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Theatre News: New Sondheim Musical, Karen Olivo, Ian McKellen on Stage and Live at The Lortel



Nathan Lane revealed that he recently participated in a reading of a new Stephen Sondheim musical with Bernadette Peters on the Today Show. Could this be the collaboration with David Ives, Buñuel, that was  workshopped in 2016 with plans for a 2017 opening?

Lane also spoke about his new Hulu series, Only Murders in the Building, also starring Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez. Lane plays a Broadway producer who invests in a new true-crime podcast.

She said she was no longer going to work in theatre and this wasn’t the first time she made this statement. Now actor, activist and Tony Award-winner Karen Olivo (she/they), has been added to the line-up of Collaboraction’s 6th annual Peacebook Festival on Saturday, October 2 at the Kehrein Center for the Arts in Chicago.

Olivo is also a part of the Collaboraction’s Crucial Connections tomorrow, Thursday, September 16 at 8 p.m. Crucial Connections is free to join virtually, but advance registration is required. Go to to purchase tickets.

Tony Award-winning producer Hunter Arnold (Hadestown, Little Shop of Horrors) is thrilled to announce that his company TBD Pictures will release the North American streaming premiere of Sir Ian McKellen’s one man show“Ian McKellen on Stage” Friday, September 17 through October 3, 2021via On The Stage streaming platform. Tickets can be purchased at A portion of the proceeds will be donated to community, amateur, educational and regional theaters affected by the Covid-19 crisis.  

Experience Ian McKellen like you’ve never seen him before in this limited presentation of the greatest roles of his career.  Captured live with stunning clarity, this must-watch streaming event will remind you why you fell in love with theater to begin with. Directed by Sean Mathais, Ian McKellen on Stage was conceived by McKellen in honor of his eightieth birthday and in tribute to his illustrious sixty-year career onstage.

After touring 80 theaters in the UK with all proceeds, over 3 Million GBP, going to UK regional theaters, the production was filmed by National Theatre Live during its run on the West End at the Harold Pinter Theatre.  The streaming production is now being released to benefit community, amateur, educational and regional theaters affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

Hunter Arnold says, “While we are very fortunate that theater is coming back, local institutions have a long way to go before they will recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.  Sir McKellen was so focused on supporting local theaters with this project in the UK, we thought it was only fitting that that support continues across the pond here in North America. These theaters, the work they produce, and the artists and workers they support are a crucial part of our culture. It’s up to each of us to do as much as we can to bring them back stronger than they were before this crisis.” 

Recommended for ages 12 and up.  The show runs 2 hours and 32 minutes. Tickets are $29.99 at  Pre-order now for a $10 discount.

The Lucille Lortel Theatre today announces its first slate of guests for its 2021-2022 “Live at The Lortel” podcast series. Now in its third season, “Live at The Lortel” is hosted by Eric Ostrow and co-hosts Joy DeMichelle and John-Andrew Morrison. The program is designed to give theater makers the opportunity to share insight into their creative process and inspiration with a larger audience. These conversations dig deep into the artists’ work and career, including past, present, and future projects. 

This upcoming season, Live at The Lortel looks at the intersection between art and activism. We honor the work of theater artists who boldly use their public platform for philanthropy, to advance the state of theater, and to support the issues that they are passionate about. We look to explore how an artist’s passion for activism and philanthropy influences their artistry on the stage. 

The live interviews will take place Mondays at 7:00 PM EST, offering theater fans the opportunity to view interviews and participate in a Q&A with artists. To join the audience, please visit

Following each live interview, podcast episodes of “Live at The Lortel” will be available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Soundcloud per the below release schedule.

This fall, “Live at The Lortel” kicks off with Tony® Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad (September 20), actor and playwright Arturo Luís Soria currently starring in Off-Broadway’s critically acclaimed play, “Ni Mi Madre,” (September 27), actress and songstress NaTasha Yvette Williams (October 4), activist/actor Reynaldo Piniella, and Tony® Award winning actor, director, playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson (October 25).

Monday, September 20 – live Podcast release: September 24: Phylicia Rashad, an accomplished actress and stage director, became a household name when she portrayed Claire Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” a character whose enduring appeal has earned numerous awards and honors for over two decades.  Her film and television credits include: “A Fall from Grace,” “Creed” and “Creed II,” “For Colored Girls,” “Soul,” “Jingle Jangle,” “Black Box,” “This is Us” (three Emmy nominations), “David Makes Man,” and “Empire.”

Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2016, Ms. Rashad received Tony® and Drama Desk Awards for her performance as ‘Lena Younger’ in ‘A Raisin in the Sun,” the Lucille Lortel Award for her performance as ‘Shelah’ in “Head of Passes,” and a Tony® nomination for her portrayal of ‘Aunt Ester’ in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”  Ms. Rashad has directed plays by August Wilson (“Gem of the Ocean,” “Fences,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”), Stephen Adly Guirgis (“Our Lady of 121st Street”), and Paul Oakley Stovall (“Immediate Family”) at prestigious regional and 0ff-Broadway Theaters. Rashad, who serves as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council for the African American Cultural Heritage Fund, was recently appointed Dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts at Howard University.

Monday, September 27 – live Podcast release: October 1 Arturo Luís Soria is an actor and writer with roots in Brazil, Italy, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. Most recently, Arturo can be seen Off-Broadway at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in his critically acclaimed play, “Ni Mi Madre,” which he wrote and stars in. A first-time playwright, “Ni Mi Madre” received rave reviews from The New York Times and Vulture. Soria made his Broadway debut in “The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez and directed by Stephen Daldry. He played ‘Tano’ in the world premiere production of “Hit the Wall” by Ike Holter at the Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, reviving the role off-Broadway at Barrow Street Theatre. TV credits include: “The Blacklist” and “Insatiable.” He is a graduate from Yale School of Drama and The Theatre School at DePaul University. He is currently a TV writing mentee in Lena’s Waithe’s mentorship program at Hillman Grad Productions.

Monday, October 4 – live Podcast release: October 8 NaTasha Yvette Williams is an American actress, singer, and entertainer. Since she began singing at age three in the tiny tot choir at her church, she has performed from the subway to Broadway. She portrayed Aretha Franklin in “A Night with Janis Joplin,” and has been seen in The Gershwin’s’ “Porgy and Bess” and Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple.” Ms. Williams has previously performed with the Indianapolis Symphony, Naples Philharmonic, and Baltimore Symphony orchestras. Her current recording project is “How Deep is the Ocean,” a collection of standards, and she has released a Gospel project, “Songs That Carry Me Through … Some Old, Some New.” 

Her Broadway credits include “A Night with Janis Joplin,” The Gershwin’s’ “Porgy and Bess” (as Mariah), “The Color Purple” (Sofia), and Stephen Flaherty’s “Dessa Rose” at Lincoln Center. Her West End credits include Trevor Nunn’s production of Margaret Martin’s “Gone with the Wind” (Mammy). She appeared in the national tours of John Farrar and Jeff Lynne’s “Xanadu” (Melopmene), Greg Morrison and Lisa Lambert’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” (Trix the Aviatrix), Joe DiPietro’s Elvis musical “All Shook Up” (Sylvia), Stephen Flaherty’s “Seussical the Musical” (Sour Kangaroo), Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” (Grace), Jason Robert Brown’s “Parade,” and Marvin Hamlisch’s “The Goodbye Girl” (Mrs. Crosby). Regional appearances have included “Crowns” at Arkansas Repertory Theater and Arena Stage (Velma and Mabel, respectively), Marc Shaiman’s “Hairspray” (MotorMouth Maybelle) and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” at Papermill Playhouse, and the title role in “Mahalia: A Gospel Musical” at the Cleveland Playhouse. 

Monday, October 11 – No show in observance of Indigenous People’s Day

Monday, October 18 – live Podcast release: October 22

Reynaldo Piniella is an actor, writer, educator and activist from East New York, Brooklyn. He is an Advocacy Leadership Institute Fellow with the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC). He currently serves on the Council of the Episcopal Actors’ Guild, a nonsectarian charitable organization that provides food and financial assistance to actors in need. He co-runs Youth Onstage!, a free youth theater training program for young people from underserved communities across the country. As an actor, he’s been seen Off-Broadway in “The Death of the Last Black Man…,” “Venus” (Signature), “The Skin of Our Teeth” (TFANA), “Lockdown” (Rattlestick), “The Space Between the Letters” (The Public/UTR), “Terminus” (NYTW Next Door). Regional work includes Baltimore Center Stage, Syracuse Stage, Sundance Theatre Lab in Morocco, the O’Neill and the Cleveland Playhouse. TV credits include “Blue Bloods,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Flesh & Bone,” “Greenleaf,” “The Carrie Diaries,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “NYC 22,” “Us & Them,” “Louie” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Film credits include “Madeline’s Madeline,” “Shadows,” “One Percent More Humid” and “Broken City.” His writing has been developed and commissioned by Baltimore Center Stage, the National Black Theater, San Diego Rep, Single Carrot Theater, Pioneer Theatre Guild, Shakesqueer Theater Company, HB Studio and NYU. Piniella’s play “Black Doves” won the Thomas Barbour award for Playwriting.

