I was browsing the amazing collection at the Goodspeed's Scherer Library —"the only library dedicated solely to musical theatre in the world" — earlier this month and came across a photocopied typed-on-white-paper program for a 1977 workshop of "Neverland" at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Not to be confused with "Finding Neverland" (coming to The Bushnell next month), this "Neverland" was written and composed by Jim Steinman and was the genesis for the zillion-selling Meatloaf album "Bat Out of Hell." Performers at that workshop 40 years ago included Ellen Foley and the great Boston prog-rock band Orchestra Luna.
"Bat Out of Hell" is now a stage musical in England, playing at the London Coliseum through Aug. 20. The Peter Pan/Lost Boys themes of "Neverland" persist in the new work, which has been getting strong reviews. When will this behemoth roar over to the U.S.?
Lin-Manuel Miranda Update
The Wesleyan grad and O'Neill Theater Center alum who gave us "Hamilton" will receive a Medallion of Excellence from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in September.
Miranda recently revived his popular series of "Ham4Ham" performances, in a new format. They began as a way to amuse and entertain those in the crowds waiting to see how they'd done in the show's must-be-present-to-win lottery for $10 tickets. (Dozens of those original bits have been memorialized on YouTube thanks to dogged theater advocate Howard Sherman, who worked at the O'Neill Theater Center, Hartford Stage, the Goodspeed and several other Connecticut theaters early in his career.)
The new "Ham4Ham" is called "Ham4All" and is a fundraiser for the Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition. The coalition (which, of course, got its name from a "Hamilton" lyric) was launched this year by the Hispanic Federation and encompasses a dozen non-profit groups that offer legal support, advocacy and social services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the United States.
"Ham4All" takes the form of a challenge, to sing something from the "Hamilton" musical and make a donation to the coalition. Some of the celebrities who've participated thus far include Kelly Clarkson, Ben Stiller, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Shonda Rhimes, Josh Groban. America Ferrera and the Harlem Globetrotters.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018.
"Hamilton" opens in Los Angeles Aug. 16, and runs through the end of December. That's a long run, but technically it's the start of the show's national tour, which stays on the West Coast a while then winds its way south and midwest. The only confirmed New England dates so far are in Boston, Sept. 18 through Nov. 18, 2018. The Bushnell in Hartford has announced that it should have the show for its 2018-19 season, and that full-series subscribers to the 2017-18 season (which begins next month) will have "first access to 'Hamilton'" when renewing their seats for the following year.
Helping 'Fireflies' Fly
The first round of the 2017 Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards bestowed $359,000 on 13 productions of new works at regional theaters. One of the recipients was the Long Wharf Theatre for the world premiere production of Matthew Barber's "Fireflies," which will be on the Long Wharf main stage Oct. 11 through Nov. 5. Barber is known to Hartford audiences for his adaptation of "Enchanted April" at Hartford Stage in 2000.
Long Wharf managing director Joshua Borenstein told me, "We are delighted that 'Fireflies' has been recognized by Edgerton Foundation. The extra rehearsal time is so important for the director, playwright, and actors to fully explore a new play — it's a gift to have it."
Some folks were surprised that "A Song Will Rise: The Music of Peter, Paul and Mary" was not on TheaterWorks' recently announced 2017-18 season. The show was announced as part of the 2016-17 season. It was postponed to allow for more work on the show — a world premiere that is enjoying the input of Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, the two remaining members of the iconic folk trio. (Mary Travers died in 2009.)
At the time of the postponement, TheaterWorks producing artistic director Rob Ruggiero — who co-conceived the project with David and Sherry Lutken ("Woody Sez") — said the show would open the 2017-18 season. but when that season was announced "A Song Will Rise" wasn't on it at all. TheaterWorks now says that Ruggiero is still actively working on the project with Yarrow, Stookey and the Lutkens, and that the original placement on a season schedule was premature.
The most musical show on TheaterWorks' 2017-18 slate is "The Legend of Georgia McBride," Matthew Lopez's comedy about a drag revue.
Getting The Shakes
I was just heading off to see Capital Classics' outdoor rendition of "Love's Labour's Lost" in West Hartford when the BBC finally announced that Jodie Whittaker would be the new (13th) Doctor Who when that hallowed science fiction series resumes in December. My Whovian daughter quickly reminded me that "Love's Labour's Lost" figures prominently in one of the several "Doctor Who" episodes in which William Shakespeare makes an appearance.
In "The Shakespeare Code," from 2007, the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion Martha strongly urge the bard to rewrite his latest masterwork, "Love's Labour's Won." It turns out that the script was actually created by three witches (Carrionites, to be precise) who have woven a world-ending incantation into it.
Whittaker made her professional debut at the Shakespeare's Globe theater in London in 2005, in Peter Oswald's "The Storm," a Shakespeare-styled adaptation of a Greek comedy by Plautus.
The big Shakespeare TV event these days is "Will." The TNT cable series charts the playwright's journey from itinerant writer and actor to, well, Shakespeare. "Will" was created by Craig Pearce, who worked on the Leonardo DiCaprio "Romeo and Juliet" and other Baz Luhrmann reimaginings.
What's most amusing about the reaction to "Will" is how worked up folks get about the show's 1970s/'80s punk-rock soundtrack and other pop-culture intrusions. What part of "worked with Baz Luhrmann" don't they understand? But to those who regularly see Shakespeare plays performed, such supposedly purist pooh-poohing is a joke. There are far more modern Shakespeare interpretations than there are "traditional" ones.
The first time I saw a Shakespeare play scored with music from 1979 was in … 1979. Rap-style Shakespeare was rampant by the mid-'80s. Seeing the story of Shakespeare told in a fast, loud manner doesn't faze me. I'm digging "Will," especially Jamie Campbell Bower as a squirrelly Christopher Marlowe, Colm Meaney as the actor/manager James Burbage and Olivia DeJonge as Burbage's proto-feminist daughter Alice.
If you're looking for another witty, rock-edged take on the Bard of Avon, the national tour of the musical "Something Rotten!" is due at The Bushnell in January.