Friday, February 29, 2008

More Weekend Musical News - Panaro to Play Valjean in Philly

A release just thit the email that Hugh Panaro, Broadway's "Phantom" for many years, and the seductive vampire "Lestat" in the musical of the same name, will be playing Jean Valjean at the Walnut Street Theatre when Les Miserables opens there in May.

Among Panaro's other credits: Side Show and Show Boat on Broadway, and a 1986 production of A Little Night Music at Walnut Street in 1986.

The Walnut's "Les Miz" will begin performances on May 13 and open on May 21. The run has already been extended. You'll find "Les Miz" playing in Philly through August 3.

For more information, visit: or

Winding Down the Week with Musical News

It's been quite the week for musicals – both in New York and beyond. Here in the city, a gorgeous new chamber musical version of Elmer Rice's Adding Machine has opened off-Broadway (click here for a review digest) and last night the rock musical Passing Strange opened on Broadway (review digest) and a revival of the 1959 musical Take Me Along opened off-Broadway at the Irish Repertory Theatre in Chelsea (review digest). I've weighed in on the first two, and plan on getting my review of the third onto ATW later today.

Elsewhere, new musicals are being announced with almost frightening rapidity. The biggest news has come out of Atlanta and the Alliance Theatre Company, which has announced the lineup for its 40th anniversary season. Among the shows on their docket a new musical bowing April 2009 - Ghost Brothers of Darkland County - has been written by novelist Stephen King and rocker John Mellencamp. "Ghosts," according to The New York Times, focuses on "the reverberations of a tragedy in small-town."

Also in the Alliance's season, a new gospel version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar, which according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will feature a 40-person choir and 16 principals. This production, Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL, is scheduled to open next January.

Out in California, "Rivets," a new musical based on the women war workers who were called Rosie the Riveters and also based on life at Richmond's Kaiser Shipyards is having its premiere this weekend and next at the John and Jean Knox Performing Arts Center on the campus of Contra Costa College in San Pablo. In October the musical will be seen in Richmond, where it will be performed aboard the Kaiser Shipyards-built Liberty ship SS Red Oak Victory.

Again, looking out into the 2008-2009 season, the Ordway Center in St. Paul, MN has announced that, in addition to presenting national tours of shows like Legally Blonde and The Color Purple, it will be presenting a locally produced staging of the musical Grey Gardens and a new musical biography of George M. Cohan, Yankee Doodle.

Finally some news about CD releases. This week Walt Disney Records released the original cast recording of Little Mermaid and Ghostlight Records released "Evil Monkey Man," a new album from David Yazbeck (the man who's given us The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). Next week, DRG records will be reissuing two recordings on CD for the first time: a 1963 recording of Annie Get Your Gun featuring Doris Day and Robert Goulet, and the original cast recording of Say, Darling, a show from 1958 with songs penned by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jule Styne and which starred David Wayne, Vivian Blaine and Johnny Desmond. Also from DRG a 50th anniversary release of Judy Garland's first live album: "Judy Garland at the Grove." This disc contains the entire concert (unedited for the first time), meaning that you'll find 3 previously omitted songs here.


Adding Machine:
Passing Strange:
Irish Rep:
Alliance Theatre Company:
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts:
Walt Disney Records:
DRG Records:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Looking Forward to Broadway by the Year

This Monday, March 3, Scott Siegel will present the first of his Broadway by the Year concerts for 2008 at Town Hall. The year being celebrated – 1947.

As of a couple of weeks ago, the performers scheduled to appear in the show (which will be staged by Jeffrey Denman) include such singers as Howard McGillin (Broadway's "Phantom"), Noah Racey (of Never Gonna Dance), Marc Kudisch (fresh from The Glorious Ones at Lincoln Center Theatre, Christiane Noll (perhaps best remembered for her work in Jekyll and Hyde), Donna Lynne Champlin (late of Sweeney Todd, Eddie Korbich (currently appearing in The Little Mermaid), and Alexander Gemignani (on Broadway these days in "Sunday in the Park…").

Now then, what might we be able to hear this illustrious group (and a number other performers) singing come Monday? Well, 1947's musical season – in terms of premieres got underway with Street Scene - a musical based on Elmer Rice's Street Scene, where the book was by Rice and the score came from Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes. It will be interesting to hear a selection or two from this, given that another Rice adaptation is currently playing downtown – the contemporary Adding Machine. "Lonely House" and "Wouldn't You Like to Be on Broadway," of course, are the obvious ones here.

I guess you could say that 1947 burst into full gear with the premiere of Finian's Rainbow which opened on January 10. I imagine we'll be hearing a few of the standards from this one, including "Old Devil Moon" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" More standards, I'm sure will come from the third premiere musical of the year, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's Brigadoon - a March 10 opening that year.

