Industry Trends

The Top 5 Works Of 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.

Alfred Hitchcock’s 39 Steps on the Stage!

The New York Film Academy Union Square is excited to welcome its new neighbor, 39 STEPS! The show is a comedic spoof of the classic 1935 film, with only 4 ‘insanely talented’ actors portraying more than 150 characters, sometimes changing roles in the blink of an eye.

The brilliantly madcap story follows our dashing hero Richard Hannay as he races to solve the mystery of 39 Steps, all the while trying to clear his name! The show’s uproarious fast-paced 100 minutes promises to leave you gasping for breath… in a good way! It’s great fun for everyone from ages 9 to 99.

The Tony® Winning Hit Comedy
39 STEPS
4 INSANELY TALENTED ACTORS, 150 ROLES,
100 BREAKNECK MINUTES OF SHEER THEATRICAL FUN
FOR EVERYONE AGES 9 TO 99

**SPECIAL $20 STUDENT TICKETS

*$49 Tickets Mon/Wed/Thu performances (reg. $79)
*$59 Tickets Fri/Sat/Sun performances (reg. $89)

“ABSURDLY ENJOYABLE! Theater at its finest!” -Ben Brantley, NY Times.
“INGENIOUS! A DIZZY DELIGHT!” -Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News
“COMEDY OF THE HIGHEST ORDER” -Roma Torre, NY1
“THE MOST ENTERTAINING SHOW ON BROADWAY” -Liz Smith, NY Post

Can’t wait to see it? Here’s how to purchase tickets. Note: NYFA students can purchase tickets for $20.

3 WAYS TO BUY YOUR TICKETS:

1. ONLINE: Ticketmaster.com/THE-39-STEPS-NY-tickets/artist/2089037 then select a performance date & enter code: LSP88
2. PHONE: Call Ticketmaster.com at 877-250-2929 & mention code: LSP88
3. BOX OFFICE: Print & bring to the Union Square Theatre Box Office – 100 East 17th St

Performance Schedule: Mon 7pm, Wed 2 & 8pm, Thurs 8pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2 & 8pm, Sun 3pm
For more information visit: 39stepsny.com
Union Square Theatre 100 East 17th St

* $20 student tickets. 2 tickets per valid ID at the box office only, day of performance!
* $49-$59 offer valid for select seats at all performances through 9/30/2015. Limit 8 tickets per order. All prices include a $1.00 facility fee. All sales are final — no refunds or exchanges. Blackout dates may apply. Offer is subject to availability and prior sale. Not valid in combination with any other offers. Offer may be revoked or modified at any time without notice.

Why Are Broadway Tickets So Expensive?

If you’ve got a passion for musical theatre and try to attend Broadway shows as often as possible, you’ll be very aware that it can be a costly business – ticket prices have never been higher, having finally surpassed the $100 mark for average admission last Summer.

And to some, $100 would be a bargain; while budget ticketing to off-off-Broadway musicals make the average figure look better, if you’re looking to see a blockbuster on the Great White Way it’s very easy to spend over $300 (at the time of writing, the most expensive Broadway tickets currently listed are $477 for the finest seats at The Book of Mormon and the average for that particular show is around $214).

So why is this the case? Why are Broadway ticket prices at alarming rates despite a comparatively slow-growing national economy?

A few reasons, and here are the main ones:

1) Because People Are Buying Tickets. It’s pretty much as simple as that – ticket pricing is set at the maximum that people are willing to pay, and attendance figures for Broadway shows (both musicals and non-musicals) has only gone up over the years.

2) Tourists. When you’ve traveled across the world to visit the Big Apple, hitting up a top Broadway musical is high up on the to-do list and tourists aren’t particularly price sensitive when it comes to selecting the best seats in the house to maximize the experience. In line with rising theatre attendance statistics, both domestic and international tourism to NYC is on the up.

3) Profit. The cost of putting on a show is exorbitant and rising, averaging around $2,400,000 to produce (give or take) and another $300,000 per week in operating costs. For musical theatre, it’s even higher at $9,700,000 on average per production and a massive $590,000 in weekly running costs… and there are only a finite amount of seats in which to generate revenue, cover costs and hopefully give investors a return.

This point leads on to a pretty good follow on question: how on earth can a Broadway musical burn through so much money?

Broadway Musical Production Costs: A Breakdown

When compared to equivalent productions in London’s West End, the production costs of Broadway musicals are highly inflated (one case example points out how a West End production cost $565,000 to mount and another $105,000 per week to run, whereas it’d have cost $2.8m and $260,000 per week to launch on Broadway.)

But let’s get into where all of that money goes. Let’s assume that a musical’s final production budget is a nice, round $10 million. The costs which contribute to that include:

Physical Production: The cost of creating the set, props, costumes and anything else that is necessary to physically stage the production. Typically around $2m at the lowest level, or a fifth of the budget.

Talent Fees: These can get lofty depending on the celebrity status of those involved, but talent fees cover any upfront charges levied by people not on salary (the directors, writers and set designers usually fall into this category). Can cost as much as $1m, or 10% of the budget.

Advertising/Marketing: One of the biggest costs that any Broadway musical will face, and also the most variable. As a conservative estimate, this will take up 30% of the budget at around $3 million.

Rehearsal Salaries: Although the actors, stagehands and other staff will get paid a salary during the running of the show, they’ll also need paying for rehearsals before the production mounts. This can cost around $250,000 just for the rehearsal time alone given that Broadway actors aren’t cheap – those with an Actors Equity contract get a base pay of $1,700 per week, and this can rise to sky high levels for celebrity talent. Instrumentation is a big expense too; even with a just a skeleton orchestra for rehearsals, getting a few people together who have got a good musical education and violin lessons behind them can cost at least $10,00 per week, per musician.

Rehearsal Space: Renting an area for both auditions and rehearsals can cost another $250,000, so along with the talent, you can expect to blow $500,000 (or 5% of the budget) just on getting the team ready for the big time.

Admin Costs: Anything and everything from legal to insurance fees. Around $1 million, another tenth of the budget, is typically reserved for these.

Sundries: An additional $2.5 million will be put aside to cover any unforeseen expenses, and also to cover actors’ Union Bonds and advances to authors/directors (which will hopefully be recouped early into the show’s run.)

