Musical Theatre

Buzz About This Year’s Tonys

The 71st Tony Awards are all set to be held on Sunday, June 11, so if you’re a Broadway lover, make sure you block the date. This year’s awards ceremony promises to be mesmerizing and we give you six reasons why you should be excited.

1. Kevin Spacey will be hosting the show.

Yup, he’s your favorite guy from “House Of Cards” who also won an Oscar for his role in “American Beauty.” He has even won a Tony for his role in “Lost in Yonkers” way back in 1991.

Although he has never hosted an awards show before, he is known for his mysterious persona that makes him even more endearing. In his own words, “I’m used to people thinking I’m nuts. And you know what? I kind of love it.”

With his enigmatic personality and unlimited charisma, he’s sure to make this year’s ceremony a memorable one. Moreover, Spacey was also a guest speaker at NYFA. Check out his Q&A session here.

2. This year’s line-up of presenters is AMAZING.

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Even if you aren’t that much of a Broadway buff, you surely wouldn’t miss the chance to catch your favorite actor or actress on the small screen, will you? Here are just some of the top names slated to make an appearance: Orlando Bloom, Tina Fey, Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Collbert, Josh Gad, Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilde, among many others.

3. Some of your favorite nominees are going to be presenters as well.

Now that’s an extra incentive. Among the nominees who are supposed to be presenting as well, we’re 100 percent sure about Ben Platt from “Dear Evan Hansen,” Josh Gobran from “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” and Bette Milder from “Hello, Dolly!” So keep your fingers crossed.

4. Watch out for some fierce competition.

Currently leading the nominations with 12 nods is “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” a musical based on Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” Next up with 10 nods is “Hello, Dolly!”

“Dear Evan Hansen” and “A Doll’s House, Part 2″ come third and fourth with nine and eight nominations, respectively.

So who are you expecting to win? Check out our predictions on Student Resources.

5. There’s even a Tony Award Season compilation album to get you into the groove.

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This is absolutely new and guess what? The songs were chosen as per fan votes on the official Tony Awards website!  The album will be officially released digitally on June 9 but you can pre-order it on iTunes. Some highlights from the album include “In A World Like This” from “A Bronx Tale,” “The Last Night of the World” from “Miss Saigon,” and “Sincerely, Me” from “Dear Evan Hansen.” A portion of the proceeds will also go to charity.

6. Guess who all are taking home the special awards?

The word is out that the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement will go to actor James Earl Jones and both Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin will be bestowed a Special Tony Award for their sound design work on “The Encounter.”

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So what part of the Tonys excites you the most?

By the way, we will be live-streaming during the Tony Awards ceremony, so don’t forget to follow us for live updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Who Are We Rooting For at the 2017 Tony Ceremony?

The 2017 Tony Award Season is going to be a blast. Not only do we have Kevin Spacey (who was a guest speaker at NYFA) hosting the show, but we also have a pretty eclectic selection in terms of nominations.

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While “A Doll’s House Part 2″ imagines a sequel to the famous Ibsen play, “Groundhog Day,” based on a film of the same name, is a romantic comedy about a man stuck in a time loop. Meanwhile, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” a musical based on Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is leading the show with 12 nominations.

So who are your expected winners? Below are our predictions in the top categories for this year’s Tony Awards.

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1.  Best Play: Our guess is that it’s going to be “Sweat,” which is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Lynn Nottage and takes a cold hard look at working-class America. However, “Oslo” may be a close contender for this award.

2. Best Musical: We’re torn between two choices — “Come From Away” and “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” but we’re willing to place a bet on the former.

3. Best Revival of a Play: Set in a gypsy-cab station, we think “Jitney” was one heck of an amazing ride and we’re hoping it will bag this year’s Tony.

4. Best Revival of a Musical: We think it’s going to be a close call between “Hello, Dolly!” and “Falsettos” but we’re slightly biased towards “Falsettos.” 

5. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: We think Kevin Kline did an amazing job as Garry Essendine in “Present Laughter.” 

6. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: As much as we love Cate Blanchett, we have a feeling it’s going to be Laurie Metcalf for her fantastic role in “A Doll’s House, Part 2″ as Nora Helmer.

7. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical: For this, our heart simply goes out to Josh Groban from “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

8. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical: Both Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone stole our hearts with their mesmerizing performances in “War Paint,” so we’re hoping it might be a draw, though we suspect Bette Midler from “Hello, Dolly!” is going to be stiff competition.

9. Best Direction of a Play: We think it’s a tough choice between Sam Gold (“A Doll’s House, Part 2″)  and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Jitney”).

10. Best Direction of a Musical: We’re rooting for Christopher Ashley for all the little ways he made “Come from Away” such a captivating experience.

11. Best Book of a Musical: In our opinion, the award for the best librettist should go to Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen.” 

12. Best Original Score Written For Theatre: We really hope its Dave Malloy’s heart-wrenching score for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.” 

Do you agree or disagree with the above predictions?

In fact, we will be live-streaming during the Tony Awards ceremony, so follow us for live updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and see how many of our predictions came true!

The 4 Top Grossing & Longest Running Current Broadway Shows

No trip to New York is complete without seeing a Broadway show. The most famous theatre district in the world, Broadway is a 13 mile strip in Manhattan that is full of culture, lights, and theatre magic. The most popular shows on Broadway are the musicals, to the point that the very word “Broadway” has become synonymous with the American style of musicals made famous by the Great White Way. There’s no business like show business, but what many don’t realize is that show business can be big business.

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Here’s a list of the highest grossing, longest running, and most significant Broadway shows going on right now. We only included shows that are still going: unfortunately, “Mamma Mia” ended its first run in 2015, so it barely missed this list. However, it is the most popular “jukebox” musical of all time (a musical that uses popular music). If you want to see the longest-running Broadway shows to date, check out Playbill’s comprehensive list

Here are 4 current shows that embody the spirit of Broadway, and are also busting box office records:

Wicked

There haven’t been very many new Broadway shows that have crept their way onto the list of the longest running and highest grossing Broadway musicals. “Wicked” is not only an exception to this rule; it’s gross has been exceptional. Debuting in 2003, the story of the Wicked Witch of the West’s untold and ill-fated friendship with Glinda the Good Witch and how she came to become one of our culture’s most famous villains has made over a billion dollars. And as long as it’s run continues, it’ll soon unseat “Mamma Mia” to become the 8th longest running Broadway musical of all time. Currently, “Wicked” sits at 9th place for all time.

Chicago

The only show on this list to spawn a film adaptation that went on to win Academy Award for Best Picture, the revival of 1975’s “Chicago” has been running ever since it reopened in 1996. This makes it the second longest running Broadway musical of all time, and the longest running show to debut on Broadway. Like many Broadway musicals, it had its origins in a different medium: a non-musical play written by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about a pair of female murderers: the star Velma Kelly and her rival, the fame hungry Roxie Hart, as they try to make themselves famous while awaiting trial. The original show was choreographed and directed by the legendary Bob Fosse, who dramatized this busy portion of his life in the 1979 film “All That Jazz” (he was also directing a film based on the life of Lenny Bruce, entitled “Lenny”).

The Phantom of the Opera

The story of “The Phantom of the Opera” is an odd one. The Gaston Leroux novel had already been adapted twice into film with Lon Chaney and Claude Reins portraying the title role, respectively, when Andrew Lloyd Webber crafted the definitive stage version of this tale about a soprano’s obsession with a maimed and musically gifted recluse who lives under the Palais Garner. Now,  “Phantom” is synonymous with Broadway — and with good reason: it’s been running since 1988, which means it currently holds the title of the longest-running musical in the world. Not only that, but “Phantom” was also the most financially successful musical until it was surpassed in 2014 by…

The Lion King

“The Lion King” is truly a dynamo in the world of Broadway. It launched the career of Julie Taymor, who went on to become the first woman to win a Tony for directing for her work on the show. She also won a Tony for the costume designs and even helped with the script. “The Lion King” is based on the Disney blockbuster, which follows the coming of age, framing of, and triumphant return of the rightful king of the Pride Lands, Simba. “The Lion King” may only be the third longest running Broadway show, but it’s the highest grossing, which is incredibly impressive when you consider it started its run nine years after “The Phantom of the Opera.” Boasting innovative puppet work and the music of Elton John, “The Lion King” on stage stands alongside the film as an inspiring example of what each respective medium can do.

