News: Seth Rudetzy’s Vote-a-thon has quite the line up

Join Seth and James as Stars In The House hosts an Election Day Vote-A-Thon featuring Iain Armitage, Colleen Ballinger, Laura Benanti, Annette Bening, Stephanie J. Block, Brenda Braxton, Betty Buckley, Laura Bell Bundy, Andréa Burns, Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Tom Cavanagh, Michael Cerveris, Will Chase, Javier Colon, Gavin Creel, Marcia Cross, Charlotte d’Amboise, Darius DeHaas, Dana Delany, Colin Donnell, Jill Eikenberry, Melissa Errico, Victor Garber, Peri Gilpin, Josh Groban, Sean Hayes, Marilu Henner, Megan Hilty, Carly Hughes, Jeremy Jordan, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Judy Kuhn, Anika Larsen, Laura Leighton, Beth Malone, Melissa Manchester, Terrence Mann, Andrea Martin, Michael McElroy, Lindsay Mendez, Laurie Metcalf, Ingrid Michaelson, Lisa Mordente, Jessie Mueller, Patti Murin, Julia Murney, Kelli O’Hara, Karen Olivo, Adam Pascal, Lauren Patten, Christine Pedi, Rosie Perez, Anthony Rapp, Caroline Rhea, Alice Ripley, Chita Rivera, Jenna Russell, Lea Salonga, Glenn Scarpelli, Marc Shaiman, Martin Short, Elizabeth Stanley, Ben Stiller, Michael Tucker, Jenna Ushkowitz, Vanessa Williams, Schele Williams, Marissa Winokur, BD Wong, Tony Yazbeck and Bellamy Young.

Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration

On the one hand, so much to love with such an inordinate array of talent assembled to mark Sondheim’s 90th birthday. But on the other, where’s the editor, there’s a real sense of the rambling here too. Fortunately as this has been put together in lockdown (and very well too) it is easier than ever to skip to the bits you want (in the spirit of these times, I ain’t telling you who disappointed me).

For me, I loved the unexpectedness of Katrina Lenk’ ‘Johanna’, the cuteness of Beanie Feldstein & Ben Platt’s ‘It Takes Two’, and the energy of Alexander Gemignani’s ‘Buddy’s Blues’. And of the heavy hitters in the finale, Donna Murphy and Patti LuPone nailed ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ respectively, and there’s huge fun (if not finesse) in Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep & Audra McDonald giving us their ‘Ladies Who Lunch’. Continue reading “Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration”

News: Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert line-up announced

Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will be toasted with an all-star birthday concert, streaming live on Sunday 26th April. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and coinciding with the 50th Broadway anniversary of Sondheim’s CompanyTake Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be seen for free on YouTube. 

This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include a range of songs from the Sondheim catalogue performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

Broadway Album Reviews: The New Yorkers / Kiss Me, Kate! / Beetlejuice

I tackle a trio of  Broadway cast recordings in the shape of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers, Kiss Me, Kate! and Beetlejuice 

“Most gentlemen can’t be profound”

As it only played a handful of performances, the release of Cole Porter’s The New Yorkers (2017 Encores! Cast Recording) is a welcome chance to revisit this rarely seen musical. The recording is certainly aided by the presence of such musical theatre stalwarts as Scarlett Strallen and Tam Mutu (scintillating together on ‘Where Have You Been?’), the revelation for me is jazz singer Cyrille Aimée, who delivers a slinkily devastating rendition of ‘Love for Sale’ that makes it feel like the song was written for her.

Photo © Caitlin Ochs

Aside from the songs written by Jimmy Durante (his comic stylings at their best on Act 1 closer ‘Wood’ delivered with panache by Kevin Chamberlin), the prevailing aesthetic is one of classic Cole Porter elegance, Rob Berman’s musical direction finding just the right level of sparkling verve to blow off any lingering cobwebs and infuse real life into the material. Ruth Williamson’s witty ‘The Physician’, Mylinda Hull’s just-as-funny ‘The Great Indoors’, Strallen leading the ecstatic finale ‘I Happen to Like New York’…the pleasures here abound.

Sticking with the glorious Cole Porter, and who wouldn’t!, this year has also seen the release of Kiss Me, Kate! (2019 Broadway Cast Recording). It’s a show that I have a little difficulty with, never having seen a production that managed to sufficiently square its period gender dynamics with (my) contemporary sensibilities. But there’s no denying a songbook that contains the likes of ‘Too Darn Hot’, ‘So In Love and ‘Always True To You In My Fashion’.

