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Tuesday, October 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Broadway Notes: Spokane’s Kendal Hartse lands spot in first national tour of Tony-winning ‘The Band’s Visit’

A year ago, Kendal Hartse was getting her disco groove on in “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway.

This year, the Shadle Park High School graduate is getting ready to head out on the road, kicking off the first national tour of the “The Band’s Visit,” winner of the Tony Award for best musical (and nine other categories) in 2018.

Written by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses, and based on the 2007 film of the same name, “The Band’s Visit” tells the story of an Egyptian police band that is hired to play a concert in Israel. A mixup at the border finds them in a remote Israeli desert village where there is no hotel and no bus until morning. The result, wrote Ben Brantely in the New York Times, reviewing the Off-Broadway production, is a “beautiful” musical that is “slyly seductive” with an “exquisitely wrought” score.

Hartse, who also acted in the 2013 Broadway revival of “Cinderella” and 2011’s “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” will play Iris, a villager trapped in an unhappy marriage.

“I’m so excited. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful show,” Hartse said in April, over coffee in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan.

This will mark her third national tour, following stints in “Cabaret” and “Cats.” While touring can be difficult, she said, it can be thrilling as well.

“The different audiences, there’s that. And traveling is so fun,” she said. “It’s so fun. You get to see the country, and you get to go to places you wouldn’t maybe go, you get to go to places you maybe always wanted to go. … And I like the variety of it.”

“The Band’s Visit” tour begins June 25 in Providence, R.I., and will visit more than 30 cities on its first leg. The closest she’ll be to her home town is San Francisco, in May 2020.

Leading the cast are Israeli screen actor Sasson Gabay, reprising his role as the bandleader Tewfiq Zakaria from the 2007 film and the Broadway run, Chilina Kennedy (“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”) as Dina, who owns the village cafe, and three other veterans of the Broadway cast, Joe Joseph as Haled, Pomme Koch as Itzik, and James Rana as Simon.

‘Jagged Little’ Kumangai

It’s official: Max Kumangai will be returning to “Jagged Little Pill” when the new musical opens on Broadway later this year.

Inspired by on the iconic 1995 album by Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill” is not a typical jukebox musical. It tells the story of a suburban family coming to terms with race and identity, infidelity, addiction and a host of modern troubles.

With music by Morissette, a book by Diablo Cody and directed by Diane Paulus, “Jagged Little Pill” will open at the Broadhurst Theatre for previews on Nov. 3, with an official opening on Dec. 5. The top-billed cast includes Elizabeth Stanley (“On the Town”), Kathryn Gallagher (“Spring Awakening”), Celia Rose Gooding, Derek Klena (“Anastasia”), Sean Allan Krill (“Honeymoon in Vegas”), and Lauren Patten (“Fun Home”), all reprising their roles last year’s world premiere at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA.

Kumangai, a North Central High School graduate, was in the cast for the musical’s world premiere last year. He will be reprising his role in the show’s ensemble.

Kumangai has been involved with Paulus’ other Broadway show, “Waitress,” since it opened in 2016, except for his time with the “Jagged” run in 2018. He calls Paulus his hero, telling The Spokesman-Review in April, “She has opened so many doors for me, and challenged me as an actor and I owe my career to her. She is amazing.”

The good feelings, it seems, are mutual. In an email, Paulus called herself a “super fan” of Kumangai.

“Max is one of the most creative and generous souls I have ever worked with,” the Tony-winning director said. “He is a dream member of any company – he brings out the best in everyone.”

Little comes home a winner

Coeur d’Alene’s Laura Little took home a Drama Desk award on June 2 for “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” a show she produced Off-Broadway last year with Theater Latté Da at the Sheen Center in Manhattan.

The show won in the category of “unique theatrical experience.” “All Is Calm,” which was staged in Coeur d’Alene in 2014 and Spokane in 2015 and ’16, is short and sweet. It tells the story of the famed 1914 truce during World War I through letters from soldiers, holiday songs and hymns.

Accolades for Caruso

Sophia Anne Caruso, the Spokane-born actress now playing Lydia in the new Broadway musical “Beetlejuice,” was among the 12 performers honored with a Theatre World Award, given to “outstanding” performers making their Broadway or Off-Broadway debuts. The award was presented on Monday by her “Beetlejuice” co-star Rob McClure, who won the same award in 2013 for his work as Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin.”

(Other winners include Gbenga Akinnagbe, who is playing Tom Robinson in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” veteran TV and film actor Paddy Considine for “The Ferryman” and Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her Off-Broadway production of “Fleabag.”)

Caruso also was named one of 11 breakout theater stars last month by the magazine Paper, alongside Amber Gray of “Hadestown,” Ali Stroker from the revival of “Oklahoma!” and Jeremy Pope from “Ain’t to Proud to Beg,” and “Choir Boy.”

Meanwhile, a new video of Caruso singing Lydia’s anthem “Dead Mom” from “Beetlejuice” dropped on YouTube on May 29, giving fans an early look at the recording of the show’s original Broadway cast recording, which was released Friday from Ghostlight Records.

By the way, Caruso is expected to appear on the Tony Awards ceremony tonight, joining her fellow “Beetlejuice” actors in performing a number from the show. Beetlejuice is up for eight Tonys, including best musical and best actor for Alex Brightman.

Speaking of the Tonys …

The ceremony, hosted by James Corden, will be aired at 8 p.m. today on CBS. In addition to Caruso, the ceremony will also include Patrick Page, the Spokane-born actor portraying Hades in “Hadestown.” The musical is the most nominated of the season, and includes a nod to Page for best featured male performance in a musical.

Another Eastern Washington native also could make a splash at the Tony’s the year.

As a high school student in Wenatchee, Heidi Schreck entered and frequently won American Legion speech contests about the U.S. Constitution. Her winnings helped pay her way through the University of Oregon. She turned that experience into a play, “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which she wrote and now stars in at the Helen Hays Theater on Broadway. She is up for two Tony Awards, for best play and best leading actress in a play.

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