Monday, February 19, 2018

And The Show Just Goes On And On . . .

The first time around, all of these stars played Dolly (at one time or another) in this iconic musical.
Now that Dolly is back on Broadway (where she belongs) the role has already been played by Bette Midler, Donna Murphy and Bernadette Peters. And Betty Buckley has just been signed to play Dolly in the national company which will tour. Here we go again!

Friday, February 16, 2018

One Of Broadway's Most Exuberant Moments!

The 1989 musical Grand Hotel featured this exuberant number with Brent Barrett (the taller of the two) and the incomparable Michael Jeter, who won a Tony for his performance in this show.
We were privileged to see the show and remember this number as one of the most astoundingly joyous and breathtaking moments we have ever witnessed on Broadway. Michael Jeter's performance was nothing less than miraculous.
This is why Broadway was born!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Really BIG, Really EXCITING B'way Musical News!

Harry Connick, Jr. will star as Henry Gondorff in the world-premiere production of The Sting. The musical is based on the 1973 film, and will have its world premiere at Paper Mill Playhouse for a limited run from March 29 through April 29, 2018, with book by Bob Martin, music and lyrics by Mark Hollmann & Greg Kotis with Harry Connick, Jr. In addition, the score will contain music by Scott Joplin including “The Entertainer.”

Choreographed by Warren Carlyle and directed by John Rando, the Broadway-bound engagement of The Sting will run at Paper Mill Playhouse from March 29 through April 29, 2018.

Further casting and additional creative team members will be announced in the near future.

Harry Connick, Jr. made his Broadway acting debut in The Pajama Game in 2006 earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical, followed in 2011 by On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. In addition, Mr. Connick has performed extended concert engagements on Broadway and wrote the music and lyrics for the musical Thou Shalt Not earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Original Score.

The Tony Award-winning creative team for The Sting includes director John Rando (On the Town), choreographer Warren Carlyle (Hello, Dolly!), book writer Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone), and an original score by composer/lyricist team Mark Hollmann & Greg Kotis (Urinetown) with Tony nominee Harry Connick, Jr. (Thou Shalt Not).

Chicago. 1936. Get ready to enter a smoke-filled world of cons and capers, where nothing is what it seems and no one is who they appear to be. Based on the 1973 Academy Award-winning film, The Sting tells the tale of a pair of con men, small town grifter Johnny Hooker and big-time hustler Henry Gondorff (Harry Connick, Jr.), who plot to bring down the city’s most corrupt racketeer. The Sting takes you back to an era where jazz reigns, the stakes are high, and the dice are always loaded.

The Sting will be produced on Broadway by The Araca Group, Matthew Gross Entertainment, and by Special Arrangement with Universal Theatrical Group.

The Paper Mill Playhouse production of THE STING is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the 2017-2018 Season is sponsored by Investors Bank.


HARRY CONNICK, JR. (Henry Gondorff/Music and Lyrics) Showered with awards and recognition for his live and recorded musical performances, and for his achievements on screens large and small as well as the Broadway stage, Harry Connick, Jr. has exemplified excellence in every aspect of the entertainment world, earning several Grammy and Emmy Awards and Tony nominations.

The foundation of Connick's art is the music of his native New Orleans, where he began performing as a pianist and vocalist at the age of five. His career took off when he signed with Columbia Records at 18 years old and revealed his stunning piano technique and vivid musical imagination on his self-titled debut album. To date, Connick has released 30 albums, highlighting his prodigious musical talents as a pianist, singer, songwriter, composer and orchestrator and garnering sales of over 28 million.

No stranger to the theater scene, Connick received Tony nominations for his performance as Sid Sorokin in The Pajama Game, which was hailed as “absolutely sensational” and “a Broadway debut of legendary proportions,” and for the music and lyrics he composed for Thou Shalt Not which was directed by Susan Stroman. He last performed on Broadway in the revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever following the sold-out, critically acclaimed 2010 run of Harry Connick, Jr. in Concert on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. His concerts at the Neil Simon marked the 20th anniversary of his sold-out concert series at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1990.

