Thursday, May 30, 2013

Old Paperbacks Vs. Comics: Which Are More Valuable?

An issue of Magnus Robot Fighter is worth more
than a paperback of Hemingway or Fitzgerald
When I was a kid, comics were 12 cents and paperback books were $3, Hardbacks about $10. Now in this digital age, the positions of value have reversed. Those same comics go for $5-$20 depending on their condition and the books are $1 or even 50 cents a piece. I remember my parents telling me my comics were trash but now they are more valuable than the "real" literature I should have been reading. I did read both, but I enjoyed the comics as much as the works of Gore Vidal and Joyce Carol Oates.

This observation occurred to me this week as I shopped for both forms of antiquated reading pleasure. I still had left-over birthday money and a gift certificate for the Time Machine from my neighbor. This season, I had taken her to several Broadway shows on my press tickets and she asked my partner Jerry what would be a gift I would really appreciate. So with the gift certificate, I bought the following:
Alpha Flight #2 (a team of Canadian superheroes created by Gary Byrne whose Fantastic Four storylines I enjoyed, so I thought I'd try it)
Fantastic Four #258, 265, 281, 347, 348
Human Torch #3
Justice League of America #200 (special double-issue with various artists contributing)
Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 AD #12, 37 (Magnus is a human with super strength fighting against renegade robots out to crush humanity in the technologically advanced, continental-wide city North AM in the year 4000. A rare, exciting and original Gold Key title which specialized in comic versions of popular TV shows and cartoons. The sci-fi were actually pretty inventive including talking animals and super-sleek flying cars you drove from a reclining position.)
Superman Family #174
Tales of Suspense #68
Wonder Woman #189

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Drama Desks and Obies

Nominee Laila Robbins (Sorry) and DD winner Richard Kind
(The Big Knife) at the Drama Desk After-Party
This time of year in the New York theater is crazy with the amount of prizes handed out. The week started with a one-two punch of award shows--the Drama Desks on Sunday May 19 and the Obies on Monday May 20. For the last few years, the two have been scheduled this close together and are amazingly different. The DDs honors on, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway and while fairly eclectic in their nominations, the winners tend to be pretty conventional. The Village Voice Obies, which celebrate everything non-Broadway, are anything but conventional. They don't even have categories, just citations for excellence, and they tend to go to the unusual. The DDs are formal with many attendees in tuxes (including me) and gowns while the Obiegoers are pretty casual and usually raucous. Last year, Linda Lavin had to pause in her acceptance speech for The Lyons to get the crowd to settle down. This year, the usually uncorseted Obies were restrained because just a few days earlier the Voice announced that Michael Feingold, its chief theater critic and chairman of the Obie committee, was being laid off. It was an emotional evening as the audience gave Feingold a standing ovation and winner after winner paid tribute to him.

The 4th Annual David Desk Awards

Katie Thompson at the Drama Desk Awards
In the midst of Drama Desk, Obie, Outer Critics, Drama League, and Tony awards, what's one more? For the past four years, I've been listing my own choices for the best of the theater season on, Off- and Off-Off-Broadway. I do get to vote for the DDs, Outer Critics, Tonys, New York Drama Critics Circle, and the American Theater Critics Association, but these reflect my own taste as far as multiple nominees go. These are not meant as a criticism of the other awards, they're just for fun. There are a lot of shows, performances and designs which I felt were overlooked by the other critical bodies--especially Alan Cumming's Macbeth and the wonderful performances of Michele Pawk and Katie Thompson in Giant. I included up to six nominees in each category. Let me know if you agree with my picks or have any of your own.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Freaky Friday in TheaterWorld: Voice Firings, Tempest in a Tony Teapot

Michael Feingold
Friday was a pretty overwhelming day. In addition to the fallout from the phone smashing at Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, the Drama League Awards were presented and the Village Voice further cut its staff, firing its chief theater critic, Pulitzer Prize finalist Michael Feingold and popular gossip columnist Michael Musto. I admire both writers greatly and was saddened to hear this distressing news. There was also an emergency meeting of the Tony Administration Committee because producer Jeffrey Richards allegedly violated some silly rule with the brochure he sent out to Tony voters for his production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? All material sent to voters must be approved by the Committee and Richards apparently overlooked this step. Michael Reidel wrote in the Post the meeting was prompted by producer Nelle Nugent whose The Trip to Bountiful is Woolf's biggest competition for the Best Revival of a Play Award. According to Reidel's column, producers can only send Tony voters exactly the same souvenir program theatergoers receive. Richards had a new one made up just for the Tony electorate. It's kind of a stupid rule. As a Tony voter, I received the Virginia Woolf brochure and it's not going to make me vote for it over Bountiful. (I'm deciding between Woolf and Golden Boy, but the brochure is not influencing me one way or the other.)

