Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tony Eligibility Ruling Reaction

Kristine Nielsen, left, is definitely a leading lady in
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Just five days before the Tony nominations are announced, the Tony Administration Committee met and made its final ruling as to who's eligible in which category. To paraphrase Charles Dickens (or the 1950s movie version of A Christmas Carol), the reaction from the theater blogosphere has resembled a chorus of scalded cats. The two biggest causes for brouhaha concern are the four young actresses playing the title role in Matilda and the status of Kristine Nielsen of Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The talented quartet of little girls who alternate as Roald Dahl's spunky genius were ruled ineligible for Best Actress in a Musical and will be awarded a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theater. All that is very fine, but it breaks precedence with the Billy Elliot boys. The three young men who alternated in that role were considered eligible as a single, joint nominee for Best Actor in a Musical, and won. What's the difference here? It is because there are four as opposed to three? Or perhaps the Matilda producers did not want to have to give Tony voters free tickets on four separate occasions and lose all that income? This happens with the Tonys all the time. Unlike the Supreme Court, they do not abide by previous cases. There have been plenty of times when actors has been considered leading AND featured for the same role--Zena Walker and Stockard Channing both played the same part in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. But Walker won a Featured Tony and Channing triumphed in the leading category when the play was revived. same with Joel Grey and Alan Cumming in Cabaret.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Amazing Race 22: Episode 9: Co-Dependent Country Singers

The Country Singers suffer from
separation anxiety this week
The theme of this week's episode of The Amazing Race was co-dependence. The Country Singers and the Hockey Brothers could not seem to break their bond or realize that this is a race for heaven's sake, not a dating service. You're not on Ready for Love, hons. As the race moved from Switzerland to Germany, the two kissy-face teams finally start to twig to the fact that if they help each other out, they will lose. There are only five teams left and if you stay behind to aide another, Phil will be eliminating you.

This leg also marked a welcome change in luck for the Hockey Boys. Thank God. After three monotonous easy victories, they almost got canned. Plus Meghan and Joey bounced back from their near-defeat last week. The segment began on a familiar note with the Hockey Boys starting in first place and the hated Max and Katie bragging about how they thought they would win a lot of legs and what a humbling experience it's been having their giant brains beaten in. So everyone gets back on a train for Dresden (they rode like 20 trains last week). Here the hockey players' luck begins to turn as one of them gets his backpack stolen. Too bad his passport wasn't in there or they would have suffered the fate of the long-haired rockers from last season.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

News Roundup

This has been one busy week. I paid my taxes, the Boston Marathon bombers did their heinous work and were either killed or apprehended, a fertilizer factory blew up in Texas, six Broadway shows opened of which I saw three, Mamma Mia! announced it was moving to the Broadhurst, there was speculation that Rocky would take its place at the Winter Garden, Bullets Over Broadway confirmed for the St. James for next spring.  

In addition, Johnny Depp revealed he would love to play Carol Channing. Now that I could see. Depp has played larger-than-life characters like Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Carribbean films and a drag queen named Bon Bon in Before Night Falls.

Speaking of Channing, the National Asian Artists Project will present a staged reading of Hello, Dolly! on April 29 and May 6 at the Signature Theatre Center.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Used Book Evocations

Last week I was grocery shopping on 37th Avenue. Occasionally, there will be a guy with a thick European accent selling used books outside the Met supermarket. His stock is usually crap, spread out over several tables. Pulpy romances, self-help lessons, forgotten lowest-common-denominator best-sellers of decades ago, coloring books, action-oriented sci-fi. He only charges $1 or 50 cents, but even at those cheap prices, there’s never anything I want. This time I actually found something interesting—Alan Furst’s Kingdom of Shadows, a spy novel set in 1938 Paris. The hero, Nicky Morath, a former cavalry officer with the Hungarian army, undergoes numerous adventures smuggling refugees out of Nazi-occupied countries, obtaining fake passports, raising covert funds for the resistance, providing mistresses for German officers (everything has a price in Paris). 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Best Play Tony Race: 'Parties' vs. 'Guy'

Jessica Hecht, Jeremy Shamos, and Judith Light
in The Assembled  Parties
Credit: Joan Marcus
The critics are sharply divided on the just-opened The Assembled Parties from playwright Richard Greenberg and Manhattan Theater Club. Many are positively swooning over it. Ben Brantley of the Times calls it "charming. It is also smart, sad and so impossibly well-spoken you may feel like giving up on conversation." Linda Winer of Newsday thinks it's "vibrant and touching." But there were a few detractors, notably Joe Dziemianowicz of the Daily News and Elisabeth Vincentelli of the Post. Given the many positive notices, and the lack of competition, Parties is now in a position to assume challenger status to Lucky Guy for the Best Play Tony. With its support among certain reviewers, it could win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, setting up a battle between an elitist favorite (Parties) and a populist box-office draw headlined by a Hollywood star (Tom Hanks in Guy).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Amazing Race 22 Episode 8: Chuck Literally Sticks His Head Up His Wife's Ass

