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Creative

8 Shows Opening on Broadway in October

Mother Nature has her faux fur coat on the foot of her bed and she’s almost ready to step out for New York’s hottest shows. We are here to celebrate the eight shows that will open up on Broadway before October.

October 2
Leopoldstadt (Longacre Theatre)

  • Olivier Award Winning NEW play by Tom Stoppard
  • Features 38 actors
  • Tom Stoppard’s “most personal work of his career”
  • From Director Patrick Marber (Closer, Tom Stoppard’s Travesties)

October 3
Cost of Living (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)

  • Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize
  • Martyna Marjok is a new playwright with a very promising future (she’s penning The Great Gatsby with Florence Welch)
  • Kara Young stars after exploding onto the Broadway stage after Clyde’s

October 6
1776 (American Airlines Theatre)

  • Reimagined revival with an all woman presenting cast
  • Jeffrey L. Page (Violet, FELA!) and Diane Paulus (Waitress, Pippin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Jagged Little Pill) co-directs
  • Carolee Carmello is back on Broadway after 6 years

October 9
Death of a Salesman (Hudson Theatre)

  • Marianne Elliott (Company, Angels in America, Warhorse) directs this critically-acclaimed West End Transfer
  • Tony Award Nominee and Multi-Olivier Award Winner Sharon D. Clarke, Wendell Pierce (HBO’s The Wire) and the incomparable André De Shields round out this powerhouse cast
  • The Black actors portraying the Loman family during the 1940s transcends the writing making an even harder hit for Willy, his wife and his boys

October 13
The Piano Lesson (Ethel Barrymore Theatre)

  • Samuel L Jackson and Danielle Brooks return to Broadway in this much-anticipated revival
  • Directed by Latanya Richardson Jackson
  • August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece about how we perceive our past

October 20
Topdog/Underdog (John Golden Theatre)

  • The first ever Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama revival
  • Kenny Leon directs
  • New York Times says it’s “the Greatest Plays of the last 25 years”

October 27
Take Me Out (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre)

  • The hit revival is back from it’s sold-out run at the Helen Hayes
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson won his first Tony Award for this hilarious and heart-breaking role
  • A scintillating drama about being authentically oneself and the importance of friendship and community

October 27
Walking with Ghosts (Music Box Theatre)

  • Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary, HBO’s In Treatment) returns to Broadway with his one-man staged biography
  • The incredible Lonny Price directs
  • The Times calls it “Spell-binding”

NOVEMBER OPENINGS

November 3 – Almost Famous (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre)

November 10 – Kimberly Akimbo (Booth Theatre)

November 13 – Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & the Pool (Vivian Beaumont Theater)

November 17 – & Juliet (Stephen Sondheim Theatre)

November 20 – KPOP (Circle in the Square Theatre)

November 21 – A Christmas Carol (Nederlander Theatre)

Categories
Creative

History of Movies to Musicals on Broadway

The 2017-2018 Broadway season reached 13,792,614 in attendance and grossed over $1.6 million. Despite these record setting numbers, discussion and debate broke out amongst fans as all four Tony nominated Best Musicals were stage adaptations of films; The Band’s Visit, SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical, Frozen, and Mean Girls. 

The Broadway cast of Some Like It Hot

A major criticism of Broadway is the trend of stage adaptations of popular movies, which has been featured heavily in recent seasons. With this upcoming season having two announced adaptations, Almost Famous and Some Like It Hot, and even more rumored for the future including The Notebook, The Devil Wears Prada, and a transfer of the West End’s Back to the Future, there is an understandable interest in the creation and development of original stories on Broadway. What many theatergoers are unaware of is that this trend isn’t new to Broadway. In fact, Broadway has a long history of translating movies to the stage including some classic and fan favorite shows. 

Little Shop Of Horrors

While some adaptations are more obvious, such as the Disney Broadway catalog including shows like Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, and The Lion King, many well known theater classics were inspired by movies. Sondheim and Wheeler’s A Little Night Music, which originally opened on Broadway in 1973 and ran for 601 performances, is based on the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. The well-known Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon staple Sweet Charity, written by Neil SImon with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, is based on the 1957 screenplay Nights of Cabiria. Little Shop of Horrors, whose award winning Off-Broadway revival is currently running at the Westside Theatre, is based on the low budget 1960 dark comedy, The Little Shop of Horrors. Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ Sunset Boulevard, which broke advance sale records and sold over 1 million tickets with its original Broadway production, is based on the 1950 film of the same name. Some other classics include Nine, based on Frederico Fellini’s 1963 film 8½, On The 20th Century, based on the 1930s film of the same name, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair, and Promises, Promises, based on the 1960 film The Apartment.  

Heathers The Musical on Roku

Beyond the classics, many fan favorites, such as Heathers which currently has a production on the West End, are based on films. The 2007 Legally Blonde, which has become a go-to for many community theaters and High Schools across the country, is heavily based heavily on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon as well as the Amanda Brown novel. The beloved Sara Bareilles musical Waitress, which ran on Broadway from 2016 to 2020 and returned in a limited engagement in 2021, is based on the 2007 film written by Adrienne Shelly. Other fan favorite adaptations include the currently running Beetlejuice, based on the Tim Burton horror comedy, 9 to 5, based on the 1980 film, Anastasia, based on the 1997 animated movie, and many more. 

Billy Elliott the Musical

Some screen to stage adaptations have even garnered critical acclaim and gone on to win Tony Awards, such as Once, which won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical. Carnival, which won the 1962 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and an Outer Critics Circle Award, was based on the 1953 film Lili. The 2013 winner Kinky Boots, which ran on Broadway for 2,507 performances and is currently running Off-Broadway at Stage 42, is based on a 2005 British film of the same name. The 2021 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Moulin Rouge!, is based on the 2001 film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Other Tony Award winning adaptations include Billy Elliot the Musical, Spamalot, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Producers, and Passion. 

The river flows both ways. While many musicals based on films have gone on to win awards and break records, Hollywood continues to turn out movies based on beloved Broadway shows. In the last 5 years alone, there have been a slew of film adaptations of Musicals including Jonathan Larsons’ Tick, Tick…Boom, directed by Lin Manuel Miranda starring Andrew Garfield, a remake of West Side Story directed by Stephen, In The Heights, 13, The Prom, Dear Evan Hansen, and The Last 5 Years (although this came out in 2014 and has yet to have a Broadway production). Coming to Netflix this December will be a movie adaptation of the acclaimed musical Matilda. The long-running Broadway musical Wicked, which has multiple national tours and international productions, has a film adaptation in the late stages of development starring Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo, and Jonathan Bailey. 

While there should be a healthy mix of original stories and adaptations in commercial theater, the relationship between Broadway and the silver screen has an extensive history that shouldn’t be dismissed. If a screen to stage adaptation is done well, it has the potential to connect with audiences, set records, and become a staple in the theater canon. 

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE: Alan Cox

It was a wonderful opportunity to explore Lillian Hellman’s classic play with such a dream cast as part of this series of online performances. The themes of liberal America and its imperative to combat fascism in all its manifestations feels all too pertinent to the needs of our present times. When Watch On The Rhine premiered in 1941 it served to bring to the theatre-going public a sense of the turmoil that was brewing in mainland Europe and its potential impact on the global stage. 

I was first exposed to the epic dimensions of the American drama when I made my professional theatrical debut in a revival of Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill. Written in the shadow of the Great War, this Pulitzer Prize winning drama features the theatrical convention of characters speaking their innermost thoughts as asides. In deploying this classical device in a contemporary setting, O’Neil shows that despite the privileges of modern education, human beings still struggle to communicate directly and truthfully with one another. However, my lasting impression of this masterpiece is not as profound as I would wish. I was thirteen years old at the time and my hair had been bleached a platinum blonde to evoke the archetypal Golden Child. The abiding memory I have is of the cast, which included Glenda Jackson and my father Brian Cox, gently but firmly urging me to go easy on the gold hairspray that I had applied to my side parting when the dark roots began to show. Luckily, I don’t think my besmirching of the beautifully tailored 1920’s costumes could be glimpsed past the front row. 

