Wednesday, June 16, 2010

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Random Thoughts on the Tony Awards

Last night I was very fortunate to be watching the Tony Awards at SarahB's annual Tony party (which I lovingly call "Lady Iris' Annual Moon Lady Extravaganza"). We were in a different suite this year, but the company was the same. While it rained on the NY, up inside 1820, the moon was the full, the gin was in the bathtub and a glorious time was had by all. There was a Twitter corner for those who wished to tweet during the ceremony, but we all had such a marvelous time with one another that no one left the couch!

The greatest acceptance speech of the night belonged to Marian Seldes. The beloved actress was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award which was presented on the pre-show telecast on NY1. There had been some conjecture wondering how long Ms. Seldes' speech would run. However, she trumped all by merely walking to the microphone, taking several glances at the house and merely put her hand to her cheek in astonishment as she walked offstage. I think it will go down as one of the greatest Tony moments ever (and is that now officially the shortest acceptance speech on record...)

I've seen some speculation on web boards and twitter that Ms. Seldes' speech was either disingenuous or indicative of failing health. But the truth of the matter that it is neither. Marian is an animal of the theatre, one who has a unique quality of eccentricity about her. But this eccentricity is pure sincerity. I don't know that there is another person alive or dead who genuinely loves theatre like Marian Seldes, who recently sat through a three hour performance of A Little Night Music, backstage visit and dinner with a smashed shoulder (which would require surgery). She is wholly dedicated to her profession, and I for one say "Brava!"

Last July, the Tony Management Committee released a statement to the press to inform the world that members of the press were to lose their voting privileges in the awards. There was a huge backlash at the time because of the hypocritical statement that removing the press would make the awards more balanced and fair. Bullshit. It was a choice that removed the most impartial members (approx. 100 folks, accounting for 1/8 of the voters). The results of last night's awards were indicative of that choice.

Producers were given far more influence in the voting results, which were reflective of the trends of this weary, underwhelming theatre season where the great financial successes were star driven limited engagements. Stars were given preference; not necessarily saying that their performances weren't meritorious, but it seemed more like a plea on the producers' part to entice other stars to come to Broadway. While I welcome any and all to give it a try onstage... I am weary at the unhealthy trend this could set as more and more producers look to shy away from artistic risks and pander to middling tastes.

There weren't as many sound gaffes as last year, but that didn't help much when it came to Tony performances. Once again they felt rushed and were at extremes. There was no balanced excerpt. Green Day was given two songs while Christiane Noll was given the bridge of "Back to Before." Nominated revival, and the best reviewed show of the season Finian's Rainbow wasn't even represented in song. The television direction once again proved entirely incongruous, giving the audience very little feel for the shows in contention. Matthew Morrison needs to do another musical, but I'm not sold that Lea Michelle is ready for a revival of Funny Girl.

The trouble remains the need for CBS to draw ratings (which it always fails to do) so they limit the performance time for shows and make it impossible to get a sense of the shows currently playing. Also with the show being held in Radio City Music Hall, a cavernous barn fit only for a revival of Jumbo, much intimacy is lost. Radio City Music Hall is not Broadway, nor will it ever be. It's unlikely to change unless the awards are given the boot from network television (and the way it's going, it would probably be better off on PBS), but I wish the tradition of going to a different Broadway house each year would return.

Then there is the legend of Catherine Zeta-Jones. While I am not a big fan of the stage revival currently playing the Walter Kerr, I did think that the star could have been exceptional Desiree Armfeldt with a more nuanced director, such as Bartlett Sher. The performance of "Send in the Clowns" ranks as one of the worst renditions of the song I have ever seen/heard, whether it was the choice to remove Alexander Hanson (who should have been nominated for his exceptional Fredrik Egerman) from the moment so she would have someone to play to or nerves, or projecting to the house at Radio City Music Hall. It heightened what was problematic about her performance to me - the need to oversell, oversing and the overall lack of nuance and balance in her performance. Even folks I know who liked the performance found themselves screaming at the pregnant pauses, jerky head movements and crazy eyes. What seemed mediocre at the Kerr was downright terrifying in HD closeup. Barbara Cook introduced the number, but truth be told I think she should have been the one singing the Sondheim classic last night.

The Best Musical Tony should be renamed "Best Vehicle for Marketing on Tour." It was a weak year for original musicals, very few properties were represented and there were only two eligible nominees for score (with Fences and Enron filling out the rest). Memphis won because it was the most wholly original and traditional musical in the bunch, a diluted and derivative hybrid of Dreamgirls and Hairspray. (I'd have voted for Fela!, one of the great experiences of the year).

Sean Hayes was an exceptional host. Funny, affable, self-deprecating. He was genuinely funny and his one liners and shtick worked very well. His quips as well as his numerous costume bits were very amusing and as the night progressed further and further into tedium, I looked forward to seeing what the Promises, Promises star would come up with next. Also, props on the classical piano skills - I was sort of hoping that he and David Hyde Pierce would engage in a round of dueling pianos.

Angela Lansbury did not break the record for most acting Tony wins last night, but she was still the epitome of class and grace as she was announced the first ever Honorary Chairman of the American Theatre Wing, an announcement which brought the entire crowd at Radio City Music Hall to its feet.

Oh - and one more thing. NY Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was on hand to present the Best Musical performance of Memphis. In his introduction he was touted as a theatre aficionado, to which I said, "That doesn't look like me." It was unexpected, but I think it's nice to see someone from the world of sports taking an interest in Broadway.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lily Tomlin's Special Tony Acceptance Speech

It's the eve of the Tony Awards. By this time tomorrow, we'll know what the voters decided on and we will Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning, afternoon and evening quarterback (and possibly still further... Two Gentlemen of Verona over Follies anyone...?). Twitter, facebook and the blogosphere will be a jumbled mess of opinions, arguments, commentary and 20/20 hindsight. But for now I want to share one of my favorite Tony acceptance speeches -and one of the more unique -in Tony history.

Lily Tomlin has appeared in two solo shows on Broadway, both solo works and has won Tonys for both. The more famous is her 1985 vehicle The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, which she revived in 2001. But in 1977, Tomlin made her Broadway debut in a special limited engagement Appearing Nitely, which she directed and cowrote with her partner Jane Wagner. She received a special Tony award for her acclaimed appearance and in turn they made her work for it. Happy Tony watching and may you all win your Tony party pool. In the meanwhile, here's Lily. Enjoy:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Melba Moore sings "I Got Love"

High belting doesn't really excite me as much as it does some others. But, that doesn't mean I don't have some favorites. One of the all time greats is Melba Moore, who made her professional debut as Dionne in the original cast of Hair. Moore came from a musical family (her mother was singer Bonnie Davis and her father Big Band leader Teddy Hill; her stepfather and great influence was jazz pianist Clement Moorman). Moore eventually moved into the role of Sheila, a couple years into the run (replacing none other than Diane Keaton).

In 1970, she opened in a new musical based on Ossie Davis'
Purlie Victorious. A light comedy with satiric edges about race relations in the Deep South, the play was about a charismatic and cunning preacher who returns to his Georgia hometown to save the church and also to get the cotton pickers out of the clutches of the mean old plantation owner (who treats the workers like slaves). The plan is to get an inheritance out of the old racist codger and use the money to help the townspeople, with the help of the plantation owner's liberal son.

The musical starred Cleavon Little as the "new-fangled preacher man Purlie Victorious Judson, and featured Sherman Hemsley, Novella Nelson, Helen Martin and Linda Hopkins. The score was written by Peter Udell and Gary Geld, the book by Udell, Davis & Philip Rose. (Davis had no actual involvement with the musical, but so much of his original work remained that Udell and Rose felt that he deserved credit).

