Sunday, February 9, 2020

Broadway Update: Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf to Star in 'Death of a Salesman'

Nathan Lane as another sad salesman
in The Iceman Cometh.
Credit: Liz Lauren
Two of the biggest names on Broadway will headline one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalf are slated to star in the sixth Broadway production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. The announcement is not official, but Lane confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter that Salesman would be opening sometime during the spring of 2021. It will be staged by Joe Mantello who is currently directing Metcalf in another American classic, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Willy Loman. the desperate drummer of the title, has been played on the Main Stem previously by Lee J. Cobb, George C. Scott, Dustin Hoffman, Brian Dennehy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Lane is mostly known for his comic roles in such shows as The Producers, The Front Page, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. But this will not be the first time he's played a tragic salesman. He starred as the illusion-shattering Hickey in O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh at Chicago's Goodman Theater and BAM.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 7

More reviews and commentary on Lost Episodes of the Carol Burnett Show found on my Christmas present--The Carol Burnett Show Lost Episodes Ultimate Collection. As noted in previous blogs, MeTV has moved beyond seasons 1-5 (the seasons no one has seen in over 40 years) and is now broadcasting seasons 6-11 (which we've all seen 100 times in syndication). There is no way of knowing if they will go back to the beginning once all those episodes are used up. How will I ever see the episodes I missed which are not on DVD anywhere? There is another DVD collection called The Best of the Carol Burnett Show featuring several segments from the early years, which I intend to purchase later but there are so many other episodes I can't find. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the segments spread across the three DVD collections in the Lost Episodes Ultimate Collection (The Lost Episodes, Treasures from the Vault and Classic Carol. BTW, Carol's Lost Christmas which contains three yuletide hours was not included in this set, though I have seen it as part of the package on some sites. I will have to buy that one separately through Amazon or eBay.)

Season One:
Jan. 8, 1968
Lana Turner, Frank Gorshin
Frank Gorshin and Carol in the weird scuba finale
This one was probably included in the DVD collection because the guest star was Lana Turner, a glamorpuss from Hollywood’s Golden Age and a veteran of such soapy classics as Peyton Place and The Bad and the Beautiful. The only problem was she really couldn’t act, sing, or dance. She looked gorgeous in a blonde movie-star kind of way. There are weak hijinks with Carol and Lana acting jealous over Lyle and Turner featured in a romantic waltz where she sing-speaks syrupy lyrics to "Greensleeves" and competently waltzes with lead dancer Don Creighton. Frank Gorshin displays his mimicking skills in a number with the girl dancers, each dressed as a different movie legend with Gorshin imitating their male co-stars. He really isn't a great singer either, but his impressions are spot-on including a very rare imitation of Joseph Cotten. Gorshin was a big deal to me as a kid because he played the Riddler on Batman. Now as an adult, I realize he was doing Kirk Douglas the whole time. Gorshin appeared with other impressionists such as Rich Little, Marilyn Michaels, and George Kirby on a short-lived variety series called The Kopykats. The material was pretty lame, but the imitations were brilliant. Perhaps I'll do a blog on that show under the heading of Lost TV.

The direction is pretty poor during a sketch called The Sound of Murder with Frank and Lana as a pair of crooks scheming to murder Carol. The stars appear underrehearsed and the camera angles focus on the wrong spots, missing the punchlines. The whole show wraps up with a bizarre aquatic extravaganza to "By the Beautiful Sea" with Frank, Carol, and the chorus in scuba gear and flippers.  

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Broadway Update: Sing Street Transfer, The Nanny

A scene from Sing Street
Credit: Matthew Murphy
Will the Once lightning strike twice? Sing Street, the musical based on the 2016 movie, will transfer to Broadway from its run at New York Theater Workshop. Many of the creative personnel including John Carney who wrote and directed the original film and book writer Enda Walsh also worked on Once which moved from its Off-Broadway perch at NYTW to the Main Stem, winning 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The general topic of both shows is similar: economically desperate Irish folk finding release and joy in music. Sing Street did not receive universal acclaim so the move is a risky one. The Broadway musical field is somewhat crowded this year and Street will face competition for awards and box office dollars from Tina, Six, Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge, Diana, Mrs. Doubtfire, Flying Over SunsetThe Girl from the North Country and Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (though that last young-adult one probably won't receive much Tony love.) No show has emerged as the favorite to take the top Tony Award. Despite criticism from cramming in every social issue known to man from opioid addiction to global warming, Pill is probably the front runner right now to be the big winner on Tony night with the two-part, gay-history play The Inheritance as the favorite for Best Play. Sing Street begins previews at the Lyceum March 26 with an opening set for April 19.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 6

Reconstructing the missing episodes of The Carol Burnett Shows has been difficult of late. MeTV has advanced to the old Carol Burnett and Friends segments from seasons six through 11 which first aired in syndication during the last year of Carol's show. A YouTube user has been posting some of the lost segments from those first five years but some were taken down, probably because of copyright infringement issues. Amazon Prime has posted only ten segments from the Lost Episodes DVD collections. (Apparently they will be posting more but not until Jan. 22, 2020.) But thanks to a marvelous Christmas present from my husband Jerry--The Lost Episodes Ultimate Collection--I am able to continue my all-important quest of putting together as much of Carol's classic series as possible. There are several different DVD packages which Time Life puts out, so it's kinda confusing as to which one to get so you will have the most episodes. I don't understand why they don't just release them season by season. That way you'd know exactly what segments you are getting and in what order, but they probably make more money this way.

