Monday, January 30, 2012

Kristin Chenoweth Retrospective

The following article by Gordon Cox appeared on under the title You're a good woman Kristin Chenoweth and is definitely worth copying.

Kristin Chenoweth is getting a bio-tuner -- but it's a one-off affair that's part of the Drama League's 28th annual fundraising gala.
The legit nonprofit's yearly "Musical Celebration of Broadway" focuses on the body of work of a single performer, this year concentrating on the multimedia success of Broadway fave (and a star of upcoming ABC dramedy "GCB") Chenoweth.

"The performance is built around her career, and it really ends up being a full, one-night-only musical," says Drama League exec director Gabriel Shanks.

Among the legit names on tap to appear are Norm Lewis, Laura Benanti, Cheyenne Jackson, Elaine Paige and a team of current and original cast members of "Wicked" including Joel Grey. Plus, there'll be a cameo from "Sesame Street" puppeteer Kevin Clash and Elmo, the muppet with whom Chenoweth has a longstanding relationship, as chronicled by segs on the PBS kidvid staple.

Although the Drama League might be best-known for its annual round of awards in the spring, coin from the fundraiser goes toward supporting the org's Directors Project, the education program for up-and-coming helmers that has nurtured the careers of directors including Michael Mayer ("Smash"), Diane Paulus ("Porgy and Bess") and Alex Timbers ("Peter and the Starcatcher"). Established in 1984, the multifaceted initiative includes residencies, training regimens focused on new works or musical theater, and an assistant directors program, among others.

The Chenoweth gala is set for Feb. 6 at Gotham's Pierre Hotel.

Jim Dale Retrospective has run a retrospective on the career of Broadway vet Jim Dale, known to the wider world as the voice of the Harry Potter audio book series. It talks about his favorite roles on stage (and a few he did on screen). Enjoy!

To borrow a lyric from Barnum, the colors of Jim Dale’s theatrical life are bountiful and bold—which makes the Tony-winning star, now celebrating his 55th year in show business, the perfect actor to inaugurate’s newest feature, Role Call. Dale is currently giving a lovely performance as South African clergyman Marius Byleveld in Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of The Road to Mecca, but he is best known for his acrobatic star turns in Barnum, Scapino (which he co-wrote) and Candide, as well as his Grammy-winning narration of the Harry Potter audiobooks. Now prepping a solo show on his career, which began in British music halls when he was still in his teens, the 76-year-old actor was game to fill in the Role Call blanks for

Role I Had the Most Fun Doing

Scapino [1974] was possibly the greatest fun I’ve ever had onstage. It had everything: commedia dell’arte, English pantomime and wonderful slapstick. I played an outrageous servant-of-two-masters character in modern dress, doing crazy, crazy, crazy things that had the audience in stitches. At one point, I actually leaped onto the back of the front row and ran over the seats into the center of the auditorium. It was a huge success.”

Role that Required the Most Versatility

“The Harry Potter audiobook people were looking for an English actor who could do a lot of characters, and someone suggested me. I got into the Guinness Book of World Records for putting 134 voices into one book; overall, it was more than 230 voices. The acting had to come entirely from the vocals, because I couldn’t move behind that microphone. I didn’t realize that at my age, I would be appealing to kids who would grow up with me, going to bed every night over the course of eight years with those tapes. I ordered a coffee in McDonald’s once, and some kid recognized the voice and said, ‘Can you order me a hamburger like Dumbledore?’ So I did!”

Role With the Best Costumes

“Definitely Candide [1997], which was the craziest show I ever did. I played eight different roles, with eight costume changes in two hours. Can you believe it? There was a soldier, there was a policeman and a businessman, there was an old man hovering over the audience like a guru—I didn’t even know who I was by the time the show was over.”

Role That Fans Ask Me About Most

“It’s not something I did in the theater—it’s Pete’s Dragon [1977], a film I made for Disney. People ask me about it all the time. I played Dr. Terminus, the villain; Red Buttons and I wanted to chop the dragon up and sell it as magic souvenirs. It was a crazy film, with animation, but so well received by the kids who saw it. They all remember Pete’s Dragon.”

Role I Wish I Could Do Again

“My favorite role was Terri Dennis in Peter Nichols’ Privates on Parade [1989]. He’s an outrageous ‘queen’ who is in the army entertaining the troops, and he does terrible impressions of Carmen Miranda, Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward. He tries his best, but he’s terrible! We did it off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre, and it was unbelievably fun.”

Role That I Could Not Do Again

“That would be Barnum [1980]. I used walk a 38-foot-long tightrope and sing a song at the same time! Joe Layton, the director, said to me, ‘You’re very physical. Let’s do this while you’ve still got your youth.’ So instead of climbing a wall, I would jump onto a trampoline and spring up 10 feet to where Glenn Close [as Charity Barnum] was standing in a box, lean over and kiss her. I spent six weeks learning to ride a unicycle just for the curtain call! That’s dedication — not only me, but the other kids who did it, as well.”

Role That Was Small But Sweet

“The Road to Mecca [now at the American Airlines Theatre], absolutely. It’s so different—people associate me with eccentric comedy, and now I’m a vicar. Athol Fugard wrote the part for himself, and I have fallen in love with him. He says [Dale assumes a South African accent], ‘I’m blown away, Jimmy Dale. This is the best production I’ve ever seen.’ You couldn’t hope for better people to be on stage with than Rosemary Harris and Carla Gugino. This is a lovely, relaxing role and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Original Les Miserables Stars Join Film

Tony nominee Colm Wilkinson and Tony winner Frances Ruffelle, who both starred in the original West End and Broadway casts of Les Miserables, have joined the cast of the musical's upcoming film adaptation, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail. Wilkinson, who originated the role of Jean Valjean, will play the Bishop of Digne, while Frances Ruffelle, who created the role of Eponine, will appear during the song “Lovely Ladies.”

