Hamburger Helper

To understand Richard Hamburger's role as artistic director of Dallas Theater Center, one needs to follow the path of how he got there. He is only the fourth permanent artistic director in DTCs 42+ year history (its first production was in December 1959).  Hamburger stepped into some formidable shoes and a powerful legacy when he assumed the post in 1992.

Sing, Sang, Sung

Two eras came to an end over the Labor Day weekend, and, by coincidence, they were related to each other. Firstly, when Lionel Hampton died at age 94, it marked a finality to the swing-era generation. Benny Goodman was the King of Swing, and Hampton was the last surviving member of the landmark Goodman quartet that not only set new standards in jazz but also integrated the pop music industry.

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

You've seen him as Captain Hook in the Peter Pan revival, or as Growltiger/Asparagus in Cats (Tony nomination, Best Featured Actor in a Musical) or the NYSF production of  The Pirates of Penzance.  In fact, Stephen Mo Hanan's credits roll on and on. He's known as a singer/actor's singer/actor. Now you can add writer to his credits. And star turn. His Al Jolson in the York Theater Company's world premiere of Jolson & Co., which he co-wrote with director Jay Berkow) is a showstopper.

Ed Harris Is Taking Sides

Ed Harris' popularity in such movie blockbusters as last summer's "The Rock" and 1995's "Apollo 13" (Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor) has kept him busy in front of and, as producer, behind the camera.  But he yearned to return to the stage, where he had triumphs on and off Broadway.  However, on his first read of Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood (1982 Tony-nomination for The Dresser), Harris felt his character, American army Major Steve Arnold, was too cut and dried.  Arnold is assigned to the American sector of 1946 occupied Berlin to investigate symphony conductor Wi

The Belle Returns To Amherst

Julie Harris, in the midst of a revival tour of her 1976 hit, The Belle of Amherst, says these are her farewell performances of the play.  She's not retiring from the stage - just retiring the role. "I'm 75 years old," she says, "and the character I'm playing [poet Emily Dickinson] is 55. I'm getting too old. When I started the play I was just 50."

It's Far From `All Over' for Rosemary Harris

The place is Afghanistan 1934, the northwest frontier territory, what was once a part of India. Upon a makeshift, stage a family-staged theatrical is in progress. The seductive "Dance of the Seven Veils" is reaching its climax (i.e., Princess Salome's seventh veil is about to drop). Standing in the wings, Queen Herodias gets her cue. In high dudgeon, she makes her grand entrance. "I had no words to speak, but I put my nose in the air, kicked my train and made my way slowly across the stage, looking with disgust at the King and Salome, and made my exit.

Hart For Hart

The National Arts Club Fourth Annual masked Red Ball last week honored stage, screen and concert legend Kitty Carlisle Hart. On hand to pay tribute in song were Tammy Grimes, Lee Roy Reams, K.T. Sullivan, Mary Bond Davis (Hairspray), Marni Nixon and cabaret artist Anna Bergman.

The indefatigable Miss Hart is 95 and a legendary star of operetta, stage and film ("A Night At the Opera") and a New York society doyenne. She's the widow of prodigious Broadway producer/director, playwright and best-selling author Moss Hart, who died in 1961.

Remembering Kitty Carlisle Hart

A lot of memories have surfaced in the last two days about the incredible life of Kitty Carlisle Hart.

Kitty Carlisle Hart - by Those Closest To Her

The death of singer, actress, arts champion and philanthropist Kitty Carlisle Hart on April

Taken to Hart: Richard Rodgers' Other Genius Partner

An anomaly struck me the other day as I was sitting at the Richard Rodgers 100th birthday party in New York.

The Centering Force

A teacher came to a small town in Kansas where there was no theater. She read some prose and poetry written by an Afro-Asian girl, not yet a teenager, and who has never seen or read a play. "You should write a play. Your style is quite visual," she tell the teen.

Debra Hatchett: Anatomically Theatrical

Debra Hatchett was recently appointed the Managing Director of the Bailiwick Arts Center, replacing Patrizia Acerra, after her departure a few months ago.  I took the opportunity to ask Debra a few questions about her work in the theater and the visual arts, as well as the way she combines both with her traveling concept gallery, "Anatomically Correct."

Getting Into Havard

For 19 years, Bernard Havard has been the top gun -- Producing Artistic Director -- at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theater, the oldest continually-operating theater in the United States. He took this venerable house and turned it into a producing organization with the largest subscription base of any theater in the country. In a tight economy, his company has been prospering. Other regional companies envy the Walnut's scope and affluence. (This is a company that even has its own branded Platinum Plus credit card.)

The Gods Love Heather Headley

Heather Headley, who won the 2000 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical for her title role in Aida, had a ready answer when people in her native Trinidad asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She giggles, "The answer was simple. I wanted to sing for thousands of people."

