Monday, February 28, 2011

February Poll Results: Broadway's Most Romantic Songs

One last look back the "month of love" with the results of February's two polls.  Thanks, as always, to those of you who took the time to vote, many of you both times!

First, though, a couple of notes:
  • I divided the poll into "Classic Broadway" and "Modern Broadway," with "classic" defined as shows from the 1960's and earlier, and "modern" defined as shows from the 1970's and forward.  Why?  Because generally theatre historians define the "golden era" of Broadway musicals as ending in the mid-60's, and that style of show being generally replaced by 1970 or so.
  • I also limited the "love song" genre by giving it the limitation of "romantic," i.e. emotional, relationship-driven love songs.  This is why I did not include "What I Did For Love" from A Chorus Line.  While it is a fantastic, popular song, and it even has the word "love" in it, it is not about romantic love.

I think this is the first time that both responses I'd have voted for won!

Poll Question #1:  Which song from a classic musical is Broadway's most romantic?

0% - TIE: "Easy to Love" - Anything Goes and "She Loves Me" - She Loves Me
I wonder if "Easy to Love" would have gotten more votes had the Anything Goes revival begun performances already?  And maybe both are a little too old school, but not unique enough to stand out as "classic"?

5% - TIE: "If Ever I Would Leave You" - Camelot, "I've Never Been in Love Before" - Guys and Dolls, "Old Devil Moon" - Finian's Rainbow, and "They Say It's Wonderful" - Annie Get Your Gun
Interestingly enough, even though these 4 songs got the least number of votes, they did get the most accompanying emails (thanks for taking the extra time to write!).  Both of the songs from Finian and Annie came with emails that mentioned the recent revivals as the reason for the vote.  You just can't beat the fans of Bernadette Peters and Cheyenne Jackson.  And I, too, think that the chemistry between Cheyenne and Kate Baldwin makes the song romantic AND sexy!

9% - "Til There Was You" - The Music Man
I guess you simply can't get around the lovely song stylings of Miss Barbara Cook at her prime.

14% - "Some Enchanted Evening" - South Pacific
I'll quote reader Sarah P. from New York, NY on this one: "The booming voice of an exotic stranger professing his love in such an exotic location just takes me away!"

19% - "If I Loved You" - Carousel
Who knew?  OK, Carousel bores me to tears, but this song does pack an emotional wallop.

38% - "Somewhere" - West Side Story
Romeo and Juliet/Tony and Maria:  You simply can not beat star-crossed, doomed lovers dreaming of a utopia they will never see.  "Hold my hand and we're half way there..."  God, I'm tearing up at the thought.  But what really tears me up is the song juxtaposed with the dream ballet - the simplicity and the joy of that dance transports you...  Here is a version of the song as sung by Celtic Woman.  4 voices. Perfect harmony.  I found myself holding my breath the whole time...

Poll Question #2:  Which song from a modern musical is Broadway's most romantic?

0% - "Anything for Him" - Kiss of the Spider Woman
I guess unrequited love, torture and violent murder do not conspire to make a romantic song, afterall...

2.3% - TIE - "Love Can't Happen" - Grand Hotel: The Musical and "The Moon and Me" - The Addams Family
Interestingly, these two songs have much in common, despite the seriousness of the former and the bawdy comedy of the other.  They both are about unlikely love and both result in death as a sacrifice.  Ain't Broadway fun?

4.5% - TIE - "As Long as You're Mine" - Wicked and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" Disney's The Lion King
Broadway is sure inclusive!  Here we have love between witches and scarecrows and a pair of randy felines.  I thought more Wicked fans would vote for this, but then I remembered a terse little email I got a few months back chastising me for not enough Wicked coverage.  Oh well.

6.8% - "Still" - Titanic
A beautiful song, sung in a sad situation.  But love triumphing over death is always a welcome theme in theatre.  You know, every time I pass Macy's I think of this song?

11.4% - TIE - "Happiness" - Passion, "Song on the Sand" - La Cage aux Folles, and "Without Love" - Hairspray
How truly lovely that we can embrace the diversity that these three songs represent: lust mascarading as love, with a side of adultry, love between two men, and chubby chasers and "checkerboard chicks" going after the ones they love, free of perjudice.

13.6% - "All I Ask of You" - The Phantom of the Opera
This was the one I was sure would win.  But second place isn't bad, especially when you consider how much play (overplay) this song gets.  Still, the emotions are high, danger lurks and it could be their last moment together... perfect drama!  Here are the original stars, Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton.

15.9% - TIE - "Perfect for You" - next to normal and "I'll Cover You" - RENT
It may surprise long time readers of this blog, but the song I would have voted for was "I'll Cover You."  Why?  Well, it emcompasses a very modern, forward way of thinking in its place and setting in the show, but it also perfectly explains real love between any two people in any situation.  What I wouldn't give for a thousand sweet kisses...

Don't forget to vote in this month's first poll, starting tomorrow!

Comments?  Leave one here, email me at or Tweet me!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

TheatreScene: February 21 - 27




ON THE RADAR: Little Miss Sunshine
Life After Idiot: From Green Day to Green Pastures
RANT/RAVE: The It Gets Better Project and  Priscilla's PSA
CASTING: Sister Act
LOGO: The Book of Mormon
Broadway Crossword by Blog #5: Original vs Revival: The Answers

Thank you to the dozens of you who entered my first contest ever!  The winners of a pair of tickets to Broadway's How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) are Sarah P. of NYC and Robb J. of Bayside, NY.  Here are the answers:

1.  C. A Chorus Line
2.  B. South Pacific
3.  C. next to normal
4.  A. Michael Greif
5.  B. Fiorello! and E. Of Thee I Sing

  • February 21: Tyne Daly, Actor (Gypsy, Rabbit Hole, Master Class)
  • February 22: Trent Kowalik, Actor (Billy Elliot)
  • February 23: Robert Lopez, Writer/Composer (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon)
  • February 24: Rupert Holmes, Writer/Composer (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Curtains)
  • February 25: Larry Gelbart, Late Writer (...Forum, City of Angels)