Connick has also made his mark as an actor in films (appearing in over 19 films such as “Dolphin Tale” with Morgan Freeman, “Hope Floats” with Sandra Bullock, “PS I Love You” with Hilary Swank, “Bug” with Ashley Judd, “Copycat” with Sigourney Weaver), and on television (“American Idol,” Will & Grace,” “South Pacific”). In the Fall of 2016 Connick launched “HARRY,” a nationally syndicated daytime television show hosted by Connick and featuring his touring band. “HARRY” reflects the unparalleled entertainment skills of Harry Connick, Jr.’s varied career and the television industry recognized the debut season of “HARRY” with five Emmy nominations, including a nomination for Best Host, and a Critics Choice nomination for Best Talk Show.

Despite his busy career, Connick has always found the time to be charitable and has done some of his most important work in his efforts to help New Orleans rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He, along with friend Branford Marsalis, conceived of “Musicians’ Village,” a community in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Musicians’ Village provides homes for Katrina-displaced musicians and its focal point, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, is an after-school teaching facility for children, a performance hall and recording studio for musicians, and a gathering place for the community.

Connick’s honors, including the induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, Honorary Doctorates from Tulane and Loyola Universities and the Jefferson Award for Public Service, have not led Harry Connick, Jr. to slow his creative pace; they only confirm his determination to apply his talents in ways that prove inspirational to other artists and publicly spirited citizens

BOB MARTIN (Book) has been working as an actor and writer in theatre, film and television for over 3 decades. He has received many awards in both Canada and the US, including a Tony for his work on the Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Recent TV projects include Slings & Arrows I, II & III, (TMN, Sundance), Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays, Michael: Everyday (CBC), Sensitive Skin I & II (HBO), and Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas (NBC). Recent theatre projects include The Prom (Atlanta), GottaDance (Chicago), Elf (Broadway, Dublin, London), Minsky’s (LA), The Drowsy Chaperone (Toronto, Broadway, London), Second City Toronto (Performer, Director, Artistic Director), and in development: Millions, Half Time, The Princess Bride.

MARK HOLLMANN (Music and Lyrics) won the Tony Award, the National Broadway Theatre Award, and the Obie Award for his music and lyrics to Urinetown: The Musical, which itself won the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama League Award, and the Lucille Lotrel Award for Best Musical. His other shows as composer/lyricist include ZM, Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life) and Bigfoot and Other Lost Souls. For TV, he has written songs for the Disney Channel's “Johnny and the Sprites.” He is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), serves on the council of the Dramatists Guild of America, and has served on the Tony Nominating Committee.

GREG KOTIS (Music and Lyrics) is the author of many plays and musicals including Urinetown (Book/Lyrics, for which he won an Obie Award and two Tony® Awards), Lunchtime, Give the People What They Want, Michael von Siebenburg Melts Through the Floorboards, Yeast Nation (Book/Lyrics), The Truth About Santa, Pig Farm, Eat the Taste, and Jobey and Katherine. His work has been produced and developed in theaters across the country and around the world, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Conservatory Theater, American Theater Company, The Apollo (West End), The Brick, the Eugene O’Neill National Theater Conference, The Geva Center, Henry Miller’s Theatre (Broadway), Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Stage and Film, The Old Globe, Perseverance Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, Soho Rep, South Coast Rep, and The Saint James (Off West End), among others. Greg is a member of ASCAP.

