Broadway To Vegas



Copyright: May 8, 2016
By: Laura Deni


This week Broadway To Vegas continues reviewing plays and musicals which have been nominated for theatrical awards. Three which are up for Tony Awards are reviewed in this column including two musicals which are distinctively different and a serious play.

Keala Settle as Becky, Jessie Mueller as Jenna and Kimiko Glenn as Dawn in Waitress. Photo: Joan Marcus
based on the 2007 movie of the same name which debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and went into limited theatrical release in the America. This stage musical has a book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. It's mounted at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City.

Waitress is on a lower moral scale, but on the same intellectual level as Pump Boys and Dinettes only without the knee slapping dancing.

This is an interesting and puzzling production in that some sections seem to be constructed as a musical while other parts come across as a badly written farce. Thus, it's confusing.

I have never seen the movie Waitress which is the basis for this musical.

The first thing you need to know before seeing this show is that it's important to have eaten first. This isn't one of those - 'we'll eat after the show' productions. The reason is that upon entering the theater you are engulfed in the deliciously seductive aroma of warm cinnamon. Suddenly, you're hungry. In a clever promotion, girls dressed as waitresses roam the aisles selling jars of pies. Much like cupcakes sold in a jar, these are little jars into which a piece of pie is placed. At $10.00 each, the pie jar comes with its own little spoon. If you were hungry before entering the theatre your attention is going to be diverted into thinking only about food, rather than sitting back and enjoying the performance.

The stage curtain is designed to resemble a cherry lattice pie.

All extremely clever.

The talent on stage is obvious. Their performances are entertaining. Sara Bareilles who received a Tony nomination for penning the music and lyrics has given noticed that she is a Broadway composer.

The acting is excellent. Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller is nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in this production as is Christopher Fitzgerald. The production has a Best Musical nomination.

It's the plot line that is somewhat absurd and idiotic. There is no doubt that this show will appeal to fans of Duck Dynasty, and Honey Boo Boo.

Language used is right off the street and is how the characters in this musical would normally express themselves.

One element of the story has merit for expansion. A woman with an abusive husband who drinks excessively and takes her tips for himself, finds herself pregnant with his child. She works full time in a diner where she both bakes pies and waits on tables. Her co-workers are her support system. They encourage her to leave the lout she married. A way out could be winning a pie baking contest which would provide her with enough money to make a fresh start. She is pressured into agreeing to enter. The day before the pie contest she goes into labor, delivers a baby girl and finds the strength to kick out her bum of a husband, return to work at the diner where years later she is still working, happily raising her adorable child.

Along the Midwest and South there are roadside cafes which specialize in pies; mile-high and homemade. There are legitimate pie baking contests in which winning a few can bring in needed money and possessions. Generally, somebody who really does know how to bake doesn't need to be browbeaten into reluctantly entering a competition.

Where the plot line is stretched to not only unbelievable, but offensive is on several levels:

Jenna (energetically played by Mueller) not only waits on tables, she single-handed bakes numerous types of pies every day for the road side diner in a next to nothing small town, which couldn't consume that many pies in a day. I've baked more than a few pies in my day and no one person could possible bake all the pies on stage and wait tables. It's also apparent that none of the people on stage actually know how to bake a pie from scratch. In fact, what they do to pie dough would result in the toughest crust imaginable.

Jenna is not merely making pies, she's suppose to be inventing pies with unusual titles inspired by her life. The personal names never really come across to the audience. Her unwanted pregnancy supposedly resulted in a pie dubbed Bad Baby Pie, which doesn't sound like a potential big seller.

In the first trimester of her pregnancy, Jenna suffers from morning sickness. She frequently throws up in the restaurant. Yet, she aggressively sexually seduces her weak willed, attractive gynecologist who happened to be married to a woman finishing her medical residency; even making rounds observing Jenna immediately before she gives birth.

Ah, come on.

One day Jenna calls the doc informing him that she is spotting. He tells her that spotting in early pregnancy is normal but has her come in the next day.

Despite being pregnant by another man, suffering from morning sickness and spotting, Jenna aggressively sexually seduces the doctor. Her legs spread in every direction except shut. The stirrups are in place and the doctor uses them to hang onto to give him better thrust. Sex in this show is rampant.

It's a wonder any of the ladies even bother to put on underwear.

You get the feeling that characters in this musical were spawned from first cousins who married.

Jenna's co-workers are also having their own romps. Keale Settle, who has a sassy comedic flare and a strong voice, plays waitress Becky.

Becky is married. Although she has a full time job, manages to change her elderly husband's diapers three times a day and have sex in the diner with the diner's chef Cal, played by Eric Anderson.

