Wednesday, March 31, 2021

One That Got Away: The 39 Steps

One That Got Away:
The 39 Steps (2008)
I have often  said that one of the things I like best about theater is that it can do so many things that film just can't do, despite all of the technology movies have at their disposal. Simply put, the fact that live theater forces you to engage your imagination. Maybe it is even more noticeable when the stage production is based on a film. Usually, we talk about the movie-to-musical version, but occasionally, a film is turned into a straight play. One such case is one of my favorite plays, Brief Encounter, an imaginative take on a classic - stage magic and performance in perfect harmony.

It is a similar circumstance that still has me kicking myself some thirteen seasons  since its Broadway debut. You see, it was back in 2008 that The 39 Steps hit the scene and brought an Alfred Hitchcock classic to life with a comic twist. The show was exactly the kind of thing I look for: bravura performances and creative staging. The cast of four played hundreds of characters with fast costume changes, and faster changes of accent. And a thriller that included car chases, police pursuits and hi-jinx on a moving train, performed with little more than simple effects and a few props is definitely my cup of tea! 

It ran for nearly two years and even played three different theaters! How on earth did I miss it? Talk about
one that got away! If it ever comes around again, you can be sure I will be in the audience wide-eyed and slack-jawed in amazement.

The 39 Steps began as part of a Roundabout Theatre Company's season, and later moved to the Cort Theatre as a commercial production. The show finished its final months at the Helen Hayes. It played 23 previews and 771 performances, opening on January 15, 2008 and closing January 10, 2010. Nominated for six 2008 Tony Awards, it won two: Kevin Adams' lighting design, and Mic Pool's sound design.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

This Week in Broadway History: March 30 - April 5

This Week in Broadway History:

March 30 - April 5


March 30, 1898: The Ibsen classic Hedda Gabler premiered on Broadway.

March 30, 2000: The 2000 Tony-winning Best Musical, Contact, opened at the Vivian Beaumont where it would stay for 1,010 performances.

March 31, 2005: The Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning Best Play, Doubt, at the Walter Kerr Theatre. It played 525 performances.

March 31, 2009: Diane Paulus' electric interpretation of Hair opened its 519 performance run at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

April 1, 2013: Tom Hanks made his Broadway debut on this date when Lucky Guy opened at the Broadhurst Theatre.

April 2, 2017: Hilarious physical comedy made The Play That Goes Wrong a 737 performance smash hit at the Lyceum Theatre.

April 3, 2008: The lush revival of South Pacific opened at the Vivian Beaumont. Nellie washed that man right out of her hair 996 times!

April 4, 1964: The musical debut of Angela Lansbury occurred on this date, when Anyone Can Whistle opened at the Majestic Theatre. That show lasted only 9 performances, but her career as a musical theater legend will last forever.

April 4, 1971: The legendary production of Follies opened its 522 performance run at the Winter Garden Theatre.

April 5, 2012: The love-it-or-hate-it revival of Evita opened at the Marquis Theatre for 337 performances. We loved it.


March 30: actor Corey Cott, ensemblist Charlie Williams

March 31: actor Christopher Walken, actor Shirley Jones, theater owner/impresario James M. Nederlander

April 1: actor Debbie Reynolds, actor Laurette Taylor

April 2: Hadestown actor Amber Gray

John Lee Beatty     Laurie Beechman

Amber Gray     Charlie Williams

April 3: The Lion King's Tsidii Le Loka, actor/director David Hyde Pierce

April 4: actor Laurie Beechman, scenic designer John Lee Beatty

April 5: actor Todrick D. Hall, cast recording producing legend Goddard Lieberson, actor Bette Davis


What a time to be a Broadway lover! A great variety of shows, and an amazing array of debuts! Jerry Herman's first musical, Milk and Honey was a hit at the Martin Beck Theatre. And at the Shubert, audiences were flocking to the Shubert Theater to see the literally showstopping debut of a young woman named Barbra Streisand in I Can Get It For You Wholesale, which just opened on March 22. Other brand new shows - though with mixed success, include Richard Rodgers' solo effort, No Strings, starring Richard Kiley and soon-to-be-Tony-winner Dihann Carroll, which opened March 15th at the 54th Street Theatre, and All American, starring Ray Bolger, and featuring Mel Brooks' first book for a musical, which opened March 19th at the Winter Garden. It was probably a pretty easy ticket, as it lasted a mere 86 performances.

