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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.

It's a quiet afternoon at the Tex-Mex restaurant in Brooklyn where playwright Robert Askins works the day shift twice a week. Even though his play, Hand to God, is on Broadway and he's got a Tony nomination, Askins says he enjoys interacting with the regulars, most of whom know about his other job.

"When you day bar during the weekdays, you're the only one in the restaurant," he says. "So, you run the food and make the drinks and put it on the tables and it's good."

At 82, legendary South African playwright Athol Fugard is still actively writing and directing new plays. His latest, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, which looks at his country during the apartheid era and after, opens off-Broadway tonight.

For decades, Fugard worked tirelessly, both in South Africa and in exile, to illuminate the injustices of apartheid in his plays. And when it finally ended and Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994, Fugard was convinced his career was over.

Director Bartlett Sher has been familiar with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's The King and I since he performed it in high school, but he didn't learn the actual history behind the musical until he started working on a critically lauded revival that recently received nine Tony nominations. In the real story, a young woman of English and Indian heritage — Anna Leonowens, the "I" in The King and I — receives an invitation from King Mongkut of Siam to teach at his court. The year is 1862.

Actor Bill Nighy is best known in the U.S. for his appearances in films such as Love Actually and Pirates of the Caribbean. But in England, he's a well-known stage actor, and one of his most successful collaborations is with playwright David Hare. They're together again on Broadway in a revival of Hare's 1995 drama, Skylight.

The actor and the writer first worked together on a television movie in 1980 and they've been working on and off ever since.

The last time Dame Helen Mirren and author Peter Morgan collaborated, it was for the movie The Queen, and she took home an Oscar. Now the two are working together again, this time on a play called The Audience. It's about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers. A hit in London, the play is opening Sunday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway.

The Audience begins with a Buckingham Palace officer named "The Equerry," who tells the theater audience what it's about to see.

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins may be only 30 years old, but he's already compiled an impressive resume. His theatrical works, which look at race and identity in America, have been performed in New York and around the country. Last year, Jacobs-Jenkins won the best new American play Obie Award for two of his works, Appropriate and An Octoroon.

An Octoroon is currently playing at Theater for a New Audience in New York.

Imagine going to a small, off-Broadway theater for a one-person show that relies heavily on audience participation — and it's all about depression and suicide. That might sound like a theatrical nightmare, but the show in question — Every Brilliant Thing, currently playing at the Barrow Street Theatre — is also very funny and has been getting rave reviews.

"Normally, I loathe that kind of thing," says Ben Brantley, the chief drama critic for The New York Times.

Broadway is New York's biggest tourist attraction and brought in $1.3 billion in ticket sales last season. But it's also a high-stakes gamble for producers, since only 1 in 4 Broadway shows turns a profit. This month, two of the fall's most highly anticipated musicals, a revival of Side Show and The Last Ship, with songs by Sting, have thrown in the towel — closing, having lost almost their entire investments.

New York is saying goodbye to another historic building. Steinway Hall, the main showroom for Steinway & Sons pianos, will be moving to a new location, leaving its home of almost 90 years on 57th Street near Carnegie Hall. The first floor has been designated a landmark and will be preserved, while the rest of the building will be torn down to build high-rise luxury condominiums.

Yesterday, about 50 protestors — and some media outlets — gathered on West 47th Street near Times Square for a rally to save the Café Edison, a diner whose clientele includes everyone from Broadway luminaries to tourists. People carried signs, local politicians spoke, and a quartet sang — to the tune of "Silver Bells" — an ode to the cafe's matzoh balls.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II may have been one of the most successful writing teams in Broadway history — think of Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music, just to name a couple of their hits.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

British novelist Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time became an international best-seller after it was published in England in 2003. The book is told entirely from the perspective of a brilliant 15-year-old boy who happens to be autistic, and a stage adaptation, which has been an award-winning hit in London, just opened on Broadway to rave reviews.

Peter Brook is truly the grand old man of world theater. He became famous with his productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1960s; wrote the seminal theater text The Empty Space; and started the International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris, where he developed such plays as the nine-hour adaptation of the Sanskrit epic, The Mahabharata.

Now, at the age of 89, Brook has brought his company to Brooklyn with a new play all about the mysteries of the human brain.

Sometimes good things come in small packages. Nonesuch Records, which started as a tiny independent budget classical label in 1964, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with three weeks of concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The label became a force in the recording industry by pioneering electronic music and world music, launching the ragtime revival and becoming a place where contemporary classical composers had a home. Now an industry powerhouse, Nonesuch still operates like an independent record company.

