ROUNDABOUT BLOG

2008-2009 Season

We Remember Eli Wallach

Posted on: June 26th, 2014 by Roundabout

 

Eli Wallach. Photo source IMDb.

Roundabout mourns the loss of our dear friend, Eli Wallach, who passed away on June 24th at the age of 98. Eli was known to many for his huge breadth of film work, taking on character roles of all kinds over the course of his 60-year career. He was deservedly awarded an honorary Oscar for those performances in 2010. But Eli's first love was the theatre, and he returned to it over and over again in the midst of his success on screen. He was an early favorite of playwright Tennessee Williams, appearing in the original productions of both The Rose Tattoo and Camino Real. Eli was frequently paired on stage with his wife, Anne Jackson. They would play together in everything from Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros to Jean Ahouilh's Waltz of the Toreadors, becoming a leading couple of the American theatre. We were lucky to have Eli join the Roundabout in 1992 with his performance in Arthur Miller's The Price at the Criterion Center on Broadway.

He was truly stunning to watch on stage. As Mel Gussow wrote in the New York Times, "Mr. Wallach delights in the theatricality of Solomon, a role that can support histrionics...[H]e wears his stagecraft like a comfortable overcoat: the shrug, the quizzical pause and the rhetorical question that cuts to the quick." Eli truly became part of the family from that point forward, joining us for readings, openings, and galas. He was an immense talent, a joy to be with, and a real treasure. He will be missed.

Hector Elizondo and Eli Wallach in The Price. Photo by Martha Swope.

 

 


Visit Roundabout's archive to learn more about Eli Wallach and our productions.


Related Categories:
Roundabout Archive, Star Spotlight


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Star Spotlight: Jeanine Tesori

Posted on: May 29th, 2014 by Roundabout

 

Long Island native Jeanine Tesori’s award-winning career as a composer came out of a dream discovered in adulthood. “I wasn’t a theatre kid,” she told TDF Stages in a 2013 interview. She entered Barnard College as a premed student, but eventually rediscovered a childhood love of piano and transferred to Columbia University’s music program, from which she graduated in 1983. After her graduation, she worked as a pianist, arranger, and conductor. Her years working in orchestra pits got her thinking about writing a musical of her own, and, in 1994, while working as the associate conductor of Broadway show Tommy, she decided it was time to take the risk of composing full-time. She gave her three-months’ notice and began work on what would become her first major musical, Violet.

Brian Crawley and Jeanine Tesori at the Violet Sneak Peek Party. Photo by David Gordon.

The story about a young woman’s quest for beauty had been on Tesori’s mind since the early ‘80s, when she first encountered the Doris Betts short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” and the short film based upon it, Violet. She teamed up with writer and lyricist Brian Crawley to adapt the story into musical form. Their finished product, also called Violet, premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons (at which, fatefully enough, Tesori had once interned) in 1997. The production was a critical success, but plans to transfer the show to Broadway never fully materialized. However, Ms. Tesori’s composing career began to take off. Her musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, written with Dick Scanlan and Richard Morris, premiered at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse in 2000 and transferred to Broadway in 2002 (taking home six Tony® Awards, including those for Best Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, for Sutton Foster). In 2004, Caroline, or Change (score by Tesori, book and lyrics by Tony Kushner) also opened on Broadway, making Tesori the first female composer to have two shows running concurrently on Broadway. Her Broadway streak continued in 2008 with Shrek The Musical (music by Tesori, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire).

Jeanine Tesori's Tony Award-winning musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie starring Sutton Foster. Photo by Joan Marcus.

This year, Ms. Tesori has had an exciting season both on and Off-Broadway. Fun Home, written with playwright Lisa Kron and based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, enjoyed a four-times-extended, multi-award-winning run at the Public Theater. And, of course, Violet finally made it to the Great White Way in Roundabout’s currently running, critically acclaimed production, now nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, for Sutton Foster.

2014 Tony nominee Joshua Henry, Colin Donnell and 2014 Tony nominee Sutton Foster in Violet. Photo by Joan Marcus.

With nearly two decades of experience behind them since they first put pen to paper on Violet, Ms. Tesori and Mr. Crawley decided that it was time, in this Broadway incarnation, to reconsider the structure of the musical. The Roundabout production is thus a revision, as well as a revival, with a new one-act structure, a new song, and changes within both the score and the script. Director Leigh Silverman explains that “the heart and the guts of the piece are what's being revived, and what's being reexamined is the form. It certainly doesn't feel like a revival in the strictest sense of the word.” The twofold categorization of the musical reflects its position in Ms. Tesori’s life, as both a beginning and a high point in a varied and successful career.