The Drama League Awards went to Vanya, Sonia, Masha, and Spike, Kinky Boots, Pippin, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (I guess Drama League voters got that same brochure) and to Nathan Lane of The Nance for Distinguished Performance. Earlier this week, Boots won the Outer Critics Circle Award over Matilda. The Drama League win cements Boots' status as the underdog, upset winner for Best Musical at the Tonys. It can't win at the Drama Desks tonight because it's not even nominated for Best Musical, but will probably triumph for Billy Porter's lead performance as Lola. Lane's win, along with his Outer Critics victory, designates him as the front runner for the Tonys, but I still think Tom Hanks has the edge for Lucky Guy because most of the Tony voters are industry people, not critics and they want more movie stars to come to Broadway. It will be interesting to see who wins tonight at the DDs since Lane has already won several times (The Lisbon Traviata, Guys and Dolls, Forum, Producers), they might go for Hanks.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Phone Smash Heard Round the Net

Phillipa Soo as Natasha in
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Credit: Chad Batka
It was the second act of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy's pop-opera environmental adaption of a section of War and Peace, performed in a restaurant setting near the West Side Highway after a successful run at Ars Nova. Natasha had just intensely confronted her cousin Sonya with the news that she plans to elope with Anatole Kuragin. Sonya is about to deliver her big ballad about how much she loves Natasha and will never allow her to make such a fool of herself. I hear shuffling behind me and a woman from the audience angrily stomps across the playing area--there's no other way to get out--and flings open the exit door right by where Sonya is about to deliver her song. The woman turns and points dramatically in the direction where she was sitting and the door closes. The show continues (I'll post my review later) and I do not find out until the next day what happened.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Amazing Race 22: Season Finale

At least these two geniuses didn't win.
I guess you all need some kind of closure with The Amazing Race which just wrapped up its 22nd season. Okay, it was almost two weeks ago, I'm sorry, I have things to do like stay in bed and complain, as Judy Tenuta used to say. I sorta lost my fire over it when Joey and Meghan got eliminated. Clearly the Hockey Brothers or the hated Max and Katie were going to win. At least the Roller Moms beat out the Country Singers for the final three so there wouldn't be any mooning flirty bullshit between the brothers and the singers. I didn't really dislike anyone but Max and Katie, but I wasn't in love with anyone who was left. I think they unfairly targeted Meghan and Joey from leftover resentment because of their alliance with the long-departed blonde couple who got eliminated while still holding an Express Pass. (Totally forgot their names, don't feel like looking them up right now, deal with it.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NY Drama Critics Circle Awards: Fast and Funny at 54 Below

Shalita Grant and Sigourney Weaver of
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at
the NY Drama Critics Circle Awards
The New York Drama Critics Circle Awards are usually held in a crowded bar with all the honorees, critics, friends, and cast members standing up and pushed up against each other as if they were in the subway. This year, the ceremony, held on Mon. May 13, was moved to the more spacious 54 Below cabaret room. Critics mingled with actors, playwrights, directors, producers, and press agents and there was no bloodshed.

The Circle was founded in 1935 in reaction to the press's dissatisfaction with choices made by the Pulitzer Prize committee and gives awards for the Best Play, Best American or Foreign Play (depending on the nationality of the Best Play choice), Best Musical, and whatever special citations the members choose for that season. I've been a voting member for many years and this was probably the most entertaining and fun Circle presentation in recent memory. Before the ceremony started I found myself chatting with Sigourney Weaver and Linda Winer of Newsday on the mating habits of gorillas and lions. We were talking about Weaver's role in Gorillas in the Mist; I mentioned I had been in Namibia and one of the attractions at the lodge where I stayed was watching a pride of lions at feeding time. The pride consisted of one male and eight females one of whom was in heat. The male mated with her three times during the course of the meal. "How long did each encounter take?," Linda asked. "About 30 seconds," I answered. Sigourney confirmed that it was about the same for gorillas.
Peter Bartlett and Harriet Harris
of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
hosting the NY Drama Critics Circle Awards

Monday, May 13, 2013

OCC, DDs, and Tonys: Will 'Kinky Boots' Kick 'Matilda' to the Curb?

