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Sir Tim Rice on Stage Notes

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Robert Hammond welcomed acclaimed lyricist Sir Tim Rice to Stage Notes to discuss the North Americain premiere of his musical, From Here to Eternity, on stage at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse through July 20. He also talked about working with Elton John, Andrew Llyod Webber, and Alan Menken.

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Love is Love is Love is Love

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During LGBT Pride Month, I was pleased to welcome Rochester native Nicolette Hart to Stage Notes. She’s a Broadway superstar, a backup vocalist for Bette Midler, and one of the most talented triple threats I know.  My full interview with her, including songs, is available below.

Lin-Manuel Miranda won the award for Best Score for Hamilton, and in lieu of a traditional speech, he delivered a poem about love for his wife and the need for love in the wake of tragedy, no doubt responding to the horrific mass shooting in Orlando. By the end, he was in tears, and the crowd was cheering. Following is the transcript:

“My wife’s the reason anything gets done. She nudges me towards promise by degrees. She is a perfect symphony of one. Our son is her most beautiful reprise. We chase the melodies that seem to find us. Until they’re finished songs and start to play. When senseless acts of tragedy remind us. That nothing here is promised, not one day This show is proof that history remembers. We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall, and light from dying embers. Remembrances that hope and love last longer. And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love; Cannot be killed or swept aside. I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story. Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.”

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Nicolette Hart performing with Bette Midler during It’s the Girls Tour

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Sondheim

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Described by Frank Rich of The New York Times as “Now the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater,” Stephen Sondheim turned 86 on March 22.  Stage Notes host Robert Hammond paid tribute to the musical genius. Full program now available on demand.

Some of his best-known works as composer and lyricist include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods. He wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy.

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A Broadway Easter Celebration

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Join Host Robert Hammond (full program below) as he examines how religion influences musical theatre. The Book of Mormon is one of Broadway’s biggest box-office hits – recently there have been revivals of Christian-themed musicals — Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.  The revival of the revival of the revival (well, you get the picture!) of Les Miserables is still open on the Great White Way! The current revival closes in September.  easterAmong others, Fiddler on the Roof and Spring Awakening are steeped with religious undertones. It’s probably fair to say that the theater has seen the way of the Lord. Has someone been putting sacrament in the water? Or have playwrights just gotten in touch with their devout or devoutly satirical sides?

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I’m Pinocchio

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Today’s Stage Notes was prerecorded. If you read this and then go to the second and final performance of Broadway Rocks, the first Pops concert music director Ward Stare has conducted in Rochester, you’ll think I was a bit hyperbolic.  Don’t get me wrong, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra was fantastic, especially the rhythm section, which is vitally important to a concert like Broadway Rocks, but overall the concert fell flat. I had higher expectations.

The main problem could have been the sound, particularly during the first act – it was muffled. From the Loge, I could barely hear the guest soloists and the choir from Roberts Wesleyan College.

The repertoire was outstanding—some of the biggest Broadway hits, including songs from Wicked, Hairspray, Jersey Boys, and The Phantom of the Opera were performed.

Before the concert, I knew little about Capathia Jenkins. She is all that and more! She brought down the house with her renditions of “And I’m Telling You I’m not Going” from Dreamgirls and “I will Survive.” She and the RPO are what make this concert worth attending.

Another guest vocalist, Rob Evan, could have survived without amplification. His highlights were Dennis DeYoung’s (lead singer from Styx) song “Come Sail Away” and “The Music of the Night,” from The Phantom of The Opera. His voice is strong; however, he could use a stylist.

I’ve seen guest vocalist Christiane Noll on Broadway and at Eastman. In general, I’ve been impressed. This concert is not suited for her. She seemed uncomfortable on stage. That’s not dancing, Sally! (Seinfeld reference.) She decimated a song that should have elevated the concert, “Defying Gravity.” Although the choir would have drowned her vocals out, I’m not sure why they weren’t included at the songs conclusion to proclaim “no one mourns the wicked.” Noll’s voice is pretty, as proved during the Theme from The Phantom of The Opera, but she’s no rocker.

Ward Stare’s forte is Classical conducting – last night he proved he’s a Pops pro, too. Rochester is lucky to have him. Please let me know when he conducts the RPO and the Capathia Jenkins show. I’ll be there.

Broadway Rocks is on stage in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre tonight at 8 PM. Tickets and information at RPO.org.

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It’s Not Too Late to See Beautiful The Carole King Musical

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Nostalgic! Inspiring! Energetic! Just a few adjectives that come to mind after seeing the first national Broadway tour of Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

Rebecca LaChance, in the role of Carole King, is flawless. My God, some big shoes to step into! Jessie Mueller, who won a Tony Award for her performance in the original cast, has to be thrilled that the role on the road has been filled with the same gusto and grace.

