Broadway To Vegas



Copyright: December 27, 2015
By: Laura Deni


The object of an original cast recording- be it from film, stage or television - is to accurately transfer what was heard in that medium onto a recording. In the case of The Wiz A Television Experience the CD surpasses what was heard on the well received television event.

Using a plethora of technical experience and additional musicians, this CD is even musically better than the live television show.

The Wiz is a musical with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls (and others) and book by William F. Brown. It is an urbanized retelling of L. Frank Baum's classic 1900 children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the context of modern African-American culture. It opened on October 21, 1974 at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to the Majestic Theatre on Broadway with a new cast on January 5, 1975.

The 1975 Broadway production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical was an early example of Broadway's mainstream acceptance of works with an all-black cast. A live television production of the stage show, The Wiz Live!, was broadcast on NBC on December 3, 2015, with an encore presentation on December 19.

In a joint venture Masterworks Broadway and Broadway Records have released the original soundtrack of the NBC television event.

The expertly handpicked cast of high profile stars who each came bearing their own strong fan base include: Queen Latifah (The Wiz), Mary J. Blige (Evillene), David Alan Grier (Cowardly Lion), NE-YO (Tin Man), Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow), Uzo Aduba (Glinda), Amber Riley (Addaperle), Common (Bouncer), Stephanie Mills (Aunt Em) and Shanice Williams as Dorothy.

The full bodied introduction is followed by Stephani Mills singing The Feeling We Once Had featuring an emotional forlorn beginning then a trajectory roaring to a gospel crescendo finish. If you don't think an orchestra talks, listen to this one create a tornado. Then comes the high energy He's the Wizard, showcasing Amber Riley and Shanice William with drummer Gordon Campbell dominating the beat.

Shanice continues with a solo Soon As I Get Home.

A standout is the new song We Got It, penned by Grammy Award winners, NE-YO, known for his sophisticated pop-R&B, Mason Jr. and Oremus with Elijah Kelley. We Got It is performed by cast members NE-YO and Kelley, along with Shanice Williams, David Alan Grier and The Wiz ensemble.

The arrangements are consistent throughout and emphasizes their importance. Also deserving low bows are the musicianship and engineering skills. Truly masterful.

Every word can be understood in a musical style in which many times the hard beats and tempo can muddle enunciation. Not on The Wiz.

The get a grip on reality You Can't Win is get down gospel high energy. The hit song from the production Ease on Down the Road is done justice by Shanice Williams.

Album recorded by Andrew Hey at Mason Sound, Los Angeles and Derek Lee at Avatar Studios, NYC. Music Mixed by Harvey Mason Jr. and Andrew Hey at Mason Sound. Vocals mixed by Harvey Masor, Jr & Andrew Hey at Jungle City Studios in NYC.

Digital editing by Derik Lee. Music directing and orchestrations by Stephen Oremus. Music arranged by Stephen Oremus and Harvey Mason, Jr. Music Production Master - Janet Wieber. Music Coordinator Michael Keller. Music Preparation by Amxter Rice Music Service.

Assistant engineers: Tyler Jartman and Tim Marchiafava at Avatar Studios, NYC. Danny Garcia and Dave Boyd at Mason Sound in Los Angeles. Brendan Morawski at Jungle City Studios, NYC. Mastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, NYC. Pro Tools Editing by Brian Bullard.

Musicians: Greg Phillinganes, Reggie Hamilton, Paul Jackson, Jr., Chris Payton, Gorden Campbell, Harvey Mason, Jr., Kevin Randolph, Wayne Bergeron, Chuck Findley, Gary Grant, Dan Higgins, Brandon Fields, Andy Martin, Joel Peskin, Bill Reichenbach.

Additional musicians for the CD recorded at Avatar Studios, NYC. Orchestra conducted by Stephen Oremus. Concert master Emily Yarbrough.

Sean Carney, Phillip Payton, Entcho Todorov, Chris Cardona, Victoria Paterson, Coco Taguchi, Jon Dinklage, Denise Stillwell, Allison Seidner, Deborah Assael: Pete Donovan, Aaron Heick, Rick Heckman, Jay Brandford, Chad Smith, Raul Agraz, Tony Kadleck, Brian Pareschi, Chad Yarbrough, Dale Kirkland, Dave Mancuso, Randy Cohen who also served as keyboard programmer

15 additional non cast vocalists were utilized on the CD.

Live Recording by Chris Murphy. Vocal Mixer Don Gerhard. Audio Producer Mark Dittman.

Beautiful photography in the accompanying booklet by Virginia Sherwood and Paul Gilmore.


