Unfairly Maligned: The Glory Years and Beyond for Philadelphia's Academy of Music

In the summer of 2003 Philadelphia's Academy of Music became a venue for touring musicals. Extensive renovations modernized one of the nation's oldest concert halls, and a Broadway-style sound system was installed in a building once known for its pristine acoustics.

Publicists tell us that the Academy is entering a great new era where it will be home to theater, opera and ballet, and they remind us that this is a return to the original plan. That's true, but only on a technicality, because the Academy was designed before the proliferation of American symphony orchestras.

Listening for Voices in the Dark

Thrillers are the hardest genre to write, even harder than musical comedy," says playwright John Pielmeier. "It's all about the domino effect, and if one domino falls, you have to go back and fix everything."

Could this be the reason why it took almost four years between the world premiere of Pielmeier's play, Voices in the Dark, at Seattle's Contemporary Theater, and the play's second production at the George Street Playhouse?

A Man, A Plan, A Plano

When Mark Fleischer became artistic director of Plano Repertory Theater in 1993, it was an all-volunteer community theater. As a graduate of Plano Senior High School in 1987 and Austin College in Sherman, Texas in 1991, and with a stint as intern at Dallas Theater Center in 1988 under the direction of Adrian Hall, Fleischer was recruited to take the reins at Plano Rep. In nine years he has taken the theater to the status of an SPT-Level 4 (Small Professional Theater) organization.

The Long Dance of Polanski's Vampires to Broadway

Tanz der Vampires or Dance of the Vampires premiered in October 1997 at Vienna's 1,000-seat Raimund Theatre. A $4-million spectacle, this musical spoof proved unlike anything Vienna had seen. Adapted from Roman Polanski's 1967 film, "The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck," (in which the director co-starred with his late wife, Sharon Tate), the show was the closest any home-grown stage show had come to "Broadway" or "West End."

The Hero of Q.E.D.

Who is this guy Alan Alda is playing? Who is the hero of Alda's virtually one-man show, Q.E.D., playing at Lincoln Center til mid-December?
Physicist Richard Feynman, who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 and was profiled on a PBS Nova program as "the finest mind since Einstein."

A Christmas Present From Tony Randall

Audiences, young and old, absolutely adore him. A sentiment he quickly credits to his years starring opposite Jack Klugman, still a close friend, in TV's "The Odd Couple." So how does one of theater's most loved actors end up starring (at the Theater at Madison Square Garden) as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol? "I have to pay the rent!" laughs Tony Randall. Actually, he means the theater rent and actors and directors' salaries for his "first love," the National Actor's Theater, which this spring will revive The Gin Game.

Saluting Scofield

If you ask the British public who the foremost actors of the
20th century were, you will likely get the names of Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph
Richardson, Sir Laurence Olivier (later Lord Olivier), and Sir Alec Guinness.
You are not likely to hear the name of Paul Scofield, who died last week of
leukemia at the age of 86.

Enter The Super Woman: An Interview with Dana Reeve

Dana Morosini Reeve is on her lunch break during rehearsals for Enter the Guardsman. Possibly because she is feeling the effects of a slight cold, Reeve suggests we have our chat on a bench outside the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theater, where the grassy expanses and winding paths are sun-drenched and comforting. Reeve is cast in the leading female role of the "Actress" in the American premiere of the musical based on the early 20th century boulevard comedy, The Guardsman, by Ferenc Molnar.

Chita Keeps Movin'

I don't know why Chita Rivera and I got on the subject of fate and the "what if" principal before her rehearsal of Venecia, the play by Argentinean Jorge Accame that Arthur Laurents has adapted and is also directing for its American premiere at the George Street Playhouse (previewing Feb. 10, opening Feb. 14, 2001). Perhaps an aura of fate still lingered in the air George Street from last season's premiere of Anne Meara's Down The Garden Paths, in which we saw how the lives of its characters would be different if....

Chita Rivera: Nine Lives and Counting

Chita's hot!

When many stars her age are sitting by the phone waiting for that call from their agent, Chita Rivera is in top form on Broadway, dancing an erotic tango with Antonio Banderas in the hit Roundabout Theater Company revival of Nine. And, now hear this: she's about to embark on a daring new musical by Kander and Ebb, The Visit, set to open in January 2004 at New York's Public Theater.

Chita Rivera: Visiting in Chicago

On September 11, 2001 as the terrorist events unfolded in New York, Chita Rivera and company were already at Chicago's Goodman Theater, deep in rehearsals. "We couldn't believe what we heard," says Rivera. "The horrible thing was that I was so far from my family. Lisa (Mordente), my daughter (from her marriage to Tony Mordente, Action in the film adaptation of West Side Story), is living in California, but my brothers, sisters and friends were in New York.

Roz Ryan Keeps Delivering The Old Razzle Dazze

Roz Ryan has a spectacular vocal magic. When combined with her quick wit, boisterous laugh and saucy sassiness, you get quite a package. The evidence is onstage at the Ambassador Theatre, where she's playing Matron "Mama" Morton in Kander/Ebb and Fosse's long-running Chicago revival. In addition to stopping the show with her renditions of "When You're Good To Mama" and "Class," Ryan says she's "right at home and having one helluva good time."

