June 30, 2010

Waiting In The Wings

Although this article was published a while back, it's an interesting read. NPR did a piece about Broadway understudies, the unnoticed gems of most shows. It features incredible dancer, Megan Sikora (who plays Miss Polanski and understudies Kristin Chenoweth's character Fran and Katie Finneran's Marge McDougal from Promises, Promises), Chris Hoch (who understudies Kelsey Grammar and Douglas Hodge in La Cage Aux Folles) and Stephen Rowe (who understudies Alfred Molina in Red). See their take on their role. It's very interesting! Read it here.

Related to that is this discussion from the American Theatre Wing episode about Understudies. Guests include Tony Carlin (Lend Me A Tenor), Bryan Fenkart (Memphis), Corinne Melançon (Mamma Mia), Jay Russell (Our Town) and Paul A. Schaefer (The Phantom of the Opera). They discuss their preparation for their role as well as the difference between an understudy, standby and a swing. The watch the video click here.

(photo from NPR.org)
June 28, 2010

Bureau of Corrections Grand Orchestra and Chorale

In the spirit of Cebu's Dancing Inmates, here are Filipino prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison making music. The 100-man-strong orchestra plays Filipino love songs and Broadway show tunes. They do say music soothes the savage beast. They bring new meaning to the phrase, a captive audience.

June 27, 2010

Next Fall

In honor of Gay Pride Weekend: This is Patrick Heusinger, who plays Luke in Geoffrey Nauffts' Tony-nominated play Next Fall. Luke is a devout gay Christian who is in a long-term, loving albeit contentious, relationship with Adam (Patrick Breen), a hypochondriac atheist. As if that wasn't enough of a problem, Luke hasn't come out to his divorced parents: an ultraconservative and masculine father, the appropriately named Butch (Cotter Smith) and a quirky mother Arlene (Connie Ray). Things get even more complicated after Luke gets into an accident, with his loved ones converging at the hospital and forced to confront each other.
Sean Dugan plays Luke's former friend Brandon, also a staunch Christian who is against the relationship. Thank goodness Adam's quick-witted friend/boss/co-worker/self-proclaimed fag hag Holly (Maddie Corman) is around for support. A delicate power play ensues as Luke's parents dance around Adam as they struggle with difficult decisions regarding their son's care and final wishes.
The play is clever in the use of humor to tackle issues like religion, hypocrisy, rights of a gay partner (or the lack thereof), death and dying. It is also a very touching story about love, family and friendships that would make for good, thought-provoking conversation after you watch it.
Speaking as a straight, Catholic female, I loved this play. I would love to hear reactions from gay men (or women), especially stolid Christians. I bet people's reactions are just as polarizing as the play's themes. It just made me angry that gay people still don't have the same rights as heterosexuals. How would it hurt us to grant equality to same sex couples?
On a sidenote: Does anybody know if these are the actual footprints of Helen Hayes?
The play is produced by Elton John and his civil partner David Furnish. It is directed by Sheryl Kaller, who also received a Tony nomination.
Patrick H. sitting outside the theatre. This was about an hour before curtain, when I picked up my ticket. Seth Rudetsky is right: the best time for celebrity sightings for autograph/photo hounds is before showtime.
From L to R: Connie Ray, Sean, Cotter Smith, Patrick H., Maddie Corman, and Patrick B. The sensitive and intelligent performances are outstanding. The witty dialogue never feels artificial or forced.
The play will be closing 04 July. Get your tickets now!

Listen To The Beat

Listen to the beat....listen to the beat.....yes, those words have been drumming in my head since I saw Memphis the Musical last Sunday. It's the hook from the song Steal Your Rock & Roll which they sing at the end of the show. Pretty catchy indeed! The show felt like a mash-up of Dreamgirls and Hairspray with a huge dose of social relevance. It's set in the 1950's and involves Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball), a white radio dj, determined to have R & B music (his kind of music) playing in the airwaves. In the course of the story, Huey also falls for a very talented black singer, Felicia (Montego Glover) and promises to make her a star. The story is about the birth of rock and roll. Although the book was a bit predictable, I appreciated how the book writer didn't compromise with the ending. I have to commend him for that.