Prologue (Orchestra)
The Feeling We Once Had (Stephanie Mills, Ensemble)
Tornado (Orchestra, Ensemble)
He’s the Wizard (Amber Riley, Shanice Williams, Ensemble)
Soon As I Get Home (Shanice Williams)
You Can’t Win (Elijah Kelley, Male Ensemble)
Ease On Down the Road (Shanice Williams, Elijah Kelley, David Alan Grier, NE-YO)
Slide Some Oil to Me (NE-YO)
Mean Ole Lion (David Alan Grier)
Be a Lion (Shanice Williams, David Alan Grier, Ensemble)
So You Wanted to See the Wizard (Queen Latifah)
What Would I Do If I Could Feel (NE-YO, Shanice Williams, Elijah Kelley, David Alan Grier, Ensemble)
We Got It (Shanice Williams, NE-YO, Elijah Kelley, David Alan Grier, Ensemble)
Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News (Mary J. Blige, Ensemble)
A Brand New Day (Shanice Williams, NE-YO, Elijah Kelley, David Alan Grier, Ensemble)
Y’all Got It (Queen Latifah)
Believe in Yourself (Uzo Aduba)
Home (Shanice Williams)

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Enjoy a free cup of Blue Marble Ice Cream when you visit the City Museum of New York from through Sunday, January 3. 2016.

The museum teases with a question Who organized the first Times Square New Year's Eve spectacular? Then offers three possible answers: Mayor George B. McClellan, Adolph S. Ochs or Dick Clark.

It was Adolph S. Ochs.

According to the Museum, "Adolph S. Ochs, owner and publisher of The New York Times from 1896 to 1935, saw an opportunity and selected a highly visible location to build the Times Tower, which was the second tallest building in the city at the time. In January 1905, the Times finally moved into their new headquarters, built between Broadway and Seventh Avenue and 42nd and 43rd Streets.

The previous spring, Mayor George B. McClellan signed a resolution that renamed the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue from Long Acre Square to Times Square.

Ochs told the Syracuse Herald, “I am pleased to say that Times Square was named without any effort or suggestion on the part of The Times.” Yet, he clearly felt proud: the new building represented “the first successful effort in New York to give architectural beauty to a skyscraper,” he said. Within a decade, the Times outgrew their space and moved to a new location, but not before starting a tradition that continues today: the New Year’s Eve spectacular. Ochs staged the first event to commemorate the new building and crowds still gather today to bring in the New Year.


THE SECRET GARDEN starring Rebecca Luker as Lily with Daisy Eagen as host will be staged at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York City on January 11 and17 as a benefit for the Make A Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York.

The Lucy Simon-Marsha Norman musical will feature Tony Award-nominated An American in Paris star Max von Essen will play Dr. Neville Craven. Tamika Lawrence will appear as Rose, Tom Deckman as Dickon and Frances Mercanti-Anthony as Mrs. Medlock, Bill Nolte as Ben, Gabriella Pizzolo as Mary Lenox, Eli Tokash as Colin, Ali Ewoldt as Ayah and Cortney Wolfson as Martha.

The ensemble includes Lacey Angerosa, Zech Azazi, Phillip Claflin, Michael Gioia, Emma Grimsley, Megan Johnson, Travis Kent, Jenna Miller and Michael Yeshion.

Curtis Holbrook will direct and choreograph the benefit. Jonathan Rose is music director for the evening.


THIRD ANNUAL NEW VOICES FESTIVAL a weekend of readings of new American plays by professional playwrights takes place January 15 – 17, 2016 at The Old Globe in San Diego, CA.

The Festival will kick off Friday, January 15 with Sheri Wilner, Julia Jordan, and Adam Gwon’s musical Cake Off, directed by Anne Torsiglieri. The Festival weekend will continue on Saturday, January 16, with peerless by Jiehae Park, directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, and at. with The Blameless by Nick Gandiello, directed by Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein. The festival concludes on Sunday, January 17 with Mona Mansour’s Unseen, directed by Johanna McKeon.

RANDY HOUSTON MERCER makeup artist for the Tony award winning Kinky Boots and The Book of Mormon has been sentenced up to 20 years in prison for having sexual relations with two minors near Augusta, Georgia.

Nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup - for Reading Rainbow, Mercer plead guilty in August to "sexual exploitation of a minor in production of child pornography."

As first reported in the Augusta Chronicle "Mercer pursued contact with minors, engaged in sexual acts that he photographed, and he e-mailed some of those photos to friends." He also neglected "to tell the 15-year-olds he was HIV positive before having unprotected sex," according to U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall.

