|Lion King display|
All photos Laurel Marcus
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Since London (where LFW will soon be wrapping up) has been called a "mirror-world" of New York City, it makes sense that the current exhibition (through June 30) at The New York Public Library For The Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, "Curtain Up: Celebrating The Last 40 Years of Theatre in New York & London" focuses on long-running shows that have won (or been nominated for) awards in both cities. The Tony awards are currently in their 70th year while the Olivier's are in their 40th, making this a good time to compare and contrast the two symbiotic theatre districts: Broadway and the West End. A Tom Piper "street map" combining elements of the two, is underfoot as you enter the space.
|Costumes for "Chicago" 1997|
Through costumes, costume sketches, set design models, prompt scripts, video clips and other interesting objects, tales of some of the great productions of our collective consciousness are illustrated. The exhibition was co-curated by NYPL and the Victoria and Albert Museum, in partnership with the Society of London Theatre.
|Model of Stage for "Matilda"|
The exhibition traces elements of elaborate versus more simple set design, the invention of Tharon Musser's digital automated lighting design, as well as the rise and fall of the British "mega-musical." After the elaborate excesses of many of the '70s and '80s spectacles, the '90's trend was towards a more "pared-down style of presentation, with minimal scenery," according to Tony Kushner's notes of "Angels in America."
|Costume for Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience"|
Some of the highlights: if you are a fan of "A Chorus Line," you will not want to miss the hall of mirrors displaying the top hats worn in the finale along with the original video next to a poster of its iconic stars director/writer/choreographer/dancer Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie.For "Phantom of the Opera" buffs,
|Costume designs for "The Phantom at the Opera" 1986|
|Bob Gaudio "Dawn" from "Jersey Boys" & Lola's "Kinky Boots"|
The ballet costume worn by Rudolph Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet at the 1977 London Festival Ballet, which toured to the Metropolitan Opera House here can be viewed just a few steps away from Lola's "Kinky Boots" (2013). The red boots which form the letter "K" in the show's official logo have become as iconic as the white mask used for "Phantom of the Opera."From a male "Swan Lake" dancer's costume to costume design sketches for Ann Reinking as Roxie Hart in her 1996 appearance in "Chicago," from Judi Dench's attire in 1987's "Antony and Cleopatra," to a large room of "Lion King" costumes, the wearable items alone run the gamut of theatrical genres.
Interestingly, the day that I visited happened to be when Jeff Hamlin (original stage manager for "A Chorus Line" as well as "South Pacific," "Dreamgirls," "War Horse" and many other shows) was giving a talk. Hamlin, who had a background in Shakespeare festivals and originally wanted to direct, "dished" a bit on working with/being hired by Michael Bennett ("he liked that I was so buttoned down"), as well as composer Marvin Hamlisch ("In rehearsals he would do riffs on the theme song 'One' as it would be played by Tchaikovsky, Mozart or Bach"). He spoke of the many luminaries who frequented the audience -- names like Katharine Hepburn, Raquel Welch, Nureyev, even Mayor LaGuardia attended the show -- often sitting in the aisles.
|Ballet costume for Rudolph Nureyev in "Romeo & Juliet" 1977|
|Red Death costume designed for "The Phantom of the Opera" 1986|
Then there was the time the flu hit the Chorus Line cast, which unfortunately lacked sufficient understudies. Right before the performance the long list of who was substituting for who was read however the main characters Sheila and Cassie shared only one understudy. "They had to make an announcement that the role of Sheila was to be absorbed by others, which we did by having various castmates deliver her lines."
After all, the show must go on...
- Laurel Marcus