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This winter a wonderful tale was told that honored the life and times of a theater legend. Down in Chinatown, nearly a thousand attendees gathered to honor the great Ming Cho Lee at a special retirement celebration.

In attendance were luminaires of the design and theater world including: Bernard Gerstan, Cora Cohan, Emily Mann, Adriene Lobel, Santo Loquasto, John Lee Beatty, Susan Hilferty, Jane Greenwood, Michael Yeargan, Jennifer Tipton, Jess Goldstein, Chris Barreca, Derek Mclane and Marjory Kellogg.

At the event welcoming remarks were led by James Bundy, Michael Yeargan, and Emily Mann. A touching video tribute then played, which was produced by Martha New. The short documentary left the audience applauding with roaring appreciation. A stunning traditional dinner of dim sum and delights followed and was served as Katherine Lerner Lee presented her musical performance.

Ming Cho Lee is one of the most distinguished designers of his generation. His outstanding accomplishments in set design extend from Broadway and Off-Broadway to opera and regional theater across the world. Ming’s achievements as both an acclaimed designer and revered educator at Yale University are a remarkable testament to his devotion to the art of theater.

ming

His work began on Broadway as a second assistant set designer to Jo Mielziner on The Most Happy Fella in 1956. Lee’s first Broadway play as Scenic Designer was The Moon Besieged in 1962. From there he designed the sets for over 20 Broadway shows, including Mother Courage and Her Children, King Lear, The Glass Menagerie, The Shadow Box, and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.

Ming’s impressions are legendary and are credited to his passion. But he also credits his wife for a level of dedication that has taken him to soaring heights. He has won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design, a Helen Hayes Award, and in 1983 he received a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design for K2.

ming

He has also designed sets for opera (including eight productions for the Metropolitan Opera and thirteen for the New York City Opera, ballet, and regional theatres such as Arena Stage, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Guthrie Theater.

Since 1969, Lee has taught at the Yale School of Drama, where he is retiring as co-chair of the Design Department.

The retirement soiree was not only a celebration of the living icon – it was also a platform for honoring the Ming Lee Scholarship, as well as the incredible work taking place by Master Teachers of American Theater. The organization seeks to recognize and preserve the work of great teaching artists who have had a major influence on American theater. The organization achieves this by producing documentaries that capture, document, and preserve these artists in the very act of practicing their profession.

ming

Filmed or videotaped in real time, these records enhance the historical understanding of the performing arts, demonstrating the unique qualities of American performance as interpreted and imparted by some of the most significant teaching artists in the nation’s acting pantheon. The Master Teachers of American Theater’s documentaries comprise a significant cultural legacy that is rarely recorded or preserved other than in book or anecdotal form or in still photographs. Being able to sit in on these extraordinary performers’ teaching as they teach—seeing in live interactions the distinctiveness of their approach—affords insight into their profound contributions to the American performing arts that is unavailable by any other means, and enriches culture.

Board Members include Kris Stone, John Coyne, Martha New and Chris Barreca. The goal of this not for profit 5013c is to shoot, interview, and edit the hundreds of hours of footage of these master teachers – preserving their thoughts, insights, and processes – forever. A legacy of creative thought and approach. For more information on the not for profit and their current fundraising needs please visit here.

Here is to an artistic giant and the new theater work to come in the near future.

ElizaBeth Taylor is a journalist for Times Square Chronicles and is a frequent guest at film, fashion and art events throughout New York City and Los Angeles due to her stature as The Sensible Socialite.Passionate about people ElizaBeth spent many years working as a travel reporter and television producer after graduating with high honors from University of Southern California. The work has afforded her the opportunity to explore Europe, Russia, South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. It has greatly influenced the way in which ElizaBeth sees a story and has created a heightened awareness for the way people around the world live today.

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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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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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

COUGAR HEAT — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) John Mellencamp has a clear message to fans planning to attend his shows: behave or just stay home.The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer – known for such timeless tunes as “Hurts So Good” and “Jack & Diane” – recently hit the road for his 2024 Live and in Person tour. In a conversation with The Washington Post, Mellencamp detailed what he expects of his fans.

“I do expect etiquette inside of the theater, the same way you would at a Broadway show,” the rocker explained. “My shows are not really concerts anymore. They’re performances, and there’s a difference between a performance and a concert.”

To that end, Mellencamp demands a certain amount of decorum from his audiences.

