Sunday, March 31, 2013

On B'way, Everything New Is Old and Vice Versa

Leslie Caron in the 1958 film version of Gigi
Three new shows with Broadway plans aren't exactly new. Two are old properties with refashioned books and one was originally produced off-Broadway. The two really old shows are Can-Can and Gigi, coincidentally both set in an idealized, romantic Paris, and the previous off-Broadway production is Always, Patsy Cline.

Smash Episode 208: The Bells and Whistles

Jimmy keeps it simple at the Hit List rehearsal
So the whole Marilyn's mother thing was just a ploy to get Bernadette Peters as Ivy's mother, Tony winner Lee Conroy, back on the show and singing. Quel surprise. You'll recall that last week there was some minor chit-chat between Julia and Tom about restoring that role to the Bombshell script--although which script? The workshop? The Boston edition? The new dramaturge-approved, sex-in-the Berkshires, Follies-Ragtime-money-losing one? Anyway, last week new director Tom agreed with Julia to restore the role which was never in any of those scripts as far as I could tell. This week they kept talking about casting the Gladys role and mentioning Patti LuPone. I had to look up Gladys in a Monroe bio to find out this was MM's mom which Julia suddenly thinks is the crucial role of the whole show. To get some much-needed positive press, Eileen casts Lee in the part, setting the stage for future fireworks between mother and daughter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Theater Award Season Starting Soon

I've barely recovered from film awards season and now it's time for NYC theater award madness to start. April is the really crazy time when all the shows open to make the Tony Award cut-off date. Here's a rundown of this mad month and the subsequent pertinent dates:

April 1--Lucky Guy opens
April 3--Lortel Award nominations for Off-Broadway announced
April 4--Kinky Boots opens
April 11-Matilda opens
April 14--Motown the Musical opens
April 15--The Nance opens
April 16--The Big Knife opens
April 17--The Assembled Parties opens
April 18--Jekyll & Hyde opens; Orphans opens (yes, two openings on one night because Shia LaBeouf left/quit/was fired from Orphans, delaying rehearsals)
April 21--Macbeth opens
April 22--Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations announced by Laila Robbins and Robert Cuccioli at the Friars Club press conference; Lortel nominees reception; The Testament of Mary opens.
April 23--The Trip to Bountiful opens
April 24--I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers opens
April 25--Pippin opens
April 26--Drama Desk Award nominees announced by Jan Maxwell and John Lloyd Young at 54 Below
April 30--Tony Award nominees announced, hosts and place TBA
May 1--Tony nominees press event
May 5--Lortel Awards at NYU Skirball Center
May 13--OCC winners announced by press release
May 19--Drama Desk Awards at Town Hall
May 20--Obie Awards at Webster Hall
May 23--OCC Awards presented at Sardi's
June 9--Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Amazing Race 22: Episode 6: Max and Katie's Enormous Brains

Max demonstrating his huge intellect
on The Amazing Race
We were almost rid of another hated pair this week on The Amazing Race. Max and Katie were a whisper away from joining pathological John and Jessica in oblivion, but as luck would have it, this was a non-elimination leg. This was really too bad because they made themselves truly obnoxious this time. Last week, they weren't so bad because they mocked John and Jessica's stupidity in getting eliminated while holding an Express Pass. But now, beginning in Hanoi, Max and Katie boasted about how big their brains were. Katie confided to us that she was hiding her doctorate from the other contestants so they wouldn't be intimidated by her awesome intelligence. Max said she had big brains to go with her big hair. (How do they fit in taxicabs with these huge heads of theirs?) Then they proceeded to show just how smart they were by insulting the bushmen assigned to help them dig up a scorpion.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Rape Culture/Bullying Culture

Their coverage of the rape conviction of two Steubenville, Ohio high-school football players has landed CNN in a world of trouble. Because they had footage of the two young men bursting into tears and no such shots of the victim, whose identity has been shielded, the network decided to play for sympathy for the criminals. Anchor Candy Crowley said how moving and emotional it must have been for these two with such promising careers ahead of them to have it all ruined. America's reaction was swift and sure, Candy and the reporter at the trial--female also--were lambasted by viewers for seeming to show sympathy for the rapists and none for the victim. To be cynical, it was because they had no pictures of the victim, so in order to be warm and fuzzy, the CNN crew worked with what they had.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Smash 207: Musical Chairs