It will be interesting to see if Siegel pulls anything from Barefoot Boy with Cheek - a show from Sidney Lippman (music), Sylvia Dee (lyrics) and "Dobie Gillis" creator Max Shulman (book, which he adapted from his novel of the same name). The show featured, among others Red Buttons and Nancy Walker. I have to admit that looking at the songlist for this one, the title that intrigues me most is the show's first act finale – "Alice in Boogieland."

Now as 1947 hit its midpoint, a pair of operas descended on Broadway – Gian-Carlo Menotti's The Telephone and The Medium, and I'm wondering if the presence of Kudisch and Noll indicate that we might have one or two songs from these pieces performed by these dynamic singers.

Now as 1947 marched on, there was a "Musical Icetravaganza" - Icetime of 1948 - that might have a tune that requires resuscitation in this "By the Year" concert and the same could be said for a tune from a show that lasted only four performances Louisiana Lady,

As summer turned to fall that year, another hit emerged on Broadway – Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn's High Button Shoes, starring Phil Silvers, which racked up an impressive 727 performances at the Broadway Theatre. The year wound down with an experimentation from Rodgers and Hammerstein – Allegro - and I'm betting we'll get "The Gentleman is a Dope" from this one (a song originated by Lisa Kirk, who'd be moving on to Kiss Me, Kate in just about a year).

As if there weren't enough to sift through from these shows there are a couple of others that Siegel could select from: the musical revues Caribbean Canival and Angel in the Wings, and a "Romantic Musical Play" Music in My Heart, where the melodies came from Tchaikovsky and the star was Vivienne Segal.

No matter what is selected from these shows – I'm betting that it will be a robust array of the familiar and the unknown and as always, it's an evening I'm eagerly anticipating.


Siegel Presents:
Town Hall:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

There's a 'Parade' in MN, on Disc Too

A review of Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown's musical Parade in today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune reminded me that I've not written anything about the new cast recording of this extraordinary show that's available these days. Yes, the original 1998 Lincoln Center Theatre recording of this show about the trial of Leo Frank, accused of murdering one of the girls in his employ, in Georgia is available and for some, that may be enough. Producer Jeffrey Lesser (with Brown acting as associate producer on the disc) certainly made sure that much of the show – and Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello's extraordinary performances were preserved for posterity – but the new disc – of the Donmar Warehouse production – goes several steps further. The First Night Records release, also produced by Lesser, comes on two CDs – meaning that the music plus certain dialogue is preserved. For people who've not had the opportunity to experience the show on stage, this is obviously a boon. Additionally, the dual CD set is accompanied by a third disc – a DVD that includes interviews and images from the Donmar production, which has been directed by Rob Ashford.

Although the number of musicians for the Donmar recording is roughly half of that used in the original, Brown's score – a rich blend of period and regional tunes and Broadway razzmatazz still sounds terrific. So do the show's leads: Bertie Carvel and Lara Pulver. Carvel, as Frank, has a tendency to push his American accent, a bit, as do some of the other company members, but it's little matter. Characterization is rich here and sound quality excellent.

While I don't think that this new release of Parade will necessarily supplant the original Broadway cast recording, it certainly matches it, and I must say that for people unfamiliar with the show, I'm not sure which I would ultimately recommend as being definitive. I just know that I'm really grateful for the opportunity to have a second recording of this show that dazzled for too short a time nearly 10 years ago.

Incidentally, the production in Minneapolis/St. Paul Рproduced jointly by Theatre Latt̩ Da and the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company Рcontinues through March 16. Also, I had an announcement that the Wildwood Summer Theatre Рan all-youth organization in Bethesda Maryland Рhopes to make it their annual summer production.



First Night Records:

Parade in MN review:
Minnesota Jewish Theatre:
Theatre Latte Da:
Wildwood Summer Theatre:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rarities Coming to the NY Stage - 'White House Cantata' and 3 by Grossman

Late yesterday, there were announcements about how you can catch a handful of musical rarities here in New York over the next few months. First off, the Collegiate Chorale, led by Music Director Robert Bass, will present the New York premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s and Alan Jay Lerner’s A White House Cantata, March 31st at 8 p.m. at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. The performance will be conducted by The Collegiate Chorale’s Music Director Robert Bass, with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

Now then, for clarity's sake, here's some of the information from the press release about "Cantata":

Leonard Bernstein’s A White House Cantata is fashioned from the historically controversial and short-lived Broadway musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which he wrote in collaboration with lyricist Alan Jay Lerner. The latter premiered at the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York in 1976 and closed after its first week. The Estate of Leonard Bernstein later decided to adapt the musical into a concert piece. Kent Nagano conducted the Cantata’s 1997 premiere in London with the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices, and it was the same group that recorded the work for the Deutsche Gramophone label. Ninety minutes of the original two hours of music have been incorporated into the work.

