Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fun Fact of the Day: A Revised 9 to 5 Does Well on Tour

We all know that my love for 9 to 5 the musical by Dolly Parton was serious when the show was on Broadway. But it got poor reviews, was snubbed for any TONY awards, and was overall a big fat flop. And I was very upset when the show closed. But the show has since been revised for the touring company starring American Idol alum Diana DeGarmo as Doralee Rhodes, the Parton role played by Megan Hilty on Broadway. A new director and choreographer and a new design team were hired to overhaul what even I can now admit, was kind of the Broadway hot mess of 2009. The new production is more streamlined and features a less obtrusive set. Dolly even joins the cast, well at least on video screen she does, to welcome the audience and provide narration. I still love the show and I am so happy that it has been getting good reviews on tour and wish it the best of luck! Click below to read the reviews from the tour's first two stops in Nashville and Atlanta.

My Most Memorable Theatre Experiences: #8 Wicked

Those who know me well know that  my love for Wicked runs deep and may be surprised that it is not higher on my list of memorable theatre experiences. I think the reason is that I have seen it so many times, it must be 7 or 8 now, so the impact of my initial experience began to fade with each repeat visit. Because of this, I am a strong proponent of only seeing a show once if it has a strong effect on you the first time you see it. I saw Wicked for the first time in 2004 on Broadway. Most of the original cast had left by that time, including my idol Kristin Chenoweth, but Idina Menzel was still playing the role of Elphaba. I didn't know a lot about Wicked the first time I saw it, in fact I didn't know much about Broadway at all. While I had seen a lot of shows on their national tours as a youngster, Wicked was my first true Broadway show. I have a hard time deciphering what I remember from my first time seeing Wicked and what has been filled in by my repeat visits, but I do remember that the song For Good made a very profound impression on me. This representation of a friendship between two women was something that I had never seen in a musical before and it struck me as somewhat groundbreaking. I had the slightest inkling that this message of friendship would touch other people as it had me and that Wicked just might be the next big smash hit on Broadway. Well I think thousands of theatre-goers would agree with me and Wicked has become Broadway's juggernaut, running for 7 straight years to sold out houses at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre as well as several national touring companies, sit down productions in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and several international productions.

I think Idina Menzel said it best in her accetance speech for the 2004 TONY award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Elphaba when she exclaimed "I'm so proud to be in a show that celebrates women and our strengths and differences." I guess this aspect of the show is what has drawn me back to Wicked at least once a year since 2004. The universal message of friendship and accepting our differences speaks to the heart of every person. There are times in our lives when we relate more to Glinda and there are times when relate more with Elphaba, but nevertheless, we've all had close friendships that have grown from our differences and this show reminds us of how important those relationships truly are. Sure, we've all had our favorite Elphabas and Glindas and while many are still partial to the original cast, I actually prefer Stephanie J Block in the role of Elphaba and have grown to love Annaleigh Ashford's Glinda. But with every cast change on Broadway and around the world, the names of the actresses playing the lead characters become less important and the show itself has emerged as the true star.

Weekly Poll Results: Which Broadway Diva Would You Go Back In Time To See?

The Broadway Diva performance you would love to go back in time to see is Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady. I can't help but agree with the voters on this one, especially because we no longer have the chance to hear this lovely songbird's voice after a botched surgery left her unable to sing. My Fair Lady starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, with a score by Lerner and Loewe, opened on Broadway in 1956. And to have been there to witness it live...well, wouldn't it be loverly.

Close behind Andrews in the voting where Ethel Merman in Gypsy, Donna McKechnie in A Chorus Line, and Angela Lansbury in Mame.

Winner of the Time Stands Still Tickets

I apoligize for not posting this earlier but the winner of the Time Stands Still tickets, erelene, was contacted earlier this week about picking up their free pair of tickets. And to answer the question, Christina Ricci's breakout film role was in Mermaids starring Cher. Congratualations to our winner! Thanks to all who posted answers. Please continue to enter my weekly contests. This week we are giving away a pair of tickets to Lombardi!

Stay tuned in the weeks to come for your chance to win tickets to other upcoming Broadway shows!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reply For Your Chance to Win a Pair of Tickets to LOMBARDI on Broadway

Lombardi is a new play by Academy Award winner Eric Simonson based on the biography When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss. Lombardi began previews on September 23, 2010 at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway and will officially open on October 21st. The play stars Dan Lauria as legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi and Judith Light as his wife Marie.

