American Theater: January 2005 Archives

The Los Angeles Reprise! Broadway's Best series, which presents classic musicals in a semi-staged concert setting, will offer mountings of On the Town, City of Angels and Zorba next season.


Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's On the Town will kick off the new season at Reprise! at the UCLA Freud Playhouse. Previews begin Sept. 20 with an official opening Sept. 21. The musical love letter to Manhattan will run through Oct. 5.

Cy Coleman's City of Angels will follow. The detective-themed musical, which features music by the late Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel and a book by Larry Gelbart, will begin previews Jan. 24, 2006, and open Jan. 25, 2006. Featuring such songs as "You're Nothing Without Me" and "You Can Always Count on Me," City of Angels will play through Feb. 5.

The Reprise! season is set to conclude with Kander and Ebb's Zorba. The life-affirming musical will preview May 2, open May 3 and run through May 14, 2006.

The Reprise! series is currently presenting Stephen Schwartz's Pippin through Feb. 6. The production, featuring direction by Gordon Hunt, musical direction by Gerald Sternbach and choreography by Dan Mojica, stars Michael Arden as Pippin with Sam Harris (Leading Player), Jean Louisa Kelly (Catherine), Luba Mason (Fastrada), Mimi Hines (Berthe), Graham Phillips, Conrad John Schuck and Abe Sylvia. The current Reprise! season will conclude with Applause (May 10-22).
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Spamalot

Great review from the Chicago Tribune on changes to Spamalot since I saw it last week. I agree that the cuts mentioned in the review below from today's Chicago Tribune aren't missed. The whole witch burning number was lame. And maybe that's why Hank Azaria seemed bored to me, since he just stands there in his pseudo Peter Allen number...


And yes, I did feel mildly uncomfortable with a bunch of Anglo-Saxons singing "You Won't Succeed on Broadway If You Don't Have Any Jews", especially with the large neon Star of David hanging down...and it wasn't even funny...

Oh, one more thing. unlike Michael Phillips, I really did NOT like the Vegas bit...

"By trimming the fat, Spamalot adds flavor

By Michael Phillips
Tribune theater critic
Published January 23, 2005

Five of my favorite words in show business are "out-of-town musical try-out," and one of the reasons is this: With an out-of-town musical tryout, audiences seeing the show mid-run often get a better version than the first-nighters. Having seen the substantially revised and improved Spamalot the other day, 10 days after the musical opened its pre-Broadway tryout at Chicago's Shubert Theatre, I'm here to tell you: Nobody misses the witch-burning number. Nobody misses the singing cow. Nobody misses the missing 15 minutes.

Director Mike Nichols, composer John Du Prez and librettist, lyricist and co-composer Eric Idle haven't been twiddling their respective thumbs, or anyone else's. It was a good time opening night, but as of the Jan. 19 matinee the stage version ofMonty Python and the Holy Grail is no longer a good time. It is closer to a very good time -- close enough, I think, to transcend its larger, nagging questions of satiric intent and focus.

Helming his first stage musical since LBJ was in office, Nichols realizes he has a popular hit on his highly compensated hands. The national press, at least as represented by the New York Post and Newsweek, has already determined the probable smashdom of Spamalot. Broadway is hungry. Spamalot, which owes so much of its spirit (and too many of its jokes) to The Producers, is likely to become the biggest just-for-laughs Broadway musical since Mel Brooks made crossover hay.

Not only that: The Python musical is a less star-dependent lark than The Producers, a show that owed more of its initial buzz to Nathan Lane than Brooks would care to admit. Spamalot, which may (and should) turn out to be a full 40 minutes shorter than The Producers, is more of an ensemble piece. It requires a few good comics who can sing, and who can "do" Python without being slavish geeks about it.

Paradoxically, however, the cuts in Act 1 have done a helpful thing: They have given King Arthur (Tim Curry) a natural authority over the proceedings. The writers and Nichols haven't beefed up the Arthur role; they've merely cut away the dead wood not involving Arthur. Now, when Curry and the extremely valuable Michael McGrath (Patsy) sing "I'm All Alone," the number registers more strongly. It's the one song that gets at what Nichols, somewhat optimistically, discussed in pre-opening interviews as the class conflict theme -- and it's the right kind of funny, tinged with rue.

