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.

Robert Hammond’s Tribute to “Glee” Star Cory Monteith Now Available On-Demand

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Stage Notes host Robert Hammond paid tribute to Glee star Cory Monteith during his radio program.  Along with songs from Glee, songs from Matthew Morrison’s new CD, Where it All Began, were featured.  Click below to hear the full program.  Aired 7/20/13

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A Broadway Love Affair

Sat, 02/09/2013 – 12:00pm – 1:00pm (EST)

What’s Broadway without its never-ending parade of fabulous love songs? Broadway composers have been churning them out for decades.  Join host Robert Hammond for a Valentine’s Day edition of Stage Notes. He’ll showcase some of your favorite love songs from the Great White Way. Live stream at wxxi.org/listen.

Sometimes F’uped is Next to Normal

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Rarely do I leave a musical or straight play in utter disdain.  In my view, there’s nearly always at least one positive take away.   Keeping that in mind,  there are three musicals that  continually affect me personally and professionally.  They’re stand outs—above the fray.  I’m drawn to the soundtracks regularly.  Hearing a single note from a song can instantly take me on a journey … some are delightful … some are dreadful.  That is what theatre is all about, and sometimes f’uped IS next to normal.  The suspense is over: A Chorus Line, RENT, and Spring Awakening.  I add a fourth:  Next to Normal.

I didn’t  see Next  to Normal on Broadway.  It doesn’t matter!  If I could turn back time (call me Cher!)  and the  production now on stage at Geva Theatre Center was magically transplanted to the Booth Theatre in April 2009, I suspect it would receive the same accolades and awards. 

Next to Normal, on stage at Geva Theatre Center through February 10th, is a triumph! Don’t miss this groundbreaking, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical. Congratulations to Geva; Scott Schwartz, director; and the entire, amazingly gifted cast and crew. Information about the show and its cast and crew is available at gevatheatre.org.   My full interview with Scott Schwartz  (director) is available below.

Click above to hear Robert’s full interview (including music) with Scott Schwartz

Stage Notes Gets “Next to Normal” with Scott Schwartz

Join host Robert Hammond for an in-depth look at the groundbreaking musical Next to Normal, with its director Scott Schwartz. The son of Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin), Scott Schwartz will talk about the cast, music and storyline of Next to Normal, on stage at Geva Theatre Center through February 10th.

Featuring an electrifying contemporary score of more than 30 songs, this groundbreaking, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical is an emotional powerhouse. Captivating and ultimately hopeful, Next to Normal aims right for the heart with its story of a suburban family coming to terms with its past and bravely facing its future. The New York Times raves “It is much more than a feel-good musical; it is a feel-everything musical.”

SCOTT SCHWARTZ (Director) returns to Geva Theatre Center where he directed the world premiere of ROOMS: A Rock Romance. Broadway credits include Golda’s Balcony and Jane Eyre (co-directed with John Caird). Off-Broadway credits include Bat Boy: The Musical; Tick, Tick…Boom!; Rooms: A Rock Romance; The Foreigner starring Matthew Broderick; Franz Kafka’s The Castle; Miss Julie and No Way to Treat a Lady. Mr. Schwartz also directed Golda’s Balcony in London, on tour in Los Angeles at the Wadsworth Theater, and in San Francisco at A.C.T. Recent credits include Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera, A Room With a View at the Old Globe, the rolling world premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s What We’re Up Against at the Alley Theatre, and Arsenic Old Lace starring Tovah Feldshuh and Betty Buckley at Dallas Theater Center. Regional theaters include Arizona Theatre Company, Asolo Rep, Berkshire Theater Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center, La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe, Pasadena Playhouse, PCPA, Prince Theater, Rubicon, Signature Theater, TheatreWorks, Virginia Stage Company, Westport Country Playhouse. Mr. Schwartz is an Associate Artist at the Alley, member of SDC, and a graduate of Harvard University.