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Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Twenty-Two Year Journey with THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

My journey with The Phantom of the Opera began in 1992 at the tender age of four. My godmother took me to see the first National Tour at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I was absolutely mesmerized. I have since seen the show on six or seven other occasions but I will always remember my first time, which ironically, was one of the show's advertising campaigns in recent years. The details from that first experience are fuzzy, but I very vividly remember the Phantom's lair, the Masquerade, and of course, the famous chandelier. Not yet five years old, I already knew what a "high C" and a "high E-flat" were from running around my house singing the title track at the top of my lungs. I thought I was part of the show and I experienced the drama along with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford every time I listened to the cast recording on cassette tape.

Fast forward two decades and I still love The Phantom of the Opera, but for different reasons. Becoming a singer myself, I appreciate the glorious music that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has written for Christine and The Phantom get to sing. I'm not as enamored with the chandelier and the boat as I once was, but those first chords of the overture still give me goosebumps every time. I was lucky enough to attend the 25th anniversary concert a year ago and what an incredible experience that was. The festivities and the special performances that followed the show were fantastic, of course, but there was one element of the show that made the evening special. Her name was Sierra Boggess.

This brings me to the special performance I was able to attend a few weeks ago for a blogger event. I was more excited to see this show than I had been for any other repeat visit, and I was not disappointed. Sierra Boggess and Norm Lewis in the main roles are the most excitement this show has seen in years. I don't use the term 'reinvent' lightly, but that is exactly what they did with these roles that are over twenty-five years old. They are vocally brilliant, which was not unexpected, but what makes their performances so profound is their chemistry and their acting choices. I think their previous onstage relationship as father and daughter (in The Little Mermaid) adds an interesting element to their Phantom relationship by making it seem even more forbidden. The highlight of Sierra's performance is her Act II solo Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. The vocal nuance that she applies to the scores give such depth to the character and we experience Christine's emotional highs and lows alongside her. Super fans will also be excited to hear the Wandering Child trio from London has been added to the end of this scene. Norm's booming baritone adds a new flair to the previously tenor-performed songs Music of the Night and the title track. However, where he really shines is in the final scene Down Once More/Track Down This Murderer. He finds some small notes of humor in this character that is often played only as brooding and grotesque. He actually resembles a child throwing a tantrum as he forces Christine to choose between Raoul's life and her own freedom, which adds all the more pain and anguish to his character.

Hal Prince's staging of this beloved musical is timeless, yet if I squinted a little bit, I almost felt as if I were watching a new production because the performances are so fresh. Whether you're a casual fan or you've grown up with The Phantom in your soul like I did, it is worth revisiting. It is an absolute joy and a pleasure to revisit the staging and hear Sir Webber's glorious romantic melodies with two exquisite talents at the helm. In fact, take your own children and maybe, just maybe, the musical theatre will take hold of them and refuse to let them go as it did with me over twenty years ago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Your Last Chance to see THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN on Broadway!

As you may or may not know, The Cripple of Inishmaan, featuring Daniel Radcliffe and a hilarious cast of British and Irish actors is nearing the end of its Broadway run. However, you still have time to see the show. We do NOT suggest missing this production. Sunday July 20th is your last chance to see the show.

We are also giving away copies of two of Martin McDonagh's other plays, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lonesome West.

To enter our contest, answer the following trivia question in the "comments" section below along with your email address by Wednesday July 16th.

Martin McDonagh is arguably most famous for his play The Pillowman. Which New York City veteran stage actor starred in the role of Katurian in the play's Broadway debut?

Good luck and come back soon for future contests! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014 TONY Awards Predictions

I will preface this post by saying that these picks do not represent my personal feelings on who SHOULD win, but rather my predictions for who I believe will actually win the Antoinette Perry on Sunday night. I will be live tweeting the Red Carpet & the Awards on Sunday so follow along @barbiebackstage!

Best Play (Prediction: All The Way)
Act One
Author:  James Lapine
 All The Way
Author:  Robert Schenkkan
 Casa Valentina
Author:  Harvey Fierstein
Mothers and Sons
Author:  Terrence McNally
Outside Mullingar
Author:  John Patrick Shanley

Best Musical (Prediction: A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder)
After Midnight
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

Best Revival of a Play (Prediction: Twelfth Night)
 The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Glass Menagerie
A Raisin in the Sun
Twelfth Night

Best Revival of a Musical (Prediction: Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Les Misérables

