The energy at Joe’s Pub was infectious on April 9 as the short-lived, but much loved, Lysistrata Jones cast performed their Class Reunion concert. The quirky Douglas Carter Beane musical, a modern-day musical adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, played only 30 performances on Broadway, but was in fine shape taking to the stage one last time three months after closing.
—Concert recap by Zachary Laks
Joe’s Pub’s intimate setting made for an exciting opportunity to hear Lewis Flinn’s score, which will be preserved on a cast recording set for release on May 15. Book writer Beane hosted the evening, interjecting his sharp wit in between the performances. Three of the original Broadway cast members were unable to attend, due to scheduling conflicts. Most noticeably absent was Lysistrata Jones herself, Patti Murin who is filming a pilot in Los Angeles. Teddy Toye (Harold) and Alexander Aguilar (‘Uardo) were also unavailable for the event.
The concert began as the Broadway production did, with its startling bang and a Greek-like chorus homage leading into its high-energy meet-the-characters cheer song, “Right Now.” With a peppy, petite lead in Libby Servais (Murin’s understudy—who had never gone on in the role on Broadway), the opening brought the whole cast out to great cheers and the glory-filled moments of the cast reuniting on the same stage. Flinn noted that the performance was taking place exactly one year ago from the first rehearsal for its off-Broadway production. Read more
Joshua Henry opened his solo concert at the Triad Theater on February 20 singing the words “I’m livin’ my life like it’s golden.” The chorus to Jill Scott’s hit certainly describes Henry’s glowing career on Broadway, as he’s currently starring in the smash revival of Porgy and Bess after coming off a Tony nomination for last season’s The Scottsboro Boys. Even with a featured role in American Idiot in which he had to strip down to his skivvies, Henry is living the high life, which he proved by playing to an adoring crowd who sang along with his set list of soul (and simply soul-touching) songs in an evening titled “Soul Weakness.”
Scott’s good-willed “Golden” kicked off Henry’s jam session, followed by “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.” Clearly striking a nerve with the audience, Henry played “What Would I Do If I Could Feel” from The Wiz to giant cheers. James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” gave Henry the chance to strut his confident, yet silly, personality on stage, which was received with delighted squeals.
Perhaps the most anticipated moment of the evening was when Henry inevitably performed “Go Back Home” from Scottsboro Boys. His delicate, moving performance earned him his first Tony nomination and to see him perform the number again, after the show ran so briefly on Broadway, was a rare treat. However, in the spirit of tailoring the concert to his liking, Henry performed the John Kander and Fred Ebb song in a mashup with Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
VIDEO: Watch Joshua Henry sing “Go Back Home” and “A Change Is Gonna Come”
If there was to be a revival of The Most Happy Fella on Broadway, Robert Creighton should be cast as the lead right now. I actually have no idea what the show is about, but what I do know is that at his concert and album release party at the Metropolitan Room February 13 for his debut record Ain’t We Got Fun, Creighton was the most gleeful guy in New York. In addition to covering for Joel Grey as Moonface Martin in the hit revival of Anything Goes when the actor was out due to an injury in the fall and having a baby with his wife soon after, Creighton kicked off the official release of his album by duetting on stage with Anything Goes original castmates Laura Osnes and Grey.
Ain’t We Got Fun is a collection of jazz and Tin Pan Alley standards, as well as Creighton’s own compositions of the same style. If that genre of music gets your toes tapping, Creighton’s renditions will delight. If those tunes don’t float your boat, you’re still bound to enjoy Creighton as an entertainer because every performance is infused with characterization and his brand of clumsy, ‘aw shucks’ humor. And there was no shortage of that charm at Creighton’s concert. After kicking the show off with his own song “Crazy ‘Bout You,” Creighton explained that he was about to deliver his third baby. His first was the musical Cagney!, which he co-wrote and starred in in Florida. The second being his actual child and the third baby being the debut of his album.
