Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Hitchcock Collection...

My comments to follow after work...



Brilliantly Restored And Remastered, The Eight-Disc Set Includes All-New Commentaries, Featurettes, Screen Tests, Vintage Radio Interviews,
An AFI Tribute To The Director And More

Arriving On DVD October 14 From MGM Home Entertainment

LOS ANGELES, CA – One of the most influential filmmakers in all of cinema and voted the greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly, MGM Home Entertainment presents an extensive compilation featuring the works of a true Hollywood legend when the Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection arrives on DVD October 14. Nominated collectively for a total of 23 Academy Awards, these films are beautifully restored and remastered and feature titles out of print on DVD for several years. The eight-disc set is highlighted by Hitchcock’s Oscar winner for Best Picture Rebecca, starring Joan Fontaine (Suspicion) and Laurence Olivier (Hamlet) in a dark tale of love and obsession. Silver screen siren Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca) makes an appearance in two Hitchcock classics; first alongside Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird) in Spellbound, as a young doctor in pursuit of the truth and next alongside Cary Grant (North by Northwest) in Notorious, a tale of crime, passion and espionage. Rounding out the collection is Peck once again in The Paradine Case as a lawyer defending a beautiful woman accused of poisoning her husband, the spy thriller Sabotage, the romantic murder-mystery drama Young and Innocent, the suspenseful high seas thriller Lifeboat and one of Hitchcock’s earliest films, the terrifying whodunit The Lodger featuring an all-new anniversary score.

With hours of all-new special features including audio commentaries, featurettes, screen tests, still galleries, vintage radio interviews, an AFI Tribute to Hitchcock and more, the DVD collection also includes a 32-page notebook with trivia, production notes and more about the legendary director. Available for a suggested retail price of $119.98 U.S. / $159.98 Canada, Rebecca, Spellbound and Notorious will also be available as singe discs for a suggested retail price of $19.98. Prebook is September 17.

Rebecca Synopsis
A young woman marries a fascinating older widower only to discover that she must live in the shadows of his first wife, Rebecca, who died mysteriously several years before.

Special features:
· Commentary by film historian/author Richard Schickel
· Screen tests
· Making of Rebecca Featurette
· The Gothic World of Daphne Du Maurier Featurette
· Original 1938 Radio Play Starring Orson Welles
· 1941 Radio Play Presented by Cecil B. DeMille
· 1950 Radio Play with Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier
· Audio Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock
· Audio Interview: François Truffaut Interviews Hitchcock
· Four-page booklet

The Lodger Synopsis
During a rash of gruesome murders by a serial killer known only as “The Avenger,” a mysterious stranger arrives in London and rents a room with the Bunting family. Intriguing and reclusive, the Buntings’ new guest soon earns the interest of their beautiful daughter. But when the lodger’s strange habits and odd hours start to coincide with The Avenger’s killings, the Buntings suspect they may have let a murderer into their home…and given him the key to destroying their lives!

Special features:
· 1999 Score by Ashley Irwin presented in 5.1 Dolby Surround
· 1997 Score by Paul Zaza presented in Mono
· Commentary with film historian Patrick McGilligan
· The Sound of Silence: The Making of The Lodger Featurette
· Hitchcock 101 Featurette
· 1940 Radio Play Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
· Audio Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock
· Audio Interview: François Truffaut Interviews Hitchcock
· Restoration Comparison

The Paradine Case Synopsis
Beautiful Anna Paradine (Alida Valli) is accused of poisoning her older wealthy husband. Her barrister, the happily married Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) takes the case but also lets his heart rule his head when he falls hard for his client.

Special features:
· Commentary with film historians Stephen Rebello & Bill Krohn
· Isolated Music and Effects Track
· 1949 Radio Play Starring Joseph Cotton
· Audio Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock
· Restoration Comparision
· Still Galleries

Spellbound Synopsis
When John Ballantine (Gregory Peck), the new director of a mental asylum arrives on the job, the staff is concerned. He seems too young for the position and his answers to their questions are vague and detached. Dr. Peterson (Ingrid Bergman), while knowing he is an imposter with emotional issues, nevertheless falls in love with him. Turning to her mentor, Dr. Alex Brulov (Michael Checkhov) and the use of psychoanalysis she tries to get to the root of Ballantine’s emotional problems.

Special features:
· Commentary with film historians Thomas Schatz & Charles Ramirez Berg
· Guilt by Association: Psychoanalyzing Spellbound Featurette
· A Cinderella Story: Rhonda Fleming Featurette
· Dreaming with Scissors: Hitchcock, Surrealism and Salvador Dali Featurette
· 1948 Radio Play Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
· Audio Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock
· Audio Interview: Film Historian Rudy Belhemer Interviews Composer Miklós Rózsa
· Still Gallery
· 4-Page Booklet

Notorious Synopsis
Daughter of an accused World War II traitor, Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is enlisted to entrap one of her father’s colleagues in Brazil, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Raines). Her American contact, secret agent T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) is openly contemptuous of Alicia and instructs her to wed Sebastian. It is only after she is wed that Devlin lets himself admit that he’s fallen in love with her.

Special features:
· Commentary with film historian Rick Jewell
· Commentary with film historian Drew Casper
· Isolated Music and Effects Track
· The Ultimate Romance: The Making of Notorious Featurette
· Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster Featurette
· AFI Tribute to Hitchcock
· 1948 Radio Play Starring Joseph Cotton and Ingrid Bergman
· Audio Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock
· Audio Interview: François Truffaut Interviews Hitchcock
· Restoration Comparision
· Still Gallery
· 4-Page Booklet

Young and Innocent Synopsis
In this witty, suspense thriller a police chief’s daughter helps a fugitive accused of murder prove his innocence.