Best Book of a Musical (Prediction: Robert L. Freedman, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder)
Chad Beguelin
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Douglas McGrath
Bullets Over Broadway
Woody Allen
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Robert L. Freedman
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (Prediction: Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County)
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
The Bridges of Madison County
Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Music: Steven Lutvak
Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak
Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Prediction: Bryan Cranston, All The Way)
Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Chris O'Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Prediction: Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill)
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Prediction: Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Prediction: Jessie Mueller, Beautiful)
Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Kelli O'Hara, The Bridges of Madison County

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Prediction: Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night)
Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Prediction: Celia Keenan-Bolger, A Raisin in the Sun
Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (Prediction: James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin)
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Prediction: Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Linda Emond, Cabaret
Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

Best Scenic Design of a Play (Prediction: Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin, Machinal
Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan

Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Prediction: Christopher Barreca, Rocky)
Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Costume Design of a Play (Prediction: Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night)
Jane Greenwood, Act One
Michael Krass, Machinal
Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night

Best Costume Design of a Musical (Prediction: William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway)
Linda Cho, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight

Best Lighting Design of a Play (Prediction: Jane Cox, Machinal)
Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox, Machinal
Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men

Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Prediction: Christopher Akerlind, Rocky)
Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Howell Binkley, After Midnight
Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County

Best Sound Design of a Play (Prediction: Matt Tierney, Machinal)
Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Matt Tierney, Machinal

Best Sound Design of a Musical (Prediction: Brian Ronan, Beautiful
Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
Tim O'Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter, Les Misérables
Brian Ronan, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

Best Direction of a Play (Prediction: Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie

Best Direction of a Musical (Predition: Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder)
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman, Violet
Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

Best Choreography (Prediction: Warren Carlyle, After Midnight)
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett & Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Orchestrations (Prediction: Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Steve Sidwell, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Tony Awards Nominations LIVE Webcast!

The 2014 Tony Awards Nominations Announcement, Sponsored by IBM 
Tuesday, April 29 2014 8:30 a.m. ET 
Hosted by Jonathan Groff and Lucy Liu 
From the Paramount Hotel in NYC 
Video courtesy NY1 News

Click below to watch the live announcement of the 2014 Tony Nominees!

Video Console!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

THE REALISTIC JONESES: Some Neighbors Are Anything But Ordinary

The Realistic Jones is the story of two sets of neighbors, both named Jones. Jennifer (Toni Collette) and Bob (Tracy Letts) Jones live a pretty bland existence until Pony (Marisa Tomei) and John (Michael C. Hall) Jones move down the block. Their lives become intertwined over drinks in the backyard, a fainting spell, and a surprising affair.

Will Eno's text sparkles with witty banter and nuanced repartee as the vibrant characters interact and feed off of one another. Though the plot itself is rather mundane, Eno's dialogue pops and sizzles. This emphasis on dialogue over plot brings the most basic of human behaviors to the forefront. We don't have thrilling adventures everyday, but we all express our thoughts and feelings with others. He plays with social boundaries and even the generation gap as the younger Pony and John open up to their new neighbors and begin divulging personal information immediately, while the older Jennifer and Bob stick to small talk before anything serious comes up.

Tracy Letts is a standout as Bob. Even more impressive is the fact that he is an award winning playwright, yet he still finds time to focus on the craft of acting. His deadpan delivery gets every laugh and aside from a questionable moral compass, you will still find yourself feeling invested in him as a character. Marisa Tomei steals the show as the flighty Pony. Her portrayal teeters on the edge of nailing it and going too far, though she always manages to stay on the former side. She is just so honest and endearing that even though she seems like she could be from another planet, you can still imagine her living just on the other side of your picket fence.

Clocking in at just around 90 minutes, this one-act play is a thoroughly enjoyable night at the theatre. It features the best writing, play or musical, on Broadway this season. Be prepared to laugh, but you'll need to pay attention, because this isn't cheap humor. This is a well-crafted play and you'll be hearing the title many times during the upcoming awards season, so get used to it.

If you really want to keep up with the Joneses, stop in at my new favorite bar in Midtown for a pre- or post-show cocktail. "The Lantern's Keep" is a tiny speakeasy located in the Iroquois NY hotel at 49 W 44th street. This is not your typical lobby lounge, but rather a unique little hideaway that will take you back nearly 100 years. "The Lantern's Keep" features a plethora of creative specialty cocktails, though I would highly recommend The Glass House. I promise you won't be disappointed. 

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY: Mobsters and Chorus Girls Collide

Bullets Over Broadway is currently in previews at the St. James Theatre and opens on April 10th. Based on the Woody Allen movie of the same title, this new musical tells the story of David Shayne (Zach Braff), a budding playwright, and his show's road to Broadway. David has had many plays rejected in the past, but Julian Marx (Lenny Wolpe) finally agrees to produce his most recent work, though it seems like everything gets in the way from a diva and a wannabe to a motley crew of mobsters.

