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Posts Tagged ‘musical’

Savion Glover Performance Interprets Story of Domestic Abuse Victim

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Savion Glover; photo courtesy the Star

Savion Glover; photo courtesy the Star

As creator of The Maria Project, a theatrical investigation into the 1931 murder of Maria Salazar by her husband, playwright Marcella Goheen took note when the National Domestic Violence Hotline experienced an 84 percent increase in calls after a video leaked in September of football player Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator.

But overall, Goheen told The Indy Star, she sees society in “cultural denial” about physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Yet in her quest to educate, Goheen has a high-profile ally in Savion Glover, who stars in Maria’s Voice, a musical offshoot of The Maria Project.

A national tour of Maria’s Voice launches today (October 10) at the Madame Walker Theatre Center, 617 Indiana Avenue, Indianapolis. Other stops include a public performance at The Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa, October 12, and a private VIP performance in San Francisco November 1.

Goheen said it’s important to have Glover’s male perspective in the show, which uses tap, song, and poetry to tell the story of Salazar, who was Goheen’s grandmother.

“I don’t choose to be a character vs. an overall voice through my instrumentation, which is a dance,” he said. “I’ll also lend my own interpretation of the vibe, speaking through all of the Marias of the world.”

Glover and Goheen previously collaborated on 2004 production If Trane Wuz Here and 2009’s Bleecker Thingz. “He speaks through his rhythm,” Goheen said. “His dance and his message have always been about light and truth, and finding your voice.”

To see the original story, visit http://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/arts/2014/10/08/savion-glover-walker-domestic-violence-maria-goheen-indianapolis/16916399/. For more information on The Maria Project’s theatrical production and awareness events, visit http://juliet-griego.squarespace.com/marias-voice-featuring-savion-glover/.

 

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Classic Musical-Theater Routines Come Alive Again at the Joyce Theater

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ADM21 presents Charles Askegard and Sarah Weber-Gallo in “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” choreographed by Hermes Pan; photo Christopher Duggan

ADM21 presents Charles Askegard and Sarah Weber-Gallo in “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” choreographed by Hermes Pan; photo Christopher Duggan

American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, an organization dedicated to the preservation of dance masterpieces from American musical-theater history, will give its first public performances November 11 to 16 at The Joyce Theater in New York City.

The event will feature eight performances of musical-theater dance numbers by Rob Ashford, Michael Bennett, Patricia Birch, Andy Blankenbuehler, Gower Champion, Jack Cole, Henry LeTang, Jerry Mitchell, Jerome Robbins, Susan Stroman, and others.

Each dance will be performed by a company of dancers and guest performers from the musical theater, ballet, and contemporary dance worlds, featuring live music.

ADM21 has worked with artists including Susan Stroman, Donna McKechnie, Robert La Fosse, Marge Champion, Nicole Fosse, and Kathryn Doby to reconstruct the original choreography of Michael Bennett’s “Music and the Mirror” from A Chorus Line, Jerome Robbins’ “Mr. Monotony” from Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Susan Stroman’s “Simply Irresistible” from Contact, Bob Fosse’s “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar” from Big Deal, and Bennett’s “Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises.

The organization is run by Nikki Feirt Atkins, founder and artistic producer, and Margo Sappington, artistic director. Visit www.adm21.org for more information.

 

 

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Story of Johnny and Baby Comes Complete with Familiar Soundtrack

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The cast of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage in rehearsal; photo by Franz Mahr/BYT

The cast of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage in rehearsal; photo by Franz Mahr/BYT

Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, making its American debut at the National Theatre in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, comes complete with a soundtrack of songs like “Do You Love Me” and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” but don’t call it a musical.

“It’s a play with music.” says Conrad Helfrich, music supervisor, told the Washington Post. “[The music] is always part of the action, rather than a comment on the action. A typical musical number is almost like a break. That doesn’t happen with us; there’s a story still going on.”

That story, about a rich girl named Baby and bad-boy dance instructor Johnny, takes place in 1963 at a resort in the Catskills. Instead of having Baby and Johnny serenade each other, the script leaves the singing to other cast members, who perform the songs while the action goes on around them.

Doug Carpenter, who sings many of the show’s songs, isn’t sure what to expect when fans of the movie show up, except for when the show gets to “The Time of My Life,” the song that signals the final, triumphant dance sequence that releases Baby from her corner. “I imagine it’s going to go crazy,” he says. “You have all those memories of the movie and the nostalgia, and they give you that rush when you hear that song. I know I’ve had that thrill.”

The show runs at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; Tuesday through September 14. Tickets are $48–$98. To see the original story, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2014/08/21/dirty-dancing-the-classic-story-on-stage-comes-to-national-theatre-but-its-not-a-musical-baby/.

 

 

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New Film Musical Remembers the Good Old Days of MGM Musicals

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Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Arthur Freed; photo courtesy Broadway World

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Arthur Freed;
photo courtesy Broadway World

A tap-dancing screenwriter and Mickey Rooney’s son are teaming up to produce an original film musical in the style and tradition of MGM’s legendary Freed Unit, named for movie musical producer Arthur Freed (Singin’ In The Rain, The Bandwagon, An American In Paris).