Special features:
· Commentary with film historians Stephen Rebello & Bill Krohn
· Isolated Music and Effects Track
· Audio Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock
· Audio Interview: François Truffaut Interviews Hitchcock
· Restoration Comparision
· Still Gallery

Sabotage Synopsis
A woman learns that her movie theater manager husband is actually a foreign agent when a bomb he has made kills her brother. Based on Joseph Conrad’s novel, The Secret Agent.

Special features:
· Commentary with film historian Leonard Leff
· Audio Interview: Peter Bogdanovich Interviews Hitchcock
· Restoration Comparision
· Still Gallery

Lifeboat Synopsis
Nominated for three Academy Awards®, Alfred Hitchcock’s World War II drama is a remarkable story of human survival. After their ship is sunk in the Atlantic by Germans, eight people are stranded in a lifeboat. Their problems are further compounded when they pick up a ninth passenger – the Nazi captain from the U-boat that torpedoed them. With powerful suspense and emotion, this legendary classic reveals the strengths and frailties of individuals under extraordinary duress.

Special features:
· Commentary by University of Southern California School of Cinema & Television Hitchcock professor and film critic, Drew Casper
· “The Making of Lifeboat” featurette
· The original theatrical trailer
· Still gallery featuring photographs from the set

Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection
DVD Price: $119.98 U.S. / $159.98 Canada
Order Due Date: September 17, 2008
Street Date: October 14, 2008
Catalog Number: M110985
Total Run Time: 594 minutes
Screen Format: 1.33:1 Full Screen
Audio Features: English Mono
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

June is Bustin' Out All Over - Leslie Uggams style!

I had hoped to post this on June 1st in honor of the month, but the video was nowhere to be found on youtube. Thanks to Marc Acito (who found it before me), here is the restored infamy that is Leslie Uggams crooning "June is Bustin' Out All Over" (or something like it) at a Washington DC concert on the Capitol lawn. Well better late than never.

Stick around for the subtitles!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Quote of the Day

I am not going to mention here that Encores! should do A Time for Singing, for I know how futile that would be. How about if someone starts a series of obscure musical concerts and called it What Encores Was Supposed to Be!

- Peter Filichia's Diary, 7.28.08

Roxie? Sarah? Perhaps this is our cue??

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Show Will Go On!

The official press release from the off-Broadway show Gazillion Bubble Show that found their key material stolen. Unbelievable what some people will do, isn't it? Glad to hear that the setback isn't interrupting the run of the show any. Apparently it takes six weeks to mix up the solution used for performance, hopefully when that time comes there'll still be enough left for the audiences' enjoyment.


Despite the recently reported news about the bubble break-in, the Off-Broadway hit Gazillion Bubble Show will continue to amaze audiences of all ages at New World Stages as planned. There is enough special bubble formula to get through the next several weeks and Fan Yang and members of his production staff are working overtime to ensure the continuation of the Gazillion Bubble Show NO SHOWS WILL BE CANCELED. Tickets are currently on sale through January 2009.

Previously reported: The NJ warehouse that housed all of the famed off-Broadway show the Gazillion Bubbles Show was looted. The bandits took off with over 6000 bubble toys, even more frustrating to the renowned bubble artist is the theft of his specialized bubble solution (3.4 tons to be exact) which takes two months to create and may put the famed Gazillion Bubble Show in a pinch as there is only one month worth of supplies left at the theatre.

Created by 16-time Guinness World Record holder and bubble scientist, Fan Yang’s Gazillion Bubble Show has been bringing the magic and beauty of simple soap bubbles to New York for the past 18 months at New World Stages. His wife Ana and brother Jano also perform with The Gazillion Bubble Show. Fan Yang and the GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW has been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The David Letterman Show,” “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” “The View,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” NBC, ABC, CBS, CW1, FOX, as well as and television stations around the world. In past months Yang has put over 100 people is a bubble as well as enclosing a 8,800lbs elephant in a single soapy sphere.

The GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW…”It will BLOW you away!!!”

It is simply UNBUBBLELIEVABLE! You have to experience it to believe it.

Now on sale through January 2009


Mon & Tues Dark; Wednesday 2pm, Thursday 2pm and 7pm, Friday 2pm and 5pm,

Saturday 11am, 2pm, 7pm, Sunday 12noon and 3pm

New World Stages Theatre located at 340 West 50th Street

Tickets are $41.50 -$86.50 (VIP package) and can be purchased at

Telecharge at 212.239.6200 or at

Visit for full performances schedule.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"I do not do anything 'merely'..."

Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack took home Tony awards for their work in Peter Shaffer's comedy Lettice & Lovage. The play, about the friendship between two unlikely ladies working for a historical society in England, was written specifically for Smith and proved a successful vehicle for her at the Globe Theatre in London in 1987 and the Ethel Barrymore in NY in 1990 (with direction by the esteemed Michael Blakemore). Smith was Lettice Duffet, an extravagantly and flamboyantly extroverted woman with an active imagination who, while giving tours of one of the dullest of British houses, starts making incredulous embellishments to amuse herself and her tourists. This leads to a conflict with Lotte, the representative of the trust who is a rather dour realist and is not at all pleased with Lettice's antics. While the play itself received mixed reviews, there was nothing but raves for Smith's bravura performance and also for Tyzack as her stern foil.

Here is a scene as performed on the 1990 Tony awards where the two ladies have it out. How I wish I could have been there to see this play. Enjoy.

In Memoriam

"Picture it. Sicily..."

