Tag Archives: Broadway

Secondary Character Saturday: Captain Von Trapp

WHO: Captain Von Trapp

FROM: The Sound of Music

Looking Back, 1966 ~ "The Sound of Music&...

Looking Back, 1966 ~ “The Sound of Music” (Photo credit: e r j k p r u n c z y k)

By: Rodgers and Hammerstein

WHEN: Broadway debut — 1959, Movie — 1965

PROS: Honorable, Strong, Patriotic, the Captain can sing and looks great in a uniform. Under his rock hard outer shell he’s really a loving, kind man. (and he’s rich and handsome which a hero of a musical ought to be be if possible.)

Christopher Plummer at the 2007 Toronto Intern...

Christopher Plummer at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CONS: He’s an emotionally detached, elitist snob with awkward social skills.

BEST SHINING MOMENT: Singing Edelweiss at the Salzburg Music Festival.

LEAST SHINING MOMENT: Whistling for his children as if they were part of a Pavolovian experiment.

WHY I CHOOSE THE CAPTAIN: Lets face it, Captain Von Trapp is the the Mr. Darcy of the Musical world. He starts off aloof and disagreeable –the antithesis to our plucky warm, loveable Maria/Lizzie. He is so wrapped up in the  constraints of upper crust Austrian / Regency Society that he is practically mummified. He is as surprised as any one else when a scrappy, country flower of a girl helps him unwind and find his voice again.


Idina Menzel 5.30.13 Thought of the Day

“I’ve been singing since I was born. It’s something I do everywhere I go. In the shower, walking down the street. I don’t need any impetus to do it. I just sing” — Idina Menzel

English: Singer/actress Idina Menzel outside t...
English: Singer/actress Idina Menzel outside the Today Show studios following an appearance and performance promoting the release of her debut Warner Bros album “I Stand.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Idina Kim Menzel  was born in Queens, New York City, New York, in  1971. She is 42 years old.

She is one of two girls born to Helene and Stuart Mentzel. She grew up in New Jersey and Syosset, New York. She attended the Tisch School of the Arts and earned her Bachelors of fine Arts from New York University.  A singer since childhood Menzel began to perform professionally at weddings and bar mitzvahs as a teenager.

She had her first Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes of fame as Maureen Johnson in RENT in 1996. She originated the role in New York Theatre Workshop and moved with the show to Broadway. Menzel later played Maureen in the 2005 movie version of the play. She earned a Tony nomination the role.

Here’s Take Me or Leave Me...

Menzel had a string of smaller, but successful gigs both on and off Broadway  (including: Tha Vagina Monologues, Aida, The Wild party, Summer of ‘42, and a Hair encore concert) but she really defied gravity with her second big role as Elphaba in Wicked.

The show, based on the Gregory Maguire novel, hit the Great White Way in 2003. She won the 2004 Tony for her role as the green witch.

Her post Wicked stage resume includes See What I Wana See, Chess and Nero. Next year she will return to Broadway to open in Tom Kit and Brian Yorkey’s musuical If/Then.

In 2008 Menzel released I Stand on Warner Bros. Records. The album is a …

powerful collection of exquisite new songs written by the Tony Award winning actress/singer/songwriter…filled with pop tunes and heartfelt ballads—intimate yet universal stories of life, its challenges, relationships and of course – the subject of love. [Idena Menzel.com ]

Here’s Brave from I Stand:

She tours domestically and internationally to promote both her original work from the album and her Broadway work.

Most recently Menzel has appeared on television’s Glee’s.

Glenn Close 3.19.13 Thought of the Day

“As an actor, I go where the good writing is. That’s the bottom line.“–Glenn Close

[Image courtesy: FanPOP.com]

[Image courtesy: FanPOP.com]

Glenn Close was born on this day in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA in 1947. She is 66 years old.

