Kurt Vonnegut

If you were in college in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you were probably reading Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. even during the time you’d earmarked for physical science or calculus.

The Baby Boomer generation was intoxicated with everything that maverick novelist Vonnegut (1922-2007) wrote. Campus quadrangles were filled with kids reading paperbacks of what was then his entire oeuvre of nine novels, from Player Piano (1950) to Slapstick (1979).

The one they seemed to like best – and that Vonnegut himself thought his finest — was Cat’s Cradle. When he was asked to grade his own work, he gave an A-plus to this fanciful 1963 novel about a banana republic whose top banana has a very secret weapon.

Soon after publication, Broadway producer Hillard Elkins optioned the property and planned to make it into a musical. As it turned out, Elkins instead chose to channel his energies into Oh! Calcutta! which wound being Broadway’s second-longest running revue, thanks to its full frontal (and full dorsal) nudity. (Elkins had asked Vonnegut to submit a sketch, but the author declined the offer.)

Still, as late as 1971, Elkins was telling Christopher Davis, his biographer, that “I think Cat’s Cradle will be done shortly.” In 1972, when a one-hour special of Vonnegut’s writings reached TV, the end credits acknowledged that the show’s producers needed Elkins’ permission for the Cat’s Cradle sequences. But Elkins never even got around to hiring a bookwriter or songwriter(s), so the project never happened.

However, Vonnegut fans should know that there has indeed been a musical version of one of their beloved author’s books, one to which he gave an “A” during that same grading session. It’s his 1965 novel GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER, which, in 1979, was musicalized by Howard Ashman, Alan Menken and Dennis Green.

You may not know the last name, but you probably know the first two. Ashman and Menken’s next collaboration was LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Not long after, they headed to Hollywood where they wrote THE LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the latter of which, sad to say, Ashman never lived to see. But Menken has remained a steady force in Broadway and Hollywood music and is one of the reasons why so many millennials care about musical theater.

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

Music Theatre International is now offering GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER for production. “By the authors of THE LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!” should get many patrons through the doors.

However, while some of the musical is cartoonish (in the best sense of the word), this show isn’t at all similar in tone to the Disney classics. Vonnegut was a delightfully off-the-wall author, and Ashman, Menken and Green stayed true to his tone. If they hadn’t, would Vonnegut’s daughter Edith have become lead producer of this off-Broadway musical?

If you don’t know the novel, it’s the story of Eliot Rosewater, president of The Rosewater Foundation, which has been funded by his family’s wealth – the fourteenth largest fortune in America. When the show opens in 1979, the ledger reveals $87,472,033.61. As Daddy Warbucks says in ANNIE, “That was a lot of money in those days.”

But shyster lawyer Norman Mushari feels he just might be able to take control of both the foundation and the fortune if he can get Eliot Rosewater judged insane. And because Eliot is, as the authors describe him, “often distracted, slightly unkempt and an athlete gone to not seed but lard,” our eager-beaver legal-eagle Mushari sees Eliot as easy prey.

Adding to Mushari’s claims that Eliot is mad is his willingness to fund esoteric projects. (“We built a ‘Y’ in Tenafly, and two in Tennessee.”) Eliot even dispenses a check to a would-be-author who thinks the world needs a biography of Butterfly McQueen.  (Maybe that’s not so crazy; one was indeed published in 2007.)

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – First Edition (Hardcover)

Although a poet who asked Eliot for a $10,000 grant walked away with a cool $50,000 instead, that’s a droplet in the bucket compared to what Eliot gives his favorite author, Kilgore Trout. Eliot admires this novelist who has a sci-fi mind as wild as – well, Kurt Vonnegut’s. Case in point: Trout’s vision of the future, which we see in a quick scene, shows that average Americans feel their lives are so meaningless and expendable that they voluntarily go to “Ethical Suicide Parlors” where they can choose one of fourteen painless ways to die. The end!