One of the more exciting scenes on this week's Smash
Did I call it or what? Karen has followed Derek out of Bombshell and into Hit List. Liaisons has closed and Ivy is now free to take over Marilyn. Hit List has a berth Off-Broadway. Jerry is out of the picture (OK, I didn't predict that last one, but still, pretty good, huh?)

The only question now is how are they going to stretch the story out and create conflict for another ten episodes. Yes, America, ten freakin' episodes are left of Smash's sorry existence. Despite winning a GLAAD Media Award for Best Drama Series last week, NBC announced the show will be transferred from Tuesday nights to Saturdays, the traditional hospice for dying TV programs. As if to offer morphine to the expiring patient, the Peacock Network did say it would air all 17 episodes of this, the series' second season.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Amazing Race 22: Episode 5: A Huge Ball of Fiery Righteousness

Wynona and Chuck without the banjo music for once.
This set of Amazing Racers are way too sneaky and strategical. Instead of everyone running their own race as The Fabulous Beekman Boys did last season, and won, there are all these alliances and counteralliances. In the very first leg, the now departed John and Jessica tried to split the pack in two by forming their Express Pass group on the first plane. Now this week, the remnant of the JJ League--the YouTubers and the Roller Derby Moms--were made the target of the Max-and-Katie crowd.

Just like last week, the whole first segment was devoted to plotting and scheming in airports and travel agencies as everyone made their plans to fly from Bali to Hanoi. After learning that Dave and Connor are leaving the race because of Dave's bum leg, Pam, Winnie, Max, and Katie vow to U-turn any of the leftover JJs because they perceive them as a threat. I would have U-turned the hockey players because they are much more of a danger to everyone else, but the Max gang are still hung up on how evil John is, even when they find out he's been eliminated.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Comic Scene: Supergirl's Identity Crisis

We're going to start a new department at the David Desk: Comic Scene, where I will examine trends and issues raised by my comic book purchases:

The last comic book I bought was Adventure #421 from the days when Supergirl was the star of that series (1972). The front cover shows the Maid of Might beset by green demons with a blonde villainess pointing a flaming sword and screaming "You've tried to destroy us. Now, Supergirl, you must die!"  In the issue's story "Demon Spawn," the baddie Nightflame is in fact the evil part of Supergirl herself who lives on a microscopic world inside the Blonde Blockbuster's head. She kidnaps Supergirl and brings her to this bizarre nightmarish place which is really the heroine's subconscious, with the intention of draining her superpowers and taking her place in the outside world. In a typically sexist choice, Supergirl is only saved by the love of a good man, Geoff, the producer of the TV news show where she works in her civilian identity of Linda Danvers. Geoff, who has no superpowers, somehow infiltrates Supergirl's mind and forces Nightflame and the Demons (sounds like a rock group, doesn't it?) to retreat.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Further Signs of the Inevitability of Nationwide Gay Marriage

Senator Rob Portman and his family
Further signs that we are on the path to nationwide gay marriage:

GOP Ohio senator Rob Portman, one-time frontrunner to be Mittens' VP, tells CNN he has reversed his negative position on gay marriage, largely due to the fact that his son come out to him two years ago. 

Openly gay Council President Christine Quinn announces she is running for mayor of NYC, the most important city in the country (yes, I said that!), and she actually has a strong chance of winning.

The Denver Post runs a front page photo of the gay Speaker of the Colorado House kissing his partner right on the mouth as civil union legislation is passed. There is a baby bottle on the desk by them for their child. A few right-wingers are highly offended, but the paper does not back down. I still don't get what's so offensive about two men or two women kissing. There was a conservative blog about this stating parents should not have to be forced to explain this shocking display of affection to their kiddies. I remember when I was in college working in the library in the early 80s. Some of the staff were discussing an upcoming gay pride parade and a guy said "Well, I hope no children happen to see it so they don't have to look at any men kissing." Actually, I overheard him say this and I didn't say anything, but it amazes me that there are still people who have a problem with same-gendered couples lip-locking. 

