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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
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:

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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.

 

Watch 4 Best Musical Tony Nominees of 2017: Video Highlights

Watch videos from the four Broadway musicals nominated for the 2017 Best Musical Tony Award, listed alphabetically.

Above each of the show’s video(s) is a link to a post with production photographs and my review

Come From Away

Dear Evan Hansen

Groundhog Day

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Bonus videos:

The three videos below are of songs from Great Comet as performed at Bryant Park before the show moved to Broadway. However, the performers from each of the three songs — Amber Gray, Brittain Ashford and Denee Benton — are those who sing the respective songs on Broadway)

Amélie Review: Phillipa Soo to the rescue

Adam Chanler-Berat and Phillipa Soo in Amélie

Judging from the last few minutes of “Amélie,” when the two adorable eccentrics Amélie and Nino finally kiss, the new musical feels like a charming and almost traditional romantic comedy, especially since the leads are portrayed by two of Broadway’s most appealing and talented young stars, both of whom have names that it takes practice to spell correctly — Phillipa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat.

But the first 90 minutes or so of “Amélie,” an adaptation of the 2001 French movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, are a full-out exercise in whimsy. Indeed, before “Amélie” even begins, the curtain comes alive with the random flittering of little birds, bunnies and butterflies. The animation is subtle and endearing, but I suppose I could have taken it as a warning. The last time I remember seeing such a wonderfully animated Broadway curtain was at the 2011 musical Wonderland, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that failed to win over critics or the public, and closed after a month.

“Amélie” features a fine cast; clever, playful design; and a pleasing if unmemorable pop score. It also features Fluffy the singing goldfish, a plaster Garden Gnome come to life, (a character impersonating) Elton John singing to Amelie as if she were Princess Diana, a café full of lovelorn eccentrics, and Soo/Amelie disguising herself at times as a nun and as Zorro. Much of this was in the movie as well, but there the colorful characters and fanciful subplots all felt part of the enchanting if ironic swirl on screen (underscored  by composer Yann Tiersen bouncy French soundtrack full of accordion and mandolin.)  The stage at the Walter Kerr, by contrast, feels crowded with details, distractions and digressions that are sometimes hard to follow, even though the characters take turns narrating; saying things like “Her true destiny confirmed,Amélie decides to celebrate her new life by daydreaming alone in her apartment.” (It very much helps to have seen the movie.) The musicalized vignettes are often presented like children’s theater run amok. “Amélie” the musical has a shorter running time than “Amélie” the movie, but it feels longer.

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

Like the movie, the musical begins with Amélie as a child (here portrayed winningly by Savvy Crawford), being raised by a cold-fish physician father who only touches her when he gives her an annual physical, and a neurotic mother who insists on homeschooling her daughter, which means she is kept isolated from children her own age. On an educational trip to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Amelie’s mother is killed when a Belgian tourist commits suicide by jumping off the cathedral and landing on top of her.

The adult Amelie moves to Paris and, five years later, is working as a waitress in Montmartre.

The upbringing we just witnessed seems to have turned her into a loner, who is unable to form intimate relationships, and who lives largely in her imagination. After the death of Princess Di, she imagines herself as the Princess (hence the fantasy with Elton John), and sees herself assuming Diana’s legacy by performing kindnesses for strangers. This is where all the side stories kick in. A blind beggar objects when Amelie drops a coin in his cup because “It’s after 5; I’m not working,” but she eventually wins him over by her vivid descriptions of the street life. Lucien loves his figs, seeing the vegetables as almost human, so Amelie sets one of the figs up with a date. (Get it?) Above all, she serves as a secret matchmaker for the denizens of the café.

Amélie first encounters Nino in a train station on her way to one of her rescue missions. Nino is kneeling in front of a photobooth collecting the discarded photographs on the ground, and she trips over him. He’s an artist, you see, although he works as a clerk in a porn shop to make a living (which is one of the things that probably makes “Amelie” inappropriate for children.)

Thus begins, more or less, their romance — long-developing, much-interrupted, in which Amélie spends much of her time running away from him. My favorite song of the two dozen in the show, “A Better Haircut,” – tuneful, clever and energetic – occurs when Nino, through a series of odd events, winds up on Nino’s instruction at her café, where her workers and customers confront him about his intentions. The ensemble sings:

You might be a lover for the ages
but can you prove that you
are not highly contagious

Finally, he responds that there are no guarantees, and

I understand she may not even feel the same
[but]
I love her and I don’t know her name

This is near the end of the musical and Nino and Amélie have not really even had a conversation with one another.