Here is the question:

Lombardi director Thomas Kail, who was nominated for a 2008 TONY award for directing In The Heights, graduated from which Connecticut University?

Reply to this post with your answer for a chance to win two free tickets to Lombardi! Responses will be accepted until Tuesday October 5th at midnight!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Barbie's Big Bold Statement of the Day

Everyday Rapture is the first piece of truly perfect theatre to hit Broadway since Sunday in the Park with George.

I was thinking about Everyday Rapture a lot today and I can't help but marvel about what an incredible piece of theatre it really is. I am going to go out on a limb and say it is the only new musical I've ever seen where every element works. Most new musicals have a strong score and a weak book, or strong actors and weak material, etc. But this show was simply fantastic. I cannot come up with enough adjectives to describe what I felt for this show. The book by Sherie Rene Scott and Dick Scanlan is, according to Scott, about 50% reality and 50% embellishment but the transition is seamless and one would never suspect that it was not all autobiographical. And her singing and acting abilities? Well they are unparalleled. I am going to agree with Barbara Cook and say Catherine Zeta-Jones did now deserve that Tony award, Miss Sherie Rene Scott did. I've seen a lot of Tony winning female performances including the revered Alice Ripley in Next To Normal and Idina Menzel in Wicked and in my opinion, neither of them even came close to the level of talent that Sherie Rene Scott displayed in this show.

Now I've seen some amazing revivals in my time, A Little Night Music, Hair, and South Pacific to name a few that were really spectacular, but this post is devoted specifically to new musicals and I stand behind my decision 150%.

Here is my review of the show as well as one of my favorite video clips.

My Most Memorable Theatre Experiences: #9 South Pacific (2008 Revival)

Like most theatre fans, I grew up watching the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals on video. I started with The Sound of Music and a bit later I fell in love with Carousel, and then South Pacific. I loved the romance of these shows and the glorious, sweeping scores. When I began to study vocal performance, I gravitated toward the R&H songs as they fit wonderfully into my soprano voice. They are still among my favorite repertory pieces today. Unfortunately for me, most contemporary musicals are written for belters so when I knew that Lincoln Center Theatre was reviving South Pacific, I jumped at the chance to see it. I had seen a charming little community theatre production of South Pacific in Walla Walla, WA a few years before and fell in love with the score and staging, but what I saw and experienced at Lincoln Center blew me away. I had listened to the cast recording before I saw the show and fell in love with the voice of Kelli O'Hara. She has a glorious soprano and while she mixes down into her chest voice, she is definitely not a power belter, and she became a singer that I could relate to. Unfortunately when I saw the performance Miss O'Hara was on maternity leave, but Laura Osnes was perfectly lovely in the role of Nellie Forbush and Paulo Szot was, and I do not use this word lightly, a revelation in the role of Emile de Becque.

Now while I have always said I'm an old soul, contrary to popular belief I was not around in 1949 for the original Broadway production of South Pacific. But you could have convinced me otherwise as the opening notes of the overture transported me to the 1940s when full orchestras and romance trumped rock scores and electronic music. When the stage retracted from the thrust to reveal the orchestra as they played excerpts from Bali Hai and Some Enchanted Evening, the water works began and continued throughout the opening sequence (did I mention I love a good cry at the theatre). The opening sequence of Cockeyed Optimist, Twin Soliloquies, and Some Enchanted Evening was enrapturing. Everything about the production was captivating, from the wonderful performances by Danny Burstein as Luther Billis and Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary and picture perfect direction of Bartlett Sher, to the visually stunning scenic and lighting designs. One of the most unique aspects of this experience, for me, was the fact that I was one of the youngest people in the audience of the Vivian Beaumont theatre that night. It felt so wonderful to be in the presence of a more mature generation that may indeed have seen the original production with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, and above all, that truly maintained respect for the theatre as a venerated art form, and not simply as entertainment. I guess what really touched me the most about this production of South Pacific was the realization that classical musical theatre and timeless talents like Kelli O'Hara and Paulo Szot still have a place on The Great White Way.

