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British-born choreographer/director Warren Carlyle says, “Every day I pinch myself. It’s a wonder I’m not black and blue. I can't believe it's not the dream I spent my life dreaming.”
He’s gone through several breathless months leading up to two huge openings and has quite an upcoming schedule. “I’m not getting much sleep,” he laughed over a hearty breakfast on the Upper West Side last week. “I’m up early, on the run, literally, like I’m in a marathon. I just keep moving. Now, I’m also commuting, mounting a new show, and get home much too late.” Carlyle is working with Tony winning John Rando (Urinetown) choreographing the premiere of The Sting, which marks the return to the stage of Tony winners Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann (Tony nominated Urinetown).
The musical, based on the classic film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, premiered March 29 at Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, NJ [and is set for a Broadway premiere next Fall]. Starring are Tony nominee Harry Connick Jr. (The Pajama Game revival) and, in bit of quite interesting casting, J. Harrison Ghee, a recent Lola in Kinky Boots , the first drag artist in the role. Connick is also contributing to the score.
Carlyle’s name is emblazoned on the Shubert marquee as choreographer of the blockbuster revival of Hello, Dolly! He won a 2014 Tony for his high-energy, high-stepping choreography for After Midnight.
“The last eight years have been filled with the greatest career rewards I can imagine,” he enthuses. “How magical to have Hello, Dolly! back and how beyond I got to choreograph it and work with the master of comedy, Jerry Zaks. This is something I never could have dreamt would happen.”
Carlyle says he likes to stay busy, which is quite an understatement. He’s became a hurdler, running marathon races. “I love the hustle and bustle. It keeps me moving – that’s great for a choreographer. It also keeps me young. Work is challenging, because it’s your ambition to keep coming up with something fresh, new.” He explains that one of the wonderful things about his work choreographing and directing is that it’s something different every day. “Rarely does anything repeat itself.”
You wonder why he’s not getting a lot of sleep? In addition to The Sting, in early May he’s directing/choreographing Noel Gay’s Me and My Girl, Encores! 25th season closer (starring Tony winner Christian Borle), premiering a new work for New York City Ballet, and then directing/choreographing the revival of Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon’s The Secret Garden.
Carlyle says he was familiar with The Sting from seeing the film, which became one of his favorites. “We’re working with a truly wonderful concept by Bob Martin (Tony and Olivier-nominated as The Drowsy Chaperone’s Man in the Chair, and Tony-nominated as co-writer of the book; contributing writer, TV’s Slings & Arrows). It’s so much more creative when you start with a blank canvas.
“Choreography is based on emotion,” he continues, “so my mission has been to empathize it in the dance. John has kept the scenes very real, so I’m working with real people, with real problems. I had a lot of Damon Runyon and Guys and Dolls in my head.” Of course, he wanted to mind as much theatricality as possible. At the center of The Sting is an elaborate con game and Carlyle found a parallel to theater. “Let’s face it,” he smiles, “theater is a con. Our goal is to con audiences into believing what we’re doing is real. It’s a wonderful metaphor. Take tap dancing. What a con! And you can use it because while you’re looking at my feet, I’m stealing your wallet!”
Ninety-nine percent of the music, he points out is Kotis and Hollmann’s score, but there’s Joplin ragtime “and what better person do we have to play it than Harry!”
He calls Connick “a dream come true, the real deal. Every director and choreographer would be blessed to work with him. There’s not another on the planet who’s more talented or works harder. It’s not an accident that he’s a superstar. He’s supremely gifted as a writer, musician, and actor. The role of Henry Gondorff is the right part at the right time and he’s certainly the right actor. It’s a perfect fit, and he’s got the statue and look to pull it off.”
He and Connick have bonded and found a way to compliment the other. “Harry’s teaching me music. I’m teaching him dance. He’s a great student, and absorbs everything so quickly. When I say he can do anything, it’s a fact.”
