Friday, October 31, 2008

Dear FCC, WTF?

An official press release:

THE BROADWAY COMMUNITY URGES THE FCC TO RECONSIDER RULES THAT COULD SILENCE LIVE THEATRE

“Can you hear me now?” is NOT what the audience wants to hear actors say on stage.

Actors wear wireless microphones that transmit on frequencies soon to be compromised by consumer devices. Without publishing proposed rules and allowing public discourse, the FCC, pressured by leading technology firms, will vote on this issue on November 4, 2008: Election Day. The FCC’s own engineers’ report demonstrates that the technology in place to prevent interference is ineffective.

The Broadway League has asked the FCC to refrain from voting to approve new devices that will transmit in the “white space” radio spectrum, currently occupied by wireless microphones. Wireless microphones are an essential tool of the live performance industry, used in the daily operations of countless theatres and non-profit performance venues, sports arenas, and concert halls across the country.

These comments were filed in response to the FCC’s announcement that it will vote on an order potentially opening the white spaces to portable internet devices employing spectrum sensing technology intended to prevent interference with wireless microphones. However, a preliminary review of an FCC engineers’ report issued on October 15, 2008 demonstrates repeated failures of spectrum sensing to recognize wireless transmissions. While regulations that include reference to spectrum sensing technology would rely on unproven technology, the FCC may forge ahead and adopt new rules without allowing interested parties any prior opportunity to ensure the Commission took adequate steps to address the needs of all wireless microphone users.

Theatres in urban areas are at particular risk because the complex radio environment is beyond any measure of control. Not only is the quality of the performances at risk, but also the safety of all who work in these venues will be compromised. Accordingly, sound engineers will have no way to locate or report the source of interference should a portable device disrupt a live performance.

The Broadway League believes any action on this issue is premature. However, should the FCC go forward with new regulations at this time, they strongly urge the Commission to recognize incumbent white space users and, at the very minimum, employ basic protections to address the needs of Broadway. The Broadway League has been working with theatres across the country to help get the message to the FCC of the many consequences of a hasty decision. This week it also reached out to the Commission with an ad campaign (see attached) to help bring attention to the serious situation this premature vote creates.

The New York City Council recently adopted a Resolution urging the FCC to open a formal comment period on its engineers’ report before putting the issue to a vote and to allocate sufficient channels for current wireless microphone users.

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney echoed the City Council’s sentiments and said, “The FCC should not be trying to rush this decision out the door this way in the closing days of this administration without adequate public comment. This action puts the theatre industry at risk.”

Nina Lannan, Chairman of The Broadway League, commented, “Broadway contributes more than $5 billion to the City of New York and generates the equivalent of 44,000 full time jobs. We must be assured that these devices work, not only for Broadway, but also for theatres across America too. Touring Broadway productions help infuse the nation’s economy with over $3 billion annually. “

Tom Viertel, Producer, stated, “Our industry relies on clear, consistent wireless microphone transmissions. The Broadway Unions and Guilds have joined forces with us to demand notice and opportunity to be heard before any further FCC proceedings because our jobs and lives are on the line. Many groups, including the National Association of Broadcasters and Sports Technology Alliance, also oppose the FCC’s actions which threaten their ability to conduct businesses and employees’ livelihoods.”

THE SHOWS MUST GO ON!

The Broadway League, founded in 1930, is the national trade association for the Broadway industry. The League’s 600-plus members include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in over 240 North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the theatre industry. Each year, League members bring Broadway to nearly 30 million people in New York and on tour across the U.S. and Canada. Visit www.BroadwayLeague.com.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Frau Cloris

Does anyone remember last summer when Young Frankenstein was making its preparations to open in Seattle? There was an industry reading of the show that featured the great Cloris Leachman in her original film role as Frau Blucher, whom everyone adored. However, Mr. Mel Brooks and his producers opted against casting her in the production.

From the 6/13/07 issue of the NY Post:

Broadway insiders told Page Six that Leachman had a "wonderful audition . . . She was involved in a workshop recently and everyone loved her . . . but it was obvious she was too old" to perform eight shows a week.

Brooks told Archerd, "We're afraid the show might stop her - it could kill her . . . We don't want her to die on stage." Actually, that's how most actors would like to expire.

One insider told us Leachman got the bad news via a letter. "She was told the producers wanted the stage version to differ from the film version," the source reports. "She was very disappointed."

"Cloris was absolutely up for the role," said a friend of hers. "She's healthy and she knows she can do it."

A spokesperson for the production said, "Cloris was a very funny and game Frau Blucher in our reading, but in the end producers thought the physical demands of doing eight performances a week were too much to ask of her."

Thing are a lot different for Young Frankenstein these days. The show proved not to be a critical or financial juggernaut like The Producers and was mostly snubbed by the Tony committee, receiving three nominations for its scenic design, Christopher Fitzgerald's turn as Igor and Andrea Martin's Frau Blucher. It seems producers have changed their tune as Mel Brooks has called Cloris to reprise her role of Frau Blucher in the musical.

From last night's post-elimination interview from "Dancing with the Stars:

"Mel Brooks called me this morning in the bathtub. He wants me to go to Broadway and [reprise] my role in the musical 'Young Frankenstein.' We're going to talk about it and figure it out."

If anyone caught Cloris on television during the series, they know that she pretty defied everything the producers said about her being too old, with her formidable energy and unique comic timing put to good use, making her a fan favorite.

