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ON THE TOWN WITH CHIP DEFFAA … AT THE IRISH REP’S TOWN HALL GALA

June 11, 2024

They’ve created a theater that actors love to work in. And that was reflected by the terrific array of actors (including assorted Tony and Drama Desk Award winners and nominees), who gathered at Town Hall to reprise numbers they’d performed at the Irish Rep over the past 35 years. [more]

ON THE TOWN WITH CHIP DEFFAA: CATCHING THE VIVINO BROTHERS AT THE IRIDIUM

March 20, 2024

I’ve always loved their work, from the very start of their careers. Jimmy (on guitar) and Jerry (on tenor sax) have worked with some of the biggest names in the business--Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, Keely Smith, Dr. John, Bette Midler, and many more. For a quarter-century Jimmy and Jerry were the heart of the band (which Jimmy wound up leading) on Conan O’Brien’s TV show. I once went to a taping of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” just to see Jerry and Jimmy. [more]

ON THE TOWN WITH CHIP DEFFAA… AT CONCERTS HONORING BETTY BUCKLEY AND TONY BENNETT

November 9, 2023

This fall, I saw two of the most rewarding tribute-type concerts I’ve seen in recent years—one a glittering (if overlong), star-filled salute to “the Voice of Broadway,” Betty Buckley; the other a sincere tribute to the late master song-stylist Tony Bennett by young students from the school that he founded (and told me he was so proud of). Both of these very different events gave me some moments I’ll never forget…. [more]

REMEMBERING TONY BENNETT

July 25, 2023

He sang all his life. When New York's Triborough Bridge (known today as the RFK Bridge) opened in May of 1936, Tony Bennett--then a boy singer from Astoria who loved the work of Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor--sang at the opening. Mayor Laguardia, he recalled, patted him on his head! [more]

ON THE TOWN WITH CHIP DEFFAA… WITH MATTHEW BRODERICK, HARVEY MILK, AND HARRY HOUDINI….

June 28, 2023

As a lover of the performing arts, I’ll remember this month as when I witnesseed Matthew Broderick give one of the finest, subtlest performances of his career. I’ll remember, too, the uplifting idealism of Andrew Lippa’s I Am Harvey Milk. But I’ll also remember this as the month that some major cultural institutions were forced to make significant cutbacks because audiences have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. And that is worrisome. [more]

On The Town with Chip Deffaa: At “New York, New York,” “Some Like It Hot,” and Seth Sikes & Nicholas King’s Nightclub Act

May 14, 2023

In the last few weeks I feel like I’ve been stepping back in time—in a nice way.   I’ve enjoyed seeing the new Broadway musicals "New York, New York" (set in 1946-47) and (with some definite reservations, which I’ll get to shortly,) "Some Like It Hot" (set in 1933).  And although the current nightclub act of  Seth Sikes and Nicolas King is set in the present, most of the Great America Songbook numbers that they sing were written long before they were born; and they put those numbers across with  terrific razzle-dazzle showmanship—the kind you always hope to see in clubs but all-too-rarely do. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: “As You Like It” On Stage and “Banded Together” In the Movies

May 9, 2023

Each was an individual; I liked hearing all of the different voices and accents and inflections. Each one brought his or her own personality to the work.   But—and this is a compliment--they were all performing the play in the same fundamental manner.  As performers, they were all on the same wavelength.   (Kudos to director Kelly Brady and company.)   The characters were talking with one another--not offering orations directed at the audience.  The actors all knew the material so thoroughly, they were able to speak their lines easily to each other, with utter naturalness, in a conversational way. They were giving us Shakespeare’s words.  But they weren’t delivering speeches to us; they were interacting with one another the way people in real life do.  And that made the play come alive for us.  It wasn’t a historical relic.  The characters felt like human beings, with the same sorts of feelings we all have.  We could relate to them. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa at Anthony Rapp’s “Without You”

February 11, 2023

Rapp’s show—directed by Steve Maler, with musical direction/orchestrations by Daniel A. Weiss (who was the associate conductor/second keyboards player of the original Broadway production of Rent)—is quite moving.  I was held by it throughout.  And it is extraordinarily rich with Jonathan Larson songs, including “No Day but Today,” “We’re Dying in America,” “Rent,” “La Vie Boheme,” “One Song Glory,” “Seasons of Love,” “Without You.”   Hearing these familiar songs—which I’ve heard so many times in Rent, performed by multiple singers—in new contexts, now sung solo—gives me an even greater admiration for them.  They are such well-crafted songs, and they have enormous impact here, just as they did in their original contexts. Rapp has an especial affinity for Larson’s work; no one performs Larson’s songs more compellingly.  He has long been the foremost interpreter of Larson’s music.  He “gets” the music completely.  It resonates for him.  No one interprets Larson’s work better. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: From Anatevka to Wales