She is one of four children born to Bettine and Dr. William Taliaferro Close. The first seven years of her live were ones of privilege. She fondly remembers the ease and freedom of living in on her grandmother’s estate in the Connecticut countryside. But then things changed. Her parents joined the conservative salvation group Moral Re-Armament. The family moved into communal living centers and eventually her parents traveled to the Belgian Congo where her father ran several medical clinics and became a personal physician to  Mobutu Sese Seko. Close went to school in Switzerland. She attended Choate Rosemary Hall in Greenwich. And for a while in the mid-to-late 1960’s she performed with the MRA’s singing group “Up With People.”

At 22 she left the MRA and entered William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. There she took up acting in earnest.  Upon graduation she moved to New York and found work on the stage. She had her Broadway debut in 1974 as Angelica in Love for Love. Her break out role on the Great White Way was as Chairy Barnum in the Original Broadway Production of Barnum in 1980.

Close in The World According to Garp. [Image courtesy: Fixster.com]

Close in The World According to Garp. [Image courtesy: Fixster.com]

She made the jump to film in 1982 with The World According to Garp. She played Jenny Fields. The role earned her the first of her many Academy Award nominations. Another Oscar nomination came for her role as Sarah Cooper in The Big Chill in 1983, and yet another for her part as Iris Gaines in 1984’s the Natural.

She went against type and starred as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction in 1987. She got another Academy nod — this time for Best Actress. And got nominated again in that category for Dangerous Liaisons in 1988.

Close as Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons. [Image courtesy: the Oscar Nerd.com]

Close as Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons. [Image courtesy: the Oscar Nerd.com]

In 1990 she played Queen Gertrude to Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, And Sunny Von Bulow to Jeremy Iron’s Claus  in Reversal of Fortune.

In 1991 She played Sarah Wheaton in Sarah, Plain and Tall. It was the first of a Hallmark trilogy which also includes Skylark and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s End.

Cruella De Ville (Image courtesy: FanPop.com)

Cruella De Ville (Image courtesy: FanPop.com)

But not everything on her CV is a drama. In 1996 she co-starred as First Lady Marsha Dale in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! and the first of her gigs as the villainous, puppy hating Curella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians.

Dvd cover for Paradise Road. [Image courtesy: Amazon.com]

Dvd cover for Paradise Road. [Image courtesy: Amazon.com]

In 1997 she was Adrienne Pargiter in the brilliant and under rated Paradise Road. The film is a…

Fact-based recounting of a group of women who are imprisoned on the island of Sumatra by the Japanese during World War II and used music as a relief to their misery. [IMDb]

The movie co-stars Pauline Collins, Frances McDormand, Cate Blanchette, Jennifer Ehle and Julianna Margulies  and is a beautiful testament to the human spirit and the power of music. If you haven’t seen it… do your self a favor and put it in your queue.

She showed off her pipes again as Nellie Forbush in a made for TV version of South Pacific. (An interesting counter part to Paradise Road — considering both films cover the same period in history, the same conflict,  and approximately the same geography, and both contain some lovely music… yet they take a very different look at WWII.)

Close was Eleanor of Aquitaine opposite Patrick Stewart’s Henry II  in the TV version of The Lion in Winter, in 2003.

Promo shoot for Damages. [Image courtesy: FanPop.com]

Promo shoot for Damages. [Image courtesy: FanPop.com]

She had a 13 episode character arch as Captain Monica Rawling on The Shield. She voiced Mother Simpson on the Simpsons several times, and, more dramatically,   played Patty Hewes  on the TV series Damages starting in 2007.

Close was nominated for yet another Best Actress Oscar for her work in Albert Nobbs. The film came out in 2012.

Close as Albert Nobbs (Image courtesy: NPR.com photo by Patrick Redmond.]

Close as Albert Nobbs (Image courtesy: NPR.com photo by Patrick Redmond.]

Currently she has two films in the works for 2014, The Grace That Keeps This World, and Always on My Mind. Maybe she’ll get nominated again for one of these, and maybe, just maybe, the 7th time will be a charm!

