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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

Friday, May 31, 2013

The 2012 - 2013 Broadway Box Office Final Analysis

Earlier this week, the Broadway League released the box office figures for the 2012 - 2013 season.  As you probably know, the total gross was a tidy $1.14B, and attendance at 11.6M.  The season's gross was statistically insignificant in differene to the 2011 - 2012, though attendance was down 6%.  So, if you think you are paying more for theatre tickets, you are right.  The dip in attendance, however, also corresponds to the dip in playing weeks, which was also down 6% from 2011 - 2012.

All season, I've been tracking the Broadway Box Office, and ranking the shows according to % of Gross Potential, Average Ticket Price, and Attendance.  Below, I have prepared a complete chart of all 80 shows that played Broadway between June 1, 2012 and May 31, 2012. (The official figures ran through May 26.  The first week of the 2013 - 2014 season ends June 2, 2013.)  

I have separated out the 5 "Special Engagements" because they represent a statistcal anomoly. The other 75 shows are ranked 1 - 75 in each of the 3 categories, then totalled.  The totals this season could range anywhere from 3 points through 225 points.  The show with the lowest total is top ranked, and so on.  The final totals and rankings are listed in the far right columns.  An "*" denotes a tie at that number.

THE TOP FIVE SHOWS (Note that there is only 2 are musicals!)
The Book of Mormon
Lucky Guy
Death of a Salesman
I'll Eat You Last
Glengarry Glen Ross*
The Lion King*

THE TOP FIVE NOT-FOR-PROFIT SHOWS (Because, until they go into extended runs (Harvey) or transfer (Other Desert Cities), their totals will always be skewed by lower ticket price averages.)
Harvey 
The Nance
The Assembled Parties
The Other Place
The Columnist

Note: This season, Anything Goes, War Horse, Other Desert Cities and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike were all commercial runs and/or transfers.

THE 2012 -2013 BROADWAY SEASON BOX OFFICE

SHOW
GROSS
POTENTIAL
GP
RANK
AVG.
TICKET
PRICE
ATP
RANK
ATTEND
ATTN
RANK
TOTAL
RANK
PTS.
FINAL
RANK
*Frankie
Valli
99.52%
B
$123.34
B
92.59%
B
B
B
*Lewis
Black
110.00%
A
$90.14
E
100.29%
A
A
A
*Manilow
on
Broadway
71.76%
D
$120.98
D
80.46%
D
E
E
*Mike Tyson 
70.44%
E
$133.18
A
70.88%
E
D
D
*The Rascals
89.56%
C
$121.58
C
91.77%
C
C
C
A Christmas
Story
73.47%
16
$94.09
20
89.56%
17
53
17
A Streetcar Named Desire
38.02%
59
$66.49
55
61.49%
65
179
65
An Enemy of the People
32.75%
63
$47.28
72
76.52%
38
173
61
Ann
27.61%
71
$64.96
57
51.54%
72
200
72
Annie
67.29%
19
$87.81
29
77.44%
34
82
24
Anything Goes
32.43%
65
$69.16
52
83.12%
24
141
42
Breakfast at Tiffany's
40.07%
54
$66.40
56
63.82%
62
172
58*
Bring It On







55*
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof







28*
Chaplin







49
Chicago







25*
Cinderella







19
Clybourne
Park







41
Cyrano de Bergerac







58*
Dead Accounts







57
Death of a Salesman







3
Don't Dress for Dinner







69
Elf







23
End of the Rainbow







67
Evita







20
Fela!






68
Ghost







53
Glengarry
Glen Ross







5*
Godspell







73
Golden Boy






66
Grace







52
Hands on a Hardbody







70*
Harvey






22*
I'll Eat You Last






4
Jekyll and Hyde






70*
Jersey Boys







13*
Jesus Christ Superstar







54
Kinky Boots







16
Lucky Guy







2
Macbeth







31
Mamma Mia






30
Mary
Poppins







33
Matilda







13*
Memphis







50*
Motown







8*
Newsies







12
Nice Work If You Can Get It







32
Once







8*
One Man, Two Guvnors







18
Orphans







37
Other Desert Cities







38
Peter and the Starcatcher







44*
Picnic







58*
Pippin







10
Porgy and
Bess







43
Priscilla 
Queen of the Desert







63*
Rock of Ages






11
Scandalous







76
Sister Act






45*
Spider-Man







15
The Anarchist







50*
The Assembled Parties







40
The Best Man







25*
The Big Knife






62
The Book of Mormon






1
The Columnist






48
The Heiress







25*
The Lion King






5*
The Lyons







74
The Mystery of Edwin Drood







55*
The Nance






36
The Other Place







45*
The Performers






75
The Phantom of the Opera







21
The Testament of Mary






63*
The Trip to Bountiful







39
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike






28*
Venus in Fur






35
War Horse







34
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?







