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
5:34 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

'Love's Labours,' Tuned Up And Playing In The Park

Daniel Breaker, a Juilliard-trained actor who's earned praise for roles as varied as Donkey in Shrek the Musical and the protagonist Youth in Passing Strange, gets to play a king in a new musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost.
Tammy Shell The Public Theater

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 7:14 pm

A few years ago, after songwriter Michael Friedman and writer-director Alex Timbers had finished working on their cheeky historical musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, they decided to look for a new project to work on. Friedman says they wanted the next show to have a completely different feel.

"So we started looking at Shakespeare," Friedman says. "And then, I think, we came to sort of, 'How amazing would it be to work on a romantic comedy?' "

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Arts + Life
1:13 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

In The Rush To The Tonys, A Late Glut For Theatergoers

Beloved veteran Cicely Tyson has a solid shot at the best actress award at Sunday night's ceremony; her performance in Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful has drawn critical praise and audience applause.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 12:03 pm

This spring, more than in any recent year, the 2012-2013 Broadway season accelerated toward its conclusion: Nineteen productions opened between the beginning of March and April 25, the cut-off date for Tony eligibility. And many of those shows raised their curtains in the final two weeks of the season.

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Music Interviews
2:03 am
Sat May 18, 2013

Audra McDonald, A Broadway Star Gone Roaming, Comes Home

Audra McDonald's new album, Go Back Home, marks a return to her roots in musical theater.
Autumn de Wilde Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun May 19, 2013 9:24 am

In the seven years since her last album, Audra McDonald has kept busy. She spent several years in Hollywood, filming the television series Private Practice. She's gotten divorced and remarried, absorbed the shock of losing her father in a plane crash and watched her daughter, Zoe, grow up from a kindergartener to a middle-schooler.

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Arts + Life
2:32 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

'Matilda' Brings Beloved Book To Broadway

The Broadway cast of Matilda the Musical, including Olivier Award-winning actor Bertie Carvel as the barbaric headmistress Miss Trunchbull.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 5:49 pm

Matilda is a well-loved book by Roald Dahl, who's been called the greatest children's storyteller of the 20th century. It's about a much-put-upon little girl with tremendous gifts. Now, Matilda has been turned into a Broadway musical.

The British import, which won last year's prestigious Olivier Award and features a revolving cast of four little girls in the lead role, opens in New York tonight.

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Theater
4:33 am
Sat April 6, 2013

On Broadway, Old Shows And New Tricks

Willemjin Verkaik is the latest leading lady to play Elphaba, the misunderstood green girl who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West in Broadway's long-running Wicked. She has also played the role in Dutch and German in Europe.
Bankhoff-Mogenburg

Originally published on Sun April 7, 2013 11:08 am

When I was a teenager falling in love with the theater, I picked up a book called Broadway's Greatest Musicals. The sole criterion for inclusion was that a show run for at least 500 performances, which translates to about a year and a quarter.

How quaint.

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Theater
3:20 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

'Kinky Boots' Walk Cyndi Lauper To Broadway

Struggling shoe-factory owner Charlie (Stark Sands, left) is inspired by drag queen Lola (Billy Porter) to make high-quality high-heeled boots for men who perform as women in the Broadway adaptation of the cult film Kinky Boots.
O and M Co.

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 10:01 am

If you ask Billy Porter, one of the lead actors in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, what the show's about, he's got a succinct answer:

"It's about two people who have daddy issues," Porter says. "And one of them just happens to wear a dress."

Porter would be that guy: He plays Lola, a fabulous drag queen who inadvertently helps save a failing shoe factory in the English Midlands. And he gets to sing fabulous songs — by Cyndi Lauper.

