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They say that timing in life is everything.
<I>Dreamgirls</I> is the quintessential show about black singing groups in the Motown era, but the composer, Henry Krieger, is white and Jewish. He doesn't apologize for that: <BR>"You know, the Middle East and Israel are right next to Africa," he jokes. "As a Jewish boy in Ossining and Harrison and White Plains, New York, I grew up listening to Aretha and the Drifters and other black singers. Lots of white people were buying Motown records. We're from the same tribe.
For someone who became a lawyer and wasn't the least bit interested in music or writing for theater, Michael Kunze made one of the most remarkable and successful turnarounds in the history of show business writing. Now, after countless European hits, he finally makes his Broadway debut with <i>Dance of the Vampires</i>, based on the Roman Polanski film spoof, "The Fearless Vampire Killers..., for which he originally wrote book and lyrics with composer Jim Steinman for the acclaimed premiere production in Vienna in 1997. <p>Things are more than a bit different here.
Curtain up, light the lights, wrote Stephen Sondheim in Gypsy's showstopping "Everything's Coming Up Roses." "You got nothing to hit but the heights." In fact, in theater, the journey to the heights is fraught with trials, tribulations and reversals of fortune.
His "show" has been Broadway's longest extended run, pleasing audiences from New York to Des Moines and beyond for 77 years. His works have had the largest "draw" in theatrical history. The artist is no ordinary song and dance man, but Al Hirschfeld, whose witty, slightly caustic, warmly celebratory, right-on-the-mark caricatures have been pleasing audiences since 1925. From the pages of The New York Times, Mr. Hirschfeld went on to grace Playbill covers, show logos and book covers.
The National Arts Club Fourth Annual masked Red Ball last week honored stage, screen and concert legend Kitty Carlisle Hart. On hand to pay tribute in song were Tammy Grimes, Lee Roy Reams, K.T. Sullivan, Mary Bond Davis (Hairspray), Marni Nixon and cabaret artist Anna Bergman.
The indefatigable Miss Hart is 95 and a legendary star of operetta, stage and film ("A Night At the Opera") and a New York society doyenne. She's the widow of prodigious Broadway producer/director, playwright and best-selling author Moss Hart, who died in 1961.
A lot of memories have surfaced in the last two days about the incredible life of Kitty Carlisle Hart.
|The death of singer, actress, arts champion and philanthropist Kitty Carlisle Hart on April|
An anomaly struck me the other day as I was sitting at the Richard Rodgers 100th birthday party in New York.
A teacher came to a small town in Kansas where there was no theater. She read some prose and poetry written by an Afro-Asian girl, not yet a teenager, and who has never seen or read a play. "You should write a play. Your style is quite visual," she tell the teen.
Debra Hatchett was recently appointed the Managing Director of the Bailiwick Arts Center, replacing Patrizia Acerra, after her departure a few months ago. I took the opportunity to ask Debra a few questions about her work in the theater and the visual arts, as well as the way she combines both with her traveling concept gallery, "Anatomically Correct."
For 19 years, Bernard Havard has been the top gun -- Producing Artistic Director -- at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theater, the oldest continually-operating theater in the United States. He took this venerable house and turned it into a producing organization with the largest subscription base of any theater in the country. In a tight economy, his company has been prospering. Other regional companies envy the Walnut's scope and affluence. (This is a company that even has its own branded Platinum Plus credit card.)
Heather Headley, who won the 2000 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical for her title role in Aida, had a ready answer when people in her native Trinidad asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She giggles, "The answer was simple. I wanted to sing for thousands of people."
When Wilson Jermaine Heredia auditioned for Jonathan Larson's Rent, 1996's Tony-winning Best Musical, he was a seasoned modern dancer with parts in two Off-Broadway shows. When he got the role of his lifetime, being a cross-country runner since high school prepared him for the demanding physical exertion. However, nothing prepared him for his Broadway debut in the season's hottest property, or the acclaim for his portrayal of Angel, the street musician and drag queen dying of AIDS.
One of the highlights of the June 11-16, 2002 American Theater Critics Association conference in Chicago was a lunchtime Q & A with composer Jerry Herman at the new Goodman Theater. Herman, born in Manhattan, now makes his home in L.A. "because I wanted to wake up every morning and see something green; I just wanted the climate and beauty Southern California offers."
I first met and talked with Jerry Herman when a revival of his most personal musical, La Cage Aux Folles, opened at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theater in 2000. We did a question-and-answer feature for City Paper then, and I've continued talking with him, developing this longer piece for TotalTheater.
For years Jerry Herman has been the Broadway composer whipping boy -- those dumping on him forgetting the countless pleasures his Broadway musicals have brought and continue to bring to millions (probably including them). But Herman, remote and shy, never possessed a winning personality and is the interview from hell. Getting him to answer questions with something other than a Yes or No was like pulling teeth. Or should I say WAS.
Riccardo Hernandez hates scenery. Even the mere utterance of the word makes his flesh crawl. There is just one catch: He is a Tony-nominated set designer (Parade) who has made a successful living at it since his 1992 graduation from the industry-venerated Yale School of Drama. Paradox or perversity? Not according to the 33-year old Argentinean-born Hernandez, who has transmuted his aversion into a style that has brought him a legion of assignments (Bring in `Da Noise, Bring in `Da Funk, The Tempest with Patrick Stewart) other designers would pulverize a million flats for.
