Jeff Lunden

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.

Lunden contributed several segments to the Peabody Award-winning series The NPR 100, and was producer of the NPR Music series Discoveries at Walt Disney Concert Hall, hosted by Renee Montagne. He has produced more than a dozen documentaries on musical theater and Tin Pan Alley for NPR — most recently A Place for Us: Fifty Years of West Side Story.

Other documentaries have profiled George and Ira Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart, Harold Arlen and Jule Styne. Lunden has won several awards, including the Gold Medal from the New York Festival International Radio Broadcasting Awards and a CPB Award.

Lunden is also a theater composer. He wrote the score for the musical adaptation of Arthur Kopit's Wings (book and lyrics by Arthur Perlman), which won the 1994 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical. Other works include Another Midsummer Night, Once on a Summer's Day and adaptations of The Little Prince and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for Theatreworks/USA.

Lunden is currently working with Perlman on an adaptation of Swift as Desire, a novel of magic realism from Like Water for Chocolate author Laura Esquivel. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Broadway is coming off a record-breaking season, in terms of attendance and box office receipts. But this weekend and next weekend, five musicals, representing an investment of $95 million, will close.

Broadway attendance was up 14% between 2018 and 2019, generating $1.83 billion in ticket sales. But not everyone has been invited to the party, says Jeremy Gerard, who has covered Broadway as a reporter and critic for over three decades.

"It's been a great year for Broadway, and that's true if you're one of the producers of a blockbuster show on Broadway," he says.

The musical theater director and producer Hal Prince, winner of an unprecedented 21 Tony Awards, has died in Iceland after a brief illness. He was 91.

Prince worked on such major shows as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and The Phantom of the Opera. But he was always looking forward to the next show, regardless of how the last one turned out.

In 1965, composer John Kander was working on a show that Prince produced called Flora, The Red Menace — and it was not going well.

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Opera is an art form well-suited to big emotions and tragic stories, often set in the past. But a new opera, Blue, grapples with a more contemporary tragedy — the killing of an unarmed black man at the hands of a police officer.

When two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage was approached about writing the script for a musical version of The Secret Life of Bees, she said yes. But she knew it wasn't going to be easy adapting a novel told in the first person — by a young white girl.

June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of an event that proved to be a catalyst for a simmering gay-rights movement. On that day in 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Now a new opera, Stonewall, at the New York City Opera, dramatizes that historic moment.

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Broadway celebrated a record-breaking season in terms of audience and box office with the Tony Awards last night. And two shows came up big, as Jeff Lunden reports.

The scores of Be More Chill, Beetlejuice, Hadestown, The Prom, To Kill a Mockingbird and Tootsie are all up for Tony Awards at the 73rd annual awards show.

Trustees of the American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund (AFM-EPF) announced the evening of May 24 that they will apply to the U.S. Treasury for a reduction in member benefits, due to the AFM-EPF's "critical and declining" status – meaning the fund is projected to run out of money in 20 years. The AFM represents 80,000 professionals in the United States and Canada who play in symphony orchestras and opera houses, on Broadway, in film and television, and on studio recordings.

The 2018-2019 Broadway season hurtled to a close, with 14 plays and musicals opening in March and April, before the Tony Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning. And some of the late entries into the race were handsomely rewarded.

Rupert Murdoch is arguably the most powerful man in media today. But in 1969 — before he owned Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and newspapers and networks around the world — he was a hungry 38-year-old, looking to break into London's newspaper establishment. A new Broadway play called Ink chronicles those years.

Merce Cunningham in 1988.
AP

The choreographer Merce Cunningham would have turned 100 years old this week.

Actor and playwright Heidi Schreck says her new play — What the Constitution Means to Me — is a love letter to her mother.

The Broadway play — part personal memoir, part civics town hall — recreates the constitutional debate contests Schreck attended in high school. It's an attempt, she explains, to trace her evolving understanding of the U.S. Constitution and how it relates to her life, her family, and the women in her family in particular.

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Dominick Argento died on Wednesday in Minneapolis, Minn., after a short illness; his death was announced by his family He was 91. Argento was best known for his lyrical and astringent music for the human voice – he wrote 13 operas, as well as song cycles and choral works. As he told the late Mary Ann Feldman in a 2002 interview, "My interest is people. I am committed to working with characters, feelings and emotions."

