Theatre

Little Theatres in the Big Village

Have you ever been hanging out on Wall Street and thought, “Damn…why is Times Square so far away? I want to catch some quality theatre!” No? Well, too bad. As the “pink elephant phenomenon” teaches us, you’re thinking it now.

Never fear, because I’ve got a secret to share. There are a host of wonderful theatrical venues nestled in the fabulous Village of New York City! They’re not terribly massive, but sometimes a close-knit experience is what you want. As a bonus, many excellent new productions and classic revivals will find a home in these theatres.

The three houses I’m spotlighting were so chosen because they do not belong to a theatre company. Off-Broadway, for example, venues like the Laura Pels (Roundabout), Lucille Lortel (MCC), or Mitzi Newhouse (Lincoln Center) are often owned by bigwig arts institutions. But the three below are typically rented out for independent productions. And sometimes, you’ll get to see a big-name star in their show, up close!

Let’s get to it!

Minetta Lane Theatre. 18 Minetta Lane. Pictured show: Himself and Nora

09himself-master768 The Minetta Lane Theatre opened in the East Village in 1984. It is noteworthy for having two seating levels (orchestra and balcony) that can accommodate 391 total patrons. Fun fact: Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years (which has become a cult classic) first premiered at this house!

Cherry Lane Theatre. 38 Commerce Street. Pictured show: Out of the Mouths of Babes

mouth-of-babes-450x300__main The Cherry Lane Theatre opened in the West Village in 1924, making it the oldest operating theatre off-Broadway. It was converted from a warehouse by the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Today, it seats 179 people and is mostly known for hosting new and unconventional works.

Barrow Street Theatre. 27 Barrow Street. Pictured show: Sweeney Todd

02sweeneyjp-superjumbo The Barrow Street Theatre opened in the 1990s, but its location (within Greenwich House) has been around since 1902. The venue has a 200-seat capacity. Nowadays, it is getting a great deal of buzz for hosting the lauded immersive production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd!

What is the best production you have seen at one of these little Village theatres?

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Theatre

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?

Music

Spotlight: The Top 10 Musical Theatre Breakup Songs

FEELS TRAIN!

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One of the great things about the arts is that is can shape our emotions. As humans, we are often very driven by those emotions. Therefore, tapping into the right ones can bring about a great deal of social/personal change. But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. This list is fairly basic: just a compilation of, in my humble opinion, the most powerful, sob-inducing musical theatre songs about the end of a relationship.

~Always Starting Over (If/Then)

“My love, our life is over, but love, I’ll make you one last vow…to start over and over and over somehow. My new life starts right now!”

~The Winner Takes It All (Mamma Mia!)

“I don’t want to talk about things we’ve gone through…I’ve played all my cards, and that’s what you’ve done too. Nothing more to say, no more ace to play.”

~The Music That Makes Me Dance (My Man) [Funny Girl]

“What’s the difference if I say I’ll go away, when I know I’ll come back on my knees someday? For whatever my man is, I am his forevermore.”

~Burn (Hamilton)

“The world has no right to my heart…you forfeit all rights to my heart! You forfeit the place in our bed…with only the memories of when you were mine!”

~Small World (Reprise) [Gypsy]

“Lucky, you’re a man who likes children. That’s an important sign. Lucky, I’m a woman with children. Small world, isn’t it?”

~Losing My Mind (Follies)

“I spend sleepless nights to think about you. You said you loved me, or were you just being kind? Or am I losing my mind?”

~Be On Your Own (Nine)

“And you’ll take with you all you own, from A to Z, and all of me.”

~This Nearly Was Mine (South Pacific)

“Now, now I’m alone. Still dreaming of paradise, still saying that paradise once nearly was mine!”

~Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music)

“Isn’t it rich? Isn’t it queer? I thought that you’d want what I want- sorry, my dear…but where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns. Well maybe next year.”

~We Do Not Belong Together (Sunday in the Park with George)

“No one is you, George, there we agree. But others will do, George. No one is you and no one can be. But no one is me, George, no one is me…I have to move on!”

Music

Songs You Probably Didn’t Realize Are About Dark Things

Mind=blown.