A few speakers at this week's CPAC such as political scientist and author Charles Murray urges attendees to just shut up and deal with it. "With gay marriage, I think the train has left the station," he said. His argument was that younger people who might otherwise be interested in following the conservative movement are turned off by the bigoted, rigid hatred of gay folks and wanting to keep us as second-class citizens. At the same conference, Sen. Marco Rubio says just because he believes in "traditional" marriage--or a state's right to enforce it--that does not make him a bigot. Fifty years ago, people against interracial marriage probably said the same thing.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Reality Update: Strippers on Project Runway, Fabulous Pamola Faith

Tim Gunn with Thunder Down Under on Project Runway
Yesterday I started jury duty and nothing is as exhausting as sitting around waiting for something to happen. I last did jury duty about eight years ago and a few things have changed. Now they show movies in the waiting room and let you keep your phones and laptops on. The film was The Day After Tomorrow--the one from 2004 with Dennis Quaid rescuing his son Jake Glyenhaal who is trapped in the NY Public Library while the city is first flooded and then buried in snow. Later while waiting again in another part of the building I was surrounded by TV monitors blaring first The Chew and then Katie Couric's show. It was maddening trying to read an old New Yorker article about homeless gay teens while Jessica Alba was blathering about nutrition. Why couldn't they have changed the channel to Judge Judy? That would have made sense at least.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Smash Episode 206: The Fringe

Hit List or La Boheme?
So if it's the WINTER Fringe and Julia's now-invisible son Leo is almost on his WINTER break, how come everyone is dressed as if it's late summer on Smash this week? Last week we were left hanging as to whether Bombshell was going with the earlier, flashy workshop version which flopped in Boston or the new artsy-craftsy, high-toned, Ragtime-Follies-Scottsboro-Boys-Caroline-or-Change money-losing version. We open back in the rehearsal room and it's obviously the former has been chosen with Derek and Karen driving the "Waaah-mbulance" about not getting their way and Tom, Jerry and Eileen lording it over them. Derek pouts as he stages the big Second Act opener Public Relations and Jerry demands another number be cut to make room for it. He decrees the lovely Lead with the Heart get the axe and Julia storms out. Unfortunately, Jerry happens to be right, the show has too many ballads with Marilyn standing solo and nothing happening.

Monday, March 11, 2013

News Flashes: James Franco and Bartlett Sher for Bway Revivals?

Mila Kunis and James Franco in Oz the Great and Powerful
It's probably because of the smash release of Oz the Great and Powerful which I haven't seen yet, but the adorable James Franco is all over the news lately. The Guardian UK reports the multitalented Franco will be starring a Broadway revival of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men as George, the drifting ranchhand who is best friends with the baby-like giant Lenny. Here's a link to my review in Backstage of the Acting Company's recent touring revival. If this pans out, it will mark Franco's Broadway debut. He was to have starred opposite Nicole Kidman in a new production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth, but that bird never hatched. In the New York Post, the star-artist-writer-director's California neighbors have complained Franco's home is really a production company with so many people coming and going, their peace of mind has been shattered.

Oz received a decidedly mixed press, but was number one at the box office, raking in $180 million. A lot of my Facebook friends have given it negative reviews, but I'm still curious, mainly because it's in 3D and IMAX. I've only seen one picture in this double-format (Prometheus) and the experience was exciting, so I'm willing to risk some story shortcomings for visual thrills.

