Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's a Busy Time Musically - Get Out Your Calendars

So, spring is here and theatrical fancies turn to many things…we're already hearing about the litany spring benefit tributes…..the Drama League is honoring Paul Gemignani, Bartlett Sher and Ellen Stewart at their annual luncheon on May 16….the day before this New Dramatists will play tribute to Harvey Fierstein at their annual get-together to raise money….and then, on May 18 a one-performance concert presentation of the much-anticipated Pamela's First Musical - music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Wendy Wasserstein - will take place at Town Hall as a fundraiser for BC/EFA.

Looking at the spring season – it seems we have one more musical before the Tony cutoff. It's been announced in The Washington Post this morning that Glory Days will be making its home at . The paper is reporting a May 6 opening. (

In the less distant future (a.k.a. the next week), we have a host of musical events, starting with City Center's Encores! presentation of Juno that starts performances tomorrow and runs through Sunday. I'm hearing that there are still tickets for this rarity from Marc Blitzstein that will star Victoria Clark. Then, on Monday, the Collegiate Chorale will be presenting a one-night concert of Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner's A White House Cantata, it will play at Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Time-Warner Builidng on Columbus Circle. Come Tuesday, the Brooklyn Academy of Music will be presenting a concert version of a more recent musical, The Capeman. This one, Paul Simon: Songs from The Capeman, will play through the weekend at BAM.

Of course, we have the big Broadway opening of Gypsy tomorrow and next Thursday, Sher's staging of South Pacific will open at Lincoln Center Theater. Off-Broadway, we'll see a new musical debuting at the Connelly Theatre in the East Village. The Transport Group, which gave us the adventurous The Audience a few seasons back, will be debuting Marcy in the Galaxy, which the company is describing as " a funny, dark musical glimpse at what happens to a woman whose dream of being a New York artist takes longer to come true than she had planned." This one starts previews on Friday and continues through April 20.

Finally, just as all of this will be happening – meaning most folks will be out every night – the DVD of Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd arrives in stores on Tuesday. This means that at least one night, after taking in all of this work on stage, we'll have to be sitting up and checking out this one on our TVs at home.


Drama League:
New Dramatists:
City Center:
Collegiate Chorale:
Brooklyn Academy of Music:
Lincoln Center Theater:
Transport Group:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hearing Music

So, going through the press releases - found lots of musical events:

I'll start with a few just announced:

James Naughton will be directing a Cole Porter revue at the Wesport Country Playhouse come June. The show's been devised by David Armstrong, Mark Waldrop and Bruce W. Coyle, and promises such tunes as : “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Night and Day,” ”I Love Paris,” “Anything Goes,” “Just One of Those Things” and “In the Still of the Night.” It's called Hot ‘n Cole: A Cole Porter Celebration! and is going to run June 10 - 28.

In Orlando, the Orlando Cabaret Festival has announced its lineup for this 18 day even that begins on May 1. The Festival is hosted by Mad Cow Theatre and you're going to find the local (and national) sensation Toxic Audio is part of the lineup. The Festival will also feature four series of shows that highlight the works of composers like Porter, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin and Jason Robert Brown. Also part of the Cabaret Festival concerts that focus on the hits of specific years. This year, you'll find 1931, 1941 and1951 all being celebrated.

In California, at the La Mirada Theatre, a revival of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's I Do! I Do! will be the fourth production in the theater's 2007-2008 season, runnning April 11 - 27. Featured in this two-hander musical will be husband and wife team Brad Little (who's played the role of the Phantom over 2,000 times in theaters across America, on Broadway, and in Asia since 1997) and Barbara McCulloh, (who covered the role of Anna in The King and I on Broadway and was seen in the LCT production of The House in Town).

Finally, a few notes from last week:

Frederica von Stade, Susan Graham, Judy Kaye, Anna Christy, Darius de Haas, and Bruce Adler are all scheduled to perform on May 21 in "Here to Stay" a concert benefiting New York Festival of Song (NYFOS). The event wll be held at Zankel Hall.

In Chicago - sort of non-musical as it relates to a play, but he has written the books for several musicals....Larry Gelbart will be taking part in a post-show discussion at Evanston's Northlight Theatre this Sunday, March 30. He'll be talking about his new play, Better Late, which is premiering at Northlight. It runs March 28 - May 11.

Finally, at the Guthrie Theater in Minnesota, you'll find Tony Kushner an Jeanine Tesori's Caroline, or Change will be part of the company's 2008-2009 season. It's just one of three productions that will celebrate Kushner's work during the coming year. The Guthrie will also be producing a work it's commissioned, tentatively titled The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, and an evening of Kushner's short plays.


Westport Country Playhouse:
Mad Cow Theatre:
La Mirada Theatre:
Northlight Theatre:
Guthrie Theater:

'Pacific' Tales

Okay, so last week was a little light here - my apologies. Today, though, the blog might get a bit heavy as I dig out from a few things - and prep for the reviews of the week: MTC's The Four of Us, The Drunken City at Playwrights Horizons, the Mint's revival of Hemingway's The Fifth Column, and, of course, Gypsy on Broadway.

