Get You a Man Who Does It All

If you don’t know who this fellow is, you’re probably at the wrong blog. (Just kidding…I welcome all readers who wanna talk about the arts.)

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But seriously- I attended a preview performance of Manhattan Theatre Club’s Prince of Broadway on Friday, and I walked away from it astonished. Astonished that one man could helm so many productions that make for theatrical lore. As the show notes, it takes luck, guts, and hard work. Harold Prince socked away all of these.

Perhaps even better than the crash course in Prince’s career was getting to see the production’s superb cast bring it to life. For me, Tony Yazbeck was the standout. This easy-on-the-eyes triple threat blew the roof off the Friedman Theatre with “The Right Girl” during the Follies segment. Let me tell you something about that song. When I saw Follies on Broadway, I remember feeling that “The Right Girl” was the weakest song in the score. Yazbeck’s rendition of the number changed that. To say he danced the hell out of this song would be the understatement of the year. He also seemed to get the most applause at curtain call.

Chuck Cooper’s Tevye (from Fiddler on the Roof) and Emily Skinner’s Desiree (from A Little Night Music) were also major crowd-pleasers.

Another memorable moment was Janet Dacal’s “You’ve Got Possibilities” from It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman. Yes, there was a superhero musical before Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. And it also did not fare too swiftly. However, I think “You’ve Got Possibilities” is one of the greatest ditties ever written for musical theatre. It’s snappy, it’s funny, and the lyrics are wonderfully written.

Bryonha Marie Parham was particularly impressive, too, because she probably showed the most versatility in the characters she portrayed. After delivering a glorious “Will He Like Me?” from She Loves Me, she proceeded to belt her way through the title song of Cabaret. This lady’s vocal range must be nuts.

This show reassured me that anything is possible if you’ve got a great support system and are willing to take risks. All in all, I walked away from Prince of Broadway in a very inspired frame of mind. And isn’t that what going to the theatre is all about?

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Why Sutton Foster is Resume Goals

Two Tony Awards? Check.

Dance moves better than yours? Check.

A proven record on television? Check.

Well, there’s no doubt about it- Ms. Sutton Lenore Foster has the resume that every performer wants.

As one of Broadway’s most popular leading ladies, Sutton is one of those chameleon actresses, one that can slip in and out of almost any brassy role in the theatre canon. She manages to create portrayals that are both sweet and sassy. This, in turn, has earned her a very devoted fanbase. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about her is that, unlike most stage stars, she’s also managed to transition into the elusive entertainment medium of screen.

Most recently, as if she weren’t enough of a superhero…Sutton added “Mom” to her list of roles by adopting a little girl. In today’s entry- which just happens to be my 250th- I’m going to take you on a little tour of Sutton Foster’s career highlights.

Sutton Foster

photo credit: Joan Marcus

In 2002’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, she looked absolutely stunning in this iconic red dress and tap-danced her way to her first Tony Award win. At this year’s Tony Awards ceremony, she presented costar Gavin Creel with his first prize for Hello Dolly! (Don’t you just love full-circle moments?)

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In 2006, Sutton failed to prove she wasn’t a “Show Off” in the beloved, nostalgic romp known as The Drowsy Chaperone. In this musical-within-a-comedy, she played an actress portraying a bride-to-be named Janet. Confused yet? Don’t worry, it makes much more sense when you see it take shape onstage!

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She snagged her 2nd Tony Award for the 2011 revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. Sutton played Reno Sweeney, the sexy songstress who actually makes a living as an evangelist. Opposite fellow Broadway heavyweight Joel Grey, she knocked standards like “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Blow Gabriel Blow” out of the park.

"Younger" (Ep. 201- Airs January 13, 2016)

After making her mark on the short-lived ABCFamily show Bunheads, Sutton finally struck oil with TVLand’s hit program Younger. On this show, she portrays Liza, a 40something writer who ever-so-slightly fakes her age to get ahead in her career. The series is now in its 4th season.

