The League of Professional Theatre Women (Kelli Lynn Harrison & Lisa Rothe, Co-Presidents), presented the final Oral History event of their 2017-18 season with two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera on Monday, May 7th to a packed house.
Produced by Co-Chairs Pat Addiss and Sophia Romma, in partnership with the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Ms. Rivera talked about her life and illustrious career with Broadway World’s lead correspondent, Richard Ridge, host of Backstage with Richard Ridge.
Rivera began her stage career with Call Me Madam, which she almost didn’t addition for, but they offered her $250 a week to go on the road with Elaine Stritch. It was her first job with Jerome Robbins.
In Can Can with Gwen Verdon, Ms. Verdon gave her courage to find out who she really was. She ended up getting a call by Cy Coleman, Bob Fosse and Gwen asking her to cover Charity on the road. She went on to do the movie with Paula Kelly and Shirley Maclaine. She gushed over how Paula could jump.
In winning the role of Anita, Rivera didn’t know she could sing. Leonard Bernstein, taught her, her part on the piano in his apartment. Rivera did not realize they were a show until the Washington, D.C. run of West Side Story, when her song received thunderous applause and stopped the show. “We didn’t know what to do with that,” Rivera stated.
Jerome Robbins, “had all the answers, as far as I was concerned.”
Rivera was thrilled to know and work with John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally, all of whom she said “knew things about me, I didn’t know myself”. Ms. Rivera’s greatest joy came when John Kander gave her, her very own vamp with “All That Jazz.”
In talking about Nine, Rivera swooned about Antonio Banderas, “Everything you dreamt about Antonio Banderas was true.”
In working on her piece A Dancer’s Life, Chita stated “God has a way of showing you what you have. Music means everything to me .”
In The Visit, with Roger Rees she found a new friend she lost way too soon.
“In Kiss of The Spiderwoman, I felt fragmented, until I realized she lived in Brent Carvers mind. This was a story I wanted to make sure was heard.”
“Don’t lose your sense of humor!” is the quote Ms. Rivera lives her life by. In 1986, while in Jerry’s Girls, Ms Rivera’s leg was broken. She didn’t learn until after the X-rays were taken, that she had suffered a broken tibia and fibula. It would take two operations and 16 screws. “Every single day you are different. Laying on that bed, I was watching my body mend itself. I’ve been in the business for a long time, and it’s been very good to me, so I would just like to tell the universe ‘Thank You’”.
Despite working more than 60 years on Broadway, Chita Rivera never thought she would receive a lifetime achievement Tony Award, much less one alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber. But if you ask Ms. Rivera what her most treasured production is that would be her daughter Lisa Mordente, a singer, dancer and choreographer in her own rights.
Ms Rivera was touching, personable and above everything else, hilarious. I wish one of the producers in the league would create a comedy around this talented artist. Now that would sell out as well.
Thank-you to the League of Professional Theatre Women for an amazing event.
Theatre News: Wicked, The Wiz, Hypnotique, Female Troubles and Love In The Time Of Crazy
Broadway’s blockbuster Wicked, in partnership with National Day Calendar, has announced that October 30 will officially become National Wicked Day, in honor of the hit Broadway musical’s debut at the Gershwin Theatre (245 West 51st Street) on October 30, 2003.
This marks the first time that a Broadway show will have its own official day in the National Day Calendar. With this inclusion, Wicked joins some of the most recognizable National Day celebrations, including National Barbie Day, National Star Trek Day, National Scrabble Day, National Winnie the Pooh Day, and National Teacher Appreciate Day, among others.
Read the official announcement HERE.
Currently Wicked 4th longest-running show in Broadway history, and will celebrate its 20th Anniversary on Broadway this October 30th.
The Broadway production of Wicked currently features Alyssa Fox as Elphaba, McKenzie Kurtz as Glinda, John Dossett as The Wizard, Michele Pawk as Madame Morrible, Jordan Litz as Fiyero, Jake Pedersen as Boq, Kimber Elayne Sprawl as Nessarose, and William Youmans as Doctor Dillamond.
Emmy Award®-winning music director and Grammy Award®-winning writer, Adam Blackstone, joins the creative team as Dance Music Arranger for the revival of The Wiz. The Wiz will launch a national tour on September 23, 2023 in Baltimore, MD before returning to Broadway for a limited engagement in the 2023/24 season.
