When I started watching “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix last week, I knew nothing about Emmy Raver-Lampman (Allison Hargreeves) especially the fact that she was an accomplished musical theatre performer. Her stage credits include the touring cast of Wicked, the Chicago tryouts of Spongebob Squarepants and the original Broadway and touring casts of Hamilton (she was in the Ensemble but left before the Disney + version was recorded and later joined the tour as Angelica). In tribute of “The Umbrella Academy” Season 2 being released today, here is a tribute of the amazing performer’s theatre work. Enjoy!
I’ve started listening to cast recordings in my Vinyl collection that I haven’t yet listened to. First up is The Rink.
Kander and Ebb.
HERE WE GO!
I obviously can’t comment on the full production of this 1984 musical, which didn’t receive the best reviews, but based on it’s cast recording alone, it’s a real treat. The basic story is that just as Anna (Chita Rivera) has decided to sell the roller skating rink that she has owned for years, her estranged daughter Angel (Liza Minelli) returns and they basically spend the rest of the show either fighting or reminiscing. Along with fantastic performances by Liza and Chita (this was actually her first Tony win!), the cast also features an ensemble of six men who are the Wreckers that are tearing down the rink who also play everyone in the women’s flashbacks. The Wreckers include great performances by Scott Ellis, Scott Holmes and Jason Alexander (more on that later!). The cast recording features some great lines by book writer Terrence McNally (“Don’t worry about us, it’s everyone else that is screwed up.”) and songs by Kander and Ebb that are are on par with some of their best songs from Chicago, Cabaret and Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Here’s a breakdown of some my favorite moments from the album:
-LIZA!- While Minelli’s performance style is often mocked, her performance on this album remind you that she does have a powerful voice and great acting chops which make her a legend for a reason. From the moment she opens her mouth in the opening number (“Colored Lights”), you hear the brass and power that you are used to. Throughout the show you hear her blast brass and spew zingers and it isn’t until towards the end of the show that you truly remember how solid her acting is. Her song “All the Children in a Row” is beautiful and heartbreaking as she explains what she has been doing since she last saw her mother. The song is a gorgeous piece of storytelling.
-CHITA- This album is just more proof of why Chita Rivera is an American Theatre legend. She goes flawlessly from fast paced comedic numbers like “Don’t Ah Ma Me” (where she tells Angel that she has a big set of balls) to more heartfelt numbers like “We Can Make It”.
-Use of music- In the opening number, there are odd strains of carnival-esque music that don’t make sense if you missed the part in the liner notes where they say the rink is next to an amusement park on a boardwalk. Music is used smartly to set mood such as this carnival music throughout the story. In flashback scenes that occur before the rink is built, jazz music is used and in a scene where the daughter reveals her plans to modernize the rink, a more funky beat comes in that fits the 1970’s time period that the show is set in. The carnival music returns again at the end when the mother and daughter have reconciled to emulate the time at the rink when they last got along. Brilliant.
-Jason Alexander!- As a standout of the Wreckers ensemble, Jason Alexander plays several characters including Lenny, the nice guy that Anna decided to not marry. Alexander’s performance of “Marry Me” is stunning and his heartbreaking reprise of it during the chaotic “Mrs. A” is great, too. While he is best known for his role on “Seinfeld”, Alexander is an underrated musical theatre performer and if you haven’t seen proof of this, go check it out now.
-Notable songs from the show worth checking out include: “Don’t Aha Ma Me”, “Blue Crystal”, “We Can Make It”, “The Apple Doesn’t Fall”, “Marry Me”, “Mrs. A”, “Wallflower” and “All the Children in a Row”.
I can understand why it might not be a perfect show, but I definitely enjoyed this listen and highly recommend it!
Obviously the whole world is on fire right now and the theatre community is no exception. During the past few months we have seen proof of racism in theatres, sexual assault allegations and theatres trying to re-open too soon during a pandemic for selfish reasons. These all make me mad because we can do better.
There are many steps that need to be taken, but the first step is Respect. Respect your artists. Respect your patrons. Respect your volunteers. Value artists as artists. Value people as people.
Theatres should be a place for people to create and escape. If people cannot feel safe when they enter your doors or participate in the art you are providing, you are doing something wrong.
There are bigger issues in the world and I know these issues extend further than the theatre world, but I just wanted to say these thoughts out loud. We can do better.
Here are the next additions to my list of underrated musicals. These are mostly shows that have cast recordings that I am obsessed with that for the most part either a)people don’t know the show or b) people don’t seemed to be as obsessed with them as I am for some reason.
