The Broadway Musical Blog – Musical theater news and gossip from the Great White Way

Dishing out daily (or almost daily) Broadway musical news and gossip. The companion site to The Broadway Musical Home (broadwaymusicalhome.com), a directory of Broadway musicals with the story, songs, merchandise, video clips, lyrics, tickets, rights & awards for almost 200 shows.

Archive for Fela

Hurry Up and See Some Shows…Closing Soon on Broadway…

January usually marks the ending of many a Broadway show, but this season has more than the usual number of closings. Some have celebrated long runs but a few literally just opened; either way, if you were hoping to catch any of these, get moving!


The Scottsboro Boys

Closes Dec 12
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Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Closes Jan 2
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Fela!

Closes Jan 2
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West Side Story

Closes Jan 2
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Promises, Promises

Closes Jan 2
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Elf

Closes Jan 2
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In the Heights

Closes Jan 9
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A Little Night Music

Closes Jan 9
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Next to Normal

Closes Jan 16
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Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Closes Jan 23
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And if you’re looking for gift suggestions for the Broadway musical lover in your life, be sure to check out our holiday gift guide. Happy holidays everyone!

Closings, castings, previews and the chance to become a producer

There’s been lots of news this last week. Here are the big items:

Closing Soon

West Side Story and Promises, Promises have just announced that they will close on Broadway on January 2, after playing 748 and 291 performances, respectively. West Side Story has had quite the run – an admirable revival that played to positive reviews and celebrated great attendance throughout. Promises, Promises, which opened to very poor reviews, ended up pulling in many more patrons than anyone thought after Sean Penn’s Tony Award appearance (and on-screen heterosexual kiss with his co-star, Kristin Chenoweth). The closing comes soon after announcements that Kate Finneran, who received much critical acclaim and a Tony Award for her performance in the show, would be departing the production.

Fela! will also be closing its doors on January 2, after a bit of celebrity casting in the role of Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Pop star Patti LaBelle has stepped into the role created by Lillias White and will continue until the show’s final performance in January.

Casting Announcements

Elf has now been fully cast and will star Sebastian Arcelus (Jersey Boys, Wicked, Rent) opposite Amy Spanger (Rock of Ages, The Wedding Singer) alongside an ensemble of big name stars, including: Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone, Mamma Mia!), Mark Jacoby (Sweeney Todd, Show Boat), George Wendt (“Cheers,” Hairspray), Matthew Gumley (Addams Family), Valerie Wright (Steel Pier), Michael McCormick (Curtains) and Michael Mandell (Big River).

The biggest casting excitement is over that of the star-studded Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which includes the likes of de’Adre Aziza, Laura Benanti, Danny Burstein, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Mary Beth Peil, Sherie Rene Scott and now Justin Guarini. If star power is worth anything, this show will bring in the crowds. Whether they’ll recoup with the size of the checks they’ve got to be writing for this cast is another question altogether…

As to casting changes, American Idol winner Jordan Sparks has joined the cast of In the Heights and gave a stunning rendition of “Breathe” at this year’s Broadway on Broadway. Constantine Maroulis left Broadway’s Rock of Ages to tour with the production, and has been replaced with Broadway newcomer Joey Taranto. Ryan Jesse will be stepping into the role Sebastian Arcelus is vacating in Jersey Boys on October 12, but most everyone else appears to be staying put.

Show Previews

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Elf and Priscilla Queen of the Desert all had premiere performances this last week, the first on Good Morning America and the other two at this year’s Broadway on Broadway. Check out the songs below. What do you think?

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Elf

Priscilla: Queen of the Desert

Become a Producer

And then there’s a new category of news – Ken Davenport is producing Godspell on Broadway and is inviting anyone with $1,000 to help him do so. It’s what he’s calling “the first ever community produced Broadway musical.” Shares are available at $100 a pop, with a minimum purchase of 10. For more information or to become a producer, go to www.peopleofgodspell.com.