“Joining The Wiz’s creative team has been a very surreal moment. I remember watching the film on VHS daily for years, wondering how it sounded so incredible, how MJ transformed into the Scarecrow, and the score and orchestrations truly told a story all of its own. Fast forward to today, I get to musically partner with Terence Vaughn and reunite with my brother, super choreographer and creative director JaQuel Knight, and explore our own interpretation for a revival of this masterpiece. I am excited and look forward to this body of work changing lives, just like it did for me in the 80’s!” stated Adam Blackstone.
The cast will include previously announced Wayne Brady to lead the production as the Wiz on Broadway in Spring of 2024, San Francisco (January 16 – February 11, 2024) at the Golden Gate Theatre, and Los Angeles (February 13 – March 3, 2024) at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Alan Mingo Jr. will star in the role of the Wiz in the following cities of The Wiz National Tour this fall, kicking off with the tour launch in Baltimore, including Cleveland, OH, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, PA, Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, Chicago, IL, Des Moines, IA, Tempe, AZ and San Diego, CA.
The cast will also feature Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy, Deborah Cox as Glinda and Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene, Kyle Ramar Freeman as the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson as the Tinman, and Avery Wilson as the Scarecrow. The Wiz ensemble includes Maya Bowles, Shayla Alayre Caldwell, Jay Copeland, Allyson Kaye Daniel, Judith Franklin, George, Collin Heyward, Amber Jackson, Jackson, Jones, Jones, Kindle, Mariah Lyttle, Kareem Marsh, Anthony Murphy, Rae, Matthew Sims Jr, Avilon Trust Tate, Keenan D. Washington, and Timothy Wilson.
The production will include ‘Everybody Rejoice’ music and lyrics by Luther Vandross, as well as the ‘Emerald City Ballet’ with music by Timothy Graphenreed.
The McKittrick Hotel (530 West 27th Street, NYC), home of Sleep No More, announced the opening of Hypnotique – A Late Night Sultry Spectacle. Performances have been extended on Friday and Saturday nights through October 14, 2023. The all-new Hypnotique revue offers a unique after-dark experience that envelops you. Audiences are captivated by spontaneous performances and mesmerizing dancers, accompanied by daring sonic soundscapes in a surreal ambiance in The Club Car.
The cast features Chloé Lexia Worthington, Courtney Sauls, Fabricio Seraphin, Haley Bjorn, Jacob Nahor, Jesseca Scott, Maurice Ivy, Maya Kitayama, Samantha Greenlund, Victoria Edwards, and swings Alex Sturtevant, Cameron Arnold, Kennedy Adams, and Stacey Badgett Jr..
Cocktails inspired by the experience, including the signature Hypnotonique (an electrifying punch made with cucumber-infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, and grapefruit juice), are available from The Club Car’s bar.
Performances are offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30PM. General Admission tickets with standing room are currently priced from $65 per person.
Two industry readings for Female Troubles, an original musical comedy, will happen next week at Open Jar Studios. Female Troubles is a completely original musical comedy featuring lyrics by two-time Tony Award nominated and Grammy Award nominated songwriter Amanda Green (Mr. Saturday Night, Hands On A Hardbody, Bring It On), music by three-time Emmy Award nominee Curtis Moore (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), book by Emmy Award-winning writers Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden (“Veep,” “Arrested Development,” “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons,” “HouseBroken”) and directed by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli (Disney’s Newsies, My Fair Lady, “Schmigadoon,” “Schmicago”).
The cast for the readings will includeKrystina Alabado, Kevin Del Aguila, Amanda Green, Lilli Cooper, Lillias White, Lesli Margherita, Ryann Redmond, Kate Rockwell, Matt Saldivar, Alanna Saunders, Trent Saunders, Jake Swain, Sav Souza, Rachel Stern and Frank Viveros.In Female Troubles, Elinor Benton finds herself surprisingly and undeniably “knocked up” — and, since she’s unmarried and this is 19th century England, she has a very big dilemma. Facing ruin, she and her girlfriends embark on a raucous journey to find the one notorious woman who can help them with their “female troubles.” Their misadventures change the course of each of their lives. This uproarious musical comedy asks the trenchant question “Can you believe this sh*t is still happening in 1810?”
I attended the reading of Love In The Time Of Crazy withbook and lyrics by Peter Kellogg (Outer Critics Winner for Desperate Measures), music by Stephen Weiner (two-time Richard Rodgers Award winner) and David Hancock Turner (orchestrator for Desperate Measures and Penelope), directed by Lauren Molina (Desperate Measures ). The cast stared Philippe Arroyo, Stephen DeRosa, Robin Dunavant, David Merino, Josh Lamon, Roe Hartrampf and Alexis Cofield .
