Tuesday, July 31, 2018

BROADWAY HEAT: Gettin' the Band Together Edition (Round1)

HOT: (adj) on Broadway: fierce, talented, big potential; has "buzz"; has "it" factor.

Last week, we announced the winner of BROADWAY HEAT: Head Over Heels (HERE). All thanks to YOU of course! Now it's Gettin' the Band Back Together time! This week, we are going to narrow it down to The Big 8! Who will make it to the next round? VOTE NOW!!

GOOD NEWS: It doesn't matter if you've seen the show - you CAN STILL VOTE!

  • This week's elimination round will determine The Big 8. Each week after that, you'll keep voting in rounds of pairs, until we are down to one pair. 
  • You have to pick ONE from EACH group (no skipping!) AND click "FINISH SURVEY" at the end of the poll.
  • You don't have to have seen the show to vote! There are pictures of each cast member included!
  • I can't stress this enough: YOU MUST CLICK "FINISH SURVEY" AFTER YOU ANSWER EACH QUESTION. If you don't, your vote won't count. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

REVIEW: Moulin Rouge! (Pre-Broadway)

Review of the Saturday matinee preview performance on July 14, 2018 at The Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston, MA. Starring Karen Olivo, Aaron Tveit, Danny Burstein, Sahr Ngaujah, Tam Mutu, Ricky Rojas and Robyn Hurder. Book by John Logan. Music Supervisor, Co-Orchestrator, Co-Arranger and Additional Lyrics by Justin Levine. Scenic design by Derek McLane. Costume design by Catherine Zuber. Lighting design by Justin Townsend. Sound design by Peter Hylenski. Choreography by Sonya Tayeh. Direction by Alex Timbers. Running time: 3 hours, including one intermission.

Grade A-/B+


When we got the tickets for Moulin Rouge, the matinee we chose would have been a preview two weeks or so into the  show's run at Boston's Emerson Colonial Theatre. Alas, that was not to be after a construction accident pushed performances back by several days, making our tickets for only the fourth public performance. After a similar situation several years ago with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Mike and I were feeling some trepidation about what we might see. Turns out we worried for nothing - the show was performance ready and very polished. Save for a glitch with a troublesome curtain, things went off without a hitch. Was it perfect? No. But it is already better than a lot of shows currently on Broadway.

Seeing as we saw the show a full two weeks before its official opening, and that we sat behind a producer and choreographer Sonya Tayeh with her assistants, all of whom were taking copious notes throughout, I am certain that they are actively working on the show. My (few) criticisms may very well have already been addressed since we saw the show. But here they are...

  • Christian's (Aaron Tveit) direct address to the audience sometimes comes across as strained and a bit disingenuous. It almost feels like Tveit's breaking character when he does it. In retrospect, it may very well be that he's not as comfortable with that part of the role, but it might just be a weakness of the book.
  • I don't understand why the villainous Duke (Tam Mutu), who holds the fate of Satine (Karen Olivo), Zidler (Danny Burstein) and the entire Moulin Rouge in his hands, disappears before the finale. A tense climax with this character juxtaposed against the tragedy of death-torn lovers would really make the end of the show all the more powerful.

  • The exact end of the show is pretty cool - a return of the Moulin Rouge characters as Christian mourns and belts out a moving "Come What May." But the audience wants (and should) to be able to applaud this powerfully sung piece, but the return of characters immediately as Tveit hits the final note squashes that. Both elements bring things to a thrilling conclusion, but it really needs to be re-staged.
  • Speaking of the ending, as things stand, the cast does the now expected big-dance-number-as-curtain-call thing. By itself, it is quite well done. But somehow, it really diminishes the impact of the finale, which when tightened, should leave the audience in a state of cheers-through-tears. I think a normal curtain call would actually be better.
  • Finally, I wish Robyn Hurder had more to do!


Generally, I think most of the songs added really work - "Fun" and "Firework" were both enjoyable additions, as were "Rolling in the Deep" and a song by P!nk whose name escapes me at this point. (Excellent musical work throughout by Justin Levine.) I've read in the chat rooms that some take issue with the fact that the audience sometimes laughs when they hear a sing they recognize. Many times it is meant to be funny. But it seems some have forgotten - or weren't even alive yet when the film came out, the film audience laughed in just the same way.  I know I did. And when Mamma Mia! was a new thing, the audience reacted in the same way. But I don't think people are laughing at the show necessarily, but rather at the unexpected delight of "naming that tune" and/or laughing at the clever fit of the lyrics to the situation (most of the time).