The Outer Critics just announced their winners and it looks like Kinky Boots will be kicking Matilda to the curb if these awards are any indication for the Tonys. Boots walked all over Matilda for the Outstanding Broadway Musical Award and Billy Porter also beat down Bertie Carvel for Best Actor. The two cross-dressing performers are also going head to head in the Tony lead sweepstakes. Perhaps the Matilda producers should have put the brilliant Carvel who steals the show as the delightfully horrible headmistress Miss Trunchbull, in the Featured Category where he would have been sure to win over the OCC champ in that category, Terrence Mann who plays Pippin's overbearing father Charlemange. I think Mann will probably win the Tony because he's been around so long without a win (he was nominated for the original Les Miserables, was in the original Cats and Beauty and the Beast, so the Tony voters may reward him for being in long-running shows where he has to wear a lot of make-up).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Comic Scene: Birthday Purchases and Chris March

For my birthday, I went to Time Machine and purchased another cache of comics. Going there makes me think of a secret club for cool kids. You have to ring a bell and climb a flight of stairs to get to it. I conferred with other collectors on the quality of vintage books including the placement of staples and cut-out panels which ruin the value. I'm nearing completing my Supergirl in Adventure Comics run, finding #397 and #415 from the late 19602-early 1970s. In #415 the Maid of Might is choosing a new costume based on readers' suggestions. Perhaps that would make a good Project Runway episode.

Speaking of which, I met Chris March, of PR and Mad Fashion at the Drama Desk nominee event yesterday at the Essex House. His Butt-Cracker Suite is nominated for Unique Theatrical Event and Costume Design. We chatted briefly and agreed Michelle was the correct winner of this season. He also said he couldn't imagine going through what Stanley did, having to sew so many dresses at the last minute backstage at the Fashion Week show. He said if that happened to him, he'd have been crying in a corner.

Other comics purchased: Adventure #305 (featuring Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes); Atom #20 and #43; Flash #199 and #203
Chris March of Project Runway and Mad Fashion at
the Drama Desk nominees Event

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Frantic Theatergoing and Free Comic Book Day

John Lloyd Young and Linda Lavin announcing
the Drama Desk nominees at 54 Below
This has been a hectic week of theatergoing and comic book shopping. There are a lot of shows to catch up with at the end of the season as we prepare for Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Tony voting. Another important event is Free Comic Book Day, a promotional event for the comic industry when they try to draw in new customers with free offers at the various comic-book stores, which falls on the first Saturday in May.

The Drama Desk nominees were announced by previous DD winners John Lloyd Young (Jersey Boys) and Linda Lavin (Broadway Bound, The New Century) on Monday at 54 Below. The next day Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sutton Foster performed similar chores in giving out the Tony nominees. My reactions to both lists and that of the Outer Critics Circle will be explored in an upcoming blog post. Wednesday was the Tony nominees reception and that afternoon I attended the matinee of The Nance with Nathan Lane. Thursday I caught up with Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which was presented earlier this season at Ars Nova and is now in a new location called Kazino all the way down on 10th Ave. They give you a Russian dinner as part of the show which is based on a section of War and Peace. The show didn't get out until midnight. Friday I was supposed to see Pippin, but Patina Miller, nominated for all the major awards as the Leading Player, was out that night and I had to reschedule.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Amazing Race 22: Episode 10: Flirting with Dead Poets

Dead Poets Society: The Country Singers flirt
with a dude from the 18th century 
I hate it when I'm rooting for The Amazing Race team I hate the least. With Meghan and Joey gone and the Roller Moms probably next, that only leaves the Hockey Brothers, their pretend girl friends the Country Singers, and the dreaded Big-Brained Max and Katie. I only really hate Max and Katie. The Hockey Brothers are just too damned athletic and I feel that gives them an unfair advantage. It gets monotonous when the same pair keeps winning. The Country Singers have no drive and keep relying on the brothers to help them out. I love it when an underdog team wins. That's what made last season so great--Josh and Brent, who had never even won a previous leg, finished first at the end over the buff James and Jaymes.