THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

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Summertime...Took a little vacation! Three reviews coming soon! Amazing Grace, Hand to God and Mamma Mia!

I hope you'll come back for frequent visits, to see new reviews, to share opinions, to take a survey (or two), and to celebrate the shows and show people that have made the TheatreScene!

Jeff

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Boys of Broadway: Mr. Broadway 2009

To be sure, Broadway has continued its tradition of having some of the sexiest men and women alive on the boards each season. And each month, I seek to highlight a gentleman who has the exceptional gifts of talent AND beefcake, that intangible draw that some people just have. And so, today, to wrap up my 2009 in Review, I am choosing my pick for Broadway Boy of the Year, Mr. Broadway 2009.

I had initially picked just one guy who more than fits all of my criteria: A. easy on the eyes, B. unmistakable talent, C. that something extra that makes him stand out in a crowd. And to be sure he has all of this in excess - 2009 was an exceptional year for the guy.

But then some more recent events made me reconsider. But in reconsidering, I faced another dilemma - they are thought of as a pair, so could I choose one over the other ? I couldn't. So I lumped them together as one. In this case, these two gentlemen are inextricably one unit. One amazing unit. But my initial choice was still a viable one.

So what's a blogger to do? Name all three as Mr. Broadway 2009, of course! And because it is a given that all three are hotter than a fry machine at McDonald's, but their achievements are so much more important than their looks, I've decided that there will be no shirtless (or less) pictures of them - you can look that up yourself. Instead, I have chosen pictures that show then doing what they do best (perform) and doing what makes them the men of the year.

And so, without further ado...





Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig




Not since the year of Side Show, when Alice and Emily were the hottest pair on Broadway, has the Great White Way seen a more dynamic duo. Before they even arrived, the street was full of gossip - could an Aussie and a Brit convincingly play two Chicago cops? It mattered not in the long run, as their vehicle, A Steady Rain, proved to be critic proof and became a blockbuster hit. Half of the pair was a no-brainer, not since the boy from Oz played The Boy from Oz was such a Broadway darling. Yes, Mr. Hugh Jackman was a star of film, unlike many others came to Broadway to legitimize himself, create huge box office and leave. Hugh didn't just come and go. No, he remains active in theatre, and is an active celebrity on the charity circuit. In fact, his last go-round had him get and hold the record for the most money gathered by one show for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The record ($600,000.00 plus) held for years, until this season. Who broke the record? Why Wolverine and his sidekick, 007! Yes, Jackman and Craig obliterated the old record, and brought in - BY THEMSELVES - $1, 549,953 in the Gypsy of the Year Competition! That total represents just under 1/3 of the grand total collected by all of the shows ($4,630,695!). It would seem that selling the shirt off your back, some autographed Playbills and posters, plus some backstage passes are recession proof. And good for them, and for all of us. It is pretty easy to see why Jackman and Craig are Mr. Broadway 2009.


Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman in A Steady Rain





The boys make their curtain speech plea for big bucks.







Jackman and Craig meet their adoring fans at the stage door.







Gavin Creel

My initial choice, Mr. Creel had an up and down year at the start of 2009. Fresh off of closing in Mary Poppins in London, Creel was announced for a starring role in the revival of Godspell. But that never happened. Instead, as fate would have it, Jonathan Groff (also rumored to be his boyfriend) could not transfer to Broadway with the Public Theatre's Hair revival. Next thing you know, Gavin is playing Claude, earning critical raves, audience adulation and a Tony nod! But, like his cast mates, he wasn't content to just play the role of enlightened hippie, he wanted to spread the show's message of peace and love and equality to the masses. Several "be-ins," some soul searching and some long talks with cast, crew, producers and other Broadway babies later, he convinced the powers that be to shut Hair down for a day in October, so that the cast, crew and a thousand or so friends and fans could put their money where their mouth is and participate in a march on Washington, DC for gay rights and equality for gay marriage. And as if a hit show and some high-profile protesting weren't enough, Mr. Creel also formed Broadway Impact, and organization that uses Broadway shows, performers and friends as a gathering point for people to protest as one for equal rights for all citizens to marry, and related rights to health care, insurance and other benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. Despite victories in Washington, DC and other places, high profile defeats to bills on the issue in New York and California make Broadway Impact all the more important and relevant. A terrific actor, a genuinely nice guy, and true patriot, who better to choose as Mr. Broadway 2009 than Gavin Creel?