The Ferryman starts in a graffiti-covered back alley in Derry, Northern Ireland. A parish priest is questioned by an IRA captain — the body of a man who disappeared 10 years ago has been found in a bog.

The scene then shifts to the dead man's family and their farm. It's harvest time, 1981, and despite the joy and warmth abundantly on display, the first scene looms in the background.

There's a new star on Broadway. He's 20 feet tall, weighs 1.2 tons and requires 15 people to move.

His name is King Kong.

The gigantic puppet is the centerpiece of a $35 million musical, based on the classic 1933 film. In some ways, King Kong is a typical Broadway musical — there are songs and dances and dialogue. But what the audience really wants to see is the giant ape.

He is quite big — when he stands upright, snorting and sniffing and roaring, he's two stories tall. And he feels alive.

Two of the country's oldest and most venerated music institutions, the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, are beginning their seasons with a change in artistic leadership. Both organizations are grappling with 21st century issues of bringing new audiences in and convincing them that centuries-old music forms are central to their lives today.

When the sci-fi teen musical Be More Chill opened in New Jersey a few years ago, it got a ho-hum critical response. But then something surprising happened.

The cast recording and some YouTube videos went viral. Then came fan art, fan fiction and fan covers of the songs on social media.

When the show opened off-Broadway last month, it sold out entirely. In February, Be More Chill will move to Broadway.

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Composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, one of Britain's most influential contemporary classical figures, died Sunday, July 8, at the age of 66. His passing was announced by his publisher, Faber Music, but no cause of death was given.

Editor's note: This story includes language that some may find offensive.

It was 1968. But playwright Mart Crowley felt he had to write what he knew.

"Nobody wanted the play," Crowley says. "Not even agents wanted to look at this play. They just thought it was pornographic and it was outrageous."

What he wrote in The Boys in the Band was a thinly veiled slice of autobiographical fiction. A group of gay friends gather for a raucous birthday party; by the end of the evening, secrets are spilled, tears are shed.

Remember A Chorus Line? The immensely popular 1975 musical looked at the stories of some of the people who often work completely anonymously on Broadway.

Tonight, the 2018 Tony Awards — Broadway's highest honors — will be handed out in a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. Lead and featured actors in plays and musicals will win prizes.

A Chorus Line was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 1976, and won nine. But the performers in real-life choruses aren't even eligible to win.

One of the oldest and most distinguished Spanish language theaters in the U.S. is housed in a converted Manhattan brownstone. "It started actually as a private house," explains Robert Federico, executive producer of Repertorio Español.

The space is tiny — rickety wooden stairs lead backstage and small props are stored in the hallway. The sets are designed to be stashed flush against walls behind black curtains.

In 1943, two 25 year olds — Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein — were about to rock the ballet world. The dance they collaborated on was Fancy Free — about three sailors in a bar, trying to meet women before they ship out to World War II.

"It's such a wonderful little sweet picture of that time ..." says Christine Redpath, one of four ballet masters Robbins chose to stage his work. "It's playful, and they're just fun and innocent. They don't know what's going to happen when they go off to war."

The most expensive play in Broadway history opened Sunday night. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cost $33.5 million, runs five and a half hours long (in two parts), and has gotten rave reviews. But while it has plenty of special effects, it's actually designed for audiences to use their imagination.

Since the Disney animated musical Frozen premiered five years ago, the song "Let It Go" has been inescapable. Even the daughters of its songwriters were a bit tired of it.

"Like many people in our culture, there was a feeling of Frozen fatigue, if you will," says co-songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility is not the sort of place you'd expect to find a flourishing music community, but a workshop run by Carnegie Hall offers inmates the ability to learn in harmony. Twice a month, artists from New York City travel to Sing Sing and spend a day giving 30 inmates enrolled in the Musical Connections program formal training.

Jerry Bergman is sitting in the audience at a Broadway matinée performance of The Band's Visit. Despite the fact that a huge sign above the stage tells the audience — in English, Hebrew and Arabic — to turn off cellphones, Bergman is keeping his on so he can read closed captions while watching the show.

He is one of an estimated 48 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss. And he is availing himself of new technology that allows deaf and hearing-impaired people to enjoy shows with something most people have in their pocket — a smartphone.

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