What if we told you we could magically transport you to Broadway four times this month? For $0. Wanna go? Great.
Just tune in to PBS the next four Friday nights at 9 pm Eastern (check your local listings), because the network's "Great Performances" programming is tipping its hat to theater gems old and new. The following day, each show will be available for streaming here and through PBS apps. Here's what's on tap:
When the live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar won NBC a ratings bonanza and a slew of Emmys last year, it was a good bet more rock operas would follow. Now Fox has lined up Broadway's Michael Greif to direct Brandon Victor Dixon, Vanessa Hudgens and Keala Settle (among others) in a live telecast of Rent on January 27 at 7pm (tape-delayed in the Pacific time zone). Jonathan Larson's 1996 hit musical, a rock remake of La Bohème, moves Puccini's aspiring artists from Paris to the Lower East Side to struggle with art, poverty, AIDS and drugs. It was a sensation, winning multiple Tonys and the Pulitzer Prize, and made stars of Greif (who directed the original production), its young cast (which included Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs and Daphne Rubin-Vega), and Larson, who died tragically the day before its first preview. Sonya Tayeh, whose visceral style has much in common with the show's mood, is choreographing Rent Live, and we spoke with her last week.
Forget Netflix and chill. Here at Dance Magazine, we're more about Netflix and show tunes! Thanks to the internet, you can stream live recordings of hit musicals from the comfort of your own couch. We gathered the danciest shows available right now.
What do Johann Sebastian Bach and Leonard Bernstein have in common? Not much, save perhaps an enthusiasm for counterpoint and a propensity for pushing the envelope. That, and they've both attracted the interest of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, the Belgian choreographer who has always thought of music as her primary partner.
Next week, New York audiences will experience her latest work to Bach, The Six Brandenburg Concertos, at the expansive Park Avenue Armory, featuring a multi-generational cast of 16 dancers plus baroque music ensemble B'Rock.
But next year will bring a far more unexpected project for de Keersmaeker: The Broadway revival of West Side Story, which she will be choreographing alongside Ivo van Hove as director. What sold the contemporary giant on taking on a show so far outside her typical oeuvre? The music, of course.
As soon as we saw the current off-Broadway revival of Smokey Joe's Cafe, directed and choreographed by Tony nominee Joshua Bergasse, we had to know just how it did it. In 90 minutes, the cast of nine races through 40 songs by prolific pop songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show includes megahits from the last century—like 1957's "Jailhouse Rock" and 1963's "On Broadway"—and they're all decked out with dancing.
With no dialogue and no narrative, there's plenty of room for Bergasse's choreographic mind to run wild. "Dance plays a huge role in this show," says Bergasse. "Most of these songs were written to get people out on the dance floor, so you kind of can't stop your body from moving." Even though the hits are old, the show definitely isn't stuck in a time warp. "We wanted to make the dancing feel like it isn't of one specific time." You'll see social dances from the '50s and '60s, but Bergasse quickly mentions Michael Jackson as a big influence as well. (Yes, the moonwalk makes an appearance, as do more current crazes like the Nae Nae.)
The 20-somethings doing Broadway Dance Lab's first-ever Choreography Summer Intensive ended their recent tour of Lincoln Center's New York Public Library for the Performing Arts with something special. In the seminar room, Tony-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli awaited them with a conference table laden with Broadway treasures from the library's collection. Decades-old original sketches and black-and-white production photos from My Fair Lady, The King and I and South Pacific served as visual aids for Gattelli's discussion of these shows' Lincoln Center Theater revivals, as well as My Fair Lady's 2016 60th-anniversary production at the Sydney Opera House, directed by the original Eliza, Julie Andrews.
Prodded by BDL founder Josh Prince, Gattelli talked about tackling those three musical theater classics and the art of Broadway choreography in general. Here are some highlights, edited and annotated for clarity.
We're willing to admit that Only Gold, a Broadway musical that Andy Blankenbuehler has had in the works since 2013, had somewhat slipped our mind. (In all fairness, Blankenbuehler got rather busy choreographing a moderately successful musical about American history, and then directing and choreographing Bandstand.)
Yep, that's ballet legend Alessandra Ferri. And yep, that means the pair of ballerinas are in rehearsals with Blankenbuehler for Only Gold. Excited doesn't even begin to cover it. Here's what we know so far:
The news that Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andy Blankenbuehler and Thomas Kail are working together on a new project is almost too wonderful to handle. But the creative team behind Hamilton isn't reuniting for just any old thing: They're teaming up for a dance-centric television series about Broadway legends Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, and we cannot contain our excitement.
We didn't see this one coming.
According to Playbill, a revival of West Side Story, the beloved 1957 musical that put a 20th century, New York City spin on Romeo and Juliet, is coming to Broadway in 2020. We'll still hear Leonard Bernstein's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, but the new production, directed by Tony winner Ivo van Hove, will be deviating from the original in at least one crucial respect: the choreography won't be original director Jerome Robbins'.
Could Justin Peck be any busier? In the midst of pulling triple duty at New York City Ballet—as a soloist, resident choreographer and a member of its interim artistic team—he also managed to choreograph a Broadway show. Then, last month, on his first try, he won a Tony Award for best choreography for the revival of Carousel.
