Saturday, December 17, 2022

What I Listen to in My Car

I have a 20-minute drive to and from work, so it's nice to listen to something on the radio. But the news is still too depressing these days. (I used to time my drive based on which segment was playing on NPR,

Gerald Mohr as Philip Marlowe

before I stopped listening to it.) I switched to old-time radio shows like The Adventures of Philip Marlowe--every episode was exactly the same. Marlowe takes on a case, finds a beautiful girl, gets beaten up, beats up one of his attackers to even the score, solves the case, walks off with the dame. When all those segments were used up, I went to The Halls of Ivy starring Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Coleman, which later became a TV sitcom. At first it was interesting to hear Coleman's distinctive voice, along with that of his wife. They guest-starred on the Jack Benny Show many times as themselves, playing his neighbors who can't stand Jack and keep inventing excuses to pass up his party and dinner invitations. In The Halls of Ivy, they play a college professor and his wife, a former British musical comedy star. But the series was pure drivel after a while.

Then I discovered podcasts 

--Anderson Cooper's All There Is, his heartbreaking examination of grief after his mother Gloria Vanderbilt passed away. Her death brought memories of Anderson's father who died when he was 10 and his brother who committed suicide in front of their mother. He interviews celebrities such as Stephen Colbert, Laurie Anderson and Molly Shannon and experts on the grieving process. It somehow made me feel clamer to drive to work hearing stories of coping with mourning. My own travails weren't so bad. 

--Rachel Maddow's Ultra. Fascinating study of radical right-wing attempts to overthrow the democratic government in the 1930s and 40s.

--The Plot Thickens. TCM's podcast series of behind-the-scenes movie stories starting with a biography of Peter Bogdanavich who was one of my favorite directors, and then The Devil's Candy, a chronicle of the making of Bonfire of the Vanities, one of filmdom's biggest disasters. 

Saturday, October 1, 2022

I've Had a Cold

I'm just getting over a cold. It still lingers. So I'm treasuring sensations. For example, this morning I was all stuffed up. My husband told me to just use some of the nasal spray I was prescribed. Of course. Then I could breathe. I'm trying deep breathing exercises so it's good to be able to breathe through your nose. The heat came on this morning for the first time. That was another luxury, feeling the warmth coming out of the radiator, like a toaster. Or am I the toast? It's raining heavily. The sounds are so beautiful. It makes me feel safe to be inside when it's so wet and miserable outside. I read a few paragraphs from David Sedaris' latest book. It feels like I've read bits of it before because I read his diary while recovering from being hit by a car. Like having a conversation with a friend and they repeat a story from before. The chapter was about his father's death. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Rhoda's Dad as a Nazi?

Harold Gould as General von Schlomm
on Hogan's Heroes.
While flipping channels the other night, I landed on MeTV's 10-11pm Hogan's Heroes block. I turned there to wait for the Carol Burnett Show at 11pm. I did watch HH every week when I was a kid during its six-year run from 1965 to 1971. But I had absolutely no interest in watching any of the reruns in the 50 intervening years. The premise of the show was always a bit strange. Set in a German POW camp during WWII, the plot centers on a band of merry misfits who outwit their buffoonish Nazi captors. Their leader, charismatic, attractive Robert Hogan wormed his way into the office of idiotic commandant Col. Klink. In reality, the Allied prisoners would have been beaten and tortured, not treated like lovable pets. John Banner played nazi guard Sgt. Schultz like a sweet grandfather. 

Anyway, the episode I turned to featured Harold Gould, Rhoda's dad and Rose Nylund's boyfriend, as General von Schlomm, the personal envoy from Der Fuhrer. I had totally forgotten he was on this show in this recurring role. I remembered General Berkholder (the heavyset Leon Askin) and General Hofstatter (the screeching Harold Caine), but it turns out Gould was on dozens of TV shows before his best-remembered roles on Rhoda and Golden Girls. He turned up as Harvey's boss on the Carol Burnett Show a few times. I probably didn't recall any of them because he didn't have his moustache in many of these roles.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Nathan Lane's Daytime Emmys


Much has been said about Nathan Lane finally winning his first Prime Time Emmy for Guest Actor in a Comedy for Hulu's Only Murders in the Building after seven nominations. He was previously nominated for Modern Family (3 times as Pepper Saltzman, Cameron and Mitchell's excitable friend), The Good Wife, Mad About You and Frasier. But what everyone seems to forget is that he already won two Daytime Emmys for his voice work on two cartoon shows--Disney's The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa and Teacher's Pet. The latter was a delightfully quirky ABC series about a talking dog who disguises himself as a boy in order to attend school with his master. It ran from 2000 to 2002 and was pretty funny. The artwork was bizarre and fascinating and the cast was particularly distinguished for an animated show. Lane was joined by Jerry Stiller as sarcastic parrot Pretty Boy, David Odgen Stiers as neurotic cat Mr. Jolly, Debra Jo Rupp as the boy's teacher who also happens to be his mom, Wallace Shawn as the principal Mr. Strickler, and I'm pretty sure Betty White did a guest shot as the grandmother. Bernadette Peters, Fred Willard, Tim Curry, and Patrick Warburton also did guest appearances. There was also a film version which I never saw.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

B'way Update: Jefferson Mays' Christmas Carol; Into the Woods Final Extension; Little Shop Cast

Tony and Drama Desk winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder) will bring his one-man version of A Christmas Carol to Broadway. The stage adaptation will begin previews at the Nederlander on Nov. 8 in advance of a Nov. 21 opening for a limited 66-performance run. Mays will leave his current role of Mayor Shinn in The Music Man at the Winter Garden 
Jefferson Mays in
A Christmas Carol.
Credit: Chris Whitaker
on Oct. 23. 