The first thing that I want to post is about a new book from Laurence Maslon, which popped up when I dropped by to look at the new Dolly Parton CD - wondered if any of the songs on "Backwoods Barbie" were from the new 9 to 5 musical. The book is The South Pacific Companion, and it's being released just a little over a month after the revival of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic opens at Lincoln Center Theater.

The description of "Companion" certainly tantalizes: "A story of passion, prejudice, and romance set against the tragedy of war, South Pacific reigns as one of the all-time great American musicals, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, among other accolades. Here for the first time is the authorized companion to South Pacific's many memorable incarnations spanning seven decades, from the original Broadway production of 1949 to the musical's first return to Broadway in spring 2008.

"Here is the evolution of the musical through its four creators: James Michener, upon whose Pulitzer Prize-winning short stories the musical was based; the great musical theater team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II; and the musical's cowriter and director Joshua Logan. Also detailed are the historical background of the battles and islands of the South Pacific through World War II and the unique translation of that "theater of war" into one of the most memorable productions in American musical history. The South Pacific Companion, authorized by The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, features the complete lyrics to all the major songs, rare photos, never-before-seen archival material, maps of the plot's war-torn locales, historical documents, and other insider information from every major theatrical, film, concert, and television production of the musical.

"Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/ librettist Oscar Hammerstein II joined forces in 1942 to create the most successful partnership in the American musical theater. In addition to South Pacific (1949), their prodigious output includes Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). Collectively, their musicals have earned thirty-five Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards, and two Emmy Awards."

Anyway, the release date for this book from Fireside is May 6. You can find it at Amazon at:


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

3 From DRG: Say, Darling, Annie Get Your Gun, Garland

It's been a busy late winter of releases for DRG Records. They've just brought out three titles onto CD for the first time - each a little treasure unto itself.

First, there's an ebullient concoction from Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Say, Darling. This play with music from 1958 is based on a novel from Richard Bissell (the man behind "7 ½ Cents" which morphed into The Pajama Game) is a backstage story plain and simple about a guy from the midwest (like Bissell) who pens an incredibly popular novel (like Bissell) who finds himself working on Broadway as his book is turned into a musical (like Bissell).

While the songs in the show were performed by accompaniment from two pianos, this original cast recording features full orchestrations from Sid Ramin. This means you get Styne's delightful tunes packaged in a signature brassy and sprightly overture. And then, there are a dozen tracks that are performed primarily by the show's leads – Vivian Blaine, Johnny Desmond and David Wayne. The tunes here are a combination of book songs and "show within a show" numbers. In the latter category, there are some terrifically wicked "bad" songs for The Girl From Indiana, the musical that's being produced in "Darling." Comden and Green's are often laugh-out-loud funny in "It's Doom," "The Husking Bee," and "Chief of Love." A couple of favorites from the more "serious" side of "Darling" are a lovely ballad, "Try To Love Me," delivered with a gorgeous smokiness by Blaine, and "It's the Second Time You Meet That Matters" – a jazzy number that sounds outfitted for Dean Martin and a Las Vegas club in the 1950s delivered with flair and verve by Johnny Desmond.

This is one disc you're going to want to add to the shelf.

Also on disc for the first time thanks to DRG is a 1963 studio recording of Annie Get Your Gun, starring Doris Day as the titular sharpshooter and Robert Goulet as her rival/beau, Frank Butler. Now both Day and Goulet sound terrific singing such classics from the show as "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly" and "The Girl That I Marry" – that's little surprise. What's truly gorgeous about the album are the smooth tones and beautiful phrasing that they bring to these and other songs.

Also, a huge asset on the disc – the orchestrations from Phil Lang that were commissioned specifically for this recording. There is an infectious buoyancy that captures your ear from the first notes of the lavish overture (also written specifically for the recording) and holds you throughout. If you didn't know better, you'd swear this was an original cast recording because of Lang's work and the superlative performances from the leads.

For this new release, there's a fascinating interview with Schuyler Chapin (then of Columbia Records) about the recording – the first that he produced for the label. DRG also generously includes the liner notes from the original 1963 release.

Even if you have many of the other recordings of this Berlin classic, I'm going to bet you'll want to add this to your collection.

Finally, let me mention the third recent release from DRG. It's "Garland at the Grove" – a recording of a concert the legendary singer offered in August 1958 at Coconut Grove-Ambaassador Hotel in L.A. The DRG issue of this title is notable because it's the first time that the entire concert has been available unedited and the disc includes 3 songs that had been omitted from previous "Grove" releases. Additionally, tracks here have been digitally remixed from the 3-track master tapes. This means the sound is fantastic and you can hear all of the nuances in Garland performances of some of her signature songs ("Over the Rainbow," "The Man That Got Away," etc.) and some truly oddball offerings: "Purple People Eater" and "A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow." Informative notes from Scott Schechter enhance the package of this welcome addition to the plethora of Garland recordings available on CD.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Miscellany: Hudson in 'Songs', Yoba in 'Lesson', A Hip-Hop-Anime Pippin, Scott's "Worship Me' Video, NYC Extensions

Culled from various releases

Jennifer Hudson, the Oscar ® winning musical star of the hit motion picture “Dreamgirls,” has been confirmed to topline the cast of Songs For A New World. Hudson will be appearing in this song cycle from Jason Robert Brown at Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica from April 18 through May 24.

