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The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts Blog Schimmel Center seeks to enrich and engage our audiences by bringing world-class talent to Lower Manhattan. Our programming features internationally-acclaimed talent in the areas of music, dance, film, cabaret and lecture.

04 December 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Cracking Nuts: Fun Facts about, “The Nutcracker,” Ballet

It’s that time of year (when the world falls in love) and when the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet takes over the Schimmel stage to present their production of that perennial favorite ballet, The Nutcracker. To celebrate the ballet’s return, I thought I would present some trivia about the time honored classic!

Gesey Kirkland Ballet's production of The Nutcracker

Gesey Kirkland Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, Photo Credit Kevin Yatarola


Based on Dark Material

The famous ballet is based on the fairy tale, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by German author E.T.A Hoffman. The original tale includes a back story for the prince who was cursed when helping a spoiled princess named, “Pirlipat,”who had been turned into a nutcracker by the queen of the mice. The ballet’s libretto follows the French adaptation of the tale which was penned by Alexandre Dumas père. The French story leaves out the sinister back story. While The Gelsey Kirkland production also leaves out the “Pirlipat plot line,” it retains a lot of the dark undertones from the original story.

Double Billing

The original production was staged by famed choreographer Marius Petipa on December 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Mariinsky Theatre. The ballet had to be double billed along with an opera which was also composed by Tchaikovsky called, Iolanta. The Gelsey Kirkland version uses the original Petipa choreography for their Grand Pas De Deux in Act 2.


Inferior Feelings

Tchaikovsky considered his score for The Nutcracker to be inferior to other works such as Sleeping Beauty (1890). Perhaps it is ironic that The Nutcracker is his most famous and iconic score becoming synonymous with Christmas. The Gelsey Kirkland version will be danced to the original Tchaikovsky score which is quite beautiful.

 Suite Success

Ironically, the original production was a huge critical flop. Despite this, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite was a huge commercial success and sold many copies of sheet music.

Gelsey Kirkland Ballet's Production of The Nutcracker, Photo Credit Kevin Yatarola

Gelsey Kirkland Ballet’s Production of The Nutcracker, Photo Credit Kevin Yatarola


Celestial Overtones

One of the more famous songs featured in The Nutcracker Suite is titled “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” The arrangement features an unusual instrument called a celesta. The celesta is similar to a piano except it contains metal plates instead of strings. The celesta adds to the ethereal sound of the piece. Tchaikovsky had discovered the instrument when on holiday in Paris. In the Gelsey Kirkland version of the ballet, Marie dances, “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” herself to convey her journey into adulthood.


“I left my Nutcracker in San Fransico”

The Nutcracker’s full length production first appeared in the United States in 1944, by the San Francisco Opera Ballet under the direction of William Christensen. Today, The Nutcracker enjoys more success in the U.S. than any other country around the world.


See You at the Schimmel

Michael Scott-Torbet



Gelsey Kirkland Ballet: “The Nutcracker”; December 11 - December 21$59 | $49 | $39; all our box office at (212) 346-1715 or visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938666 








02 December 2014 ~ 0 Comments

A Message from our Executive Director on this Day of Giving!

Dear Schimmel Patron,

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than by giving forward.

We, at the Schimmel, are committed to bringing you world-class entertainment each year at a reasonable ticket price. In order to do so, we ask that, in light of #GivingTuesday and the year’s end, please join us a Schimmel member.

It’s easy, quick and will be deeply appreciated. Every donation is important to us.

Schimmel Center at Pace University, Executive Director, Martin Kagan

Schimmel Center at Pace University, Executive Director, Martin Kagan. Photo Credit Kevin Yatarola


Just follow this LINK!

Please join your fellow Schimmel patrons in helping to make the Schimmel Center’s programming flourish.

If you have questions, please contact me at 212.346.1231.

Happiest of holidays and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Martin I. Kagan


05 November 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Béla Fleck announced as The Knight’s special guest!

The exuberant and contemporary chamber orchestra, The Knights, is coming to the Schimmel on Wednesday, January 28, for an exciting concert performance. Joining them will be 15 time Grammy award winner, Béla Fleck. Mr. Fleck is known world over as the world’s premier banjo player. Mr. Fleck sold out two years ago with our Banjo Summit, so be sure to book your tickets today!

The one and only, Béla Fleck!

The one and only, Béla Fleck!

The Knights with special guest star, Béla Fleck; Wednesday, January 28 at 7:30pm; Ticket Prices$59 | $49 | $39; call (212) 346-1715 or visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938584 for tickets.


28 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Grease is still the word! : Inside Sing-a-long-a Grease

This Saturday, November 1, the Schimmel staff will be putting on our leather jackets, rocking out the poodle skirts and applying copious amounts of grease into our hair. We are hoping that you will be joining us, because this time, it is all our turn to become a part of the 1978 movie musical phenomenon, Grease. The folks at Sing-a-long-a, producers of the famous Sound of Music Sing-a-long, have created a special, one of a kind event for fans of the classic film. Fans are encouraged to dress up, dance the hand jive and even sing along to the movies’ rock and roll score. There is even a special, “magic moments fun pack,” free of charge, chock full of interactive props to engage one through the entire film. Word has it, there will be a special guest at the screening to judge the costume contest! In honor of this weekend’s exciting event, I have compiled a list of 10 exciting trivia facts that even hard core Grease fans may not know. Here they are ( in no particular order.)

Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in "Grease" (1978)

Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in “Grease” (1978)

1) “May the Grease be with you!”

Word has it that Star Wars’ very own Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher was in original consideration to play the part of Betty Rizzo. There are few worse things you could have done than pass up that role, Ms. Fisher. At least, you will always have Luke and Hans by your side.

