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Inside Theater

Designing on the Fly

Bryan Reesman •
  • April 2018
  • Inside Theater
• April 12, 2018
I usually cover Broadway and other large-scale productions for PLSN, but there is often much to be learned from more modest shows, particularly those faced with a very tight budget. Experienced designers often jump back into the off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway world not just to keep working, but also to try something different. Learning to work […] Read More...

The Rhythm (of Transitions) is Gonna Get You

Bryan Reesman •
  • Inside Theater
  • March 2018
• March 12, 2018
As it crisscrosses the country, the Tony Award-nominated musical On Your Feet continues to bring the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan vividly to life onstage, chronicling their ascension from modest beginnings to musical royalty through their group Miami Sound Machine. Six months in, the national tour has picked up after the show finished a nearly two-year run on Broadway. The original production, which features scenic design by David Rockwell and projections by Darrel Maloney, sweeps through dozens of scenes as it compresses decades of real life into key narrative moments. Read More...

Building a Better Backdrop

Bryan Reesman •
  • Current Issue
  • February 2018
  • Inside Theater
• February 16, 2018
While more and more Broadway shows have been shifting from traditional scenery to video walls and more elaborate practical sets, the art of the painted backdrop appears to be slowly waning. But in reality, many scenic designers still rely on this familiar stage element to create dynamic backdrops, and they can create a heightened sense of perspective when used the right way. Scenic designers Beowulf Boritt, Anna Louizos and Kevin Depinet all shared stories about their experiences with traditional backdrops on various productions they have worked on over the years. Read More...

SpongeBob in the Sea with Boulders

Bryan Reesman •
  • Inside Theater
  • January 2018
• January 11, 2018
There have been few Broadway shows as exuberantly trippy as SpongeBob SquarePants, a crowd-pleasing, family-friendly show inspired by the television series. This live version — which features original songs by the likes of Panic! At The Disco, Cyndi Lauper, and the Flaming Lips, among many others — crams as much colorful scenery and costumes and energetic song and dance numbers as it can into its two and a half hour stage time. Read More...
Song Liling (Jin Ha) during a colorful performance. Photo by Matthew Murphy

M. Butterfly

PLSN Staff •
  • Articles
  • December 2017
  • Inside Theater
• December 14, 2017
Song Liling (Jin Ha) during a colorful performance. Photo by Matthew Murphy

David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly re-emerges at a relevant moment in our history as the show delves into politics, gender identity and cultural stereotyping of the East by the West. Featuring some new material written in by Hwang to update it, the Broadway revival, the first since its original 1988-1990 run, was directed by Julie Taymor (of Spider-Man and Lion King fame), who is known for large, lavish productions.

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Elizabeth McGovern stars in this remake. Photos by Jeremy Daniel

‘Time and the Conways’ on Broadway

PLSN Staff •
  • Inside Theater
• November 9, 2017

Neil Patel Devises Scenic Transitions for a Vintage Time-Traveling Play

Time and the Conways is one of those rare Broadway revivals that truly makes vintage material relevant for a modern audience through a magical blend of performances and technical wizardry.

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The dazzling drop and staircase combo from the Follies section. Images courtesy Beowulf Boritt.

The Tetris of Broadway

PLSN Staff •
  • Inside Theater
• October 12, 2017

Beowulf Boritt is known for his bold, ambitious scenery in shows like Act One (a musical with a three-story revolving turntable) and Thérèse Raquin (a play with a river upstage). But for Prince of Broadway, the musical revue of the work of Broadway legendary Harold Prince, the Tony Award-winning scenic designer got a chance to create numerous old-school set pieces. The challenge was not to make everything fit onstage; it was storing it all in the wings of the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, which has not had a musical production mounted there since the Prince-directed Lovemusik, which Boritt also designed sets for, back in 2007.

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'1984' photos by Julieta Cervantes

‘1984:’ Feeding The Machine

PLSN Staff •
  • Inside Theater
  • September 2017
• September 10, 2017

The play 1984 has shocked audiences on Broadway with a mind-bending stage adaptation of the famous George Orwell novel that predicted our grim future. Perhaps that is why, in these tumultuous times, it has resonated with people; that, and the graphic torture scenes which have allegedly caused heart palpitations for some audience members. A big part of the show’s intensity emerges through Tom Gibbons’ jackhammer sound design and Tim Reid’s essential video design, which both creates intimacy for key off stage scenes, and a sense of disorientation and danger for some disturbing moments. Read More...

Beowulf Boritt’s elaborate set for Act One was one of the biggest to make use of a turntable. Photo by Joan Marcus

Turning the Tables

PLSN Staff •
  • Inside Theater
• August 15, 2017

Set Designers Discuss the Pros and Cons of Turntables

I remember the first time I saw a turntable in action was in a performance during the original run of Les Misérables in the spring of 1987. My teenage self had never experienced a Broadway show before, and it was all rather overwhelming, including the sequence where Jean Valjean races through a series of important events in his life that were represented through rotations on the show’s turntable. While I’ve always recalled that the sequence felt rushed (for the time), it was novel to me, it was state-of-the-art at the time, and it hinted at the direction that moving scenery would head towards in the future.

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Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room, a rolling display, gets flown in the wings when not in use. Photo by Joan Marcus

Winching in the Wings

PLSN Staff •
  • Inside Theater
• July 12, 2017

Mark Thompson Solved a Scenic Puzzle for Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been dazzling audiences with its fast pace, dazzling set pieces, and the buoyant energy of a nearly 40-person ensemble; notably, charismatic star Christian Borle as eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, who offers an exclusive tour of his factory to five lucky children.

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The band plays their climactic television number with 10-inch scoops hovering behind them. All photos by Jeremy Daniel

Going Big and Bold for ‘Bandstand’

PLSN Staff •
  • Inside Theater
• June 8, 2017

The Tony Award-nominated musical Bandstand is not quite what it appears to be. While it has been promoted as a peppy post-WWII musical, it is not simply extolling the big band virtues of that era. Underneath its dazzling veneer is the tale of a WWII veteran (Corey Cott) who returns home with few job prospects. He desires to form a jazz band with veterans to enter a television competition geared towards finding a great song dedicated to the service of American soldiers. Not only does he corral a spunky, talented group, but the wife (Laura Osnes) of his late best friend, who died in combat, becomes their charming singer.

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The townfolk of Gander rose to the challenge of helping the stranded passengers. Real trees flanked the wooden floor, wall and furniture. Photos by Matthew Murphy

Light from the Trees: ‘Come From Away’ on Broadway

PLSN Staff •
  • Inside Theater
• May 13, 2017

During the chaos and confusion of the 9/11 attacks, American airspace was closed, and many flights were diverted back to their point of origin or to other destinations. In one specific scenario, 6,700 airline passengers on 38 flights landed in the town of Gander on Newfoundland. Gander only has 10,000 residents, and over the next few days, the resilient, resourceful Canadians showed their unexpected guests hospitality, shelter and care in a way that surprised and moved many people. The new Broadway musical Come From Away celebrates those random acts of kindness in the wake of a horrible tragedy.

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