Thursday, February 28, 2013

De Niro and Sondheim Working on New Broadway Musicals

Turning from the fictional trials on NBC's Smash of getting Bombshell on Broadway, here are some real Main Stem musicals in the embryonic stages:

A Bronx TaleShowBiz 411 says Robert De Niro is contemplating directing a musical version of A Bronx Tale, the one-man play by Chazz Palminteri which became a movie De Niro starred in and directed. Palminteri is writing the book. David Bryan of Bon Jovi who won a Tony for Memphis, is doing the songs and Sergio Trujillo is staging the dances. Trujillo's working on the currently touring Flashdance, which is expected on Broadway this summer.

Sondheim-Ives ProjectMichael Musto reports Stephen Sondheim--his Passion opens this week in an Off-Bway revival at CSC--is working with David Ives on a musical based on one of Ives' short plays.

Gloria/Emilio Estefan Musical: The Grammy-winning recording artist and her husband producer Emilio are developing a musical based on their lives.

Susan Stroman is committed to Big Fish and then Bullets Over Broadway.

Aladdin goes into the New Amsterdam in 2014 Also in the works are Houdini with Hugh Jackman; Diner with songs by Sheryl Crow; and The Prince of Broadway, which has been delayed a few times.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Smash Episode 204: The Song

Ivy and Karen do some dirty Fosse dancin' 
Jimmy beat Derek in the Biggest Asshat contest on this week's Smash. Julia moved a little closer to Peter's bed--and his home in the Berkshires. Eileen lost control of the show. Kyle soulfully expressed his suppressed passion for Jimmy. Jerry twirled his mustache and Ellis returned, but only on the other end of a phone conversation. The show is still Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but at least things are getting interesting.

The episode begins with rehearsals for Veronica (Jennifer Hudson)'s big one-night concert which evidently only takes a couple of hours. The talent behind Bombshell are apparently the only people on all of Broadway available to put this slapdash thing together. Of course both Ivy and Karen are in the chorus and Derek perversely has them fondle each other in a blatant rip-off of the Air-Erotica number from All That Jazz. The Fosse references are flying fast and furious later on as Veronica is forced to perform the ultimate uptune I Got Love as though it were Steam Heat with a bunch of hip thrusts and flared wrists. Veronica's momager (Sheryl Lee Ralph in a weird bit of casting--the Broadway Deena from Dreamgirls playing the mother of the movie Effie) demands that Derek keep her little girl's pure image in tact and drops a further foreshadowing hint that Tom would make a great director. Ivy said the same thing last week. Will this mean Tom will threaten Derek's position as the stager of Bombshell? Plus the mom has arranged for Bravo to tape the concert and NBC's sister network and its logo are shown and mentioned a million times.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bittersweet Oscars

Is this the Tonys or the Oscars?
Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane
This was a bittersweet Oscar ceremony. I was so psyched for the awards because I had seen all nine of the nominated Best Pictures, all but one of the acting nominees, and all of the animated and live-action short subjects, most of the documentary features and two of the doc. short subjects. I felt I had really participated in the film world and experienced not just the big box-office hits, but the experimental expressions of new filmmakers. The documentaries were particularly fascinating, displaying opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (5 Broken Cameras, The Gatekeepers), the history of the AIDS crisis, the prevalence of a sexist mentality in the American military, a retirement community in Florida, and people I see everyday on the streets of New York collecting cans and bottles in order to scrape by. I felt almost like an Oscar voter, and I probably saw more of the movies than most of the electorate did.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscar Predictions: Argo Triumphant

The Oscars are tomorrow night and I'm very excited. This is the first time in years I've seen all nine of the nominated Best Pictures (thanks to Amazon Prime for Beasts of the Southern Wild), all but one of the acting nominees (sorry, Naomi Watts), four of the five feature documentaries (thanks Netflix), all of the animated and live-action shorts. So here are my predictions and I hope to clean up at a friends' Oscar party.