Everyone knows what Harry can do, but Carlyle says audiences are going to be surprised by J. Harrison Ghee. “The non-traditional casting – he’s black – certainly a big departure from the film, but it really works. The role of Johnny Hooker suits him to a capital T. Watch him! He’s a rising star.”
Among the show’s co-stars is Kate Shindel (A Christmas Story, Wonderland), Miss America 1998 and the president of Actors Equity. “Kate’s a beauty, which is only matched by her voice. She’s a great leading lady for Harry. “
Warren Carlyle’s siren call to dance came from a love of movie musicals.
When he was 10, his working-class parents outside Norwich, northeast of Cambridge, took him to the city to see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Top Hat. "That was it! That's how I got hooked," he laughs. "I was mesmerized. It became my dream to dance. Fred, so debonair in top hat, white tie, and tails, flower in lapel, and cane. He was so smooth, he made it look so easy. I was on the edge of my seat during that huge Irving Berlin ‘Piccolini' sequence with hundreds of people, or so it seemed, singing and dancing! I wanted to jump up and join them!”
From then on, it was a love affair with Hollywood musicals. In high school, Carlyle, who excelled in swim and track, soon became obsessed with tap, which proved quite strange to his mates. "I was bullied. It was awful, hurtful, and tough, but I discovered the best way to handle it was to ignore it. Somehow I had the mind to find my inner strength to do my own thing."
It didn't come as a shock to his parents when, upon graduating, he announced he was London-bound to attend ballet school. "I couldn't wait," he notes, "I had to go!"
He began dancing right out of university. He auditioned for Cats and in 1989 was cast as Alonzo. "I am very tall, which I considered an asset," he explains. "It turned out not to be. Since I towered over everyone, Gillian [Lynne] put me in the back or middle, but I kept feeling the urge to take a leap forward."
Then, he was hand-picked by Susan Stroman to be her associate choreographer on Trevor Nunn's 1997 Royal National Theatre production of Oklahoma!, starring Hugh Jackman. "Working with Warren is a complete joy in every way," says Jackman. "We became great friends during Oklahoma! It was clear even then that Warren had big dreams, and a real joie de vivre. He was a born choreographer/director, and everyone knew he was going places." When Stroman asked Carlyle to join her for the Broadway transfer [which starred Patrick Wilson], he was packed and raring to go. “They, whoever they are, say you learn from the best, and Susan is the very, very best, and a beloved friend.” He choreographed and debuted as a director with A Tale of Two Cities (2008), segued right into the same duties with the Finian’s Rainbow revival (2009), Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway (2011) and After Midnight.
While working with Jackman, Carlyle choreographed a revival of Follies, followed by Chaplin and A Christmas Story [working with John Rando] and revivals of The Mystery of Edwin Droo, On the Twentieth Century, and She Loves Me. And, amazingly, somehow found time to work with the Rockettes.
“It’s been immensely satisfying working on Broadway,” Carlyle says. “I’m truly blessed to be doing what I love. Winning the Tony was the culmination of a life-long dream. Such an honor. I’m accomplishing my goals. My bucket list’s getting shorter, yet I feel I’m just beginning.”
Forget the crowds of NYCC, MOCCA is where it’s at for comic events in New York. Organized by the Society of Illustrators, and running April 7 - 8 at the Metropolitan West (639 W 46th St.), the MOCCA Arts Festival features indie comics legends alongside fresh faced newcomers and small-time ‘zine printers, plus panels and workshops.
This year’s guests of honor include Roz Chast, Liniers, Mike Mignola, Nate Powell and Andrew Aydin, and Featured Artists Yvan Alagbé, Nicole J, Georges, Dominique Goblet, Anna Haifisch, Jaime Hernandez, Rebecca Mock, Max de Radigues, Ann Telnaes, and JooHee Yoon.