As with Jenna, there is always some reason given as to why these women are sleeping around.

Christopher Fitzgerald and Kimiko Glenn walk under a wedding arch of stirring spoons held by Jeremy Morse, Thay Floyd, Charity Angél Dawson, Glenn, Ryan Vasquez, Stephanie Torns, and Aisha Jackson. Photo: Joan Marcus
Jenna's other co-worker is Dawn played by the adorable Kimiko Glenn. She is single, shy, and longing for love and provides the musical's only moral linchpin. Dawn goes on line and finds Ogie, played by the hilarious Christopher Fitzgerald. He's a tax accountant. They both like historical war reenactments. Sex for them also seems a perfect fit. They marry. During their wedding reception he's the one who sings the odd-ball, idiotic, wasted and perhaps worthless composition I Love You Like a Table.

This is the couple with sensitivity and backbone. When Jenna gives birth and kicks out her husband, it is Dawn and Ogie who actually offer something other than lip service. In an almost buried couple of sentences, they invite her to stay with them.

The musicians are ensconced on stage in the diner scenes. They are: Nadia DiGiallonardo who conducts and plays the piano; James Edwards on keyboards; dummer Rich Mercurio; Lee Nadel on bass; Yair Evnine playing the cello and guitar and Meghan Toohey on guitar. John Miller is the musical coordinator.

In an unexplained plot turning event, the pie shop's elderly owner who dies provides Jenna the money to buy the diner, renamed Lulu, after her daughter. There is no reason given as to why the other employees, who now work for Jenna, were not provided for by the owner. Nor are they bitter that they are now employed by their former co-worker.

Ornery thoughts are;
1) was the movie's popularity elevated due to sympathy because writer/director Adrienne Shelly, (who also played Dawn) was murdered less than three months before Shelly would have learned the film had been accepted into Sundance.

2) was the Broadway musical given a boost because much has been made that all of the creatives are women.

A following morning reflection on the show is baffling. In the light of day the musical isn't remember as being all that bad. Parts of it were actually quite cute.

This is a score which may sound better when heard on the upcoming cast album, rather than how the songs are delivered on stage. I would love to hear Bareilles' music with full blown orchestrations. To paraphrase a famous quote: One great song, She Used To Be Mine, doesn't a great musical make. However, this effort is important because it is the vehicle which truly launches the career of Bareilles. It is also the production which shows off the talents of Christopher Fitzgerald.

Carmen Cusack makes an impressive Broadway debut in Bright Star. Photo: Joan Marcus
is - in the most loving sense of the word - one hokey musical. Old fashioned corny and predictable. It's also sweet, charming, entertaining and has a score with some toe tapping, uplifting, infectious tunes.

An original cast CD on Ghostlight Records will be available in stores on May 27.

This is a combined review of both the Broadway musical and the original cast CD.

Music, book and story by Steve Martin. Music, lyrics and story by Edie Brinkell is on stage at the Cort Theatre in New York City.

Their Tony nomination include; Best Musical, Best Actress, Best Book, Best Score, and Best Orchestrations.

Starring Carmen Cusack in an impressive Broadway debut as both the young and older Alice Murphy, Paul Alexander Nolan (Jimmy Ray Dobbs), Michael Mulheren (Mayor Josiah Dobbs), A. J. Shively (Billy Cane), Hannah Elless (Margo Crawford), Stephen Bogardus (Daddy Cane), Dee Hoty (Mama Murphy), Stephen Lee Anderson (Daddy Murphy), Emily Padgett (Lucy Grant) and Jeff Blumenkrantz (Daryl Ames).

Also Maddie Shea Baldwin, Allison Briner-Dardenne, Max Chernin, Patrick Cummings, Sandra DeNise, Richard Gatta, Lizzie Klemperer, Michael X. Martin, William Michals, Tony Roach, Sarah Jane Shanks and William Youmans.

Directed by Tony winner Walter Bobbie and inspired by a real event - a 1902 newspaper article unearthed by Brickell, the story features a young World War II soldier and a female literary editor who discover a connection between them. This original musical tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and ‘40s.

The show opens in 1945 with the return from World War II war of Billy Cane (A.J. Shively) to Hayes Creek, North Carolina.

He can’t help noticing how his childhood friend Margo Crawford (Hannah Elless) has grown from a kid into a pretty young woman. A downside is that his father (Stephen Bogardus) confesses that he couldn't summon the courage to write and inform Billy his mother had died. Billy always had her love of words, and in his determination to become a published author ignores the romantic signs from Margo, a clerk in the local bookstore.

