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Tootsie Gets It’s Cast as it Plays Chicago This Fall

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Tootsie

Scott Sanders Productions and Broadway In Chicago have announced the complete cast for the world premiere Chicago production of the new comedy musical, Tootsie. Joining previously announced Tony Award nominee Santino Fontana as Michael Dorsey will be Lilli Cooper as Julie Nichols, Sarah Stiles as Sandy Lester, John Behlmann as Max Von Horn, Andy Grotelueschen as Jeff Slater, Julie Halston as Rita Mallory, Michael McGrath as Stan Fields, and Reg Rogers as Ron Carlisle.

The company will also include Sissy Bell, Barry Busby, Paula Leggett Chase, Britney Coleman, Leslie Donna Flesner, Jenifer Foote, John Arthur Greene, Drew King, Jeff Kready, Harris Milgrim, Adam Monley, Shina Ann Morris, James Moye, Katerina Papacostas, Diana Vaden, and Anthony Wayne.

Tootsie tells the story of a talented but difficult actor who struggles to find work until an audacious, desperate stunt lands him the role of a lifetime.

Tootsie will play a pre-Broadway engagement this fall at Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL) from September 11 – October 14.  The production will come to Broadway in spring 2019.

Tootsie features an original score by Tony Award-winner David Yazbek (The Band’s Visit, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), a book by Robert Horn (13; Dame Edna, Back with a Vengeance), choreography by Tony Award nominee Denis Jones (Holiday Inn, Honeymoon in Vegas), and musical direction by Andrea Grody (The Band’s Visit). Tootsie will be directed by seven-time Tony Award nominee and Olivier Award winner Scott Ellis (She Loves Me, On the Twentieth Century).

The design team for Tootsie includes scenic designer David Rockwell, costume designer William Ivey Long, lighting designer Donald Holder, sound designer Brian Ronan, hair and wig design by Paul Huntley, make-up design by Angelina Avallone. Casting is by Jim Carnahan C.S.A. Music supervision is by Andrea Grody & Dean Sharenow.

Tootsie is co-produced by James L. Nederlander and Sally Horchow.

Santino Fontana (Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels) is perhaps best known to national audiences for providing the voice to the villainousPrince Hansin Disneys Academy Award-winning animated feature, Frozen. He was also seen in Universal Studio’s Sisters, starring opposite Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. On television he’s starred on The CWs critically acclaimed musical comedy series, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” as Greg. Simultaneously, Santino played David Saperstein, opposite Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta, in NBCs drama series, “Shades of Blue.” On stage, Santino most recently starred in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and 1776, as part of the New York City Center’s Encores! series, for which he received rave reviews. Santinos portrayal of Moss Hart in Lincoln Centers production of Act One, which was filmed for PBS, also received critical praise. In 2013, Santino received a Tony Award nomination for his leading role as Prince Charming in Rodgers & Hammersteins Cinderella, and in 2012, he won Obie and Lucille Lortel awards for his acclaimed performance in Stephen Karam’s Sons of the ProphetSantinos other theatre credits include The Importance of Being Earnest (Clarence Derwent Award), A View From the Bridge, Brighton Beach Memoirs (Drama Desk Award), Billy Elliot, Zorba, and Sunday in the Park with George. As a vocalist, Santino has recently performed in jazz venues such as Lincoln Center’s Appel Room and Birdland. As an orchestra soloist, Santino has sung at Carnegie Hall, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and other top tier venues with symphonies, big bands, and smaller ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, the New York Pops and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Santino has recently wrapped shooting “Singularity,” a pilot for FX from producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. His other television credits include guest stars on “The Good Wife,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Brain Dead,” and “Royal Pains.” He can also be seen in the popular web series, “Submissions Only.”  He has four independent film projects due to be released soon, including the romantic comedy, Off the Menu, the psychological thriller Impossible Monsters, the dramatic short Limit of Wooded Country, and the comedy Papercop.