Woody Allen fans already know the story and there is no original music, so the fate of the show falls squarely on the shoulders of director/choreographer Susan Stroman and her actors they do not disappoint. There is something so seamless in shows where the director and choreographer are one in the same. Stroman's love of the leggy showgirl is alive and kicking, literally. Her dancers are statuesque and technically perfect, though it helps that most of them are off-season Radio City Rockettes. They don't merely perform in dance breaks, but Stroman also integrates them into the sets and uses them to transition between scenes. Also, watch out for a surprise tap number, I promise it comes out of nowhere!

Zach Braff in the role of David is the surprise of the Broadway season. We have never seen him in a musical and he does not disappoint. His singing is merely serviceable, but his timing is impeccable and his reactions to the zany antics of the other characters are priceless. David is a newbie to show business and you get the feeling that he is just trying to keep up with everything that his happening around him; Braff plays it perfectly. Marin Mazzie is simply divine in the role of Helen Sinclair, the show's grand diva. She commands attention, but shows just enough vulnerability that you still like her. Her transformation into this role is incredible, and for a while you forget you are watching Mazzie. Her commitment to the role is without question from the vocal inflection to the posture and carriage.

Betsy Wolfe is quite lovable in the role of Ellen, David's girlfriend from Pittsburgh, and her singing is heavenly, but unfortunately the character doesn't do the actress justice. She does what she can with the role, but the material given to her is too slight for a performer of her caliber. Karen Ziemba, one of Stroman's favorite performers, plays Eden, another actress in the show within the show. It saddens me when brilliant dancers start to show their age, but she still has a killer attitude turn and is transitioning seamlessly into the comic relief character. Brooks Ashmankas plays Warner Purcell, the male lead in David's play and, without giving away any punch lines, he reinvents the phrase "physical comedy". Vincent Pastore plays Nick Valenti, a mob boss, and dare I say the role he was born to play. He bankrolls David's play in order to give his girlfriend Olive the chance to be a star. He also leads the cast in a choral rendition of "Yes, We Have No Bananas," but I will let you figure that one out.

Helene York steals Act I in the role of Olive. From a hot dog number to a few stellar one-liners like "I'm going to put a shiv through your liver in your sleep," she lands every single joke in true zinger fashion. She lets them fly left and right and though she pushes the limit in every scene, she never once goes too far. In Act II, Cheech (Nick Cordero) takes over scene stealing duties as the play writing gangster who we still find it in our hearts to love for his, umm, artistic soul.

It is zany, out of control, is not ashamed to go for a cheap laugh here and there, and it may be a slight ripoff of The Producers, but this is a big fat fantastic show! It will be a hit and should be the frontrunner for Best Musical come June so buy your tickets now! 

UNDER MY SKIN: Enter to Win a Voucher for a Pair of Free Tickets!

Take the dashing CEO of America’s leading healthcare provider, a single mom from Staten Island, and an outrageous twist of fate and you’ve got the makings of a sexy and outrageous new comedy, UNDER MY SKIN.

Kirsten Sanderson directs the new off-Broadway comedy about three things we all want but can’t always get: Sex, Love & Healthcare. 

Tony and Drama Desk-nominee Kerry Butler (“Xanadu,” “Catch Me If You Can”) and film, TV and stage actor Matt Walton (“Burn After Reading,” “One Life to Live”) star in the play that will leave you in stitches. 
Tues-Sat: 8 PM
Dark Mondays.

They are joined by actresses Megan Sikora, Allison Strong, Kate Loprest, Dierdre Friel as well as actors Edward James Hyland and Andrew Polk.

UNDER MY SKIN is written by the husband and wife writing team Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser, known for their hit shows “The Nanny,” “Three’s Company,” and “Who’s The Boss?” It’s the uproarious out-of-body experience that brings “he said, she said” to a whole new level and proves a man can’t really understand the opposite sex until he’s walked a mile in someone else’s stilettos.

To enter to win a voucher for tickets, answer the following trivia question in the comments section below by Sunday April 13th. Please include your email address so we can contact winners!

Leading actress Kerry Butler last appeared on Broadway in 2012. What was the title of that play?

Good Luck and continue to check back for future contests!

Tickets are currently available on
Student tickets are available on Tix4Students:

The Little Shubert Theatre
422 West 42nd Street (Between 9th & 10th Avenues)
New York, NY 10036
Previews begin on Saturday, April 5 at 8 PM. 

Sun: 7 PM
Sat (except 4/5) and Sun: 2 PM
Opening Night is May 15.