So perhaps their love affair is unrealistic, but certainly more realistic than the talking goldfish, and also fully in keeping with romantic comedy convention. Besides, many a theatergoer has already fallen in love with Phillipa Soo. Straight out of Juilliard, she was cast at age 22 as Natasha in “Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812”, to great acclaim, but left that show before it transferred to Broadway in order to originate the role of Eliza in “Hamilton.” It might be difficult to find anybody who would say that her performance in the role she originates in “Amelie” is as wondrous as the ones she originated in “The Great Comet” or “Hamilton,” but it puts her on stage where she belongs, and where I suspect she will be from now on – front and center.

Amélie

Walter Kerr Theater

Book by Craig Lucas; Music by Daniel Messé; Lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé; Musical staging and choreography by Sam Pinkleton

Directed by Pam MacKinnon

Scenic Design by David Zinn; Costume Design by David Zinn; Lighting Design by Jane Cox and Mark Barton; Sound Design by Kai Harada; Projection Design by Peter Nigrini; Puppet Design by Amanda Villalobos; Hair and Wig Design by Charles G. LaPointe;

Cast: Phillipa Soo as Amélie, Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino,David Andino as Blind Beggar, Garden Gnome, Anchorperson; Randy Blair as Hipolito, Belgian Tourist; Heath Calvert as Lucin; Adrien Wells as Mysterious Man; Alison Cimmet as Amandine,Philomene; Savvy Crawford as Young Amélie; Manoel Felciano as Raphael,Bretodeau; Harriett D. Foy as Suzanne; Alyse Alan Louis as Georgette, Sylvie , Collignon’s Mother; Maria-Christina Oliveras as Gina;Tony Sheldon as Collignon, Dufayel; Paul Whitty as Joseph, Fluffy, Collignon’s Father. Swings: Emily Afton, Trey Ellett, Destinee Rea and Jacob Keith Watson. Understudies: Emily Afton (Amélie), Audrey Bennett (Young Amélie), Alyse Alan Louis (Amélie), Jacob Keith Watson (Nino) and Paul Whitty (Collignon, Dufayel)

Running time: 110 minutes, no intermission.

Tickets: $79.50 to $199.50

Watch Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s Speech on Broadway

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked New York for making Canadians at home by supplying “snow banks,” during an address to the audience at Come From Away, after he and some 600 other Canadians and their guests (including more than 125 ambassadors to the United Nations)saw a performance of this musical created by  a Canadian couple about the generosity of the residents of Newfoundland towards the passengers and crew of 38 planes grounded during 9/11.

He praised such “an extraordinary crowd to celebrate this story of friendship during extraordinarily difficult times between individuals between countries” and spoke about “the close relationship between the United States and Canada” on this, Canada’s 150th anniversary.

“The world gets to see what it is to lean on each other and be there for each other,”

Come From Away on Broadway: Review, Video and Pics

“Come From Away” tells the story of the 9,000 residents of Gander, Newfoundland who took care of some 7,000 passengers and crew of 38 airplanes that were forced to land at the local airport because of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The production has gained fans for its foot-stomping Celtic-flavored music, the tight ensemble work of its 12-member cast, and its heartwarming view of humanity, as it’s traveled from La Jolla to Seattle to D.C. to Toronto. But now that it’s in New York, it has to deal with people like me.

As I wrote on the 15th anniversary of September 11th,I was across the street from the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001 when they were attacked. When an out-of-town friend visiting New York recently bought me a ticket to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, I couldn’t bring myself to go.

So I was worried that Come from Away would, in contemporary parlance, be triggering. But the exact opposite occurred. The Canadian song writing team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein are so eager to please that Come From Away keeps a safe distance from the horror of 9/11.

Come From Away focuses on the kindness of strangers, and how they ease the fear and inconvenience of the “plane people,” some 1,500 miles away from any real danger.

This is not really a “9/11 musical,” then, but it will certainly be seen that way. The question thus arises: Are we so battered by the trauma of actual events that the only stage depictions we welcome about them are feel-good entertainment?

The answer seems to be yes,  judging by the enthusiastic embrace of this musical

Full review at D.C. Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy to see it enlarged.