Saturday, July 2, 2016

Trump or Clinton: Who Is the Biggest Pirate?

Jimmy Olsen #118
Politics rears its ugly head in the weirdest of places. Earlier this week I went to return a Jimmy Olsen comic to the guy on 40th street in Manhattan who sold it to me (It turned out I already had a copy of it--It was the one from the late 1960s where Jimmy turns into a hippie and launches a Hate-In against Superman.) The comic-book seller also has numerous campaign buttons for both Clinton and Trump on his card table. He was engaged in conversation with another gentleman with a British accent. The English guy was saying he'd won a bet of several hundred pounds that Trump would win the Republican nomination and he was laying a similar wager that the Donald would become President. He went on to say that Hillary was a tremendous crook and there would a Watergate-sized scandal if the Justice Department did not indict her for the email thing.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

More Critics Axed; B'way Update

Elisabeth Vincentelli
The number of paid, professional New York theater critics has been reduced yet again. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline and Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post have both been given the axe. It's becoming like a remake of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None where ten strangers are called to a remote island for a weekend and are bumped off one by one. Gerard and Vincentelli are just the latest in a long line of scribblers to be shown the door as print shrinks, the web expands and fewer readers click on theater reviews. Media corporations are losing money, slashing budgets and cutting out marginal, niche writers. Steven Suskind, David Finkle, Jesse Oxfeld, Michael Sommers, the late Jacques LeSourd, and many others were let go from their long-standing perches. Some have landed on their feet. One such is Michael Feingold who was dismissed from the Village Voice in 2013 but was reinstated this year when the paper got a new owner. There is no shortage of bloggers and freelancers but they are paid little or nothing. In another disturbing development, Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press announced the wire service would no longer be covering Off-Broadway because their client publications felt it was a waste of money.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016-17 B'way Preview: Big Stars, Blasts from Past


Spongebob Squarepants the Musical
Credit: Joan Marcus
With the broadcast of the Tony Awards, the 2015-16 Broadway theater season is now officially over. It was one of the most exciting and original ones in recent memory. Hamilton transferred to the Richard Rodgers from the Public and totally transformed America's relationship to the stage, making it cool to go the theater again. Similarly, Stephen Karam's The Humans and Danai Gurira's Eclipsed made the voyage from Off-Broadway to on, allowing new, young playwrights to have their voices heard by a larger audience. Hopefully, we'll have more fresh talent on the Main Stem in 2016-17, but so far, as per usual, the majority of announced productions are revivals with big Hollywood stars or British imports. We've already started with a retread--Sean Hayes in An Act of God which we've seen just last summer with Jim Parsons. Next are two more blasts from the recent past--Motown and Cats.

There are two Off-Broadway musicals set for transfer: Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. But very few original musicals are solidified at this point. In fact the only two with a firm official  opening date are Holiday Inn based on the 1942 Hollywood film with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, from Roundabout Theater Company., and Groundhog DayA Bronx Tale, based on Chazz Palminteri's autobiographical one-man show, is unofficially set for the Longacre. In the Tony Award press room, the producers announced it was coming in after a run at the Paper Mill Playhouse, but there has been no press release. There is a stage version of the animated Nickelodeon series Spongebob Squarepants, opening this month in Chicago and projected for a Broadway opening sometime this season. The long-awaited stage version of Anastasia is currently at Hartford Stage and is much-buzzed for a New York production.

The Seventh Annual David Desk Awards

Shuffle Along got shafted at the Tonys,
but wins big at the David Desks.
Credit: Juliana Cervantes

Once again it's time for the annual David Desk Awards in which I select my personal favorites of all the on, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater I've seen this season. This time I have lined up with the more conventional New York theater awards such as the Tonys, the Obies, the Drama Desks and the Outer Critics. Like many of these, Hamilton was eligible for the Davids last season for its Off-Broadway run and so is off my list (I know, it's going to kill them at the box office.) The one production which many of the more mainstream awards ignored was the Roundabout Theatre Comany's revival of The Robber Bridegroom which did get some recognition from the Lortels, but was snubbed by the Drama Desks. Shuffle Along was totally blanked at the Tonys on Sunday night, a victim of the Hamilton tidal wave. But it wins big at the Davids.


I have tried to limit the number of citations in each category to six, the old limit for the Drama Desks. (This year they stuck mostly to five.) But there were a few where I expanded it to seven. I also included Jennifer Simard for Disaster! even though she was in the Off-Broadway production two seasons ago. She gave the funniest performance on Broadway this season and deserves as much recognition as possible.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

2015-16 Ends as 2016-17 Gets Ready


Nathan Lane will star in a revival of
The Front Page next season.
The 2015-16 Broadway and off-Broadway theater season is heading into the home stretch with a whirlwind of openings, nominations and awards about to be unleashed. Meanwhile, 2016-17 is waiting in the wings and raring to go. Though there was no official press release, an Equity casting notice revealed Nathan Lane and John Slattery will be starring a revival of The Front Page with John Goodman, Rosemary Harris, Sherie Rene Scott, and Jefferson Mays. The Great Comet (shortened from Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812) with Josh Groban has announced an opening date of Nov. 14 at the Imperial. We also have Hello, Dolly with Bette Midler, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The SpongeBob Musical, and lots more. Here is a breakdown of the end of this season and what we know about the next one and beyond:

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are this coming Sunday Feb. 28 and it's time to make my annual predictions. This year has not been particularly exciting with no huge blockbuster dominating the proceedings. The new Star Wars has not generated much excitement, but Mad Max: Fury Road has garnered a bunch of nominations and will probably sweep the technical awards. I usually try to see all of the Best Picture and acting nominees. This time I did catch nine and a half of the top film candidates (I only got through the first hour of Mad Max on HBO.Go before I had explosion overload, I'll try to get back to the rest of it.) I've seen most of the acting nominees, three of the five feature documentaries, one each of the foreign and feature animated films, and all of the short films (I wrote them up for GoldDerby.com and here's a link). I always say some year I will see all of the nominees but I never make it. Here are my predix:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hitchcock's Marnie: Pure Film and Woman as Object

Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery in Hitchcock's Marnie. 
Hedren's character is more tightly wound than her hair bun.
The recent documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut prompted me to view the master filmmaker's works I had not previously seen. Top of the list was Marnie, the 1964 psychological "sex mystery" starring Hitchcock ice blonde Tippi Hedren, who became a star in his The Birds the year before. The doc also pushed me towards The Girl, the 2012 HBO film detailing the Svengali-ish relationship between director and star which was broadcast about the same time as Hitchcock, the film starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, was released. The latter movie focused on Hitch's unique marriage to his collaborator Alma Reville and the production of his masterpiece Psycho. I also want to revisit Vertigo, the 1958 Hitchcock classic which topped previous champ Citizen Kane as favorite all-time film in an annual poll of film critics. In the documentary detailing the famous interviews between Hitch and the French filmmaker/critic, several scholars said that Vertigo was the essence of filmmaking and defined the movies for them. At the end of The Girl, a title reads that Hitchcock died a few years later with only a few more films to his credit and that Marnie was his masterpiece. In a behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD of Marnie I ordered from Netflix, another scholar says "If you don't love Marnie, you don't really love movies."