Broadway

If Hamilton Never Was: Revisiting the 2016 Tonys

Darren Wildeman

Often dubbed “The HamilTonys”, the 2016 Tony Awards were dominated by Lin Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Hamilton winning 11 Tonys, just one short of tying the record set by The Producers. And it is still one of the hottest shows on Broadway. However, what if there was a universe where Hamilton was too innovative and too different for its time? What if Hamilton didn’t make it past the out-of-town try outs and faded into obscurity? What would the 2016 Tonys season have looked like? In this article I will be breaking down who may have been nominated in a world without Hamilton and who would have won in its place.

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Best Orchestration Nominees

August Eriksmoen, Bright Star

Larry Hochman, She Loves Me

Darryl Walters, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Sara Bareilles, Waitress

In this scenario you are going to see Waitress come up a lot. And I don’t think anyone will argue against the orchestrations of this show. Sara Bareilles wrote a beautiful score and a nomination for Orchestrations is more than deserved.

 

And the winner is: August Eriksmoen, Bright Star

I think people forget just how good the music in Bright Star is. 2016 was an incredibly strong season. Bright Star has a beautiful blue grass feel to it and the orchestrations go flawlessly with its music. Bright Star may have gotten a bit lost in 2016, but I feel like this would be a nice nod towards what the show did and was.

 

Best Choreography Nominees

Savion Glover, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Hofesh Shechter, Fiddler on the Roof

Randy Skinner, Dames at Sea

Sergio Trujillo, On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting isn’t remembered for much these days. Unfortunately, its score underwhelmed many and the book wasn’t that highly regarded either. However, one thing it did have is absolutely beautiful choreography. Some people considered it a snub that it wasn’t nominated in the first place, so I think it falls in here pretty naturally.

And the winner is: Casey Nicholaw, Tuck Everlasting

This choreography choice is incredibly intense. But Tuck Everlasting has a style and beauty about it in the actors’ movements. Also, while people don’t like to admit it, politics certainly plays a role in Tony voting and Nicholaw as highly regarded as he is up to this point has never won a Tony for his choreo. So, between choreo being a strength of Tuck and Nicholaw not having won in this category yet, that he becomes the automatic favourite here.

 

Best Direction of a Musical Nominees

Michael Arden, Spring Awakening

John Doyle, The Color Purple

Scott Ells, She Loves Me

George C. Wolfe, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Bartlett Sher, Fiddler on the Roof

 

There were a lot of incredibly well directed shows this season. However, the revival of Fiddler on the Roof breathed new life into a timeless show. If it was possible to make that show anymore stunning Bartlett Sher found a way to do it. I think a nomination here is incredibly well deserved.

 

And the winner is: Michael Arden, Spring Awakening

I think in this scenario Michael Arden winning is a no brainer. A fantastic director who has yet to see his Tony who did a beautiful job with the Deaf West Spring Awakening. A well-deserved Tony for a gorgeous job on what is a very heavy musical.

 

Best Lighting Design of a Musical Nominees

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Ben Stanton, Spring Awakening

Justin Townsend, American Psycho

Japhy Weiderman, Bright Star

 

There isn’t an obvious choice here for what show would be nominated. However, Bright Star did have some very beautiful lighting effects that gave a really nice setting for the show.

And the winner is: Justin Townsend, American Psycho

American Psycho isn’t remembered for much these days although it did get some love. However, one thing it did do well is incredibly intense lighting design. The visual effects are incredible and are certainly worthy of a Tony.

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical Nominees

Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting

Jeff Mahshie, She Loves Me

Ann Roth, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Ann Hould-Ward, The Color Purple

 

And the winner is: Gregg Barnes, Tuck Everlasting

Again, the visual beauty of Tuck Everlasting. As I said when they won choreography, there isn’t necessarily a lot that gets loved in terms of music or book. However, it is a very visually appealing show.

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical Nominees

Es Devlin and Finn Ross, American Psycho

Santo Loquasto, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

David Rockwell, She Loves Me

Walt Spangler, Tuck Everlasting

 

Once again, Tuck Everlasting comes through to pick up another design nomination. Not much I can say here that I haven’t said already. This musical is simply stunning to look at.

Since She Loves Me won we will not be changing the winner of this category.

 

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Nominees

Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple

Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Jennifer Simard, Disaster!

Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Keala Settle, Waitress

 

And the winner is: Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me

Jane gave a terrific performance in this production of She Loves Me. Everyone else here is amazing but that production was so incredible and Jane played her role so well this is well deserved

 

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Nominees

Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress

Michael Mulheren, Bright Star

Steven Skybell, Fiddler on the Roof

Billy Porter, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

 

And the winner is: Billy Porter, Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

This is a very tough category all of a sudden. A lot of fantastic men here. This was incredibly difficult to decide. However, Billy absolutely gave it all in Shuffle Along. And I think his performance really stood out.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Nominees

Laura Benati, She Loves Me

Carmen Cusack, Bright Star

Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple

Jessie Mueller, Waitress

Ana Villafañe, On Your Feet

 

On Your Feet is another musical that had a somewhat lukewarm reception. However, playing Gloria Estefan is not an easy task and Villafañe gives a great performance.

Since Cynthia Erivo won this award that year, we will not be changing the result here.

 

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Nominees

Alex Brightman, School of Rock

Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof

Zachary Levi, She Loves Me

Benjamin Walker, American Psycho

 

Note: For this category we are rolling with four nominees instead of five. All the male nominees from a major show have been nominated and any of the remaining shows did not get enough love from critics or voters in other categories that I feel comfortable adding a fifth nominee.

Benjamin Walker gave a fantastic performance as a serial killer. Some considered it a snub in the first place that he wasn’t nominated so he’s the obvious choice here.

 

And the winner is: Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof

Burstein as Tevye breathed all sorts of new life into the musical. Tevye is not an easy role to play in the first place and Burstein did it flawlessly. In a very tough leading male category, Burstein was the obvious choice here.

 

Best Original Score Nominees

Bright Star, Music by Steve Martin and Eddie Brickell, Lryics by Eddie Brickell

School of Rock, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webver, Lyrics by Glenn Slater

Waitress, Music and Lyrics by Sara Bareilles

American Psycho, Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik

 

The now fourth nominee was a tough one. There isn’t an obvious show that should step in. However, Duncan Sheik wrote a fantastic and very unique score that I think in this scenario would grab the attention of the voters.

 

And the winner is: Waitress, Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles

Bareilles’s score for Waitress is nothing short of gorgeous. She wrote a very catchy score with songs that hit all the right notes. I think she hands down wins best score in this scenario.

 

Best Book of a Musical

Bright Star, Steve Martin

School of Rock, Julian Fellowes

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, George C. Wolfe

Waitress, Jessie Nelson

 

Waitress being the next big musical of the season that wasn’t nominated I think giving it the nod for book here is a pretty no brainer. However, that being said the book of Waitress is quite a bit weaker than the overall score.

And the winner is: Bright Star, Steve Martin

 

I think Bright Star may have had a chance to win score. However, it also has a very strong book which is something Waitress didn’t have as much. So it makes more sense that Waitress would win where it’s really strong, and Bright Star would win book. And Bright Star definitely deserves this. The story does not have that many flaws in it and is overall a very well put together story

 

Best Musical

Bright Star

School of Rock

Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Waitress

American Psycho

 

I don’t think it’s too insane for American Psycho to be the next show up in this scenario. It already got acknowledged for its unique score and it collected a decent amount of nominations elsewhere. It would only have an outside chance of winning but to be the next show nominated I think is quite reasonable.

 

And the winner is: Waitress

Despite the shortcomings I mentioned earlier, I think Waitress is what would win. It seems like after Hamilton, Waitress was the baby of both fans and critics alike and this would lead to it getting the favour for Best Musical.

 

Well that’s the Tonys without Hamilton. Before I totally wrap this up though I’m going to crunch some numbers and breakdown which shows did well in an absence of Hamilton.

 

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Please note that a couple of shows won awards and were nominated for awards pertaining to Revivals so there are some awards here won not seen in the actual article. As you can see this season becomes very spread out if Hamilton was not a thing.

 

American Psycho, Tuck Everlasting, and Waitress become the big winners. Each one picks up 3 more nominations and each picked up some wins as well. Bright Star also gets its recognition for awards.

 

Let me know what you think of these nominations and awards? Do you agree or do you think some shows should have won more?

Favoritism? Or Just Not Good Enough?

When one looks back at the high school drama experience, one common theme continues to rear its ugly head - favoritism. From TV shows to your local high school, you hear all about how favoritism is rampant… But what if I told you it does and SHOULD take more than talent to get a role at the educational level? Blasphemous, right? What else could possibly go into the process?

 

Show selection:

 For those of you who have had to pick shows for either a high school or other groups (community theatre companies, professional companies, etc.) there has to be a fundamental understanding of the community/talent you have access to. If I live in rural Alabama with 1% of the population being Black/African American, I’m sure as heck not going to be Hairspray or Ragtime (though that does not stop people, smh). If I have a huge amount of men who show up to auditions consistently, I probably wouldn’t do Little Women or 9 to 5. You get the point! You have to have some sort of idea of who you could potentially casting so that your company/school has a successful production. However, I will be clear that this is NOT the same as precasting - just because one is aware of the people who could be auditioning and picks shows that suit those strengths is not the same as handing someone a role regardless of the audition. Picking shows without your school in mind is a mistake.

 

****Your**** audition:

 Now, obviously, auditions can be scary! Nerves can happen, and in some cases, they can be super hard to overcome. Something that I have learned over the time I’ve spent auditioning is that instead of looking outwards and blaming others for me not getting what I would have wanted… Let’s examine how I actually did in the room. How did I sound? Was my song/monologue appropriate? Were my beats/intentions clear? There are SO many things that go into your performance/audition, and while obviously we all try our best in the room, sometimes our talent is not showcased to the best of our abilities. While blaming others is a very comfortable thing to do, without looking at what you could have done better you’re limiting your opportunities to grow.

 

Someone else’s audition:

 Sometimes, regardless of the subjectivity of talent, someone has just a better audition than you. It happens! They came in and had a really good day, they sang a better song, they showed their gifts off better than you did in this instance. There’s nothing to be done in a case like this except do the best you can each time you walk into the room. Hell, there are people who I have seen who are just SUCH great auditioners… And that work then doesn’t translate quite as well when they go to perform. Auditioning well is such a valuable skill, and sometimes someone else just comes in and kills it.

 

 

What the director values/is looking for:

 There are so many interpretations of theatre, which is one of its best qualities. We can agree or disagree, however when it comes to the director's vision at the end of the day that is what will shape the casting process. What if you’re a better singer than actress but the director wants a better actress than singer? Or vice versa? It’s all subjective, but at the end of the day if you don’t fit the director's vision you have to go about changing their mind. That may not happen in 16-32 bars, a cold read, a dance call, and a callback (if you get all of that!). While I did say previously we do need to be introspective about how we do in room, remember that the creative process is still more than just you!

 


High School Drama, the EXTRAcurricular:

 For one, being involved in your school’s shows is not a right but a privilege. Being a student of the school, things like behavior/grades will absolutely be something that is reflected upon. Whether it be in the classroom of the teacher or around the school, being a good citizen absolutely is something that is kept in mind. Being involved with drama (the non-performative sort) or being a disruptive force during the creative process will not bode you well. Regardless of how well you sing or anything of the like, educators don’t reward those (usually) who don’t deserve it. Unreliable students should not, and in many cases do not get what they want in drama departments. While people being a teacher's pet/etc should NOT be the thing that gets people parts, it is absolutely a point in your favor - do your best to be the best you can be… it will more than likely be noticed.

 

How “talented” you are:

 In an attempt to say this as nicely as possible - there are a lot of people in the world who have a slightly (or majorly) inflated sense of self. While someone may think they are the next *insert Broadway star*, the reality of it is that not only is there always someone better… But we may not be good as we think we are (or alternatively, we may not have done as well as we think we did). This is a weird bullet to swallow, but at the end of the day this absolutely can be someone’s Achilles heel.

 All of this to say, there is SO MUCH that goes into the picking of shows/casting/the creative process. While obviously there are PLENTY of schools/instances that really go above and beyond anything I’ve just talked about, we do have to continue to keep in mind the multidimensional aspect of casting and season selection. For those of you who find yourself stuck in either a school or community where you deeply/truly believe that the favoritism is so rampant do not hesitate to find greener pastures or other opportunities. It’s absolutely unfair at times that things like these can ruin an experience, however all I am asking for is for people to be honest with themselves and open about the potential “why” of a situation.

 Next article I’ll hopefully be talking the conversation of creating your own art! As someone who has recently started his own theatre company, I’ve spent the last year developing a nonprofit. If you have any questions you want me address in the next article comment below!

Starting Your Own Business with Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber and Industry Professional Extraordinaire

David Culliton

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is my favorite musical of all time. I’ve been in love with this show since I was about 10 or 11 years old, which makes my obsession with it a little more than a decade old now. When you’re attached to ANYTHING for that long you’re likely to come out the other end knowing it on an intimate, minute level. That’s my relationship with Sweeney Todd to a tee. I have the show practically memorized (minor version variations included), I know heaps of trivia about the show, I’ve picked up on little, subtler moments after countless listen-and-watch-throughs of this gorgeous theatrical piece, and, most relevant to this article, I’ve been able to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street through new lenses. In fact, if one spends so much of their life holding one piece of art closer to their heart than any other, that ability to contextualize that piece in varied ways is almost necessary to keep one’s love for that piece alive and fresh after all those years. That’s exactly what I’ve come to do for Sweeney, and I’d like to share one of those new contexts with you today.


For those unfamiliar, here’s a general breakdown of this slightly complex plot: In 1800’s London, a barber named Benjamin Barker is falsely accused and convicted of some crime and sent to Australia to be imprisoned for life. Back home the judge that sentenced Barker pervs on Barker’s wife until she’s driven to poison herself. Barker returns to London under the assumed name “Sweeney Todd” after an escape attempt nabs him passage with a young sailor named Anthony. Todd goes back to his old parlor to find his former landlady and current meat pie saleswoman Nellie Lovett who identifies him and tells him the awful news. Heartbroken, Todd vows to revive his barber shop to exact his revenge on the judge and the judge’s beadle (a deputy/officer/general right-hand man). There are several other plot threads we haven’t covered but that’s the general gist. Now, why am I choosing to take a story about passion, revenge, & murder, and analyze it for base-level business strategies? Perhaps it’s because I’m a 21-year-old business student just trying to find his way in the adult world and this kind of thing has been on my mind recently. Maybe I think my readers will find it as helpful as I might be able to myself. There’s a possibility that deep down I’m inspired by the knowledge that the original Broadway production was set over the backdrop of the industrial revolution to provide commentary on a savage system that chews up and spits out any unwitting soul who happens to get caught in the gears of the system, a commentary which seems bitingly relevant in today’s climate of extreme socioeconomic disparity and the aggressive capitalism of our modern western business system that pushes us forward without stopping to consider who’s getting trampled underfoot.

Or maybe I’m just a dork with too much time on my hands. (That option’s for those of you with absolutely no interest in socioeconomic disparity). LET’S GET TO THE MAIN EVENT!

SWEENEY TODD’S 10 STEP PROGRAM FOR EFFECTIVE PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING AND SMART BUSINESS PRACTICE

1- Put yourself out there!

In order to get ANYWHERE in the business world, or in life in general, you have to take leaps of faith to put yourself out into the part of the world where you want to be in the first place, whether that be a professional industry or just someone’s inner circle for purely social reasons. Benjamin Barker did just that when he carried out his attempt to escape from Botany Bay, winding up on a makeshift raft in the open, likely waving for the attention of anyone who might cross his path. Which, someone eventually did. Which led our man to...

2- Establish a “primary connection.”

Full disclosure: I pretty much made up this term. In researching steps for professional networking for this article I couldn’t find anyone who fully addressed the very real phenomenon that the newly named Sweeney's relationship with Anthony exemplifies. Anthony literally brings Todd to the network Todd is looking to enter, namely all of London. In my (admittedly limited) experience there's almost always one person who is a general part of the industry into which you’re trying to enter who’s able to give you the push you need to get into it yourself and start building your web of connections. Anthony brought Todd to the city where Todd wants to re-establish himself, acting as the roots at the base of Todd’s professional tree. As an added bonus, if all else fails for Todd and he finds himself up a creek without a paddle in London, Anthony could very likely get him into the sailing business in order to still provide Todd with a stable career. It’s all about the people you know.

