- Raul Esparza, Sierra Boggess, and more sing devastatingly beautiful Christmas songs at ASTEP’s annual holiday benefit concert
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Who had the best performance of the night at ASTEP’s Christmas concert? Would you forgo Christmas presents in exchange for hearing Raul Esparza sing (like I would)? What’s your favorite Christmas song that you’d like to see one of these guys perform? (An album of songs featured in the concert is available on iTunes and at Sh-K-Boom Records.) Leave your swooning and inappropriate thoughts in the comments below!
Raul Esparza shook his ass, Sherie Rene Scott compared Lindsay Mendez to her right breast, and Seth Numrich showed up to announce he can’t sing. Yes, everyone was in the holiday spirit at ASTEP’s fourth annual New York City Christmas concert at Joe’s Pub December 12. (An album of songs featured in the concert is available on iTunes and at Sh-K-Boom Records.) The evening of Broadway A-listers performing Christmas songs to innovative arrangements proved as solid and gorgeous as ever, mixed in with a lot of good humor. Here’s what went down.
Sherie Rene Scott, Lindsay Mendez, and Betsy Wolfe (previously seen together in Everyday Rapture) kicked off the show with Mariah Carey’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” in such sassy, female rocker fashion, it made me wish the three would form a permanent girl rock group. The bond between the three women seemed strong, as their chemistry flared during their feisty number and between songs, they exchanged playful banter. Scott told a story in which an early scene for Everyday Rapture had Mendez and Wolfe playing her breasts, with character names simply “Left” and “Right.” Scott credited her strong relationship with Mendez saying, “Lindsay will always be my Right.”
VIDEO: Sherie Rene Scott, Lindsay Mendez, and Betsie Wolfe sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
When it comes to traditions, I’m the most stodgy when it comes to ones related to Christmas. That’s why I am thrilled beyond comprehension that one of my favorite holiday events is returning again this year. For the fourth year in a row, some of Broadway’s best performers, including Raul Esparza, Chester Gregory, and Sierra Boggess will come together to sing Christmas tunes for ASTEP’s New York City Christmas concert at Joe’s Pub on Monday, December 12 at 7 p.m.
The concert features Broadway A-listers singing classic Christmas carols, revamped with unique arrangements. The delightful Lynne Shankel once again serves as music director and host of the evening, which includes performers such as Esparza, Gregory, Boggess, Lindsay Mendez, Orfeh, Andy Karl, and more.
The evening is one filled with warm holiday spirit and powerful Broadway talent. But here is the top reason to see the concert, Rushers. The arrangements of these traditional Christmas songs are spectacular. The prime exhibit comes from the concert’s first iteration in 2008, when Esparza set the stage on fire with his English-Spanish rendition of “O Holy Night.” Watch the embedded video below and just try not to squirm in sensual delight. Read more
- Adam Rothenberg from Adaumbelle’s Quest co-hosts!
- Sexy Performers Week at Broadway in Bryant Park
- Word Association with Chester Gregory‘s best roles
- One Night Stand, the documentary about the 24-hour musicals
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Did this week’s Bryant Park concert rock your world with the sexy people that performed? What is your favorite role of Chester Gregory’s to date? Have you ever attended the 24-hour musicals event? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to enter our Follies ticket giveaway for a chance to win one of two pairs of tickets to the show!
Chester Gregory has remained a steady Broadway fixture since making his debut in 2003 in Hairspray. A replacement in the role of Seaweed, the Gary, Indiana native began a streak of supporting principal roles that included Terk in Tarzan, Dupree in Cry-Baby, Donkey in the Seattle tryout of Shrek The Musical, and James “Thunder” Early in the Dreamgirls national tour. Now Gregory is back on Broadway playing (Sweaty) Eddie Souther in Sister Act—the noble police officer who sends lounge singer Dolores (Patina Miller) to hide in a convent from her thug pursuers.
Gregory earned raves in 2000 when he starred in Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater’s production of The Jackie Wilson Story. When the show toured in New York at the Apollo Theater, Hairspray creators Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman were taken by Gregory’s energetic performance and immediately cast him as Seaweed in their hit musical. Since making his Broadway debut, Gregory has earned an adoring fanbase, but his stage journey has had notable low points. Tarzan opened to terrible reviews, Cry-Baby only lasted 68 performances, and the industry buzzed when Gregory was not cast as Donkey in Shrek’s Broadway transfer, after creating the role in Seattle.
Despite these potential setbacks, Gregory plunged forward, giving a well-reviewed performance in the national tour of Dreamgirls and creating a slick R&B/soul solo career. Gregory sat down with Stage Rush in his dressing room at the Broadway Theatre (coincidentally, where the musical about the ogre played) to discuss Sister Act, his history with the Apollo, and what happened with Shrek.
