Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oscars So Diverse: Predictions

Will Hidden Figures upset LaLa Land at the Oscars?
This year's Oscars did not dominate the national zeitgeist as much as usual. Perhaps it's the Trump circus overshadowing every other event of normal obsession such as the Super Bowl and the Westminster Dog Show. Anyway, I predict the speeches will be more political than usual with many denunciations of the President's fascist regime. The awards will be a repudiation of his racist rhetoric and a reaction to last year's lack of diverse nominees with #OscarsSoDiverse replacing #OscarsSoWhite.

Best Picture
Prediction: Hidden Figures
LaLa Land has racked up a massive 14 nominations, sharing the record for the most ever with the magnificent All About Eve and the bloated Titanic. Normally, that would mean a lock for Best Picture, but there has been serious backlash against the nostalgic musical. While the film is basically a lighthearted tribute to the Golden Age of cinematic tuners such as Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris and The Bandwagon, many have seen it as a celebration of white culture at the expense of African-Americans. I just read a bizarre LA Weekly column comparing director Damien Chazelle to Leni Riefenstahl for creating a propaganda film by casting white Ryan Gosling as the savior of pure jazz while black characters are shunted to the sidelines. This is a more than a bit extreme but the anti-Trump sentiment might be enough for the majority of voters to pass over the feel-good musical and hand the top prize to Hidden Figures, an Oscar-bait candidate if ever there was one. There is the traditional underdog fighting the power (three real-life African-American female mathematicians battling sexism and racism in 1960s NASA) and an uplifting final triumph, plus it's a great way to say "Screw You, Racist Prez!" Of course Hollywood may want to fete LaLa as a narcissistic hurrah for itself, but I think politics will be stronger than self-love this time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Broadway Update: Theatre Responds to Trump

Headlong and Almeida Theater's stage version of 1984
is coming to Broadway
Donald Trump has only been President two weeks, but theater is already responding to his controversial (to put it mildly) regime. Many have compared Donald and his spokespeople Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer's offering "Alternative facts" as truth to the doublespeak of the tyrannical dictator Big Brother in George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 which is enjoying a resurgence lately (I wonder why.) A stage version of Orwell's classic will be presented on Broadway in a limited production, opening on June 22 at the Hudson Theatre, now home to the also limited engagement of Sunday in the Park with George (more on that production and its decision to stay out of the Tony race in a future blog.) This British production of 1984, originally presented by the Headlong and Almeida will arrive with an American cast under the auspices of producers Sonia Freedman and Scott Rudin. A previous stage version played the Joyce Theater Off-Broadway in the 1990s as part of a regional American theater festival.
John Hurt in the film version of 1984
There have been two movie adaptations. Edmond O'Brien, Jan Sterling and Michael Redgrave starred in the 1956 version and John Hurt (who just passed away) and Richard Burton headlined an even starker edition released in year of the title. With claims of fake news and imaginary terrorist attacks coming from the Trump administration, Orwell's prophetic work is more relevant than ever.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

B'way Update: 'Butterfly' and ' Prada'

Clive Owen will star in M. Butterfly
on Broadway this fall
Clive Owen, last seen on Broadway in Harold Pinter's Old Times, will return in a new production of David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, directed by Julie Taymor in her first Broadway staging since being dismissed from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Her interpretation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream played Off-Broadway.) M. Butterfly will open Oct. 26, 2017 at a theater to be announced. The original 1988 production wmade a star out of B.D. Wong as Song Liling, a Chinese opera singer engaged in an affair with a French diplomat played by John Lithgow. Based on a true story, the 20-year relationship shocked international circles when it was revealed Song was really a man. This new production will new include new material based on information about the case that has come to light since the original staging which won the Tony and Drama Desk Award for Best Play and ran for 777 performances (a rare long run for a non-musical).

Also in the works, but in a much earlier stage of development, is a musical version of The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisenberger's autobiographical novel about an assistant to a high-powered fashion magazine editor not unlike Vogue's Anna Wintour. Sir Elton John, whose previous theatrical musical ventures include Aida, The Lion King and Billy Elliot, will write the music. Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey, I Hate Hamlet, Addams Family Values) will make his debut as a musical book-writer and lyricist. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt starred in the 2000 film version.
Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt
in the film version of The Devil Wears Prada