Barbie's Showtune of the Day #13: My Strongest Suit

My obsession with Sherie Rene Scott continues with this showtune of the day, My Strongest Suit from AIDA. I do not know what to say about Sherie other than that she is fierce with a capital FIERCE. Just listen to her belt! Don't get me wrong, she is amazing on recordings, but to truly experience her talent, you have to see her live. Young drag queens often get their start by copying Sherie's performance of this song and posting their renditions on youtube. Also, we love her 1990s crimped hair in this wig. I'm posting two copies of this song. The first is a close shot but is only an excerpt and the second video contains the full song and the scene leading up but is a bit further away.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Follow me on twitter!

Follow me on twitter @barbiebackstage for all the latest theatre-related updates!

My Most Memorable Theatre Experiences: #10 The Lion King

Okay so I was a little behind the eight ball on this show. I didn't see it until 2009, about 10 years after it opened on Broadway. For some reason I never got around to it, but when I lived in Manhattan last summer, I made it my goal to see every musical on Broadway. The Lion King was the last show I saw that summer, the night before I moved to be exact. And I must say it was the perfect end to an amazing summer of theatre. Now I should probably preface this by saying, "I am a cryer". I cry a lot in the theatre, and that is often how I measure how good a show is. Now I was not expecting to cry in The Lion King, a show that I thought was for children. From the moment Rafiki sang the opening syllables, tears streamed out of my eyes. Sure its cheesy, but the harmonies in the opening song, Circle of Life, just moved me deeply. The other number that was particularly touching for me was, He Lives In You, Simba's coming of age moment. This was another song sung by the magnificent character of Rafiki, and when she was joined by an African choir on the reprise, I was again moved to tears. I was somewhat familiar with the use of puppets and masks before seeing the show and I was completely expecting a work of over-the-top Disney-tastic spectacle. But what I actually experienced was a work of theatrical stagecraft that was not at all like something out of a theme park, but rather art. Helmed by the ingenious Julie Taymor, this piece brings our favorite animated characters to life in front of our very eyes. We see the human actors and we also see the animal masks and puppets, which seems like sensory overload, but in actuality, it does not matter if we look at a face or a mask. It isn't about what we see, but what we feel, and that is the spirit of the actor living inside the character.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Weekly Poll Results

You voted and the animated classic you would most like to see on the Broadway stage is Anastasia. I couldn't agree more! This show has a fabulous story with endearing characters and historical significance. It also has an amazing score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the writers of Ragtime. I would love to see Sierra Boggess, recently seen in The Little Mermaid and Love Never Dies, as the title character of Anya/Anastasia. Richard Blake from The Apple Tree and Legally Blonde could also be a very suave Dmitri.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Most Memorable Theatre Experiences

This was going to be a "favorite shows" post but I have way too many and I love them all for different reasons. Plus, there are some shows, like the Sound of Music & Carousel, that I've seen so many times on video that I feel like I've seen them live. So I decided to rank my top ten most memorable theatre experiences based on the initial impact I felt when I saw them live. For now I will just list the rankings, but throughout the week I'll write a separate entry for each show where I describe in detail how the show affected me.

1) A Chorus Line (revival)
2) The Phantom of the Opera
3) Rent
4) Hair (revival)
5) Everyday Rapture
6) Next to Normal
7) A Little Night Music (revival)
8) Wicked
9) South Pacific (revival)
10) The Lion King

Friday, September 17, 2010

Barbie's Showtune of the Day #12: Opening of Ragtime

You can say a lot of things about Rosie O'Donnell, some good and some bad, but there is nobody who is more supportive of the theatre, and the arts in general, than she is.When her daytime talk show was on the air, she exposed a national audience to theatre and is forever an advocate for the art form. On this particular occasion, she had the cast of the original Broadway production of Ragtime perform their opening number. This look back to 1998 gives us a glimpse of some of today's biggest Broadway stars back when they were just getting their start, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, and Brian Stokes Mitchell among them. And that little girl that appears around 2:50...that is a young Lea Michele. This is one of my favorite songs from the musical theatre and the harmonies at the end are astounding.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When Those Neon Lights Go Dark On Broadway

I've been thinking a lot about Broadway closings recently, especially because of the nature of last week's poll. And then, to my surprise, four big Broadway musicals have announced their closing dates, or at least announcements are expected to come shortly. It was announced several weeks ago that Fela! will shutter on January 2, 2011 and although it is yet to be confirmed, many speculate that Promises, Promises and Next to Normal will also close on that same date. Then yesterday, the producers of West Side Story announced that they too will close on  January 2nd. With new shows anxiously awaiting these open theatres, one always has to wonder if there isn't some persuasion, on the part of producers of upcoming musicals, for struggling shows to cut their losses and close. I guess nobody every really knows what exactly causes a show to close its doors and each of these shows has enjoyed an arguably strong run on the Great White Way.