3- Get in on the ground floor with a useful business contact.

So you’ve got your introductory push into your industry of choice. Now it’s time to get more specific. What kind of job are you looking to have SPECIFICALLY? Where do you want to set yourself up for said job? And who can you talk to in order to get in on the ground floor on both of those fronts? As soon as Sweeney Todd lands in London and says goodbye to “the good ship bountiful [and] the young man who saved [his] life,” he sets his sights on Fleet Street, the location of his old barber shop, whereupon he finds Mrs. Nellie Lovett baking her pies. Todd asks about the vacancy of the “room up there over the pie shop,” a key question if the job your seeking requires establishing your own small business (location, location, location!), and after some small talk back and forth about Todd’s wife being manipulated by an evil judge (the art of small talk is important for ANY good professional to master), Lovett offers him the vacant room & gives him his old razors that she held onto, encouraging him to become a barber again. Just as I mentioned in step two, it’s all about the people you know, and Lovett is exactly the kind of person you want to network with in the professional world. She’s someone who’s familiar with your abilities and thinks highly of them, is familiar with the kind of field you’re looking into (entrepreneurship as centred on a self-owned small business), and, most importantly, has the resources to give you what you need to start yourself up (land and supplies in this case). Thanks to the Lovett in your professional lives you’ll be able to start your work immediately. Which means it’s time to:

4- Establish your goals.

Your goal up to this point has been to join the industry of your choice and establish some contacts in said industry. Just like in the last step, now it’s time to specify. You have your business, now what do you want to accomplish with it? Todd immediately sets his goal in the form of his iconic ballad “My Friends.” He will use his razors and his talents to re-open his barber shop and make a living (simple economic self-sustenance is not a goal to be ashamed of), establish himself as the best barber in the city, and thus draw Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford to one day seek the service of London’s finest barber whereupon he shall exact his revenge and get the greatest payment of all: the judge and beadle’s “rubies” that will drip from his razor when the deed is done. The latter can be considered his “ultimate goal.” It’s lofty, yes, but attainable IF he continues to make connections with the right people and puts in the work to properly establish his business. It’s time to attend an industry event.

5- Introduce yourself to prospective professional connections.

Several days later, Todd, accompanied by Lovett, finds himself at the street cart of Aldolfo Pirelli, elixir maker. Pirelli has his servant, Toby, announcing the elixir to passersby and declaring the hair-related prowess of his employer. This is as close to an “industry event” as independent barbers in the late 1800s will get. Todd arrives, planning to introduce himself to Pirelli’s clientele, perhaps show off a little, and gain their patronage. This brings up an issue we’ll tackle in the next step: meeting and dealing with your competition. When you attend industry events, it’s a foregone conclusion that you’ll meet industry members who are in direct competition with you for a myriad of reasons (possessing a similar skill set and vying for your position, providing a similar product or service to the same clientele, etc.).  Getting to know them is useful because it allows you to identify the strengths and weaknesses or their business model and determine whether or not their model is something you yourself want to try to adopt. In certain cases it can also be useful to determine whether to compete with this fellow industry member, or attempt to merge with them if you believe it would be more to your benefit. Todd immediately sees what Pirelli is trying to pull and decides that defrauding his customers with a clearly fake hair growth elixir and being bad at barbering is NOT a business model he wants to follow, nor is its practitioner the kind of person with whom he wants to partner. This leads him to publicly denouncing Pirelli’s miracle elixir as “an errant fraud concocted of piss and ink,” and engaging in a public competition with Pirelli for the unofficial title of best barber as judged by Beadle Bamford who just so happened to be on the scene (a little bit of luck can take you a long way in the business world). Todd summarily defeats Pirelli in the competition, winning over the onlookers and impressing Bamford who enquires Todd as to where one can find him to receive a shave of their own. Todd, wanting to ensure the beadle’s patronage, offers to give him, “without a penny’s charge, the closest shave [he] will ever know.” Todd showed off his impeccable skills and gained the patronage of not only the general public present (who will no doubt spread positive word of mouth about the man), but of a man of position who can directly help him achieve his ultimate goal. Now we’re in business which means it’s time to get serious about that pesky Italian.

6- Deal with your competition (optional but helpful this early in the process)

This is a shorter step simply because it’s so self explanatory, but it’s still important to remember that even if it seems you’ve come out on top as the industry leader, your competition will always find a way to get a leg up. Pirelli, despite being the inferior barber, still poses a threat to Todd’s business because in a twist of fate, it turns out that Pirelli is actually the mere persona of Irishman Daniel O’Higgins, who used to work for Benjamin Barker and now wants to blackmail Todd so that he doesn’t lose too much money from the business that Todd stole away from him. Todd, proving that there’s more than one way to be dominant in an industry, kills Pirelli. Now, I’m not saying YOU should kill YOUR competition, far from it, just that it’s a way to go about dealing with it and that for Todd it does, in fact, work. Just maybe don’t try it at home… or anywhere...

7- Prove yourself/take your first shot at your goal.

With word of mouth spreading fast, the judge’s right hand man impressed with Todd, and Turpin himself looking to get a proper shave in order to impress his ward/Todd’s daughter Johanna whom he plans to marry (another thread in this deeply plotted musical, don’t worry too much about it yet), Todd gets his first shot at achieving his ultimate goal thanks to the connections he’s made and the way he’s broken into the industry so explosively. He’s done everything right up to this point and within only about a week of establishing his business is already the industry leader in London’s barbershop market (notably exceeding the success of the woman who got him in on the ground floor as Lovett’s meat pie business is still struggling to thrive in the current economy), and as such he’s about to be rewarded for it. Shortly after killing Pirelli, Todd hears the bell on his door ringing and sees Judge Turpin standing just outside, slightly skeptical, looking about the premises. Todd, realizing how lucky he is to have the chance at his goal fall into his lap like this immediately invites the judge in and offers him whatever barber service he desires. Now, it’s important to note that not everyone gets lucky like this. If you don’t find the means for your ultimate goal lining up perfectly so quickly, do NOT get frustrated. Sweeney Todd is a man who had luck thrust upon him by a playwright aiming for dramatic convenience. Real life, unfortunately does not work like that. You may have to wait a while for step 7 to happen, and that’s okay as long as you keep working to get there. Todd, having gotten as lucky as he has, makes the fatal error of letting the success get to his head. He gets cocky and, instead of slitting Turpin’s throat then and there, actually take the time to give him a proper shave before the fact (I know, what a hack). The art of conducting business is a very delicate one, and often temporary success can lead to getting sloppy if you’re not careful- the kind of sloppiness that could cost you a magnificent opportunity. This is the pitfall that Todd falls into, and it does cost him. His delaying of his plans for judge murder allows Anthony to burst in on the near-execution right before Todd can slide his razor across Turpin’s throat, declaring to Todd that he and Johanna are going to run off together (Anthony and Johanna had a chance, love-at-first-sight meeting that snowballed into secret trysts that in turn snowballed into marriage proposals. NOW is when you need to worry about that plot thread). The judge gets up and leaves in a huff, vowing never to return if Anthony’s company is the kind Todd tends to keep. Todd got too confident in his luck right as it ran out, a fatal mistake that ironically caused no fatalities that day. (Note: I would just like to reiterate to my dear readers that you should NOT be setting your plans on murder in any form, despite Todd’s cynical worldview to the contrary). Perhaps most tragically, Todd burned his only business connections (including the beadle, to whom the judge likely recounted the story of his trip to Todd’s parlor) that could lead him directly to his ultimate goal. In professional networking, building bridges is much easier to do from scratch than it is with scorched materials.

8- If at first you don’t succeed- step back, re-evaluate, allow for flexibility & improvement, THEN try, try again!

There’s almost always a reason things haven’t gone your way. In the inevitable occasion that a business plan doesn’t totally go well for you, you need to be able to accept any amount of blame that falls on your shoulders. Not only that, you need to be able to DO something with the knowledge of any flaws on your part so that you keep yourself from making such mistakes in the future. Todd does this in some key ways. He recognizes immediately that he got cocky and that such arrogance cost him his best chance at killing Turpin. He then vows he needs to be ready if the judge ever comes back. Not only won’t he wait next time, but his throat-slitting skills will be second to none as he vows to practice “on less honorable throats.” With Mrs. Lovett’s assistance, he steps up the game even further to both their benefit and answers a key question that’s been lingering since Pirelli’s death and which neither of them really thought through until now: body disposal. Todd and Lovett’s solution to this is simple: use the bodies of any and all of Todd’s victims as meat for Mrs. Lovett’s pies! Even though that last question didn’t have much to do with Todd’s failure, he was still willing to adapt to deal with that issue as well and THAT’S what’s important about this step: total, continuous adaptivity. If nobody is perfect, nor are their business practices. Even if none of your flaws have caused a catastrophic mishap such as Todd’s relationship with Turpin being skewered, they still have the potential to cause trouble. You should ALWAYS be on the lookout for problem spots and should IMMEDIATELY jump on finding solutions for them. I promise you that kind of effort pays off, just as it did for both Todd and Lovett. As the curtain rises on act two, we see Mrs. Lovett’s shop thriving and DON’T see a buildup of dead bodies anywhere near Todd’s parlor. As for Todd’s plans to improve:

8.5- ACTUALLY improve.

You can’t just be successful by SAYING you’re going to do something and never doing it (insert a joke from Erica about my blog writing punctuality here). Sweeney Todd finds himself back on the road to success and goal-accomplishment because he ACTUALLY works to improve his business practices. He slits those less honorable throats, he does up his parlor a little, gets himself a proper barber’s wardrobe, and even gets a fancy new barber’s chair that he fixes up to send his victims down to Lovett’s cellar when he’s done with them. Not only that, he’s clearly learned he needs to be careful how he conducts himself, as he and Lovett make it clear that the only men they do away with are those with no family or connections (professional or otherwise) to speak of, meaning no one will notice the missing Londoners and never suspect a thing of the barber and the pie lady. (All of this to say, not following these professional networking tips could make you a perfect candidate for Todd’s next round of razor practice. I DON’T MAKE THE RULES!!) He does get caught in the trap of brooding on his vows of improvement and not taking a whole lot of action to directly find a way back to the judge, an easy one to fall into and one all of you business newbies needs be VERY careful not to find yourself in. But when fate decides to give him one last chance, Todd’s able to use the confidence from his booming business and improved methods to take one more shot at achieving his ultimate goal. He followed through with his plans for bettering himself as a small business owner, and now he’s able to use them to try for what he wants again and do it right this time.

9- Feeling a bit more prepared? Take another crack at that goal!

The perfect opportunity has fallen into Todd’s lap to get his daughter back, which in turn gives him the chance to lure Turpin to his parlor once more. It’s risky, but like any good businessman he knows that sometimes a bit of risk taking is crucial to attaining one’s more lofty ambitions. With Anthony dispatched in a wig maker disguise to save Johanna from a mental asylum (again with this plot thread…), Todd has a letter delivered to Turpin telling him that he knows about Anthony’s rescue mission and that he can return Johanna to her adoptive father/future husband if Turpin returns to Todd’s parlor that night to retrieve her. Meanwhile Beadle Bamford has happened to show up to inquire Mrs. Lovett about the stench from her cellar, and Todd naturally uses the chance to slay him being a savvy opportunist, thus achieving the lesser part of his ultimate goal while his plans for the main part are simultaneously in motion. You have to remember, once your business really gets going you’ll be a busy person, and you must have the ability to multitask- Todd here is a perfect model of that capability. You also have to be able to quickly and effectively deal with sudden roadblocks that might pop up during crucial moments in your operations. Todd suddenly finds himself tasked with finding Mrs. Lovett’s lost pseudo-adopted-son (Pirelli’s servant from step 5). While Lovett is an important connection in his professional circle, he knows that it takes a smart businessman to be able to say no to certain things. Finding Toby is important, yes, but Todd has work to do and it’s clear that after a brief period of fruitless searching he needs to get back to his work and abandons the search offstage so he can get back to his parlor in time to intercept the judge. Upon re-entering his parlor, there’s one last unpleasant surprise waiting for him: an old beggar woman who’s popped up a few times around the building has found her way inside the parlor. When attempts to shoo her out fail and the judge arriving outside, Todd commits his fastest murder yet and shoves her body down the chute, certain that there was nothing important he needed to know about her at all. This deals a little more in the ugly side of business but sometimes as a professional you need to solve problems a quick and dirty way. You shouldn’t do this often, but doing so once in a blue moon in service of accomplishing something much more important is a necessary evil in any industry, and Todd knows this. All that’s left to do is quickly rebuild his professional connection with Turpin in the moment it matters most.

10- Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor-- SEIZE IT!!

With Todd’s plan executed perfectly and the judge sitting in Todd’s chair once more, this time Todd knows not to wait. In business, it’s often important to act fast at all times, and ESPECIALLY in critical moments like this, lest that sweet sweet opportunity slip through your fingers. Todd has learned this, he’s never going to make the mistake of waiting too long out of arrogance again. At this point, all there’s left to do is to just do it. Take that final step! Your goal is right there, all you need to do now is reach for it! BENJAMIN!! BAAAAAARRRRKKEEEEEERRRRR!!!

Congratulations! You just learned how to be a good businessman/woman from a serial killer!!

I joked at the beginning of this article about my reasons for writing this piece, but I think what honestly inspired me was a Tumblr post I saw that used Luke Skywalker’s address to Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars: Episode XI as a template for writing a cover letter. That really stuck with me. I even used it myself when I was applying for jobs this summer. Sometimes the professional world can be a terrifying place with concepts that feel inaccessible, especially if you’re trying to break into it for the first time. I think that connecting those ideas to something more familiar and comfortable, such as a popular film franchise or your favorite musical, makes them more accessible and the larger structure that they’re part of more approachable. As with all my articles, I hope you came out of reading this at least somewhat entertained. Bur more, I hope that this post about Sweeney Todd’s business tips can be for someone what that Jabba address cover letter post was for me: a helpful guide, something that made nebulous concepts of the business world a lot more digestible, and perhaps inspiration to read a piece of media you like in a certain way, and maybe share that reading with others to continue the cycle.

Perhaps today you gave a nod to Sweeney Todd: The Savviest Small Business Owner on Fleet Street.



Major Change in Musicals: A Necessary Plot Point to a Successful Musical

Darren Wildeman
This past holiday season I was gifted the book The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built by Jack Viertel. It was a fascinating look at musicals, and I could go on about the fascinating information and behind the scenes looks in this book. However, I will be looking at one thing Mr. Viertel brought up and made very clear early in the book. And it can be considered “a key to success” of sorts for a musical. That’s not to say that as long as a show does this it will be successful, rather it’s just often one component to a successful show. It’s not the only component, however, it’s a pretty darn important one.


Full disclosure: All credit for this idea goes to Mr. Viertel. It’s because of him I’m writing this article. I got the idea from his book, and it is by no means my original idea. However, I’m going to discuss this idea and flush it out. I highly recommend this book and if you want to purchase a copy for yourself you can find it here.

Now I imagine when I said I have a key to success for a musical some of you automatically thought this is some Buzzfeed clickbait BS. Afterall, musicals are such finicky beasts, how can there possibly be a one size fits all perfect solution that a musical must have? And frankly, if I were you, I’d agree with you. Musicals are so different from each other, how can there be something that fits almost every single musical?

Honestly, you’d be surprised how simple the answer is. The answer is change. Again, this isn’t the one stop fix all for a musical, but it is almost essential. Now you might be thinking this is obvious. All musicals have change, that’s the whole point of a plot. I’m not necessarily referring to this. Yes, a changing plot is important, however what I’m referring to and what Mr. Viertel talks about is a far bigger change. A very large number of successful musicals are set either directly in, or against the backdrop of the dawning of a new era, a major change in the world that will greatly affect their life, or the changing times.

