2017 Tony Awards

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The American Theatre Wing’s 71st Annual Tony Awards, held at Radio City Music hall and broadcast live on CBS, were hosted by Kevin Spacey.  Spacey opened the show dressed as Evan Hansen from Dear Evan Hansen with a cast that said #HOST and sang a parody of “You Will Be Found” and then transitioned into a Groundhog Day parody and moved the cast to this leg. From there be paid tribute to The Great Comet and then Come From Away to finish off the four Best Musical Nominees.  He also dressed as Norma Desmond and then tap danced it was quite a lot going on.

During the show the cast of Come From Away performed “Welcome to the Rock,” the company of Dear Evan Hansen sang “Waving Through a Window,”  David Hyde Pierce performed “Penny in my Pocket from Hello, Dolly!, and Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone performed “Face to Face” from War Paint.  Further performances included those by the remarkable companies of The Great CometFalsettosGroundhog Day, Bandstand, and Miss Saigon.

Best Play was presented to Oslo and Best Revival of a Play was awarded to August Wilson’s Jitney.  Best Leading Actress in a Play was awarded to Laurie Metcalf for A Doll’s House, Part 2 while Best Leading Actor in a Play went to Kevin Kline for Present Laughter. Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play was awarded to Michael Aronov for his role in Oslo and Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Play was awarded to Cynthia Nixon for her role in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. Best Direction of a Play was presented to Rebecca Taichman for Indecent.

Best Musical was awarded to Dear Evan Hansen. Best Revival of a Musical was awarded to Hello, Dolly! and Bette Midler took home the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in the show. Best Actor in a Musical went to Ben Platt and Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical was presented to Rachel Bay Jones for their roles in Dear Evan Hansen. Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical was awarded to Gavin Creel for his role in Hello, Dolly!.  Best Score and Best Book of a Musical were presented to Benj Pasek & Justin Paul and Steven Levenson respectively for Dear Evan Hansen. Best Orchestrations also went to Alex Lacamoire for the show. Best Direction of a Musical was awarded to Christopher Ashely for Come From Away.

James Earl Jones was presented with this year’s award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

A full list of winners can be found here.

Full Red Carpet coverage can be found here.

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NRACT Shines Like the Sun with 9 to 5 the Musical!

A few weeks ago, I told my parents that I would do anything to see 9 to 5 the Musical.  After years of seeing the movie and listening to the original cast recording, I was ready to see the show outside of a few youtube videos.  A random Facebook ad led me to hear about a local production of the show. Well, I did say I would do anything.


     
                                                            Photo courtesy of nract.org.



I was not expecting to be blown out of my seat by the sheer talent, force, and heart of North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre’s production.

In 2009, Dolly Parton’s musical, 9 to 5, opened on Broadway and earned fifteen Drama Desk Award nominations and four Tony Award nominations.  The show starred Allison Janney (NBC’s The West Wing, CBS’s Mom), Stephanie J. Block (The Boy From Oz, Wicked), Megan Hilty (NBC’s SMASH, Wicked), and Marc Kudisch (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Thoroughly Modern Millie).  While the production was short-lived, it certainly lived on among Dolly and Broadway fans.

Video courtesy of ABC via youtube.

Directed by James Ilsley, NRACT’s production brings together some of the area’s most talented to bring the show to life.  It should be noted that, unlike other groups, the cast and crew are volunteers – simply coming together to share their love of performing with each other and their audience.

    
               Mary Reilly, Mary Beth Hollmann, and AC Donohue as Judy, Violet, & Doralee. Photo courtesy of nract.org.

The show stars Mary Beth Hollmann, AC Donohue, and Mary Reilly as Violet, Doralee, and Judy respectively.  Alongside them, Bill Andrews plays Mr. Frank Hart, Natalie Turgeon plays Roz Keith, and David Kerman as Joe.  I cannot say how talented every person in the cast is; all have powerful voices that bring down the house in every number.  

A show like 9 to 5 requires a big cast to help carry the musical numbers, but the 18 performers in this production are the epitome of the phrase “less is more.”  From the  beginning, a video of Dolly Parton leads the cast through the tale of three women who begin to fight back against their egotistical boss. The same video continues throughout the show providing the audience with a sense of location, as the sets are limited.  Following Dolly’s lead, the cast brings audience members into the offices and homes of the characters.

Overall, the production is nothing short of stellar.  As mentioned, everyone involved is a volunteer – simply in it because they care.  It is rare to see a live show in which everyone is performing simply for the joy of performing.  Yes, the singers and actors are talented, but the passion is what makes this show shine like the sun!

9 to 5 runs until July 26!  Get your tickets now!

Be sure to like NRACT on Facebook, twitter, and instagram!  Also, check out their website for information about the rest of the season!

