Advertisements

Best of Broadway in Bryant Park 2017: Rachelle Ann Go, Andy Karl, Betsy Wolfe

Below are the six most popular videos I shot of the performances during the six weekly concerts this 17th summer of Broadway in Bryant Park.

Advertisements

Watch Spamilton in Bryant Park

The cast of the Hamilton spoof, Spamilton, performed at the Broadway in Bryant Park concert this week a medley including “Lin-Manuel As Hamilton,” “1776,” “What Did You Miss,” and “Rap Battle” — Hamilton tunes by Lin-Manuel Miranda with Spamilton lyrics by Gerard Alessandrini, best-known until now for Forbidden Broadway.

Watch the three videos beginning with the opening number from the show, which spoofs the opening number of Hamilton:

How does a whipper snapper student of rap
and a Latin
trapped in the middle of a manhattan

Flat win
Broadway accolades
while other writers kiss
the corporate dollar
grow up to be a hip-hop op’ra scholar?

 

This blue collar
shining beacon
puerto rican
got a lot farther
by being a lot smarter
by stretching rhymes harder by being a trend-starter.

 

The second song spoofs Thomas Jefferson’s song “What’d I Miss?” (This one is close-captioned.)

So what’d you miss? What’d you miss?

The lyrics go by so fast You are in the abyss

I see you sittin’ there and looking befuddled I guess my diction is sloppy or muddled

We’re telling a complex plot

In the third video, “Rap Battle,” Nicole Vanessa Ortiz sets what must be a world speed record for her rapping.

The lyrics in the video above include “Lin-Manuel” rapping:

I am not throwin’ away my spot
I am not throwin’ away my spot
I compose like Debussy
But it comes out like BIG Juicy
And I love rapping the way he taught

I am not stoppin’ the way I rap
Till I turn showtunes upside down

 

I reviewed Spamilton when it opened at the Triad. Now it’s at the 47th Street Theater — down the block from Hamilton.

The cast members performing in Bryant Park:

Tristan J. Shuler, Chris Anthony Giles, Cameron Amandus, Nicole Vanessa Ortiz, Aaron Michael Ray, and Fred Barton on the piano.

Acting with Animals: Watch Celebrities at Broadway Barks Dish Their Furry Co-Stars

Actors don’t realize how hard it is to work with animals, observes animal trainer William Berloni in the video below, during the 2017 Broadway Barks animal adoption event at Shubert Alley. Backstage at the Booth Theater, actors tell tales, both hilarious and horrid, that prove Berloni’s point.
“Animals don’t enjoy working,” Janeanne Garofalo says. “If you have a soft spot for animals, don’t work with them, because You’re going to feel terrible about watching them work so hard.”
On the other hand, several actors use their own pets to help develop their characters.

The 19th annual Broadway Barks was a tribute to its co-founder Mary Tyler Moore, who died in January of this year at age 80. Her friend and fellow animal lover Bernadette Peters led off this year’s event with the theme song for the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Watch Groundhog Day at Bryant Park, 3 Songs

Andy Karl, Barrett Doss and more than a dozen other cast members of the Broadway musical “Groundhog Day” performed three songs at the Broadway at Bryant Park lunchtime concert today: Nobody Cares, If I Had My Time Again, and Seeing You

Free Broadway in Bryant Park Summer 2017 Schedule

 

For the 17th year in a row, Bryant Park is the site of free lunchtime concerts by cast members of current Broadway (and some Off-Broadway) shows  on Thursdays in July and August between 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Here is the schedule for this summer:

July 6:  Stomp (pictured above), Groundhog Day, Wicked,  The Phantom of the Opera.
July 13: Kinky Boots, Beautiful, School of Rock, Soulpepper
July 20: Waitress, Chicago, Cats, Spamilton. Host Billy Porter.
July 27: A Bronx Tale, Anastasia, Avenue Q, The Imbible
August 3: Miss Saigon; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; Broadway Dreams
August 10: Come From Away, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bandstand, Curvy Widow

The schedule is subject to change.