2) “Sit on it, Zuko!”

Everyone associates Henry Winkler as the Fonze from Happy Days and for good reason. The decade’s most popular greaser almost took the role of Danny Zuko but changed his mind, deciding he didn’t want to be type cast.

3) “Look at Me, I’m Nostradomus!”

In the original stage play, Rizzo’s song, “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee,” featured a lyric about 50’s star Sal Mineo. Because of his gruesome, Hollywood murder a year before, the studio asked that the lyric be changed to reflect another star of the period, Elvis Presley. It turns out that they filmed the scene in which the song was sung on August 16, 1977, the very day that the king of Rock and Roll passed away.

4) “Sandra Dee goes down under.”

In the original stage musical, the character of Sandy was an all American girl next door named “Sandy Dumbrowski.” In order to keep with Olivia Newton John’s background, and explain that accent, Sandy became “Sandy Olsen,” an exchange student from Australia.

5) “Not everyone loves Lucy”

Apparently, Lucille Ball’s daughter Lucy Arnez was in final consideration for the role of Betty Rizzo. She was dropped in favor of Stockard Channing after her famous red headed mother made a call to the producers, allegedly saying, “I used to own that studio; my daughter’s not doing a screen test!” (Ball actually owned the studio Desilu which was bought by Paramount).

6) “Rockin’ High”

The name “Rydell High School,” is a reference to 1950’s/60’s teen idol, Bobby Rydell, who famously sung the hit song, “Swingin’ School.”

7) “Cola Classic”

Lead producer, Allan Carr had made a product-placement deal with Coca-Cola© competitor Pepsi©, before filming began. After Carr saw the footage of the “Frosty Palace,” scene prominently featuring Coca-Cola© products and trademarks, he ordered director Randal Kleiser to either reshoot the scene with Pepsi products or remove the Coca-Cola© logos from the scene. Because reshoots were deemed too expensive and time-consuming, optical mattes were used to cover up or blur out the Coca-Cola©, references in post-production. The ‘blurring’ covered up trademarked menu signage and a large wall poster, but a red cooler with the logo could not be sufficiently altered so was left unchanged.

8) “Zip It!”

Due to a zipper breaking, Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the trousers she wears in the last sequence (the carnival at Rydell).

9) “Toxic Avenger”

In the scene where the cast are near the bridge after the car race, the water on the ground was stagnant and dangerous. Some cast members became ill from filming as the setting was a derelict place full of dirt and rubbish.

10) “Stoop a little lower!”

Jeff Conaway, as Kenicke, (6′ 1½” (1.87 m)) had to walk slightly stooped so that John Travolta, as Danny, (6′ 2″ (1.88 m)) would appear taller.


See You at the Schimmel!

Michael Scott-Torbet

Schimmel Center Blogger


Sin-a-long-a Grease; Saturday, November 1st at 7:30pm;$20;  call our box office at (212) 346-1715 or visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938663



23 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Where’s Hitch? : Inside “The Lodger” and the Alfred Hitchcock Cameo

This Sunday, October 26, Ben Model will return to introduce our audiences to another classic silent film. This weekend’s masterpiece is a story of true suspense and horror, just in time for Halloween. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger, is the story of a landlady who takes in a new tenant, who may or may not, be the mad man who has been stalking and murdering young blondes at night. While, The Lodger certainly was not the first feature directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, it is often regarded as the director’s first thriller and the film that introduced audiences to his iconic style. The film displays all of his most famous elements from his anti-hero to his icy blondes to expert mixing of humor and suspense. It was even ranked the number 15 best Hitchcock film of all time (out of 52 films) by Timeout Magazine.

Original lobby card for "The Lodger" (1927)

Original lobby card for “The Lodger” (1927)

The Lodger is also the first film to use another one of Hitchcock’s signature elements, the director’s cameo. As most fans of Hitchcock’s films know, the famous director can be found in just about all of his movies, usually somewhere in the first act, so as not to take away from the film’s suspense. The famous signature came about in this film, quite by accident. The 26-year old director realized that he didn’t have enough extras in one of his scenes. Rather than hire more and add to the costly budget of the film, Hitchcock stepped into the role himself. Hitchcock can be found in the film twice; once, sitting at a desk with his back to the camera and again, later in the film, as part of an angry mob.

Hitchcock’s cameos would become all the more clever and humorous throughout the years. In some films, the director had to become quite clever about how to add himself in. In Lifeboat (1944), the film was set entirely on a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Hitchcock certainly couldn’t float by in the water. Instead, he placed his likeness on a weight-loss advertisement on a newspaper being read by one of the passengers. In Rope (1948), the action never leaves the apartment of its two anti-heroes, Hitchcock had a neon sign made of his profile to be hung on one of the buildings just outside the window. The cameos ran the gamut from humorously conspicuous to annoyingly discreet, but they remain constant fun for the devoted Hitchcock aficionado. Below, I have posted a youtube video (compiled by someone else) of all the Hitchcock cameos in his movies. Enjoy, then book your tickets for this Sunday’s screening of The Lodger, and see the movie that started it all, complete with accompaniment by Ben Model.

See you at the Schimmel!

Michael Scott-Torbet

Schimmel Blogger

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S “THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG”; Live piano accompaniment by Ben Model; Starring Ivor Novello, with June TrippMalcolm Keen and Marie Ault; Directed by Alfred Hitchcock; Released February 1927 by Gainsborough Pictures; Sunday, October 26th at 2:00pm; Ticket Prices
Adults $12 | Students $8; Call (212)346-1715 or visit web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938389