January 1, 2023

"Fiddler"--brilliantly directed by Joel Grey—is an unusually impactful production. It’s emotionally rich, moving, and timeless. And wholly believable.  They had me from the first words of the opening number, “Tradition.” (And what a glorious ensemble sound they got!) Steven Skybell playing “Tevye” won the Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor when this production was first presented in 2019.  (And the production as a whole won Drama Desk, New York Drama Critics Circle and Outer Critics Circle awards that same season.)   He is an excellent Tevye—earthy, naturalistic, struggling to deal with the hardships of life, and able to leaven the hardships with well-expressed humor. This is a big production for Off-Broadway, with some two dozen actors in the company, and Zalmen Mlotek conducting 10 musicians in the orchestra.   I don’t speak Yiddish, but the English supertitles would make it easy for anyone to follow along.  I’ve seen Fiddler, in various incarnations, enough times—and I’ve savored the original Broadway cast album since Fiddler first premiered back in the 1960’s—I  didn’t really need to read all of the supertitles.  I quickly got engrossed in the action.   This is one of the greatest of all musicals—the book, music, and lyrics are so strong—it always has rewards to offer. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: At the Museum of Broadway

December 13, 2022

Everyone who loves theater owes a debt of gratitude to Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti.  About five years ago, they got the idea of creating a museum in the theater district, dedicated to Broadway.  They would raise the funds themselves, hoping to create a self-sustaining operation.  The museum they have co-founded has now opened.  And it’s a winner! Oh, I’m not saying it’s perfect. Nothing in this world is quite perfect.  And like all new ventures, the museum is experiencing some growing pains.  (Later in this piece, I’ll suggest some ways that the museum could be made even better.) But what they’ve achieved thus far is mighty impressive.  There are a few kinks to be ironed out, but this is a major addition to the theater district. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: “Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust Road”… Carmichael deserves better

December 5, 2022

Boy! This is going to be a tough review to write.  The York Theatre Company, which has such a strong track record when it comes to honoring important songwriters, is currently presenting a revue of Hoagy Carmichael songs called "Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust Road."  Carmichael (1899-1981) is one of the greatest of American songwriters.  No one’s done an overview of Carmichael’s work in many, many years.  So, this production is important.   The show should be a natural.  But developing a show isn’t always easy. This will likely be the longest review I’ve ever written about a single show; but the show merits a detailed discussion.  The production I just saw has significant flaws, as well as significant strengths.  I hope the show can be further developed so it can fulfill its potential. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: On Fanny Brice and “Funny Girl”

June 6, 2022

I’ve often told friends what an impact "Funny Girl" had on me.  That was the show that made me fall completely, utterly, and permanently in love with Broadway. I was a teenager when I saw it—not quite 15.  I started taking  odd jobs to make some extra  money;  I stopped buying comic books;  I began skipping school lunches, too—I was trying to save every possible penny so I could  buy Broadway theater tickets. Theater became my top priority.   And as often as possible, I would go to see another Broadway show.  (Broadway was far more affordable then than it is now, and I was eager to check out everything—musicals, comedies, dramas. I could often get tickets to shows—up in the balcony--that didn’t cost much more than tickets to movies.)  "Funny Girl"—more than "My Fair Lady" or any other show I appreciated—was what got me really hooked on theater. And  I’m still grateful for that. [more]

Robert Morse: An Appreciation

April 22, 2022

He won a Tony Award starring in the Broadway masterwork "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."  And fortunately his performance was captured well in the film adaptation of that brilliant show.  (Watch that film for a sample of his greatness.) And he won another Tony Award for "Tru,'his one-man show about Truman Capote (which was later successfully adapted for public television). He was simply compelling. And people who would never have watched the real Truman Capote speak for an evening were mesmerized by his theatrical version of Capote.  I was impressed, too, by his ability to surrender himself entirely to the needs of the role; if he was portraying a real person, like Truman Capote (or, later, Dominick Dunne, for "American Crime Stories"), he could become the character so thoroughly, you almost forgot you were watching Robert Morse. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: “Rent” at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts: An Appreciation