Sara Ramirez, who kills, kills, kills as the Lady of the Lake, no longer appears as the witch or the cow. It's better this way. It's too bad the funniest song in the polyglot Spamalot score comes so early: The song called "The Song That Goes Like This," at once a parody of Andrew Lloyd Webber's brand of bathetic balladry and, as delivered by Ramirez and Christopher Sieber, wonderful on its own terms. Ramirez's other big number, "The Diva's Lament," is more conventional, though Ramirez could sell the Spamalot audience just about anything. And that includes the special limited-edition "Golden Honey Grail" flavor of Spam, made possible by the good people of Hormel.

Opening night, Act 1 was the act with the biggest dead spots. No more. On the recent Wednesday matinee Act 1 clocked in at a supermodel-skinny 49 minutes, Act 2, about an hour. Idle and Du Prez may yet replace "Burn Her!," the late, unlamented witch number, with something else (and this time, something funny?) to introduce Sir Bedevere. As is, though, the revised Act 1 -- even with a blurry, halfhearted "run away!" scene at the French castle -- played like an act with a mission, holy or otherwise.

Then comes Act 2, which hasn't changed much, and which asks the question: DoesSpamalot give too many regards to Broadway?

At one point in what we'll call the "plot," King Arthur meets up with the Knights Who Say Ni, who have more on their minds than merely securing a shrubbery. The king and his men, says the head Ni Knight, must stage a musical on Broadway. (In print two weeks ago I misstated that the put-on-a-musical idea came from Almighty God, not the Knight of Ni. Here is a correction. "In the Jan. 11 review of Spamalot, Almighty God was credited with the notion of King Arthur's knights doing a musical on Broadway. In fact, the idea came from the Knight Who Says Ni. The Tribune regrets the error.")

The best bits of Spamalot don't come entirely from the movie, and they don't come entirely from Brooks or "Forbidden Broadway." Like comic dybbuks, they come from somewhere in between two worlds. In Act 1, when the song "Knights of the Round Table" turns into a jazz-inflected Vegas spectacular, it's hilarious. It's worth it just to watch Ramirez do Liza Minnelli with a side order of Lorna Luft. And ifSpamalot doesn't end up playing the Excalibur Hotel someday -- the Vegas resort gets enormous product placement here -- I'm the Chicken of Bristol.

But when Sir Robin (David Hyde Pierce) sings "You Won't Succeed on Broadway (If You Haven't Any Jews)," the joke is tired at best, wince-worthy at worst. I'm sure Idle means to be the right kind of offensive with this one. But the Anglo-Saxon comic perspective leaves the sight gags (a huge Star of David in lights, aFiddler chorus line of grail dancers instead of bottle dancers) wanting, patronizing, pandering or all three. Similarly, when Sir Lancelot (Hank Azaria) offers a stirring defense of the castle-bound homosexual Prince Herbert (Christian Borle), it's pretty soggy writing. Lancelot's subsequent big coming-out number, "His Name Is Lancelot," is treated as a Peter Allen/Village People tropical bash. That's a start, but Azaria doesn't do much of anything in it. Les boys do all the work.

Now: How much of these issues are, in fact, issues? Idle and company settle for increasingly familiar showbiz targets, especially in Act 2, in terms of its spoofing. Yet Spamalot has too much else in its corner to thwart its lust for Broadway glory. Nichols, Idle, Du Prez and the rest of the company aren't resting on their laurels. The cuts and changes have already made it all more fun.

Meantime, in London, Idle's fellow Python founder Michael Palin recently told a journalist that Life of Brian might make a good comic opera. At this rate, the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" -- written for Life of Brian, but very comfortably interpolated into the Spamalot score -- may become the cheer-up number for the early 21st Century."
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Harvey Fierstein

Further to my previous post on the new cast for Fiddler on the Roof, it looks like the re-opening was a triumph, according to Playbill:


"Looking as if he could step in for Harvey Fierstein at a moment's notice, Ron Orbach hit the Minskoff lobby at intermission of Fiddler on the Roof Jan. 20 with a decidedly contented look on his puss. "I feel like the show's back," he said. "It went away for a bit."

In that feeling, the actor was not alone. A fair share of the "re-opening night audience" wore a similar expression, and their ovation at the end of the revival's 377th performance seconded the pervading notion that the Joseph Stein-Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick classic was now closer to its heart, humor and roots than what British director David Leveaux opened Feb. 26 with Alfred Molina.