And thus would begun another hilarious story from the colorful life of Sophia Petrillo on the hit NBC sitcom The Golden Girls. For seven years, viewers tuned in for the amusing hijinks in the unlikely sitcom about four older women living together in Miami. The scene-stealer from seasoned veterans Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan would prove to be Estelle Getty's performance as Sophia, the Sicilian mother of divorcee Dorothy Zbornak. Estelle became that "overnight sensation" late in life. It wasn't until the late 70s she began to really get a foot hold in off and off-off Broadway theatre, supporting avant-garde artists and finding her way into show business after being a wife and mother for many years. It was Estelle who insisted Harvey Fierstein write the third act of Torch Song Trilogy for the Mother - and that she should play it. She would transfer with the play to Broadway, where it won several Tonys, though her name was conspicuously absent from the ballot. Shortly afterward, she would land The Golden Girls and would become a household name, winning the Emmy and Golden Globe along the way. (Estelle also reprised the role on Empty Nest, Nurses and The Golden Palace). Estelle's health declined severely in recent years as she suffered Lewy Body Syndrome, a disease that resembles both Parkinson's and Alzheimers. Today would have been her 85th birthday.

Harvey Fierstein pays tribute to his beloved co-star and friend in the NY Post.

But sadly it doesn't stop there. This week, it feels that every time you turn around someone else has left us. Larry Haines, a noted stage (Promises, Promises & A Thousand Clowns) and TV (Another World) actor, died late last week at the age of 89. Tony nominee and star of Yiddish theatre, Bruce Adler, passed away this morning of liver cancer at the age of 63. Adler was Ali Hakim in the 1979 revival of Oklahoma! and was Bela Zangler in the original Broadway production of Crazy For You (a role he recreated on the Great Performances telecast of the PaperMill Playhouse production in 1999). Randy Pausch, the college professor dying of terminal pancreatic cancer who inspired the nation with The Last Lecture lost his battle with the disease this morning. He was 47.

In times of sorrow, it is best to find refuge in humor. Here is a collection of great moments from The Golden Girls; also a testament to Estelle Getty's gift as an actress and comedienne.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fratelli Metallo

It's a bit off-topic but my heavy metal enthusiast brother sent me this clip and I found it too amusing not to share. What we have here is Brother Cesare Bonizzi, a Capucin monk in Italy who has gotten into heavy metal after seeing a Metallica concert some years ago.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oh What Fresh Hell is This?

If you recall, back in February, I briefly posted about the flop musical Rockabye Hamlet. The show was a disastrous rock opera which reconceptualized the Bard's classic at a concert (complete with Ophelia, played by the ever game Beverly d'Angelo strangling herself with a microphone cord). Well, the undead are virtually unstoppable. Much to my surprise and utter amazement I find that the disaster is receiving similar treatment to the other (and far more worthy) 7 performance bomb of 1976, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: a revised concert presentation complete with new title.

The show, now called Something's Rockin' in Denmark, (I'm not making this up, you know) will be playing the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts in Toronto this coming weekend for three performances, with composer Cliff Jones culling material from the various productions to create his definitive and final version.

Here is the press release:

One of Broadway's legendary flops was the 1976 rock opera based on Hamlet.

Now this infamous musical by Cliff Jones will be presented as a staged concert for three exclusive performances in Toronto on July 25-26 at the Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

Originally commissioned for C.B.C. Radio, KRONBORG: 1582 played at the Charlottetown Festival (Prince Edward Island) to critical acclaim in the summers of 1974 and '75, followed by a Canadian tour with Brent Carver as Hamlet and Beverly D’Angelo as Ophelia.

Renamed Rockabye Hamlet, and substantially revised under the direction of Gower Champion, it opened on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre Feb 16, 1976, starring Larry Marshall, D'Angelo and Meat Loaf. It played a efw weeks of previews (which composer Jones says were ecstatically received by audeinces) then it opened to 7 out of 7 negative notices. ROCKABYE HAMLET closed a week later.

With new revisions by Jones and re-titled SOMETHING'S ROCKIN' IN DENMARK, the show then enjoyed a 14-month run in Los Angeles. The musical won twelve Dramalogue Awards (L.A.) and has since been successfully produced many times.

For this new concert staging of SOMETHING'S ROCKIN' IN DENMARK, Cliff Jones has adapted his script and score, taking the best of all previous productions. He will also direct the show, joined by Lona Davis as musical director and Mimi Woods Doherty as choreographer/assistant director. The cast of 18 features Ted Ambrose, Lisa Bell, Matthew A.C. Campbell, Trevor Covelli, Scott Freethy, Michael Harvey, Laura Higgs and Gerald Isaac.

SOMETHING'S ROCKIN' IN DENMARK plays Friday, July 25 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, is located in downtown Toronto at 27 Front Street East. Tickets are $40 (lower orchestra) and $30 (upper orchestra) and may be reserved by calling the box office at 416-366-7723 or 1-800-708-6754, go online to

Witness the Toronto re-birth of this wondrous, eclectic musical!

Monday, July 21, 2008

"To This We've Come"

Gian-Carlo Menotti's The Consul, one of the rare operas composed specifically for production on Broadway, was a statement by the composer about the state of revolutionary idealists and refugees, mainly those suffering under the dictatorship of Soviet control in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Menotti (with whom, incidentally, I share a birthday) is probably best known for his TV opera Amahl and the Night Visitor, the first opera ever written specifically for television and The Medium. The Consul, his first attempt at a full opera, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 15, 1950 ran for 269 performances and was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music as well as the New York Drama Critics Award as Best Musical and the long-defunct Tony award for Best Conductor (Lehman Engel). The score contains considerable stretches of recitative rather than aria, with a jauntiness and dissonance that reflects the uneasiness and danger of the political climate experienced on stage. Soprano Patricia Neway, best known for her Tony-winning turn as the Mother Abbess in the original Broadway cast of The Sound of Music played the leading role. It was during the run of The Sound of Music that Neway reprised her role of Magda for a paying television audience (in an early unsuccessful attempt at pay-per-view programming in 1960). The television production was discovered and released on DVD a few years ago and provides us with the extraordinary opportunity to see a performer recreating the role of a lifetime. (While we have the DVD, the original cast album from Decca remains unavailable on CD).