Playing Purlie's love interest, Lutiebelle, Moore created a sensation out of town with the musical when she stopped the show with the show's title song in act one. She went over so well, that Udell and Geld wrote another song for her, which was such a sensation it would bring the show to a complete stop. The song is "I Got Love." It comes towards the middle of the first act, and begins as a quiet, plaintive reflection. But it soon explodes into one of the most joyous musical theatre numbers I've ever heard. It pops out on the original cast album, but the recording doesn't contain the alternate ending that Moore used in the theatre. (For the record, the show has one of my all time favorite opening numbers too).

Melba won the Tony for Best Featured Actress, besting Penny Fuller and Bonnie Franklin in Applause and Melissa Hart in the bomb Georgy. (Little won for Lead Actor, the show was nominated for several others including Best Musical). The success of the musical jumpstarted Moore's career as a recording artist and actress, with several successful albums and some film and TV work.

Moore returned to Broadway in 1978's reboot of Kismet called Timbuktu, but reportedly friction with co-star Eartha Kitt sent Moore packing within a few weeks after opening. She provided music and lyrics and starred in the 1981 play Inacent Black, which lasted 14 performances. Later stage work includes a Broadway stint as Fantine in Les Mis and the national tour of Brooklyn.

Here is "I Got Love" in its show stopping splendor from the 1981 telecast of Purlie, which I think is even better than her high octane performance on the 1970 Tony telecast. Much of the original cast was involved, with the noted addition of Robert Guillaume, who replaced Little on Broadway, in the title role. Oh... and she does her alternate ending here...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Follies" - A glimpse of the original

Who's got the budget to recreate this spectacular piece of theatre? Here are fragments of the original cast, in a final dress rehearsal. Watch...marvel...enjoy... (The first part is viewable here).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Patrick Lee (1959-2010)

Ever since I started blogging, I have been experiencing so many firsts. My first press invite or my first interview. There have been first trips to various theatres, seeing various folks perform and it's been such a joy. However, today with the sobering intensity of a sucker punch, I experienced another first, one that I wasn't exactly prepared for: the death of a fellow theatre blogger.

I first met Patrick Lee a little over a year ago when Ken Davenport had what would be the first meeting of the Independent Theater Bloggers Association. Over the course of the year, as I volunteered to help out I got to spend some time with Patrick as we worked to bring structure to the fledgling group. It was to my great shock and sadness to learn of his death of a heart attack, at 51 years old.

Every so often we would all meet up in Ken's offices for meetings discussion our progress and whatnot. But as is the case with so many of the bloggers, I found myself chatting him up before and after the meetings. There would be times when we would end up talking for a half hour on the sidewalk on 49th Street, catching up on what we have seen. Discussing some of the great flops that interest me (namely 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), he told me that he used to travel into the city constantly with his father to see theatre when he was a kid, and as a result saw so many shows (such as 1600) that most of the general public would have missed.

I don't know if there is anyone who went to the theatre as often as Patrick did. Last August, we would jest over the amount of Fringe shows he was running off to see. You could catch his reviews, interviews and features for Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway theatre on Theatermania, his own blog Just Shows to Go You and Show Showdown. He was a member of the Outer Critics Circle and a juror for the GLAAD Media Awards. Just recently, we announced the 2010 winners of the ITBA awards, with Patrick taking charge of an admittedly thankless task and handling everything with aplomb.

The last time I saw Patrick was, of course, at the theatre. We were heading in to see the Encores! revival of Anyone Can Whistle and were able to chat amiably for a couple of minutes. I do wish I had a chance to know him better, but will be grateful for the conversations we had, online and in person. He will be greatly missed among the theatre blog community.

He is survived by his mother, sisters and other family members.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The 2010 Theatre World Awards - Recap

For the first time since I started blogging I made it to the 66th annual Theatre World Awards with considerable ease; no train chasing or train hopping this year! The ceremony was once again held at New World Stages (where it was in 2007), in the theatre which currently houses Avenue Q (seeing the set made me want to see it again).

This year it was very important for me to be there as the awards were handed out, as it's not been the easiest year for the organization. Financial troubles left the future of the awards ceremony in doubt, but thanks to Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer as well as the Dorothy Loudon Foundation and others, this year's ceremony went on as planned. While still not out of the woods yet, things are looking up (To make a tax deductible donation to the Theatre World Awards, click here).

The afternoon got started with a visit from Jennifer Barnhart and John Tartaglia, who brought along one of the Bad Idea Bears and Rod. After establishing the rules for the afternoon, they introduced Peter Filichia who seemed to get Rod a little...shall we say flustered...? The affable emcee smiled as the smitten musical loving investment banker made his exit.

Filichia, as always, hosts the event and is actively involved with the Theatre World in almost every capacity. He usually starts with a few digs at some of the current shows but got off to a bit of a false start when he quipped that his 12 year old suit was now eligible for a Tony (that remark landed like a lead balloon, esp. since half the Ragtime company was in attendance). However, he eased into his usual form: very brief commentary in between presentations. Peter knows lots of minutiae about almost everyone in show business and usually regales the audience with a "Rest of the Story" anecdote.

The tradition remains: a previous winner is on hand to bestow the award to the newcomer. Whenever possible, the event planners try to pick winners with a connection to the new recipient. There is no script, there is no time limits - the afternoon always progresses in a free-form manner and ends up being the most moving of all ceremonies; often the winners are surprised at how overcome they are. Every year without fail, the presenters speak fondly of the award and its place in their lives.

In order to make her evening performance of Johnny Baseball in Cambridge, MA, the first recipient was Ragtime's Stephanie Umoh, who received her award from original Broadway cast member Brian Stokes Mitchell, who said it was the most magical show he's ever been a part of. The stunning Umoh, overcome with emotion, took a moment and told herself to pull it together.

Michael Cerveris presented to Bill Heck of The Orphans' Homes Cycle. Filichia mentioned that there was a connection between the two of them because of Sweeney Todd, which Cerveris famously revived on Broadway. Heck was cast in a production of the show as Judge Turpin and it was what started him on the path as a professional actor. Heck quipped that the award was "pretty kick-ass" and thanked everyone who sat through all nine hours of the performance.

Heidi Schrek's (Circle Mirror Transformation) proud mother was on hand to accept the award on her behalf, as the young actress is currently at Berkeley Rep. Mrs. Schreck read a statement from her daughter, including the parentheticals (which garnered a bit laugh). Robert LuPone was also on hand to accept for Andrea Riseborough, who won for MCC's (The Pride). Condola Rashad still seemed quite overwhelmed from her win last year as she recalled the moment to moment experience of how the afternoon felt for her. She presented to Keira Keely of The Glass Menagerie, who charmed with her quirky shyness.

Jon Michael Hill received his award, most fittingly, from his Superior Donuts costar Michael McKean, who is one of funniest and most intelligent actors working today (Hill commented on his winning Celebrity Jeopardy). McKean regaled us with a couple of stories about his own career. He attended Carnegie (before the Mellon) and NYU (before the Tisch), figuring they didn't get endowed until after he left. He also talked about his own Theatre World Award acceptance speech. Carol Lynley was his presenter and told him "I haven't a clue who you are." He then told the audience to google Carol Lynley.

Vanessa Williams was on hand to present to her Ugly Betty co-star Michael Urie (The Temperamentals). She claimed to have planned a very extensive presentation with song and video a la Sondheim on Sondheim, but said time just got away from her. Instead, she narrated her idea in between snippets of "Good Thing Going" from Merrily We Roll Along. Urie told the crowd that Williams was entirely responsible for his casting on the hit series, as initially Williams' was supposed to go through a different assistant each week. It was Urie's work on the pilot that made Williams go to bat for the younger actor.

