Posted in #AvenueQ, #BeMoreChill, #BroadwayBountyHunter, #JerseyBoys, #JoeIconis, #LaMama, #NewWorldStages, #RockOfAges, #ThePlayThatWentWrong, #TheProm, #TonyAward, expectations, experiments in theater, high expectations, low expectations, New World Stages, performance art, performance piece, performance works, The Tony Awards, theater arts, Tony winner

Stayin’ Alive

Avenue Q went there after its Broadway run ran down. Now Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, and even The Play That Goes Wrong, have come to Worldwide Plaza’s New World Stages for a chance at a little longevity. The place offers off-Broadway alchemy to shows that still have a little more life in them, but aren’t filling the big house seats anymore.

They also offer the audience a new prospective: Avenue Q, for instance, was more enjoyable in the smaller house when we saw it. It had won pretty big at the 2004 Tony® ceremonies, of course, but we found the intimate setting at New World more appropriate to its tone and style. Worldwide has lots of stages where a fun show can frolic a bit longer.

Off off-Broadway has traditionally been the place where new and innovative get their start. The seeds of a more forward thinking theater have taken root on the stages of LaMaMa, a famously “experimental theater club,” or its ilk. Little but prominent theater companies have always flourished in NYC. Some of them have made advances in theater history, others have been playgrounds for more or less minor productions.

Of late, Broadway has taken on the tone of some of these “variety houses” with shows such as The Prom and Be More Chill hitting the great white way. The latter won its composer Joe Iconis a 2019 Tony ® for Best Original Score. For his fans the emergence of his next show, Broadway Bounty Hunter at the off-Bway Greenwich House Theater may have been great news; the show will close after a mere 48 performances on August 18th.

The off and off-off houses are more nimble than the main stem theaters. Production costs allow them to transform the audience experience, and try new things. A short run is less of a failure in this environment.

Shows like Be More Chill or The Prom might have had greater success at the old Promenade on 76th and Broadway, or The Little Shubert (now Stage 42). Neither of them thrived as full-on Broadway house productions; the former closed on August 11th after just about 200 performances all told; The Prom also closed on the 11th after332 performances including previews. Perhaps they too will find theimselves at New World Stages, a place where variety is really the spice of life, for a little extended life of their own.

Posted in musicals, musicals and dramas, The Tony Awards, Tony, Tony Awards, Tony nominee, Tony winner, Tony winning play

$$ Rewarded $$

Lack of Tony® love has done to The Prom what it usually does. The show, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Beguelin and based on an idea of Jack Viertel, is set to close on August 11th.

At the Walter Kerr, across the street from the unappreciated The Prom (the cast and creatives got nods but no statuettes) is Tony® darling Hadestown, There, you will see lines waiting for tickets by lottery early on any given day. (Actual ticket distribution for Rush is around 5pm, so the folks sitting outside the theater at noon are really eager.) The musical’s ticket price skyrocketed thanks to the warm welcome it got at the Awards ceremonies. André De Shields was not the only winner from the cast of this musical, written by Anaïs Mitchell and developed with director Rachel Chavkin, also a winner that night. The scenic designer, Rachel Hauck, and the sound designer, jessica Paz, also won for their contributions to the musical as well.

Of course, if you must close, you must. The Ferryman, Broadway’s Best Play of 2019, is closing tomorrow, July 7th. Tickets for the play put it in the million dollar range over its run. Tickets for Sunday’s final performances run at $224 and up.

It’s expensive to mount a Broadway production, and that explains some of the high prices. There is also a reseller’s premium for some of the hotter shows, of course, but also the fact that demand drives costs allows the producers to write their own ticket, as it were. In fact, for the 2018-19 season, audiences ponied up an average of $123.84 for a seat at a Broadway show.

Posted in Andrew Lloyd Webber, long running Broadway musical, Majestic Theatre, Phantom, The Long Running Broadway Musical, Tony winner

The “Angel of Music”

Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre
The Company in a London production performing “Masquerade.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

It is unrivaled, really, to have a show run for so long that it has gone well past its first  generation. Longevity, of course, is not the only thing to recommend the longest-running musical melodrama on Broadway.

The Phantom of the Opera, still going strong after 30 years on Broadway at The Majestic, has a new leading anti-hero, the young Broadway veteran Ben Crawford. He will be donning the mask  originally worn by Michael Crawford when the show opened in January 1988. and more recently by Norm Lewis and James Barbour. Crawford was last seen on the stage as Mr. Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The 19th Raoul in the musical’s storied history on Broadway, Jay Armstrong Johnson will be joining the cast on April 30th. Johnson has appeared in the original Broadway casts of Hair (revival, in his Broadway debut), and Catch Me If You Can to name a few of his many theater credits. Johnson has also appeared in movies and television, including his leading role in ABC TV’s Quantico.