JOHN RANDO (Director) Broadway credits include On the Town (Tony Nomination for Best Direction of a Musical), Penn & Teller on Broadway, A Christmas Story, The Wedding Singer, Urinetown (Tony and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Director), A Thousand Clowns and Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party. His recent Off-Broadway credits include Jerry Springer – The Opera (New Group), Lives of the Saints (Primary Stages), The Heir Apparent (2014 SDCF Calloway Award for Direction – Classic Stage Company), All in the Timing (Primary Stages – 2013 Obie Award for Direction), and The Toxic Avenger, among many others. Recent Regional Credits include The Honeymooners (Paper Mill Playhouse), Pirates of Penzance (Barrington Stage Company) and Big Sky (Geffen Playhouse). He directed the Encores! Productions of The New Yorkers, Annie Get Your Gun, Little Me, It’s a Bird... It’s a Plane... It’s Superman, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, On the Town, Damn Yankees, Face the Music, Strike Up the Band, Do Re Mi, The Pajama Game and Of Thee I Sing. He also directed the staged performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel at the New York Philharmonic.

WARREN CARLYLE (Choreographer) Broadway: Directed and choreographed: After Midnight (Tony Award Best Choreography), Chaplin, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, Finian’s Rainbow (Tony nomination), A Tale of Two Cities. Choreography: current Hello, Dolly!, She Loves Me, On the 20th Century, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Christmas Story, Follies. Directed and choreographed Radio City’s New York Spring Spectacular starring The Rockettes. TV/Film: Staged and choreographed 68th & 69th Annual Tony Awards (CBS), multiple seasons So You Think You Can Dance (FOX), Deception starring Hugh Jackman (20th Century Fox) and Carousel (PBS, Emmy nomination). Other: Two Outer Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Award, Astaire Award.

PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, a not-for-profit theater under the direction of Mark S. Hoebee (Producing Artistic Director) and Todd Schmidt (Managing Director) and recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is where American musical theater is celebrated, cherished, and pushed in exciting new directions. A beloved New Jersey arts institution since 1938, Paper Mill has been consistently recognized for the high-quality artistry of its reimagined classic musicals as well as its commitment to supporting the development of new works and the careers of Broadway’s best talent and emerging artists both onstage and behind the scenes. Paper Mill Playhouse boasts award-winning access services and outreach initiatives as well as performer training programs that impact more than 35,000 students each year. Paper Mill Playhouse productions have launched national tours and gone on to Broadway—including Disney’s Newsies, 25th Anniversary production of Les MisĂ©rables, Honeymoon in Vegas, A Bronx Tale, Bandstand, The Bodyguard—as well as television broadcasts on Showtime and PBS and original cast recordings. Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

You've NEVER Seen The Holidays Quite Like This!

The award-winning Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir shares holiday cheer with this amazing rendition of Sleigh Ride.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nothing Will Happen; You'll Be Enthralled!

Can you imagine a Broadway musical where it appears as if not much of anything happens?
Can you imagine s show with the bare minimum of scenery, hardly any costumes, virtually no choreography and no special effects of any sort?
Can you imagine a musical where the music at times seems merely incidental, to the point where you're tempted to call it a play with music?
If you can, then you've imagined The Band's Visit, Broadway's latest sensation.
This musical is based on a rather obscure 2007 Israeli film rejected as a candidate for a best Foreign Language Film Oscar because it contained more than 50 percent English dialogue.
Here's the story: The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, consisting of eight men, arrive in Israel from Egypt. They have been booked by an Arab cultural center in Petah Tikva, but through a miscommunication (Arabic has no "p" sound, and regularly replaces it with "b"), the band takes a bus to Beit Hatikva, a fictional town in the middle of the Negev Desert. It is literally a sort of no man's land. The Egyptians encounter a few Israeli townspeople, who respond with curiosity about the band, are variously friendly and wary, and provide them with shelter, food, music and companionship during their overnight visit. There is no transportation out of the town that day, and there are no hotels for them to spend the night in. The band members dine at a small restaurant where the owner, Dina (Katrina Lenk) invites them to stay the night at her apartment, at her friends' apartment, and in the restaurant. No one quite falls in love, but a sense of unspoken longing and loneliness is expressed.
This show runs about ninety minutes without an intermission.
With music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses (adapted from the screenplay) The Band's Visit is one, continuous, unbroken thread. It's also a sustained, plaintive and anguished cry for love. And the show manages to be methodical without appearing to be in the least bit manipulative. The music, such as it is, is mostly haunting and mixes both eastern and western genres.
While waiting for Something Really Big to happen, you watch this extraordinarily precise production and you wonder how and why it's holding your attention. Well, one of the reasons is the restrained acting of the two leads, the cafe owner (Lenk) and the band's leader (Tony Shalhoub). There is so much sexual tension between these two that the space around them literally crackles without making a sound. The show's cast of 14 displaced and/or mismatched characters create a sort of lugubrious lullaby of longing. It's so obvious that these people have much more in common than we or they might have thought and yet it's also apparent that they will barely acknowledge it let alone act upon it. And yet, there is nonetheless a sense of sharing and understanding here.
Part of the appeal of The Band's Visit is that it does not preach, and we can all be thankful for that. This is a zen musical. It simply is. You are free to observe it in it's purest form, (much as you would real life) and make your own judgements -- or not make any judgements at all.
The secret of the show is that it holds back. It's as if the director, David Cromer instructed the actors to abridge every word, every sentence, every movement and every action to the point where the audience is consumed with anticipation. In this sense, it's the polar opposite of a traditional Broadway musical where exaggeration is the norm.
Of course, all of this restraint has to be released, yes? Well, maybe -- or maybe not.
There is a sort of rousing epilogue but it's not really part of the story. And that only adds to the allure of the most unique musical Broadway has seen in many years.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