Dean Ward, writer for the late-night talk show Chelsea Lately, idolized Gene Kelly as a kid, took lessons from legendary hoofers Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, and Charles “Honi” Coles. After attending a tribute to Kelly at the Motion Picture Academy in 2012, Ward set out to write a passion project paying homage to his celluloid hero and other Freed Unit legends including Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and Frank Sinatra.

Choreographer Michael Rooney (The Muppets, (500) Days of Summer), son of Freed Unit icon Mickey Rooney, will handle the film’s numerous dance numbers. Rooney has worked in film, television, and choreographed music videos for artists and directors including Spike Jonze, Fiona Apple, and Bjork.

The film hopes to capture the look and feel of a Freed Unit musical by using classic film clips to propel the narrative, plus more than a dozen beloved song standards from classic musicals and the Great American Songbook.

Ward’s previous credits include the HBO documentary Let Me In, I Hear Laughter—A Salute To The Friars Club, which also celebrated classic entertainers and entertainment. To see the original story, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwmovies/article/Screenwriter-Dean-Ward-Partners-with-Choreographer-Michael-Rooney-on-Freed-Unit-Movie-Musical-20140724#.U9JhNM90yUk.

 

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SYTYCD Winner To Step Out “On The Town” In Broadway Revival of 1944 Musical

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On The Town; image courtesy Broadway World

On The Town; image courtesy Broadway World

The winner of Season 11 So You Think You Can Dance will be offered a role in the Broadway revival of On The Town, set to open this fall. The show’s winner would join the cast in the spring of 2015, reported Broadway World.

SYTYCD’s top 20 finalists will perform a dance to the musical’s iconic opening number, “New York, New York,” choreographed by On The Town choreographer Joshua Bergasse (Smash), on the July 9 broadcast.

On The Town, a musical-comedy love letter to New York City, premiered on Broadway in 1944 with choreography by Jerome Robbins, music by Leonard Bernstein, and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

The latest production, directed by John Rando (Urinetown), will begin previews September 20 and officially open October 16 at Broadway’s Lyric Theatre. The cast will be led by Tony Yazbeck (Gypsy, A Chorus Line), Jay Armstrong Johnson (The New York Philharmonic’s Sweeney Todd, Hands On A Hardbody, Hair), Clyde Alves (Bullets Over Broadway, Nice Work If You Can Get It), Megan Fairchild (New York City Ballet principal dancer), Alysha Umphress (American Idiot), and Elizabeth Stanley (Company).

To see the original story, visit http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/Broadways-ON-THE-TOWN-to-Offer-Role-to-Winner-of-FOXs-SYTYCD-Season-11-20140703#.U7VrR89OWUk.

 

 

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Two Winners Chosen From 60,000 High School–Aged Musical Theater ‘Geeks’

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Jimmy winners Jonah Rawitz and Jai’Len Josey; photo By Henry McGee/AP

Jimmy winners Jonah Rawitz and Jai’Len Josey; photo By Henry McGee/AP

A teenager from suburban Chicago who sang an aching Jason Robert Brown song and another from Georgia who chose to sing “Raise the Roof”—and almost did so—have won top honors at the National High School Musical Theater Awards, reported the Associated Press in KFVS 12 News.

Atlanta resident Jai’Len Josey was named best actress and Jonah Rawitz, from the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove, got the best-actor crown Monday night at the sixth annual Glee-like competition, nicknamed the Jimmy Awards after theater owner James Nederlander.

Each will receive a $10,000 scholarship award, capping a months-long winnowing process that began with 60,000 students from 1,500 schools and ended at the Minskoff Theatre, the long-term home of The Lion King, which doesn’t perform on Mondays.

The 56 teens who made it to New York this year—28 girls and 28 boys—got a five-day theatrical boot camp fueled by pizza at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, complete with scrambling to learn an opening and closing group number, performing their medley numbers, advice on their solo songs, plus a field trip to watch Kinky Boots.

Judges were Rachel Hoffman from casting company Telsey + Company, Tony-nominated producer Arielle Tepper Madover, casting specialist Tara Rubin, Nick Scandalios from the Nederlander Organization, choreographer Sergio Trujillo, and NYU’s Kent Gash. Composer Stephen Schwartz offered pointers to the teens on Friday.

For more information on the organization, visit http://www.nhsmta.com. To read the full story, visit http://www.kfvs12.com/story/25910690/glee-type-music-contest-crowns-winners-in-nyc.

 

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Newsies to Close in August

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Newsies; photo by T. Charles Erickson/Disney Theatrical Productions, courtesy AP

Newsies; photo by T. Charles Erickson/Disney Theatrical Productions, courtesy AP

The New York Times ArtsBeat blog reports that the hit Broadway musical Newsies will close on August 24 after two-and-a-half years of performances, Disney Theatrical Productions announced on Sunday.

Newsies, based on a 1992 movie that was a box-office flop for the company, was originally developed to be licensed for regional, amateur, and school productions, much like Disney’s stage adaptation of its High School Musical movies. But after Newsies opened to critical acclaim in a try-out production at Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011, Disney decided to undertake a Broadway transfer—though initially put it on sale for just three months. The musical quickly developed a following, however; more than a million people have seen the show on Broadway, and the $5 million production has grossed more than $100 million so far.

The show won Tony Awards in 2012 for best score and choreography.

