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Posts tagged ‘Million Dollar Quartet’


Broadway in Bryant Park recap: ‘Chicago’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’

After a ho-hum kickoff, the Broadway in Bryant Park concert series returned Thursday to its second week with a roar. Big Broadway players like Chicago and Catch Me If You Can showed up with their lead actors and off-Broadway fare like Million Dollar Quartet (new to the “off” title) and NEWSical proved strong.

First up were the guys (and gal) from Million Dollar Quartet, which is readying for its off-Broadway bow at the end of the month at New World Stages (it’s transferring from Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre). Much like Baby It’s You!, this weak show plays the Bryant Park venue fierce as a concert-style performance. Leave the story at home—bring in the hits. Their set list was similar to last year’s, but Robert Britton Lyons bring focus as Carl Perkins and Eddie Clendening is still right on as Elvis Presley. At six songs, their set list could have been cut by two, and they sadly did not perform their signature Britton-Lyons-stands-on-the-bass closing pose this year. Lazy musicians.

The old stalwart Chicago took the stage next, and felt anything but old this year. This was large in part due to Christopher Sieber, one of Broadway’s most reliable leads, bringing his charisma and rubbery face to the stage as Billy Flynn. He led the cast in “We Both Reached For The Gun,” which played great, visually, due to the marionette-like choreography. Melissa Rae Mahon, who was featured in Stage Rush’s Chicago episode of Ensemble Watch, played the part of Roxie alongside Sieber, and delivered her character’s title number with delicious sass.

VIDEO: Christopher Sieber sings “We Both Reached For The Gun” from Chicago

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Concert recap: Broadway on Broadway

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 »


Stage Rush TV: Episode 25

Talking points:

Did you catch On A Clear Day You Can See Forever at Vassar Powerhouse, Rushers? Did you have tickets to one of the performances that Anika Noni Rose was absent for? What was your take on Broadway in Bryant Park this week? Any Rushers ever eaten a Wicked brownie? Leave all your thoughts and ideas for Broadway desserts in the comments!


Broadway in Bryant Park recap: ‘Fela!’ and ‘Avenue Q’

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 »


Tony Awards: press room interviews

As you might know from last night’s live blog, Stage Rush was reporting from the press room of the 2010 Tony Awards. After they gave their acceptance speeches, most of the night’s lucky winners made the long journey from Radio City Music Hall across the rainy plaza of Rockefeller Center to the LA Sports Club, where the press room was stationed. (We missed you, Scarlett Johansson and Catherine Zeta-Jones!) Among the Tony winners were Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Katie Finneran, Levi Kreis, and the Memphis creative team. Here are the highlights from those interviews.

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Stage Rush TV: Episode 10

Talking points:
What do you think, Rushers? Are you beaming that Brian d’Arcy James will be coming back to Next to Normal? Did you see him in the show’s off-Broadway run? What did you think of the four shows I saw this week? Did Million Dollar Quartet make you leave smiling? Did you find Everyday Rapture to be a bummer, like I did? Have you been to an At This Performance concert? As always, leave it in the comments!

Review: Million Dollar Quartet

The fact that two musicals have opened on Broadway this season that focus on 1950s rock and roll in Memphis speaks greatly to the current creative drought in musical theater. Or maybe it speaks to the gatekeepers of Broadway and their resistance to take creative chances. Either way, Million Dollar Quartet, trailing the first rock and roll musical of the season—Memphis, is a play-it-safe show that employs some incredibly smart strategies to escort its audience out of the theater grinning. These choices, I’m sure, will make the production a commercial success.
The story takes places over the course of just a few hours on December 4, 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. The true backstory is that Sun Records founder Sam Phillips has invited Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis for a recording session. It would be the only time these four rock and roll gods would ever play together. Eighty percent of the show is this jam session with some light (and I do mean light) banter and relations between the musicians. For the show’s only dramatic backbone, Phillips, who has recently sold Presley to RCA to keep his fledgling record company afloat, is preparing to resign Cash for another three years. What Phillips doesn’t know is that Cash is on his way to break the news to him that he’s already signed with Columbia Records.
The main aspect of this show is the simulated performances of these rock and roll greats, and that part is right on the money. The four actors who play Presley, Cash, Perkins, and Lewis (Eddie Clendening, Lance Guest, Robert Britton Lyons, and Levi Kreis, respectively) are the show’s orchestra. Their instrumentals and vocals are incredibly strong. Their performances of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Hound Dog,” and “See You Later Alligator” are fire-breathing rock and roll spectacles. Quartet holds up as well as it does because of the acute musical talent of these performers. It doesn’t have a lot else to ride on. Read more »

Stage Rush TV: Episode 7

Talking points: 
Have you seen Bryan Fenkart go on for Huey in Memphis? Have you won the American Idiot ticket lotto yet? Do you plan on trying your luck at it? Do you think Hunter Foster should not have taken a non-singing role in a Broadway musical? Please leave any questions or suggestions for topics in the comments!

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ previews songs at invited jam session

Attention classic rock and roll buffs! The closest you’re going to get to seeing Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins creating music history together is by watching the video below. On Thursday, the new Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet (currently in previews, opening April 11) played a handful of numbers from the production to an invited crowd at the Nederlander Theatre.
The musical spotlights the December 4, 1956 recording session at Sun Records studios, organized by Sam Phillips (Hunter Foster) that brought together Cash (Lance Guest), Lewis (Levi Kreis), Perkins (Rob Lyons), and Presley (Eddie Clendening). 
While the on-stage interviews seemed forced, the music flowed from these actors like whiskey in a Memphis bar. Much like John Doyle’s recent revivals of Sweeney Todd and Company, the actors in Quartet are the orchestra. These strong-voiced guys played just as well as they sang. (Lyons even stood on a bass, for wild closing-number pose!!) Oddly, Tony-award nominated musical theater actor Hunter Foster is relegated to the non-singing role of Phillips, who (from what I could tell by the preview) acts mostly as a narrator. Seems like a strange role choice for such an acclaimed actor, but I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see the full show. 
Watch the video for a medley of performances, featuring “Let’s Have A Party,” “Wild One,” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” 
What do you think, Rushers? Does seeing these guys jam out make you want to see Quartet? Are you disappointed Hunter Foster won’t be singing in the show? Does watching this video put you in the mood to re-watch Walk the Line at all? (Because it does for me!)