Also, I think the book (by John Logan) needs some tightening - the show runs longer than the film, but for the most part, I like the changes, particularly the Duke storyline (except, of course, what I mentioned above). It is more serious and appropriate to today's climate. I'm of the camp that believes a too strict adherence to a the movie in a film-to-stage adaptation is not a good thing. I think, for the most part, the beloved aspects of the film are there, but it also makes changes that capitalize on what a live stage performance can bring to the table.

Everybody Can Can Can!

Alex Timbers' direction is slick and mostly well-paced, and again, I think he's really found a good balance between honoring the film and creating something new. It is a massive production and he handles it deftly. You'd never know this was only a 4th preview. And frankly, Ms. Tayeh's choreography is among the best I've seen in years. No two numbers look the same, and the variety of styles she employs are jaw-dropping; still, the choreography feels very cohesive. The Tony is hers to lose, no matter what season the show makes it to New York. Design-wise, the show is absolutely breathtaking. The set, when you enter the house, is even more impressive live than the picture they released. Derek McLane's work is just as stunning and detailed throughout the show, and Justin Townsend's alternately colorfully vibrant and darkly moody lighting adds to the spectacle. And Catherine Zuber's costumes are absolutely stunning. You get more than your money's worth here!

The entire company is top notch, including a first-rate, triple-threat ensemble. Not only can they act and sing, they are unbelievably skilled dancers. Particularly of note is the "Roxanne" tango and the mega-number that slips into Britney Spears' "Toxic" (there is no song or scene list in the Playbill). And a special shout out to the "Lady Marmalade" quartet (Robyn Hurder, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Holly James and Jeigh Magjus) who are the personification of "fierce."

Supporting actors Sahr Ngaujah (as Toulouse-Lautrec) and Ricky Rojas (as Santiago, the Argentinian) are delightfully quirky, and add something great to every scene they are in. The principals are all excellent - and I can only imagine how much more impressive they will be when they have had even more time with the material. The score is gloriously sung by all involved. I am already looking forward to seeing the show on Broadway when their performances are fully prepared and sussed out. Suffice it to say that Mr. Tveit, Ms. Olivo, Mr. Mutu and Mr. Burstein are in top form and well on their way to really great things.

Finally, I was really tickled by all of the fun Broadway Easter eggs. Some are obvious - nods to Cabaret abound. Others are cleverly "insider" - like the choreographic tribute to the audition sequence from A Chorus Line. And you really have to know your Broadway stuff to catch the Great Comet thing...

I've heard that the plan is for the show to come into New York this time next year.  They are really close as it is.  I hope they keep working on it in the direction they are headed. I know I'll be there.

(Photos by J. Kyler, M. Murphy)

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Friday 5: 5 Iconic Broadway Marquees

Part of the excitement of seeing a Broadway show for me happens before they even scan my ticket. And with bag checks now, I have even more time to savor this moment. I'm talking, of course, about seeing the marquee for the show I'm about to see.  Shows come and go, but in most cases, the marquee itself becomes part of the memory. Things have changed, for sure - those hi-def screens are a welcome addition. In some cases, they have been spruced up/refurbished.  In the case of the Marquis, the marquee isn't even in the same place! These 5 are my favorite Broadway marquees - even if when the show changes.

The Friday 5:
Jeff's 5 Favorite
Theatre Marquees


Between the elegant setting of all of Lincoln Center, the huge plate glass windows and the show-specific neon signs, arriving for the show here is like attending the opening of an art installation every single time!

Big theater, big ape. The perfect match
for King Kong: The Musical

A pristine view of the marquee - all the better because it is
for a show that never opened Mambo Kings

There's something both modern and retro about the Broadway Theatre marquee. The art deco style up against a modern office building is a reminder of the grand old theater from the past, with a new building wrapped around it.

The current tenant, Carousel, with the vivid HD screen
showing off the amazing show logo

The stunning awning is especially beautiful when fully lit.

Left: An artist's rendering of the "old" Imperial Theatre entrance
Right: The corresponding back of the theatre. The show signs change, but the frame remains.

Even in broad daylight, the "new" marquee is lovely.

See? The back is still the same...

Over the years, the marquee in front of the Imperial has undergone a transformation, from the "modern" 60-70's style to a more timeless, classic style with lots of lights, and most recently the over-awning HD screen. The back, on 46th Street, hasn't changed a bit.

Classic twinkling light name + show billboard =
easy recognition

The matching back is just as iconic

Memories: What the theater looked like the first time I saw it.
Never did make it to the Hawaii Kai

My first theater was the Gershwin, but my first wide-eyed Broadway experience was the surprise of walking over to Broadway, and seeing the giant Cats billboard. Over the years, that billboard has changed a few times, but that feeling of awe never really goes away. I always wonder how many kids see the same thing and feel like I did that day in 1983.

A lot of the marquee's charm is best experienced at night


The first Broadway theater with an electric marquee, the awning and marquee top in green has not changed since it was installed. The modern HD screen isn't even that different from what was there before - same size and proportions.

Its position on 44th Street and Shubert Alley allows for
A LOT of marquee on a mid-block corner


The entire building is iconic, but the marquee awnings on Shubert Alley and on 44th Street allow a hit show a ton of advertising space. But the "corner" marquee and the curb to door awning is pure Broadway! Google it... there are a ton of various versions of the above photos! Save for a few tweaks, things haven't changed that much outside the Shubert Theatre. The definition of "classic."

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Welcome to theTheater! The Broadway Debuts of Head Over Heels

Head Over Heels
Opening Night: Thursday, July 26, 2018
The Hudson Theatre

Congratulations to the following cast members making their Broadway debut tonight!

Left: Brian Flores (Standby)
Right: Tanya Haglund (Ensemble)

Left: Arica Jackson (Standby)
Right: Gregory Liles (Ensemble)

Left: Bonnie Milligan (Pamela)
Center: Peppermint (Pythio)
Right: Christine Shepard (Swing)


Above: The Go-Gos (They Got the Beat)

Here's to great reviews, a terrific run, and many more Broadway Opening Nights!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer Openings: Blessing or Curse?

I can't remember a summer with so many Broadway openings like there are this year. Two plays and three musicals. Three new musicals! That's almost half of the new musicals of the entire last season.

But with summer openings comes the familiar cry, "Summer shows will have no audience!" Or "Summer shows are always flops!" Neither is necessarily true - low audience rates happen sporadically throughout the season, and a flop can happen any time (American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Bandstand all opened in the coveted "late spring.") So how do summer shows do compared to other calendar seasons? Well, fewer shows open then, so the number is already low.  But are they any more likely to flop? I thought I'd look at long-running shows and see.

Broadway shows that have run over 1,000 performances:

  • all time: 118   
  • opened during the months of June, July and August: 12 
  • the very first Broadway show to reach 1,000 performances opened in August
  • Tony Awards: 46, including 1 Best Play and 6 Best Musicals
  • Pulitzer Prizes: 2
Numbered by current performance number rank:

June 14, 2011
105. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark – 1,066 Performances

June 10, 1982
81. Torch Song Trilogy – 1,222 Performances – 2 Tonys including Best Play

August 6, 2015
80. Hamilton – 1,237 Performances (as of July 22, 2018) – 11 Tonys including Best Musical – Pulitzer Prize

August 26, 1918
76. Lightnin’ – 1,291 Performances

This comedy from almost 100 years ago, ran for exactly 3 years - including summers, before air conditioning - and was the very first Broadway show to reach 1,000 performances. Pictured above is the playwright and star, Frank Bacon. It was later made into two movies, including one starring Will Rogers!

June 17, 1969
71. Oh! Calcutta! (Original) – 1,314 Performances

August 10, 1987
65. Me and My Girl – 1,420 Performances – 3 Tonys

June 19, 1978
50. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas – 1,584 Performances – 2 Tonys

August 21, 1983
44. La Cage aux Folles (Original) – 1,761 Performances – 6 Tonys including Best Musical

July 31, 2003
24. Avenue Q – 2,534 Performances – 3 Tonys including Best Musical

August 15, 2002
22. Hairspray – 2,642 Performances – 8 Tonys including Best Musical

August 25, 1980
14. 42nd Street (Original) – 3,486 Performances – 2 Tonys including Best Musical

July 25, 1975
7. A Chorus Line – 6,138 Performances – 9 Tonys including Best Musical – Pulitzer Prize

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

BROADWAY HEAT: Head Over Heels - Championship Round!





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...