THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

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Well, my "little vacation" ended up lasting two and a half years... funny how life steers your life in directions you weren't planning on. I'll start off with occasional posts, but I fully plan to resume this blog to full speed by the new year.

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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Broadway Boys: Mr. August 2010

MAY NOT BE CONSIDERED "WORK SAFE"

I have been looking for a reason to select this guy for Broadway Boys honors, and an announcement earlier this past month made it go from an idea to a reality. 

Just this past week, Mr. August 2010 took over a leading role in the off-Broadway comedy, My Big Gay Italian Wedding.  But he does have one Broadway credit, making him eligible - he was a long-running Fender in Hairspray.  National audiences may know him from the feature film The Big Gay Musical or from his starring as Will Parker in the First National Tour of the revival of Oklahoma!  Most recently, though, Broadway audiences have watched him strut his stuff (with most of it showing!) in the recent editions of Broadway Bares.

Seeking a fully-rounded career in entertainment, not onlky does this Broadway boy do stage, film and burlesque, he also directs his own film projects.  Currently,he is at work on a documentary about Broadway Bares and its 20 editions.  An associate of Jerry Mitchell, he has been active in the creation, direction and implementation of several editions of the popular show, and seems a natural for collaborating on this documentary with Mr. Mitchell.  As with everything "Bares," all proceeds will go to charity, and they a currently seeking donations to complete the film in time for release by next year's show.  At the end of this blog, there are a few links to related sites where you can find out more about the guy, his project and Broadway Bares.  And of course, you can always go enjoy him in My Big Gay Italian Wedding.

And so here he is, boys and girls...  Mr. August 2010.... Daniel Robinson!

Whether he is feeling serious...


...or edgy, Daniel Robinson
is one handsome guy!


In Times Square...almost smiling...



Here he is representing Hairspray
in the annual Mr. Broadway Pageant!


In the competition, he showed off his
roping skills, which he surely learned...


...when he co-starred as Will Parker in


the First National Tour of Oklahoma!



Promotional art for his feature film debut,
The Big Gay Musical,which also starred Broadway regulars
Andre Ward, Marty Thomas,Liz McCartney and Jim Newman


Promoting the film on a magazine cover with co-star, Joey Dudding


Here, he poses for his favorite charity,
Broadway Bares, when he did a "Solo Strip."


And for Broadway Bares 19.0 "Click It"...


he was either a tight end or a wide receiver
on the now famous "Fantasy Football Team."


But right now , he is most busy with
My Big Gay Italian Wedding...


...with co-star Anthony J. Wilkinson.
(I love it when he smiles!)

Here is a promotional video for his documentary on Broadway Bares:




For more information on Daniel and his projects, please visit:

http://www.broadwaybaresdocumentary.com/
http://www.broadwaybares.com/
http://www.broadwaycares.org/
http://www.danielrobinsononline.com/



Comments? Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene. Or send me a question at http://www.formspring.me/ and look me up as "jkstheatrescene" or "Jeff Kyler." Go ahead! Follow me!

Jeff

Friday, July 30, 2010

Blogjack: The Responsibility Project's Young Broadway Series

Today I am totally blog-jacking another blog.  In this case it is PLAYBLOG on Playbill.com, which recently ran a blog about a series of videos featuring the "young stars of Broadway," each of whom discuss their craft and how the theme of "responsibility" effects their lives and their work.  The series, and others like it, are part of a larger effort by Liberty Mutual.

I am posting about this because: 1.  I think the whole Responsibility Project idea is one worth promoting; and 2.  I think it is important to support and show that the newer generation of Broadway stars are as serious and contemplative about their craft as their predecessors.

The three "young Broadway" actors are next to normal's Jennifer Damiano, American Idiot's Michael Esper, and Hair's Kyle Riabko.  Each offers insight into the impact of their show on them, their audiences, and of course, of responsibility.

I found all three to be honest, sincere and not at all self-involved.  Damiano's explanation about how she knows she's done her job is interesting, and the admission of just how much his personal experiences are a part of his performance really makes me respect Esper even more.  Riabko's discussion of protesters is particularly poignant given the current situation in Arizona and other places around the world.

For much more on the Responsibility Project, go to http://www.responsibilityproject.com/.

