Baltimore/Washington Backstage Broadway Edition:7-16-06
It is always exciting when you plan a trip to New York City but leave many options open for whatever becomes available.
Our trip began with trepidation. We were looking forward to attend the free lunch time musical theater concert on Thursday, July 13 in Bryant Park, located next to the 42nd Street Library. New York had been hit with heavy rain Wednesday night and Thursday morning. But, thankfully, the show went on. However, due to the rain storm, the beautiful lawn was roped off leaving few seats to watch the concert.
The cast of "Mamma Mia!" performed "Lay All Your Love for Me" (Carey Anderson and Andy Kelso), "The Winner Takes It All" (Leah Hocking), "Mamma Mia", and "Dancing Queen" by the energetic ensemble. The crowd cheered wildly in appreciation.
The cast of "Beauty and the Beast" did four numbers: "Me", "Home", "If I Can't Love Her" and "Beauty and the Beast". Sarah Litzinger, Broadway's longest running Belle, Grant Norman (playing both Gaston and the Beast) and Jeanne Lehman, playing Mrs. Potts were wonderful.
And then the HUGE cast of "The Drowsy Chaperone" took the stage (sans Sutton Foster) and performed "Fancy Dress", "As We Stumble Along", "I Am Adolpho" and "Toledo Surprise". I was really looking forward to their presentation, especially since I love the CD, and was wowed by their performance. More on this show later.
The Off-Braodway show "Drumstruck" was a late scratch. But for those who were lucky enough to attend it was extremely entertaining event. It was also great to meet one of my New York readers who showed up to say hi. That's always a pleasure.
For a nice photo retrospective of the event, see the great photos of Ben Strothmann on this web site at "Photo Coverage: Broadway in Bryant Park".
Next up for Bryant Park, July 20 is "Wicked', "Phantom", "The Color Purple" and "Shout! The Mod Musical". July 27 features "The Wedding Singer", "Tarzan" (will they fly?), "Rent", and "Hairspray". For the remainder of the line-up, consult www.1067litefm.com.
You never know who you'll come across in New York. While in a Sprint phone store on 5th Avenue, said hello to "The Daily Show's" Rob Corddry who informed me he'll be doing a sitcom on Fox this January. For examples of his work, go to www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/videos/rob_corddry/index.jhtml-43-k. He's terrific.
Friday night, snagged the last two seats for the Tony winning Best Play of the Year, "The History Boys". I was planning to get two standing room seats but when two "house seats" became available, I jumped at them. This is a two hour, forty-five minute play and it was terrific. Incredible cast, cleverly presented (with great use of film projections and musical interludes for scene changes) and it was very entertaining. Noticed two Baltimore connections in the show. First, Pippa Pearthree. Many of you may remember her various roles at Baltimore's Center Stage or her parts on Broadway in "Frozen" and "Titanic". And yes, she is the brother of director Todd. Didn't get a chance to say hello at the backstage door but I was able to greet British actor, LeRoy McClain who was so terrific in the Center Stage production of "Elmina's Kitchen". LeRoy is a "swing" to the eight wonderful young actors in this award winning production. He's having a ball appearing on Broadway and hopes to one day return to Center Stage.
Saturday, taking the "A" train, strictly coincidentally sat next to a talented aspiring young actor, Bram Heidinger. I remembered seeing Bram in an NYU production of "Hair". He was on his way to rehearse a new production "Great Googley Moo", a "doo-wop" musical that will be presented Sunday, July 23 at 7 p.m., Monday, July 24 at 3 p.m. and Tuesday, July 25 at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Sage Theater, 711 7th Avenue, 2nd floor. This is a presentation for backers but the public is invited. Tickets are only $15 and Bram is thrilled about the voices in the show. Call 212-352-3101.
Then it was off for lunch with Theatermania correspondent, Peter Filicia at the Moon Rock Diner on 57th Street. What a great time we had sharing stories about theater. I look forward to many more such get togethers with one of Broadway's most knowledgeable and prestigious writers. If you haven't read his stuff, do so, you'll enjoy them. By the way, I highly recommend the brunch for $9 which includes choice of Mimosa or fresh OJ, entree, soup or salad, and coffee.
