Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year Ends, But What's Next?

This article, by Erik Pipenberg, appeared on the New York Times website under the title "Backstage Veterans, Taking a Breath After Long Runs".

No show runs forever, not even “Cats.”
When a long-running musical closes, the actors take a final bow. But backstage workers have to dismantle the sets, pack up costumes and wigs for touring productions, and unlearn light cues and cast members’ schedules.
So it will be when “The Addams Family” and “Billy Elliot” finish their Broadway runs, which, while not long by “Cats” standards (18 years) — or the 23-years-and-still-running “Phantom of the Opera” — have meant steady paychecks for stagehands, dressers, hair and makeup artists and many others who work behind the scenes.
“The Addams Family” closes on Saturday after 22 months at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater. “Billy Elliot,” the winner of 10 Tony Awards in 2009, closes at the Imperial Theater on Jan. 8. Both are shutting down after slow box office sales in recent months, but will live on in touring productions.
Among the actors who have stayed with “The Addams Family” since the beginning are Jackie Hoffman, who began playing Grandma in the show’s pre-Broadway run in Chicago. “Billy Elliot,” by contrast, has seen boys steadily cycle in and out of the title role as their bodies grew and their voices dropped.
“Saying goodbye to people is a constant,” said Bonnie Becker, the show’s production stage manager.
“There will be lots of tears,” she added. “The kids are already sad and counting down how many shows they have left.”
Following are excerpts from interviews with Ms. Becker and three other backstage crew members from “Billy Elliot” and “The Addams Family” who will have greased their shows’ wheels on Broadway from the first curtain until the last.
Production stage manager, “Billy Elliot”
WHAT SHE DOES “It’s like being an air traffic controller. I tell everybody else what to do. I figure out how to call the show and teach other people how to do it.” But she is also part therapist, part personal assistant and equal parts good cop-bad cop: “I have around 50 numbers in my phone of actors from ‘Billy Elliot.’ They could call me at any moment of the day or night to tell me any number of things — they’re sick, pregnant, getting married, their parents are ill, someone has died, their cat has to go to the vet — all by way of saying they will or won’t be coming to work.”
REGRETS None. “Look, eventually a show’s going to close no matter how fantastic it is,” she said. “In our three-year run we’ve had 16 boys play Billy. They grow up and they have to leave. We have been through the sadness of losing the stars of the show 12 times, since we have four boys left.”
WHAT’S NEXT “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara, which follows “Billy Elliot” into the Imperial. Previews start in March. But before that, her plans call for some quiet time. “I honestly hope to sleep a lot and not have my phone ring. Maybe I’ll just turn my phone off.”
Hair and makeup supervisor, “The Addams Family”
JOINED THE SHOW August 2008 (He worked on the Chicago run.)
WHAT HE DOES Maintains the wigs and oversees makeup; helps actors learn to do their own makeup.
HOW HE KEEPS IT FRESH “It’s always good to have a show that has challenges. You get bored easily and read far too many books. This show doesn’t allow for that.”
Ms. Hoffman’s Grandma, for example, wears “about 20 or 30 different items” to make her look 100. “There are different shades of base, plus different contours, false eyebrows, prosthetic moles.”
WHAT’S NEXT No job lined up yet. It’s too soon for new Broadway shows to be thinking about hair and makeup, he said. “Once they have the cast, then they worry about clothes and makeup. Hair is like the last thing they think about.”
Wardrobe supervisor, “Billy Elliot”
WHAT SHE DOES Repairs, cleans and refits costumes; hires dressers; coordinates and assists with quick changes.
BENEFITS OF A LONG RUN Vacation planning. “Being able to say, ‘I’m in a strong show, and maybe if we want to go to Texas for the summer, we can plan on that’ is great. If you don’t know if a show is going to have long legs, it’s hard to make plans.”
REGRETS Missing a performance her two children (now 7 and 9) gave at summer camp during her first month with the show. (She later watched it on tape.) “I tried not to take a lot of time off at the beginning. But as it ran longer, if I needed to miss a show because it’s back-to-school night, I could do it because the show had become a well-oiled machine.”
WHAT’S NEXT Without a signed contract, Ms. Purcell was reluctant to say, other than that she “almost” had “something set” for a Broadway show.
Resident music director and conductor, “Billy Elliot”
WHAT HE DOES Conducts the show, rehearses the cast, vets new musicians.
WHY IT’S A DREAM OPPORTUNITY “I grew up on a farm in central Illinois, and I knew that’s not where my dreams lie. Much like Billy, I put all my energy into music, which led me to something I’m enjoying.”
UNEXPECTED MOMENT Proximity to other Broadway shows can have surprising results. “The other night we had microphones that went live from ‘Porgy and Bess’ right in the middle of our show.”
WHAT’S NEXT Conducting “Nice Work if You Can Get It.” Until then, Mr. Gough says, “I have a few weeks to exhale.”

Year End Notes

The end of the calendar year marks the middle of the Broadway season and the transition from the "fall season" to the "spring season". With that, I have gone through the list of shows that I know about from the upcoming spring season along with the information I have cultivated about the fall season and come up with a first set of thoughts about what the Tony nominations look like as of now. I have not included the design categories here because they are the hardest to call, even once all shows have opened, though Follies seems pretty well set to get nods in all design categories.

Other Desert Cities
Venus in Fur

Lysistrata Jones
Spider Man

Bonnie and Clyde
Lysistrata Jones

Bonnie and Clyde
Lysistrata Jones

Play Revival
Private Lives
Man and Boy
The Best Man

Musical Revival
Porgy & Bess

Leading Actor in a Musical
Norm Lewis, Porgy & Bess
Ricky Martin, Evita
Jason Segarra, Lysistrata Jones
Steve Kazee, Once
Ron Raines, Follies

Leading Actress in a Musical
Jan Maxwell, Follies
Audra McDonald, Porgy & Bess
Elena Roger, Evita
Patti Murin, Lysistrata Jones
Cristin Milioti, Once

Featured Actor in a Musical
Danny Burstein, Follies
Philip Boykin, Porgy & Bess
David Alan Grier, Porgy & Bess
Jason Tam, Lysistrata Jones
Patrick Page, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Featured Actress in a Musical
Elaine Paige, Follies
Jane Houdyshell, Follies
Melissa van der Schyff, Bonnie & Clyde
Jessie Mueller, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
Liz Mikel, Lysistrata Jones

Leading Actor in a Play
Samuel L. Jackson, The Mountaintop
Frank Langella, Man and Boy
Hugh Dancy, Venus in Fur
Alan Rickman, Seminar
Paul Gross, Private Lives

Leading Actress in a Play
Stockard Channing, Other Desert Cities
Angela Bassett, The Mountaintop
Nina Arianda, Venus in Fir
Kim Cattrall, Private Lives
Angela Lin, Chinglish

Featured Actor in a Play
Thomas Sadoski, Other Desert Cities
Adam Driver, Man and Boy
Simon Paisley Day, Private Lives
Mekhi Phifer, Stick Fly
Hamish Linklater, Seminar

Featured Actress in a Play
Anna Madeley, Private Lives
Hettienne Park, Seminar
Lily Rabe, Seminar
Judith Light, Other Desert Cities
Jennifer Lim, Chinglish

Director of a Play
Maria Aitken, Man and Boy
Walter Bobbie, Venus in Fur
Leigh Silverman, Chinglish
Joe Mantello, Other Desert Cities

Director of a Musical
Eric Schaeffer, Follies
Dan Knechtges, Lysistrata Jones
Diane Paulus, Porgy & Bess
Julie Taymor, Spider Man

Friday, December 30, 2011

In Memoriam posted a list of the greats we lost this year in the world of theater and I wanted to copy their list here.

Doe Avedon, 86, the unknown who was molded into a model and actress by husband, photographer Richard Avedon, on Dec. 18 in Los Angeles.

