Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Theater Awards and Streaming in the Age of COVID

Theater and the arts continue despite the coronavirus pandemic. Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday was
Performers in Take Me to the World:
A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration
Credit: Broadway.com
commemorated with Take Me to the World, a spectacular web-based quilt of performances presented by Broadway.com on April 26 and now available on YouTube. Though live performances on or Off-Broadway may not return for months, the annual award-dispensing free-for-all goes on, in different forms. The only prize-giving entity not heard from as of yet is the biggest of them all, the Tony Awards. This shows the fundamental difference between the Tonys and all other awards. While the Drama Desks, Outer Critics, Obies and Lortels are voted on by relatively small groups of Gotham-based critics and some industry insiders who will have seen all the eligible shows, a significant portion of the Tony electorate is made up of out-of-town road producers who come into New York at the end of the season to view as many candidates as possible. With no shows on, these people can't vote for anything. (The rest of the Tony voters are NYC producers, the board members of the various theatrical unions and about 20 members of the New York Drama Critics Circle.) In addition, the Tonys are not only a ceremony to honor artistic excellence, they are also a commercial TV venture to push Broadway's product. Again if there are no shows to push, CBS and the producers have no reason to put on a show, even a digital one with presenters and winners Zooming in.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Quarantine Diary 1: Incident at DD and RNC Call

As we end the fifth week of the COVID-19 quarantine, a dull lethargy has set in. The New York Times recently ran an article stating some Gothamites have given in to despair and just given up. I don't quite feel that way. I don't believe this state of affairs will continue forever. Sooner or later a vaccine
Judy Woodruff's bookcase
or treatment will be developed and people will feel safe enough to venture into movie and Broadway theaters. It's not going to happen by Memorial Day as Vice-President Mike Pence--or as we like to call him Race Bannon--cheerily predicted to Geraldo Rivera on Fixed Noise. (Where does he get this sunny optimism from? It's not based on data or statistics.) A return to "normalcy" may take a few years. There will be many deaths and economic hardships, and but eventually, gradually people will probably be packing into subways like sardines without a thought in their heads about climate change or pandemics. But citizens are getting a bit antsy. Two recent incidents are examples of the threads beginning to fray.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

B'way May Not Reopen Till Sept. or 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and its effect on the theater world will be felt for months and possibly years. Though parts of the country have begun making moves to "reopen" their economies and ease restrictions, large public gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, and live
When will the Broadway lights shine again?
theater, will likely be the last elements to return to normal. All Broadway theaters are closed until at least June 7. But in a recent interview with Deadline, Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin averred that the date was never a definite marker for reopening. "We just said we were exchanging and refunding tickets up to June 7," she clarified. There is no certain date for reopening Broadway and St. Martin went on to say that September or later was a more realistic goal. First, it would be necessary to get permission from Governor Andrew Cuomo, then at least additional six weeks would be needed to prepare. Meanwhile, the mayor of Los Angeles and the governor of Ohio have stated there will probably not be live entertainment in their respective jurisdictions until at least 2021. The renewal of Broadway and other performing venues depends on testing and vaccines. Without preventive treatment for the highly contagious coronavirus, public events with more than 10 people would be dangerous. Even as the number of infections and hospital admissions decreases, there is still a risk there could be a resurgence of cases and deaths.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

NYDCC Vote 'Heroes' and 'Loop' Top Shows

Heroes of the Fourth Turning and A Strange Loop, two Off-Broadway productions presented by Playwrights Horizons, were voted Best Play and Best Musical respectively by the New York Drama Critic Circle. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the organization of New York-based theater critics met for the first time on the Zoom platform on April 15 and considered productions which opened before
This year's NYDCC Meeting on Zoom.
I'm on the extreme left, second row
Credit: Zach Stewart
March 12, when all Broadway theaters were closed. (Off-Broadway soon followed.) Both Broadway and Off-Broadway shows were considered. Sixteen voting members were present with four absent. The awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony on April 28. Special citations were voted to David Byrne and the Broadway production of American Utopia; Deirdre O’Connell for career excellence including her performance in Dana H.; and the New York theater community for perseverance in the face of loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heroes of the Fourth Turning, written by Will Arbery and directed by Danya Taymor, had its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons on Oct. 7, 2019 and closed on Nov. 17, 2019. The play focuses on a reunion of graduates from a conservative Christian university in Wyoming

A Strange Loop, book, music and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson, directed by Stephen Brackett, had its world premiere at Playwrights Horizons on June 17, 2019 and closed on July 28, 2019. The musical follows a young African-American gay man as he explores his past while working at his day job as an usher at The Lion King and writing an autobiographical musical.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Wheel of Ventilators, a Comedy Sketch

Scene: The White House Briefing Room

Never forget that Trump is a reality TV host and not a real leader
--or a doctor
Mike Pence's Voice: And now it's time for America's favorite new game show--Wheel. Of. Ventilators. And here is your host--that stable genius and your favorite President, America's cheerleader--Donnnnald J. Trump.

(Orchestra plays upbeat version of Hail to the Chief. TRUMP enters.)