Let me first explain this point using two of the examples Mr. Viertel uses in his book and then I’ll expand on it myself. Think of Fiddler on the Roof.  It’s about a simple farmer, in a simple Jewish village which is very set in their ways. However, the future of this village is unsteady as a “fiddler on the roof”. Not only do Tevye’s daughters flip Jewish customs on their head by choosing who to date and eventually marry, but Tevye himself slowly comes around and lets it happen. However, not only are Tevye’s daughters breaking the mold, but the future of the village and their lifestyle is on the edge. Throughout the entire musical we see the Russian presence in this small Jewish village. Police officers and guards who live there are a constant reminder as to how precarious the existence of this village is. And as you all know at the end, Tevye, his family, and the rest of the cast are forced to leave.

What this setting does is it sets up a family, and an entire community stuck in how things have always been. However, both within the community with Tevye’s daughters, and outside of it with the Russians their existence is extremely tumultuous. The audience is on a hook wondering on a personal level what will become of the daughters who want to be independent and go their own way. But also, they are wondering what will become of the town and its people. From a historical perspective we know. But Fiddler on the Roof humanizes this, and makes us feel for them.

Another example of this that Mr. Viertel gives is The Music Man. However, this is a different type of change. In “Rock Island” we see the salesmen discussing and debating credit and the new way to sell products. As you hear many times in the song a lot of the salesmen think cash is the only way to go. What Music Man does here is really interesting. Everyone knows that Harold Hill and his antics are the main piece of this show. However, even before Hill is introduced, we see these men being faced with change. What this does is it shows that these men are struggle with new things, and don’t totally know how to handle them; in turn this makes Hill’s hijinks having a heavier hinderance to the people of this town who already don’t like change and now have to deal with a Music Man.

There are many other shows that fit this template as well. For example, Hamilton. Not only is it set in a constantly shifting political environment but Lin Manuel Miranda also drew parallel’s today’s world and political environment.

The Sound of Music is set against the backdrop of World War II and Miss Saigon is set against the Vietnam War. While the plots of these two musicals are very different from each other the concept is the same. You get to witness the characters stories and the plot in light of turmoil and war which directly affects them and their actions.

Les Misérables is set right in the midst of change. Shortly after the French Revolution and in a very constantly changing landscape in France. Again, everything the characters do, and how a lot of events go down are dependent on what is happening in their world.

Disney’s smash hit Newsies is all about change. The newspaper boys go and cause the change. Once again, almost all of what the characters do is about enacting a massive change in their world and fighting for justice. The only difference is rather than being amidst the change, in this musical the newsies CAUSE the change.

For what I hope is obvious reasons Come from Away also fits this billing. 9/11 is an event that forever changed world history and this musical observes the characters who were directly involved.

This begs the question are there any musicals that aren’t set against a massive change in their world? The answer is definitely. Once, Next to Normal, Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen Sweeney Todd, among many others are all shows where there isn’t a major change in the outside world, or where there is a major change threatening the characters lives as they know it. So, you might be wondering what do these shows do well that they don’t necessarily need that challenge?

If a show doesn’t have a massive change, or something that threatens a part of the characters existence from the outside, then there needs to be a really good story happening internally. In Next to Normal it’s the death of Gabe and Diana’s mental illness, in Once it’s the relationship of Guy and Girl and the heartbreak. Characters need to be threatened in a musical. A story of any sort, never mind just a musical where the characters are comfortable, really isn’t much of a story. So, by adding a massive challenge like a war, an constantly changing political landscape, or just something that’s threatening day to day life in the characters time gives the author something else for the characters to react to other than the story.

However, in the absence of that challenge an author can choose to make the characters own struggles and character arc the main story. This can work extremely well, however, it is a bit of a risk. If the characters own struggles aren’t interesting enough, or are fairly minor the audience is going to grow bored very quickly. So while it’s definitely possible, adding minimal outside confrontations or challenges is generally there to help aid both the story and the character arcs.

I Choose to Leave

Michael Kape

Dammit, it happened to me again. I was attending a local production of Grand Hotel, a musical I really like. I grant you it’s not an easy show to stage, and it requires some real acting AND singing chops to pull it off right. I’ve seen it twice before, but it was a part of my subscription series at this theatre, so I went. Two other musicals in this season so far were Hairspray and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

I walked out of all three at intermission

Pul-leez, don’t tell me out of courtesy to the performers I should have stayed for the whole thing. Why? Hell, more than 30 years ago, one of my employees was appearing in a misbegotten production of Oliver. I liked Lance, but the man could not sing nor dance nor act. My BFF and I fled at intermission. (We kind of knew we were in trouble when the program listed every piece of music in the show, including the scene change music. Huh? What?) When I saw him Monday morning, he completely understood.

As I’ve noted before, I spent seven years on the Dark Side as a theatre critic. As such, I could not leave at intermission no matter what (though there were times when I wished I had).

During that time, Miss Saigon came to town. I had seen it once already in New York and left the Broadway theatre screaming internally because I hated it so much (fake emotions, overamplified music, terrible retelling of the Madame Butterfly story). When I was called upon to review it, I figured (wrongly) I must have misjudged it and I’d go in with a completely open mind. (I have since learned if I think something is terrible on the first outing, it’s never going to get better on subsequent ones, the four times I agonized through Cats.) The night I saw Miss Saigon, seated next to me was the artistic management of the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Yes, that included a future internationally-acclaimed director (for Hunchback) and a future Tony-winning director (for Raisin in the Sun). At intermission, they ALL walked out. I was left by myself in the entire row. I wish I could have joined them. By the time I found my car in the parking lot after the show, I was screaming (out loud) mad. I hadn’t misjudged Miss Saigon; I had suffered through it twice.

Walking out of a really bad production or an awful show is a major luxury for me these days. I don’t savor walking out, but I don’t deny myself that possibility if my ears are ringing from off-key performers screeching in my ear on the last note of a major song (while being overamplified by head microphones). I didn’t deny myself the pleasure of leaving a supposedly hit Broadway comedy if I didn’t laugh once in Act I. I didn’t deny myself the relief coming from leaving a revival of an antiquated British sex comedy, which just seemed plain stupid. I certainly didn’t deny myself the gratification of walking out at intermission of a popular (well, with teenaged girls) musical I found to be shrill and mediocre in its best moments (though I regrettably did sit through the whole thing a second time). I definitely didn’t deny myself giving into the anger I felt watching a star-studded revival of a brilliant drama done badly by every actor in the all-male cast. (Okay, in order: that production of Grand Hotel; Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; Boeing, Boeing; Wicked; and the ill-fated That Championship Season—fortunately, that was a $1.50 ticket from Play-by-Play).

As I noted in my last blog, going to the theatre is a kind of therapy for me. For two or more hours, I am transported out of my own woes (being widowed; now living with Tourette after being poisoned by a medicine I was taking) and into another world. If I’m not enjoying myself (be it a drama, a comedy, a musical, or a piece of performance art), then that night (or afternoon) of theatre has failed me. Why should I suffer through another act?

Producers have gotten wise to people like me; they eliminate the intermission so we can’t leave. How do I know this? Two ways. First, about 10 years ago I got involved in the production of my first Broadway show as an investor. It was a wonderful script called Impressionism and was going to be a great show—or so I thought. Went to the second preview, and it was terrific. Then some negative buzz started appearing online, and unfortunately, the director listened to it. Cut the show to shreds and eliminated the intermission because some people were walking out. The result? On opening night, I didn’t recognize the play at all. It was awful. Terrible. Really bad. It closed quickly and I lost my investment.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago in Los Angeles. In Southern California, no matter how bad a show is, the audience gives it a standing ovation (and you know how I feel about those). Except once. The show was Amélie, and I knew there was trouble ahead when I saw makeshift signs posted in the theatre about there being no intermission (though one was advertised in the program). At the end of this unholy mess, there was a smattering of polite applause, no standing O, and people ran to escape the Ahmanson. I guess too many people had walked at intermission when it first played in San Francisco (where audiences are much less polite).

I’m sure at this point someone might be tempted to snark at me about how if I was a decent person, I would stay out of courtesy to the actors and the effort they’ve put forth. Sure, if I was a decent person. I never said I was (hence how easy to lapse into the critic’s role as well as rightly earning my sobriquet of ATB’s Grumpy Olde Guy®).

Recently, I went to see a local production of a play near and dear to my heart, The Diary of Anne Frank. I was in a production many years ago (typecast as the grumpy olde dentist, of course), and I had taught the play to a class of teenagers when I was in college. However, this production was so badly directed, designed, and acted I couldn’t stay. I was cringing in my seat during the entirety of Act I and I did not want to subject myself to even more torture in the second act. Can you blame me? Wait, maybe some of you can.

I’ve forced myself to sit through badly done Shakespeare (King Lear with Sam Watterson a few years back at the Public) but have walked out of the Scottish Play with a well-known actor (who shall remain nameless because I think he now omits it from his resume). I’ve bitten the bullet and sat through such gems as Censored Scenes From King Kong (which Carrie Fisher never acknowledged she did on Broadway) and America Kicks Up Its Heels by William (Falsettos) Finn starring Patti LuPone. (Years later, my BFF was at a party with her and brought up us having seen her in it at Playwrights Horizon. She categorically denied it. She swore up and down she didn’t do it. She did. We saw her do it.) I even forced myself to sit through all of Love Never Dies, one of the 10 worst musicals ever written (in my opinion) because people on ATB swore Act II was better than Act I. It wasn’t. I suffered in agony through that whole goddamn piece of crap. I couldn’t even laud the actors because they were pretty terrible in it as well—though no one could make such substandard material work. But really, did the Phantom have to do a bad Lon Chaney Jr. impression at the top of the show?

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever walked at intermission? Have you ever been tempted to not return for Act II (only to discover Act II was even worse)? If so, what was the show?

And for those of you unfortunate to have to stay for the entirety of a really bad production because you knew someone in the cast, might I offer you some surefire lines to say after the show? Here are my favorites:

·         “Well, that was interesting.”

·         “You should have been out front.” (Especially good if the actor was really bad.)

·         “I don’t remember seeing anything quite like tonight.”

·         “I know professional actors who couldn’t do the role like you did.”

·         “You certainly had a lot of people talking.”

And if you’ve ever been the recipient of any of these remarks as an actor, thank your lucky stars you have friends not willing to tell you the whole stinking truth (ooh, flash to Bosom Buddies from Mame).

 

(Grumpy Olde Guy® a/k/a Michael Kape has lived too long, some say—him included. He says life’s too short to put up with bad theatre. So, he doesn’t! If you all weren’t so much nicer than him, you wouldn’t either.)

 

Living the Dream

Sabrina Wallace
Last year, a friend of mine forwarded me an email about a potential opportunity to be part of a Broadway show. I was curious so I agreed to meet with a producer to hear more about it. Little did I know that one simple meeting would change my life forever. 

 I fell in love with THE PROM the moment I heard that it was “a new musical comedy about big Broadway stars, a small town LBGTQ girl, and a love that unites them all”. The more I learned about the story, the more I wanted to be part of it! After I said YES to THE PROM, things moved very quickly. I met one of the lead producers, contracts were drawn and BOOM! I was a co-producer!  Things didn’t seem real until the night I went to invited dress rehearsal. There I was, a mom from Austin, Texas, sitting among big time producers and actors from Broadway. Suddenly, I hear “Here she is, our latest addition to the team, welcome!”. Once my heart started beating again, I fell right into the family. I used to think that Broadway people weren’t nice, but I learned that to be very much untrue. On opening night, Casey Nicholaw stepped on stage before curtain call and introduced our 13 Broadway debuts! One by one they were recognized by their choreographer and director, who by the way, has to be the nicest man alive! 


In the months since opening night, I learned a few other things. Swing are amazing, every single person in the show is important, people on Broadway work non-stop, and it takes a village to make a show happen! I think this is why everyone is so nice, you need to get along to make a show special, and THE PROM sure is one special show! 

 

On Tuesday this week, four of my colleagues in this adventure, all women from Austin, sat together, holding each other as we watched the Tony Award Nominations live. We cheered with every nom, we cried with every nom, and at the end, we looked at each other in disbelief and hugged. Surround yourself with people that can give you this type of unconditional love and support because life is a journey that is a lot more pleasant with amazing company.  

 

So here I am, a Tony Award Nominated Producer with THE PROM. Local TV interview tomorrow, press events the next few weeks and a big ceremony coming up in June. The journey has been like a dream, one I don’t want to awaken from until June 10th!

 

However, like Dee Dee Allen says, this “is not about me” but it’s all about THE PROM, an honest show that has earned 7 Tony Award Nominations including Best Musical this season. A show that sips into your soul with a charming group of characters, a fun book, an amazing score, choreography that is sharp and energetic, and a story that is not only true but beautiful and heartwarming.

 

THE PROM is magical in many ways. It is a story that can change people’s lives, a show that, with a lot of humor, tells us that we need to be more tolerant and accept others for who they are. Isn’t that what theatre is supposed to do? Be a reflection of society and show us the way to a better tomorrow? I took a group of students to see THE PROM this past Saturday and I saw the effect the show had in some of the girls in the group. I saw tears coming down their faces when Emma (Caitlin Kinnunen) finds herself alone at the fake prom, heartbroken and betrayed by her peers. I saw them celebrate when Trent (Chris Sieber) starts to change people’s minds in the small town of Edgewater. Indiana while they all sing “Love Thy Neighbor”. Finally, they rose to their feet in an outburst of joy with the final kiss. I asked them what they thought about the story and there was a consistent theme in their responses “representation, love, acceptance and tolerance”. My heart was filled with proud and love because the message made it to those that listened!  

 

As I get ready to fly on top of my cloud to the Tony Awards, I can’t but reflect on what a lucky woman I am. I get to be a part of one of the best musicals on Broadway this season and share it with many people that see themselves reflected in Emma and Alyssa’s love story.  

 

Have you seen THE PROM? If not, what are you waiting for? “It’s time to dance!”

 

To be continued on June 10th! 

 

THE PROM received 7 Tony Award Nominations: Best Musical, Best Director (Casey Nicholaw), Best Leading Actress (Beth Leavel), Best Leading Actress (Caitlin Kinnunen), Best Leading Actor (Brooks Ashmanskas), Best Score (Mathew Sklar and Chad Beguelin), and Best Book (Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin).

 

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To the Unrecognized Theatre Workers

SarahLynn Mangan
A thank you letter to all those not recognized or hardly recognized for their work in the theater. Many times, the people who get the least thanks are those who do the most.

To the costumers to dressers to set builders to painters, to the stage managers and their tech-operators and their running crews, thank you. To the casting directors to the choreographers to the dance captains, thank you. To the laundromats to the wigmakers to the curtain cleaners, thank you. To the conductor to the pit to the assistant music directors, thank you. To the people who came up with the original vision of the production to the ones who decided to take a chance on it, thank you. To the marketers to the poster making companies to the web design fanatics, thank you. To the ushers to the program folders to the kiosk tenders, thank you. To the house manager to the production manager to the assistant stage manager to the interns to the box office manager, thank you.

 Thank you for creating theatre and always being willing to sacrifice your time, your energy and frankly your sanity to put on a wonderful show that is reflected through the actors on stage.

 Actors are consistently receiving flowers, food, and praise for their performances and connection with the audience, but I believe that the most praise should go to you people and even all the people I didn’t list. The actors would not be receiving this praise if it was not for you.

 I know you know this and you say it in your own head before the curtain opens or whenever someone gets hissy at you asking “Well what did you even do for this show?” but I am going to recognize it anyway, here in writing.

 For many of you on this list, your talents could be used in many different areas in the world, but you choose to spend them on something that can truly make an impact on either the teenagers seeing their first show or the elders seeing their last. Without you willing to spend a fraction of your talent in this industry, actors would not have anything to work for.

 Thank you for putting up with stuck up actors and people who really have no idea what your job entails but still being willing to continue to work with them.

 From the bottom of my heart, Thank you.

 

 Now for those actors who don’t always say thank you to the costumer every time they repair your costume or your dresser who helps you during the fastest quick change of your life, start thanking them. For those who don’t come in early to see what they can help with during tech week whether that being painting the set, sewing some hems, or even folding some programs, start doing that. For those who might have some extra cash to order an underappreciated crew member some coffee or a donut, start doing that. Start taking the time to really appreciate the people who help your job run smoothly, cause without them, you would be naked in an empty theatre with no lights on except for the ghost light.