The feeling was mutual on the other side of the footlights, too. "You feel the love coming from the audience," Fierstein admitted at the post-play party, held within the Zhivago-red walls of The Firebird, an elegant Russian eatery a few short blocks west of the Minskoff.

"I know it's a cliche, but it was a dream, and it has come true. To have the audience go insane like that -- and they've done that from the very first performance -- is incredible."
There's no question that they've taken a big gamble with Fierstein and everyone is waiting to see just how hardy Fiddler really is: Can it stand a revolving cast, and sit down permanently like Phantom et al?

"Credit for the off-beat casting director Leveaux passes on to Susan Bristow, who produced the show for The Nederlanders. "I was in Japan at the time this came up," he recalled. "Susan called me and said, 'Look, I'm thinking about life beyond Fred [Alfred Molina]. What do you think about Harvey? He has always been in the back of my mind as somebody who ought to play this.' The instant she said it, I thought, 'Yes, that's it. That's exactly where we need to go.' Harvey touches territory that perhaps was last seen in Fiddler when Zero Mostel played it, meaning you got a great clown on that stage. Fred came at it from the other end of the spectrum. The truth is you gotta be able to do both."
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All Shook Up

Well, no wonder it is so cold: Hell has frozen over! I like a jukebox musical!


Yes folks, I went to see All Shook Up at the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago. I was able to get first row balcony one hour before show time, but the place was pretty much sold out. I didn't likeMamma Mia at all, mostly because they had force-fit my favorite ABBA tunes into a stupid story. Now understand, I'm a HUGE ABBA fan. I was big time into ABBA since I had a Swedish friend in high school, and I went through labor with my first daughter with ABBA tunes pumping out on the stereo.

But in Mamma Mia, every time somebody sang an ABBA tune, I longed to hear ABBA's original version. ABBA wrote goofy songs (and I love 'em), but made awesome recordings. So naturally I assumed I would feel the same way about the Elvis songs used in this musical.

How wrong I was.

This is a charming, funny, musical that is quite happy, thank you very much, just to be a musical comedy. The songs are definitely better integrated into the story (bits of songs are used throughout sometimes) than was the case with Mamma Mia. It's a simple story of a "wild one" aka "roustabout" who motorcycles into a small town in the 1950s and suddenly everyone is falling in love left, right, and center.

The music is fifties so it works with the story. The story has a predictable ending, but who cares? The journey is fun! The cast is just dynamite: To hear those great songs sung by amazing voices, with interesting arrangements was a pleasure. The only disapointment for me was the choreography which I expected to be spectacular, given the music, but wasn't.

And yes, 15 minutes into the show I thought: "I wish I could be in this show!". If they had sold a cast CD I would have bought it. They had some expensive-looking set surprises, but the show could have worked without them.

According to my inside sources, the actors were complaining to the union about some of the raked set pieces (they did look a bit dangerous to me) that the women had to navigate in pumps. However, you'd never know it, the actors were giving 150% all through the show.

The show is a crowd pleaser. The audience loved it, but the people next to me were surprised at how much they enjoyed the whole piece, not just the music, surprised at how much they laughed.

Hmmm, mabye I should give Good Vibrations the benefit of the doubt after all.

On the other hand, here's my hypothesis as to why I didn't like Mamma Mia, why I liked All Shook Up, and why I don't think I'll like Good Vibrations...

Both ABBA and The Beach Boys had goofy songs, but a very distinctive recording technique. All The Beach Boy songs (I'm also a big fan) sound a lot alike, but wow, what a great, unique sound they had. So when I hear them sung on stage, I yearn for the original.

Elvis, on the other hand, sang songs written by a variety of songwriters, and although he sang like no one else, the songs can be sung by other artists. It's like the classic songs that Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby or Rosemary Clooney all sang -- they could be covered by many (competent) artists and still be great. So when I heard those Elvis songs sung by great theater voices, I was satisfied.

And of course, they were better integrated into the story...

It's one of those things that makes you go hmmm...
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holygrail

I saw Spamalot on Friday night in Chicago. As you may note from my previous post, I was really, really looking forward to this musical, and I desperately wanted to LOVE it.

If the Chicago crowds enthusiastic love-in reaction is any indication, Spamalot is going to be a huge hit. And if the crowd in the "Shopalot" merchandise store (next door to the Shubert theater) is any indication, Eric Idle won't need to go out on another Greedy Bastard tour for a very long time.