Lilli Cooper (Julie Nichols). Broadway: SpongeBob SquarePants (Sandy Cheeks), Spring Awakening (OBC), Wicked (Elphaba). Theater favorites: Sundown, Yellow Moon (WP Theater), Natasha, Pierre…Great Comet (ART), The Wildness (Ars Nova), Noir (NYSF & NAMT), The Threepenny Opera (Atlantic Theater). TV: “Instinct,” “The Good Fight,” “Bull” & “Elementary” (CBS). Film: The Post, creator and star of the web-series: “It’s Not Okay, Cupid” (Glamour.com). LaGuardia Arts and Vassar alum. www.lillicooper.com

Sarah Stiles (Sandy Lester). Broadway: Jessica in Hand to God (Tony nomination), Muriel in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Kate/Lucy in Avenue Q, The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee. Sarah also appeared as Jessica in MCC’s production of Hand to God, for which she received a Lucille Lortel nomination for her performance. Additionally, she played Annelle in Judith Ivey’s production of Steel Magnolias at the Alliance Theatre. Shakespeare in the Park: Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods. Off-Broadway/original cast recordings: Joanne in Vanities (Second Stage), Nazirah in The Road to Qatar (York Theatre). She also toured in the first national companies of Spelling Bee and Tommy Tune’s Dr. Doolittle. Sarah is the voice of Spider in the recording of Pasek and Pauls’ James and the Giant Peach. She is also the lead vocalist in Gary Lucas’s Fleischerei project, which features music from Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons. @lulubellestiles. www.SarahStiles.net

John Behlmann (Max Von Horn) is appearing next in Michael Friedman’s Gone Missing at Encores! Broadway: Significant Other, Journey’s End (Tony for Best Revival). Off-Broadway: 1776 (Encores), Pretty Filthy (Civilians), Important Hats of the 20th Century (MTC), The 39 Steps (New World Stages), Significant Other (Roundabout), Eager to Lose (Ars Nova), Wild Animals… (MCC), This Is Not J.A.W.S. (Dixon Place). Regional: Created the role of Nuke LaLoosh in the musical of Bull Durham (Alliance). Film: Wolf of Wall Street, Revolutionary Road, Above All Things, Block Island, and the upcoming Billy Crystal film, We Are Unsatisfied.  TV: Agent Adams in Season 2 of “Riverdale,” “Good Behavior,” “Instinct,” “Odd Mom Out,” “Blue Bloods,” “The Good Wife.” Training: Wesleyan University, Denver Center.

Andy Grotelueschen (Jeff Slater) has appeared Off-Broadway and around the world in Fiasco’s Into the Woods (Menier Chocolate Factory  (London), Roundabout Theatre Company, McCarter Theatre Center, Old Globe; Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Revival and nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical), Twelfth Night (CSC), The Two Gentleman of Verona (Theatre for a New Audience, St. Clair Bayfield Award), Cymbeline (Theatre for a New Audience/Barrow Street Theatre), Measure for Measure (The New Victory Theater, Long Wharf Theatre) and The Imaginary Invalid (Old Globe). He also appeared on Broadway in Cyrano de Bergerac. His other New York credits include Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew (Theatre for a New Audience), the Cyclops in The Odyssey (Public Works at Delacorte Theater), and world premieres at 13P, The Exchange, and St. Ann’s Warehouse. Mr. Grotelueschen’s regional credits include Yale Repertory Theatre, American Repertory Theater, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Folger Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Guthrie Theater, and all across the country with The Acting Company. He has appeared on television in “Elementary,” “The Good Wife,” “The Good Cop” and “The Knick.” His film credits include Still on the Road (PBS), Coin Heist (Netflix), Geezer, Land of Kings, and Tumorhead. He is a graduate of the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company M.F.A. Program in Acting.

Julie Halston (Rita Mallory) appeared on Broadway most recently in Scott Ellis’ revival of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You, earning the Actors Equity Richard Seff Award as well as Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations.  She has also been seen on Broadway in On the Town, Anything Goes, Hairspray, Gypsy, and On the Twentieth Century, for which she received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination.  Halston is a founding member of Charles Busch’s legendary theatre company, Theatre in Limbo, and has co-starred with Mr. Busch in numerous productions including Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Tribute Artist, and her Drama Desk Award nominated performances in The Divine Sister and Red Scare on Sunset.  She was last seen off-Broadway in Richard Greenberg’s The Babylon Line at Lincoln Center Theater.  Halston recently starred in both the McCarter Theater Center and Hartford Stage’s sold out productions of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.  Regionally, she has appeared in the Huntington Theatre Company’s adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces and the Kennedy Center production of The Guardsman.  She has appeared on television in a variety of series including “Difficult People,” Woody Allen’s “Crisis in Six Scenes,” and “Law & Order: SVU.”  She is best known to television audiences for her roles as Bitsy Von Muffling from “Sex and the City” and Tina Carmello from “The Class.”  She is a frequent co-host of the Emmy Award winning television series “Theater Talk.”  In addition to her many award winning solo comedy performances, including her off-Broadway hit, Julie Halston’s Lifetime of Comedy, Miss Halston was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Off-Broadway Alliance.