Love in the Time of Crazy is a riot, but, you know, in a good way.
De Filippo’s “Grand Magic” Amazes in a Sharply Constructed Sleight of Hand at Canada’s Stratford Festival
The seagulls squawk and cry out overhead, drawing us down into the sunkissed scene of striped umbrellas and beach chairs. We bathe in its warm glow, happily, as we take in the lux surroundings of the beautiful seaside Hotel Metropole, waiting, alongside all the other well-heeled vacationers for the arrival of tonight’s entertainment. It’s Grand Magic that is about to arrive, but questions about the man at its center swirl around like those seagulls up above. Is it something far greater than some fancy card tricks? Or are we being misled; tricked down a fool’s road to believe or maybe imagine the unimaginable? Surrender to our instincts, we are instructed, but is that really the game or is there some other twist waiting for the applause multiplier to enliven the moment and the man?
Standing firm and unshakable (or so we at first believe), the arrogant and dismissive Calogero, played to perfection by the impressive Gordon S Miller (Crow’s A&R Angels), fights with that idea, at least in the beginning. Accompanied by his unhappy captive wife Marta, beautifully embodied by Beck Lloyd (Stratford’s R+J), Calogero barely can contain his disregard for the main magical attraction; but even more so for all those guests who gather, playing cards and gossiping about all that approaches and surrounds them.
Lucky for us all, we don’t have to wait too long for the main event; the grand magician, Otto Marvuglia, magically portrayed by Geraint Wyn Davies (LCT’s King Lear), to arrive. And with a flourish, he saunters in, dressed to impress, thanks to the talented work of costume designer Francesca Callow (Stratford’s Three Tall Women), flinging his hat and walking stick around like magical acrobats overhead. We can’t help ourselves. We must lean it, wondering what tricks Otto and his spectacularly feisty wife, Zaira, magnificently portrayed by Sarah Orenstein (Stratford’s Wolf Hall), have in store for us. But more so, will we be able to see the trick inside playwright Eduardo De Filippo’s gorgeously rendered Grand Magic at the Stratford Festival‘s intimate Tom Patterson Theatre.
Although unknown to me, playwright De Filippo is considered by many as one of the most important Italian artists and playwrights of the 20th century and the author of many theatrical dramas staged and directed by the man himself. La grande magia(1948), renamed Grand Magic by co-adaptors John Murrell and the play’s dramaturge Donato Santeramo, is the third of De Filippo’s plays that have been staged at the Stratford Festival by the artistic director, Antoni Cimolino (Stratford’s Macbeth) who digs, with grand determination, into the luminous artifice with a magic all his own. It breaks through the walls of our perception, as we watch with glee, playing with philosophical ideals of time and reality under a magician’s cloak of manipulation and deceit. It’s clever in its construction, and captivating in the ultimate unraveling, as we watch a fascinating game played perfectly to the highest level of inventiveness, or possible insanity, questioning faith and reality at every turn. But to what end?
The game begins with an outward deliberate flourish of gifts and refreshments, and an internal deceptive dance led by a few pretend-hotel-guest accomplices, portrayed purposefully by the always good Steve Ross (Stratford’s Chicago) as Gervasio; and a father and daughter team, Arturo and Amelia Tuddei, played a bit too dramatically by David Collins (Stratford’s The Tempest) and Qianna MacGilchrist (Stratford’s Hamlet-911) [in a part usually portrayed by Germaine Konji]. But the core of the ultimate con is dispatched more privately, out of sight, in the financial arrangement between the strapped and desperate magician, Otto, and Marta’s determined secret paramour Mariano, dutifully portrayed by Jordin Hall (Driftwood’s Othello) who’s dying to get the unhappily married and pseudo caged Marta away from her jealous husband. Even for fifteen minutes. Or more.
Calogero, as played most miraculously by Miller, is thrown off balance in a heartbeat by the disappearance, but more so because of his own lack of faith; in his wife and his heart. Somehow in that boxed-up struggle, he is caught in a magnificent trap of construction and deception, thanks to the magnificent phrasing of this illustrious playwright. Questioned and challenged by the desperate magician, who sees his own cage’s ceiling dropping fast if he doesn’t think even faster, Calogero becomes enlisted and entangled in a head-tripping construct that plays with his, and our own heads in the most captivating way. It’s a wordplay of formulations, juggling with ideas of time and reality, after Calogero’s wife, Marta, in a trick of corrupted theatricality, somewhat lazily crafted by set and lighting designer Lorenzo Savoini (Soulpepper’s Mother’s Daughter), disappears into the night.