Here are the videos:

Michael Esper

The Responsibility Project

Jennifer Damiano

The Responsibility Project

Kyle Riabko

The Responsibility Project



Comments? Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene. Or send me a question at http://www.formspring.me/ and look me up as "jkstheatrescene" or "Jeff Kyler." Go ahead! Follow me!
Jeff

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

I can't say I am surprised, but I can say I am disappointed.  Come Fly Away, the Tharp-Sinatra dance musical, will play its last performance September 5 at the Marquis Theatre.  That leaves you with just 52 chances to see this show (as of today).

Only the second non-scheduled closing of a show (Next Fall being the other), post-Tonys, for weeks the show has been among the lowest in percent of attendance.  The week of July 19 - 25, it was at 49%, with only Race pulling in lower numbers.  Interestingly, it is still managing to gross more than 1/2 a million dollars each week ($547,485 last week), and it still has an average paid admission of $91.03.  Does that mean that a large number of patrons are still paying full price?  That average seems kinda high, all things considered.  Still the numbers are what they are, and they are not enough to warrant use of the cavernous Marquis.



The show got only two Tony nominations, both well-deserved: Twyla Tharp for Outstanding Choreography and Karine Plantadit (above, center) for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.  It won neither.

Personally, I loved the show and still recommend trying to get to see it.  This caliber of dancing is becoming rarer on Broadway, really.  You can read my complete review here.  I'll admit that a wordless musical, where the connection between the song and the action is not always clear, and where the story line is really there, but only if you look for it, can be a lot to ask of an audience.  I love that challenge.  And I always have to laugh when someone laments that shows don't ask much of their audiences anymore.  Because here is a show that asks a lot, and still no one came.


I suspect that the national tour, set to begin in May 2011 in Chicago, should do OK on the road, as middle (and aging) America loves its Sinatra, and the show even looks a tad like the the Lawrence Welk Show (though act two should get the blue-haired old ladies a-chattering).

And so this leaves us with our next question:  Which show will be the next to go?  I'm going to go with Million Dollar Quartet, which has no reason to be running as long as it has already.  (Race and Lend Me a Tenor are already scheduled to end, at the end of contracts, August 23 and 15, respectively.)

And I'm betting a big splashy musical - Priscilla: Queen of the Desert - will snap up the Marquis in a hurry!


Comments? Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene. Or send me a question at http://www.formspring.me/ and look me up as "jkstheatrescene" or "Jeff Kyler." Go ahead! Follow me!

Jeff

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best of the Decade: The Best Musicals, #4

The 2003 season was one of my favorites, with its two biggest hits making my top 5. Hairspray was the quintessential traditional Broadway musical (with a twist or two), while number 4, Movin’ Out, was everything Hairspray wasn’t. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and enjoyable, both shows had what a lot of more recent shows don’t. So, why is the Tony winning Best Musical just below the runner up? Because to this day, something will remind me of this dance musical and I am as enthralled by I now as I was then.

To date, Twyla Tharp’s biggest hit and most acclaimed musical is Movin’ Out. Here is a look at that show.
#4: Movin' Out -
Music and Lyrics: Billy Joel
Conception, Direction and Choreography: Twyla Tharp

Statistically Speaking:
First Preview: September 30, 2002
Opening Night: October 24, 2002
Closing Night: December 11, 2005
28 previews, 1303 performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

There were 22 cast members, lead by singer Michael Cavanaugh, opening night cast Elizabeth Parkinson (Brenda), Keith Roberts (Tony), John Selya (Eddie), Ashley Tuttle (Judy), Benjamin G. Bowman (James at all performances), and Scott Wise (who played Sergeant O’Leary and the Drill Sergeant at all performances). The alternating cast was Wade Preston (vocals), Holly Cruikshank (Brenda), David Gomez (Tony), William Marrie (Eddie), and Dana Stackpole (Judy). The ensemble included Mark Arvin, Karine Bageot, Alexander Brady, Ron DeJesus, Melissa Downey, Pascale Faye, Scott Fowler, Rod McCune, Jill Nicklaus, and Rika Okamoto. Additionally, there were 10 understudies and 6 swings.


  • Movin’ Out earned 10 2003 Tony Award Nominations, 2 wins – Billy Joel and Stuart Malina (Orchestrations) and Twyla Tharp (Choreography). The nominees included Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (John Selya), Best Actress in a Musical (Elizabeth Parkinson), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael Cavanaugh and Keith Roberts), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Ashley Tuttle), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder) and Best Direction of a Musical (Twyla Tharp).
  • The show was also nominated for 6 2003 Drama Desk Awards Nominations, winning one for Twyla Tharp (Choreography).
  • John Selya was honored with a Theatre World Award.

