Monthly Archives: July 2016

We Knew Him as Jimmy

This week, we at the Hollywood Pantages/Nederlander Organization lost our patriarch and chairman. James M. Nederlander passed away Monday evening at the age of 94.

A modern example of the American Dream, Jimmy started sweeping floors at age 7 for his father David T. Nederlander in Detroit, Michigan. Since then he has held every position one could hold while working in the theatre biz from box office to advertising, production and management to company chairman. One of these jobs was to scout out shows in New York for his father. It was on one of these trips in 1964 that Jimmy learned from a friend that RKO was selling its flagship Palace Theatre. In a $1.6 million handshake, Jimmy sealed his fate and the fate of the Nederlander Organization.

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James M. Nederlander poses in front of The Palace Theatre 1981

In the years following the purchase of the Palace Theatre Jimmy developed a healthy rivalry with the competing NYC theatre family, the Shuberts. Even with the constant competition, one of Jimmy’s closest friends was Philip J. Smith, chairman of the board of the Shubert Organization.

Jimmy found much success starting with the musical Annie in 1977 and has had producer, co-producer, or investor credits on successful titles that include Applause, La Cage aux Folles, Me and My Girl, Nine, Noises Off, Peter Pan, Sweet Charity, The Will Rogers Follies, Woman of the Year and many more. Jimmy, however, was not without his failures. As a reminder he kept the posters of his biggest flops in his office bathroom. For a complete list of works visit Jimmy’s IBDB page.

 

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The Alvin Theatre changes its name to Annie in 1977

In 1977, The Nederlander Organization came in as Pacific Theatre’s partner and gave the Hollywood Pantages an overhaul before re-opening it as a legitimate theatre with “Bubbling Brown Sugar” in February 1977.  When The Nederlander Organization heard that the Walt Disney Company was seeking a home for its Los Angeles production of The Lion King, Jimmy locked in a Pantages booking by agreeing to a substantial renovation.  It was time, thought Nederlander, to get the theatre looking more like it did in 1930.  The theatre was restored to its original luster in time for the highly-anticipated L.A. Premiere of Disney’s The Lion King.

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Jimmy Nederlander and Bette Midler

Along with The Hollywood Pantages Theatre, The Nederlander Organization currently owns or operates nine Broadway theaters, the Palace,the Brooks Atkinson, Gershwin, Lunt-Fontanne, Marquis, Minskoff, Nederlander, Neil Simon and Richard Rodgers — two in Detroit, four in Chicago and three in London, one in Oklahoma City, as well as others in San Diego, San Jose, CA, Tucson, Durham, NC, Charleston, SC.

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From Left: Emilio Estefan, James L. Nederlander, Jimmy Nederlander, and Gloria Estefan

In November of 1986 Jimmy was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His star is located right in front of The Hollywood Pantages Theatre. “Generous,” “loyal” and “trusted” are just a few of the accolades Jimmy’s numerous friends use to describe him—many of whom have enjoyed a life-long personal and business relationship.

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Jimmy’s star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame

In addition to his star Jimmy has been the recipient of many distinguished honors including United Nations Foundation Champion Award (2012), The Broadway League’s Schoenfeld Vision for Arts Education Award (2011), the New York Pop’s Man of the Year (2008), the Tony Award® Special Tony Award for Life Time Achievement (2004), and The Actors’ Fund Medal of Honor (2002).

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Jimmy Nederlander receiving his Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2004.

In 2009 The National High School Musical Theater Award was established and named The Jimmy to celebrate his career-long dedication to supporting young talent. Each year high school students from all over the United States come together to compete in the Jimmy Awards. The participants spend a week in workshops and rehearsals with Broadway professionals in hopes of walking away with college scholarship prizes.

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James M. Nederlander (Jimmy)

Jimmy operated on instinct, often backing shows simply because he liked the people involved. He was well respected, loved, and admired by all who knew him. He is often referred to as Broadway’s last patriarch, but we knew him as Jimmy.

Robert Brill comes back to the “Cabaret”

By Evan Henerson

It’s fair to say that Robert Brill can always get a prime seat at the Kit Kat Club, wherever that shrine of pre war entertainment decadence may materialize. That’s only fair since Brill designed the club. From “Cabaret’s” first incarnation in 1997 at the Henry Miller Theatre through its subsequent move to Studio 54, to its revival 16 years later also at Studio 54 and on all accompanying tours, that particular layout of tables, lamps and chandeliers is from Brill’s vision.

