News / Arts & Entertainment

    Long-running Broadway Shows Keep It Fresh

    Dancers from "The Lion King" perform during the opening number at the 62nd Annual Tony Awards in New York, June 15, 2008.
    Dancers from "The Lion King" perform during the opening number at the 62nd Annual Tony Awards in New York, June 15, 2008.
    The Phantom of the Opera recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, making it the longest-running Broadway musical ever.  

    Hugh Panaro, who plays the phantom, has a unique perspective. His first stint with the show was 22 years ago, when he played the young lover Raoul. Over the years, Panaro left the show to do other roles, but has returned several times, portraying the phantom in more than 1,700 performances.  

    Part of what keeps things fresh for him is playing opposite different actresses in the lead role of Christine.

    "You know, 15, easily," Panaro said. "And that’s not counting understudies. That’s counting girls that have held this contract from the time I was Raoul until now. I get two Christines a week and no two Christines are alike, which is the beauty of it."

    Keeping Broadway Fresh
    Keeping Broadway Freshi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    At the Gershwin Theatre nearby, production stage manager Marybeth Abel is putting a new actor into the role of Boq at Wicked. That's the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. The show celebrates its tenth anniversary in October.

    "I always say my primary job is to make sure the show goes on every night as scheduled, and that we do it successfully, and we get a standing ovation at the end of the night," she said.

    Abel works with the actors and backstage crew, about 120 people, to make sure the show runs smoothly eight times a week. She also runs afternoon and evening rehearsals, and teaches understudies and new performers where to move onstage and when.

    "When you’re in a long-run show, the best thing that happens is there’s turnover in cast," Abel said. "That’s the best thing that happens, because all those influxes of difference make everybody, like, step up."  

    One of the new actors is Willemjin Verkaik, who plays Elphaba, the green girl who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. Verkaik is from the Netherlands and has played Elphaba in Europe in both Dutch and German. Now she’s doing it on Broadway in English.

    Although she's following in the footsteps of Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, she’s found ways to make the part her own.

    "You are an actor so you have to play it yourself, and you have to make it believable," Verkaik said. "You have to believe it yourself, so you have to go on that journey yourself."

    Every show has a resident director who acts as liaison between the original creators and the cast. That’s John Stefaniuk’s job at The Lion King, which recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary. He travels the globe overseeing as many as eight productions of the show.

    "It’s not a factory job," Stefaniuk said. "You want to allow these actors to feel like actors and treat them as such, not feel like replicas of somebody else’s show."

    Ron Kunene has been a bass in The Lion King chorus for all fifteen years. Born in South Africa, he has a second job on the show, helping actors in New York and in other companies, with some of the African dialects.

    But what keeps the show fresh for Kunene is seeing the expression on the faces of audience members.  

    And even though he’s seen The Lion King hundreds of times, resident director Stefaniuk never finds it boring.

    "I think, after all these years, if it doesn’t still send a shiver up my back, then I’m not doing my job," he said.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Border Crossings: A Great Big Worldi
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    April 27, 2016 12:30 PM
    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."

    Duo Ian Axel and Chad King who are better known as "A Great Big World" released their sophomore CD in 2015, "When the Morning Comes" and they join Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from the new CD and also their biggest hit, "Say Something."