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

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 26: Original Broadcast Masters Collection

I knew if I waited long enough, the missing, original hour-length versions of Carol's variety series not available on streaming, PBS reruns, or DVDs would eventually emerge. At long last they have--or at least some of them have. While scrolling through Amazon Prime, I came across a new platform called FreeVee (formerly the streaming arm of which contains the "Original Broadcast Masters Collection" of the series. There are several full-length episodes not already on various DVD collections. But you have to endure several minutes of commercials to get through each segment. This new collection contains many complete shows only previously available on the hacked-up, 22-minute syndicated reruns. Here is the first installment of these episodes with the missing material. I will note which pieces have been seen in the MeTV/Shout Factory vignettes and if I've reviewed them in previous blogs.

Season One
Nov. 13, 1967: Richard Chamberlain, Kay Medford, Gloria Loring

Previously seen on MeTV (reviewed in Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 8): Gone with the Breeze sketch, Carol and Sis sketch with Kay Medford as Roger's domineering sister.
Richard Chamberlain in a long-lost
musical number from Carol's show in 1967;
he's got that far-away look in his eyes.
Richard Chamberlain, America's heartthrob from his starring role on the Dr. Kildare series, gives Carol a big kiss during the audience intro, ostensibly to make Lyle jealous. Almost sixty years later, we know Chamberlain was a closeted gay and when he says to Carol, "It won't work," we know he's wasn't just referring to failing to turn Lyle envious. Also in the intro, Carol mentions that Kay Medford is currently filming Funny Girl as Barbra Streisand's mother. 

There's a brief sketch with Harvey at an airport interviewing passengers, which was used as running gag in later shows. Here he only speaks to one subject: Carol as mother of the year with septuplets. Jokes about confusing babies and her husband's sexual prowess proliferate, then it abruptly ends with Carol loaded down with seven dolls wrapped in blankets. Musical numbers excised from the MeTV version include Carol singing "Everybody's Gotta Be Someplace" with the chorus is orange and brown, semi-tropical wear, evidently on vacation in the Carribbean; Richard Chamberlain and the kids in flower-power slacks and sweaters warbling about loving some girl on a lazy day (he does some nice ballet moves); Gloria Loring singing "A Taste of Honey" and "I've Gotta Be Me" in front of a bunch of mirrors; Carol and Vicki in the finale boogeying in red-sequined maxi dresses, the chorus boys in blue Nehru jackets and black wigs and moustaches, and the girls in black sequins.

Friday, June 17, 2022

B'way Update: Suzan-Lori Parks, Lorraine Hansberry

Suzan-Lori Parks
Many African-American women playwrights such as Lynn Nottage, Aleasha Harris, Dominique Morriseau, Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, and Erika Dickerson-Despina have had their work celebrated in the just-finished 2022-23 New York theater season. Two pioneering black women authors will be celebrated in many ways in 2022-23 on and Off-Broadway. Lorraine Hansberry, the first black woman to have a play produced on Broadway, will appear as a character in a play and have her landmark A Raisin in the Sun revived. Suzan-Lori Parks, the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, will also see the play that got her that honor on stage again as well as a slew of new works.

Parks' Topdog/Underdog will be presented in a 20th anniversary production directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon at the Golden Theater with previews beginning Sept. 27 for an Oct. 20 opening. Tony nominee Corey Hawkins (In the Heights, The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen) comprise the entire cast as two brothers obsessed with history and a street card game. The play began life at the Public Theater and then transferred to Broadway with Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def in 2002.

Parks is now Writer-in-Residence at the Public and she will have two new works presented there this coming season. Plays for the Plague Year (Nov. 4-27) is the result of Parks' project to write a play every day from the start of the pandemic theater lockdown on March 13, 2020. This sweeping look at how the pandemic effected us all will be staged in the intimate Joe's Pub. Parks has also written the book for The Harder They Fall (Winter 2023), a new musical based on the 1972 film about a young singer challenging the corrupt music industry in Jamaica. The score will consists of songs from the film by Jimmy Cliff.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