Michael McGrath  (Stan Fields). Broadway: The Front Page, She Loves Me, On the Twentieth Century, Nice Work If You Can Get It (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Born Yesterday, Memphis, Is He Dead, Spamalot (Tony and Drama Desk noms.), Wonderful Town, Little Me, Swinging On A Star (Theatre World Award, Drama Desk nom.), The Goodbye Girl, My Favorite Year. City Center Encores: DuBarry Was A Lady, The Boys From Syracuse, and Follies. Off-Broadway: The Government Inspector, The Cocoanuts, Forbidden Broadway, The Butter and Egg Man. Television: “The Martin Short Show.” Film: Changing Lanes, The Interpreter, Ira and Abbey.

Reg Rogers (Ron Carlisle) was most recently seen in The Iceman Cometh, opposite Denzel Washington, and in the Broadway production of Noel Coward’s critically acclaimed Present Laughter, opposite Kevin Kline and Cobie Smulders. Off-Broadway, he starred in the Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of An Enemy of the People, for which he received a Connecticut Critic’s Circle Award. He was also seen in the Public Theater’s Privacy and in the Tony-nominated Broadway revival of You Can’t Take It With You, opposite James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne. He starred as Smiley Coy in Roundabout Theater Company’s The Big Knife, directed by Doug Hughes, and starred in the Lincoln Center Theater’s A Free Man of Color, directed by George C. Wolfe. Rogers was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for his performance in The Royal Family at MTC. He was also nominated for the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his performance in Holiday at the Circle in the Square Theatre.  On television, Rogers portrayed James Strobridge in the final season of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” and Freddy Bensimon on CBS’s “Bull.” Other television credits include Cinemax’s “The Knick” directed by Steven Soderbergh, FX’s critically-acclaimed “The Americans,” Starz’s Golden Globe-nominated “Flesh and Bone,” and HBO’s Golden Globe-winning “Boardwalk Empire.” Other notable New York stage credits include All’s Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure, both for Shakespeare in the Park; Bruce Norris’s The Pain & The Itch (Playwrights Horizons); Richard Greenberg’s The Dazzle, for which he won an OBIE and a Lucille Lortel Award; Bach at Leipzig (NYTW); and as the title role in Cellini by John Patrick Shanley (Second Stage).

David Yazbek (Music & Lyrics) has become one of Broadway’s preeminent composer/lyricists. Three of his shows, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown have been nominated for Best Score Tony Awards. He is a Tony Award winner for his most recent musical, The Band’s Visit, which opened on Broadway to rave reviews and has been named to every Best of the Year list for 2017.  The show also received 10 Tony Awards, as well as the Lucille Lortel Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical. He’s also received three Grammy nominations and a Drama Desk Award. Yazbek won an Outstanding Writing Emmy Award for his stint on Late Night with David Letterman.  He scored the last season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire,wrote the theme song to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and has written hundreds of songs, scripts, scores and jingles for adult and children’s TV.  As a recording artist, Yazbek is responsible for five albums—The Laughing Man, Tock, Damascus, Tape Recorder, and Evil Monkey Man.  He has written and/or produced for such acts as XTC, Ruben Blades, The Persuasions, Joe Jackson, Tito Puente and many others.  As a performer, he and his band are engaged in an ongoing series of monthly shows at NYC’s 54 Below club.

Robert Horn (Book) has written or co-written the books for Dame Edna, Back with a Vengeance; 13 with Jason Robert Brown; Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical, with Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark; Lone Star Love with the Red Clay Ramblers; and Dandy with composer Andreas Carlsson.  Mr. Horn has also made contributions to numerous large-scale live events, such as Bette Midler’s 2016 Divine Intervention world tour.  He has written, created, or produced such television series as Designing Women, Living Single, High Society, The Jenny Rivera Show, Car Wash, and the Kelsey Grammar/Martin Lawrence series Partners, to name just a few.  Mr. Horn’s film and teleplay credits also include Teen Beach Movie (and its sequel), Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, Wild Life, and Good Advice.

