Nick Jonas Succeeds Harry Potter

Nick Jonas is no stranger to the bright lights of Broadway.  He has appeared in productions such as Annie Get Your Gun, Beauty and the Beast and Les Miserables.  Next year the Jonas brother will make his fifth appearance on Broadway as he replaces Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.

Jonas will assume the role of J. Pierrepont Finch, beginning January 24 and will play the role until July 1.  Radcliffe’s final performance is set for January 1.  Darren Criss, best known for the role of Blaine Anderson on the hit Fox show Glee, will make his Broadway debut on January 3, taking on the role of Finch for three weeks until Jonas begins his latest stint in the theatre.

Broadway Sheds Its Prices for Fall

The sun-filled days, the crisp in the air at night, the Caribbean Day parade on Labor Day, the makeover of Lincoln Center for Fashion Week – all signs that fall is fast approaching.  With the impeding10th anniversary of 9/11 reminding New Yorkers of how resilient we are and how much we have overcome since that tragic day, Broadway brings discounts center stage. 

After the events of September 11, 2001, Broadway as well as other businesses in the theatre district suffered huge losses in sales.  In response, Seasons of Savings was created in January 2002 to entice theatergoers to go back to The Great White Way.  The special edition Playbill is published twice a year, and is called the unofficial “New York Theatergoer’s Guide to Times Square.”  

Seasons of Savings features discount coupons with savings codes for various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows as well as restaurants, hotels and other Big Apple attractions.  On August 29, Serino Coyne, Broadway’s largest advertising agency, hosted an event at Tony’s Dinapoli, located at 147 West 43rd Street, to introduce this year’s coupon booklet.  Tony’s Dinapoli is a family style restaurant located in the heart of the theatre district.  It is famous for its scrumptious Italian cuisine and great relationship with Broadway.  This year’s booklet offers discounts to Memphis, Mary Poppins, Godspell, Chinglish, The Adams Family, Catch Me If You Can, Circle Line and more.  Seasons of Savings makes Broadway more affordable and provides an opportunity for more people to fall in love with the theatre.  Tis the season to save, I encourage all FAMERS to take advantage. 

To learn more about Seasons of Savings and its discounts, click, and join their mailing list.


Judy Garland Comes To Broadway

As the fall 2011 season begins on Broadway, there is buzz about a new musical coming in spring 2012.  Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow, a production about the last months of Judy Garland’s life, is poised to begin performances March 19 at a theater to be announced.  The show is set in London in 1968 and chronicles her problematic life on and offstage as Garland finishes her final performances in The Smoke. Two-time Oliver Award winner Tracie Bennett will reprise the role of Garland, which she originated in London, on Broadway.   End of the Rainbow features several of Garland’s signature songs including “Over the Rainbow” and will make its US debut in January in Minneapolis as it gears up for its Broadway run.

Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Judy Garland was the youngest child of Vaudevillian parents.   She started in show business at the tender age of two joining her older sisters on stage as The Gumm Sisters.   In 1935, she signed a contract with MGM and in 1937 appeared in the first of a string of successful “backyard musicals” co-starring Mickey Rooney.  In 1938, she began filming The Wizard of Oz playing the role of Dorothy, the character she is most known for.  Her years at MGM and following her departure from the studio were tumultuous at best.  Throughout her life she suffered mental and physical illnesses and battled alcohol and drug addiction.  She was married five times and had three children, Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft.  Judy Garland died at age 47 in London.  Her legacy remains as a performer, one of the greatest female stars of all time and a gay icon.

“External resource for help with drug addiction in Minnesota:

Spiderman 2.0 The Future of American Musical Theatre Personified

If I was presented with the task of summing up Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark in two words, I would adamantly choose creative and ambitious.  If given a bonus word, I would throw in persistent.  Indeed it was persistence (perhaps plain stubbornness) creativity and ambition that has powered the engine of this production as it steamrolled its way onto Broadway.  More often than not, Peter Parker’s journey to the stage has been the equivalent of a run away train with several derailments.  In 2002, Marvel announced that film and theatre producer Toney Adams would produce a Spiderman musical.  Three years later he would suffer a stroke and die while the creative team, which included U2’s Bono and Edge and Julie Taymor, gathered to sign contracts.  An omen perhaps, but the production found a new lead producer in Adams’s partner David Garfinkle and carried on.  During its push to opening night, the musical has obtained a ballooned budget of over $70 million, received the honor of having the most previews of any Broadway production in history and endured cast injuries, multiple tongue-lashings by the critics as well as creative and cast changes.