According to his official bio, "Randy has a Masters Degree in Theatre Pedagogy and spent years training under industry legends Mark Traynor, Rex, Way Bandy and George Masters He has held workshops around the world including the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for the past decade. Randy has designed over 50 Broadway productions, many films, and has been fortunate enough to work with the biggest stars of our day."

His other Broadway credits include Cry-Baby, Mauritius, Prymate, Fiddler on the Roof, Flower Drum Song, Hairspray, Thou Shalt Not, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Producers, Follies, Cabaret, Smokey Joe's Cafe, Sunset Boulevard, Picnic, Crazy For You and The Heidi Chronicles.

His numerous television credits include 30 Rock and Project Runway.

THE 2nd ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF AMERICAN CIRCUS takes place January 5, 2016 at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Part ceremony, part performance, the Celebration of American Circus will honor four artists and/or organizations that have been prominent in the circus arts landscape in America, while spotlighting the thriving state of the circus arts across the nation, and will feature Emcee Thom Wall, with performances from a variety of breath-taking acts.

For the second year, the Celebration of American Circus presents a distinguished and impressive roster of honorees, all of which have spent decades furthering the appreciation of circus arts in America. Sabrina Motley, director of the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival, will present the Community Impact Award to Circus Smirkus Founder Rob Mermin and Ed LeClair, Smirkus's Executive Director. Duncan Wall of Circus Now will present the Elevating Circus Award to Dominque Jando, renowned circus historian and author. David Shiner will roast and toast and present the Evolving Circus Award to his fellow clownical artist Bill Irwin. This year a new award will be presented; the Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented by the legendary Dolly Jacobs (Circus Sarasota) to the legendary Hovey Burgess.

Evolving Circus Award, presented by David Shiner goes to honoree Bill Irwin.

This award is given annually to an individual whose personal and/or professional contributions have made a significant and permanent impact on the circus field in America, with specific consideration of how the recipient's work has influenced the perception of the circus arts by the American public and the arts and entertainment industry.

Irwin is a graduate in theatre arts from Oberlin College, OH, a graduate of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Clown College, FL, and received a MacArthur Genius Grant in 1984. He appeared on Broadway in Accidental Death of an Anarchist and at La Jolla Playhouse in The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, among his other stage works. Bill Irwin won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play, for his performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He was also nominated for four Tony Awards as an actor, author, director, and choreographer.

THE NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE AWARDS (NHSMTA) which impact more than 50,000 students annually who participate in high school musical theatre competitions sponsored by top professional theatres throughout the United States have a growing list of participants including The Muny in St. Louis.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre, The Muny and the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation (FPACF) have announced a joint sponsorship of the first annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards for the 2016-2017 school year. High school musicals will be adjudicated and an awards show will take place at the Fox Theatre on May 28, 2017 with winners announced in 15 categories including a Best Actress and a Best Actor who will go on to compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City.

written by Vanessa Claire Stewart, Taylor Hackford and Jake Broder.

Directed by Taylor Hackford.

Features Tony Award winner Anthony Crivello as Louis Prima and Vanessa Claire Stewart as Keely Smith.

Louis Prima and Keely Smith shared a larger-than-life marriage and groundbreaking Las Vegas act featuring unforgettable songs like That Ol’ Black Magic, Pennies from Heaven and Embraceable You.

"After earlier award winning and extended productions in Los Angeles and more recent acclaim in Chicago, Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara arrives at the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse with bigger-than-ever numbers and louder-than-ever-laughs."

Scenic Design by Hershey Felder & Trevor Hay. Costume Design by Melissa Bruning. Assistant Costume Designer Christianna Rogers. Lighting/Projection Design by Christopher Ash. Sound Design by Erik Carstensen. Choreography by Vernel Bagneris. Dance Captain is Erin Matthews. Production Research by Meghan Maiya. Production Stage Manager is Rebecca Peters.

Presented by Hershey Felder. December 30, 2015 - January 17, 2016 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

THE BARBER OF SEVILLE by Gioachino Rossini.

Production by Bartlett Sher.

Conducted by Antony Walker.

Met’s family-friendly, English-language, two-hour adaptation of one of opera’s most winning comedies. Bartlett Sher’s effervescent production of Rossini’s tuneful masterpiece stars the charming mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, revisiting her portrayal of Rosina, the girl who behaves perfectly—until anyone gets in her way.

Also starring David Portillo and Elliot Madore

Set Designer Michael Yeargan. Costume Designer Catherine Zuber. Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind. Translation J. D. McClatchy.