Scenes and songs from previous Broadway in Bryant Park concerts:

Best Moments on 2017 Tonys, Seen and Unseen

Many moments in the three hours of the 71st annual Tony Awards (complete list of winners) were worth experiencing just once, if that — Bette Midler NOT singing, yet rambling endlessly during her acceptance speech,  telling the orchestra  trying to nudge her off to “Shut that crap off.”

True, this was followed by Kevin Spacey, appearing as President Frank Underwood from “House of Cards,” as he handed the best musical envelope to presenter Lin-Manuel Miranda, saying: “I want to get the hell out of here before Bette Midler thanks anyone else.”

But there were some moments worth savoring.

Performances

Waving through a Window from Dear Evan Hansen

Welcome to the Rock from Come From Away

“Dust and Ashes” and “The Abduction” from Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Opening number

 

Politics

There was surprisingly little politics for an awards ceremony being held during the Trump presidency, but there were  a few such moments:

Cynthia Nixon,  while accepting the award as best featured actress for “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.”  quoted a famous line from the play  ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it, other people who just stand around and watch them do it,” She then added: “My love, my gratitude and my undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”

At the end of his acceptance speech, Kevin Kline gave a shout-out to two federal arts agencies that President Trump wants to eliminate: “I’d like to thank a couple of organizations without which maybe half the people in this room would not be here: that would be the National Endowment for the Arts] and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

In her acceptance speech  for her (well-deserved) Tony for best direction of a play, for Indecent, Rebecca Taichman said: “This is about making art when one is in great danger.”

Stephen Colbert as a presenter  injected the most bluntly political remarks.

“It is my honor to be here presenting the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. And it’s been a great year for revivals in general, especially that one they revived down in Washington D.C. It started off-Broadway in the ‘80s, way off-Broadway, over on 5th Avenue. Huge production values. A couple of problems. The main character is totally unbelievable, and the hair and makeup, yeesh.

“This D.C. production is supposed to have a four-year run, but the reviews have not been kind. Could close early, we don’t know, best of luck to everyone involved.”

He then called “Miss Saigon,” one of the nominated revivals,  “the only pageant whose locker room our president hasn’t walked in on.” and  greeted the groans with “Lot of Trump fans here tonight, evidently,”

Dramatists Rule

The four playwrights who were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play — all Americans — were given time on stage of the 71st annual Tony Awards to describe their plays — J.T. Rogers on Oslo (which won); Lucas Hnath on A Doll’s House, Part 2, Paula Vogel on Indecent; Lynn Nottage on Sweat,

“We are in a golden age of American playwriting,” Lincoln Center Theater producer Andre Bishop said as he accepted the “Oslo” award with Rogers. When will the Tony Award broadcast fully realize this?

 

Heartfelt Thanks to Their Parents

Ben Platt, best lead actor in a musical, Dear Evan Hansen:

“I want to thank my parents, who are my heroes, Julie Platt and Marc Platt, the greatest people I’ve ever met. Everybody always says that about their parents, but it’s true, I will fight you. They are the best people in the world. Dad, you’re my hero, you taught me that you have to be a decent human being to be a decent artist, and I love you for it. And finally to all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful. Thank you.”

Michael Aronov, best  featured actor in a play, Oslo

“My aunt and uncle and their two kids in New Jersey opened their hearts and home to me about 20 years ago when I first moved to New York to try to be an actor. They took me in and treated me like I was their son. I would have about five sets of keys in my bag at all times because when I missed the bus from doing shows in the city I had friends, rare and remarkable ones, that kept their doors open to me at any hour of the night. I finally was able to save up a couple of dollars and move into the city, a tiny, tiny studio apartment where if you walked in too fast you’d fly out the window. My mom and dad didn’t know that I was living off of pasta and cheese and rice pudding to be a frugal actor, because it would break their hearts and they’d try to turn the world upside down to help me be O.K. Because when I hurt they hurt more. and when I smile and soar they’re able to breathe. Thanks to Bart and J.T., this is the biggest honor of my life — but mainly because my mom and dad are here with me tonight. Solomon and Anna Aronov, you’ve always had my back more than anybody else in the world and you love me and Greg more than you love yourselves. My victories mean nothing to me unless I’m sharing them with you. Thank you.”