Eliot wants to prevent that from becoming a reality. He takes seriously that oft-quoted inscription on the Statue of Liberty – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” Here in Rosewater County, Indiana, such “wretched refuse” as ex-convicts, the long-unemployed and the people who are still struggling to find their place in the world make phone calls to Eliot. This ultra-humanitarian always comes through for them so that they can be less tired and less poor. His munificence causes the hoi-polloi to sing “Look Who’s Here,” one of Menken’s most tender and beautiful waltzes.

(There’s a caveat here, however. The only way you’ll hear this song is in your head, and only if you can read music. There hasn’t been a ROSEWATER cast album – not yet, anyway. Perhaps your production will lead to one.)

If a man is this generous, Mushari reasons, he must be insane, right? Eliot’s psychiatrist has deemed him incurable. And Sylvia Rosewater increasingly feels that madness is not an unfair charge to level against her husband. How about that time they went to the opera, and as the entombed Radamès and Aida did their final aria, the oxygen-conscious Eliot roared “They’ll last a lot longer if they don’t sing!” If that weren’t enough, he stood up and yelled to the stage “Stop! Stop singing!” Eventually, Sylvia, not Eliot, is driven mad and must be committed.

If you want to make it up to the people you didn’t cast in URINETOWN – or to give new roles to the ones you did choose – ROSEWATER is the show for you. The depressed-looking people that populated that 2001 hit are second-cousins to those who depend on Eliot – as well as the members of the Volunteer Fire Brigade, another of his pet projects. Remember too that your leading man can (and even should) have the look of a character man, which can be a refreshing change. That handsome alpha male who played Trevor Graydon in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE and Johnny in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN need not apply – not unless he wants to profoundly change his image.

No question that ROSEWATER is now a period piece. References to Howard Johnson’s, Green Stamps, Sears and Roebuck, E.J. Korvette’s, Johnny Carson, Elizabeth Taylor and Lawrence Welk tell us that we’re not in 2015 anymore.

And yet, obsolete brand-names and now-deceased celebrities aside, GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER still has a great deal to say about today’s America. So many of our towns that in 1979 were experiencing a slow and steady death after industries had fled have become even more deserted in the ensuing thirty-six years. To paraphrase a Lee Adams lyric, “Mister, we could use a man like Eliot Rosewater now.” At least delivering the message in a Menken-and-Ashman musical makes us face the truth in a more palatable way.

 

You may e-mail Peter at pfilichia@aol.com. Check out his weekly column each Tuesday at www.masterworksbroadway.com and each Friday atwww.kritzerland.com. His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at www.amazon.com.

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    Lonny Price (© David Gordon)

    So in 1970, when the nation was entranced with The Carpenters’ “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” Lonny Price was more interested in someone who didn’t necessarily want a girlfriend to be close to him: Bobby in COMPANY.

    “Believe it or not,” he said, “I was taken to it when I was 11 years old because my family couldn’t get tickets to Applause. And I fell completely in love with Stephen Sondheim’s music. I always wonder how many successful divorce lawyers can sing ‘Another Hundred People’ because they heard me play it so much in my bunk when I went away to camp.”

    Eight years later, Price couldn’t believe his good fortune when he heard that Sondheim’s new musical had a part for a teenager: Tobias, the young lad who worked for an elixir-salesman, was suddenly unemployed when his boss disappeared, was taken in by pie-shop owner Mrs. Lovett and was the first to become suspicious of a man named Sweeney Todd.

    Young Price was now facing the formidable trio of Sondheim, director Harold Prince, and conductor Paul Gemignani. Because the show was set in the 19th century, Price would sing one of that era’s greatest hits: “A Wand’ring Minstrel I” from that 1885 smash The Mikado.

    “Afterward, I was given sides to read, and my wonderful friend David Wolf who’d come with me sat in one of the first few rows of the orchestra and kept going over and over the sides. Finally Paul Gemignani spun around in the pit and angrily said to us ‘Will you guys shut the hell up?! You’re disturbing everyone!’”

