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...