The big boys came out to play in Bryant Park Thursday. This week’s outdoor concert featured some of Broadway’s biggest box-office hitters: Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Rent, and Wicked. Death Takes A Holiday came by to chill too. This group made for one of the strongest sets this summer, without having any particular wow moment. Here are the highlights.
Roundabout Theatre Company’s new off-Broadway musical Death Takes A Holiday served as the opening act. Kevin Earley, the newly crowned lead who has replaced the laryngitis-stricken Julian Ovenden, was there to toe tap with Mara Davi in “Shimmy Like They Do In Gay Paris.” Spring Awakening alum Alexandra Socha was clear-voiced and charming during “What Do You Do” with Max Von Essen. Overall, the new score by Maury Yeston sounded elegant and romantic.
The boys from Jersey set the mic stands in a line and plowed through a medley of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons classics. Even though I’ve heard this set so many times, the foursome of Miles Aubrey, Erik Bates, Russell Fischer, and Ryan Jesse sounded spot on as the famous crooners. Also, I’m a sucker for that mic-stand choreography. Read more
It was an evening that would make any performer green. Tony winner Idina Menzel, famed for her emerald-skinned turn as Elphaba in Wicked, made her New York Philharmonic debut Saturday night at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Yet in an environment of elegance and sophistication, Menzel was geeking out over her conductor. Well, in her defense, the conductor was Marvin Hamlisch.
The EGOT winner (30 Rock-speak for someone who has won all four Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards) and composer of A Chorus Line and many Barbra Streisand standards was on the receiving end of many gushings from Menzel throughout the concert. At one point, she asked for permission to climb up onto his conductor’s podium so that she may kiss him. Hamlisch obliged, and the embrace evoked a collective “Aww” from the sold-out house.
In addition to her songs, which included musical theater classics and selections from Rent and Wicked, Menzel was in great comedic spirit. Taking long breaks between songs, she told stories of her youth (her family’s most requested song of hers was “The Way We Were”), her life with husband Taye Diggs and 17-month-old son Walker (she and Diggs compose original lullabies and argue over who gets to vocally shine), and of her career (singing for Streisand at the Kennedy Center and being upstaged by Beyonce).
Menzel’s comedy was well received by the Lincoln Center audience, which can typically be an upturned-nose crowd. She embodied a jovial attitude that mixed well with her elegance. Menzel took the stage (barefoot) in an elegant and simple white dress with a thin black belt. Her radiance was a reflection of the night—a special achievement in her career. Read more
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
5 Reasons To Rush Finian’s Rainbow This Weekend
The rush is $27 and box seats might be available. The situation might be different this weekend, as rushers might be getting in their last chance to see Finian’s before it closes, but when I rushed, I was at the St. James Theatre at 8:55 a.m. and was the first and only person on line until a half hour before the box office opened. It’s a student rush, with up to two tickets per ID. At my performance, I got box seats, which gave me a great view of the beautiful St. James Theatre and great, close-up views of the actors. Unfortunately, the box seats are an extreme side view, so I don’t feel I saw enough of John Lee Beatty’s set design to properly review it. Many characters’ entrances were blocked, as well.
Christopher Fitzgerald’s pants. Playing the loveable leprechaun Og who has traveled to Missitucky, USA from Ireland in search of his stolen pot o’ gold, Fitzgerald cements himself as one of Broadway’s greatest current character actors. Having played quirky and riotous characters in Wicked and Young Frankenstein before this, his performance in Finian’s is delightful. A mute performance by Fitzgerald would be equally as entertaining, because the man’s eyes and mouth work to create such animated facial expressions, he can convey almost anything and make it just as enjoyable. While he’s staying in Missitucky, away from his magical homeland, the leprechaun finds that he is growing. Costume designer Toni-Leslie James puts Fitzgerald in different sets of pants throughout the show, each new pair shorter than the last. This simple, not-fooling-anybody gimmick becomes so hysterical, and Fitzgerald wears the joke perfectly. Read more
In the words of Melchior in Spring Awakening, “HHHHNNNOOOOOO!!” Next to Normal will end its excellent rush policy October 12 and begin a ticket lottery for day-of seats. Granted, this means no more cold, early mornings, but with it comes the uncertainty of seeing the show. I am greatly disappointed by this news, not only because it makes getting rush tickets for the Yorkey/Kitt musical significantly more difficult, but I’ve always felt the “snobby,” we’re-too-good-for-you shows employ ticket lottos.
Let the facts speak for themselves. Hair, In The Heights, Rock of Ages, Shrek, West Side Story, and Wicked all hold ticket lottos. With few exceptions, these are shows that generally sell at least 90 percent of their tickets every week. Shrek is an odd beast in that it hasn’t consistently sold well since it’s opening last December and it also has a (overly-priced) student rush policy. In The Heights was a huge seller for a year after its 2008 Tony win for Best Musical, but has recently dipped to dangerously low numbers (some suspect it might close in January). But Hair, Rock of Ages, and West Side Story are monster-sellers and crowd pleasers, not to even mention the mega-bucks earnings of Wicked, which always sells out the 1,809-seat Gershwin (aka. the largest Broadway theater).
Now in my mind, Next to Normal is the best musical currently on Broadway. But we have to think of this from a mainstream perspective: Next to Normal is no Wicked. The show has been on a massive high from its Tony wins, but attendance has slipped to the high 80s in recent weeks (still strong, but a decline nonetheless). And Broadway’s prized theatergoers—families with kids—are not going to see this show. And there is nothing wrong with that. Next to Normal caters to theatergoers who aren’t afraid of a dark, depressing, thought-provoking show. But this is not the show to start a ticket lottery with. As much as I’d hate to see its sales suffer, I would be surprised if it maintains its current momentum into the post-holiday winter.
Lotteries are for shows—such as Wicked and Hair—that have certain longevity. But if recent trends have taught us anything, is anything on Broadway certain?
What do you think, Stage Rushers? Are you happy about this new lotto policy for Next to Normal, or are you clenching your fists in an anguished grip?
PS: In perusing the updated show rush policies, I noticed that the new musical Memphis, currently in previews, has a rush policy “in effect only for preview performances.” Memphis, I really want to see you; I do. But let’s not play the we-can’t-have-a-rush-policy-because-we’re-going-to-be-too-popular card until we’ve opened, shall we?