The League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW), recognizes that our beloved theatre community will be hit hard by this in so many ways and we urge you to care for yourselves and each other during this difficult time, and to tap into the open, creative, artistic, generous spirit which has always defined our community.
To that end, the League is supporting its members through its Waldman Emergency Fund. Long-time member Honey Waldman graciously donated money several years ago to create the Fund in memory of her father. The purpose of the fund is to assist LPTW members in good standing who reside in the United States, when an emergency occurs. The loan is intended for true emergencies. A committee will review requests for loans which will be evaluated on an individual basis. All requests are confidential and all loans are discreet.
LPTW member events are still running through the month of March with the exception of Julia’s Reading Room, originally scheduled for March 25 at the Jefferson Market Library, which unfortunately has been canceled.
The League of Professional Theatre Women (a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization) has been championing women and leading the gender parity conversation in the professional theatre for over three decades. Since its founding, the LPTW’s membership has grown to 500+ theatre artists and practitioners of all backgrounds, across multiple disciplines, working in the commercial and non-profit sectors. To increase visibility of and opportunities for women in the field, the LPTW spearheads public programming, advocacy initiatives, events, media, and publications that raise awareness of the importance of nurturing women’s voices, celebrate industry luminaries, preserve the legacy of historic visionaries, and shine a spotlight on the imperative of striving for gender parity and fostering a diversity of expression, both in the theatre world and the world at large. To find out more about how you can support its endeavors, please visit www.theatrewomen.org.
Can’t Wait For Boop To Come To Broadway
At the CIBC Theatre in Chicago, BOOP! The Musical, the new Broadway-bound musical extravaganza is making its debut . Actress Jasmine Amy Rogers is currently bringing her to life in Chicago, as she proves in this exciting song “Where I Wanna Be”.
The show is created by Tony Award®–winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, La Cage aux Folles, Hairspray) who brings the Queen of the Animated Screen to the theater with celebrated multiple-time Grammy®-winning composer David Foster (“I Have Nothing,” “After the Love Is Gone,” “The Prayer”), Tony-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead (Working, Jelly’s Last Jam), and Tony-winning bookwriter Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone, The Prom).
I am obsessed with the songs already. First was “Something To Shout About” and now “Where I Wanna Be”.
For almost a century, Betty Boop has won hearts and inspired fans around the world with her trademark looks, voice, and style. Now, in BOOP!, Betty’s dream of an ordinary day off from the super-celebrity in her black-and-white world leads to an extraordinary adventure of color, music, and love in New York City—one that reminds her and the world, “You are capable of amazing things.” Boop-oop-a-doop!
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Michael Urie and Ethan Slater
With the holidays, my caricature of Spamalot is taking time, so I decided to highlight the two performers who for me stood out.
I have drawn Michael Urie several times, but I love this picture with him and my drawing of him in Buyer and Seller. Urie as Sir Robin, shows a new side of him that is truly funny.
Ethan Slater should have won a Tony for Sponge Bob Square Pants. My guess is he will be nominated again for his multiple roles in Spamalot.
Up next my caricature of Spamalot
Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Needs Tuning
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, now being presented in a live musical adaptation at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, was originally a warm-hearted muppet television special from the Jim Henson Company, loosely inspired by the O. Henry story, “The Gift of the Magi”. It debuted on Canadian television in 1977 and in the U.S. on HBO in 1978. It aired again later successfully in the 90’s on Nickelodeon and ABC.
This live adaptation, co-authored by director/choreographer Christopher Gattelli and producer Timothy Allen McDonald, with songs by legendary songwriter Paul Williams, puts all the muppet magic of the original onstage, plus a whole lot more of it.
Unfortunately, just recreating a filmed puppet show with live performances is not enough to make a successful stage musical. The leading muppet characters are now being portrayed by live actors. What was charming and innocent when done by puppets seems unduly naïve and emotionally thin when presented by real adults with black noses. Adults who are muppet fans because of the raucous comedy of The Muppet Show, and who enjoy the winking, mature knowledge behind the jokes in the Piggy/Kermit relationship, will find none of those pleasures in this childlike, innocent tale.
Also, this adaptation is slavishly loyal to the original teleplay. It adds no new dimension to the characters or the story, in either the libretto or the songs. To appeal to all ages, Into the Woods put an adult perspective on its fairy tales, and Avenue Q team layered an adult sensibility onto their muppet characters. Such an expansion of concept is sorely needed here to keep the grown-ups awake.
What was tightly crafted as a short film is now twice as long, and seems stretched too thin. The muppets enliven the meager story and simplistic dialogue with their antics as background characters. But conceptually, the show barely rises to the level of mediocre children’s theater.
The story revolves around a boy otter, Emmet, and his mother, Ma, who are looking for a way to buy each other a Christmas present when they don’t have enough money to do so.
Emmet, who isn’t a particularly interesting character in the original film for any reason other than being a talking otter, is given a sincere but equally bland embodiment here by Andy Mientus. As Ma, the sweet voiced Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone is as touching as the material allows her to be.
There are nice turns by all the supporting actors, including Kevin Covert as Mayor Fox, Emily Rohm as Gretchen Fox, and Sawyer Smith as Madame Squirrel, among others. The two actors who really captured my attention were Steven Huynh as the dimwitted Wendell Porcupine, and the ever-talented Sharriese Hamilton, who delivers a G rated, musical striptease that was the most delightful actor moment of the evening.
In the best musicals, the story is driven by the desires of the central character, who gets to express what he or she wants in song. Unfortunately, in this adaptation as well as the original, Emmet is dragged passively through this story for a long time before he seems to want anything. Worse yet, he never gets to sing about it directly. It’s a glaring shortcoming of the original material which should have been addressed.
