Sunday, December 27, 2020

Remembering When Broadway Was BROADWAY!

 While we wait out the shuttering of Broadway theaters, here are some theater listings of days gone by (includingBroadway's Golden Age) from The New York Times that will give you some idea of what it was like when Broadway was BROADWAY! Yes, it was glorious and you could even get show tickets for a couple of bucks if you didn't mind sitting in the balcony.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Remembering Bonnie & Clyde, The Musical

While broadway is on hiatus, we present a review from the past -- our take on the 2011 musical, Bonnie & Clyde: 

From left, Bennie & Clyde director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun, scenic and costume designer Tobin Ost, and actors Claybourne Elder (Buck Barrow) and Melissa Van Der Schyff (Blanche Barrow) discuss the new musical last night at a post-performance session on Broadway.
Nearly eight decades after their bloody rampage through dustbowl America during the Great Depression the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow continues to hold a power over us.
Clyde met Bonnie when he was 20 and she was 19.
She enjoyed writing poetry and dreamed of a life in Hollywood or on Broadway. Her idol was the "It Girl," Clara Bow. He was brash, charming, restless and full of bravado.
It doesn't seem that either one of them actually set out to become criminals. But they were much defined by their era -- a time when all traditional sources of economic livelihood (and economic support) had failed. 
At the height of the economic crisis unemployment soared up to 25 percent but was actually much worse in farming and rural areas where crop prices fell by as much as 60 percent and there was no demand for alternate jobs. Primary sector industries like cash cropping, mining, and logging were particularly hard hit. Amidst it all, there was no unemployment compensation, no Social Security, no food stamps, no school lunch program, none of the elements of the "safety net" that Americans now take for granted.
And obviously the economic collapse and the failure of Wall Street and banks produced tremendous resentment toward the powers that be and, by extension toward most traditional sources of authority.
This is the environment that produced Bonnie and Clyde.
And this is what helped to make them twisted tabloid heroes. In a bizarre way, this was their claim to fame: They were in open, brazen, bloody rebellion against authority of any kind.
We all know how the story ended: Bonnie and Clyde died in a thunderous hail of bullets after they were met by a police posse as they prepared to reunite with family members.
Over 20,000 people turned out for Bonnie Parker's funeral. And though Clyde's funeral was private, thousands jammed the streets around a Dallas funeral home hoping to similarly be part of his services.
They wanted to be famous (or infamous) and they succeeded. To this day, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow live on.
Now along comes Bonnie & Clyde, the musical which has just opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway.
With a book by Ivan Menchell, lyrics by Don Black, music by Frank Wildhorn and two young, luminescent stars in Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan this show sets out to strip Barrow and Parker of the legend and folklore that surrounds them, presenting these two sociopaths just as they were.
The director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun (who was mentored by the great Tommy Tune) describes Bonnie & Clyde as "a play with music." And the scenic and costume designer Tobin Ost says he was inspired by the rural milieu of weathered wood planks, barns and burlap. So, if you're expecting a big, splashy, showy Broadway musical with great set-ups and huge production numbers, forget about it.
And if you're planning on taking the children, forget about that as well. This ain't no family show and it's not musical comedy, though there are wonderful comedic moments.
This is musical theatre.
But then again, how could the story of Bonnie and Clyde ever be anything other than that?
So, this is a sepia-toned story that moves along to its conclusion much like a rediscovered tale. And it's punctuated by a melodic mixture of ragtime, country and jazz that comprises Frank Wildhorn's best (and most disciplined) musical work ever.
And the cast is up to the challenge of the book, lyrics and music.
Jeremy Jordan's dark eyes, full lips, wide smile and confident swagger make him a perfectly irresistible Clyde. And when he sings he expresses the deeper, haunting, soulful side of his character, making him all the more vulnerable and all the more human. Laura Osnes is a fully-realized Bonnie Parker: romantic, sexy,  seductive and thoroughly American. She's lively, independent and capricious though nonetheless mesmerized by Clyde. Still, she insists on answering only to her heart and Osnes' impressive musical range allows her to express all this in one song after another. She's incredible.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive, including Melissa Van Der Schyff as Blanche Barrow, Claybourne Elder as Buck Barrow, Louis Hobson as Ted Hinton and Joe Hart as Sheriff Schmid. In fact the entire 25-member company of actors constitutes an first-rate ensemble.
Second act problems are practically a staple of Broadway musicals. Oftentimes a show starts with a great flourish and builds to a rousing first-act curtain only to rumble through a reprise-laden second act where the story seems to lose its way and the show becomes all-too-familiar. Bonnie & Clyde doesn't suffer this fate. The show takes its time to build. It's not out to take your breath away right from the getgo. It lets the story unfold. And by the time the principals sing "What Was Good Enough For You" in the second act, you realize that you're hooked. As unappealing as these criminals may seem, you discover that something about them has crawled into your consciousness. You're captivated, if not complicit.
At one point Bonnie Parker confronts one of her family members who warns her (and it's quite obvious by this time in the story) that she and Clyde will die a young, bloody and tragic death. They will be dead sooner rather than later. And the mention of the word "dead" sends her into a mini-rage. And she answers: "Dead? Dead? We're the only ones who are really alive!" It's not that Bonnie doesn't know that she and Clyde will meet this end. It's just that she sees hopelessness and despair among ordinary, law-abiding citizens all around her and she and her lover are alive in a rush of wildness. This is their life and they can see no other way out. These sentiments are ably and beautifully expressed in the songs "Raise A Little Hell" and "Dyin Ain't So Bad." Other memorable numbers include "The World Will Remember Me/Us" and "How 'Bout A Dance."
But there's another thing going on here as well: Bonnie & Clyde plays not only to our natural (and generally healthy) skepticism of authority and authority figures but also to our suspicion of unbridled power, particularly the power of the law. Let's face it: we've all felt haunted at one time or another by the power wielded by the precinct house, the prison guard or the local magistrate, not to mention more massive operations such as the FBI or even the TSA. Even if we're not guilty, a mere inquiry from any one of them can often  leave us filled with fear and loathing. That's no small factor in the curious public notoriety achieved by gangsters and other hardened criminals. They're appeal is not unrelated to some dark, resentful and envious place deep inside of us.
According to the authors of this daring production, Bonnie and Clyde recreates a time when "an upturn in the economy and a fair shot at a fulfilling life seemed as distant as the promise of the American Dream" -- a time when villains seemed like heroes and those who should have been heroic figures often appeared to be the real villains.
It was a time not so different (and not really so distant) from our own.
The story of Bonnie & Clyde resonates in this significant new musical. And the show (live the characters themselves) demands your immediate attention.
Click here for tickets and more information.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Broadway's Tony Award Nominations Announced

