Florence Henderson Hosts Broadway Backwards

Florence HendersonBroadway Backwards, the popular annual event now in its fifth year, is being held at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre (current home to the hit South Pacific revival) tonight. Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch) hosts this year’s concert, which, as in previous years, will feature a slew of Broadway performers singing reversed gender songs. The event gives actors the chance to sing songs that they have always loved, but never actually get the chance to perform onstage because they were written for someone of the opposite gender. The starry cast of Broadway Backwards will include Raul Esparza, Mario Cantone, Len Cariou, Lea Salonga, Douglas Sills, Becki Newton, Bruce Vilanch, Dan Butler, Tony Goldwyn, Robert Cuccioli, Ann Harada, Lee Roy Reams, and many more.

For Shakespeare Raps and Enormous Elephants, Head to the New Victory

New Victory TheaterGot kids? Looking to entertain your niece and nephew when they visit from Omaha?
To your list of must-see New York stops, try adding something a little different: The New Victory Theater.
Now in its 15th year, the New Victory offers an almost year-round program of international works for kids and families. But we’re not talking puppet shows of “Little Red Riding Hood” or adults dressed up like barnyard animals.
Unless, of course, the puppets are part of a centuries-old troupe focusing on the retelling of classic fairy tales, and the barnyard animals are really part of a rap/acrobatic/trapeze/slam poetry celebration.
Well, you get the idea.
The works are sophisticated, thought-provoking and, often, unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. Even better, they still only cost an average of $18 a ticket.
Coming up in March, for instance, the theater will offer “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare,” 100 minutes of parodies of all 37 of the Bard’s plays. Three actors start off with “Romeo and Juliet” and whiz their way, through, well, everything else, including a rap of “Othello.” It’s presented–no surprise–by The Reduced Shakespeare Company and runs from March 5-14.
The theater also offers works for families and teens, in everything from circus arts to tap.
Coming up later in the year? “46 Circus Acts in 45 Minutes” (one must be done really, really fast) presented by Australia’s Circa (March 19-April 4).
From April 23-May 2, get ready for “Elephant,” a celebration of African song and dance from the Dodgy Clutch Theatre Co. with the Market Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Expect, puppets, yes–but banish thoughts of anything cringe worthy or amateurish.
The New Victory Theater is at 229 West 42nd Street (646 223 3010).

Phantom Sequel Love Never Dies Released on CD March 9

Love Never DiesThe Phantom of the Opera fans who can’t make it to London for opening night of the musical’s new “sequel,” Love Never Dies, will still be able to hear the new Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Glenn Slater (lyrics) score for the show, which will be released on CD on March 9. The Decca Broadway cast recording (featuring The Little Mermaid‘s Sierra Boggess as Christine and Ramin Karimloo as The Phantom) will be released in both regular and deluxe editions. Both versions are full two-disc sets, but the deluxe will also include a bonus DVD with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, as well as a 40-page booklet. Love Never Dies is expected to open on Broadway in November 2010.

Get Your Fair Share: New Taxi Options Mean More Ways to Get Around

New York City TaxisDo you work and play well with others? Do you like to share?
If so, you’re a perfect candidate for the taxi fare-sharing program that will be rolled out this Friday, February 26 in New York. (You’re also ready for preschool, but that’s another story.)
“Group ride” rates are being started this week: Share a cab with strangers, and save big.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission is planning a series of initiatives that will be rolled out over the next year. First up: the yellow cabs will have drop-off and pick-up areas during the morning rush hour, 6 am to 10 am.
Also planned: Later in the year we’ll see “ride sharing,” where riders can hail cabs that already have passengers and split the fares. How will people know where the cabs are going? Some kind of signage will display the neighborhood towards which the cab is heading.
Starting Friday, cabs will depart from areas including West 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, with drop-offs on Park Avenue between 57th and 42nd Streets; West 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue, with drop-offs on Park Avenue from 72nd Street to 42nd Street, and East 72nd Street and Third Avenue, with drop-offs on Park Avenue from 72nd Street to 42nd Street.
More than one person has to be in the cab for the discount to be applied, and fares per person will be $3 or $4, depending on location. Once a ride has started, no more passengers can be picked up.
Fewer vehicles on the street; more transportation options; less money for passengers to shell out: Sounds like this ride is going the right way.

Get Your Outdoor Fix Now: Many Parks Slated to Close

Riverbank State ParkFinancial difficulties in New York State have affected everything from transportation fees and services to store closures–and now many of the parks are at risk.
The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation proposed a list of park closings across the state yesterday, as part of the effort to address the massive financial problems plaguing New York.
Although many were in Long Island, Westchester and upstate New York, two fall under New York City’s domain: Riverbank State Park in upper Manhattan and Bayswater Point State Park in Queens.
The proposal affected some parks more than others; many may be closed down entirely, while others are on the list to have services and programs cut or greatly reduced. (Reducing hours and eliminating programs are the most common cost-saving strategies, after completing closing down a facility.)
For Riverbank State, for example, the proposal includes reducing operating hours, closing the outdoor swimming pool, and eliminating classes for seniors as well as some other community and cultural events.
Riverbank State Park was modeled after urban rooftop designs in Japan. It includes facilities for roller skating (summer) and ice skating (winter), an athletic complex, and a restaurant. It’s also unusual in that unlike many state parks, it’s reachable via public transportation.
The plan includes closing 41 parks and 14 historic sites, as well as reducing service at 23 parks and 1 historic site.
Fee increases for the parks are expected to be added at a later date.
The park closings would start April 1.