Vaclav Havel, the political playwright who became the elected president of Czechoslovakia and, later, the Czech Republic, on Dec. 18 in at his country home in Hradecek, Czech Republic.

Graham Brown, 87, an actor long associated with the Negro Ensemble Company, on Dec. 13 in Englewood, NJ.

Susan Gordon, 62, a child actress who appeared in her father's sci-fi "B" movies, on Dec. 11 in Teaneck, NJ.

Harry Morgan, 96, who played the salty but kindly career army man Col. Sherman T. Potter in the long-running television show "M*A*S*H," and was a familiar Hollywood character actor, on Dec. 7 at his home in Los Angeles.

Leo Friedman, 92, a photographer who captured many of the iconic images of the golden age of Broadway, on Dec. 2 at his home in Las Vegas.

Alan Sues, 85 who found fame in the late '60s for his zany performances on the free-form television comedy "Laugh-In," on Dec. 1 in his home in Los Angeles.

Thomas Martell Brimm, 75, an actor with credits at the New York Shakespeare Festival and Negro Ensemble Company, on Nov. 30 in Los Angeles.

Edwin Judd Woldin, 86, a musical composer best known for Raisin, an adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's classic work A Raisin in the Sun, on Nov. 27.

Judy Lewis, 76, who had a number of stage and television parts during her career, but whose role of a lifetime was playing the secret child of two Hollywoods stars, Clark Gable and Loretta Young, on Nov. 25.

Rose Pickering, 64, grande dame of the Milwaukee theatre scene who, along with her husband James Pickering, acted in countless productions as a member of Milwaukee Rep's ensemble for nearly four decades, beginning in the early 1970s, on Nov. 24, in Milwaukee.

Irving Elman, 96, a Broadway playwright and a writer and producer for movies and television, on Nov. 22 in La Jolla, CA.

John Neville, 86, the respected British-born actor and director who was artistic director of Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival from 1985 to 1989, on Nov. 19 in Toronto.

Shelagh Delaney, 71, who had an international hit with A Taste of Honey, a play she wrote when she was still a teenager, on Nov. 20 at her daughter’s home in Suffolk, England.

Michael Hastings, 74, a British playwright who was cast as a member of the Angry Young Man set of the late 1950s, and wrote Tom and Viv, on Nov. 17.

Lee Pockriss, 87, the theatre and pop composer whose musicals include Broadway's Tovarich and Off-Broadway's Ernest in Love, on Nov. 14 at his home in Bridgewater, CT.

Leonard Stone, 87, a Tony Award nominee for his turn as George Poppett in Redhead in 1959, on Nov. 2 at his home in San Diego.

Gilbert Cates, 77, the founder and producing director at the Geffen Playhouse, on Oct. 31 in Los Angeles.

Phyllis Love, 85, a stage and film actress who originated the role of Rosa Della Rose in The Rose Tattoo, on Oct. 30 in Los Angeles.

Liviu Ciulei, 88, an influential Romania-born director who was artistic director of Minnesota's Guthrie Theater for five years in the early 1980s, on Oct. 25 in a hospital in Munich.

Margaret Ruth Draper, 94, a stage and radio actress, on Oct. 14 in Payson, UT
Gary Holcombe, 66, a leading actor in the Kansas City theatre scene, on Oct. 10 in Kansas City.

Doris Belack, 65, a film and stage actress with decades of credits, and widow of producer Philip Rose, on Oct. 4 in Manhattan.

David I. Mitchell, 79, a seven-time Tony Award nominee and two-time Tony Award-winning scenic designer for Broadway, opera and ballet, on Oct. 3 in Los Angeles.

Cliff Robertson, 88, an Oscar-winning movie star whose career was temporarily derailed when he challenged a movie executive, on Sept. 10 in Long Island.

Mary Fickett, 83, an actress who received a Tony Award nomination for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello, on Sept. 8 at her home in Callao, VA.

Jerry Leiber, 78, the rock and roll songwriter who, with Mike Stoller, penned hit after hit between the 1950s and the 1970s, collected in the Broadway show Smokey Joe's Cafe, on Aug. 22 in Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Price Berkley, 92, founder and longtime publisher of Theatrical Index, a theatre industry reference bible for decades, on Aug. 21 in New York.

Jeffrey Ash, 65, who followed his father in the Broadway advertising business and helped revolutionize it through a ground-breaking television spot for the musical Pippin, on Aug. 8 at his home in Manhattan.

John Wood, 81, a versatile British actor with a particular gift for playing curious souls and for the plays of Tom Stoppard, on Aug. 6 in England.

Edward Hastings, 80, one of the founders of the American Conservatory Theater, and its artistic director from 1986 to 1992, on Aug. 4 at his Santa Fe home.

Sam Norkin, 94, who captured seven decades of stage performances with fine-lined caricatures, on July 30 in New York.

Jane White, 88, a stage veteran who created the role of Queen Aggravain in Once Upon a Mattress, on July 24 in New York.

Tom Aldredge, the lean and reliable veteran character actor who was nominated for a Tony Awards five times in his long and varied career, including for the original production of On Golden Pond, on July 22 in Tampa, FL.

Helen Beverley, 94, who performed in Yiddish theatre and Yiddish films, and was married to actor Lee J. Cobb, on July 15 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund hospital in Woodland Hills.

Googie Withers, 94, a sly, stylish British star who was best liked by her public when she was behaving wickedly, on July 15 in Sydney, Australia.

Donald Grody, 83 an actor who served as executive director of Actors' Equity Association from 1973 to 1980, on July 13 at his home in Manhattan.
Tony Stevens, 63, a dancer, choreographer and director who worked with Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett, and was an critical player in bringing the musical A Chorus Line into being, on July 12.

Donald Lyons, 73, a writer who served as drama critic at the New Criterion, Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, on July 12.

Roberts Blossom, 87, a character actor whose portrayals on both stage and screen won acclaim, if not actual fame, on July 8 in Santa Monica, CA.

Anna Massey, 73, the British actress who snagged a 1957 Tony Award nomination for her only Broadway appearance, in The Reluctant Debutante, on July 3.

Margaret Tyzack, a much-honored mainstay in the British theatre acting world for more than four decades, a Tony winner for Lettice and Lovage, on June 24 in London.

Alice Playten, 63, who lent her quirky persona and comic voice to a memorable string of Broadway and Off-Broadway musical performances from the 1960s onward, on June 25 at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City.

Peter Falk, 83, a stage, film and television actor whose quirky but intense characterizations included Columbo, the iconic detective he created in the television series of the same name, on June 23 at his Beverly Hills home.

Tommy Brent, 88, a producer on the New England straw hat circuit who put in more than two decades as producer at Rhode Island's historic Theatre-by-the-Sea, on June 4 at his home in Manutuck, RI.

Clarice Taylor, 93, a stage actress who won late fame playing Bill Cosby's mother in "The Cosby Show," on May 30 in Englewood, NJ.

Philip Rose, 89, a Broadway producer who advanced the cause of African-American stage artists by producing the original Raisin in the Sun, on May 31 in Englewood, NJ.

Giorgio Tozzi, 88, an operatic bass who occasionally made forays into the theatre, including a Tony Award-nominated turn in The Most Happy Fella, on May 30, in Bloomington, IN.

Jeff Conaway, 60, who played Kenickie in the hit movie version of the musical "Grease" and was one of the stars of the classic sitcom "Taxi," on May 27 at a Los Angeles-area hospital.

Michael Brenner, 59, the German producer and impresario who founded and was managing partner of the Mannheim-based BB Promotion GmbH, on May 21, after being hit by a motorbike while on a bicycle tour.

Douglas B. Leeds, 63, an advertising executive who was a producer and vice-chairman of the American Theater Wing, on May 9 in New York City.
Joseph Brooks, 73, the Hollywood composer of "You Light Up My Life" and the Broadway musical In My Life, on May 22 in his Upper East Side apartment, a suicide. He had been awaiting trial on multiple charges of rape.

