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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in the Middle East

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

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.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."