The Les Miserables film, which will be directed by Tom Hooper, is set for a December 7 release. The star-studded cast includes Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Taylor Swift as Eponine, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Sacha Baron Cohen as Monsieur Thenardier, Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras.

Wilkinson made his Broadway debut in Les Miserables, and earned a Tony nomination. He returned to the role of Valjean in the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert. Ruffelle made her Broadway debut in Les Miserables won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress. In London, she has appeared in Starlight Express, Children of Eden, and Chicago. Her film and TV credits include The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Objects of Affection, and Secrets & Lies.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Margaret Edson's "Wit" Opens on Broadway

Margaret Edson's 1999 play W;t has opened on Broadway and the reviews are in. First and foremost, the reviewers have said that it's about damn time that the play opened on Broadway. The 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning play won every major award when it originally arrived in New York, but was not eligible for a Tony because it was not on Broadway -- and this "inescapably moving" revival does not disappoint. According to the New York Times, "As directed with a persuasive combination of showmanship and sensitivity by Lynne Meadow, this production magnifies the innate theatricality of Ms. Edson’s play without compromising the firm emotional truth at its center."

Carra Patterson and Greg Keller received good notices for their supporting turns in the show and, while most accounts are convinced of the revival's power and beauty, they are more mixed on the performance of the leading actress, Cynthia Nixon, as Vivian Bearing. Variety, for example, could not shake the memory of Kathleen Chalfant from the original off-Broadway production (or even Emma Thompson in the film version) and was simply not drawn into Nixon's perf. The New York Times, on the other hand, said of Nixon, "this is a performance that is large and lucid and delicate at the same time, and it justifies Manhattan Theater Club’s decision to mount what is essentially a chamber piece on Broadway," while acknowledging that the part is much more suited to either Chalfant or Thompson than it is to Nixon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Streetcar Named Desire Returning to Broadway

A multiracial revival of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire will be coming to Broadway this year, taking the Broadhurst Theatre. The Broadhurst was recently vacated when the musical adaptation of Rebecca was cancelled. The production, which will star Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker, has been circling around Broadway for months. No official dates have been set, but the revival will need to open by April 26th to qualify for this year's Tony Awards.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rebecca Will Not Blaze Trail to Broadway

Word has broken that the previously announced musical adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's novel (and the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name) Rebecca will not be coming to Broadway this year. The show was set to play the Broadhurst Theatre beginning March 27, with an official opening night planned for April 22.

The reason for the production's cancellation is said to be related to financing. The show has had trouble raising its capitalization. Ben Sprecher, the lead producer of the production, has released the following statement. "It is with great disappointment that we have made the decision to postpone the Broadway debut of this phenomenal musical until next season. Rebecca is a grand and spectacular musical requiring substantial capitalization, and it’s no secret that in this very negative economic climate, raising money for Broadway has become even more difficult and laborious than it has historically always been. We are very close to meeting our financial goal, but we just ran short of time to complete capitalization with rehearsals slated to begin in two weeks. We feel that Rebecca is too special of a musical to short change in any way. It is our responsibility to the creators of this show, to our cast, our partners, our investors and our vendors that the complete financing is in place before rehearsals begin. Rebecca on Broadway must have the proper chance to continue the successful track record it currently enjoys worldwide. My co-producers and I remain very committed to bringing this wonderful show to New York next season."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Follies Closes at a Loss

The Broadway revival of Follies was, by many measures, a resounding success. Critics and audiences alike had very positive things to say about the show (the word rave might be appropriate here) and the show has been a hot ticket for months (producers have stated that over 216,000 people have seen this production). The show closed after Sunday's performance and, five-and-a-half months after it opened, the show did not turn a profit according to Michael Kaiser, one of the lead producers of Follies who is also president of the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, where this production originated.

This will not be the first time Follies has lost money. The original Broadway production in 1971 was also a critical darling but a financial flop, and a 2001 revival had a short-lived, critically panned run.

Mr. Kaiser said to the Huffington Post that the production did better financially than he had planned. In that article, titled The Lesson of Follies, he continued:

“It also brought more visibility to the Kennedy Center than any other single production in the Center’s history. Time will tell if this visibility contributes to the fiscal health of the Kennedy Center. But for me, ‘Follies’ is representative of the large-scale, ambitious, risky project that arts organizations need to produce if they are to capture the imagination of new and diverse funders and audience members. It also demonstrates the benefits of long-term artistic planning. We decided to produce ‘Follies’ in 2006 — a full five years before the production was mounted at the Kennedy Center. This gave us the time needed to assemble an artistic team and a cast. It also gave us time to find a group of donors who would support this large, expensive project.”

According to Patrick Healy of the New York Times, "Mr. Kaiser did not disclose the cost of capitalizing “Follies,” but a spokesman said it was $5.5 million. The Broadway production grossed a total of $19.6 million over about 24 weeks of performances, according to the Broadway League database of box office receipts; the revival’s average weekly gross was about $815,000, while the weekly running costs for the show were about $600,000."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Casting Confirmed for Normal Heart Film

Confirming earlier speculation, Oscar winner Julia Roberts has signed on to play Dr. Emma Brookner opposite Mark Ruffalo as Ned Weeks in Glee creator Ryan Murphy’s forthcoming movie adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, according to The Hollywood Reporter. They will be joined by 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin as Ned’s brother Ben Weeks, White Collar star Matt Bomer as Ned’s lover Felix Turner (the role that won a Tony for John Benjamin Hickey in the 2011 Broadway revival) and The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons, who will reprise his Broadway role as AIDS activist Tommy Boatwright.