Gavin as Claude in Hair.




Gavin at a Broadway Impact rally in New York in support
of an equal rights bill concerning gay marriage.




Gavin with Jonathan Groff (left) and Will Swensen (right) at the march on Washington


Gavin and the Hair Tribe at one of many events in 2009.



For further information on both very worth causes go to http://www.broadwaycares.org/ and http://www.broadwayimpact.com/

Comments? Leave on here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com
Jeff

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review: The Best and the Not Best

All things considered, I am a very, very fortunate guy. I have a job, a roof over my head, food in my stomach and enough money to indulge my passion for theatre. Being American, of course I wish I could see/do more, but in the balance of things, I am very happy.

Another thing I'm happy about is that over the past year of theatre-going, I haven't seen anything that was so atrocious that I walked out. Sure, there were disappointments - shows I'm glad I saw, but won't return to, but there were also some wonderful surprises (and a few sure things) that have forever changed me as a person and as a lover of live performance.

Alas, I did not attend a single show of any kind during the month of December, so for this set of year-end reflection, I am counting shows I saw from December 1, 2008 - November 31, 2009. (On other words, look for A Little Night Music on next year's lists.)

THE BEST AND NOT SO BEST OF 2009




Best Off-Broadway/National Touring Company Shows:
3. A Chorus Line - As much care went into the casting of the tour as the Broadway revival.

2. Happiness - Great cast, great story, great staging, great music. Left feeling high as a kite! (ABOVE)

1. Spring Awakening - Kyle Riabko was even better than when he did the show in NY, and Steffi D. is amazing. (BELOW)



Most Disappointing Off-Broadway/National Touring Company Shows:
2. Legally Blonde - Despite a decent cast, to call this pared-down is an gross understatement.
1. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas - File this under: WHY???


Best Surprises of 2009:
5. Jayne Atkinson in Blithe Spirit -Took a blah part and made it hilarious
4. Alice Ripley out of a performance of next to normal, and seeing Jessica Phillips as Diana
3. Avenue Q not closing afterall!
2. Stephanie J. Block in 9 to 5: The Musical - Take her of my "why do these people get Broadway jobs?" list! (ABOVE)
1. Memphis - The entire show amazed me from start to finish.

Most Disappointing of 2009:
5. Rupert Everett in Blithe Spirit - As stiff as his "enhanced" face.
4. Not seeing Gavin Creel in Hair - See understudy list below.
3. Kerry Butler and Constantine Maroulis in Rock of Ages - She was in over her head, and he is a lousy actor, period. (BELOW)
2. The run of The Story of My Life - Enough said.
1. Bye Bye Birdie - The entire show amazed me from start to finish, but not in a good way.



Best Understudy Performances (Not Replacements):
4. Chris Hoch as Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical - Excellent, considering Christopher Siebert was a big reason I wanted to see it in the first place.
3. Matthew Stocke as Dennis in Rock of Ages - He was so good, he stuck out.
2. Jay Armstrong Johnson as Claude in Hair - If it couldn't be Gavin, I'm glad it was him.
1. Jessica Phillips as Diana in next to normal - Truly a revelation in the role. Brilliant.


10 Best Performances by an Actor in 2009 (in alphabetical order):
Kieran Campion as Nick Lockridge in The American Plan
Matt Cavenaugh as Tony in West Side Story
Adam Chanler-Berat as Henry in next to normal (ABOVE, with Jennifer Damiano)
Will Chase as Thomas Weaver in The Story of My Life
Malcolm Getz as Alvin Kelby in The Story of My Life
Chad Kimball as Huey in Memphis (BELOW)
Trent Kowalik as Billy in Billy Elliot
Kyle Dean Massey/Aaron Tveit as Gabriel in next to normal
Jim Norton as Finian in Finian's Rainbow
Will Swensen as Berger in Hair

10 Best Performances by an Actress in 2009 (in alphabetical order):
Jayne Atkinson as Ruth in Blithe Spirit (BELOW)
Kate Baldwin as Sharon in Finian's Rainbow
Jennifer Damiano as Natalie in next to normal
Christine Ebersole as Elvira in Blithe Spirirt
Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona in Shrek

Haydn Gwynne as Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot
Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcatti in Blithe Spirit
Alice Ripley as Diana in next to normal (BELOW)
Josefina Scaglione as Maria in West Side Story
Alexandra Socha as Wendla in Spring Awakening


