The Scottsboro Boys may be in its final week on Broadway due to disappointing ticket sales, but theatergoers packed the Lyceum Theatre for Thursday night’s performance. Following a sold-out show, in which composer John Kander and director Susan Stroman were in attendance, producer Catherine Shreiber introduced a panel of historians that lead a post-performance discussion of the historical importance of the Scottsboro episode.
CBS News’ chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford took the stage, visibly moved by the performance, and announced that she was throwing out her prepared introduction. “I had prepared a little speech about how this [talkback] would illuminate the issues of law and injustice, because that’s what I cover, but I’m throwing all that out,” Crawford said. “This was a play frayed with humor, but I didn’t really laugh. For me growing up in the south, Bull Connor turning fire houses on peaceful protesters [feels like] just the other day. Sunday school girls getting killed in a bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church [feels like] just the other day.” Crawford went on to comment how the nature of the Scottsboro incident shares parallels to today’s headlines. Read more
Bernadette Peters and Jan Maxwell were there. Yes, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, who is making his Broadway debut as the morose Henrik in A Little Night Music, attracted quite the crowd to his second concert at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency Monday night. (Elaine Stritch, who also stars in the show, phoned ahead with her apologies—she was filming an episode of 30 Rock the next morning and needed to rest.) Intertwining charming stories of his New York and musical theater life with hilarious deadpan, Herdlicka performed classic songs from Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Stephen Sondheim.
With Mary-Mitchell Campbell on piano as his music director, Herdlicka began with Porter’s “I Happen To Like New York” in a mashup with another song on life in the Big Apple—“Another Hundred People” from Company. Herdlicka described himself as a musical theater addict. “Someone who is a musical theater addict living in New York is like someone with a gluten allergy working at Amy’s Bread—it’s not easy.”
After recounting his early-developed affinity for musical theater as an “intense” child and how it affected him, Herdlicka sang a medley from Peter Pan, which included “Distant Melody,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Never Never Land.”
Herdlicka told of his callback audition for A Little Night Music, which included an awkward elevator ride alone with Stephen Sondheim. Herdlicka said he turned to the famous composer and said, “Hi, I’m Hunter. I’m here to sing for you,” to which Sondheim dryly responded, “And I’m here to listen.” Herdlicka followed this story with Gershwin’s “They All Laughed.” Read more
Five hundred spotlights. That’s how many center-stage moments the At This Performance concert series has given to Broadway understudies since its inception seven years ago. During the Monday night concert, Erick Buckley—who understudies Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, was crowned number 500. At the time of the concert, he had yet to ever go on for the role.
That fact is what makes the At This Performance concerts so special—it honors actors who rarely get the glory. Musicals Tonight! artistic director Mel Miller introduced the night’s performers as “the backbone of American musical theater,” noting that they are the future leads of Broadway. The actors represented such shows as Fela!, The Lion King, A Little Night Music, and Memphis.
Typically, the performers perform solo, but since Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty were both in attendance from The Addams Family, they sang the duet their characters share, called “Crazier Than You.” Rather than give the song a straight performance, the two acted out the song, using props.
Video: Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty sing “Crazier Than You” from The Addams Family
I was there when it played off Broadway, then attended the media day, and even was present at its first Broadway preview. So when I was invited to the opening night performance and party of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, despite my excitement, I worried people would start thinking I was a Jackson groupie. And maybe I am! Well, not exactly, but there’s no shame in supporting a show that’s this good or one you believe in. And I believe in Andrew Jackson.
I was the plus one of the very generous Sammy Davis, my friend and the mind behind the self-titled Sammy Davis Vintage, who is a vintage fashion expert and stylist. We arrived at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre early enough to soak up the opening-night flashbulbs and festivities occurring on the street. We first saw Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts walk the press line, followed by the very pregnant Katie Finneran, Eve Best, Keith Powell, and Andrew McCarthy. Bloody Bloody writer/director Alex Timbers and composer Michael Friedman also passed through photographers, looking ebullient for the debut of their creative baby. Getting swept up in all the famous faces and buzz, it was easy to lose track of time, and we realized we should go in and take our seats before we missed the curtain.