Thirty seven years later and one of the benefits of being involved in the remote capture of an online performance of a classic play is that this actor can transform himself without having to make a trip to the hairdresser.


Alan Cox recently played Uncle Vanya at the Hampstead Theatre in London and Claudius in Hamlet for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. He played David Frost in the national tour of Frost/Nixon, for which he received a Helen Hayes Award nomination. He made his Broadway debut in Translations. He made his motion picture debut as Watson in Young Sherlock Holmes. His film work includes Contagion, The Dictator, Mrs. Dalloway, and An Awfully Big Adventure. Alan’s television credits include The Good Wife, John Adams, and The Odyssey. He can be seen in Spotlight on Play’s Watch on the Rhine streaming this Thursday.

Categories
Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE: Eric McCormack

One Big Break

In 1981, I was in my last year of high school in the suburbs of Toronto. I’d done a bunch of musicals in theatre class (Godspell, Pippin, Fantasticks) but never worked professionally. I got a job bussing tables at a brand-new dinner theatre uptown, O’Neill’s. The opening show, starring six young actors in their mid-20’s, was a collection of songs (from other musicals) about making it in show biz. It was called, literally, One Big Break. Five nights a week, for months, I’d clear plates and glasses, then sit at the back, by the spotlight, and watch my new, slightly-older friends perform. After one show, I was washing dishes when I overheard the owners, in a kitchen corner, whispering their concerns about Stephen, one of the actors.

“He could barely sing tonight,” said Sandra O’Neill, the theatre’s namesake. “Well, we don’t have understudies, Sandra,” hissed the other owner, “what would you suggest?”

“I can do it,” I blurted.

They looked over at me, in my apron and my mullet. Sandra smiled, like I was an adorable puppy. “Aww,” she cooed, “thanks, hon. It’s Eric, right? We’ll figure it out, sweetheart.”

The next day, in history class, I got called to the front office. This had never happened in my life. The principal’s secretary handed me the phone. Sandra O’Neill was on the other end.

“Were you… serious?” she asked, with hesitation.

“Absolutely,” I replied, with none. The bravado of eighteen.

I met with the musical director at 4:00 and we ran the numbers. Once. When the actors got there, they looked ashen. Sure, I was their favorite busboy, but…this? We reviewed choreography for about half an hour…then we opened the place for dinner.

And I bussed tables.

At 8:00, the waiters (to the surprise of the patrons) suddenly became the performers. One by one they’d put down their trays and start to sing the opening number. I was the last. The first lines out of my mouth, the first words I ever sang in a professional theatre…

“One good break is really all I need to make the world stand up and cheer…”

It was a pretty good night. I played the role for two more months. I will always have a special place in my heart for Sandra.

And for Stephen McMulkin.


Eric McCormack

Best known as Will Truman on TV’s Will & Grace, Eric McCormack made his Broadway debut in The Music Man. He appeared as a mystery guest star in The Play What I Wrote, starred off-Broadway in Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s) and returns to the Main Stem opposite James Earl Jones in the 2012 revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.

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Stories from the Stage

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Othello.

This may come as a surprise to some, not so much to others, but Othello is a complex role to accept for the 21st century black actor.  On one hand, he’s an incredibly deep, densely drawn character and one of the few that are built specifically for actors of color in the Elizabethan canon.  On the other hand, he’s been reduced to some pretty nasty stereotyping.  The character has a well documented history of blackface, and the optics of a white woman being strangled by a black man brings to mind the gut-dropping feeling we got in those last moments of Jordan Peele’s Get Out (Daniel Kaaluya hands wrapped around the neck of his captor/honeypot/devil in a white dress, Allison Williams, when suddenly red and blue lights wash the screen).  So in my second year of graduate school, when I was called into my department chairs office to talk about playing Othello in the spring…I wasn’t sure what to do.  I mean sure; in the name of the pedagogical experience, in the name of practice (because inevitably it wouldn’t be my last time playing the character) and well, the thing looks good on the resume, so why not?  But does taking the part make me a sellout?  Or worse…is it a full on soul sell?

Around this time, I was reckoning with myself, my artistry and this liquid prison I was attempting to construct. Growing inside me was this festering shadow of insecurity, imposter syndrome, and the ever present doom of letting everyone down, one I tried to bar up with Whiskey, Tequila and Rum.  Little did I know, this shadow loved a drink, and despite my attempts to drown it, grew gills.  I’ll spare you the rest of the bloody details but I can tell you with confidence that some people do indeed crack their skulls open on rock bottom.  Others, however, bounce off stones of despair (it’s my band name, you cannot have it) and are given a chance to change direction.

I started writing letters to Othello in between classes, outpatient treatment, rehearsal and AA meetings on cold Sunday mornings (so much coffee and the squeaking of grey slush on the bottoms of winter boots).  It’s not a ritual I had experienced before, but one of my Sunday Morning Crew was like “I write letters to myself and found xyz”. I thought that was a corny thing for a person to do, so I wrote letters to the characters I was cast as (a practice I still carry with me and yes, it is a far cornier endeavor). 

We all “know” the play, and in that “knowledge” Othello is this larger than life character who looms over the canon/performer.  If the past were to be prologue, he “should” be this gravitational force, the embodiment of strength and “manly-ness”. He’s jealous and angry or something along those lines. So rather than fall in lockstep with the mythic barnacles of the play, I re-read it with the fresh young eyes of a curious child at Disneyworld for the first time. 

The first Act is the portrait of a man in love, a man with purpose, a man who has a grasp on what he wants the world to look like and how he can nudge the paradigm a bit closer to the shores of that promise.  In my letters, I asked Othello to teach me what love was; specifically, to teach me what it was to be in love with oneself and one’s purpose (he later taught me that once you do that, falling in love is relatively easy).  I asked him to remind me of what it means to see beyond what “is” into the realm of what “can be”.  I asked him to demand my radical honesty.  For a time it felt as though the letter went unheeded.  Instead of waiting, I worked my ass off. I scanned and rescanned text, I battled tooth and nail for text to be re-entered into the cut, I linked arms with my castmates/peers to honor the work put in to tell the story as written.  I fought for the story in the hopes that it would fight for me.  And then, out of that big, looming shadow shrank there emerged a man.  He looked a bit like me; a little stockier, a whole lot wiser and a generous smile.  And we walked side by side through the play and he revealed things to me.  Little secrets other people overlook. 

Jealousy seems to be a trait oft associated with The Moor of Venice.  I ask…where though?  He’s one of the highest ranking generals in the nation, he’s got the hand of one of the most sought after bachelorettes in the nation, he talks business, pleasure and war with the Duke.  Iago mentions jealousy, sure…but when does Othello? On the page, he wants to be the change he wants to see in the world.  He chooses to partner with the only other human who sees him as such:  who sees the sensitivity and the vulnerability in Othello, rather than upholding the expectations of manhood set upon him.  With this realization, I felt a little hydrophobic daemon, resistant to my attempts to drown him, squeal away in a puff of brimstone and smoke.  I dug deeper: when it is made known to him the possibility of deceit on the part of Desdemona, there is no time for jealousy when your heart is shattered.  When you’ve been duped, hoodwinked, bamboozled, how can you blame anyone else but yourself?  You can only perform the confusing task of picking up the shards of your heart and fighting through the wincing pain of putting it back together…even though you know it will not refract light the same way. Huh.  That’s not jealousy.  That’s good old fashioned world weary heartbreak and disappointment.  In understanding a bit about him, I understood a bit more about myself. He wasn’t a monolith looming over me, he was right there, next to me, ensuring I honored every step in his shoes. 