Seated behind us throughout the ceremony was Scarlett Johansson, who was dolled up to the nines (and whose Theatre World snapshots made the style tabloids today). She was presented her award by her A View from the Bridge co-star Michael Cristofer, who - as it turns out - is the only person to have won a Tony, Theatre World Award and Pulitzer. He took a moment to talk about film acting vs. stage acting and proffered that they aren't as different as they seem. His evidence was Ms. Johansson's performance, her first professional stage experience and the seemingly alchemical way she inhabited the character.

Johansson expressed gratitude and was thrilled at her reception by the New York theatre community. She admitted that had she not been welcomed she wouldn't be able to do it again (and even proferred an awkward interview where the reporter asked her what she would do if she got bad reviews). Her wish for the theatre goes back to her childhood, when she pounded the pavement in NY in order to be Cosette in Les Miserables.

Kate Burton was on hand to present two awards. The first was the Dorothy Loudon Foundation's "Starbaby" Award, which was given to Bobby Steggert for his performances in Ragtime and Yank! Loudon's agent Lionel Larner was on hand to talk about the award and mentioned the late actress' fondness for the Theatre World - because it wasn't politically motivated, was non competitive and was run by people who loved theatre. Burton met Steggert only weeks earlier when they started rehearsals for The Grand Manner at Lincoln Center. She mentioned that he one day wants to play Bobby in Company and hopes she can play Joanne (I'd see that) then called him up to the stage with the "Bobby" section of the title song. Steggert met his costar with tears in his eyes (her praise was quite effusive and incredibly heartfelt) and was quite humbled. My only quibble - there was a mention of Dorothy Loudon's "Vodka" but no clip.

Her other presentation was later in the show to Fela! star Sahr Ngaujah. When Burton won, she was awarded for three different shows she did in one season, but felt that Ngaujah did more in his one performance than she did in all three combined. Burton found parallels in their lives. Both Burton and Ngaujah are first generation Americans and faced reticence from their fathers. Burton's father (Richard) knew the business and based his worries in experience. Ngaujah's father, on the other hand questioned what acting could do for the people of Sierra Leone (where Ngaujah's family is from). It was seeing his son in Fela! that changed his mind.

Peter introduced Tovah Feldshuh by commenting that a cartwheel is what kept her employed on her first Broadway show (the failed musical Cyrano). In response, Tovah, dolled up in a vintage looking summer dress (Oh, Eileen..! was the comment I heard) offered to delivery another cartwheel, apologizing in advance for a Tallulah moment. Feldshuh introduced Nina Arianda of Venus in Fur by talking about a rumor that the actress stripped in her audition (which Arianda later put to bed) and then read one of the reviews she got, in the only way Tovah can. Arianda talked about how she was on her sixth callback for As You Like It the day she auditioned for Venus in Fur. She proceeded to get the part five hours later.

One of the most ebullient winners of the afternoon was Chris Chalk of Fences, who received his award from costar Viola Davis, who thought she was too young to be playing his mother (but neither the critics nor her husband agreed). Chalk's high energy and enthusiasm brought roars of laughter, as he confessed to stalking Jon Michael Hill on Facebook after seeing his performance in Superior Donuts. He added that the night he saw that play he and the middle aged white man next to him were holding onto each other. He also got the biggest laugh of the afternoon when he told the audience he didn't have an agent, so he didn't have to thank any of them.

Much to my delight, Peter Filichia introduced Alfred Molina by talking about how he met his wife in the original London production of Harold Rome's Destry Rides Again (which we both later agreed would be a great show for Kate Baldwin). Filichia commented on seeing he and his wife eating and conversing lively - and that nothing makes him happier than watching a married couple still in love after 25 years. Molina entered and quipped "I think that was my agent." He graciously presented to his Red costar Eddie Redmayne, saying that the younger acting is teaching him and helping him grow as an actor, to which Redmayne genially said "Bollocks!" and insisted he was the pupil.

There were, of course, the obligatory performances. Alli Mauzey sang her big number "Screw Loose" from the short-lived, unrecorded Cry-Baby (Peter turned front and said "Gentlemen, turn on your recorders). Loretta Ables-Sayre, who won for her indelible turn in South Pacific (and who is still seriously one of my favorite people ever) sang a wonderfully jazzy rendition of "The Best is Yet to Come," one of the more fitting numbers I've heard at the ceremony. Jonathan Groff was also onhand to sing "Only in New York" from Thoroughly Modern Millie in the eleven o'clock spot.

Every year we've been blessed to have John Willis in attendance. Though frail, the 93 yearold founder of the Theatre World Awards was in high spirits as he was helped to his feet for recognition from the audience. We stood in admiration and appreciation for this gentleman who not only helped found the organization, but kept it running for years.

The first year I attended, I found myself sitting with a couple of Peter's guests. Now, I look forward to my annual meeting with Karen, with whom I sat the very first year. We've ran into each other outside the Theatre Worlds, and we joke about it since we always see each other every spring! It's indicative of the award ceremony's spirit - people gathering to celebrate theatre, greeting one another as old friends. If you need positive energy, this is the place to be.

There was one notable difference this year: the award itself was redesigned. In recent years the winners received a small bronze statue featuring Janus. This year they were replaced with large (and incredibly heavy, as per the winners) slabs of cut glass.

The new season hasn't even started, but I confess I'm already excited for next year's awards.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Karen Morrow sings "I Had a Ball"

"She'll sing the hell out of it."

That, my friends, is Jerry Herman's ringing endorsement for the one and only Karen Morrow, who possesses one of the best belt voices I have ever heard. Morrow got her start in the early 60s with a Theatre World Award for the off-Broadway musical Sing Muse! and several shows at the City Center. Following a tour in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, she found further off-Broadway success in a hit revival of The Boys from Syracuse.

However, Morrow is another great voice cursed by a series of Broadway flops. She made her Main Stem debut in I Had a Ball playing the brassy belter opposite star Buddy Hackett (who thankfully kept his singing to a minimum and is the reason the show closed - check out Not Since Carrie or the original cast recording for details). The plot is convoluted nonsense about romance on Coney Island (gee, where have I heard that recently...?) and gave Morrow the eleven o'clock showstopper: the title song.

The first time I ever listened to the cast album, nothing really grabbed my attention. That is, until I this song popped on. I stopped what I was doing and proceeded to repeat this one song 13 times. It is, without a doubt, one of the most unabashedly joyous pieces of musical theatre ever written. The cast album features only a portion of the dance break, a bit of belly-dance music but it features one of the most brassily orgasmic transitions back into singing. A treat from start to finish.

If Karen Morrow is on the album, I have it. I'm especially grateful that "The Babylove Miracle Show," the absurdly infectious faith healer song cycle from The Grass Harp is recorded in its entirety. Morrow basically entered and sang for 15 minutes non-stop, getting the likes of Barbara Cook, Carol Brice and Russ Thacker to speak in tongues (and "Time to hang the moulah on the washline") - but that's another post for another day.