 


Violet plays at the American Airlines Theatre through August 10. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2013-2014 Season, Star Spotlight, Violet


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Renaissance man Jim Dale explores a life on the stage…onstage

Posted on: May 19th, 2014 by Roundabout

 

Henry Haun recently published this article about Jim Dale in Playbill Magazine. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below:

The autobiography arriving May 15 at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre with song, dance, anecdotes, and pratfalls goes under the modest handle of Just Jim Dale. Even the title masks a multitude of talents. Jim Dale is the guy who serenaded Lynn Redgrave to stardom with Oscar-nominated lyrics (“Hey there, Georgy girl/Swingin’ down the street so fancy-free…”). He ring-mastered and tightrope-walked his way to a Tony in Barnum. He gave Grammy-winning voice to the Harry Potter books. He was the first client of Sir George Martin, who’d soon produce The Beatles, and a charter-member of the British "Carry On" team that scampered across movie screens in the ’60s. At the invitation of Laurence Olivier, he joined London’s National Theatre and shared the stage with Anthony Hopkins (The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria) and Paul Scofield (The Captain of Köpenick). In his spare time, he was a teen pop star, a Shakespearean actor and a standup comedian.

Ana Gasteyer and Nellie McKay with Jim Dale in The Threepenny Opera (2006). Photo by Joan Marcus.

With the help of director Richard Maltby, Jr., (an old hand at high-speed cavalcades like Ain’t Misbehavin’ ), he skips and sprints over his career highlights. Not without casualties, of course: The "Carry On" nostalgia got carried off screaming for U.S. consumption but will be reinstated for the English edition—in spades. “Those films were as popular in England as "M*A*S*H" [was] over here. They are shown three or four times a week; at Christmas, it’s a whole evening of "Carry On" films on two or three channels. Not only have they seen you, they have seen you 50 times!”

Just Jim Dale started out as “just something for the grandkids in England. If they couldn’t see me on Broadway or doing the big roles, they could watch me on a DVD in later years, perhaps show it to their great-grandchildren as well and get them to laugh at the same jokes we laughed at. In the show, there are jokes that were making people laugh 150 years ago. The delivery may have changed, perhaps the story in the joke’s may be brought up to date, but some of them go back to the 17th century.”

Jim Dale with Carla Gugino and Rosemary Harris in The Road to Mecca (2011). Photo by Joan Marcus.

All of the above, disparate as they are, come from one place, in Dale’s view: Music Hall, the Valhalla of entertainment in England, where he honed his talent to amuse and picked up new tricks of the trade like eccentric dancing, clown comedy, and dramatic acting.

By 17½, he was the youngest professional comedian on the British stage and toured all the variety Music Halls. “Every theatre in England—from the 200-seater in a small Welsh village, called The Music Hall, to the 2000-seater Glasgow Empire, I played over a period of two-and-a-half years—a different one every week—and that gave me so much experience. Some audiences would refuse to laugh at all for the whole week. The next week audiences fell out of their seats laughing. Who were these people, and why were they so different in one town than another? You realized you had to adjust to the way they accepted comedy material.”

The role that best incorporates his Music Hall training is his personal favorite: Scapino, which he created with Frank Dunlop out of Molière by way of the Marx Brothers. It brought him to Broadway and the first of his five Tony nominations.

“Breaking down that fourth wall and talking directly to the audience goes all the way back to Shakespeare and, of course, it was definitely Music Hall. It was variety. It wasn’t a play. It wasn’t vaudeville where they did sketches, ignoring the audience. No, Music Hall was facing that audience and talking and communicating with them. Every step that I have taken in my career was as a result of something from Music Hall. I learned timing from Music Hall. I learned from watching comics from the old Music Hall of 70 years ago. I put together many characters based on those guys.”

And, as one with Music Hall roots, he believes in passing the torch on to the next generation. “That eccentric dancing that I did in The Threepenny Opera—Bebe Neuwirth came backstage and said, ‘Don’t you dare die until we put all those dance steps on tape so that the rest of us can learn them.’ I was nine to 12 years old when I learned them. My teacher was an old guy who learned them from his grandfather, who learned them from his grandfather. Those steps were danced by buskers in the streets of London in the early 1800s, so, when Bebe says, ‘capture them on video,’ she really means it because they’re dying out. Nobody else is doing them anymore.”

 


Just Jim Dale plays at the Laura Pels Theatre May 15 through August 10. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.

 


Related Categories:
2013-2014 Season, Just Jim Dale, Star Spotlight


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