In my humble opinion, if Cloris Leachman is going to come back to Broadway, I think the producers of August: Osage County should scope her out to replace Estelle Parsons. Now wouldn't that be something to see?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Funday

The original Broadway cast album for today:


Saturday, October 25, 2008

"The Music and the Mirror" - September 29, 1983

From the record breaking 3,389th performance celebrating A Chorus Line becoming the longest running show on Broadway. Michael Bennett restaged the show for this single performance, bringing back original cast members and coming up with fascinating new ways of looking at the show. Here is Donna McKechnie leading several former Cassie's through "The Music and the Mirror"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Who's That Woman?

Forgive the quality, it's silent footage synched up with a live recording of the show. It offers an imperfect glimpse into what many consider to be the greatest production number in the history of musical theatre and the grand opulence that was the original production of Follies, the sort that we may never again see on a Broadway stage.

Mary McCarty leads the ladies of the ensemble.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pamela Myers sings "Another Hundred People"

I've been on a little bit of a Company kick ever since I saw it last Friday. Here is Pamela Myers performing her definitive interpretation of "Another Hundred People," accompanied by the original 1970 Tunick orchestrations (how it should always sound), from Seth Rudetsky's Broadway 101 concert back in April 2008.

Quote of the Day

"Since Fritz retired, I have written three musicals for the theatre, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with Burton Lane, Coco with Andre Previn, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with Leonard Bernstein, and reversing the normal order, adapted Gigi for the stage. On a Clear Day was modestly received, Coco less modestly, but because of the incredible Katharine Hepburn did well. Gigi, comme ci comme ├ža. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, well you remember the Titanic..."

- Alan Jay Lerner's sole mention of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in his memoir The Street Where I Live, 1978

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

LCT has a New Resident Director

Congratulations to Bartlett Sher on being named Resident Director of Lincoln Center Theatre! Sher, who won the Tony for his direction of the smash hit revival of South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, has become a staple of LCT in recent years starting with his superlative work on the breathtaking original production of The Light in the Piazza and the revival of Awake and Sing! (Not to mention his direction of the Met Opera's Il Barbiere de Siviglia).

This position requires Sher to direct one production per year for LCT, while he also continues his duties as artistic director at the Intiman Theatre in Chicago.

Critical Round-Up on Patricia Routledge

As promised, I spent some time in the campus library at SUNY New Paltz investigating their periodicals that consist of theatre reviews from the major news sources, mostly in the newspaper, but also some from transcriptions from television newscasts. (Which unfortunately meant that there was nothing about out of town shows in these volumes, so alas there was no Prettybelle for me to bring back for our beloved Sarah).

Here is the round-up on Patricia Routledge in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Darling of the Day:

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - 1976

"...and Patricia Routledge was often deliciously funny (although in an accent usually doggedly and oddly British) as all the First Ladies."

- Clive Barnes, NY Times

"On the evidence of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, last night's musical at the Hellinger, both the show and history would ahve been more fun if our Presidents had been women.
Certainly the liveliest sally of the evening, which whisks us through a hundred-year tour of the White House, is provided by Patricia Routledge who, as Rutherford B. Hayes is taking the oath of office, plays both a fluttery Lucy Hayes and a caustic Julia Grant in a Leonard Bernstein-Alan Jay Lerner number called 'Duet for One.'
That's fun."

- Douglass Watt, NY Daily News

"But Lerner's book was potted historyballs and his lyrics swing dizzyingly between very bad and very good, the best being a one-person duet in which Patricia Routledge played both the outgoing First Lady, boozy Mrs. U.S. Grant, and the incoming one, flibberty Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes. Ms. Routledge would have stopped the show, if there had been one to stop."

- Jack Kroll, Newsweek

"The second and best of the two acts contains a glorious piece of vocal and histrionic foolery by Patricia Routledge. It occurs in a number called 'Duet for One.' With a toss of her head and an instant transformation of manners, Miss Routledge alternates between a feisty Julia Grant and a mincing Lucy Hayes. The resultant hilarity is worthy of Bea Lillie. You can't do better than that."

- John Beaufort, Christian Science Monitor

"And only once did a song hint at any real sass: The estimable Patricia Routledge, playing all of the Presidents’ wives to Ken Howard’s recurring husbands, was relieved of her whining matronly duties just long enough to engage herself in a one-woman duet in which a very blunt Julia Grant made mincemeat of a successor so refined that her very fingers were made of 'delicate bamboo.'"

- Walter Kerr, Sunday NY Times, Stage View: "Moralizing is a Bore; But Good Music Helps"


Darling of the Day - 1968

"And then the widow, depressed on learning that she has wed a great artist instead of a lowly valet, repairs to the pub, gets tipsy all alone, and begins an ebullient song, 'Not on Your Nellie,' which is a real showstopper. This is Patricia Routledge in her prime."

- John Chapman, NY Daily News

"Miss Routledge, who really can sing, has more to work with as the young widow slightly past her prime, and it is a joy to watch her. With those rosy cheeks and that comfortable bosom, she makes you think inevitably of buttered toast, crisp linen and good smells from the kitchen. Every artist's dream wife-mother, in short: all common sense and unselfish solicitude.
But a lively wench with a couple of beers in her. The high point of Darling of the Day is a thumping good production number in the local pub ('Not on Your Nellie'), in which Miss Routledge, somewhat sozzled, kicks up her heels with a bunch of boys. It would stop a livelier show; it starts this one, for a moment."

- Dan Sullivan, NY Times

"Darling of the Day is a superior musical comedy, and Miss Routledge is a treasure."

