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What To Watch December 18th To Take Away The Blues

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Idina Menzel
Viola Davis
Chadwick Boseman. 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Netflix An adaptation of the play by August Wilson about a blues singer, featuring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in his last film performance

#ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence Mile Square Theater. Eight years after the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, some 50 theaters throughout the country (including Mile Square Theater in Hoboken) will present free readings of the seven plays by high school students who won a national contest

The Prom: Netflix An adaption by Ryan Murphy of the Broadway musical. 

It’s a Wonderful Life Mile Square Theater on demand through December $25. A live radio play by Joe Landry, directed by Kevin R. Free, based on the screenplay of Frank Capra’s beloved 1946 play starring Jimmy Stewart as a man who gets to see how much he matters. Audio description and closed captions are available.

Kris Kringle The Musical offers 25 Christmas gifts that can be shared with everyone you love! Beginning December 1st, the viewer will be led through a virtual Advent Calendar door to enjoy a different part of the story, with bonus videos, including a Spanish version of one of the show’s most popular songs ‘My North Star.

Christmas Day will share the most wonderful gift of all: a full-length production of Kris Kringle The Musical.

What’s more — all of the videos are free and fun and can be gifted to family, friends, and loved ones!

Discover what happens when an evil toy company CEO crosses paths with a young, jobless toymaker whose family name carries a curse with the power to destroy Christmas. From the top of the world in the North Pole, Kris Kringle (Kyle Sherman) teams up with Santa (Jason Simon) and Mrs. Claus (Kim Crosby), the beautiful Evelyn Noel (Amy Weaver), a band of hilarious apprentices and elves, and magical toys to remind us what Christmas is really all about: love, hope, and finding a family in the most unlikely of places.

The musical features an underlying story, book and additional lyrics by Maria Ciampi, with lyrics and music by Tim Janis and Angelo Natalie. Jaimie Selke directs with musical direction by Randy Glass.

Ham: A Musical Memoir Sam Harris’s sensitive and prodigiously talented boy survives the Bible Belt through talent and moxie, which lead to fame and fortune, but when the rocky road of desperately seeking acceptance finally reaches a dead end, he is forced to confront the internal demons that haunt him.

Encores! Inside the Revival: Tap Dance Kid New York City Center

Directed by Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun) dives into the 1983 Tony-nominated musical The Tap Dance Kid, centered around the life of an upper-middle class Black family and a ten-year-old’s dream of being a professional tap dancer despite the challenges posed by his lawyer father and society. Leon, alongside book adapter Lydia Diamond, will give audiences an up-close look at the percussive heart of the story with the help of choreographer Jared Grimes and cast member from the original Broadway production Dulé Hill.

The Haunting of Alice Bowles A new theatrical production streaming online from Original Theatre Company (Apollo 13: The Dark Side of The Moon) debuts.

The Haunting of Alice Bowles by Philip Franks, based on M.R. James’ short story The Experiment, stars Janie Dee, Max Bowden, Stephen Boxer, Jack Archer, Alexandra Guelff, Robert Mountford, Poppy Roe, and Tim Treloar.

In 1918, the recently widowed Alice Bowles is left destitute as she seeks to solve a mystery left by her late husband Francis. Moving to 2020, YouTube urban explorers Matt and Caitlin uncover a mysterious grave in an abandoned churchyard. What starts as harmless entertainment turns darker when their discovery begins to unwrap a mystery which has lain dormant for over a century.

The digital production is co-directed by Philip Franks and Alastair Whatley, designed by Adrian Linford, and edited by Tristan Shepherd, with sound design and original music composed by Max Pappenheim.

Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker

The Pack Podcast: Jenny and Mrs. Brown, Starring Sarah Jessica Parker & Eva Marie Saint An online spoken word performance series benefitting The Actors Fund & Feeding America.

The Pack Podcast features star-studded casts performing short comedies by Emmy-nominated & Drama Desk-winner Eugene Pack in the style of classic radio plays.