Randall L. Wreghitt, 55, a theatrical producer known for bringing innovative dramatic work to Broadway and Off-Broadway stages, among them several of the works of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, on May 18 in a hospital in Hoboken, NJ.

Pam Gems, 85, who found stage plays in the lives of persons as diverse as French chanteuse Edith Piaf and English painter Stanley Spencer, on May 13 at her home in England.

Gerald Bordman, 79, a theatre scholar who wrote the standard reference volume "The American Musical Theatre," on May 9, at Saunders House in Wynnewood, PA.

Doric Wilson, 72, an early figure in New York's Off-Off-Broadway scene and champion of gay theatre and gay rights in general, on May 7 in Manhattan.

Arthur Laurents, 93, the irascible, enduring Man of the Theatre who wrote plays and screenplays and enjoyed a significant career as a director, but who made his lasting mark as the librettist to two landmark musicals, West Side Story and Gypsy, on May 5 at his Manhattan home.

Sidney Michaels, an American playwright who scored a string of notable Broadway productions in the 1960s, including Tchin-Tchin and Dylan, on April 22 in Westport, CT.

Russell Warner, in his 70s, an orchestrator, composer, music director and dance arranger, on April 26 in Seattle.

Marian Mercer, 75, who won a Tony Award for her performance in the hit 1960s musical Promises, Promises, on April 27 in Newbury Park, CA.
John Cossette, 54, a Broadway and television producer, on April 26.

Farley Granger, 85, an edgy youthful lead in films following World War II, particularly the notable Hitchcock thrillers "Strangers on a Train" and "Rope," on March 27 in New York.

John Scoullar, 61, a composer, lyricist, playwright and performer, on March 25, in New York.

Lanford Wilson, 73, playwright who emerged out of the scrappy Off-Off-Broadway scene to compose humane, lyrical dramas of American life that played on Broadway and in theatres around the world, on March 24 in Sag Harbor, Long Island.

Helen Stenborg, 86, veteran stage and film actress, long-time spouse of the late actor Barnard Hughes, and mother of director Doug Hughes, on March 22 at her Manhattan apartment.

Elizabeth Taylor, 79, the movie star who for a half-century was as famous for her personal attractiveness and sensational personal life as she was for her many films (and one turn on Broadway in Private Lives), on March 23 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Michael Gough, 94, the British character actor who won a Tony Award for playing Ernest in Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce, on March 17 at his home in England.
Beverley Randolph, 58, veteran production stage manager, on March 15 at her home in Bloomingdale, NJ.

Hugh Martin, 96, the songwriter who enlivened the Judy Garland movie musical "Meet Me in St. Louis" with the evergreen songs "The Trolley Song," "The Boy Next Door" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," on March 11 in California.

Jane Russell, 89, a starlet of Hollywood westerns and musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, as famous for her physique as she was for any of her films, on Feb. 28 at her home in Santa Maria, CA.

Jay Landesman, a semi-notorious, frenetically ambitious fringe figure of New York and London's Bohemian scenes whose unpublished novel "The Nervous Set" inspired the short-lived 1959 musical of the same name, on Feb. 20 at his home in London.

Haila Stoddard, 97, who transitioned from actress to producer during a lengthy theatre career, at her home in Weston, CT.

Beatrice Louise Dickman Swarm, 92, educational consultant and backstage chaperone with Miss Saigon, on Feb. 13, in Waynesboro, PA.

Betty Garrett, 91, a comedic stage and screen musical comedy actress whose brief film career, curtailed by the McCarthy-era blacklist, included "On the Town," on Feb. 12, in Los Angeles at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Evelyn Page, 90, an actress with several Broadway credits, on Feb. 6 in Manhattan.

Mary Cleere Haran, 58, a mainstay on the cabaret scene in the 1990s and 2000s, known for her insouciant, witty, elegant way with American songbook, on Feb. 5, after a biking accident, in Deerfield Park, FL.

Jay Garner, 82, veteran character actor who created the role of the frisky side-steppin' governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the bigoted politician Dindon in the original La Cage aux Folles, on Jan. 21 in New York.

Theoni V. Aldredge, 88, a three-time Tony Award-winning costume designer, on Jan. 21 in a Stamford, CT, hospital.

Lou Stancari, 63, a Washington, DC, scenic designer, on Jan. 15, on the tracks of the Farragut North DC Metro station, the victim of an accident.

Susannah York, 72, the English stage and film actress who was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of a desperate dance marathon contestant in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?," on Jan. 15, in a London hospital.

Michael Langham, 91, a director whose long and influential career saw him helm productions on Broadway, run the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for a decade, and man the Guthrie Theatre during the 1970s, on Jan. 15 at his home near Cranbrook, Kent, in England.

Romulus Linney, 80, a respected playwright who wrote dozens of plays on a wide variety of subjects over a multi-decade career, and father of actress Laura Linney, on Jan. 15, at his home in Germantown, NY.

Ellen Stewart, 91, the powerhouse impresario who, as the founder of the downtown Manhattan theatre complex La MaMa, E.T.C., was one of the central figures in the creation of the Off-Off-Broadway movement, on Jan. 13 in New York City.

Al Kozlik, 76, a Canadian stage actor known for his work at The Shaw Festival, on Jan. 11, at the Greater Niagara General Hospital.

Margaret Whiting, 86, an interpreter of popular song began in the Big Band Era whose career was revived in the 1990s with the Broadway show Dream, on Jan. 10, at the Actors' Fund Home in Englewood, NJ.
Peter Donaldson, 57, longtime actor at Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, on Jan. 8 in Toronto.

Jill Haworth, 65, who created the role of chanteuse Sally Bowles in the landmark musical Cabaret, on Jan. 3.

Marsha Hanna, 59, the artistic director of The Human Race Theatre Company of Dayton, OH, on Jan. 3, in Dayton, OH.

Margot Stevenson, 98, a stage actress who appeared in George S. Kaufman plays in the 1930s, on Jan. 2, at her home in Manhattan.

Pete Postlethwaite, 64, an English character actor who brought an unmistakeable voice and face to his many performances on stage and screen, on Jan. 2 in Royal Shrewsbury in Shrewsbury, England.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Best Man Casting Updates

The revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man has some new cast members in their midst. Among the newly announced cast members are Donna Hanover, ex-wife of former New York City mayor Rudi Giuliani. She will play a journalist covering a presidential election. Also announced are Tony-winner Jefferson Mays and Dakin Matthews. The previously announced cast includes Candice Bergen, five-time Tony-winner Angela Lansbury, Tony-winner John Larroquette, Eric McCormack and Michael McKean, as well as James Earl Jones, who will be receiving an honorary Oscar at this year's Academy Awards. Jones will play a former president of the United States whose endorsement is seen as very important during a current presidential election.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

She Ain't Down Yet

The Unsinkable Molly Brown, a 1960 musical based on the life of a survivor of the Titanic and the Lusitania disasters, has reentered the theatrical dialogue lately. A new version of the Meredith Wilson (of The Music Man fame) show is under way, thanks to a December 15th reading starring Tony-winner Sutton Foster as "a rags-to-riches Midwesterner who married well, fought for social justice and survived the 1912 sinking of the Titanic." The project's director-choreographer as Tony-winner Kathleen Marshall, who collaborated with Tony-nominated librettist Dick Scanlan (Everday Rapture), who is reworking the show's book. Tony nominee Marc Kudisch also appeared in the reading.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Arts Advocate Harry Kullijian Dead at 91

Harry Kullijian, who co-founded the Carol Channing and Harold Kullijian Foundation for the Arts, died December 26th at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. The cause was internal bleeding resulting from an aneurysm. He was 91.

