The only thing better than an improv show is an improv show with Jim Henson puppets, right? That’s why Stuffed and Unstrung exists. Featuring six comedians and over 80 puppets, Stuffed and Unstrung is an R-rated comedy show of storytelling, songs, and skits where the audience dictates what the puppets and comedians act out. Produced by Henson Alternative (the adult division of The Jim Henson Company), Stuffed and Unstrung is the chance to reunite with the puppets that we grew up with… and discover that they’ve grown up too.
Typically, my theater experiences are sequestered to Broadway and New York. However, on April 13, I will be traveling to Princeton, New Jersey to see Stuffed and Unstrung at the McCarter Theatre. I first saw Stuffed and Unstrung when it played a (criminally) brief off-Broadway run at the Union Square Theater in April 2010. It officially ranks as the funniest live show I have ever seen. The jokes were fresh, biting, and always pushing the envelope of decency. The acting was nuanced, original, and adorable. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the night was that the audience members called on stage were somehow just as funny as the performers in their awkward stories and prompt suggestions.
If you want to join me at the McCarter Theater for Stuffed and Unstrung, Stage Rush is giving you a special promotional code to get tickets for $25. Use the word “Stuffed” when buying tickets online at McCarter.org or by calling (609) 258-2787. Student tickets with a valid ID are also available at $15.
When it comes to traditions, I’m the most stodgy when it comes to ones related to Christmas. That’s why I am thrilled beyond comprehension that one of my favorite holiday events is returning again this year. For the fourth year in a row, some of Broadway’s best performers, including Raul Esparza, Chester Gregory, and Sierra Boggess will come together to sing Christmas tunes for ASTEP’s New York City Christmas concert at Joe’s Pub on Monday, December 12 at 7 p.m.
The concert features Broadway A-listers singing classic Christmas carols, revamped with unique arrangements. The delightful Lynne Shankel once again serves as music director and host of the evening, which includes performers such as Esparza, Gregory, Boggess, Lindsay Mendez, Orfeh, Andy Karl, and more.
The evening is one filled with warm holiday spirit and powerful Broadway talent. But here is the top reason to see the concert, Rushers. The arrangements of these traditional Christmas songs are spectacular. The prime exhibit comes from the concert’s first iteration in 2008, when Esparza set the stage on fire with his English-Spanish rendition of “O Holy Night.” Watch the embedded video below and just try not to squirm in sensual delight. Read more
Over 200 theater companies from around the world will be unveiling shows in more than 20 venues when the New York International Fringe Festival commences August 12. Stage Rush is excited to welcome its first correspondent to cover this expansive theater event—Nicole Gluckstern. Through August 28, Nicole will post reviews, musings, and details of her Fringe adventures as she wades her way through the festival’s 1,200 performances. Get to know our correspondent before the festival coverage commences.
Nicole Gluckstern is an arts writer and theater critic in San Francisco and a die-hard Fringe Festival fanatic. In addition to working 10 years (and counting!) as a lighting technician for the San Francisco Fringe Festival, she spent one summer working at the Edinburgh Fringe, and two at the Montreal Fringe. She writes a weekly performing arts column—“The Performant”—for The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and has written for numerous other publications including TBA Magazine, BAYSTAGES, The Quarterly Conversation, and Other Magazine. In 2010 she was awarded a fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts’ Arts Journalism Institute in Theatre and Musical Theatre. She’s never met a chocolate-covered espresso bean she didn’t like, especially while fringing.
Follow Nicole on Twitter @enkohl!
Chester Gregory has remained a steady Broadway fixture since making his debut in 2003 in Hairspray. A replacement in the role of Seaweed, the Gary, Indiana native began a streak of supporting principal roles that included Terk in Tarzan, Dupree in Cry-Baby, Donkey in the Seattle tryout of Shrek The Musical, and James “Thunder” Early in the Dreamgirls national tour. Now Gregory is back on Broadway playing (Sweaty) Eddie Souther in Sister Act—the noble police officer who sends lounge singer Dolores (Patina Miller) to hide in a convent from her thug pursuers.
Gregory earned raves in 2000 when he starred in Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater’s production of The Jackie Wilson Story. When the show toured in New York at the Apollo Theater, Hairspray creators Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman were taken by Gregory’s energetic performance and immediately cast him as Seaweed in their hit musical. Since making his Broadway debut, Gregory has earned an adoring fanbase, but his stage journey has had notable low points. Tarzan opened to terrible reviews, Cry-Baby only lasted 68 performances, and the industry buzzed when Gregory was not cast as Donkey in Shrek’s Broadway transfer, after creating the role in Seattle.
Despite these potential setbacks, Gregory plunged forward, giving a well-reviewed performance in the national tour of Dreamgirls and creating a slick R&B/soul solo career. Gregory sat down with Stage Rush in his dressing room at the Broadway Theatre (coincidentally, where the musical about the ogre played) to discuss Sister Act, his history with the Apollo, and what happened with Shrek.
How did Sister Act come into your life?
Sister Act came into my life by way of my son’s mother, Kimberly Herbert Gregory, who is an actress as well [last seen in By The Way, Meet Vera Stark]. She saw the production in London and recommended I audition for it. Read more
Greetings from Los Angeles, Rushers! I’ve been out here on the west coast for over a week participating in the National Endowment for the Arts’ Theater Journalism Institute, and the website we’ve created—Engine 28—is bursting with theater content, relative to both LA and NY folk. My biggest undertaking in the program was producing a theater webshow, featuring top personalities and burning arts-related issues. Here is the result—Off Stage with Engine 28. In this premiere episode, I sit down with Pasadena Playhouse artistic director (and Baby It’s You! director) Sheldon Epps to discuss his controversial statements about Broadway needing a quality evaluation, as well as the upcoming musical version of Sleepless In Seattle. I also sit down with Good People‘s Tate Donovan to discuss the conclusion of that show’s successful run and his thoughts on the LA theater scene.
