Category Archives: Musical Theater

scales of justice

Can Post-COVID Broadway be a Fairer One? 

In theaters across the nation, stages are barren and the lights have gone dark for more than six months now. Coronavirus has all theater-lovers yearning for a time when the lights will shine again, the curtains will go up, and the theaters will come back to life. 

It will happen. 

But when it does happen, many theater insiders are wondering if it will be a more equitable theater industry and one that is fair to all levels of the production experience regardless of race, gender, or position.

For decades, theaters have faced inequality in regards to race, gender, and even a livable wage for some of the non-performing members of the community. According to Backstage online, “extended pause in the theater industry thanks to COVID-19 has made space for overdue conversations and examinations of the financial, racial, and production systems that have long fueled Broadway. New York City’s once-thriving theater business hopes to reopen with a renewed focus on equity.” 

musical on stage

Issues of Race

Like many industries during this coronavirus crisis, questions have come to the forefront of our minds about the racial inequalities that exist in our country. In recent months, existing groups like the Broadway Advocacy Coalition have set forth new initiatives focused on dismantling racism (and, specifically, anti-Blackness) in theater. 

Many theater members are encouraging further study of the scope and pervasiveness of anti-Blackness and racism in the American theater. BIPOC, which stands for blacks, Indigenous and people of color, are asking for ongoing anti-racism training, union production teams made up of at least 50% BIPOC individuals, and a publicly available study examining pay disparity between BIPOC and white union members. 

signs of gender

Gender Issues 

Not only do people of color have fewer opportunities in the theater industry but, so too do women. Often when they do get hired, they often are hired on lower-paying contracts. According to the Actors’ Equity Association’s first-ever diversity study, made public in 2017, men out-earn women on Broadway, and the majority of them are white. 

Pay Scale Inequities 

The closing of Broadway and theaters across the globe will inevitably bring a need for pay cuts and  tightening  the proverbial financial belt. Sadly, the reductions will not be equal. Here is a simplistic example of how pay cuts across the board would be very unbalanced. For example, let’s say someone is making $10,000 a week and someone is making $400 a week, taking 50% of both of their salaries is not a viable and equitable economic solution. In New York City, $5,000 a week is still more than livable in a way that $200 a week is not. 

“Wages should be cut in an equitable way—people who make more money can live their lives with a higher percentage of that money taken away,” he says. “The way we talk about cutting wages across the board invariably will be used to justify not giving certain workers a livable wage.” (Source: Backstage

It is important that we take this pause in theater to closely examine these issues and make adjustments that are meaningful and achievable. 

sheet music and piano keys

Get Your Theater Fix Through Streaming Services 

Are you missing the joy of going to the theater? The excitement of getting dressed up, heading into the city, and waiting for the curtains to go up has been lost the last few months. With no way to get a theater fix until 2021 theatergoers are looking elsewhere to get their theater fix. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, famous Broadway faces were known to record in tandem on Zoom and other video conferencing software to entertain in the face of the stay-at-home orders. Now that the virus has continued to spread, with no vaccine expected in the near future, theater lovers have shifted to streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Netflix to view their favorite shows. 

Broadway theater

Where Can I Find Theater Streaming? 

Word is spreading fast that Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon are offering some unique theater moments. Some television stations are even trying to prepare for potential live theater as they have done in the past. And what’s not found streaming may eventually be made into a Broadway-musical-turned-television-hit soon. 

While streaming is most certainly not the same as seeing a show in person surrounded by hundreds of other theater lovers, it will have to do for the time being. 

phone music

What’s Streaming Now? 

As of July Amazon is offering several streaming options for thespians to get their much needed theater fix. According to Playbill online, Guys and Dolls, Reefer Madness the Musical, Flower Drum Song, Hello Again, Sweeney Todd, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is currently streaming on Amazon. 

On Netflix there are several adaptations of Broadway shows that have come to life on the screen. Jersey Boys, Westside Story, and Fiddler on the Roof are top among audience choices. While these movie versions are not quite the same as seeing it live, it may be enough to hold over even the most diehard theater buff. 

We would be remiss if we did not mention the live streaming of Hamilton on Disney+ or that HBO Max is offering viewings of Chicago, Cabaret, Hairspray, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Little Shop of Horrors. Stay tuned to our blog to find what shows are coming out next and when we can expect Broadway and Off-Broadway to get back into the swing of things. 

When theaters reopen there will be much to rejoice about, but until then let’s enjoy some of the offerings from our small screen partners at Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, and HBO. 