Most Disappointing Shows of 2009:
5. 9 to 5: The Musical
4. Rock of Ages
3. Finian's Rainbow
2. Shrek: The Musical
1. Bye Bye Birdie (BELOW)


Best Shows of 2009:
10. The American Plan (BELOW)
9. Spring Awakening - The Final Broadway Company
8. Avenue Q- The Final Broadway Company
7. Blithe Spirit
6. Hair

5. Billy Elliot: The Musical
4. Memphis
3. West Side Story
2. The Story of My Life
1. next to normal (BELOW)

Here's to an even better 2010!

Comments? Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 in Review: JK's Theatre Awards, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I named 30 winners in 26 categories covering non-performance achievement on Broadway. Today, will do the same (27 winners in 25 categories) in performance related achievement on Broadway. Again, this year, December 1, 2008 - November 30, 2009 counts as "2009." (If you can think of a snazzy name for them, send it in!)

THE 2009 JK'S THEATRESCENE AWARDS: THE PERFORMANCE AWARDS


Best Chemistry: TIE: Haydn Gwynne and any Billy Elliot (ABOVE, with Trent Kowalik); and Adam Chanler-Berat and Jennifer Damiano as Henry and Natalie in next to normal; and Malcolm Gets and Will Chase in The Story of My Life.

Best Change of Heart: The return of almost all the English lyrics in West Side Story.
Best Last Minute Change: The new "I'm a Believer" curtain call at Shrek: The Musical.

Best New Song Written for a Broadway Musical: "Superboy and the Invisible Girl" from next to normal.
Best Broadway Catchphrase: "Huckadoo!" from Memphis. It works in any tone and any mood.


Best Show I Missed: The Neil Simon Plays, both Brighton Beach Memoirs, which opened, and Broadway Bound, which did not. (ABOVE)
Best Graceful Exit from Broadway: The Neil Simon Plays. The producers' statement was the most sincere, heartfelt "I'm sorry we have to let you go" speech in employment history.

Best Understudy - Male: Jay Armstrong Johnson in Hair. If you see a little white slip with his name on it, be thankful. You are in very good hands.
Best Understudy - Female: Jessica Phillips in next to normal. If you see a little white slip with her name on it, be thankful. You are in very good hands.
Best Replacement: Kyle Dean Massey in next to normal. (ABOVE)

Best Debut: Kate Baldwin in Finian's Rainbow
Most Under-appreciated Actor: Malcolm Gets
Most Under-appreciated Actress: Haydn Gwynne
The Grin and Bear It Award: The Cast of Shrek: The Musical


Best Kiss - Straight: TIE: Cheyenne Jackson and Kate Baldwin (ABOVE) in Finian's Rainbow (romantic!); and Adam Chanler-Berat and Jennifer Damiano in next to normal (aww).
Best Kiss - Gay: Kieran Campion and Austin Lysy in The American Plan (steaming hot).
Best Kiss - Period: Billy's kiss goodbye to Michael. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.


Best Surprise Show: Memphis. I went in with no expectations and left flying high. (ABOVE)
Best "Hit" Show*: West Side Story.
Best "Flop: Show*: The Story of My Life.
Best Challenging Show: next to normal.

Best Non-musical Performance in a Musical: Jim Norton in Finian's Rainbow.
Best Broadway Performance Not on a Broadway Stage: The Cast of Glee.



Broadway Star of the Year: Angela Lansbury. Do I really need to explain why?

* - "Hit" and "Flop" per the definition in Variety.

Comments? Leave one here or write to me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 in Review: JK's Theatre Awards, Pt. 1

Well, I am biting the bullet and creating "Best of 2009" lists, which you will be seeing all week. Since I didn't see any shows in December of 2009, I'll count 2009 as December 1, 2008 - November 30, 2009. And since I am seeing shows in January 2010, next year 2010 will actually be 2010!