How did Sister Act come into your life?
Sister Act came into my life by way of my son’s mother, Kimberly Herbert Gregory, who is an actress as well [last seen in By The Way, Meet Vera Stark]. She saw the production in London and recommended I audition for it. Read more
That’s why I was at Joe’s Pub last night for New York City Christmas, a holiday concert featuring some big Broadway stars and benefiting Artists Striving To End Poverty. It was the second incarnation of the concert, which was held for the first time last year at the Zipper Factory (why is that place closed??). Due to the success of last year’s concert, ASTEP produced a recording of the songs performed on Sh-K-Boom Records (actress Sherie Rene Scott is a co-founder), and they decided to do it again this year.
It was a well-paced, dimple-ridden evening, with enough belts and laughter to last the entire year. Big names like Chester Gregory, Sierra Boggess, Sherie Rene Scott, and Orfeh filled the room with fantastic renditions of classic Christmas tunes. Lesser-known names like Lindsay Mendez and Tyler Maynard (both who appeared last year) held their own among the marquee fixtures, and looked ebullient. Mendez, who I want to see more of, two years in a row has made one of the most lasting impressions.
The evening was hosted by Harriet Harris (photo embedded, because I feel she’s one of those actors whose face everyone knows, but few people can attach a name to), who has the ability to induce hilarity with any word she says. Referring to cellist Summer Boggess (Sierra’s sister) who was part of the band, “Summer’s on the cello. I just had to find a way to work that in there and say that,” cooed Harris. But I also have to give huge credit to keyboardist Lynne Shankel, who unofficially co-hosted the event. She served as MC last year, and in addition to being wildly charming, she helped organize the concert (along with ASTEP founder Mary-Mitchel Campbell) and is astonishing with how wide her talents stretch. Where can I see more of her? Does it have to be once each December?
And now we come to Mr. Esparza. Last year, he debuted a mid-tempo, Spanish-guitar arrangement of “O Holy Night,” in which he sings the first verse in English and the second in Spanish. It is a searing performance, memorable in every way, and redefines the classic song. For me, he can do no wrong, and the way his performance makes my mom feel—“I want to claw the skin off my face!” You know, in a good way.
Below is the video of his performance from last year’s concert. I chose to enjoy this year’s without the confines of a lens. I hope you’ll understand.
All I can say is I hope this becomes a Christmas tradition, just as TBS’s A Christmas Story marathon and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
Having the national tour of Dreamgirls kick off at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a special event. The historic theater is celebrating its 75th year, this incredibly successful show is coming off a much-lauded film adaptation, and it happens that the opening and closing scenes of Dreamgirls take place at the Apollo. So it’s a particularly commendable gesture that the Apollo is making an outreach to the community.
The theater is offering half-price tickets for specific “community performances.” To be eligible, you need to either be a Harlem resident or work in the neighborhood. Since I just happen to be a proud SpaHa resident, I sent my roommate to the Apollo to snap up some tickets before they were all gone. Sammy said there was a good line of people at the theater, and quite a bit of curiosity from passersby as to what the line was for. She was armed with an addressed envelope, to confirm our Harlem residency, and an ID to connect her with the mail. So as to keep this as close to a typical rush experience as possible, I entrusted Sammy not to purchase any tickets over $30.
I received an elated text from Sammy exclaiming, “$18.50!!!!” Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, we have our record-lowest rush price ever – $18.50! Congratulations, Dreamgirls; let’s see how long it takes for another production to beat that. (I know what you’re thinking. Bye Bye Birdie offered $10 tickets to the first preview. But those tickets were sold way in advance and… well, I didn’t get those tickets. Leave your objections in the comments.) Read more
Getting discounted tickets for Shrek the Musical today presented itself as an all-too-easy task. But rushing is a gamble, and things either fall right into place or they, well, don’t. Shrek has a student rush policy, but it’s $36.50, which is the most expensive student rush price I have ever seen. Although such a high rush price is a bit odd for a production that played to just over 51 percent capacity in late January, the producers probably had to differenciate the price from that of their ticket lottery, which they seem to be pushing much harder.
Cutely named The Duloc Ticket Lottery to connect with the show, the drawing is held in the M&Ms World store (you also stand a chance at winning some tickets to watch ballet). This is an interesting partnership between production and retail, as it seems to encourage commerce ‘while you wait.’ The only other show I’ve known to do this was the now defunct Young Frankenstein, which held its lotto drawing at the 42nd St. McDonald’s. That, however, was across the street from the Hilton Theatre and seemed convenient enough. I don’t quite understand why Shrek would hold its lotto drawing at M&Ms World when it is so far away (and the Broadway Theatre has an enormous lobby), other than they’re getting a small kickback from Mars Inc. Read more