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Theatre News: First Look The Music Man, A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet, Project Shaw, Black No More and Park Avenue Armory 2022 Season

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The hugely anticipated revival of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. Starring two-time Tony Award®, Grammy Award®, and Emmy Award®-winning star Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill, and also starring two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster as Marian The Librarian, preview performances for The Music Man are set to begin on Monday, December 20, with Opening Night scheduled for Thursday, February 10, 2022, at the Winter Garden Theatre (1634 Broadway).

Hugh Jackman Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes
Sutton Foster, Hugh Jackman Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes
Warren Carlyle, Jerry Zaks Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet, the first new musical to premiere in New York since the pandemic began, will present an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted performance this Saturday, November 20th at 3:00pm at the DR2 Theatre (103 East 15th Street), in partnership with Broadway SIGNs! (ASL Interpreters Gabriel Silva and Alberto Medero; Director of Artistic Sign Language (DASL) Dickie Hearts).

Ben Fankhauser, Bryonha Marie Parham, and Alex Wyse Photo by Matthew Murphy

The production has been playing to sold out audiences and critical acclaim since beginning performances recently extended due to popular demand with its final performance set for this Sunday, November 21st at 7:00pm.

The New Group proudly announced the complete casting for the world premiere production of Black No More.  This new musical, inspired by George S. Schuyler’s 1931 novel of the same name, features Book by John Ridley, Music and Lyrics by Tariq Trotter, Music Supervision, Orchestrations and Vocal Arrangements by Daryl Waters, Choreography by Bill T. Jones and Direction by Scott Elliott.  A strictly limited engagement will play January 11 – February 27, 2022 at The Pershing Square Signature Center (The Irene Diamond Stage, 480 West 42nd Street) with Opening Night on Tuesday, February 8.   

The complete cast features Leanne Antonio, Rhaamell Burke-Missouri, Elijah A. Carter, Ryan Fitzgerald, Polanco Jones Jr., Zachary Daniel Jones, Sarah Meahl, Mary Page Nance, Oneika Phillips, Nicholas Ranauro, Malaiyka Reid, Mars Rucker, Angela M. Sauers, Katie Thompson, Akron Watson, Nyla Watson and Edward Watts, joining the previously announced Walter Bobbie, Jennifer Damiano, Brandon Victor Dixon, Tamika Lawrence, Tracy Shayne, Theo Stockman, Ephraim Sykes, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Lillias White.   

Black No More, a new musical inspired by George S. Schuyler’s Afrofuturist novel set during the Harlem Renaissance, is the story of Max Disher (Brandon Victor Dixon), who’s eager to try the mysterious machine invented by Dr. Junius Crookman (Tariq Trotter) that guarantees to “solve the American race problem” —by turning Black people white. Through a fusion of music by two-time Grammy Award winner Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter (The Roots), and choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening and Fela!), with book by Academy Award winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) and directed by The New Group’s founding Artistic Director Scott Elliott, Black No More is one Black man’s journey colliding with truths of race and identity.   

​​Originally announced and slated for fall 2020, Black No More arrives in January 2022 in this world premiere production from The New Group. 

Park Avenue Armory announced its programming for the coming year, including new commissions, and world and North American premieres.

“As we reemerge from two years of isolation, political upheaval, and social reckoning, we turn to artists to recontextualize the past and look to the future,” said Rebecca Robertson, Park Avenue Armory’s Founding President and Executive Producer. “

The Armory’s 2022 season begins in February with Assembly, a multifaceted commission by interdisciplinary artist Rashaad Newsome. Artificial intelligence, sculpture, CGI, assemblage, and holography. As visitors enter, they are confronted with video-mapped walls pulsing with computer-generated imagery surrounding a 40-foot-tall hologram sculpture and a 350-seat theater. At the center of all of this is Being, the second generation of Newsome’s AI progeny whose voice acts as the exhibition’s soundscape. When not reading their poetry, Being invites visitors to take workshops that combine lecture, critical pedagogy, dance, storytelling, and mindfulness meditation, bringing new possibilities for reflection and an enhanced academic experience for all people. For seven evenings, the theater will come alive with the premiere of Newsome’s new performance featuring live poetry, music, vocalists, and dancers from across the globe-–presenting contemporary movements that synthesize vogue fem with the traditional dance from their territories.

