- Interviewing Promises, Promises music director Phil Reno
- Seeing Duncan Sheik in concert at City Winery
- Stage Rush will be live blogging from the Tony Awards!
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? What do you think it would be like to watch over 1,300 performances of the same show, like Phil did with The Producers? Did you catch Duncan Sheik’s concert at City Winery, or are you planning on seeing next week’s show. What do you think of Sheik forgetting lyrics? Leave it all in the comments!
Broadway Brain: ‘Promises, Promises’ plays best when music director Phil Reno’s mother is in the audience
While Jonathan Tunick might be a Tony nominee for Best Orchestrations for the revival of Promises, Promises, music director Phil Reno has to implement his work every night while conducting the show. Having previously conducted shows like The Producers (for a whopping 1,383 performances!) and The Drowsy Chaperone, Reno is no stranger to Tony-winning productions. Presiding over an orchestra of 18, as well as stars Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes (this year’s Tony host and nominee), Reno is entrusted with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s famous score.
Reno sat down with Stage Rush in the house of the Broadway Theatre, where Promises is showing, for a chat about Tonys, career destiny, and conducting for his mother.
Explaining it to me as if I’m a 3 year old, what does a music director/supervisor do?
We’re responsible for teaching all the cast members the music. That all happens way before we ever add the orchestra. We usually rehearse a show like Promises, Promises five or six weeks before we go into tech rehearsal. I supervise and oversee the scene-change music and underscoring and introductions of numbers. I write and make suggestions for those pieces to make the whole musical flow of the evening go as smoothly as it can. As the show progresses, I’m responsible for maintaining the musical integrity of the show. How people sing, interpret their songs, make sure group numbers are still tight, and that the orchestra is still playing well. For those of us that are involved in a long run, it can be very easy for some people to get complacent and casual with it. I consider my job to keep them enthused and energized to do it, making it as good or better than the last performance. I try to inspire energy and emotion from the musicians and the cast. I never wanted to be one of those “Here we go again” kind of conductors.
Stephen Kunken has been riding an emotional roller coaster. The day after he wrapped his run as the Stage Manager in the Barrow Street Theatre’s Our Town this winter, he and his wife flew to Ethiopia to bring home their adopted eight-month daughter. Three days later, the ebullient family was back in New York and Kunken began rehearsals for Enron. Two months later, Kunken received his first Tony nomination and was informed that the play was closing all within the same day.
Despite the head-spinning timing, Kunken is well versed in the nature of theater. He has appeared in numerous acclaimed Broadway productions like Proof, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Frost/Nixon, in addition to roles in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, Gossip Girl, and Law & Order. His portrayal of Enron’s Andy Fastow, the wormy brainiac who concocts the illegal plan that draws the company into historical scandal, has earned him a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor.
Kunken sat down with Stage Rush to talk about the unpredictability of theater, Tony night fake outs, and watching raptors cackle off stage.
What was your reaction when you found out you were nominated?
My immediate reaction was I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. It’s the pinnacle of an industry you’ve gotten into. It’s just amazing to even step onto a Broadway stage. When I took my first step on a Broadway stage, I realized it was a threshold that I’d crossed. The first time anybody mentions your name in a review, it’s “Wow.” At that moment when you’re nominated and you’re embraced by the community, it’s hard to put a word to it. I truly believe the nomination is the win.
What nominee are you most excited for?
Stephen McKinley Henderson from Fences. Stephen has been in this for so long and is such a fantastic actor. It’s going to be hard, because if he wins, the presenter is going to announce, “Stephen…” and I’ll be like, (gasp). And my middle name is Michael, so they’ll say, “Stephen M…” I’ll have to wait till they get to the “Henderson” to know. Then I’ll have to put my ass back in the chair.
- One of my favorite interviews I’ve done—Tony-winning lighting designer Kevin Adams
- The 2010 ITBA Awards are announced (by Susan Blackwell and The Kid cast)
- Broadway grosses
Rushers, what do you think of Kevin Adams? Did you find what he had to say interesting? Did you geek out about the explanations of his designs like I did? Did some of your favorites win in the ITBA Awards? Please let me know what you’re thinking in the comments!
What do Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, and Next to Normal all have in common? Lighting designer Kevin Adams. Widely regarded as contributing factors to the evolution of the American musical, these shows all have creative teams that have collaborated on subsequent projects, but Adams is the only one to have worked on all three. The Tony-winning lighting designer brought revolutionary looks to these acclaimed productions with his use of bare light bulbs and fluorescent tubes—what he calls “electric objects.” Now Adams is nominated for his fifth Tony award (he won for Spring Awakening and The 39 Steps) for his work on American Idiot, which blends the creative teams of all three rock musicals.
Yet Adams, just shy of 48, says lighting was never a thought in his mind during his education. With an MFA in set design, Adams began working as a set designer in Los Angeles, when he was asked to do his own lighting. Local artists who had seen his work began asking him to light their pieces in galleries. A self-taught lighting designer, Adams then moved to New York to focus solely on that work. “I can’t believe I’m still doing this,” Adams said. “After I do a Broadway show, I think, ‘This will surely be the last one I ever do. No one’s going to come up with another Broadway show that suits what I do.’ But then American Idiot came along.”
The Tony winner (who keeps his two awards at his parents’ houses, claiming they make him nervous) invited Stage Rush into his Manhattan apartment to discuss Tony nominations, his style departure on American Idiot, and what happened when he first met Green Day in a cramped dressing room at Saturday Night Live.
This is your fifth Tony nomination and you’ve won twice. Is it still exciting to get nominated?
It is very exciting. It was exciting to be nominated twice last year. It’s exciting to be nominated for American Idiot. That first time [being nominated], you’re so excited to win and then once you win, then you feel you have to win again. You feel like, “I want to win!”
So you feel pressure to win?
I don’t feel pressure; it’s just that you become much more grotesquely competitive about it. [laughs] And I know other people who have won that agree and say, “Yeah, I’ve felt that way too!” It’s not that it’s competitive, it’s just that the first time you’re nominated, you’re like, “It would be cool to win,” and then the next time, you’re like, “I’ve got to win!”
- Red set designer Christopher Oram kicks off Stage Rush’s Tony series!
- The cast of White’s Lies somehow enjoys themselves, despite the horrific writing
- Broadway grosses
- Tony nominations announced: predictability and disappointment
- Collected Stories: another well-developed Donald Margulies relationship
- Stuffed and Unstrung: foul-mouthed, hysterical puppets without a script
- Enron’s producers act hastily and close the show
- Broadway grosses
Well, here they are folks. And just like Christmas morning, we’re excited about some things, and disappointed about others. Check out the list of the 2010 Tony Award nominees below, where you’ll also find what predictions of mine were incorrect (not too many!) and my take on the categories.
Predictable category. Tonys got it right. Note though how few nominations Next Fall received, including getting shut out of the acting categories.
My wrong guess: Everyday Rapture
Surprised Million Dollar Quartet made it in here, particularly with so few nominations. At least it wasn’t The Addams Family.
Best Revival of a Play
Fences by August Wilson
Lend Me A Tenor by Ken Ludwig
The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber
A View From The Bridge by Arthur Miller