Friday, October 28, 2011

Chinglish Opens on the Great White Way

David Henry Hwang, the playwright probably best known for his Tony-winning play M. Butterfly (which was also a Pulitzer finalist), is being represented again this year on Broadway. His latest play, Chinglish, opened last night at the Longacre Theatre. The play, about the language barrier between an American business man in his negotiations with a Chinese businesswoman, has received generally strong reviews across the board. The only negative comment about the show, the script for which has some English but is mostly in Mandarin with supertitles, was that the director was so careful to make sure that the audience could understand the Mandarin that the experience of the alienation caused by the language barrier was lost on the audience. That being said, I predict that this play will get a fair number of Tony nominations in May. As far as I can tell, the play will be nominated for Best Play, Best Director for Leigh Silverman, Best Actor for Gary Wilmes, Best Actress for Jennifer Lim, Best Featured Actress for Angela Lin, Best Scenic Design and a strong maybe for Best Featured Actor for Stephen Pucci.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Continuing the Evita Tradition

Here's a great article about a tradition started many years ago in the original London production of Evita. The article, by Andrew Gans, appeared exclusively on under the title "EXCLUSIVE: Continuing the Evita Tradition, Elena Roger Will Play Six Performances a Week". has learned that due to the vocal demands of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice score, Olivier Award-winning Argentinean actress Elena Roger will play six of the eight weekly performances in the title role in the upcoming revival of Evita, which will begin previews this spring at the Marquis Theatre.

Producer Hal Luftig told that it has yet to be decided which six performances Roger will perform. The "Eva Alternate" will be announced at a later time.

The tradition of having two actresses play the role began with the original London production, which starred Elaine Paige, who won an Olivier for her performance, and Susannah Fellows, who performed at select performances. On Broadway Patti LuPone, who won a Tony for her Eva, played evening performances, while Terri Klausner played Wednesday and Saturday matinees. In the critically acclaimed 2006 London revival Roger starred with Abbie Osman as the alternate Eva.

In the upcoming revival, Roger will be joined by pop singer Ricky Martin (Les Miserables) as Che and Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris (Tommy, Sweeney Todd) as Juan Peron; both will play all eight performances.

The Broadway production reunites 2006 London revival director Michael Grandage and Tony Award-winning choreographer Rob Ashford (Thoroughly Modern Millie, How to Succeed…). Hal Luftig and Scott Sanders produce the engagement.

The revival promises songs from the original staging, such as "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina," "Buenos Aires," "Rainbow High" and "High Flying Adored," as well as "You Must Love Me," which was penned for the 1996 film adaptation.

Evita has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. Harold Prince staged the original London and New York productions. Elaine Paige earned an Olivier Award for creating the role in London. Patti LuPone, who starred in the 1979 Broadway staging, earned a Tony Award for her work alongside Tony winner Mandy Patinkin as Che. Evita also earned the 1980 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book and Best Direction.

Roger won the 2009 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Édith Piaf in Piaf.

Upcoming Film Blows the Bard to Bits has run a feature on an upcoming film called "Anonymous", which is about the debate over the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Check out their article at the link below to read more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teri White Interview at Playbill has posted a great interview with Teri White, who is currently starring in the Broadway revival of Follies on Broadway. It is formatted as a sort of trivia set about her and her favorite things and is thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stage Version of "Shakespeare in Love" in the Works

The New York Times is reporting that a stage version of the Oscar-winning 1998 picture Shakespeare in Love is in the works. Disney Theatricals, along with British producer Sonia Friedman, have been working with the movie's co-screenwriter, theater vet Tom Stoppard (who, along with his co-writer Marc Norman, won the Best Screenplay for the film). Director Jack O'Brien is in talks to attach to this production, which is being discussed as a straight play, bucking the film-to-stage-musical trend that is particularly common these days, especially with Disney productions.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Culture Clashes and Misunderstandings

The New York Times Arts section has a great article (see link below) about the next production set to open on Broadway. It talks about Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang's upcoming play, Chinglish, which opens next Thursday at Broadway's Longacre Theatre.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Religious Experience on Broadway?

Some things are so good that we consider them to be religious experiences. But this year, Broadway is taking that phrase in a different direction. Gordon Cox wrote the following article about this which was published on under the title Broadway Gets Religion: Stage Producers Tap Into Faith Based Audiences.

With a new production of Godspell in previews and a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar on the way in the spring, the New Testament has staked out two potentially concurrent Rialto outposts. At the same time, a handful of producers -- including the team behind Memphis -- have begun to tap the same faith-based demo that has powered sales of recent films such as surprise success Courageous.

"The fact is, Christians and Jews and people from other religious traditions go to see shows," says Tom Allen, partner at Allied Faith and Family, the faith-focused arm of Allied Integrated Marketing that's drumming up auds for Memphis both on Broadway and on tour. "They're a little more guarded, because some of the shows run contrary to their world-view, but it's a robust, influential market."

Church orgs have long made up a significant chunk of group sales on the Main Stem. Only now, however, are producers beginning to make more formal inroads into the network of influential faith leaders in a way that mirrors film campaigns for Soul Surfer and Dolphin Tale.

Alongside Godspell (which opens Nov. 7 at Circle in the Square) and "Superstar" (opening March 22 at the Neil Simon), the currently running Sister Act -- although far more a secular comedy that just happens to feature nuns -- has shown some pull among church groups, particularly for the D.C. and Baltimore-area orgs that turned out for The Color Purple.

Stephanie Lee, prexy of Group Sales Box Office, says her company can instantly call up extensive databases of past group-ducat customers from faith-based orgs, and that many of those ticketbuyers have lately seemed a little less traditionally conservative than in the past. The group-ticketing service recently sent out a mailer trumpeting the season's potentially appealing titles with the words, "Find Your Faith on Broadway."

The subject matter of Godspell and Superstar seems tailor-made for devout audiences, but as successful outreach for pics including Justin Bieber: Never Say Never has made clear, faith-based auds can often be attracted to entertainment in which the tenets of faith aren't a central topic but a thematic undercurrent.

Never Say Never, for instance, is essentially a concert pic, but it includes multiple segments that showcase the teen idol's spiritual roots, including a scene in which performers say a group prayer before taking the stage at Madison Square Garden. On Broadway, secular title "The Color Purple" did strong biz with African-American church groups, drawn by the well-known story's themes of healing and forgiveness.

Similarly, Memphis, about the 1950s interracial romance between an African-American singer and a white DJ who becomes one of the first to play black tunes, doesn't deal primarily with religion, but the faith-based demo has been sympathetic to the tuner's themes of tolerance, perseverance and overcoming bigotry. To spur interest among churchgoers, Allen invited some of Gotham's religious leaders to take in the show.

"So much of it is letting people know it's a show that's safe to come to," says Sue Frost, one of the producers of Memphis.

Allen describes a network of gatekeepers to faith-based auds -- including Catholic bishops, pastors at megachurches, leaders of nonprofit ministries and the personalities on faith-oriented radio stations -- who can serve as powerful motivators to a demo that's as hungry for entertainment as any other seg of the population.

