Winners of the 72nd Tony Awards

Best play
The Children
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two – WINNER
Junk
Latin History for Morons

Best musical
The Band’s Visit – WINNER
Frozen
Mean Girls
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical

Best book of a musical
Itamar Moses for The Band’s Visit – WINNER
Jennifer Lee for Frozen
Tina Fey for Mean Girls
Kyle Jarrow for SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical Continue reading “Winners of the 72nd Tony Awards”

Album reviews: Frozen / Prince of Broadway / Mean Girls

I turn my attention to the latest set of Broadway cast recordings with Frozen, Prince of Broadway and Mean Girls

@deeninbeeld1

My cynicism about the quick turnaround of megahit film Frozen into a would-be megahit musical lasted for about 10 seconds as I popped on their cast recording. I mean, I loved the film and its songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and so who was I kidding?!

And it fulfils all of my Disney princess dreams. Caissie Levy (Elsa) and Patti Murin (Anna) lead the cast in fine full-voiced form, new songs from the Lopezes fit in well to the score though it does take a hot minute to get used to them. And the orchestral arrangement lends a note of excitement to the songs you know so well already.

Levy’s ‘Let It Go’ naturally takes the spotlight as the Act 1 closer (reprised to close the show as well) but Murin’s rendition of ‘Love Is An Open Door’ with John Riddle’s Hans gets my vote for its sheer warmth and joie de vivre. Of the new songs, Elsa’s ‘Dangerous to Dream’ probably ranks as my favourite. Definitely keen to see this once it hits the West End. Continue reading “Album reviews: Frozen / Prince of Broadway / Mean Girls”

News: Creatives and company for Broadway Classics in Concert

Manhattan Concert Productions (MCP) is pleased to announce the following creative team for Broadway Classics in Concert, on TuesdayFebruary 208:00 p.m., in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall.

Don StephensonStage Director
Kevin StitesMusic Director/Conductor
Christopher AshProjection & Video
Jason LyonsLighting
Dave HorowitzSound
Gary MickelsonStage Manager
Telsey + Company / Craig Burns, CSACasting

MCP also welcomes Nikki Renée Daniels who will be joining the outstanding alumni cast for Broadway Classics in Concert.

The full alumni cast includes Michael Arden (Ragtime, Hunchback of Notre Dame)Sierra Boggess (The Secret Garden)Carolee Carmello (Broadway Classics 2013)Allan Corduner(Titanic)Nikki Renée Daniels (The Secret Garden)Quentin Earl Darrington (The Secret Garden)Ramin Karimloo (Parade, The Secret Garden)Norm Lewis (Ragtime)Laura Osnes(Crazy For You)Lea Salonga (Ragtime)Ryan Silverman (Titanic) and Tony Yazbeck (Crazy For You). Continue reading “News: Creatives and company for Broadway Classics in Concert”

Album Review: Annaleigh Ashford – Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below

“The little dark star in the wind down there”

Though she’s yet to pop her head over this side of the ocean, I’m pretty sure Annaleigh Ashford is an absolute darling. It’s part of the legacy of playing Lauren in Kinky Boots I think, such a lovable part and what I’ve seen and heard of her since has only confirmed that for me. Her acclaimed cabaret performances also won over new audiences, resulted in a live recording of Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below being released late last year.
 
Supported by the superb musicianship of Will Van Dyke and The Whiskey 5, Ashford is an effortlessly delightful performer, whether ripping through the vocal splendour of Dreamgirls‘ ‘One Night Only’ or a Donna Summer medley, nodding to Studio 54’s illustrious past. There’s actually a lot of pop on here, The Everly Brothers’ ‘Love Hurts’, Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ mixed with Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’. 

Continue reading “Album Review: Annaleigh Ashford – Lost in the Stars: Live at 54 Below”

Album Review: Laura Benanti – In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention – Live At 54 Below

“She speaks in sorry sentences
Miraculous repentances”

Appearances may be deceptive but the force of personality that Laura Benanti brings to all her work, whether tweeting or tearing up the Broadway stage, makes me think that she’s just a top human. Witty and irreverent on the one, committed and forceful on the other – either way round, she’s a one for forging her own path.

And that’s in evidence on the song selection for her 54 Below cabaret show In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention. From showtunes to the showgirl herself Lana Del Rey, rewritten classics to self-penned ditties, it’s undoubtedly an eclectic mix but one that is held together by the huge warmth that Benanti exudes, whether in performance or in the (frankly hilarious) patter where she proudly details her flops.

So she shines on that del Rey medley of ‘Starry Eyed’ and ‘Video Games’ just as much as on Maury Yeston’s ‘Unusual Way’; a relatively straight ‘I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore’ (from Gigi) is just as charismatic as the inimitable version of ‘On the Street Where You Live’ which has been tailored for the occasion. Benanti’s personality really does shine through at every opportunity and thus makes this a rare cabaret album which you’ll want to listen to every minute of.

Album Review: Marin Mazzie – Make Your Own Kind of Music, Live at 54 Below

“Love, soft as an easy chair”

Music, soft as easy listening. That’s the somewhat surprising turn of events on Marin Mazzie’s album Make Your Own Kind of Music, recorded live at her cabaret show at 54 Below. Performers often use cabaret turns to show off a more personal side to their musical influences, blending them with crowd-pleasing excerpts from the shows for which they have become well known. But here, Mazzie sticks with the former, taking us through a trip along her childhood listening to the radio.
 