Despite the rollercoaster ride during its prolonged preview period, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has prevailed (at least over its former obstacles) and officially opened at The Foxwoods Theatre, located at 213 West 42nd Street, on June 14. The story of Peter Parker aka Spiderman is well-known. He is Marvel’s lead character and one of the most commercial superheroes.  His sagas have been depicted in comic books, newspaper comics, cartoons, televisions and on film with Tobey Maguire in the lead role.   Although the producers and creative team behind this production overcame epic hindrances that would have frozen most shows quicker than a gaze from Medusa, the real encumbrance was creating a musical about a character whose story is so popular.

Spiderman 2.0 begins in school with the Peter Parker reciting his oral book report, the story of Arachne the world’s first with spider, to the class.  Suddenly, Arachne descends from the ceiling ala Cirque du Soleil complete a Greek chorus visually bringing the myth to life. It was then that I realized this adaptation of the Spiderman story was going to be different than any I had viewed or read before.  The introduction of the Arachne myth was a refreshing and integral component.  In the first incarnation of the stage production Arachne was Spiderman’s villain, but in Spiderman 2.0 she is transformed into an ethereal guiding force, appearing when Peter is most in doubt about his gifts and his purpose.  I found the intertwining of Greek mythology to the Spiderman legend to be a marvelous addition to the story.  

The book is a mélange of the comic and film series; besides the insertion of Arachne (characterized by T.V. Carpio), the book brings no surprises to Spiderman’s character, which should be a relief to die-hard Spiderman fans.  Peter Parker (played by Reeve Carney) is a highly intelligent student, with a keen interest in science.  He is tormented at school by Flash Thompson (portrayed by Matt Caplan) and his band of hooligans.  He is secretly in love with Mary Jane Watson (played by Jennifer Damiano) who harbors a desire to be an actress and get away from her home life.   Peter is an orphan and lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben (portrayed Isabel Keating and Ken Marks).  During a field trip to Norman Osborne’s genetics lab Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider.  From the bite he develops a muscular frame, 20/20 vision and other spider-like abilities including releasing webs from his wrists.  At first, Peter seeks to capitalize from his new powers, but after his uncle is murdered by a thief he is persuaded by Arachne to use his powers to fight evil.  Donning a costume, he becomes his masked doppelganger Spiderman and begins taking down Manhattan’s criminals.  He also gets a job at The Daily Bugle as a freelance photographer catching exclusive photos of Spiderman for EIC J. Jonah Jameson (played by Michael Mulheren) who adamantly believes that the masked crusader is actually a criminal.   Meanwhile, Mary Jane pursues a career in the theatre as a romance with Peter heats up and Norman Osborne (played by Patrick Page) convinced that Spiderman pilfered his research decides to experiment on himself, kills his wife Emily (portrayed by Laura Beth Wells) in the process, goes insane and mutates into the Green Goblin.  As a Green Goblin Osborne manufactures a troupe of similar mutants that he labels the Sinister Six, together they unleash a terror-spree, the likes of which have never been seen, on Manhattan.  Spiderman, who contemplated retirement to protect his loved ones, must now live up to the phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and has a showdown with the Sinister Six and the Green Goblin, who kidnap Mary Jane with purpose of drawing Spiderman out of hiding.  Spiderman defeats the Green Goblin, rescues Mary Jane and all is right in New York City for now.

After viewing Spiderman 2.0 I took some time to brood over what I saw.  I did not see Spiderman during its episodic ramp up period, so I researched articles from critics that had seen both versions.  Most critics did upgrade their marks from an F to a C+, but at best most of them saw the production as a boilerplate musical.  I must admit that I was ambivalent to the musical when first leaving Foxwoods Theatre.  My immediate thoughts summoned another musical that the critics impugned during its run, Taboo, the musical based on the life of Boy George.  It was edgy and ahead of its time.  There were components that worked extremely well and if not for the internal issues and the critic’s harsh reviews, it might have had a longer run.   Although there are parallels in Taboo’s Broadway story with that of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, I firmly believe that a premature closure will not be its fate.  The diligence of everyone involved in this project will not let that happen.  Also, Spiderman is a character loved globally.  If New Yorkers do not want to pay the price of admission, there are plenty of tourists that will.  I propose that as long as our friendly neighborhood superhero is starring on Broadway, this musical will be a stop on any vacationer’s list, ranking just below The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Times Square.

