Musical Theatre

A Musical for Everyone According to Their Hobby

Chris S Lynn

We have all heard it.

  • “I hate musicals”

  • “Breaking into song and dance is not realistic.”

  • “Musicals are gay.”

  • “I don’t like that opera crap.”

We can all give a rebuttal to each of these platitudes.

  • “You cannot possibly hate all musicals because they are not the same.”

  • ”Breaking into song and dance is just as unrealistic as a Die Hard movie.  Both are escapism.  So Yippi Kay yay, O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A!”

  • “If you mean, many gays love musicals, then yes, just as gays like football.  If you mean gay as in lame, then I better brace myself for ‘a whole lotta ugly coming from a never ending parade of stupid.’”

  • “You don’t like opera?  Neither do many music theatre fanatics.  There is no single ‘Broadway musical sound’.  For every musical genre, I can give you a musical that contains that style of music.”


Sure, you can argue with these people.  However, if your goal is to share your love of musicals with those that you value, then there is a better way.  If you are reading this blog, chances are that not a day goes by where you do not 1. Listen to a show tune, 2. Rehearse/audition for a show, or 3. randomly break out in song based on mere everyday conversation that has even the most remote connection to a show tune.  Heck, I am guessing you have done just that at least 3 times so far while reading this blog! Your life is better with musicals. Without musicals, life would be like…. (go ahead! Sing it! You know you want to!) Why would you not want to share this same joy with others, even if they will never become quite as obsessed as you?


The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate that there is a musical for virtually all tastes and interests and to share experiences of those we value who have “lived in the darkness for so long” and were “waiting for the light to shine.”


My first challenge was to locate a reliable poll of the most popular hobbies and then match them to musicals of interest.   I found the The Harris Poll, that has measured public opinion in the U.S. since 1963 and used to advise U.S. Presidents such as John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.  Below is data of the most popular American hobbies from 2013. Sorry International readers, please play along. 2057 adults were polled in this survey.  



  1. Watching TV (42%)

  2. Reading (37%)

  3. Computer Internet (19%)

  4. Spending Time With Friends/Family (18%)

  5. Watching/Going to Movies (11%)

  6. Exercise/Working Out (10%)

  7. Playing Video/Computer/Internet games (10%)

  8. Walking/Running/Jogging (8%)

  9. Gardening (7%)

  10. Concerts/Listening to/Playing Music (7%)

  11. Hobby Related Activities (5%) Whatever the hell that means!

  12. Eating/Going to Restaurants (4%)

  13. Cooking/Baking (4%)

  14. Sewing/NeedleWork/Quilting (4%)

  15. Shopping (4%)

  16. Attending/Watching Sports (4%)

  17. Resting/Relaxing (3%)

  18. Sleeping/Napping (3%)

  19. Fishing (3%)

  20. Crafts (3%)

  21. Swimming (3%)

  22. Golf (3%)

  23. Playing with/Walking Pets (3%)

I decided to consolidate some of the categories and grouped them as such

  1. TV/Movies

  2. Reading/History Buffs

  3. Computers/Internet/Video Games

  4. Social Time With family/Friends

  5. Exercise/Sports

  6. Gardening

  7. Crafts/Sewing/Quilting

  8. Food - Baking/Cooking/Eating

  9. Fishing/Hunting * I added hunting because I live in Missouri.

  10. Pets

  • I eliminated resting and sleeping categories unless the goal is to induce a “cat”atonic (oops! Sorry Andrew Lloyd Weber fans) coma like state while attending a musical.

Let’s begin!

TV/Movies - The topic of TV shows and movies being adapted to the stage has been a recently trendy one, both on Broadway stages and in debates on the All Things Broadway Facebook page.  Many question the lack of originality on the Broadway stage today. Some of us point to the fact that Broadway musicals have always been inspired by secondary sources such as movies and books.  Others, such as myself, point out that taking big box office hits or movies with iconic characters that were on the big screen less than 20 years ago, and transferring them onto a musical stage is a fairly recent phenomenon.  The Full Monty, for example, landed on Broadway in 2001, only 5 years after its movie release.  Since then, we have had an innumerable amount of non musical films rewritten for the musical stage.  Regardless of whether you like this trend or not, for many of our showtune virgins, this concept might be the hook for them to start the beginning of a beautiful relationship.  One of the shows that introduced me to musicals was The Phantom of the Opera.  While I cannot stand the show today, I credit it for opening a new window for me.  Then again, introducing your movie geek to these shows can backfire if they are of the “breaking out in song and dance is unrealistic” ilk.  Yes, I do realize, folks, that not all musicals contain happy themed tap shoe numbers.  However, this is a stereotype we must all endure. My advice to introducing your TV/movie mogul friends to musicals via their interests is to know them well and tread lightly.  Certainly, they may love the adaptations. If, however, you get the vibe that these shows would turn them off, then introduce them to those musicals that take themselves a little less seriously and are parodies/satire of their favorite movies and TV shows.  Often, the parodies/satire pay homage to the originals the others simply cannot touch. If your friend is a Disney fan, then he/she should already be in heaven. While I have seen very few adaptations, below are a few of my favorites:

  • A Christmas Carol

  • 42nd Street

  • La Cage Aux Folles

  • Dogfight - For those of you who enjoyed music and lyrics from Pasek/Paul’s The Greatest Showman, LaLa Land, and Dear Evan Hansen, check out their musical based on the Liv Tyler and River Phoenix 1991 film of the same name

  • Evil Dead - Evil Dead is a Canadian rock musical parody based on the cult classic horror movie trilogy.  Nothing is serious in this silly, ridiculous parody about sex crazed college kids that spend a weekend in “A Cabin In the Woods”.  The guilty pleasure musical would not be complete without its unique Splatter Zone seating, reserved for the first several rows where audience members are spewed with onstage blood.  Hey, the extra cost of entering the Splatter Zone includes a freshly blood soaked souvenir t-shirt! Theatre patrons,”This is my boomstick!”

  • Grey Gardens - this musical was based on a documentary of the same name chronicling the lives of Jaqueline Kennedy’s aunt and cousin: Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie") and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie").  Set in a Mansion in East Hampton, New York, the musical follows the lives of the two characters from respected aristocrats to hoarders trapped in their own home by trash and overrun by cats.   The sad story is dramatized by the two leading ladies who play both roles, switching characters after Act 1. I will never forget attending a performance of this show and having to listen to the eerie sound of cats meowing and growling piped in as “pre show music.”  The musical opens with the set presenting a dilapidated mansion with the characters living in squalor. During the first musical number, the set is transformed to its former splendor and grandeur 32 years prior. Act 1 is set in the past, and Act 2 is set 32 years later.  If you are ready for something different and mesmerizing, then give Grey Gardens, a try.

  • Hands on A Hardbody - who would have guessed that a 1997 documentary film centered on a contest where contestants can win a new pick-up truck by being the last man or woman standing (or sitting) with one of their hands on a hardbody?  This musical wins the best title for a musical award, but will also win your hearts as it delves into Americana and the lives of the contestants, the car dealer, and radio announcer.

  • Heathers

  • The Lion King

  • A Little Night Music (based on Inmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of Summer)

  • A Little Shop of Horrors

  • Reefer Madness - Reefer Madness is based on the 1936 propaganda film of the same name.  The musical is a tongue and cheek parody of the “squeaky clean” America of yesteryear, under attack by the evil “demon seed.”  The film was originally financed by a church group and shown to parents to scare them about the dangers of marijuana, under the title Tell Your Children.  Other fantastically ridiculous titles given to this film included The Burning Question, Dope Addict, Doped Youth, and Love Madness.  There is nothing to be afraid of with marijanna, nor the musical Reefer Madness that joyously and hilariously pokes fun at the hysteria over a joint.

  • Spamalot (based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

  • Sweet Charity

Link to Stage musicals based on films:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Musicals_based_on_films

*I noticed StarKid productions were not included on this list.

Link to stage musicals based on TV series

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Musicals_based_on_television_series




Reading and History Buffs - Many musicals produced from great literature as well as historical figures should come as no surprise.  Once again, if you are introducing someone who is new to musicals via this route, you must know the person well.  Additionally, knowing the source material or reading the novel in which the musical is based is not a bad idea either.  Once upon a time, a professor friend and I were going to make a road trip to San Francisco to see the pre Broadway opening of a new musical called Wicked.  I have always loved Stephen Schwartz and my friend loved the dense cerebral novel which he taught in his higher level literature courses.  We both wondered how such a complex story would be staged and set to music. We now know that the musical, like many adaptations, was vastly different from its source material.  Wicked, in fact, was virtually nothing like Gregory Mcguire’s book.  They shared some of the same characters and settings, but little else did the two relate beyond the spectacle.  My friend did not care for the show and I thought it was mediocre to unmemorable. Word to the wise, if you take a bookworm to a musical based on their favorite read, just be careful.  Some of my favorites musicals based on novels include:

  • Big River - Take the wit of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and pair it with Roger Miller whose rockabilly novelty songs that had the penchant for clever and whimsical lyrics and you will have a  combo even better than peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, or ketchup and grits! Wait! What?

  • Be More Chill - I don’t understand the hate with the little show that could.  I usually do not listen to cast recordings prior to seeing a show, but this one was an exception.  I listened to cast recording about a year and a half ago when the music first went viral in Youtube land.  Fearing I would not see the unlicensed show anytime soon, I gave it a listen and instantly loved the show. Go figure!  A 45-year-old loving Be More Chill!

  • Into the Woods - Interestingly, Sondheim’s complex intertwining fairytale musical took inspiration from Bruno Bettleheim’s 1976 book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.  Bettleheim analyzed the fairytales in terms of Fruedian psychoanalysis for which he was once renowned and then later discredited as a fraud.

  • Mame

  • Mary Poppins

  • Les Miserables

  • Mystery of Edwin Drood - The Charles Dickens inspired musical was based on his last work that remained unfinished after his death in 1870.  Only 6 of the 12 installments were published from the original source material with no evidence or notes left behind by Dickens to solve the mystery. Rupert Holmes, author of the book, music, and lyrics, decided to painstakingly write several short endings to determine every possible solution to the mystery.  The audience is given the ultimate power to vote who killed Drood, with the actors tasked to quickly tally the votes and carry out the ending chosen by the audience.

  • Natasha, Piere, and the Great Comet of 1812 -  Are you kidding me?  A musical based on a 1440 page novel?  Wait a minute. The musical is based on only 70 pages taken from the middle of the novel. Whew! No one would ever think of turning such a large volume of classical fiction into a musical!  That would be like turning Victor Hugo’s 1462 page novel, Les Miserables into a musical.Unheard of? Unthinkable? Unspeakable?”  Nope. “Tradition!”