 Over the run of the show**, there were:
  • 2 primary and 2 alternate dancers in the role of James.
  • 1 primary and 3 alternate dancers in the role of Judy.
  • 3 primary and 2 alternate dancers in the role of Tony.
  • 2 primary and 3 alternate dancers in the role of Brenda.
  • 1 primary and 4 alternate dancers in the role of Eddie.
  • Michael Cavanaugh was the primary and Wade Preston and Darren Holden were the alternate Lead Vocalists. 
** - NOT including return engagements, understudies, swings or stand-bys.


Among the dancers who appeared in Movin’ Out that have gone on to notable Broadway credits: Michael Balderrama, Kristine Bendul, Timothy Bish, Christopher Body, Paul Castree, Kurt Froman, Lisa Gadja, Cody Green, Lorin Latarro, Marty Lawson, Matt Loehr, Charlie Neshyba-Hodges, Eric Otto, Justin Peck, Desmond Richardson, Rasta Thomas and Ron Todorowski.


My Favorite Moments in Movin’ Out:

  • The entire opening sequence, from “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” through “This Night” - Capturing and entire generation with sung narration and heart-felt dance, is a remarkable enough experience, but the range and scope of this sequence is mind-blowing.
  • “Waltz #1” - In an abrupt, unsettling way this beautiful orchestral interlude served to change the mood and thrust the story forward, as the innocent young men joined up and shipped out.
  • “Elegy (The Great Peconic)” - The grief of stage and in the audience was palpable as one of the boys comes home in a coffin. Watching Ashley Tuttle dance her grief was a humbling, tearful experience.
  • “Captain Jack/An Innocent Man/Pressure” - Eddie cannot reconcile his feelings after the Vietnam experience, so acts out in some surprising and other unsurprising ways. His downward spiral comes to a devastating end when he is forced to confront his feelings with a grieving Judy in front of him. It is unbelievable to me how much emotion and depth was portrayed by all of the Eddies I saw, and all with movement and not a single spoken word.
  • “Goodnight, Saigon” - Perhaps the most gripping 12 minutes in song and dance on the entire decade. I was mesmerized as the entire Vietnam experience was recreated in front of me. Masterful dancing, spectacular lighting and a throbbing sound effect evoked the helicopters, battles and sheer hell of war. And of having to decide between saving yourself or risking it all for a friend.


When I blogged earlier about Movin’ Out just as Tharp’s latest show, Come Fly Away, was about to open (click here for that article), I summed up my feelings thusly:

I love to watch excellent dancers perform excellent choreography (my thoughts on West Side Story corroborate that) and Movin' Out provided me with hours of such pleasure. I saw it three times on Broadway and several times on tour. It speaks to the quality of the piece, the director and the dancers that each time the show got richer and deeper, just the opposite of what happens to many long-running shows that become a parody of themselves. I sat in stunned silence the first time I saw it, and wept openly at Judy’s anguish, which closed act one, and wept yet again at the flashback sequences in act two that showed us what happened in Vietnam. As I type this all these years later, the goose bumps are fresh at just remembering the penetrating throb that went through my body as the sound of helicopters approached, hovered and finally left, an aural symbol of tat bloody conflict. I loved every single minute of it, even embracing the sweet, if unlikely ending.

It remains one of my favorite theatrical experiences of all time, and certainly among the top of the first decade of this century.

Since Broadway:

The show has continued to tour the country, with 2 Equity National Tours and now with a non-equity tour. Most of its principal dancers have continued with Ms. Tharp in her subsequent shows, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Come Fly Away.



Comments? Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene. Or send me a question at http://www.formspring.me/ and look me up as "jkstheatrescene" or "Jeff Kyler." Go ahead! Follow me!
Jeff

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Public Theater: Off-Broadway to Broadway, Again and Again

With the announcement yesterday that the Al Pacino-led production of The Merchant of Venice would have a limited run this fall/winter at the Broadhurst Theatre, and the announcement last week confirming that Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson would be transferring to the Jacobs Theatre for a commercial run, The Public Theater continues a long tradition of bringing its off-Broadway shows to Broadway.  From its downtown theater space to its outdoor Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, a wide variety of plays, musicals, one-man shows and important revivals have made the transfer to the Great White Way.