To see the full story, visit http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/22/newsies-to-close-aug-24/?_php=true&_type=blogs&module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%5B%22RI%3A9%22%2C%22RI%3A12%22%5D&_r=0.

 

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Backdrop Company Grosh Supports High School Musical Theater Students

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Grosh Backdrops & Drapery is sponsoring the third annual Jerry Herman High School

Grosh Backdrops & Drapery is sponsoring the third annual Jerry Herman High School

Musical Theatre Awards of Los Angeles, to be held at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre on June 1 in front of a custom backdrop painted by Grosh especially for the event.

The Jerry Herman Awards are part of the National High School Musical Theater Awards program—known as “the Jimmys”—that celebrates and recognizes high school students’ individual artistry in vocal, dance, and acting performance. The program also honors teachers and their schools’ commitment to excellence in performing-arts education. The Jimmy Awards will be held June 30 at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City.

Students representing 37 high schools will compete to win best leading actor and actress awards. Winners will receive $1,000, plus an all-expenses paid trip to New York where they will receive five days of private coaching, master classes, and rehearsals with theater professionals, as they prepare to compete for the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

The Hollywood event marks the second year Grosh has sponsored the Jerry Herman Awards with a $2,500 donation. “We’re committed to emerging performers, and thrilled to help highlight the talent of Los Angeles–area students,” said Rick Kiel, Grosh Backdrops & Drapery general manager.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/JerryHermanAwards.

 

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Grosh Backdrops Lends Support to High School Musical-Theater Performers, Productions

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Illinois High School Music Theater Awards; photo courtesy Facebook

Illinois High School Music Theater Awards;
photo courtesy Facebook

Hollywood-based Grosh Backdrops and Drapery is helping to usher in the next generation of theater actors by sponsoring Broadway In Chicago’s second annual Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards, April 25.

The IHSMTA are the Illinois chapter of the National High School Musical Theater Awards, which recognizes outstanding student achievement in high school musical theater. Twenty-four high school actors and actresses will receive tickets to a Broadway in Chicago Show, perform on stage at the Broadway Playhouse, and compete in front of Chicago casting agents and theater professionals for top honors. One Illinois actor and actress will then represent the state at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City this summer.

“We’re thrilled to help highlight the talent of Illinois students,” said Rick Kiel, Grosh Backdrops and Drapery general manager. New this year, a participating school will be acknowledged for achievement in outstanding scenic design with the Grosh Scenic Design Award. Grosh will provide the award-winning high school with one or more backdrops for the upcoming year’s musical productions.

On April 17, Grosh will sponsor the Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards, and in June, The Jerry Herman Awards honoring high school musical theater in Los Angeles.

Founded in 1932 by R.L. Grosh, the company provides backdrop rentals, custom backdrops, and stage curtains for theaters and performances all over the United States. For more information, visit www.Grosh.com or www.groshcustom.com.

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Ryan Gosling Attached to Film Biopic of Choreographic Legend Busby Berkeley

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Ryan Gosling; photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

Ryan Gosling; photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

Warner Bros. Pictures is giving Busby Berkeley the biopic treatment, with Ryan Gosling circling to play the famous director and choreographer of musicals from Hollywood’s golden age, announced the Hollywood Reporter.

The studio has optioned Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak for an adaptation to be produced by Marc Platt and Gosling. The two previously worked together on the indie crime movie Drive. The plan is to develop the project as an acting vehicle for Gosling, who also may direct.

Choreographer and film director Busby Berkeley became famous for his elaborate dance routines in Hollywood musicals like 1933’s 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933, two of the many movies he choreographed for Warner’s. He was especially famous for his overhead shots in which chorus girls created shifting kaleidoscopic patterns, and he earned three Oscar nominations for best dance direction, a category that no longer exists.

Platt knows a thing or two about musicals. He produced Broadway’s box-office–shattering Wicked and is working on Disney’s adaptation of the Broadway musical Into the Woods, due out in December. He also produced Legally Blonde, which was turned into a Broadway musical.

To see the original story, visit http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ryan-gosling-produce-possibly-star-689801.

 

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Injured Spider-Man Performer Files Negligence Suit against Broadway Show

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Daniel Curry; photo by Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Daniel Curry; photo by Michael Nagle for The New York Times

It was a stunt that Daniel Curry had performed many times before in the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: plant himself firmly on a hydraulic lift in the pit beneath the stage, then remain steady as he rose a dozen feet to emerge for the start of Act II.

But on the night of August 15, something went wrong. Curry, 23, giving an interview to The New York Times this week, said he felt the lift moving as usual as the Spider-Man score swelled. He couldn’t see, though that was normal, too, because he wore a blindfold, and the stage was dark. Then, in a split second, something solid pressed down against his right foot, then crushed it. His foot had become trapped between the lift and the stage.

In multiple operations, surgeons removed about three-quarters of the foot and replaced a portion of it with other tissue, according to Elias Fillas, a lawyer for Curry. Three areas of his foot and leg were shattered, requiring pins and plates. Curry, now strapped into an orthopedic boot, will be using crutches for the foreseeable future.

As for what caused the accident, Curry has accused the show’s producers, engineering consultants, and others of negligence in the design and operation of the lift. The suit, filed in January, seeks several million dollars for medical bills and personal suffering.

