Leslie Odom Jr. and Phil Collins perform during the opening ceremony of the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, Aug. 29, 2016. (Uli Seit/New York Times)

Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom Jr. harmonized with Phil Collins on "Easy Lover" to help open the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York Monday. The CMU grad and "Hamilton's" original Aaron Burr joined Collins, who performed some of his hits in his first public performance in six years. (Odom comes in at about 7:30 on the video of Collins' performances.)

Prime Stage offers 'Perks'

Prime Stage Theatre's 20th season will include the stage adaptation of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," from the novel and screenplay by Pittsburgher Stephen Chbosky. The coming-of-age story that became a Pittsburgh-filmed movie was staged in November of last year by director Hailey Rohn and Penn State University's No Refund Theatre.

Prime Stage's focus is bringing to life popular pieces of literary work. The 2016-17 slate at the New Hazlett Theater:

Nov. 4-13, 2016: "To Kill a Mockingbird."
March 312, 2017: "1984."
May 5-14, 2017: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

Tickets and more: www.primestage.com.


'In Transit' connections

As if director-choreographer extraordinaire Kathleen Marshall wasn't enough of a Pittsburgh connection, the Broadway-bound a capella musical "In Transit" has announced casting with several actors who passed through our city on the way to the New York stage. Carnegie Mellon graduate and "Allegiance" star Telly Leung and Erin Mackey, who starred for Pittsburgh CLO in "Kopit & Yetson's Phantom," will join Justin Guarini and James Snyder -- seen recently as Lieutenant Joe Cable in PCLO's "South Pacific" -- in the cast.


The musical is by the team of Academy Award-winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez ("Frozen"), James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. The cast also includes David Abeles, seen here recently as Miss Trunchbull in the "Matilda" tour and 2016 America’s Got Talent contestant Moya Angela. Previews begin Nov. 10, after "Fun Home" vacates Broadway’s Circle in the Square, and he show opens Dec. 11.




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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” starring Pittsburgh’s own Christian Borle, isn’t due on Broadway until March 2017, but the show is already generating its own buzz with an online video campaign.

Borle, the two-time Tony Award winner (”Peter and the Starcatcher”; “Something Rotten”) out of Fox Chapel and Carnegie Mellon, has back-to-back Broadway projects announced: The revival of “Falsettos,” with Andrew Rannells and Stephanie J. Block, Oct. 27 through Jan. 8 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Then he morphs into the giver of golden tickets as Willy Wonka in “Charlie,” the London transfer that has been revamped for its Broadway run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater.

How cool would it be to run into Borle — if indeed that is him in the videos — decked out as Willy Wonka and handing out golden tickets?


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Martin Giles and Daina Michelle Griffith, each a Post-Gazette Performer of the Year, will perform solo shows at the New Hazlett Theater -- brought to you by TACT, "a new company dedicated to bring a new style of theater to the Pittsburgh community."

Samuel Beckett's "Krapp’s Last Tape," performed by Giles, is about an aging man who listens to a tape of his own voice recounting the glories and hopes of his youth.

"Not I," performed by Griffith, is a short dramatic monologue by Beckett that is unleashed at a sprint, a stream of consciousness filled with interjections, with only the actress' disembodied mouth visible.

Performances are July 1-9 (no shows July 4-5). Tickets are $20 ($10 for students); check showclix.com for tickets and times.

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To paraphrase "Hamilton," Broadway people, they get the job done.

BwayCloseUpAfter hearing of the horror in a gay nightclub in Orlando, many of us wanted to know what we could do to help the shooting victims and their families.

Broadway maven and radio host Seth Rudetsky and his husband, James Wesley, had the idea to take a page from the "We Are the World" playbook and record the Hal David-Burt Bacharach "What the World Needs Now (Is Love)" as a fundraiser for the LBGT Center of Central Florida.

As it happens, they have a lot of friends who can sing.

Among the Broadway who's who of singers with local ties were Michael Cerveris, who recently was in Pittsburgh with Rudetsky for a Pittsburgh CLO cabaret event; soloist Billy Porter, and Renee Elise Goldsberry.

Other voices heard on the recording include "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald, Sara Bareilles, Nathan Lane, Carole King, Tommy Tune, Kristen Bell, Wayne Brody, Gloria Estefan, Fran Drescher, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Hayes, Idina Menzel, Jessie Mueller, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mathew Broderick, Rosie Perez and Bernadette Peters.

The Broadway All-Stars' recording can be downloaded for $1.99 at www.broadwayrecords.com.

Many in the original group were joined by more musical theater stars to sing the song on Monday night's "Maya & Marty," an NBC variety show hosted by Maya Rudolph and Martin Short.

