Tag Archives: Marvin Hamlisch

Staples Players: The Marvin Hamlisch/Maria Friedman Connection

In 2013, a woman spotted signs for Staples Players’ upcoming production: “A Chorus Line.” She’d never seen the acclaimed show, and called a friend suggesting they go together.

The friend called the high school box office. It was sold out.

Well, she said, if any tickets come up, please let me know. She left her name: Terre Blair.

She should have used her full name: Terre Blair Hamlisch. As the widow of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of the 1975 Broadway musical, Players could have found her 2 seats.

Fortunately, Terre and her friend got tickets. She had seen plenty of productions of her late husband’s show. She expected to see these high school students put on a high school show.

Instead, she says, “I felt like Dorothy in Oz. Everyone — the actors, the dancers, the pit orchestra, the directors — was so talented. It blew me away. It was as good as any regional troupe I’d seen.”

Staples Players’  “A Chorus Line,” in 2013. (Photo by Kerry Long)

She was so impressed that at the end of the production, she walked — without telling directors David Roth and Kerry Long — onto the stage. She introduced herself, and said she was producing a birthday celebration for her late husband in New York, with Bernadette Peters, Joel Grey and Donna McKechnie.

Then she invited Players to join her there.

The young actors jumped up and down.

Terre realized they thought they’d be part of the audience.

No no no! she clarified. “I want you to perform there.”

Three months later, Staples Players were on stage at the Hudson Theater. “They brought the house down,” Terre recalls. You can read all about that day here.

Joel Grey poses with the Staples Players cast and directors. (Photo by Kerry Long)

But that’s not the end of this story.

These days, Terre is helping organize a benefit concert for Orchestra Lumos (formerly the Stamford Symphony). The September 24 event stars Maria Friedman. The English actor and director will recall her work with 3 of the greatest composers of all time: Stephen Sondheim, Michel Legrand and (of course) Marvin Hamlisch.

The music director is the electrifying Todd Ellison. His Broadway conducting, composing and arranging credits include “La Cage aux Folles,” “Spamalot,” “42nd Street, “How to Succeed …” (and many more).

Also on stage: Current and former Staples Players.

“These are incredibly talented kids,” Ellison says of the Players troupe. “And the people devoted to these kids are making sure they get the best of the best.”

Staples Players prepare for the September 24 benefit. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Vocalists are Ross Lekites (“The Tina Turner Musical”), Lewis Cleale (“The Book of Mormon”) — and Staples Players alums Camille Foisie and Nick Rossi.

Friedman is working with the current Players, before their appearance.

“She’s bringing them into the fold,” Terre notes. “Lumos is all about community, and keeping the symphony world alive. The kids understand that community.

“This benefit concert is now in the hands of the next generation. They’ll help pass along the wonders of Sondheim, Legrand and Marvin Hamlisch.”

All proceeds from the September 24 Maria Friedman benefit go to the Lumos Education Fund, to help schools that lack music programs.

“As music and theater programs are being cut, look at what Staples has,” Terre says.

“We are so lucky to have it, and have it supported the way it is. Culture and the arts are not a luxury. They’re necessary, for all ages.”

And Staples Players are lucky that when Terre Blair Hamlisch called seeking 2 tickets to “A Chorus Line” nearly a decade ago, they found them for her.

(“Orchestra Lumos Presents Maria Friedman in Concert” is set for September 24, 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Theater in Stamford. Click here for tickets and more information.)

(“06880” reports on all things artistic, cultural and Staples-related — among everything else. Please click here to support this blog.)

Staples Players’ Singular Hamlisch Sensation

It was an invitation Staples Players could not turn down.

Awed by the high school troupe’s March performance of “A Chorus Line,” Terre Blair — the widow of Marvin Hamlisch — invited them to perform at an American Cancer Society benefit.

The event was held yesterday — the day after what would have been the composer’s 69th birthday — at New York’s Hudson Theater. They shared the stage — and were applauded by — legends like Bernadette Peters, Joel Grey and Robert Klein.

Staples Players can point to many memorable moments in their 55-year history. Last night’s stands at the top of any list.

Photographer Kerry Long captured a few of the many highlights:

Staples Players receive instructions from the stage manager.

Staples Players receive instructions from the stage manager.

Reacting to Broadway stars' sound check.

Reacting to Broadway stars’ sound check.

Donna McKechnie -- who earned a Tony fas "Cassie" in "A Chorus Line" -- reprises her role, backed up by Players.

