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SUMMER ROUNDUP

Can you believe August is here already? Soon the kids will be off to school and the pumpkins will be in the window, and the Halloween parade will be down the street from Babbo, and the turkeys will be flying off the shelves(well, waddling actually) and…WAIT!!! Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, after all, it’s only August! What, are you folks crazy, trying to rush into Autumn like that?? A new musical finally opened on Broadway in late July, and this little gem has been kicking around for several years, first in an off-Broadway musical festival, then at the Vineyard Theatre on E. 15th street for 2 separate runs, and now, thanks to the producers of “Avenue Q” and “Rent” and a certain Tony award winning musical which won’t be named, it’s landed at the Lyceum Theatre. It’s “Title of Show”, and I’m hoping it gets a respectable run because it’s quirky, adorable and one big smile from start to finish. Remind you of anyone?

Anyway, TOS, as it’s being called on the theater chat boards, is real simple. Two guys decide one day they have nothing to do, so they decide, Hey, let’s write a musical! What’ll we write about, one queries and the other responds, let’s write about this conversation! We’ll write a musical about two guys who come up with an idea about writing a musical and we’ll write down everything we say and it’ll be a show! Which they do, and they invite a couple of female friends along, one a Broadway veteran, the other a wisecracking, off-Broadway diva-in-training, and the result is a funny, free-spirited, chain-of-thought romp through ordinary everyday life-land, that ends up being both charming as hell and a jumpstart for your self-esteem to boot. The cast is winningly perfect and they are Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell. The director is the supreme Broadway veteran Michael Beresse, who was recently in the revival of “A Chorus Line”, and he does know his way around a musical. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and get your hides over to the Lyceum and experience this soft-spoken winner for yourself.

If you’ve never heard the name Scott Siegel, it’s time you did. He and wife Barbara are authors, critics and theatregoers par excellence, who both happen to love all things musical. Nine years ago, Scott came up with a program at Town Hall called “Broadway By The Year”. The concept is this-four nights every season, he produces and hosts a show which celebrates the Broadway musical of one specific year and then has a gaggle of talented folks from the worlds of Broadway, off-Broadway and cabaret perform about two dozen songs of his choosing culled from all the musicals that opened in that year. Season Eight just concluded and I bring it up because sometime in the next few weeks, subscriptions for the next series will go on sale by mail order and at the Town Hall box office. If you’re a fan of songs from Broadway and the Great American Songbook in general, you must give this series a shot. Scott unearths both that which is familiar and the obscure kind of things you may remember hearing once or twice in your lifetime and had thought you’d forgotten. It all comes together in a 2 hour shows on four Mondays every Spring, and I’ve never had a mediocre time at any of these. All have been a hoot and a half. Check the website for The Town Hall for more info. You won’t be sorry. One of the highlights of this program is Scott’s penchant for presenting several songs each evening sans microphone, or as he puts it, with sound design by God. With the unfortunate overuse of over-amplification in the theatre, the experience of hearing someone singing to a packed house without aural aid, wherein you can actually discern EVERY WORD, is quite a treat. Siegel has also begun an entire evening of songs and singers performed and performing without amplification he calls “Broadway Unplugged”, the fourth of which comes around in mid-November. Again, check out The Town Hall website for details on that evening, too. Two hours of pure sound performed to an audience willing to pay attention to every single lyric because they can actually understand and HEAR every single lyric, is quite the treat. Well, don’t just sit there, book already.