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The Marquee for Cabaret at Studio 54

As recently as June, nearly two decades after he created what has become an iconic design, Brill checked in on Sally Bowles and the gang when the national tour – currently at the Pantages – played a run in San Francisco where Brill has a home.

“When I see the show now, I’m really looking at how the production fits the venue,” Brill said.   “There are parts that are somewhat adjustable that allow it to sit in the venue for it to be exposed in the right way. So the first thing I’m looking at is how the picture is framed and the proportion of it. Then as you sit down, you’re taking in some of the givens of the space, what the sight lines are like, and how shallow or how deeply raked is the house. You’re kind of taking in the venue, but then you’re also looking at how the show is running in terms of props and then any scenic moves.”

Shannon Cochran as Fräulein Schneider, Mark Nelson as Herr Schultz, Alison Ewing (above) as Fräulein Kost and Randy Harrison (background) as the Emcee in the 2016 National Touring production of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“I jotted down a few notes when I saw the show in San Francisco and passed them on,” he continued. “They take the notes and then they move on from there.”

From its origins at London’s Donmar Warehouse, Sam Mendes’s version of “Cabaret” has sought to place its audience in the center of the action. Sally, the Kit Kat dancers and that scabrous Emcee are continually addressing the guests, several of whom are sitting practically in the performers’ laps. The scenic design had to fit that concept.

When they were gearing up to move the Donmar Warehouse production across the pond to New York, Mendes and his co-director/choreographer Rob Marshall located a space – Henry Miller’s Theatre – that was already a functioning nightclub. That venue needed a sizeable revamp to make it suitable for live theater, and the team needed a designer to oversee that transformation.

Brill, who had designed at several major regional theaters and had a couple of Broadway credits, was asked to meet with Mendes and Marshall. Two days later, he was offered the gig and asked to return to New York to check out the venue and to get things rolling.

Re-shaping the Miller’s Theatre – which they renamed the Kit Kat Club – was challenging enough. Having theater audiences and late night club goers sharing the same venue made for some interesting experiences.

The 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“We were out by 10, and there was already a line outside for people to enter at 10:30 and they would be all over the space on stage, at tables, in front all over the building and backstage until 2 or 4 in the morning,” Brill recalled. “You never knew what you were going to find or discover the next morning.”

Ultimately the production had to move and the conversion of Studio 54, a dance club later owned and operated by the Roundabout Theatre – forced 10 weeks of renovations. From lobbies to bathrooms, from marquee to chandeliers, from painting to demolition. The venue had no stage, so a stage was constructed from the floor up along with terracing for audience seating. The balcony, which had previously been used for events, was demolished.

“What was important to the production was this gradual immersion into the world of the Kt Kat Club from the marquee until you reach the actors on stage,” Brill said.

A mezzanine view of the Cabaret stage at Studio 54

Looking back at his own “audition” for “Cabaret” with Mendes and Marshall, Brill thinks one of the key factors that landed him the job wasn’t so much his Broadway and larger regional theater credits, but a different part of his portfolio. While still a student at UC San Diego, Brill had co-founded the Sledgehammer Theatre, a company that made highly and often guerilla use of venues throughout downtown San Diego.

This was during the 1980s when the real estate climate was friendlier toward this type of experimentation. Sledgehammer staged in former funeral homes, parking garages and abandoned warehouses that had no electricity or bathroom facilities before Sledgehammer took over. A group of fellow UCSD students even built a stage in a canyon adjacent to the library on campus, trucking in sand for the audience to sit on. There was a five and half hour production of “Hamlet” and a staging of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” in a small former retail space. Sledgehammer mounted another play in a former auto service garage.

“I showed [Mendes and Marshall] that work last in my portfolio and that was the work that I think really captured their attention,” Brill said. “It was very rough around the edges, showing the hand of the artist, having to be resourceful and work in a scrappier way. Also to be working site specific and because that’s what this piece became, working in an actual venue and transforming the venue. That really got them interested in having me on the team. It was not so much about the more polished work that I had done at that point. It was really about something that would serve this new interpretation of Cabaret.”

Sarah Bishop as Helga, Andrea Goss as Sally Bowles and Alison Ewing as Fritzie in the 2016 National Tour of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Between the first “Cabaret” and its revival, Brill has hardly been idle. He now has nearly a dozen Broadway credits with his designs for Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” (also at Studio 54) and the 2009  Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls” earning him Tony nominations. He has designed multiple operas and touring shows and worked repeatedly with Leonard Foglia and Des McAnuff who has championed Brill’s work since McAnuff was the artistic director at the La Jolla Playhouse which sits on the campus of UCSD. Brill returns this year to UCSD as a member of the School of Theater’s design faculty.

