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What To Watch October 14th To Take Away The Blues

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11am: Unbought & Unbossed: Reclaiming Our Vote By National Black Theatre. After its critically acclaimed partnership with Park Avenue Armory for 100 YEARS | 100 WOMEN, National Black Theatre continues to uplift and focus on voter rights and the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment with a curated digital series called, Unbought & Unbossed: Reclaiming Our Vote.

Grounded in the dynamic legacy of Shirley Chisholm, this digital series features micro-commissions from Ngozi Anyanwu, Hope Boykin, Mahogany L. Browne, Dane Figueroa Edidi, Candice Hoyes, Val Jeanty, and Dianne Smith. Their multidisciplinary works will generate community awareness around the national election on November 3, 2020, uplift the legacy of Shirley Chisholm and her peers, and support the current conversation around the power of the vote from the perspective of Black women. 

2pm: The King Lear Project Theater of War Productions. A starry cast read an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play as a launching-point for a community discussion of caregiving and death.

2pm: Exploring Othello in 2020 By Red Bull Theater. Over the course of four Wednesday afternoons, Red Bull Theater will bring together a group of BIPOC theater artists to read and discuss Shakespeare’s Othello with celebrated Shakespeare scholar, Ayanna Thompson.  

This series of salon discussions will provide an opportunity for our entire community to explore Othello with BIPOC voices in our current historic moment. As a theater company devoted to revitalizing the classics with a particular focus on Shakespeare and his Jacobean contemporaries, we are thrilled to provide an occasion and space for a communal online experience.

Each week artists Keith Hamilton Cobb, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Jennifer Ikeda, Anchuli Felicia King, Harry Lennix, Alfredo Narciso, Madeline Sayet, Jessika D. Williams, and Dawn Monique Williams will read a portion of Shakespeare’s play and discuss its intersections with 2020.

3pm: Give Me Your Hand By Irish Repertory Theatre In this special engagement, two of Ireland’s finest actors, Dearbhla Molloy and Dermot Crowley, take audiences on a virtual stroll through London’s National Gallery, discovering afresh the Museum’s masterpieces from Van Gogh and Van Eyck, to Rubens and Gainsborough. With humor and grace, Crowley and Molloy breathe fresh life into each painting’s subjects with poetic stories from renowned Irish poet Paul Durcan.

3pm: The Show Must Go Online: Antony and Cleopatra British actor and director Robert Myles launched The Show Must Go Online, a weekly online reading group—performed by actors via Zoom and live streamed on YouTube—that works through Shakespeare’s plays in the order they were written. Starring Mark Antony – Mark Holden, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt – Debra Ann Byrd, Octavius Caesar – Stuart Vincent, Domitius Enobarbus – Maanuv Thiara, Charmian – Maya Cohen, Scarus – Michael A. Lake, Agrippa – Caroline Basra, Maecenas – Ollie Corchado, Iras – Rebecca Brough and Mardian.

2pm: Exploring Othello in 2020 By Red Bull Theater Over the course of four Wednesday afternoons, Red Bull Theater will bring together a group of BIPOC theater artists to read and discuss Shakespeare’s Othello with celebrated Shakespeare scholar, Ayanna Thompson.  

This series of salon discussions will provide an opportunity for our entire community to explore Othello with BIPOC voices in our current historic moment. As a theater company devoted to revitalizing the classics with a particular focus on Shakespeare and his Jacobean contemporaries, we are thrilled to provide an occasion and space for a communal online experience.

Each week artists Keith Hamilton Cobb, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Jennifer Ikeda, Anchuli Felicia King, Harry Lennix, Alfredo Narciso, Madeline Sayet, Jessika D. Williams, and Dawn Monique Williams will read a portion of Shakespeare’s play and discuss its intersections with 2020.

4pm–9:30pm: Marie’s Crisis Virtual Piano Bar Tonight’s scheduled pianists are James Merillat (@James-Merillat-2) and Franca Vercelloni (@Franca-Vercelloni).

5pm: SigSpace Summit: Twilight 2020 with Anna Deavere Smith and Héctor Tobar By Signature Theatre Company.

In this special three-part SigSpace Summit series, Twilight: 2020, Anna Deavere Smith invites guests to have candid conversations about how the protests for the arrests of George Floyd’s killers and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement echo the events around the arrest and beating of Rodney King revisited in her play, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.

In this second installation, Anna interviews Héctor Tobar who was a dramaturg on the original production of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 and is a Los Angeles-born author and journalist.