Edward Albee 3.12.13 Thought of the Day

“If you’re willing to fail interestingly, you tend to succeed interestingly.”–Edward Albee
[Image courtesy: The Modern World.com]

[Image courtesy: The Modern World.com]

Edward Harvey was born on this day in Washington, DC in 1928. He is 85 years old.
When he was 2 weeks old he was adopted by Reed and Frances Albee. The family moved to Larchmont, New York soon afterward. The Albees had a theatre pedigree. Grandfather Edward Franklin Albee II  was the owner of several theaters, part of the Keith-Albee chain. With its roots in vaudeville the theatres hosted touring companies and eventually made the leap to movies. The company merged with two other companies and became RKO pictures….and the Albees were set for life.
Albee grew up in an affluent family. He had access to the stage from a young age and his love of theatre and art was well founded from his childhood. He did not do well at school. He was rebellious, and he was expelled from a number of public, private and military schools.
Almost from the beginning he clashed with the strong-minded Mrs. Albee, rebelling against her attempts to make him a success as well as a sportsman and a member of the Larchmont, New York, social set. Instead, young Albee pursued his interest in the arts, writing macabre and bitter stories and poetry, while associating with artists and intellectuals considered objectionable by Mrs. Albee. [The Kennedy Center. org]

After he dropped out of Trinity College in his sophomore year he had a rift with his family. (He never saw his father again.) He moved to New York’s Greenwich Village and lived on a small inheritance and by doing odd jobs — like delivering telegrams — while honing his writing skills. Albee tried his hand at poetry and fiction before finding his groove as a playwright.

Edward Albee [Image courtesy: Academy Achievement.]

Edward Albee [Image courtesy: Academy Achievement.]

In 1959 his first play, The Zoo Story was produced in Berlin, Germany. I came to New York, Off-Broadway in 1960. The Zoo Story is a one-act play “in which a loquacious drifter meets a conventional family man on a park bench and provokes him to violence” [Academy of Achievement]  Other one acts and short dramas followed including : The Sandbox, The American Dream and The Death of Bessie Smith.

By 1962, he was ready to storm Broadway, the bastion of commercial theater in America. His first Broadway production, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, was a runaway success and a critical sensation. The play received a Tony Award, and Albee was enshrined in the pantheon of American dramatists alongside Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. [Academy of Achievement] 

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the movie version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Image courtesy: The Movie Jerk]

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the movie version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Image courtesy: The Movie Jerk]

His first Pulitzer Prize came for the 1966 drama A Delicate Balance.  Albee won his second Pulitzer in 1975 with Seascape, “which combined theatrical experiment and social commentary in a story about a retired vacationing couple who meet a pair of sea lizards at the beach.” [The Kennedy Center. org] “As bizarre as the idea sounded on first hearing, the result was both humorous and moving. The play charmed audiences and critics…” [Academy of Achievement] 

After Seascape the theater critics, unexpectedly, fell out of love with Albee. For nearly two decades he struggled to get the audiences and critical praise he deserved.

In an era of Hollywood-style “play development” by committee, Albee has remained an uncompromising defender of the integrity of his own texts, and a champion of the work of younger authors. Over the years, he has scrupulously reserved part of his time for the training of younger writers. He has conducted regular writing workshops in New York, and … taught playwriting at the University of Houston. He has persistently asked young writers to hold themselves to the highest artistic standards, and to resist what he sees as the encroachment of commercialism on the dramatic imagination.  [Academy of Achievement] 

In 1994 he was back with Three Tall Women. The play won Albee his third Pulitzer. “In 1996, Albee was one of the recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.” [Ibid] The triumph of Three Tall Women launched the second act for the playwright who saw The Play About the Baby, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? (Tony Award / Drama Desk Award) and  Occupant (the story of artist Louise Nevelson*), hit the Great White Way within a decade.  Next Albee reworked The Zoo Story in Homelife and presented both plays as Peter and Jerry.

Cover of "The Play About The Baby"

Cover of The Play About The Baby

He was honored with a Special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award  in 2005.

At 85 Albee continues to write for the stage.


Thought of the Day 9.26.12 George Gershwin

Life is a lot like jazz.. it’s best when you improvise.
 –George Gershwin
English: George Gershwin, 28 March 1937 Azərba...