After I Had a Ball, Morrow was featured in A Joyful Noise in 1966 opposite John Raitt and Susan Watson. This show folded after a mere 12 performances and no cast album, even though Morrow tore things up with "I Love Nashville." I'm Solomon in 1968 which ran for 7 performances (and both played the Mark Hellinger Theatre). The Selling of the President ran even shorter: 5 performances at the Shubert in 1972, a musical in which Morrow didn't sing a single note - which I like to think is one of the main reasons it failed. (During her opening night curtain call, a gentleman near the stage called out, "You should have sang, honey!") Her final Broadway appearance to date was much happier: she replaced Cleo Laine as the Princess Puffer in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

In spite of those flops, Morrow's never wanted for work: performing in concerts, with symphonies around the country, numerous TV appearances (especially Merv Griffin, who adored her) - and she's even won an Emmy. She's one of Jerry Herman's favorites, and whenever there is a concert in his behalf you can count on her being there. She also toured as Parthy in Hal Prince's Show Boat and was involved with White Christmas: the Musical, and is featured on that original cast album.

Anyway, here is Karen Morrow with the dancing company of I Had a Ball. The choreography is by Onna White. Also, take note of what Buddy Hackett does during the song's big finish.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Next Fall"

(Possible spoilers ahead. You've been warned).

There has been much hype surrounding Geoffrey Nauffts' play Next Fall, which has become something of a critical darling in a rather ho-hum season for new plays. The play, about the contentious romantic relationship between two gay men - one Christian, one atheist/agnostic. The play literally starts with a bang - a car crash to be specific, which places one half of the couple in a coma. In a style reminiscent of Diana Son's Stop-Kiss, the narrative unfolds in a series of scenes that switch between the present and past, alternatively unraveling the precarious and unlikely nature of the relationship.

But ultimately, Next Fall fails to deliver on its promise of profundity. Instead the audience is subjected to a lackluster play that is half sitcom, half melodrama (complete with expected hospital waiting room histrionics). The characters don't fare much better: they lack complexity and ultimately become ciphers, allowing the playwright to get on his soapbox. There is some shading to Adam and Luke, but everyone on the periphery is flatly written. Dad is a redneck fundamentalist Christian, mom a bizarre reformed free-spirit addicted to painkillers, and there's the obligatory Grace Adler-esque best friend. Then there's the ex-boyfriend, but more on him later.

The relationship between Adam and Luke is represented in a perfunctory fashion. Adam is a high-strung, neurotic New York mess (think Woody Allen minus the wit). Luke is presented as a pure, naive Christian, well-meaning and ignorant. Luke's parents are presented as narrow-minded, stereotypes of conservative Christianity. In relying on these cultural stereotypes, Nauffts' gives himself an outlet for his worldview, but doesn't offer anything compelling or revelatory in the process.

The strident, snarky Adam is both irritating and aggravating because of his insensitivity and unyielding narcissism. There were certain questions he asked Luke which had credence, but that was undermined by his total lack of compassion, especially in the scene where he asks Luke to love him more than God. Perhaps it's just me, but if you really love someone you accept them for who they are, and it seemed as though Adam never did. I wanted to paraphrase The Sound of Music for them - just because Luke loves God doesn't mean he loves Adam less. For someone who demands acceptance from others, Adam is very unwilling to offer it himself.

It's to the play's disservice that Luke is written and portrayed in such a simpleminded way. There's an infinitely more interesting play to be written when the two characters are intellectual equals, or last on an even playing field. There was no one there to represent the middle-ground where ultimately most of the people I know tend to fall. One particular idea that is completely missing from the discussion are those who believe in God, or some other higher power, but not in organized religion (and there are many out there who do).

Breen does what he can with Adam's uptight persona, but is mostly monotonous. Heusinger has similar troubles with Luke, but managed to get my sympathy (I tend to root for the underdog in a situation). Connie Ray and Cotter Smith are strong performers in search of strong material as Luke's parents Arlene and Butch (why don't you just hit us over the head with a hammer) but fail to register. Maddie Corman is a pretty, talented actress with charm and comic sensibility, but she seems more interesting than the character she is playing. The role of Brandon, Luke's ex-boyfriend is cripplingly underdeveloped and given a stultifying portrayal by Sean Dugan. Even after Brandon's big scene in the second act, there is very little to warrant his presence in the play.

Ultimately, Luke dies of his injuries at the end of the play leading into a sober denouement in which the characters slowly disperse. But after 2 1/2 hours of watching him vilified by his lover for his beliefs, it felt more like the playwright was sacrificing the character because of his faith. A first-time playwright, Nauffts needed more time to workshop and shape his text. What we are left with are talking points that are never molded into anything definitive, dialogue that wouldn't pass muster in a second-rate sitcom and the vague outlines of character. When the houselights came up, I was left with a decidedly autumnal chill.

Dorothy Loudon sings "Vodka"

On the night of the 1983 Tony Awards, the Uris Theatre (where the ceremony was taking place) was renamed for George Gershwin. Throughout the evening performers sang the composer's material, including Dorothy Loudon's fearless, showstopping performance of "Vodka!" from the 1925 musical Song of the Flame. Gershwin and Herbert Stothart (who won an Oscar for his underscoring in The Wizard of Oz) shared duties as composer; Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II cowrote the book and lyrics. The show was an operetta spectacle set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. A film adaptation was released in 1930 and is now believed to be lost.

Loudon mines comic gold with the material, a performance that many still recall fondly from the telecast. It never fails to make me laugh (especially her outrageous ad libs). Enjoy:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drama Desk Awards: Tuesday Night Quarterbacking

The Drama Desk Awards, held Sunday evening, were once again shown via web cast on Theatermania. I recall the time they used to show them on PBS, but I guess that's ancient history at this point. Anyway, this year the quality of the live stream was better than ever. However, from a technical standpoint there were some unusual shots, angles and closeups. I know it takes place in a glorified high school auditorium, but can't they place the winners closer to the stage? Most of the time was filled up waiting for them as the presenters looked out during what seemed dead air.

The ceremony itself was rather uninteresting on the whole. Patti LuPone was an adequate host, who got in a couple of laughs but was really just there to keep things moving (at a clip). No performances, nothing too too exciting in terms of winners. The onstage pianist played far too many bizarre pieces, most jarringly "Don't Fence Me In" every time Fences won an award. Many of the wins had me nonplussed; I was genuinely bored at a second tie between Montego Glover and Catherine Zeta-Jones for Best Actress in a Musical. (They shared the prize with the OCC too). Let's not go for the trifecta on that front, folks. However, there a couple of surprises including Christopher Fitzgerald's win for Finian's Rainbow. Santino Fontana's unexpected win for Brighton Beach Memoirs provided the most memorable of all acceptance speeches. He was genuinely shocked and completely amazed, and it added to its charm

Another surprised winner was Jan Maxwell, who won for Best Actress in a Play for her superlative comic turn in The Royal Family. She's likely to be bested by Viola Davis in Fences (who was a Featured winner here) at the Tonys, so it was nice to see her recognized here for that work (Maxwell is a Drama Desk regular, but a Tony bridesmaid). She was very emotional and immediately apologized, "I'm sorry, I'm usually an aloof bitch. Surprises get to me."

Martha Plimpton inadvertently established a memorable running gag following a spirited non sequitur about Mitzi Gaynor complimenting her shoes. Other Mitzi comments would follow, but the biggest laugh went to Outstanding Solo Performance winner Jim Brochu who started his acceptance with "Oh, and Mitzi Gaynor just told me to go fuck myself." Brochu, who won for his turn as Zero Mostel in Zero Hour declared F. Scott Fitzgerald a big fat liar, stating, "there are second acts."

For a ceremony that boasts recognition of Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway, the deck seems quite stacked in favor of Broadway. I'm not saying it's a crime, but it just seems that you're more likely to get it if you're a Main Stem show. There were five major Off-Broadway wins - The Scottsboro Boys won for lyrics, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson won for its book and When the Rain Stops Falling won for its sound design. Love Loss and What I Wore took home Unique Theatrical Experience and Zero Hour won Outstanding Solo Performance. Other than that, it was all Broadway. Scottsboro and Yank! are now ineligible for Drama Desks next year, so automatically next year's nominations should be interesting.

