HERE'S WHAT'S NEW:

COMING UP ON BROADWAY: Straight White Men - Opens: 7.23.18 Head Over Heels - Previews: Now; Opens: 7.26.18 Gettin' the Band Back Together - Previews: Now, Opens: 8.13.18 Pretty Woman - Previews: Now, Opens: 8.16.18

COMING UP ON THE BLOG: 7/23: Welcome to the Theater! The Debuts of Straight White Men - 7/24: Broadway Heat: The Head Over Heels Championship Final! - 7/25: Summer Shows Aren't Necessarily a Bad Thing - 7/26: The Debuts of Head Over Heels - 7/27: The Friday 5 ... 7/30: REVIEW: Moulin Rouge! (Pre-Broadway)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Welcome to the Theater! The Broadway Debuts of Straight White Men

Starting this season, a recurring feature of the blog will be the celebration of an acting milestone - the Broadway Debut! First up, a play by a playwright who is making her Broadway debut!


Straight White Men a play by Young Jean Lee
Opening Night: Monday, July 23, 2018
Helen Hayes Theatre

Congratulations to the following cast members making their Broadway debut tonight!

Kate Bornstein (Person in Charge 1)

Josh Charles (Jake)

Ty DeFoe (Person in Charge 2)
Armie Hammer (Drew)
Young Jean Lee (Playwright)

Paul Schneider (Matt)

T.L. Thompson (Understudy)
Here's to great reviews, a terrific run, and many more Broadway Opening Nights!


Friday, July 20, 2018

The Friday 5: 5 Musicals About Real People

THE FRIDAY 5:
5 MUSICALS ABOUT REAL-LIFE PEOPLE

So, last week's Friday 5 got me to thinking.  Actually, including Hands on a Hardbody, got me to thinking... about musicals that are about real people.  And I'm not talking about bio-musicals like Beautiful or Jersey Boys, either - not that either one would make my top 5 list. Obviously, for a variety of reasons, each of the shows below are somewhat fictionalized for the stage, but each are about people that actually existed. There are many, but these are my 5 favorites (presented alphabetically):

A Chorus Line
1st alphabetically, and 1st in my heart, if I'm being honest. One of the greatest musicals of all time was a phenomenon unlike any other, and long before Cats, Rent or Hamilton. The story put the people in the background all the way front and center. Based on a collection of taped group chat sessions held by Michael Bennett, the show won a zillion awards, including the Tony for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. After 15 years on Broadway, it was the longest-running show in history for a very long time. It was, and is, one singular sensation!






Come From Away
Never mind the fantastic staging by Tony-winner Christopher Ashley or the tuneful score by some unknown Canadians, this show is a thrilling, exuberant celebration of the very best that human beings are capable of. Complete strangers opening their homes and their hearts is a reminder that great things can come from devastating things. We all come from away, they say. Powerful.






Evita
Speaking of powerful, this musical has attitude, flair, and these days, a universality that maybe wasn't there when this was new. Tuneful, rousing and thought-provoking, this story of a woman's rise to power is hard to resist. Does it get much better than "A Waltz for Eva and Che"?



Fun Home
Parent-child relationships, being true to yourself, and coming to terms with your past are but a few of the universal themes this stunning, modern musical explores, all while telling the heartbreaking real-life story of author Alison Bechdel. Laughter and tears abound...and you don't have to be a lesbian to understand a "Ring of Keys" moment.






Titanic
I loved this stunning masterpiece from the moment I saw one of the first, troubled, previews. Well, the ship may have sunk, but this glorious musical with a ravishing score was a sight to behold. When the ship sank, we gasped. When the poorer passengers got trapped in the wreckage, we wept. And when it was over, we cheered. The fate of that ship has been the subject of human fascination for over a hundred years. And the musical was a beautiful tribute to very real people history still hasn't forgotten.






Thursday, July 19, 2018

TBT: Throwback Thursday: Playbill: MAME 1983

I was looking through my Playbill collection yesterday, and I thought it might be cool to take a look back at some of my favorites as a Throwback Thursday feature. So here's my first one with my very first Broadway Playbill, which will be 35 years old next month! (Please forgive my photography...)

