Thursday, March 16, 2023

B'way Update: Final Sondheim; Merrily Finds Theater; No More Room

Stephen Sondheim will have
 two productions on the boards
in 2023-24

There are ups and down on and Off-Broadway this week. The last Stephen Sondheim show is finally announcing dates and a theater as is the Broadway transfer of New York Theater Workshop's revival of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. And one upcoming Broadway show has been forced to shut down before it even began performances. 

Here We Are, the last Stephen Sondheim musical will premiere at the Shed's Griffin Theater in September 2023. Casting and specifics dates will be announced at a later date. Based on two Luis Bunuel films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, Here We Are features a book by David Ives (All in the Timing, Venus in Fur) and direction by Joe Mantello who won a Tony for his staging of Sondheim's Assassins. Not long before his death in 2021, Sondheim appeared on Stephen Colbert's late-night talk show and confirmed that the show, under the title of Square One, had a workshop with Nathan Lane and Bernadette Peters and would be coming to Broadway the following season. 

Another Sondheim show will also be coming to Broadway in 2023-24. The New York Theater Workshop revival of Merrily We Roll Along has been announced as beginning previews at the Hudson Theater on Sept. 19. (Opening to be announced.) Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, Lindsay Mendez, Krystal Joy Brown, Katie Rose Clark, and Reg Rogers will repeat their performances from the NYTW production which was directed by Maria Friedman. Her staging was first seen at London's Menier Chocolate Factory and later transfered to the West End where it won the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. This will be the first Broadway revival of Merrily which originally closed after only 16 performances and ended the collaboration between Sondheim and Harold Prince. There have been Off-Broadway productions in 1994 (York Theater) and 2019 (Fiasco Theater at Roundabout's Laura Pels stage) as well as acclaimed concert versions. 
Lindsay Mendez, Jonathan Groff and
Daniel Radcliffe in
Merrily We Roll Along
Credit: Joan Marcus

Saturday, March 11, 2023

2023 Oscars Films and Quick Predix

Everything Everywhere All at Once
will probably be the big winner
at tomorrow night's Oscars.
Credit: A24
I've been too busy to write anything in depth about the Oscars which are tomorrow night. But here are the Oscar nominated films I have seen so far. I might try to see one more tonight. Perhaps I'll do something radical and try to see all the nominated films AFTER the awards. The point is to enjoy great films. Guessing winners should be secondary. What's interesting is that award shows in general seem to be losing favor. The SAGs and the Independent Spirit Awards were both livestreamed on YouTube and not shown on any broadcast or cable network. As the Oscars lose ratings every year and become more and more out of touch with most moviegoers' sensibilities and lives, perhaps that is their ultimate destination. Another interesting note: I've only seen one of these nominated films in an actual theater. It's just so much easy to click your remote rather than getting in our car or bus, driving to the cinema, putting up with possible rude behavior, etc. Will movie theaters go the way of paper checks, books, LPs, magazines--charming remnants of a bygone, more personal, less digitized age?

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Book Review: First Person Singular: Stories

Taken out of the Jackson Heights Library and read in a few days. I've read lots of Murakami and this eight-story collection was satisfying and bite-sized, yet so weird the stories linger long after you have finished them. As per the title all are in first person, some seem be spoken by the author himself. Most of the narrators are recalling enigmatic encounters in their past. There are ruminations on baseball and music (both jazz and classical), a meeting with a speaking monkey (who also appeared in Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman) who steals people's names. A dream meeting with Charlie Parker. I think I liked With the Beatles best where a man recalls the impact of the Beatles on his generation, the strange older brother of his girlfriend, and Percy Faith's theme from A Summer Place playing in the background. The stories don't always make sense, and they don't have to. Murakami doesn't rely on conventional plot, but creates a feeling and evocations based on situations, objects, meetings, etc.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Book Review: Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story