Finally, for those audience members who get grumpy at the house manager or ushers when you arrive late and can’t be seated, take a deep breath and relish in the fact that you have made it to a theatre where all your troubles are supposed to melt away. For those who never shake the hands of the orchestra or stay until the end of the exit music, start doing so because they tend to do more work than the actors on stage, and applause for them after the exit music. For those who stare at the crew when you see them for a quick second in confusion for wearing all black, ask them what they did for the show and congratulate them on a smooth show. For those who aren’t patient with the box office start doing so and maybe they can figure out how the dates on your tickets were actually for a week ago instead of tonight.

 If everyone took the time to thank the people we don’t think of when we think of theatre production, everyone would have a grander time at the most amazing place in the world, the stage.

Broadway's Leading Ladies: Sierra Boggess

Kelly Ostazeski

“Sierra Boggess”   by Perryrem is licensed under  CC BY-SA 4.0

“Sierra Boggess” by Perryrem is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0



Career highlights:

Sierra Boggess was born on May 20, 1982 in Colorado. She attended Millikin University. She made her national tour debut in the ensemble of Les Misérables, and she also understudied Cosette.


She was cast as Christine Daae in the Las Vegas production of The Phantom of the Opera, and made her Broadway debut as Ariel in Disney’s new musical The Little Mermaid.


In 2010, she returned to the role of Christine, this time playing her in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel Love Never Dies in London. She was nominated for an Olivier Award for her performance. She returned to Broadway in 2011, in Master Class, opposite Tyne Daly.


Boggess performed in The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, a celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary in London. This production was filmed and released in movie theatres and released on DVD and on CD.

 

In 2012, Boggess appeared off-Broadway in the play Love, Loss, and What I Wore. She then returned to London to play Fantine in the West End production of Les Misérables.

 

The next year, she once again played the role of Christine, this time on Broadway in The Phantom of the Opera, to celebrate the Broadway production’s 25th Anniversary. She played the role again for a limited engagement in 2014 as well.

 

She originated the role of Rebecca Steinburg in the new Broadway musical It Shoulda Been You in 2015, and later that year originated the role of Principal Rosalie Mullins in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical School of Rock, based on the film of the same name.

 

Boggess most recently appeared in The Age of Innocence, in Connecticut and New Jersey.

 

Fun facts:

-          In 2013 she made her solo show debut at 54 Below in NYC, and released a live album called Awakening.

-          Boggess often uses this quote: “"You are enough... You are so enough... It’s unbelievable how enough you are.”

-          She was supposed to appear in a French version of The Phantom of the Opera as Christine, but the production was cancelled due to a fire in the theatre

-          She has two sisters, Summer and Allegra.

-          Andrew Lloyd Webber claims that Sierra is objectively the best Christine

-          She appeared in the Encores! production of Music in the Air opposite Kristin Chenoweth

-          Boggess appears on the cast recordings of The Little Mermaid, The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, A Little Princess, Love Never Dies, School of Rock, It Shoulda Been You

-          She also appears on Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies: The John Wilson Orchestra, Where the Sky Ends: The Songs of Michael Mott, BroadwayWorld Visits Oz,

 

Social media:

Official Website: www.SierraBoggess.com

Verified Twitter: @SierraBoggess
Instagram: @officialsierraboggess
Verified Official Facebook Page: Sierra Boggess Official

 

Songs to listen to:

“Part of Your World” – The Little Mermaid: Original Broadway Cast Recording
“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” – The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
“Think of Me” – The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall

“Love Never Dies” – Love Never Dies

“Over the Rainbow” – BroadwayWorld Visits Oz

Overrated/Underrated

Zachary Harris
A part of being in the All Things Broadway Facebook group is seeing particular topics rehashed at a much higher percentage than others. Need a thread about bootlegs? Oh, we’ve seen plenty. Race/Gender/Inequality? Another hot button topic. Did I say bootlegs? Race? DID WE TALK ABOUT BOOTLEGS? Sarcasm aside, the introduction of new faces and perspectives in a continuously growing group is a blessing. Ranging from industry professionals to people who have just discovered Broadway and want to discuss their newfound love with thousands of people, there are SO many things to be discussed (especially when it comes to an artform we all adore).

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That being said, there is a particular conversation that happens ad nauseum – “What’s your favorite underrated musical?” or “Most overrated show?” This is posted multiple times a week, and while I’ve mentioned above that this sort of active conversation is wonderful… I’m about to sound Grumpyä. This particular conversation absolutely blows my mind, mostly because of the premise that it is based on. The idea of underrated and overrated then denotes or implies that there is some sort of adjudication or rating system involved with the arts. What I mean by this is that, for example, in most competitions there is some sort of grading systems that are palpable. Broadway, Broadway shows, The Tony Awards, and other large regional awards are not subjected to such a standard in judging. This art in whole is absolutely subjective. There are plenty of INCREDIBLE productions/shows that don’t last long on Broadway, that don’t win a ton of Tony Awards, and don’t make the stupefying amounts of money that some of the other shows do. This does not worsen the quality of the work or the performances or adjudicate the art presented to us, the audience. Is Avenue Q not a good show because it beat Broadway megahit Wicked? No. Why did it beat it? Who knows, and while we can all put up some mightily high amounts of conjecture out about why it did or did not deserve such an award, it’s all subjective. At the end of the day, regardless of if you love or hate a show, its success on Broadway does not then adjudicate the work. Even if I love Ragtime so much, I know people who hate it. Heck, it didn’t even win Best Musical that year at the Tony Awards! Does that make Ragtime less beautiful? No. Does that then make the performances any less iconic? No.

 

You could then say that the success of musicals is the “rating system” of the art, but then how does that factor in the terrible productions of beautiful source material? Beautiful productions of shitty source material? Commercialism and supposed greatness of musicals aren’t really correlated. Are some of the longest running shows hypothetically/subjectively the “best” in the history of theatre? I certainly think so. Under what system do we then hold that infallible? Those categories are already very defined entities. If something made $10 and another thing made $5, the thing (or show) that made $10 objectively made more money. If a show ran for 4852703945872 shows, and another closed on opening night… the former objectively had a longer run (and probably made more money while we are at it). If I like score A more than score B… that doesn’t really objectively mean anything. My personal interests in the score can be coming from a lot of experiences, including but not limited to my upbringing, biases towards certain instrumentation, and so much more. How does any of that make one show better than another, in an objective sense? How does that then create a ranking that is the standard? Well, it doesn’t.

 

At the end of the day, the conversation I think that the people are attempting to have is “What musical do you think is underappreciated? Which of these do you enjoy the most?” All of that is absolutely subjective (to a damn point, let’s not try to explain how Hamilton is underappreciated), and no one would blame you for your opinion.

 

 

The Power of Song

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Sabrina Wallace

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a panel at a SXSW event where two master storytellers spoke candidly about their craft. Their stories inspired me to take a deeper look at the geniuses behind some of my favorite musicals. Today, I’m writing about lyricists in honor of the power couple that, on a very cold Tuesday night in Austin, TX, blew my mind with the most passionate conversation about the power of storytelling through songs. Their combined repertoire includes some of the most provoking songs I had the pleasure to watch perform on stage and they stand among many other writers that unequivocally master the power of the song. 

 A good musical revolves around a main story, a concept that drives the entire book, the songs, the choreography, and everything else you see on stage. It is important that the songs carry the arc of the characters and pull the audience into a transformational journey that accompanies the characters’ evolution throughout the show. For a moment, close your eyes and go back to that theatre where you saw your favorite musical for the first time. Put aside the flashy choreography, the period-appropriate costumes, the intricate set designs and focus on the lyrics alone. Think about how they made you feel, how they affected you personally. Place a hand over your heart and feel it pounding inside you, beating to the tune of the music, racing at the sound of the lyrics that touched your soul. I find myself doing that often, smiling at the memory of a beautiful song or drying up a tear or two more times that I can count. That is the power of the song.

 Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites. 

 Engaging lyrics make us all part of the story. In “All Grown Up” (Bare), Ivy’s cry for help is heartbreaking and emotional. One can only imagine being a seventeen-year-old, whose life is about to be forever changed with an unwanted pregnancy, “dream a dream and end another. Life is there to interrupt. Someone out there tell my mother. Look at me I’m all grown up!”. A lot of songs in this show are emotional but carrying the child of a man that doesn’t love you back clicked with me. Life is about choices, good and bad. Musicals project such reality on stage and convey it through songs like those in Bare

 Even the most hilarious musicals (or dark comedies) have a message for the audience. It is with lyrics like “Seventeen” (Heathers The Musical) that we see hope in the eyes of a teenager with a dark soul, ”fine, we’re damaged, really damaged but that does not make us wise. We’re not special, we’re not different, we don’t choose who lives or dies. Let’s be normal, see bad movies, sneak a beer and watch tv … Can we be seventeen?” This song tells us that even in the darkest of souls, there is recognition of humanity and a ray of hope for the rest of us.

 The lyrics of "He’s My Boy” (Everybody’s talking about Jamie) convey the unconditional love and understanding of a mother for her son, a connection so deep that it overcomes the challenges of single motherhood and embraces, without question, the uniqueness of a child. This song suggests to the audience in a very subtle way, that no matter what happens, Jamie is going to be ok because he has the support of this mother. What mother of a teen hasn’t said at one point or another, “he’s clueless, he’s clever, confusing, whatever. But oh boy, he’s my voice, he’s my chance, he’s my smile, he’s my day, he’s my life! He’s my pain, he’s my joy, he’s my baby, he’s my man, he’s my boy” ? It’s ok to shed a tear, I do it every time! 

 Musicals are capable of exposing us for who we are as human beings while allowing us to embrace our differences and overcome our flaws. The humanity of our imperfections connects us to each other. “Waitress” is a musical with plenty of flaws and a controversial storyline. As a married woman, I don’t find the love story between the doctor and the Jenna to be very appealing. It is hard to accept Jenna’s life choices until she reveals her little secret in the song “She Used to be Mine”. With those beautiful words, she accepts her imperfections, her fears, her pains and in return, we can accept her for who she really is and we can finally connect with her humanity, “she’s imperfect but she tries, she is good but she lies, she is hard on herself. She is broken and won't ask for help. She is messy but she's kind. She is lonely most of the time. She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie. She is gone but she used to be mine.” We are all broken in our own way, we just cope with our reality in different ways. 

Lyrics carry the plot in a musical, they set the tone and the pace in which the characters tell the story. There is a pivotal moment in a musical where the lead character has to take ownership of her or his destiny. A true lead character doesn’t let things happen to him/her but rather drives the change. In the new musical THE PROM, Emma seems like a very passive character letting things happen to her. She faces the criticism of her classmates and the PTA alone because her girlfriend doesn’t want people to know about their relationship. She lets the Broadway stars butt into her life and push her into doing something she is not comfortable with. There is a moment when everything changes and she takes charge of her destiny. She is sitting in her room and decides to do things “her own way”. The lyrics of “Unruly Heart” make it happen with words like And nobody out there ever gets to define, the life I meant to lead with this unruly heart of mine!”. We know in that moment, that no matter how hard life is going to be for this beautiful girl, she is going to be ok because she has the inner strength that gives her and all of us hope.

 

During the panel at SXSW, Laurence O’Keefe said something that caught my attention, "The best musicals have three tenets that engage the audience: a love story, a powerful message of change, survival, or overcoming adversity, and finally a story that starts on earth and ends in the Heavens.” As i look back at some of my favorite musicals, I can see it. The love story, the powerful message, and the feeling that life is about experiences, connections, and the beauty of being human with flaws, hopes, and a huge heart.

 

What are your favorite lyrics and why?

An ode to the lyricists: Bare: A Pop Opera. Lyrics by Jon Hartmere Jr. Heathers, The Musical. Lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe; Kevin Murphy Everybody Is Talking About Jamie. Lyrics by Tom MacRae Waitress. Lyrics by Sara Bareilles The Prom. Lyrics by Chad Beguelin

 

A Beautiful Dream: Anastasia on Broadway

Kelly Ostazeski
When I was a child, the movie Anastasia was released, and even in the months leading up to seeing the movie, I grew infatuated with the Romanov family and their story. A stage production wasn't even in my thoughts yet, as I had never even been to New York yet. I loved the movie, the score, and the happy ending it imagined for the lost grand duchess, but somehow I longed for more historical accuracy – even as a child.



 I'll never forget years later, when I was in a play production class (technical, business, and marketing aspects of theatre) in high school, we were directed to design a poster for a show to come to Broadway. I took this as an opportunity to imagine what Anastasia would be like on stage. I even started dream-casting people to take the roles from the movie – Bernadette Peters as Sophie and Angela Lansbury as the Dowager Empress, of course reprising their roles from the animated film. The crazy thing was, the poster I designed ended up looking a lot like the original poster for the Broadway production.


 I was overjoyed when it was announced that a stage adaptation was in the works – from the reading in 2012, to the workshop in 2015, and the Hartford premiere in 2016. This was a show I knew I'd have to see. Then they announced the casting for the Broadway production – and this was the first time I saw the name Christy Altomare. Little did I know the impact this show would have on me, and how much of a dream come true it would be, and how perfect Altomare would be as Anya.


 I noticed that they'd removed Rasputin and, I assumed, his song “In the Dark of the Night” from the score. I was actually really excited about that that. I'd always hated the character and his song as a child. I felt like he was unnecessarily gory and too scary for a children's movie. Plus, how would that translate to the stage?


 I was so glad when I found out that Gleb was the new villain, son of the Romanov's executioner, and a Bolshevik leader. They'd taken out the magical aspects and given the show more historical accuracy, just like I'd wanted. Even if recent reports came out and the real Anastasia was found, so it couldn't be completely accurate, I know.


 I got rush tickets one day in November of 2017, and saw the complete original Broadway cast. Altomare was marvelous and captured Anya's strength and sensitivity. Derek Klena was the perfect Broadway leading man. Ramin Karimloo was a perfect mix of alluring and dangerous as Gleb. Caroline O'Connor, whom I've loved since the movie Moulin Rouge!, was absoluely stunning as Countess Lily (Sophie in the movie). John Bolton was hilarious and perfect as Vlad. Mary Beth Peil was a wonderful Dowager and brought so much new depth to her.


 The new songs completely flowed into the story and felt like they'd always been there. When the spirits began to dance around the theatre during “Once Upon a December”, I'll never forget how my friend and I glanced at each other, wide eyed, and then we broke down into tears. The sobs continued to “Journey to the Past”. I never expected this much beauty, and how this show lived up to – and exceeded my expectations.


 Meeting Christy Altomare that first time was incredible. I tried to tell her how much the movie had meant to me and now, seeing it on Broadway was a dream come true. It truly was.


My next experience with this show live was last year at Feinstein’s/54 Below for the “Broadway Princess Party”, where Altomare and the singing voice of Anya in the movie, Liz Callaway, premiered their duet of “Journey to the Past”. It was incredible to hear these two beautiful voices blend, and to witness the shared joy between the two of them. I'm so glad they released the duet as a single.


It took me too long to return to the Broadhurst Theatre, and I don't know why. Somehow, I felt that the show would always be there, and become a staple for Broadway. I thought it would last at least six years or so, and that we'd see many Anyas cycle through the show. But perhaps Altomare was the only Anya meant for Broadway.


 I saw the show next in Baltimore, with the tour cast. It brought back my love for the show and I knew that I'd be seeing the show again soon on Broadway. I finally saw the show in January of 2019, when I was in town for BroadwayCon. Thank goodness Christy Altomare and John Bolton were still in the show, as well as delightful new additions Cody Simpson as Dmitry and Vicki Lewis as Lily.

 

Then they announced closing, and I knew I'd have to be there with the other fans to celebrate this incredible dream of a musical, and to see it one last time.

 

March 31, 2019. It was less than two weeks ago, but the memory still lives in me. The energy and emotions as we approached the theatre, seeing that marquee for the last time. The line was around the block to get in. The audience erupted in cheers and applause during the pre-show announcement. Every single character got entrance applause, usually reserved for “stars”. Standing ovations mid-show are rare, but Altomare earned them for “In My Dreams”, “Once Upon a December”, and “Journey to the Past”, and John Bolton and Vicki Lewis got their own for “The Countess and the Common Man”, which is still probably the funniest song I've ever seen performed. The cast was visibly crying during several moments, especially “Stay I Pray You”, and Altomare cried during “Journey to the Past”. It made it more...real, and more emotional for the audience. I know I cried quite a bit. I can't imagine there was a dry eye in that audience.