Malik Yoba, best known for his roles in Cool Runnings, Fox's television series New York Undercover, and most recently in Tyler Perry's film Why Did I Get Married?, is set to star as Boy Willie in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson, playing April 9-27,2008 at the Delaware Theatre Company.

East West Players in Los Angeles is describing their production of Pippin as being an "anime/hip hop revival of the Tony Award winning musical." The show, directed by Tim Dang, will feature choreography by Blythe Matsui, and Hip-Hop choreography by "consultant" Jason Tyler Chong. The production runs May 8 - June 8.

Sherie Rene Scott, a self-proclaimed “Broadway semi-star” and “one time Tony Award® loser,” recently allowed a camera into her dressing room to share a little insight into You May Now Worship Me, her one night only benefit for the Phyllis Newman's Women's Health Initiative at the Actors Fun on Monday, March 31 at 8 PM at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre. You can find the promotional video Scott has created at:

There are now two more chances for folks to catch Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone at Playwrights Horizons in New York. The show will now close on March 29 - and the two additional performances are both on that final March Saturday. Also extended: Jez Butterworth's Parlour Song at the Atlantic Theater Company. This dark look at the interconnected lives of three neighbors will now run through April 6.


Edgemar Center for the Arts:
Delaware Theatre Company:
Playwrights Horizons:
Atlantic Theater Company:
East West Players:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Coming Soon to a Theater…near you?

This morning the news has been filled with announcements of what touring shows will be playing where in cities like Seattle, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Houston. Spring Awakening, The Color Purple, and Frost/Nixon - along with a stop for the much anticipated Mary Poppins - will cropping up in these cities and others in the coming year. Here's a quick break down of the schedules for these four cities:

Seattle's Paramount Theatre - working on calendar year

Avenue Q – June 10 - 22
A Chorus Line – August 5 - 10
The Phantom of the Opera – September 10 – October 4
Spring Awakening – October 14 - 19
Oprah Winfrey Presents The Color Purple – December 16 – 28

St. Louis' Fox Theatre

Oprah Winfrey Presents The Color Purple - October 21 – November 2
Legally Blonde - January 20 – February 1
Spring Awakening - February 10 – 22
A Chorus Line - May 12 – 24
Mary Poppins - August 13 – 30

PNC Broadway Across America-Pittsburgh

Wicked - September 3 – October 5
Mamma Mia! - November 5 – 9
Monty Python's Spamalot - November 25 – 30
Frost/Nixon - December 2 – 7
Annie - December 26 - 28
Jersey Boys - January 7 – February 1
Fiddler on the Roof - February 17 – 22
Movin' Out - February 27 – March 1
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - March 10 – 15
A Chorus Line - April 7 – 12
Rent - April 14 - 19
Spring Awakening - May 26 – 31

Houston's Hobby Center

Frost/Nixon - October 21 – November 2
Spring Awakening - January 6 – 18
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - February 24 – March 8
The Wizard of Oz - April 7 – 19
Fiddler on the Roof - May 26 – June 7


Paramount Theatre:
Fox Theatre:
Broadway Across America:
Hobby Center:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Slews of Discs From Original Cast Records

Listening to the 20th Anniversary Edition of Late Nite Comic from Original Cast Records, I thought about all of the releases from Bruce Yeko's label that arrived late in 2007 and the host of discs that have already been released in 2008, like "Late Nite." I've been remiss in talking about a number of the 2007 discs, so I figure let's use March to do some mop up.

I'm going to start with "Lorna Luft: Songs My Mother Taught Me." This disc, a tribute to Luft's mother and some of the songs most closely identified with that legend, begins a little embarrassingly with Luft recounting how she avoided following in her mother's footsteps and her ultimate success once she stopped avoiding "the ghost." The first track after this, though, you'll find "Songs" turns into a truly joyful disc – with Luft delivering tunes like "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "The Man That Got Away." Luft's vocals do bring to mind Judy Garland's interpretations of these songs. At the same time, though, they are unique; Luft never falls into the trap of impersonation or forcing stylistic similarities. One grand track is the "Mother Daughter Medley" – where technology allows Luft and Garland to share "You're Nearer", "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Through the Years" as a duet.

Now one of the things that Yeko and Original Cast excel at is giving composers and producers an outlet for recording and releasing their shows. The discs from late 2007 are a perfect example of how wide-ranging the company's titles are. There's the Minnesota-set musical Guys on Ice, the recording of the fringe hit The Winter's Tale Project, off-Broadway's Sessions, and Rob Roy from, appropriately enough, Scotland.

One of the dangers of such a wide range of shows is that not all of the shows are exactly as satisfying as one might hope. Generally, though, you'll find at least several songs that are hidden gems in anything you order from Original Cast Records.