Seeing as it was the Lost finale, there were fewer fellow watchers on Twitter and environs this year. However, participants inside the auditorium were encouraged to tweet so that kept it somewhat interesting throughout the night. Let's hope the Tony Awards are more interesting.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"You remind me of a man..."

There's been some fun banter on Twitter between SarahB, Chelsea and myself about various Cary Grant films. Chels is going to be taking in some of his features which will be shown as part of Washington DC's National Theatre Summer Cinema 2010.

One of my all-time favorite Cary Grant moments, courtesy of the 1947 classic The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple (all grown up), Harry Davenport and Ray Collins star. Sidney Sheldon won the Oscar for his original screenplay (which has been adapted for stage by F. Andrew Leslie and is licensed by Dramatists Play Service). Enjoy:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2nd Annual ITBA Awards Announced

The second annual Independent Theater Blogger Association awards were announced this morning via youtube by Susan Blackwell, Jeannine Frumess, and Ann Harada (who are currently appearing off-Broadway in The Kid). Congratulations to all nominees and winners!


A View From The Bridge

American Idiot

La Cage Aux Folles

Circle Mirror Transformation


The Glass Menagerie


A Boy And His Soul

Circle Mirror Transformation

Nina Arianda, Venus In Fur
Kate Baldwin, Finian's Rainbow
Desiree Burch, The Soup Show
Rebecca Comtois, Viral
Viola Davis, Fences
Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts
Douglas Hodge, La Cage Aux Folles
Sarah Lemp, The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side & Happy In The Poorhouse
Laura Linney, Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell, The Royal Family & Lend Me A Tenor
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime & Yank!
Amy Lynn Stewart, Viral

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mitzi Gaynor Razzles and Dazzles at Feinstein's

It's hard to believe it, but before last night Mitzi Gaynor had never played New York City. I know, right? You'd think with Hollywood, TV, Vegas and countless tours and appearances under her belt, that she'd have taken the Big Apple by storm years ago. But it's better late than never and Ms. Gaynor is conquering NY in an extended engagement at Feinstein's at the Regency.

The ballroom at the Regency was packed as celebrities, friends and fans turned out in droves to see the star on her first night (including Mr. Feinstein, Chita Rivera, Polly Bergen, Paul Shaffer and Joy Behar). At about a quarter to nine, an old TV clip started playing as the crowd discovered that the CBS Saturday night lineup was going to pre-empted for a Mitzi special. Her band (four musicians with an unnecessary synthesizer) played a brief overture. Then, to the delight of all, Ms. Gaynor strutted out onstage in that trademark Nellie Forbush sailor suit. Once she gained composure she launched into that outfit's complement: "Honey Bun."

Mitzi Gaynor in South Pacific is something that reaches far back into my childhood. It was the second Rodgers and Hammerstein film musical I ever saw, and was noteworthy b/c it was the only other musical aside from The Sound of Music that my father liked. So whenever it was on TV, we would be watching. My appreciation also grew with There's No Business Like Show Business where she danced with Donald O'Connor, belted with Merman and held her own against Marilyn Monroe. Then there was also Les Girls, an MGM film that paired her up with Gene Kelly and made her a foil for brilliant comedienne Kay Kendall. Anyway, when I was invited by Feinstein's to come see the show, I RSVPed - more than three months ago.

The voice isn't as full as it once was, but she is still a supreme entertainer and can communicate beautifully through the words and music. Once she smiles that megawatt smile of hers, the years melt away and you are left with the one and only, now and forever Mitzi. When Mitzi takes charge, she has a congenial affair with her audience; the sort of thing that most younger artists will never know. She's a charmer, for sure; warm and genuine, but also sassy and self-deprecrating - with razor sharp wit and the ability to laugh first and laugh last. Plus, she's still got a knock-out figure.

The entertainer is one of the last links to a bygone era of entertainment, someone who sang with the greats - Sinatra, Merman, Kelly, etc. Her material ranged from songs she made famous to amusing specialties, most notably an adapted "Show Off" from The Drowsy Chaperone, which involved Mitzi twirling boobie tassles, climbing on the piano and showing off those knockout gams. In between sets, she would go off to change into yet another eye-popping Bob Mackie gown. During the interim, video montages would play - highlights from her films, TV appearances and pop culture references. From the hilarious to the poignant, she showed everything - the film soubrette, the camp icon of the 60s & 70s, but also her favorite role: as Mrs. Jack Bean.

Mitzi is a singer and dancer, yes, but she is also one of the greatest storytellers I have ever heard in my life. Striking the perfect balance between elegant and bawdy, we were given a glimpse into her private life as a young starlet being romanced by Howard Hughes (who advised her to buy property - off the Vegas strip!), falling in love with the man who would become her husband and dearest companion, Jack Bean (the moment she fell? when he told her she was "full of shit") and stories about working with the one and only Ethel Merman. She said that if she went into the whole story of how she got South Pacific and the experience making it, her show would turn into "Nicholas Nickerby, or whatever the heck it's called."

The biggest laughs came from the two Merman stories. Flying into NY for the premiere of Show Business, Merm (whom Mitzi called "Mom" - Merm called her "Mitzeleh") invited her and her husband to dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at "Elmers" (El Morocco). She turned an anecdote about the simple act of putting on a cincher into comic art. Another story involved a chaotic evening at a Jersey casino, finding Merm and her pal Betty Bruce (who replaced Maria Karnilova in Gypsy) in the back seat of a Rolls Royce with a gallon of champagne.

Despite the presence of some pure camp and lowbrow humor, there were moments of unexpected vulnerability and openness. The termination of her film contract in 1954 and its devastating impact on her segued into a low-key, ruefully ironic reading of "There's No Business Like Show Business," transitioning into an upbeat number on the lyrical cue "But you go on." She brought a moving silence to the crowd as she spoke and sang of her late husband, who died of pneumonia in 2006.

It's not the most polished show I've seen at the Regency, but that's a moot point. You're going for Mitzi and you get a helluva lot of Mitzi. Now that's what I consider getting your money's worth.

Following her encore, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," a young lady got up onstage, much to our surprise. She was there representing the NY area Emmy Awards. As it turns out, Gaynor's PBS special won last month but since the star was on tour with her show she couldn't be in attendance. The overwhelmed Mitzi gave a gracious acceptance speech, bringing the crowd once again to its feet for a final standing ovation.

Since it was opening night, there was a champagne reception in the ballroom foyer following the performance. SarahB and I were quite fortunate to chat with Mitzi for a couple minutes. The star was ever so grateful and gracious, and it was a thrill for all of us in that room last night to be there for such a star. The next morning, my parents were both curious to know about the evening, and I showed them the picture above. It marks the first time in all my years of going out to theatre and solo shows that my parents have ever been jealous. I think Mitzeleh would get a kick knowing that the first thing my mother did was to call the neighbors letting them know she's in town.

Mitzi's playing Feinstein's (remember, the ballroom!) until May 29. Don't miss this show, whatever you do.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Awkward Rings Out Like Freedom

Last week the theatre community was abuzz with talk about the Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations, celebrating those who were honored and shaking their fists for those who were overlooked. To the surprise of many, the short-lived revival of Ragtime received a lot of love from both nominating committees, with eleven and seven nominations, respectively. There was much rejoicing, especially for the ardent fans of the revival (myself included).

Well, that was last week. In the last two days, both organizations rescinded nominations for the revival. First it was the Tony committee who revoked the Costume Design nomination since designer Santo Loquasto had reused much of his work from the 1998 production. Then today, the Drama Desk honchos withdrew two nominations: Loquasto's and one for William David Brohn's orchestrations.