Montego Glover is such a powerhouse. She has a great voice and it's amazing how easily it flows out of her tiny body. I did love Chad Kimball's singing specially in the song Memphis Lives In Me. Why, he even made me so proud of Memphis' music heritage and I'm not from that city! His southern drawl was great I thought, but I did have a problem with his posturing during the show. It was a bit too much for me. James Monroe Iglehart is a joy to watch onstage. He plays Bobby the janitor at the radio station who discovers his talent for singing. What great dance moves he has! And for a big guy, he has lithe feet! I loved him. The energy and enthusiasm of the supporting cast and ensemble made this musical even more enjoyable.

If you get a chance to go to NYC, go and see it. An enjoyable, feet tapping fun!

After the show, we were lucky enough to go backstage. Betsy Struxness (Ensemble/Double Dutch Girl) was generous enough to share her time with us and led us onstage. It was as if I was stepping on sacred ground! Just think of all the theatre royalty who have tread these boards! It was also a bit daunting standing center stage and looking at the house with all those seats. I don't know how these actors do it and not get stage fright.

Betsy took time answering our questions and even relayed her Tony Awards night experience with us. Pretty thrilling to hear. I must say though that being able to stand on the stage of the Shubert is one of my favorite experiences in NYC. I couldn't resist and danced some of the show's choreography from Steal Your Rock & Roll just so I can say I was able to dance on a Broadway stage. Lame, I know but I guess now, I can scratch that off my bucket list!

Some photos I took that day:

View from the stage of the Shubert with the ghost light

Montego Glover - very very nice!

Chad Kimball

Derrick Baskin (Gator)

James Monroe Iglehart

Brian D'Arcy James (he's not in Memphis but in Next To Normal. We saw him at Shubert Alley)

My signed playbill
June 26, 2010

So long USA!

Here's college student Robby Donoho's tribute to Landon Donovan after Team USA's victory over Algeria. It's wonderful how sports can bring people together, and make us forget about the economy and the oil spill. Too bad the team ended its run today. See you in four years!

June 20, 2010

Address the Mess

Comedy Central's Address the Mess campaign will donate $1 (up to $50,000) to the Gulf of America Fund each time you re-tweet Stephen Colbert's tweet:

"In honor of oil-soaked birds, tweets are now gurgles."

Go to Stephenathome now!
June 19, 2010


My love for Pixar started with the first Toy Story movie back in 1995. Since then, the studio has maintained its reputation for making quality films with heartwarming stories and fantastic eye-popping animation. I must confess I was a bit apprehensive about the (presumably) final installment of Toy Story because some franchises don't know when or how to stop. But Pixar showed us that a trilogy can end on a perfect note.

Andy is leaving for college, and his favorite toys mistakenly end up in a day care center where they think they could happily spend their retirement years. There they meet Lots-o'-Huggin' bear (Ned Beatty), metrosexual Ken (Michael Keaton), Chatter Telephone (Teddy Newton), among other toys, including a scary Big Baby. (Sidenote: Andy's sister Molly's Barbie was voiced by Jodi Benson.) Our gang quickly learns that things are not as sunny as it appears to be in Sunnyside. Led by the intrepid Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), they must find a way to break out to be reunited with Andy.

The film is hysterically funny and clever, from the sight gags to the witty lines. Spanish Buzz is a hoot. You will love the little girl Bonnie(Emily Hahn) and her achingly cute toys that include Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), Trixie (Kristen Schaal), and Dolly (Bonnie Hunt). There are also homages to old westerns, prison escape films, even Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible, and most fittingly, Hayao Miyazaki (look out for the forest keeper Totoro). It just proves how much the geniuses at Pixar love movies. It is a darker, exciting thrill ride (I heard one teenager say "this is so stressful!") as the band of courageous toys find themselves in peril at every turn. But the final act left me in tears, bringing the saga of these toys to a wonderful end.

