Friday, January 29, 2021

Broadway Games: Which Came First?

It's the eternal question, "Which came first?" Let's see how well you know your Broadway chronology.

Broadway Games:
Which Came First?

1. On Broadway: In the Heights  or Curtains?

2. Jeremy Jordan's Broadway debut or Gideon Glick's Broadway debut?

3. Angela Lansbury's birth or Carol Channing's birth?

4. Leslie Odom, Jr.'s Broadway debut or Audra McDonald's Tony Award for Lady Day...?

5. Put all 4 Best Musical (original Broadway productions) in order by opening night: The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Les Miserables , Big River, The Phantom of the Opera


Answers to Last Week's Game
1st Letter Song Title

Hint:  It's a hell of a trip.  Answer: Way Down Hadestown

  1. Show where the characters lose if they stop touching a vehicle. Hands on a Hard Body
  2. Show that asks, "What if you could live forever?" Tuck Everlasting
  3. So much happened before Dorothy dropped in to this show. Wicked
  4. Name of the real-life heroine of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play; she believed that despite everything, people were good. Anne Frank
  5. She was adopted by Daddy Warbucks. Annie
  6. The show where Diana sees Gabe, and Natalie feels like The Invisible Girl. Next to Normal
  7. He won a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize for Lost in YonkersNeil Simon
  8. Lucy, Linus, Snoopy join their titular friend in this family-friendly musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
  9. She's Sophie's "Dancing Queen" mamma. Donna
  10. This "Solve-It-Yourself Broadway Musical" won the Best Musical Tony, and changed its title to this one word. Drood
  11. In this musical, Guy meets Girl and they start falling slowly. Once
  12. Don't cry for her, Argentina. She's on a rainbow high. Evita
  13. A little boy gets mixed up with the Artful Dodger and Fagin in this classic Lionel Bart musical. Oliver
  14. The Lost Boys want Peter to keep her in Neverland. Wendy Darling
  15. The Andrew Lloyd Webber choo choo musical. Race time! Starlight Express
  16. Ivo most recently directed a controversial take on this classic American musical. West Side Story

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Favorite Designs: The Scenic Design of In the Heights

Walking into the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2008 was one of those "small gasp" moments I hold so dear, especially these days when missing live theater is a way of life. Framed by the ornate proscenium, the set for a new musical by an unknown named Lin-Manuel something or other looked like an artful collage of a New York City neighborhood, the GWB its tall centerpiece. Yes, Anna Louizos' scenic design for In the Heights was stunner for this wannabe New Yorker. I sat in silence soaking up every detail I could before the show started.

I had learned to do just that kind of thing after experiencing the detailed wonders of her previous efforts Avenue Q, Steel Magnolias and her Tony-nominated High Fidelity (a wonder in and of itself). Each time, the scenery becomes a character in the show it serves. Since Heights, another Tony-nominated effort, her scenic designs for such productions as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Irving Berlin's White Christmas and Holiday Inn, and her Tony-nominated The Mystery of Edwin Drood have excited Broadway audiences. And still, it is her design of In the Heights that is my favorite.

The neighborhood comes to life when its people come out to work and play (and sing and dance). The action is not only on the street, but on the balconies and fire escapes as well. (Lighting by Howell Binkley)

Despite the widescreen sensibility of the total panorama of the design, a combination of slight set movements and set pieces also created a feeling intimacy easily. Note details of each individual "store." Rosario's: The signage, slightly messy collection of car assignment clipboards under florescent lighting, tell the story of an aging business limo company that is struggling financially, while remaining settled in decades-old tried and true processes.

Daniela's Salon
: The "unisex" signage is really a ruse. This beauty parlor clearly caters to the ladies of the neighborhood - their hair, sure, but also the beehive-like nature of their gossip bonding sessions. The familiarity and coloring of this design exudes the colorful feel of this genuine family of women. Still, the style of the much loved chairs betrays another business that clings to tradition, while struggling to exist.

All that's missing from Usnavi's Bodega is a cat, so familiar and well-stocked is this neighborhood staple. I really appreciated the knowing murmur of the audience as this set element was revealed. The accuracy of the fully stocked "store" was so real, I wouldn't have been surprised if they rotated stock between shows. The skill of knowing his neighbors' every need with everything within arm's reach speaks not only to the actor's skill, but the perfection of Louizos' attention to detail.

