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Theatre Talk: In Our Own Little Corner

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Shows apparently on the horizon... Fun Home, American Psycho, a revival of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Side Show

Also, Emma Stone may be replacing Michelle Williams in Cabaret. I've only ever seen her sing in Easy A but if the feedback was good I might consider seeing it. I've still never seen Cabaret (both stage/film versions).

I'm still trying to console myself about missing Violet. This is why I think everything needs to be filmed. Violet and Heathers are my big misses this season.

Fun Home was fabulous and I highly recommend it!

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John Lithgow on Charlie Rose talking about doing Lear in The Park (and other things).  I missed the first half, but I'm going to see if I can find it somewhere.  I love John Lithgow.  Met him during the pre-Broadway run of M Butterfly...a lovely man.

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I was reading the NYTimes review of Finding Neverland at A.R.T. and WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS "The new score is by the British pop star and composer Gary Barlow (of the boy band Take That) and Eliot Kennedy, a songwriter and record producer for artists like the Spice Girls and Celine Dion." 

 

Some highlights from the review...

 

Within that spectrum, “Neverland” occupies its own niche, built on a blend of 21st-century easy-listening uplift, some timelessly inventive stagecraft and sentiments that would be unlikely to make even a delicate Victorian lady blush. “Neverland,” you see, is so resolutely asexual that when its leading man and lady finally share a kiss, they exude the chaste shininess of lip-locked Hummel figurines.

 

 

From the beginning, it is clear that this man is no predator, sir, because he is just, well, one of the boys. Though our James is married (lovelessly but honorably to Mary, a superficial socialite played by Jeanna de Waal) and works in the theater, his sensibility is that of a fun-loving child. Make that a fun-loving child who has yet to feel any stirrings whatsoever in his loins.

Fortunately, the boys’ mother (the lovely Ms. Kelly) is James’s perfect match in this regard. That means that the greater part of the songs — and a lot of the dialogue — serve up wisdom on the importance of playtime and the imagination (which, in some cases, sounds a lot like denial to latter-day ears).

 

 

The songs usually express similar ideas. They are made up of repetitive beats and swirling chords, and are either highly perky (as in “Believe,” which made me think of that old Sammy Davis Jr. cutie “The Candy Man”) or soaringly inspirational (Sylvia’s “All That Matters,” which might have been written for Ms. Dion). They often have the greased hooks associated with much Top 40 music, and I was still hearing “All That Matters” as I fell asleep last night, not altogether happily.

Designed by Scott Pask, the appealing sets nod equally to early Disney animation and Sigmund Freud, in a sanitized form. Tempus-fugit clock images show up in the darnedest places, and when Captain Hook appears, as James struggles to write his Peter Pan play, he announces that he is Barrie’s subconscious incarnate.

Mr. Jordan does well in suggesting a man crippled by arrested development without going all creepy on us, and the songs in which he and little Peter Llewelyn Davies (the very good Mr. Gemme) share their darkest fears are legitimate tear-jerkers. The first-act finale, in which James crosses swords with his fantasy Hook, is excitingly staged, as is the star-strewn number in which Sylvia makes her exit.

There are also numbers that are purely kid stuff — or what grown-ups think should be kid stuff — like the one in which the young brothers talk about being able to be whatever they want. (It made me think of the ancient, didactically whimsical kids’ show “H.R. Pufnstuf.”) Adult audience members may find diversion in Mia Michaels’s quick-stepping, bouncy choreography, which is quite witty when applied to more worldly matters, like interior decorating and the posturing people of the theatuh.

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From the Boston Globe review for Finding Neverland...

 

 

 

As Barrie and Sylvia, Jeremy Jordan (“Newsies,” TV’s “Smash”) and Laura Michelle Kelly sung terrifically and with heart in Wednesday’s opening night performance. Kelly’s big first-act solo number, “All That Matters,” and their second-act duet, “What You Mean to Me,” brought a roar of approval from the house.

Except for that duet, though, Barrie and Sylvia’s romance takes a back seat to care of the four boys.

