Monday, December 4, 2023

If I Had Spotify...

If I Had Spotify...


If you have been following this site for a fair amount of time, you know I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I'm okay with computers, and I love my cell phone (to a point). But I'm not into all the social media stuff - I have just enough to suit me. And I'm not an earbuds-always-listening-to-music type of guy. Vinyl and CDs is as far as I'll go - physical media forever! 

Still, around this time of year annually, my Twitter and Instagram (see, I do have some social media) is flooded with "Spotify Wrapped" postings. I am, apparently, captivated by the listening habits of complete strangers. Granted, I'm at the age where I don't recognize most of the songs or artists, but I still find it interesting. Naturally, I'm taken with those whose minutes were most spent listening to show tunes. Well, if I had Spotify, here's what my Wrapped would be for 2023:


HONORABLE MENTION:
                6. Shucked                                        11. Independently Owned
                                                                           12. Somebody Will

Friday, December 1, 2023

Looking Forward to Winter: December 2023 - February 2024

Brrr! It sure has been cold lately. But even as the winds topple Christmas trees and snows have already slowed traffic, Broadway remains hot. Well, at least pretty warm. Though only a few new shows will be opening this winter, we have plenty to catch up on.

As usual, before we look ahead, let's review how our show-going fall went. We only made it to four shows, but it was very successful. Talk about variety! A staged concert of a rarely seen Sondheim show, a new musical by LaChiusa, a spectacular immersive staging, and a fun trip down memory lane were what we got to, and we liked them all. In the order we saw them: Back to the Future: The Musical (A-), Here Lies Love (A), The Frogs (A-), and The Gardens of Anuncia (A). That's an average of roughly 93% - an A!

And now, on to the future. (The list below includes only shows that have already opened, or will open during December - February.) Be sure to let us know what you are looking forward to this winter!

Looking Forward to Winter:
December 2023 - February 2024

Holdovers From Autumn:

Gutenberg! The Musical
 
(James Earl Jones Theatre)
I know almost nothing about this one, other than Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad are the stars, Alex Timbers is directing, and it has something to do with the guy who invented the printing press. There are worse ideas out there, right?





Harmony
 
(Ethel Barrymore Theatre)
I'm looking forward to hearing what kind of score Barry Manilow has come up with, and I am very interested in the subject matter, especially given the current climate. Plus, I am excited to see the great Chip Zien, and I am charmed by Sierra Boggess, plus I really need to see what all the fuss is about Julie Benko




How to Dance in Ohio
 
(Belasco Theatre)
Despite very mixed early audience reports and an underwhelming parade performance, I'm still hoping to catch this one. I find the whole autism spectrum to be very interesting, and hope to learn a lot about this sensitive subject in researching it and from the show. 





Merrily We Roll Along
 
(Hudson Theatre)
I've said it before, I'll say it again: The Sondheim enigma show. Groff. Radcliffe. Mendez. How could we not? BUT will it live up to the hype?








Here We Are
 (Off-Broadway at The Shed)
The final Sondheim musical. Ever. Are we interested? Duh. And that cast! Double duh!






New to Broadway This Winter:

Days of Wine and Roses
(Roundabout Theater Company at Studio 54)
Intriguing. All indications say that this is a show we need to bring your brain to. I always like challenges. That its score is by Adam Guettel and it stars two of my all-time favorite actors, Kelli O'Hara and Brian d'Arcy James only sweetens the pot.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Broadway Games: 'Tis the Season!

🎄Broadway Games: 'Tis the Season🎄


Thanksgiving is behind us, and that means the "Is 'Turkey Lurkey Time' a Thanksgiving song or a Christmas song?" debate has reared its ugly head once again, and rages anew. It also means we begin celebrating the holiday season in earnest. And today's game is all about that!

Directions: Figure out each clue. Then rearrange the tree letters to come up with the Broadway holiday answer. Good luck!  

___  ___      ___  ___  ___  ___      ___

___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___

___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___

1. Now starring Jordan Fischer and Betty Who.   🎄 ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___  ___ 🎄 (9 letters)