April 7, 2022

This production was an ensemble success—which is what Jonathan Larson was hoping to achieve—so I’d like to mention every member of the company.   Not just the leads, whom I very much enjoyed  (Logan Spaleta,  Brendan Dugan,  Lily Resto-Solano as an appealingly amiable “Mimi Marquez,” Justin Nicot as the insouciant “Angel Dumont Schunard,” Monica Malas making the most of  the role of “Maureen Johnson,” Tsehai Marson as her frustrated girlfriend “Joanne Jefferson,”  Luke Studley Roberts as “Tom Collins” (who falls for “Angel”), and Matthew Macneal as landlord “Benjamin Coffin III”), but every member of the ensemble: Olivia Summer, Nicholas Martell, Miekayla Pierre, Ben Gluck, Sophia Longmuir, Gabriel Paredes, Isaac Wilson, Isabella Soleil Smith, Daniel Stowe, Jaiden Torres, Monica Malas, Ellistair Perry, Zune Misrra-Stone. [more]

Irving Berlin and Me (And a Brush with Death Along the Way)

April 5, 2022

In the past 20 years, I’ve produced a total of 34 different albums; 16 of them have dealt with Irving Berlin (1888-1989). The newest album in this ongoing Berlin series, "Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin: Love Songs and Such"--featuring such gifted artists as Betty Buckley, Karen Mason, Steve Ross, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Natalie Douglas, Jeff Harnar, Sarah Rice, Bobby Belfry, Keith Anderson, Molly Ryan, and Seth Sikes--was the hardest of all the albums to produce. And, for reasons I’ll address in a bit, it took by far the longest time to produce; life is not always easy. But for me, this is the most satisfying album of the bunch. (And as I type these words, I’m happy to note it’s just been nominated for a MAC Award, which is extra gratifying!) I know I’ve made a worthwhile contribution to Berlin’s recorded legacy. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: As Nightclubs Begin Coming Back

July 20, 2021

Gianni Valenti, who runs one of the city’s best-known and most important nightspots, Birdland Jazz Club on 44th Street, deserves a lot of credit for leading the way.  He was one of the first club owners to announce plans to reopen.  He’s reopened strong, booking lots of respected artists, like Delfeayo Marsalis, Allan Harris, Ken Peplowski, etc. (For Birdland's full schedule, go to www.birdlandjazz.com.)  And he’s keeping prices as low as possible to make sure the place is packed.   For many shows at Birdland this summer, you can buy tickets online and pay only a nominal cover charge—some nights just 99 cents (plus a service charge).  That’s the same cover charge the club had when it first opened way back in 1949. [more]

When Broadway Shows Will Be Opening (or Re-Opening)

July 16, 2021

More than 30 Broadway productions are expected to open or re-open before year's end. Producers are gambling that by the fall, audiences will be ready to return. I'll list below the shows and projected opening dates, as it stands now. (And this is still in flux. Info changes almost every day.) Fingers crossed! Lights should be returning to Broadway this fall... There are still a lot of unknowns, of course. No one knows, for example, what the tourist situation will be, come fall. And tourists traditionally buy a lot of theater tix. And no one knows if the pandemic will be fading out in the fall or--due to emerging variants--be resurgent. [more]

EDITH O’HARA—A PERSONAL REMEMBRANCE

October 21, 2020

There were few women in positions of authority when she started in theater.  But as she once told me, “If I wanted to do something, I just went ahead and did it.”  She blazed a trail for others to follow.  And she was proud of the fact that many notables had worked at The 13th Street Theatre, at one time or another (often when they were just getting started), including Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Chazz Palminteri, Amy Stiller, Jamie DeRoy, Christopher Meloni, Armelia McQueen, Charles Ludlam, Austin Pendleton, Barnard Hughes, Richard Dreyfuss, and  many others. For 17 years, the unique, dark monologist Brother Theodore--a Greenwich Village icon, whose wonderfully theatrical late-night rants enthralled fans--made The 13th Street Repertory Company his base.  Her production of Israel Horovitz’s “Line” ran at her theater for some 45 years, becoming the longest-running theatrical production in New York.  She liked to have things happening at her theater, day and night. [more]

Broadway’s Jake Ryan Flynn releases “Good Morning Quarantine”