 

 

Jordan has the more difficult part. A writer’s process is inward, and Barrie stands around looking on and jotting in his notebook perhaps once or twice too often in the first act. The show is better when he’s in motion, as in the dark “Circus of Your Mind” or the rowdy first-act closer, “Stronger.” Those pirates show up just in time.

The songs themselves, by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, serve the characters without being particularly distinctive or memorable. The one exception is “Believe,” which has earworm potential although (or perhaps, because) it’s relatively straightforward.


“Finding Neverland” is also a backstage romp, as Barrie and blustery producer Charles Frohman (Michael McGrath, wry and funny) must convince a rebellious troupe of thespians (Josh Lamon and Paul Slade Smith are standouts) to tackle his strange tale of fairies and pirates and — ugh — children.

 

 

When “Finding Neverland” tries to state its themes out loud, in song or dialogue, it sometimes settles for upbeat platitudes about living in the moment and letting love lead the way, cliches that could nestle comfortably into any Disney musical. Jordan and Kelly’s performances are good enough that the show could have gone deeper. By many accounts, the real-life relationship between Barrie and the family was more complicated than it is portrayed here.

But this is a fun and touching show, gorgeous to look at and listen to, and the 2½ hours mostly fly by. How you feel about “Finding Neverland” will depend on whether you believe that’s enough.

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For Allegro fans... http://www.92y.org/Event/Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-s-Allegro.aspx

 

I don't know how many ballet fans we have on this thread but this also looks kind of interesting. http://www.92y.org/Event/The-Legacy-of-The-Ballet-Russe.aspx

 

I'm still holding out on two of the Lyrics and Lyricists events because they haven't put up the under 35 tickets yet. Hopefully they will!

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http://www.didhelikeit.com/shows/revolution-in-the-elbow-of-ragnar-agnarsson.html

 

 

To dwell too much, too quickly, on the many, many things wrong with the musical titled Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter, which just opened at the Minetta Lane Theatre, would be to risk not discussing the few very real things it somehow manages to get right.

Is that a compliment?

 

It is easy to feel bewildered by a title that sounds as if it is translated from the Icelandic. But as it turns out, the dialogue and the lyrics sound that way as well.

Ooo, sick burns, theatre critics. Sick burns.

 

It sounds like a two-hour Family Guy cutaway, and that’s more or less how it plays. The word quirky might as well have been invented for this show, but so gasp-inducingly whimsical, swan-dress-at-the-Oscars a work screams out for a word of its own: qúírkky? It is nothing if not original; it is also not much but original. Yet the usual jaded response to a shockingly ill-conceived show (i.e. that it is not even entertaining enough to be so-bad-it’s-good) does not apply here. Those with a taste for gutsy fiascos will find much to savor.

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We will, but it was a close thing this time; and it seemed to require the time-running-out situation before the two sides could acknowledge that opera isn't as central to the culture as it once was, and if they go away "for a while" this time, they really probably wouldn't come back.

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To console myself for missing Violet guess who bought a ticket to see Sutton Foster perform at Carnegie Hall. I was a little disappointed with the orchestra and acoustics last time but hopefully moving a level down will improve things.

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I know jukebox musicals aren't to everyone's taste (I still have fond memories of Good Vibrations) but is anyone excited for On Your Feet, the Gloria Estefan musical?

 

With Lin Manuel Miranda's Emmy win with Tom Kitt for "Bigger" he's only an Oscar away from an EGOT.

 

Apparently, Sondheim wrote a new song for Into the Woods for Meryl Streep (no doubt taking into account her vocal abilities or lack thereof) but it was cut. Maybe it'll be on the DVD extras.

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I was lucky to see Sutton Foster in Violet this spring. She did a lovely job. I saw the original in the 90s and it really stuck with me. That cast album is among my favorites. The reason I saw it was because I went to hear a Q & A with Stephen Sondheim at Trinity College around the time it opened, and one of the questions was what other shows does he admire. He said he generally doesn't answer that question because people focus on the omissions rather than what he praises, but told us to go see Violet at Playwrights Horizons if we had a chance.  Of course I got tickets and loved it. Lauren Ward was excellent as Violet, and Michael McElroy blew me away as Flick. 