2. The demon barber of Fleet Street.   ___ 🎄 ___  ___  ___  ___  ___     ___  ___  ___ 🎄 (11 letters, 2 words)

3. Ms. Levi, Matchmaker.   ___  ___ 🎄🎄 ___ (5 letters)

4. The head Mean Girl.   ___  ___  ___ 🎄 ___  ___       ___ 🎄 ___ 🎄 ___  ___ (12 letters, 2 words)

5. Water For _____.   ___  ___  ___  ___  ___🎄 ___ 🎄 ___  (9 letters)

6. I Need That star.   ___🎄___  ___  ___       ___🎄 ___  ___ 🎄 ___  (11 letters, 2 words)

7. Where you learn to dance this season.   ___  ___ 🎄 ___ (4 letters)

8. Title character in this year's Best Musical.   ___  ___ 🎄 ___ 🎄 ___  ___  ___ (8 letters)

9. She played Elsa.   🎄 ___  ___ 🎄🎄 ___  ___  (7 letters)

10. Back to the _____.   ___  ___ 🎄 ___  ___ 🎄(6 letters)

Monday, November 27, 2023

Broadway Who's Who: Priscilla Lopez

An actor with a nearly 60 year Broadway career, our latest honoree is probably significant for different reasons to theater fans depending upon when Priscilla Lopez came into their theater-going lives. Early 2000s fans probably identify with her as Nina's mother in In the Heights, or more recently as Berthe in the revival of Pippin. If you were new to Broadway in the 80s, you might have caught her Tony-winning turn in A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine, or as a replacement in Nine. Through the years, she's been a steady presence on the New York stage in plays as varied as Extremities with Farrah Fawcett, Anna in the Tropics and recently in The Skin of Our Teeth and Grand Horizons. She also has amassed nearly 70 IMDb credits including theater-fan films like Center Stage, Ratatouille: The Tik Tok Musical and Theater Camp. But for most Broadway fans, it was her star-making role as Diana in A Chorus Line, making "Nothing" and "What I Did For Love" instant and enduring Broadway classic songs.  These days, she's giving an amazing performance in the off-Broadway musical, The Gardens of Anuncia.

Broadway Who's Who:
Priscilla Lopez


DID YOU KNOW?
  • BORN: February 26 in The Bronx, New York
  • FAMILY: married to Broadway musician Vincent Fanuele; they have 2 children
  • EDUCATION: New York's famed High School for the Performing Arts
  • FUN FACT: she's the aunt of playwright and film director Matthew Lopez (The Inheritance, Red, White and Royal Blue)

Select Off-Broadway Credits:



Extremities
- 1983; Westside Arts Theatre



The Gardens of Anuncia
- 2023; Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center; as Older Anuncia 

Select Broadway Credits:
She was supposed to make her debut in the ill-fated Richard Chamberlin/Mary Tyler Moore musical, Breakfast at Tiffany's, but did make it in the almost as ill-fated Henry, Sweet Henry. But she earned a measure of acclaim as the replacement for the role of Kathy in the original production of Company, followed by a stint as Fastrada in the original Pippin. Then came...


A Chorus Line
- 1975; Shubert Theatre (following a run at the Public Theater off-Broadway & on the 1st National Tour; as Diana Morales
⭐- Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony Award nominee; Special Award - Theatre World Awards



A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine
 - 1980; Golden Theatre; as company member/Harpo

⭐- Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony Award Winner




Company 
- 1971; Alvin Theatre; as Kathy


Anna in the Tropics - 2003; Royale Theatre; as Ofelia



In the Heights 
- 2008; Richard Rodgers Theatre; as Camila


Pippin 
- 2013; The Music Box Theater & on the 1st National Tour; as Berthe

Grand Horizons 
- 2020; Hayes Theatre; as Carla

The Skin of Our Teeth 
- 2022; Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center; as the Fortune Teller



Wednesday, November 22, 2023

REVIEW: The Gardens of Anuncia

Review of the Saturday, November 4, 2023 evening preview performance at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. Starring Enrique Acevedo, Andrea Burns, Eden Espinosa, Priscilla Lopez, Tally Sessions, Mary Testa and Kalyn West. Book, music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa. Orchestrations by Michael Starobin. Scenic design by Mark Wendland. Costume design by Toni-Leslie James. Lighting design by Jules Fischer and Peggy Eisenhauer, recreated by David Lander. Sound design by Drew Levy. Co-choreographer Alex Sanchez. Direction and choreography by Graciela Daniele. 90 minutes, no intermission. Production runs through December 31, 2023.

Grade: A

This is a bio-musical unlike any you've ever seen before. While The Gardens of Anuncia does tell of the life of celebrated choreographer Graciela Daniele, it is only vaguely biographical. Here, we are presented with Anuncia, who narrates a trip back to Peron-era Argentina where she was a young, dream-filled girl being raised by three strong women. Actually, this charming, mystical musical is really a tribute to those women, and not a tribute to the subject of the show. Anuncia is, most of the time, almost incidental. Sure, she jokes about a decades-long career as a dancer and Broadway choreographer, dreading having to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award. But mostly, she muses - through the eyes of her younger self - about the events that shaped her into the woman she became. It is a beautiful, heartfelt remembrance of the generations who raised her, and the closing of the biggest chapter in her life.