Like the weaver Arachne, Spiderman 2.0 weaves an intricate, innovative web; bottom line: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark turned Broadway out! Critics, including myself, are so used to the status quo musical paradigms, that it became laborious rating the production using the standard criteria.  There is a tendency to reject something that is new, but there is no doubt that a shift has happened in the theatre, a changing of the musical guard literally and figuratively.   It is trailblazing, pushing the envelope of musical theatre into the 21st century.  But like any pioneer there still bumps along this unforged path.  As a new production, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is greater than the sum of its parts, but there is no denying that certain elements function effectively better than others.  Although the book sticks close to the Spiderman comic, it is mediocre. I am a huge fan of U2 and could not wait to see what Bono and Edge would do, needless to say, it is no Tommy.  Bono and Edge’s imprint is present throughout the music and lyrics, Edge’s guitar licks and Bono’s writing style are beyond reproach.  However, there are numbers that worked to perfection while others were just average.  “Behold and Wonder,” “Bouncing Off the Walls,” “Rise Above,” “If the World Should End,” “Turn Off the Dark” and “I Just Can’t Walk Away” were pleasers with myself and the audience.  When it comes to crafting a musical Bono and Edge are not as great as Andrew Lloyd Webber just yet, but give them time and they will be.  The choreography infused urban movements like krunking during “Bullying By Numbers” as well as hip-hop/African heel-toe dance steps.  The urban choreography was not executed as strongly as other musicals that I have seen that have used these dance styles. 

Overall, the cast triumphantly works with the material they are given, and are the real success story.  It is their execution of the material that is the raison d’être why the elements that do work operate brilliantly. The sets use screens and are stimulating and visually engaging  as a 3D pop-up comic book. But it is my sincere belief that the most outstanding part of the show is Spiderman, or should I say Spidermen and the death defying aerial stunts that he and Green Goblin engage in.  Although Carney plays Peter Parker and Spiderman, there are other stuntmen and dancers that portray Spiderman throughout the show.  The martial arts inspired choreography the dancers perform is enlivening.  As much as your eyes are on stage, your pupils will be fixed on the ceiling, the balcony and all over the theatre as Spiderman uses the entire theatre to fight crime and combat the Green Goblin.     

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a boundless ride that rivals any rollercoaster at Six Flags Great Adventure – a spectacle P.T. Barnum would be proud of.  At best, Spiderman 2.-0 is an exhibition of what American musicals could be – a shining glimmer of the future.  At worst, it is a science experiment that works but still needs some fine tuning.  Personally, I reside comfortably on the fence neither loving it nor hating it completely.  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is unlike any musical that has come before it, in my opinion it is not a musical at all, it is art on a Broadway stage –pure inspiration and that is the most paramount reason to go and see it.

Photos courtesy of O&M Co.

Sister Act Anoints Audiences with the Gospel of Laughter

Before 2006, Sister Act was a boilerplate comedy, with motley reviews, that depended on the star power of Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith and Harvey Keitel to fill box office seats.  In 2006, Sister Act was reincarnated into a musical with a book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater.   The production premiered on October 24, 2006 at the Pasadena Playhouse, closed December 2006 and became the highest grossing show at that venue.  In 2009, the show went international; Stage Entertainment and Whoopi Goldberg produced Sister Act at the London Palladium. 

Currently back in the states, Whoopi Goldberg is also back in the habit and on Broadway as one of the show’s producers.  Sister Act was a money maker for Whoopi back in 1992 and it is a Tony Award nominated smash hit for her now, but this reinvented musical of it comedic predecessor is its own hilarious entity.  Like the movie, Sister Act chronicles the story of Deloris Van Cartier – a ne’er do well lounge singer wasting her days in a Philadelphia nightclub owned by her married, thug boyfriend Curtis Jackson, played by Kingsley Leggs.  When returning a recycled gift – a coat previously owned by Jackson’s wife – Deloris stumbles upon Jackson and goons murdering a member of his crew believed to be an informant.  Deloris goes on the run, literally, and runs to a police precinct where she is reunited with Eddie Souther, an old school chum that used to have a crush on her.  Souther, a cop now, arranges for her to hide in a convent, and the holy hijinks are kicked into high gear.   

