July 2011 News
Should you have the misfortune of missing the interview, it will be available at wnyt.com website. Left hand column > ONLY ON 13 > TODAY'S WOMEN, after 7 PM. LIVE: Leslie Uggams’ “Uptown Downtown” @ Capital Repertory Theatre, 7/19/11 http://www.nippertown.com/2011/07/26/live-leslie-uggams-uptown-downtown-... “Good evening, and welcome to our soiree,” said Leslie Uggams after the opening medley of “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York” and “New York, New York.” And quite a fab soiree it is. The multi-talented, 68-year-old show biz veteran is kickin’ it old-school down at the Capital Repertory Theatre, and it’s a marvel to behold. Broadway show tunes, street corner doo-wop, big band swing, blues, Latin jazz, gospel, intimate ballads – Uggams does it all quite magnificently. Don’t mistake “Uptown Downtown” for theater. Rather, it’s an autobiographical concert, in which Uggams utilizes her still supple voice for a music-and-stories evening that traces her long and varied career from the Apollo Theatre to “Sing Along With Mitch,” from a Tony Award winning turn on Broadway to the pioneering TV mini-series “Roots”… and beyond. Uggams was a star before her tenth birthday, playing 29 shows a week at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre, and in “Uptown Downtown,” she pays tribute to the many greats who she shared the stage with – Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and more. Despite the fact that Uggams is neither a jazz nor blues singer, her musical homages ring heartfelt and true. Of course, she doesn’t do it alone. Uggams is backed by a crack eight-piece band, and while some of them are her regular musicians, more than half of them are local players. But you’d never know that unless you read the program notes. They play like a seasoned, cohesive ensemble, and they each step out for some impressive soloing. And while they can conjure up brash, bonafide big band swing (as on the Duke Ellington medley that wraps up the first act), there’s also considerable variety to the sonic pallette, as the arrangements break down the band. Musical director-pianist Don Rebic offers impressive cabaret cred to the voice-and-piano readings of the two tunes from “Hallelujah, Baby,” the Broadway show that earned Uggams her Tony. Even more impressive is Steve Bargonetti’s solo guitar accompaniment on the Drifters’ classic “Up On the Roof,” and the cymbal sizzle of Buddy Williams’ drums-only backing on “Hello Young Lovers.” While television variety shows like “Sing Along With Mitch” (in which Uggams was the first African American performer to be featured on a weekly primetime network series) and her own 1970 “The Leslie Uggams Show” have been replaced by the current crop of instant-stardom talent shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice,” Uggams is proving that old-school musical variety is still viable and vital. It’s also one hell of an entertaining evening. Leslie Uggams’ “Uptown Downtown” continues at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany through Sunday (July 31). SECOND OPINIONS: B.A. Nilsson’s review at Metroland Michael Eck’s review at The Times Union Bob Goepfert’s review at The Troy Record Excerpt from Paul Lamar’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Don Rebic and director Michael Bush have masterfully paced the numbers, alternating styles, tempi, volume, and accompaniment. Percussionist Buddy Williams provides the backup for ‘Hello, Young Lovers’; trumpet player Michael Dietlein punctuates ‘Up a Lazy River’ a la Louis Armstrong; and Rebic provides some of the most remarkable accompaniment of the night on ‘My Own Morning’ and ‘The Man I Love.’ That Gershwin standard finds him going all over the place harmonically while Uggams holds the tune, and hold it she does. What a combo. What brilliant musicianship. And it’s to Uggams’ credit that she gives props to each of these gifted players.” LESLIE UGGAMS SET LIST Rhapsody in Blue (band only) There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York/New York, New York Them There Eyes My Own Morning I Was Born in a Trunk in Harlem, New York City On the Sunny Side of the Street Up a Lazy River A-Tisket, A-Tasket I Want to Be Around to Pick Up the Pieces/You Made Me Love You Up On the Roof Hello Young Lovers Good Morning Heartache It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing/Take the A Train INTERMISSION Love He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands Yesterday/Yesterdays Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home Broadway Summertime I Got Plenty of Nothin’ Being Good Stormy Weather ENCORE The Man I Love
Jazz Institute at Proctors concludes with a big concert Concert at Proctors concludes Jazz Institute By TOM KEYSER Staff writer Keith Pray (Photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk) http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Jazz-Institute-at-Proctors-con... Published 12:45 a.m., Thursday, July 28, 2011 Where else in the Capital Region can you see 40 musicians play Mingus and Basie with a solo or two thrown in by a six-time Jazz Journalists Association trombonist of the year? We know of only one place, and that's the GE Theatre in Schenectady. On Friday, at the conclusion of the two-week Jazz Institute held each summer at Proctors, the students and teachers will take the stage for a free concert featuring tunes by, among others, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Rebirth Brass Band, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and Charles Mingus. Wycliffe Gordon, the award-winning trombonist and one of the teachers, will perform with the students as well as with a trio. Keith Pray, a prominent saxophonist and composer and leader of the institute, will direct the show. "Our concert is always the highlight of my summer," Pray says. "To see so many students of all ability levels and ages working together on stage is amazing -- not only just for trying, but they actually play the real music as the greats did. These are not watered-down versions.'' "The first couple of days of the camp are always completely chaotic, but by the time the concert rolls around everybody's having a great time, and the music sounds really good." This is Pray's sixth time running the institute with the New York City trumpet player Arthur Falbush. (Gordon, also from New York, is the guest artist working with the students today and Friday.) Pray lives in Cohoes, teaches band and jazz band in Schenectady city schools and performs frequently throughout the area. More than 60 musicians, mainly from middle and high schools but also children and adults, take part in the institute. Fees are $200 for the first week, $250 for the second, and $430 for both. "The students learn about 90 minutes of music completely by ear," Pray says. "We don't have any sheet music at all. They learn it all the old-school way.'' "Jazz musicians have always learned this way on their own. But as far as we can tell nobody really teaches this way in a group setting -- without the sheet music. The kids get so much more out of it than just learning the tunes.'' "They start mentoring each other. Once they get the hang of how it works, they start turning to the kid next to them who doesn't quite know the music and say, 'No, no, try this.' It's pretty amazing for us to sit here and watch that." Pray says many of the students, if not all, will take a solo at the concert. "The entire camp is based around getting students to get over the fear of improvising and to give them the tools that they need to make their own music." Reach Keyser at 454-5448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. At a glance Jazz Institute concert When: 7 p.m. Friday Where: GE Theatre, Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady Admission: Free Info: http://www.proctors.org/events/jazz-institute Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/entertainment/article/Jazz-Institute-at-Procto...