Mays plays 50 different roles in this spectacular staging of Charles Dickens' beloved classic. This breaks a record for the actor who played 40 characters in I Am My Own Wife and 9 in A Gentleman's Guide. This version, directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden (Once on This Island, Spring Awakening), adapted by Mays, Susan Lyons, and Arden and conceived by Arden and Tony nominee Dane Laffrey (set design for Island and Awakening), premiered in 2018 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. In the winter of 2020, a filmed version was streamed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

B'way Update: Sweeney Todd Confirmed, DeVito as a Hoarder, Iglehart as Armstrong

Annaleigh Ashford and Josh Groban
Credit: Franz Szony

It's official. The revival of Sweeney Todd, the 1979 Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical about a cut-throat barber and his pie-making cannibalistic accomplice, will definitely begin previews at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Feb. 25, 2023 in advance of a March 26 opening. Pop superstar Josh Groban and Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford will star. The production had been rumored for several weeks and was reported on in Broadway Journal. On Sept. 5, artwork for the show began showing up on social media and the Ticketmaster website posted a performance calendar (tickets go on sale Mon. Sept. 18).

Friday, September 2, 2022

Recent Encounters with Derangement

MAGA Protests in Wisconsin
While strolling through the streets of Portland, Maine where I am vacationing, I passed three sane-looking people who were carrying a large banner and some signs. When they unfurled it in the middle of a public square, the banner read "F**k Joe Biden and F**k You If You Voted for Him." I wisely held my tongue and kept walking as they gestured to passing cars to honk if the drivers agreed with their heinous message. 

In another recent encounter with derangement, I was waiting for my physical therapy appointment in Rego Park, Queens. The waiting room was filled with patients, all masked as per the office's requirements. Two workmen entered and explained to the receptionist-office manager they were repairing the air conditioning in the building next door and needed access to this building. The receptionist said fine, but they would need to wear a mask (This was about two months ago when the COVID transmission rate was still relatively high in NYC.) The younger workman got his back up and refused to don a mask. Another patient tried to calm him down, saying "Look, man, I agree with you, but just put on the mask. It's her office." The workman's older colleague also attempted to get him to comply, but the younger guy spouted ignorant misinformation and blustered in outrage that he was being asked to cover up. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

B'way Update: Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, Ella Fitzgerald Musical

Laura Linney in 
My Name Is Lucy Barton.
Credit: Manuel Harlan
Five-time Tony nominee and four-time Emmy winner Laura Linney (The Big C, John Adams, Frasier, Wild Iris) will return to Broadway in the premiere of Summer, 1976, a new play by Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn (Proof). Previews begin April 4, 2023 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater as part of Manhattan Theater Club's season. Tony winner Daniel Sullivan direct. In addition to Proof, Sullivan directed Auburn's The Columnist. Linney last appeared on Broadway at the Friedman in the one-woman play My Name is Lucy Barton. She also starred at the Friedman in The Little Foxes and Sight Unseen. Summer, 1976 was originally announced for MTC's Stage II Off-Broadway space at City Center for a fall opening. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

B'way Update: Lin-Manuel Miranda and NY, NY Musical

Liza Minnelli and Robert DeNiro in
New York, New York
Summertime and the livin' ain't easy. We keep getting bulletins about future shows. The latest is a new musical loosely based on the 1977 Martin Scorsese film New York, New York which starred Liza Minnelli and Robert DeNiro. Deadline reports the show which is aimed for Broadway in Spring 2023 will feature an all-star team behind the scenes. Dig this line up. The score will feature songs from the film by John Kander and Fred Ebb including the iconic title song immortalized by Minnelli and Frank Sinatra in separate recordings. New songs will be written by Kander with lyrics by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. The book will be David Thompson who worked with Kander and Ebb on such projects as The Scottsboro Boys and Steel Pier, and Sharon Washington, who was in the cast of Scottsboro Boys and was seen most recently in the Central Park Richard III. Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman (helmer of Scottsboro) will direct and choreograph. According to Deadline, the plot will bear little resemblance to that of the original film which followed the rocky relationship of bandleader DeNiro and his lead singer and love interest Minnelli. The new story will be set in 1946 in the title metropolis as it recovers after WWII.

This is probably the production Johnny Olensinski reported about in the New York Post when he wrote there was a Kander and Ebb revue called New York, New York possibly booked for the St. James in the spring.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

B'way Update: Sweeney Revival Possible; Raisin Casting

Josh Groban in
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.
Credit: Chad Batka
Philip Boroff reports in Broadway Journal that pop superstar Josh Groban and Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford will headline a revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd, aiming for a Broadway opening next April. Boroff reports that Rent and Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller is raising $14.5 million for the production which will be directed by Hamilton helmer Thomas Kail and possibly play the Lunt-Fontanne next April in time for the 2023 Tony Awards. No information about the show has been confirmed as of yet. (Sidenote: Before he hit the big time, Jeffrey Seller directed me in a Brooklyn community theater production of The Fantasticks. Andrew Lippa, who later wrote the music for the Off-Broadway Wild Party and The Addams Family, was the music director and played El Gallo).