Bearing in mind that this is just the start of the costs and that weekly operating expenses are yet to come, and it’s easy to see why producers and investors nervously jack up ticket prices in order to at least break even. That said, gross profits are in steep ascent and have been for quite some time.

How to Get Cheap Broadway Tickets

If you’re looking to beat the rising prices and pay less for Broadway tickets, there are a few tips to bear in mind:

1. Shop around for the best prices since they’ll vary a lot from site to site, but save yourself some time and avoid eBay. It’s generally only useful for finding tickets to sold-out or hard to get seats, and you’ll pay a high price for them.

2. If you’re really serious about musical theatre, why not join a musical theatre school? Theatre acting schools will not only help you get to see the craft from the other side, but you’ll also make connections and get free tickets to shows (and naturally, you’ll never miss the ones you’ve got a part in!)

3. Another benefit of studying is that you’ll be eligible for student rush tickets: those sold on the day of the performance at the box office at hugely discounted prices. You may have to wait in line for as much as a couple of hours, but the savings are usually more than worth it.

4. Don’t forget Standing Room Only tickets. Though the discomfort of not having a seat isn’t for everyone, it’s a great way to see a lot of shows in any given month for very little money (and there’s a good chance of rubbing shoulders with producers and directors in the standing area, too).

5. Craigslist can be surprisingly good for deals, especially when someone has had to cancel their plans at the last minute and recoup whatever they can for their ticket. You’ll have to dig amongst the silt for the real jewels and be wary of scams, but it’s worth a shot.

New York Musical Theatre Festival Features New Musical by “American Idol” Finalist Jon Peter Lewis

The 12th edition of the New York Musical Theatre Festival and the Next Link Project announced the 10 musicals and three initial invited productions, which are slated to perform around midtown Manhattan in July.  One of them includes a work written by the “American Idol” finalist Jon Peter Lewis and his Midas Whale band mate Ryan Hayes of “The Voice”.

The Next Link Project, one of NYMF’s flagship programs, is open to any writer whether produced or un-produced or is either represented or not by an agency. In the fall, the program accepts hundreds of new musicals from around the world. Many members of the NYMF’s Reading Committee review each and every submission. Shows are submitted “blind”, which means the writers’ names are not on any of the materials the readers review.  This makes sure the work is judged on what is written, not who wrote it, giving all works an even playing field. Then a Grand Jury of principal producers and theatre professionals evaluate the scripts and demos. At the end of the review process, 10 shows are granted production places in the Festival.

NYMF’s Executive Director and Producer is Dan Markley. Joining NYMF this year as Director of Programming and Artist Services is Jen Bender. Helping to curate the lineup of musicals for the Festival is a Grand Jury of professionals in the industry.

The 2015 Grand Jury included Tony Award-winning producer Jane Dubin, Isaac Robert Hurwitz (creative director, Fox Stage Productions), Josh Prince – director and choreographer, Joe Machota (CAA agent), Jonathan McCrory (director of theatre arts program at The National Black Theatre), Motown director Charles Randolph-Wright, Tony Award-winning actor Michael Cerveris, Tony Award-winning actor Billy Porter, Award and Drama Desk Award-nominated actor Hunter Foster, Drama Desk Award-winning actress Donna Lynne Champlin, and Tony Award and Drama Desk Award-nominated actor and writer Tony Sheldon.

The Next Link Project participants receive many benefits: subsidized production slot at the Festival which also includes savings in production fees, discounted technical and marketing supportdramaturgical support, seminars and workshops geared toward helping them successfully prepare, access to exclusive industry networking events, a $5,000 production subsidy, casting assistance, and the immense marketing and industry exposure that comes with appearing at NYMF.

On February 28 and March 1, the chosen Next Link Project show teams met for the first time to begin preparing for the upcoming productions. Industry professionals who were interested in working on the NYMF 2015 productions were invited to attend the Networking Party on February 28 at Hurley’s Saloon in mid-town Manhattan through a Facebook invite. This was an opportunity for producers, general managers, directors, designers, choreographers, music directors and others to network face-to-face with the creators of the shows.

For the full list of 2015 Next Link Projects please visit here – http://www.nymf.org/about/news/2015-new-york-musical-theatre-festival-announces-next-link-project-initial-invited-selections/

Top 9 Musical Theatre Twitter Accounts to Follow

Singing, dancing, acting – musical theatre combines all of these nuanced performance disciplines on one stage, and as a single art form has given us some of the most recognizable songs in music history.

The road to musical theatre success is usually an enjoyable one, albeit peppered with challenges and competition along the way. If you have a desire to be on stage and in the spotlight, here are some Twitter accounts which you should be following right now.

Top 10 Musical Theatre Twitter Accounts

New York Film Academy
@NYFA

The New York Film Academy offers several programs, workshops, and courses at our revered Musical Theatre School, making our Twitter stream a good place to start for news and tips related to musical theatre. Broadway Musical @BroadwayMusical

Want to keep up on the latest news and gossip in the world of musical theatre? Follow Broadway Musical’s stream for links to articles and casting news.

The Broadway League
@TheBwayLeague

Created in 1930 by theatre operators, The Broadway League is a national trade association for Broadway theatre. You can find announcements, attendance information, theatre news, and more on the League’s Twitter account. Musical Theatre Review @MusicalTheatreR

Of course, musical theatre isn’t just limited to New York. UK-based Musical Theatre Review offers reviews of musicals around the world, as well as news and gossip.

Playbill
@Playbill 

First published in 1884, Playbill magazine has been informing theatre goers for over a century about Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. The King and I @KingandIBway

One of the most famous musicals of all time, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I has been adapted many times. The next Broadway production of The King and I is set for April 2015, and this Twitter account is following the countdown to opening night.

NHSMTA
@JimmyAwards

 

Disney’s movies and intellectual properties are frequently adapted for the stage. Disney Theatrical Group is Disney’s theatrical division and organizes Disney-related live entertainment around the world.

KristyCatesFrankfort
@KristyCates

Kristy Cates played Elphaba in the musical Wicked and is also a successful voice actress. A member of NYFA’s musical theatre school faculty, students have the opportunity to learn from her experience. Phantom Of The Opera @PhantomOpera

One of the most famous modern musicals, The Phantom of the Opera has been running on Broadway since 1988. As a result, its official Twitter account is one of the most followed musical theatre twitter accounts on the planet, partly due to it offering the extremely candid look behind the scenes of the production.

LET IT GO: Who will play Elsa on Broadway?

