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. 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 camaraderieRead more
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
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!)
Guys and Dolls is a big musical. It’s got big orchestrations, big scenery, big characters, and a big history. So in its third iteration on Broadway, it’s surprising that what keeps this classic afloat are the minor details.
I arrived at the Nederlander Theatre (gorgeously renovated, post Rent) just before 8:30 a.m. I was alone in line and remained so until I was joined by three other rushers just before the box office opened. Why such a slow rush day for this show? It’s a little odd, since during the month of March, Guys and Dolls sold 91.6 percent of its tickets. It was chilly, but being that it’s now April (yay spring!!) it was an easier haul. At 10 a.m., the box office opened and I picked up my $26.50 ticket for what was one of the best seats I’ve ever had for a show, with or without rush. Mezzanine, fourth row, dead center. It was probably one of the few times I’ve ever felt guilty sitting among all those patrons that paid top dollar. At $26.50, with seats like this, and a two-ticket option – this seems to be the rush to beat this season.