Curry said the accident has dimmed a dream that began when he was 6. Growing up in Minnesota as an only child, he began tap dancing around the house to amuse himself. His passion was so great that his mother Diana moved them to New York so he could attend Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. After graduation, he joined a Michael Jackson tribute tour and danced in some music videos before his agent sent him to audition for Spider-Man in the fall of 2010.

Asked if he thought he would ever dance again, Curry took a long pause. “I don’t know,” he whispered. “No. No.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/theater/injured-spider-man-dancer-discusses-his-lawsuit.html?rref=arts&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Arts&pgtype=article.

 

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Latest Attempt to Bring Gigi to the Stage Set to Debut in Washington DC in 2015

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Gigi, the 1958 movie, starred Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, and Maurice Chevalier; file photo

Gigi, the 1958 movie, starred Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, and Maurice Chevalier; file photo

The producers of a newly announced revival of Gigi—a stage musical adapted from the Academy Award–winning movie—are hoping that Washington, DC, audiences remember it well.

The Washington Post reported that the launch of this latest version of the musical, which ran briefly on Broadway in the early 1970s, is to occur in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater in January 2015.

Eric Schaeffer, Signature Theatre’s artistic director, has been recruited to direct the production, which features a score by the My Fair Lady team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe and includes such hummable standards as “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” and “The Night They Invented Champagne.” The musical’s book is being rewritten by British dramatist Heidi Thomas, whose résumé includes the screenplay of the BBC’s Cranford.

The project’s lead producer, Jenna Segal, a former executive at MTV and Nickelodeon, said in a statement that the revival will make its debut in Washington before moving to Broadway, although a path to New York remains in the early planning stages and probably will depend partly on the production’s DC reception.

Lerner and Loewe wrote Gigi as a 1958 movie that starred Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, and Louis Jourdan, and won nine Academy Awards. (It was adapted from the play by Anita Loos, based on a novella by Colette.) In 1973, the film was turned into a stage musical, to disappointing results. It closed on Broadway after only 103 performances.

To see the full story, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/new-gigi-musical-to-be-unveiled-in-dc/2013/11/06/fb88fa1e-46aa-11e3-95a9-3f15b5618ba8_story.html?tid=gog_ent_article_grid.

 

 

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NYCB’s Tiler Peck Wins Lead Role in New Musical about Degas’ Little Dancer

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Tiler Peck; photo by Paul Kolnik/courtesy NYCB

Tiler Peck; photo by Paul Kolnik/courtesy NYCB

Tiler Peck, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet since 2009, will play the title role in Little Dancer, the musical inspired by a famous Edgar Degas subject that will have its world premiere at the Kennedy Center a year from October, according to the Washington Post.

The musical, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, songwriters of Ragtime, Once on This Island, and Seussical, is one of the few such original ventures in the Kennedy Center’s history. The center also announced last week that the production, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (The Producers), will feature Broadway veterans Boyd Gaines as Degas and Rebecca Luker as an older version of the character Peck will portray.

That would be Marie von Goethem, the 14-year-old student of the Paris Opera Ballet who posed in the early 1880s for Degas’s yellow wax sculpture “Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen.” The celebrated work is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

It was Stroman, a sometime choreographer for the New York City Ballet, who invited Peck to participate in a workshop of Little Dancer last year after Peck expressed interest. “I’ve always kept up my singing and acting lessons,” said Peck, who as a child appeared in commercials and movies. As an 11-year-old, Peck appeared as Mayor Shinn’s youngest daughter, Gracie, in the revival of The Music Man that ran on Broadway in 2000–01. “I was the one who came out and sang the first line, ‘Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’, ’ ” she said with a giggle.

To see the full story, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/tiler-peck-new-york-city-ballet-dancer-wins-title-role-in-little-dancer-at-kennedy-center/2013/09/05/885542e2-1634-11e3-961c-f22d3aaf19ab_story.html.

 

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UK Radio Listeners Deem Les Miserables Favorite Musical

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Les Miserables; photo by Reuters

Les Miserables; photo by Reuters

And the winner is . . . Les Miserables, apparently. The UK-based The Guardian reported that JemmThree.com, a radio station “24/7 devoted to show tunes,” asked listeners to vote for their favorite musical ever, and Boublil and Schönberg’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel was voted their favorite. Here’s the full top 20:

1 Les Miserables
2 Wicked
3 The Phantom of the Opera
4 Sweeney Todd
5 Rent
6 A Chorus Line
7 Into the Woods
8 West Side Story
9 Ghost
10 The Sound of Music
11 Spring Awakening
12 Chess
13 Book of Mormon
14 Ragtime
15 Next to Normal
16 Jesus Christ Superstar
17 Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
18 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
19 Billy Elliot
20 Starlight Express

To see a list of the top 100, visit http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2013/aug/28/whats-the-best-musical-of-all-time

 

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TV’s Dule Hill Returns to Broadway in Musical Celebrating Duke Ellington

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Dule Hill; photo by Charles Sykes, Associated Press file photo

Dule Hill; photo by Charles Sykes, Associated Press file photo

Dule Hill will be tapping into his dancing roots when he joins Broadway’s After Midnight, a musical celebrating Duke Ellington’s years at the famous Cotton Club nightclub in Harlem, reports the Washington Post.