The morning after the ceremony, he shared an exuberant Instagram post: As he exited the stage after winning, he ran into the Carousel sailors backstage as they were entering to perform "Blow High, Blow Low" for the telecast. He wrote: "None of them knew we had just been awarded the Tony, and I stood in front of them holding the award, speechless. They erupted in excitement and we exchanged a beautiful moment of embraces, cheers, and happiness. Certainly the highlight of the night for me!" Recently, via email, we caught up with the peripatetic Mr. Peck.
For the new Broadway season, Ellenore Scott has scored two associate choreographer gigs: For Head Over Heels, which starts previews June 23, Scott is working with choreographer Spencer Liff on an original musical mashing up The Go-Go's punk-rock hits with a narrative based on Sir Philip Sidney's 1590 book, Arcadia. Four days after that show opens, she'll head into rehearsals for this fall's King Kong, collaborating with director/choreographer Drew McOnie and a 20-foot gorilla.
Scott gave us the inside scoop about Head Over Heels, the craziness of her freelance hustle and the most surprising element of working on Broadway.
A Jellicle Ball is coming to the big screen, with the unlikeliest of dancemakers on tap to choreograph.
We'll give you some hints: His choreography can aptly be described as "animalistic," though Jellicle cats have never come to mind specifically when watching his hyper-physical work. He's worked on movies before—even one about Beasts. And though contemporary ballet is his genre of choice, his choreography is certainly theatrical enough to lend itself to a musical.
Christopher Wheeldon is going to be giving Michael Jackson some new moves: The Royal Ballet artistic associate is bringing the King of Pop to Broadway.
The unlikely pairing was announced today by Jackson's estate. Wheeldon will serve as both director and choreographer for the new musical inspired by Michael Jackson's life, which is aiming for a 2020 Broadway opening. This will be Wheeldon's second time directing and choreographing, following 2015's Tony Award-winning An American in Paris.
Wheeldon is a surprising choice, to say the least. There are many top choreographers who worked with Jackson directly, like Wade Robson and Brian Friedman, who could have been tapped for the project. Or the production could have even hired someone who actually choreographed on Jackson when he was alive, like Buddha Stretch.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
The biggest weekend in Broadway is finally upon us: The Tony Awards are this Sunday (airing at 8 pm EST on CBS). While other media outlets might be busy forecasting winners, we're speculating about the dancing we might get to see during the broadcast.
Needless to say, we have a few ideas.
As one of the most celebrated concert dance choreographers working today, a Broadway musical felt like a natural next step for Camille A. Brown. She'd already dabbled in choreography for musical theater and plays. Plus, she tells rich, vivid stories in her concert work about the struggles and triumphs of being a black woman in America today. So when we found out she would be choreographing the Broadway revival of Once on This Island, we were understandably excited. And she didn't disappoint.
But when the 2018 Tony Award nominations were announced last month, Brown wasn't on the list for Best Choreography. Four white men snagged the five nominations (Christopher Gattelli for My Fair Lady and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, Steven Hoggett for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two, Casey Nicholaw for Mean Girls and Justin Peck for Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel.) Most of the choreographers overall this season were white men, as is usually the case.
The first part of Angels in America ends with a bang: Prior Walter, the character we've followed for roughly three and a half hours as he weathers the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York City, sees an Angel crash through the ceiling. She beats her wings, hovering over the man cowering in his bed, and intones, "Greetings, prophet. The great work begins!" It's an immensely satisfying conclusion to Part One, and makes audiences that much more eager to get to the second.
But how do you make an angel fly?
As an ensemble dancer in The Lion King, India Bolds, age 32, plays nine characters in every show, eight times a week. That's a lot of entrances and exits, costume changes and choreography to remember. But after five years of dancing in the production, she has the show down pat.
Dance Magazine followed her through a performance day to see what it takes to be in Broadway's third-longest-running production.
Among the many delights of the glorious Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel is watching New York City Ballet soloist Brittany Pollack make her radiant Broadway debut.
One of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" in 2011, Pollack plays Louise, the daughter of the two leads Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan. She makes her entrance in the second act, dancing a solo ballet in an incandescent, shimmering yellow dress.
It's Broadway awards season (hello Tony, Chita Rivera and Drama Desk Awards!), and this year, there's a lot for fans to sing and dance about. If you're a millennial, your heart is certainly happy with this morning's Tony announcement: SpongeBob SquarePants and Mean Girls scored the most nominations for a musical at 12 each. (The two-part play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child got 10.)
Mean Girls leads the pack with 12 Tony nominations. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown.
"Should I watch it to get a sense of what happened, or should I go with my own vision and understanding of the culture?" That's what choreographer Camille A. Brown was wondering in June, when she started work on the Broadway revival of the Antilles-themed musical Once on This Island.
Sure, lots of ballet dancers are doing stints in Broadway shows these days. But most of them aren't tackling roles like Jigger Craigin, Carousel's villainous whaler, who yes, dances, but is by no means a role traditionally played by a dancer, and who demands a careful blend of charm and danger, drunkenness and cunning. Yet this is the role that New York City Ballet star Amar Ramasar has taken on—and triumphantly, too. The New York Times called his Broadway debut "electric."
We caught up with him for our "Spotlight" series: