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Seymour Red Press in front of the Music Box Theatre. (Annie Wermiel for the New York Post)

Seymour Red Press remembers the days when Broadway shows were bankrolled by mobsters, when marijuana was a staple of the pit, and when brilliant maniacs like Jerome Robbins, Jule Styne, and Charles Strouse were creating the world’s greatest musicals. Theater may be ephemeral, but Red’s woodwind lines will live forever on the original cast albums of shows like Gypsy, Mame, Chicago, and Dreamgirls. In Mack & Mabel, he played the melancholy saxophone solo in “Time Heals Everything”; in the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls, he played the sublime, bluesy riff at the beginning of “My Time of Day.” Now 93, Red shows no signs of slowing down. He has hired the musicians for every Encores! show since the series’ inception and is an unparalleled source of musical theater lore. “He’s like Yoda,” says Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel. “When Yoda talks, you listen.” On a recent afternoon, we did just that.

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May 11, 2017 by New York City Center


Priscilla Gillette and Stephen Douglass in the 1954 Broadway production of The Golden Apple. (Cornell Capa)

The music for the opening prelude of The Golden Apple is rhythmically propulsive, sweeping, syncopated, heroic. In a word, it sounds American. The composer Jerome Moross, born in Brooklyn in 1913 and a protégé of Aaron Copland, was known for his distinctly American musical language.

While not exactly a household name in the history of twentieth-century music, Moross had a surprisingly wide-ranging and active career which included work in film, theater, ballet, television, orchestral works, and chamber music. He is probably best known for his work as a composer of film Westerns, including the Academy Award-nominated score for The Big Country (1958). In the theater, The Golden Apple was his most successful and best-remembered work.

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May 10, 2017 by New York City Center


A Florentine desco da parto depicting the Judgment of Paris, c. 1430. (National Museum of Bargello)

Artists have never been able to resist the siren song of Homer. Since their canonization in the eighth century BC, the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey have been retold, reinvented, and shamelessly pillaged by everyone from James Joyce to the Coen brothers to Prince. For classicist Edith Hall, Homer’s influence runs even deeper. “The Odyssey is the mother of all story,” she says. “It’s the first romance, the first road movie, the first sci-fi tale, the first biopic.” With a revival of the Homeric musical The Golden Apple opening soon, we spoke with Hall about the power of Homer’s poems, why Odysseus is the quintessential American hero, and why Telemachus needs to get laid.

CITY CENTER: In your book The Return of Ulysses, you write that Homer’s poems represent “the birth of theater.” What did you mean?
EDITH HALL: I think that they’re really pregnant with the art of theater, for various reasons. When Greek bards performed the poems, they would accompany themselves on stringed instruments, variously known as lyres or citharas. They probably intoned the poem rather than actually singing it. The fascinating thing is that more than 25% of the Homeric epics are direct speech, which means that the bard had to pretend to be Achilles and Odysseus and Penelope. He had to become an actor. Also, there’s so much disguise in The Odyssey: people are constantly dressing up as beggars or swallows, or getting rejuvenated in order to look 25 years younger. “Who’s behind that mask?” is a continual question. Playing these stories out onstage with actors was the next logical step.

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May 3, 2017 by New York City Center


A 1950s advertisement for Lucky Leaf Pie Filling. (alsis35/Flickr Creative Commons)

The plot of The Golden Apple hinges on a cutthroat pie-baking contest. Now that the classic 1954 musical is returning to New York, we asked Sadie Stein to tell us about the rise and fall of a decadent American pastime.

“Pie may just be the Madonna-whore of the dessert world.” So writes Pascale Le Draoulec in his American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America’s Back Roads. And if this is true, what does this make the pie-baking contest, if not a pageant of the most retrograde and problematic kind, “Toddlers & Tiaras” in a double-crust? We won’t even get into pie-eating contests; the implications are too disturbing. But the stakes, as Jerome Moross and John Latouche understood, have always been Mythological.

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April 28, 2017 by New York City Center


John Latouche in 1940. (John Rawlings/Condé Nast via Getty Images)

Gore Vidal called him “an extraordinary genius of the same rank as Sondheim.” Dawn Powell wrote, “He is so multi-gifted that he seems to leave people as worn as if they’d been to a circus, and while he shoots sparks in all directions, in the end it is the others who are depleted and he is renourished.” The man in question was John Latouche, a near-mythic New Yorker who napped in bathtubs, threw séances, consumed Four Roses bourbon by the bottle, and contributed brilliantined lyrics to Cabin in the Sky, The Ballad of Baby Doe, and Candide before his death at the age of 41. A biography, Howard Pollack’s The Ballad of John Latouche, will be published this fall; for now, here’s Latouche explaining how the seeds were planted for The Golden Apple, which is returning to New York in an Encores! revival.

I set out to tell the stories of Ulysses and Penelope, Paris and Helen, as they would have happened in America. It was to be no adaptation of Homeric grandeurs, but a comic reflection of classical influence on the way we think nowadays. Therefore any myths we might use were to arise out of our native songs, dances, jokes, and ideas.

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April 25, 2017 by New York City Center
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