Many Broadway shows can be streamed; CT stars share their favorites
Yes, Broadway is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and no, you won’t see theaters reopen in the next few weeks. The exact date is unknown. Reports suggest it could be this summer, yet September is also a possibility.
But all is not lost when it comes to The Great White Way. This quarantine period just might be your chance to catch up on some Broadway shows you missed or wanted to see again.
Many are streaming on a variety of services, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new YouTube channel, The Shows Must Go On; each Friday brings a new offering that’s free of charge for 48 hours. Other services, such as BroadwayHD, Netflix and Amazon Prime, charge a fee. A new one, Broadway On Demand, launches in mid-May.
So, between live recordings of original productions from Broadway and beyond, along with some film adaptations, there’s plenty of entertainment options. That in mind, we thought it might be fun to see what some of Connecticut’s Broadway stars name as their favorite shows, and why.
Marissa Follo Perry, who appeared as Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray,” and was in the original cast of “Sister Act,” says two shows that really touch her heart are “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “The Color Purple.”
“I started sobbing during Sutton Foster’s curtain call in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie,’” says Perry, who lives in Beacon Falls, but is originally from Waterbury. “I am always overwhelmed with emotion when watching any show onstage, Broadway or not. But this time was different. I was able to acknowledge, or understand, the idea/notion of ‘earning’ the final bow as a ‘Broadway Star.’
“I turned to my mother and told her, through my tears, that I KNEW I could ‘do’ that. I knew I was capable of taking the final bow. And, as she always has, she told me she knew I could, too. As fate would have it, five years from then, five blocks north of the Marquis Theatre where I sat crying that night, I would be taking the final bow in ‘Hairspray.’ ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ always holds that place in my heart, so does Sutton Foster.”
Perry says she also attended the closing performance of the latest revival of “The Color Purple” and to her, “it was a religious experience.” Theater, itself, “is a kind of work of the divine,” she says.
“It’s people, strangers, coming together to tell a story that HAS to be told. It’s told to other people, strangers, who are ready or willing to learn, listen, laugh, fall in love, have an experience, feel something, etc. I have never felt closer to God than witnessing Cynthia Erivo and that cast tell THAT story for the final time.”
Broadway On Demand is set to launch in mid-May with a star-studded benefit concert. A membership-based streaming service, it will offer on-demand content, live-captured Broadway shows, exclusive performances, interactive resources and more.
Perry says the “theater experience multiplies in leaps and bounds during a closing night/final curtain. I have attended many closing night performances on Broadway (including two of my own!) and none will ever compare to that night at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre. I truly felt God or a greater power (or the Theater Gods!) that night. And it is marked deeply, deeply, on my heart and on my soul. It was bigger than a mere human experience, it was the definition of ‘transcendent.’”
Laura Woyasz, who lives in Berlin and appeared as Glinda in Broadway’s “Wicked,” as well as in the Broadway National Tour of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” says her current favorite is “Come From Away.”
“I love the message of humanity and kindness this show promotes,” she says. “It is a journey of people taking care of each other after the events of 9/11. It manages to be funny, powerful, honest, tragic, and incredibly human. It highlights the goodness in people... These are the types of shows I want to do; shows that impact people in a positive way. The arts are so important for these reasons... especially now.”
Bryan Perri, music director for “Wicked” and “Jagged Little Pill,” lives in Ridgefield with his husband, actor Daniel C. Levine. Perri says it’s hard to choose a favorite, but a particularly inspiring theatrical experience was seeing the 1994 revival of “Carousel” at Lincoln Center.
“I was around 14 years old and was completely swept away in the magic of this production,” he says. “It was visually and vocally stunning. The reimagining of the famous ‘bench scene,’ where Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow fall in love with each other was nothing short of brilliant. The sets, the orchestra and the choreography of that production are what inspired me to pursue theater as a career.”
Levine, artistic director of ACT (A Contemporary Theatre) of Connecticut, where Perri is music supervisor, has appeared in Broadway shows from “Les Misérables” and “Chicago” to “Mamma Mia” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” among others.