2010 Tony Award Winners and Losers

Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of this year’s Tony Awards. Hope you had as much fun as we did! Here’s who took home the awards and who walked away empty-handed:

Best Musical
Memphis
American Idiot
Fela!
Million Dollar Quartet

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles
Kelsey Grammer, La Cage aux Folles
Sean Hayes, Promises, Promises
Chad Kimball, Memphis
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music
Kate Baldwin, Finian’s Rainbow
Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Montego Glover, Memphis
Christiane Noll, Ragtime

Best Revival of a Musical
La Cage aux Folles
Finian’s Rainbow
A Little Night Music
Ragtime

Best Choreography
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Rob Ashford, Promises, Promises
Lynne Page, La Cage aux Folles
Twyla Tharp, Come Fly Away

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet
Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family
Robin De Jesús, La Cage aux Folles
Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian’s Rainbow
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises
Barbara Cook, Sondheim on Sondheim
Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music
Karine Plantadit, Come Fly Away
Lillias White, Fela!

Best Direction of a Musical
Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles
Christopher Ashley, Memphis
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime
Bill T. Jones, Fela!

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Robert Kaplowitz, Fela!
Jonathan Deans, La Cage aux Folles
Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen, A Little Night Music
Dan Moses Schreier, Sondheim on Sondheim

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Christine Jones, American Idiot
Marina Draghici, Fela!
Derek McLane, Ragtime
Tim Shortall, La Cage aux Folles

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, American Idiot
Donald Holder, Ragtime
Nick Richings, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Wierzel, Fela!

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Marina Draghici, Fela!
Paul Tazewell, Memphis
Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles

Best Book of a Musical
Joe DiPietro, Memphis
Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, Million Dollar Quartet

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, Memphis
Andrew Lippa, The Addams Family
Adam Cork and Lucy Prebble, Enron
Branford Marsalis, Fences

Best Orchestrations
Daryl Waters & David Bryan, Memphis
Jason Carr, La Cage aux Folles
Aaron Johnson, Fela!
Jonathan Tunick, Promises, Promises

Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Alan Ayckbourn
Marian Seldes

Regional Theatre Tony Award
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Connecticut

Isabelle Stevenson Award
David Hyde Pierce

A Preview of the 2010 Tony Awards

Tune into our LIVE coverage right now!

The Tony Awards are the only awards ceremony to be telecast nationally, which converts to free publicity for the out-of-town audience that makes up the bulk of Broadway ticket sales, and thus becomes a huge predictor of future success for the nominated shows. Tony wins often allow shows to run on for years – with audiences streaming in to catch this year’s Best Musical and performances by the best actors, while the losing shows sometimes fold the next day.

But the most exciting piece for me is that viewers get a chance to see performances of the big nominated musicals (with no expenses spared) plus all of the stars we’ve come to love (with tons of Hollywood celebrities thrown in this year!) all in one night. Sean Hayes, the star of the nominated Promises, Promises, will host the ceremony, which will feature the following performances:

  • A big opening number which will include Sherie Rene Scott’s “Up the Ladder” from her show Everyday Rapture and the cast of Memphis performing “Blue Suede Shoes,” among other bits of fun
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones’ rendition of “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music
  • Performances from “Glee” stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele
  • A medley from Million Dollar Quartet
  • The title song from American Idiot, performed by the cast (and possibly Green Day)
  • Performance from the cast of Promises, Promises
  • Christiane Noll’s rendition of “Back to Before” from Ragtime
  • A medley from Memphis
  • A dance performance by the cast of Come Fly Away
  • Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge performing “The Best of Times” from La Cage aux Folles
  • A montage of songs from Fela!

Presenters for the 64th Annual Tony Awards include many stars from Hollywood, television and the stage. They are (in alphabetical order): Paula Abdul, Antonio Banderas, Justin Bartha, Patrick Breen, Laura Benanti, Cate Blanchett, Laura Bell Bundy, Michael Cerveris, Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook, Viola Davis, Michael Douglas, Kelsey Grammer, Rosemary Harris, Patrick Heusinger, Katie Holmes, Brian d’Arcy James, Scarlett Johansson, Angela Lansbury, Anthony LaPaglia, Laura Linney, Lucy Liu, Jane Maxwell, Idina Menzel, Lea Michele, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Matthew Morrison, Chris Noth, Bernadette Peters, David Hyde Pierce, Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Sanchez, Liev Schreiber, Tony Shaloub, Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Stanley Tucci, Denzel Washington and Racquel Welch.

