Ep 50: ProEnglish Theatre
On the 50th episode of the Filmed Live Musicals podcast, host Luisa Lyons chats with Alex Borovenskiy, the founder and executive director of the ProEnglish Theatre and Drama School in Kyiv, the only English-language theatre in the Ukraine.
Alex shares his experience of creating theatre in the middle of a war, how ProEnglish Theatre has adapted and continued to make new work, as well as collaborate with artists and theatres from around the world.
ProEnglish Theatre is an independent theatre based in Kyiv, Ukraine. Following the Russian invasion into the Ukraine in February 2022, ProEnglish Theatre has served as a bomb shelter, a volunteer center, and a theatre. Despite the ever present threat of war, the company has continued to create new work, collaborated with theatres and artists in Japan, Taiwan, and Australia, performed at Prague Fest with an adaptation of The Book Thief, staged Pro.Act Fest — an international festival, and continued to teach theatre.
Watch the 2022 Pro.Act Fest for free on Scenesaver.
Support ProEnglish Theatre at Patreon, or make a donation via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit ProEnglishTheatre.com, and follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
How very! There are two new entries in the database - Heathers: The Musical filmed live at The Other Palace in May this year, and Velvet Determination filmed live at the Hudson Guild Theatre in early 2020.
Heathers is a dark musical comedy set at Westerberg High School where cliques rule. Veronica Sawyer is a reluctant member of the popular girl clique, the Heathers. With the help of newcomer J.D., Veronica sets to turn popularity on its head, and murder and mayhem ensue.
The London debut of the show has proved so popular it has had two West End runs (one pre, and one post the theatre shutdown), and is now in its extended second run in the off West End theatre The Other Palace.
Learn more about Heathers: www.filmedlivemusicals.com/heathers.
Velvet Determination is an autobiographical one woman show by actor, singer, and classical pianist Cynthia Shaw. In the show, Cynthia shares her journey from a tiny Colorado town to a prestigious music school in NYC, and all the characters who help, or hinder, along the way.
You can also catch Cynthia talking about the history of the show on the Filmed Live Musicals podcast ! Learn more at www.filmedlivemusicals.com/velvet-determination.
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Scarce heard amid the guns
As elemental as song and dance are to human nature, so to is the quest for power, control of resources, and control over one another. Today marks 104 years since the armistice between the Allied Forces and Germany after four bloody years of war was declared. Now known as Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day in the US, it is a day to reflect upon the sacrifice of war, and honor the men and women who have served their countries through the military.
Sadly, war continues to be an ever-present reality for many people in the world. I had the honor of interviewing Alex Borovenskiy, the founder and executive director of the Ukrainian ProEnglish Theatre and Drama School in Kyiv. Literally amidst falling bombs, power cuts, and continued Russian aggression, Alex and his colleagues are creating new work that speaks to the times and broadcasting it to the world beyond the Ukraine’s borders. The 2022 PRO.ACT Festival, with the theme “Unbreakable,” is available to stream for free on Scenesaver. The episode will be available next week.
Other podcast episodes looking at musicals about war include Allegiance with composer and producer Jay Kuo going behind the scenes of the musical about the incarceration of Japanese-American citizens on American soil during WWII, Pieces of String with composer Gus Gowland talking about his musical inspired by the untold stories of gay men in the military, and Pacific Overtures with theatre historian Margaret Hall delving into the history of Sondheim’s musical about the forcible opening of Japan to the West.
Below is a list of stage musicals you can watch from home which tell the stories of war across history, and from across the world.
Allegiance is loosely based on the events of actor George Takei’s life. During World War II, Takei and his family, along with 120,000 Japanese-American citizens were incarcerated in camps within the United States. Filmed live on Broadway in 2016, and released in cinemas in December of that year. It briefly held the record as Fathom Events’ highest grossing Broadway film. Click here for streaming options.
An American in Paris
Using the music of George and Ira Gerswhin, this romanticized musical tells the story of an American GI who falls in love with a Parisian woman in the days following the end of WWII. Adapted from the MGM movie of the same name, the stage production was filmed live in the West End in 2017. Click here for streaming options.
Filmed live on Broadway in 2017, this swing musical tells the story of a musician who returns from fighting in Europe during WWII, traumatized but with the desire to re-build his life following the death of his best friend. Although the musical was the first theatrical production to be certified by Get Your 6 for its authentic portrayal of the military, Bandstand was criticized for its lack of characters or actors of color. Released in cinemas in 2018, the musical was briefly available to stream on Playbill and Broadway on Demand earlier this year. Click here for streaming options.