VIDEO: Watch Robert Creighton sing “Crazy ‘Bout You”
Raul Esparza shook his ass, Sherie Rene Scott compared Lindsay Mendez to her right breast, and Seth Numrich showed up to announce he can’t sing. Yes, everyone was in the holiday spirit at ASTEP’s fourth annual New York City Christmas concert at Joe’s Pub December 12. (An album of songs featured in the concert is available on iTunes and at Sh-K-Boom Records.) The evening of Broadway A-listers performing Christmas songs to innovative arrangements proved as solid and gorgeous as ever, mixed in with a lot of good humor. Here’s what went down.
Sherie Rene Scott, Lindsay Mendez, and Betsy Wolfe (previously seen together in Everyday Rapture) kicked off the show with Mariah Carey’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” in such sassy, female rocker fashion, it made me wish the three would form a permanent girl rock group. The bond between the three women seemed strong, as their chemistry flared during their feisty number and between songs, they exchanged playful banter. Scott told a story in which an early scene for Everyday Rapture had Mendez and Wolfe playing her breasts, with character names simply “Left” and “Right.” Scott credited her strong relationship with Mendez saying, “Lindsay will always be my Right.”
VIDEO: Sherie Rene Scott, Lindsay Mendez, and Betsie Wolfe sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
PhilDev’s Suites By Sondheim benefit concert at Lincoln Center was like reaching into a cereal box of Stephen Sondheim’s Lucky Charms and scooping out a handful of marshmallows. The concert, held at Alice Tully Hall on November 7 to benefit the Philippine Development Foundation, featured songs only among the composer’s biggest hits. Performing the sweeping
numbers were 36 Broadway actors of Filipino descent, including concert headliner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon), Adam Jacobs (The Lion King), T.V. Carpio (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), and Ali Ewoldt (Les Miserables).
Jose Llana led a lively ensemble opener with the title song to Company, followed by a cutesy “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” by Carpio, Liz Casola, and Jaygee Macapugay. Llana closed out the Company set with a solid “Being Alive.”
The West Side Story segment was among the strongest of the night, reuniting Jacobs and Ewoldt, who played Marius and Cosette in the 2006 revival of Les Miserables. They sang a shiver-inducing “One Hand, One Heart,” which exemplified their pitch-perfect chemistry. Joan Almedilla joined Ewoldt for a ferocious “A Boy Like That,” which they beautifully juxtaposed with a haunting “I Have A Love.” Read more
The big boys came out to play in Bryant Park Thursday. This week’s outdoor concert featured some of Broadway’s biggest box-office hitters: Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Rent, and Wicked. Death Takes A Holiday came by to chill too. This group made for one of the strongest sets this summer, without having any particular wow moment. Here are the highlights.
Roundabout Theatre Company’s new off-Broadway musical Death Takes A Holiday served as the opening act. Kevin Earley, the newly crowned lead who has replaced the laryngitis-stricken Julian Ovenden, was there to toe tap with Mara Davi in “Shimmy Like They Do In Gay Paris.” Spring Awakening alum Alexandra Socha was clear-voiced and charming during “What Do You Do” with Max Von Essen. Overall, the new score by Maury Yeston sounded elegant and romantic.
The boys from Jersey set the mic stands in a line and plowed through a medley of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons classics. Even though I’ve heard this set so many times, the foursome of Miles Aubrey, Erik Bates, Russell Fischer, and Ryan Jesse sounded spot on as the famous crooners. Also, I’m a sucker for that mic-stand choreography. Read more
The oldie musicals came to Broadway in Bryant Park this week to show the newbies who’s boss. The lively casts of The Phantom of the Opera, The Fantasticks, Hair, and Anything Goes performed their classic, well-trodden material with fresh enthusiasm.
At first, I wasn’t so sure about the Phantom set. Kyle Barisich and Marni Raab sang a sweet “All I Ask of You,” but the acting was so out of context on the Bryant Park stage that I had trouble holding back a few snide laughs. I shut up when Hugh Panaro took the stage for “Music of the Night.” The Broadway A-lister and long-time Phantom sang the famous number with remarkable control, and his power notes filled the park effortlessly.
VIDEO: Hugh Panaro sings “Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera
This week’s acts at Broadway in Bryant Park couldn’t match the scorching heat of Kerry Butler and Aaron Tveit from last week, so Mother Nature sent down an excess of UV rays to make up for the difference. The third week of the concert series was the hottest yet, clocking in at 94 degrees. In addition to the added heat, there were five shows performing, breaking from the usual four. It was a jam-packed show with solid turnouts, but no clear, wowing performance.