 

At the end of the show, the last lines held more weight and more meaning.

 

“The Dowager Empress: As of today, there will be no more Anastasias. The reward for her safe return will be given to charity.
Gleb: There never was an Anastasia. She was a dream.
The Dowager Empress: A beautiful dream.
Gleb:  A dream that only time will fade.
The Dowager Empress: So, no more talk of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov.
Gleb: The new order has no need for fairytales. The case is closed.
The Dowager Empress: Still...

            [Then the entire company joins with one final verse of ‘Once Upon a December.’]

 

Far away, long ago,
Glowing dim as an ember,
Things my heart used to know.
Once upon a December!
 

 

As of that day, there would be no more Anastasias at that theatre for sure, but she was more than a beautiful dream. Once upon a December, there was a beautiful adaptation of a beloved animated film that enchanted the Broadway stage, with an extraordinary cast of inspiring people. There was an actress named Christy Altomare who loved playing this princess and loved her fans and their enthusiasm so much, and touched the hearts of everyone who met her.

 

I couldn't have asked for anything better than this.

Why Your Theatre Should (and Probably Will) Perform Newsies

Taylor Lockhart
Okay it’s been nearly a year since I finished my run with Newsies and nearly two years since it started. I’ve definitely hinted at how much I love this musical in the past and how much my involvement in it meant to me. I now even have an unofficial twitter account promoting regional productions of the show and I look for every chance I get to see it. I’ve really thought hard about writing something about Newsies just about every month since last July but It’s really been hard to find something to write about. The story of the underdog musical that went from Disney flop to cult classic to musical that was only ever made to be licensed and then to of all places Broadway where it became one of Disney’s biggest musical hits is pretty well known at this point and it just doesn’t make sense in 2019 to talk about the history of musical that closed in 2016. I was pretty stumped until I took a look around me at the professional theatres, the community theatres, and the schools in my area many of which have or are going to do a production of Newsies. It came to my attention that this shows story is far from over and there’s a new phenomenon that is sweeping regional theatres all across the nation which I’m going to call Newsies-mania.

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I find it hard to believe at this point that there is absolutely anyone reading this who doesn’t know what Newsies is and/or has seen the show a hundred times. It was on Netflix for over a year and it doesn’t get much more accessible than that, but we here at the All Things Broadway Blog are accommodating to all types of people. So let’s discuss what Newsies is. Newsies is a 1992 movie and a 2012 Broadway musical about seventeen year old Jack Kelly who has dreams of moving out west to Santa Fe, New Mexico with his buddy Crutchie. His dreams are crushed when Joseph Pulitzer raises the price of papers for newsboy forcing them to pay more and sell more to gain any profit. Jack angered by this and inspired by a new boy Davey Jacob’s comments about the trolley strike rallies the newsies to stop selling papers and go on strike. A local upcoming reporter Katherine hears about this and wants to cover the story. The day comes and the Manhattan newsies completely on their own without the help of New York's other newsies teams thinks about calling it off until Davey and Jack inspire the boys to seize the day and go through with the strike. The newsies are successful against Pulitzer’s goons until the cops arrive and arrest crutchie forcing Jack to surrender back to his rooftop where he longs to escape New York and be in Santa Fe. Jack discouraged by the Newsies defeat goes back to raising money for Santa Fe. Meanwhile the newsies receive news from Katherine that their strike made the front page. Jack is confronted by Davey and Katherine who convince him to rejoin the strike and help plan a city wide rally where all the newsies can vote and have their voice heard. Jack takes information of the rally to Pulitzer where he is caught in a trap. He is put under arrest for previous crimes of theft and Katherine is revealed to be Pulitzer's daughter. Pulitzer offers Jack the money to travel to Santa Fe as well as his freedom if he betrays the newsies and speaks out against the strike. Jack is reluctant but agrees fearing if the strike continues that Davey and the other newsies will be arrested just as Crunchie was and they have no hope at all of beating Pulitzer. At the rally Jack speaks out against the strike and is publically handed his cash reward in front of all the other newsies. Jack retreats to his rooftop where Katherine is waiting for him. After confronting him about why he sold out the newsies Jack reveals he did it to protect them from Pulitzer. Katherine reveals her final plan in order to stop her father, a city wide newspaper published by the newsies with one of Pulitzer’s own old printing presses encouraging the children of the city to join in a city wide strike. Jack agrees to help and the two confess their love for each other. Later, In the basement of Pulitzers offices the newsies work together in order to publish and distribute their own newspaper. The children inspired by the paper join in the city wide strike and its success is something Pulitzer cannot ignore. The newsies along with the mayor and the governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt confront Pulitzer to lower the prices of papers once and for all. In the end Jack and Pulitzer come to a compromise that the prices are slightly lowered but newsies can sell back any paper they don’t sell. The deal is enormous and marks a major historical event in which a bunch of orphaned children were able to force something out of the most powerful man in the world. Jack decides to stay in New York with Katherine instead of moving out west and take a job a new job offer from Pulitzer. The strike over, the newsies return to carrying the banner man to man and soakin every sucker that they can. “Here’s the headline, newsies on a mission, kill the competition, sell the next edition. We’ll be out there carrying the banner, see us out there carrying the banner, always out there carrying the banner. *drum build up* Look at me-”

Um, sorry I got a little carried away there. I just really love this show.

So now if you didn’t already, you know what Newsies is and let me vouch that It’s some of the most fun you'll ever have at the theater. It’s probably soon to become beloved to many other people because as I mentioned previously so many people are putting on this show. The fact is Newsies is kinda a perfect show for regional theatres. That’s not saying Newsies itself is a perfect show. I’ll admit as much as the next guy that the Katherine and Jack relationship is very forced and I personally think that Crutchie is underutilized but neither here nor there. What I actually mean is that Newsies checks off just about everything you could want in choosing a show especially one for high schools. The show has a nice historical background that can teach kids important lessons grounded in actual reality. It has good music that isn’t too easy but also isn’t too challenging to learn and do especially if you have girls to fill in on some of the tenor’s ridiculously high parts. It’s family friendly while also not being directed solely at children and It’s has a good chance of selling tickets. While Newsies isn’t a household name the logo right above its own the “Disney’s”one is. It’s a guarantee to audiences that this show is going to be a nice family friendly show with a happy ending and family friendly shows generally sell better than non family friendly shows. That’s the exact reason if you look up the logo for The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical the Disney logo is notably absent. It’s not really in line with Disney’s brand. The only two things that really keep Newsies from being a perfect fit for high schools and community theatres is the choreography and massive need for boys. However following the shows closing both of those things can be tweaked for regional productions. The newsies are now generally played by both boys and girls with the role of Crutchie now able to be played by either gender. MTI officially lists that the main newsies are supposed to be boys but in most every regional production I’ve seen several of the main newsies, especially Specs have been played by girls. It really seems to be very loose with how genders must be portrayed and that leads to the need for boys not being such a big problem. You could probably have an ensemble ratio of 2-3 girls to 1 boy and no one’s going to think any different. It is even historically accurate that there were girl newsies. The other big problem is choreography. Newsies is incredibly well known for its insane dancers and it’s not possible to do the show without dance, however as I’ve seen more and more productions I’ve found it is possible to reduce how much is acquired and how challenging the dancing needs to be. The Newsies have to move in some way no matter how you do it but whether they need to be doing pierrettes or not is up to whoever’s choreographing the show. For example in the number “Carrying The Banner” I’ve seen most schools have smaller groups take center stage with more complex dance moves while the newsies in the background have their own conversations, tussles, swordfights what be it. The newsies would all come together in pivotal unison moments but they wouldn’t be doing anything near as complex. The two very big songs that require choreography are “Seize The Day” and “King Of New York” The two numbers both have long dance breaks so that’s the place where the show could be troubling. “King Of New York” while typically done as a tap number can also be done as a jazz number so that gives a bit more freedom. It’s not like if you tried to turn a tap number into a jazz number in 42nd Street. I personally think at all chances King Of New Yorkshould be a tap number because it gives a good contrast as the act two opener to Seize The Daywhich takes place right before the act one finale but I personally find tap the hardest thing in the world so if you're low on skilled tap dancers I could totally see the change being fit. It’s not essential to the show. Newsies does allow for some wiggle room in some songs  but is still going to be pretty dance intensive no matter how you do it but, I think it fits into a category where that could be seen by many theaters as a good challenge. I think Newsies is the perfect example of a show that offers a challenge while also being achievable by different levels of experience and skill.

With all this in mind it’s really not hard to see why there are so many theater companies and schools doing Newsies. There’s really only one more question to ask. Should your theater do Newsies? Well, I think without even knowing you or your theater I know they totally could and that is what makes this show so interesting to me. In my time running that Newsies account I mentioned I’ve seen pictures and videos from hundreds of productions with varying ages, genders, choreography and sets. I never touched on the sets but there’s so many different ways things could be built for this shows. I’ve seen shows with no towers, one tower, but often three towers. Sometimes those towers move and sometimes there just a unit set. I even saw one production where there were no towers and just one big ramp. I thought it was really cool the different ways people see and interpret this show. Truth be told I could’ve written entire articles on the new portrayal of genders in this show or the interpretation of different settings in a variety of musicals not just Newsies but, I chose to do more of this blanket topic. I think what makes a show perfect for licensing is that it can be done in a variety of ways, by a variety of people, on a variety of budgets. There’s a reason that Newsies is Number 3 on MTI’s trending musicals. It’s only beaten out by Matilda and Mamma Mia which are both newer releases and both similarly good flexible regional shows.. It’s a good family friendly show that could pose as an interesting but achievable challenge to students, a good show that can be done without spending an arm or a leg by community theatres, and a great sure to sell addition to a professional theatre’s season. Newsies may have had a rough start but was a massive hit on broadway and now that it’s hit the public it doesn’t seem to be letting up. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing many more productions of this show for many years to come. They weren't kidding when they said “Newsies Forever”.

With that, the main article is done. You can leave if you want to or if you’re really busy and I’ve been keeping you. My apologies but thanks for reading. I’ve been Taylor you’ve been you and I’ll see you all next month.

Now I want to talk about the Newsies fanbase. I myself am a registered member. I got a little card and everything, but I find it incredible that the fanbase of this show is still so active and strong after about 7 years. It’s kinda hard to tell now because the Newsies tags on Twitter and Facebook are filled with people advertising for their local shows but once upon a long time ago in 2018 these tags we’re still getting a ton of tweets by the hour from the fansies alone. That’s the name of the fans. It’s better than Whovians if you ask me. I honestly could make a whole article on its own discussing the wild world that is Newsies fanfiction and you can probably guarantee that there will still be Jack x Crutchie stories updating in the year 2029. I only hope Beetlejuice gets this popular because I really want to make an article about Beetle-Mania in a few years maybe even around the same time I’ll get to talk about a Newsies revival. Who knows, only time will tell but if you’re reading from the future after you saw me yell in a post about how I predicted a Newsies revival, comment down below “I’m from the future and we don’t have flying cars yet but we do have Cats 2”.

What’s that? You want to join the Newsies fandom? Well have I got a deal for you because for the first time since that Shrek 2 article we don’t talk about it’s the triumphant return of the end segment, “The Upcoming Productions. Catch it now before it disappears for another 4 articles. To show just how many people are doing Newsies I’m going to give you 50 upcoming productions of Newsies for 50 states. Scroll down and find your state unless you’re from Wyoming or Hawaii. Sorry your states hate fun and those only scratch the surface. Visit https://www.mtishows.com/newsies-0 and scroll down to the upcoming tab to find a show near you. There are literally hundreds.

Alabama

Newsies @ Spark Theatre Company May 29th-June 1st https://www.sparktheatercompany.com/

Alaska

Newsies @ Nikiski Middle/High School April 26th-May 4th

https://www.facebook.com/triumviratetheater/app/190322544333196/

Arizona

Newsies @ Mingus Union High School April 12th-14th https://www.mingusperformingarts.com/

Arkansas

Newsies @ Young Actors Guild July 11th-14th

http://weareyag.com/events

California

Newsies @ Roger’s Rocka’s Dinner Theatre   Present-July 14th

https://rogerrockas.com/shows/categories/roger-rockas/

Colorado

Newsies @ Pittsburg Community Theatre July 18th-21st

http://www.pctinfo.org/

Connecticut

Newsies @ Broad Brook Opera House May 3rd-19th

http://www.operahouseplayers.org/

Delaware

Newsies @ Delaware's Children Theatre January 11th-February 2nd 2020

http://www.dechildrenstheatre.org/

Florida

Newsies @ Osceola Arts July 12th-August 4th

http://osceolaarts.org/2018-19-theatre-season.html

Georgia

Newsies @ St. Mary’s Children Theatre October 18th-27th

https://www.stmaryschildrenstheatre.com/past-productions

Idaho

Newsies @ Music Theatre Of Idaho October 24th-26th

https://www.broadwaynampa.org/copy-of-2018-musicals

Illinois

Newsies @ The Little Theatre On The Square July 7th-18th

http://www.thelittletheatre.org/

Indiana

Newsies @ The Civic Theatre April 26th-May 11th

https://www.civictheatre.org/

Iowa

Newsies @ Des Moines Playhouse July 12th- August 4th

https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events-and-shows

Kansas

Newsies @ Salina Theatre  June 7th-30th

http://salinatheatre.com/project/disneysnewsies-the-musical/

Kentucky

Newsies @ Derby Dinner Playhouse   Present-May 19th

https://derbydinner.com/show/newsies/

Louisiana

Newsies @ Baton Rouge Theatre June 14th-30th

http://theatrebr.org/disneysnewsies.html

Maine

Newsies @ Windham Center Stage Theatre May 24th-June 2nd

https://windhamtheater.org/Shows/newsies.htm

Maryland

Newsies @ Children’s Playhouse Of Maryland May 4th-18th

http://www.cpmarts.org/

Massachusetts

Newsies @ Company Theatre April 18th-28th

https://www.companytheatre.com/

Michigan

Newsies @ Grand Rapids Civic Theatre May 31st-June 23rd

https://www.grct.org/plays-box-office/current-season/

Minnesota

Newsies @ Paradise Center For The Arts September 13th-22nd

https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=pcfta

Mississippi

Newsies @ Lynn Meadows Discovery Center July 17th-21st

http://lmdc.org/classes-camps/wings-performing-arts-2/

Missouri

Newsies @ Southeast Missouri June 12th-23rd

https://rivercampus.org/upcoming-events/

Montana

Newsies @ Missoula Children’s Theatre April 25th-May 12th

http://mctinc.org/

Nebraska

Newsies @ Crane River Theater June 25th-August 4th

http://cranerivertheater.org/newsies/

Nevada

Newsies @ Signature Productions April 2nd-27th

http://www.signatureproductions.net/

New Hampshire

Newsies @ Peacock Players May 10th-19th

https://peacockplayers.org/

New Jersey

Newsies @ Algonquin Theatre Arts July 13th-July 28th

https://www.algonquinarts.org/calendar.php?s=5

New Mexico

Newsies @ July 12th-13th

http://waywayoffbroadway.com/box-office/

New York

Newsies @ Plays In The Park July 10th-July 20th

http://www.middlesexcountynj.gov/About/ParksRecreation/Pages/PIP/CurrentSeason.aspx

North Carolina

Newsies @ Yadkin Arts Center July 26th-28th

https://www.yadkinarts.org/events-tickets/?_page=2

North Dakota

Newsies @ Sleepy Hollow Summer Theatre July 9-18th

http://www.shst.org/productions.php

Ohio

Newsies @ La Comedia Dinner Theatre April 18th-June 6th

http://lacomedia.com/

Oklahoma

Newsies @ Lyric Theatre July 9th-14th

https://lyrictheatreokc.com/shows/newsies/

Oregon

Newsies @ Thoroughly Modern Productions August 16th-25th

http://thoroughlymodernprod.com/productions-auditions/

Pennsylvania

Newsies @ Millbrook Playhouse July 12th-21st

http://www.millbrookplayhouse.net/disneys-newsies/

Rhode Island

Newsies @ Theatre By The Sea July 17th-August 10th

https://www.theatrebythesea.com/2019.html

South Carolina

Newsies @ Village Square Theatre May 1st-17th 2020

http://www.villagesquaretheatre.com/season.html

South Dakota

Newsies @ O’gorman High School April 30th-May 4th

https://ogorman.sfcss.org/activities-athletics/performing-arts/theatre-2

Tennessee

Newsies @ Millenium Rep August 2nd-11th

https://www.millenniumrep.org/2019-season

Texas

Newsies @ San Angelo PAC May 10th-12th

https://www.sanangelopac.org/Online/default.asp

Utah

Newsies @ Hale Theatre  Present-April 20th

http://www.haletheater.org/

Vermont

Newsies @ Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School May 10th-11th

Virginia

Newsies @ SPARC July 26th-28th

https://www.sparcrichmond.org/tickets/

Washington

Newsies @ Numerica PAC May 1st-12th

http://www.numericapac.org/

West Virginia

Newsies @ Robert C Byrd High School April 12th-14th

https://www.facebook.com/RCBTheatre/

Wisconsin

Newsies @ Verona Area Community Theater April 25th-28th

https://www.vact.org/upcoming-schedule-1/2019/4/25/newsies

 

 

 






Be More Chill Has Too Much Chill

Darren Wildeman

One of the shows that has been under the most scrutiny since it announced a Broadway run is the musical Be More Chill with music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz. It has a science fiction theme and has a very rabid fan base. However, it has also faced plenty of scrutiny over if the show is appropriate for Broadway, and people not being sure how it is going to do. Many people hope it succeeds; however, it also has a very large number of detractors. I’m not going to be talking about the plot and music of Be More Chill as much. Rather, I’m going to analyze the opinions surrounding this show, how this show will do, and why or why not it might be fit for Broadway. Instead of exploring the show itself I’m going to explore how polarizing this show is, why that might be, and why in general a lot of people see it as a potential flop when so many others think it deserves Best Musical at the Tony Awards this spring. This article isn’t meant to trash Be More Chill or to burn it to the ground. If it can be successful in some capacity the more power to it, and the people working on it. However, there are some major concerns for this show and its life in my opinion.