  • February 26: Priscilla Lopez, Actor (A Chorus Line, In the Heights)
  • February 27: Debra Monk, Actor/Writer (Curtains, Steel Pier/Pump Boys and Dinettes)

TOPS AND BOTTOMS (February 14 - 20)
  • Top Gross: The Lion King ($1.534M)
  • Top Attendance: The Merchant of Venice (101.1%)
  • Bottom Gross: Colin Quinn: Long Story Short ($174K)
  • Bottom Attendance: Colin Quinn: Long Story Short (61.6%)
  • $1M Club: American Idiot, The Lion King, The Merchant of Venice, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Wicked
  • SRO Club: The Merchant of Venice

  • The Oldest Opening of the Week: King Henry IV, Part I opened on February 25, 1768 at the John Street Theatre.
  • The Longest Time Since a Show Opened: February 24, 1980: 31 years ago was the last time a Broadway show opened on this date.  It was the re-opening, actually, of Whose Life is it Anyway? a very popular play which closed for a few weeks in order to move to the Royale Theatre, and to rehearse a new cast, led by Mary Tyler Moore.  What was so unusual was that the original script and production had a male lead and corresponding female supporting characters.  With the gender-switch came re-writes ans a brand new cast, including James Naughton and Josef Sommer.  This version played a 96 performance limited engagement.

February 21:

  • The Tony Award/Pulitzer Prize-winning Lost in Yonkers opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, starring Irene Worth, Mercedes Ruehl and a pretty much unknown Kevin Spacey.  It ran 780 performances.

February 22:
  • One of the most famous flops of all time opened and closed on this date in 1983.  It was called Moose Murders and it starred Eve Arden.  Its brief home was the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.

February 25:
  • 1953: Wonderful Town went five for five at the Tonys, including Best Musical.  It opened on this date at the Winter Garden Theatre, starred Rosalind Russell, and played 559 performances.
  • 1973:  A Little Night Music won 6 Tonys including Best Musical and Best Score.  It opened on this date at the Shubert Theatre, and played 601 performances.

February 26:
  • The Music Box Theatre was the place, 1978 the year.  Ira Levin's master thriller, Deathtrap opened.  By far the most popular play of the season - several, actually - it didn't win any of its 4 Tony nominations.  But it did play 1,793 performances (1,096 more than Tony winning Da).  And Marian Seldes never missed a single performance of it.

  • A 9 month rehearsal period, serious, career-ending injuries to the cast, dancers being cut days before the first preview, a director out of control and demanding, actors signing resignation papers during intermission on Opening Night... no, not Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  In 1989, the talk of Broadway was Jerome Robbins' Broadway.  It went on to win the Tony for Best Musical, plus five others.  By far the most expensive musical at the time, the show employed 64 cast members.  It ran 633 performances.

February 27:
  • 1997: Last Night of Ballyhoo won the Tony Award for Best Play.  It opened on this date at the Helen Hayes Theatre, where it played 556 performances.
  • 2003: Take Me Out won the Tony Award for Best Play.  It opened on this date at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where it played 355 performances.

February 21: 
  • After the producers vehemently denied the hire of a co-director for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, it was reported by The New York Times that Paul Bogaev was hired to "as a consultant to help improve the performance, vocal and orchestration arrangements, and sound quality of the songs and numbers."  Having seen the show twice, and despite MAJOR improvements in the area of sound (and, therefore, the ability to understand the show) I can say that this is money well spent.  It is also rumored that Bono and The Edge are working on new songs for the show.  All I can say to that is: IT'S ABOUT TIME!  (Please, please, please get rid of the shoes.... please...)  Of course, now there is speculation that the opening will be postponed again.  I have said before that I'd support them up to the March 15th deadline that they, themselves, set.  But if they are really making such drastic steps - script doctoring, song doctoring, sound doctoring - along with the MASSIVE improvements already made, I'll support another delay.  Besides, at this point they have zero to lose, since most people consider it a done deal and ticket sales are still terrific.

  • John Leguizamo's one man play Ghetto Klown began previews today at the Lyceum Theatre.

February 22:
  • It was a great day for casting news:  the entire cast of The People in the Picture was announced today, as was Memphis' announcement that Nancy Opel will be replacing Cass Morgan shortly.
  • And it was more good news for a few working actors:  the yet-to-open Good People  has already been extended by two weeks, while the off-Broadway production of Angels in America has been given a fourth "final" extension.  Wasn't the last one "absolutely it"?

February 23:
  • Idiots rejoice!  And get your audition books ready!  The producers of American Idiot announced today that they are holding open call auditions for the First National Tour.
  • A 12 week limited engagement of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart will play the Golden Theatre.  IT will star Joe Mantello, Ellen Barkin and it is reported that Cheyenne Jackson is in talks to join the cast.  And with Joel Grey directing (while still co-starring in Anything Goes) let's add him to the list of stars who are better than ever as they grow older!

February 24:

  • The Book of Mormon had its first preview today at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.  There were a reported three stoppages for technical difficulties.  The New York Times did not feel this was newsworthy.
  • Oscar and Tony Award-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones received one of the United Kingdom's highest honors for civilians today.  Prince Charles bestowed a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) on her for her work on stage and screen.  Her husband, Michael Douglas, was with her and they celebrated his turn towards good health following treatment for throat cancer.
  • This year's collection of Broadway Bears was unveiled today.  The auction will be held on March 6 at 7PM, at B.B. King's Nightclub on 42nd Street.  For more information and to bid online, go to  Here are a few of my favorites:

Clockwise from Top Left: The Witch from Into the Woods (signed by Bernadette Peters);
St. Jimmy from American Idiot (signed by Tony Vincent, Melissa Etheridge and Billie Joe
Armstrong; Spider-Man from Spider-Man:Turn Off the Dark (signed by Reeve Carney); and
Timon - both actor and puppet - from Disney's The Lion King.
  • James Earl Jones will play the President of the United States when the next revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man hits Broadway.
  • The Drama Desk Awards will be hosted by La Cage aux Folles' Harvey Fierstein on May 23.