2am: Trees The Wild Project available an demand through Dec 24 $15
Inspired by the Hidden Life Of Trees ​by Peter Wohlleben, the new musical by the visual and performance artist Mur gives a dystopian future through the voices of the last remaining Trees on Earth. Featuring: Mur, Aisha Karensa, Haley Fortune, Jade Litaker & Nyah Raposo

5pm: Virtual Halston: Julia Murney & Jennifer Cody Broadway actress/comedienne Julie Halston is coming to a laptop near you! After ranting and raving on stages and cocktail parties, the comedy queen continues her Virtual Halston series, a weekly hourlong gab-fest spotlighting her famous friends.

Virtual Halston is produced by Ruby Locknar and Jim Caruso, with animation and artwork by B.T Whitehill.

6pm: The Coast of Utopia Reunion By Lincoln Center Theater Lincoln Center Theater continues its LCT Spotlight series with a reunion of cast and creatives from the Tony-winning The Coast of Utopia. Slated to appear are Billy Crudup, Jennifer Ehle, Ethan Hawke, Brián F. O’Byrne, and Martha Plimpton, along with playwright Tom Stoppard and director Jack O’Brien.

6pm: How to Play Dreidel with Judah Maccabee Untitled Theater Company #61 $20 A 20-minute live show between 6pm – 9pm every night of Hanukkah, December 10 – 17, in which an actor from the company (Yael Haskal, Alyssa Simon, or Maxwell Zener).connects with you — via Skype, or Zoom or telephone — and tell you a tale about a kid who travels back through time in order to meet Judah Maccabee (the hero of the Hanukkah story.)

6:30pm: LiveLabs: Between the Two Humps By MCC Theater Joseph and Mary are at each other’s throats. Giving birth to the Messiah is, like, important and stuff but is it worth this trek to Bethlehem through the desert on a camel? Are we there yet?

The cast of Between the Two Humps will include Peppermint (Head Over Heels) as Gabriel, Portia (Stew) as God, Noah Robbins (The Trial of the Chicago 7) as Joseph, and Kara Young (All the Natalie Portmans) as Mary. The reading will be followed by a 15-minute talkback.

7pm: Miracle on 34th Street Chain Theatre Available through Dec 21
$11 A radio play about a single mother raising her daughter in New York City who soon has her world turned upside down by a curious man who claims he is Santa Claus. It will also include appearances by City Council Corey Johnson and State Senator Jose Serrano, both arts advocates.

7 and 10pm: Broadway’s Great American Songbook: Lillias White until the 19th under Music Director Mathis Picard TONY® & EMMY® Award-winning actress and singer Lillias White will bring in the holiday cheer.

In 1997 she won the TONY® Award for originating the role of Sonja in Cy Coleman’s Broadway musical, The Life. She was nominated for a second TONY® Award for her brilliant work as Funmilayo in Fela! Her other Broadway credits include: Barnum, Dreamgirls, Cats, Carrie, Once on This Island, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Chicago.

In addition to receiving Broadway acclaim, she is internationally recognized for her TV & film work. She received the EMMY® Award as part of the cast of Sesame Street, and she is beloved by audiences around the world for voicing the lead muse Calliope in Disney’s animated feature Hercules. Other notable film & TV credits include Pieces of April (starring Katie Holmes) and Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down.

Lillias has appeared in cabarets and concert halls around the world, including The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and at The Sydney Opera House.

She can be heard on several Broadway cast albums, in addition to her acclaimed From Brooklyn to Broadway.

Andrea McArdle
Andrea McArdle Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

7pm: Andrea McArdle: A Holiday Concert the original star of Broadway’s Annie, for an intimate holiday concert. She will be accompanied by her musical director, Steve Marzullo. McArdle will perform seasonal and Broadway favorites such as “White Christmas,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “N.Y.C.,” and, of course, “Tomorrow.”

The concert will be streamed from Kean University’s Enlow Recital Hall.

7pm: Flavors of Magic By The Tank The Tank and the Society of Magicians present Divinely Diverse Deceptions!  An international cast of magicians will perform a new show every other Thursday, bringing you into their home studios for grand illusions, minor miracles, and feats that defy the laws of nature.  Some of the magic will even happen in your hands at home!  There is something for everyone in Flavors of Magic- featuring all kinds of magicians doing all kinds of magic.