Downloaded on my Kindle for about $10. A slim volume but obviously heartfelt. I finished it in a few hours. After viewing a YouTube clip from Carrie Hamilton's guest appearance with her mother on the short-lived Carol and Company, I was curious about this book. After beating a crushing drug habit in her teens, Carrie moved to a remote cabin in Colorado, toured as a musician and singer, and traveled to LA for acting gigs. She developed lung cancer and died at the tragically young age of 38. The first half of the book consists of Carol's reminiscences and email exchanges with her daughter as she takes a cross-country road trip to Memphis to visit Graceland while writing a story about a young woman making a similar journey. The second half of the book is that unfinished story, "Sunrise in Memphis." The story is sentimental and reads like a proposal for a TV-movie. The heroine Kate finds herself driving to Elvis' home in the company of a mysterious, super-polite cowboy. Along the way, they meet--briefly bump into would be more accurate--a covey of the usual colorful characters. There are flashbacks to the last night she can remember--clubbing with friends in Hollywood--and to a dream of a plane crash. After a few pages, you can guess where the plot is headed. Think "Highway to Heaven." It must have been painful for Burnett to work on this project, so I won't criticize any shortcomings. It's a sweet valentine to her departed child.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Book Review: The Critic's Daughter

Bought at Barnes and Noble: full price of $28. Priscilla Gilman's moving memoir of her relationship with her father, critic-essayist-teacher Richard Gilman, is incredibly detailed and specific in her memories of her dad's flaws and triumphs personally and professionally. The heart of the book is the bitter divorce between her parents, her dad the famously acerbic theater critic and her mom the powerful literary agent whose clients win Pulitzer Prizes and other awards like most people eat breakfast. Priscilla documents her painful role of acting as the "good, mature" daughter who holds it together while everyone else is falling apart. Richard Gilman emerges as a complicated, brilliant, but stubborn father and husband. What sticks with me are the little details--when he takes his daughters to lunches, the cash-strapped Gilman collects condiment packages. Here is a revered critic, feared by the likes of Tennessee Williams and David Merrick, hording ketchups and sugars. Gilman also recreates a world of literary New York that no longer exists. The internet has destroyed the traditional print media in which her father and mother thrived. She also gives us the harrowing final days of her dad's death by cancer as he is lovingly cared for by his third wife in Japan. A thorough, meticulous accounting of a daughter's love. We are friends with Priscilla's half-brother Nick and I feel I know him and his family better now.

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 37: Carol Channing, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, and Others

Season Two
Sept. 30, 1968: Carol Channing
(Previously reviewed on Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part Ten: Carol and Carol Q&A, Bored Political Wife sketch, Golddigger sketch)
Carol and Carol
( I found the complete version of this episode on ShoutFactoryTV's Original Masters series. Amazon was supposed to have it but the thumbnail promising the two Carols show led to an episode with Tim Conway from the first season that was already posted in the same series. Evidently someone at Amazon screwed up. So did someone at TV Guide which listed the original episode in 1968 as starring Mission: Impossible stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. (The husband and wife team never appeared on Carol's show, but there was a Mission: Impossible spoof a few seasons later.) 

Previously missing material includes Carol Channing recreating "Homesick Blues" from the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The song about missing America while in Paris did not make the film version and neither did Carol, as she was replaced by Marilyn Monroe. Channing is delightful in her 1920s garb, warbling about Mutt and Jeff, Texas Guinan, and bathtub gin. 

There's also a Carol and Sis sketch, employing the overused plot point of a misunderstanding leading to an awkward martial situation. Husband Roger (Harvey) finds a wristwatch in the living room with the current date inscribed on it. He assumes it's an anniversary or birthday that he's forgotten and rushes to buy his wife Carol a pearl necklace. Turns out the watch was a present for another couple for whom Carol was holding onto, so she uses Harvey's forgetfulness to leverage the necklace into a matching set of earrings, because all women just care about jewelry, right?

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

B'way Update: Laurie Metcalf to Star in Grey House

Laurie Metcalf
Emmy and Tony winner Laurie Metcalf will reunite with Tony-winning director Joe Mantello for Grey House, a new play by Levi Holloway which will be the first production of the 2023-24 Broadway season. Described as a horror play, Grey House centers on a couple taking shelter during a snow storm at an isolated cabin inhabited by two teenage girls and a woman they claim is their mother. As the storm rages, the couple begins to question what's true and what those mysterious noises are coming from inside the walls. Previews begin April 29 before an opening on May 30 at the Lyceum Theater. Also starring are Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, She-Hulk, Attorney at Law), Emmy nominee and Drama Desk nominee Paul Sparks (House of Cards, At Home at the Zoo), Sophia Anna Caruso (Beetlejuice), and Millicent Simmonds (A Quiet Place).

Metcalf was directed by Mantello in Three Tall Women and Hillary and Clinton. They also worked together on a Broadway revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which closed in previews in 2020 due to the COVID epidemic and never reopened. Metcalf previously appeared in another Broadway thriller, Misery