I’ll be covering the ceremony live here on the blog, Twitter and Facebook. My coverage will start at 7 pm ET with the creative arts awards and continue until it ends late at night. Exasperated by or elated at the winners or losers? I wanna hear about it so don’t be shy about joining the conversation!

I don’t know about you, but I’m very much looking forward to this year’s Tony Awards!

Tune into our LIVE coverage right now!

The 2010 Outer Critics Circle Award Winners

The first award-winners of the season have been announced. There were a couple of big surprises, including the big win for Memphis in the Outstanding New Musical category. The committee also decided on ties for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical, Outstanding Actress in a Musical and Outstanding Choreography. What do you think of their selections?

Outstanding New Broadway Musical
Memphis

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
AND
The Scottsboro Boys

Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Memphis

Outstanding Revival of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
La Cage aux Folles

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles

Outstanding Choreographer
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
AND
Sergio Trujillo, Memphis

Outstanding Set Design (Play or Musical)
Phelim McDermott & Julian Crouch, The Addams Family

Outstanding Costume Design (Play or Musical)
Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles

Outstanding Lighting Design (Play or Musical)
Kevin Adams, American Idiot

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Montego Glover, Memphis
AND
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises

View the full list of noiminees

And Finally…The 2010 Tony Award Nominees

The nominees for the big one – the Tony Awards – were announced this morning. The only telecast ceremony of the bunch, these are the awards the average person on the street has heard of and oftentimes have a lot to do with whether a show continues its run for years or closes the next week. We will be announcing the winners live on Twitter and Facebook during the ceremony on Sunday, June 13, so be sure to follow or like us to stay posted and join the conversation. Here are the nominated musicals:

Best Musical
American Idiot
Fela!
Memphis
Million Dollar Quartet

Best Book of a Musical
Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Joe DiPietro, Memphis
Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, Million Dollar Quartet

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Andrew Lippa, The Addams Family
Adam Cork and Lucy Prebble, Enron
Branford Marsalis, Fences
Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, Memphis

Best Revival of a Musical
Finian’s Rainbow
La Cage aux Folles
A Little Night Music
Ragtime

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Kelsey Grammer, La Cage aux Folles
Sean Hayes, Promises, Promises
Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball, Memphis
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Finian’s Rainbow
Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Montego Glover, Memphis
Christiane Noll, Ragtime
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family
Robin De Jesús, La Cage aux Folles
Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian’s Rainbow
Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Barbara Cook, Sondheim on Sondheim
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music
Karine Plantadit, Come Fly Away
Lillias White, Fela!

Best Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Memphis
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime
Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles
Bill T. Jones, Fela!

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Promises, Promises
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Lynne Page, La Cage aux Folles
Twyla Tharp, Come Fly Away

Best Orchestrations
Jason Carr, La Cage aux Folles
Aaron Johnson, Fela!
Jonathan Tunick, Promises, Promises
Daryl Waters & David Bryan, Memphis

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Marina Draghici, Fela!
Christine Jones, American Idiot
Derek McLane, Ragtime
Tim Shortall, La Cage aux Folles

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Marina Draghici, Fela!
Paul Tazewell, Memphis
Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles
Santo Loquasto, Ragtime (Why was this nominee removed?)

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, American Idiot
Donald Holder, Ragtime
Nick Richings, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Wierzel, Fela!

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Jonathan Deans, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Kaplowitz, Fela!
Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen, A Little Night Music
Dan Moses Schreier, Sondheim on Sondheim

2010 Outer Critics Circle Nominations

Yesterday, Hunter and Sutton Foster announced the nominees for the 60th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards, which honor the best in Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre. Winners will be announced on May 27 here on the blog. Here are this year’s musical theater nominees:

Outstanding New Broadway Musical
American Idiot
Come Fly Away
Fela!
Memphis
Sondheim on Sondheim

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
The Scottsboro Boys
Tin Pan Alley Rag
Yank!

Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Memphis
The Scottsboro Boys
Yank!