As faces flashed on the TV screen it was fun to pick out the familiar ones, such as Rosie Perez and beside Porter and Cerveris in the front row. Broadway royalty stood shoulder to shoulder, with Chita Rivera beside Joel Grey and Norm Lewis next to Brian Stokes Mitchell. Megan Hilty was up front and started things off, Kelli O'Hara and Jessie Mueller had solos, and Len Cariou sang out in the back with Victor Garber. There were the Callaway sisters, Liz and Ann, and Cynthia Erivo of "The Color Purple" ...


Here's the rest of the list from NBC: Roger Bart, Charles Busch, Paul Castree, Kevin Chamberlin, Josh Colley, Lilla Crawford, Carmen Cusack, Darius de Haas, Carole Demas, Fran Drescher, Brian G Gallagher, Frankie Grande, Sean Hayes, Christopher Scott Icenogle, Bill Irwin, Julie James, Judy Kuhn, Anika Larsen, Liz Larsen, Jose Llana, Lorna Luft, Beth Malone, Andrea Martin, Janet Metz, Debra Monk, Lacretta Nicole, Rory O'Malley, Orfeh, Laura Osnes, Christine Pedi, Alice Ripley, Chita Rivera, Seth Rudetsky, Keala Settle, Marc Shaiman, Kate Shindle, Jennifer Simard, Rachel Tucker, Jonah Verdon, Max Von Essen, James Wesley, Juli Wesley, Lillias White, Marissa Jaret Winokur, BD Wong and Point Park alum Tony Yazbeck.

Top photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC


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Gavin Creel and Jane Krakowski in a performance from “She Loves Me” during the 2016 Tony Awards on June 12, 2016. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

The musical "She Loves Me" will make history June 30 as the first Broadway show to be live-streamed.

The delightful Roundabout Theater production revives the 1963 Harnick-Bock musical, based on a 1937 play set in Budapest. "She Loves Me" stars Tony-winner Laura Benanti ("Gypsy"), Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel, and boasts the clever confection of a set that won a Tony for David Rockwell. The theater subscription service BroadwayHD will live stream the show on Thursday, June 30, at 8 p.m; one-time viewing will cost $9.99 (monthly access is $14.99, or $169.99 annually). 

BroadwayHD previously was first to live stream an off-Broadway production when it offered free viewing of the musical "Daddy Long Legs" on Dec. 10 of last year. It was watched by 150,000 people in 135 countries.

Not long after the announcement of the live stream from Broadway spread today, comments on the BroadwayHD website begged for more viewings of "She Loves Me" to be made available for other time zones.

For a sampling of what to expect, you can check out some of the individual numbers from "She Loves Me" that are already up on The Roundabout Theatre Company's YouTube channel

For more information on how to stream BroadwayHD content on your computer, mobile device or television, click here.

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If you wondered what was going through the minds and hearts of Tony Award winners such as "Hamilton" co-stars and Carnege Mellon grads Leslie Odom Jr. and Renee Elise Goldsberry, above, their alma mater has you covered. A CMU Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences-led team can identify the emotions that a person experiences based on brain activity.

Citing a 2013 CMU study, Marcel Just, the D.O. Hebb University Professor of Psychology, told www.cmu.news, "Our study showed was how remarkably similar we are to each other in terms of the pattern of brain activity that is the signature of an emotion.

"A Tony Award winner's elation is accompanied by a very similar brain activity pattern as someone winning a golf tournament trophy or a teaching award. We are more similar to each other under our skulls than one would have thought."

It was an emotional night all around Sunday at the 2016 Tony Awards ceremony, which was dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando. "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda (best musical, score and book of a musical) was tearful as he delivered a heartfelt sonnet he had written. "The Father's" Frank Langella (best actor in a play, his fourth Tony), who had been self-depricating and a bit randy in his Drama Desk acceptance speech, turned serious at the Tonys.

He read the anonymous quote, "When something bad happens we have three choices. We let it define us, we let it destroy us or we let it strengthen us," and added, "Today we had a hideous dose of reality, and I urge you, Orlando, to be strong, because I am standing in a room with the most generous human beings on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way."

A couple of weeks before the Tony Awards, I had been to New York to see "Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed," "The Humans" and "She Loves Me" -- Tony nominees all; we'd both seen "Hamilton." With my son, Josh Axelrod, we made the fortuitious last-minute decision to see "The Color Purple," for which we got great seats to see the diminutive British dynamo Cynthia Erivo belt her heart out and earn her best actress in a musical Tony.