Producers said the actor and trained tap dancer best known for starring in USA’s hit detective series Psych will play the host of the show. Hill joins the already announced Grammy Award- and American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino in the lively show that will feature 17 musicians and 25 vocalists and dancers. The music and dancing will be augmented by Langston Hughes’ poetry.

Performances start October 18 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City, with an official opening night set for November 3.

Hill was last on Broadway as Spoon, a lawyer-turned-budding novelist, in Lydia R. Diamond’s thoughtful family drama Stick Fly in 2011. Emmy Award–nominated for his work as Charlie Young on The West Wing, Hill first came to prominence as The Kid opposite Savion Glover and Jeffrey Wright in Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk. Born and raised in New Jersey, Hill began attending dance school when he was 3 and received his first break years later as the understudy to Glover in The Tap Dance Kid on Broadway.

For more information, visit http://www.aftermidnightbroadway.com.

To see the original story, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/psych-star-dule-hill-eyes-return-to-broadway-in-duke-ellington-musical-after-midnight/2013/07/24/14de432c-f49c-11e2-81fa-8e83b3864c36_story.html.

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High School Musical Performers Duke it Out for Top Honors at the Jimmy’s

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The Jimmy’s; photo by Walter McBride

The Jimmy’s; photo by Walter McBride

One brought leading-man grace. One brought a little raunch. Together they left New York with the top National High School Musical Theater Awards, reported NPR News.

Sarah Lynn Marion, from Fullerton, California, was named best actress and Taylor Varga from Newtown, Connecticut, won the best actor crown at the fifth annual Glee-like competition for musical teenagers, nicknamed the Jimmy Awards after theater owner James Nederlander.

Both top winners receive a $10,000 scholarship award, capping a months-long winnowing process that began with 50,000 students from 1,000 schools and ended July 1 at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City. This year’s contestants came from 20 states.

Marion, a senior at Huntington Beach High School for the Performing Arts, had sung a segment from Hello, Dolly! earlier in the night and then absolutely nailed the 110 in the Shade song “Raunchy.” Varga, who attends Newtown High School, was one of two J. Pierrepont Finches from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and delivered a touching “Santa Fe” from Newsies for his solo.

The 62 teens who made it to New York—31 girls and 31 boys—got a five-day theatrical boot camp at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, complete with scrambling to learn an opening and closing group number and intense advice on their solo songs.

To see the original story, visit http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=197825962.

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Broadway Choreographers Flip Out Over Actors with Gymnastics Skill Sets

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Broadway’s Bring It On: The Musical; photo by Joan Marcus

Broadway’s Bring It On: The Musical; photo by Joan Marcus

With Bring It On: The Musical snagging a Tony nomination for best musical and Pippin leading the revival parade with 10 nominations and four wins, flash—particularly in choreography—has caused the tap shoes of yesteryear’s chorines to yield to today’s barefooted gymnasts, reports Backstage.

“Instead of being a triple threat nowadays, you have to be a quadruple threat,” said Trevor Sones, a 24-year-old actor who spends his days auditioning for regional theaters, national tours, and Broadway musicals. “You have to be able to do all the styles of dance and do tumbling on top of that to book the gigs.”

From the leaping paperboys of Newsies to the trained circus performers of Pippin, Broadway musicals today require young performers to add acrobatics to their repertoire. “Every audition that I’ve been to thus far has asked every male dancer if they can do tumbling or tricks,” Sones said. It seems that those without gymnastics skills are left at a disadvantage.

Is tumbling the lasting device to push these creative boundaries, or is all this flipping and flying just a fad? Many in the business believe that the gymnastic trend is cyclical but on a hot streak right now. “Especially in the musical theater realm, it’s kind of becoming a necessary skill,” he said. “I would advise anybody to go and get a basic acrobatic skill set if they’re planning on being a dancer,” said Newsies’ Tommy Martinez.

Despite the time and training needed to master proper technique, none of the top musical theater programs in the nation specifically advertises a course that teaches this craft. But, said Ralph Zito, chair of the drama department at Syracuse University, “I think a training program’s first responsibility is to teach students those fundamental storytelling skills, what is always going to last, and then to begin to attend to the skills of the moment.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.backstage.com/news/secret-landing-broadway-chorus-gig/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+backstage%2FNews-Features+%28Backstage+-+News%26Features%29

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New Dance Studio, Musical Theater Major, On Tap at Florida Southern College

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Florida Southern College’s Wynee Warden Dance Studio; artist’s rendering courtesy of Florida Southern College

Florida Southern College’s Wynee Warden Dance Studio; artist’s rendering courtesy of Florida Southern College

Florida Southern College in Lakeland students will be able to study dance and learn choreography as part of a new musical theater major in a brand new dance building now under construction.

The Ledger reported that groundbreaking ceremonies were held this week for the Wynee Warden Dance Studio, named for Winifred “Wynee” Warden of Orlando, a major benefactor of the private college. The construction of the building is part of the school’s Fine Arts Department expansion, and will be completed in spring of 2014.

Anne Kerr, president of the school, said she was inspired to start a dance program after talking with students. “Every year I host a series of dinner conversations with groups of students,” she said. “For years, students have requested more dance classes, especially ballet and, believe it or not, ballroom dancing.