Picture: Argo

I still don't get why this well-made, but conventional thriller is the expected winner. Is it the backlash against the Affleck snub? Is Lincoln too talky? Probably a combination. This is an action-oriented, feel-good picture that gets your heart racing. It certainly did mine in the closing sequence which departed from the truth significantly, I hear. I understand the disguised diplomats just sailed through the airport in Iran without a hitch, but that would have made for a boring ending.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

There has been some movement among Oscar pundits that Emmanuelle Riva might be a surprise winner if Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence split the vote, but Lawrence will probably edge it out since she gets to cry and is American. Chastain had only that one tear at the end.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New News Flashes: Ben Foster and the Rascals Coming to Broadway

Ben Foster
No sooner do I post the latest blog, then I get an update in the old email. The replacement for Shia LaBeouf in Orphans has been found. That was quick. Were the producers putting a list together when trouble began in rehearsals? It's Ben Foster, who I know best as the bisexual boyfriend of the gloomy daughter on Six Feet Under. Since then he's done a bunch of movies including The Messenger and 3:10 to Yuma.

Also coming to Broadway for a limited run are The Little Rascals who will play 15 performances at the Richard Rodgers April 15-May 5 in a reunion concert called Once Upon a Dream. This will be the first time the group has played together since 1970. So here's the final, final 2012-13 rundown:

News Updates: LaBeouf on Twitter, Lynch to Annie, etc.

All kinds of news flashes: Late yesterday, I got the press release that Shia LaBeouf was exiting from the Broadway revival of Orphans. Then all of the twitterverse went ballistic when the 26-year-old star unleashed a flood of emails on his feed detailing conflicts between himself and co-star Alec Baldwin. From what I can piece together, it sounds like LaBeouf, who was making his Broadway debut, wasn't getting along with the more experienced Baldwin. This isn't the first time Baldwin has not played well with others. When he was in Entertaining Mister Sloan at Roundabout, there were all kinds of stories about his excessive demands and combative behavior with co-star Jan Maxwell.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Smash: Episode 203: The Dramaturg

Ain't nothing sexier than a dramaturg, baby!
How's that for a sexy grabber of a title? The Dramaturg? You must be kidding, Smash! No wonder the ratings are continuing to slip. But then in the Smash universe, dramaturgs aren't bookish, nerdy types, but fabulously wealthy, devastatingly handsome, beefy studs like Daniel Sunjata. Even their libraries are carefully arranged stacks of books piled in artful arrangements in spacious Manhattan lofts. oh, and they dine in these lovely little restaurants with suitably chic-looking companions. This character is stuck into the plot in order to whip Julia's turgid Bombshell book into space. Julia resents him right off the bat which means she'll probably be sleeping with by the next episode.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Amazing Race 22 Season Premiere and Other Reality Shows

This was a banner week in reality as Amazing Race started its 22nd season; Project Runway, Comic Book Men, and Kings of the Nerds were all on the same night (last Thurs.); and Joanna Coles popped up again (after I thought we were rid of her as the icy mentor on PR All Stars).

With so many seasons behind it, TAR has to come up with some new twists to make the races different. Last season, they did the $2 million jackpot if you won both the first and the last legs. This time, Phil gave the winners of the first leg not one, but two express presses, the second one to be given to a team of the winners' choice. The winning team has until the fourth leg to give away the extra pass. (I guess they aren't allowed to use it themselves or not give it away at all and let it just go to waste, that wasn't made clear.)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Some of the Oscar-Nominated Doc. Shorts and Quartet

A scene from Kings Point, nominated for
Best Documentary Short Film
In a further attempt to see as many of the Oscar nominated films as possible and thereby clean up in the Oscar pool at a friend's party, we drove all the way to Rhinecliff, NY from our weekend place in Stockport. Upstate Films was showing Program B of the Oscar Nominated Documentaries Shorts at 1PM and then Quartet with Maggie Smith at 3PM. My partner Jerry was not interested in the short docs, so he would drive around while I saw the docs, and we'd see Quartet together. Program B was only 83 mins. Anyway, I get there and they start showing the WRONG movie. Instead of Redemption, the first film in Program B, they screen Kings Point, the first short in Program A. (A consists of Kings Point, Innocent, Mondays at Racines; Program B is Redemption and Open Heart) I think OK, so they'll show Program A and I'll just catch Program B at IFC in the city.