Michael John LaChiusa
, who provides the book, lyrics and music, has had a long association with Ms. Daniele, and his affection for her permeates the entire show. That's not to say he paints her in an exclusively rosy light - she is as stubborn as she is open, as willful as she is collaborative. Her regrets are as prominent as her accomplishments. The book allows for liberties in the storytelling, with moments displayed and then slightly recounted - she admits that parts of her story are softened and glossed over, Memories are strange things, she says. And there are moments of supernatural realism to make a broader point in a fanciful way: she has conversations with a young buck (literally), for example. (And she admits that this probably won't work for her American audiences. The opposite is true, of course. We buy it hook, line and sinker.) LaChiusa's tango and Latin-infused score is lovely - his most completely accessible to date - with not a clinker in the bunch. That's not to say it isn't rich. I hope there will be a cast recording; I hope to dig deeper into his themes and poetic lyrics. Michael Starobin's orchestrations are on point and also worthy of deeper exploration.

The almost mystical, mythological feel of this memory play are brought to lovely fruition by the entire design team. Mark Wendland's set made up of upside down flowers arranged on delicate wires that reveal themselves to be a labyrinth of infinite paths, and sumptuous, dreamy lighting by Jules Fischer and Peggy Eisenhauer (recreated by David Lander) serve the piece perfectly, allowing an effortless back and forth between past and present, dream and reality. Toni-Leslie James' costumes do the same.


The Mitzi E. Newhouse is an ideal venue for this piece - intimate and dark, where you can feel like the show is being performed only for you. Daniele and co-choreographer Alex Sanchez have gone to great lengths to present the work in such a way that no one in this thrust stage setting is left out of any scene. I don't think there's really a bad seat to be had, given this staging. Given that this musical is about a dancer-choreographer, there aren't many dance numbers per se, but what there is, is striking, particularly a tight, sensual and somewhat violent tango. That said, there is dancing and dreamy movement almost non-stop, as if being weaved in and out of the clouds of memory, and the entire cast is up to the task.

Leading the company of seven as Older Anuncia is an aging dancer herself, Tony-winner Priscilla Lopez, who is as graceful and lithe as ever. Her face, full of wisdom reveals a graceful aging, each line and wrinkle earned by the tough life of a Broadway star - how wonderfully appropriate. Her gentle touch, coupled with a magnetic presence and pointed moments of flare are perfection as she tells us this story. Her counterpart, Younger Auncia, is played with a fierce and fiery commitment by Kayln West. It is clear that Ms. West has studied Ms. Lopez's every movement and expression, so exacting is her approach to the character - there are times when the likeness is uncanny. But her performance is much more and absolutely riveting. She does more acting with her big, beautiful eyes and her set jaw than I may have ever seen. I look forward to seeing her again and soon.


The two male actors in the company each play multiple roles, and are great in all of them. Enrique Acevedo is particularly outstanding in his role as Granpapa, a man big on warmth, and a mysterious air. Tally Sessions, one of my favorite actors, exudes grace and machismo as the deer (yes, he plays a deer - actually 2 of them). He is sexy and beguiling both to Anuncia and the audience, and his powerful voice with Ms. Lopez's in both "Dance While You Can" iterations is a highlight in an evening full of them.

For me, though, the best part is the three women central to Anuncia's upbringing: Mary Testa as Granmama, Eden Espinosa as Mami, and Andrea Burns as Tia. Each of these amazing actresses are so completely enveloped in their characters that they seem to disappear. Ms. Testa offers up her special brand of worldly wisdom and brash delivery, with no shortage of warmth, either. Ms. Espinosa is such a presence here that it is difficult to take your eyes off of her. She is strong but flawed, and I found myself both rooting for her and a bit put off at the same time - I mean that as an entirely positive assessment. And Ms. Burns, who has become one of my favorite actresses of all, is so full of passion, warmth and wisdom, it is no wonder Anuncia is drawn to her as she is. Each has incredible moments to shine individually, but it is when they are together that the magic - and the emotion - really happens. As each drifts out of Anuncia's life, we feel an empathetic wave of grief.


As with most of LaChiusa's works, this isn't a show one goes to to be dazzled and bowled over by flash and excess. You have to come into it open to the possibilities and be willing to participate in active attention. It is a show that, for me at least, only grew better in my heart and mind the further I'm away from it. A complex work about a complex woman, told in idioms central to her celebrated life: her culture and musical theater inextricably woven together.