- Richard Watts, Jr., NY Post

"No such problems with Patricia Routledge, who played the wife as if an apple on a string, rosy bouncing and delicious. Miss Routledge had all the musicality the show hadn't, not merely because of a strong singing voice (which could be legitimate when she chose) but because of her comsuming sense of music and performing. She may have been the commoner but she had all the class."

- Martin Gottfried, Women's Wear Daily

"The chief attraction of the evening is the English actress Patricia Routledge, who secures her man through a matrimonial agency. Miss Routledge, equipped with a genuine English accent of the class and area she is supposed to represent (although Professor Henry Higgins might argue about it), is a joy all the way through. She is brisk, fresh and appealing, a comfortable yet lively youngish woman who can kick up her heels with a beer or two in the pub when the occasion arises. She projects a sort of jaunty domesticity in her pretty little Putney cottage."

- Richard P. Cooke, The Wall Street Journal

(and my personal favorite:)

"And when she hiccups her way into a showstoppers called "Not on Your Nellie" - this is a real showstopper, not a clamoring bargain-basement job that has figured out all the pressure points - she hiccups like a woodwind stealing into the pit at dawn. Becoming a coloratura in her cups, she lets you know the cups are mint Sevres. It's all needlepoint, and nifty, and I warn you: If you don't catch her act now, you'll someday want to kill yourself. I'll help you."

- Walter Kerr, Sunday NY Times, Stage View: "Patricia is My Darling"

What I Did on My Summer, er, Fall Vacation

If I could find the person who decided the weekend could consist only of Saturday and Sunday, I would locate him, resurrect him from the dead and then kill him for it. The saddest part of my weekend out of town in New Paltz is the fact that it's over. I went up Friday morning and spent the beautiful, sunny fall day wandering through the town and campus. I haven't been up in the area in about a year and a half; most of my friends have graduated and moved on to bigger and better things. However, a few faculty members and the rare student remains who began their studies as I was ending mine. Before I could meet those people I knew, I first hit up two of my favorite spots on Main Street - Rhino Records and Jack's Rhythms. These are the two places where I really developed a great core of my cast album collection (mostly LP, but a substantial amount on CD). I always like to frequent them because they are always a good time. Both owners are in the store almost always, and are awesome people. Jack especially always remembers me, and even if say a year and a half has gone by, he will ask me what theatre I've been seeing, as though we're picking up our conversation exactly where we left off. This time around I found the cast album of Milk and Honey in Rhino and then traipsed across the hippie tinged block to Jack's store where I unearthed the LPs of Bravo Giovanni, Hazel Flagg and would you believe it, Flahooley. I've also got him interested in seeing August: Osage County after relaying my usual story about what it was like to be in the Imperial on opening night.

As though passing through a surreal time warp, I walked onto the college campus which was exactly as I remembered it, yet entirely different. There is immense renovations going on across the campus, with the school's Old Main closed for a three year refurbishing project. After wandering aimlessly through the detours, I found the theatre department and Stephen Kitsakos, the professor of musical theatre and musical director on campus. Stephen's American Musical Theatre class is joy to take, and from my perspective, also to sit in. Because the class is listed fulfills core requirements for the four year curriculum, the class has evolved from a mere musical class into one that shows the American musical as a reflection of the history and popular culture. I sat on his class that day, which was focusing on representation of Asian Americans in musical theatre. One of the more interesting things about Stephen is the casual way he has of talking about the subject matter at hand. He starts such classes by asking for stereotypes regarding the particular culture in question. After getting the reluctant class to speak up (every time I've seen it, people sit on their hands - the P.C. police on patrol), he starts critical thinking discussions on what about our culture leads to such labeling. In this particular class, Stephen's focus remained on Rodgers & Hammerstein using South Pacific, The King and I and Flower Drum Song. Looking at examples from those musicals, he discusses the tolerance and anti-prejudice that Hammerstein was trying to display, yet also how the writing was also clouded by inherent ethnocentrism and instrinsic yet unconscious condescension toward the other cultures. The class makes for some fascinating discussion - and is one of the most informative anyone could possibly take to learn about the art form.

After the class, I got to meet up with some of theatre students, whose company I enjoyed immensely. It was a bit strange, I graduated almost three years ago and moved out of the town six months later, so while many of my friends and cohorts have moved on, there are a couple of people remaining from my time there. I had never in my life had people so excited to meet me; I felt like a rockstar. This led itself into the evening's performance of Company, the fall mainstage musical that the theatre department is presenting this month. One of the glories of educational theatre is that it allows students to test the waters with roles that they may either never get to play otherwise, or may not yet be old enough to play. With Company, that is most certainly the case. However, there was much to admire. Especially Paul Rigano and Kristen Alestra, who managed to crack me up (for the first time) on the karate scene - their physical comedy was exquisite. Charlotte Pines brought a seductive sass to Marta while Larissa Golberg was devastating as April. Andrea Green was one of the show's highlights as Amy (and boy does that song and scene work like gangbusters). Freshman Adam La Salle was her Paul, with the voice, looks and naturalism that with the right direction could bring him musical theatre stardom. (Seriously, I'm not usually bowled over, but this kid stunned us all). Michelle Hines had a field day with "The Ladies Who Lunch" while Denise Townsend is doing Donna McKechnie proud as Kathy. If I'm forgetting anyone I apologize - all of them are doing hard work, plus it's fun to see Sondheim on the college level, given the inherent challenges found in each of his shows. (The last Sondheim show they performed on their mainstage was Sunday in the Park With George, the only show I worked on - officially and appeared in during my college years). I also had the immense privilege of communicating with the production dramaturges, Russ Dembin and Chris Lavin, whose enthusiasm and intelligence are unending, throughout the entire course of the production. In that respect it was wonderful to see the show on its feet.

