James Lapine’s ‘Act One’ Begins Previews

Last night, a new play began previews at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Lincoln Center’s Broadway house.  Written and directed by James Lapine, Act One is a stage adaptation of the 1954 memoir of the same name by Broadway playwright, director, and lyricist Moss Hart.

act one

James Lapine brings to this project his own vast experience as a director and librettist, having won three Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical (Into the Woods, Falsettos, Passion), as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (Sunday in the Park with George).  Lapine is a frequent collaborator with the renowned composer Stephen Sondheim, having written the libretto for many of his scores and having served as director for many of his productions.

Act One tells the story of Moss Hart’s life, from his early years in the Bronx to his ascent to Broadway royalty, detailing his collaborations with the theatre multi-hyphenate George S. Kaufman.  When the memoir was published in 1954, it remained on The New York Times Bestseller List for 41 weeks, and the celebrated theatre journalist Frank Rich has called it “the greatest showbiz book ever written.”  In this new stage adaptation, Tony Shalhoub (Golden Boy, Lend Me a Tenor) plays both Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman in their later years, and Santino Fontana (Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Sunday in the Park with George) plays Hart as a younger man.  The cast is rounded out by Andrea Martin, Chuck Cooper, Matthew Saldivar, Bob Stillman, Amy Warren, Bill Army, Will Brill, Laurel Casillo, Steven Kaplan, Will LeBow, Mimi Lieber, Charlotte Maier, Deborah Offner, and Matthew Schechter.

Several individuals in the cast and creative team are frequent faces at Lincoln Center.  James Lapine returns to LCT after having written the book for the musical A New Brain, with music composed by William Finn, which played in 1998 at LCT’s Off-Broadway house, the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre.  Furthermore, LCT produced a revival of Lapine’s play Twelve Dreams, which he also directed, at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre in 1995.  Tony Shalhoub returns to LCT after his acclaimed performance last year as Mr. Bonaparte in Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy.  Though this is Santino Fontana’s first time performing at Lincoln Center, he is a quickly rising Broadway star, having been nominated for a Tony Award for his originating starring role as Prince Topher in the still-running Broadway production of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

For Lincoln Center to premiere a new play at their Broadway house, they must have confidence that it is of superb quality.  Their website coverage is certainly enthusiastic, detailing how wildly popular the memoir has been for the last half century, and explaining how Moss Hart’s tale is the classic New York story – not only because he ended up making it big, but also because he truly struggled in his early years.  After the play officially opens on April 17, 2014, it will be discernible whether James Lapine’s production succeeds in matching up to the stupendous career of the man it profiles.

Cinderella Stars To Host High School Musical Theater Awards

CinderellaBroadway will roll out the red carpet for high school musical theater’s best on July 1, when the Fifth Annual National High School Musical Theater Awards (NHSMTA) are held at the Minskoff Theatre, current home to Disney’s The Lion King. The event will be hosted by Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes, the Tony Award-nominated stars of the Broadway musical Cinderella.

Referred to as the “Jimmy Awards” (named for Broadway producer and theater owner James M. Nederlander), these honors are awarded to student winners from 31 regional competitions. Over 50,000 high school students across the country take part in these musical theatre competitions each year.

Established in 2009, the National High School Musical Theater Awards were created to forge a connection between gifted student performers and the world of professional theater.

A Better Holiday Concert Tonight

Santino Fontana

You may think you’ve been to the best holiday concert of the season already, but the It Gets Better Project promises “A Better Holiday Concert” tonight from 7 to 10pm at XL Nightclub, located at 512 West 42nd Street.  Hosted by The Haus of Mimosa comedy duo, the event will feature a number of Broadway and Off-Broadway performers, including Santino Fontana (soon to be the Prince in Broadway’s Cinderella), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Newsies), Max von Essen (Evita), Donna Vivino, Condola Rashad, and Randy Harrison.

The It Gets Better Project is dedicated to helping lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people see “the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach”.  All of the proceeds from the ticket sales for the concert will go to the Ali Forney Center, an organization that offers support and services for homeless and runaway LGBTQ youth but saw its drop-in center destroyed by Hurricane Sandy last October.

“A Better Holiday Concert” will start with a cocktail party that begins at 7pm.  During the hour-long cocktail reception, the art of photographer Victor Haim will be shown and sold (half of the proceeds from those sales will go to the Ali Forney Center).

Tickets for the concert can be purchased here.

Cinderella Will Waltz Into the Broadway Theatre

Laura Osnes

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella will be enchanting Broadway this season when it begins performances at the Broadway Theatre on January 21, 2013.  Originally written for television, this lovely, comic 1957 musical will in fact be making its Broadway debut.  Rodgers & Hammerstein provide the memorable score, which includes such tunes as “In My Own Little Corner” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”.  Hammerstein originally wrote the show’s book, but this production will be using a new adaptation written by playwright Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, Lysistrata Jones).

Laura Osnes (who famously found Broadway stardom through the reality show Grease: You’re the One That I Want) will star as Cinderella, and Santino Fontana (The Importance of Being Earnest) will be her charming Prince.  The production will also include such well-loved Broadway veterans as Victoria Clark, Harriet Harris, Peter Barlett, and Ann Harada.

The original TV version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cindrella starred Julie Andrews.  A 1965 remake featured Lesley Ann Warren as the famed fairy tale character.  R&B pop singer Brandy took on the role in a 1997 television version that also featured Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother.  This new Broadway production will have its official opening night on February 21.