Liz Callaway

7pm: Home for the Holidays Tony nominee Liz Callaway will offer Home for the Holidays, a concert recorded at New York’s Bedford Playhouse, beginning December 11. The production will be available to stream through December 19, with proceeds going to a variety of regional venues around the country affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.

Audiences can expect a mix of holiday favorites and showtunes, stories about Callaway’s holiday traditions and career, and music from her new album, Comfort and Joy–An Acoustic Christmas (on which she’s accompanied by neighbor and guitarist Peter Calo). 

Purchase tickets here, or directly through any of the beneficiary theatre organizations below. The stream is available to watch through December 19.

Bedford Playhouse in Bedford, New York

Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina

H. Ric Luhrs PAC at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois

Rochester Civic Theatre in Rochester, Minnesota

11th Hour Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Palace Theater in Waterbury, Connecticut

Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut

AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas

The Smith Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

Temple Theatre in Sanford, North Carolina

Center Theater Group/Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles, California

Landmark Theater in Port Washington, New York

South Orange Performing Arts Center in South Orange, New Jersey

City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium in Morganton, North Carolina

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida

The Playhouse in Des Moines, Iowa

Best of Broadway Spokane in Spokane, Washington

Boch Center in Boston, Massachusetts

Straz Center in Tampa, Florida

Koger Center in Columbia, South Carolina

Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee

Artistry in Bloomington, Minnesota

Theatre By The Sea in Wakefield, Rhode Island

Broadway in Detroit in Detroit, MI

Parker Arts in Parker, Colorado

Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers, Florida

White Plains Performing Arts Center in White Plains, NY

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in Buffalo, NY

Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California

7pm: Hip Hop Cinderella – A New Musical Amas Musical Theatre in association with HipHopMusicals.com present Hip Hop Cinderella – A New Musical, a family-friendly intergalactic romp with a cool, hip-hop vibe, laughs, adventure and unforgettable songs.

Click here for tickets. This virtual theatrical experience is available on-demand through December 27, 2020. All proceeds benefit Amas Musical Theatre’s education programs.

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, teenage Cinderella and her rapping robot companion Runka live on planet Zolla. They toil under the thumb of Cinderella’s stepmom, Lady Zurka, and her two social media obsessed stepsisters, Zig and Zag. The galaxy has lost its groove, and the Prince is throwing a Hip Hop Ball and Rap Competition to turn the beat around. Traveling via a quantum time warp, Cinderella transforms into “Ella C” and fights to win the competition. Upon returning to planet Zolla, Ella C is forced into a royal rap battle against Lady Zurka with a surprising result.

Directed by Christopher Scott, with musical direction by Evan Alparone, the cast features alumni students of the Rosetta LeNoire Musical Theatre Academy. They are: Alexis Aguiar, Cassandra Barckett, Jamiel Tako L. Burkhart, Brian Criado, Emily Lang and Lexy Piton. The stage manager is Benjamin A. Vigil and Nikki Wen is assistant stage manager. 

7pm: Meet Me in St. Louis Irish Rep available through January 2
A holiday musical based on the MGM movie. With Shereen Ahmed, William Bellamy, Rufus Collins, Kerry Conte, Melissa Errico, Ali Ewoldt, Kathy Fitzgerald, Ian Holcomb, Austyn Johnson, Jay Aubrey Jones, Kylie Kuioka, Ashley Robinson, and Max Von Essen.

7:30pm: BSC’s Holiday Getaway By Barrington Stage Company A virtual concert starring Alan H. Green, Alysha Umphress, and Joel Waggoner. The concert will be filmed in advance at BSC’s Boyd-Quinson Mainstage. Through December 23 at 7:30 PM ET. 

BSC’s Holiday Getaway will be a holiday concert unlike any other to commemorate a year unlike any other. Three of Barrington Stage’s favorite performers will join forces to spread some much-needed seasonal cheer–and the relief that 2020 is almost over–with an evening of hilarious new holiday songs as well as traditional favorites.

7:30: Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov Widely considered the composer’s masterpiece, yet subject to revision by more than one famous successor, Mussorgsky’s historical opera covers the turbulent interregnum period of early 17th-century Russia, when the title tsar, his son, and a Polish pretender to the throne were all jockeying for power. The resulting opera is nothing short of magnificent: a colossal vehicle for a star bass with King Lear-level acting chops, an exceptional ensemble cast, and a bejeweled, bell-heavy coronation.