47
Wicked







7
Jeff
4.264

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The 2013 Tony Awards: The Best Musical Revival Nominees on TV

2 DAYS LEFT TO PICK THE NOMINEES FOR THE 3RD ANNUAL JKTS AWARDS! 
CLICK THE GREEN BOX TO YOUR RIGHT, LOAD THE PAGE, 
AND SCROLL DOWN TO BEGIN! 
NOMINATIONS CLOSE AT NOON ON SATURDAY, JUNE 1!

So, how are the Best Musical Revival nominees trying to draw full houses?  HERE's a look at the television commercials for the first two of the four nominees: Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella and Pippin.  Today, let's look at Annie and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

I offer a few thoughts below...

Annie

Commerial #1 - "Hard Knock Life"



Commerial #2 - "Tomorrow"



Commerial #3 - "I Don't Need Anything But You"




  • With but 1 Tony Award nomination, it makes sense that the awards aren't even mentioned in these ads.
  • At about 15 seconds each, again the producers have made a smart economic move - 3 ads for a little more than what one would cost.
  • Bang for the buck: high quality video in front of a green screen - no fees for the set and lights and associated costs; and the look is both "traditional" Annie and it looks so slick and modern!
  • Even if the TV viewer leaves the set for a potty break, he'll/she'll still hear the infectious "Hard Knock Life" and "Tomorrow," the ultimate Broadway earworm.
  • And for theatre fans who might be more interested in the show if someone was in it they want to see, there's Anthony Warlow and up-and-comer Lilla Crawford in "I Don't Need Anything But You."  No Jane Lynch, you ask? Well, that's a lot of cash to put out for a limited run.
  • Overall, I'd say that the producers have taken the show's depression-era themes to heart and have spent their money wisely.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood




  • Sadly, Drood is no longer with us.  But this commercial probably helped it extend its limited engagement.  And they sure crammed a lot into 30 seconds!
  • Want stars in your show? How about all of the abve-the-title celebs doing appearances in character?!
  • Need to know that the critics loved it? A full screen list of news logos while the voice over tells us the "raves are in!" should do the trick.
  • But to really hit home a common theme of those reviews and the show itself  the screen shows "fun" quotes!
  • And the show itself shows well - cross cuts of the lavish sets and costumes, the dancing and the stars in action (you can't beat a glimpse of Chita Rivera's gams)!
  • All of it makes me sad that the show has closed.  It was certainly a bright spot in an iffy season.


Then came the news that Drood wouldn't be on the Tonys, either.  In typical Drood fashion, Tony nominees Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase offer this funny video.  Isn't it nice and kinda sad to see that everything from Drood is still up at Studio 54?  Enjoy!



Jeff
4.263

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

REVIEW: The Assembled Parties


Review of the Wednesday, May 22 evening performance at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.  Starring Jessica Hecht, Judith Light, Jeremy Shamos, Jake Silbermann.  A new play by Richard Greenberg. Directed by Lynne Meadow.  2 hours 35 minutes including one intermission.  Closes July 7.

Grade: A

It has been just over a week since I saw The Assembled Parties, the Tony nominated play by Richard Greenberg.  And the play still sticks in my mind.  I find myself thinking of my funny, quirky relatives, family members long dead, and even my relationship with my sister.  In short, I keep finding myself drifting back to moments in the play and then imposing my life on it.  In its review of the same show, The New York Times wrote that they just don't write plays like this anymore.  And it is true.  It is a work of quiet moments, of intricate, complex relationships, of regrets and self-delusion.  There are no fancy bells and whistles, no extreme staging.  What there is, though, is some dazzling acting in a smart, funny play that requires its audience to give it their full attention.