After the show, we went to the diner to discuss the show and get acquainted with Jenny Weinbloom of Alpha Psi Ecdysia fame (the campus' burlesque club) of whom I briefly wrote about back in May. Her parents hated 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue so much, they ate hot dogs in the front row in protest (for what I'm assuming is the second act - they hadn't seen the "Duet" yet). Quote of the weekend is hers. When picking up the check. "You don't have a job, you're a blogger!" Only in New Paltz, kids.

The next day I had some time to kill before the arrival of my second wave of friends - other alumni who were coming up for the Saturday night. And as promised, I went to the Sojourner Truth Library on campus, where I was employed in my college days (very June Allyson in Good News, huh?). After catching up with some old friends still working there, I sat down and did my obligatory research (did you know that Arthur Laurents was the first director Bernstein and Lerner wanted for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? I didn't until Saturday). Unfortunately I didn't find much on Prettybelle, but I was able to peruse the periodicals (the databases are for students only) and look up some fun facts.

Changing gears, I spent the evening with some of my closest friends in the entire world. I practically lived with them my freshman year of college and have considered them family ever since. We had drinks at Bacchus, a fantastic Southwestern restaurant just off of Main Street, where they serve over 200 beers, imported and domestic. (The favorite for myself and my Val was the Scottish 'SkullSplitter'). After getting a good buzz on, we went to the motel at which they were staying before bundling up to go to the Headless Horseman Haunted Hayride in Ulster Park, NY. It's apparently been named the number one Halloween attraction in America, and my goodness do they make a killing. I went there once before, with the same very group (a few changes in casting along the way), when I was a freshman in college. It was the event that I feel really cemented my friendship with them all. Anyway, we braved the cold for a raucous, strobe-light, fogged-filled sampling of haunted houses and a hayride (at which I either did nothing but provide running commentary, laugh or help the girls through) and then settled in for an old school night of an ipod shuffle, beer and wine, and some cards.

Sunday's weather improved on Saturday's. We went to the Main Street Bistro, one of our sentimental favorites in town, for breakfast and then spent the rest of the day milling through town. I made my first ever visit to the Water Street Market, an antique store in a barn, where I made the fascinating discovery of an entire Broadway section, complete with cast albums (LP), window cards, playbills and souvenir programs. Exercising unprecedented restraint, I limited myself to the original London cast album of Virtue in Danger with Patricia Routledge and Barrie Ingham and the souvenir programs of Robert Preston in Ben Franklin in Paris and Meredith Willson's Here's Love. There will most certainly be a field trip back to this particular store the next time I'm up there.

We wrapped up our weekend with drive up into the Shawagunk Mountains for a pastoral viewing of Ulster and Orange Counties, then wrapped things up with a trip to a farm market for your usual pumpkins, ciders, etc.

And then I came home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

9pft

Here is a fascinating youtube video of "Nine People's Favorite Thing" which features 600 people from around the world participating with photos containing lyrics from the show. There are a lot of famous people who got involved for this. And if need be (to avoid the blindness), here is the website where you can see each photo and the names of everyone who participated.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"A Way Back to Then"

Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Heidi Blickenstaff...


Friday, October 17, 2008

Getting Out of Town

I should be packing right now, but I figured there's enough time for an entry here. I have some vacation time to use up before the end of the month and I haven't been anywhere since I headed down for my first time in Brooklyn back in May, so I've decided to go away for the weekend. I'm heading out of town to New Paltz, NY, where I lived for about five years - oh and also went to college. They are putting on their annual musical production, which happens to be Company, musical directed by one of the greatest teachers and friends I have, Stephen Kitsakos, who is the resident musical theatre professor on campus. So as I catch up with a few old friends in the theatre department there (where I must disclaim, I was not a major, but a minor - all the perks; and none of, for lack of a better word, drama), I will give the campus the old once around and look up reviews of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Darling of the Day in the campus library. They have this incredible collection of all NY theatre reviews dating from the 20s to the mid-90s. If there are any you'd like me to look up, let me know.

On Saturday, some of my oldest friends from college, people I met in September 2001 and have loved ever since, will be coming up and together we're hitting up the Headless Horseman haunted hayride and corn maze up on Rte. 9W (which is incidentally the number 1 Halloween attraction in America). I last went here, with these very same people in October '01, in what chalked itself up to a random, hilarious, adrenaline fueled, starry night. Then on Sunday, we will have lunch at the Bistro on Main Street in New Paltz (If you're ever in town, GO!) and then return home to recall the sobering mundane that is Monday.

Before I wrap up, I went to see Irma La Douce, being presented by Musicals Tonight! this evening at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre at 76th Street & Broadway. Musicals Tonight! is a non-for-profit theatre company with a goal to present musicals that have been lost in the shuffle, or that Encores! hasn't quite gotten around to just yet. They also present At This Performance concerts which showcase the understudies and standbys from current Broadway shows, giving them a chance to go on and sing a song from their show and from their repertoire. Tickets are only $20 for each production (and let's face it, how often will you find theatre at those prices these days?) This was the first time I had ever gone to one of their shows, and let me tell it's a lot of fun. First of all, I was supposed to be the guest of Sarah, but due to an overload at work, I had to fly it solo. (Boo economy!) Anyway, I showed up, thinking there was going to be a box office, in order to pick up tickets. I go up three flights in this building, where I have no clue as to where I am or where I'm supposed to go. I just sort of stood staring until I encountered one of the actors from the cast who told me to wait for Mel. Turns out it was none other Mel Miller, the producer of Musicals Tonight, who with succinct timing walked right into the hallway on the cue of his name. Mel was delightful and personable and pretty much also a walking encyclopedia of theatre knowledge. I was assigned a seat on my program, which was to serve as my ticket. There was something about the whole experience that harkened to the MGM musicals where you just put up a show and bring people in, whether it be a barn in the country or a black box theatre in the Upper West Side.

