So You Think You Can Dance + On The Town = New York, New York

Joshua Bergasse, former choreographer of Smash, future choreographer of On The Town on Broadway, this week's choreographer for SYTYCD.

Joshua Bergasse, former choreographer of Smash, future choreographer of On The Town on Broadway, this week’s choreographer for SYTYCD.

The cast of the forthcoming Broadway revival of “On The Town” joined with the top 20 in season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance for this thrilling opening number, choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, “New York, New York” – the one with the lyrics “the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down.”

This is not the only connection between the Broadway revival and SYTYCD. The winner of the TV show will get a chance to join the Broadway company.

“On the Town” begins September 20 at the Lyric Theater.

Here’s a commercial for the show:

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Holler If Ya Hear Me Review: Tupac Shakur On Broadway

Eighteen years after his murder at the age of 25, Tupac Shakur has made it to Broadway, in a show that has taken on the awesome challenge of weaving 21 songs and poems by the charismatic rapper and actor into a newly created story about the struggling community on a block in a Midwestern industrial city.

If “Holler If Ya Hear Me” is not your standard jukebox musical, this is because Shakur’s musical idiom was gangster rap, and the new book for the musical by Todd Kreidler tries to construct a narrative that does justice to Shakur’s themes and perspectives,  presenting decent people under indecent pressures.

Despite a conscientious effort, the story is what is most disappointing about “Holler.”  Some will be unhappy that it is not about Tupac Shakur. (Reportedly, the production could not get hold of the rights to his life story, even though Shakur’s mother is one of the producers.)  The multi-character plot that replaces the expected bio-drama is at times muddled or poorly paced, and feels no fresher and less moving than a one-sided “West Side Story.”

Yet, there are enough arresting moments, the music is often exciting enough, and the large cast is talented enough, to have made me wonder while I was watching the show, whether  it would have worked better without a plot – like the “choreopoems” of Ntozake Shange’s “For colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf “

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

 

 

 

 

John Caviness (Saul Williams) is a self-taught cartoonist who we first see suspended in mid-air in a jail cell, wearing the familiar orange prison jumpsuit.  (It’s one of the few scenic design flourishes in a deliberately drab and empty industrial set.) Once released from jail, he goes back to the old neighborhood, determined to keep to himself and stay out of trouble. He gets a job at a local garage and towing service,  which is run by Griffy (Ben Thompson.) John stays away from his childhood friend Vertus (Christopher Jackson), the local drug dealer – and even from Corinne (Saycon Sengbloh), who was John’s girlfriend, and is now Vertus’s.

But then Benny gets killed. Benny was Griffy’s partner – both dreamed of escaping to California – and Vertus’ younger brother.

John wants no part of the revenge that the others are planning – until suddenly he does. Is it because his first paycheck from Griffy’s garage was too low? That’s what it seems to be. In any case, his change of mind leads to the  title song, performed right before the intermission — thrilling in its beat and in the dancing that accompanies it. (Although the choreographer is Wayne Cilento – Wicked, How To Succeed, etc. etc. — there is, oddly, relatively little dancing in the show – and only a brief interval of breakdancing.)

Eventually, John changes his mind again – and Vertus changes his mind as well, both deciding that revenge will get them nowhere.

In the meantime, John and Corinne appear to have a rapprochement, at least long enough to have a lovely duet, Unconditional Love.

California Love is performed by the ensemble around a purple Cadillac (with just a suggestion of a number out of  “Hands on a Hardbody“)

2Pac purists might be disappointed (if not outraged) by the new arrangements and repurposing of some of his songs, but most theatergoers will find this clever reworking to be among the highlights of the musical. For example, “I Get Around,” a testosterone-fueled boasting rap is paired with “Keep Ya Head Up” delivered by Sengbloh and the other women, which includes the lyrics:

And since we all came from a woman

Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?

I think it’s time to kill for our women

Time to heal our women, be real to our women

And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies That will hate the ladies, that make the babies

 These lyrics makes less sense being sung by a woman than by a man, but it works in the context of the staging.

