Broadway in Bryant Park, the annual summer series that features lunchtime performances from Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, has an exciting schedule this month that will feature current Broadway shows alongside upcoming ones. Held from 12:30pm to 1:30pm each Thursday through August 16, these free midday concerts are ideal for midtown workers and tourists who want to enjoy Bryant Park’s beautiful lawn while watching Broadway singers perform.
On August 2, long-running Broadway musical Mamma Mia! will be showcased, along with Off-Broadway hit Silence the Musical (a hilarious parody of The Silence of the Lambs), the British farce One Man, Two Guvnors, and the forthcoming bio-musical Chaplin.
August 9 will feature another long-running favorite, Chicago, along with the Off-Broadway revival of Rent (which is closing soon, so catch it now!), the new revival of Evita, and the upcoming Broadway musical Rebecca.
Tracie Bennett, the woman who “revives” Judy Garland each night in the Broadway show End of the Rainbow, will take center stage as herself in two post-performance talkback discussions being held on Tuesday, July 31 and Tuesday, August 7. The Village Voice columnist Michael Musto will moderate the discussions, which will give audience members an opportunity to learn more about how Bennett transforms into the much-idolized Wizard of Oz star.
End of the Rainbow, written by Peter Quilter and directed by Terry Johnson, takes place in a London hotel room in 1968, as Judy Garland is preparing to do a special series of nightclub concerts. Garland’s legendary voice, as well as her persistent problems with drugs and alcohol, are showcased in End of the Rainbow, which includes Bennett singing many of Garland’s best-loved songs. Following a successful run in London, the play with music began its engagement at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre in April.
For decades, the legendary Times Square — one of the most vibrant, well-known locations on the planet — was surprisingly inhospitable to people who just wanted to sit back and take in the ambiance of this tourist haven. With two major thoroughfares, 7th Avenue and Broadway, crossing right through the heart of Times Square, pedestrians had to crowd onto the narrow sidewalks, constantly stopping foot traffic to take photos of the neon mecca.
But today, Broadway is now closed to vehicular traffic between 41st and 47th streets, creating a large pedestrian walkway where people can wander around and be dazzled by the lights and pose for pictures with loved ones. It has also opened up marketing opportunities for Broadway shows, which sometimes send out performers in costume to hawk their shows to potential ticket buyers. For Broadway fans, the walkway was a particularly welcome change, since previously there was nowhere to go in the Broadway theater district to kill time if you arrived early for a show. Now there are tables, chairs, and benches situated all along Broadway, giving you a good place to sit for awhile.
The seating options also make it possible to get a quick bite before the show starts. Of course there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in the Broadway theater district, but they get crowded in the hours before showtime, and unless you arrive with time to spare, you might have to bolt before you even get a chance to finish your main course. For those who have only have 20 or 30 minutes to satisfy their stomachs, you can pick up a slice of pizza or some fast food, or even get a meal from one of the food trucks now conveniently parked right there on Broadway, and sit and eat your pre-show dinner. Dining in the middle of the street may not seem too glamorous, but the view is spectacular.
Fresh off her high-profile divorce from Tom Cruise and now living in Manhattan with daughter Suri, Katie Holmes is getting right to work, coming back to Broadway in the upcoming new play Dead Accounts. Holmes will be playing a woman who is living with her parents while trying to get her life back on track.
Katie Holmes made her Broadway debut back in 2008, when she co-starred in a revival of the Arthur Miller play All My Sons, which also starred John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson. Though she created more of a sensation at the stage door than onstage, Holmes did prove she could handle the rigors of performing in a Broadway show.
For her return to Broadway, Holmes has taken a different tack, choosing a brand new play by one of modern theater’s more prolific playwrights, Theresa Rebeck (Seminar, Mauritius, TV’s Smash). Rebeck specializes in intelligent, thoughtful comedies, so the play could provide a good opportunity for Holmes to distinguish herself in an interesting new part. Directed by Jack O’Brien, Dead Accounts will open at the Music Box Theater this fall.
The most recent Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire has its final performance at the Broadhurst Theatre today. Blair Underwood (L.A. Law) , Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), and Nicole Ari Parker (Boogie Nights) starred in this production of the American classic about an unstable Southern belle who goes to live with her sister and the sister’s husband.
Some people had doubts when the production was first announced. Would Blair Underwood, with his matinee idol looks and suave demeanor, be convincing as the brutish Stanley Kowalski? And would having the character (a working class Polish man living in 1940s New Orleans) played by an African-American actor be confusing? The latter question was ultimately answered by the production simply leaving Stanley’s last name and any references to his ancestry out of the script. Continuing a recent trend of artists from the jazz and R&B world contributing to Broadway plays, multiple Grammy winner Terence Blanchard provided underscoring for A Streetcar Named Desire. Under the direction of Emily Mann, the production ended up getting mixed reviews overall, with largely positive word-of-mouth.
From the beginning, this Streetcar was scheduled for a limited run to end on this date, but at one point the show did announce it was extending through August 19. In mid-June, the extension was canceled and it was determined that the production will transfer to London for a run this autumn.