Later in the week, I'll blog about my favorite shows, actors and actresses for the year, as well as those that disappointed me. But I thought I'd start out with some "JK's TheatreScene" Awards for 2009, mostly to recognize things not normally covered by traditional awards. Couldn't think of a snazzy name for mine - feel free to send your ideas to me - so here they are, in no particular order:

THE 2009 JK'S THEATRESCENE AWARDS: THE NON-PERFORMANCE AWARDS


Best Place to Eat Cheap and See Broadway Stars: The Cafe Edison in the Edison Hotel
Best Place to Eat Cheap and Still Afford Broadway Shows: Dallas BBQ on 42nd Street (ABOVE)

Most Welcome Opening in New York: The New TKTS Booth in Times Square
Most Fun in Times Square: Being a sandwich board person for a Broadway show (BELOW)



Best PR for a non-Show (So far): The PR for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Best PR for a Broadway Show: The PR for Ragtime - it is EVERYWHERE these days!
Most in Need of PR for a Broadway Show: The lack of PR for Memphis - It should be a blockbuster.
Gone, But Not Forgotten: Garage ads for Cry-Baby - Until very recently, the parking garage near the Henry Miller Theatre had banners for Cry-Baby that ran the length of a block, from door to door. In just the past month or so they finally changed them to Wintuk.


Best Ads/Logo - Play: After Miss Julie (Above)
Best Ads/Logo - Musical: Memphis
Best Ads/Logo - Broadway-related: Broadway Bares 19.0 (Below)
Best Show Website: TIE: Hair and Ragtime - Lots of cool stuff, very easy to navigate and both are true to their shows






Best Lemons from Lemonade: TIE: Getting Roseland for the BCEFA Flea Market and creating a children's book from the song "The Butterfly" from a flop show, The Story of My Life

Best New Trend: Shows moving from Broadway to Off-Broadway (Avenue Q, The 39 Steps)

Most Comfortable Theatre: The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, home of MTC. LEG ROOM IN EVERY ROW!!!

Best Stage Door Behavior: TIE: Chad Kimball at the Shubert Theatre, above, (Memphis) and Alice Ripley at the Booth Theatre (next to normal). They talk directly to each person in line as if they are the only ones there. They sign (Alice draws her name so she has more time with each person) and take pictures and really go out of their way to show appreciation to the fans.
Worst Stage Door Behavior: Why ruin a nice awards blog? But you know who I'm talking about!



Best Broadway Cheerleader: By far, the nicest guy on Broadway, Tony-winner Gregory Jbara.
Best Broadway News to Make National Headlines: The entire company of Hair took a day off from the show (with the producers' backing!) to attend and perform at the Equality March for Gay Rights and Marriage in Washington, DC. Pictured above, Gavin Creel.
The Hardest Working Cast of a Broadway Show: Hair. Like Visa, they were everywhere this year. Eskimos and Sarah Palin even knew Hair was back on Broadway.

Best Thing to Do When Not Attending a Show: Watching Broadway stars tear up TV on Glee!


Best Merchandise Related to a Musical: The pillbox available at next to normal. (ABOVE)
Best Merchandise Related to a Play: Donuts at Superior Donuts.
Best Merchandise Trend: TIE: Cheaper window cards at the actual show (next to normal/Finian's Rainbow/Memphis) and souvenir programs made entirely of recycled paper and environmentally friendly inks (Hair/West Side Story)
Most Missed Merchandise: Playbill Collector cards. It's like taking away baseball cards from Yankee fans...
Merchandise I Wish I Had Invented: Taking legitimate advertising brochures (they are free all over Times Square) and decoupaging them to glassware and cardboard purses and charging $75 and up!

Best Free Merchandise and Most Clever: The "lighters" that you get when you enter Rock of Ages. What would 80's hair band rock be without a lighter?

Comments? Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 in Review: Trends in Theatre

Here is a look at some of the trends I've noticed over the past year in theatre, particularly the New York scene. As you will see, some trends started several seasons ago and continue, while others got their start just this year.

Please feel free to add your ideas and argue mine! Jeff

THEATRE TRENDS IN 2009


10. Embracing the non-traditional: OK, so Broadway...theatre... by its very nature has a certain "non-traditional-ness" about it. I mean, really, dancing gangs? Cats that tell their life stories while vying for a place in Heaven? Anyway, I think embracing the non-traditional really started taking hold way back when Avenue Q took dirty puppetry and masturbation mainstream... or was it when Hairspray mixed the traditional format with highly non-traditional aspects - a man plays the mother, why? That same season, and for several performances later, audiences flocked to Movin' Out, a show that is sung by one and danced by many. The trend continued with such hits as The Drowsy Chaperone, Xanadu, Cry-Baby, and today with Rock of Ages. These days you often read about the "odd ball Tony nominee," that off-center show that tickles critics and gets nominated with a host of the more traditional. I guess that qualifies it as a trend.