"It's important that shows pass that initial threshold, and not be too experimental or radical with the gospel," Allen adds. "But if you hit it right, you have other people doing your marketing for you."

In the case of both Godspell and Superstar, any outreach to the faith-based demo is just one initiative in an overall campaign to target several potentially interested niche auds, along with the broader swath of general theatergoers.

For instance, Godspell producer Ken Davenport says the musical revival can also target fans of composer Stephen Schwartz and his megahit Wicked. Plus, it benefits from the tuner's status as a familiar staple of stock, amateur and regional theater.

"The faith-based audience is a big group, and it could do some wonderful business for us," Davenport says. "But we're not solely dependent on them. I feel like Godspell is such a part of pop culture, it's almost jumped the religious shark."

Like Godspell, Superstar has made it into the pantheon of landmark tuners regardless of its biblical inspiration. As illustrated by a recently tweeted photo of a man in a yarmulke standing at the box office of Godspell, not everyone who wants to see these musicals would identify themselves as a Christian. "There's a cross-pollination of faith on Broadway," Lee says.

Superstar producer Michael David anticipates courting faith-based auds alongside other demos likely to be interested in the show. A partner in Dodger Properties, David also was involved in the 1988 Broadway run of the Oedipus-with-gospel tuner "The Gospel at Colonus," and he recalls that at the time, Broadway outreach to religious audiences was haphazard at best.

"Our process was ragtag," he says. "Now there's a considerably more organized pipeline to those audiences."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Relatively Speaking Opens on Broadway

Another production has opened on Broadway last night ... a series of three one-act plays collectively called Relatively Speaking. The production is directed by John Turturo, with one play each by Ethan Coen, Elaine May, and Woody Allen. The cast includes some starry names, including Marlo Thomas, Steve Guttenberg, Mark Linn-Baker, and Julie Kavner.

Variety essentially panned the show, saying that, "if the three one-act plays performed under the omnibus title Relatively Speaking had been written by playwrights named Joe Smith, Jane Doe, and Sid Jones, they'd probably still be making their way through the workshop pipeline at some not-for-profit (and not-too-daring) theater in the West Village." The writing was weak and the acting, directing, and other elements seemed to match. The reviewer, Marilyn Stasio, did, however, give some positive notices to Marlo Thomas, calling her "most winning when [her character] Doreen is most artificial." But that was about as positive a thing as was said in the review.

The New York Times' Charles Isherwood was kinder to the show ... and even enjoyed it well enough. He said that Elaine May's and Woody Allen's contributions were better than Coen's, but that Allen's was probably the best of the three. It must be mentioned, however, that the entire production came across as unruly and frenetic. Isherwood, too, mentioned Marlo Thomas as giving a notable performance, but whereas Variety only gave her a twisted compliment, Isherwood actually calling her "sublime as this fragrant but poisonous powder puff." Though I doubt she'll make the cut, particularly given that I don't have a clear sense of the competition yet, she's on my radar for a supporting actress Tony nomination.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stephanie J. Block to Join Anything Goes

Andrew Gans' article, copied below, appeared today on under the title "Stephanie J. Block Will Temporarily Fill in for Sutton Foster in Broadway's Anything Goes".

Roundabout Theatre Company announced Oct. 19 that Stephanie J. Block will join the Tony Award-winning revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes for a limited engagement next month when she steps into the role of Reno Sweeney while Sutton Foster, who won a Tony Award for her performance, films a television pilot.

Specific performance dates for Block's two-to-three week engagement will be announced shortly. Block will step into the role opposite Joel Grey as Moonface Martin.

The production features direction and choreography by Tony winner Kathleen Marshall.

Stephanie J. Block was most recently seen on Broadway in 9 To 5: The Musical, earning a Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She is best known for her portrayal as Elphaba in the Broadway company of Wicked and for creating the roles of Grace O'Malley in The Pirate Queen and Liza Minnelli in The Boy From Oz (opposite Hugh Jackman).

Anything Goes plays the Stephen Sondheim Theatre (124 West 43rd Street). A new block of tickets recently went on sale through April 29, 2012.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Les Miserables Casting Updates

The film version of the long-running Broadway hit Les Miserables has got more star power to its credit. Anne Hathaway has been confirmed to star as Fantine opposite Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, who will star as Jean Valjean and the jailer Javert, respectively. The film will be directed by Tom Hooper, who recently directed the Oscar-winning Best Picture, The King's Speech, and has a release date set for December 7th, 2012.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Life In the Theater

A life in the theater is something many starry-eyed youngsters dream of (until they take their heads out of the clouds). But for Charlie Rasmussen, a carpenter for Broadway shows and the oldest living active member of the stage hands union, a life in the theater is exactly what he's had. recently ran a profile of Rasmussen that I wanted to share with everyone. Check out the link below and read his story.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Richard III to come to BAM

The New York Times is reporting that Kevin Spacey led production of Shakespeare's Richard III will be coming to Brooklyn Academy of Music. Check out the article below for more details.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pictures of Godspell

Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre has been a long time fascination of mine. It is a bizarre space to do a show in because of the combination of a few factors that, on their own, would cause trouble for anyone trying to stage a play -- the lack of wing space to hide entrances/exits, the lack of fly space above the stage, the theater-in-the-round style stage and, not the least of all concerns, the fact that it is effectively in a basement, leaving not much versatility for certain technical elements. But when I heard that a revival of Godspell was coming there, I actually thought that the space had found the right tenant, or at least that a tenant had picked the perfect space. The show is based on one of the gospels about Jesus (I forget which one ... not being Christian, I have trouble keeping those straight regardless) and is written as a sort of clown show -- I can't quite describe it well, but if you look up a description of the show, I'm sure you can get a sense of what I'm talking about here. Anyhow ... has posted some pictures of the show, which just started previews a few days ago, and I thought I would post a link to those because, well, I think they look pretty fantastic. In the vein of full disclosure here, I have strong ties to some of the producing team for this production and this post is not intended as a plug for the show ... it's just something I've been thinking about lately.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Curtain Rises On "The Mountaintop"

Katori Hall's new play, The Mountaintop, which recently transferred from an Olivier Award-winning run in London, has opened on Broadway. The reviews are in and are decidedly mixed. Some reviews said that, while the opening moments were electrifying, that electricity dissipated quickly. Other reviews thought that the entire 85 minutes were great. Samuel L. Jackson got positive reviews across the board, though the degree of praise varied from review to review. Some said that he had his work cut out for him and that he was able to create a passable performance given the material he was working with was quite a lot of work that deserved recognition. Other reviews said that he "does absolutely right by King, playing all the flaws that make him human without robbing him of his basic dignity," adding that his performance was "physically imposing and emotionally honest." Sounds like he's set up to be a mid-level contender for a Best Actor Tony nomination come May/June. Kenny Leon, the play's director, is unlikely to be nominated for a directing Tony but, given that the play has won an Olivier Award, it has a 50/50 chance of getting a Tony nomination.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Casting Announced for City Center's "Merrily We Roll Along"

This article by Scott Heller appeared on the New York Times ArtsBeat Blog under the title "Hey, Old Friends: Casting Announced for ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ at Encores!"

