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New York City - Theatre

Wendy R. Williams'
Theatre Column

November 21, 2009

I saw two plays this month - the utterly astounding road company of Dream Girls which is playing at the Apollo Theater until December 12, 2009 and Fela! which as the ad says, is "melting the walls of the Eugene O'Neill Theater." Both shows open November 22, 2009 and at the preview performances I attended for both shows, the audience was simply ecstatic.

Dreams and Ambition

First Dream Girls: The producers for the national tour of Dream Girls held open auditions for the roles of Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson and Effie White in November of 2008 at the legendary Apollo Theater, the setting for the opening scene in the musical. And they came away with a bumper crop of talented young black actress/ singers. While none of the actresses who play the main parts were truly unknowns (Maya Angela who plays Effie White has toured with Disney's Lion King; Syesha Mercado who play Deena Jones was the second runner-up on American Idol's Seventh Season; and Adrienne Warren who play Lorrell Robinson was an understudy for Dorothy in the Encores! Summer Stars production of The Wiz), all three of the performers who play the main roles are destined to be stars.

Dream Girls tells the (in a quote from the press release) "rags-to-riches story of a 1960s motown girl group, and the triumphs and tribulations that come with fame and fortune." The show is loosely based on the story of Dianna Ross and the Supremes. Director Robert Longbottom has recreated the magic of Michael Bennett's original creation; his version of Dream Girls is a drop-everything-and-get-a-ticket show. It is all there: Maya Angela delivers a heart-broken, gut-wrenching version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Syesha Mercado as Deena Jones and Adrienne Warren as Lorell Robinson have pipes that rival Maya Angela's Effie. Chester Gregory, who plays James "Thunder" Early, delivers an amazing performance throughout the show, blowing up the stage with his performance in "Steppin' to the Bad Side." The costumes, set and choreography are all best-of-Broadway caliber and watching the show I wished that show could stay for an open run at The Apollo so more New Yorkers could discover this Dream.

The talented cast of Dream Girls also features: Margaret Hoffman as Michelle Morris; Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Curtis Taylor, Jr.; Chester Gregory as James "Thunder" Early; Trevon Davis as C.C. White; and Milton Craig Nealy as Marty Madison. The cast also includes a multi-talented group of singers/dancers including: Tallia Brinson; Felicia Boswell; Ronald Duncan; Talitha Farrow; Brittney Griffin; James Harkness; Robert Hartwell; Eric Jackson; Chauncey Jenkins; Jared Joseph; Nikki Kimbrough; Brittany Lewis; Douglas Lyons; Kimberly Marable; Jarran Muse; Amaker Smith; Marc Spaulding; Bret Shuford; Emily Ferranti; and Stephanie Gibson.

Dream Girls is playing at the Apollo Theater at 253 West 125th Street in Harlem through December 12, 2009. Ticket for the Apollo Show are $35.00 - $106.00 at 800-982-2787. Dream Girls closes at the Apollo Theater on December 12th and leaves for the start of the national tour, opening next in Baltimore. For more information about the national tour, log onto

Note: The original Broadway production of Dream Girls won six Tony Awards. The show was created by composer Henry Krieger with book by Tom Eyen.


Now for FELA!, the musical based on the life of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Fela was famous for many things - inventing a new form of music called Afrobeat, being a political activist who railed against the Nigerian military government (they railed back) and for being an AIDS denier who succumbed to the disease himself in 1997.

But the the Broadway play FELA! is set in a "happier" era of the 1970's when Fela performed nightly in his night club called The Shrine. I say happier with a sense of irony because Fela was routinely arrested and beaten by the corrupt Nigerian government.

In FELA!, the musical, Fela's nightly parties are recreated. The parties are booty shaky, drum throbbing, ganja spiffing, decadent events driven by a Fela's music. But while Fela partied, he also talked and his political view, delivered in pidgen English so all Africans could understand, were an anathema to the corrupt Nigeria military establishment. Unlike the American black activists Fela met when he visited the United States, Fela did not think that that black power would solve the problems of Nigeria. After all, Nigeria had black power and it was corrupt.

The military struck back, attacking Fela's compound and killing his mother. Fela responded by delivering his mother's coffin to the military establishment and creating a new song, "Zombie." "Zombie" became a hit all over the world and the streets of Nigeria were filled with Zombies marching to the song. All of this is depicted to great effect in the musical. .

The musical is directed by and choreographed by Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones and is in the words of the press release, a "provocative hybrid of concert, dance and musical theater." It is also must-see musical theater.

Fela! is playing in open run at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre at 230 West 49th St. Tickets are Ticket Price: $50.50 - $122.00; $27.00 Rush at 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250 & telecharge.com.



October 24, 2009

Sienna Miller and Jonny Lee Miller
After Miss Julie Opening Night Curtain Call
October 22, 2009
Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

After Miss Julie opened at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre on October 22, 2009. The play stars Sienna Miller and Jonny Lee Miller and will run through December 6, 2009.

Here is some information about the show:

After Miss Julie
Tuesday 8:00pm
Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm
Opened October 22, 2009
Closes December 6, 2009
American Airlines Theatre

The Roundabout Theater Company presents Patrick Marber's After Miss Julie, directed by Mark Brokaw. Film and stage star Sienna Miller stars in the production, which transposes August Strindberg's 1888 play about sex and class to an English country house on the eve of Labour's historic landslide in 1945. The cast also includes Jonny Lee Miller and Marin Ireland.