Have a great experience with one of these shows or want to talk about your favorite show? Sound off in the comments! And learn more about musical theatre at NYFA!

NYFA Alumna Niki Landella: In Her Own Words

By Niki Landella

My experience at the NYFA was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done for myself, for my spirit, for my artistic process and for my personal and professional development.

I only spent four weeks there and I am an entirely different woman as a result.

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Picture this:

Picture perfect facilities, the Statue of Liberty in the distance and an amazing view; state-of-the-art equipment, people from all over the world in one building studying with you, every single teacher with credentials which, when mentioned, could easily be mistaken for name dropping — but none of that is what really makes NYFA special.

For me, the best part about NYFA was the souls I encountered and the depth of the humans with whom I had the privilege of interacting. My experience was one of absolute respect and dignity.

Each and every teacher encouraged me to trust myself more, and I think this has something to do with the success that they have already experienced in their lives. There is something about people who have already experienced legitimate success in their careers — they don’t need to put you down in order to get a sense of significance. I think because they had already experienced professional fulfillment, their teaching process was free of the subconscious agendas I find many teachers in the arts have. I speak as an individual who has grown up in the arts and has been in the arts for 15 years.

No NYFA teacher ever motivated me through shame. I found myself doing things I had struggled with for years, just because my NYFA teachers had the necessary patience with me. I absolutely blossomed under their nurturing.

In improv class I was taught to listen to my own inner compass.

In Meisner I was taught to listen to others.

In dance I was taught to give myself the dignity of my process in getting to know my body. In singing I learned to trust my own voice.

In lab classes I also learned to respond to my own inner stimuli.

Music teachers all gave me the comfort of knowing that, with enough patience, I am capable of understanding what I once thought of as a complex art; to trust that there is music inside of me, and that they would be willing to help me unlock it.

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There’s something indescribably beautiful and empowering about the culture of respect under which I found the New York Film Academy to operate.

Then there are the classmates. I know it may sound like a luxury to have global classmates, but picture this: You’re sitting in music theory, and an Italian word like “Acapella” comes up. Your actual Italian friend from actual Italy who is sitting next to you says, “In my language that word means ‘in the chapel,’ because acapella music was first sung at church,” and then the music teacher responds and gives you all the historical data on that.

Now imagine how many of these little serendipitous moments you have every day, which add so much to your store of knowledge and such depth of calibre to your education in a way that few schools are able to provide on this globe. And I say that as someone who has lived on three continents.

Then there is just something about New York. In the arts at least, New York is where the best of the best go to refine themselves. When you are in New York you are swimming with the big fish and you have an unparalleled wealth of resources at your fingertips.

My short time at the New York Film Academy was worth every penny, every drop of sweat that went into getting there — and then some. I would recommend a course at the New York Film Academy, at any of their campuses, to any individual who considers themselves serious about being a storyteller in any field. They source the best of the best, they give you their absolute best every day, and all they ask for in return is that you give your best. There is a culture of excellence coupled with a culture of respect. There is absolutely no way one can walk away from such an experience without being deeply enriched.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Niki Landella for taking the time to share her story about her wonderful experience in our musical theatre program. We are so glad to have you in our community, and can’t wait to hear about your next adventures!

 

How to Adjust Your Singing Voice for Different Microphones

We all have an idea of how our voices sound, but the idea doesn’t usually match the reality. Most people are surprised and even sometimes horrified by hearing themselves in a recording. In fact, only 10 percent of the people in the world are able to recognize their own voice when it’s played. But if you’re a professional singer or hoping to become one, you’re probably used to hearing yourself and have taken special steps to improve your vocals. Nevertheless, you’ve noticed that your voice doesn’t sound the same in different microphones, and sometimes the results can be quite alarming.

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So the first thing to realize is this: different microphones are manufactured and calibrated to suit a variety of needs. The type of microphone to use will depend a lot on your genre of singing, the accompanying musical instruments used, location, and the result you’re aiming for. As the world’s only musical theatre program that creates fully-produced, original movie musicals, NYFA’s Musical Theatre School offers students the opportunity to record their vocals in state-of-the-art, professional studios. But what if you’re looking to do your own project on the side, or have booked an outside job? This guide will help you adjust your singing voice across different microphone and help you determine the best ones to pick for your next recording session.

1. If You’re Using A Condenser Microphone

If your music is focused primarily on your vocals or acoustic instruments, this is the microphone for you. However, a condenser mic is more prone to sibilance, so when you’re singing something which has a lot of S and F sounds, you can either use software to mask it or sing at an off-axis angle. Alternatively, you can do the “pencil trick,” which basically involves tying a pencil over the mic’s diaphragm with a rubber band that splits up and diverts the high frequency vibrations.

2. If You’re Using A Dynamic Microphone

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This is a cheap, all-rounder alternative to the former that is good for vocals, drums and even recording guitar amp. However, one of the chief drawbacks is the “proximity effect.” This means that if you sing too closely to the mic, there’s a perceptible low-end boost in the frequency response. You can counterbalance this to some extent by using a pop filter or omni-directional mics.

3. If You’re Using A Ribbon Microphone

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These are extremely expensive and extra sensitive and are perfect for those who want to bring a vintage vibe to their music. If your music involves piano, strings or woodwind, or if you’re singing in a choir, this is your best choice.

Whether you’re recording your voice for a music project or for a musical film, there are two more very important things you can do to improve and adjust your voice for the mic…

4. Work With a Vocal Coach

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As you already know, hearing your own voice is vastly different from the way others hear you. Getting a trained vocal coach to oversee your singing lessons is very important, as they can help spot new areas of your vocal work that need attention, and direct you to new techniques and skills. Not only will a professional vocal coach make sure you hit the right notes, you’ll also have an objective, outside perspective to help you practice better posture and breathing as well as how to adapt your techniques when you’re singing in a studio or live.

5. Control Your Vibrato

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Most of us tend to have a natural vibrato, but professionals must learn to control and harness vibrato at the right time for best results. A vibrato can be similar to having an accent, and with regular practice you’ll be able to control and manipulate the rhythms and add more style to your singing.

Finally, remember that singing is a performance. For any show to be successful, your emotions must be real and you must enjoy what you do. Happy singing!

Ready to up your vocal game with some formal training and hands-on experience with real-world projects? Check out NYFA’s musical theatre programs.

Movie Musical Icons and Why They Continue to Inspire Us

What is a movie musical icon?

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In the performing arts world, musical theatre is timeless and classic. No wonder movie musical icons continue to inspire us!

Movie musicals combine acting with singing and dancing in order to give life to a masterpiece. A good musical can withstand the test of time, regardless of what time period the musical itself is encapsulating.

The same applies to the stars that play leading roles. Performers like Judy Garland are essentially immortal in the grand scheme of our cultural memory. Plotlines needn’t be complex for a musical to be entertaining or successful. Performers get to show off all aspects of their talent, which is what makes them so inspiring!

How does a musical theatre icon inspire us?

Musical theatre icons inspire us with their fantastic performances. To become an icon, their musical theatre presence has to be so great it makes a lasting impression. All it takes is one strong performance to become elevated to icon status in the public eye.

For instance, Tim Curry is an established actor who has played a lot of roles, yet most people remember him wearing a garter belt. Thanks to playing the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the most prominent image of him is a lipstick-toting transvestite from space.

But a role doesn’t need to be outrageous to stand out. For example, Ryan Gosling is also a well-established actor, who this year showed a new side as a jazz pianist in the award-winning “La La Land.” Will his performance join the iconic musical theatre performer hall of fame? Only time will tell, but we already know his performance is part of what has brought movie musicals back into the spotlight.

How do icons become icons?

