ATTEND THE TALE OF ‘ANYONE CAN WHISTLE,’ THEN AND NOW ·

(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/19; via Pam Green; Photo:  From left, Maria Friedman, John Owen Edwards, John Yap and Stephen Sondheim working on the recording of “Anyone Can Whistle” at Abbey Road Studios in 2013.Credit…Doug Craib, via JAY Records.)

A sparkling new recording of the 1964 musical makes half the case for Stephen Sondheim’s endlessly inventive score.

A new recording of “Anyone Can Whistle,” the 1964 musical by Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, has for decades been on the wish lists of Broadway cultists and completists. Now that their wish has been granted — a complete studio version from the English label Jay Records was released in December — I think they’ll find that new isn’t always enough.

Which is not to say it isn’t vastly welcome. The original cast album from Columbia Records, though better than you might expect from a one-week flop, is less than ideal. Sondheim’s endlessly inventive score was heavily truncated, and the singers, who recorded it on the Sunday morning after the closing on a Saturday night, sound exhausted. Bungles abound. Despite lovely moments, that disc (now available on Masterworks Broadway) comes off less as a living record of the show than as a hasty, sketchy post-mortem.

Maybe that was apt. The disaster that opened at the Majestic Theater on April 4, 1964, had already been in florid trouble out of town. One actor had a heart attack during a Philadelphia performance; a dancer caused a heart attack when she flew off the stage, into the pit and onto a saxophone player. Everyone else was left to squabble and panic. So perhaps it’s not surprising that when “Whistle” eventually got to Broadway, in a season otherwise notable for “Hello, Dolly!” and “Funny Girl,” it struck many theatergoers as chaotic and alienating.

Chaotic it still is. Laurents’s satirical book, though clever and novel, works too hard at too many things, aiming darts at every -ism in its path: conformism, evangelism and cronyism among them. The gangly plot, involving a venal mayoress faking a miracle (Angela Lansbury in the original production), a repressed nurse with a French alter ego (Lee Remick) and a psychiatrist who’s actually a psychiatric patient (Harry Guardino), seems to be held together by spit and sarcasm.

But it wasn’t just the complicated book; audiences weren’t yet ready for the complications of Sondheim. Despite his score for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” — a hit that was still running after two years on Broadway — he was mostly pegged as a lyricist, and his music for “Whistle” did not go over well. In The Times, Howard Taubman allowed that some songs were pleasing, “but not enough of them.” Another critic called the music, inaccurately, atonal.

Despite such judgments, several songs from “Whistle” — including “A Parade in Town,” “There Won’t Be Trumpets,” “With So Little to Be Sure Of” and the title song — are now widely performed. Smallish revivals over the years, and a starry Encores! presentation in 2010, demonstrated that much of the show could be redeemed by its score.

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JEAN-CLAUDE CARRIÈRE, 89, DIES; PROLIFIC WRITER OF SCREENPLAYS AND MORE ·

(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/11; Photo: Jean-Claude Carrière in 1999. He had more than 150 film and television writing credits and also wrote books and plays.Credit…Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.)

He was a favorite of Luis Buñuel and other top filmmakers. He also had a fruitful collaboration with the stage director Peter Brook.

Jean-Claude Carrière, an author, playwright and screenwriter who collaborated with the director Luis Buñuel on a string of important films and went on to work on scores of other movies, among them Philip Kaufman’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (1988), died on Monday at his home in Paris. He was 89.

The death was confirmed by his daughter Kiara Carrière. No cause was given.

Mr. Carrière had barely started in the movie business when he met Buñuel, the Spanish-born director, in 1963 (although he had already won a short-subject Oscar for a 1962 comedy he made with Pierre Étaix, “Happy Anniversary”).

“At the time, he was looking for a young French screenwriter who knew the French countryside well,” Mr. Carrière recalled in a 1983 interview with the writer Jason Weiss.

“I was a beginner,” he said. “I had gone to Cannes, and he was seeing various screenwriters there. I had lunch with him, we got along well, and three weeks later he chose me and I left for Madrid. Since then I haven’t stopped.”