The Cantata depicts the absurdity of period social hierarchies within the first 100 years of the United States’ executive mansion using 11 presidents, selected first ladies, and three generations of black servants while illustrating the exclusivity of the American dream amongst the white privileged class. Scenes explore issues such as Thomas Jefferson’s then-alleged affair with a black maid, James Monroe’s refusal to halt slavery in Washington, and Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, in an engaging and often witty way. Jamie Bernstein recalled, “My dad and Lerner both agreed…, that the issue of race is at the core of the American historical experience…It’s the heartache and unresolved trouble that we carry with us to this day.” She continued, “the piece was ahead of its time. They [Lerner and Bernstein] were hoping to challenge people... They were definitely pushing the envelope.”

Roger Rees returns to The Chorale as Stage Director for this semi-staged performance, which features the sopranos Anita Johnson and Emily Pulley, in the roles of Seena and the First Lady, respectively, tenor Robert Mack as Lud, and baritone Dwayne Croft as the President, as well as the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. 2008 marks the 90th birthdays of Alan Jay Lerner and Leonard Bernstein. The Collegiate Chorale is presenting the evening in honor of Bernstein’s 90th birthday.

Subscriptions and single tickets may be purchased by calling The Collegiate Chorale at (646) 792-2373 or by visiting

Also, the York Theatre Company announced the shows that they'll be presenting as part of their next Musicals in Mufti series. The company, in June and July, will be presenting three musicals with books by Larry Grossman: Minnie's Boys (May 30-June 1), which tells the story of the Marx Brothers; Grind (June 13-15), about a Chicago burlesque house, and Goodtime Charley (June 27-29), focusing on Joan of Arc and King Charles VII.


Collegiate Chorale:
York Theatre Company:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Daring in TN and FL

In sifting through emails for the site – and boy do I get emails – happened across a couple of theaters outside the city who are doing such adventurous work for their local audiences, I thought I should sort of send some digital kudos their way.

The first is in Nashville, TN – it's Actors Bridge. They'd written about a benefit show that they have coming up at the end of the week – A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer - a show that's been edited by Eve Ensler. It's an evening of monologues by writers like Carol Gilligan, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Kathy Najimy and Moises Kaufman. After this the theater will be presenting a couple of shows that New Yorkers first saw at the Public – Jose Rivera's Marisol (running May 23 – 31) and Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day (July 18 – 27). Actors Bridge seems to know no bounds in its ambitiousness, because the next show is Mary Zimmerman's take on The Arabian Nights (which will play Sept. 25 – Oct. 12).

Now, the second theater is Jobsite Theater in Tampa Bay, FL. They're starting performances tomorrow of David Mamet's Boston Marriage. After this, a revival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (April 3 – 20) is followed by Caryl Churchill's adaptation of August Strindberg's A Dream Play (June 12 – 29) and Tim Robbin's anti-war comedy, Embedded (Aug. 14-31). Jobsite will be giving these latter plays their Southeastern US premieres.

You may not be able to catch this work, but if you are in either of these cities, you may want to support these companies' efforts by taking in a performance or two. If you like what you see, let me know.


Quick links:

Actors Bridge:
Jobsite Theater:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ArkivSong - Broadway Rarities for a Song

I'm still a little unclear as to how it came up in a search, but a couple of weeks ago on, a search result showed that it was possible to buy a new copy of the original cast recording of The Canterbury Tales on CD for just $16.99. Okay, this is one that I missed when it was released, and now, if you find it on eBayor, it runs over $100.00.

Intrigued by the low price, I clicked on the link which showed me that the disc was being sold by "Arkivmusic." The listing was accompanied by the following comments: "This is a CD-R reissue produced by ArkivMusic and fully authorized by the original record label. The packaging includes all liner notes."

Hmmm…I thought. I wonder what else they have and so I went to their online store. Wow, there's How Now Dow Jones, Walking Happy, and Goodtime Charley - all costly rarities online. I'm a skeptical person by nature, and so I dug a bit deeper. Low and behold, the seller "Arkivmusic" on is really - – which has as its trademarked tagline – "The Source for Classical Music."

Finding this site, I began to realize that the items I was seeing on Amazon weren't just some CD-Rs that were being pumped out by someone sitting in his or her garage hoping to make a few bucks, so I wrote the company to find out a little bit more about them.

Wende Persons responded and pointed me toward a new branch (and beta site) for the company: Persons also provided the following information about the company:

"ArkivSong is the source for recordings of all vocal music from Show Tunes, as well as American Popular Standards. Also known to many as The Great American Songbook, the works of composers Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rogers right up to Roger’s grandson, Adam Guettel’s new show The Light in the Piazza form the basis of this repertoire. Original Broadway Cast Recordings, Show Soundtracks, London Casts, and any popular vocalist recording, from Sinatra to Norah Jones, is what you will find here at ArkivSong.