This Jukebox musical works better than any I’ve seen. The sets and the scene changes, which are critical to the story, flow effortlessly.

If Ben Frankhauser, in the role of Barry Mann, doesn’t have a comedy gig on the side, he’s missing out on a lot of dollars. He and his hard to get wife, Cynthia Weil (played by Becky Gulsvig), are a match made in heaven. Their comic timing is spot on, as is their vocal talent.

Gerry Goffin (played by Liam Tobin), is accurately portrayed as a charming conflicted soul—sometimes you want to hug him and other times you want to shoot him. Indeed, Mr. Tobin has a great set of pipes.

At times, ensembles can be ignored throughout the theatre community. Not in this show! Each member is a unique thread in a beautifully crafted tapestry.

Rochester is a lucky city. Think about it. Beautiful is still on Broadway. The first national Broadway tour just left Chicago where it was planted for several months. And, in the very near future, it is scheduled to be in LA for an extended run. The arts are strong in Rochester—that is known throughout the country, which is why it gets shows like Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

Don’t miss this masterpiece, especially if you’re a fan of Carole King. You really will laugh and cry, and you certainly will enjoy heading down memory lane.

Beautiful The Carole King Musical is at RBTL’s Auditorium Theatre through March 13th. Tickets and information are available at RBTL.org.

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Stage Notes Rocks Out with Ward Stare

Ward-StareMaestro Wards Stare, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director, joined host Robert Hammond in studio  at WXXI to talk about the RPO’s upcoming concerts, Broadway Rocks. Stage Notes did indeed rock out with songs from Wicked, Rent, The Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, and more. Full program available on demand below.

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Stare is likable and knowledgeable. You’ll enjoy the lightness of the conversation, especially the life stories he shares. His story about the famous Styx song “Come Sail Away” is a highlight. Sit back and listen to a special rockin’ edition of Stage Notes. Remember to follow Stage notes on Twitter @stagenotes, and like our page on  Facebook.

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Stage Notes Pays Tribute to David Bowie

wolfIn tribute to David Bowie, host Robert Hammond aired Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, narrated by Bowie. Conducted by Eugene Ormandy and performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, this classical composition was originally released in 1978. Hammond aired the 1992 remastered version in its entirety on Stage Notes the week of January 10, 2016.  The entire program now available on demand below.

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Happy Anniversary, Stage Notes!

HAIt seems Like Stage Notes began airing on WXXI FM 91.5 yesterday – October 24th marked its sixth anniversary.  Although it airs elsewhere throughout the country, WXXI was the first station that gave it the green light.

Thank you for listening and supporting the program.  Below is a link to the full anniversary program that aired.  It featured many special guests, including Norm Silverstein, Sue Rogers, Elissa Orlando, Ruth Phinney, and Julia Figueras. NPR’s Ari Shapiro was kind enough to join the celebration. Thank you, Ari!

Please Follow Stage Notes on Twitter @stagenotes, and be sure to like our page on Facebook.  Again, thank you.  Enjoy!

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Megan Hilty is a Smash

Megan Hilty with RPO's president, Charlie Owen.
Megan Hilty with RPO president, Charlie Owens.

The  Rochester Pop’s season opened last night with the glorious Megan Hilty.  Don’t worry, if you didn’t go, you have one more chance—tonight at 8 at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Do not miss out!

You know you’re in for something wonderful when conductor Jeff Tyzik starts out a concert  by saying the guest is not only talented, but a genuinely nice person. For anyone who attends Pops concerts as frequently as I do, you know he does not often gush about artists.

The orchestra began the concert performing a Tyzik arrangement of some of Marvin Hamlisch’s best known songs, including “The Way We Were,” “Nobody Does it Better, “The Entertainer,” and of course, many selections from A Chorus Line. It was a splendid way to begin the night, and the orchestra was in top form.

Then, Megan Hilty came out. Wow! Yes, she’s beautiful! Her gowns were breathtaking. But boy, this girl can sing! She does so with such ease and control. There wasn’t a second when she and the orchestra weren’t perfectly in synch. Her ability to interpret every nuance of a song leaves you hanging on every note. Her expression and grace are unparalleled. She was born to be on stage.

The concert was filled with Broadway standards, including  “Luck be a Lady Tonight” and a highpoint, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” I believe Ms. Hilty could be described as a modern day Marilyn Monroe.

Speaking of Norma Jeane, another highpoint was Hilty’s performance of a song from Smash, the two season musical drama on NBC she starred in, “Second Hand Baby Grand.” Prior to its performance, she gave a detailed description about the song. After sung, few eyes were dry. I’ve included the version from Smash (on demand below).

We will be hearing a lot more about Megan Hilty. She is a star. She is a Smash.

Hilty is on stage again tonight with the Rochester Pops. Information is available at RPO.org.