Posted in based on a true story or event, bio-musical, musical theater, theater

“Stop in the name of love” and “Get ready”

Motown The Musical MUSICAL NEDERLANDER THEATRE 208 W. 41ST ST. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL - CAST Chester Gregory Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy Allison Semmes Allison Semmes as Diana Ross Jesse Nager Jesse Nager as Smokey Robinson Jarran Muse Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Dennis Edwards Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Miracle Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Mickey Stevenson Nik Alexander Nik Alexander as Commodore J.J. Batteast J.J. Batteast as Young Berry Gordy J.J. Batteast J.J. Batteast as Young Stevie Wonder J.J. Batteast J.J. Batteast as Young Michael Jackson Erick Buckley Erick Buckley as Jackie Wilson Manager Erick Buckley Erick Buckley as Harold Noveck Erick Buckley Erick Buckley as Studio Head Chante Carmel Chante Carmel as Edna Anderson Chante Carmel Chante Carmel as Martha Reeves Chante Carmel Chante Carmel as Marvelette Chadaé Chadaé as Anna Gordy Chadaé Chadaé as Marvelette Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Temptation Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Fuller Gordy Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Contour Lynorris Evans Lynorris Evans as Jackson 5 Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Temptation Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Contour Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Jackson 5 Robert Hartwell Robert Hartwell as Robert Gordy Trisha Jeffrey Trisha Jeffrey as Mary Wilson Trisha Jeffrey Trisha Jeffrey as Mother Gordy Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Stevie Wonder Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Levi Stubbs Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Miracle Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Jr. Walker Elijah Ahmad Lewis Elijah Ahmad Lewis as Allstar Loren Lott Loren Lott as Esther Gordy Loren Lott Loren Lott as Lula Hardaway Loren Lott Loren Lott as Vandella Loren Lott Loren Lott as Gladys Horton Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. as Jackie Wilson Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. as Contour Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. as Eddie Hollan
Motown The Musical at the Nederlander with Allison Semmes as Diana Ross. Photo © Joan Marcus

Berry Gordy, Jr.’s career in music started when he sold a song to Jackie Wilson. It culminated when he sold the hit-making empire he built and named Motown to MCA in 1988. Motown artists and their images were carefully cultivated. Gordy co-wrote 240 songs for the catalog, which was bought by Polygram for over $330million in the early 1990s. Business aside, Gordy’s recording company became a legendary musical genre.

That musical style, the artists nurtured by the company, and its creator are celebrated in Motown-The Musical, based on Gordy’s memoir, To Be Loved, and written and produced by Berry Gordy, Jr.

Motown… had its original run in March of 2013, and is currently in revival at the Nederlander Theatre, and runnng through the end of this month.

Motown The Musical with Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy. Photo © Joan Marcus
Motown The Musical with
Chester Gregory
as Berry Gordy. Photo © Joan Marcus

In Motown…, the high-spirited portrayals of Gordy by Chester Gregory and the supreme Diana Ross by Allison Semmes enhance the bio-musical’s plotline, which relies a little too heavily on history for its backstory. Motown… is about the entertainers who gave us the  most recognizable sound of the 1960’s.

Mr. Gregory gives a well-balanced performance as “the Chairman,” Berry Gordy, Jr. An exhilirating highlight of the production is Ms. Semmes’ Ross in her first solo appearance in Las Vegas, a sequence that asks for a happy moment of audience participation.

Visit http://www.motownthemusical.com/ for tickets and more information.

 

Posted in bio-musical, musical revivals, musical theater, Uncategorized

"Dancing In The Streets" at Motown The Musical: It’s Not Just Berry Gordy’s Memories

Motown The Musical is being revived this summer at the Nederlander Theatre, in previews now and running through November 13th.

Our Theater Blog: TandBOnTheAisle

There was a time when Detroit rolled out great big cars, and an even bigger sound. The music of the Motor City was humming in everyone’s ears, and playing “with a brand new beat” on and off the Billboard charts.