Even in a nun’s habit, Deloris – now dubbed Sister Mary Clarence for her own protection – is as noticeable as the follicles protruding from Don King’s head and driving the convent’s Mother Superior, played by Victoria Clark, round the bend.  Mother Superior decides to put Deloris’ singing talent to good use and puts her in charge of the cacophonous choir.  Deloris manages to raise the voices of the dissonant nuns and adds a little touch of disco for show.  Despite the objections and prayers of Mother Superior, Deloris is a savior.  The choir’s funky sound attracts parishioners, donations and helps to save the church.  Even the pope wants to see them.  A news report about the pope’s visit gets Deloris spotted on television and must she relocate again to avoid Curtis and his lackeys.   But Deloris is determined to stand by her new found sisters and they stand by her, even with the knowledge that she is not who she claimed she was.  Mother Superior has a change of heart about Deloris as well.  The nuns and Eddie foil Curtis’ plans for payback and Deloris and the sisters perform for the pope.

I have never laughed so hard in a theatre before.  Sister Act may have taken a long route to get to Broadway, but there is no doubt that its future is just as bright as the Great White Way itself.  It is a crowd pleaser from beginning to end.  I tried to find holes in this show, but there are none – my mirth cup runneth over.   Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane received a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical, and the music of Alan Menken and the lyrics Glenn Slater received a Tony nomination for Best Original Score.  Set designer Klara Zieglernova’s vision for each scene was right on point, by the end of the production the audience did view a marriage of disco and divinity.  Costume designer Lez Brotherston sparkly, glitzy fashions made me want to pick up a habit.  Although their efforts did not receive Tony nominations, all the members of the creative team, including director Jerry Zaks, provided a heavenly pitch.  Only thing the actors had to do was knock it out the park, and that is exactly what they did.

Patina Miller reprises her role as Deloris Van Cartier; she was first cast in the role during the London version. She shines brighter than the Swarovski crystals used in the costumes.  Miller has attitude for days with the vocal chops to back it up – her Tony Award nomination is a no-brainer.   Tony Award winner Victoria Clark is angelic as Mother Superior.  The comedic tension between she and Miller is wonderful to watch.  Sarah Bolt as Sister Mary Patrick is a breath of ethereal air.  Her presence is so bubbly and infectious; I wish I could bottle her and sell her.  Giving contrast to Bolt’s perky personality, is Audrie Neenan as Sister Mary Lazarus – she completely prickly but no less a hoot.  Her snarky lines are well received by New Yorkers – citizens not known for being very peppy.

Although this production is a real sisterhood, the men in the cast manage to hold their own.  Kingsley Leggs is a villain you will love to despise; he is Nino Brown with an afro and a great singing voice.  Chester Gregory may be known as “Sweaty” Eddie, but it doesn’t detract from his talent.  As my aunt would say, “That boy can sang!”  Desmond Green is a scream as TJ, Curtis Jackson’s dimwitted relative and subordinate.  Fred Applegate, John Treacy and Caesar Samayoa also provide plenty of moments for the audience to chuckle heartily.

To speak of the gospel is to tell the truth – to spread good news.  This is not the type of show one goes to if they are looking to impress others with their knowledge of culture and the arts at a future dinner party.  This production is for someone that likes a little amusement with their theatre.   Funny…flashy…with a musical score that is sure to remembered for the ages, this show is too fabulous baby!

Photos by Joan Marcus

Buddy the Elf Comes To Broadway


Buffalo two step over Rockettes, this year Buddy the elf descends on Manhattan to spread some hilarious holiday cheer to the world’s most impatient, rude and skeptical citizens.  This Christmas, Broadway gets into the ho-ho-ho spirit of the holidays in a major way with Elf, a new musical based on the 2003 comedy starring Zooey Deschanel, James Caan and the hysterical Will Ferrell. 

Much like the movie Elf tells the story of Buddy, a human who grows up in Christmastown amongst Santa and his elves and believes he too is an elf.  Upon discovering that he is actually human, he also learns his father is Walter Hobbs – a man that does not believe in Santa, is on Santa’s naughty list and lives in New York City.  Determined to build a connection with his father and prove that he is the world’s greatest son, Buddy sets out for the Big Apple to find Walter and spread the spirit of Christmas to New Yorkers – a necessary commodity considering Santa’s sleigh is powered by the people’s belief in Christmas. 


