Friday, November 27, 2015

Donald Trump: Raging Id

Donald Trump Free of Hairspray
We have reached the point where Donald Trump is no longer a joke, but a threat to civilized discourse and the political process. He has become the raging id of the American public like the invisible monster in Forbidden Planet which is really Walter Pidgeon's subconscious. No matter what outrageous, childish thing he says, his supporters still favor him. Many pundits are saying none of the traditional rules of politics or even civility apply to Trump and the media lets him get away with all kinds of incredible lies, distortions, evasions, and exaggerations. (Where in New Jersey did he personally see thousands of people cheering for the Twin Towers falling? He said he personally saw this, not film of it on TV.)

I've concluded that a certain percentage of US voters wants to be like Trump. They want their racist, sexist, entitled white male identity to go unchecked and unchallenged. Like schoolyard bullies, they want to be able to make fun of disabled people, foreigners, women, gays, anyone with a difference or expressing an opposing viewpoint, without being called on it by the teacher and made to stand in the corner. They want say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays and not feel guilty about it--and they want to force everyone else to say Merry Christmas. (Trump said at a rally-"When I'm president, everyone will say Merry Christmas" How is he going to accomplish that? With a Christmas micro-chip implanted in our brains and we get a shock if we say Happy Holidays?)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Roundabout to Present 'Holiday Inn' and 'Cherry Orchard'; Streaming Stars at the Drama Desk Jubilee

Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds,
Fred Astaire, and Virginia Dale, will serve
as the basis of a new Broadway musical.
Roundabout Theater Company will present a new stage version of the 1942 movie musical Holiday Inn. The score features such Irving Berlin classics as "Cheek to Cheek," "Easter Parade," and "Shakin' the Blues Away." Previews begin Sept. 1, 2016 for an Oct. 13 opening. Press materials indicate the plot will follow the original film relatively closely. The story focuses on crooner Jim who wants to quit the show-biz rat race and settle down on a Connecticut farm and only do shows during the holidays from New Year's to July 4 to Christmas. He falls in love with singer Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) but fears she will be stolen away to big bad Hollywood by his former partner Ted (Fred Astaire). How will they handle the minstrel show sequence for Abraham Lincoln's birthday? In the original film, Crosby as Jim wears blackface and forces Linda to don it also so that Ted will not recognize her (Ted showed up on New Year's Eve and danced with her but was so drunk he didn't find out her name, but he would remember her face). This leads to a whole production number with Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds and the entire white chorus in blackface singing the praises of Lincoln while offstage the housekeeper Louise Beavers joins in. It's pretty offensive and indicative of the casual racism of the era. When they would show the movie on TV when I was growing up, the local Phila. station would usually cut the offending number. They'll probably cut the whole thing. This production premiered at Goodspeed in 2014.

Monday, October 26, 2015

NY Tabloids Shrink Theater Coverage

James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson are click-worthy enough
to get their show The Gin Game a full review in the New York Post.
Credit: Joan Marcus
In the past year, several publications and services such as Associated Press and the Village Voice have drastically cut back on their theater and arts coverage. Except for NY-1, TV stations no longer run reviews at all. That disturbing shrinking trend continues. Not even Broadway is safe from this neglect. Both the New York Post and the Daily News, two tabloids losing millions of dollars a year, have reduced their reviews and features of the stage. This strike me as very weird considering Broadway is the single largest tourist attraction in the city, taking in more annually at the box office than all sports franchises combined. But, evidently, reviews are not getting enough clicks on line unless a major movie star is above the title. Years ago, I had thought the Internet would lead to more theater coverage, not less. What we are getting is more unpaid, unprofessional reviews and less major media consideration of the theater. As a result, a major portion of the city and nation's cultural life is being marginalized.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cutting the Cable, Part II

When I cut cable, I'll still be able to watch
The Judy Garland Show on GetTV
You never know when your 15 minutes of fame will come. Yesterday I received a call from a TV news producer who read my last blog about cutting the cable cord and she wants to interview me about it. She just happens to be in Queens on this coming Monday, doing a story at JFK, so she asked to come to my place in Jackson Heights afterwards. Hopefully it will all work out.