February 25:
  • No day but July 14.  That's when Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize winning RENT returns to New york.  This time it will play off-Broadway (where it all began) at New World Stages.  It will again be directed by Michael Greif, however it will be a completely new production.  Go to for show AND audition information.
  • And congratulations, Kelsey!  Today Tony nominee Kelsey Grammer and his fiancee Kayte Walsh took to the Longacre stage one last time, where they were married today in a ceremony officiated by Terry Lavell, who also co-stars as one of Les Cagelles in the show.

Buy one of these posters!  It'll
be worth a fortune some day!
  • Musta been some bachelor party the night before... Jeffrey Tambor left La Cage aux Folles as of today; his last performance was February 24.  The official announcement from producers included the standard regrets, and an explanation of the pain to a recent hip surgery over an 8 performance week was too much for the actor.  Other sources were less kind, citing "anguish and anger" over his musical debut.  He felt his singing was inferior to Harvey Fierstein's?  WOW.  Chris Hoch, who was an awesome Lord Farquaard understudy in Shrek, will play Georges until further notice.  And he's yummy, too...

February 26:

  • How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) begins previews today at the Al (Hirschfeld Theatre).  (Just trying to get used to this production's parentheses...)

  • The revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia begins its limited engagement with previews starting today at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
February 27:
  • After this evening's performance, the majority of the American Idiot original cast of principals will be finished their run at the St. James Theatre.  The "2nd Cast" will begin performances, Tuesday, March 1.  Click on the related article at the top of this blog to see an article all about Life After Idiot.
Comments?  Leave one here, email me at or Tweet me.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Broadway Crossword by Blog #5: Original vs Revival: The Answers

Thanks to all of you who took the time to play, and to those of you who took the time to offer suggestions and your thoughts!  With so much coming up in the next couple of months, it probably won't until summer before I get to a new crossword puzzle.  But I might sneak in a smaller puzzle or game, just to mix things up!

Here, at long last, is the list of answers to Crossword #5: Original vs. Revival!


1 1973 original production/2010 revival  A Little Night Music
6 1987's Witch  Bernadette Peters
8 Theatrical home to the 1984 original production   Palace
9 Classic 1957 musical   West Side Story
11 2011 Narrator; popular CNN show host/reporter   Anderson Cooper
12 Tony-winning lead actor in 2010 Best Play Revival   Denzel Washington
14 1968 original production/2009 revival   Hair
17 2011's Finch and former Equus star   Daniel Radcliffe
19 He directed the 1973 original   Harold Prince
22 2010's Henrik, a London import   Alexander Hanson
24 Theatrical home to the current revival   Longacre
25 2010's Tony and Olivier Award-winning ZaZa   Douglas Hodge

26 He'll be this year's Billy Crocker   Colin Donnell
27 He was 1987's male lead in Anything Goes  Howard McGillin
28 In 1987, she was a 3D prop   Milky White
29 1995 Narrator; CBS news anchor legend   Walter Cronkite
30 1995 director; he also directed Jersey Boys   Des McAnuff
33 She is also known as Mame or Nellie Lovett   Angela Lansbury
36 Producing the 2011 revival   Roundabout
37 1973's Henrik, the original Demon Barber of Fleet Street   Len Cariou

39 Shortened title for 1995 revival/2011 revival   How to Succeed
40 She's been Millie, Jo, Fiona and now Reno   Sutton Foster
42 Produced the 1987 revival   Lincoln Center
43 2011's Smitty, she's a former Kate Monster and American Idiot   Mary Faber
44 The original Anita   Chita Rivera
45 Playwright of 31 Down   August Wilson

46 2009's Claude, and a former La Cage Jean-Michel   Gavin Creel
48 This year, she'll have her eye on J. Pierrepont Finch   Rose Hemingway
49 2009's Berger; this year, he's riding Priscilla to Broadway   Will Swenson
50 He sang "Song on the Sand" with 18 Down   Gene Barry
51 2011 director; he also directed Promises, Promises   Rob Ashford
52 The 2009 revival has songs and dialogue translated into this language   Spanish
53 The original "Send in the Clowns" singer   Glynis Johns
54 2nd word of the title of the 2008 hit revival   Boeing


2 2010's Desiree   Catherine Zeta-Jones
3 She was the first to sing "Liaisons"   Hermione Gingold
4 1995's Smitty, she is Sister Act's Mother Superior   Victoria Clark
5 1995's J. Pierrepont Finch   Matthew Broderick
7 1987's Reno Sweeney, she was On the Verge this season   Patti LuPone
10 In 1995, she was happy to keep his dinner warm   Megan Mullally
13 He directed the Catherine/Angela 2010 revival   Trevor Nunn

15 1984 original production/2010 revival   La Cage aux Folles
16 1968's Claude; he also co-wrote the show   James Rado
18 1984's ZaZa; he also drove Norma Desmond around L.A.   George Hearn
20 Tony-winning lead actor in 1987 Best Play; he drives Miss Daisy   James Earl Jones
21 2002's Witch and former Spider Woman   Vanessa Williams

23 In 2002, he played the bovine prop   Chad Kimball
31 1987's Best Play   Fences
32 He just left the role of Georges   Kelsey Grammer
34 Hair's original Berger   Gerome Ragni
35 1987 revival/2011 revival   Anything Goes
38 1987 original production/2002 revival   Into the Woods
41 Tony Award-winning Anita   Karen Olivo
47 1st word of the title of the 1965 flop play   Boeing


Friday, February 25, 2011

LOGOS: The Book of Mormon

In recent days, the creators of The Book of Mormon have been very careful to be sure to admit that their show will probably offend people, but that they all love the art form of the musical and Broadway itself, that they sincerely hope that any offense taken won't be enough to keep them from being asked back.  Well, if as much care has been given to the show as has been given to the permutations of the show logo, I have but two things to say: 

  1. Please feel free to come back anytime you want to with an interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking piece (I'll even forgive your NASTY comments about next to normal.)
  2. People need to lighten up if they are so easily offended - let the shock value of their humor get you attention, then open up to the message underneath it all.
The bottom line is this:  if the logo of a show can be this sharp and witty, the show has to be at least as good, if not better.  I, for one, am glad I have my tickets secured already.