Fela! and Promises, Promises are some of the first to close of the 2009-2010 TONY season, but one might argue that Fela! never truly found its audience and Promises, Promises would not be able to stay afloat once the contracts of its big stars, Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes, expire. Next to Normal was the 2008-2009 season's little show that could. Many never expected it to make it further that Second Stage where it ran off-Broadway, but it defied the naysayers, winning several TONY awards, garnering a cult following, and running for close to two years. West Side Story....well that is another story. I'm sure that Arthur Laurents expected his baby to win the Best Revival of a Musical TONY in 2009, but it lost to Hair (which closed about 3 months ago) and didn't receive the buzz that was anticipated. Perhaps it was the addition of Spanish lyrics, or the the fact that the creative team chose not to use Jerome Robbins' iconic choreography, but either way, the production lacked sparkle. Now a run of a year and a half is certainly nothing to scoff at, but this West Side Story revival was never the critical darling it was expected to be.

Of course we are sad to see these wonderful shows close, but such is the life cycle of the business of show. To quote the great Stephen Sondheim, "everyday a little death," but then again, "everything's coming up roses." When one show closes, that means a new show can open, and the 2010-2011 Broadway season is highly anticipated. It was publicly announced yesterday that one of the season's big budget musicals, Priscilla Queen of the Dessert, will take the Palace Theatre, currently inhabited by West Side Story. Many anticipate that the British transfer Sister Act will move into the Broadway Theatre once Promises, Promises closes and others speculate that the new musical Catch Me If You Can will take the Eugene O'Neill from Fela! And as for the Booth, one of Broadway's smallest houses, we can only hope that its next resident touches the Broadway community as deeply as Next to Normal did.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Winner...or Loser...of the Weekly Poll: Million Dollar Quartet

You voted and the results are in...50% of you think that Million Dollar Quartet will be the next musical of the 2009-2010 season to announce its closing date. American Idiot followed with 20% and Best Revival Tony winner La Cage Aux Folles and Best Musical Tony winner Memphis each received 10%. Only 10% of you voted for Promises, Promises or A Little Night Music so here's hoping they stick around for a long time. Here is what I find interesting...the two shows that received the least votes have arguably the biggest stars in them in terms of legitimate Broadway talent with Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises and Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch in A Little Night Music. Considering that the box offices for these shows have also been doing well, I think this proves that Broadway stars can still hold their own against Hollywood stars on the Great White Way.

I know this was a rather  unpleasant poll as we all hate to see shows close, but it is an inevitable part of the business of show.

Stay tuned for the next poll of the weekly, which will be a much happier topic.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reply for your chance to win a pair of tickets to TIME STANDS STILL on Broadway!

The BackStage Barbie is teaming up with Arts Meets Commerce to bring you free tickets to upcoming Broadway hits! For your chance to win a pair of tickets to the Broadway show TIME STANDS STILL,  post your answer in the comments section of this post. We will choose a winner at random on September 22!

Here is the question:

Christina Ricci is making her Broadway debut in TIME STANDS STILL. In what movie did Christina Ricci receive her breakout role?

TIME STANDS STILL follows Sarah and James, a photojournalist and a foreign correspondent, played by Laura Linney and Brian D'Arcy James respectively, trying to find happiness in a world that seems to have gone crazy. Theirs is a partnership based on telling the toughest stories, and together, making a difference. But when their own story takes a sudden turn, the adventurous couple confronts the prospect of a more conventional life…and everything changes—in a flash. Performances begin September 23, 2010 at the Cort Theatre.

For More Information and a special offer visit:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Next to Normal to Close?