Billy is anxious to become a writer like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. So he packs up his manuscripts and heads for Asheville in the hope of being published in the Asheville Southern Journal, a prestigious literary magazine whose contributors include Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers, whose editor is none other than Alice Murphy.

Alice isn't all that impressed with Billy's writing but his attitude gains her respect and seeing promise in his writing attempts, she offers him a $10 deposit on future work. For reasons she can't immediately pinpoint he awakens her longing for the child she once bore.

Haunted, Alice begins a journey to understand her past.

The show morphs back 22-years when Alice's assistants, Daryl (Jeff Blumenkrantz) and Lucy (Emily Padgett), inquire why she's such a loner. That is answered in the song Way Back in the Day, which transforms Alice into a carefree teenage girl in the town of Zebulon.

Alice and a sweet lad named Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Paul Alexander Nolan) fall in love. Afternoon love making results in a pregnancy. But Jimmy Ray’s father, blowhard Mayor Josiah Dobbs (Michael Mulheren) refuses to permit the youngsters to marry declaring that he has high ambitions for his son including a wife with some standing - "when a wife born with a silver spoon will butter your bread twice as well as you do."

In the defiant A Man's Gotta Do, he states: "I won't let anyone stand in the way - not even you." He emphasizes: "you have no idea what I'd do to protect this dynasty."

Straight-laced Daddy Murphy (Stephen Lee Anderson) informs his daughter that she is going to straight to hell in a hand basket in Firmer Hand/Do Right, "I'm gonna have to reign you in," and intends to give her "the back of my hand."

Alice wants her baby I Can't Wait To See You, but is hidden away until she gives birth to a boy. The fathers keep the lovers apart and Daddy Murphy forces his daughter to give up her baby in order not to bring scandal upon the families, because he won't let her "bring home a bastard child." Please Don't Take Him, Mayor is a desperate plea to keep her baby.

The sad and emotional Heartbreaker is from Jimmy's point of view about losing his gal and his son.

Always Will is a love song about the couple who should never have been torn apart.

The heart of this musical is how Alice survived the rough road between giving birth and becoming editor of a prestigious literary magazine; and the steep price she paid for her success and maturity.

Alice's life had romantic highs which spiraled into desperate lows. Her deliverance is sung in the powerful closer At Long Last.

Cusack effortlessly moves from an immature girl in the 1920's to a professional, successful adult in the 1940s and back again in a smooth memory piece crafted by Tony Award director Walter Bobbie.

Steve Martin knows music. He's been plucking on his favorite instrument - the banjo - since the days he headlined Las Vegas as a standup comedian and did an imitation of King Tut.

Since then Martin had spread his creative wings as an awarding winning playwright, an art curator See Broadway To Vegas column of March 13, 2016 and a Grammy award winner.

Edie Brickell is no slouch to the music industry. Perhaps best know for her 1988's Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, debut album with New Bohemians, which went to No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Starting in May 2013, she toured with Steve Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers throughout the United States and North America. Their collaboration on the banjo fueled album Love Has Come For You, won a Grammy in 2013 for best American roots song.

Bright Star is root music with a pop sound. The title song is infectious.

The numbers in this show are not one note, long theme repetitive. Rather, they are well constructed, musically accurate, arranged in styles of country swing, Broadway, pop and Bluegrass. The lyrics move along the story line. The words can be understood. The close harmonies are lovely, while the simple lyrics range from clever and cute to emotionally tugging at your heartstrings. There is nothing hillbilly stupid about this show or music.

The music in Bright Star is Bluegrass music in the best sense of the word. Whoa, Mama is a marvelous square dance number. What Could Be Better is almost a waltz tempo love song. Voices can wail in anguish with the musical instruments offering ominous emotional depth. With the beat of a drum in emphasis, in a reprise of A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Due, closes Act I.

This is a spirited, hopeful, musical. "We got the power. We got the faith. . . . We're never gonna stay down." is the message in the uplifting Sun is Gonna Shine. Another Round is kickin' up your heels, country swing.

I Had a Vision starts out with a simple piano accompaniment explaining a vision for a love and how "life would go," and how one wishes things would be repaired and made different because he does "love her so."

The story line for Bright Star is sweet and beautiful. The music adds clarity and is as important as the book.

Bright Star is a refreshing addition to Broadway. The story is told is an interesting, non offensive manner which holds the attention and delivers musical pleasure.

The 10-piece band has a significant role thanks to clever staging. The simple wood A-beam slat cabin set by Eugene Lee house the musicians. The set effortlessly moves around making the musicians a subtle but intricate part of the scene as the structure becomes assorted houses and barn dance venues. Railroad trestles and the sound of a train have a part.

There is also a chorus which executes moves by choreographer Josh Rhodes.

