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Performing Arts Blog
Encores Off Center 2015

Encores! Off-Center—the musical theater series that The New York Times called “a summer theater highlight” and Newsday’s Linda Winer declared “my favorite new arts institution”—will return to New York City Center in June and July 2015 with a trio of incendiary Off-Broadway musicals, thrillingly reimagined by some of today’s most exciting artists.

The Off-Center season will begin with William Finn’s brain-tumor fantasia A New Brain, starring Jonathan Groff, from June 24-27. It will be followed by a one-night-only concert of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s cautionary houseplant fable Little Shop of Horrors on July 1, starring the beloved original “Audrey,” Ellen Greene. The season will conclude with Andrew Lippa’s tragic Jazz Age love story The Wild Party, starring Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry, from July 15-18. Tickets to Encores! Off-Center are on sale now to City Center members, Encores! subscribers, and Peer to Peer members.

We spoke with Encores! Off-Center Artistic Director Jeanine Tesori about why these landmark shows still pack a wallop.

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December 15, 2014 by New York City Center
Jacky Green

Jacqueline Green in Wayne McGregor’s Chroma. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Jacqueline Green remembers the first time she saw an Ailey dancer up close. It was back in Baltimore, and she was a high school sophomore. Green hadn’t been dancing too long when Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell stopped by her class at the Baltimore School for the Arts. “I was just blown away, in awe, and I wanted to know everything about her,” says Green. “I thought she was beautiful as a mover, a person, a spirit—everything. And I found out she worked for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.”

That encounter was the start of a personal odyssey which led Green to the Ailey/Fordham BFA program in New York City and eventually to the Ailey company, which she joined in 2011. Green is among the featured performers in the troupe’s annual holiday season, which continues at New York City Center through January 4. Green says she models herself on the stylish yet capable women whose qualities first attracted her to dancing. “If you look at the women in the company, they don’t look like young girls,” Green explains. “There’s a maturity and uniqueness about each of them.”

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December 9, 2014 by New York City Center
Logo on Stage

The 1994 Encores! production of Allegro—back when the cast lugged scripts and wore their own cocktail dresses.

stripped-down revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s experimental 1947 musical Allegro is currently playing at Classic Stage Company. It marks the first time the show has been seen in New York since a 1994 Encores! production that starred Stephen BogardusKaren ZiembaChristine Ebersole, and Celeste Holm. On that revival's opening nightMarch 2, 1994Stephen Sondheim spoke about the show’s formal innovations and his memories of working on the original Allegro (he was a gofer). Here are his remarks:

Allegro was a seminal experience in my theatrical life, and luckily it coincided—rehearsals and out-of-town tryouts—with my summer vacation from college. Oscar said, “How would you like to work on it?” and for twenty-five dollars a week that’s what I did. I typed the script and got coffee. I listened to Agnes de Mille maltreat singers, and I watched the growth of this quite remarkable show. I might not be quite so attracted to experimental musicals if I hadn’t gotten my feet wet with Allegro.

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December 8, 2014 by New York City Center
Charles Strouse

Charles Strouse, the composer of Bye Bye Birdie, Annie, and Rags, in 2014.

In our series My Dream Encores! Show, actors, writers, and directors discuss little-known Broadway musicals that they’d like to see revived by our Tony-honored Encores! series. Charles Strouse is best known for composing two of the most beloved musicals of the twentieth century, Bye Bye Birdie and Annie. For his dream Encores! show, Strouse selected Rags, his own sweepingly ambitious 1986 musical about Russian emigrant Rebecca Hershkowitz’s struggle to carve out a life in 1910-era New York. Despite a book by Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof) and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked), the show closed on Broadway after four performances.

CITY CENTER: You’ve written other short-lived musicals—Bring Back Birdie, Dance a Little Closer, Nick & Nora—but they’ve sort of faded away. None has had the extraordinary regional afterlife of Rags.
CHARLES STROUSE: Actually, some people are interested in Nick & Nora, but that’s beside the point. I always thought that Rags was just about the most significant show I had written. The lyrics are the best Stephen ever did. Immodestly, I like the music very much. From what I’ve heard from people, I think it’s gonna live. It’s gonna live beyond me. I don’t know Andrew Lloyd Webber well, but he called me after hearing the record. He was riding very, very high then, and he thought it was a wonderful score. I was very flattered. (laughs) Obviously; I’m still talking about it.

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December 5, 2014 by New York City Center
Séquence 8 Performers

The performers of Séquence 8. Photo by Lionel Montagnier.

We’re delighted to announce that Les 7 Doigts de la Main (The 7 Fingers), the spellbindingly inventive nouveau cirque company behind Broadway’s Pippin, will tumble into New York City Center from April 16-26, 2015. Join us for the New York premiere of Séquence 8, a nouveau cirque spectacular that explores human emotions so intense that they explode into highflying acrobatics. Through a unique fusion of hip-hop, humor, propulsive music, and acrobatics, Séquence 8 redefines the meaning of the word “circus.” Take a look:

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December 3, 2014 by New York City Center
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