 

Regarding Lin-Manuel's potential EGOT, he asked people to stop mentioning it to him on twitter, because he really wants to concentrate on writing for the theater. I have such a musical theater crush on him. I actually read Ron Chernow's Hamilton in preparation for LMM's Hamilton opening at the Public (plus I like a good historical biography). I saw his American Songbook production of a few of the songs a couple of years ago, and have been impatiently waiting for a production ever since. Tickets, obviously, have already been purchased!

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Met Live in HD tickets on sale to the public. I'm circling around getting tickets for The Merry Widow (because Kelli O'Hara), Iolanta (because Netrebko and also the director's pitch was really compelling), Il Barbiere de Siviglia (because I liked one of the actresses in Cosi Fan Tutte) and Les Contes d'Hoffmann (because of the spectacle though I'm disappointed they're not showing the versions with the actress in the video clip). Also, Great Performances is showing the production of Cosi Fan Tutte that I enjoyed. I've taped it so I can see if I just enjoyed it because of the brainwashing of being trapped in the theatre so long (on a day when it was raining like crazy).

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I watched a wonderful production of Into the Woods at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.   Miriam Laube was a stunning Witch.  Her duet with Royer Bockus' Rapunzel brought me to tears.  Jennie Greenberry's Cinderella should bring her attention from places east of Ashland.  The talented cast was lead by Anthony Heald's Narrator/Mysterious Stranger.  It was a beautiful show on an impressive outdoor stage.  

 

I know most of the talk in this thread focuses on Broadway/NY shows, but there's a lot of great theatre in other places.  

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I focus on Broadway/NY stuff because that's where I'm based but I would love to here about theatre wherever you guys live. Also, prompted by nothing, I thought I'd share this video because it is full of the amazing wonderfulness that makes me love musical theatre.

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I too hope we see more posts on theater outside NYC (my base, too).

 

Victoria Mallory was indeed glorious on that OCR.  Wish I could have seen her.  Those who did, including Sondheim, I think, thought she was a perfect Anne.

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To console myself for missing Violet guess who bought a ticket to see Sutton Foster perform at Carnegie Hall. I was a little disappointed with the orchestra and acoustics last time but

hopefully moving a level down will improve

things.

Speaking of Carnegie Hall, did you know that Matt Morrison and Kelli O'Hara are doing a Christmas Concert there together this year? I'm sure that'll be amazing. Those two are adorable together.

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For some reason, Cable is a difficult role to pull off.  Lots of guys are capable of singing it, but acting it convincingly seems to be problematic, (I say this with knowledge of a number of productions) perhaps because of the times in which we live.  I didn't see Morrison, but I imagine he could have been good. 

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Morrison had left the show 8 months into its run (to go to LA and do Glee). This was taped a year and a half after that, near the end of its run. I don't see what's horrible about Samonsky. He fits the period better than Morrison did (who always seems pretty contemporary, whatever he plays).

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I hope Matt Morrison returns to Broadway after " Glee." I know he did the NY workshops for " Finding Neverland," so he seems to be getting his feet wet again.

Edited by Sara2009

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Speaking of Carnegie Hall, did you know that Matt Morrison and Kelli O'Hara are doing a Christmas Concert there together this year? I'm sure that'll be amazing. Those two are adorable together.

I did. Go to one Carnegie Hall concert and the emails never stop. I'm not a Christmas music person though.

 

Can somebody tell me who this is playing Cable in the Lincoln Center production of "South Pacific"?  He's HORRIBLE!

I saw Samonsky when I went to see South Pacific. It was later in the run. I didn't find him that horrible but I was distracted by how much I hated Laura Osnes as Nellie. I think Samonsky was a bit too intense which worked for the soldier part of the character's identity but didn't fit with a lot of the other scenes he had to play. I may have also been distracted by shirtlessness. #sorrynotsorry

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I don't remember all of the specifics but in general, she looked wrong for the part, didn't sound great, and didn't give a compelling performance. As for her looks, she was quite thin and that combined with her height and the big blond wig made her look quite childlike beside Paulo Szot. Her vocals were very weak. And she played it too light and breezy without a lot of weight. The appearance of youth was matched by a very superficial, high school kind of performance. But yeah, the vocals really killed it. They lacked volume and power and depth. It was like if you had cast a famous actress/pop star who couldn't handle the vocal demands of the part. There was nothing there. 