The performance on December 30 will include a pre-show "open house" with activities for families on the Grand Tier, including an insider's look at the production’s sets and props. Doors open at 11 am for a 12:30 pm curtain.

Performances through January 2, 2016 at The Met in New York City.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO MOTOWN by Troubadour Theater Company.

Directed by Matt Walker.

The parody of a holiday classic, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Motown tells the tale of Kris Kringle’s (aka Santa Claus) origin; the Troubies take the jolly old man himself and send him to the land of Smokey Miracles and Supreme Temptations.

The cast includes Rick Batalla, Leah Sprecher, Suzanne Jolie Narbonne, Darrin Revitz, Lisa Valenzuela, Mike Sulprizio, Joey Keane, Andy Lopez, Matt Walker, Tyler King and Beth Kennedy.

December 2 - January 17, 2016 at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, CA.

THE COLOR PURPLE based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize winning novel and the Warner Bros. Amblin Entertainment motion picture, adapted for the stage by Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winner Marsha Norman, with music and lyrics by Grammy award winners Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.

Directed by John Doyle.

Starring Grammy, Academy Award, and Golden Globe award winner Jennifer Hudson opposite Cynthia Erivo, the breakout star of John Doyle's acclaimed Menier Chocolate Factory production, and Orange is the New Black's Danielle Brooks.

. All three women are making their Broadway debuts.

They are joined by Isaiah Johnson in the role of 'Mister;' Joaquina Kalukango as 'Nettie;' Kyle Scatliffe will be taking on the role of 'Harpo with Phoenix Best, Dwayne Clark, Lawrence Clayton, Carrie Compere, Patrice Covington, Adrianna Hicks, Bre Jackson, Grasan Kingsberry, Kevyn Morrow, Ken Robinson, Antoine L. Smith, Carle R. Stewart, Akron Watson, and Rema Webb completing the ensemble.

The Color Purple is an unforgettable story of enduring love and triumph over adversity. With a fresh, joyous score of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, this stirring family chronicle follows the inspirational Celie, as she journeys from childhood through joy and despair, anguish and hope to discover the power of love and life.

. Performances at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York City.

ALMOST MATA HARI - LOVERS< LETTERS AND KILLERS written by and starring Eva Dorrepaal.

Assuming the character of the exotic dancer and WWI spy, Eva Dorrepaal explores Mata Hari's entanglements with men, discovering that both the actress and her subject share an addiction to dangerous love.

Mata Hari, née Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (1876-1917), was a sort of ultimate fallen woman. The daughter of a bankrupted Dutch hat maker, she married a violent, abusive Dutch naval officer in 1895. In 1902, she divorced her husband, moved to Paris, and reinvented herself as a celebrated exotic dancer and courtesan.

A master of four European languages, she collected many lovers, including top-tier military officers on both sides of World War I, whose generosity funded her lavish lifestyle.

The Great War didn't stop her from traveling between belligerent countries and when German intelligence heard she was going to France, they offered her 20,000 DM to gather information. She took the money without the responsibility, reasoning that the Germans owed her much more than that for confiscating her furs and deposits when the war broke out. She threw their invisible ink in the North Sea Canal, forgot the incident and continued her nonchalant lifestyle. In Paris she fell deeply, passionately in love with Vadime de Masloff, a 21-year-old Russian captain fighting with the French army. He was subsequently wounded by poison gas and sent to recuperate in the restricted French town of Vittel.

Desperate for a visa to visit him, and for money to marry and keep him after the war, Mata Hari agreed to spy for France. She spent three afternoons seducing a German major Von Kalle in Madrid who fed her inaccurate information and to whom she passed along only gossip items from newspapers. It was an amateurish escapade and she had already been flagged by British intelligence as a possible double-agent. The game ended when the Germans "burned" her for her disloyalty by supplying evidence against her in communications they knew would be intercepted by the French. Following the disaster at Verdun, it served the French war machine to expose a high-profile person as a spy. She was arrested, tried, convicted of being an enemy agent, and executed by firing squad in France.

January 7 to 24, 2016 Theater for the New City, NYC.


BILLY JOEL has added a 25th consecutive show as part of his record-breaking residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He'll perform Thursday, January 7, 2016, which will be Joel's 71st all-time performance at The Garden. Joel is the first artist ever to simultaneously hold both of The Garden's concert-related performance records and he continues to break his own records for both the "Longest Run of Any Artist" and the "Most Number of Performances By Any Artist" at Madison Square Garden, known as "The World's Most Famous Arena."

