Jeff Lunden

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.

Lunden contributed several segments to the Peabody Award-winning series The NPR 100, and was producer of the NPR Music series Discoveries at Walt Disney Concert Hall, hosted by Renee Montagne. He has produced more than a dozen documentaries on musical theater and Tin Pan Alley for NPR — most recently A Place for Us: Fifty Years of West Side Story.

Other documentaries have profiled George and Ira Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart, Harold Arlen and Jule Styne. Lunden has won several awards, including the Gold Medal from the New York Festival International Radio Broadcasting Awards and a CPB Award.

Lunden is also a theater composer. He wrote the score for the musical adaptation of Arthur Kopit's Wings (book and lyrics by Arthur Perlman), which won the 1994 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. Other works include Another Midsummer Night, Once on a Summer's Day and adaptations of The Little Prince and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for Theatreworks/USA.

Lunden is currently working with Perlman on an adaptation of Swift as Desire, a novel of magic realism from Like Water for Chocolate author Laura Esquivel. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Theater
3:05 am
Sun June 9, 2013

Clothes Make The Man (And The Woman, And The Show) On Broadway

Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana and the ensemble of Cinderella — one of the Broadway season's more lavish musicals, whose costume designer, William Ivey Long, is nominated for his sixth Tony Award.
Carol Rosegg

Originally published on Sun June 9, 2013 4:37 pm

Part of what makes a Broadway show a Broadway show — read "splashy," especially if we're talking musicals — is the costumes. Some shows feature hundreds.

And a battalion of workers is involved in a highly choreographed backstage ballet, not just to keep the actors looking good but to help them change costumes almost instantaneously.

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Theater
3:55 am
Sat May 25, 2013

Equity At 100: More Than Just A Broadway Baby

His statue may be a Theater District landmark now, but George M. Cohan caused no small amount of trouble for Actors' Equity early in its history. The union marks its 100th anniversary this year.
Timothy A. Clary AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat May 25, 2013 11:19 am

"Don't put your daughter on the stage," Noel Coward famously cautioned his imaginary Mrs. Worthington, and no wonder: Stage acting is one of the toughest professions imaginable. For all the potential triumph, there's hardly any job security — and more than a little potential for heartbreak and disappointment.

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Music Interviews
12:03 am
Sat May 18, 2013

Audra McDonald, A Broadway Star Gone Roaming, Comes Home

Audra McDonald's new album, Go Back Home, marks a return to her roots in musical theater.
Autumn de Wilde Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun May 19, 2013 7:24 am

In the seven years since her last album, Audra McDonald has kept busy. She spent several years in Hollywood, filming the television series Private Practice. She's gotten divorced and remarried, absorbed the shock of losing her father in a plane crash and watched her daughter, Zoe, grow up from a kindergartener to a middle-schooler.

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Theater
1:23 am
Thu April 25, 2013

'Pippin' Revival Is A Circus Of A Show

The role of the Leading Player (Patina Miller) becomes a kind of circus ringmaster in the new Broadway revival of Stephen Schwartz's 1972 musical Pippin.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:46 am

When Pippin opened in 1972, it was a sensation. Directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, who was coming off his Academy Award-winning film version of Cabaret, it was a showbiz triumph of jazz hands, sexy dancing and theatrical magic.

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Theater
3:02 pm
Sat April 13, 2013

A 'Caesar' With An African Accent

Patterson Joseph plays Brutus, the friend whose betrayal wounds Caesar most — and whose suicide caps off the play's second act.
Richard Termine BAM

Originally published on Sat April 13, 2013 4:09 pm

The 400-year-old plays of William Shakespeare are constantly being reinterpreted and re-envisioned for new generations. Recently, England's Royal Shakespeare Company produced a Julius Caesar set in contemporary Africa that was a hit at the World Shakespeare Festival, presented in conjunction with the London Olympics. Now the RSC has brought it to America.

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Theater
12:32 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

'Matilda' Brings Beloved Book To Broadway

The Broadway cast of Matilda the Musical, including Olivier Award-winning actor Bertie Carvel as the barbaric headmistress Miss Trunchbull.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 3:49 pm

Matilda is a well-loved book by Roald Dahl, who's been called the greatest children's storyteller of the 20th century. It's about a much-put-upon little girl with tremendous gifts. Now, Matilda has been turned into a Broadway musical.

The British import, which won last year's prestigious Olivier Award and features a revolving cast of four little girls in the lead role, opens in New York tonight.