ArkivSong is brought to you by ArkivMusic, the company that created The Source for Classical Music and the same intuitive, musically relevant site design is evident here as well. Logical, well-categorized paths of Songs, Singers, Shows, (and very soon) Songwriters, make finding specific works and recordings quite simple. The same extensive distribution network is in place as well, with recordings shipped from multiple distribution centers around the U.S., ensuring the most expeditious delivery and maximum selection of recordings in this genre."
Well, this all seemed so promising and on the up-and-up that I decided to order three shows missing from my collection (I blinked when they were first released). Imagine my delight upon finding when the package arrived, that these were indeed full reproductions of the original releases. The artwork on the booklet covers is full color and the liner notes are reproduced in full. Arkiv gently brands the discs on the back cover for the disc, but otherwise, this looks like what one might have purchased when the discs were first released. I've listened to my purchases and can also say that you'll find really good sound quality here.

So, if you're looking for a few rarities, ArkivMusic and ArkivSong could prove to be a terrific destination. I know I’m looking forward to future archival reproductions from them.


Quick links:

ArkivMusic (direct link to Broadway issues):

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Birthday Event (and CD) for a Special Cause

Brian Gari, the composer/lyricist of Late Nite Comic, will celebrate his birthday today with an evening of song at "Don't Tel Mama." Gari will be joined by Liz Larsen (Tony nominee for The Most Happy Fella) and there's a low cover for this annual event – it's just $5.00 with a 2 drink minimum. I'm imagining that you'll hear some selections from "Late Nite" should you drop by Don't Tell Mama….he's just released a new recording of the now-infamous show – one that features Larry Hochman's original orchestrations.

I've not had a chance to take a listen to the new "Late Nite" – which has been released to coincide with the show's 20th anniversary, but the disc (which Gari's produced) features some pretty incredible talent including: Liz Callaway, Brian D'Arcy James, Larsen, Howard McGillin, Julia Murney, Mary Testa, Karen Ziemba and Chip Zien. The 20th Anniversary recording of Gari's musical is another way Gari is working to raise money for the Actors Fund. All proceeds from sales of the disc (from Original Cast Records) will go to benefit this worthy organization.

Expect a review of "Late Nite" later this week or early next….tomorrow, some news about some Broadway rarities on CD.


Quick links:

Actors Fund:
Don't Tell Mama:
Original Cast Records:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Miscellany - Mainly NYTW's New Series

So, two days without entries here. What gives you might ask? Well, with a partner who's not completely laid up, but bad enough to require a drive to the office every morning, and two shows on Wednesday, time just sort of flies. You can find the reviews of those shows, Crimes of the Heart and The Jazz Age on ATW and TheaterMania, respectively. (Also, there are quick links below.)

Today, I hope to get round to finally writing about The Slug-Bearers of Kayrol Island - a musical that's just opened at the Vineyard Theatre, and that's now been extended for a couple of weeks through March 2. I had a pretty complex reaction to this musical and with time constraints, I've just not gotten there. The other theatergoing of the week has been Catherine Filoux's Killing the Boss, which is reviewed in Back Stage.

Looking ahead, it's quite the musical weekend ….tonight's The Blue Flower, tomorrow's "Sunday in the Park…" and Sunday's Talking Band's Imminence at La MaMa. (Expect a review of the latter in "The Voice," the others will appear on the site.

In terms of other things, I will get to catch up to Patrick Stewart's Macbeth next week and I'm at work on a feature on New York Theatre Workshop's Liberty City for Back Stage.

And speaking of NYTW – I was thrilled yesterday to read about their new "Encores!"-like program for off-Broadway musicals. According to the "Times" yesterday, the first two shows for a three show series have been chosen: Al Carmines and Maria Irene Fornes' Promenade and "Iphigenia in Concert" from Doug Dyer, Gretchen Cryer and Peter Link. A third is still to be announced.

The announcement got me to thinking…..will NYTW dust of relatively recent off-Broadway shows? For instance, can we expect a concert version of The Knife seen at the Public the mid-80s, about a man undergoing a sex-change operation? It's an intriguing score. What about another show from the Public….William Finn's Romance in Hard Times. Looking back to the rock era, I'm sort of hoping that NYTW artistic director James C. Nicola will be considering Your Own Thing, that rockin' Twelfth Night.

Whatever the choices, the new series will be quite welcome on the horizon.

Have a great weekend.


Quick links:

Crimes of the Heart review:
The Jazz Age review:
Killing the Boss review:
New York Theatre Workshop:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hello Jerry - Herman Productions Abound

Last week, I was musing on how it would be possible to glut oneself on musicals by Kander and Ebb – shifting from New York to the DC area to the Midwest and finally, Australia. Since that time, Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, which is hosting the major Kander and Ebb celebration this spring has announced several ancillary events to its productions – including an exhibit of items related to the team's shows.