Hair Broadway Show Review

Hair Broadway MusicalShow Summary
Led by charismatic hippie Berger, a group of spirited and idealistic youths enjoy lives of free love and pacifism in New York City’s bohemian East Village. But eventually “the tribe” must face the harsh reality of the Vietnam War draft.

Broadway Review
Even the most jaded theatergoers can’t help but dig classic tunes like “Age of Aquarius,” “Good Morning Starshine,” “Easy To Be Hard,” “Hair,” and “Let the Sunshine In” in this sensitively directed, well-choreographed, and Tony Award-winning production of the 1967 classic musical. Although many of Hair‘s other songs are less-than-classic, and the humor can be pretty sophomoric at times, the energetic show certainly resonates emotionally. And the Baby Boomers will go crazy for it – especially the part where the audience is invited to jump up onstage and dance with the cast at the end of the show!

South Pacific To Close On Broadway This Summer

South Pacific Broadway ShowLincoln Center Theatre has announced that it will be closing its much-acclaimed Broadway revival of the classic Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II musical South Pacific on August 22nd. The Tony Award-winning production, which will have played more than 1,000 performances when it ends its run at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, was a tremendous hit for LCT and will live on as the national tour continues through 2011 (London and Australian productions are also in the works). South Pacific, which originally appeared on Broadway in 1949 and is based on James Michener’s stories “Tales From the South Pacific,” is about a Navy nurse who finds love with a French plantation owner during World War II. The current cast of the show features Laura Osnes (Broadway’s Grease) as nurse Nellie Forbush and David Pittsinger as her love interest Emile de Becque.

Valerie Harper Throws Broadway For a Looped

Looped Broadway ShowEmmy Award-winning actress Valerie Harper takes on the role of the notorious, outrageous, and hard-drinking performer Tallulah Bankhead in the new play Looped, beginning performances on Broadway today at the Lyceum Theatre. Looped takes place in a sound recording studio in 1965, where Bankhead has gone to “loop” (i.e. re-record) a single line of dialogue from her latest movie, Die! Die! My Darling. Having arrived inebriated, she can’t get the line right, frustrating her film editor (played by Brian Hutchison, recently on Broadway in Exit the King) and forcing the studio sound technician (Michael Mulheren, whose Broadway credits include Kiss Me, Kate and The Farnsworth Invention) to play referee. Written by Matthew Lombardo and directed by Rob Ruggiero, Looped will have its official Broadway opening on March 14.

Penguins Are King At The Zoo, At Least For Now

King PenguinsFirst the Winter Olympics…and now this.
Yes, there’s more big news in the world of winter events, but it has nothing to do with Lindsey Vonn: Four new king penguins have joined the flock at New York’s Central Park Zoo.
The renovated Polar Seabird exhibit—“Polar Seabirds: Life on the Edge of the World”–was reintroduced to the public yesterday. The addition of the king penguins (which join other kinds of penguins, including the wonderfully named gentoo and chinstrap) is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Species Survival Plan. The newbies’ names? Lyle, Slappy, Will and Robert. (They’re all male; no word on how the names were chosen).
What else has changed in the penguin house? New graphics and videos now highlight penguins in their native lands. In addition, new lighting proves a clearer, more distinct view of the birds.
King penguins are native to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands. They are among the largest–and deepest-diving–penguins. These birds stand about three feet tall, and are distinguished by the orange feathers at their neck. (They do have the same tuxedo plumage as the gentoo and chinstraps, and only the Emperor penguin is larger.)
The zoo now houses more than 60 king, gentoo and chinstrap penguins. While these types of penguins are not endangered, their native habitats face environmental threats ranging from overfishing to potential climate change.
The Zoo is located at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street. (212 439-6500)

No One Can Really Understudy the Great Dame…But Someone Will Try

Dame EdnaThe great Dame Edna (otherwise known as Barry Humphries) has no equal. But now she has an understudy.
Auditions were held yesterday in New York to find an “honorary” understudy for the soon-to-open Broadway vehicle “All About Me.” (It starts previews on Monday, February 22 at Henry Miller’s Theater and opens Thursday, March 18.)
Actors (who of course came dressed as the Great Dame) performed a two-minute audition, including a monologue, performance piece, or dance movement. They were also asked to sing.
What were the criteria? Contestants were judged on costume, makeup, accent and “Dame-like demeanor.” You’d know it if you saw it.
Judges included the dame herself, as well as Michael Feinstein, who co-stars in the production, as well as several media bigwigs: Broadway critic Michael Riedel (The New York Post), entertainment writer Michael Musto (The Village Voice), and NY1’s Frank DiLella. The show was co-written by Humphries and Feinstein, along with playwright Christopher Durang (“Beyond Therapy”).
The Dame, the alter ego of comedian Barry Humphries, has to her credit performances for the royal family, television appearances, Broadway shows, books, and the adoration of fans worldwide. Her hometown, Melbourne, renamed a city street in her honor. She is known for her lilac hair and cat’s-eye glasses.
The winner of the contest—ta-da! was Scott Mason, who has worked professionally as a Dame Edna impersonator. He will receive a Playbill credit.