In the first week of April, as the news remained scary and theaters remained closed, theater – and especially theater music – became a balm.
Mrs. Doubtfire didn’t open on Sunday, the first of the 10 Broadway openings originally scheduled for April, but they celebrated in song, with a virtual performance of the show’s song “As long as there is love”
The New York Philharmonic canceled its season a couple of weeks ago, but its musicians offered a ravishing Bolero by Ravel, remotely
For those who’ve enjoyed @nyphil‘s digital “Bolero,” check out earlier virtual orchestra/choir videos — the “couch choir” of @rdamphil (pictured), @CamdenVoices , @BerkleeCollege , @CO_Symphony,
@dycireland https://t.co/ijv1Z0wbOK pic.twitter.com/d4s8U3podm
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 4, 2020
Bette Midler offered a song for New Yorkers
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) April 2, 2020
Patti LuPone offered us a singing tour of her basement
Ya bored yet? pic.twitter.com/kDZR1jYWyG
— Patti LuPone (@PattiLuPone) April 1, 2020
Even Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steven Brault was singing this week, releasing a showtunes album with the almost-punning title A Pitch at Broadway A Pitch at Broadway
Lin-Manuel Miranda teases:
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) April 6, 2020
See the original cast of “Hamilton” sing the show’s opening number starting at around 11:00
Theater Book Reviews
Death By Shakespeare
“Plague shaped Shakespeare’s life,” Kathryn Harkup writes in her new book.
Death By Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts (Bloomsbury Sigma, 368 pages, May 2020 publication date.) The first outbreak of the Plague during Shakespeare’s lifetime occurred three months after his birth in 1564, and he was among only one-third of the children in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon to survive. He was just starting to make his name as a playwright in London in 1592, when there was a severe outbreak that resulted in the shuttering of the theaters – drying up opportunity for playwriting and thus pushing the Bard to become a poet, which arguably enhanced his writing when he returned to drama.
Plague was so common at the time that authorities decreed that theaters could reopen if the weekly death rate from the epidemic sunk below 50 for three consecutive weeks.
And so, Harkup says, it’s no surprise that the Plague pervades Shakespeare’s plays
“Death by Shakespeare” doesn’t just fact-check the playwright’s scripts. The author uses death as the lens by which to describe life in Elizabethan England – the conditions, the attitudes, the practices surrounding death. Full review
Terrence McNally Selected Works: A Memoir in Plays
Terrence McNally considered Shakespeare and Chekhov his gods, and Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera his goddesses; he learned a lot from all four. That’s what he tells us within the first few pages of Selected Works: A Memoir in Plays (Grove Press, 659 pages) a book published in 2015 that presents the scripts of eight of his plays*, written from 1987 to 2013, interspersed with a few pages of introduction, recollection and digression. full review
Note: Monday night April 6 at 8 p.m., McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart live online reading performed by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Zachary Quinto and Ari Graynor , in support of the BC/EFA COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund
Online Theater Gets Seriously Comic
Stars in the House, which has been a twice-daily online variety hour and talk show, has now added a twice weekly “matinee” – a live reading every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon of popular play performed by a starry cast. They’re calling in Plays in the House. The first up last week were Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, performed by the original cast, and Charles Busch’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife starring Busch himself (as Marjorie herself) and Richard Kind, Faith Prince,
The hosts promise that future plays will star Harvey Fierstein, Tony Shaloub, and Brooke Adams, among others.
Playwright @lindsayabaire on writing plays, successively, for @TheRealDratch (a comedy), Marylouise Burke (a haunting mystery), & @TR_Knight (a fantasy) in @24HourPlays‘ #ViralMonologues. My interview w/ him in @DC_theatrescene: https://t.co/8Zutj6eLda pic.twitter.com/YZc8W1qabf
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 3, 2020
Methuen Drama will publish the Viral Monologues as a book, edited by Howard Sherman, who inspired the solo series.