Disney has announced that Frozen will be coming to Broadway sometime in the near future, creating quite a buzz. While Idina Menzel can obviously command a stage, she may be too old to pull off Elsa live, which leaves one big question: Who will play Elsa? Here are a few suggestions of actresses that would be capable of pulling off the iconic role.

LEIGH ANN LARKIN

Leigh Ann hasn’t been seen on Broadway since 2011, and it’s time to get her back. Best known for her portrayal of June in Gypsy with Patti LuPone, she is a tiny girl with a huge voice. She’s more than capable of pulling off difficult music, and handled “The Miller’s Son” in A Little Night Music perfectly. She still looks young enough to play the princess, and even has Elsa’s blonde hair.

MACKENZIE MAUZY

MacKenzie may not be well known yet, but she will be blowing up after her time as Rapunzel in the Into the Woods movie. She has only technically been on Broadway in the cast of A Tale of Two Cities and in a brief time as standby for the role of Natalie in Next to Normal. Regardless of her lack of Broadway credits, Mauzy has a huge voice with an incredible range. She has spent most of her time on television, but may have the perfect look for Elsa with the added bonus of being a Disney name after the release of Into the Woods.

LAURA BELL BUNDY

Laura has been in many of the biggest Broadway musicals, most notably starring as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Bell Bundy also spent some time in Wicked as standby for both Kristin Chenoweth and Jennifer Laura Thompson in the role of Glinda. While she has taken a break from Broadway for more roles in television and a career in country music, her talent would be welcomed back with open arms. Elle Woods gave her material of similar difficulty, and she was able to handle carrying the show on her shoulders.

ANNELIESE VAN DER POL

Anneliese may not be a familiar name, but most of the millennial generation would know her better as Chelsea Daniels in Disney’s That’s So Raven. She is no stranger to Disney musicals, and took on the role of Belle in the closing cast of Beauty and the Beast. Her connection to Disney is almost as strong as her incredible voice, more than capable of handling the music in Frozen with ease. She has taken her time away from Broadway doing projects she is passionate about, but her talent deserves to be seen again by a larger audience. She has just the right amount of attitude to pull off the icy queen.

PHILLIPA SOO

Arguably the most unknown actress on this list, Phillipa is a newcomer to the New York theatre scene. She is most well known for her role as Natasha in the hit off-Broadway show Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. The actress was a hit with all of the major New York critics, and praised for her ability to give such a raw and emotional performance in the small venue created for the show. She is a graduate of Julliard’s school of Drama. At only 23 years old, Soo’s career is ready to take off, and Elsa may be the perfect role to bring her to a Broadway stage.

LEA MICHELE

The obvious choice in looks and talent to follow Idina Menzel, Lea Michele will be singing Let It Go in the opening episode of the next season of Glee. Idina even plays Lea’s mother on the show, and the two actresses have been compared countless times. Lea has been on Broadway here entire life, and has shown her talent in many successful shows. She has a name that is known by almost everyone in the younger generations, and would create even more of a draw to a show that can easily stand on name alone. If Lea is cast in the role, the real question is who could possibly stand up to her as Anna?

These six actresses are just a few of the possible options for the role. Who do you think would be best suited to carry the next Disney hit musical on their shoulders?

What Is The Actors’ Equity Association?

For over a century, the Actors’ Equity Association (frequently referred to as simply Equity) has been one of the most prevalent labor unions in the entertainment industry.

With an active membership of over 49,000 stage actors and managers, if you work in theatre and haven’t already joined, you may want to consider signing up. The list of benefits offered by AEA are numerous, and many auditions are closed to non-equity members; however, there are a few factors to consider before becoming a member.

Here’s the low-down on how it all works.

What the Actors’ Equity Association Is

Formed in 1913 by a collective of 112 famous actors, Equity went on to become a defining force in the theatre industry and shaped US production into what it is today.

Notably, the Association has the distinction of being one of the few organizations to oppose the infamous Hollywood Blacklist in the 40s and 50s, and in the spirit of inclusiveness, has never barred anyone from membership based on their political leanings. It was also instrumental in channeling public funding into the arts, despite fierce opposition from Ronald Reagan, the American Family Association and others.

Prior to the formation of the Actors’ Equity Association, there were very few rules governing stage actors’ pay – in fact, very few could expect compensation for rehearsal time or any money should the show get cancelled prior to (or even during) its run. Contracts were even rarer still; according to AEA itself, when Francis Wilson, Equity’s first President, asked a manager when he would start to use the contract, the producer’s reply was very simple: “When you make me.”

Modern Times

These days, the Actors’ Equity Association primarily concerns itself with stipulating basic pay guidelines and establishing a standard work environment for both actors and managers alike.

In addition, AEA strives to improve equal opportunities, particularly in casting, and to greater promote the work of females, seniors, people of color and those with disabilities.

Equity Member Benefits

The number of benefits afforded to members by the Actors’ Equity Association are numerous; so much so, we couldn’t begin to cover them all here. However, a summary of such benefits include:

• Equitable Payment Standards: The primary focus of Equity’s work for 100 years: the fundamental right of fair treatment in terms of minimum salary, compensation for additional duties, overtime, and extra performances.

• Work Rules: With ever-evolving stage technology, Equity monitors and addresses safety issues like raked stages, smoke and haze exposure and sanitary rules, as well as limits on rehearsal hours, media promotion and publicity.

• Guaranteed Paycheck: Equity requires most producers to post a bond to ensure payments. This means that even if a show closes or a producer defaults, you still get paid and you still get home.

• Audition Access: Equity has negotiated required auditions for principal and chorus performers. Audition notices are posted on Equity’s website and on Casting Hotlines in various Liaison cities. Annually, over 1,300 audition calls are held in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, while hundreds more are held in other cities.

• Pension and Health Plans: Since 1960, Equity has required producers to contribute to pension and health trust funds.

 Obligations From Members

As with any union, there are some obligations which active members will need to fulfill, though for the most part these are standard practices that any stage actor will want to adhere to, regardless of AEA membership status:

• Agreement to never rehearse or perform without a signed Equity contract.

• Timely payment of dues

• Maintenance of up-to-date contact information

• Endeavor to always give your best performance

• File a copy of your contract with Equity no later than first rehearsal

• Make no unauthorized changes in performance, costume, make-up or hairstyle

• Be on time for rehearsals and the scheduled half-hour

• Notify the Stage Manager before half-hour if you are ill or unable to reach the theater in time

In addition, members are encouraged to engage with the Actors’ Equity Association whenever able; as a democratic union, input and participation is highly appreciated, as is committee membership and activity.

