A Broadway Easter Celebration

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Join Host Robert Hammond (full program below) as he examines how religion influences musical theatre. The Book of Mormon is one of Broadway’s biggest box-office hits – recently there have been revivals of Christian-themed musicals — Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.  The revival of the revival of the revival (well, you get the picture!) of Les Miserables is still open on the Great White Way! The current revival closes in September.  easterAmong others, Fiddler on the Roof and Spring Awakening are steeped with religious undertones. It’s probably fair to say that the theater has seen the way of the Lord. Has someone been putting sacrament in the water? Or have playwrights just gotten in touch with their devout or devoutly satirical sides?

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I’m Pinocchio

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Today’s Stage Notes was prerecorded. If you read this and then go to the second and final performance of Broadway Rocks, the first Pops concert music director Ward Stare has conducted in Rochester, you’ll think I was a bit hyperbolic.  Don’t get me wrong, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra was fantastic, especially the rhythm section, which is vitally important to a concert like Broadway Rocks, but overall the concert fell flat. I had higher expectations.

The main problem could have been the sound, particularly during the first act – it was muffled. From the Loge, I could barely hear the guest soloists and the choir from Roberts Wesleyan College.

The repertoire was outstanding—some of the biggest Broadway hits, including songs from Wicked, Hairspray, Jersey Boys, and The Phantom of the Opera were performed.

Before the concert, I knew little about Capathia Jenkins. She is all that and more! She brought down the house with her renditions of “And I’m Telling You I’m not Going” from Dreamgirls and “I will Survive.” She and the RPO are what make this concert worth attending.

Another guest vocalist, Rob Evan, could have survived without amplification. His highlights were Dennis DeYoung’s (lead singer from Styx) song “Come Sail Away” and “The Music of the Night,” from The Phantom of The Opera. His voice is strong; however, he could use a stylist.

I’ve seen guest vocalist Christiane Noll on Broadway and at Eastman. In general, I’ve been impressed. This concert is not suited for her. She seemed uncomfortable on stage. That’s not dancing, Sally! (Seinfeld reference.) She decimated a song that should have elevated the concert, “Defying Gravity.” Although the choir would have drowned her vocals out, I’m not sure why they weren’t included at the songs conclusion to proclaim “no one mourns the wicked.” Noll’s voice is pretty, as proved during the Theme from The Phantom of The Opera, but she’s no rocker.

Ward Stare’s forte is Classical conducting – last night he proved he’s a Pops pro, too. Rochester is lucky to have him. Please let me know when he conducts the RPO and the Capathia Jenkins show. I’ll be there.

Broadway Rocks is on stage in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre tonight at 8 PM. Tickets and information at RPO.org.

“The Road To Where” with Broadway Veteran Cass Morgan

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.

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cass_morgan_pic-220x276CASS 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.

LLDuring  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.

Broadway In Love Part One

broadway_in_loveIn 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.

Happy Birthday, Ronnie Kroell (The King of Peace)

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“Birthday Song” by Carole King

Happy Birthday
Celebrate your day in style
Happy Birthday
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

Happy Birthday
You know just how to be
Happy Birthday
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

Happy Birthday
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

Listen to Kyle Dean Massey’s Full Interview

kyle_dean_massey_dark_blue1Broadway 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.

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Pippin’s Kyle Dean Massey has Magic to do on Stage Notes

Kyle oneKyle Dean Massey Joins the Broadway tour of PIPPIN straight from the Broadway production where he was in the title role. He jumped onto Stage Notes  to talk with host Robert Hammond about this extraordinary role, as well as his vast Broadway Career, including leading roles in Wicked,  Next to Normal, Xanadu, and Altar Boyz. (Bio below.)  Full interview with Kyle will air throughout the country in January.

Starring Kyle Dean Massey as Pippin, Lucie Arnaz as Berthe, John Rubinstein (the original Pippin in the Broadway production), and Sasha Allen from  The Voice, The National Broadway Tour of PIPPIN is on its way to your city.  Don’t miss it!

Pippin Continue reading “Pippin’s Kyle Dean Massey has Magic to do on Stage Notes”

Stage Notes Celebrates LGBT Pride Month

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Follow Stage Notes on Twitter @stagenotes. Now, on with the show…

playbill-supports-gay-pride-665x385 Is The Great White Way Gay?

A good friend of mine was in a lead role in a blockbuster musical on Broadway. After the Saturday evening performance, it was customary for the cast and crew to chill out at what they called “their place.”  Since I was a frequent attendee, I became an honoree part of the group.   On one such night, I asked my friend “is —- gay.” He responded: “Robert, on Broadway you don’t ask if a person is gay, you ask if they’re straight.”