I explained I haven't cut the cord completely as of yet. We have bought a Radio Shack antenna online and I have connected it. We are now able to receive local channels out of the air including the major broadcast networks, Spanish and Chinese channels,  and a bunch of crappy channels showing 30 and 40 year old reruns I didn't know were broadcast including MeTV, Cosi, Antenna, a Game Show Network knockoff called Buzzer, and GetTV which is now showing old Merv Griffin Shows and the Judy Garland Show from the early 1960s. I plan to disconnect cable this week and take all three of my boxes into the Time Warner Cable office and save about $140 a month.

I will have to rely on individual networks's sites to watch my current favorites like The Big Bang Theory, The Amazing Race and Project Runway (I can't find the current Doctor Whos, but if I am patient, it will turn up on Netflix eventually.) But when I was watching the latest episode of Project Runway on Lifetime's websitemy viewing experience was interrupted by an extended commercial with Cate Blanchett for Armani perfume. The downside of catching up with your favorite shows on the Internet without paying for it is the commercials. Geico tried to get around it by trying to be clever. They say "You can't skip this commercial because it's already over" and the guys pretend to be frozen. Then the woman comes in and says "What's going on here?"

The Cate Blanchett ad got stuck and I had to start the whole episode over again. Then, during the runway critique, the audio for a diabetes medication started at the same time. I'm glad they finally got rid of Merline who had improved but I was never impressed with her work.

I'll let you know what happens with the TV interview and the continuing saga of cutting cable.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Contemplating Cutting the Cable Cord

Vicious with Frances de la Tour, Ian McKellen, and Derek Jacobi
is one of the shows that can now be seen online without cable TV.
It's finally happened. Media-obsessed nut that I am, I am actually considering eliminating cable television from my life and just going with Netflix, Amazon, and the Internet. There are several factors in this momentous decision:

1. Too expensive. I live in an area (Queens, New York) where Time Warner Cable appears to have a monopoly. We can't get Fios and I'm fairly sure Optimum, DirectTV and Dish are unavailable. My bundled bill which includes cable for three TVs, internet and phone comes to $190 a month.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

'Crucible' and 'Father' Join Broadway Spring Roster

Frank Langella will star in a play called
 The Father for the second time
Of course as soon as I post a Broadway/Off-Broadway calendar, two new shows announce openings in the spring--The Father with Frank Langella and the sixth Broadway production of The Crucible. The Father is not to be confused with the play of the same name by August Strindberg which also starred Langella in 1996. This one is a new play by French playwright Florian Zeller about a man suffering from dementia. It will be part of Manhattan Theater Club's season at the Friedman previewing March 22 and opening April 12. Arthur Miller's The Crucible previews Feb. 29 and opens on April 12 at a theater to be announced. Ben Whislaw plays John Proctor, Tony winner Sophie Okonedo will be his wife Elizabeth, and Ciarin Hinds is Deputy Governor Danforth. (I played Reverend Parris in college.) Ivo van Hove is directing so it will probably be set inside a wind tunnel or something with everyone dressed as mummies. Van Hove is one weird-ass director. I still remember his Streetcar Named Desire at New York Theatre Workshop where Elizabeth Marvel as Blanche DuBois dove into a bathtub fully clothed and emerged dripping wet and covered with suds, then went right back into the scene without a pause. It was like a Carol Burnett Show parody of an avant-garde production. (His Scenes from a Marriage was brilliant I will admit.) But van Hove's A View from the Bridge is also opening on Broadway this season and received raves during its London run. With the two Miller plays, Long Day's Journey, Fiddler on the Roof, and Color Purple, the season is like a retread of old times--which is also being done, the Harold Pinter play I mean. Broadway is becoming like a college course in Dramatic Literature with very little new work on display. Here's the updated calendar:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015-16 Broadway/Off-Broadway Calendar

Holland Taylor is among the stars appearing
Off-Broadway during 2015-16.
Summer doldrums have set in the theater scene with a tepid reception for Amazing Grace (here's a link to my review), and Hamilton providing the only excitement. The Off-Broadway transfer opens officially on Thurs. and it has become the show to see. I hear house seats are impossible to get and even Tony voters are getting limited selections on a few weeknights. So this is the perfect time to look ahead at the fall season and beyond. I've compiled my usual list of Broadway and Off-Broadway openings. The Main Stem is once again dominated by British imports and revivals with very few new American plays, the only three so far are Our Mother's Brief Affair from MTC, David Mamet's China Doll, and a stage version of Steven King's Misery.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Sixth Annual David Desk Awards