In other news, Tony winner Bartlett Sher is reportedly in talks with Clive Davis to direct the record mogul's projected revival of My Fair Lady. Davis says he wants Anne Hathaway and Colin Firth for the leads. I predicted Hathaway as a prime choice for Eliza before that news broke. But I said Sting for Higgins. This lead to speculation as to the rest of the cast--What would be your ideal MFL company? In addition to Hathaway and Firth, I would say Paxton Whitehead as Col. Pickering; Debra Monk as Mrs. Higgins; Jeremy Jordan as Freddy Enysford-Hill or if you want to get really crazy, Justin Timberlake; Jim Norton as Alfred P. Doolittle; Mary Testa as Mrs. Pearce; and me as Zoltan Karpathy, the role I played in two different high-school productions. What are your picks?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Amazing Race 22: Episode 4: Psychopaths in Bali

Jessica and John
before the psychological breakdown
I knew I hated John and Jessica from leg 2 of TAR 22 when they confessed to the camera they were contemplating breaking the alliance and not giving Dave and Connor the extra Express Pass. ("This isn't an honesty race, it's The Amazing Race.") But I didn't think John was a certifiable psychopath. But this week, he revealed his disassociation with reality. Not only did this duo of bizarre blonds receive a whopping helping of karmic payback, but John actually went delusional.

It all began back in Christ Church, New Zealand, with Dave with the pulled muscle and his son Connor coming in first place thanks to the second Express Pass Jessica and John finally gave to them. But they have to keep racing as this is a two-part, four-day leg, the longest in TAR history. Last week it was big cliffhanger as to whether or not they would continue, but they decided in like two seconds. Everyone else checks in rapid fire after that and we were deprived of the joy of seeing Max covered in shit from the dog-run obstacle course. Then we spend about ten minutes at airports and travel agencies. Note to the producer: edit out the ticketing sequences. It's boring and nobody cares.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Public Sex, Gay Marriage, and the Cast of Frasier

The cast of Frasier. Which actors are gay, open or otherwise?
About 15 years ago, my partner and I were at a dinner party. Most of the guests were gay. There was an argument about public sex. Quite a few people were advocating for the right of gay people to have sex in toilets, bars, bathhouses, and even in the street in broad daylight. My partner and I were among the faction saying no one, straight or gay, has a constitutional right to fuck anywhere they want. This was long before same-sex marriage seemed like a tangible reality.

Now that we can get married in 10 states, I wonder if the tearoom trade has significantly decreased. The reason we had sex in backrooms, toilets, and bathhouses, was that our coupling was seen as shameful by the public at large and therefore driven underground. One of the strongest arguments against gay rights was that we were all compulsive sex addicts with no morals or sense of family. Now that we can have families, is the unbridled world of backroom bars vanishing? Rawhide, the leather bar in Chelsea, is closing--though it is moving to the East Side. Will it still be as raunchy in a world that accepts and even condones gay marriage?

Friday, March 8, 2013

King of the Nerds Finale and Reality TV Update

Genevieve should have won King of the Nerds

King of the Nerds ended with the wrong winner! Sorry, but Genevieve deserved to win over Celeste. She went to the Nerd-Off three times and beat experts in their fields--She beat Virgil at dancing, Alana at comic book trivia, and Moog at engineering. She led her team to victory. I didn't get the reasoning behind the votes for Celeste. She grew as a person? Oh give me a break! The good news is King of the Nerds will be back for a second season. And Danielle, who came in third, is a sore loser.

My stupid DVR did not record Project Runway. It only seems to do that with the high-defintion version of Lifetime TV shows. So I had to record the nonhigh-Def version of last week's episode with Joan Rivers in the 60-minute format and this week's high-school duct tape challenge. Haven't had a chance to look at it yet.

Over on Comic Book Men, the gang held an auction of a loyal customer's massive comic-book collection so he could pay off his medical bills. It's good to know if I ever need extra medical coverage, Superman and Batman can pay for it. At the auction, Walter was dressed as Martian Manhunter, but I had no idea who Mike was supposed to be.