Colin Donnell, currently going toe-to-toe with Sutton Foster as her dapper leading man in “Anything Goes,” will play the ambitious songwriter Franklin Shepard in the Encores! production of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the show’s creative team announced on Tuesday.

A short-lived musical with a much-loved score by Stephen Sondheim, “Merrily” follows a trio of friends making their way through two decades in show business. In a classically Sondheimian twist (though George Furth’s book is based on a 1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart play), the story is told backwards, beginning when the friends are middle-aged and disenchanted, and ending with them on the cusp of promise in 1957. The Broadway run in 1981 lasted only 16 performances, but the show spawned such Sondheim standards as “Not a Day Goes By,” “Good Thing Going,” and “Old Friends.”

James Lapine, a frequent Sondheim collaborator, will direct the run, which will be 15 performances, twice as long as this season’s other productions from Encores!, which specializes in scaled-back renditions of forgotten or flawed musicals. Though many of Mr. Sondheim’s major works have been revived on Broadway recently, “Merrily” has not, and the Encores! production is seen as a prelude to a possible Broadway engagement.

The character of Charley Kringas — Franklin Shepard’s songwriting partner and oft-frustrated best friend — has not yet been cast. But Celia Keenan-Bolger (“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” “Bachelorette”) will play Mary, a magazine writer and loyal helpmate to the songwriters. Betsy Wolfe (“Tales of the City”) is Franklin’s wife, and Elizabeth Stanley (“Million Dollar Quartet”) plays the star of the songwriters’ first Broadway hit.

“Merrily We Roll Along” runs Feb. 8-19 at City Center.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Broadway's Chinese Language Barrier

David Henry Hwang is in an interesting cultural position. Born in the U.S. to immigrant Chinese parents, he grew up speaking proper English and poor Chinese around relatives whose English was poor but whose Chinese was perfect. This has influenced many of the plays he has written, including the Tony-winning play M. Butterfly. His newest play, Chinglish, has begun previews and, for the occasion, he has composed for the following essay.

My newest play, Chinglish, currently in previews, tells of a white American businessman who travels to the Chinese provincial capital of Guiyang, in hopes of landing a deal. It grew out of the many trips I’ve been making to China over the past five or six years. China has gotten very interested in Broadway-style theater, and I happen to be the only even nominally Chinese person who’s ever written a Broadway show. So I’ve been called over for a lot of meetings to discuss very grand schemes—a new theater district, homegrown mega-musicals—all of which have resulted in absolutely nothing, except that I’ve gotten the opportunity to witness the amazing changes going on over there.

On a trip in 2005, I was taken to a brand-new cultural center in the ultra-modern city of Shanghai, where my father was born and raised. The facility was amazing—Brazilian wood, Italian marble, German design. And then there were these ridiculously translated signs: For instance, the handicapped restrooms read, “Deformed Man’s Toilet.” I imagined using these signs as a jumping-off point for a play about doing business in today’s China. During the last 10 years of his life, my father built a consultancy firm helping American firms land deals in China. So I’d heard a lot of stories about working there, and the misunderstandings that can derail dealings between cultures.

I also wanted to deal with the issue of language. When you’re trying to do business in a non-English speaking country, language obviously becomes the first barrier to understanding. Yet I’d never seen a play or movie which really tackled what that feels like. Normally, authors and directors come up with some kind of convention—the non-English speaking character speaks with an accent—which doesn’t even begin to convey the reality. As the child of immigrants, I grew up with many relatives whose English was poor to non-existent. And despite taking Chinese in college, my Chinese sucks. So I’ve spent a good portion of my life struggling across the language barrier. In Chinglish, we’ve given the Chinese characters the dignity of their own language, thanks to my wonderful translator, the Hong Kong-based playwright Candace Mui-Ngam Chong. But non-Chinese speakers needn’t worry—we project the English translations right onto the set, so you can easily understand what everyone is saying.

In fact, based on the play’s amazing reception in Chicago, where we were the most successful play in the history of the Goodman Theatre, audiences love that they know what everyone is saying onstage, even when the characters can’t understand each other. Americans today view China with both admiration and fear. An uncle of mine—a very successful Chinese businessman based in Manila—once told me, “When the West says Chinese are good, we’re never as good as they think. And when they think we’re bad, we’re never as bad as they say.” I hope the characters in this play from both sides of the Pacific are neither saints nor villains—and that we can laugh together at the virtues as well as the flaws that make us all human.

Monday, October 10, 2011

James Earl Jones Receives Paul Robeson Award

Stage, film, and television veteran James Earl Jones has won the 2011 Paul Robeson award. The actor, who is currently reprising his recent Broadway role of Driving Miss Daisy's Hoke in London, can add the award to the two Tony Awards already on his shelves. The Robeson Award, according to the Actor's Equity Association (the stage actor's union and the group that administers the award), honors individuals "who best exemplify the principles by which Mr. Robeson lived." Mr. Robeson was a political activist, singer, cultural scholar, athlete and author.

"Man and Boy" Opens on Broadway

The Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Terence Rattigan's 1963 play Man and Boy opened last night on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre. The play, which is about a Bernie Madoff style financial scandal in 1934, stars three-time Tony-winner Frank Langella in the lead role of Gregor Antonescu and is directed by Maria Aitken.

The reviews are in and all the attention seems to be going to Langella, who is supposed to be absolutely electrifying in this production. The script is nothing to write home about, nor is the design, it would seem, but Langella's lead performance is. Adam Driver, who plays the son of Langella's character, also got some good reviews in Variety Magazine. The costumes were praised in some reviews, as well.

Tony nomination prospects: Frank Langella will certainly be nominated in the lead actor in a play category, Martin Pakledinaz has a strong shot at a nomination in the costume design of a play category, and Adam Driver has a 50/50 shot at a nomination in the supporting actor in a play category.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stage to Screen Transfers

In the past few years, the chatter about how Hollywood is invading Broadway, in terms of both actors and material, has increased significantly. Today, at least, the chatter can switch directions. has published an article by Christopher Wallenberg called "STAGE TO SCREENS: Theatre Stars and Stories Flicker on the Big Screen in Fall 2011" that talks about all the stage and stage-related properties in Hollywood this year. I have copied the article below. Enjoy!

Hugh Jackman, Meryl Streep, "War Horse," God of Carnage, playwrights John Logan and Beau Willimon, and a speculative tale about Shakespeare are in movie theatres this fall. offers coming attractions of the stage stars, stage writers and stage titles making their way to the movies.


Oscar chatter has already commenced, with the prognosticating class busy twittering and blogging their early predictions for awards season. As the fall season kicks into gear, theatre fans can look forward to three high-profile stage-to-screen adaptations being in the mix as likely awards contenders, including two of the last three Tony Award winners for Best Play — God of Carnage (2009) and War Horse (2011). One boasts a star-studded cast, the other traffics in epic adventure, and both have legendary directors at the helm in Roman Polanski (the story is shortened as "Carnage" on film) and Steven Spielberg ("War Horse," which, technically, draws on the source novel by Michael Morpurgo, not the London and Broadway stage adaptation of the book).