Trump: Good evening, everybody. Welcome, fake news media and everyone in the studio audience (Three people clap.) Recently, we decided to make these daily COVID-19 press briefings more fun. Even though my ratings were through the roof--I mean, Super Bowl, Bachelor finale, JR Getting
Shot, that level, you know what I mean. Even though we had such great ratings, I wanted something catchier, more entertaining. So I decided, why not make the whole thing a game? You know, audiences love that. And I'm a cheerleader. That's what I do. People like that Yamiche Alcindor woman from PBS or somewhere, always asking negative, depressing questions. What a downer, right? Can't she lighten up a bit? Before we get started, I want to thank this evening's sponsors, the makers of the new miracle drug hydroxychloroquine (He holds up a bottle of fish tank cleaner), the MyPillow Guy, and my daughter Ivanka who along with my son-in-law Jared, will be reading the questions for our contestants.

(Jared and Ivanka enter. Three people clap.)

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part Ten (Quarantine Edition)

We are now at the end of week three of lockdown/quarantine in NYC. Broadway theaters will not reopen until at least June 7, schools will remain closed for the rest of the semester, millions of people have lost their jobs or been furloughed, too many idiots STILL approve of Monster Trump's awful performance, and we need to review more of the missing Carol Burnett Show episodes.

Season Two
Sept. 30, 1968: Carol Channing
The two Carols as each other
A promising opening with the two Carols answering questions is followed by two routine sketches in the MeTV/Amazon edited version. In the first, Harvey is a presidential candidate delivering his umpteenth stump speech while exhausted wife Carol cannot stay awake to save her life. Then Carol Channing makes a dazzling entrance in a jewel-encrusted mini-skirt as a Lorelei Lee-like golddigger after elderly millionaire Harvey's money while our Carol as his neglected secretary-nurse-companion fumes. It would have been fun to see the Carols sing a duet. I did find a picture of them impersonating each other and it may be this was one of the musical numbers on this episode. IMDB does list details about some of segments and such a sketch is not included. It's possible the picture is from a Carol Channing special with Burnett as her guest.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Broadway's Future Unknown: COVID-19 Continues to Ravage NYC Theater

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the New York theater world as well as all aspects of American and world society. On March 12, all Broadway theaters were ordered closed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to prevent the
Sharon D. Clarke in Caroline or Change
which has been postponed to the fall
Credit: Helen Maybanks
spread of the coronavirus. Smaller Off-Broadway theaters soon followed as well as cabarets, nightclubs, cinemas, and all other performance venues. The original re-opening date announced by the Broadway League was April 13, but that appears to be obsolete. While the League has made no official announcement about a new date, larger forces keep pushing it unofficially later. First the Center for Disease Control recommended no large gatherings of any kind for eight weeks. At first President Trump wished aloud that the country would re-open by Easter Sunday, painting a rosy, if implausible picture of packed, disease-free churches. Only a few days later, he backtracked and extended national guidelines for Americans to stay at home until April 30. The stage blackout could continue well beyond that. New York state has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States with over 102,000 confirmed cases and over 2,900 deaths as of Fri., April 3. New York City alone has reported over 57,000 cases, and the numbers are growing rapidly. Governor Cuomo has stated the apex of the curve of cases will likely arrive in about two weeks (the middle of April).

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Florida Trip Day Eight/Nine: Comics in Miami, plus Thoughts on Trump's Nightly Game Show

We are into the second week of shelter in place during the coronavirus crisis. Trump is on the airwaves every night now, thinking he is the host of a high-rated game show called The COVID-19 Hour, sponsored by the MyPillow guy. Trump probably said to him, "Make me some masks and I'll give you free airtime." After an advert for MyPillows and the Bible, Trump plays Wheel of Ventilators. Governors line up at the wheel, spin it and whoever kisses his ass the most gets the biggest amount of medical supplies. Yamiche Alcindor and Jim Acosta try to get him to answer questions, but he just wants happy talk and compliments.

The governor of Florida has finally broken down and ordered a statewide stay-at-home restriction after allowing reckless spring breakers and beachgoers to spread the coronavirus. (And the even stupider governor of Georgia apparently didn't know the disease can be transmitted before you start to
show symptoms.) Will the sunshine state ever return as a tourist destination? I'm glad I was able to enjoy it before the crisis hit. The final two days of my Florida trip were spent with relatives of my husband Jerry in Miami, relaxing after running around Orlando with my brother Jonathan. Friday we drove down to the Florida Keys which I understand is now sealed off to outsiders. Saturday I wanted to drive to a comic store I had visited on my last trip.

A & M Comics is located on a street with a bird's name in Miami. You can miss it if you didn't know it's there. There are crude paintings of superheroes on whitewashed walls and it's right next to a gas station. On the inside, it's like an episode of Hoarders or someone's garage with overflowing boxes everywhere. There were lots of hard-to-find Silver Age comics to fill gaps in my collection at not-unreasonable prices. My favorite purchase was Detective Comics #282 in fair condition. This one is from 1960 during Batman's outer-space phase when the Dynamic Duo were regularly visited by aliens. I also bought a Star Wars Christmas ornament for $10. After about two hours of sifting through long boxes and moving piles around, I made my purchases. The owner told me there was going to be a comic-book convention the next day at the Miami Airport Hotel and he was getting an award for service to the Miami-area comic book community. (I also bought a Star Wars Christmas ornament for $10.) I told him congratulations and said I would try to attend--I could actually make it before my flight back to NYC.