You doubtless have heard of Encores!, the musicals-in-concert series at New York City Center that has led to the Broadway revivals of Chicago and the current Tony Award-nominated Gypsy. (Next up, July 5-27, a summer presentation of Damn Yankees starring Will & Grace alum Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock.)
Earlier this week, I was in New York, where I sampled another series highlighting vintage Broadway. Broadway by the Year is the brainchild of critic-writer-host Scott Siegel, who puts together Town Hall programs of numbers culled from the musicals of a certain year. On Monday, 1965 got the Broadway by the Year treatment, and a packed Town Hall thrilled to the results.
The talent lineup featured a number of Tony nominees and award winners: Brian D'Arcy James, who will play the title role in the musical version of Shrek next season; the wry and charming Gregg Edelman, a four-time Tony nominee; actresses Julia Murney and Shannon Lewis; cabaret performers Julie Reyburn and Branton Cutrell; sizzling young dancers Kendrick Jones and Melinda Sullivan; and Plantation's gift to Broadway, booming baritone Marc Kudisch.
Kudisch, who is capable of both leading man bombast and sly comedy, showed the range of his talents throughout the evening, singing a booming Man of La Mancha, Take the Moment from Do I Hear a Waltz? and a comedically self-adoring Look at that Face (with James and Edelman) from The Roar of the Greasepaint. Kudisch is, in many ways, the series star -- and he earns it.
The Broadway by the Year experience is illuminating, entertaining and fun, so if you happen to be in New York when it happens again, go for it.
For a bit of Broadway closer to home, check out the revamped version of Stephen Schwartz's Working, opening tonight (May 16) and running through June 8 at Sarasota's Asolo Repertory Theatre. Adapted by Schwartz from the best seller by Studs Terkel, the musical bowed on Broadway in 1978 with a 17-actor cast that included Patti LuPone (nominated this week for a Tony as best actress in a musical for her star turn in the revival of Gypsy).
The piece about how folks feel about working has always had numbers by different composers: Schwartz, James Taylor, Micki Grant, Craig Carnelia, Susan Birkenhead. But the Asolo's production, featuring six actors playing numerous roles in 90 minutes, features the work of an exciting addition to the composer roster. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the 28-year-old whose current Broadway hit In the Heights was just nominated for 13 Tony Awards, has written two new songs for the production, which is being directed by Gordon Greenberg. Miranda (that's him in the red shirt and black cap) has created a song about a guy who works at McDonald's and one about immigrants who care for senior citizens.
Tickets to Working at the Asolo are $10-$56. For information, call 1-800-361-8388 or visit the theater's web site.