In addition to those two December releases, Beau Willimon's acclaimed Off-Broadway drama, Farragut North, has been adapted for the big screen by Willimon, George Clooney, and his producing partner Grant Heslov as "The Ides of March." The film, directed by Clooney, opened in theatres on Oct. 7, starring acting dynamo Ryan Gosling.

Besides those three stage-and-screen-related properties, there's a slew of fall films featuring theatre talent both in front of and behind the camera, from the long-awaited second feature from playwright Kenneth Lonergan, to Michael Shannon's riveting lead performance in "Take Shelter," to Meryl Streep embodying another real-life figure (and tackling another accent) in "The Iron Lady."
Here's a rundown of what to look forward to this fall on the big screen:

Could there be a better time for a political thriller about scheming spin-meisters, dirty tricks, and shady power plays on the Presidential campaign trail? Zeroing in on the disillusioned zeitgeist with laser-like precision, "The Ides of March" has been loosely adapted from playwright Beau Willimon's Machiavellian morality tale Farragut North, which was produced in 2008 by the Atlantic Theatre Company and in 2009 in Los Angeles headlined by "Star Trek" star Chris Pine. Co-written for the big screen by Willimon and directed by George Clooney, the film co-stars Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. Set in the tense waning days of heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, "Ides" highlights the corruption that emerges from the runaway ambition and the insatiable thirst for power that infects the political class. Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, a charming, fast-rising, ruthless press secretary who works for a Howard Dean-like insurgent Democratic presidential hopeful with a few skeletons in his closet. As a political scandal threatens to upend his candidate's chance at the presidency, Meyers' loyalty and idealism are brutally tested.

Talk about a sophomore slump. The award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and film director Kenneth Lonergan has spent the past six years trying to bring his second feature film, "Margaret," to the big screen. After blazing onto the scene in 2000 with his acclaimed debut drama "You Can Count on Me," which earned Oscar nominations for Laura Linney as Best Actress and Lonergan for best original screenplay, Lonergan wrote and directed his second feature, "Margaret," all the way back in 2005. Since then, the film has been caught in a hellish legal limbo between its producer, Gary Gilbert, and studio Fox Searchlight. Lonergan reportedly handed in a film that had a three-hour running time, much longer than what was necessary to secure his right to final cut. Lawsuits between Gilbert, Fox Searchlight, and Lonergan were filed, and Gilbert was reportedly unable to get Lonergan to trim the epic running time, despite attempted assists from the likes of producer Scott Rudin and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. The film, which opened Sept. 30 in a limited release, now clocks in at 149 minutes. But it's been six years since it was shot. Indeed, Anna Paquin, who's 29 now, plays a teenager in the film, and Matt Damon still possesses a fresh-faced boyishness.

Early versions of the screenplay were praised for its allegorical parallels to 9/11. With the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks having just passed, perhaps "Margaret" will resonate. The film centers on a 17-year-old New York City high-school student who's plagued by debilitating remorse that she inadvertently played a role in a bus accident that claimed a woman's life. She attempts to reconcile her feelings and make things right, but meets with opposition at every step. Increasingly angst-ridden, she begins emotionally brutalizing her family, friends, teachers, and most of all, herself — as her youthful ideals collide with the realities and compromises of the adult world. A raft of theatre veterans, including Matthew Broderick and J. Smith Cameron, star in the film. A theatre director and writer and best friend of Broderick, Lonergan is known for his plays This Is Our Youth, Lobby Hero and The Waverly Gallery, which was nominated for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company veteran and "Boardwalk Empire" star Michael Shannon, who gave a riveting performance last winter as a desperately frantic producer in the Off-Broadway play Mistakes Were Made, stars in "Take Shelter" (it opened Sept. 30 in NY and LA, and goes national in October) as a Midwestern everyman possessed by increasingly harrowing visions and quietly coming apart at the seams. Shannon, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for his role as the mentally disturbed neighbor in "Revolutionary Road," has become the go-to actor for playing unhinged men that burn with a disquieting, often manic, intensity. But for his lead role as Curtis LaForche in "Take Shelter," Shannon also shows off his tender and vulnerable sides, even while he's unraveling at the seams. In the film, Shannon plays a young husband and father living in a small Ohio town with his wife Samantha (rising star Jessica Chastain) and his six-year-old daughter, Hannah, who is deaf. They're a happy family. But when Curtis begins having a series of terrifying dreams and daytime hallucinations about an encroaching, apocalyptic storm, he channels his anxiety into the obsessive building of a storm shelter in his backyard in hopes of keeping his family safe. As Curtis descends into a downward spiral of anxiety, manifested by increasingly strange and erratic behavior, he begins to privately fear that his harrowing apocalyptic visions could signify something uncontrollable inside of him.

Hugh Jackman will return to the Great White Way this fall — for the first time since The Boy From Oz seven years ago — with his one-man show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway. But before he gets started with the seductive soft-shoeing and soulful singing, Jackson hits the big screen in "Real Steel" (it opened Oct. 7), which imagines a future in which boxing has gone high-tech — with humans replaced by 2,000-pound, 8-foot-tall remote-controlled steel robots. Playing a washed-up former boxer, Jackman and his estranged son bond over their attempts to restore a hunk-of-junk robot-fighter to championship glory.

That smoldering Spaniard Antonio Banderas, who made his Broadway debut in the 2003 revival of Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's musical Nine, reunites with the visionary Spanish auteur, Pedro Almodovar, for his pulpy new thriller, "The Skin I Live In." Almodovar helped establish Banderas as a leading man in classic films like "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (turned into a musical by Lincoln Center Theater last season), but the duo haven't worked together in 20 years — since the 1991 film "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" Banderas first teamed up with Almodovar on his 1982 directorial debut, "Labyrinth of Passion," and the two continued to collaborate throughout the '80s. Banderas eventually transitioned to Hollywood, first making his name in films like "The Mambo Kings" and "Philadelphia," then becoming a bona fide leading man with "Desperado," "Evita" and "The Mask of Zorro." In "The Skin I Live In," a macabre mix of Hitchcockian melodrama and erotic beauty, Banderas plays a wealthy and prominent plastic surgeon whose wife was burned in a car crash. Since then, the twisted doc has doggedly been trying to invent a synthetic skin that can protect people from any type of harm. In need of a human guinea pig, he appears to be holding a woman hostage in his palatial mansion. Yet captor and captive seem to be in love. Could this woman be the doctor's supposedly dead wife? Or someone he's been surgically altering to resemble her? The unsettling creep-factor is through the roof on this one.

Set in the high-stakes world of the much-reviled financial industry, "Margin Call" stars a slew of actors who regularly shift between stage and screen work — Zachary Quinto (of last season's Off-Broadway revival of Angels in America), Kevin Spacey (A Long Day's Journey Into Night, A Moon for the Misbegotten), Jeremy Irons (The Real Thing, Richard II) and Stanley Tucci (Broadway's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune). The thriller, which opens Oct. 21, entangles the key players at an investment firm during one perilous 24-hour period in the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis. Entry-level analyst Peter Sullivan (Quinto) unlocks information that could prove to be the downfall of the firm. A roller-coaster ride ensues, as decisions both financial and moral catapult the lives of all involved to the brink of economic and personal disaster.