The first thing to acknowledge is that Be More Chill does have a large fan base. To deny that there aren’t fans and try to say no one likes it is 100% promoting a false dichotomy. However, part of the issue lies with who this fan base is. Be More Chill’s fan base is largely comprised of teenagers, and younger people all around the country. This is fine, in fact a musical that appeals to the younger fans is kind of neat. However, this is also what is hurting Be More Chill. Unlike Dear Evan Hansen (more on the comparisons between these shows later) or Hamilton, Be More Chill almost only appeals to the younger audience at times. And for the most part, young people aren’t the people who can afford to go to the theatre, and obviously the vast majority of America does not live in or near New York City, so the show is not able to be viewed by the many other fans it does have. That’s the problem with appealing to a somewhat limited demographic. There aren’t as many people. And this limited demographic also appeals to my next point.

For some reason Be More Chill gets constant comparisons to Dear Evan Hansen. However, that is an awful comparison in my opinion. The two shows aren’t even in the same area code. Dear Evan Hansen deals with mental illness, and the impact our words and actions can have. Dear Evan Hansen is a much more maturely written musical. I’m not saying that to crap on Be More Chill but I don’t think it can be argued. It’s teaches lessons, and has very well written adult characters. In short, it has more things that would appeal to a more mature audience. The story is also SO different that I don’t think you can even make a fair comparison to Be More Chill. The reason I bring this up is because people will point to Dear Evan Hansen’s success at both the Tony’s and commercially. But these shows are so far different that this isn’t a fair comparison at all.

If we’re going to compare Be More Chill to anything it would probably be Little Shop of Horrors because of the sci-fi camp vibe. However, Little Shop of Horrors while being campy and cheesy at times has the spectacle that some theatre goers look for, while still having characters and moments that will still resonate with a broader audience. Be More Chill, while it does some things well it just doesn’t have that mass appeal. It’s a niche show that while appeals to some, doesn’t have the writing nor the qualities that the larger audience looks for.

Some would look at the minimalistic staging, some might even call it intimate. They might argue that the minimalistic staging works because shows like Once, and last year’s big Tony winner The Band’s Visit have the same minimal staging properties. However, I don’t think I need to tell you the difference here. Those shows have much more mature writing and the staging works with the story in totally different ways. Minimal staging does not immediately mean it’s a really well-done intimate show.

In fact, in many cases it’s much better for an intimate show to stay Off-Broadway. Shows like Once and The Band’s Visit are exceptions. That’s not to say that every small show with a niche audience appeal should stay Off-Broadway; however, Off-Broadway theatres have the type of atmosphere about them where these types of shows tend to do much better. So many shows that are Off-Broadway have the vibe about them that Be More Chill has; and unless a show has superior writing or a quality about it that puts it over the top a show is generally much better suited to stay Off-Broadway. Honestly going to Broadway can absolutely swallow a show like Be More Chill whole and it will get lost.

Also, if the show flops on Broadway that could kill its chance of coming back and having success in an Off-Broadway theatre. Not a lot of shows make the transition back Off-Broadway if it goes to Broadway.  There is a chance that it could have success as a touring show so it could be more accessible to its younger fan base. However, for a show like this going to Broadway is a huge risk and I don’t really see it paying off. A move like this could literally kill the show outright.

One could even argue that Be More Chill could have gone for some spectacle and been successful. The issue is that would greatly change the vision of the show but again I go back to Little Shop of Horrors. That is not a small stage show, it does have some stripped-down qualities but it also has some spectacle. And spectacle can cover a lot of miscues in writing. I don’t think Wicked is an awful musical; however, it certainly has writing flaws that are covered up by the stage presence of the show. Bringing some of that stage presence could have possibly helped Be More Chill in its move to Broadway.

However, it is obvious that Be More Chill wanted to go with the small musical/intimate vibe. However, it just doesn’t have the audience appeal or extreme high-quality writing or story telling that is going to bring it over the edge like the smaller shows such as Once or The Band’s Visit. All in all, I think Be More Chill has bitten off more than it can chew, and I’d be concerned about the ultimate survival of this show in any capacity once it is done on Broadway.

Top 5 Fox Movies That Should Get a Stage Adaptation

Taylor Lockhart



If you’re living under a rock then you might not have heard that Disney has officially acquired Twentieth Century Fox, an acquisition that means the X-Men and Fantastic Four can now join the Avengers, that Anastasia is now technically a Disney princess and that Jekyll and Hyde The Musical is now apart of Disney Theatricals. Yes, I hear you saying right now, “That’s not how producing companies work at all!” You would be right but the prospect of seeing a Fun Home revival helmed by Disney is so incredible that I’m okay with being wrong. With all this being said I thought it was the perfect time to revisit one of my older articles in which I talked about my “Top 9 Disney Movies that Should Get a Stage Adaptation”. Keep in mind that Disney Theatricals is the same company that made an animated movie specifically so it could be adapted for the stage then let it sit in Germany for like 15 years and then finally brought it over to the United States just to decide after two playhouse runs to do absolutely nothing with it but the adaptation of a movie that flopped so hard it won a Razzie and was only ever intended to be made for licensing ended up becoming one of the biggest broadway hits of the last decade. In short, they are absolutely unpredictable. They may not even use any of their new Fox properties or just immediately go ahead with one of them like The Princess Bride or something right out of the gate. I mean who honestly knows. This is all just for fun so if you disagree feel free to let me know but chances are you won’t have to hear about many of these any time soon. So without any further ado here are the Top 5 Fox movies I would live to see made into stage adaptations. Why not 9 you like last time? Sorry, we’ve had some budget cuts. Anyways, Let’s go!



#5 Home Alone

The Number 5 spot on my list goes to the Home Alone series of movies. I can’t personally imagine what a Home Alone musical would sound like and how it would be brought to life but it’s one of those franchises I can look at and see the serious possibility of it happening. Home Alone is something years later people still know and love and probably watch at least once or twice every christmas. It’s kinda surprising as far as I know no one has ever brought up the idea of a musical adaptation. I’m not saying this should happen and personally it’s not one that I think broadway needs to see but with the success of A Christmas Story, Elf, and others like it it’s not hard to see that Home Alone certainly is one of the most adaptable properties on this list that’s sure to turn a profit. I think it could be fun and it would certainly be interesting to see Kevin Mcallister's crazy traps come to life on stage. I think it would need an update to the story in order to bring it up to a two act show but there’s some material for something magical if done correctly. In any case it’s a well known story that would make an excellent children's musical to tour during winter like some of the other musicals I mentioned currently do.



#4 Mrs. Doubtfire

Come on, do I even have to say why the Robin Williams movie would make a perfect show? We’ve seen crossdressing done tons of times before on Broadway like with Mrs. Trunchbull in Matilda, and Mrs. Doubtfire would bring a new version of that which we haven't seen yet. There’s enough material there to adapt into two acts and room for some incredibly heartfelt songs. Luckily for me, I’m not the only one who thinks this as a Mrs. Doubtfire musical is in the making and may be on Broadway very soon.



#3 Alien

No, no no no no no no no...No! I’m not talking about an Alien musical. Good lord, No, that is the single worst idea I’ve ever heard. Instead, I’m talking about a straight play stage adaptation. If you’re invested into the theatre scene than odds are you have seen the school that recently put on a play adaptation of the Alien film, North Bergen High School. It’s really well done and a friendly reminder that high schools are capable of doing some really cool things and that the arts in schools should be given more money to work with!

(Hey a little pause real quick, I do feel the need to acknowledge, though because many other blogs and news articles haven’t, that unauthorized adaptations are illegal and while in this case the creators were cool enough not to take legal action, that’s not always the case. This is an incredibly cool production and you should celebrate it for all it’s worth but I would be wrong to just ignore the fact that if you now want to stage an adaptation of a movie for yourself and sell tickets for it as apart of your school's season it’s against the law and you shouldn’t do that. Thanks! Now back to the article!)

It’s really blown up and has me rewatching the film and considering the possibility of an adaptation coming to life on stage. We’ve seen just how poorly action musicals work like with Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark but the movie has enough really good scenes to make an incredible suspenseful action play. We’ve already seen from shows like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that plays can have fantasy settings So why not a sci-fi one? If done right it’s possible to do more imaginative concepts with straight plays like Alien really well. I’ll admit fear nothing more than a million movie adaptations filling Broadway …(well maybe wasps. I’m pretty afraid of wasps) but a somewhat interactive experience reliving the Alien films live could be awesome and successful. Musicals have had the chance to get incredibly creative as we can see this year with shows like Beetlejuice but plays are often stuck in the real world with very few plays experimenting with Imaginative concepts like this one. I think if done right and those are the key words, If done right these high schoolers could be on to a pretty good idea and a new live big budget version of Alien could terrify audiences who have now lost the ability to hide behind a screen.


#2 Deadpool

Deadpool is the musical comedy we absolutely need. Deadpool is such a stretchable character you could do literally anything. Any story, any type of music, anything. A Deadpool musical sounds incredibly stupid and that is why it’s a really good idea because Deadpool works best in the exact places you never thought he could. It would be really nice to have a “go get drunk and then see a funny show” type of musical that doesn’t take itself seriously and Deadpool would be right in his element breaking the fourth wall with the audience. You could even have the character call people out for bootlegging the show, this script practically writes itself. I personally think that Deadpool would be a lot like the Beetlejuice musical is right now with him being a fourth wall breaking narrator figure but even crazier and even funnier. Okay, I’m going to pitch you an idea right now and you tell me if it doesn’t sound like the most amazing experience you could possibly have ever. A revival of Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark except the “Spiderman” part is crossed out and Deadpool is written in and “Turn Off The Dark” is modified to be some sort of sexual pun. I can’t think of one but just imagine with me for a second. It follows the storyline and songs of Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark except narrated by Deadpool who makes fun of the musical while constantly derailing it into directions the entire time. It’s hilarious for broadway fans and the script is written so that anyone out of the loop can still enjoy the hell out deadpools quips. Now that is a show I would pay some good money to see. I’m talking Hamilton money. I would pay Hamilton money to see that show.

#1 The Greatest Showman

It’s really not a question is it. The Greatest Showman was made to be adapted for the stage and is almost certainly going to be at some point. I don’t think I need to spend even a second explaining why it would work so well or if it would be profitable because it would and it has. I think it’s need some adapting to make it work but It’s undeniable that The Greatest Showman would work on Broadway. It would be nice to see a full musical with a story that uses tricks from Cirque du Soleil. Hell, perhaps Cirque du Soleil could be a producer and help make this musical one of the biggest and best broadway has ever seen. Maybe with Hugh Jackman returning to Broadway with The Music Man you could see him once he’s done there reprising his role to do the musical on Broadway. I wouldn’t bet on it but you can certainly bet that The Greatest Showman is coming.

Well, that’s my list. Let me know if I should do another sometime regarding a different studio. At some point I’d like to talk about books that I think should have musical adaptations since those feel so much more original than movie adaptations and while it’s fun to speculate I can say I’d rather more original works appearing on stage in the future. I hope to see you again in about a month but remember that we publish articles every Monday and Thursday. If you didn’t like me then chances are you might like one of the other writers and what they have to say. Thank you for taking your time and reading and I hope you all have wonderful rests of March. I’ve been Taylor and you’ve been you and I’ll see all next month, goodbye.






Broadway's Leading Ladies: Donna Murphy

Kelly Ostazeski

Career highlights:

Donna Murphy was born on March 7, 1959 in Queens and was raised in New York and Massachusetts. She attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and studied with Stella Adler and at the Lee Strasburg Institute before dropping out after her sophomore year to audition.

 

She made her Broadway debut in They’re Playing Our Song as an understudy, then appeared off-Broadway in Francis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Birds of Paradise, and Privates on Parade. Her breakout roles were in the off-Broadway musicals Song of Singapore and Hello Again. She appears on the Hello Again cast recording.

 

In 1994 she was honored with the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her role as Fosca in Stephen Sondheim’s Passion. She became lifelong friends with her co-star, Marin Mazzie. Murphy won her second Tony Award in 1996 for her role of Anna Leonowens in a revival of The King and I, opposite Lou Diamond Philips.

 

Murphy took a break from the Broadway stage and switched over to film and television, and appeared in Star Trek Insurrection as Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)’s love interest Anij, in The Nanny Diaries as Scarlett Johanssen’s mother, Spider Man 2 as Rosalie Octavius, and the iconic dance movie Center Stage as ballet teacher Juliette Simone.

 

She returned to the Broadway stage in 2003, where she appeared as Ruth Sherwood in the revival of Wonderful Town. This performance earned her a third Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk award. In 2007 she starred as Lotte Lenya opposite Michael Cerveris’s Kurt Weill, and received another Tony Nomination. She won the Drama Desk Award for playing Lenya, tying with Audra McDonald. She also appeared in the Encores! Production of Follies as Phyllis Rogers Stone. She performed Phyllis’s iconic song “Could I Leave You” at Stephen Sondheim’s birthday concert as well.

 

In 2011, Murphy appeared in The People in the Picture on Broadway, earning another Tony nomination. Also that year, she voiced the new Disney villain Mother Gothel in Tangled.  She has returned to voice Mother Gothel for the Tangled television series and for the video game Kingdom Hearts 3. The next year she appeared on stage in Central Park as the Witch in Into the Woods.

 

Murphy was cast in the PBS series Mercy Street, set during the Civil War. The show lasted for two seasons, ending in 2017.

 

In 2017 she returned to Broadway as Bette Midler’s alternate in the title role of Hello, Dolly! She played the role on Tuesday evenings and during Bette’s scheduled vacations. She left the production in January of 2018, and returned later as Bette’s alternate on Sunday matinees (and one Monday evening) for six more performances in the summer of 2018, playing her final show on August 20, 2018.

 

On October 22, 2018, the Abingdon Theatre Company honored Murphy and her career with a special gala and performance of the musical Closer Than Ever. She is set to appear in a new movie called Anastasia, about the Russian Grand Duchess, but unrelated to the Broadway musical or animated film. She reprised her role of Mother Gothel in the Disney video game Kingdom Hearts III.

 

Fun facts:

•         Murphy is the eldest of seven children

•         She was married to actor Shawn Elliott until his death in 2016. The two adopted a daughter from Guatemala. She is also the stepmother to Elliot’s two daughters.