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.






Hmmm... Not too fancy...

Mame
Gershwin Theatre
7 previews, 41 performances (July 20 - August 28, 1983)
Starring Angela Lansbury, Anne Francine, Jane Connell, Willard Waterman and Sab Shimono


Left: Table of Contents - Volume 1?  Prime Rib in NYC for $10.99? 
Beefsteak Charlie's...a blast from the past!
Right: Title Page... Angela Lansbury pre-Murder, She Wrote!

Full Cast List and Scenes and Musical Numbers
Notice a couple of Mame's friends: Merwin Foard and Richard Poole

Left: A feature I really miss in current Playbills
Right: Some real blockbusters on this page, and La Cage aux Folles isn't even
open yet; you could see David Cassidy, David Birney, Dihann Carroll and Geraldine Page!

More stars: Tommy Tune, Twiggy, Frank Langella, Doug Henning, Colleen Dewhurst and Chita Rivera! Not the Passion most of us think about...and Torch Song is coming back!
Note: The Cradle Will Rock starred a post-Evita Patti LuPone!
And some things never change...One Shubert Alley is still going strong!

Angela Lansbury and Anne Francine

First Broadway show. First Broadway Legend. First Broadway flop. What a way to start a life-long passion!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

LOGOS: Pretty Woman: The Musical

Just last week, I lambasted Gettin' the Band Back Together for using a red/white/black combo logo - particularly when so many shows are currently using the same color combination for their established shows. This week, I'm looking at another logo with the same color combo, but this time it works much better. I'm talking about Pretty Woman: The Musical.

Grade: A

So why does this logo get a passing grade? Well, it's all about brand recognition and audience expectation. Much like the iconic red and white logo for Hello, Dolly!, and the familiar (if not exactly like the beloved books) font used for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, there are certain things so beloved by the public, you just don't mess with it. Much.

I remember the scuttlebutt on the chat boards when this logo first appeared during the pre-Broadway run in Chicago. People scoffed that it was "lazy" and "exactly like the movie logo." Well, smartly, the logo is close - even, apparently, close enough that people think its just a ripoff. But the Broadway version is a clever spin off.

   


The logo is the same font and positioning that audiences remember from the movie (or VHS or DVD or Blu-ray).  And the character pose is the same. But here's where I think it is clever. The characters are wearing the iconic "opera scene" outfits: black tux for him, red gown for her. All at once familiar and reassuring. This is the story we know, with beloved scene intact. And a certain elegance, because well, a hooker-as-logo is a dicey proposition these days.  I'd also like to give kudos to the designers for keeping their faces in silhouette. After all, what happens when the audience doesn't see Andy Karl and Samantha Barks? (Take a lesson, Mean Girls!)



Pretty Woman:The Musical begins previews on Friday at the Nederlander Theatre, with an opening night scheduled for August 16, 2018.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

CD Review: Hello, Dolly! (New Broadway Cast Recording)

In honor of the Divine Miss M's return to her Tony-winning role tonight, I offer my views on the cast recording she headlines.  I had the great fortune of seeing the original revival cast of Hello, Dolly! when it was fresh.  And while I know it was an event, and Ms. Midler was, as always, great to see, I wasn't thrilled with her Dolly. I never once forgot I was seeing BETTE MIDLER.  Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing her,and reveled in her greatness as a performer and bombastic personality. But she was Bette-saying-and-singing-Dolly, not being Dolly. The  costumes and scenery were a delight, as was Warren Carlyle's loving recreation tribute to Gower Champion's choreography. Most of the rest of the cast was also superb.  I left highly entertained and felt I had gotten my money's worth.