As previously announced, The Normal Heart will be produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company, with Murphy directing from a script by Kramer. Pitt previously served as a producer on Murphy's film adaptations of Running With Scissors and Eat, Pray, Love, which starred Roberts. No shooting schedule or further casting has been announced.

The Normal Heart chronicles the terrifying early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York and the silence of official America in dealing with the issue. The play debuted at the Public Theater on April 21, 1985, starring the late Brad Davis as Ned. The Normal Heart was revived at the Public in April 2004, with Raul Esparza as Ned. The show's Broadway premiere, starring Joe Mantello, John Benjamin Hickey and Ellen Barkin, opened on April 27, 2011, and won three Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Play.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bradshaw Smith Dies at 57 has reported the sad news that Bradshaw Smith, a cabaret performer who went on to produce the cable television shows "Cabaret Beat" and "Broadway Beat," which chronicled the happenings of the New York theater world, died Jan. 16 after a sudden stroke. He was 57.

Smith began as a cabaret artist. His shows included the long-running "Cole Porter Revue" at Don't Tell Mama, and he won both a 1987 MAC (Manhattan Assn. of Clubs and Cabarets) Award for male vocalist and a Backstage Bistro nod in 1985.

He soon stepped offstage, however, for work as a videographer and producer documenting the events of Gotham's legit biz: openings, concerts, benefits. He received the MAC Board of Directors Award for his new cable television show "Cabaret Beat" in 1990.

Smith and Richard Ridge went on to create the half-hour program "Broadway Beat," through which they documented New York theater professionals in performance and rehearsal for productions from Broadway to Off Off Broadway, at Gotham cabarets and at awards shows, among other events, over a period of more than two decades. These events are preserved online at the "Broadway Beat" Archive.

Born in Derby, Conn., Bradshaw first arrived in New York in the mid-'70s.

He is survived by his brother, Robert Smith.

Donations may be made to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Spider-Man Documentary in the Works is reporting that a documentary based around the ups and downs and twists and turns of the current Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is now in the works. According to their report and a report from the New York Post, filmmaker Jacob Cohl, whose father, Michael Cohl, is one of the producers of the Spider-Man musical, had been granted access to film everything from the first day of rehearsals to the opening night. The footage, originally intended as promotional materials for the show, but once the show ran into turmoil, it became clear that there was better use for the film. Julie Taymour, in her lawsuit against the show's producers from last November, is looking to bar the film from using any footage of her. In the producers' countersuit against Taymour, they state, "Taymor’s attempt to stop the documentary apparently because she is fearful that it may portray her in an unflattering light is a classic prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Two New Plays Coming to Broadway

It's official! Clybourne Park and Peter and the Starcatcher are coming to Broadway and have set dates. Clybourne Park will open on April 12th at the Walter Kerr Theatre with its original off-Broadway cast, including Crystal A. Dickinson as Francine/Lena, Brendan Griffin as Jim/Tom/Kenneth, Damon Gupton as Albert/Kevin, Christina Kirk as Bev/Kathy, Annie Parisse as Betsy/Lindsay, Jeremy Shamos as Karl/Steve and Tony winner Frank Wood as Russ/Dan.

Peter and the Starcatcher, based around the story of Peter Pan, will be coming to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre with an opening night set for April 15th. No casting has been set for the Broadway transfer.

Spider-Man Producers Sue Tamour

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is back in the news and in the courts. The producers of the show are suing the productions original director, Julie Taymour, "charging that she violated her contract and should be denied royalty payments from the Broadway show and from any future productions of Spider-Man," according to Patrick Healy's New York Times article. The suit, "filed in federal court in Manhattan ... seeks to erase Ms. Taymour entirely from the Spider-Man universe going forward."

According to the 66-page court filing, when Taymour declared that she "could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do," in regard to major script and staging overhauls, requiring that she be replaced by other creators whose work she cannot lay claim to, she violated her contract. According to the lawyers representing the lead producers who wrote the filing, "Taymour refused to develop a musical that followed the original, family-friendly Spider-Man story, which was depicted in the Marvel comic books and the hugely successful motion picture trilogy based on them."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stacy Keach Interview

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Mr. Stacy Keach, Jr., Tuesday afternoon and we had a fun chat about his life, his parents, and, mostly, his current appearance in John Robin Baitz's newest Broadway play, Other Desert Cities. Below is my transcript of what came out of our conversation.

Sam Negin: I haven't seen the show yet, but have heard strong, positive things about you, your costars, and the play itself. What can you tell me about your role?

Stacy Keach: The character I play, Lyman Wyeth, is modeled on Ronald Reagan and John Gavin -- an actor turned GOP politician. John Gavin is a former Ambassador to Mexico. His daughter, Brooke (played by Rachel Griffiths), comes back having written a memoir about an event that happened to the family when Brooke's brother, with whom Lyman was close, was fighting in (and later came back from) the Vietnam War.

SN: This show started off-Broadway at Lincoln Center last year and, after a hiatus with some new cast members, the show has returned to the stage, this time in a Broadway engagement. How have the cast changes impacted the show?

SK: One of the great virtues of this play is that it allows each person to express himself in his own terms. Judith Light, in the role of Silda (a role which was played by Linda Lavin off-Broadway), is demonstrative of this. She is such a liberal in real life, but makes this part (a staunch conservative) her own. Linda was subtle and riveting, but both are equally engaging. Elizabeth Marvel (who played Brooke in the off-Broadway production) was much earthier, while Rachel's performance is like air. This show is really an enxemble. It's like chamber music in a way. Each person has his own expression, so the tone and delivery of each line changes with new actors, but the content is always the same.