“Look, I’m not for everyone anymore,” the singer admitted. “I’m just not. And if you want to come and scream and yell and get drunk, don’t come to my show.”

Mellencamp’s directive on manners comes after a series of notable outbursts. In March 2023, the singer told concertgoers to “keep your f—ing mouth shut,” during an acoustic portion of the show.

Last May, an audience member yelled “play the f—ing music” after Mellencamp offered criticism of the U.S.A.

”If these people don’t shut the f–k up I’m just going to leave, OK?” Mellencamp told the crowd. “Because I’m not used to this crap. Look, guys, if I wanted to play in this type of drunken environment, I’d play outside or I’d play in an arena.”

Then, last month, things reached another cantankerous height. At a show in Toledo, Ohio, Mellencamp became outraged at a heckler in the crowd who told him to “play some music.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing, you c–ksu–er?” the rocker responded. “Here’s the thing, man. You don’t know me. You don’t f—ing know me. Hey Joe, find this guy and let me see him after the show.”

Mellencamp later stormed off the stage, seemingly cutting the performance short. However he eventually returned to play a few more songs.

I am a fan of his music and his art, but I’ve negative stories about him for decades. Tommy Mottola used to manage him, then Randy Hoffman and there’s a long list of people who will NOT work for him. Great music though; from the heart.

Mottola in his memoir said Mellencamp was the type of person who if he won  million dollars, would fume why it wasn’t two-million! I know people like that!

“Human Wheels” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard.

SHORT TAKES — Mixed reviews for The Outsiders on Broadway which opened last week in NYC. Angelina Jolie is one of the producers. It’s a great book by S.E. Hinton and even though Theatermania panned Coppola’s movie it stills stands as a classic. Check out their review: https://www.theatermania.com/news/review-the-outsiders-becomes-a-soggy-broadway-musical_1736986/Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman interviewed Woody Allen for The Observer ten years ago. His just-out, new interview with Allen is a classic. Take a read: https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/04/17/exclusive-woody-allen-on-marriage-kids-his-great-films-influence-on-movie-making-writing-a-novel-epstein-and-not-retiring … If a new Woody-interview wasn’t enough, Tatiana Siegel in Variety touts the new films coming from ageless auteurs Spielberg; Scorsese; Scott; Coppola; and 93-year old Clint Eastwood. Breathtaking for sure. Take a read: https://variety.com/2024/film/news/martin-scorsese-frank-sinatra-biopic-dicaprio-jennifer-lawrence-1235973769/

Micky Dolenz and Alice Cooper at Coopstock -photo by Valerie La Rue

Micky Dolenz joined in with Alice Cooper for “School’s Out” at Coopstock last weekend in Arizona. Coopstock is Cooper’s annual charity event … Director Quentin Tarantino abruptly dropped plans for his last movie The Movie Critic; which was to star Brad Pitt  …

CBS, which inexplicably cut the Billy Joel at the Garden special 1/2-hour too early last weekend (and during Joel playing his signature “Piano Man” no less) gets a repeat tonight … And, remember the Sullivan Street Playhouse where The Fantasticks ran? Check this out: https://www.villagepreservation.org/2012/01/13/sullivan-street-playhouse-gone-but-not-forgotten/ … RIP Dickey Betts … Happy Bday Marc Eliot!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Dan Zelinski; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; David Letterman; Robert Morton; Janice Zegers; Jane Rosenthal; Frankie Crocker; Deb Caponetta; Jimmy Fallon; Kelsey Ledbetter; Chuck Scarborough; Mark Bego; Kent and Laura Denmark; Bruce Haring; Greg Evans; David Kramer; Joe Malone; Charley Crespo; Jodi Ritzen; Tone Scott; Anthony Noto; and BELLA!
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Broadway

Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman and More At The Museum of Broadway As Harmony Is Honored

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On Thursday, April 18th Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman, The Comedian Harmonists Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman and Steven Telsey, as well as Company members including Chip Zien, Kate Wesler, Kyla Stone, Matthew Mucha, Stuart Zagnit, Zak Edwards, and more TBA will be at The Museum of Broadway to unveil a brand-new window display dedicated to the Broadway musical Harmony. Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman brought the long-forgotten story of The Comedian Harmonists, a German singing group of six young men whose fame was abruptly cut short by the rise of Nazism, to life in the 2023 hit Broadway musical Harmony.