 It's a VERY unusual year for the Tony Awards as Broadway has been shuttered since mid March.

As previously announced, the Tony Awards will take place digitally this year. No date has been announced yet for the ceremony itself.

The 74th Annual Tony Awards were initially scheduled to take place on June 7, 2020 and the event was  postponeddue to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Only productions that have opened prior to February 19, 2020, were eligible for this year’s digital awards.

Best Musical

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Jagged Little Pill


Best Play

Grand Horizons by Bess Wohl

The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez

Sea Wall/A Life by Simon Stephens & Nick Payne

Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris

The Sound Inside by Adam Rapp


Best Revival of a Play

Betrayal by Harold Pinter

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally

A Soldier’s Play by Charles Fuller


Best Book of a Musical

Jagged Little PillDiablo Cody

Moulin Rouge! The MusicalJohn Logan

Tina – The Tina Turner MusicalKatori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins


Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

A Christmas Carol
Music: Christopher Nightingale

The Inheritance
Music: Paul English

The Rose Tattoo
Music: Fitz Patton and Jason Michael Webb

Slave Play
Music: Lindsay Jones

The Sound Inside
Music: Daniel Kluger


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Ian Barford, Linda Vista

Andrew Burnap, The Inheritance

Jake Gyllenhaal, Sea Wall/A Life

Tom Hiddleston, Betrayal

Tom Sturridge, Sea Wall/A Life

Blair Underwood, A Soldier’s Play


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Joaquina Kalukango, Slave Play