Scott Ellis (Director) Broadway credits include She Loves Me (2016 Tony Award nomination), On the Twentieth Century, You Can’t Take It With You (Tony nomination), The Elephant Man, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Tony nomination), Harvey, Curtains (Tony nomination), The Little Dog Laughed (Drama League Award nomination), Twelve Angry Men (Tony nomination), The Man Who Had All the Luck, The Rainmaker, 1776 (Drama Desk Award and Tony nominations), She Loves Me (Tony nomination, also in London where he received the Olivier Award for Best Revival and Best Director), Picnic (Outer Critics Circle Award nomination), Company, A Month in the Country and Steel Pier (Tony nomination). Off-Broadway credits include Dada Woof Papa Hot; The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin; Gruesome Playground Injuries; Streamers; Good Boys and True; Entertaining Mr. Sloane; Flora, the Red Menace (Drama Desk nomination); And the World Goes ’Round (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards) and The Waverly Gallery. His television credits include “Dr. Ken” (pilot), “Undateable” (pilot), “Two Broke Girls,” “The Good Wife,” “The Closer,” “Weeds” (executive producer), “30 Rock” (Emmy Award nomination for Best Director), and “Modern Family.”

Denis Jones (Choreographer).  Recent credits include Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical (Tony Award nomination); Honeymoon in Vegas (Broadway); Forum (Two River/ Williamstown Theatre Festival); Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical (Dallas Theater Center); The Tempest (New York Shakespeare Festival); and Paint Your Wagon (NY City Center Encores!).

Andrea Grody (Music Director) is currently the Music Director and Supervisor of the Broadway musical The Band’s Visit. Recent projects include the world premieres of Shaina Taub’s As You Like It (Public Works), The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater Company), Cake Off (Signature Theatre/Bucks County Playhouse), The Fortress of Solitude (Public Theater/Dallas Theater Center), Unknown Soldier (Williamstown Theatre Festival), and Love’s Labour’s Lost (Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park); and the regional premieres of The Great Immensity and Venice (Public Theater). Other favorites include Assassins (Yale Rep) and Robin Hood as Composer/Music Director (Williamstown Theatre Festival). Writing credits include the full-length musical Strange Faces and several songs for The Civilians’ Let Me Ascertain You serie

Tootsie is based on the story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart and the Columbia Pictures Motion Picture. For more information visit: TootsieMusical.com

 

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

“The Heart of Rock and Roll” Does Exactly What It Needs To Do Joyfully 80s Style on Broadway

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Hey, Bobby!” she calls to snap him out of his constant, adorable daydreaming. But it’s a different Bobby than the one who’s having a birthday over at Company, and it’s a whole different beast of a show, to be honest, as The Heart of Rock and Roll, the new jukebox musical comedy, inspired by the iconic songs of Huey Lewis and The News, drives forward with appealing delight. It’s a feast of fun and frivolity, setting itself up in 1987, as this Bobby, played charmingly by the wonderfully gifted Corey Cott (Broadway’s Bandstand), has his musical mind wandering all over the place about the future. He’s forever daydreaming of a way to climb that corporate ladder and make a name for himself after giving up his nighttime dreams of being a rock and roll star.

The man has traded in his family heirloom, an electric guitar, for a seat at the corporate table. But first, he has to navigate himself off of the conveyor belt line, working for a cardboard box company struggling to make ends meet. Bobby has some big ideas that he wants to deliver to his boss, the “Hip to Be Square” Stone, playing lovingly by John Dossett (Broadway’s War Paint), and his tense corporate daughter, Cassandra, who’s as tightly wound as one could be. Played adoringly by the wonderful and talented McKenzie Kurtz (Broadway’s Wicked; Frozen), Cassandra is one unique creation. She has given up her independent dreams of making it big on her own in the big city to return home after the death of her mother and help out her grieving father and the family business. And to no audience members’ surprise, these two opposites are as blindly attracted to each other as two souls can be, and they can’t seem to fight “The Power of Love.” And we know right from the get-go that we don’t want them to.