  • Oliver

  • Once On This Island

  • Peter Pan

  • The Robber Bridegroom

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel

  • A Very Potter Musical

Computers/Internet/Video Games  - Everyone, just Be More Chill.  Remember, life is a “Two Player Game” and while “There are voices in my head, the loudest one is mine!”  Great show, fun songs, and beautiful message of being under your own influence.

Social Time With Family/Friends - The best way to get someone involved who enjoys time with family and friends is to recruit them in the actual production of a musical.  Nothing says family, comradery, and bonding, better than working as a team on a musical. I have been involved in many shows with entire families pitching in as cast and crew members.  The next best thing is to bring your friend to a musical that highlights relationships. Many from the list below includes musicals from religious sources since many people spend a great deal of their social time at church activities. I also included shows that highlight dysfunctional families which is a huge part of life and relationships as well.

  • Avenue Q

  • Baby  - this delightful Shire/Maltby musical revolves around three couples, each at different stages of their lives, who must all uniquely take the journey of experiencing a pregnancy and an impending parenthood.  The 3 couples range from an unmarried college age students, a thirty something couple with a history of failed attempts at conception, and middle aged parents and soon to be empty nesters.

  • Be More Chill

  • Children of Eden - This is a Stephen Schwartz musical based on Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah’s Ark.  The major theme revolves around the universal truth that “the hardest part of love is the letting go” and allowing ones children to make their own mistakes.

  • Company

  • Dreamgirls

  • The Fantasticks - a boy and his father, a girl and her father, and a stick (wall).  Add a bandit and his goofy players, an indian whose expertise is in dying, and an aging Shakesperian actor to help tell the story and teach us lessons.  Result: a charming, intimate, and poetic musical about love and coming of age.

  • Fiddler On The Roof - If you do not cry at least three or four times during this musical about a man who loves his religious traditions, but loves his daughters and their desire for happiness even more, well then, you are just a bunch of heartless sons of bitches.

  • Fun Home - I won’t give away the story of this Best Musical Tony winner based on an autobiographical graphic novel,only to say that it is the most genuine LGBTQ+ musical I have seen.  The scenes are heart wrenching, written and executed in a way that invites audiences to firmly plant their feet in the characters’ shoes without ever succumbing to preaching to their audience. Bravo Fun Home.  You have my heart!

  • Godspell

  • Hair

  • Hairspray

  • Into the Woods

  • La Cage Aux Folles

  • The Secret Garden

  • Mame

  • A New Brain

  • Oliver!

  • 13

  • You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown\

Exercise/Sports -  One of the best sports musicals I have seen never made it to Broadway:  Fantasy Football...the Musical?  Billed as a “Bromantic Comedy”, the musical parodies late 1980s and early 1990s and tells the fictional history of how fantasy football began with a wannabe sports newscaster and a computer geek during the birth of the dial up internet circa 1991.  This is a great show to bring your college football and NFL fans for a great night of laughter and bromance. Other musicals with sports include:

  • The Beautiful Game (football) Andrew Lloyd Weber/Ben Elton musical

  • Damn Yankees (baseball)

  • Rocky...The Musical (boxing)  Anytime you see “[fill in the blank]...the musical” be fair warned.  Yikes!

  • Golden Boy -(boxing) this one actually looks and sounds cool!  The musical opened on Broadway in 1964, starred Sammy Davis Jr., and played a respectable 564 performances.  The opening number contains some fantastic grunts and punching noises that are used as percussion for the music. The title track is “Work Out (Fight Scene)”.  Give it a listen!  The sounds are truly glorious!

  • Bring It On! (cheerleading)

  • Lysistrata (basketball)

  • The First (baseball)

  • Good News (football)

  • All American (football)

6. Gardening

  • The Secret Garden

  • The Fantasticks - Two old farts who are best friends, sing about Planting a Radish and lamenting that sowing seeds is so much less complicated than raising children who you can “Never Say No”.

7. Crafts/Sewing/Quilting

  • Quilters - A Pioneer woman patchwork musical

8. Food - Baking/Cooking/Eating

  • Sweeney Todd  - of course!

  • Waitress

  • Pump Boys and Dinettes

9. Fishing/Hunting * I added hunting because I live in Missouri!

  • Pump Boys and Dinettes

  • Big Fish

  • Carousel

  • The Ghosts of Celilo - a Native American musical

  • Happy Hunting!

10. Pets

  • Cats

  • Bark! - or DOGS!

  • Honk! - based on The Ugly Duckling

  • Lucky Duck - The Ugly Duckling meets Cinderella.  Music by Dreamgirls, Henry Kriger

  • Just So - based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories

  • A Year With Frog and Toad

Well, that’s all folks!  Let me know what I forgot.  I mentioned a ton of shows, but I know I have neglected to mention some (purposely, accidentally, and some accidentally on purpose!.  Now go take your friend to a musical, the most glorious thing on earth!

* One last thing. You can easily search for specific musical productions in your area if you know the licencing company for each show.  Most licensing websites will have a searchable database to find productions of their shows, with dates, cities, and the name of the theatre.  Below is a link that lists many shows and the company that licenses them. Also includes are the websites of the major licensing companies:

http://www.musicals101.com/alphinde.htm


ATB Reviews the Tonys

Collective Article, Put Together by Sabrina Wallace

James Corden As Host

By Amelia Brooker

 Still reeling in the success of hosting the 2016 Tonys, James Corden returned on Sunday evening to resume his hosting duties three years later. Many speculated if Corden was involved enough in the Broadway community to serve as host, especially with such a stacked year for both musicals and plays. Clearly, he had his work cut out for him. Would he be able to live up to his past performance? Would he struggle to follow last year’s team of hosts? Or would he flop like Kevin Spacey?

In the end, he prevailed. His opening number, while perhaps not among the greatest of all time, was inventive and exciting. Corden was smart to capitalize on his TV success, comparing live theatre to entertainment through screen in his number “We Do It Live”. Multitudes of cast members were featured, filling the entire stage and leaving Corden with a look of pure joy as it ended. Corden’s segments throughout the show were memorable as well, perhaps the most being his “James in the Bathroom” spoof from the nominated show Be More Chill. Having Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles return was a delight, with a special appearance by fan favorite, four-time host Neil Patrick Harris.

 

James Corden marks the nineteenth person to host the Tonys multiple times, and for good reason. He lived up to his previous experience, made everyone laugh with hilarious segments, and ultimately added his own personal flair to the show. I don’t doubt he’ll return for a third time in the future, having set a standard for years to follow.

 

 A Non-theatre Nerd Response to the 2019 Tony Awards

By Elizabeth Bergmann

 I watched the Tony Awards with my family, and since they haven’t followed the season as closely as a lot of us theatre fans have, here’s a quick look at some of the things that were said during the show, in no particular order:

 “It’s weird that he [James Corden] isn’t singing in a crosswalk.”

“That’s a lot of people raising their hands. Have there really been that many dead people on Law & Order?”

“Oh, Radio City must be happy they’re showing off their hydraulics so much tonight. They talk about that a lot in the tour.”

“That’s a lot of Temptations.”

“Since when is Scout Finch an adult?”

“Kristen Chenoweth’s face doesn’t match her neck. If I were her, I’d have it out for whoever did my makeup.”

“I’ve used that bathroom. It’s a nice bathroom.”

“That’s Neil from White Collar?”

“She’s Ado Annie? She’s got a voice on her.”

“Ooh, I’m glad Bob Mackie won!”

“Catherine O’Hara was in Beetlejuice?”

“Oh, Ado Annie won! That’s exciting!”

“I’m sorry, but he [Santino Fontana] is way too pretty as Dorothy Michaels.”

“Oh, you wanted this actress [Stephanie J. Block]  to win, right? It’s just like watching Cher instead of an actress playing Cher.”

“I thought you said Jeff Daniels was the winner.”

“What’s this play about?”

“What’s this musical about?”

“MRS. MAISEL IS BLONDE?”

“I thought you said this wouldn’t be like last year where one show was winning everything.”

“Wow is that King Kong segment impressive. And the cast of Moulin Rouge! Talking about it fits ‘Spectacular Spectacular’.”

“This is the show [Hadestown] you thought would win, right?”

 

A Night At The Tonys

By Sabrina Wallace 


Sabrina Wallace’s Tony ticket. Photo Credit: Sabrina Wallace

Sabrina Wallace’s Tony ticket. Photo Credit: Sabrina Wallace

 

I’m the jeans and t-shirt kind of gal so wearing a full-length gown and 6” heels was a monument event on its own. When I put on my shinny ball gown and 6” heels on Sunday evening, I walked into a dream. I say a dream, because there is no way, this was all real. Radio City Hall was buzzing with the excitement of everyone involved. We walked around and took pictures at the foot of the stage, peaked at the big celebrities of the hour. Adam Driver (Burn This) in a classic black tux, Lilli Cooper (Tootsie) in a gorgeous blue dress, our dearest Beth Leavel (The Prom) in a gorgeous sparkling gown, and Caitlin Kinnunen (The Prom) in a Kenneth Cole pant suit that was wicked sleek. André De Shields (Hadestown) was a rock star sporting Hermes-type golden shoes with wings! 

 

The event started at 7pm EST. During the non-televised first hour of the show, Aaron Tveit, Danny Burstein, and Karen Olivo presented the Creative Arts Awards that were later shown for TV audiences between takes. Attendees took turns to go get drinks and meet and greet with friends and fellow artists. I got to see Eva Noblezada and Reeve Carney walking down the stairs together. Carney helping Noblezada with her dress (such a cute moment between co-stars). His outfit was something for sure, top hat and all. Eva Noblezada looked lovely and fresh! 

At 8pm James Corden showed up and the live portion of the show started. I personally loved every little bit of it (except not winning of course). All in all, it was a great evening for the industry and the celebration was the reason why we do this thing called theatre! The commercial breaks were so much fun. I don’t think I can watch this from my home ever again and not be there in person enjoying the electricity and the warmth that emanates from each artist or supporter of the arts in that room. It is exhilarating! 

 

During commercial breaks, Ben Platt performed “Tomorrow" from Annie, Anthony Ramos and Chris Jackson sang “96,000” from In the Heights and Billy Porter brought down the house with a spectacular rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy. Who wouldn’t love him in that outfit and with that voice!  There was also a silly little stunt about how nice Broadway people are - which is actually true - until Laura Linney and Audra McDonald gave James what he wanted, a fake feud! Corden was on fire, joking with the audience at all levels of appropriateness. Everyone was in a good mood, so it was an entertaining evening. 

