Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More New Shows for Broadway 2013-14

John Grisham, Neil Patrick Harris, Wynton Marsalis, Tupac Shakur and maybe Angela Lansbury will be joining the diverse ranks of stars and creative types lighting up Broadway in the coming season (Still not a lot of new plays though.) John Grisham's A Time to Kill has been turned into a play by Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood). After a run at the Arena Stage, it's been picked up for an engagement at the John Golden.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

James Gandolfini: An Actor Who Challenged Himself

Like most of you, I became aware of the late James Gandolfini through The Sopranos. But the moment when he most impressed me was in a crappy movie called Terminal Velocity. I can't even remember the plot, but I saw it on a bus. That's right, not even on an airplane, a bus. Charlie Sheen was the star which shows you how long ago this thing was made. Sheen plays some kind of daredevil and Gandolfini was a lawyer or agent or some kind of desk jockey who is supposed to seem bland and ordinary next to the dashing Sheen. The only thing I remember about the movie was one moment when Gandolfini says to Sheen, "Flashy guys like you don't think very much of regular guys like me and that's okay." He was so honest, simple, and direct that he totally stole that scene and the movie from the handsome, but shallow Sheen who has since descended into a sitcom version of himself. (Winning!)

Gandolfini's tragic early death robs us of more detailed, truthful performances. On The Sopranos he created a complex man who was a sensitive seeker after his inner self as well as a brutal killer. I'll never forget the episode where he says to his Uncle Junior, "Don't you love me?" and Dominic Chianese just looks at him. Every hurt and slight in the twisted Soprano family history is written on both their silent faces.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Goodbye 'Smash'

The Smash Finale: Bye, Bye Ivy and Karen
I was so busy covering the end of the real Broadway season and the real Tony Awards, I kinda lost interest in the fake Broadway of Smash. Then the whole misbegotten series ended with barely a whimper. There the last five or six episodes were, sitting in my DVR for about a month. I couldn't bring myself to watch them until just recently. In a way I didn't want my love-hate relationship with the series to end. But then I saw Andy Mientus, the young actor who played Kyle, on the subway and I knew I needed closure. And so do you, my dozen or so blog-readers. I'll try to recap the horror as quickly as possible. We left off with Episode 211 The Dress Rehearsal:

Episode 212: Opening Night
Bombshell finally opens. Suddenly Tom no longer wants to be a composer, he just wants to direct. But Julia wants to make a musical out of The Great Gatsby with Tom. (It's already an opera and a lousy Baz Luhrman movie so why not?) The entire cast of Hit List is invited to the Bombshell opening night. Of course Eileen would give away that many comp tickets at the last minute. Tom hooks up with Kyle (cradle robber) and Derek sleeps with some dancer who accused him of sexual harassment (foreshadowing trouble ahead).

Friday, June 21, 2013

AP's Arts Decision and the Slow Death of "Niche Culture"

Off-Broadway plays like Detroit at Playwright Horizons
will no longer be reviewed by the AP.
Credit: Jeremy Daniel
In a recent email, AP theater critic Mark Kennedy explained the wire service would be severely restricting its news, reviews, and features on Off-Broadway, opera, and dance. Kennedy explains the AP's clients who run their stories are fine with reviews of music (presumably pop, rock, etc., none of that classical crap), books (presumably best sellers), movies (blockbusters), and TV (reality). But they actually resent reviews of high-toned, elitist stuff like opera, dance, and Off-Broadway. OK, I added the adjectives, but resenting Off-Bway? Maybe these resentful newspapers feel their readers can't get to Off-B'way so why should they run reviews. Evidently Broadway is still OK. But how long before AP starts cutting reviews of Main Stem shows with no major names in them? Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They never heard of Tracy Letts in Podunk, North Dakota, so forget it. I suppose if Kim Kardashian starred as Medea Off-Broadway, they'd review that.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Recent Subway Encounters: Two Poems

Two diverse NYC subway events:

A disheveled young man stands in the middle of the car
He asks our forgiveness for interrupting
His voice is tired
He tells us he is homeless and unemployed
But he has a job interview at a restaurant the next day
He's had a run of bad luck
He's been sleeping on the subways
"They don't let you lay down, so you can only get about four hours of sleep."
He'd like to get a shower and some sleep
But the cheapest hostel he can find costs $38 for the night
Anything we can spare
He's had food poisoning recently and had to go to the hospital
That just about wiped out all his money
He stands by the doors in the middle of the car
Not moving
He's not experienced at panhandling
The veterans know to keep their pitch short and simple
Then move through the car, asking each passenger
Some of the more desperate stand in front of each rider for several seconds
This young man just stands waiting for us to come to him
Two or three people get up and give him a dollar or two
He gets off at Union Square