An All-Too-Brief And Wondrous Journey!

As long as Broadway has been making musicals, displaced persons have been at the forefront of some of the Great White Way's most beloved tuneful tales.
In Show Boat, the granddaddy of all musicals, displaced persons comprise the entire cast as Cap'n Andy's traveling entertainment venue churns up and down the Mississippi River, taking on a variety of passengers and troubadours.
In The King and I, a widowed British schoolteacher Anna begins a new life in a strange and authoritarian Asian kingdom.  In The Music Man, the always-on-the-move and ever-cunning Harold Hill creates nothing short of upheaval in small town Indiana. In The Most Happy Fella, a mail-order bride gets less than she bargained for when she's thrust into the rough-hewn world of early California wine country. Even more recently, Hamilton tells the story of a displaced orphan who becomes one of America's founders while Come From Away examines the lives of 9/11 airline travelers who are suddenly diverted to an unprepared Canadian hamlet.
But perhaps nowhere in the lexicon of American musicals are there two more bewildered characters than Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas, two New York buddies who, while hiking the Scottish highlands, stumble into a strange and enchanted locale called Brigadoon.
Brigadoon is a mysterious place that you won't find on any map. That's because it only appears once every hundred years. How could this be? Well, in the world of this lustrous and lyrical Lerner and Loewe musical it's all neatly explained: To protect Brigadoon from being changed by the outside world, 200 years ago the local minister prayed to God to have Brigadoon disappear, only to reappear for one day every 100 years.