There has been no official announcement from the producers so I will wait until then to really get upset, but rumors are flying that Next to Normal will shutter at the Booth theatre on January 2nd of 2011. This happens to be the closing date of FELA! as well as 5 other shows. Unfortunately the winter season after the holidays can be perilous for many Broadway shows. This wonderful production, winner of 2009 TONY awards for best score and best actress in a musical will surely be missed and its absence will leave a gaping hole on West 45th street.

Grizabella in the Revival of CATS

Okay so maybe this post is a bit misleading-I don't know of any plans for a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS-but if there are future plans for a revival then here is your Grizabella. I have always been a fan of Stephanie J Block and I am going to make a very bold statement about her. I have never heard any singer, Broadway singer or not, that belts with more power and clarity than Stephanie. This video is a performance from the MUNY in St Louis in the 2010 season. Just wait until the "touch me" will be blown away.

The New Marge MacDougal?

I saw this photo on the Promises, Promises facebook page and I just had to post it. This fan dressed up as Marge and next to Katie Finneran, she looks pretty darn close to perfect! The owl is my favorite!

Barbie's Showtune of the Day #11: The Ladies Who Lunch

A friend sent me this video today and I just had to post it. Elaine Stritch...what a broad! Her rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Company is classic Broadway. Many other women have performed this song but nobody can touch Stritch. Catch her onstage now in Sondheim's A Little Night Music at the Walter Kerr theatre, also starring Bernadette Peters.

Barbie's Showtune of the Day #10: Sunday

This is a performance of Stephen Sondheim's Sunday from Sunday in the Park with George. It is the finale of the 1993 concert "Soneheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall." This is also available on DVD form PBS' Great Performances series.

The Kennedy Center Honors

Over the years, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC has become one of the foremost institutions for the Performing Arts in the nation. In terms of theatre, I will even venture to guess that it has done more for the art form than any institution away from Broadway. In 1978, the first Kennedy Center Honors were bestowed upon 5 people who had contributed greatly to the performing arts and therefore, enlivened American culture. The tradition as continued every December since 1978 and the annual ceremonies have given us countless memorable performances and many that I hold near and dear to my own heart. One of the most special for me, in recent memory, was the tribute to Dolly Parton, who as I have mentioned many times, is one of the 3 performers that I truly idolize. Her life story was introduced by Reba McEntire, another great lady in country music, who ultimately concluded with the tried and true statement "there ain't nobody like Dolly Parton". The following performance, Alison Krauss singing "Jolene" was a particular highlight of that broadcast for me.

I'm going to try to include a comprehensive list of all of the honorees from the past 30 years. Please inform me if I forget anybody and I will add them to the list! I'm also going to include a small list at the end of artists who I think are deserving of being honored by The Kennedy Center in the near future.