Home Blog Schenectady? What’s in Schenectady? RSS FEED Thursday, July 21, 2011 Schenectady? What’s in Schenectady? Leora Mirvish, AIA, LEED AP http://www.quinnevans.com/blog/2011-07-21/schenectady-what%E2%80%99s-sch... I’ve just returned from the annual conference of the League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT), where I was part of a presentation of QEA’s Kennedy Center work and accessibility. This year, the conference was in Schenectady, NY. Every person I told I was going to Schenectady said: “Schenectady? What’s in Schenectady?” When I said it was for a conference, they said: “A conference in Schenectady? Why would anyone have a conference in Schenectady?” I wondered about this myself. Schenectady is home to the Proctors Theatre, a grand old vaudeville house, saved from destruction by a community group in 1979. The theater expanded in 2003, enlarging its stagehouse and adding a second performance space. The theater played an active and innovative role in the redevelopment of its entire block, even building a district heating and cooling system to serve surrounding buildings. Schenectady is a city whose population has decreased by half over the last 30 years with the loss of manufacturing and whose downtown had been abandoned. This is why LHAT chose Schenectady as the site of the conference: the expansion of the Proctors Theatre has truly succeeded in anchoring the redevelopment of the downtown. It was inspiring to see how the theater has brought restaurants, retail, hotels (i.e. people) back to town. It was even more inspiring to see this success recognized by the community when the mayor bestowed a major honor on the director of the theater. HUDSON OPERA HOUSE We also toured a number of historic theaters in towns along the Hudson Valley. Many of these cities and towns were industrial centers that have seen better days. But again, historic theaters are playing a role in the revitalization of these communities. Of course, it’s not just bricks, mortar, and decorative plaster, but the people who bring life to them. In Hudson, we visited the Hudson Opera House. The very energetic director described how they had been renovating room by room. So far, only the lower level had been completed and the actual second floor theater space was still not usable. Despite the lack of an actual theater space, the organization runs over 1,000 fine arts and performing arts programs per year! In Newburgh, we met a social worker who has combined supported living with artist housing, an art gallery...and a soon-to-be-renovated historic theater to clean up a block of a depressed and dangerous downtown. Given her amazing energy, I suspect this unlikely combination will succeed. The revivals of historic theaters across the country have played similar roles in revitalizing their cities and towns. It’s always an inspiration at LHAT to meet the people who are saving, maintaining, and operating these theaters, bringing music, theater, and opera to communities of every size.
Proctors: On & Off Stage Fast times at Proctors By Jared Schadewald Wednesday, July 27, 2011 ________________________________________ Taking on a summer internship can be a daunting task. Although as a college student I’ve reached an age at which I realize that carefree summers are long gone, a small part of me was still reluctant to surrender my entire break to Proctors. Yet, I knew the opportunity that was being presented to me was one that doesn’t come along often. That and the idea of being a janitor all summer wasn’t an appealing alternative. And so, with conflicted eagerness I ventured into the unknown and began my internship at Proctors in late May. I arrived knowing only that I would be working under Jessica Gelarden, the education program manager at Proctors, to assist with marketing and public relations for the Proctors Education department. Little did I know I would be experiencing the summer as never before. As I sit here at my desk reflecting on the past few weeks in this non-profit enterprise, I realize how lucky I am to have a desk or even a computer to type up this blog that you’re now reading (or clicking away from). I’ve yet to be sent on a coffee run, or asked to fetch dry cleaning, but I’ve been invited to more meetings, luncheons, and conferences than any intern should be allowed. I’ve also had the opportunity to write several press releases about initiatives at Proctors; both include my name – something that will come in handy as part of a future resume package. Most importantly, I’ve had the good fortune of learning and working with some of the great people that plug away tirelessly to keep Proctors running like a well-oiled machine. As I’ve experienced it first-hand, this is no small feat. I’m grateful to Proctors CEO Phillip Morris and the entire Proctors staff for allowing me a glimpse into the inner workings of cubeland (a term we use to define the open space in which we work; even Philip Morris sits with us in this open area, designed to streamline communication -– or not). Above all, I feel honored to be part of the Proctors team -– if only for a summer. I’d like to extend a special thanks to Jessica Gelarden, Thom O’Connor, Sara Hill and Tim Walton for being my chief mentors during my time here. I appreciate their collective insights, tips and wisdom, and for helping to make this internship not only a great learning experience, but an unforgettable one. The great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” To me, this quote effectively sums up my stay at Proctors. Time has gone by in a flurry of activity, and I’m hard-pressed to recall a dull moment since my first day as an intern, passing under that golden marquee at Proctors. Proctors summer intern Jared Schadewald is a senior at the College of Saint Rose. He plans to pursue a career in communications.