The three-act opera follows the tragic story (it's an opera about the horrors of dictatorship, this cannot possibly end well) of Magda Sorel, a young wife and mother in a deliberately unnamed totalitarian nation whose husband is a rebel wanted by the secret police. After he is wounded, her husband makes a run to the border to hide while Magda is left to make arrangements to transport the family out of the country safely. Magda's troubles multiply as her mother-in-law and child become seriously ill and she finds herself constantly followed and interrogated by the secret police. Much to her growing frustration finds that the bureaucracy at the consulate is unstoppable, leaving herself and many others stranded vis-a-vis the monikers of red tape and paperwork. When her child dies, she makes another imploring visit to the consulate and when rejected once again by the callous secretary, her emotions and anger explode in this second show-stopping aria "To This We've Come," a release of a leitmotif heard in the recitative between Magda and her husband early in the first act, with one of the few moments of musical assonance experienced in the score. Here is a clip of Neway's performance of this extraordinary moment on "The Ed Sullivan Show" around the time of the telecast:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

NY Times gives "August" another rave

Charles Isherwood administers yet another rave for the play of the year:


A Fiery New Incarnation of a Monster of a Mother

It’s really not a good idea to mess with Violet Weston, the fire-breathing dragon lady of Pawhuska, Okla., who presides over a feast of family combat in “August: Osage County.” As all who have seen Tracy Letts’s celebrated comedy-drama on Broadway no doubt vividly recall, Violet does not brook much interference when it comes to indulging her favorite pastimes.

Raise an objection to that eviscerating commentary on her daughter’s looks and you are likely to find your own being mercilessly dissected. Delicately suggest that she refrain from airing the family’s dirtiest laundry over dinner and you will be subjected to eyebrow-singeing bursts of invective.

Oh, and don’t even think of getting between Violet and the little bottles of pills she pops like Tic Tacs. That would be a sure way to lose a limb.

Violet is a maternal monster on an outrageous scale, but she is also one of the most spellbinding characters in memory to stalk a Broadway stage. So it is good news to report that Estelle Parsons, the venerable actress who has taken over this demanding role from the Tony Award-winning Deanna Dunagan, has had the good sense not to mess with her much.

All the hallmarks of Violet’s character — the implacable cruelty, the shrill self-pity, the wily manipulation and the will of iron — are present and accounted for in Ms. Parsons’s superb performance. But it is not a facsimile of Ms. Dunagan’s unforgettably astringent approach to the role; Ms. Parsons forges her own path into the tortured darkness of Violet’s drug-addled psyche.

She is a naturally more grandmotherly presence, with her incongruously warm smile and slightly dowdy frame. If Ms. Dunagan was a rattlesnake, Ms. Parsons is more of a snapping turtle. In the Parsons interpretation, Violet takes an almost childlike delight in drawing blood. Glints of pure pleasure dance in her eyes when she sees that a revelation or an insult has hit its target. And yet she almost seems to gape in wonder and surprise at the toads that keep leaping from her mouth. Golly, did I just say that?

In the brief oasis of calm that arrives in the play’s third act, when Violet has emerged from her drug-fueled reign of terror, Ms. Parsons shows us glimpses of the casually affectionate mother overtaken by the vengeful shrew. But when she relates to her three daughters a story that provides a grim portrait of her own savage mother, the utter lack of feeling in her account sends a chill down your spine.

Ms. Parsons has had a long career as an actress in film (“Bonnie and Clyde”) and theater, and has worked frequently as a director too (the semi-staged “Salome” with Al Pacino, seen on Broadway in 2003). She has also taught at the Actors Studio, of which she was the artistic director for five years.

But she has not been seen on Broadway much in recent years — a role in the 2002 revival of “Morning’s at Seven” was her most recent appearance — so her return in this lengthy part in an emotionally draining play is both exciting and almost unexpected. Ms. Parsons is, after all, 80. (Ms. Dunagan cited exhaustion in explaining her decision to take a breather before traveling to London with the show in the fall.)

But just as Violet’s endless reserves of bitterness seem to keep her young, the role’s demands must be inspiring for an actress of any age. The challenge of embodying this complicated, terrifying woman seems to burn away the years; if I didn’t know Ms. Parsons was 80, I would never believe it. I hope she’s having the time of her life. She is certainly giving a performance to remember, one that may prove to be a crowning moment in an illustrious career.

Ms. Parsons is just one of several additions to the cast of “August,” and it is a tribute to the attentive direction of Anna D. Shapiro that the production still has the taut intensity it displayed when it opened in December. The new performers — some imported from the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, where the play had its premiere — have been integrated seamlessly into what remains the most accomplished ensemble cast on Broadway.

As Mattie Fae, Violet’s bulldozer of a sister, Molly Regan turns down the volume a notch or two compared with the Tony winner Rondi Reed. But she locates all the wicked humor in Mattie Fae’s tactless needling of her son, Little Charles, now played with affecting simplicity by Jim True-Frost. (Both actors are Steppenwolf members.)

Robert Foxworth exudes a convincing sense of ancient resignation as Mattie Fae’s henpecked husband. His seething rebellion against her brutality is among the punchiest audience-rousing moments. Frank Wood (“Side Man”) slides comfortably into the role of another milquetoasty husband, the philandering spouse of Violet’s oldest daughter, Barbara. And Michael McGuire, who took over the role of Beverly Weston, the doomed patriarch, when the playwright’s father, Dennis Letts, became ill (sadly, he subsequently died), delivers the play’s opening monologue with a fine, weary lyricism.

More good news: the actresses in the roles of the Weston daughters have stayed with the production, lending a sense of continuity. All have subtly improved in the roles. Sally Murphy’s Ivy is more movingly forlorn, but quietly determined too. Mariann Mayberry’s Karen, the youngest and most nakedly needy sister, remains a bright blast of comic relief, safely this side of caricature.

