“THAT’LL BE THE DAY” WHEN “3 DIVAS” (times two) “TAKE THE A TRAIN” TO “AMSTERDAM”
It may be humid, but we have some extremely hot musicals during June, July and August at our local theatres.
I hear you kvetchin, “That’ll Be The Day” when I schlep with my kids to Columbia, Maryland to see anybody or any “Buddy.” Where is Columbia? Too far for you? That’s a shandah (disgrace) and your loss. If Jews could wander for 40 years in the desert, so you can drive an hour for some unparalleled entertainment. Some of the best theatre in the area is at Toby’s Dinner Theatre . Don’t believe me? It can’t be so? Are you sure? At a dinner theatre? Just look at all the Helen Hayes Awards and nominations Toby’s has received the last ten years. I’ve seen better productions there than some of the lemons I’ve seen on Broadway. (Do Lestat, Dance of The Vampires, and In My Life ring a bell)?
Ask the hundreds of Ushers members (along with my family and other friends) who have driven an hour or more to see the incredible productions of Ragtime (13 Helen Hayes Nominations in 2004), Follies, Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, and this year’s mesmerizing, Helen Hayes-nominated performance by Felicia Curry in a spectacular and intimate production of Elton John’s Aida. Toby Orenstein is a genius and what she accomplishes in a small space is nothing less than miraculous. She won the Helen Hayes’ Best Director of a Musical Award for Jekyll and Hyde, sharing the award with Christopher Ashley for Kennedy Center’s production of Sweeney Todd, which starred Tony Award Winner Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Baranski, who is now playing Mame at The Eisenhower Theatre.
I’m not kidding you, the food is pretty good — lots of salads, veggies, entrees and a carving station (this is not where critics sit when they are panning a show) and desserts. And, cleverly, the side dishes and entrees are named after characters, songs or themes in the musical. Isn’t that fun? We Jews have a sense of humor, right Toby? Usually you need to have dinner after dinner theatre because the food is inedible, but Toby is a good Jewish mother who knows how to feed her customers well and to get them to come back again for more (that’s a buffet joke).
Buddy (The Buddy Holly Story) plays Toby’s Dinner Theatre from June 22-September 3 at her Columbia location. (Toby recently opened a second theatre in Baltimore which is a subject of a future Theatre Schmooze article). Look for Ronnie’s review of Buddy on June 30th.
Buddy played the Victoria Palace Theatre in London for 13 years and is the most successful rock n’ roll musical in the world. Buddy is a musical celebration of the singer/songwriter Buddy Holly. He shot to stardom in 1957, only to die in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, along with 17 year-old Richie Valens (“La Bamba”) and J.P. (“The Big Bopper”) Richardson. As Don McLean wrote in his famous and very long song, “American Pie”-it was “the day the music died.”
Buddy is a celebration of the wonderful songs Buddy Holly wrote like “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” “Well, Alright” and
“That’s Why Fools Fall In Love.” I’m toe-tapping my right foot as I am typing this list. Sounds like fun for the whole family, don’t you think?
Get thee to Toby’s — live music (with a darn good orchestra that doesn’t drown out the singers), miked singers (isn’t that a relief!, You’ll be able to hear every word), great food, and a high quality production — all for less than $50. What a mitseah (bargain, a find, etc). [Read Theatre Schmooze for your free Yiddish lesson.]
At least two Helen Hayes Award winners, Stephen Gregory Smith (110 In The Shade) and Megan Lawrence (Into The Woods),have performed in Toby’s productions. Smith is now starring as the balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald in Signature Theatre’s Assassins and Lawrence is the Tony Award-nominated featured actress in the smash, Tony-winning Broadway revival, The Pajama Game. See how your life can change if you make that effort to schlep to Columbia?
Are shows better the second time around?
I’ve seen Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well And Living In Paris at least a dozen times. I saw the original New York production in 1966 and I’ve seen it at community theatres throughout the country. I saw Karen Akers in the 25th Anniversary production in NYC in 1991; Jim Petosa’s Helen Hayes Award-winning production at Olney Theatre Center in 1996; and last month I saw the critically acclaimed production at the Zipper Theatre in NYC.
The show is moving and powerful with beautiful ballads and fast-paced oom-pah-pah rhythms. The intelligent and poetic lyrics make you think and force you to listen, a la Sondheim.
