Friday, October 29, 2010

Rashad Returns to "A Raisin in the Sun" has announced that Phylicia Rashad will direct a production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun in Los Angeles.  The production is set to open in the summer of 2011 and will be Rashad's third visit with the play in the past few years.  Rashad won a 2004 Tony for her portrayal of matriarch Lena Younger in the recent Broadway revival.  She then reprised her performance (for which she received a 2008 Emmy nomination) in the TV movie version of the production.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rain Opens on Broadway

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway opened last night at the Neil Simon Theatre to decidedly mixed reviews.  The show has almost no plot (some say a smart choice, others say not so much), but the idea appears to be that anyone interested in buying a ticket would probably know as much of the relevant history as they would need, to paraphrase an idea put forth by Charles Isherwood in his New York Times review.  The four musicians playing the Fab Four channel the Beatles with mixed effect, getting some things spot on and others less convincingly so -- but all convey the requisite fun and enjoyment of the task at hand.  It sounds like this is a somewhat enjoyable concert for a certain crowd (maybe those looking for a brief trip down memory lane), but not much more than that.

In the Heights to Close

The long running musical In the Heights has set its closing date for January 9, 2011.  By that point, the show will have played 29 previews and 1185 regular performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.  The show's Tony-winning composer and original star, Lin Manuel Miranda, will return for the show's final two weeks, beginning on Christmas day.  The show won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy Opens on Broadway

Alfred Uhry's 1987 play Driving Miss Daisy, a seminal classic in the American repertoire, has opened on Broadway.  The play, in its first production on Broadway, was produced originally at Playwrights Horizons and ran there for over 1200 performances starting in 1987.  That production won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and spawned a 1989 Best Picture Oscar winner.  This production has gotten some pretty strong reviews, itself.  The major praise has come for theater giants James Earl Jones (who, it was clear from the moment his casting was announced, would be wonderful in the part) and Vanessa Redgrave (a much less obvious choice for the part of Daisy, given that she's a Brit -- I was hoping for, perhaps, Marian Seldes).  These performances are central to the success of any production of this play and, while each in this production came with its (very) minor faults, they are thought to generally raise the bar for the show as a whole.  Much in the same way that this year's horrendous production of Mrs. Warren's Profession will likely rob Cherry Jones of a Tony nomination for what has been hailed as the performance of her career, this Driving Miss Diasy is likely to get a Best Revival Tony nomination (as well as nominations for the show's direction and design elements) on the strength of these two leading performances.  The only major complaint I read about this production is that the show is rather small and, much like this year's revival of David Mamet's A Life in the Theater, the production tries to make it bigger than it is in order to fit the larger theater it's living in (though this production offends in that regard much less than the Mamet play).

Joseph Stein, Author of 'Fiddler on the Roof', Dead at 98

Joseph Stein, who wrote the book of the musical Fiddler on the Roof died at the age of 98 in Manhattan after fracturing his skull in a fall.  His other works include Zorba, Take Me Along, and Enter Laughing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lombardi Opens on Broadway

There is no question about Vince Lombardi's talent as a football coach.  He did, after all, lead the Green Bay Packers to 5 Super Bowl wins in the 1950's and 1960's.  But whether he makes a good dramatic hero is another story all together, and the answer seems to be a resounding "no".  A new play about his career, appropriately titled Lombardi, opened last night at the Circle in the Square Theatre.  The script received decidedly mixed reception from the critics, with Charles Isherwood of the New York Times finding it to have no fire or focus, as well as having trouble with the play's structure, but with Marilyn Stasio calling the scenes well-written.  Isherwood also commented on the oddity of relegating the character of Vince Lombardi to a seemingly supporting role in a play about his life.  The thing that everyone has agreed on, however, is that Dan Lauria's performance is electric -- and likely to get a Tony nomination.  Judith Light, as Lombardi's wife, Marie, also got some good notices and may net a supporting actress Tony nomination.  The last piece that was well praised were Paul Tazewell's costumes.  But the mixed standing on the script, particularly with the NY Times effectively calling the show a mess, means that the show is unlikely to be nominated as best play.