 

Tony 2.jpg

James Corden and Ben Platt doing Karaoke. Photo Credit: Sabrina Wallace

My own little secret to share. My partner and I were sandwiched between the production team of Tootsie and Hadestown, but the electricity of the evening was contagious. We held hands during the Best Musical announcement and briefly embraced each other tight when our show wasn’t called. We still stood up and honored the winners. That is how this it’s done. We need to celebrate each other! Not knowing this, our daughters were doing the same up in the Mezzanine. They cried a little bit too. It wasn’t because we didn’t win but because they were so proud of our show and what it brings to this world that they couldn’t hold the emotions any longer.  

 

Empty handed but filled with pride for my cast and crew, we left the event to go to the Gala at the Plaza. We met some of the winners and the rest of the nominees there. The food was amazing, there were people performing at a cabaret style show hosted by Feinstein’s/54 Below, and happiness all around. I got to meet Aaron Tveit, André De Shields, Laura Donnelly and my all-time favorite star Ms. Kelli O’Hara, who is beyond gracious and sweet! 

 

THE PROM at the Gala  From left to right, co-producers James and Sabrina Wallace, composer Matthew Sklar and co-producer Laura Galt. Pc: Sabrina Wallac

THE PROM at the Gala

From left to right, co-producers James and Sabrina Wallace, composer Matthew Sklar and co-producer Laura Galt. Pc: Sabrina Wallac

After the Plaza, we made our way to our own party and celebrated with our lovely cast and co-producers before calling it for the night. The cast was in good spirits and we congratulate them all for having such a great performance. We think The Prom gave one of the best performances of the evening, and hope audiences got to appreciate what our show has to offer “love, understanding, equality, and a place where everyone is accepted no matter who they happen to love!” If you haven’t seen it click here: https://www.cbs.com/shows/tony_awards/video/dhEZWsB___ccJ3vJD6iW66OmHBjR6liY/the-cast-of-the-prom-performs-tonight-belongs-to-you-it-s-time-to-dance-at-the-2019-tony-awards/?fbclid=IwAR1F_79I8kXKsYRNiiiUX17Uj7R9trWFahWN1WIa-amDUkzSbR4v3bL27hE

 

I woke up from my dream Monday morning and went back to reality! Life moves on ….  For my husband and I, this is a business, but we do this because we love theatre, we love putting shows out there that can have an impact on people’s lives. Our cast talks to people at stage door after every show and the stories they hear are heart wrenching and heartwarming at the same time. They hear from kids whose parents don’t know they are gay, and the show gives them the courage to open that door. There are adults that never felt they belonged anywhere, but the show makes them feel embraced. Or parents that come to understand that their kids cannot choose who they love, and the show gives them a way to start having an open dialog about their own lives. Overall, this is a show that opens hearts, widens horizons, and embraces the uniqueness in each and every one of us. Even those that don’t like the show, come to appreciate it for what it tries to convey, a message of acceptance.  In the words of our genius lyricist Chad Beguelin, "Build it now, make people see how the world could one day be, it might come true if we take a chance” — (“It’s time to dance!”) Take a chance at The Prom, take a chance at each other. Make the world a better place for everyone!

 

Finally ….

 

“Let Us Entertain You”- Reviewing the performances at the 2019 Tony Awards

By David Culliton

 

Opening - Probably the best way to describe the majority of James Corden’s opening number this year is “cute.” First off, it unfortunately didn’t measure up to his opening at the 2016 Tonys. “That Could Be Me” (as I’m going to slightly carelessly assume its title to be) was one of the best openings the Tonys has ever seen in my opinion. It was tight, it was funny, and it was a beautiful love letter to the theatre and all its participants. This year felt a little more atonal and given some pretty tired jokes and weird amount of shilling for network television and streaming services While “Live!” (see last parenthetical) didn’t pack the same punch how the show opened three years ago, that doesn’t make it a bad number. Corden, of course, gave it his all to some pretty great effect, showing off an acceptable singing voice filled with enthusiasm and some dancing/moving ability that always catches me off guard in how good it is. I appreciated the opening looking pre-recorded only to reveal itself as a set in Radio City, the magically appearing (and very talented) ensemble dancers, and even the little callback to Corden’s “Law and Order” bit from 2016. And, of course, ending the number with another heartfelt address to the world’s greatest art form from Corden while every single cast member from every nominated musical that night AS WELL AS the Tonys’ own hired performers danced and sung up on that Radio City stage was an ending unparalleled by any opening number that’s come before it. That was what really made this opening number- a showcase of ambition that continues to grow on Broadway year after year and of the artists who help that ambition come to life. “Live!” may not have been a perfect opening to the broadcast, but it was a damn good way one; a fun, heartfelt, cute way to start the show!

 

Ain’t Too Proud - Ain’t Too Proud’s medley, for reasons that are no fault of its own, is a performance that I simply don’t have much to say about, likely because I don’t really have any connection with The Temptations. But what I do have to say is good. The medley was tight, providing a brief history of the group and showcasing some of its hits with no unnecessary fluff. The (now Tony-winning) choreography was, of course, awesome, and helped to keep the energy of the number up even for someone who doesn’t know all that much about the group the show is based on. The singers were all phenomenal (special shout-out to that awesome bass who sang the “I can make it rain whenever I want it to” line). The big band playing at the end was the cherry on top. It was generally just a great showcase of the show overall that works for newcomers and Temptations fans alike. A MORE than worthy entry this year, even if I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.

 

Tootsie “Unstoppable”- Another number that I would classify as “cute.” Ultimately, despite a somewhat catchy refrain I find this song kind of unforgettable, which is a condition that you usually can’t fix, no matter how good those performing it are. And these performers are very good. While I do think that Santino Fontana looked a little out of it for a lot of the number, he was still giving as good as a performance as I imagine he possibly could after doing rehearsals, a matinee, and ceremony prep all in the same day after a full week of performances in such (a) demanding role(s) as Michael/Dorothy. He had a SOLID ensemble backing him up, decorating the stage with Tootsie’s relentlessly Broadway choreography. And, of course, the Michael-Dorothy quick change got showed off toward the end of the number, which never ceases to be an impressive feat of costume engineering and backstage wizardry. I had fun watching it once, but once was really all I needed. Good efforts all around, I just wish this performance had more to show for it.

 

Oklahoma! “I Cain’t Say No/Oklahoma”- First of all, Ali Stroker absolutely KILLED IT and showed us all why she deserves the ever-loving goodness out of her Tony. Her sultry belt and defiant attitude are a surprising fit for Ado Annie, but one that works EXCEEDINGLY well for Daniel Fish’s inventive revival. Speaking of defiance and reinvention, the cast’s rendition of the title song in the back half of the performance was a brilliant showcase of how this revival takes a well-known classic and spins it on its head without changing a word: a new attitude. We got to see the intimately staged fighting spirit of this genius revival in all its glory, and it was honestly really cool. Little touches like Ali Hakim spraying beer at the audience members seated onstage for the number, the camera circling around the cast, and the close ups of Rebecca Naomi Jones giving us a face that screams “Not Your Father’s Laurie” just added to what a great performance the cast of Oklahoma! put in on Sunday night. It lacks a certain je ne sais quoi for me to call it the best of the night, but it was up there for me. You’re doing more than fine, Oklahoma! (Okay I’ll see myself out)

 

Mid-show number - I know Be More Chill has been a divisive show this season. I myself don’t particularly care about it one way or the other, but I’m happy that a new generation is getting their own version of the Little Shop of Horrors myth that can speak to their niche experiences in a relatable way. While a performance from a show with only one nomination wasn’t necessary, given that said nomination was for the score, Corden’s mid-broadcast trio with Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban to the tune of “Michael in the Bathroom” was a pretty good compromise. This is another one I don’t have much to say about, other than: yeah, it was a lot of fun. The lyric re-writes were funny and didn’t ever feel forced, last year’s hosts popping up midway through was a fun surprise that gave the number just what it needed to finish out strong (with Neil Patrick Harris’s last second appearance one last little fun Easter egg to top it off), AND it was generally awesome to see the return of a mid-show host song, which hasn’t really happened since NPH’s medley with Andrew Rannels, Megan Hilty, and Laura Benanti several years ago. Everything about the number was a welcome, happy surprise. Not show stopping, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It was just fun.

 

Beetlejuice “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)/The Whole Being Dead Thing”- Beetlejuice by FAR wins the award for the most fun performance of the night. It was cool to see the supporting cast get to jam along together to “Day-O” with the Radio City backstage area being littered with props and a couple costumes from the show, and any chance to hear Sophia Anne Caruso sing anything for even a millisecond is an absolute win in my book. And then, here he comes ladies and gentlemen!! Alex Brightman once again showed us what an utter powerhouse of a performer he is when he took over the performance to lead “Welcome to a Show About Death” while surrounded by SOLID ensemble to back him up. The whole number was executed really well, and Brightman’s dynamic take on the show’s title character kept the whole thing anchored in glorious controlled chaos. The lyric changes were even smoother than the earlier “Michael in the Bathroom” parody and made for some pretty laugh-out-loud moments (“Hey, Adam Driver…”). Also, they brought the head and tail of one of their sandworms and for a dork like me who LOVES some quality puppetry, that gets you brownie points! It was nothing but a joyous blast from start to finish, and I’m sure I’ll be finding myself watching the video of it time and time again. It was just so much FUN!!!

 

The Prom “Tonight Belongs to You/It’s Time to Dance”- Another couple individual shout-outs to start this one: Brooks Ashmanskas and Caitlin Kinnunen were awesome in the first part of The Prom’s performance. It’s so much fun seeing such an experienced stage vet and an absolutely elated newcomer play off of each other SO well (I can see why Sabrina loves her cast so much) which made their duet a lot of fun. When it came time for “It’s Time to Dance” the ensemble did a great job pulling off Nicholaw’s energetic choreo, and of COURSE getting a queer kiss on live network TV is A+++ representation so I call it an ABSOLUTE win for the performance. The mashup, while putting together two songs with matching musical themes, had me losing a sense of melody once or twice and, like with Oklahoma!, there’s a certain secret ingredient that keeps The Prom’s entry for the night from being one of my absolute favorites but that should not diminish any of good things I have to say about it. It was a tight, energetic, joyful number pulled off by a very talented cast and I’m very happy I got to see such a great sampling of such a fun show.

