usical theatre fans of the Hamptons: rejoice and sing a glad (up-tempo!) song of praise to the Broadway gods who have sent their beautiful and talented offspring to the East End to entertain us this summer! Along the South Fork, “Broadway’s Boardwalk,” there will be a plethora of fine performers from the biggest Broadway hits on the stages of Guild Hall, Bay Street Theatre and Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center during July and August.
The Hamptons is nothing if it is not a mirror of current culture and tastes, and the resurgence of interest in musical theatre is reflected in the offerings at its cultural institutions. Melissa Errico, who grew up performing on the stage at Guild Hall and will be back there Sunday August 5 says “I think musical theatre is on the rise because of ‘Glee’ and ‘Smash,’” two television shows that dramatize the theatre world. “When Wicked opened, it drew a lot of young people to the idea of shows,” she says “It was fresh and modern… a kind of turning point before ‘Glee.’”
A native of Long Island, with Broadway, television and film credits, Errico first sang at Guild Hall when she was in her early 20s, fresh from Broadway as Eliza Doolittle in the revival of My Fair Lady. She says that the lasting appeal of musical theatre is “the human instinct to be together and hear a story. (It) draws from so many exciting things: Vaudeville, African American tradition…the golden era of musical theater.”
Even the Southampton Writers Conference has added a musical theatre component this year. For the first time, in addition to poets, authors and playwrights, a composer will be on the list of presenters. Jason Robert Brown, 2002 Drama Desk Award winner for music and lyrics for The Last Five Years (Guild Hall, Friday, August 3) and composer of Broadway’s 13, Parade and the upcoming Honeymoon in Las Vegas with Tony Danza, will be teaching a workshop with Marsha Norman. “Enrollment is good…” he says. “… It’s nice that people are paying attention at the moment.”
Legendary performers Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, life-long friends together on stage for the first time since Evita, kick off the season on Saturday, July 7 at Guild Hall. a selection of the greatest songs written for the stage that they use to illustrate their performing and personal relationship. A huge NYC hit and a rare Hampton’s opportunity!
Jacques Brel, which returns on July 15 at Guild Hall, celebrates Brel’s timeless relevance and enduring passions. A diverse blend of music that speaks to life’s complexities, the cast includes Tamra Hayden, (Les Misérables), Arlo Hill (Where’s Charley? at Encores!), and Ereni Sevasti (The Bacchae at The Public, Carnival at The Kennedy Center).
WHBPAC will be presenting two-time Emmy and Tony Award-winning star, Bebe Neuwirth, on Sunday, July 15 in Stories with Piano #3. “WHBPAC is one of the first places I played “Stories with Piano #1”. We had a great time!” she says. “I also did a Noel Coward play at the Bay Street Theatre years ago.”
Although many people know her as her beloved character, Lilith, on Cheers, Broadway audiences are fans of her work in The Addams Family, Chicago, Damn Yankees and Sweet Charity. Neuwirth always thought of herself as a performer. “I always, always, knew this was going to be my life. Musical theatre allows me the opportunity to do everything as an actress—dance, sing, talk, listen,” she says. “Its very satisfying!” The show will feature songs by Stephen Sondheim, Edith Piaf and Irving Berlin.
The first weekend in August promises double entertainment. In addition to Errico, Julie Reiber will be performing the role of “Cathy” in The Last Five Years at Guild Hall. Reiber is currently starring on Broadway in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and has performed the role of “Elphaba” in Wicked over 100 times.
“When I was growing up, theatre wasn’t always the “cool” thing to do,” Rebier says. “I love that pop culture is bringing it to the forefront and making it a cool thing to be a musical theatre kid.” She is particularly excited about this production. “It’s a dream job… the music is just beautiful and such a joy to sing… and there’s so much to grab onto as an actor. I love getting to watch these two people (in the show) separately travel this relationship.” Reiber has also been seen with Harry Connick, Jr in the recent revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, All Shook Up, and as Brooklyn in Bklyn.
Bay Street Theater is steaming up August with the world premier of a new musical written and directed by Paul Levine for the extraordinary Tony Award-winning Lillias White. Big Maybelle is the story of Maybelle Smith, a big talent who took on the challenges of being a performer of color in 1950s white America.
White says she was introduced to shows at an early age. Her mother took her to The Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Radio City Music Hall and that the family purchased cast recordings from Broadway shows. Her own “first performances were at…maybe 4 or 5 years old, and were held exclusively for my family, at my Grandmother’s house—on top of the dining room table!”
Active in school plays and special events, White says she was fortunate to have a choice between physical education classes and modern dance. “I chose dance…” she says. “I’ve always felt that musical theatre “chose” me, rather than me choosing it!”
Big Maybelle runs August 7 through Sept 7.
Continue your summer entertainment back at Guild Hall on August 19th with Tony Award-winner Christine Ebersole, (Grey Gardens). She returns to East Hampton for a musical evening featuring the music of Sophie Tucker, Noel Coward, Peggy Lee and Yip Harburg. “The End Of The World As We Know It Cabaret” has been called “The Apex of New York” and “Brilliant” by The New York Times, and ”Elegant, Witty, Intelligent and SENSATIONAL!” according to The New York Observer’s Rex Reed.
The season finishes off with one of television and theater’s beloved funny ladies, Megan Mullally who will perform at WHBPAC on August 26. Known and loved by viewers as Karen on “Will & Grace,” Mullally says “in theatre, you get to tell the story from point A to point B without anyone yelling ‘cut’, and the feedback from the audience is great. I like doing longer runs. There is always someone in the audience who is going to have a life-changing experience, like a 14 year old girl or a family who saved up for a year to see one show.”
Mullally, like the other women appearing here this summer, said she always wanted to be an actress. “When I was three,” she says in her distinctive voice, “I had never made a peep…(but one day) I was at my grandparents’ house … and I ran downstairs and threw my arms out and said ‘introducing the world’s greatest clown’.” And the die was cast.”
Although she has not performed in the Hamptons before, she has visited a number of times. “I am looking forward to it… being in nature and near the water—that will be really nice at the end of summer.”
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