Jennifer Chen

About Jennifer Chen

Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jennifer studied Law and moved to New York City at age 24, where she still practices law and writes for abovethelaw.com. Jennifer's profession may be in the land-of-legal, but her passion is for Broadway where she can write about subjects as diverse as Broadway union contracts to show reviews.

Broadway Stars at the 2014 Oscars

Last night, the 86th Annual Academy Awards crossed paths with Broadway in a number of ways.

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For the second year in a row, the event was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron – who, in addition to having produced the recent Broadway revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises, have perfected the Broadway musical to film adaptation concept with such movie hits as Annie (1999), Chicago (2002), The Music Man (2003), and Hairspray (2007).  They also executive produced NBC’s Broadway-themed TV show Smash.  It does make sense that these producers, with their expertise in the cross-section between theatre and film, would be chosen to run the film industry’s most significant stage show.

Last year, they may have taken the concept a little too far, as they made the unprecedented choice to give the 2013 Oscars a theme: music in film.   Though it was arguably appropriate because one of the nominees was Les Misérables, some critics thought they took the idea too far.  This year, they opted for a traditionally theme-less ceremony, and received far less criticism.  Still, purely on their own merits, some of Broadway’s favorite stars made appearances at the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

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Robert “Bobby” Lopez, who made his big break by co-writing the raunchy puppet musical Avenue Q, and furthered his renown by co-writing The Book of Mormon along with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, made history last night.  At age 39, he became the youngest person ever to receive the honor known as EGOT – which refers to someone who has earned all four of “Emmy,” “Grammy,” “Oscar,” and “Tony” Awards.  Only twelve people have earned this honor throughout all of history, and he is the only person to have won all four within a decade.  At last night’s event, Bobby won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for having co-written Let It Go from Disney’s film Frozen, which in turn won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.  He wrote the song along with his wife, Kristin Anderson Lopez.

The couple’s two young daughters, Kate and Annie, both had voice parts in Frozen.

Idina-Menzel-oscars-2014-2As is tradition at the Oscars, all the nominees for Best Original Song are performed at the ceremony by the artist who did so in the film.  Idina Menzel, who played Queen Elsa in Frozen, therefore had the privilege to sing the song at last night’s event – and she did so beautifully.  However John Travolta, who was chosen to introduce her, clearly was not familiar with one of Broadway’s biggest stars.  In reading off the teleprompter, he accidentally – and yet with a straight face – called her “Adele Dazim.”  Social media went into an uproar at the ridiculous mispronunciation.  Immediately, a twitter account in that name was created. Adele Dazim’s Twitter account gained thousands of followers within a short period of time. The account is now currently suspended.

Idina Menzel, as all Broadway aficionados know, rose to prominence when she premiered the role of “Maureen” in Rent, which she also reprised in the 2005 film adaptation, and she won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance of “Elphaba” in Wicked.  This spring season, she has returned to Broadway to star in a new musical called If/Then, written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, and directed by Michael Greif, who first cast her in RentIf/Then will begin previews March 3, 2014, and will open at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on March 30, 2014.  Therefore, Idina made the trip to Los Angeles just days before her big Broadway opening.

Musicals were not the only type of Broadway show to feature in last night’s Academy Awards.  In addition, two nominations were granted to August: Osage County, written by Tracy Letts based off of his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play of the same name.  Those nominations were for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.  Jean Doumanian, the producer of such Broadway shows as August: Osage County, The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson, Death of a Salesman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nice Work If You Can Get It starring Matthew Broderick, and The Book of Mormon, produced the movie adaptation of August: Osage County along with George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Steve Traxler, and Bob and Harvey Weinstein.  Though the film did not win any Academy Awards, it has had a profitable theatrical run, and succeeded in proving that a play can be great source material for a successful motion picture.

 

Heterosexual Males Prove To Be An Elusive Audience For Broadway Producers

For many years, a Broadway show producers lament has been “What’s more difficult than making a straight play on Broadway financially successful?  Making a straight man buy tickets to a Broadway show.”

Traditionally, heterosexual adult males have been an elusive demographic for Broadway. In the Broadway League’s newly released survey of the 2012-2013 season, it was found that 68 percent of audience members were female, which reflects a trend that has existed for decades.  Though little research has been done into the sexual orientation of Broadway audiences, it is clear from phenomenological observation that gay male theatre-goers are not hard to come by.

Mad Men In The Movie Theatre

Mad Men Photo Courtesy AMC Inc.