- Lucky Stiff
Lucky Stiff is the combination of classic musical theatre style music, farcical hijinks, and Weekend at Bernie’s. Stay with me here. Mild-mannered British shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon has a chance to inherit his uncle’s 6 million dollars IF he takes his uncle’s corpse (propped up in a wheelchair) on a vacation to Monte Carlo WHILE being pursued by an employee of a dog charity and the uncle’s crazed girlfriend who both also hope to claim the six million dollars. It’s sounds ridiculous but with songs by Ahrens and Flaherty (the team behind Once on This Island, Ragtime and Anastasia) and a surprisingly funny script, the show is actually quite charming. There are not a lot of successful musical farces, but this show really finds a way to incorporate mistaken identities, physical humor and chase scenes seamlessly into a musical. The production has not had a Broadway production but cast recordings do exist of a York Theatre Production (for purchase on iTunes) and a 1994 Studio Cast Recording (both recordings include the incomparable Mary Testa as Rita). Highlights of the score include “Rita’s Confession”, “The Phone Call”, “Times Like This” (an ode to dog companionship), “Fancy Meeting You Here”, “Him, Them, It, Her” (a musical chase scene), “Nice” (a funny and romantic ballad) and”Welcome Back, Mr. Witherspoon” (a musical nightmare).
2. tick, tick…BOOM!-
While Jonathan Larson is most famously known for “Rent”, this smaller musical is also a brilliant piece of theatre. It was originally performed by Larson as one-man show, but since his death it was been reworked into a 3 person musical. The semi-autobiographical story follows composer Jon as he turns 30 and explores his relationships with his best friend (Michael), his girlfriend (Susan) and music itself. The performers who play Michael and Susan play all the other characters in the show as well. The small rock musical includes songs that are both funny and emotionally deep. The fact that Jonathan Larson idolized Stephen Sondheim is obviously an influence on the show as well, specifically in the song “Sunday” (which is a direct parody of the Act 1 Finale of Sunday in the Park With George). The original Cast Recording features Raul Esparza, Amy Spanger and Jerry Dixon and Off-Broadway Revivals have featured Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr, and Karen Olivo and Nick Blaemire, George Salazar and Ciara Renee. Musical highlights of the show are “Green Green Dress”, “Sunday”, “No More”, “Therapy”, “Sugar”, “Come to Your Senses”, “Why” and “Louder than Words”.
More to come!
By winning a Daytime Emmy this weekend for his work on Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, composer Alan Menken became the 16th person to gain the highly coveted EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards) status. It definitely makes sense that Menken won his E working on a project for Disney since he is most well known for collaborating with lyricists (most notably the late Howard Ashman) to create the music for some of Disney’s most beloved animated movie musicals including: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled and more. Along with stage adaptations of many of those Disney films, his other major contributions to the theatre world include Little Shop of Horrors and Sister Act. As a tribute to Menken, here are a just a few of his many remarkable songs. Enjoy.
Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors
Go the Distance from Hercules
The Emmy Winning Waiting in the Wings from Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure
Watch What Happens from Newsies
Menken performing some of his songs from home
With physical theatres now having been closed for over 100 days, one of the high points of these uncertain times has been the creative and inventive way that theatres and artists have found ways to bring theatrical entertainment into our homes. Here’s a few of my favorites that I have experienced so far:
- Stars in the House – New York pianist and music director Seth Rudetsky and his husband James have been bringing daily content through their livestreamed program ‘Stars in the House’ as a fundraiser for (primarily) The Actors Fund. Each day they present a new episode featuring various events such as reunions of original Broadway casts (such as Les Miserables, A Chorus Line, and [title of show]), reunions of tv show casts (Frasier, 30 Rock, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), readings of plays (there was an all-Black casting of Blithe Spirit lead by Leslie Uggams and on Sunday afternoons there are shows featuring teen performers) and more. This is definitely the kind of varied entertainment we need right now and it is so appreciated. To learn more about the show, go to https://www.starsinthehouse.com/ and to donate directly to the Actors Fund (which provides funding to all types of theatre artists all over the country), go to: https://actorsfund.org/.
- National Theatre at Home- The National Theatre based out of London has been showing their productions through National Theatre Live in cinemas across the world for years now and they took the opportunity to keep showcasing their brilliant productions to homes everywhere. This series ended last week, but I definitely enjoyed all the productions that I was able to see. My personal favorite productions were Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Coriolanus, but I also got to enjoy One Man, Two Guvnors, Treasure Island, A Streetcar Named Desire, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To donate directly to the National Theatre, go to: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk.
- Broadway Cares– There have also been many events focused on fundraising for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids (and also it’s newer COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund). These have included streams of past concerts (there was a Disney on Broadway tribute and a Bernadette Peters concert), new muscial tributes (one for Sondheim’s 90th Birthday and one for Mothers’ Day), streamed readings of plays (Terrence McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart and Michael Urie in Buyer and Cellar), trivia nights and more. An upcoming event is an online version of their annual Broadway Bares benefit. To donate to or learn more about Broadway Cares, go to https://broadwaycares.org/.
- Hamilton on Disney +- I’ll take it! An incredible piece of storytelling made accessible to lots of families who wouldn’t be able to see the show otherwise. Plus, the representation of Performers of Color is another main reason to watch and support.
