- Celine Dion, Bernadette Peters, and Kristin Chenoweth introduce this week’s episode! (Just watch.)
- NEWSical‘s Christina Bianco’s incredible celebrity impersonations and her strangest voiceover gigs
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Which impersonation of Bianco’s did you like best? I’m partial to Celine. What do you think of Bianco’s story? Are you surprised Billy Elliot is closing? Do you think it had a good run, or does it deserve a longer life? Let it all out in the comments below!
- Sarah Roberts from Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment co-hosts!
- Kate Baldwin’s album-release party at Feinstein’s
- Memphis‘ Bryan Fenkart and The Addams Family are best in show at Broadway in Bryant Park
- From Follies at the Kennedy Center to Sweeney Todd in Paris: How far will you go to see a show?
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Who do you think was the strongest act at Broadway in Bryant Park this week? What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled to see theater? Leave your frequent theater miles in the comments below!
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
What do you think, Rushers? Can you see Connel playing Dad in Billy Elliot the Musical? I can! Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
In Lee Hall’s drama The Pitmen Painters, Christopher Connel plays the key member of a group of British miners who gain the art world’s attention with their paintings. Although Connel’s Oliver is the most talented of the miners, he fears both his newfound abilities and the consequences of overstepping his socioeconomic status. In this play based on actual events, Hall (the Tony-winning writer of Billy Elliot the Musical) has assembled a group of actors that hail from the same area of Britain as the characters. A further parallel Connel and the cast share with the close-knit miners is that the actors have known and worked with each other for decades.
The production, which has been playing with the same cast for the past three years at engagements in the United Kingdom, closes December 12. Connel sat down with Stage Rush to discuss the show’s successful run, performer camaraderie, and what happens when actors are late to the theater.
To see more of Chris Connel’s interview, tune into Stage Rush TV this Friday!
So the show closes this Sunday. What kind of run has it been?
It’s been fantastic. It’s been different to do it in a different country, to a different culture. Everybody’s had a great time. It’s a wonderful city, New York. That’s when it’s a wonderful thing to be an actor, because you have the daytime to yourself and you can go explore. To be here for three or four months, you don’t feel like a tourist, you feel like you live here.
Is this your first time in New York?
It is my first time in the States, never mind in New York. It’s great. I’ll be coming back. Maybe not professionally, but who knows.
How has this experience been different from your previous runs with the show?
The play is a bit shorter. We’ve calibrated the accents ever so slightly, taken a few of the vernaculars and slang words out. There’s no point in putting a play on if people have to spend the whole play thinking, “What, what?”
Video: Christopher Connel recalls a traffic-delayed performance and onstage mistakes.
- Interviewing Billy Elliot’s Gregory Jbara and reminiscing about our connection to my hometown/his prior feature film location
- Experiencing my first, first preview of a Broadway show: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
- The cast for the film version of God of Carnage is announced, and it is mind blowing
- Enter to win a free pair of tickets to the new play Lombardi
- Broadway grosses
Do you remember the movie In & Out, Rushers? Have any big movies ever been filmed in your hometown or high school? Do you find Greg Jbara as loveable as I do? Were you at the first preview of Bloody Bloody? What was your first first preview? Did your brain explode when you heard who was cast in the film version of God of Carnage? Have you entered to win the Lombardi ticket giveaway yet? What are you waiting for? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and enter the contest!
Gregory Jbara might not be cold and stubborn like Jackie Elliot, the role he won a Tony for in Billy Elliot, but they both have families that are separated by work and dreams. In the musical, Jackie’s son Billy yearns to enroll in the Royal Ballet School in London, while conversely, Jbara’s Billy commitments keep him in New York while his wife and two sons reside year-round in Los Angeles. After a three-month sabbatical from the show in LA where he spent time with his family, Jbara returned to Billy in April with renewed energy and new plans for his Billy future. The film and commercial actor sat down with Stage Rush to discuss balancing work and family, morphing Billy actors, and being mobbed by Robert Pattinson’s groupies.
Do you get to go back to Los Angeles and see your family often?
I don’t. We iChat every night. When they’re on vacation from school, they come to New York. Although, my producers have been very generous. I just extended for another nine months, which will be announced soon I imagine. They’ve given me almost one week off every month to go back home. Being away from my family—it’s lousy. It’s absolutely lousy.
Being that you live so far from your kids and you play a father in Billy Elliot, does that affect your performance at all, make it more emotional? Does it become an advantage?
On a daily basis, it doesn’t really influence what I do. There are some nights, like the day before my family arrives or the evening I say goodbye to them, I find that my own personal reality kind of creeps into the performance at times, especially around Dad’s song. But for the most part, the reality of the characters and the show is based on imagination and fiction. Read more
The second installment of the free summer Broadway-at-lunchtime extravaganza (aka Broadway in Bryant Park) enjoyed much less steamy weather than its premiere week. I also indulged in one of the park’s signature green chair this time, which resulted in a much further spot for filming, which I didn’t realize was a consequence until later. Let me know if the videos are too difficult to see, or if you enjoyed the full-stage perspective.
This week’s concert, which boasted a hefty lineup, kicked off with the oddball of the group—The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes. I can’t be the only one who isn’t keen on Christmas in July. Thankfully, the Rockettes showed the audience mercy and refrained from performing to any Yuletide tunes. Instead, they relegated their performance to a brief routine of high kicks and chorus lines to an instrumental number (no Christmas carol I could make out), and exited the stage roughly three minutes after they began. Someone’s not getting coal in their stocking, come December.