This could potentially mean three Sondheim musicals in one season, maybe simultaneously. Into the Woods is playing through Oct. 16 at the St. James, but could extend given its strong box office and Merrily We Roll Along might transfer from its Off-Broadway run at New York Theater Workshop.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford in
Sunday in the Park with George.
Credit: Matthew Murphy
Groban last appeared on Broadway in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. (He co-hosted the 2017 Tony Awards with Sara Bareilles) Ashford won a Best Featured Actress in a Play Tony for You Can't Take It With You and starred opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. On TV, her prominent roles include Masters of Sex, B Positive, and Impeachment: American Crime Story.

Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway in 1979 and ran for 557 performances, winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Actor and Actress for Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury. There have been two previous Broadway revivals--in 1989 (with Bob Gunton and Beth Fowler) and 2005 (with Michael Cerveris and Patti LuPone). A 2017 Off-Broadway production transformed the Barrow Street Theater into a recreation of a Victorian pie shop with audience members seated like customers. (Another side note: Groban was in the audience the night I saw this production.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 32: Paley Center Visit Number 3

Just before leaving for a two-week, end of summer vacation in Maine, I visited the Paley Center for Media to view the final complete Carol Burnett Show episodes unavailable on Amazon, DVD or Channel 21 reruns. 

Season Four:
Sept. 28, 1970: Nanette Fabray, Steve Lawrence
Previously seen on MeTV/Amazon/ShoutFactory and reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 10: Columbia Pictures Salute, parodies of Middle of the Night, From Here to Eternity and Gilda (Golda).
Carol and Nanette Fabray in
As the Stomach Turns
The edited Carol Burnett and Friends version only featured the three Columbia pictures parodies. Missing are Steve and Nanette's musical numbers, Carol and Steve's Columbia Pictures medley and a segment of As the Stomach Turns. The long-running soap opera parody, frequently employed gender-swapping as a comic bit. A woman exhibiting stereotypical male behavior (smoking cigars, needing a shave, etc.) and vice versa was enough to garner cheap laughs. Back in the late 1960s, sexual fluidity was known as transsexualism. In this segment, guest Nanette Fabray plays Mildred, Marion (Carol)'s constantly complaining friend. Her ailment this time is a lack of female chromosomes. After some easy guffaws with Mildred deepening her voice to a baritone and flirting with Marion, Steve Lawrence enters as a golf-playing priest encouraging Marion to attend church and play bingo. Lawrence again displays his talent for imitations, offering a reasonably accurate Bing Crosby (He does a very good Burt Lancaster in the From Here to Eternity sketch. But his musical numbers--Michele Legrand's What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life and On a Clear Day--aren't very exciting.) 

Friday, August 19, 2022

Book Review: Solid but Scattered Ivory

Taken out of the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. Jumbled, entertaining but ultimately disappointing memoir of the Oscar-winning director and screenwriter James Ivory. The first half of the book concentrates on Ivory's early life in Oregon, charting his journey of artistic and sexual self-discovery. Lots of descriptions of sexual organs of boys he had crushes on. Then we get unrelated chapters on parties, apartments lived in, cities like Venice and Kabul, descriptions of furniture and possessions, friends, gossip, anecdotes. In the back pages is a list of where these pieces originally appeared. They are letters, diary entries, contributions to anthologies, even introductions for an auction catalogue. I suppose that's where the editor Peter Cameron comes in. He must have worked with Ivory on assembling the pieces and putting them in order. There is very little of Ivory's illustrious and varied film career apart from in-depth portraits of Vanessa Redgrave and Raquel Welch (the latter is an excerpt from a collection of essays on movie stars). So we do get extensive background on the filming of The Bostonians (for which Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar), Redgrave's lawsuit against the Boston Symphony for firing her for her pro-Palestinian politics, and Welch's difficult behavior on The Wild Party. There's also a chapter on winning his only Oscar for writing the screenplay of Call Me By Your Name and the making of that film. He was to have co-directed it, but he got dropped before filming began.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
in Mr. and Mrs. Bridge.
Apart from brief mentions there's nothing on Shakespeare Wallah, A Room With a View, Howard's End, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (what was it like to work with Newman and Woodward???), Maurice, Roseland, Slaves of New York, Jefferson in Paris, The Remains of the Day, Surviving Picasso, etc. etc. We can fill in some of the blanks with the recent HBO Max series on the Newmans, but Mr. and Mrs. Bridge was not given the same detailed treatment director Ethan Hawke lavished on such pix as The Stripper, A New Kind of Love and Winning which have fallen into obscurity.

Ivory does devote a chapter to his producing partner and lover Ismail Merchant, but we don't get a deep sense of their relationship. We get facts about how they met and where they lived, but there's a lot missing. We learn more about how Ivory felt about bed buddies like the writer Bruce Chatwin with whom he carried on a long-term affair while he was with Merchant (it appears that was an open relationship) and unrequited amours from high school and college. For a complete biography, I guess we'll have to wait for an ambitious outside author. Or perhaps Ivory will produce a separate book, detailing his work on each of his many films overlooked in Solid Ivory.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

B'way Update: Take Me Out Returns; Leads for Merrily

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jesse Williams
in Take Me Out.
Credit: Joan Marcus
The Tony-winning revival of Take Me Out will return to Broadway this fall. The 2002 Richard Greenberg play about a gay baseball player coming out is reopening at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on Oct. 27 for a limited run of 14 weeks. Jesse Tyler Ferguson who won a Tony for his performance as Mason Marzac, the gay business manager, and Jesse Williams who was nominated for his role as Darren Lemming, the out gay player, will reprise their roles but the remainder of the cast has not been announced. The Second Stage revival opened at the Hayes Theater on April 4 and ran for 79 performances. Because of extensive nude scenes, audiences were required to secure their phones in locked containers during the performance. Controversy erupted when a nude video of Jesse Williams was shared online.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

2024: Can Biden Win the Media War? Will Cheney Run for Prez as an Independent?