Mr. Kullijian was the husband of Ms. Channing, who won a Tony Award in 1964 for her leading performance in the stage version of Hello Dolly! and a Golden Globe for her supporting performance in the 1967 film version of Thoroughly Modern Millie, also receiving an Oscar nomination for that performance in 1967.

Kullijian and Channing were childhood friends who reconnected after more than half a century, when their romance began. Their story is featured in a documentary titled Larger Than Life, which is expected to be released on January 20, 2012, and which is directed by director Dori Berinstein.

Among other things, The Channing/Kullijian Foundation established scholarships, produced a critically acclaimed PSA and inspired a resolution authored by Rep. Jackie Speier, which passed the House and the Senate in December 2010, according to a spokesman.

According to, "After the death of his wife, Gerry in June 2002, he was reunited with his junior high school sweetheart, Carol Channing, the Tony Award-winning star of Hello, Dolly! and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The two were married in May 2003 and in 2005 started the not-for-profit Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Flashdance to Play Toronto, Then Broadway has reported that Jennifer Beals' 1983 hit film Flashdance that made the transfer to the musical stage will be jumping the pond. The original production that played in London during the 2010-2011 season will play a pre-Broadway run in Toronto before making the move to New York. The production that hits Toronto will be revised from the London production, and will run there from June 26th to August 5th 2012, with Broadway rehearsals starting August 6th. No official announcement has been made about the Broadway run.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Let's Hear It For the Boy ... or Is It the Girl?

Claudia La Rocco has written a fantastic article about sexism in the world of Broadway play writing. She discusses how 2011 has been among the more female-friendly seasons in memory for playwrights, with new plays by Theresa Rebeck, Katori Hall, Lydia R. Diamond, and Elaine May on the boards. Through a profile of Rebeck's new play Seminar, which is, in fact, about many of the same issues La Rocco discusses in her article, La Rocco discusses the gender politics of this world we live in. I have linked to the article below and would love to get a conversation started about this, Let me know what you all think.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jesus Christ Superstar Casting Announcements

The cast for the upcoming revival of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar was announced this week. The cast will feature Paul Nolan, Josh Young and Chilina Kennedy reprising their roles as Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene, respectively. Tom Hewitt will take on the role of Pontius Pilate, with Bruce Dow as King Herod, Marcus Nance as Caiaphas and Aaron Walpole as Annas.

This production began life at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada last year and then moved to the La Jolla Playhouse in California, where it is finishing its run. The production is directed by Tony-winner Des McAnuff. Previews will start on March 1st in anticipation of a March 22nd opening at the Neil Simon Theatre.

The World Will Remember Them

Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical, an adaptation of the 1960's film and the lives of two real gangsters, is not lasting long on Broadway, but the show will go on after it's December 30th closing date. Or, at least Frank Wildhorn's score for the show will. The original Broadway cast will go into a recording studio on January 2nd, 2012, to record the score for an album to be released by Broadway Records. No official release date has been set.

In addition to Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes, who play the title characters, the cast album will feature cast members Melissa van der Schyff, Claybourne Elder, Joe Hart, Louis Hobson, Talon Ackerman, Rozi Baker, Leslie Becker, Mimi Bessette, Alison Cimmet, Daniel Cooney, Jon Fletcher, Kelsey Fowler, Victor Hernandez, Sean Jenness, Katie Klaus, Michael Lanning, Garrett Long, Matt Lutz, Marissa McGowan, Cassie Okenka, Justin Matthew Sargent, Jack Tartaglia and Tad Wilson.

The Bonnie & Clyde cast album will be produced by Wildhorn, along with John McDaniel and David Lai, and executive produced by Van Dean, Corey Brunish, Howard Kagan and Terry Schnuck.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It Could Only Happen in the Theater ...

There are some things that can only happen live. The theater has the capacity to create once-in-a-lifetime, "you had to be there" moments that you just can't get anywhere else. The staff of the New York Times arts section were asked what their favorite moments at the theater for 2011 were and these were the results.

DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE ... The opening minutes of Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s “Invasion!,” in which two young men in hoodies disrupt the show from the back row of the theater, was so unsettling that audience members almost charged the stage to protect the cast. Definite proof that you can still fool all of the people all of the time. ERIK PIEPENBURG

... OR LOOK TOO CLOSE In Rajiv Joseph’s “Gruesome Playground Injuries” Doug asks his lifelong buddy Kayleen to plug her fingers into his firecracker-smithereened bloody eye socket, just as she’s done with all his other weeping wounds through the years. The blood onstage was probably just corn syrup, but the moment still sent audible shudders through the audience. CATHERINE RAMPELL

MOST SUGGESTIVE DELIVERY The lascivious growl that Liz Mikel packed into the name “Dirty Nasty Shelly” made us both fascinated and terrified to meet this unseen staffer at the Eros Motor Lodge in “Lysistrata Jones” DAVID ROONEY

MOST RIVETING MUSICAL NUMBER ARRIVING ON BROADWAY Three women in headphones move in a slow, dreamy circle singing along to “If You Want Me” in “Once” at New York Theater Workshop and opening at the Jacobs Theater in February. SCOTT HELLER

MOST RIVETING MUSICAL NUMBER DEPARTING BROADWAY Julie Taymor’s original staging of “Boy Falls From the Sky” in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” A churning tune, a passel of video supervillains looming larger and larger as they charge forward, Reeve Carney’s impassioned singing as he spins and strikes them down — this was the “rock ’n’ roll circus drama” the show’s creators promised it would be. The same number now has a lot less juice. SCOTT HELLER

BLOWSIEST DRUNKEN MESS Sanaa Lathan channeling kooky midlife Eartha Kitt as a talk-show train wreck singing “Fly Me to the Moon” in Lynn Nottage’s “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.” Ms. Lathan’s blissfully off-the-rails performance was perfectly complemented by the wardrobe crime of her early-’70s Pucci-print getup. DAVID ROONEY

BOUNCIEST CHOREOGRAPHY The basketball moves in “Lysistrata Jones” have nothing on “Godspell,” where the choreographer Christopher Gattelli and the director Daniel Goldstein turn “We Beseech Thee” into a pop-rock sugar buzz with Jesus and his followers pogo-ing on small trampolines hidden under the stage. PATRICK HEALY

MOST REMARKABLE STORYTELLER WHO ISN’T MIKE DAISEY Daniel Kitson, a cult favorite in Britain who made a rare United States appearance at St. Ann’s Warehouse with “The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church.” Even after a couple of hours it was hard to tell how much was real, how much was embellished and how much was completely made up in the story of a man who left behind 24 years’ of near-suicide notes. ERIC GRODE

MOST THRILLING TRANSFORMATION Of all the former showgirls recalling their younger, happier days in “Follies,” it’s Jayne Houdyshell’s frumpy, frizzy-haired Hattie Walker who is hard to imagine as a luscious starlet strutting her stuff for Mr. Producer. But when Ms. Houdyshell steps forward and rips into “Broadway Baby,” one of the most memorable tunes Stephen Sondheim ever wrote, we see the flirty, hungry Hattie of yesteryear who would do anything to be in a great big Broadway show. PATRICK HEALY

SECOND MOST THRILLING TRANSFORMATION In the opening scenes of the Broadway play “War Horse,” the main character Albert — as well as many audience members — develop a soft spot for Joey the foal, the adorable horse puppet made of cane, cables and silk. But then comes a nerve-tingling coup de theater: In a moment that marks the passage of time in the play, a fully grown Joey (nine feet high) bursts onto the stage past Joey the foal, as if springing out of the hindquarters of his younger self. PATRICK HEALY

MOST THRILLING TRANSFORMATION (BRICK-AND-MORTAR VARIETY) Not only did the Rattlestick Theater completely reorient its stage to capture the shape of one floor in a Lower East Side tenement for Adam Rapp’s “Hallway Trilogy,” but it also set the futuristic third play, “Nursing,” behind plexiglass, creating a “museum of disease and nursing” through which we watched Logan Marshall-Green suffer the ill effects of plague. SCOTT HELLER