And Amy Morton is simply towering in the all-important role of Barbara, the family anchor whom we watch sinking into cynicism and bitterness under the weight of her father’s death and her family’s disintegration. The colors in the role are all more saturated now — the withering sarcasm, the sense of anguished confusion at her husband’s betrayal, the grim rise to the challenge of her mother’s antagonism. But they are blended so delicately that the resulting portrait is as fine an example of the stage actor’s art as you could ever hope to see.

“August: Osage County” continues at the Music Box Theater, 239 West 45th Street, Manhattan; (212) 239-6200,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Emma Thompson to write "My Fair Lady" film remake


'British actress Emma Thompson has been commissioned to pen a screenplay for a My Fair Lady remake.

The Howards End star won an Oscar for adapting Sense + Sensibility for the big screen and now she's tackling George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion musical.

But she admits the less-sweet version of the Audrey Hepburn movie musical won't be completed anytime soon.

She tells Parade magazine, "I'm a Luddite, and I write longhand with an old fountain pen."

That said, Thompson is the only person to have won Academy Awards for both acting and screenwriting.'

This venture has gotten somewhat interesting, wouldn't you agree? While the 1964 film adaptation was a colossal success, winning 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, it appears that many feel the film does not hold up well today. Suffice it to say, given the titles that have been remade recently, I wouldn't have thought a classic musical would be considered. The film is a bit long, but has plenty of charms (even if I feel that Rex Harrison is phoning it in compared to his performances on the original Broadway and London cast albums), but I miss many of the elements of the stage musical, including the orchestrations of Robert Russell Bennett and especially the exuberant dance arrangements of Trude Rittman. Now, let's see if they can cast actors who sing well. Thompson is well-established as a writer of exorbitant wit, humanity and charm: the aforementioned Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility and Nanny McPhee come readily to mind. I'm suddenly very curious to know what comes of this project. Meanwhile, I'm very excited to see Thompson in Brideshead Revisited this summer (Emma Thompson in a British period film? Perhaps it's time for a Howards End/The Remains of the Day marathon). Now if someone could only get her in a stage production of Night Music, I think I'd be all set ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Phantom Takes Manhattan

Bring Back Birdie
Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge

and now Phantom...Once Upon Another Time

Andrew Lloyd Webber is fast at work on his impending sequel to his monstrously successful The Phantom of the Opera, which finds the characters a few years later in New York, where Christine has become a successful opera singer.

The show's first act was presented at the Sydmonton Festival this month and first word of the plot and storyline are starting to come in. From Andrew Gans at Playbill:

The new musical, directed by Jack O'Brien, is set in Coney Island in 1906. The Post describes the musical's first half as such: "The Phantom, having fled Paris, is running a freak show. At night, he crawls into his lair and makes love to an automaton that looks like Christine. Christine, meanwhile, has become a famous opera singer. But she's fallen on hard times because her husband, Raoul, has squandered their fortune. So she's accepted a high-paying gig from a mysterious impresario to open a new amusement park. On her first night in New York, she draws back the curtain in her hotel suite and comes face to face with her new employer — flash of lightning, crash of chords — the Phantom! Christine has a child, Gustave, but is his father Raoul or the Phantom?"

Hold everything. He makes love to an automaton that looks like Christine? Is anyone else completely horrified/hysterical with laughter at that? I know I am, and it's out of a vague discomfort at the entire prospect.

I'm not suggesting that a musical theatre sequel cannot be a success, it's just that for the most part they've been nothing but complete and utter disasters, with those two follow-ups I mentioned the most notable. (Though there was some success with the eventual Annie Warbucks that played off-Broadway in 1993, it was still better to leave well-enough alone).

I'm trying to think of a musical sequel that has been a success, but none seem to come to me. Perhaps Divorce Me, Darling, the follow-up to The Boy Friend, has done alright for itself, but it's nothing close to being an established title.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Zoe Caldwell as Medea

I myself have never had the privilege of seeing Zoe Caldwell perform. The four time Tony winner (Slapstick Tragedy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Medea, and Master Class) has made incredibly few appearances on film, so I relish in the opportunity to see, well quite frankly, if she lives up to the hype. And, oh how she does. She is to put it mildly, utterly captivating to watch. Note Judith Anderson, (who won a Tony for playing the same role in 1948) played the Nurse in this revival. Here is a clip from the telecast of Medea:

She is featured in an interview with Charlie Rose from 1996, while she was once again the toast of the American drama as Maria Callas in the original Broadway production of Master Class. The episode is presented in its entirety, but if you want to skip the Clinton era, you can skip to 10:47 in, where the lengthy and fascinating interview commences.

Patricia Routledge criticizes the BBC

Many years following the cancellation of "Hetty Wainthrop Investigates", series star Patricia Routledge slams the BBC:

Miss Routledge, 79, this week said: 'We were betrayed by the BBC. We finished series four of Hetty Wainthropp, we were told there was going to be series five.

'But no word ever came - how rude! The BBC is run by 10-year-old children.'

Never mess with PR. She'll give you the what-for.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Okay, so I'm about the seven thousandth person to make that pun. Sue me. However, thanks to the fantastic Pixar animation film Wall-E, which is one of the most loved films to come about this year, there is talk of the Nederlanders presenting their long-awaited revival of Hello, Dolly! It had actually been discussed when the revival of La Cage Aux Folles was first announced a few years back that the Nederlander Organization would present revivals of La Cage, Dolly! and Mame in succession. However, with the disappointing six month run of La Cage, the other two shows seemed to be put on the back burner.