For instance, with David Warrack's Rob Roy, the piece opens promisingly with "Bagpipe Prelude" and "We Are Connected," two tunes with distinct Scots flavor, but then, moves into "The Ballad of the Highlanders" – a song with definite roots in musical comedy traditions of the Golden Age, and then, a tortured "Les Miz"-like soliloquy "Tell Me Why" (delivered unsteadily by George Masswohl as Rob Roy MacGregor himself. Give the recording (and the show) time though, and you'll find a terrific ballad ("One Thousand Years From Now") – where Masswohl comes into his own vocally. Equally impressive is a song late in the show "'Tis Here'" – sung delicately by Mark Harapiak, playing Rob Roy's best friend, Alexander Stewart. This is a fascinating glimpse at a musical, which both demonstrates promise and shows that it has some ways to go.

Now with Sessions, Albert Tapper provides a toe-tapping pop-infused score that may never go down as one of the greats of musical theater, but proved popular enough to result in an extended-run for the show when it played off-Broadway last year. A look at therapy, Sessions has a few lovely tunes that stand out, including "Wendy", where one patient tries to work up the courage to call a woman he knew in college (a heartfelt delivery from Scott Richard Foster). Trisha Rapier passionately belts out an up-tempo ballad, "Feels Like Home," but it's hard to imagine the lyrics in the context described in the liner notes that accompany the disc. (The song is being sung by a woman with "a past checkered with abuse.") A third standout is "If I Could Be Like Pete," a jazzy soft-shoe that's marred by the heavy-rhyming with Pete, but which Foster and Amy Bodnar deliver with aplomb. Perhaps most amusing in Sesssions: the show's penultimate number, "The Sun Shines In," a touchy-feely variation on "Let the Sun Shine In" from Hair.

This OCR, I imagine, will certainly attract the attention of producers at regional theaters and community theaters looking for something alternative in their musical programming, and I'm betting that there's enough here to enjoy that Sessions will end up on many a season schedule in the coming years.

A more forward-looking musical is Chris Wynters' and Bridget Ryan's The Winter's Tale Project which really sounds as if it plays more like a rock opera/concept album than strict musical. This one grabs you by the throat (ear?) from its opening moments with a rockin' party where you're introduced to the characters of Shakespeare's play. From this very contemporary rock 'n' roll opening, Wynters' score moves to the jazz universe as the first strains of Leontes' jealousy are felt. When Leontes finally puts his wife Hermione on trial, accusing her of having had an affair with his best friend Polixenes, Wynter's delivers a marvelous extended sequence that propels the piece to its first act conclusion, which includes some pretty amazing riffs on Shakespeare's most infamous stage direction.

As the piece moves to its second, and lighter half, Wynters' score doesn't miss a pulsating beat, and yet, modulates into a more laid-back musical vernacular. Throughout, you'll find yourself chuckling over Wynters' lyrics. Leontes describes Hermione as "A slut in an overpriced gown" and early on in Act II, Folrizel and Perdita worry about their love with "Your father's a king, my father's a shepherd." You will want to track this one down from Original Cast Records.

I'll close with the disc that started the column off, the new 20th Anniversary Recording of Late Nite Comic, which has been previously available on disc, but not with Larry Hochman's superb orchestrations. Now, in addition to Hochman's work for Brian Gari's score, you also can find some of Broadway's best delivering the tunes for this show about the off-beat romance between a piano bar singer who wants to be a standup comic and an aspiring ballerina.

Thanks to Hochman's work, Gari's pop-infused score has never sounded better. Yes, there may be times when the lyrics leave something to be desired, but this is a show that does have a certain sparkle, particularly when it's being delivered by the likes of Liz Callaway, Howard McGillin, Brian D'Arcy James and Chip Zien (who's particularly forceful and charming on the show's opening number "Stand Up").

The particularly cool thing about this release from Original Cast Records is that all of the profits from the endeavor go to benefit the Actors Fund, so you can pat yourself on the back even as you add a second recording of this famed show to your CD shelf…..remember, "Late Nite" only made it through four performances back in 1987.

With all that being said, I still haven't touched on many of the other discs that were released and distributed by Original Cast Records last year…Topsy Turvy Loves, Berlin, Madame, and Blackbeard, to name a few. Also, the company's already got a slew of new titles out in 2008: Amelia's Journey, a musical journey through the lives of Amelia Earhart and George Putnam and Vamp, a gothic rock opera written and composed by Jake Perrine.


Chatting with Thompson, Blank and Camp

Recently, I had a chance to chat with April Yvette Thompson and Jessica Blank about their work on Liberty City, which is closing this weekend at New York Theatre Workshop - GO!, and Joanne Camp, who's appearing in Ghosts at the Pearl Theatre (also recommended). The results of the conversations are two features on BackStage online - and I wanted to highlight the pieces.

You'll find them at:

April Yvette Thompson: At 'Liberty'
April Yvette Thompson has acted in Zimbabwe and Edinburgh but these days she's closer to home in Liberty City, an autobiographical solo show at Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop.

Notes on Joanne Camp
Playing Helene Alving in Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts at Off-Broadway's Pearl Theatre Company, Joanne Camp makes an extraordinary impression on her first entrance.

If you're interested in the theaters, here are the links:

New York Theatre Workshop:
Pearl Theatre:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Listening to My Plays - Thanks to LATW

You'd think that with 7 or so shows a week, I'd get enough theater in my diet, but as I'm clipping the news each morning for ATW, I generally have something on in the background. In the past few days, it's not been music or the morning news (love my BBC World News), but instead, it's been a couple of plays. Yes, the good folks at L.A. Theatre Works have just released two of their newest titles, and I've been savoring a new American work (that has yet to make it to New York) and a German classic.