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But just because she’s now a television name doesn’t mean that Sutton is abandoning her theatre roots. In fact, just last year, she headlined the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Sweet Charity. Extended multiple times, the show has generated rumors of a Broadway transfer. Is there anything this woman can’t nail?

For Your Consideration: The Voyage of the S.S. American and all that followed

This weekend, I boarded the S.S. American for a 2nd time by attending Wagner College’s production of Anything Goes. Or did I? You see, Cole Porter’s seaworthy tour-de-force is one of those rare shows that has gone through multiple script alterations over the course of its production history. Originally premiering in 1934, the musical underwent major changes in the book and score for its first revival in 1962…and then again in 1987! The first time I saw Anything Goes, it was the 1987 version. Wagner’s production used the 1962 book and songs, so I thought it’d be interesting to compare the two.

The big standards are all there: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and the title number. But they are in different spots; for instance, in 1962, “You’re the Top” opened the show, while in 1987, the first number was “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Both songs are sung by Reno Sweeney to Billy Crocker, but the latter arrangement greatly implies the past romantic undertones of their relationship. The former, to me, conveys that they’ve always been just good friends.

Music that appears only in the 1962 version includes “Let’s Misbehave,” “Take Me Back to Manhattan,” “Let’s Step Out,” and “Heaven Hop.” All four are essentially filler songs. The latter two are sung by the gangster’s girlfriend (Bonnie/Erma) and were replaced by a much better character song called “Buddie Beware” in 1987. In Wagner’s production, the actress playing this character (Natalie Schaffer) was a terrific dancer. Almost too good, in fact- she was featured in every big hoofing scene, even ones where she necessarily didn’t need to be.

The plot of both versions follows basically the same premise…madcap things occur on a cruise ship, mistaken identity abounds, lovers divided get coincided. However, I feel that the 1987 script tells the story much more cohesively than this one did. I’m not sure how to explain it; it was just…tighter. As my date put it, the 1962 plot “is slightly unhinged.”

However, Broadway veteran Michele Pawk (who directed the show here) certainly knew her piece and how to play the right moments for laughs. “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and “Anything Goes” were fantastic to watch, largely due to the perfectly-cast leading lady: Miss Sophia Tzougros. She had all the makings of a good Reno, and I detected notes of Patti LuPone in her performance. (Did I mention her dresses were also to die for?!)

Other standouts in the cast included Lauren Dennis and Rebecca Marlowe as Hope Harcourt and her mother, respectively. Sadly, the 1962 script doesn’t do Hope’s character any favors: she only gets a big solo number in the 1987 version. Marlowe was so committed to Mrs. Harcourt that I’d have never thought she was under the age of 21. Unfortunately, that role also figures more prominently in 1987’s script.

Okay, so you’ve probably guessed it by now…I think 1987 gave us the best scope of how Anything Goes in this world. However, as far as 1962 goes, Wagner College gave us what’s probably the best interpretation of that material. Ironically, the school’s next production will be Maury Yeston’s Titanic…and you can’t expect a happy ending from that ship show!

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The Lincoln Center Manual

Lincoln Center is one of the most iconic performing arts institutions in the world. From world-class opera productions to beautiful ballets to film analysis: no matter which art form you prefer, there’s a spot in Lincoln Center for you to find like-minded folk. But navigating this lovely complex can be daunting at first, so I’ve broken it down for you.

  1. Metropolitan Opera House

This luxurious arched building behind the great fountain plays host to many different operatic shows every year. Some 800,000 people attend more than 200 performances at the place every year. Blending gifted singers with visionary directors, the Met promises you quality artistry and a night to remember. And there are subtitle screens at every seat!

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  1. Vivian Beaumont Theatre

The only Broadway house in the complex is named for Vivian Beaumont, a philanthropic heiress who financially supported the completion of this theatre. It is a rather large venue; noteworthy shows that have played here in recent years include The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific, and The King and I.