English: George Gershwin, 28 March 1937 Azərbaycan: Corc Gerşvin, ABŞ bəstəkarı, 28 mart 1937 Español: George Gershwin, 28 marzo 1937 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jacob Gershvin was  born on this day in Brooklyn, New York in 1898. Today is the 114th anniversary of his birth.

His parents were Russian Jewish emigrants. He had three siblings, Ira, Arthur and Frances. His parents bought a piano and paid for lesson for Ira, but it was George who took up the instrument. At 15 he left school and began to work at New York’s Tin Pan Alley. (He changed his name George Gershwin when he entered the professional music world.) He sold his first song, “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em; When You Have ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em,” for $5.

Music theatre folk-lore has it that one day Gershwin was performing his composition “Swanee” at a party when Broadway star Al Jolson heard it. Jolson added the song to his show in 1919 and it became his signature song. Gershwin rose in the ranks of New York City song composers.

Gershwin collaborated with Arthur L. Jackson and Buddy De Sylva on his first complete Broadway musical, “La, La Lucille” [American Masters; George Gershwin]

He worked in Vaudeville for a bit, and in 1920 he teamed up with lyricist Buddy DeSylva for a one-act jazz opera, Blue Monday.

opening bars rhapsody in blue - gershwin

opening bars rhapsody in blue – gershwin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At 25 his Rhapsody in Blue for solo piano and orchestra debuted in New York. It combined Gershwin’s twin musical loves a jazz and classical. Bandleader Paul Whiteman commissioned the piece  and it was premiered in a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music on February 12th with Gershwin at the piano. His other “serious music” includes Concerto in F, An American Paris and his Second Rhapsody (originally New York Rhapsody.)

In 1924, when George teamed up with his older brother Ira, “the Gershwins” became the dominant Broadway songwriters, creating infectious rhythm numbers and poignant ballads, fashioning the words to fit the melodies with a “glove-like” fidelity. [Gershwin.com]

George and his brother Ira worked together in 1924 on the musical Lady Be Good. The show opened at the Liberty Theatre and starred  Fred Astaire and his sister Adele and featured the songs “Fascinating Rhythm, “O Lady Be Good” and,  “The Half of It, Dearie, Blues.”  You can hear Gershwin’s complicated rhythms and the jazz chords that he would build on in later compositions like Rhapsody and Blue in this  early recording of “The Half Of It, Dearie, Blues“…

Oh, Kay! a musical about an English Duke and his sister turned American bootleggers opened at the Princess Theatre in 1926. It featured the dance number”Clap Yo’ Hands,” the love duet “Maybe” and “Someone To Watch Over Me“.

Funny Face opened in 1927, again with the Astaires in the lead. Songs included “S’Wonderful”, “My One and Only,” He Loves and She Loves” and “Let’s Kiss and Make Up.” An updated of Funny Face opened on Broadway as “My One and Only” in 1983 and ran for over 700 shows. And Hollywood made a move starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in 1957 called Funny Face and using four of the songs, but with a different plot.

In Strike Up the Band America declares war on Switzerland. The original production only made it to previews in Philadelphia in 1927, but the Gershwins revised it and brought it to Broadway in 1930.  The songs “The Man I Love,Strike Up the Band,” “Soon,” and “I’ve Got a Crush on You  were added to the Gershwin Song Book from the show. [If you ignore all the other links in this post, do yourself a favor and click on I’ve Got a Crush on You — I pulled the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald’s smooth as silk rendition of the Gershwin classic… and no matter how crazy / busy your day is… you deserve this 3min. 18sec. piece of musical heaven.]

True to its name, Show Girl, is all about show business. It starred Ruby Keeler as an up and coming show girl Dixie Dugan. Other “A list” performers like Jimmy Durante and Eddie Foy, Jr. filled out the bill.  It  was produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. Songs includeHarlem Serenade,” andLiza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away)” [– Ruby Keeler was married to Al Jolson and he used to come see the show several times a week and sing this, the last song, out loud from the audience, lovingly, to her. ]

In 1929 he wrote the score for the Fox film Delicious. His “New York Rhapsody” (which later became his “Second Rhapsody”) and a five-minute dream sequence was all that the producers chose to use of his score. Gershwin was disgusted.

