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Thursday, 22 October 2009 12:11

American Theatre Wing Announces Return of "Working in the Theatre"



New York, NY (10/22/09)The American Theatre Wing has announced the return of its “Working in the Theatre,beginning its 31st season on Sunday, October 25.  For the first episode of the season, the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League teamed up to present a “Leading Ladies” panel, featuring Tony® Award-winners Laura Benanti (Tony® Award-winner for Gypsy, currently appearing in In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play),Beth Leavel (Tony® Award-winner for The Drowsy Chaperone, currently appearing in Mamma Mia!), Bebe Neuwirth (Tony® Award-winner forChicago, currently appearing in The Addams Family) and Alice Ripley (Tony® Award-winner for Next to Normal).  The episode will debut on CUNY TV on Sunday, October 25th at 5:00 p.m. (with subsequent airings on Friday, October 30th at 9:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, October 31st at 11:oo a.m. and Sunday, November 1st at 5:00 p.m.).  The program will also be available online at and beginning Wednesday, October 28th.

In this episode, Benanti, Leavel, Neuwirth and Ripley discuss performances they’ve seen that have made a lasting impact on them; the moment when they realized that a life in the theatre was what they wanted; what it’s like originating a role, playing a character in a revival and replacing someone in a show; the roles they never seem to get cast in; their relationship with the audience during a show and after at the stage door; and their thoughts on the audition process.  The discussion was filmed in front of a live audience as the final event of The Broadway League’s Back2Broadway month in September.  ATW Executive Director Howard Sherman moderates.

Bringing together performers, directors, playwrights, designers, choreographers, producers and behind-the-scenes personnel from the American and international theatre, “Working in the Theatre” offers a rare opportunity for audiences to see the people who create theatre engaged in thoughtful conversation with one another.  With more than 900 past guests, "Working in the Theatre" has become an unequalled archive of theatrical talk, a chance to hear from the people behind the characters, stories and productions that draw us to the theatre.  Click to subscribe, listen or watch videos.

The American Theatre Wing (Theodore S. Chapin, Chairman of the Board of Directors; Howard Sherman, Executive Director) is best known as the creator of the Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards®, which it presents annually with The Broadway League. In addition to “Working in the Theatre,” the Wing sponsors many activities, all dedicated to recognizing excellence and supporting education in theatre.  These programs include “In the Wings,” a new web series that spotlights theatre’s behind-the-scenes talents; “Downstage Center,” a weekly podcast featuring in-depth interviews with the leading artists and professionals working on stage today; “Guides to Careers in the Theatre,” a video series developed for schools and libraries; a grants program for New York City not-for-profit theatre companies, which has awarded nearly $3 million since its inception; the Theatre Intern Group, a career development program for young professionals; SpringboardNYC, a two-week college-to-career boot camp for young performers moving to NYC; and the Jonathan Larson® Grants, given annually to honor emerging composers, lyricists and book writers.  The expanded offerings of the American Theatre Wing website include “Masters of the Stage” with the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and “This is Broadway” with The Broadway League.  All ATW media is available on and on iTunes.

For additional information about all American Theatre Wing programs, go to You can also find the American Theatre Wing on Twitter (



BEBE NEUWIRTH is currently in Chicago in the pre-Broadway engagement of The Addams Family.  She most recently appeared on Broadway as Roxie in Chicago, the same production for which she won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and an Astaire Award for her turn as Velma, making her the only triple-threat to play both leading lady roles on Broadway. She also received a Tony Award for her role as Nickie in Sweet Charity. Her other Broadway credits include Fosse, Damn Yankees, Dancin’, Little Me and A Chorus Line. In addition, she has performed leading roles in numerous Regional theater productions including West Side Story for the Cleveland Opera, the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman on London’s West End, The Threepenny Opera at A.C.T., and Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew at Williamstown Theater Festival. In the summer of 2004, Ms. Neuwirth completed a successful run of Here Lies Jenny at the Zipper Theater in New York. The show played the next year in San Francisco to rave reviews. Comprised of music by Kurt Weill, the show was created by Leslie Stifelman, Roger Rees, Ann Reinking, and Ms. Neuwirth.  Ms Neuwirth has been crossing the country with Bebe Sings Weill and Kander & Ebb for the past two years, working with such venerable symphonies as the Seattle Symphony and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Recent concert performances include a piano/cabaret show, Stories With Piano, which opened at Feinstein’s in NYC to rave reviews.  On television she is well known for her role of Lilith Sternin on “Cheers,” for which she won two Emmy Awards. Other television appearances include her Emmy nominated portrayal of Dorothy Parker in “Dash and Lily” and guest work on “Frasier” and “Star Trek, the Next Generation.”  Ms. Neuwirth is a recipient of the 2007 Dance Magazine Award, the 2007 CTFD Rolex Dance Award and in 1997 became an Honorary Ziegfeld Girl. She is a vice-president of The Actors’ Fund, for whom she recently founded The Dancers’ Resource.