Monday, October 25 – live Podcast release: October 29 Ruben Santiago-Hudson is currently starring in “Lackawanna Blues” which he wrote and directed on Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club. He also directed the Broadway production, “Jitney” which garnered several awards for “Outstanding Revival” including a Tony® Award and six Tony® nominations. Santiago-Hudson recently adapted August Wilson’s play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” for Netflix, which was produced by Denzel Washington, directed by George C. Wolfe, and starred Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.  Ruben’s directing credits include: “The Piano Lesson,” “Skeleton Crew,” “Othello,” “Gem of The Ocean,” “Paradise Blue,” “My Children! My Africa!,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “The Happiest Song Plays Last,” “Two Trains Running,” “Things of Dry Hours” and more. Santiago-Hudson received a Tony® Award as featured actor for his performance in August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” and made his Broadway acting debut alongside Gregory Hines in “Jelly’s Last Jam.” Other Broadway credits include “Stick Fly” and “Gem of The Ocean.” Select theater credits include “The Winter’s Tale,” “Henry VIII” and “Measure for Measure” (The Delacorte) “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” and “A Soldier’s Play” (NEC), “Lackawanna Blues” and “East Texas Hot Links” (The Public Theater). He wrote, executive produced, and co-starred in the HBO film “Lackawanna Blues” based on his OBIE and Helen Hayes Award-winning play. The movie received many honors including Emmy, Golden Globe, NAACP Image Award, The Christopher Award, and the Humanitas Prize. 

His film credits include American Gangster, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Shaft, Devil’s Advocate, and Domestic Disturbance. TV credits include series regular roles on The Quad, Public Morals and Low Winter Sun as well recurring roles on Billions, The West Wing, Law & Order, and numerous other guest star appearances. Santiago-Hudson starred on the hit ABC series Castle, for three seasons and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s David Makes Man for OWN.

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:


Broadway’s Harmony Sounds Great But Lacks Emotive Power




I don’t think I knew, going in, that Harmony, the new musical from book/lyric writer, Bruce Sussman (Ted Tally’s Coming Attractions) and music writer Barry Manilow now on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, is based on a true story. But as it sings itself out to us, it starts by taking us back to the Carnegie Hall stage of 1933, but then shifts even further back to Berlin, Germany 1927, giving us a clearer picture of what might be coming at us. Panning out in tones not so subtle and utilizing the narrative structure of a standard memory play, a narrator, played by the endearing Chip Zien (Broadway’s original Baker in Sondheim/Lapine’s Into the Woods), stands forward, center stage, ushering us into the past and this story. His name, he tells us, is Rabbi, and he once was, back in the day, a member of a comedic singing group in Berlin made up of six young men who could harmonize and craft a joke like few others could. The group, ‘The Comedian Harmonists‘, was an internationally famous, all-male German close harmony ensemble that performed between 1928 and 1934. As one of the most successful musical groups in Europe before World War II, they steadfastly rose to fame and fortune as the Nazis came to power in Germany, and within that historic framework, the dye has been cast and the stage set.

Zien is most definitely an affable figure, one guaranteed to take us through this complicated and emotional story with expert ease, and we feel safe in his testimony. The elder Rabbi pulls us in, ushering us back to the first days of the group, and joining in with the fun whenever he can. It’s a tender beginning, and as directed and choreographed with energy by Warren Carlyle (Broadway’s After Midnight), we are forever cognizant of where this all will be heading. Zien quickly lets us into the framework, informing us that he is the only surviving member of this long-forgotten troop of singers, and he’s here to tell us their story so they won’t be forgotten. Noting the historical landscape, we can’t help but know where we are being delivered to, and it’s not all that shocking where we will end up.

Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, and Sean Bell
in Broadway’s Harmony. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

With a group name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, they come together with a joyful clarity, delivering the cool notes of a well-cast harmonic group. The crew of six, including a very good Matthew Mucha (CFRT’s Memphis)-an understudy for the absent Danny Kornfeld (Barrington’s Fiddler on the Roof) who usually plays the parallel part of Rabbi, younger and sweetly entwined with the other five; Sean Bell (HBO’s “Succession”) as Bobby; Zal Owen (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit) as Harry; Eric Peters (National tour: Motown the Musical) as Erich; Blake Roman (Paramount+’s “Blue Bloods”) as Chopin; and Steven Telsey (National tour: The Book of Mormon) as Lesh; come together neatly. They all fit into nicely categorized stereotypes that sing, make scene jokes, and travel the world entertaining their audiences with an ever-increasing amount of success, all under the watchful, but pseudo-approving eyes of the Nazis.