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Theater
5:50 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Nora Ephron's 'Lucky Guy' And Tom Hanks Make Their Broadway Debuts

Nora Ephron's final play, Lucky Guy, tells the story of controversial New York columnist Mike McAlary, played by Tom Hanks. (Also pictured: Peter Gerety as John Cotter).
Boneau / Bryan-Brown

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 8:57 pm

Several years ago, when Nora Ephron handed Tom Hanks an early draft of Lucky Guy, her play about tabloid journalist Mike McAlary, he had a pretty strong reaction.

"I said, 'Well, that guy's sure a jerk!' I used another word besides jerk — I know what you can say on NPR," he says. "And she laughed and she said, 'Well, he kinda was. But he was kinda great, too.'"

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Deceptive Cadence
3:18 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Singing The Praises Of Pre-Dawn Walks

Jazz composer Maria Schneider (left) and soprano Dawn Upshaw collaborated on the new album Winter Morning Walks.
Jimmy & Dena Katz Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 8:50 am

Minnesota-born composer Maria Schneider has called New York home for more than 30 years, and she knows how to find nature in the middle of the city. Because her new album is called Winter Morning Walks, we walked to her favorite bird-watching spot in Central Park on a chilly February morning.

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Theater
6:20 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

For This Pair Of Clowns, 'Old Hats' Means New Laughs

Nellie McKay, David Shiner and Bill Irwin use old-time comedy, newfangled tricks and zany music to score laughs in their new theatrical revue, Old Hats.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 7:14 pm

Twenty years ago, theatrical clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner collaborated on a Broadway show called Fool Moon — a giddy mixture of slapstick, improv and audience participation that proved such a success that it came back to Broadway for two more runs and toured both the U.S. and Europe. Now Irwin and Shiner have put together a new show called Old Hats, and it's been receiving rave reviews off-Broadway.

Irwin and Shiner's rubber-faced, loose-bodied clowning hasn't gotten easier over two decades.

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Arts + Life
10:41 am
Mon March 4, 2013

'Don't Underestimate The Guts' Of This Modern Leading Lady

Laura Osnes appears in the title role of a new Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Though her career began unconventionally, she's already had considerably conventional success.
Carol Rosegg

Originally published on Sat March 2, 2013 11:04 am

This weekend, a new adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein television classic Cinderella opens on Broadway. It stars Laura Osnes, the ingenue of the moment. But Osnes' career path has had an unusual trajectory.

Six years ago, the then-21-year-old was newly wed and fresh out of Minnesota. She landed on Broadway in the lead role of Sandy in a revival of Grease. It's not surprising that that show, about teenagers, would cast unknowns in the leads, but how she and her co-star, Max Crumm, got there was unconventional, to say the least.

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Arts + Life
3:40 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Grand Central, A Cathedral For Commuters, Celebrates 100

Originally published on

Friday marks the day that 100 years ago, Grand Central Terminal opened its doors for business for the very first time. The largest railroad terminal in the world, the magnificent Beaux-Arts building is in the heart of New York City on 42nd St. And while it no longer serves long-distance trains, it's still a vibrant part of the city's eco-system.

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Arts + Life
8:43 am
Mon January 28, 2013

25 Years Strong, 'Phantom Of The Opera' Kills And Kills Again

Hugh Panaro is The Phantom and Sierra Boggess is Christine in the 25th anniversary cast of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Sun January 27, 2013 1:31 pm

The longest-running Broadway musical ever, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, celebrated Saturday another milestone: its 25th anniversary.

When it all started Jan. 26, 1988, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, a gallon of gas cost about 90 cents and a ticket to The Phantom of the Opera was a whopping $50. It was the hottest ticket in town.

Times have changed, prices have changed, but that disfigured, tortured genius who haunts the Paris Opera House, creating havoc and causing the chandelier to fall, has endured.

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Music
2:03 am
Sat January 26, 2013

The Composer Who Tested Fighter Planes And Partied With Sinatra

Jimmy Van Heusen with Frank Sinatra in the 1950s. Van Heusen wrote dozens of songs for the crooner and became Sinatra's close friend and confidant.
Courtesy of Burns Media Productions

Originally published on Sat January 26, 2013 5:36 pm

You've never heard of Jimmy Van Heusen? Well, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers has. You certainly know many of his songs, says Brook Babcock, Van Heusen's grandnephew and president of his publishing company.