2022 Theater Awards--ALL the Acting Winners and Nominees

With award season over after Sunday night's presentation of the Tony Awards and Tuesday's Drama Desk ceremony, here's a summary of all the NY theater acting nominees and winners for 2021-22. Winners are capitalized and nominees are in lower case. Some performances such as Phylicia Rashad in Skeleton Crew and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Take Me Out have been placed in different categories (lead or featured) by different groups. That is noted in the parentheses. The only awards not yet presented are the Chita Rivera Awards for outstanding dance performances which will be given out on June 20, so only nominees are listed. There were a few nominees for the Chitas from previous seasons such as Adrienne Warren in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. I only included nominees for the current 2021-22 season. The only major award missing is the Obie Awards. According to the Obie Awards website, they will not take place until November 2022 and will include Off and Off-Off-Broadway productions from July 1, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2022. 
Guide to abbreviations=
Bayfield=St. Clair Bayfield Award for performance in a Shakespearean role
Calloway=Joseph Calloway for performance in a classic play
CD=Clarence Derwent Awards for newcomers in featured roles
CR=Chita Rivera Awards for dance performances (nominees only)
DD=Drama Desk
DL=Drama League
L=Lortel Awards for Off-Broadway
OCC=Outer Critics Circle
RS=Richard Seff Awards for veteran performers
TW=Theater World Awards, for newcomers and those making their Broadway or Off-Broadway debuts.
Outstanding Actor in a Play
Patrick J. Adams, Take Me Out (occ, TW)
Simon Russell Beale
in The Lehman Trilogy.
Credit: Mark Douet

Simon Russell Beale, The Lehman Trilogy (OCC, TONY)
W. Tre Davies, Tambo and Bones (l)
Brandon J. Dirden, Skeleton Crew (dd--lead, occ--featured)
Adam Godley, The Lehman Trilogy (occ, tony)
Adrian Lester, The Lehman Trilogy (occ, tony)
Jacob Ming-Trent, Merry Wives (dd)
David Morse, How I Learned to Drive (tony)
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo (occ, tony)
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues (DD, tony)
John Douglas Thompson, The Merchant of Venice (dd)
David Threlfall, Hangmen (tony)

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 25

Season Six: 
March 17, 1973: William Conrad, Peggy Lee

Carol and Isabel Sanford
as Broad and New Jersey
in the parody of Maude.
I happened to be scrolling through the program guide on TV the other day and decided to record the MeTV half-hour butcher-shop edition of Carol's show which featured William Conrad because it said TV parodies. That sounded like fun so I DVRed it. The 22-min. edition begins with a typically lamebrained Carol and Sis sketch. Harvey as Roger has been mugged and Conrad is a police detective visiting the house to take his statement (like that would happen today.) This plays on Conrad's role as TV detective Canon. The scene ends with Roger having to admit he mistakenly attacked an old man thinking the geezer was trying to rob him. Turns out the old guy is a judge and Roger's in big trouble (Wah-wah!)

Thursday, June 9, 2022

B'way Update: Stoppard, Sesame St., Good Night Oscar, Lena Horne, etc.

A scene from Leopoldstadt
Credit: Marc Brenner
Lots of theater news to report: Tom Stoppard's latest play Leopoldstadt has announced a theater and dates for its Broadway transfer after a critically acclaimed London production in 2020. The decade-spanning epic work about multiple generations of a Jewish-Catholic family in Vienna will begin previews at the Longacre Theatre on Sept. 14 in advance of an Oct. 2 opening. This will be Stoppard's 19th play on Broadway since Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead opened in 1967. He has won four Best Play Tony Awards (for R & G Are Dead, Travesties, The Real Thing, and The Coast of Utopia.) Leopoldstadt won the Olivier Award for its London run but was stopped short by the COVID shutdown. It's the first play in which the playwright uses his Jewish background as a source. 

Also from London: Killing Eve star Jodie Comer will star in Suzie Miller's one-person play Prime Facie, now in the West End, on Broadway in Spring 2023 at a Shubert theater to be announced. Previously presented in Sydney, Australia, Prime Facie focuses on a brilliant barrister coping with patriarchal power, burden of proof and morality. 

Ben Rappaport as Jack Paar and 
Sean Hayes as Oscar Levant
in Good Night, Oscar.
Credit: Liz Lauren

It's not confirmed, but Emmy winner Sean Hayes has stated on his podcast that Good Night Oscar by Tony winner Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife, War Paint) will be arriving on Broadway. Hayes starred in the title role, pianist-actor-humorist Oscar Levant, during a smash hit run at Chicago's Goodman Theater. The play is set during an appearance by Levant on Jack Paar's talk show and features Hayes brilliantly playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Levant was a dry-witted comic, gifted composer and musician. He often played the sarcastic, deadpan best friend of the hero in such classic movie musicals as An American in Paris, The Barkleys of Broadway, Romance on the High Seas, and The Band Wagon.

Nanette Fabray, Oscar Levant,
and Fred Astaire in
The Band Wagon

Sunday, June 5, 2022

2021-22 Tony and Drama Desk Predictions

Once again the Tony and Drama Desk Awards will be very different from each other this year. The Tonys only consider Broadway shows and the DDs include on and Off in all their multiple categories. Thus, The Lehman Trilogy which has an Off-Broadway run in 2019-20 is not eligible for the DDs because it was in the running earlier and Kimberly Akimbo is a DD candidate, but will be up for Tonys next season when it transfers. (The Outer Critics disagreed about Lehman and included it in their awards this year. Maybe because the run Off-Broadway was so short and not many voting members saw it then.)

