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Posts Tagged ‘broadway’

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Photo: Nina Westervelt for the New York Times
Thursday Williams and Rosdely Ciprian on the last day of Broadway performances for
What the Constitution Means to Me.

Imagine getting an opportunity as a teenager to be in a Broadway show — and not because you’re you’re especially good at theater! In this instance, two girls were chosen because of their experience on debate teams.

Elizabeth A. Harris writes at the New York Times, “Sitting in the balcony of the Helen Hayes Theater on Saturday evening, two teenagers munched on Welch’s Fruit Snacks and said goodbye to their Broadway show, ‘What the Constitution Means to Me.’

“Rosdely Ciprian, 14, and Thursday Williams, 18, make up half the cast of ‘Constitution,’ a play by Heidi Schreck that was extended three times Off Broadway and played five months at the Hayes, a longer and more life-changing commitment than they had ever expected.

“In the play, Ms. Schreck revisited her personal history of giving presentations about the Constitution as a high school student. Ms. Ciprian or Ms. Williams appeared toward the end of the show — they alternated performances — for a formal debate with the playwright over whether the founding document, with its history of enshrined inequities, should be abolished.

“The young women, who were cast because of their involvement in debate at their respective New York City schools, embodied the future generations who would face down the country’s unmet promises. …

“They sat down to talk about their experience, and what comes next. Ms. Ciprian will continue with the show for its 11-day run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., while Ms. Williams goes off to college. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

“HARRIS How are you feeling?

“WILLIAMS I’m sad, I’m happy. I’m sad that this is the end — you know, I’ve been on the show for one year and I have so much fun onstage. So I’m going to miss that part. But I’m happy I get to start a new chapter of my life. … I’m going to Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

“CIPRIAN Lucky you! Going to college! I’ve always wanted to act. But this gave me more of an intense feeling of what it’s like to act. So I would love to do that, but I would also like to go into the medical field. I don’t know if I can do both. But I’ve been bit by the theater bug. All the lights! All the people watching me! I love that.

“WILLIAMS Before I started this show, I wanted to be a lawyer, and now I want to run for office. I’ve had the opportunity to meet senators and politicians. It was a real eye opener. …

“HARRIS How did you balance Broadway with being a student?

“CIPRIAN Broadway and high school — that was weird. I would have to leave at 12 o’clock for some matinees and have to email my teachers to do my work and take tests online, and submit them. …

“WILLIAMS When I got this part, kids in my school were like, ‘What do you know about Broadway?’ And I’m like, ‘Absolutely nothing — but I’m on it!’ …

“HARRIS Who has come backstage to say hello?

“CIPRIAN Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barbra Streisand.

“WILLIAMS I [had done] the Sonia and Celina Sotomayor judicial internship program. I met Sonia Sotomayor for five seconds at the elevator, and when they snatched her away from me, I said, ‘I’ll see you soon!’ not knowing when I was going to see her or how I was going to see her. But this show gave me the opportunity.

“HARRIS What happened when you saw her at the theater?

“WILLIAMS She looked me in my eyes and she goes, ‘I’m really happy that you chose college.’ … Sonia Sotomayor came from the Bronx, R.B.G. came from Brooklyn, I’m coming from Queens. Seeing these people say ‘I love you and I’m so proud of you’ really makes me think I can get to their level.

CIPRIAN We’re kind of obsessed with three things: R.B.G., unicorns and doughnuts. Those three things are our vibe.

“We have a life-size poster of R.B.G. in our green room. When she came, everybody was freaking out. And I think the audience members knew she was here, because the show brings up R.B.G. multiple times. …

“WILLIAMS She said, ‘Sonia and I have been talking about you.’ It’s so like — I just really want to go college and I want to get my 3.9 G.P.A. and I want to go to Columbia Law School and I want to be a lawyer — right now! I want to start tomorrow.”

One of my brothers took our sister and her husband to this show in August, a month before she died. I thought that was great because she had talked about it a lot, convincing me to read the interesting New Yorker review. Apparently, it was a play that really got audiences thinking about some of the things that are problematic in that much-revered document.

More at the New York Times, here.

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Ted-Shen-Second-Chance-at-PublicWe went down to New York this weekend to see my husband’s classmate’s new musical.

Ted Shen wrote the book, lyrics, and music to A Second Chance, a lovely little cameo about a widower and a divorcee. The title refers to new beginnings for two people, but it’s hard for my husband and me not to think of new careers, too, since Shen was an investment banker for 30 years before turning to music so seriously.

At TheaterMania, where a couple of old reviews I wrote are still archived, Shen describes how he began to develop his musical after Stephen Sondheim gave him encouragement.

And he explains his style. “In my role as composer, my preference has been to emphasize the use of ‘action songs’ that show the characters interacting with each other and conversing primarily through lyrics rather than pure spoken dialog, and to limit the use of ‘introspection songs’ that stop the action to express feelings and inner thoughts. I have attempted to create a contemporary musical ‘language’ that is jazz-inflected rather than written in today’s predominant pop-based genre.’ ” More at TheaterMania.

Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, where the show is being performed, says that Shen “has written some of the most elegant and sophisticated music I have heard in theater in many a moon.”