Corey Cott, McKenzie Kurtz, and the Company of Broadway’s The Heart of Rock and Roll. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Heart of Rock and Roll is exactly what you would imagine a musical comedy inspired by the songs of Huey Lewis and The News would be. It’s not breaking any new ground here, nor is it reformating or reinventing jukebox musicals. Many have called it the ‘first AI-invented musical’ as it checks all the boxes, moving like a well-timed machine through the framework of a well-intentioned musical. And I get why they say that, but as tenderly directed by Gordon Greenberg (RTC’s Holiday Inn) and inventively choreographed by profoundly good Lorin Latarro (Broadway’s Tommy), the show is definitely a whole lot more fun and enjoyable than many others who have tried and failed in the same format. It has a tender heart and a great comic backbone that never disappoints. The songs are as engagingly head-bopping as you remember, and performed with enthusiasm and love by a cast of pros that never let the piece falter or stall. The story is a rom-com joyride, fulfilling all the requirements of a feel-good jukebox show, but dressed up in the 80s, with costumes designed perfectly by Jen Caprio (Broadway’s Spamalot), a solidly functional set by Derek McLane (Broadway’s Purlie Victorious), well-formated lighting by Japhy Weideman (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen), a solid sound design by John Shivers (Broadway’s Shucked), and layered with a few other popular themes around dreams, fulfillment, and family. That’s what gives it the Heart that they all keep singing about.

It’s a magnificent cardboard dance and ride on a well-tuned conveyor belt that soars into your heart and soul like your favorite soda pop, thanks to the music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Brian Usifer (Broadway’s Book of Mormon) led by musical director Will Van Dyke (Off-Broadway’s Little Shop of Horrors). The book and story by Jonathan A. Abrams (“Juror No. 2“) with an assist from producer Tyler Mitchell (“Lucky Number Slevin“) is as charming as it is fun, filled with so many musical moments that make you sit up and take notice, especially when Bobby’s best gal pal, Roz, played to the heavens by the miraculous Tamika Lawrence (TNG’s Black No More), strides onto the stage. She’s one of the best things in this show filled with many best things.

Corey Cott, Raymond J. Lee, John Michael Lyles, and F. Michael Haynie in Broadway’s The Heart of Rock and Roll. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The Heart of Rock and Roll isn’t reinventing any kinda wheel, but there is enough playful energy flying forward from the cast that even though we see the ending pretty early on, we also want to enjoy the ride like that roller coaster we keep going on over and over again. Cause it’s just a whole heap of fun. The side kicks; Bobby’s former band mates: F. Michael Haynie (Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Glenn, Raymond J. Lee (Public’s Soft Power) as JJ, John-Michael Lyles (Broadway’s A Strange Loop) as Eli; and Casandra’s old school friends: Zoe Jensen (Broadway’s Six) as Paige and Josh Breckenridge (Broadway’s Come From Away) as Wyatt, all perform fabulously playing their parts with a wink and smile as they systematically deliver all the goods required. Orville Mendoza (CSC’s Pacific Overtures) as businessman Fjord, is a riot and delivers the ridiculous with the biggest Swedish wink you could give, and Billy Harrington Tighe (Broadway’s Pippin) as Tucker does a fantastic job playing the old boyfriend from Cassandra’s past who represents everything we don’t want for her. As written, it’s the perfect balance of sleaze and charm that makes us understand why she would have dated him before when she was at school, but also makes us want her to forget all about him and focus her eyes on Cott’s Bobby, cause that the ending we truly want.

The Heart of Rock and Roll does not disappoint, not in the slightest. It’s warm-hearted, well-played, beautifully performed, fantastically charming, and full of fun, without ever trying to be of a higher frame than it needs to be. I’m not surprised it didn’t garner a ton of nominations this award season. It’s not that kind of show, but don’t be fooled by this. It’s pretty much one of the funniest fun musical rides on Broadway. It doesn’t pretend to be ‘high art’ but doesn’t really need to be for us to laugh and cheer for these two to finally give it all up for Love.