Pocatello at Playwrights Horizons, winner of the David Desk Award
for one of the best plays of the 2014-15 season.
Now that the Tonys, Drama Desks, Lortels, Outer Critics, and Obies are over, I have made the choices for my own awards--the David Desks--for the best in NY theater, on or Off-Broadway. This is totally unofficial and all about my own preferences of everything I've seen for the season. Like the DDs, Broadway and Off-Broadway are together. The DDs have now stretched their categories from six to seven in some cases, and so have the Emmys. So I have too. You may see many repeats from the other awards but I have a few faves of my own including Samuel D. Hunter's Pocatello which had a relatively brief run at Playwrights Horizons. I was the only member of the NY Drama Critics Circle to vote for it for Best Play on the first ballot. The play deals with the lonely manager of a chain restaurant in the titular Idaho city. His story and those of his employees symbolize the struggle of most Americans with few marketable skills and a loss of community. I had also actually eaten in the Pocatello Ruby Tuesdays in the parking lot of the Best Western, similar to the play's Olive Garden. Rob McClure of the short-lived Honeymoon in Vegas was unfairly overlooked as well in the other awards.

So here they are the David Desks, enjoy, let me know if you love or hate them:   

Airline Highway (Lisa D’Amour)
Between Riverside and Crazy (Stephen Adly Guirgis)
The City of Conversation (Anthony Giardina)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Simon Stephens)
Indian Ink (Tom Stoppard)
Pocatello (Samuel D. Hunter)
Wolf Hall, Parts One and Two (Mike Poulton)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Lucy Carmichael: TV's Worst Mother

The Lucy Show cast. After the third season,
 everyone but Lucy herself disappeared.
Recently I've been watching reruns of The Lucy Show on YouTube. I don't know why, maybe because it's comforting. Lucille Ball was on TV constantly during my childhood. The Lucy Show and I Love Lucy were on during the day while Here's Lucy was on at night. When I stayed home sick from school, the morning was taken up with repeats of Lucy and then game shows in the afternoon. So I guess seeing these shows makes me feel like a little kid wearing pajamas and lying in bed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Deja Vu on Broadway for 2015-16

Jessica Lange will star in
Long Day's Journey Into Night on Broadway in 2016.
I recently saw the first show of the 2015-16 Broadway season, An Act of God, and from here on it's looking like deja vu all over again. (After the refreshing new show Fun Home took all the Tonys, you would have thought we'd get some exciting different shows, but oh no.) Not only are we getting the usual amount of revivals--seven of the announced shows--but three of them were revived just a little over ten years ago. Fiddler on the Roof will be directed by Barlett Sher for its sixth Broadway run, but the last one was in 2004. Long Day's Journey Into Night will be getting its sixth incarnation, the most recent was in 2003. Noises Off has been seen in 1983 and again in 2001. The GIn Game's two Broadway outings was slightly longer ago--1977 and 1997. Several Off-Broadway shows will be making their Broadway debuts including Fool for Love, Sylvia, and Dames at Sea. Of course, the big hit will be Hamilton which just swept all of the eligible theater awards for its sold-out Off-Broadway run at the Public Theater. A year from now, it will probably do the same at the Tonys, so with Fun Home it will be two smash-hit musicals in a row for the Public. So far there are only two new American plays on the roster: David Mamet's China Doll and Our Mother's Brief Affair from Manhattan Theater Club. Scary fact: there are no commercial productions of a new American play planned for the new season. That will probably change, but it is a sobering thought. Here's a breakdown of the coming season:   