•         Her television appearances include The Blacklist, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Murder One, What About Joan? (series regular), Ugly Betty, The Day Lincoln Was Shot (television movie), Royal Pains, and many more.

•         She won a Daytime Emmy Award for the television movie Someone Had to Be Benny, part of the series Life Stories: Families in Crisis.

•         Her other films include The Bourne Legacy, Dark Horse, No Pay Nudity, Higher Ground, World Trade Center, The Fountain, and The Astronaut’s Wife

 

Social media:

Facebook Page (Unverified): Donna Murphy (OfficialDonnaMurphyPage)

Twitter: @DMurphyOfficial
Instagram: @officialdonnamurphy

 

Songs to listen to:

“I Read” – Passion: Original Broadway Cast Recording
“Hello, Young Lovers” – The King and I: 1996 Broadway Revival Cast

“One Hundred Easy Ways” – Wonderful Town: 2003 Broadway Revival Cast

“Mother Knows Best” – Tangled

“Selective Memory” – The People in the Picture: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Tripping Over My Own Feet as I Go Fleetingly Down Memory Lane

By Grumpy Olde Guy® (a/k/a Michael Kape)

One thing I hate more than seeing bad theatre (and I’ve seen a lot of bad theatre) is moving (one of life’s great traumas, I’m told, along with losing a spouse—which has also happened to me; more about that shortly). Right now, I’m pulling up stakes and leaving my cozy retirement abode in Palm Springs to face life again in New York City (sounds crazy, but I’m not known for my rational, sane moments; if anyone has a lead on an apartment, let me know—please!).

The realtor is on my case to “declutter” my place. I mean, how can you declutter decades of memories—some even older than me (if that’s even possible)? As I write this, I’ve just packed away 60 some odd years’ worth of Playbills and theatre programs. Those are NOT clutter! I swear they are not clutter. You might as well say my right arm is clutter. (Okay, it does get in the way sometimes, but I still need it. I need my programs and Playbills.)


Playbills.jpg

Theatre has always been a part of my life—good, bad, or indifferent, it’s always been there for me. Even in the worst of times. I have had a worst of times: My partner of 23 years died in my arms on Thursday, March 27, 2008. It was all kind of sudden—and devastating (my collapse in the hospital after it happened was something out of a bad Lifetime movie). The worst [expletive deleted] moment of my life. So, what did I do? A week later, I was at New York City Opera seeing a production of Candide directed by an old friend from college. (Artie never could direct comedy, and I walked at intermission—probably because it wasn’t funny, and I just wasn’t in the mood yet for bad theatre.)

Don’t think of this as cold-hearted. If the situation had been reversed, my late partner would have been at the theatre too.

Over the next few weeks, I grew increasingly morose (understandable under the circumstances) yet continued to go to the theatre as often as I could. This was New York City, and you could get tickets to everything from the flashiest and most-expensive Broadway shows to an Off-Off-Broadway show presented in a loft. Tickets could be had for cheap from the seat filler services (Theatermania Gold Club, Play-By-Play, etc.). And in truth, I just couldn’t face the prospect of going home to an empty apartment every night. Could you?

The research psychiatrist in the office next to mine saw me one day (had I been crying?) and said, “You look terrible. I’m sending you to see my friend Bill.” He did. Turns out Bill was the leading psychoanalyst in New York City. He listened to me talk for 45 minutes and then said, “You don’t need me. You just need to remember three words: MAKE NEW MEMORIES.” And so I did—seeing as much theatre as I possibly could. A total of 245 shows in the space of 12 months. Sometimes three shows on weekdays and five on weekends. Making new memories.

Except now, in packing away those Playbills in anticipation for my move home, I discovered I’d lost a lot of those new memories. Yikes. It isn’t Alzheimer’s, I swear. I was tested six months ago and ended up showing the doctor where he was wrong. Okay, I’m still a smartass. But as someone who used to educate doctors (yeah, me with a degree in theatre), I know when I’m right.

I’ve culled several Playbills from the bad years to try to remember something about the shows my memory has lost. Some of them featured well-known names in the cast. Some of them are just not memorable. So, I’m hoping some of you can help. These are from my bad period. Do you know them? And if you were connected to any of them, my apologies in advance.

·         A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick, Playwrights Horizons. It had an interesting set. That’s all I can remember.

·         All New People, Second Stage Theatre. Remember Zach Braff from Scrubs? He branched out into writing, first a movie, Garden State, and then this play. All I can remember about this piece is my friend Dean was the general manager. That’s kind of sad.

·         Antony and Cleopatra, New York City Opera. This piece by Samuel Barber has an interesting history. It was written for the opening of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. It received terrible reviews then and was largely forgotten. New York City Opera was having a bad time; it had lost use of its home for a year (while it was being reconstructed). So, it resurrected Antony and Cleopatra in a staged concert at Carnegie Hall. Sometimes, things are better left dead. The first act was painful, which is all I remember of it now. But the most memorable thing about the night was intermission, when half the audience ran in droves for the exits, never to return for the second act. I was right there with them.

·         Boy’s Life, Second Stage Theatre. Featured Jason Biggs, Betty Gilpin. Directed by Michael Greif. No clue.

·         Compulsion, The Public Theater. I don’t remember this at all, despite it starring Mandy Patinkin with direction by Oskar Eustis.

·         Cradle and All, Manhattan Theatre Club. Written by Daniel Goldfarb. I think I vaguely remember something about two parents who can’t handle a screaming baby.

·         Dust at Westside Theatre. I should really be ashamed of myself. I actually saw this opening night. It starred Richard Masur (who was a couple of classes ahead of me in college) and Hunter Foster (post-Urinetown and pre-[title of show]). My friend Hugh was promoting it. Again, I remember nothing about it.

·         Exit the King by Eugene Ionesco. The buzz was super strong about this production. It starred Geoffrey Rush, Susan Sarandon, Lauren Ambrose, and Andrea Martin. What could go wrong? Even my BFF was urging me to go from the other side of the country. I took my friend Jill (a big macher in the Fringe Festival) to see it with me. I don’t remember much about it because the creative team managed to take fascinating Ionesco and make it sleep-inducing.

·         Kin, Playwrights Horizons. Featured Bill Buell. Directed by Sam Gold. I’ve got nothing.

·         Made in Heaven at Soho Playhouse. Nothing. I do know my friend Hugh was promoting it. Maybe I should ask him.

·         Mindgame at Soho Playhouse. One of the lead producers was Michael Butler, the original producer of Hair on Broadway. The lead was Keith Carradine (The Will Rogers Follies). The direction was by Ken Russell—yes, that Ken Russell—in his first break from directing movies. Can’t remember it at all.

·         Romantic Poetry, Manhattan Theatre Club. Actually, I do remember some things about this one, mostly it being one of the most misbegotten ideas for a musical, with book, lyrics, and direction by John Patrick Shanley, and music by Henry Krieger. Mark Linn-Baker was in the cast. It was not a good evening of theatre, sad to say. It was Mr. Shanley’s first—and last—outing with a musical.

·         Séance on a Wet Afternoon, New York City Opera. Libretto, lyrics, music, and orchestration by Stephen Schwartz. Let’s put it this way: this production is what killed New York City Opera. Really. It wasn’t long but felt like it went on for two weeks instead of two hours. It was extremely expensive for City Opera to produce. It just was not good. It just was not memorable. It was the final dagger in the back of City Opera (which had just one good production that entire season, and this wasn’t it). BTW, this is not me being vindictive about Mr. Schwartz (I have plenty of reasons for that); this is about a substandard piece of work.

·         Side Effects, MCC Theatre. For those of us of a certain age (i.e., children of the ’60s), Moonchildren by Michael Weller was an anthem play. It defined us in so many ways. Alas, not even Joely Richardson and Cotter Smith could make this piece by Weller register in our brains.

·         The Book of Grace, The Public Theatre. Written by Suzan-Lori Parks. Nope. Nothing. Completely gone from my memory banks.

·         The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, The Public Theatre. The cast included such notables as Michael Cristofer, Steven Pasquale, and Stephen Spinella. Direction by Michael Greif. Written by Tony Kushner. All I can remember is being incredibly bored and looking at my watch—a lot. Not one of Mr. Kushner’s better efforts (I think I’m being kind but I’m not sure).

·         The Kid, The New Group. I remember the build-up of this musical, based on the book by Dan Savage. It starred Christopher Sieber (pre-Shrek) and Jill Eikenberry. The New Group invited subscribers to a talk-back with the creative team before the show opened. Directed by Scott OMG Elliott. Do I remember anything about it? The set is about it.

·         The Language of Trees, Roundabout Underground. This is embarrassing for me. I received an email from Roundabout thanking me for the lovely comments I made after seeing the show. I don’t remember the comments. I don’t remember the show. Help!

·         The Other Place, MCC Theater. This is one show I really do want to remember better. It starred Laurie Metcalf in a stunning performance as a woman losing her mind. It was directed by Joe Mantello (one of his best efforts). I just wish I could remember it. I do recall walking out of the Lucille Lortel Theatre sobbing.

·         The People in the Picture, Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54. I know it’s a play about the Holocaust. It starred Donna Friggin’ Murphy, and featured Alexander Gemignani, Lewis J. Stadlen, and Joyce Van Patten. It was a musical, but I can’t recall a single song from it. (Some of the songs were in Yiddish, if that helps.)

* * *

And that’s only half of the Playbills I culled. I’ll spare you the rest. It does go to show some talented people can do some terrible things when they try (not intentionally, of course). And if you remember any of these better than I do, please let me know.

I guess this proves there is such a thing as seeing too much theatre. I know there is such a thing as seeing too little. A co-worker of mine during this period boasted how he had only seen three live theatre performances in his life. When I told him I had seen five in one weekend, he looked at me like I was out of my mind. Maybe I was. Maybe I still am. To wit: For four years I took a generic blood pressure medication called valsartan. This generic was manufactured in a Chinese factory and distributed in the United States by three different companies (one of which was an old client of mine).

Last July, I started having horrible spasms, sometimes violent, for no apparent reason. Having done years of medical research for work, I started on a quest to find out the cause. I plowed through tons of medical literature, touching briefly on a study done by Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in 1999. It mentioned a mere 22 cases uncovered in the course of the study, all causing a rare form of Tourette’s Syndrome due to a poisonous substance known as NDMA. It was interesting but of no help to me—or so I thought. Then I received a letter from my pharmacy. The valsartan I had been taking was tainted with NDMA. A doctor on the same campus as La Jolla Playhouse (where a few of us recently saw the premiere of a new musical, Diana) finally diagnosed me as someone living with Tourette.

My biggest fear about having Tourette isn’t the spasms. I don’t do the verbal (so no inappropriate cussing). No, my biggest fear is I wouldn’t be able to go to the theatre anymore because my episodes would be disruptive to the rest of the audience (and I’d be asked to leave). For me not to be able to go to the theatre any more? A fate worse than death. Really. So far, knock on wood, I can control the spasms pretty well (not completely) and I’m still attending. Go figure.

 

(Grumpy Olde Guy® a/k/a Michael Kape has haunted so many theatres he’s applying for membership in the Theatre Ghost Society. He has been known to use theatre as therapy when his world is at its darkest.)

Rodgers and Hammerstein? No Thanks.

By Grumpy Olde Guy® (a/k/a Michael Kape)

When I was three years old (yes, I really was—once in 1957), my mother, the late, great Frumah Sara(h), bought me a box of 45 rpm records filled with Rodgers and Hammerstein for Children. And I played those 45s until they wore out—even the songs from Pipe Dream and Me and Juliet and Allegro. No Flower Drum Song or The Sound of Music; those had not been written yet.

Got older, wiser, and learned a thing or two along the way. Played the Professor in South Pacific in my junior (and last) year in high school. Did my senior thesis in college about the impact of Oklahoma! on American musical theatre. Actually saw productions of Allegro, Me and Juliet, and (*gasp*) Pipe Dream. Cringed through the stage version of The Sound of Music (a/k/a Life With Father in Austria). Read the biographies of both men as well as Musical Stages, Richard Rodgers’ autobiography. Was even accused of reporting a wayward production of Oklahoma! to the R&H Library (it was indeed wayward—setting the show in a rehearsal hall on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed; don’t ask but we at Atlanta Theatre Weekly carried the review in 1997).

No one can say what I’m about to discuss comes from a place of ignorance.

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I was maybe 10 years old; the television remake of Cinderella was airing (with Lesley Ann Warren in the title role). She starts singing, “In my own little corner,” and I remark to my family (gathered around our giant 24-inch RCA color television at the time), “That sounds just like all the other Rodgers and Hammerstein songs!” Same exact music. Same cadence. My 10-year-old self had called it. It’s pretty damn sad when a 10-year-old can see through the miasma and deception now known as Rodgers and Hammerstein.

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The first (and only) time I saw The Sound of Music onstage, I couldn’t help but notice something very odd about the song, Do Re Mi. It’s a song filled with English language puns (“Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun”). So far so good. But here’s the rub. The characters singing it (seven children and their governess) only speak German. They don’t know from English language puns. Just one of the many things I dislike in Austrian Life With Father.

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Richard Rodgers wrote incredible scores with Lorenz Hart. Some stunning work. American Songbook classics. Rodgers wrote the music first, and Hart then supplied the (often-brilliant) lyrics. In Musical Stages, Rodgers spend two-thirds of the book on his collaboration with Hart. It was about the art of creating Broadway musicals and how much it thrilled him. Then he gets to his time with Hammerstein. Just a few scant chapters. It was a business deal. And he got bored after Carousel, which might be why all his subsequent shows with Hammerstein began to sound the same (even the melody to Me and Juliet’s No Other Love, arguably the best song in the musical, was actually a cutout from an earlier effort, just as The King and I’s Something Wonderful sounds so much like Love Look Away from Flower Drum Song). Is it any wonder my 10-year-old self could immediately identify an R&H song? After all, the songs for the “slightly-older-but-wiser” alto they wrote all sounded the same from show to show to show.

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Ever notice how the best music Richard Rodgers wrote had no lyrics? I mean Carousel Waltz. Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Ballet. Victory at Sea scoring. March of the Siamese Children. But when he did his own lyrics in No Strings, they were pretty lame (except the opening number, The Sweetest Sounds).

* * *

There is the matter of R&H racism. Before you start citing South Pacific, let me go further back and cite Oklahoma! Even in my college thesis I called out the racist approach Hammerstein used with the character of Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler. I’m not Iranian, but I found the characterization to be extremely offensive and, yes, racist. It was meant to be funny; it was not. Racism is never funny.

Likewise, examine the casting of African American actress Juanita Hall. First in South Pacific, because her skin was darker than others in the show, she played Bloody Mary, a Tonkinese proprietress (and pimp—more about that shortly). A few years later, R&H cast her again, this time as an Asian American in Flower Drum Song. Really? What about the casting of Jewish actor Larry Blyden as Sammy Fong? Another case of “Oh just give them slant-eyed makeup and the audience will think they’re Chinese.” Yeah, not racist at all (bullshit).

Bloody Mary is a character in the short story Fo’ Dollar, one of the pieces in Tales of the South Pacific R&H used as the basis for their show. She also pimps out her 14-year-old daughter Liat to Lt. Joe Cable. Liat’s age is never discussed in South Pacific, but it sure looks like pedophilia to me (not unlike one of the storylines in ALW’s Aspects of Love—but I digress). Can we say this is just oh-so-distasteful? I knew we could.

I even question the pseudo-liberal bent of South Pacific (You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught). I’ve checked and anti-Tonkinese discrimination is not now nor then running rampant. Just me, I guess.

* * *

When the last revival of Carousel (the one R&H show I can stand) was playing, a lot of discussion arose (finally) about the matter of spousal (and child) abuse. Billy strikes Julie. He strikes Louise, his daughter. He’s a sexist pig (Soliloquy) who would much prefer having a song to a daughter. The problem here is simple—what worked in 1945 doesn’t work 70+ years later. It definitely makes an audience uncomfortable—and not in the intended way.

* * *

For 62 of my 65 years, I’ve had Rodgers and Hammerstein drummed into my head. I want them out. Gone. Vamoosed. If I could reach out to my 10-year-old self, I’d say, “Kid, you’re smarter than you realize.” (I’d say smarter than you look, but I was a bespectacled geek back then and I looked pretty damn smart.)