Ben Crawford as the malevolent masked man and Jay Armstrong Johnson as the dashing Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, join current principal cast members Ali Ewoldt as Christine, (with Kaley Ann Voorhees taking on the role at certain performances,)  Laird Mackintosh as Monsieur André, Craig Bennett as Monsieur Firmin, Raquel Suarez Groen as Carlotta, Carlton Moe as Piangi, Maree Johnson as Madame Giry and Kara Klein as Meg Giry.

To learn more about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic Phantom, and for tickets to the Broadway production (with links to its worldwide reach), please visit The Phantom‘s website.

Posted in Andrew Lloyd Webber, long running Broadway musical, Tony winner

“The Music of the Night”

(c) Jeremy Daniel from the stage of the Majestic Theatre

Okay, so now as Phantom approaches its 12,000 performance at the Majestic on November 28th, it is time to visit (or perhaps re-visit) this record-breaking musical.

After  January 26, 2017, as it enters its 29th year on Broadway, Phantom of the Opera becomes an event, a go-to destination, a bright fixture. You get the picture. Go, see James Barbour in the lead role opposite Ali Ewoldt as Christine Danae, and welcome the returns of Kaley Ann Voorhees as the Christine alternative, and Linda Balgord as Madame Giry in the new year.

Phantom has broken records before, of course, in January 26, 2013, it was the first show to celebrate 25 years on the stage. It became  the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006 with its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record-holder Cats, also by Andrew Lloyd Webber and also produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Since breaking the record 11 years ago, Phantom has played  more than 4,500 performances – which by itself would be a smash hit run for a Broadway musical.

To put this in perspective, sort of, note that Broadway’s second longest-running show, Chicago (in revival) has played for just 20 years. Phantom has had the curtain fall on 4,000 more shows than Chicago over the years. Even now, it is consistently among Broadway’s highest-grossing shows and remains a box office star. Phantom also plays to the world, and its productions around the globe have been enjoyed by a staggering 140 million people in 35 countries and 160 cities in 15 languages. As we said, its an event!


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After 11,000 performances, a musical drama could be forgiven if it began to show some wear.  In theater time, a run of more than 25 years is a very long lifetime.

The Company in “Masquerade” in a photo by Matthew Murphy. The Company in “Masquerade” in a photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Phantom of the Opera, in its 27th year on Broadway, at the Majestic Theatre, hasn’t aged, or rather it has aged well. This is not a show resting on its laurels. Or on its worldwide success in tours all over the US, in Stockholm or Budapest or Istanbul, among the many places it has found a home.

Despite the myriad other accomplishments of his career, Phantom may prove to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s crowning legacy. It was a breakout hit from its opening night at the Majestic in 1988, where it walked away with 7 Tony Awards, including for Best Musical, Design and Direction.

A scene from "The Phantom of the Opera," Jeremy Hays – Solo “Final Lair” in a photo by Joan Marcus. A scene from “The Phantom of the Opera,”…

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Posted in #pointofview, 11 Tony Award winning musical, activists, aspiration, award winning, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, DC politics, economics, famous, fictionalization_of_real_events, Hamilton, long running Broadway musical, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals and dramas, Pulitzer Prize winning musical, riff, Tony winner

A Safe Place…

Tickets to Hamilton may (probably not) be available this holiday season thanks to a non-controversy P-E Trump fracked up from a non-incident at the theater. (As it turns out, Trumpistas did not relinquish their tickets en masse, and the show is sold out in all the cities across America in which it is playing.)

When VP-E Mike Pence attended a performance recently, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon used the curtain call to petition his elected official on behalf of the other half of our country. P-E DJT took offense, and a sort of boycott was born.

For the record, VP-E MP said he was not offended: “And I nudged my kids and reminded them, that’s what freedom sounds like,” Pence said, according to news reports from CNN to the NY Daily News.

The play, which won 11 Tonys last year, has been a hot ticket since it started its Broadway transfer in the summer of 2015.

Hamilton is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s paean to America, in which the Founding Fathers (and some Mothers) are portrayed by a racially diverse cast, and issues of states’ rights and federalism are rapped.

As with everything emanating from this inclusive show, the Hamilton curtain call was a model of restraint.Witness what was said below:


Posted in theater, Tony Awards, Tony winner

TONY (W)rap

I was wrong
Hamilton came on strong

Not seven
But eleven

Statuettes for lighting,
Orchestrations, and fighting

Cast and Lin
All win

Hamilton‘s got a token
Record’s still unbroken

Hamilton– 16 nods, 11 wins– trails
The Producers– winning 12– prevails

Their twelve wins no one’s topped
Even with just 11, Ham can’t be stopped

Try and get a ticket to see it, now– no!
That’s okay, it’ll still be there when you do go

It’s an annual ritual at to have me flail around guessing who the winner will be on TONY’s big night. I am often wrong, and occassionally right. Congratulations, for instance, to Roundabout’s She Loves Me for a best for sets designed by David Rockwell.