BillyTwo250We also visited onstage -- onstage is where "Shuffle Along" guests meet their hosts -- with Pittsburgher and CMU grad Billy Porter (2013 Tony winner for "Kinky Boots") after a performance of "Shuffle Along" at Broadway's Music Box Theater. (Right, Billy Porter at the Tony Awards Sunday, reacting to seeing himself onscreen in his "Law & Order: SVU" role, and, below, onstage at the Music Box Theater.)

I asked Porter about all that tap dancing that choreographer Savion Glover has him doing, and he reminded me that he had danced up a storm in "Five Guys Named Moe."

"Of course, that was 20 years ago," he said, laughing. In "Shuffle Along," a backstage look at the historic musical "Shuffle Along" -- the first all-black Broadway cast, the first use of a jazz score and much more -- Porter spends most of his time onstage with Brian Stokes Mitchell as the comedy and writing team of Aubrey Lyles and F.E. Miller. The amazing cast also includes theater royalty Audra McDonald, along with Joshua Henry and nominees Adrienne Warren and Brandon Victor Dixon.

Besides being front and center in "Shuffle Along's" Tony Awards performance, Porter also was part of one of the best gags on Sunday: a montage of "Law & Order" clips showing early appearances by Broadway stars (he played a voice coach in an "SVU" ep. titled "Dissonant Voices").

More observations and emotions from that trip and the Tonys:

*  A lot has already been said about the fact that for African-American actors won the musical awards at the Tonys (Odom, Erivo, Goldsberry and "Hamilton's" Daveed Diggs). Each was a no-brainer in my book.

Having seen only "The Humans" among the nominated plays, it was easy to pick it as best play and bet on featured actors Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell as winners as well. Their wins added to another show of diversity Tonys night: all four of the top play actors, including Jessica Lange and Langella, are over 60. Last year, Alex Sharp was 26 when he won best actor for "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."

*  I've been a fan of Zachary Levi's since the much-missed "Chuck" TV series, and was further won over by his voice work in the animated movie "Tangled" and his Broadway debut in "First Date." In the musical revival of "She Loves Me," he is just as endearing starring alongside Broadway vets Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski and Gavin Kreel. (The Tony-winning set is a marvel of color that transforms on a dime.)

LeviTwo250After "She Loves Me," Josh and I waited at the stage door as we sometimes are wont to do (don't judge), and Levi not only went up and down the line of people waiting in the rain -- first for autographs, then for pictures with every person who wanted one -- he brought along dance music and made it like a party out there. (Left, with gracious Zachary Levi, and Levi dancing away from fans after signing autographs and posing for photos with all of them.)

For the Tonys performance, the audience got to see something he hasn't been doing onstage for a while: a cartwheel. The 6-foot-4 actor had been doing a cartwheel nightly while singing the title song, and he injured himself. He must have healed sufficiently bring it back at the Beacon Theatre ceremony.

*  Tears streamed down my face when Cynthia Erivo sang "I'm Here" during the Saturday matinee of "The Color Purple" we attended. Director John Doyle has assembled a great cast, including nominee Danielle Brooks of the Netflix series "OITNB," and broken the revival down to its essential parts. Heather Headley of "Aida" fame had taken over for Jennifer Hudson when I saw the show, and for my money, she is perfect as slinky seductress Shug Avery. I still can't get over that Erivo is British, though, or that dress she wore to the Tonys ...

*  My colleague, Maria Sciullo, and I are still talking about the end of "The Humans." I was enthralled by every minute of family drama to that point, and the end left us saying, "Huh?" But again, we're still talking about it.

*  Among the nominated original plays, four had writers making their Broadway debuts: "The Humans" by Stephen Karam, "The Father" by Florian Zeller, "King Charles III" by Mike Bartlett and "Eclipsed" by Danai Gurira, an actress on "The Walking Dead."

*  This year's Tony Awards had some offstage controversy: Sound design was eliminated as a competitive category, and more than 36,000 people signed an online petition to bring sound back into the Tonys fold.

*  Multitalented James Corden was a brilliant choice as Tony's host, although I was surprised to see the time spent during the telecast on replaying his Broadway Carpool Karaoke. Brilliant though it is -- featuring Miranda, McDonald, Krakowski and Jesse Tyler Ferguson -- it has been viewed by more than 8 million people.

*  Speaking of which, the Tony Awards got a ratings boost that was likely the "Hamilton" Bump: the 8.73 million viewers was the CBS telecast's best since 2001 and up 35 percent over last year, and the ratings for adults 18-49 and 54-plus were the highest demo ratings since 2003.

*  "Hamilton's" 11 Tonys were one shy of the record by "The Producers." The gamechanging musical missed out on scenic design and best actress, and Diggs' win came over co-stars Chris Jackson and Jonathan Groff.