Click photos to enlarge.
📸 Joan Marcus

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Track By Track: Carrie: The Musical (Off-Broadway Cast Recording)

Like so many musical theater fans, I was thrilled and excited to see the revised version of Carrie: The Musical back in 2012. For decades, I read everything I could get my hands on about the ill-fated Broadway production of the 80's. And I listened to my share of leaked songs. But, even with all of that, plus staring at the few production photos that are out there, I just knew I had to see it as a full production for myself. I finally did, and I loved it - flaws and all - and marveled at the talent - the stunning performances of the great Marin Mazzie and relative new comer Molly Ranson, backed by a youthful company of unknowns. Of course, now names like Carmen Cusack, Wayne Alan Wilcox, Christy Altommare, Derek Klena, Andy Mientus and Jeanna De Waal are known and beloved by theater fans. I'm a bit disappointed that (so far) it didn't go farther, but with a pedigree like this one, the cast recording is worthy of continued regular play. 

Track By Track:
Carrie: The Musical  Off-Broadway Cast Recording

Track 1:
In ****
Puberty and teen angst prove to be a lethal combination in this show, and this opening number gets right to the root of it. The explosive outbursts and building tension not only sets the mood, but also reveals the ultimate irony - they all have the same fears and insecurities. They are all just different versions of Carrie White.

Track 2: Carrie *****
What a roller coaster ride of sadness, anger, self-realization, and dare I say it? Hope. "The sound of distant thunder, the color of flame...someday everyone will know my name." Great title number and performance by Ranson.

Track 3:
Open Your Heart ***
"Let Jesus in." This is the closest we will ever see to a genuine mother - daughter love.

Track 4: And Eve Was Weak *****
This song, where Margaret turns the Bible's words against her own daughter is frightening - not only in the context of the show, but in context of today's evangelical Christians. It is also our first glimpse of the power of the late, great Marin Mazzie. They are truly a match made in Hell. And it is glorious.

Track 5: The World According to Chris ****
The pop sound and deceptively simple platitudes are perfect for this diatribe on teen self-centered existence. "Better to burn than get burned." This number also serves to move the plot when an unlikely friend emerges in defense of Carrie. De Waal and Ben Thompson are perfectly evil, soaking up the "everyone else is doing it" vibe. But the last lines are the most revealing about our villainess.

Track 6:
Evening Prayers ****
A haunting duet between mother praying openly and reverently, and daughter locked in a closet praying to make sense of what is happening to her. The moment she first discovers her "gift" is a subtle one for Carrie, who still wants nothing more from her mother than love and acceptance. Another gorgeous duet. One wishes for a fuller orchestration here.

Track 7: Dreamer in Disguise ***
Jocks can have a heart and be poetic, even if they use clumsy metaphors. Here Derek Klena sings the heck out of a song that nails the awkwardness of young men and their emotions.

Track 8: Once You See ***
Another tender moment of teenage self-actualization and growth. We realize that Carrie's greatest allies are the kids who became adults. Christy Altomare is lovely here.

Track 9: Unsuspecting Hearts *****
This ballad could have been a top 40 pop hit for sure. Easy on the ears, and a welcome moment of clarity and understanding. When I saw this, I knew Carmen Cusack was going to be a star.

Track 10: Do Me a Favor *****
This dialogue-as-song moves the plot, sure, but it is so catchy you are forced to listen. The juxtaposition between competing Carrie White goals almost gives you hope that poor Carrie will have a happy ending. Almost. The real star here is the vocal arrangement.

Track 11: I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance *****
The act ends with a powerful aria for Margaret, with a duet with Carrie as a preamble. Mazzie's performance here is miraculous in its ability to make us understand why this mother is the way she is. We almost pity her, yet we are thrilled by the unleashing of Carrie's powers: the daughter effectively imprisons her mother the way she has been imprisoned.

Track 12:
A Night We'll Never Forget ****
With ominous chords, act two beings in much the same way act one began, with the teens expressing their common fears and unrealistic hopes - this time the Senior Prom. Again, the vocal arrangements are exceptional. "You ain't seen nothing yet.."