Top: The Public Theater
Bottom: The Delacorte Theatre
Legendary producer Joseph Papp began what is now known as the Public Theater back in 1955, when he began the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, offering free Shakespeare to New Yorkers for the first time.  Later, he created New York's first travelling theater.  Among the Public Theatre's many achievements, it was also among the very first professional theatres to employ "color blind casting," with no less than James Earl Jones appearing in The Cherry Orchard.  What today is common practice and rarely even noticed, was quite avante garde and controversial.  The Public Theater still operates the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, along with it's flagship space, the former Astor Public Library.


Coming This Season: The Merchant of Venice and
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Some facts:
  • The Public Theater has been awarded 42 Tonys, 40 Drama Desks and 4 Pulitzer Prizes among many awards.
  • It won the Special Tony Award 3 times: 1958, 1970 and 1984, when A Chorus Line became the longest-running show in Broadway history.
  • The Drama Desk Awards presented the company a special achievement award in 2005, in honor of its 50th anniversary.

A book about the man who started it all:
Joseph Papp

23 of its plays, musicals, revivals and one-person shows were either nominated and/or won the Tony for Best in the Category.  The winners were:
  • 1972: Best Play, Sticks and Bones
  • 1972: Best Musical: Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • 1973: Best Play, That Championship Season
  • 1976: Best Musical, A Chorus Line
1976 
  • 1981: Best Reproduction of a Musical: The Pirates of Penzance
  • 1986: Best Musical: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • 1993: Best Play: Angels in America: Millennium Approaches
  • 1994: Best Play: Angels in America: Perestroika
  • 2002: Best Theatrical Event: Elaine Stritch: At Liberty!
  • 2003: Best Play: Take Me Out
  • 2009: Best Revival: Hair
1986
Some of its most notable productions also include: The Normal Heart, The Threepenny Opera (Raul Julia), The Colored Museum, Hamlet (Kevin Kline), For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, Bring on 'Da Noise/Bring on 'Da Funk, The Wild Party, Runaways, Topdog/Underdog, and Caroline, or Change.

With these two new critically acclaimed shows, that award-winning tradition is bound to continue!


Comments: Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Questions: Ask me anything at http://www.formspring.me/. Look under "jkstheatrescene" or "Jeff Kyler."
Jeff

Monday, July 26, 2010

Best of the Decade: The Best Musicals #5

Since we are now talking the 5 BEST musicals of a whole decade, I figure each of them deserves their own blog.  And so that brings me to my 5th most favorite new musical that opened between the 2000-2001 and 2009-2010 seasons.

5.  Hairspray -

Book: Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman

Statistically Speaking: 
Began Previews: July 18, 2002 
Opening Night: August 15, 2002 
Closing Night: January 4, 2009
31 Previews, 2642 Performances at the Neil Simon Theatre

Hairspray On Tour

  • 13 Tony nominations, 8 wins: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan), Best Score (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), Best Actor (Harvey Fierstein), Best Actress (Marissa Jaret Winokur), Best Supporting Actor (Dick Latessa), Best Costume Design of a Musical (William Ivey Long), Best Direction of a Musical (Jack O'Brien).  Nominees were Jerry Mitchell (Choreography), David Rockwell (Scenic Design of a Musical), Harold Wheeler (Orchestrations), Kevin Posner (Lighting Design of a Musical), and Corey Reynolds (Best Supporting Actor).
  • Winner of 2 Theatre World Awards: Jackie Hoffman and Marissa Jaret Winokur