9. The Internet: Again, this is not new news. What makes the Internet a continued trend in 2009 is in the statistics. In 2009, more people bought Broadway show tickets over the Internet than any other way, more people get their theatre news from the Internet than from newspapers or TV. And just look at the websites for shows! They range from the simple to navigate (A Little Night Music) to the complex (Disney Shows all-in-one, Mamma Mia!) and everything in between. And then there is this. I mean, here I am talking to you via a computer blog. Blogs, I don't think even existed 10 years ago.


8. Downsizing: From Broadway to Off-Broadway: It makes perfect economic sense. You've exhausted your mainstream Broadway audience with a medium production value, but huge critical hit. Lower off-Broadway costs means you can lower ticket prices and keep audiences coming. Why is this a trend in 2009? Because two Broadway shows have or are doing just this: Avenue Q and The 39 Steps. For these shows it makes sense; for Wicked, I doubt that day will come. But it also points out something most of us have known for years. The line between Broadway and off-Broadway has less to do with quality and only to do with the number of seats in a theatre. I suspect there are a lot of producers holding their breaths to see how this pans out.


7. Revivals: Balancing Cheap with Concept: Before the economic downturn, downsizing was the conceptual rage in the beginning of the new millennium, thanks in large part to a little show called Chicago. Several high profile shows went the paired down route to much acclaim, and deservedly so - Nine, Company and Sweeney Todd all seemed (to most critics and audiences) like completely fresh takes on classic gems. True, these four are textually rich enough to withstand and even invite re-conceptualization. But as both Finian's Rainbow and A Little Night Music have proven, not all that glitters is Wal-mart cheap. In the case of Rainbow, it looks cheap and is because it tried to stretch a Chicago-eque beginning into a fuller, more lavish evening with zero result. In the case of Night Music, the one universal pan of the critics was on the bare bones approach to its staging. Some shows, it seems require glitz and glamour in addition to a good cast, book and score. As we work our way out of this recession, I suspect producers and designers will continue to struggle with this.


6. Male-centric shows: I suppose this one goes back to Jersey Boys, mans men if there ever were any. But there are increasingly male-centered shows on the Great White Way, and none have approached the success of the Four Seasons show at the Wilson. Still, it is nice to see them try, finally recognizing that men can be emotional, funny subjects. The jury is still out on Memphis and Fela!, but shows like The Story of My Life, and from seasons past like High Fidelity met quick demises. And it can't all be Will Chase's fault! He is, after all, in a male-centric juggernaut, Billy Elliot, as we speak. And just look at A Steady Rain!


5. Backstage drama makes a comeback: Speaking of Jersey Boys, Billy Elliot and Memphis, as well as the incoming Million Dollar Quartet and the recently departed Dreamgirls, it seems Broadway loves a backstage story again. Except for Billy Elliot, we could narrow it down even more - backstage drama in the music business is the trend. I think we owe a bit of debt to the mothers of all backstage drama, Applause, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line and The Phantom of the Opera, for this trend. One hopes that the new kids on the block don't meet the fate of Buddy.


4. Turning a flop into a media event: We can trace this trend back to the never say die attitude of the creators of Chess, which this year made a comeback of sorts with a star-studded concert, PBS airing, DVD and CD release. Not bad for a show that ran 68 performances and 17 previews on Broadway. Still, that show has the clout of Tim Rice and a beloved score by ABBA's Benny and Bjorn. Plus, it is an international hit of sorts. More mystifying is the same lavish treatment being given to A Tale of Two Cities. It had marginal Broadway stars and a book and score by a novice. And yet, after only 33 previews and 60 performances, it got the star-studded concert, PBS airing, DVD and CD release this year as well. But perhaps the grand daddies of them all this year were The Story of My Life (19 previews, 5 performances), plus a book and a cast recording; and Glory Days (17 previews, 1 performance), plus a CD that generated two huge benefit cast signings in VA and NYC. To be fair, and having seen both shows, neither deserved the drubbing they got and both stand a great chance of being regional theatre staples.