Pixar was brilliant in turning around children's fears of toys coming alive when we're not looking. Instead, they were benevolent and loving watchers. The 3 Toy Story films deal with family, community, loyalty, love, and loss. They tell us that life is transient. This was a lesson that Lotso the bear didn't learn. He chose anger, pride, regret, and bitterness. The film's end brought to my mind the lyrics from the Broadway musical Next to Normal, "the price of love is loss...but still we pay...we love anyway." Bravo director Lee Unkrich, writers Michael Arndt and John Lasseter, and the other gifted minds and artists at Pixar! Thank you very much. I hope you win the Oscar again.

Get to the theater early so you don't miss the short film Day and Night. More Pixar excellence.

(photo from Impawards)
June 18, 2010

Mamet v. Colbert

David Mamet discusses his book Theatre on The Colbert Report.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
David Mamet
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News
June 17, 2010

West Side Fury

Stephen Colbert's shout-out to the Tonys this past Monday. He has won a Grammy, a Peabody and some Emmys. But alas, no Tony.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Who's Not Honoring Me Now? - Tonys & MTV Movie Awards
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News
June 14, 2010

Free concert at The Beachcomber featuring U.S. Royalty

Will you be in Cape Cod today? You might want to swing by at The Beachcomber tonight to watch a free concert featuring U.S. Royalty. The event is presented by clothing brand GANT. Check out their music video for their next release entitled "Early Summer."

U.S. Royalty "Every Summer" Music Video from Luke Adams on Vimeo.

June 13, 2010

Tear Down the House

Memphis just won this year's Tony Award for Best Musical, and I couldn't be happier! They also won Best Score, Best Book and Best Orchestrations.

We're also very excited for Best Featured Actress in a Musical winner Katie Finneran (Promises, Promises), La Cage Aux Folles for Best Revival of a Musical, American Idiot's Tonys for Best Lighting and Scenic Design of a Musical. The stars of Fences, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis took home Best Actor and Actress in a Play, while Douglas Hodge was named Best Leading Actor in a Musical for La Cage.

Click here for the complete list of winners. Congratulations to all! See you next year!
June 12, 2010

Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting

I got my gi all up in a knot when I heard a remake of The Karate Kid was in the works. But of course, I'm a sucker for martial arts films and went to see it anyway. First, some quibbles. Technically, it should have been called Kung Fu Kid because that's the fighting style featured in the movie. And while I thought "Kid" should refer to someone younger than Ralph Macchio in the original (although his boyish good looks helped), Jaden Smith is too youthful. (It's great to have a Hollywood power couple as parents and film producers.) It was disconcerting watching kids get brutalized. I did sympathize with the stranger-in-a-strange-land bit. Watching him get bullied was painful. Not to pick on the budding actor, but maybe Dre Parker was meant to have a lot of adolescent attitude and an arsenal of wisecracks. But that only made him seem less vulnerable. I would have thought this tough Detroit kid could hold his own against some pre-pubescent Chinese hooligans. I do give this young man props for all the rigorous training he did; his hard work showed.

Jackie Chan is Mr. Han, who takes Mr. Parker under his mysterious kung fu master wings after rescuing him from a particularly vicious beating. (In defense of the fight choreographer, the character used his skills to get the kids to essentially beat themselves up instead of Mr. Han actually raising a hand against them.) Jackie gets a chance to show his acting chops as the sad, shuffling, and beaten down maintenance man with a tragic past. (He got in a few one-liners though.) Not quite wise old funny Mr. Miyagi, Mr. Han manages to impart some Shaolin wisdom and discipline in his little ward. Taraji Henson does what she can with what the script requires of her as Dre's worrying mother Sherry. Wenwen Han is Meiying, Dre's school crush. (Can I say it again? These kids are too young to have a love interest!) And just like in the first movie, we have the stereotypical bad guys who take kung fu waayyy too seriously: Zhenwei Wang as Cheng, Dre's self-appointed torturer and leader of thuggish martial artists, and Rongguang Yu as Master Li, who has lost his way as a teacher. He takes "no mercy" to new heights.