SN: Are there any particular challenges to playing a role like this?

SK: You know, it's funny. This character reminds me a lot of my father and, in many ways, I feel like I'm playing a version of him. My folks were staunch republicans. I grew up in Southern California and every Easter was at the Country Club, so this set of people was very familiar to me emotionally. To hit even closer to home, when she's performing her role as my character's wife, Stockard Channing sounds exactly like my mother did.

SN: You haven't been on Broadway since 1993's The Kentucky Cycle. What brought you back to the stage after such a long absence?

SK: This play is what brought me back! I have done some smaller, non-Broadway productions here and there since then, including King Lear, but it was this writing that made me want to do this play. I did 10 Unknowns by Robbie (who wrote this play) a number of years ago and loved working with him. When he said he was creating this character for me, I jumped at the opportunity. It's great to be creating a role again. Baitz just has this way with words and witticisms -- it's like a combination of Noel Coward and Anton Chekhov. Each character has his own voice, unlike many plays or TV shows you see nowadays where most of the characters sound a lot alike. Someone reminded me that, between the off-Broadway production and this one, I've played this role over 200 times and I was shocked! It feels as though it's only been a few weeks!

The Road to Mecca Opens on Broadway

Athol Fugard, one of South Africa's best known playwrights (at least to American audiences) is back on Broadway. At least, one of his plays is. The play stars Rosemary Harris, Jim Dale, and Carla Gugino and is about a woman who builds her own Mecca in her home which the townspeople view as an eyesore until she befriends a young school teacher who sees the good in her.

The script itself has been described as being self indulgent and wordy, leaving the production itself to make the play work or fail. believes the play does that all well enough, with the set, lights, and actors pall doing their parts to pull up the poor script -- a feat unto itself -- but the review did not say whether the show was stellar or not.

The New York Times, however, has said it all in one paragraph. Ben Brantley wrote, "As Rosemary Harris says the word, 'darkness' is a thing with tentacles that clutch and choke and smother. It erupts from her with a soul-deep rumble late in the first act of Athol Fugard’s Road to Mecca, which opened on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Theater. And once Ms. Harris has said 'darkness" — or said it that way — it’s impossible to look on her character or the play in which she appears with the comfort of detachment." Brantley went on to describe that the show was "quiet, slow and ultimately powerful."

The Road to Mecca "throbs with a despairing awareness of the South Africa of the 1970s as a broken and corrupting nation, a spiritual prison for those who inhabit it." Brantley also commented on how slow the show's first act is, but praised the performance of Rosemary Harris, who really makes the show.

When It Rains, It Pours

Some days are slow news days, but when it comes, it really comes. Lots of news has broken overnight, including the opening of the opening of the newest entry in the Broadway season, The Road to Mecca; the announcement of the Tony Awards ceremony date, complete casting for the upcoming transfer of Ghost: the Musical, and more Julie Taymour / Spider-Man news (she's being sued is the short version). I also had the great pleasure of interviewing Stacy Keach yesterday, so I have the results of that to post later on this week. I wanted to let you all know that I am slowly but surely getting on top of all this news and will be releasing articles over the course of the week.

I will start today with the easy stuff: the casting notice and the Tony ceremony date. I will type up the interview and read the Road to Mecca reviews for tomorrow and Friday, and get to the Julie Taymour news as time permits.

The most exciting news of the day is the announcement of the Tony Awards ceremony date. Mark your calendars for Sunday June 10, 2012. The awards show will air on CBS and will be held at the Beacon Theatre, the second year that the awards show will be held there.

Starting with Ghost, adapted from the 1990 movie of the same name, will star original London headliners Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman as Molly and Sam with newcomers Bryce Pinkham as Carl Bruner and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Oda Mae Brown. The complete cast includes Tyler McGee, Lance Roberts, Moya Angela, Jason Babinsky, Michael Balderrama, James Brown III, Stephen Carrasco, Jeremy Davis, Sharona D’Ornellas, Josh Franklin, Albert Guerzon, Afra Hines, Carly Hughes, Karen Hyland, Alison Luff, Vasthy Mompoint, Jennifer Noble, Joe Aaron Reid, Constantine Rousouli, Jennifer Sanchez, Daniel Watts and Jesse Wildman.

The musical, directed by Matthew Warchus, begins preview performances will begin on March 15, 2012 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, and opening night is set for April 23. Ghost features a book by Bruce Joel Rubin (adapted from his screenplay for the hit 1990 film starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg) and a score by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard. The show features choreography is by Ashley Wallen, set and costume design by Rob Howell, musical supervision and arrangements by Christopher Nightingale, illusions by Paul Kieve, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone, sound design by Bobby Aitken and projection design by Jon Driscoll. The musical also features the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody,” which became the love theme of the movie.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chinglish to Close on Broadway

David Henry Hwang's latest play, Chinglish, has posted it's closing notice. The play, which began previews October 11th and opened on October 29th, will close on January 29th. The "comedy about an Ohio businessman navigating misunderstandings of language and etiquette on an important business trip to China," transferred to Broadway from Chicago's Goodman Theatre, where the play received strong reviews (the positive reception followed the play to Broadway) but the Broadway production has been struggling to bring in ticket buyers.

Julie Andrews to Direct Mousical Musical

Goodspeed Musicals has announced that stage and screen legend Julie Andrews will direct their upcoming production of The Great American Mousical, which is based on a best-selling children's book Andrews wrote with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. The show will run from November 8th through December 2nd at Goodspeed's new work playhouse, the Norma Terris Theatre, in Chester, CT.