Fast forward to right now. Jerry Herman is excited. The buzz created from the film is stratospheric. The Nederlanders' interest is back up. And the internet boards are abuzz with chatter about who would make the perfect Dolly Gallagher Levi. So it makes perfect sense to strike when the iron is hot. And let's face it, the film adaptation of Dolly is pretty lackluster. Barbra Streisand was somewhat out of her element (even if the note she holds at the end of "Before the Parade Passes By" for sixteen bars is impressive), the overall picture was low on humor and ultimately bloated with too much spectacle and little heart, with the story of Dolly's re-emergence feeling lost in the shuffle. Another problem, for me, is that because of her youth and vibrance, there is a certain gravitas lost in the character's arc. Where has she been?)

Jerry himself weighs in on some various "suggestions" in Variety:

Herman has been thinking of possible actresses to topline the revival for some time. While he concedes the role demands "a big star," he declines to name any frontrunner. He acknowledges eyeing Queen Latifah to play Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, but says her busy film career would make that casting problematic -- at least so far.

Chat rooms and theater insiders have been volunteering casting ideas that range from the fantastic to the obvious: Oprah Winfrey ("An exciting idea, but I don't think she could devote a year to the production," says Herman); Meryl Streep ("She can do anything."); Barbra Streisand, star of the 1969 screen version ("She's the right age now, but she's never coming back to Broadway."); Patti LuPone ("Magnificent."); Reba McEntire ("I'm crazy for her, but I'm not sure about the accent."); Bernadette Peters ("We were close friends and I obviously love this lady, but I just don't know.").

Interesting comments from Mr. Herman. Hell, I think this revival should replicate the original: replace one formidable star with another. Why not have all these ladies come down the red staircase akin to Carol, Ginger, Betty, Martha, Pearlie Mae, Phyllis and Ethel.

It's refreshing to see something Broadway related so fresh in the mindset of current popular culture. Makes me feel like I've seen a flash of what it would have been like to be a theatre fan in 1956.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Some Enchanted Evening"

I know there are you naysayers who didn't particularly care for this production, better yet, for this musical entirely. I found this clip on BlueGobo tonight and had to share this swoon worthy coupling of 2008 Tony winner Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara, here singing the first "Some Enchanted Evening" reprise, which appears in the show proper between "I'm Gonna Wash That Man" and "A Wonderful Guy." My only complaint is the pesky TV direction by those people at "The View." One shot through the harp is good enough, thank you. Just let the camera focus on the performers.

Just Another Reason to Love Donna Murphy

What About Joan? Does anyone remember this sitcom vehicle for Joan Cusack from 2001? It aired on ABC for a very short-lived period of time. The show presented Cusack as her usual neurotic self, with a boyfriend of six weeks (played by Kyle Chandler) proposing marriage and the hijinks that follow. As in most sitcoms, there is a central core of friends lending moral and comic support to the leading character. Your lovable diva and mine, Donna Murphy, played Dr. Ruby Stern, a sassy psychiatrist dealing with her own neuroses. (Trivia: the sitcom was produced in Chicago so Cusack could remain close to her family. Deanna Dunagan was a guest actress on one of the show's episodes - not this one).

For the show itself? The ratings started out strong, but the show was slashed early in its second season when ABC decided to revamp its entire programming, ridding itself of Joan and Bob Patterson and causing the woefully premature demise of the great Denis Leary sitcom The Job.

The description of the episode is as follows (courtesy of

Sensing that Jake is in a "funk," Joan encourages him to get some professional counseling, a la Dr. Ruby Stern. Against his better judgment, he agrees to go and talk to Ruby, although it feels strange to divulge his most intimate thoughts to Joan's best friend. During their session, it's Ruby who has a breakthrough, realizing that somehow along the way, she never pursued her first love of singing, for fear that she would fail. Concerned that she would never be the best, she never tried. In an effort to push Ruby past the point of fear, Joan sets up an opportunity for her to perform at an open mic club.

Well here is Donna Murphy taking on the classic "Hit Me With a Hot Note." Also note, her pianist? That's none other than Grey Gardens composer Scott Frankel. Enjoy...

As the regulars are well aware, I've been toying with the design on the site. I felt a change was needed so I settled on this - for now. I may tweak things here and there as I try to become more blog literate in the ways of design, etc.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"On Broadway!" A Glittering Salute to the American Musical"

Any event which promises an appearance by Angela Lansbury has got to be okay in my book. She's hosting the following gala which will honor Brian Heidtke and Tommy Tune this October. Sounds very interesting, no?

Rolex presents “ON BROADWAY! A Glittering Salute To The American Musical”- Career Transition For Dancers’, 23rd Anniversary Jubilee on Monday, October 27 at 7pm at New York City Center, 131 West 55 Street (bet. 7 & 6 Aves). Two of the honorees for the Gala are Brian Heidtke and Tommy Tune. Multi award-winning actress Angela Lansbury will host the Gala, which will be followed by an Anniversary Supper with the Stars at Hilton New York’s Grand Ballroom. “ON BROADWAY! A Glittering Salute to the American Musical”, is a glorious historical journey inside the Broadway musical seen through the eyes of legendary choreographers. The Gala will be the entertainment-dance event of the new season; accompanied by the Jubilee Orchestra with appearances by dance companies, dancers, stars and many surprises. It is produced and directed by Ann Marie DeAngelo.

“We are pleased to present the Rolex Dance Award to Tommy Tune, the most illustrious choreographer, dancer, singer and director of our time. This winner of nine Tony Awards and The National Medal of Arts is not only dedicated to the art of dance, but also to supporting the mission of Career Transition For Dancers. We are pleased to celebrate his legendary career and many contributions to the world of dance,” said Allen Brill, President and CEO of Rolex Watch USA.