Insights into Stephen Sondheim

A book has recently been released that looks at the collected lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, including his process in arriving at them and alternate choices he thought of along the way.  Here's a link to the NY Times article about the book, appropriately titled Finishing the Hat.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tom Bosley Dead at 83

Tony Award winning actor Tom Bosley, probably most widely known for playing Richie Cunningham's dad on Happy Days, has died today at the age of 83.  He died at a hospital near his home in Palm Springs, California, after a long battle with lung cancer.  The cause of death was heart failure.  The Chicago born Bosley got his start as an actor in 1947 in a college production of Thorton Wilder's Our Town and, after moving to New York, made his television debut in a 1955 production of Alice in Wonderland.  Bosley made his Broadway debut in 1958 in The Power and the Glory, but his big break came the following year in the hit musical Fiorello!, in which he played the mayor of New York City, for which he earned the Best Actor in a Musical Tony in 1960.  His Broadway career spanned over 40 years, including stints as the original Maurice (Belle's father) in Beauty and the Beast in 1994 and as Herr Schultz in the 1998 revival of Cabaret, as well as touring the country in the 1995 revival of Show Boat as Cap'n Andy.

I grew up having a different connection to Tom Bosley, though -- one entirely unrelated to his long stage career or his association with Happy Days.  I grew up watching him as Amos Tupper, the sheriff of Cabot Cove, Maine, in the long running TV series Murder, She Wrote from 1984 to 1996.  That show, which showcased theater legend Angela Lansbury, also showcased Bosley's abilities as a character actor who could make the most out of any part.  Bosley was the leading man in another of my favorite TV shows from when I was growing up -- The Father Dowling Mysteries, which aired from 1987 to 1991.  Though this does no justice to the Maine accent (to the extent that one exists), if there was any doubt about whether Mr. Bosley will be missed by those in my household, the answer is a strong "A-yup".

Cast Set for Carnage

Oscar- and Tony-nominee John C. Reilly will join the cast of Roman Polanski's film adaptation of Yasmina Reza's 2009 Tony-winning play God of Carnage.  Reilly will play Michael, the part originated on stage by James Gandolfini, in the movie, which will also star Oscar winners Jodie Foster as Veronica, Kate Winslet as Anette and Christoph Waltz as Alan.  Filming will take place in France starting in February.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Robin Williams at the Zoo

Robin Williams will be coming to the Broadway stage, marking his dramatic debut on Broadway, with the play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.  According to a press release I read about on, Williams will play the titular tiger in this 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist by Rajiv Joseph.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Beauty or the Beast?

I never thought I'd be happy about mixed reviews, but after some dismal reviews of late for play revivals on Broadway this year (Mrs. Warren's Profession and A Life in the Theatre come to mind), it is nice to finally see a review that doesn't entirely bash the production.  A revival of David Hirson's La Bete opened Thursday night at the Music Box Theatre on Thursday in a production starring Tony winners David Hyde Pierce and Mark Rylance, along with TV star Joanna Lumley (Britain's Absolutely Fabulous) in her Broadway debut.  Though the play itself was criticized for being unbalanced in the way it was written, Mark Rylance gives, in the words of Ben Brantley, "a comic performance of such polished crudeness that it easily ranks with his Tony-winning tour-de-force in Boeing-Boeing of two years ago."  (Note the Tony nomination prediction Rylance has gotten out of this quote.)  Though the script has been drawn into question, the production has not.  To quote Brantley again, "this revival [has been] mounted with eye-popping elan by [director] Matthew Warchus and the [set] designer Mark Thompson."  Based on these reviews, I'm seeing a clear best actor nomination for Rylance and a best director nomination for Warchus, along with highly likely nominations as best revival and set design.  Joanna Lumley, David Hyde Pierce, and the other design nominations are too hard to call right now, but they definitely are not out of the game.

Lea Michele Might Be More Wicked Than We Thought

As i think I posted a few months ago, there is a film version of the Broadway mega-hit Wicked in the works.  The new buzz around town is that Lea Michele, musical theater actress extraordinaire, may be taking on the lead role of Elphaba -- the one we all know as the Wicked Witch of the West who, according to this version of the tale, may not be so wicked after all.  Stephen Schwartz, who composed the show's score, has said that nothing is set in stone yet, but that "Lea Michele is fantastic and it'd be silly to say that she would not be under consideration."  Adding to Lea's case is the fact that one of the frontrunners to direct the project is Ryan Murphy, creator and sometimes director of the hit musical TV series Glee, who recently helmed the film version of the novel Eat, Pray, Love.  Given the connection between the two, if Murphy signs on, Michele would not be too far behind.  Adding to the buzz mill, there are also rumors circulating that the movie may be filmed in 3D to enhance scenes in which the witches of Oz fly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Bloody Success

Well, folks, it looks as though we have our first serious candidate for best musical this year.  Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson opened Wednesday night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where it transferred from the Public Theatre where it played last spring.  This musical, which many reviewers have trouble classifying, is the story of Andrew Jackson's rise to the presidency.  But it's told as an emo-rock, anachronistic Wild-West Show with a little bit of "smark-aleck collegtiate review" mixed in for good measure.

All that being said, in addition to all the parallels to modern politics which everyone seems to be talking about, this show actually manages to have production values.  Michael Friedman's score, unlike the scores of other rock musicals currently on Broadway, has been called ironic, "but it's not the easy irony of mock news shows on television ...  [The songs are] achingly sincere, even as they send up aching sincerity," says Ben Brantley of The New York Times.  Danny Mefford's choreography, which has the cast looking like demented Vegas show girls, fits the show and still looks good  --  a big asset in a show that is as all over the boards as this one seems to be.  Benjamin Walker's leading performance was praised as the "spirit of the show" with special attention drawn to the actors' "gift for paradox".  Maria Elena Ramirez as Andrew Jackson's wife and Kristine Nielsen as the Storyteller received strong notices for their supporting performances.  Also, in an unusual move for a New York Times review, the production's set designer received a whole paragraph worth of praise when usually designers aren't mentioned at all.  This makes it seem likely, at least at this point, for a Tony nomination in set design.  Come May of 2011, when the Tony nominations are announced, I'm expecting to see Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson get a whole bunch of things.

The Little Train that Shouldn't

Delicate is not a word often used to describe David Mamet.  Ever.  And yet, Tuesday night at the Schoenfeld Theatre, a revival of Mamet's 1977 play A Life in the Theatre opened in a production which Ben Brantley of The New York Times called "like a doily, a thin, lacy valentine to those who ply their trade on the stage."  Brantley goes on to say that, while the show was a smash hit as an off-Broadway show in the 1970's, it was probably never intended for a Broadway stage.  The production, which has a two man cast consisting of Patrick Stewart and T. R. Knight (of Grey's Anatomy fame) and a well-respected set design by Santo Loquasto, tries to look big to fit the Broadway stage it's currently playing, but the reviews I've read say that the show has never felt smaller.

The acting doesn't seem to help much either.  Although the play is full of Mamet's signature four letter vocabulary, neither of the actors seems fully comfortable in his role nor do they create fully formed characters.  The reviews noted that, while Patrick Stewart tends to do well with large-scale classical parts, small-scale comedy is not his strength.  T. R. Knight, who I'm guessing is more used to acting for television than he is for the stage, seems to have created a character that is too one-dimensional.  In addition to all this, the relationship between the two of them doesn't seem to change, according to Ben Brantley.  All said and done, this production comes across more like Michael Frayn's Noises Off than anything Mamet-esque.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bette Midler to Join List of Celebrity Producers

First there was Oprah and The Color Purple.  Then there was Next Fall and Elton John, followed by Jay-Z and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith with Fela!  Now, there's Bette Midler and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.  The Divine Miss M, who, according to an article from, fell in love with the show when she saw it in London, will be making a financial investment into the roughly $10 million show and hopes to take a hands-on approach in shaping the piece for its Broadway opening this spring.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Joanna Lumley Interview has don an interview with Joanna Lumley, half of the British comedy duo famous for the BritCom Absolutely Fabulous, about her upcoming Broadway debut. Check it out!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Start Spreading the News ...

I bet you can hear those trumpets now, just from reading that title.  And soon, images of the rat pack, Times Square, and the '50s are running through your head, along with Frank Sinatra's voice.  But what would you say if I told you that song was originally written for Liza Minelli in 1977? has a great article about the debate over who sings this song better, along with an official decision from the song's composer -- none other than three time Tony winner John Kander, who co-wrote the song with his writing partner Fred Ebb.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jersey Boys Move to Hollywood

The Tony winning smash hit musical Jersey Boys will be making the move to Hollywood -- on celluloid, at least.  A deal has just been inked by GK Films to make the film version of the Broadway show that recounts the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise, who received Tony nominations for the show's book, will write the screenplay for the film.  No director, casting, or other creative team have been announced.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sister Act Books Theater

The much-buzzed-about musical adaptation of the Whoopi Goldberg film, Sister Act, which is now playing in London, has booked a Broadway home.  The show will move into the Broadway Theatre, where Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes are currently starring in the revival of Promises, Promises through January 2nd.  The show will begin previews on March 14th, 2011 and open on April 20th, in a production directed by Jerry Zacks.

A Little Night Music to Close

The current Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night music has announced that it will close on January 9, 2011.  Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch have extended their runs in the show in order to remain in the show through the announced closing date.  By the time of closing, the show will have played 20 previews and 425 regular performances.  There are rumors that the next tenant for Night Music's current home, the Walter Kerr Theatre, will be the revival of John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves which, as I previously reported, has Edie Falco and Ben Stiller attached to star.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mrs. Warren's Profession

The Roundabout is at it again.  On Sunday night, the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession (in a prduction running through November 28th, unless it gets extended), opened at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street and the reviews are in.