    Sweeney Todd Original Broadway Cast

     

    Little did Gemignani know that in fewer than a thousand days Price would be in front of him on stage in MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, directed by Prince and singing songs by Sondheim. And could Gemignani have imagined that in 2007 he’d be conducting the revival of 110 in the Shade that Lonny Price would be directing.

    No, Price didn’t get Tobias, but that wasn’t his last chance with SWEENEY TODD. In 2000, he directed a “Live at the Philharmonic” production with Patti LuPone as the nefarious Mrs. Lovett and George Hearn as the unbalanced Sweeney. Last year he got to do it again with Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel, and this year, I caught up with him just before he went to London to direct them once more in Sondheim’s 1979 Tony-winning masterpiece.

    Price admits that some were surprised to see Thompson in the role. “But ever since I saw her in Me and My Girl,” he said, “I wanted so much to work with her.”

    But wasn’t that Maryann Plunkett, you ask? Yes, here on Broadway, but Thompson was the female lead in London.

    “Emma comes from the world of improv,” Price said, still sounding astonished at the fact. “She had a variety show on British TV, too. Kenneth Branagh was the one who got her into serious roles. Every time I started work on my next directing project, I always asked myself ‘Is there something for Emma Thompson?’”

    This time, there was. “I wrote her a letter out of the blue and she wrote back,” he said. “And she wrote ‘I want you to hear me sing, because after you do, you can get out of this if you want. I won’t be offended but I want you to know what you have and I want it to be something you want, too.’”

    Price stopped to beam. “She is everything you’d hope she’d be as a person. I went with her to her singing teacher, where she sang every song in the score. I knew, though, even before she finished ‘The Worst Pies in London’ (Mrs. Lovett’s opening song) that she could do it. We had to work around her shooting Saving Mr. Banks, and yet she was beyond prepared. I loved seeing her make Mrs. Lovett try to curtsey and be high class and not quite do it. And if you give her an idea and say ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if you tried that?’ she’d say yes and then go out and improve it.”

    Emma Thompson (Photo by Mike Coppola – Getty Images)

    Of course, the situation could have turned out much differently. Although Price is a Tony-nominee and has been a Broadway presence since his dynamic debut as Charley Kringas in MERRILY more than a third of a century ago, he would be dealing here with a household name who had not only won an Oscar as Best Actress (Howard’s End) but also one for Best Adapted Screenplay (Sense and Sensibility).

    “She didn’t know who I was, but she respected me from the beginning. I’ve found that happens with the best people. I was very much younger than Eli Wallach when I directed him in Visiting Mr. Green, and I’d occasionally say, ‘Would you try something different?’ and he would; then I’d say ‘Which do you like better?’ and he’d say ‘You’re my eyes.’ It’s a good point; when actors fight directors, they should remember they don’t know what it looks like from out front. Bob Fosse, I’m told, was having resistance from someone he was working with, and he settled the argument saying ‘If you were out here, you wouldn’t like it.’”

    Price said that actors tend to trust their director – “until you do something that makes you look like an idiot. I remember when I was an actor,” said the 1979-80 Theatre World Award winner, “I and everyone else would believe in the director until there was a moment when we’d all look at each other and could see each other think ‘He doesn’t know what’s he’s doing. We’re on our own here.’ Then we stopped listening. But if the director seems to be intelligent and actors see him making progress with every actor, they trust.”

    Thompson came through on Price’s favorite SWEENEY moment. “It’s when Mrs. Lovett realizes that she’s going to have to kill Tobias because he knows too much,” he said. “What sadness! She’s made a real connection to him, for he’s the only kind of child she’ll ever have. Although he’s brought out something maternal in her, now she’ll have to kill him — the only person who’s ever loved her back. Take a look on Emma’s face when she realizes what she’ll have to do. You see what’s going through her head when he puts his head in her lap.”

    Price was also thrilled to work with opera star Bryn Terfel, too. “In fact,” he said, “when I did it before, Bryn was supposed to do it but ultimately couldn’t. We were lucky that George Hearn stepped in and recreated the brilliant performance he gave in the original production. Still, I’m glad to see what Bryn could do with the role.”