Williams, a well-known slam poet, singer and writer making his Broadway debut, is an inspired choice for a leading man; he comes off as authentically fierce and philosophical (even when his character’s behavior is incoherent.)  The fabulous Tonya Pinkins as Vertus’ mother is criminally underused, but almost makes the entire show worthwhile with her duet with Jackson as her son, Resist The Temptation/Dear Mama. This is Christopher Jackson’s sixth show on Broadway. He’s a true pro, and gives a fine performance in “Holler If Ya Hear Me.” It’s not his fault that I kept thinking of his performance as Benny in “In The Heights,” a show that put rap on Broadway far more effectively.

2014 Tony Award Winners: Audra McDonald Breaks The Record. All The Way, Hedwig, Raisin, Gentleman’s Guide.

Audra McDonald won the sixth Tony, more than any other performer in history, All The Way, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and A Raisin in the Sun all had good nights at the 68th annual Tony Awards. Here’s the complete list of winners:

(An asterisk besides the winners)

Best Play

Act One by James Lapine

*All The Way by Robert Schenkkan

Casa Valentina by Harvey Fierstein

Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally

Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley

BryanCranstonAllTheWay12

 

Best Musical

 

After Midnight

Producers:  Scott Sanders Productions, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Furman, Candy Spelling, Starry Night Entertainment, Hal Newman, Allan S. Gordon/Adam S. Gordon, James L. Nederlander, Robert K. Kraft, Catherine and Fred Adler, Robert Appel, Jeffrey Bolton, Scott M. Delman, James Fantaci, Ted Liebowitz, Stephanie P. McClelland, Sandy Block, Carol Fineman, Marks-Moore-Turnbull Group, Stephen & Ruth Hendel, Tom Kirdahy

 

Aladdin

Producers:  Disney Theatrical Productions, Thomas Schumacher

 

 

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

Producers:  Paul Blake, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Jeffrey A. Sine, Richard A. Smith, Mike Bosner, Harriet N. Leve/Elaine Krauss, Terry Schnuck, Orin Wolf, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Roger Faxon, Larry Magid, Kit Seidel, Lawrence S. Toppall, Fakston Productions/Mary Solomon, William Court Cohen, John Gore, BarLor Productions, Matthew C. Blank, Tim Hogue, Joel Hyatt, Marianne Mills, Michael J. Moritz, Jr., StylesFour Productions, Brunish & Trinchero, Jeremiah J. Harris

 

*A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Producers:  Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson, 50 Church Street Productions, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Jay Alix & Una Jackman, Catherine & Fred Adler, Rhoda Herrick, Kathleen K. Johnson, Megan Savage, ShadowCatcher Entertainment, Ron Simons, True Love Productions, Jamie deRoy, Four Ladies & One Gent, John Arthur Pinckard, Greg Nobile, Stewart Lane & Bonnie Comley, Exeter Capital/Ted Snowdon, Ryan Hugh Mackey, Cricket-CTM Media/Mano-Horn Productions, Dennis Grimaldi/Margot Astrachan, Hello Entertainment/Jamie Bendell, Michael T. Cohen/Joe Sirola, Joseph & Carson Gleberman/William Megevick, Green State Productions, The Hartford Stage, The Old Globe

 

Best Revival of a Play

 

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Producers:  Michael Grandage Company, Arielle Tepper Madover, L.T.D. Productions, Stacey Mindich, Starry Night Entertainment, Scott M. Delman, Martin McCallum, Stephanie P. McClelland, Zeilinger Productions, The Shubert Organization

The Glass Menagerie

Producers:  Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart Jr.,  Jerry Frankel, Lou Spisto/Lucky VIII, INFINITY Stages, Scott M. Delman, Jam Theatricals, Mauro Taylor, Rebecca Gold, Michael Palitz, Charles E. Stone, Will Trice, GFour Productions, American Repertory Theater

*A Raisin in the Sun

Producers:  Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Eli Bush, Jon B. Platt, Scott M. Delman, Roy Furman, Stephanie P. McClelland, Ruth Hendel, Sonia Friedman/Tulchin Bartner, The Araca Group, Heni Koenigsberg, Daryl Roth, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson

 

Twelfth Night

Producers:  Sonia Friedman Productions, Scott Landis, Roger Berlind, Glass Half Full Productions/Just for Laughs Theatricals, 1001 Nights Productions, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Jane Bergère, Paula Marie Black, Rupert Gavin, Stephanie P. McClelland, Shakespeare’s Globe Centre USA, Max Cooper, Tanya Link Productions, Shakespeare Road, Shakespeare’s Globe

 

ARaisinInTheSun4

Best Revival of a Musical

*Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Producers:  David Binder, Jayne Baron Sherman, Barbara Whitman, Latitude Link, Patrick Catullo, Raise the Roof, Paula Marie Black, Colin Callender, Ruth Hendel, Sharon Karmazin, Martian Entertainment, Stacey Mindich, Eric Schnall, The Shubert Organization

Les Misérables

Producer:  Cameron Mackintosh

Violet

Producers:  Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Harold Wolpert, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, David Mirvish, Barry and Fran Weissler, Elizabeth Armstrong, Mary Jo and Ted Shen

 

Best Book of a Musical

Aladdin

Chad Beguelin

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

Douglas McGrath

Bullets Over Broadway

Woody Allen

*A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Robert L. Freedman


Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Aladdin

Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin

*The Bridges of Madison County

Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Music: Steven Lutvak
Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak

If/Then

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale in Bridges of Madison County

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale in Bridges of Madison County


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
*Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Chris O’Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One

Cranston as LBJ

Cranston as LBJ


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
*Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

Audra McDonald in Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill

Audra McDonald in Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill

McDonald has now won six Tony Awards, more than any other performer in history (and the first in all four categories.)


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

*Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Hedwig closeup


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
*Jessie Mueller, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Kelli O’Hara, The Bridges of Madison County

JessieMuellerasCaroleKing
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
*Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night on Broadway

Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night on Broadway


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
*Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina

Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo in Raisin in the Sun

Denzel Washington and Sophie Okonedo in Raisin in the Sun


Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
*James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

Genie James Monroe Iglehart

Genie James Monroe Iglehart


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Linda Emond, Cabaret
*Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Lena Hall in Hedwig

Lena Hall in Hedwig


Best Scenic Design of a Play

*Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin, Machinal
Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan

 


Best Scenic Design of a Musical

*Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway

Rocky 1 Adam Perry and Andy Karl


Best Costume Design of a Play

Jane Greenwood, Act One
Michael Krass, Machinal
Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
*Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night


Best Costume Design of a Musical

*Linda Cho, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight


Best Lighting Design of a Play

Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox, Machinal
*Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men


Best Lighting Design of a Musical

*Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Howell Binkley, After Midnight
Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County


Best Sound Design of a Play

Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
*Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Matt Tierney, Machinal


Best Sound Design of a Musical

Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
Tim O’Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter, Les Misérables
*Brian Ronan, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

 

Best Direction of a Play

Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
*Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie


Best Direction of a Musical

Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman, Violet
*Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder


Best Choreography

*Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett & Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin

Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

Virgil Lil O Gadson and Katrine Plantadit in After Midnight

Virgil Lil O Gadson and Katrine Plantadit in After Midnight

 

Best Orchestrations

Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
*Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Steve Sidwell, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

 

* * *

 

Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories

 

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre

Jane Greenwood

 

Regional Theatre Award

Signature Theatre, New York, N.Y.

 

Isabelle Stevenson Award

Rosie O’Donnell

 

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre

Joseph P. Benincasa

Joan Marcus

Charlotte Wilcox

Carole King and Jessie Mueller, the (now) Tony winning performer who plays her in Beautiful.

Carole King and Jessie Mueller, the (now) Tony winning performer who plays her in Beautiful.