CALLING ALL ARTISTS/ART LOVERS MoHu is a week-long arts festival to be held October 8 – 16 in Albany , Schenectady , Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. It will feature theatre, dance, music, visual arts and random acts of art throughout the region. MoHu also seeks to celebrate the individual artist and involve art loving partners. This will be the first annual event. Be part of MoHu: Individual Artists: Oct 15/16 Open Studio Tours. open your studio to show and sell your work. Oct 9-16. Be part of a Group Show- we will connect you with venues seeking art. Venues Small galleries, places that display art - get listed on our map and venue list. Not an art venue? Not a problem! We can help you coordinate a show. There is a $10.00 participation fee for inclusion in this event to cover printing costs. Interested or have ANY questions? If you are an artist who would like to participate in Open Studio Tours, an artist looking for a venue or a venue looking for artists please contact us at email@example.com . For more information on MoHu go to www.mohufest.com Arts groups announce new festival and ways of working together October's MoHu Festival aims to showcase area arts and build group ties By TOM KEYSER Staff writer Published 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, July 13, 2011 1 of 5 View: Larger | Hide • Janiya Miner, left, Jasmine Kendricks and Shalanda Murray , at right, of Hamilton Hill Arts Center's steel drum band "Silk and Steel" perform during the announcement of MoHu, a 9-day arts and entertainment festival "like no other" at the WMHT studios in Troy Tuesday July 12, 2011. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Janiya Miner, left, Jasmine Kendricks and Shalanda Murray , at... • Robert Altman, president and CEO of WMHT announces MoHu, a 9-day arts and entertainment festival "like no other" at the WMHT studios in Troy Tuesday July 12, 2011. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Robert Altman, president and CEO of WMHT announces MoHu, a 9-day... • Panelists Jeffrey Lawrence, left, executive vice president for Technology at the Center of Economic Growth and Proctors CEO Philip Morris during the announcement of MoHu, a 9-day arts and entertainment festival "like no other" at the WMHT studios in Troy Tuesday July 12, 2011. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Panelists Jeffrey Lawrence, left, executive vice president for... • Panelists , from left, Susan Rivers of Art de cure, Joel Reed, Saratoga Arts executive director, Jeffrey Lawrence, executive vice president for Technology at the Center of Economic Growth and Proctors CEO Philip Morris during the announcement of MoHu, a 9-day arts and entertainment festival "like no other" at the WMHT studios in Troy Tuesday July 12, 2011. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Panelists , from left, Susan Rivers of Art de cure, Joel Reed,... • Robert Altman, president and CEO of WMHT announces MoHu, a 9-day arts and entertainment festival "like no other" at the WMHT studios in Troy Tuesday July 12, 2011. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Robert Altman, president and CEO of WMHT announces MoHu, a 9-day... Page 1 of 1 TROY -- Representatives of dozens of arts groups in the Capital Region came together Tuesday to announce a nine-day festival in October designed to showcase regional arts and culture and build relationships among the organizations. Called the MoHu Festival, or simply MoHu -- a reference to the Mohawk and Hudson rivers -- it will take place Oct. 8 to 16, feature several hundred events and include 55 groups in Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. And the number of groups is growing, said Robert Altman, president and CEO of WMHT Educational Telecommunications, who hosted the announcement at the WMHT studios in Troy. "This has been truly an exciting experience for all of us to see the arts community come together," Altman said. "MoHu is a celebration over 9 days this October of the bounteous riches of the Capital Region's cultural community." MoHu will group together established events -- including performances, exhibitions, lectures and gallery openings -- with a few new ones for what organizers hope will become an annual festival. Altman said a complete schedule would be ready around Labor Day. "We're very much a work in progress," he said. The festival is an outgrowth of meetings that began about eight years ago among 10 leading arts administrators in the region, said Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors. At the time, he said, "We had never talked to one another. We didn't know one another." He said the meetings facilitated several collaborations, including the administrative merger of Proctors and Capital Repertory Theatre, and now they have produced MoHu. "What is it?" Morris said. "It's a door opener. It's opening doors to thinking about our place in a different light." The goal is to make Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs and areas in between look and feel like one big city when it comes to the arts, he said. That would benefit not only artists and arts presenters but also the economic future of the region, said Jeffrey Lawrence, executive vice president for technology with the Center for Economic Growth. "If you're marketing globally, we're really a point on a map, not four cities," he said. "Troy shouldn't be competing with Schenectady, which shouldn't be competing with Saratoga. We are one region." Sometimes the competition occurs in the same city. An example occurred March 12, when the Albany Symphony Orchestra at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and the ensemble Signal at EMPAC -- mere blocks apart -- presented programs of contemporary concert music that competed for the same audience. Brian Ritter, executive director of the Albany Symphony, said that he hopes the enthusiasm of arts leaders throughout the MoHu planning process will lead to greater cooperation -- and fewer scheduling conflicts. "I think that's what everybody's really excited about and interested in," he said. "What may come out of this is an infrastructure from which to work, something that can lead to more unified planning for the future." MoHu will feature at least four new events, organizers said, although details remain sketchy. One would be an artist-based social event at Peebles Island State Park, Morris said. The island in Waterford, near the merger of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers, happens to be the geographical center of the MoHu region. Another would be studio tours of artists' galleries and work spaces. A third would be a rescheduling to the same evening of the Albany, Troy and Schenectady art nights. And a fourth would be a "community-wide sing," Morris said, combining an Albany Pro Musica performance at Proctors with vocal events elsewhere in the region. "To be honest, this is an entirely volunteer effort by a lot of people," Morris said. "If we pull off these four special events this year, as I'm confident we will, then you can look for more the following year." Reach Keyser at 454-5448 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entertainment Leslie Uggams’ show a surprising treat Published: Thursday, July 21, 2011 By Bob Goepfert The Record Leslie Uggams By Bob Goepfert The Record The Leslie Uggams show “Uptown Downtown” running at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany is a surprising treat. Because this is a one-woman show that covers the performer’s career you might expect it to be self-indulgent and heavy on sentiment. And since Uggams has been performing for six decades you might fear for the quality of her voice. Put those fears in storage. This is a comfortable night of solid music and storytelling. Uggams uses her years of experience to create an evening that is both nostalgic and entertaining. It’s impossible not to be charmed by Uggams who is one of those performers that instantly makes a connection with the audience through her sparkling eyes and her childlike smile. Her voice is in phenomenal shape and her vocal technique is flawless. She is an impressive and tireless performer who offers two hours of charm and great music. Though it is unlikely that many under 50 years of age will have any idea of who Uggams is she’s had quite a career. At age six she started performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. She won fame as a contestant on the original Name That Tune television game show winning $25,000 as a teenager. She was a member of the popular Mitch Miller Show and later won a Tony Award for the musical "Hallelujah Baby" and starred in the epic television series “Roots.” All this experience is on display at Capital Rep. Uggams easily drops names like Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Lena Horne. She not only drops their names, she conjures their spirit. She has a remarkable ability to sing a song in person’s trademark style, yet she makes it her own. But she never does an imitation; it’s more like homage as she finds the essence of the original performer. What’s impressive is the range of styles in which Uggams works. But it can almost be a fault as the music is so varied and shows so many influences Uggams sometimes fails to define her own style. However, it is all good. She displays amazing lyrical sensitivity in the ballads and an enthusiastic energy on the upbeat numbers. And there is the unexpected as she sings the Drifters hit “Up On the Roof” in a style that resembles scat. She brings down the house with a vibrant sunny “Side of the Street” and offers an unusual take on “Hello Young Lovers” turning it into a duet between herself and drummer Buddy Williams. She has similar moments with guitarist with Steve Bargonetti and trumpeter Mike Dietlein. Indeed the superior eight piece band under the direction of Don Rebic is an on-stage presence that adds to the lushness of the evening, Not every number is a winner. Uggams lingers much too long on many slower numbers and on opening night she seemed uncomfortable during the first several songs. Her storytelling was erratic as some reminiscences were charming and seemingly sincere while others appeared artificial and told in a rote-like fashion. She obviously has a movement problem which makes her performance rather stationary. The magic of “Uptown Downtown” is not that it chronicles the career of Leslie Uggams. More important is that it permits the audience to experience a performance style that will soon be gone forever. This is a show that celebrates the ability of a performer to relate one-on-one with her audience and for her to show what entertainers were like in a different generation. Indeed, “Uptown Downtown” is more like being in a days-gone-by elegant supper club than it is a theatrical experience. But any show that can transport you to another place is theater. And Leslie Uggams will transport you into her world and through her life. It’s a nice journey. "Leslie Uggams in Uptown Downtown" at Capital Repertory Theatre through July 31. For schedule and ticket information call 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2011/07/21/entertainment/doc4e2736540...