Greenberg's play concerns a well-to-do Jewish family in New York City in 1980 and 2000.  The first act is a fast-paced series of scenes that reveal the relationships between all of the characters and how they keep each other at arms length, though each one of them would swear they were a close family.  Director Lynne Meadow keeps things moving with a constantly spinning apartment set, brilliantly designed by Santo Loquasto, with each scene actually happening nearly simultaneously.  The playwright, along with the direction and set movement, reveal this timeline slyly, with a simple line - calling the family together for holiday dinner - repeated frequently.  The result is a surprisingly taut and even intense act which finds the "close family" at odds and spread throughout the expansive Upper West Side apartment.  It is only in the final moments of the act that all of the parties assemble.  The meal is tense - on the surface, a typical holiday meal for many a family.  The difference here is that we are privy to the real causes of the familial tension, far beyond the nagging, nit-picking and petty arguments that take up the final moments of the last scene.  Nowhere is the effect of this typical/atypical dynamic more clear than in the actions and responses of the lone guest at the dinner.  The curtain falls as the meal begins.

The Assembled Parties Company

Act two is just as intense - there is much more at stake 20 years later - even as the action stops almost completely.  Now we see the same apartment - entryway and hall, living room and dining room beyond.  Instead of seeing one room at a time, we now see one large portion of the apartment and nothing more.  Now, the survivors of the family come together two decades later for another holiday meal.  The matriarchs are older and they see the finish line of life much clearer and closer than some 20 years ago.  Husbands are gone, children are lost, either by death or by poor life choices.  And that house guest is now as much a part of the family as anyone related by blood.  These people are together not out of obligation, but out of necessity.  The remaining parties have reassembled because they must depend upon each other now as never before.  Not much happens, action-wise, but what Greenberg is saying about family is profound in the larger sense, and deeply personal on the individual level.  One needn't be wealthy, Jewish or from the city to relate to this play (I am none of those things, yet I find myself connecting these characters to my own family.)

On the surface of it, none of the characters who don't make it to act two make much of an impression.  They are, it seems, little more than plot devices and mechanisms for the story that happens between acts.  But it is to all of their credit that the actors still manage to do just that.  As the elder husband is played with a pointed grumpiness by veteran actor Mark Blum, while his daughter, an awkward wall flower, is played with an almost embarrassing realness by Lauren Blumenfeld.  The younger husband, a fake, touchy-feely guy who hides his displeasure with his life very poorly, is played by an uncomfortably edgy Jonathan Walker.  In a brief scene in act one, young Alex Dreier is an adorable younger brother, ailing that night and loving the attention his illness brings him.  (His character appears in act two as an adult.) As I said, all four make an impression, even as the playwright makes sure their impact, while everlasting in the bigger picture, is almost non-existent in terms of the play's real time moments.

Jake Silbermann and Jessica Hecht

The quartet at the heart of the play offer four of the year's most compelling performances.  None of the four are as flashy as other roles in the plays this season, but that actually makes the detail and "realness" each actor brings to the stage all the more remarkable.  Most famous as a soap actor from As the World Turns, Jake Silbermann makes an excellent Broadway debut in his dual roles - the idealized, smart college aged son in act one, the equally brilliant, but personally and socially awkward younger brother, (played in act one by Alex Dreier) now 20 years older in act two.  This latter role is much larger, and much trickier.  In a play that relies on the spoken word, a lesser actor would stick out like a sore thumb.  Instead, Silberman makes this character's awkwardness and lack of good decision-making skills a part of his physicality, while his smarts and educated brilliance comes flowing out of his mouth with an ease usually reserved for the most verbose of characters - his vocabulary is enormous and intriguing, as is watching this sad young man navigate a familial minefield.  Silbermann's overall air of weariness tells us wordlessly that the guy he's playing has been through this all too often - the lesser sibling living under the impossible shadow of a lost and beloved older brother.

As the friend who is witness to the family's intrigue in act one, and who is inextricably interwoven into it in act two, Jeremy Shamos is riveting to watch.  Between his career-defining role last season in Clybourne Park, and this low-key, but viscerally intriguing character, Shamos is quickly proving himself to be one of his generation's most watchable and skilled stage actors.  In a role that requires him to actually be an awkward shlub of a best friend to Mr. Perfect, he navigates act one with an edge that makes him someone you want to watch, even if in real life you'd never befriend him.  Act two is even more complicated, giving the actor the task of maintaining that awkwardness, not because it is expected, but because it is so, while we must also believe that his relationship with family and family matters has evolved naturally.  Shamos also more than holds his own in several scenes where it is just him and the two actresses giving two of the season's most exciting performances.