Other hot new shows were How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying!, starring Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee at the 46th Street Theatre, the newest play by Tennessee Williams, The Night of the Iguana, with the soon to depart Bette Davis (her final performance was on March 31st), and the eventual Best Play, A Man For All Seasons, starring George Rose and Best Actor Paul Scofield at the ANTA Playhouse.

There was a lot from previous seasons to enjoy, like Jerry Orbach and Best Actress in a Musical Anna Maria Alberghetti in Carnival!, though you'd have to catch her early in the week - she's going on vacation! This would also be one of your last chances to see Julie Andrews in Camelot at the Majestic Theatre. Then there's the smash hit comedy Mary, Mary which just began its second year at the Helen Hayes Theatre. Neil Simon's playwrighting debut - another smash hit comedy, Come Blow Your Horn, was selling-out nightly at the Brooks Atkinson.


Monday, March 29, 2021

2010s Broadway Musical Logos Bracket Tournament - The Elite 8

Over the past months, we've been in search of the very best in Broadway musical logos, going back 40 years. And now, here we are starting a new tournament, looking for the very best logo of the most recent complete decade of the new millennium! The 2010s were a mix of everything, really. From movie-to-stage adaptations to bio-musicals to a few completely original works, variety was the name of the game. As usual, there were big hits and even bigger flops. There was even a genuine cultural phenomenon.

But how were the show logos? That's up to you to decide. We've created a bracket of 64 Broadway show logos from the decade. The Tony winners and hits and flops have been evenly distributed over four 16 "team" regions. Thanks to your votes, those 64 logos have been cut down to The Big 32, then The Sweet 16, and now The Elite 8! This week, your votes will determine the all-important Final 4!

See the full bracket below to see breakdown to The Elite 8:   

2010s Broadway Musical Logo Madness!
The Elite 8!

  • 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:

GAME 3:                                                                    GAME 4:

Friday, March 26, 2021

Broadway Games: Pop Hits, Broadway Flops

For every Kinky Boots and Waitress, there's The Last Ship and Taboo. Being a successful pop songwriter like Cyndi Lauper or Sara Bareilles doesn't automatically translate to being a hit maker on Broadway (though it certainly worked out for those two). Today's game is all about 
pop composers who were less than successful when they tried Broadway. Here's to all of them for being brave enough to try, and here's to hoping they try again.

Broadway Games:
Pop Hits, Broadway Flops
Match the writer/group they are famous for to their flop show.

A. Boy George     B. Eurythmics     C. Elton John

D. Sting     E. Fountains of Wayne

F. Phish     G. U2     H. ABBA

I. Take That     J. Paul Simon

1.    2.    3. 

4.    5. 

6.    7.    8. 

9.    10. 

# 2526

Answers to Last Week's Game:

Broadway Games:
Those Dancing Feet!

1.  A Chorus Line

2. Cats

3. Hamilton

4. Pippin

5. Moulin Rouge!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Favorite Designs: The Lighting Design of The Glass Menagerie (2013)

The Glass Menagerie
may just be my favorite play of all. That love has set a very high bar for what an excellent production of it would be to me. I've seen probably a dozen productions at all levels, and have always found something to at least appreciate about each. The 2013 Broadway revival is, to date, the best of the lot; I found it to be nearly perfect. The design of this memory play - sparsely but specifically furnished platforms hovering over a pool of inky black water suggested the ebb and flow of memories and events going in and out of focus, as such things are wont to do. Credit for the superior physicality of the setting goes to Bob Crowley, but the ethereal quality of the complete visual experience goes to lighting designer Natasha Katz. Her work on this production is one of my favorite designs of the past decade.


There are two main color pallets at work here: an icy coolness of blues and whites, and a cozy warmth of ambers and reds. There is also an amazing by-product of the lighting. It allows for some astonishing reflections. 
Separately, the whites and blues create a stark, piercing environment to pinpoint the narrator who exists in "the now." Similarly, the ambers and reds, wash over scenes that are memories. And, of course, these pools of light provide practical beams that tell us that it is day or night time. 

It is when both are used together that Katz really heightens the moods of Williams' play. When there is particular familial tension, the harsh white lights nearly overcomes the warmth of the memory. When there are murkier memories, such as when Tom, our narrator, wasn't directly involved, a warm light seems to closely envelop the other characters, while a warm blue shade takes up the rest of the darkness. It is both striking and lovely.

I read somewhere that the best theatrical lighting goes unnoticed, but is nonetheless deeply felt. I've also read that great theatrical lighting punctuates and directs your attention. Katz's design accomplishes both.  This production was nominated for 7 Tony Awards. It won just one. For Natasha Katz's lighting design.

📸: M. J. Lutch

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