Hallelujah, Baby by B.A. Nilsson on July 20, 2011 • 0 comments http://metroland.net/2011/07/20/hallelujah-baby/ Uptown, Downtown DIRECTED BY MICHAEL BUSH CAPITAL REPERTORY THEATRE, THROUGH JULY 31 With all eight pieces of the band wailing as Leslie Uggams gives a powerhouse treatment to “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” you can’t help but be impressed the energy. It’s a great sound, reminding us of the majesty of jazz-inflected music and song. But Uggams’s own instrument is mutli-hued, and there’s just as much energy in the delicacy of the Goffin-King anthem “Up on the Roof”, which, delivered as a wistful ballad with only the affecting guitar work of Steve Bargonetti behind it, is one of the show’s most magical moments. Uptown, Downtown came to Capital Rep for a two-week stay, and I wouldn’t let this one get past you. The remarkable singer-actress pays tribute to her long career (she started performing while still in single digits), framed by the contrast between her uptown (Washington Heights) childhood and her eventual (downtown) Broadway career. Her most notable Main Stem, appearance was in the show Hallelujah, Baby, written by Jule Styne with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and two of its songs were featured, both performed to music director Don Rebic’s solo piano: “My Own Morning” and “Being Good Isn’t Good Enough.” The first Broadway show Uggams saw was The King and I, and her version of “Hello Young Lovers” was sung to Buddy Williams’s drumming—mostly ride cymbal and bass drum, with tasty accents. If she didn’t give us anything from Anything Goes or Thoroughly Modern Millie, two of her more recent shows, she more than made up for it with the two dozen she chose, all of them connected, via the fascinating stories she told, with her life and the lives of the performers who most influenced her. Some of them were on the Apollo Theater bill with her, a venue she worked between the ages of nine and 16, and thus she paid tribute to Louis Armstrong (“Lazy River,” featuring nice trumpet work by Michael Dietlein), Ella Fitzgerald (“A-Tisket, A-Tasket”) and Washington Heights neighbor Frankie Lymon and the doo-wop sound (“Up on the Roof”). Uggams and her musical crew are skilled at adapting material for her purposes; thus, the show’s opening, featuring clarinetist Lenore Aldi-Snow swooping through the opening of “Rhapsody in Blue,” soon turned into Gershwin’s “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York” with “Rhapsody in Blue” figures behind it and a natty interpolation of “New York, New York” emerging from “On the Town.” More Gershwin came later in the show: a definitive “Summertime,” bluesy without flailing all over the map, and “I Got Plenty of Nothin’,” with flute and synthesized vibes in the surprising mix. “Born in a Trunk,” from A Star is Born, was refit to salute Harlem and the Apollo, while her salute to Dinah Washington was a medium-tempo rendition of “I Want to Be Around (to Pick up the Pieces)” interwoven with “You Made Me Love You,” which Uggams deftly infused Washington’s tone and inflection. Uggams tonal vocabulary is amazingly colorful, much more detailed than what is thought of as a “Broadway” sound. Billie Holiday’s signature “Them There Eyes,” began slow, with a deep richness about it, then swung into double time; Holiday also inspired the choice of “Good Morning, Heartache” which became a slow, bluesy ballad with the band. The first half finished with mini Ellington tribute: “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Take the A Train,” both swung with a feeling that Duke would have enjoyed. Many singers before Uggams have paired Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” with Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays,” but her version—again pairing her only with guitarist Bargonetti for the first song—was so heartfelt that even lyricist Otto Harbach’s annoying use of the word “forsooth” in the second song didn’t have the fingernails-on-blackboard quality I usually suffer when hearing it. Alongside her rhythm section were five excellent local hires: Aldi-Snow, Dietlein, trombonist Ben O’Shea, bassist Mike Wicks and Vincent Bonafede on keyboard. The busy Uggams—who developed Uptown, Downtown early last year and has presented it at the Pasadena Playhouse and Manhattan’s Café Carlyle, among other venues—is also working on a theater piece about Lena Horne, and, appropriately, belted out a magnificent “Stormy Weather” as a program closer. “What’s an ‘Uggams?” the singer asked, beginning a charming story about how her search for her own roots led to an acclaimed role in Alex Haley-penned mini-series Roots. Everyone in the packed opening-night house knows the answer: An exemplar of how stories should be told and songs should be chosen and sung.