Irma La Douce, written by Marguerite Monnot (Piaf's favorite songwriter) and Alexandre Breffort, opened in Paris in 1955 where it was a gigantic hit. Director Peter Brook got a production up and running in London in 1958, starring Elisabeth Seal, Keith Michell and Clive Revill. The production, adapted from the French by Julian More, David Heneker & Monty Norman, was a colossal success running for several years in the West End. David Merrick imported the show and its three stars for a Broadway run in 1960. The show was a hit in NY as well, earning seven Tony nominations including Best Musical. It won only one award: Best Actress in a Musical for Elisabeth Seal, who bested Julie Andrews in Camelot, Nancy Walker in Do Re Mi and Carol Channing in Show Girl.

(Side note: two leading ladies that season weren't because of the Tony committee's rigid rules on billing. The four ladies mentioned here were considered leading because they were over the title in their billing on opening night. In the Featured Actress in a Musical category, you found Chita Rivera as Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie and Tammy Grimes as The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Grimes won for her performance, a singing, dancing star vehicle - only then did producers move her billing to above the title (with the economical ramifications of refunds in case of a star's absence). It's interesting to note that there were four leading performances given Tonys that year. Richard Burton won Leading Actor for Camelot. Dick Van Dyke won Featured Actor for Bye Bye Birdie. If one can tolerate speculation, wouldn't it have been interesting to see how things could have been different had Tammy and Chita been considered leads?)

But I digress...

The show ran for 524 performances in NY and has not been revived in the city since it closed on New Year's Eve 1961. Apparently there was some legal issues between various factions in France and Britain over performance rights, etc, which effectively barred professional productions from being revived. Hopefully this run at Musicals Tonight serves as a springboard for this charmer's return. A film adaptation directed by Billy Wilder was released in 1963 starring Shirley MacLaine as Irma and Jack Lemmon as Nestor. Wilder cut the songs and made it as a nonmusical comedy. The irony is that both stars had considerable musical experience. (Youtube Irma La Douce and you can see that MacLaine actually included the title song in her one woman show in medley with "If My Friends Could See Me Now"). The further irony (and this one really makes me laugh), is that Andre Previn won an Oscar for Best Adapted Score as he implemented Monnot's music as underscoring for the work, not unlike what Josh Logan did to Fanny only a couple years prior.

The musical presents the farcical, tongue in cheek story of a naive law student named Nestor who falls in love with a prostitute..er, poule named Irma. In order to keep Irma for himself, he must become her mec (read: pimp) in order to maintain their dignity in the Milieu. He takes on the guise of Monsieur Oscar, a rich older man who demands he be Irma's one client. (It's a bit of a stretch of the suspension of disbelief, but its charming and Gallic). Taking on jobs to cover the expenses and becoming exhausted from the double life he's leading, Nestor becomes hilariously jealous of his own alter ego and kills him, which leads to his arrest, trial and deportation to Devil's Island. But this is a musical comedy, and as Bob, the narrator and owner of the bar where much of the action takes place, says in his opening, it's suitable for the children.

The score is a lot of fun. Understatement, yes. It's a bouncy, frollicking score that screams Paris, especially that fantastical Paris we like to think about (one of the lyrics even says "If you want 'La Vie en Rose,' there is only one Paris for that"), especially as we're watching a musical that takes a tongue in cheek look at the seedier underground of Parisian life. Irma La Douce features only the actress playing the title character, the rest of the cast are all men, filling various roles as mecs, prisoners, jurors, even penguins. Utterly tuneful and hummable, you have Irma's showstopping first act production number "Dis-Donc" (try and get that one out of your head, I dare you) and her stirring rendition of the title song, which is a variation on a waltz motif heard in various sections of the score throughout the evening that is brought to a stunning release as it modulates higher each phrase. Nestor has the comic act one solo "Wreck of a Mec" and the beautiful "From a Prison Cell." Other highlights include "She's Got the Lot," the ten minute scene involving the escape from Devil's Island "There is Only One Paris for That" (that's where the penguins come in), "But" the penultimate number where Nestor tries to prove he is alive (hilarious look at police corruption and wonderful play on logic) and the last number, the solemn "Christmas Child" which is such a perfect pastiche of a Christmas hymn, you'll swear you've heard it before. (Get your hands on the original Broadway cast album if you haven't already, it's an absolute delight - with one of my favorite overtures on record).

