By Pat Collins
PRINCE OF BROADWAY
Samuel J. Friedman Theater
The Manhattan Theater Club celebrates the extraordinary career of Hal Prince with a new musical directed by the legend himself and co-directed and choreographed by five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman.
Mr. Prince’s unparalleled successful career in the theater began in 1950 as assistant stage manager for Tickets Please. Five years later he co-produced Damn Yankees, and after that success, he and his fellow producers brought West Side Story to Broadway. He collaborated with Stephen Sondheim on many shows beginning with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum followed by Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along and Side By Side By Sondheim.
Bloomberg reporter Dimitra Kessenides recently asked Mr. Prince to comment on Hamilton’s success. His response, “It is the least likely idea for a musical from Ron Chernov’s book. A lot of the shows I’ve done have been the least likely for a musical: Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, and Cabaret. It’s about the rise of the National Socialist Party. The big lesson is don’t underestimate the audience.”
His office bookshelves are filled with Tony awards. He has 21 of them—more than any other individual and one for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater. Over the years his diverse work ranged from delightful musical comedies such as She Loves Me and On the Twentieth Century to the provocative Kiss of the Spider Woman and the always relevant Sheldon Harnick-Jerry Bach masterpiece Fiddler on the Roof. Phantom of The Opera which he directed holds the record for the longest running musical in Broadway history—32 years!
The Prince of Broadway cast includes Tony winner Chuck Cooper, a veteran of 14 Broadway shows; Janet Dacal, who had the lead role in the Tony winning In the Heights; Bryonha Marie Parham, a current cast member of The Book of Mormon; and Emily Skinner, a Tony nominee for Side Show. Also look for Brandon Uranowitz, Tony Yazbeck, and Karen Ziemba. Everyone on the Samuel L Friedman stage will be impeccably dressed by William Ivey Long, the six time Tony winning costume designer.
TONY BENNETT CELEBRATES 90
Radio City Music Hall
The week before his NYC appearance Mr. Bennett entertains fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, and before that engagement, he’s in Oregon, Maine, Pennsylvania and Florida. At 91, the celebrated Queens native maintains a schedule a 65-year-old would find exhausting.
During his long career, the two time Grammy winner entertained troops during World War 2 (and served in the U.S. Army), and dominated the charts in the 50’s. In the ensuing years, he’s collaborated with Lady Gaga on a 2014 duets album, Cheek to Cheek, published an autobiography, The Good Life, honed his skills as an artist and established the Frank Sinatra School Of The Arts in Astoria, Queens.
Mr. Bennett’s’ popularity waned in the 60’s, but he successfully launched the second phase of his career with the album Perfectly Frank, a musical tribute to his idol. In June the living legend was named the 2017 recipient of the Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award—named for George and Ira Gershwin and established by Congress in 2007 to “honor singers and songwriters who entertain, inform and inspire.” Previous awardees include Sir Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. Mr. Bennett is scheduled to accept the prestigious award in November. For so many reasons this New York born and bred icon will be greeted with a standing ovation when he steps onto the Radio City stage next month.
THE PUBLIC THEATER
Nearly five decades ago in October of 1957 the theaters’ founder Joseph Papp and his creative team opened the doors of its new home on Lafayette Street in the East Village. The Public which recently launched its 50th season with As You Like It at the Delacorte Theater will present Measure For Measure September 18th to October 29th at their downtown theater.
The Shakespeare comedy will be followed by a revival of Tiny Beautiful Things, directed by Thomas Kail, a Tony winner for Hamilton as well as for In the Heights. Oscar nominee Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) reprises the role of Sugar an online columnist and dispenser of advice to her devoted readers. Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, wrote the 2012 best seller which was adapted for the stage by Ms. Vardalos.
September 28th – October 29th
The Millburn, New Jersey theater launches its 2017-2018 season with a new musical comedy inspired by an iconic show from television’s Golden Age. Much to their surprise bus driver Ralph Kramden and sewer worker Ed Norton win a jingle writing contest and find themselves in a Mad Men-like advertising agency. Equally mystified are their patient wives Alice and Trixie.
Director John Rando, a Tony winner for Urinetown the Musical reintroduces the working class Brooklynites made famous by Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. The Honeymooners with a score by Stephen Weiner and Peter Mills, was choreographed by Joshua Bergasse and Daisy Kay. Bill Nuss wrote the book.
Will The Honeymooners eventually move to the Great White Way? Two popular musicals A Bronx Tale and Bandstand tried out at Papermill before opening on Broadway.
KINKY BOOTS: 2 ORIGINALS RETURN
Two original stars Billy Porter and Stark Sands step into those thigh high red boots once again for 15 weeks beginning September 26th at the Al Hirschfield Theater. The musical comedy brought Mr. Porter one of the production’s six Tony Awards. The other recipients were Anna Leigh Ashford in a breakout performance, Cyndi Lauper (score) Harvey Fierstein (book) and Jerry Mitchell (director). Veteran Broadway producers Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig shepherded the show from tryouts in Chicago to Broadway. Have a case of the end of summer blues? Billy, Stark and the rest of the first rate cast have a for sure cure.