Ready for Heredia

When Wilson Jermaine Heredia auditioned for Jonathan Larson's Rent, 1996's Tony-winning Best Musical, he was a seasoned modern dancer with parts in two Off-Broadway shows.  When he got the role of his lifetime, being a cross-country runner since high school prepared him for the demanding physical exertion.  However, nothing prepared him for his Broadway debut in the season's hottest property, or the acclaim for his portrayal of Angel, the street musician and drag queen dying of AIDS.

Jerry Herman: From Architecture to Art

One of the highlights of the June 11-16, 2002 American Theater Critics Association conference in Chicago was a lunchtime Q & A with composer Jerry Herman at the new Goodman Theater. Herman, born in Manhattan, now makes his home in L.A. "because I wanted to wake up every morning and see something green; I just wanted the climate and beauty Southern California offers."

Mr. Spectacular

I first met and talked with Jerry Herman when a revival of his most personal musical, La Cage Aux Folles, opened at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theater in 2000. We did a question-and-answer feature for City Paper then, and I've continued talking with him, developing this longer piece for TotalTheater.

The Best Of Times Is Now

For years Jerry Herman has been the Broadway composer whipping boy -- those dumping on him forgetting the countless pleasures his Broadway musicals have brought and continue to bring to millions (probably including them). But Herman, remote and shy, never possessed a winning personality and is the interview from hell. Getting him to answer questions with something other than a Yes or No was like pulling teeth. Or should I say WAS.

Redefining Design

Riccardo Hernandez hates scenery. Even the mere utterance of the word makes his flesh crawl.  There is just one catch: He is a Tony-nominated set designer (Parade) who has made a successful living at it since his 1992 graduation from the industry-venerated Yale School of Drama. Paradox or perversity? Not according to the 33-year old Argentinean-born Hernandez, who has transmuted his aversion into a style that has brought him a legion of assignments (Bring in `Da Noise, Bring in `Da Funk, The Tempest with Patrick Stewart) other designers would pulverize a million flats for.

Al Hirschfeld's Enduring Theatrical Legacy

His "show" has been Broadway's longest extended run, pleasing audiences from New York to Des Moines and beyond for 77 years. His works have had the largest "draw" in theatrical history. The artist is no ordinary song and dance man, but Al Hirschfeld, whose witty, slightly caustic, warmly celebratory, right-on-the-mark caricatures have been pleasing audiences since 1925. From the pages of The New York Times, Mr. Hirschfeld went on to grace Playbill covers, show logos and book covers.

We Don't Know Jack

Curtain up, light the lights, wrote Stephen Sondheim in Gypsy's showstopping "Everything's Coming Up Roses." "You got nothing to hit but the heights." In fact, in theater, the journey to the heights is fraught with trials, tribulations and reversals of fortune.

Voila Voila

Hot off the front pages -- well, at least the Arts pages -- comes the idea for Michael Hollinger's new play, Opus, presented at Philadelphia's Arden Theater. The real-life Audubon String Quartet dismissed its first violinist because of incompatibility. The man sued and won, as the judge apparently felt that all decisions in a string quartet must be reached unanimously. The remaining colleagues were forced to give up their name and forfeit their valuable instruments. Those three players are devastated emotionally and financially.

A Milestone for Celeste Holm

Academy Award winner and Theater Hall of Fame inductee Celeste Holm turns 90 on April 29, 2007, and the occasion will be celebrated at a star-studded, invitation-only event in a Times Square eatery.

Grey Gardens producer Michael Alden (who was a producer on the Drama Desk-nominated Bat Boy) is the host. Among those scheduled to appear are Angela Lansbury, Marian Seldes, Christine Ebersol, Elaine Stritch and Michael Feinstein; and old friends Governor Mario Cuomo and his wife Matilda, and Walter Cronkite.

Playwrights on Playwriting

At Louisville's Actors Theater for its 2002 Humana Festival, various playwrights represented in the repertory or attending the festivities chatted about the craft of playwriting. Prolific dramatist Mario Fratti asserted, "Yes, playwriting can be taught. I am a teacher of playwriting. But sometimes it is impossible. In America they start with great ideas, but they never know how to end the play, so I specialize in giving students structure. Structure is acutely important. Write the ending first - that is the sign of a good playwright. There's a lot of freedom in going there.

The Iis Have It

Naomi Iizuka, 38, is no stranger to the Humana Festival of New American Plays, held each year in Louisville, KY. She has had four of her works produced here in the past eight years. Her most recent piece, At the Vanishing Point, was part of the 28th Humana Festival in April 2004.