Brill’s upcoming projects include another collaboration with McAnuff, and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a co-production between Houston Grand Opera and the San Francisco Opera scheduled to open around the holidays.

And speaking of immersive theater, another Brill design figures to occupy a place in Southern California for years to come. The artist designed the scenery for “Disney’s Frozen – Live at the Hyperion,” a short version of the animated film which opened in May and plays several times daily at the Hyperion Theatre at Disney’s California Adventure theme park.

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Set from Frozen now playing at The Hyperion Theatre in Disney California Adventure.

 

If you think transporting audiences to Weimar era Germany is challenging, how about taking them to the wintry world of Arendelle, a world that had previously existed only in a much beloved animated film? Dana Harrel, the production’s executive creative director, was not necessarily looking to do a live replica of the film, but, according to Brill, Harrel stressed the need to make the experience to be, you guessed it, immersive.

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Set from Frozen now playing at The Hyperion Theatre in Disney California Adventure.

“I thought a lot about Cabaret when we were putting in Frozen,” Brill said. “Dana really wanted it to be an experience for the audience to be completely enveloped in the world of this story. One of the first goals was how to extend the visual out into the theater so they feel like they’re immersed both in the visual world and the storytelling. We did that in numerous ways, both scenically and with projections, lighting and also with the staging.”

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Set from Frozen now playing at The Hyperion Theatre in Disney California Adventure.

“Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” opened May 26, and Brill attended several performances in the days immediately following.

“It was amazing to watch, easily 1/4 of the audience was watching the experience through their phones or their iPads,” Brill said. “But it’s been fun to watch that online and check out who is watching the show and who is paying attention to it.”

Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Don’t Be Jimmy

With a line up that includes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, White Christmas, The King and I, Rent, Motown, Circus 1903, Finding Neverland, American in Paris, The Bodyguard, The Book of Mormon, and Hamilton, the Hollywood Pantages 2016-2017 season is one for the record books. While the crew here at the theatre is jumping up and down with excitement, we are also very worried. There are a lot of websites popping up claiming to have tickets to shows that have yet to go on sale. We always want to make sure that everyone that buys a ticket to one of our shows gets to walk through the doors hassle free and be a part of Hollywood History. PLEASE read the information below and watch the video. Share with friends so that no one has to experience the pain of fraudulent tickets.

There are many ticket re-sellers and secondary markets for tickets. For the best seats and to eliminate the risk of fraud, get tickets through the Hollywood Pantages Box Office, HollywoodPantages.com or Ticketmaster. Purchasing tickets from any other seller runs a high risk of receiving fraudulent tickets.

 

 

Our Favorite Instamoments

We know most of you are used to hearing from us via our Facebook page but we want to draw some attention to our other favorite social media page, Instagram. Take a tour of our favorite instamoments.

That time Brandy starred in Chicago

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That time William Shatner came to see The Illusionists

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That time they changed the light bulbs in the lobby chandeliers

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That time Madame Tussauds let us borrow Captain Picard and the Captain’s Chair

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That time we took a photo from inside the grand chandelier

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That time Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein got their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame 

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That time Constintine Maroulis was on The Soup promoting Jekyll and Hyde

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That time we had a little too much fun with Annie at Dodger Stadium

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That time we caught Don Attilio from Phantom of the Opera reading a magazine by the stage door

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That time Elder Price sang the National Anthem at Dodger’s Stadium

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That time Elphaba sang the National Anthem at a Clippers game

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That time we put up the holiday trees in the dark

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That time Jonathan Bennett stopped on the If/Then red carpet to take selfies with fans

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That time Sophie from Mamma Mia took over our Instagram

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That time Kristin Davis met Sandy from Annie

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That time we let Luke Godny, the understudy for all of the instruments for Once, take over our Instagram

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That time when both Mike Tyson and Spike Lee were on the red carpet together

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That time we had a mini Christine and Phantom at the theatre

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That time the cast of Motown was on Good Day LA

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That time a Newsie threw the first pitch at Dodger Stadium

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That time we gave the theatre a little touch up

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That time we had a speakeasy party before Bullets Over Broadway

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That time the cast of 42nd Street took over our Instagram and went to Universal Studios

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That time we held auditions for America’s Got Talent

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That time Weird Al came to see Donnie and Marie Osmond

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That time when Bill Berloni and Macy walked the red carpet for Annie

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And that time the marquee commented on the Beautiful sunset

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For more Hollywood Pantages Instamoments follow us on Instagram hollywoodpantagestheatre