I thought the Trump reality show was at least closed for the summer with the last of the J6 Committee hearings before Congress returns in September. But no, we have to have yet another installment with the FBI search of Trumpy's tacky Florida home in search of missing classified documents. This justified execution of a warrant (not a raid) has pushed aside Biden's triumphant passage of a series of bills including the Inflation Reduction Act, the Chip one, and the one helping veterans exposed to burn pits. Republicans had to be shamed by John Stewart into voting on the last one and they were against a $35 cap on insulin. 

I worry that the benefits of these bills will not be felt by Americans until after the midterms in November, plus the price of gas may not be going down enough to convince voters to go for Dems. Yes, the price at the pump has been steadily dropping, but just under $4 is still too steep. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 31

Summer vacation 2022 is dwindling down to a precious few weeks and there isn't much time to catch up on missing portions of the Carol Burnett Show. I hope to get to the Paley Center to view the remaining complete episodes unavailable anywhere else. Meanwhile, here's a survey of segments gleaned from Amazon Prime's release of original masters, Channel 21 broadcasts, and YouTube submissions.

Season Six
Sept. 20, 1972: Carol Channing, Marty Feldman
(Channel 21) (Previously seen on Amazon/ShoutFactory/MeTV) and Reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 13: Sketches on Airplane Crew, Plastic Surgeon, Carol and Sis Jealousy Sketch, Commercials)
Lyle and Vicki in the
deodorant commercial spoof.
Apart from the pieces seen on the hacked-up 22-minute syndicated version, there's a marvelous honky-tonk number with Carol Channing and a few commercial spoofs including a bare-chested Lyle bragging about not using his deodorant for several days and then Vicki wearing a gas mask as his bedmate (They did the same gag on Laugh-In with Larry Hovis and Ruth Buzzi I recall.) Also previously missing was the finale, one of the early mini-musicals devoted to a single songwriter. This time it's Johnny Mercer and there are only four characters: Carol Burnett, Carol Channing, Harvey and Marty. Carol B. is a waitress in a greasy spoon, Harvey is a hobo, Carol C. is a flapper/vamp type, and Marty is some kind of eccentric partygoer. There are romantic couplings and uncouplings told through Mercer's lyrics. The best moment comes when Carol C. and Marty get together to the tune of "Jeepers, Creepers, Where'd You Get Those Peepers" and the two compare their notorious huge eyes.  

Jan. 27, 1973: Tim Conway, Kaye Ballard, Burt Reynolds (cameo during Q&A)
(Amazon Prime Original Broadcast Masters) I distinctly remembered watching this episode when it first
Kaye Ballard imitating
Sophie Tucker in Carol's
salute to vaudeville.

ran in 1973 or parts of it anyway. Kaye Ballard joins Carol in front of a set of old-fashioned radios, remembering their favorite radio shows. This leads to Carol introducing Kaye in a song from a musical based on the radio and TV series The Goldbergs. Kaye explains the show is called Molly's World (after the matriarch Molly Goldberg whom she is playing) and they are planning to opening it on Broadway in the spring. The title was shortened to Molly and it opened on the Main Stem in November of '73, running only 68 performances. Though the show was a flop, Kaye's rendition of the song, "Go in the Best Of Health" is lovely. 

Kaye also appears in a sketch with Carol and Vicki as three friends getting drunk at lunch and stiffing snobby waiter Lyle with the bill. Then she is one of three bachelorettes, again along with Carol and Vicki, vying for contestant Harvey's hand on the Daters' Game. Lyle is host Ken Plastic (love the name). The twist here is new technician Tim Conway (this is before he has joined the cast as a regular) rips Vicki's dress off by accident and must sub for her since it's a live show. There are some funny moments as Tim answers Harvey's questions about romance in a deadpan manner with no attempt to disguise his voice or gender. This is the second spoof of the popular daytime game show. The first featured Mickey Rooney and John Davidson during Season One.

Friday, August 12, 2022

B'way Update: New Woods Cast; Lillias White; Working Girl

Stephanie J. Block and Sebastian Arcelus 
will star in Into the Woods.
Several new cast members including Tony winners and nominees will be heading Into the Woods. The current cast of the smash hit revival of Stephan Sondheim and James Lapine's 1987 fairy-tale musical will remain with the show through Sept. 4. Sept 6, real-life married couple Stephanie J. Block (Tony winner for The Cher Show) and Sebastian Arcelus (Elf) will succeed Sara Barielles and Brian D'Arcy James as the Baker's Wife and the Baker. Additional new cast members are Krysta Rodriguez (Smash, The Addams Family) as Cinderella, Katy Geraghty (Groundhog Day) as Little Red Riding Hood, and Jim Stanek (Fun Home) as the Steward. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

B'way Update: Ohio to Play Jones Theater; Devil in Trouble?