In 1930 Girl Crazy hit the stage. It starred Ethel Merman, and made a star out of Ginger Rogers [to read the Thought of the Day Ginger Roger’s profile click HERE.]. The show was made into 3 movies,  and while the films shared many of the stage show’s  most popular songs — like “Embraceable You,”But Not For Me” and “I’ve Got Rhythm” — the plots lines deviated from the original.

Of Thee I Sing premiered in 1931 and became the first musical to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1932.
This all-American political satire focuses on the election campaign and Presidency of John P. Wintergreen, whose party, lacking a viable platform, runs on love, promising that if elected he will marry the partner chosen for him at an Atlantic City beauty pageant. When he falls for Mary Turner (a campaign secretary who bakes a mean corn muffin) instead of Diana Deveraux (the fairest flower of the South and winner of the pageant), trouble begins! [MTI Music theatre International]

His ground breaking, genre defying Porgy and Bess came out in September of 1935. George wrote the music, DeBose Heyward wrote the libretto, and Heyward and Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics. It was based on Heyward’s novel Porgy  Gershwin intended it to be a folk opera.  Although it is considered a modern masterpiece now, the show flopped when it premiered on Broadway. It had revivals in 1942 and 1952, but it and didn’t get the recognition it deserved in the  opera world until the Huston Grand Opera staged it in 40 years later (1976). Songs include “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “Bess You Is My Woman Now,” and “Summertime.”

Disappointed in the reception that Porgy and Bess received on Broadway he moved to Hollywood. He and Ira worked with RKO movies to score Shall We Dance, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’s 10th film. He won an Academy Award for his song “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” from the film.
Starting in early 1937 George Gershwin began to have blinding headaches and the sensation of smelling burned rubber. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He died  on July 11, 1937.

Thought of the Day 7.16.12

“When two people love each other, they don’t look at each other, they look in the same direction”

–Ginger Rogers

Virginia Katherine McMathwas born in Independence, Missouri on this day in 1911. She would have been 101  years old today.

Her parents divorced when she was a baby and little Virginia, Ginger, stayed with her mother, Lela. When she remarried, Ginger took the name Lela’s second husband John Rogers. Ginger was introduced to the theater when Lela became a theater critic and took the girl to the shows that she reviewed. Legend has it that Ginger would hang out backstage picking up the songs and dances from the performers as her mother sat in the audience and took notes. One night while she was backstage at a traveling vaudeville show the act needed a stand-in, Rogers was tapped for the duty and had her first gig.

She was still in high school when she won  The Texas State Charleston Championship. The prize — a tour of theaters in Texas cities — was expanded to include  a wider tour of the Western US.. Ginger’s easy banter with the master of ceremonies was such an audience hit that it became as much of a draw as the dance routine.  At 17 she married vaudeville artist Jack “Pepper” Culpepper and the two formed the act known as “Ginger and Pepper.” The marriage was short lived, but Ginger’s career continued. She made it to New York where she had her Broadway debut in Top Speed in 1929.  Shortly thereafter the Gershwin Brothers picked Ginger to star in Girl Crazy along with Ethel Merman. The musical made a star of both actresses  and introduced Ginger to Fred Astaire who was hired as a dance coach. Ginger’s amazing renditions of  Embraceable You and But Not For Me in the musical helped the tunes become part of the American Song Book.

At 19 she switched to movies. Her breakthrough role was in Warner Brother’s 42nd Street. In 1933 she made her first film with Fred Astaire, Flying Down to Rio. The duo made nine musicals together, the most famous probably being Top Hat.

Dancing was only one arrow in her quiver, she was also an acclaimed singer and actor and her career went on long after she stopped making musicals with Fred. She won an Academy Award for Kitty Foyle in 1940.

She went back to the Great White Way when roles for mature women in film became scarce. Ginger took over for Carol Channing as Dolly in Hello! Dolly in 1965 and performed to packed houses for an 18-month run. She then took Mame to London’s West End for 14-months (and a Royal command performance.)

Ginger Rogers - 1920s

Ginger Rogers – 1920s (Photo credit: danceonair1986)

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