Musicals Tonight! dispenses with the orchestra, the elaborate sets and staging and gives a very rudimentary but professional look at the musicals they present. In that very grassroots [title of show] chairs and a piano vein. Miller starts the evening (his role of producer extends itself into box office and house management capacities) by giving us contextual trivia about the year in which the musical opened. He then he hands the show over to the pianist and performers. The actors rehearse for two weeks (which makes it a staged concert by Equity stipulations that require actors hold prompt books), then run for two weeks at their theatre. It was a return to that college black box sort of experience, a minimalist production in a small theatre being putting for pennies, but giving their all just the same. It was an absolute pleasure to see the musical and more importantly to hear the book. Now I did notice during the title song, when Vanessa Lemonides, a charming and radiant Irma (who belts the hell out of "Irma La Douce"), was sitting downstage, that there were big red slashes made to the script, so I am curious as to how much the musical was pared down for the venue. Wade McCollum is Nestor/Oscar, who's got a great knack for physical comedy (a highlight was a scene in which he "killed' his alter ego - very Pat Routledge in "Duet for One" - I liked that). John Alban Coughlan is Bob, providing a charming visage as narrator and getting one of the best asides in the entire show: "Who did you expect, Maurice Chevalier?" The rest of the men were quite stellar, though I think the choreography could have been stronger, especially since some of the dancers, especially ensemble member Jason Wise, who is making his NY debut here, are capable of doing a lot more. (That kid can move). But all in all, I can't complain. It was a fun, professional evening that gave me the opportunity of seeing this musical for the first time and that about cancels out any quibbles I could possibly have with the production. The cast is made up of many newcomers to the business, some fresh out of dramatic school. It crossed my mind more than once that I hoped I would be seeing more of these fresh faces in the NY scene.

As I said, this was my first time at Musicals Tonight! - and it certainly won't be my last. Their next show is Tovarich in a couple of weeks. Who's in?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Edie Adams (1927-2008)

Edie Adams, who made her Theatre World award-winning Broadway debut as Eileen in the original cast of Wonderful Town opposite Rosalind Russell in 1953, died yesterday at 81 of complications from pneumonia and cancer. Adams, a lyric soprano with a knack for comedy, became a popular in NY in the mid-50s, marrying popular television comedian Ernie Kovacs and securing a lasting legacy through her stage, film and television work. She won the 1956 Best Featured Actress in a Musical Tony for her performance as Daisy Mae in Li'l Abner (a role for which she turned down Cunegonde in Candide).

Adams made an indelible impressions on television, most notably as Julie Andrews' fairy godmother in the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptation of Cinderella and as herself on the final episode of The Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour. When Kovacs died in a car accident in 1962, Adams found herself deeply indebted to the IRS as a result and was forced to work diligently in order to pay off her husband's debt. She made her mark as a character actress in such '60s film classics such as The Apartment, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Love With the Proper Stranger and The Best Man. She was the seductively elegant poster girl for Muriel cigars for 19 years, appearing in print ads and commercials. In later years, she made guest appearances on Murder, She Wrote, Designing Women, and a slew of other series.

Adams, a Juilliard trained coloratura, made her big break winning the talent portion of a beauty competition on the DuMont network in 1950. According to her NY Times obituary, the prize was an appearance with Milton Berle, which led to an appearance on his show, where she would meet Kovacs. They were married in 1954. Their daughter Mia was also tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1982 (sadly on the same stretch of roadway where her father died). Adams is survived by her son Josh from her second marriage to actor Marty Mills.

Here she is, crooning the classic ballad "That's All" on that final episode of Lucy and Desi:




Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tagalicious by Sarah

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog. Sarah was my tagger.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.

4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

5. If you don't have 7 blog friends, or if someone else already took dibs, then tag some unsuspecting strangers.

Ok.... here goes...

1. I became an Eagle Scout at 15. Not that I really wanted to be in Scouts, but it was a family thing to do, so I just went along for the ride. My brother, also a Rhodes scholar, is one too. (He's the one with the doctorate in archaeology who teaches in Singapore and makes documentaries with a baby on the way... and room for a pony).

2. In high school, I earned money by subbing as an organist/pianist/soloist for local churches.

3. I've been to 50 states. Hit the 50th (Hawaii) when I was 15. Seems like it was a monumental year, huh?

4. I have dual citizenship. US & Ireland. Again... 15...

5. I am the only person in my entire family with blue eyes. My father and brothers are all hazel. My mother has grey.

6. I once wrote a letter to the Pope when I was in fourth grade. I got a response from the US office of the Vatican when I was in fifth grade. I still have the letter, though I'll admit I was disappointed that John Paul II couldn't find the time to write a personal letter to an impressionable, parochial 10 year old. And you wonder why I fell out with the Catholic Church... (However, nuns are still my among my all-time favorite people).

7. Here's chalking one up to my undeserved sense of vanity: Although I've pretty much accepted it, there is still a part of me that resents the fact that I'm short.

Aaaaand, tag you're it:

1. Roxie, who should be the next Rosalind Russell over at Stage Left, House Right.
2. The delightful author and playwright Marc Acito fills up on the banquet of life with The Gospel According to Marc.
3. The madcap newcomer/theatre enthusiast Dorian presenting In the Dorian Mode in Nova Scotia.
4. Matt over at You're Welcs: The Ramblings of Matty B, documenting his undergrad theatre studies in the Midwest.
5. Kari, our own Tina Fey, keeping us amused with her wit and style at Persistent Cookie.
6. So deadpan he could serve as Elaine Stritch's standby for At Liberty: Miles at What Fresh Hell Is This?
7. Ken Davenport, theatre producer extraordinaire at The Producer's Perspective.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quote of the Day: 'At Large' Elsewhere...

From Peter Filichia's Diary on 10.10.08:


Kevin Daly did Encores! a favor by casting Darling of the Day for them. Now all that Encores! has to do is do the show. Daly wisely chose David Hyde Pierce as Priam Farll, Victoria Clark as Alice Challice, Judy Kaye as Lady Vale, and Gavin Lee as Alfie. I’m interested; aren’t you? Hope the powers-that-be at City Center are listening.

Madame Arcati here!

Angela Lansbury to return to Broadway in the revival of Blithe Spirit as Madame Arcati. This has become the event of the season. 'Nuff said.