It’s a cliché to say that Theatre saved my life…so I won’t (it did though, *insert eyeroll*).  I know that the characters aren’t actually leaping off the page to rescue me (I’m fully aware it’s my imagination+therapy+the work doing some heavy lifting).  As much as I say that the characters are teaching me things, I know that ultimately it’s me, a room full of people, blood, sweat, tears, imagination, and ink on paper.  Nor am I here to suggest that Theatre is a replacement to therapy, psychiatry, and/or AA/NA meetings (it isn’t, shout out to my therapist).  But it can be a supplement (like B12). The gift and wisdom of the playwright is their ability to teach us lessons about what it means to be human.  Sometimes those lessons are about success.  They are often about failure;  but always, there are lessons to be excavated, digested and shared.  There are empathetic bridges to be built; within ourselves, to each other, and to the world into which we wake.  And while that sounds like a gushy Barney sing along, the work is hard. It requires dedication, it requires an open mind and an open heart. Building empathetic bridges to truly see each other can be painful.  Much like a journey to sobriety, it can feel pretty ugly (ha, I did one of those Shakespeare things).  Much like nudging social norms and our existential paradigm towards a just and verdant society, you take it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. 

It’s worth it.


Brandon Burton is a 2020 graduate of The Yale School of Drama Master of Fine Arts program. He can be seen in Spotlight on Play’s reading of The Baltimore Waltz streaming April 29th

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE: Austin Pendleton

When I first came to New York, with all those aspirations, I, through a fluke of a chance conversation between an actor I know and her agent, learned that Jerry Robbins, who was about to direct, off-Broadway, Arthur Kopit’s brilliant play Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling so Sad, was having a terrible time casting the part of the young son in the play.  I worked hard on the audition and waltzed in and knocked him out with the audition.  So he asked me to come to a callback audition a few days later.  At which I totally bombed.  I’d never heard of a callback.  It was a fiasco.  Jerry called me the next day and asked me to come see him.  He said. “what happened?!”  He wasn’t angry, he was just bewildered.  I told him that I had no idea, at that second audition, what I was doing.  So he kept calling me back and calling me back, looking for the fire to return.  Then finally, on, I think, the sixth audition, he had me read opposite the magnificent Barbara Harris.  And we soared.

So my career was launched.  Jerry was the launcher and Barbara was the rocket.

Luck. Pure, wild luck.  This business is beyond capricious.  


Austin Pendleton

Austin Pendleton is an actor and director who made his Broadway debut as the original Motel in Fiddler on the Roof. Other Broadway credits include Hail Scrawdyke!, The Little Foxes, An American Millionaire, Doubles, Grand Hotel, The Diary of Anne Frank and Choir Boy as an actor and Shelter, The Runner Stumbles, John Gabriel Borkman and Spoils of War as a director. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for The Little Foxes and most recently appeared on Broadway as Mr. Oldfield in The Minutes.
Categories
Long Form

From Younger Than Springtime to Springtime for Hitler: Broadways Infatuation with Spring

By Katie Birenboim

The sun is shining, cherry blossoms are blooming, and many world economies are opening up (slowly but surely).  It seems like spring 2021 has finally arrived, bringing with it the seasonal sense of joy, promise, and new beginnings that has long been lauded by writers and artists throughout history.  While many people may associate springtime with Shakespeare sonnets, Impressionist paintings, or even madrigals, spring has also been the focus of many Broadway composers and lyricists. 

The most obvious example of springtime making its way into the Broadway canon is the song “Younger Than Springtime” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.  Sung right after Lieutenant Cable and Liat first meet (and make love), “Younger Than Springtime” has all the classic markers of a spring love song.  Cable compares Liat to spring – favorably – saying she is “younger than springtime,” “gayer than laughter,” “sweeter than music,” and “warmer than the winds of June.”  But the song also has a great “turn” – certainly one of the reasons it’s still so well-known today.  While Cable begins the song by saying that Liat is like springtime, halfway through, he implies that she is also transformative: “when your youth/and joy invade my arms/and fill my heart as now they do/then younger than springtime/am I.”  Through Liat’s love, Cable argues that he becomes someone who is “gayer than laughter,” “softer than starlight,” and “younger than springtime,” too.

Another well-known use of spring in the lyrics, title, and imagery of a Broadway song can be found in “It Might As Well Be Spring” from State Fair, another Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration.  The song plays with some of the springtime tropes and patterns used in “Younger Than Springtime.”  The singer, Margy, makes clear that she hasn’t seen any of the typical, physical signs of oncoming spring.  In fact, it’s decidedly not spring: “I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud/or a robin on the wing,” Margy sings, “But…it might as well be spring.”  This is a prime example of Oscar Hammerstein’s genius use of conditional thinking.  In the same way Hammerstein implies in Carousel that Julie Jordan is madly in love with Billy Bigelow using the conditional “IF I loved you,” and that Laurie and Curly in Oklahoma! are similarly destined to mate with the conditional “people will SAY we’re in love,” Hammerstein is able to write a spring love song that’s not actually sung during springtime. 

The song grows even more rich and complex in its associations with the season.  While the characteristics of springtime that Cable lists in “Younger Than Springtime” are all positive, for Margy “it might as well be spring” not only because she’s “starry-eyed,” “giddy,” and “gay,” but also because she feels “restless,” “jumpy,” and “vaguely discontented.”  In “It Might As Well Be Spring” you get both sides of the coin: the good and the bad, the positive and the negative, perhaps best summed up by the lyric: “But I feel so gay/in a melancholy way/that it might as well be spring.”  Here, spring is being used as a metaphor for the “nameless” discontent Margy feels with her life at the moment – a vague restlessness which sets up most of the action of the play: while Margy is dating Harry, who wants to marry her, she “keep[s] wishing [she] were somewhere else,/Walking down a strange new street./Hearing words that [she’s]…never heard/ From a man [she’s] yet to meet.”  These lyrics foreshadow her meeting, and falling in love with, Pat at the (titular) state fair.  It’s also hard not to read these lyrics without picking up something of a sexual edge.  When Margy starts the song, she sings of “want[ing] a lot of…things/[she’s] never had before.”  Given the traditional associations of birth, new beginnings, love, and even sexuality, with springtime, “It Might As Well Be Spring” could easily speak to Margy’s desires as a newly minted young woman. 

 Many Broadway songs focus on this deeper side of spring’s transitions.  In Rodgers and Hart’s I Married an Angel, for example, Willy sings “Spring Is Here” when things with his angel-wife (yes, you read that correctly) have gone sour.  “Spring is here/why doesn’t my heart go dancing?/spring is here/why isn’t the waltz entrancing?…Maybe it’s because nobody needs me…Maybe it’s because nobody loves me,” he sings.  It’s another clever inversion of the springtime myth: spring may be here, with its gentle “breezes,” and “lads and girls…drinking May wine,” but because Willy has fallen out of love, he can no longer enjoy it.  It’s a springtime love song that depends on negative space rather than positive space: without “love,” “desire,” or “ambition,” there can be no spring.

“Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf’s 1955 tune which was then incorporated into the 1959 musical The Nervous Set, similarly focuses on the “have-nots” of spring rather than the “haves.”  A send-up of the first lines of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” (“April is the cruelest month…”), “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” implies that spring can actually be the worst time of the year – if you’re single, that is.  “Spring this year has got me feeling like a horse that never left the post;/I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling/Spring can really hang you up the most!” the lyrics read.  The song reverses traditional springtime psychology and implies that the singer was happy and in love in the winter, and now, during the joyful spring season of rebirth, is experiencing loneliness. “Love seemed sure around the New Year,” she sings, “Now it’s April, love is just a ghost;/ Spring arrived on time, only what became of you, dear?”  It should be noted that this song, as well as “It Might As Well Be Spring,” became jazz standards, covered by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.  The season’s failure to deliver on its promise is clearly a recurring theme on Broadway and beyond.