8pm: You’re a Green One, Mr. Finch By Broadway Green Alliance is a musical comedy about the untold story of Mr. Finch, the Grinch’s disgruntled cousin. Eager to make the holiday season all about him, Mr. Finch learns what it really means to have a green and sustainable holiday.

Free to enjoy, donations are encouraged to support the Broadway Green Alliance, which was not able to receive its annual funds this year due to the pandemic.

This lineup includes Tony winner Idina Menzel, George Salazar, Michael James Scott, and The Fates of Hadestown (Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad), Elizabeth Stanley and her Jagged Little Pill co-stars DeAnne Stewart and Laurel Harris, Ben Cameron, Ann Harada, Lesli Margherita, Javier Muñoz, and the Broadway Princess Party featuring Susan Egan, Laura Osnes, and Courtney Reed. The company also includes members of the Broadway and national tour companies of Wicked and Green Captains (sustainable leaders of a production) from across the country.

Raúl Esparza

8pm: A Christmas Carol, Starring Raúl Esparza By Primary Stages a virtual reading adapted by Theresa Rebeck and Erin Daley. Through December 22. Esparza, recently appeared in Rebeck’s play Seared Off-Broadway. His three co-stars from that production—Krysta Rodriguez, David Mason, and W. Tré Davis—are also among the cast.

Rounding out the company are Mary Bacon, Abadi Bacon Leynse, Kimberly Chatterjee, and Matthew Saldivar. Rebeck directs.

Patti Lupone and Katerina Lenk

8pm: Stage Door Sessions: Company By PlaybillBroadway Roulette Join us at the “Stage Door” to celebrate Company and meet three of the artists who are helping the musical find new fans. Ask questions, interact with other fans, and learn new things about this show that changed Broadway forever. It’s kind of like getting your Playbill signed… without leaving the house!

8pm: Sweet Is the Sound: A Holiday at Home With (Chosen) Family Celebrate the holidays by inviting the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus into your home (virtually) with the group’s first streaming concert, Sweet Is the Sound: A Holiday at Home With (Chosen) Family. The performance will be available through December 27.

L Morgan Lee, an Obie Award winner for her turn in the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop, hosts the event, directed by Roberto Araujo. The concert will feature performances from the renowned New York City Gay Men’s Chorus; Tonewall, the a cappella band of the NYCGMC; and Youth Pride Chorus, along with original animation by artist Tempe Hall.

NYCGMC, comprised of nearly 400 singers of various ages and backgrounds, welcomed over 100 associate members this fall from across the U.S. and Canada. The chorus sings in every style from classical to pop, Broadway to gospel, and from cultures all over the world.

8pm: TheSharedScreen Co.’s TAPE, by Stephen Belber Out of isolation, a new and powerful form of live performing art has emerged—one in which the audience is virtually eye-to-eye with the players. TheSharedScreen Co.’s production of TAPE, by Stephen Belber, is a demonstration of the power and intimacy of this new art form. Following a successful run in September, TAPE has been extended to the first three weekends in December.

The TAPE experience is uniquely intimate. Imagine you have stumbled into a live feed of a video call. You become an invisible witness, unseen and unheard. The play is the call. The production is straightforward: a virtual venue, laptops, cell phones, and webcams. But it is live.

In collaboration with Tony- and Emmy-nominated writer/director Stephen Belber, TheSharedScreen recontextualized and adapted TAPEfrom three players in a motel room to three players in a Zoom call. A woman and two men (a high school love triangle) are forced to confront accusations and denials of rape. The production raises profound questions about coercion, consent, manipulation, and truth. 

8pm: A Christmas Carol Old Vic available until December 24
This is the adaptation by Jack Thorne and directed by Matthew Warchus and stars Andrew Lincoln as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Rachel York
Rachel York

8pm: Stars In The House Greater Orlando Performing Arts Relief with Wesley Tate, Wayne Brady, Justin Sargent, Paul Vogt and Rachel York benefitting GOPAR.  Donate here. .

