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Theatre News: Natalie Weiss, Felicia Boswell Stand For, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Dracula, In the Green and Ron Howard

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Rising TikTok personality Natalie Weiss (Everyday Rapture, YouTube’s “Breaking Down the Riffs”), and Emmy Winner & Grammy Nominee Felicia Boswell (NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE, Shuffle Along, Motown), two stars from the Original Off-Broadway Cast of Emojiland (the critically acclaimed new musical which was cut short in March due to the Broadway shutdown), have reunited virtually to perform the song “Stand For,” supported by one hundred singers and musicians from coast to coast. 

One of the show’s writers, Keith Harrison, who also produced the quarantine music video, says the number was written to inspire the audience to ask themselves what they “stand for.”

Joining Weiss and Boswell in the video are singers from the Weston Drama Workshop, AMDA College of the Performing Arts and Honeoye Falls-Lima High School, accompanied by a five-piece band comprised of CJ Baker, Emily Rosenfield, Geno Henderson, Jazz Limbo and Harrison himself.

The production, produced by Visceral Entertainment and Arborhouse Productions, was directed by Thomas Caruso and received two Outer Critics Circle Awards, in addition to nominations for four Drama Desk Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award, and an Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Musical. Its original cast recording released by Broadway Records is streaming now on all major platforms, and is currently on the GRAMMY ballot for Best Musical Theater Album.

The Actors Fund, the national human services organization for everyone in performing arts and entertainment, and the Lymphoma Research Foundation are proud to announce a one-night-only Halloween benefit concert presentation of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney’s classic animated film, as interpreted by some of Broadway’s most ghoulishly talented artists. The evening will be presented by Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart, in cooperation with Tim Burton, Danny Elfman and Disney Music Group. The terrifyingly tantalizing one-night-only event will be available to stream on The Actors Fund Vimeo Channel. on Saturday, October 31 at 7 pm ET. For details and to purchase tickets ($4.99), visit http://actorsfund.org/TNBC

James Monroe Iglehart, who dazzled audiences as the Genie in his Tony Award-winning performance in Disney Theatricals’s Aladdin, and his Broadway friends, using only items and clothing found around their house combined with their imaginations, will bring this delightful evening of music, storytelling and Halloween fun to life for one-night-only. 

The cast includes: Rafael Casal (Blindspotting, Bad Education), Adrienne Warren (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Shuffle Along, Bring It On: The Musical), James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin, Hamilton, Memphis), Danny Burstein(Moulin Rouge!, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof), Nik Walker (Ain’t Too Proud, Hamilton, Motown The Musical), Lesli Margherita (Dames at Sea, Matilda, EmojiLand), Rob McClure (Chaplin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Beetlejuice) and more.

“We are extremely grateful to Tim Burton, Danny Elfman and the Disney Music Group for allowing us the opportunity to bring our concert interpretation of The Nightmare Before Christmas to everyone this Halloween,” said James Monroe Iglehart.

With door-to-door tricks and treats on hold, all are invited to indulge in this holiday classic. To purchase tickets to stream ($4.99), visit actorsfund.org/NBC.

New York: Resounding, a live immersive audio entertainment company, will debut with a production of Dracula, on Friday, October 30 and Saturday 31 at 8 PM. Based on Orson Welles’ radio play and adapted by Resounding Creative Director Steve Wargo, this production of Dracula will star Tony-nominated  Norm Lewis (Broadway: Once on This Island The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess) as Count Dracula along with Lindsay Nicole Chambers  (Broadway: Lysistrata Jones, Legally Blonde, Hairspray) as Mina Murray, Siho Ellsmore (Off-Broadway: Jewtopia. TV: “Neighbours”) as Lucy Westenra, Chris Renfro (TV: “The Happy Place,” “Reno911!”) as Jonathan Harker, Dick Terhune (TV: “Transformers: Cyberverse”) as Prof, Van Helsing, Stuart Williams (Off-Broadway: The Report.  TV: “The Plot Against America”) as Dr. Seward and John Stimac (Film:  Lethal Force. Met Opera’s  Akhnaten), all performing live, remotely from their homes.

Based on Bram Stoker’s horror classic, this live immersive audio experience will transport audiences to the heart of Transylvania and the decaying, undead world of The Count himself.  With your ears and imagination as your guide, join Prof. Van Helsing as he leads a team of vampire hunters to destroy the evil that is Dracula once and for all. 