“‘Les Misérables’ is a special one to me,” he says. “I grew up on that cast album. It was my escape. The fact that (years later) it became the first Broadway show that I appeared in was really magical. I felt that I was a part of something really important. I also love a show by Andrew Lloyd Webber called ‘Aspects of Love.’ It is not a very popular show, but for some reason, it speaks to me.”
Jodi Stevens, of Weston, who appeared in “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Urban Cowboy,” was philosophical in her response. “Honestly, I can’t say one musical changed my life. One musical will comment on the social dictates of our society and hold a mirror up to our lives. Another will let me peek in on an intimate personal moment.
“I learn history, humanity, observe difficult choices characters make and see how their lives play out as a result of those choices. I am forever changed by every piece of theater I experience. I always leave a little changed… ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ was special because it was my first Broadway show. ‘Urban Cowboy’ was also special because we faced so many obstacles getting to Broadway. Although the show only ran six weeks on Broadway, it was a part of my life for 11 years.”
Redding’s Sam Gravitte, who appeared in “Wicked,” says two of his favorite Broadway musicals are “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd.” “They were the first two shows I fell head-over-heels in love with,” he says. “I was introduced to both through their original cast albums. I remember finding the lyrics online, printing them out, and singing along to every song in my bedroom until I knew the albums by heart. I think they are two of the best, if not the best scores ever written. Sondheim’s music and lyrics are endlessly moving, and I learn something new about them every time I listen.”
Juliet Lambert Pratt, who lives in Ridgefield and appeared in Broadway’s “Les Misérables” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion,” loves “Angels in America.” “I saw the original Broadway cast in the early ’90s and will forever have these performances etched in my mind: Ron Leibman, Stephen Spinella, Kathleen Chalfant, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Wright, Joe Mantello. It was such an extraordinary achievement, in all ways, and moved me more than anything has since. Well, ‘Hamilton’ is up there.” (She saw the original cast of that one, too.)
Joanna Gleason, who lives in Fairfield with her husband, actor Chris Sarandon, says she saw her first Broadway show “when I was just a kid living in new Rochelle. My parents took us to see ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” in which the heroine, played by Michelle Lee, sang about her desire to live in New Rochelle! Many years later I got to be in the revival with much of the original cast! Robert Morris, Rudy Vallée...
“I really fell in love with the theater at that moment, going back home locking myself in the bathroom and singing as much of the score as I could remember by heart. The shows over the years that have moved me the most have been ‘Carousel,’ ‘The King and I’ and ‘The Band’s Visit’... I remember in 1991 sitting through six or seven hours of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ and being absolutely blown away.
“I would have to say my favorite scene that I have ever been in was from ‘Into the Woods,’ where my character, the Baker’s wife, meets the prince and then sings a wonderful duet which turns into a solo. Quite a gift from Stephen Sondheim.”
Gleason’s Broadway resume includes “I Love My Wife,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Into the Woods” and “Nick and Nora,” among others. She says two shows she could see over and over again are “Sunday in the Park with George” and “A Little Night Music.”
Sarandon says one of his Broadway favorites is “The Light in the Piazza.” “I replaced the original Signor Naccarelli in that celebrated Lincoln Center production,” he says. “Since I had limited rehearsal time, I had to watch the show many times in order to learn my character’s blocking and familiarize myself with the music. And every night at some point in the show I wept, touched by the beauty of the score, the profundity of the show’s themes, and the extraordinary execution of its direction, both music and staging. I have seen many Broadway shows and none touched me in quite the same way, EXCEPT, years later, ‘The Band’s Visit.’”
“Nick and Nora” is another favorite, he says. And the reason is quite sweet and personal. “This show was one of the legendary failures in Broadway history, deservedly joining the poster wall of flops at Joe Allen’s Restaurant in New York City’s Theater District. And yes, I was a featured member of the cast. But this show is my other favorite because it was there that I found the love of my life, Joanna Gleason. After nearly 29 years of Joanna and I being together, ‘Nick and Nora’ has a special place in my life and in my heart.”
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