Donna McKechnie — who earned a Tony for “Cassie” in “A Chorus Line” — reprises her role, backed by Players.

Players director David Roth (left) with Joel Grey. The Broadway actor is known for his role as MC in "Cabaret" -- also played by Roth, in the 1st Players production of that show.

Players director David Roth (left) with Joel Grey. The Broadway star is known for his role as the MC in “Cabaret” — also played by Roth, in the 1st Players production of that show.

Staples Players perform "One" onstage at the Hudson Theatre.

Staples Players perform “One” on the Hudson Theatre stage.

An intense "Chorus Line" moment.

A key “Chorus Line” moment.

"Jersey Boy" John Lloyd Young performs "What I Did For Love" with Staples Player Michelle Pauker.

“Jersey Boy” John Lloyd Young performs “What I Did For Love” with Staples Player Michelle Pauker.

Staples choral director Luke Rosenberg (left), Bernadette Peters (red hair) and Broadway's "Annie" (Lilla Crawford) pose with some of the Players cast.

Staples choral director Luke Rosenberg (left), Bernadette Peters (red hair) and Broadway’s “Annie” (Lilla Crawford, front) pose with some of the Players cast. Will Smith (far right) was the evening’s announcer, as the “Voice of God.”

Joel Gray poses with the Staples Players cast and directors.

Joel Gray (3rd row, 4th from left) poses with the Staples Players cast and directors.

Click below (or here) to watch Michelle Pauker, “Jersey Boy” John Lloyd Young, Staples Player and Broadway stars perform “What I Did For Love.”


“One” More Honor For Staples Players

On the final night of Staples Players’ production of “A Chorus Line” in March, Marvin Hamlisch’s widow came onstage.

Terre Blair Hamlisch thanked the high school troupe for their magnificent staging of her husband’s show. Then she made a surprise announcement: She invited Players to perform at a benefit concert, celebrating his life and work.

The event is 8 p.m. Monday, June 3 — the day after what would have been the legendary composer’s 69th birthday.

Players are in good company. The all-star cast includes Joel Grey, Robert Klein and Bernadette Peters.

But the Staples students won’t be the only area representatives at the Hudson Theatre. Also appearing: Weston’s Lucie Arnaz, and former Westporter Michael Douglas.

Staples Players: one singular sensation. (Photo by Kerry Long)

Staples Players: one singular sensation. (Photo by Kerry Long)

(For ticket information, click here.)

Staples Players’ “Chorus Line” Heads To New York

Staples Players has a 55-year tradition of wowing audiences with professional-style productions.

But it was Players’ turn to be stunned tonight.

At the end of the final performance of “A Chorus Line” — after thunderous applause for the cast, crew, pit orchestra, choreographers and directors — Marvin Hamlisch’s widow came on stage.

She saw the matinee earlier today, then stayed for the 2nd show. She praised everyone profusely, then mentioned that her late husband — who wrote the music to the show — will be honored on his birthday this June with a gala performance in New York.

Dozens of Broadway stars will be there — and now, thanks to her invitation, so will Staples Players.

You can’t ask for a more dramatic finish — or a more well-deserved encore — than that.

The "Chorus Line" cast. (Photo by Kerry Long)

The “Chorus Line” cast. (Photo by Kerry Long)

Bradley Jones Remembers Marvin Hamlisch

The death of popular composer Marvin Hamlisch yesterday resonated with many fans.

Bradley Jones — a 1975 Staples graduate, who played Gregory Gardner in “A Chorus Line” from 1981-89 — recalls:

By the time I got into the Broadway company, we would only see Marvin Hamlisch for brush-up rehearsals when the show was hitting a milestone performance.

I remember him coming in when we became the longest running show (performance 3389), the 5000th performance, and when one of the original cast would come in for a limited run.

Marvin was a stickler for tight, crisp, and elegant articulation of the lyrics of “One,” and he wanted “What I Did For Love” deeply legato and full of our deepest longings. We would happily meet his demands, because we knew these songs were his signature. After having Marvin at a rehearsal, the tempos were also increased and we would dance the opening combinations fast.

It was thrilling to have time with him, and a real antidote to any “long run-itis” the company might have suffered.

Bradley Jones will keep “A Chorus Line” alive — in Westport. This spring, he  returns to Staples Players (his former troupe) as choreographer for the beloved show.

Three years ago, Bradley Jones (center) reprised his “Chorus Line” role at Staples Players’ 50th anniversary celebration. This spring, they’ll stage the entire show. (Photo/Kerry Long)