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The clock at Grand Central Terminal waits for nobody.

“Blown Away,” Carrie Underwood. What it’s about: In this song from Underwood’s album of the same name, the story centers around a girl with a dead mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. When a tornado hits their Oklahoma home, the girl leaves her passed-out father as she locks herself in the storm shelter. We can assume that he is destroyed when the twister rips through the house. Ouch!

“Unworthy of Your Love,” Stephen Sondheim. What it’s about: At first glance, this number from the Broadway show Assassins sounds like a standard, beautiful love ballad. But it takes on an entirely different tone when you realize it’s being sung by Squeaky Fromme and John Hinckley- a wannabe Manson follower and Jodie Foster’s stalker, respectively. These two also attempted to assassinate U.S. Presidents in an effort to win their beloved’s attention. Now that’s what I call tainted love!

“I Don’t Like Mondays,” The Boomtown Rats. What it’s about: This staple rock song is deceptively catchy for such dark lyrical inspiration. The title comes from a quote by Brenda Ann Spencer, a troubled teen who was asked why she sniped ten people in a playground (two died). Though composer Bob Geldof received some flack for allegedly “exploiting a tragedy,” which he denies, the record became the Boomtown Rats’ biggest hit.

“Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster the People. What it’s about: In a similar vein, the earworm-worthy hook of this band’s debut single masks some morbid subject matter. When closely listening to the lyrics, it becomes clear that the song is about a school shooter, in the vein of Columbine. “Pumped up kicks” refer to the designer shoes worn by the narrator’s intended victims. The lead singer, Mark Foster, said that he wrote the piece to raise awareness for teen mental illness.

“Sweet Painted Lady,” Elton John. What it’s about: A majority of the tracks from Elton John’s smash Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album manage to be incredibly fun while telling some grim tales. In this slow, sea-soaked jam, a sailor sings of the prostitute he’s hired for the night and wonders how she feels about the life she leads. With its thoughtful lyrics by Bernie Taupin, the song achieves a certain poignancy.

“At the Ballet,” Marvin Hamlisch. What it’s about: This number from A Chorus Line is a semi-torch song for a trio of women. Typically sung by soubrettes, it conveys three distinct dramas that have something in common: their heroines all found relief when they went to the ballet. Sheila’s parents had a loveless marriage, Bebe’s mother made her feel unattractive, and Maggie’s father was absent entirely. Audiences who get lost in the glitter of the show tend to forget the inherent sadness of this scene.

Personals

Daily Prompt: Shine!!

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Feinstein’s/54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, presents Amanda DeLalla in “Alone in the Woods,” marking a 54 Below debut.

You’ve seen Sondheim’s masterpiece performed by a cast of 18 and a cast of 10…now see it attempted by a cast of one. Featuring an abridged version of the book and score, arranged by DeLalla herself, the fairytales won’t be the only stories getting told.

12% of the proceeds from this event will benefit an autism-based charity.

“As an artist with Asperger’s syndrome, I know that navigating this world- much less being creative in it- is a trip to the woods all on its own!” Along with special guests, see Into the Woods in a new light and contribute to the cause of autism acceptance. The evening will be musically directed by Cristina Dinella.

Amanda DeLalla in “Alone in the Woods” plays Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on February 7th. There is a $25-$35 cover charge and $25 food and beverage minimum. Tickets and information are available here. Tickets on the day of performance after 4pm are only available by calling 646-476-3551.

“Shine” on, all you crazy diamonds!

Uncategorized

Snags, Sondheim, and the Senate

Election Day is next week…

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Pretty much…

All joking aside, I know it’s not like me to post again so soon, especially after an entry as thorough as that Lincoln Center Manual. But hey, I’m anxious and wanna blow off some steam. Verbally. I could do worse.

Firstly, my film-reviewing challenge has hit a snag. Two of the movies I had planned to watch were on my DVR, which got mysteriously wiped out last month. So- I will try to come up with replacements. Unless somebody wants to make a suggestion?

