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.
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.
With Les Misérables recent gigantic leap from stage to the silver screen, Stage Notes host Robert Hammond showcased songs from some of the best Hollywood adaptations from the Great White Way, including Gentlemen prefer Blondes, Dreamgirls, West Side Story, and The Phantom of the Opera.
Follow Stage Notes on Twitter @stagenotes. Now, on with the show…
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:
Dr. Allan O’GradyCuseo 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.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, host Robert Hammond showcased some of Broadway’s greatest divas.
Historians of the Broadway musical, from the academy to the piano bar, agree on one thing: the archetypal Broadway star is a woman. Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Gwen Verdon, Carol Channing—legendary ladies such as these were the bulbs that lit the Great White Way in its golden and silver ages, and they still dominate the mythology of the genre. Back in the day, show-tune aficionados argued the merits of Merman versus Martin; today, one might find similar divisions among partisans of Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters, or Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel.
Broadway was represented in full-force at this year’s Academy Awards! Although John Travolta decimated the pronunciation of her name, Tony Award winner (Elphaba in Wicked) Idina Menzel, did the Great White Way proud with her performance of “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. Broadway songwriter (The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) Robert Lopez not only won his first Academy Award but also became one of only 12 EGOTs — people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. A full Stage Notes recap with host Robert Hammond is just a click away.