Track 13: You Shine *****
Here's a sweet moment of reconciliation between two kids (who are showing a lot of adult selflessness) who have no idea how little time they have left. Klena and Altomare really do shine here. No wonder Anastasia fans love them so much.

Track 14: Why Not Me? *****
Ah, the prom night angst. It is a universal experience. For Carrie the uncertainty is outweighed by simply having the chance to have a night where she's just like everyone else. Her bravery and optimism is heartbreaking. Molly Ranson's best number.

Track 15: Stay Here Instead ***
Desperation can be cruel. Perceived rejection can be even more cruel. The way Mazzie speaks then sings, "Don't go," is both achingly sad and terrifying.

Track 16: When There's No One *****
Marin Mazzie's last big number sounds so beautiful and sad. And then you realize this mother is planning to kill her own daughter to "save" her. A chilling, stunning delivery.

Track 17:
Prom Arrival ***
Tracks 17 - 22 may as well be one long number, such is the epic nature of this operatic Greek tragedy sequence.

Track 18: Unsuspecting Hearts (Reprise) *****
We find out that Carrie and Miss Gardner have a lot in common. A lovely reprise that makes the impending finale all the more poignant.

Track 19: Dreamer in Disguise (Reprise) ****
What a difference context makes! Another lovely reprise. Tommy really is Prince Charming. Another reason the finale is crushing.

Track 20: Prom Climax ****
The crude, simple language set against the driving rock guitar is fitting for the rotten kids who carry out their cruel plot against a sweet outsider. I love how "a night we'll never forget" weaves in and out of it. 

Track 21: Alma Mater ****
The dialogue and the sound effects here are the star, even as the song is the tune of the act one church song.

Track 22:
The Destruction ****
As I said about the last song, the sound effects here are thrilling, as is the weaving in and out of musical themes and snippets of songs. I remember feeling the theater tremble as this was happening.

Track 23: Carrie (Reprise) *****
See the picture below.  It perfectly captures the sheer terror of this reprise sung as a lullaby. A quiet end for tortured souls.

Track 24:
Epilogue *****
"One day you finally see her." What a beautiful vocal arrangement and song delivered by a cast full of musical aces. "Once you see, you can't unsee."

Overall Score:  4.25/5 Stars


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

This Week in Broadway History: January 26 - February 1

This Week in Broadway History:
January 26 - February 1 

  • January 26, 1988: The longest running show in Broadway history opened. The Phantom of the Opera continues to this day at its original home, the Majestic Theatre.
  • January 27, 1982: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatstarring Laurie Beechman, began its 747 performance run  at the Royale Theatre. 
  • January 28, 1754: The New Theatre on Nassau Street hosted the opening of a new production of Romeo and Juliet.
  • January 29, 1966: Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse returned to Broadway when Sweet Charity opened at the Palace Theatre.
Harrigan 'n Hart with Mark Hamill and Harry Groener

  • January 31, 1985: Harry Groener and Mark Hamill starred as Harrigan 'n Hart for just 4 performances at the Longacre Theatre. Turns out Luke Skywalker beat Darth Vader, but couldn't handle Broadway critics.
  • February 1, 1962: Future Tony-winner Marian Mercer (Promises, Promises) was one of the New Faces of 1962 which opened on this date at the Alvin Theatre.


Andrew Barth Feldman in Dear Evan Hansen

  • January 26, 2019: The Phantom of the Opera celebrates its 31st anniversary and 13,000th performance.
  • January 26, 2020: Andrew Barth Feldman plays his final performance in Dear Evan Hansen.
  • January 27, 1991: The World Premiere of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins opens at Playwright's Horizons.
  • January 29, 2002: Bea Arthur begins her final Broadway appearance at the Booth Theatre with her one-woman show, Just Between Friends.
  • January 30, 2006: Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wendy Wasserstein passes away at age 55.

