Tuesday, October 31, 2023

B'way Update: Tveit and Foster Confirmed for Sweeney; More Casting; More Rumors

Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit
will star in Sweeney Todd
Credit: Matthew Murphy
As reported yesterday and now confirmed, Tony winners Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster will assume the roles of Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett in the current revival of Sweeney Todd at the Lunt-Fontanne. They will begin performances Feb. 9, 2024 for 12 weeks through May 5. Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford continue in the starring parts until Jan. 14, 2024....Tony nominee Ato Blankson-Wood (Slave Play, Hamlet) has been cast in the role of Cliff (originated by Bert Convy of Tattletales fame) in the upcoming revival of Cabaret, alongside Eddie Redmayne and Gayle Rankin. Ato Blankson-Wood said, "I am beyond excited to return to Broadway in Rebecca Frecknall's brilliant production of Cabaret. I recognize the weight and responsibility of telling this particular story at this particular moment and am emboldened by the fact that I'll get to do it alongside Eddie Redmayne and Gayle Rankin, two actors whom I admire so deeply. Cliff, like me, is an artist attempting to create and make sense of the world against a backdrop of escalating violence and hatred, I look forward to learning what he has to teach me."

Ato Blankson-Wood

Monday, October 30, 2023

B'way Update: Lempicka Confirmed; Plus Rumors

Eden Espinosa and George Abud
in Lempicka at La Jolla Playhouse.
Credit: Matthew Murphy
The musical Lempicka, based on the life of controversial Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, will join a growing number of new musicals opening on Broadway this spring. After regional runs at the Williamstown Theater Festival and La Jolla Playhouse, previews begin March 19 in advance of an April 14 opening at the Longacre Theater. Eden Espinosa (also starring in The Gardens of Anuncia this season Off-Broadway) will play the title role and Tony winner Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown) will direct. The book, lyrics and original concept are by Carson Kreitzer and the music is by Matt Gould who also co-authored the book.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Book Review: Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the Romance of the Century

(Bought for $4.95 at Central Books, Doylestown, PA) Hollywood Reporter Executive Editor Stephen Galloway's detailed account of the intense, rollercoaster relationship between Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, two of the most glamorous stars of the 20th century, relies mostly on other biographies, letters, diary entries, and memoirs including those of Olivier himself. There are some original interviews and new insights into Leigh's misunderstood mental illness from psychologists. The emphasis is on the romance and break-up with additional commentary on their stage and film projects. Leigh was the big star when she unexpectedly grabbed the most sought-after female role in Hollywood history--Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. She etched another screen memory into history with her Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire. Olivier had to take a back seat until he broke through with definite Shakespeare interpretations of Titus Andronicus, Henry V, Richard III, and Hamlet. Leigh's star faded as Olivier's burned brighter. A cruel industry with few roles for older women shut her out. Plus her mental instability drove Olivier away and into the arms of the more stable and centered Joan Plowright. A fascinating read, but I would have liked more information about the filming of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and Ship of Fools (in which Leigh played characters amazingly like herself). The cover photo is beautiful with both subjects laughing hysterically as they arrive at an airport somewhere. I don't know if the Oliviers were truly the "Romance of the Century." The Burtons (Liz and Dick) or the Duke and Duchess of Windsor may have that title.

Friday, October 27, 2023

B'way Update: Kenny Leon to Direct Our Town

Frank Craven, Martha Scott, and
John Craven in the original 1938
production of Our Town.
Tony winning director Kenny Leon, represented this season with the revival of Purlie Victorious, will direct Our Town, Thornton Wilder's 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, for the 2024-25 Broadway season. Casting, specific dates and a theater will be announced at a later date. 

The favorite of community and high-school theaters focuses on the town of Grovers' Corners, New Hampshire as a microcosm for the human condition as we view two typical families going through the stages of youth, marriage, and death. 

Our Town has been seen on Broadway a total of five times with the most recent revivals starring Henry Fonda (1969), Spalding Gray (1988) and Paul Newman (2002). An Off-Broadway 2009 production directed by David Cromer ran for 644 performances, the longest run of the play. A 1940 film version featured original cast members Frank Craven and Martha Scott as well as a very young William Holden. A 1955 TV musical version starred a younger Newman, Eva Marie Saint and Frank Sinatra. A later 1977 video staging was headlined by Hal Holbrook, Sada Thompson, Ned Beatty, Robbie Benson, Barbara Del Geddes, Ronny Cox, and Gynnis O'Connor.