The Tony Awards Productions had the following to say:

"Yesterday, it was affirmed to Tony Award Productions that Santo Loquasto's designs for the revival of Ragtime are predominantly those from the original 1998 production, and therefore do not meet the Tony rule which states, work that 'substantially duplicate(s)' work from a prior production is ineligible. We learned this too late to remove the costumes from consideration by the nominators, but feel that we cannot allow the designs to remain in contention this year, and we must regretfully withdraw them from consideration as a nominee in the Best Costume Design of a Musical category."

Following on the heels of that decision, the Drama Desk Awards released the following statement:

"The Drama Desk makes its own decisions. But when the Tony Awards withdrew its nomination for the Ragtime revival's costumes because they were not sufficiently different from the original production and when the lead producer and nominated costume designer Santo Loquasto did not disagree with the decision, we revisited the issue. The Drama Desk concurs that the excellent costuming was not sufficiently new to make it eligible. Therefore, the nomination will be removed from the ballot in the Outstanding Costume Design category.

"We have also determined that the nomination for Ragtime for Outstanding Orchestration [William David Brohn] should not be on the ballot because the highly regarded orchestration was not different enough from that of the original production to be eligible."

I understand that there are a lot of shows to be considered when doling out nominations at season's end. But I cannot understand how both nominating committees let these gaffes slip. I'm surprised there aren't any interns or research assistants on hand to help the ladies and gentlemen in charge make informed decisions.

The information has been well established since the regional production played at the Kennedy Center last spring. I recall reading last summer that the production was using the costume design of Santo Loquasto (who was always open about what was new and old in this production from the get-go) and the press release also cited "original orchestrations by William David Brohn." Revisions were made to both for this more intimate revival, but the work from both artists remained fundamentally the same. For the record, Loquasto remains nominated for his work on the revival of Fences.

The one that really surprises me here though is the Drama Desk nomination for Best Orchestrations, which I admit I missed when the nominations came out last Monday (or I would have already called them out on this). Brohn actually won the 1998 Drama Desk (and Tony) for his Ragtime orchestrations. How that nugget slipped by is beyond me. The fact of the matter remains that the nominations should never have been given, and never made public.

The producers, Mr. Loquasto and Mr. Brohn have put up no disagreement in regards to the decision, but putting these esteemed gentlemen in this spotlight, especially since they had nothing to do with these decisions. I only hope that next year they take this a bit more seriously and save all involved parties from the inherent embarrassment.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The 66th Annual Theatre World Award Winners!

It's time to celebrate some of the breakthrough performances and debuts of the 2009-2010 theatre season! The ceremony will go on as planned this year: June 8 at New World Stages. As always, Peter Filichia will be there to host and previous winners will be on hand to present and perform.

Congratulations to the winners!!

Nina Arianda, Venus in Fur
Chris Chalk, Fences
Bill Heck, The Orphans' Home Cycle
Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts
Scarlett Johansson, A View from the Bridge
Keira Keeley, The Glass Menagerie
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!
Eddie Redmayne, Red
Andrea Riseborough, The Pride
Heidi Schreck, Circle Mirror Transformation
Stephanie Umoh, Ragtime
Michael Urie, The Temperamentals

Monday, May 10, 2010

Remembering Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music

Lena Horne, legend, diva, activist, actress and one of the most iconic singers of the 20th century, has died at age 92. Her dynamic career and life have been well documented, from her relatively brief stint in films, where studio executives didn't know what to do with her, to ardent civil rights activist to acclaimed nightclub singer. The Horne, as she was affectionately termed by Redd Foxx in his sitcom Sanford and Son, was one of a kind: a class act talent, the likes of which will not be seen again.

A light-skinned black actress, Horne was often cast as herself in a singing cameo that could easily be cut when the films were distributed in the segregated South. Stardom came with two big hits: Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather. It was in the latter she would sing the 1933 song from which the film got its title - and it would become her signature number. While in Hollywood, Horne broke major barriers as the first black performer with a major studio contract and she also the first African American to appear on the cover of a movie magazine. Lena was also a pin-up girl for black soldiers during WWII, which the star claims help make her career. After her contract with MGM expired, she would only make two more film appearances: 1969's Death of a Gunfighter and the 1978 adaptation of The Wiz as Glinda (in which she sang "If You Believe").

Outspoken and unapologetic, Lena Horne was also unafraid to speak her mind and was very vocal in her frustration regarding racial injustice. Her left-leaning views, as well as her criticism of Army segregation led to her blacklisting in Hollywood. At the same time, however, she started to become a major presence in television and in nightclubs, and career never slowed down until her retirement in 1999 at age 82.

Horne's Broadway career included five credits over the span of almost fifty years. Her first appearance was a small part in the 9 performance flop Dance with Your Gods which opened closed in October 1934. Her next Broadway show, Les Leslie's Blackbirds of 1939 didn't fare any better, and it too shuttered after only 9 performances. She was a Tony nominee in 1958 for the calypso flavored Jamaica (in a leading role originally written for Harry Belafonte - no joke), starring opposite Ricardo Montalban. The 1967 musical Hallelujah, Baby! was originally conceived and written by Arthur Laurents with Horne in mind, but the star passed on the project. She also teamed up with Tony Bennett for a brief concert engagement in 1974 at the Minskoff.

But it was The Lady and Her Music which made Lena Horne a bona fide Broadway legend. A concert revue, her show opened at the Nederlander Theatre to rapturous notices from both theatre and music critics. Lena talked about her life and career while singing many of her greatest hits. But it was the way that Horne sang to and included the audience in the evening's journey that made it a spectacular audience favorite. The show extended its engagement, running over a year with a total of 333 performances and closed on the star's 65th birthday in 1982. For her efforts, Lena walked away with the Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Musical and a Special Tony Award. The show was preserved on a cast album (which won two Grammys for Best Show Album and Best Vocal Performance, Female), and was also taped for PBS. Horne toured extensively following the engagement.

If you don't own the cast album, you should. It's an electrifying theatrical event; the sort of vehicle that comes so rarely and sweeps the town off of its feet. Horne is funny, personable and every inch a gracious, elegant star. For what it's worth, the show is well overdue for a DVD release, too. Anyway, in the show, she takes a moment to talk to the audience about why she loves being a performer:

"I love it! I love it! I love this business. I wouldn't do - look, I can't I don't, know how to do nothin' else, but if I did, I wouldn't change this for anything in the world. Whoo. I mean, you don't know. You-you don't know, but there is something that goes on between us, I must tell you. When you get home into the quiet of your wherever, think about what you are doing for me. You're sending in - it's a- it's, it's tangible, I can feel it. I can hear it, even when you're quiet. It may just be pockets around here that don't even like it, but what you sendin' in is so positive that I'm workin' with it, you know! I'm using it! Really, it's fantastic. I not - I not only am - exist on you and really, when I'm out here, I don't give a damn about anything that's going on outside..."

And here is Ms. Horne in the show that made her a Tony award winner in her finale, a medley of "Stormy Weather" and "If You Believe":

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mary Martin in "Hello Dolly!"