June 29--Shows for Days (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)
July 12--Penn and Teller (Marquis)
July 16--Amazing Grace (Nederlander)
Aug. 6--Hamilton (Richard Rodgers)
Oct. 8--Fool for Love (Friedman/MTC)
Oct. 13--The Gin Game (Golden)
Oct. 15--Old Times (Roundabout)
Oct. 22--Dames at Sea (Helen Hayes)
Oct. 29--Therese Racquin (American Airlines/Roundabout)
Oct.--Sylvia (Shubert theater TBA) 
Nov. 1--King Charles III (Music Box)
Nov. 5--On Your Feet (Marquis)
Nov. 8--Allegiance (Longacre)
Nov. 19--China Doll (Gerald Schoenfeld)
Fall 2015--Misery, American Psycho
Dec. 6--School of Rock (Winter Garden)
Dec. 10--The Color Purple (Jacobs)
Dec. 17--Fiddler on the Roof (Broadway)
Jan. 14, 2016--Noises Off (Roundabout)
Jan. 20--Our Mother's Brief Affair (Friedman/MTC)
2015-16--Children of a Lesser God, Houdini, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Gotta Dance
April 17--Tuck Everlasting (Shubert theatre TBA)
April 19--Long Day's Journey Into Night (Roundabout/American Airlines)
April 21--Shuffle Along (Music Box)
Spring 2016--She Loves Me (Roundabout), Falsettos
2016-17--The Wiz
March 9, 2017--Groundhog Day
2017--Sherlock Holmes
Future--Bandstand, Disney's Frozen, Soul Train, Pretty Woman, The First Wives Club, Magic Mike, Freaky Friday, King Kong, Miss Saigon, The Visitor 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Last Minute Tony Predictions

With less than one hour to go before the Tony pre-show when the present the technical awards here are my predictions for tonight (which are also on

Play: Curious Incident

Musical: An American in Paris

Revival (Play): You Can't Take it with You

Revival (Musical): The King and I

Actor (Play): Alex Sharp, Curious Incident

Actress (Play): Helen Mirren, The Audience

Actor (Musical): Robert Fairchild, American in Paris

Actress (Musical): Kristin Chenoweth, On the 20th Century

Feat. Actor (play): Richard McCabe, The Audience

Feat. Actress (play); Annaleigh Ashford, You Can't Take It With You

Feat. Actor (musical): Christian Borle, Something Rotten!

Feat, Actress (musical): Sydney Lucas, Fun Home

Dir. (Play): Marianne Elliott, Curious Incident

Dir. (musical): Christopher Wheeldon, American in Paris

Choreo.: Christopher Wheeldon, American in Paris

Book: Lisa Kron, Fun Home

Score: Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron, Fun Home

Set Design (play): Curious Incident

Set Design (musical): An American in Paris

Costume Design (play); Wolf Hall

Costume Design (Musical): King and I

Lighting Design (Play): Curious Incident

Lighting Design (Musical): An American in Paris

Orchestrations: An American in paris

This is who I think will win, not who I voted for. I want Fun Home to win Best Musical, but I think the more commercial American in Paris will win and they will give Home the consolation prizes of Score and Book (sort of like Thoroughly Modern Millie and Urinetown or Jersey Boys and Drowsy Chaperone). I also voted for K. Todd Freeman (Drama Desk winner) and Julie White to take Featured Actor and Actress in a Play for Airline Highway, but it will probably go to Richard McCabe (Outer Critics Circle) and Annaleigh Ashford (OCC, DD).

Looking forward to the show and particularly Ted Cruz's reaction to the number with Fun Home with an 11-year-old girl singing about her awakening sense of being a lesbian.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Broadway Update: 2015-16 in View

Groundhog Day (with Bill Murray and friend) will be made into
a Broadway musical for 2016-17
April is here and that means a mad dash of Broadway openings just before the April 23rd cut-off date for the Tony nominations. There are 14 Broadway openings this month--15 if you count both parts of Wolf Hall as two shows. But as we race towards the end of 2014-15, the next season 2015-16 has already begun to take shape.The first show of the new season will be An Act of God starring Jim Parsons as the deity, followed by summer openings of Penn and Teller and Hamilton's transfer to the Richard Rodgers. In the fall, we'll have On Your Feet, Al Pacino in David Mamet's China Doll, Clive Owen and Eve Best in Harold Pinter's Old Times, George Takei in Allegiance, and Fiddler on the Roof with Danny Burstein. December brings School of Rock and a revival of The Color Purple. There are also plans for 2016-17 with the new Groundhog Day musical from the creators of Matilda and a new version of The Wiz which will be broadcast on NBC first. Harvey Fierstein is writing new material for the book and Cirque du Soleil is producing it. Here's a schedule for the rest of this season and the beginning of the next:

