TBT: ‘Anthem’ From Chess The Musical

For a musical throwback Thursday I was recently reminded of this symphonic concert version of the musical Chess (penned by ABBA geniuses Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and Lloyd Webber collaborator Tim Rice).

The show used the game of chess as a metaphor for Russia/US cold war politics and “game play.”

I saw the show in London before it made the trip across the Atlantic to Broadway. I loved the show in the West End, but the version that reached New York City wasn’t the same.

The original director/choreographer, Michael Bennett, had cast and commissioned the set designs for London but then stepped away due to poor health. Trevor Nunn took over in London, but was left with Bennett’s casting choices and some concepts in place. The show ran three years in the West End.

When Nunn brought the show to New York, it underwent radical rewrites and was not well-received. The production ran about three months before closing.

But fans love the score.

This song, “Anthem,” is sung by the original star Tommy Körberg who played the Russian for the concept album and in London.

The moment comes at the end of Act One as the Russian chess player Anatoly has decided to defect from Russia. The melody, lyrics and Körberg’s spectacular voice come together perfectly.

The entire concert can be viewed below as well.

TBT: Liza Minnelli ‘Don’t Drop Bombs’

Liza Minnelli in 'Don't Drop Bombs'
Liza Minnelli in 'Don't Drop Bombs'
Liza Minnelli in ‘Don’t Drop Bombs’

For a little #ThrowBackThursday action, I was reminded of this music video from EGOT legend Liza Minnelli.

Jumping into some new wave pop synth vibes with the oh-so-awesome Pet Shop Boys in 1989, Liza totally landed the new sound.

‘Don’t Drop Bombs’ was the second single from her album, Results.

Plus, Liza pulled off the new stylish look, which shocked some longtime Liza fans.

The musical collaborations with PSB hit the bulls-eye with unerring ease. I love this.

p.s. the legendary Liza turns 75 tomorrow. HB, Miss Minnelli.

News Round-Up: June 11, 2020

Me and my high school buddy Addester Williams at Voodoo in Las Vegas

Some news items you might have missed:

Throwback Thursday: Amid all this turmoil in the country, I loved chatting with my high school doll Addester (above) last night who came to visit Las Vegas in February. A fun night at Chippendales, and then cocktails at VooDoo on the roof of The Rio. #GoodTimes

LGBTQ Nation: In May, haters succeeded in striking down LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections passed by the city of Jacksonville, Florida, on a ‘legislative technicality.’ So, this week the City Council voted to restore those protections – correcting the ‘technicalities’ – by a vote of 15-4.

AP News: In related Jacksonville news, the city has been selected to host the celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for reelection, the Republican National Committee chairwoman said Thursday.

The Advocate: Residents of Ketchikan, Alaska, have rallied around a same-sex couple denied flowers for their wedding by a local florist. Although the couple had wanted to support a local business, they have now ordered flowers from a Safeway supermarket. Supporters of the couple have donated hundreds of dollars to pay for the flowers. The couple plans to give any leftover funds to charity.

The Hill: Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a narrow lead over Donald Trump in Florida, according to a new poll released by Republican polling firm Cygnal on Thursday. The survey shows Biden with 47 percent support among likely voters in the Sunshine State as Trump trails by roughly 3 points at around 44 percent.

CNBC: The Labor Department reports unemployment claims last week totaled 1.54 million. Since the pandemic began, more than 44 million workers have filed claims.

Reuters: The United States surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, as rising hospitalizations in states such as Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina prompt fears about reopening the country. The U.S. has now reported nearly 113,000 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Health authorities in Texas on Wednesday reported a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the third consecutive day. #SoMuchWinning


Throwback Thursday: ‘The Lloyd-Webber Trio’

Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn (screen capture)
Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn (screen capture)
Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie and Judy Kuhn (screen capture)

I’m been meaning to post this for a Throwback Thursday post for months, but the Thursdays roll by and…well, I used to be blond.

In any case, many times I get to the end of the day and I don’t want to pay attention to an hour-long story on TV.

So, I fire up the YouTube app on my Apple TV and chill watching videos I’ve ‘favorited’ in the past.

This performance is easily one of my ‘go-to’ videos.

Recorded live at the My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies concert on September 28, 1998, at Carnegie Hall, this trio of world-class Broadway actresses come together beautifully in a mashup of three Andrew Lloyd Webber love songs.

Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, and Tony Award nominees Marin Mazzie (who we lost last year to a long cancer battle) & Judy Kuhn, separately perform “Love Changes Everything,” “Unexpected Song” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” respectively, to stunning effect,

Go ahead and hit play first, then I’ll share a few things.

Awesome, right?

Now, I wanted to explain why this lands with me so well.

First, what I hear: all three singers have terrific musicianship.

When I listen to this, I hear voices singing to the ends of the phrases. They never kind of ‘peter out.’ They sing – with energy – to the ends of the phrases and cut off with purpose.

Sometimes you’ll hear singers be a bit lazy and hold a note too long. The problem can be the note they hold might clash with the chord structure of the next phrase.

Second, notice how all three actresses stay focused on the stories they’re telling.

Look at their eyes – even when not singing, they never leave the narrative they’re in. Even when they all move downstage at the 5:52 mark, they don’t glance at the other two singers. They are IN it.