There have been several variations on a theme with the show logo/advertising for The Book of Mormon.  So, let's first look at the common threads of all of it.  First, you must notice the sheer austerity of the artwork.  With so little eye clutter, it is easier to focus on the title and the messages of the text.  I love that the primary colors are white and black, just like the "uniform" of the Mormons who come to your door so politely, white shirt, black tie, pants and shoes - not to mention their name tags also black with white lettering.  I also love the plain, but strong lettering style, suggesting that "the Word" is what is important not the delivery of it.  And that the only other color is an earthy brown/orange/gold mixture really sets them apart, but not so bombastically as say, pink or bright yellow.  Bold, simple, powerful.  Are we talking text style or Mormon elders?  See how clever this is already?  (And I am most definitely NOT being sarcastic.)

Then there is the jubilant, jumping for joy Mormon elder.  One might say he is joyous and jumping or perhaps in mid-dance move.  Either way it screams Broadway panache and musicality.  It also shouts "THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN!"  And yet, it pays its respects to the young men (and women) who are devout to their religion - his clothes are perfectly together and he is clutching very firmly his Book of Mormon.  The combination of the two aspects in one image is brilliant, especially when you remember that study that says most show logos earn a very few seconds of a glance to make an impression.  If you can't get out of this image that Mormons are fun and happy religious people, I can't help you any more.

The final element that has made it through all of the permutations of logo and advertising is is absolutely dead on and HILARIOUS use of a doorbell is an "O" in "Mormon."  The first time I scrolled over that doorbell and it "ding"ed, I literally howled with laughter, and "rang" it like 15 more times in a row.  What an absolutely brilliant way to bring the world of Mormons and the world of non-Mormons together!  Most of us only know of Mormons from what we see when we answer the door.  I sincerely hope that the next time a pair of these lads comes to my door that I won't just burst out laughing.  And logo-wise I have to appreciate the universality of the image, the hilarity of the image and the relative subtlety of it.  Again, this isn't entirely low-brow, visual trickery like say, Spamalot, this is also smart, thought-provoking humor.

If it were me, I'd keep all of the image to the right, and switch the
tag lines, so that "God's Favorite Musical" was on image to the right.
And I'd ditch the holy light beams.  But it's not me, and I really like them all, anyway!

What I really love about the ads and logo is the way they've experimented with a catchphrase and the placement of it.  Personally, I like "God's Favorite Musical" the best.  It is short, to the point, in keeping with similar Broadway catchphrases, and it is funny without being offensive - especially when coupled with "From the Creators of South Park."  That should be a major clue as to tone and intent.  I don't, however, like the version that uses the "South Park" logo.  It is eye-clutter, panders to an audience that will already be there and could potentially be off-putting to people who have never seen the show, i.e. if you don't know "South Park," you won't get this show.

I understand and appreciate their other attempt at a tag line, which they seem to have dropped recently: "God loves Mormons and wants some more."  Perhaps that is just a bit too aggressive?  Maybe even too serious?  Maybe too close to being disrespectful of Mormon beliefs?  I think it could be a little of all of those, plus it is wordy.  If you spend too many precious seconds reading the tag line and trying to digest it, you stand a chance of losing that initial impulse and potential ticket sale.  No, I think "God's Favorite Musical" is just right.

There are two subtle things that have come and gone and come again in this artwork: jubilant beams of light emanating from The Book of Mormon in the elder's hand - it is gone, I think.  Definitely too religious.  The other is whether or not you see the whole face of the boy in the picture.  Most of the images cut him off at the top of the nose, so you can't see his eyes or hair.  I think I prefer this version.  Why?  Because it allows the image to be an any man type of thing, versus being a specific person.  Then you can avoid that whole "is he actually in the show?" thing, like at Mamma Mia!

While I seriously doubt Trey Parker, Matt Stone or Robert Lopez will ever even see this, let alone comment on how right or wrong my interpretation is, I hope that those who do read it - whether you agree with me or not - can see in it the same potential for a smart, irreverent, but very humane show.  I would hate for yet another show to be destroyed by knee-jerk or ill-informed opinions.  These guys are taking a big risk in trying to bring something new to the stage, while still paying tribute to the art form.  And I welcome it with open arms!

Grade: A+

Comments?  Leave one here, email me at or Tweet me!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

CASTING: Sister Act

Sister Act is one of three major musicals opening this spring that is based on a film.  And of the three, Sister Act seems the most obvious for a screen to stage transfer.  Sure, drag queens and con men with imaginations to match their schemes are ripe for musicalization, but the film on which this show is based is probably the most like a musical already.  I mean in the film the main characters all sing and dance - the lead by virtue of being a Vegas lounge singer, the supporting cast by virtue of being a choral group.  Still, that doesn't necessarily mean the property is ready to give the characters more reasons to sing and dance.  And yet here we are.  After a successful run on London's West End, the show comes to Broadway, produced by its original star, Whoopi Goldberg, and starring Olivier nominated Patina Miller.  The show will be directed by multi-Tony winner Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Anthony van Laast of Mamma Mia! fame.  With what is reported to be a completely revised book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, and a score by Academy Award winner Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, all of the pieces seem to be in place.

Being in the shadow of such a popular film might be off-putting.  And, a cast of nuns and criminals could be a hard sell if the cast isn't just so, no matter how beloved the original is.  That said, recent cast announcements give me faith (pardon my vernacular) the things are moving in the right direction, potential-wise.  I love the film version - every time it is on TV, no matter where it is in the story, I watch from that point on.  So I have been wary of the stage version.  I sincerely hope that it as much fun as they say it is, and that I leave the theatre loving this new take on a favorite story.

The major thing that has shifted my view more positively is the casting of the glorious musical theatre actress Victoria Clark as the Mother Superior.  She has nothing in common with the delicious Maggie Smith, and since they couldn't get her, perhaps it bodes well that they have cast someone completely against the original.  And let's face it, Ms. Clark is no slouch on the stage.  I can't wait to see what she does with the role, and I just pray they give her some excellent material to work with.

