‘American Idol’ has produced some good theater people

The television series “American Idol” closes down after what promises to be a memorable Finale, tonight, April 7. The last winner to be crowned will be either La’Porsha Renae or Trent Harmon in what the judges last night called the contest one that should be the closest in American Idol history. Not sure why they said that or how we will know, but from a television point of view, it sounded good.

On Tuesday night, a retrospective called “American Idol: American Dream” gave a look at how the show began and developed over its 15-year run. It was evident from viewing the 90-minute production that this was a ground breaking show that has reflected the changing culture of America. There were some good points made about how technology has influenced the way the show has changed over the years. The look at how the music industry itself has changed was interesting to see. Hard to believe, but when the show began in 2002, iTunes was barely a year old. “American Idol” began June, 2002, and that very next month, the Apple Corporation announced their second generation of iPod that would hold up to 4,000 songs. They also reported that 600,000 iPods had been sold through 2002.

Also included in the Tuesday show was commentary from some of the most successful contestants who have either won the title of the American Idol for their year or come very close. Names like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry, and Jennifer Hudson have become household names and they were on to explain what the show did for them. As nice as this was, Idol missed the boat by not showing how well other contestants not in the heaviest selling recording ranks have done. And there are many especially those who have gone to do work in the theater. In the past, “American Idol” has not been a big supporter of that genre although in their promotional materials for this ending session, they did mention it. Maybe it started way back when judge Simon Cowell described a contestant as “too Broadway” and said it in a way that was meant to be not in favorable light. Season Two contestant Clay Aiken had that laid on him on night. Aiken did go on to have a nice career in pop music and eventually came to Broadway in “Spamalot.” But its highly unlikely he had that goal in mind at the time he was going for the win.

Judge Randy Jackson was dismissive of an audition when a Broadway song was sung. He said that show tunes turned him off because of the vibrato it brought out. However, this year at auditions, Dalton Rapattoni sang a unique version of “The Phantom of the Opera” to the high praise of the current judges. Maybe having Harry Connick Jr. as a judge gave more credence to theater since Connick himself has done Broadway shows.

There is quite a list of former American Idol Finalists who have gone on to Broadway other than the ones shown on the Tuesday night show such as Fantasia. The list includes Tamara Gray, Diana DeGarmo, Constantine Maroulis, Ace Young, and LaKeisha Jones. Read more about that here on Examiner. There are others who have done work Off-Broadway and large National Tours including Anwar Robinson, Anthony Federoff, and Syesha Mercado.

As the curtain comes down tonight on one of the most successful shows in television history, there will be a new group of Finalists added to the current list. Who knows which ones we will see in the theater. If they are as good as the ones who have already been there, then we are in for some good shows.

2013 New York Musical Theatre Festival Opens Today

logojulyThe 10th Annual New York Musical Theatre Festival opens today. The Festival, which is a showcase of new musicals as well as readings, concerts and other special events, runs through July 28.

This year, the main productions are all being presented at theaters on W. 42nd Street. They include the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater, The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theater and the Studio Theater located at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street and the Pearl Theatre Company Performance Space at 555 W. 42nd Street. I haven’t had a chance to visit the Pearl Theatre space, but I have been to the Perhsing Square Signature Center and it is an outstanding space for theater. Seating in the theaters is very  comfortable  and the general atmosphere is bright, modern, and welcoming.

The festival hub will feature free performances, talkbacks and other special events.  This year it is located in the Pershing Square Signature Center’s central lobby. A cafe and the Pershing’s bookstore are also available.

Tickets are reasonably priced at $25 for each of the main productions and are spaced out during the month to allow patrons to see a nice variety of the offerings. The shows selected as the main productions go through an application and screening process in order to become part of the Festival. Shows such as Next to Normal, title of show, and F*cking Up Everything got their starts in previous year’s showings of NYMF.

For complete information on the Festival including shows and events and purchase of tickets can be found at the New York Musical Theatre Festival’s website: www.nymf.org