Friday, May 30, 2014

Broadway on TV: The Musical Revival Tony Nominees

So, how are the folks at each of the Tony-nominated musical revivals vying for our ticket dollars?  It runs the gamut - from not bothering with the nominations to touting them to the hilt.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Grade: A: From what I can find, they haven't changed their ad at all.  An d why should they?  It's the biggest hit of the season, with or without Tony nominations.  And it hits all the right buttons, hard!  A glammed up Neil Patrick Harris, a legit Rolling Stones quote, pulling in its key demographic, and fast cuts and loud music - a 16-second music video.  Just like the show, only really fast!

Les Miserables

Grade A+: This is, I have to admit, a beautiful commercial.  Cinematic in scope, exciting and full of characters we all know (and some of us love), I wish the show really looked like that.  The booming start of the overture the ad uses makes you stop and watch, too.  And talk about making the most of very little - they play the Tony nominations thing like they got the most of any shows - a wise play, for sure.  Of course, it doesn't matter, it probably won't win any Tonys, but, like Hedwig, it doesn't matter.  Even so, this is a great commercial.


Grade A: Violet could use a bit of a push at the box office, which is a shame.  But this nicely produced ad should really help that.  The perfect combination of rousing underscoring, fast clips and critical quotes, and excellently integrated info on its stars, Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry, and their Tony nominations.

BONUS: Cabaret


Thursday, May 29, 2014

MUSIC REVIEW: Marriage Type Love! Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy

Marriage Type Love! the new re-release of an album by Shirley Jones and the late Jack Cassidy takes all of us back to that time theatre fans always seem to wax nostalgic for - when show tunes were popular music.  This collection covers a lot of territory all within the parameters that this is a bunch love and marriage themed duets.  And these two (married at the time) Broadway veterans bring a quality to all of it that is really missing in a lot similar releases these days.  They simply don't make them like this anymore.  Perhaps I am dating myself here - and I wasn't born until after the show ended - but this recording makes me think of all those really cool dinner parties on The Dick Van Dyke Show that Rob and Laura Petrie used to throw, where after dinner, everyone did a routine of some sort to entertain themselves.  Jack and Shirley would have certainly fit in!

Grade: A

Title: Marriage Type Love!
Artist: Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy
Label: Masterworks (Sony)
Format: Digital


1. Broadway Classics: Well, the two people singing these tracks are Broadway classics all by themselves, but more about them later!  The cumulative writing talent here is without match today - Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, Gershwin, Porter, Cahn, Fields and Loesser, to name a few.  And here are recordings of songs from shows that are rare and./or unavailable anymore.  There are songs from Where's Charley, Me and Juliet, An American in Paris and even Our Town!

2. That sound!: These days everything is so processed and digital, it is refreshing to hear honest-to-goodness people playing actual instruments.  Not a sample in sight here!  And that old school "Living Stereo!" sound so proudly across the top of the cover has a quality that you just don't hear anymore.  Marty Gold's Orchestra provides the music, and some really imaginative orchestrations ("Love and Marriage" from Our Town and "I Love You" from Mexican Hayride are particular standouts in that department.)

3. Shirley and Jack: Most people of a certain age don't even know who they are.  Still others only know her as Mrs. Partridge.  And maybe real fans of classic movie musicals know her from Oklahoma! and The Music Man.  But Cassidy may be less well-known to most, even if he did 14 Broadway shows, including the original production of the much beloved She Loves Me.  Here is your chance to get to know or re-acquaint yourselves with these two gems, theatre-lovers!  Their skills individually are clear - she has a clear as a bell soprano; he has the leading man depth that most leading men only dream of.  But here, the biggest selling point is their delightful chemistry, as they play and romance together through each number.  It is palpable, even on a decades old recording.

(Full disclosure: I received a complimentary digital download of this recording for review.)


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Tony Awards: UPDATE: The Anatomy of a Best Musical Tony Award Nomination

Matilda Should Have Won
Last April, before the 2013 Tony Awards nominations were announced, I did a little research into what kinds of shows were being nominated for best musicals of the past 10 years.  (Re-read that blog HERE.) This year, with the added possibility of five nominees instead of four, that look has become perhaps even more salient.  The fact that a fifth wasn't chosen is probably more interesting, and the subject of much discussion over the past recent weeks, including on this blog.  Nonetheless, I thought I'd update what I did last year with an analysis of last season's and this season's nominees.