The Chicago Shubert Theater feels like a tall rectangular box with four levels -- an orchestra, balcony, mezzanine and oxygen mask level, all piled on top of each other. My limited visibility ticket wasn't as bad as I feared. Although I was quite far away (last row of mezzanine) I had an aisle seat and unobstructed view. However, the floor of the level above me hung down low and cut of the very top of the set -- those Monty Python clouds. They do come down during the show so I saw them then. I'll admit the energy you get from a show is lessened when you are far away. Having said that...

Was I entertained? Uh huh. Did I laugh? Sure. Was I satisfied with the production values? Of course. Did I absolutely adore it, can't wait to see it again, can't wait to buy the CD and the sheet music, and most importantly did I want to be in it (that is my litmus test for a musical)? No. And I so wanted to love it. I love Monty Python, both the TV shows and movies. But I didn't love the musical.

The sets, and production are fun. The execution of special effects was fun. Not overdone, but just nicely done in keeping with the Monty Python spirit. A lot of the book was lifted straight from the film. But as well delivered as the bits were, I kept wishing I could hear Michael Palin or Eric Idle say the lines. Maybe part of the charm of Python humour are the Pythons themselves [Ed: Duh!]. The changed ending was a bit dodgy (nobody gets arrested) and a bit cheesy. Not Python cheesy-maker, but just cheesy. I won't give away details but the Grail quest takes on a different meaning.

I guess my three biggest bones to pick were as follows:

1. MUSIC: The best song was "Always Look on The Bright Side of Life" which was lifted from the Life of Brian. The other songs had clever lyrics, but pretty forgettable tunes, especially the uptempo ones. "Knights of the Round Table" always had funnylyrics but not the greatest tune. As one song in a film, that was fine. But in a musical they all sort of sounded the same.

2. MUSICAL PARODY: Okay, okay, enough already. Urinetown sort of did it, that whole breaking the fourth wall thing, (go and pee at intermission: Spamalot actually copies that line!) and quite frankly I'm a little tired of musicals that make fun of musicals (especially if it doesn't have the musical chops to back it up). Spamalot felt like it was spending a lot of time making fun of Andrew Lloyd Webber (complete with chandelier), making fun of the big Broadway ballad, making fun of breaking into song. That might have been fresh back when the movie came out in 1975, but it has grown stale in 2005. I for one have never had a problem of people breaking into a song, in a musical. For heaven's sake, I do it all the time just walking down the street! Musicals can/should make fun of society, and morals and stuff, but if you don't like the genre don't do a musical.

3. THE STARS: Tim Curry was great, sounded great and looked like he was having fun. David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria looked like they were phoning it in on their cell phones. They looked bored. Don't get me wrong I love those guys. Maybe 11 years of Frasier just sucked live theater right out of David. The Broadway regulars had much more energy.

I'm sure I'm in the minority. After all, I didn't like Phantom either, and it did OK at the box office...

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Lion King on Broadway

Gosh, everyone sure loves to critique the "Disneyfication" of Broadway. Their two big shows: Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, (Aida closed in 2004), have changed the face of Broadway, and in mostly positive ways.


Their most important contribution, long-term, is that the "Disneyfication" of Broadway has cleaned up Times Square and made it "family-friendly". With the burst of construction of hotels and restaurants over the last decade, Times Square is now firmly "cleaned up" and should remain safe at night for many years to come.

I certainly wouldn't want to take my kids to Times Square circa 1980. By cleaning up the area, NY has made Times Square acceptable to families, and it helps make Broadway accessible to everyone.

Of course, everything comes with a mixed blessing.

Although I've seen The Lion King 4 times, and Beauty and the Beast 3 times, this is more a reflection of the fact that I have two Broadway-lovin' kids. These are great starter musicals, and they put on a good show. They've done a wonderful job of restoring two historic theaters. But darn it, they sit down FOREVER...

Broadway's not a theme park, and in order to remain vital there has to be a constant infusion of new major shows. I appreciate everything that Disney's done, but couldn't they rotate the shows a bit more, and create more vibrancy in the line-up? There is a great shot in Broadway: The Golden Age where they scan over the theater listings in the late '50s and it's literally one classic show after another.