Pages From A Miss Saigon Chronicle

If she was nervous on the eve of making her debut in what may have been the biggest musical of all time on the
West End, Lea Salonga didn't show it. Nor did she quake when it came to Broadway. In fact, a semi-old pro at theater from the
Philippines
, Lea seemed unfazed by all the pre-production hype and technical activity swirling around her.

Tony-Winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson Directs a Wilson Classic

Ruben Santiago-Hudson is laughing. He's calling himself a "doting father," referring to the fact that he's directing August Wilson's Seven Guitars, the revival of which is kicking off the Signature Theater Company's season of Wilson plays.

New Theater to "Honor" Sarasota

Sarasota Actor's Workshop, a new company of actors honing their craft, begin group explorations in October 2004 at the JABU Center, a Sarasota gallery. Six plays on the theme of honor will be staged in the round on three successive weekends, starting October 1-3.

The Many Weills of Helen Schneider

When thinking of the music of Kurt Weill during his centennial year of 2000, the name of Helen Schneider naturally comes to mind. The American singer-actress has performed even more frequently in Weill's country of birth, Germany, than in the USA, and she is closely identified with Weill's work. In fact, she headlined at the Dessau Festival in Weill's home town during the centennial celebration in August 2000. In October and November she's starring in a double bill of Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel and Seven Deadly Sinsin Vienna.

May the Schwartz Be With Us

Two themes run repeatedly through the songs of Stephen Schwartz. One is magic, the other is family.

Stephen Schwartz has continually, and pointedly, written about parent-child relationships. Think about Pippin and his father, Charlemagne, in Pippin. Geppetto and his puppet-son, Pinocchio, in the TV musical "Geppetto." Judge Frollo, the surrogate father of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Marian Seldes -- First Lady?

In a note in the program of his play, Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams, Terrence McNally writes that the work was completed in 2002. The other night, following a preview performance, he said he didn't write the role of wealthy matron Annabelle Willard with a particular actress in mind. "But now that I've seen Marian Seldes in the part," he said, "I can't imagine anyone else in the role." He went on to say that he wasn't smart enough to see her in the role until director Scott Ellis suggested the part had her name written all over it.

Danny Burstein on the Wall

 I've known Danny Burstein since he was 15 or 16, when he played Og the leprechaun in an amateur production of Finian's Rainbow as I ran the follow spot. I'd be lying if I told you that I jumped up and shouted, "That kid is going to be a star!" But I sure could see that Danny was exceptionally talented -- and I would have probably bet that, with any luck at all, he'd have a fine career as a professional actor.

Selyabration

When you see Movin' Out, Broadway's dance musical built around Billy Joel tunes that enters its third year Tuesday, you might think John Selya is superhuman. He soars through the air faster than a speeding bullet and does dizzying, whirling-dervish spins, suspending audiences in a state of disbelief.

Michael Siberry: The Captain Is On Course

The Playbill note on the cast page at the Broadway revival of The Sound of Musicreads: "Michael Siberry is appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and British Equity." That statement usually means quite a fuss went on between producers and American Equity to get a leading man from the U.K. because they feel he's best for the job. And it usually means that actor isn't a star or known by Broadway theatergoers. In the case of Siberry, nothing could be further from the truth. But there's a catch.

For Henry Krieger & Bill Russell, Side Show is a Family Business

When it's mentioned to book writer/lyricist Bill Russell and composer Henry Krieger that their Side Show is the most anticipated new musical since Titanic, Russell's dropped jaw spoke volumes. It was hard to know if he was thinking about the pre-Tony nomination buzz or the post-Tony Awards buzz for that show.

Jean Makes a Smart Move and is Fit to Be Tied

Jean Smart is back in New York walking, enjoying the sidewalk jostling and streetlife, and going to as many plays as possible. "There's fabulous theater in Los Angeles," says the actress, "but in New York everything is more accessible, which makes it more fun." To also be working for the first time in two years onstage has doubled the fun.

Jean Smart Commutes From TV & Film To The Stage

In her TV and stage career, Jean Smart has alternated regularly between comedy and drama, but her star turn in "a role to die for," as flamboyant stage star Lorraine Sheldon in The Man Who Came To Dinner, certainly proves she was born to play comedy. The Roundabout Theatre Company production of the classic 1939 Kaufman and Hart play, headlining Nathan Lane and directed by Jerry Zaks, debuts their new home, the restored Selwyn Theater, now the American Airlines Theater, on New 42nd Street.

Keely Smith, Fine and Frank

Move over, Barbara Cook. Here comes another lady in her 70s
with a voice that sounds decades younger. This is Keely Smith, who is appearing
in cabaret at Feinstein's on Park Avenue in Manhattan in May 2003. If her dreams come
true, she'll someday appear a few blocks from there on Broadway in her own
show.

Going Public With a Private Spirit

Gay cabaret performer, Don Snell, returns to Dallas at the Theater Three basement, March 23-26, 2003, with his performing partner, Shano Palovich, in A Private Spirit: Noel Coward and his Gal Pals.Palovich will enact the roles of Gertrude Lawrence, Tallulah Bankhead, and Marlene Dietrich.

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