With my Christmas present
This Ultimate Collection contains 22 DVDs with 45 episodes as well as over 20 hours of bonus material including the Carol Plus 2 special with Lucille Ball and Zero Mostel as well as the entire Once Upon a Mattress special from 1972 with Carol, Ken Berry, Jack Gilford, Bernadette Peters, Jane White recreating her role as the evil Queen, and Lyle as Sir Studley (be still my heart). The collection comes in a big box containing five DVD collections--The Lost Episodes, Treasures from the Vault, Classic Carol, and two Exclusive Bonus Features sets. Each set has a accompanying booklet detailing each episode. All of the booklets have an introduction explaining why the lost episodes were lost with a funny story about Tim Conway secreting the tapes in question and Carol and Vickie force-feeding him DVDs of his failed series Rango. Several of the individual discs contain feature bonus material. I will go through the episodes not already covered in previous blogs.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Broadway Update: Meryl Streep and Beth Leavel Switch Roles

Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
In a rare case of show-biz serendipity, three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Tony winner Beth Leavel, queens of their respective media, will switch roles. It was just announced that Leavel will take on Miranda Priestley the dictatorial fashion editor, in the musical version of The Devil Wears Prada which will open in Chicago in July 2021, presumably followed by a Broadway opening in 2021-22. Elton John will compose the music, Shaina Taub the lyrics, Paul Rudnick the book and Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro directs. Streep won a Golden Globe for the 2007 movie edition.

Meanwhile Streep is playing Dee Dee Allen, the washed-up Broadway star aiming for publicity by supporting a lesbian high-school student, in The Prom for
Beth Leavel
Netflix. Leavel originated the role in the stage version which was named Outstanding Musical by the Drama Desk. There is an extremely funny sight gag involving the DD Award itself. Let's hope it makes the cut for the screenplay and Netflix viewers who are not obsessed with Broadway will get the joke. The Netflix edition will also star Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, James Corden, Awkafina, Ariana Grande, Keegan-Michael Key and Andrew Rannells. It will be available for streaming in November.

In other casting news, the potentially controversial Michael Jackson musical, MJ, has announced its lead. The gloved one will be played by Ephraim Sykes who gave a stunning performance as David Ruffin, the most tormented Temptation in Ain't Too
Ephraim Sykes
(he got my Tony vote for Best Featured Actor in a Musical). MJ which features a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, is scheduled to open at the Neil Simon Theater on Aug. 13. There is no word on how the show will address accusations of child molestation against the music legend, if at all. According to People Magazine, the story takes place in 1992 when Jackson is releasing his Dangerous album. The allegations of abuse did not begin until 1993. Convenient, huh?

Friday, November 22, 2019

Prediction for 2020 and Beyond

The impeachment hearings wind down
Prediction as the impeachment hearings end: I have a bad feeling the Supreme Court is going to let Trump end DACA and keep his tax returns. The House will impeach, but the Senate will not remove the slime from office. Moscow Mitch will pitch it that yes Trump did attempt a quid pro quo with Ukraine, but that's not a high crime and misdemeanor. Then the Dems will nominate someone like Warren or Buttigieg who is too scary for old white people in the swing states like Penn., Wisconsin etc. Mayor Pete is moderate, but he's gay. The thought of a gay president, no matter what his politics, will be enough to frighten off voters in the middle, plus he doesn't have the black vote. Younger black voters are angry with him because of his record on race relations and policing as Mayor of South Bend and older black voters are additionally turned off by his openness about his sexuality. Not all, but enough to make a difference.

Even if it's Biden, he won't be "flashy" and "energetic" enough for Trump's moronic diehard supporters. Trump will be re-elected. Maybe the Senate will flip and both houses of Congress will be Dem. Trump will get crazier, confident that he can get away with anything even if the Senate is Dem. He'll do something else impeachable and we'll go through all of this again.

I pray that I'm wrong.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 5

MeTV has made the transition from previously unaired early Carol Burnett Show segments (from Seasons 1-5) to the long-in-syndication Carol Burnett and Friends (Seasons 6-10). Will they show segments from the final season 11 when Dick Van Dyke was a regular for part of that time? Anyway, for Part Five of my reconstructing Carol's beloved series, we pick up various airings from Amazon, YouTube and MeTV.

Season OneOct. 16, 1967: Phyllis Diller, Gwen Verdon, Bobbie Gentry, William Schallert
( r.) Carol, Phyllis Diller, Bobbie Gentry and Gwen Verdon
as the Beatles
Found on YouTube. Broadway dance legend Gwen Verdon and country-western star Bobbie Gentry are given solo spots and not integrated into sketches, as was the custom with most of the musical guest stars in later seasons. Bobbie sings her hit "Ode to Billy Joe," which Carol would later reference in the infamous Went With the Wind sketch ("Why Billy Joe McAllister, I thought you jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge!"). Gwen performs a bizarre dance to the Simon and Garfunkel hit "Feelin' Groovy (The 59th Street Bridge Song)." (A bridge theme?) The chorus boys, who include Lee Roy Reams before he broke out and became a featured player in such Broadway shows as Applause and 42nd Street, are costumed by Bob Mackie as if they are in Dr. Seuss cartoon wielding Seussian instruments while Gwen is bedecked with flowers like a hippie goddess. Phyllis Diller delivers her usual comedy schtick of being unattractive and a horrible housekeeper. All three guests join Carol in a tribute to the Beatles, costumed as the Fab Four on the Sgt. Pepper album cover. They march through the studio audience, a rare staging for the show.