 

Choir Boy “Rockin’ Jerusalem”- Choir Boy’s performance was utterly powerful. It’s always cool to get to see a play perform to break up the musical routine, which is made even better when what the play is presenting is really strong material. “Rockin’ Jerusalem” delivered on that front, with an a cappella arrangement and well-done step choreography step choreography to illustrate the strength the young men of color have to find within themselves in this play. This was only bolstered by the little acting bits we got to see that showed off how well rounded and talented the cast of Choir Boy is. While it wasn’t quite the best of the night, it was poignant, and an image that I think will stick with me for a while.

 

Hadestown “Wait for Me”- Call me basic, but in my humble opinion Hadestown gave the best performance of the night, hands down. Their rendition of “Wait for Me” was simply breathtaking (that sounds like a cliché, but I was audibly gasping at several points throughout the song). Everything about the number was perfectly executed, from the blocking adapted to Radio City’s stage, to each performer on that stage giving wonderful samples of the essences of their characters, and with the help of some of the night’s best cinematography to boot. The way so many of those shots were framed, complimented by Hadestown’s stellar aesthetic, is a classic example of the famous phrase “every frame a painting.” All that being said, I still have my minor gripes. Reeve Carney’s yelling “Eurydice!!” sounded like a teenage boy in the throes of his first voice crack, and I wish we had gotten more of Patrick Page, Eva Noblezada, and Amber Gray to get a fuller scope of the show’s four acting nominees. However, they each portrayed so much in so little time onstage, André De Shield’s narration was awesome (always a bonus to see someone perform AFTER they accept their award), Carney gave it 200% (it was even cooler to get to see him really show off his best despite not getting a nom), and the ensemble utterly killed it. The entire performance was a testament to what a worthy winner Hadestown won on Sunday, and that’s the best kind of Tonys performance: the one that looks its viewers in the eyes and shows them exactly why they deserve that coveted trophy.

 

Kiss Me Kate “Too Darn Hot”- I know this isn’t exactly a hot take, but “Too Darn Hot” is kind of stock choice, and that’s kind of lame. It was this year’s “Blow High, Blow Low,” which is far from a bad thing! It’s always cool to have the song every year that serves to show off 5 minutes of pure, exhilarating dance. I just wish they hadn’t picked the one song that anyone could see coming from a mile away to do so with. But I can’t complain too much. Basic choice or no, the choreography, of course, was still impressive. Corbin Bleu and James T. Lane leading the number got to show off their chops (the latter in both dancing AND some pretty solid singing, brief as it was), and the rest of the cast kept up like utter champs. Elizabeth, who’s been in KMK, pointed out to me the impressiveness that the choreography managed to hit every single random beat toward the end of the music, which upon a re-watch or two (and perhaps an attempted recreation), I’ve determined that the song does deserve a fair bit of credit for that, as doing so is A Lot Harder Than It Looks™. Add to it that the cameras did an impressive job at keeping up with the frenetic, stage-wide movement and you have a serviceable song choice that brought a fun, somewhat impressive 4 minutes that showed that this revival has, in fact, taught an old dog some new tricks.

 

The Cher Show “Believe”- Full disclosure, Cher’s not totally my thing, so there may be a part of me going into TCS’ performance on Sunday that just didn’t quite get it. What I did get from Elizabeth is that she and many others concur that Stephanie J. Block’s Cher has transcended imitation and has reached total reincarnation, which I can certainly appreciate, and even as someone who knows next to nothing about this show’s titular “warrior goddess” I could tell just from her opening monologue that Block has utterly stepped outside of herself to recreate this icon of the music industry. As impressive as that is, I have to admit that the performance of “Believe” on the whole felt weirdly low-energy for most of its duration. I know “Believe” isn’t exactly the kind of song designed to get your heart racing, but the performance seemed to be parading itself as this big show-off moment for the neglected musical, but there was a vitality that I felt was missing. The song and movements were just a little too slow to make the performance fully work for me. But I know that ultimately that’s not what The Cher Show was there for on Sunday. Had things been more energetic, there’s a risk they would’ve upstaged the woman herself and the many mind-boggling (which I mean in the BEST possible way) costumes that surrounded her. At which, I must confess, it succeeded brilliantly. Block absolutely shone, and at the end when that low bass beat hits and she stood there, arms spread as if to tell the audience to commence their worship of her, flanked on both sides by the skinned hides of rejected Muppets (which, again, I somehow mean in nothing but a complementary way), I realized that no matter how underwhelmed I was by the number, it still unequivocally succeeded. “Believe” showed off this show’s two greatest, DESERVEDLY Tony-winning assets- Stephanie J. Block in the role of a lifetime, and the most glorious assembly of spandex, sequins, & sparkling accessories any costumer has EVER dreamed up- which is all that this number really needed. I may not have loved it, but damn me if I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

 

And for those of you wondering why I didn’t discuss Cynthia Erivo’s In Memoriam performance: she’s a goddess, I love talking about her, but I felt critiquing what’s effectively a musical eulogy would be in bad taste. My reviews, my rules.

 

Thank you for reading!!

 

 

Now you can watch the show online at https://www.cbs.com/shows/tony_awards/

 

 

 

A History of the Tony Awards

At the time you’re reading this it is Tuesday, May 11th two days after the Tony Awards and it’s very possible all hell has broken loose. All pun intended but at the time of writing this the Tony Awards haven’t aired yet, I haven’t seen what opening James Corden has planned, whether the shows chose the right song to use or not (Ahem looking at you Mean Girls), or anything for that matter, all I have to go off of are nominations and the nominations I find most interesting are the nominations for Best Musical. Beetlejuice, Hadestown, The Prom, Ain’t Too Proud, and Tootsie are all great and it’s definitely going to be close. Or for you was close. This whole thing is kinda confusing so if you don’t mind I’d like to rewind from June 9th and June 10th and well 2019 in general to take a look back at some of the Best Musical winners in years past. A.K.A An excuse for me to talk about a lot of shows I’d like to discuss but don’t want to write a full article about.

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A “Nicely Nicely” Place To Start

I wanted to start with something classic. Not controversial or interesting really, It gives us our bearings to go forward. The first Tony Awards I want to look at is 1951 when the winner for Best Musical, or at the time “Outstanding Musical” as it was called, was Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls. The “Outstanding Musical” category was actually added in 1949 with Kiss Me, Kate but I’ll be honest I know very little about that show or the winner after it South Pacific. You can call me an ametuer but I just never really liked Shakespeare or Rodgers and Hammerstein, but I do love me some Guys and Dolls. This is a show I want to do a full article about sometime in the future because I find it highly interesting and it’s one of my top 5 favorite musicals so I’ll probably just touch on it here. Guys and Dolls is a highly entertaining comedy about Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit and the situations they find themselves in because of love. The show was adapted from the short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” by author Damon Runyon which I promise that I will be reading in the future before that main article comes out because from what I’ve heard characters and plots from his short stories are all mixed together in the musical and if that’s true this makes Guys and Dolls the Runyon equivalent of Seussical and this needs to be elaborated on further in the future. Anyways, the show opened on Broadway in 1950 and obviously was a huge success running for a 1,000+ performances. Guys and Dolls is seen as one of the essential golden age musical and in my opinion one of four defining 50’s musicals. It’s hard to tell what officially was nominated and it ran against for the Tony Award since to my knowledge nominees weren’t made public until the 10th Tony Awards in 1956 but I can make my best guesses at the very least that it’s biggest contender was a Peter Pan musical, most likely not the one you’re familiar with though. There are a lot of Peter Pan adaptations. Guys and Dolls did pretty well over all too winning 5 of the 12 possible categories including Robert Alda as best actor in a musical, George S Kaufman as best director, and Michael Kidd as best choreographer. It’s scenic designer didn’t win which I’d debate for it’s incredible sewer set but the guy who did win is listed for 3 different musicals so I suppose at least one of those was probably jaw-dropping. I honestly can’t lie, I’ve never been too interested in the original production of Guys and Dolls. I mean it’s the focal point since it was the one that won best musical but it’s nowhere near as cool as all of the stuff that came after. Like, four years later MGM (Yikes, remember them?) would release a movie based on the musical starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in the lead roles which for people not adverse in 50’s knowledge, let me tell you that I thought long and hard of what if anything to compare that too or what a movie with that kind of star power would be today and I couldn’t. I just could not. The movie itself is great and it’s held up really well but it probably helps having one of the best singers and actors of all time in the lead roles. Then there was the all black revival in 1976 which I want to know a lot more about than I do, and the 1992 revival that brought the world’s biggest glo up to the logo. I mean go look at the paper cut out one on the album from the 50’s and then the new one with the dice in the logo. It’s gorgeous and I love it and then they tried a new thing in 2009, and it was a nice try but not quite the same. Have I mentioned yet I love Guys and Dolls? You know what, let’s move on before this section becomes any longer than it already is. Oh wait, why did it win best musical? Because it’s Guys and Dolls. It’s great.



Street Gangs vs Marching Bands

Seven years later we finally have knowledge of the official nominations and jeezus beheezus criminy christmas was 1958 one heated year. There’s two musicals you need to know (Oh, Captain, Jamaica, and New Girl In Town are cool I guess) but let’s talk about the fact that Music Man and West Side Story went head to head in the same year. Robert Preston vs no one, because West Side Story’s actors got no nominations, Leonard Bernstein vs Meredith Willson (doesn’t actually matter because Best Original Score still doesn't exist), Jerome Robbins vs Bob Fosse but we already stated that we don’t really care about New Girl In Town and that was the show Fosse was tied to but it’s still a huge battle overall and still easily one of the most controversial decisions in Tony history mainly because nobody knows what should have won. If you look at it there’s a lot of good to look at. Both have stellar scores, good books, great choreography, and are all around very good shows that have earned their place as some of the most important golden age musicals. So if I had to make a decision it would be really hard. West Side Story certainly had better choreography and the Tonys supported that. Robert Preston absolutely sold the show and the Tonys reflected that and so when it comes to everything else, the story and the score. It’s certainly hard. At first thought I wanted to give the music aspect to Berstein but Willson’s marching band-esque score was new and exciting and I personally think the music in The Music Man conveys its messages better than the music in West Side Story but even that is just barely my opinion and would certainly change from day to day. So when it comes down to its book that’s the aspect that makes the winner clear to me. The Music Man certainly has a very interesting and enjoyable story that is still as endearing today as it was then but West Side Story is incomparable. Yes, it is based on Romeo and Juliet which makes it not completely original but I find that brilliant. It uses a conflict in the past in a new way to express a conflict that was serious at the time and it does end up being a slightly subtle and well done look at immigration and racism. I say slightly because it is very clearly there but I feel like it fits into the show in a way that the story merges well with its theme. To talk in full about what West Side Story’s script does right would take a long time and get off of our topic entirely, but the thing that absolutely cements this show book for me is the ending. For those of you who don’t know a spoiler alert is in affect I guess, Romeo and Juliet was written 400+ years ago but whatever. Tony dies and then one of the most ballsy things in musical theatre history happens. Seriously, Les Misérables didn’t even have the gall to do this, they added an upbeat song at the end so the audience can leave on a good note. The show ends with nothing but a funeral procession. No final song to leave the audience with just some music and it’s over. Imagine if Jean Valjean just died and the lights came up, yeah that’s how insane West Side Story is when you really look at it. To give you an idea of how crazy  this would have been, My Fair Lady which opened 2 years prior changed the ending of the show to make it “more happy for the audience” when it wasn’t originally intended to be that way, but these gods came out here and said “No we’re not doing that”. Even Sweeney Todd ends with a reprise of the opening song, but West Side Story ends with nothing at all and is the ultimate spit in the face at the idea that “every musical ends with a happy ending.” It lost to The Music Man. The Music Man won Outstanding Musical in 1958. Bad decision? That’s up to you because I do really love The Music Man and plenty of people have stated they disagree with me. If you do see yourself in my party you can rest with the fact that both West Side Story and The Music Man would go onto be made into a movie in the early 60’s and only one would win The Best Picture at the Oscars...and it wasn’t the marching band one.



