September 23, 2020

State Theatre New Jersey Presents “Broadway Online Trivia Night”; “Anastasia” and “Beautiful” Actor Kathryn Boswell Emcees and Sings

“BROADWAY ONLINE TRIVIA NIGHT”: Broadway performer Kathryn Boswell (above) hosted State Theatre New Jersey’s “Broadway Online Trivia Night.” Boswell read trivia questions, chatted with viewers, and performed a song. (Photo by Corinne Louie)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

State Theatre New Jersey presented Broadway Online Trivia Night on September 16. Kathryn Boswell, a member of the Broadway casts of Gigi and Anastasia, hosted the event.

Boswell performed at the State Theatre in November 2019, as songwriter Cynthia Weil, in the North American tour of Beautiful–The Carole King Musical. Boswell told Broadway Online Trivia Night viewers that the New Brunswick-based theater “was one of our favorite stops as a company. It was so wonderful to be so close to New York City; we felt like we were coming home. It’s just such a … beautiful, welcoming space.”

Broadway Online Trivia Night was hosted via Zoom. A donation, of $5 or higher, allowed viewers to participate in the contest, by using a smartphone-based game app (Kahoot!).

“Proceeds raised support State Theatre’s Community Engagement programs,” states a press release. Director of Communications Kelly Blithe elaborates in an email, “The donations are going towards the general community engagement funds which include our Artist-in-Residence program, virtual school programs, the Milk & Cookies series [an interactive storytelling and music program for families], and Ticket Subsidies including free tickets for community partners, charities, and veterans.”

Boswell said that the State Theatre’s community engagement programs “serve 35,000 people each year, with events and activities that help make the arts more accessible and meaningful and affordable to people of all ages and backgrounds.” She acknowledged that “the arts are struggling — this industry is really taking a hit,” but added, “I believe more than ever that the arts are so essential.”

There were 50 questions — each accompanied by four multiple-choice answers — read by Boswell and displayed on a screen. While giving participants time to submit answers, the affable and exuberant Boswell responded to comments submitted in the chat room, and offered bits of trivia about the show or artist covered by a particular question.

An example concerns The Phantom of the Opera, which had been running on Broadway for 32 years at the time all theaters were shuttered by the pandemic. Boswell said that she knows someone who has been in the musical’s ballet corps “since she was 18.” In the course of the show’s run that dancer “has had a child, and that child has gone through the entirety of their education, and has now left the house. Now [the dancer] is an empty nester, and she is still in the ballet corps. Which is crazy; talk about longevity in a career … that is a gift in our business!”

As a break in the middle of the contest, Boswell delivered a sincere, exquisitely phrased rendition (to a prerecorded accompaniment) of “A Cockeyed Optimist” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. Boswell commented that she “wanted to sing a song that brought me a lot of optimism … in a weird time and a weird world. I think that there is room for hope, even in this really trying time.”

The prize for first place was a $150 gift card to the State Theatre, as well as a State Theatre “swag bag.” The swag bag also served as the prize for second place.

A participant named Jordan S. came in third, having answered 46 out of 50 questions correctly. Julie G. earned second place, successfully answering 47 questions.

Jacob P. won first place. Like Julie G. he answered 47 questions correctly, but he won because “Kahoot! also factors in the speed [with] which people answer,” Blithe explains to this writer. “In this case, Jacob was faster.”

State Theatre New Jersey will host similar online events in the coming months. There will be an 80s Online Trivia Night on October 14. Actor Brandon A. Wright will host another Broadway Online Trivia Night on November 11, and viewers will have an opportunity to participate in Holiday Online Trivia Night with Suzie the Elf on December 9.

Sample Questions

To give readers an opportunity to test their own knowledge of theater, here is a sampling of the questions that were asked. See the final paragraph for answers.

1. Singer Jennifer Holliday became a successful recording artist, after she became famous for originating this role: Effie in Dreamgirls, Lottie in Shuffle Along, Dorothy in The Wiz, or Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray?

2. Both the movie and musical Mean Girls were written by which comedic
actress: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, or Kristen Wiig?

3. Which actress played both the Witch in Into the Woods, and Dot in Sunday in the Park with George: Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, or Patti LuPone? (a participant named Jordan noted that all four performers starred as Mama Rose in Gypsy.)

4. What time period is the musical Hairspray set in? ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s?

(Boswell noted, “In the original Broadway production, some of the actors were also the musicians. Nowadays … the lines have blurred between the musicians and the actors, but back then it was not really done that way.” In the chat a participant named Jess noted that Once employed that technique as well. Boswell added, “I loved Once, because it was the musicians and the actors blending together … it really moved me.” Director John Doyle has become known for having actors double as musicians, particularly in his productions of Stephen Sondheim musicals such as Company and Sweeney Todd.)

5. In Beautiful–The Carole King Musical, Carole is part of a songwriting team with Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil, and who: Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann, James Taylor, or Don Kirshner?

6. Audra McDonald won her first Tony for playing which role: Sarah in Ragtime, Carrie Pipperidge Snow in Carousel, Marie Christine in Marie Christine, or Sharon Graham in Master Class?

7. Which is the highest grossing musical to date: The Lion King, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, or Cats? (Boswell noted that the answer has grossed over $1.6 billion.)

8. Which musical did Jerome Robbins not choreograph and direct: West Side Story, Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, or Gypsy?

9. Who adapted To Kill a Mockingbird from a book to a play: Harper Lee, Stephen Sondheim, Aaron Sorkin, or Tracy Letts?

10. What special singing technique did Frankie Valli use that differentiated himself from others in Jersey Boys: vibrato, belting, vocal fry, or falsetto?


1. Effie in Dreamgirls. 2. Tina Fey. 3. Bernadette Peters. 4. ’60s. 5. Barry Mann. 6. Carrie Pipperidge Snow. 7. The Lion King. 8. Funny Girl. 9. Aaron Sorkin. 10. Falsetto.

To learn about future trivia nights, or other upcoming events hosted by State Theatre New Jersey, visit