And finally, huge props to the arranger (I believe it was David Loud?) who wove these songs into such a gorgeous tapestry. Bonus points for making sure the ladies’ lyrics for backup phrases all still make sense in each of their stories. No one ever sings a word that doesn’t logically fit into their ‘scene.’

The entire concert is well worth watching (the DVD is available on Amazon). The production features a veritable whos-who of Broadway leading ladies including the aforementioned as well as Bebe Neuwirth, Karen Ziemba, Andrea McArdle, Linda Eder, Jennifer Holiday, Priscilla Lopez, Nell Carter, Dorothy Loudon, Rebecca Luker, and Elaine Stritch.

News Round-Up: September 24, 2019

Michael and I visiting a church Portofino

Some news items you might have missed:

Throwback Thursday: Remembering that time Michael and I visited Portofino in 2018 and stopped by a beautiful little church (above). We were happily surprised when Michael didn’t spontaneously combust 🙂

Tuscon.com: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey says he’s “against discrimination in all its forms” but won’t support extending state laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people. He does support the recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling that allows Christian owners of a calligraphy firm to refuse to prepare wedding invitations for same-sex couples.

Sacramento Bee: The 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that a Sacramento-area transgender man can sue Mercy San Juan Medical Center over the last-minute cancellation of his hysterectomy, overturning a lower-court ruling that dismissed the case. The patient contends his surgery was canceled due to anti-transgender bias.

Politico: White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren has announced a $10 million ad buy in early voting states.

HuffPost: Focus Features’ Downton Abbey ruled over the box office competition in North America this past weekend. The big-screen continuation of the popular British TV show beat expectations with $31 million when it debuted in 3,079 theaters, setting a new opening weekend record for the studio.

Washington Post: A new study shows 78 percent of the most influential jobs in Donald Trump’s White House have turned over during his tenure, a figure higher than those for the entire first terms of the previous four administrations.

National Voter Registration Day: President Barack Obama (and I) want to encourage you to not only register to vote, but VOTE! Check to see if you’re registered by clicking over to IWillVote.com OR text VOTER to 26797 to make sure you are registered to vote and get alerts for all your elections.

Throwback Thursday: Betty Buckley “Amazing Grace”

It’s been quiet in the house lately.

Michael has been traveling with clients doing press in NYC, and with Bruno the wonder dog having crossed the rainbow bridge recently, I’ve been reflective of late.

My mind kept finding it’s way to this meditation on “Amazing Grace” from the brilliant Tony Award winner, Betty Buckley.

I’ve seen Ms. Betty perform live onstage countless times and it’s always a transformative experience.

Yes, everyone loves her huge show-stopping vocals in songs like “Memory,” “With One Look,” and “Meadowlark,” but her brilliance is revealed with equal ease in her quiet, pensive musical moments.

This performance is from her Stars and the Moon (Live at the Donmar) concert which, thankfully, was fully recorded for us all to have now and forever.

It’s not often that artistry of this depth can really shine through via a YouTube video, but as always, Betty is right in the center of the song’s emotional core.

While a “throwback Thursday” post is defined by looking back, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add here that Buckley has recently been announced to star in the upcoming national tour of Hello, Dolly! currently killing it on Broadway.

Happy Thursday, kids.

Throwback Thursday: Backstage At Broadway’s FOLLIES

My dear friend and former castmate Joey Sorge (currently killing it in the hit Bway production, A Bronx Tale) recently sent me this pic from my first performance in what was arguably one of my happiest experiences on Broadway from the 2001 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant FOLLIES.

This was taken as I was getting “mic-ed up” for the show.

Wow, time flies. Who is that guy?

I’ve written before about this incredible experience and the ensuing reunions of this amazing cast here.

If you’re a Broadway fan you may be interested in the backstory here 🙂

#TBT – My First Bow

Regular readers know I’ve been a professional theater dancer and choreographer since my teens, but I often forget how far back my dancing days go.

This is me (white sweater) leading my kindergarten class out on the floor for a square dance in Fort Worth, Texas. I’m guessing I was age four perhaps?

And to answer the question before it’s asked – no, there was no more square dancing in my future after that auspicious debut LOL

Although, a two-step with a hunky cowboy is always fun 😉

Throwback Thursday: 3rd Grade

Front row, 2nd from right

So, I don’t do many #ThrowbackThursday things because I never think to go find something.

But recently I was moving some boxes and came across of picture of me in 3rd Grade.  Why on earth I would have this still after moving all over the world…?

But, honestly, it’s pretty cool to see these faces all these years later.  Friends of mine from Fort Worth days feel free to chime in a identify folks.

I think I’m standing next to Stephen Phillips, who would be one of my future best friends through Texas Boys Choir days – note the crossed arms – a rebel even then.  On the other side of me might be Randy MilliganSecond row – second from left is Leanne Price, my girlfriend of elementary school years.  I’m pretty sure that’s Ricky Moore looking away in the third row.  All the way at the end of that row on the left is Steve someone – I just remember he was always the smartest kid in class.

Mrs. Anderson was the teacher.  Kinda famous for being tough.  But I remember not so bad once we were there.

In any case, there you go.  I should note my instinct for pulling focus even then by wearing red…  That would serve me well later 🙂