This week, we continue our conversation with Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured professor who has been fired from, and is now filing a lawsuit against, Linfield University, which would prefer to try to silence its critics rather than address the serious accusations of sexual misconduct against current and former members of Linfield’s board of trustees. Featuring: a special appearance from Washington Post theatre (and “Shipoopi”) critic Peter Marks; comic bestiality, William Goldman’s observation about what the real drag of a story can be; nostalgia for ancient things called “video stores;” shout-outs to In The Heights, Brigadoon (and its modern counterpart Schmigadoon!), Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, Ben Franklin in Paris, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Leowe, Cabaret, and Sweeney Todd; and most fundamentally, important childhood connections to great musicals of the past. PART ONE OF OUR CONVERSATION CAN BE FOUND HERE. (Length 16:00)
What movie musical pairs best with what Marvel superhero movie? Nate Burger and Laura Rook, two married Chicago actors, are surviving the quarantine in the most entertaining and delightful of ways: Pairing Nate’s favorite Marvel superhero movies with Laura’s favorite movie musicals. Listen as they describe their method to this madness, and describe some similarities to Chris Pratt and Robert Preston; the beauty of healthy shirtless men in every genre (above); the glory of big musical numbers; which superhero movie qualifies as The Jesus Story (spoiler: most of them); the perfection of pairing Avengers: Age of Ultron with Little Shop of Horrors; surprisingly perfect pairings for Mamma Mia!, A Chorus Line, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; two terrific pairings for the two Ant-Man movies; and the importance of giving yourself permission to realize that enjoying fluffy garbage is the point. (Length 20:32)
Stephen Sondheim turned 90 two weeks ago and to commemorate the event (and because he’s quarantined at home like all the rest of us), NYU MFA student (and Austin’s nephew) Andrew Moorhead compiled his list of the great lyricist/composer’s top ninety songs. Like all lists like this, it provokes lively discussion about such topics as teenage discoveries; being a great artist and a great teacher; the beauty of starting ridiculous arguments; an argument for the first ten songs from Sweeney Todd; a diatribe against some (well, one) terrible and unnecessary song; uncalled-for aspersions against Andrew’s friend Jordan; reverence both genuine and irreverent; what it’s like being a Sondheim savant; some frankly scandalous opinions that Mr. Sondheim definitely won’t like; and how there isn’t much blue in The Red and the Black. Do you agree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! (Length 21:57)
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Dan Beaulieu and Christine Penney are the co-founders and directors of the Seven Stages Shakespeare Company, New Hampshire’s only year-round dedicated to performing the works of Shakespeare or pieces that illuminate him. Seven Stages engages with Shakespeare in a variety of contexts, including performances, readings, workshops, and podcasts, and as Christine and Dan explain the company’s mission and objectives, they talk about swimming where the fish are, such as in in parks, bars, theaters (sometimes), barns, and warehouses; give shout-outs to influential professors; reveal how musical theatre performers are frequently excellent Shakespeareans; celebrate Shakespeare with a morning zoo/sports talk-radio energy; compare Brooklyn neighborhoods; and finally — beautifully — share what happens when you get to the sixth and seventh stages of Shakespeare. Recorded LIVE at the Shakespeare Theatre Association Conference in Dallas, January 2020. (Length 20:23)
The Writers Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods combines professional artistry with community theatre charm to create a very immediate and powerful version of this popular musical. Directed by Gary Griffin, one of the world’s leading interpreters of Sondheim, the cast features McKinley Carter as Jack’s Mother, Brianna Borger as the Baker’s Wife, and Bethany Thomas as the Witch, all of whom discuss the challenges of going into the Woods multiple times and making new discoveries every time you do. Featuring impertinent references to The Fantasticks; doing the Lord’s work; creating characters instead of types; heightening the immediacy and stakes; the danger of gateway Sondheim drugs; Borscht Belt energy; and an emphasis on the frequently-fraught (“fraught than I thought,” to quote another Sondheim show) relationships between parents and children. (Length 21:05) (Pictured, l to r: Bethany Thomas, Brianna Borger, and McKinley Carter in the Writers Theatre production of Into The Woods, directed by Gary Griffin. Photos by Michael Brosilow.)
Barnstormers Theatre in New Hampshire is producing our rarely-seen show Western Civilization: The Complete Musical (abridged), which we created in 1998 under its original title The Complete Millennium Musical (abridged). Director Blair Hundertmark and cast members (l to r) Jordan Ahnquist, Cheryl Mullings, and Rachel Alexa Norman discuss learning and updating the script and the songs, getting comfortable with audience participation, the freedom to go with the flow, lyrics that make your eyes spin, encouraging seriousness and the prospect of journaling, finding a through-line, sad topicality, getting the audience on your side, sexy inquisitors, unsung heroes, and timeless inspiration from Yogi Berra. Featuring excerpts from the original cast recording, which is available from iTunes! (Length 25:04)