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I didn't see Laura in South Pacific but I thought she killed it when I saw her in Cinderella. It just goes to show that even talented people can flounder when they're miscast.

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I did. Go to one Carnegie Hall concert and the emails never stop. I'm not a Christmas music person though.

I get what you mean about Christmas music. I just knew you liked both of them, so I thought I'd mention it.

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I didn't see Laura in South Pacific but I thought she killed it when I saw her in Cinderella. It just goes to show that even talented people can flounder when they're miscast.

I don't know what part I'd like to see her in. I was a big fan of hers when she was doing Grease: You're the One That I Want but I haven't kept up with her career beyond knowing what she's been in. You'd think R&H would be the perfect fit for a sweet soprano but she just doesn't work for me. I do see her from time to time in those Kennedy Center Honors things and whatnot and I think she still has power to her voice but I haven't seen her in a role that really lets her access it. 

 

Similarly, I love Laura Benanti but I'm starting to feel like her voice is very particular because I don't love it as much when she steps out of the box where her flawless soprano and specific diction work best.

 

But I know I can also be very particular. I like clarity, power, high notes, and if possible warmth and sweetness. So while I love all kinds of Broadway divas, my top girls are going to be singers like Lea Salonga and Sutton Foster. People with specific pronunciations and inflections like Julia Murney can be fabulous in certain parts but I can hate their vocals on other songs. Also, I find that a lot of Broadway performers just put out terrible pop albums.

 

I'm rambling again. Sorry.

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I think one of the most entertaining parts of being a Broadway fan is the predilection of obsessing over a specific Diva.

 

I love them all:  Bernadette, Patti, Audra, Sutton, Idina and I've been incredibly lucky enough to see them all in multiple parts.

 

But my "I'd crawl through a desert of cut glass to see them perform one song" is Judy Kuhn.

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Morrison had left the show 8 months into its run (to go to LA and do Glee). This was taped a year and a half after that, near the end of its run. I don't see what's horrible about Samonsky.

 

Nor do I. I saw him in the production and thought he was fine.

 

Watching this clip, though, my main reaction is, "He's no worse than anybody else." By which I mean, they all fare poorly, and not because they're giving bad performances for the theater. The reason they all fare poorly is that theater has a habit of transferring atrociously to television (or any other film/video venue). I don't mean when theater is adapted for the movies or television--that can be sublime. (It should go without saying.) I mean when a theatrical production is simply filmed or videotaped. It doesn't seem to matter whether there are several camera angles or just one or two. It doesn't seem to matter whether there's an attempt to make the capture of a live production "filmic." It hardly ever works. And all the performances in this South Pacific clip seem theatrical in the worst sense of the word--which, paradoxically, they didn't if you were actually in the theater at Lincoln Center.

 

The only exception that comes to mind is the videotaped capture of Sunday in the Park with George with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. That works, for some reason.

Edited by Milburn Stone

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I would hesitate before assuming that Laura Osnes was miscast in South Pacific. People's tastes can differ. I've certainly heard glowing reports of her Nellie, which I offer (I didn't see her in that myself) only as an indication of how reactions can vary.

 

I myself saw her as the "second woman" in Anything Goes, where I found her a knockout -- way better than what we generally get as Hope in that show. She was also outstanding in Pipe Dream at Encores, a very different kind of non-soprano tough-kid part. And she was lovely in every way as Cinderella.

 

Laura Benanti is always splendid in my experience. About a decade ago I found her limited as an actress, but I certainly don't any more. (And that period was when she was still suffering from the bad undiagnosed injury she incurred in Into the Woods, which may have had something to do with it.) In ITWNine, Wonderful Town (Encores), GypsyWomen on the VergeMost Happy Fella (Encores last spring), her 54 Below show -- all making very different demands, which she met completely. She's been good in her nonsinging work too (Why Torture Is Wrong in particular), though her TV roles haven't really tapped into her capacity for being a self-deprecating goofball as shown in her online videos and the "cancelled series" number on the Tony awards. She's developed into a formidable talent. I hope someone revives Lady in the Dark for her, soon.