Today, a review in the San Diego Union-Tribune got me to thinking about songwriter Jerry Herman. There's a production of Hello, Dolly! that's running at the Lamb's Players Theatre there right now, and it continues through March 16. Interesting, I thought – there's also a production of this show starting up at the end of the month in Houston TX at Theatre Under the Stars. There Dolly Levi will be played by Leslie Uggams.

Okay, so in the interest of fair-is-fair, I figured what other Jerry Herman musicals are on the slates of theaters around the county in the next few weeks. Well, the other "big" Herman musical is "Mame." And this one could catch right now in Seattle at 5th Avenue Theatre. Dee Hoty is playing the flamboyant aunt of the title, and apparently, she's being costumed by Luly Yang, described in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as "Seattle's couture queen." In a recent article the paper reported that Hoty would sport at the end of Act 2, "a $30,000 gown from Luly Yang's "Passage to Shanghai" collection. It's a hand-embroidered robe of red duchess silk satin with metallic organza sleeves, adorned with thousands of Swarovski crystals." This production continues through March 2.

Broadway's original "Mame," Angela Lansbury, of course, appeared in one other Herman show - Dear World - his musicalization of Giraudoux's . This one isn't running right now, but in just a couple of months, it will be playing on the East Coast, at Bristol Riverside Theatre in Pennsylvania.

Looking around the rest of the country – and internationally – there are several options for catching Herman's La Cage aux Folles. It's playing right now (and through March 2) at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana. There's also the acclaimed production that's running through March 8 at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. (It stars Philip Quast). And should one have the time (and resources) for a true U.K. adventure for Jerry Herman, Mack and Mabel will be playing at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh from February 26 through March 1.

So, having begun with Hello, Dolly! originally staged by Gower Champion – it seems I should mention that on March 31st, St. Luke's in New York will be the site of two panel discussions about Champion's work. Presented by Dancers Over 40, "In the Company of Friends: The Dancers and Creative Talents of Director/Choreographer Gower Champion" will feature such artists as Lee Roy Reams and Nicole Barth (both seen in "Dolly!") and will be moderated by David Hartman, host of Thirteen/WNET’s popular Walking Tours series who was featured in the original Hello, Dolly! as Rudolph the waiter.


Quick links:

Signature Theatre:
Lamb's Players Theatre:
Theatre Under the Stars:
5th Avenue Theatre:
Bristol Riverside Thatre:
Theatre at the Center:
Menier Chocolate Factory:
King's Theatre:
Dancers Over 40:

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Taste of the Sound That Says Love...Applause

When Applause, the musical adaptation of the movie All About Eve bowed on Broadway in 1970, it starred screen legend Lauren Bacall. She played Margo Channing, a one-time screen star who had shifted her career to Broadway, and who found herself battling not only with fears of aging, but also a scheming would-be starlet, Eve Harrington. The role of Margo Channing (and it's a name that seems to warrant the use of both birth and surnames) in the movie, of course, was originated by Bette Davis, and even for those of use who grew up listening to the original cast recording of the Charles Strouse (music) and Lee Adams (lyrics) score, there seemed to be a certain juiciness to Bacall, with her deep smoky voice, taking on the role made infamous by Davis, whose clipped and vaguely British line readings have inspired generations of imitators, both male and female

For this past weekend's staging of Applause as the opener of the 2008 Encores! series, Christine Ebersole took on the role made famous by Davis and Bacall. Fresh from her Tony Award-winning turn in Grey Gardens, Ebersole is an interesting choice. She's done her stint in Hollywood, and has returned to New York to triumph not only in "Gardens," but in shows like 42nd Street (for which she also won a Tony) where she played Dorothy Brock, the aging musical comedy star whose broken ankle allows a completely unknown chorus girl to achieve overnight stardom.

Ebersole's work in these two shows, on certain levels, points toward certain success for her in assuming the role of Margo Channing. In both "Gardens" (in the first act in particular) and 42nd Street, Ebersole brought a larger-than-life imperiousness to the stage. Concurrently, Ebersole was able to communicate a certain vulnerability that made these characters human, and that's also a requisite for Applause and "Eve." We have to believe this queen of the theater is capable of loving her director Bill Sampson (Michael Park) and of being wounded by Eve's schemes.

Interestingly, an illness that plagued Ebersole all last week – meaning that she had to miss a great many rehearsals and went on at less than 100% - led to a further parallel between her past work and the story in Applause. (Could there have been an Eve backstage waiting for her chance to blossom in this staging directed by Kathleen Marshall? Most likely not, but this is after all the stuff of theatrical fairy tales.) Illness or no, go on Ebersole did – and while the human side of Margo Channing shone through – beautifully throughout – some of the character's grandiosity and "Queen Bee" characteristics were not in evidence as much as one might have hoped. At times, in fact, one almost wondered how this woman might have survived in the studio system of Hollywood's Golden Age.