Kenny Leon has recently staged productions of Suzan Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog (Tony Award for Best Revival), Ohio State Murders by Adrienne Kennedy, A Soldier’s Play, Fences, American Son and two revivals of A Raisin in the Sun garnering him a Tony Award for Best Director.  In the spring of 2024, he will direct the previously announced Broadway production of Home by Samm-Art Williams presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

B'way Update: The Who's Tommy

Ali Louis Bourzgui (on table) in
the Goodman Theater production
of The Who's Tommy,
headed for Broadway in March 2024.
Credit: Liz Lauren
The reimagined revival of The Who's Tommy which had a hit run at Chicago's Goodman Theater this past summer will join other renovated revivals including Cabaret, Merrily We Roll Along, and The Wiz on Broadway. The musical based on The Who's 1969 concept album about a deaf, mute and blind pinball wizard will begin previews at the Nederlander Theater, to be vacated by Shucked in early 2024, on March 8 with an opening set for March 28. The Who's Tommy originally opened in 1993 with direction by Des McAnuff who will return as stager. McAnuff also co-wrote the book with The Who's Pete Townshend. The two reunited for this production to revise the script. 

Casting will be announced at a later date. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

B'way Update: Cabaret Stars and Dates Confirmed

Gayle Rankin and Eddie Redmayne
will star in Cabaret on Broadway
Credit: Mason Poole
Star casting and dates have been confirmed for the upcoming revival of Cabaret, the fifth Broadway production of the Kander and Ebb musical based on John van Druten's I Am a Camera and Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. Oscar and Tony winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, Red) will repeat his London, Olivier winning performance as the Emcee and Gayle Rankin (HBO's House of the Dragon) will play Sally Bowles, the tragic nightclub singer. This immersive production directed by Rebecca Frecknall began life in London's West End in November 2021 and went on to win seven Olivier Awards, the most for any musical revival. For the Broadway transfer, the August Wilson Theater will be transformed into Berlin's Kit Kat Klub of the play's setting with an in-the-round auditorium and "dream spaces" where audience members can enjoy pre-show entertainment, drinks and dining. Ticketholders will have timed entries to partake of the pre-show events.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon

JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers
 and Jillian Dion in
Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
(Apple Original Films)
Killers of the Flower Moon is Martin Scorsese's latest complex, massive epic, hypnotic and absorbing despite its three and a half hour running time (I didn't even go to the bathroom once). Based on David Grann's nonfiction book on the conspiracy to murder Osage Native Americans for their oil rights in 1920s Oklahoma, the film contains beautiful cinematic landscapes and matter-of-fact depiction of gruesome killings. Lily Gladstone is particularly impressive as Molly Burkhart, the Osage woman who is the central target of the plot. 

Robert DeNiro is the white businessman behind the murders and Leonardo DiCaprio is his nephew who marries Molly to get her oil rights, but who also loves her as he slowly poisons her. Jesse Plemmons has a quiet authority as the FBI agent who methodically unravels the series of slaughters. Cara Jade Myers delivers a strong supporting performance as Anna Brown, Molly's sister, a tough cookie who carries a gun in her purse. There are effective cameos by John Lithgow and Brendan Fraser. 

The film ends with a radio play reducing the horrific acts of death to a facile entertainment and as Robert DeNiro's character predicts, they are soon forgotten. 

The events were previously depicted in The FBI Story (1959) starring Jimmy Stewart. But in that propaganda piece for J. Edgar Hoover, the Osage murders were one episode in a sweeping saga of FBI triumphs. 

The 2024 Oscar race is now shaping up as a race between Oppenheimer and Killers, with Ridley Scott's Napoleon (set to open during Thanksgiving) coming up fast. Scorsese should have as many Oscars as John Ford (4), but he has only won one for The Departed. Scorsese is just as influential as Ford and has lost, usually to Hollywood favorite actor-directors Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Clint Eastwood. Will he add a much deserved second Golden Guy for this latest masterpiece? 

2023 Potential Oscar Nominated Films Seen So Far
Oppenheimer (34th Street AMC)
Barbie (Regal Union Square)
Asteroid City (Angelika)
Golda (County Theater, Doylestown, PA)
Killers of the Flower Moon (Regal Kaufman Astoria)

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Cutting the Cable Chord: Part 7: Troubles with Hulu

Since we got rid of cable, we've saved money, but there have been issues with Hulu Plus Live TV.

