I’ve been running all over creation, it seems, readying the fall theater preview, which publishes Sept. 12.
We’ll take a look at the Broadway season ahead, and I’ll have interviews with some locals whose work you’ll see in the Theater District this fall.
To whet your appetite….
+ I chatted with White Plains’ own Jennifer Damiano, the 19-year-old actress who follows a Tony-nominated run in “Next to Normal” by stepping into the most expensive Broadway show ever, Julie Taymor’s long-delayed, $50-million “SPIDER-MAN: Turn Off the Dark,” which features music by u2’s Bono and The Edge. We spoke in the upstairs lobby of the newly renamed Foxwoods Theater, which used to be the Hilton, on 42nd Street, steps from Times Square. Stagehands were busily loading in the set and lights — I spotted a huge Chrysler Building set piece when I peeked inside. (Journal News photographer Carucha L. Meuse shot the great photo at right.) Jenn talked about:
- Her decision to leave “Next to Normal” (“Metaphorically, my costumes were bursting at the seams.”);
- Joining a production that has been gathering steam, and losing it, for a few years now (“I can’t really think of it as anything but it beginning now.”)
- Julie Taymor (“I trust every one of her instincts.”)
- Playing in a huge musical house. (“Playing to the last row in the Booth and playing to the last row here are two totally different things. I’m trying to be a little bigger, a little more physical, for (Taymor).”)
- Meeting Bono and The Edge. (“I met them at my final callback for the show. It was crazy. Just your typical Wednesday, meeting Bono and The Edge.”
+ I caught up with Thomas Meehan, a Suffern native who wrote with Mel Brooks (“The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein”), adapted John Waters (book for “Hairspray” and “Cry-baby”) and penned a little show called “Annie,” which he is in the process of re-tooling for a return to Broadway. But first up is Meehan’s Broadway-bound adaptation of the Will Ferrell film “Elf,” which comes to the Hirshfeld in time for the holidays. His co-writer is Bob Martin, who played “Man in Chair” in “The Drowsy Chaperone.” We talked about their writing approach and about Martin’s incredible Canadian television series, “Slings & Arrows,” which any theater fan MUST see on DVD. (Carucha also caught this photo of Meehan in his apartment, as he prepared to pack for a West Coast trip.)
+ I also spoke with New City composer David Yazbek (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”), who is part of the team behind a star-studded adaptation of Pedro Almodovar’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”The cast includes: Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Danny Burstein, Sherie Rene Scott, De’Adre Aziza, Laura Benanti, Justin Guarini, Nikka Graff Lanzarone and Mary Beth Peil. Yazbek talked about the different styles he’ll employ and about sitting in a room with Bartlett Sher (“South Pacific”) as Almodovar took them through the film, frame by frame, to talk about what he was thinking when he shot the comedy about, well, women on the verge… Funny stuff.
+While most of the preview is about new shows coming in, I also had the pleasure of talking with a Broadway newcomer stepping into a Tony-winning musical. Kyle Beltran — who grew up in Tuckahoe, lived in Yorktown for a while and then moved to White Plains — is just 24, but he has already been touring with “In the Heights” for the better part of a year. Last week, he joined the Broadway cast as Usnavi, the bodega owner who leads the cast and is the heart of the musical. The role was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical. Beltran’s co-star is Jordin Sparks, the “American Idol” winner who is also marking her Broadway debut. Beltran and I chatted over a post-show dinner at Broadway haunt Angus McIndoe, the scene of a formative moment in his development as an actor. The story is just priceless. (Carucha, again, with a great shot of Beltran outside the Richard Rodgers Theater before Tuesday night’s show.) For a glimpse of Beltran’s rapping skills, Check out a funny Youtube video Beltran and Miranda made with Karen Oliva.
+ Closer to home, I follow up my recent story on the plans for the White Plains Performing Arts Center with an interview with Annette Jolles, the venue’s new artistic director. She talks about teaching at Yale, directing for TV and about turning WPPAC into a home for new works. It’s an ambitious plan and Jolles will be at the center of it, directing the first two shows — “Wallenberg” and “That Time of the Year” — which were written by two members of the new creative team: Laurence Holzman and Felicia Needleman.
+I’ve also been contacting professional and community-theater groups to get the lowdown on their plans for the fall and beyond. The “big list” will be one you’ll want to save.
The Fall Theater Preview will publish Sept. 12 in The Journal News. Don’t miss it.