Audra McDonald
The Ohio State Murders by Obie-winning playwright Adrienne Kennedy and starring six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, will be the first show to play the renamed James Earl Jones Theater (formerly the Cort). This will mark the Broadway debut of 91-year-old Kennedy whose Off-Broadway works have included Funnyhouse of a Negro, June and Jean in Concert, Sleep Deprivation Chamber and A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White. Previews begin Nov. 11 with an opening set for Dec. 8 for a limited engagement. Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, A Soldier's Play) will direct. Leon will also be directing Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog on Broadway this season. McDonald and Leon previously collaborated on a digital reading of Ohio State for Broadway's Best Shows Spotlight on Plays series. McDonald will play Suzanne Alexander, a writer invited to speak at her alma mater about the violence in her work and a mystery unravels.

“I am so thrilled. It’s only taken me 65 years to make it to Broadway!” said Kennedy.

“I’m honored and humbled to be part of Adrienne Kennedy’s long-overdue Broadway debut in the newly dedicated James Earl Jones Theatre with Kenny Leon,” said McDonald. “This timeless play has a powerful resonance and relevance today, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.”

Sunday, August 7, 2022

B'way/Off-B'way Update: Linda Lavin in You Will Get Sick, etc.

Linda Lavin on the CBS series
B Positive.
Credit: Warner Brothers
Updates to the upcoming fall season:
Tony-Drama Desk-Obie winner Linda Lavin will return to the New York stage in You Will Get Sick, a new play by Noah Diaz beginning previews Oct. 14 at Roundabout Theater Company's Laura Pels Theater with an opening set for Nov. 6. The play focuses on a young man hiring an older woman to tell his family and friends about his life-changing diagnosis. Lavin won a Tony for Neil Simon's Broadway Bound and was nominated for The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Collected Stories and The Lyons. She won Obies for Death-Defying Acts and the Off-Broadway run of The Lyons and Drama Desk Awards for Little Murders, Broadway Bound and The New Century. She is probably best known for playing the title role on the long-running sitcom Alice (1976-85) and most recently starred on TV in CBS' B Positive...

Friday, July 29, 2022

B'way Update: Woods Extends, Mockingbird Not Flying Back, High Noon, Frida Kahlo Musical

Joshua Henry and Gavin Creel in
Into the Woods.
Credit: Matthew Murphy and 
Evan Zimmerman for
Into the Woods is now officially extending its limited run at the St. James through Oct. 16. The acclaimed revival of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine fairy-tale musical was originally intended to play only till Aug. 21 after its sold-out City Center run. The announcement came one day after producers of The Piano Lesson revealed they were moving the August Wilson production to the Barrymore rather than the previously announced St. James. New casting for later in the run will be announced in the coming days. What's surprising is the extension is only for another two months. Perhaps there will be another extension if the box office continues to hold strong. Woods pulled in a whopping near $2 million last week. Maybe the show could become like another Encores transfer, Chicago which is still running and holds the record as the longest-playing American musical in Broadway history. Chicago boosted its epic run with some interesting big names in replacement casting including most recently Pamela Anderson. With so many juicy roles, Woods could become star-bait and attract new audiences with each new cast.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Trump Reality Show Finally in Its Last Season?

Is the perverted Trump reality show we've all been forced to live through from the past six years finally reaching its last season? Has America finally had enough of this monster some have praised as a hero? Trumpy has survived before. We thought he was out of the running for president when he insulted John McCain. We counted him out with the release of the pussy-grabbing video with Billy Bush. Shithole countries, very fine people on both sides of racism, siding with Putin over his own intelligence agencies, the botched, incompetent COVID non-response, even the violence of Jan. 6 itself weren't enough to turn his rabid MAGA base away from him. But now the Jan. 6 Select Committee has taken over the narrative and Trump has been transformed from idol of the poor, downtrodden white race to mad king clinging to power at all costs, even if it means ending our democracy itself.

To counterprogram Trump's mendacious mini-series, the Committee has staged its hearings like a better mini-series with eight episodes or hearings, each having a different focus, plot arc, heroes and villains. Unlike the Watergate and impeachment hearings which dragged out over two summers while I was in high school in 1973 and 1974, the J6 segments feature short video clips from testimony, video and visuals of emails and texts. With Watergate, we had to sit through days and days of witnesses testifying in real time. The J6 people give us bite-sized portions and intelligent speakers breaking it down to explain it. Because the stubborn Congressional Trump Republicans refused to cooperate, there are no dissenting voices to offer the Orange Mussolini's twisted version of events. It's clear that Trump intended to lead the mob in their assault on the capitol. But then what? Would he have taken Mike Pence prisoner? Burned the electoral certificates? Declared himself dictator for life? Only the secret service stopped him. And the deleted texts from their phones will reveal the whole story. Sooner or later, what was on those phones will be revealed. But that's the cliffhanger and we will have to wait for the next season to begin in September.

If nothing else, the hearings have damaged Trump enough so that his chances of being re-elected in 2024 are significantly lower. At least I hope so. What's really horrifying is so many Americans don't care that Trumpy almost overthrew our government or worse they would be OK with that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Broadway Update: Piano Lesson, Cost of Living

It looks like Into the Woods WILL stay at the St. James and Piano Lesson will open at the Ethel
Denzel Washington and
LaTanya Richardson Jackson in
A Raisin in the Sun
at the Barrymore.
Credit: Brigitte Lacombe

Barrymore rather than the previously announced St. James. Greg Evans of Deadline reports (as of 5:00 am this morning, July 26) the transfer of theaters. In an interview with Piano Lesson director LaTanya Richardson Jackson, the website confirms the August Wilson Pulitzer Prize-winning revival will begin preview performances at the new venue on Sept. 19 with no opening date announced as of yet. (The Piano Lesson website now lists the Barrymore as the show's home.) Woods producers have not confirmed if their smash-hit Sondheim-Lapine revival will be extending. 

