Posted in historical musical, historical musical drama, historically-based musical, musical, musical theater, musical theatre

The rise and fall of John Banvard

Source: The wide Mississippi

From Wikipedia: A moving image designed by John Banvard

Once upon a time, there were hucksters and rich artists. The latter grew rich sometimes with the help of a kind of door-to-door hucksterism wherein they shilled their works to the public.

In the case of Georama: An America Panorama Told in Three Miles of Canvas, the artist was one John Banvard, now unknown.

Who was John Banvard (P.J. Griffith)?  He was a showman, mainly because of the skills of his composer, Elizabeth (Jillian Louis) who worked the towns up and down the coast to promote and show off his new moving panorama of the Mississippi.

Success breeds imitation, and there are those who will take the opportunity. The huckster, who helped and then stole much of Banvard’s thunder, was Taylor (Randy Blair, in a very appealing role.) The businessman and showboat owner who remained Banvard’s friend through thick and thin was William Chapman.

To catch this musical by West Hyler (Hyler also directs) and Matt Schatz, with music and lyrics by Schatz and additional contributions to the latter by Jack Herrick, visit nymf.org. There are a couple of performances left through August 6th, which is also the end of the New York Musicals Festival.

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Posted in historical musical, musical, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals

A rich port

Nativist sentiments are often rooted in the stories of European conquerors who obliterated and enslaved native populations, and then high-handedly saw themselves as the rightful owners of the lands they seized.

This is the story of Puerto Rico as depicted in Temple of the Souls, part of the New York Musical Festival and playing at the Acorn at Theatre Row. Puerto Rico, named for the golden riches the Spanish found in the port of this island, was once such a promised land; its indigenous inhabitants, the Taino Indians were defeated by the invading Spaniards. Time has melded the heritage of the isle so that most Puerto Ricans recognize themselves as descendents both of the Spanish and the Taino.

Temple of the Souls is an exploration of this history, filtered through a love story–actually several love stories. Amada (Noellia Hernandez), the daughter of one of the conquistadores, Don Severo (Danny Bolero) falls in love with Guario (Andres Qunitero), a Taino she meets in the rain forests on a fiesta day. They are the Romeo and Juliet figures in this musical. Amada’s “nurse” is Nana (Lorraine Velez in a truly earnest performance) who has kept a secret all these many years.

The music, by Dean Lanon and Anika Paris, with lyrics by Paris and Anita Velez-Mitchell, is affecting. Paris, Velez-Mitchell along with Lorca Peress, who also directs the proceedings, are responsible for the book.

Temple of the Souls is a sometimes erratic work that does not always hit its mark. It aims to elucidate the story of a country and its peoples with warmth and understanding. It’s sincerity is indisputable; its artistry is less marked. The plot and its intermingling of past and present is more intriguing in concept than in execution.The cast, mostly Equity, are all good, some even excellent.

NYMF is an annual event. It is a showcase for new musicals in development. Some make it to off- or off-off-Broadway, a few to Broadway houses. Just getting into the Festival means they have been percolating for some time.

Posted in historical musical, historical musical drama, historically-based musical, musical theater, musical theatre

The wide Mississippi

John Banvard was a muralist during the days after the American Civil War. He painted portraits and panoramas. His mechanism for displaying a moving panorama received mention in the December 16, 1848 issue of the Scientific American magazine.

Georama, An American Panorama Told on Three Miles of Canvas, with music and lyrics by Matt Schatz and Jack Herrick, comes to NYMF to commemorate the artist, his legacy and innovations. Georama plays from August 2nd through August 6th at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre on 42nd Street.

Posted in drama, hip-hop musical, historical musical, musical theater, theater

He’s on the $10 bill

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

Hip-hop can be clever and expressive. Lin-Manuel Miranda definitely is both clever and expressive. In fact, he can  be positively brilliant.

Hamilton, a Broadway transfer from The Public now at the Richard Rodgers Theater, is a historical hip-hop musical by Miranda. In it, the Founding Father is seen as fulfilling the American dream, as an an ambitious, self-taught immigrant. Alexander Hamilton’s vision for his adopted land was to help create its financial system and sponsor its Constitution and support a strong federal government.

More and a review after the opening…. 

In the meantime, check out these blog posts:

http://wp.me/p5jq0w-mW

http://wp.me/p5jq0w-5e

http://wp.me/p5jq0w-iK

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