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 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.

Broadway caps off its 2011-2012 season June 10 at the 66th annual Tony Awards, and while the focus will mostly be on the nominated shows and actors, some attention must be paid to the set designers — the people who help create the environments that let those shows and actors shine.

Take Daniel Ostling: When he read Bruce Norris' script for Clybourne Park, a play that takes place in a very realistic Chicago bungalow, the veteran scenarist quickly came to a realization: "The house is actually a character."

Let's get this out of the way: The most anticipated show of the past two Broadway seasons — Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark -- finally opened, after multiple delays, cast injuries, the firing of its writer-director Julie Taymor and the longest preview period in Broadway history, on June 14th, 2011, a few days after last year's Tony Awards.

What would it be like if you were 10 years old and composed a piece of music that was played by the New York Philharmonic? For a few New York City school kids, including one fifth-grader, it's a dream come true, thanks to the orchestra's Very Young Composers program.

Composer Jon Deak, who played bass with the New York Philharmonic for more than 40 years, says the idea for Very Young Composers came when he and conductor Marin Alsop visited an elementary school in Brooklyn several years ago.

In the 1920s, it wasn't uncommon for the Gershwin Brothers — composer George and lyricist Ira — to have two shows running on Broadway at the same time. What's surprising is that this season, 75 years after George's death, it's happening again, with Porgy and Bess and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

It's no coincidence: Both shows were generated by the Gershwin estates, the nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews charged with looking after a legacy that's not only highly loved, but immensely lucrative — a multimillion-dollar-a-year responsibility.

If you weren't a college theater major, you can be forgiven for not knowing much about commedia dell'arte, the 500-year-old theatrical tradition that Carlo Goldoni used for his comedy The Servant of Two Masters in 1743. Contemporary playwright Richard Bean has adapted that play into the decidedly British laugh riot One Man, Two Guvnors -- and he says all you really need to know about commedia is ... well, it's funny.

Since they made their debut in 1971, it's been rare for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to not have a show on Broadway. But now they're ramping it up, with the opening of Evita following fast on the heels of Jesus Christ Superstar.

"It's actually just a coincidence as far as I can tell, because the two shows came from totally different sources," Rice says. "And by sheer chance, they've arrived within two or three weeks of each other on Broadway, which is fun!"

It's July 1960 in Philadelphia and a political party has gathered to nominate a presidential candidate — but both leading contenders are flawed, and the convention is deadlocked. Who's the best man for the job?

Gore Vidal's 1960 play The Best Man, which is getting a Broadway revival, will strike audiences as surprisingly timely.

One candidate is an intellectual liberal, the other a populist conservative. Director Michael Wilson says Vidal, the outspokenly liberal author of the play, wrote it with a very specific agenda in mind.

Broadway history is littered with flop musicals — but if some shows are bombs, then Carrie, based on Stephen King's best-selling 1974 novel, was kind of a nuclear bomb.

The story of a teenager with telekinetic powers who wreaks bloody havoc on her small Maine town had already been successfully adapted as a film starring Sissy Spacek in 1976. But as a musical?

Frank Rich was theater critic for The New York Times when the show opened in April 1988. He called it a musical wreck that "expires with fireworks like the Hindenburg."

In her dressing room at the Friedman Theatre, Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon has a nightly ritual: She rubs Nivea cream all over her scalp to soothe the razor burns.

Being completely bald is just one of the many demands of the character she plays in Wit -- a brilliant college professor named Vivian Bearing, who's battling ovarian cancer.

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

Tonight, New York's Metropolitan Opera will premiere a new piece with music that's hundreds of years old. It's called "The Enchanted Island" and it features arias by several Baroque composers, including Handel and Vivaldi, and mashes up the plots from two Shakespeare plays. And, oh yes, it stars Placido Domingo as the sea god Neptune. Jeff Lunden has still more.

Australian actress Rachel Griffiths, best known in the U.S. for her work on HBO's Six Feet Under and ABC's Brothers and Sisters, has made an acclaimed Broadway debut in the new play Other Desert Cities.

Griffiths, who is well-known in Australia for her stage work, tells NPR's Scott Simon she would have been happy if all she had ever done was act onstage.

"Theater was where I began and what I really thought my career would be in Australia," she says. "That was my thing. ... The movies were an unexpected joy, and television even more unexpected."

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