May 5, 2020

Rather than sit around and mope, Flynn wrote “Good Morning, Quarantine”—setting his own new lyrics to the familiar melody of “Good Morning, Baltimore,” composed by Marc Shaiman (with lyricist Scott Wittman) for the musical Hairspray. And Flynn showed far more care than the typical writer of parodies—he followed the original rhyme scheme exactly, ending each phrase with a perfect rhyme (not the “near rhymes” so often found in such pastiches). He not only got Marc Shaiman’s blessings for his project, he also got tips from Shaiman on songwriting, and an opportunity to help introduce another a song that Shaiman himself had written (on hand-washing during the crisis). [more]

On The Town With Chip Deffaa: The Coronavirus Versus The Theater.…

April 27, 2020

Will people--especially people who are older or have pre-existing health issues (and many theatergoers are older and have such heath issues)--be willing to gather in packed theaters or concert halls, not knowing which fellow audience member or usher might be carrying a potentially lethal infection? My own doctor advises against being in such crowds, so long as this virus is around, regardless of what government officials might say. [more]

On The Town…. with Chip Deffaa: Count Basie and Louis Jordan

February 28, 2020

I'm very glad that a friend and I were able to enjoy the high-spirited, fast-moving revue "Five Guys Named Moe," which is currently playing   at Westchester Broadway Theatre.    A lot of talent on that stage. Director/choreographer Richard Stafford has found six performers – Tyler Johnson-Campion, Tony Perry, Napoleon M. Douglas, Quentin Avery Brown, Douglas Lyons, Isaiah Reynolds --who do justice to the hits of Louis Jordan. Each has his own personality. Each gets moments to shine individually.  Tony Perry, as I noted in these pages a year ago, was one of my favorites in WBT’s 2018 production of Ain’t Misbehavin’.  And it was good to see him again.  The others in the cast are all new to me.  But they all got well into the spirit of this music.  And their zest was contagious. [more]

ON THE PASSING OF THE NEW YORK MUSICAL FESTIVAL…

January 10, 2020

The festival has given birth to musicals that have gone on to Broadway ("Next to Normal," "Chaplin," "[title of show]," "In Transit") and Off-Broadway ("Altar Boyz," "The Other Josh Cohen," "My Vaudeville Man," "Yank!," "Cyclops," "Bedbugs," etc.)   Its shows have been produced in all 50 states and in 27 countries.Productions launched at the festival have won one Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, three Obie Awards, and seven Drama Desk Awards.  That’s a terrific track record. [more]

On The Town … with Chip Deffaa: Jerry Herman and Michael Feinstein

January 3, 2020

Composer/lyricist Jerry Herman was, of course, a Broadway legend.   He gave us such unforgettable shows as "Hello, Dolly!," "Mame," and "La Cage Aux Folles." These musicals were all  huge hits, brimming with songs that audiences quickly took their heart--songs like "We Need a Little Christmas," I Am What I Am," "If He Walked into My Life," "The Best of Times," and, of course, two of the most enduringly popular title-songs in Broadway history: "Hello, Dolly!" and "Mame."  Among his other Broadway shows: “Milk and Honey,” “Mack and Mabel,” “The Grand Tour,” “Dear World,” “Jerry’s Girls,” “An Evening with Jerry Herman.”  He also contributed material to both “Ben Franklin in Paris” and “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine.” [more]

DAVID CASSIDY… BEHIND THE SCENES

January 1, 2020

Some will tell me that David Cassidy was their first crush, back when he was starring on “The Partridge Family” on TV, recording regularly, and selling out huge concert stadiums. And they’ll write me how lucky I was to have been able to hang out with him, and how much fun he must have been. And maybe they’re remembering watching him on “The Partridge Family” on TV. And they’ll ask: “What was David Cassidy really like?” [more]

On The Town … With Chip Deffaa, Nov 2, 2019

November 3, 2019

Chasing Rainbows has an exceptionally appealing cast. This is one of those rare productions where even the smallest roles are vivid. The show itself is not perfect.  There are fixes that need to be made, which I'll address shortly.   But there's a million dollars’ worth of talent on that stage, and some moments that are so wonderfully rewarding, [more]

ON THE TOWN with CHIP DEFFAA, August 26th 2019

August 26, 2019

I'm stunned and saddened by the passing of one of the best music directors I've known--and one of the nicest gentlemen-- Hubert Tex Arnold. He died suddenly, unexpectedly of a brain aneurism. He was getting ready to play a cabaret show for Sally Maye. I liked Tex very much, both personally and professionally. He was not just an exceptionally talented pianist and arranger, he was a very giving person. [more]
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