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July 9, 2010


Broadway in Bryant Park recap: In the Heights and Promises, Promises

by Jesse North

Forget the Fourth of July. Summer doesn’t kick off on Broadway until it infiltrates Bryant Park. The annual Broadway in Bryant Park concert series kicked off yesterday, featuring the casts of Nunsense, Promises, Promises, Stomp, and In the Heights.

While most casts go casual for their performances, the ladies of Nunsense donned their character’s habits in the humid, high-80-degree weather. While the silly sisters twirled around onstage, I wondered how many spectators sitting in the park’s classic green chairs thought they were watching songs from the upcoming Sister Act musical.

When it was time for the cast members of Promises, Promises to take the stage, I felt foolish actually thinking its stars Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth would be among them. In a musical where few numbers are not sung by the two male and female leads, I figured for sure they would be up for the task of the lunchtime concert. Instead, Sarah Jane Everman (who was on when I saw the show) and Peter Benson filled in for the stars. (And my Kristin Chenoweth Curse is still maintained—I have never seen her perform live when I’ve had the chance.)

Video: “I Say A Little Prayer”

I can hear the argument that the stars need to rest up for their performances. However, non A-list actors with leads in shows will generally perform at the Broadway in Bryant Park shows. The concert series is a big summertime marketing push. The lawn crowd is comprised of mostly tourists, eager to buy tickets. It seems to me an important event for stars to attend, if it means keeping those house seats filled.

The fit crew of Stomp took the stage with wooden brooms to bang their way into the crowd’s hearts. I’m a fan of these movement and style-based shows (including Blue Man Group and Fuerza Bruta), but Stomp’s routine didn’t translate on the Bryant Park stage. The banging wasn’t loud enough and the sweeping effect looked too much like… well, just sweeping.

Always the crowd pleaser, the cast of In the Heights closed the kickoff concert and arguably received the most applause. Yet once again on the star case, box office draw Corbin Bleu was in absentia. Surely Bleu’s appearance would have generated a heap of sales from the crowd, which the show, while currently selling well, but not that well, could have used.

Video: “96,000”

Set lists:

“The Drive-In”
“Holier Than Thou”

Promises, Promises
“I Say A Little Prayer”
“Where Can You Take A Girl?”
“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”

Stomping. Lots of it.

In the Heights
“It Won’t Be Long Now”
“When You’re Home”

Join us next week when Broadway in Bryant Park features performances from the casts of The Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, Memphis, South Pacific (did they lump all the former Tony winners for Best Musical together?), and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. (Christmas in July? Gag me.)

Meanwhile, what did you think of the kickoff to the series, Rushers? Do you think A-list stars of shows have a responsibility to perform at these gigs? Or is it a great opportunity for understudies and ensemble members to take the spotlight? Let me know what you think in the comments!

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Linda
    Jul 9 2010

    I haven’t been to many of these concerts, but from what I understand, the stars rarely show up to these. It would be nice if they did, but I get the feeling many people in the audience wouldn’t know if they were seeing an understudy or not.

    • Jul 9 2010

      @Linda: You don’t think a tourist would notice it’s not Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth on stage?

  2. Linda
    Jul 9 2010

    Only if they already knew that they were in the musical. But if someone was just in Bryant Park without that much knowledge of Broadway, they might not know.

    • Jul 9 2010

      @Linda: See, that’s what I thought was so strange. The announcer was touting Chenoweth and Hayes’ names between every number. So the crowd was being pumped up with these two names, probably thought they were about to come out, and then never did.


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