Friends and followers of this blog have been long on praise for the show's lead, Patina Miller.  Anyone with an opinion on her has told me she simply oozes charisma.  Most saw her in Central Park in the Hair revival, but one reader told me she saw the show in London and found Ms. Miller to be hilarious and "easy to watch."  And, heck, if Whoopi approved her, what better hands could we be in?

So, what about the supporting cast and ensemble?  Like most of the Broadway shows this season, it is a splendid mix of veterans, up and comers and debutantes.

The supporting company includes: Fred Applegate (Young Frankenstein, La Cage aux Folles) as Monsignor, Sarah Bolt (Wicked) as Sister Mary Patrick, John Treacy Egan (The Producers, The Little Mermaid) as Joey, Demond Green (The Toxic Avenger) as TJ, Chester Gregory (Dreamgirls, Tarzan) as Eddie, Kingsley Leggs (The Color Purple) as Curtis, Marla Mindelle (South Pacific) as Sister Mary Robert, Audrie Neenan (Picnic) as Sister Mary Lazarus and Caesar Samayoa (The Pee-wee Herman Show) as Pablo.

The ensemble includes: Jennifer Allen (Memphis, A Catered Affair), Natalie Bradshaw (Hair), Charl Brown (debut), Christina DeCicco (The MarvelousWonderettes, Wicked National Tour), Holly Davis (debut), Madeleine Doherty (The Producers), Alan H. Green (Play On!), Blake Hammond (Hairspray, Elf: The Musical), Wendy James (Irving Berlin's White Christmas), Carrie A. Johnson (debut), Kevin Ligon (Finian's Rainbow, The Producers), Louise Madison (debut), Marissa Perry (Hairspray), Ernie Pruneda (debut), Corbin Reid (debut),  Lance Roberts (The Pee-wee Herman Show), Rashidra Scott (Hair, Avenue Q), Jennifer Simard (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Shrek), Lael Van Keuren (debut), Roberta Wall (debut) and Alena Watters (The Addams Family, West Side Story).

Here are the sisters in action from The View:

Comments?  Leave it here, email me at, or Tweet me!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RANT/RAVE: The It Gets Better Campaign and Priscilla's PSA

Let me first sing the praises of the organizers of one of my favorite charity/public service organizations, the It Gets Better Project.  They have started the proverbial snowball rolling down hill.  Since its inception they have gathered thousands of videos from people from all walks of life who, each in their own way, convey that they understand what LGBT teens are going through and to urge them to stay strong and persevere because in a short time, as they blossom into adulthood, things will, in fact, get better. 

Some tell of personal triumphs over bullying, others of trying to gain support from family. Still others relate stories of friends and loved ones that they saw bullied, hurt, and sometimes, sadly, suicidal.  These people are everyday Joes and Janes just like you and me, they are politicians, movie and TV stars, musicians, athletes and, of course Broadway folks.  But the beauty of the project is that whether or not it an Oscar winner, an Olympic Gold Medalist or a college kid from Iowa, each story has meaning and ultimately offers hope. 

The project's website is simple to navigate and full of inspiration, information and hope.  There is so much there it bears being bookmarked on your computer for ease of returning over and over. One area on the site is the "Take the Pledge" section, which asks you quite simply to cyber-sign a pledge that you will not simply stand by while hate and brutality towards anyone takes place - that you will stand up and defend the defenseless.  It is a simple statement, but a powerful one (and I dare say that their wording is much better than what I just provided).

The other area that bears your consideration is the "Make a Pledge" section.  Normally, I would not use this platform to solicit your money, but I can tell you that had this been around when I needed it, my life would be much much different than it is today.  It needs our support.  You can simply donate to the project in general or you can help out by 1) pre-ordering the book form of the "It Gets Better" Project, due out March 22nd, including sections authored by Kyle Dean Massey and other Broadway celebrities.  Proceeds from the book (also available in e-book format) will benefit the Project as well as organizations like The Trevor Project and GLSEN; or 2) make a donation to the fund that will put a copy of the book in every high school in the USA, along with information to support struggling teens.  I can't think of a better place to have these books readily available, especially in rural America where it seems so much more of this goes on unchecked.

I signed the pledge and made a donation to the book fund myself, and I urge each of you to do the same.  And I found two videos to be especially well-presented and poignant:  Judith Light (Lombardi), who talks about all of her gay friends growing up and how they influenced her as an actress, and how during some very dark times, they rose above and became personal heroes.  And there is the message from Max Adler, who plays a gay-bashing football player/closeted gay youth on Glee.  You will, I think, be moved to action by both of these powerful statements.

Visit today.

I have long championed the "It Gets Better" Project, having featured it several times on this very blog. But I have a real problem with their latest segment.

Monday, The New York Times reported that the project's first PSA would begin airing Tuesday on NYC's CBS channels. The PSA features Will Swenson, Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon from Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. I hate to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but I have to express a couple of misgivings I have about this announcement and ad.

First, the Times refers to the whole project as, "an online video campaign to cheer up gay teenagers who have been victims of bullies." Cheer them up? Excuse me? I think there is much more to this project than a mere cheering up of teens so terrified that they feel suicide is their only recourse.

And second, the ad itself, the brainchild of the show's marketing department, has the stars wearing "I 'Heart' Priscilla Queen of the Desert" sparkly t-shirts, and features a snazzy logo from the show and a voice-over at the end directing us to more information on the SHOW site. (The It Gets Better Project logo does appear sandwiched between the show logo and the show website URL, but is never verbally mentioned.)  Having watched dozens of the previous clips, I can tell you that none of them feature blatant merchandising of the show the speakers are appearing in. Every one of them features only directions to the Trevor Project or It Gets Better sites, which in turn offer direct links to help. Nowhere is there enticement to see a specific show, beyond an occasional mention of who the people are in the video (i.e. "We are the cast of the National Tour of A Chorus Line"). And while I have absolutely no doubt that Mr. Swenson, Adams and Sheldon are sincere in their support of the project, one can't help but take the producers of the show to task for making it even a little bit about their show, and not 100% about gay teens in trouble.