But no discussion of spring on Broadway would be complete without “Springtime for Hitler” from Mel Brooks’ The Producers.  The major song in the musical’s show-within-a-show, a favorable retelling of WWII from the perspective of a disgruntled Nazi, “Springtime for Hitler” shows Brooks’ thoughtful understanding – and appreciation – of spring’s metaphorical function in Golden Age musicals.  As the tap-dancing, sausage-wearing Nazis sing lines like “And now it’s springtime for Hitler and Germany/Deutschland is happy and gay,” Brooks is sending up the positive traits associated with springtime in musicals like South Pacific and State Fair.  And to the Nazis represented in the show, “springtime for Hitler” is indeed positive: it encapsulates their military campaign to take over the world.  Brooks makes clear, however, that this seasonal rebirth is actually extremely dark.  Peppered in with the image of a “happy and gay” Germany are lyrics about “U-boats…sailing once more.”  In the song, springtime equals gaiety, but it also happens to equal “bombs falling from the skies again.”  Combined with the schmaltzy musical style, movie-musical tap-dancing, over-the-top costumes, and of course the late, great Gary Beach’s acting, springtime in “Springtime for Hitler,” repeated over 20 times in the eight-minute song, becomes an absurd (and incredibly funny) dramatic irony.

Brooks’ hilarious treatment of springtime is similar to the season’s representation in a lesser known E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy song, “Springtime Cometh” from the 1951 flop Flahooley.  Like “Springtime for Hitler,” “Springtime Cometh” relies on and leans into the audience’s positive associations with spring and its traditional representation in Golden Age musicals.  Sandy/Penny and her genie (truly – don’t ask) sing about “lilacs growing on the clothesline,” “roses growing in the ashcan,” “hummingbird[s],” “merry maidens,” and repeat the word “springtime” six times in the short song.  Harburg went one step further and even wrote the lyrics in a sort of faux Olde English: “Springtime cometh,” the characters sing. “Hummingbird hummeth,/little brook rusheth,/merry maiden blusheth…springtime cometh for love of thee.”  Harburg pushes this construction even further for comedic effect with “Sugarplum plummeth,/Heart, it humpty-dummeth,/And to summeth up,/The Springtime cometh for the love of thee.”  The faux Olde English language reaches its zenith with Harburg’s tongue-and-cheek reference’s to spring’s inherent sexuality: “Lad and lass/In tall green grass/Gaily skippeth,/Nylon rippeth,/Zipper zippeth…which is to say/Spring cometh.”  Harburg’s ironic send-up of springtime is sexual, funny, self-aware, and, most importantly, irreverent.

Broadway clearly has a long-time fascination – and infatuation – with all things spring.  From the huge number of songs with “spring” in their title (and chorus) – to ones that rely on springtime imagery like the lilac trees in My Fair Lady’s “On the Street Where You Live” –  lyricists have used the season to convey and inspire romance, joy, lust, restlessness, loneliness, humor, and personal transformation in equal parts.  So in this close-to-post-pandemic moment: crank up the Broadway show tunes, smell the flowers, and look forward to a new (and hopefully, better) day. As they say: “springtime cometh!” 


Katie Birenboim is a NYC-based actor, director, and writer. She’s performed and directed at Classic Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Group, Barrington Stage, City Center Encores!, The Davenport Theatre, and Ancram Opera House, to name a few.  She is a proud graduate of Princeton University, member of Actors’ Equity, and hosts a weekly interview show on YouTube with theatre’s best and brightest entitled “Call Time with Katie Birenboim.”

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Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Brian Cox

A Memory Lapse

In 1997 I did a one man play about a drunken Irish theatre critic at the Bush theater in London. St Nicholas! Written by Conor McPherson, which I subsequently performed the following year at Primary Stages in New York on 45th street, and for which I was honored with ‘The Lucille Lortel Award’!

But the previous year the play was premiered at the Bush Theatre in London. The Bush was a small intimate theatre with the audience on three sides. This particular night was a sellout performance. The audience were packed to the rafters.

Now St Nicholas is an extremely intricate complicated and fantastical text. With a sinewy comic thread! It demands an incredible level of Concentrated attention from the player. That evening started well.

But…About 6 minutes into the evening I noticed that sitting on front row…in…the middle…to my right was my ex girlfriend. Who I had recently broken up with. I was a little thrown by this …and wondered why on earth she had chosen that particular, really, quite prominent, seat. 

I recovered from this slight ‘hiccup’ and continued, feeling proud of myself that I was not thrown by this ‘obstacle’. So I proceeded with renewed confidence.

After a few minutes, I’d just gotten back in stride when I turned to address my audience stage left and there sitting…in the middle of the left front row was…my ex ex girlfriend. The girl friend previous…to the girl friend…now sitting stage right. In fact these two young ladies were actually sitting…facing…each other. I didn’t panic… but, my anxiety…was, shall we say…mounting.

What on earth was going on? And of course various scenarios began to play out in my mind!

Had they come together?

And as some bizarre joke decided to sit opposite each other? 

Or??….were they there by pure coincidence?

My brain became occupied with, what seemed endless permutations on these shifting scenarios. The text of the play, the main purpose of my attention, was drifting in my consciousness. And..ten minutes into the evening….the inevitable happened. I went up! Dried stone dead.

I struggled like a drowning man seeking a life raft. But after..a beat..which seemed a lifetime. I stopped turned to the audience, and said “Ladies and Gentlemen I’m afraid for reasons I can’t entirely explain, I need to start the evening over again! Apologies!” And so indeed I did…and it was truly scary!

“Will I get over the point where concentration abandoned me.”

And…”Will I indeed get through the entire evening….”

The moment where I had lost my way, was looming like one of those huge fences at the English Grand national horse race. Would I get over the fence? The moment arrived… and I lept the fence.. and..proceeded obsessively to the finish. After it was over, I left the stage exhausted!

I sat in my dressing room. There was a knock on my door. It was my ex-girlfriend. “Brian that was wonderful, what an incredible evening.” I was about to answer when there was another knock at the door. Enter my ex-ex-girlfriend “Brian that was wonderful, what an amaz….Oh hello, blank!

I was about to answer when there was another knock at the door. Enter my ex-ex-girlfriend “Brian that was wonderful, what an amaz….Oh hello, blank! Were you in?”

Ex-girl friend, “Yes, were you, wasn’t it wonderful 

Ex-ex-girlfriend “Amazing!”

I sat there in a state of stupefaction! Me “But weren’t you?… didn’t you? ..Um..ah…see..?”

Both, “What?

Me,  “Oh…Nothing…”

Ex girlfriend “ I was absolutely caught from the moment you came on!

Ex-ex-girlfriend “Oh, Me too! Me too”.

Both “But..why did you stop?”

Me, “Ah!…That!…Momentary lapse of concentration!”


Brian Cox

Brian Cox is an Olivier Award, Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner known for playing Logan Roy on HBO‘s Succession. He has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gained recognition for his portrayal of King Lear. Additional credits include: Super Troopers, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, X2, Braveheart, Rushmore, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Troy.

Categories
Stories from the Stage

STORIES FROM THE STAGE – Estelle Parsons

My First (and Last) Artistic Directorship: 1986-8

I was in a sauna with my husband and 3 year old son on the Dingel peninsula when I received a phone call from Joe Papp asking me to start a multicultural Shakespeare company for him to play for the New York City school system.

Why me? He had seen a multicultural-multilingual production of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA that I had directed at the Womens’ Interart Theater on 52nd Street. I put together a company: 5 Blacks, 6 Hispanics, 3 Japanese, 2 Whites and 1 Turk.

We played in the Anspacher theater at 425 Lafayette Street for one year and then moved to the Belasco Theater on West 44th Street as SHAKESPEARE ON BROADWAY. It was Joe Papp’s dream.

We played daytimes during the school week for high school and junior high school students. On Friday and Saturdays they could bring their families from great grandparents to babes-in-arms. It was all free.

