I’ve been known to say that Stephen Sondheim is a genius. His musicals are not easy to tackle, especially Into the Woods. I doubt I’d be up to the challenge. Well, as usual, Ralph Meranto, artistic director for the JCC’s CenterStage, took the challenge.
To be honest, I was expecting a fair to good production. (Keep in mind; some of the best actors on the planet were just in the motion picture!) Into the Woods at CenterStage is a masterpiece! The cast was chosen perfectly, and they delivered a Broadway caliber show. The production is flawless. Who knew three hours in the woods could go so fast?!
The score is every bit as important as the acting. Music director Brian Clickner put together a magnificent ensemble that led the cast into the woods impeccably.
At intermission, I sent Ralph a one word text: Wow! Everyone involved should be glistening. You did the genius proud.
Into the Woods is on stage at CenterStage through May 17. Information is available at jccrochester.org.
Host Robert Hammond and Broadway veteran Cass Morgan discussed The Road to Where, a new musical that makes its world premiere at Geva Theatre Center April 23 through May 10. A couple of songs from the show debuted on Stage Notes.
With the help of two talented musicians, writer, Actor, and singer Cass Morgan searches for her roots in The Road to Where. A trip to the West of Ireland sparks memories of her childhood in Rochester, her growing up in a Florida trailer park, and a need to reconcile with her parents in an enchanting evening of story and song.
CASS MORGAN is thrilled to be back at Geva, this time as both actor and writer. Broadway credits include The Bridges of Madison County, Memphis, Mary Poppins, Ring Of Fire, Beauty and the Beast, The Capeman, The Human Comedy, Pump Boys and Dinettes (co-creator) and Hair. Off-Broadway credits include The Immigrant, Floyd Collins and Violet. Regionally. Ms. Morgan has appeared in 1776, Picnic, The Bridges of Madison County (Williamstown), Uncle Vanya, Saint- Ex (Weston Playhouse), The Music Man (Geva),Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas (Goodspeed), Cabaret, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Das Barbecue (Baltimore Centre Stage) and Children Of Eden (Mill Mountain Playhouse). But her favorite role is Mom to Collin and Jocelyn, and Nana to Magdalena and Abigail.
During this edition of Stage Notes, Hammond also featured the Lotte Lenya Competition, to be held Saturday, April 18 at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Among songs from Kurt Weill’s catalog, Doug Carpenter, winner in 2013, sings “Molasses to Rum,” from the musical 1776.
Fourteen exceptionally talented singer-actors from the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany have been selected as finalists in the 2015 Lotte Lenya Competition, held annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music. They will compete for top prizes of $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500 on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Broadway leading lady and Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker, British opera and musical theater conductor James Holmes, and Rodgers & Hammerstein President and American Theatre Wing Vice-Chairman Theodore S. Chapin will judge.
Now in its 17th year, the Lotte Lenya Competition is an international theater singing contest that recognizes talented young singer-actors, ages 19-32, who are dramatically and musically convincing in a wide range of repertoire, from opera and operetta to contemporary Broadway musicals, with a focus on the works of Kurt Weill.
Rebecca Luker, who judges for the fifth time this year, said of the contest, “There is no other singing competition quite like it. The Lotte Lenya competitor must have it all: acting and singing chops from a wide variety of theatrical and musical realms and also that certain something—charisma, star-quality, call it what you will—that puts them above all others. It’s always extremely difficult to pick only a handful of winners from a group that is always wholly excellent.”
Finalists were selected from a group of twenty-eight semi-finalists from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom after auditions in New York on March 13-14, 2015. Contestants were required to prepare four selections: an aria from the opera or operetta repertoire; two songs from the American musical theater repertoire (one from the pre-1968 “Golden Age” and one from 1968 or later); and a theatrical selection by Kurt Weill. Drama Desk nominated singer, actor, and voice teacher Judy Blazer and Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn served as adjudicator/coaches, evaluating and working with each of the semi-finalists.
The 2015 finalists, ranging in age this year from 23 to 31, are: Robin Bailey (London, UK), Jordan Davidson (New York, USA), Adam Fieldson (Nebraska, USA), Briana Silvie Gantsweg (California, USA), Anthony Heinemann (Missouri, USA), Talya Lieberman (Ohio, USA), Carter Lynch (Maryland, USA), Michael Maliakel (New Jersey, USA), Lauren Michelle (California, USA), Florian Peters (Köln, Germany), Katherine Riddle (Maryland, USA), Jim Schubin (Colorado, USA), Annie Sherman (Maryland, USA), and Christine Cornish Smith (Texas, USA).
Finalists will perform their entire programs for the judges on Saturday, April 18 between 11 am and 3:30 pm. At 8 pm, they will perform a concert of selections which will conclude with the announcement of the winners. Both events are free and open to the public, and will take place in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, 26 Gibbs Street, Rochester, N.Y.