Straight men, however, are a rarer sight – according to a recent survey, 82 percent of heterosexual males who saw Broadway shows ended up going either because their partner made them or because someone else had bought the tickets.

Nevertheless, producers Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo have taken up this challenge three times in the past four years.  In mounting three plays by Eric Simonson that deal directly with sports-related content, they have aimed to woo straight men to the theatre.  Lombardi, a story about the eponymous football player, played at the Circle in the Square Theatre from 2010-2011; this show completed a successful run of 244 performances and is now being adapted into a film by Legendary Pictures.  However, their last two attempts with Simonson sports plays (Magic/Bird in 2012 and Bronx Bombers in 2014) both incurred major financial losses.  Bronx Bombers, which just announced its premature closing last week, recouped only 24 percent of its $3 million capitalization and averaged only 63 percent capacity throughout its short run.

Bronx Bombers

Sports is not the only subject that producers have undertaken in order to attract straight men to the audience.  Politics is another male-dominated topic.  This upcoming Broadway season includes one promising political play – Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way, which tells the behind-the-scenes story of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency during the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In addition to its manly themes of power and justice, the Broadway production stars Bryan Cranston, who is well-known for his role in AMC’s Breaking Bad – a record-breaking hit television show and a favorite with men in particular.  Box office wraps for this play were strong enough to land it in the top 10 last week, though it is still in previews.  Other recent Broadway favorites on political themes include Frost/Nixon in 2007 and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man in 2012, both of which succeeded in recouping their investments.

Still, the playing field is open for wildcard topics to draw in the straight male audience.  For instance, Rock of Ages, with its head-banging 80’s rock score, has proved successful with this demographic.  Furthermore, both Monty Python’s Spamalot, which grossed more than $175 million over 1,500 performances between 2005 and 2009, and The Book of Mormon, running at full capacity with top box office grosses since 2011, provide an irreverent brand of comedy that appeals to the heterosexual male population.  Despite these successes, however, it still remains a challenge for producers to attract straight men to their theatres.

Broadway Understudy Documentary Coming Soon to Theaters

The StandbysThe life of an understudy is unknown to most people, but soon that will change with the new documentary, The Standbys. The film about Broadway understudies will be released in movie theaters starting February 21.

The Standbys follows three Broadway actors: Ben Crawford (standby in Shrek the Musical and Big Fish); Merwin Foard (standby for Gomez in The Addams Family); and Alena Watters (standby for Anita in the West Side Story revival).

In addition to following those three understudies “through their ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, onstage performances and private lives,” The Standbys also includes interviews with a number of Broadway luminaries, such as David Hyde Pierce, Zachary Quinto, Bebe Neuwirth, Sutton Foster, Brian d’Arcy James, Katie Finneran, and Cheyenne Jackson.

To learn more, visit www.TheStandbys.com.

King Kong to Take the Foxwoods Following Spider-Man’s Closure

King KongIt seems that the Foxwoods Theatre on 42nd Street can’t get enough of multi-millionaire-dollar mega-musicals. After it was announced that the infamous spectacle Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark would be closing (the superhero musical shuttered on January 4), it became known that another well-known figure — King Kong — wanted to move in.

The new musical King Kong, which had its premiere in Melbourne, Australia, will come to Broadway late this year, with an opening scheduled for December 12, 2014. Written by Craig Lucas and Marius de Vries, King Kong brings the story of a gigantic silverback who gets loose in the city to the Broadway stage.

And if Spider-man, with its high-flying theatrics, seemed like a stage spectacle, King Kong is perhaps even more epic. The show features a cast of 49, a 76-person crew, and one enormous animatronic gorilla. The Foxwoods Theatre is one of the few Broadway theaters that is actually large enough to take on this colossal production.

A Night with Janis Joplin Closes on Broadway

A Night with Janis JoplinThe bluesy, rockin’ musical revue A Night with Janis Joplin, starring Mary Bridget Davies in the title role, concludes its run at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway today. However, don’t expect the bio-musical to be gone for long — there are already plans to move it to another theater.

“We are tremendously proud of this show, and excited about the many people who want to see A Night with Janis Joplin in New York. We are finalizing a wonderful option to move to another venue in New York City,” stated producers Michael Cohl, Todd Gershwin, and Daniel Chilewich. “A Night with Janis Joplin receives four standing ovations nightly and continues to play to captivated crowds on Broadway. We know that the music and the story of Janis Joplin deserve to live on.”

Both directed and written by Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin opened on Broadway on October 10.