Shamos, Hecht and Light: The Bascov Family circa 1980

Shamos, Hecht and Light: The Bascov Family circa 2000

The vastly, regularly underrated Jessica Hecht is the compelling matriarch of the family, a former actress who lives her life with an outward naivete and ethereal cadence to her voice, and an inner strength and savvy that makes her character both interesting watch and commanding to listen to.  Act two finds her character at a crossroads in many ways - some she is aware of, others of which she is blissfully unaware.  Of course, we are aware of it all, and watching Ms. Hecht march triumphantly at all costs through life in act one, and angelically above it all in act two is both a joy to watch and tragic to contemplate.  In a season full of great performances by a variety of actresses, it is truly a shame that she has been overlooked this awards season.

For the third season in a row, the magical Judith Light has taken the New York stage by storm.  It would be easy to dismiss this role as little more than a variation/combination of her two previous roles.  And you could even make the case that she has been so lauded for this role because she has the best, funniest lines.  But let's be real here.  Ms. Light is an amazing actress with dramatic depth and comic timing that is nearly unparalleled by anyone of her generation.  Comedy, any actor will tell you, is very difficult to play, and this role requires a woman of a certain age to come in with the force of a lightning bolt, all while containing it in a wounded, self-pitying bottle.  It is true that every time she takes the stage in this play that the energy level in the whole theatre threatens to blow the roof off the place, but that has as much to do with the character she's playing as the actress herself.  Light's task is not a small one: we must believe that her character believes that all of her woes, self-imposed or not, are real, just as much as we must believe that way down deep the woman she's playing knows her life isn't all that bad, either.  Such simultaneous duplicity is challenging at best, and Ms. Light rises to the occasion brilliantly.  Her act two monologue - one that will surely become an audition staple - is a bravura performance all by itself.  I won't be surprised or disappointed if/when she wins her second Tony in as many years.

A play about marginally annoying people that requires you to listen and think even as it happens may not be everyone's bag.  But when a play gets richer in your mind a week after seeing it, you have to take notice and give it its due.  A rare thing, indeed; they just don't write them like this anymore.

(Photos by Joan Marcus)

Jeff
4.262

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The 2013 Tony Awards: Best Musical Revival Nominees on TV (Part I)

4 DAYS LEFT TO PICK THE NOMINEES FOR THE 3RD ANNUAL JKTS AWARDS! 
CLICK THE GREEN BOX TO YOUR RIGHT, LOAD THE PAGE, 
AND SCROLL DOWN TO BEGIN! 
NOMINATIONS CLOSE AT NOON ON SATURDAY, JUNE 1!


So, how are the Best Musical Revival nominees trying to draw full houses?  Here's a look at the television commercials for the first two of the four nominees: Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella and Pippin.

I offer a few thoughts below...

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella



This commercial hits all the right buttons, in my opinion:

  • Right off the bat, the voice over tells us it is the Rodgers and Hammerstein version, while a bouncy tune plays in underscore.  The point is later emphasized when he mentions South Pacific and The Sound of Music.
  • Visually, we see the iconic image of all versions of the story: Cinderella running down the palace steps at midnight (the clock looms largely), with the Prince in hot pursuit.
  • The words on the screen start right off with the 9 Tony Award Nominations, then in between scenes, the critical quotes hit home the idea that the show is a hit.
  • The scenes shown do double duty: we see scenes familiar to any version of the story - the wicked step-mother and sisters in cahoots; the pumpkin coach on the way to the ball, the fairy godmother overseeing it all.  At the same time, the scenes show that it is a big splashy musical - lots of dancing, pretty costumes and magical stage effects.
  • And it ends perfectly: Voiceover says, "Broadway's most romantic night," just as Cinderella and her Prince share a magical, romantic kiss.

Pippin


A commercial that is as thrilling as the show it is advertising:

For the avid theatre fan:

  • Notice that the commercial mimics the show logo

For the Fosse/original Pippin fan:

  • The Fosse moves start in silhouette, and are featured at each "punch" in the music
  • The underscoring is a montage of the most familiar tunes of the original score: "Corner of the Sky," "Magic to Do," and "Morning Glow."

For fans of new, modern musicals:

  • Nothing about this looks like an "old show."  Sexy costumes, spectacular effects and circus/magic tricks.
  • For the teen/college crowd - a key demographic for this production:
  • Sexy young guy featured prominently. Sexy, young, muscular chorus boys.  Pretty girls in sassy outfits being tossed about by the sexy, young, muscular chorus boys.