8pm: Home for the Holidays through December 19
The promised lineup: Carolee Carmello, Alan Cumming, André De Shields, Lena Hall, Heather Headley, Ramin Karimloo, Karen Olivo, Jelani Remy, Conrad Ricomora, Jennifer Sanchez and the Grammy Award-winning Broadway Inspirational Voices.

8pm: Broadway Princess Holiday Party Feinstein’s/54 Below. Available on demand through December 26 $28.50

A concert featuring host Laura Osnes, Susan Egan, Courtney Reed along with musical director Benjamin Rauhala, Adam J. Levy and Aisha Jackson.

8pm: Who’s Holiday through December 15 Matthew Lombardo’s Off-Broadway comedy Who’s Holiday!, starring Lesli Margherita, will stream to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Filmed during the show’s 2017 run at Off-Broadway’s Westside Theatre, this will mark its first streamed performance.

Who’s Holiday! tells the story of a middle-aged Cindy Lou Who—of Dr. Seuss fame—now residing in a beaten-down trailer in the snowy hills of Mount Crumpit. As she prepares to host a Christmas Eve party for her friends, she recalls her own perspective of that fateful night when she first met the Grinch, and the strange turn of events her life has taken for the past 40 years.

Who’s Holiday! was directed onstage by Carl Andress, with set design by David Gallo, costume design by Jess Goldstein, wig design by Charles G. Lapointe, lighting design by Ken Billington and Jonathan Spencer, and sound design by Bart Fasbender. The Off-Broadway run was originally produced by Whoville Theatrical, Scott and Jenny Beck, Jason Shaw, Ken Fakler, Drew Desky/Dane Levens, and Darren Bagert. The show was filmed by David Kane.

Margherita, an Olivier Award winner for her West End debut in Zorro, made her Broadway debut originating the role of Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda The Musical. After more than 1,000 performances, she crossed the street to The Helen Hayes to star as the diva Mona Kent in the Broadway premiere of Dames at Sea. She has had recurring roles on HomelandInstinctSeven SecondsTransparent, and The Crew and will be seen in the upcoming film The Many Saints of Newark (the prequel to The Sopranos).

Brought to you by the people who brought you Sharon Needle’s Mask it or Casket, and Ute Lemper’s Rendevous with Marlene on Stellar

Patti Murin
Patti Murin

9pm: Lincoln Driven to Give: Patti Murin and Colin Donnell, Matt DeAngelis and Christine Dwyer In the spirit of the holiday season, Playbill is giving back by collaborating with Lincoln Driven to Give on two virtual events to raise funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund.

Join real-life Broadway couple Patti Murin & Colin Donnell (Dec. 18) and Matt DeAngelis & Christine Dwyer (Dec. 19) as they take a virtual tour of the new 2020 Lincoln Corsair—and sing a song or two.

Click here to sign up. For every guest who attends* the virtual vehicle tours with Playbill, Lincoln will make a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund.

10pm: Simple Gifts By TheatreWorks TheatreWorks Silicon Valley will ring in the holiday season with Simple Gifts, a joyful, multicultural celebration of beloved holiday songs and traditions from many diverse backgrounds.

Livestreamed December 10-27, 2020, with on-demand streaming available December 28, 2020–January 1, 2021. Live post-show conversations with members of the cast will follow every performance.

TheatreWorks Artistic Director Tim Bond directs his first virtual production with this world premiere work, crafted by Bond and a cast featuring a bounty of Bay Area theatre veterans.

These gifted performers will share beautiful music, meaningful memories, and take audiences on a journey through a variety of winter celebrations, including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Noche Buena, Diwali, Las Posadas, Winter Solstice, as well as exploring Christmas traditions from around the world.

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

Cabaret

My View: Dick Robinson & Family Celebrate at Cafe Carlyle With Peter Cincotti

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Cafe Carlyle, a preeminent location in the world of Cabaret was visited by a preeminent figure in the world of radio broadcasting last night.  Dick Robinson, founder of The Society For The Preservation of The Great American Songbook (SPGAS) and Legends Radio (WLML) was in the house for a performance by Peter Cincotti, who is in the midst of a residency in the historic Woody Allen Monday spot.