Photo © Joan Marcus

And when you have the likes of Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase singing them, you’re in the territory of dreamily good. Whether together on the oom-pah-pah of ‘Wunderbar’ or separately on their respective renditions of ‘So in Love’, they’re both exceptionally good and utterly listenable. Also great value for money are ‘B’ couple Stephanie Styles and Corbin Bleu, pulling focus brilliantly wherever they pop up.

And last but not least, even if Mr Porter isn’t involved here, we have Beetlejuice (Original Broadway Cast Recording). From its opening minutes, (“Holy crap! A ballad already?”), it is clear that there’s a properly anarchic spirit at play here and Eddie Perfect’s score, led by a highly charismatic Alex Brightman who clearly is having a ball as he repeatedly breaks through the fourth wall (if there is one when you’re listening…?)

Photo © Matthew Murphy

‘The Whole “Being Dead” Thing is a genius opening number, prologue aside, and sets the tone for the Perfect’s pop-rock tunes, several of which feel like they have the potential to earworm their way into your brain (the refrain of ‘Fright of Their Lives is currently stuck in mine). Supported by vibrant work from Kerry Butler and Rob McClure and a cleverly sung performance from Sophia Anne Caruso as the Winona-waif Lydia, if Beetlejuice struggles to find a new home on Broadway then I’ll happily welcome it into the West End!

Album Reviews – Notes of Love – The Songs of Oliver Boito / Hamlisch Uncovered / Michael Thomas Freeman – Rewrite This Story

A trio of album reviews with Notes of Love – The Songs of Oliver Boito, Hamlisch Uncovered, and Michael Thomas Freeman – Rewrite This Story

“So many lives to live and risks to take”

Oliver Boito is clearly a man with many strings to his bow. He’s a photographer and artist as well as being a songwriter and a smattering of his tracks make up his EP Notes of Love – The Songs of Oliver Boito. And on this evidence, he’s quite the skilled composer. This selection is ballad-heavy and so naturally falls into my wheelhouse but the soaring clean harmonies of the Disney-esque ‘I’ll Always Stay’ sung by Stuart Matthew Price and Siubhan Harrison and the drama of the sumptuous ‘Sometimes’ by Sharon Sexton and Sooz Kempner should appeal to anyone. I look forward to hopefully hearing more from Boito’s pen. Continue reading “Album Reviews – Notes of Love – The Songs of Oliver Boito / Hamlisch Uncovered / Michael Thomas Freeman – Rewrite This Story”

Nominations for 2018-2019 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Charly Evon Simpson, Behind the Sheet
Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, The Lifespan of a Fact
Donja R. Love, Sugar in Our Wounds
Ming Peiffer, Usual Girls
Jeremy O. Harris, Slave Play

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, The Prom
Reeve Carney, Hadestown
Damon Daunno, Oklahoma!
Santino Fontana, Tootsie
Steven Skybell, Fiddler on the Roof (in Yiddish) Continue reading “Nominations for 2018-2019 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

2019 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Clive Carter for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre
Richard Fleeshman for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Robert Hands for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Ruthie Ann Miles for The King And I at The London Palladium
“The Queens” – Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel – for Six at Arts Theatre
Rachel Tucker for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre Continue reading “2019 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

Album Reviews: Here for You: Ballads for Broadway Impact / My Lifelong Love / Infinite Joy: The Songs of William Finn

This trio of album reviews covers Here for You: Ballads for Broadway Impact, My Lifelong Love and Infinite Joy: The Songs of William Finn

“People are swell but I’d rather be sailing”

Released in 2013 in support of Broadway Impact, an organisation of theatre artists and fans mobilised in support of marriage equality, Here for You: Ballads for Broadway Impact is a powerful collection of songs from Jonathan Reid Gealt. It is no secret that I love a ballad and having the likes of Kelli O’Hara, Adrienne Warren and Jeremy Jordan crooning and belting like this is just heaven. Jordan’s elegiac ‘Here For You’ with its gentle guitar is superb, as is the passion of Warren on ‘Home Away From Home’ but the standout track for me is O’Hara’s powerfully moving ‘Breathe’. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Here for You: Ballads for Broadway Impact / My Lifelong Love / Infinite Joy: The Songs of William Finn”