Here's how the two-time Tony Award-winning resident theatre bills the new work: "Below the bright lights of Broadway, in the depths of the historic Sovereign Theatre, a troupe of musical-making mice rehearse a new show. When the theatre is threatened by demolition and their diva Adelaide disappears, it will take all paws on deck to fulfill the time-honored tradition: the show must go on! Filled with singing, dancing, and show biz lore, The Great American Mousical is a tribute to life in the theatre and celebrates the two most glorious words in the English language: musical comedy!"

According to's Kenneth Jones, "The Great American Mousical features music by composer Zina Goldrich and lyrics by Marcy Heisler, a book by Tony nominee Hunter Bell, choreography by Tony nominee Christopher Gattelli, and sets and costumes designed by Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award winner Tony Walton, who illustrated the earlier book. Expect the show to 'entertain adults with its wit and musical theatre history,' according to Goodspeed. 'Kids will fall in love with the wonderful characters that inhabit the Sovereign Theatre.'"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jeremy Jordan to Return to Main Stem

Jeremy Jordan, the star of the recent Broadway production of Bonnie & Clyde: the Musical, has booked his next gig. He will be rejoining the cast of the musical adaptation of Newsies, in which he starred in the out of town try outs last year. Newsies began life at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, last fall with Jordan in the role of Jack Kelly and he will reprise that role when the show comes to Broadway. Newsies will begin previews on March 15th at the Nederlander Theatre in anticipation of a March 29th opening.

“It feels great,” Jordan told of bringing the musical to the Great White Way, even his new job did mean saying goodbye to his previous Broadway show, which closed on December 30 after 36 regular performances. “It’s bittersweet. I was hoping to maybe do a year with Bonnie & Clyde and then just go straight to Newsies,” Jordan said.

When the Broadway transfer of Newsies came out right on the heels of the news that Jordan would star in Bonnie & Clyde, Jordan's ability to appear in the Broadway Newsies was cut short. “Nobody expected [Newsies] to come within five months of closing at Paper Mill. It’s unheard of for things to come that quickly," Jordan remembered. "But then Bonnie & Clyde closed and I had many conflicting emotions. I thought, 'Oh, now I can do Newsies, but look what's had to happen in order for that to come about.' It's good for my career, but the circumstances weren't the best.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

Porgy & Bess Opens on Broadway

Diane Paulus' production of The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess opened on Broadway last night to mixed-to-negative reviews. On the plus side, the performances were relatively well received. Audra McDonald is said to be magic, Philip Boykin's Crown is properly commanding, David Alan Grier's Sporting Life takes a page right out of the Catskills, and Norm Lewis' Porgy -- well, he does the best he can with what he's given. And that's quite the problem. The production has made so many changes to the original Gershwin brothers opera that the show seems doomed from the start. Crown's pushing Bess into the palmetto thicket to rape her while Gershwin's score builds to a horrible crescendo has been changed to her removing her dress and leading him there. Porgy's crippled state, originally dragging himself around stage on a flat goat cart has become a limp and a cane -- and, in this production, he announces in new dialogue by Suzan-Lori Parks that he is a cripple, as though he couldn't show us the way he always did. Most of Parks' new dialogue takes the form of song cues that were never needed before in the original opera. And, according to the reviews I've read, it is the music that suffers the most. The 22-piece orchestra (not insubstantial by today's standards) has been orchestrated with arbitrary rhythm changes, and new harmonies and counterpoint that make no sense.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Show Comes to the Main Stem in A Broadway Shakeup

Gordon Cox said it best. The reporter has summed up a new twist in the Broadway season that adds a new musical to the roster and takes down a sinking revival. Cox's article, titled "Faith leaps to Broadway" is copied below.

In a Broadway shakeup, the tuner adaptation of "Leap of Faith" has leapt into a vacancy created by struggling revival "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," now set to close Jan. 29.

Raul Esparza, who toplined the world preem of "Leap" in L.A. in 2010, returns to lead the cast of the Gotham incarnation. Creative team includes new additions Warren Leight ("Side Man"), now co-writing the book, as well as helmer Christopher Ashley and choreographer Sergio Trujillo ("Jersey Boys").

The jump for "Leap" rejiggers the Rialto's spring sked, adding to the roster one more new tuner -- in a production that had previously been aiming to land on Broadway in the fall.

Rumors about the shift had been circulating for a few weeks now, as it became apparent that Harry Connick Jr. starrer "On a Clear Day," which opened to largely unfavorable reviews, wouldn't last, leaving one of the Street's prime musical houses, the St. James Theater, open for a show that could mobilize quickly.

"Leap" was already gearing up for a run at Broadway, having announced a fall target date and a new cadre of collaborators in the wake of the unenthusiastically received Ahmanson Theater run. Ashley replaced Rob Ashford ("How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying") as helmer, and Leight came aboard to work on scribe Janus Cercone's original book.

Producers of "Leap" pushed for "Clear Day" to announce its closing sooner rather than later so that final funds for "Leap" could be locked in and details ironed out in advance of performances starting in early April.

Confirmation of "Leap" means the show's composer, Alan Menken ("The Little Mermaid"), is poised to have three shows running at once on the Main Stem, with "Leap" joining the current "Sister Act" and "Newsies," opening in April. Glenn Slater, who worked with Menken on "Sister Act," writes the lyrics for "Leap."

Book writer Cercone also penned the 1992 film, toplined by Steve Martin, on which the musical is based. Storyline follows a charlatan reverend (Esparza) and the female sheriff, to be played by Jessica Phillips, who vows to shut him down.