But the business of TONY is a double-edged sword. The awards celebration attracts audiences– Hamilton, we might point out, did not need the boost– andthose not getting an award are dubbed TONY losers. Yes, I know, a TONY nominee is not a loser, but if you don’t win it…. well you know. It is in the musical category that productions are particularly vulnerable. (Plays are on their own time-table; very rarely would one last even 500 performances, although it may find a revival every few years.)

Not every musical is as resilient as Something Rotten! which chugs along with only the one lonely TONY winner, Christian Borle, in its cast. From this year’s crop, On Your Feet!, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical, has its own special appeal, and is selling tickets through next April.

American Psycho The Musical succumbed before awards night. The luminous Bright Star is closing before the July 4th holiday on June 26th; as CBS news confirms, it did not win the awards needed to keep the public’s interest. Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Broadway Sensation of 1921, and all that Followed is telling its story through October 9th at this point. We’ll see if it gets a second wind if and when Audra McDonald returns from her intermission from the show.

Since I mentioned plays, aka non-musical ones, earlier, it is good to remember that Eclipsed might have had a longer run had it gotten more love from TONY. The Father, which won a TONY for Frank Langella’s star turn, closed on schedule on father’s day.The Humans, this year’s best play will stay open at least through the end of the year at the Helen Hayes.

What can the TONYs do to help Broadway more? Should we all ease up a little on thinking of a TONY win as the pinnacle of a production’s success? In other, maybe TONY should matter less and the play be the thing…..

Posted in based on a book by Roald Dahl and a movie of the same name, Matilda, Matthew Warchus director, musical theater, Peter Darling, Roald Dahl, Tim Michin, Tony winner

"Matilda" Is Just "Right"

Sometimes coming late to the party isn’t so bad. While others were giddy (or jaded), you’re less likely to be swept away by the fresh and the new.

You feel a little out of it, but being apart (rather than “a part of”) can make for greater objectivity. Sure there are expectations… by now, you’ve heard a lot about the production, but with the lapsed time, you have a chance to see a bigger picture, and, of course, more clearly.

The opening scene of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda, The Musical” in a photo © Joan Marcus

The party in question is the children’s revolution known as “Roald Dahl’s Matilda, The Musical,” being held for a little over a year now at Broadway’s Schubert Theatre. The revelers are a cast of talented youngsters and their adult counterparts in short pants who rise up under the tyranny of a demented headmistress, Miss Trunchbull (Ben Thompson, at this moment.)

Their cause is led by Matilda (the talented Gabriella Pizzolo, one of four young leads) and supported by the sweetly ineffectual Miss Honey (the affecting Jill Paice.) At home, Matilda is bullied but not beaten or even bowed by ignorant and self-absorbed parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (the excellent Matt Harrington and superb Lesli Margherita.)

Philip Spaeth as Rudolpho, Jill Paice as Miss Honey and Lesli Margherita as Mrs. Wormwood.
Photo © Joan Marcus

Mr. Wormwood is a schemer who gives the used car sales profession a very bad name, He dotes on his doltish son, Michael (Taylor Trensch), and calls Matilda “boy,” while watching “Telly” with his son on his lap. Mrs. Wormwood dotes on her ballroom dance partner, Rudolpho (Phlip Spaeth) and nags Matilda for reading too much;  “looks, not books,” is her advice.

Much of the cast has rolled over since Bertie Carvel was nominated for a Best Actor Tony as the original Miss Trunchbull, but Lesli Margherita originated her part as Matilda’s loopy mother; her performance is delightfully flighty. Matt Harrington, as the current Mr. Wormwood, brings the vaudeville to “Matilda” with a lot of dash and swarmy charm; he is dispicably likeable. (His predecessor, Gabriel Ebert won the 2013 Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical.) The beguiling Karen Aldridge has returned as Matilda’s champion, the librarian, Mrs. Phelps, who is moved to shout outloud when Matilda tells her stories.

Jill Paice is Miss Honey. Photo
© Joan Marcus

The book, based on Roald Dahl’s children’s story, by Dennis Kelly won the 2013 Tony for Best Book of A Musical. Tim Minchin’s tunefull score and clever lyrics (he was a nominee but lost out to Cyndi Lauper’s “Kinky Boots”) add to the many pleasures of seeing “Matilda.” 

“Matilda” is an unexpected musical, with a little touch of “Naughty” and a lot of “Miracle.” 

The cast, under the direction of Matthew Warchus, and dance guidance of choreographer Peter Darling, deliver a rousing entertainment. The letter blocks that decorate the stage are just one of the inspired touches on the fine set design by Rob Howell (who is also responsible for the costumes.)

Come to the party, it really is not too late!

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