Theater review: Uggams a shooting star well worth seeing in Albany Thursday, July 21, 2011 By PAUL LAMAR Text Size: A | A | A ‘Uptown, Downtown,’ with Leslie Uggams WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany WHEN: Through July 31 HOW MUCH: $75-$20 MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org Leslie Uggams is in the house. And how! With six decades of performing under her belt, she could be forgiven any musical compromises she might have to make. But she doesn’t have to, not for a moment. The voice is completely intact; the range of numbers proves that she can sing in every style with confidence: jazz, scat, ballad, pop. Forget the history: she’s still here, and you have until July 31 to see her in action. Related story For Gazette theater writer Bill Buell's preview of this show, click here. And did I say she can act? If the sketchiest part of the show is the narrative thread that nominally links the songs, the songs themselves — 22 of them — are mini-dramas in her hands. She’s goofy, outraged, depressed, elated, philosophical. Whatever the motivation for the lyric is, she has found it, or she has reinvented it. Her take on “Up on the Roof,” for example, slow and meditative, backed hauntingly by guitarist Steve Bargonetti, is a striking counterpoint to The Drifters’ 1962 R&B version. The hot nine-piece band — made up of some folks who travel with her and a few from the Capital Region — is conducted from the keyboard by arranger Don Rebic. Perfect pacing Rebic and director Michael Bush have masterfully paced the numbers, alternating styles, tempi, volume, and accompaniment. Percussionist Buddy Williams provides the backup for “Hello, Young Lovers”; trumpet player Michael Dietlein punctuates “Up a Lazy River” a la Louis Armstrong; and Rebic provides some of the most remarkable accompaniment of the night on “Morning” and “The Man I Love.” That Gershwin standard finds him going all over the place harmonically while Uggams holds the tune, and hold it she does. What a combo. What brilliant musicianship. And it’s to Uggams’ credit that she gives props to each of these gifted players. READ FULL STORY: http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2011/jul/21/0721_uggamrev/
Arts Talk The place to discuss the arts in the Capital Region Local Arts section | Meet the bloggers | Local author? Submit your book info “Uptown, Downtown” @ Capital Repertory Theatre, 7/19/11 http://blog.timesunion.com/localarts/uptown-downtown-capital-repertory-t... July 19, 2011 at 11:38 pm by Michael Eck by Michael Eck Special to The Times Union ALBANY – Singer/actress Leslie Uggams was born in Harlem and now lives in Columbus Circle. She’s spent her life traveling up and down Manhattan’s corridors and canyons. That’s why she’s titled her new autobiographical revue “Uptown Downtown.” The show traces her career from six-year old television star to 68-year-old legend. It’s currently onstage at Capital Repertory Theatre and it’s an old school showbiz treat. Uggams is old enough to have come up the old-fashioned way, through hard work, perseverance and sheer talent. She sang at the notoriously tough Apollo Theater as a youth with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. She talks about those times in “Uptown Downtown” and sings the songs that take her back to those times as well. The fact that Uggams actually sang these selections with those legends would make them more powerful if not for the fact that Uggams has all the power and charisma she needs. Yes, the show — created by Uggams and Michael Busch — is self-congratulatory. Occasionally the script is stilted. On opening night she flubbed a band member’s name. So what, Uggams sings and all is forgiven. Her take on The Drifters’ “Up On the Roof” was simply mesmerizing on Tuesday, backed only by the stunningly adept guitar of Steve Bargonetti. Later Bargonetti would play too busily on The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” but that was his sole misstep — everything else he played was magic. A drums-and-voice-only arrangement of “Hello Young Lovers” showcased skinsman Buddy Williams, but its freshness and force owed as much to the great settings of musical director Don Rebic. He alone accompanied Uggams on piano on “My Own Morning,” a selection from her Broadway debut in “Hallelujah, Baby!” Uggams gave the ballad an intimate, shimmering reading that let the crowd know they were in for a special night as the evening proceeded. Truth be told, Uggams is best remembered by many as an actress, especially for her work in the pioneering mini-series “Roots” (which garners its own chatty segment in the show’s second act), but she is one heckuva singer. A blue stroll through Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” wowed Tuesday’s crowd, as did “Anyplace I Hang My Hat is My Home,” which was spiked a sharp solo from Bargonetti. Uggams spends more time talking in the second act than in the first, but it creates a balance and allows her voice a chance to revive between numbers. Towards the end of the program Uggams talked about her recent explorations of Lena Horne’s career, and she appropriately closed the show with “Stormy Weather,” the only time she gave into vocal histrionics. “Uptown Downtown,” for the curious, is not a play. It’s cabaret through and through and it’s wonderful. UPTOWN DOWNTOWN Performance reviewed: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Where: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany Running time: 2 hours; one intermission. Continues: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Through July 31. Tickets: $20-$75 Info: 346-6204; http://www.capitalrep.org -30-
Last week, the League of Historic American Theatres held its 35th Annual Conference at Proctors . LHAT attendee Jennifer Wright blogs on conference and Proctors http://www.wichitaorpheum.com/blog/uncategorized/one-historic-theatres-f... One Historic Theatre’s Field of Dreams By Jennifer on July 16, 2011 in Uncategorized If you build it they will come. Let me tell you about the amazing story of the Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, NY. Ten years ago, the Proctors was operating at a modest programming level, low attendance and the 1926 theatre was in dire need of restoration. The times in Schenectady were challenging to say the least. According to Proctors, their central business district was practically vacant and the community had hit rock bottom. Enter Philip Morris, the gregarious and entrepreneurial new CEO of the theatre. With Morris’ lead and support from board members and community leaders, the Proctors commenced a campaign to raise money to restore the theatre. With a combination of individual and corporate gifts and a temporary sales tax increase specifically aimed at downtown development, the culmination of efforts raised over $32 million dollars for the theatre. The Proctors was restored to its original glory, the stage house was expanded to make it more competitive and three additional performance spaces, in the form of a “black box” theatre with an iMax screen that seats 350 and an additional performance space made the Proctors a world-class facility for the performing arts. But that’s just the beginning! The investment made in the downtown theatre was a catalyst to a completely revitalized and transformed downtown. The theatre looked at every opportunity to engage with the community, including building its own power plant that supplies affordable power to most of their downtown neighbors and serves as a source revenue for the theatre. Before long, restaurants, bars, retail and residential spaces lined the once blighted street. Two new hotels were built within walking distance. After the Proctors underwent their restoration and expansion, several businesses relocated to downtown Schenectady including a transportation software company, Siemens, a Paul Mitchell cosmetology school and a new YMCA. Suddenly, downtown Schenectady was the “in” place to be. Today, the $32 million dollar investment into restoring the historic Proctors Theatre has turned into a $42 million annual economic impact on the city. The Proctors has turned into a world-class center for the performing arts with up to nine weeks per year dedicated to Broadway shows. But it’s not all about Broadway shows and “putting butts in seats,” said Morris. “It’s not just about the theatre, it’s about the community.” We at the Wichita Orpheum Theatre couldn’t agree more.
