On May 1, Elaine Paige, the actress who originated the roles of Eva Peron in Evita and Grizabella in Cats could likely be nominated for her first Tony Award. Despite a lauded stage career that goes back nearly 45 years, the British actress has only been on Broadway twice (and not in those shows), having done most of her work in London’s West End. Her Broadway debut was in Sunset Boulevard, and although she played the lead role of Norma Desmond, she was ineligible for a Tony nomination, as she was a replacement. However, her return to Broadway last fall as the saucy stage and film star Carlotta who belts out “I’m Still Here” in the revival of Follies has her on everyone’s frontrunner list for a nod for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. As she readied to begin rehearsals for Follies’ Los Angeles run, Paige telephoned Stage Rush to discuss chumming it up with her Follies costars, being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s go-to gal, and what a Tony nomination would mean to her.
You’ve taken this show to three locations now. How does that feel?
Here we are in LA for the third and final installment. It’s extraordinary. It feels like we’re on tour, really. It’s all very unexpected, of course, because initially it was just going to be in Washington, DC. To then be told we were going to New York was a wonderful surprise. Now to be here in LA is even better. It keeps on rolling.
What’s going on with this production? Has anything different? How’s it going with Victoria Clark, who is replacing Bernadette Peters?
I haven’t yet started rehearsals; I start on Friday. One thing I know is different is that the leading lady, Bernadette Peters, is not in this production out here. It’s a young lady by the name of Victoria Clark, who I’ve yet to meet. That will make a different complexion on the piece. Sometimes when somebody new comes into something, I think that could be a breath of fresh air.
Duncan Sheik is still knee-deep in theater projects. The Tony-winning composer is getting ready to mount the first staged production of his new musical The Nightingale this June in San Diego, he’s still polishing away at the musical version of American Psycho, and he’s also trying to get the much-anticipated film version of Spring Awakening off the ground. Yet while the stage calls, Sheik is taking some time to focus on his music career. Sheik is co-headlining a concert tour with Suzanne Vega (most widely known for “Tom’s Diner”), which will play New York’s Highline Ballroom on April 25 and 26. Sheik phoned Stage Rush on the drive to his first rehearsal for the tour to chat about how American Psycho is influencing his next solo album, Spring Awakening going the indie film route, and why he’s wanted to dodge his biggest hit, “Barely Breathing,” for so long.
How did this collaboration with Suzanne Vega come about?
We’ve known each other for a really long time because we’re both practicing Buddhists. We knew each other through those circles and we’d see each other at various places when we’d be touring for our records. For a long time, Suzanne had this idea about writing a show where she would play Carson McCullers and perform these songs that were inspired by her writing. Suzanne’s daughter is a huge fan of Spring Awakening, so Suzanne thought that since I’ve done the theater thing before, she’d call me up. We ended up writing a score for this piece together. She performed it a year ago at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and she’s been performing a few of the songs in her concerts since then. So we decided to do this co-headlining tour. Read more
If you give Andrew Keenan-Bolger a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, he will give you a Crutchie trading card. Disney has given each cast member of its new Broadway musical Newsies, based on the 1992 cult favorite film, 100 trading cards of their respective characters to distribute at will. I found this out when I sat down with Keenan-Bolger in his dressing room at the Nederlander Theatre when I presented my interviewee with what I had heard was his favorite snack. (I have card no. 62.) Keenan-Bolger, who plays lead newsie Jack Kelly’s disabled best friend, is making the screaming girls who crowd the stage door after every performance work for these collectors’ items. If they’re lucky, they’ll get a piece of what has been a golden year for Keenan-Bolger.
“I decided I was only going to give [the trading cards] out to people who give me Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or people who check my Twitter every day and give the password that I post,” Keenan-Bolger explained. He selected a catchphrase that is an inside joke between himself and his friends—“You must be joking.” “I thought that maybe someone would check it.” Much to the 26-year old’s surprise, awaiting him outside the stage door behind metal barricades was a cavalcade of girls screaming, “You must be joking!” “It’s crazy that the fans are that tapped in.” Keenan-Bolger, who is also a filmmaker and co-creator of the popular web series Submissions Only, has just under 10,000 Twitter followers, so he might want start thinking up cagier ways of making fans earn Crutchie cards.
Despite the daily hordes of Newsies enthusiasts, Keenan-Bolger never saw it coming. Newsies was never supposed to happen. Keenan-Bolger was asked to participate in the first reading of the musical and was told that it was simply so that Disney could license the musical to high schools and regional theater companies. However, a production cropped up at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey last fall, which garnered glowing reviews (and the beginning of that rabid fan base). Even then, the cast’s hope for a Broadway bow was discouraged. “The way Disney played it, they had completely undercut our chances for doing anything other than closing this production and having them sell it,” Keenan-Bolger said. When the production ended its run at Paper Mill, Keenan-Bolger hoped to return to Mary Poppins, where he had previously been playing Robertson Ay. “It wasn’t until we opened up the New York Times the day that everyone else found out we were going to Broadway; that was the day the newsies found out.” Read more
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
Evita hasn’t been seen on Broadway in over 30 years, but this Andrew Lloyd Webber classic is making up for it now with a grand-scale revival starring Ricky Martin, Elena Roger, and Michael Cerveris. Roger, who is Argentinian herself, portrays the controversial first lady of Argentina through her humble beginnings as a commoner, rising to become the internationally famous wife of President Juan Peron, to her early death from cancer.
The No. 1 Reason To See Evita: The opulence of the Casa Rosada Read more
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.
It is not a happy time for the “Get Happy” singer. In the new play End of the Rainbow, Tracie Bennett plays the unraveling Judy Garland, just six months before her fatal overdose. The famous singer and actress is in London with her piano accompanist and fiancé (this will be marriage no. 5) and barely well enough to perform the series of concerts for which she is contracted. Prescription drugs and booze leave her unable to perform, performing leaves her craving prescription drugs and booze, and the two men overseeing her are left scrambling to pick up the pieces of her disintegrating life and career.
The No. 1 Reason To See End of the Rainbow: The story of a great performer begetting a great performance Read more
The year might be 1960, but not much has changed in the arena of dirty politickin’ in this revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. Eric McCormack and John Larroquette face off as two party candidates vying for the presidential primary nomination. Each has a handful of dirt to throw and heavyweights like James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen, Michael McKean, and Kerry Butler have gathered to watch.
The No. 1 Reason To See The Best Man: John Larroquette’s struggle with the dark side of politics Read more
The most raucous version of Sunday mass is back on Broadway with the new revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. Andrew Lloyd webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera has been brought back to the stage with a rock-concert-meets-CNN look by director Des McAnuff and a cast full of Broadway debuts.
The No. 1 Reason To See Jesus Christ Superstar: Jesus and Judas extending over the audience during “Superstar” Read more
Broadway musicals have been a home for many heroes throughout history and this season is ushering in a whole bunch of them in the tightly-wound package of Newsies. The new Disney musical based on the 1992 movie tells the story of orphan boys in 1899 New York who, in spite of their destitute existence, demonstrate true power in numbers. When newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer raises newspaper prices, the newsboys who sell the headlines, led by Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan), form their own union and go on strike.
The No. 1 Reason To See Newsies: The earnest on-stage camaraderie Read more