But then after Kings Point is finished, Redemption comes on. Now I think, Well, this is still OK, so now they'll screen all of program B (which is only two shorts) and I can still see the rest of Program A in the city. I'll just have to watch Kings Point twice. Then Redemption finishes and the lights come up. It's over. I go into the lobby and ask the manager "Did you start to show the wrong one?" Yes, they apologized. On Monday, they'll screen the missing ones from A and B. But I won't be in Rhinecliff then, I'm going back to NYC tomorrow morning. If I want to see all five, I have to sit through A and B at IFC and watch Kings Point and Redemption twice. Should I have asked for my money back? Should I have said "You don't understand, I need to see all the nominated shorts and this way I'll have to spend twice as much to see them, plus the admission is more expensive in Manhattan."

Presidents' Day in Pop Culture

Paul Giamatti as John Adams in HBO's mini-series
on the second president and father of the sixth
In celebration of Presidents' Day, I've decided to list every US president I've seen portrayed in a movie, TV show, or on stage and the actor who played him that I can think of. Of course, this discounts fictional presidents such as Josiah Bartlett, Art Hockstatter, or the one Patty Duke played on that short-lived sitcom from Susan Harris (Soap). I'm sure I'll leave out plenty, but here are all the ones that come to mind without doing too much research--cause this is just for fun.

George Washington--Barry Bostwick (that CBS miniseries); David Morse (John Adams on HBO)

John Adams--George Grizzard (The Adams Chronicles); William Daniels (1776); Paul Giamatti (John Adams on HBO); Brent Spiner (1776 revival from Roundabout)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Smash Is Back and Just as Cuckoo as Ever

Now that Smash has come back for a second season--which in itself is a miracle--I really hate Karen or maybe it's just that Katharine McPhee continues to be such a vapid bore in the role. In real life, she would the understudy for Marilyn in Bombshell and the more vibrant, gutsy Ivy (Megan Hilty) would be the star. This imbalance kinda throws off the whole premise of the series. The two-hour premiere begins with a new number "Moving On," depicting Marilyn moving on to another stage in her life and the show closing in Boston. Evidently Ivy survived her drug overdose during the second preview and didn't even go to the hospital (this is all covered during the opening montage.) Everybody gets back to New York and Eileen announces there will be a big press event at the Players Club.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oscar Live-Action Shorts 2013

Buzkashi Boys
After viewing the Oscar nominated Animated Shorts at IFC, I went back and took in the Live-Action nominees. As I stated in the earlier post, the surest way to win your Oscar pool is to master the obscure categories like the short films (Animated, Live-Action, Documentary). This year's selection of live-action shorts share some common themes--the end of life and growing up in harsh third-world countries. Death of a Shadow from Belgium and France is an afterlife fantasy while Henry from Canada deals with senility. Buzkashi Boys from Afghanistan and Asad from South Africa depicts young boys attempting to be grown-ups in chaotic environments. The sole American entry Curfew is a witty comedy depicting a reformed drug-addict uncle connecting with his clever niece.

Calm Cat and Placid Picnic

Sebastian Stan in Picnic
Credit: Joan Marcus
Two of the hottest playwrights of the 1950s are represented on Broadway right now with recently-opened revivals of Pulitzer Prize-winning works. Both William Inge's Picnic (1953) and Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) are by gay authors, feature hunky heroes in states of undress, and deal with the adverse effects of repressed sexuality.Both new productions which opened in the same week are surprisingly tepid. When they first opened, the plays addressed the rampant puritanism of America which included ignoring homosexuality altogether. Today, open sexuality of all persuasions is everywhere and the directors of these productions seem to have forgotten these topics were once so shocking.

