A Little Bit of This…A Little Bit of That…
It’s been a while (5 weeks to be exact) since we’ve last schmoozed, so let’s catch up.
Lion in Wait with The Pillow Brothers
March went out with a scary roar as I sat down to podcast the Pillow Brothers-Aaron Munoz and Tom Story who were scaring the livin’ daylights out of a buried alive little girl and grossed out audiences at Studio Theatre inThe Pillowman.
But even scarier than the show was the story Tom Story told me and Lorraine Treanor about a near fatal attack by a leopard which almost had a Story buffet. The story really hit the spot. I’m not lion. It’s scary.
It’s a Hit! The Musical of Musicals-The Musical’s A Smash!
If you are tired of child killers lurking on our local theatre stages, I have great news for you. Something hysterical has finally arrived on the local theatre scene, and every local critic agrees-The Musical of Musicals-The Musical is the Webber’s meow!
I knew from the moment I walked into the first read-through at MetroStage, and saw the instant chemistry between the talented members of the cast – Russell Sunday, Jeanine Gulisano-Sunday, Bobby Smith and 2-time Helen Hayes Award Winner Donna Migliaccio (Congrats, Donna for you recent win for Assassins!). I smiled and said to Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin, “You’re going to have a giant hit!”
I can’t remember when all the local critics have given a show rave reviews-but they did forThe Musical of Musicals-The Musicals. Read Gary’s DCTR review and all the others and you’ll see why!
I’m not going to give away any of those biting lyrics and the ingeniously hysterical book, but suffice to say that if you are not a musical fan you’ll laugh yourself silly and if you are a lover of Broadway musicals, you will be in musical heaven convulsions.
Two Kid Stars Shine at the Broadway Idol
When I received a call from Tammy Roberts (who is presently in the ensemble of Saving Aimee at Signature) and Michael Bobbitt inviting me to be a judge at Musical Theatre Center’s (MTC) annual Broadway Idol, I was instructed along with the other two judges that we were to give constructive, positive feedback to the contestants. I had reservations about being nice, but hey, it takes a lot of courage to stand up and sing in front of a group of Mama Roses and their families.
In the Children’s Category there was a tie between an adorable Kylie Cooley and Colton Harrington.
Kylie was dressed in a red flapper dress and sang and danced and wiggled her way through ‘Forget About The Boy‘ from Thoroughly Modern Millie. When this little package of dynamite (Are you listening to me, Baby June?) opened her mouth, fellow judge actor Joe Peck and I were stunned – Kylie sang in perfect pitch and with perfect diction. Her vocal abilities, and beautiful tone were way beyond her years. She showed such great enthusiasm and stage presence that we judges joined in with the audience when they gave her a loud ovation.
When Joe Peck and I walked into the competition and were given the list of songs to be sung by the contestants. When we saw that Colton Harrington was going to sing a song that was usually performed as a duet – ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better’ from Annie Get Your Gun, we wondered how he was going to pull it off, (maybe he was two-face or schizophrenic, we kidded).
So, when Kyle continued the tradition by performing the song as a duet with himself, by turning to the right and then to the left as he performed both parts with great wit and self confidence, everyone in the house was in stitches!. It was hysterical and Joe and I hoped that the audience would vote for a tie for Kylie and Colton.
We judges were not permitted to vote, and audience members were asked to vote for two contestants, thus avoiding any one child’s large family “stuffing” the ballot box. Our wishes came true when it was announced that indeed Kylie and Colton tied.
Maid In The Shade- Caroline, Or Change Cleans Up and Nabs The Biggie!
I walked into the Warner Theatre to attend the Helen Hayes Awards on Monday, April 19th. The first person I bumped into was the dynamic and short cyclone -Max Talisman, who played Noah Gellman with such vocal prowess in Studio Theatre’s Caroline, Or Change, that many audience members thought he was a short adult. I shook Max’s hand, said hi to his Mom, and told them that Signature’s production of Assassins would win acting awards for Will Gartshore (as John Wilkes Booth), Donna Migliaccio (Sarah Jane Moore) and for Andy Browstein (Samuel Byck), and that Julia Nixon would win for her mesmerizing performance as Caroline Thibodeaux, and that when they opened the envelope for Best Resident Musical Caroline, Or Change would win.
