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Performing Arts Blog

John Kander, photographed by Carolyn Cole for the Los Angeles Times in 2015.

John Kander has debilitating stage fright—which is ironic, given how many Kander & Ebb musicals have focused on the lives of spotlight-hungry stage creatures. (Roxie Hart! Velma Kelly! Sally Bowles!) But Kander’s songs are not him. “I don’t play in the show-business pen very much,” he explains. Years ago, when he was introduced to Shirley MacLaine at a party, she eyed him beadily and said, “You’re not in show business, are you?” Kander, knowing what she meant, replied, “I guess not.”

The truth is that—at 89—Kander is more devoted to the theater than ever. He’s juggling four new projects, including Kid Victory (soon to be seen at the Vineyard) and an all-waltzing musical that Susan Stroman is developing. We spoke with Kander as part of My Dream Encores! Show, a series of conversations with artists about the neglected musicals they love. His pick: the 1997 Kander & Ebb show Steel Pier, an ethereal fable about a stunt pilot who returns from the dead and enters a Depression-era dance marathon.

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December 22, 2016 by New York City Center

Snowflakes waltzing in the original 1954 production of The Nutcracker; choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Alfred Eisenstadt

George Balanchine created The Nutcracker as an idyllic snowglobe ode to his St. Petersburg youth—but when the ballet made its world premiere at City Center, the atmosphere backstage was anything but idyllic. In 2007, Robert Sandla spoke with veterans of the first Nutcracker about the ballet’s hectic creation and its extraordinary survival. We’re delighted to reprint the article now, as New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker enjoys another holiday season. (A few relics from the 1954 premiere—including the Grandmother’s cape—still appear onstage.)

Americans didn’t know The Nutcracker in 1954. Or rather, what people knew was the Nutcracker Suite, a greatest-hits set of divertissements from the full-length Tchaikovsky ballet. Walt Disney put his marketing muscle behind it with Fantasia in 1940, and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo bourréed across America with various versions of the Suite in the 1940s. The first full-length professional Nutcracker in this country wasn’t presented until 1944, when Willam Christensen created one for San Francisco Ballet.

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December 16, 2016 by New York City Center

We’re delighted to announce casting for the Encores! production of Big River, Roger Miller’s Tony Award-winning musical about friendship, freedom, and the untamed Mississippi. Fresh off his Theatre World Award-winning turn as Arpad in She Loves Me, Nicholas Barasch will make his Encores! debut as the scrappy, restless dreamer Huckleberry Finn, who flees “sivilization” by way of a makeshift raft on the Mississippi River. His copilot: the runaway slave Jim (The Color Purple’s Kyle Scatliffe, also making his Encores! debut). Along the way, they encounter 1840s America in all its beauty and savagery—as epitomized by the mourning innocent Mary Jane Wilkes (Lauren Worsham) and the deliciously seedy theatricals known as the Duke (Christopher Sieber) and the King (Tony Sheldon).

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December 15, 2016 by New York City Center

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Matthew Rushing’s ODETTA, photographed by Paul Kolnik.

“Believing firmly that through dance one can change minds or uplift—not just entertain, but also educate—seems to me to be the backbone of the company,” says Robert Battle, the Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In the wake of a traumatizing year in American life, Battle feels that the time is right for the Company to once again step into the fray of current events. This year, Ailey’s annual holiday season at New York City Center shines a brilliant light on a variety of important issues, from Apartheid to police brutality to the powerful legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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December 5, 2016 by New York City Center