 

popcorn in red and white striped container

The Inside Scoop on the Drama Desk Awards

Just because we have been reporting that the lights on Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters have gone dark doesn’t mean that the theater industry has dimmed its lights altogether. On June 13, 2020 the entertainment industry telecast the 65th Drama Desk Awards, which celebrates the best of Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway.

The awards, which were postponed due to COVID-19, were televised in a different format thanks to producers at NY1. Drama Desk Awards executive producer and Broadway Brands CEO, Matt Britten commented that, “Though these are challenging times, we knew we wanted to find some way to honor this year’s Drama Desk Award nominees and recipients, as well as to bring some small sense of normalcy and hope to New York’s theater community,” He went on to say, “I want to thank NY1, as well as the team at Joey Parnes Productions, for stepping up to make this happen for the New York theatre community and theatre fans everywhere. Good things happen when you work with good people.”

musical on stage

As usual, there was a large list of nominees for awards including: Outstanding Play, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Revival of a Play, Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Actors/Actresses in a Play/Musical, Outstanding Director, Choreography, Music, Lyrics, Book of a Musical, Orchestrations, Scenic Design, Costume Design, Lighting, Projections, Solo Performance, and Wig and Hair Design.

In addition to these awards, the Drama Desk honored lifetime achievements and special awards during the telecast including awards for ensemble, individual awards, and for those who have contributed their life’s work in the industry.

The awards were hosted by Frank DiLella and the pre-recorded show aired June 13 during a special presentation of NY1’s “On Stage.” It was live streamed on NY1.com and DramaDeskAwards.com. As a result of the truncated theater season, only shows that opened prior to the shutdown were eligible.

Times Square NY

The televised awards ceremony was meant to be a boost to the theater industry and shine some much needed light on the plight of those whose careers came to an abrupt end when Broadway shut down in March of this year.

For a complete list of the nominees and winners of the Drama Desk Awards check this link as published in Variety Magazine online. To follow the latest on Broadway and Off-Broadway events and a hopeful reopening by the end of the year follow our blog or our Facebook page.

Times Square NYC

Hurdles for Broadway to Bounce Back 

Have you ever heard the old adage, “The show must go on?” In the theater world this means that regardless of what happens, the performance will forge ahead. 

Often this phrase refers to continuing the show even if issues persist that could ruin a production such as: an actor forgetting their lines, lost props, lighting difficulties, audio issues, acts of nature, or any number of problems that can pop up in the middle of a performance. In most instances this phrase is a sign of the grit, determination, and positive attitude embraced by the theater community. Unfortunately, even the strength of the theater can not compete against a global pandemic. 

Chicago Musical

The Current State of Broadway 

Due to COVID-19, the 41 houses of Broadway in New York City shuttered their doors and the house lights have gone dark. Nearly two dozen New York City shows have been halted. Across the nation, similar news can be reported in major theaters and community productions. 

Not much stops theater productions from forging ahead, except for maybe a fast spreading virus that thrives in closed environments. As of mid-March most theaters across the country shut down live performances. Initially, Broadway theaters had hoped to open by April 12, 2020 only to push that date back due to the fact that New York City was the epicenter of the virus at the time. The new date was then June 7 of this year. That date has come and gone wth no opening occurring. The latest date being floated is currently September 6, 2020. 

This new Labor Day schedule has even the most optimistic of theatergoers questioning the reality of the date for opening. It’s not that patrons are not anxious to get back to their favorite form of entertainment. In fact, an industry survey conducted by Shugoll Research in early April revealed that 41 percent of NYC theatergoers are eager to return to the theaters when they are reopened. While that number may seem high there are some substantial issues that will potentially delay or stop altogether the reopening process for the “Great White Way.” 

Hamilton sign

Major Hurdles to Opening 

If theaters across the nation hope to open this year, before a vaccine is viable, there are a couple of major issues that will need to be addressed. 

Theaters are historically areas deemed to be close quarters. Chairs are lined up in close proximity in order for as many patrons to see the performance as possible. Orchestras that provide the live music are generally at the front of the theater in an orchestra pit. Actors and stage hands generally are huddled along the cramped wings of the theater until their cue is given to enter the stage. 

These conditions are not ideal for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, social distancing is a huge problem in most theater venues. 

Owners of some of the largest theaters across America are facing issues of how to keep both actors/stage hands as well as patrons socially distant during a performance. The answer may lie in spacing out the audience, creating larger prep spaces behind the curtain, and decreasing the number of performances weekly to allow for sanitation between shows. All of these solutions are costly and take quite a bit of effort. 

