George Spelvin Resurfaces at Playbill's Spelvin Society, Reintroducing a Theatrical Social Event on Broadway
By Michael Gioia
Stage legend George Spelvin — the fictitious actor used in a Playbill program when a name was needed for a dead body, an animal, an actor doing double-duty or just for fun — resurfaced March 13 at Broadway's If/Then, where Playbill kicked off The Spelvin Society.
Theatregoers enlisted in Playbill's Spelvin Society (an event open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis) made their way to New York City's Glass House Tavern, where they were greeted with "top-secret" envelopes that included their itinerary for the evening, a Playbill and ticket to the new Broadway musical If/Then and a VIP pass to the after party at Sardi's Restaurant, a staple in the theatre district.
In true Spelvin fashion, theatregoers, actors, writers, directors, designers and other creatives gathered to break bread, indulge in a glass of wine (or three) and share their candid and honest views on art in an open-air forum.
Following dinner, which included a four-course meal and a slew of theatrical and industry folk — such as Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis (Rock of Ages, Jekyll & Hyde); Newsies and "Submissions Only" star Andrew Keenan-Bolger; Nick Lachey (of 98 Degress fame) and his wife, Vanessa Minnillo; Playbill CEO and president Philip S. Birsh; Playbill editor Blake Ross; and Playbill.com editor in chief Adam Hetrick — the Spelvin group made its way to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for the 8 PM evening performance of If/Then.
The new musical, from Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning writing team Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), reunites Elizabeth (played by Idina Menzel, who returns to the Broadway stage for the first time since her Tony Award-winning turn in Wicked) with New York City and follows her down two separate paths as she aims to rebuild her life in her late 30s.
Kate, played by The Color Purple Tony Award winner LaChanze, and Lucas, created by Menzel's former Rent co-star Anthony Rapp, join Elizabeth for the journey and provide advice, support and friendship along the ride.
LaChanze, along with If/Then lead producer David Stone and the musical's creators, Kitt and Yorkey, also journeyed to Sardi's with the Spelvin Society to discuss the new Broadway production alongside Playbill.com editor Hetrick.
LaChanze commented on the show's out-of-town tryout in Washington, D.C.; Stone explained the If/Then journey from its earliest incarnations; and Kitt and Yorkey provided insight (and delved into the risks) about creating a brand-new story for Broadway audiences.
Following the talkback with the creatives, acclaimed cabaret and nightlife performer Tori Scott, accompanied by Brad Simmons, took to the Sardi's stage (so to speak) and performed for the crowd. An encore followed, and theatregoers stuck around until Sardi's shut its doors.
With George Spelvin back on the scene, midtown was abuzz, and Playbill prepares for its next Society meeting — at Broadway's Bullets Over Broadway.
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work also appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael. Follow The Spelvin Society at @SpelvinSociety.)
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