His first project with Buñuel was “Diary of a Chambermaid” (1964), for which the two adapted the Octave Mirbeau novel of the same name. Mr. Carrière continued to work with Buñuel for the rest of the director’s career, including on his last feature, “That Obscure Object of Desire,” in 1977. (Buñuel died in 1983.)

“Quite often the screenwriter has to guess what exactly the film is that the director wants to make,” Mr. Carrière told Interview magazine in 2015. “Sometimes the director doesn’t even know himself. You have to help him find the right thing. That was the case with Buñuel. At the beginning, he was looking around in many different directions, and finally when we went the right way, we felt it.”

Mr. Carrière also collaborated with other top filmmakers, including Jacques Deray (on the 1969 movie “The Swimming Pool” and more) and Louis Malle (on the 1967 film “The Thief of Paris” and others). In the 1970s one of his greatest successes was as a writer of Volker Schlondorff’s “The Tin Drum” (1979), which was adapted from the Günter Grass novel about a boy who, in the midst of the gathering chaos that led to World War II, decides not to grow up; it won the Oscar for best foreign-language film.

In the 1980s he wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for Daniel Vigne’s “The Return of Martin Guerre” (1982), Andrzej Wajda’s “Danton” (1983), Milos Forman’s “Valmont” (1989) and numerous other movies. Among the most recent of his more than 150 film and television credits were “The Artist and the Model,” a 2012 drama directed by Fernando Trueba, and “At Eternity’s Gate,” a 2018 film about Vincent van Gogh directed by Julian Schnabel.

In 2014 Mr. Carrière received an honorary Oscar for his body of work. The citation said that his “elegantly crafted screenplays elevate the art of screenwriting to the level of literature.”

The prolific Mr. Carrière also wrote books and plays, often collaborating with the stage director Peter Brook. His interests knew no bounds.

With Mr. Brook he created “The Mahabharata,” a nine-hour stage version of the Sanskrit epic, which was staged at the Avignon Theater Festival in France in 1985 and then made into a film. He once wrote a book with the Dalai Lama (“The Power of Buddhism,” 1996). He wrote a novel called “Please, Mr. Einstein” that, as Dennis Overbye wrote in a 2006 review in The New York Times, “touches down lightly and charmingly on some of the thorniest philosophical consequences of Einstein’s genius and, by extension, the scientific preoccupations of the 20th century — the nature of reality, the fate of causality, the comprehensibility of nature, the limits of the mind.”

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NEW DAWN:  THEATRE AFFIRMATIONS ·

I take the time needed to express my creativity—and it is always  in demand.

 

Inspiration and invention lead me, and my ship comes in now.

 

I can easily solve any problem and correct answers come to me easily.  I know what to do.

 

My projects complete easily and automatically—and I am pleased with my process and results.

 

All right resources are mine now–and I am grateful. 

 

I am worthy of success.

 

My path is important to myself and our community.

 

I am most truly successful, as an artist and otherwise, when I am my most authentic self, openly and honestly.

 

I adapt my vision to the new theatrical reality—and it has all positive outcomes for me.

 

Theatre comes back strong in 2021—and heals us.

 

(Many of the above affirmations are from or based on work by Teri D. Mahaney, Florence Scovel Shinn, Louise Hay, and others.)

FRANCE: CULTURE VS COVID: A FINAL CURTAIN CALL FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS? INTERVIEWS WITH BASIL TWIST AND MARION SIEFERT ·

(Olivia Salazar-Winspear’s interviews appeared 2/19 on France24.)

As part of France24’s week-long series about how the arts are dealing with Covid-19, we take a look at the impact of the health crisis on theatre, dance and opera. Playwright and director Marion Siefert joins us in the studio to talk about how the “stop-start” measures of 2020 affected her productions. She also explains how her latest play “Jeanne Dark” has successfully made the shift into the virtual space, with performances streamed live on Instagram.

We then discuss the upcoming restrictions on crowd sizes and social distancing at festivals, and how they will affect young artists and smaller institutions.