MOST ENCHANTING (AND UNNECESSARY) STAGE EFFECT It wasn’t as dangerous as the Wheel of Death or as bizarre as the giant baby in the pickle jar, but the most jaw-dropping minute in Cirque du Soleil’s “Zarkana” was when 16 upside-down men holding umbrellas slowly ascended from a trap door in the floor up into the fly space without ever dropping their white bowler hats. This Magritte painting come to life had nothing to do with the rest of the show, but who cares? JASON ZINOMAN

GET-A-ROOM PRIZE It wasn’t enough for some dramatists to set a sex scene in a hotel room; this year they actually staged plays in hotels and motels. “Green Eyes” and “HotelMotel” stuffed audiences into spaces so small they could reach out and touch the couples. In “Sleep No More” the invented McKittrick Hotel was decorated with majestically rumpled beds and carnal bathtubs. ERIK PIEPENBURG

PUTTING THE STREET IN STREET THEATER At a climactic moment in Hoi Polloi’s clever adaptation of the John Cassavetes 1959 film classic “Shadows” — staged by Alec Duffy in a former garage in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — a front door slides upward, and the actors, in character, race out onto Metropolitan Avenue, introducing with a rush a vast additional dimension to the play’s jazzy urban ambience. ANDY WEBSTER

MOST CONVINCING JOCK In the year of “Lombardi” and “That Championship Season,” the ferocious Off Off Broadway performer Erin Markey best captured the swagger of a professional athlete in Half Straddle’s all-woman cult hit “In the Pony Palace/Football.” JASON ZINOMAN

BIGGEST LAUGH (EXPECTED) Near the end of “Ghetto Klown” John Leguizamo demonstrated (as if we needed to be told) why phone sex and call waiting don’t mix. Five words: Mom’s on the other line. ERIC GRODE

BIGGEST LAUGH (UNEXPECTED) Nestled in the middle of “Fragments,” Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne’s setting of five short Samuel Beckett pieces, was “Act Without Words II,” an exercise in contrasts between the eternally morose Marcello Magni and the equally vivacious Jos Houben. Technically impeccable, screamingly funny — and totally silent. ERIC GRODE

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Director Heidi Helen Davis Dies at 60

Heidi Helen Davis, a director, actress and teacher of those arts known for her work at Los Angeles' Theatricum Botanicum, Mark Taper Forum, East West Players and Ensemble Studio Theater, died Dec. 15 in Los Angeles after a yearlong struggle with breast cancer. She was 60.

Davis staged more than 20 plays at Theatricum Botanicum since 1985.

Artistic director Ellen Geer said: "She had a way of working with actors that allowed risk and complete exploration guided by instinct. I saw a piece of hers about Japanese internment camps in the late '80s. Remarkable direction. I asked to meet her and she was my compatriot in art from then on."

She taught numerous acting and directing students over the years, most recently at the Academy of Art U. in San Francisco, Howard Fine Studio and the Los Angeles Film School. She was also the acting coach on the Showtime miniseries "Fidel" in 2000 and on the feature film "Memoirs of a Geisha" in 2003.

Donations may be sent to the Heidi Helen Davis Intern Fund at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, P.O. Box 1222, Topanga, CA 90290. A public memorial at Theatricum Botanicum is planned for next spring.

*This post is excerpted from the obituary of Ms. Davis.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Howard McGillin Joins Rebecca has reported that two-time Tony-nominee Howard McGillin will be joining the cast of the upcoming musical Rebecca taking over the role of Frank Crawley from John Dossett. He will be joining previously announced cast members Sierra Boggess and James Barbour. The musical is based on the Daphne DuMaurier novel and the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, and tells "the story of Maxim de Winter, his new wife (“I”) and Mrs. Danvers, the controlling and manipulative housekeeper of Maxim’s West Country estate of Manderley, where the memory of his first wife, the glamorous and mysterious Rebecca, still casts a shadow."

According to the press release, "McGillin is best known for his record-setting performance as the Phantom in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera. He earned Tony nominations for Anything Goes and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. His other Broadway credits include She Loves Me, Kiss of The Spider Woman and Sunday in the Park with George. He is currently appearing in A Child’s Christmas in Wales at the Irish Repertory Theatre."

Godspell Cast Album Plug

The cast album of the current Broadway revival of Stephen Schwartz's Godspell, based on the Gospell of Luke, is available for digital download from Ghostlight Records beginning today. Produced by Schwartz, the album features the voices of Hunter Parrish, Lindsay Mendez, Telly Leung and Wallace Smith. The album will appear in hard copy and in stores on January 18th.

*Note: I have close connections to the producing ream of this production. This post is not intended as a plug or free advertising for the show or the album.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More Celebs On Broadway

A few months ago, I posted an article about the slew of celebrities coming to Broadway and how mismatched they were both for the roles in which they were cast and for the challenge of Broadway in general. So, when I saw an article on about their ideal ways to cast the stars of the current FOX TV hit Glee on Broadway, I knew I had to bring you those ideas, and bring you an idea of my own. I will post Playbill's ideas below, but I wanted to find out what you, my readers, thought about what celebrities you'd like to see on Broadway -- and in what role?

Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester): Morrison has already proven himself on Broadway in such musicals as Footloose, Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza and South Pacific. We think it's time Morrison struts his stuff solo. If Hugh Jackman can send audiences into a frenzy, why not Mr. Schuester?

Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester): Although the producers for the Broadway-bound revival of Annie held open auditions for the "Little Girls" of the Municipal Girls Orphanage, they need look no further than Lynch for their Miss Hannigan. With all the screaming and scheming that Sue Sylvester does over at McKinley High, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for her to plot against Annie and her gang of orphans in 1930s NYC. Also, her recent commercial—which aired during the Dec. 13 "Glee" episode—featured Lynch bursting into a Nook-inspired musical number in Barnes and Noble. Clearly, she has the vocal chops!

Kevin McHale (Artie Abrams): McHale, who takes the rock vocals during the "Glee" musical numbers, would fit right into Broadway's Rock of Ages. Although playing the part of Franz may be a bit of a challenge, McHale looks the part and could sing the score with ease. Also, he'd finally be able to show off a bit of his dance skills—no more wheelchair for Artie Abrams!

Heather Morris (Brittany S. Pierce): The role of Roxie Hart has been played by a list of celebrities and, recently, by former "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi. Morris, who has not only proven herself to be McKinley High’s best dancer, also showed off her vocal abilities in last season’s Britney Spears-themed episode, and would likely be a welcome addition on Murderess Row in the long-running hit Chicago. She can sing, she can dance, and she's got just the right amount of Roxie Hart sex appeal!

Chord Overstreet (Sam Evans): Jennifer Damiano and T.V. Carpio have left the Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. If Reeve Carney, who stars as the production’s leading man, decides to depart the show as well, Overstreet would be the perfect boy to “Bounce Off the Walls” and suit up for a high-flying trip around the Foxwoods as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Overstreet, who has demonstrated his pop-star qualities with Bruno Mars’ “Billionaire” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” could be the next rocker to headline the show—after all, his character this season on “Glee” is only scheduled for a multi-episode arc.

Naya Rivera (Santana Lopez): With Rivera's diva quality, it only makes sense for the "Glee" star to eventually take over the role of Mimi in the Off-Broadway revival of Rent at New World Stages. Rivera, who made a splash as Anita in McKinley's production of West Side Story, would be ideal for Ms. Marquez. Also, Rivera's heartfelt cover of "Songbird" could serve as a preview of what she would bring to the table in "Without You." While we're at it, how about Amber Riley for Joanne Jefferson? Who could forget her "Take Me or Leave Me" performance with Michele?

