Industry Pro Newsletter: Roundabout Unveils the Todd Haimes, The Struggle of Toronto's Theatre Sector

Cara Joy David Looks at What Chita Rivera’s Favorite Dance She Ever Performed Was

By: Feb. 05, 2024
Industry Pro Newsletter: Roundabout Unveils the Todd Haimes, The Struggle of Toronto's Theatre Sector
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Regionally, a few new leaders in high profile positions across the country - including Nicole A. Watson at Playwrights Center, Megwyn Sanders-Andrews at at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and Geneé Coreno at WAM. In the UK, a new union agreement for Equity and the ITC, and in Toronto, a tale of haves and have nots in the recovery of one of the most important theatre cities in North America.

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Industry Trends

Industry Trends Weekly: What Did Chita Rivera Think Was the Best Musical Number She Performed? By Cara Joy David

It’s been almost a week, but I’m still having trouble processing the loss of Chita Rivera. I expected to see her onstage again. What always struck me about Rivera, the ultimate gypsy (a term she clung to after others eschewed it in the name of political correctness), is, even in later years, she still seemed like a dancer first, a star second.

“For dancers, their initial feeling and the one that lasts through their entire life is that they just want to dance, they want to fill up space,” Rivera once told me. “They want to be energized. They want to energize people through their dance.”

That was who she was. The last time I interviewed her, I was doing an Encore Magazine piece on my Top Ten iconic dance numbers. I spoke to Rivera, Bambi Linn, Suzanne Charny, Donna McKechnie, Baayork Lee, Randy Skinner, Austin Pendleton, Louise Hickey, and more. Rivera was the only one who quibbled with my selection of numbers. Of her numbers, I was doing “America” and “Hot Honey Rag” (the write-ups of which I put up on my Instagram last week); she wanted “Shriners’ Ballet.” In the end, I did not include it in my Top Ten.

With her gone, I wondered what I could write in tribute. So many people wrote long essays praising her last week. Nothing I could write would cover new ground. But what I can do is comply with her request to me a few years back and write up her favorite number, “Shriners’ Ballet,” as if it was in that original piece (in a similar format and without reliance on her later memoir).

“Shriners’ Ballet,” Bye Bye Birdie

Perhaps no dance number in a well-known musical is quite as controversial as “Shriners’ Ballet” in Bye Bye Birdie. Featuring in its original version the character of Rose going under a table of men, head first, with her legs spread open for four counts of eight, it was cut from the Broadway revival and is frequently not seen in community mountings. There are occasionally flow-related reasons given for it being nixed—the second act number does not move the plot forward—but it is mostly that people find laughing at a woman underneath a table with strangers, who eventually seem to be preventing her escape, distasteful. Gina Gershon, who played Rose in the Broadway revival, called it “gang rape-y” in an interview.

“They totally misunderstand that Bye Bye Birdie is Technicolor as opposed to West Side,” Broadway’s original Rose, Chita Rivera, said. “West Side is dark and beautiful and passionate and you flip it over and there's Technicolor. And who's better for Technicolor than [director/choreographer] Gower Champion? He was from Hollywood. So we had a completely different show and you have to understand the innocence of those people to understand it.”

A comedic number, “Shriners’ Ballet” was a gorgeous showcase number for its Rose, but it was also something more. With a flamenco flare, Rose struts, high kicks, twirls, backward somersaults on the men, dances beside the table, dances on the table, crawls on the floor—there is both a careless verve and a technical precision to the movement that is truly a wonder to behold. What’s more than the Rose though is the men. So much rests on their facial expressions and timing. Even with a perfect Rose, the number falls flat if the Shriners don’t sell that transformation from stiff to lascivious. In fact, Rivera was sold on the piece by simply watching the men.

