Category Archives: Theater

Stew & Heidi Rodewald’s ‘Family Album’ conquers Oregon Shakespeare Festival (video)

Family_746x420If you find yourself in Oregon before the end of August, be sure to set aside a few hours to check out the world premiere of the latest musical play by Stew and Heidi Rodewald of The Negro Problem at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

For fans, “Family Album” will seem familiar, as they’ve incorporated songs fans have heard TNP play in concert or in other, less-structured, theater pieces over the years. And charismatic guitarist Christian Gibbs, who was a linchpin in Stew and Heidi’s breakthrough show, “Passing Strange,” steps forward to take a larger role in this show.

You’ll see what I mean by the familiarity when you watch the show’s video trailer and read the review in the Los Angeles Times. After you’ve had a look, go here for more information and  to buy tickets.

The show was created with director Joanna Settle, a longtime Stew-and-Heidi collaborator who now heads the theater school at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

Tickets have been selling well, but as of today, there are 16 performance dates for which seats are still available. Prices range from $25 to $99. Go here now for more information and tickets. The run ends Aug. 31.

 

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Mary Bridget Davies: More than a Janis Joplin tribute artist

Mary Bridget Davies does Janis Joplin and a whole lot more at B.B. King's Blues Club in Manhattan. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Mary Bridget Davies does Janis Joplin and a whole lot more at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Manhattan. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

If you go to see Mary Bridget Davies‘ show at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Manhattan, don’t count on an evening of Janis Joplin.

If you do, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment, like the woman standing near me at the bar on Monday night. She was wearing a muumuu and a multicolored headband, which made her look like she was ready for a psychedelic Sixties sort of evening.

But when Davies kicked into a set that was heavier on non-Joplin songs, including some massive versions of some Amy Winehouse hits, the woman started getting antsy, asking people around her if they knew whether Davies would be doing “songs from the show” at some point. Continue reading

Jonathan Larson’s lasting impact honored in song (video)

The crowd gathers to hear Jonathan Larson's dad and sister talk about the late composer in the Grand Tier lobby at New York City Center on June 25, 2014. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

The crowd gathers to hear Jonathan Larson’s dad and sister talk about the late composer in the Grand Tier lobby at New York City Center on June 25, 2014. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

New York City Center Encores! Off-Center (whose website is offline at this writing) revived “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical show, “tick, tick … BOOM!” last week.

It was important enough that it lured Karen Olivo, a Broadway star (an alum of “Rent” and “In the Heights”) who has otherwise abandoned New York in favor of a life in Wisconsin, back to town.

And it really got actor and “In The Heights” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda fired up to write some reflections on Larson for The New York Times.

Leslie Odom Jr., of “Rent” and TV’s “Smash” fame, rounded out the cast.

If you missed it, that’s a terrible shame. But you can read the New York Daily News review here and check out the Times review here.

I saw the first performance, on Wednesday, and made a point to arrive early for the pre-show “Lobby Project” event in the hot-as-Hades Grand Tier lobby featuring Larson’s dad and sister talking about their late relative and promoting awareness of Marfan syndrome, the genetic disorder that contributed to his untimely death.

When “Rent” became a big hit after Larson’s death, his family and friends set up the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation to provide grants for composers, lyricists, and book writers in musical theater. The grants program is now run by the American Theatre Wing as Jonathan Larson Grants.

After Larson’s relatives spoke about him, the subject of the grants program came up, and it was announced that 107 people had received money from it so far  — and that many of those people were in the packed lobby.

That’s when people pulled out sheet music or opened it on their mobile devices and broke into a serenade, performing Larson’s iconic “Rent” tune “Season of Love.”

It was a grand moment.

I managed to catch much of it on video. Check it out:

 

 

 

 

Cynthia Hopkins samples the candy and finds it bittersweet

Cynthia Hopkins in a solo performance at Pete's Candy Store, 709 Lorimer St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on June 17, 2014. (Photo © 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Cynthia Hopkins in a solo performance at Pete’s Candy Store, 709 Lorimer St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on June 17, 2014. (Photo © 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

How long has Pete’s Candy Store been a concert venue on the Northside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn?

I’ve been meaning to get thee since the day it opened, but something always got in the way — my schedule,  other priorities, whatever.

So what (or should I say who) did it take to finally get me there?

Cynthia Hopkins, that’s who. Continue reading

Riding in The General took Tom Wopat far beyond Hazzard County

Tom Wopat brings his vast songbook to Rockwells in Pelham, N.Y., on Friday night. (Handout photo)

Tom Wopat brings his vast songbook to Rockwells in Pelham, N.Y., on Friday night. (Handout photo)

‘Dukes of Hazzard’ star will show off his vocal chops at Rockwells in Pelham Friday night, May 9

It’s difficult to hear Tom Wopat’s name without thinking of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” the hit TV show that made the dark-haired Wisconsin native and his blond co-star John Schneider pin-up boys for teens for years.

Find out what Wopat’s has to say about his days in The General and where his career has taken him since then in my interview with him for The Journal News/lohud.com. Check it out online now by tapping or clicking here. To see it in print, pick up a copy of The Journal News on Friday.

Don’t miss your last chance to hear Eisa Davis’ work in progress (for now)

Eisa Davis in the spotlight at Jack in Brooklyn on April 23, 2014.. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh)

Eisa Davis in the spotlight at Jack in Brooklyn on April 23, 2014.. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh)

The magnificent Eisa Davis, who you’ve probably seen somewhere on TV if you didn’t meet her, like I did, through “Passing Strange,” is not just a singer and actress, but an accomplished playwright as well.

Continue reading

Poland will never be the same after Ubu Sings Ubu

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A dangerous man: Tony Torn as Pere Ubu at Joe’s Pub on March 25, 2014. (Photos © 2014, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

About midway through the show on March 25, the flabby, shirtless man on stage at Joe’s Pub — his face still bearing the image of the Polish eagle albeit runny with sweat — stepped out of character as Pere Ubu, the king of Poland.

It’s at this point in the show that I’d be introducing my special guest, said actor Tony Torn But I can’t, he added.

So he invited the audience to join him in a chant:

“Stew has flu. Stew has flu. Stew has flu….”

After chanting that a few times, any disappointment I might have been feeling about the absence of Stew, Tony Award-winning creator of “Passing Strange” and leader of the rock band The Negro Problem, vanished as Torn returned to character and carried on with the set.

Sure, it would have been nice to see Stew sit in with this talented band of actors and musicians. But he deserved to stay home and nurse his illness. And Torn and company managed to provide an extraordinarily entertaining evening without their announced special guest.

I had wondered how Stew fit into this mad plan of creating a band to cover Pere Ubu songs in character from from the Alfred Jarry’s 1896 French play “Ubu Roi.”

Torn, happily, answered the question from stage.

This show, “Ubu Sings Ubu,” wouldn’t have materialized at all if, some years ago, Stew hadn’t let Torn sing what he called “one of his crazy punk rock songs.”

He didn’t explain exactly when or how that occurred, so I can only guess it was in a workshop of some sort. Continue reading