A labor crisis threatening to shut down New York's Metropolitan Opera — the largest opera house in the world — appears to have been averted. Two of the major unions announced a tentative settlement this morning. While agreements with 10 additional unions need to be reached by Tuesday night, this represents a major turning point in a bitter dispute.

At the Metropolitan Opera, drama is usually onstage. But for the past several months, it's been in the newspapers.

Contract deadlines for 15 of the 16 unions at the Met in New York are set to expire at midnight tonight, and negotiations will likely go down to the wire. A lockout shutting down the world's largest opera house seems imminent.

Management wants concessions from the unions to offset dwindling ticket sales. Union employees think they're being asked to pay for unchecked spending.

The clock is ticking for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The world's largest opera company may be headed for a shutdown. Most of the union contracts for the Met expire in a week. Yesterday, Met General Manager Peter Gelb sent a letter to the unions, warning them to prepare for a lockout if they don't come to terms.

For months now, the company and its unions have been at an impasse. Management has proposed cutting 16 percent of union members' compensation. Otherwise, Gelb contends, the company could go bankrupt in two to three years.

Most people who attend symphony performances can spot the concertmaster. That's the first chair violinist who enters before the conductor and helps tune the orchestra. But the all important position calls for much more than that — from playing tricky solos to shaping the sound of the string section.

Every time you see a Broadway show, chances are a lot of the actors are wearing wigs.

Sunday night at the 68th Annual Tony Awards, Broadway's highest honors will be presented in a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. Awards will go to actors, actresses, set and lighting designers, but not the people who make the wigs the stars wear, even though the wigs are an essential part of theater craft.

Essential, and yet often invisible, says Jason P. Hayes, the wig designer for Harvey Fierstein's Tony-nominated play, Casa Valentina.

Disney's animated film Frozen has been racking up impressive statistics since it was released last November. Its box office earnings total $1 billion, worldwide, the movie won two Academy Awards, and on the first day the home video came out, it sold 3.2 million copies. But one stat has taken both Disney and industry analysts by surprise: The soundtrack has become a phenomenon, topping the Billboard 200 chart 13 times.

The Library, a new play at New York's Public Theater, tackles an uncomfortable contemporary topic head on: It looks at the aftermath of a school shooting and peers into the shattered lives of the survivors, and the stories they tell. The play is written by Scott Z. Burns and directed by Steven Soderbergh, who've collaborated on three films; most recently, the thriller, Side Effects.

Stage director Kenny Leon is one of the most sought-after creative talents on Broadway today, even if he isn't a household name. He's guided Denzel Washington and Viola Davis to Tony Awards in a Tony-winning revival of August Wilson's Fences, he directed Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett in The Mountaintop and he's got two Broadway shows opening within three months of each other.

Rocky: The Musical. Really?

Producer Bill Taylor says even the show's creators didn't buy the idea at first. "If you speak to all of the authors and all of the creative team, their instinctive reaction, when first hearing about Rocky becoming a musical, ranges from incredulity to plain crazy," he says.

A hundred years ago, the Italian operatic composer Giacomo Puccini was having lunch in New York with Victor Herbert, the leading composer of operettas in this country. Then, the band in the restaurant began playing music from Herbert's current hit, Sweethearts. Puccini became outraged, according to songwriter Paul Williams, the current president of the performing-rights organization ASCAP.

Regardless of how critics and audiences eventually responded, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was always going to be one of the most-discussed shows in Broadway history. It had songs by U2's Bono and the Edge; it was directed by The Lion King's Julie Taymor; it was based on a hit Marvel franchise; there were going to be flying stunts right over the audience's heads.

And then somehow it all went very wrong, from injured actors to huge cost overruns.

For 160 years, the pianos made by Steinway & Sons have been considered the finest in the world. So when hedge fund billionaire John Paulson recently bought the company, it struck fear in the hearts of musicians: Would the famously handcrafted pianos be changed, for the sake of efficiency? Paulson, who owns several Steinways himself, says nothing will change.

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart have known each other for years — they were both actors at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the '60s and '70s, and both achieved broader fame through movies and television. Both were knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for their work onstage and off. And then, of course, they were cast as mortal enemies in the first X-Men film 14 years ago, and have come back to the roles of Magneto and Professor X several times since.

"We became good friends as a result of shooting multimillion-dollar adventure movies," Stewart says.

This season, New York audiences have seen wildly different interpretations of Shakespeare plays. They've seen the Romeo of Orlando Bloom make his first entrance on a motorcycle; they've seen a production of Julius Caesar set in a women's prison.

Now the London-based company from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre has landed on Broadway with what seems like the most radical concept of them all: plays staged in a style Shakespeare would've recognized, with all-male casts, period costumes and live music.

Not A Museum

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