I’ve been a fan of Paul Williams for years, but his songs here are all what musical theater conductor and teacher, Lehman Engel, called “charm” songs. Those are songs which stand alone for a pleasant moment, and provide a break from the action. But they neither advance the story nor directly express the emotional journey of the characters, as great theater songs need to do.
The opening number, “The Bathing Suit That Grandma Otter Wore,” about how a fat otter’s pelt got turned into a lot of useful things, was originally very funny, coming from the mouths of puppet otters singing about their skinned relative. But it loses most of its comic impact when sung by very human-looking actors. That’s followed by a string of country-tinged, mildly funny tunes, none of which express the inner lives of the characters.
This show clearly needs a few new musical theater songs that would emanate from the key emotional moments in the story. After twenty-seven years of active development on this project, this creative team should have realized that a long time ago. But apparently, they can’t see the forest for the fake fur.
What is most entertaining about this production are all the muppet characters, both new and old, who are brought to life by a stage full of super talented actor-puppeteers. The opening moment, in which a woodpecker sets the tempo for the band, makes it clear that the puppets will be the real stars of the show. The new opening number, “Waterville”, features tap dancing bunny rabbits who had me giggling. A gaggle of goofy flying squirrels have a fun song with Emmet, “Trust that Branch,” which is the only number that elevates the story thematically.
The muppet bits in the talent show itself are all really funny. A mean piano player drives the dancing bunnies to go at breakneck speed in revenge for having invaded her garden. A troupe of acrobatic squirrels manipulated by unseen operators is a delight of black art puppetry. One brilliant sight gag involves a deer mesmerized by a spotlight as if it were seeing a car in the road. It literally stopped the show with laughter for a very long time. Unfortunately, the central story is not improved by all the furry funny business.
The Henson Company clearly wants a perennial family stage show for the holidays. But unless the creative team finds its musical theater rudder, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas will remain strictly a Saturday morning kid’s show, and drift along in development until, as the song goes, “the river meets the sea”.
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas plays now through December 31st at the Studebaker Theater, 410 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. For tickets visit fineartsbuilding.com/Studebaker/, or call 312-753-3210.
The Emergence of Profound Theatre at The Signature
Things are not as they seem. What is our place in the universe? Did you know we once co-created and still create our own universe…everyday? Are we alive? Where does love come from? These are the subjects that Emergence and Patrick Olson ask us to ponder. Featuring music, spoken word almost like Laurie Anderson or David Byrne and Alex Grey like visuals, Olson imparts what could almost be a movement towards a better planet. Olson, also a talented songwriter brings together Ian Jesse on bass, Nadav Hezi on guitar, Jordan Coker on drums, and Thomas Nickell on keys, four vocalists ala Robert Palmer (Cherry Davis, Samara Brown, Miya Bass, and Bella Kosal), 3 acrobatic dancers Summer Sheldrick, Dana Liebezeit, and Lavy Cavaliere, add to his universe.
Olson, founded a science publishing company, released an album in 2021 titled Music for Scientists. “Moons of Jupiter,” is featured in Emergence. Other songs include: “Time,” “In My Mind,” “Energy,” and “Becoming.”
A lot of Emergence is played off as scientific fact such as we are all made out of hydrogen, carbon, calcium, and phosphorus, which is not living. Tension holds us upright despite gravity and yellow tulips are actually not yellow. This is all done with thought-provoking monologues that is in essence basic knowledge, but sometimes the most simplest concepts are the most profound. Do most people even contemplate spatial paradigms and the relativity of time and space? I think not and yet if we did the universe would be a better place.
Some of this material and this world can seem overwhelming, but in this intimate space we go through the trauma of it together.
Olson truly likes being up on stage and sharing his knowledge, his music and his philosophy. He looks kind of like a rock Mr. Rodgers.
A lot of what makes this show is the lighting design by Jordan Noltner, and the projections, by Jonathon Corbiere and Tyler Sammy of Futuretalk, Inc., and Nick Proctor, of Wasted Potential. These almost become another character.
This show is uplifting, insightful and definitely a unique theatrical experience.
Emergence: Things Are Not As They Seem: Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street through January 7th. Tickets and information: emergenceshow.com
Happy 1 Year Anniversary Museum of Broadway
The Museum of Broadway celebrated its one year anniversary, last night. Founded by two female entrepreneurs, Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti, The Museum of Broadway is the world’s first-ever permanent museum dedicated to the storied history and legendary artistry of Broadway musicals, plays, and the people who make them. The museum opened its doors on November 15, 2022, to reveal 26,000 sq. ft. across three floors where over 500 productions from the 1700s-present are celebrated.
On hand for the celebration were Allan K. Washington (Survival of the Thickest), Ana Villafañe (Sinatra), Arielle Jacobs (Here Lies Love), Ashley Loren (Moulin Rouge!), Danny Burstein, Duncan Sheik, E. Clayton Cornelious (New York, New York), Eden Espinosa (Lempicka), Ellen Hart, Frank Wood, Hailee Kaleem Wright (SIX), Jared Grimes (Funny Girl), Jawan M. Jackson (The Temptations), Jose Llana (Here Lies Love), Krystal Joy Brown (Merrily We Roll Along), Leandra Ellis-Gaston (SIX), Lynn Ahrens, Meghan Picerno (Phantom of the Opera), Pat Swinney Kaufman (Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment), Paula Vogel, Samantha Pollino (Sweeney Todd), Stephanie Hsu, Stephen Flaherty, Tom Viola (Executive Director, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS), Zoe Jensen (SIX) and more.
T2c finally had a chance to do a walk through and we bring you on this journey. Happy Broadway and here’s to another year!
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