1978: Marian Anderson, Fred Astaire, George Balanchine, Richard Rodgers, Arthur Rubeinstein
1979: Aaron Copland, Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Fonda, Martha Graham, Tennessee Williams
1980: Leonard Bernstein, James Cagney, Agnes de Mille, Lynn Fontanne, Leontyne Price
1981: Count Basie, Cary Grant, Helen Hayes, Jerome Robbins, Rudolf Serkin
1982: George Abbott, Lillian Girsh, Benny Goodman, Gene Kelly, Eugene Ormandy
1983: Katherine Dunham, Elia Kazan, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Virgil Thompson
1984: Lena Horne, Danny Kaye, Gian Carolo Menotti, Arthur Miller, Isaac Stern
1985: Merce Cunningham, Irene Dunne, Bob Hope, Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe, Beverly Sills
1986: Lucille Ball, Hume Cronyn & Jessica Tandy, Yehudi Menuhin, Antony Tudor, Ray Charles
1987: Perry Como, Bette Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., Nathan Milstein, Alwin Nikolais
1988: Alvin, Ailey, George Burns, Myrna Loy, Alexander Schneider, Roger L. Stevens
1989: Harry Belafonte, Claudette Colbert, Alexandra Danilova, Mary Martin, William Schuman
1990: Dizzy Gillespie, Katharine Hepburn, Rise Stevens, Jule Styne, Billy Wilder
1991: Roy Acuff, Betty Comden & Adolph Green, Fayard & Harold Nicholas, Gregory Peck, Robert Shaw
1992: Lionel Hampton, Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, Ginger Rodgers, Mstislav Rostropovich, Paul Taylor
1993: Johnny Carson, Arthur Mitchell, Geog Solti, Stephen Sondehim, Marion Williams
1994: Kirk Douglas, Aretha Franklin, Morton Gould, Harold Prince, Pete Seeger
1995: Jacques d'Amboise, Marilyn Horne, BB Kind, Sidney Poitier, Neil Simon
1996: Edward Albee, Benny Carter, Johnny Cash, Jack Lemmon, Maria Talchief
1997: Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, Charlton Heston, Jessye Norman, Edward Vilella
1998: Bill Cosby, Fred Ebb & John Kander, Willie Nelson, Andre Previn, Shirley Temple Black
1999: Victor Borge, Sean Connery, Judith Jamison, Jason Robards, Stevie Wonder
2000: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Chuck Berry, Placido Domingo, Clint Eastwood, Angela Lansbury
2001: Julie Andrews, Van Cliburn, Quincy Jones, Jack Nicholson, Luciano Pavarotti
2002: James Earl Jones, James Levine, Chita Rivera, Paul Simon, Elizabeth Taylor
2003: James Brown, Carol Burnett, Loretta Lynn, Mike Nichols, Itzhak Perlman
2004: Warren Beatty, Ossie Davies & Ruby Dee, Elton John, Joan Sutherland, John Williams
2005: Tony Bennett, Suzanne Farrell, Julie Harris, Robert Redford, Tina Turner
2006: Zubin Mehta, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, Steven Spielberg, Andrew Lloyd Webber
2007: Leon Fleisher, Steve Martin, Diana Ross, Martin Scorsese, Brian Wilson
2008: Morgan Freeman, George Jones, Barbra Streisand, Twyla Tharp, Pete Townshend & Roger Daltrey
2009: Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen
2010: Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, Bill T.Jones, Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey
My Picks for Upcoming Ceremonies: Burt Bacharach, Barbara Cook, Renee Flemming, Billy Joel, Jerry Lee Lewis, Patti LuPone, Reba McEntire, Bette Midler, Mark Morris, Al Pacino, Bernadette Peters, Hal Prince, Meryl Streep, Betty White

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bring Broadway Home

How many times have you left a Broadway show wishing you could see it again in your living room? Well in some cases you can. Many Broadway productions and concert versions of shows are actually filmed and released commercially for purchase. Keep in mind that these are not movie musicals, they are filmed versions of live theatre. They can generally be found at book stores like Borders or Barnes & Noble or on Amazon. The following are the videos that I know of, please feel free to let me know if I've missed any.

  • Candide (concert)
  • Company
  • Follies (concert)
  • Fosse
  • Into the Woods
  • Les Miserables
  • Oklahoma
  • Passion (concert)
  • RENT (final Broadway performance)
  • Sunday in the Park with George
  • Sweeney Todd (1982 staged production)
  • Sweeney Todd (2001 concert)

Promises Promises Welcomes a New Marge MacDougal

Funny Lady Molly Shannon will follow Katie Finneran in the role of Marge MacDougal in the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises. Finneran announced recently that she will be leaving the show in October to have a baby. Shannon will step into Marge's owl feathers on October 12th and leave on December 26th with current stars Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes. This casting change will be a reunion of sorts for Shannon and Hayes as she guest starred on several episodes of the hit comedy Will & Grace.