While in New York, we also saw the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (based on the movie Kind Hearts and Coronets). It was pure Broadway fun, and we laughed a lot. But A Second Chance gave us more to talk about after.

Consider checking out the site for the Shen Family Foundation, here, which “concentrates its grant-making in the area of musical theater through its funding support of works of exceptionally gifted and highly original musical theater composers.”

Photo: Suzanne‘s Dad reconnects with his classmate decades after business school and asks him to sign a Playbill.

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Album cover for The Bathrooms are Coming!, a 1969 American-Standard musical (Blast Books)

I heard a great Studio360 show today. It was on the industrial musicals once used by corporations to get the sales team charged up to go out and sell.

“In the 1950, 60s, and 70s, a subgenre of musical theater entertained thousands. It had showstoppers composed by some of the brightest talent in the business. But instead of selling out Broadway houses, these shows played to packed hotel ballrooms and convention halls. …

“ ‘It was to build morale and build a sense of being on a team,’ explains Steve Young. ‘You weren’t isolated, you were a part of a greater whole that was looking out for you.’ A writer for David Letterman, Young has made himself the curator of the world’s largest collection of corporate musical theater performances. ‘Sales Training,’ a groovy number from 1972, includes specs for York air conditioner’s new line. ‘Once in a Lifetime’ breathlessly heralds the arrival of the 1958 Ford Edsel.

“Writing these musicals was no simple task and corporations spent lavishly to attract top talent. In 1966, John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote Go Fly a Kite for General Electric (in which Benjamin Franklin meets modern utility executives) — they went on to win a Tony for Cabaret. …

“Steve Young is co-author of the book  Everything’s Coming Up Profits.”

If you like musicals, you really must listen to the whole Studio360 show. It’s too funny.

You don’t want to miss “PDM (Power Distribution Management) Can Do”
from Go Fly a Kite — General Electric, 1966, by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Walter Marks, or “An Exxon Dealer’s Wife.” Be sure to catch the song composed to sell Edsels and the haunting American-Standard number “My Bathroom” from 1969. (“My bathroom, my bathroom is a private kind of place.”)

Studio360’s show,”Curtain Call: Industrial Strength Musicals,” may be found here.

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And speaking of Korea, the culture in the south might as well be on the other side of the world from North Korea.

My husband and I, lifetime fans of Broadway musicals, may sometimes feel concerned that the audiences are mostly old folks like us, but in South Korea, musicals are cool. Young people dig them.

Patrick Healy writes for the NY Times, “The packs of young women arrived 90 minutes early for the evening’s show: Murder Ballad, a rock musical that flopped off Broadway in July and then opened here four months later in an all-Korean production.

“They wanted time to shoot smartphone video of Seoul’s newest theater, built inside a shopping mall, and start scoring autographs: of actors, sure, but lighting operators and makeup artists too.

“Or anyone, really, working on American musicals, whose head-spinning popularity here has changed the game for New York producers looking to extend the lives of their shows.

“Seoul has become a boomtown for American musicals, with Korean and Broadway producers tapping into an audience of young women raised on the bombast of Korean pop and the histrionics of television soap operas.”

Bombast and histrionics? Now, wait just a minute, here! Hmmm. I guess musicals can be bombastic, like opera. But the kind I like are more thoughtful and quirky.

Recent shows we enjoyed were Side Show, which I talked about here, and
Brian Crawley and Andrew Lippa’s take on A Little Princess, a story by the author of the Secret Garden.

Come to think of it, both Side Show and A Little Princess had moments of bombast and histrionics. I guess I don’t notice that anymore.

Photo: Lim Hoon
Korean actors in the Seoul production of
Wicked.

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Today I had an amusing back and forth with Fire Islanders past and present. It was about a fund raiser for what we used to call “Group” back when I was a day camper and later a counselor and writer-director of teenage musicals.

The fundraiser is to restore the Ocean Beach Youth Group (“Group”) building below, which was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy. From the first e-mail:

“Food . Beer & Wine . Auction . Guest Bartenders . Tequila Tasting
“Sun., Jan. 6, 2013, 4-7 pm @ Rodeo Bar, 375 Third Avenue, NYC
“$50 cash/check at door, 21+
“$30 for 16-20 For advance tickets or to make a donation, visit http://www.nycharities.org/Events/EventLevels.aspx?ETID=5691 OBYG is a 501(c)3 organization.
“As an added bonus Tony Roberts of Broadway fame and Youth Group Alumnus will be our guest.”

I wrote back that I was in one of Tony Roberts’s teenage plays (back when his name was still Dave) and can sing most of the lyrics to the theme song of his show Like You Like It.

I then indulged in some contradictory reminiscing with my first co-writer/director and with the daughter of playwright Arnold Horwitt, who was an adviser on the first show we wrote.

“Memories can be beautiful and yet” … (Oh, sorry, we used to burst into song a lot.)

But about memories. I know I have the most accurate memories for the shows I worked on, yet friends keep remembering differently. And who can blame Arnold Horwitt’s daughter, for example, if she thinks her father wrote all the lyrics to our “Return of the Native” when he only contributed the song that he had already written for a cruise to fight a bridge, “Everything’s Coming Up Moses”? He was a huge support, and that’s what she gets right.

Want me to sing anything for you?

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