Still Ebersole gave a performance that truly did make one rethink not only the role of Margo Channing, but also the Strouse/Adams score. A torch song that Margo sings one night as she pines for her beau who's off making a film in Rome suddenly churned with emotion in a 70s pop-sound that was never heard in Bacall's original vocals.

For Marshall's production (which unfolded with ease on a clever set from John Lee Beatty that made it feel as though one were watching a show unfold on a Broadway stage peering out into the house), a host of Broadway veterans provided color and some choicely turned performances. Chip Zien and Kate Burton shone as Margo's nebbish-y playwright and his well-heeled Radcliffe-educated wife. Mario Cantone provided a beautifully muted turn as Margo's fey hairdresser. Tom Hewitt oozed charm and a bit of menace as the Broadway producer who sets his sights on Eve (a revision to the Addison DeWitt character from the movie) and Megan Sikora brought zest to the Broadway gypsy who delivers the show's title song.

As backstabbing Eve, Erin Davie (Ebersole's co-star from "Gardens") actually did convince as Eve – ever-so-retiring – first makes her appearance, and while Eve's transformation didn't always convince – Davie, too, seems just a bit too nice – Davie delivered her 11 o'clock with blistering intensity.

City Center's Encores! series will continue next month with a staging of Juno Marc Blitzstein and Joseph Stein's musical adaptation of Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock. It will play from March 27 through 30. Then, in May, No, No, Nanette will be featured, running from May 8 through 12.

I've already started thinking about these two, which will star, respectively Victoria Clark, and Sandy Duncan. During my recent move I made sure that Don Dunn's "The Making of No, No Nanette" made it to the top of a must-read pile (and if you're looking for a copy there are a few to be had on Later this month, I'll start up my prep work for the two by listening to the Fynsworth Alley re-release of the original cast recording of Juno, which can still be purchased with a visit to Fynsworth Alley or Footlight Records online.

Quick links:

City Center:
Fynsworth Alley:

Friday, February 8, 2008

It's Only February and Summer's Heating Up

Officially, spring doesn't begin for another 45 days or so, and summer's three months after that, but it's still not too early for announcements about summertime programming here in New York and beyond.

Just look at the announcement yesterday that the Public Theater would be presenting Hamlet and Hair in Central Park this summer. Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Easton are lined up for the former, and Jonathan Groff, of Spring Awakening, is slated to star in the latter, the musical that opened the institution's downtown home over 40 years ago.

Another announcement yesterday came from Town Hall where we'll find a tribute to Cole Porter, on the occasion of his 117th birthday come June. KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler will be offering up A Swell Party: RSVP Cole Porter on June 9, an evening that will include such Porter hits as "It's Delovely," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Let's Do It," "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," "Every Time We Say Goodbye," "Night and Day," "Begin the Beguine," and "Experiment."

As if this isn't enough activity in the city, today, Variety is reporting that Doug Hughes will direct Farragut North, Beau Willimon's play about a young man who is a staff member for a rising presidential candidate. No dates or theater are known yet for this Broadway-bound play, but it too is looking at sometime over the summer

Looking beyond the city, the Berkshire Theater Festival has announced its season that will include classics like Shaw's Candida and Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and new ones such as Karen Zacharias' The Book Club Play, currently being produced at the Round House in Bethesda MD, and Matthew Wilkas and Mark Setlock's The Pageant Play, which will be getting its world premiere at BTF.

Nearby, in Pittsfield, Barrington Stage Company will be offering up revivals of things like Noel Coward's Private Lives and a return of William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin's "Spelling Bee" (which began its life with the theater).

A note from the Weston Playhouse in Vermont has alerted me to the fact they've set their season. They've got two musicals on tap: Les Miserables and The Light in the Piazza and plays like Nilaja Sun's No Child… and John Patrick Shanley's Doubt.

I'm already starting to plan the swing through New England, but making sure I leave enough time for things here in New York too.

Have a great weekend!


Quick links:
Public Theater -
Town Hall -
Berkshire Theatre Festival -
Barrington Stage -
Weston Playhouse -

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It's Springtime for ....Kander and Ebb

Reading through the announcement of casting for much of the Kander and Ebb celebration that will be kicking off shortly at the Signature Theatre in Virginia, I started thinking about there other shows, and how, during the next few months, one could catch not only the shows that are playing at this acclaimed Virginia theatre, but also in New York and elsewhere in the country.

Consider this: you could start off in New York and see two of the famed duo's shows. There's the long-running revival of Chicago at the Ambassador and Curtains (with contributions from Rupert Holmes) at the Al Hirschfeld. Also this later month, you'll be able to see a concert incarnation of Flora, the Red Menace at the Duplex Theater – a show produced by Opening Doors Theatre Company that's going to run February 24 & 25, and March 2 & 3.

