He’d called and said he’d be a little late for the 10 a.m. rehearsal, so even when the clock struck 10:15 and Bernie Yvon hadn’t yet arrived, no one gave it much of a thought.

By 10:30, a few started to worry.

By 10:45, most everyone was concerned.

Then someone heard on the radio that there’d been a horrific traffic accident less than a mile away. With trepidation, a staffer went to the scene of the crash and was forced to return to confirm everyone’s worst fears: Yvon had been in the process of taking a left turn, had tried to beat a yellow light, and had been instantly hit and killed when a truck-driver had hoped to get through the intersection before the light turned red.

The entire Chicago theater community mourned, for the multi-Jeff Award-nominated Yvon was one of its favorite actors. That admiration extended to Theatre at the Center, a suburban playhouse in Munster, Indiana, where Yvon had already played leads in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and I DO! I DO! Now he’d been scheduled to open on Thursday as the flamboyant and eccentric unnamed Taxi Driver in WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

William Pullinsi, the theater’s artistic director who was also staging this musical, had to arrange for grief counseling for his cast while also looking for a replacement. Although George Andrew Wolff answered the call, Pullinsi canceled both Thursday and Friday performances to give the new actor time.

Those attending Saturday’s matinee and evening performances were given a playbill that still had Yvon’s bio as well as a picture of a smiling, full-of-life actor who was no more. Inserted in the program was a bio of Wolff, so hastily put together and printed that his name was misspelled at the top. His considerable credits finished with “This is for my dear friend, Bernie.”

Most of the theatergoers undoubtedly knew about Yvon’s death, for the accident was big news in a small town. However, if they didn’t specifically hear that the actor portraying the Taxi Driver had been killed, they may not have known that Wolff was the cast’s last-minute replacement, for he was as accomplished and secure as everyone else in the sterling cast. His responsibilities also included maneuvering his “cab” (a golf cart) around the vast stage, and he deftly handled that, too.

The Taxi Driver has a virtual solo as the show’s opener: “Madrid Is My Mama” which lets us know where the musical will take place. Many times, an actor who’s not up to an opening number causes the audience to lose faith after only a few minutes; getting the show back on track is then difficult if not impossible. Wolff, with a fun-filled smile on his moon-shaped face, stood center stage with a hands-in-pocket ease that let everyone know he had the role in his pocket. Now the hundreds in attendance were assured that they’d have a fine time.

And yet, how hard this experience must have been for all the other performers who might not have felt like doing a slam-bang, laugh-riot musical farce. Watching them cope reminded me of September 13, 2001, when Broadway resumed after not playing on 9/11 or 9/12. Considering what had just happened to the United States, I wanted to see a show that was American as possible, and that meant THE MUSIC MAN, then 17 months into a successful revival. But I wondered how the actors would feel when they had to sing “Oh, we got trouble! Right here in River City!” — now that their city had just seen trouble unlike any of the characters or audience members could have ever imagined. Would the performers break into tears while singing? Would we start crying, too? What would happen?

As it turned out, the actors were undaunted in the face of adversity. After the show, however, when I waited at the stage door to talk to my friends Rebecca Luker and John Sloman, I saw one tear-stained performer after another come out of that door. Now and only now did they let it all out, but during the show, they wanted to give the hundred or so (and not many more) that had braved coming into the city the best possible time.

I expect that same scenario will be replicated at the stage door at Theatre at the Center for the rest of the month-long run. These stalwart pros made certain that the audience got what it had paid for and that they’d take every theatergoer away from the memory of the accident.

One performer who must be particularly hard-hit is Hollis Resnick, a Chicago theatrical legend who’d shared the stage with Yvon on many occasions. She, in fact, had suggested WOMEN ON THE VERGE to Pullinsi, and while he assumed that she would want to play the lead of Pepa, the voice-over artist and occasional “star” of commercials, Resnick preferred the much smaller role of Lucia, the wife of Ivan, Pepa’s lover of many years. Now, however, Ivan oh-so-inconsiderately will dump the 42-year-old who’s not getting any younger by leaving a message on her answering machine.

Well, we do hear the show must go on, and on it went. I saw WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN come across better here than it did on Broadway, where the production was so unfocused that many times we didn’t know where to look. Granted, a proscenium house still serves it better than this mammoth thrust stage, but Pullinsi smartly staged it in uncluttered fashion.