Indie queen Michelle Williams, whose expressive face and eyes are capable of projecting a deep well of emotional turmoil, may get all the attention (including a possible third Oscar nomination) for the high-profile upcoming release, "My Week With Marilyn" (opening Nov. 4). In the film, Williams will embody Marilyn Monroe, once the most lusted-after woman in the world. But the film also features another breakout performance by the Brit actor Eddie Redmayne, seen on Broadway in Red as Mark Rothko's art assistant, who finds his voice as his confidence grows. In "My Week With Marilyn," Redmayne plays a 23-year-old Oxford student who befriends Monroe while he's working as a lowly assistant on the set of her film, "The Prince and the Showgirl." When her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller, departs England during their honeymoon to return to the States, Monroe is desperate to escape from the Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work. So Clark takes the opportunity to introduce Monroe to some of the pleasures of British life during an idyllic week. The film is based on the published diary of the real-life Colin Clark and stars Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier, with whom Monroe clashed, The History Boys' Dominic Cooper as the famed photographer and Monroe confidante Milton Greene, as well as veteran stage luminaries Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, Derek Jacobi and Simon Russell Beale.

While "My Week With Marilyn" is based on reportedly real events from the life of an American icon, the upcoming film "Anonymous" (opening Oct. 28) wades into the speculative search for the supposed true identity of the greatest literary icon and playwright of the English-speaking language: William Shakespeare — a man who left school at the age of 13 and never traveled abroad. The debate about whether or not a man named William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays — and if not, who was the real author? — has been raging for centuries amongst scholars and other assorted experts. A painstakingly researched book by Brenda James and William Rubinstein, "The Truth Will Out," made a persuasive case several years ago for Sir Henry Neville, a prominent Elizabethan diplomat and member of Parliament. Others have argued for Sir Francis Bacon and even Queen Elizabeth I herself.

Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, "Anonymous" borrows the popular theory that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) and a member of Elizabeth I's Court, was the author, with the real William Shakespeare a lucky actor who got to put his name on the greatest works of literature in the English-speaking language. Directed by disaster movie maven Roland Emmerich, the film posits the fanciful theory (worthy of one of the Bard's most preposterous plots) that Oxford was not only the real Shakespeare but the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I, and that the couple had an incestuous relationship that produced a son, the Earl of Southampton. In the end, the film may not be about who really wrote the plays, but with cloak-and-dagger political intrigue, illicit romances, and power-grabbing schemes to steal the throne, "Anonymous" certainly sounds like a wild ride. Along for the journey are veteran stage thespians Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson and Derek Jacobi.

Onetime screen vixen Ellen Barkin captured this year's Tony for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her hair-raisingly volcanic turn as a wheelchair-bound AIDS doctor-turned-crusader in Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart. This fall, she will blast onto the big screen in "Another Happy Day," which sounds anything but. A black comedy about a family gathering that turns into an emotional roller coaster, the film (opening Nov. 4) finds Barkin as a hot-tempered woman whose emotional intensity has always been right on the surface and often cranked up to ten. It's the eve of her estranged son's wedding, and Lynn is grappling with enough family dysfunction to make Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams blush: a long-simmering tension with her ex-husband (Thomas Haden Church) and his prickly wife (Demi Moore), the icy contempt of her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and distant father, the mocking of her judgmental sisters, and the antics of her three deeply troubled children.

Adapted for the big screen by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton ("Dangerous Liaisons," Sunset Boulevard) from his 2002 play The Talking Cure, "A Dangerous Method" (opening Nov. 23) centers on the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), the beautiful but troubled female patient who comes between them after Jung engages in an S&M-stoked sexual affair with her. The film, inspired by true-life events, is directed by that master of bodily horror and harrowing psychological suspense, David Cronenberg ("A History of Violence," "The Fly," "Scanners"). Set in Zurich and Vienna at the precipice of World War I, this tale of sexual and intellectual discovery explores the friendship between the two pioneers of psychoanalysis and the rift that erupts between them — forever changing the face of modern thought.

Martin Scorsese's first 3D film, "Hugo," an enchanting epic adventure revolving around an orphan boy living a secret life inside the walls of a Paris train station, is a far cry from the director's usual blood-soaked films about gangsters and urban decay. Opening Nov. 23, "Hugo" features a script by Red playwright John Logan (who penned screenplays for "Sweeney Todd," "The Gladiator" and "The Aviator") and stars a slew of stage veterans, including "The Queen" actress Helen McCrory (she was Cherie Blair), History Boys Tony winners Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour, and New York theatre veteran Michael Stuhlbarg (The Pillowman). Based on the award-winning New York Times bestseller "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," the film centers on the plucky young hero as he searches, with the help of an eccentric girl, for the answer to a mystery linking his father who recently died, the irascible toy shop owner living below him and a heart-shaped lock without a key.

"Juno" teammates Jason Reitman (director) and Diablo Cody (screenwriter) reunite for "Young Adult," which stars Oscar winner Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, a writer of teen lit who returns to her small hometown to relive her glory days. Her first order of business? Wooing back her happily married high school sweetheart, played by Tony Award nominee Patrick Wilson (now starring in the CBS drama "A Gifted Man"). When her cockamamie plans prove more challenging than she imagined, she forms an unusual bond with a former classmate who hasn't quite put high school behind him, either. The film opens Dec. 9.

In recent years, Meryl Streep has played real-life figures ranging from Anna Wintour and Ethel Rosenberg to Susan Orlean and Julia Child. Now she's tackling one of the most famous — and controversial — political figures of the past four decades, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In "The Iron Lady" (opening Dec. 16), Streep brings to life one of the 20th century's most influential women, who came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world. The biopic spans seven decades in Thatcher's life, but zeroes in on the peak of Thatcher's power in the 1980s, when she (along with Ronald Reagan) helped usher in an unprecedented era of conservatism in the Western world. The film is directed by veteran British stage director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!, the 2009 Broadway production of Mary Stuart). Streep, the most nominated actor in the history of the Oscars, famously got her start in the theatre. She was last seen on stage in New York in the Public Theater's Central Park production of Mother Courage and Her Children in 2006.