Awards and Acceptance Speeches Not Broadcast

Best Book of a Musical

 

Best Choreography

James Earl Jones speech accepting his Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement

In Memorium

Broadway Newcomers Sum Up The Season

Current and past winners of the Theatre World Awards, given to exceptional performers making their Broadway or New York stage debuts, offer their take on the season just past, sometimes in a single word.

The following were interviewed outside the Imperial Theater (current home of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”) where the 73rd Annual Theatre World Awards were held on June 5, 2017.

Carlo Alban from “Sweat”

Jon Jon Briones from “Miss Saigon”

Barrett Doss from “Groundhog Day”

Amber Gray from “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”

Raymond Lee from “Vietgone”

plus past winners, Phillip Boykin, Geneva Carr and Jonny Orsini.

Watch Anastasia, A Bronx Tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen, Great Comet at Stars in the Alley

Performers from more than 20 current Broadway shows offered a free concert in Shubert Alley this week, to celebrate the Broadway season just past, and whet appetites for the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11th.

Watch below videos of some of the performances

Watch Telly Leung of Aladdin, Corey Cott of Bandstand, Michael Xavier of Sunset Boulevard at Stars in the Alley

Once again, Broadway offered its free two-hour concert in Shubert Alley today, featuring the casts from more than a dozen current musicals.

Below, watch Telly Leung of Aladdin, Corey Cott of Bandstand, and Michael Xavier of Sunset Boulevard.

More to come.

Can Socially Conscious Theater Make A Difference?

In Power Struggle on Broadway: Escapist vs. Socially Conscious Shows in the 2016–17 Season, a piece I wrote for HowlRound, I point out that there were more socially conscious than escapist plays and musicals that opened during the Broadway season just ended. To which a reader in the comments section replied in effect: What difference does it make?

That’s more or less the question I pose at one point in the video below to Robert Schenkkan, playwright of the new anti-Trump play, “Building the Wall,” which is being produced all over the country — including at New World Stages in New York City beginning May 12th.

Tamara Tunie, who co-stars with James Badge Dale in the New York production of the two-character play “Building The Wall”

Below the video: Shows that have made a direct and tangible difference.

Shows That Have Made a Direct Difference:

Waiting For Lefty, the Depression-era play about a taxi driver strike, by Group Theatre playwright Clifford Odets, was performed all over the country in support of labor unions.

Waiting for Lefty

Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1967) by John Herbert led to the creation of The Fortune Society, which helps ex-convicts find jobs—a success story written up in a recent memoir by its producer, David Rothenberg, entitled Fortune In My Eyes.

The Exonerated by Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank, based on transcripts of wrongfully convicted prisoners on Death Row, is said to have influenced Illinois Governor Ryan’s blanket commutations of the state’s death penalties.

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler inspired a global movement known as V-Day that fights to end violence against women.

The Laramie Project by the Tectonic Theater is said to have helped lead to the signing of the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes bill; the theater company was invited to the signing of the legislation at the White House.

The Normal Heart, when produced in 1985, led mainstream newspapers such as The Christian Science Monitor to mention HIV/AIDS for the first time anywhere in their pages.

The Justice Cycle, six plays including Los Illegals by Michael John Garces, the artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company, led to a theater troupe of day laborers, Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras (Day Laborer Theater Without Borders), that educates day laborers about their rights.

8 the Play, based on transcripts of the trial that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage in California, helped move the conversation forward, arguably helping to change the American public’s attitude.