“While we will emphasize a classical ballet program, we will also offer noncredit classes in ballroom dancing. I am excited to add this important dimension to our performing arts curriculum. It also helps us with our new musical theater major [launching this fall], which of course, requires dance. There will also be dance classes tailored to fit the various dance requirements of our productions.”

The new, 4,700-square-foot studio building will be constructed at the southwest corner of Johnson Avenue and Park Street. The college will tear down an older home previously used for office space to make way for the building.

To see the full story, visit http://www.theledger.com/article/20130506/NEWS/305065040/1134?Title=Florida-Southern-College-to-Build-New-Dance-Studio.

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Great Dance Moments Distinctly Missing in 2012-2013 Broadway Musicals

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Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella; photo by Carol Rosegg

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella; photo by Carol Rosegg

The 2012-2013 crop of musicals illustrates a disappointing trend on Broadway: dance is consistently undermined.

Pia Catton writes in The Wall Street Journal that she’s not taking issue with this season’s choreographers or what they’ve created. There are plenty of solid numbers that do what musical theater dance is supposed to: express the story or characters’ emotions in movement. The issue is about prominence. So often this season, even when dancers are given meaty choreography or classic moments, they are upstaged, drowned out, or stunted.

The covert dance show of the season is Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Choreographer Josh Rhodes said the script originally used dance only at the palace ball, but director Mark Brokaw and writer Douglas Carter Beane asked him look for danceable moments. “They were willing to support dance as a way of telling a story,” said Rhodes. “Not every production team wants that.”

So: why not? Rhodes believes it’s an unintended consequence of how musicals are made now. When producers think a show has potential, they hire actors to read the parts. “You have to do nothing but readings forever. It’s hard to craft a show based on dance.”

Plus, an ensemble of dancers can add to the cost and the running time of a show. Rhodes cited the classic number by Bob Fosse, “Rich Man’s Frug,” from Sweet Charity. “It’s a giant number with three huge sections,” Rhodes said. “None of it would be kept [today]. A producer would say, ‘You’re going to spend 11 minutes making fun of snobby people?’ ”

Even in an era marked by a lack of growth for dance, there is no shortage of dancers heading toward the field. Teachers and administrators say that demand for musical-theater training has risen steadily in the last 10 to 15 years; applications to college programs are increasing, and dance schools have seen musical-theater workshops overtake traditional jazz classes in popularity.

To read the full story, visit http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323346304578423031384933030.html.

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Pittsburgh Gets That Flashdance Feeling as Stage Adaptation Nears Opening

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Emily Padgett; photo by Larry Rippel

The City of Pittsburgh has designated January 1, 2013, as “Flashdance Day” in honor of the 1983 hit film and the new musical adaptation heading for Broadway.

With performances on Broadway set to begin in August 2013, Flashdance—The Musical will launch a separate national touring company in January 2013 at the Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, the steel town that serves as the musical’s setting, and will continue to play more than 25 markets in North America.

Flashdance—The Musical, to be directed and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Memphis), will feature Broadway stars Emily Padgett as “Alex,” Matthew Hydzik “Nick,” and Rachelle Rak in the role of “Tess.”

Following the film plot, Flashdance—The Musical tells the story of Alex Owens, a Pittsburgh steel mill welder by day and a bar dancer by night with dreams of one day becoming a professional performer. When romance with her steel mill boss threatens to complicate her ambitions, Alex learns the meaning of love and its power to fuel the pursuit of her dream.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the original Paramount Pictures film was a worldwide smash hit that became a pop culture phenomenon, grossing more than $150 million and featuring a Grammy Award-winning soundtrack. Flashdance—The Musical features a score including the hit songs from the movie, all of which were Top 10 radio hits, including the Academy Award-winning title song “Flashdance—What a Feeling” along with “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “Manhunt,” “I Love Rock & Roll.” In addition, 16 new songs have been written for the stage with music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth.

For more information, visit www.flashdancethemusical.com or www.facebook.com/flashdancemusical.

To read the full story, visit http://broadwayworld.com/article/Photo-Flash-FLASHDANCE-Tour-Launches-in-Pittsburgh-20121112

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Low-Tech Musical ‘Once’ Leads Tony Award Nominations with 11

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The low-tech musical Oncebased on the love story of a Czech flower seller and an Irish street musician and vacuum cleaner repairman in Dublin got a leading 11 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, reported the Associated Press.

Aaron J. Albano and Jess LeProtto in Newsies. (Photo courtesy Broadway.com)

Two other musicals—The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Nice Work If You Can Get It— each got 10 nominations as the Tony committee spread the wealth. Peter and the Starcatcher, about the origins of Peter Pan, earned nine nominations, and the revival of Follies and the new Disney musical Newsies got eight nods each.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS from New York City’s Beacon Theatre on June 10. Neil Patrick Harris, the star of TV’s How I Met Your Mother, will be the host.