Added since last week to my roundup Where to Get Your Theater Fix Online: Old Favorites and New Experiments
Ailey All Access
Humana Festival of New Plays offering two of the plays from the season that it had to cancelon stage
Intermission Mission from TodayTix
“At home performances from the Broadway community” — basically a single song each day by a different Broadway star
Joe’s Pub Live
Play at Home — new original short plays available to read for free commissioned by five great theaters, including the Public Theater and Woolly Mammoth. This echoes what were called “closet plays” during earlier eras when theaters where shut down either because of Plague or political repression. The playwrights then never expected them to be produced, so went wild. Presumably, the 21st century playwrights are just as wild, but expect eventually to see them on stage.
The Shows Must Go On
A different Andrew Lloyd Webber musical launches for free every Friday for 48 hours on this new YouTube page. First up: Donny Osmond stars in the 1999 film of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
The Off-Broadway League has announced that its 2020 Lortel Awards, honoring Off-Broadway will go on as scheduled — nominations April 14, winners at May 3 ceremony — but all now online. This is the only New York theater award so far to keep to its original schedule.
The Bret Adams & Paul Reisch Foundation is offering 40 emergency grants of $2,500 each to playwrights, composers, lyricists and librettists who have had a full professional production cancelled, closed, or indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 closures
An inspiring story: Director @JeffWhitingNYC is leading some 900 theater professionals, mostly wardrobe & costume people from Broadway shows, to create protective gear.
And that’s just in NYC! Theater pros are helping throughout the country.https://t.co/EnQbRWYpLl
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 1, 2020
.@LabTheaterNYC has just launched Survival Guide to Self-Isolation,#SurvivalGuideLAB — recipes, essays, photo essay, an audio of a bedtime stories, recommendations for YouTube watching, Neil Tyrone Pritchard singing Moon River. More to comehttps://t.co/JxmRi0OfKh
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 5, 2020
Pandemic theater is already here
examples in this L.A Times article: Skylight Theatre of Los Angeles and the 24 Hour Plays’ Viral Monologues.
“Pandemic-set plays were bound to happen sooner or later, and it’s so close to home. Numerous members of the theater community have tested positive for the coronavirus, including Tom Hanks, Aaron Tveit, Daniel Dae Kim, Laura Bell Bundy and Brian Stokes Mitchell. The disease took the lives of Terrence McNally and Adam Schlesinger.”
American Theatre Magazine editor Rob Weiner-Kendt offers a scattershot overview of what’s happening in a piece entitled No Show.: If we can’t have theatre until we can gather again safely, what are U.S. theatres and artists going to do in the meantime, and after?
“Theatre has survived worse, even in its cradle. The plague of Athens killed some 25 percent of its population in 430 B.C.E., and inspired the Theban plague in Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex. Shakespeare’s career was famously interrupted by the Black Plague, during which time, as [San Diego’s Old Globe artistic director Barry] Edelstein pointed out, the Bard and his colleagues did three things: “They made plans for what they were going to do when theatres reopened. They toured the provinces, sold props, costumes, bundled plays and sold them—that’s how the First Folio got made. And they went to the King and said, ‘Help.’”
Rest in Peace
(All of the following died from the coronavirus)
Adam Schlesinger, 52, known for his work with his band Fountains of Wayne and on the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” he was also a 2-time Broadway veteran (comical co-songwriter of Cry Baby and Act of God)
a sweet “egobituary” about Adam Schlesinger https://t.co/IdQB1YiS8Q
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) April 2, 2020
William Wolf, 94, theater critic who wrote reviews and columns for Cue and New York magazines and taught at NYU.He was a past president of the Drama Desk.
Patricia Bosworth, 86, biographer of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Jane Fonda and Diane Arbus.”She gave up acting for the writing life, turning her knowledge of the theater into a series of biographies and mining her own extraordinary life for a pair of powerful memoirs….She was admitted to the Actors Studio in its glory days, learning method acting alongside Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe. She won some important roles onstage and appeared alongside Audrey Hepburn on film. But she always wanted to write.”