There's Carol, there's Barbra and of course Pearlie Mae. But Mary Martin was the one who not only opened Hello, Dolly! in London but also toured with the show in Vietnam and Japan during the Vietnam War. This is incredibly rare footage of the curtain call and Martin's specialty encore of the title song at the show's first performance in Vietnam. The audience is made up of thousands soldiers, mostly American troops as well as some from Vietnam, Korea and New Zealand. This was taped for a 1966 television special called "Mary Martin: Hello, Dolly! Round the World," which was a documentary about this touring production, narrated by Martin. Truth be told, I find this incredibly moving. Take a look:

Seth Rudetsky Deconstructs Barbara Cook

When it comes to certain Golden Age musicals, I find that there are titles that are more likely to raise the eyebrow of your fellow enthusiasts than others. One of the titles that I love and take some flack for is Meredith Willson's The Music Man. I've heard enough people scoff at it, calling it corny and old-fashioned. Some have suggested that its sacrilege to enjoy the show that trumped West Side Story for Best Musical. The show itself, about a con man who brings music and change to a small town in 1912 Iowa, was something of an unexpected surprise smash.

Willson was known as a bandleader and musical director for "The Big Show," a popular radio program hosted by Tallulah Bankhead. He was also a two time Oscar nominee for his musical scoring of the classics The Great Dictator and The Little Foxes. He worked for eight years on numerous drafts of The Music Man, loosely basing the show on upbringing in Mason City, Iowa and people he knew in his life. With the encouragement of Frank Loesser, Willson created this unique, one-of-a-kind musical comedy that makes ample use of marching band techniques, contrafactum and counterpoint. The show opened in late 1957 and took critics and audiences by storm, winning five Tonys and racking up 1,375 performances.

The 2000 revival with Craig Bierko and Rebecca Luker is where I cemented my appreciation for the show and score. I had seen the fun feature film (exceptional for its preservation of Robert Preston's Tony-winning star turn) but never realized what a joyous show it was until March 15, 2001 when I was taken by friends to the Neil Simon Theatre as an surprise graduation gift.

There is one song in the stage show that didn't make the cut in the 1962 film (we won't discuss that awful 2003 TV remake with Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth here - I'm saving that for a rainy day). "My White Knight," a plaintive ballad sung by Marian in the middle of the first act expressing her deepest romantic longings, was replaced by the more upbeat "Being in Love." In an unusual move, Willson only contributed half a song - "My White Knight's" bridge remained intact. The second song is nice, but it doesn't capture the essence of Marian's MO quite as well (in fact it seems to portray as man-mad).

I've never quite felt that "My White Knight" is as well known as it should be. It makes for an arrested stage moment - the up-to-now priggish and uppity librarian, who hints at her wants in "Goodnight My Someone" finally opens up to the audience and in turn wins their affection. It's simple, yet soaring. The night I saw the revival, Rebecca Luker brought the show to a crashing halt with the song's final high Ab that seemed to go on forever.

However, the song was introduced to Tony-winning effect in the original Broadway production by Barbara Cook, who is currently back on Broadway in Sondheim on Sondheim. For as much as I enjoy Luker's rendition, and that revival experience, the original cast album cannot be beaten. Preston has never been bettered, it's a charming representation of the score (and sounds pristine - unusual for Capital Records) and Cook is absolutely radiant in what was her only Broadway blockbuster. For an interesting alternative, I suggest listening to her 1975 Carnegie Hall album, where she sings a very different version of the song that is mostly comic patter which segues into the familiar ballad.

Here Seth Rudetsky (who generally would like less soprano and more riffing, but we'll agree to disagree) confesses unending admiration for Barbara while deconstructing her rendition of the song from the original cast recording:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nominations for 2nd Annual ITBA Awards

The Independent Theater Bloggers Association is pleased to announce its nominations for the 2nd annual ITBA awards. The membership is currently in the process of voting; the winners will be revealed on May 20.

American Idiot
Everyday Rapture

In The Next Room (or the vibrator play)
Next Fall
Superior Donuts
Time Stands Still

Finian’s Rainbow
La Cage Aux Folles
A Little Night Music

Brighton Beach Memoirs
Lend Me A Tenor
A View From The Bridge

Circle Mirror Transformation
Clybourne Park
Orphans Home Cycle
The Temperamentals

Bloodsong of Love
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
The Scottsboro Boys

The Glass Menagerie
A Lie Of The Mind
Twelfth Night

Alice In Slasherland
Girls In Trouble
In Fields Where They Lay
Rescue Me
Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War
The Soup Show

The Lily’s Revenge

Company XIV

A Boy And His Soul
Zero Hour

Circle Mirror Transformation
A Lie Of The Mind
Twelfth Night

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"We Will Rock Q"

The folks over at Avenue Q got wind of that Muppets music video turned viral sensation of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Not to be outdone, the gang at New World Stages (including Mrs. T!) have made their own music video using "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions." This kinda makes me want to go back and visit the Q again. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quote of the Day: Ben Brantley on Jan Maxwell

Speaking of the “Royal Family,” I’m especially heartened that Jan Maxwell was nominated for best actress for her smart, delicate and eccentrically witty performance in that play, as well as for her supporting work in “Lend Me a Tenor.” Ms. Maxwell is one of the best and most undervalued actresses we now have in the New York Theater, and if this helps keep her in our line of vision, I’m all for it. And I hope she wears a really terrific dress to the Golden Globes – I mean, the Tonys. Psst, Ms. Maxwell, I know somebody who works at Chanel.

- Ben Brantley, in his Tony nominations round-up

The City Center Encores! 2010-2011 Season

Bells Are Ringing
Music: Jule Styne
Book & Lyrics: Betty Comden & Adolph Green
November 18-21, 2010

Lost in the Stars
Music: Kurt Weill
Book & Lyrics: Maxwell Anderson
February 3-6, 2011

Where's Charley?
Music & Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Book: George Abbott
March 17-20, 2011

Tony Awards 2010 - And they're off...

There are many things about this year's award nominations with which I am pleased. There is love for the long closed Ragtime, Finian's Rainbow and The Royal Family. The estimable Jan Maxwell is a double nominee for two superlative comic turns. Christiane Noll and Bobby Steggert, the heart and soul of Ragtime are in contention. It's also nice to see that Jon Michael Hill's supporting turn in Superior Donuts, the talk of Broadway this fall, was not overlooked. And of course, there is Lansbury's 7th nomination as she sets her sights on a record sixth award (if she doesn't get it, you can be assured that Julie Harris Harriet-Waltered her). But the one nomination that makes me truly smile is the one for the lovely, incandescent Kate Baldwin, who is next in the line of our great leading ladies. She's also the first Tony nominee that I've known personally, so I am just thrilled for her - she is as lovely, gracious and exceptional as she seems. Team Kate!

Here is the full list of this year's Tony nominees:

The 2010 Tony Award Nominations
Presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing

Best Play

In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Author: Sarah Ruhl
Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten

Next Fall
Author: Geoffrey Nauffts
Producers: Elton John and David Furnish, Barbara Manocherian, Richard Willis, Tom Smedes, Carole L. Haber/Chase Mishkin, Ostar, Anthony Barrile, Michael Palitz, Bob Boyett, James Spry/Catherine Schreiber, Probo Productions, Roy Furman, Naked Angels

Author: John Logan
Producers: Arielle Tepper Madover, Stephanie P. McClelland, Matthew Byam Shaw, Neal Street, Fox Theatricals, Ruth Hendel/Barbara Whitman, Philip Hagemann/Murray Rosenthal, The Donmar Warehouse

Time Stands Still
Author: Donald Margulies
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Nelle Nugent/Wendy Federman

Best Musical

American Idiot
Producers: Tom Hulce & Ira Pittelman, Ruth and Steven Hendel, Vivek J. Tiwary and Gary Kaplan, Aged in Wood and Burnt Umber, Scott Delman, Latitude Link, HOP Theatricals and Jeffrey Finn, Larry Welk, Bensinger Filerman and Moellenberg Taylor, Allan S. Gordon/Elan V. McAllister, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Awaken Entertainment, John Pinckard and John Domo