The sets are exacting, beautifully crafted, and expertly designed, don’t get me wrong, with a strong sound design by Ranil Sonnadera (Theatre Aquarius’ The Extinction Therapist) and musical composition by Wayne Kelso (Stratford’s The Rez Sisters) adding to the appeal of the seaside, but I guess I was hoping for a bit more actual magic here, and throughout the play from magic consultant, David Ben. Not just the emotional fragrance of magic. But real awe-inspiring magic. Marta steps out from inside the locked trick, clear as day, void of any vanishing flash, leaving the sarcophagus, the hotel, and her husband all behind in a hilariously played-out boat ride to Venice with her pleased lover. But what she leaves behind is a complication, worthy of some intellectual magic to make right. Otto hears the boat motoring off into the distance and realizes, quite rightly, that he has to play an instantaneous game of dangerous deception. Or else something more dangerous could happen, so he has to play it well and for the long haul. He has no choice, but maybe, somehow, it will help him rise up out of his financial troubles, at least until he can manipulate his way out the other side of his own personal sarcophagus.
Otto, as played most spectacularly by Wyn Davies, in a mad creation of metaphysical wordplay, convinces Calogero that Marta, after vanishing, has been caught, trapped within an adorned small box waiting for her release, very much like the marital enclosed space she just ran away where she was literally locked up in her room inside a marriage by her husband. Otto tells Calogero that Marta will only be released and returned to him if he opens the box with a strong believing heart and soul in her fidelity and faith. A clutched aspect and angle that takes the jealous husband by surprise and gives him pause. A pause that lasts years and years in tortured psychic constipation.
De Filippo’s Grand Magic doesn’t disappoint, even with its tiny amount of actual magic being performed. It is filled to the brim with clever manipulations and some very entertaining characters and complications unpacking roundabout ideas that captivate and enliven the material. In particular, one sharply performed roll of the dice enhances the momentum with astounding efficiency in the form of a strongly enacted policeman, hilariously portrayed by the amazing Emilio Vieira (RMTC’s The Three Musketeers) who arrives in a fantastically funny flurry, giving clever depth and delivering delight to the magician and all those who might accuse. Otto’s wife, as portrayed by Orenstein, is also a hat trick of the highest order, delivering lusty and withering lines that invigorate the air around her, and give greater depth to a part that could have easily vanished into thin air.
But these are just two fine examples in a cast overflowing with daft and delicious frivolity, giving the utmost entertaining pleasure to all that stay tuned into the way we all can deceive our own selves if it serves us. The play overflows with frameworks and angles to appreciate all that stride across the stage, even when some of those scenarios, especially the sad sick tale of Arturo’s young daughter, and her love of little purple flowers, feel somewhat unneeded and overstuffed. Much like the arrival of Calogero’s intruding greedy family.
Grand Magic is being performed at Stratford Festival’s Tom Patterson Theatreuntil 29 September. The Festival runs until 29 October.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
Arms and the Man Meet The Press
Gingold Theatrical Group next show is a new production of George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man.
The cast of Arms and the Man will feature Shanel Bailey (“Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies”)
Delphi Borich (Camelot)
Ben Davis (New York New York)
Keshav Moodliar (Queen)
Evan Zes (The Kite Runner),
Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba (Prince of Broadway).
Understudies for this production are Mazvita Chanakira (Gap Year)
René Thornton Jr (The Tempest)
and Matthew Zimmerman (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Arms and the Man will be directed by David Staller.
The production will feature set design by Lindsay Genevieve Fuori
lighting design by Jamie Roderick
costume design by Tracy Christensen
and sound design by Julian Evans. Prop design is by Emmarose Campbell.
Production management is by Allie Posner. Hair design is by Cassie Williams, and Stephanie Yankwitt of tbd Casting Co. is the Casting Director.
Logan Gabrielle Schulman is the Assistant to the Director and Ariel Kregard is the Assistant to the Costume Designer.
The production stage manager is April Ann Kline and Jade Doina will serve as assistant stage manager.