Will the riotous comedy and scathing satire of bourgeois pretensions that were hallmarks of Yasmina Reza's 2009 Tony Award-winning God of Carnage translate to the big screen? Sporting an abbreviated title, "Carnage" opens on Dec. 16 starring Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and theatre veteran John C. Reilly as two pairs of upper middle class Brooklyn parents, who meet to discuss a physical altercation between their two boys. While the conversation between the foursome starts off in a fraught but seemingly civilized manner, a passive-aggressive tone soon takes hold and insults start flying like daggers to the gut. There's even a "Bridesmaids"-worthy vomit scene (as there is in the play). Needless to say, the parents' behavior becomes increasingly childish as the evening devolves into the chaos, humiliation and maturity befitting a playground squabble. With that master director of psychic suspense Roman Polanski at the helm, will Reza's facile skewering of rich folks' values and behavior achieve a deeper psychological dimension on the big screen? Stay tuned.
Like "Carnage," this year's Tony Award-winner for Best Play, War Horse, also faces thorny questions about the financial and critical prospects for its stage-to-screen transfer. Fortunately, "War Horse" (opening Dec. 28) has Hollywood powerhouse Steven Spielberg as its director and a beloved colt-turned-stallion as its central figure. The allure of the spectacular stage production (still ensconced at Lincoln Center and in London's West End) was its magical and magnificent use of large-scale puppetry to bring the horses to life (manipulated by multiple puppeteers). But for the movie (based on the book, not the stage script), Spielberg employs live horses and the sweeping canvas of cinema to tell the epic story of an unbreakable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young farm boy, Albert. Set in rural England and Europe during the First World War, the film follows Albert as he nurtures and tames Joey from a wild pet colt into a strong and steady workhorse that saves the family farm. But Albert and Joey are forcefully torn apart when Albert's father, in dire financial straits, secretly sells the steed to the British army. Nothing, though, can keep Albert from his beloved horse, and he soon signs up to fight in the war, in a desperate attempt to reunite with Joey. From there, we watch as the horse endures the brutality of the front lines (where thousands of horses perished), while changing and inspiring the lives of the people he encounters.

Hollywood's obsession with all things '80s seemed to peak the past few years with big screen remakes of "The Dukes of Hazzard," "The A Team" and "The Karate Kid." But that nostalgic yearning for addictive but empty-headed '80s cheese appears to be continuing unabated. And '80s lovers will no doubt be kickin' off their Sunday shoes and getting loose at the multiplex when a reboot of the 1984 teen classic "Footloose," which made Kevin Bacon a star, opens in theatres on Oct. 14. The film centers on a fleet-footed city-slicker, Ren McCormack, whose parents move him to a conservative town where dancing has been banned by local religious zealots. But Ren quickly kicks up a sweaty hot mess of trouble with his rampant hoofing, then raises the ire of the local zealot preacher after he starts making eyes at his teenage daughter. "Footloose" spawned not only the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game but a blockbuster soundtrack with a slew of candy-coated pop hits (including the title track, "Let's Hear It For the Boy," "Almost Paradise" and "Holding Out for a Hero"). It also gave birth to a 1998 Broadway musical version that ran for almost two years and scored four Tony nominations. After being turned down by both Zac Efron and Chace Crawford, the producers of "Footloose" were holding out for a hero and found Kenny Wormald, a professional dancer best known for his music video work, MTV's "Dancelife," and a starring role in the little-seen "Center Stage: Turn It Up." The new "Footloose" is co-produced by the prolific Broadway, film, and TV producing powerhouse team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the film versions of "Chicago" and "Hairspray," the upcoming TV drama "Smash," and the current Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business). Let's hear it for these boys!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

New York Times Profiles Rachel Griffiths

Patrick Healy of the New York Times recently talked with Rachel Griffiths, star of television's Six Feet Under and Brothers & Sisters (both shows netting her two Emmy nominations each) and of the film Hilary and Jackie (scoring a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her role as Hilary DuPre'). They talked about her experiences growing up in Australia and her upcoming Broadway debut in the transfer of Lincoln Center's Other Desert Cities.

ADULT children who dream of lashing out at their overbearing mothers, detached fathers and deadbeat loved ones have had a hero in Rachel Griffiths for years now.

As Brenda Chenowith, the mercurial love interest of the lead character on the HBO series Six Feet Under, Ms. Griffiths gave a master class in acting out — sexually, emotionally, cripplingly — and never seemed happier or sadder than when she was ridiculing her narcissistic mother, Margaret. (Brenda to Margaret, parked near a spa: “Can’t we at least go inside? I could get a seaweed wrap while I pretend to listen to you.”) Soon after Six Feet Under ended its five-season run, Ms. Griffiths buttoned up to become the businesswoman Sarah on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, but she still told off her buttinsky relatives now and then.

Ms. Griffiths, an Australian-born actress who was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for another sibling drama, the 1998 film Hilary and Jackie, said her expertise in family dysfunction owes some debt to her own turbulent upbringing in Melbourne. But mostly it has been a gift from strong writers. Now she is reuniting with one of them, Jon Robin Baitz, the creator of Brothers & Sisters, to make her Broadway debut in his play Other Desert Cities, which begins preview performances on Wednesday. Once more Ms. Griffiths will be playing a grown-up daughter with barely healed psychic wounds. But the spotlight is far greater this time around. For the first time her character is the central role, and Ms. Griffiths is the key new cast member to an ensemble that received rave reviews Off Broadway last winter.

The character, Brooke, has written a memoir about her family’s troubled past, and she has come home to Palm Springs to seek approval from her parents. Echoes of Brenda Chenowith can be heard, though, as Brooke eventually demands nothing less than expiation from her country club mother Polly (Stockard Channing) for decades of lousy parental care.

“All I see is a bully who has lost touch with gentleness or kindness,” Brooke tells Polly at one point. “There are many other ways of being. And yours, I just fail to understand it. I. Can’t. Bear. You.”

In contrast to her characters Ms. Griffiths, 42, comes across like a task-oriented soccer mom with no time for histrionics. Most mornings she wakes around 6 and prepares her two older children for the day while playing with her 2-year-old. (No can’t-get-out-of-bed Brenda depression for her.) Her husband, the painter Andrew Taylor, is home in Los Angeles finishing work for his first New York exhibition this winter. She often doesn’t have time to deal with things like makeup, she said over breakfast recently on the Upper East Side, after dropping off her 6-year-old daughter, Adelaide, at school nearby.

Her family life, in other words, seems far more prosaic than her fictional broods. (She starred as another troubled daughter in David Auburn’s play Proof for the Melbourne Theater Company in 2002, in between seasons of Six Feet Under.) Asked about her offstage life, she described it as more in sync with Australia than America, where the elusive fantasy of the happy family has preoccupied playwrights from Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller to, more recently, Wendy Wasserstein, Tracy Letts and Mr. Baitz.

“There’s a kind of gorgeous fetishization of the American family that the Australians don’t do,” Ms. Griffiths said. “Family here permeates how holidays are celebrated, how children are displayed in houses, how the mother figure is revered and appreciated — but also has impossibly high expectations that she puts on herself. Australians are more rough and tumble. There’s less focus on creating the happy memories that might not be based in how family members truly feel.”

The neediness and blunt self-expression that often attends her characters, Ms. Griffiths said, are qualities that she remembered stifling for years after her father abandoned the family, leading to her parents’ divorce. “After that I saw myself, through the lens of the 12-old-year narcissist, as a kind of tragedian,” Ms. Griffiths said during the breakfast interview, as she picked with a fingernail at a piece of granola on the table. “I was a suffocated feeler. My mother, in the wake of my father leaving, was so overwhelmed with three children. I couldn’t add to the burden. I was totally a good girl, but inside there was churning — Sylvia Plath churning.