Grade: B-

Title: Hello, Dolly!
Artist: The New Broadway Cast 
Label: Masterworks Broadway
Number: 88985 40592 2
Format: Single CD
Case: Single Jewel Case
Booklet: Full color, 40 pages. Complete lyrics. Art direction and design by BLT Communications. Photo by Julieta Cervantes. Essay by Steven Suskin. Album produced by Steven Epstein.  Executive producer Scott Farthing.
Where you can get it: Amazon (currently $11.89 - includes a digital copy); iTunes ($11.99)

But, take away the scenery, lights, costumes and choreography, and you are left with just the cast and the orchestra.  And a new cast recording of a beloved American musical classic.  I pretty much have the same reaction to it as I did the show: it's a Bette Midler record with a side of Broadway brilliance.  Again, that's not a bad thing, necessarily. I mean, I have a few of her albums already, so why not add another?  

What I love about this recording:

  • I love the gorgeous sound of the orchestra!
  • I love the ensemble's vocal performance!
  • I love that some of the dance music is included!
  • I love Kate Baldwin. "Ribbons Down My Back" is so damned beautiful!
  • I love every time Gavin Creel and Taylor Trensch do anything on this recording!
  • And I love that Bette's in better voice than when I saw her live.

Related image

What I wish was better about this recording:

  • I wish Bette played a character like everyone else on the recording.
  • I wish there were more pictures. One??? Really???
  • I wish it was longer. Full versions of all the songs would have been great. And how about a tad more dialogue?

Image result for hello dolly 2017

What I could have done without on this recording:

  • I hate "Penny In My Pocket." There's a reason they cut it back in 1964.
  • I really don't care for David Hyde Pierce's performance here.  He was much better in person.
  • I don't care for the feeling that the recording is so pristine and perfect that it feels sterile at many points.  It isn't the feel-good version of a feel-good musical.



Monday, July 16, 2018

BROADWAY HEAT: Head Over Heels (The Final Four!)

THE FINAL 4 ROUND of BROADWAY HEAT: HEAD OVER HEELS starts TODAY


GREAT NEWS! Whether or not you voted in the first two rounds, you CAN STILL VOTE!  AND it doesn't matter if you've seen the show - you CAN STILL VOTE!

Here's how it works:
  • Each cast will compete within itself like a tournament bracket.
  • You'll keep voting in rounds of pairs, until we are down to 2 pairs. (The number of rounds will vary, depending on the size of the cast.)
  • The winner of the last round will be the HOTTEST cast member of the show and each show's winner will compete in one final tournament to be named the HOTTEST BROADWAY CAST MEMBER OF 2018-2019!
REMEMBER: You have to pick ONE from EACH pair (no skipping pairs!) AND click "FINISH SURVEY" at the end of the poll. If you don't, your vote won't count.

THIS ROUND WILL CLOSE ON FRIDAY, JULY 20TH AT 5 PM EST!





Friday, July 13, 2018

The Friday 5: 5 Favorite Musicals Based on Movies




The much-anticipated (and much-chatted about) Broadway-bound musical Moulin Rouge! began previews this week, and I'm going on Saturday! I'm super excited! And it got me thinking about my favorite musicals based on films.  I wonder if Moulin Rouge will join this list? Here are 5 of them (presented alphabetically, not ranked):

THE FRIDAY 5:
5 OF JEFF'S FAVORITE
MUSICALS BASED ON MOVIES


The Band's Visit


Award-winning film turned into award-winning musical! It's the newest one on the list, and it is already one of my all-time favorite shows.

 The Full Monty


I guess I have a thing for small foreign films turned into Broadway musicals featuring scores by David Yazbek. I loved this warm, funny musical that bared it all - literally and emotionally.

The Goodbye Girl


I loved this show so much. I laughed my ass off and despite what many people think, I thought Bernadette Peters was amazing, and Martin Short was sublime. "Paula (A Love Song)" remains one of my favorite duets.

Hands on a Hardbody


A show that really got the short end of the stick. Masterfully staged, especially considering that the story hinges on hours of people standing still! The score was wonderful, and the cast (including Keith Carradine, Jon Rua, Allison Case and the always wonderful Jay Armstrong Johnson) was top notch.

Once


Surely, I cannot be the only person who cries every single time he hears "Falling Slowly," right. And, again with the small foreign film... there's a trend there...

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