The Blue Ridge Mountains across back stage wall and rustic wooden set are the perfect backdrops for Japhy Weideman's lighting, ranging from Sepia to hopeful Painted Desert hues.

Edward Pierce served as Scenic Design Supervisor and Lee Wilkins is the Associate Choreographer.

Under the music direction of Rob Berman, who also arranged the vocals, the mostly acoustic score with orchestrations by August Eriksmoen is beautifully played using guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin, viola, fiddle, accordion, piano, drums and autoharp. Music Coordinator is Seymour Red Press. Peter Asher is the Music Supervisor.

The finale ends with a reprise of Bright Star. The audience leaves the theatre hopeful and inspired - practically two-steppin' down the sidewalk. A feel good musical.

As for the CD recorded at New York’s MSR Studios. It's excellent. I received an advanced copy, which didn't contain the explanatory booklet. Therefore, I don't know if the musicians on the CD are the same ones in the Broadway show; or if there has been augmentation or the use of Pro Tools. I also don't know who did the engineering and mixing.

Enjoy the show. Enjoy the CD.

The originating theatre for this production was The Old Globe in San Diego, CA. Martin and Brickell wrote twenty-five new songs for The Globe version. Twenty-three are in the Broadway offering. The CD also contains a Bright Star reprise and a bonus track of Sun is Gonna Shine.

Cast members which transferred to the Broadway production include; Carmen Cusack, A.J. Shively, Stephen Bogardus, Stephen Lee Anderson, Hannah Elless, Max Chernin, and Sarah Jane Shanks.

Creatives transferred intact. Director Walter Bobbie; choreographer Josh Rhodes; Peter Asher musical supervisor; Rob Berman musical director and vocal arrangements; Eugene Lee scenic design; Jane Greenwood costumes; Japhy Weideman lighting; Nevin Steinberg sound; August Eriksmoen orchestrations; Howie Cherpakov CSA casting, and Anjee Nero stage manager.

The Globe premiere of Bright Star developed out of Globe's artistic director Barry Edelstein's long working relationship with Martin, which included the commissioning of Martin's play The Underpants while Edelstein was artistic chief of New York's Classic Stage Co.

(l-r) John Gallagher, Jr., Michael Shannon, Gabriel Byrne and Jessica Lange in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Photo: Joan Marcus
is a long play. No matter where it is staged or by whom, it's lengthy. There are times when you think surely it could be pruned. Then you remember the lines and their relationship to the characters and realize that each line is important in the classic created by Eugene O'Neill. .

This revival at the American Airlines Theatre stars four actors each of whom deliver stellar performances. Gabriel Byrne, Jessica Lang and Michael Shannon are Tony nominated for their performances in this play. The production has also received nomination for, Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Revival.

Jessica Lange makes this her production. The 2003 Broadway production which I saw starred Brian Dennehy, Vanessa Redgrave, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Sean Leonard, and was dominated by Dennehy. Different actors and directors can alter the focus. Basically it is an ensemble piece. What the production requires are exceptional actors, which this mounting possesses.

Playwright Eugene O'Neill penned the semi-autobiographical work in 1941–42, which was first published in 1956. The play is widely considered to be his masterwork and magnum opus. The play premiered in Sweden in February 1956 and then opened on Broadway in November 1956, winning the Tony Award for Best Play.

O'Neill posthumously received the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work. Long Day's Journey Into Night is often regarded to be one of the finest American plays of the 20th century.

The play concerns the Tyrone family; parents James and Mary and their sons Edmund and Jamie.

The sound of a warning horn and vision altering fog rolling in emphasizes Mary's lack of mental clarity - a role brilliantly brought to life by Jessica Lange. Mary is an addict, made that way through the use of morphine medically prescribed for her following the difficult birth of her youngest son, Edmund.

It's August 1912. It's morning shortly after breakfast. We learn that Mary has recently been released from an asylum which hoped to cure her. She's sensitive that others watch and question her every move. Her body may be temporarily free of drugs - until she makes a trip to the local druggist for more "medicine," but her mind is inward. She barely connects with people in the room. Her speech and movement pattern is of a woman who is lost within herself - wanting to remember a wedding dress, but blocking out that her son is ill. She speaks as if she knows no one is listening, even though all attention may be focused on her.

Mary's father died of consumption. A few weeks ago Edmund began to violently cough, and soon would be diagnosed with the same disease and must be confined in a sanatorium. Mary refuses to even consider his diagnosis, much less his grim future.

Effective lighting by Natasha Katz masks, blurs and offers occasional burst of clarity into hidden family dynamics. The day is like all of their days - repetitive and resentful. The family can't let go of old hurts, constantly ripping open old wounds, unable to establish any emotional closure. They love each other but don't know how to be supportive.