Upon arriving in New York City Buddy finds that his father has a new family, a demanding job publishing children’s books and has no time for them or him.  Eventually, Buddy does develop a relationship with his family, and along the way he delivers Christmas cheer to Macy’s, falls in love with a girl, gives his dad a great idea for new Christmas tale and helps raise Santa sleigh after he crashes in Central Park by convincing New Yorkers to believe in Santa and the true meaning of Christmas.

Elf is not just a regurgitated story with song and dance routines crammed haphazardly throughout the show, instead it is a cultivated production enhanced by super cute music and lyrics.  Songs like “Christmastown”, “A Christmas Song”, “Never Fall in Love” and “The Story of Buddy the Elf” are catchy tunes that will add to your roster of favorite X-Mas jingles.  The simple choreography works well with the upbeat music.  Elf is not overly complicated theatre.  It is a feel good family musical about the most wonderful time of the year.  And the cast help to make this make this musical an above average film to theatre adaptation.


Sebastian Arcelus is a delight as the naïve, sugary sweet Buddy.  His childlike demeanor is endearing and hilarious.   Amy Spanger is entertaining as Jovie, Buddy’s love interest.  Mark Jacoby as amusing as Walter Hobbs, the hard-ass that discovers he has a new son and a heart.  Beth Leavel and Matthew Gumley are equally enjoyable as Emily and Michael Hobbs.  Their duets are two of the best numbers in the show.  George Wendt as Santa can bring a smile to anyone’s face.  The sets are interactive and animated and are reminiscent of a children’s 3D pop up book.



The true charm of this production is that it is giddy, warm-hearted and leaves you with cozy, nostalgic feelings about Christmas – a necessary commodity since Christmas today seems more about ensuring retailers make their bottom line than spending time with loved ones, showing kindness to your neighbor and the birth of Jesus.  Elf is playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre until January 2 and will bring out the kid in everyone.  I recommend it for anyone that needs a good ole dose of Christmas spirit.  You will have Sparklejollytwinklejingley time!

Photos: Joan Marcus

Time Is On Their Side

In some ways a trip to the theatre can be compared to a photograph – it is a moment that encapsulates a specific period of time and emotions.   The only difference is one image is recorded in your mind, the other recorded on a glossy sheet of paper.  After the moment is over, life goes on and like other memories that fade or become altered with age, the image one captures from a theatre experience will not change, nor will a photo.  Inside the Cort Theatre awaits an unforgettable experience that will leave an indelible impression on the consciousness.  Time Stands Still is a timeless piece of art that will leave viewers captivated and questioning the world around them.  Written by Donald Margulies, the play premiered in February 2009 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles with Anna Gunn, David Harbour, Robin Thomas and Alicia Silverstone performing the play’s four characters.  In January 2010, it began its initial run on Broadway with Laura Linney, Brian d’ Arcy James, Eric Bogosian and Alicia Silverstone as the only cast member to reprise her role.

When I first heard about Time Stands Still it was creating quite a stir and receiving rave reviews.  Tickets were as hard to find as the Willie Wonka golden chocolate bar wrapper.  By the time its first Broadway incarnation at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater ended on March 27, the play had garnered two Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Laura Linney.  I had thought I might have been jipped out of one the best shows of 2010 and was ecstatic to read that the show would resume in September after a brief hiatus to allow Ms. Linney to fulfill scheduling commitments for The Big C, a new series on Showtime.  Now playing at the Cort Theatre, the original Broadway cast has reprised their roles with the exception of Alicia Silverstone; Christina Ricci was cast in her stead.

With Time Stands Still, Donald Margulies has crafted a modern masterpiece; it is a sociology exposition done right.  He scrupulously places the elements of new millennium relationships, beliefs and society under a microscope, dissecting each aspect until its essence is exposed and theories are challenged.  The play involves two couples Sarah (Laura Linney) and James (Brian D’Arcy) and Richard (Eric Bogosian) and Mandy (Christina Ricci), but centers on the relationship between Sarah and James.  Sarah and James are war correspondents; she is a photographer and he is a reporter.  For nine years they have been shacking up together and documenting the most gruesome aspect of the human condition.  As the play opens, Sarah had just been severely injured in a car bomb explosion in Iraq and has returned to their Brooklyn apartment to convalesce.  James recently survived a jarring experience which led him to leave Sarah in the Middle East and is now wracked with guilt.  Shortly upon their arrival back from a hospital overseas, they are visited by Richard, a photo editor and friend, and his newest love interest Mandy.  Richard suggests that since Sarah is recuperating, her and James should collaborate and create a coffee table book of their experiences in Iraq with her photos and his commentary.  But as Sarah and James begin working on the book, infidelities are revealed and life as they know it also questioned.  James is ready to try a more conventional life and Sarah is addicted to the adrenaline rush and is reluctant to change.