Disney perfected the "limited time" marketing technique with their videos (they regularly put classic movies "on moratorium" so that they increase sales in the available period). Do the same on Broadway. Mount more shows, more often, and limit the runs so that each show becomes an event.

Oh yeah, and do The Little Mermaid on Broadway too.
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Beggar Painting

I got an interesting letter in the mail the other day from a new theater group called "Stageplays".


Here's a snippet from the letter.

"How many new plays are on Broadway right now? If you guessed more than two, you are wrong! Look at the number of revivals and resurrections of plays past. And, if we look at the ghosts of the past, the present and the future [Ed: Insert a bizarre reference to A Christmas Carol that is totally confusing], without new play development the future will bevery bleak [Ed: Note italics and bold on the word "very", which means it's really serious]

The good news? There is one company that is actively developing new plays. Stageplays Theatre Company (Stageplays) is a small company with a big passion and a strong belief that the theatre needs new plays and new playwrights...and an organization like ours to nurture and develop them.

Our presence in New York City is vital to the success of new play development. We hae a number of projects under development including:

Santa.com, a new musical for families. Santa's elves, pink-slipped by the Internet shopping craze, go on the offensive to save their jobs, and Christmas! [Ed: Oh goody, a dotcom musical. I hear that thems Internets are everywhere now];

Sharks, a tale of love and corruption in the casualty insurance industry [Ed: Ah, casualty insurance. That's what I was going to do if I didn't pick stews in the '60s];

La Llorona (The Crying Woman), a mystical drama with music on cross-cultural misunderstandings and the American multinational invasion of Mexico [Ed: Will this one have a big tap number?].

These new projects will have a significant impact on the fabric of our lives and raise the standard for the next generation of theatre artists to follow."
No Web site unfortunately, but you can contact them by calling "Laura at 212.354.7565"

Now, I'm all for raising money for new plays. But please, let's not do it with so much negativity. First of all, there are 430 theatres in NYC. Believe me, they're not all running revivals. There's a TON of new play and musical development out there...to which anyone who went to the New York Musical Theatre Festival can attest.

Secondly, don't ask me for donations. I'll invest. And I'll buy tickets. Donations are a low-percentage way to raise money: Offer to sell me something, and I might buy. Ask me for a handout, and hey, I'm busy funding my own musical.

I just hate it when theater people go begging. Treat it like a business for crying out loud, and the money will be a lot more excited about coming on board. Let's face it, there are some really compelling reasons to invest in theater. Firstly, the money to investors comes out first, and it comes out fast. Secondly, you retain all sorts of interesting downstream rights, especially on original works. Finally, you usually get to go to opening night, and meet all the actors, which is always a load of fun. Sell me return, sell me potential, sell me sex appeal. Please don't beg.
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Chorus Line

When I started reading Making It On Broadway (Actors' Tales of Climbing to the Top) by David Wienir and Jodie Langel, I thought "Oh, I've heard this all before". Well let me tell you I hadn't! This book should be required reading for every theater student. There are the ususal "the first time I went to the theatre I was hooked" stories. But there are a lot scary stalking stories (It doesn't seem fair for Broadway actors to be stalked -- if you are going to be stalked and attacked, at least you should be making a ton of money!!), lots of insight into the McShow mentality of today's Broadway, and yes, some incredible emotionally-stirring stories that remind them why they went into the business in the first place.


QUESTION:
I hear a lot of "old timers" talk about how hard they worked, never missing a performance, even if they were in a coma, and how lazy young performers are today. I wonder if the lack of the "hard work" attitude that performers from the "Golden Age" talk about might be fostered by the environment that performers must work in now -- rundown theatres that are basically disintegrating and hazards to health; the revolving door treatment of talent for long running shows like McCats, McMiz, and McPhantom, where the cast coming in don't ever get to work with the Director but are shown their blocking (if they're lucky) by the Stage Manager or the Janitor; the skyrocketing cost of theater even when the talent still can't survive in NYC on what they're paid.

Maybe the "hostile" corporate takeover of Broadway has fostered this demotivated employee mentality. Maybe young performers today are not inherently lazy, as is often suggested. As in most things in life, it usually comes down to mismanagement, not bad raw materials. The fish always rots from the head.
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Black Knight, No Arm-1

I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail a couple of nights ago to refresh my memory in anticipation of seeing Spamalot this Friday in Chicago. Not only did I laugh my face off, but I also wondered about the transformation of the piece onto the stage.


