Screenshot from Bathtubs Over Broadway, via YouTube
"Life can be so rich and wonderful when we step off the logical path and embark on eccentric adventures."
For a sentiment that sounds like it belongs in a fortune cookie, you'd never expect that Steve Young is actually referencing a subset of offbeat, secret musicals: Shows about toilets and tractors and dog food and cars. Shows with big names, like Bob Fosse attached, and even bigger Broadway-style budgets. Shows that were never seen by the public.
These musicals are the subject of Bathtubs Over Broadway, the Tribeca Film Festival–winning documentary that begins streaming on Netflix today.
Amber Gray and the cast of Hadestown. Photo by Helen Maybanks, Courtesy DKC/O&M
The Tony Award nominations were announced yesterday morning, and, as always, they gave us a lot to talk about.
Could Hadestown sweep the awards? Why didn't John Heginbotham's work on Oklahoma! garner him aBest Choreography nomination? What musical numbers will the nominated shows bring to the ceremony on June 9? To discuss, we gathered a group of musical theater–loving editors from Dance Magazine and Dance Spirit for a roundtable conversation about the nominees.
Rana Roy (above) and Jonny Lee Miller in Ink. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown
It's no surprise that six Tony nominations, including one for best play, went to the newly opened Ink, a scintillating look at the early days of Rupert Murdoch's media empire. The London hit stars two Olivier Award winners, Bertie Carvel (as Murdoch) and Jonny Lee Miller (as editor Larry Lamb), and is directed by two-time Olivier winner Rupert Goold.
But Tony voters expecting James Graham's play to resemble other prestigiousBritish imports will be surprised to find a choreographer, Lynne Page, listed in their Playbills, and several rowdy, exuberant romps on the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre stage.
Ephraim Sykes in Ain't Too Proud as David Ruffin, one of The Temptations' lead singers. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy DKC/O&M
Ephraim Sykes has repeatedly proven that he's a standout dancer in Broadway shows like Hamilton, Motown and Newsies. But, boy, can he also sing.
As David Ruffin in Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, he does both with such vigor that we had to know how he pulls off this famous Temptations frontman. "It requires everything," says Sykes, who was nominated today for outstanding male dancer in a Broadway show by the Chita Rivera Awards.
"Too Darn Hot" from Studio 54's Kiss Me, Kate. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy LSG Public Relations
When it comes to musicals, they sure don't make 'em like they used to. Case in point: When Kiss Me, Kate premiered in 1948, integrated musicals—shows that produced genuine emotions and had music and lyrics closely tied to the script, rather than comedies or revues—were still a fairly new trend. In fact, Kiss Me, Kate was Cole Porter's first stab at this structure. Fast forward to 2019, and it's hard not to notice that some numbers feel like they're barely related to the narrative.
Scratch your head all you want (Why are they singing and dancing again? And how exactly does itmove the plot forward?), but there's a major upside to this structure: It gave choreographer Warren Carlyle a lot of room to play when choreographing Studio 54's current revival.
Gabrielle Hamilton in John Heginbotham's dream ballet from Oklahoma! Photo by Little Fang Photo, Courtesy DKC/O&M
The connections dancers make in college are no joke. For recent alum Gabrielle Hamilton, working with guest choreographer John Heginbotham at Point Park University put her on the fast track to Broadway—not in an ensemble role, but as the lead dancer in one of this season's hottest tickets: Daniel Fish's arresting reboot of Oklahoma!
We caught up with Hamilton about starring in the show's dream ballet and her delightfully bizarre pre-show ritual.
It's a bit of an understatement to say that Bob Fosse was challenging to work with. He was irritable, inappropriate and often clashed with his collaborators in front of all his dancers. Fosse/Verdon, which premieres on FX tonight, doesn't sugarcoat any of this.
But for Sasha Hutchings, who danced in the first episode's rendition of "Big Spender," the mood on set was quite opposite from the one that Fosse created. Hutchings had already worked with choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who she calls "a dancer's dream," director Tommy Kail and music director Alex Lacamoire as a original cast member in Hamilton, and she says the collaborators' calm energy made the experience a pleasant one for the dancers.
"Television can be really stressful," she says. "There's so many moving parts and everyone has to work in sync. With Tommy, Andy and Lac I never felt the stress of that as a performer."
Corbin Bleu as Billy Crocker in Arena Stage's production of Anything Goes. Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Arena Stage
Corbin Bleu's theater gigs are the skimpiest part of his resumé, which includes not just High School Musical, but everything from horror films to "Dancing with the Stars." His first two Broadway shows, In the Heights and Godspell, didn't particularly showcase his dancing, but in 2016, he tapped and fox-trotted his way to a Chita Rivera Award in Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical. Last year, he did Singin' in the Rain in St. Louis and the 1934 Cole Porter musical Anything Goes in Washington, DC. This month, he returns to Broadway in another classic Porter show, playing Bill Calhoun in Kiss Me, Kate at Studio 54. But when we caught up with him, there was another Bill on his mind—he had just opened as Billy Crocker in the Arena Stage production of Anything Goes.
After all, the newlyweds first met when Mearns, a New York City Ballet star, was being considered for a part on the TV show "Smash," which Bergasse was choreographing. They hit it off, but the role ended up getting cut.
Fast-forward to today, and they're working on their first full-length musical together: I Married an Angel, which opens next week as part of New York City Center's Encores! season, with Bergasse as director and choreographer and Mearns as the star.
Ashley Blair Fitzgerald as the Dark Lady. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy Rubenstein
Dance on Broadway is usually more about ensemble work than stealing the singular spotlight. That's true for most of The Cher Show, with Christopher Gattelli's choreography supporting the titular diva. But for one second-act number, dance takes center stage.
Queen Bey, your work is most definitely Broadway material. Via Wikimedia Commons
The jukebox musical is a bonafide Broadway staple. Everyone from ABBA to Elvis and Billy Joel to The Beach Boys has been given the Great White Way treatment, and shows with Alanis Morissette's and Michael Jackson's hits are on their way. The big question on our minds is, What current artists' songs might we hear on Broadway in the future?
Last summer's off-Broadway run of Be More Chill. Photo by Maria Baranova, Courtesy Keith Sherman & Associates
When Chase Brock signed on to choreograph a new musical at a theater in New Jersey in 2015, he couldn't have predicted that four years later, hewould be receiving fan art featuring his Chihuahua because of it. Nor could he have he imagined that the show—Be More Chill, based on the young adult novel by Ned Vizzini—would be heading to Broadway with one of the most enthusiastic teenage fan bases the Great White Way has ever seen.
Broadway Dance Lab's Choreography Intensive. Photo by Whitney Browne
"Go to your choreographers" is the command, and ten 20-somethings sort themselves into two groups at either side of a studio at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in midtown Manhattan. On one side they become three students gossiping in a schoolroom as another enters alone; on the other, it's a guy sauntering into a club where three women are drinking at a table.
Emma Russo, 25, is in charge there, setting up a romance; across the space, Alexia Acebo, 22, is summoning a popularity contest. Both are working to the same jazzy instrumental version of "Pennies From Heaven."
Bouncing back and forth between the two story lines is Broadway choreographer (and Tony nominee) Josh Prince, asking questions, making suggestions, offering encouragement—half mentor, half mother hen.
If you love Michael Jackson, you'll love this news: A pre-Broadway run of the MJ jukebox musical will hit Chicago this fall.
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough boasts more than 25 MJ hits and has set its premiere for October 29. As previously reported, Christopher Wheeldon will direct and choreograph the new musical, while Lynn Nottage pens the book.