Friday, December 30, 2011

Can I just talk about Stephanie J. Block for a minute? • Thank you.

Hello again theatre peeps, and Happy Holidays!  You know what the Holiday season brings -- among many other things, it's also typically when I ramble on about random stuff, so here goes…
I love Stephanie J. Block, aka, Broadway Crush #1.  I know, big surprise.  Why you ask?  Well, the first time I saw her was when she came through St. Louis with the first National Tour of WICKED as Elphaba in 2005.  That show is what prompted me to see more theatre.  I just thought to myself, "I enjoy this too much to not do more of it".  The rest is history.  Okay.  Not really history, but you get my point…

WICKED rehearsals with Stephanie J. Block
In preparation for seeing WICKED, I found an online trailer for the tour.  With "The Wizard of Oz" being one of my all-time childhood faves, after watching the trailer, my obsession with WICKED began immediately, and I did a little reading about Stephanie and the play.  At the time, she had suffered an injury from a flying accident in a scene that was later taken out of the show, and had thankfully recovered in time for the St. Louis stop.  After more online googling, I learned that she had been involved in the workshops for the show as early as 2001 - 2002 (Joe Mantello loved her), but the "higher ups" were concerned about the fact that she hadn't opened a Broadway show before, so they went with that other one…  Don't get me wrong -- Idina Menzel is a great talent, but Stephanie has a voice meant for this score.  A big-ass Broadway voice.  It's incredible.  Don't believe me?  I have clips at the end of this post -- don't even…
WICKED First National Tour with Stephanie J. Block.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Shame she wasn't able to originate the role.  Stephanie has always been very gracious about this, acknowledging the fact that nothing is a done deal until the papers are signed.  Although she had been with the show from very early on, she knew that she wasn't a shoo-in, but as far as I'm concerned, Idina Menzel has Stephanie's Tony Award on her mantel.  There.  I've said it.  Anyway, my girl is still featured in one of the original tour trailers included below.
Next for me was the rather unfortunate PIRATE QUEEN in 2007, written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil of Les Misérables fame.  Based on the life of Irish pirate and clan chieftain, Grace (Grania) O'Malley, this musical (a reported $18 million flop) didn't last too long on the Broad-Way.

Stephanie J. Block in THE PIRATE QUEEN
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
The life of Grace O'Malley had all of the makings of a hit -- potentially, but producers Moya Doherty and John McColgan, who brought us Riverdance, kind of mucked it up.  That, along with Schönberg and Boublil's blue-print, soulless book, that completely shortchanged the fascinating life of this historic figure, ensured this show a quick death.  The reviews were not kind.  Did I see it though?  Uh, yeah.  Twice.  Actually three times -- twice during previews in Chicago and once the last night of previews in NYC.  *sigh*  Poor Steph…
Megan Hilty (Doralee Rhodes), Allison Janney (Violet Newstead) and Stephanie J. Block (Judy Bernly).
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Next up was 9 TO 5, which I also had to see out of a sense of obligation in 2009.  Stephanie as Jane Fonda's film counterpart, Judy Bernly, made the most out of a role that wasn't that great.  Again -- she gets the big 11 o'clock number, but those reviews...  Oof...
The next time I saw my girlfriend Ms. Block, she was "Grizabella, the Glamour Cat" right here at the MUNY's 2010 production of CATS.  Yes, she was brilliant belting out another powerful 11 o'clock number, "Memory", and was charming at the stage door.  Then the following year, we were both seeing a show in NYC (WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN).  She was like 5 seats down from me!  I didn't notice her there until the intermission, when I went up and said hello, and she recognized me from the MUNY… WHAT?!?! … and we talked a bit after the first act.  It was the bomb.  Mentioned it at the end of this blog post.

Stephanie J. Block (Gloria Mitchell)
and Sanaa Lathan (Vera Stark).
Photo by Joan Marcus
All rights reserved by secondstagenyc

Then, last year I saw her in BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK, where we had a cool, "low-key" chat after.  It was a matinee show and she was trying to escape the stage door, but she recognized me again (love) and we talked on our way down 43rd street for a little while.  Magic…  I went into more detail in the blog for the show.
Recently she got to fill in for Sutton Foster in ANYTHING GOES.  Her reviews were incredibly positive, and it makes me happy for her.  I hope in the near future she can originate a role in a show that doesn't suck.  She deserves it.  
So now, for your viewing and listening pleasure, here are a few little knick-knacks for your enjoyment!

WICKED Tour Trailer:

"No Good Deed" from WICKED

"Sea of Life" from THE PIRATE QUEEN

And yes, her voice is legit.  The "money notes" are at the end...

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