Max thought I was crazy. “Assassins is going to win. We don’t have much of a chance.” Well, my predictions were right on the mark. Assassins blew away the competition winning the 3 above acting awards. Julia Nixon won for her portrayal of Caroline, and when they opened that envelope for Best Resident Musical-the maid cleaned up. I threw my clenched firsts into the air and yelled,”Alright Alright!”
The audience was stunned for a moment or two, and then applauded as Studio Artistic Director Joy Zinoman showed her immense joy and gratitude by asking Max Talisman to join her on the stage to accept the award. That kid was grinning, I was grinning and there was great joy among we Caroline, Or Change fans as we celebrated the unexpected win. It maid me and Max quite happy!
A Love Letter to Audra McDonald:
Thanks for returning to Broadway in 110 In The Shade. Your performance as Lizzie Curry, a lonely woman whose life is changed by the arrival of a mysterious drifter named Starbuck, touched my heart and the hearts of my friends who saw you at the Saturday, April 20th matinee.
When you sang ‘Old Maid’ you just didn’t sing the lyrics – you lived them. Listening to the pain and desperation in your gorgeous voice made us feel for Lizzie, and watching tears flow down your cheeks while you sang the song moved everyone to tears. It was a moment in the theatre I will never forget. And thank you for coming out at the stage door and saying hello to us and taking pictures with us and autographing our Playbills. Welcome back to Broadway. You are-back where you belong.
Toby Finds The Perfect Match!
I’ve heard the original Broadway cast album, the tape and CD of Fiddler On The Roof hundreds of times. I could never get enough of hearing Zero Mostel sing ‘If I Were a Rich Man’.
Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I saw two productions of the show at Melody Fair, once with a robust performance by a funny Italian gentleman – Georgio Castellano – and then a production starring the great Metropolitan Opera star baritone Robert Merrill. I liked the Paisanno better.
Two years ago, I watch my niece and a whole village of youngsters ages 10-16 perform the show for Act II. Last year I attended opening night when Harvey Fierstein “squawked and squeeled” his way through ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ at The Minskoff Theatre revival in NYC. I was in the second row dead center and not only was I subjected to Harvey’s grating voice, but also his massive spitting which attacked me all through his very heartfelt portrayal of Tevye. And wasn’t it crazy casting when Rosie O’Donnell came in to play Golde at the end of the run? How would these two explain where all those daughters came from – the Anatevka Adoption Agency? Oy!
Anyway, I was and am Fiddlered-out, or so I thought until I was driven, kicking and screaming, by my friend Vicki Hirsch to Toby’s The Dinner Theatre of Baltimore on Sunday, April 30th to see it’s current production. And I am so glad I did! For the first time ever, the songs ‘Sabbath Prayer’, ‘Little Chaveleh’ and ‘Anatevka’ had me emotionally drained and wiping tears away.
How did this happen? Stupendous performances by David-Bosley-Reynolds and Lynne Sigler- a Tevye and Goldie so real with so much heart that you could laugh with them and cry with them and feel their pain. And a cast that sang and acted their roles magnificently, never once over-acting or trying to manipulate you to feel for and with them. These actors lived their characters. You felt like you were on the stage with them and part of their family.
And special kudos to the orchestra which never drowned out the actors and who played the Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s famous score so beautifully.
And to Toby Orenstein who staged Fiddler with such beauty and emotion that I felt I was seeing the show for the first time. I was humming and singing quietly along all through the performance, because I was reminded why this show still works and audiences still loved it. Fiddler has a great book, score, humor, and universal characters- a perfect musical, (if there is such a thing.)
But, most of all, it has heart and warmth and Toby’s production has more heart than any other production of this show that I have seen. Mazel Tov to Toby Orenstein, her technicians and to the brilliant cast of Fiddler On The Roof ! L’Chaim!!