All citizens of Brigadoon are forbidden to leave the town, or it will disappear forever. In the show, Tommy, who becomes smitten with a Brigadoon lass named Fiona MacLaren, asks hypothetically if an outsider could be permitted to stay in Brigadoon. The local schoolmaster replies: "A stranger can stay if he loves someone here – not jus' Brigadoon, mind ye, but someone in Brigadoon – enough to want to give up everythin' an' stay with that one person. Which is how it should be. 'Cause after all, lad, if ye love someone deeply, anythin' is possible."
For Tommy, who's always been commitment shy, Fiona and Brigadoon seem to change everything. But the more cynical Jeff refuses to believe the magic of Brigadoon and seems to find the place a bit creepy, if not downright scary. "How can you believe all this?" he challenges Tommy. "How can you just accept it?" And therein lies just one of the conflicts that fuel the story of Brigadoon.
It's hard to believe that this classic musical is 70 years old.
And it was still harder for us to believe it when we were fortunate enough to see its all-too-brief and ravishing revival over the weekend as part of New York City Center's Encore series with the magnificent Kelli O'Hara as Fiona and the full-voiced Patrick Wilson as Jeff. When Kelli O'Hara sings its as if the angels are calling us from on high. And Patrick Wilson is not only able to send his voice into the far reaches of the balcony but he does it while injecting a credible emotional tug into nearly every note. Together, these two are Broadway musical heaven as they sing The Heather on the Hill, Almost Like Being in Love and From This Day On. And Wilson is poignant and compelling as he delivers the haunting There But For You Go I.
With a cast of 39, an orchestra of 30, original choreography by Agnes de Mille (re-choreographed and superbly directed by Christopher Wheeldon) and the dancing of Robert Fairchild, formerly of the New York City Ballet and An American in Paris, this "new" Brigadoon proved enthralling. In fact, the entire cast deserves lavish praise, with shoutouts to Asasif Mandvi as Jeff, Ross Lekites as Charlie, Rich Herbert as Andrew and Dakin Matthews as Mr. Lundie.
Brigadoon is sheer Broadway magic in that it dares us to dream and dream gallantly and it challenges us to believe more with our hearts than our minds.
When it opened in 1947 Broadway knew a hit when it saw one. As one critic raved: "[This is] a stunning show. It has whimsy, beguiling music, exciting dancing – and it has a book.... Brigadoon is by far the best musical play the season has produced, and it is certainly one of the best within my entire play-going experience."
Seventy years later. we wholeheartedly agree!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

No Pale Tale: Vivid Legend Comes To Life

It's been called a combination of West Side Story and Jersey Boys.
But it's more like Saturday Night Fever with a bit of Hairspray and a dash of Memphis thrown in.
It's a coming of age morality tale with a strong narrative set to music.
And on December 1, A Bronx Tale, The Musical will likely defy the odds and celebrate its first anniversary on Broadway.
Here's a show that received virtually no award nominations and only mixed reviews from the critics and yet it has survived more-nominated and more-heralded shows that opened around the same time. How and why did this happen?
Well, this is a strong, story-driven show that draws you in with a compelling central character whose drive and yearning and hardscrabble natural instincts keep you watching and cheering him on even when he makes the wrong decisions.
We never saw the movie, A Bronx Tale or the one man show performed by the tale's author Chazz Palminteri. So we knew nothing about the show going in.
And in the middle of the first act we began to wonder if the tale itself would be done in by too many wise-guy stereotypes and a bunch of caricatures instead of fully-formed personalities.
But as the story unfolded, piece by piece, complete with unexpected twists and turns, we found ourselves not just fully involved but downright seduced. A Bronx Tale really is that kind of show. Taken from the streets, it becomes real enough to be credible and aspirational enough to get you rooting for it.
Bobby Conte Thornton as Calogero, the central character.  is full of fury, anguish and raw ambition in an absolutely standout performance. As the young Calogero, Will Coombs makes a stunning Broadway debut. And Nick Cordero (as Calogero's adopted and questionable mentor) is so full of testosterone and swagger that he'll surprise you when he offers his one-time protegĂ© his final words of wisdom. Cudos also to Richard L. Blake for his poignant performance as Lorenzo; to Lucia Gianetta for her sensitive turn as Rosina and to Christianna Pitts in her memorable Broadway debut as Jane.
The songs in the show (by the prodigious Alan Menken with Glenn Slater) are alternately witty, instructive and thoughtful. These include the opening number, Belmont Avenue, the clever Nicky Machiavelli, the tender Look to Your Heart and the finale, The Choices We Make.
The three-part revolving set by Beuwulf Boritt is perfect and the costumes by the great William Ivey Long are spot on, as is the choreography by Sergio Trujillo.
The whole thing is lovingly directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zacks who have been more than faithful to this autobiographical journey created by their pal, Chazz.
A Bronx Tale is all in the family and that family includes not just the row home, the stoop, the street, the neighborhood and all of the Bronx but the yearning heart inside each and every one of us.