Kendra Kassebaum also will appear in the Gotham incarnation of "Leap," with further casting still to be announced.

When it shutters Jan. 29, "On a Clear Day," which opened Dec. 11, will have played 29 previews and 57 regular perfs. The redux of the 1965 Lerner and Lane musical, conceived and directed by Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening"), pulls a gender switch on the show's reincarnation-themed storyline.

Despite the presence of Connick -- whose prior stint on the Rialto, "The Pajama Game," proved a hit -- the production didn't catch on with auds. Last week the tuner pulled in about $585,000 and played to less than 70% of capacity.

Producers of "Clear Day" include Tom Hulce, Ira Pittelman, Liza Lerner and Broadway Across America, among others.

Although previews for "Leap" have been set to begin April 3, an exact opening date remains to be announced. Cutoff for Tony eligibility is April 26.

Producing team of "Leap" includes Michael Mannheim (also a producer on the film), James D. Stern, Douglas L. Meyer, Tom Viertel, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Steven Baruch and Jujamcyn Theaters, among others.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Estelle Parsons to Return to Broadway

Estelle Parsons, who I interviewed last year when she was appearing in Good People at the Manhattan Theater Club, will be returning to Broadway this year. The Oscar-winner for her supporting turn in the film version of Bonnie and Clyde (a musical of which recently shuttered on Broadway) is joining Matthew Broderick, Kelli O'Hara, and the cast of the new Gershwin brothers musical Nice Work If You Can Get It. She will play the mother of Broderick's playboy character.

The new show inspired by a Jazz Age George and Ira Gershwin musical comedy also features Jennifer Laura Thompson, Judy Kaye, Michael McGrath, Terry Beaver and more.

With direction and choreography by Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall, the show has a new libretto by Memphis Tony-winner Joe DiPietro, who borrowed elements from P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton's libretto to the 1926 musical comedy Oh, Kay! That bootleggers-and-playboys tale gave the world "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Dear Little Girl" and "Do, Do, Do."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Authors' Estates Impact on Broadway Revivals

The economics of reviving popular shows on Broadway is pretty clear. Audiences are more likely to see a show that they are familiar with and producers like shows with proven track records -- two indicators that they are more likely to make back the rather large financial investments required of producing a show on Broadway these days. But, it would seem, producers are not the only ones trying to bank on hot properties of the past. The heirs to the estates of many of these shows' authors, including the heirs of the Gershwin brothers' estates, as well as the heirs of the estates of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II, like to cash in, as well.

An article appeared in the New York Times this week that talks about how they can make money and the impact of these extra players in the field of show making impact what we see on stage. The text below was written by Patrick Healy and appeared in the Times under the title, "The Songs Remain the Same, but Broadway Heirs Call the Shots".

By all accounts George and Ira Gershwin never considered making the family name part of the title of their most famous work, the 1935 opera “Porgy & Bess.”

But their heirs wield enormous power, and in the 1990s they re-branded it as “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” as they sought business partners to adapt this four-hour opera into a perennial musical moneymaker the way shows like “Oklahoma!” have been under the careful management of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. On Thursday, after years of fits and starts, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” will open on Broadway, updated and streamlined, part of a spate of unusually aggressive undertakings by musical-theater estates.

Few recent Broadway seasons have had as much estate-driven handiwork as this one, a reflection of the rising entrepreneurship of heirs and the affection of audiences for song standards. Heirs are increasingly hands-on in trying to wrest moneymaking shows out of their ancestral trunks: another current example is the producer Liza Lerner’s overhaul this winter of a musical by her father, Alan Jay Lerner, “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” for modern Broadway. (It drew mostly negative reviews.) The organization that represents the estates of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II recently authorized a stage version of the duo’s TV musical “Cinderella,” which is aiming for Broadway next season.

And the Gershwin estates have another musical coming to Broadway in March, “Nice Work if You Can Get It” starring Matthew Broderick, which is an attempt to take characters and songs from an old show (the Gershwins’ 1920s bootlegger musical, “Oh, Kay!”) and refashion them into a better musical that includes additional Gershwin tunes. The estates tried a similar reworking of “Oh, Kay!” in 2001 with the pastiche “They All Laughed,” but it hit a dead end after mixed reviews at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut.

The newly adapted book for the Broadway version of “Porgy and Bess” — but not the songs — will likely gain a new copyright that could be licensed. The estates’ trustees say the moneymaking potential of the new copyright depends on the Broadway musical becoming a hit that producers will want to license in the future.
Since “Nice Work” is a new show, the Gershwin estates will have a long new copyright to enjoy, whereas the rights for the original 1926 show, “Oh, Kay!” expire at the end of 2021. (The Gershwin estates now earn a few million dollars a year, according to the trustees.)

The Gershwin heirs have created pastiche shows before that have gone on to earn millions, like “My One and Only” (1983) and “Crazy for You” (1992), which won a Tony Award for best musical. They also recently authorized a new musical revue of Gershwin songs, “ ’S Wonderful,” which ran at a theater in Queens in November.
But estate decision making has been most controversial in the case of “Porgy and Bess.” The Gershwin heirs — chiefly nephews and grand-nephews of George and Ira, who had no children of their own — sought a Broadway-suitable “Porgy” to license to other musical producers worldwide with the hopes of earning millions of dollars before the right to the famous songs expire in 2030.

With that in mind they encouraged the trimming of the opera nearly by half, and approved some updating, including a reconciliation scene at the end. (The goat-pulled cart of the disabled Porgy is out; a cane and leg braces are in.) If all goes well, they may pursue a movie.

