Category: ATW News
By Andy Propst on Jun 7, 2009 | In ATW News
Okay, I could have done without Poison, but the combination of Stockard Channing Aaron Tveit was pretty grand. Liza's looking pretty good...
And what a great way to bring it all together ....
Before a 50th Anniversary 'Sound of Music' Release, Other Rodgers & Hammerstein From Masterworks Online
By Andy Propst on Jun 2, 2009 | In ATW News
Masterworks Broadway once again re-examines three Rodgers and Hammerstein classics with a new release of special digital-only editions - the original cast recording of Flower Drum Song and the 1964 revival cast recording of The King and I. The third release, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook, is a new, expanded edition of the best-selling compilation from their unparalleled catalog. The CDs, with each album's original cover art and liner notes, are available exclusively through ArkivMusic.com
The releases come in the midst of a year in which Masterworks Broadway is celebrating the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalogue, beginning with the February release of the critically acclaimed, long-awaited complete recording of Allegro and culminating in October with a special 50th anniversary edition of the original Broadway cast recording of The Sound of Music.
Flower Drum Song - A distinctive, often-overlooked title in the R&H canon, Flower Drum Song(1958) perhaps made its most striking impression through its original Broadway cast recording, which introduced such songs as "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "Love, Look Away" and "A Hundred Million Miracles." That recording returns expanded with six long-unavailable bonus tracks, all "covers" of the show's top songs, all recorded while it was still a Broadway sensation. Two feature the show's star Pat Suzuki, singing "Love, Look Away" (which she did not sing in the show) and "Sunday." Three of the tracks showcase the young Florence Henderson - "Grant Avenue," "Like a God" and "I Enjoy Being a Girl." The other track, "Fan Tan Fanny," features Sandra Church, who was about to become part of a legend as the original Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy.
The King and I - The original cast recording of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, on the Decca label, was recorded in mono in 1951, with cuts to the score. When Richard Rodgers agreed to serve as producing director of a musical-theater company at the newly opened Lincoln Center in the mid-1960s, he seized the opportunity to see the show recorded in stereo with a more complete representation of the score of The King and I. This long-unavailable 1964 recording, with strikingly different interpretations of the leading roles by actor Darren McGavin and opera legend Risë Stevens, also features the glorious voices of Patricia Neway, Lee Venora and Frank Poretta. For this exclusive edition, five bonus tracks have been added. Three are from a studio recording of the score, made around the time of the show's Broadway premiere - an all-star event for 1951, featuring pop diva Dinah Shore ("I Whistle a Happy Tune") and opera star Robert Merrill ("A Puzzlement"), as well as duet version of "I Have Dreamed" with operatic soprano Patrice Munsel and pop star Tony Martin. Two-time Tony winner Richard Kiley is also heard in studio recordings of "Getting to Know You" and "Hello, Young Lovers."
The Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook - Originally compiled in 1993 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook has been a best-selling title on the Sony Classical label ever since - an essential collection of the team's greatest songs. This expanded edition is an even more complete representation of "the essential Rodgers and Hammerstein." It takes advantage of Masterworks Broadway's newly comprehensive catalogue, which now includes the original cast recordings of Allegro and Me and Juliet, as well as definitive revivals of Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. All are sampled here, along with the original cast recordings of South Pacific, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song and The Sound of Music.
For further information regarding these releases, visit: www.sonymasterworks.com.
By Andy Propst on May 28, 2009 | In ATW News
If the weekend of June 6 and 7 isn't filled with enough theater excitement for people around the country because of the Tony Awards, Ovation TV has a solution – a hot of of programs celebrating and showcasing the Broadway musical.
At the center of the cable channel's week-long celebration of the energy and creativity of this uniquely American artform, will be a the premiere of a documentary about Hal Prince, the theatrical producer and director who has been responsible for some of the most beloved Broadway shows in history. The documentary, Mr Prince, is an Ovation original special and is the director/producer's first-ever television profile.
In addition to this, which will have its premiere on Ovation on Saturday, June 6, the channel will also air over the course of the week, such films as Bob Fosse's Cabaret, Martin Scorsese's New York, New York, the 2002 television production of The Music Man and the documentary Annie: Life After Tomorrow.
By Andy Propst on May 28, 2009 | In ATW News
If Tennessee Williams' Vieux Carré, which opened in solid, but unexciting, revival last night at the Pearl Theatre, were a movie, it might be marketed at "Glass Menagerie 2: The Writer Moves On." Or, to retain the cinema metaphor for a moment, it might also be considered a sort of coming attractions piece because, although the play only debuted in the late 1970s, Williams began working on it in the 1930s, and in "Vieux," theatergoers will encounter situations and characters that have become part of our cultural currency from works far more famous than this.
"Vieux," as one might guess is set in New Orleans, in a seedy boarding house run by the elderly and increasingly delusional Mrs. Wire (a formidable Carol Schultz). It's to this house on Toulouse Street (its multiple floors and rooms rendered abstractly on one level by scenic designer Harry Feiner) that a sensitive writer, known only as "The Writer" (played winningly by Sean McNall), has retreated from St. Louis (where "Menagerie" is set) in hopes of finding inspiration. And he's certainly chosen right. The place is filled with colorful, pitiable creatures, each with a story.