Joseph Harrington took the stage first for Billy Elliot, singing “Electricity.” His delivery seemed a bit robotic and inorganic, but at the end when he took center stage and performed numerous, consecutive pirouettes—I couldn’t help but have chills. Emily Skinner sang Mrs. Wilkinson’s number, “Shine,” but was unaccompanied by her ballerina students, who performed during the number last year. Closing out their set, all four current Broadway Billies (Harrington, Tade Biesinger, Giuseppe Bausilio, and Peter Mazurowski) convened for a tap dance set.
Memphis sent in its understudies in place of Chad Kimball and Montego Glover. Bryan Fenkart, who sat down with Stage Rush for an “Understudy Hall” profile, is often a pinch-hitter for the role of Huey. News broke on Thursday that Kimball is scheduled to take a leave of absence from the musical in the fall due to a long-gestating injury. Fenkart’s appearance at the Bryant Park concert provided some thoughtful foreshadowing as to whether he might be tapped to replace Kimball in the role. Regardless, Fenkart delivered a vocally-impressive and well-acted “The Music of My Soul,” followed by Dan’yelle Williamson, who added her own gospel flourishes to the great solo “Colored Woman.” Surprisingly, Fenkart and Williamson were the only two Memphis representatives. I found it odd that the show didn’t make use of its impressive ensemble, but the two back-up leads delivered a strong set on their own.
VIDEO: Bryan Fenkart sings “The Music of My Soul” from Memphis
After a ho-hum kickoff, the Broadway in Bryant Park concert series returned Thursday to its second week with a roar. Big Broadway players like Chicago and Catch Me If You Can showed up with their lead actors and off-Broadway fare like Million Dollar Quartet (new to the “off” title) and NEWSical proved strong.
First up were the guys (and gal) from Million Dollar Quartet, which is readying for its off-Broadway bow at the end of the month at New World Stages (it’s transferring from Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre). Much like Baby It’s You!, this weak show plays the Bryant Park venue fierce as a concert-style performance. Leave the story at home—bring in the hits. Their set list was similar to last year’s, but Robert Britton Lyons bring focus as Carl Perkins and Eddie Clendening is still right on as Elvis Presley. At six songs, their set list could have been cut by two, and they sadly did not perform their signature Britton-Lyons-stands-on-the-bass closing pose this year. Lazy musicians.
The old stalwart Chicago took the stage next, and felt anything but old this year. This was large in part due to Christopher Sieber, one of Broadway’s most reliable leads, bringing his charisma and rubbery face to the stage as Billy Flynn. He led the cast in “We Both Reached For The Gun,” which played great, visually, due to the marionette-like choreography. Melissa Rae Mahon, who was featured in Stage Rush’s Chicago episode of Ensemble Watch, played the part of Roxie alongside Sieber, and delivered her character’s title number with delicious sass.
VIDEO: Christopher Sieber sings “We Both Reached For The Gun” from Chicago
Manhattan’s summer lunch breaks just got extended. There’s only one event that could justify an hour-and-a-half reprieve from the office, and that is the Broadway in Bryant Park concert series that kicked off Thursday afternoon. (Yes, my math is correct. The concert lasts an hour, but attendees should expect to get there at least a half hour early for a good seat.) Despite the gorgeous (if not intense) summer weather that beat down on the Bryant Park audience for the kick off installment, the concert series got off to an underwhelming start.
Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana was set to perform first. You might be wondering what act could be performed from the super-elaborate spectacle. The answer: not much. A couple minutes of clowns waddling through the sweaty crowd and a quick run across the stage comprised Zarkana’s bizarre performance—if you can call it that.
The women of Baby It’s You! took the stage to show what a performance is really about. The four actresses that play the Shirelles pounded out a medley of the girl group’s hits, with Christina Sajous spunky vocals mixing well with her Rihanna-style cropped hairdo. The cheesy costumes of the 60s were not missed, and the performance demonstrated that the musical works so much better as a tribute concert than a narrative show.
VIDEO: Baby It’s You! performs a Shirelles medley