The six singers, all delicious and delightful to watch, deliver the goods solidly, even with songs that aren’t exactly memorable. But they sure look and sound good (and sometimes even great). No wonder they are seen as good public relations personas to the world, especially with their diversity, but as an audience member who knows what’s coming, it doesn’t sit so easily in the pit of our stomachs. The Nazis, as embodied by Andrew O’Shanick (“Pitch Perfect“) as Standartenführer – who claims to be a fan – don’t even seem to mind that a number of the group members, but not all, are in fact Jewish. This comes as a surprise, as most Jews and their equivalents were being robbed of their livelihood, their money, and their passports. But not these boys. Even when they push the boundaries of their PR protections outside of Germany, nothing happens, at least not right away.

The drama of the musical’s story is played out with conviction on a straightforward uncomplicated set by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt (Broadway’s New York, New York), with formula costuming by Linda Cho (Broadway’s Take Me Out) and Ricky Lurie (Gallery Players’ Godspell), inventive lighting by Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer (Broadway’s Gary), and a solid sound design by Dan Moses Schreier (Roundabout’s Trouble In Mind). It charges forward, but oddly, doesn’t hold us emotionally tight in its arms, running too long, and feeling soft-focused and sometimes generic in tone and form.

Julie Benko and Sierra Boggess in Broadway’s Harmony. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Even so, the musical does ride melodically and (a bit too) melodramatically forward, courtesy of music director John O’Neill (Broadway’s The Music Man), orchestrations by Doug Walter (Broadway’s The Blonde in the Thunderbird), and music coordination by Michael Aarons (Broadway’s & Juliet), showcasing finely tuned numbers that don’t hang around in the head for very long. The musical also offers up some romance, but only for two of the six members of this group. The others, I guess, just really focused on their voices and their all-for-one unanimous approach. The strongest focus, naturally, is on the young Rabbi’s love for the non-Jewish Mary, beautifully embodied by talented Sierra Boggess (Broadway’s School of Rock). It is a sweetly compassionate engagement, but to be honest, the more interesting, but less embraced relationship is with Ruth, played forcibly by a strong Julie Benko (Broadway’s Funny Girl understudy), a Jewish political activist who falls for and marries the non-Jewish handsome piano man, Chopin, who fails her when things start heating up. The two couples occupy the only relationships unpacked, beyond the secretly wealthy and connected Erich‘s briefly presented affair with the fabulous Josephine Baker, played enthusiastically by Allison Semmes (Broadway’s Motown). That’s a side journey that doesn’t really take us anywhere beyond a fun Act Two opener. But, the foursome makes for an interesting and problematic connecting of opposing faith dots, giving plenty of chances for drama and emotional insincerity.

Unfortunately for the six, they aren’t as clear or concerned as we are with their ongoing safety and security in Germany. And that’s basically the turning point of this musical. Beyond that, it’s pretty standard issue stuff. The unfortunate part for us is that not much here in Harmony is done with any subtlety or nuance. The book is cut from a standardized cloth and melody, and with Barry Manilow credited with composing and arranging the songs, one would think the songs would be more memorable and/or catchy. But there are a few that stand out, especially the ones sung most beautifully by the talented two female leads in this male-dominated cast. Particularly, the very pretty and meaningful “Where You Go“, which radiates warmth and care. It carried a certain something special, well at least for the first two-thirds of the song.

Chip Zien in Broadway’s Harmony. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Here lies the main problem with many of the narrative songs and the show itself, including the lovely “Where You Go.” Too many of the numbers sound like and were directed to be 11 o’clock numbers, with some of the songs having more than one 11 o’clock moment stuffed inside. So after the third or fourth one of these high dramatic finishes, they start to lose their appeal and punch. When we finally do get to Rabbi’s big finale number “Threnody“, we have been worn down by too many big powerhouse endings. ‘Threnody’, it turns out, means “a wailing ode, song, hymn, or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person“, which makes complete sense as the show’s main 11 o’clock number. Not the subtlest of song titles, I might add, but unfortunately for Harmony, because of all the other big numbers before it, the song, powerfully performed by Zien for the other five members, fails to land (beyond being impressively sung), especially in the emotional way it was intended to.