The Museum of Broadway will honor their story with a dedicated window featuring exclusive items donated by Manilow and Sussman, and historical items dating back to the 1920s.

The program will include a special a cappella performance by the OBC Comedian Harmonists.

Harmony, featured an original new score by legendary Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award® winner Barry Manilow with lyrics and book by Drama Desk Award Winner, Bruce Sussman. Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle (The Music Man, Hello Dolly!), this timely and captivating rags-to-riches story lost to history came to dazzling life with a sensational cast of Broadway favorites.

Based on an unbelievable true story, the musical told the tale of the most successful entertainers you’ve never heard of. . . until Harmony. In the 1920s and 30s, The Comedian Harmonists sold millions of records, made dozens of films, and sold-out the biggest theaters around the world. Their heavenly harmonies and musical comedy antics catapulted these six talented young men from singing in the subway tunnels of Berlin to international superstardom.  What happened next was the story of Harmony.

The female-founded award-winning Museum of Broadway is the world’s first-ever permanent museum dedicated to the storied history and legendary artists, creators and stars of Broadway musicals and plays, past and present. Offering unrivaled “backstage” access, the Museum of Broadway goes behind-the-scenes to show guests of all ages how a Broadway show is made from conception to curtain call.  A one-of-its-kind entertaining and educational celebration of Broadway for the theatre enthusiast and insider alike, the Museum of Broadway transports visitors visually through centuries of time.  Experience a stunning, ever-evolving curation from the 1700s-present day one dazzling, unforgettable exhibit, costume, prop, rendering and rarity at a time. Through each piece, the Museum of Broadway honors the legacies of those who paved the way for today’s Broadway and the next generation of theatregoers and creators.

Founded in November 2022, the Museum of Broadway highlights more than 500 showstopping and hidden gem productions across three floors of exhibits.  Open seven days a week and welcoming thousands of guests weekly from all over the world, the museum also offers free educational programming, special events with your favorite Broadway casts and creatives, a membership program, merchandise from your favorite shows, and so much more. A portion of proceeds from every ticket sold is donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Be sure to follow @MuseumofBroadway on all social channels for the latest artifact drops, special offers, events and happenings and visit themuseumofbroadway.com to complete your perfect day on Broadway.

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Out of Town

“Women of the Fur Trade” Soars (even with all those controlling men looking down on them)

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Portraits of distinguished men stare down at us, surprisingly, as we enter the space. I did not expect those domineering men’s faces peering at me, with three rocking chairs out front giving off a feeling of waiting and wanting, comfortably and leisurely, for movement without too much proactive action. It’s a captivating portrait highlight, filled with power dynamics and control, that ushers in the Women of the Fur Trade, presented strongly and dynamically by Native Earth Performing Arts. Rocking back and forth with a hypnotic clarity, the three emerging women play a quoting game with glee, one that I would definitely lose without a doubt. The ladies in fur and formal period form engage in a manner that makes us want to lean in with wonder and curiosity. We watch them prattle and dabble on with a modern air of compellingly fun dialogue and gossip, wondering where this is going, and how the essence and themes will be delivered.

With an eccentric electric energy, dropped and messaged in by a basket post, the play, written with a strong sense of self and history by Frances Končan (Space Girl), unleashes ideas and captive arguments about rebellion and colonialism that are drenched in historic fact and laced with symbolic fiction. The play intends to find meaning and understanding of that particular time and place in Canada’s dark treatment of the indigenous population, and the women, representing different fractions, find themselves, trapped, for reasons unknown, in a fort on the banks of the Reddish River in Treaty One. The dividing politics and approaching violence hang over their heads like those black and white male faces, pressing down and inflicting themselves in every engagement, as the three causally and with a modern vernacular that is impressively smart, unpack themes of racism, misogyny, and the challenge of remaining united while having differing views. Its comedic delivery and contemporary colloquialisms keep the space light, delivering empathy and care inside ideas without shame or defensiveness.

Jonathan Fisher and Jesse Gervais in Native Earth Performing Arts’ Women of the Fur Trade. Photo by Kate Dalton.

