Happy Birthday, Mr. Sondheim

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Described by Frank Rich of The New York Times as “Now the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater,” Stephen Sondheim turned 86 on March 22.  Stage Notes host Robert Hammond paid tribute to the musical genius. Full program now available on demand.

Some of his best-known works as composer and lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods. He wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy.

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?

LISTEN

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.

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

This Ain’t Your Mamma’s “Pippin”

PippinBUT 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.

 

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.

 LISTEN

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”