This fast-paced new immersive audio play, suggested by Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation, will use new, proprietary technology to create a live 360-degree soundscape of howls, bats, screams, creaky floors, slamming doors, and everything that goes bump in the night.  

Dracula will be followed by live audio performances of a Resounding adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (November), and the World Premiere of The Fantastical Tale of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King (December) casts TBA. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by visiting Resounding.live 

Ghostlight Records has announced that it will release the Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3 original cast recording of In the Green – the new musical by Grace McLean – in digital and streaming formats on Friday, October 16. A physical CD will be available later this year. The album features orchestrations by Grace McLean and Kris Kukul, with music supervision by Kris Kukul, and music direction by Ada Westfall. To pre-order the album, which is produced by Dean Sharenow, Grace McLean, and Kris Kukul, please visit: ghostlightrecords.lnk.to/inthegreen 

In the Green, which was commissioned and produced by Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3, tells the origin story of one of Medieval history’s most powerful and creative women: Hildegard von Bingen. Before she became a healer, a composer, an exorcist, and finally a saint, she was a little girl locked in a cell with her mentor, Jutta. The cast features Rachael Duddy, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Grace McLean, Mia Pak, and Hannah Whitney. 

The Actors Fund, the national human services organization for everyone in performing arts and entertainment, announced today that Life on the Stage: Conversation and Film, presented by Jacob Burns Film Center (JBFC) in partnership with The Actors Fund, returns with filmmaker and JBFC Board Member Ron Howard on October 13 at 7:30 PM ET in a live virtual conversation about his film Frost/Nixon (2008), moderated by Broadway producer and JBFC Board Member Dori Berinstein. 

The event will be available for viewing on The Actors Fund YouTube Channel. For more information, please visit: https://burnsfilmcenter.org/virtual-events/life-on-the-stage-frost-nixon/

Frost/Nixon is a cinematic adaptation of the play that premiered in London in August 2006 and opened on Broadway in April 2007 and is just as timely now as when it first opened. 

An original, ongoing JBFC series curated by Dori Berinstein, Life on the Stage gives audiences a peek behind the curtain at live performances, offering insight into the process of adapting a film into a Broadway show. Previous events have welcomed many guests from the Broadway scene, including Kenny Leon, Christian Borle, James Lapine, and Alan Cumming, as well the creative teams from The Band’s VisitRodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!King Kong, and Children of a Lesser God.

Ron Howard is one of this generation’s most popular directors. From the critically acclaimed dramas Cinderella Man and Apollo 13 to the hit comedies Parenthood and Splash, he has created some of Hollywood’s most memorable films. Howard directed and produced A Beautiful Mind, which earned him an Oscar for Best Director and also won awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. Howard’s more recent films include The Da Vinci CodeAngels & DemonsFrost/NixonThe DilemmaThe Beatles: Eight Days a WeekPavarotti, and Rebuilding Paradise.

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

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sarah Paulson in Appropriate

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Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate not only got a second extension, but transferred  theatre. Slated to close March 3 at the Hayes Theater, Appropriate will now play a 13-week engagement at the Belasco Theatre, with performances beginning March 25. The strictly limited run will continue through June 23. The reason for the transfer was Paula Vogel’s Mother Play, was already slated to perform.

To read T2C’s review of Appropriate  click here and here.

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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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Entertainment

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Classical/Rock Violinist Daisy Jopling

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a new show that is filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here second episode click here and for our third episode click here.

You can also see us on

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:

https://open.spotify.com/show/2nKQcaG9hnSeLkxUgR2BzI

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

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Broadway

Broadway To Honor Hinton Battle

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Broadway will honor the memory of Hinton Battle, the three-time Tony Award-winning singer/ actor/ phenomenal dancer who was trailblazing. Mr. Battle passed away on January 30, 2024, at the age of 67. On March 12, 2024, the Committee of Theatre Owners will dim all the lights of all the Broadway theatres in New York for one minute at exactly 6:45pm, in his honor.Hinton Battle won three Tony’s and made his Broadway debut at 18,  playing the original Scarecrow in The Wiz.

You can see our tribute here. He was one of the great ones.

 

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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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