I know people will start raining venom on my head because I just don’t like the work done by these two. “It’s classic American musical theatre,” they’ll cry. It might be classic but it ain’t good. “But I love [fill in the name of any R&H show]. How can you not like it?” After all this time, believe me, it’s very easy.


My Top 5 Least Favorite Musicals

Taylor Lockhart

Hey wow, that title is pure clickbait but I honestly didn’t know what else I could call it because while it comes off like a crappy buzzfeed article, this is truly my opinions on what are my least favorite musicals and why I don’t like them. I mean after all I liked Rent Live, I gushed on Big Fish and Hunchback and I discussed the Tonys without bringing up how they’re probably rigged so I think it’s fair to say things have been too positive for too long. Of course this is just my opinion so if I disagree with you then I disagree with you, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong or your right just that we’re not the same person. Theatre would be really boring if we were, I mean could you imagine a world in which Newsies never left Broadway and ran forever and ever and ever bringing joy to the hearts of the young and old from 2012 to the end of time, that’d be absolutely horrible. Anyways without any further ado here’s my list in no particular order.



5- My Fair Lady

Do you love the boring “masterpiece” that is George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion? No, well maybe you’ll like it with some music slapped in there and I do quite literally mean slapped in the middle. You see Lerner is credited as the writer of My Fair Lady’s book which is very shameless because Shaw should be credited for the book as My Fair Lady is literally just Pygmalion with songs slapped between. Now is that a problem? Today I think so little rewrite of the script for it’s adaptation would be seen as lazy but back then I can give them that it was a standard. Oklahoma!, which came out 13 years earlier had many of its scenes ripped straight from the play “Green Grow The Lilacs”. It made sense that a musical adaptation of a play unless it was something like Shakespeare could just be that play with music added in. So what is my problem. Well, It would seem Mr. Lerner and Lowe in adapting Pygmalion would just leave it be. That they would make it a musical and not change any fundamentals to the original story but this is where Lerner and Lowe decided to cement one of the most horrible cliches in musical theatre history. Let’s take a look at the original ending of Pygmalion the play My Fair Lady is based on. In the ending of the play Shaw decides to make very clear that Higgins and Eliza do not get marry. It was something he stated immensely during his life was very important. Unlike the original myth it was based on Shaw wanted Eliza to become an independent woman. So tell me how this message in which Eliza leaves the man who has been treating her poorly manages to be more empowering in 1913 than its musical counterpart forty years later. I’ll tell you how. It’s because Lerner and Lowe wanted a “happy ending”. I want you take a step back from where you are in your musical knowledge and pretend your being asked a question knowing nothing about musicals and the types of them out there. You would probably say that musicals have upbeat music, big dance numbers, and happy endings. That’s just sad. That musicals are expected to be happy because it was set as the standard that a musical would leave the audience happy no matter what, but what really bugs me is in trying to leave the audience feeling good Lerner and Lowe completely screw up the meaning of Pygmalion. Look at a musical like Les Miserables. Les Mis ends on a happy note allowing us to see all of our barricade boys and girls in heaven finally free before the show ends. It’s a lot more upbeat than if Jean Valjean just died and that was it but it doesn’t lose any of the purpose of the story Les Mis tells. If anything, its improves it. Now look at Hunchback. The Disney version changes the ending drastically and some would complain that it’s similar to My Fair Lady, that it was changed purely to leave audiences on a good note but honestly, I don’t see the problem here. The original Hunchback leaves readers with a feeling of hopelessness for how cruel humanity can be and the disney version doesn’t tell us that humanity isn’t cruel. Instead it shows us how humanity can be good and gives a message of hope and that we can decide to treat people better. This is very clear in the lyrics “What makes a monster and what makes a man” and in the final song that was saved for the credits, “Someday”. I think a musical can change it’s ending to make it happier and it is ballsy for a show to just end on such a sour note but when you ruin the entire point of a show in order to make it happy that is when I have a problem. In My Fair Lady’s ending, Eliza returns to Henry. Luckily West Side Story would come along a year later to say that it’s ending wasn’t happy and it didn’t care whether you liked it or not.  I’m not the first to bring up how terrible this decision was but I might hopefully be the last because the recent Broadway revival of My Fair Lady finally decided to fix the ending making it more so like it originally was and I hope to see that change put into future scripts as well. My Fair Lady still has well written music and while I don’t like the songs I hope you do. I have never liked My Fair Lady at all, as I never liked Pygmalion but I think with an ending restored to the original empowering message Shaw intended I won’t hate it.


4- Cats  

Wow that one show was like a whole mini blog. Welp, guess I gotta speed it along. Of course it’s in here and you’re probably pegging me as being a band wagoner but rest assured I don’t dislike Cats because I think the music is bad or it’s a even a bad show. No, I don’t like Cats because well it’s freaking Cats. Go look up the longest running Broadway shows of all times and look what’s No.4 Cats. 29 highest grossing shows of all time No. 10 Cats. How did a musical based on T.S. Elliots bedtime stories become the face of Broadway? I don’t know. I honestly can’t say anything but good job Mr. Webber.

3- Heathers High School Edition

First of all, do I hate Heathers? No, I can acknowledge that Heathers probably doesn’t have the best message out of every musicals and at the very least doesn’t translate it’s message well but hey neither does Dear Evan Hansen. I rather really like Heathers and it’s very important to realize that so I can express why I hate Heathers: High School Edition.. Heathers is a near perfect example of a musical taking place in high school. As a high schooler I don’t feel like this is an adult trying to write high schoolers but actual high schoolers to some degree. If you don’t know kids cuss a lot, so much so that you stop noticing that it just gets added to your vocabulary like an adjective. High schoolers are mean and don’t call you “dumb” or an “idiot”. The words Heathers throw around in it’s opening number are words I hear in school and are things that help sell the setting. It’s important you understand the hell Veronica lives in because if you don’t than you lose part of the shows narrative. Quite simply put, Heathers isn’t a kids movie and high school isn’t like a kids movie either. It seems like there are people around you who exist purely to bring you misery so to have a musical be so unapologetic and so real, It’s no wonder that Heathers is so popular with the youth. So for a musical that I feel nails the material it’s based on why do I hate it’s high school variant so much. Well, because it does none of that. Heathers High School Edition follows the standard procedure for making most high school editions. Take a show and suck the life out of it so you can sell it’s battered corpse to schools to perform. Now I get it, MTI knows that high schoolers don’t need such strong censorship and won’t track you down if you do the non high school version of Avenue Q and Les Mis High School Edition is a good stand in for a show that never has any chance of leaving the restricted category, but it’s Samuel French’s Heathers: High School Edition most of all that leaves me writhing. It was pushed as though it had such a strong message for kids that they needed to hear but then cut it up so that the message was still there but the show had no resemblance to the original Heathers. I hate censorship and I think you lose something of a piece of work when it’s censored, but I understand sometimes it’s necessary to a degree. I think a high school edition works best when it serves to make a show more doable for schools and carefully snips out what might be unacceptable but it's important that it doesn’t affect the feel of the show. If you take out some of the innuendos in Legally Blonde, I’ll notice but it’s nothing I’ll write the entire show because of. So for a show like Heathers that is littered with things deemed unacceptable to the point if you censor it or take it out entirely I will notice, what was the point? If the version we see is so cut through why did there ever need to be a Heathers: High School Edition. I honestly think a high school version of Heathers could work but more love has to be put into it. The new version of “Candy Store” feels like the writers put down the first thing they thought about. If your looking to do Heathers: High School Edition, I just can’t recommend it but, I love Samuel French even when they make some mistakes, so I’d recommend another one of their shows in its place like The Secret Garden or Rock of Ages or just the full version of Heathers if your school doesn’t care.



2-Sweeney Todd

Woah, why is Sweeney Todd on this list? Do you not like Sondheim's masterpiece? Well, remember something doesn’t have to be bad to be my least favorite musical just one I don’t like. So, do I not like Sweeney Todd? Well, no, not technically at least. See, I’m be an idiot to say Sweeney Todd had unengaging music or a bad script or wasn’t an incredibly revolutionary musical which it totally was. It’s just...I really don’t like blood. I really don’t like being trapped in the middle of an aisle during a school trip and I can’t leave but I feel sick because I just watched someone’s throat get slit live on stage, and yeah in theory you can look away but Sondheim that cheeky bastard made sure you will always know and see it even when you close your eyes that picture of someone’s blood squirting out of their throat after Todd has slowly dragged his razor along their neck. Sondheim put in an organ sound everytime it happens. So, yeah I don’t see Sweeney Todd unless I have a bag on hand and if I do I always sit in the aisles. That’s enough of that, I’m feeling sick just writing about it. It’s a horror musical alright and if that makes it your favorite then more power to you. It’s the only musical on this list I don’t dislike I just can’t physically stand it.


1-Annie

Why do I have such an ungodly hatred for such a sweet little show. Worse than My Fair Lady which has a good reason, worse than Cats which is way more popular and worse than Sweeney which literally makes me feel terrible. Why is this worse than all of them? Is the music bad? No. Is the story bad? No. Are the characters uninteresting? No. Is it uninteresting? Not Really. So why do I hate it? Well, the truth is I don’t know. I can’t make sense of it but know one thing for sure is that I hate Annie. I hate Annie more than any musical on earth. That’s it. There’s no deep analytical message here. No opinions on why this is the perfect example of something else I hate. No really good thoughts. I just really hate Annie.



Okay, that’s enough negativity for one day. I’ve been Taylor and you have been you and I will see you with something much more positive in the future.




They're Playing Our Song: 40th Anniversary Concert

Kelly Ostazeski
Imagine seeing the original leads, creative team, and some of the opening night orchestra on the anniversary of a classic Broadway musical's opening night...forty years later. Imagine being in an audience full of fans of this musical, as well as other industry professionals associated with this legendary musical. The energy and anticipation for what is about to unfold onstage is crazy.

On February 11, 1979, They're Playing Our Song opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre. On February 11, 2019, the 40th anniversary concert, presented by the Actors Fund, played for one night only at the Music Box Theatre (current home of Dear Evan Hansen), right next door. Original music director Larry Blank returned to conduct, and original costume designer Ann Roth designed dresses for star Lucie Arnaz for the anniversary performance.

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I was there. The only thing was - I'm not a lifelong fan of They're Playing Our Song. I'm ashamed to admit that I only knew of it because my favorite performer, Donna Murphy, made her Broadway debut in the show as a swing. I'd originally bought the ticket because I thought she'd be part of the show. This was also my second Actors Fund benefit concert; last year I was lucky enough to attend the 15th anniversary concert of Thoroughly Modern Millie, again with the original Broadway cast. That night was a dream come true for me, as I imagine this performance of They're Playing Our Song was for longtime fans of the show.

My perspective as an audience member was a little different then, since this reunion show as my first exposure to this witty book by Neil Simon, and incredible songs by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. The leads, Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, played roles meant for maybe 30-somethings, but there was nothing unbelievable about Klein's portrayal of serious (and successful) composer Vernon Gersch and Arnaz's performance as eccentric lyricist Sonia Walsk, even at their current ages. Forty years ago, this was a cute (although perhaps typical) love story for songwriters in their prime. Forty years later, maybe these two have never found the love that mattered, or the perfect match to their songwriting talents, until now. It made for an interesting dynamic, and also fun to imagine seeing the show on Broadway in 1979, maybe even with future stars Donna Murphy and Debbie Gravitte (who also appeared in this anniversary concert) in the chorus as Vernon and Sonia's alter egos.

Along with Debbie Gravitte, appearing as the "Greek Chorus"-type alter egos, were Ivy Austin and Housso Semon for Sonia, and Andrew Fitch, Hugh Panaro, and Hal Shane for Vernon.

The musical is about Vernon and Sonia's collaboration as songwriters that eventually turns to romance and is based on the real-life relationship between Hamlisch and Sager.

Highlights were Klein's performance of "Workin' It Out", both versions of "They're Playing My Song", "Just for Tonight", and Arnaz's show-stopping "I Still Believe in Love" - which earned her a standing ovation mid-performance. Every song was a show-stopper, though, with raucous applause after each one.

The actors carried scripts, which made sense, because both Vernon and Sonia are songwriters. Lucie Arnaz was clearly more comfortable with dialogue and hilariously, it was Robert Klein who missed a cue. Arnaz handled it perfectly, offered to sing her song again, and when Klein finally appeared on stage, she said, "No bathroom breaks until intermission!" The audience laughed, and Klein exited and re-entered in character. Even this "mistake" was cherished and well-received by this audience, which shows how loved this show truly is. This audience knew every word to the songs, every joke.

For this Broadway enthusiast who didn't know the show before, consider me converted. I am honored I was there to witness such a special performance of a beloved musical, and I'm proud of call myself a They're Playing Our Song fan, not just because my favorite star made her Broadway debut in it.

After I got out of the theatre, I looked into the show more, and it was really interesting to see all the stars who have appeared in They're Playing Our Song throughout its history (and not just on Broadway): Stockard Channing, Victor Garber, Ellen Greene, Lea Salonga, Jason Alexander, and Stephanie J. Block. Seth Rudetsky and Sutton Foster also appeared in Actors Fund benefit a few years ago.

I look forward to future reunion concerts presented by the Actors Fund - perhaps I will see old favorites I never got to see live, or experience new shows in the best possible way.

Musical Adaptation Idea: A Monster Calls

Darren Wildeman
In this day people are sick of seeing Hollywood movies remade for the stage, and of seeing so many direct adaptations. It’s understandable, musicals have almost always been adapted from material but there is something special about seeing a brand-new idea done for the stage. However, that being said I’m going to propose to you an idea for an adaptation. This is a show that I absolutely need to see as a musical because I think it would be beautiful and heart wrenching.


A Monster Calls

The first thing I’m going to point out is this show would not be a typical Hollywood movie to stage adaptation. For one thing, it was also a novel so aspects of it could be based on that. For another it wasn’t even a Hollywood movie; at least not in the traditional sense. It was produced by Universal, but the director is Spanish and its big release dates were in Spain and the UK. Finally, it had a relatively modest budget at just $43M (and brought in $47M) when an average American Hollywood Blockbuster starts at around $100M. This was not your typical big Hollywood American release; and for that reason, would not be a typical Hollywood adaptation. That alone would already make bringing this to Broadway different from other movie adaptations.

That’s all the budget and background info on this movie, but what about it do I think would make it a good musical?

Let’s take a good look at the story. It follows a boy named Connor O’Malley and him having to accept the realities that his mother is sick. He continually assures himself that he will get better. However, throughout this process he meets a monster. However, this monster isn’t just a typical scary monster you get in a fantasy story. This monster was a yew tree in human form. And this tree comes to Connor to tell him three stories and teach him some lessons. These stories are all fables of sorts. Stories where sometimes it’s hard to tell who the good guy is, stories that show not everything is in black and white, and most importantly stories that will directly impact Connor’s life. Connor has his own story to tell, and after the yew tree tells Connor his three stories, he wants to hear Connor’s story. A story that pertains to a recurring nightmare Connor has, a story that pertains to Connor’s sick mother, and a story however painful it might be to tell that might help heal Connor’s soured relationship with his grandmother.

If you haven’t seen the movie it might be hard for you to see what I’m picturing. The reason I think this might work so well is it would be a scaled back, intimate, heartfelt story on stage, that still has some of the spectacle and magic theatre audiences love. The intimate musical has really made a strong case in recent years. Picture a show that’s scaled back and somewhat minimalistic. In a similar style of a musical like Once, Next to Normal, or The Band’s Visit. It’s a tense family, a family that’s experienced, divorce, now a sick mother, and a grandmother who has tense relationships with her daughter and grandson. It’s a story about how when everything falls apart it can still come together. However, it also has some spectacle in a giant monster, and talking yew tree. It’s a musical that could show real human pain and emotion, but also a musical that would have an added dollop of whimsey and magic, in a story telling humanoid tree that really tries to help people and will help teach Connor some lessons he desperately needs to learn.

I think this story hits a lot of the nails on the head of what people look for in a musical. It has a deep story, but also has the potential for some spectacle which people love. Multiple characters go through a full, fascinating character arc, which is also something desirable. Also, it isn’t a story that is too complex either that could be lost on the stage.

I think A Monster Calls would become the musical that many people didn’t know they needed.