Now, ten years later, Jim Petosa is bringing back Jacques Brel to a new and bigger mainstage with a stellar cast of local stars and one very talented newcomer. Here’s the talented cast:
- Christopher Yates — in the ensemble of Olney’s 1996 production, he returns ten years later to anchor this new production.
- Valerie Leonard — she is now reprising her Helen Hayes Award-nominated role as Mrs. Kendall in The Elephant Man on Olney’s mainstage. (It costs “peanuts” to see this Elephant Man, only $10, so pack your trunk and run and buy tickets!!)
- Channez McQuay — Helen Hayes Award-nominee for her performance as Emma Goldman in Toby’s brilliant production of Ragtime. (Her equally talented husband, Rob, played Tateh in Ragtime and was also nominated for his performance). Channez will be seen this season in Signature Theatre’s productions of My Fair Lady and Into The Woods, and MetroStage’s production of the Off-Broadway hit, The Musical of Musicals, in the Spring. Wow, what a busy year!
- Carolyn Pasquantonio — another Helen Hayes nominee as Helen Keller in this year’s Olney Theatre revival of The Miracle Worker.
- Devron Young — he returns to Olney Theatre where he appeared in Peter Pan, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Holiday Memories and The Madwoman of Chaillot; and
- Nicole Adams – a recent Boston University Graduate, she has appeared in Angels In America as the Homeless Woman and Ancestor Spirit in The 7 Stages of Grieving.
Jacquel Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris is a musical review of songs composed by Jacques Brel. Brel was born in Schaerbeek, Belgium, a district of Brussells. (That’s where he sprouted into a young songwriter). He was one of the most famous musician/singers in France and Europe. In the troubadour tradition, Brel’s songs of love, death and war are filled with wonderful melodies and powerful and sometimes shocking lyrics. Songs include, “Amsterdam,” “If We Only Have Love,” “Madeleine,” “The Desperate Ones,” “Next,” and “Carousel.”
He died in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris, of lung cancer on October 9, 1978 at the young age of 49. He is buried in the Marquesas Islands. But his music is alive and well and will be living on the mainstage of Olney Theatre Center from July 5th thru July 30th. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.
Put up your Dukes and take the “A-Train” or the Yellow Line and swing over to see the suave, sophisticated, jazzy Ellington: The life and Music of The Duke, by William Scully, when it inhabits MetroStage’s intimate space from July 14-August 6.
Jimi Ray Malary, reprises his critically acclaimed performance of jazz legend Duke Ellington, which he performed at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre in March 2006. In his March 21, 2006 review in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, Tom Strini wrote, “[Malary’s] rich baritone has a bit of both Billy Eckstine and Joe Williams, but Malary is a little slicker, a little more rounded and resonant. You can hear classical training at work in his tone production and awareness of the phrase, but none of that gussies up this music.
His singing, shaded by a beautifully controlled and judiciously applied vibrato, is suave in a way wholly in line with the Dukensian ideal of elegance. The humanity in these songs is real, and the emotion is often intense, but they also celebrate the artifice of big-city sophistication. Malary reconciles these two aspects of the music in singing that is honest but also a little detached. Duke wasn’t one to pour his guts out on stage or even let the effort show. Malary, too, makes the difficult sound easy.”
I know singers and actors who would kill for a review like this … and probably have.
Next at MetroStage is Ellington: The Life and Music of The Duke, the story of Duke Ellington’s rise out of the “colored middle class” in Washington, DC, and his struggle to balance his personal and public life. That smooth voice and unique sound helped make him a jazz legend, despite the opposition he confronted in a racially divided country.
William Knowles is the musical director/pianist and will be joined by three local jazz greats: Gregory Holloway on drums and Yusef Chisholm on bass (both in MetroStage’s All Night Strut) and Ron Oshima on saxophone (in MetroStage’s 2002 production of Harlem Rose). The show features popular Ellington songs such as “Take The A-Train,” “Satin Doll,” “Lush Life,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.” … To think you only get one decent song in an entire Andrew Lloyd Webber show (over and over and over and over again) and here you’ll get to hear all these great songs in one show. Sign me up now! I don’t need any Sophisticated Ladies to tell me I need to buy a ticket to this one.
