Broadway in Bryant Park 2012: Rebecca, Sistas: The Musical, Chicago, Rent, Evita, & Newsies – August 9, 2012

For the penultimate 2012 Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concert, the apparent theme for the afternoon was one word titled musicals (discounting the usually ever-present “The Musical” descriptor) with grand showstoppers and loyal and vocal fan bases: Rebecca, Sistas: The Musical, Chicago, Rent, Evita, and Newsies. I arrived at Bryant Park that morning at my usual time and sat in my usual seat, and like the previous week, the weather was warm and sunny, but it wasn’t to be exactly as usual. Not too long after I settled into my seat, I was politely informed by one of the event volunteers that the row in which I usually sat (front center, on the lawn behind the gravel path where the press sat) as well as the rows to the left and right was to be reserved for VIPs. It was the first time this has happened (at least to me), so I moved to the second row on the left side, which was still a good view of the stage, albeit a smidge to the left. As always, the seats filled up quickly, with some opting to stay in the shade until the performance began. The 106.7 Lite FM host was Victor Sosa.

106.7 Lite FM host Victor Sosa

First to perform was the upcoming Rebecca, which starts its preview performances on October 30, 2012 at the Broadhurst Theatre, and is based on the book of the same name (from which the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film was also based) by Daphne du Maurier. Stars Ryan Silverman, Jill Paice, and understudy Maree Johnson were on hand to perform four songs: Jill Paice sang “Free Now”, Maree Johnson sang “She’s Invincible” Paice and Ryan Silverman sang “Help Me Through the Night” and all three sang the title song “Rebecca”. I must say I am looking forward to seeing this show (and hoping it succeeds), which was originally produced and performed in Vienna (and in German) – the songs were grand, sweeping arias befitting the grandeur of the source material.

From left to right: Jill Paice, Maree Johnson & Ryan Silverman

Next to perform was Sistas: The Musical, an off-Broadway show about a multi-generational African-American family, currently playing at St. Luke’s Theatre, and was a “Broadway Bite” (though technically speaking the show is running off-Broadway) with the cast Tracey Conyer Lee, Lexi Rhoades, April Nixon, Jennifer Fouché and Amy Goldberger singing a pair of songs; I wish I could recall the first song they sang, but the second song was the oft-used family oriented anthem “We Are Family”, to which the cast encouraged the crowd to sing along (most did).

Cast of Sistas The Musical: Tracey Conyer Lee, Lexi Rhoades, April Nixon, Jennifer Fouché and Amy Goldberger

Next was Chicago, which is currently the longest running revival, playing at the Ambassador Theater, and is (as stated at the very start of the show) “a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery – all those things we all hold near and dear to our hearts”. The cast members on hand were Donna Marie Asbury, Dylis Croman, Cristy Candler, Tonya Wathen, Tony Yazbeck, Peter Nelson, Amos Wolff and Denny Paschall; the songs that were sung were “All That Jazz”, sung by Donna Marie Asbury, “Roxie” sung by Dylis Croman, “All I Care About”, sung by Tony Yazbeck, and “My Baby and Me”, sung by Dylis Croman, all performed with the classic Bob Fosse choreography.

Clockwise from top left: Donna Marie Asbury, Tony Yazbeck & Dylis Croman

Next up was Rent, the off-Broadway incarnation of the modern adaptation of La Bohème playing at New World Stages until September 9, 2012. Cast members Anthony Federov, Sean Michael Murray, Emma Hunton, and Shaleah Adkisson were on hand to sing three songs: Anthony Federov sang “One Song Glory”, Federov was joined by Sean Michael Murray to sing “What You Own” and Emma Hunton, and Shaleah Adkisson sang “Take Me Or Leave Me”.

Clockwise from top left: Anthony Federov, Sean Michael Murray, Emma Hunton, & Shaleah Adkisson

Next was Evita, currently playing at the Marquis Theatre and tells the life story of Eva Peron, the former first lady of Argentina. Stars Christina DeCicco, Max von Essen and Rachel Potter were on hand to sing a trio of songs: Christina DeCicco sang “Buenos Aires”, Rachel Potter sang “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”, and Max von Essen and Christina DeCicco sang “High Flying, Adored”.

Left to right: Christina DeCicco,Rachel Potter & Max von Essen

The final performance of the afternoon was from Newsies, based on the Disney film of the same name, currently playing at the Nederlander Theater based on a true story about the trials and tribulations of teenage newspaper sellers at the turn of the 20th century. This was the show that had the most vocal fans present at the park, and presumably the reason for the increase in reserved seating. Cast members Corey Cott, Kara Lindsay, and Julie Foldesi were on hand to sing three songs: Julie Foldesi sang “That’s Rich”, Corey Cott and Kara Lindsay sang ‘Something to Believe In” and Corey Cott sang “Santa Fe”.