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Theater
2:33 am
Sat April 6, 2013

On Broadway, Old Shows And New Tricks

Willemjin Verkaik is the latest leading lady to play Elphaba, the misunderstood green girl who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West in Broadway's long-running Wicked. She has also played the role in Dutch and German in Europe.
Bankhoff-Mogenburg

Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 9:08 am

When I was a teenager falling in love with the theater, I picked up a book called Broadway's Greatest Musicals. The sole criterion for inclusion was that a show run for at least 500 performances, which translates to about a year and a quarter.

How quaint.

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Theater
1:17 am
Thu April 4, 2013

'Kinky Boots' Walk Cyndi Lauper To Broadway

Struggling shoe-factory owner Charlie (Stark Sands, left) is inspired by drag queen Lola (Billy Porter) to make high-quality high-heeled boots for men who perform as women in the Broadway adaptation of the cult film Kinky Boots.
O and M Co.

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 8:01 am

If you ask Billy Porter, one of the lead actors in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, what the show's about, he's got a succinct answer:

"It's about two people who have daddy issues," Porter says. "And one of them just happens to wear a dress."

Porter would be that guy: He plays Lola, a fabulous drag queen who inadvertently helps save a failing shoe factory in the English Midlands. And he gets to sing fabulous songs — by Cyndi Lauper.

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Theater
3:25 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Nora Ephron's 'Lucky Guy' And Tom Hanks Make Their Broadway Debuts

Nora Ephron's final play, Lucky Guy, tells the story of controversial New York columnist Mike McAlary, played by Tom Hanks. (Also pictured: Peter Gerety as John Cotter).
Boneau / Bryan-Brown

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 6:57 pm

Several years ago, when Nora Ephron handed Tom Hanks an early draft of Lucky Guy, her play about tabloid journalist Mike McAlary, he had a pretty strong reaction.

"I said, 'Well, that guy's sure a jerk!' I used another word besides jerk — I know what you can say on NPR," he says. "And she laughed and she said, 'Well, he kinda was. But he was kinda great, too.'"

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Theater
3:45 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

For This Pair Of Clowns, 'Old Hats' Means New Laughs

Nellie McKay, David Shiner and Bill Irwin use old-time comedy, newfangled tricks and zany music to score laughs in their new theatrical revue, Old Hats.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 5:14 pm

Twenty years ago, theatrical clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner collaborated on a Broadway show called Fool Moon — a giddy mixture of slapstick, improv and audience participation that proved such a success that it came back to Broadway for two more runs and toured both the U.S. and Europe. Now Irwin and Shiner have put together a new show called Old Hats, and it's been receiving rave reviews off-Broadway.

Irwin and Shiner's rubber-faced, loose-bodied clowning hasn't gotten easier over two decades.

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Theater
4:05 am
Sat March 2, 2013

'Don't Underestimate The Guts' Of This Modern Leading Lady

Laura Osnes appears in the title role of a new Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Though her career began unconventionally, she's already had considerably conventional success.
Carol Rosegg

Originally published on Sat March 2, 2013 9:04 am

This weekend, a new adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein television classic Cinderella opens on Broadway. It stars Laura Osnes, the ingenue of the moment. But Osnes' career path has had an unusual trajectory.

Six years ago, the then-21-year-old was newly wed and fresh out of Minnesota. She landed on Broadway in the lead role of Sandy in a revival of Grease. It's not surprising that that show, about teenagers, would cast unknowns in the leads, but how she and her co-star, Max Crumm, got there was unconventional, to say the least.

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History
1:40 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Grand Central, A Cathedral For Commuters, Celebrates 100

Originally published on

Friday marks the day that 100 years ago, Grand Central Terminal opened its doors for business for the very first time. The largest railroad terminal in the world, the magnificent Beaux-Arts building is in the heart of New York City on 42nd St. And while it no longer serves long-distance trains, it's still a vibrant part of the city's eco-system.

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Theater
4:55 am
Sun January 27, 2013

25 Years Strong, 'Phantom Of The Opera' Kills And Kills Again

Hugh Panaro is The Phantom and Sierra Boggess is Christine in the 25th anniversary cast of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Sun January 27, 2013 11:31 am

The longest-running Broadway musical ever, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, celebrated Saturday another milestone: its 25th anniversary.

When it all started Jan. 26, 1988, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, a gallon of gas cost about 90 cents and a ticket to The Phantom of the Opera was a whopping $50. It was the hottest ticket in town.

Times have changed, prices have changed, but that disfigured, tortured genius who haunts the Paris Opera House, creating havoc and causing the chandelier to fall, has endured.

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Music News
12:03 am
Sat January 26, 2013

The Composer Who Tested Fighter Planes And Partied With Sinatra

Jimmy Van Heusen with Frank Sinatra in the 1950s. Van Heusen wrote dozens of songs for the crooner and became Sinatra's close friend and confidant.
Courtesy of Burns Media Productions

Originally published on Sat January 26, 2013 3:36 pm

You've never heard of Jimmy Van Heusen? Well, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers has. You certainly know many of his songs, says Brook Babcock, Van Heusen's grandnephew and president of his publishing company.