(I say for the Actor's Fund they do a night of High Spirits, the musical version. Anyone on board?)

Monday, October 13, 2008

"Suck it, Rose's Turn!"

The hiatus was brief, I am fully recharged (for now) and it's all thanks to some vampire killing I witnessed last evening.

Sunday was another two-a-day for me. I went to August: Osage County for my fourth and possibly final dinner engagement with the Weston clan, which was also the final performances for Jim True-Frost and original cast members Troy West, Sally Murphy and Amy Morton (who for me was the reason to see the show so many times). There isn't much to add to what I've said about the play - it remains one of the most vibrant, unnerving productions currently playing in New York. Though, one of the biggest gasps of this audience was new to me - the older crowd seemed agog at the incredibly rapid pace with which Estelle Parsons climbed two flights of stairs at the end of the third act. Long may the show run. (I say I'm done...but if anyone wants to fly me to England and put me up for a week, I'll more than gladly see the show again!)

With little time to spare, I ducked of the Music Box and crossed Broadway to get over to the Lyceum for the closing performance of [title of show]. Excuse me, I meant to say the [title of show] pep rally, which is how the cast and creative team decided to view the end of their run. I was supposed to go with a good friend of mine who really wanted to see the show. I picked up tickets on a whim last Wednesday and all seemed set. Until I got out of August at 6:25 to discover a voicemail from my friend informing me he was stuck in traffic near Reading, Pennsylvania, and that he wasn't going to make it.

So at 6:30 I'm calling the few numbers I have in my cell phone looking for someone I know who would just want to take the ticket. After twenty minutes of dead ends, I got a call back from Sarah, who is always up for shenanigans, especially theatre related. Besides, from a personal perspective I wanted to extend the ticket to someone I knew before I handed it over to a stranger.

There's always an intensity and energy surrounding a big performance. However, I don't think there are many that could compare with the pep rally last evening. First off, it was a wonderful sight to see the Lyceum packed to the hilt. (Though the balcony usher was a rather bizarre fellow, I'm guessing they don't get too many people up in the rafters at this flop-prone house). There was intense screaming for Larry as he made his way to the keyboard. Then a full house standing ovation for Jeff and Hunter as they made their first appearance. The show was a mess of energy - an mutual admiration society between stage and audience. Unlike some closings, this didn't feel really have the usual tinge of melancholy. Yes it was sad that the show was closing prematurely, but there was a celebratory feeling and one that this wasn't the end of the road. For Jeff Bowen, Hunter Bell, Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell (and Larry Pressgrove), it's certainly a new beginning. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

I witnessed the longest mid-show standing ovation I've ever seen in the theatre for "Nine People's Favorite Thing." I've been to opening nights, closing nights, post-award performances, one night concerts and have witnessed the phenomenon (and this includes the Madame Rose of both Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone). The Routledge went on for three minutes and fifteen seconds (topping the previous s/o for Heidi's "A Way Back to Then" just moments prior) and will remain one of the most extraordinary theatregoing experiences I've ever had. The title of my post was my facetious verbal response to the ovation.

My appreciation of this show seems to have surprised many who thought I wouldn't like it. It felt as though I was watching a show put on friends. Not just kindness being polite either I might add, I felt that they had something relevant to say and said it with idiosyncratic charm and heart. I wish the show could have run longer, but I'm glad they had the opportunity. Anyhow, it was the sparkplug I needed to slay a few vampires of my own and become nine people's favorite thing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

[quote of the day]

"Lots of folks have asked 'How you guys doing?' or 'How do you feel?' and the answer is, a lot of different emotions. When our 'pep rally' date was first announced (we prefer to call it a pep rally...closing night sounds too final), we were super sad for like 48 hours. We cried, got angry, sad (sangry)...all of it. However, pretty quickly on came this wave of creative energy and excitement about all the possibilities for the future of [tos]. Truth is, Jeff and I succeeded the day we wrote down the first words of this show. Anytime anyone breaks through and starts to create something they love, they have succeeded. [title of show] is about not being afraid to dream out loud. Our dream was to tell this story on a Broadway stage, and with courageous producers and investors and blood sweat and tears from all the folks in our [tos] family, that dream is happening. While this [tos] chapter at the Lyceum is done on the 12th, I know that this journey is far from over. One of our awesome [tos]ser fans sent us this Louis L'Amour quote that says: 'There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.' I love that. So we're hitting pause this Sunday and then next up...maybe [tos] in some other cities and then back to New York (we want to have to get tuxes and dresses for the Broadway prom...also known as the Tony Awards!), plus a [tos] TV show, and we're still keen on a [tos] blimp and theme park, too!"

Hunter Bell to Playbill.com - 10/10/08

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hiatus

Not feeling it at the moment. Be back when the battery's recharged!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"On the Twentieth Century"

The first time I listened to the original cast recording of On the Twentieth Century was in April 2001. I can recall this because it was the first time I ever went to New Paltz, NY, where I ended up going to college. I had been borrowing a lot of cast albums over the previous weeks from the local library, hearing scores like Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, The Secret Garden, She Loves Me and many others for the first time. The reason I had picked it up was because the musical originally starred the late, great Madeline Kahn in a high coloratura soprano role. That was enough to make me go "Hmm!"