Over the course of her career, Barbra Streisand has made some very odd choices of songs to record, from "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?" to "Guava Jelly." That said, the diva's first Christmas album -- released some 40 years ago -- still ranks as the strangest item in her discography. Sure, she sounds at home in such secular numbers as Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song," and her custom-tailored version of "Jingle Bells" is lots of fun.
Michael John LaChiusa is the first songwriter of our era to have two of his shows debut on Broadway in the same season.
When singer Nancy LaMott died at age 44 on December 13, 1995, music lovers lamented the loss of an excellent performer in her prime. A smaller circle of people realized there was an even greater tragedy, knowing that LaMott had just recently overcome a long bout with another crippling disease that made her success as a performer even more remarkable.
<I>George W. Bush ou le Triste Cow-Boy de Dieu,</I> ("George W. Bush, or God's Sad Cowboy") an improvised satire by director Attilio Maggiuli, is back on stage at his Comedie italienne in Paris: No thanks to two unknown thugs who beat him into unconsciousness Sunday morning, May 4, 2003, four days after the opening. Thanks, however, to moral support as well as the appearance and promise of protection by such artists as Ariane Mnouchkine and Jean-Jacques Beineix, Maggilui reversed his decision to shelve the production.
Unless you pay very close attention to what you've watched these past 30 years, perhaps the name Nancy Malone won't ring a bell. And even those who do pay very close attention, when faced with her lengthy resume, will marvel at her accomplishments.
Nearly everybody knows that Kurt Weill's last name is pronounced vial -- nearly everyone except Weill himself. He pronounced it with a W -- after he came to America, that is. In 1935 he decided never again to speak German. He put aside the Deutsche where w's are pronounced as v's, and he told people his name was wile. Similarly, he abandoned the German music hall idiom that made him famous and started composing in a Broadway style.
Who says actors don't say nice things about producers?
A case in point would be Sally Mayes, a 2003 Drama Desk Award nominee as Featured Actress in a Musical, singing the praises of lead producer Chase Mishkin and associate producers Barbara and Peter Fodor [they are not the travel writers] for their efforts to keep the much-lambasted musical, Urban Cowboy, open against any odds of ever turning a profit.
Shakespeare's three-part Henry VI is a chronicle of ambition, intrigue and bloodshed. But Edward Hall, director of the production — subtitled Rose Rage — at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, chose for his conceptual metaphor a slaughterhouse.
Liza Minnelli didn't dodge the question Sunday night in the Tony Awards press room. When she visited on the arms of Michael Nouri in her rather unusual Halston gown, she was asked if she had plans to return to Broadway again soon? "Sooner than you think," she said, "but I'm sworn to secrecy."
While many 88 year-old women are living through their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and kvetching about their bursitis and arthritis, Lu Mitchell is far too busy rehearsing with her band, Catch-23, for one of the 75-plus gigs she does each year at such diverse venues as Pocket Sandwich Theater, Uncle Calvin's Coffee House, Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Fiddler's Green Festival in Ireland, or the Temple Emanu-El Couples Club. She also performed recently at Richland College and will be the keynote performer in August at Eastfield College's Senior Fest.
Watch out RuPaul! He's back and Crawford's got him! That's Lypsinka, not Clark Gable, who marks his theatrical return -- after a four-year absence -- as none other than screen goddess Joan Crawford in a semi-musical adaptation of the movie soap, "Harriet Craig." Southern belle drag diva Varla Jean Merman co-stars with an ensemble of four that includes Jay Rogers, late of <I>When Pigs Fly.</I> The engagement runs through September 12 at Mother. Harriet Craig is no Mildred Pierce (Crawford's 1945 Oscar-winning turn -- and career turning point -- as a mother/waitress turned su
Lypsinka is, briefly, back in New York, and beginning January 27, 2000, for two weekends (six performances only), she revives her spoof of a classic Lana Turner four-hankie in <I>Imitation of Imitation of Life</I> at Westbeth Theater Center (151 Bank Street, between Washington and West Streets).
Jonathan Larson is mostly remembered for his untimely death and for his creation, <I>Rent.</I> But the posthumous Off-Broadway premiere and theáRCA recording of his earlier show, <I>tick...tick...Boom!</I> prompts a look at his life rather than his death, and a look at his earlier compositions.<P> Larson wrote the autobiographical <I>tick...tick...Boom!</I> In 1989, when he was on the verge of turning 30, and developed it over the next four years.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is the slogan used by the fast-growing Nevada city. It implies sin and secrecy as it brings ever-increasing numbers of visitors. This report will violate the town slogan and tell what actually happens in Vegas. To East Coast Americans, some of it is surprising. <P>Gambling is the big draw, of course, followed by the hotels and restaurants. What's a real shocker, however, is the extent to which theater has become dominant in Vegas.
Overheard the other day backstage at the Music Box Theater, where the "new" <I>The Diary of Anne Frank</I> is playing: Someone to Natalie Portman, the young film star ("Everyone Says I Love You," "Beautiful Girls") who's making her Broadway debut as Anne: "Those two hours onstage are quite intense, don't you ever get out of it (character)?" <BR>Portman: "Whenever I get out of it, I just look at Linda, because she's always in the moment." <P>"Oh, my," says a genuinely touched Linda Lavin. "Natalie said that! How sweet." Lavin says that Tony-winning James Lapine has