    Fourteen years gives a director plenty of time to change a thing or two. “If you saw the first one, you saw people dressed in black unobtrusively giving the props to Mrs. Lovett. This time I decided to have Mrs. Lovett go scavenging for things.”

    Once again, Price’s trademark of raised platforms placed around the stage would be used. “I felt that surrounding the on-stage orchestra would be more exciting,” he said. “Also having the actors run around a lot would give it energy. That would match the power of the music with physicality that was visceral and muscular.”

    Some have said that Harold Prince’s original production was too elephantine. Price didn’t think so. “After we did it, Hal came up, smiled and said to me, ‘You agree with me! It’s supposed to be big!’ Yes – the shows he did with Sondheim were painted on very large canvases, while many Sondheim did with James Lapine were miniatures. Hal’s production was operatic, and the largeness of it makes it exciting. And I love musicians, so to hear it with an enormous orchestra is thrilling.”

    Company of Sweeney Todd (Photo by Sara Krulwich – The New York Times)

    Many critics may have thought they did Price a favor when they described the event as “semi-staged.” Said Price, “Yes, it’s a hybrid form, but I bristle when they say ‘semi-staged’ because it’s completely staged. It has choreography, too. The only thing it doesn’t have is walls.”

    That Sondheim was pleased with his efforts was of course gratifying, but there was another hurdle to jump. This SWEENEY would be broadcast, so Sondheim would approve or reject Price’s camera shots.

    “When I sent him the cuts, he’d say things like ‘I think you want a wide-shot here.’ Remember, he grew up as an avid movie fan and for a while considered becoming a film editor,” Price said, giving an aren’t-we-lucky-he-didn’t-become-one look. “For a shot when I had Tobias’s face reflected in a trombone, he blatantly said ‘’I hate that.’”

    The solution? “I shortened it,” Price conceded.

    Price relished getting a second chance with the concert New York saw thirteen months ago. “I considered it my first draft that closed after the third preview,” he said with a smile. “So with thirteen performances in London, I hope it’ll be even better.”

    The critics seemed to think so.

    Bryn Terfel and Emma Thomson (Photo WNET)

    “Director Lonny Price wrings every ounce of humour from Stephen Sondheim’s masterwork with sight gags galore and a wonderful comic turn from Emma Thompson … The divine Ms. Thompson, with her brilliant timing and comic asides, offers unbridled joy as Mrs. Lovett. She sings the hell out of the score, too.” — Mark Valencia, What’sonStage

    SWEENEY TODD is one of the most thrilling works of musical theatre, and it’s a treat to hear Stephen Sondheim’s infectious, varied score performed by a 58-piece orchestra … Bryn Terfel must surely be the most gifted singer who has everplayed the demon barber of Fleet Street.” — Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

    “Emma Thompson makes a terrific Mrs. Lovett, hitting just the right balance between endearing naiveté and ruthless amorality, as well as singing meticulously and without affectation.” — Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph

    “The evening’s chief pleasure lies in the prominence it gives to the performers and Terfel is, in every sense, a massive Sweeney.” — Michael Billington, Guardian

    “Price’s production makes one appreciate the score’s cleverness and the orchestra, under conductor David Charles Abell, gives each little melodic shimmy a sumptuous quality.” Quentin Letts, Daily Mail.

    All those take the sting out of not getting Tobias.

     

    You may e-mail Peter at pfilichia@aol.com. Check out his weekly column each Tuesday atwww.masterworksbroadway.com and each Friday at www.kritzerland.com. His

    book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at here.

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      It was “The Road to the Final Four,” as CBS Sports trumpeted all month long. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s College Basketball Tournament – more chummily known as “March Madness” — once again dominated the late winter sports news.

      Fine, and good luck to Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Wisconsin. I saw none of their victories because I was busy with my own version of March Madness — a theatrical one.