Take Nightingale (imbued with predatory sweetness and helplessness by George Morfogen) the elderly painter who lives just beyond the plywood partition of the writer's cubicle. He's a gay man battling tuberculosis, who's managed to convince himself that his job drawing quick sketches of tourists is only temporary and that bedbugs are the reason that he finds blood on his sheets every morning.
Other elderly residents include Mary Maude (a luminous Beth Dixon) and Miss Carrie (a heartbreakingPamela Payton-Wright) who spend their days in their darkened room and their nights rooting through garbage cans for food, bringing back what they do discover in "doggie bags" from the restaurant they've just visited. Their pride only goes so far. When they smell Wire cooking up a gumbo, they rush to the kitchen with a saucepan, hoping for a handout. They accept the stew even after Wire's spit into the concoction.
Although it may sound as if the Writer is surrounded by the eldery, he's not. Also living in the house is Jane (Rachel Botchan), a Yankee who's come to New Orleans to find herself, and along the way taken up with Tye (Joseph Collins), an abusive and alcoholic strip show barker, who now shares her room. Well-heeled by birth, Jane's finding it increasingly difficult to retain her proper ways, reveling instead in the sensuality that surrounds her.
If Jane and Tye's relationship often brings to mind the love-hate duality shared by Blanche and Stanley in "Streetcar," Nightingale seems to be a precursor to a character found in Williams' lesser-known Kingdom of Earth. Even some of the stories that the characters relate seem to be prescient echoes of later Williams plays. In one of Tye's stories, for instance, one hears of a grisly death that brings to mind the description of Sebastian's demise in Suddenly Last Summer.
Vieux Carré is heady and amorphous, a sprawling memory play and sketchbook of sorts. The play demands topnotch acting and director Austin Pendleton has elicited a host of performances that are, for the most part, impeccably rendered. Concurrently, the piece requires a staging that shapes its episodic structure into a cohesive whole, and here, Pendleton's work, though solid, falls short; individual moments and scenes work beautifully, but this "Vieux" never feels as if it's anything more than a series of Williams' vaguely interrelated lyrical memories of his first visit to New Orleans. Williams fans will surely savor the chance to see this rarely staged work in performance, but it remains a sadly unsatisfying late work from this master of American drama.
---- Andy Propst
Vieux Carré plays at the Theatre 80 (1st Avenue & St. Mark's Place). Performances are Tuesday at 7pm; Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm; and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $45-$55 and can be purchased by calling 212-598-9802. Further information is available online at www.pearltheatre.org.
By Andy Propst on May 20, 2009 | In ATW News
Goodspeed Opera House amazes again with a grand production featuring a large cast tapping, shuffling and dancing their way around on a relatively small stage as 42nd Street opens the 2009 season.
The dancers expertly “go into their dance” with the help of choreographer Rick Conant, who performed in the original Broadway cast of the show (with music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin). He reunites at Goodspeed with director Ray Roderick, whom he partnered with on “Singing in the Rain” here.
Roderick and set designer Howard Jones use multiple levels to dramatic effect and create the illusion that there are far more many dancers on the tiny stage than it will hold. The cast dances around the oft-changing and moving sets as the story of the chorus girl cum understudy who blossoms into a star unfolds.
Kristen Martin stars as Peggy Sawyer, the Allentown waif who journeys to New York with dreams of making it big on Broadway, despite the depression (lines about the hard economic times making it hard for Broadway shows have present-day relevance). With talent and a little help from star Billy Lawlor (Austin Miller), she lands a job in the chorus line of “Pretty Lady,” a new musical by the writing team of Maggie Jones and Bert Barry (a delightful Dorothy Stanley and Dale Hensley), directed by the legendary Julian Marsh (James Lloyd Reynolds).
The show’s producer, a Colonel-Sanders-like Abner Dillon (Erick Devine), demands that his love interest, Broadway diva Dorothy Brock (Laurie Wells) star in “Pretty Lady” unaware that she is seeing the dashing Pat Denning (Jonathan Stewart) on the side. When Dorothy is injured just days before the show opens, Peggy gets tapped for the lead and works tirelessly with and increasingly amorous Julian to learn the part.
42nd Street (book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble) offers a songbook full of classics, including “Go Into Your Dance,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “We’re in the Money,” and the title song, “42nd Street” all under the apt musical direction f William J. Thomas with orchestrations by Dan DeLange.
Costume designer David H. Lawrence recreates the period and mood with 1930s frocks, coin-spangled gold lame and sequins – lots of them – to add to the dazzle of the non-stop action. The only dim factor in the production is a lack of spark between Martin and Reynolds, whose Julian is somewhat stiff. We never get to see the flame ignite for Peggy, or Julian’s charm as exuded by Jerry Orbach in the original on Broadway.
The character actors come to the rescue, however. Stanley gives a great turn as the brassy, but soft-hearted Maggie, Miller is engaging as the egocentric, but winning Billy and Devine is very entertaining as the gruff, but naïve Dillon.
42nd Street plays at The Goodspeed Opera House (6 Main Street, East Haddam, CT) through July 4. Performance times are Wednesdays at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; Thursdays at 2pm and 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm; and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $26 to $69.50 and can be purchased by calling 860-873-8668 or by visiting www.goodspeed.org.