I haven’t started any of my Christmas shopping yet. Which is crazy, since November just started, but hey it’s November! Where did this year go? It was a…strange one, to say the least. Stuff happened that I never thought could, or would, ever. For better and for worse. But I am particularly excited for the holidays this year. I’m not sure why, but I have a hunch that the last two months of 2016 will be extra-festive. This, in turn, should indicate that 2017 will start on a high note…right?!

Speaking of which, remember when I mentioned that I had a surprise? One that involved Sondheim and a one-woman show. Well, guess what, readers…that woman is me! (Follies pun not intended.) This February, I will be performing my solo version of Into the Woods at Feinstein’s/54 Below for autism advocacy. Tickets are on sale NOW, and I can promise more details as the date approaches!

Theatre

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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Music

Puccini Does a 30 Song Challenge

So, folks…because I just found this challenge on another blog and feel like spinning the gears in my brain…the post I originally planned for this week has been postponed. Don’t worry- you’ll get it in time for October 1st! But let’s cut right to the chase.

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  1. Your favorite song- As of now, it’s “Wish That You Were Here” by Florence + the Machine, but ask me again tomorrow.
  2. Your least favorite song- I’d say “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus, but again, that could change tomorrow.
  3. A song that makes you happy- Totally cliche, but “Firework” by Katy Perry always lifts my spirits!
  4. A song that makes you sad- There are so many, but one that comes to mind is “She Used to Be Mine” from the musical Waitress.
  5. A song that reminds you of someone- Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” always makes me think of my boyfriend.
  6. A song that reminds you of somewhere- “Learning to Fly” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers makes me think of the Bronx. Don’t ask.
  7. A song that reminds you of a certain event- “Break Your Heart” by Taio Cruz always brings me back to Sweet 16 parties.
  8. A song that you know all the words to- Super random one…Sondheim’s “Can That Boy Foxtrot,” cut from the musical Follies.
  9. A song that you can dance to- I’m not a good dancer at all, but I love to boogie to some “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees.
  10. A song that makes you fall asleep- “Eternity~Memories of Light and Waves” from Final Fantasy X-2 always puts me in a calm, slumbering mood.
  11. A song from your favorite band- I’ve already mentioned them, so here, have a “Refugee” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
  12. A song from a band you hate- “Christian Woman” by Type O Negative scares the hell out of me. Yuck.
  13. A song that is a guilty pleasure- Easily “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. I don’t care what anyone says, that was a 90s masterpiece.
  14. A song that no one would expect you to love- Since I normally don’t like EDM, you’d probably be surprised to know that I love David Guetta’s “Turn Me On.”
  15. A song that describes you- “Strangers Like Me” from Tarzan sums up a lot of how I feel regarding my interactions with the world.
  16. A song that you used to love but you now hate- I wouldn’t say I hate it, but I don’t love Britney Spears’ “Sometimes” like I did when I was a kid.
  17. A song you hear often on the radio- Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” featuring Sean Paul. I love her, but it’s not one of her very best songs.
  18. A song that you wish you heard on the radio- I wish Kelly Clarkson’s “Invincible” got more radio play. It was released as a single, so not sure why it doesn’t.
  19. A song from your favorite album- “Last Friday Night (TGIF)” from Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream helps me relax and have fun!
  20. A song that you listen to when you’re angry- Definitely “Speechless” by Lady Gaga. It’s such an emotional song, and it often fits.
  21. A song that you listen to when you’re happy- “Let It Go” from Frozen! It makes me feel like I can do anything.
  22. A song that you listen to when you’re sad- I think “Human” by Christina Perri is both comforting and relatable for a sad person.
  23. A song you want to play at your wedding- Since forever, I’ve wanted my first dance song to be Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
  24. A song you want to play at your funeral- Ugh, how morbid. I guess if I had to pick, it’d be “Fix You” by Coldplay.
  25. A song that makes you laugh- Music doesn’t really make me laugh, per se, but “The Song That Goes Like This” from Spamalot is a good one!
  26. A song you can play on a instrument- I’m a singer, but I did teach myself to play “76 Trombones” from The Music Man on piano.
  27. A song that you wish you could play- I’ve wanted to play “All I Ask of You” from Phantom because it makes for a gorgeous instrumental.
  28. A song that makes you feel guilty- I don’t have a great answer for this one…maybe John Mayer’s “Half of My Heart.”
  29. A song from your childhood- “Too Much” by the Spice Girls. They were a childhood obsession for me!
  30. Your favorite song at this time last year- Most likely, it was “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift. I still love it, but it’s not quite as relevant to me now.
Theatre

Eight Musicals That No High School Should Be Doing

And select community theatre groups, also. (An unrelated note: this blog has almost reached 4000 visits!)

