Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Broadway Milestones

With so much attention these past few days on the milestone achievements of Chicago: The Musical, it might have been easy to overlook a few other events that are going into the Broadway history books this week.  First, though, a look at that celebration, courtesy of Playbill Online.

I wonder if this cake also comes as a window card?

The celebrating cast of Chicago:
Christopher Sieber (Billy Flynn), Carol Woods (Matron "Mama" Morton),
Charlotte d'Amboise (Roxie Hart) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Velma)

Velma, meet Velma!

  • Mary Poppins, the mega-hit over at the New Amsterdam Theatre also has reason to celebrate. On September 4, the show will give its 2,000th performance! Laura Michelle Kelly, who originated the role in London and Gavin Lee, who originated the role of Bert both on the West End and on Broadway, currently star in the show.
Olivier Award-winner
Laura Michelle Kelly

  • The National Tour oh Hair celebrated its 300th performance at the St. James Theatre, where it is playing a limited run through September 10.  That special occasion happened on Monday, August 29.  The show will continue to tour throughout the U.S. into 2012.  Kacie Sheik, who has been with the production as Jeannie since its beginnings at the Delacorte in Central Park, then on Broadway, London and now on tour, will leave the show on September 10th (along with fellow tour Tribe-mates Arbender Robinson and Caitlin Rose.  For Ms. Sheik, that has meant over four years of harmony and understanding - a real achievement these days!
Goodbye, Starshine!  Caitlin Rose,
Kacie Sheik and Arbender Robinson

  • But a world-record setting run is about to be celebrated and ended when The Phantom of the Opera original cast member George Lee Andrews leaves the stage of the Majestic Theatre for the last time on September 3rd.  He is officially named in The Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running actor in the same Broadway show.  If you've seen Phantom on Broadway, you've probably seen him.  He started in the ensemble, but for the majority of his 23 year run, he played one of the opera company managers, Firmin or Andre (his current role) - one guesses he wanted to switch things up a bit over the years.  Interestingly enough, his replacement will be Aaron Galligan-Stierle who is Andrews' son-in-law!  Congratulations, Mr. Andrews! Phantom just won't be the same without you!
George Lee Andrews

Phantom's new Opera Company managers:
Kevin Ligon and Aaron Galligan-Stierle

Looks like Chicago will have to go another 7 years or so to even approach that record! 

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Year 3, Day 1

Please forgive the following exercise in self-indulgence...

If I were a Broadway producer, today would be the day I add "3rd Smash Hit Year!" to all of my advertisements!

Two years ago today, I sat at this very computer and started writing about something I love... theatre.  That day, I had no idea of the magnitude of what I was getting into.  That there are thousands of people out there who love the arts as much as I do; that so many of us write about it.  What a great discovery!

I have learned so much not only about theatre, but about myself.  And for that, I thank all of you who read this little piece of the blogosphere, regularly or when the content suits you.  Whether you stop by every day or once in awhile, I appreciate your taking the time. 

This time last year, I made three wishes for the year just past:

1. That I can continue to work on making this the best blog I can make it be.  I think I have made the quality of this blog better than ever, with plenty of room for improvement.  I hope I can continue to bring you all of the things you have come to expect and to make room for the things you would like to read about.  I look forward to more Broadway Boys and Ladies (your favorites), show reviews, and series.  And I hope to add more about regional theatre, national tours, and make better use of Twitter!

2. That more of you will share experiences and thoughts about my blog entries and theatre in general. PLEASE WRITE IN!  Well, you certainly made that wish come true!  Thank you all for your comments, feedback, emails and Tweets!  And thank you to all of you who contribute by sending in your favorite quotes from shows, your personal experiences at the same shows I see, and your contributions of reviews.  I also listen to your suggestions.

3. That all of us have the privilege and ability to see great theatre at any venue we are lucky enough to get to!  Boy, have I been lucky this year!  Every new musical that opened on Broadway last season... a couple of trips to the D.C. area to see regional theatre (Chess at Signature Theatre), the Kennedy Center (the National Tour of next to normal), and even a few National Touring shows.  I have also had the privilege of seeing some interesting local theatre (I never write about neighbors).  Goal met!  Of course, is there any way to see everything?  No way!  And so, I continue to expand! 
So what is ahead for JK's TheatreScene?  Well, as I said, I listen to you!  After all, you are who I do this for... so:

  • More reviews of shows that are off-Broadway and beyond.  In fact, I have tickets for a few shows off-Broadway - The Submission at MCC, and tickets to TWO New York Musical Theatre Festival Shows.  And there is Carrie...
  • More blogs about theatre legends... Who knew so many of you love Bob Fosse as much as I do?  Look for stuff about Carol Channing, Boris Aaronson and Michael Bennett this fall...
  • And, yes, I will do more series about landmark shows AND flops (your response to Grind, Part I has been very encouraging).