To learn more, go to: https://www.societyillustrators.org/mocca-arts-festival
MOCCA Arts FestivalApril 7 - 8, 2018
Metropolitan West639 W 46th St.New York, NY 10036
Ten-time Grammy, Oscar, Tony, and Golden Globe winner John Legend, who was handpicked to play the coveted role of Jesus in NBC’s live Easter Sunday telecast of the landmark Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, joins Tony-winner Glenn Close and Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner Lin-Manuel Miranda in Wednesday’s one-hour special Andrew Lloyd Webber Tribute to a Superstar, 10 P.M. Eastern. Jesus Christ Superstar Live! airs Sunday in a two-hour-and-20-minute telecast from Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Marcy Armory at 8 P.M.Lloyd Webber, considered one of history’s most successful composers of musicals in history, has won seven Tony Awards, three Grammys, and an Oscar and Golden Globe. He’s also a Kennedy Center Honoree. In February 2017 he achieved the rare distinction of having four shows running simultaneously on Broadway: Cats (revival), The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Sunset Boulevard (concert revival). In addition to producing his musicals with his Really Useful Company and Cameron Mackintosh, he’s also presented plays, such as Lend Me a Tenor.
Legend won his Oscar for Best Original Song, "Glory," from the film Selma, his Tony Award for co-producing last season’s revival of August Wilson’s Jitney. He has been honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame with their Hal David Starlight Award. The special, on the heels of Lloyd Webber’s 70th birthday and the publication of his massive memoir Unmasked [Harper Collins], which at 518 pages comes just short of rivaling Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and only half-bows to Tolstoy’s War and Peace [however, Volume Two’s in the works], is a tribute and celebration of one of theater’s most prolific composers. Compared to Stephen Sondheim, Lloyd Webber may not have be the critics’ darling, as he’s often mused, but his musicals have raked in billions worldwide, with only one or two hiccups. [It’s certain that Jerry Herman, who also suffered many a critic, has a flush bottom line with the blockbuster success of the Hello, Dolly! revival.]The live telecast will co-star Brandon Victor Dixon (original cast, Hamilton) as apostle Judas and Sara Bareilles (composer, often star Waitress) as Mary Magdalene, with stellar featured spots by rock legend Alice Cooper as Herod, Tony nominee Ben Daniels as Pontius Pilate, Swedish rock star Erik Gronwall as apostle Simon Zealotes, Jin Ha (M. Butterfly revival) as high priest Annas, Tony nominee Norm Lewis as high priest Caiaphas, and Jason Tam (If/Then, Lysistrata Jones) as apostle Peter.
According to a spokesman for Emmy-winning Brad Lachman Productions, where the special was still being edited on Friday, “the tribute covers Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows from Jesus Christ Superstar to Sunset Boulevard” It will begin with a montage of Lloyd Webber musicals, include numerous photos [some vintage], and conversation and reflection with Glenn Close and sound bites with John Legend and Lin-Manuel Miranda. In addition, there’ll be an appearance by New York’s Young People’s Chorus, who’re appearing in the Easter Sunday live telecast.” On the program, Lloyd Webber states, “Jesus Christ Superstar has always been at its best when it’s presented live and close to a rock concert. Tim (Rice) and I discovered with Joseph and His Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat that we liked the idea of having no dialogue.” The rock opera was presented in a dynamic rock concert production in London’s Regents Park Open Air Theatre in 2016, winning an Olivier Award for Best Revival, with a return last summer. Following the Broadway premiere, the show debuted in Los Angeles at Universal Studios amphitheatre. “The wonderful thing about musical theater,” observes Lloyd Webber, “is that there are no rules. Jesus Christ Superstar was made first as a recording because no one was interested in producing it in theater. When MCA Records and Universal Studios put up the money to record the complete piece, we considered it as a recording that had to entertain listeners as if it was a musical play on radio.” He thinks one of the reasons Jesus Christ Superstar has endured today – with productions worldwide and, in the U.S. even by church groups especially at Easter season -- is because it was conceived as a record. “We didn’t have theater directors saying you need 18 extra bars here for scenery shifts or what have you,” he says. “It was carefully constructed by Tim and I to be a tight piece to take the listener in a straight line from A to Z.” Lloyd Webber and Rice didn’t exactly create the British Invasion of Broadway but they contributed more than any other composers, their rock opera helping to shape musical theatre as we know it today.