Harry Shum, Jr. (Mike Chang): Producers for the stage adaptation of Newsies recently held auditions for a few more newsboys to fill out the ensemble of the upcoming Broadway production. Shum, Jr., who plays dancing man Mike Chang on the Fox hit series, would be just the right person to keep up with Christopher Gattelli's Newsies choreography. With big dance numbers including “Seize the Day,” “King of New York” and “The World Will Know,” Shum, Jr. would be the perfect “Glee” star to carry the banner to Broadway.

Dianna Agron (Quinn Fabray): Mamma Mia! recently marked its 10th year on Broadway. In celebration of the musical's milestone, wouldn't it be great to have some gleeks grace the Winter Garden stage? Although Agron wasn't a lead vocalist on the "Glee" rendition of "Dancing Queen," the actress would be a perfect "Chiquitita" for the role of Sophie Sheridan—Agron would match up well with Lisa Brescia, who continues her long-running stint as Donna Sheridan, and Agron's dance experience from being a part of the Cheerios proves that she can keep up with all of Anthony Van Laast's choreography.

Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel): Colfer's tap dancing performance in the Dec. 13 "Glee" Christmas special sealed the deal that he should eventually perform Elder McKinley's "Turn it Off" in the Broadway hit The Book of Mormon. Colfer, who comes equipped with a sky-high vocal range and spot-on comic timing, would work well in Mormon (if and when Tony nominee Rory O'Malley leaves for a future project).

Lea Michele (Rachel Berry): Since the Broadway-bound revival of Funny Girl was postponed and so many great gals have already flown over the Emerald City in Wicked, the "Glee" star would be a perfect match for Dorothy Gale in a Broadway version of The Wizard of Oz. The new adaptation — currently playing the West End's London Palladium — features the classic Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg score plus additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. If the production were to make the leap to Broadway, Michele would be the perfect choice to fill out the ruby slippers — not only is she starring in the upcoming "Dorothy of Oz" film, but who could forget her duet with Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel) on the Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland classic "Get Happy / Happy Days Are Here Again"?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Venus in Future

The Manhattan Theatre Club production of Venus in Fur has been playing to rave reviews since it opened on November 8th. The dark play by David Ives, based on the novel that inspired the term masochism, is directed by Walter Bobbie and stars Hugh Dancy and Nina Arianda. Here's how producers are describing the show. "Vanda (Arianda) is a preternaturally talented young actress determined to land the lead in Thomas' (Dancy) new play based on the classic erotic novel, Venus in Fur. Her emotionally-charged audition for the gifted but demanding playwright/director becomes an electrifying game of cat and mouse, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex."

The production is supposed to end its run at Manhattan Theatre Club today, but this is not the end for the show. The show was so successful that commercial producers are giving the show a chance. The commercial run of the show will begin performances at the Lyceum Theatre starting February 7th. Both Dancy and Arianda will star in the return engagement.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Two Shows to Shutter Soon

Not even half way through the new Broadway season and already two open-ended productions have posted closing notices. The first is Tony-nominee Frank Wildhorn's musical adaptation of Bonnie and Clyde starring Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. The musical, which opened to mixed-to-negative reviews but which received some good word of mouth buzz apparently never picked up at the box office and will be ending its run on December 30th. The revival of Noel Coward's Private Lives, which was directed by Richard Eyre and stars Golden Globe-winner and Emmy-nominee Kim Cattrall, has also posted a closing notice, closing one day after Bonnie and Clyde on December 31st.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lysistrata Jones Opens on Broadway

Lysistrata Jones, a musical version of the Greek myth Lysistrata has opened on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The show, according to, is "about a group of cheerleaders who decide to remain chaste to motivate their boyfriends on the Athens U. basketball team to put an end to the schoo's 33-year losing streak." The show features a book by two-time Tony-nominee Douglas Carter Bean and a score by Lewis Flynn, and was directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtges.

The show, cited as being "a direct descendent of Beane's earlier Xanadu, but far superior to that show, and funnier than his other current Broadway musical, Sister Act. Audiences will find it difficult to abstain from laughter." The show now moves faster and flows better in this transfer from a previous off-Broadway incarnation. Jason Tam's supporting performance was highly praised, with his frenetic dance-by-iPhone one of the more memorable moments of the show.

The New York Times gives more of the history of the show. The production originated at the Dallas Theater Center before transferring to the Transport Group Theater Company in New York, where it played in a gymnasium. The show's original production "felt as appropriate for the silly season as a suntan-oil-smeared beach book [and] even had a Top-40-style score (by Lewis Flinn) that suggested just what you wanted to listen to while lying on a towel in the sand."

While the Times was worried that the show's leap to Broadway would not be a rousing success, "the production that opened on Wednesday night at the Walter Kerr Theater warrants not only sighs of relief but also at least a few lusty cheers." I think that this, combined with the other reviews, makes this show an unqualified success and a shoe-in for Tony nominations in all major categories -- book, score, musical, director, and probably for its leads (though the leading actress in a musical category has some VERY stiff competition from the likes of Audra McDonald in Porgy and Bess, Jan Maxwell and Bernadette Peters in Follies, and Elena Roger in Evita, as well as the female leads in the yet-to-open musical adaptations of Ghost and Rebecca). An indication that the show will have some lasting power is that the New York Times has said that it "brings to mind the distant era of the college frolic Good News (1927) and Babes in Arms (1937), perishable good-time shows in which peppy kids delivered of-the-moment jokes and lively dances."

I think this show has done quite well and can look forward to a very healthy life, even after it closes on Broadway.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shows Eyeing Broadway

A number of shows have set their sights on Broadway for the upcoming year. A slew of announcements have come through the pipeline about shows coming up the pike for the new year and it's easier for me to give them to you all at once.

The David Hyde Pierce-directed musical It Shoulda Been You is eyeing a Broadway run in fall 2012, Pierce announced during a visit to Live with Kelly! on December 12. Featuring music by Barbra Anselmi and a book and lyrics by Brian Hargrove, It Shoulda Been You made its world premiere earlier this fall at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse. No exact dates, casting or theater have been announced at this time, but Tony- and Emmy-winner Tyne Daly and Tony-winner Harriet Harris starred in the original New Jersey production.

Austin Powers, the International Man of Mystery, may also be headed to Broadway. According to, "Mike Myers is in discussion to adapt the popular Austin Powers series for the Broadway stage." The article announced that, "Myers, who played the title character and wrote the three Austin Powers films, would be heavily involved in writing the musical, but does not have plans to reprise the character on stage himself."

Lastly, I want to report on a show that had been planning to come to Broadway that is no longer planning to make the leap. Lisa D'Amour's Detroit, a play that started life in a production at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company that was highly acclaimed by both critics and audiences alike. The production was so well acclaimed that there was immediate talk of a move to Broadway, but now the show will be moving to the off-Broadway theater company Playwrights Horizons in the fall of 2012.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Evita Casting Updates

There are a number of stories I wanted to get out there today, so I will be combining them into one article here. One involves a casting update for the upcoming Broadway revival of Evita. The others are announcements for shows that are looking to come to Broadway in the near future.

It has been announced that Max Von Essen and Rachel Potter will be joining the cast of the Broadway revival of Evita, playing the roles of Magaldi (Evita's first romance in the show) and his mistress, respectively. They will be joining previously announced stars Ricky Martin as Che, Elena Roger as Eva Peron, and Michael Cerveris as Juan Peron. The production, with a score by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, will be directed by Michael Grandage and choreographed by Rob Ashford. Previews begin March 12th with opening set for April 5th.

The creative team for Evita will feature scenic and costume designer Christopher Oram, lighting designer Neil Austin, sound designer Mick Potter, wig and hair designer Richard Mawbey, projection designer Zachary Borovay and music supervisor/director Kristen Blodgette.

Monday, December 12, 2011

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever Opens on Broadway

A Broadway revival of Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's 1965 musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, which became a 1970 movie of the same name starring Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford, has opened on Broadway and the reviews are in.