Given that we are talking about a musical based on a Spanish movie (by Pedro Almodóvar), WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN is an excellent vehicle for Latino theater groups. There are three terrific roles for women: Pepa, Lucia and Candela, Pepa’s friend who’s having troubles of her own; she’s discovered that the man she’s been dating is a terrorist and that the police now want to take in anyone who’s been associated with him.

If these weren’t good roles, would Sherie Rene Scott, Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone have wanted to play them? And while the latter two do have some Mediterranean blood, one doesn’t have to be Spanish to do the show. Brian Stokes Mitchell, the original Ivan, would have to agree.

One should have a feel for Spanish-tinged music, however. Composer-lyricist David Yazbek came up with a mélange of salsa, merengue and tango. Sometimes he gave songs a flamenco feel and sometimes he wrote, as Taxi Driver brags he can offer his customers via his car cassette player, “rock, mambo and techno pop.”

Yazbek had a marvelous brainstorm involving Candela. In the film, Pepa comes home in desperate hopes that Ivan has called her to apologize. She sees that she has a number of messages filling her tape (the show takes place in 1987), and she is optimistic as she rewinds. What’s there, however, are Candela’s 27 repeated calls of panic, ranging from a frantic “Call me back!” to an even-tempered “Are you screening?” to an indignant “I’d never not return your call!” Finally, the barrage stops, and there is the coveted call from Ivan – interrupted because the tape ran out, thanks to Candela’s rants.

How wise of Yazbek to turn this into a song for Candela, one in which we see and hear her leaving the multiple messages. “Model Behavior” goes as lickety-split fast as “Getting Married Today” from COMPANY, and is quite the tour de force for any actress who’s lucky enough to play it. This song must be one vital reason why Benanti got a Tony nomination. Here in Indiana, Summer Naomi Smart did it just as splendidly.

But it’s really Pepa’s show, one that an actress must carry on her shoulders. Cory Goodrich was a marvel, going from a woman who thought she was nothing without a man to one who realized he was the loser for losing her. (How the audience, including the husbands, applauded when she came to that conclusion.) Goodrich dynamically delivered her four solos, and last and maybe least, showed a good arm when she threw her telephone offstage in fury, not once, but twice.

So you’ll need to have someone with good hands positioned offstage to catch the phone. In addition, you’ll have to find that golf cart, a motorcycle (albeit on training wheels) and an old-fashioned telephone booth — the type in which Superman used to change — that can be spun around to indicate the passage of time. Don’t forget to find a wooden duck decoy or two; these are gifts that Ivan gives his many lovers.

Ann N. Davis designed a unit set with a “Hal Prince bridge” with a second level. It’s needed, for Candela will try to throw herself off the ledge when matters become too much for her.

For costumes, you’ll shop for one Scotch, Japanese, Hawaiian, English, Arabian and Indian outfit for one number and a toreador suit for another. Get colorful shirts for the men, but if a top button comes loose from any, don’t alert your sewing crew; the shirts are supposed to let ample chest hair sneak out.

Your biggest choreographic challenge may be to find two tango dancers who can be the centerpiece of a dream ballet. There’s also an ensemble number that could be described as a less contentious “Dance at the Gym.”

And there’s a fire. Pepa is so distraught that she unthinkingly throws her lit cigarette onto her bed, and when the flames erupt, she just stands there for many too many seconds before finally deciding to douse it. Yes, she IS on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Even on Broadway, the flames flew high, but here in Indiana, nothing was made of them. Was this a one-performance mishap or a special effect that Pullinsi decided not to use? Lord knows that he, the cast and crew of Theatre at the Center had enough to think about this past week. Here’s a tribute to their resiliency and to the worth of WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, too.

You may e-mail Peter at pfilichia@aol.com. Check out his weekly column each Tuesday at www.masterworksbroadway.com and each Friday at www.kritzerland.com. His new book, Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks – a Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award is now available at www.amazon.com.

 

 

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    “One of the most glowing creations in the history of the musical theater. Filled with laughter and tenderness. It catches the essence of a moment in history with sentiment and radiance.” – The New York Times

    With thousands of productions seen by millions of people worldwide FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a true musical theatre tradition.

    Winner of nine Tony Awards for the original Broadway production, the beloved classic FIDDLER ON THE ROOF began life when Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein decided to adapt Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman to the musical stage. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, with direction and choreography by the famed Jerome Robbins, originally opened on September 22, 1964 at the Imperial Theatre and ran for seven years and nine months – setting a record of 3,242 performances. In 1972 FIDDLER ON THE ROOF was honored with a special TONY Award for being the Longest Running Musical at the time. A 1991 revival earned the show another TONY for Best Revival of a Musical, further cementing the piece as a timeless classic.