The list of nominees includes:

  • Best Musical: Leap of Faith, Newsies, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Once
  • Best Choreography: Rob Ashford (Evita), Christopher Gattelli (Newsies), Steve Hoggett (Once), Kathleen Marshall (Nice Work If You Can Get It)
  • Best Book of a Musical: Lysistrata Jones (Douglas Carter Beane), Newsies (Harvey Fierstein), Nice Work If You Can Get It (Joe DiPietro), Once (Edna Walsh)
  • Best Original Score: Bonnie & Clyde (music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black), Newsies (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman), One Man, Two Guvnors (music and lyrics by Grant Olding), Peter and the Starcatcher (music by Wayne Barker, lyrics by Rick Elice)
  • Best Revival of a Musical: Evita, Follies, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Best Performance by Actor in Leading Role in a Musical: Danny Burstein (Follies), Jeremy Jordan (Newsies), Steve Kazee (Once), Norm Lewis (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), Ron Raines (Follies)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Jan Maxwell (Follies), Audra McDonald (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), Cristin Milloti (Once), Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It), Laura Osnes (Bonnie & Clyde)
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Phillip Boykin (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), Michael Cerveris (Evita), David Alan Grier (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), Michael McGrath (Nice Work If You Can Get It), Josh Young (Jesus Christ Superstar)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Elizabeth A. Davis (Once), Jayne Houdyshell (Follies), Judy Kaye (Nice Work If You Can Get It), Jessie Mueller (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Ghost The Musical)
  • Best Direction of a Musical: Jeff Calhoun (Newsies), Kathleen Marshall (Nice Work If You Can Get It), Diane Paulus (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess), John Tiffany (Once)

To see the full list, visit http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/nominees/index.html.

Got news? Email Karen@rheegold.com and include your name, email and phone. We like accompanying photos too with photographer’s credit and photo description. 

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No, Your Other Left Foot

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How to choreograph school musicals with dance-challenged kids

By Larry Sousa
Character-driven upper-body movements draw the audience away from the feet to the faces of Alex Norton (Mark) and Katie Writer (Joanne). (Photo by George Lucozzi/ASA Photographic)

Character-driven upper-body movements draw the audience away from the feet to the faces of Alex Norton (Mark) and Katie Writer (Joanne). (Photo by George Lucozzi/ASA Photographic)

“I can’t dance.”

I get that disclaimer all the time, from nervous actors and singers trying their best to discourage me from putting them into dance sequences. It is, itself, a little dance. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t work on me. They’ll be dancing soon.

I direct and choreograph musicals of all kinds, on every level from professional to college to high school, and even children’s theater. When I’m working with students, I usually end up with very few (if any) trained dancers in the cast. Nevertheless, I’m determined to stage professional-quality production numbers, somehow. To me (a colossal musical-theater geek), it’s All Broadway, All the Time.

As a dance teacher, you know that most of your students would eagerly perform a 20-minute contemporary solo to a packed house but are scared to death of singing a note in public. It goes both ways: The theater is full of actors and singers who’d rather pull out their own toenails than dance. If you’ve been hired to choreograph a school musical, I bet you’ve already learned that—the hard way. Gone is your studio full of fearless, trained dancers who can read your mind. Now you have a stage full of actors sweating before the rehearsal even starts.

And you may get that in even the most ideal environment. One of my favorite places to work is at Westford Academy in Westford, Massachusetts, where I directed and choreographed the musical Rent in May 2008. The drama students there are talented and well-trained actor/singers. Yet most have no experience with dance, and their fears indeed bubble up. “Dancing makes me extremely nervous because I am not naturally graceful or, frankly, all that coordinated,” says Alex Norton, who played Mark in Rent. “I have no formal dance training.”

But what Alex and his cast-mates do have is a willingness to set aside their fears and try anything. That attitude is crucial to the success of the choreography, and it’s not automatic—it takes work to cultivate. As the choreographer, it’s you who has to create it. If you do, you’ll have a better chance to make better dances. Here are some approaches that help my performers and me get there. Hopefully they can inspire you too.

Forget what you know
Somebody decided that you should stage the local musical because you have years of experience as a dance educator. Huzzah! Now, throw most of that experience out. You are not setting choreography on trained dancers (for the most part). You’re not even there to teach technique (though if that occurs, kudos). You are there to create stories that will entertain the audience and help the musical make sense.

Dance scares actors. You need to make them feel comfortable with it. So don’t alienate them by spouting off coupé jeté en tournant and battement sur le cou-de-pied, or your cast might chaîné right out the door. Choose your words carefully. Of course, the issue is bigger than words.

Focus on character
A chorus stands frozen and sings. Then a line of dancers comes out and does some moves. And then you have actors seemingly caught in their own world, trying to shove the story forward with little help. The three groups seem to have no connection with each other. The result: The audience is confused and the story has come to a grinding halt. Sound familiar?

Yep, that’s your average school musical. But a big discussion about character can fix all of that. Be sure the entire cast knows that they’re all in one big sandbox. Avoid compartmentalizing the performers as actors, singers, or dancers. When they’re all “character performers,” everyone is essential to the story.

You need them to come together as one, and you need energetic movement from all of them. So create basic-but-unique steps that aren’t likely to show up in your normal technique class—also known as “character movement.”

“Character” is a magic word. It is often the key that unlocks a world of movement for the non-dancer. “I feel confident pulling off a dance-heavy role once I’ve gained a command of the character I’m playing,” says Kim Sollows, who played Mimi in Rent. “I have no dance training, but there are people who’ve told me they don’t believe that. Ha!”

Create vivid movements to draw the eye away from the feet. Your actors might not have a lot of experience with dance, but they can certainly pose and gesture.