One of the reasons I wanted to see it was the China travelogue. (This was a Chinese-American production so cameras were allowed into the Forbidden City for the first time ever since Bertolucci's The Last Emperor.) I loved the Great Wall of China, the heavenly mountain temple and countryside, the Water Cube and Bird's Nest from the Olympics. But other than those iconic images, the Beijing we see in the movie is a much-lived in, unembellished, gritty city.

The tale however, could have moved a little faster. Since the plot didn't exactly tug at my heartstrings, all I really wanted to see was the cliche training montage and the tournament. And that's when the movie finally grabbed me. (Yes, I know it's contradicting my earlier statement that it's disturbing to watch children go all mortal combat on each other. And I have no excuse or explanation. I just wanted my $7.50 worth of karate. Or kung fu.) The fighting scenes are longer, more technical, more violent. The tournament's rousing finish is typical of all sports-themed movies. I even got a little teary-eyed at one of the movie's final scenes. It reminded me of the people of Gondor bowing to the Hobbits in The Return of the King.

Now here's a question I'd like to pose to the screenwriter: What exactly did young Dre learn? True, he stood up for himself, got back up after his opponents knocked him down. Hopefully, he learned that martial arts is about respect, stillness, self-control, balance and discipline. Not that you only earn someone's respect after they have their asses handed to them.

(photo from Filmofilia)
June 11, 2010

This Cup's for You

Back in the good ol' MTV days, I watched The Real World and Road Rules before the sleaze factor crept in. Now, the only reality show I watch is The Amazing Race. Reality shows are all the rage, and not just on television, but even online. I saw a commercial for Bud House on ESPN this morning as we were watching the South Africa vs. Mexico game. It is a web reality show featuring 32 football fanatics from 32 countries living as one in South Africa for the duration of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. As each team gets eliminated, that country's fan will get booted from the house. The last fan standing will get a ticket to the final game and present the Budweiser Man of the Match award to the Most Valuable Player. (disclaimer: I do not partake of alcoholic beverages and do not endorse Budweiser or drinking.)

SIDENOTE: Our condolences to anti-apartheid leader and former South African President Nelson Mandela and his family. His 13 year old great-granddaughter was killed in a car crash after a pre-tournament gala concert Thursday.

Backstage Life

Patrick Healy of the NY Times has this very interesting article about how actors spend their time while waiting for the cue to be onstage (wow that was long!). It features Jan Maxwell (Lend Me A Tenor) and Katie Finneran (Promises, Promises) and a few others. To read the article please click here.

(photo from NYTimes)


Original Broadway Little Orphan Annies singing Tomorrow.

Find more videos like this on Annieorphans.com

Happy Friday!
June 10, 2010

Why The Tonys Matter

In an effort to rally theatre fans for this year's Tony Awards, actor/writer Hunter Bell (nominated for Title of Show), in conjunction with the Tony Awards, sent out this very amusing yet heartfelt email. I pretty much share his sentiment so we at Stagenotes, post it here in full:

Dear Tony Awards® Fan,

My name is Hunter Bell and like you, I am a Tony junkie.

A few days ago the Tony Awards team asked me to reach out to you to talk about why the Tony Awards matter. Now, some of you may be asking, “Hunter, what makes you such a Tony authority? Couldn’t they get Julie Harris?” Well consider this: I am a Broadway writer and performer, I am a former Tony nominee for Best Book of a Musical (for [title of show]...hold for applause), and I have a collection of VCR tapes entitled “Tony Award Highlights 1, 2, and 3” which contains every musical number (and a few scenes from plays) from the Tonys starting with The Act up through the late nineties! Pre-YouTube, people. And yes, I know. That is awesome.

Also, Julie Harris was not available.

Why do the Tony Awards matter?