The season continues in March with the North American premiere of Upload, agroundbreaking new opera by eminent Dutch composer, film and stage director, and librettist Michel van der Aa, who returns to the Armory after following the success of his technologically ambitious Blank Out in 2017. With Upload, van der Aa ventures again to the frontiers of technological innovation with an engrossing tale conveyed by live performance, motion capture, and film. Following a critically acclaimed run at the Dutch National Opera in October 2021, Upload tells the story of a daughter (soprano Julia Bullock) and her father (baritone Roderick Williams) who, when confronted by his inevitable death, has his thoughts and memories “uploaded,” in order to achieve a “virtual resurrection.” The deeply emotional work poses age-old questions-about fate, identity, and the cost of immortality-that take on new significance against a backdrop of present-day and near-future technologies.

From May and June through mid-August, British director and playwright Robert Icke-–whose Armory-commissioned work Enemy of the People, reconceived the space. An award-winning modern interpretations of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and his own adaptation of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, performed in repertory. Young talent Alex Lawther(The Imitation GameThe End of the F***ing World) stars as the brooding protagonist of Hamlet and Lia Williams returns to Oresteia in her Olivier-nominated role as Klytemnestra. Aeschylus’s epic ancient Greek trilogy that follows a succession of brutal family murders and asks whether justice can be achieved through revenge. Icke has condensed and modernized the Greek masterpiece into a single three-hour performance that presents the play as a bold family drama.

Fall 2022 at the Armory begins in September with Rothko Chapel, a new musical commission by MacArthur “Genius,” multi-instrument virtuoso, and genre-defying composer Tyshawn Sorey based on the iconic work written by Morton Feldman as a tribute to Mark Rothko and Houston’s Rothko Chapel on the occasion of its dedication in 1971. Fifty years later, Sorey’s work pays homage to both Feldman-–whom Sorey cites as a major influence on his compositional style-–and the Chapel, resonating with the minimalism of its 14 black Rothko paintings and its symbolism as a non-denominational spiritual space dedicated to the pursuit of human rights. Sorey, who performed in an Artists Studio program in the Armory’s Veterans Room in 2016, now escalates his practice to the magnitude of the Drill Hall, enlisting director Peter Sellars to realize a staged work of the composition designed specifically for the space. Sellars also directed the celebrated Armory productions of St. Matthew Passion in 2014, FLEXN in 2015, and FLEXN Evolution in 2017. Joining Sorey and Sellars to create a meditative space within the Drill Hall is visual artist Julie Mehretu. Mehretu’s abstract and experiential practice will manifest in a series of large-scale canvases that will encompass the audience and performers in a concentrated memorial environment.

Returning to the Armory after the 2016 presentation of his film installation Manifesto, which captivated audiences worldwide, Julian Rosefeldt caps off the 2022 season with Euphoria, a new, Armory-commissioned multi-channel film and musical installation exploring the concepts of capital, money, greed, and what Rosefeldt describes as “the destructive potential of unlimited economic growth.” Euphoria is scored with original music composed by Samy Moussa and with additional music by Cassie Kinoshi, performed by 140 singers from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and five acclaimed jazz drummers: Terri Lyne Carrington, Steve Gadd, Yissy García, Eric Harland, and Antonio Sanchez.

Throughout the year, the Armory will also present a roster of intimate performances, salons, artist talks, and educational programs in its historic period rooms. The Armory’s longstanding Recital Series, presented in the Board of Officers Room, in 2022 features classical and contemporary works performed by chamber ensembles Alarm Will Soundand Ensemble Correspondances, baritone Justin Austin, tenor Michael Spyres, mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo, and soprano Ying Fang. The Veterans Room hosts the Artists Studio, a series of eclectic, cross-disciplinary performances curated by jazz pianist, composer, and MacArthur fellow Jason Moran. In 2022, Moran himself will take the stage to perform two nights of solo piano-his first solo performances at the Armory since the series’ inception in 2016. Other Artists Studio programs for the year will feature pioneering performance and video artist Joan Jonas, conceptual artist Rodney McMillian, and a collaboration between multimedia artist Camille Norment and pianist, composer, and electronic musician Craig Taborn.

Additionally, under the curation of newly appointed Curator of Public ProgrammingTavia Nyong’o, the Armory will present a series of talks, salons, symposia, performances, and other activations that bring artists, activists, cultural leaders, scholars, and audiences into dialogue about contemporary issues through an artistic lens. Formerly known as Interrogations of Form, the new Making Space series launches in 2022 with a slate of programming that addresses the fault lines in our racial and social order laid bare by the events of the past two years, tackling topics as varied as climate change, rebellion against technological algorithms, queerness in hip hop, and the legacies of Juneteenth.