A Bloody Brilliant Breakthrough

By this point we’ve talked about Stephen Sondheim a fair bit, probably more than I should have to be honest but I hope you’re not tied because I plan to talk about him more, because we’re going to talk about his best show unless you think the other one is his best show which in that case go ahead and skip down to the next section and if you think I’m talking about Assassins or Company then dial your expertise back a bit because we’re not going that in depth. We’re talking about the 1979 winner for best musical, Sweeney Todd. Now back when I first joined the blog about a year ago, good lord time flies by, I had originally planned on a series discussing the history of Broadway by looking at the most influential musical of decade starting with Oklahoma, the one I did do. Not my best but what can you do. There’s several ones I had planned I’m really sad I never got to write about but the 70’s submission Sweeney Todd is one of the ones I was most excited to write. Now I don’t personally know how influential Sweeney Todd was overall. It didn’t usher in a new age of dance, or rewrite the musical standard, well wait maybe it did do that just a bit. No, the thing that makes Sweeney Todd easily the most important musical of the decade and by that standard one of the most important of all time is that it’s the musical that in my opinion definitively proved that you could have a musical about anything from a horror adaptation to a spelling bee and it could work and be well, kinda successful. It wasn't much at first but there’s absolutely no denying the success of it today and it’s a perfect example of the growth of musicals that we can go from one of Sondheim’s first ever works in 1958 which itself was an important break from a bunch of ritzy musicals that always had happy endings to a musical about a guy who splits people's throats and they show it in full graphic onstage, incredible! Sweeney Todd is easily one of the strangest adaptations and it was a significant first step because I don’t know that anyone but Sondheim and his music which is masterfully composed and deeper than just the face value of the lyrics could have made a show so certain to fail in musical format work to such an astounding degree. Sweeney Todd won Best Musical in 1979 against some competition like The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, but nothing that seriously stood against it and it’s award. It's a brilliant musical that defied all odds to become one of Sondheim’s best if not his best, but there's a camp of people you'll see that disagree.



Broadway's Biggest Battle

About ten years later It’s time for a rivalry to be born with two nominees specifically that are going to clash for Best Musical, one that many would consider the best musical theatre composer of all time’s Magnum Opus, Into The Woods. The other a similarly established composer with some big names under his belt who is about to make his magnum opus as well also known as the single most successful musical of all time that will lead to him becoming the most successful musical theatre composer of all time with his musical, The Phantom Of The Opera. It’s the Broadway battle to end all Broadway battles. Stephen Sondheim vs Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sondheim’s submission, Into The Woods, is an interesting take at fairy tale characters who find themselves tied together with the threat of giants looming overhead. The other an epic about a masked man who lives beneath an opera house and longs for one of the singers. When it comes to music, Sondheim is known for his complex scores and Into The Woods is no different. Webber also creates a great score with Phantom that conveys the dark and heavy mood of the show well. Phantom is a much bigger show overall especially with it’s showstopping scene where a giant chandelier crashes into the audiences and Into The Woods is very minimalistic and relies heavily on its music and story.  In the end despite Sondheim’s tony winning history, Phantom took home the award. One of the first milestones in it’s long line of success. In a way Webber dethroned Sondheim and they’ve never had shows line up to have a rematch to this day. Do I think this decision was right? Well, yeah probably. Into The Woods is a beautiful show that I discover more about every time I see it but Phantom is bigger in just about every way. It doesn’t have the same meaning and depth to it’s music I’ve come to love Sondheim for, but it makes up for it with an epic and overwhelming story and score. There simply was no stopping Phantom once it got rolling, not even by the great Stephen Sondheim and the debate that pins Sondheim against Webber for best musical theatre composer still goes on to this day.



The Worst Tony Awards Ever

Ok, alright let’s just talk about this for a second because holy good lord this is just the worst year, the single worst Tony Awards of all time. I don’t care what you guys think of Dear Evan Hansen vs Great Comet because this one is the worst decision of all time. The year is 1991 and several musicals have just opened on Broadway and are prepared to be adjudicated for the Tony awards. In the end several musicals will get nominations but only 4 will get nominations for the most prestigious award of all, The Best Musical unless you don’t have music then it’s Best Play but also sometimes plays have music like Choir Boy or Peter and the Starcatcher so I mean… It’s the one that ends it so it’s the best, there. That’s a good enough reason. Anyways there were 4 musicals up for this award and odds are you’ve heard of all of them. The first one was Once on This Island by Ahrens and Flaherty. Another one was The Secret Garden based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett with music by Lucy Simon, who didn’t do any other shows but didn’t need to because The Secret Garden is a magnum opus and a musical that was written by a composer known for previous shows and wasn’t his Magnum Opus, Miss Saigon by Boublil and Schonberg. Anyways some seriously good musicals against Will Rogers Follies by Cy Coleman. Now a lot of you probably don’t know that musical. Before researching some things about The Secret Garden I didn’t either. I do know Cy Coleman but better for his musical Barnum so I can say at least that he has good music but nothing that could ever compare to The Secret Garden...oh and the others. Alright, now just listen because you’ve probably heard of The Secret Garden. It’s kinda like Parade in the fact that you may never have listened to it but you’ve heard someone talk about how good it is and it really is. All of the music is gorgeous and it’s orchestrated so that each character has a different type of sound. I don’t have to sell you on Miss Saigon because it’s music is pretty much Les Mis and you are lying to me if you say you haven’t listened to that and then there’s Once on This Island with music by composers who have a lot of other musicals I like a lot more, like My Favorite Year. Underrated classic, no one talks about but some of the songs are amazing. Anyways, the point is to tell you that those 3 musicals are solid and even more so with their music all to lead up to the winner of the 1991 Tony Awards for Best Musical...Will Rogers Follies. Now you’re probably asking the same question I am right now which is how? Well hold on, I’m not done, because even though it beat all of those other way better shows for Best Musical it’s onslaught was greater because it also won Best Score which if you have listened at the very least to The Secret Garden or Miss Saigon you know is absolutely ridiculous. So, back to that question of Why? Well, there’s a lot of speculation but the most popular reasoning is that Will Rogers Follies was bigger with Tony voters because it represented an older age of Broadway. whatever the reason I not agree with it and it just goes to teach the lesson that even when you think a show has no competition, that anything can happen.



Oh man, I don’t really want to end it there because 1991 was so long ago and that’s kind of a sour note but thats really i have Well maybe not everything. Alright, I've got an idea, let’s just do a speed round of a few more history facts…



Ready set Go!

Fact #1 In 1996, four years after their first musical Disney got a Best Musical win with The Lion King.

Fact #2 In 1999 Fosse and Parade fought for Best Musical. Parade being a superior show won Best Book and Best Score but lost Best Musical which is incredibly odd.

Fact #3 In 2001, The Producers won Best Musical and basically everything else leading it to become the musical with the most Tony won. A record it hold to this day.

Fact #4 In 2003 Avenue Q beat Wicked in a surprising turn of events for Best Musical. With Avenue Q recently closing Wicked got the last laugh outlasting it

Fact #5 In 2012 Disney had good odds to get their second Best Musical win with Newsies, However controversially the show lost to Once

...And that basically puts us to today where only a few years ago Hamilton swept, fans cried out when Dear Evan Hansen beat Great Comet, The Band's Visit had zero chance of losing and now it’s time for a brand new battle...for me at least. For you that battle is over and history.


I love the history of the Tony Awards and there is plenty more I’d love to talk about but I think I’ll leave that for another year, As always I’d really like to thank you for reading, It really means a lot to me and I try to write monthly so I hope to see you again the next time i do and even though I’m a day late I would like to wish you a Happy Tony Awards whether you watched it at home or saw it live in person. Me, I'll be just a few blocks away...so close yet so far. Anyways, that is it Thank you again, look for some finishing Tony stuff soon from talented writers on the blog and I hope you all have a fantastic day. Goodbye.






How to Succeed in Performing Without Really Trying

Elizabeth Bergmann

Three years ago, at the 2016 Tony Awards, James Corden sang about how seeing a show makes us say "That could be me!" When I was a freshman in high school, I was cut from the volleyball team and needed a new activity to fill my fall semester, so my band squad leader suggested the fall play. In the summer of 2018, I talked my whole family (Mom, Dad, and younger brother) into doing The Music Man with my community theatre family. We all have different ways that we find ourselves wanting to enter the world of theatre. Maybe a local group is doing one of your favorite shows, or a friend keeps insisting you should do a show together (I am this friend).

 

Whatever the reason, providence seems determined to get you in a show. If you’re brand-new, from a non-theatre family, and generally haven’t done anything except those school plays about bullying and the seasons, you have no clue what you’re getting into. The idea of auditioning for a big show can be terrifying. People throw out words like “blocking” and “dramaturge” and you have no clue what they’re talking about. With no single source of all this information available up to this point, I’ve decided to become that single source myself. I plan to focus on auditions for musical theatre, mostly because those tend to be the most complicated, but aspects of it will apply to auditioning for plays, as well. So, if you have no clue where to start, why not start here?

 

Where do I find a group to do a show with?