Alice Coote as Hansel and Christine Schäfer as Gretel in Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

5pm: Metropolitan Opera: Free Student Stream Hansel and Gretel This deliciously dark take on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tale, appealing to audiences of all ages, was part of the Met’s popular English-language holiday series. Alice Coote and Christine Schäfer star as the famous siblings lost in the woods, who battle the ravenous Witch—a zany portrayal by tenor Philip Langridge—while the Met orchestra, under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski, glories in the rich, folk-inspired score.

Fairy nice: Jai Rodriguez in Zanna, Don’t
(Photo: © Joan Marcus)

6pm: Zanna, Don’t! Cast Reunion the gang from Heartsville High are getting back together for one night only, when the cast of the Off-Broadway cult musical favorite Zanna, Don’t! gathers digitally for an hour of chat, catch-up and questions from fans. The online reunion will take place during new works development organization Live & In Color’s weekly online talk show Be Our Guest.

Among those slated to appear are Jai Rodriguez, Anika Larsen, Enrico Rodriguez, Shelley Thomas-Harts, Jared Zeus, Amanda Ryan Paige, Robb Sapp, and Darius Nichols.

Set in a parallel universe where being gay is the norm and heterosexuality is taboo, Zanna, Don’t! is the musical fairy tale of local matchmaker Zanna who brings together happy couples in the fictional idyllic Midwest American town of Heartsville. Heterophobia rears its head when an opposite sex couple discover their feelings for each other. Eventually tolerance wins hearts and minds and all live happily ever after.

7pm: LAO at Home: Living Room Recital By LA Opera Mezzo-soprano Gabriela Flores, a member of the company’s young artist program, partners with guitarist Gilberto Amara for a performance of beloved Mexican songs, including “Bésame Mucho,” “Cucurrucucú Paloma” and “Cielito Lindo.”

Paula Vogel

7pm: Melissa Errico: Il Parle, Elle Chante Tony nominee Melissa Errico is launching a three-part live streamed concert series Il Parle, Elle Chante, featuring Francophile songs about love, desire, and mystery. The performer will also be joined by The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik for a cultural conversation during each concert.

Presented by French Institute Alliance Française and streamed from FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall, the first concert, “Part 1: Love,” tickets, click here.

The performance kicks off with the invention of the love song in the feminist medieval court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and winds its way through the long history of the cult of love. Errico will present her favorite French love songs, including Michel Legrand’s “Valse des Lilas,” and examples of the American appreciation of France such as Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris.”

The Broadway alum will also perform the world premiere of a love song written by Gopnik and David Shire from a musical they are developing about Eleanor of Aquitaine.

7pm: Give Me Your Hand Irish Rep through October 18th. Dearbhla Molloy and Dermot Crowley, take audiences on a virtual stroll through London’s National Gallery, using the poems of Paul Durcan

7pm: New York Theatre Barn Love and Southern D!scomfort / Present Perfect:   Love and Southern D!scomfort
Music and lyrics by Bobby Daye
Book and lyrics by Monica L. Patton
Directed by Tamara Tunie
Featuring Nikki M. James, Ramona Keller, and Anthony Wayne

When dowager Mrs. Catheine Dejoie, of polite Louisiana society, dies, she leaves the entire estate to her estranged granddaughter Milla, but only if Milla comes home from her self-imposed, decade-long exile to bury Catherine. Milla reluctantly leaves her life in France and returns to her ancestral home, a sprawling postbellum Southern mansion, and to her mother, a faded alcoholic debutante undone by the burden of bearing the family’s legacy.

Present Perfect
Music and additional Spanish lyrics by Jaime Lozano
Book and Lyrics by Nancy Nachama Cheser
Featuring Mauricio Martínez and Stephanie Lynne Mason

A young woman steps outside the confines of her insular ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn and finds herself as much an immigrant in a new land as the recently arrived students she teaches in her New York adult English class. Lives intertwine as each in their own way struggles to belong, find love, and succeed in a new country.

7pm: Origin Story By Bard at the Gate Anula Navlekar, Brandon E. Burton, Edmund Donovan, and Zoe Mann will star in a virtual reading of Dan LeFranc’s Origin Story. The performance is part of Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel’s Bard at the Gate series.

8pm: Give Me Your Hand Irish Rep through October 18th. Dearbhla Molloy and Dermot Crowley, take audiences on a virtual stroll through London’s National Gallery, using the poems of Paul Durcan

8pm: Jack Was Kind All for One Theater Through October 10
Tracy Thorne wrote and performs this “intimate, confessional play examines long-seated issues of privilege and complicity.” The production will be presented live on Zoom, four times a week, Wednesday-Saturday through October 10 for limited audiences.

8pm: Playbill Social Selects: At This Theatre By Playbill Take a virtual tour through the historical theaters of Times Square and beyond hosted by the owner of Broadway Up Close, Tim Dolan.

