Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Old Broadway

Times Square. 9:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Just in: Betsy Bloomingdale died last night. She would have been 94 on August 3rd.
It's very warm in New York (hot!). The weather man says more of the same and even worse as the weekend nears. Although there is the chance of some rain. Any rain is good for at least cooling things off a bit. If not much.

Among the activities in this great big town in the middle of a searing hot spell of summertime, we've had a couple of strong reminders of a part of New York that never shuts down, never goes away, never gives up, and always promises more for our imagination. And that is Broadway. Here are three excellent examples ...

Broadway's Best. This past Monday night, The New York Civil Liberties Union’s 14th annual “Broadway Stands Up for Freedom” drew a packed house at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Dozens of Broadway stars and performers honored the NYCLU's work.
Keynote speaker and Tony Award nominee, Liesl Tommy.
Hamilton's Wallace Smith.
“Our hearts are filled with music and gratitude to the many Broadway stars who joined us in support of civil liberties and the arts,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “Thanks to their talents and their generosity, the show not only raised artistic spirits, but it also raised awareness and money for the NYCLU’s crucial work.”

Amplified by the occasion of International Nelson Mandela Day, the program honored Mandela's legacy by highlighting the NYCLU's recent victories against what Mandela called “the most forbidding aspect of prison life” – solitary confinement. The show also highlighted NYCLU work on  public defense reform, LGBT rights, police reform, solitary confinement, farmworkers’ rights and immigration. The audience included notable figures from NYCLU causes, including Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, and Dominque Sharpton from the National Action Network. Also in attendance were Counsel to the Governor Alphonso David, and the State Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau Chief, Lourdes Rosado.
Counsel to the Governor Alfonso David and Donna Lieberman.
Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner.
Tony Award-nominated director Leisl Tommy (Eclipsed) delivered a rousing keynote address on the importance of diversity in the arts, and Tony Award-winner Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans) read a poem by 16-year-old Khadiza Bhuiyan, “The Revision of Our Ethics.” This piece was among the winners of the NYCLU’s annual Freedom of Expression Contest, in which young people speak their minds on pressing civil liberties questions. Wallace Smith, who will join the Chicago cast of Hamilton, read from letters of those in solitary confinement in New York. The cast of the new play PRIVACY, which was informed by the work of the NYCLU and features Daniel Radcliffe and Rachel Dratch, delivered a special recorded congratulations.
The Brooklyn Tech Lady Dragons.
Susan Blackwell hosted the concert, which featured performances by Ben Platt (Pitch Perfect), Benj Pasek (Dear Evan Hansen), Whitney Bashor (The Bridges of Madison County), Alex Grubbs (of The Lobbyists), Grace McLean (Natasha Pierre), Erich Bergen (Madame Secretary), Jennifer Simard (Disaster!), Christina Bianco (The Marvelous Wonderettes), Todd Buonopane (Cinderella), Devin Trey Campbell (Kinky Boots), Crystal Monee Hall (Rent), Celisse Henderson (GODSPELL), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Glass Menagerie), Kristolyn Lloyd (Dear Evan Hansen), Ray Mercer (The Lion King), Zachary Prince (Honeymoon in Vegas), Liana Stampur and Clinton Curtis, and the Brooklyn Tech Lady Dragons Step Team.

The evening was directed by Peter Flynn and Daniel Goldstein, with musical direction by Lynn Shankel.
Christina Bianco.
Beautiful Broadway. Last Friday, The NYC Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) and 106.7 LITE FM brought Broadway to Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park with a free event, Broadway in the Boros! The cast of BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical wowed the crowd as they showcased hit songs "On Broadway," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Natural Woman." Daren Criss, star singer and actor, surprised the crowd with a special guest appearance performing Carole King's "One Fine Day"!

Broadway in the Boros was emceed by 106.7 LITE FM's fan-favorite personalities Bob Bronson and Christine Nagy of "Bronson & Christine" alongside Kai Falkenberg, Deputy Commissioner of MOME, and remarks from Public Advocate Letitia James.

The next Broadway in the Boros summer concert event happnes on Friday, July 29th as MOME and 106.7 LITE FM bring Broadway to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.
Bob Bronson, Darren Criss, and Christine Nagy.
Darren Criss. Julia Knitel.
The cast of Beautiful singing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'".
Kevin Duda, Josh Davis, Douglas Lyons, Julia Knitel, Alan Wiggins, J. Daughtry, and James Harkness.
Give My Regards to Broadway HD. A few weeks ago, BroadwayHD, the company of Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley, produced the first ever live stream of a Broadway Show, “She Loves Me,” the Roundabout Theatre Company’s version of Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick musical (that originally made Barbara Cook a star) starring Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski and Zachary Levi.

Bonnie told me the response has been tremendous, but especially in its reach to young people ...
From a teacher in Florida:

It was amazing ... these kids I'm working with are very talented and very into the Broadway thing, but 85 - 90% of them never saw a Broadway show. Four separate kids came to me afterwards to say their lives were changed tonight. They never had a barometer before for what perfection could be, except from teachers like me who try our best to help them understand. But, in a small Florida city, there's nothing to illustrate the point.

There were many tears, abundant hugging, and reaffirmations to work their asses off to prepare to compete in that arena. In short, precisely why the telecast was so very important to arts education. My students will be watching tonight's performance for many years to come, and I believe it will become a benchmark for hundreds and hundreds of actors-to-be to emulate and admire ...
A scene from "She Loves Me." Photos: Joan Marcus.
And from Nicaragua:

Dear Broadway HD,

Today, my co-worker, Osmar, and I watched She Loves Me on Broadway HD. Osmar grew up in a rural community here in Nicaragua called Villa Catalina. When I met Osmar almost ten years ago, he was a passionate and hard-working teenager with a zeal for life. When we started a theatre program for youth in his community back in 2010, he quickly made his way to the stage and his natural talent for acting immediately shone through in each of the roles he took on.

In a country where a career in theatre is not commonplace, Osmar has made it his life's dream and goal to become a professional actor. In a few short years, Osmar has gone from performing on the small stage in his community to touring the country with a monologue-troupe, directing several theatre productions of his own, and most recently landing a role in Aladdin: The Musical in the capital city of Managua. 
Osmar watching She Loves Me on Broadway HD.
Osmar and I often spend our lunch hours scouring YouTube for videos of theatre productions around the world. I have shown him clips of my Broadway favorites from Les Miz to Wicked and we often dream about the day we when we will travel to NYC to see a live show together. Even with the language barrier that often exists, I love watching Osmar "experience" the magic of Broadway as he studies the emotions of the actors and gawks at the scenery and special effects. 

Today when I told Osmar we were "going to Broadway" his face lit up with excitement. As we watched the full production of She Loves Me, I saw his brain churning and his emotions overflowing. About 3/4 of the way through the show, he looked at me with sincerity as he pointed at the screen and said, "Katie, someday that is going to me."
And in that moment I said the only thing I knew how to say because I believe it with my whole heart, "I know, Osmar." 

So thank you, Broadway HD ... thank you, thank you, thank you for making Broadway accessible and for inspiring young people all over the world, like Osmar, to dream big.

Con mucho amor,
Katie F

Photographs by Donna Aceto (NYCLU); Steve Prue (MOME).

Contact DPC here.