 I have found that, more or less the shows can be divided into 5 categories, with the understanding that many shows have characteristics that make them overlap categories.

  • The Traditional: Singing, dancing, book scenes.  Comedy, a little drama, with an emotional component, and elements of spectacle.
  • The Artistic Boundary Pusher: Often the musical that people say belongs "off-Broadway," is usually a critical, not commercial success, that has most agreeing that it has pushed the art form into a new, challenging direction.
  • The Jukebox: Whether it is a biographical trip down memory lane or an original story has been crafted, this type includes a songbook of popular music .  Often critics and passionate fans jump on the lamenting the death of originality bandwagon, but the truth is, about half the time, the shows work.
  • The Family Show: Again, fans seem to automatically dismiss these shows... "too Disney" blah, blah, blah,  BUT when these shows offer both an emotional quality and stunning spectacle, the crowds keep coming.
  • The Crowd-Pleaser/Spectacle:  These shows are often described as "critic proof."  And more often than not, there is one big element that is the draw despite a wholesale dismissal for the rest of the show.  And nearly 100% of the time, these shows are a triumph of style over substance.

For the 2013 season, the winner is in red.  An astrix (*) indicates which show I thought should have won.  Here's a chart for your consideration:

Kinky Boots did win

Bring It On: The Musical
A truly fun, interesting musical, with amazing cheer stunts; Already closed at Tony time
A Christmas Story: The Musical
Family Show
A faithful recreation of the classic holiday film, with all the right things added to make it worth musicalizing
Kinky Boots
Very much what you’d expect from a Harvey Fierstein/Jerry Mitchell collaboration, but not really anything more
* Matilda: The Musical
Family Show
Artistic Boundary Pusher
It is really aimed more at the adults in the audience, but the staging is pure theatricality at its finest; so smart, too!

A Gentleman's Guide... probably will win

After Midnight

Spectacular dancing, great singing and the best orchestra on Broadway today.
Family Show
Lots of Disney Magic without all the excess; Just enough like the movie to bring in the crowds, enough of a departure to feel fresh
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Great songs, great cast, but as dull a book as you can get…
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

It revels in its old-fashioned-ness!  Very funny and super interesting, but like Chinese food, you are hungry again an hour after it is over.

Which show will win seems likely at this point, but I can honestly say that none were my favorite, but I can live with three of the four winning...


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gone, But Not Forgotten - Shows That Close Way Too Soon

I swear, sometimes and I must share a psychic connection.  Every once in awhile, I'll post a blog on something Broadway, and the next day, will post a very similar (and usually better) article! And every once in awhile, they beat me to the punch.  Like with today's blog, which I've been mulling over/working on for more than a week (yes, I'm a big one for advanced planning...).  I guess I'm not too surprised that they posted a similarly-themed article on Sunday.  Well, I already took a good amount of time putting this together, so I'm putting mine out there, anyway. This is what I had before their article posted:

Every year, it seems more and more common that I fall in love with one show that closes before it has barely gotten out of the gate and running.  Don't you just hate when that happens?  Here are those shows from the last 10 seasons.

The One That Closed Too Soon 2003 - 2004: Caroline, or Change 
These Are the Ones That Stayed Around: Avenue Q, Wicked

The One That Closed Too Soon 2004 - 2005: Little Women
I loved the score and the staging.  And I cried like a baby...

These Are the Ones That Stayed Around: Spamalot, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Light in the Piazza, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The One That Closed Too Soon 2005 - 2006: Tarzan
The opening sequence was absolutely stunning.  Josh Strickland and Jenn Gambatese were wonderful, and Phil Collins' score is awesome from start to finish.
The Ones That Stayed Around: The Color Purple, The Wedding Singer, Jersey Boys, The Drowsy Chaperone

The One That Closed Too Soon 2006 - 2007: The Times They Are A-Changin'
Sure, it was weird.  But the dancing (and the bouncing) were jaw-dropping.  And Michael Arden is an untapped talent.

The Ones That Stayed Around: Spring Awakening, Curtains, Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins

The One That Closed Too Soon 2007 - 2008: Cry-Baby
The Ones That Stayed Around: Xanadu, The Little Mermaid, In the Heights

The One That Closed Too Soon 2008 - 2009: The Story of My Life
Again, I was moved to tears.  And the story songs are among the best in years.

