The Musical of Musicals- The Musical (by Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell), a Benefit Performance for New York’s indispensable York Theatre, revives a show intended for and presented in 2003 by four actors. With the help of Green Screen, this iteration is cast with dozens of willing performers sequestered all over the country.
Between acts, brief history and countless testimonials are offered by theatrical luminaries who have been associated with the York onstage and behind the scenes for its laudable 52 years. Not only is the theater struggling through the pandemic, but a water main break on Lexington Avenue flooded its basement venue doing incalculable damage. Tom and Michael D’Angora and Tim Guinee stepped up with this fundraiser.
The Musical is a five act pastiche of “I Can’t Pay the Rent” melodrama as presented as musical take-offs of iconic styles: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Jerry Herman, John Kander and Fred Ebb. This presentation concludes with remarks from Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Available to view on demand through April 21, 2021. Free stream at www.YorkTheatre.org. Donations may be made by visiting the GoFundMe link at gf.me/u/znnvib. This event is presented through The Theatre Authority, Inc. The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals.
The vision of actress/singer Janet Hayes Walker and her husband, Charles Dodsley Walker, The York Theatre Company began its life at The Church of Heavenly Rest, Fifth Avenue at 90th Street, where Charles was organist and choirmaster. (Janet sang in the choir.) In 1969, it occurred to Janet that the Parish House would make a good, little theater. The church gave them $50 to get off the ground.
James Morgan arrived in the city fresh out of college hoping to be a scenic designer. Discouraged after months of closed doors, the young man asked whether his aunt and uncle knew anyone in theater. They didn’t. There was, however, a “dear little theater group” based in the church where the couple were congregants. “They weren’t doing musicals. I found out about Janet’s background and suggested it.” In 1992, the York moved to its current home, Saint Peter’s at 54th and Lexington. Shortly thereafter, Janet was diagnosed with cancer. When she passed, Morgan took over.
Most Mainstage musicals are world, American, or New York premieres. These are written by a cornucopia of the field’s most respected established and emerging artists. The York presents three or four per year. Some have gone on to further productions. This year, The York would have celebrated celebrated its 108th Musical in Mufti, or, out of uniform, a term concocted by Charles Dodsley Walker to mean simply staged, book-in-hand concerts of noteworthy musicals from the past. “It’s an opportunity for authors to revisit deserving shows, often rewriting.”
The York has a Developmental Reading Program free to the public which critically shepherds 30-40 shows through two to four weeks of creative evolution, then offers limited presentation to the public and the industry. The series also serves as an incubator for shows to be considered for Mainstage productions.
Exposure is also offered at an annual NEO Concert – New, Emerging, Outstanding – which presents the work of artists who haven’t been previously produced or are on their way up. Several creative teams talk about themselves and their projects as does a mentor. Songs are performed from each piece. Afterwards, these shows each get a full reading. There’s even a summer Musical Theater Training Programs for middle school (sixth through eighth grade) and high school students (ninth through twelfth grade) lead by working professionals.
“What I want, what we all want,” Morgan tells me, “is the financial wherewithal to continue to produce the shows we want to present. We’ve never done a show because there was money attached but have had to limit or reduce productions we couldn’t afford.” In his 47th year with The York Theatre Company, James Morgan exudes ardor. He still approaches every new production as an adventure, empathizes with artists and is tickled by audience reaction.
Small theaters need our help. This is a particularly worthy endeavor.