“Our responsibilities are to not have ‘Porgy and Bess’ stuck in an attic, to open up the property to younger generations, and to make money for the families,” said Jonathan Keidan, a 38-year-old digital media executive whose grandmother was George and Ira’s sister and who is now a trustee of George’s estate.

In August, Stephen Sondheim attacked some of the artistic changes, and recently has narrowed his invective to “the greedy Gershwin estate” — apparently referring to the collaborative efforts of the George and Ira estates. Mr. Sondheim declined to comment for this article, but other theater artists said that estate management was a major concern given that artists’ legacies would be at stake.

“I do think that, as composers and writers, we should leave pretty specific instructions to our estates about how we want our work to be protected,” said John Kander, the 84-year-old composer who, with Fred Ebb, wrote the scores for hits like “Cabaret” and “Chicago.”

Several of the Gershwins’ trustees — as well as those of Lerner and Burton Lane, the “Clear Day” composer — dismissed the idea that money was their primary motivator. But they were also not bashful in saying that money was one factor and described themselves as business-minded stewards more than as artistic tastemakers.

“I never felt we were capable producers, but we have similar impulses to producers in the sense that I want to get these shows performed and I’m driven to try to make money,” said Michael Strunsky, a former construction-firm executive and the trustee of Ira Gershwin’s estate. (His father was the brother of Ira’s wife.)

Executors can decide to withhold rights altogether or else demand contractual approvals over actors, directors, orchestrations and other artistic elements. More and more estates seek as many approvals as possible, given the rise of experimental theater that stresses auteur visions, and producers grant as few approvals as they can in the interest of artistic control. Estates do not have to disclose finances publically, and the structure of musical-theater estates vary, as does the size of the periodic checks cut to the heirs.

If the executors sour on a revival, they can rarely close it outright; instead, they deny an extension of the rights, so the show has a limited run. For instance, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization — which became part of a Dutch conglomerate in 2009 — refused an extension to Anne Bogart’s memorable student production of “South Pacific” at New York University in 1984, which was set in a rehab ward for psychologically damaged war veterans.

“Her concept was intriguing when it was presented to the estate,” recalled the organization’s president, Theodore S. Chapin, “but the production ended up with Nellie Forbush in a straitjacket repeating, ‘I’m in love,’ for practically a half hour.”

In the Broadway “Cinderella” project the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization hopes for a new, revenue-generating hit to add to the songwriters’ catalog decades after their deaths. (The pair’s musicals now earn more than $10 million a year.) Mr. Chapin said he authorized a revisionist updating of the “Cinderella” book, with a more assertive heroine, to be done by Douglas Carter Beane, because he had faith in Mr. Beane and the producers.

“An old show that feels familiar can turn off Broadway audiences,” Mr. Chapin said. “But you can’t go so far that you totally undermine the spirit and soul of the original.”

Marc G. Gershwin, son of George and Ira’s brother, Arthur, and a stockbroker by training, said he took an “entrepreneurial approach” to the brothers’ works, allowing experimental productions of “Porgy and Bess” like one set in Los Angeles after an earthquake (with Porgy on a motorcycle, no less). He said he would draw the line somewhere, for example if someone proposed an all-white production of the opera.

He and his fellow trustees worked for years to try to create a musical-theater version of “Porgy and Bess,” with the director Trevor Nunn’s production in London in 2006 coming close to success. But that outing lacked star power and used dialogue from the earlier novel and stage play about Porgy by DuBose Heyward, who wrote the book for the opera as well as the lyrics with Ira Gershwin. The new Broadway version, by contrast, includes new dialogue by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and stars a four-time Tony winner, Audra McDonald, as Bess.

The original will always remain available for opera companies, Marc Gershwin noted, “but that doesn’t mean it has to be a museum piece.”

New Musical Initiative From NBC

Smash, the upcoming NBC television series about the creation of a new Broadway musical, "is launching an initiative to implement theatre programs in 20 pilot schools across the U.S. this month," according to Adam Hetrick of The first round of schools will be in cities across the US, including Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Nashville, Phoenix, Seattle and New York, with the official announcement of participating schools to come the weekend of January 13th during the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta.

In a partnership with iTheatrics (which creates the Broadway JR musical series), the "Make a Musical" initiative aims to plant and nurture self-sustaining theatre programs in schools were there is limited-to-no arts programming.

The program supplies each school with the MTI Broadway JR Collection showkit (musicals like Annie, Into the Woods, Fiddler On the Roof and Once On This Island are part of the catalogue), as well as a professional arts advisor, who will guide teachers and students through the process of staging a musical. A technical theater stipend and master classes with iTheatrics team will also be part of the "Smash" sponsorship. Each program will result in public performances, with the intent that the program will continue the following year.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Athol Fugard and The Road to Mecca

South African playwright Athol Fugard is having quite the year on New York stages this year. No less than four productions of his plays are planned to arrive in the city this year, the highest profile of which is the Roundabout Theater Company's Broadway production of The Road to Mecca. The production stars Jim Dale, Rosemary Harris and Carla Gugino, and opens on January 17th. In anticipation of the show's opening, has written a fascinating profile and history of the piece and its performers at the link below and I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Name is Lin-Manuel Miranda

It has been announced that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony-winning composer of In the Heights, as well as that show's original leading actor, will adapt Chaim Potok's novel My Name is Asher Lev for the stage. Miranda will team up with his Heights book writer Quiara Alegría Hudes.