Producers: Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roy Gabay, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Edward Tyler Nahem, Slava Smolokowski, Chip Meyrelles/Ken Greiner, Douglas G. Smith, Steve Semlitz/Cathy Glaser, Daryl Roth/True Love Productions, Susan Dietz/Mort Swinsky, Knitting Factory Entertainment, Alicia Keys

Producers: Junkyard Dog Productions, Barbara and Buddy Freitag, Marleen and Kenny Alhadeff, Latitude Link, Jim and Susan Blair, Demos Bizar Entertainment, Land Line Productions, Apples and Oranges Productions, Dave Copley, Dancap Productions, Inc., Alex and Katya Lukianov, Tony Ponturo, 2 Guys Productions, Richard Winkler, Lauren Doll, Eric and Marsi Gardiner, Linda and Bill Potter, Broadway Across America, Jocko Productions, Patty Baker, Dan Frishwasser, Bob Bartner/Scott and Kaylin Union, Loraine Boyle/Chase Mishkin, Remmel T. Dickinson/Memphis Orpheum Group, ShadowCatcher Entertainment/Vijay and Sita Vashee

Million Dollar Quartet
Producers: Relevant Theatricals, John Cossette Productions, American Pop Anthology, Broadway Across America, James L. Nederlander

Best Book of a Musical

Everyday Rapture - Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott
Fela! - Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones
Memphis - Joe DiPietro
Million Dollar Quartet - Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

The Addams Family - Music & Lyrics: Andrew Lippa
Enron - Music: Adam Cork & Lyrics: Lucy Prebble
Fences - Music: Branford Marsalis
Memphis - Music: - David Bryan & Lyrics: Joe DiPietro, David Bryan

Best Revival of a Play

Producers: Carole Shorenstein Hays and Scott Rudin

Lend Me a Tenor
Producers: The Araca Group, Stuart Thompson, Carl Moellenberg, Rodney Rigby, Olympus Theatricals, Broadway Across America, The Shubert Organization, Wendy Federman/Jamie deRoy/Richard Winkler, Lisa Cartwright, Spring Sirkin, Scott and Brian Zeilinger

The Royal Family
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove

A View from the Bridge
Producers: Stuart Thompson, The Araca Group, Jeffrey Finn, Broadway Across America, Olympus Theatricals, Marisa Sechrest, The Weinstein Company, Jon B. Platt, Sonia Friedman Productions/Robert G. Bartner, Mort Swinsky/Joseph Deitch, Adam Zotovich/Ruth Hendel/Orin Wolf, Shelter Island Enterprises, The Shubert Organization

Best Revival of a Musical

Finian's Rainbow
Producers: David Richenthal, Jack Viertel, Alan D. Marks, Michael Speyer, Bernard Abrams, David M. Milch, Stephen Moore, Debbie Bisno/Myla Lerner, Jujamcyn Theaters, Melly Garcia, Jamie deRoy, Jon Bierman, Richard Driehaus, Kevin Spirtas, Jay Binder, StageVentures 2009 Limited Partnership

La Cage aux Folles
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, David Babani, Barry and Fran Weissler and Edwin W. Schloss, Bob Bartner/Norman Tulchin, Broadway Across America, Matthew Mitchell, Raise The Roof 4 Richard Winkler/Bensinger Taylor/Laudenslager Bergrère, Arelene Scanlan/John O'Boyle, Independent Presenters Network, Olympus Theatricals, Allen Spivak, Jerry Frankel/Bat-Barry Productions, Nederlander Presentations, Inc/Harvey Weinstein, Menier Chocolate Factory

A Little Night Music
Producers: Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, The Menier Chocolate Factory, Roger Berlind, David Babani, Sonia Friedman Productions, Andrew Fell, Daryl Roth/Jane Bergere, Harvey Weinstein/Raise the Roof 3, Beverly Bartner/Dancap Productions, Inc., Nica Burns/Max Weitzenhoffer, Eric Falkenstein/Anna Czekaj, Jerry Frankel/Ronald Frankel, James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyer

Producers: Kevin McCollum, Roy Furman, Scott Delman, Roger Berlind, Max Cooper, Tom Kirdahy/Devin Elliott, Jeffrey A. Sine, Stephanie P. McClelland, Roy Miller, Lams Productions, Jana Robbins, Sharon Karmazin, Eric Falkenstein/Morris Berchard, RialtoGals Productions, Independent Presenters Network, Held-Haffner Productions, HRH Foundation, Emanuel Azenberg, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Michael Kaiser, Max Woodward

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play

Jude Law, Hamlet
Alfred Molina, Red
Liev Schreiber, A View from the Bridge
Christopher Walken, A Behanding in Spokane
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

Viola Davis, Fences
Valerie Harper, Looped
Linda Lavin, Collected Stories
Laura Linney, Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell, The Royal Family

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

Kelsey Grammer, La Cage aux Folles
Sean Hayes, Promises, Promises
Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball, Memphis
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical

Kate Baldwin, Finian's Rainbow
Montego Glover, Memphis
Christiane Noll, Ragtime
Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play

David Alan Grier, Race
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Fences
Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts
Stephen Kunken, Enron
Eddie Redmayne, Red

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play

Maria Dizzia, In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Rosemary Harris, The Royal Family
Jessica Hecht, A View from the Bridge
Scarlett Johansson, A View from the Bridge
Jan Maxwell, Lend Me a Tenor

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical

Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family
Robin De Jesús, La Cage aux Folles
Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian's Rainbow
Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical

Barbara Cook, Sondheim on Sondheim
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music
Karine Plantadit, Come Fly Away
Lillias White, Fela!

Best Scenic Design of a Play

John Lee Beatty, The Royal Family
Alexander Dodge, Present Laughter
Santo Loquasto, Fences
Christopher Oram, Red

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Marina Draghici, Fela!
Christine Jones, American Idiot
Derek McLane, Ragtime
Tim Shortall, La Cage aux Folles

Best Costume Design of a Play

Martin Pakledinaz, Lend Me a Tenor
Constanza Romero, Fences
David Zinn, In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Catherine Zuber, The Royal Family

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Marina Draghici, Fela!
Santo Loquasto, Ragtime
Paul Tazewell, Memphis
Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Neil Austin, Hamlet
Neil Austin, Red
Mark Henderson, Enron
Brian MacDevitt, Fences

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, American Idiot
Donald Holder, Ragtime
Nick Richings, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Wierzel, Fela!

Best Sound Design of a Play

Acme Sound Partners, Fences
Adam Cork, Enron
Adam Cork, Red
Scott Lehrer, A View from the Bridge

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Jonathan Deans, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Kaplowitz, Fela!
Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen, A Little Night Music
Dan Moses Schreier, Sondheim on Sondheim

Best Direction of a Play

Michael Grandage, Red
Sheryl Kaller, Next Fall
Kenny Leon, Fences
Gregory Mosher, A View from the Bridge

Best Direction of a Musical

Christopher Ashley, Memphis
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime
Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles
Bill T. Jones, Fela!

Best Choreography

Rob Ashford, Promises, Promises
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Lynne Page, La Cage aux Folles
Twyla Tharp, Come Fly Away

Best Orchestrations

Jason Carr, La Cage aux Folles
Aaron Johnson, Fela!
Jonathan Tunick, Promises, Promises
Daryl Waters & David Bryan, Memphis

* * *

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Alan Ayckbourn
Marian Seldes

Regional Theatre Tony Award
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Connecticut

Isabelle Stevenson Award
David Hyde Pierce

Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre
Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York
B.H. Barry
Tom Viola