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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lynn Redgrave (1943-2010)

Lynn Redgrave, esteemed actress and vivacious presence in film and theatre, has died after a seven year battle with cancer. She was 67. One of the many talents in the Redgrave acting dynasty, Lynn was the younger sister of Vanessa and Corin, aunt to Natasha and Joely Richardson, daughter of Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson.

Of her extensive film and television credits, she is probably best remembered for her Golden Globe winning, Oscar nominated star turn in Georgy Girl, as the well-educated, charming lower class working girl who finds herself facing love and parenthood (in very unusual circumstances). She also received a Golden Globe and Oscar nom for her performance in Gods and Monsters. While Georgy was tall, plump and awkward, Ms. Redgrave was lithe, gracious and striking, with piercing blue eyes and a warm disposition.

Redgrave made her Broadway debut in 1967 in the Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy/White Lies. She would receive Tony nominations for Mrs. Warren's Profession, The Constant Wife and her solo tribute to her father Shakespeare for My Father. She won a Drama Desk Award for a 2003 off-Broadway production of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads.

Her most recent credit was Nightingale for MTC, a solo show she'd written as a tribute to her late mother. Her illness became a topic of conversation, as Redgrave revealed she was at stage IV and would be on script for her performance. The actress was very open about her cancer struggle, releasing the book Journal: A Mother and Daughter's Recovery from Breast Cancer, in which the star - with her daughter, photographer Annabel Clark, documented her experiences with diagnosis, mastectomy and recovery.

She is survived by three children from her marriage to actor John Clark, as well as her sister Vanessa. Her brother Corin died less than a month ago, also a victim of cancer. Her niece Natasha was tragically killed over a year ago in skiing accident. The lights of Broadway will be dimmed in her honor on May 4. But for now - how I'll always remember the delightful actress - here's Georgy Girl:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Times Square Bomb Scare

Last evening, at around 6:30PM, some dimwit parked a dark green Nissan Pathfinder on 45th Street between the Minskoff Theatre and Marriott Marquis Hotel early last evening in a failed attempt to detonate a crude car bomb. The identity of the individual, as well as his motive are at this time unknown.

It was at 6:34PM that one of the t-shirt vendors on that particular corner noticed there was smoke coming from the vehicle. He proceeded to tell one of the mounted officers in the vicinity. Officer Wayne Rattigan assessed the situation and took immediate action bringing in the FDNY and NYPD. In the backseat of this vehicle were suspicious items that turned out to include three propane tanks, two gasoline cans, consumer grade fireworks, two clocks with batteries, wire and what appeared to be an empty gun locker. The bomb squad was called in, and the robot was used to detonate the hood of the car and explore the interior contents.

It was a bit of chaos as the perpetually busy Times Square was forced to come to a halt due to the need for safety and security. Broadway shows were forced to hold their curtains while weighing whether or not they should cancel performances. People found themselves being removed from various restaurants in Times Square as police cordoned off the area between 44th & 46th Street, bringing the center of Manhattan into lock-down.

Because of the safety precautions there were folks unable to get back to their hotel rooms or make it to their shows on time. There were reports on twitter that certain shows, specifically The Lion King, which happens to be playing the Minskoff. It appears that all shows had a performance, though some took 30-45 minutes to get under way. Crowds started milling around the perimeter of the crime scene as tourists wondered when they could get back to their rooms, while the natives wanted to see what was up.

According to ATC poster "TheGuy," who was at the Saturday evening performance of Lend Me a Tenor, once the show ended the police retained the entire audience until they could figure out a safe way to get the audience out. In the meantime, the police also questioned theatregoers to see if anyone might have seen something pre-show. He elaborated in his post: "The police then led us, single file, through a back exit of the Music Box that leads to an alley behind the Richard Rodgers and into their exit alley. We all then had to go west to 46th street, where there were police barricades not letting people in but, thank goodness, letting us out!"

As the evening progressed and shows let out, more and more people began to show up on the street, possibly from the coverage on the local newscast. According to Tom Llamas, who was reporting for NBC4 New York, that it seemed as though 90-95% of the people didn't know what was going on. The police called for the perimeters to be expanded as the evening progressed, with a final block from 43rd to 48th Streets and 6th to 8th Avenue being blocked to all traffic. News sources started releasing unconfirmed information regarding the nature of the elements of the car.

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly had been in Washington, DC where they were attending the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. According to the reports throughout the evening, it was learned that Bloomberg, Kelly and President Obama were regularly briefed on the incident throughout the evening. As soon as the President finished speaking, Bloomberg and Kelly immediately returned to NY where they continued to be briefed. At approximately 2:15AM, they spoke in a press conference with other city officials and Governor Patterson in attendance - a mere block from where the incident took place.

Bloomberg answered what questions he could, but stressed that they hadn't a clue as to who did this and why. He recounted, in brief, what the Mayor's office knew in regards to the facts at hand. He said that the device was amateurish, and that the explosive elements had been contained by the NYPD bomb squad. He also said that they were going to be letting folks back into the area soon. More tourists who had flown in had taken to sleeping in the streets. The south tower of the Marriott was evacuated, and those residents of the hotel were staying in one of the auditoriums.

Kudos to the wonderful men and women of the NYPD, FDNY, etc who did a brilliant job of evacuating everyone, securing the area and keeping citizens safe (even if they hadn't a clue what was going on, or the gravity of the incident, as evidenced by a fleet of morons behind NBC's Tom Llama during live coverage). Everyone from the street vendor right on up to the Mayor were on their A-game. It's a miracle that not a single person was harmed throughout this whole ordeal. I know those displaced tourists are far from thrilled at the turn of events and the inconveniences. But it's something they're going to dine out on for years.

The Sunday matinee shows are expected to continue as scheduled, but if you have tickets you'd best check in to make sure everything will be going on as scheduled. It's a stroke of incredible luck that this attack failed, and it just goes to show you that sometimes a hokey catchphrase like "If you see something, say something" can do the world a lot of good. If you might have any information regarding the bomb scare, you are encouraged to call 1.800.577.TIPS.

Thank God everyone is safe.