The former is Melinda Lopez's Sonia Flew, which has been seen regionally, and is a touching look at a woman who's coming to grips with having left Cuba as a girl, even as her son joins the U.S. military in the days following 9/11. The show's gotten some pretty incredible reviews along the way, and from the recording from LATW, you can understand why, particularly with performances from the likes of Philip Casnoff, Hector Elizondo and Elizabeth Peña.

The other show that I've enjoyed over the past couple of days is a new translation of Bertolt Brecht's The Life of Galileo. The new English text comes from David Hare and film and stage actor Stacy Keach plays the title role in this classic. "Galileo" features a large company of performers and the action tends to be a bit sprawling, which could make it somewhat difficult to translate to a purely aural experience. Wisely, director Marvin Jarvis employed himself as a narrator for the production, making the action of the piece completely lucid on this often thrilling two-disc set.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

News Roundup - Musicals Around the Country

A bunch of articles about musicals have caught my eye in the past 12 hours or so, so I figured let me distill them all into one handy blog entry.

First off, in Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press have both weighed in on the Minneapolis Musical Theatre's production of Summer of '42. Somehow, I've managed to miss this one in production, but have always been charmed by the recording of it (from Jay Records). Sounds like the production in the Twin Cities is a real delight.

Secondly in California, there's a production of "Olympus on My Mind" - Barry Harman and Grant Sturiale's 1986 off-Broadway musical that's based on Kleist's 1807 retelling of the Amphityron myth. This is a bit of an odd-ball rarity and might be worth looking into.

So that's a couple of productions, now for some news about shows in development/workshop. In the Miami Herald, Christine Dolen's reporting on a largish workshop of a new musical called Fool's Paradise. It's a show written by Jim Camacho, a fixture apparently in South Florida's rock indie scene. Alongside the article there are a couple of audio clips to listen to.

Over in Texas, there's word in the Houston Chronicle, that Larry Dierker, former Houston Astros pitcher and manager, has penned a musical with composer Paul English, and their show, Old Stories, is getting a couple of workshop performances at Stages Rep in Houston.

Finally, yesterday in Playbill, there were reports of two shows that have set their sights on Broadway - Angels, which is casting for a August – September run in Louisiana, and Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls...," which has posted a casting notice for a production scheduled to open on Broadway in early August.


Minneapolis Musical Theatre:
Onstage Theatre:
Stages Repertory Theatre:

A Busy Year Ahead as Charles Strouse Turns 80

When releases are as handy as this – an announcement about all of the events scheduled for 2008 that will celebrate the achievements of composer Charles Strouse, well, it just seems silly to gild the lily. So, let's look at what has happened and will be happening as Strouse – the man who's written shows like Bye Bye Birdie and Annie - turns 80 this year (June 7 is his actual birthday).

January 2008
Launch of
In honor of Strouse’s 80th year, a new official website is launched. The most comprehensive site for all things Charles Strouse, features biographical, discography, theatre, film and television listings; a collection of rare video segments from Strouse’s Broadway productions, film and television, audio clips, a photo library, and even interactive opportunities to share your connection with the music of Charles Strouse and offer birthday wishes.

February 6th at 8:30PM
Lincoln Center’s American Songbook presents
“This is the life: Eric Comstock Salutes Charles Strouse at 80”
Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Allen Room, New York
Comstock, joined by guest vocalist Barbara Fasano and Charles Strouse himself, will perform an evening of Strouse favorites from the standpoint of its influence on the jazz repertoire. For tickets and more information visit

February 7th-10th, 2008
Applause at Encores!
City Center, New York
Tony Award-winner Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens) will star as Margo Channing in Applause, the 1970 Tony Award-winning musical based on the classic film All About Eve, about a great Broadway star and her duplicitous understudy. Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall directs and choreographs. Songs include “Applause,” “Welcome to the Theater” and “Good Friends.” Following the matinee on Saturday, February 9th, Strouse and his collaborator Lee Adams will participate in a talk-back discussion with audience members. For tickets and more information visit

Saturday, March 15th at 3:00PM
Screening: “The Colors of My Life - The Musical Theatre of Michael Stewart”
Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza
Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, New York
NYPL presents a screening of this special 2006 event honoring Charles Strouse’s Bye Bye Birdie collaborator, Michael Stewart. In addition to a musical performance by Strouse, there are tributes from Charles Busch, Melissa Errico, Jim Dale, James Naughton, Lee Roy Reams, Steve Ross and others. For more information visit

Thursday, March 20th at 5:30PM
Panel Discussion & DVD signing: “Life After Tomorrow”
Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center, New York

In celebration of the DVD release of Julie Stevens and Gil Cates, Jr.’s documentary “Life After Tomorrow,” Barnes & Noble hosts a special panel discussion with Strouse and several of Annie’s alumni orphans featured in the film. The evening will also a live performance and a DVD signing. For more information visit