Best Arts Complex (Classic) Proctors 432 State St., Schenectady On any given night, Proctors may have a live performance on the mainstage, a movie being shown on the giant screen in the GE Theatre, an improv group making folks laugh in their “underground” space and something else again in their latest venue, Key Hall. And on that given night, when Proctors is humming with art and entertainment, there’s nothing else like it in the Capital Region. http://metroland.net/2011/07/14/arts-entertainment-best-of-2011/
Rocco Landesman: Stand-up comedian http://blog.timesunion.com/localarts/rocco-landesman-stand-up-comedian/1... July 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm by Michael Janairo, Arts & Entertainment Editor At the League of Historic American Theaters annual conference, taking place at Proctors in Schenectady, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman came up from Washington, D.C., to be the keynote speaker. After talking about the importance of arts as an economic engine (he called the arts a “poverty fighter” at one point), the famed former Broadway producer ended his talk with a joke. He said that Schenectady always reminded him of that famous song: “The hip bone Schenectady the leg bone; the leg bone is Schenectady the foot bone …”
NEA chair touts developing power of arts Proctors cited for impact on economy, quality of life http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2011/jul/16/0716_nea/ Saturday, July 16, 2011 By David Lombardo (Contact) Gazette Reporter Photographer: Marc Schultz League of Historic American Theatres 35th annual keynote address by National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Rocco Landesman on Friday afternoon at Proctor's Theater. Text Size: A | A | A SCHENECTADY — A rock star’s reception was bestowed on Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who delivered remarks to around 250 adoring fans at Proctors on Friday afternoon. Providing the high note for the five-day League of Historic American Theaters National Conference in Proctors, Landesman delivered remarks about using theaters and the arts to drive economic development and generally improve the area’s quality of life. The crowd was immediately won over when Landesman said, “I’ve been going around the NEA lately saying, ‘Here at the NEA, all the arts are equal, except theater.’ ” He credited Proctors with playing a large role in the revitalization of Schenectady and said this example shows a national trend. “I’m going to do what I can as chairman of the NEA to highlight that and make that case,” Landesman said. “I think Proctors and downtown Schenectady itself mirror the history of theaters and cities all across America.” He added that one unique difference in the case of Proctors is that it provided garbage collection on the block at one time. Landesman said, “Proctors is dedicated to … fully being a citizen of the community.” It was this role, as an active participant with an investment in the city, which Landesman said was the inspiration for the NEA’s program, “Our Town.” This program places an emphasis on an integrated role in communities for theaters that work with local governments and community and business leaders. “None of these sectors is looking at artists as interlopers or as a needy constituency,” Landesman said. “For once, it’s not what can we do for the arts, but what can the arts do for you.” He acknowledged that promoting this reality means breaking negative stereotypes about the arts community. This included reversing an atmosphere in the NEA that did nothing to counter the idea that the arts are elitist. Landesman acknowledged that they can only do so much, as they’ll probably never be mainstream because of the “subversive” nature of the arts. Ideally, he wanted to see a collaborative effort, with people connected with theaters and the arts reaching out into the community and engaging untapped resources. “We are calling on two things to happen simultaneously,” he said. “We need artists to invest in the places where they live, and we need places to invest in their artists.” During questions from the audience, Landesman expanded on the challenge of crafting “artist citizens” and said it starts with recognition of the clout these people have as a coalition. He also touched on the issue of art education in schools and lamented its shaky status, which he argued is detrimental to the overall learning process. “I’ve started referring to it as No Test Left Behind,” Landesman said of the focus on standardized testing. “It does leave some behind because the arts are often a place that catches kids who aren’t going to perform on those tests or excel in those subjects.” Throughout his remarks and while addressing the concerns of people in the audience, Landesman was treated to standing ovations, murmurs of agreement and even the occasional “amen.” Regarding the warm reception, he said, “This is a very validating session.” Afterwards, Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors, said he was very pleased with Landesman’s comments and was all smiles as he talked with members of League of Historic American Theaters. “The crowd loved it. He was terrific,” Morris said. Regarding the “Our Town” program, he reiterated that Proctors had pursued this venture by itself. “It’s interesting because its a theory … that we totally do,” he said. “It’s about connections and … building a better place.” In 2009 Proctors was named the Outstanding Historic Theatre in America by the League of Historic American Theatres.
Entertainer Leslie Uggams to share stories, songs during run at Cap Rep Saturday, July 16, 2011 By Bill Buell (Contact) Gazette Reporter “I don’t feel like I’m slowing down at all,” says actress and singer Leslie Uggams. “I work out a lot. I guess I have great genes. That helps keep me young.”Text Size: A | A | A Leslie Uggams’ fate was sealed early. With two show business parents — her father was a singer and her mother a dancer — there was little doubt about her career path. “Yeah, I was a little ham,” laughed Uggams, a star of stage, television and film and the first black female singer to be featured regularly on a weekly, prime-time television show (“Sing Along with Mitch,” 1963). “I always loved to sing, and being just a little girl I loved to dance. Any opportunity I got I’d take it.” Fortunately, along with the desire to perform, she had a wonderful voice. While her parents’ own dreams of stardom never materialized, their daughter was a huge hit at an early age. At 6 she had a recurring role as Ethel Waters’ niece in the 1950 television show “Beulah,” and at the age of 9 she was performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, opening for legends like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. She will share those memories and others — she had her own TV variety series and numerous successes on the Broadway stage — with Capital Repertory Theatre audiences when her one-woman show, “Uptown, Downtown,” opens in Albany on Tuesday night and runs through July 31. Career experiences “The show is based on my career and my experiences with the people I worked with,” she said in a phone conversation from her home in New York City earlier this month. “The response I got when I first did it was unbelievable. People were telling me: ‘Leslie, we love your stories. You gotta pursue this further.’ ” ‘Uptown, Downtown,’ with Leslie Uggams WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday — through July 31 HOW MUCH: $75-$20 MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.capitalrep.org Read full story at: http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2011/jul/16/0716_uggams/
NEA chief: Art fights poverty http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/NEA-chief-Art-fights-poverty-1... National Endowment for the Arts leader stresses value of culture at Proctors meeting By STEVE BARNES Senior writer Published 12:02 a.m., Saturday, July 16, 2011 1 of 5 View: Larger | Hide • Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, was the keynote speaker at this year's League of Historic American Theaters conference at Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y. Friday July 15, 2011. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union) Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts,... • Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, was the keynote speaker at this year's League of Historic American Theaters conference at Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y. Friday July 15, 2011. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union) Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts,... • Philip Morris. CEO of Proctors, thanks Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, for being the keynote speaker at this year's League of Historic American Theaters conference at Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y. Friday July 15, 2011. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union) Philip Morris. CEO of Proctors, thanks Rocco Landesman, the head of... • Philip Morris. CEO of Proctors, thanks Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, for being the keynote speaker at this year's League of Historic American Theaters conference at Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y. Friday July 15, 2011. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union) Philip Morris. CEO of Proctors, thanks Rocco Landesman, the head of... • Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, was the keynote speaker at this year's League of Historic American Theaters conference at Proctors in Schenectady, N.Y. Friday July 15, 2011. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union) Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts,... SCHENECTADY -- At a time when stark economic realities make the arts among the first victims of budget cuts, the nation's top arts executive is traveling the country to champion the economic and social value of cultural activities. "Art creates community attachment. It increases civic engagement and child welfare. And it fights poverty while driving local economies," said Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, during a speech at Proctors to a conference of theater executives. Citing academic studies that show communities with a strong arts presence are home to people who are more likely to vote, children who are less likely to be truant and have more vibrant, flexible economies, Landesman told the hundreds of assembled arts representatives that among their missions is to engage in what he called "creative placemaking." "Creative placemaking is, fundamentally, the ways that cities and towns use the arts and other creative assets to shape their social, physical and economic characteristics," Landesman said. For example, Landesman said, he needed to look no further than the organization that is host to this week's 35th annual conference of the League of Historic American Theatres. Proctors has been fundamental to the redevelopment of downtown Schenectady, an influence felt throughout the region, because it is equally dedicated to presenting a spectrum of quality performances and, Landesman said, to "fully being a citizen of its community." The conference, which began Wednesday and concludes Saturday, brought together more than 250 representatives of historic theaters from throughout the United States and Canada for panels, seminars, brainstorming sessions, networking and meals. "There isn't one person I've met this week that I haven't learned something interesting or useful from," said Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors. Morris enlisted the help of the state's two U.S. senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, to persuade Landesman, a hugely successful theater owner and Broadway producer currently on leave from his company while running the NEA, to appear at the conference. "Being at Proctors has been the most stunning experience in the 35-year history of the organization," said Fran Holden, executive director of the league of historic theaters. Reach Barnes at 454-5489 or email@example.com. Visit his blog at http://blogs.timesunion.com/tablehopping.