On the Twentieth Century was based on Twentieth Century, a 1930s play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacDonald (itself a reworking of Charles Bruce Millholland's unproduced Napoleon of Broadway about his experienced working under flamboyant impresario David Belasco) and probably most famous as the Howard Hawks' 1934 screwball comedy film classic starring John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. The story centers around a flamboyant impresario (go figure) named Oscar Jaffee, who is down on his luck as a producer and director. Facing flop after flop, he is determined to win back his own Galatea, an Oscar winning Hollywood star Lily Garland, who was once his former lover. The play (and musical) is mostly set aboard the 20th Century Ltd, a luxury liner train that used to run between Chicago and NYC in 16 hours.

Anyway, the ride got off to a great start as I listened to what is one of the most unique and well orchestrated overtures in the entire musical theatre canon. When I say this is a phenomenal overture, I mean it I repeated it immediately. The overture just screams of farce and operetta. It was love at first listen. The score (by Cy Coleman and Comden & Green) has become one of my all-time favorites.

Joining Madeline Kahn were John Cullum, Imogene Coca and Kevin Kline. The show opened at the St. James Theatre in NY in 1978. The show was a big critical success, earning kudos for its screwball antics, pastiche operetta-spoof score, the performances. Robin Wagner received incredible acclaim for his Art Deco flavored set design. Direction was provided by Harold Prince in a rare musical comedy project (musical theatre of the 1970s was all but defined by his darker conceptual collaborations with Stephen Sondheim).

The show also had the distinct privilege of bringing Judy Kaye to the forefront of musical theatre actresses. She was hired by Prince as an understudy for Kahn. However, Kahn was having vocal problems (evident at certain points on the original cast album) and left the production two months after the opening night, with Kaye taking over the lead (in the "overnight star sensation" mold), though there have been long established rumors of clashes with Prince. Kaye received the Theatre World award and a nomination from the Drama Desk awards for her performance. However, the awkward came from the Tony committee - they nominated Kahn, as per their rules that only the originator of a role can receive the nomination (the only exception to this rule was Larry Kert, who replaced Dean Jones early in Company).

The musical won five Tony awards. Best Actor for Cullum, Best Featured Actor for Kevin Kline, Book, Score and Set Design. Best Musical went to Ain't Misbehavin'. The show ran for a little over a year, closing after 449 performances. Kaye went on national tour with Rock Hudson and the show opened in London in 1980 starring Keith Michell and Julia McKenzie (which went unrecorded) running for 165 performances. Kaye and Coca went on a bus and truck tour in the mid 80s with Frank Gorshin. However, the musical has only been seen in NY once since its original production, as a concert for the Actor's Fund in 2005 with Douglas Sills and Marin Mazzie. It seems highly unlikely, given the revival of Twentieth Century by Roundabout that there are any plans for a full-scale revival of the musical, but it's definitely a musical that deserves to be seen and heard.

Sarah, Noah and I had the great privilege earlier that very year of seeing Kaye perform the song "Never" at the Theatre World awards. The woman is, in short, a wonder. Anyone who saw her dynamo performance in the short-lived Souvenir can attest to that.

Here is the Tony Awards performance of the title song featuring the entire company:

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Betcha didn't know what you had when you wrote this one, Steve!"

Dorothy Loudon. 1984 Tony awards. "Broadway Baby." Press play.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Patricia Routledge is Alive and Well and Living in Chichester



Here she is on October 4, 2008 opening the Chichester Charity Christmas Card shop just in time for the beginning of the season. Routledge, as the video attests, lends her support and effort to a lot of nonprofit events and organizations in and around her community and has been known to speak out for the local hospital and charities.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Would I chuck the old acquaintance?

Ditch the auld lang syne...?

So it has been 525, 600 minutes since I inaugurated the "Theatre Aficionado at Large" blog. First of all, I'll write this inane sentence for those who know me in order to give them a chance to get over the fact that I have referenced Rent for the first time in my writing. Anyway, it started one year ago today. It seems that a brief retrospective on the first year of blogging is absolutely obligatory and I would not want to overlook the opportunity to look back and contemplate the experience.

It had started on Sept. 30 of last year. I was at the Sunday evening performance of Spring Awakening and went to Starbucks with Sarah and Noah afterward. It was during our discourse that both insisted that I should be writing - and Sarah especially insisted that I should jump on the blog bandwagon. I'd been keeping up with her blog for the few months prior and it certainly seemed like an interesting. Anyway, I thought about it for a couple of days and this site was born. I had no expectations, I just figured I'd do it.

Truth be told, I never thought that my blog would have any sort of longevity, which is why the first few several months didn't have that many posts. I wasn't sure exactly what I would write about, nor if I would have the time or discipline to keep it up. So the person most surprised that I'm keeping this up is me.

Blogging has proven a most incredible opportunity. I have met so many people who've become an integral part of my life whether it be here online or over brunch in Joe Allen's. There's this unending generosity of spirit and conversation that ensues whenever we meet, greeting strangers like old friends and carrying on as if these friendships had existed always. There's also the added bonus that none of the bloggers I've encountered so far have likened themselves to the cattier posters on the All That Chat and Broadwayworld messageboards. Suffice it to say, it's nice to be able to share what I know and what I think with such stellar company. So to Esther, Steve & Doug, Chris, Alicia, Kari, Eric, Jimmy, the immortal Roxie and especially my beloved Lady Iris, Sarah, thanks for a merciful year. And to all of you, thanks for reading. You have no idea how much that means to me.

Now if this blog entry were a musical, this would be heading into a raucous eleven o'clocker right now. And if you haven't guessed it already, I feel Patricia Routledge summed it up best with hers in Darling of the Day. Enjoy.

Also note: The song is also among the tracks in my brand new shiny playlist courtesy of BroadwaySpace in the upper right hand corner. So now you can listen to some of your favorites - and mine as you read.