It’s quite a challenging premise, met with sharply constructed success by Končan, to find pathways through windows and disappearing doors without sounding preachy or heavy-handed. Yet, the playwright manages the space with perfect formulations and structure, giving an intelligent space on the banks of the Reddish River to discuss advancing British troops, confederation, and whether the hot nerd Louis Riel, played beautifully by Jonathan Fisher (VideoCabaret’s New France) is truly worthy of the undying adoration of a young Métis woman, Marie-Angelique, played brilliantly by Kelsey Kanatan Wavey (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s The Rez Sisters). Or whether the momentarily pregnant Cecilia, portraying a nervous married settler woman to perfection by Cheri Maracle (Firehall’s White Noise), is correct to think that Riel’s assistant, Thomas Scott, played hilariously well by Jesse Gervais (MTC/Grand’s Clue), is the actual true heartthrob of the pair (I’m leaning towards Gervais, even if he is, ultimately, the bad guy of the lot). Their portraits hang above their heads proudly, setting up a battle of more than just one superficial dimension, while the free-spirited Ojibwe, Eugenia, perfectly and powerfully portrayed by Lisa Nasson (Stratford’s R+J), watches on with amazement, knowing that they both have a lot to learn and understand about these men. As do we.

The inescapable reaction to their history and predicament hangs heavy and true, like the watchful male oppression made clear within the subtle and wonderful set design by Lauchlin Johnston (RMTC’s The Secret to Good Tea), with strong lighting by Jeff Harrison (Arts Club’s Hand to God), a spot-on projection design by Candelario Andrade (Bard on the Beach’s Julius Caesar), and a clear sound design by composer MJ Dandeneau (RMTC’s YAGA). This lively historical satire of determined survival and cultural historical inheritance plays out like a romantic comedy with an untimely preference for twenty-first-century slang pulled through the dark waters of racism, oppression, and colonialism. The women speak of undying and unknown love of rebellious strangers and symbolic heroes. But out front, the two men travel and engage in a strong game of sideways Cyrano with rollie-bags, giving signals as to where they stand. They are a hypnotic pair, drenched in fascinating dynamics of conflictual power, which ultimately leads to one of the funniest and sharpest scenes of cross-haired love and mistaken admiration that I have seen for a long time, thanks to Wavey and Gervais’s impeccable timing, physicality, and perfect comic delivery.

Cheri Maracle and Lisa Nasson in Native Earth Performing Arts’ Women of the Fur Trade. Photo by Kate Dalton.

The irreverent and pointed humor is as clever as can be, finding empathy and care in their comic humanity, and timelessness. The three actors portraying these women are perfect in their rocking situation sometime in the year “eighteen hundred and something something.” They excel in all aspects, guided most wisely by the original direction of Renae Morriseau (“Angela’s Shadow“), with revival director Kevin Loring (Battle of the Birds/playwright) coming in to assist in the last month of this production. The energy of the well-crafted piece, with disarmingly clever costuming by Vanessa Imeson (A Company of Fools’ Hamlet), hilariously and wisely unpacks history, religion, and rebellion, inside a framework of teenage girl gossip and lust, and it works most mystically and spiritually in a manner I never expected.

This was one of the only shows I, unfortunately, missed at the Stratford Festival last summer, and I was so pleased to be given a second chance to take it all in. But I had no idea how funny and charming this play actually is, and how accomplished this production and its cast & crew would be. I’m not sure I was able to fully take on and take in every symbolic plot point or focused line. It’s clear that the three represent differing polarities that could cause a break in the camaraderie of these three women. Their coming together against overwhelming historical odds while being trapped and controlled by the men of the times is the contemporary point that needs to be taken. But some of the details and points of storyboard friction were lost on me. Or was I looking too deep within?

The written colonial representation of our history, including Louis Riel, Thomas Scott, and the unseen, but much-discussed John A. MacDonald, needs a whole lot of rewriting in our history books to even come close to the reality. Končan does a fantastic job trying to present forward an alternative with hopes of expanding our understanding of how our complicated Canadian history was not as neat and wholesome as we were taught in high school. Being a card-carrying status indigenous person, the platform that Končan has dutifully and skillfully created is a welcome wonder, filled with unquestionable laughter and sharply aimed shots, fired from weapons more powerful than a few random sticks in the woods. Women of the Fur Trade is as precise and clever as one could hope for, and a wonderfully clever, entertaining adventure into some dark Canadian history. Don’t try to resist. Just go if you can, even if it means climbing out a window, and join these well-crafted characters on the banks of the Reddish River in Treaty One Territory to laugh and fall hopelessly in mistaken love with a pretty perfect piece of theatre and enlightenment. Every dog will bark in support.

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