And we check in with American puppeteer Basil Twist, who managed to stage a full-scale production of “Titon et L’Aurore” at the Opéra Comique in Paris, despite the absence of a live audience.

Go to France24

FACED WITH THE COLD, SMU MUSIC PROFESSOR SLEPT WITH HIS 330-YEAR-OLD VIOLIN TO PROTECT IT ·

(Tim Diovanni’s article appeared in the Dallas Morning News, 2/19; SMU professor Aaron Boyd poses with his violin on Thursday.(Smiley N. Pool / Staff Photographer; via the Drudge Report.)

With his Plano thermostat in the 40s, the owner of a precious instrument was forced to get creative in caring for it.

As temperatures plummeted across Texas this week, a local violinist began sleeping with his instrument. Aaron Boyd, director of chamber music at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, spent a few nights snuggling up with his 5-year-old son, Yuki, and his violin, which was nestled in its case, under many blankets.

It was made in Venice in 1690. “I treat this violin as if it were a living creature,” says Boyd, who didn’t have power for most of Monday and Tuesday. Though he doesn’t think his “old Italian masterpiece” would have cracked when the temperature at his home in Plano dropped into the 40s, he “would never want to test it,” he says. “Because once it’s cracked, you have to have it fixed. And it’s never quite the same afterward.”

A salesperson pulled the instrument out of a safe at a New York City violin shop about 10 years ago after Boyd had asked to see something Venetian. Its creator, Matteo Goffriller, was the father of the “Venetian School” of luthiers. (From the French word for lute, “luthier” means an artisan who builds and repairs string instruments.) Goffriller is believed to have taught several prominent luthiers, and the deep red varnish he used was one of his trademarks.

“It was love at first sight,” Boyd remembers. Though he declined to say what it cost, it was more than he could afford, so he started saving up. “I spent the next six months waking up and going to sleep with a calculator in my hand, trying to see how I could make it happen,” Boyd says. “It’s a love affair I have with a particular instrument which expresses the sound I’m looking for.”

Aaron Boyd’s violin sits in its case on Thursday. The instrument was made in Venice in 1690 by Matteo Goffriller, a renowned craftsman of string instruments.

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CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (111) ·

The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

Much which seemed natural to me was in reality born of old theatrical frumpery. The most terrible thing of all is when self-conceit deceives the actor and when a disjointedness is formed between his body and his soul, between living over a part and its incarnification, when a muscular rebirth goes on in the body of the actor. Then his nature, his voice, his gestures, his mimetics, become crippled, like a spoiled and badly tuned piano. I was shaken. . . . (MLIA)

INTERACTIVE ‘THE CHERRY ORCHARD’ ONLINE STARRING *JESSICA HECHT*ANNA BARYSHNIKOV*DARYA DENISOVA*JEFFREY HAYENGA*ELANIE MOORE*NAEL NACER*MARK NELSON*AND SPECIAL GUEST *MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV ·

(via John Wyszniewski, Everyman Agency.)

Baryshnikov Arts Center and Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation Co-Present Arlekin Players Theatre’s The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop

Interactive Online Theater Experience Starring Jessica Hecht with

Anna Baryshnikov, Darya Denisova, Jeffrey Hayenga, Melanie Moore,

Nael Nacer, Mark Nelson, and special guest Mikhail Baryshnikov

February 26, 2021 at 8PM – One Night Only

FEBRUARY 16, 2021 – New York, NY – Baryshnikov Arts Center and Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation co-present an interactive new media experiment, adapted from Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, created by Boston’s award-winning Arlekin Players Theatre and their newly-established Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Performance LabThe Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop will debut online Friday, February 26, 2021 at 8PM ET as part of Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC)’s Digital Spring 2021 Season. Registration for this free event is required at BACNYC.ORG. This presentation is not open for review.