Head of the household James was once a heralded actor and now lives in the past, bitter at how life has treated him. He argues with his sons over their failures. Both sons have issues of drink and rage. They sneak a drink and then fill the bottle with water - like their lives - fooling themselves more than anyone else. They are all tired and worn out. Their energy and aspirations diminished through drink and the efforts of just getting through the day.

Fueled by frustration, everyone blames each other for their individual and collective problems while offering up a mélange of excuses for their own behavior.

Womanizing James, Jr. blames his younger brother's birth for taking away the mother he once knew and adored. He blames his father for being a tightwad who sent his mother to a cheap quack of a doctor who charged $1.00 a visit as opposed to the going rate of $5.00 per visit from reputable physicians. Mary deliberately abused her prescriptions to mask the heartache of losing her father, stress related to her husband's occupation and the demands of raising two sons. Frail Edmund is distraught that he is ill and that his mother can't come to terms with that situation.

Expertly directed by Jonathan Kent, the men use alcohol as a crutch until they lash out in dramatic scenes in which each of the men - Gabriel Bryne, Michael Shannon and John Gallagher, Jr., deliver powerful statement making monologues.

Occasionally comic relief is provided by the maid, played by Colby Minifie, who isn't opposed to tippling the bottle herself.

The play concludes the evening of the day in which it began. Even though feelings have been laid bare, the disclosures are too late to save a family which is headed into the abyss of nighttime.

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Fake upended Elmgreen & Dragset swimming pool installed at Rockefeller Center. Photo by Laura Deni
That upended swimming pool located in Rockefeller Plaza across from Saks on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Brought to you by the Berlin-based Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, the same duo who created the fake Prada storefront, Prada Marfa, they built in 2005 in the rural Texas town of Marfa, that's home to minimalist artist Donald Judd's foundation.

Their upturned 1950s-California-style suburban swimming pool, complete with a diving board, is explained in a press release as: "One can dream of lazy days under the sun while surrounded by all the traffic and business going on at Rockefeller Plaza."

The pool is titled Van Gogh's Ear and is explained thusly: "The title Van Gogh’s Ear plays on the mythological versus the ordinary. We thought it was a perfect name for a swimming pool of this shape. It opens up the possibility for a different perception of the form itself. And like the myth of Van Gogh cutting off his ear in despair, the dislocated pool will hopefully make people wonder ‘why?’, and pursue their own reasoning behind this inexplicable scenario.”

The sculpture has a cyan blue interior, diving board, swimming pool lights, and a polished stainless steel ladder. As the Public Art Fund Press release states, “Conceived specifically for this site, where fashion, commerce, tourism, business, and art collide, the work playfully contradicts our expectations of both this familiar object and iconic site.”

The vertical orientation is meant to highlight the sculptural nature of a swimming pool, which the designers felt was hidden or overlooked when in its normal position. The artists want passers-by to stop dead in their tracks to notice and appreciate the curves of the swimming pool from its varying depths, the diving board that protrudes from the sculpture, and the overall shape of the pool.

Van Gogh’s Ear will be on display at Rockefeller Center until June 3, 2016.

Mary Cassatt, The Black Hat, c. 1890, pastel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
Paul Mellon was one of America's greatest art collectors and remains one of the Gallery's leading benefactors. Timed to coincide with the Gallery's 75th anniversary, a special exhibition features 80 of the finest pastels, watercolors, drawings, prints, and illustrated books selected from his donations, celebrating both his wonderful generosity and his distinctive approach to collecting.

Mellon took great pleasure in seeing the works day after day, like special friends in a domestic setting.

The exhibition evokes this intimate context for watercolors portraying earlier American scenes by Winslow Homer and Maurice Prendergast; powerful portrait drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Edgar Degas; sporting lithographs by Théodore Géricault and George Bellows; abstracting linear pen landscapes by Vincent van Gogh; colorful visions of Parisian entertainments by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Jacques Villon; complex cubist compositions by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Georges Braque; as well as delightful watercolors of a cucumber (by Édouard Manet) and a flight of butterflies (by Odilon Redon).

May 8 – September 18, 2016 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.


SUNSET CENTER FOURTH ANNUAL GALA dubbed Sunset at the Piano Bar takes place Saturday, May 14, at Sunset Center in Carmel, CA.