May 2008
Annie – The 30th Anniversary Cast Recording
The most musically complete recording of the Strouse/Charnin score to date, this double-disc collectable features an all-star cast including Carol Burnett, Gary Beach, Kathie Lee Gifford, Andrea McArdle, Harve Presnell, John Schuck and Sally Struthers. In addition to the new overture that Strouse has created for this recording, bonus tracks include previously unrecorded material from Annie 2, the 20th Anniversary Broadway revival, the Australian production and the 1977 NBC Annie Christmas Special. Released by Time Life and distributed by Warner Brothers, the album is produced by Grammy-nominated Robert Sher. For more information visit

Saturday, May 10th at 3:00PM
An Afternoon with Charles Strouse
Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza
Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, New York
In conjunction with NYPL’s exhibition “Writing to Character: Songwriters & The Tony Awards” (February 26-June 14), Charles Strouse takes to the piano for an afternoon of behind-the-scenes anecdotes and live performances from some of his Tony winning and nominated scores including Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, Annie, Golden Boy, Rags and Nick and Nora.

Thursday, March 20th at 5:30PM
Panel Discussion & DVD signing: “Life After Tomorrow”
Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Center, New York

In celebration of the DVD release of Julie Stevens and Gil Cates, Jr.’s documentary “Life After Tomorrow,” Barnes & Noble hosts a special panel discussion with Strouse and several of Annie’s alumni orphans featured in the film. The evening will also feature a live performance of “Tomorrow” by Gypsy’s Emma Rowley accompanied by Strouse and a DVD signing. For more information visit

May 13th, 2008
Library of Congress Honors Charles Strouse
Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Following acquisitions from great American composers including Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin and Aaron Copeland, the Music Division of The Library of Congress accepts the Charles Strouse collection of original theatre, film, television, opera and orchestral work manuscripts. The presentation will be followed by a birthday luncheon in the library. For more information visit

May 14th, 2008
Broadway Up-Close and Personal: Charles Strouse at The Kennedy Center
Terrace Theatre at Kennedy Center, Washington, DC

Join Strouse for an intimate interview with ASCAP's Michael Kerker and live music by special guests performing the best of Charles Strouse. The interview will be followed by a dinner reception with Strouse and members of the United States Congress. For tickets and more information visit

Thursday, June 26th at 4:00PM
“Composing Pop & Broadway” Seminar
The Julliard School, 60 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York

Part of a three-day annual workshop led by the esteemed choral conductor Judith Clurman, Strouse and fellow composers David Shire and Georgia Stitt discuss their works and careers in a panel discussion for choral musicians and students. For more information visit

June 2nd, 2008, 6:00 -7:30PM
Applause, Applause: A Salute to Charles Strouse
The Paley Center for Media, New York

The Paley Center presents rare television and film footage featuring Carol Burnett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elliot Gould, Larry Hagman, Alan Jay Lerner, Dorothy Loudon, Caroll O’Connor, Chita Rivera, Jason Robards, Jr., Jean Stapleton, and even the Muppets performing Charles Strouse songs from his Broadway shows, film and television. This public event, includes a panel discussion, a live performance by Strouse and a live appearance by Lauren Bacall, the Tony Award winning star of Strouse’s Applause. After the tribute, there will be a by-invitation-only dinner reception for Strouse and the Paley Center’s Producers Circle.

June 2008
Book release: “Put On a Happy Face,” a Broadway memoir by Charles Strouse

Charles Strouse takes his readers behind the scenes. Released by Sterling Publishing, Strouse’s autobiography is about songwriting, star-making and the memories of one of America’s greatest living composers.

July 22nd-24th, 2008
Hal Leonard Publishing: National Joy of Singing Convention
Country Springs Hotel & Conference Center, Waukesha, WI
The world’s largest music print publisher brings together over 1,000 music educators from around the country to honor Charles Strouse in celebration of 80 years of great American music. At this event, three new choral works by Charles Strouse will premiere. For more information visit

Thursday, June 26th at 4:00PM
“Composing Pop & Broadway” Seminar
The Julliard School, 60 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York

Part of a three-day annual workshop led by the esteemed choral conductor Judith Clurman, Strouse and fellow composers David Shire and Georgia Stitt discuss their works and careers in a panel discussion for choral musicians and students. For more information visit

July 2008
Charles Strouse Launches National Put On A Happy Face Book Tour

Charles Strouse will visit Barnes & Nobel bookstores and theatres around the United States to discuss his new memoir as well as present workshops to students and offer live performances. For updates to his tour schedule visit

Fall 2008
BBC Radio: Elaine Paige interviews Charles Strouse
(Specific air dates TBA)
In celebration of his 80th year, legendary West End musical theatre star Elaine Paige will sit down with Strouse to discuss the "essential musicals" that have had an impact on him and his career.

Fall 2008
Mercury Musical Developments (MMD) Salon seminar with Charles Strouse
(Specific date and venue TBA)

MMD presents an evening with Charles Strouse. Budding, London-based musical theatre writers will sit down with the composer to discuss his 50 years of composing for the musical theatre.

