All posts by Gretchen Van Benthuysen

When I was 11, I knew I wanted to be a journalist and I grew up to become the Entertainment Editor of the Asbury Park Press when I was 25. Fifteen years later I finally was able to write about theater in NJ and in NYC full-time for another 10 years, plus contribute articles and reviews to Variety, Back Stage and The Drama League. Now I run this website for fun. Before I left The Press I was the Web Producer for the Friday and Sunday Entertainment sections of The Press, Home News Tribune, Daily Record and Courier News. I learned a lot about Search Engine Optimization, key words and phrases and other ways to attract Google’s attention. If you have a business — or show business — these days you need a website that shows up on the first page of Google that your customers — or audience — check often to see what’s new on your blog, in your photo galleries, on your video accounts, etc. You want them to be a part of your community, your family, so when it’s time for your service — or opening night — they are there to support you.

NJ Repertory’s ‘& Juliet has world premiere

From left, John FitzGibbon, Jacob A. Ware and Nadia Brown in "& Juliet." (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)
From left, John FitzGibbon, Jacob A. Ware and Nadia Brown in “& Juliet.” (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)

A young, cutting-edge theater director finds himself rebooting his career at a small conservative college in a sylvan setting in the world premiere of “& Juliet” by Robert Caisley at the New Jersey Repertory Theater in Long Branch.

Charlie Vaughn (Jacob A. Ware) is moving boxes of books, theater cards and, of course Yorick’s “skull,” into his office as the new

semester begins. He soon is joined by David Hughes (John FitzGibbon), a theater professor who has taught at the college for 30 years and had expected to move into the corner office with the grand view himself. Continue reading NJ Repertory’s ‘& Juliet has world premiere

Reel 13 host Peña credits Paper Mill’s ‘Show Boat’ with verisimilitude

Nice, big, fat shout-out to Paper Mill Playhouse Saturday night during the Channel 13 screening of the 1951 version of “Show Boat” as part of its weekly Reel 13 classic movie feature.

At the end of “Show Boat” Prof. Richard Peña, currently the director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, talked about all the changes made to musical over the years including  downplaying the African-American characters, changing offensive lyrics, eliminating songs.

Eddie Bracken as Cap'n Andy Hawks and Rebecca Baxter as Magnolia in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of "Show Boat." It was featured on PBS' "Great Performances" series in 1989.
Eddie Bracken as Cap’n Andy Hawks and Rebecca Baxter as Magnolia in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of “Show Boat.” It was featured on PBS’ “Great Performances” series..

He noted that a live performance by the Paper Mill Playhouse was videotaped for television and shown on Great Performances on PBS  contains more of the songs (and fewer cuts) than any of the film versions. It also restored not only the original book of the 1927 Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein but other songs and dance numbers thrown away over the years, he said.

Continue reading Reel 13 host Peña credits Paper Mill’s ‘Show Boat’ with verisimilitude

‘Madame Secretary’ features Sondheim’s opener from ‘Company’

Smart TV shows don’t interrupt with commercials during the first 5+ minutes. Hook-and-keep viewers pattern. On Sunday, the first few minutes of the 7-minute opening of “Madame Secretary” was  underscored with the opening number from the original cast album of “Company.” It featured Erich Bergen’s morning routine as the character Blake, top aid to Téa Leoni‘s Elizabeth McCord’s U.S. Secretary of State.

Image of Eric Bergen
Eric Bergen

Bergen also live tweeted last night. He is best known for playing Bob Gaudio in the biographical musical drama film Jersey Boys. He attended the well-known Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Center in  New York for seven years.

Recently, the 31-year-old actor has spoken out about surviving testicular cancer.

Not the only actor on the show with stage credits, Bebe Neuwirth is a Tony Award-winning actress for roles of Nickie in the revival of Sweet Charity (1986), and Velma Kelly in the revival of Chicago (1996). Other Broadway musical roles include Morticia Addams in The Addams Family (2010), Lola in “Damn Yankees (1995) and the ensemble shows “Fosse” and revival of “Chicago.”

Patina Miller is best known for originating the role of disco diva wannabe Deloris Van Cartier in the 2009 West End and 2011 Broadway productions of Sister Act. She also starred as the Leading Player in the 2013 revival of Pippin for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Željko Ivanek, who plays Russell Jackson, has appeared in seven shows on Broadway.

Cast members of "Madame Secretary." Eric Bergen far right.
Cast members of “Madame Secretary.” Eric Bergen far right.

One more video  before you leave


‘Comet’ and Bette lead 2017 Tony Award noms

Screen Shot of 2017 Tony nominationsLet’s hope that revealing the 2017 Tony Awards  nominations at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center encourage theater lovers to spend as many hours as I did excavating the Theater on Film and Tape Archive.

The Tony Award nominations include, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” came out on top with 12 nominations, including Best Musical, Best Original Score for Dave Malloy, and Best Direction of a Musical for Rachel Chavkin, as well as nods for its two leads: Josh Groban and Denée Benton (both in their Broadway debuts).