The excitement in the theater was palpable. I had already observed Donyale Werle and Justin Townsend’s enveloping set and lighting when I attended the first preview performance, but I swear the ornaments glowed brighter this night. The performance began 15 minutes late, but when it did, the audience gave the cast of Bloody Bloody a warm welcome. Title star Benjamin Walker riffed a little more than usual in his opening statements, warning the audience that their sustained applause was just delaying them all from the open bar at the after party. Read more
Do you think rain would really keep Fela from performing? The outspoken Nigerian musician would never miss a chance to be heard. When a dreary day washed out hopes of the cast of Fela! providing a free concert at Brooklyn Bridge Park Monday night, the cast and band quickly moved the location to the nearby St. Ann’s Warehouse.
The rain didn’t inhibit fans either, who had the venue nearly packed when the doors opened at 6 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. show. The concert commenced 15 minutes late and was preceded by four speakers—two artistic directors and two politicians. (Forgive me for not remembering their names. No one in the house was too concerned with them.) After an anxious crowd failed to hide its disinterest with the speakers, the Fela! band took the stage.
After playing a 10 to 15-minute intro (which should have been shortened), Sahr Ngaujah (and his abs) took the stage, followed by five of his Queens. Ngaujah spiritedly chatted with the crowd about hurried lives and following dreams, as he guided his band through “Trouble Sleep,” “Ego,” and other Kuti tunes.
Video: Sahr Ngaujah and the cast of Fela! take the stage at St. Ann’s Warehouse
Were you at the free Fela! concert, Rushers? What did you think of Ngaujah’s performance and the set list? Leave your thoughts on the concert in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow Stage Rush on Twitter and Facebook for on-the-go updates, news, and sightings!
The new Broadway season swoops in with quite a homecoming when it takes over the area it inhabits. During the annual Broadway on Broadway concert, Broadway the art takes full control of Broadway the district. In its nineteenth year, the free outdoor concert in Times Square offered strong performances, many of theater’s biggest stars, and a lack of new offerings.
Sponsored by The Broadway League and billed as a kick-off to the new theater season, Broadway on Broadway should (and usually does) feature the new musical productions that will be bowing in the coming months. It’s an exciting sneak peak of shows that are opening in a few weeks, and some much further into the year. Last year, new productions like Finian’s Rainbow and Memphis were among those that debuted their songs and cast to the Times Square audience. This year, just two new musicals performed, out of the 10+ productions slated for Broadway this year.
Only one of those two productions, Elf, features original music. Beth Leavel was on hand to perform “There Is A Santa Claus,” which was pretty paint-by-numbers in melody, but embodied a strong seasonal flavor. Will Swenson (with newly cropped hair, much to the female audience’s audible disdain) performed “I Say A Little Prayer” from Priscilla Queen of the Desert—a jukebox musical. Not two of the strongest numbers of the day, but still exciting, being they were new.
Where was the cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, who is clearly ready to go? The Scottsboro Boys are still performing at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, so they get a pass on this event. But why couldn’t Reeve Carney represent Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark like he did on Good Morning America on Friday? Were the A-list stars of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown above the free concert? Being that all these shows are set to open in the next two months, a one-song performance couldn’t have been too far out of their reach. Instead of performances, Sutton Foster, from the upcoming revival of Anything Goes (another production that didn’t perform—like she doesn’t know how to sing “Blow, Gabriel, Blow?) appeared on stage to read from the list of all these shows that are coming to Broadway and wouldn’t be performing. Some tease. Read more
Indians and politicians invaded the Playwrights Horizons Theatre on Wednesday when the cast and creative team of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson met with the press to promote their upcoming September 20 Broadway bow. The cast came armed with a medley performance of two of the show’s numbers, and writer/director Alex Timbers offered a sneak peak of what will happen when Jackson takes the stage.
Video: The cast of Bloody Bloody Andre Jackson performs “Populism, Yea Yea” and “Rock Star”
The weather didn’t get the memo that Broadway in Bryant Park still had one more week left in the season. It drizzled on the massive crowd that gathered for the free lunchtime concert’s final show of the summer. But judging from the crowd’s reactions to the buzzy shows that performed, they didn’t seem to mind the rain.