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

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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Lempicka Brings An Artist Work Back To Life

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In 1984, I saw the interactive show Tamara based on the life of the artist Tamara de Lempicka in LA and fell in love with it, so much so that it has stayed one of my favorites to this day. Lempicka is a new musical based more on her sexual choices than her stylized Art Deco portraits that changed and inspired generations. She was one of the first feminists, as Tamara choose art, sexual freedom and a lifestyle in a time of war and destruction.


The musical starts out on a park bench in LA as an older Tamara (Eden Espinosa) reflects on her life. Flash back to Warsaw, Poland as Tamara is to be wed to Lempicka (Andrew Samonsky) an aristocrat and is to live a life of luxury. Then the Bolshevik’s in prison her husband, she uses sexual favors to free him and they flee to Paris with their daughter. When her husband is unwilling to work she becomes a painter and uses the name Lempicka. There she is befriended by a wealthy art patron (Nathaniel Stampley) and his wife (Beth Leavel), is influenced by Marinetti (George Abu), the founder of the Futurist art movement, and is inspired and in love with Rafaela (Amber Iman). Both Lempicka and the musical come alive at this point. Tamara finds friendship and solace with a nightclub owner, Suzy (Natalie Joy Johnson), who gives her and others like her a refuge, until the Nazi’s invade. In the end, while breaking ground Lempicka’s life style becomes rather self centered or should I say one of self preservation as she loses her husband, her daughter and her lover.

Amber Iman, Eden Espinosa Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

Matt Gould’s music and Carson Kreitzer’s lyrics are well sung and the show sounds glorious. This is a new take on pop music. The problem here is the minor characters get the songs that make the show come alive. Iman, Abu and Johnson almost steal the show with their numbers. Level gets the 11 O’Clock number and breaks our hearts. Though Espinoza has some good numbers and sells them, none of them really stand out.

George Abud photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman)

Kreitzer also conceived the book and wrote it with Gould. Again the show does and doesn’t work. Instead of focusing on Lempicka’s art, the changing world around her and the fact that she was one of the first feminists, the story is more focused on lesbian repression. The show is billed as a triangle of love, but her husband once they get to Paris is in his own world until she gets together with Rafaela a prostitute. Rachel Chavkin’s direction makes the scenes between Rafaela and Lempicka beautiful and in a strange sense if feels a little like Indecent, however the show as a whole doesn’t jell.

Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

I did like Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography that seemed to evoke the changing world around.

Riccardo Hernández’s set of steel, seems like the world is on the verge of collapse and rebuilding. The lighting by Bradley King and projections by Peter Hylenski and Justin Stasi added to that effect. Paloma Young’s costumes missed the mark and seemed like they were in two different stories.

The reason to see Lempicka is it is sung and acted gloriously.

Once you see Lempicka, you will realize how much Tamara de Lempicka’s art change and influenced the world of art. This was a woman who survived at all costs and that should always be admired.

Lempicka: Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street.
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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: The Outsiders

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These boys are taking Broadway by storm Jason Schmidt, Sky Lakota-Lynch, and Brody Grant. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1967, the hardened hearts and aching souls of Ponyboy Curtis, Johnny Cade and their chosen family of “outsiders” are in a fight for survival and a quest for purpose in a world that may never accept them. A story of the bonds that brothers share and the hopes we all hold on to, this gripping new musical reinvigorates the timeless tale of “haves and have nots”, of protecting what’s yours and fighting for what could be.

The Outsiders opened on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.

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We Say Good Bye To Costume Designer Extraordinaire Carrie Robbins

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I met Carrie Robbins at an art gallery with Louis St Louis, Baayork Lee and Judy Jacksina. The four of us stayed well into the morning talking, laughing and having a fabulous time. Carrie and I bonded after that as she turned to playwriting. It broke my heart to learn that on the evening of April 12, 2024 Costume Designer extraordinaire Carrie Robbins passed away.

Carrie’s work has been featured in over 30+ Broadway shows, including Class Act, Grease (original), Agnes of God, Yentl, Octette Bridge Club, Sweet Bird of Youth (Lauren Bacall), Frankenstein, Happy End (Mary Streep), Boys of Winter, Cyrano (Frank Langella), & Shadow Box (Mercedes Ruehl).

Her awards and nominations included: 2012 recipient of the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Theatre Development Fund & the tdf/Costume Collection with the support of the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund. 2 Tony (Noms.), 5 Drama Desks, Maharam, USITT/Prague International, L.A. Dramalogue, Henry Hughes, F.I.T-Surface Design, & Audelco, among others.