#gleetome

I started watching “Glee” when Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel made their first appearances on the show.  When my dad first explained the concept of “Glee” to me, I said, “That sounds stupid.” But of course I watched it for my two favorite witches.  
          
Now, I have eaten my own words.  I fell in love with the show, the characters, and the music.  
Say what you will about “Glee.”  As an English major, sometimes the story-lines, characterization, and writing make me cringe.  As a teacher and future parent, the way they handled certain topics was inappropriate and made me shake my head. 
But as a fan, the show changed me.
Whether you watched the show or not, whether you liked the show or not, the show was important in the history of television.  For the first time, a primetime TV show combined the drama of high schoolers with music in every episode.  Artists from all genres allowed their music to be covered by a glorified “Kidz Bop” show.  
No one can deny that the talent on the show is out of this world.  Especially since the show was laid on the shoulders of a bunch of unknowns.  Who knew any of them before “Glee”? I sure didn’t (Well, except for the people who were on Broadway).  
No one can deny that this show battled serious and important topics.  They may have made some poor decisions about how to tackle these issues, choosing to joke about them rather than discuss them seriously.  However, they brought attention to so many issues and made a somewhat positive impact on our world (maybe making some people angry in the process).
No one can deny that the the show used music to bring the generations together.  The younger viewers are listening to music that is probably twice their age, while the older viewers are jamming to Katy and Gaga and Bieber.  In a unique way, the music from the past five decades has been brought together by this one band of misfits.  
         

And finally, no one can deny that the future generations will hear about this show and they will say, “That sounds cool!” or “That sounds stupid!” And the one thing everyone can agree on is that the New Directions reminded us all – “Don’t stop believing!”

Julia Murney: I’m Not Waiting

Julia Murney is most know for her time spent in shows like Wicked, The Wild Party, and Lennon. She was also featured in the Actor’s Fund Benefit performances of Hair and Chess. Her album, I’m Not Waiting, is filled with awesome music that covers her career and some of her personal favorites.


Photo courtesy of Dirty Sugar Photography via juliamurney.com

Before taking the stage with Alli Mauzey in Garner, North Carolina, Julia was able to take some time to talk to Martha about her career. 

MH:  What was the first thing that sparked your interest, or passion, in musical theatre?
JM:  Well, my father is an actor – and he would direct sometimes, as well.  And I remember, as a child, he directed a play at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, where we lived when I was a small child.  There was one show I remember it was a comedy and there was a part where there were these bridges. And, at one point, an actor fell of the bridge and came up out of the water and had to spit out water.  My father took me backstage, and I remember him showing me the cup of water and straw that the actor used for the scene.  And it didn’t ruin the show for me – I was fascinated.  It was the first time where I was aware that there was more than what you saw.
Later, when I was older, I liked shows – but I wasn’t a show kid. I never did shows until I was in high school. When I went to see (and I saw it a few times) the original cast of Dreamgirls on Broadway, it was the first time – for whatever reason – that I was suddenly aware that somebody made that happen.  That there was a director, and the transitions in the show were out of this world, and I never understood that before.  Even though my father had been a director, somehow my brain had not made that connection until that show.
And the first show I ever did, I was in the ensemble of A Chorus of Applause (it was a c, old show), but I loved it.
MH:  What’s your favorite cast album to listen too?
JM:  Dreamgirls.  I don’t listen to cast albums that much.  However, more recently I LOVE In the Heights.  That’s one of the few that’s on my iPod.
MH: If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would it be?
JM: That’s such a huge question.  Today, I would say Alli Mauzey because I get to sing two duets with her tonight – and that’s pretty neat!  
I got to sing with Josh Groban, and that was pretty great.  But he’s off the list, because I’ve already performed with him.
MH: Chess, right?
JM: Yep.
It’s a hard question because I’m only able to think of people I have already sung with.  Anyone who would ask me – honestly.  It’s such a joy to get to sing with someone new.  I don’t have any particular person in mind.  If anyone asked, I’d do it.
MH: Is there a dream role you haven’t played yet?
JM:  Yes, one that hasn’t been written yet.  In terms of roles that already exist, my time has probably passed for this, but I’d love to play Dot in Sunday in the Park with George.  Also, I’d like to play Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd.
MH:  You played Florence in the Actor’s Fund Benefit concert of Chess, with Josh Groban, Adam Pascal, and Sutton Foster. As well, as Broadway Voice veteran Norm Lewis.  What was your experience like with that performance?

