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 β€” 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
6:30 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 7:53 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
4:30 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 9:02 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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Deceptive Cadence
4:28 pm
Wed June 24, 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 8:01 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
7:40 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 β€” 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 10:09 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
4:50 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 9:00 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
7:59 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 10:26 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 β€” Anna Leonowens, the "I" in The King and I β€” receives an invitation from King Mongkut of Siam to teach at his court. The year is 1862.

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Music
2:03 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 10:30 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
6:05 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 1:08 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
4:03 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 7:35 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
5:34 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 11:03 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 β€” closing, having lost almost their entire investments.

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Deceptive Cadence
7:46 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 11:10 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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Theater
7:21 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 2:42 pm

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

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Music Interviews
7:52 am
Sat October 25, 2014

Oratorio Tackles The Issue Of Leaks From 'The Source'

Originally published on Sat October 25, 2014 11:57 am

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

Theater
3:17 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 12:37 pm

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
10:29 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 1:51 pm

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
5:10 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 11:16 am

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

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Music News
6:29 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Nonesuch At 50: A Record Label Without Borders

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

Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 12:08 pm

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
5:14 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 10:55 pm

A labor crisis threatening to shut down New York's Metropolitan Opera β€” the largest opera house in the world β€” 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
6:33 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 8:12 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
4:25 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 6:22 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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