“I remember hearing about the Holocaust in Grade 6, just after my Dad left, and I got into Anne Frank, and it was all mixed up together,” she continued. “My micro-world had blown up, and I became aware of the horrors of the world. I didn’t come out of it for quite a while.”

She went on to spend a year studying politics in college in 1986, but said she “became depressed because I imagined it would be Berkeley in ’72, but instead it was full of prep kids who wanted to make money.” Her subsequent auditions for acting conservatories yielded no acceptance letters, so she pursued a degree in drama at a public university that had relatively open admissions. There she took part in touring shows that led, after graduation, to two years in the theater company Woolly Jumpers, which performed at schools and community centers as well as juvenile detention halls and prisons.

“I learned there how to hold an audience, because otherwise they’d sometimes throw things at you,” she said. “You couldn’t drone on. You had to be dynamic, and emotions had to be genuine. Especially performing for teenagers, if you came out with a falseness or pretentiousness, they’d smell it a mile off.”

Soon after, Ms. Griffiths had her big break when she was cast as the hedonistic friend of the title character in Muriel’s Wedding, a 1994 film that brought critical acclaim and prizes to her and the star, Toni Collette. She kept focusing on films, with Hilary and Jackie out of Britain still her best known, until hearing about a new series called Six Feet Under being developed by Alan Ball, who had written one of her favorite movies, American Beauty (1999).

Of all her roles, Ms. Griffiths said, Brenda Chenowith is most closely aligned with Brooke from Other Desert Cities. Brooke’s relative functionality after a nervous breakdown and years of therapy suggest to Ms. Griffiths what Brenda could have become in a rosier world.

“I remember I once pitched Alan that Brenda become a performance artist, because I wondered when is this girl going to stop spiraling and find her voice and liberate herself from chaotic disorder,” Ms. Griffiths said. “And in Alan’s Southern gothic sensibility the answer was never.”

Brothers & Sisters, by contrast, was an opportunity to play greater stability, even amid family maelstroms.

“Sarah was effectual and rational, which is what I needed,” Ms. Griffiths said, unlike Brenda, who turned into a sex addict. “I’d found the sexual acting out of Six Feet Under exhausting, and physically kind of nauseous. I had a scene once with Justin Theroux” — who played one of Brenda’s lovers — “and I’d had a baby six weeks before. I’m straddling him and my director is going, ‘wilder, wilder,’ and I just burst into tears. My milk was coming in. I hadn’t even had sex with my husband since the baby.”

Mr. Baitz, who wrote Other Desert Cities, in addition to creating Brothers & Sisters, said that Ms. Griffiths grounded Sarah and her other characters in wry, philosophical delivery, even in high-strung emotional moments that lesser actresses might shade into the hysterical.

“Her characters are often rattled, but the only times I’ve seen Rachel herself like that is when she’s asked to act in a way that makes no logical sense,” Mr. Baitz said. Before he left Brothers & Sisters, which ran for five seasons until May, Mr. Baitz recalled visiting the set to talk to Ms. Griffiths about a scene — involving Sarah and her dead father’s mistress — that she found unbelievable. “I said, ‘Rachel, quite frankly I’m as baffled as you are, but the studio people asked for this. If you don’t do it, I’ll look quite stupid, so can you just go out and pretend to do it?’ And she smiled and did it. Any emotional scene on paper, Rachel can make feel believable.”

Joanna Cassidy, who played Brenda’s mother, Margaret, a recurring character, recalled that Ms. Griffiths more often showed a fearlessness that could be intimidating.

“She was so firm in her performance choices that, even in moments where Brenda could’ve been a little conciliatory to her mother, Rachel would never give an inch on her frustration,” Ms. Cassidy said. “You could always see it. She uses her whole body to declare war.”

Particularly her face. Rehearsing a tense scene for Other Desert Cities recently, Ms. Griffiths kept opting for a familiar look — pursing her lips so that her entire face lost softness and her upper lip and chin jutted out in a way that radiated hurt and judgment. As she did in many scenes of the play, she was setting the emotional pace, and her colleagues still seemed to be getting a handle on her acting choices. Ms. Channing and the production’s director, Joe Mantello, declined to be interviewed about Ms. Griffiths, noting they had not known her for long. (She is assuming the role from Elizabeth Marvel, who left for film commitments.)

As Ms. Griffiths prowled around the stage of the rehearsal room, Mr. Mantello would step over with a smile and whisper a suggestion here, a question there. The emotional intensity of the scene grew with each run-through, as Brooke challenged her brother (Thomas Sadoski) to empathize with her.

“You don’t understand this depression thing,” Ms. Griffiths said at one point as Brooke, then pausing with her lips pressed. “Because you don’t have it.”

Somewhere, hearing that slap, Brenda Chenowith grinned.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fred Melamed Bows Out of Ethan Coen Play has just posted that Fred Melamed, the great character actor, has backed out of the upcoming Broadway production Relatively Speaking, a series of one-act plays by Ethan Coen, Elaine May, and Woody Allen. According to the article, "Melamed, who was appearing in Coen’s play Talking Cure, left the show after the matinee on October 2, and has been replaced by Allen Lewis Rickman. Melamed and Coen have worked together on films like A Serious Man, but he told the Times that the two were clashing on their Broadway endeavor, and he decided to fulfill a commitment for Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie, The Dictator."

Melamed is quoted as saying, "We kind of weren't together on the character,” Melamed told the paper. “There were things Ethan wanted that I didn’t like, that seemed to take the character in a direction that felt artificial. Stuff I couldn’t really make sense of. I don’t think it was the sort of stuff that I would get fired over. But when my film work began calling for me to take more days off away from the play, we all amicably decided to part ways. I have very affectionate feelings for Ethan and great respect for him as a writer, and all of that stayed intact."

Funny Girl Has a Home

The upcoming Broadway revival of Funny Girl has finally booked a home. Though no dates have been set for previews or opening, the revival has announced that it will move into the Imperial Theatre, where Billy Elliot is currently playing, as soon as that show closes and moves out in January.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jesus Christ Superstar Coming to Broadway in 2012 published the following article confirming that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar will be coming to Broadway this season.

Jesus Christ Superstar Will Be Resurrected on Broadway in 2012

Confirming earlier rumors, the Des McAnuff-helmed production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, currently running at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, will be coming to Broadway after its previously announced run at the La Jolla Playhouse. The musical, about the last days of Jesus’ life, will begin performances on March 1, 2012 at Broadway's Neil Simon Theater and open on March 22.

No casting for the Broadway production has been announced, but Superstar will move to La Jolla with its full Stratford cast, which features Paul Nolan as Jesus, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Josh Young as Judas and Tony winner Brent Carver in the role of Pontius Pilate.

The Stratford Superstar began generating Broadway buzz soon after its opening in June of 2011, fueled in part by visits from both Webber and Rice. Webber, who recently expressed his own hopes that the production would move to Broadway, called it "the best acted version of the show I have seen in the 40 years of its existence." Jesus Christ Superstar first opened on Broadway in 1971, starring Jeff Fenholt as Jesus, Ben Vereen as Judas Iscariot and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene.