The cast brings this stellar story to life with compelling conviction.  Sarah finds solace in the square of the lens.  The moment she clicks the chaos of her surroundings, the world is silent (hence the title Time Stands Still).  She finds excitement and a sense of duty by showing the world the atrocities of war.  Most of all she is unabashedly unconventional.  Laura Linney is one of the most inspiring actresses of this century.  Her talent enriches the complex relationship Sarah and James share.  She is able to penetrate the core of Sarah’s personality and bring across all her fearlessness, flaws and vulnerabilities in a poetically human performance.  Laura Linney’s Tony nomination was well deserved; her depiction of Sarah is one of the most riveting displays of acting prowess that was offered this year. 

Brian D’Arcy’s acting chops have been well-honed on stage and his portrayl of James is another magnificent testament to a skillful Broadway veteran.  James is a man who has hit a wall going 100 mph and is on the precipice of change; in fact, he needs it in order to move forward.  The subtle desperateness D’Arcy exudes as he struggles to hold on and fix a relationship that is slowly disintegrating is genius and vividly sets up the tug-of-war aspect as the future of Sarah and James’ relationship is explored.

Eric Bogosian is probably best known from the 1988 film Talk Radio and his role on Law &Order: Criminal Intent as Captain Danny Ross, but he is also an accomplished novelist and playwright. His understanding of character development has served him well with an engaging portrayal of Richard.  In the wrong hands Richard could easily become a less memorable character, but Bogosian brings him alive with wittiness and grace.



Charm and exuberance are two traits Christina Ricci has in ample supply; she is one of the most interesting young actresses in Hollywood.  She could not have made a better Broadway debut than the role of Mandy.  Mandy’s youthful, naïve way of seeing the world and her devotion to Richard is the catalyst that inspires the questions and sparks the conflict in Sarah and James’ relationship.  Ricci turns a character that could be perceived as a bubblehead into a sweet, profound young lady.  She and Eric Brogosian’s performances are the perfect compliment to acting superiority of D’Arcy and Linney.

This play lacks nothing.  By the final curtain close I was rushing to my feet to give this show and its cast an enthusiastic standing ovation.  Time Stands Still has all the elements of 007 martini – all the best ingredients shaken to perfection.  Mature and momentous, to miss this show is to deprive yourself from a truly enthralling and entertaining theatre experience. 

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Tut Takes Manhattan

In June, the annual Tony Awards celebrated Broadway royalty, but the hottest ticket on the Great White Way actually belongs to one of the oldest royal figures to ever sit on a throne.  Tut-mania descended on Manhattan this spring when Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs made its debut at the Discovery Times Square Exposition, located on 266 West 44th Street.  New York City is the final stop on a world-wind tour that marks the last time the relics of King Tutankhamun will ever leave Egypt. 

This is not the first time that the boy king has captivated the Big Apple. In 1979, The Treasures of Tutankhamun (King Tut) exhibition was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs has 50 artifacts from King Tut’s tomb, only a portion were shown during 1979 exhibit, as well as 80 additional artifacts from the tombs of his ancestors and other high-ranking notables.



Ever since the tomb of the ancient pharaoh was unearthed in November 1922 by Howard Carter, he has been shrouded in mystery.  Who was King Tutankamun?  How did he die?  Was he murdered?  Who were his parents?  Tutankhamun was one of the last kings of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty.  Although, much of his life is still unknown due to the eradication his records and those of his ancestors by ancient Egyptian officials, the world knows more about Egypt’s most popular ruler than it ever has before.


 Tutankhamun was the son of pharaoh Akhenaten and Kiya, one of Akhenaten’s minor wives.  His birth was believed to be around 1343 B.C.  His father created upheaval during his reign by moving the country’s capital from Memphis to Akhetan, now known as Amarna, and banning polytheistic worship in favor for the new, monotheistic religion of Aten.  In 1333 B.C., Tutankhamun ascended to the throne at age 9 or 10.  At 12, Tutankhamun married his half-sister, Ankhesenamun, Akhenaten’s third daughter by his wife Nefertiti.  During his reign, King Tut moved the country’s capital back to the city of Memphis and reinstated polytheistic worship.  The boy king also changed his name from his original moniker of Tutankhaten, to Tutankhamun (meaning “the living image of the god Amun”) in recognition of the state’s rejection of Aten.  Tutankhamun died from unknown causes in 1323 B.C. while in the ninth year of his reign.  He left no successors; the mummified fetuses of two stillborn daughters were found in his tomb. 