The movie really lends itself to musicalization, which much isn't a stretch, but what about the special effects? How will the Black Knight lose all four limbs and still tap dance in a big Broadway dance number?

How will they handle the killer bunny darting from throat-to-throat and ripping off the heads of Arthur's knights? Is a flying bunny the next chandelier? How will the knights be ejected when they fail to answer the three questions? Perhaps they will just disappear through a trap door: I mean if they can make a witch fly and melt, anything is possible! Actually I don't really care. I'm just so excited to see Tim Curry on stage (another "must see" crossed off my list ).

Spamalot has turned into the hot ticket in Chicago, but I acted early so I only paid $55 for my ticket! Awesome! However, it's a limited visibility ticket. Dude! On the other hand, even the LV tickets are going for $250 now. Awesome! But I might be parking cars and listening through a drive-in movie speaker. Dude! Or maybe it will be "Suzy Conn, price check, aisle three..."

Hmmm I just got a sudden craving for coconuts...
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Fiddler on the Roof

Although I loved the movie musical and listened to the Broadway recording and played the piano vocal selections ad nauseum as a child, why wasn't I more motivated to see Fiddler On The Roof with Alfred Molina? Not to mention my oldest daughter Myrna saw it as part of Camp Broadway last August and raved. I just couldn't work up the enthusiasm.


Well, well, well. I'm motivated now!

Harvey Feinstein and Andrea Martin take over as Tevye and Golde this month. I mean, think about it! I really want to see it now. Hopefully Harvey will be wearing the pants and Andrea the dress...I just can't get the image of Edith Prickley singing "Do you Love Me" out of my head...
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Boy from Oz


Not too long ago I learned a valuable lesson -- never prejudge. When I was in New York last April attending the Commercial Theater Institute's 3-day producer conference, I could have gone to see The Boy From Oz for $50 - half off at the TKTS booth in Times Square. And great seats to boot. However, I was too skeptical about the star casting: Hugh Jackman as Peter Allen.


Due to my own ignorance, I only knew Hugh as Wolverine and the occasional romantic lead (Kate & Leopold). Don't get me wrong, he was great in X-Men, but I never knew of his musical theater background. So I thought "tsk tsk, I'm sure he is awful...".

By the time I saw him perform on the Tonys it was too late. The tickets were at a premium and hard to get. When I was in New York on holiday with my family in August of last year my husband had to jump through hoops and pay through the nose (sounds like a Cirque du Soleil act...) for tickets for my 10 year old daughter and I to see it. Well, we were blown away, thrilled, entranced, entertained and besotted. Hugh Jackman was amazing.

Not just "good for a movie star". But totally Broadway worthy! The whole cast was phenomenal, but Hugh was thrilling. Although I was a teensy weensy bit weirded out that my daughter and I had a crush on the same guy...It was so great that when I was back in NYC in September I had to see it again, so my husband had to do the same contortions (at even a higher premium) to get me a ticket. But it was well worth it. My only regret was I couldn't be there closing night to see Hugh pull Matt Damon and Barbara Walters onstage for some shenanigans.

Long story short, I have since learned to suspend disbelief, give the benefit of the doubt...you get the idea. So when I heard about the following, I thought, well they could be great. Now I will only pass judgement once I've seen them:

1. Under The Bridge: A new musical with book and lyrics by none other than Kathy Lee Gifford (music by David Pomeranz) that just opened at the Zipper Theater. The Zipper Theater is a way-cool small theater converted from a zipper manufacturer. The seats are old car seats! I was lucky enough to see Bebe Neuwirth in Here Lies Jenny there and had my very own bucket seat -- very comfy. Kathy's musical is based on the book The Family Under The Bridge. It's about a family that has to live under a bridge in 1950s Paris with a helpful bum "Armand". The old me would have scoffed and laughed but the new me will wait and see for myself. It also stars Ed Dixon as Armand, who I saw in Here Lies Jenny and who wrote the musical Fanny Hill.

2. Christina Applegate in Sweet Charity: The buzz on Christina (from my inside sources...) is good. Apparently she has been dancing since she was a mere tot. And she has good comedic timing, my favorite example being when she was a "baby stylist" on Friends. Again, I'll see for myself when it previews in Chicago.