Do you miss hanging out with theatre-loving friends? We do too.

Playbill Social Selects offer a new way for Broadway and theatre fans alike to spend time with one another while enjoying fun, interactive activities themed around theatre!

7:30pm: Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore As intoxicating as the cheap wine passed off by a traveling huckster as the potent love potion of the title, Donizetti’s delightful comedy enchants the audience with slapstick humor and its charming lead couple: a hapless but big-hearted peasant and the clever, kind landowner he loves. It also doesn’t hurt that the score is an endless parade of spectacular ensemble numbers and show-stopping arias—like the beloved “Una furtive lagrima,” one of opera’s ultimate tenor showcases.

Sierra Boggess
Sierra Boggess

8pm: Stars in the House: Tiler Peck, Sierra Boggess, Chloé Arnold and Lil Buck By The Actors Fund Stars in the House is the daily live streamed concert series created by Playbill correspondent and SiriusXM Broadway host Seth Rudetsky and producer James Wesley.

8pm: Gore Vidal’s The Best Man Broadway’s Best Shows’ Spotlight on Plays
A Secretary of State and a U. S. Senator contend for the Presidential nomination and, most importantly, for the endorsement of a colorful and canny ex-President. The starry cast for this Actors Fund benefit features:
Elizabeth Ashley, Reed Birney, Matthew Broderick, Katie Finneran,Morgan Freeman, Julie Halston, Stacy Keach, Robert Krulwich, John Malkovich, Zachary Quinto,Phylicia Rashad, Robert Sella, Lee Wilkof, Vanessa Williams, Whitney Winfield with Sean Close, Travoye Joyner, Jered McLenigan, TJ Wagner. Directed by Michael Wilson.

8pm: Baryshnikov Arts Center: State vs. Natasha Banina  From Boston’s award-winning Arlekin Players Theatre, this interactive digital production is set inside a live “ZOOM courtroom,” where the virtual audience serves as the jury. Performer Darya Denisova gives a “mesmerizing portrayal” (The Boston Globe) of Natasha Banina, a teen orphan on trial for a crime of passion, whose alluring testimony reveals her dreams for love, family, and freedom.

This inventive digital production that began in May 2020 as a living room experiment and went on to earn critical acclaim from The New York Times is based on Natasha’s Dream by the Russian playwright Yaroslava Pulinovich. Says director Igor Golyak, “We are creating a new art form to overcome social distancing, the pandemic, and ultimately unite people in one virtual space by merging theater, cinematography, and video games.” A leading example of innovation in virtual theater, State vs. Natasha Banina is evidence that live performance can engage audiences even when experienced at home.

State vs. Natasha Banina is followed by a discussion with the artists and audience.

Based on Natasha’s Dream by Yaroslava Pulinovich
Performer: Darya Denisova
Translator: John Freedman
Director and Video Design: Igor Golyak
Production Associate: Marianna Golyak
Animator: Anton Iakhontov
Music Composor: Vadim Khrapatchev
Produced by Igor Golyak & Sara Stackhouse

8pm: The International Voices Project “The Boatman” | Egypt Playwright: Sameh Mahran. Translator: Dina Amin. Director: Liz Carlin-Metz. In collaboration with Egyptian American Society and Silk Road Rising

In a society that views premarital sex as illegal and prohibits marriage until the groom can assure that he has secured an apartment or a house, many couples endure long and frustrating engagements.  This crisis is further compounded by a critical shortage of housing and what housing stock is available is prohibitively expensive except for the very wealthy.  The Boatman follows a young couple who have been engaged for 7 years and are aching for each other as they struggle with their desire to marry and begin their lives.  They encounter a censorious policeman and his wife who condemn them and threaten to turn them in to the authorities for public demonstrations of affection.  The policeman accepts a bribe to provide them with contact for his brother, a boatman, who, for a small fee, will take them out on the water beyond the damning eyes of society where they may finally share their love.  Of course, that is not what happens.

8:30pm: Behind the Curtain: Art of Protest By The Old Globe Back by popular demand, Behind the Curtain will premiere a new iteration, Behind the Curtain: Art of Protest, with host and Teaching Artist Kendrick Dial.

He will meet with protest artists to discuss their approach to the creation of innovative and progressive protest art, both installation and performative.

Learn more about the intersection between art and social justice every Wednesday at 5:30 PM PT through November 11.