A few answers popped into my head immediately. They matter because the awards acknowledge talent. That's good, especially if you're the one being acknowledged. They also bring the national spotlight to Broadway and theatre, which in turn sells a lot of tickets. That's good too, for everybody...but those reasons are sort of "business-y" things.

Why do the Tony Awards matter? A few other thoughts popped into my head.

I grew up in the South, in North Carolina and Georgia. I was a creative, awesome little weirdo who loved the theatre. It became my home. It is where I felt safe to be myself, to express myself, and where I found my true friends and my chosen family. I did not live near New York, but I knew about Broadway. How did I know about Broadway? Well, I had my original cast recordings (OCRs for you junkies) and one night a year...I had the Tony Awards. It was my Super Bowl. My Olympics. My night to plop in front of our TV and lose myself in a world of marquees and songs and dances and Bernadette Peters and Gregory Hines and all my favs and watch and dream. I wanted to crawl inside my television box. I remember so vividly being so excited.

The Tonys are more than just Broadway, or even New York. For millions of Americans—especially those that can’t afford to travel to New York and see a show—The Tony Awards are one of the few glimpses to see Broadway come to life. They were for me. The Tony Awards matter because they are the only national telecast that celebrates the theatre community. Think about that. It’s the one night that celebrates our art--our passion--on a national stage. And even more than recognition and celebration, The Tonys are an inspiration to the next generation of theatre fans and performers. I am living proof of that. When I sat watching the awards as a creative, awesome little weirdo in the South, I started dreaming. I discovered my world.

The Tonys matter because theatre matters. Because art matters. As I type this, arts advocates are fighting to keep arts education alive in schools. Celebrating theatre and the arts always matters. Out there on June 13th in every city will be you guys, because you think it matters too.

Of course, as one of our biggest supporters, you already know all this. I’m preaching to the choir, as they say. But because it matters so much, and because the Tonys are so close, I’m writing to you to ask you to help.

"But how can I help, Hunter?" Well, today, and over the next week, take a minute to think about what the Tony Awards mean for you personally, and what they mean for our art, and for culture in general. Think about why they matter. And if you decide that they matter enough to you, think about how you can share that passion and inspiration with your friends and family.

"But then what, Hunter?" Well, more on that in upcoming e-mails! "Upcoming e-mails? Are you gonna be blasting me with more awesome pre-Tony e-mails Hunter?" Well, maybe I am and maybe I am. This first e-mail is to just get your Tony juices flowing. Next week I will be hollering at you with another pre-Tony love e-mail, and then a final one right before the show, with some tips and ideas on how to help connect with your friends and family, and rock an awesome Tony night. I'll also be revealing how I'll be spending my Tony night. I think you'll be interested in that too. Hint: It might involve technology and you. Yes, I know. That does sound awesome.

So the countdown is on people and as the ole cheer goes, "We got spirit yes we do, we got spirit how 'bout you?" I think I'll go pop in my "Tony Award Highlights 1 tape." I need to see Liza sing "City Lights."

Until next time, fellow Tony junkies,

Hunter Bell

For part 2 of Hunter's email blast, click here.

So don't forget, the Tony Awards hosted by Sean Hayes will be broadcasted on CBS this Sunday, June 13 at 8 pm ET/7pm CT. And for a listing of the International broadcast, please click here.

Sine Pilipino

The 2010 Filipino Film Festival kicks off this Friday, 11 June. Just in time for the June 12th Philippine Independence Day. It will run until 20 June. Visit IndioBravo, sarisaring sineng pinoy, and Producers' Club for more information.

Thanks Mike for passing on the information!
June 9, 2010

Colbert is America (And So Can You!)

If you're heartbroken and horrified by the environmental disaster that is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, here's a way to help. Funnyman Stephen Colbert put his money where his mouth is. The Colbert Nation has teamed up with Bing to help with clean-up efforts in the Gulf. Bing donated $2500 each time Stephen and his guests mentioned "Bing" on Monday's show. Mr. Colbert raised $100,000 and started the Gulf of America Fund. The fund is being managed by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Click here to make a donation.