JIM BRICKMAN performs December 29, 2015 at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha, Nebraska.

JOHN PIZZARELLI entertains next Sunday, January 3, 2016 at the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts in Wickenburg, AZ.

PINK MARTINI bring in 2016 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon on Thursday, December 31, 2015.

WILLIE NELSON opens a three night gig at Austin City Limits at the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, December 29. On Saturday he's on stage at the Edgewater Casino in Laughlin, NV.


PATRICIA ELLIOTT Tony award winner died December 20, 2015 at her home in New York City from a rare cancer, Leimyloma sarcoma. She was 77.

Elliott won a Tony Award in 1973 for her portrayal as the comically embittered Countess Charlotte Malcolm in the original production of the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s musical, A Little Night Music. It was her Broadway debut.

In 1977, she was nominated for a Tony Award one again, this time for her performance in the original Broadway production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Shadow Box.

She began her career working in repertory, at the Cleveland Playhouse and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. She moved to New York in 1968. Soon, she was playing the role of Regan opposite Lee J. Cobb in a Lincoln Center production of the tragedy King Lear. Her other early Broadway roles were also in classics, including King Henry V, A Doll’s House, Month of Sundays and Hedda Gabler. For The Elephant Man, she replaced Carole Shelley

Elliott’s off-Broadway credits include The Prince of Homburg, Misalliance, The Voice of the Turtle, Love Letters, Durang/Durang, Vita & Virginia and the Leonard Bernstein musical revue, By Bernstein. She played the role of Dorine in the 1977 Tony-nominated Circle in the Square revival of Molière's Tartuffe. Elliott starred in Hay Fever at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles and played Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

She was best known for her portrayal of fictional character Renee Divine Buchanan on the ABC daytime drama One Life to Live from 1988 to 2011. In addition, she was on the CBS Radio Mystery Theater series from 1974 through 1982.

In 2015, Elliott established the Patricia Elliott Theatre Scholarship at her alma mater, the University of Colorado.

Her 1960 marriage to Christopher Vivien Hawthorne Fay ended in divorce in 1962. She is survived by her niece, Sally Fay, and an aunt, Claudine Walker, and several cousins.

WILLIAM GUEST original member of Gladys Knight and the Pips, died Thursday, December 24, 2015 in Detroit of congestive heart failure. He was 74.

Guest is Gladys Knight's cousin.

Guest performed throughout the lifespan of the Grammy-winning group from 1953 to 1989. He performed background vocals on hits such as I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Midnight Train to Georgia.

Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Apollo Hall of Fame in 2006.

After the group ended, Guest and another member, the late Edward Patten, formed a production company. Guest later served as CEO of Crew Records. He released his autobiography Midnight Train From Georgia: A Pips Journey in 2013 written with his sister-in-law Dhyana Ziegler.

Neil Portnow President/CEO of The Recording Academy issued the following statement: "William Guest was a much beloved music creator and performer. A Grammy winner for his work with Gladys Knight and the Pips, he remained an integral part of the group until 1989. In addition to his musical talents, William was also an accomplished businessman, having started a production company as well as serving as CEO of Crew Records. Our creative community has lost a truly gifted and cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to William’s family, friends, and all of those who had the pleasure of working with him."

ANTHONY TOLSON a bass player who has performed with Ne-Yo, Young Jeezy, Kelis and J. Moss, was shot and killed in Detroit on Christmas Eve, in a carjacking, as first reported by the Detroit Free Press. He was 33 years old.

Tolson was reportedly driving from church to his mother’s house on Detroit’s east side, where his three children were, around 9:30 p.m. when the shooting took place. The suspects then stole his SUV, in which Tolson had gifts for his children as well as the bass that he had just played at a church service.

Detroit Police spokeswoman Sgt. Cassandra Lewis did not identify Tolson by name, but confirmed to the newspaper that two people ordered a victim out of a gray Chevrolet Trailblazer and then fired shots.

As a musician, Tolson began playing the steel drums when he was 8-years-old before switching to bass guitar in his teens. He played at local private parties and recording sessions and toured with several artists.

Kern Brantley, who plays bass for Lady Gaga, announced that Detroit bass players are holding a jam session in tribute to Tolson in Southfield at Back Beat tonight, Sunday, December 27, with all proceeds from the show going to his family.

Next Column: January 3, 2016
Copyright: December 27, 2015 All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary, Photographs or Graphics from any Broadway To Vegas (TM) columns may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, utilized as leads, or used in any manner without permission, compensation and/or credit.
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Laura Deni

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