The Ones That Stayed Around: Next to Normal, Billy Elliot, Rock of Ages

The One That Closed Too Soon 2009 - 2010: Come Fly Away
Okay, so I have a thing for choreography that is so good, you hold your breath through every number.  It so happens that Twyla Tharp has provided that for me three times this century (Movin' Out is brilliance.)

These Are the Ones That Stayed Around: Memphis, American Idiot, Fela!

The Ones That Closed Too Soon 2010 - 2011: The Scottsboro Boys, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Catch Me If You Can
The season had three great shows that everyone missed.  Scottsboro is a masterpiece, maybe the best American musical in decades; Women was the first musical done in by message boards and social media, and didn't deserve it, even at the 3rd preview' and Catch Me was the perfect blend of story, stage craft, and score... maybe the best "complete package" since Hairspray.  It suffered in comparison, even though they were so different - I saw it as the same creative team growing together. I guess not many others did...

The Ones That Stayed Around: The Book of Mormon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

The Ones That Closed Too Soon 2011 - 2012: Bonnie and Clyde, Lysistrata Jones
I've written many a blog about Mr. Barrow and Ms. Parker, so you know I loved it.  Still haunted by the final tableau... And, well, Lysistrata went down so easy, its intelligence went right over everyone's head.  Witty and smart and so well done.

The Ones That Stayed Around: Once, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Newsies

The One That Closed Too Soon 2012 - 2013: Hands on a Hardbody
I loved it, was moved by it, and thought they were a superb company telling an important American story. Too bad most of you missed it.

The Ones That Stayed Around: Kinky Boots, Matilda, Motown: The Musical

The One That Closed Too Soon 2013 - 2014: The Bridges of Madison County
I'm still getting over it.  Maybe next year I'll be able to articulate my feelings.  :-)


Monday, May 26, 2014

The Tony Awards: The Best Revival of a Play Nominees on TV

The nominees for Best Revival of a Play represent a wide variety of plays - comedy and drama, classic American, classic modern European, and classic (in every way) Shakespeare.  They also represent some of the very best in theatre from the entire season!

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Grade: C Okay, they can claim "The Most Tony Nominations of Any Play On Broadway," but on a technicality... the plays that got the most, its competition, no less, isn't "on" Broadway anymore.  And a laugh track to show how "funny" it is?  Wow.  Don't get me wrong, I loved the play, and they are smart to include some of the visual comedy in the ad, but people shouldn't go into it expecting a guffaw-fest.  And, just as with the Tony nominations, the best thing about it, star Daniel Radcliffe gets the short shrift here.

Twelfth Night

Grade: A  Since it closed long before the Tony nominations, obviously they couldn't come up with/didn't need an awards-related ad.  But what is here represents the show perfectly, from the "Elizabethan" sounding British voice, to the visuals that match the critical huzzahs and still manage to capture Shakespearean grandeur and simplicity of the production.  Classy.  The ad, like the production, is first-rate.

A Raisin in the Sun
Apparently, there is no TV ad for Raisin, at least not one I could find.  Of course, who needs one, when your show is already sold out!

The Glass Menagerie
I've already rhapsodized over this brilliant show many times.  And the same for their commercial - HERE.

BONUS!: Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

Both Grade A+: Let there be no doubt, even in these 15 second ads, that Audra McDonald loses herself (and any previous expectations the audience might have) in the role of Billie Holiday.  And the song choices tht go along with the montage of bits match the actual show's tone and serious nature.  Has anyone done "cut-up shtick" and looked so tragic doing it? The ads make this look like must-see theatre, and for Audra alone, it is.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Some Thoughts on "The 43 Best Musicals Since 2000"

#1 - Next to Normal
It is hard to believe that we are 14 seasons into the 2000's!  And it is even more hard to believe just how many notable - and some even great - musicals there have been.  To be honest, I never really took as much stock in the enormity of it until Mike sent me a link to Buzz Feed, and this pretty comprehensive and insightful article by Louis Peitzman.

It is pointless to argue about some of the placements of the shows that make his ranking; it would be pretty nit-picky of me.  Suffice it to say that I'd agree within a place or two for most of his choices.  And you more regular readers know how pleased I am at his #1 choice!

To see the full list, click HERE.