 

The concept of "being a fan of one special diva" means nothing to me, though. I don't really understand it, but to each their own.

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I know what you mean, Sara2009. I think I have too. (Maybe it could be said of every production, period.)

True, but this one seemed more mixed than most. Some people loved Kelli, Paulo, Laura, Matt, Andrew etc, and some hated them. I feel like every review and reaction I read liked/disliked different people. None were universally loved or hated in their roles.

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I've seen videographed (how's that for a word?) theater productions that work very well--the Merrily We Roll Along London production recently shown in theaters is one, Fela, the New York Philharmonic Company; completely agree with Milburn Stone about the video of Sunday in the Park with George. Sometimes they don't work at all--there was a pretty awful live telecast of The Women. Sometimes they partially work--the Sweeney Todd that captured the performances of Angela Lansbury and George Hearn so well wasn't so great with some of the other cast members.

 

Sometimes I think the approach to shooting the pieces makes a difference.  The Sweeney and Sunday were not single uninterrupted performances.  But I thought the South Pacific was a reasonable presentation of that production, if not quite as good as being there in person.  

 

Laura Osnes was very good in the Encores Pipe Dream-- more R & H.

Edited by Charlie Baker

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But I thought the South Pacific was a reasonable presentation of that production, if not quite as good as being there in person. 

I can agree with that on both counts. And I suppose it helps that I had been there in person, once late in previews and once about a year later.

 

I still wish we had more video preservation of live productions, even if the proximity to stage acting doesn't work for everybody. So many great things vanish once the run is over -- I know that's part of the deal with live performance, and I also know all the economic reasons why it can't happen often, but I'm still greedy. All the NT Live events I've seen at the movies have been previous experiences (and I'll add a word for The Importance of Being Earnest with Santino Fontana and Brian Murray, the best realization of the play I've seen and seemingly DVD-ready with the intro and intermission features by David Hyde Pierce). I'm glad we get so many "Live at the Met" moviecasts each year (even if I wish they would made more varied choices from what they're doing, and not so many of the same titles repeatedly). Wouldn't it be wonderful to eventually get a visual preservation of the upcoming On the Town?

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I would love to see the National Theatre's Frankenstein (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller alternating on playing the monster and Frankenstein) on dvd, but they're saying that they will not release it for home video, just for broadcast in the movie theatres.

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That's the problem with almost all of these live-to-your-movie-theater broadcasts: the deal with the unions etc. that allows them to do this covers only live (or delayed) transmission to cinemas, not eventual release on home video. (The Metropolitan Opera, of course, has managed to work this out when it wants to; I just wish it wanted to more often -- several of their most interesting cinemacasts have never appeared on DVD.) I don't know they managed to move the NYPhil/NPHarris Company to DVD, but I bet there was a ton of negotiation behind the scenes, and I know it took a couple of years.

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I agree with Charlie Baker that the NYPhil Company works well on video, but I think this is because it is a "concert reading" (I realize it's some sort of hybrid between that and a staging, but it's closer to a concert) and--I guess I'm speaking just for myself here--concert readings generally come across fine on video while attempts to videograph full stagings seldom do. I loathed the Menier Chocolate Factory Merrily We Roll Along on video--but I might have loathed that production on the stage, too.

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Eehhh, sorry, Milburn Stone. I often find myself happily agreeing with what you say, but not this time. That Company is as fully staged as any production you'll see (nobody is holding scripts or standing still, and it's more fully choreographed than many productions of the show that I've seen); only the visible orchestra behind them makes it look at all unconventional. Any attempt to cook up a "concert exemption" for it is going to fall apart, I think.

 

The previous telecast of Company, the one staged by John Doyle in his loathsome "replace the orchestra with actors playing instruments" style, was really a lot closer to a concert, as cast members were often forced to stand still in order to bow or blow, and there were no changes of costumes and often no pretense of realistic blocking or movement.

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Eehhh, sorry, Milburn Stone. I often find myself happily agreeing with what you say, but not this time. That Company is as fully staged as any production you'll see (nobody is holding scripts or standing still, and it's more fully choreographed than many productions of the show that I've seen); only the visible orchestra behind them makes it look at all unconventional. Any attempt to cook up a "concert exemption" for it is going to fall apart, I think.