The gala features Michael Feinstein: Sinatra Centennial Celebration. A few of the evening's delights include "Sinatra" themed cocktails and champagne; a five-course gourmet dinner designed by Kurt Grasing from Grasing's Coastal Cuisine paired with exclusive Hahn SLH and Lucienne Family wines; after dinner chocolates and port wine; post-performance meet and greet with Michael Feinstein; elegant dessert, coffee, and espresso; spectacular after party; incredible live auction packages; commemorative photographs; and much more.

12TH ANNUAL MUSICARES MAP FUND BENEFIT CONCERT honoring Smokey Robinson takes place May 19 in Los Angeles.

Cedric The Entertainer will host the tribute which will feature performances by Grammy nominees the Backstreet Boys, Tamar Braxton, El DeBarge, and Kem, and multiple Grammy winners Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Cee Lo Green. Robinson will give a closing performance with his touring band.

In attendance will be entertainment attorney and MusiCares Honorary Board Chair John Branca; producer, songwriter and founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy; President/CEO of The Recording Academy and MusiCares Neil Portnow; and MusiCares Chair Bill Silva.

Smokey Robinson will receive the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award in recognition of his dedication and support of the MusiCares MAP Fund as well as his commitment to helping others with the addiction recovery process.

All proceeds will benefit the MusiCares MAP Fund, which provides members of the music community access to addiction recovery treatment regardless of their financial situation.


The cast of Dido & Aeneas. Photo by Erin Baiano
MasterVoices' 2016 Spring Benefit was recently held at New York City Center. The event reunited Tony award winners Kelli O' Hara and Victoria Clark and also featured Canadian baritone Elliot Madore, internationally acclaimed soprano Anna Christy, and American mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko with a World Premiere prologue by Michael John LaChiusa, directed and choreographed by Doug Varone, and conducted by Ted Sperling.

It's been a long time since I've seen such work put into a two show performance. The result was almost perfection.

Dido & Aeneas is an opera in a prologue and three acts, written by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell (1659-95) with a libretto by Nahum Tate. (1652-1715) The story is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid. It recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her.

Historically the opera has been termed allegorical. "The prologue refers to the joy of a marriage between two monarchs, which could refer to the marriage between William and Mary. In a poem of about 1686, Tate alluded to James II as Aeneas, who is misled by the evil machinations of the Sorceress and her witches (representing Roman Catholicism, a common metaphor at the time) into abandoning Dido, who symbolizes the British people. The same symbolism may apply to the opera."

Though Purcell wrote a prologue for Dido, the music has been long lost. MasterVoices commissioned five-time Tony nominated Michael John LaChiusa to write a new one, which he titled The Daughters of Necessity. While the opera is tragic there is plenty of opportunity for mirth - although the joke about Donald Trump was mean-spirited and inappropriate.

Dressed in black tuxedos or long black gowns, the men and women of Master Voices were seated on stage in chairs separated by a small aisle which became part of the production. David Korins served as scenic consultant for the semi-staged production backed by the Orchestra of St. Luke's.

Performed without intermission, Kelli O'Hara starred as Dido. Anna Christy played the Decimo and Belinda/ First Witch; Sarah Mesko was Nano and Second Woman/Second Witch while Victoria Clark took on the roles of Marta and Sorceress/Spirit. Elliott Madore was Aeneas.

Three Fates Anna Christy, Victoria Clarke and Sarah Mesko spin their webs. Photo by Erin Baiano
Three Fates dressed as overall clad laborers spun their red thread webs of life and death, deciding each person's fate. Each of their deathly snips caused one of the Master Voices to topple from their chair to the stage. A black clad, barefoot dancer dragged each fallen singer off stage by their arms or legs.

Later some of the dancers under a table became human rollers transporting a platform holding performers down the stage aisle. Christopher Adams, Hollis Bartlett, Jake Bone, Xan Burley, Whitney Dufrene, Casey Loomis, Alex Springer (Mercury), and Hsiao-jou Tang are graceful and fluid dancers who assumed the roles of courtiers, witches and drunken sailors all choreographed by Doug Verone.

O'Hara, Christy, Mesko and Clark were beautifully gowned in creations by Christian Siriano. Excellent lighting by David Grill.

O'Hara and Clark are noted for Broadway roles not operatic productions. They more than proved their mettle against renowned operatic professionals.

The first benefit evening performance, attended by 170, raised more than $220,000 to fund the company's Artistic and Education Programs. The evening began with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres on the Grand Tier at New York City Center, and led into the concert. Following the performance, guests enjoyed dinner, dessert, and a brief live auction led by Steve Rosen at Le Parker Meridien's beautiful Estrela Penthouse.

The event was Chaired by Antonia and George Grumbach and Ellen F. Marcus, and Co-Chairs Jewelle and Nathaniel Bickford, Jill K. Malila, Judy and Morton Sloan, Deborah Stiles, and Adèle K. and John Talty.