8:30pm: BPN Town Hall: Broadway for Biden Pep Rally! By Broadway Podcast Network The lights of Broadway may be dark due to this administration’s failure to control COVID-19, but the passion and activism of the Broadway community shines bright, as we fight for the leadership and change that arrives with a Biden-Harris Administration,” said Host Eric Ulloa. “To kick off the last few weeks before the election, we give you a Broadway Pep Rally to cheer on the future we can’t wait to see arrive when Joe and Kamala take center stage.” Featuring special guests Joel Grey, Donna Murphy, Harolyn Blackwell, James Monroe Iglehart, Telly Leung, Lesli Margherita, Patti Murin, Brandon Uranowitz, Zachary Prince, Leslie Uggams, and stars from Beetlejuice, Alex Brightman, Sophia Anne Caruso, and Dana Steingold! The Broadway for Biden Pep Rally is a rev-up to the final weeks before the November election and is organized to cheer supporters into the last moments of campaign work that will put our best foot forward, ready people with a voting plan, and create ideas for getting as many voters to the polls as possible. The pep rally will also include personal reasons and policy proposals that make the Broadway community all in for Biden.

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

Summer Listening: Here We Are, Water for Elephants, Days of Wine and Roses, Harmony, How to Dance in Ohio, The Great Gatsby, Lempicka, The Outsiders, Stereophonic and Suffs  

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Today Concord Theatricals Recordings released the original cast recording of Here We Are, on CD and digital platforms worldwide. The album will be available on 2-LP, 180g baby blue vinyl on Friday, September 6. Here We Are (Original Cast Recording) has music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, and music supervision and additional arrangements by Alexander Gemignani, conducting a 14-piece orchestra. The album was recorded and mixed by Ian Kagey and mastered by Oscar Zambrano. The album packaging was designed by Derek Bishop. Complete production credits can be found in the album booklet available for free download HERE.

Stream, download or purchase the album HERE.

The album features the cast of Joe Mantello’s celebrated world premiere production: Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannaval

Ghostlight Records has announced that Water for Elephants: Original Broadway Cast Recording, which preserves the show’s soaring score by the acclaimed PigPen Theatre Co., is available in streaming and digital formats today, Friday, May 17. A CD is being planned for this summer. The show has been nominated for seven 2024 Tony Awards, including “Best Musical.” Produced by Peter Schneider, Jennifer Costello, Grove Entertainment, Frank Marshall, Isaac Robert Hurwitz, and Seth A. Goldstein, Water for Elephants is currently running at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). Water for Elephants is based on the critically acclaimed and New York Times-bestselling novel by Sara Gruen. The new musical has a book by four-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher) and is directed by two-time Tony Award nominee Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo). The album is produced by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Ian Kagey. Stream or download the album at ghostlightrecords.lnk.to/WaterForElephants

Water for Elephants is currently running at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). The cast stars Grant Gustin (“The Flash,” “Glee”) in his Broadway debut, Isabelle McCalla (The Prom, Shucked), four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman (City of Angels), Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Award nominee Paul Alexander Nolan (Slave Play), Stan Brown (“Homicide: Life in the Streets”), Joe De Paul (Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion), Sara Gettelfinger (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and Wade McCollum (Wicked), and features Brandon Block, Antoine Boissereau, Rachael Boyd, Paul Castree, Ken Wulf Clark, Taylor Colleton, Gabriel Olivera de Paula Costa, Isabella Luisa Diaz, Samantha Gershman, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Nicolas Jelmoni, Caroline Kane, Harley McLeish, Michael Mendez, Samuel Renaud, Marissa Rosen, Alexandra Gaelle Royer, Asa Somers, Charles South, Sean Stack, Matthew Varvar, and Michelle West.

Days of Wine and Roses written by Adam Guettel, features powerful songs like “Forgiveness” and “There Go I”, performed by Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James. Stream the Tony Award-nominated score here.

Harmony has a score by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. The cast recording was released last August. You can still stream the cast recording here.

How to Dance in Ohio released an original Broadway cast recording on January 19, 2024. To stream the album, which features “Building Momentum,” click here.

The Great Gatsby has a new score by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, they will release a cast album digitally on June 21, 2024. Ahead of the album’s release, hear a sneak preview of tunes “For Her” and “My Green Light”performed by Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada.

Lempicka has songs that were fabulously sung by Eden Espinosa, Amber Iman, Andrew Samonsky, George Abud, Natalie Joy Johnson and Beth Leavel. The new score from Matt Gould and Carson Kreitzer will be available to stream on May 29, 2024.

The Outsiders new score by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay & Zach Chance) and Justin Levine will be available to stream on May 22, 2024. The songs were written by Academy Award nominee and Grammy Award winner Will Butler. You can get a sneak preview of the song “Masquerade” here.


Well Suffs is the show that will win the Tony for Best Musical and Score. The book, composer, lyricist, and star is Broadway darling Shaina Taub. The cast recording, produced by Atlantic Records, will be available to stream on June 14, 2024.

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“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.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com 

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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.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

 

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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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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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