Berry Gordy’s memoirs turned into “Motown The Musical,” now at the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre,  based on Gordy’s book To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown, are condensed to bring us up to the 25th Motown Reunion in 1983.  His Hitsville USA studios brought an exciting new formula to
pop music. Motown records was modeled after the assembly lines of Detroit automobile factories where Gordy had worked.

Berry Gordy, Jr.’s (Brandon Victor Dixon) glam vision added lavish costumes and complicated dance moves to the “short stories,” as he put, in the songs his writers created. Gordy gave each of his groups their own persona– “The Temptations,” “The…

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Posted in based on a true story or event, based on an actual life, bio-musical, dance, musical theater, theater

What’s doin’?

Photo by John B. Barrois: Todd d'Amour (Valentine Xavier) and Beth Bartley (Carol Cutrere)
Photo by John B. Barrois: Todd d’Amour (Valentine Xavier) and Beth Bartley (Carol Cutrere). Orpheus Descending directed by Austin Pendleton at St. John’s Lutheran Church

Cagney: tough guy in soft shoes: “Ma, I’m on top of the world,” could have been a quote from Cagney’s life. He started in the slums of New York, and ended as a household name. He worked in Vaudeville and went on to star in many an iconic movie.

Cagney, making its cross town transfer from the York Theatre began previews at the Westside on 43rd Street on March 16th and now is in an open run.  In Cagney, Robert Creighton reprises his role as the song-and-dance man turned Hollywood superstar.

Learn more about Cagney, please visit cagneythemusical.com/.

Evening – 1910 comes roughly out of the same era as that of the young Cagney.  Playwright, songwriter and director Randy Sharp and songwriter, guitarist and longtime Blondie member Paul Carbonara have teamed up to create Evening – 1910, a new musical about an immigrant to 1910 New York and a Bowery theater facing eviction as Edison’s kinetoscope makes vaudeville old hat. Their point of departure for this new musical is the earlier one about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Solitary Light. The world premiere of Evening – 1910  is presented by the Axis Company, of which Sharp is the founding Artistic Director, from April 28 – May 28.

Learn more about Evening – 1910 at axiscompany.org

Tennesee Williams’ Orpheus Descending gets a rare revival, directed by Austin Pendleton, from April 23 to May 14th, at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Williams’s modern recreation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice opened on Broadway in 1957 and was revived in 1989 in a celebrated production directed by Sir Peter Hall and starring Vanessa Redgrave. It has rarely, if ever, been produced in New York since.

For more information about , please visit twptown.org/orpheusnyc

Another rarely produced play will be presented by Voyage Theater Company  from May 5th through 14th. August Strindberg’s The Pelican, is a little known psychological drama about a greedy mother who lets her children go hungry while she lives a life of luxury. Directed by Charles C. Bales and Wayne Maugans (actor in Broadway’s August: Osage County), the production runs just 75 intermission-less minutes. Strindberg’s familial tragedy is as shocking today as it was in 1907.

Find out more about this production at http://voyagetheatercompany.org/current-season/

On the other hand, new plays are the subject on April 21st at the annual Writers Block Party at The Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse in the Samuel B. & David Rose Building. Presented by and for the benefit of The Playwrights Realm, led by Katherine Kovner, Artistic Director, and Roberta Pereira, Producing Director, Writers Block Party will celebrate its ninth anniversary with  MCs Vella Lovell (“My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and Hubert Point-Du Jour (Sojourners).

Learn more at playwrightsrealm.org

William Kernen spent 27 years in baseball both as professional player and coach, before turning to a career as a playwright in 1997. Kernen spent two years studying at Columbia University under the instruction of Eduardo Machado. Kernen’s play And Other Fairy Tales… was a finalist in the Oglebay Institute National Playwriting Competition. In April 2001 his play, Galleria degli Angeli was produced in New York at The Independent Theatre, with first-time director Kernen at the helm. In 2005, his script In the House of Athazagora, was produced as a short film, which Kernen also directed.