Fall 2008
BBC Concert: Charles Strouse’s UK Birthday celebration
The Palladium London, England UK

This live concert, featuring Martin Yates conducting the BBC Orchestra, celebrates the music of Charles Strouse. This event will be recorded by the BBC for broadcast on their popular “Friday Night is Music Night” program in the UK in June 2008

Fall 2008
Stage & Screen: Edward Seckerson in conversation with Charles Strouse
The Shaw Theatre, London

Michael Feinstein's "Feinstein’s at The Shaw" season will include this special evening in which BBC Radio 3 host Edward Seckerson will interview Charles Strouse about his illustrious career before a live audience. American audiences will be able to view the interview later in the month at

Fall 2008
National Tour of University and College Campuses

This fall, Strouse will offer workshops, seminars and live performances for music and theatre students around the United States. For updates to his tour schedule visit

October 16th-19th, 2008
Alumnae Weekend: Eastman School of Music Honors Charles Strouse
University of Rochester, NY

Strouse returns to his alma mater for a celebration of his 80th birthday and illustrious career. The university will honor Strouse in an evening that will include live performances. For more information visit

October 29th-November 2nd 2008
Charles Strouse Festival
The Hartt Conservatory, Hartford, CT

University students present a weekend festival celebrating the music of Charles Strouse. Under the direction of a team of Broadway guest artists, the weekend will include performances of Strouse’s Rags, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, Charlotte’s Web and orchestral works. For more information visit

April 3rd, 2009
The New York Pops Salutes Charles Strouse
Carnegie Hall, New York City

Join the New York Pops conducted by Martin Yates, a roster of fabulous stars and Charles Strouse himself for an evening of standards from Broadway and the movies, stirring orchestral works and a few debut performances from Strouse's Broadway-bound musicals.

For more information about Charles Strouse, his career, and any of the events detailed above, visit

Friday, March 7, 2008

There's Still Time - Midtown Fest Extends Deadline

Sometimes it's easier to just pass on the full release - this is one of them...

Calling All Playwrights and Producers! If you have a project that's ready to be put on stage this summer, contact the Midtown International Theatre Festival immediately! The MITF is still accepting submissions for its Ninth Annual presentation of plays and musicals, spanning all types and genres - they want to hear from you! To that end the Festival, which will run from July 13-August 10, and take place in seven different theatres in five separate venues, has extended its submission deadline to March 15, 2008.

"We would like to be competitive with our open slots," noted MITF executive producer John Chatterton. "We're very excited about this year's crop of submissions (with a lineup to be announced in April) and are looking for any other good shows out there to help us round out the schedule." Chatterton noted that a successful application to the Festival requires not only a good script but a production team who can stage the play successfully and who have a strong marketing plan that will sell tickets.

This summer, the MITF returns to the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, its home in 2003, where it will use the 98-seat June Havoc Theatre and the 60-seat Dorothy Stressing space. At the same time, the MITF will remain at the WorkShop Theater, where it has been since 2004, and presenting shows in that location's 65-seat MainStage; while the Workshop's Jewel Box Theater will serve as an audience waiting room and beer tent.

The Festival will also use The Barrow Group's 99-seat theatre, which will house the MITF Commercial Division. These are shows looking for a life beyond the Festival. The WorkShop, Abingdon and Barrow Group theatres are all located at 312 West 36th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), on the 4th, 1st and 3rd floors, respectively.

Just up the block, at 347 West 36th Street, additional shows will be performed at Chatter ton's 40-seat Where Eagles Dare Theatre and the 50-seat Where Eagles Dare Studio Theatre. These venues are located on the ground and 13th floors of the building, the latter also being where the MITF has its administrative offices.

Lastly, the MITF will continue to use Stage Left Studio, located at 438 West 37th Street, Suite 5-A (between 9th & 10th Avenues), for its one-person shows.

Those interested in applying to the Ninth Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival can download an application form at the Festival website at The completed application, script, and any other production materials, along with a non-refundable reading fee of $30.00, should be sent to: The Midtown International Theatre Festival, 347 W. 36th Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018. All entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2008.


Fighting the Smoking Ban in MN, and More News of the Day

Blog entries have been scarce this week – I know. Lots of reviews and a couple of pieces for Back Stage - one on April Yvette Thompson and Liberty City and one on Joanne Camp and Ghosts, the 50th production that the Obie-award winning and Tony and Drama Desk nominated actress has done with the company.

I figured rather than letting the blog be silent while I work on my review for In the Heights and finish up listening to a couple of things that I need to review, I'll point you toward a few interesting articles from this morning's News Clippings on ATW.

First off, in USA Today, there's an article about a theater in Minnesota that's trying to get round the state's smoking ban. You'll find it at – direct link.

In Paul Hodgins' blog for the Orange County Register, there's an interview with Richard Maltby, Jr., who's hard at work on the musical version of the movie Mask at the Pasadena Playhouse. This one's at Orange County Register – direct link.

Similarly, there's an interview with composer/lyricist Jerry Herman in The Houston Chronicle, coinciding with the last few performances of Hello, Dolly! with Leslie Uggams at Theatre Under the Stars. You'll find this article at Houston Chronicle – direct link.

Finally, bunch of articles about things here in New York. Roundabout Theatre Company's plans to produce a revival of Pal Joey this fall and news of Lincoln Center Theater's new theater space. Of course, there have been plenty of reviews of the revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which opened last night on Broadway. You'll find the "scrapbook" of reviews on ATW at ATW News Digest

Have a great weekend.