Corey Cott, McKenzie Kurtz, and the Company of Broadway’s The Heart of Rock and Roll. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

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Broadway’s Revival of “The Wiz” Delivers the Touring Goods Without Inspired Elevation

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There’s a strange wind in the air blowing into NYC’s Marquis Theatre a production of the famed musical, The Wiz, aimed at recapturing the family-friendly aura that lives to this day swirling around it. I’ve only really seen, in its entirety, this 1975 musical when it was produced “Live!” on television in 2015 (beyond YouTube clipsfrom the famous movie adaptation starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, just to name a few). “The Wiz Live!,” was an enjoyable, star-packed swirling that had more highs than lows, if I’m remembering correctly, so when this current revival gets its groove started, all in black and white, I was feeling the excitement build with high hopes for an electrifying colorful adventure. Courtesy of director Schele Williams (Broadway’s The Notebook), we are greeted with a heartfelt introduction of their Dorothy, played by Broadway newcomer, Nichelle Lewis (national tour of Hairspray) and her loving Aunt Em, portrayed strongly and gently by the very good Melody A. Betts (Broadway’s Waitress). “The Feeling We Once Had” connects, offering hope, home, and compassion wrapped up in their warm embrace. And then the faulty Tornados roll in as the shift to color rushes forward and all hell breaks loose.

Wayne Brady in The Wiz. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Starting out on the road in late 2023, this production of The Wiz tries to harness that wind and pull us into the colorful and hopeful idea that this production, designed by Hanna Beachler (Marvel’s “Black Panther“) with lighting by Bryan J. O’Gara (Broadway’s Thoughts of a Colored Man), costumes by Sharen Davis (HBO’s “The Watchman“), sound by Jon Weston (Broadway’s Parade), and video/projections by Daniel Brodie (Broadway’s Motown), is trying for. Unfortunately for Broadway audiences, the show feels somewhat limited, unpacked from a truck and quickly carted in with hopes of impressing. That’s not to say that the production lacks appeal, as it is, thanks to the projections and colorful costuming that attempt to be visually creative, many of the moments don’t feel as well constructed as any other show made and created for a specific Broadway stage. The units are chunky and compact, representing structures that would easily roll out and roll onto any stage anywhere across the country. It’s an odd sensation, when one is used to seeing Broadway productions that carry an organic rooted energy created just for that stage. But there is no surprise here, because that is exactly what this production is; a touring show that is making a stop in a Broadway house. And there is no crime in that. Just, maybe, some disappointment for those of us who are used to something else; something more refined and deeply seeded.

Deborah Cox, Nichelle Lewis, and the cast of The Wiz. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

You look like a gold angel,” Dorothy cries out to Gilda, played by the very talented understudy Judith Franklin (Broadway’s Tina…) stepping in for an absent Deborah Cox (Broadway’s Jekyll & Hyde), and we secretly wish the visuals were as gloriously golden as Lewis’ Dorothy sees surrounding her. Lewis is charming and engaging as the lost young girl trying to reconnect with and remember the warmth and value of “Home“, even if her vocals are a little bit less than dazzling. Choreographed strongly (yet somewhat straightforwardly) by Jaquel Knight (Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies“), the three traveling characters that join her on her quest deliver the goods with zeal and talent, giving the show an added burst of excitement that radiates out into the audience with something akin to glee. The Scarecrow’s “You Can’t Win“, performed endearingly by Avery Wilson (“Grown-ish“), astonishes, even if the fancy footwork is repeatedly invoked throughout the show; the Tinman, devilishly portrayed by the charming and handsome Phillip Johnson Richardson (Berkeley Rep’s Goddess), finds authenticity and connectivity even under all that makeup by Charles G. LaPointe with his seductive “Slide Some Oil to Me“; and the Cowardly Lion, portrayed a bit reductive by Kyle Ramar Freeman (Broadway’s A Strange Loop), gives it their all as the “Mean Old Lion.” The four are on track, easing on down the road with an optimistic cadence to find the lost thing that they each feel they are missing. They place all their hope on that big Technicolor Wiz, played solidly by Wayne Brady (Broadway’s Kinky Boots) who will magically grant them their wish and desire; that is unless the Wicked Witch of the West, Evillene, the most evil sister of the witch that Dorothy’s house did a number on, played big and loud by Betts (who was so warm and kind as Aunt Em) doesn’t get them first with some silliness around “Poppies” and a “Kalidah Battle.