Another major issue that theaters are facing is one of demographics. Nearly 16% of theatergoers are over the age of 65. This is the highest risk category for the transmission and serious illness for the virus. The percentage climbs even higher if we remove tourists from the equation according to a report in MarketWatch online. 

Stay tuned as we anxiously await guidance from federal and state officials as to how our beloved theaters will tackle these issues and how we, as patrons can help. Visit our Facebook page to see more of how you can get involved. 

 

sorry we're closed sign

How We Can Help the Theater Industry 

As of March of this year, most theaters across the country closed their doors. The social distancing guidelines put forth by most state governments required that gatherings of more than just a few people would be banned. This was a devastating, but necessary blow for the theater industry in every state. 

In order to bounce back once the threat of transmission has been lowered, our favorite community theaters, summer theaters, and major metropolitan theaters will need our help. You may be wondering how you can help from the safety of your home? There are a few ways that you can get involved that can help financially and emotionally support this once thriving entertainment industry. 

open guitar case

Donate to a Fund 

One of the easiest ways that theater lovers can help support the industry from the comfort of their homes is by donating to programs specifically designed to support the industry. According to Broadway.com, the Actors Fund may be a good choice. The Actors Fund may sound like it’s just for actors, but it’s actually for anyone who works in entertainment. Its resources include mental health counseling, emergency financial assistance, and primary medical care. The tax-deductible donation will go towards helping people in the industry get back on their feet and be able to get healthcare that they may need at this time. 

Look for similar entertainment groups that help support actors and people in the industry in your region. You may be able to volunteer your time as well as make monetary contributions, depending upon the needs that your state and region has. 

Forgo Refunds 

Another way theatergoers can help is by not asking for a refund for future shows. If you had plans for this summer to see a show or two, ask for a rain check or credit so you can use the money for a show in the future instead of requesting your money back. This way you are not taking needed financial support away and you will still be able to see a show once all of this is over. 

capitol building

Contact Your State Reps 

If you have little resources and can not donate at this time, there is still some action that will only take a few minutes of your time. Call your state representative and request that those in the entertainment industry (such as those that do freelance and contract work) be eligible for medical and other relief benefits that they normally would not qualify for. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents backstage workers, has created a page that lets you send a letter to your reps telling them to provide financial relief to entertainment professionals.

 

musical production

Can You Get a Broadway Fix From Home? 

With the coronavirus keeping us all away from large gatherings like the movies, malls, and theaters, it may feel like a dismal time for thespians and musical fans. 

We’ll let you in on a little secret. You can get your Broadway fix from home! 

The theater arts world has been hit hard by the current world health crisis. In March of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with governors across the country took precautions to stop the spread of the virus by closing large gatherings like the ones we are accustomed to seeing along the famed “Great White Way”, and at movie theaters from coast-to-coast. 

broadway show

Gatherings of more than a few people have been banned and theaters have taken it a hit financially, not to mention the mental toll on theater lovers who find joy in this form of entertainment. 

Thankfully, the wonder of modern technology and the innovation of talented singers and actors has enabled many of us to enjoy the musicals and shows right from the safety of our own homes. 

The Power of Technology 

Using videoconferencing, many of our Broadway stars are entertaining patrons directly through the technologies we’ve all come to love including Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype.  For instance, on a recent John Krasinski show entitled “Some Good News,” the former “Office” actor set up a Zoom chat with a young fan named Aubrey for the show. Part way through the show he surprised her when Lin-Manuel Miranda, star of the famed Broadway show Hamilton, “crashed” the call along with a cast of characters to sing their smash hit, “Alexander Hamilton.” 

Instances of these live video chats are popping up all over the internet and surprising viewers with new and acoustic renditions of our favorite Broadway songs from musicals across all genres. 

For more viewing options through the Actors Fund on YouTube or their website

musical

Theater at Home 

If finding a Zoom conference with your favorite Broadway actors isn’t your thing, you may want to try Broadway Theater in your home. Recorded performances can be found online at BroadwayHD (a Netflix form of Broadway), Metropolitan Opera Live Streams, and some amazing one-on-one video chatting opportunities are available at Broadway Plus. Most of these options are free or at least offering free trials for those interested. 

Don’t let this brief intermission (of sorts) keep you from enjoying your favorite theater experiences. Check back with us for more updates on theater openings and opportunities. 