“It was my favorite book growing up,” Mr. Miranda told The New York Times. “I’ve reread it countless times, and I finally obtained the rights last year. In a lot of ways that book speaks profoundly about what it is to be an artist and to feel a responsibility to your culture and your people.” Written in 1972, My Name Is Asher Lev tells the story of a young Hasidic Jew who dreams of living a life as an artist in New York City.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jessica Chastain to Come to Broadway

Golden Globe-nominated actress Jessica Chastain has had a very good year. She had significant supporting roles in no fewer than five major movies this year and received great reviews for all of them, including Coriolanus, The Tree of Life and her Golden Globe nominated turn in The Help. Now, to add to that great streak, it has been announced that Jessica will be coming to Broadway in a revival of The Heiress.

The Heiress, the durable 1947 play about a plain spinster named Catherine Sloper, a gold-digger suitor, a blunt father and a family home with a good view of Washington Square, is by Ruth Goetz & Augustus Goetz. The new staging, directed by Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, 33 Variations, The Laramie Project), will bow on Broadway in fall 2012 at a theatre to be announced. This is the first official announcement of the production following a late 2011 report in The New York Times that a production was in the works. This will mark Chastain's Broadway debut.

And what a show to make a debut in. Olivia de Havilland won an Oscar for playing the same role in the 1949 film and Cherry Jones won the Tony for the 1995 Broadway revival, making Chastain's series of awards nominations (after her Golden Globe nomination and likely upcoming Oscar nomination) grow to include a Tony nomination next year.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Les Miz Film Cast Rounding Out

The final two roles in the film adaptation of the Tony-winning smash hit nusical Les Miserables have been cast. The role of Eponine, a central role with one of the show's most famous songs ("On My Own"), will be played by Taylor Swift while the role of Cosette will be played by Amanda Seyfried. Swift and Seyfried are joining the previously announced Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thénardiers. The film begins production in February 2012.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Game Stops Here

The best-reviewed new show of the season, Lysistrata Jones, has posted a closing date of January 8th at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The show opened on December 14th and will have played 34 previews and 30 regular performances at the time of the closing.

Featuring music and lyrics by Lewis Flinn and a book by Tony nominee Douglas Carter Beane, Lysistrata Jones is loosely based on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. The show centers on the Athens University basketball team, which hasn’t won a game in 30 years. When spunky transfer student Lysistrata Jones (Murin) encourages the squad’s fed-up girlfriends to stop “giving it up” to their boyfriends until they win a game, the basketball squad is forced to end their losing streak or risk seeing no action once they step foot off the court.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Broadway Shows Delayed

A number of shows have been announced for the fall season of 2011 that have not materialized. Among them is Lisa D'Amour's new play Detroit. The play was a hit at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company and was so successful that Jeffrey Richards, a New York based producer, quickly announced that he would be bringing the show to Broadway in a production to open this past fall. Clearly, that production has yet to materialize. When the New York Times inquired what was going on, Mr. Richards cited a hectic producing schedule between Chinglish, Bonnie and Clyde, and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. The problem now is that, in the hesitation, Playwrights Horizons announced three weeks ago that it would be producing an off-Broadway production of the play in the fall of 2012.

The reasons are best described by Patrick Healy's New York Times article. "So why was Detroit ballyhooed for Broadway if the actors weren’t on board? Because producers routinely announce shows prematurely, before even signing deals with actors, to generate buzz or signal seriousness to investors in hopes that they will commit money. Even more common is producers announcing a show before they have one of Broadway’s 40 theaters lined up, because they are counting on other productions to fail or close."

Two planned revivals, of William Inge's Picnic and George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's You Can't Take It With You, failed to come together due to a lack of available stars to cast -- an unfortunate necessity for selling tickets to such productions on Broadway. Patrick Healy adds, "A third revival, A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin, is in the same boat; the producer Ken Davenport said he was also hoping for next season. The delay, he added, was because of the difficulty of finding stars who could attract tourists as well as regular theatergoers. 'We have some big shoes to fill,' he said, noting that Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson were in the 1992 film version."

Musicals have had similar problems this year. Announced Broadway attractions, like the revival of Funny Girl and a new musical Yank (about gay soldiers serving in World War II) did not come due to lack of funds.

Lack of available theaters has plagued a planned revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as new plays Magic/Bird and Peter and the Starcatcher.

Then there are the shows in total limbo, with no certain fate ahead. These include Neil LaBute's Fat Pig, a revival of Bob Fosse's Dancin' that was to appear at the Roundabout Theatre Company, and a musical version of Ray Charles' life, titled Unchain My Heart. These shows have been announced as coming to Broadway in recent seasons but were then delayed indefinitely.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Celebrity Autobiography Series Continues

Andrea Martin, Martha Plimpton, Martin Short and Matthew Perry are among the stars who will take part in a benefit presentation of Celebrity Autobiography Feb. 21, 2012, at Cal State University San Bernardino.

Presented as a benefit for the Loma Linda University Children's Hospital Foundation, Celebrity Autobiography will be offered at 5:30 PM and 8 PM. The Big Hearts For Little Hearts Desert Guild hosts the event.

Also scheduled to appear are Valerie Bertinelli, Craig Bierko, Florence Henderson, Lainie Kazan, Ryan Reynolds, and series creators Dayle Reyfel and Eugene Pack.

Autobiographies and memoirs that have been featured in previous presentations of Celebrity Autobiograpy include Sarah Palin, Carrie Prejean, Ozzy Osbourne, Patti LuPone, Tiger Woods, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Ivana Trump, Vanna White, Mr. T, Star Jones, Kenny Loggins, Tommy Lee, Sylvester Stallone, 'N Sync, Zsa Zsa Gabor, David Cassidy, Neil Sedaka, Britney Spears, Madonna, Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson, Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.