Variety Magazine was not all too pleased with the revival, saying that the changes director Michael Mayer has made to the show not only do not add to, but actually take away from, the show. The change in question is to have taken the central female role, who goes from a 1960's simple female to a glamorous 19th century noblewoman when under hypnosis, and divided it between a gay man (in the 1960s) and the same noblewoman in the past. Variety complains that the fun of the original was in watching the female lead, for whom this show is traditionally a vehicle, transition quickly and frequently between her two parts, with the male counterpart (a doctor administering hypnosis to her) simply sitting by and watching as a supporting character. Mr. Mayer's gender change has not only taken away the fun of watching this constant switch but has also put the burden of a leading role on the doctor -- a character who simply cannot bear the weight of a lead. As the reviewer put it, "The skeleton of the Clear Day plot is retained, but without a leading lady playing dual roles, it's like a banana split without bananas." The requisite surgery to the score is both clumsy and rather nonsensical, with certain numbers being overblown into production numbers and others robbed of their meaning when sung by a male.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times was much more creative in his panning of the production, asking "Where the heck is Zoloft (and Prozac and Abilify) when you need the little suckers?" He accuses the show of "suffering from a case of clinical depression that [it's] never been able to get over." Brantley equally well complains of the gender switch, adding another layer of complaint to the pile. The 18th century alter-ego of the former leading lady is now a 1940s big band singer. This change required the reshuffling of songs and adding pieces to the score not originally meant for this show, including some old Fred Astaire numbers from the movies. Another problem with this production is that Harry Conick, Jr., whose matinee idol status and charms are usually clearly on display when he performs, is nowhere to be found in this production.

Both reviews also discussed the harshness of the production design, which was panned for its too-bright colors and overly busy patters. All in all, this production is not feeling the love from the critics.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cinderella Eyes Broadway

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version of Cinderella has its sights set on Broadway. The musical was written by the composing duo in the 1950s and premiered in a live, made-for-TV movie in 1957 and starred Julie Andrews in the title role. The movie was done again for TV in 1965 and starred Leslie Warren, Celeste Holm, and Ginger Rodgers. A third TV version, in 1997, starred Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Victor Garber, and Jason Alexander. The stage version, which is looking to land on the Great White Way during the 2012-2013 Broadway season, will have a book by Douglas Carter Bean, who received Tony nominations for his play The Little Dog Laugned and for the book of the musical Xanadu, and who is currently represented on Broadway by Sister Act: The Musical and the soon-to-open Lysistrata Jones.

According to a press release, "the production is expected to feature several songs that were cut from other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals including South Pacific ("Now is the Time") and The Sound of Music ("I've Lived and I've Loved"). It would also feature several changes to the book including eliminating the characters of Cinderella's birth mother and father, as well as the King and Queen (who will be replaced by one character who oversees the Prince and the kingdom)."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stick Fly Opens on Broadway

Stick Fly, a new play by Lydia R. Diamond, has opened on Broadway with a starry cast, including TV star Dulé Hill, Tracie Thoms, Rosie Benton, Emmy- and Tony-winner Reuben Santiago Hudson (of Lackawana Blues fame) and introducing Condola Rashad, daughter of Tony-winner Phylicia Rashad. The reviews are in and they are decidedly mixed-to-negative.

Variety Magazine said that the play had a great concept behind it but that the execution needed work -- that one or two more rounds of re-writes might have done the trick -- and that Kenny Leon's (Tony-nominated last year for his revival of August Wilson's Fences) direction should have paced the show better, but that overall, the show sort of works. However, some of the performances were particularly praised. Reuben Santiago-Hudson, a Tony-winner for the 1996 production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars, "dominates the action with a comical turn as the controlling patriarch of the clan [while] Tracie Thoms and Rosie Benton contribute detailed portraits of the very different girlfriends." But it is really Condola Rashad who steals the show, according to all accounts (including some word on the street I've managed to pick up from friends in New York).

The New York Times basically agrees with Variety, but states the issue more clearly. Charles Isherwood declares that "the production takes some time to find its bearings. The cast’s rhythms are particularly rushed and artificial in the early scenes." The plot twists and turns, primarily hinging on race and wealth, are soap opera-esque and are about as predictable as can be, adding to the problems in the writing. "The playwright has her hands full just laying out this complicated background and the transition from getting-to-know-you chatter to churning conflict is a little abrupt." But again, the concept behind the show, if not its execution, is actually not bad. The Times also said that the performances are what truly shines here, with Condola Rashad being the brightest bulb in this shed. "Ms. Rashad finds moving shades of shock, pain and bewilderment in Cheryl’s reaction to this potentially melodramatic development. She is also expert at delivering the character’s occasionally surly bit of talkback, when her pride is pinched."

Only time will tell what will be for this play come Tony time, but this play definitely has a promising start towards a nomination in a particularly weak field, since many of the new plays this year have been critically panned or gotten mixed reviews.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sacha Baron Cohen to Keep the Zoo

A long-awaited but highly unexpected casting decision has finally been made. The role of Monsieur Thenardier in the upcoming film version of Les Miserables will be played by comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen. Geoffrey Rush had previously been in talks to take on the role, reuniting with his The King's Speech costar Helena Bonham Carter in the role of Madame Thenardier. The two will have the daunting task of taking on the production number Master of the House. In addition to Borat and Sweeney Todd, Cohen’s film credits include Brüno, Hugo, Talladega Nights and TV's Da Ali G Show.

Already cast in the Les Miz film are Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Eddie Redmayne as Marius. The roles of Eponine and Cosette have yet to be cast. The film begins production in February 2012.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stick Fly Sneak Peek

Tonight marks the Broadway debut of Alicia Keys. But anyone seeing the show she's been working on, Stick Fly, will not see her on stage. That is because the show has been using her talents as a producer, not a performer. I hadn't known much about the play before this morning when I did a little digging and came across this article on about the show. So, with that in mind, here is the article that I found.

In Stick Fly, Family Is Seen in a New Light
By Adam Hetrick
08 Dec 2011

Playwright Lydia R. Diamond has been getting a lot of buzz for her play Stick Fly, now at Broadway's Cort Theatre, in which class issues surface in a well-heeled family.


Stick Fly, the new comedy about a wealthy African-American family perched atop the American dream, marks the Broadway debut of playwright Lydia R. Diamond, whose play has been generating buzz throughout the American regional theatre scene.

Set during a summer weekend in the LeVay family's vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, Stick Fly lifts its title from the way entomologists study fast-flying insects: by gluing a stick to them in order to clearly observe flight patterns.

In this case, Diamond is putting the LeVay family and their guests under the microscope. "I get to know [the characters] really well, then I put them in rooms with each other and they kind of tell their own stories," says Diamond.

The males of the LeVay species have more colorful occupations: Dad (Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson) is a neurosurgeon, and sons Kent (Dulé Hill) and Flip (Mekhi Phifer) are a writer and plastic surgeon, respectively. But the experiment really gets going when the guys arrive with their girlfriends in tow, one of whom is a white inner-city teacher named Kimber (Rosie Benton) and the other a black entomologist named Taylor (Tracie Thoms), who hails from a lower-class upbringing.

With Stick Fly, Diamond gives audiences a peek into the world of the African-American elite, a population not often portrayed on stage or screen. "This play is so much about class," she explains, "especially my orientation to class as one who is often right on the margins or right on the peripheries of converging class realities."

Elements of Diamond's own family dynamic surfaced in her play, which offers themes of identity, belonging and, ultimately, that universal thing called family. "The subjects that come up very naturally, and often in a funny way, are the kind of topics that my family deals with."

Stick Fly was supposed to be a distraction for Diamond, who started the play in the middle of writing Voyeurs de Venus, a drama about an African-American scholar struggling with her racial identity. "I took this play on rather cavalierly," Diamond says with a laugh. "I thought, 'I'll write something that's totally fun.' Having never written a play that was so traditionally structured, I mistakenly thought it would be easier!"

