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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Theater
5:30 am
Sat July 11, 2015

'Who Does That?!' Broadway Stars React To Badly Behaved Audiences

The Internet erupted this week in protest over the outrageous behavior of theater audiences and their mobile devices.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon July 13, 2015 6:53 am

The set for the first scene of the Broadway comedy Hand to God is a fairly realistic depiction of a church basement and, since there's no curtain at the theater, it's in full view of audience members when they enter. A week ago, a 19-year-old college student jumped onstage to plug his cellphone into what turned out to be a prop outlet.

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Theater
4:20 pm
Mon July 6, 2015

The Mornin' Ain't So Beautiful For This Dark 'Oklahoma!' Production

Damon Daunno (Curly) and Amber Gray (Laurey) star in director Daniel Fish's experimental retelling of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!
Cory Weaver Courtesy of Bard College

Originally published on Mon July 6, 2015 8:02 pm

Oklahoma! was the first musical that the celebrated team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote together. On the surface, it tells the story of a young woman (Laurey) deciding whether to go to a party with a dangerous, lonely farmhand (Jud) or a nice, young cowboy (Curly).

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Arts & Life
9:22 am
Thu June 25, 2015

Unearthed In A Library, 'Voodoo' Opera Rises Again

Harry Lawrence Freeman, the Harlem Renaissance composer of the opera Voodoo.
H. Lawrence Freeman Papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Originally published on Wed June 24, 2015 7:01 pm

About eight years ago, as a grad student, Annie Holt was working in Columbia University's Rare Books and Manuscripts Library when she was assigned to catalogue the work of Harry Lawrence Freeman, a largely forgotten Harlem-based composer from the early 20th century.

"It was fabulous!" she says. "I had the honor of going through all the cardboard boxes that came right from his family's house and unearthing everything, and I, for myself, discovered how amazing his story was and how amazing his music is."

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Theater
7:12 am
Mon June 8, 2015

'Fun Home,' 'Curious Incident' Take Home Top Tony Honors

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Broadway has been having a boom. The past year has brought record attendance and the best ticket sales ever. That provided a nice backdrop for the Tony Awards last night. Reporter Jeff Lunden brings us all the big winners.

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Theater
6:40 am
Sun June 7, 2015

First-Time Tony Award Nominees Enjoy New Fame, But Keep Day Jobs

Composer John Kander, 88, has received his 12th Tony nomination — this time for The Visit. "I really love the theater ..." he says. "This part, I hate; the idea that suddenly we're all put in a little sandbox where we're supposed to be very competitive with each other. And these are your friends!" Above, Chita Rivera and Michelle Veintimillia in The Visit.
Thom Kaine Courtesy of O+M Co.

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 9:09 am

It's a quiet afternoon at the Tex-Mex restaurant in Brooklyn where playwright Robert Askins works the day shift twice a week. Even though his play, Hand to God, is on Broadway and he's got a Tony nomination, Askins says he enjoys interacting with the regulars, most of whom know about his other job.

"When you day bar during the weekdays, you're the only one in the restaurant," he says. "So, you run the food and make the drinks and put it on the tables and it's good."

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Theater
4:21 pm
Mon May 11, 2015

Athol Fugard Breaks Fences Around 'The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek'

Joan Marcus Courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Originally published on Mon May 11, 2015 8:00 pm

At 82, legendary South African playwright Athol Fugard is still actively writing and directing new plays. His latest, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, which looks at his country during the apartheid era and after, opens off-Broadway tonight.

For decades, Fugard worked tirelessly, both in South Africa and in exile, to illuminate the injustices of apartheid in his plays. And when it finally ended and Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994, Fugard was convinced his career was over.

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Theater
7:25 am
Sat May 2, 2015

Getting To Know The Real Story Was Key To Broadway's 'King And I' Revival

Ken Watanabe and Kelli O'Hara have both received Tony nominations for their portrayals of the king and Anna Leonowens in Bartlett Sher's revival of The King and I.
Paul Kolnik Courtesy of Lincoln Center Theater

Originally published on Sat May 2, 2015 9:26 am

Director Bartlett Sher has been familiar with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's The King and I since he performed it in high school, but he didn't learn the actual history behind the musical until he started working on a critically lauded revival that recently received nine Tony nominations. In the real story, a young woman of English and Indian heritage — Anna Leonowens, the "I" in The King and I — receives an invitation from King Mongkut of Siam to teach at his court. The year is 1862.

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Theater
3:33 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Bill Nighy And David Hare Team Up Again In 'Skylight' Revival

Bill Nighy is starring a revival of David Hare's 1995 drama Skylight. "I adore it. It's probably my favorite play," he says.
John Haynes Philip Rinaldi Publicity

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 6:54 pm

Actor Bill Nighy is best known in the U.S. for his appearances in films such as Love Actually and Pirates of the Caribbean. But in England, he's a well-known stage actor, and one of his most successful collaborations is with playwright David Hare. They're together again on Broadway in a revival of Hare's 1995 drama, Skylight.

The actor and the writer first worked together on a television movie in 1980 and they've been working on and off ever since.

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Theater
5:05 am
Sun March 8, 2015

Helen Mirren Extends Her Elizabethan Reign In 'The Audience'

Helen Mirren (in blue) plays Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience, a play that imagines the private conversations between the queen and her prime ministers.
Joan Marcus Courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Originally published on Sun March 8, 2015 12:08 pm

The last time Dame Helen Mirren and author Peter Morgan collaborated, it was for the movie The Queen, and she took home an Oscar. Now the two are working together again, this time on a play called The Audience. It's about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers. A hit in London, the play is opening Sunday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway.

The Audience begins with a Buckingham Palace officer named "The Equerry," who tells the theater audience what it's about to see.

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Code Switch
3:03 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

One Playwright's 'Obligation' To Confront Race And Identity In The U.S.

Originally published on Mon February 16, 2015 6:35 pm

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins may be only 30 years old, but he's already compiled an impressive resume. His theatrical works, which look at race and identity in America, have been performed in New York and around the country. Last year, Jacobs-Jenkins won the best new American play Obie Award for two of his works, Appropriate and An Octoroon.

An Octoroon is currently playing at Theater for a New Audience in New York.

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Theater
3:40 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

One-Man Show Casts 'Brilliant' Light On Realities Of Suicide, Depression

Every Brilliant Thing, starring Jonny Donahoe, follows a son's efforts to fight his mother's deep depression.
Matthew Murphy Courtesy of O&M Co.

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 9:15 am

Imagine going to a small, off-Broadway theater for a one-person show that relies heavily on audience participation — and it's all about depression and suicide. That might sound like a theatrical nightmare, but the show in question — Every Brilliant Thing, currently playing at the Barrow Street Theatre — is also very funny and has been getting rave reviews.

"Normally, I loathe that kind of thing," says Ben Brantley, the chief drama critic for The New York Times.

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Theater
4:34 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

How Broadway Is Losing Its 'Middle Ground'

Side Show tells the true story of conjoined twins who go from a freak show to vaudeville and try, unsuccessfully, to find love along the way. "We just did not get enough bodies and butts in seats that translate into word of mouth," says Side Show producer Darren Bagert. Above (from left): Ryan Silverman, Emily Padgett, Erin Davie and Matthew Hydzik.
Joan Marcus O+M Co.

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 10:03 am

Broadway is New York's biggest tourist attraction and brought in $1.3 billion in ticket sales last season. But it's also a high-stakes gamble for producers, since only 1 in 4 Broadway shows turns a profit. This month, two of the fall's most highly anticipated musicals, a revival of Side Show and The Last Ship, with songs by Sting, have thrown in the towel — closing, having lost almost their entire investments.

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Deceptive Cadence
6:46 am
Sat December 27, 2014

Steinway Bids Farewell To Its Historic Hall

The rotunda at the historic Steinway Hall in Manhattan. The building will be torn down to build luxury condominiums.
Steinway & Sons

Originally published on Sat December 27, 2014 10:10 am

New York is saying goodbye to another historic building. Steinway Hall, the main showroom for Steinway & Sons pianos, will be moving to a new location, leaving its home of almost 90 years on 57th Street near Carnegie Hall. The first floor has been designated a landmark and will be preserved, while the rest of the building will be torn down to build high-rise luxury condominiums.

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Arts & Life
4:11 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Don't Let The Kasha Vanish: Diners Band Together To Save Café Edison

The Café Edison serves what might be called Jewish soul food — blintzes, matzoh ball soup and kasha varnishkes.
Jeff Lunden

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 9:49 am

Yesterday, about 50 protestors — and some media outlets — gathered on West 47th Street near Times Square for a rally to save the Café Edison, a diner whose clientele includes everyone from Broadway luminaries to tourists. People carried signs, local politicians spoke, and a quartet sang — to the tune of "Silver Bells" — an ode to the cafe's matzoh balls.

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Theater
6:21 am
Sun November 23, 2014

Reviving 'Allegro': Even Rodgers And Hammerstein Had Flops

A commentary on the American dream, Allegro tells the story of Joe Taylor Jr., a small-town doctor who moves to Chicago.
Rodgers & Hammerstein

Originally published on Mon November 24, 2014 1:42 pm

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II may have been one of the most successful writing teams in Broadway history — think of Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music, just to name a couple of their hits.

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