Richardson Jackson will be making her Broadway directorial debut and is the first woman to stage a Wilson play on Broadway. She will be directing her husband Samuel L. Jackson as well as John David Washington and Danielle Brooks. The Barrymore is the site of her Tony-nominated performance as Lena Younger in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun (opposite Denzel Washington, John David's father.) She also acted in a Broadway revival of Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. In another example of such theatrical serendipity, the Barrymore was the home for original productions of both Raisin (1959) and Joe Turner (1988).

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 30: Still More Broadcast Masters

Here are more broadcast masters of episodes that were unavailable on DVD or in the syndicated Carol Burnett and Friends hatchet jobs. Now you can find them on Amazon and the FreeVee service (formerly imdb's streaming platform)

Season Five:
Oct. 20, 1971: Dom DeLuise, Peggy Lee

(Previously seen on MeTV/Amazon/ShoutFactory and Reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part Two: Carol and Dom in Antique Store; Murder Mystery with Alice Portnoy.)
The highlight of this complete episode is a game show spoof called Do or Die. Contestants can win
Vicki, Carol and Dom DeLuise
in the Do or Die Game Show sketch

ridiculously lavish prizes like a key to Fort Knox or the gross national product of a European country, but the penalties for wrong answers are equally extravagant: getting shot in the leg or beheaded. Dom is the overly enthusiastic and sadistic host while Harvey as George is the contestant and Vicki is the dumb but curvaceous model. Naturally, George's wife from hell Zelda (Carol) is hauled out to help her hubby. Today, this sketch would probably be censored for its stereotyping of women as either stupid and sexy or plain and shrewish. But the extremes are pretty funny with George putting his head in a guillotine and Zelda having to shoot out a candle before the flame burns the rope holding the blade. 

In the next scene, Zelda interrupts Peggy Lee's solo number and pleads with her to sing her signature hit "Is That All There Is?" When Zelda loudly munches an apple and then calls Peggy overrated, the singer gives her a karate chop. Earlier, Lee gave her smooth silky style while being shot in soft focus to Carol King's "I Feel the Earth Move" and Michel Legrand's "Watch What Happens."

Monday, July 18, 2022

B'way Update: What's Up with Into the Woods and Piano Lesson?

Gavin Creel and Julia Lester in
Into the Woods.
Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman 
for MurphyMade.
The Encores! revival of Into the Woods is such a big hit that there are rumors it will extend beyond its relatively brief limited run ending Aug. 21 at the St. James. (Here's a link to my review on where I call this ITW the best Broadway show in 30 years.) But the revival of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson starring Samuel L. Jackson, Danielle Brooks and John David Washington is slated to begin previews at the St. James on Sept. 19. Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post reported last week that Woods producers want their show to stay put and have Piano Lesson move to the Barrymore where Paradise Square has just closed. (Side note: Paradise producer Garth Drabinsky has been placed on Equity's Do Not Work list for "outstanding payments and benefits, and a continued pattern of abuse and neglect that created an unsafe and toxic work environment.") There has been no confirmation on Woods extending or Piano Lesson changing its venue. Tickets are not being sold for Woods beyond Aug. 21 and tickets are being sold for Piano Lesson at the St. James from Sept. 19 until Jan. 8, 2023.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

B'way Update: Lea Michele in Funny Girl; Ain't No Mo Transfers; Paradise Square to Close

Lea Michele (right on Glee) will
replace Beanie Feldstein (left)
in Funny Girl.
It was one of the worst kept secrets in recent Broadway history, but now it's official. Lea Michele will be taking the lead role of Fanny Brice from Beanie Feldstein in the current revival of Funny Girl. In addition, Tony nominee and Drama Desk winner Tovah Feldshuh will take over for Jane Lynch as Fanny's mother. Both will begin performances Sept. 6 at the August Wilson Theater. Beanie Feldstein, currently playing Fanny was initially slated to leave the show on Sept. 25, but that was moved up to July 31 with Feldstein announcing her departure on Instagram. Standby Julie Benko will play the lead from Aug. 2 through Sept. 4 and will continue for Thursday performances starting Sept. 8. 

Michele was last on Broadway in Spring Awakening. During her tenure on six seasons of Glee, she often performed songs from the Funny Girl score and at one point there were rumors she would star in a production which never came to fruition. Glee cast member Samantha Marie Ware has accused Michele of creating a toxic work environment on that series. She tweeted her displeasure with the casting news.

Feldshuh was last seen on Broadway in the Pippin revival and she has been nominated for four Tonys (Golda's Balcony, Lend Me a Tenor, Sarava, Yentl) and won two Drama Desks (Golda's Balcony, Lend Me a Tenor). But I remember her most for playing Peter Pan at Philadelphia's Playhouse in the Park.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 29: Paley Center for Media Visit Two

I returned to the Paley Center for Media and viewed another brace of complete Carol Burnett Show episodes unavailable on DVD or YouTube. This set had segments previously seen on the MeTV series of chopped-up episodes, but with much missing material now finally unearthed.