From there, walked down Broadway to the Marquis Theatre for "The Drowsy Chaperone". This intermission-less musical was such a delight. I had a perpetual smile on my face the entire afternoon. Bob Martin is tremendous as the Man in the Chair. But EVERYONE is terrific. Sutton Foster, Georgia Engel (remember her in the Mary Tyler Moore Show?), Eddie Korbich, Jennifer Smith, Danny Burstein (will NEVER forget Adolpho!!!!), the incredible Beth Leavel (worth the price of admission), and the brothers Kravits (Jason and Garth) who play gangster bakers. They were superb. I met them both at the Bryant Park concert and thanks to the PLAYBILL, finally remembered Jason from his terrific role as the snooty DA in the hit television series, "The Practice". The Kravitz' hail from Rockville, MD and I hope to do a story on them both. They are mahvelous!! There was one understudy who went on, Stacia Fernandez who replaced Kecia Lewis-Evans and she was great.
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!!!
Let me repeat.
DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!!!
About those Tonys. Now that I have finally seen this (already having seen "Jersey Boys", "The Color Purple" (and not yet have seen "The Wedding Singer"), my Tony vote probably would have gone to TDC. It's original, clever, funny, great music, fabulous dancing, and a plethora of OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES with a huge orchestra in the pit.
This only opened in May and didn't get much buzz. But do yourself a favor and get tickets NOW.
For dinner, headed towards Lincoln Center for a terrific meal at "Café Fiorello", 1900 Broadway. 212-595-5330, www.cafefiorello.com.
Then walked across the street for the Lincoln Center Presentation of the opera, "Grendel" directed by Julie Taymor and written by Eliot Goldenthal. While this has received mixed reviews, it was totally enjoyable. See the New York Times article about the production.
I loved seeing their Broadway collaboration, "The Green Bird" and was not disappointed at all. Yes, the spectacle was just as one can hope for. But I also enjoyed the music and the incredible performances. Adding to the pleasure was the incredible dancing led by Desmond Richardson who performed on Broadway in "Movin' Out" as Tony.
We lingered a little after the show to get a close look at the set (we were up in the fourth ring) and by the time we left, got a chance to meet both Taymor and Goldenthal in the theater lobby. Taymor, after hearing we were from Baltimore, was proud to say she has much family in Maryland.
The evening ended watching a video tape of the June 26 "Broadway Under the Stars" in Central Park on WCBS. While having an incredible cast honoring Harold Prince, the editing was embarrassing, cutting off singers in the middle of songs, especially Manoel Felciano attempting to complete Jason Robert Brown's terrific "The Old Red Hills of Home" from "Parade" but was cut short abruptly. But what a cast. Highlights included Jane Krakowski singing "Don't Tell Mama", a beautiful duet of Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Morrison singing "Tonight", Carolee Carmello singing "Buenos Aires" from "Evita", and Christine Ebersole doing "Not a Day Goes By".
A clever use of the cast of "The Jersey Boys" comprised of Tony winner Christian Hoff, J. Robert Spencer and two understudies, Dominic Nolfi and Michael Longoria. They sang a "doo-wope" version of "All I Ask of You" from "Phantom". Longoria was incredible tackling the falsetto part he does each night on stage. Great to see two understudies getting this kind of an opportunity and would love to see Longoria play the leading role.
While the show had faults, why this is shown ONLY in New York does not make sense. Any theater fan would enjoy it and hopefully, one day, the people at networks such as BRAVO and A&E, could find a way to televise these kinds of shows (especially "Broadway on Broadway") nationwide.
Amazing what one can do in such a short time.
Look forward to another week-end like this in the future.
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Addendum: Catch "High School Musical" on the Disney Channel on Monday night, July 17 and for those who saw the great production of the musical "The Full Monty" at Cockpit in the Court, the film it is based on will be shown Tuesday night, July 18 on IFC.
1) Andy Kelso, Jen Burleigh-Bentz, Leah Hocking, Judy McLane, and Carey Anderson of Mamma Mia!
2) Jeanne Lehman, Grant Norman and Sarah Litzsinger of Beauty and the Beast
3) The cast of The Drowsy Chaperone
4) Charles Shubow with daughter Britt, who performed with the cast of Mamma Mia! at Bryant Park