An X-ray taken in 1968 exposed damage to his skull, which could have been caused by a fall, blow to the head, or during mummification and caused Egyptologists to contemplate the theory of foul play as a cause of death.  Recently, the boy king’s mummy underwent a CT-scan as part of a landmark, five-year Egyptian research and conservation project, partially funded by National Geographic, in an effort to inventory and scan all of the known mummies in Egypt. This study debunked theories of assassination as the damage to Tutankhamun’s skull occurred after his death. DNA studies conducted in Egypt further showed that he suffered from malaria and may have died from complications from a broken leg.  Although King Tut’s remains lie in a climate-controlled vitrine in his burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings, the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition includes some of these scans as well as the first 3-D replica of the ancient pharaoh created by sculptor Gary Staab. 


Along with the amazing, life-like replica of King Tut’s mummified cadaver,   the exhibition displays the most splendid collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts anywhere outside of Egypt. Breathtaking…awe-inspiring… jaw-dropping…eye-popping…overwhelming, adjectives that fail to justify the majesty of what is to be discovered after stepping through the doors of the Discovery Times Square ExpositionThe antiques along with the narration of legendary actor Omar Sharif via headset intimately transport the patrons into the daily life of the boy king and those in his court.  Last month an additional item joined the exhibit, a chariot, which has been permitted to leave Egypt for the first time.  Of the six chariots that Howard Carter discovered in King Tut’s tomb, this antique from the Antechamber is exceptional because it is the only one that appeared to be used. The construction of the chariot was lighter and simpler than the other five.   There is speculation that it may have been used as a traveling chariot, on the battlefield, or on hunting expeditions. There is also a theory that King Tut may have died after a fall from this chariot.


The ancient Egyptian phrase “forever and for eternity” never felt as palpable to me as it did when I visited Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. Perhaps it was the golden sarcophagus or the replica of Tut’s mummy that spurred the feeling, but as I walked through the exhibit I could feel the presence of King Tut.  Finally his story was being told like it never has before.  I also felt the spirit of Howard Carter, the archeologist that first revealed the pharaoh to us, and suddenly the exposition became otherworldly.  It was if a Stargate had been opened and we were all visiting an undisturbed dimension that has no concept of time.  A feeling of immense humility overcame me as I viewed the spectacle and glory of a culture that has influenced almost every civilization that has come after it.  I realized that with all our modern know how, we can never duplicate the wonder of these relics, which is raison d’être for our continued fascination. 


Considering the locale of the Discovery Times Square Exposition, the ticket price for Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs is quite affordable ($29.50 for adults, $26.50 for seniors and $19.50 for children) and part of the ticket sales is helping to fund a new Grand Museum in Cairo.  Broadway has played birthed and played host to countless stars, but none is as incandescent as Tutankhamun. This exhibit will remain in the Big Apple until January 2, 2011 when the boy king and his gilded chariot return to Egypt to rest for good.  FAMERS do not miss this exhibit.  It is an experience that you will take with your forever and beyond.

Photos:  Andreas F. Voegelin and Sammlung Ludwig

Slideshow:  F.A.M.E NYC Editor

A Little Night Liaison with Sondheim

It is safe to say that 2009-2010 has been the season for Stephen Sondheim on Broadway.  His newest production, Sondheim on Sondheim served to be a musical walk down memory lane.  West Side Story was a successful revival that brought new and experienced theatergoers to the Great White Way.  When the revival of A Little Night Music opened in December 2009, the likelihood of its success was undebatable – Catherine Zeta-Jones starring as Desiree Armfeldt, Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt and the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, total no-brainer.   Catherine Zeta-Jones, who revealed her singing and dancing chops in the film adaptation of Chicago, won Best Actress in a Musical at this year’s Tony awards.  The production was also nominated for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Sound Design and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Angela Lansbury.  The show took a brief hiatus in June after Catherine Zeta-Jones’ and Angela Lansbury’s contracts ended.  On July 13 the production resumed with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch portraying Desiree and Madame Armfeldt. With new cast members in place, A Little Night Music turned a page in this revival’s story without losing any of its potency. 