    In 2003, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF was adapted into a 60 minute Broadway Junior version, introducing a whole new generation of young artists and audience members to the iconic story.

    At Music Theatre International, we wanted to take this moment to reflect on FIDDLER’s enduring legacy and share our treasure trove of extras including in-depth articles, photos, videos, and a brand new book about the show and movie. We also encourage you to visit the FIDDLER ON THE ROOF show page to read a synopsis, listen to song clips and immerse yourself in the history of the musical.

     Featured Articles

    Edina High School – International Thespian Festival

    Filichia Features: “To Life!” To Fiddler on the Roof (a look at a stellar production from the 2014 Thespian Festival)
    Carrying On Fiddler’s Traditions (A Look at Barrington Stages 2012 production)
    Filichia Features: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is Still Flying High (A look at a 2012 production at New Jersey’ State Theater)

    Photos

    Rochester Summer Music Theater

    Get inspired by the many user-submitted photos of past FIDDLER ON THE ROOF productions on MTI ShowSpace here.

    We also have a great collection of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF JR. photos to view here.

    Videos

    Our Video Playlist has some fantastic features including Norman Jewison and Sheldon Harnick discussing the show’s music.

    Tradition: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway to Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, The World’s Most Beloved Musical

    Barbara Isenberg, an award winning theatre journalist, interviewed the men and women who created the original production, the film and significant revivals to produce a lively, popular chronicle of the making of Fiddler on the Roof. Published for the 50th anniversary of Fiddler’s opening night on Broadway, Tradition! is the book for everyone who loves Fiddler and can sing along with the original cast album.  Order your copy today!

    Bring FIDDLER To Your Stage For This Special Anniversary

    2014/2015 is the perfect time to perform FIDDLER ON THE ROOF on your stage.  There’s nothing like a milestone anniversary to generate even more excitement around a show – and with one of the most iconic musicals of all time, producing FIDDLER ON THE ROOF in its anniversary season is your ticket to box office success!

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      We’re thrilled to announce the release of three brand new TYA musicals, Elephant And Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!”, and Stiles and Drewe’s Goldilocks And The Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs, as well as offer some great suggestions for other family-friendly musicals perfect for young audience members.

      ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!”

      In this vaudevillian romp, Elephant and Piggie sing and dance their way through plenty of pachydermal peril and swiney suspense.

      Get ready for a musical experience ripped from the pages of Mo Willems’s beloved, award-winning, best-selling children’s books that will leave audiences doing the “Flippy Floppy Floory” dance all night long! In Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!”, Gerald and Piggie take to the stage in a rollicking adventure perfect for young audiences.

      GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS

      The classic tale that reminds children not to fiddle with the belongings of others, lest there be consequences to bear.

      When the worlds of bears and people collide, everyone learns that girls and bears aren’t as ferocious as they may seem in the Theatre for Young Audience version of Goldilocks And The Three Bears. Award-winning writers George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Honk!, Mary Poppins) inject a bear-sized helping of music and mayhem into this classic fairytale making it “just right” for the entire family.

      THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

      Embark on a charming and witty adventure with three little pigs as they battle the big bad wolf.

      From Stiles and Drewe, the award-winning musical team behind Honk! and Broadway’s Mary Poppins, comes The Three Little Pigs, a “very curly musical tail” that is perfect for the whole family! This new version of the classic story is full of catchy songs, clever rhymes and silly charm, but also has some very smart things to say about home and family.

      Order Your Free Perusal Copy of the Scripts Today!

      For a limited time only, you can read a free perusal copy of the libretto for Elephant And Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!”, Goldilocks And The Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs. Log in to your My MTI account and select the show from the dropdown menu (it will appear free of charge), or call your licensing agent to order an electronic version or hard copy today!

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        More than a Half Million Dollars in Award Money Remains Available for the 5th Annual Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards

        Nominations Now Being Sought for the Series of Annual $10,000 Awards Named for Broadway Legend that Honors Teachers in all Fields of Education

        (WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is seeking nominations for the 2015 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards –a series of annual grants that recognize inspiring teachers in any field of education across the United States. Now entering their fifth year, the awards were created in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday in 2010. The program was initiated and funded through the generous support of arts philanthropists and friends of Mr. Sondheim, Freddie and Myrna Gershon.

        Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim frequently attributes his success to the teachers in his life. The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are presented each year on Sondheim’s birthday—March 22—to outstanding teachers, kindergarten through college in all areas of education, living or deceased, who are nominated via the Kennedy Center website.

        A total of 32 teachers from across the nation have been recognized over four years for their outstanding influence on students in a wide variety of disciplines, not just the arts. Recipients each receive a $10,000 prize and their stories, as told by the nominating student, are featured on a website dedicated to inspirational teachers.

        Most people have at least one teacher who made an impact on their life. These inspirational people are not often recognized for the life changing role they have played. The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards seek to spotlight those teachers and to recognize them publicly for their significant role in society. The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher homepage features leaders and celebrities, including Warren Buffett, Dr. Jill Biden, J. J. Abrams, Bill Bradley and many others describing their favorite teachers and the impact good teachers make on communities and schools.

        “Teachers define us,” Stephen Sondheim has said. “In our early years, when we are still being formed, they often see in us more than we see in ourselves, more even than our families see and, as a result, help us to evolve into what we ultimately become. Good teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone.”

        Winner of the Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, Stephen Sondheim has received more Tonys® than any other composer. Mr. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for Saturday Night, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, The Frogs, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George (for which he received a Pulitzer Prize), Into the Woods, Assassins, Passion and Road Show, as well as lyrics for West Side Story, Gypsy, and Do I Hear a Waltz? and additional lyrics for Candide. Revues of his work include Sondheim on Sondheim, Side by Side by Sondheim, Marry Me a Little, You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, and Putting It Together. For films and television, he composed the scores of Stavisky and Reds and wrote songs for Dick Tracy, for which he received an Academy Award, and Evening Primrose. He was also the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1993. Mr. Sondheim is on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981.

        Nominate a Teacher Today!

        Click here or visit kennedy-center.org/sondheimteacherawards

        The nomination deadline is December 14, 2014.  Nominators for posthumous recognition of a teacher must designate a 501(c)3 organization or fund within a K-12 school, school system, college, or university in the United States to receive the $10,000 award in the deceased teacher’s name.

        Connect on Facebook

        Visit the official Teachers Change Lives page here.

         

         

         

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          Filichia Features: DIVORCE ME, DARLING! The sequel to THE BOY FRIEND

          September 12, 2014

          It was an inspired notion. Ten years after Sandy Wilson had struck gold as the bookwriter, composer and lyricist of THE BOY FRIEND, he decided to revisit those “perfect young ladies from finishing school” that he’d created. Now he’d imagine how they’d fare a decade later with the boy friends who’d become their husbands. As [...]

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            Tradition: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway to Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, The World’s Most Beloved Musical

            September 8, 2014

            September 22, 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. To commemorate that event, we are thrilled to let you know about TRADITION! The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, The World’s Most Beloved Musical. Since it first opened on Broadway in fall, [...]

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              Filichia Features: Sandy Wilson’s THE BOY FRIEND Lives On

              September 5, 2014

              Living to be 90 represents a generous life span. Most of us, if we could, would sign a contract today if we were assured we’d be able to last that long. And yet, even after we see someone has attained nonagenarian status, we’re still saddened when he leaves us. Nevertheless, Sandy Wilson, who died at [...]

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                Save BIG when you order multiple copies of your Scene Partner e-scripts!

                September 1, 2014

                Scene Partner is a powerful iPhone app that helps you learn your lines so you can get off book fast!  Available for a number of MTI titles, Scene Partner provides an electronic version of your script which you can then divide by character, act and scene.  This allows you to focus the script around your [...]

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                  Filichia Features: BUGSY MALONE, JR.: Good Kids as Bad Guys

                  August 28, 2014

                  The thought occurs to me while I’m driving to Cranford, New Jersey, to see The Theatre Project Jr.’s production of BUGSY MALONE, JR. This was minutes after I’d finished watching Alan Parker’s 1976 film, a spoof of Prohibition-era speakeasies and the gangsters and molls who loved them. Parker’s gimmick was that children would play all [...]

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                    Sandy Wilson, Composer of THE BOY FRIEND Passes Away at Age 90

                    August 28, 2014

                    Music Theatre International is mourning the loss of beloved composer and lyricist, Sandy Wilson who passed away at the age of 90 on August 27th.  Wilson wrote the book, music and lyrics for two MTI musicals, The Boy Friend and Divorce Me Darling. The Boy Friend remains one the more popular classic titles in the [...]

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