The New York Times totally panned the show, politely calling it "generally less than delightful" and citing Sally Hawkins as miscast as Vivie Warren, daughter of the title character, with the rest of the supporting cast noted as passable at best.  That being said, however, the Times review thought that Cherry Jones' performance in the lead role "does not nearly glow.  She glitters."  The review went on to say that Ms. Jones "is as illuminating as ever, confirming her reputation as an actress of not only formidable charisma but also meticulous craft."

Variety's review of the show said more or less the same thing, adding, in reference to the set, that "exteriors look unnatural, interiors feel too formal, and there are entirely too many chairs around for characters who are too stimulated by their own racing throughts to be sitting down so much."  Variety also praised Jones' performance, saying that "the stages of her performance are so subtly orchestrated that it's impossible to spot those critical moments when she realizes that things aren't going the way she planned."  But Variety also pointed out the problem with this: Ms. Jones is so good and everything else so week that the production feels unbalanced.

With reviews like this, I actually think I feel bad for Cherry Jones.  She is a well trained, bright, good actress who has clearly put in the effort in this production by all the praise she is getting.  Normally, this would make her a cynch for a Tony nomination (and, depending on how the rest of the competition turns out, even a win).  But the overall production was SO poorly received that those negative reviews may actually loose her that luxury.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Brief Encounter Reviews

I wanted to catch up a bit on a back review I forgot to post.  On September 28th, the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Brief Encounter, an adaptation of the Noel Coward and David Lean film, opened at Studio 54.

Variety called the show "a consistent parade of jolts of playhouse wonderment" and went on to compare the show in some ways to the adaptation of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps from a few years back.  That review gave strong praise for Emma Rice's (who also wrote the adaptation) direction and the musical arrangements by Stu Barker.  While leading players Hannah Yelland and Tristan Sturrock got honorable mention as part of the "uniformly strong" cast, supporting players Dorothy Atkinson and, particularly, Damon Daunno got stellar reviews.  Neil Murray's sets and costumes also were strongly favored in the Variety review.

The New York Times also praised "Ms. Rice and her wonderful company [who] have made it possible to embrace Brief Encounter once more with feeling, and without irony and embarrassment."  The Times review also praises the "unflaggingly inventive design team [that] doesn't just conjure up different locations with witty efficiency.  It also subtly conveys the transformative, dissociative nature of passion."

As far as I can tell from this set of reviews, Ms. Rice seems pretty set to get a Tony nomination for her direction, as is Neil Murray's set design, with an 80%-or-so shot for Malcolm Rippeth's light design, Mr. Murray's costumes, and Mr. Barker's compositions and a better than average chance for supporting acting nominations for Dorothy Atkinson and Damon Daunno.

2010-2011 Broadway Calendar

As has become a tradition at the envelope, as much as such things exist, I have gone through and created a calendar of the season's upcoming shows, listing titles, opening nights, and the theaters at which each show will be playing.  Though it appears I have been remiss on reporting a few of the opening nights (which I will catch up with later in the week), I wanted to post the whole calendar for you guys to see.

Harry Connick, Jr. in Concert on Broadway – 7/15/2010 – Neil Simon

Brief Encounter – 9/28/10 – Studio 54

The Pitmen Painters – 10/3/2010 – Samuel J. Friedman

Mrs. Warren’s Profession – 10/3/2010 – American Airlines

Time Stands Still – 10/7/2010 – Cort

A Life in the Theatre – 10/12/2010 – Gerald Schoenfeld

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – 10/13/2010 – Bernard B. Jacobs

La Bete – 10/14/2010 – Music Box

Lombardi – 10/21/2010 – Circle in the Square

Driving Miss Diasy – 10/25/2010 – John Golden

Rain – 10/26/2010 – Neil Simon

The Scottsboro Boys – 10/31/2010 – Lyceum

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown – 11/04/2010 – Belasco

The Merchant of Venice – 11/07/2010 – Broadhurst

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short – 11/09/2010 – Helen Hayes

Elf – 11/10/2010 – Al Hirschfeld

The Pee-wee Herman Show – 11/11/2010 – Stephen Sondheim

A Free Man of Color – 11/18/2010 – Vivian Beaumont

Elling – 11/21/2010 – Ethel Barrymore

The Importance of Being Earnest – 1/13/2010 – American Airlines

Good People – 3/03/2011 – Samuel J. Friedman

That Championship Season – 3/6/2011 – Bernard B. Jacobs

Arcadia – 3/17/2011 – Ethel Barrymore

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – 3/20/2011 – Palace

Ghetto Klown – 3/22/2011 – Lyceum

The Book of Mormon – 3/24/2011 – Eugene O’Neill

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – 03/27/2011 – Al Hirschfeld

A Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo – 3/31/2011 – Richard Rodgers

Anything Goes – 4/07/2010 – Stephen Sondheim

Catch Me If You Can – 4/10/2010 – Neil Simon

The Motherfucker With the Hat – 4/11/2011 – Gerald Schoenfeld

War Horse – 4/14/2010 – Vivian Beaumont

Wonderland: A New Alice – 4/17/2011 – Marquis

High – 4/19/2011 – Booth

Sister Act – 4/20/2011 – Broadway

Jerusalem – 4/21/2011 – Music Box

Born Yesterday – 4/24/2011 – Cort

The House of Blue Leaves – 4/25/2011 – Walter Kerr

Baby It's You! – 4/27/2011 – Broadhurst

The Normal Heart – 4/27/2011 – Golden

The People in the Picture – 4/28/2011 – American Airlines

The Year of Tracy Letts Continues

As I reported a few days ago, 2010 is officially the year of Tracy Letts as far as I can tell.  With Superior Donuts finishing its run back in January and buzz about the upcoming stars in the film adaptation of August: Osage County, there is now MORE Tracy Letts news to report.  Thomas Hayden Church (of Sideways fame) will star in the film adaptation of Letts' Killer Joe with filming set to start in New Orleans on November 8th.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Reviews Have Begun to Be Painted

The reviews are in for the first Broadway production of the season.  The show is The Pitmen Painters, a British import being presented by the Manhattan Theater Club.  Ben Brantley of the New York Times has said that the show, while well acted and designed in a particularly admirable way, the show feels rather academic and stuffy.  Marilyn Stasio of Variety absolutely LOVED the whole experience and noted in her review that at "the beginning of a new theater season, and Broadway already has a feel-good -- make that feel-great -- hit in The Pitmen Painters."  Based on other reviews in addition to these, the reviews seem to be mixed-to-positive.  While not an all-out hit, this show seems like a good bet for ticket buyers.

Edie Falco and Ben Stiller to Turn Blue

Ben Stiller and Edie Falco will be joining a busy Broadway season this year.  The pair will star as a zookeeper and his schizophrenic wife in the Broadway revival of John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves. The play, which is aiming for a spring 2011 opening, will be produced by Scott Rudin and directed by David Cromer, who is also on tap to direct a production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth next fall, with that production to star Nicole Kidman.

The Love That Could Never Die Did

Love Never Dies, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to his massively popular The Phantom of the Opera, will NOT be transferring to Broadway any time soon, according to a recent press release.  Though the London production will continue to run at the Adelphi Theatre as long as the market will allow, the transfer will not occur due to a combination of Lloyd Webber's poor health and its creative team (most notably director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell) being attached to the upcoming Broadway production of Catch Me If You Can, as well as that show having booked Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre before the Love Never Dies team, which wanted that space, could book the space.

August: Osage County Film in Works

This has been an uptick year for Tracy Letts, at least in my world.  He followed his smash hit, Pulitzer and Tony winning play, August: Osage County, with a more modest (but also, for me, more poignant and better written) play, Superior Donuts.  Then, his adaptation of Three Sisters is having its East Coast debut, and its second ever production after its world debut in Seattle, at my alma mater, Brandeis University, through their professional company, The Brandeis Theater Company.  (For more information about this production, see this article

News has also just been released that the film version of the play, set to begin production in the summer of 2011, has some major stars in talks.  Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep are in talks to star as eldest daughter Barbara Weston and her drug addicted mother, Violet, respectively.  If Streep does sign on to star in the project, this would continue her streak in film adaptations of Broadway hits, following Mamma Mia! and Doubt.

Stars Invading Broadway

Broadway is a famously expensive, economically tricky place.  That is why, often, star casting has been such a major presence on the Great White Way.  But, in terms of a show's longevity, star casting can actually do more harm than good.  Without stars, some shows just die.  The Producers is a great case in point.  Once Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick left the show, audience interest in the show left with them.  There are other shows that don't even try to continue after their star leaves the production.  The Boy From Oz suffered this fate a few years back after the departure of Huge Jackman, and the current revival of Promises, Promises will have a similar fate when, after Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes' contracts expire, the show will close.

There is a great article expanding on this theme in the New York Times today.  The link is: