The Ides of March are coming and those of us whose money came to them in a “Miscellaneous Income” format are hurrying to make sure we don’t owe an arm, a leg, and our first born child. If you spent all of last year working in non-profit theatre settings and are claiming whole lot of un-taxed income, we have some good news for you. Read today’s Broadway Educator’s blog and educate yourself on your earnings.
If you saw the Tony Awards this year, you probably remember all the awards Hamilton won as well as the hilarious video montage showing all its original actors in featured roles on Law and Order. Musical theatre stars are becoming more and more visible on the small screen after Broadway success! Here are a few accounts of the stars whose small screen ventures you should see…
The Superhero Universes
Living at home with my superhero obsessed boyfriend, I learn a lot about the Marvel and DC universes. Lately, he’s been watching The Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. I was surprised to see such actors as Calista Flockhart (The Glass Menagerie), Victor Garber (Godspell), Jeremy Jordan(Newsies), and Laura Benanti (She Loves Me) on these shows. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the writing style compared to the Netflix streaming ones like Daredevil, Jessica Jones , and Luke Cage but clearly these actors gain a little more financial stability by taking advantage of their SAG cards. With more money and more flexibility rather than the “eight-show-a-week” schedule, there are some positives to the job shift.
Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney movie as a child. I loved the spectacle, the love story, and the elements that Disney brought to the original Grimm tale (e.g. Belle’s yellow gown, the enchanted red rose, and the musical themes). A new live-action remake is going to be released on Saint Patrick’s Day starring Emma Watson, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Kline, Audra McDonald, Emma Thompson, and Josh Gad.
The original film from 1991 set a precedent for other Disney films as well as other cartoon films of its time. Alan Menken wrote the music that he later extended for a stage production that opened on Broadway in April of 1994 at The Palace Theatre. With lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman and a book by Linda Woolverton, the production was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won one for Best Costume Design.
The 1991 film had many stars including Paige O’Hara as Belle, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, Jesse Corti as LeFou, David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth, and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts. Angela Lansbury was recently interviewed by Entertainment Weekly about the new remake. The 91 year old actress stated her confusion at Disney’s want to redo the story:
“I don’t quite know why they’re doing it. I can’t understand what they’re going to do with it that will be better than what we’ve already done. And how they’re doing it live — it may turn out to be very entertaining and wonderful. It won’t be like the cartoon that we did, but it’s a good story — it’s one of the famous fairy stories that is known worldwide by children. Therefore, why not? I don’t blame them for doing it. But, I’m sorry, they’re not really on our territory. We did it as cartoon characters, and that is quite different from live actors.”
A Great Remake Or Just a Money-Maker
A live-action remake for Beauty and The Beast could be great. The advanced CGI for the Disney castle will definitely be remastered in a new, enchanting way. Designers already seem to be taking advantage of the authentic, Bavarian aesthetic from the original Grimm Fairytale. The filmmakers could also be adding more of our favorite songs from the live stage production, which would set the movie apart. Then, Emma Watson will once more get an opportunity to be delivered from her perpetual place as Hermione Granger. Good things could definitely come of it!
On the other hand, the merchandise for the film will earn Disney more money and the box office earnings are expected to be ridiculous. I guess we’ll just have to wait until March 17th to see if it’s all worth it!
On this day in 1968, a new musical by Kander and Ebb opened at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. The musical was Zorba!. Set on the island of Crete, this musical deals with the inheritance of power, unrequited love, and vengeance: all the things that sum up Greek life! It lost to 1776 for Best Musical in 1969, but it continues to be produced around the world today.
From Book to Stage to Screen
Based on the Greek novel, Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantakis, the narrator gains control over a mine on the island of Crete. Nikos becomes friends with an energetic older man named Zorba who teaches him about life and living it to the fullest. Meanwhile, Crete is filled with tragedy. The widow of the man Nikos inherited the mine from, has an affair with a youth on the island. The youth commits suicide when his love for the widow is not reciprocated. Shortly after, the boy’s family looks to gain revenge from the widow and murders her. These tragic events test Nikos’ newfound excitement for life.
“The Bend of the Road”
The original actors in the production included Herchel Bernardi as Zorba(Fiddler on the Roof), Maria Karnilova (Fiddler on the Roof OBC), Carmen Alzarez (Bye Bye Birdie), and John Cunningham (Cabaret). Though the production didn’t get the best reviews, more productions came along to star some big names! John Raitt and Chita Rivera performed in the US Tour in the 1970s and last year, the New York City Center produced the show in their Encores! series. This production starred John Turturro, Zoe Wanamaker, and Marin Mazzie.
“That’s a Beginning”
Do you remember the film production of the show? Can you remember the 1969 Tony Award performance? Maybe you can just remember the production of the 1983 revival at the Tonys! Whatever you can’t remember, there is a website for that! YouTube has the ‘69 Tony Award performance of “Life Is”.
Was this a musical favorite of yours or just a more depressing version of Fiddler on the Roof? Let us know on Twitter!
Schwartz, Gershwin, Schonberg, Menken, Kander, Ebb, and Webber: What do these names have in common? They represent names of musical composers whose music is currently represented on the Great White Way! Names that would not have become so well known in musical theatre if it had not been for one great Irish-born composer: Victor Herbert!
The Climb to the Top
On first looking at old pictures of Herbert, the first striking trait is the mustache. He probably twirled the ends of it nervously during long periods of composing alone in his New York flat.
Herbert’s mustache gained some acclaim because his wife Therese Förster came to New York with him to sing at the Met for a season of Wagner. He got some associative fame as her pianist and then skyrocketed into the New York scene from there! His goals as a composer were to create work within a “folk theatre” scope that was reminiscent of Harrigan and Hart, a vaudevillian duo of comedic composers who also performed in NYC. Herbert’s first productions are considered “Light operas” and he was the best at writing during the turn of the 19th century. He and his twirling mustache made famous the song, “Gypsy Love Song” from The Fortune Teller (1898) that is shown here in this video performed by the Robert Shaw Chorale from 1976:
Always a Backlash
Of course, Herbert didn’t have it easy with the critics all the time. When he first came to the United States, his first job was as bandmaster for the 22nd New York National Guard Band. Critics found his ascension to composing fame to be appalling because they believed a job as a bandmaster was completely lowbrow! To think that this man should be allowed to twirl his mustache on the New York stage annoyed them. At the fame of The Fortune Teller, critics scoffed and called him a plagiarist of better composers. Unfortunately for them, their hateful words have not lasted as long as his influence on the musical comedy!
What He Gave Us
Herbert’s constant mustache twirling and composing gave the musical comedy a need for great music accompanied by a strong libretto. Though he was born in Ireland, studied in Germany, and then immigrated to the United States, his composing style helped to give identity to American musical theatre with his marches, waltzes, and ballads. Much like Antonin Dvorak and the New World Symphony, his appearance in the United States and experience of American patriotism helped him to identify us and himself as a composer in the New World.
A quiet studio just for your particular skill set sits waiting in a rural town in New England. For composers and writers there are cottages with grand pianos, beautiful bedrooms with handmade quilts and rugs, and large windows to look out into the woods for inspiration. Your gourmet lunches and breakfasts are delivered quietly and left in ornate baskets outside your door. At dinner you can join other artists at a summer camp-style mess hall to discuss progress. This Thoreauvian escape is where the most elite artists are accepted to work for weeks at a time. If it seems like your type of place, you might consider submitting your work to The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire next year.
History and Famous Fellows
Composer Edward MacDowell and his wife, Marian MacDowell, a pianist, invested in this property in 1896 as an escape. Its peaceful grounds and remote location made it a perfect place for MacDowell to compose. MacDowell wished he could turn the area into a community for working artists and his wife acknowledged this wish. After MacDowell’s death in 1908, Marian worked with investors like Andrew Carnegie and Grover Cleveland to turn the area into an artists’ colony. The colony has now served more than 6,000 artists including some of our theatre favorites Suzan Lori-Parks (Topdog/ Underdog), Kerrigan-Lowdermilk (Henry and Mudge), John Pielmeier (Agnes of God), Susan Blackwell (Title of Show), and Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story).
Visit the Grounds
To continue MacDowell’s belief of a community area, the colony invites the general public to visit once every summer. There is a great guest speaker or two, women wear expensive floppy hats, everyone eats lunch on the lawn, and the artists open up their cottages to display their work and speak with the public. I was lucky enough to visit the year Stephen Sondheim was the guest speaker. Musical theatre geeks from New Hampshire and Massachusetts flocked to hear him discuss his lessons learned under his mentor Leonard Bernstein. Visiting only made me more jealous of the sanctuary each of these creators are allotted for a few weeks out of the summer. As one of the top artist communities in the world, it’s no wonder why it’s difficult to become a MacDowell Fellow. Applications are usually due around April of each year.
Determining what is happening on Broadway at any given time can be especially confusing. Snapshots are often offered as are summaries but there’s rarely a view that is panoramic, all-inclusive, or devised in a manner that provides an accurate idea about what is occurring over a length of time.
What we know about Broadway is that overall ticket prices continue to rise and that grosses also continue to rise. What do those two basic stats mean and what else do we know? Those may be the billion dollar questions.
As schools, colleges, and universities begin the new academic year, it’s a good time to consider the arts and their connection to education. Last year one apparently well-intentioned administrator decided that the arts needed to take a backseat. This occurred when Interim Principal of the Harley Avenue Elementary School in Elmwood, which is located on Long Island, cancelled the annual kindergarten variety show. Why was it shutdown?
This was done because an accumulation of snow days resulted in lost instructional time. Some at the school felt that the kindergarten students had more important things to do than to perform in a show. What was that? They had to prep for college exams.
The 2015 Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live on CBS on June 7, are filled with controversy regarding which parts will be seen live and which will be only available via YouTube. At this point, Tommy Tune’s remarks regarding his Lifetime Achievement Award have been relegated to the Tony Awards YouTube channel. Creative awards, including those for Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Scenic Design, Lighting Design, and others are given off air with clips of acceptance speeches shown to the live audience during commercial breaks and the full speeches available later on YouTube. The award for Best Play and Best Musical is not accepted by the writers of such, but by the producers.
Whose Awards Are These?
These decisions regarding which recipients are seen and which are not raises questions as to the reason for and intention of the Tony Awards. The awards are supposed to “celebrate excellence in Broadway theatre.” However, more and more they have become commercials for current and upcoming shows.
The Golden Age of American Theatre is considered to have lasted about 40 years, depending upon how you define it. Starting sometime around 1915 and lasting until sometime in the late 1950s to early 1960s, it was a time that saw the Little Theatre Movement develop, the Harlem Renaissance bloom, Broadway houses multiply and then decline, and great works that defined the American theatre and made the rest of the world respect our dramatists, composers, and lyricists come into being. Broadway was the central focus of this period of stage enlightenment.