How to Join the Actors’ Equity Association

If all of the above sounds agreeable and you feel you could benefit from membership with Equity, the best thing to do is to head on over to AEA’s official website. There you’ll find additional info on what you can expect from membership, including initiation fees and expected dues once you begin working Equity contracts.

Additional contact information:

Eastern Region

NEW YORK CITY – National Headquarters
165 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
212-869-8530
Fax: 212-719-9815
Rehearsal/performance-related emergencies:
866-270-4232
NYC Audition Hotline:
877-232-1913, ext. 831

ORLANDO
10319 Orangewood Boulevard
Orlando, Florida 32821
407-345-8600
Fax: 407-345-1522
Orlando Audition Hotline:
877-232-1913, ext. 821


Central Region

CHICAGO
557 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661
312-641-0393
Fax: 312-641-6365
Rehearsal/performance-related emergencies:
312-307-2781
Chicago Audition Hotline:
877-232-1913, ext. 815


Western Region

LOS ANGELES
5636 Tujunga Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91601
(323) 978-8080
Fax: (323) 978-8081
Rehearsal/performance-related emergencies:
213-399-5757
Los Angeles Audition Hotline:
877-232-1913, ext. 826

Before Barbra: The Other Actresses To Tackle Mama Rose

 

Barbra Streisand’s film adaptation of Gypsy has been rumored for years now, and after recent updates it may actually be happening. She has told several news outlets that she will be both starring in and directing the film, with screenwriter Richard LaGravenese adapting the musical. Beyond the well-known portrayals of the ultimate stage mom by Ethel Merman and Rosalind Russell, many other great actresses have tackled the role on stage and screen. They each bring their own flavor to the role, and Barbra is sure to give us a version like none we have ever previously seen or heard. Before Barbra brings back Rose, here are a few other portrayals that are worth looking at.

1973 London Production – Angela Lansbury

Every millennial knows Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast, but this actress has been holding her own on stage for years. Angela starred in the first West End production of the show after Elaine Stritch was removed from the role. She later took the production to the US where she toured with the role. Her performance has become a sort of legend with fans who saw it, describing the level of energy and intensity she brought to the character. Some B-Role footage does exist, and gives a small taste of her electric Tony award-winning performance. Hearing Mrs. Potts sing “Rose’s Turn” is an experience worth having.

1993 Television Movie – Bette Midler

Slightly controversial with the casting of Bette Midler just three years after Tyne Daly won the Tony for best actress in the role on Broadway. Bette Midler was rumored as an option for the revival, but never got to perform the role. The movie was broadcast by CBS, and featured a screenplay that remained fairly faithful to the original production. The cast featured many Broadway performers including Christine Ebersole and Andrea Martin. The role isn’t a perfect fit for Midler’s voice, but is definitely worth a listen. Also, watch for Lacey Chabert of Mean Girls fame as Baby June, and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss as Baby Louise.

2003 Broadway Revival – Bernadette Peters

Arguably the most different actress type to play Mama Rose, Ben Brantley’s New York Times review praised her for breaking the mold set by Ethel Merman. Director Sam Mendes described Peters as being an actress who was more like Rose in reality, a tiny woman who was able to charm her way to getting what she wanted. Arthur Laurents also praised her performance for its originality while criticizing the physical production as misconceived. The production featured an extremely minimalist set, which was an upgrade from the previews that featured a stage that was virtually bare. The role was vocally demanding and difficult for Bernadette, and even with all of her praise, she wasn’t able to take home the Tony for Leading Actress in a Musical.

2008 Broadway Revival – Patti LuPone

Patti LuPone’s trip to Broadway with Gypsy was not a short one. Her first portrayal of Rose began as a concert production with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival in 2006. The artistic director of New York City Center Encores contacted book writer Arthur Laurents asking him to direct the production with LuPone for their series. The Encores production was successful, and the show transferred to Broadway in 2008 featuring Laura Benanti as Louise. The production was given a rave review by the New York Times, and went on to win Tony awards for Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines, and Laura Benanti as leading actress, featured actor, and featured actress in a musical respectively. The production was well-received, but ultimately closed three months early due to low ticket sales, and at a financial loss for its producers.

Pop Star Musicals: Who Should & Shouldn’t Be Writing A Show?

With “Kinky Boots” taking the Tony Award for Best Score over “Matilda”, and Sting’s new “The Last Ship” heading to Broadway this season, more pop music stars seem to be trying their luck on Broadway. Elton John has comfortably written for musical theatre, while the Tupac inspired “Holler If Ya Hear Me” didn’t seem to work as well with the typical theater-going audience. Who do you think should be showing their musical theatre writing skills, and which pop stars should stay away? Here are a few possibilities:

Taylor Swift

It’s easy to imagine exactly what a Taylor Swift musical would sound like, and her music tends to have quite a bit of storytelling in it. She would definitely have a hit with the teen fans between her writing skills and her chart-topping hits.

Sara Bareilles

This is already rumored to be happening, and there couldn’t be a better fit! Sara’s music is extremely theatrical (tip for anyone looking for pop songs to add to their book). She’s writing the score for a musical adaptation of the movie “Waitress.” With the right show and role, Sara is one pop star that can carry a show — and we can’t wait to see her acting abilities.

Ed Sheeran

Ed writes a lot of his own music, and would have a totally different sound than most of the other musical theatre we would expect to hear out of a pop star, and the result could be really interesting.

Eminem

Could a rap musical work? Eminem is one rapper whose musical would definitely create a lot of buzz. An urban musical would give the opportunity for different artists to show off their special skills they bring to the table.

Katy Perry

Everything about Katy is theatrical, and spectacle is a huge part of her performance aesthetic.

With the right funding and production team signing onto a show, you never know who might end up popping up on the next Broadway marquee. Some of these pop musicals come and go quickly, like Jimmy Buffett’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival”, while “Kinky Boots” may end up being a musical that people are studying for years to come.