HARNICK & BOCK WAY will be unveiled by the City of New York on Wednesday, May 11 along with Harnick's induction into the ride of Fame.

Recipient of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Tong Award, Sheldon Harnick, will be joined by cast members from his two hit shows currently on Broadway, Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me, with a special tribute to long-time partner and composer Jerry Bock

Fiddler on the Roof cast members slated to attend include: Danny Burstein, Ben Rapapport, Alexandra Silber, Jessica Vosk, George Psomas, Alix Korey, Jesse Kovarsky, Samantha Massell, Lori Wilner and Jennifer Zetlan, among others She Loves Me cast members taking part are: Jane Krakowski, Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi, Byron Jennings, Nicholas Barasch, Tom McGowan, among others.

The Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Julie Menin, will be in attendance with a proclamation transforming 53rd Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue) to Harnick and Bock Way as both Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me share W. 53rd St. as their Stage Door exits.

David W. Chien – Creator/Producer, The Ride of Fame will conduct the Harnick & Bock Ride bus induction.

Each honoree of The Ride of Fame is bestowed with a double-decker bus designated with a permanent “Immortal,” “IT” and “imminent” classification artwork, and a personal seat to be scribed with a message from the honoree to the world. In addition to a seat for Sheldon, there will be a seat to remember Jerry Bock, to be scribed by the Bock Estate. Previous Ride of Fame inductees are; Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers, Bernadette Peters, George Takei, Sir Patrick Stewart among others.

The events take place Wednesday, May 11, 2016.

THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE in partnership with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company presents the Ellis Island Asian American Heritage Festival on Sunday, May 15, 2016, with ceremony and performances starting at 12 noon at The Great Hallat Ellis Island, located on the second floor of the main Ellis Island building.

A full schedule of performances and educational workshops given by notable speakers will celebrate the 2016 Asian American Heritage Month and the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service with traditional and contemporary Asian American Music and Dance, involving the community in New York and New Jersey.

Performances include: Dragon Dance; The Ahn Trio with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company; Mongolian Horsehead Fiddle Music with Dancer; Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and the New Asia Chamber Music Society; NJCU Student Music Presentation: Isaac Ezekiel Del Rosario; Philippine Dance/Music; Children's Orchestra Society; Lion Dance; The Ahn Trio - Renowned Korean American Classical Trio; Jigjiddorj Natsagdorj - Mongolian Horse Head Fiddle Virtuoso; Asian American Dragon/Lion Association (Lion Dance Youth group); Faculty and Students of NJ City University; Children's Orchestra Society (NY-based Asian Youth Orchestra); New Asia Chamber Music Society.

VIP Guest speakers include: Honorable Sue Pai Yang; United State Senator Cory Booker, Robert Menedez; Congressman Bill Pascrell, Albio Sires, Leonard Lance; The Chinese Consulate General; Taipei Economic and Cultural Council; Consulate of Mongolia; and the Consulate of Vietnam.

Organizing Committee members are: Andrew Chiang - Executive Director of Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company; Corky Lee - Artist, Historian, Photographer; Michael Amato - NPS Chief of Interpretation of Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty National Park; Douglas Treem - NPS Ranger; Regina Andriolo - Board President, Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company; Sue Pai Yang - Honorable Judge, New Jersey; Ariun Sanjaajamts - Mongolian Connections; Simone Nguyen - Member of Asian American Bar Assoc. of NY; and Adina Williams - American Museum of Natural History.

MAY 11 is Eat What You Want Day while May 12 is National Nutty Fudge Day>


CALL TO DUTY a plea sent out by the World War I Museum in Kansas City was answered by Kansas City’s philanthropic community which collectively raised more than $5 million to enable construction of a new exhibition gallery at the Museum and renovation of existing outdoor space, as well as amenities to enhance the visitor experience as a venue for community and corporate events.

The new exhibition gallery and outdoor gathering space will enable the Museum to expand natural partnerships with institutions such as the Imperial War Museums in London, the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C., and other museums, governments and academic institutions around the world.

The new state-of-the-art gallery will not only enable the Museum to bring internationally traveling exhibitions to Kansas City - and to the United States in some instances - but also to present and curate a wealth of objects and documents from the Museum’s vast collection, less than 10 percent of which is on exhibition at any time.

DANCE TO UNITE raised more than $100,000 in support of the company's expanding free after-school dance and education programs at their 3rd Annual Benefit: One Way or Another on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 : The World School in New York City. During the celebration, students of Dance to Unite performed alongside music icon and Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry who sang her biggest hits live, including the indelible One Way or Another.