Bobby Short began his residency at Cafe Carlyle in 1968, Woody Allen in 1997, and Steve Tyrell in 2005.  Now it’s   Peter Cincotti in the legendary hotel exhibiting the exciting pianistic and vocal style (with his killer band) that have made Cincotti a world famous songwriter and entertainer….. and Dick Robinson was there to enjoy the show with family and friends celebrating “the old jocks” birthday!

Singer, Pianist, Composer, Cincotti was recently awarded SPGAS’s “Legend Award” at their annual Gala held at The Kravis Center For The Performing Arts.

DICK ROBINSON & SALLY ROBINSON

PETER CINCOTTI

Jimmy Robinson, Jill Robinson, Eda Sorokoff, Stephen Sorokoff, Dick Robinson, Sally Robinson, Missy Robinson

ROB RUSSELL, STEPHEN SOROKOFF, PETER CINCOTTI, EDA SOROKOFF, DICK ROBINSON, SALLY ROBINSON, MISSY ROBINSON, JILL ROBINSON, JIMMY ROBINSON

PETER CINCOTTI

PETER CINCOTTI

PETER CINCOTTI

PETER CINCOTTI

CAFE CARLYLE

CAFE CARLYLE

PETER CINCOTTI, SCOTT KREITZER, JOE NERO, TONY GLAUSI, COLE DAVIS

STEPHEN SOROKOFF, EDA SOROKOFF, MISSY ROBINSON, JILL ROBINSON, ROB RUSSELL, JIMMY ROBINSON, DICK ROBINSON, SALLY ROBINSON

MISSY ROBINSON & JILL ROBINSON

MISSY ROBINSON & EDA SOROKOFF

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Out of Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Off Broadway

Gun & Powder is a Powerful Piece of Musical Theatre

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Over at Paper Mill Playhouse there is a new powerhouse musical that opened last night. Gun & Powder is the true story of Mary and Martha Clarke, African American twin sisters who, pass as white to settle their mother’s sharecropper debt. In the meantime they learn to love who they are, celebrate their history and bloodline.

The direction of this show by Stevie Walker-Webb features a superb cast, a compelling story, and possibly one of the best new scores to come along in awhile, sung to perfection.

Liisi LaFontaine Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Set in 1893 Texas the show is centered on the book writer and the lyricists Angelica Chéri great- great aunts Mary and Martha Clarke (the incomparable Ciara Rene and Liisi LaFontaine who sing and act these roles flawlessly). Born into slavery, their mother Tallulah Clarke (Jeannette Bayardelle) had the girls with a Caucasian man so they are light skinned. When they are penalized for not reaching their quota of cotton, they will lose everything unless they come up with $400. Mary and Martha decide to leave posing for white. Martha is given a gun by her mother and when she finds the power that gun affords her, the two ended up robbing to get ahead. They ended up in a saloon owned by Jesse (Hunter Parrish) and Mary falls in love and ends up marrying him, but that is when the real action begins.

Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams Photo by Jeremy Daniel

There are also the two housemaids of the Salon, Flo and Sissy (Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams) who almost steal the show with their attitude and killer vocals in “Dirty Shame”. Also standing out are Aaron James McKenzie as Elijah a black servant who falls in love with Martha and sings “Invisible”. His duet with LaFontaine “Under a Different Sun” is in a word, gorgeous. The fabulous Katie Thompson, plays Fannie Porter a white saloon singer who sings “Frenchman Father” and makes you really listen.

Katie Thompson Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The star of this show is Chéri’s lyrics and composer Ross Baum’s music. From Jazz, to Gospel, to Spirituals to blues, to Broadway, this score soars. It is like going to musical theatre church. From the “Prologue”, to “Wide Open Plains” until “All of Me,” this score captures you heart, mind and soul. The orchestrations by John Clancy, just enhance the whole experience.

Hunter Parrish Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s choreography keeps the show in a profound transformation.

The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt is simple yet effective. The lighting design by Adam Honor really makes the set come to life and the costume design by Emilio Sosa keeps us in the period.

Gun & Powder and Chéri and Baum are a show and a team of writers to keep your eye on. I predict big things for both.