ALICE RIPLEY received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Next to Normal.  She also received the Helen Hayes Award as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations.  Original Broadway cast:  Side Show (Drama Desk, Tony Award nominations), The Rocky Horror Show, James Joyce’s The Dead, Sunset Boulevard, The Who’s Tommy.  She also appeared on Broadway and on National tour in Les Misérables.  Off-Broadway/ regional theatre: Next to Normal, Five Flights, James Joyce’s The Dead, The Vagina Monologues, Tell Me on a Sunday (Helen Hayes nomination), Shakespeare in Hollywood (Helen Hayes nomination), Company (Helen Hayes nomination). Recordings: Next to Normal; Little Fish; Skinner/Ripley: Raw at Town Hall; Sondheim: The Stephen Sondheim Album; Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens; The Rocky Horror Show; The Stephen Schwartz Album; Duets; Unsuspecting Hearts; Side Show; The Who’s Tommy. With her band RIPLEY, Alice has written and produced the albums Everything’s Fine, Ripley EP and Outtasite. Currently, Ms. Ripley is writing lyrics along-side composer Michael Roth for a work entitled Landscape the Tar Roof Tree, a performance piece for eight singer/actors.

BETH LEAVEL is starring as "Donna Sheridan" in Broadway's hit musical Mamma Mia!.  She most recently starred as "the Witch" in Into the Woods at Pittsburgh CLO, "Miss Hannigan" in Annie at the St. Louis MUNY and in the world premiere musical Minsky's at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and a book by Bob Martin. She received 2006 Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critic's Circle and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards for her performance in the title role in the acclaimed world premiere musical The Drowsy Chaperone. Other Broadway roles include "Frau Blucher" in Young Frankenstein, "Dorothy Brock" in the revival of 42nd Street, "Tess" in the original company of Crazy for You and "Mrs. Bixby" in The Civil War, "Ellie" in Hal Prince's Show Boat. She made her Broadway debut as "Anytime Annie" in the original production of 42nd Street. Ms. Leavel was recently seen in New York in the City Center Encores! production of No, No, Nanette. New York/Off-Broadway: "Mrs. Ford" in Lone Star Love, "Mary" in The Jazz Singer, "Beth" in An Unfinished Song. Regional: "Miss Hannigan" in Annie, "Countess" in A Little Night Music, "Vera" in Mame. Television: "Ryan's Hope," Nickelodeon, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." She recently appeared as "Amy Taylor" on the final episode of the landmark series "ER" and can be seen in the new ABC series "The Unusuals." 
LAURA BENANTI is currently appearing at The Lyceum Theatre in Lincoln Center Theatre’s production of In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play. Her Broadway credits include Gypsy (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Awards), Nine (Outer Critics Circle nom.), Into the Woods (Tony, Drama Desk, L.A. Ovation noms.), Swing (Tony nom.), Maria in The Sound of Music, The Wedding Singer. Off-Broadway: Christopher Durang's Why Torture is Wrong (Public), Wonderful Town, Gypsy (both at Encores!), Time and Again (MTC). Regional: A Little Night Music (L.A. Opera), A Winter’s Tale (Williamstown), Jane Eyre and Man of La Mancha (Papermill Playhouse). Film: Meskada, Falling for Grace, Take the Lead. TV: "Starved" (Fox), "Eli Stone" and "Life on Mars" (ABC). Many cast albums and recordings.

WIT Leading Ladies 1

L to R: Alice Ripley, Bebe Neuwirth, Beth Leavel and Laura Benanti
Photo Credit: Greg Weiner