|Sat, May 11, 2013 at 4:09 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Byron Utley sings a smooth and soulful tune entitled "If You Don't Love Me" on his first r&b single. The song is one of the theme songs to the scintillating romance novel "Soul Baby", by author, writer and producer Joseph H. James, Jr. The sultry single is available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, E-Music, Verve, Rhasody and Myspace Music.
Check out the music video and novel website below:
|Fri, September 28, 2012 at 7:42 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK -- With the warmth of a family reunion and the sizzle of an opening night, many of Motown's best-known figures gathered Thursday for a glimpse of Berry Gordy Jr.'s upcoming Broadway show.
At the Nederlander Theatre in Manhattan, it was a starry evening that drew Detroit icons -- Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin -- alongside a host of show biz bigwigs and long-loved Motown figures, from Valerie Simpson to songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland.
They were among a crowd of 1,200 that had come for a 90-minute peek at "Motown: The Musical," which looks to be a lively romp through Hitsville history in the eyes of label founder Gordy. The 2 1/2-hour show will debut in the spring at Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
Out on the red carpet, Franklin called the musical "a major moment" for Detroit and said it was...click to continue reading
|Wed, April 20, 2011 at 7:08 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – Lead producer Whoopi Goldberg is the name above the title of "Sister Act," playing indefinitely at New York's Broadway Theater.
This enjoyable family-friendly musical adaptation's biggest draw is the brand she was instrumental in forging in the 1992 Touchstone movie and its sequel. But paradoxically, Goldberg is also a handicap here, demonstrating that hers are tough shoes to fill in a comedy.
That's not to say Patina Miller doesn't deliver in the role of Deloris Van Cartier, the ghetto-fabulous nightclub singer who witnesses a murder and goes into hiding in a convent. She has a winning presence, but her comic chops are not quite equal to her powerhouse vocals or knockout looks. And even in costumer Lez Brotherston's trashy-flashy purple suede thigh boots and hot pants, Miller suggests class more than sass or brass, components that were woven into Goldberg's indelible imprint on the role.
That makes this "Sister Act" a process of adjustment for anyone familiar with the material. Despite some strong numbers, it takes Miller most of the patchy first act to seize ownership of the role, which she eventually does. In the more assured second act, the musical catches fire, establishing a fresh identity distinct from that of the movie.
The creative team has bumped the story back in time, shifting the action from present-day Reno/San Francisco to 1970s Philadelphia. And while Goldberg's Deloris favored Motown, Miller's is all about that sweet Philly soul sound, with a dose of disco.
Composer Alan Menken teams again with lyricist Glenn Slater (his collaborator on the stage version of "The Little Mermaid") to cook up a tuneful original score of lush funk grooves, entrusted to a cast of strong singers. The male roles are expanded via songs that evoke The O'Jays, The Spinners, The Stylistics and Lou Rawls, while the girls channel The Three Degrees, Patti LaBelle and -- stepping beyond Philly city limits in style -- Donna Summer. Doug Besterman's orchestrations time-travel amusingly back to the period, while choreographer Anthony Van Laast's Soul Train-meets-hip-hop moves are a little more lax about the '70s mandate.
The show follows the basic template of Joseph Howard's screenplay. After walking in on her married lover Curtis (Kingsley Leggs) as he ices one of his goons, Deloris seeks protection from cop Eddie Souther (Chester Gregory). The new development here is that Eddie has had a crush on her since high school, opening the door to romance. Against the objections of the Mother Superior (Victoria Clark), Deloris is tucked away at the Queen of Angels convent and cathedral, going incognito as Sister Mary Clarence.
When Sister MC proves hard to tame, Mother Superior sticks her out of the way in the tone-deaf choir. But her musicianship makes her a natural leader. She brings harmony to the group as she releases the songbirds trapped inside them, and puts butts on the seats of a church threatened with closure.
Premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2006, the show has undergone major surgery since its 2009 London run. Aside from Miller, the cast is mostly new. Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks replaces original director (and former Disney animation president) Peter Schneider, while writer Douglas Carter Beane ("Xanadu," "The Little Dog Laughed") has come on board to punch up "Cheers" veterans Cheri and Bill Steinkellner's book. The signatures of both new additions are evident and welcome, particularly Zaks' flair for staging accelerated action as gangsters close in for the climactic face-off, and Beane's sure aim with a comic zinger.
Unlike the movie, in which Deloris nudged the cloistered nuns out into the community to d
|Wed, April 20, 2011 at 7:06 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK – It's time to stop mocking Mormons. And high time to have fun with Roman Catholics.
"Sister Act" — the crowd-pleasing musical that rhymes "chicks" with "crucifix" — opened Wednesday at the Broadway Theatre, having imported its dancing nuns from a well-received stint in London.
Calibrated to be frothy, giggly and yet often poignant, the Jerry Zaks-directed musical is based on the 1992 movie of the same name starring Whoopi Goldberg, who is now producing. This is a musical that hits all the right spots, achieving something close to Broadway grace.
Goldberg's old part, that of the wannabe-nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, is played to perfection by newcomer Patina Miller, whose voice, dancing and charm are, ahem, heavenly. "Yeah, I'm fabulous, baby!" she sings in an early song, the perfect way to announce this wonderful new talent. "Feast your eyes — can't disguise/my star quality!"
It helps that the musical has great original tunes by songwriter Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater that skitters from Motown, to soul and funk, to disco and even a little jokey Barry White. Menken and Slater, who also teamed up for "The Little Mermaid," know perfectly how to switch up the mood and tempo. (See how their "Take Me to Heaven" transforms from a Donna Summer-like number at the beginning to a religious hymn by the end.)
For its trip from the West End, "Sister Act" has gained some script tweaking, some song changes and a rehauled cast, most especially with Victoria Clark bringing depth to her role as the grumpy Mother Superior. Zaks took over direction duties and playwright Douglas Carter Beane massaged the story by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner. The action has shifted from the West Coast in the movie to the `70s of Philadelphia, which allows for the introduction of soul, in more ways than one.
The plot is faithful to the movie: A nightclub singer accidentally witnesses a murder by her crime boss lover and flees to a convent to hide. The stuffy nuns come alive as she teaches them razzle-dazzle and rhythm — "Shake it like you're Mary Magdalene" — and she in turn learns the value of sisterhood and self-sacrifice.
Does it seem like Broadway musicals are having a lot of jokes at the expense of religions this season, what with "The Book of Mormon" and now "Sister Act"? Not to worry: Both these shows ultimately champion belief, even if they tweak what might be considered the external silliness of faiths.
Despite the uplifting message, the Vatican will be unlikely to endorse "Sister Act," even if the pope himself does make an appearance — in reality, conductor Michael Kosarin in holy vestments.
The sets by Klara Zieglerova whiz about the stage — church, convent dining room, bar, stained glass panels, a huge statue of Mary and a police station — as if God himself was moving them. Funny choreography in a show like this is crucial and Anthony Van Laast has clearly relished putting doughy-looking women in wimples through their Vegas-style paces. There's also a farcical chase that uses all of the stage.
He has been helped by Lez Brotherston's costumes which upgrade the nuns' black-and-white habits with a liberal dose of sparkles and rhinestones. The increasing lush, razzle-dazzle outfits of the nuns and priests is a running joke as Deloris' influence in the convent grows. But a note of warning: If the white suit John Travolta wore in "Saturday Night Fever" still haunts you, this show may trigger flashbacks.
Two songs from the London production, including the gospel-raunchy "Do the Sacred Mass," were cut, which is probably a good thing for believers and nonbelievers alike. Two songs h
|Fri, November 19, 2010 at 11:03 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK - The audience at Thursday's performance of "Fela!" on Broadway got an extra thrill when an unannounced guest arrived — the first lady.
Michelle Obama and six girlfriends stunned theatergoers when she arrived at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on 49th Street to catch the Tony Award-winning musical about Fela Kuti, the Afrobeat artist and Nigerian political activist.
"When the audience realized that she was in the audience, they just went nuts," said Stephen Hendel, who co-conceived and produced the show. "People started standing up and applauding, saying 'We love you!' and 'We love you, Michelle!' It took a minute or so to get the audience to settle down."