The Tony will be presented on June 12. The DDs will announce their winners this coming week of June 6 (the date has not been given out as of yet) and presented in a ceremony at Sardi's restaurant. Having just caught up with Funny Girl last week, I was finally able to cast my ballot in both awards. Here are my predictions and where applicable, my preferences for the winners.

Best Play:
Tony: Lehman Trilogy
Drama Desk: Prayer for the French Republic
My preferences: The Minutes (Tony); English (DD)
As noted above, Lehman Trilogy is not eligible for the Drama Desks, but it will probably sweep the Tonys as it did the OCCs, where it won six awards including Best Play, Director, Actor and three design categories. For the Drama Desks, there are no Broadway plays nominated (I would have preferred The Minutes at least be included.) So this will one of the rare times, the DD has awarded Best PLay to a non-Broadway show. In the over 40 years since the Drama Desk began given out Best Play awards, they have only done it seven times. The rare past exceptions are Admissions (2018), Tribes (2012),
Ruined (2009), Wit (1999), How I Learned to Drive (1997), Marvin's Room (1992), and A Lie of the Mind (1986). If my prediction comes true, the playwright Joshua Harmon will have the rare distinction of winning the Best Play DD Award twice for an Off-Broadway play. He is the author of both Admissions and Prayer for the French Republic.

Best Musical:
Tony and Drama Desk: Six
My preferences: A Strange Loop (Tony); Kimberly Akimbo (DD)
A Strange Loop has received the most Tony nominations this year with 11, but racking the most noms is not always an indicator of taking home the big prize. Loop covers the unconventional subject matter of a
Will Six deep-six A Strange Loop?
Credit: Liz Lauren

black, gay musical theater writer and includes some pretty graphic material. However, there was such a backlash at the last Tonys when Slave Play, a work by an African-American author, was skunked after receiving the most nominations for a straight play ever, that there might be a Strange Loop sweep in response to fears of Tony voters being accused of racism. But, if the box office trumps social qualms, the Tonys might go the safe route and chose the commercially popular Six as might the DDs. Six is the only Broadway nominated for the DDs so the odds in favor of an Off show like Kimberly Akimbo winning. But the DDs have only presented an Off-Broadway tuner with their big honor three times: Little Shop of Horrors (1983), Hamilton (2015), and A Strange Loop (2020) during its Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons.

Friday, June 3, 2022

B'way Update: Almost Famous, Thanksgiving Play, Theater for Salesman

The cast of the Almost Famous musical
in its premiere at the
Old Globe Theater in San Diego in 2019
(Credit: Neal Preston)
We're almost at the very end of the 2021-22 Broadway/Off-Broadway season--it will end for me when I finally get to see Funny Girl after numerous delays and COVID cases. Now we have three more news items about the upcoming 2022-23 season: On tap are a new musical based on a hit movie, a theater company announces additions to its on and Off-Broadway schedule, and the Death of a Salesman revival has a theater.

The new musical is Almost Famous, featuring lyrics and book by Cameron Crowe based on his iconic 2000 autobiographical film based on his days as a teenage rock critic. Crowe won an Oscar for the screenplay. The show, which also features music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) who collaborated on the lyrics with Crowe, will begin preview performances at a Shubert-owned theater to be announced on Sept. 13 prior to an Oct. 11 opening. In addition to original songs, the score will include pop-rock classics such as Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and Joni Mitchell's "River." The show, directed by Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall) had a previous production at San Diego's Old Globe Theater in 2019. There were plans to bring it to Broadway, but the COVID shutdown delayed them.

The cast will include Casey Likes in his Broadway debut as the young journalist, Chris Wood (Supergirl, The Vampire Diaries), Drama Desk winner Anika Larsen (Beautiful), Solea Pfeiffer (Hamilton), and Drew Gehling (Waitress).

A scene from the 2018 Off-Broadway
production of
The Thanksgiving Play
at Playwrights Horizons.
Credit: Joan Marcus
Second Stage has announced new shows for its upcoming season. Larissa FastHorse's The Thanksgiving Play will open on Broadway at the company's Hayes Theater in the spring of 2023. The playwright will be the first Native American female author to be produced on Broadway. The play is described as a satiric comedy about a group of well-intentioned white theater artists collaborating on a culturally sensitive holiday pageant from the Native American point of view. The premiere production was presented Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons in 2018. This new production will be directed by Tony winner Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown).

So far, every straight play announced for the 2022-23 Broadway season is either an adaptation of a book (The Kite Runner), a revival (Death of a Salesman, The Piano Lesson) or has had a previous Off-Broadway production (Cost of Living, Between Riverside and Crazy, Thanksgiving Play). That means that as of now, there are no new, original plays planned for Broadway next season.