I TOOK FIVE MONTHS TO DEVELOP THE COMPANY

First an hour of relaxation and physical work led by a member of the company who was a dancer.

Then an hour of vocal work led by another member of the company. Then, five hours of free form work to find out who these actors were.

The reason for these five months?

Commercial actors of whatever culture or race learned to “act white” back in the 80s. I wanted to know who these people really were, their customs, their talk, their heritage, themselves. That stuff is the bedrock of compelling theater and fine acting.

One day Rene Moreno, an Hispanic, was showing us something of his heritage when Vince Williams, a big black guy from a family of musicians in New Orleans, sitting near me watching in the audience, piped up with “My heritage is some guys standing on a beach waiting to be brought here to be slaves”. Necessary talk this. Five months of it.

What do high school students like? Sports teams, oh, yes!

We put sweats on the actors and we had a sports team. (Ruth Morley of ANNIE HALL fame did the costumes). THE NEW YORK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL PLAYERS

AFTER 5 MONTHS, HERE’S THE DRILL!

The actors came out to introduce themselves “Hello. I’m . . .”

But-hold it! Is that theater? What is your moniker, what is your “John Hancock”?

What is yourself? Show me your essence!

Not easy. Maybe impossible. Try.

One actor was really good at juggling. One could do backflips. One had been trained at New York City Ballet. Got it? Too big a challenge? Yes. Try!

By now the kids were into it.

Bess Myerson, a former Miss America, now part of the city government saw just this much of the performance and gave us a big donation.

BLACKOUT. LIGHTS UP. AS YOU LIKE IT.

Natsuko was Rosalind. Celia was Regina Taylor—with a live boa constrictor around her neck. 25 pounds. Had his own dressing room.

“I can’t rehearse all day with this thing around my neck.” Of course not—but it had been her idea.

One matinee, lights came up and a big girl in the front row shot to the back of the house – faster than any animal I had ever seen run.

The snake was still on Regina’s shoulders.

We alternated AS YOU LIKE IT and ROMEO AND JULIET.

We played the Anspacher, the Mobile Unit in the parks all summer, and then added the Scottish play when we became SHAKESPEARE ON BROADWAY. Ching Valez played Lady M.

Oh, but she could.

After the students had seen the productions, the actors, as themselves, visited the schools and “played Shakespeare” with them.

At the end of our second season, I went, as a wife, to Gracie Mansion for dinner with the Mayor. My husband worked in the city government.

Bobby Wagner, head of the school board, was there. He told a story.

“I was in a school elevator and asked a teacher how her year had been. She said ‘Estelle Parsons’ Shakespeare program was the only good thing that happened all year.”


Estelle Parsons received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde, and was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Rachel, Rachel. She is well known for playing Beverly Harris, on the sitcom “Roseanne”, and its spinoff “The Conners”. She has been nominated five times for the Tony Award (four times for Lead Actress of a Play and once for Featured Actress) for her work in The Seven Descents of Myrtle, And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Miss Margarida’s Way, Morning’s at Seven, and The Velocity of Autumn. 

Categories
Interviews

All The World’s Her Stage (…and Backstage)

Beverly Jenkins is not afraid of a cut show. That’s a performance where there are more actors calling out than there are understudies or swings to replace them, and it requires a last-minute reconfiguration of everything from blocking to costuming to the placement of props.

For many people, this would be terrifying, but for Jenkins, who’s been a Broadway stage manager since the early 90s, it’s an opportunity.

“It’s a challenge I actually enjoy,” she says. “I know it’s a crazy thing to enjoy. It’s not something you wish for, but if you need to make it happen and you have the right people, you can make it happen.”

Case in point: At one performance of Broadway’s A Bronx Tale The Musical, she only had one Black actress available, even though there was a scene that required two. “I had to decide,” she recalls. “‘Do I have one Black female on stage, or do I have a Black female and a Black male in that other track?’ I’d planned for that, because you have to plan for that, even if it never happens. So I made the decision to have a Black male on stage, because otherwise it would have thrown some things off [to just have one person]. I spoke to some people; we made a few changes, and it worked. No problem.”

That solution indicates what a distinct style of stage management Jenkins has developed over her career, which includes landmark productions like Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk; the original Miss Saigon; and her current gig as the production stage manager for Hadestown.

The cast and crew of Hadestown

Crucially, she sees a cut show as a chance to connect. “It’s a community event,” she says. “You check with wardrobe, and they’ll make adjustments. The music department and the dance captains are involved. I always reach out to the director or the AD to make sure my choices are okay. And I take the personal trip to tell people what’s happening. I get a couple of extra steps in on my FitBit, and I’m good. I want to make sure I’m personally letting people know what’s going on before they step on stage.”

Those steps — up and down stairs, into the green room, into the wings — set Jenkins apart “Beverly runs a building, and she doesn’t have to open her computer to do it,” says Michael Rico Cohen, a fellow stage manager who has worked alongside her on A Bronx Tale The Musical, Amazing Grace, and Fully Committed.

“She is the person-to-person contact. She’s the problem solver. She’s the empathy master.”

Or to borrow a phrase Jenkins uses to describe herself, she’s a mom of many. “I’m fine with the tech,” she says. “It’s all good. I’m very calm, and I can call a cue just as well as the next person, but I believe my speciality is about being hands-on with the people. I put a lot of thought and care into everyone — not just the actors, but everyone — coming into that theatre.”

On every show, then, a big part of her job is figuring out exactly what this particular group of people needs. For instance, on Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, the 1996 dance musical that uses tap to trace Black history in the United States, Jenkins worked with performers who were more familiar with the dance world than with Broadway. “Sorry Equity, but I had to bend the rules for this group of young men,” she says. “I had to assess the rules and see what they needed. Like, ‘I know this is half hour, and if you’re not here at half hour, then I need you to call me and tell me how far away you are. And as Iong as I know you’re coming, you get a five-minute grace period.’ And that’s something I still do, the five-minute grace period.”

On Noise/Funk, she also turned her office into an occasional daycare center, so that parents in the company could bring their children with them when there were no other options. She recalls, “I had Barney tapes. I had a playpen. I was like, ‘You’re not going to be forced to miss work because you’re doing the right thing with your child.’ I have to get my show up, no matter what. I have to figure out how to get the best show on stage today. And on that show, watching kids was part of it.”

For Amazing Grace, the 2015 Broadway musical that explores how the British slave trade inspired the titular hymn, Jenkins knew her job required extra compassion. She says, “Amazing Grace was important to me because of what was happening on stage. How hard is it that the first time you see Black people on stage, they are stuffed in a crate, and then they get pulled out, thrown on the ground, and shot in the back? So when the actors come off stage, how can they not carry that off stage? How do we make sure that these people are not carrying the feelings of trauma off stage with them?

“We had company morale-building events. We had t-shirt day. We made sure the dressing rooms were mixed, and that we weren’t keeping the Puritans over here and the Africans over here. It was good to see everyone put thought into how to make this a harmonious backstage area and still tell that particular story.”

It no doubt helped that Jenkins herself was spearheading the backstage culture. “She is wildly good at creating fellowship and community,” says Rachel Chavkin, the director of Hadestown.

“She exudes exuberance, but also doesn’t beat around the bush when she’s got a problem to work through. And she’s not precious, because she’s focused on problem-solving at every turn.”

Jenkins asserts that small touches help a company avoid bigger problems, particularly when they’re together for a lengthy run. That’s one reasons she runs a “turkey hand” contest for Thanksgiving, getting everyone in the building to trace their hand on construction paper and then turn it into a decorated turkey drawing. “And believe me, there are prizes, honey,” she says.

Cohen confirms, “There’s nobody that loves a turkey hand competition more than Beverly Jenkins. But it’s more than just turkey hands or door decorating contests or the Father’s Day barbecue. She’s a master of the casual-but-meaningful interaction. It creates a camaraderie and an immediate trust. It’s these little things that really make the building a happy place over a period of years. All of those things are just as important — and sometimes more — than announcing what we’re doing in understudy rehearsal on Friday.”