Jerome Kern     Cynthia Onrubia

Kerry Washington     Joey Fatone


January 26: playwright Jules Feiffer, actor Paul Newman, Tony-winner Celia Keenan-Bolger; January 27: master composer Jerome Kern, Tony-winner Ron Richardson, legendary dancer Cynthia Onrubia, Tony-winning actor Alan Cumming; January 28: actor Alan Alda, dancing legend and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, singer-actor Joey Fatone; January 29: musical theater icon John Raitt, actor Tom Selleck, producer Oprah Winfrey; January 30: producer-director-Broadway giant Hal Prince, acting legend Gene Hackman, Wicked's Norbert Leo Butz, Hedwig Tony-winner Lena Hall; January 31: icon Carol Channing, Equity president Kate Shindle, actor Kerry Washington; February 1: actor Sherman Hemsley, original "Master of the House" Leo Burmester, actor Michael C. Hall


There was a lot to choose from for theater lovers this week 20 years ago. The stunning revival of Cabaret at Studio 54 featured Matt McGrath as the Emcee, Dick Latessa as Herr Schultz, Carole Shelley as Fraulein Schneider, and the first performance of Gina Gershon as Sally Bowles. New productions of The Full Monty, Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife were packing them in.

Over at the Winter Garden, renovations and construction were well under way, as the theater was changed from the Jellicle Junkyard of Cats to the cool blue Greek isles of the upcoming Mamma Mia!

Now cult favorites, both Jane Eyre and Seussical were struggling, but still running. And the original production of Miss Saigon was playing its final performances with Lea Salonga, Will Chase and Ruthie Henshall. It closed on January 28, 2001 after 4,092 performances.


        Monday, January 25, 2021

        2000s Broadway Musical Logos Bracket Tournament - The Final 4!

        The first decade of the new millennium was a big one for Broadway, with Disney and vampires, jukebox musicals coming into their own, and movie-to-musical adaptations threatening to take over. It was also a time of new voices, like Kitt and Yorkey and Lin Manuel Miranda. As usual, there were big hits and even bigger flops. In other words: business as usual!

        But how were the show logos? That's up to you to decide. We've created a bracket of 64 Broadway shows from the decade. The Tony winners and hits and flops have been evenly distributed over four 16 "team" regions. So far, you've already narrowed down field to The Elite 8, and this week, you'll be choosing your favorites from The Final 4! That's right - this week, your votes will determine which logos will compete in next week's Championship! 

        For the current winners to date, see the full bracket below:

        2000s Broadway Musical Logo Madness!
        The Final 4
        • Each week, we'll open the voting for a different segment of the bracket, and you will select your favorite from each pairing.
        • Your selection should be based on the logo/window card ONLY. We are NOT looking for your favorite show! It is possible to like a logo from a show you've never heard of before!
        • We will provide pictures of the full window card (in most cases) or logo above each week's ballot, then you scroll down and make your selections. You MUST click/tap the "Click Me to Count Your VOTES" button at the bottom of the survey.


        GAME 1:                                                                    GAME 2:

        Friday, January 22, 2021

        Broadway Games: 1st Letters to Song Title

        1st Letters to Song Title
        Directions:  Unscramble the first letter of each answer below to reveal the title of a showtune.

        Hint:  It's a hell of a trip.

        1. Show where the characters lose if they stop touching a vehicle.
        2. Show that asks, "What if you could live forever?"
        3. So much happened before Dorothy dropped in to this show.
        4. Name of the real-life heroine of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play; she believed that despite everything, people were good.
        5. She was adopted by Daddy Warbucks.
        6. The show where Diana sees Gabe, and Natalie feels like The Invisible Girl.
        7. He won a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize for Lost in Yonkers.
        8. Lucy, Linus, Snoopy join their titular friend in this family-friendly musical
        9. She's Sophie's "Dancing Queen" mamma.
        10. This "Solve-It-Yourself Broadway Musical" won the Best Musical Tony, and changed its title to this one word.
        11. In this musical, Guy meets Girl and they start falling slowly.
        12. Don't cry for her, Argentina. She's on a rainbow high.
        13. A little boy gets mixed up with the Artful Dodger and Fagin in this classic Lionel Bart musical.
        14. The Lost Boys want Peter to keep her in Neverland.
        15. The Andrew Lloyd Webber choo choo musical. Race time!
        16. Ivo most recently directed a controversial take on this classic American musical.

        Answers to Last Week's Game

        Broadway Games:
        Broadway Math

        1. Street number where you meet those dancin' feet MINUS the hour Mark Cohen starts filming = The number of Variations in the 2009 Jane Fonda-starring play.