For those who need critical affirmation:

  • "Best musical of the season!" fades in with 4 or 5 newspapers listed.  "30 Award Nominations!" Enough said!  Bravo!
Jeff
4.261

Monday, May 27, 2013

THE NOMINATIONS: The 3rd Annual JKTS Awards

CLICK THE GREEN DRAMA MASKS TO YOUR RIGHT.
THEN SCROLL DOWN
YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO SEE THE POLL THEN!
THEN DON'T JUST LOOK! 
DO THE NOMINATIONS BALLOT ALREADY!

Last week, you voted and selected 55 awards categories for this year's JKTS AWARDS.  You helped to eliminate over two dozen suggested categories, and added 12 all new categories!  (New categories were added if 5 or more of you suggested the same thing.)

And so I thank you for making these seasonal theater awards among the blogosphere's most interactive!  Below is the result of last week's efforts.

THIS WEEK'S POLL WILL CLOSE AT NOON, ON SATURDAY, JUNE 1ST!

Please be sure to read the instructions at the top of the ballot to insure that your nominations count.



Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.
Now that you are finished nominating your favorites for the 3rd Annual JKTS Awards, be sure to return to this blog on Monday, June 3rd to cast your votes for the awards themselves!



Also coming to JK's TheatreScene this week: 

  • A review of The Assembled Parties
  • A review of Far from Heaven
  • A look at the TV ads for the Tony nominees for Best Musical Revival
  • Looking Ahead: Summer 2013: Theatre for June - August


PLUS: In the coming weeks...

  • Jeff and Mike's Tony Award Predictions
  • An interview with The Nance's Jonny Orsini!
  • LIVE Blogging The Tony Awards
  • An interview with Spider-Man and Wicked's Brandon Rubendall!
  • And, of course, The Winners of the 3rd Annual JKTS Awards!


Jeff
4.260

Saturday, May 25, 2013

REVIEW: Lucky Guy

Review of the Wednesday, May 22 matinee at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City.  Starring Tom Hanks, Peter Gerety, Richard D. Masur, Christopher McDonald, Peter Scolari, Maura Tierney, and Courtney B. Vance. A new play by Nora Ephron.  Directed by George C. Wolfe.  2 hours 10 minutes, including intermission.  Closes July 3.

Grade: C

I never thought in a million years that I'd write anything with the words "Tom Hanks" and "disappointment" in the same sentence.  But here we are.  Despite a worthy stage performance by film icon Tom Hanks, the new play Lucky Guy by the late Nora Ephron was an enormous disappointment.  One has to wonder, in all fairness, how different the play would be had Ms. Ephron lived to see the production and work on her play in previews.  And I have to respect that the creative team pretty much left the work as is out of respect for the playwright.  But, as it stands, the play comes across more like a series of movie cues with general notes like, "Mike and wife have a gentle argument over anonymous call."  Unfortunately, what works in screenwriting or on the written page in general does not translate to the stage or live performance.  The overall result is that Ephron (and director George C. Wolfe) has a play that does the worst thing a play can do: 95% of it tells us everything we need to know, while only 5% of it shows us. Ah well, it is what it is.

Tom Hanks and Maura Tierney
 So what did I learn from Lucky Guy? Generally, that news reporters are a loud, foul-mouthed bunch, with a fierce loyalty to each other, until the shit really hits the fan, then they jump ship like the rest of us would have. Specifically, that famous New York columnist Mike McAlary was the loudest of them all, hungry for a story, a lead, anything that uncovers the uglier side of the city that he loves and that is his bread and butter.  He has his professional ups and downs - including the ultimate "I won't reveal my sources" show down that is the staple of all newsroom dramas.  And he has personal ups and downs - his home life faces the typical challenges when work seems to always take precedence over family, and he wages a triumphant battle over a deadly form of cancer.  It is no wonder they got Tom Hanks to play this role - when the inevitable (and hopefully much better) film is made, he can make room for another Oscar on his mantle.  To his credit, Hanks makes the most of what he is given, entirely at ease on stage, and giving his adoring fans everything they want.  Heck, there are even a few minutes when he gets to channel a version of the guy he played in Philadelphia.  Those few moments, coupled with a brief second when he has a heart-to-heart with his wife (an otherwise bored looking and oh-so-bland Maura Tierney), show us what could have been.

The reporters at the bar...
The reporters at the office...