The Economics of A Tony Award

I've been thinking about this issue lately, since I am in grad school for finance and all. I found this article on the New York Times theater section website and thought it was a great description of the effects of a Tony on the box office. Enjoy!

‘Red’ and ‘Carnage’ Find New Life Well Beyond Broadway

The Tony Award that can reliably boost ticket sales for Broadway shows is the award for best musical: An overwhelming number of theatergoers – about 90 percent – buy tickets to see musicals rather than plays, and a Tony helps folks differentiate among the productions in the running for their ticket money.

The Tony for best play, by contrast, is a coveted artistic honor, though it rarely makes a big difference at the box office. Take “Red,” the John Logan drama about the painter Mark Rothko that won the award for best play and five other Tonys last year. The production closed on Broadway two weeks after the Tony Awards ceremony, when its stars departed and after its producers had recouped their $2.25 million investment.

Where honors and acclaim can help a play is at American regional and touring theaters, where executives view Tony-winning plays as reliable seat-fillers. That helps explain why the No. 1 most produced play around the country for the 2011-12 season will be “Red” and the 2009 Tony winner for best play, Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage.” Each play is scheduled to have 23 productions at American theaters this season, according to data compiled from Theater Communications Group, an umbrella theater organization.

The other plays in the Top 10 are “In the Next Room, or the vibrator play,” by Sarah Ruhl, with 13 productions; “The 39 Steps,” adapted by Patrick Barlow from work by John Buchan and Alfred Hitchcock, with 11; “Time Stands Still,” by Donald Margulies, with 11; “Next Fall,” by Geoffrey Nauffts, with 11; “To Kill a Mockingbird,” adapted by Christopher Sergel from Harper Lee’s novel, with 8; “Race,” by David Mamet, with 7; “August: Osage County,” by Tracy Letts, with 7; and “Clybourne Park,” by Bruce Norris, with 7. (Theater Communications Group also said that the musical “Spring Awakening” will have 7 productions this season.)

Both “Red” and “God of Carnage” also hold appeal for regional theaters because of their relatively low production costs: “Red” has two characters and a single, spare set, while “Carnage” has four characters and a fancier, but still unitary set. Beyond its meditations on art, “Red” has also been a boon to graphic artists for theater companies who have put their own twists on marketing designs. And both plays have juicy roles that are catnip to actors. A production of “Red” that begins performances this month at Philadelphia Theater Company, for instance, stars Haley Joel Osment (an Academy Award nominee for “The Sixth Sense”) in the role of Ken, for which the actor Eddie Redmayne won a Tony Award for featured actor in a play last year.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scenic Designer David I. Mitchell Dead at 79

David I. Mitchell, Tony-Winning set designer of 1980's Barnum and 1978's Working, has passed away at the age of 79 in Los Angeles. The seven-time Tony nominee is probably most famous for his design of the set for Annie, about which Mitchell said, "I don't think anybody would continue in this business unless there was a chance to hit that kind of jackpot." In his review for Barnum, Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote, "When circumstances require it, Mr. Mitchell is not averse to sending scenery flying from all directions, including the floor. Yet the set is more than a collection of pretty gimcracks. Its roseate, gaslit glow and golden crown of letters spelling out America suggest another, deeper entertainment."

Billy Elliot to Close

The Broadway production of Billy Elliot has posted a closing notice with a closing date set for January 8th. The show won a slew of Tony Awards in 2009 and earned back its $18 million capitalization in 14 months on Broadway, but lately, weekly grosses have been declining and this is an expensive production to maintain given its scale.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Joanna Gleason's Enviable Position

Joanna Gleason has got it good. Since her Broadway debut in 1977, Gleason has built up a name for herself as more than just Monty Hall's daughter, winning a Tony along the way (for Into the Woods in 1988).'s Robert Simonson has written an article about her and the position she now finds herself in ... choosing parts wisely. Enjoy!

Tony winner Joanna Gleason pays her dues so she can appear in plays like Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet.


Tony-winning actress Joanna Gleason (Into the Woods) has plenty to do. She's working on a novel. Her screenplay is being shopped around. She'll accept television and film roles to pay the bills, even when the part is a mother "that they don't even bother to name." So when it comes to theatre, she can be selective. "You really have to have your heart in it for that kind of effort, six days a week," she says.

Sons of the Prophet, the new play she's appearing in at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Laura Pels Theatre, had more than enough to draw her in.

"This one came with a note from my agent saying, 'This is by Stephen Karam.' And I know this kid because I saw Speech and Debate." As it turns out, a lot of people saw Speech and Debate. After it drew rave reviews in its initial production as part of the Roundabout's Underground program in 2007, it became one of the most-produced new plays in America.
"And Peter DuBois is going to direct," she continues. "I said, 'A ha! This is a director whose work I like.' I read it and within ten minutes I emailed my agent and said, 'Yeah, absolutely, I'll do this reading.'"

Her liking for the script was such that she spent seven weeks at Boston's Huntington Theatre with the play last spring. "I don't really like to go away any more. I've done that. It's time not to do that anymore. But I was so engaged by the play."

In Sons of the Prophet, Gleason plays a fallen-from-grace Manhattan book editor who believes she's found her career-saving book in the story of a Lebanese family in Pennsylvania beset with more tragedies than the House of Atreus.

"She's never exactly sober, and not just with alcohol," says Gleason of her character. "She has a substance abuse problem, brought on by her own inability to cope with the tragedies in her life. There is a connection [between her character and the family]. There's bonding. She reaches out in her desperately needy state for more than that. You can't tell if it's mercenary or emotional at times."

Despite this dramatic set-up, Gleason describes the play as "a little bit drama, a lot comedy" and "wildly funny."

Gleason is a member of a show-business clan. Her husband is actor Chris Sarandon, and her siblings include the television writer–directors Sharon Hall Kessler and Richard Hall. This is all in spite of the efforts of her famous father, legendary "Let's Make a Deal" game show host Monty Hall. "My parents kept show business as far away from our house as possible," says Gleason. "It was a very normal upbringing. It just happened to be that at certain times of the day, you'd turn on the TV and there'd be my father.

"No one encouraged us to define ourselves in this way," she says. And yet, they all did. Jokes Gleason, "Our family crest should be a tambourine."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Progress Updates on Two Musical Adaptations

The New York Times is reporting that the musical adaptations of two Hollywood films -- American Psycho and Little Miss Sunshine. American Psycho, based on Bret Easton Ellis' 1991 novel (and in part, I assume, on the 2000 Christian Bale film) had a workshop this week in New York and "staged a private presentation for theater producers and artists on Friday," according to the New York Times. The show has a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who recently reworked and overhauled Julie Taymor's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and a score by Spring Awakening's Duncan Sheik, and stars Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson's Benjamin Walker. Little Miss Sunshine had its world premier production at LaJolla Playhouse in California, "held a private reading in mid-September of a revised script of the show, which drew mixed reviews in California," the Times says. The reading featured Sherie Rene Scott, Raul Esparza, John Cullum, and Brooks Ashmanskas.