Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Around the World in 80 Musicals: Part II: France, Spain and Portugal

Today we continue our world tour by crossing the English Channel into France. There, we'll get passport stamps for 12 musicals that cover everything from the Atlantic coast to the Riviera, the provinces to the great city of Paris. From France, we hit the Iberian peninsula with a great musical that takes place in Spain, and an operetta with a Portuguese setting that you probably never heard of - but its theater's history is remarkable! All told, this week, we'll be covering 16 shows with settings that span several centuries. Amusez-vous bien!

The data comes from The Playbill Vault and Internet Broadway Database, and details the original Broadway production. Many of the shows take place in multiple countries, but (for the most part) we include them under their primary setting. In limiting it to 80 shows, obviously some favorites are going to be left out. We'd love to hear from you with your favorites that we missed.

Around the World in 80 Musicals
Stop Two: Europe: France, Spain and Portugal


A Tale of Two Cities: The Musical

1. A Tale of Two Cities: The Musical - Setting: England and France, Late 18th Century (2008, Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 60 performances)

2. The Scarlet Pimpernel - Setting: England and France, 1794 (1997, Minskoff Theater, 772 performances)


An American in Paris

3. Amelie - Setting: Paris, 1975-1997
(2017, Walter Kerr Theatre, 56 performances)

4. An American in Paris - Setting: Paris, 1945 (2015, Palace Theatre, 623 performances)

5. Aspects of Love - Setting: Paris, 1947-1962 (1990, Broadhurst Theatre, 377 performances)

6. Beauty and the Beast - Setting: Provincial France (1994, Palace Theatre, 5,461 performances)

7. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - Setting: The French Riviera (2005, Imperial Theatre, 627 performances)

8. Gigi - Setting: Paris (1973, Uris Theatre, 103 performances)

La Cage aux Folles

9. The Grand Tour - Setting: Paris and the Atlantic Coast of France, June 1940 (1979, Palace Theatre, 61 performances)

10. Irma La Douce - Setting: Paris (1960, Plymouth Theatre, 524 performances)

11. La Cage aux Folles - Setting: St. Tropez (1983, Palace Theatre, 1,761 performances)

The Phantom of the Opera

12. Les Miserables - Setting: Digne: 1815, Montreuil-Sur-Mer: 1823, Montfermeil: 1823, Paris: 1832 (1987, Broadway Theatre, 6,680 performances)

13. The Phantom of the Opera - Setting: Paris Opera House, 1881-1911 (1988, Majestic Theatre, 12,801 performances*)

14. Sunday in the Park with George - Setting: an island in the Seine, 1884 (1984, Booth Theatre, 604 performances)


Man of La Mancha

15. Man of La Mancha - Seville at the end of the 16th Century (1965, ANTA Washington Square Theatre, 2,328 performances)


The Casino Theatre

Broadway and 39th Street Today

16. The Queen's Lace Handkerchief - Portugal (1882, ANTA Washington Square Theatre, 8 performances) - The Casino Theatre opened with this production. It was the first Broadway theater to be run entirely on electricity. It was also the first to have a rooftop garden and a resident chorus line, called the Floradora Girls. Both the garden and the girls figure into the musical Ragtime. Evelyn Nesbit was a Floradora Girl, and carried on her affair on the rooftop garden, leading to a "Crime of the Century."

* - as of 10/31/18; production still running.

Check out Part One of this series HERE.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

REVIEW: Wicked Turns 15: The NBC Special


Last night, NBC aired A Very WICKED Halloween, and I really loved it. It is hard to believe it was fifteen years ago TODAY, that the show opened at the Gershwin Theatre. And it's even harder to believe it was that many years ago when you take a look at Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. They look amazing. Plus, they are great hosts - what great chemistry!

I loved getting a look at the current Broadway company ("One Short Day"), and the duet between Ledisi and Adam Lambert ("As Long As You're Mine") was a great way to get the show started. It was a little strange hearing Pentatonix singing "What Is This Feeling?" with instruments, but they were great! The guy with Glinda's falsetto was great, and I loved the nod to Elphaba in Kristin Maldonado's choice of eye shadow. I forgot how much I enjoy that song - their vocal arrangement really kicked it up a notch. Ariana Grande - in her Ozified crooked green dress - emoted right through the screen and into my heart with "The Wizard and I." Let's get this movie made, okay?

The theater geek in me loved all the insider trivia, and the all too brief tribute to the worldwide phenomenon that Wicked is. (5 miles of cable to light Oz!!??)

The major highlight, though, was the incomparable Kristin Chenoweth killing it with "Popular." She was/is a very funny woman ("Pink!"). And the just as incomparable Idina Menzel singing a contemporary take on her signature "Defying Gravity." Both were goose bump-filled thrills. These ladies are as good as ever. They saved the best for last, when they sang a teary "For Good." I always tear up when I hear that song, but the feeling was more intense as the pair held hands singing to each other. And how wonderful to see all of those Glindas and Elphabas together, too.

It's been a few years since I've seen Wicked, and I didn't realize I missed it. I'm guessing that was the point of the special, and it worked. But I think the very best thing I can say about this special is that it genuinely felt like a tribute/thank you to fans, and not at all like an ad for the show. Well done!

Grade: A+


Monday, October 29, 2018

BROADWAY HEAT: King Kong Edition (The Championship!)

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






Click the "Broadway Heat" tab at the top of the page to see who else has made it so far!


Friday, October 26, 2018

The Friday 5: 5 Title Songs: 1964 - 1970

Broadway musicals throughout history are known for their eleven o'clock numbers, mid-show ballets and jaw-dropping production numbers. I have my favorites in all categories. But I have special place in my heart for title songs. ([title of show], does not have a title song!) When I was making my list for this week's five, I just couldn't narrow it down to only five, so I compromised and made five lists of five! As it is, I still left out several favorites. For better or for worse, here are my five favorites between 1964 - 1970.

The Friday 5
The 5 Best Broadway Title Songs
1964 - 1970

HELLO, DOLLY! (Opened January 16, 1964 at the St. James Theatre)

Perhaps the granddaddy of them all, Jerry Herman sure knew his way around a title number - Mame, Dear World and La Cage aux Folles all have memorable title tunes. Here is the greatest Dolly of them all, Carol Channing, wow, wow, wowing an audience on tour decades ago.

CABARET (Opened November 20, 1966 at the Broadhurst Theatre)

It's no surprise that this show has a great title number.  After all, this score has it all - a dazzling opening number, great production numbers and a couple of great ballads. Here is the late Natasha Richardson in her Tony-winning turn from 1998.

HAIR (Opened April 29, 1968 at the Biltmore Theatre)

The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical was a game changer back in the 60's, and even today packs an emotional and political punch. Rebellion and non-conformity with the one thing the Tribe members have complete control over are celebrated in the joyous title song. Here are Gavin Creel and Will Swenson leading the fantastic 2009 revival cast at the Tony Awards.

PROMISES, PROMISES (Opened December 1, 1968 at the Shubert Theatre)

If Hair had its fingers on the pulse of the psychedelic sound, this Bacharach-David charmer had its eyes on the pop music trends of the day. A number of songs from the shown became big mainstream hits, many by Dionne Warwick. Short and catchy, I love singing along to this one! Here's Sean Hayes from the 2010 revival.

COMPANY (Opened April 26, 1970 at the Alvin Theatre)

The cast recording of this show was my first introduction to Stephen Sondheim. And the title track on the album was probably the first Broadway tune I studied. I played it over and over and over, committing each "Bobby, Bobby Baby, Bobby Darling" to memory. I drove my family crazy with it. Here's the 2011 New York Philharmonic Concert version with Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer, and Martha Plimpton among many others under the baton of Paul Gemignani.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

#TBT: CD Review: OBCR: Something Rotten

Okay, so this isn't too far back for a throwback, but roughly three and a half years ago, a rarity opened on Broadway: an original musical based on an original idea with a completely original score. I fondly remember Something Rotten as a fun, clever show, full of delicious puns and smart quips that this English major geeked out to for two and a half hours.

The geeking continues with the terrific cast recording, featuring a tuneful score by the Kirkpatrick brothers, who brought their first score to the Big Time. Maybe "Tuneful" doesn't quite capture it...maybe earworm-ful score is more like it. Whenever I listen to it, it takes days to get "Welcome to the Renaissance" out of my head.

"Welcome to the Renaissance"
It is also great to revisit this little gem because it preserves some great work by a number of Broadway favorites, including Brian d'Arcy James, John Cariani, Brooks Ashmanskas, Heidi Blickenstaff, Kate Reinders, Brad Oscar, and Tony-winner Christian Borle. And the ensemble (especially as eggs) is top-notch, both on stage - triple-threats, all - and vocally on this recording.

For me, the stand out numbers include Blickenstaff's tour-de-force, "Right Hand Man," both of Borle's ego-driven romps, "Will Power" and "Hard to Be the Bard," and d'Arcy James/Cariani's numbers "God, I Hate Shakespeare" and "To Thine Own Self." But the most fun to listen to, without the need for visuals is the awesome "A Musical." It's the ultimate meta "in joke" for theater geeks. I love the lyrics (all so true) and picking out all the lyric and musical references to great musicals.

And there are worse things than humming "Welcome to the Renaissance," I suppose.

Grade: A


  • The show ran for 32 previews and 708 performances, opening April 22, 2015 at the St. James Theatre, closing there on January 1, 2017.
  • Something Rotten was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning one - Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical, Christian Borle (Shakespeare).
  • The show was conceived, written and composed by American brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, with the book co-written by Englishman John O'Farrell.
  • To date, this is the only Broadway show that features Nostradamus as a character.

Here's a look back at the show:

(Left) John Cariani, Briab d'Arcy James
(Right) Brooks Ashmanskas, Kate Reinders

Heidi Blickenstaff, Brian d'Arcy James

Shakespeare! Christian Borle and the Men

"A Musical"
Brian d'Arcy James, Brad Oscar and Company

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