"UP IN THE CHEAP SEATS"

Theatre yesterday and today

 

 

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KISSES

Tomorrow, July 28th, will mark sixty-seven years since the original Broadway production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate gave its 1,077th and final performance at the Shubert Theatre in 1951. It had moved there from the New Century Theatre (demolished in 1962), and has always made me wonder if whoever sang the male lead had fun with the lyric “Like a show that’s typically Shuberty” (to rhyme with “puberty), during “Where is the Life That Late I Led,” on the stage of the flagship theatre bearing its owners’ name. Such sophisticated wit was Porter's stock-in-trade, and Kiss Me, Kate provided a late career triumph for the composer, whose first contribution to Broadway had been a song titled "As I

VIVA VILLA!

A day late and a dollar short, but I didn't want to miss out entirely on the anniversary of the death of Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary, who died on July 20, 1923, assassinated in an ambush by a half-dozen riflemen that also took out his bodyguards, secretary and a chauffeur. It was a few years after a decade-long war had ended, but payback for the atrocities Villa was responsible for during that time was not forgotten (or forgiven), apparently. Villa, whose real name was José Doroteo Arango Arámbula, was born in Durango to a sharecropper father and, while still a teenager, gained a sordid reputation as a bandit and a killer. Such skills allowed him to rise through the ranks of the

GOODBYE, GARY

Gary Beach, the long time Broadway stalwart and Tony Award winner, died on Tuesday at the age of seventy. Having retired from acting a few years ago, Gary had memorably appeared in some of most popular musicals of the last fifty years: 1776, Annie, Beauty and the Beast, La Cage Aux Folles, Les Misérables and of course, The Producers. He had no regrets over saying goodbye to the theatre, even after it had been so good to him (and he to it). Even if his friends and fans were saddened by the reality of never seeing his one-of-a-kind energy on stage again, who could blame him for wanting to sit back and smell the roses? He's on a short list of actors who played major roles in long-running musica

BROADWAY IN A BARN

I have spent the past five weeks at the Priscilla Beach Theatre in Plymouth, Massachusetts directing Guys and Dolls on its stage. Now that it's up and running, I took some time to do a little research in order to go behind-the-scenes of how this 143-year-old barn structure became what is now an historic playhouse. Although down to two acres, from what was once a sprawling farm that was spread over dozens, this plot of land in the village of Manomet—a community consisting of a private beach on Cape Cod Bay called Priscilla Beach—is on the site of the Taylor farm, first erected in 1875. The property was purchased for $12,500 from the Taylor family in 1937 by Franklin and Agnes Trask, whose ide

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JERRY HERMAN

“Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out. Strut down the street and have your picture took. Dressed like a dream, your spirits seem to turn about. That Sunday shine is a certain sign that you feel as fine as you look.” Simple, yet elegant. Two words which pretty much sum up the breadth of the work of Jerry Herman, who celebrates his eighty-seventh birthday today. Broadway first heard from him before he had turned twenty-nine, and his rise as a composer of both words and music, was impressive. His first effort was a show titled, From A to Z, a short-lived revue for which he wrote a few songs (other contributors included newcomers Woody Allen and Fred Ebb). Next came Milk and

FOR LOVE OF LIBERTY (AND "1776")

My love for Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone's 1776 continues to this day (especially on this particular date). But it was on March 15, 1969, nearly fifty years ago, when as a twelve year-old, I attended a Saturday matinee preview, prior to its Sunday night Broadway opening. There I witnessed for the first time a singing John Adams (William Daniels), Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) and Ben Franklin (Howard Da Silva), outed as the radicals they were in this radical show. It was a revelation; a delicate enterprise that could have collapsed under the weight of its own ambitions, only that's not the way it played out. Under the keen eye and expert direction of Peter Hunt (then twenty-nine years old

THE DEATH & LIFE OF MICHAEL BENNETT

On this date 31 years ago, Michael Bennett died in Tucson, Arizona, from complications caused by AIDS. He was forty-four years old. His legacy includes the choreography for Follies (1971), that he also co-directed with Harold Prince, and two shows he directed himself—A Chorus Line (1975) and Dreamgirls (1980)—which featured new levels of stagecraft and storytelling devices that dazzled critics and theatregoers alike. These three shows alone put him in the top ranks of those who contributed invaluably to the 20th century American musical. His death was a blow, not only because he was so damn young, but for how it effected those who loved his work so much. It puts to mind what was said between

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© 2016 Ron Fassler - All rights Reserved

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