Slowly Kissing the Past Goodbye, One Broadway Musical at a Time

Slowly Kissing the Past Goodbye, One Broadway Musical at a Time

I am a musical theater snob. I also happen to identify as queer. This means a few things. First, I am really critical of musical theater, especially after spending two full years studying it in one of the most accredited programs in the country. Second, I am especially critical of queer representation in musical theater. That being said, I knew I needed to see The Prom, which is currently running at the Longacre Theatre.

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Dear Nominees, Please Boycott Chita Rivera Awards Until Ben Vereen is Removed as Host

Dear Nominees, Please Boycott Chita Rivera Awards Until Ben Vereen is Removed as Host

On May 19th, the Broadway community will gather to present the 2019 Chita Rivera Awards. The mission of the awards is “to promote and recognize dance and choreographic excellence on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in film.” Shows such as Ain’t Too Proud, The Prom and The Cher Show share multiple nominations along with films such as Mary Poppins Returns.

While I would love to celebrate this evening of excellence, I can’t and I won’t. Because hosting the awards is Ben Vereen.

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Sondheim's Views on Whitewashing are as Antiquated as He is

Sondheim's Views on Whitewashing are as Antiquated as He is

Let me make this clear, I mean all disrespect towards Mr. Sondheim with this column. I’ll gladly recognize him as a monumental figure in musical theatre history, but in the same breath mention that he has massively disappointed me.

In an interview with St. Louis On The Air , Sondheim talked about some of the protests against whitewashing in productions of West Side Story and The King and I.

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Children Need to Keep Playing Children on Broadway Stages

(Matthew Murphy)

(Matthew Murphy)

Mindy Poon

In a recent article in Theatermania about children performing on Broadway, Zachary Stewart asserts, “... and while I'm sympathetic to the call for representation of all types of people onstage, I don't think it needs to be perfectly literal. Ultimately, by insisting on actual kids to play kids, we're encouraging unimaginative storytelling for unimaginative audiences.”

They even went as far as saying child performers aren’t worthy of earning Tony Awards.

I wholeheartedly disagree with his assumptions from the standpoint of not only an audience member but also as a mother of three professional, child actors working in the industry for over ten years.

I can say for sure, that as a child, I would not have enjoyed seeing an adult actor playing Orphan Annie or Mary Lennox or Little Red or Oliver. When I saw those shows, and when I see shows with children in the cast now, I want to connect with the innocence of a child and the childlike realness that she or he brings to the character.  I enjoy hearing childlike voices and their timbre singing the songs that are written in keys to capturing their wonder and possibility. This is undoubtedly not unimaginative, yet the opposite.  I would not have enjoyed adults playing kids in Runaways, which was recently at The Delacorte this past summer after playing Off-Broadway at New York City Center two years ago. My young teenage son could bring a depth, connection, and understanding to the role that a grown person could not.

I find it difficult to accuse the late Elizabeth Swados of “unimaginative storytelling,” or for that matter Sam Pinkleton or The Public Theater who chose to cast children and teens to represent them at their annual gala this past year. The same could be said for the creatives of Billy Elliot, or The King and I, or A Christmas Story, or even Macbeth where the murder of a child is best represented by a child. ( My children have had the good fortune to be in all of these shows.) Many stories cannot be told properly without children being a part of the storytelling. No amount of “imagination” is going to change that.

The argument could be that this is work, and it is just unethical to allow children to work.  Anyone who knows any Broadway children and families personally will know that when children are as passionate as these kids are, the most ethical and moral thing to do as a parent is to help them pursue their passions.  Broadway children are akin to Olympic athletes.  They have a drive and motivation that is hard to contain.  We would not thwart our young chess champ or violin prodigy; so why would we stop a child who is capable of the juggling and balance that professional performing requires?  And yes, each show is different in the way children are treated backstage, but I can assure you, no child is doing this who does not love it! It is not possible because a child works two full-time jobs when he is on Broadway, and this takes discipline and focus, but it does not mean childhood is lost. 

Every family that I have met over the years focuses on keeping the balance for their children). It just isn’t what it seems like to the outside world. Ninety-nine percent of the kids who work on stage are the most humble, hard-working people you will ever meet.  It is wrong even to imply that time in a Broadway show could somehow make any child actors divas or that “... done wrong, you can find some zonked-out robots who sound like they've been media-trained by Stepford Wives...” as quoted by Hayley Levitt in the same article in Theatermania. Quite the opposite is true.  Reporting this kind of stereotype, even saying that it may only happen occasionally, perpetuates the idea of Mama Rose and the unwilling child actor. I know over 50 child actors, many who have sat in my home studying for tests, writing music, planning benefit concerts, singing karaoke, baking cupcakes for the Broadway Flea Market...just being genuinely good people. 

Did performing in a show harm those kids or enrich their lives?  Did having them in the show enhance the performance or hinder it? Did the life skills that child actors gained of:  time management, delaying gratification, self-motivation, patience, problem-solving, collaboration, innovation, creativity, fortitude, cooperation, and self-sacrifice contribute to the building blocks of their character? As my youngest child, William Poon said, “Kids need to be played by kids. Kids can do this.” He knows as well as anyone even at age twelve, having been on the international tour of Beauty and the Beast and then playing a royal child in The King and I at Lincoln Center all the while juggling third and fourth grades. 

Kids in Broadway shows are a special breed for all the right reasons, and they should continue to be an integral part of the Broadway community and bring a realness to the stage that only youth can afford.