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  1. Alice Tully Hall

Film and music buffs should find themselves at this hall, the building next to the Juilliard School. Since its opening in 1969, it’s played host to the annual New York Film Festival and also serves as the home for Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society. The Alice Tully Hall was renovated in 2009. Interestingly, there is an enormous pipe organ in the venue rivaling those often found in cathedrals.

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  1. David Geffen Hall

This concert stage has gone through a lot of names. It began life in 1962 as the Philharmonic Hall, became Avery Fisher Hall in 1973, and got its current name in 2015. The venue of choice for the NY Philharmonic, David Geffen Hall features a vast lobby and houses many beautiful sculptures within its walls.

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  1. David Koch Theatre

Formerly known as the New York State Theater, it was one of the first buildings to open at Lincoln Center. Although the default home of the New York City Ballet, it also serves the Royal Ballet and the annual Mostly Mozart Festival. Architecturally, it is known for its winding staircases and modern art displays as well as stud lights around the orchestra and an impressive chandelier.

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  1. David Rubenstein Atrium

This is a relatively quiet spot, one that’s a very popular gathering point and a great place to begin your LC journey. It is one of the newer buildings on the campus, existing only since 2009, but has quickly grown into a versatile space with free Wi-Fi, a café, and a 42-foot “media wall.”

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  1. Other Locations

Of course, these major parts of Lincoln Center are just the tip of the iceberg. Nestled in between are parks, studios, the lauded Library of the Performing Arts, and many more sites to whet your cultural appetite. If you do get lost, there’s no need to fret; you may very well discover something new and wonderful. And if worst comes to worst, just flag down a native and ask for some directions!

(Source: GoVisitNYC, as written by yours truly.)

Spotlight: The Top 10 Moments I’ve Personally Witnessed on Broadway.

  • Chita Rivera having more rhythm than me at 83 years old in The Visit
  • Terri White’s “Who’s That Woman” in the revival of Follies
  • Judy Kaye swinging from a chandelier in Nice Work If You Can Get It
  • Mary Louise Wilson straddling the train in On the 20th Century
  • Elaine Stritch breaking the 4th wall in A Little Night Music
  • Jessie Mueller’s soulful “She Used to Be Mine” in Waitress
  • Laura Osnes’s dress transformation in Cinderella
  • The Alison Bechdel trio “Flying Away” in Fun Home
  • Jefferson Mays as the D’Ysquith family in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • Paulo Szot singing “Wash That Man” in South Pacific

 

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What’s comin’ up: The Five Weeks Till Valentine Movie Challenge

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Starting next week, I’m gonna be starting a new challenge. I write about live performance a lot, So in my quest to become a connoisseur of all artistic media, I’ve decided to watch and review ten movies before Valentine’s Day. These movies span a variety of genres, but they are all contemporary and most have to do with music or showbiz in some way. Most of ’em are love stories, too, which I think fits with the theme of pre-Valentine’s Day film study. Here are the titles I’ve chosen, although this is not necessarily the order I’ll be watching them:

  • Waitress (2007)
  • Into the Woods (2014)
  • The Peanuts Movie (2015)
  • Joy (2015)
  • Walk the Line (2005)
  • Crazy Heart (2009)
  • Gypsy (2016) [Great Performances]
  • Cinderella (2015)
  • The Last Five Years (2014)
  • Descendants (2015) [Television movie]

I think this will be fun, as long as I stick with the commitment. My schedule for the end of January is going to be a little hectic, too, so this’ll ensure that I keep my eyes focused. LOL! I hope my reviews of the films can also inspire my readers to check them out (or not) and expand their library. After all, word-of-mouth can be the best publicity; “hello from the other side!”

30DDC- Day Twenty Three

Favorite Dance Scene

Oh, what the heck.

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There’s been some serious lack of love for the Monsters franchise in my challenge posts, so the “Roar” party scene in Monsters University takes the cake here. What’s cool is that each of the college’s frats and sororities has their own style of movement. Also, it is so funny when Scott “Squishy” Squibbles uses a “rope” to lure Sulley onto the dance floor.