Musicals require multidimensional talent. Acting talent alone does not suffice in musical theatre, or musical films. Performers must also be able to sing and dance in order to bring the musical to life. Being talented in one of these fields is enough to wow audiences. Excelling at all of them, all at once is absolutely exceptional!

How can someone not fall in love with Emma Stone when watching her sing, dance, and act as Mia Dolan in “La La Land”? Many of us can relate to Mia Dolan, a barista who aspires to be a successful actress. Stone brings that relatable character to life in the most spectacular way, which may propel her to icon status as well. That’s why the New York Film Academy aims to sculpt students into “triple threat performers” that are bound to impress critics.

How can you become a serious musical theater performer?

If you want to follow your dreams to become a serious musical theatre performer and inspire others, why not make it happen? The only way become successful is to get out there and perform musical theatre roles. Come to NYFA to learn the skills you’ll need to pursue your dreams.

The New York Film Academy trains students in fully-produced movie musicals to showcase their talents and prepare them for the rigors of delivering a stellar performance both on stage and on screen. Students also gain experience by working with industry professionals such as casting directors, agents, producers, experienced teachers, and more. Joining the 2-year program will give students tons of filmed, on-screen experience for auditions and later reference. 

Learn more about musical theatre and film performance at New York Film Academy. Who are your favorite musical theatre icons? Let us know in the comments below!

Who Run the World: Powerful Women in Musical Theatre

We all have idols or people we look up to for inspiration and motivation. With the amount of work you have to do as a dedicated performer, it never hurts to have someone to look up to as you focus on giving your best efforts on a daily basis. Regardless of strides made in equality for women in the arts, it’s still sometimes hard to make it as a female performer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make every moment in your career worthwhile! At the New York Film Academy, we encourage aspiring musical theatre artists to pursue big dreams and to improve on professional-level skills every day. So, for inspiration, we’re giving you examples of insanely powerful women in musical theatre anyone can look up to:

Idina Menzel

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Queens, New York native Idina Menzel became a smash-hit in “Wicked” as Elphaba and an international sensation starring as Elsa in Disney’s “Frozen.” Her performance of hit song “Let It Go” won an Oscar, and she became the first person to have both a Tony Award and a Billboard Top 10 song. Menzel originated the role of Maureen in “Rent,” which she reprised for the 2005 film adaptation.

Menzel also co-founded the organization A BroaderWay Foundation, dedicated to helping girls in low-income areas experience the arts while building leadership skills, developing self-esteem, and teaching girls to dream big.

Phillipa Soo

Phillipa Soo visits AOL Hq for Build on Nov. 5, 2015 in New York. Photos by Gino DePinto, AOL

Known for starring as Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton in “Hamilton,” Phillipa Soo won a Clarence Derwent Award in 2015 for Most Promising Female Performer as well as a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical. She’s also the winner of a Tony Award and a Grammy. Oh, and did we mention she also provided some vocals for the “Moana” soundtrack? To top it off, she’s only 26!

Nikki M. James

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The actress who played the original Nabulungi in “The Book of Mormon,” Nikki M. James has won a Tony Award and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle award. After her time with “The Book of Mormon,” James landed the competitive role of Éponine in the 2014-2015 run of “Les Misérables.” She has also had roles in “Law and Order: SVU,” “The Good Wife,” “The Blacklist,” and “Brain Dead.”

Kristin Chenoweth

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Starring alongside Idina Menzel in “Wicked” as Glenda (or Galinda) Upland, Kristin Chenoweth is not only a musical theatre actress, but also a singer with six albums, a voiceover actress, a film and TV star, and more. She has also won an Emmy, a Tony Award, and other performance awards throughout her 26 year career. Chenoweth is 48 years-old and still enjoying a vast and busy show-life. Her hometown in Oklahoma named the local theatre “The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre” after the multi-talented actress. She also partnered up with the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center (BAPAC) Foundation to support the arts in her home state.

Who are your favorite women that inspire you in musical theatre? Let us know in the comments below! And check out NYFA’s musical theatre programs.

 

“La La Land”: NYFA Examines What Makes a Movie Musical Work

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The New York Film Academy is the only school currently offering students the opportunity to perform in an original, fully produced movie musical (check out the write-up on our movie musicals in The Huffington Post). And as reported recently by Broadwayworld.com, NYFA’s movie musicals frequently feature collaborations with Broadway and industry professionals. Which is why we find it both exciting and important to help our community better understand the success of recent Award-season darling “La La Land.” What makes a movie musical so successful, and what can our students learn from this moment?

“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to “Whiplash,” was the dark horse of 2016 films. It started off as a limited release, yet by Christmas it was in theaters nationwide. Despite its quiet start, the movie musical has gained traction quickly in the industry.

The jazz-themed musical, featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, took the industry by surprise when it secured seven Golden Globes at the beginning of January. With the Oscars a little less than a month away, Chazelle’s sophomore debut has received 14 Oscar nominations, with two songs from “La La Land” taking spots for original songs:

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading Role
  • Actress in a Leading Role
  • Cinematography
  • Costume Design
  • Directing
  • Film Editing
  • Music
  • Music (Original Song)
  • Production Design
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing (Original Screenplay)

Prior to “La La Land,” only two movies in history have secured 14 Oscar nominations – “All About Eve” (1950) and “Titanic” (1997).  “Mary Poppins” (1964), a beloved classic movie musical, received 13 Oscar nominations but it didn’t win Best Picture.

So, to the question burning on all of our minds:

What makes this movie musical successful?

Compared to its fellow Oscar contenders, “La La Land” isn’t a hearty drama nor does it touch on serious issues. Chazelle’s romantic musical, set in Los Angeles, doesn’t immerse its audience into bouts of depression or isolation. Instead, “La La Land” revolves around two attractive people chasing their dreams and at its core exists a romantic comedy — the type of movie that rarely wins Oscars, but that tells a very human story in a directly relatable (if somewhat more glamorous) way.

For a movie musical to succeed, the performances must rivet and move the audience. “La La Land” succeeds at this, unconventionally — for while both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are strong actors, neither are experienced in singing and dancing. Nevertheless, audiences and critics alike have agreed that their performances do what matters most: captivate. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post wrote in her review of “La La Land”: “They have the unforced grace of natural performers, lending an offhand rakishness to every step they take.”

So how can students build their own captivating performances in movie musicals? Here at the New York Film Academy, we believe it’s important that every student in our Musical Theater program receives the highest level of training in professional skills as triple threat performers under the guidance of Broadway-level faculty. In the quest to build a powerful performance, professionals must have a full arsenal of tools to draw upon. NYFA musical theatre instructors have toured in various Broadway and touring productions, regional theaters, opera, movie musicals and television shows. They can offer students real-world training that will prepare students to offer their best possible performance.

What makes “La La Land” different than other romantic comedies?

Unlike most romantic comedies to hit the market today, the two main characters don’t get drunk, have a one-night stand and move on with their lives. Instead, Chazelle uses the first act of the movie to establish the main characters’ individual careers and passions. The dynamics between Mia and Sebastian are effortless. Instead of forcing the characters to be dependent on each other to move the film forward, it allows the audience to bond with both characters on a personal level before the characters become fully entwined. These fully fleshed, individualized characters are what propels the story. And it is the attention to the individual details in the characters that allow Stone and Gosling to shine.

Musical theatre students at NYFA get to experience this careful, deliberate level of individual characterization in the most spectacular way: their roles in original movie musicals are specially written for them. Like Stone and Gosling in “La La Land,” NYFA musical theatre students get the benefit of performing in roles that are tailored to their individuality.

Another factor in the success of “La La Land” is the way the film pays loving homage to movie musicals before it, perfectly balancing affection with clever innovation. The movie isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it gives nods to movie musicals like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Grease,” “Sweet Charity,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Shall We Dance,” achieving an intoxicating blend of freshness and nostalgia for the audience. This knowledge of and ability to build upon the musical theatre canon is a strength one that we firmly believe in teaching at NYFA, where students not only gain training and experience in performing classic musical theatre pieces, but are able to experience Broadway productions from their base in New York City.