      As a result, I too had “The Road to the Final Four” performances of a quartet of musicals, all of which were remarkable.

      First came DISNEY’S HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, JR. in New York City, thanks to ArtsConnection and P94M The Spectrum School.

      Spectrum is an acronym for Special Populations Educated Creatively through Rigor, Understanding and Motivation. It’s often been said that the hardest fear most people cannot conquer is getting up in front of people. Look how many of these special needs kids did it. Even the ones who didn’t do each and every gesture caught up and did most of the rest of them.

      Yes, as with any other student production, there was an occasional mistake. And yet, the kids have learned one of theater’s most valuable lessons: if you make a mistake, forget about it and just go on. They indeed did. But the looks of relief on their faces when they got through a number without a mistake were palpable. The show’s “We’re All in This Together” was a perfect theme song for the teamwork they showed.

      The students clearly felt empowered just from holding microphones in their hands. Tyler S. (the program only offers the initials of last names) loved the authority of playing Coach Bolton. Theater teacher and director Nina Berke started out mouthing the words along with them, but soon stopped when she saw they didn’t need her; she spent the rest of the hour beaming at every victory. So did Tessa Derfner, the coordinator for arts instruction who started the program. Musical director Scott Evan Davis took cell phone photos so he could remember each achievement and achiever. The kids didn’t disappoint him; after each number, their smiles seeped through as if to say “Can you believe I did this?!” They knew they accomplished so much even before the delighted audience gave what lyricist Lee Adams called “the sound that says love” – meaning “applause.”

      New Jersey played host to the other three productions. At Westfield High School, URINETOWN had a more ornate set than it did on Broadway: two levels, with dozens of kids looking like the Wrath of God, down to eyepatches and crutches. This isn’t a musical that relies on pretty or leggy chorus girls or handsome leading men. If you’ve got a surfeit of character actors, here’s the show for you.

      Of course you still have to be able to do it well, and Daniel Devlin, one of the finest stage directors in secondary education, made his cast appear to be the cast of WORKING gone demented, clutching their clothes in agony because, as the song goes, “It’s a privilege to pee.” People who visit Jersey thrift shops will have an easier time finding good clothes now that Devlin’s crew found the worst ones.

      Year after year, Devlin has so many talented kids that he must find a show to house them all. URINETOWN could only afford 16 on Broadway, but Devlin had 49 – making Caldwell B. Cladwell (the superb Frank Guerriero) seem all that more successful, given how many, many employees he had. There were plenty more cops, too, which upped the fascism quotient (although Samantha Hahn made them seem less ominous and odious by having them do a Keystone Kops-like tap dance).

      Devlin knows that no matter what the role, the performer playing it must mine its depths. So Julian Mazzola, portraying second-banana cop Barrel, showed moony-eyed hero-worship for top-dog cop Lockstock (the estimable Michael Poyntz). And while some teachers worry about the ramifications of kids’ kissing, Devlin had Hope (the astonishing Madeleine Rosenthal) and Bobby (the stalwart Julian Mone) kiss so soundly that when they pulled away, they made a “thwack!” sound worthy of cartoon characters.

      Meanwhile, 11 miles away at Woodbridge High School, director Tom Lynch has a tougher time of it. “We’re a blue collar school with very limited resources,” he says. “We get not one cent from the Board of Education or the school. I can only put on a musical if I make enough money from last year’s show to fund this one.

      “I decided on BRING IT ON – the musical about cheerleaders — mostly because of last year’s In the Heights. I’d previously varied between classics such as Cabaret and newer material such as 13, and always got the same audience – the ‘good’ kids already interested in theater, their friends and parents.

      “But with In the Heights, roughly 50% who auditioned had never crossed the threshold of the drama room. The show’s hip-hop, ethnic, street quality brought in a different kind of student and made for a different mix in the cast. At performances, hundreds of non-theater, non-academic kids came to see it.