Spring Training Comes Early for the Yankees on Broadway

Bronx BombersIt’s early yet for baseball season, but fans of America’s great past time can get a little taste of the game on the Broadway stage over at the Circle in the Square Theatre, where the new play Bronx Bombers opens tonight. Written and directed by Eric Simonson, the play focuses on one of the sport’s most famed franchises, the New York Yankees.

Bronx Bombers, which was first seen Off-Broadway at Primary Stages last year, takes audiences on a trip through Yankees history by looking at the team through the eyes of one of its icons, Yogi Berra.  Actor Peter Scolari plays Yogi opposite his real-life wife Tracy Shayne as Yogi’s wife Carmen.  Christopher Jackson, Keith Nobbs, Bill Dawes, Henry Coffey, Francois Battiste, John Wernke, and C.J. Wilson co-star.

Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and Derek Jeter are among the New York Yankees legends who are represented onstage in Bronx Bombers as the show examines both the triumphs and the troubles that the team encounters over the years.  For fans who can’t wait for baseball season to start, this may be the ideal Broadway show to tide them over until spring training.

Film Star Bradley Cooper Will Be Elephant Man on Broadway

Bradley CooperSince last appearing on Broadway in the 2006 production of the Richard Greenberg play Three Days of Rain, Bradley Cooper has become a major movie star, gaining notoriety in The Hangover franchise and most recently starring in Oscar bait films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

Soon Cooper will come back to Broadway, playing John Merrick in the 1979 drama The Elephant Man, penned by Bernard Pomerance. (The play was most recently revived on Broadway in a 2002 production featuring Billy Crudup.) He will be joined by co-stars Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson.

Bradley Cooper previously starred in The Elephant Man in 2012 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The same director, Scott Ellis, will also helm this Broadway production.

It is customary for the stage production of The Elephant Man to be performed without the aid of prosthetic makeup, instead the production will rely on the actors ability to simulate the characters severe disabilities. This show has Best Play Tony written all over it.

“The Elephant Man” story was inspired by the life of John Merrick, a man that suffered from a type of neurofibromatosis, a deforming nerve tissue disorder that produces skin and bone abnormalities. Much interest in the character has been seen following the David Lynch movie from 1980 that starred Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller in which a Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak.

Daniel Radcliffe Coming Back to Broadway

The Cripple of InishmaanHarry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe will return to Broadway later this season when the recent West End production of The Cripple of Inishmaan comes to the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April. The production will start previews on April 12 with an expected April 20 opening.

Written by Martin McDonagh (who has been represented on Broadway with plays such as The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Pillowman), The Cripple of Inishmaan has been performed Off-Broadway twice. This will be the play’s first time on Broadway.

Though he continues to be best known for the title role in the Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe is already a Broadway veteran, having starred in revivals of the drama Equus and the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

The Lion King: First Broadway Billionaire

The Lion King Broadway MusicalNew York City is known to have an unusually high concentration of the world’s billionaires, and Broadway mainstay The Lion King can now count itself among them. Over the course of 16 years on Broadway, the Disney juggernaut has brought in over one billion dollars in cumulative gross – a first for any Broadway show.

The Lion King very recently became the fourth longest running show on Broadway, and its popularity has seldom waned during that time. Rarely offering any kind of discount, the musical (based on the Disney animated film) routinely packs the theater and tops the Broadway ticket sales charts.

With stunning direction and design from Julie Taymor, The Lion King was an instant sensation when it opened on Broadway, earning six Tony Awards, including including Best Musical (the other contenders for the Best Musical award that year were Ragtime, Side Show and The Scarlet Pimpernel). The show opened in 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theater and moved to the Minskoff Theatre in 2006, where its still runs to this day with close to 100% of its seats sold every day. Lion King is now Broadway’s fourth longest running show on in history.  The show has also enjoyed great success with many touring and sit-down productions all over the world.

Mamma Mia! To Play on a Cruise Line

Mamma MiaIt was only recently that the smash hit Broadway musical Mamma Mia! moved into its new home at the Broadhurst Theatre (following a long run at the Winter Garden Theatre), but soon the internationally known musical will take to the high seas on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

Mamma Mia! will make its sea-faring debut on Quantum of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship equipped to carry more than 4,000 passengers. Currently under construction, the ship is expected to begin presenting Mamma Mia! on its stage in November of 2014.

Mamma Mia! is not the first Broadway musical to be produced on a Royal Caribbean ship. Hairspray, Saturday Night Fever, and Chicago have all previously played on the cruise line’s ships, providing passengers with Broadway-style entertainment on the open seas.