Keep in mind that you, like the director and the authors, are an important member of the storytelling team. So once you’ve begun the conversation about character, don’t stop; your performers need constant reminders of who they are and what motivates them. You’ll find that many of them will agree with Katie Wright (Joanne in Rent), who says, “As I continue to develop my character work, the dancing becomes more and more natural. Gaining ownership of my character’s personality helps me figure out how and why she would dance.”

Breaking free with new inspirations
If you’re finding it hard to break out of your usual dance vocabulary, break out the DVDs. Movie musicals are a great source of inspiration because they’re filled with interesting characters doing interesting things—and much of the movement is simple, technically speaking. That’s the key.

In particular, study social dance, like in Hairspray and Footloose. Lots of the choreography is fairly pedestrian (in a good way), based on the kinds of moves you’d see on a dance floor, not a dance class. That’s good for the untrained dancer.

But pick your inspiration carefully. We are all easily intoxicated by the dancing in West Side Story and A Chorus Line, but most of it is based on advanced ballet and jazz technique. That’s what you’re trying to get away from, because your cast doesn’t possess that level of experience.

Forget the feet
If your choreography isn’t working, maybe it’s the feet’s fault. Many dance numbers in school musicals flop due to overly ambitious footwork. It’s probably fair to say that untrained dancers struggle the most with controlling their feet. So why would you give the hardest task to those who are least equipped to execute it? A big part of the job is to feature your performers’ strengths and hide their weaknesses.

Intricate footwork tends to send actors into a panic. “It’s nerve-wracking. It takes me much longer to learn those steps than people who’ve had dance training,” says John Manning (Benny in Rent). “That makes me regret not taking dance when I was younger.”

In my experience, musical-theater audiences don’t generally spend lots of time looking at feet. So given the circumstances, creating two hours’ worth of complicated footwork is time not-so-well spent. It’s a musical—the audience is looking for story, which is found most often in faces and upper bodies.

So with that in mind, create vivid, character-driven upper-body and arm movements to draw the eye away from the feet. Your actors might not have a lot of experience with dance, but they can certainly pose and gesture. Lots of good choreography can happen with the upper body. And you don’t have to do it all yourself.

Ask for input
Like most of the school musicals I stage, Rent had one choreographer and about 50 assistants—the performers, who always have great ideas. They love taking a bit of direction and developing it into something bigger and more wonderful than I could think of. With their contributions, we always end up with a show that overflows with interesting layers and details.

Dig for sections in your production numbers that don’t require strict unison movement. Then give your actors some room to create and some clear, story-based direction (as opposed to choreography). If you edit their contributions well, they’ll make you look pretty darn clever.

Freezing up
Every once in a while, I find myself standing in front of my cast with a blank page and no steps in my head. Not one. It’s a scary moment. All I want to do is panic and begin teaching choreography from my last jazz class. Big mistake.

Remember the golden rule: Musicals are about storytelling; the story and lyrics can always get you out of jams. Go back to the text. You’ll be much more likely to avoid arbitrary dancing that has nothing to do with the drama at hand.

Also, this is a good time to remember that you’re in a room full of eager assistants who have all read the script (and might know it even better than you do).

Say yes to clumps
For some mysterious reason, a clump equals instant choreography. Clumps can be very flattering to non-dancers, so look for opportunities to organize your performers into groups onstage. Add levels, shapes, and unique movements that match and don’t match.

You can travel a clump tightly in lockstep, let it explode all over the stage, then make it come back together again. You can rotate it, freeze it, and reveal a hidden actor from within it. You’re only limited by your imagination. Hey, clumps worked for Fosse—they can work for you too.

Limit the lectures
Sometimes it’s best to shut your trap. I was reminded of that the hard way during rehearsals for Rent. In “La Vie Boheme,” the Act 1 finale, I had the cast doing a kind of stylized march: legs and arms bent to an extreme with loud stepping to the beat (basically walking, but cooler). Everyone got it on the first try. Bliss.

But then I got the dreaded question that always comes when the choreography is based on walking: “Which arm goes with which foot?” I should have kept my mouth shut. Instead I launched into a speech about opposition arms. Oops. About half of the performers went into panic/fix-it mode, and who could blame them? From then on, I had lots of same-arm/same-leg marching, which is always very hard to undo. So when you talk, remember who’s listening.

Boost their confidence
One of your biggest goals is to make all the performers understand that they can indeed dance and deserve to be doing so. With that in mind, avoid constantly singling out your only two advanced dancers with comments like “I want it just like that!” You could inadvertently alienate them while intimidating everyone else. And just like that, everyone is scared again.

Whenever it’s appropriate, find the person who’d never expect to be complimented on his dancing—the kid who has probably never been singled out as an example of what’s right—and say “I want it just like that.” I bet you’ll raise the confidence level, and the spirits, of your entire company.

Razzle-dazzle ’em
If there’s a moment in your show that can support a kick line, do it! It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, technical mishaps tend to be forgiven and forgotten instantly. And a simple kick is one of the easiest things to make happen.

Of course you should strive for good technique and precision, but forgive yourself when some of those basketball players in your cast have floppy feet. Hey, you got them up there doing a kick line!

What non-dancers may lack in dance technique and training, they more than make up for in enthusiasm, personality, and creativity. Invite them into your process, let them thrive, and don’t forget to have fun along the way. After all, it’s called a “play” for a reason.

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