Broadway and film star Daniel Radcliffe offers his
"clout" in support of The Trevor Project.  Notice
that there is not a single bit of the image that concerns
Harry Potter, Equus or How to Succeed...

Part of what makes these testimonials so powerful is that the people in them aren't being Broadway stars or TV celebrities, they are being regular every day people that are saying, most from experience, that it does get better, that there is hope. To be fair, The New York Times article gives more space to the history of the project and the power of its message even before this PSA hits the airwaves.

In the interest of complete fairness, the Priscilla company did do an "It Gets Better" video more in line with all of the others.  In fact, it is one of the best.

But shame on project founder Dan Savage for stating that Priscilla is "thematically a perfect fit." Why? Because it has two drag queens and a transvestite as central characters? How ridiculous to think that gay teens are more likely to see themselves and identify with their problems simply because of that. You'd think he'd know better. Of course, how can he condemn such publicity and the potential expanded audience for his overall message? I guess it is a fine line.

As a formerly bullied gay teen myself, I'd rather have seen people just like me telling me that they had been were I was, and that I should hold out because life will improve. Had my first brush with suicide prevention resulted in going a website full of oddly wigged, colorfully costumed men dressed like women while "It's Raining Men" plays in the background, I'd have run screaming from my computer and right into a noose. Are we entirely sure that teens on the brink need to see such extreme examples of their sexual orientation, when all they want to know is that they aren't all that different?  OK, I admit it.  That was me - some might feel exactly the same way, others may react completely differently.

A "perfect fit"... um, sure. Tell that to the poor kid in the middle of nowhere who hears he's going to Hell because he's a "sissy" and then show him Tony Sheldon in a dress and Nick Adams in full drag. No wonder he feels helpless. Doesn't that verify what his ignorant classmates (and even parents) might say - "Being a fag means you dress like a girl and sing show tunes." When you see this, how do you live up to it? How can you argue that the bullies are even wrong?  How do you realize that being gay doesn't make you a drag queen unless you want to be one? And is THAT the image he needs to see before he decides whether or not he will end his life? 

On the other hand, there are plenty of at-risk teens who not only struggle with their sexual identity, but with how they most desire to express it.  To that end, maybe the Priscilla PSA may help those kids, and they need to see the show website - after all, Tony Sheldon in a dress is happy and well-adjusted and Nick Adams in full drag is clearly comfortable, happy, and enjoying life.  For all those kids out there who need to see that, I am truly glad this is there for them.  There are a number of others to watch/listen to for kids who don't.  I guess it is both a fine line and a blurry one between pandering to stereotypes and serving people who can honestly identify with them.

So, really, "perfect fit" is an unfortunate choice of words.  Perhaps what he should have said (and even really meant) was that the inclusion of happy, well-adjusted drag queens and transvestites, as colorfully depicted on the Priscilla website, is in keeping with the inclusiveness of the wide-spectrum of LGBT people in the overall project.

Man, the issue is a complicated one, isn't it?  No matter what, though, my main peeve - the commercialization of such an important issue - remains. 

I sincerely hope the marketing people at Priscilla really had their hearts in the right place when they came up with this heinous bit of product placement. But let's be honest. If they REALLY meant it, the piece would end with a link to the general campaign or to The Trevor Project only, not a sub page of their show's website with links to Ticketmaster and Priscilla merchandise.

If you need help or are considering drastic measures to deal with feelings about who you are, or know someone who needs help, go to

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life After Idiot: From Green Day to Green Pastures

By March 1st, most of the principal original cast members of Green Day's American Idiot will have departed the show.  But no sooner can your get out your guitar and start singing "Good Riddance," than most of them will be back onstage in new and different and exciting roles.  The sheer variety of projects they are undertaking, I think, speaks volumes for the breadth of their individual talents.

Here's a look at those who have gone already and those preparing to move on shortly:

Michael Esper (Will)
Departs Idiot: February 27, 2011
Moving on to: Tony Kushner's The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, directed by Michael Greif at the Public Theater.  Stephen Spinella and Steven Pasquale co-star with Esper.
To be succeeded by: Justin Guarini

Esper (right) rehearses with Stephen Spinella

Mary Faber (Heather)
Departed Idiot: December 12, 2010
Moving on to: The 50th anniversary production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, as Smitty, the been-there-done-that secretary with a penchant for matchmaking.  Directed by Rob Ashford and starring Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette.
Succeeded by: Jeanna de Waal

Mary Faber

John Gallagher, Jr. (Johnny)
Departs Idiot: February 27, 2011
Moving on to: Co-starring with Tony winner Mark Rylance in Jerusalem, the acclaimed London play which will transfer to Broadway this spring for a limited engagement.
To be succeeded by: Van Hughes

Promo art for Jerusalem, starring Mark Rylance

Joshua Henry (Favorite Son)
Departed Idiot: July 18, 2010
Moved on to: Henry led the cast of the short lived, but acclaimed musical The Scottsboro Boys.
Succeeded by: Wallace Smith and Miguel Cervantes

Joshua Henry (center) in The Scottsboro Boys

Christina Sajous (Extraordinary Girl)
Departs Idiot: February 27, 2011
Moving on to: Playing one of the Shirelles in Baby, It's You! just across the street at the Broadhurst.
To be succeeded by: Libby Winters

Christina Sajous (2nd from right) in Baby, It's You!

Tony Vincent (St. Jimmy)
Departed Idiot: December 30, 2010
Moved on to: Promoting his recording career.  This Thursday, February 24, 2011, his image will be on postage stamps for the United Kingdom.  The stamp on which he appears commemorates the production We Will Rock You as part of an 8 stamp series celebrating British musicals.  He starred in that show's West End premiere, as well as the Las Vegas production.
Succeeded by: Billie Joe Armstrong, Melissa Etheridge, Andrew C. Call, and now permanently by Davey Havok.