Outstanding Revival of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
La Cage aux Folles
Finian’s Rainbow
A Little Night Music
Promises, Promises

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Memphis
Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys
Alex Timbers, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Outstanding Choreographer
Rob Ashford, Promises, Promises
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys
Sergio Trujillo, Memphis

Outstanding Set Design (Play or Musical)
John Lee Beatty, The Royal Family
Beowulf Boritt, Sondheim on Sondheim
Phelim McDermott & Julian Crouch, The Addams Family
Donyale Werle, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Outstanding Costume Design (Play or Musical)
Jane Greenwood, Present Laughter
Martin Pakledinaz, Lend Me a Tenor
Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles
Catherine Zuber, The Royal Family

Outstanding Lighting Design (Play or Musical)
Kevin Adams, American Idiot
Kevin Adams, The Scottsboro Boys
Ken Billington, Sondheim on Sondheim
Justin Townsend, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Brandon Victor Dixon, The Scottsboro Boys
Sean Hayes, Promises, Promises
Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball, Memphis
Nathan Lane, The Addams Family

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Finian’s Rainbow
Barbara Cook, Sondheim on Sondheim
Montego Glover, Memphis
Bebe Neuwirth, The Addams Family
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family
Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian’s Rainbow
Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet
Dick Latessa, Promises, Promises
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Carolee Carmello, The Addams Family
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music
Cass Morgan, Memphis
Terri White, Finian’s Rainbow

Why “Fela!” is Such a Winnah! (A guest blog from Broadway & Me)

Every Broadway show is a crapshoot. No one knows for sure what audiences will like and what they won’t.  Still, the odds seemed higher than usual against the new musical Fela! Its score—a throbbing mix of jazz, funk and traditional African rhythms known as Afrobeat—is as far away from the show tune as Lagos is from Long Island. Its book—the life story of the controversial Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti—isn’t the usual Broadway fare either.  And there are no celebrity names in the cast. But Fela! has turned out to be a winner.

You can tell that by the fact that it’s selling out about 95% of its seats while shows that seemed surer bets have been closing left and right. Or by the way the audience members literally dance in the aisles at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where the show seems likely to enjoy a good run. Or by the smile that spread across the face of my niece Jennifer, who is only 30 but has been going to Broadway shows for over 25 years and is as jaded as they come. As the show ended, Jennifer turned to me with a grin. “Yeah, yeah,” she said, nodding her head and pumping her fists in time to the music as she echoed Fela’s trademark exclamation of approval.

For despite its potentially downer subject matter (Fela is jailed, his wives—he was married to as many as 12 of them at a time in real life—tortured, his mom, their country’s leading feminist, is killed) Fela! may be the feel-good show of the season. The music, performed by the Brooklyn-based Afrobeat band Antibalas, is infectiously joyous, the dancing is amazing (a BIG shoutout to the tireless troupe of hip-shaking dancers), many of the jokes provoke belly laughs and the show plays into the fascination with Africa that is currently influencing fashion and art (click here to read a New York Times story about the trend).

I first saw Fela! when it played at the 37 Arts Theatre in the fall of 2008 and was wowed by it even though, at three hours, the show was waaaaay too long and its story more than a bit confusing. The credit for its now streamlined success has to go to Bill T. Jones, the Tony-winning choreographer for Spring Awakening, who not only conceived, directed and choreographed Fela! but hired Lillias White to sing the hell out of the songs given to Fela’s mother and persuaded the rapper-mogul Jay-Z and the movie star-moguls Will and Jada Pinkett Smith to invest in the show and lend their names to it as over-the-title producers. Jones has also promoted the show relentlessly (click just about anywhere on the internet, TV or radio to read or hear him give his spiel or click here ).

What I most loved when I saw the show at 37 Arts was the star-making performance by Sahr Ngaujah as Fela. As I said in my review back then (click here to read what I said) I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. Fela sings, dances and narrates the entire show (no one else even speaks). It’s an exhausting job. So Ngaujah now shares the role with Kevin Mambo. My heart sank when I saw the insert announcing that Mambo was playing the part the night Jennifer and I attended the show. But while it’s true that Mambo may not have Ngaujah’s charisma, he’s no slouch either.

