What the Constitution Means to Me - Opens: 3.28.19 King Lear - Opens: 4.4.19 Oklahoma! - Opens: 4.7.19 Burn This - Opens: 4.16.19 Hadestown - Opens: 4.17.19 Hillary and Clinton - Opens: 4.18.19 Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus - Opens: 4.21.19 All My Sons - Previews: 4.4.19, Opens: 4.22.19 Tootsie - Previews: 3.29.19, Opens: 4.23.19 Ink - Previews: 4.2.19, Opens: 4.24.19 Beetlejuice - Previews: 3.28.19, Opens: 4.25.19

COMING UP ON THE BLOG: 3/26: CD Review: Waitress - 3/27: Around the U.S.A. in 80 Musicals: Part II: Southeast - 3/28: Welcome to the Theater! The Broadway Debuts of What the Constitution Means To Me - 3/28: #TBT: Kinky Boots OBCR - 3/29: The Friday 5

CONTACT US: (Email) (Twitter) @jkstheatrescene (Instagram) jkstheatrescene

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Friday 5: 5 Favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber Shows

I know I spend a great deal of time writing about Sondheim and Kander and Ebb on this blog. That's not to say I don't enjoy others. Having recently enjoyed a re-visit to The Phantom of the Opera, I've been thinking about Andrew Lloyd Webber a lot lately. Actually, it would be easier to name the Lloyd Webber shows I don't like - I had difficulty choosing just 5 that I consider my favorites! Here they are from 5 to 1 (plus an honorable mention!):

The Friday 5
5 Favorite Musicals of
Andrew Lloyd Webber


Though I missed this show on Broadway, I did see the National Tour (starring Melissa Manchester and several members of the Broadway company), and I loved it. "Tell Me on a Sunday" is one of my favorite songs, and Lloyd Webber's "Variations" is glorious.

#5: Cats

I know it is the "in" thing to mock and ridicule Cats, but when it was new (and I liked the revival, too) it was breathtaking and cutting edge. At the Winter Garden, it was immersive; the set was enchanting, the dancers remarkable and the music soaring. I could sit through "The Jellicle Ball" over and over...

#4: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Tuneful, fun and catchy, this is my go-to show for a pick-me-up sing-along (that's a lot of hyphens!). Is it odd that I feel a sense of pride that I can recite the colors on demand? It doesn't get much better than hearing this score with the incomparable Laurie Beechman.

#3: Jesus Christ Superstar

Powerful and better and better with each listening, Superstar will always be a favorite. I love the instrumental sections, and "Everything's Alright" is my favorite song for singing in the shower. But the sheer drama of it all is endlessly compelling. "Gethsemane" and "Heaven On Their Minds" both move me, too.

#2: Evita

I'll never forget the very first time I heard the American Cast Recording. I could not believe the power of Patti LuPone's voice, and the brilliant range of emotions she conveyed. And the score... catchy, melodic, striking. Brilliant. It says something about the work when it's most famous song is about my 10th favorite of the lot.

#1: Sunset Boulevard

I was smitten with the Sunset Boulevard from the very first note. And it remains the only show I've ever seen at the matinee, then turned around and bought tickets for that evening's performance. Of course, I love all of Norma's arias, but I really delight in the whole package that is "Let's Have Lunch." And that final sequence gives me chills at the memory of it.

Any of his shows you'd add to this list?


The answers to last week's Broadway Jeopardy! Questions:

$200: Billie, Bess, Sarah: Who is Audra McDonald?

(Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Porgy and Bess, Ragtime)

$400: Rose, Nellie, Mame: Who is Angela Lansbury?

(Gypsy, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Mame)

$600: Rose, Nellie, Eva: Who is Patti LuPone?

(Gypsy, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Evita)

$800: Rose, Aurora, Anita: Who is Chita Rivera?

(Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss of the Spider Woman, West Side Story)

$1000: Hillary, B, Nora: Who is Laurie Metcalf?

(Hillary and Clinton, Three Tall Women, A Doll's House, Part 2)


Two of three recent musicals featuring 3 actresses playing the same role

What are Fun Home, Summer and The Cher Show? (any 2) 

Fun Home: Alison: Beth Malone, Medium Alison: Emily Skeggs, Small Alison: Sydney Lucas

Summer: Disco Donna: Ariana DeBose, Diva Donna: LaChanze, Duckling Donna: Storm Lever

The Cher Show: Babe: Micaela Diamond, Lady: Teal Wicks, Star: Stephanie J. Block

Thursday, March 21, 2019

#TBT: Playbill: Meet Me in St. Louis: May 1990

The look and scale of Meet Me in St. Louis was emblematic of shows in the late 80's/early 90's. Everything about it was huge - the sets (including a gigantic, multi-floor, rotating Victorian house, an ice rink and a to-scale trolley), the costumes (turn of the last century garb for each of the seasons) and a huge cast (43), featuring stars of yesterday, today, and (they hoped) tomorrow. And still it fell mostly flat. Maybe recreating a beloved movie musical that starred beloved movie musical stars wasn't that great an idea.

My reasons for seeing the show were 3-fold. First, I wanted to see all of the Tony nominees for Best Musical before the Tonys. Second, I wanted to see George Hearn again, and the great Betty Garret, too. Plus, I didn't want to miss the much talked about young cover boy making his Broadway debut - Jason Workman, Theater World Award-winner. The other two new "names" touted as "the next big thing," Donna Kane (in the Judy Garland role) and little Courtney Peldon (in the Margaret O'Brien role). Neither went further on Broadway, though Kane played Fantine at some point. And third, there was some minor scandal surrounding the producers - a South African company headed by the show's director, Louis Burke and choreographer, Joan Brickhill. It was the innocent 80's - who didn't love a scandal?