Sometimes when you replay a show you've recorded and already watched part of, it will start at the beginning instead at the part you stopped it. Then you have to fast forward. Last night there were buffering problems with the latest episode of The Amazing Race. I got about 20 mins. into the show and then it just stopped playing. No matter how many times I would go in and come out, the playback got stuck as they bearded brothers were hauling mattresses and the father and daughter from Texas were getting stuck at fish market roadblock. I even unplugged my TV and reset everything.

I finally had to buy the episode at Amazon for $3. I couldn't have watched it on Paramount Plus because I gave that streaming service up when they dropped the Tony Awards pre-show and it went to Pluto TV. 

This season of the Amazing Race has been fun. The episodes have been expanded to 90 mins. because of the actors' strike. The idea being that CBS needs to take up more space of non-actor-necessary content. They have a whole season of 60 min. episodes in the can as well. (The writers' strike has been settled but the SAG-AFTRA one drags on. Will it be settled in time for the delayed Emmys in January and the subsequent Oscars?) Another Amazing Race change is the elimination of charter flights since the COVID pandemic has lessened. So we're back to scrambles at the airport and travel agencies which I always found boring. No favorite teams yet.

The rest of the night I switched to Disney Plus for a Season Two episode of The Mandalorian. It was pretty exciting. The Mandalorian had to transport a frog-like alien and her eggs someplace but their ship crashed and they were chased by a horde of giant spiders.

I might try the Loki series on Disney Plus and I'm eagerly awaiting the new episodes of Doctor Who.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

B'way Update: Revised Suffs with Hillary Clinton as Producer

Phillipa Soo and Shaina Taub in
Suffs at the Public Theater.
Credit: Joan Marcus
After a sold-out, extended run at the Public Theater in 2022, the musical Suffs, Shaina Taub's sweeping chronicle of the women's suffrage movement, will be opening on Broadway at the Music Box Theater. The opening is set for April 18 (preview dates have not been announced.)  Lead producers Jill Furman and Rachel Sussman will be joined by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai as co-producers. 

Suffs which takes place from 1913 to 1920 and follows the myriad advocates and activists who fought for women's right to vote, features book, music and lyrics by Taub who also played Alice Paul in the Off-Broadway production. Casting for the Broadway production is to be announced. Leigh Silverman will again serve as director. Furman has told the New York Times the musical has undergone significant revisions by Taub including changing songs and reducing the running time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

B'way Update: My Son and Casting Doubt

Rob Madge in his solo show
My Son's a Queer
(But What Can You Do?)

Credit: Mark Senior
Following acclaimed runs in London's West End and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Rob Madge's solo show My Son's a Queer (But What Can You Do?) will play Broadway this coming spring with previews starting Feb. 27, 2024 at the Lyceum Theater prior to an opening set for March 12. Madge wrote and stars in this autobiographical journey of one family as they explore their son's love of all things Disney, theater and their queer identity. Themes of pop culture love and self-discovery are woven through this Olivier-nominated one-person play. The action centers on Madge at age 12 as they create a Disney parade in their house for their grandmother. Madge, who is non-binary, has appeared in London productions of Mary Poppins, Oliver and Les Miz.
Rob Madge in
My Son's a Queer (But What Can You Do?)
Credit: Mark Senior

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Broadway Update: Tidbits

Scott Bakula
Both Purlie Victorious and Jaja's African Hair Braiding have extended their limited runs. Purlie will now play through Feb.4 at the Music Box and Jaja continued until Nov. 19 at the Samuel Friedman...Brooke Adams (Lend Me a Tenor, The Heidi Chronicles) replaces Jobeth Williams in Madwomen of the West, scheduled to open Dec. 11 at the Actors Temple Theater....Scott Bakula (NCIS New Orleans, Quantum Leap, Romance Romance) will headline a new musical The Connector at MCC Theater, previewing Jan. 12 and opening Feb. 6. The tuner about a rivalry at a 1990s newspaper features music and lyrics by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last 5 Years) and a book by Jonathan Marc Sherman (Women and Wallace, Clive)....Shucked will close at the Nederlander Theater on Jan. 14, 2024 after 28 previews and 327 regular performances....Here We Are, the final Sondheim musical, playing now in previews Off-Broadway at the Shed, has not invited nominating committees for either the Drama Desks or the Outer Critics Circle Awards and therefore has been deemed ineligible for those annual accolades.

Brooke Adams

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Cutting the Cable Chord: Part 6

Acquiring Hulu Live TV got us Disney Plus as part of the package. In addition to all the Star Wars series, the streaming service includes content from National Geographic which produced the Oscar nominated documentary Fire of Love about a French couple who were volcano experts. Up until the day they were killed by a lava explosion they were filming in Japan in the early 1990s, they documented their many expeditions with thousands of photographs, film and video. We watched it with commercial interruptions, which weren't too bad and I was able to add to the list of 2023 Oscar nominated films I've seen.