Robbins’ costumes for the Irving Berlin musical White Christmas played major cities in the USA, Broadway, and Great Britain. Her regional work included M. Butterfly and On the Verge, for director Tazewell Thompson (Arena Stage) and the Gershwin musical American in Paris by Ken Ludwig for director Gregory Boyd (Alley Theatre, Houston) as well as The Tempest (Anthony Hopkins as Prospero) & Flea in Her Ear (director Tom Moore at Mark Taper Forum), many productions for the Guthrie (MN), Williamstown, and many others from Alaska to Buffalo.


Locally, in NYC, Robbins designed for many productions for The Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, Chelsea Theatre at BAM, Acting Company at Juilliard and NY Shakespeare Festival.

She also designed for the Opera and they included Death in Venice for Glimmerglass (’08 Prague International Design Exhibit), Samson et Dalila (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand, more), and many productions for Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston. Her work has also been seen at the Hamburg StatsOper.

For film Robbins designed the movie “In The Spirit” (Elaine May, Peter Falk, Marlo Thomas); TV design included: Saturday Nite Live, PBS Arts in America, & several unseen pilots.

Robbins has designed clothes for several seasons of Queen Esther Marrow and The Harlem Gospel Singers’ European Tour. She also did the designs for The Cincinnati Ballet’s new Nutcracker, in December of 2011

Robbins was an MFA grad from the Yale School of Drama and was Master Teacher of Costume Design at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts for many years. She is extremely proud of the extraordinary number of award-winning, successful young costume designers and costume teachers across the country who came out of her classes.

Besides being a costume designer Carrie also was a playwright. In August 2010, her play, The Death & Life of Dr. Cutter, a Vaudeville, based on the true stories told by her husband Dr. R.D.Robbins, had its 4th reading at the Snapple Theatre Center; it was chosen by Abingdon Theatre Co, NYC, to be part of its First Readings Series in Fall, 2009. In 2011-12 the  League of Professional Theatre Women chose The Dragon Quartet as part of its 30th year anniversary celebration. In 2012-13, La MaMa (oldest off-off-Broadway theater in NYC at 51 years) chose The Diamond Eater for its “Concert Reading Series”. In 2013: TACT (The Actors Company Theatre, chose Sawbones for part of its newTACTics New Play Festival. In 2014 both The Diamond Eater and Sawbones  received 6 Nominations from N.Y. Innovative Theatre Awards (the most nominations given out in the 2014 season). In 2015, Le Wedding Dress, was a semi-finalist in NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016: Obsessions Of An Art Student chosen by NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016, The Actress, was a finalist in NY Thespis Summer Festival. In 2017, My Swollen Feet, chosen by NY Summerfest Theatre Festival/ Hudson Guild Theatre. In 2018 The Diamond Eater , semi-finalist at the 14th St. Y competition War + Peace/2018/19 season and The Dragon Griswynd, was chosen by Theater for the New City for its “Dream-Up Festival” In 2019 Pie Lessons, was invited by Crystal Field, Exec. Artistic Director of Theater for the New City, to be part of “Scratch Night at TNC”.

The last thing Carrie was working on was For The Lost Children Of Paris. This play was about how the Nazis, with help from the Vichy Government, collected French-Jewish schoolchildren and delivered them to Auschwitz. Excellent German record-keeping revealed 11,400 children were taken. At the liberation, only 200 were found alive. This is the story of one classroom’s collection day and its aftermath.

She did this play using puppets as the children.

Carrie had a voice that she used in a multiple of ways. She was a caring friend, a dedicated teacher, a prolific writer and costume designer, who always cared about others first. Carrie you will be missed.

 





 

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Patti LuPone Returns to Broadway and The Big Screen

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Three-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, who gave up her Equity card in 2022, will star opposite Mia Farrow in Jen Silverman’s new play, The Roommate. The production will be directed by Jack O’Brien and will begin previews at the Booth Theatre in August ahead of a September opening.

The Roommate tells the story of Sharon, in her mid-fifties, who is recently divorced and needs a roommate to share her Iowa home. Robyn, also in her mid-fifties, needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets, they encourage her own deep-seated desire to transform her life completely. A dark comedy about what it takes to re-route your life – and what happens when the wheels come off.

The Roommate premiered at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in March 2015, and has had several regional productions including at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2017.

Ms. LuPone will star in the upcoming Marvel series, WandaVision spinoff series Agatha: Coven of Chaos. She’s in a coven of witches, playing Lilia Calderu, who is hot, with a great body and hair. Calderu, first appeared in Marvel comics in 1973 as a 450-year-old Sicilian witch whose power is divination and whose trial is tarot. The other witches are Kathryn Hahn, Aubrey Plaza, and a familiar who is played by Joe Locke. Locke, is currently on Broadway in Sweeney Todd.

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