Tony Vincent from the front and the back!

Both Stark Sands (Tunny) and Rebecca Naomi Jones (Whatsername) will remain with the production.  Original cast members Van Hughes (Johnny) and Libby Winters (Extraordinary Girl) will have both moved up into larger roles, effective March 1, 2011.

Rebecca Naomi Jones with John Gallagher, Jr. and Tony Vincent

Soon, casting for the First National Tour will begin.

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Which two Pulitzer Prize-winning musicals have to do with American politics?

A.  South Pacific
B.  Fiorello!
C.  next to normal
D.  Sunday in the Park with George
E.  Of Thee I Sing 

There will be TWO answers to this question and you will need BOTH on your entry.

(Daniel Radcliffe as J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed...)

Entries will be accepted from now until noon Eastern time on Wednesday, February 23rd.  No late entries will be accepted.  Be sure to follow the complete rules for submitting an entry.  Thanks for playing and good luck!

Monday, February 21, 2011

ON THE RADAR: Little Miss Sunshine

One of my favorite films of all time, Little Miss Sunshine, did not scream "MAKE ME A MUSICAL!" to me when I saw it.  Especially considering the central symbol/metaphor/plot device: the yellow Volkswagen bus and the road trip the family takes.  But hey, if Priscilla can get on the stage why not the little wagon that could?  And like Priscilla, Sunshine is essentially a small film about simple ideas; in this case family bonding, finding that spark again, overcoming failure, being who/what you are without regard to the accepted norms.  It is also about quirky, regular people who, by circumstance end up doing big things.  And if THAT isn't ripe material for a musical, I don't know what is.

Add to it a divinely perfect pairing of a creative team - William Finn (music and lyrics) who is the reigning king of quirky, character-driven, hummable show tunes (learning the words to his sings is a big game to me) and James Lapine (book and direction) who knows a thing or ten about finding the humanity in people, quirks and jerks and all.

Currently in the midst of a world-premiere engagement at the La Jolla Playhouse, Little Miss Sunshine: The Musical also boasts a top notch cast, which can only help its chances of moving on to bigger and better things.  When your world premiere cast boasts the talents of Tony-winner Dick Latessa and Tony nominees Hunter Foster, Jennifer Laura Thompson and Malcolm Gets, you are sending a clear message that you think this piece has legs.  I hope it does.  Broadway could use a dose of small but spectacular, of every day people triumphing.  The world could use a run down the road just to get the car started, you know?

Below are a costume sketch (by designer Jennifer Caprio), and a photo of the promotional yellow bus (but of course!), all from, and a brief film clip of the show in rehearsal, plus interviews with the cast and the creative team, from the La Jolla Playhouse website. (Apparently, the video clip is not available anymore beyond the host site.)

This is one show I really hope to see in the future.

Comments?  Leave one here, email me at or Tweet me!


Who is the only director to have helmed the original Broadway productions of TWO Pulitzer Prize-winning musicals?

A. Michael Greif
B. Michael Mayer
C. Michael Kidd
D. James Lapine
E. Joshua Logan

Look for question #5 at the bottom of tomorrow's blog! And remember: you need BOTH the letter AND the answer for your entry!

(Rose Hemingway as Rosemary in How to Succeed...)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

TheatreScene: February 14 - 20




(** indicates a blog with a contest question at the bottom of it)

CD REVIEW: La Cage aux Folles (2010 Cast)
Ms. Broadway February 2011: The Fabulous ZaZa!
**CONTEST: Win Tickets to How to Succeed on Broadway!
**CASTING: Wonderland
**The Doctor is In: Spider-Man is Far from the First
Broadway Crossword by Blog #5: Original vs Revival, Clue Set #4

  • February 14: Florence Henderson, Actor (The Girl Who Came to Supper, Oklahoma!)
  • February 15: Jane Seymour, Actor (Amadeus)
  • February 16: John Tartaglia, Actor/Writer (Avenue Q, Shrek/Imaginocean)
  • February 17: Billie Joe Armstrong, Actor/Composer (Green Day's American Idiot)
  • February 18: John Travolta, Actor, (Grease - original production, replacement, Over Here!)

  • February 19: Hugh Panaro, Actor (Side Show, The Phantom of the Opera)
  • February 20: Sandy Duncan, Actor (Chicago, Peter Pan, My One and Only)

TOPS AND BOTTOMS (February 7 - 13)
  • Top Gross: Wicked ($1.4M)
  • Top Attendance: The Merchant of Venice (101.1%)
  • Bottom Gross: Colin Quinn: long Story Short ($161K)
  • Bottom Attendance: Colin Quinn: Long Story Short (58.1%)
  • $1M Club: The Merchant of Venice, The Lion King, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Wicked
  • SRO Club: The Merchant of Venice

  • The Oldest Opening of the Week: 1848: A Glance at New York in 1848, billed as "sketches," the show ran only 50 performances at the Olympic Theatre.  A further search revealed that people were apparently not interested enough to have an 1849 version.
  • The Longest Time Since a Broadway Opening: February 15, 1990.  It was 21 years ago that a new show opened on this date, when Miss Margarida's Way opened at the Helen Hayes Theatre, starring Estelle Parsons.  It lasted 11 performances.
  • The Most Provocative Title:  Queer People.  Today, not so much of an oddity, but in 1934 it might have raised a few eyebrows.  Of course, back then, "queer" more commonly meant something else!  Either way, it wasn't a huge hit (12 performances at the National Theatre), but it has a huge cast: 37!
  • The Funniest Title of the Week:  OK, I'm not sure why this tickles me so, but the show was The Old Lady Says "No!".  It ran a mere 8 performances at the Mansfield Theatre.
Major Openings This Week:

  • February 14, 1972:  The original production of Grease opened.  Once the longest-running show in Broadway history, the show went through 4 theatres during its 3,388 performances.  On Tony night that year, it went in with 9 nominations, and left without a single win.  The movie version changed EVERYTHING.
  • February 14, 1995: 1995's Best Play, Love! Valour! Compassion!, opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where it ran for 248 performances.