Chuck and Wynona struggling in Switzerland
just before he literally puts his head up her ass. 
I'm just tired of the Hockey Brothers, Bates and Anthony, coming in first on The Amazing Race. They did it again this week and it's gets boring when the athletic alpha males dominate all the time. These guys are not aggressive or arrogant. I'm sure I would even like them in real life (unlike Max and Katie.) Their only flaw is they won't shut up about wanting to get together with the country singers. I don't hate them like I did Rob and Amber--I don't hate anybody like I did Rob and Amber. It's just so predictable when the obvious team keeps coming in first.

Smash Episode 211 The Dress Rehearsal

Megan Hilty as Ivy in the "Dig Deep" number
which Tom and Julia staged in like 30  minutes.
This week's episode of Smash was directed by Mimi Leder of ER and Deep Impact fame and I feel like I've got a hangover from all her revolving shots. Leder loves to spin her camera around actors to create a sense of drama and she did it twice here. First with Julia, Tom, Eileen, and Linda frantically conferring over the open dress rehearsal of Bombshell and then at the end of the show where everyone was reading Richard Francis's ridiculous New York Times article unfavorably comparing the show with Hit List. Okay, I know the Smash people are allowed a little dramatic license, but come on. First of all, the Arts Editor of the most important paper in the city would not write anything about theater. He'd assign it to the drama critic or a feature writer. Secondly, he would not write about a show wherein he is dating the producer. Thirdly, he would not write anything in the form of a review about a show which has just started previews and another that is still in rehearsal. After they both open, fine, yes. And another thing, Derek and Scott would definitely NOT let anyone in the press, particularly the Times, into a "stumble-through" of Hit List.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Smash Episodes 209 The Parents and 210 The Surprise Party

Megan Hilty and Bernadette Peters
on the last Tuesday-night Smash.
Smash has limped to its new berth on Saturday nights, but in the same week it played its final Tuesday slot. Two episodes of Smash in one week? What do you think I am, NBC, a martyr to hate-watching? You're just lucky there was no Amazing Race this week because of the Country Music Awards, otherwise I would have waited and crammed three blogs into one.  On the Tuesday show, Bernadette Peters as Ivy's mother Lee Conroy joins the cast of Bombshell and Karen's father visits from Iowa. See, the episode is called "The Parents" and both leading ladies have mommy-daddy issues... get it? On Sat., Ivy is pissed at Tom so Tom invites Liza Minnelli to sing for Ivy on her birthday. Sure, Liza does that sorta stuff all the time.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Recent Visits to Oz

Ozma of Oz, one of the 20th century's
earliest transgendered characters. Isn't she fabulous?
I finally did get around to seeing the current film Oz The Great and Powerful in IMAX and 3-D. The prequel to classic MGM film The Wizard of Oz purports to tell the story of how the Wiz got to the enchanted land long before Dorothy. The production design was beautiful and I'm glad I saw it in 3-D, but you don't need to spend the extra $10 for IMAX, at least not in the theater I went to on 34th Street in Manhattan.

The mythology put forth conflicts with that of L. Frank Baum's Oz books and Gregory Maguire's Wicked series. Yes, for those who don't know there are about 40 Oz books altogether. Baum wrote 14 of them and Ruth Plumly Thompson carried on after his death. She stopped in 1939 and others carried on periodically after that. In the new movie, James Franco as the Wizard has affairs (or stays up all night "dancing") with both the Wicked Witches of the East and West and does some serious canoodling with Glinda the Good Witch of the South. The good witch of the North is missing. In the Baum books, the Wiz unseats the rightful ruler, a fairy baby named Ozma, who is turned by enchantment into a boy. Outside of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Ozma is probably literature's most famous transgendered character. In The Land of Oz, the first book after the Wizard of Oz, the transformed Ozma, now named Trot, goes on an adventure with Jack Pumpkinhead, and is eventually re-assigned by Glinda to his/her original form. "I'm the same as I was before," she explained to the astonished Ozites,"only now I'm a girl." And a fairy to boot. This was in 1904, long before LGBTQ issues were on anyone's mind.