Her life is some story Entertainer Leslie Uggams bringing acclaimed biographical show to Albany By Michael Eck Special to the Times Union Published 12:02 a.m., Thursday, July 14, 2011 http://www.timesunion.com/entertainment/article/Her-life-is-some-story-1... 1 of 3 VIEW: LARGER | HIDE Leslie Uggams () Larger | Smaller Share Printable Version Email This Font Singer/actress Leslie Uggams hadn't intended to tell her life in song. It just happened that way. And what a life. At age 6, Uggams was already on television, playing the niece of the legendary Ethel Waters in "Beulah." At 9, she was opening for legends like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington at the notoriously tough Apollo Theater, where demanding audiences still "take no prisoners." At 15, Uggams was a guest on the game show "Name That Tune," winning $12,500 to put towards college -- and producer Mitch Miller saw the show and signed her to a recording contract. Miller also put her on his TV show "Sing Along with Mitch," making Uggams the first African-American performer to be regularly featured on a weekly prime-time program. And remember, all of this was accomplished before Uggams was out of high school. The seed for her autobiographical show, "Uptown Downtown," which opens at Capital Repertory Theatre in a limited summer engagement on Wednesday, was planted in February 2010 in her native Manhattan. "I was asked to be part of the American Songbook series they do at Jazz at Lincoln Center," she says. "I had already had a show I'd been doing where I talked about the Apollo and some of that other stuff and I thought, 'You know what, I haven't played my hometown in a long time and I really want it to be special.' " She joined forces once again with Michael Bush, who had directed Uggams in "Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Story," to assemble an evening's worth of song and chat. "We had gotten really close working on the Lena show and I felt that if I was going to something like this, I wanted to do it with Michael. "It began as a one-nighter, but the response was so strong -- 'We love the show, we love the story; you have to do more of it.' -- that we thought about expanding it. We got that opportunity when we took it out to the Pasadena Playhouse, and the response was just unbelievable." Uggams has to cover a lot of ground in "Uptown Downtown." In addition to the achievements listed above, she visits other career highlights. In 1968, at 24, she took the lead on Broadway in "Hallelujah, Baby!" She also took home a Tony Award for best actress in a musical comedy for the role. She also had a TV variety show on CBS, made records with Columbia and made her big screen debut opposite Charlton Heston in "Skyjacked." Each of these activities made Uggams a bigger star, but it was something else entirely that made her a household name. In 1976 Uggams became part of television history and American social history, playing Kizzy in the mini-series adaptation of Alex Haley's "Roots." "When we revamped and expanded the show, we realized we needed to talk about my television career," Uggams says. "Everybody knows Kizzy, and people wanted to hear about it." Uggams' appearance in "Roots" was so iconic that many fans didn't realize she also sang, but the craft has been part of her life for as long as she can remember. "My mother says I was singing when I was 3! I've always loved music and I've always been singing. It still thrills me now." Michael Eck is a frequent contributor to the Times Union. At a glance "UPTOWN DOWNTOWN" When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Where: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany Continues: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Through July 31. Tickets: $20-$75 Info: 346-6204; http://www.capitalrep.org
Morris, Proctors chief, named Patroon CEO led update of historic theater Thursday, July 14, 2011 By Michael Lamendola (Contact) Gazette Reporter Photographer: Marc Schultz Proctor's Theater CEO, Philip Morris was bestowed Schenectady Patroon by Mayor Gary McCarthy during luncheon for the 35th annual League of Historic American Theaters at Proctors on Wednesday afternoon Text Size: A | A | A SCHENECTADY — Proctors CEO Philip Morris has joined the elite ranks of recipients of the city’s highest honor. Acting Mayor Gary McCarthy named Morris a Patroon in a surprise announcement Wednesday afternoon during the start of a conference at Proctors of the League of Historic American Theatres. McCarthy called Morris a key player and an innovative thinker in revitalizing Schenectady’s downtown. The award is McCarthy’s first as acting mayor. Former Mayor Brian Stratton awarded nearly a dozen during his tenure. “Philip took Proctors from a local venue to a regionally recognized arts and entertainment mecca. He reflects what we all have been striving for,” McCarthy said. McCarthy said Morris has been a “dynamic force in converting Proctors into a nice venue. He understands the role arts can have in promoting and complementing economic development.” Morris, 56, said he was stunned to receive the award. “How many Greeks get the patroon award?” he joked. Morris became Proctors’ CEO nine years ago. Before that, he was executive director of the Arts Council of Chautauqua County for 25 years. Proctors is his second professional job. While in Jamestown, he oversaw the renovation of the Reg Lenna Civic Center, a 1,200-seat historic theater. He received a national award of “Best Renovation of an Historic Theatre” in 1990 for his efforts from the League of American Theatres. Born and raised in New Haven, Conn., Morris said he never intended to go into the arts field. After graduating from Hamilton College in Utica with a bachelor’s in history, he had planned to go into law. Instead, he found himself drawn to the arts. “I was a singer and I always loved the arts. I never thought I would be in it. It happened,” he said. He got his first taste when he managed a choir operation during a scholarship program in college. “I did it for three years and I loved it,” he said. The job in Jamestown soon followed. Read full story: http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2011/jul/14/0714_morris/
Donna Abbott Vlahos | The Business Review NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman will speak to members of the League of Historic American Theaters on July 15 at 1:30 p.m. at Proctors, the historic theater in downtown Schenectady. The chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts will be the keynote speaker at a five-day theater conference expected to draw 250 people to Proctors in Schenectady, New York. NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman will speak to members of the League of Historic American Theaters on July 15 at 1:30 p.m. at the historic theater in downtown Schenectady. Landesman was invited to speak by U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Besides being NEA chairman, Landesman is part of owner Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns five theaters on Broadway. His producing credits include the hit musical The Producers. The 35th annual theater conference, which kicks off July 13 with an awards luncheon, is the only national gathering of theater professionals focusing on historic theaters, according to Proctors officials. The League includes more than 325 theaters. The conference will include discussions, workshops, case studies, peer group sessions and a supplier expo. There will also be a tour of six historic theaters in the Albany/Hudson Valley area: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall , Palace Theater in Albany, Hudson Opera House , Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston and Ritz Theater in Newburgh.