Kyle Ramar Freeman, Nichelle Lewis, Phillip Johnson Richardson, and Avery Wilson in The Wiz. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

With a fun score by Charlie Smalls and a book by William F. Brown, this show, when it first came to Broadway won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and ran for 1,672 performances. It broke new grounds on Broadway, yet this current iteration, with additional materials by Amber Ruffin (“A Black Lady Sketch Show“), doesn’t exactly live up to the hope of its ancestors, feeling a bit tired from the road upon its arrival. The creative team didn’t seem to adjust or elevate the scene for Broadway, delivering a touring production that is good but not Broadway remarkable. The performers work hard against the flatness of the video projection screens that should enhance, not take over the visual landscape, yet here they carry the weight as the clunky set pieces just roll in without much delight attached to them. The choreography being the real star of this revival is energetic and psuedo-exciting, even in its straightforward approach to the material. Luckily the dancers deliver the goods with gusto. The ballads, like “Home” find their way through the meekness of the production, giving us the feelings, but as a whole, I’d stick to rewatching the Live! TV version or even the campy film version. There’s more to be dazzled by there on the screen than in this Broadway theatre.

Nichelle Lewis and Melody Betts in The Wiz. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

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New Dramatist Annual Spring Luncheon Brought Out The Best Of Broadway

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New Dramatists, Tony® honor recipient Tony-nominated director Michael Greif (Days of Wine and Roses, The Notebook and Hell’s Kitchen) and the nation’s premier playwright development laboratory, hosted their Annual Spring Luncheon Tribute yesterday on Tuesday, May 14 at the New York Marriott Marquis (1535 Broadway, between 45th and 46th Streets).

Michael Grief, photo by Magda Katz

Michael Grief, photo by Magda Katz

Michael Grief, photo by Magda Katz

A beloved theater community tradition, the afternoon featured several performances and tributes, including a spoken tribute by Brian D’Arcy James of Days of Wine and Roses; a musical performance by cast members from Hell’s Kitchen;  John Cardoza, Jordan Tyson, Ryan Vasquez and Joy Woods from The Notebook; among others. Tony Award-winning producers Kevin McCollum and Stacey Mindich serve as honorary co-chairs for this year’s luncheon. At this year’s luncheon, New Dramatists will present its inaugural Konecky Award to Concord Theatricals. Named for New Dramatists’ beloved Board President Isobel Konecky and her husband, renowned entertainment attorney Ron Konecky, TheKonecky Award recognizes those in the theatre and entertainment industry, who serve the field with passion, dedication, excellence, and leadership.

Attending the event was Betsy Aidem (Prayer for theFrench Republic), Shoshana Bean (Hell’s Kitchen), Francis Benhamou (Prayer for the French Republic), Ali Louis Bourzgui (The Who’s Tommy), Will Brill (Stereophonic), John Cardoza (The Notebook), Chuck Cooper (Trouble in Mind), Brian D’Arcy James (The Days of Wine and Roses), Brandon Victor Dixon (Hell’s Kitchen), Christine Ebersole (War Paint), Eden Espinosa (Lempicka), Eli Gelb (Stereophonic), Jonathan Groff (Merrily We Roll Along), Grant Gustin (Water for Elephants), Nikki M. James (Suffs), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Mother Play), Kecia Lewis (Hell’s Kitchen), Casey Likes (Back to the Future), Alison Luff (The Who’s Tommy), Isabelle McCalla (Water for Elephants), Lindsay Mendez (Merrily We Roll Along), Maleah Joi Moon (Hell’s Kitchen), Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog), Justin Peck (Illinoise), Sarah Pidgeon (Stereophonic), Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (Spamalot), Daphne Rubin-Vega (A Streetcar Named Desire), Amy Ryan (Doubt), Lea Salonga (Here Lies Love), Corey Stoll (Appropriate), Shaina Taub (Suffs), Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Doubt), Jordan Tyson (The Notebook), Ryan Vasquez (The Notebook), Joy Woods (The Notebook), Doug Wright (Good Night, Oscar) and so many more.

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Broadway

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

SANBORN RIP — I was absolutely devastated to loss another friend Monday, musician David Sanborn. Still reeling from the loss of Sam Rubin, I just could not believe the news when I heard it.