I think I can give this list some serious consideration because Peitzman has really has considered pretty much everything in the wide-ranging gamut of musical theatre in this century.  And his nicely concise (I should take a lesson!) explanations take into account artistry, social context, boundary pushing, critical response, pop culture mores, and, perhaps, most importantly, entertainment value.  Bravo!

#42 - Legally Blonde
#14 - Fun Home 
Glad to see... that he: recognized the fun and exciting staging of Legally Blonde... and the wonder and importance of Fun Home... chose the LaChuisa Wild Party over the Lippa, which I have long felt the same way about... that the best musical of its season, Urinetown, made the list, while Thoroughly Modern Millie didn't... and that the best two Disney musicals since The Lion King also made the list: AIDA and Newsies.

That the really important musical theatre artists of the new millennium all made the list... twice: Robert Lopez, Laurence O'Keefe, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, Jason Robert Brown, Alex Timbers, Jeanine Tesori, Michael John LaChuisa, and even Elton John.  And other important writers who have only one show so far: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day, and Duncan Sheik. And even nicer, that two legends, John Kander and Fred Ebb, made the list twice, too!

#43 - American Idiot
#28 - Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
#21 - Passing Strange
#11 - The Scottsboro Boys

Understand, even if I don't care for the show... his inclusion of Jersey Boys as a benchmark for the "jukebox musical"... and Passing Strange as an example of someone not "in musical theatre" trying it anyway, and ignoring the "rules"...I totally agree with their being on the list.

Disappointed that...he didn't include Hands on a Hardbody, which I still think history will reveal as a better, more important work, that it was received as, or Matilda, a very sharp, thoughtful musical really more for adults than kids, or Mamma Mia!, which should be included if for no other reason than it is a world-wide phenomenon.

#34 - If/Then
#25 - The Bridges of Madison County
Finally... I am glad to see someone else feels that the two most important musicals of this season are If/Then and The Bridges of Madison County, both of which made the list, while not one of the four Best Musical nominees made the list.

What do you think of this list?  Your comments are welcome!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

More Broadway Things That Make Me Happy - May Edition 2 (Some NSFW)


Alexander Sharp

These are the days when fall shows start announcing casts!  And I am already super excited for  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, especially now that it looks like we'll be seeing a real star in the making, with Julliard alum Alexander Sharp making his debut in the leading role.  (And his alternate is the always terrific Taylor Trensch! Win-Win!

Johnson, Yazbeck, Alves

And who can't get excited for the three sailors on shore leave in On the Town when they are Clyde Alves, Tony Yazbeck and Jay Armstrong Johnson?!  Win-Win-Win!


Those amazing folks over at Pippin have come up with a cool short/commercial that embraces adversity - the epic horror that was this past winter.  Magic to do, indeed!

And this just makes me smile...


Broadway Bares: Rock Hard is coming soon!  But to get us in the mood, this Mother's Day, Broadway Bares held another edition of Solo Strips.  I think these pictures (from Broadway Cares) say it all!

TOP and BOTTOM: Callan Bergmann, Joshua Michael Bergmann and Vince Oddo

Can't wait to see Broadway Bares: Rock Hard!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Broadway Ladies: Ms. May 2014: Linda Emond

Ms. May 2014
Linda Emond

WHY SHE'S MS. BROADWAY:   She is a real "working actor," with a lengthy career on stage, on TV and on film.  Perhaps you caught her off-Broadway in iHO or The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide... or Homebody/Kabul or her NY debut in Nine Armenians.  You probably recognize her from many stints on all of the Law and Order TV series or Gossip Girl.  (She even refers to herself as the "Law and Order Lesbian" - see below.)  And she's done her share of film, including Julie and Julia, opposite Meryl Streep.  But she's no stranger to Broadway, either, with notable turns in Lifex3 (with Helen Hunt) and as Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman (opposite the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  She's also done the musical thing beforem too, as Abigail Adams in 1776.  These days, she's making a splash in another classic musical.  Her Tony-nominated turn as Fraulein Schneider captivated me in the revival of Cabaret, for both its strength and fragility.  And her economy - so understated and powerful.  Is it any wonder that Jersey Girl Linda Emond is Ms. Broadway?


TV APPEARANCES -  Gossip Girl, Law and Order, The Good Wife 

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MOVIES - Trade, North Country, Julie and Julia

STAGE - OFF-BROADWAY - iHO, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide...

STAGE - BROADWAY - 1776, Lifex3, Death of a Salesman, Cabaret

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