On this day in classical music: Tchaikovsky’s “Valse Scherzo” for violin and orchestra received its premiere in Paris in 1878. The brief work was written for Iosif Kotek, a Russian violinist who enjoyed a long association with Tchaikovsky. Listen to Vadim Repin perform Tchaikovsky’s “Valse Scherzo.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNlbj5HKn1M
On this day in the musical theatre: “Urinetown” opened on Broadway in 2001. Set in a society where residents have to pay to use public toilets due to a 20-year drought, “Urinetown” poked fun at the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement and municipal politics. The musical proved to be a surprise hit during the 2001-02 theater season, winning Tony Awards for best book, score and direction of a musical. Listen to Hunter Foster and the original cast perform “Run Freedom Run” on the 2002 Tony Awards broadcast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5FA-PcA6aI
Urinetown - Original Broadway Cast
Musical musings: The Henry Miller, our Broadway destination, had been dark and derelict as a legitimate Broadway theater until only a few years before “Urinetown” transferred there. Broadway previews began Monday, Aug. 27, adjustments being made all the while as we approached our Sept. 13 opening. Monday, Sept. 10, as well as Tuesday, Sept. 11, were press nights, those specific performances critics attend in advance of a show’s actual premiere. Monday’s performance was strong…Tuesday, Sept. 11, was to be even more crucial, including theater writers from Newsday, the Associated Press, Variety and The New York Times. That performance, of course, never took place. The planes struck in the morning, and I, like many New Yorkers, spent the day alternately hovering by the radio, looking out my window toward downtown Manhattan, and venturing into the streets of my neighborhood to try to understand what had become of our city. Broadway performances were cancelled that evening, as they would be for the next, and as far as we knew, we wouldn’t be opening for some time. It was difficult to imagine how we could possibly present our absurdist comedy in the midst of so much tragedy, confusion and fear. But at the behest of the mayor, we did reopen, along with the rest of Broadway, inviting audiences to come back the Thursday after the attacks. Our audience was small, anxious, but eager, I think to be in one another’s company. Our director, John Rando, walked onstage and said simply that another word for life is creativity. Theater, he said, could not save lives, nor could it put out fires, but it could offer creativity and life, which is what we hoped to offer that night. The lights dimmed, the overture played, the actors took their places and the show began. Theater is a poor relative in some ways to other forms of entertainment, to cinema or television. But that night, for those audience members, there could have been no greater way to spend the evening than sitting in a theater witnessing fellow New Yorkers tell a story on a stage a few feet in front of them. Whatever fears that group of theatergoers had, for themselves or their city, the actors and the musicians and the crew had also. But those fears were shushed away for the evening by the choice to be together, in that place, at that time. – by “Urinetown” book writer and lyricist Greg Kotis
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