The man sitting across the aisle from me rushed in just before the show began.  He carried an expensive-looking brief case and wore an expensive-looking suit. I took him to be a lawyer or a lower-level, not-getting-quite-a-billion-dollars-bonus investment banker. He boogied at every opportunity (there are moments when the audience is invited to stand up and dance along) and even snuck in a few extra wiggles while in his seat. I wager that if you could find him and ask him, he’d say that Fela! offers as good a bet as they come, a fine return on your ticket-price investment.

Broadway & Me: news and reviews from a theater lover with a point of view.

Closing, opening, cast albums, casting and more in a huge Broadway news round-up

A lot has been happening on Broadway these last few weeks. Here are the biggest of the announcements:

Closing soon

Bye Bye Birdie has offically announced that it will play its final performance on Jan 24. Though technically an extension of its limited run, many had expected this expensive production to run much longer, and producers are definitely walking away with losses.

RUMOR: Michael Riedel of the New York Post is saying things aren’t looking good for Broadway’s Ragtime: “Officially, the producers say, ‘there are no plans to close at this time.’ Unofficially, it’s likely to close Jan. 3 at a total loss, several production sources say.”

Though not Broadway, this one is a big blow for NYC theatre. Altar Boyz, the longest running Off-Broadway musical to open in more than a decade (the 9th longest of all time), will play its final performance at New World Stages on Sunday, January 10th at 7:30 PM.

Opening soon

Million Dollar Quartet will officially begin previews at the Nederlander Theatre on March 13, 2010 and open on April 11, 2010. The Broadway production will be independent of the Chicago company, which will continue there. Broadway casting has not yet been announced.

All About Me, which had announced an opening in a few months at the John Golden Theatre, will instead take over Henry Miller’s Theatre now that Bye Bye Birdie is vacating.

Producer Ken Davenport has announced that Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell, which had been scheduled to begin previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in September 2008, is now aiming for a Broadway bow during the 2010-11 season. The revival will be directed by Daniel Goldstein. No casting has yet been announced.

Cast albums

PS Classics and Nonesuch will team to release the new Broadway cast album of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. The cast of the Trevor Nunn-directed revival will record the album Jan. 4, 2010. No release date has yet been announced.

The cast album for the Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow will be available on Feb. 2, 2010 (though the disc will be at the St. James Theatre three weeks before that). The new Broadway cast album will be produced by PS Classics.

Broadway’s Memphis has recorded a cast album with Delray Records. The national release will be announced shortly, but in the meantime fans may purchase it at the Shubert Theatre where the musical opened in October.

Broadway casting announcements

Corbin Bleu of High School Musical fame is going to play the role of Usnavi in In the Heights starting January 25th. Regarding the casting (which has met with a lot of nay-saying online), Lin-Manuel Miranda had this to say:

Javi is amazing. Jon Rua is too.
Michael Balderrama makes the drama ring true.
They’re big footsteps; I wrote a really big shoe.
This one is Lin-approved: Mr. Corbin Bleu.

Producers have announced that the Broadway production of Sondheim on Sondheim, opening April 22, will star Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, Tom Wopat, Leslie Kritzer, Norm Lewis, Euan Morton and Matthew Scott.

Kelsey Grammer has signed on to star in the Broadway musical La Cage Aux Folles, as Georges. He will star alongside Douglas Hodge, who will continue in the role of Albin, the drag queen star, which he played to critical acclaim in London. The revival opens on April 18, 2010 at the Longacre Theatre.

Matt Cavenaugh will play his last performance as Tony in West Side Story on Dec. 13. His understudy Matthew Hydzik will resume the role on Dec. 15.

Broadway’s Mary Poppins welcomes Valerie Boyle to the role of household cook Mrs. Brill Dec. 4 and Tony nominee Jonathan Freeman to the company on Dec. 12 at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams will join the musical Chicago on Broadway starting Feb. 8. Williams is slated to star as Roxie Hart in the production until mid-April.

Grammy-nominated cast albums

The Grammy Award nominations were announced, and the Best Musical Show Album contained nominations for Ain’t Misbehavin’, Hair, 9 to 5, Shrek and West Side Story.

Wicked sets a new record

Wicked hit a major milestone Thanksgiving weekend, becoming the first Broadway production to report sales of more than $2 million for a single week.