Diamond, who came to playwriting as an actor, did not immediately identify as a writer. "I saw that there were roles I didn't have before me to play," she recalls. "I wanted to put contemporary, complicated, flawed, funny women on stage.... People from diverse classes, with all kinds of gender identifications, sexual orientations and races."

Critics and audiences are also responding to Diamond's stage vision. Between its 2006 debut at Chicago's Congo Square Theatre Company and its Broadway debut, Stick Fly acquired a garland of critical praise in regional productions at the Huntington Theatre Company (in Boston), Arena Stage (Washington, DC) and the McCarter Theatre (Princeton, NJ).

"We are now seeing that audiences of all races appreciate a well-told story in which they are reflected," Diamond says of Stick Fly's Broadway arrival. "It doesn't feel like it's rocket science, but it does seem like it's taken us a while to know and respect the commercial viability of telling a range of stories."


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More Tidbits From the Back Office

In a quick turnaround from what I posted yesterday, is now announcing that the musical adaptation of the Oscar-winning film Once will be moving to Broadway this February. The show will be moving to the Barnard B. Jacobs theater and will begin previews on February 28th, with opening night set for March 18th.

In other news, the 23rd Annual Gypsy of the Year event happened December 5th and 6th this year and brought in a record breaking $4,895,253 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The highest amount of money raised by an individual show was from Hugh Jackman's one-man show, Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway, which brought in $857,740 by literally selling the shirt off his back. A farewell appearance came from the cast of Billy Elliot, which will be closing in January. That show's performance earned it the title of Gypsy of the Year and Best Stage Performance. The runner-up spot went to the cast of Mary Poppins, whose performance mocked the "Junior" versions of Broadway shows that are altered from the real versions for the purpose of school groups.

For those who don't know what the Gypsy of the Year event is, described it pretty well. "As has become custom, the event featured a vaudeville-like mixture of satirical skits, inspirational songs and virtuoso dance numbers, all performed by the gypsies, the Broadway dancers who go from show to show and provide singing and dancing support to the leads."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NYC Staging of Musical "Once" Opens

A musical adaptation of the Oscar-winning film Once has hit New York stages at off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop in the East Village. The space, where the original off-Broadway production of Rent opened fifteen years ago, has now taken the form of an Irish pub -- whiskey bottles and all -- for the Irish pop and folk themed musical inspired by the indie film.

As with the movie, the musical is all about the songs. says that, "Plaintive and rousing songs by Irish troubadour Glen Hansard and Czech musician Markéta Irglová, who appeared as mismatched would-be lovers in the picture and won the 2008 Academy Award for writing its hypnotic signature ballad, Falling Slowly, populate the new musical. The songs from the film and subsequent songs by The Swell Season (Hansard & Irglová's band) — as well as Irish and Czech folk songs — are folded into the stage experience." The staging is simple, with the pub floor acting as "the neutral ground for multiple scenes that reimagine the original screenplay."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Composer and Musician Judd Woldin Dead at 86

Judd Woldin, who composed the score for the Tony-winning musical Raisin (based on Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun) has died at the age of 86. His son, Mark, has said that the cause was cancer. Before, during, and after his theatrical career, Mr. Woldin had a vibrant music career. As a pianist, he toured with Lionel Hampton, Don Elliott, and the Ink Spots, as well as played in the pit for the Broadway production of Hello Dolly!. He then pursued a degree in 12-tone composition studies at Black Mountain College in North Carolina before doing doctoral work in Musicology at Columbia University.

His first musical as a composer was Raisin, based on the play A Raisin in the Sun. His score was a mix of jazz, gospel, and blues, and opened in Washington before moving to Broadway in 1973. The show ran for two years and received nine Tony nominations, including one for Woldin's score, winning the Tony for Best Musical. The score and cast album went on to win a Grammy Award.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Spring Season Casting Under Way

During the spring season, it is not uncommon for long running shows to start recasting their shows to keep them fresh and to take advantage of celebrity casting to attract new audiences to the show. This season has a number of names coming to Broadway as replacements, though not all in new shows.

Justin Kirk will be joining the cast of a new play, Other Desert Cities. He will be taking over for Jason Sadoski, for the extension of the play. The play was only expecting to play a limited run, but when the show became a box office hit, it extended its run and Kirk will be taking over the role during the extension. Kirk, who is known for his roles on TV's Weeds and the movie adaptation of Angels in America, will be entering the show on January 10th.

Also coming to Broadway is Michale Urie, who will be joining the cast of the hit revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Urie will be replacing Christopher J. Hanke in the role of Bud Frump, the boss' nephew. He will be joining the show on January 24th, along with other replacements Nick Jonas and Beau Bridges.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lea Michele May NOT Be a Shoo-In for Les Miz Film

Who wouldn't want to see Lea Michele as Eponine in the much-buzzed-about upcoming film version of the megahit musical Les Miserables? Given the latest piece of news I just read, it may be that film's producers. I have just read that, while she gave a knockout audition for the role, but that the producers are still considering strongly such Hollywood favorites as Scarlett Johansson and Evan Rachel Wood, as well as recording star Taylor Swift. While the merits (and demerits) of each of these other options can be debated back and forth, there is no doubt that Michele has both the acting and singing chops to pull off the role and, because of her Emmy-nominated role on Glee, you definitely cannot argue that she is not a star name that could draw in audiences. Most relevantly is that she also has some experience with the show, having made her Broadway debut in the original Broadway production when she was 8 years old (as young Cosette) and played Eponine in the 2008 Hollywood Bowl concert staging.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Frank Wildhorn's Bonnie & Clyde Shoot Their Way to An Opening

The musical version of the 1967 Oscar-winning film Bonnie & Clyde, in turn based on the lives of real-life owtlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, opened last night at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre and the reviews are in -- and are very mixed. The show, "a tuneful musical biography of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, the kissin’ outlaws from Texas who hijacked the American imagination during the Great Depression ... portrays its title characters (played by Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan) as restless, libido-charged young ’uns who are about to suffocate from the grayness of their dreary lives." (Ben Brantley, The New York Times)

The New York Times panned the show, calling it basically dead. There is lots of action, what with the bank hold ups, (offstage) sex and fast cars, "but they just can’t seem to shake the torpor that makes every day in their lives ... feel like the one that came before it ... Directed and (sort of) choreographed by Jeff Calhoun, Bonnie & Clyde manages to make that triple-threat lure of sex, youth and violence seem about as glamorous as — and a lot less dangerous than — Black Friday at Wal-Mart." The show is supposed to be so bad that even the set was panned. "There are also projected pictures of the real Bonnie and Clyde, a bad idea, since they bristle with a gritty individuality that no one onstage possesses."

Brantley says that the two lead actors work hard with what they're given and could even be good if the material were better, but they just can't hock this piece of schlock. That being said, however, the score was not entirely detested, bucking Frank Wildhorn's trend of having his work absolutely torn to shreds by reviewers.

Variety was much kinder to the show, actually praising it and saying that Wildhorn's score works quite well. The reviewer here also said the acting was well done, citing Laura Osnes' Bonnie "especially winning," and saying that Melissa van der Schyff gives "a standout performance, singing and acting commandingly as Clyde's sister-in-law Blanche," the role that won an Oscar for Estelle Parsons in the movie.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grammy Nominations Announced

The nominations for the 2012 Grammy Awards have been announced and include some Broadway stars. the most closely connected category is the Best Musical Show album. This category is for any musical which released its cast album during the relevant eligibility period for the Grammy Awards. The nominees in this category are the albums for Anything Goes, The Book of Mormon, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The fourth CD release of the Glee soundtrack has been nominated in the category of Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. Also, Harry Conick, Jr., who is currently appearing in the soon-to-open revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, was nominated for his album In Concert On Broadway in the category Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Check out the Grammy's website for more nominations.