There are lots of Facebook groups for different theatrical groups and communities. I’m lucky enough to currently be in two groups that cater to my area, but local news sources and postings can let you know what is in your area. There may even be smaller groups that you rarely hear about looking for fresh talent! I found my community theatre family pretty much by accident: they rehearse in the same community center where I was taking dance classes. If you know people who perform, ask them where. If you’re a student, look for your school’s program. Find out which shows these groups are doing, and check when they rehearse. What’s the cast size? Can you be at rehearsals? If it looks like you’d be able to be in this show, audition!

 


What do I do to get ready for auditions?

The first thing I like to do when considering auditioning for a show is research. Who wrote the show? What is the basic story? What style of music is it? Are there any characters you’d like to play? I tend to accidentally memorize shows, but general familiarity will be your best friend. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into (a girl quit a Guys and Dolls production I was in because she suddenly discovered it could be a little sexist), and this will also give you a baseline for your audition. The audition description will tell you if you need to prepare a monologue, a song, or anything else. Monologues should fit the tone and time period of the show you’re auditioning for. Pick a song that you know you can sing well no matter what condition your voice is in. I personally don’t recommend a song you don’t know too well, but also try to avoid cliché audition songs (that’s a whole other article, ask theatre friends and/or Google if you aren’t sure). The song should ideally be in the style of the show, so do a pop song for a pop show, a classical song for a classical show, etc. Be sure to have sheet music, or a karaoke track, or whatever else they might say you need to supply. Plan out an audition outfit (again, a whole other article), and make sure it’s not too specific and you can move in it.

 

What do I do once I get to auditions?

Show up a little early so you can fill out any forms, turn in sheet music, whatever you need to do before you get up and sing. As you fill out the form, be honest about any conflicts so they can make a rehearsal schedule. If they ask if you want a specific role, put it down. Since you’re just starting out, I highly suggest putting that you’d be willing to play any role and that you’ll take an ensemble role. Ensemble is a great place to start, and directors often like to see that you’re not just here for the one role you specifically auditioned for. After you turn in the form, you’ll usually be singing. You might sing in front of just those casting, you might be in a small group, or you might be singing in front of everybody. If you have an accompanist (pianist), let them know what sections you’re singing and the tempo you’d like to sing it at. You might be asked to introduce yourself, usually by giving your name and the song you’re singing. As you sing, try to act while you perform your song. If it’s a happy song, show that you’re happy, if it’s sad, be sad-- you get the idea. Once everyone has sung, you may be asked to dance a little, or to do “cold reads” from the script (perform a scene with little to no practice time). Take whatever they throw at you and give it 100% effort. You might get called back, you might not, but make sure they’ve seen that you can do a lot with whatever you’re given.

 

What happens after auditions?

The cast can be announced in a number of ways. You might receive a phone call or an email, there could be a website, a Facebook page might be set up, etc. A lot of groups may ask that you respond to accept or decline a role (I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be prompt in responding).You’ll likely receive a date for a read-through and a rehearsal schedule, which you’ll want to put in your calendar as soon as possible. You’ll receive either a separate script and score or a full libretto. You’ll want to check and ask if you can use highlighters or if it’s pencils only for marking it. GUARD YOUR SCRIPT. Bare minimum, write your name in the front cover so people know it’s yours. Script thieves are everywhere, and your name in it means you can get it back.

 

What should I do in rehearsals?

Up until tech week, rehearsals will be just about learning and perfecting the material. You may or may not be rehearsing in the space you’re performing in. You’ll take this time to learn music, dances, and any lines or blocking you’ll need to know. Show up to rehearsal on-time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your fellow actors, your director, and especially your stage manager are all there to help and support you. Write notes for blocking (movement while acting), choreography, and music so you don’t forget them. If someone asks a question about costumes, shoes, hair, or makeup, listen for the answer (and I’ll tell you more later).

 

What’s this “tech week” people talk about all the time?

“Tech week” is the last week of rehearsals before the show opens. It’s dedicated to incorporating the technical elements into the show, hence “tech week.” You’ll be in the performance space, and these will be the longest rehearsals you’ll ever experience. You’ll likely be called earlier and kept later. In addition to technical elements (lights, sound effects, microphones, etcetera), your show’s band/orchestra will appear (if there is one) and you’ll be in costume with hair and makeup done. These rehearsals are meant to perfect runs of the show so it’s ready by opening. You’ll likely get notes each night, and you’ll want to write these down and implement them. Everybody will be stressed and tired, so make sure to take care of yourself and have patience. Maybe give something nice to your stage manager so they don’t go insane.

 

You keep talking about costumes, hair, and makeup. What do I need to do for that?

Each theatre group is different. You might be supplying your own costume, or they might have them for you. You should learn what you need to supply from the production team, but don’t be afraid to ask. As a good base, it might be wise to invest in character shoes if you play lady roles, black dress shoes if you play man roles, and jazz shoes either way. Each production has different visions, but these shoes usually work no matter what time period you’re in. As for hair, you might be doing your own or someone might be doing it for you. This depends on the group. If you are doing it yourself, ask for what it should look like for the show. Wigs might be involved depending on the show.

 

Now, makeup. I know some groups will have other people doing your makeup, but I’ve always done it for myself. If you are doing it yourself, everybody has their own preferences for how they do it. Some shows will require bright colors or wrinkles or something drastic, but a lot of shows are fairly simple. My advice: Your face, but bigger. I recommend foundation to even out your skin, concealer for under your eyes, blush to give you some color, and eyeliner & mascara to bring your eyes out. If you’re an eyeshadow and lipstick person, use nude browns on the eyes and pick a lipstick that looks natural (unless this is a time period where red was the color of choice). Apply a little more of everything than you would for every day. The whole purpose of stage makeup is to ensure your face looks good from the back row of the theatre. Ask your castmates for help if you’re not sure how much is too much.

 

What should I expect from performances?

Things will go right, and things will go wrong. The whole atmosphere of a show is different when there is an audience there with you. The important thing is to not add things once the show opens. You’ll be tempted to push for laughs or try something new, but don’t do it. Make sure you’re paying attention to the show so you don’t miss your cues. Enjoy the applause and feed off the audience to keep your energy up. There is nothing more thrilling than performing for a great audience. You’ll likely get to greet the audience after curtain call, so take that opportunity to thank everyone who came to see you.

 

What happens when the show ends?

A lot of groups need help striking the show after, so be sure to stay and help with that. There will likely be a cast party that you should definitely attend. You’ll probably be sad, and your time will feel a lot emptier without rehearsals in there. But that just means you can look forward to the next show! Not many people can stop after just one.

 

I hope you’ll find your home in the theatre. It has been the best family I could ever ask for, and it really will fill you with a joy that nothing else can create. Welcome home! We're glad to have you!

The Bloggers Vote on the 73rd Tony Awards

Collective Blog; Put together by Darren Wildeman and Erica Jurus

2019 Blogger Tony Awards

 For the 2019 Tony Awards, the All Things Broadway blog team voted on each award based on who we think should win each award. And these are the results of said voting.

Tony_Award_Medallion.jpg


Best Orchestrations Nominees

Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown

Simon Hale, Tootsie

Larry Hochman, Kiss Me, Kate

Daniel Kluger, Oklahoma!

Harold Wheeler, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, Hadestown


Best Choreography Nominees

Camille A. Brown, Choir Boy

Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate

Denis Jones, Tootsie

David Neumann, Hadestown

Sergio Trujillo, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: Warren Carlyle, Kiss Me, Kate

 

Sound Design of a Musical Nominees

Peter Hylenski, King Kong

Peter Hylenski, Beetlejuice

Steve Canyon Kennedy, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Drew Levy, Oklahoma!

Neil Steinberg and Jessica Paz, Hadestown

 

And the bloggers voted: Peter Hylenski, King Kong

 

Sound Design of a Play Nominees

Adam Cork, Ink

Scott Lehrer, To Kill a Mockingbird

Fitz Patton, Choir Boy

Nick Powell, The Ferryman

Eric Sleichim, Network

 

And the bloggers voted: Eric Sleichim, Network

 

Lighting Design of a Musical Nominees

Kevin Adams, The Cher Show

Howell Blinkley, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Bradley King, Hadestown

Peter Mumford, King Kong

Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, Beetlejuice

 

And the bloggers voted: Kenneth Posner and Peter Nigrini, Beetlejuice

 

Lighting Design of a Play Nominees

Neil Austin, Ink

Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Peter Mumford, The Ferryman

Jennifer Tipton, To Kill a Mockingbird

Jan Versweyveld and Tal Yarden, Network

 

And the bloggers voted: Jennifer Tipton, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical Nominees

Michael Krass, Hadestown

William Ivey Long, Beetlejuice

William Ivey Long, Tootsie

Bob Mackie, The Cher Show

Paul Tazewell, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: William Ivey Long, Beetlejuice

 

Best Costume Design of a Play Nominees

Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Toni-Leslie James, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Clint Ramos, Torch Song

Ann Roth, To Kill a Mockingbird

Ann Roth, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Adronicus

 

And the bloggers voted: Ann Roth, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Scenic Design of a Musical Nominees

Robert Brill and Peter Nagrini, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Peter England, King Kong

Rachel Hauck, Hadestown

Laura Jellineck, Oklahoma!

David Korins, Beetlejuice

 

And the bloggers voted: David Korins, Beetlejuice

 

Best Scenic Design of a Play Nominees

Miriam Buether, To Kill a Mockingbird

Bunny Christie, Ink

Rob Howell, The Ferryman

Santo Loquasto, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Jan Versweyveld, Network

 

And the bloggers voted: Rob Howell, The Ferryman

 

Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nominees

Lilli Cooper, Tootsie

Amber Gray, Hadestown

Sarah Stiles, Tootsie

Ali Stroker, Oklahoma!

Mary Testa, Oklahoma!

