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amBroadway: Lineup for NBC’s ‘Best of Broadway,’ Sondheim flop musical album debuts and more

Audra McDonald and Ariel Shafir in digital rehearsals for "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Screenshot provided

“One Night Only: Best of Broadway,” NBC’s two-hour tribute to Broadway on Thursday night, will give show-starved fans a look at what they’ve missed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The show will include performances by Barbra Streisand, Antonio Banderas (appearing with the cast of a recent Spanish-language production of “A Chorus Line”), Sutton Foster, Kelly Clarkson, Brett Eldredge and Patti LaBelle.

Participating shows will include “Jagged Little Pill,” “Ain’t Too Proud,” “Diana,” “Mean Girls,” “Rent,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “Jersey Boys” and “Chicago.”

Flea Theater shuts down ‘Bats’

An uproar has exploded on social media over last week’s decision by the Flea Theater (a prominent Off-Off-Broadway theater in Tribeca) to shut down the Bats, its resident company of young actors in training, and other developmental programs.

In June, the Flea pledged to revamp its production model and institutional culture after the Bats released an open letter containing allegations of longtime mistreatment. It was an open secret in the theater community that members of the Bats were not paid by the Flea.

In a statement, the Flea said that shutting down the programs “was an unavoidable decision…As a small theater, we cannot afford to keep over 120 artists as paid staff, especially during an economically devastating pandemic.”

When the shutdown occurred, the Flea was presenting “The Fre,” a new play by Taylor Mac starring the Bats and performed in and around a giant ball pit.

‘Anyone Can Whistle’ studio album finally released

A quarter century since it was recorded, Jay Records has finally released its two-disc 1994 studio album of Stephen Sondheim’s cheeky 1964 flop musical “Anyone Can Whistle,” which features the entire score and performances by English performers Maria Friedman, Julia McKenzie and John Barrowman.

Arthur Laurents, who wrote the show’s book and died in 2011, provides narration on the album.

The release coincides with Sondheim’s 90th birthday. “Anyone Can Whistle” received a City Center Encores! production 2010 with Sutton Foster, Donna Murphy and Raul Esparza.

‘Animal Farm’ musical in the works

Can an ominous political slogan like “Four legs good, two legs bad” be turned into song and dance?

Composer Alan Menken (“Little Shop of Horrors,” numerous Disney films) is working with lyricist Glenn Slater (“Sister Act”) and playwright James Graham (“Ink”) on a stage musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1945 allegorical novella “Animal Farm.”

According to the Daily Mail, which broke the news, the animals will not be portrayed with puppets.

This week’s streaming recommendations:

“Jule Styne and His Many Lyricists: Distant Melody” (concert/documentary produced by the 92nd Street Y as part of its Lyrics & Lyricists series), through Dec. 31, 92Y.org…”A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Photograph 51” (the 2020 Williamstown Theatre Festival season can be experienced via Audible), wtfestival.org…”Broadway Princess Holiday Party” (Feinstein’s/54 Below kicks off new streaming concert series), Dec. 13-26, 54below.com.

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