📸: J. Cervantes

Friday, November 17, 2023

Broadway Games: One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

Broadway Games: 
One of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Was thinking back to my childhood and remembering that as a small tyke, one of my favorite games was "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others." So why not make a Broadway game out of it?

Pick the one thing in each list below is not like the other three.

1.  
  A. J. Harrison Ghee    B. Sean Hayes    C. Bonnie Milligan    D. Victoria Clark

2. 
  A. Oklahoma!    B. South Pacific    C. The King and I    D. The Sound of Music

3. 
  A. Cabaret     B. Kiss of the Spider Woman    C. Zorba!    D. Chicago


4. 
  A. A Chorus Line    B. How to Succeed... C. Lost in Yonkers    D. In the Heights

5. 
  A. Chita Rivera wins her Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for The Rink.
  B. 42nd Street moves from the Majestic to the St. James to make way for The Phantom             of the Opera.
  C. City of Angels wins the Best Musical Tony Award.
  D. Bob Fosse passes away in Washington, D.C.

6.
  A. Imperial    B. Music Box    C. Shubert     D. Golden


7.
  A. Into the Woods    B. Sweeney Todd    C. Company    D. Follies

8.
  A. Nellie Lovett    B. Rose    C. Mame Dennis    D. Cora Hoover Hooper

9.
  A. "So What?"
  B. "We Both Reached For the Gun"
  C. "Hot Honey Rag"
  D. "Me and My Baby"

10.
  A. Flower Drum Song    B. The King & I    C. Miss Saigon    D. Here Lies Love


STOP!
If you aren't ready to see the answers, stop scrolling NOW! If you are ready, proceed!
As you probably figured out, some of these have more than one possible answer. We will start with the one we intended, and add others. Let us know any that you come up with, and we'll add them!

1.  C. Bonnie Milligan - The only 2023 Tony winner that wasn't for a leading role.

1.  D. Victoria Clark - The only one with more than a single Tony Award.

1.  D. Victoria Clark - The only one who does not identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community (though she's an amazing ally!).

  A. J. Harrison Ghee    B. Sean Hayes    C. Bonnie Milligan    D. Victoria Clark

2.  A. Oklahoma! - The only one listed that did not win the Tony for Best Musical. (It pre-dates the Tonys!)

  A. Oklahoma!    B. South Pacific    C. The King and I    D. The Sound of Music

3.  B. Kiss of the Spider Woman - The only one that, to date, has not had a Broadway revival.

3.  D. Chicago - The only one that takes place in the US.

  A. Cabaret     B. Kiss of the Spider Woman    C. Zorba!    D. Chicago

4.  D. In the Heights - The only one listed that did not win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

4.  D. In the Heights - The only one listed that opened this century.

  A. A Chorus Line    B. How to Succeed... C. Lost in Yonkers    D. In the Heights

5.   C. City of Angels wins the Best Musical Tony Award. - It's the only event listed that did not happen in the 1980s. (It did open in the 80s - December 11, 1989.)

  A. Chita Rivera wins her Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for The Rink.
  B. 42nd Street moves from the Majestic to the St. James to make way for The Phantom             of the Opera.
  C. City of Angels wins the Best Musical Tony Award.
  D. Bob Fosse passes away in Washington, D.C.

6.  C. The Shubert Theatre - It is the only one listed that isn't on 45th Street.

  A. Imperial    B. Music Box    C. Shubert     D. Golden

7.  A. Into the Woods - It's the only one not directed by Hal Prince. (He co-directed Follies with Michael Bennett.)

7.  D. Follies - The only one listed that did not win the Best Book Tony Award.

  A. Into the Woods    B. Sweeney Todd    C. Company    D. Follies

8.  D. Cora Hoover Hooper - The only role listed that Angela Lansbury did not win a Tony for.

8.  C. Mame Dennis - The only leading lady role not part of a Sondheim show.

  A. Nellie Lovett    B. Rose    C. Mame Dennis    D. Cora Hoover Hooper

9.  A. "So What?" - The only song listed that is not from Chicago. It is from Cabaret.

  A. "So What?"
  B. "We Both Reached For the Gun"
  C. "Hot Honey Rag"
  D. "Me and My Baby"

10.  B. The King and I - The only one listed that did not ever star Lea Salonga.

10.  B. The King and I - The only one listed that has no scenes that take place in the United States.

  A. Flower Drum Song    B. The King & I    C. Miss Saigon    D. Here Lies Love

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