The first real show to take the stage was the king of Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera. Phantom actor John Cudia was not in attendance, but Paul Schaefer knocked it out of the park with “Music of the Night.” Interestingly, Phantom only got two songs, which, as I would find out, left more time for newer shows. Usually, all shows get four numbers. This week, the allotted numbers were quite unbalanced.
The cast of South Pacific was up to bat next, and they were easily the best performers of the day. I’ve thought for a while that the South Pacific chorus is the strongest I’ve ever seen on Broadway. Danny Burstein and his men proved it once again with “There Is Nothing Like A Dame,” making full use of the stage, something that Memphis could have done (but more on that later). Laura Osnes (ah, a star!) was up for the Bryant Park challenge and sang “A Wonderful Guy.” Seeing her perform was a first for me, and I was quite impressed with her vocals.
Video: “There Is Nothing Like A Dame”
Kym, my date, and I arrived at Radio City Music Hall at 6 p.m. We had butterflies in our stomachs and were laughing because it wasn’t like we were nominated or performing. As we lingered around the entrance at 6th Ave and 50th St, trying to figure out how to approach entering, Best Featured Actor in a Play nominee John Glover from Waiting For Godot passed by. We twiddled our thumbs for a few more minutes, waiting to cross paths with more arriving celebrities, but soon decided we better find the commoners entrance and start making our way in. The entrance line for regular ticket holders stretched nearly around the entire block. We waited in line and felt the discriminating eyes of the tourists parked on Rockefeller Center benches meandering over our outfits. As we crawled toward the security check, we saw Heidi Blickenstaff from [title of show], accompanied by Christopher J. Hanke. As we entered the venue, we realized that Heidi had to enter the same way we did—which we felt extremely bad about. The girl was not only in a Tony-nominated show, but she was also Ursula in The Little Mermaid! [title of show] just gets no respect (which we realized again during the ceremony). Read more
Greetings, Rushers! I am extremely excited to announce the winners of the first Independent Theater Blogger Awards for the 2009 theater season. ITBA is the first official organization of theater bloggers, a group that I am honored to be a part of.
BEST BROADWAY PLAY
Reasons To Be Pretty
Written by: Neil Labute
Directed by: Terry Kinney
Produced by: Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Gary Goddard Entertainment, Ted Snowdon, Doug Nevin/Erica Lynn Schwartz, Ronald Frankel/Bat-Barry Productions, Kathleen Seidel, Kelpie Arts, Jam Theatricals, Rachel Helson/Heather Provost and Scott M. Delman
BEST BROADWAY MUSICAL
Music by: Elton John
Lyrics by: Lee Hall
Book by: Lee Hall
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Produced by: Universal Pictures, Working Title, The Old Vic Company, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Jon Finn and Sally Greene
Music by: Galt MacDermot
Lyrics by: James Rado, Gerome Ragni
Book by: James Rado, Gerome Ragni
Directed by: Diane Paulus
Produced by: The Joseph Papp Public Theater / New York Shakespeare Festival, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Gary Goddard Entertainment, Kathleen K. Johnson, Nederlander Productions, Fran Kirmser Productions/Jed Bernstein, Marc Frankel, Broadway Across America, Barbara Manocherian/Wencarlar Productions, JK Productions/Terry Schnuck, Andy Sandberg, Jam Theatricals, The Weinstein Company/Norton Herrick and Jujamcyn Theatres
Written by: Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by: Matthew Warchus
Produced by: Sonia Friedman Productions, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Thomas Viertel, Dede Harris, Tulchin/Bartner/Lauren Doll, Jamie deRoy, Eric Falkenstein, Harriet Newman Leve, Probo Productions, Douglas G. Smith, Michael Filerman/Jennifer Manocherian and Richard Winkler
Book by: Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones
Directed by: Bill T. Jones
Music and Lyrics by: Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Add’l Music by: Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean
Add’l Lyrics by: Jim Lewis
Produced by: Ruth and Stephen Hendel and Roy Gabay
Written by: Lynn Nottage
Directed by: Kate Whoriskey
Produced by: Manhattan Theatre Club and Goodman Theatre
Written by: Thornton Wilder
Directed by: David Cromer
Produced by: Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian, Tom Wirtshafter, Ted Snowdon, Eagle Productions, Dena Hammerstein/Pam Pariseau, The Weinstein Company, Burnt Umber Productions
Written by: Mac Rogers
Directed by: Rosemary Andress
Produced by: Manhattan Theater Source
Written by: Gyda Arber & Aaron Baker
Directed by: Gyda Arber
Produced by: The Fifth Wall as part of The Antidepressant Festival
CITATION FOR EXCELLENCE IN OFF-OFF BROADWAY THEATER
Flux Theatre Ensemble
The ITBA (Independent Theater Bloggers Association) was formed in 2009 by a group of the most passionate theater bloggers on the World Wide Web (partial list below). The members of the Association blog about all aspects and all varieties of both commercial and non-profit theater, from big Broadway musicals performed in Times Square, to the most unique forms of entertainment performed off-off Broadway on the Lower East Side, as well as productions all over the country and all over the world. Together they see thousands of productions, and, without being paid or prodded, they write about them.
Ken Davenport, founder of the ITBA, said, “The Association was formed out of a desire to provide structure to the quickly growing theatrical blogosphere, as well as to give the new media voices a chance to recognize excellence in three of the very distinct theatrical markets that make up the New York City theatrical landscape: Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway.”
In true “new media” style, there will be no live awards ceremony for the ITBA Awards. Instead, there will be a virtual awards ceremony, with video acceptance speeches for the winners posted electronically in the coming weeks on ITBA’s website, www.TheaterBloggers.com.