The Cagelles of La Cage aux Folles, this year’s Tony winner for Best Revival of a Musical, took the stage first. I wasn’t surprised that Kelsey Grammer didn’t participate in the event, but Douglass Hodge, the Tony winner for Best Actor, could have showed up to belt out “I Am What I Am.” Instead, their merry mass of transvestites entertained the crowd to exuberant applause. Not donning any feminine garb for “We Are What We Are” did come off a bit strange (“Look under our frocks,” what frocks?!), but their energy was through the roof, especially as they spiked extra large beach balls into the audience. The song began strangely though, as the announcer introduced the song as “What Are We Here For,” and then interrupted the already-in-progress number to give it the correct title. Dale Hensely and Chris Hoch went on as Albin and Georges, respectively, for “With You On My Arm,” which came off dull. The duo then joined the Cagelles for their closing act, “The Best of Times,” in which they paled in comparison to the effusive ensemble.
Video: “We Are What We Are”
Duncan Sheik returned to New York’s City Winery Tuesday night to complete his two-show commitment, after canceling his June 10 concert due to illness. The Tony-winning composer was back in regular form for an evening of 80s alt-rock covers and solo work.
Sheik kicked off the 80s covers segment with Depeche Mode’s “Stripped,” which he performed back in March at his concert at New Jersey’s South Orange Performing Arts Center. He moved through a set of new covers, which Sheik introduced as their “world premiere; which is code for we haven’t rehearsed them much.” The list included songs from The Cure, Howard Jones, and The Smiths—all with mellow arrangements. One of the few times in his set did Sheik get upbeat was when he played Tears For Fears’ “Shout,” which was a surprisingly mainstream choice for Sheik. As he’s done many times before, he introduced “Shout” with slight embarrassment as “a pop song,” which is something he did repeatedly during the show.
When he played his first concert at City Winery in June, Sheik’s set began with a Nick Drake album in its entirety before moving on to his solo work. Toward the end of Tuesday’s set of covers, a chiding audience member called out “Play Duncan Sheik!” The bashful Sheik responded, “I’m getting there; I just have to get this out of my system.” He began the segment of his own work with “For You” and then jumped to a Whisper House song, which he classically brushed off with, “My last album was called Whisper House. It was a theater thing.” From that musical, he played “The Tale of Solomon Snell,” which I thought was a poor choice, being that there are stronger numbers from the piece, and it has been a part of his past few set lists. Strangely missing lately has been “Earthbound Starlight,” which was the debut single off the Whisper House album. Read more
After a hiatus from Broadway in Bryant Park last week due to some traveling, it seems the lunch-time concert series missed me, because it put on perhaps its strongest show of the season so far. What seemed like a strange lineup of mostly off-Broadway shows (Million Dollar Quartet and Fela! being the only Broadway offerings) delivered strong performances from each cast that included stars and no less than 10 minutes of stage time—something we haven’t seen in recent weeks.
The concert started off with a bang, with the Broadway newbie Million Dollar Quartet. Coming off of a Tony nomination for Best Musical and a win for supporting actor Levi Kreis, the honored actor and his cast mates took the stage with their instruments. Most casts sing to recorded instrumentals, as an orchestra usually can’t fit on the Bryant Park stage. However, since in Quartet, the actors are the orchestra, this made for a unique performance. The cast of Quartet are fantastic musicians and performers—every performance I’ve seen of theirs has been engaging, and this concert was no exception. It was refreshing to see the actors out of their Lewis/Presley/Perkins/Cash garb, instead donning jeans and Quartet t-shirts; it brought some of the cheese out of the performance, leaving their talent and chemistry alone on the stage. Lance Guest and Eddie Clendening, who play Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley respectively, were not in attendance, but their understudies were, and any difference in performance was nearly unnoticeable. A standout was Elizabeth Stanley, who plays Elvis’ girlfriend Dyanne, and usually fades into the background. On the Bryant Park stage, Stanley was feisty and bubbled over with sex and raw vocals. Her rendition of “I Hear You Knocking,” made an impression on me that hadn’t before upon seeing a musical preview and the show itself. Read more