Friend of the podcast Cory Lingner (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) shares his experiences performing twice at Broadway in Bryant Park.
It’s that time of year again when some of Broadway’s finest come and perform selections from their respective shows in NYC’s beautiful Bryant Park. Whether you’re a Broadway lover or someone that doesn’t see much theatre, it’s a wonderful and entertaining way to enjoy some summer sun (or not so sunny days… I’ll go more into that later).
I’ve been lucky enough to perform at Broadway in Bryant Park twice now and I hope to do it again in the future. The first time was with the 2014 revival of On The Town and the second was with An American In Paris… both of which were great but slightly different experiences.
Before my first Broadway in Bryant Park experience, I hadn’t been to watch them in person. My only exposure to it was videos online. I moved to NYC in the fall of 2013 and I worked regionally during the following summer months before I started rehearsals for On The Town that August. So I was out of town and couldn’t have gone to watch it. I actually almost performed before those rehearsals started because On The Town had scheduled a preview performance to promote that the new revival was returning to Broadway that fall. And since I covered Chip and Ozzie, they wanted me to fill in and be one of the sailors. My plan was to do it but circumstances changed. I was performing Grease at the MUNY in St. Louis, when one of the dancers in Hello, Dolly! (the next and final show of their summer season) twisted his ankle and couldn’t perform. So, I got a call from Mike Isaacson asking if I could stay an extra week and learn/perform Dolly which worked out since two of my other castmates, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Eloise Kropp, as well as our music director James Moore… were all doing Dolly. But, that meant that I couldn’t do Broadway in Bryant Park anymore.
It wasn’t until the following summer of 2015 that I finally got the chance to perform. My fellow understudies, Michael Rosen, Max Clayton, and I performed “New York, New York” and “Lucky To Be Me”. We arrived that morning for sound check and the weather was looking a little grim. It looked like it could rain at any moment and sure enough it did. It was a down pour! We took cover under the little tent off stage right where all the audio equipment was. I felt like we were going to get electrocuted at any second. But, those that came to watch were such troopers and so patient. They were more prepared than we were. They brought their umbrellas and ponchos and were ready to wait until the weather lightened up for the performances to start. As soon as it stopped raining, we ran up on stage to perform but the stage was very slippery. So we modified the choreography or at least kept it very grounded and underneath ourselves so we wouldn’t slip and hurt ourselves. It ended up going very well. I was singing the Chip part that day and when it got to the dialogue section in between verses I gave a shout out about how excited we were that we were in Bryant Park and that got the audience revved up. And by the time we finished “New York, New York” and started “Lucky To Be Me”, the clouds cleared and some sunlight shined through. It was beautiful and couldn’t have been more fitting for that moment. The conditions started out dreary but ended up turning out all right.
My second time on the Broadway in Bryant Park stage was when I was with An American In Paris and this go around the weather was bright and sunny with no chance for rain. (woohoo!) We performed several songs from the show including “Shall We Dance”, “For You, For Me, Forever More”, “But Not For Me”, “Stairway to Paradise” & “S’wonderful”. What I loved about this performance was that a bunch of the cast was involved and got to showcase everyones talents. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Gershwin tunes. We all had a great time and it seemed like the crowd did too.
Those were my experiences performing at Broadway in Bryant Park. I’m very happy I was given those opportunities because it’s such a great atmosphere to see some of your favorite Broadway shows for FREE! That’s probably one of the best things about it. Unless you know where to look for discounts, Broadway shows are quite expensive these days. So for many who can’t afford to see shows, Broadway in Bryant Park is the perfect way to get a little taste of what’s happening on the Great White Way right now. And, I have to say both times I performed, rain or shine, I was astonished with the amount of people that came to watch. Live theatre… there’s nothing like it. It enriches my life everyday and I hope for those who came to watch it felt that way too.
Listen to our podcast episode on Broadway in Bryant Park here.