Arms and the Man is one of Shaw’s most popular comedies. The plot follows a hunted soldier who, seeking refuge in a young lady’s boudoir, starts in motion a series of highly engaging and unlikely comedic events. His unusual philosophies about love, war and life in general open up a world of thought she’d never previously entertained–certainly not with her dashing war-hero fiancée who also arrives unexpectedly. This early work of Shaw’s is remarkably pithy.
The play’s title, Arms and the Man, references the first line of the epic Virgil poem, The Aeneid, in which we’re reminded of how foolish humans can be by fighting each other and struggling against the best of human nature: “Arms and the man I sing, who, forced by fate / And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate, / Expelled and exiled, left the Trojan shore.”
Arms and the Man will play Theater Two at Theatre Row (410 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036) from October 17 through November 18, 2023. Opening night is set for October 26. The performance schedule is Tuesday–Thursday at 7pm; Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm & 8pm; Sunday at 3pm. Cast and guest-moderated talkbacks will take place after each Sunday performance.
“Relapse” Musically Releases Some Compelling Voices in Our Heads
By Dennis W
Vinny Celerio (as Intrusive), Nicole Lamb (as Intrusive), Mia Cherise Hall (as Melinda), Zummy Mohammed (as Intrusive), and Audree Hedequist (as Intrusive) Photos by Thomas Mundell.
Relapse: A New Musical is filling Theatre Row with the sound of music from voices patients in a psychiatric hospital hear only in their heads. The 100-minute production captures the audience and brings them into the foggy, erratic, self-destructive world of this group who have lost their grasp on reality. It’s a difficult feat to write a musical about mental illness and get it right. The approach J. Giachetti takes in the book and lyrics, with music supplied by Louis Josephson, is quite inventive and works. The play takes place in group therapy sessions for four patients. But the music is about what’s going on in the minds of these people as they struggle with their sanity. And there are four more players called, ‘The Intrusive’ (the voices in the patients’ heads) doing whatever they can to keep the people in the group from breaking through to reality.
Bryan is played by Randall Scott Carpenter and this is his Off-Broadway debut. Bryan has an eating disorder and Carpenter captures a man searching for control right down to the nervous tick of shaking his leg. The schizophrenic in the group is Melinda played by Mia Cherise Hall. She has just the right spin on the character’s detachment from reality while still being part of the group.
Kendra is played by Becca Suskauer (Pretty Woman, National Tour) making her Off-Broadway debut. Kendra is a sociopath who torched her home and killed her father. Rounding out the cast is Adam played by Jacob Ryan Smith (Lizard Boy, Off-Broadway) who is new to the group. He’s an alcoholic and this is his fourth relapse. All the characters have a singular goal: to get out. They are joined by ‘The Intrusive’ played by Vinny Clear, Audree Hedequist, Nicole Lamb, and Yummy Mohammed. They swarm around the patients blocking their way to progress, as well as, filling the void as a well-voiced chorus.
The lyrics by J Giachetti do the job of filling out the characters with titles like Psych 101, Outta Here, Shattered Brain, and What Would You Do. The rock edge to the music by Josephson (Composer, Additional Lyrics, Orchestrations, Julliard) adds to the chaos nicely.
Dr. Carlisle and Margot, the nurse, are played respectively by Troy Valjean Rucker (Romeo and Bernadette, Off-Broadway) and Ashley Alexandra (Tootsie – National Tour) who have a kind of antagonistic relationship. Margot is not completely happy with the doctor’s handling of the group and is not shy about speaking out. They also talk about how funding for the group session may be cut off. This is where the plot begins to wander somewhat unnecessarily.
Director and Choreographer Joey McKneely (West Side Story, Broadway) keeps all the characters moving to highlight their stories in the ensemble musical using all of the stage space. The eerie swarming of ‘The Intrusive’ works but as the show progresses their movements become somewhat repetitive.
The scenic design by Sheryl Liu (The Memorial, A.R.T.) is adequate, with six blue chairs in a semi-circle as you would expect. It’s easily moved around as needed. Liu, as costume designer, dresses the patients in simple scubs-like tops and pants. Except for Bryan who has a slouching muddy brown cardigan that he uses to his advantage as he nervously rubs it between his fingers hinting at his lack of control and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
This ensemble production of Relapse: A New Musical takes us inside mental illness. The problem comes within the optimistic ending. We really have mostly seen how the characters deal with their specific problems and how the voices in their heads keep holding them back. The doctor says he is moving a patient to the next level facility even though he isn’t ready just to show some progress on paper. Relapse isn’t perfect but it is definitely an evening of entertainment that will give you a lot to talk about when you leave the theater.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
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