3. The Economy: OK, I hate to blame everything on the economy, but, it does have its impact. Shows that might have held on longer - that got good reviews - were the economy more stable. Just look at Oleanna and Brighton Beach Memoirs. Then there are the shows that didn't make it in at all - Broadway Bound and Godspell (although it looks back on track, mostly due, I bet to the success of Hair), and the shows that skipped Broadway and opened off - Vanities. Still, it is hard to entirely blame the economy when Wicked, Jersey Boys and Billy Elliot continue to pack them in. And look at A Steady Rain.


2. Showtunes go mainstream: There was a time when show tunes were the mainstream. People often say, "not since Hair," but actually the last number one pop song that came from a cast recording was 1983-84's "One Night in Bangkok," from Chess. Anyway, with the advent of jukebox musicals, you can't turn on the radio without a "show tune" coming on, be it "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Uptown Girl," or "Danging Queen." But this year it really took off with one Susan Boyle heating up the charts with her "I Dreamed a Dream," Green Day turning two entire albums into a musical (will the new version of "21 Guns" get to number one?), and the top iTunes of the year coming from shows like Dreamgirls, Funny Girl and Cabaret... courtesy of this year's number one trend...


1. Bursting into song in TV: Lots of TV shows lately have tried musical episodes - from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Simpsons. But no show since the notorious Cop Rock have done so in every episode. That is until this year with Fox's mega-hit Glee. You'd have to be under a rock not to know about this show. And its impact on pop culture has been immediate - iTunes, number one albums... let's hope that the media doesn't over-expose this gem. And, I am safe in saying that a great deal of its success lays in the hands of its uber-talented cast, including Broadway's Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele and guests Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Debra Monk, John Lloyd Young and soon, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff.

Comments? Please leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On the Radar: The Scottsboro Boys


Like people who go to action and horror movies to get their vicarious fill of murder, violence and mayhem, I tend to get the maximum enjoyment out of theatre that provides me the vicarious thrill of delving into the dark side of the human experience. I think that seeing the performers live and just a few feet away makes the thrill even greater.

I bring this up because as I look back on similar "On the Radar" and review blogs, I notice (and you might, too) that I am drawn to musicals that have a darker side to them - Memphis, next to normal, Bonnie and Clyde, and even Wonderland. And so, too, is the next musical I've put on my personal radar: The Scottsboro Boys by John Kander, Fred Ebb (music and lyrics) and David Thompson (book), with direction and choreography by Susan Stroman.

This show, which was workshopped earlier in 2009, and will subsequently be produced by The Vineyard Theatre, is a musical about about a sad chapter in American history. In the 1930's nine black men were sentenced to death by a jury comprised entirely of whites for the rape of two white women on a freight train. After spawning several riots and protests, the Supreme Court overturned their death sentence, effectively killing the notion that a juror can be excluded because of his/her race. They did not, however, over turn the conviction and the men spent much time in prison.


Word-of-mouth and an article in The New York Post said of the workshop that this is Kander, Ebb and Stroman at their best, saying that the music and lyrics (as well as the staging) hearken back to the time when they were doing "adult," "serious and thought-provoking work," not unlike the shows Sondheim and Prince once did. Stroman's work, with just a few chairs and a bare stage apparently showed as much or more creativity than her previous works, The Producers and Crazy for You.

The Vineyard company will be headed by Tony-winner John Cullum, Brandon Victor Dixon(above), who also did the workshop, and Colman Domingo. Other cast members include Sean Bradford, Josh Breckenridge, Derrick Cobey, Rodney Hicks, Kendrick Jones, Forrest McClendon, Julius Thomas III, Sharon Washington, Cody Ryan Wise and Christian White.

This entirely new production, staged by Stroman (below) as a minstrel show, with Cullum acting as "interloper" between the whites and the coloreds, features one of the last full works Kander and Ebb completed before Ebb's death in 2004. Boys sounds similar in tone to their dark, but richly satisfying The Visit, and marks a departure from their more "show bizzy" works like the recent Curtains.


What the future will hold for this show (and The Visit) remains to be seen. But in these capable hands and with the backing of The Vineyard (birthplace of [title of show] and Avenue Q) it is as bright as it can be. Tickets go on sale on January 4; the show runs February 12 - March 21, 2010, with an Opening Night scheduled for March 10.

Photos: TOP: Kander and Ebb (Getty Images); CENTER: The Scottsboro Boys (Getty Images) and Brandon Victor Dixon (Broadway World.com); and BOTTOM: Susan Stroman (from her website).

Comments? Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff
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