these five ladies. Poised to make America laugh again, FIVE is an 80-minute, irreverent musical comedy revue starring some of the women in the life of America’s past President. Ivana, Marla, and Melania are joined by crowd favorite Stormy and daddy’s girl Ivanka as they each take the spotlight and sing their hearts out for your vote.

Presented by Five Musical LLC, FIVE: The Parody Musical features a book and lyrics by Shimmy Braun & Moshiel Newman Daphna, music and lyrics by Billy Recce (A Musical About Star Wars, Little Black Book), and direction and choreography by Jen Wineman (Dog Man: The Musical, F#%king Up Everything).

FIVE: The Parody Musical features Anyae Anasia as Ivana, Gabriella Joy Rodriguez (The Color Purple Tour) as Marla, Jaime Lyn Beatty (Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical, Starkid Founding Member) as Melania, Gabi Garcia as Stormy, and Hannah Bonnett (Legally Blonde National Tour) as Ivanka, with a special appearance by drag legend Jasmine Rice LaBeija as Hillary Clinton.

Forbidden Broadway will open on Broadway titled Forbidden Broadway on Broadway: Merrily We Stole a Song. It will begin previews on July 29 and open August 15 at the Hayes Theater. Creator Gerard Alessandrini, a Tony honoree for the musical’s Off-Broadway stagings, will direct the Broadway production and it will play a limited run through November 1.The musical revue will feature a five-person cast, who will be joined weekly by guest stars. The production will parody Back to the Future, Company, The Great Gatsby, Hell’s Kitchen, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, The Notebook, Sweeney Todd and Water for Elephants. Forbidden Broadway on Broadway is produced by Broadway & Beyond Theatricals (Ryan Bogner, Victoria Lang and Tracey Stroock McFarland) in association with John Freedson and Harriet Yellin.”

 

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Events

A Look At The Vineyard Theatre’s Starry Gala

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Photo Patti LuPone and Jesse Tyler Ferguson© Bruce Glikas @bruglikas@broadwaybruce_

Here are photos from the Vineyard Theatre’s 2024 Annual Gala honoring Tony Award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Take Me Out) held Monday, February 26, 2024, at the Edison Ballroom, the festive evening included performances by Sara Bareilles with Rosie’s Theatre Kids, Patti LuPone, Lea DeLaria, Celia Keenan-Bolger and more. Sarah Saltzberg served as host and Hiram Delgado, Bill Heck, Ken Marks, Michael Oberholtzer and Eduardo Ramos paid hilarious tribute to their Take Me Out co-star.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson at Vineyard Theatre 2024 Gala © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Chelsea Clinton at Vineyard Theatre 2024 Gala © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Also attendance to support were Chelsea Clinton, Kevin Cahoon, Crystal Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden, Brandon Victor Dixon, Renata Friedman, Montego Glover, Michael R. Jackson, Haskell King, Christine Lahti, John Lavelle, Luke Macfarlane, Justin Mikita, Deirdre O’Connell, Hadi Tabbal and Rolanda Watts.

Celia Keenan-Bolger, Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton, Sara Bareilles, Kevin Cahoon, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Lea DeLaria © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Christopher Shinn, Emily Bergl and Luke Macfarlane © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

Celebratory toasts were also given to Rosemarie Bray, Educator at Union Square Academy of Health Sciences and Christina Poon, General Manager of W Hotel – New York – Union Square. The Gala will be

Montego Glover, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Sara Bareilles © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

The Gala was co-directed by Leigh Silverman (Suffs, Harry Clarke, Sandra) and Colin Hanlon (DOT, “Modern Family”) with musical direction by Vadim Feichtner (Spelling Bee, Falsettos, New Brain).

Sara Bareilles and Rosie’s Theatre Kids © Bruce Glikas @bruglikas @broadwaybruce_

The Gala host committee includes the Patrick J. Adams, Blavatnik Family Foundation, John Barrie and Betsy Smith, Kathleen and Henry Chalfant, Ken and Rande Greiner, Mark Lerner and Steven Frank, Padma Lakshmi, Sue Marks, Justin Mikita, David J. Schwartz andTrudy Zohn, Annette Stover and Richard Feiner and Julia Vitullo-Martin. Under the artistic leadership of Douglas Aibel and Sarah Stern, Vineyard Theatre develops and produces new plays and musicals that push the boundaries of what theatre can be and do. For over 40 years, The Vineyard has nurtured a community of fearless theatre makers whose work has expanded the form, the field, and the larger culture. Vineyard Theatre has transferred eleven shows to Broadway, seven directly after their acclaimed Vineyard premieres: Lucas Hnath’s Dana H. and Tina Satter’s Is This A Room (both New York Times Best Theatre of 2021); Paula Vogel’s Indecent; Nicky Silver’s The Lyons; Kander, Ebb and Thompson’s The Scottsboro Boys; Bell and Bowen’s [title of show]; and Avenue Q by Marx, Lopez and Whitty (Tony Award, Best Musical). In recent years, four additional shows launched at The Vineyard have been revived in their first Broadway productions: Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive; Lanie Robertson’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar And Grill; Becky Mode’s Fully Committed; and Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Three Tall Women. From our home in NYC’s Union Square, The Vineyard develops and premieres new plays and musicals which go on to be seen around the country and the world. Recently, Jeremy O. Harris’ play “Daddy” (2019) received its London premiere at the Almeida; Ngozi Anyanwu’s Good Grief (2018) and David Cale’s Harry Clarke (2017) were recorded by Audible; Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Gloria (2014), a finali st for the Pulitzer Prize, transferred to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre; Paula Vogel’s Tony Award-winning Indecent (2016) aired on PBS’s “Great Performances” and was one of the most-produced plays nationwide in 2019; and Oscar Nominee Colman Domingo’s Dot (2016) is being adapted into an AMC series. The Vineyard’s first major digital work, Lessons in Survival, was named one of the top theatrical experiences of 2020 by the New York Times and has been viewed by audiences in more than 40 countries. The Vineyard’s Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, Susan Stroman Directing Award, and Colman Domingo Award provide residencies to early-career artists and our education programs serve over 700 New York City public high school students annually, culminating in Developing Artists’ REBEL VERSES Youth Arts Festival. The Roth-Vogel New Play Commission is awarded annually to a mid to late-career playwright to create and develop a new play with The Vineyard. Our work and artists have been honored with numerous awards including Pulitzer Prizes and Tony Awards, and the company is proud to be the recipient of special Drama Desk, Obie, and Lucille Lortel Awards for artistic excellence and support of artists. 

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