In Picnic, the forces of repressions work to stifle the happiness of all the characters. The "old-maid" schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney (played by Elizabeth Marvel here, Eileen Heckart in the original Broadway production and Rosalind Russell in the movie) derisively comments on the bare torso of Hal Carter, the macho drifter who sets off sexual fireworks in a small Kansas town.It's later revealed Rosemary led a committee to have a naked male statue "castrated" by a janitor with a chisel. She represents the hypocrisy of sexual repression.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reality TV Update: Tears for Fears

The origin of Dr. Mid-Nite
so Alana from King of the Nerds will never forget it.
Everybody was crying their little hearts out on my reality shows this week. On King of the Nerds, Genevieve bawled like a baby when Kevin Smith criticized her performance in a debate on superheroes. On Project Runway, Ben broke down because his past difficult relationship was causing him to make a lousy dress. On the new show The Job, everybody was weeping because they were all out of work. Join the crowd, hons.

There is so much reality I must watch these days, I had to DVR everything. Thursdays will be especially bad when Comic Book Men returns next week. Then Kevin Smith will be on opposite the Nerds and Project Runway. I guess I'll have to DVR the late-night rerun of one of them. Plus, Amazing Race starts next Sunday as well.

News for This Week: Of Cats, Moose, and Supermen

There will be a casting call for the role of "Cat" in the upcoming production of "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Send your cat's headshot and owner contact info to This reminded me that the last live real cat to star on Broadway was the feline who played opposite Maggie Smith in Lettice and Lovage. I'll never forget her acceptance speech when she won the Tony Award. "My friends said I should thank the cat," Dame Maggie archly said. "And I do thank the cat, but it had better behave itself, because it's getting entirely out of hand." 

At the opening of Moose Murders.
Yes, it has come to this.
I had reviews for Moose Murders  Women of Will and Clive at the Backstage website this week. Moose Murders is one of the biggest flops in Broadway history and this tiny company called Beautiful Soup Theatre Collective decided to revive it. The playwright had "shamelessly revised" his script, but it was still awful. Opening night was also the first night they invited critics and everyone was there including John Simon who brought his Playbill from the original production. Charles Busch, Julie Halston, Jackie Hoffman were also in the audience which was not a smart move. It led me to think how much better the production would be with these funny people in it. At least they would know how to camp it up and make this script so bad it would be a riot, as it was it was just bad. They actually had the celebrities--me included--pose with a guy dressed as a moose. Hanging around in the lobby was more fun than watching the show.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Obama and the Man Card

About drones--There is definitely cause for concern that the president is setting his rules and not allowing due process, something Adams, Jackson, and Lincoln also did. But, aside from the legality of it, I do find it fascinating that the GOP calls Obama weak and vacillating when he's probably the most badass President we've had in a while. I mean this guy kills our enemies with drones yet Republican senators feel free to accuse him of being limp-wristed when it comes to America's defense. If W. launched those drones, they'd be cheering. This week Glenn Beck had the nerve to call Obama a woman because the president said on 60 Minutes that if he had a son he would be reluctant to allow him to play football. And then there are the shots of Obama shooting skeets as if to prove he's a real guy to the gun-owners of America. What is this with all this macho crap? I found that ad about owning a Bushmaster meaning you've renewed your man card offensive.

Which leads us to the ironic use of women in the NRA's twisted cry to stop the assault weapons ban. In testimony before the Senate committee and taken up by their stooge Lindsay Graham, the NRA made the argument mothers alone need Bushmasters and high-capacity magazines with 30 or 40 rounds to defend themselves and their sweet little babies against possible intruders. They actually used the words choice and accused gun control advocates of limiting women's option when it comes to self-defense. So women should have choices about their deadly assault weapons but not their pregnancy? And another thing, if we have to register our cars and have leases to our homes, what's the big deal about registering guns?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Oscar Animated Shorts 2013

