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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.

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.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Several years ago, Claire van Kampen was composing music for a London theater production. During a break, one of the singers asked her if she knew the story of Farinelli, the famous 18th century opera singer.

"'You'd really like the bit where he goes to Spain and sings to King Phillipe who has this bipolar disorder.' And then I started to think: Now that's an interesting story that I haven't heard about, seen."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When playwright Sarah DeLappe was growing up, she loved war movies. So she decided to write a play that was like a war movie – but about girls soccer.

The Wolves opens at New York's Lincoln Center on Monday. As the lights come up, nine teenage girls are in a circle atop a green expanse of artificial turf, stretching before a match. And they're all talking at once.

When songwriter David Yazbek, whose mother is Jewish and father Lebanese, decided to write a musical that fused his two cultural backgrounds, he knew he didn't want it to be about tribal conflict.

His new Broadway show, The Band's Visit, attempts to do something that seems almost unfashionable: look at two historically antagonistic cultures and tell a story about their commonality.

The Hebrew Psalms have inspired composers for thousands of years.

Now, New York's Lincoln Center is presenting The Psalms Experience, a festival of choral settings of all 150 Psalms by 150 different composers. It includes nine U.S. premieres.

Over the years, many authors have dealt with alcoholism, addiction and recovery — think of plays like Long Day's Journey into Night, or films like Days of Wine and Roses. Now a new play from England joins them: People, Places & Things takes an unsentimental and, at times, harrowing look at addiction and recovery.

Cheryl Strayed — author of the bestselling memoir Wild — was still an unknown writer when she started an anonymous advice column called "Dear Sugar." She remembers reading and writing things "that we don't normally say to people in the public space," she recalls — and those intimate exchanges made her explore her own life more deeply. "I always think of the 'Dear Sugar' column as, like, therapy in the town square."

The New York City Ballet's costume shop is located on the eighth floor of a building in Lincoln Center. There are spectacular views of the Hudson River, but no one's looking out the windows. They're all working with a quiet intensity.

"It's a shop full of 18 people," says Marc Happel, the City Ballet's director of costumes. "Amazing craftspeople, machine operators, hand stitching, we have three drapers. I mean the level of costume-making here is probably the highest you could get."

Many plays have been called "kitchen sink" dramas because of their attempts at realism, but Oh My Sweet Land takes that to the extreme. It uses not just the sink but also the stove, the refrigerator, a chopping board and a very big knife — and it's being performed in kitchens across New York.

We Shall Not Be Moved is a new opera that takes its name from both the old spiritual-turned-civil-rights anthem and the Philadelphia black liberation group, MOVE. That group might be best-remembered for a 1985 tragedy: A police helicopter bombed the MOVE house, and the resulting fire killed 11 people and destroyed 62 homes in the neighborhood.

The opera, presented by Opera Philadelphia with the Apollo Theater, had its world premiere Sept. 16. It revisits that house and its ghosts, while remaining centered on stories about young people in Philadelphia today.

Legendary theater director Sir Peter Hall might have ended up the grand old man of British theater, but he came from modest beginnings — Hall was born in 1930 in Suffolk, England to a father who was a railway clerk, and his family lived in a house without electricity.

Hall went on to run two of the most important theater companies in England — the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre — and directed Waiting for Godot and Amadeus, among dozens of plays, old and new.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of the ingredients a successful Broadway show needs is a talented cast. That starts with talented casting directors, the people who can see a Tony-winning star in the making, say, when a performer walks into an audition as a college student named Audra McDonald.

Tony Award-winning composer John Kander has a favorite story about Broadway producer and director Harold Prince: In 1965, he and lyricist Fred Ebb were working on a show that Prince produced called Flora, The Red Menace and it was not going well.

Tony Award-winning actress and singer Barbara Cook, an ingénue in Broadway's Golden Age — during the 1950s and '60s — who later transformed herself into a concert and cabaret star, has died. She was 89.

Cook died early Tuesday of respiratory failure, surrounded by friends and family at her home in Manhattan, according to her publicist.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Russian, American and French ballet dancers are gathering Thursday night for a bit of cultural diplomacy at New York City's Lincoln Center. They're celebrating the 50th anniversary of George Balanchine's masterpiece Jewels, considered the first full-length, nonnarrative ballet.

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