Broadway On The Small Screen: 4 Musicals That Need TV Revivals

After last year’s hit, NBC’s The Sound of Music Live, NBC and FOX are bringing us two more live musicals with Peter Pan Live and Grease Live, respectively. NBC has also acquired the rights to bring their own version of The Music Man to television sometime in the near future. With TV musicals becoming a viable option for musicals that may not be commercial enough for a full-scale Broadway revival, here are some other shows that may be due for their own one-night remount, and some stars that might (capable of acting, or not) lead them.

4. Little Shop of Horrors

The two lead roles in this musical make the stunt casting options pretty endless. If they cast a solid pop star to play Audrey and a celebrity to voice the evil flytrap-like plant Audrey II, viewers would be sure to tune in. There is a pretty solid movie version in existence, but it’s arguable that all of the shows being chosen have iconic films associated with them. The music is catchy, and the show is a fun cult favorite.

Possible casting: Lady Gaga as Audrey

She went to NYU, and her life is basically performance art, so this role shouldn’t be too difficult for her to act. With a voice that has shown wide versatility, and the ability to give a solid live performance, Gaga is an obvious choice for the role.

3. Bye Bye Birdie

Nearly every community theatre has done this show, and it’s easy to see why. Americans have a soft spot for the 1950s, and it doesn’t get much more stereotypical than Bye Bye Birdie. The content is clean enough for the whole family to enjoy, and a show about a celebrity singer makes things easy for casting. There are a large number of roles in the show, allowing for well-known actors of different age groups to show their stuff. Get the right guy to play Conrad, and every tween in America will be tuning in.

Possible casting: Any member of One Direction as Conrad Birdie

While it’s unclear which member of the boy band would be able to pull off the role best vocally, casting any one of them would bring a ridiculously large fan base to the show. They would be playing a pop/rock star that makes girls cry and faint, which wouldn’t be a far stretch from their day-to-day lives.

2. Hello, Dolly

Barbra Streisand did it, and most musical fans know the interpretations done by her and Carol Channing in the role of Dolly Levi. This show is a star vehicle, and you need someone who is up to the challenge. A throwback like The Music Man to a simpler time and place, Jerry Herman’s score is one that deserves to be heard again. It may not be a musical to keep kids entertained, but the nostalgia felt in seeing this musical again is sure to please the older generations.

Possible casting: Bette Midler as Dolly Levi

She is a great actress, and more than capable of pulling off this role. While Midler has said she wouldn’t like to do a full 8-show Broadway run at this point, this would be a perfect showcase for her talents.

1. Beauty and the Beast

In order to get this one to happen, ABC really needs to join the TV-musical party, but who doesn’t want a live version of Beauty and the Beast? The Disney musical catalog gives ABC the ability to grab the family market in a way that no other company could. It wouldn’t be the first time ABC developed their own version of musicals, as they did shows like Annie with Audra McDonald and The Music Man with Kristin Chenoweth in the late 90s and early 00s. Casting options would be endless, and the ability to cast a celebrity in an acting-heavy role of the beast might allow them to get someone for Belle who could really do the vocals justice.

Possible casting: Ariana Grande as Belle

Ariana is one of the top up-and-coming pop stars right now, and is very familiar with the world of musical theatre. After performing in the Broadway ensemble of the musical 13, she made her transition to TV and music. She has stated many times in interviews that she loves musical theatre and would like to return to it, and what better way than a TV performance for a busy star on the rise?

Unique Opportunities For Dancers: The Marriage Of Dance And Circus Arts

Dance continues to be one of the most genre-bending art forms in the world today. One of the main reasons for this is the sheer scope the dance world entails—from Broadway to backup dancing, from contemporary ballet to modern dance—there are a wide variety of forms that are taught, practiced, and performed worldwide in companies, theaters, studios, and schools.

As the field continues to progress in the Western world along with contemporary society, dance has stepped up to incorporate some new tricks up its sleeve. Primarily, the advent of combining circus arts with contemporary dance forms is now a common theme presented regularly worldwide.

Modern circus arts have always been closely related to dance considering that many of its movement forms such as aerial arts, tightrope walking, hula hooping, juggling, and trampoline acrobatics, to name a few, are amazing feats that require great physical strength, conditioning, flexibility, coordination, and rhythm. However, the way in which circus arts and dance theater were presented was quite different until recent years.

Circus arts shows are traditionally built around featuring amazing feats of human skill. Up until the 1980s, most circus shows could only be seen when they traveled through town and erected their tents to perform in. While there are still circus companies that perform like this, there are also new, contemporary circus companies who have brought circus arts to the theater. And just as circus has become infused in the dance world, more dancing has also been infused into the circus arts world. A stop at any Barnum & Bailey/Ringling Brothers show will now showcase several dance routines between the circus acts—typically, it is jazz style dancing.

The biggest contemporary circus company is Cirque du Soleil, based out of Canada with regular theater and touring shows worldwide. Cirque du Soleil has created a successful blend of featured theatrical circus acts with dancing, live music and singing, acting, elaborate costuming, and more. Their shows range from the surreal to musical tributes of The Beatles, giving the audience the ability to not only dream but also relate to the overall production in a way that is inspiring and also, very human.

Outside of Cirque du Soleil, circus arts can be seen featured in Broadway musicals, on cruise ships, at international resorts such as Club Med, in contemporary dance concerts, as backup dancing for singers, and in all sorts of alternative environments such as nightclubs.

The “Rise” Of Aerial Dance

One of the most popular forms of circus arts dancers are picking up today is aerial dance. While traditional circus and high flying trapeze may have the artist working at heights of up to 30 feet in the air, aerial dance artists may typically work closer to the ground on apparatuses such as the trapeze, lyra (aerial hoop), or silks.

There has been an explosion of studios nationwide offering aerial dance training as not only a means of fitness, but as a way to have fun and be creative. No doubt aerial work requires strength building and a sense of living life on the edge, so it is not for the faint of heart. These studios may be good places to get your feet wet and test the waters of aerial dance; however, to truly perfect  your craft, it is recommended to attend an established circus arts training school or  join a company that will provide you with the appropriate training that you need.

One of the exciting elements of both circus arts and contemporary dance is that they are both developing fields. The Broadway musical revival of Pippin has been a smash hit with its successful combination of circus arts, dance, and singing.

Pop singer Pink has also put aerial arts in the spotlight by not only performing aerial in her own shows, but also singing while flying through the air. Most notably, her aerial/singing performances at the 2010 and 2014 Grammy Awards were aired on national television, exposing aerial dance to a more mainstream audience. Other popular music acts such as Katie Perry have followed suit in incorporating aerialists into their concert productions.

