- Happy Thanksgiving, Rushers!
- Mary Poppins dance captain Suzanne Hylenski on what it’s like to tap dance upside down
- Elling’s shocking closing notice
- Broadway grosses
What did you think of the upside-down, tap-dancing sequence in Mary Poppins, Rushers? What other visual effects from the show wow you? Are you surprised by Elling’s closing notice? What do you think went wrong with the show? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
Broadway Brain: ‘Mary Poppins’ dance captain Suzanne Hylenski turns choreography on its head—literally
While the company members of the Opera Populaire over at Phantom of the Opera and ballerinas of Billy Elliot have been dancing masterfully for years, performers in long run shows need help maintaining the choreography. Enter the dance captain. Over at the dance-heavy Mary Poppins, Suzanne Hylenski has been keeping the Tony-nominated choreography clean for four years. An original cast member, Hylenski has held the position a number of times, the longest stretch being two and a half years. Hylenski, also a swing, sat down with Stage Rush to reveal the life of a dance captain and what it’s like to tap dance upside down.
Explaining it to me like I’m a 3-year-old, what exactly does a dance captain do?
A dance captain is responsible for knowing every single dance step in the show. We know where every single person has to be on stage and how they get there without banging into somebody. I write charts so that I know where everybody is, so that I can keep the show clean. If someone new joins the show, I then have to teach them the steps, that certain track, so that they can come in without banging somebody, falling into the pit, or getting hurt. I have to keep the show clean by watching the show.
So as dance captain, are you watching the show off stage or performing in it?
Most dance captains on Broadway are also swings. So we’re not necessarily performing every night. Right now we have a resident supervisor and two dance captains, because we have such a large show. For me, if I’m on stage, I’m still looking at people thinking, “She’s not on her mark,” and I’ll go write that down. I’ll be doing my track onstage and someone will come to me and say, “I’m getting hit by somebody, something’s not right.” So I have to go and fix that problem. If I’m not on stage, I generally will go to the back of the house and watch the show as a whole and see how it looks. The job is to see people are keeping clean with their dancing. The longer you’re in a show, the longer you don’t have rehearsals. It’s not that people aren’t working hard; it just isn’t quite as crisp as it should be, because they can’t see what else is going on around them. That’s why we give them notes the next day.
Video: Dance captain Suzanne Hylenski on Poppins pressure, faulty doorknobs, and inappropriate audience participation.
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
- Duncan Sheik plays second show at City Winery
- It’s official: Jennifer Damiano will play Mary Jane in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
- Broadway in Bryant Park ends with American Idiot and La Cage aux Folles
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Are you prac-ti-ca-lly per-fect? Did you catch Duncan Sheik’s concert at City Winery? Do you think he should continue with the covers or return fully to performing his solo work? Are you on board for Jennifer Damiano joining Spider-Man? Did you see the finale of Broadway in Bryant Park? Which week was your favorite this summer? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
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”