        42 - 9 = 33

        2. Angry Men MINUS the number of queens at the Brooks Atkinson = How many months of the year the wives suffer in Damn Yankees

        12 - 6 = 6

        3. A Chorus Line: The number of "Singular Sensations" PLUS "Hello, ____ ... = ... Hello, _____, Hello Love"

        1 + 12 = 13

        4. (Hill's trombones divided by Jews in a room bitching)  PLUS  (the number of days to Christmas in She Loves Me minus the number of "Last Kisses" in Bye Bye Birdie) DIVIDED by Val's dance score = Val's "looks" score.

        (76 / 4) + (12 - 1) / 10 = 3

        19 +11/10=3



        Thursday, January 21, 2021

        CONTEST: Broadway Collections Photos (CANCELLED)

        If you're a regular reader of this site, you know we are big time collectors of all things Broadway. We are pretty sure many of you are, too. Perhaps, like me, you collect Playbills and window cards. Or cast recordings on vinyl, books, scripts...magnets, key chains, mugs or t-shirts. On the other hand, maybe you collect everything you can get your hands on from your favorite shows. In any case, there's a ton of memorabilia out there to keep any collector busy.

        So, we'd like to share some of our collections with you, and see some of yours in return! And you might win something!

        Broadway Collections Contest
        First, some of our collections:

        Here are but a few of my window cards and special Playbills, and my quilt made from some of my t-shirt collection. As you can see, my collections cover a lot of Broadway shows.

        Mike has collections from his favorite shows, Avenue Q and Fun Home!


        Wednesday, January 20, 2021

        Broadway Who's Who: Dick Van Dyke

        With the new year, we are trying new things. Since Broadway remains "on pause," we are going to pause our traditional Mr. and Ms. Broadway and Standing @ Zero columns. In place of those, we'll take a look at some of Broadway's Who's Who - people who made the theater scene their home in front of the footlights and behind the scenes, making the art form all the better for their being a part of it. 

        Our first in the series goes to a true entertainment icon, who, even at 95 years of age is still making headlines. Last week, it was revealed  that he would be a 2021 Kennedy Center Honors recipient. I'm speaking of the great Dick Van Dyke, star of the big screen, the little screen and the stage. That my young niece and nephew know him from Mary Poppins, my sister knows him from TV's Diagnosis Murder and a particularly fun episode of The Golden Girls, my parents know him from one of the greatest sit-coms of all-time, The Dick Van Dyke Show, goes to show you that he is truly a multi generational legend, whose gift just keeps giving. He's a real "who's who."

        We, of course, will be focusing on his contributions to theater.

        The Broadway Who's Who:
        Dick Van Dyke

        DID YOU KNOW?...
        • BIRTH DATE: December 13, 1925
        • BIRTHPLACE: West Plains, Missouri
        • FAMILY: married twice, four children, seven grandchildren
        • MILITARY SERVICE: World War II, United States Army Air Forces, Staff Sergeant, ret., recipient of Good Conduct Medal. After being denied for pilot training four times for being underweight, he was assigned to Special Services in the American Theater, where he entertained the troops. This service became a big part of his role as Rob Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
        • EDUCATION: At age 78, he received his high school diploma. He quit high school to join the army for World War II.
        • HONORS: 5 Emmy Awards, 1 Grammy, Television Hall of Fame (1995), SAG Lifetime Achievement Form (2013), Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, named a Disney Legend.


        The Girls Against the Boys
        (debut): November 2, 1954, Alvin Theatre. A musical revue that also starred Bert Lahr and Nancy Walker. 

        ⭐He was honored with a Theatre World Award.


        Bye Bye Birdie
          (Albert Peterson): April 14, 1960 - April 8, 1961, Martin Beck Theatre/54th Street Theatre/Shubert Theatre. Co-starred Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde, Kay Medford, Susan Watson and Dick Gaultier. 

        He won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

        The Music Man
        (Harold Hill): June 5 - 22, 1980, City Center. Co-starred Meg Bussert as Marian, and a young Christian Slater as Winthrop. There was a pre-Broadway national tour.

        Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life
        (Guest Star): January 24 - 26, 2006, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. His final Broadway performance to date, reunited him with his Bye Bye Birdie co-star and friend.

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