Performing on cruise ships is often a secure and viable option for dancers and circus artists because they offer long-term contracts. In the past few years alone, there have been more circus-themed shows on cruises than ever before. Often the in-house production companies associated with the cruise that are in charge of the entertainment will provide aerial training to dancers who are interested and able to pass the audition and strength test.

In these types of shows, the dancers will perform both ground choreography and featured group aerial acts. The shows will also feature specialty aerial and acrobalance adagio duets in between these dance sections who have trained outside of the production company on their own original act.

Specialty groups that provide entertainment for corporate clients, private parties, nightclubs, festivals, and community events are also another avenue that have seen a rise in offering circus arts. Zen Arts based out of Los Angeles, California is one of the biggest companies in the United States offering this type of unique entertainment.

It is also common for individuals to promote themselves as solo artists to book these types of events. The increase of online marketability through social media, personal websites, and sites such as GigSalad make it possible for soloists or fledgling companies to book themselves with more ease and accessibility than ever before.

Many of these companies and artists offer acts such as aerial, stilt walking, fire dancing, cyr wheel, hula hooping, and more.

Often, with training, these circus arts are readily accessible for dancers to learn and increase their versatility and ability to profit from their passion.

On the flipside of the entertainment industry, there are also many exceptional modern dance/aerial arts fusion companies that perform theater and site-specific work. Companies such as Capacitor (San Francisco), Fly-By-Night Dance Theater (New York), Zaccho Dance Theatre (San Francisco), and Perpetual Motion Dance (Oklahoma City) are just a few examples of companies pushing the boundaries of artistic dance with aerial components in theater and environmental settings.

The rise of the circus inside the dance world is vast and varied. In the past, circus arts may have been viewed as second-rate and unconventional, but with their foray into stage and theater work, circus arts have proven themselves to have true value in dance and culture today.

 

Images from Earl McGehee, Liz Tasa, and  Mike

 

China’s Musical Theatre Industry is Set to Explode

Although musical theatre has gone from strength to strength over the past few decades, most of this activity has been confined to the English-speaking world (and predominantly in the US and Britain).

However, a two billion yuan (around $324 million) injection into the Chinese musical theatre industry could see the country become a powerhouse in global production.

Japan, Australia and South Korea have already seen modest growth in this area, but China is looking to leapfrog the competition with the construction of a massive production center in Langfang (thirty miles south of capital Beijing).

The scale of the production center is staggering; at one million square feet, the goal of the facility is to develop productions that can be run in major cities across the expanse of the country.

China’s Musical Theatre Industry, Localized

Although work is not due to be completed until 2017, the center has already begun producing its first show. Into the Woods will begin touring within a few months with an initial run of 100 shows in Beijing, opening at the PLA Theatre (Nov. 8th until Feb. 1st), before moving on to other cities around the country in 2015.

What’s notable in the case of Into the Woods is that the adaptation will be exclusively in Mandarin; historically, famous Broadway and West End shows that have made the jump to China have been performed in English.

Investors first saw potential in musicals produced in Mandarin in 2011, when a native-language adaptation of Mamma Mia! drew 300,000 people during its run.

The Langfang facility is being funded by both the local government of the Hebei province as well as a private development company.

Into the Woods is deemed as an exercise in strengthening ties between Chinese and American production (the Mandarin adaptation is being timed with a U.S film release starring Meryl Streep). This increased interest and investment into the Eastern market is hardly surprising given that South Korea are doing exceptionally well in porting Broadway shows to Seoul, in part thanks to a cultural obsession with America; even shows that performed terribly (both commercially and critically) on Broadway – musicals such as Ghost and Bonnie & Clyde – are being met with roaring success in Seoul.

Driving Production Costs Down

However, a large stumbling block for growth in China’s musical theatre industry is cost to entry. Although a few large production centers exist currently, there isn’t a strong infrastructure in place to help drive costs down – musical theatre programs and training is sparse, and costumes and sets for newly commissioned work often have to be created from scratch. Once touring costs are factored in, ticket prices to the end user can easily reach $150 or more for even the most basic of seats.

Naturally, investors are seeing profitability in the long run and the construction of the Langfang production center seems set to solve the issue of overheads. If savings are passed on to consumers, they hope to meet and capitalize on the demand that already exists.

Coupled with stronger ties to the U.S. scene and a greater focus on Mandarin adaptations, it’s highly likely that we’ll see a blossoming of China’s musical theatre industry.

Dance Movie Cliches: Characters That Are Sure To Appear

Over the last ten years, dance movies have really taken off—this is hardly surprising given that Hollywood quickly realized they constituted a ‘safe’ genre which are cheap to produce and almost always turn a profit. A sad side-effect of this is that the genre is ridden with overused tropes—the same tired plot points, the exact same pacing, and the same one-dimensional cliched characters.

Oh, the characters; if you’re studying in a dance program, a fan of the genre or even writing a dance movie yourself, here’s five of the most cliched characters you’ll no doubt recognize from every dance movie ever made….

Privileged White Girl Dancer

Classically trained and deeply passionate about dance, the beautiful, athletic female lead has everything going for her… except that her middle-to-upper class background and overly protective parents (see below) have given her a rose-tinted view of the world.

Of course, her perfect world will be upturned and her values challenged as a series of (predictable) plot points have her questioning her beliefs. Enter the Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid…

Bonus points for:

– Dancing alone in a room, unaware of being watched

– Learning to appreciate hip-hop dancing

– Self-doubt

– Overcoming of self-doubt

Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid

He’s a disadvantaged street urchin from a broken home, constantly trying to do the right thing but always becoming entangled with the wrong crowd. He’s got a rap sheet of minor crimes but has a big heart and a love of dance (whether or not he realizes this at the start of the movie is optional). A chance encounter will see him meet Privileged White Girl Dancer, who’ll help him better himself and his circumstances with the gift of dance while he in turn shows Privileged White Girl Dancer how the real world works.

After culture differences are resolved through some minor conflict, Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid will hook up with Privileged White Girl Dancer in the third act.

Bonus points for:

– Having an alcoholic father

– Having a younger sibling for whom he wants to create a better life for

– Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid’s group of friends doesn’t understand what he sees in Privileged White Girl Dancer

Overbearing Parent

The guardian of Privileged White Girl Dancer, who doesn’t necessarily have to be blood related.