Chazelle didn’t set out to deliver a movie focused on serious issues, which would more than likely cloud the plot of the movie. What he set out to do was create two relatable characters reminiscent of earlier movie musicals meant to break the monotony of super heroes and far-fetched action movies dominating today’s film industry. And it worked. Amazingly well.

Start your own movie musical adventure today with the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre School.

Study How to Make Movie Musicals Like “La La Land” at NYFA

As BroadwayWorld.com recently put it: “La La Land isn’t the only vehicle opening the door for a new era of movie musicals. NYFA’s original productions feature Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Hamilton, Aladdin), Tony Award nominee Charlotte d’Amboise (Pippin, A Chorus Line), Jen Perry (Kinky Boots) and others.” With “La La Land” breaking Oscar-nomination records, movie musicals are in the spotlight. And NYFA is the only school in the world where students can learn to perform in professionally produced original movie musicals. It’s not only an option but an explicit opportunity, and we have the trailers (and a write up in The Huffington Post) to prove it. 

Mike Olsen, who chairs NYFA’s musical theatre program, stresses that making movie musicals at NYFA is an incomparable experience: “Imagine being a student of musical theatre and having a team of professionals gather to collaborate with you on the creation of an original movie musical,” he says, “Where the character you portray is written for you, the songs are devised around your unique sound and capability, the movement and dance elements reflect your personal wheelhouse, and the whole endeavor is a highly professional journey that culminates in a fully edited, professionally engineered final half-hour movie musical that gets submitted to festivals across the country.”

Yes, imagine— but don’t just use your imagination. See the results! Here are trailers of movie musicals starring actual NYFA students:

“Landed”

This movie is an official selection at the 15th Annual Garden State Film Festival in Atlantic City, as well as an official selection at the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network.

“Love on Earth 44”

“Radio Head Gear”

“Seeking Alice”

This movie is an official selection at the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network.

“No other training academy has our unique capacity to bring filmmaking and musical theatre together to create such a practical and highly professional educational experience,” says Olsen. “We are on the cutting edge of this and if I were a young musical theatre talent, and while this popularity swells, I would jump at the chance to get this valuable training.”

Today, the critically-acclaimed movie musical everybody’s talking about in Hollywood and beyond is, of course, “La La Land.” The movie made headlines once again after scoring 14 Oscar nominations.

“While this has been percolating recently in our culture, the recent film ‘La La Land’ has tipped the scales,” says Olsen. “Film producers are now putting movie musicals in their top priority file. As America experiences a new renaissance of the movie musical, it is an exceptional piece of good fortune that the musical theatre program at the New York Film Academy is on the cutting edge of training young talent to meet this new demand.”

Olsen isn’t the only one to point out the cultural relevance of movie musicals. New York Times writer Manohla Dargis recently penned a piece about how “La La Land” gives musicals new importance.

At NYFA, students can merge stage talent with the technical training necessary to bring an original musical vision to the big screen.

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“While the primary training focus of the Musical Theater Department remains rooted in the traditional elements of solid stagecraft, NYFA is also uniquely in the lead when it comes to getting movie musical experience,” says Olsen. “Students in the advanced stages of their training enjoy an unprecedented chance to collaborate with the creative process of writing a movie musical, working in a professional studio to lay down vocal tracks, and being on set and on location, acting and performing, in a fully realized movie making experience.”

Picture this: You and your NYFA classmates making the next “La La Land.” It could happen! Apply for our musical theatre program today.

Beyond Broadway: 7 Musical Theatre Cities to Know

Of course, New York City’s Broadway can’t be beat for the sheer number of musical theater productions, but it’s not the only place to sing and dance into the hearts of adoring audiences. Here are seven other cities with a thriving musical theatre scene. And don’t forget that no matter where you audition, you need to properly prepare!

1. Chicago

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It may be the improv capital, but Chicago is not lacking in musicals. The Marriott sells nearly a half million tickets a year and boasts the largest subscription base of any musical theatre in the world (according to Arts America). For more intimate musicals, there’s Northlight Theatre and, in its 37th season, Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) is “a professional musical theater company, casting primarily Chicago area talent” that pays all its performers!

2. Boston

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Broadway shows often incubate in this college town, where theatres and conservatories abound. The A.R.T. has a long history of creating shows that win Tony’s, while SpeakEasy brings new and intimate plays and musicals to Boston. There’s also the Lyric Stage Company — the oldest professional theatre company in Boston — whose mission is “to produce entertaining, challenging, and inspiring theatrical productions of varying genres,” and who are “committed to support and nurture the talents of Boston-area theatre artists.

3. LA

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Hollywood tends to overshadow the Los Angeles theater scene, but with all the talent driving around, live performances are by no means dead. For Broadway-style shows there’s the Geffen Playhouse, and The Center Theatre Group has a long history of developing and premiering Broadway hits.

4. San Francisco

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Sure, San Francisco has reason to be proud of its edgy black boxes, for instance those of EXIT Theatre, but within walking distance, you can also find glitzy productions of classic and new musicals at the three big houses: The Curran, Orpheum and A.C.T.

5. Minneapolis

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This northern city boasts a surprising array of diverse small theaters as well as two prestigious independent gems. The Guthrie Theater and Park Square both regularly produce new and classic plays and musicals.

6. Washington D.C.

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A lively theatre scene provides the nation’s capital with some much needed distraction, though American interests often take center stage. Ford’s Theatre is famous for being the place where President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes booth. Today it is a historical site with many educational programs, but it is also dedicated to producing plays and musicals that explore the American experience. Arena Stage also dedicates itself to “putting the American spirit in the spotlight,” producing “diverse and innovative works from around the country.”

7. Atlanta

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Atlanta is home to a vibrant and surprisingly diverse theatre scene. Actor’s Express tagline is “Atlanta’s Gutsiest & Most Vital Theatre Company,” while the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, “is dedicated to producing the best in musical theatre and fostering the growth of the Atlanta theatrical community by showcasing local professional talent.”

Making a career in musical theater does not necessarily mean you have to elbow your way through Manhattan crowds. You may find a more nurturing place for your talents nearer to home. Let us know in the comments if your city has a burgeoning musical theater scene we should know about!

What Is Hamilton’s Legacy for Broadway Musicals?

“Hamilton” has gone from Broadway musical to total phenomenon. The story of a scrappy “son of a whore and a scotsman” who helps mold the beginnings of the United States — only to fall to his career rival in a duel — has taken America by storm. The musical has gained plenty of famous fans, including President Barack Obama, who joked that the musical was the only thing that he agreed with Dick Cheney about. Central to the musical’s success are its diverse cast and the way it engages with hip-hop. These unique facets will be the foundation of its legacy.

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HAMILTON: THE NUMBERS

What a success it’s been: Hamilton has been sold out from its opening performance at the Off-Broadway Public Theater. By the time the show opened on Broadway, it had already taken in $30 million in its advance ticket sales. The peak of its historical success was in late November 2016, when it grossed 3.3 million for 8 performances for the highest grossing week in Broadway history. As far as sales of the original recording are concerned, the Original Broadway Recording was one of only three cast recordings to move into the top 10 of the Billboard 200.

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HIP-HOP

One of the big factors in Hamilton’s success lies in its natural conversation with contemporary culture through hip hop. Before “Hamilton” was a phenomenon, it was a workshop performance called The Hamilton Mixtape, hearkening to how rappers without deals would debut their music on independently released recordings hoping to strike up a buzz. One of the first people to fully buy into “Hamilton” was Daveed Diggs, the rapper for experimental rap group Clipping, who played both Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis Lafayette.

After the show became a phenomenon, a mixtape helmed by Questlove of The Roots and Lin-Manuel Miranda featured plenty of rap luminaries, including Busta Rhymes and Nas. The musical’s reverence for hip-hop is totally sincere, and as hip-hop becomes america’s most appreciated and popular music form, it follows that its best practitioners would respond to a musical that is a love letter to the very genre they pioneered. Broadway musicals often respond to popular music, but rarely respond like this, and it’s shown to be a winning formula.