      “Yes, there was more talking, more texting, more leaving their seats – and more crying babies who never should have been there in the first place. But I’ll grab any chance to introduce musicals to people who don’t know their magic. Because our school is roughly one- third Hispanic, one-third black, and one- third white, it seemed to me that BRING IT ON’s plotline would speak to the kids.”

      Indeed. Campbell is a cheerleading captain for Truman, a middle-class suburban high school – until redistricting sends her to Jackson, an urban high school that has no interest in cheerleading.

      That’s for good reason. Danielle and the other inner-city kids must work after school if they’re going to go to college. Their parents simply aren’t able to pay a tenth of tuition. How Campbell tries to convince Danielle to cheerlead – and how she wound up at Jackson in the first place – are only two of the hard-hitting surprises in the 2013 Tony-nominated musical.

      Lynch said he worried “that nobody but cheerleaders would come to see it,” but that wasn’t the case. There are Broadways shows that wish they had such attendance. Theatergoers laughed at “If a school doesn’t have a cheerleading squad, what’s the point of having school?” (said by a bubble-headed girl of privilege) but also gave out a low hum of reality when they saw the inner-city school had students walking through a metal detector.

      Campbell is involved in no fewer than nine songs and two reprises, so a powerhouse kid is needed. Karli Huber-Sharkus carried the show on her shoulders with the ease of Wonder Woman carrying a Raisinet. She does have powerful scenes with Danielle, whom Daniela Campos beautifully centered.

      Says Lynch, “I direct and produce the show because no one else will. The annual musical otherwise wouldn’t happen, and I couldn’t bear that. What would my four years of high school have been if I hadn’t THE MUSIC MAN or Dolly? Even as a 15 year-old, CAROUSEL affected me deeply, gave me perspective and challenged my idea of the world. So I’ll keep going, for without the wonderful drama that drama club brings, high school might have a less desirable kind of drama.”

      Sixty-one miles south, producing artistic director Anne M. Kessler has built quite an operation at Curtain Call Performing Arts Center and Mount Laurel Community Education. Part of her success comes from her set designer/husband Scott as well as her son Chase and her daughter Erika, who were respectively amazing as Emmett and Vivienne in LEGALLY BLONDE, JR.  The family that does plays together stays together.

      We saw that Delta Nu was faring well as a sorority, for more than two dozen “sisters” were on stage for the opening number. A little later, we found that Harvard Law School has many women professors, all of whom were willing to accept Elle Woods’ application.

      They were unaware, however, that Elle (the sensational Julia Faupel) was only interested in attending so she could win back the love of fellow law student Warner Huntington III (the slick Ryan Coggan). He believed that he needed a trophy wife whose worth was akin to platinum. Elle was merely pink – “my signature color,” she proudly proclaimed.

      If you do the show, make sure your Elle is the only one in pink. Here, one of the first girls seen was dressed in that color, so those familiar with the film or musical would have assumed they were seeing Elle when they actually weren’t.

      The three designers intelligently had pink columns against the stage’s back wall to represent the Delta Nu house, but had them spin around to reveal the other sides were painted white – a far more stately look for what we’d expect Harvard to be.

      Some kids in the classrooms scene wore T-shirts in Harvard’s signature crimson color. Here’s hoping that they became aware of the school and start thinking of going there someday. Students could have worse goals.

      Some students couldn’t have been worse to Elle, whom they regarded as a lightweight. Vivienne Kensington, Warner’s new girlfriend, told Elle that a Friday night get-together was a costume party. Elle then arrived dressed as a Playboy bunny. Kessler and her two co-directors wisely had their Elle wear a bunny-fur coat over her outfit to ensure modesty.

      Elle wound up defending Brooke Windham, a high-profile exercise guru who was accused of murdering her much older husband. (If you do the show, you’ll need a Brooke as adept as Ceara Burden on jump rope and a back-up chorus of girls who can cope with calisthenics choreography.) Elle won the case as much for her know-how of hair care as her newfound law awareness. LEGALLY BLONDE stresses that knowledge – any knowledge – is power.