  • February 18, 1982:  Cher made her Broadway debut in Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.  The show boasted a cast that included Kathy Bates, Sandy Dennis, and Karen Black, but only managed a 52 performance run at the Martin Beck Theatre.  Cher has not been back.

  • February 19, 1992:  Crazy for You was the show that Broadway went crazy for that season.  The "New Gershwin Musical" they called it, and it ran for 1,622 performances at the Shubert Theatre.  Although it wasn't her first Broadway show, this is the one that put Susan Stroman on the map.  Every time I see a washboard and a length of rope, I start humming "Slap That Bass."


Before we start the week, my apologies to all concerned that I failed to mention that three Broadway shows began previews last week.  It really wasn't meant as a slight, I just forgot to type up that little bit of notes.  Anyway, Good People began preview performances on February 8; RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway resumed performances on February 8; That Championship Season began previews on February 9.

February 14:
  • The results of the New York Department of Labor's investigation into injuries sustained by cast members of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark were reported by The New York Times.  The show was issued two "safety violations" for incidents that occurred late last year, including the fall of Christopher Tierney.  Not surprisingly, the Times article makes it sound as if these "safety violations" were issued since all of the new guidelines and protocols have been put into place.  That is not the case.  The smear campaign continues...

  • It was a banner day for Broadway Box Offices:  Sister Act, Anything Goes and Wonderland all opened their BO's for business today.  Lucky Broadway fans were treated to some cool swag for waiting in line.  Anyone want to part with an Anything Goes sailor hat and button?  Email me!
  • Sierra Boggess is quite busy bee these days!  Not only is she an Olivier nominated actress for her turn in Love Never Dies, but she is going to co-star with Tyne Daly in Master Class this summer, AND head the Broadway company of the new musical Rebecca next season.  You go, Ariel!
February 15:
  • Happy News First:  Harvey Fierstein and Jeffrey Tambor took over the roles of Albin/ZaZa and Georges over at La Cage aux Folles.  This marks the first time Mr. Fierstein has appeared in the show which he co-wrote 28 years ago.
  • The hopefully Broadway-bound musical Little Miss Sunshine, with an all-star Broadway cast (Hunter Foster, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Dick Latessa and Malcolm Gets) began its world-premiere engagement in L.A. today.  I'll be blogging about this show later this week coming up.
  • Bad News Last:  Two women are suing the producers of Broadway's Billy Elliot because they were injured during a production number at the end of Act One.  They are asking for $4M.  One of the ladies sustained a permanent scar on her face, and the other suffered a concussion.  The production has since modified the staging.  I sincerely hope they both win and both recover successfully.  Now my big question:  why didn't The New York Times report this (The New York Post did)?  Could it be that because it is a "critic's pick" by Ben Brantley that it went by the way-side?  If this had been at Spider-Man, they would have been all over it.  Where are the cries to close Billy Elliot?  Why is it OK for them to simply modify some staging without a full investigation?  Spider-Man certainly doesn't deserve special treatment.  But it does deserve fair treatment.
February 16:
  • The long-discussed revival of Bob Fosse's Dancin' looks to be back on track.  It was announced today that the Roundabout Theatre Company will produce the revival and the National Tour.  The show will play Studio 54 and will be directed by Graciella Daniele.
  • Click HERE to read my blog about the biggest news of the day.
February 17:

  • The media blitz surrounding The Book of Mormon went into full swing this week:  Two huge articles in The New York Times (Ben Brantley chose this show as his most looking forward to this spring show, of course), and several video interviews with the creators and cast on all of the major theatre sites.  The actors are VERY passionate about this project, risky as it is and could be.  I really hope their first previews go well.  I'd hate for it to get the Women on the Verge treatment.  Oh, wait.  Brantley pre-picked this one.  Cast members will have to revolt (or worse) in order for it to get any negative press over at the Times.  The video interviews are very interesting.  Matt and Trey are on my "I must meet these people" list.
  • Is Broadway still in the cards for Bring It On: The Musical?  Interesting how a major National Tour has been announced as its Atlanta run finishes up, but no mention of the Great White Way.  Hmmm... maybe they are going to work it all out on the road and then bring it in.  And by announcing a tour WITHOUT Broadway, they might be able to avoid any less than advantageous scrutiny whilst they work out the kinks.  Someone is learning...
  • Maybe its because I loved Lombardi, but I am pretty excited about the announcement of Eric Simonson's new play, Magic/Bird, all about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird's domination of basketball for years.  I know my dad will be thrilled - he loves basketball even more than football.  Sign me up!
  • Good news for fans of John Gallagher, Jr. (including myself)!  His next project is all lined up - he is joining the cast of Jerusalem at the Music Box Theatre.  Good to see those American Idiot kids all moving on!
February 18:

  • Two other big shows are getting their names out there this week:  the media blitz began with some staged scenes from both Catch Me If You Can and Anything Goes for the press, and now on video at both and  TheatreMania's Peter Filicia gushed about Catch Me in his columnCatch Me  looks like a ton of fun, and the big numbers look spectacular (I love Jerry Mitchell's choreography period) and Aaron Tveit looks and sounds charming and charismatic.  I hope this is the vehicle that makes him a huge star.  I saw the "Anything Goes" number and predict that it will open the 2011 Tonys (if not open, it will certainly be in the telecast).  That said, Colin Donnell and Joel Grey leaped off the computer monitor so great is their charisma and charm.  Not so much with Sutton Foster, who sounds great if Reno Sweeney were an ingenue like Millie Dilmount.  Not long in the sassy, brassy dame department, she is one hell of a dancer, though!  To be fair, she is MUCH better in the snippets of her other songs that they taped, especially "Friendship" with Joel Grey, which is sassy and charming and goose-pimply sweet. 

February 19:
  • Riverdance - On Ice! may even be too gay for me...
February 20:
  • The Merchant of Venice closes up shop today at the Broadhurst Theatre.  The Al Pacino-Lily Rabe revival played 26 previews and 74 performances.  It was a huge success, critically, popularly and financially.  A nice change of pace for Broadway news lately.

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