It’s hard to picture comic strip character turned musical theater icon Annie without her beloved dog Sandy, and now the pooch who will play the role in the forthcoming Annie revival has been found. Sunny, a shelter dog from Houston, was discovered by Broadway animal guru William Berloni, who will train Sunny as she prepares to make her Broadway debut. Like any Broadway star, Sunny also has an understudy: Casey, another shelter dog from Nashville.
“Annie is about a girl and her dog desperately seeking a place to call home, and we’re hoping Sunny’s story inspires audiences to consider adopting their next pet,” said producer Arielle Tepper Madover. To give the cause of shelter adoption some added publicity, a 30-minute TV special, Annie’s Search for Sandy, about Sunny and Casey’s journey from pet shelters to stardom will air in October.
Helping the cause further, Broadway’s Annie has partnered with the dog food brand Pedigree to raise money. Pedigree will donate $2.00 for every Annie ticket that’s sold through the end of 2013 to the Pedigree Foundation, a non-profit that will help dogs find homes. There will also be special merchandise available at the theater, and 100% of those proceeds will go to the foundation.
Ticketmaster has set a new Broadway record for their “Convenience Charge” surcharge for Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana tickets at the Radio City Music Hall. The surcharge fees jumped dramatically from last year’s $8 -$16 to this year’s $13-$23, setting a new Broadway record. The amount of the surcharge is no longer a flat fee and is now directly connected to the price of the ticket; this year the $158 prime orchestra tickets are attracting the $23 surcharge.
Cirque do Soleil’s Zarkana at The Radio City Music Hall
The surcharges are only applied to patrons purchasing tickets online or over the telephone from Ticketmaster. The “in person” sales at the Radio City Music Hall Box Office, on the other hand, are not charged this additional fee. The prior two purchasing methods are often the only options for Broadway and other New York City theater patrons that cannot make it physically to the theater to purchase their Cirque du Soleil Zarkana tickets.
This means that a family of four would pay just under a hundred dollars in Ticketmaster fees, without including the price of the tickets.
Noting the unhappiness directed towards Ticketmaster over these inflated fees, they recently adopted a more transparent ticket sales model in the hopes of diffusing customer anger. Needless to say they didn’t accomplish this by actually lowering their fees, but they at least stopped hiding them. Now, when you select a Broadway ticket on Ticketmaster, you immediately see the total cost, so that the surcharge doesn’t come as such an unwelcome surprise just as you’re about to confirm your purchase. Despite the carping by ticket buyers at the time that Ticketmaster announced this ‘innovation’, it was actually a pretty wise move, since customers generally react better to knowing the total cost upfront–even if the surcharges are still outrageously high.
This price increase by Ticketmaster essentially penalizes out-of-towners, as local New Yorkers are wise to cutting out Ticketmaster and going directly to the box office to purchase tickets. It has been said that Ticketmaster was also trying to claw back some profit from ticket brokers, who resell their tickets at a profit. But with 5,931 seats and 3 shows a day, Zarkana at the Radio City Musical Hall doesn’t suffer the same abuse and manipulation from ticket brokers that a “one-off” concert or a hit Broadway show does.
Motown the Musical, a new tuner that has plans to hit Broadway in the spring of 2013, is now casting for a young African-American actor (between the ages of 8 and 11) to portray the young Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Berry Gordy. To take on these three iconic roles, the show is searching for a charismatic performer who has “a phenomenal high tenor singing voice, [has] rhythm and can move and sound like Michael Jackson in his Jackson 5 days.”
Motown the Musical is about the legendary Motown records label and its founder, Berry Gordy, Jr. Gordy himself is writing the book to the musical, and the songs will be from Motown’s incredible catalog. The show is expected to include hits that were made famous by such artists as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Temptations, and of course Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson & The Jackson Five.
Talented youngsters interested in being considered for the part in this Broadway-bound musical can audition by video. More info is available at www.motownthemusical.com/Casting.
What the parents of toddlers have known for years, the Broadway theater establishment has recently discovered: Sippy cups save upholstery. Traditionally, theatergoers have not been allowed to take their drinks to their seats (with the exception of bottled water). But with so little time available pre-show and during those 15-minute intermissions to buy and then consume the theater bar’s over-priced drinks, Broadway producers discovered that they could increase their profits on refreshments if the audience members were actually allowed to bring their wine, beer, and soda with them back to their seats.
The problem is, even grown adults are known to spill drinks, especially when there are no cup holders available. Part of the Broadway mystique comes from most of the theaters providing a bit of old fashioned luxury, with ornate interior design, beautiful light fixtures, handsome red curtains, and plush seats. The last thing that Broadway theatergoers–most of whom have paid a pretty penny for their show tickets–need is the icky, sticky experience that we often get at movie theaters, where spilled food and drinks make a mess of every surface in sight.
Enter the sippy cup. Sturdy spill-proof cups are now used at virtually all Broadway theaters, creating peace of mind for all involved. These souvenir cups are also often emblazoned with the show’s logo or the theater name, and they can be taken home and re-used, which surely makes audiences feel at least a little better about the absurdly high price that they have to pay for their drinks.