Thursday, April 13, 2017

Xi in Florida: A Modern Opera

(A modern opera in the style of Nixon in China)

An airport in Florida. PRESIDENT TRUMP is standing amid a crowd of reporters and staff. Repetitive dissonant music in the style of Philip Glass or John Adams plays. Trump sings.

Fake news. Fake news.
You are all fake news.
I am the one real news.
You are all fake.
I am real. You are fake.
News. Fake or real.
Who knows? Who knows?

Do you? Do you? (he points to members of the audience)
There is no true. There is no lie.
It's what I say it is.
Fake news. Fake news.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oscars So Diverse: Predictions

Will Hidden Figures upset LaLa Land at the Oscars?
This year's Oscars did not dominate the national zeitgeist as much as usual. Perhaps it's the Trump circus overshadowing every other event of normal obsession such as the Super Bowl and the Westminster Dog Show. Anyway, I predict the speeches will be more political than usual with many denunciations of the President's fascist regime. The awards will be a repudiation of his racist rhetoric and a reaction to last year's lack of diverse nominees with #OscarsSoDiverse replacing #OscarsSoWhite.

Best Picture
Prediction: Hidden Figures
LaLa Land has racked up a massive 14 nominations, sharing the record for the most ever with the magnificent All About Eve and the bloated Titanic. Normally, that would mean a lock for Best Picture, but there has been serious backlash against the nostalgic musical. While the film is basically a lighthearted tribute to the Golden Age of cinematic tuners such as Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris and The Bandwagon, many have seen it as a celebration of white culture at the expense of African-Americans. I just read a bizarre LA Weekly column comparing director Damien Chazelle to Leni Riefenstahl for creating a propaganda film by casting white Ryan Gosling as the savior of pure jazz while black characters are shunted to the sidelines. This is a more than a bit extreme but the anti-Trump sentiment might be enough for the majority of voters to pass over the feel-good musical and hand the top prize to Hidden Figures, an Oscar-bait candidate if ever there was one. There is the traditional underdog fighting the power (three real-life African-American female mathematicians battling sexism and racism in 1960s NASA) and an uplifting final triumph, plus it's a great way to say "Screw You, Racist Prez!" Of course Hollywood may want to fete LaLa as a narcissistic hurrah for itself, but I think politics will be stronger than self-love this time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Broadway Update: Theatre Responds to Trump

Headlong and Almeida Theater's stage version of 1984
is coming to Broadway
Donald Trump has only been President two weeks, but theater is already responding to his controversial (to put it mildly) regime. Many have compared Donald and his spokespeople Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer's offering "Alternative facts" as truth to the doublespeak of the tyrannical dictator Big Brother in George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 which is enjoying a resurgence lately (I wonder why.) A stage version of Orwell's classic will be presented on Broadway in a limited production, opening on June 22 at the Hudson Theatre, now home to the also limited engagement of Sunday in the Park with George (more on that production and its decision to stay out of the Tony race in a future blog.) This British production of 1984, originally presented by the Headlong and Almeida will arrive with an American cast under the auspices of producers Sonia Freedman and Scott Rudin. A previous stage version played the Joyce Theater Off-Broadway in the 1990s as part of a regional American theater festival.
John Hurt in the film version of 1984
There have been two movie adaptations. Edmond O'Brien, Jan Sterling and Michael Redgrave starred in the 1956 version and John Hurt (who just passed away) and Richard Burton headlined an even starker edition released in year of the title. With claims of fake news and imaginary terrorist attacks coming from the Trump administration, Orwell's prophetic work is more relevant than ever.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

B'way Update: 'Butterfly' and ' Prada'

Clive Owen will star in M. Butterfly
on Broadway this fall
Clive Owen, last seen on Broadway in Harold Pinter's Old Times, will return in a new production of David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, directed by Julie Taymor in her first Broadway staging since being dismissed from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Her interpretation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream played Off-Broadway.) M. Butterfly will open Oct. 26, 2017 at a theater to be announced. The original 1988 production wmade a star out of B.D. Wong as Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer engaged in an affair with a French diplomat played by John Lithgow. Based on a true story, the 20-year relationship shocked international circles when it was revealed Song was really a man. This new production will new include new material based on information about the case that has come to light since the original staging which won the Tony and Drama Desk Award for Best Play and ran for 777 performances (a rare long run for a non-musical).

Also in the works, but in a much earlier stage of development, is a musical version of The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisenberger's autobiographical novel about an assistant to a high-powered fashion magazine editor not unlike Vogue's Anna Wintour. Sir Elton John, whose previous theatrical musical ventures include Aida, The Lion King and Billy Elliot, will write the music. Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey, I Hate Hamlet, Addams Family Values) will make his debut as a musical book-writer and lyricist. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt starred in the 2000 film version.
Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt
in the film version of The Devil Wears Prada

Monday, December 5, 2016

Don't Call Hamilton Curtain Speech Bullying

Brandon Victor Dixon of Hamilton addresses Mike Pence
The tempest in a teapot over the speech delivered by Hamilton cast member Brandon Victor Dixon to audience member and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence appears to have finally died down. It has elicited a firestorm of comments on both sides of the political aisle. The hashtag #BoycottHamilton trended on Twitter, but it appears the box office has not been significantly affected. A pro-Trump audience member get rowdy at a Chicago performance, but there have not other reports of a major backlash. On a public bus I was standing right next to a group of young people talking about Broadway in general and how difficult it is to get tickets to the hip-hop Tony winning show. "But it may be easier now because some people are calling for a boycott because of the lecture they delivered," said the young man.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Let's Fake a Deal!

Monty Hall from the old Let's Make a Deal show.
Trump is copying the format.
The news has been depressing me so much lately that I have foresworn cable channels like CNN, MSNBC and Fox. Never mind that I don't have cable anymore, I could have gotten access through YouTube. So now my default viewing when there is nothing worth watching on broadcast channels and I'm too lazy to surf through all the choices of Netflix and Amazon is Buzzr, a game-show haven where I can watch visions of the past including What's My Line, To Tell the Truth, and I've Got a Secret. An hour-long block of Let's Make a Deal is on at 8, but even that comfortable echo from my childhood makes me think of our hellish new political landscape.

Announcer (Paul Ryan): These suckers...I mean people, dressed as they are have come from the four corners of the world to the marketplace of America on LET'S... FAKE...A DEAL...and now here's TV's big dealer...Monty Trump!

(Orchestra plays theme music: Let a Winner Lead the Way. Monty Trump enters. Audience cheers)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Post-Election Thoughts IV: The Selling of the Presidency

(Right) First Daughter and Jewelry Hawker in Chief
We are now in a shit storm of Trump coverage, every single thing he and his Kardashian-like relatives do will be the source of a thousand Tweets and Facebook posts. After the 60 Minutes interview, Ivanka Trump was hawking the $10,000 bracelet she wore on the broadcast (as seen as TV!) She has since apologized and blamed it on a subordinate's mistake. To be perfectly fair, Trump did say he would not be taking a salary as president (UGH! just writing Trump and president in the same sentence makes my flesh crawl.) That has not been reported or commented on in my liberal elitist circles too much, so I will give him credit for that. Look, I'm giving him a chance! But we'll see if he follows through. There is also a report that he tried to use his influence to get the value of his Trump Hotel in Washington, DC knocked down several million dollars so he won't have to pay as much tax on it. And BTW, where are his tax returns?