Pasadena Playhouse:
Theatre Under the Stars:
Roundabout Theatre Company:
Lincoln Center Theatre:
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof website:

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Super Tuesday of Season Announcements

Yesterday most of the country's eyes may have been on the presidential races in Ohio and Texas, but even as Hilary and Obama were squaring off at voting booths, regional theaters around the country were announcing their plans for their 2008-2009 seasons.

You'll find complete articles about each of the theaters I'm about to mention in the ATW News Clippings, but I figured I'd distill the companies' seasons to some particular highlights.

Working from East to West:

Signature Theater in Virginia has announced that they'll be premiering a new musical from Michael John LaChiusa. It's a tuner based on Edna Ferber's novel "Giant" – the work that of course inspired the classic movie of the same name. LaChiusa's Giant will run from April 28 – May 31 next year. Alongside this world premiere will be the area premiere of LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See, which will play April 7 through May 24. As a precursor to these two productions, the theater will offer a short run of LaChiusa's Ladies in its cabaret series. This selection of songs sung by the composer-lyricist's heroines will play March 18-21.

There's one other production that I think is really a must-see, it's Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker's Ace, a show that has literally taken off since its showing at the National Alliance for Musical Theater Festival a couple of years back. The piece about a small boy and the fantastical toy airplane he's given wowed me then, and I'm delighted to see that the production at Signature (running August 26 through September 28) is being billed as a "Broadway Bound Premiere."

Now let me shift down the coast to Florida, where the Actors Playhouse as announced the musicals that will be part of its upcoming season. Here, there are two that have really caught my eye. First is a world premiere: Miami Bombshells, The Musical. Based on the book "Dish and Tell", this show looks at how women balance their personal and professional lives. "Bombshells" is slated to play January 14 through February 8. The second show that caught my eye in this theater's lineup is the regional premiere of Havana Bourgeois, which played in New York at 59E59 a couple of seasons back. This look at life in a Havana during the early years of the revolution was both imperfect and fascinating when I caught it here. In Florida, "Havana" will run May 6 through June 7.

Shifting to Colorado, two world premieres at the Denver Center Theatre Company are particularly noteworthy: Inana by Michele Lowe and Dusty in the Big Bad World by Cusi Cram. Lowe's piece, which will play January 22 through February 28, centers on an Iraqi museum director, who on the eve of the US invasion of Baghdad, desperately plots to safeguard an ancient statue from the looting he fears will come. He flees to London with his young bride and before he can begin a new life there, he must reveal his own past and the fate of the statue of Inana, Goddess of War. In Cram's play, "Dusty," the most popular animated PBS children's television show in America, goes to visit a family with two daddies, but the big bad world brings the hammer down hard. This play will run in Denver from January 29 through February 28.

Finally, in California, Berkley Repertory Theatre has announced that its coming season will have world premiere of plays by Itamar Moses and Pulitzer Prize finalist Sarah Ruhl.

Ruhl's play - The Vibrator Play - is scheduled to be the theater's opener. This one, set at the end of the Victorian era, focuses on six lonely people who look to a local doctor for relief, but learn they really need intimacy. Moses' Yellowjackets takes place at Berkeley High School and looks at what happens when the school newspaper publishes a story that pushes students into a volatile controversy over race and class.

Berkeley Rep has yet to set the dates for its season which will also include a staging of Mairlyn Campbell and Curt Columbus' 90-minute riveting version of Crime and Punishment.


Signature Theatre:
Actors Playhouse:
Denver Center Theatre Company:
Berkeley Repertory Theatre:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Creating a Scene - Musically

Last night at the exceptional "Broadway by the Year" salute to shows from 1947, Marc Kudisch delivered a sumptuous rendition of "A Fellow Needs a Girl" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Allegro. Also from that show during the concert at Town Hall last night, "The Gentleman is a Dope" and "So Far."

After the concert, I began thinking about a book that has been sitting on my shelf for a while: a relatively new release from Applause Theater & Cinema Books – "Musical Scene Study: The Musicals of Rodgers & Hammerstein." This tome, compiled and edited by Tom Briggs, contains the music for 29 R&H songs in addition to the dialogue that precedes each one. From Allegro, you find both "Fellow" and the musical's title song. Of course, these are rarities from the team. Not to worry – there are some of the most famous R&H songs and moments in "Study" as well. For instance, the scene between Curly and Jud that leads in to "Pore Jud is Dead" in Oklahoma!and the moment on the beach where Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan sing "If I Loved You" in Carousel are both included.

It's really a very handsome cross-section of scene and song styles with varying tones – perfect for young performers who want to understand not only what it takes to sing these great songs, but also what is necessary to lead into them naturally when performing them in the context of the show itself.

For acting coaches and teachers, there is a table of contents that breaks down the character requirements for each of the selections, and before each scene, a brief paragraph of notes from Briggs helps to contextualize the dialogue that leads into the songs.

For years, scene study books have been available for plays – I really hope that Applause plans to continue this as a series. Scene study books for songs from writers like Kander and Ebb, Stephen Sondheim and Frank Loesser all seem natural choices for a niche that has long been overlooked.


Applause Books: