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
3:08 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 5:54 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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Music
12:03 am
Sat April 4, 2015

Bringing Mothers In Prison Closer To Their Children, Through Music

Daniel Levy works with Vateya (left) at the Rikers Island prison in New York City in February 2015, as part of the Lullaby Project.
Chris Lee Courtesy of Carnegie Hall

Originally published on Sat April 4, 2015 8:30 am

Mothers in prison rarely get to see their children, let alone touch them or sing them a lullaby. But female inmates in New York City are getting a little help with the singing, thanks to Carnegie Hall. For the last few years, Carnegie has sponsored the Lullaby Project, which pairs professional musicians with women in jails, homeless shelters and city hospitals, to help them write lullabies for their children.

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Theater
4:05 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 11:08 am

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
2:03 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 5:35 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
3:14 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 8:15 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
3:05 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 9:03 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
5:46 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 9:10 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
2:39 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 8:49 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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Performing Arts
3:07 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Lyricist Adolph Green's Influence Remains 100 Years After His Birth

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 12:48 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Theater
5:21 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 12:42 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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Music Interviews
5:52 am
Sat October 25, 2014

Oratorio Tackles The Issue Of Leaks From 'The Source'

Originally published on Sat October 25, 2014 9:57 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Theater
1:17 am
Tue October 7, 2014

The Unadaptable 'Curious Incident' Gets A Stage Adaptation

Alex Sharp stars as 15-year-old Christopher in the theater adaptation of Mark Haddon's 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 10:37 am

British novelist Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time became an international best-seller after it was published in England in 2003. The book is told entirely from the perspective of a brilliant 15-year-old boy who happens to be autistic, and a stage adaptation, which has been an award-winning hit in London, just opened on Broadway to rave reviews.

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Theater
8:29 am
Sun October 5, 2014

Seeing Neurological Patients As Characters, Not Case Studies

Kathryn Hunter, Jared McNeill and Marcello Magni star in The Valley of Astonishment.
Pascal Victor/ArtComArt

Originally published on Sun October 5, 2014 11:51 am

Peter Brook is truly the grand old man of world theater. He became famous with his productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early 1960s; wrote the seminal theater text The Empty Space; and started the International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris, where he developed such plays as the nine-hour adaptation of the Sanskrit epic, The Mahabharata.

Now, at the age of 89, Brook has brought his company to Brooklyn with a new play all about the mysteries of the human brain.

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Music News
2:12 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

New Boston Symphony Music Director Andris Nelsons: 'It's Not A Job — It's Life'

"The music's kind of oozing out of not just his hands, but his whole body," Boston Symphony managing director Mark Volpe says of the orchestra's new music director, Andris Nelsons.
Marco Borggreve Boston Symphony Orchestra

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 6:23 pm

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Music News
3:10 am
Sat September 20, 2014

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga Go 'Cheek To Cheek' On New Album

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga's collaborative album is called Cheek To Cheek.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat September 20, 2014 9:16 am

You might think they go together like oil and water, or chalk and cheese.

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Music News
4:29 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Nonesuch At 50: A Record Label Without Borders

Björk's interdisciplinary project Biophilia was released on the Nonesuch label in 2011.
Nonesuch

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 10:08 am

Sometimes good things come in small packages. Nonesuch Records, which started as a tiny independent budget classical label in 1964, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with three weeks of concerts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The label became a force in the recording industry by pioneering electronic music and world music, launching the ragtime revival and becoming a place where contemporary classical composers had a home. Now an industry powerhouse, Nonesuch still operates like an independent record company.

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Deceptive Cadence
3:14 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Met Opera Tentatively Settles With 2 Major Unions

The Metropolitan Opera has settled labor contracts with two of its largest unions.
Jonathan Ticler Metropolitan Opera

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 8:55 pm

A labor crisis threatening to shut down New York's Metropolitan Opera — the largest opera house in the world — appears to have been averted. Two of the major unions announced a tentative settlement this morning. While agreements with 10 additional unions need to be reached by Tuesday night, this represents a major turning point in a bitter dispute.

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Deceptive Cadence
3:07 am
Thu July 31, 2014

On The Eve Of A Possible Lockout, Met Opera Talks Remain Contentious

A worker unveils posters Tuesday for the coming season of New York's Metropolitan Opera. The Met's fall schedule could be in jeopardy if failed labor negotiations result in a lockout Friday.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 6:12 am

At the Metropolitan Opera, drama is usually onstage. But for the past several months, it's been in the newspapers.

Contract deadlines for 15 of the 16 unions at the Met in New York are set to expire at midnight tonight, and negotiations will likely go down to the wire. A lockout shutting down the world's largest opera house seems imminent.

Management wants concessions from the unions to offset dwindling ticket sales. Union employees think they're being asked to pay for unchecked spending.

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Deceptive Cadence
6:35 am
Sat July 26, 2014

War Of Words At Met Opera May Signal Shutdown

Bryn Terfel as Wotan in the Met's production of Wagner's Ring cycle, one of the productions that has been criticized by some as too costly.
Ken Howard Metropolitan Opera

Originally published on Sat July 26, 2014 11:32 am

When an opera company is in the midst of contentious labor negotiations, the results can be dramatic. This week, the war of words between unions and management at New York's Metropolitan Opera, the world's largest opera company, escalated. An Aug. 1 shut down now seems likely.

At the center of the debate is the ballooning Met budget, which stood at $200 million in 2006 but has since climbed to more than $325 million. Met General Manager Peter Gelb asserts that union salaries and benefits are his biggest costs, accounting for two-thirds of the operating budget.

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Deceptive Cadence
2:25 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Labor Conflict May Lock Out Met Opera Workers

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb has warned union workers of a lockout if a contract deal isn't settled by July 31.
Astrid Stawiarz Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 4:22 pm

The clock is ticking for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The world's largest opera company may be headed for a shutdown. Most of the union contracts for the Met expire in a week. Yesterday, Met General Manager Peter Gelb sent a letter to the unions, warning them to prepare for a lockout if they don't come to terms.

For months now, the company and its unions have been at an impasse. Management has proposed cutting 16 percent of union members' compensation. Otherwise, Gelb contends, the company could go bankrupt in two to three years.

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Remembrances
3:41 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Broadway Legend Elaine Stritch Dies At 89

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 6:00 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Broadway has lost a legend. She's Elaine Stritch, who died yesterday at the age of 89. Even recently she was gaining new fans with a guest role on the TV series "30 Rock." But as we're about to hear, Stritch made her name on the stage. Jeff Lunden has this appreciation of a singular talent.

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Music News
3:16 am
Sun July 6, 2014

Even Broadway Has Its B-Sides: The Lost Songs Of Sheldon Harnick

Acclaimed songwriter Sheldon Harnick turned 90 in April.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun July 6, 2014 10:50 am

Sheldon Harnick has been a working lyricist for over 60 years. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the musical Fiorello! and a Tony Award for Fiddler On The Roof. But he says a career in the theater means writing some songs that, for whatever reason, don't make the show.

"Sometimes, the song was changed because a scene was changed and it no longer accommodated the song," Harnick says. "So, sometimes there had to be a new song."

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Deceptive Cadence
3:28 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

New York Philharmonic's Lead Fiddler Rests His Bow

Glenn Dicterow joined the New York Philharmonic as its concertmaster in 1980. He has performed as its soloist every year since.
Chris Lee Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 9:58 am

Most people who attend symphony performances can spot the concertmaster. That's the first chair violinist who enters before the conductor and helps tune the orchestra. But the all important position calls for much more than that — from playing tricky solos to shaping the sound of the string section.

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Theater
7:30 am
Mon June 9, 2014

McDonald, Cranston Big Winners At 68th Tony Awards

Audra McDonald won a sixth Tony for portraying Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill. Bryan Cranston won a best actor trophy for his Broadway debut in All the Way.

Music
2:38 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

State Of The Art: New York Philharmonic's Biennial

Music collective Bang on a Can All-Stars is one of the musical partners sharing a bill with the New York Philharmonic during the Biennial.
Konstantin Sergeyev Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 6:22 pm

Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, isn't scared of new music — and he doesn't think audiences should be, either.

"Frankly, the reason I do new music is I like a lot of it," Gilbert says.

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The Record
1:56 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Well Into Spring, 'Frozen' Soundtrack Keeps The Charts Cool

Singer Idina Menzel (center) and Frozen songwriters Bobby Lopez (left) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez pose with gold records in February. Since then, the movie's soundtrack has sold over 1.5 million more copies.
Alberto E. Rodriguez Getty Images for Disney

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 1:26 pm

Disney's animated film Frozen has been racking up impressive statistics since it was released last November. Its box office earnings total $1 billion, worldwide, the movie won two Academy Awards, and on the first day the home video came out, it sold 3.2 million copies. But one stat has taken both Disney and industry analysts by surprise: The soundtrack has become a phenomenon, topping the Billboard 200 chart 13 times.

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Theater
8:37 am
Sun April 20, 2014

Daniel Radcliffe's 'Crippled' Role Reaches Out To The Remote

Daniel Radcliffe (right) plays Billy, in a scene with Pat Shortt as Johnnypateenmike, in the Broadway production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan.
Johan Persson Michael Grandage Company

Originally published on Sun April 20, 2014 9:53 am

Even before he finished his eight-film run as Harry Potter, actor Daniel Radcliffe spent a considerable time devoted to the stage, both in London and New York. He appeared on Broadway in Equus and spent a year playing J. Pierrepont Finch, the lead role in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

On Sunday night, the 24-year-old actor opens at Broadway's Cort Theatre in a production of Martin McDonagh's dark Irish comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan.

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Theater
2:15 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Conflicting Tales Of A School Shooting In 'The Library'

In the new play The Library, Chloë Grace Moretz is a teen who survives a school shooting, only to discover she's been accused of aiding the shooter.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 4:42 pm

The Library, a new play at New York's Public Theater, tackles an uncomfortable contemporary topic head on: It looks at the aftermath of a school shooting and peers into the shattered lives of the survivors, and the stories they tell. The play is written by Scott Z. Burns and directed by Steven Soderbergh, who've collaborated on three films; most recently, the thriller, Side Effects.

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Theater
1:42 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Broadway Director Kenny Leon Opens Theater Doors To New Audiences

Ten years after first directing A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway, Kenny Leon is back with a new rendition of the play, starring Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo. (Also pictured, from left: David Cromer, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Anika Noni Rose).
Courtesy of Rinaldi PR

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 6:09 am

Stage director Kenny Leon is one of the most sought-after creative talents on Broadway today, even if he isn't a household name. He's guided Denzel Washington and Viola Davis to Tony Awards in a Tony-winning revival of August Wilson's Fences, he directed Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett in The Mountaintop and he's got two Broadway shows opening within three months of each other.

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Theater
2:21 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Road Between Broadway And Hollywood Isn't A One-Way Street

Andy Karl stars in the musical adaptation of Rocky, the story of an underdog boxer who gets a shot at the world championship. "You have to honor, I think, the integrity of what the original film is, but not be constrained by it," says Rocky producer Bill Taylor.
Matthew Murphey Polk & Co.

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 6:14 pm

Rocky: The Musical. Really?

Producer Bill Taylor says even the show's creators didn't buy the idea at first. "If you speak to all of the authors and all of the creative team, their instinctive reaction, when first hearing about Rocky becoming a musical, ranges from incredulity to plain crazy," he says.

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