Overbearing Parent means well and wants Privileged White Girl Dancer to succeed academically, but would rather she gave up her dreams of being a dancer and focus on less creative pursuits. Tensions will be further heightened when Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid is introduced and appears to be having a bad influence on Privileged White Girl Dancer, and the stakes will be raised in the third act when Overbearing Parent presents her with some kind of ultimatum. Against their wishes, however, Privileged White Girl Dancer continues with her dancing but by doing so convinces Overbearing Parent that her decision to strike out on her own is a good one.

Bonus Points For:

– Threatening to move Privileged White Girl Dancer out of the area or to a different college

– Weeping apology after realizing they were being too overbearing, usually after changing their entire worldview during the course of a 3 minute dance routine

Mercutio

The Mercutio character is one of Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid’s placeholder friends. The only purpose he serves is to die at the end of the second act, forcing the other characters to reevaluate their lives and the recent choices they’ve made.

Bonus Points For:

– Having the only funny lines in the film

– Accidentally making an enemy in a rival gang, which ultimately leads to his demise

The Man

Be it a development company looking to close down the community recreational hall, a college professor who deems dance as an inferior topic of study or the dance management company who hold all the keys, every dance movie needs an evil corporation entity to rail against. Thankfully, the underdog always wins in the end through the power of dance. Naturally.

Bonus Points For:

– Literally having guys in black suits

– “We’ve got to save the dance hall!” 

8 Dance Related Careers To Pursue After Dance Life

The world of dance is an ephemeral field. Maintaining a career as a full time dancer can be elusive, difficult to maintain, and short lived. However, there are many ways to extend a career in dance and remain active in your field or transition to something different entirely.  Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Become a dance teacher.

This is perhaps one of the most popular career choices for dancers. You can teach at a studio, in a public school system with the proper qualifications, or a college dance program with a Master’s degree.

Being a dance teacher allows you to remain active physically while sharing your knowledge with others. You can also remain creative through choreographing routines for class and performances regularly.  It helps to know which age group you want to teach, as some will require extra training or college degrees.

This is a great option that helps extend the longevity of a dance career.

Without dance teachers, the field of dance as we know it today would not exist!

2. Choreograph.

Search out grant programs in your city to fund your work. Contact local theater groups who may be interested in hiring a choreographer for their plays or musicals. Seek out large scale entertainment companies who may need a choreographer for corporate or commercial work. Start your own dance company and forge a new, creative path!

3. Work in arts administration for a dance company or theater.

Your experience in the dance world will have given you a thorough understanding of the arts in general, and transitioning to a desk job is a good option to stay involved in the field if you desire a less physically active career.

This is a great position for those who can organize budgetary finances, schedule meetings, rehearsals, or shows, organize fundraisers, and be a support to the artistic director and overall vision of the company.

4. Become a yoga or Pilates instructor.

Yoga and Pilates are not only great conditioning supplements for dancers, but they also make wonderful second careers and additional income to full-time dancers.

The language of dance crosses over well into these fields. The breadth of kinesthetic knowledge from dance training translates effectively when teaching these mind-body techniques.

There are several types of trainings you can take to teach either field, ranging from 200-500 hour yoga teacher training, Pilates mat training, to full Pilates apparatus training. Most gyms and studios will require this in-depth training in order to teach.

In addition to teaching at such facilities, you can also teach private lessons or at corporate offices.

These are great career choices for dancers who either wish to continue to dance, or transition into a field that may be gentler on their body while allowing them to remain physically active.

5. Marketing for dancers.

This field may be closely related to working in arts administration for a company, or you could become a full blown graphic designer.

Work in this field could entail designing and maintaining web pages, designing flyers and other promotional materials, promoting events through social media, and more. Graphic design work may require additional training, which you could receive through online courses, community classes, or attending college to obtain a degree.

6. Become a dance photographer or videographer.

As a dancer, you have probably been on the other side of the lens many times. You already have an awareness of movement when you take the leap into the photography world, giving you an edge to predict great photo moments or video framing.

It could even lead to a bigger career in photography. Dancers and choreographers, especially, often have a great eye for creating imagery – after all, dance is essentially creating images with our bodies.

7. Costume or clothing designer.

As a dancer, you have been surrounded by costumes either your entire life or your entire career. You also know what feels good to practice in. With this advantage, you can create costumes, dancewear, or clothing that is designed to be moved in or move well with the body!

Learning to sew and create your own costumes could lead into working in the costume department of a dance company.

If you are passionate about designing your own gear, you could even start your own line. The internet has paved the way for a booming self-employment market, with marketplaces such as Etsy and independent online storefronts powered by PayPal or Shopify.

8. Become a physical therapist or dance medicine specialist.

As dancers, we know our bodies very well. If you have had extensive training, such as going through a college degree program, you probably have a wide range of anatomy and kinesiology knowledge. Injuries in dance are unfortunately common, and you may have even experienced some yourself and gone through physical therapy.

Even if you just have the curiosity, this can be an excellent and lucrative field for a dancer to enter. The ability to relate to a dancer and understand the dancer’s body as a physical therapist or medical doctor will give you an advantage that is hard to beat.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on how you can either extend your dance career, or transition into a new field. When searching for new jobs, be sure to think about all of the great things dance has provided you, such as discipline, punctuality, dedication, creativity, kinesthetic awareness, and more.

Know that your drive to succeed does not have to stop with dance, but you can take these many wonderful qualities to open new doors, build new bridges, and have a successful and happy life, no matter what you do.

 

Image by k4dordy

The Rob Ford Musical (and Concept Album)

In the history of musical theatre, more than a few odd characters have been chosen as the topic for a stage play. Many of them — including the Boy George, Ted Roosevelt, and Bonnie & Clyde musicals — flopped into obscurity, whereas a few subjects went on to roaring critical and commercial success (think Jerry Springer among others).

Add controversial Canadian politician Rob Ford to this list. Whether this is a good idea or not remains to be seen, but we’ll find out soon as he’s set to get the musical treatment.

Aside from being the Mayor of Toronto, most will recognize Ford’s name for the crack cocaine scandal that hit the headlines earlier in the year. Ford initially denied having used the drug until indisputable video proof emerged among press circles. Although the controversy surrounding that incident reached global news levels, it was only one in a long line of substance abuse debacles which have followed a similar pattern of denial followed by a public apology in the face of evidence.