I first met David when he played with The Brecker Brothers band (brothers Michael and Randy, Will Lee, Steve Khan, Don Grolnick, Chris Parker) and we immediately hit it off and became fast-running buddies. David, who had already played with the Paul Butterfield, was on his way to super-stardom: playing with everyone from Stevie Wonder to David Bowie, with his superb sax work. When you heard his work, you immediately knew it was him. Listen to his work on Bowie’s “Young Americans.” Just stunning.


His solo work with equally as stellar. His first solo-album Taking Off was just great. His signature “Chicago Song” was sensational too. I’ll never forget his great work on Lorne Michael’s Night Music show – especially the time he paired up Eric Clapton and Robert Cray. If you’ve never seen this, take a look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BngAj8xV3Os

He also worked with the late-Michael Kamen (and sting) on the Lethal Weapon soundtrack with Sting. Just exemplary work.

Check out his work with the Letterman band on a show in Vegas with Sammy Davis, Jr.: Sammy Davis Jr. on Late Night With David Letterman in Las Vegas (1987)

He was a lot of fun to hang with. I’ll miss his company – no question. Tremendous loss for sure.

David Salidor and Gene Cornish Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images

SHORTS TAKES — The Rascals’ “Good Lovin'” is in Jerry Seinfeld’s Unfrosted Netflix movie. Unfortunately, the movie’s taking a heavy beating in the media. I don’t think I’ll tune in, but a great music selection for sure … The first full-trailer for Coppola’s Megalopolis has just been released. Its rather sensational. Take a look here from Roger Friedman’s Showbiz 411: https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/05/14/watch-first-full-pre-cannes-teaser-trailer-for-coppolas-biggest-gamble-ever-with-astonishing-megalopolis-images

Alicia Keys announced the album for her play Hell’s Kitchen (13 TONY noms) will be out June 7. Interesting that she said album. Good for her … MTV has canceled their movie awards presentation for 2024. Low ratings the case? I’d bet on it. Also, parent-company Paramount might have a new owner or new owners. Check this out: https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/05/12/mtv-cancels-movie-and-tv-awards-for-2024-skips-barbenheimer-movies-after-2023-ratings-debacle

I started watching the original Let It Be film on Disney and loved it, just as I did when I originally saw it in 1970. As I’ve said before, this original (from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg) would never have come out again if there wasn’t a demand for it. What Peter Jackson did was great, but it wasn’t what The Beatles and Apple wanted. I loved it. Check this terrific article out on it: https://www.soundandvision.com/content/making-beatles-let-it-be-and-peter-jacksons-get-back?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAR2l_MOZXCWPMg2E5gNKfin7wIVgTKlmRvGWBwOHvqM4B_dphbY2bw-JcoM_aem_AXa5zighOQPj-_fICOPXlPDJP1wXUdXEx82NiZSzlevB … Happy BDay Crispin Cioe ; Jane Blunkell and Gene Cornish.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Savannah Guthrie; Carson Daly; Paul Pesco;Alicia Keys; Tony Mandich; Judy Libow; Amanda Naylor; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Len Berman; Michael Riedel; Bob Feiden; Sam Rubin; Paul Cooper; Anthony Noto; Ed Steinberg; Richard Johnson; Steve Carrel; Matt Damon; Matt Drudge; Bobby Orlando; Mark Berry; Marissa Armstrong; Heather Moore; and CHIP!

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Broadway

New Look At The Wicked Movie

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Wicked just dropped a new trailer that shows Elphaba (Cynthia Erivo) and Glinda (Ariana Grande) and what looks to be a spectacular film.

The film is directed by Jon M. Chu, who previously directed Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights, and is written by Winnie Holzman, who also wrote the stage musical.

In the trailer both Erivo and Grande find out they got the roles.Erivo saw Wicked when she was 25 years old and felt like she “was floating on air” and she’d never seen anything like it.“There’s sort of this innate understanding of what it feels like to be someone who’s different,” it’s been a really long journey, and I’m really grateful for it.”  Grande a Broadway baby saw the original cast when she was 10.

We also see Fiyero (Jonathan Bailey) and Glinda in a slice of “Dancing Through Life”. Fiyero and Elphaba are also seen in a sniper of  “As Long As You’re Mine”.

We see Jeff Goldblum, as the Wizard, Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible, Ethan Slater as Boq and  Marissa Bode as Nessarose. Also in the cast is Peter Dinklage, Keala Settle, Bowen Yang, Bronwyn James,  and more.

Thanksgiving never looked so good.

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