The Great White Way Illuminates Bryant Park

Members of Zarkana perform at 106.7 Lite FM’s Broadway in Bryant Park


Having lunch in any one of the many parks in Manhattan is a delight that comes with summer, and on Thursdays in Bryant Park you can have lunch and a show.  Now in its 12th season, 106.7 Lite FM’s Broadway in Bryant Park continues to provide New Yorkers with a glimpse of the nightly magic of Broadway and Off-Broadway’s most popular shows.  The free event runs for a consecutive six week period through July and August, is sponsored by Resorts World Casino New York City and is hosted by a 106.7 Lite FM on-air personality.  

Donna Vivino and Fate Fahrner perform at 106.7 Lite FM’s Broadway in Bryant Park

Yesterday’s show was hosted by Christine Nagy.  The always awe-inspiring performers of Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana kicked-off the festivities with a synchronized flag and animated feature show.  Donna Vivino and Fate Fahrner gave a wickedly good rendition of “For Good”.  Cast members from MEMPHIS transported the audience back to the golden era of rock and roll with “Music of My Soul”.  The women of Sister Act were fierce as they sang “Fabulous Baby” and the “Unchained Melody” of the Righteous Brothers rounded out the show as Richard Fleeshman of Ghost had the audience participating in a sing-along.

106.7 Lite FM’s Broadway in Bryant Park will run from 12:30-1:30 pm every Thursday ending with its final group of performances on August16.  Lawn seating is provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Attendees will also have the opportunity to win a family four pack of Broadway tickets for an entire year courtesy of Resorts World Casino New York City.  Enter by visiting the Resorts World Casino New York City tent on the Bryant Park fountain terrace from 11 am – 2 pm on any of the remaining performances.

Photos courtesy of DKCNews

The Book of Tony

The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards’ long association with Broadway has created 64 chapters filled with red carpet glamour, humor, special surprises, musical numbers and acceptance speeches.   Last night, the 65th chapter was recorded, and this year’s show was filled with a Mormon takeover, puppet stallions, Spiderman jokes and a whole lot of heart. 

Host Neil Patrick Harris is eons away from his teen surgeon days and his second round at playing master of ceremonies was even better than the first.  Held at the iconic and grand Beacon Theatre, this year’s events started with an irreverent number that pokes fun at the relationship between the theatre and the homosexual community.  Harris informed one and all that the theatre is “not just for gays anymore.”  The number would have come off without a hitch if not for a cue card flub from Brooke Shields after Harris jumped off the stage for a little audience participation.  Cue card-gate aside, the 65th Tony Awards production team must have learned from the Oscars mistakes.  This year’s show was as electric as the marquees on 42nd Street.  Presenters included Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, Viola Davis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Harry Connick Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson (both Connick and Jackson will be coming to Broadway later this year).  Ghetto jester and actor John Leguizamo and others shared their Broadway moments.   But showcasing to the world the dedication and pizzazz of Broadway is truly what the Tony Awards are all about. Revivals like Anything Goes and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying showed the greatness past American musicals; new productions such as The Book of Mormon, Sister Act, Catch Me If You Can and The Scottsboro Boys presented the inventiveness of future American musicals. 

Although this season presented singing nuns on Broadway, it was South Park fans that were rejoicing.  The Book of Mormon came, performed and conquered, sweeping this year’s awards.  The cheeky musical about religion walked away with nine Tonys including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Orchestrations, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Sound Design of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Nikki M. James who gave an emotional acceptance speech.  The spirit of Cole Porter is alive and the three Tonys Anything Goes won proves why his music is timeless.  The revamped Porter production won Best Choreography, Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Sutton Foster.  It appears that Broadway was too busy creating new chapters to revisit its past.  How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was the only other musical that was up for best revival, and although they did not win, they did not walk away empty handed.  John Larroquette won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical.  The story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. has now added music, lyrics and choreography.  Catch Me If You Can has also provided Norbert Leo Butz with his second Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. 

War was also ubiquitous theme for Broadway’s big winners.  War Horse took the lead and never gave up the reins.  The poignant production about a boy who loves his horse so much, that he enlists in the military and risks his life to bring him home won every category it was nominated for including Best Sound Design of a Play, Best Lighting Design of a Play, Best Scenic Design of a Play, Best Direction of a Play and Best Play.  The woods of South West England was setting for a standoff in Jerusalem, which garnered the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for Mark Rylance  who offered jocular commentary about walking through walls.  Frances McDormand delivered a passionate speech upon accepting her Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play.  Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart is the personification of the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  His compelling examination of the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York was a call for action in the fight against AIDS and gave voice to a mute sector of our society.  The production won Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for John Benjamin Hickey and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for Ellen Barkin. 

After parties are over, websites have been updated and reviews of Sunday’s award show are in.   As Broadway gets back to penning new chapters of the modern theatre experience, I believe the Tony Awards proved why The Great White Way is still profitable during The Great Recession.  There were plenty of memorable moments, but for me the most impressive aspect of the show was Neil Patrick Harris. From his blithe exchange with Hugh Jackman to his final riveting recap of the show, Harris was the Motherf*cker with the Mic and he was wicked!

Photos: Kevin Kane/

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