Tommy Tune is the recipient of an unprecedented nine Tony Awards in 4 different categories plus, among other accolades, 8 Drama Desk Awards, 2 Obie Awards, 2 Astaire Awards, American Dance Award, Drama League Award, and the George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement. Tommy first danced onto Broadway in the chorus of Baker Street”, followed by “A Joyful Noise”, “How Now Dow Jones” and “Seesaw” (1st Tony). He directed “The Club” then on to B’way, as choreographer and co-director on “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas followed by “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine (Tony). Other shows are “Cloud 9”; “Nine, The Musical” (Tony). A double Tony Award win for “My One and Only”. “Grand Hotel” followed with 2 more Tony wins; and the following year Mr. Tune did what no artist had done before when he won the same two prestigious honors back to back for “The Will Rogers Follies”. Tommy returned to perform his one-man song and dance show, “Tommy Tune Tonight!” Tune has sung and danced for three U.S. Presidents, the Queen of England and the Royal Family of Monaco. He was inducted into the Broadway's Theatre Hall of Fame, and has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Brian Heidtke will receive the Career Transition For Dancers' Award for Outstanding Contributions to the World of Dance. He has been an active member of the dance community for years, serving both as board trustee and as a financial supporter. He is the Vice President and Treasurer of ABT and chairs its education committee. He is also the recipient of the Lucia Chase Award. He has been an active supporter of the international ballet competition Youth America Grand Prix and of the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center. Formerly the Vice President, Finance and Corporate Treasurer of Colgate-Palmolive Company, he is the Chair of the National Association of Corporate Treasurers and a board member of the Williams Capital Management Trust.

Career Transition For Dancers, with offices in New York City and Los Angeles, has helped thousands of professional dancers identify their unique talents in preparation for establishing new careers when dance is no longer an option. Since 1985, they have provided more than 38,000 hrs (equivalent to $4 million) of one-on-one career counseling and program services (at no cost) and has awarded millions of dollars in scholarships for education and grants. CTFD also provides dancers with specialized services that include seminars and workshops, peer support groups, resource centers, a toll-free national hotline, and National Networking Directory. The Caroline & Theodore Newhouse Center for Dancers is at 165 West 46th Street Suite 701 (at Broadway – the Actors’ Equity Building) NYC. CTFD’s phone number is (212) 764-0172 and the fax is (212) 764-0343 and in Los Angeles (323) 549-6660.

Gala tickets are $600, $750 & $1,200 each, which include the performance and a post-performance ‘Anniversary Supper with the Stars’, auction and dancing. Sponsorships, tables and journals ads are also available. For gala tickets call Marjorie Horne of McEvoy & Assocs. at (212) 228-7446 x33 and for Group Sales (718) 499-9691. Show only tickets are $130, $75, $55 and $45.

Let us hope this lunacy is just a trend...

An article at Playbill discusses an alarming problem that is fast becoming the latest headache for the house staff at Broadway theatres: text messaging. Now, I think the text message is an excellent way of communicating in a situation in which talking on the phone isn't a viable option. However, it is made especially clear by the house management prior to the show either usually in the form of an announcement or in some cases an insert in the Pllaybill for audience members to turn off all electronic devices. Considering there is a law against the use of cell phones in theatres, one might assume this would fall under the ban. Most shocking is the item about Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon at a matinee of August: Osage County. If you're only going to attend one act (especially when you think they probably received comp tickets) and spend the entire time on your blackberry, why bother coming at all? There are other people who could use the ticket, who would want to be engaged. It was also recently reported on the message boards about the incident at Gypsy last weekend where a teenager in the second row spent the entire first act texting to the increasingly unhinging frustration of Patti LuPone, who eventually wouldn't re-enter the show in the second act until the girl was relocated or removed.

There was a time with one of my older cell phones, I would even remove the battery for the duration, just in case it accidentally turned on during the performance. Paranoid as I might be, I occasionally double or triple check the phone during a show to make sure it is off, even though I know I shut it down prior to the curtain. There's always intermission people!!

In the words of your friend and mine, Mattie Fae Aiken, " a little class!!"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

From the bookshelf...

Every six months, the booksellers at B&N receive what is called the "Employee Appreciation Discount" which gives us 40% off on books for a period of about a week. I was hell-bent on not buying anything, but my impulsive-compulsive whimsy took me to the computer screen to search for items of interest. One of the things I decided to do was look up some books that were later musicals or movies.

I read three of those recently (among two other books - the Strouse memoir and A Separate Peace by John Knowles): The Flower Drum Song by C.Y. Lee, The World of Henry Orient by Nora Johnson and Buried Alive by Arnold Bennett. Obviously the first was the basis for Flower Drum Song, the second, the 1967 Bob Merrill flop Henry, Sweet Henry (which came about from the popularity of the 1964 film adaptation) and my beloved 1968 disaster Darling of the Day.

As I read through the books, it fascinated me to see what the original creators came up with in terms of plot and character. Particularly FDS. In the book, the plot follows Wang Ta from his failed romance with the sluttish Linda Tow to his guilt-laden affair with the obsessive Helen Chao (who does one further than tell love to look away, she kills herself) and finally his romance with May Li, a Chinese immigrant, who is much more outspoken and not as charming as the character presented in the musical (the 2002 Hwang revisal need not apply). However, the themes of tradition and culture when juxtaposed with a generational gap (add to that the East vs. West friction), you see where Rodgers and Hammerstein found their musical. Keeping the characters and certain plot elements, they made their musical a decidedly lighter and more comic piece.

The World of Henry Orient and Buried Alive were pre-paid print on demand orders. They are books not regularly carried by the store and are non-returnable, so its got to be paid for and shipped to your home. I enjoyed that - you want a book, they print it especially for you - it's kinda nice. Henry Orient, I think, should go onto the middle school reading lists. It's a remarkably sophisticated coming of age story about two imaginative and quirky pubescent girls whose friendship revolves around their fascination with a second-rate pianist. However, the plot isn't enough to carry a full-scale musical (not to mention the decision to take the relatively minor character of Lillian Kafritz and build her up with two glorious, but extraneous, showstoppers, but of course that's what happens when you write a role for the fantastic Alice Playten).