- ANYONE ELSE DOING ANY FORM OF THEATRE ONLINE ANYWHERE EVER.
That’s all I got for now. Are there any other online theatre events you have enjoyed that I missed? Let me know and stay tuned for another post coming soon!
Anaïs Mitchell became only the 7th woman to win the Tony for Best Score and only the 3rd to not have a male writing partner. Here is tribute to these amazing women with some songs written and sung by women:
Betty Comden (Lyrics)- “On the Twentieth Century”
Lynn Ahrens (Lyrics)- “Ragtime”
Lisa Lambert- “The Drowsy Chaperone”
Cyndi Lauper- “Kinky Boots”
Jeanine Tesori (music) and Lisa Kron (lyrics)- “Fun Home”
Anaïs Mitchell- “Hadestown”
My first blog post following up this year’s Tonys is here to celebrate the fact that Stephanie J. Block won her Tony and I am ecstatic (I hope she was excited, too). Let’s celebrate her first Tony win by viewing some of my favorite clips showcasing her extraordinary talent:
”Get Out and Stay Out”- 9 to 5
”What is it About Her?”- The Wild Party
”I’m Breaking Down”- Falsettos
”Holding to the Ground”- Falsettos
Tony Performance- The Cher Show
HELLO! Apparently I haven’t done a post since last year’s Tonys and with this year’s ceremony tomorrow (!), it’s probably time to do another one. This won’t be as thorough as my thoughts for last year, but here is a breakdown of things that I hope to see or predict we will see tomorrow:
1) GIVE. STEPHANIE. J. BLOCK. HER. TONY.
2)I hope “The Prom” get some recognition for be a fully original musical this season. Even “Hadestown” is based on a classic story, so it would be great to see “The Prom” get SOME SORT of recognition.
3) SURPRISE ME! After Hamiltonys, the year of “Dear Evan Hansen”/“Hello Dolly”, and even last year’s many victories for “The Band’s Visit”, it would be fun to see some more variety in winners. I’m predicting the other acting awards will go to Santino Fontana (Tootsie), Ali Stroker (Oklahoma), and Andre De Shields (Hadestown). SURPRISE ME!
4) Other musical wins that I’d like to see: “Oklahoma” for Best Revival, “Beetlejuice” for Set and Lighting Design, and Warren Carlyle’s tap dance fueled “Kiss Me, Kate” for Choreography.
5) For Plays? Without blockbusters like last season’s “Cursed Child” and “Angels in America”, I honestly have no idea and I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS!
Any other thoughts?
Can’t wait to see what happens!
With the 2018 Tony Awards one week away, it’s time to ask the important burning question: Which musical adaptation of a movie (or cartoon character) will take top honors? After 2016’s “Hamiltonys” and last year’s awards mostly going to “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hello Dolly”, things could finally be a little more split this year. Or the musical by Tina Fey could win everything. Who knows?!? Here are some thoughts:
The “New” Musicals:
We have officially gotten to the Broadway season where all Best Musical nominees are based on a movie or television show. Yes, even “The Band’s Visit” is based on a movie. The other musicals are “Disney’s Frozen”, “Mean Girls”, and “Spongebob Squarepants”. What. a. weird. season. I think the only one that can be ruled out of winning the top award is “Frozen” because besides nominations for its book and score, it did not receive any recognition for any performances or technical elements. So, we can probably ‘let it go’……..”Mean Girls” and “Spongebob” both received many other nominations and could win the night. My guess is that design and technical awards will be split between these two. Although “The Band’s Visit” could definitely still pull through with it’s originality in sound and after two years of mainstream shows winning, it could pull the win that many hoped “Come From Away” would have last year.
If “Once on This Island” get completely overshadowed by the bigger and older “My Fair Lady” and “Carousel”, it will definitely be a shame. Although it is a revival, it still manages to look and sound like something completely new and something we need right now instead of musicals with misogynistic overtones that we have seen again and again.
As far as I can tell, there don’t seem to be any major no-brainers like last year’s wins for Bette Midler and Ben Platt, so I look forward to see the awards spread out a bit more. The toughest category for sure will be Leading Actress since a tie resulted in six nominees that didn’t include either of the leads in “Frozen” or Cady Heron. For Leading Actor (Billy Bigelow, Henry Higgins, Spongebob and Tony Shaloub) I hope to see Ethan Slater win for his Broadway debut. Featured Actress is also a tight category since “Mean Girls” only landed one nomination slot (for the Fetch Ashley Park) when it could have easily also scored noms for Kerry Butler, Barrett Wilbert Weed and Kate Rockwell.
Musical Theatre is definitely my stronger interest (and it’s easier to learn about musicals through cast recordings and YouTube when you live so far from NY), so my quick thoughts on the Play Categories are: Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalfe for female performance categories, “Angels in America” for Best Revival and Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane for male performance categories. And then “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” for everything else (including like a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing Harry Potter to the American stage).
These are just my thoughts. We will find out next week!
Any other thoughts?