Now, that pulls us pretty close to the start of the celebration at the Signature which gets underway on March 11 with the first performance of Kiss of the Spider Woman, which will continue through April 20. The show's going to star Natasha Diaz as Aurora, the Spider Woman of the title, and Hunter Foster and Will Chase as the cellmates who both fall under her spell. While "Kiss" is running, the theater will start up a second Kander and Ebb collaboration, The Happy Time, their 1968 work about a worldly photographer and the influence that he holds over his young nephew. When the show first played Broadway, it starred Robert Goulet. For the Signature revival, that role will be played by Michael Minarik. Also in the company – George Dvorsky and David Margulies. The production will run April 1 through June 1.

The final entry in the Signature celebration will be the team's long-in-development musicalization of Durrenmatt's The Visit, a show that was produced several seasons back at the Goodman in Chicago. In Virginia, the stars will be Chita Rivera and George Hearn, and the production's scheduled to run May 13 through June 22.

In addition to these productions, you'll be able to catch a couple of special shows at the Signature during its celebration. Karen Akers will perform her cabaret tribute to the team from March 11 through March 16. And then, June 4-7, graduates from the theater's Musical Theater Institute will perform a revue of Kander and Ebb hits in "Kander and Ebb Overtures."

Now, just while Signature is presenting "Happy Time," you'll need to hop out to Minnesota to catch a production of Cabaret that will be playing at the Ordway Center in St. Paul (running May 2-18).

Finally, and just because this will take some planning …there's going to be a production of 70, Girls, 70 playing in August. It's in Gosford Australia. It will run August 1 through 22 at the Laycock Street Theatre.

Meanwhile, you'll want to keep in mind the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts's multi-media exhibit "Songwriters and the Tony Awards." Cabaret will be one of the show highlighted in this tribute that will be on display from February 26 through June 14.

Another tribute – this one to Ebb – will be taking place at the 92nd Street Y from February 23 – February 25 – "Life Is a Cabaret: A Tribute to Fred Ebb." Scheduled to appear: Brent Barrett, Judy Blazer, Diana Canova, Tyne Daly, and David Garrison.

Quick links:

Signature Theatre Company:
Opening Doors Theatre Company:
Ordway Center:
Laycock Street Theatre:
New York Public Library:
92nd Street Y:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Spring's Musicals and Their Online Presences

I'm thinking about musicals today. Maybe it's because the week is heavy that way. Applause at City Center starts up tomorrow. Also there are press performances for The Blue Flower at the Prospect Theater Company, Next to Normal at Second Stage, and "Slug-Bearers" at the Vineyard.

Beyond this, I've been getting a lot of press releases about websites going live for the musicals opening on Broadway. The first – which has been up and running for a bit – is for Passing Strange (opening Feb. 28). They've just added a new mp3 to their downloads section. You can check this one out at:

Over at, which has been adding features this week, you'll find that the company and creatives are sharing their wedding stories in a sort of blog-like fashion. No downloads yet, but you can share your own wedding story and photos. ("Catered Affair" is due to open at the Walter Kerr on April 17.)

Now with In the Heights, which is opening at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on March 9, their site is up and fully functional – with a media player that has a couple of selections and their television commercial. They've even got the code available for you to embed this as a widget on your own blog or other personal online page. You can find the "Heights" site at:

Of course two of the musicals that are part of Broadway's spring season come courtesy of the Roundabout Theatre Company ( - Sunday in the Park with George and Lincoln Center Theater ( - South Pacific.

I've tracked down the pages (not yet active) for the other Broadway musicals scheduled for the spring. Gypsy has a front page at and Cry-Baby has their online turf marked out at (sorta cool poster btw).

Of course, if you're looking for some background information on the off-Broadway openings that are more immediate – you can find things at each of the theater's respective websites:

· Prospect Theater Company -
· Second Stage Theatre -
· Vineyard Theatre -

For more specific information about "Blue Flower" (which I adored at NYMF a few years back), you can check out Jim Bauer's website - Tom Kitt (who's written "Normal") has reserved a domain ( and for "Slug-Bearers" – both Ben Katchnor (librettist) and Mark Mulcahy (composer) have sites. You'll find them at: and

Finally, for Aplause, Peter Filichia over at TheaterMania has done a couple of terrific pieces on the show and its history. Check them out at:

Background Applause, 2/04/2008

Applause, Applause, 2/06/2008

Finally, In This House - a new musical from Sarah Schlesinger, Mike Reid and Jonathan Bernstein has just opened out in California at Playhouse West in Walnut Creek. I was intrigued by the review it got this morning in The Contra Costa Times and figured I'd share that as well:

Musical form gets a makeover in 'House'


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Chicago Trip with Music from PS Classics

Well, the trip to Chicago was exceptionally enjoyable all the way around – even managed to make it there before O'Hare essentially closed down on Friday.