Then, Kernen went back to coaching in Division 1 college baseball, building a brand new program from scratch at California State University, Bakersfield. In June 2015, Kernen again retired from baseballand returned to NYC to write and direct in theater and film.

Gallery Of Angels, Inc. brings the world premiere production of William KernenísAnd Other Fairy Tales…, directed by Kernen at The Workshop Theater from April 28 through May 22nd.

Find out more about And Other Fairy Tales… at williamkernen.com/

They’ve won awards for presenting little known musicals, but this year, Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) is presenting the Tony-winning The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee from May 5th through 28th. The musical, which runs 2 hours with one intermission, is at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Astoria.

For more information about the production, please visit apacny.org.

 

Posted in based on a true story or event, bio-musical, jukebox musical, musical theater

Get with the conga beat, now

A friend recently said, “Everyone has tragedy in their lives.” He was referring to the Gloria and Emilio Estefan backstory to On Your Feet! in this conversation, which should not be too much of a spoiler for their fans;  there was the terrifying bus accident in 1990, and some other sadness as well in their lives.But Gloria and Emilio’s story is not defined by tragedy.

Ana Villafañe and the cast of On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy
Ana Villafañe and the cast of On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy

Like their life, and music, On Your Feet!, at the Marquis Theatre through April 3rd,  is about uplift.

On Your Feet! opens with a scene from a concert tour and then flashes back.

With a book by playwright Alexander Dinelaris, On Your Feet! features the music and lyrics of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, and music recorded by Miami Sound Machine, 5 of whose members are in the band.

Josh Segarra and Ana Villafañe (center) and the cast ofOn Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy
Josh Segarra and Ana Villafañe (center) and the cast ofOn Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy

As On Your Feet!   goes back to tell the tale of Gloria’s beginnings, little Gloria (Alexandria Suarez) sends tapes of songs to cheer her father (Eliseo Roman), who is stationed in Vietnam. As she grows up, Gloria (Ana Villafañe) is still singing, and taking care of the household while her mother, Gloria Fajardo (the always excellent Andréa Burns), goes off to school. Gloria’s grandmother, Consuelo (Alma Cuervo) was her biggest booster, urging her to practice her guitar.

he Cast of On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy
he Cast of On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy

Keeping the beat in upbeat, it’s the songs and the dancing, with a strong script, that are the big draw here. On Your Feet! features many fabulous dance numbers, performed by the energetic and nimble corps, but none is more impressive than one danced in wooden sandals.

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo gives the ensemble, headed by dance captains Natalie Caruncho and Hector Maisonet, plenty to show off. Also impressive is the young Eduardo Hernandez (in all the young boy roles) who gets to show off his “America’s Got Talent” talents and demonstrate why he won the 2014 Latin Dance Cup. The actors, led by the lovely and ebullient Ana Villafañe as Gloria, are all transcendent.

On Your Feet! benefits from the imaginative sets of David Rockwell, who uses scrims, and moving screens, as part, but not all, of the stylish scene-making. ESosa’s costumes are lush, colorful and varied, helping to create the timeline of the Estefans’ narrative. Director Jerry Mitchell seamlessly brings together all the elements that make On Your Feet! such a crowd-winning pleasure.

Linedy Genao, Ana Villafane & Jennifer Sanchez in !On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy
Linedy Genao, Ana Villafane & Jennifer Sanchez in On Your Feet! (c) Matthew Murphy

The Estefans, Emilio (Josh Segarra) and Gloria,   Cuban immigrants who met in Miami, made disco their own from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. Performing originally as the Miami Sound Machine and then as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, the group disbanded except for a brief reunion in 2002. Gloria went on as a solo artist, with Emilio as her producer; over the years they have together won 26 GRAMMY Awards®.

On Your Feet! is a grand time, and not just for fans of disco and MSM but for anyone who likes a good musical. On Your Feet! is fortunate in having an intrinsically moving story for its wonderful cast to tell through its well-honed plot and exuberant music/dance.