What do you think, Rushers? What did Sheldon Epps say that most surprised you? How about his hints that Pasadena Playhouse would shift their season so that Angela Bassett could complete her run in The Mountaintop? What do you think of the term “devised theater”? Do you think Tate Donovan’s evaluation of LA theater is accurate? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
The Independent Theater Bloggers Association has announced the winners of the 2011 Patrick Lee ITBA Awards! Watch the [title of show] gang—Hunter Bell, Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, and Jeff Bowen—currently working on their next project, Now. Here. This., announce the winners.
Do you think the ITBA chose wisely, Rushers? How do you think the ITBA winners will differ from the victors on Tony night? How adorable is the [title of show] team? Are you on the edge of your seat for Now. Here. This.? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
It takes courage to write about your own life for a play; it takes even more courage to play a character in it. That is what Catherine Schreiber is doing in Desperate Writers, a play she co-wrote with Joshua Grenrock, about the writing duo’s adventures of getting a script produced in Hollywood. The comedy begins previews May 16 at the Union Square Theater and will open June 6. Schreiber is a producer of The Scottsboro Boys, as well as the upcoming Broadway production of The King’s Speech, based on the Oscar-winning film. Maddie Corman (previously seen on Broadway in Next Fall) plays the role of Ashley, modeled after Schreiber. The actress and playwright sat down with Stage Rush to discuss the rehearsal process, the struggles of making it in the entertainment industry, and their other high-profile projects: Smash—a pilot for NBC, and King’s Speech.
How did the basis for this play come to you?
Catherine Schreiber: Joshua Grenrock and I met as actors years ago and then we started writing together. We had always wanted to write a script about our struggles. Everyone said don’t do it, but it was one of those scripts that we had to write. Everything in it is based on truth.
How much of the play is you?
CS: A lot of the play is me. Josh and I, we really wrote it for ourselves as Ashley and David. We couldn’t play those parts because by the time we did it, we would have been too old and it wouldn’t have been a comedy anymore, it would have been more of a tragedy. We played the producers instead. But a lot of my friends who hear the lines will recognize me.
Maddie, you play…
Maddie Corman: Catherine. [Laughs] I play Ashley.
What’s your character up to?
MC: When the play opens, it’s the day of the big [script] meeting and it’s finally supposed to happen. The company loves it; they can make this couple’s dream come true. I think the one thing that may not be autobiographical for Catherine—just because I want to save your marriage—in the play, the cowriters are also in love. Ashley is ready to get married and have a baby. Herboyfriend won’t take that next step until he gets his ducks in a row. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling of, ‘Come on, it’s my time. I’m not asking for a favor. I’m ready to work hard and do what I was born to you.’ I can’t tell you how much I relate to the script. In rehearsal, I have shared my horror stories about jobs I have done where they’ve said, ‘OK, this pilot is going to series and you’re going to be in this.’ Read more
Arthur Laurents, librettist of West Side Story and Gypsy, and Broadway director died May 5 in his Manhattan home at age 93. He leaves behind a career legacy that changed musical theater forever, but more importantly, contributed to moments that will always live in theatergoers’ hearts. Stage Rush asked readers to submit their cherished memories connected with Laurents’ work and describe how his contribution to the arts affected them. Here is a collected tribute to Arthur Laurents from the people his work touched most—the audience.
If Arthur Laurents had written the libretto for just West Side Story or Gypsy, it would be a great accomplishment. The fact that he was the author of both forever cements his legacy in the world of American musical theatre. The closing performance of the 2003 revival of Gypsy remains one of the most important experiences of my life (for a variety of reasons), and has in many ways led to who I am and where I am this very day. For that, I am eternally grateful.
—Kevin Daly, Theatre Aficionado at Large
When I saw Gypsy in 2008, I truly understood for the first time that this show was an honest-to-God classic.
—Matt Orell, via Facebook
I met Arthur Laurents one time in New York City. I was 15 and I have been in love with his work since I saw West Side Story at age 7. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but he was having dinner with a few people when my aunt and I walked into the restaurant. Needless to say, I was really exited and my aunt thought I was crazy. I was determined to say hi, so after a while, I saw that his table was getting ready to leave, so I walked up to him, to my aunt’s dismay. I told him I loved his plays and his work on musicals most of all. He said he was surprised someone my age would like his stuff (he actually said “stuff”!). I was amazed, and before I could realize what I was saying, I asked if I could get a hug and a kiss, and he said yes! So I got a kiss and a hug from Arthur Laurents!
—Dante Velasco Read more
Arthur Laurents, librettist of West Side Story and Gypsy, and Broadway director died Thursday in his Manhattan home at age 93. He leaves behind a career legacy that changed musical theater forever, but more importantly, contributed to moments that will always live in theatergoers’ hearts. There will be many obituaries and tributes written about him by arts journalists and theater professionals, but Stage Rush is giving you the chance to write your own tribute to the Broadway legend, as a theatergoer.
Submit your own stories and memories of being impacted by Laurents’ work, whether it was in a theater watching one of his productions or listening to the music of his shows at home. What lines touch you the most? Make you laugh? Make you cry? Which of Laurents’ pieces inspires you the most?
Email your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11 p.m. Sunday, May 8, and it will be included in a collected tribute to Laurents on Stage Rush on May 9. Include your name as you want it to appear with your tribute, along with your city and state. For example, either format of “Jesse North, New York, NY”; “J. North, New York, NY”; or “Jesse N., New York, NY” will do.
For reference, here is the link to Arthur Laurents’ Internet Broadway Database page.