Left to right: Julie Foldesi, Corey Cott & Kara Lindsay & Corey Cott

 

Again, despite the warmer than usual yet typical August weather, it was  an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

 

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Broadway in Bryant Park 2012: My Sinatra, Chaplin, Silence! The Musical, One Man, Two Guvnors & Mamma Mia! – August 2, 2012

As mentioned previously, the Broadway in Bryant Park series is a free lunchtime concert wherein a group of shows perform a few musical numbers from their respective shows, but the fourth week in the 2012 edition featured quite a mixed bag – one solo performance, one upcoming musical, one Off-Broadway musical, one play with music and one long running musical: respectively (and in order of performance), My Sinatra, Chaplin, Silence! The Musical, One Man, Two Guvnors, and Mamma Mia!. Of course I arrived at Bryant Park early, and in contrast to the previous time I was at the park, the weather was sunny and seasonably warm. The seats around me filled up quickly, though there were a few who opted to linger around in the shaded areas. The 106.7 Lite FM host this time around was Rich Kaminski.

106.7 Lite FM host Rich Kaminski

The first show to perform was My Sinatra, playing at the Sofia’s Downstairs Theatre, which is a solo performance piece that has Cary Hoffman, a Frank Sinatra sound-a-like (and he did sound a little like Ol’ Blue Eyes), recounting the influence Sinatra had on his life and upbringing. He sang “Fly Me To The Moon” and “Summer Wind” decked out in a full tuxedo (surely not an easy feat on a hot and humid afternoon), and his set was more or less a warm-up act prior to the formal start of the program.

Cary Hoffman channeling his inner Frank Sinatra

The next show to perform was the upcoming musical Chaplin, which starts its preview performances on August 21, 2012 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, and tells the life story of Charlie Chaplin. Stars Christiane Noll, Rob McClure, Jenn Colella sang, respectively “Look At All The People”, “If I Left London”, and “All Fall Down”. The songs were catchy, and had the jaunty feel of the music from that era. It will be quite interesting to see how the show is staged and the overall tone of the musical.

Above: Jenn Colella & Christiane Noll
Below: Rob McClure

Next up was Silence The Musical, the unauthorized parody of the film Silence of the Lambs, currently playing at the Elektra Theatre. The cast included David Garrison, Jenn Harris, Stephen Bienskie, Kimberly Stern, Topher Nuccio, Nick McGough, Randy Harrison, Ronica Reddick, Howard Kaye and they sang “Silence of the Lambs,” “Are You About a Size 14?”, “Papa Shtarling”, and “Finale”. Despite having not seen the movie, I know enough about the basic plot to appreciate the premise of the show.

Silence! The Musical cast (David Garrison, Jenn Harris, Stephen Bienskie, Kimberly Stern, Topher Nuccio, Nick McGough, Randy Harrison, Ronica Reddick & Howard Kaye)

Next was One Man, Two Guvnors, currently playing at the Music Box Theatre until September 2, 2012, and is a hilarious farce about the lengths one man will go to juggle having two guvnors (employers), keeping one from knowing about the other, and to get a decent meal,. The play features an in-house band called “The Craze”, consisting of Jason Rabinowitz (lead vocals), Austin Moorhead (lead guitar), Charlie Rosen (bass) and Jacob Colin Cohen (percussion), who performed three songs “IOU”, “Just My Luck” and “The Brighton Line”.

Clockwise from top: Austin Moorhead, Charlie Rosen, Jason Rabinowitz & Jacob Colin Cohen

The final performance of the afternoon was from Mamma Mia, currently playing at the Winter Garden Theatre, and is about a daughter’s quest to find her father and a mother confronting her past all set to ABBA songs. The leads Judy McLane, Felicia Finley, Stacia Fernandez and much of the ensemble were on hand to sing a selection of songs from the show, including “The Winner Takes It All” “Mamma Mia!”,  “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo”.

From left to right: Felicia Finley, Judy McLane & Stacia Fernandez

Once again, it was a highly entertaining afternoon, despite the heat and humidity.

Broadway in Bryant Park 2012: Ghost the Musical, Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana, Sister Act, Memphis & Wicked – July 19, 2012

Broadway in Bryant Park is a free event held for six consecutive Thursday afternoons in July and August which features performances from four to five different Broadway and Off Broadway shows, presented by 106.7 Lite FM, a local NY radio station, and hosted by one of their radio personalities. As it is a free event, and the fact that Bryant Park is a public park, there is no assigned seating (or formal arranged seating for that matter) and you would need to get there early to ensure you have a good view of the stage. Naturally (as my wont) I arrived at Bryant Park hours before the event started and set up my own chair as close to the stage as I could on the lawn (there is a gravel area in front of the grassy area where chairs and tables were set up for the press and reserved seating for the VIPs, which were usually contest winners or employees from the sponsors).