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DIVERSITY

It’s easy to see why “Hamilton” inspired Busta Rhymes to reach out to Lin-Manuel Miranda after he saw the musical: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s project very consciously features a cast made up of people of color and women, reflecting the changing makeup of the United States, with the only white actor in the original cast playing King George III, the King that inspired the American Revolution. As the play asserts, “Immigrants/we get the job done,” and that’s inspiring to a wealth of people across the world.

CONCLUSION

“Hamilton’s” legacy will certainly be represented by its bold embrace of hip hop, the diversity of its cast which is itself an unprecedented embrace of the story of the founding fathers by people of color, and perhaps most importantly the depiction of immigrants as the backbone of the American success story. If more musicals follow “Hamilton’s” example, we’ll continue to see fruitful collaborations of socially aware concepts, inclusive casting, and the exciting currency of popular music.

 

The Best “Hamilton” Quotes

Three leading actors from Broadway musical Hamilton’s original cast officially departed the show. Hamilton started making headlines in 2015 as it became one of the most sensationalized and beloved modern musicals to date. Now, an international following full of avid fans and musical theatre lovers has its eyes on the cast members taking over the vacant roles. And the verdict? Praise and approval on all counts. Some people even say that the new cast is better than the original.

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New York Film Academy students know that in any well-written musical, song numbers serve as structural elements; they further the plot, acquaint the audience with character dynamics, and enhance the show’s innate themes. As each musical number has great value, it is vital that performers sing every lyric with a clarity and attention to expression that properly represents the meaning behind it.

This undoubtedly applies to the show at hand. Hamilton is acclaimed for its writing, and its musical numbers have managed, not only to benefit the structure of the show, but to move and inspire a vast audience. In honor of Hamilton’s explosive success, its meaning to New York City and to our students, here are 10 of the most insightful quotes, ripped from the soundtrack, ordered chronologically.

  1. “If you stand for nothing Burr what’ll you fall for?” – Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Sir
  1. “I’m past patiently waitin’ I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation. Every action’s an act of creation!” —Hamilton, My Shot
  1. “’We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’

And when I meet Thomas Jefferson … I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!” – Eliza/Angelica/Peggy, The Schuyler Sisters

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  1. “Why do write like you’re running out of time? Write every day like you’re running out of time? Every day you fight like you’re running out of time.” – Burr, Non-Stop
  1. “ ‘Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.’ ” – Washington, One Last Time
  1. “I’m only nineteen but my mind is older. Gotta be my own man, like my father, but bolder. I shoulder his legacy with pride. I used to hear him say that someday I would – blow us all away.” – Philip Hamilton (and Ensemble), Blow Us All Away
  1. “We push away what we can never understand. We push away the unimaginable” – Angelica Schuyler, It’s Quiet Uptown

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  1. “I don’t pretend to know the challenges we’re facing. I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost and you need time. But I’m not afraid, I know who I married. Just let me stay here by your side. That would be enough.” – Alexander Hamilton, It’s Quiet Uptown
  1. “Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” – Alexander Hamilton, The World Was Wide Enough
  1. “America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me. You let me make a difference. A place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up.” – Hamilton, The World Was Wide Enough

The Best Broadway Shows Of The 1960s

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The 1960’s were a time of revolution, which included protests for politics, civil rights, and sexuality. Many Americans protested the Vietnam War and woman demanded more rights. Social change was being demanded and progress was being made. The shows on Broadway depicted these situations and relevant times for the public to see and enjoy. Here are some of the best musicals from the 1960s and be sure to check out our guides to the best Broadway shows of the 1940s and 1950s.

Hair

Hair,rock musical that tells the story of exuberant politically active hippies during the time of the Vietnam War debuted on Broadway in 1968. The show follows Claude who battles against his draft notice while living a bohemian lifestyle with his roommate Berger and Sheila. Claude must decide whether to go along with his hippie lifestyle or give in to the stress and pressure of going to war. Hair gives us a ticket to the 60s generation full of sexual revolution and protesting. The show raised some controversy for its depiction of drug use and nude scenes. It was an honest look at the way it was during the “Age of Aquarius.” Hair features songs like “Aquarius,” “Going Down,” and “Good Morning Starshine.” It was nominated for Best Musical and Best Direction in 1969, but more importantly, Hair successfully made a social and cultural statement.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a Tony Award-winning musical about the rise of “Big Business.” J. Pierrepont Finch is a window washer in New York City who comes across a book called How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. By following the rules in this book he gets his first job in a mailroom and eventually climbs the corporate ladder. Along the way we are introduced to characters like the arrogant Bud Frump who Finch outsmarts and Rosemary Pilkington the pretty secretary who believes in Finch from the start. With that desire in mind, she sings the lovely song “I Believe in You (Reprise).” Finch must make choices about business and love, but at what costs. Standout songs include “Rosemary” and “Coffee Break.” This funny musical depicts the struggles and manipulations that are faced in an office culture, to which many in the audience will find themselves relating. Hopefully with a laugh.

Cabaret

Directed by Harold Prince, Cabaret takes place in the late 1920s to the early 1930s. The scene is set in a sleazy Berlin nightclub called the Kit Kat club into which Cliff Bradshaw, a struggling American writer, wanders. There he meets the vivid and vibrant cabaret performer Sally Bowles and they begin a romance. Sally gets pregnant and Cliff assures her that it will be safer for her to come back to America with him, to avoid the increasingly violent and dangerous situation in German as the Nazis begin to take over. Other characters include Ernst, a German man that Cliff meets on the train and begins a friendship with, German boarding house owner Fraulien Schneider, and the sexually free Master of Ceremonies “the Emcee.” Cabaret opened on Broadway on November 20th, 1966 and was a fierce production featuring sexually explicit choreography and songs such as “Willkommen,” “Two Ladies,” and of course “Cabaret.” Cabaret pushed boundaries in the 60s with its provocative content, including antisemitism, abortion, and sexuality. Flirty, fun, and free, Cabaret is a sure winner that continues to excite audiences.

Hello Dolly

Hello Dolly is a delightful musical that takes place in New York City and tells the story of Dolly Levi who is a middle-aged matchmaker and widow who decides her next client, Horace, might make for a perfect match for Dolly herself. Not only is Dolly a successful matchmaker, she is also a meddler. Everything seems to go awry when it comes to matching Horace. Hello Dolly boasts a strong score featuring “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” “It Takes a Woman,” and “Hello Dolly.” Hello Dolly opened in January of 1964 at the St. James Theater, and became one of the most iconic and charming musical shows of the 60s, enjoying a very lengthy run.

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the home of Broadway in New York.

The Best Broadway Shows Of The 1950s

Gertrude Lawrence as Anna in The King and I

Gertrude Lawrence as Anna in The King and I.

In the 1950s the economy was booming and so was Broadway. It was also a big time for film and studios, led by head studio MGM. Technicolor was introduced to the public and musicals were transported to the screen. It was considered to be the best time for Broadway with some of the most entertaining shows came out of this decade. Peter Pan, West Side Story, and Flower Drum Song were just a few of the many captivating musicals created in the 1950’s. Below are four of the best shows to come out of those ten years.

Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls is a romantic musical comedy that premiered on Broadway in 1950. We are introduced to notorious con man Nathan Detroit. When his crap game home is located by the police he must quickly find a new spot. From there we are introduced to a unique cast of characters that includes a showgirl, a gambler, an evangelist, and a chorus full of talent. With its unique backdrops ranging from NYC to Havana it’s a highly entertaining show. With tunes like “Luck Be a Lady,” “I’ll Know,” “Sit Down,” “You’re Rocking the Boat,” and “A Bushel and A Peck,” you can’t help but feel like you are right in that time period with them. Guys and Dolls was awarded numerous Tony Awards, and has been adored by audiences since its premiere.

