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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.'"

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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!

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.

The lights come up on a large hospital ward, its green institutional tiles slightly mildewed around the edges. An ominous white noise hums underneath.

The odds of making it in the classical music business are long, but for the past two years, 25-year-old viola player Nathan Schram has received a stipend, health insurance, lots of amazing performance opportunities and a real-world education teaching violin students at an inner-city elementary school in Brooklyn. Now, Schram and his colleagues have to say goodbye to The Academy.

On Monday evening, one of New York's most cherished cultural institutions celebrated an anniversary. The Delacorte Theater, home of the free annual Shakespeare in the Park, turned 50, and Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline led an all-star cast in a staged reading of Romeo and Juliet.

When Kline was still a student in the drama program at The Juilliard School, he made his professional debut at the Delacorte. "My first job was carrying a spear in Richard III," he remembers.

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