Laura Linney, My Name is Lucy Barton

Audra McDonald, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

Mary-Louise Parker, The Sound Inside


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Aaron Tveit, Moulin Rouge! The Musical


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Karen Olivo, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Elizabeth Stanley, Jagged Little Pill

Adrienne Warren, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Ato Blankson-Wood, Slave Play

James Cusati-Moyer, Slave Play

David Alan Grier, A Soldier’s Play

John Benjamin Hickey, The Inheritance

Paul Hilton, The Inheritance


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Jane Alexander, Grand Horizons

Chalia La Tour, Slave Play

Annie McNamara, Slave Play

Lois Smith, The Inheritance

Cora Vander Broek, Linda Vista


Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Danny Burstein, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Derek Klena, Jagged Little Pill

Sean Allan Krill, Jagged Little Pill

Sahr Ngaujah, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Daniel J. Watts, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Kathryn Gallagher, Jagged Little Pill

Celia Rose Gooding, Jagged Little Pill

Robyn Hurder, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Lauren Patten, Jagged Little Pill

Myra Lucretia Taylor, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Best Scenic Design of a Play

Bob Crowley, The Inheritance

Soutra Gilmour, Betrayal

Rob Howell, A Christmas Carol

Derek McLane, A Soldier’s Play

Clint Ramos, Slave Play


Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Riccardo Hern├índez and Lucy Mackinnon, Jagged Little Pill

Derek McLane, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Mark Thompson and Jeff Sugg, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Best Costume Design of a Play

Dede Ayite, Slave Play

Dede Ayite, A Soldier’s Play

Bob Crowley, The Inheritance

Rob Howell, A Christmas Carol

Clint Ramos, The Rose Tattoo


Best Costume Design of a Musical

Emily Rebholz, Jagged Little Pill

Mark Thompson, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Catherine Zuber, Moulin Rouge! The Musical


Best Lighting Design of a Play

Jiyoun Chang, Slave Play

Jon Clark, The Inheritance

Heather Gilbert, The Sound Inside

Allen Lee Hughes, A Soldier’s Play

Hugh Vanstone, A Christmas Carol


Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Bruno Poet, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Justin Townsend, Jagged Little Pill

Justin Townsend, Moulin Rouge! The Musical


Best Sound Design of a Play

Paul Arditti & Christopher Reid, The Inheritance

Simon Baker, A Christmas Carol

Lindsay Jones, Slave Play

Daniel Kluger, Sea Wall/A Life

Daniel Kluger, The Sound Inside


Best Sound Design of a Musical

Jonathan Deans, Jagged Little Pill

Peter Hylenski, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Nevin Steinberg, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Best Direction of a Play

David Cromer, The Sound Inside

Stephen Daldry, The Inheritance

Kenny Leon, A Soldier’s Play

Jamie Lloyd, Betrayal

Robert O’Hara, Slave Play


Best Direction of a Musical

Phyllida Lloyd, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Diane Paulus, Jagged Little Pill

Alex Timbers, Moulin Rouge! The Musical


Best Choreography

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Jagged Little Pill

Sonya Tayeh, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Anthony Van Laast, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical


Best Orchestrations

Tom Kitt, Jagged Little Pill

Katie Kresek, Charlie Rosen, Matt Stine and Justin Levine, Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Ethan Popp, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Amidst Broadway's Covid Loses: A Bright, Shining Star Remembered!

It's hard to dim the lights on Broadway when Broadway is already dark. But the Broadway community assembled this tribute with the following words: Nick Cordero inspired all of us. He embodied all our dreams: that through hard work and perseverance, we too could dedicate our lives to the greatest stage in the world." We has the pleasure of seeing him in Bullets Over Broadway and again in A Bronx Tale. He will long be remembered!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Too Wonderful To Miss 'As We Stumble Along!'

Tony winners Bob Martin and Beth Leavel, and members of the original Broadway and London companies of The Drowsy Chaperone have reunited to record a new version of the "As We Stumble Along" reprise as a benefit for The Actors Fund and Funds for Freelancers.
This is just so wonderfully uplifting and gratifying! 
And is it from one of our very, very favorite musicals of all time!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Are These Broadway's Best Buddy/Buddy Songs?

We miss Broadway.
We miss the inside of a Broadway house with its soaring ceiling, welcoming seats, gilded ornamentation and sparkling chandeliers. We miss the way the theater envelopes you with its anticipatory caress. We miss the orchestra tuning up and the curtain rising on yet another show.
We miss musicals -- the poignant ones and the zany ones; the period pieces and the thought provokers; the topical ones and the nonsensical ones; the newcomers and the revivals. We miss the ingenues, the leading men, the divas, the characters, the bit players and the gypsies.
We miss the rush of crowds along Broadway's narrow streets and the outpouring of theater lovers into the Great White Way after the curtain comes down.
We miss 42nd Street and Times Square and Schubert Alley and every eatery from Ben's deli at one end to Trattoria Del'Arte at the other.
We miss it all because Broadway is our buddy -- a loyal buddy who's always been there for us.
So here, as we lament this way-too-long blackout, we nestle close to the nearest ghost light and (in no particular order) present Broadway's ten best buddy songs -- songs of friendship, sometimes sung tongue-in cheek but always memorable and, each in its own way endearing:

Old Friends
Sondheim's tender "Hey Old Friend" song from Merrily We Roll Along (pictured above) not only proves that Broadway's master composer could write a catchy tune but also that he could do it with his inimitable touch of irony. But then again, Sondheim has a way with buddy songs.

Bossom Buddies
Jerry Herman's catty repartee for Mame (Angela Lansbury) and her friend Vera Charles (Bea Arthur) remains a classic from the musical adaptation of Auntie Mame which propelled Lansbury to diva status and certified Bea Arthur's comedic chops. See the video below!

You're Nothing Without Me
One of the most clever buddy songs ever, this one for the distinctive musical City of Angels. In this case the writer of the story sings the song to the character that he created and the character argues with him about which one is nothing without the other. An ingenious creation from Cy Coleman, David Zippel and Larry Gelbart.

Not While I'm Around
Sondheim again -- this time from his masterwork, the grizzly Sweeney Todd. And once again Angela Lansbury figures in the mix as a young boy (Toby) vows to protect her from Sweeney and others: Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around. Incredibly tender and plaintive.

Cole Porter at the top of his game with a list song that's full of patter. The song was originally written in 1939 for DuBarry Was A Lady but was later inserted into successful revivals of Anything Goes. It remains a staple. Only Porter could get away with the memorable line: "Da da da da da da dig dig dig."

Two Lost Souls
From the complicated and altogether preposterous plot of Damn Yankees, this song was used as a stalling tactic by Lola (Gwen Verdon) to keep Applegate (Ray Walston) away from a decisive baseball game. We ain't fussin'- cuz we got "us'n."

Consider Yourself
A personal favorite of ours from Lionel Bart's marvelous musical Oliver! This is the song that invites Oliver to join Fagin's band of ragtag boys -- actually the elder Fagin's surrogate thieves. For the orphan Oliver, the words "Consider yourself part of the family" were irresistible. Oh, does this show beg to be revived right now!

Worlds Apart
A haunting melody from Big River, the only Broadway musical ever written by Roger Miller. Adapted from Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the song comes at a critical point in the show when Huck recognizes the humanity of his slave/companion, Jim. They are friends but they are forever "worlds apart." An incredible heart-tugger.

Together (Wherever We Go)
Another one of Mamma Rose's calculated manipulations from Gypsy, a show many consider to be the greatest musical ever. The song by Styne and Sondheim is a calm before the plot's storm and with its continuing list and trademark patter, it's reminiscent of Porter: No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos -- amigos -- together.

Till Him
A true bromance ballad from Mel Brooks' musical of his own screenplay, The Producers. Sung by Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) about the irascible Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) it transforms an inimitable swindler into a merciful mentor. Could any other actors have ever credibly played these roles? Classic!