The King and I

Set in the 1860s, Anna Leonowens, who is newly widowed, sets sail along with her son to Siam where she takes a role as a schoolteacher. Still grieving, her work provides a good distraction for her. The King of Siam wants to modernize his country and hopes her Western teaching can help. Underneath their disagreements and different ways is a fond understanding and love between them. With a heartwarming story line and enchanting music The King and I is one of the most unique love stories set on stage. This charming show is sure to warm your heart with beautiful songs like “Getting To Know You” and “Shall We Dance. This was the talented Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fifth show and it was awarded the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1952. They would continue to collaborate until 1959 with their final show South Pacific. Hammerstein passed away in August of 1960.

Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees, is theater for the sports lover! Based on the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, Damn Yankees combines America’s favorite past time, baseball, and a musical all in one neat package. This musical comedy opened on Broadway on May 5th, 1955. Baseball lover Joe Hardy sells his soul to the devil in order to become a great hitter for the Washington Senators in order to beat the Yankees. Not all goes exactly as planned for Joe. Damn Yankees was a musical collaboration by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. With many fun songs in this show the best are “Whatever Lola Wants Lola Gets,” “Goodbye Old Girl,” and “Heart.” For baseball fans, the 1950s represented a transformation in how they viewed the game.  Fans could get their fix through the newly introduced television, as well as at the theater and Damn Yankees reflected the increasing ubiquity of baseball as the country’s favorite pastime.

My Fair Lady 

My Fair Lady is a lovely musical that explores class, politics, and romance. Based on the novel Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, the show centers around Cockney girl Eliza Doolittle and professor Henry Higgins, who is determined to transform her into a proper lady. Through her transformation Eliza questions if this is the life she actually wants to live. This romantic musical is full of wit and charm, which shines though in the songs “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” and “I Could’ve Danced All Night.” My Fair Lady opened in 1956 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It demonstrated that musical theatre can take on issues such as social status and acceptance and tie it all together with humor to make for an entertaining show. In 1964—during a decade in which musical theatre experienced many seismic changes—My Fair Lady was made for the big screen featuring the lovely Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the home of Broadway in New York.

The Best Broadway Shows From The 1940s

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The 1940s marked the start of the Golden Age of American Musical theater. It was a time where Broadway featured hits from Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, and Americans were introduced to the influential and successful collaborations of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The style and unique sound of the Golden Age shows often captured a true sense of Americana. In a time of war, musical theater was an escape from the everyday issues that our country was facing. Here are some of the best Broadway Shows from the 1940’s.

Oklahoma!

Cue up the title song from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration and you’re likely to have a room full of people singing along with its iconic lyrics: “Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain and the waving wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right before the rain.” Oklahoma! opened on March 31st, 1943 at the St. James Theater and it turned out to be a Broadway smash. Set in the West Indian Territory, Oklahoma! is the story of rivalry, love, cowboys, and farmers. The backdrop is the 1906 picturesque Oklahoma territory and the main characters include Curly McLain the handsome cowboy, Laurey the lovely farm girl, Will Parker the cowboy, and his fiancée Ado Annie. We are introduced to these characters as Curly the cowboy looks into the beautiful blue morning sky and encounters Laurey the farm girl where he sings “Oh What a Beautiful Morning. Rogers and Hammerstein were praised for their sophistication and creative collaboration. They were awarded a special Pulitzer Award for Oklahoma! in 1944 and the show was considered the first blockbuster Broadway show. If you are looking for a show that is a perfect slice of Americana, this is it.

Carousel

Recently put on by NYFA’s Musical Theatre department, Carousel is a classic and iconic American Musical that opened in 1945 at the Majestic Theater. This show dives into true human emotions with a beautiful score featuring the songs “If I Loved You,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and “Mister Snow.” This was Rogers and Hammerstein’s second collaboration, following on the success of Oklahoma! . Rogers wrote that Carousel was of his favorite musicals to write. The plot takes place along the New England coastline revolving around a carnival barker named Billy Bigelow and a mill worker named Julie Jordan who fall in love. Their romance cost them both their jobs and we see their lives begin to un-ravel with unfortunate choices and events. Carousel, through its snazzy choreography and catchy songs, touches upon the power of forgiveness and love. This Tony Award winning show captures your heart and leaves you humming the operatic tunes.

Kiss Me Kate

This Tony Award-winning musical featured the songs “So In Love,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “Tom, Dick, or Harry.” Written by Samuel and Bella Spewack with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, it opened at the New Century Theater on December 30th, 1948. Kiss Me Kate was a battle of the sexes that also dealt with romance, conflict, show business, and some gangsters. The show centers around director and leading man Fred Graham and his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi, who also happens to be his leading lady. Although divorced they begin to realize their love has not completely faded away. Being somewhat of a play within a play, Kiss Me Kate is an updated version of Shakespeare’s Taming of The Shrew. By far the best part of Kiss Me Kate is the fun and dazzling lyrics by the talented Cole Porter. Toss in some heavy dance numbers and you have yourselves a toe-tapping comedic musical.

Annie Get Your Gun

This show is a fictionalized version of the real life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Set in the 1800’s, Annie Get Your Gun first opened on Broadway on May 16th, 1946. It follows the story of Annie Oakley and sharpshooter Frank Butler as they compete for who has the best shot.  This backwoods lady’s talent for being the best shot in town creates trouble and romance. The always amazing and talented Bernadette Peters starred as Annie in the Broadway revival. With its competitive spirit Annie Get Your Gun boasts an enchanting score with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It features the songs “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “I Got The Sun in the Morning.” You”ll find yourself rooting for this naive, wild, and vibrant spirited country gal. Annie Get Your Gun is a darn tootin’ fun musical.

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the capital of Broadway in New York City.

4 Essential Stephen Sondheim Musicals

Stephen Sondheim

American composer Stephen Sondheim was born on March 22nd, 1930 in New York City. He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan until his parents got divorced, then he moved to a farm in Pennsylvania. It was there, at the age of 10, that he became friends with James Hammerstein, the son of the famous lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein who took Sondheim under his wing and served as a surrogate father to him through that difficult time in his life. During this time Hammerstein had a great influence on Sondheim and helped him to develop his interest in musical theater. While attending the George School, a private preparatory school in Pennsylvania, Sondheim wrote his first musical, based on the school, called By George. Although the show was a success among his peers, Sondheim asked Oscar Hammerstein to provide his feedback. Stepping through Hammerstein’s critiques turned out to be extremely valuable to Sondheim, who said he learned more through that experience than many would learn in a lifetime.

Sondheim attended college at the Williams School in Massachusetts, where he studied music. After graduating in 1950 he moved to New York City where through a friend he got in contact with composer Leonard Bernstein (link to Bernstein write up). They developed a friendship and together they created the Broadway sensation West Side Story. Sondheim went on to make great musical contributions to musical theater. He served as President of the Dramatist Guild from 1973 to 1981, and his talents have been awarded with countless Tony Awards, Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and the Lawrence Olivier Award. In addition to musical theater, in 1990 he won an Academy Award for the song Sooner or Later, which he wrote for the film Dick Tracy.  On Broadway, he is such an institution that he even has a popular theater named after him.

It can be a bit challenging to choose, but here are what I consider to be the essential Sondheim Musicals. You are probably familiar with the songs from these shows. You’ve most likely sung one or two before at an audition or belted one out in the shower. There’s no denying that Sondheim wrote some of the finest songs in musical theater history, so if you aren’t already familiar with his work, be sure to check out these four favorites, as well as our best-of articles about Andrew Lloyd Webber and Leonard Bernstein.

1. Assassins (2004)

Sondheim provided the lyrics and music to this fascinating show, which opened on Broadway in 2004 and was based on a book by John Weidman. This humorous musical explores the minds of the men and women who attempted as well as succeeded in killing the American Presidents. The show examines the motivation behind their acts of lunacy and abstract psychology. Assassins is presented in a revue style with various styles of music including the songs “The Ballad of Booth” and “Gun Song.” “The Ballad of Booth” contains the lyric Every now and then the country goes a little wrong.” Although this sentiment may be true and their actions wrong, we are fascinated by these killers and their stories. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sara Jane Moore are included in this cast of characters both historical and fictional. The show opens with the number Everybody’s Got the Right to Be Happy which gives us an idea of how these men and women think. Sondheim is known for controversial shows and he knew that this musical would likely have some backlash. Assassins is not only bold, but also brilliant and was recognized as such with five Tony Awards in 2004.