Mopsa and Pamela in "Head Over Heels" is the Celebration of Love We All Need Right Now

Mopsa and Pamela in "Head Over Heels" is the Celebration of Love We All Need Right Now

I could honestly talk your ear off for days about my love for Head over Heels, which opened on Broadway on July 26th at the Hudson Theatre directed by Tony Award Winner Michael Mayer featuring the music of The Go-Go’s, but I wanted to point out one of the stories being told in this fun, original musical. That is the story of Mopsa and Pamela

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#Metoo in the Theatre : Understanding the Warning Signs of "Grooming"

#Metoo in the Theatre : Understanding the Warning Signs of "Grooming"

We are currently living in the zeitgeist of the #MeToo movement, which has empowered and emboldened sexual abuse survivors to speak up about the perpetrators. The number of sexual abuse survivors is likely underestimated, the best current information shows that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the United States have been the target of rape or attempted rape. #MeToo has helped to shed light on a small number of these abusers, from Hollywood to corporate America. No field is exempt from these accusations, including our beloved theater community. 

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Revival of "Kiss Me Kate" Adds to the Bleak Future of Female Creatives on Broadway

Revival of "Kiss Me Kate" Adds to the Bleak Future of Female Creatives on Broadway

Three female designers may have won Tonys on Sunday, but the outlook for the 2018-19 is worrisome for anyone who hoped that women would make great strides in being included on Broadway's creative teams. 

Today, the dates and theatre for the upcoming revival of Kiss Me Kate were announced. In addition to its opening night on March 19th, 2019 and its home at Studio 54, the production's creative team was also unveiled. And to my ever-so-slight surprise, it's all male. In the director's chair will be Scott Ellis, choreography by Tony winner Warren Carlyle, and music direction by Paul Gemignani. Other members of the team include David Rockwell (Sets), Jeff Mahshie (Costumes), Donald Holder (Lighting), Brian Ronan (Sound) and David Brian Brown (Hair & Wig design). Apparently, this already problematic revival is going for total Broadway nostalgia by hiring only white men to run it. 

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Broadway Released Some Statistics for this Past Year, and They're Not Encouraging

Broadway Released Some Statistics for this Past Year, and They're Not Encouraging

The folks over at ProductionPro, a technology company aimed at digitally assisting theatrical and film productions, compiled some statistics regarding this past season on Broadway. While some of the stats were encouraging, such as realizing that the average ticket isn't as pricey as some would assume, others were downright depressing. Especially when it came to the employment of women. 

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If the Creators of HAIRSPRAY Don't Care About its Casting, We Should.

If the Creators of HAIRSPRAY Don't Care About its Casting, We Should.

Man, I am so tired of crap like this.

Let me start off by saying that I love(d) the musical HAIRSPRAY. I love the John Waters film. I even love the film version of the musical, and I am absolutely not sorry about it. So colour me shocked and disgusted after reading the above statement.

HAIRSPRAY, with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, based on the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray, has a creative team made up entirely of white men. White men who, apparently, don’t care if someone who isn’t Black plays Seaweed, or any other Black character in the show.

It's because they don't actually care about Black people or Black lives as long as they can use Black history to make money.

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A List of Latina Sopranos that could have cast as Maria before Sierra Boggess

A List of Latina Sopranos that could have cast as Maria before Sierra Boggess

By now I am sure you’ve heard of the BBC’s disastrous decision to cast Sierra Boggess (a white woman)  as Maria (a Puerto Rican) in their upcoming WEST SIDE STORY staged concert performance. While real life Puerto Rico is in blackout right now and nowhere near recovered from the Hurricane months ago (and has yet to receive appropriate aid), someone decided this was a good idea do this. No mames, güey.

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Sierra Boggess is Playing Maria in "West Side Story" Because of course She is

Sierra Boggess is Playing Maria in "West Side Story" Because of course She is

Yesterday, it was announced that Sierra Boggess will be playing the role of Maria in a concert version of "West Side Story" as part of the Proms series at London’s Royal Albert Hall in August. 

Boggess (The Little Mermaid, The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, School of Rock) will be joined by Ross Lekites as Tony and students from ArtsEd and Mountainview theatre schools.

When news of the casting announcement hit social media, let's just say the reaction hasn't been positive. Many are stating that this is yet again, another example of whitewashing in the theatre industry. While I would agree with that, to me, it's also a very confusing decision on the part of Proms to offer the role to Ms. Boggess and for her to accept it. 

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Abuse and a Survival Guide to Healing

Abuse and a Survival Guide to Healing

Over the next few months, and even over the next year, the abuse victims of Broadway and beyond are finally going to have their day. More and more victims are going to be coming forward.

I am very serious about protecting myself, and helping you protecting yourselves, from and after abuse. You should never feel bad about having to take precautions that are for your mental and emotional health.

Here are some strategies and reminders I can offer you to start protecting yourself:

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Little Person Role in "Moulin Rouge" Isn't Being Portrayed by a Little Person

Little Person Role in "Moulin Rouge" Isn't Being Portrayed by a Little Person

It's rare to see roles for little people on our stages and screens. While there are some exceptions, such as Peter Dinklage on Game of Thrones, we don't see roles of such magnitude come along often. More than not, actors with forms of dwarfism, are relegated to playing mystical creatures or are the butt of a joke involving their size (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, The Wizard of Oz and the recent The Wolf of Wall Street come to mind). 

This is why when genuine, substantial roles do become available for little people, it's so important that they are, in fact, portrayed by little people. But the problem is, they aren't.

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