Gower Champion took me by the hand and took me downstage, and, on the stage, there was a table, and, behind the table, there were guys the length of the long table,” Rivera said. “He showed me the ‘Shriners’ Ballet’ without the center, the focal point that was the girl. It was so brilliantly conceived and created, that I could see it all—I could see the splits, I could see her teasing them—even without the girl. It’s so well-conceived you can’t ignore it.”

Broadway/New York

Roundabout's Home on Broadway Officially Renamed the Todd Haimes Theatre

BroadwayWorld reports on the renaming of Roundabout's Broadway home as the Todd Haimes Theatre, honoring the organization's influential leader. Explore the significance of this renaming and its tribute to Todd Haimes, shedding light on the impact he has had on Roundabout Theatre Company.

Some Like It Hot Wins Best Musical Theater Album Grammy, Marc Shaiman Reacts

From his couch at home, Marc Shaiman reacted to the announcement of Some Like It Hot as the winner of Best Musical Theater Album at the Grammy Awards last night.


American Theatre: Nicole A. Watson Named Playwrights Center Producing Artistic Director

Nicole A. Watson's appointment as the Producing Artistic Director of Playwrights Center is detailed in American Theatre. Dive into the article to understand the significance of Watson's role and her vision for the future of this vital center for playwrights.

American Theatre: Megwyn Sanders-Andrews Named Managing Director of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

American Theatre highlights Megwyn Sanders-Andrews' appointment as Managing Director of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. Sanders-Andrews’ was most recently the executive director of Our Oddysey, an organization focused on young adults with rare or chronic diseases.

American Theatre: Geneé Coreno Named WAM Theatre Artistic Director

American Theatre announces Geneé Coreno as the new Artistic Director of WAM Theatre. Coreno has spent her career in various artistic and administrative roles, both in nonprofit theater and other nonprofit organizations. Her varied experience in leadership and her career as a director make her a great fit to lead the organization.


The Star: Two Years After Reopening From the Pandemic, Is Toronto's Theatre Sector on the Brink?

The Star investigates the state of Toronto's theatre sector two years after reopening from the pandemic. Uncover the challenges faced by the theatre community and the potential risks to its sustainability.

The Stage: Equity and Independent Theatre Council Agree 5% Annual Rise for Select Workers

The Stage reports on the agreement between Equity and the Independent Theatre Council for a 5% annual rise for select workers. Explore the details of this agreement and its implications for the workers involved in independent theatre.

Missed our last few newsletters?

January 29, 2024 - GALA Made Whole, Tony Eligibility, Royal Court Might Make Job Cuts

This week, the NEA announced $32 million in grants to institutions across the country, and while these grants are going to be vitally important to the groups that received them, it is just a drop in the bucket to the economic impact that arts organizations have on their local communities. In a new report out of Cincinnati, the impact of arts and culture institutions on that cities economy is $1.6 Billion - and that’s in one mid-sized city. In New York, we regularly see reports about the impact of Broadway, and how it is the economic engine that drives the tourism industry in NYC. Meanwhile, arts funding continues to get cut, both in the United States and abroad, leading to many institutions, like the Royal Court, facing tough choices about their future.

January 23, 2024 - Baltimore Center Stage Announces Layoffs, League President's Abrupt Departure Raises Questions

January is often a rough month in the theater industry - there are fewer shows running, audiences are reluctant to venture out into the winter weather, there is typically a slate of Broadway closings, and companies are taking stock of their financial situation following the closure of (typically) popular holiday productions. This week brings us a lot of stories along those lines, both from the United States and across the globe, where one company in Australia is questioning how impact is measured after losing their funding.

January 16, 2024 - Suburban Theatre Audiences Are Still Missing in NYC and Beyond

Cara Joy David explores the concerning trend that suburban audiences are less willing to travel into the city center - whether that is in New York, Chicago, or beyond - to see shows due to a perceived increase in crime in the city, leaving audiences feeling less safe getting in and out of shows. In the UK, funding cuts force theatres to innovate in other ways to stave off closure and grow their audience, and the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis has a new Artistic Director.

BroadwayWorld Resources

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