From Here to Eternity
British musical From Here to Eternity is based on James Jones’ novel of the same name. With music by Stuart Brayson, lyrics by Sir Tim Rice, and a book by Bill Oakes, the musical depicts the affairs of US soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was filmed live during its West End run in 2014. Click here for streaming options.
A much lauded hip hop musical following the trials and tribulations of American founding father Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton depicts battles from the Revolutionary War, along with the battles of the cabinet. Click here for streaming options.
A fictionalized re-telling of true events, Imagine This is set in the Warsaw Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust. With departure to a camp imminent, a local theatre troupe are encouraged by their director to stage a musical about Masada (where a group of 960 Jewish refugees in the year 70 attempted to evade Roman soldiers before committing mass suicide). The musical had a short-lived run on the West End in 2008 where it was filmed live. Now available on DVD. Click here for purchasing options.
Based on Victor Hugo’s historical novel of the same name, Les Miserables is not set during the French Revolution, during the uprisings that took place a few decades later. Although the stories and characters in Les Mis are fiction, they are drawn from Hugo’s close observations of Paris life. The musical has to date been filmed live three times, the 10th anniversary concert, 25th anniversary concert, and, most recently, last year’s West End staged concert. Click on each title for streaming options.
Love at Times
A two-act play with music and movement filmed at the ProEnglish Theatre in Kyiv during the Russian invasion in 2022. Part 1 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” sees two gay soldiers from the Territorial Defense of Kyiv discussing their romantic relationship. In part 2, “Katie and Frank,” the title couple argues over the old adage “you never listen to me.” Available for free with registration on Scenesaver. The ProEnglish Theatre’s one-woman play The Book of Sirens, a contemporary adaptation of The Book Thief set in Kyiv, is also worth a watch.
A modernized re-telling of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon. The musical tells the ill-fated love story of Kim, a young woman in Saigon, and an American G.I., Chris. The 25th anniversary gala production was filmed live in the West End in 2016. Click here for streaming options.
Only the Brave
Based on true stories, this British musical follows Captain John Howard and Lieutenant Denholm Brotheridge, and their wives Joy and Maggie, as the soldiers prepare for the D-Day landings. The 2016 production at the Wales Millennium Centre featured a real-life vet playing the role of John Howard Senior. Only the Brave was filmed live for archival purposes in 2016. Click here for streaming options.
Self-described by composer Stephen Sondheim as “the most bizarre and unusual musical ever to be seen in a commercial setting,” Pacific Overtures is a concept musical set around Commodore Perry’s first visit to Japan in 1853. It was filmed live during its original Broadway run for distribution on Japanese television. Click here for streaming options.
Pieces of String
Set in 1940 and the present day, British musical Pieces of String was inspired by a BBC documentary that briefly mentioned gay relationships in the armed forces during World War II, and modern day stories of gay men being unable to donate blood. Composer Gus Gowland sought to widen the scope for the way gay male characters are portrayed in musical theatre (a topic which he later explored in his PhD dissertation), and attempted to ensure women were also equally represented in the musical. The musical was filmed live during its run at Mercury Theatre Colchester in 2018. Click here for streaming options.
Based on the short story collection Tales of the South Pacific, the now classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was ground breaking musical for its exploration of racism, war, and interracial relationships. There are currently two filmed live productions of South Pacific in the database - the 2010 Lincoln Center revival and the 2005 Carnegie Hall concert starring Reba McIntyre and Brian Stokes Mitchell. The latter is available on DVD. Click here for purchasing options.
A Tale of Two Cities
Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities is based on Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name. The musical had a brief run on Broadway in 2008, and has received concert stagings in London, Paris, and Brighton. The concert performances were compiled into a special which was broadcast on PBS and is now available on DVD (this is an affiliate link and as an associate I may earn income from qualifying purchases).
Tyneham: No Small Sacrifice
This British musical tells the story of the residents of Tyneham, who were told to leave their homes in 1942 as the bequest of the British military. Although the residents were promised their homes would be returned, Tyneham remains military property to this day. Performed by amateur theatre company Generations Apart in 2013, the musical is currently available to view on YouTube.
V for Victory
This still-in-development British musical explores the lives of a group of friends in the resistance against the German occupation of Jersey during World War II. A concert version was performed at the Stockwell Playhouse in 2018 and was filmed live. Click here for streaming options.
Waiting for the Ship to Sail
Produced by Chickenshed in the UK, this timely musical is an artistic response to the urgent and pressing questions of global migration, and investigates the concepts of national and personal identity. It is currently available on YouTube.