Carmine Infantino, 1925-2013

Comic book legend Carmine Infantino died this week at 87. The DC artist and editor is credited with saving Batman in the early 1960s--before the campy TV show--by giving the Caped Crusader a "new" look. He replaced Dick Sprang's childish boxy, angular drawings with a fluid, almost avant-garde style. He also co-created the Silver Age Batgirl (in response to ABC's request for a female companion for the Gotham Goliath). There had been a previous Bat-Girl--Betty Kane, niece of heiress Kathy Kane, secretly Batwoman. But the new Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon, was not a silly teenager with a crush a Robin, like Betty. She was a "dynamic daredoll."

Infantino also created the new Flash and launched the Silver Age of Comics. After World War II, many superheroes titles were scrapped with only the big three--Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman--surviving. Responding to a demand for more caped do-gooders, Infantino re-invented the Golden Age Flash and launched the Silver Age of Comics. More Golden Agers such as Green Lantern, Hawkman, and The Atom, were reborn. He also co-created such heroes as Deadman, Animal Man, and The Elongated Man, an amateur sleuth able to stretch his body like Mr. Fantastic, Plastic Man, and Mr. Gum.

He was magnificent at sci-fi settings. His futuristic cityscapes for the planet Rann in the Adam Strange series always took my breath away. Strange was an archaeologist who travels to distant Rann by means of the zeta-beam to save the Rannians from whatever menace was befalling them that month. Evidently, they needed someone from Earth to solve their problems since they couldn't handle any themselves.

I met Infantino once at a recent Comic Con and got his autograph on The World of Carmine Infantino paperback edition. I was hoping he'd drawn a Batman or Adam Strange, but only got his signature.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tom Hanks and 'Lucky Guy' Tony Frontrunners

Tom Hanks can move his two Oscars to the side of the mantelpiece to make room for the Best Actor in a Play Tony he's bound to win for his Broadway debut in Lucky Guy which opened this week. His closest competition is probably Nathan Lane in The Nance and Tracey Letts in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Lane already has two Tonys (for Forum and The Producers) while Letts' show closed months ago. Hanks gives a terrific performance as the gritty tabloid columnist Mike McAlary. He gets to swear, cry, deal with cancer, get high on booze and morphine, feel guilty for causing a corrupt cop to commit suicide, and deliver a big emotional wrap-up speech at the end. It's got Tony-bait written all over it. I'll probably be voting for Letts whose challenge was greater having to justify the sadomasochistic behavior of George in a play usually dominated by whoever plays Martha.

Lucky itself is a bit of jumble, but it will make great television to have playwright Nora Ephron honored posthumously. So far, The Other Place is its only competition. Grace and Dead Accounts shuttered long ago and Breakfast at Tiffany's got a lukewarm reception. The Nance and The Assembled Parties have yet to open, but I doubt they'll be able to tackle Lucky Guy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Amazing Race 22: Episode 7: Blogging Is a Responsibility

The hockey brothers complete the fast forward
I thought I had two full weeks to comment on the latest episode of The Amazing Race because the next segment will be pre-empted for the Country Music Awards. But then a friend actually sent me the following message on Facebook: "Ahem. Amazing Race was two days ago. Blogging is a responsibility." First I was shocked that anybody reads this stuff, but then sorta flattered that at least one person must look forward to it enough to let me know when it's late. So here goes, even though this was not a particularly exciting episode:

Monday, April 1, 2013

New 'Romeo and Juliet' for B'way; Tony Nom Announcers Announced

Orlando Bloom
Heartthrob Orlando Bloom and rising star Condola Rashad (soon to star in The Trip to Bountiful) will star in a new production of Romeo and Juliet to play the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, beginning previews Aug. 24 and opening Sept. 19. The press release states the cast will be multi-ethnic and also include Tony nominees Jayne Houdyshell (Well, Dead Accounts, Follies) as the Nurse and Joe Morton (Raisin) as Lord Capulet, Juliet's father. The last major R&J in NYC was the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's production as part of a six-play rotating repertory in the summer of 2011. At the performance I attended, Romeo suffered an injury and his understudy had to go halfway through the show. Elizabeth Olsen is slated to star as Juliet at CSC during the same season. Famous screen R&Js have included Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer, and of course, Marcia Brady and that kid with glasses. (Fortunately, Marcia was canned for behaving like a diva and wound up playing Lady Capulet.)

In other breaking news, the Tony nominations will be read by Sutton Foster and Jesse Tyler Ferguson at the New York Public Library on April 30; and David Hyde Pierce will host the Drama League Awards on May 17.