Was the show good? Not really. It was beautiful to look at, and the highlights were just what you'd think they'd be: "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Meet Me in St. Louis
Gershwin Theatre
17 previews, 252 performances
May 1990 Company: George Hearn, Milo O'Shea, Charlotte Moore, Betty Garrett, Donna Kane, Courtney Peldon, Rachel Graham, Juliet Lambert, Christopher Scott and Jason Workman

The company included future Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones in her Broadway debut!

Check out "Dear Playbill"! It's educational! Did you know what "labanotations" are?

Though the shows were of uneven quality (many would close soon after this - including Meet Me in St. Louis - in the annual post-Tonys purge), there were plenty of opportunities to see some master Thespians. Among them: Tom Hulce, Gregg Edelman, James Naughton, Timothy Hutton, Barnard Hughes, Mary Louis Parker, Robert Morse, Eileen Heckart, Maggie Smith, Rex Harrison, Glynis Johns, Stewart Granger and Robert Morse.

Off-Broadway, on the other hand, was full of long-running hits: Driving Miss Daisy, Closer Than Ever, and Nunsense were personal favorites.

Some production photos:


Welcome to the Theater: The Broadway Debuts of Ain't Too Proud

Today we celebrate the 5 cast members from Ain't Too Proud who are making their Broadway debut tonight.

Congratulations to everyone making their dreams come true! Here's to great reviews, a terrific run, and many more opening nights.

Ain't Too Proud
Opening Night, Thursday, March 21, 2019
Imperial Theatre

(left to right)
Esther Antoine (Swing)
Shawn Bowers (Lamont)
Taylor Symone Jackson (Johnnie Mae)

(left to right)
Christian Thompson (Smokey Robinson/Damon Harris/Ensemble)
Curtis Wiley (Swing)


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

When "The Best" Isn't Your "Favorite: The Producers vs The Full Monty

It was the 2000-2001 Broadway season, and we didn't know it, but the world was in the brink of changing forever. The fall of 2000 brought me one of my all-time favorite musicals; the spring of 2001 brought one of Broadway's biggest hits of all-time. Come Tony time, that mega hit swept the awards; my favorite went home empty handed.

I'm speaking, of course, of The Full Monty and The Producers. I saw both shows when they were brand new. I went into both shows cold, never having seen either movie on which they were based, though I enjoyed Mel Brooks' movie Spaceballs a lot. I knew more about the book writers of both (Terrence McNally and Thomas Meehan, respectively) than the composers. Monty had an unknown composer making his debut, a guy named David Yazbek, while Producers had Brooks making his first stab at music and lyrics for the Broadway stage.

If I ever needed to prove to anyone that Tony Awards have no correlation to my level of enjoyment, I would point to The Producers as an example. It is, to date, the Tony-winningest musical in history with 12 wins, a feat that not even the current phenomenon, Hamilton, could achieve. In fact, it lost only three, all cast members who lost to fellow cast members. Despite all of that award glory, I hated it. With a passion. There were some things I appreciated - namely the fast-paced direction and slick choreography of Susan Stroman, and the performance of Cady Huffman. She was luminescent, and those legs! (Even this gay boy noticed them...)

But everything else ranged from annoying...the constant mugging of Nathan Lane and Matthew boring...the never-changing level of low humor and insulting...racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, ageist jokes (yes an old Jewish man can be those things), and the gay stereotypes were just...ick. Now understand this was years before #MeToo and being "woke," and I was that aware of it. I will cop to literally two laughs: one scripted - when a ceiling mirror revealed a kick line shaped like a swastika, mostly because it was clever and unexpected; one unscripted: Mathew Broderick messed up a line and Nathan Lane hit him with a zinger of a comeback, causing them both to giggle a little.

I did come away from the show feeling very good about one thing. I paid $38 for standing room. I got to see the "hit of the new century" for less than $40. The guy in front of me, sitting in the back row of the orchestra, paid more than $200 for less of a view. (The Producers has the dubious distinction of being the show that started Premium pricing.)

The show that I adored was the anti-Producers. The Full Monty was very funny, clever, had a message and lots of heart. It embraced the poverty-stricken, the aging, single dads, women's equality, body image and gay love. Again, this was years before #MeToo and being "woke," and I was that aware of it.

Sure, the promise of the full Monty in the finale might have gotten me in the door (and mostly for the will-they-actually-do-it curiosity and the if-so-how need to know, I swear!), but the show had me from the first notes of that weird "overture." The original cast had several established Broadway folk I was a big fan of, including Andre De Shields, Annie Golden, Kathleen Freeman and Emily Skinner. And, in retrospect, it was my first brush with several performers I've come to love, including Patrick Wilson, John Ellison Conlee, Romaine Fruge and Jason Danieley.

Being David Yazbek's first Broadway score, every number was like a new discovery. Right out of the gate was a word-play ironic number called "Scrap," followed by the one-two punch of female empowerment, "It's a Woman's World" and masculinity run amok in the aptly titled "Man." There's the now standard Yazbek naughty number full of double entendre, "Big Black Man," and the affection through humor of "Big-Ass Rock." I could write about every song; I love them all.

I really loved the organic nature of Jerry Mitchell's choreography and the sharply focused direction of Jack O'Brien. Watching the guys turn into actual dancers through basketball, or bonding over a funeral and furniture repossession was delightful. And I may have shed a tear or two.

I guess you can't say it was a failure - Monty ran for 770 performances, recouped, and did the actual full monty on national television! I miss it. How about a revival?

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