*  As best actor in a musical, Odom beat out his boss, the man of the season, Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

"I depend on Lin. Half of my performance I get from looking into his eyes," Odom said today on "CBS This Morning." "At least, I wanted one of us to take it home."

Odom recently released a self-titled album that debuted at the top of the iTunes jazz chart. On the morning show, he was accompanied by his Tony and explained he had arrived straight from the "Hamilton" after-party. "I'm still taking in the moment," he said. 

Photo credits, top: Leslie Odom Jr. by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times. Renee Elise Goldsberry by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.


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Three writers working on new plays at City Theatre -- Sharon Washington, Liza Birkenmeier and Jim McManus -- gathered for a lively panel discussion Saturday evening as part of Momentum 16, the annual festival of plays in different stages of development. Moderated by Clare Drobot, the company's director of new play development, they discussed their processes before a small group gathered at the Lester Hamburg Studio Theater while next door, on the Mainstage, Benjamin Scheuer was finishing up his early Saturday performance of "The Lion." 

Scheuer, wrapped in a new shawl -- "my fiance says I look like a cult leader," he said as he showed it off -- later came from one stage to the other and joined the discussion.

Jim McManus, from Donora and Duquesne University, author of eight plays, is having his play "Dry Bones" read today at 1 p.m. He repeated a story he told Chis Rawson in 2006 about taking a playwrighting course to impress a woman and going to see August Wilson's "Two Trains Running" at Pittsburgh Public Theater as his inspiration to write.

McManus, who has had eight plays produced, described a process that starts with characters he wants to spend time with and get to know, and then developing a series of scenes that he pieces togehter like a puzzle.

Carnegie Mellon grad Liza Birkenmeier had her script of "radio island" read Saturday night after the panel, with Peter Cooke, head of the CMU Drama Dept., among those attending. She talked of "performance installation pieces" that she would stage using family members in her basement and her start as a musical theater actress as her route to writing. 

A New York Public Theater emerging writer, she is currently collaborating with Sheila Callaghan and Daniella Topol on an interactive piece about water that will premiere in 2017 with New Georges and 3LD, a high-tech exploration company for artists. 

Veteran stage and screen actress Sharon Washington is a first-time writer whose "Feeding the Dragon," a solo show she will perform as part of City's 2016-17 season, said she was more comfortable with the title "storyteller" than "playwright."

The playwrights on the panel said City's Momentum 16, in which local actors give full-length readings of plays at different stages of development, is unique in their experience as a creative environment for incubating works.

Tracy Brigden, head of City, noted, "The first thing we say to them is, 'What do you want to do with this experience?' " For City Theatre, a company dedicated to new plays, it's also a way to cultivate relationships with working writers.

Scheuer, a cancer survivor and award-winning singer/songwriter/playwright, has certainly taken to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh to him, during his stay here. He has visited with kids at Children's Hospital, hung out with Mayor Peduto mayor and worked with songwriters. This weekend, he also dropped an album ("Songs from the Lion," available here) and a new music video. Previous videos have been colorful animations by Peter Baynton, but for this one, the collaborators took a cue from the black-and-white photos by photographer Riya Lerner for the book "Between Two Spaces," about his cancer treatment. 

Saying goodbye to Scheuer before his final two performances in Pittsburgh, I asked if the video would make me cry. "It's not fun," he said. But it does have a happy ending.

*   *   *

I finally caught up with devilishly delightful "Matilda the Musical" tour at the Benedum Center on Friday -- watch for the review in print Tuesday. For Chris Rawson's review of "The Old Settler" by New Horizon Theater, click here.

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Donna Lynne Champlin and Rachel Bloom in a scene from The CW's "Crazy Ex Girlfriend."

CMU/CLO alum Donna Lynne Champlin, currently co-starring in The CW's "Crazy Ex Girlfriend," has been added to the cast of the all-female production of "The Taming of the Shrew" for The Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park line-up in Central Park, Playbill.com reported. Champlin will play Hortensio in the play, which will run May 24-June 26 in New York. Janet McTeer and Cush Jumbo were previously announced as Petruchio and Katherina.

The rest of the cast, according to Playbill: Candy Buckley (Vincentio), Champlin (Hortensio), Rosa Gilmore (Lucentio), Judy Gold (Gremio), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Baptista), Teresa Avia Lim (Biondello), Adrienne C. Moore (Tranio), Anne L. Nathan (Pedant), Gayle Rankin (Bianca), Pearl Rhein (Ensemble), Leenya Rideout (Ensemble), Jackie Sanders (Ensemble) and Stacey Sargeant (Grumio).

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