 

I'll make one more attempt to be convincing. :) Why it feels "concert-y" to me isn't strictly because of the orchestra behind the actors, but it is a product of that. Namely, there is little physical depth to the blocking. The actors are arrayed across the stage, laterally, horizontally. No one can go upstage, because there is no upstage to go. (Unless they want to walk though the trombones.) This flatness lends a certain "presentational" quality to the proceedings (akin to that of a concert), even though there's choreography. And this presentational quality helps the translation to video! Attempts to make video of most full productions of most Broadway musicals, which attempt naturalism on the stage with front-to-back depth, only emphasize how different the art forms are from each other, and how badly Broadway loses in the naturalism sweepstakes. Maybe I like the video of Sunday in the Park with George because, as actually staged, it, like the concert Company, also had relatively little front-to-back depth.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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I'm just one of those "let's record everything" people. Even knowing that we're never going to achieve perfection or if that if you hit that high it's probably not going to be on the night the cameras are rolling, I'd rather have things captured for future generations. I want every show to have a cast album and a recording of every theatrical production. Why the hell not? Obviously the best experience would be seeing it live but for people who can't get out to see a show why not have the second best experience? Also, if I go to the opera or ballet I'll be in the nosebleed seats anyway so I definitely don't mind those things being filmed. 

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I'd love for everything to be professionally filmed.  It still has that live feel to me, and I'm able to see way more detail than I could get buying tickets.  The 25th Anniversary of Phantom of the Opera was done well, and had the feel of a full production (minus the chandelier, since the Royal Albert Hall couldn't do that).  Full costumes, full choreography, unlike the 25th Anniversary of Les Miserables, which really was a "stand and sing into the microphone" concert.  

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Sigh... and that's the end of Sierra's vlogs. Seriously, if you guys don't watch the Broadway.com vlogs on broadway.com or youtube you need to get on that because they are so much fun. I'm not a big Phantom fan but getting a peek into Club Christine gave me warm, fuzzy feelings. http://www.broadway.com/buzz/177321/mary-michael-patterson-to-succeed-sierra-boggess-in-phantom-on-broadway/ 

 

http://www.broadway.com/buzz/177348/patrick-page-michael-arden-ciara-renee-will-star-in-the-hunchback-of-notre-dame/

http://www.broadway.com/buzz/177346/doctor-zhivago-musical-expected-on-broadway-in-2015/

 

This seems like it could be interesting. September 9 on Lifetime. Program the DVR. http://www.broadway.com/buzz/177317/watch-me-now-national-tour-of-dirty-dancing-leaps-on-stage-for-broadway-balances-america/

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This seems like it could be interesting. September 9 on Lifetime. Program the DVR. http://www.broadway.com/buzz/177317/watch-me-now-national-tour-of-dirty-dancing-leaps-on-stage-for-broadway-balances-america/

 

This show is at the National now (my husband works there - I did for several decades, but don't anymore).  I can't work up enough energy to go downtown and see it.  Mr ebk, who never saw the movie, was surprised and happy that the music is "nice".  He can't see the show since he's on the flyfloor, but it's not an unpleasant evening for him.  

Maybe I'll watch this show.  Thanks for the heads-up, aradia22.

Edited by ebk57

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It sounds a lot like Ghost the musical but I like seeing what's going on backstage. That's why I love the Broadway vlogs and what I hoped for from Smash. Isn't Dirty Dancing the musical kind of old now? I vaguely remember hearing about it at around the same time Laura Osnes was doing Grease but I might be mistaken. Do they have the rights to use the music from the movie? I do love the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing.

 

Theatre question... how do you know whether a star is going to be appearing in a show? I know sometimes stars take long breaks and they'll put that information on the website. But how can you find out if someone is going to be sick that day or if they're on a one week vacation? I find that the official websites for musicals don't make that information readily accessible. I think it's only happened to me twice (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and South Pacific) where I expected to see someone and got another performer. The first time was because NLB was out that day and the second time was because it wasn't posted anywhere that Kelli had already left the show.

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