 

And the bloggers voted: Amber Gray, Hadestown

 

Best Featured Actress in a Play Nominees

Fionnula Flanagan, The Ferryman

Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird

Kristine Nielsen, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Julie White, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

Ruth Wilson, King Lear

 

And the bloggers voted: Celia Keenan-Bolger, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Featured Actor in a Play Nominees

Bertie Carvel, Ink

Robin de Jesus, The Boys in the Band

Gideon Glick, To Kill a Mockingbird

Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This

Benjamin Walker, All My Sons

 

And the bloggers voted: Brandon Uranowitz, Burn This

 

Best Featured Actor in a Musical Nominees

Andre De Shields, Hadestown

Andy Grotelueschen, Tootsie

Patrick Page, Hadestown

Jeremy Pope, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Ephraim Sykes, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

 

And the bloggers voted: Patrick Page, Hadestown

 

Best Leading Actress in a Play Nominees

Annette Bening, All My Sons

Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

Elaine May, The Waverly Gallery

Janet McTeer, Bernhardt/Hamlet

Laurie Metcalf, Hillary and Clinton

Heide Schreck, What the Constitution Means to Me

 

And the bloggers voted: Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

 

Best Leading Actress in a Musical Nominees

Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show

Caitlin Kinnunen, The Prom

Beth Leavel, The Prom

Eva Noblezada, Hadestown

Kelli O’Hara, Kiss Me, Kate

 

And the bloggers voted: Stephanie J. Block, The Cher Show

 

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play Nominees

Paddy Considine, The Ferryman

Bryan Cranston, Network

Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird

Adam Driver, Burn This

Jeremy Pope, Choir Boy

 

And the bloggers voted: Jeff Daniels, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical Nominees

Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom

Derrick Baskin, Ain't Too Proud -- The Life and Times of the Temptations

Alex Brightman, Beetlejuice

Damon Daunno, Rogers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!

Santino Fontana, Tootsie

 

And the bloggers voted: Santino Fontana, Tootsie

 

Best Direction of a Play Nominees
Rupert Goold, Ink
Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird
Ivo van Hove, Network
George C. Wolfe, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

 

And the bloggers voted: Bartlett Sher, To Kill a Mockingbird

Best Direction of a Musical Nominees
Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown
Scott Ellis, Tootsie
Daniel Fish, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Des McAnuff, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

 

And the bloggers voted: Casey Nicholaw, The Prom

 

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre Nominees
Be More Chill (Music & Lyrics: Joe Iconis)
Beetlejuice (Music & Lyrics: Eddie Perfect)
Hadestown (Music & Lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell)
The Prom (Music: Matthew Sklar, Lyrics: Chad Beguelin)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Music: Adam Guettel)
Tootsie (Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek)

 

And the bloggers voted: Hadestown (Music & Lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell)

Best Book of a Musical Nominees
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Dominique Morisseau)
Beetlejuice (Scott Brown & Anthony King)
Hadestown (Anaïs Mitchell)
The Prom (Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin)
Tootsie (Robert Horn)

 

And the bloggers voted: The Prom (Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin)

 

Best Revival of a Play Nominees
Arthur Miller’s All My Sons
The Boys in the Band
Burn This
Torch Song
The Waverly Gallery

 

And the bloggers voted: Torch Song

 

Best Revival of a Musical Nominees
Kiss Me, Kate
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

 

And the bloggers voted: Kiss Me, Kate

 

 

Best Play Nominees
Choir Boy
The Ferryman
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Ink
What the Constitution Means to Me

 

And the bloggers voted: The Ferryman

 

Best Musical Nominees
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations
Beetlejuice
Hadestown
The Prom
Tootsie

 

And the bloggers voted: Hadestown

 

 Final Tally for wins by show
Hadestown: 5
To Kill a Mockingbird: 5
The Ferryman: 3
Beetlejuice: 3
Kiss Me, Kate: 2
The Prom: 2
The Cher Show: 1
Tootsie: 1
Burn This: 1
King Kong: 1
Network: 1


Thanks for reading, let us know your opinion on the vote, and don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on June 8 at 8/7c on CBS, hosted by James Corden, to find out the winners.

Disney on Broadway

Kelly Ostazeski

The Walt Disney Company has had shows on Broadway for twenty-five years. It's hard to believe that a quarter of a century ago, the first Disney Theatricals production, Beauty and the Beast, opened on Broadway in 1994. Belle, the Beast, and Gaston took Broadway by storm, and started a tradition of adapting animated and live action musicals to the stage.

After Beauty and the Beast, Broadway saw productions of The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, Newsies, Aladdin, and Frozen. Disney also created a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which opened in Germany and has also played regional theatres on this side of the Atlantic. In London, a production of Pinocchio opened in 2017. Original shows such as Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, Peter and the Starcatcher, and On the Record also opened on Broadway or on tour.


“Actress Buyi Zama as Rafiki in Taiwan”  by The Lion King’s Taiwan staff is licensed under  CC BY-SA 3.0

“Actress Buyi Zama as Rafiki in Taiwan” by The Lion King’s Taiwan staff is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Upcoming productions include Hercules, The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Disney also planned revivals of Beauty and the Beast and Aida, both of which I personally can't wait to see, since I never saw them on Broadway.

As of this writing, The Lion King, Aladdin, and Frozen are still running on Broadway.

Disney on Broadway has launched the careers of many of the stars of these musicals, such as Susan Egan (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), Sierra Boggess (Ariel in The Little Mermaid, which was also her Broadway debut), James Monroe Iglehart (the Genie in Aladdin, which earned him a Tony Award), Laura Michelle Kelly (London's original Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins), Jeremy Jordan (Jack in Newsies), and Kara Lindsay (Katherine in Newsies).

Like many of these established musical theatre stars who got their start on Broadway in Disney musicals, for many audiences a Disney musical is their first Broadway show, or for young artists a Disney musical gives them the inspiration to go after their theatrical dreams, or it's the first show they are in.


A Disney show was not my first Broadway show, or the first show I was in, but Broadway's production of Mary Poppins did inspire me to return to my theatre aspirations, and over the years I was able to see it many times at the New Amsterdam Theatre (current home of Aladdin) and on tour. Through Mary Poppins, I met many friends and many of the cast members, and for a while, the theatre felt like home. I ended up seeing six Marys and six Berts between Broadway and the tour, and then later got to see the Marys that I'd missed in other productions. I also took my friends to see Mary Poppins on Broadway, who were curious about it after I'd raved about for months. It was only their second show in New York, and their first had been a matinee that day!    


I feel that Disney on Broadway is important to our art form for those reasons, and because it's incredible to see these timeless stories and characters come to life. Disney Theatricals pushes the boundaries of set design, special effects, choreography, and costume design to create a truly visually stunning experience that brings these often fairy tale and fantasy worlds to stunning reality. The Beast's transformation to human, Elsa's ice magic and incredible costume change from coronation gown to iconic blue ice dress, Bert tap dancing on the proscenium, Mary Poppins flying over the audience, a magic carpet ride, a cast of animals on stage brought to life through puppetry...Disney always delivers the magic. Then there is the choreography: the stunning spelling of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”; tap dancing chimney sweeps; “Under the Sea” fish and sea creatures; cutlery, plates, and furniture dancing to “Be Our Guest”; and the incredibly energetic dancing newsboys.


Disney often gets criticism from critics and Broadway purists for being too touristy, too kid-oriented – but because of this artistry and the inspiration these stories and performances give, I believe that these shows belong on Broadway. The stories are timeless, the designs are top-notch, the music is iconic, and the performances are great. There is a reason these shows are popular, and a reason that amateur theatres do them for years to come – not just because of the name, but because of the shows themselves. The shows have inspired a generation of young artists, performers, and audiences, and made many dreams come true. I had the chance to talk to several Disney fans who were impacted in some way by these musicals, whether on stage or in the audience. 


Olivia saw Beauty and the Beast when she was only five years old. Imagine being five and seeing your favorite characters live on stage! Imagine, according to her, “feeling so drawn to what was happening on stage. [She] couldn’t look away the entire show. It excited [her] so much and it made [her] want to perform.” She said it's the reason she's studying musical theatre to this day. She was later cast as Jane Banks in Mary Poppins. She said, “I think Disney on Broadway opens up the live theatre to every single age group. It has stories that every single person can connect to and enjoy. Disney on Broadway is important because it can open the door and be the reason someone so young decides they want to do theatre.”


Becky loves Newsies and said that “Newsies inspired me to dream for a better life.” Winchelle also connected to Newsies and said, “they pretty much left me speechless, with tears falling down my cheeks; it was spectacular.” She also wrote that Disney is “very important because it inspires a lot of people. It has the ability to spark some light to that theater-loving person that was hidden behind a dark closet within ourselves.”


Kim was lucky enough to see Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins. She wrote, “I remember being absolutely in awe the entire time. The costumes, the actors, and the music that I loved! It was all right there in front of me…LIVE! I had to try really hard not to sing along. The movie had always been my favorite...I saved all my pennies over the next few months and took my first trip to New York City. The first night I was there I saw Mary Poppins. I had a seat in the very first row of the balcony. It took a lot of self-control not to reach out and touch Mary Poppins’s feet as she flew by. She was so close; I felt the breeze from her dress!”

Emelie wrote, “I think they bring a lot of magic to Broadway that other shows can’t bring. Where else can you see mermaids, a woman with ice powers (and a dress that is literally magic), a flying carpet, and the king of Pride Rock?” She also said, “They are the go-to shows for families with young children. These are the kind of productions, that I think, have the biggest potential to show young children just how magical, and powerful Broadway is. Imagine being that young, and watching your favorite Disney Princess dancing across the stage! That could be the exact moment they find their passion. Disney on Broadway is far from inferior.”
Sarah was in a production of The Little Mermaid while in school and told me about her experience playing Flounder (the fish).  “I was lucky enough to get to play Flounder in my first show ever, and I think that being able to play a Disney character really enhanced my love for theater.  Of course I would have been happy enough to have just been in the ensemble, but being able to take such a well known, loved character and bring it to life on stage was such a life-changing moment.” She then wrote, “When I got to 8th grade we did another Disney show, Beauty and the Beast, and that is where I met two of my closest friends.  I played Cogsworth, and once again getting to step into the role of such a well known character reminded me of why I still did it...”

As far as how Disney shows can inspire new performers, Sarah wrote, “I think especially for younger actors, Disney is such a great way to get involved in theater, as we are often at the age where we aren't really sure how to start developing a character, so going in with a solid outline of what is expected of the character, it becomes so much easier to fill in the gaps and adapt it to yourself...Ensemble or lead, nothing beats getting to sing the iconic songs knowing the crowd won't be able to help but love it.”

Amanda has connected to two Disney shows throughout her theatre-going life: Newsies and Frozen. She wrote to me about how two of the cast members inspired her through their performing and beyond, Kara Lindsay and Patti Murin. “Two ladies who have been involved in Disney Theatrical Productions have inspired me. First, is Kara Lindsay (Katherine in Newsies). The first time I saw Newsies, I didn’t know who she was. I was so incredibly inspired by her and her performance as Katherine. That performance right then and there is what inspired me to get back into musical theater. Patti Murin (current Anna in Frozen) is the other person who has inspired me not only as an actress, but as a person. I am constantly inspired by Patti and everything she does for the mental health community.”