Tickets 212-719-1300 roundabouttheatre.org

American Airlines Theatre 227 West 42nd Street

October 22, 2009

Richie Sambora, David Bryan and Tico Torres
Memphis Broadway Show Opening Night
Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Memphis opened at Broadway's Schubert Theatre on October 19, 2009. Memphis tells the story of the Memphis music scene in the 1950's. Rock royalty like Richie Sambora, David Bryan and Tico Torres showed up for opening night.

Here is some information about the play:

Tuesday 8:00pm
Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm
Shubert Theatre

From the rockin' dance halls of Memphis, Tennessee comes this hot and bothered new Broadway musical with heart, soul and energy to burn. Set in the turbulent south in the 1950s, it is the story of Huey Calhoun, a white radio DJ whose love of good music transcends race lines and airwaves. Get ready to experience all the exuberance and the emotion... the beauty and the controversy... of a wondrous, defining time in our history. You're tuning in to Memphis, so turn up that dial!

Tickets $41.50 - $121.50 212-239-6200 800-432-7250

Shubert Theatre | 225 West 44th Street



Gina Gershon and John Stamos of Bye Bye Birdie
Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Gina Gershon and John Stamos and the Cast of Bye Bye Birdie
Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Bye Bye Birdie, starring Gina Gershon and John Stamos, opened at Broadway's Henry Miller's Theatre on October 15, 2009.

Here is some information about the show:

Bye Bye Birdie
Tuesday 8:00pm
Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm
Henry Miller's Theatre

In Bye Bye Birdie, the exuberant rock n' roll musical comedy, it's 1960 and hip-swingin' teen idol superstar Conrad Birdie has been drafted into the army. Birdie's manager Albert (John Stamos) and his secretary Rosie (Gina Gershon) have cooked up a plan to send him off with a swell new song and one last kiss from a lucky teenage fan... on The Ed Sullivan Show!

Bye Bye Birdie received the 1961 Tony Award for Best Musical and features such beloved songs as "Put on A Happy Face," "Kids," "Spanish Rose," "The Telephone Hour" and "A Lot of Livin' To Do."

Tickets $86.50 - $141.50 212-719-1300

Henry Miller's Theatre |124 West 43rd Street

October 7, 2009

Two new Broadway plays with limitee runs opened this week, Hamlet (starring Jude Law) and Wishful Drinking (starring Carrie Fisher).

Jude Law
Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Hamlet starring Jude Law opened at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th Street on October 6, 2009.

Here is some information about the show:

Tuesday 7:00pm
Wednesday 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm
Closes on December 6, 2009
Opened on October 6, 2009
Broadhurst Theatre

In Shakespeare's definitive tragedy, Hamlet, the King of Denmark is dead. Consumed with grief, Prince Hamlet, played by Jude Law, determines to avenge his father's death with devastating consequences for his family and the kingdom.

Tickets$25.00 - $116.50 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250 telecharge.com
A limited number of $35.00 tickets, subject to availability, will be made available for purchase by students at the Broadhurst Theatre box office on the day of the performance only. One ticket per valid student ID. Tickets are subject to availability and the number of student tickets for each performance may vary. Box office hours are 10am to 8:30 PM, Monday through Saturday and Noon to 6:00 PM on Sunday.


Broadhurst Theatre | 235 West 44th Street | New York, NY 10036

Jane Fonda
Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Jane Fonda was on hand for the premiere of Wishful Drinking, starring Carrie Fisher, at Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street on October 2, 2009.

Here is some information about that show:

Wishful Drinking
Tuesday 8:00pm
Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Thursday 8:00pm
Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 2:00pm
Opened on October 4, 2009
Closes on January 3, 2010
Studio 54

In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher recounts the true and intoxicating tale of her life as a Hollywood legend, told with the same wry wit she poured into bestsellers like Postcards from the Edge. The daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher became a cultural icon when she starred as "Princess Leia" in the first Star Wars trilogy at 19 years old. Forever changed, Carrie's life did not stay picture perfect. Fisher is the life of the party in this uproarious and sobering look at her Hollywood hangover.

Ticket Price: $31.50 - $111.50 212-719-1300

Studio 54 |254 West 54th Street


September 15, 2009

Avenue Q, which had been scheduled to close in New York City, has announced that it will reopen at Off Broadway's New World Stages on October 9, 2009. This is great news for anyone who has not already seen the show or for Q addicts who need their fix. Q is a hysterically funny, wonderfully naughty show that should not be missed by anyone who loves to laugh. And don't be put off by the fact that it is a puppet show. Actors carry the puppets onstage and the reactions between these actors and their puppets not-to-be-missed theater. AvenueQ.com


September 10, 2009

The Off Broadway 20 at 20 Promotion is back, running from now through September 20. This year's selections including Stomp (if you have not seen it, you really need to) and the fantastically campy Toxic Avenger (I laughed my a** off).

Many of the shows are at the always fun New World Stages: Toxic Avenger, Naked Boys Singing, The Gazillion Bubble Show, My First Time and Altar Boyz. New World Stages are modern and beautiful. The Time Out Bar is onsite and across 50th street from the theaters is my favorite Thai restaurant, Seeda Thai.

So get your rush on while the rushings good.


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