Let’s face it, friends: as good as high school productions can be, they have their limits. Most of those limits have to do with budget, while others involve the talent pool at hand. That being said, there are some shows that could make even the LaGuardia School look like a ragtag troupe performing in a basement.

Brief disclaimer: I am not writing this post to bash anybody’s productions or act like the elitists I despise. Rather, I’m doing this as a calm smackdown, a warning to directors who both overestimate and underestimate their own power. It is strictly based on personal experience and what I know about theatre. The purpose of a non-professional director is twofold: you’ll want to showcase your fellow thespians as well as produce quality material…with respect. And, barring a miracle, selecting one of the following shows can fast plunge you into a world of trouble.

  1. Boublil and Schonberg’s Miss Saigon…This is one of those shows in which budget and talent pool both play an important role. The helicopter scene alone should bankrupt any school’s theatrical finances. In addition, unless you’ve got a bunch of Asian-American actors in your drama club, you’re going to commit “yellowface.” And ain’t nobody got time for that.
  2. Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures…See above about Asian-American actors. But the second reason this show is a bad choice for amateur theatre groups is because- wait for it- all the roles are played by men! We’ve all heard the old cliche about no guys in the school play. Finally, this piece also caters to a very specific audience; that means that even successfully producing it doesn’t guarantee an emotionally invested audience. Leave the bowler hats and chrysanthemum tea to the pros!
  3. Sheik’s Spring Awakening…Despite my general distaste for this show, I do have a legitimate reason for including it on my list. As you probably know, the piece is replete with explicit content, and not many schools are liberal enough to be 100% cool with that. As a result, putting it on will force directors to bowdlerize the material and sap any of its impact (or, as I call it, shock value) right out.
  4. Menken and Schwartz’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame…I will never forgive Disney or whoever for not allowing the stage adaptation of the masterful animated movie to grow more. Alan Menken himself may not have wanted this to get to Broadway, but I did. It needs to be there. And in a similar vein, the lavish visuals and complex choral arrangements that the show calls for are simply too demanding for the average amateur producers. Maybe someone will prove me wrong on this one.
  5. Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat…It pains me to include this one, but I respect the importance and beauty of the show too much to let it be done poorly. Although the score and period sets are elaborate, I actually think a good amateur group could handle them. The problem here lies in the ethnically diverse cast. Attempt the work without that, and you’re gonna commit some blackface- uncalled for in the modern theatrical world.
  6. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I…I’m probably going to get some flack for this one. Again, it would appear (sadly) that there is an even greater dearth of Asian performers in most American talent pools. Even the definitive King of Siam, Yul Brynner, was not Asian. However, the fact that the most recent Broadway revival of the show was able to fill every ethnic role proves that it can be done. It’s just more likely to be done when casting is done professionally.
  7. Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George…Oh boy. This is probably Sondheim’s most difficult score, both for the orchestra and the singers. As a result, I’d hate to see East High’s band kids struggle their way through “Putting It Together” for four performances while a pubescent Georges cracks on the final note of “Sunday.” Don’t torture your students. Pick a tamer Sondheim show.
  8. Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera…Yes, folks, outside of the NYC area, high schools and community theatres are permitted to stage the grandest mega-musical ever spawned. That, of course, doesn’t mean they should. Between leading ladies who must sing an E6, an enormous chorus in period costume, and a falling chandelier, this work will bleed seasoned novices (oxymoron?) bone-dry on many levels. Worse yet: young performers not ready to hit Christine or the Phantom’s notes risk doing permanent damage to their voice.

 

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Film and Television

Musical Movies of the Millennium- Take the Poll!