The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop is an experiment in development by Arlekin Players Theatre’s founder and director Igor Golyak, who has been a leading innovator of virtual theater since the start of the pandemic. His recent State vs. Natasha Banina was a Critic’s Pick in The New York Times by Maya Phillips who declared “The verdict is in: Zoom can, in fact, be an effective new stage for theater.” Golyak’s latest work fuses film, theater, and video game technology to create a new medium where viewers are able to interact with the performers. Drawing from the original text of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, scenes from the play, and recordings of Chekhov’s letters and dreams, the online event accesses Chekhov’s desktop computer, where viewers discover six of his classic characters living in a virtual space, searching for happiness.

The cast comprises a cadre of well-known stage, television, and film actors including Tony-Nominee Jessica Hecht, who performs the iconic role of Ranevskaya. Hecht says, “I have been longing to explore The Cherry Orchard with Igor and our company in a way that gives us the most intimate and relatable portrait of a family in crisis. I believe we can create something raw and modern, without losing an authenticity to Chekhov’s vision.”

The presentation also features other celebrated performers, including Anna Baryshnikov (Apple TV+’s Dickinson) as Varya; Arlekin’s Darya Denisova as Tramp; Jeffrey Hayenga (The Elephant Man) as Fiers; Melanie Moore (Finding NeverlandSo You Think You Can Dance) as Anya; Mark Nelson (Angels in AmericaThe Invention of Love) as Gaev; and acclaimed Boston-based actor Nael Nacer as Lopakhin. BAC’s Founder and Artistic Director Mikhail Baryshnikov makes a special appearance in the role of Anton Chekhov. The work was developed and filmed, in part, at BAC in January with strict adherence to COVID health and safety protocols.  

This project is the first phase of a larger New Media Cherry Orchard Project that Arlekin plans to develop into a hybrid production featuring new media, online, and live elements, with aspirations for a New York run in the 2021-22 season. “The Post-pandemic theater has to reexamine and reimagine itself. Through this experiment we are finding out how humankind can find each other in the virtual while continuing to treasure the in-person encounter, which makes for a new kind of site-specific theater,” says Golyak. “And I find myself in constant dialogue with The Cherry Orchard—during a time of loss and recovery, it helps us explore connection, transition, loss, and the human yearning for happiness.”

An international team of designers, new software usage, and technical engineers has collaborated with Golyak both virtually and onsite in Arlekin’s new Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Performance Lab in Needham, MA for several months to create the functionality and online environment for this project, which includes software support from Aximmetry Technologies Ltd., the official software provider for Arlekin’s Zero Gravity Lab; a new platform called “The Soft Layer” from Will Brierly of Snowrunner Productions; and back-end/design work from Vladimir Gusev, Anna Fedorova, and Anton Nikolaev.

The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop marks the second collaboration for Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation and Baryshnikov Arts Center, who co-presented Arlekin’s State vs. Natasha Banina during BAC’s Digital Fall 2020 Season. The evening offers an immersive experience as Arlekin shares their new proof of concept, followed by a live talkback with members of the cast and creative team.

The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop, co-presented by Baryshnikov Arts Center and Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation, is made possible with generous additional support from ArtsEmerson, Fooksman Family Foundation, ZiphyCare, BroadBand Collaborative, Meghan Coleman, Robin Hanley, and Aximmetry Technologies Ltd., the official software provider for Arlekin’s Zero Gravity Lab.

FULL PROGRAM CREDITS

The Baryshnikov Arts Center & Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation Co-present

Arlekin Players Theatre

The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop

Adapted from The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

Conceived and Directed by Igor Golyak

Produced by Igor Golyak, Arlekin Players and Sara Stackhouse, BroadBand Collaborative