JM:  It was fast.  I was actually supposed to play Svetlana (the Russian’s wife), played by Sutton Foster.  And someone else entirely was in line to play Florence, but she dropped out just a few weeks before the performance.  So, they called and asked if I would bump up and take the role.  So, I was very overwhelmed.  Those concerts are always very fast and furious, so you have to buckle your seat-belts and just go with it.  
That was what was so incredible about Josh Groban.  He stepped into our world, a world that we were used to, and he just went with it.  And he’s so nice and he is fabulous! 
So, it helps when you are surrounded by people who are so talented.  You go, “I want to try to be as good as they are.”  Plus, everyone holds each other up.
MH:  What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Or a piece of advice you would give to an aspiring actor?
JM:  I would say, the one piece of advice that I remind myself of all the time: in this business, it is good to be reminded that everyone is on their own path.  So, stay in your lane.  It is easy to compare and feel “How come she’s working all the time? Or getting all these roles?”  
You have to get out of the mindset of “I want that. And I wish it was me instead of her.”  That’s their journey that they have to take.  You have to remember that your job in everyone else’s journey is to support them.  It’s okay to take a minute and be disappointed, and then get over it.  Use that energy to support, because it is better.
Basically, be kind.  You don’t know who they are or what they will become, and you might need them one day.  It’s like you’re hiking a trail.  Say “Hi!” to them as you walk by.  You may get further up the trail and roll your ankle later.  You’ll need their help, and they’ll say, “You didn’t say ‘Hi!’ to me on the trail.”  That’s the biggest piece of advice I can give.  
Be sure to follow Julia on Twitter and Instagram.  Be sure to check out her website for updates!

Don’t miss the announcement of next season’s Broadway Voices guests! Follow GPAC on twitter.

Review: The 37th Annual Kennedy Center Honors



The recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors were: Al Green, Tom Hanks, Patricia McBride, Sting, and Lily Tomlin.  The honorees were celebrated with the honors ceremony held on December 8th at the Kennedy Center Opera House, where the honorees were saluted by a variety of talented performers.  However, the honorees received their medallions prior to the event on December 6.

As in years past, the Kennedy Center Honors, as seen by viewers at home, are intended to pay tribute to the artists being honored with various performances and kind words of their contemporaries.  
  
The wonderful ceremony was hosted by the talented Stephen Colbert.  
Al Green’s tribute was introduced by Whoopi Goldberg. It featured performances by artists such as Earth, Wind & Fire (“I Can’t Get Next to You” and “Love & Happiness”) and Jennifer Hudson (“Simply Beautiful”). Usher also performed “Let’s Stay Together.” Mavis Staples and Sam Moore’s number, “Take Me to the River,” was incredible and was a great way to end the tribute!  

Patricia McBride’s tribute was introduced by Christine Baranski. To honor the ballerina, New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck performed “Fascinating Rhythm.”  New York City Ballet soloist Lauren Lovette and Boston Ballet principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio performed “Rubies.”  Other performances included a performance by Misty Copeland (American Ballet Theatre) as a solo from Tchaikovsky’s pas de deux.  Tiler Peck reappeared for another performance with Jared Angle (both from New York City Ballet) for “Dances at a Gathering.” However, the highlight of the tribute to McBride was “I Got Rhythm” by The Charlette Ballet, along with all the previous dancers.

Tom Hanks’ tribute was introduced by David Letterman.  However, the tribute was led by Martin Short, in the temporary role of Master of Ceremonies.  A capella quintet Pentatonix sang “That Thing You Do” for the actor.  Tony Award-winners Laura Benanti, Jessie Mueller, and Kelli O’Hara gave the audience a brilliant trio performance of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”  The tribute ended with Martin Short leading the entire company in a rousing rendition of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Lily Tomlin’s tribute was introduced by Garrison Keillor.  The tribute consisted of a spoken-word piece performed by Jane Lynch, Kate McKinnon, Reba McEntire, and Jane Fonda.
Sting’s tribute was introduced by Meryl Streep.  Performances during this segment featured Lady Gaga singing “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” and Esperanza Spalding, with Herbie Hancock on the piano, singing “Fragile.”  Fellow rocker Bruce Springsteen sang, “I Hung My Head.”  However, the tribute ended on a powerful note with a medley of “So Lonely,” “Roxanne,” and “Message in a Bottle” performed by Bruno Mars and the cast of Sting’s original musical, The Last Ship.
Yet again, the world is able to celebrate those who have successfully contributed to the entertainment world.  Through words, song, and dance we are able to come together and share in the legacy of these five individuals and their careers.  

The Long-Awaited Christmas Album, "Holiday Wishes," from Superstar Idina Menzel – Review

For Idina Menzel, the last year has been a whirlwind; her Frozen hit “Let It Go” has reached quadruple platinum, she performed at the Oscars and the Tonys, opened If/Then on Broadway, and just released her first ever Christmas album, “Holiday Wishes.”