The weather was overcast and pleasantly breezy, a sharp contrast to the heat and humidity that had been lingering in the past few days. The chairs for the general seating area were set up shortly after I arrived, lined up in rows of six with space for walking aisles; thankfully where I had situated myself was compliant with the seat arrangement. By 10:30 the seats began to fill with families, couples and individuals, and the sound check commenced shortly before 11AM. As it was quite an overcast morning, the threat of rain was omnipresent; in fact there were a few minutes of misty rain, which caused the stage technicians to scramble to cover up the electrical equipment (thankfully the rain didn’t return until later on that evening).

The shows that were scheduled to perform were Ghost the Musical, Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana, Sister Act, Memphis and Wicked, and often at these events, the understudies, standbys or ensemble members perform, though occasionally the leads do perform. Each show performs a few songs from their respective shows (though in the case of Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana, the cast performed scenes from their show). The 106.7 Lite FM host was Christine Nagy.

106.7 Lite FM host Christine Nagy

First to perform was Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana, currently playing at Radio City Music Hall until September 2, 2012, and is about a magician in search of his lost love. As with most Cirque du Soleil shows, the performance featured flag throwers (Federico Pisapia, Vincenzo Schiavo, Giuseppe Schiavo and Marco Senatore) and a pair of clowns (Larry Wayne Wilson and Daniel Passer) performing a humorous sketch involving bouncy (and not-so-bouncy) balls. Several other cast members (Jason Nious, Jeremie Robert, Michael Duffy and Tom Cholot) and musicians (Keith Paraska, and Peter Fand) wandered about the crowds as well.

Cast of Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana:
Flag Throwers – Federico Pisapia, Vincenzo Schiavo, Giuseppe Schiavo and Marco Senatore
Clowns – Daniel Passer & Larry Wayne Wilson

Next to perform was Wicked, currently playing at the Gershwin Theatre, and tells the back story of Elphaba and Galinda, who would later be known as (respectively) the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Standbys Donna Vivino and Kate Fahrner perform three songs: Donna Vivino sang “The Wizard and I”, Kate Fahrner sang “Popular” and both sang “For Good”.

Top (from left to right): Donna Vivino & Kate Fahrner
Bottom: Kate Fahrner & Donna Vivino

Next was Memphis, currently playing at the Shubert Theatre until August 5, 2012, and tells the story of Huey Calhoun, an aspiring white DJ and Felicia Farrell, an aspiring black singer in 1950s Memphis and how (to paraphrase the show’s marking tag line) his vision and her voice gave birth to rock ‘n’ roll. Ensemble members Kevin Massey and Dan’yelle Williamson perform three songs: Kevin Massey sang “Music of my Soul”, Dan’yelle Williamson, sang “Colored Woman”, and as this was be the last time the show would perform, both sang a medley of songs, which included “Steal Your Rock  ‘N’ Roll”, “Underground”, “Radio”, and “Love Will Stand When All Else Falls”.

Cast of Memphis: Kevin Massey & Dan’yelle Williamson

Next was Sister Act, currently playing at the Broadway Theatre until August 26, 2012, and is based on the movie of the same name. Standby Rashidra Scott, along with ensemble members Alena Watters, Lael Van Keuren performed two songs: “Fabulous, Baby!” and “Sister Act”.

Cast of Sister Act (from left to right): Alena Watters, Rashidra Scott & Lael Van Keuren

The final performance of the afternoon was Ghost the Musical, currently playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, and is based on the movie of the same name (and interestingly enough both Sister Act and Ghost the Musical both have Whoopi Goldberg in common).Leads Richard Fleeshman, Caissie Levy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph performed three songs: Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy sang “Here Right Now”, Richard Fleeshman sang a guitar-rich version of “Unchained Melody” (and had some initial technical difficulty with his guitar) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph sang “I’m Outta Here”.

Cast of Ghost the Musical: Richard Fleeshman, Caissie Levy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph

I don’t recall when the Broadway in Bryant Park concert series began, but it’s another great (free) way to listen and see a sample of shows that are currently on Broadway (though three of this week’s five shows are scheduled to close within the next two months)*. Sometimes upcoming shows are also included in the series, which gives those shows an opportunity to present a sample of what is to come next season. It’s also a great way to spend a lunch hour listening to great theatre actors sing great songs.

*Updated 07/24/2012 – It was announced that Ghost the Musical would be closing August 18, 2012.