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.

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1:30am

Mon February 3, 2014
Theater

'After Midnight,' And The Cotton Club Is Swinging Again

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 5:43 am

Fantasia Barrino, the American Idol winner who went on to play the lead role in Broadway's The Color Purple, was among the rotating roster of guest stars in After Midnight, a Broadway revue celebrating Harlem's legendary Cotton Club and the stars who performed there.
Matthew Murphy

1:26am

Fri January 3, 2014
Theater

Broadway's 'Spider-Man' Musical Turns Off The Lights At Last

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 7:23 am

Reeve Carney (right) handed off the lead role in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark to successor Justin Matthew Sargent in September 2013. The show closes Jan. 4, and the Smithsonian Institution announced today that it's acquiring Carney's costume.
Rob Kim Getty Images

Regardless of how critics and audiences eventually responded, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was always going to be one of the most-discussed shows in Broadway history. It had songs by U2's Bono and the Edge; it was directed by The Lion King's Julie Taymor; it was based on a hit Marvel franchise; there were going to be flying stunts right over the audience's heads.

And then somehow it all went very wrong, from injured actors to huge cost overruns.

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2:34am

Tue December 17, 2013
Business

New Owner Promises Handmade Steinways For Years To Come

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 10:30 pm

Some Steinway company representatives and employees — like Wally Boot, pictured here — have been working for the company for decades. Boot is the last person to touch every piano that leaves the factory in Queens, N.Y.
Craig Warga Bloomberg/Getty

For 160 years, the pianos made by Steinway & Sons have been considered the finest in the world. So when hedge fund billionaire John Paulson recently bought the company, it struck fear in the hearts of musicians: Would the famously handcrafted pianos be changed, for the sake of efficiency? Paulson, who owns several Steinways himself, says nothing will change.

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3:59pm

Tue October 1, 2013
Deceptive Cadence

Chronicle Of A Death Foretold: New York City Opera Shuts Its Doors

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 4:16 pm

The New York City Opera let its final curtain fall Saturday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a production of Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage.
Stephanie Berger

This morning the New York City Opera announced that it was declaring bankruptcy and ceasing operations. Dubbed "The People's Opera" by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia when it was founded 70 years ago, the company was meant as an alternative to the richer Metropolitan Opera. It's the place where exciting young singers like Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo made their New York debuts and where innovative productions of new operas premiered.

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2:40pm

Thu September 26, 2013
Theater

An American Masterpiece, And A 'Menagerie' Of Stars

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 5:19 pm

In a Broadway transfer of the American Repertory Theatre's acclaimed production of The Glass Menagerie, Cherry Jones plays Amanda, mother to the very troubled Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger). The play cemented Tennessee Williams' reputation as an American original when it premiered in 1945.
Michael J. Lutch

Pop-culture aficionadoes will know Zachary Quinto as Spock in the cinematic reboot of Star Trek, and Cherry Jones as President Taylor from television's 24.

But both are accomplished stage actors as well. And tonight, they're opening on Broadway, in a revival of Tennessee Williams' classic play The Glass Menagerie.

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3:34pm

Tue July 23, 2013
Theater

'Love's Labours,' Tuned Up And Playing In The Park

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 5:14 pm

Daniel Breaker, a Juilliard-trained actor who's earned praise for roles as varied as Donkey in Shrek the Musical and the protagonist Youth in Passing Strange, gets to play a king in a new musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost.
Tammy Shell The Public Theater

A few years ago, after songwriter Michael Friedman and writer-director Alex Timbers had finished working on their cheeky historical musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, they decided to look for a new project to work on. Friedman says they wanted the next show to have a completely different feel.

"So we started looking at Shakespeare," Friedman says. "And then, I think, we came to sort of, 'How amazing would it be to work on a romantic comedy?' "

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1:23am

Thu April 25, 2013
Theater

'Pippin' Revival Is A Circus Of A Show

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:46 am

The role of the Leading Player (Patina Miller) becomes a kind of circus ringmaster in the new Broadway revival of Stephen Schwartz's 1972 musical Pippin.
Joan Marcus

When Pippin opened in 1972, it was a sensation. Directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, who was coming off his Academy Award-winning film version of Cabaret, it was a showbiz triumph of jazz hands, sexy dancing and theatrical magic.

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12:32pm

Thu April 11, 2013
Theater

'Matilda' Brings Beloved Book To Broadway

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 3:49 pm

The Broadway cast of Matilda the Musical, including Olivier Award-winning actor Bertie Carvel as the barbaric headmistress Miss Trunchbull.
Joan Marcus

Matilda is a well-loved book by Roald Dahl, who's been called the greatest children's storyteller of the 20th century. It's about a much-put-upon little girl with tremendous gifts. Now, Matilda has been turned into a Broadway musical.

The British import, which won last year's prestigious Olivier Award and features a revolving cast of four little girls in the lead role, opens in New York tonight.

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3:25pm

Mon April 1, 2013
Theater

Nora Ephron's 'Lucky Guy' And Tom Hanks Make Their Broadway Debuts

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 6:57 pm

Nora Ephron's final play, Lucky Guy, tells the story of controversial New York columnist Mike McAlary, played by Tom Hanks. (Also pictured: Peter Gerety as John Cotter).
Boneau / Bryan-Brown

Several years ago, when Nora Ephron handed Tom Hanks an early draft of Lucky Guy, her play about tabloid journalist Mike McAlary, he had a pretty strong reaction.

"I said, 'Well, that guy's sure a jerk!' I used another word besides jerk — I know what you can say on NPR," he says. "And she laughed and she said, 'Well, he kinda was. But he was kinda great, too.'"

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4:07pm

Tue March 5, 2013
Theater

For This Pair Of Clowns, 'Old Hats' Means New Laughs

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 5:14 pm

Nellie McKay, David Shiner and Bill Irwin use old-time comedy, newfangled tricks and zany music to score laughs in their new theatrical revue, Old Hats.
Joan Marcus

Twenty years ago, theatrical clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner collaborated on a Broadway show called Fool Moon — a giddy mixture of slapstick, improv and audience participation that proved such a success that it came back to Broadway for two more runs and toured both the U.S. and Europe. Now Irwin and Shiner have put together a new show called Old Hats, and it's been receiving rave reviews off-Broadway.

Irwin and Shiner's rubber-faced, loose-bodied clowning hasn't gotten easier over two decades.

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1:40am

Fri February 1, 2013
History

Grand Central, A Cathedral For Commuters, Celebrates 100

Originally published on

Friday marks the day that 100 years ago, Grand Central Terminal opened its doors for business for the very first time. The largest railroad terminal in the world, the magnificent Beaux-Arts building is in the heart of New York City on 42nd St. And while it no longer serves long-distance trains, it's still a vibrant part of the city's eco-system.

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1:47am

Tue January 8, 2013
Theater

A Vet's Haunted Homecoming In 'Water By The Spoonful'

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 4:06 am

Liza Colon-Zayas plays a troubled character named Odessa Ortiz, who finds her better self online. She's pictured above with Bill Heck, as Fountainhead.
Richard Termine

The cliche about writers is they should write what they know, and that old saw has certainly worked for Quiara Alegria Hudes. The 35-year-old playwright has mined her Puerto Rican family's stories into a series of plays, a musical and even a children's book. Now, her Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Water by the Spoonful, is being brought to life in the first New York production of the play, opening off-Broadway on Tuesday evening.

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2:03am

Fri November 30, 2012
Deceptive Cadence

The Peony Pavilion: A Vivid Dream In A Garden

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 7:43 pm

A garden serves as the stage in the opera.
Zhang Yi

The Peony Pavilion is one of China's most famous operas, but uncut performances of this romantic 16th century work can take more than 22 hours. Chinese composer Tan Dun, who's best known for his Academy Award-winning score for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has adapted the work into a compact 75 minutes.

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12:03am

Thu October 18, 2012
Deceptive Cadence

Philadelphia Orchestra Reboots With New Music Director

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 10:11 am

Yannick Nezet-Seguin leads the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Ryan Donnell

Everywhere you look right now, it seems like American symphony orchestras are fighting for their lives — strikes, lockouts, bankruptcy. Perhaps the biggest example is the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, which is just coming out of its own bankruptcy. Tonight, its new 37-year-old music director takes the podium as the venerable orchestra begins a reboot.

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2:06pm

Wed October 10, 2012
Deceptive Cadence

During Lockout Season, Orchestra Musicians Grapple With Their Future

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 11:05 am

The Minnesota Orchestra is one of many orchestras around the country dealing with labor disputes.
Greg Helgeson

It's been a tumultuous time for American orchestras. Labor disputes have shut down the Minnesota Orchestra and Indianapolis Symphony, and strikes and lockouts have affected orchestras in Chicago, Atlanta and Louisville in the past year.

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1:33pm

Tue September 18, 2012
Theater

Shorts Inspire Music In 'Sounding Beckett' Trilogy

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:09 pm

In Ohio Impromptu, one of three short plays featured in Sounding Beckett, the silent character (Philip Goodwin, left, with Ted van Griethuysen) inspired music based on knocks and repetitions.
Jeremy Tressler Sounding Beckett

It all began last year, when the Library of Congress presented Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu alongside a piece of music by composer Dina Koston, which responded to the text. A New York group, the Cygnus Ensemble, played the music, while Washington, D.C., director Joy Zinoman staged the play, for one night only.

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11:47am

Sun July 15, 2012
Remembrances

'Oklahoma!' Actress Celeste Holm Dies At 95

Originally published on Sun July 15, 2012 4:10 pm

Academy Award-winning actress Celeste Holm has died. A star on both stage and screen, Holm was best known for roles in Gentleman's Agreement, All About Eve and Oklahoma! She was 95.

Holm died early Sunday morning in her Manhattan apartment with her husband, family and close friends by her side. She had been hospitalized a couple weeks ago following a fire in actor Robert De Niro's apartment in the same building.

If there was one role that put Holm on the map, it was as the coquettish Ado Annie, in the 1943 hit musical, Oklahoma!

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2:12pm

Wed April 18, 2012
Theater

London Smash 'Two Guvnors' Comes To Broadway

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 3:54 pm

Adapted from The Servant of Two Masters, the new comedy One Man, Two Guvnors follows the "always famished and easily confused" Francis Henshall (James Corden, left), who must combat his own befuddlement while keeping both of his employers — a local gangster and criminal-in-hiding Stanley Stubbers (Oliver Chris) — from meeting.
Tristram Kenton

If you weren't a college theater major, you can be forgiven for not knowing much about commedia dell'arte, the 500-year-old theatrical tradition that Carlo Goldoni used for his comedy The Servant of Two Masters in 1743. Contemporary playwright Richard Bean has adapted that play into the decidedly British laugh riot One Man, Two Guvnors -- and he says all you really need to know about commedia is ... well, it's funny.

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10:01pm

Wed February 29, 2012
Theater

'Carrie' Creators Resurrect A Legendary Flop

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 10:18 am

Molly Ranson plays the title role in the off-Broadway reworking of Carrie, directed by Stafford Arima and written by Lawrence D. Cohen, with lyrics by Dean Pitchford and music by Michael Gore.
Joan Marcus

Broadway history is littered with flop musicals — but if some shows are bombs, then Carrie, based on Stephen King's best-selling 1974 novel, was kind of a nuclear bomb.

The story of a teenager with telekinetic powers who wreaks bloody havoc on her small Maine town had already been successfully adapted as a film starring Sissy Spacek in 1976. But as a musical?

Frank Rich was theater critic for The New York Times when the show opened in April 1988. He called it a musical wreck that "expires with fireworks like the Hindenburg."

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10:01pm

Thu February 9, 2012
Performing Arts

Colonial History, Through The Eyes Of The Colonized

Pascale Armand plays Jekesai, later christened as Ester, who's taken in by a black Catholic missionary when she flees an arranged marriage in 1890s Rhodesia.
T. Charles Erickson McCarter Theatre

Actor and writer Danai Gurira sometimes refers to herself as a "Zimerican": She was born in Iowa, but spent most of her childhood in Harare, Zimbabwe — where her new play, The Convert, is set.

"I grew up there from age 5 to 19," Gurira says. "I'm back there every year, but I feel like there are things that I had to dig out through this process of creating this play."

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