(from left) Khaled Nabawy as Anwar Sadat, Hallie Foote as Rosalynn Carter, Richard Thomas as Jimmy Carter, and Ned Eisenberg as Menachem Begin. Photo: Jim Cox
by Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright.

Directed by Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith.

The cast includes Broadway veteran Ned Eisenberg as Menachem Begin, Tony and Emmy Award nominee Hallie Foote as Rosalynn Carter, award-winning Egyptian actor and activist Khaled Nabawy as Anwar Sadat, and Emmy Award winner Richard Thomas as Jimmy Carter.

"In the tumultuous 1970s, Middle East peace seemed as remote a prospect as it does today. Yet during 13 extraordinary days in 1978, two world leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, under the watchful and sometimes exasperated eyes of U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, hammered out an agreement that inspired the entire world. A riveting and moving story filled with humor, insight, and surprises, as three very different men, each devoutly committed to his people and also to his faith, find that peace is possible and that hope is always the better choice."

The creative team includes Walt Spangler (Scenic Design), Paul Tazewell (Costume Design), Pat Collins (Lighting Design), David Van Tieghem (Original Music and Sound Design), Jeff Sugg (Projection Design), David Huber (Vocal Coach), Geoff Josselson, CSA (Casting), Susan R. White and Peter Van Dyke (Production Stage Managers).

Camp David had its world premiere at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage in 2014 and was seen in a special reading by its original cast in June 2016 as part of Carter Center Weekend in Vail, Colorado.

Performances begin May 13, with opening night on May 20 on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage in the Old Globe Theatre, part of the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center in San Diego, CA.

A SONG OF TWILIGHT by Noël Coward.

Directed by Paul Mullins.

Somewhat autobiographical, this final play from the master of sophisticated wit is enhanced by live piano accompaniment that is peppered throughout the action.

Starring company member Edmond Genest in the leading role.

May 11 – May 29 on the Main Stage at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, NJ.

HOLLYWOOD a world-premiere play by Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro.

Directed by Christopher Ashley.

A noir whodunnit set in the Golden Age of movies.

Based on the true story of William Desmond Taylor’s unsolved murder.

In 1922, famed director William Desmond Taylor is found murdered in his home. The celebrity suspects mount as the headlines explode with lurid reports of love triangles, hush money and deception. Enter Will Hays, Hollywood's newly appointed moral watchdog, determined to silence the scandal and purify this increasingly corrupt city.

May 10 – June 5, 2016 at the Mandell Weiss Theatre of the La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, California.


RIHANNA performs Monday, May 9, at the Viejas Arena in San Diego. On Friday she's on stage at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Saturday's gig is at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Next Sunday, May 15, she stars at the Toyota Center in Houston.

ALICE COOPER pioneered a grandly theatrical brand of hard rock that was designed to shock. He continues to tour regularly, performing shows worldwide with the dark and horror-themed theatrics that he’s best known for. Hits include School’s Out, I’m Eighteen, and No More Mr. Nice Guy performs Tuesday, May 10 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

IL DIVO in a star turn on Tuesday, May 10, at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, UK. Wednesday's performance is at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, UK. on Friday they can be enjoyed at the Arena in Manchester, UK. Next Sunday, May 15, they are on stage at The Brighton Centre in Brighton, UK.

SELENA GOMEZ entertains Tuesday, May 10, at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, CA. On Wednesday she can be found at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA. Friday's show is at the Key Arena in Seattle. on Saturday she stars at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC.

JOHN PIZZARELLI brings his tour to the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Greenvale, NY on Friday, May 13. Saturday's stop is at the Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. Next Sunday, May 15, finds him at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY.

THE WHO performs Tuesday, May 10, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. On Friday their tour stops at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC. Next Sunday, May 15, they can be enjoyed at the Key Arena in Seattle, WA.

KIEFER SUTHERLAND BAND the Emmy-winning 24 star has been involved in music for years, since he wrote and recorded his first song in 2002 at the Los Angeles studio he constructed in a former foundry with artist Jude Cole. He'll be bringing his rich, woodsy rasp and disarming lyrical honesty to The Dock in Ithaca, NY on Sunday, May 15, 2016.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND bring their tour to Europe with a stop Saturday, May 14, at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain.

ALEXA RAY JOEL an American singer, songwriter, and pianist is the older daughter of singer-songwriter Billy Joel and first child of Christie Brinkley brings her looks and talent to the Cafe Carlyle in New York City for performances May 17 to May 28, 2016.

TRACY MORGAN will be getting laughs Friday, May 13, at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam, BC. Saturday's laugh fest is at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.

Next Column: May 15, 2016
Copyright: May 8, 2016 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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