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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Prince of Broadway" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Prince of Broadway" at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights


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Manhattan Theatre Club
www.manhattantheatreclub.com
Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer
By Special Arrangement with
Gorgeous Entertainment
Presents:

Prince of Broadway
(Prince of Broadway Web Page)

Book by David Thompson
Music & Lyrics by 35 Composers and Lyricists
New Songs, Arrangements, Orchestrations,
Music Supervision by Jason Robert Brown
Co-Direction, Choreography by Susan Stroman
Directed by Harold Prince

With:
Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Bryonha Marie Parham
Emily Skinner, Eric Santagata, Kaley Ann Vorhees
Michael Xavier, Tony Yazbeck, Karen Ziemba

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street
NY, NY
212.239.6200

Scenic and Projection Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Jon Weston
Music Director: Fred Lassen
Music Coordinators:
Michael Keller, Michael Aarons
Creative Consultant: Jeffrey Seller
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Make-Up Design: Angelina Avallone
Production Stage Manager: Gregory T. Livoti
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Casting: Nancy Piccione
Director of Play Development: Elizabeth Rothman
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Director of Production: Joshua Helman
Line Producer: Nicki Hunter

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 27, 2017


A marvelous musical revue of Director-Producer, Harold Prince’s Broadway productions, spanning 1954 (The Pajama Game) to 1998 (Parade), is now running at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The show, with a book by David Thompson, and new songs, arrangements, and orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown, is directed by Harold Prince and co-directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. Eight known Broadway performers and one talented understudy appeared to introduce narrations by Mr. Prince, explaining the value of luck and the necessity of persistence for success on Broadway.

Quoting Mr. Prince from the Playbill, “I’ve had a lot of luck during my career….Sometimes, I think I got in just under the wire – when the theatre was central to the entertainment industry and the cost of doing an elegant Broadway musical was $250,000. Largely, because of that, it was possible to produce a new musical every year and you could fail on Broadway one year and succeed the next. Today, producing that same musical would cost 40 times as much.” One narration, preceding songs excerpted from a Harold Prince show, shared Mr. Prince’s habit of scheduling work on a new show, immediately after the reviews of a current show appear in the newspaper; he was always moving forward, even faced with a string of flops.

Jason Robert Brown’s Overture opened this show with a rousing mélange of memorable tunes, endearing the audience in the moment, with fifteen meshed melodies, opening with “Tradition”, from Fiddler on the Roof, including “Broadway Baby” from Follies and “Being Alive” from Company, and closing with “Life Is” from Zorba. Fred Lassen conducted the orchestra in this magnetic Overture with ebullient fervor and elegant musicality. In fact, throughout the evening’s two acts, with seventeen excerpted Harold Prince produced and/or directed musicals and a final full-company song, “Do the Work”, composed by Jason Robert Brown, an ode to Mr. Prince’s optimistic work ethic, the orchestra sensationally supported songs, dance, narrations, and interludes. Many in tonight’s audience leaned forward in rapture. Although Mr. Prince was neither composer, nor lyricist, his masterful influence had molded the original and sometimes revived productions of tonight’s featured musicals.

In the cast, Michael Xavier opened the show singing the role of Sid in “Hey There” from Adler and Ross’ The Pajama Game with resonance and presence. Next was a quartet of baseball players, Eric Santagata, understudy (in a full evening breakout) for Brandon Uranowitz as Rocky, Michael Xavier as Smokey, Chuck Cooper as Van Buren, and Tony Yazbeck as Vernon, performing “Heart” from Adler and Ross’ Damn Yankees, 1955. The set was minimal, but the characterizations were persuasive and tuneful. Beowulf Boritt’s set for Bernstein and Sondheim’s West Side Story, 1957, brought us right uptown in twilight for “Something’s Coming” and “Tonight”, with Tony Yazbeck as Tony and Kaley Ann Vorhees as Maria. Their romantic, compelling vocals brought enthused, audience accolades.

She Loves Me, 1963, brought back Eric Santagata as George and introduced a new dynamo, Bryonha Marie Parham, as Amalia, for “Tonight at Eight” and “Will He Like Me?”. This Bock and Harnick musical was recently reviewed on Broadway on these pages, and the vibrant, enchanting vocals of this duo were astounding. Michael Xavier as Clark Kent and Janet Dacal as Sydney followed in an office comedy with the newsman, Kent, hiding his Superman alter ego on his colorful costume tucked under his suit. They sang “You’ve Got Possibilities” from Strouse and Adams’ It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, 1966.

Soon the entire cast was onstage in one of Mr. Boritt’s most gorgeous scenic designs, for Follies, 1971, the first of several Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) musicals. We finally got to see the marvelous Karen Ziemba as Sally and Emily Skinner as Phyllis, and the remaining cast as Buddy, Ben, the four youthful counterparts, and a Showgirl, singing “Beautiful Girls”, “Waiting for the Girls Upstairs”, and “The Right Girl”. We also got to see the superior costume designs of William Ivey Long in these splendid, sparkling gowns. Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, 1973, followed, with Michael Xavier as Fredrik and Emily Skinner as Desirée, singing “Night Waltz”, “You Must Meet My Wife”, and “Send In the Clowns”. A high point of the evening and an enormous crowd pleaser was Chuck Cooper’s energized and vivacious portrayal of Tevye the milkman in “If I Were a Rich Man” from Bock and Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof, 1964, as he pulled the heavy milk cart and stomped his boots.

Act I closed with Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, 1966, as Eric Santagata strutted his stuff as the devilish Emcee, Karen Ziemba took the role of Fräulein Schneider, Bryonha Marie Parham brought the house down as Sally Bowles, and the cast entertained as the Kit Kat Band, in “Willkommen”, “If You Could See Her”, “So What”, and the ecstatic “Cabaret”. Act II brought out most of the cast in Sondheim’s Company, 1970, singing “Company”, “Ladies Who Lunch”, and “Being Alive”. Additional music and dance skits were drawn from Webber and Rice’s , 1979, Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat, 1994, Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, 1981, Jason Robert Brown’s own show, Parade, 1998, Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1993, Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, 1979, Webber and Hart’s The Phantom of the Opera, 1986, and the closer, Jason Robert Brown’s new number for the cast, “Do the Work”.

Susan Stroman, Choreographer and Co-Director, deserves kudos for Tony Yazbeck’s endless, red hot tap dance in “The Right Girl” from Follies that was a showstopper, as well as the sizzling, sassy dance in Cabaret. Every ramp walk, rapid twirl, and straight up kick was infused with Ms. Stroman’s signature panache. Howell Binkley’s lighting and Jon Weston’s sound added luminosity and clarity, as each scene unfolded. Paul Huntley and Angelina Avallone created brand new wigs and makeup designs that enhanced William Ivey Long’s lush, languorous, and mesmerizing costumes. Jason Robert Brown’s orchestrations and arrangements, once again, were detailed with shimmering harmonies and enchanting tonalities.

Although we learned little of Harold Prince’s biography or the depth and detail of his decades long struggles and survival techniques, as this show unfolded in solo narrations and cast revue format, we did learn of the expansive and extraordinary repertoire of Mr. Prince’s directing and producing career. Kudos to Harold Prince.




















For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net