Glancing at the playlist is an eye-opener in itself, Barry Manilow and The Partridge Family alongside standards like ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ and ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’. And in the best tradition of the top tier of musical theatre performers, Mazzie completely makes it work, delving deep into her well of interpretative skill to transform most, if not all of this music out of any perceived naffness into something interesting, engaging, even stirring.

Continue reading “Album Review: Marin Mazzie – Make Your Own Kind of Music, Live at 54 Below”

Album Review: 9 to 5 (2009 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

“You got dreams he’ll never take away”

Upstairs at the Gatehouse will soon be hosting the London fringe premiere of 9 to 5 and with a neat serendipity, Megan Hilty is coming over to the UK for a short run of shows at the Hippodrome in September, Hilty having played Doralee – the role made famous by Dolly Parton – in the 2009 Broadway production. Plus, Alison Janney was in the cast too, so how could you not want to fill your life with her would-be future-Dameness via the Original Broadway Cast Recording.
An adaptation of the film by Patricia Resnick from her own screenplay, Dolly Parton’s score combined original songs with a smattering of tracks from her extensive back catalogue. But where, say, Cyndi Lauper managed to adapt her song-writing to the world of musical theatre in Kinky Boots whilst maintaining much of her character, Parton loses a little something in her journey. The songs here are perfectly serviceable but ultimately quite bland, especially shorn of any visuals.
That’s not to take away from Hilty’s work (excellent on tracks like ‘Backwoods Barbie’) or Janney’s general magnificence (best displayed on the persuasive ‘Around Here’) but the overall feel is just lacking in the kind of fun that characterises the musical. It is undoubtedly frothy entertainment but a number like ‘Heart to Hart’ (which was a showstopper in the hands of Bonnie Langford in the UK touring production) sinks like a soufflé without an effervescent performance to sell it.
Some cast recordings take on a life on their own on record and others remain frozen – a representation of what happened onstage but capturing little of its vitality. Much of the charm of 9 to 5 comes with the amount of irreverent, knowing fun which a director and cast can infuse it, thus undercutting the slightly trying-too-hard nature of the writing. So I remain in great anticipation for the forthcoming fringe production in Highgate but can’t really recommend this album for you.

The complete 71st Tony nominations

Best play
A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath
Indecent by Paula Vogel
Oslo by JT Rogers
Sweat by Lynn Nottage

Best musical
Come from Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day the Musical
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Best book of a musical
Come from Away by Irene Sankoff and David Hein
Dear Evan Hansen by Steven Levenson
Groundhog Day the Musical by Danny Rubin
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy
Continue reading “The complete 71st Tony nominations”

Review: She Loves Me, Studio 54 via BroadwayHD

“They all come here just for the mood”

It’s nice to know that you have good karma, sometimes at least, as I came very close to seeing She Loves Me on my last flying visit to Broadway, opting for Waitress instead at the last minute. So it was most gratifying to hear that She Loves Me was to become the first ever Broadway show to be live-streamed on BroadwayHD, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful NTLive enterprise (and that the show would be available for the following seven days on catch-up, making up for the time difference).
The merits (or otherwise) of live-streaming have long been debated and will likely continue to be so for years to come as circular arguments go round and round. But as long as you accept that no, a recording will never be as good as the live thing and yes, it is an amazing thing to have accessibility increased in this way, it seems to me that everyone is a winner, especially with a show on a limited engagement like She Loves Me, which closes at Studio 54 on 10th July. Speaking of which, you’ve only got until 7th July to catch it on BroadwayHD.
For the show itself, part of Roundabout’s 50th anniversary season, it is a near-perfect music-box of a production. Based on Miklós László’s play Parfumerie which has been remade more than once as films The Shop Around The Corner, In The Good Old Summertime, and You’ve Got Mail, Joe Masterhoff’s book pits warring Budapest shop employees Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash against each other, little knowing that they are corresponding anonymously through a lonely hearts column – will they get together in the end? What do you think?!
Much of the joy of She Loves Me comes in Jerry Bock’s effervescent score (lyrics by Sheldon Harnick) which fizzes and pops in all the right places, evoking a classic age of musical theatre and one which is perfectly delivered by the rainbow-brightness of Laura Benanti’s pure soprano (such a rarity to hear a legit soprano role) and the gentlemanly charm of Zachary Levi, whose rendition of the title song is just joyous. They bicker with brio and disagree with real dynamism and make an ideal match who truly light up the stage (and screen!).
But Scott Ellis’ production is no one-couple-show, it is also blessed with a superlative supporting turn from Jane Krakowski as fellow shopworker Ilona, smitten by the dastardly Kodaly (a dapper Gavin Creel doing well to mask his general loveliness) and who demonstrates that she’s more flexible in her 40s than many of us will ever be in our entire lifetime. Peter Bartlett’s Head Waiter gets an eye-catching dance turn pre-interval, Nicholas Barasch’s appealing delivery boy Arpad shines immediately post-interval – it really is a wonderfully democratic show.
David Rockwell’s picture-book of a set looks like a dream, Warren Carlyle’s choreography sparkles like snowflakes, and Paul Gemignani’s musical direction keeps the whole thing sound peachy, it really is a superb production. And credit to David Horn who directed the live-stream, for capturing so much of what makes the show work. I welcome the arrival of Broadway on the live-streaming stage and look forward to hearing what else we might be able to see soon without having to cross the ocean.