The sure way to win the Oscar pool at work, a party, or your local bar is to familiarize yourself with the obscure categories. Even seasoned oddsmakers who've seen every Best Picture nominee can trip up on Documentary Short Subject (Maggie Smith's favorite category in California Suite!) When that slot plus Animated and Live-Action Short are announced, most people go to the bathroom. So if you can get the winners for these "minor awards," the big prize of that chocolate statuette or cookie or $50 can be yours. Usually Oscar pool participants simply go by titles. In some pools, they actually drop these categories. When I ran the Oscar pool at a previous job, a few cowards actually complained I included them or insisted they be worth fewer points. That's the mark of a wuss.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Gay Progress and Setbacks on Super Bowl Weekend

This has been a week of advances in mainstream acceptance of us gay people, but we've also seen examples of backward homophobia (Yes, AP, I'm still using that word.) At the age of 82, Hawaii resident Jim Nabors, aka Gomer Pyle, finally came out of the closet and wed his longtime partner in Washington state. The Boy Scouts may be lifting their ban on gay troupe members and leaders. Same-sex couples are included in proposed immigration reform. But there was also Cissy Houston telling Oprah she would have had a problem if Whitney told her mom she was gay and closeted Ed Koch passed away without ever declaring which way he cut his jib (and yes, it does matter that we know.) Ironically, the former mayor died on the day a biographical documentary was released as if he were timing his demise for maximum publicity.  There was a mini-firestorm when a San Francisco 49ers cornerback (whatever that is) made antigay remarks about homosexuals not being welcome on his team on a radio show. He did quickly apologize; he does play for a San Francisco team after all.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Reality TV Update: Geek Vs. Chic

As I had posted on Facebook, I am probably the only person in America who likes both Project Runway and King of the Nerds. How many gay fashion-loving guys do you know who also get off on Batman, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and the Big Bang Theory? (On Beauty and the Geek, I was probably the only audience member who answered correctly the quiz questions on Stella McCarthy and The Incredibles.) I'm that weird combination of fashionista and fanboy. This past Thurs., I was in a pickle because the first half-hour of Nerds (ep. 3) overlapped the last half-hour of Runway (ep. 2). I know, there is a thing called the DVR but I like to watch live. For the first time geek won over chic and I watched Nerds live. What will I do next week when Smash starts on NBC on the same night? I supposed I'll have to go to ON Demand with one of these shows since you can only DVR two programs at a time.

I opted for Nerds live because Runway looked a bit tired in its first episode this 11th season. The producers  had to come up with some kind of season-long twist and they decided to make each challenge a team one. Blah. The first week was not really a team effort. Everyone had to make a dress inspired by NYC--how original--and then listen to everyone else on their team offer critiques. I was glad when Patricia, the designer from New Mexico, got high praise from the judges for her innovative print dress after her fellow competitors called it too artsy-craftsy. Suck it, team bitches! This week, the idea was to make uniforms for the waitstaff and "ball boys" at this Ping Pong club owned by Susan Sarandon. So that's what she been doing with herself these days. Boring! You know you're in trouble when the designers are better dressed than the models.

Cumming in Macbeth: Broadway Season Just Got Interesting

Things just got interesting on Broadway. I had previously posted 2012-13 was an exceptionally busy but dull season. Now the situation is spicing up, not only is Christopher Durang's wild comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike moving from Off-Broadway to Broadway, Alan Cumming's acclaimed one-person interpretation of Macbeth will be playing a limited engagement at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with previews starting April 7, opening April 21. In this bizarre rendering of Shakespeare's tragedy which has played the Lincoln Center Festival and the National Theatre of Scotland, Cumming is the sole patient in a mental institute acting out all the roles in the story of the Thane of Cawdor's bloodthirsty rise.Macbeth is popular these days with Sleep No More Off-Bway and a segment devoted to the play on PBS's Shakespeare Uncovered hosted by Ethan Hawke.

This spices up the solo category for the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards with Bette Midler, Holland Taylor, Fiona Shaw, and now Cumming in the running (the Tonys don't have a separate solo actor category so it will be interesting to see who among the one-person people will get nominations for Best Actor or Actress).