Set in Sweden at the turn of the 20th century, A Little Night Music brings the elegance and sexual repression of the Victorian era to life with the same cultivation as a waltz.  With the sparse furniture and rotating sets, director Trevor Nunn shines a spotlight on the undercurrent of love rather than the romanticism that accompanies this emotion.  The loss of love…longing…the sport of love…wasted times are all themes that reveal themselves like lit streetlamps at dusk.   The sets seamlessly transition from one act to the next and offer a balance as “the young” and “the fools” stumble over self created roadblocks on their trek to true love.

 The cast carries the melancholy tone that accompanies the story just as beautifully as they deliver the dialogue and musical numbers.  Alexander Hanson is enjoyable as Fredrik Egerman, the middle-aged lawyer that had a love affair with Desiree and is now in a sexless marriage with Anne.  So clever, he appears to know everything but really knows nothing.  Ramona Mallory is delightful as Anne Egerman; the 18-year-old virgin married to Fredrik.  She holds her chastity with the same constriction as she holds her secret love for Henrik, Fredrik’s son.  As Henrik, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka gives a convincing performance of a young man tortured by desire and morality. The breakout performance is given by Erin Davie.  As the Countess Charlotte Malcolm she is jocular and tragic, and comes close to stealing the spotlight from Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch.  But the combination of Peters and Stritch is hard to eclipse, both are absolutely radiant and can bring all the luminosity of the moon on stage.

The real question I had as I waited for the curtain to rise at the Walter Kerr Theatre was if the addition of Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch would go over well with Generation X and Y.  Both accomplished actresses are Broadway veterans, but box-office superstar Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury (who introduced herself to these age groups while playing Jessica Fletcher in the long-running CBS series Murder She Wrote) are far more recognizable faces.  It was Sondheim that suggested Bernadette Peters take over the role of Desiree; his foresight would pay off tremendously for this revival.  


The role of Desiree Armfeldt was tailor made for Bernadette Peters.  She is a Broadway baby literally that can translate the bohemian life Desiree has lead as famous stage actress extremely well.   Her presence on stage can only be compared to a breath of fresh H2O.  She brings an effervescent charm to Desiree without losing any of the maturity and complexity of the character.  Her performance is like sipping a glass of Veuve Clicquot’s La Grande Dame champagne – delectable from beginning to end.  She is beyond familiar with Sondheim’s work starring in productions of Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods and Gypsy.  His music and lyrics and her voice fit like the famous Versace dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammy’s – exposing all the best emotions and features of the other.  This pairing comes to a crescendo when Bernadette sings “Send in the Clowns.”   The emotion Bernadette delivers exposes the lament in this song so exquisitely that by the last bar my eyes were swelling with tears. 

Elaine Stritch is uproarious as Madame Armfeldt; her comedic timing is as infinite as her talent.  During the performance Elaine had to have a few lines read to her; her savvy as a comedic actress placed a lovely veil over her forgetfulness.  In fact, it added another layer to Madame Armfeldt, a sharp-tongued woman that seems to be stuck in the past.  Watching Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch on stage together was like unearthing rare gems.  My question had been answered; no member of the audience, regardless of their age, could feel cheated if they missed the performances of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury.  Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch and the rest of the cast are worth the price of admission and then some, but despite the celebrities on stage, the eternal star of A Little Night Music is the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim.  Like the moon, his compositions smile upon us all; it is an essential component in making this revival and any future productions a triumph.

Photos:  Joan Marcus for

View the Tony Awards in the Heart of Manhattan

If the five boroughs are the veins of New York City, than Times Square is the heart.  It moves at a pace of 200 bpm and carries the electricity of a bolt of lightning.  For the first time the Tony Awards will allow viewers to be able to watch the stars of Broadway on Broadway.  The 64th Annual Tony Awards will be simulcast live to Times Square on Sunday, June 13th.  This event is a collaboration between the Tony Awards, iXP Corporation and Times Square Alliance.  The simulcast will air on a Clear Channel Spectacolor HD Screen.  In addition to the live simulcast of NY1’s pre-show On STAGE’s Red Carpet to the TONY’s, the Times Square simulcast will feature special guests throughout the evening, including a special appearance by Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child.  The simulcast starts at 5:30 p.m. in Duffy Square and seats 1,000.  FAMERS go to Times Square and be a part of Tony history.