Virtual Performance Technical Director: Vladimir Gusev

Game Engine & Interaction Design: Will Brierly, Snowrunner Productions

Live Production Technicians: Anton Nikolaev and Igor Golyak

Virtual Set & Environment Designer: Anna Fedorova

Web Developer: Anatoly Krivonos

Composer: Jakov Jakoulov

Assistant Director: Blair Cadden

Properties Assistant: Irina Vilenchik

Platform: The Soft Layer by Snowrunner Productions

Director of Photography: Guillermo Cameo

Associate Producer: Joshua A. Friedman

2nd Camera and Editor: Anton Nikolaev

Sound: Sebastian Holst

Gaffer: Sashank Sana

Assistant Editor: Anna Gruman

Production Assistant: Violet de Besche

Cast

Ranevskaya                Jessica Hecht

Gaev                           Mark Nelson

Varya                          Anna Baryshnikov

Anya                            Melanie Moore

Lopakhin                     Nael Nacer

Fiers                            Jeffrey Hayenga

Tramp                         Darya Denisova

And Mikhail Baryshnikov as Anton Chekhov

Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) is the realization of a long-held vision by artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov who sought to build an arts center in Manhattan that would serve as a gathering place for artists from all disciplines. BAC’s opening in 2005 heralded the launch of this mission, establishing a thriving creative laboratory and performance space for artists from around the world. BAC’s activities encompass a robust residency program augmented by a range of professional services, including commissions of new work, as well as the presentation of performances by artists at varying stages of their careers. In tandem with its commitment to supporting artists, BAC is dedicated to building audiences for the arts by presenting contemporary, innovative work at affordable ticket prices. For more information visit bacnyc.org.

Cherry Orchard Festival (CherryOrchardFestival.org), a registered 501c) (3) arts organization, is a leading independent international arts organization with a solid reputation for presenting musical performances, theatrical productions, multidisciplinary performing and visual arts attractions by a stunning array of global artists to audiences in the US. Founded by executive producer Maria Shclover and artistic director Irina Shabshis in 2012, the festival has presented over 60 unique world class events, concerts, and theatrical performances to over 150,000 audience members across the US. The presentation of “Cherry Orchard” at the Baryshnikov Arts Center will be the second collaboration between the Festival and Arlekin Theatre, after the successful online run of The State Vs. Natasha Banina in 2020. The ongoing mission of the Cherry Orchard Festival is to introduce and promote global cultural activity and exchange of ideas, aiming to enlighten and engage audiences through educational entertainment programs and events. For more information about the festival, please visit cherryorchardfestival.org.

Arlekin Players Theatre, founded by Artistic Director Igor Golyak, was created in Boston in 2009 and has since toured to New York, Chicago, and Hartford, as well as to international festivals in Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, and Monaco. It’s production of State vs Natasha Banina has received world-wide acclaim, including the New York Times Critics’ Pick. Arlekin has received multiple awards for its work including four 2020 Elliot Norton Awards from the Boston Theater Critics Association for its recent productions of The Stone and The Seagull. Arlekin takes strong pride in their emphasis on self-identity; they are a company of immigrants performing works that play on the ideas of cross-culture, home, and traditions, challenging the idea of nationality, and finding common themes that unite us all. The company makes its home in Needham, MA. For more information, visit www.arlekinplayers.com.

UP CLOSE: THE VOODOO MACBETH THAT GENERATED JOBS FOR BLACK AMERICANS DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION ·

(from Shakespeare & Beyond, February 16, 2021.)  | 

Federal Theatre Project production of Macbeth in 1936. Courtesy Library of Congress

A struggling economy. Unemployed artists. Hard-hit Black communities. It might sound like we’re talking about our present pandemic life in America, but this also describes the situation in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.

In the midst of these difficult conditions, a spectacular production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth took the stage at Lafayette Theatre in New York City, involving hundreds of Black actors, theater technicians, and supporting staff. It was financed by the Federal Theatre Project, a controversial part of the federal government’s New Deal programs to provide jobs for Americans.

This 1936 Macbeth was distinctive for a variety of reasons: the large, all-Black cast performing a classical play (extremely unusual for the time); the voodoo-infused setting in 19th-century Haiti with colorful jungle scenery; and the involvement of a 20-year-old Orson Welles, who was making his professional directorial debut.

Related: Listen to a Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episode about Orson Welles and Shakespeare

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STARS IN YOUR EYES: THE 50S MUSICAL SALUTING ACTORS IN A CRISIS ·

 

(Chris Wiegand’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/16; Photo: Slapstick and sentimental songs … Pat Kirkwood in the 1956 musical comedy Stars in Your Eyes. Photograph: networkonair.com.)

Our series on films about theatre continues with a British comedy in which variety acts face an existential threat when TV steals their audience

Theatres around the country are shutting their doors and there are scarce opportunities on stage for actors. That’s the grimly familiar scenario in the 1956 British film Stars in Your Eyes, which charts the final years of variety. But this musical comedy – received as “cheery” and “disarmingly inconsequential” when it was first reviewed – strikes a further chord in Covid times by celebrating the resilience and ingenuity of theatre’s workforce.

Northern variety stars Nat Jackley and Pat Kirkwood get top billing as Jimmy and Sally, married entertainers who see audiences dwindling on their latest tour. “Rosa was in earlier,” one of them grumbles to the other. “Rosa?” “Rows a seats.” Jimmy and Sally’s act has been eclipsed by television and, after a month on the road, their revue won’t get any further than Scunthorpe. “The only way you can fill a theatre nowadays is to take all your clothes off,” sighs their agent.

After Jimmy unsuccessfully auditions for a TV gig, the couple spot an opportunity to open their own theatre with the help of washed-up songwriter Dave (Bonar Colleano) and his estranged wife, Ann (Welsh singer Dorothy Squires, in her only film role). Nothing can stop them apart from perhaps a leaky roof, a pair of devious property developers and the public’s telly fixation.

Written by Talbot Rothwell and directed by Maurice Elvey for Adelphi Films, Stars in Your Eyes shows how the entertainment industry constantly shifts to suit changing tastes and technologies – much like Singin’ in the Rain did for Hollywood talkies a few years earlier. The film is structured as a showcase for sketches and songs, usually filmed on stage but sometimes integrated into the storyline, especially in Jimmy and Sally’s domestic life where they still operate as a kind of double act. There’s a wonderful physicality in these scenes, whether it’s the rubber-limbed Jimmy ironing his ties, and his own mug, or Sally furiously buttering her toast. A lengthy holiday camp sketch is performed by Jimmy at his screen audition, which reveals the TV industry’s nervousness about variety; after creasing up at his act, the producer uneasily declares it too broad for the small screen.

Jackley has the funny bones you get when you’re born – as he was – into a circus dynasty with several generations of stage performers. In the film, it’s Dave who comes from a family of entertainers. The venue they plan to reopen, the Majestic, is a bombed-out theatre his parents once ran. It symbolises the state and perception of variety at the time: dusty, outdated and abandoned. Watching in lockdown, it’s as poignant to see this empty, rundown playhouse as it is to see the scenes of London’s bustling streets. But before you can say “keep calm and carry on” Jimmy is sewing some costumes and Sally is giving the walls a new lick of paint.

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S. KOREA’S MUSICAL SCENE RESUMES ONSTAGE SHOWS, WELCOMES FANS AS COVID-19 SEATING RULES EASED ·

(from Yonhap 12/12; PHOTO: provided by Acom, shows a scene from the musical “The Last Empress.” (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) — The South Korean musical scene is elated with the resumption of onstage shows, which had been suspended for nearly two months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the return of fans.

Earlier, the South Korean health authorities slightly relaxed preventive guidelines at concert halls and theaters for performing arts although the nationwide social distancing have remained at the second-highest level for another two weeks until the coming Sunday.

Under the new rules, visitors are allowed to sit together with their accompanying friend or family member, with two empty seats on each side. Previously, concert halls and performing arts theaters had to put two empty seats between every audience member in a uniform manner.

Local musical companies, which had put their projects on hold for nearly two months due to the strict two-seat-apart rule, started to stage their postponed projects and extended their runs to meet rising demand for popular shows.

The blockbuster original musical “The Last Empress” will run until March 7 at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul, extended for 10 days from its original schedule. The show was set to kick off on Jan. 19 but was delayed until Feb. 2 after a two-week suspension.

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