This musical is fresh and exciting and if it doesn’t make it to Broadway next year I would be surprised.

Make sure you get your tickets. You will not be disappointed.

Gun & Powder: Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Dr, Millburn, NJ until May 5th.

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Broadway

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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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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Kjersti Long (David Kaptein)

G.H. Harding

GO LONG —- We’ve spoken before of 17-year-old Kjersti Long – on Origin Entertainment/ModSquad (ADA) Records. Her latest single “Sad Song” has become a digital-hit and a new album (her second) is in the works.

She’ll also be in NYC for June’s Tribeca Festival and a prominent agency is stepping up to rep her and her play Relative Space is prepping for an opening in the West End.

Said NEW HD’s Zach Martin: “Kjersti Long, at just 17, stands as a beacon of talent and ambition in the music industry. Her journey from a prodigious debut at the tender age of 11 with the album “Stronger Than You Think I Am” on Broadway Records to becoming a significant influencer on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, Kjersti’s career trajectory is nothing short of remarkable​​. Her engagement with her fans and the music community through platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where she has garnered over 50 million views and more than 160,000 new followers, underscores her magnetic appeal and the resonant connection she forges through her music​​.”

She also has a song on the new Vanessa Williams album, “Legs.” Williams’ official video will be out April 26, but here’s an update on her from LifeMinute TV:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD-Okb_T8CM

www.kjerstilong.com


RASCAL-ING AROUND —
(Via Forgotten Hits) Look for a new Rascals box set coming out May 31st.

The 7-disc set encompasses their entire recorded output with Atlantic Records, 1965 – 1971, including mono and stereo copies of their albums, special singles mixes and some previously unreleased tracks.  (I remember shelling out big bucks for an earlier CD edition of this set … but I’ve gotta tell you, this one has got the COOLEST looking cover!!!).

“The Rascals:  It’s Wonderful: The Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings features 152 remastered songs, including 14 previously unreleased tracks. The first four albums are presented in both stereo and mono, along with significant single edits and foreign language versions. The collection includes a 60-page booklet with detailed notes and rare illustrations from The Rascals archives.

Amazon’s got it for $69.99 (I paid 2 ½ times that much way back when for the original!) so pre-order now.  This is quite the collection!

Interesting that this box set is from the UK-based Cherry Red Records. Founded by Iain McNay in 1978, Cherry Red Records has continued to uphold the same fiercely independent values since day one. Check them out here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/about

And don’t forget about Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish and The Rascals at SONY Hall on May 17.

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Atlantic-Recordings-Rascals/dp/B0CZ3NHLGG?crid=3S8UG8TZCIC3M&dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.fcz-QxVsrVNGCoS-EbSPkg.htVhtZLFLUN8n9NrR1H-6rJi5fsjLvQexjIPS6c2Ges&dib_tag=se&keywords=B0CZ3NHLGG&qid=1712320481&s=music&

Micky Dolenz at Troubadour (Stevo Rood)

SHORT TAKES — Check out Tone Scott’s review of Micky Dolenz at LA’s Troubadour in Goldmine: https://www.goldminemag.com/columns/micky-dolenz-songs-and-stories-raises-the-roof-off-the-troubadour-all-for-make-a-wish#gid=ci02dac725a00025c5&pid=thumbnail-3

RIP Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola at 87. Years ago, I was at a screening of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind Of Charles Swan with Charlie Sheen. I loved the movie and at a post-screening event, I met Francis Ford Coppola, who could not have been more approachable.

He invited me to sit at his table with his wife Eleanor. Both were terrific. She’ll be much-missed by the film community as well. From Deadline: https://deadline.com/2024/04/eleanor-coppola-dead-hearts-of-darkness-francis-coppola-wife-1235883537/Happy Bday Brit Brashear.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Melinda Newman; Barry Fisch; Toby Rasmussen; Roy Trakin; Joel Diamond; Fred Armisen; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Richie Kaczor; Jim Burgess; Tom Scott; Steve Walter; Dan Zelinski; Herb Alpert; Hubert Laws; Eppy; Craig Newman; Jane Blunkell; John Billings; Lora Evans; Andrew Sandoval; Chris Carter; Wen Fernandez; and ZIGGY!

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