Otherwise, the remaining two hours traffic on the stage, is a series of narration bits followed by brief scenes of dialogue that usually lead to a joke. (Picture a film with rapid, cross-cut scenes, and a voice over.)  As the stage is filled with actors I am familiar with, I was able to distinguish between the inebriated newspaper hacks that populate the stage in various pools of light (designed by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer) as they bark out the series of events that make up the plot.  If I didn't know who Peter Scolari, Christopher McDonald and Richard Masur were already, I wouldn't have been able to distinguish between any of the reporters.  They all play real life reporters, but I couldn't tell you one thing about any of them as individuals.  Not even when, at the end, there is a "roll call of death" where those that have passed announce their demise as the projections (designed by Batwin + Robin) give us their epitaphs.  Clearly designed to make us shed a tear or two, I was left dry (as was everyone around me as a matter of fact) and not feeling a whole lot more than a sense of relief that it was almost over.

Tom Hanks and Courtney B. Vance

Aside from the valiant efforts of Mr. Hanks, the only other bright spots were ensemble member Deirdre Lovejoy, who makes a significant impression in both roles she plays: one a really foul mouthed, but hilarious female reporter from early in McAlary's career (it is amazing what she does with a hand gesture and "fuck you!"), and a more earnest editor from later in his career.  What makes Ms. Lovejoy stand out is that she has the same narrative lines to yell at us that everyone else does, but she still manages to create a relatable character.  The other bright spot is the always terrific Courtney B. Vance, who does everything he can with the same, much like Ms. Lovejoy.  He manages to make a supporting character have the most emotional impact.

What does it say about a show, though, when the producers provide each audience member not only with a Playbill, but what has to be an expensive insert.  It is a full color, card stock folder with a director's note, a message from the playwright, and a separate card from the designer that explains the (unattractive) show curtain.  Sure, you find these things in many souvenir programs, but it is the content that is telling.  Wolfe tells us what we are supposed to get out of each act thematically.  Ephron tells us why Lucky Guy is a labor of love for her and her love of journalists.  Only designer David Rockwell adds much with his contribution, a fascinating explication of what might actually be a piece of stage art.

Tom Hanks as Mike McAlary

The Lucky Guy Company

Ultimately, no matter how much Wolfe has the cast move around Rockwell's set pieces, or how many different pools of light Fisher and Eisenhauer conjure up, what we are watching is a one-note exhibition of shouting, swearing and narration.  If Tom Hanks, arguably one of America's greatest actors, can't make this tribute to an interesting man more interesting, I don't think anyone can.  Hanks proves, unlike some recent film stars, that he really belongs on the Broadway stage.  I hope he comes back, and soon, but in a vehicle worthy of his talents.

(Photos by Joan Marcus)

Jeff
4.259

DON'T FORGET! 
YOU PICK THE CATEGORIES FOR THE 3RD ANNUAL JKTS AWARDS! 
NOW EXTENDED! POLL CLOSES SUNDAY AT NOON!

Friday, May 24, 2013

JKTS CHAT: 5 Quick Questions with The Book of Mormon's Christopher Rice

DON'T FORGET! 
YOU PICK THE CATEGORIES FOR THE 3RD ANNUAL JKTS AWARDS! 
NOW EXTENDED! POLL CLOSES SUNDAY AT NOON

Christopher Rice and Clay Thomson
It all started when I posted the picture to your right.  It went with a "Face of the Future" feature on Matilda's   Clay Thomson (HERE).  It hadn't even been posted 10 minutes when I got three emails asking "who is the other guy in that picture?"  By the end of the day, more than two dozen of you wrote to ask the same thing!  So I figured I'd better reach out to that "other guy."  A little Googling and a few Tweets later, and I got one of Broadway's nicest "new guys," Christopher Rice, to do an interview, so you could get to know "the other guy in the picture."  These days, he's got the daunting task of being a 7 track swing in a little show called The Book of Mormon.  And now, without further ado, here are:


5 Quick Questions with
Christopher Rice

QUESTION ONE:
Jeff:  Hi, Christopher!  Thanks so much for taking time out to chat with JK's TheatreScene.  You are the very first cast member of The Book of Mormon that I've had the pleasure of talking with, and you are the first "Swing," too!  So, let's start there... Being a swing is one of those things I hear people - even avid theatre fans - talk about, but with little actual knowledge.  Maybe you can clear it up for us.  What does a swing do?  How does that differ from being an understudy?  And are you "on call" or actually at the theatre every night?  Finally, what specifically do you cover in The Book of Mormon?