A young actor from a recently cancelled TV series
(Andy Mientus, Kyle from Smash)
Gets on the train with a woman friend
They chat and find a seat
I debate with myself if I should say something to him
As I reach my stop, I go over to him and say "Hi, I was so sorry when your character was killed."
And I'm not lying, I was.
He says "Thank you" with a smile.
I exit to have lunch with a friend

I know I stopped blogging about Smash several episodes before the series ended. I will write a wrap-up once I can bring myself to watch the season finale.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

2013-14 Broadway Season: Hawke to Star in Scottish play

Ethan Hawke studying for his next Broadway role
Lincoln Center Theater just announced its season for 2013-14. The hot news is Ethan Hawke will be playing Macbeth,bringing to four the number of Shakespearean productions this Broadway season (Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, and Richard III being the others). And we just saw Hawke in Before Midnight, but I ain't going to The Purge. It looks scary. (We should have been tipped off he would essay the Thane because he hosted a segment of Shakespeare Uncovered on the play.) Other Macbeths I've seen: Alan Cumming, Patrick Stewart, Tom Gualtieri (in That Play: A Solo Macbeth), Liev Schrieber, Raul Julia, Alec Baldwin, Orson Welles, Jon Finch (Roman Polanski's film), Ian McKellen, Nicol Williamson, John Douglas Thompson, whoever played it in Sleep No More (there was more than one).

So much Shakespeare is exciting, but a really troubling Broadway trend is the lack of new plays. So far, only one has been announced--The Snow Geese from Manhattan Theatre Club. But it's still early. Here's a rundown of the 2013-14 season as of now:

July 14--Luis Bravo's Forever Tango (Walter Kerr)
July 24--Let It Be (St. James)
Aug. 4--First Date (Longacre)
Aug. 15--Soul Doctor (Circle In the Square)
Sept. 19--Romeo and Juliet (Richard Rodgers)
Sept. 26--The Glass Menagerie (Booth)
Oct. 5--Big Fish (Neil Simon)
Oct. 24--The Snow Geese (Samuel Friedman)
Nov. 3--Betrayal (Barrymore)
Nov. 10--Twelfth Night/Richard III (Belasco)
Nov. 17--The Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder (Walter Kerr)
Nov. 21--Macbeth (Vivian Beaumont)
Nov. 24--Waiting for Godot/No Man's Land (Cort)
TBA--The Winslow Boy (American Airlines)
Jan. 16--Machinal (American Airlines)
Mid-Feb.--The Bridges of Madison County (Gerald Shoenfeld)
March 23--Les Miserables (Imperial)
March 27--If/Then (Theatre TBA)
April 17--Act One (Vivian Beaumont)
Spring--The Real Thing (American Airlines)
Spring--Houdini (Theatre TBA)
Spring--Rocky (Winter Garden)
Spring--Bullets Over Broadway (St. James)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Awards Roundup for 2012-13

Andrea Martin at the Tonys
Last night's Tonys finished off the 2012-13 award season. As I did last year, I tallied up ALL the NYC award winners and recipients--just for giggles. This season the prizes were spread around without one performer dominating all the shows as Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit, Christine Ebersole in Grey Gardens, and Geoffrey Rush in Exit the King have done in years past. There were several top award-and-nomination grabbers with the most being five citations.

Sharing top quintuple honors are Bertie Carvel for Matilda; Tom Hanks for Lucky Guy; Shuler Hensley for The Whale; Rob McClure for Chaplin; Laura Osnes for Cinderella; Billy Porter for Kinky Boots; and Andrea Martin for Pippin.

The rundown lists nominees in lower case and winner in CAPS. If different awards organizations have placed actors in different categories, I just put them wherever I thought they belonged. For example, Kristine Nielsen was considered a leading actress by the Tonys, but a featured actress by the Outer Critics. I judged her as a leading lady of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and put her there.

The breakdown is Astaire=Astaire Award for dancers; CD=Clarence Derwent Award from Equity for newcomers; DD=Drama Desk; DL=Drama League; LL=Lucille Lortel Award for Off-Broadway; Obie=Obie Award for Off and Off-Off-Broadway; OCC=Outer Critics Circle; RS=Richard Seff Award from Equity for veteran performers; Tony=Tony Award; TW=Theater World Award for newcomers.