Since the inception of the Lotte Lenya Competition in 1998, the Kurt Weill Foundation has awarded over $600,000 in prize money to young performers and continues to support previous winners through professional development grants. Previous winners enjoy successful stage, concert, and recording careers around the globe. Their 2014-15 credits range from Broadway (Lauren Worsham [Tony nominee], Amy Justman, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder; Analisa Leaming, On the Twentieth Century; Kyle Scatliffe, Les Misérables), National Tours (Cooper Grodin, Katie Travis, Amy Justman, The Phantom of the Opera; Doug Carpenter, Dirty Dancing; Maria Failla, Evita; Jacob Keith Watson, Chicago), and regional theaters (Erik Liberman, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, La Jolla Playhouse and Paper Mill Playhouse; Ariela Morgenstern, Next to Normal, Baltimore Center Stage) to major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera (Ginger Costa-Jackson), San Francisco Opera (Matthew Grills), Los Angeles Opera (Liam Bonner, Jonathan Michie, Lauren Worsham), Glimmerglass Festival (Ben Edquist, Maren Weinberger), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and English National Opera (Noah Stewart), Deutsche Oper Berlin (Edward Mout), Oper Frankfurt (Elizabeth Reiter), Dutch National Opera (Rebecca Jo Loeb), and Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie (Justin Hopkins). Concert highlights include Sweeney Todd (Zachary James, Justin Lee Miller) and Show Boat (Lauren Worsham) with the New York Philharmonic and the upcoming U.S. premiere of The Road of Promise, a concert adaptation of Kurt Weill and Franz Werfel’s The Eternal Road (Justin Hopkins, Megan Marino) with The Collegiate Chorale and Orchestra of St. Luke’s on May 6-7 at Carnegie Hall.
About the Kurt Weill Foundation
The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc. (http://www.kwf.org) is dedicated to promoting understanding of the life and works of composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and preserving the legacies of Weill and his wife, actress-singer Lotte Lenya (1898-1981). The Foundation administers the Weill-Lenya Research Center, a Grant Program, the Kurt Weill Book Prize and the Lotte Lenya Competition, and publishes the Kurt Weill Edition and the Kurt Weill Newsletter.
Host Robert Hammond featured songs from some of the most revived Broadway musicals, including Porgy and Bess, Show Boat, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story on Stage Notes. Click below to hear the entire program.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Stage Notes host Robert Hammond assembled some of your favorite Broadway love songs that you posted on Facebook and Twitter. He’ll be playing them throughout February. Don’t be shy – tweet Robert @stagenotes, or leave your request here in the comment section. He just might play your song.
“Birthday Song” by Carole King
Celebrate your day in style
Tonight I want to see you smile
Your whole life is in front of you, you’ve only just begun
So Happy Birthday
The best is yet to come
Happy Birthday to you
The good things I could say about you are infinite
But I will only take a minute
To say the world is a better place with you in it
With you in it
You know just how to be
I’m glad you’re you with me
To know you is to love you, to love you is to be blessed
So Happy Birthday
You deserve the best
Every time I ever reach out for you
You never let me down
Any time you’re ever in need of a friend
I will always be around
You are everything that’s good
You are everything that matters
I would give you the world if I could
You will always be a part of me and all that I go through
So Happy Birthday, dear friend
May all your dreams come true
Happy birthday to you
BUT she and the entire family will love it! Although the story, music, and Bob Fosse’s choreography remain intact, this amped up, high-flying, death-defying revival of the 1970s era musical by Stephen Schwartz is a joyride you won’t soon forget. The acrobatics are stunning — it’s like watching a science fiction movie on stage. You’ll leave wondering — how did they do that?! Can someone really do that with their body?!
All this to say, don’t miss the Broadway tour of Pippin. It’s every bit as good as the Broadway production. In the title role, Kyle Dean Massey is a quadruple threat! His voice is flawless! It should be illegal for one person to possess this much talent.
At 63 you won’t believe what Lucie Arnaz (Berthe) does on a trapeze. She’s the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in real life and Pippin’s grandmother in the show.
During my interview with Kyle Dean Massey (available on demand below), he mentioned that Pippin is the first show he’s been in where the ensemble is without a doubt as integral as the main characters. He’s right – there are no tangential roles in this Pippin.
I’m not sure if anyone can top Patina Miller, who won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical for her performance as the Leading Player in the Broadway revival of Pippin. It isn’t Sasha Allen, who was in the top 5 on Season 4 of NBC’s The Voice. She does not have “the voice” for this role. After the disastrous performances of American Idol wannabes Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I’m beginning to think “making it” on a reality show doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cut out to be on the Great White Way. Ms. Allen is an excellent dancer. She’s probably better suited for Dancing with the Stars.
Pippin is on stage through Sunday, January 18th at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre in Rochester, New York. Tickets available at RBTL.org. The entire tour schedule is at Pippinthemusical.com/tour.
Broadway veteran and now a star on ABC’s hit show Nashville, Kyle Dean Massey joined Robert Hammond on Stage Notes to discuss his success on the boards and specifically his title role in Pippin. Music from the New Broadway Cast Recording of Pippin, original music sung by Kyle, and songs from other musicals he’s starred in are featured.