The composer is responsible for some of Broadway’s most popular shows: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, -- all with lyricist Rice; Cats, Song and Dance, Starlight Express [which may be making a spectacular return], Broadway’s longest-running musical [celebrating 30 years] The Phantom of the Opera, one of his most underrated works Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard, By Jeeves, Bombay Dreams, The Woman in White, and, currently on the boards, School of Rock.On the program, Glenn Close says, “Andrew is a bonafied genius. It’s been a privilege to work with him. When I stepped onstage in Los Angeles in the first American production of Sunset Boulevard, I was still learning to sing. Andrew’s music is very challenging. You have to have technical knowledge, and I had a long way to go. If I went onstage thinking I was going to be singing, that would have been too daunting. I went out there thinking of the big songs as monologues, thinking of Norma, of her situation, of what she was saying. It was the only way I could have gotten through. It was an amazing journey.”The special is from Marc Platt Productions and, lead producers of the Sunday telecast, Zadan/Meron Productions [Craig Zadan and Neal Meron]. Lachman and Bill Bracken of Lachman Productions serve as executive producer and co-executive producer, respectively. In celebration of all things Lloyd Webber, Sony Masterworks has scheduled April 27th for the drop of a two-disc original cast album from the telecast, with 27 tracks, including the curtain call; and Verve Records has released the four-disc and a two-disc Andrew Lloyd Webber: Unmasked - The Platinum Collection. The complete set, which features over 70 tracks, presents stars of the original musicals, including School of Rock, “Superstar” by Murray Head, Jesus Christ Superstar’s album Judas; “Buenos Aires” [Evita] by cast members of Glee; a stunning rendition of “Tell Me on a Sunday” [Song and Dance] by Michael Crawford; “No Matter What” [Whistle Down the Wind] by Boyzone; and newly-recorded versions of songs by pop star and Golden Globe nominee Lana Del Rey, Grammy winning jazz/blues vocalist Gregory Porter, and multi-Platinum singer [and actress] Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls), plus, a 40- page booklet with introduction by Andrew Lloyd Webber and tributes from Close, Michael Crawford [The Phantom of the Opera], Close, Tim Rice, and Streisand.
The Amazing Screw-On Head
Filled to the brim with creepy cobwebs, dilapidated castles, and bizarre creatures, the comics of Mike Mignola have redefined how readers look at the world of the supernatural thanks to his seminal Hellboy series. The Society of Illustrators (128 E 63rd St, New York, NY) will be celebrating several decades of Mignola’s illustrious career with The Art of Mike Mignola and Other Curious Objects, running from March 6 to April 21.
Getting his start at Marvel comics in the 1980s, Mignola drew the first Rocket Raccoon mini-series written by Bill Mantlo. 1989’s Triumph and Torment, written by Roger Stern was a prelude to the gothic horrors Mignola would go on to create in Hellboy, as the "Sorcerer Supreme", Dr. Strange, teams up with Dr. Doom to rescue the soul of Doom’s mother from the pits of Hell. In 1994 Hellboy: The Seed of Destruction, written with John Byrne, premiered setting off the long and storied history of Hellboy, the gruff but lovable paranormal investigator who may also be the beast of the apocalypse.
The exhibit will feature highlights from Hellboy series, as well as other spin-off titles including work from B.P.R.D., Abe Sapien, and Witchfinder alongside samples from his award-winning comic books including the Eisner Award winner The Amazing Screw-On Head (Dark Horse Comics) as well as Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (Bantam Spectra), co-written by best-selling author Christopher Golden.
The exhibit will have an opening reception on March 6, and Mike Mignola will also be appearing at the Society's annual MoCCA Fest comic convention on April 7 - 8.
To learn more, go to: https://www.societyillustrators.org/exhibits/mike-mignola
The Art of Mike Mignola and Other Curious ObjectsMarch 6 - April 21, 2018
The Society of Illustrators128 E 63rd St.New York, NY 10065
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