Mark Blankenship is the founder and editor of The Flashpaper and the host of The Showtune Countdown on iHeartRadio Broadway.

Categories
Creative

The Broadway Career of Kara Young

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, Kara Young is nominated for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her performance in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway roles that got her there:


Uzo Aduba's New Broadway Play 'Clyde's' Will Be Live Streamed for At-Home  Viewing!: Photo 4665958 | Broadway, Edmund Donovan, Kara Young, Reza  Salazar, Ron Cephas Jones, Uzo Aduba Photos | Just Jared:

Clyde’s (2022)

Young’s Broadway career began with her breakout performance as Letitia in Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s. This performance earned her a Tony Award and Drama Desk nomination, as well as a Theatre World Award.


Martyna Majok's Cost of Living Extends on Broadway | Broadway Buzz |  Broadway.com

Cost of Living (2023)

The following season, Young went on to portray the role of Jess in Cost of Living, earning her a second Tony Award and Drama Desk nomination. Young’s journey epitomizes the essence of a rising star. Critics lauded her ability to seamlessly transition between comedic and dramatic roles, captivating audiences with her authenticity and depth.


Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch (2023)

For a third season in a row, she graced Broadway by portraying the role of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins in the acclaimed revival of Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through The Cotton Patch. This role earned her her third Tony Award nomination, as well as Outer Critics Circle and Drama League nominations. She has already won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Performer in a Play for Purlie Victorious. Young has made history for being the first Black performer nominated in three consecutive seasons in the same category, Best Featured Actress in a Play, at the Tony Awards. With each performance, she deftly navigates complex characters, leaving an indelible mark on the theater landscape. Young’s Broadway career serves as a testament to her passion for storytelling and her unwavering dedication to her craft, ensuring her place among the brightest talents of her generation.

Categories
Creative

The Broadway Career of Amy Herzog

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, Amy Herzog is nominated for Best Play for her poignant work in “Mary Jane” and Best Revival of a Play for her adaptation of “An Enemy of the People.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway productions that got her there:


A Doll's House' Broadway Review: Jessica Chastain In Stark Revival

A Doll’s House (2023)

In this revival of Henrik Ibsen’s classic, Herzog’s adaptation breathed new life into the story of Nora Helmer, a woman struggling to break free from the confines of a suffocating marriage starring Jessica Chastain. The production, helmed by Jamie Lloyd, was critically acclaimed and earned Herzog a Tony nomination for Best Revival of a Play.


Mary Jane' Broadway Review: Rachel McAdams is Solid In Gripping Play

Mary Jane (2023)

Herzog’s poignant play, “Mary Jane,” centers on a single mother, played by Rachel McAdams, navigating the challenges of caring for a chronically ill child. The play is a testament to Herzog’s ability to craft deeply human and relatable stories, earning her a Tony nomination for Best Play.


An Enemy of the People' Theater Review: Jeremy Strong Ignites Ibsen

An Enemy of the People (2024)

Herzog’s latest work, an adaptation of Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People,” tackles themes of political corruption and environmental crisis. This timely and powerful play has garnered Herzog another Tony nomination for Best Play this season.

Categories
Creative

The Broadway Career of Michael Greif

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, five-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif achieved the rare feat of directing three Broadway productions in a single season: “Days of Wine and Roses,” “The Notebook” (co-directed with Schele Williams), and “Hell’s Kitchen.” Greif is nominated for Best Direction of a Musical for his work on “Hell’s Kitchen.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway productions that got him here!


Rent (1996)

Greif’s breakout moment came with Jonathan Larson’s rock musical Rent, a modern adaptation of Puccini’s “La Bohème” set in New York City’s East Village. This production, with its raw portrayal of artists struggling with love, life, and AIDS, won the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Greif’s direction was pivotal in capturing the spirit of the era, blending gritty realism with hopeful idealism, and introducing a new, diverse audience to Broadway.


Never Gonna Dance (2003)

The musical, featuring the music of Jerome Kern, marked the return of Greif to Broadway after the success of Rent. Based on the 1936 film Swing Time, the musical had a short run at the Broadhurst theater and featured choreography by Broadway legend Jerry Mitchell. 


Grey Gardens (2006)

Greif received his second Tony Award nomination for his Direction of this musical adaptation of the 1975 documentary. With book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, and lyrics by Michael Korie, Grey Gardens starred Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson, and earned critical acclaim for its intimate portrayal of eccentricity and decline. Greif’s sensitive direction highlighted the nuanced performances, helping Ebersole and Wilson win Tony Awards for their roles.


Next to Normal (2009)

A staple in the musical theater canon, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s Next to Normal was Greif’s third Tony Award nomination for Best Direction. The rock musical which explores mental illness and its impact on a suburban family. Greif’s ability to navigate the show’s emotional intensity and complex subject matter resulted in a powerful, empathetic production that resonated deeply with audiences and critics alike. 


If/Then (2014)

The 2014 musical marked Greif’s second Broadway production with writing team Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. Starring Idina Menzel, If/Then played a total of 401 performances and 19 previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, closing on March 22, 2015. The musical also features Broadway regulars LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, and Jen Colella. 


Dear Evan Hansen (2016)

Greif earned his fourth Tony Award nomination for his work on Dear Evan Hansen. The musical, with book by Steven Levenson, music by Justin Paul, and lyrics by Benj Pasek, follows the life of a socially anxious teenager caught in a web of lies, struck a chord with its contemporary themes of social media and mental health. Under Greif’s direction, the production received six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. His sensitive handling of the material and the compelling performances he drew from the cast, particularly Ben Platt, played a significant role in the show’s success.


War Paint (2017)

Starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, War Paint told the story of two pioneering women in the beauty industry: Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. The musical explored themes of rivalry, ambition, and empowerment. Greif’s direction brought out the competitive spirit and underlying respect between the two characters. War Paint concluded its Broadway run on November 5th, 2017, after 269 performances. 


Days of Wine and Roses (2024)

Greif’s first musical of the 2023-2024 Broadway season was the Broadway transfer of Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ Days of Wine and Roses. Starring Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James, the musical adaptation of the 1962 film following a young couple and their decent into alcoholism. The musical earned critical acclaim for its score and handle of the intense subject matter, and the production ended its Broadway engagement at Studio 54 on March 31st


The Notebook (2024)

The Ingrid Michaelson and Bekah Brunstetter adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel marks Greifs second production of the 2023-2024 Broadway season. Co-directed by Greif and Schele Williams,  the musical follows the harrowing love story of a young couple at three stages of their life and opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in March following its world premiere in Chicago. 


Hell’s Kitchen (2024)

Hell’s Kitchen is Greif’s third production of the 2023-2024 Broadway season and his fifth Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Musical. Currently playing at the Shubert Theatre,  Hell’s Kitchen features the music of Alicia Keys and is a semi-autobiographical story of her childhood in central Manhattan. The show has earned 13 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. 


Categories
Creative

The Broadway Career of Leslie Odom, Jr.

by Ben Togut

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, Leslie Odom Jr. is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his performance in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway roles that got him there:


Rent (1998)

Odom Jr. made his Broadway debut in Rent at the age of 17. As Paul, the leader of a support group, Odom Jr. was part of the group number “Life Support,” a song where characters affected by HIV/AIDS express their fears about living with the condition.


Leap of Faith (2012)

In 2012, Odom Jr. returned to Broadway in Leap of Faith, a musical about a con artist who poses as a reverend and a healer. Odom Jr. played bible college student Isaiah Sturdevant opposite Raúl Esparza and Jessica Phillips, together singing the music of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.


Hamilton (2015)

Odom Jr. made his big break in Hamilton opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo. Odom Jr. starred as Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s political rival who ultimately kills him in a duel. For his villainous portrayal of the Founding Father, Odom Jr. won his first Tony Award, gaining widespread recognition for his role in this musical juggernaut.


Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch (2023)

Odom Jr. most recently appeared in the Broadway revival of Purlie Victorious as Reverend Purlie Victorious Judson, a traveling preacher who comes back to his hometown in Georgia to save his church. In the production, Odom Jr. once again showcased his abilities as a leading man, embodying the titular role with charisma and intensity. For his inspired performance, Odom Jr. earned his second Tony nomination.

Categories
Creative

The Broadway Career of Kelli O’Hara

by Ben Togut

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

Over her career, Kelli O’Hara has cultivated a reputation that is synonymous with Broadway excellence. For almost 25 years, O’Hara has been a force to be reckoned with on the Broadway stage, captivating audiences with her operatic vocals and expressive onstage presence.

This season, O’Hara is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for her performance in “Days of Wine & Roses.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway productions that got her here!


Sweet Smell of Success (2002)

O’Hara originated her first Broadway role in Sweet Smell of Success as Susan, a woman whose older brother uses his connections to thwart her relationship with a man he dislikes. O’Hara starred alongside Brian d’Arcy James and John Lithgow in the production, which featured a score by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia.


The Light in the Piazza (2005)

O’Hara’s next Broadway role was in The Light in the Piazza, where she played a young girl with a developmental disability who falls in love with an Italian man while vacationing with her mother. O’Hara starred opposite Victoria Clark and Matthew Morrison, showcasing her soprano performing the music of Adam Guettel. For her performance as Clara Johnson, O’Hara garnered her first Tony nomination.


The Pajama Game (2006)

O’Hara earned her second Tony nomination for her performance in the 2006 revival of The Pajama Game. In this musical comedy, O’Hara played Babe, a woman fighting for labor rights who falls in love with a superintendent, played by Harry Connick Jr. in his Broadway debut.


South Pacific (2008)

O’Hara next starred in the 2008 revival of musical South Pacific opposite Paul Szot and Danny Burstein. As Nellie Forbush, a young nurse stationed on a Pacific island who falls in love with a plantation owner during WWII, O’Hara performed Rodgers and Hammerstein standards such as “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy” and “I’m Gonna Wash That That Man Right Outa My Hair,” earning her third Tony nomination.


Theater Review: Nice Work If You Can Get It Is De-Lovely

Nice Work If You Can Get It (2012)

O’Hara next appeared opposite Matthew Broderick and Michael McGrath in Nice Work If You Can Get It, a musical featuring the classics of Ira and George Gershwin. In her role as Billie Bendix, a bootlegger who falls in love with a wealthy man, O’Hara showcased vulnerability and vocal prowess singing Broadway standard “Someone to Watch Over Me.”


Bridges of Madison County (2014)

In the 2014 musical adaptation of Bridges of Madison County, O’Hara took on another romantic lead as Francesca Johnson, a married woman who falls in love with a National Geographic photographer, played by Steven Pasquale. O’Hara’s heartfelt performance and mastery of Jason Robert Brown’s lush score earned her her fifth Tony nomination.


The King and I (2015)

O’Hara next appeared alongside Ken Watanabe and Ruthie Ann Miles in the 2015 revival of The King and I as Anna Leonowens, a British school teacher hired to be the governess of the children of the King of Siam. O’Hara once again proved her abilities as a leading lady, tackling Rodgers and Hammerstein classics such as “Getting to Know You” and “Hello, Young Lovers,” winning her first Tony award for her performance. 


Kiss Me, Kate (2019)

O’Hara starred in another revival of a classic musical, this time in 2019’s Kiss Me Kate. As Lilli Vanessi, a movie star playing Katharine in The Taming of the Shrew, O’Hara starred opposite Will Chase and Corbin Blue, singing Cole Porter standards such as “So in Love” and “From This Moment On.”


Days of Wine and Roses (2023)

O’Hara most recently starred in “Days of Wine and Roses,” for which she received her eighth Tony nomination alongside Brian D’Arcy James. O’Hara had a large role in conceiving the musical alongside Adam Guettel, a composer she collaborated with at the beginning of her career almost 20 years ago.


Categories
Cover Story Creative

Generational Clash: N/A Explores Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez’s Political Rift

by Marie France

As Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi made history in 2007 as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a prestigious science fair prize as a senior in high school. 11 years later, at the age of 28, Ocasio-Cortez would go on to become the youngest woman elected to Congress – posing a threat to Pelosi’s leadership and Democratic Party unity.

That battle – between the most consequential, Democratic House Speaker and the fresh-faced, Puerto-Rican congressional newcomer from the Bronx – takes centerstage, literally, in the new Off Broadway play, “N/A.”

While not naming names, former Congressional Aide turned playwright, Mario Correa, delves into fundamental fractures that arose within the party amid disagreements between the two women during Former President Trump’s first term. Pelosi at times clashed with progressive members of the House, known as “The Squad” – a group comprised of newly elected women of color, including Ocasio-Cortez.

Holland Taylor plays N in “N/A.”

Emmy Award winner Holland Taylor (“The Practice,” “Two and a Half Men”) stars in the show as “N,” seemingly inspired by Pelosi, and Theatre World Award winner, Ana Villafañe, plays “A,” a politician likely based on Ocasio-Cortez. Both stars have experience playing powerful women with big personalities. In 2013, Taylor earned a Tony Award nomination after writing and starring in Broadway’s “Ann,” a one-woman show about the late Democratic Texas Governor Ann Richards. Villafañe made her Broadway debut in 2006, starring as Latin Pop icon, Gloria Estefan, in “On Your Feet!” 

Ana Villafañe plays A in “N/A.”

On stage — as “A” rises in prominence, “N” realizes she is a force to be reckoned with. In real life — the two, powerhouse politicians famously had a contentious meeting in 2019. Speaker Pelosi said it “cleared the air” and that the leaders doubled down on their efforts to represent their districts and tackle the challenges ahead. 

Born in Chile, Correa worked in around politics in D.C. before becoming a writer. His hit play TAIL! SPIN!, starring Saturday Night Live veteran, Rachel Dratch, was nominated for Best Unique Theatrical Experience by the Off-Broadway Alliance.  On “N/A,” he teams up with Tony winner, Diane Paulus, who was behind musicals “Pippin,” “Hair,” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess,” and has helmed the plays of Eve Ensler, Suzan-Lori Parks, Emily Mann (Gloria: A Life about Gloria Steinem), and more, to deliver a message and power, politics, and the perilous path to progress. Inspired by real people and events, producers describe the riveting two-hander as “the tale of the person whom many consider the most powerful woman in American history and the once-in-a-generation political talent who defied her.”

Playwright Mario Correa and Director Diane Paulus pose with the poster for “N/A.”

Catch the battle of wills and wits between two congresswomen, generations apart, when previews for “N/A” begin on June 11 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. Opening night is June 25.

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Creative

The Broadway Career of Camille A. Brown

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, Camille A. Brown is nominated for Best Choreography for her work on “Hell’s Kitchen.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway productions that got her here!


A Streetcar Named Desire (2012)

Brown made her Broadway debut as the choreographer for the 2012 revival of Tennessee Williams’ classic, directed by Emily Mann. Her choreography was set against the original score by 5-time Grammy Award winner Terence Blanchard.


Once on This Island (2017)

Brown returned to Broadway to choreograph the Tony Award-winning revival of Once on This Island, which played in the round at Circle In The Square Theatre. Set in the French Antilles, it follows a young peasant girl named Ti Moune who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island and faces the gods who rule their world. The immersive revival, directed by Michael Arden, received critical acclaim for its creative use of design and storytelling, and Brown was commended for her choreography which blended traditional and contemporary styles of dance.


Choir Boy (2019)

Mendez was part of the cast in the 2011 revival of Godspell, where she brought the house down with “Bless the Lord.”  This production allowed her to further exhibit her dynamic range as a performer in a show known for its eclectic musical style.