"The Nicest Kids in Town":
The Original Broadway Cast

Over the years**, there were:
  • 4 Corny Collins (originally Clarke Thorell) including Lance Bass and Jonathan Dokuchitz.
  • 9 Amber Van Tussels (originally Laura Bell Bundy) including Haylie Duff, Brynn O'Malley and Aubrey O'Day.
  • 9 Velma Van Tussels (originally Linda Hart) including Barbara Walsh, Michele Pawk and Karen Mason.
  • 3 Seaweed J. Stubbs (originally Corey Reynolds) including Tevin Campbell and Chester Gregory II.
  • 3 Motormouth Maybelles (originally Mary Bond Davis) including Jenifer Lewis and Darlene Love.
  • 6 Link Larkins (originally Matthew Morrison) including Ashley Parker Angel and Aaron Tveit.
  • 7 Penny Pingletons (originally Kerry Butler) including Diana DeGarmo, Jennifer Gambatese and Caissie Levy.
  • 8Wilbur Turnblads (originally Dick Latessa) including Jm J. Bullock, Jerry Mathers and Jere Burns.
  • 7 Edna Turnblads (originally Harvey Fierstein) including Bruce Vilanch, Paul Vogt, Michael McKean and George Wendt.
  • 5 Tracy Turnblads (originally Marissa Jaret Winokur) including Shannon Durig, Kathy Brier and Carly Jibson.

** - NOT including return engagements, understudies, swings or stand-bys.


Ashley Parker Angel as
Link Larkin


Lance Bass, who played Corny Collins


Diana DeGarmo and Tevin Campbell
as Penny and Seaweed

The original cast included the following actors who have gone on to some acclaim since their stint in Hairspray: Eric Anthony, Shoshana Bean, Adam Fleming, Jennifer Gambatese, John Hill, and Jackie Hoffman.

Among the replacements, these now known names made their Broadway debuts: Alli Mauzey, Jerry Mathers, Alexa Vega, Tracy Jai Edwards, Daniel Robinson, Lance Bass, and Leslie Kritzer.

The Original Turnblads: Harvey Fierstein (Edna),
Dick Latessa (Wilbur) and Marissa Jaret Winokur (Tracy) 

My Favorite Songs/Moments in Hairspray:
  • "Good Morning, Baltimore":  One of the best opening numbers ever.  From the "rats on the streets" to the bar stool for the town flasher, to the inordinate amounts of "hairspray," this number is a visual feast and one catchy tune!
  • "The Nicest Kids in Town":  The sassiest, funniest and most spot on sarcasm, parody and irony in a Broadway song, maybe ever.  Plus the dancing/staging and infectious tune...
  • "I Can Hear the Bells":  The clever conceit of characters frozen in time worked perfectly, as did the fantasy wedding, and my favorite part, Penny Pingleton walking around in "reality", playing with her gum, oblivious to it all.


Forbidden Love:
Penny (Kerry Butler) + Seaweed (Corey Reynolds)
Tracy (Marissa Jaret Winokur) + Link (Matthew Morrison)


  • "The Madison": I love a dance number for the sake of a dance number.  Jerry Mitchell's brilliant all-stage dance number seamlessly changed perspective so much so that it seemed like a surprise every time some one spoke during the scene.
  • "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now": A tribute to the generation gap, the song is hilarious and the staging, with fold out walls and "singing" posters put it wonderfully over the top.
  • "Run and Tell That": Who will ever forget the line "the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice"?
  • The "patter" during "Timeless to Me":  Sure it was a comic plant of a breaking of character, but it made the silliness sillier and the characters more real as we glimpsed the actor beneath.
  • "You Can't Stop the Beat":  The show opens with a bang and ends with an explosion.  An exciting, beautifully staged finale that left the cast breathless and the audience panting for more.


The Replacements: Aaron Tveit (top, right) as Link,
Bruce Vilanch (below, center) as Edna and Kathy Brier as Tracy

Why this show is one of my favorites:  It is funny, clever, theatrical and the perfect mix of old-fashioned and modern.  The presentation and lavish production values scream old school, but the subversive point of view and edgy humor made it a modern wonder.  And it is a show with a message; it doesn't hit you over the head with it, but rather revels in presenting all sides and still making you see what is right.  You'd have to be cold as a stone not to feel something after the anthem "I Know Where I've Been," and even colder not to find the odd-ball family that the Turnblads are still charming and utterly identifiable.

Christopher Sieber as Edna


Drew Lachey as Corny Collins

Life After Broadway:  And ever since it closed, there have been high profile tours and resident productions.  The most recent include one with Christopher Sieber as Edna, and one with Drew Lachey as Corny Collins.  The show was a huge hit in London, winning its Best Musical prize.  And of course, there was the hit film, starring John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Nikki Blonsky, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer and some kid named Zak Efron.


Artwork for the movie version

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene.  Or send me a question at http://www.formspring.me/ and look me up as "jkstheatrescene" or "Jeff Kyler."  Go ahead!  Follow me!
Jeff
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