2. Company

This funny musical comedy centers around Bobby and his best friends, who all happen to be either married or engaged. Throughout the show Bobby attends a series of dinners and parties with his married friends, where he tries to make sense of his bachelor ways.  He learns that his friends marriages are not exactly what they seem. The relationships reveal infidelities, alcoholism and regret.  Along the way he questions whether it’s best to be single…. or not. Company captures honest moments of vulnerability, relationships, and marriage. In a society where we often use film, social media, and theater as an escape from everyday problems, this show puts those problems right back in your face. This modern musical features the songs Company, Marry Me a Little, Side by Side, and The Little Things You Do Together. It debuted on Broadway in 1970, and since then was won seven Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards.

3. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979)

The legend of Sweeney Todd was already a story before it was turned into a musical. Dark and humorous, this musical follows the story of Benjamin Barker who arrives home to London after serving a 15 year prison sentence given to him by a corrupt judge who tore his life and family apart. The feeling of revenge overcomes him.  Benjamin creates a new alias, Sweeney Todd, so that he can continue working in his barber shop located above Mrs.Lovett’s foul smelling and struggling pie shop. Mrs.Lovett recognizes him immediately as Benjamin Barker and tells him that the judge sexually assaulted his wife and now has his daughter Johanna. The two of them join forces and form a plan to use the bodies of Sweeney’s murdered victims as meat for the pies, which they will sell to unsuspecting customers.  While waiting for the judge to visit the shop we are introduced to other interesting characters in London. This dark comedic tail ends with a twist and the song Ballad of Sweeney Todd, which happens to be my personal favorite.

4. Into the Woods (1987)

This 1987 Sondheim musical is a woven web of Brothers Grimm stories and fairy tales. The narrator introduces us to a baker and his wife who wish to start a family, but have unfortunately been cursed by a Witch. In order to remove the curse they go off into the woods and must return with four potion ingredients requested by the Witch. Through this story we are introduced to the other fairy tale characters, including Cinderella, Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf, the Prince, and Rapunzel, all of which have wishes. Each of their tales intertwine in the woods and they all discover the consequences that occur as they try to fulfill their wishes. This show is a brilliant mix of desire, deceit, and deception. Into The Woods has many amazing solo songs, but the song that truly stands out is “Children Will Listen,” which is sung by the Witch.  It perfectly sums up the feel and message of the show.  It also includes the songs “I Know Things Now,” “Giants in the Sky,” and “Stay with Me.” This show continues to be a success as it was recently made into a film in 2014. I think the Prince’s line of “Anything can happen in the woods” is a perfect way to describe this adventurous show.

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Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the capital of Broadway in New York.

5 Broadway Theaters Every Musical Theatre Fan Should Attend

New York City is the mecca for stage entertainment. Big lights, big city and big musicals. Broadway shows attract audiences from near and far year round. From matinees to evening shows, musical theater continues to shine. We buy our tickets online, receive them as gifts, and stand in long lines at TKTS out in the cold to get discounted tickets. The Broadway district includes some of the cities finest theaters and a majority of the shows there are musicals. If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing a Broadway musical you know that it’s an amazing experience. From the moment you walk in these theaters you get a sense of excitement. I personally think the moment before the curtain opens is still one of my favorite parts. So if you’re looking to catch a musical here are some of the theaters along the Great White Way. 

1. Gershwin Theater

Inside of Richard Rodgers Theater

Located at 222 West 51st Street, this theater was named after composer George Gershwin. It originally opened as the Uris theater in 1972. The renaming occurred in 1983 during the Tony Awards. It is one of the biggest venues in NYC with 1,933 seats, which is the largest capacity of any of the other Broadway theaters and it also features the American Theater Hall of Fame in the lobby. The Gershwin has hosted many musicals including The King and I, Show Boat, Oklahoma, and Wicked, which is currently running

2. Stephen Sondheim Theater

Stephen Sondheim theatre

Sitting at 124 West 43rd Street this theater was originally named Henry Miller’s Theater up until 2010. The original theater was closed and its interior demolished in 2004. It was rebuilt and is now located under ground below a bank. It was also re-named to honor the famous composer Stephen Sondheim. The last several years it has hosted shows that included The Pee-wee Herman Show, Anything Goes, and Beautiful: The Carole Kind Musical. 

3. Palace Theater

Palace Theater exterior

Located at 1564 Broadway the Palace Theater originally gained legendary status amongst vaudeville performers. When the great depression hit, film became popular and vaudeville started to decline. In the 1960’s The Palace was re-opened as a playhouse and has since had notable musical productions like Beauty and the Beast, Legally Blond and West Side Story.

4. Richard Rodgers Theater


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Located at 226 West 46th street, it was originally called Chanin’s Theater, then the 46th Street Theater and eventually in 1990 it became the Richard Rodgers Theater named after the legendary composer. This theater has hosted the most Tony Award winning plays as well as Best Musicals. Some of these shows include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Nine, and In the Heights. The popular and exhilarating musical Hamilton is currently running here.

5. New Amsterdam Theater

New Amsterdam Theater interior

This New York City landmark is located at 214 West 42nd Street.  The New Amsterdam Theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and over the coarse of time has been the home to many amazing shows, including the Ziegfeld Follies way back in the day. During the Great Depression the theater suffered a fair amount of damage and was forced to close. But, after a long rehabilitation and a court battle it finally re-opened in 1997.  Since re-opening the theater has hosted many hit musicals including Lion KingMary Poppins, and Aladdin, which broke the theater’s box office records.

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the capital of Broadway in New York.

Charlie Smalls And The Story Behind The Wiz

Charlie Small on The Monkees

Charlie Smalls was born on October 25th, 1943 and passed away due to an emergency appendix surgery in 1987, at the age of 43.  As a child, Smalls started playing piano at a very young age, and by the age of five was putting on piano concerts. He went on to study at the prestigious Julliard School and the High School of Performing Arts in New York. After graduating in 1961, he toured as a pianist with the New York Jazz Repertory Company, which included other musicians such as Harry Belafonte, Esther Marrow, and Hugh Masekela, a famous South African trumpeter, singer, and composer, for who Smalls wrote the song “From Me to You.”  Smalls biggest career success by far was the musical The Wiz, which he was the composer and lyricist for.

The idea for The Wiz started with producer Ken Harper who reportedly asked writer William F. Brown to create an adaptation from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but with black slang and an all black cast. Harper hired Trinidadian Geoffrey Holder as director, who had experience directing, acting, and designing, as well as experience choreographing several pieces for the phenomenal Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Smalls was brought on to be the composer and lyricist for the show.  His mix of gospel, soul, and blues influenced music created a fun and winning blend. The Wiz opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theater on January 5th, 1975 to mixed reviews, and it was said that a commercial featuring the cast singing “Ease On Down The Road” helped to market the show and turn it into a success, not to mention that the song itself also became a big hit single on the Billboard Soul Singles Chart. This show helped open the doors for other African-American shows such as Dreamgirls and Sophisticated Ladies.

The Wiz is smart and soulful, and follows the story of Dorothy, an energetic Kansas City girl who is eager to get out to see the rest of the world, when her house is swept up by a tornado and dropped in a magical new place filed with munchkins, and mysterious witches.  On her journey along a yellow brick road, Dorothy meets and makes some new friends, a tin man, a scarecrow, and a cowardly lion.  As the group continues on their adventure they encounter the Wicked Witch Evillene and make their way towards the Emerald City to see the Wizard where they discover a secret.

This retelling became a Tony Award winning show. It won Best Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics. Geoffrey Holder won the Tony Award for Best Direction in a Musical and Best Costume Design. Since it’s opening the show has won a total of seven Tony Awards. The show includes the songs Ease on Down the Road, You Can’t Win, What Would I Do If I Could Feel, and Brand New Day.

