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New Brain Production Pics

The Encores! Off-Center production of A New Brain, photographed by Joan Marcus.

A New Brain was here, and now it’s gone—but the music still plays on. On Friday, PS Classics will release the Encores! Off-Center cast recording of William Finn’s unforgettable musical about heart, music, and frog-related hallucinations. We’re delighted to share three songs from the album, along with Finn’s commentary.

“I was thrilled with this production,” Finn says of the defibrillated New Brain that played City Center last June. “I don’t in any way want to disparage the original production—I actually loved it—but we did different things in this production that made it much more to my liking.” Particularly transformative was the casting of Jonathan Groff as struggling composer Gordon Schwinn. “He’s absolutely the sweetest, most generous actor I’ve ever met in my life,” says Finn. “He made the character so pleasant. And the character can be nasty—but when Jonathan says those lines, it doesn’t matter.”

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February 3, 2016 by New York City Center
Cabin in the Sky Movie

A poster for the bowdlerized 1943 film of Cabin.

Vernon Duke and John Latouche’s jazz-filled fable Cabin in the Sky is returning to New York for an Encores! run from February 10-14. Below, Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel explores the 1940 musical’s creation, as well as the painstaking work that has gone into restoring the show for Encores!

African-American musicals have never found an easy welcome on Broadway, though they’ve been a presence since the end of the 19th century. Clorindy, produced in 1898, is generally considered to be the first Broadway musical featuring an all-black cast and was followed in 1903 by In Dahomey, starring the first black superstar comedy team, Bert Williams and George Walker. In 1921, Shuffle Along became a reigning hit (a revised version dramatizing the events surrounding that show’s creation will open on Broadway this spring), and George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, in 1934, was the first and, to date, the only “golden age” black musical to become a permanent part of the repertoire.

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February 1, 2016 by New York City Center
Christine Ebersole in Ziegfeld Follies

Mary Testa and Christine Ebersole in the 1999 Encores! production of Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.

Today marks 80 years since the opening night of Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin’s Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, a star-studded revue that more or less vanished after its original run. For a single weekend in March 1999, a few thousand lucky New Yorkers got to see the show in an Encores! production starring Christine Ebersole, Ruthie Henshall, Howard McGillin, Mary Testa, and Karen Ziemba. The New York Times called it “a fascinating evening of time travel,” and Ebersole would later describe the show as a “pivotal” experience, saying, “That was one of the things that got me back to New York. After performing at City Center, I realized that this was where I wanted to be. It was about four months after [Ziegfeld] that we left [Los Angeles].”

To celebrate ZF36’s eightieth anniversary—and to whet your appetite for another terrific Vernon Duke score, Cabin in the Sky —we’re pleased to present five songs from the out-of-print Encores! cast recording. We hope you’ll soon be dancing to the score!

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January 30, 2016 by New York City Center
Balanchine with Cigarette

George Balanchine in April 1942, photographed by Joseph Janney Steinmetz.

This February, City Center has George Balanchine on the brain. First, the Balanchine-staged 1940 musical Cabin in the Sky will be revived by Encores! from February 10-14. Then, the acclaimed Pacific Northwest Ballet will present a program of three Balanchine masterpieces from February 24-25. Dance writer Marina Harss looks into the legendary choreographer’s evolution.

It is said that when the American art critic and impresario Lincoln Kirstein lured George Balanchine—born Giorgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze in St. Petersburg—to America with the idea of founding a ballet company, the choreographer had one condition: “First, a school.” No sooner had he arrived in the US, in the fall of 1933, than he set about realizing this plan.

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January 22, 2016 by New York City Center
Andy Mientus on Stage

Andy Mientus.

Andy Mientus calls himself “the Cathy Rigby of Spring Awakening”—and he’s not wrong. A die-hard fan of the musical, Mientus moderated Spring Awakening’s official Facebook fan page during college and eventually joined the first national tour in 2008, playing the manipulative Aryan sexpot Hänschen. After starring in “Smash,” “The Flash,” and Les Misérables, Mientus returned to Hänschen’s britches last fall for the acclaimed Deaf West revival. But Spring Awakening isn’t the only incendiary rock musical that has his heart. When we asked Mientus to talk about his dream Encores! show, he selected Taboo, Boy George’s autobiographical 2003 musical about friendship, drugs, and decadence in the New Romantic club scene of the 1980s.

CITY CENTER: How did you discover Taboo?
ANDY MIENTUS: I went to see it when I was in high school. I had a driver’s license, and Pittsburgh is not close to New York, but not too far, so my parents somehow let me drive to New York City to see shows on the weekend. (laughs) Usually I would see Rent and something else. I would try the Rent lotto and see whatever else I could get into. I had read about Taboo on theater websites, and it sounded so fringy and poppy. Usually I would drive into New York City with friends—but for Taboo, I definitely went on a trip by myself when I was in high school and saw it. I think I rushed; I can’t quite remember.

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January 14, 2016 by New York City Center
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