Such extreme behavior — as well as the failure of attempts to remove him from office — have attracted the eye of not just one, but two different writers who have chosen Ford as the subject of their musicals.

Rob Ford The Musical: The Birth of a Ford Nation

Open auditions were held last week for an upcoming musical charting the highs and lows of Mayor Ford’s scandal-laden career, due for a short run at the Factory Theatre in Toronto between Sept. 16 and Sept. 28.

Written by Brett McCaig, the open casting call attracting hundreds of potential actors keen to fill the politician’s rather large shoes for the musical adaptation. Having teamed up with lyricist Joseph Regan and composer Anthony Bastianon, the writing itself has taken an entire year but is now reportedly complete. Not surprisingly, numerous drafts of the play were written as Ford’s public and private life became increasingly erratic.

McCaig himself hasn’t ruled out having to revise the musical’s conclusion pending any further controversies that may arise over the next few months.

The story itself will contain multiple characters and as many as ten original songs, but other than knowing the music will cover a number of different genres (including a few ballads), we’ll have to wait until September to get a better idea of how the Rob Ford musical will sound…

… or will we?

15 Year Old Writes Rob Ford Concept Album

If you want an idea of how the Rob Ford musical might sound, you can thank a high school student in Toronto who had a similar idea (albeit independently from McCaig) as Ford’s meltdown unfolded last year.

Unlike McCaig’s upcoming musical, Mateo Lewis is yet to write a play much yet organize a fully-fledged production, but he has already managed to get all of the songs written and recorded. Even better, he has uploaded all of the 18 tracks to Youtube for all and sundry to freely enjoy:

Including songs such as Victory Speech, Conflict of Interest and the sublimely titled Rob F**kin’ Ford, the 40 minutes of music chronicles a lot of the defining moments of Rob Ford’s life and career to date.

At this stage, Lewis has been keen to point out that it’s strictly in the ‘concept album’ phase and he isn’t sure if the songs will ever make it into a wider production (especially given that McCaig’s version of the Rob Ford musical has since been announced).

Regardless, Lewis is continuing his musical theatre studies at the Etobicoke School of the Arts and is due to begin grade 10 after the Summer – with a full musical concept album already under his belt at such an early stage in his career, we can expect great things to follow.

The Marriage Of Dance And Film: The Legacy of Gene Kelly

“Any man who looks like a sissy while dancing is just a lousy dancer.”

With recent films like The Artist breathing fresh interest into the Hollywood of yesteryear, many young people are now looking back at old movies with curiosity, often for the first time.

Given that top dance schools frequently incorporate Kelly’s iconic dance routines into their study curriculum, today we’ll be looking back on Gene Kelly’s life and the impact his dance legacy has had on the modern art form.

“I got started dancing because I knew it was one way to meet girls.”

Born Eugene Curran Kelly, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in August 1912, Kelly gained an early start to performing when his mother enrolled him in dance classes, and then later encouraged him and his siblings to perform dance routines at amateur vaudeville nights.

Kelly, however, was more interested in sports, and rebelled against his imposed dancing career.

“We didn’t like it much,” he later explained, “and were continually involved in fistfights with the neighborhood boys who called us sissies … I didn’t dance again until I was 15.” At high school he discovered that his dancing abilities made him popular with girls, and so he took to it again, this time by his own choosing.

Enthusiastic and Energetic

In 1932, when Kelly was just twenty years old, his family founded two top dance schools: The Gene Kelly Studio of Dance in Pittsburgh, which was then followed by the opening of another studio in Johnstown the year after. One of Kelly’s students described him as an ever enthusiastic and energetic teacher, always keen to make sure that no student ever fell behind, and encouraging to even the least gifted dancers which passed through the studio doors.

During his time teaching, Kelly was still attending school, and in 1933 he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a major in economics. Times were tough in the States in the early 30’s, and Kelly worked a number of jobs to support his family, including ditch-digging. “I arrived in Hollywood twenty pounds overweight and as strong as an ox. But if I put on a white tails and tux like Fred Astaire, I still looked like a truck driver.”

By 1938 Kelly was hungry for more than just teaching. “With time I became disenchanted with teaching because the ratio of girls to boys was more than ten to one, and once the girls reached sixteen the dropout rate was very high.” After moving to New York, he built a successful Broadway career that then lead to him being offered a contract from Hollywood.

Kelly’s Hollywood debut was in For Me and My Gal, in which he starred alongside Judy Garland:

He described Garland as “The finest all-around performer we ever had in America… There was no limit to her talent. She was the quickest, brightest person I ever worked with.” Audiences could clearly see that the pair worked well together, and the movie was a big success.

Kelly went on to find further success in a number of films, but his most significant breakthrough came in 1944 when he was cast with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl. This opportunity saw him create the now renowned ‘Alter Ego’ dance sequence, where he dances with his own reflection. Viewers today are still captivated by the perfectly coordinated routine.

Kelly’s next major hit was Anchors Aweigh, a film which lead him to both teach Frank Sinatra to dance, and to dance alongside Jerry the Mouse in a ground-breaking sequence which still looks impressive to this day:

Despite his mounting success, and MGM’s protests, Kelly wanted to serve his country during WW2 and joined the Navy at the end of 1944. When he returned to Hollywood two years later, MGM didn’t have much to offer him. He starred in a number of B-movies, and then some rather more commercially successful movies such as On the Town with Sinatra, which was described as “the most inventive and effervescent musical thus far produced in Hollywood.”

Kelly’s career peaked in the early 50’s when he won an Oscar for his role in An American in Paris, and then with the popularity of Singin’ in the Rain. These are now his best known works. Younger readers may be more familiar with the Mint Royale remix of Singin’ in the Rain which was used on the Golf GTI advert a few years, along with an updated, body-popping tribute to Gene Kelly.

As the decade drew on, musicals started to lose popularity with audiences, and after disagreements and tensions, Kelly finally ended his contract with MGM.

This did not signify the end of Kelly’s success however, and he went on to become a respected director and choreographer. In 1960 he was even invited to create a modern ballet for the Paris Opera, the first time an American was given such an honour, which went on to receive major acclaim.

Quite fittingly, Kelly’s last recorded words before his death in 1996, were on 1994’s That’s Entertainment 3, where he quoted songwriter Irving Berlin: “The song has ended, but the melody lingers on.”

What better way to sum up Kelly’s richly creative life?