Tuesday, March 28, 2023

B'way Update: Smash to the Stage, Roundabout and CSC Seasons

The TV series Smash
serves as the inspiration for a new musical
set for 2024-25
It hardly seems possible, but there are already plans being hatched for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 Broadway and Off-Broadway seasons. Two theater companies, Roundabout Theater Company and CSC, have announced their schedules for 2023-24 and the long-awaited stage version of the TV series Smash has been announced for the 2024-25. 

The producers of Smash who include Steven Spielberg intend to open the show two seasons hence. The book by Ric Elice (Jersey Boys) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) will differ somewhat from the 2012-13 NBC series upon which it is based. The basic premise of a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a musical based on the turbulent life of Marilyn Monroe will remain intact. Some characters will return, others will not. The producers report the story will be funnier than the series which employed a series of melodramatic plot twists as we follow Bombshell, the Monroe tuner, from inception to out-of-town try-out to opening night to the Tony Awards. Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman (The Producers, Contact) will direct. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray, Some Like It Hot) will provide the score which will include songs written for the series as well as new ones. Joshua Bergasse returns as choreographer.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Book Review: After Dark

Downloaded on my Kindle. I got bored with David Brooks' The Road to Character (found in the bookcase of our co-op's basement for free) which was too much like a lecture, so I stopped and downloaded this short Haraki Murakami novel. I was intrigued by the premise of a group of interconnected characters floating around Tokyo's night world. I thought it would be about underworld intrigue and there is an element of that with a Chinese prostitute getting beaten up by a john, an otherwise "normal" business man. But the bulk of the story concerns a teenage girl meeting a musician at an all-night Denny's and sharing their sense of alienation in typical cryptic Murakami fashion. The girl's sister sleeps all day and night and the guy feels rootless. They reach out to each other and to the staff at a "love hotel" where couples shack up for a quick roll in the sheets. Something sweet and charming about it despite the unsavory atmosphere.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

B'way Update: Final Sondheim; Merrily Finds Theater; No More Room

Stephen Sondheim will have
 two productions on the boards
in 2023-24

There are ups and down on and Off-Broadway this week. The last Stephen Sondheim show is finally announcing dates and a theater as is the Broadway transfer of New York Theater Workshop's revival of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. And one upcoming Broadway show has been forced to shut down before it even began performances. 

Here We Are, the last Stephen Sondheim musical will premiere at the Shed's Griffin Theater in September 2023. Casting and specifics dates will be announced at a later date. Based on two Luis Bunuel films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, Here We Are features a book by David Ives (All in the Timing, Venus in Fur) and direction by Joe Mantello who won a Tony for his staging of Sondheim's Assassins. Not long before his death in 2021, Sondheim appeared on Stephen Colbert's late-night talk show and confirmed that the show, under the title of Square One, had a workshop with Nathan Lane and Bernadette Peters and would be coming to Broadway the following season. 

Another Sondheim show will also be coming to Broadway in 2023-24. The New York Theater Workshop revival of Merrily We Roll Along has been announced as beginning previews at the Hudson Theater on Sept. 19. (Opening to be announced.) Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, Lindsay Mendez, Krystal Joy Brown, Katie Rose Clark, and Reg Rogers will repeat their performances from the NYTW production which was directed by Maria Friedman. Her staging was first seen at London's Menier Chocolate Factory and later transfered to the West End where it won the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. This will be the first Broadway revival of Merrily which originally closed after only 16 performances and ended the collaboration between Sondheim and Harold Prince. There have been Off-Broadway productions in 1994 (York Theater) and 2019 (Fiasco Theater at Roundabout's Laura Pels stage) as well as acclaimed concert versions. 
Lindsay Mendez, Jonathan Groff and
Daniel Radcliffe in
Merrily We Roll Along
Credit: Joan Marcus

Saturday, March 11, 2023

2023 Oscars Films and Quick Predix

Everything Everywhere All at Once
will probably be the big winner
at tomorrow night's Oscars.
Credit: A24
I've been too busy to write anything in depth about the Oscars which are tomorrow night. But here are the Oscar nominated films I have seen so far. I might try to see one more tonight. Perhaps I'll do something radical and try to see all the nominated films AFTER the awards. The point is to enjoy great films. Guessing winners should be secondary. What's interesting is that award shows in general seem to be losing favor. The SAGs and the Independent Spirit Awards were both livestreamed on YouTube and not shown on any broadcast or cable network. As the Oscars lose ratings every year and become more and more out of touch with most moviegoers' sensibilities and lives, perhaps that is their ultimate destination. Another interesting note: I've only seen one of these nominated films in an actual theater. It's just so much easy to click your remote rather than getting in our car or bus, driving to the cinema, putting up with possible rude behavior, etc. Will movie theaters go the way of paper checks, books, LPs, magazines--charming remnants of a bygone, more personal, less digitized age?

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Book Review: First Person Singular: Stories

Taken out of the Jackson Heights Library and read in a few days. I've read lots of Murakami and this eight-story collection was satisfying and bite-sized, yet so weird the stories linger long after you have finished them. As per the title all are in first person, some seem be spoken by the author himself. Most of the narrators are recalling enigmatic encounters in their past. There are ruminations on baseball and music (both jazz and classical), a meeting with a speaking monkey (who also appeared in Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman) who steals people's names. A dream meeting with Charlie Parker. I think I liked With the Beatles best where a man recalls the impact of the Beatles on his generation, the strange older brother of his girlfriend, and Percy Faith's theme from A Summer Place playing in the background. The stories don't always make sense, and they don't have to. Murakami doesn't rely on conventional plot, but creates a feeling and evocations based on situations, objects, meetings, etc.