http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/mamma-mia-proctors-review/ Mamma Mia! Rocks the Proctors Stage SHARE THE GEORGE! Mamma Mia, Proctors Theatre, Review Although die-hard theater fans are sure to disagree, many people say that once a musical is made into a movie, the future stage-productions can be ruined for first-time viewers. The movies are polished to such perfection that they can only highlight the limitations of a live rendition. Computers, editing, scene cutting, and multiple takes produce pitch-perfect melodies, uniformly charming expression, and an overall flawlessness that is the hallmark of movie musicals. But if you were one of millions who flocked to the theater in 2008 to make the film version of Mamma Mia! the highest grossing movie of the year, you will be happy to know that you are not ruined for watching the stage musical, playing at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady this week. The stage show has all the excitement, charm and beauty of the film thanks to a talented lineup of actors and singers that audiences couldn’t help but sing along with on Wednesday. Mamma Mia! was written for the stage and premiered in London in 1999. Written by British playwright, Catherine Johnson, the musical is based on the songs of the pop group ABBA and composed by former members of the band Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Since its premiere, more than 42 million people have seen the show, it has grossed over $2 billion worldwide and been performed in fourteen languages. The film version was released in July 2008, nine years after the show began, and starred Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth. Basing an entire plot off a handful of pop songs sounds like a dubious idea, but Mamma Mia! is neither contrived nor silly. By contrast, it is quite imaginative and original without being too serious. A 20-year old girl named Sophie Sheridan is living on a Greek island with her single mother Donna, who owns a white stucco tourist getaway. Sophie is preparing for her wedding to fiancé Sky, to which Donna is somewhat opposed. But there is one hitch in Sophie’s big plans: she wants her father to walk her down the aisle, but doesn’t know who he is. After reading her mother’s diary, she discovers that there are three men who could possibly be her father, and invites them all to her wedding hoping to discover the truth. The hilarity that ensues is just as tense and madcap as you would imagine. The show starts out with a roughly 3-minute deafening blast of music that is eventually discernible as an instrumental medley of songs in the play, against a blank wave-length blue-screen. This standalone boom of song is an apt opening for this show, where music is the source of excitement and the driving force. The first character we meet is Sophie, played by Chloe Tucker. While her singing has a touch of that campy Broadway-esque strain to it, she is definitely magnetic enough to charm every time she’s on the stage. Her scenes were heartfelt, funny and energetic throughout, and her chemistry with on-stage fiancé Sky was very sincere. But the true star of the show was Donna Sheridan, played by Kaye Tuckerman. With a shock of jet-black hair cut in a long pixie style, Tuckerman has a striking look even before you hear her voice. But her voice is what you look forward to throughout the show. It was powerful enough to hold its own amid the loud strains of ABBA’s music and had an energetic quality that makes you want to get up and dance in the aisles. And when she joined forces with the aged members of her former girl-group, The Dynamos, it was pure entertainment. Alison Ewing as Tanya and Mary Callanan as Rosie never stopped cracking jokes from beginning to end. The only disappointments were the dads, whose singing left a lot to be desired. Surprisingly this was also the case in the movie-version, so those who’ve watched the film won’t find any new drawbacks. The very best part of the Mamma Mia! show was the familiarity of all the musical numbers. The catchy pop tunes are ones that almost everyone has heard, and you can practically feel the urge of everyone around you to get up and dance the exciting and often hilarious choreography along with the cast. Although you couldn’t usually tell over the thunderous instrumentals, during lulls in the music you could hear the dull hum of the audience singing along, which is usually a no-no for musical shows. Partly because you couldn’t discern it, and partly because you wanted to do the exact same thing, the audience participation only added to the general excitement of the whole show. Mamma Mia! runs through July 10, 2011 at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady. –Jessica Nicosia is an Assistant Editor for The Free George. The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.
Proctors actors offer tips to fledgling performers (with photo gallery) Thursday, July 7, 2011 By Gwen Girsdansky Braodway actor and director Kevin McGuire, back, instructs Anthony Raus of Averill Park on how to hold his head and use expression while singing "This is the Moment" during Broadway Camp: Mamma Mia! at Proctors in Schenectady on Wednesday afternoon. SCHENECTADY — A richly laden table in a grand home crept into the mind’s eye. This vision was accompanied by the voice of a distraught older woman who was slowly losing her mind over the difficulties of etiquette and entertaining. But there was no table, no house nor even an old lady at Proctors on Wednesday. It was just soon-to-be college freshman Nicole Mecca bringing to life a monologue in front of 25 other campers and two cast members from the Broadway musical “Mamma Mia!”. Alison Ewing and Chris Myers, the cast members who are here this week to perform in “Mamma Mia!” at Proctors were part of a session on Wednesday that helped students learn what to expect from auditions and how to be better prepared. Ewing and Myers sat on the floor to watch many of the campers either preform songs or monologues as audition practice at the GE Theater in Proctors. “The kids were amazing. I did something like this in Alaska, and they weren’t at this level,” said Ewing, who will be playing Tanya, one of the three older women in the play. READ FULL STORY: http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2011/jul/07/0707_proctors/