That night caught Hephaestus at Lookingglass Theater's very handsome home in the Water Tower on North Michigan Avenue. Will be posting a full ATW review of this show later today. On Saturday night, it was Talking Pictures at the Goodman Theater. You'll find my TheaterMania review as well as the two from the Chicago dailies here:

Now, on the flights back and forth (don't ask about the return flight or you'll get a screed on rudeness), I did listen to a handful of CDs. I concentrated on releases from PS Classics which has been so prolific in the past few months. Among their releases late in 2007 – Victoria Clark's lovely "15 Seconds of Grace" and Andrea Burns' exceptional "A Deeper Shade of Red." I have reviewed both of these for the next issue of The Sondheim Review - so I'll leave the commenting on them to a minimum here. Basically, if you don't have these yet, you're going to want them.

Late last year, PS Classics also shipped Xanadu - The Original Cast Recording and Take Flight. As the latter deals with aviation and the former contains music that takes me back to high school days, they seemed like the ideal options for the jaunt to Chicago, and neither disappointed me.

Obviously, Xanadu the stage version of the cult-hit, but commercial flop, 1980 movie of the same name, has proven to be quite the success on Broadway this season. The unlikely story of a muse who comes to earth to inspire an artist – who ends up wanting to build a roller disco – features a score from Jeff Lynne and John Farrah. Hits from the movie include "Magic", "Suddenly" and "All Over the World," and they're all here, plus some others from Lynne and Farrah (a.k.a. Electric Light Orchestra). For some, like this writer, these tunes were part of growing up, and there's something pleasant about revisiting them, particularly when performed by such Broadway talents as Kerry Butler (Clio, the muse) and Cheyenne Jackson (the artist).

Both of these performers – along with Mary Testa, Jackie Hoffman, and Tony Roberts – deliver the pop/disco score with panache in the theater, and their performances sound great on the disc. Butler – who's morphed from Belle to Bat Boy's love interest to Penny in Hairspray and Audrey in "Little Shop" – is particularly appealing, channeling her inner Olivia Newton-John and bringing some decided Broadway flair to the songs. Jackson, who imbues the artist with a deft level of cluelessness, retains that quality in the small amounts of dialogue that are included on the disc and his smooth vocal stylings, as always are a pleasure. Testa and Hoffman shine particularly when they imbue "Evil Woman" with a healthy dose of comedy. Roberts shines in the more traditional "Whenever You're Away From Me."

As with all of the company's releases, Xanadu has been packaged beautifully. The CD is accompanied by a full-color booklet that is awash with pictures from the show. Who knows? The disc might even inspire you to pull out your rollerskates and take a spin.

Now, the musical Take Flight is something in an entirely different vein. It's a new musical fantasia of sorts about aviation from the songwriting team of Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics) and David Shire (music) and bookwriter John Weidman. In it, the stories of Orville and Wilbur Wright, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart all converge with German aviator and inventor Otto Lilienthal acting as the audience's guide.

What you'll find on this disc – which is the premiere recording of the show and features the original London cast from the Menier Chocolate Factory production – is 18 tracks of probably the most complex music that the team of Maltby and Shire have ever devised. In "Flight" they play not only with the grandly varied sounds of American popular music in the first decades of the twentieth century and embellish the melodies so that it often sounds as if the songs are soaring off into the distance themselves. At other times, they work in what I've come to think of as Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park" pointillist mode – providing characters with quick staccato melody lines that – if you listen real hard – can sometimes sound like the sputtering of early aircraft. In other words, this is a show that bears more resemblance to another musical for which Weidman provided the book - Assassins - than many of Maltby and Shire's previous collaborations – things like Baby and Big.

The British company – led by Sam Kenyon and Elliot Levey as the Wright Brothers, Michael Jibson as Lindy and Sally Ann Triplett as Earhart – handles the music with flair, delivering the lyrics with almost always perfect American accents.

I'll admit that I was only listening to the disc while on the plane and that was foolish. It's rather important to have the booklet that accompanies the disc handy during your first and second go-rounds with "Flight" – Matt Wolf's liner notes and the stage directions that are interspersed with lyrics and dialogue – are rather handy to get a sense of some of what's going on in the musical – which I imagine is going to garner a large number of fans based on this release.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Chicago Weekend Calls

An early post today – after the two yesterday. Flying out to Chicago for a bit of vacation and theatergoing this weekend. Will be reviewing Lookingglass Theatre's Hephaestus for ATW and Horton Foote's Talking Pictures (at the Goodman) for TheaterMania. It's supposed to be awfully cold – so maybe there will be one more show…My Fair Lady at the Cadillac or perhaps Peter Brook's staging of Beckett shorts at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

At least the flights back and forth will give me a chance to catch up on some music listening – expect some thoughts on new discs all next week – from PS Classics' release of Taking Flight to DRG Records' recording of Forbidden Broadway: Rude Awakening. Hard to believe that show has hit its 25th Anniversary.

So, until Monday, have a great weekend.


p.s. There was a 6am flight for this trip – the remainder of today's clips will be done mid-day.