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Theater
1:45 am
Thu January 17, 2013

A Cooler Roof For A New 'Cat'

In Rob Ashford's new production of the classic play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Scarlett Johansson plays an earthier version of restless sex kitten Maggie.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 9:11 am

There are certain classic American plays that are revived on Broadway every decade or so, to let a new generation of actors and audiences discover them. Tennessee Williams' 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, running through March 30, is one of those iconic plays.

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Theater
1:47 am
Tue January 8, 2013

A Vet's Haunted Homecoming In 'Water By The Spoonful'

Liza Colon-Zayas plays a troubled character named Odessa Ortiz, who finds her better self online. She's pictured above with Bill Heck, as Fountainhead.
Richard Termine

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 4:06 am

The cliche about writers is they should write what they know, and that old saw has certainly worked for Quiara Alegria Hudes. The 35-year-old playwright has mined her Puerto Rican family's stories into a series of plays, a musical and even a children's book. Now, her Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Water by the Spoonful, is being brought to life in the first New York production of the play, opening off-Broadway on Tuesday evening.

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Theater
1:27 am
Fri December 21, 2012

Broadway's Profit-Turning, Crowd-Pleasing Christmas Story

Jordan Gelber plays Buddy the Elf in Elf on Broadway. The limited-run production may not turn a profit immediately, but producers have a multipronged strategy for making money.
Joan Marcus The Hartman Group

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 6:37 pm

The Christmas season is when retailers make the bulk of their profits, Hollywood blockbusters rake it in, and Broadway theaters are filled to capacity. In recent seasons, Broadway has even staged special limited-run holiday musicals — among them, adaptations of A Christmas Story and Elf — to take advantage of the hordes of tourists in New York looking for entertainment. But with production costs so high, how can these shows make their money back? The answer, it turns out, is complicated.

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Deceptive Cadence
2:03 am
Fri November 30, 2012

The Peony Pavilion: A Vivid Dream In A Garden

A garden serves as the stage in the opera.
Zhang Yi

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 7:43 pm

The Peony Pavilion is one of China's most famous operas, but uncut performances of this romantic 16th century work can take more than 22 hours. Chinese composer Tan Dun, who's best known for his Academy Award-winning score for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has adapted the work into a compact 75 minutes.

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Deceptive Cadence
10:00 pm
Fri November 9, 2012

John Williams' Inevitable Themes

Flanked by composer Leonard Slatkin and soprano Jessye Norman, John Williams takes a bow during his 80th-birthday celebration at Tanglewood in August.
Stu Rosner

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 8:52 am

For more than 50 years, John Williams' music has taken us to galaxies far, far away through adventures here on earth, made us feel giddy joy and occasionally scared us to death.

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Arts & Life
4:35 am
Sun November 4, 2012

Sandy Pulls Curtain Over N.Y. Art Scene

Originally published on Sun November 4, 2012 10:08 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Among the areas hit hard by Superstorm Sandy were Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Chelsea, home to many of the city's art galleries, jazz clubs, dance venues and off-Broadway theaters. Jeff Lunden spoke with some of those making plans to get back to work now that power has returned.

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Performing Arts
3:35 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Broadway To Sandy: The Show Is Back On

Superstorm Sandy starting hitting New York on Monday. By Wednesday, life had returned to the Time Square theater district.
John Lamparski Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 4:42 pm

One of New York's biggest economic engines reopened on Wednesday after being dark in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Broadway brings in more than $1 billion in annual ticket sales and billions more in revenue from hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the Times Square area. But getting Broadway running, with much of the transportation system down, required some extreme measures.

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Theater
3:44 am
Sun October 28, 2012

Star-Studded 'Heiress' Considers A Woman's Worth

Jessica Chastain makes her Broadway debut as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress. Chastain says she was moved by the arc of her character's story — initially defined by the men in her life, but ultimately finding strength in herself.
(c) 2012 Joan Marcus

Originally published on Sun October 28, 2012 8:58 am

A much-anticipated revival of The Heiress, a 1947 play based on the Henry James novella Washington Square, opens in New York on Thursday. It marks the Broadway debut of two accomplished young stars — Jessica Chastain, the Academy Award nominee from The Help, and Dan Stevens, from the hit television series Downton Abbey.