For more information and tickets, please visit http://onyourfeetmusical.com/.

 

Posted in based on a true story or event, bio-musical, musical theater, theater

“Hamilton” is still A Perfect 10!

Alexander Hamilton was this country’s first banker-in-chief, a job which the young revolutionary fulfilled with the same brilliance and passion of all his endeavors. We commemorate him on our ten dollar bill, but are largely unaware of his contributions to his country of choice –yes, he was, like so many of us, an immigrant.

Alexander Hamilton’s life played out on the broad stage of a nascent United States.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has put him center-stage in the radically new bio-musical, Hamilton, which recently transferred from the Public to the Richard Rodgers in an open run.

Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus

The trip uptown from Astor Place has only given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton a bigger stage on which to play out its amazing history of the founding of the United States. The stage at the Richard Rodgers should be familiar to Lin-Manuel Miranda since his Tony winning In The Heights was there for nearly three years, with Miranda in the lead as Usnavi for a good chunk of that time.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus

 

 

In Hamilton, for which he created the book (based on Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton,) wrote the lyrics, and composed the music, Miranda is the titular striver.  The story follows Alexander Hamilton from his arrival as an impoverished 19-year old to New York from the small island of Nevis in the Caribbean through his illustrious career as revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington’s (Christopher Jackson) Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton is a firebrand, and his fervor spills over making his relationships, even with Washington who is supportive of his ideas and career, difficult. (See our tweet as part of this commentary.)

Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) advises Alexander early on to “talk less, smile more.” Eventually, Alexander Hamilton, despite his contentious personality. forges a near miraculous agreement with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan). The Congress approves a unified central bank under which the new democracy flourished.

Alexander Hamilton was nothing if not determined. As he and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs, again) put it, “We’re immigrants; we get things done.” Hamilton gains General Washington’s trust because he never gives up on his principles.

Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and her sister Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), from the prominent Schuyler family, are both devoted to him. Angelica is his intellectual equal and a champion of his ideas. Their sister, Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones) looks like she, too, fell under the spell of his charismatic drive. Alexander Hamilton was something of a lady’s man, it seems.

In the course of some three hours, the United States emerge from the colonies, America elects its third President– Thomas Jefferson, who wins the 1800 election against Burr with Hamilton’s endorsement–, and Burr is embittered by his failure to prevail. All this history unravels in anthems of rap and hip hop, pop and love songs.  King George (Jonathan Groff) laments his unfaithful colonies in a British pop tune mode. This tuneful sampling is a brilliant reflection of the spirit of revolution and renewal that Hamilton (and the period it depicts) represents.

The outsider’s story is America’s story. We are a nation, like Alexander Hamilton, of people who came from elsewhere to succeed, or as a Hamilton song puts it get “My Shot,” here.

Hamilton, under Thomas Kail’s direction of the no-less than brilliant cast and with Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography for the excellent ensemble of “back-up” dancers and players, is the most entertaining history lesson ever devised. Hamilton is no less than genius!

(Previous mentions on T and B On The Aisle and elsewhere by Tamara Beck may have understated how great a musical Hamilton really is:  http://wp.me/p5jq0w-mWhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-5ehttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-iKhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-vx.)

Also, see what I had to say about Hamilton at VevlynsPen.com.

For tickets to the season’s hottest new show, please visit www.hamiltonbroadway.com/

 

 

Posted in based on a true story or event, bio-musical, musical theater, theater

A Perfect 10!

Alexander Hamilton was this country’s first banker-in-chief, a job which the young revolutionary fulfilled with the same brilliance and passion of all his endeavors. We commemorate him on our ten dollar bill, but are largely unaware of his contributions to his country of choice –yes, he was, like so many of us, an immigrant.

Alexander Hamilton’s life played out on the broad stage of a nascent United States.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has put him center-stage in the radically new bio-musical, Hamilton, which recently transferred from the Public to the Richard Rodgers in an open run.

Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus

The trip uptown from Astor Place has only given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton a bigger stage on which to play out its amazing history of the founding of the United States. The stage at the Richard Rodgers should be familiar to Lin-Manuel Miranda since his Tony winning In The Heights was there for nearly three years, with Miranda in the lead as Usnavi for a good chunk of that time.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus

 

 

In Hamilton, for which he created the book (based on Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton,) wrote the lyrics, and composed the music, Miranda is the titular striver.  The story follows Alexander Hamilton from his arrival as an impoverished 19-year old to New York from the small island of Nevis in the Caribbean through his illustrious career as revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington’s (Christopher Jackson) Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton is a firebrand, and his fervor spills over making his relationships, even with Washington who is supportive of his ideas and career, difficult. (See our tweet as part of this commentary.)

Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) advises Alexander early on to “talk less, smile more.” Eventually, Alexander Hamilton, despite his contentious personality. forges a near miraculous agreement with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan). The Congress approves a unified central bank under which the new democracy flourished.

Alexander Hamilton was nothing if not determined. As he and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs, again) put it, “We’re immigrants; we get things done.” Hamilton gains General Washington’s trust because he never gives up on his principles.

Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and her sister Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), from the prominent Schuyler family, are both devoted to him. Angelica is his intellectual equal and a champion of his ideas. Their sister, Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones) looks like she, too, fell under the spell of his charismatic drive. Alexander Hamilton was something of a lady’s man, it seems.

In the course of some three hours, the United States emerge from the colonies, America elects its third President– Thomas Jefferson, who wins the 1800 election against Burr with Hamilton’s endorsement–, and Burr is embittered by his failure to prevail. All this history unravels in anthems of rap and hip hop, pop and love songs.  King George (Jonathan Groff) laments his unfaithful colonies in a British pop tune mode. This tuneful sampling is a brilliant reflection of the spirit of revolution and renewal that Hamilton (and the period it depicts) represents.

The outsider’s story is America’s story. We are a nation, like Alexander Hamilton, of people who came from elsewhere to succeed, or as a Hamilton song puts it get “My Shot,” here.

Hamilton, under Thomas Kail’s direction of the no-less than brilliant cast and with Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography for the excellent ensemble of “back-up” dancers and players, is the most entertaining history lesson ever devised. Hamilton is no less than genius!

(Previous mentions on T and B On The Aisle and elsewhere by Tamara Beck may have understated how great a musical Hamilton really is:  http://wp.me/p5jq0w-mWhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-5ehttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-iKhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-vx.)

Also, see what I had to say about Hamilton at VevlynsPen.com.

For tickets to the season’s hottest new show, please visit www.hamiltonbroadway.com/

 

 

Posted in bio-musical, musical theater

Not so long ago, we were anticipating “Hamilton” and now it’s here

In fact, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers and Constitutionalists is in it’s third extension at the Public Theatre, running through May 3rd.

We were fortunate to get a preview of “Hamilton” at Lincoln Center’s 2012 American Songbook (see our write up on http://wp.me/p5jq0w-iK)

Here’s what we said way back last year in Our Theater Blog, when “Hamilton” was still just in the planning stage,  http://wp.me/p5jq0w-5e:

“Hamilton,” written by the Tony and Grammy Award-winning composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, will have its world premiere next January as part of The Public’s 2014-15 season at Astor Place. Directed by his In The Heights collaborator Thomas Kail, this new musical features Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton, one of our country’s Founding Fathers and the first Secretary of the Treasury.

The brilliant musical “previewed” at an American Songbooks presentation in 2012. Performances begin at the Public on January 20, 2015.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda is a marvel, but nothing could have prepared us for the astonishing achievement of Hamilton,” said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “Alexander Hamilton was born in the West Indies, the only Founding Father who was an immigrant, and Lin’s genius is to tell the story of the birth of the United States as an immigrant’s story. The energy, the passion, joy, tragedy, and raw intelligence of this show are stunning.”

More information at http://www.publictheater.org/