The musical features dancers mingling with the audience and the first lady's group was seated along Row G, where many of the dancers cross over. The Secret Service asked the dancers not to change their performance but to give Obama some extra space.
Hendel was one of only few people who knew ahead of time that the first lady was coming. The cast was only told 20 minutes before Obama's arrival. She and her friends arrived shortly after 8 p.m. as the overture was ending.
The audience also cheered wildly when the musical made reference in the first act to one of Kuti's nicknames: Black President. Said Hendel: "The whole place just exploded."
At the end, the first lady's group gave the musical a standing ovation and Obama stayed to greet and congratulate each sweaty member of the cast as they passed. "She was hugely gracious," said Hendel, who watched the night's performance with his wife, Ruth, also one of the show's producers.
"It's a wonderful feeling that this show would have Mrs. Obama come to it."
Broadway shows have lured Obama before. She and daughters Sasha and Malia attended performances of "Memphis" and "The Addams Family" in March. And she and her husband saw "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" during a date night in 2009.
"Fela!" was nominated for a Tony Award as last year's best musical. It won for Best Choreography, Best Costume Design and Best Sound Design. In addition to the Hendels, it is also produced by actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and hip-hop star Jay-Z.
A production opened this week at London's National Theatre with Sahr Ngaujah, who originated the title character on Broadway. The Broadway run, which features Kevin Mambo in the title role and Patti LaBelle as his mother, ends Jan. 2.
|Tue, November 02, 2010 at 5:18 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK – The Broadway theater where "The Lion King" is playing dimmed its lights Tuesday night in honor of a fallen lion cub: An 11-year-old actress from the show who lost her battle with leukemia.
Shannon Tavarez died Monday afternoon at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, on Long Island, of acute myelogenous leukemia, a common type of leukemia among adults but rare among children.
"Shannon's strength and her happy, positive spirit will live on in our hearts and minds each day," her mother, Odiney Brown, said in a statement. "Shannon's dream was to perform on stage, and that she did."
The sixth-grader's battle with cancer won the hearts of many, including Alicia Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent. The Minskoff Theatre, home of the "The Lion King," paid tribute to the actress by dimming its marquee lights.
"It is our hope that Shannon's legacy will continue to inspire other brave children battling leukemia. We are grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers," her family said in the statement.
Shannon was forced to quit the show in April. She beat out hundreds of other hopefuls last year to earn her spot playing the lion Nala, the childhood pal of Simba, hero of "The Lion King." She split the role with another girl, performing four shows a week for six months.
Shannon had received an umbilical-cord blood transplant in August. The procedure was performed as an alternative to a bone marrow transplant. Her doctor, Dr. Larry Wolfe, said that a perfect bone marrow match for Shannon could not be found.
The search for a match was especially daunting because Shannon's mother is African-American and her father is Hispanic, from the Dominican Republic. For bone marrow transplants, minorities and those of mixed ancestry have a more difficult time finding good matches because there aren't as many people from those groups signed up as potential donors.
Right now, 83 percent of African-American patients who need marrow transplants don't find matches after six months of searching, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping patients receive transplants.
On her website, which includes a photo of herself as Nala and a video of her singing "The Circle of Life," the 78-pound actress said, "Some people think that the test for compatibility is scary! ... All it really takes to get started is a cotton swab of the inside of your cheek.
"So please get tested today. Who knows? You might be my match. Or, you may be able to help other young people with similar illnesses. And remember... 'One swab will do the job.'"
In a hospital interview with The Associated Press after being diagnosed, the young actress talked about her love for the theater.
"It's an indescribable feeling, being on stage," she said. "I portray this character with fears, but who is so tough. I feel like that's who I am."
Her long, curly brown hair was gone because of chemotherapy, but the sixth-grader said the most difficult part was being away from acting and her friends.
Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent campaigned to help Tavarez find a bone marrow donor, and cast members held bone marrow donor registration drives outside the play's Minskoff Theater. Katharina Harf, co-founder of the bone marrow donor center DKMS, said the donor center registered 10,000 people as potential donors. Keys skyped with Tavarez while she was at the hospital, Harf said, and the singer, Rhihanna and 50 Cent urged their fans to sign up as potential donors.
Child performers from "The Lion King" and other shows also sold bracelets and key cha
|Tue, September 07, 2010 at 11:05 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
WASHINGTON – The stately White House East Room, home to many a bill signing and ceremonial gathering, becomes a stage Tuesday for pirouettes, jetes, gravity-defying leaps and maybe even some bumps and grinds as Michelle Obama inaugurates a new dance series.
Dancers of all types — ballet, modern, hip hop and Broadway — take over the room, first for an afternoon workshop, during which students from around the country will have the chance to work with some of the biggest names in dance.
Then, after a short break, the students return to see their mentors perform in an hour-long, star-studded show. Even Broadway's young "Billy Elliot" will be there — four Billys actually, from the show's rotating cast.
But the main attraction is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and that's because its celebrated artistic director, Judith Jamison, soon to retire after two decades in the job, is the honoree of the event.
"What a rare opportunity, to be invited by your country's first lady to be honored like this," Jamison said in a weekend interview. "I've been to the White House a couple of times before, but this event is totally unique. It's so terribly important to recognize this art form and to understand how important it is to the fabric of this country."
"This will be another clarion call to people: Pay attention to your arts!" Jamison said. "My dancers are so excited."
The 67-year-old Jamison is an icon of the dance world. She joined the Ailey company in 1965 and became the choreographer's muse, her dramatic power as a dancer epitomized in the unforgettable 1971 solo piece "Cry." In 1989, after Ailey's death, she took over as artistic director. She is scheduled to step down in 2011.
Tuesday's program is directed by Damian Woetzel, the recently retired star of the New York City Ballet who is on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He had a dizzying array of choices from which to cull an hour of the country's best dance. And he said it wasn't exactly hard to find dancers, no matter that the event comes just after a summer vacation weekend.
"Everyone was so excited to be a part of this," Woetzel said in an interview. "It's really an exciting opportunity to present the variety of dance in this country. And the student component makes it especially unique. It's a great way to start the school year."
Though the Obamas have spotlighted many varieties of music since they came to the White House — there have been events celebrating Latin music, rock, jazz, country, classical and Broadway show tunes — the dance world might have felt ignored, until now.
But Michelle Obama seems to be a dance fan. Jamison noted proudly that the Obamas and their daughters spent one of their first nights out as first family taking in an Ailey performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
"They came backstage, took pictures — the dancers were thrilled," she said.
Also on the program Tuesday: the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Broadway's "Billy Elliot the Musical," The Washington Ballet, Super Cr3w and the New York City Ballet.
The students are from dance schools around the country: The Alvin Ailey School, Ballet Hispanico, Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Chicago Multicultural Dance Center and others.
|Thurs, April 23, 2009 at 11:00 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Grammy Award winning singer and actress Beyonce Knowles has a plan to settle down in a couple of years and have some children with her husband, hip hop mogul Jay-Z, do less touring and -- debut on Broadway.
"It's my ideal job," Knowles told Reuters, while promoting her latest film role in "Obsessed," in which she plays a wife who takes on her husband's stalker.
"I'll be able to go to the theater every day and drop my kids off and maybe make some food -- maybe I'll know how to cook by then -- and then go do what I love and have some normalcy and have a regular schedule."
"I definitely want to do Broadway."
Knowles, 27, said she loved playing Sharon Charles in "Obsessed," which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, her first non-singing film role after performances in screen musicals including "Cadillac Records" and "Dreamgirls."
"I love this role because in most of these movies the man comes in and saves the day. And my character Sharon is the hero. She's strong and doesn't choose to be the victim, call her husband, call the police, hide in the attic -- she fights," said Knowles.
The singer's "I Am..." world tour, which begins this week in Croatia, is dramatic but, "I wouldn't say Broadway," said Knowles , who has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide.
"It's really theatrical and I do, of course, all of the singles."
(Writing by Michelle Nichols, editing by Patricia Zengerle