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Deceptive Cadence
12:03 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Philadelphia Orchestra Reboots With New Music Director

Yannick Nezet-Seguin leads the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Ryan Donnell

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 10:11 am

Everywhere you look right now, it seems like American symphony orchestras are fighting for their lives — strikes, lockouts, bankruptcy. Perhaps the biggest example is the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, which is just coming out of its own bankruptcy. Tonight, its new 37-year-old music director takes the podium as the venerable orchestra begins a reboot.

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Deceptive Cadence
2:06 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

During Lockout Season, Orchestra Musicians Grapple With Their Future

The Minnesota Orchestra is one of many orchestras around the country dealing with labor disputes.
Greg Helgeson

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 11:05 am

It's been a tumultuous time for American orchestras. Labor disputes have shut down the Minnesota Orchestra and Indianapolis Symphony, and strikes and lockouts have affected orchestras in Chicago, Atlanta and Louisville in the past year.

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Theater
1:33 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Shorts Inspire Music In 'Sounding Beckett' Trilogy

In Ohio Impromptu, one of three short plays featured in Sounding Beckett, the silent character (Philip Goodwin, left, with Ted van Griethuysen) inspired music based on knocks and repetitions.
Jeremy Tressler Sounding Beckett

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:09 pm

It all began last year, when the Library of Congress presented Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu alongside a piece of music by composer Dina Koston, which responded to the text. A New York group, the Cygnus Ensemble, played the music, while Washington, D.C., director Joy Zinoman staged the play, for one night only.

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Performing Arts
2:49 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

In New York, Two Big Arts Institutions Go Small

LCT3's Claire Tow Theater is a two-story structure built on a steel truss that straddles the roof of Lincoln's Vivian Beaumont Theater. Before or after performances, theatergoers can mingle over drinks at a roofdeck bar that overlooks Lincoln Center and the surrounding neighborhood.
Francis Dzikowski/ESTO Courtesy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 6:21 pm

Lincoln Center represents New York culture with a capital C. The Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM, across the river, has long presented scrappy alternative programming. But both recognize that to survive and thrive, they need to develop new works and new audiences.

Now, those two big artistic institutions have decided to go small. The Lincoln Center Theater and the Brooklyn Academy of Music have invested millions of dollars to fund new theater spaces for new work.

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Theater
4:24 am
Sun September 2, 2012

Broadway Spoofers Return To 'Forbidden' Territory

Natalie Charle Ellis, Scott Richard Foster, Jenny Lee Stern and Marcus Stevens are part of Gerard Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway troupe, which is returning to the stage after a three-year hiatus.
Carol Rosegg Forbidden Broadway

After 27 years of writing wickedly funny lyrics and sketches for Forbidden Broadway, the tiny off-Broadway comedy that satirizes Broadway musicals, Gerard Alessandrini decided to hang things up for a while.

"I just thought, let's see what happens to Broadway in a year or two or three, and then, if we feel it warrants a new edition of Forbidden Broadway, we'll do that," he says. "And that's exactly what happened."

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Deceptive Cadence
4:39 am
Sat August 4, 2012

Gathering Of The Viols: The 50th Annual Viola Da Gamba Conclave

Jack Ashworth, Tina Chancey, Lisa Terry and Phillip Serna perform Sunday during the closing banquet of the weeklong conclave at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del.
Scott Mason

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 1:59 pm

Viola da gamba players are a special breed — a tiny subset in the already small world of early classical music. They rarely meet their own kind, but once a year they come together for a week in July at an annual jam session they call a conclave. Wendy Gillespie, who just finished her term as president of the Viola da Gamba Society of America, says attending the event is the highlight of her year.

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Remembrances
11:43 am
Sun July 15, 2012

'Oklahoma!' Actress Celeste Holm Dies At 95

Originally published on Sun July 15, 2012 4:10 pm

Academy Award-winning actress Celeste Holm has died. A star on both stage and screen, Holm was best known for roles in Gentleman's Agreement, All About Eve and Oklahoma! She was 95.

Holm died early Sunday morning in her Manhattan apartment with her husband, family and close friends by her side. She had been hospitalized a couple weeks ago following a fire in actor Robert De Niro's apartment in the same building.

If there was one role that put Holm on the map, it was as the coquettish Ado Annie, in the 1943 hit musical, Oklahoma!

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Deceptive Cadence
12:03 am
Sat July 14, 2012

Tanglewood: Celebrating Beethoven In The Backwoods For 75 Years

Christoph von Dohnanyi and the Boston Symphony play Beethoven in the opening night concert of the Tanglewood Festival's 75th anniversary.
Hilary Scott Boston Symphony

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 2:22 pm

It now seems like a natural rite of summer — open-air classical music festivals where audiences can hear great music while picnicking under the stars. But 75 years ago, when the Boston Symphony first performed on a former estate called Tanglewood in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, it was a novel idea.

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