Every Sunday evening at 9 David Kenney broadcasts his radio show, Everything Old Is New Again, on WBAI radio. While the program originates in New York, it can be heard in Real Audio on the WEB. David plays music from Broadway, the world of cabaret, and a great mixture of standard tunes. He also conducts interviews. On Sunday, May 28th, he interviewed Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party), Marcia Lewis (Chicago), Michael John LaChiusa (The Wild Party), Johnny Mathis, and me. Not bad company, huh?
John V.J. Gillespie: Thank you David, great to be here.
DK: What a great voice you have, sounds great.
VJ: That's my radio voice, hahaha.
DK: Let's talk about the history of this Website of yours.
VJ: Okay. It began about 3 1/2 years ago. I started Talkin' Broadway, not what a lot of people may think as primarily a news site or something like that... my original thoughts were...all I hear on the Web is "Rent Rocks" and maybe bashing of Cats. I thought then that there is more to Broadway than The Phantom of the Opera, Rent and Cats...shows like that. And there is nothing wrong with shows like that. But, there is a Cole Porter. There is an Irving Berlin and all these other wonderful people.
VJ: And the funny thing is that tonight on the way into the studio...you're here on Wall Street...and as I was walking in I had the strangest thought because Broadway started right here. Because Wall Street...just a quick Broadway 101 history lesson...
Wall Street had a wall, about 300 years ago, that went right across the island. And there was a fort down at the end of the island which was owned by the Dutch. And there was a little path, or a dirt road which was sort of broad and it led to the gate in the wall. This street was called Breedeweg, which is Dutch. And when the British came...and this is long before Cats...almost 300 years, hahaha...that street was anglicized and became Broadway. And to understand the history of Broadway, the street, you can understand the history of New York City and the history of the theatre.
As you go into the 1700's and the 1800's...I think around 1810, right here at Park Row was the fabulous Park Theatre and in 1821 there was the Bowery Theater.
And you saw how the city was going further north as well as the theatre district. When you get to the twentieth century, from 13th Street to 43rd Street, it was all nothing but theaters. Most of the theaters on 42nd Street, some of which still stand today, were built in the first decade of the twentieth century, and of course, all those great lights. Then in 1904, Longacre Square became Times Square with even more fabulous theaters being built. So, that was the primary thing with Talkin' Broadway...I wanted to teach, if you will, the history of the theatre, and the history of Broadway. And then, of course, it evolved into many, many, other things.
DK: Was it just you?
VJ: At the very beginning, it was just me and a graphics designer. In the last 3 1/2 years we began adding people along the way. We currently have a staff of 25 volunteers who are from all over the world. My graphics designer and Web Master is Ann Miner from Pittsburgh...I couldn't do it without her. Mike Reynolds, from Connecticut, who does... nothing...just kidding...he's our Editor. He makes us look good. Anyhow, in that course of time, in addition to the history, I wanted to create a magazine. It wasn't just going to be news, so I found wonderful writers to do our Restaurant Revue, and I'm so proud...I walk around the theater district and I see reviews in the windows...and I go like...Hey! That's us...we have CD reviews, Broadway reviews, which are read like crazy, interviews in our Spotlight On section. Going back 3 years ago it was one big world full of No... you would ask someone for an interview for Talkin' Broadway and they would look at you, like who? Today, it's a lot different. We've interviewed many wonderful people like Douglas Sills..the first one was Brian D'Arcy James from Titanic, Marcia Lewis, Jerry Herman, and recently Karen Ziemba and Laura Bananti. And many others...and there's lots of other sections to the site.
DK: And you told me about the number of hits you had in one day...it was an extraordinary amount.
VJ: Well, on our first day 3 1/2 years ago, I think we took 600 hits...
DK: ...which is incredible.
VJ: Yeah. I thought it was cool. And then the day the Tony Award nominations were announced this year, I think we did something like almost 150,000 hits, which is a great amount of hits, but I'm sure people like Playbill.com are taking many more hits per day than that. The hits just perpetuate itself so it's fun to watch the growth in readership.
DK: E-mail question for you from Bruce in Rego Park..."My name is Bruce and I'm from Rego Park, Queens. What is the most rewarding thing you have found in running Talkin' Broadway.com?"
VJ: The most rewarding thing? I've received a couple E-mails in the last year, and we have a section called Broadway 101 (written by Robert C. Rusie), which is the history of Broadway. And it is now used as text in several universities and colleges throughout the country. They've asked to reproduce the graphics and the text...for copyright permission. And they use this as course material for teaching theatre, so I'm quite proud of that.
DK: What is the future, or in the works, for Talkin' Broadway?
VJ: Well, it just keeps growing and growing. It'll never be done. We have two new sections in development that we never announce until we have them done. We're looking, perhaps, for some corporate sponsorship for the future. And, if not, we'll just continue doing what we do. We do have a passion for the theatre. All our writers do. We just love what we do and we're going to continue publishing.
DK: And how about the relationship with Broadway and the Internet? What do you see happening there?
VJ: Well, that's very interesting because it is changing. Going back a couple of years ago it was difficult to get the news through the Internet. You would get it via snail mail where today, Press Agents in New York that work Broadway and Off-Broadway have become Internet savvy in the last two years. So Press Releases now are sent out via E-mail. Because we are a 24/7 Website, if a Press Release comes in it's posted immediately for the chatteratie to read on All That Chat.
DK: All That Chat is something you need to talk about. How do you describe what that is? I love those guys.
VJ: Yeah, they're great. All That Chat is our message board where we allow readers throughout the world to publish what they would like to say about Broadway. Many who post on the board are in the business...y'know I heard a funny story I have to tell you...they post under a registered user name and can be anonymous...they're very informed theatre people from all over the world. They are brave, they are clean, they are irreverent...and it's really where you go to get the Broadway buzz.
Now, the funny story...I was talking to a friend the other day, and he said John, when a certain musical came out, and it wasn't reviewed favorably, there was a whole bunch of people reading the reviews in a Broadway producers office. After reading the Times, the Post and the News, the producer threw the papers down and said, "Alright, let's go to All That Chat to see what they're saying there."
DK: Hahaha. I have a great time when I go on it. And for me to be able to post announcements about my show on it, and to see people from Seattle and all over the states, as far as Australia are tuned in...
VJ: Is that right? Y'know, that's what I find amazing with the Internet. In addition to what I do, I see what you're doing. And we're both reaching a world-wide audience, and I think that's wonderful.
There's a whole thing on the Internet now, I don't know if you know...on Sunday evenings we surf the Web and at 9 eastern time we tune into Everything Old Is New Again on WBAI, and while the show is going on, we're sometimes commenting on it on All That Chat.
DK: Thanks for dropping by John.
VJ: My pleasure David, see you on the Web!
Search What's New on the Rialto