Beyond the silliness of some well-known cameos, like Josephine Baker and Zien in a wig playing Albert Einstein (and more), Harmony tries to emotionally engage so often that we start to feel numb to it all, which is exactly the opposite thing this show set out to do. It’s too bad, since the talent, many of whom are making their Broadway debut, is all there sounding good and singing their hearts out. And the story is a compelling one. But Harmony didn’t find its way forward into my emotional core. There are no subtle undercurrents, which makes it hard to stay tuned in, beyond just the surface level. Cabaret the musical, as we will see once again on Broadway in the spring, found the right components to unpack the horror without hitting us too hard with it all, like the moment inside Harmony when the Nazi officer salutes straight out into the audience, an act that both triggers some trauma (especially with what’s going on in the world today) and clobbers us way too hard and without any subtlety with the heavy gravity of the situation. Some may disagree with me on this, but for this theatergoer, the understated stance is more profound than the hard hit, with too many big 11 o’clock numbers hammering home the point, one after the other. One “Threnody” would suffice.

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Can’t Wait For Boop To Come To Broadway



At the CIBC Theatre in Chicago, BOOP! The Musical, the new Broadway-bound musical extravaganza is making its debut . Actress Jasmine Amy Rogers is currently bringing her to life in Chicago, as she proves in this exciting song “Where I Wanna Be”.

The show is created by Tony Award®–winning director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, La Cage aux Folles, Hairspray) who brings the Queen of the Animated Screen to the theater with celebrated multiple-time Grammy®-winning composer David Foster (“I Have Nothing,” “After the Love Is Gone,” “The Prayer”), Tony-nominated lyricist Susan Birkenhead (Working, Jelly’s Last Jam), and Tony-winning bookwriter Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone, The Prom).

I am obsessed with the songs already. First was “Something To Shout About” and now “Where I Wanna Be”.

For almost a century, Betty Boop has won hearts and inspired fans around the world with her trademark looks, voice, and style. Now, in BOOP!, Betty’s dream of an ordinary day off from the super-celebrity in her black-and-white world leads to an extraordinary adventure of color, music, and love in New York City—one that reminds her and the world, “You are capable of amazing things.” Boop-oop-a-doop!

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Michael Urie and Ethan Slater



With the holidays, my caricature of Spamalot is taking time, so I decided to highlight the two performers who for me stood out.

I have drawn Michael Urie several times, but I love this picture with him and my drawing of him in Buyer and Seller. Urie as Sir Robin, shows a new side of him that is truly funny.

Ethen Slater

Ethan Slater should have won a Tony for Sponge Bob Square Pants. My guess is he will be nominated again for his multiple roles in Spamalot.

Up next my caricature of Spamalot

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Spamalot Gives Them The Olde Razzle Dazzle



Somehow I missed the original Monty Python’s Spamalot, based on the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” that played 18 years ago. So seeing this production at the St. James Theatre was fresh for me.

This show which runs over 2 1/2 hours is jammed packed with frat boy jokes, an uber talented cast and lots of razzle dazzle by director/ choreographer Josh Rhodes.

Michael Urie, Taran Killam, James Monroe Iglehart, Christopher Fitzgerald, Jimmy Smagula, Nik Walker photo by Evan Zimmerman

Satirizing the Arthurian legend, written by Eric Idle with music and lyrics by Idle and John Du Prez. The plot follows King Arthur (James Monroe Iglehart), as he is searching the kingdom for his Knights of the Round Table with his trusty sidekick Patsy (Christopher Fitzgerald). This is much like Don Quixote and Sancho, without those glorious songs. Instead we get “Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”

Arthur recruits Sir Bedevere the Wise (Jimmy Smagula), Sir Lancelot the handsome and incredibly violent (Taran Killam), Sir Galahad the Pure (Nik Walker) and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave (Michael Urie). Arthur leads the knights to Camelot, but, after a Las Vegas Style review, he changes his mind, deeming it “a silly,” and they go off to find the Holy Grail.

In the meantime the Lady of the Lake (Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer) is rather peeved that her role has been cut. Kritzer tears down the house and the scenery with her vocal pyrotechnics and her attitude. She almost steals the show.

Ethan Slater photo by Evan Zimmerman

Ethan Slater plays the historian, not dead Fred, a baby, a nun, a mine and a minstrel, as well as wimpy Prince Herbert, and a demonic killer bunny. To each of these roles, he is like a chameleon and morphs into a comedic clown. He is truly funny.

Michael Urie, as Sir Robin, is hilarious and has the politically incorrect number “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway,” (if you don’t have any Jews). I am seriously surprised it has not been pulled considering parodies seem to be no longer appropriate.

Paul Tate dePoo III’s set is serviceable, but the projections are fabulous.

Many will like this show and if I had watched their performance on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I too would be buying tickets.

Monty Python’s Spamalot: St. James Theatre, 246 W 44th Street.

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Events For December



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