Amanda is passionate about Disney and its impact on audiences. “I think Disney on Broadway is important to our art because it’s timeless. It’s something that everyone, no matter how young or old, knows. People get to see these movies that they grew up watching come to life right in front of their eyes. Disney on Broadway is also important because many kids’ first Broadway shows are Disney productions. I just recently took my 4-year-old cousin to Frozen for her very first Broadway show and it was such a magical experience. Getting to see the excitement on her face as we approached the theater, and the looks on her face while watching the show, was priceless. I hope that she will remember that experience forever and want to keep going back to Broadway shows. Disney on Broadway shows are fun for ALL ages and it’s super important that there are Broadway shows that families can attend together.”

Disney has something for everyone – for a young actor who simply loves Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid and wants to play one of their favorite characters on stage. For a five-year-old girl who's never seen a musical before and sees Mary Poppins fly over the audience, or her favorite princess dancing in her ballgown, or Elsa actually use her ice magic in person. For a family of tourists in New York City who want to see a show but isn't familiar with strictly Broadway musicals and chooses The Lion King or Frozen because they know the story already and know it'll be a good night of entertainment. Perhaps the child in the audience will one day want to perform as well because they got to see Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, or any of the other of these magical shows. As they say in Frozen, “love is an open door,” and maybe in this case, that love is musical theatre, found through a Disney show. As Mary Poppins says, “anything can happen if you let it”.

 

 

** Thank you to Amanda, Becky, Emelie, Sarah, Winchelle, Olivia, and Kim for your time and your stories. ** 

 

Where Are the Teenagers?

Rachel Hoffman

In the past few years, there has been a surge of new musicals whose stories are centered around teenagers. From shows with serious themes, like Dear Evan Hansen, to shows that are more extravagant and fun, like Mean Girls, to shows that fall into both categories, like The Prom, the teens seem to be taking over Broadway.

But despite the slew of shows set in high schools and with high-school-aged characters, there are very few actors in these shows who are actually the age of the characters they are portraying. While there are some exceptions, it is very difficult to find a professional show about high schoolers with a cast the same age as its characters.

Of course, there are many valid reasons why it is difficult to cast teenagers in Broadway shows. The most obvious reason is that kids under the age of 18 are still considered minors in New York, and are often still attending school. When children and teens are employed as performers in New York, their employers are responsible for ensuring that the child’s work schedule, tutoring schedule, and break time comply with the state’s child labor laws. (For curious minds, these regulations can be found at https://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/LS559.pdf.) And aside from the legalistic side of it, it is true that older actors and actresses are often just better choices for the roles. It is much easier to find a performer in their 20s with several Broadway credits and professional training than a teenager with the same qualifications.


Obviously, there are some shows that require children to be cast. Shows like Matilda, School of Rock, and The Sound of Music, among many others, simply cannot be performed in a convincing way without child performers. It is the characters in their late teens that are most often filled with actors and actresses that are older than their onstage counterparts.

While there have been many recent shows set in high school, the casting of adults in teen roles isn’t a new trend. Musicals about high schoolers have been around for decades. From West Side Story, to Grease, to Bring It On, Broadway musicals set in high school have always had casts full of 20- and 30-year-olds.

But at what point does an actor stop being believable as a teenager? Perhaps the most drastic recent example of casting older actors as teenagers is the current Broadway production of Be More Chill. With a cast made almost entirely of actors in their late 20s and early 30s, much of the cast is almost twice as old as the characters they are playing. Living in the midwest, I haven’t had the luxury of seeing this show- or any recent show, for that matter- on Broadway, so I feel that I can’t make a judgement on whether the actors truly appear to be in high school in the show, or if they appear to be adults portraying high schoolers. But I do wonder, what made the casting directors decide to cast multiple actors in their 30s instead of actors closer to the age of the show’s characters? What must be done to make a 30-year-old believable as a high school student? Does anything have to be done at all? Would they have still cast the same actors if they were 35? 40? (But I digress… perhaps this should be a discussion for a later blog.)

Of course, an obvious exception to this trend is Andrew Barth Feldman, who just made his Broadway debut in January as Evan Hansen at just 16 years old. This was a huge shift from the opening of the show three years ago, in which Ben Platt, at 23, was the youngest member of the original cast. Since Platt, several actors in their 20s have played the role of Evan. But now, for five of the eight performances each week, Evan’s shoes are filled by someone who has been walking the halls of a high school himself for the past few years. (Feldman isn’t playing the demanding role full time in order to allow time for training and to build up his stamina. Michael Lee Brown, an actor in his 20s, plays the role for the remaining three shows each week.)

Recently, a friend of mine took a trip to New York City, and was able to see Feldman as Evan. When I asked her about it, she could not stop raving about how amazing he was, and how wonderful it was to see a teenaged role filled by a teenager. When I searched for reviews online, these same remarks kept popping up. Many of the critics talked about how seeing a teen play this role made the experience all the more real and raw. And just last week, a new review came out in The New York Times, claiming that, “At many moments he [Feldman] surprised me, despite my repeat viewings, with new melismas and spins on lyrics that sharpened the story to a slightly different point.”

This got me wondering, should Broadway be giving teens more of a chance? Of course, there is no shortage of incredibly talented adults searching for work in the theatre world. But I also don’t believe that there is a lack of talented teenagers who are capable of impressing audiences on a Broadway stage. After all, there have also been shows on Broadway that required children to hold very large roles (Tuck Everlasting, Finding Neverland, The Secret Garden). Why, then, should there not be a larger number of teenagers playing teen roles?

Whatever the reason, teen actors and actresses will most likely just have to wait their turn to be in the Broadway spotlight. While seeing a teen play a leading role on Broadway is no doubt inspiring, there is no indication that the age of the actors are correlated to the success of the show. And after all, the goal will always be to sell tickets and fill seats. Teenage actors who wish to wish to attend any of Broadway’s most famous high schools may just have to wait until they’re older to do so.



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.

Lin-Manuel_Miranda,_Phillipa_Soo,_Leslie_Odom,_Jr.,_and_Christopher_Jackson,_White_House,_March_2016 (1).jpg



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?

Theatre and Mental Health

If you or someone you know is in distress do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline. This number in the USA is 1-800-273-8255, If you are outside the USA here are some international hotlines. If your country isn’t listed a quick Google search should turn up something. Additionally there are hotlines and resources for eating disorders, abuse, general depression and anxiety, and most other major issues. Not just suicide. Do not hesitate to ask and find a resource if you or someone else needs help.

Henri Tomic

Mental health has become an incredibly important discussion topic; there is almost no topic that is discussed in the news and online more frequently - other than maybe Trump and Brexit, of course.
Even though well-being and self-care have been a part of human life for centuries, it's almost like mindfulness, Eastern medicine and a new generation of influencers have made it trendy to care about suicide prevention and your mental health.
And in fact, inspirational quotes and raising awareness can really save lives. Nevertheless, there is another type of entertainment that had been doing exactly that for quite a while - the theatre.
Ever since we started producing plays, the mental state of the characters was of utmost importance to the plot, whether you look back to Shakespeare, or even farther back, all the way to Greek theatre, the challenge for the hero was to keep his sanity, with all the dramatic things happening around him. Depending on the type of play or show, he either succeeds or surrenders to his environment. Therefore, it is no wonder that almost any show can provide inspiration and give some energy and hope to its audience. 
We all go through tough times sometimes and are the heroes in our own stories, so why not utilizing our passion to prevent or cure mental illness?
Here are some ways in which we can use different ways of the theatre to work on our mental health: 

1. Dance: Swedish mental health professionals studied more than 100 teenage girls who were struggling with issues like depression and anxiety. Half of the girls were attending weekly dance classes, while the other half weren’t. The results indicated that the girls who took the dance classes had improved mental health and reported a boost in their mood. These positive effects lasted up to eight months after the dance classes ended. It could be concluded that dance might result in a very positive experience for participants and could potentially contribute to sustained new healthy habits. Apart from that, difference dance styles will have different other factors influencing one's health: 
- Almost any dance style trains the dancer's muscle strength and comes with a lot of movement. Both have shown in studies to be even more productive than most antidepressants. 
- Individual Dance styles (Jazz, Ballet, etc.) work a lot on your posture. Improving your posture is also known as power posing and can induce positive and healthy thoughts. 
- Music is one of the most powerful tools to express and live through emotions.
- Most dance styles benefit from collaboration. Interacting with others and a feeling of belonging can help you out of almost any crises and improve anxiety and depression.




2. Singing: A University of East Anglia study of singers involved in free weekly workshops in Norfolk found benefits to mood and social skills. It also had a positive effect in preventing relapses in clinically depressed patients. 
Breathing techniques are at the heart of most psychological treatments and are equally important in singing techniques. 
On top of that being able to improve one's voice, reaching and hitting more notes, and making music without any tools creates a feeling of a high self-efficacy, which is closely related to maintaining or gaining a stable mental health.

3. Acting/Drama therapy: "Under the guise of play and pretend, we can - for once - act in new ways. The bit of distance from real life afforded by drama enables us to gain perspective on our real-life roles and patterns and actions and to experiment actively with alternatives. ", says Renee Emunah, PhD, RDT/BCT the Director of the Drama Therapy Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Stepping in somebody else's shoes allows you to leave behind your own problems and worries and also trains -similarly to singing - your sense of self-efficacy, which also gives you back control over your emotional regulation and mental health. Robert Landy, PhD, RDT/BCT, Founding Director of the Drama Therapy Program at New York University goes even further and states: "Unlike talk therapy, drama therapy gets there really fast. Role-playing -acting out issues and problems - is more effective than talking." Collaboration and getting in contact with others is at the core of drama therapy and has a similar effect to other gestalt or art therapies.

4. Watching theatre: Most mental illnesses work like a down-hill spiral, in order to move back up action and activity is required. However, activity requires motivation and inspiration, which is often hard to find. As all of you probably know, Musicals, Plays or even just Soundtracks can make you feel a lot better and inspire you to take your own life back into your own hands. This can often times be the spark to trigger an upwards movement, rather than a downwards one.
On top of that, the theatre forms a community in which anyone is welcomed, and one finds people to talk to even if it is just through social media. Having a social network around you makes most things a lot more endurable.  

With that, which other side effects of our all passion have you noticed? Have you ever been struggling and has the theatre helped you? Let me know in the comment section below. 

If you are struggling right now, I urge you to reach out for help, and in emergencies, call your local suicide prevention hotline. Keep moving on; we're all in this together!

 

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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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.

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