 

theater

Remembering Our Favorite Musical Shows 

As we discussed in our last blog, going to the theater or local playhouse is not going to be a reality anytime in the near future. Industry insiders don’t anticipate being able to open theaters for many weeks, if not months. Our world has changed, and losing our entertainment outlet is just a small fraction of the way that life has quickly shifted. 

In an effort to keep the lights on Broadway shining, at least in our hearts and minds, we thought this would be a good time to review a few of our favorite musicals and what we loved about them. 

lion drawing The Lion King 

Ranking as one of the highest grossing musicals of all time, The Lion King is a favorite of all ages. The adaptation of the Disney classic is known for its score, fantastic acting, and above all, the stunning costumes that appeal to audiences all over the country. 

Wicked

One of only a few Broadway shows to earn more than $1 billion, Wicked remains the second most successful production of all time. Based loosely on the Wizard of Oz, Wicked is a spectacular show that captures the imagination of every audience that has the privilege of seeing this masterpiece. 

Mama Mia 

One of our personal favorites is the smash Broadway hit Mama Mia. Based on the hit songs from musical group ABBA, Mama Mia ran for 14 years which ranks it as the ninth longest running performance and fourth highest earner.

revolutionary war imageHamilton

Who hasn’t heard of this musical? Hamilton has taken the country by storm and the lyrics of the songs are known by children and adults alike. According to ShowBiz online, “This unique story of our Founding Fathers is an unlikely hit for Broadway as it includes a combination of rap, R&B, hip hop, soul, and show tunes along with non-white actors portraying the main characters. Tickets are sold out for eternity, proving that a little ingenuity was just what Broadway needed.”

Broadway has brought so many of us joy, laughter, and an emotional connection to others, that it would be hard to choose just one show that was everything to everyone. We would love to hear what your favorite Broadway show or musical is and why. Drop us a line in the comments or visit our Facebook page and tell us your thoughts. 

 

mental health made with scrabble pieces

How Theater Can Improve Our Mental Health 

The world is still grappling with the global Coronavirus pandemic. Lives have been lost, businesses shuttered, and our sense of safety and security has been all but ripped away. Now, maybe more than any other time in our history, is a time to think about ways to improve our mental health. 

Being quarantined due to this virus can be a claustrophobic feeling for many, while others thrive upon the idea of not having to go anywhere or do anything. We all respond in different ways. 

Our mental health most definitely will be impacted over the next days and weeks, or even potentially months. One thing to keep in mind as we all learn what our new “normal” is about to become is that there are some outlets that can help. 

Exercise, meditation, reading, movies, and yes, theater can help improve our mental health. In no way are we condoning visiting a theater. But as we await the days when venturing out to Broadway becomes feasible again, watching televised versions will have to do. 

How can theater and other self-care activities help boost your mood? Here are a few ways… 

hands connectingA Feeling of Connectivity

At a time when we are each feeling a sense of loss of our normal lives, at least for now, it is important to connect with others. Theater, even if it is pre-recorded or the movie version of a Broadway hit, can still help us connect. It will let you know that you are not alone in this. We will all get through this, and anything else that comes our way… together. 

According to Thrive Global, “One of the chief obstacles that many individuals struggling with mental health issues often have to overcome is a sense of isolation or of being judged for their condition. Through theater, however, they can help build strong bonds with others and create a strong sense of community. “

Healthy Expression 

Theater allows us to see that emotions are ok and that expressing them is healthy and normal. Watching one of your favorite characters on stage, a screen, or on the pages of a book can help you experience emotions that maybe you couldn’t come to grips with or couldn’t put a name to. This healthy expression of emotions is crucial to maintaining positive mental health. 

heartAbility to Relate Feelings 

Theater can help individuals who are struggling psychologically and give mental health professionals a glimpse into the nature of their injuries, which can help them better understand how to heal them. Being able to relate how you are feeling to a scene, character, or play can help others understand what you are feeling inside. 

We look forward to the days ahead when theater will once again become an outlet for our emotions and we all navigate this uncharted territory. Stay safe and be well. 

 

Broadway theater

What’s Coming to Broadway This Spring?  

Are you looking forward to scoring tickets to a Broadway musical this spring? Well, you’re not alone in that aspiration. Millions of theatergoers will flood New York City and other major hubs hoping to catch their favorite musical on stage. 