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Arts + Life
9:03 am
Fri January 25, 2013

A Cooler Roof For A New 'Cat'

In Rob Ashford's new production of the classic play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Scarlett Johansson plays an earthier version of restless sex kitten Maggie.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 11:11 am

There are certain classic American plays that are revived on Broadway every decade or so, to let a new generation of actors and audiences discover them. Tennessee Williams' 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, running through March 30, is one of those iconic plays.

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Arts + Life
3:47 am
Tue January 8, 2013

A Vet's Haunted Homecoming In 'Water By The Spoonful'

Liza Colon-Zayas plays a troubled character named Odessa Ortiz, who finds her better self online. She's pictured above with Bill Heck, as Fountainhead.
Richard Termine

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 6:06 am

The cliche about writers is they should write what they know, and that old saw has certainly worked for Quiara Alegria Hudes. The 35-year-old playwright has mined her Puerto Rican family's stories into a series of plays, a musical and even a children's book. Now, her Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Water by the Spoonful, is being brought to life in the first New York production of the play, opening off-Broadway on Tuesday evening.

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Arts + Life
4:14 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Broadway's Profit-Turning, Crowd-Pleasing Christmas Story

Jordan Gelber plays Buddy the Elf in Elf on Broadway. The limited-run production may not turn a profit immediately, but producers have a multipronged strategy for making money.
Joan Marcus The Hartman Group

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 8:37 pm

The Christmas season is when retailers make the bulk of their profits, Hollywood blockbusters rake it in, and Broadway theaters are filled to capacity. In recent seasons, Broadway has even staged special limited-run holiday musicals — among them, adaptations of A Christmas Story and Elf — to take advantage of the hordes of tourists in New York looking for entertainment. But with production costs so high, how can these shows make their money back? The answer, it turns out, is complicated.

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Deceptive Cadence
3:29 am
Thu December 6, 2012

Anonymous 4 Marks A Milestone Year, Together And Alone

To mark the group's 25th anniversary, Anonymous 4 commissioned the new piece love fail from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang.
Chris Carroll Brooklyn Academy of Music

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 9:05 am

As of this year, the vocal group Anonymous 4 has been introducing modern audiences to medieval music for a quarter century. When the all-female quartet asked David Lang to help mark the occasion by writing them some music, he didn't need any convincing. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer was already a big fan.

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Deceptive Cadence
4:03 am
Fri November 30, 2012

The Peony Pavilion: A Vivid Dream In A Garden

A garden serves as the stage in the opera.
Zhang Yi

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 9:43 pm

The Peony Pavilion is one of China's most famous operas, but uncut performances of this romantic 16th century work can take more than 22 hours. Chinese composer Tan Dun, who's best known for his Academy Award-winning score for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has adapted the work into a compact 75 minutes.

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Deceptive Cadence
12:00 am
Sat November 10, 2012

John Williams' Inevitable Themes

Flanked by composer Leonard Slatkin and soprano Jessye Norman, John Williams takes a bow during his 80th-birthday celebration at Tanglewood in August.
Stu Rosner

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 10:52 am

For more than 50 years, John Williams' music has taken us to galaxies far, far away through adventures here on earth, made us feel giddy joy and occasionally scared us to death.

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Deceptive Cadence
2:03 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Philadelphia Orchestra Reboots With New Music Director

Yannick Nezet-Seguin leads the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Ryan Donnell

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 12:11 pm

Everywhere you look right now, it seems like American symphony orchestras are fighting for their lives — strikes, lockouts, bankruptcy. Perhaps the biggest example is the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, which is just coming out of its own bankruptcy. Tonight, its new 37-year-old music director takes the podium as the venerable orchestra begins a reboot.

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