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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
Liz Swados

The late Elizabeth Swados.

Encores! Off-Center Artistic Director Jeanine Tesori has announced that this summer’s Off-Center season will include a production of Elizabeth Swados’ groundbreaking 1978 musical Runaways directed by Sam Pinkleton.

“When I came to Encores! Off-Center, Runaways was at the top of my list of shows to present,” said Tesori. “I have always wanted to honor Liz’s work and thank her for the extraordinary contributions she made as a theater artist. She was a woman to look up to and made room for other artists like myself. Six months ago, I approached Liz to ask permission to present Runaways, and we began talking about how to bring this show to life for a new generation. We decided to cast the production largely from an open call to high school students across the five boroughs, a gesture that Liz loved. Since we can’t do Runaways with her, we’ll now do it for her. We are heartbroken by the news of her passing and our hearts go out to her widow, Roz.”

The Runaways artistic team will include Pinkleton and choreographer Ani Taj, who were both students of Swados’ at NYU Tisch. Full details about Runaways, and the rest of the 2016 Encores! Off-Center season, will be announced at a later date.

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January 7, 2016 by New York City Center
Carol Channing Photo

Carol Channing in 1949, photographed by Nina Leen.

Before Dolly, before Lorelei, and before Raspberries!, a 19-year-old Carol Channing made her New York stage debut in a Communist musical. And it happened at City Center—exactly 75 years ago today.

A “militant operetta” about love, murder, and unionization set in a Greek luncheonette, Marc Blitzstein’s No for an Answer may seem like a peculiar debut for the legendary star. But in 1941, Channing was just a Bennington College sophomore, auditioning on a lark during her winter break. Blitzstein gave her the Cole Porter parody “Fraught” and deployed her as comic relief; as it happened, Channing was the only non-Communist member of the cast. “During rehearsals,” she says, “the company constantly told me to write to my congressman and complain about something. I could never remember what.”

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January 5, 2016 by New York City Center
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