Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Broadway Close Up: Party at the Princes'

Last night, Broadway Close Up presented yet another lovely night of talented people singing wonderful songs. The evening was devoted to shows that Hal Prince produced and/or directed, which includes Cabaret, Company, Follies, Lovemusik, Merrily We Roll Along, The Pajama Game, Phantom of the Opera, She Loves Me, and West Side Story. (Those are just the shows represented last night; Prince's full resume also includes A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Fiorello, A Fiddler on the Roof, and Parade; the man received 21 Tonys!)

Kate Baldwin

Hosted and written by Sean Hartley, who also performed a bit (and nicely), A Party at the Princes' featured a living room-esque area with food and drink, to which the performers retired after singing. It was fun to watch them watching their friends and peers and nonpeers, and the show ended with all of them and the audience singing "Cabaret," which was great fun.

Allison Blackwell

Highlights of the evening included Nikki Renee Daniels singing "Maybe This Time" (Cabaret), Alysha Umphress singing "Married" (Cabaret), Isabel Keating singing "Broadway Baby" (Follies), the fabulous Kate Baldwin singing "Could I Leave You?" (also Follies), Sally Wilfert singing "Now You Know" (Merrily We Roll Along), Allison Blackwell singing "Speak Low" (Lovemusik), and Charlotte Maltby and Jason Robinson both spoofing and honoring Phantom of the Opera. New to me was the beautiful "Dear One" from Kiss of the Spiderwoman, sang by Gabrielle Stravelli, Kirsten Scott, Sean Hartley, and Jason Robinson.

Sally Wilfert
Photo c/o Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Someone else in the audience might have had different highlights--and one could make the case that every song was a highlight! 

Special kudos must go to Evan Rees, the music director and pianist, and the lighting designer (whose name I could not find in the program). With their support, the performances had a fullness and depth not always seen when songs from musical are sang out of context.

The last show of this series of Broadway Close Up is The Writers' Room. I'm quite looking forward to it. Here is the description from the Broadway Close Up website:


Hosted by Sean Hartley and featuring Tony nominees Stephanie D’Abruzzo and Kate BaldwinJenn Damiano (original cast, Next to Normal), Outer Critics Circle Award winner Jay Armstrong JohnsonRick Lyon (original cast of Avenue QBen Levi Ross and Drama Desk Award winner Margo Seibert (original cast, In Transit). Music directed by Cynthia Meng.


The prestigious BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop is renowned for fostering generations of musical theater writers who have transformed Broadway, but no year was more pivotal than 1997. Hear behind-the-scenes stories about what happened when this phenomenal group of writers was in the room together, and how they went on to write smash hit musicals that have garnered numerous Tonys, Oscars, Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize and shaped our culture: Bobby Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon, Frozen), Brian Yorkey & Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, If/Then) and Amanda Green (Hands on a Hardbody, Mr. Saturday Night). They’ll share their experiences, perform songs and give you a sneak peek at what they’re working on now.

Click here for more info.

Wendy Caster

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

The Frogs

The time is the present. The place is Ancient Greece. The fabulous lyrics and music are by the one-and-only Sondheim. The hysterical book is based on Aristophanes' The Frogs, as loosely adapted by Burt Shevelove and then loosely-er adapted and readapted by Nathan Lane. The brilliant cast includes Lane as the Host, along with Douglas Sills, Kevin Chamberlin, Peter Bartlett, Dylan Baker, Chuck Cooper, Marc Kudisch, Jordan Donica, and Candice Corbin. The chorus is the magnificent MasterVoices. The fabulous choreography is by Lainie Sakakura. The wonderful evening is conducted and directed by the invaluable Ted Sperling. Once again, the MasterVoices hits a grand slam home run.

The basic story of The Frogs is simple: the demi-god Dionysus, despairing of the state of the world (same as it ever was), goes to Hades to bring back George Bernard Shaw, believing that Shaw's writing can open up people's eyes and inspire them to save the world. As it happens, Shaw has to debate Shakespeare, and Dionysus decides that Shaw's brilliant logic lacks the power of Shakespeare's poetry. Shakespeare agrees to go back to earth, and the final song exhorts the audience to "shake your ass" and do something to make the world better.

Photo: Erin Baiano

Can art inspire people to save the world? I don't know. But art itself makes the world a better place. What is more glorious than watching some 150 people work together to make something ephemeral and beautiful? Seeing shows reminds me that people can be generous, loving, and cooperative. Seeing shows almost makes up for reading the news.

One thing: when this show is done again, forget Shaw and Shakespeare. The artist the show should bring back is Sondheim.

Photo: Erin Baiano

Wendy Caster