Kudos to Mr. Colbert! God bless you and God bless Mother Nature.
June 5, 2010

Fall in Love Again

In case you missed it, Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes on The View:

June 4, 2010

Who's the Greatest?

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Entertainment Weekly counted down the 100 greatest characters of the past 2 decades. Who made it to this exclusive list? Why D'oh! Homer Simpson of course, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Sue Sylvester. Other noteworthy mentions: Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, Gollum, Stephen Colbert, Frasier, Kill Bill's Bride(Beatrix Kiddo), District 9's Wikus, Miranda Priestley, Shrek.

Also in the list, Rent's Mimi, August :Osage County's Violet and everyone's favorite green girl, the Wicked Elphaba.

(Photo of Deanna Dunagan as Violet Weston from Curtain up)
(Idina Menzel as Elphaba photo from Musical Schwartz)

If you want to read the full list, the EW special double issue is out in newsstands now.

All I Ask of You

The Music of the Night will soon be heard in high schools and colleges across the U.S. and Canada. Beginning 01 September 2010, students will be able to perform The Phantom of the Opera. Applications to stage the longest running musical in Broadway history can be submitted to R&H Theatricals, a division of Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization(RHO).
June 3, 2010

Goodbye Blanche Devereaux

Rue McClanahan passed away today at New York Presbyterian Hospital after a massive stroke. She was 76 years old. The Golden Girls is one of my all-time favorite television shows. I'm glad I had the chance to see her perform live as Madame Morrible in Wicked a few years ago.

Give our regards to Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty. Rest in peace Ms. McClanahan.

(photo from Golden Girls Central)

Ovation for Music of the Night

As a prelude to the Tony Awards, Ovation kicks off a two-week tribute to Broadway called Music of the Night this Sunday, 06 June. This year, they are honoring Andrew Lloyd Webber by airing Cats with Elaine Page, Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2000). The celebration will continue with Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific (2001), The Music Man (2003), Once Upon a Mattress (2005), and Noises Off (1992). They also will be showing Victor/Victoria (1995), Phantom of the Opera: Behind the Mask (2005), Mr. Prince (2009) -- an Ovation original, Broadway Babies, and The Making of Cats (1998)

If you're on Twitter, you can also join the #BWayPlot Twitter Contest. From June 6 to the 18th, you can summarize plots of Broadway shows in 140 characters or less using the hashtag #bwayplot. On June 18th, the most creative and entertaining tweets will be selected and prizes handed out. The prizes include tickets to Broadway shows, autographs, and as Little Edie would say, "memorabeeya".

Good luck to all tweeters!
June 2, 2010

Wii Love Broadway

Think there couldn't be enough Wii games? Think again. Ubisoft has come up with Dance on Broadway, to satisfy your inner diva and gamer. The game lets up to 4 people perform showtunes like Let the Sunshine In, Dreamgirls, All that Jazz, etc.

The game will be released on 15 June 2010.

(Thanks to my brother-in-law for the information!)
June 1, 2010

Postcards from the Adirondacks

Shepard Park Bandstand in Lake George Village
Lake George, nicknamed the Queen of American Lakes.
View from our hotel's private beach. 3 miles from the Village.
200 miles to the Big Apple
The Lake is the gateway to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains.
The famous Sagamore Hotel, named after one of the characters in "The Last of the Mohicans". (Sidenote: This August, The Last of the Mohicans outdoor drama will be presented at Fort William Henry.)
This Victorian era hotel occupies a private island.
It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
View from Lake Shore Drive. The lake is a spring-fed, glacial lake named after King George II. Its original name was Lac du Saint Sacrement (Lake of the Holy Sacrament).
Come to the annual Elvis Festival from June 3 to 6 and see the Elvi perform!

Beach at Lake George Village. The Lake George Beach is on the other side.
Christie's Lane
old-fashioned souvenir shop
View from the summit of Prospect Mountain

Glen Lake in Glens Falls, NY

a band playing at Docksider Restaurant
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