Next, the woman whose LPs (look it up) I spent hours listening to in college: the great Bette Midler’s “Hello, Dolly!” earned 10 nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical and all four performance categories: Midler for Lead Actress, David Hyde Pierce for Lead Actor, Kate Baldwin for Featured Actress, and Gavin Creel for Featured Actor. I mean, was there any doubt!?

Continue reading ‘Comet’ and Bette lead 2017 Tony Award noms

Last weekend to catch Two River Theater’s ‘Women of Padilla’

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Tony Meneses new play, “The Women of Padilla,” is about eight women who are married to eight brothers who are away fighting an unknown war for an unknown cause that seems never-ending.

The title refers to the family’s last name and seven of the women spend hours together daily talking, eating, arguing, and laughing in a series of short scenes during the 90-minute play featuring an all-Latina cast. Continue reading Last weekend to catch Two River Theater’s ‘Women of Padilla’

2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards Announced

Christy Altomare plays the title character in the Broadway musical production “Anastasia.” (PHOTO: Matthew Murphy)

The just-opened Broadway musical “Anastasia” and the rapturously received revival of Hello, Dolly! are the top nominees of the 2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards. Both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions are eligible.

“Anastasia” earned 13 nominations while “Hello, Dolly!” received 10, including –duh — nods for leading players Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce, plus Kate Baldwin, and Gavin Creel.

Also showing well are “Come From Away” and the now-closed Atlantic Theatre Company’s  “The Band’s Visit,” which tied with seven nomination.  Paula Vogel‘s Broadway debut drama “Indecent” and Dan Sullivan‘s revival of Lillian Hellman‘s biting “The Little Foxes” each earned six nods.

Continue reading 2017 Outer Critics Circle Awards Announced

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ at Paper Mill Playhouse shakes up the house

Let’s just cut to the chase.  Nat Zegree practically steals the show at Paper Mill Playhouse playing the brash — let’s make that audacious — Jerry Lee Lewis  in “Million Dollar Quartet.” He ought to know what he’s doing by now as it’s the fifth time he’s played that part in the many productions of this jukebox musical about an unplanned event some say is a seminal moment in rock ‘n’ roll history.

The 2 1/2 musical features more than 20 classic hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Memories Are Made of This,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Hound Dog,” “(Ghost Riders in the Sky” and  “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Continue reading ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ at Paper Mill Playhouse shakes up the house

McCarter Theatre announces an exciting 2017-2018 season

McCarter Theatre just revealed a 2017-2018 season that includes the world premiere of Tony Award-winner Christopher Durang’s  “Turning Off the Morning News”; a revival of Regina Taylor’s gospel musical “Crowns” that had its world premiere here 15 years ago; a rare staging of Sam Shepard’s “Simpatico” in collaboration with Chicago’s A Red Orchid Theatre,  a recipient of this year’s MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions; Marie Jones’ Irish comedy “Stones in His Pocket” with two actors playing 15 plus characters. The musical biography “A Night With Janis Joplin,” written and directed by Randy Johnson, fills out the schedule.

Continue reading McCarter Theatre announces an exciting 2017-2018 season

Off-Broadway League announces Lucille Lortel Awards nominations

The Barrow Street Theater was converted into a pie shop for the immersive staging of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
The Barrow Street Theatre was converted into a pie shop for the immersive staging of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” nominated for seven Lucille Lortel Awards.

The new musical “Hadestown,” a folk opera produced by the New York Theatre Workshop, and the immersive “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” currently at the Barrow Street Theatre, each earned seven nominations in the 32nd Annual Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Achievement Off-Broadway, the Off-Broadway League  recently announced.

For plays, Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” and J.T. Rogers’” Oslo,” both currently on Broadway, each earned four  nominations, including for Outstanding Play.

Playwrights Horizons’ “A Life” also earned four nominations, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play for star David Hyde Pierce and Outstanding Director Anne Kauffman, earning her fourth career Lortel Award nomination; as did MCC Theater’s “YEN,” including one for recent Academy Award nominee Lucas Hedges for Outstanding Lead Actor.Lighting Designer Ben Stanton earned a nomination for the fifth consecutive year – and his seventh career nomination, including a win in 2011 – for his work on “YEN.” The newly added Outstanding Projection Design category netted a dual nomination for Peter Nigrini for his work on “Dear Evan Hansen” and  “Wakey, Wakey.”

Continue reading Off-Broadway League announces Lucille Lortel Awards nominations

World premiere ‘Orient Express’ to make next stop at Hartford Stage

The world premiere stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” closes Sunday at  McCarter Theatre in Princeton but its next stop will be at the Hartford Stage, Conn., as part to its 2018 Spring s

McCarter Theatre Center couldn’t be more excited to have ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ at Hartford Stage as the play’s next step in its journey,” said McCarter Theatre Center Managing Director Timothy J. Shields. “Hartford Stage is an ideal partner to continue the process of bringing the enduring legacy of Agatha Christie’s fabulous characters to life for today’s audiences.”

Continue reading World premiere ‘Orient Express’ to make next stop at Hartford Stage