The off-Broadway musical YANK! tells the story of soldiers falling in love, and depicts the gay scene that “thrived just beneath the surface of the US Army in the 1940s.” The musical was a hit of the NY Musical Theatre Festival in 2005, and had a successful off-Broadway run in 2010. Below 54 hosted a 10th anniversary concert in early 2020, and the video is currently available on YouTube.
How will you be honoring those whose lives have been lost in war, and those who have devoted their lives to service today?
I've been researching filmed live musicals for close to a decade now. Pre-pandemic we were lucky to get 1 or 2 releases a year, now it seems like they're being released every other week!
Here is a list of filmed stage musicals from Broadway and beyond to look forward to watching at home before the year is out.
Wuthering Heights (Nov 7)
Wise Children’s rocking re-telling of the Brontë novel was released on SkyArts this week (only available in the UK).
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 (Nov 17 & Dec 1)
Shotgun Players in California will be livestreaming their production of Dave Malloy’s gorgeous musical (only available to watch within California).
Much Ado About Nothing (Nov 22)
The Public Theater’s production filmed live at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park will re-air on Great Performances.
Mr Saturday Night
The Broadway musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Billy Crystal was filmed live during its run in 2022. It will be available to stream on BroadwayHD from Dec 1.
Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration (Dec 15)
Billed as an animated/live-action hybrid event, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will be performed live on ABC in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary. Produced my Jon M. Chu, current cast members include H.E.R (Belle), Josh Groban (Beast), Joshua Henry (Gaston), Rita Moreno (Narrator), Martin Short (Lumiere), Shania Twain (Mrs. Potts), David Alan Grier (Cogsworth), Rizwan Job Briones (Maurice), and Leo Abelo Perry (Chip). It will be available to stream on Dec 16.
Encanto at the Hollywood Bowl (Dec 28)
Two live concerts on November 11-12 featuring an 80-person orchestra, 50 dancers, and songs from the Disney movie Encanto will be filmed live and released on Disney Plus.
Audra McDonald Sings the Great American Songbook
Audra McDonald’s sold-out September concert at the Palladium in London was filmed live for later release. If the buzz on Twitter after the concert is anything to go by, this will be one not to miss.
Disney's Broadway musical based on the classic animation was filmed live in the West End in 2019.
Bonnie and Clyde
A concert production featuring Jeremy Jordan and Frances Mayli McCann was filmed live in the West End in January of this year.
Children of Eden
A staged concert production of Stephen Schwartz and John Caird’s musical was filmed live at Chicago’s Cadillac Theatre in mid-October.
After the national tour of the off-Broadway musical was suddenly cancelled after just one night in early June, a special performance was filmed live at the Palace Theatre in Columbus, Ohio.
Girl from North Country
Set in the heartland of America during the Great Depression, this new musical with a book by Conor McPherson features the music of Bob Dylan. It was filmed live on Broadway at the end of April.
Jersey Boys Live
Helmed by the original Broadway director Des McAnuff and filmed live in at the Playhouse Square Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio in the summer of 2021.
The Prince of Egypt
The DreamWorks musical was filmed live in the West End at the end of 2021.
The West End production of the feisty pop musical about the six wives of Henry VIII was filmed live over the summer.
A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant LIVE!
Kyle Jarrow's satiric musical was filmed live at the 14th St Y under the direction of Sean Pollock on November 5, 2022. It will be released on the newly launched Indie Film Theater Network (IFT Network).
Sara Bareilles’ delicious musical based on the movie of the same name, was filmed live on September 22, 2021. The opening number of that performance was also livestreamed on TikTok.
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Updated Nov 15, 2022.
Host Luisa Lyons chats with Cynthia Shaw, an actor, singer, and classical pianist whose one woman show Velvet Determination is currently available to stream on demand.
Tune in to hear about how Cynthia came to play the piano, music practice, the inspiration behind her one woman show, folding pianos, and the importance of making art.
Cynthia grew up playing classical piano in a tiny Colorado town, but she was determined to achieve the keys to success by attending a prestigious New York City music school. In this autobiographical solo show, Cynthia shares tuneful tales of battling inner demons and nutty neighbours, hitting wrong notes, enduring hard knocks and meeting unique Manhattan characters who inspire, help and sometimes hinder her journey to Carnegie Hall, all illustrated by virtuoso live piano performance.
Watch Velvet Determination
Watch Spark of Creation
Learn more about Cynthia
Follow Cynthia on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Available wherever you listen to podcasts and on YouTube.
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