400 years of music showcased in one unforgettable evening!
I hear them coming. I’m cleaning my ears out and I’m getting ready. Six forces of nature are arriving in Southwest DC to perform in Three Mo Divas (a companion piece to the popular 3 Mo Tenors) at Arena Stage from July 12 to August 13.
You know only divas could pull this one off. In fact, it’s so vocally demanding that Arena has two teams — two sets of 3 divas — who rotate performances. These two teams of versatile singers are all classically trained and versatile (a word I love), and can knock the socks off arias, Broadway classics, jazz, blues, spirituals, soul, and gospel. I’m getting a sore throat from talking about it. Where’s the Sucrets?
Writer/director Marion Caffey, who directed Crowns (Helen Hayes Award-winning 2004 Best Resident Musical), directs and choreographs this staged concert. His direction of Cookin’ at the Cookery: The Music and Times of Alberta Hunter at Studio Arena (Buffalo, NY) garnered many awards and nominations, including New York’s Drama Desk and Drama League Awards, and has played more than 35 theatres in North American.
Will lightning strike twice at Arena Stage? It may not be lightning — it may be a full blown earthquake! I’m all shook up over this incredible cast. Remember SENSURROUND SOUND at the movies? This cast will bring it back. You’ll have to hold on to your seats.
Look who’s in the cast:
- Jamet Pittman is a native DC’er and is a classical pianist. She was in the Broadway cast of La Bohème.
- Vivian Reed received Tony nominations for Broadway’s High Rollers and Bubbling Brown Sugar, and also starred in Marie Christine and the European tour of Sophisticated Ladies. This woman puts Jennifer Holiday to shame, and she’s nicer to work with, I’m told.
- Gretha Boston starred in Caffey’s Cookin’ at the Cookery at the Citadel; twice Tony-nominated, she received a Tony Award for Showboat (she was amazing in that role!) and was also seen in It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues at Arena Stage and in NYC (where she received another Tony nomination). Gretha has one if the most beautiful voices I have ever heard on the stage. She, alone, is worth the price of admission.
- Andrea Jones-Sojola has sung Carmen, Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni and Cosí fan tutte as well as Muhammad Ali: Outside the Ring for Kentucky Opera and Porgy and Bess in Poland.
- Nina Negri was seen in the national tour of Les Misérables, in NYC in The House of Seven Gables, West Side Story, Kismet, Of Thee I Sing, and Good Vibrations; in The King and I in Canada; and operas including Don Giovanni, Werther, and Dido and Aeneas.
- N’Kenge (they couldn’t give her a last name?) has sung with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra Summer Pops, Le Nozze di Figaro in the Czech Republic, The Fantasticks in Cleveland, and was featured soloist for the Library of Congress’ Centennial of Aaron Copland.
Joseph Joubert, one of the orchestrators of the Broadway production of Caroline, or Change (you must see the fabulous production now playing at Studio Theatre) and the associate conductor for The Color Purple, is the musical supervisor, orchestrator and arranger. (Everything is in threes in this production).
e’Marcus Harper, who studied musical composition and theory at Howard University and who conducts the Voices of the Peoples Gospel Choir in Washington, DC, is the musical arranger and arranger. (He got off easy-he only has two titles).
Moms: bring your Moms, daughters, granddaughters and nieces to see the March sisters-Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy in Little Women-the musical about love, family and romance. which plays at the Kennedy Center from June 27-July 23, 2006. The original Broadway set and costumes are traveling with the touring cast and will look lovely in the Opera House. Broadway legend Maureen McGovern, plays the stern, but loving matriarch, and sends chills up and down your spine when she sings the gorgeous and moving “Days of Plenty.” For tickets
As theater goers, could we ask for anything better?
With people howling at the new Mark Twain musical, A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage (I love this show — it’s hysterical! Bring the kids and grandma and grandpa and you’ll laugh yourselves silly), and Assassins triggering excitement at Signature Theatre, the summer musical scene is off to a bang.
With Buddy, Jacques Brel, Ellington, and 3 Mo’ Divas just around the corner, this summer will really sizzle.
Let’s pack our theatres this hot, hot summer and show our support.
Ouch! I got…. Steam Heat.