The Amazing Race Season 22 Episodes 2 and 3

Over dinner at Dojo's, my friend Diane suggested the casting for the fall Amazing Race is usually more interesting than for the spring. This salient observation was prompted when she asked if the teams were as vital and fascinating as Season 21? I had to admit so far no one of the current crop has approached the Beekman Boys, the Screaming Sri Lankans, the super-hot Jaymes and James, or Team World Domination in terms of watchability. I will have to make a study of comparing spring and fall teams and apply for a government grant before sequestration kicks in. Joey and Megan, the YouTube hosts, or as I like to call them, the Sugar Rush Twins, are kinda fun to view as they bubble and fizz like a pair of shaken-up soft drinks. John and Jessica are just plain devious. The Wal-Mart taxidermist is actually sorta hot and his wife is sassy. But the sound editor needs to stop playing that banjo music every time they open their mouths. And the father and son need to stop bursting into tears at the top of each episode.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cinderella vs. Batman and the Passage of Time

Seeing the new version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway reminded me of how much I used to look forward to watching the 1965 version on TV every year (This should have been a sign to my parents that I was gay, but never mind that.) It was a big deal because in those days there were only three TV networks and a big, lavish, full-color musical worthy of Broadway was a rare event. Even though we saw it in black and white, it was still a thrill. We did have an aunt and uncle who had color TV and I used to ask if we could go to their house for dinner on Wednesday nights because that was when Lost in Space was on. This was in the second season when the Robinsons finally changed their clothes and got full-color outfits. Now that I think of it, I don't believe I've ever seen that Lesley Anne Warren Cinderella in full color outside of YouTube clips. We didn't graduate from B&W until the mid-1970s. So we must have seen it in grey tones with the whole family including my grandparents visiting from Maine.

Smash Episode 205: The Read-Through

Smash finally uses TV to its advantage
in the "Public Relations" number
Thanks a lot, Smash, just as your stupid plot was starting to make sense and actually get me interested, you screw it up this week and I'm back to hate-watching. The title of this week's episode is The Read-Through and there are two of them--get it? Bombshell and Hit List, but how can Karen, who is in both shows, be in two places at the same time? And how can Derek do both shows--even if it's only for the Winter Fringe Festival, whatever the heck that is?

It all started so well with a great production number called "Public Relations" featuring Christian Borle playing multiple roles as Karen as Marilyn enters in an airplane for a press conference. (I actually saw the real flop Marilyn musical back in the 80s and I seem to recall a similar number.) This snazzy production number actually took advantage of being on TV in a way none of the other Smash songs have with Borle appearing as a slew of foreign journalists in funny wigs. I could suspend my disbelief about the Belasco being the house for Bombshell. It's too small for big lavish musical and Jerry, the avaricious new producer, would never consent to it if he wants to maximize his profit. He'd want a much bigger theater like the Minskoff or the Gershwin. But are we in the real world where Lion King and Wicked are still playing at those theaters? Is the St. James no longer available since Jordan Roth pulled it during the financial scandal in episode 1?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More New Musicals and Plays

Ann Harada in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
Photo by Carol Rosegg
My reviews of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Passion, The Revisionist, and The Madrid were posted on All were somewhat disappointing, particularly Cinderella. Book-writer Douglas Carter Beane and director Mark Brokaw overthought the material and couldn't decide between a Disney or a snarky approach. Ann Harada, our beloved Linda the Stage Manager ("I ain't makin' no smoothies, bitch") from Smash, stole the show as the wicked stepsister. (OK she didn't really say that to Uma Thurman, but she said it with her eyes.) The 1965 TV Cinderella is the one I remember best. It used to come on every year and was a huge deal because it was in full color and they didn't have many elaborate musicals made just for TV. I remember watching it with the whole family including my grandparents visiting from Maine and getting to stay up till it was over at 9 o'clock.

Also I did a piece on flop Broadway shows for I only included ten, but I'm sure there are many more you can recall.

More new musicals coming in--The Public Theater will be presenting a tuner version of The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem's novel about two comic-book-obsessed boys growing up in 1970s Brooklyn. Itamar Moses (Back Back Back, Completeness) is writing the book and the songs are by Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). The Public will present the musical during the 2014-15 season after it has played the Dallas Theatre Center. This is one of my favorite novels and it should be interesting to see how it translates to the stage with the comic-book elements.