Buried Alive is a delightful light British prose, with the farcical plot elements of a famed painter switching places with his dead valet. However, one of the major changes between Buried and Darling is the character of Priam Farll. In the book, most of his actions stem from an incredible introversion as opposed to the Henry Higgins-like disgust with British class society of the musical. Fortunately they kept the social commentary about the class society (Yip Harburg had a field day) in adaptation. However, the song "Butler in the Abbey" presents a finale that doesn't possibly make sense. In the musical, its decided that the idea a valet has been buried in Westminster Abbey would bring ruination to England, and the final decision is to let Priam Farll go on being Henry Leek in Putney, with a decidedly Gilbertian tone. In the book, with more realism and great humor, the author playfully describes the media circus the trial creates throughout England, satirizing everyone along the way.

I've also started to list the books I've recently read under the aptly titled "A Trip to the Library" toward the right of the blog posts. Just feel like sharing!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Silas Botwin Sings

Hunter Parrish who is most noted for his portrayal of Nancy Botwin's older son on the hit Showtime series Weeds, one of my all-time favorite television shows, will make his Broadway debut as Melchior Gabor in the laugh-a-minute musical comedy riot Spring Awakening this August. As pleased as I am to see a younger actor with such a rising profile so willing to work on stage, I'm sorry to say it wouldn't be enough to make me ever go see the show again.

However you can't deny the kid's got enthusiasm. From Playbill:

In a statement actor Parrish said, "I have always hoped that my passion for the theatre would eventually lead me to Broadway. Spring Awakening is a truly one-of-a-kind show with its timeless story, commanding music and innovative imagery. I am elated to have the opportunity to become a part of it."

I'm quite fortunate - this is the first year I've had Showtime, so I can now actually catch the series as it's airing. Still one of the more innovative series out there - Mary Louise Parker continues to amaze me, as does most of the cast and writers, frankly. Not to mention it's made me a fan of Malvina Reynolds.

An Interview with Shannon Bolin

Peter Filichia interviews, 91 year old Shannon Bolin, who originated the role of Meg Boyd in the original Broadway production and subsequent film adaptation of Damn Yankees.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

When You're Good to Mrs. Brady

Though most of you remember her as the perennial TV mom, Mrs. Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch and its various offshoots into variety, comedy and even drama over the years, Florence Henderson was a premiere musical theatre ingenue in the 1950s. She made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Harold Rome's Wish You Were Here. She continued to make a name for herself in national tours (most notably the first road company of The Sound of Music), Laurey in Oklahoma! at the City Center (with Barbara Cook as Ado Annie), the title role in Rome's Fanny and a superlative turn in the final Noel Coward musical The Girl Who Came to Supper, her final Broadway appearance to date. TV soon called, and of course, Wesson Oil.

Anyway, here she is in an entirely new realm. Leather mama...? This is a kinky spin on a Kander and Ebb favorite at a tribute of theirs a few years ago. Say whatever you will about the performance, she looks phenomenal.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Random Thoughts on This & That

I've had difficulty logging into my blog over the past couple of days. I'm not sure what was up, but it was mighty frustrating not to be able to update.

Wall-E is one of the most extraordinary and ambitious Pixar films ever made. The film is a sort of Chaplin meets 2001 with extraordinary results. For those who love the musicals, it's been heavily documented that the little robot's favorite movie is Hello, Dolly! and Jerry Herman's "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" and "It Only Takes a Moment" become incredibly important to the character and plot (wow, a song advancing a plot, isn't that something...). To say the romantic aspect of the film is moving is an understatement. People have been critical of the subtle or not-so-subtle (it seems to depend on your political leaning) criticism of human consumerism and waste. As I was watching, I realized that this could have functioned as a live-action science fiction film. I was in a movie theatre with absolutely no children and was a moving experience. And that little robot is so cute, I want one for a pet. One of the best films of the year so far. Oh - and having Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the ship was a very nice touch.

There was a headline the other commenting on how Katie Holmes couldn't bring about a million dollar advance sale for the impending revival of All My Sons. Truth be told, I think most people would be more excited to see the other three actors that have been cast: John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson. Perhaps Maggie Gyllenhaal will stand-by for her...?

Jan Maxwell is returning to Broadway as Maria Tura in the MTC production of To Be or Not to Be at the Biltmore this fall. Craig Bierko will be her costar. How exciting to have an actress as gifted and witty as Maxwell back on the boards. Her work as a self-preserving, pragmatic proto-feminist in the highly-inventive, but woefully shortlived Dickensian melodrama Coram Boy was multi-faceted and captivating. (Could I have crammed anything more into that sentence, yikes). The Walter Kerr shall not be dormant for long. Olivier-winner Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard will headline the import of the London revival of The Seagull, that immortal laugh riot by Russia's great gag writer Anton Chekhov. (Name that musical!)

I renewed my subscription at Roundabout. Looking forward to Pal Joey with Stockard Channing, A Man for All Seasons with Frank Langella and the revival of Hedda Gabler. I also want to see The Marriage of Bette and Boo with that delectable Victoria Clark and company.

I will be at The Dark Knight not Mamma Mia on July 18 at 12:01AM.

Spike Lee will be turning Passing Strange into one of his joints. He'll be filming three performances of the show this month for airing on a TBD cable station.

Oscar nominee and stage vet Amy Ryan will be reprise her recurring role as Holly, the new HR representative at Scranton's Dunder-Mifflin next season on The Office. I can't wait to see where they take her character and Michael Scott, who had inexorable chemistry in this year's season finale.

I'm taking in tomorrow's matinee of A Catered Affair thanks to Chris at Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals. Look forward to reporting on Faith Prince. Not to mention a round two of "The Bloggers Who Brunch" on Sunday.

Happy Fourth of July everyone.

"Someone ought to open up a window...!" ;)