A Half-Century in Theater

George S. Irving, the Tony Award-winning scene-stealer, sits in his dressing room at the Paper Mill Playhouse, where he's been appearing as King Pellinore and Merlyn in Camelot, and reflects on his 50-plus years as an actor. "When I came to New York, an energetic 19 from Springfield, Massachusetts," says Irving, "Broadway had legendary glamour. The biggest change in the business is that the great composers are gone -- Berlin, Rodgers and Hart and Hammerstein, the Gerhswins, Porter, Loesser. Every year one or the other had a new show. They were giants!"

Bon Giorno, Italia!

Given the rich indigenous theatrical tradition in Naples, it might come as a surprise that there is also a vibrant atmosphere of innovation, with two active experimental companies.

Elton John Sings Out and Speaks Out

Sir Elton John, pop star extraordinaire, in town for the premiere of his new musical Aida, written with Sir Tim Rice, was doing all he could to promote the show. "It's one of the things I'm proudest of in my life," he said.

Cherry Jones - A Retrospective

Having just won her second Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Actress (after numerous nominations, it will come as no surprise to hear that Cherry Jones soars in John Patrick Shanley's blistering, 2005 Pulitizer Prize, Tony and Drama Desk-winning Doubt...A Parable.
She wouldn't necessarily agree with this assessment, but where many people, even a sizeable share of New York theatergoers, used to ask "Cherry Jones?", now they don't.

Thurgood in Westport

There has been a palpable air of excitement in Fairfield County from the moment it was announced that James Earl Jones would appear at the Westport Country Playhouse in a new one-man play about Thurgood Marshall, the late great Supreme Court Justice. Mr. Jones, a two-time Tony and Outer Critics winner for The Great White Hope and Fences, winner of an Emmy and a Golden Globe, and recipient of a prestigious Kennedy Honor, is an actor of true gravitas; the man he is portraying is a man of distinction. It is would seem to be a perfect pairing.

Shade Back in the Spotlight

When The Fantasticks was on its way to becoming a solid Off-Broadway hit, composers Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt were dangled a carrot of another kind: Broadway.

N. Richard Nash wanted to do a musical adaptation of his romantic comedy, The Rainmaker, about a lonely farm girl reaching spinsterhood and yearning for love – which had been a 1952 TV special, a 1954 Broadway play starring Geraldine Page and Darren McGavin, and a 1956 film with Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster.

Dream On

<I>Dreamgirls</I> is the quintessential show about black singing groups in the Motown era, but the composer, Henry Krieger, is white and Jewish. He doesn't apologize for that: <BR>"You know, the Middle East and Israel are right next to Africa," he jokes. "As a Jewish boy in Ossining and Harrison and White Plains, New York, I grew up listening to Aretha and the Drifters and other black singers. Lots of white people were buying Motown records. We're from the same tribe.

Michael Kunze: The Sondheim and Lloyd Webber of Europe

For someone who became a lawyer and wasn't the least bit interested in music or writing for theater, Michael Kunze made one of the most remarkable and successful turnarounds in the history of show business writing. Now, after countless European hits, he finally makes his Broadway debut with <i>Dance of the Vampires</i>, based on the Roman Polanski film spoof, "The Fearless Vampire Killers..., for which he originally wrote book and lyrics with composer Jim Steinman for the acclaimed premiere production in Vienna in 1997. <p>Things are more than a bit different here.

Have Yourself a Very Barbra Christmas

Over the course of her career, Barbra Streisand has made some very odd choices of songs to record, from "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?" to "Guava Jelly." That said, the diva's first Christmas album -- released some 40 years ago -- still ranks as the strangest item in her discography. Sure, she sounds at home in such secular numbers as Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song," and her custom-tailored version of "Jingle Bells" is lots of fun.

Michael John LaChiusa: What Makes Him Tick

Michael John LaChiusa is the first songwriter of our era to have two of his shows debut on Broadway in the same season.

Nancy LaMott: Still Here

When singer Nancy LaMott died at age 44 on December 13, 1995, music lovers lamented the loss of an excellent performer in her prime.  A smaller circle of people realized there was an even greater tragedy, knowing that LaMott had just recently overcome a long bout with another crippling disease that made her success as a performer even more remarkable.

The Life of Larson

Jonathan Larson is mostly remembered for his untimely death and for his creation, <I>Rent.</I> But the posthumous Off-Broadway premiere and theáRCA recording of his earlier show, <I>tick...tick...Boom!</I> prompts a look at his life rather than his death, and a look at his earlier compositions.<P> Larson wrote the autobiographical <I>tick...tick...Boom!</I> In 1989, when he was on the verge of turning 30, and developed it over the next four years.

What (Theater) Happens in Vegas

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is the slogan used by the fast-growing Nevada city. It implies sin and secrecy as it brings ever-increasing numbers of visitors. This report will violate the town slogan and tell what actually happens in Vegas. To East Coast Americans, some of it is surprising.