This year should prove to be a banner year for musicals along the “Great White Way.” Some shows that are successfully running will still be a big draw for tourists and NYC visitors. Shows like Wicked, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson, and Mean Girls will continue to shine. Some musical newcomers and revivals may shock us all with the scenery, costumes, and amazing musical scores. 

theater

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

This revival of Edward Albee’s classic drama will star Rupert Everett, Russell Tovey, Patsy Ferran, and two-time Tony winner Laurie Metcalf, marking her fifth consecutive season on Broadway. This show will begin at the Booth Theater at the beginning of March with an official opening night slated for April 9th. 

Playbill explains that this musical explores the complexities of a marriage when, “a college professor and his wife invite a younger academic and his wife over for drinks after a late-night party, leading to an evening of sadistic games, attempted seductions and shattering revelations.”  

Mrs. Doubtfire 

Based on the movie by the same name, this musical follows the story of a recently divorced, out-of-work actor, who will do just about anything for the chance to spend some time with his children. He disguises himself as a nanny, Euphegenia Doubtfire, whose persona begins to take on a life of its own. 

The show is packed with all the hilarity you can expect from a cross-dressing, Scottish nanny who learns more than he bargained about his children and himself. 

Directed by Jerry Zaks, the musical starts performances March 9 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The official opening night is slated for April 5th. 

theater

Plaza Suite 

This marriage comedy starring real-life husband and wife Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, follows the story of three couples, all played by Broderick and Parker. This revival of the Neil Simon original follows a long, married couple seemingly doomed for a break up, high school sweethearts, and a mother and father of a bride who are ready to celebrate their daughter’s wedding, if only they could get her out of the bathroom. 

It’s been 20 long years since Parker and Broderick have been on stage together. Directed by John Benjamin Hickey, the play starts its limited run at the Hudson Theatre March 13 ahead of an April 13 opening.

What shows are you looking forward to this spring? Drop us a line in the comments to check out our Facebook page for more spring shows. 

 

theater

Hidden Lessons of Popular Musicals 

Hamilton, Mama Mia, Kinky Boots, and Wicked are just a few of the popular Broadway musicals that have graced the stage along the “Great White Way” in the last few years. These musicals are more than just a combination of fantastic dancing, singing, and plot lines. They have hidden lessons that make theatergoers think about long after they have left the hall. Here are a few of the hidden, yet important, lessons that musicals are teaching audiences. 

stage

Wicked

The life of the wicked witch of the west as told in the musical Wicked, is filled with life lessons about friendships. The strongest message is that friendships are truly everything in life. The well-developed characters explain that some friendships run so deep that they imprint upon you and can change your life for the better. The musical also shows through actions that even though friends may critique one another, the best of friends will always be your biggest fans and most staunch supporters in life. 

Another important life lesson that we could all use a reminder about is the idea that looks are not everything. Take for example the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba. Glinda isn’t keen on Elphaba at the start of the story because she was very obviously green, and Glinda’s sparkly, pink and girly sense of style really wasn’t Elphie’s cup of tea either. They eventually discover that it’s what’s inside that counts. 

These lovely life lessons are paired with incredible music, amazing scenery, and costumes that help promote it to the level of being one of the most popular musicals of the west end. 

Hamilton

Hamilton 

If you are lucky enough to score tickets to the famed Hamilton, then you will be delighted with life lessons from the moment the curtain goes up until it goes down at the end of the night. Hamilton tells the story of forgotten American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his ascent out of poverty and to power against the backdrop of the American War of Independence.

There are so many little life lessons as well as grand sweeping ones in this musical that it’s hard to know where to start. Overall, the inspirational message to audiences is that now is the time to take your shot no matter what the risks. You have but one life so take your chance and make it happen for yourself. 

Believe it or not, fans of this particular musical have written fan sites on what they learned from this production, the characters, and the public’s reaction to it. Here’s just a quick overview of what some fans say are the biggest takeaways to Hamilton. 

  • Excuses are a waste of time in life.
  • You are responsible for your own education.
  • Believe in yourself, before you expect other people to believe in you.
  • Pride can literally kill you. Be humble to be truly brilliant.
  • Sacrifice leads to greatness

Dear Evan Hanson 

Evan Hansen is the story of a young man who suffers from severe social anxiety. On the first day of senior year, he writes himself a letter as per his therapist’s recommendation. This awkward teenager craves communication and connection with others. 

He, unfortunately, assists with promoting a huge lie that hurts many people. Evan must come to the very tough realization that he needs to accept himself for who he is before others will do the same. He sings the message powerfully: “All I ever do is run so how do I step in, step into the sun?” While the lesson is one our younger selves could have benefited from, even adults can learn something about loving themselves from this hit musical. 

What hidden messages does your favorite musical promote? Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page