      It’s only one of its fine themes. If you find people who don’t take to you, work diligently to change their opinions. Keep your word when you make a promise, no matter how many of your colleagues want you to break it.

      And then there’s something that teens need to know as they maneuver their attempts at first love: when you break up with someone, do it as gently as Elle lets down Warner. You don’t have to decimate your former mate the way that Kentucky manhandled West Virginia in the third round of the other March Madness.

       

      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 upcoming book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available for pre-order at www.amazon.com.

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        In recognition of World Autism Awareness Day, we are proud to share our film, SPECTRUM OF HOPE.

        SPECTRUM OF HOPE is the story of 10 musical theater students, their families, and their teachers as they journey from their special needs school in New York City’s Lower East Side (P94M – The Spectrum School) to the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a beautiful moment in all of their lives – a celebration of the power of arts education, musical theatre, and what can be accomplished when students are allowed to flourish on their own terms.

        When MTI created Broadway Junior in 1997, we did so with the goal of making musical theatre accessible to as many teachers and students as possible. We knew that children engaged with the arts receive significant educational and social benefits and we wanted every kid in America to experience the joys of making a musical.

        Over 100,000 productions later, we’re seeing firsthand how dedicated teachers and teaching artists use our Broadway Junior musicals to give students the skills they need to grow and succeed.

        SPECTRUM OF HOPE is just one of the inspiring stories made possible by a community embracing the transformative power of the arts – but it is an important reminder that each and every one of us can help make a difference.

        Watch the film on our Spectrum of Hope website:

        http://www.mtishows.com/spectrumofhopemovie

        #SpectrumOfHopeMovie

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          Filichia Features: NOTRE DAME COMES TO NEW JERSEY

          March 27, 2015

          Victor Hugo is very much in place, but Victor, Hugo and Laverne are gone. We’re talking about one of the fundamental changes between the 1996 animated THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and the new stage version that officially debuted at the Paper Mill Playhouse on March 15. If you saw the hit film, you may [...]

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            JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH TYA Now Available for Licensing*

            March 26, 2015

            Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach is now a Theatre for Young Audiences musical for the whole family to enjoy! Featuring a wickedly tuneful score by the TONY Award-nominated team of Pasek and Paul (Dogfight and A Christmas Story the Musical) and a curiously quirky book by Timothy Allen McDonald (Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, [...]

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              Your Wish Has Been Granted: Disney’s Into the Woods Available for Home Release!

              March 24, 2015

              Bring Home the Film on BLU-RAY™ COMBO PACK, DIGITAL HD AND DISNEY MOVIES ANYWHERE (DMA) March 24, 2015! Includes An Exclusive, Never-Before-Seen Original Song “She’ll Be Back” Performed by Meryl Streep with Music By Stephen Sondheim and Lyrics by James Lapine. Ordering information: di.sn/60070m5v Be Sociable, Share!

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                The Kennedy Center Announces 2015 Recipients of The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards

                March 20, 2015

                (WASHINGTON)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced the 2015 winners of Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards—a series of annual grants which recognize American teachers by spotlighting their extraordinary impact on the lives of students. Thirteen teachers were selected in 2015 from a pool of nominations received through the Kennedy Center’s website. [...]

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                  Filichia Features: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEPHEN SONDHEIM

                  March 20, 2015

                  Stephen Sondheim has always loved New York, and, for the most part, Gotham has returned the love. Broadway’s greatest composer-lyricist who turns 85 this week has been a New York presence since his lyrics for WEST SIDE STORY reached Broadway in 1957. There has never been a year that a Stephen Sondheim lyric hasn’t had [...]

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                    American Theatre Magazine: Roald Dahl’s Dark Tales Light Up the Stage

                    March 18, 2015

                    Roald Dahl’s Enduring Legacy: A cover story in American Theatre magazine features the debut production of JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH TYA, (which took place at the Seattle Children’s Theatre in 2013), and includes insights into Roald Dahl’s enduring appeal among young people.  Authors McDonald, Pasek and Paul are all quoted in the piece which [...]

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