For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (2022)

In the 2022 revival of Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking work, Brown made history as both the director and choreographer. The play, which is a series of poetic monologues accompanied by dance and music, describing the experiences of African American women. Exploring themes of love, empowerment, struggle, and loss, Brown’s choreography seamlessly blended with Shange’s powerful text, using movement to express the emotional depth and cultural resonance of the poems. Brown received two Tony Award nominations for her work; Best Direction of a Play and Best Choreography.


Hell’s Kitchen (2024)

Alongside Dogfight co-star Derek Klena, Mendez took to oz as the infamous green witch in Wicked. Mendez is remembered for her notable blog series “Fly Girl” which took audiences backstage at the Gershwin Theater, giving exclusive behind the scenes insight of the smash musical.


Gypsy (Upcoming)

Brown is set to choreograph the highly anticipated revival of Gypsy, starring Audra McDonald. The revival, directed by George C. Wolfe, is set to begin performances this fall at the newly renovated Majestic Theatre.


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Creative

The Broadway Career of Lindsay Mendez

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, Lindsay Mendez is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her performance in “Merrily We Roll Along.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway roles that got her here!


Grease (2007)

Mendez made her Broadway debut as Jan in the 2007 revival of Grease. The production, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, starred Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, who had been selected via the realities series competition “Grease: You’re the One that I Want!”


Everyday Rapture (2010)

Following a well-received Off-Broadway run, Mendez appeared in the Broadway transfer of the mixed jukebox musical. Starring Sherie Rene Scott, the musical featured songs from artists including Judy Garland, David Byrne, Johnny Mercer and more.


Godspell (2011)

Mendez was part of the cast in the 2011 revival of Godspell, where she brought the house down with “Bless the Lord.”  This production allowed her to further exhibit her dynamic range as a performer in a show known for its eclectic musical style.


Dogfight (2012)

While not on Broadway, the Off-Broadway premiere of Pasek and Paul’s Dogfight is widely known by theater lovers across the globe. Starring opposite Derek Klena, Mendez touching portrayal of shy waitress, Rose, received rave reviews and Drama League, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations.


Wicked (2013)

Alongside Dogfight co-star Derek Klena, Mendez took to oz as the infamous green witch in Wicked. Mendez is remembered for her notable blog series “Fly Girl” which took audiences backstage at the Gershwin Theater, giving exclusive behind the scenes insight of the smash musical.


Significant Other (2017)

Mendez returned to Broadway in the transfer of Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other, directed by Trip Cullman. Alongside Mendez, the cast featured Gideon Glick, John Behlmann, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Sas Goldberg, Luke Smith, and Barbara Barrie. Significant Other concluded its limited engagement on April 23, 2017.


Carousel (2018)

Following in the footsteps of Jean Darling and Audra McDonald, Mendez took on the role of Carrie Pipperidge in the 2018 Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, directed by Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Justin Peck. The cast also featured notable Broadway stars Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, and Renée Fleming. Mendez’ performance won her the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.


Merrily We Roll Along (2023)

Mendez is yet again nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along. A standout of the season, this beloved revival starring Mendez, Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Groff is currently running at the Hudson Theatre until July 7th.


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Creative

The Broadway Career of Liev Schreiber

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, Liev Schreiber is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for his performance in “Doubt.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway roles that got him here!


Photo by Martha Swope

In the Summer House (1993)

Liev Schreiber made his Broadway debut in “In the Summer House,” playing Lionel in this revival of Jane Bowles’ play. The production delves into the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, with Schreiber’s performance hinting at the depth and intensity he would bring to future roles.


Betrayal (2000)

Schreiber starred as Jerry in Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal,” a play that explores the intricacies of an extramarital affair told in reverse chronology. His nuanced portrayal of the complexities of love and deception garnered critical acclaim.


Harold Pinter’s The Invention of Love (2001)

In “The Invention of Love,” Schreiber played Moses Jackson in Tom Stoppard’s exploration of the life of poet A.E. Housman. The play juxtaposes the poet’s unrequited love for Jackson with his later years, reflecting on love, art, and academia.


Henry V (2003)

Schreiber took on the titular role in “Henry V,” delivering a powerful performance as the English king. His portrayal of the young monarch’s journey from a reckless youth to a responsible ruler was both compelling and deeply human.


Glengarry Glen Ross (2005)

In the revival of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Schreiber played Ricky Roma, the slick and persuasive real estate salesman. His performance earned him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play, solidifying his status as a Broadway heavyweight.


Talk Radio (2007)

Schreiber starred as Barry Champlain in Eric Bogosian’s “Talk Radio,” a role that demanded both charisma and intensity. His portrayal of the abrasive radio host was lauded for its raw energy and emotional depth.


A View from the Bridge (2010)

Schreiber’s performance as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” was hailed as a tour de force. His portrayal of the tragic longshoreman grappling with forbidden emotions and familial duty earned him another Tony nomination.


Les Liaisons Dangereuses (2016)

In “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” Schreiber played the scheming and seductive Vicomte de Valmont. His performance in this tale of manipulation and betrayal was noted for its complexity and dark charm.


Doubt (2023)

Schreiber’s latest triumph is his portrayal of Father Flynn in “Doubt,” a gripping play by John Patrick Shanley that explores themes of morality, suspicion, and the complexity of truth. His performance has been widely praised for its depth and intensity, capturing the multifaceted nature of the character. This role has earned him a Tony nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play.

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Creative

The Broadway Career of Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer

On June 16, 2024, the 77th Annual Tony Awards will be held at the David H. Koch Theater, celebrating the best and brightest of this year’s Broadway season! The nominees include those onstage and off, mainstays and newcomers alike. In celebration, Broadway’s Best Shows is highlighting some of the Broadway perennials recognized with Tony nods in this incredibly fruitful year.

This season, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for her performance in “Spamalot.” Here’s a breakdown of the Broadway roles that got her here!


Hairspray (2004)

Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer made her Broadway debut in the hit musical “Hairspray,” stepping into the role of Shelley, one of the lovable Nicest Kids in Town. “Hairspray” is a feel-good musical that tackles issues of race and body image with humor and heart, set in 1960s Baltimore.


Legally Blonde (2007)

Kritzer’s next notable Broadway role was as Serena, one of Elle Woods’ peppy Delta Nu sorority sisters. “Legally Blonde” is a high-energy musical based on the popular film, telling the story of Elle Woods as she tackles stereotypes and triumphs at Harvard Law School.


A Catered Affair (2008)

In “A Catered Affair,” Kritzer played Janey Hurley in a poignant musical about a working-class family planning a wedding in the Bronx.


Sondheim on Sondheim (2010)

This unique musical revue celebrated the life and work of Stephen Sondheim, featuring a cast of Broadway veterans performing his most beloved songs. Kritzer was among the ensemble, showcasing her versatility and deep connection to Sondheim’s work.


Elf: The Musical (2010)

Kritzer charmed audiences as Jovie in “Elf: The Musical,” a holiday favorite based on the beloved film. Her performance brought warmth and humor to the role of Buddy the Elf’s skeptical yet endearing love interest.


Something Rotten! (2015)

Kritzer took on the role of Bea Bottom in “Something Rotten!,” a hilarious musical comedy that imagines the creation of the world’s first musical in Shakespearean England. Her character, Bea, is a resourceful and supportive wife with a penchant for cross-dressing to help her husband.


Beetlejuice (2019)

In “Beetlejuice,” Kritzer played Delia Deetz, the eccentric stepmother with a penchant for the paranormal. The musical, based on the cult classic film, is a darkly comedic romp through the afterlife, with Kritzer’s performance standing out for its wit and zaniness.


Spamalot (2023)

Kritzer’s latest triumph is her role as the Lady of the Lake in “Spamalot,” a musical comedy adapted from the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Her performance has garnered critical acclaim and earned her a Tony nomination, showcasing her range and comedic timing in this hilarious parody of the Arthurian legend.