I also caught the Oscar-nominated short film La Pupille, about a group of Italian orphans during World War II who receive a luscious cake for Christmas, but the reverend mother plans to give it the bishop in return for much needed money. It was charming.

Updated List of 2022 Oscar/Other Award Nominated Pictures Seen:
All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix)
The Banshees of Inisherin (Amazon)
Elvis (HBO Max)
Everything Everywhere All at Once (Amazon)
The Fablemans (Amazon)
Tar (an actual movie theater--Kaufman Astoria Studios)
Triangle of Sadness (Hulu)
Women Talking (Amazon)
Till (Amazon)
To Leslie (Amazon)--surprisingly moving little indie film with a great lead performance by Andrea Riseborough as an alcoholic ex-Lottery winner (also loved Allison Janney as usual)
Aftersun (Amazon)
Living (Amazon)
The Whale (Amazon)
Causeway (Apple TV+)
EO (Lufthansa Flight 0404--Frankfurt to JFK)
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix)
All the Beauty and Bloodshed (Amazon)
Navalny (HBO Max)
Fire of Love (Disney +)
Pinocchio (Netflix)
Puss in Boots 2 (watched half of it on Amazon)

Nominated Short Films:
The Flying Sailor (YouTube)
The Ice Merchants (YouTube)
My Year of D**ks (Hulu)
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It (Vimeo)--I liked this one best. Very funny satire on stop-motion animation.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (Apple TV+)
The Elephant Whisperers (Netflix)
Haulout (YouTube)
The Martha Mitchell Effect (Netflix)
Stranger at the Gate (YouTube)--Very moving story about a former Marine who plans to bomb a mosque, but ends up converting to Islam after meeting the people there.
Nightride (YouTube)
La Pupille (Disney +)

Monday, October 9, 2023

Book Review: Sucker's Portfolio

(Downloaded on my Kindle for $2.99) As far as I can tell, this is the last of the Vonnegut fiction collections I have't read yet. I recently caught up with all his previously uncollected and unpublished works. I read Welcome to the Monkey House, his first published collection, in high school and should probably read that one again since I will understand it better. Sucker's Portfolio started as a Kindle Serial with each story--and an essay--dropped one at a time. Now as a collection, it also includes an unfinished sci-fi story, Robotville and Mr. Caslow which just ends abruptly in the middle of a scene.

I enjoyed Paris, France the most. This one did not touch on the usual Vonnegut dark subjects of war, outer space, etc. but focuses on relationships as three diverse couple share a train compartment on the way to and back from a vacation in the titular City of Light. Appearances are deceiving as each turns out to be totally different than what we expect from their initial descriptions.

Miss Snow, You're Fired also had some insightful characterization as a beautiful secretary enflames passions in a huge corporation, the site of many other Vonnegut stories.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Book Review: Armageddon in Retrospect

(Hardback in good condition. Bought for $7.95 at the Bucks County Bookstore, Doylestown, PA) Still more Vonnegut as I continue on my quest to read all of his miscellaneous posthumously published pieces. This collection has the common theme of the horrors of war and what it does to normally good people. This has ten short stories, one long non-fiction piece on his experience as a prisoner of war during the fire-bombing of Dresden, a letter written to his family as he waits to be transported back to the States, his last written speech (given at Clowes Hall in Indianapolis by his son Mark after Kurt's death), and an introduction by Mark.

The terror and devastation of warfare hits the hardest in his nonfiction piece, Wailing Shall Be in All Streets. The litany of death and destruction is truly stunning. My favorite story was Guns Before Butter wherein three American POWs scratch out recipes in notebooks for all the foods they'll eat when they get home. Their 60-ish German guard is also made a fully realized human being. While Spoils, Brighten Up and Just You and Me, Sammy depict Americans who cross over the line into greed and plunder. The sci-fi story Great Day was confusing to me. The premise of soldiers from 2037 time travelling back to combat their 1918 counterparts didn't quite make sense. Was it for show for a 21st century world without war? It wasn't made clear. The Commandant's Desk imagines a world where the Cold War turns hot and Americans occupy Eastern Europe and Russia after conquering the Commies, turning out to be just as harsh and cruel as any other victorious invading army. The final title story is a weird fantasy on the Devil and Armageddon, dripping with irony.