Musicals on the Silver Screen

Variety is reporting that “Shakespeare in Love” director John Madden is in talks to direct the film version of My Fair Lady with a screenplay by Emma Thompson. Keira Knightly and Daniel Craig have been rumored to star in the Cameron Mackintosh and Duncan Kenworthy produced movie musical.

Tony Award-winning actress Donna Murphy (Passion, The King and I) has joined the cast of the new Disney animated musical Rapunzel. Murphy will voice the role of the witch, alongside Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken will compose and Byron Howard and Nathan Greno will direct.

Amateur rights available

Rights for the 2008 Tony Award winner for best musical, In the Heights, are now available through R&H Theatricals. For more information or to license the show, click here.

Musicals on Time’s Top Ten of Everything list

Time Magazine unveiled its “The Top 10 Everything of 2009,” rating news, entertainment, pop culture and more. Ragtime, Finian’s Rainbow and Fela! all appeared on the “Top 10 Plays and Musicals” list and Marion Cotillard on the “Top 10 Movie Performances” list for her turn in the film version of Nine.

New equity leadership

Actors’ Equity Association announced Dec. 11 that Mark S. Zimmerman has resigned as president, effective immediately. Equity’s vice president Paige Price will now carry out the duties of the president until a new president is elected.

Touring soon

Dreamgirls concludes its Harlem run Dec. 12 prior to embarking on a national tour. The production, starring Moya Angela, Syesha Mercado, Adrienne Warren, Margaret Hoffman, Chaz Lamar Shepherd, Chester Gregory, Trevon Davis and Milton Craig Nealy was directed by Robert Longbottom (Side Show, Flower Drum Song, Bye Bye Birdie), who co-choreographed with Emmy-nominated hip-hop artist Shane Sparks.


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The Reviews for Fela! are In …

Fela! opened on Broadway to fairly positive reviews yesterday, the show’s producers, Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, have brought some name recognition to a largely unknown and lively group of artists, most of whom transferred over from the Off-Broadway version of the show.

The critics all agree that Fela! offers up something new – though whether those audiences will love the offering or not is up for debate. Here’s what they said:

NEW YORK TIMES

Anyone who worried that Bill T. Jones’s singular, sensational show might lose its mojo in transferring to Broadway can relax. True, this kinetic portrait of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a Nigerian revolutionary of song, has taken on some starry producers — including Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — and shed 15 or 20 minutes since it was staged Off Broadway last year. But it has also acquired greater focus, clarity and intensity. In a season dominated by musical retreads and revivals, “Fela!,” which stars the excellent Sahr Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo (alternating in the title role), throbs with a stirring newness that is not to be confused with novelty. Read the full review.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The political messages do not detract from the terrific work by the cast, the overriding musicality and outstandingly sensuous dance performances. “Fela!” is a unique Broadway experience that leaves the audience on their feet and wanting more. Read the full review.

USA TODAY

Fela!‘s choreography is … livelier and more sophisticated. Executed by a dynamic cast, it’s the perfect companion to Kuti’s supple tunes and pulsing grooves, served with virtuosity by a band conducted by Antibalas’ Aaron Johnson. Delivering exuberant storytelling through song and dance, Fela! achieves something closer to the essence of great musicals than many more conventional shows have of late. Read the full review.

VARIETY

Will the average Broadway matinee lady be comfortable participating in a practical demonstration of how to tell time with her ass? That’s exactly what takes place in “The Clock,” a particularly frisky sequence of “Fela!” in which the entire audience is on its feet learning from the able-bodied dance corps what Swiss-movement booty work is all about. And it’s just one of countless ways in which Bill T. Jones’ wildly loose-limbed journey into the throbbing heart of Afrobeat breaks bold new ground in musical theater. Read the full review.

TALKIN’ BROADWAY

The Shrine may have gotten a lot bigger, but the religion of Fela! has not grown less electrifying. Just over a year after Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis’s musical about Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti had its cramped premiere Off-Broadway at 37 Arts, it’s now blasted into the Eugene O’Neill, where its creators – and its superstar producing team, which includes Jay-Z, Will Smith, and Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith – are intent on proving that a bigger hall is just as apt a venue for its political-party aesthetic. They got it half right. Read the full review.

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