Actor in a Play
Alec Baldwin, Orphans (dl)
Reed Birney, Uncle Vanya (dd)
Danny Burstein, Talley’s Folly (dl, ll)
Bobby Cannavale, The Big Knife, Glengarry Glen Ross (dl)
Brandon J. Dirksen, The Piano Lesson (dl, ll, OBIE, TW)
Jesse Eisenberg, The Revisionist (dl)
Daniel Everidge, Falling (dd, ll)
Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy (dd, dl, occ, tony, TW)
Shuler Hensley, The Whale (dd, dl, LL, OBIE, occ)
Nathan Lane, The Nance (dd, DL, OCC, tony)
Tracy Letts, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?(DD, dl, occ, TONY)
Matthew Maher, sustained excellence (OBIE)
Aasif Mandvi, Disgraced (ll)
Seth Numrich, Golden Boy (dl)
David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (dl, occ, tony)
Paul Rudd, Grace (dl)
Michael Shannon, Grace (dl)
Tom Sturridge, Orphans (dl, OCC, tony, TW)
Paul Thureen, Blood Play (OBIE)
Stephen Tyrone Williams, My Children! My Africa (dl)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

More Theatre News: Bridges Not Too Far for Broadway

Eastwood and Streep in The Bridges of Madison County
Of course there's more theater news today: the musical version of The Bridges of Madison County will definitely be moving to Broadway. (You know, the movie with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood mooning over each other.) The musical which features a score by Jason Robert Brown (13, The Last  Five Years) and a book by Marsha Norman (Night, Mother, The Secret Garden) will begin previews at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on Jan. 13, 2014 with an opening in mid-February. Tony winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific) directs. The show is scheduled to play the Williamstown Theater Festival this summer Aug. 1-18.

Theater News: Shakespeare, Sunshine, and Rear Window

Lots of theater news today:

Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night (l.) and as Richard III
Two time Tony winner Mark Rylance (Boeing-Boeing, Jerusalem), Stephen Fry of Black Adder fame, and Drama Desk winner and Tony nominee Samuel Barnett (The History Boys) will be coming to Broadway in a repertory of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Richard III. Previews begin Oct. 15 with a Nov. 10 opening at the Belasco. These Globe Theater productions were hits in London and will be staged as in Shakespeare's time with all-male casts, lighting by candles, and Elizabethan musical instruments. Twelfth Night features Rylance as Olivia, Fry as her servant Malvolio, and Barnett as the gender-bending Viola. Rylance will play Richard and Barnett his sister-in-law Queen Elizabeth.

Edwin Drood Tony-Drama Desk nominees Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase will reunite for the musical version of Little Miss Sunshine at Second Stage with previews beginning the same day (Oct. 25) with the opening November date to be announced.

New York's most distinguished critic, Michael Feingold, just laid off from the Village Voice, will be writing a column for Theatermania. No word if he will freelance for the Voice. The publication has asked if he will continue to chair the Obie committee. But what will the Voice's commitment to theater coverage be beyond handing out grants and awards?

Playwright-actor Keith Reddin, currently understudying David Hyde Pierce in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, is working on a stage version of Rear Window, the Conrad Woolrich short story which inspired Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1954 thriller starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, and Raymond Burr. Terry Kinney (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest revival) directs.  

Oh, and the Tonys are on Sunday. My predictions are on ArtsinNY.com

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Theatre World Awards

Shalita Grant of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
at the Theatre World Awards
"This is a show!," exclaimed Alan Alda upon receiving the John Willis Lifetime Achievement Award at the 69th annual Theatre World Awards, held Mon. June 3 at the Music Box Theater where the hit revival of Pippin is currently playing. Alda then recalled the very different ceremony when he won his Theatre World Award for Fair Game for Lovers in 1964. "It was in an office that held maybe four people if they all stood up," he said. Instead of the handsome trophy presented to the 2013 winners, Alda received a piece of paper, but it was very important to him. The award, presented to newcomers to Broadway and off-Broadway, signified he was able to earn a living as an actor and didn't have to rely on income from driving a cab or serving as a doorman. The late John Willis was the publisher of the annual Theatre World volumes. 2013 marks the first year a lifetime achievement award bearing his name was presented.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Backlash to the Past

Recent events point to a backlash against the progress American society has made in terms of accepting nontraditional families and gender roles.

Despite the growing support for marriage equality, there have been a series of gaybashing incidents in NYC. A cute Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family has received numerous racist comments on YouTube (so many in fact that YouTube had to shut down the comment section). Fox commentators Lou Dobbs and Eric Erikson went on a sexist rant in reaction to a study showing 40 percent of American households had a main female breadwinner. Both said this was the end of civilization, against science, and that it was not reflecting nature where males are dominant and females are submissive. Megyn Kelly, who I normally loathe, took both misogynistic morons to task. "Who died and made you scientist-in-chief?" she asked Erickson. Greta von Susteren wrote on her blog (I hesitate to call it a blog, it's more like a tweet):

"Have these men lost their minds? (and these are my colleagues??!! oh brother… maybe I need to have a little chat with them) (next thing they will have a segment to discuss eliminating women’s right to vote?)"