3. Ewan McGregor in Guys and Dolls: He has been cast as Sky Masterson for a West End production. First of all I love Ewan big time in films ranging from Star Wars to Brassed Off to Down With Love. He is gorgeous, romantic, funny, musically inclined etc.(Sorry I didn't mention Moulin Rouge, but I did see that, so I can judge) But can he do a big musical role on stage?? Will luck be a lady for Ewan???

Well, don't look at me for a prejudgement, I've learned my lesson.
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Harry Connick Junior


Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes, here I start on the countdown to the revival of The Pajama Game. This is, without question, my mostest favorite musical in the world, ever since I saw Steam Heat with Jane Johansen and Tom Knowlton in the Earl Haig production in 197?, after which I was hooked. In fact, my musical Plane Crazy is, in many respects, an homage to The Pajama Game.


Now they've made the surprise announcement that Harry Connick Jr.will star. I've got Steam Heat...my mostest favorite movie in the world isWhen Harry Met Sally.

So can it be true? The crooner from my favorite movie, starring in the revival of my favorite musical? Who can say "center orchestra, fourth row"...

Here's a bit from the article on Playbill.com. BTW, I saw Wonderful Town twice (my husband three times) and it was awesome. Of course, the running joke is that Comden, Green, and Bernstein wroteWonderful Town in a month, which is about the amount of time that Donna Murphy appeared on stage in the first year of the show...

Modern day crooner Harry Connick, Jr., is the ususual choice to star in a long-planned and often-delaying Broadway revival of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross' musical, The Pajama Game, the New York Times reported Jan. 8.

The show will be directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, whose Wonderful Town is scheduled to close at the the end of this month after a rocky, one-year-plus run. Pajama Game will open in November.

The announcement is something of a surprise. The production was announced some time ago and has repeatedly pushed back its start date, and producer Jeffrey Richards has been silent on the subject, suggesting to many in the theatre community that the project had stalled for good.

Connick, Jr., who enjoyed his peak fame in the late '80s and early '90s, thanks largely to the success of the soundtrack of "When Harry Met Sally," has never starred in a Broadway musical, though he wrote the score to the short-lived musical Thou Shalt Not. He has also taken occasional film roles. He will play the part of Sid. No one has been announced for the female lead.
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Keystone Cops

I have just set a new personal record in number of songs recorded in one four hour session -- 17! On December 17 when I found out my musical Plane Crazy was a finalist for the Theatre Building Chicago Stages 2005(a symposium where they workshop and profile 8 new musicals) I was, at first, thrilled. Then I read the fine print where it said I had to forward for review not only the complete piano score but a complete recording of all the songs from the musical! And all by January 7, 2005! I did have a six song MIDI demo that i've been flogging for the last year, but to do the whole score would mean to record 17 more pieces.


Luckily, I found a terrific arranger/producer, Mitchell Kitz, also a member of the ACLCL, who arranged the final pieces, pulled together the talent, booked the studio and produced the session. Also lucky for me I was able to get Mark Selby to play the piano - he played for the Plane Crazy workshop last March.

We had rehearsal on January 2 and recorded live the evening of January 3. Thanks to the talents of Mitchell Kitz, Michelle Piller, Sam Rosenthal, Chantelle Wilson, Nathalie Daradich, Randy Johnston,Graham Coffeng, and Neil the engineer at Umbrella Sound those 17 cues came to life beautifully. Oh yeah, and I brought the food. We mixed late into the night of January 4 and my husband delivered the whole package to Fedex airport dropoff on Wednesday January 5 seconds before it closed. Whew!

I've got my fingers crossed...
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broadway_timessq_1938

The Scorpio Entertainment/Richard Frankel Productions group is using a unique venture capital-style approach to fund Broadway musicals that allows very small investors ($5K to $10K) to participate in shows likeHairspray and The Producers.


My husband met with Steve Baruch a couple of weeks ago, and came away very impressed. Mr. Baruch has some great perspective on Broadway today (off-Broadway plays are dead) and on the future (they produced Sound of Music, which bombed in NYC, but is doing boffo business in China...the export market for Broadway is shaping up to be HUGE).

This group is similar to Stage One in the UK, which allows small investors to participate in West End musicals. But, differently from the Frankel group, they are run more as a non-profit. Nonetheless, they have some interesting data on the success and grosses of musicals from the West End (which they say is bigger than Broadway).
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