The Barbie Award for Acting a Song: Miss Bernadette Peters

Need I gush anymore about my idol Bernadette Peters? Yes, I think I must. I have always been a fan of Miss Peters' work, but it was not until I began to study classical vocal technique and my teacher pointed me toward Sunday in the Park with George as an example of acting a song that I began to truly respect her as an artist. Her portrayal of Dot/Marie in that show was unparalleled, and she was robbed of the Tony that year in my opinion. Those who have heard her in concert or on solo recordings know that she has a stellar voice, but what I admire about her the most is her ability to sacrifice vocal perfection for the sake of acting and character accuracy.
I had the pleasure of seeing her for the first time on Broadway this week in A Little Night Music (my formal review will come later) and from the moment she first stepped onto the Walter Kerr stage in the opening waltz, I felt tears stream down my face. Now maybe this was because I was a little starstruck and a bit enamored, but goodness does this lady have the ability to grip an audience. Now being a singer myself, I've idolized Bernadette for her vocal abilities, but interestingly enough,  I never once thought of her as a "singer" in this performance, but rather as an "actress." She only sings 1 and a 1/2 songs in the show, but even in those moments, the lyrics are about her character, Desiree Armfeldt, and not about notes or phrases. Her range is incredible, from sarcastic and funny, to terribly heartbreaking. Her Send In the Clowns is simply the best I have ever heard and not because of her voice, but because of her interpretation of Stephen Sondheim's lyrics. The pain felt by her character was so raw and on the surface and was evident in the raspy, shaky quality of her voice. Vocally pristine? No. True to the character? Absolutely. I have always loved the song for its lyrical and musical qualities, but I never truly understood the weight of it until I heard it from the mouth of this indelible songstress. I have never in my life cried so many real tears at a performance. This lovely evening of theatre is one that I will have to force myself not to see again, because as much as I would love to experience it again, I never want anything to cloud the memory of my first time. Thank you Bernadette Peters for restoring my faith and respect for the American musical theatre.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Barbie Award for Working Hard For The Money: Miss Sutton Foster

I decided that In addition to Breaking Broadway News, Fun Facts, and Showtunes of the Day (which I plan to keep up with daily now that my life has calmed down) I'm going to start giving out my own version of the Tony Award, which I'll obviously call the Barbie Award. Unlike the Tony Awards which are given out one glorious day a year, the Barbie Award can be given to any performer or person involved with the theatre on any given day for any given reason.

So I'm going to give out my first award, The Barbie Award for Working Hard for the Money, to the busiest lady on the boards these days.

Ever since her Peggy Sawyer-esque moment of breaking out of the chorus to become the star in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sutton Foster has become Broadway's Sweetheart. Since then she has played featured or leading roles in shows such as Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone, Young Frankenstein and Shrek. She has also release a solo album entitled Wish.

She has been a busy gal since her jump into the spotlight in 2002, but nothing compares to this year. She is currently starring in the Off-Broadway play Trust at Second Stage and it was announced a few weeks ago that she will take on another starring role as Reno Sweeney in Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Anything Goes which lands on Broadway in Spring 2011. Throughout the fall and winter of this year and into 2011 Sutton will be performing across the country in her solo concert series. In addition, she recently performed in an Actor's Fund benefit show of They're Playing Our Song with Seth Rudetsky. And as if she is not busy enough, she is actually scheduled to perform in readings of two upcoming shows. The first is the new musical Bonnie & Clyde co-starring Will Swenson of Hair fame with a score by Rick Crom and a book by her very own brother, Hunter Foster. The second reading she plans to participate in is Nice Work If You Can Get It, a Gershwin review of sorts co-starring Matthew Broderick.

Well, I'm tired just writing all of that so I can only image how Miss Foster must feel! Get some Red Bull girl and keep that energy up...we would love to see some more Broadway hits in your future. And even though the Barbie Award is a huge honor, I'd love for you to win another Tony as well.

Fun Fact of the Day: Patti LuPone Releases A Memoir

This is exactly what theatre fans have been waiting for decades to hear...the innermost thoughts of our favorite diva, Patti LuPone. Not that Patti has ever been one to keep quiet, but there are certain stories that she has kept quiet over the years. She has been part of many a scandal in her rich theatrical career and when her memoir is released on September 14th, we will finally be privy to stories she has never told before. Highlights are certain to include her sordid past with Andrew Lloyd Webber, from Evita, "the score that she could never really sing," to the role of Normal Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, which Webber promised to Patti in the Broadway transfer and then gave to Glenn Close. While she has been part of her fair share of drama, nothing can put a damper on her amazing career and I know that I look forward to reading her story, which will surely range from hilarious to heartbreaking.

**In honor of Patti's memoir, don't forget to vote in my poll of the week for your favorite Patti performance!

Weekly Poll Results

Yes I know I'm a bit behind in my polling results but the outcome is as follows:

What is your favorite Rogers & Hammerstein musical?

28% Sound of Music
28% South Pacific
21% Carousel
21% Oklahoma
0% The King & I

This is quite possibly the most inconclusive set of results I've had as of yet. And at the risk of sounding cliche, I'm going to venture a guess that many people had difficulty choosing because all of the R & H musicals are wonderful and are truly American treasures.

Stay tuned for this week's will be unveiled later today!