      

Fanzels everywhere have been going crazy over the release of this album – her first studio album since her overnight success in Frozen.  Despite what Ms. Menzel thinks, it is never too early for Christmas music (in my opinion)! And since I love Christmas so much, I knew that this would quickly become my favorite album from Ms. Menzel – and I was right.  
Staying true to her style, Idina performs some popular holiday tunes by adding her own unique twist.  “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” “White Christmas,” “River,” and many others.  She also does an awesome duet with Michael Buble on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  
From the very beginning of the album, Ms. Menzel’s powerful vocals bring new life into “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  The opening track is definitely an invocation for her fans to enjoy the rest of the album.  “The Christmas Song” is another classic holiday tune, sung by performers such as Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Julie Andrews, and Big Bird (yes, that Big Bird).  Instead of sticking with the slow ballad format, Ms. Menzel’s version has a soulful aspect to it.  Normally, that would be weird, but it works for her performance.  Then again, us fanzels may be biased.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” her duet with Michael Buble, is a cute, peppy tune.  I am one-hundred percent sure that listeners will quickly learn the words so they can pretend to sing along with their favorite Disney Queen.  And I have to say, this particular version is just as good as some of the original versions of the track.  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” are two tracks I was excited to hear.  “Have Yourself” is another classic tune that many famous crooners have been known to perform.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, “All I Want For Christmas” is a great tribute to Mariah.  The performance is especially exciting since Ms. Menzel’s producer on the album is Walter Afanaseiff, co-writer of the track.  The song also lets Ms. Menzel show off her incredible runs.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” “River,” and “December Prayer” are the tracks that many of her older listeners will fall in love with.  As I listened to the tracks, I couldn’t help but think of these as her grown-up Christmas songs.  The tracks also go back to her love of singer/songwriters and also her desire to be a singer/songwriter.  “December Prayer” is a track which she debuted at her Radio City Music Hall concert in June, and it reminds me that she has come so far as a performer since her days as a wedding singer.   
“When You Wish Upon a Star” is a beautiful track that showcases Ms. Menzel’s vocal power.  Furthermore, I wonder if it is a tribute to her experience with Disney, as the song was written for the 1940 Disney film Pinnochio.  I also feel as though Idina is speaking directly with her fans, in an effort to inspire and give hope.  
“Silent Night” is another wonderful Christmas hymn, which has been given new breath of life.  “Holly Jolly Christmas” is another great peppy tune that will fill every listener with happiness and joy.  “White Christmas” is her beautiful benediction for the album, as she bids her listeners a “merry and bright” Christmas.
Of course, if you buy the album at Target, you can have two bonus tracks: “Mother’s Spiritual” and “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.”

Don’t forget the singer also has an awesome trailer for the album.  Check it out below:

If you haven’t already, be sure to get the album on iTunes, Amazon, and Idina Menzel’s Store.

Next time you are in New York City, take some time to go see Idina in If/Then.

Idina Menzel: Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr 

Theater People: Ellyn Marie Marsh

Yet again, Theater People Podcast has brought another great episode into their collection.  This time, Ellyn Marie Marsh is more than just a guest – she is a long-time friend of Patrick Hinds.  


Ellyn is definitely a Broadway diva, as evidenced by her time spent in the original Broadway production of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert.  Most recently, her talents have been recognized in the original Broadway cast of the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots.



Ellyn and Patrick talk about Kinky Boots, particularly her time working on developing her character (a tattooed factory worker that can be seen in the ensemble), auditioning for and booking the show, and understanding Lauren.  She notes that being an understudy is difficult since audiences are expecting them to be similar to the regular cast members – i.e. she felt like she had to stay true to what Annaleigh Ashford had brought to the table.  However, that never stopped her from bringing her own spark to the character.

After talking about Kinky Boots, Patrick and Ellyn talked about their past – specifically their time at Emerson College.  After reminiscing, the two talk about Ellyn’s experience in the Broadway production of Cry-Baby.  However, before she took over the role of Hatchet Face Mona, the show closed before she could begin.

After that, she joined the cast of Enron.  The play talks about the scandal surrounding the Enron Corperation.  She would have performed alongside Norbert Leo Butz and Marin Mazzie, but the show closed before she could take to the stage.

Since Enron and Cry Baby were not successful, she auditioned for a swing role in Priscilla – Queen of the Desert.  She went to Toronto with the show, learning a few parts in the show.  While in Toronto, she went on as each of her six characters.  During that time, she would go back and forth between different characters every day which allowed her to show off her amazing talents.  In addition to working on Priscilla, she was also dealing with the most important role – mom.  She notes that while she was supported, the moms and dads in the theatre community are unique. 

Patrick and Ellyn also perform a few lightning rounds of their favorite things. 

The episode is AMAZING. Listen to it and don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes if you don’t already!

Theater People: Twitter | Website | Facebook
Ellyn Marie Marsh: Twitter