April 2--Skylight (Golden)
April 7--Hand to God (Booth)
April 8--Gigi (Neil Simon)
April 9--Wolf Hall, Parts I and II (Winter Garden)
April 12--An American in Paris (Palace)
April 12--Ghosts (BAM/Harvey Theatre)
April 14--It Shoulda Been You (Brooks Atkinson)
April 15--Finding Neverland (Lunt-Fontanne)
April 15--Hamlet (CSC)
April 16--The King and I (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)
April 19--Fun Home (Circle in the Square)
April 20--Living on Love (Longacre)
April 20--Outer Critics Circle Nominations Announced (Friars Club)
April 21--Doctor Zhivago (Broadway)
April 21--Drama League Award Nominations Announced (Sardi's)
April 22--Something Rotten (St. James)
April 23--The Visit (Lyceum)
April 23--Airline Highway (MTC/Samuel J. Friedman)
April 23--Drama Desk Nominations Announced (54 Below)
April 28--Tony Nominations Announced
April 29--Tony Nominees Press Event
May 10--Lortel Awards
May 11--Outer Critics Circle winners announced by press release
May 15--Drama League Awards (Marriott Marquis)
May 18--Obie Awards
May 21--The Sound and the Fury (Elevator Repair Service at the Public)
May 21--Outer Critics Circle Awards (Sardi's)
May 28--An Act of God (Studio 54)
May 31--Drama Desk Awards (Town Hall)
May 2015--Dr. Faustus (CSC); What I Did Last Summer (Signature); Permission (MCC/Lortel)
June 7--Tony Awards
June 29--Shows for Days (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)
July 7--Penn and Teller (Marquis)
Aug. 6--Hamilton (Richard Rodgers)
Oct. 5--On Your Feet (Marquis)
Oct. 15--Old Times (Roundabout)
Oct. 29--Therese Racquin (American Airlines/Roundabout) 
Nov. 8--Allegiance (Theatre TBA)
Nov. 19--China Doll (Gerald Schoenfeld)
Nov. 2015--Fiddler on the Roof
Fall 2015--Misery, American Psycho
Dec. 3--The Color Purple (Jacobs)
Dec. 6--School of Rock (Winter Garden)
Jan. 14, 2016--Noises Off (Roundabout)
Jan. 20--Our Mother's Brief Affair (MTC/Samuel Friedman)
2015-16--Children of a Lesser God, Houdini
April 21--Shuffle Along (Music Box)
Spring 2016--She Loves Me (Roundabout), Falsettos
2016-17--The Wiz
March 9, 2017--Groundhog Day
2017--Sherlock Holmes
Future--Bandstand, Disney's Frozen, Soul Train, Pretty Woman, The First Wives Club, Magic Mike, Freaky Friday, King Kong, Miss Saigon, The Visitor 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Broadway Update

Hamilton will transfer to Broadway this summer
Credit: Joan Marcus
No sooner do we get over the Oscars than it's time to start thinking about the Tonys...and the Drama Desks...and the Lortels..and the Outer Critics. Invitations to the final rush of Broadway shows have begun to pour in. March and April are looking very crowded as we approach the Tony cut-off date of April 23. Of course the hottest ticket in town isn't on Broadway. Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda's rap-hip-hop treatment of the controversial founding father, is such a smash at the Public, it's moving to Broadway in the summer. Will it be remembered for the 2016 Tonys? Speaking of 2015-16, Bruce Willis will be starring in a stage version of Misery and Oprah has dropped the idea of headlining a revival of Night, Mother. Too depressing she says. Here's a rundown of the rest of the season:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Oscar Thoughts and Predictions

It's the weekend before the Oscars and time for my annual predictions. I always try to see as many of the nominated pictures as possible and this year I haven't done too badly, catching all of the Best Picture nominees and all but a few of the acting nominees. I have seen most of the nominated short films and only need to catch two more of the documentary short subjects. It makes me feel like a part of the evening if I've seen everything nominated. Some year, I will do it and get to all the Foreign and Animated feature films as well.

Unlike most years, there is no frontrunner for Best Picture. It's between Boyhood and Birdman. Neither is a typical, big-subject, historical epic. I think the voters will split the difference and give Boyhood Best Picture and Birdman Best Director.