For certain, I knew about the stereotypes and flamboyancy that often surrounds theatre people, but I had not developed such a hard core syllogism:  If you’re in theatre you must be gay.  I don’t believe that.  However, I do believe that the theatre is a safe haven for many LGBT people, especially gay men.

I was thrilled that Dr. Allan O’Grady Cuseo joined me on this important edition of Stage Notes.  Broadcast date June 21, 2014.  Take time to read his impressive bio:

allan_ogrady_cuseo-170x213Dr. Allan O’Grady Cuseo earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1988. He also holds a Masters in Library Science from SUNY/Geneseo and a BS in Education from SUNY/GENESEO.  He holds a Master of Theology from St. Bernard’s College of Theology and Ministry plus a certificate in Scriptural Studies from Education for Ministry from Sewanee. He holds a certificate in Irish Theatre from the University College, Galway Ireland.

Dr. Cuseo was Building Leader for Library Services at Greece Arcadia High School and was instrumental in establishing the Project Pride, a student teaching, program there. He was on the adjunct faculty of Nazareth College of Rochester for over 25 years and 10 years for the School of Library Science at UB/SUNY’s School of Information and Library Science. He was on the adjunct faculty of the now closed Graduate School of Information and Library Science, SUNY/GENESEO. Allan resigned as Director of Library Services for Bishop Kearney High School in June 2009. He is currently General Manager of the Rochester Association of Performing Arts/Main Street (RAPA).

As a member of the American Library Association he has served as chairperson for the Outstanding Books for College Bound (Fine Arts) Revision Committee and has been a member of the Outstanding Books for College Bound (Fiction) Committee and the School Library Journal/Young Adult Services Division Committee to choose the Young Adult Author of the Year Award. He was awarded a position on the Best Books for Young   Adults, one of 15 librarians nationwide so honored. He was the Chair of the Religion Committee for the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Committee of the Young Adult Services Association of the American Library Association. He also was Chair of Books That Don’t Make you Blush for the same committee. He recently resigned as a major book reviewer for Catholic Library World magazine.

For his volunteer work with the City of Rochester PAC-TAC program he has been awarded merit honors for his service as Security chairperson for the Corn Hill Neighbors Association (CHNA). He served on the Board of Directors of CHNA and on the Corn Hill Arts Festival Executive Board. He has been the Chairperson of Security for the famous Corn Hill Arts Festival for 26 years.

He was President of Blackfriars Theatre of Rochester, New York, having served as President of the Board of Directors for over 40 years. For 7 years he was President of the Rochester City Ballet, the city’s only professional ballet company. He has served on the Planning Committee for the Right-On Summer School for the Church of St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene, Chairperson of the Evangelism Committee, Co-chairperson of the Ambassadors ministry, and a member of the Christian Education Committee. He was on the church’s vestry and serves as a delegate for the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. He was a member of the planning committee for the Lay School of Theology (Colgate Rochester Divinity School/Wellspring.

Dr. Cuseo has lectured and offered over 200 workshops nationwide for the New York Library Association and the American Library Association. Allan O’Grady Cuseo, PhD has a Doctorate in Literary Analysis from Columbia University. Formerly a librarian for the Greece Central School District, Dr. Cuseo retired June 2009 as Director of Library Services for Bishop Kearney High School.

He began his theatre career as a young teen with the Rochester Community Players and Catholic Theatre of Rochester (later renamed Blackfriars Theatre). He was the co-founder of the Rochester Repertory Company and starred in over 200 children and adult productions. The company specialized in children’s shows and performances for shut-ins in the community.

He is currently Managing Director of the Greater Rochester Repertories Companies  (GRRC) and has  directed Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap twice for them for which the Theatre Association of New York (TANYS) awarded him an Outstanding Director designation. For GRRC’s production of Love Letters he received an award from TANYS for Excellence in Acting.

Professionally in New York City he was a member of the Jewish Theatre for Children and also performed in Macy’s Christmas shows. He did summer stock at the famous Theatre-by-the-Sea in Matunuk, Rhode Island. He has worked on tour, both on-stage and technically,  with Debbie Reynolds, Imogene Coca, Judy Garland, Kim Hunter, Patrice Munsel, Patty Duke, John Astin, Godfrey Cambridge, Hans Conried, Lou Jacobi, and Jane Connell.

It has been estimated that he has been in over 400 theatre productions. In a review in Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle it was said of Allan that “he has the most perfect comedy timing of anyone in Rochester Theatre.” Another review stated, “he walks on stage and the audience immediately loves him. He is pure magic on stage.”

Allan is a vowed religious brother of the Mercy of God Community, known as Br. Allan. In 2011 he was ordained by Open Ministry.