Christopher: Thanks for having me. A swing’s job is to be able to jump in for any role that you cover at any moment. You learn all of their onstage performance responsibilities as well as their offstage traffic. Your job is to make the show run as if the actor usually in the role was still there and for everything to run smoothly. At this point, I cover the 7 “Mormon boys” and all of their features. Understudies are usually onstage every night in an ensemble or smaller role. There are such things as on-stage swings, but in my case I show up at the theatre every night and am ready to jump in when needed. I also perform when people take vacations, etc.

Christopher: (Left) Me with the marquee the day I got "the call!"
(Right) In my "Hell Dream" costume

Christopher: Moving into my dressing

Christopher: First weekend on Broadway


QUESTION TWO:
Jeff:  How often have you gotten to go on in the show?  Have you ever had to swing one track for one show and a completely different track the next show?  How about a mid-show replacement?  No matter what, though, it must be a thrill to be a part of such a huge cultural phenomenon!  Are the fans crazy when you arrive at and/or leave the theatre each day?  Has your family been to see you in the show?  They must be very proud, huh?

Christopher: For a many number of reasons, I have been on quite a bit since I began in early March. I haven’t gone on for all 7 tracks yet, but I have done shows back to back as separate characters. Yeah, it is a blessing to be a part of such a great musical with such supportive fans. Hopefully my family can make the trip to see me in the show soon!

Christopher: Me as Mark in A Chorus Line
at Stages St. Louis - Summer 2011
(Photo by Peter Wochniak)


QUESTION THREE:
Jeff:  You've also been a part of two other shows that are true American cultural touchstones.  First, your BOM bio says you've been in A Chorus Line four times!  Is your background in dance?  What roles have you played in that show?  As a performer, how does that show touch you/affect you?  Why do you think it continues to strike a chord in audiences nearly 40 years after its debut - even non-performers?

Christopher:  I’ve worked really hard to become the best singer, dancer, and actor I can be. I was whipped into shape in my college dance classes, but I pushed myself really hard because I had a long way to go. In A Chorus Line (my favorite show by the way!) I’ve played both Mark and Mike (“I Can Do That”). Well, technically in one production I was Mark and covered/went on for Mike as well, so I guess I have done Mark twice and Mike two… and a half times. It is such a great show that anyone can connect with because it is about more than performing. It is about putting yourself out there for what you love.


Christopher: (Left) Outside the Fox Theater in St. Louis with Clay Thomson
on the West Side Story Tour
(Right) On for Tony (the role I covered) in West Side Story


QUESTION FOUR:
Jeff:  The other show, West Side Story, you did as part of the recent National Tour, right?  Talk about some tough dancing!  What was your favorite number to do every night?  How tough was doing that show in a different place every week (or sometimes less!)?   Your favorite city?  Did audiences respond to the show the same way all over the country or was it different depending on where you were?  What was the best part of touring?  The worst?

Christopher: West Side Story is another one of my favorites and a great first Broadway tour to learn from and experience performing every night! The dancing was exhausting and exhilarating. The vocal responses from audiences varied throughout different regions, but people left to their feet at the end of the show almost every night. Favorite city? Well, we played all over the US, Canada, and even Japan… so I would have to say Tokyo! Best Part of Touring: Seeing the world with great friends. Worst Part of Touring: living out of a suitcase and no home-cooked meals.


Christopher: (Top) Backstage in my "Blue Skies" costume
on the White Christmas Tour
(Bottom) ...me in the air! :-)

A couple of random photos from christopherriceonline.com


QUESTION FIVE:
Jeff:  Finally, back to being on Broadway.  How do you stay prepared to work, often on a moment's notice?  What kind of daily routine do you maintain to stay in shape?  How do you continue to work on training for your craft?  Do you hope, some day, to have a permanent role in the show?  Is there a role outside of BOM that you are dying to try?

Christopher: I am still relatively new so I am constantly reviewing formations and vocal parts. I work out 5 days a week to stay in shape and love taking dance classes and voice lessons to stay at my best. I am loving my time there as a swing and am learning a lot from my experience. I look forward to whatever roles and experiences I will have in the future!

Jeff: Thank you so much, Christopher!  Say "Hello!" to all of the cast from all of us at JK's TheatreScene!
Christopher: Thanks for having me!

Find out more about Christopher at http://christopherriceonline.com/
(Photos courtesy of Christopher Rice)

Jeff
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