  • Look for more what you like: Broadway Boys, Girls and games. I promise I will do another crossword puzzle, soon! And, yes, more jigsaw puzzles! (If you only knew how easy those are to do!)
  • And less about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (I will be reviewing the CD shortly, though), Stephen Sondheim, and no more Jeopardy! games.  I will do my best, but it will be difficult to talk  about Follies without talking Sondheim, and who knows what media blitz Spider-Man will come up with next?  So I can only promise that I will only write about them when they are newsworthy only.  Fair enough? 
Again, thank you all!
P.S.: For my most ardent fans: The third Broadway show I walked out on at intermission was...  the revival A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Nathan Lane.  He was NOT the reason why I left.  Stay tuned for the blog about THAT eventful day...

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Longest Running American Musical on Broadway

The very beginning of May 1996 was the time Broadway history began to be made.  Of course, back then, no one knew what a true phenonemon Chicago: The Musical would become.  At the time, fans of the show were just thrilled at the chance to finally see a professional production of a show many only knew from its original cast recording.  A critical success, the Encores! production was immediately rumored for a transfer to Broadway.

Before that May was over, Barry and Fran Weissler had secured the rights to bring the concert version to the big time in a more finished version - that is, without scripts as in Encores!, and full staging.  Finished, finessed, but not substantially different.  The bare bones staging by Walter Bobby, sexy costumes by William Ivey Long, fresh revamped book by David Thompson, and choreography "in the style of Bob Fosse" by Fosse protege Ann Reinking woule remain essentially intact.

Fast forward to tonight, August 29, 2011.  Tonight, Chicago: The Musical will play its 6,138th performance, and that will make it the 4th longest-running show in Broadway history, behind Les Miserables, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.  It is now the longest-running American musical in Broadway history.  (For some time, it has been Broadway's longest-running revival in history.)  With no signs of stopping, Chicago: The Musical will surpass Les Miserables to become the third longest-running show in just over a year.

3 Theatres, 1 Legendary Show

Chicago: The Musical Statistics:
  • Theatre: Richard Rodgers Theatre (November 14, 1996 - February 9, 1997)
  • Previews: October 23, 1996 (25 previews)
  • Opening: November 14, 1996
  • Theatre: Shubert Theatre (February 11, 1997 - January 26, 2003)
  • Theatre: Ambassador Theatre (January 29, 2003 - present)

1997 Tony Awards
  • Best Revival of a Musical (Won)
  • Best Leading Actor in a Musical - James Naughton (Won)
  • Best Leading Actress in a Musical - Bebe Neuwirth (Won)
  • Best Featured Actress in a Musical - Marcia Lewis (Nominee)
  • Best Direction of a Musical - Walter Bobbie (Won)
  • Best Choreography - Ann Reinking (Won)
  • Best Lighting Design - Ken Billington (Won)
  • Best Costume Design - William Ivey Long (Nominee)

Opening Night Cast:
  • Roxie Hart: Ann Reinking
  • Velma Kelly: Bebe Neuwirth
  • Billy Flynn: James Naughton
  • Amos Hart: Joel Grey
  • Matron "Mama" Morton: Marcia Lewis
  • Mary Sunshine: D. Sabella
  • Fred Casely: Michael Berresse
  • Go-to-Hell Kitty: Leigh Zimmerman
  • The Merry Mureresses: Caitlin Carter, Mamie Duncan-Gibbs, Denise Faye, Mary An Lamb, Tina Paul
  • Ensemble: Jim Borstelman, Bruce Anthony Davis, Micahel Kubala, John Mineo, Rocker Verastique, Davis Warren-Gibson
  • Stand-by for Roxie and Velma: Nancy Hess
  • Swings: Mindy Cooper, Luis Perez
Roxie Hart over the years...
The Originals: Bebe as Velma and Ann as Roxie

Bebe played Roxie, too...

Charlotte d'Amboise has plyed the role A LOT

Melanie Griffith and Bianca Maroquin both rocked Chicago

Melanie Griffith and Robin Givens

Bonnie Langford and Paige Davis

Brooke Shields and Michelle Williams

Micelle Williams, Lisa Rinna
Ashlee Simpson, Christie Brinkley

Michelle Dejean

Ruthie Henshall

Christie Brinkley

Rita Wilson (with Brenda Braxton)

Bianca Maroquin

Karen Ziemba

Sandy Duncan

Brooke Shields

Marilu Henner, Rita Wilson, Michelle Dejean

Amy Spanger
(with Michael C. Hall as Billy Flynn)

Velma Kelly over the years...

Bebe Neuwirth

Frequent Velma Terra C. McLeod

Vicki Lewis

Ute Lemper
Broadway and London Velma

Ruthie Henshall played both
Roxie and Velma on both
Broadway and the West End

Caroline O'Connor

 Terra C. McLeod on tour

Brenda Braxton

Leigh Zimmerman

Amyra Faye-Wright

Charloltte d'Amboise as Roxie with 2 Velmas:
(TOP) Leigh Zimmerman
(BOTTOM) Nikka Graff Lanzarone

Current Velma Nikka Graff Lanzarone

Mya and the Boys

Billy Flynn over the years...
Joey Lawrence, Usher, Huey Lewis

Jerry Springer played both New York and the West End

John O'Hurley is a frequent and loved Billy Flynn

Matthew Settle

Brent Barrett

The Backstreet Boys' Kevin Richardson

The late Patrick Swayze

And BOTH of the Dukes of Hazzard have taken their turn
as Billy Flynn: John Schneider and Tom Wopat

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