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.

It’s Not Too Late to See Beautiful The Carole King Musical

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Nostalgic! Inspiring! Energetic! Just a few adjectives that come to mind after seeing the first national Broadway tour of Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

Rebecca LaChance, in the role of Carole King, is flawless. My God, some big shoes to step into! Jessie Mueller, who won a Tony Award for her performance in the original cast, has to be thrilled that the role on the road has been filled with the same gusto and grace.

This Jukebox musical works better than any I’ve seen. The sets and the scene changes, which are critical to the story, flow effortlessly.

If Ben Frankhauser, in the role of Barry Mann, doesn’t have a comedy gig on the side, he’s missing out on a lot of dollars. He and his hard to get wife, Cynthia Weil (played by Becky Gulsvig), are a match made in heaven. Their comic timing is spot on, as is their vocal talent.

Gerry Goffin (played by Liam Tobin), is accurately portrayed as a charming conflicted soul—sometimes you want to hug him and other times you want to shoot him. Indeed, Mr. Tobin has a great set of pipes.

At times, ensembles can be ignored throughout the theatre community. Not in this show! Each member is a unique thread in a beautifully crafted tapestry.

Rochester is a lucky city. Think about it. Beautiful is still on Broadway. The first national Broadway tour just left Chicago where it was planted for several months. And, in the very near future, it is scheduled to be in LA for an extended run. The arts are strong in Rochester—that is known throughout the country, which is why it gets shows like Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

Don’t miss this masterpiece, especially if you’re a fan of Carole King. You really will laugh and cry, and you certainly will enjoy heading down memory lane.

Beautiful The Carole King Musical is at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre through March 13th. Tickets and information are available at RBTL.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’s Most Revived Musicals

The Music of Broadway
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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.

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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.

Tony, Tony, Tony! A Tony Award Recap with Ted Chapin

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LISTEN    Aired 6/14/13

Joined by Ted Chapin, past Chairman of the Board for the American Wing (founder and owner of the Tony Awards) and current Vice Chair, host Robert Hammond presented an overview of the 68th annual Tony Award ceremony held on June 8th at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.   Having just attended the Tonys, Chapin presented an inside “look” at what it takes to put the show together, the history of the Tony Awards, and the voting process.

Ted Chapin

Theodore S. Chapin is President of Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company. He is responsible for the overall operation of the various divisions within R&H including Williamson Music, the Irving Berlin Music Company, R&H Theatricals, and the R&H Concert Library.

A native of New York City, Mr. Chapin attended the initial semester of the National Theater Institute of the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theater Center. By the time he graduated from Connecticut College in 1972, he had amassed more than five years of Broadway credits as the production or directorial assistant for THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER AND HIS WIFE, THE ROTHSCHILDS, FOLLIES, and was assistant director for Bernstein’s MASS at the Kennedy Center, and CANDIDE at the Los Angeles and San Francisco Civic Light Operas.

From 1972 to 1975, Mr. Chapin served as Associate to Alan Arkin, where his credits include the original Broadway production of Neil Simon’s THE SUNSHINE BOYS,  the CBS telecast of TWIGS starring Carol Burnett; Jonathan Reynolds’ RUBBERS & YANKS 3 DETROIT 0 TOP OF THE SEVENTH; and Neil Cuthbert’s THE SOFT TOUCH.

From 1976 until he joined R&H, Mr. Chapin’s career included serving as Musical Director for the National Theatre of the Deaf’s production of FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS, Associate Director of the National Theater Institute, and Producer of the Musical Theatre Lab at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

In 2003, Mr. Chapin turned his observations as the Production Assistant on the Sondheim/Prince/Goldman/Bennett musical FOLLIES into a book, EVERYTHING WAS POSSIBLE: THE BIRTH OF THE MUSICAL “FOLLIES,” which was published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf and in paperback by Applause Books.

Mr. Chapin served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Theater Wing for four years. He was the chairman of the Advisory Committee for New York City Center’s Encores! from its inception.  He has served as a Tony Awards nominator for two seasons, and is currently a member of the Tony Administration Committee. He has served as a panelist for the Opera/Musical Theatre program of the National Endowment for the Arts, a producer and lecturer for four concerts of the Doubleday series at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, and has been a visiting lecturer at Yale, New York University, Lawrence University, Columbia, and Baldwin Wallace.  He has been a judge at the Lotte Lenya Awards and has been honored by New York City Center with its Leonard Harris Award.  Recently he received two honors, one from Career Bridges for the Arts and one for the preservation of the musical theater, from the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards.

A resident of New York City, he is married and the father of two daughters.