Season Two:
Jan. 20, 1969: Tim Conway, Perry Como
Tim as the warden on New Year's Eve
Two sketches from this show featuring Tim Conway are part of the abbreviated syndicated package but I have not reviewed them previously because they were not particularly memorable. In the first Tim is a drunk prison warden called out of a New Year's Eve party to quell a riot. Harvey is the head guard vainly attempting to get his blotto boss to address the dire situation. The second features Tim as rich, plain girl Carol's fiancee seeking to impress her ultra-stuffy father Harvey. (Lyle appears as Carol's swishy, ultra-handsome brother for exposition purposes.) The only trouble is Tim has been given an allergy shot which makes him act like a cat. This basic premise was repeated on another show with Tim reacting to an injection meant for the family dog by behaving like a canine in front of his supervisor (Harvey again). 

Friday, July 8, 2022

B'way Update: Collaboration, & Juliet, Almost Famous

Summertime and the livin' is easy. Fewer shows are opening so my life isn't quite so hectic. But we do have some news of Broadway openings and changes for the fall season. Two productions from London have confirmed Broadway transfers and a previously announced new musical has landed a theater and shifted its dates.

Jeremy Pope and Paul Bettany
in The Collaboration.
Credit: Marc Brenner
The Collaboration, a new play by Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten (The Two Popes, The Theory of Everything, Bohemian Rhapsody) focusing on the relationship between artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, will open on Broadway as part of Manhattan Theater Club's season at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater after a hit London run at the Young Vic. Previews begin Nov. 29 in advance of a Dec. 20 opening. McCarten is also the book-author of A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical which will open Dec. 4 at the Broadhurst.

Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope will repeat their London performances as Warhol and Basquiat. The play, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic, takes place in 1984 when the two influential artists were working together on what would become one of the most famous exhibitions in modern art history. Bettany, best known for his film work including several Marvel Universe films as The Vision and A Knight's Tale, A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, will be making his Broadway debut. Pope recently achieved the rare feat of receiving two Tony nominations in the same season--for Choir Boy and Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. He also received an Emmy nomination for the Netflix mini-series, Hollywood

The Collaboration will follow MTC's staging of Cost of Living at the Friedman, but no specific dates have been announced yet for that production. 

Note: While this show adds to the number of new British plays planned for Broadway, there are no new original American plays which have not been seen previously Off-Broadway, with definite Broadway dates for 2022-23.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 28: Paley Center for Media Visit One

Carol at the Paley Center for Media
Now that it's the summer, I have more free time to complete my life's work of piecing together the missing Carol Burnett Show episodes from the first five seasons. Amazon has made available several complete masters of shows which have been chopped up for half-hour segments in syndication (see Part 26 and 27, and future blogs). But there are still incomplete episodes with missing material. About eight or nine of these are available for viewing at the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Broadcasting) in Manhattan. My fellow Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle member Jane Klain who works there, helped me to take a look recently. I spent a lovely summer afternoon filling in the blanks on several episodes, some were in black and white, many contained the original commercials. 

Season One:
Sept. 18, 1967: Sid Caesar, Liza Minnelli

(Previously seen on MeTV/Amazon/ShoutFactory and YouTube and reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Parts 9 and 15: VIP sketch Lucy Brains; Liza sings "The Debutante Ball"; Sid first time father monologue; "Who's Afraid of Virginia Robot" sketch; Liza and Carol in Time medley; Carol and Sis--sleeping pill Sketch with Reta Shaw)
The only new pieces of material from this second-ever broadcast episode were the opening number, a brief commercial spoof and the finale. The opening features Carol singing the title song from Cabaret (funny to think it was brand new at the time). For some reason, we are in a giant kitchen with the chorus boys dressed as chefs (look closely and you will see future Tony nominee Lee Roy Reams) and the girls as waitresses. Carol sings the number while the chorus balances trays and glasses, finally setting up a table with a bucket of champagne for Carol and she promptly drops her tray and breaks the glasses. The short commercial spoof has a disappointed Carol coming home from a date. She's down because her fellow offered a handshake at the door instead of a kiss. Her roommate suggests using a new mouthwash. "I'll try it, maybe it'll work," Carol moans. Then we cut to a few weeks later, Carol enters with her clothes half-ripped-off, her hair disheveled and she cries happily, "IT WORKED!" So in 1967, the goal of every young woman was to have fresh breath and be sexually assaulted?

The finale involves Carol as a clumsy chorine lousing up Sid's big number in a Ziegfeld Follies type extravaganza. She manages to rip his sleeve off, get her bracelet stuck on his costume, and her feather boa attached to his back. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

B'way Update: Cast Announced for Leopoldstadt; Camelot Postponed to Spring 2023, etc.

We are now officially in the 2022-23 Broadway/Off-Broadway season. The first two shows of the new season will open soon: Into the Woods on July 10 and The Kite Runner on July 21. In addition, Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt, opening Oct. 2 at the Longacre has made cast announcements and Camelot will shift opening dates to much later in the season.

Three-time Tony nominee
Brandon Uranowitz 
Leopoldstadt will be Stoppard's 19th play on Broadway, follows a Viennese family from 1899 to the mid-1950s, and features a cast of 38, a huge number for a straight play. Four members of the original London cast will repeat their performances from the Olivier Award-winning West End run in 2020. (The run was shut down due to the COVID epidemic, but returned for 12 weeks in 2021.) The company will include three-time Tony nominee Brandon Uranowitz (Burn This, Falsettoes, An American in Paris), Caissie Levy (currently in The Bedwetter, Caroline or Change, Frozen), Obie winner Betsy Aidem (Prayer for the French Republic, All the Way, the original cast of Steel Magnolias), Theater World Award winner Seth Numrich (Travesties, War Horse, Golden Boy), and Tedra Millan (Present Laughter). Twenty-three in the cast will be making their Broadway debuts. Tony nominee Patrick Marber (Travesties, Closer) directs. Previews begin Sept. 14.