The Wiz was later adapted into a film starring Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Richard Pryor, and has recently been adapted into a live television musical as part of a series of live musicals NBC has been doing.

The live television debut is this Thursday at 8pm est on NBC, be sure to tune in or set your DVRs so you can sing and dance along to this super fun show. And check out our wish list of other Broadway shows we hope receive the small screen treatment.

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the capital of Broadway in New York.

The Best 6 Andrew Lloyd Webber Musicals

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time. Born in London on March 22nd, 1948 his father was the Director of the London College of Music and his mother was a piano teacher. As a young boy he took piano lessons in London and later french horn and violin classes. He was a prodigy of music.

In 1965 he studied at Westminster School and and began taking a course in history. Like many artists and performers he dropped out to follow his true passion, music. He went on to study at the Royal College of Music where he received a letter from Tim Rice stating that he is “hip” writer and would like to meet up. Tim Rice would soon become an award winning lyricist and work with Webber on numerous musical collaborations.

Webber composed over 15 musicals and here are some of the most notable.

1. Cats

Based on the book Old Possums Book of Practical Cats by T.S Eliot. The show is about a group of cats called the Jellicles. During the course of the evening the cats introduce themselves hoping to be selected and reborn to a new Jellicle life.  It included the songs “The Song of The Jellicles,” “Mr. Mistoffelees,” and “Memory.” The show opened in 1981 and is the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history.

2. Evita

Evita is about Eva Peron, an Argentine political leader. It focuses on her life, rise to power, good deeds and death. It originally opened at the London’s West End in 1978 and then on Broadway in 1979. This show featured the notable song “Don’t Cry for me Argentin.” Evita was later made into a film, which starred Madonna as Eva Peron and Antonio Banderas as Che. Evita earned three Tony Awards.

3. Sunset Blvd

Sunset Blvd is based on 1950’s American film noir. The story is about Norma Desmond who is a washed up silent screen star. She comes across a young screenwriter named Joe Gillis and sees him as an opportunity to make a come back in the movie world. The show opened in 1993 in London and later on Broadway in 1994. Norma utters the notable quote “All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.”

4. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

With lyrics by Tim Rice this operetta/musical is based on the story of Joseph “coat of many colors”  from the book of genesis in the Bible. The show contains very little dialogue and is mostly sung, including “Any Dream will Do” and “Go,Go,Go Joseph.”  In 1968, the show was first presented as a 15 minute cantata at the Colet Court School in London. The Tony-nominated show later opened in 1982 on Broadway.

5. Jesus Christ Superstar

This was the first musical that Webber and Tim Rice produced for the stage. This musical featured pop music in a classical form. It focused on the final days of Jesus’ life with a larger part of the play focusing on the events through the eyes of Judas. It included the songs “Everything’s Alright,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” and “Superstar.” The show was condemned by some religious groups for how it depicted the characters. The show first started as a concept album and was later turned into a musical production. Webber was awarded Most Promising Composer for this production by the Drama Desk in 1972.

6. Phantom of the Opera

Based on the novel Le Fantome de l’Opera, it revolves around a disfigured musical genius and his obsession over the Soprano-singing Christine. This Tony and Olivier Award winning musical is the longest running in Broadway history. With music by Webber and lyric by Charles Hart this beautiful show included the songs ” Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You,” and “Angel of Music”.

Webber has earned numerous awards and honors including an Oscar, Tony’s, Olivier’s, a Kennedy Center Honors Awards, and he was knighted in 1992. He also funded the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which promotes and encourages the arts and culture for public benefit. The foundation enables individuals to develop their abilities and careers in what they understand can be hard when faced with difficult economic times.

And be sure to check out our recent piece highlighting the best works of Leonard Bernstein

What strikes me is there’s a very fine line between success and failure. Just one ingredient can make the difference – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the capital of Broadway in New York.

The Top 5 Works Of Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

As I begin to write about the talented Leonard Bernstein I can’t help but hum the tune to “Jet Song” from his famous and notable show West Side Story. Each week we will feature a notable musical theatre composer and their achievements. A great way to get motivated is to see how past artists lived their lives. It’s a great inspiration.

Born in 1918 to Russian immigrant parents Leonard Bernstein began to show early interest in music when he started to play the piano at age 10.  Even though his father refused to pay for his lessons, Leonard raised the money himself and eventually impressed his father with his natural talent, which led him to buy a baby grand piano for his son. These interests and talents would eventually lead him to become a composer, author, pianist and conductor. While in school he participated in theatre productions such as The Mikado and a unique adaptation of Carmen. His father wanted Leonard to work for the family business which distributed beauty products. However Leonard wanted to pursue his love of music. He first attended Boston Latin School  and then went on to study Music Theory at Harvard and eventually the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. While at Harvard he attended the Boston Symphony where he became inspired and influenced by conductor Dmitri Mitropolous. Dmitri invited Leonard to his rehearsals and from then on Leonard centered his life around music.

In 1940 Bernstein was invited to study at the Boston Symphony’s Summer Orchestra Institute. It was there that he met the famous conductor Serge Koussevitzky, who became his mentor. Like many artists and musicians Bernstein found himself out of work for awhile. Then in 1943 he was chosen to work as assistant at the New York Philharmonic.  One day, he was asked to fill in for the symphony’s guest conductor who had fallen ill.  His debut conducting performance was broadcast on live radio and greatly impressed audiences, turning Bernstein into an overnight sensation. Here is a list of Bernstein’s works.

1. Peter Pan

In 1950, Bernstein wrote the music and lyrics for the musical adaptation of J.M Barrie’s play Peter Pan.  This fun and endearing show is about a boy who would never grow up, the lovely Darling Family and the adventures they encounter while in Neverland.  It opened on Broadway on April 24th, 1950 and starred Boris Karloff and Jean Arthur.  The show included the songs, “Pirate’s Song,” “Build my House,” “Peter Peter,” and “Who am I.”  It ran for 321 performances and closed on January 27th, 1951.  Bernstein’s musical involvement was considered minimal when compared to the other shows he worked on.

2. On the Town

This show tells the story of three fun loving sailors during World War II who depart their ship to explore NYC for 24 hours.  The show was based on the ballet by Jerome Robbins Fancy Free, which Bernstein had written the music for.  On the Town greatly integrated dance into the show.  It featured some of Bernstein’s greatest songs, especially the popular song “New York, New York.” The show opened in 1944 on Broadway and was later made into a film (a scene from which is above) in 1949.

3. Wonderful Town

This musical was based on the book My Sister Eileen by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodoroy. This fun show was about two sisters who moved from Ohio to the Big Apple to pursue their dreams. One was a writer who struggled to get any attention from men and the other a dancer who couldn’t keep men away.  The show opened on Broadway in 1953 and won five Tony awards.

4. Candide

This operetta with music composed by Bernstein was based on the novella by Voltaire. The show opened in 1956 to mixed reviews and was considered the most controversial of Bernstein’s works, which poked fun at religion, especially the Catholic Church. Candide has since been revived several times.

5. West Side Story

West Side Story is considered to be Bernstein’s most famous and notable piece of work and is his greatest compositional achievement.  This groundbreaking musical opened in 1957 and was inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  The Broadway score included the songs “Maria,” “Jet Song,” “America,” and “Somewhere.”  Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics to Bernstein’s West Side Story music, which gained amazing reviews and was later turned into a film that won 10 Academy awards.

Bernstein not only wrote music but enjoyed teaching young musical artists as well. He founded the creative Arts Festival at Brandeis University. He cared about World Peace and held concerts relating to global harmony.  He was the Director of the New York Philharmonic from 1958 to 1969. In 1990 he retired due to illness and passed away one week later, leaving behind his wife and three kids. Leonard Bernstein’s awarded career continues to be celebrated, and his legacy lives on through his beautiful and spirited music.

“This will be our reply to violence, to make music much more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” – Leonard Bernstein

Learn more about the School of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy, located in the home of Broadway in New York.