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Performing Arts Blog
John Lahr

John Lahr, photographed by Graham Turner for The Guardian.

In My Dream Encores! Show, artists discuss little-seen Broadway musicals that they’d like to see revived by City Center’s Encores! series. John Lahr is a biographer, Tony Award-winning librettist, and the former chief drama critic for The New Yorker, where he still contributes the occasional profile. Lahr’s wonderful new book Joy Ride covers everyone from Mike Nichols to Susan Stroman, but in selecting his dream Encores! show, the critic reached all the way back to the zany 1951 revue Two on the Aisle. A defiant anachronism in the age of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Two on the Aisle starred Lahr’s father, the comedian Bert Lahr, and marked the first collaboration of Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green.

CITY CENTER: Why Two on the Aisle?
JOHN LAHR: I’d just love to hear it again, because I don’t think Comden and Green are quite given their props today. The songs were terrific and lively, it had some classic sketches, and it had a send-up of Wagner that was howlingly funny. There were two hits that came out of it: “If,” which is still covered by people like Kristin Chenoweth, and “Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me.” Neither song is a classic, but Comden and Green were terrific craftsmen. There’s one song in there that Dad sang called “Catch Our Act at the Met,” which is a satire of celebrities crossing over into opera, and the lyrics are just amazingly witty. The one that I love is “Look at what a hit they made of Fleidermaus / Variety says, ‘Maus packs house.’” (laughs) That flavor has unfortunately gone out of the musical. And the flavor isn’t just wit and contemporaneity; it’s joy. The musical revue had that. I have a lot of nostalgia for both the form and for this particular score. It’s lost to history, really, and it’s too bad, because anybody who discovered it would discover a great deal of wit in the lyrics. Musically, it’s very vivacious—the kind of melodies that people don’t write now. Jule Styne was amazing, and this particular score is lost in his legend too, really.

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November 23, 2015 by New York City Center
Ailey Company

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, photographed by Andrew Eccles.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's upcoming season at New York City Center, from December 2 to January 3, will take the world’s most popular modern dance company in fascinating new directions, showcasing the Ailey dancers in an abundance of premieres from choreographers as varied as Kyle Abraham and Paul Taylor. But even as it moves boldly forward under the leadership of Artistic Director Robert Battle, the Company will also shine a spotlight on several classic dances by Alvin Ailey that have been absent from the repertory for a while.

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November 19, 2015 by New York City Center
Broadway Composers Talk

Tony Award-winning composers Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) and Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), photographed by Erin Baiano.

We’re delighted to announce that City Center will partner with The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC for a new live-streamed series of conversations and performances about the glorious, complicated legacy of the Broadway musical. City Center Encores! Unscripted at The Greene Space at WNYC will go beyond the “talkback”—and beyond nostalgia—for a smart, unsentimental look at how musicals have reflected and shaped American life.

Hosted by Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel, the series kicks off on December 14, 2015 with Sexism. Racism. Show Tunes. Discuss., in which Tony Award winners Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Jelly’s Last Jam), and Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) examine the troublingly sexist and racist attitudes embedded in classic musicals. The second Encores! Unscripted event, Keeping Score, digs into the art of orchestration and score restoration with Encores! Music Director Rob Berman, Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, and the legendary orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, on February 1, 2016. The series concludes on March 14, 2016 with Who Tells Their Stories?: Historical Narratives on Broadway, featuring Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson composer Michael Friedman, Hamilton star Leslie Odom, Jr., and cast members from the Encores! production of 1776. Additional guests and performances will be announced at a later date.

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November 17, 2015 by New York City Center
Cynthia Nixon

Cynthia Nixon, photographed by Maarten De Boer.

Tony and Emmy Award winner Cynthia Nixon has played everyone from Jean Brodie to Eleanor Roosevelt, but the role that got away was Agnes Gooch. I’m too old now, but I always really wanted to do Gooch,” she says. “Because if she sings badly, it’s fine, you know?” If the third lead in Mame seems like an unlikely Everest, keep in mind that Nixon is obsessed with musicals. She and Sarah Jessica Parker used to sing showtunes during long nights on the set of “Sex and the City,” and these days she still listens mostly to cast recordings. For her dream Encores! show, Nixon selected The Golden Apple, Jerome Moross and John Latouche’s exquisite, brainy “opera for Broadway,” which retells the Greek myths of Helen, Paris, Ulysses, and Penelope through the lens of American folklore. Although the 1954 musical closed on Broadway after four months, it has since acquired a merry, fanatical band of admirers.

CITY CENTER: How did you discover The Golden Apple?
CYNTHIA NIXON: My mother. I was very immersed in musicals growing up—which is what Steve, the play that I’m directing at The New Group, is so much about: people who live for musicals, and live through musicals. I certainly fit into that category, and I’ve done it to my children. (laughs) I’ve also done it to my wife, who was not a musical comedy person at all before she met me. My mother steeped me in musical theater, and we used to play the Golden Apple record. Then I was lucky enough to see a production of it, which is unusual, at the York Theater [in 1978] when I was still a kid. I knew the show inside out by the time I saw it.

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November 13, 2015 by New York City Center