Meanwhile, Lincoln Center Theater's revisal of Camelot, Lerner and Loewe's 1960 musicalization of the King Arthur legend with a new book by Aaron Sorkin, has postponed its Broadway dates at the Vivian Beaumont. The production to be directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, My Fair Lady, The King and I), was originally set to open on Dec. 8 and will now begin previews on March 9, 2023, opening April 13.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Off-B'way Update: Jim Parsons to Star in A Man of No Importance

Jim Parsons
Credit: Jesse Dittmar
Four-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) will star in a revival of A Man of No Importance, the musical based on the 1994 film starring Albert Finney, to be directed by Tony and Drama Desk winner John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, The Color Purple, Company). Previews begins Oct. 11 at Classic Stage Company for an Oct. 30 opening. This will be Doyle's final production at CSC as artistic director after staging productions including Passion, Carmen Jones, and Assassins. Parsons has previously appeared on Broadway in The Boys in the Band, The Normal Heart, An Act of God and Harvey. He will play Alfie Byrne, a Irish bus driver with a theatrical flair. While suppressing his gay affections, Alfie leads an amateur dramatic company in a production of Oscar Wilde's Salome over the objections of the local church. 

The show with a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater in 2002 and starred Roger Rees, Faith Prince, Sally Murphy, Charles Keating, and Stephen Pasquale. It won the Outer Critics Circle Award as Best Off-Broadway Musical.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Off-B'way Update: Ralph Fiennes To Play Robert Moses

Ralph Fiennes as Robert Moses
in Straight Line Crazy
Credit: Manuel Harlan
Oscar nominee and Tony winner Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List, Hamlet) will return to the New York stage this fall to play influential builder Robert Moses in Straight Line Crazy by award-winning playwright David Hare. Following a successful run in London's Bridge Theatre, the play will begin previews at the Shed's intimate Griffin Theater on Oct. 18 in advance of an Oct. 26 opening for limited nine-week engagement through Dec. 18. For 40 years, Moses was considered the most powerful man in New York, building expressways, public parks and bridges and bending mayors and governors to his will. If you watched any Zoom interviews on cable news during the COVID pandemic, you probably saw a copy of The Power Broker, an 1100-page biography of Moses by Robert A. Caro, on innumerable bookshelves. 

Hare's play is set during two decisive moments in Moses' career: In the late 1920s when he began to rise to power and in the 1950s when there was public outcry against Moses because his projects were destroying disadvantaged neighborhoods. The play is directed by Tony winner Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys, Miss Saigon). Hare has had nine plays produced on Broadway including Plenty, Racing Demon, Skylight, The Vertical Hour, Amy's View, and Via Dolorosa which he also starred in. Fiennes last appeared on Broadway in The Faith Healer in 2006. He recently appeared in London in the solo plays Beat the Devil by Hare (in which he played the playwright coping with COVID) and an adaptation of TS Eliot's Four Quartets.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 27: More Original Broadcast Masters

Here are some more reviews of full-length Carol Burnett Show episodes now available on FreeVee via Amazon. 

Season Two:
Dec. 30, 1968: Mickey Rooney, Nancy Wilson
Previously seen on MeTV: (reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 14): Pat Nixon and Lady Bird; Kid Town Movie Parody; Nancy Wilson and Carol in awkward audition sketch with Harvey as swishy director.

Both guests have musical solos--Nancy Wilson with "The Man That Got Away" and Mickey Rooney with a sad number about a guy who's been fired and his wife has left him, but he still keeps his chin up, then sings Auld Lang Syne because it's New Year's Eve, you see. Carol does a satiric yuletide number called "The Twelve Days After Christmas." The Carol and Sis sketch is particularly lame with Carol suffering from amnesia after a hit on the head. She can't recall the last four years. She and Roger have been married for three years and only met one year before that. Hilarity ensues as Roger tries to convince Carol he is her husband and they can sleep in the same bed (Oh no!) Fortunately, Crissy bangs Carol on the noggin with a kitchen cabinet door and everything comes back to her. Vicki is featured in the finale with the chorus boys posing as a rock band, delivering "Rhythm Is Our Business."

Friday, June 24, 2022

The 12th Annual David Desk Awards

Theater award season is over and I've summed up almost all the major theater awards. Now it's time for the David Desk Awards, my own personal choices for the best of the Broadway and Off-Broadway season. We had to skip a year due to the COVID shutdown in 2021. Not included are shows with Off-Broadway runs in previous seasons such as The Lehman Trilogy and Girl from the North Country. I've listed my favorites in multiple categories and they are all winners:

Will Brill and Kyle Beltran in
A Case for the Existence of God
Credit: Emilio Madrid


A Case for the Existence of God (Samuel D. Hunter)

English (Sanaz Toossi)

On Sugarland (Aleasha Harris)

Pass Over (Antoinette Chinoye Nwandu)

The Minutes (Tracey Letts)

Thoughts of a Colored Man (Keenan Scott II)



Intimate Apparel

Kimberly Akimbo

Mr. Saturday Night

Mrs. Doubtfire


Revival of a Play:

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

How I Learned to Drive

Take Me Out

Trouble in Mind

The revival of Company announced 
a closing date of July 31, despite winning
7 David Desk Awards
Credit: Matthew Murphy

Revival of a Musical:


Caroline, or Change


The Music Man