Neil Patrick Harris acceptance speech

Audra McDonald acceptance speech

 

Cabaret Review: Second Cumming on Broadway

Cabaret WillkommenFrom the very beginning of the Roundabout’s re-revival of “Cabaret,” when a spotlight first illuminates Alan Cumming’s eyes — as if he has opened the rectangular slot in the door of a speakeasy deciding whether to let us in — and then switches focus to his beckoning hand, Cumming’s sensuous, sinuous, insinuating performance has us hooked.
cabaretlogoAs the Master of Ceremonies of the Kit Kat Club, a sleazy dive in Berlin during the anything-goes days right before the rise of the Third Reich, Cumming manages to be the most consistently entertaining and intriguing aspect of this production, presiding over the razzle-dazzle numbers, but popping up unexpectedly as well in many of the scenes that are supposed to take place outside the club. His ill-defined, almost abstract character is nevertheless the immoral center of the show, which takes us on his (and the world’s) journey from debauched to dark to desperate.
But there are many other reasons besides Alan Cumming’s mesmerizing performance to see “Cabaret,” which can lay claim to being one of the greatest musicals ever written for the American theater. There is an undeniably tuneful score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, and a compelling story, based on the experiences of the American writer Christopher Isherwood in the Weimar Republic.
The show itself has been around for nearly half a century, a fact that seems to turn many into historians. It is true that Cumming is reprising a role that snagged him a well-deserved Tony in 1998, and that the current production directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall is a precise restaging of their earlier version, which ran until 2004 at Studio 54, the same theater where it is currently scheduled to run until January, 2015. I’m not sure why this bothers some people. If a show works, what’s wrong with repeating it?
The directors have re-created what was an early and effective foray into the now-common practice of immersive theater. We sit at little tables; there is a Kit Kat menu, which includes a German plate; the waiter/ushers are clothed like decadent Weimar playthings, part of an overall sinister chic sexy scheme by costume designer William Ivey Long.
Except for Cumming, the cast is new, and mostly splendid, right down to the slinky, scantily dressed ensemble and Kit Kat Band. Who knew there were so many good-looking, in-shape actors and dancers who could play musical instruments (or is it musicians who can sing and dance?) Standouts include Danny Burstein and Linda Emond, who were both just Tony-nominated for their roles as the Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz and the landlady Fraulein Schneider whom he woos; their songs are the least familiar, and all the more worth the listen. Bill Heck plays the character who is Christopher Isherwood’s stand-in Clifford Bradshaw; I am forever a fan of Heck because of his role in Horton Foote’s Orphans Home Cycle at the Signature Theater several years back; it’s great to know he can also sing.
The one drawback to staging such a familiar work is that it battles expectations set up by previous versions. It turns out to be hard to erase the memory of Liza Minnelli in the role of Sally Bowles, the foolish, self-dramatizing singer who develops a complicated relationship with Clifford. Michelle Williams, who was so believable as Marilyn Monroe in the film “My Week With Marilyn,” now essays the role of Sally Bowles in a startlingly different interpretation. There is a paradox at the heart of the character; Sally Bowles is supposed to be a second-rate talent, yet the actress playing her is given many of the show-stopping songs of the show. (If Sally were as good as Liza, why would she be playing some two-bit joint in Berlin?) Williams is thus perhaps portraying Sally more believably. Even when what she’s saying is supposed to be blithe and outrageous, Sally now seems just moments away from a nervous breakdown. Her happy-go-lucky exterior is much more transparently an act, and her immature behavior seems less recklessly adolescent than vulnerably childish: At one point, she conjured up for me a proudly pouting Shirley Temple in “On The Good Ship Lollipop.”
This is a legitimate interpretation, but the effect of her performance is to make the early numbers like “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Mein Herr” less straightforwardly enjoyable, and to shift the center of gravity of the musical towards the Emcee. (The 1972 film belonged equally to Minnelli and Joel Grey.)
This is not a major sacrifice when Alan Cumming is there to “Wilkommen” us. If this “Cabaret” promises entertainment from the very first moments, the very last moments both clarify and chill.

Cabaret
Studio 54
Book by Joe Masteroff; music by John Kander; lyrics by Fred Ebb; based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood; directed by Sam Mendes; co-directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall; musical director/vocal arranger, Patrick Vaccariello; set and club design by Robert Brill; costumes by William Ivey Long; lighting by Peggy Eisenhauer and Mike Baldassari; sound by Brian Ronan; orchestrations by Michael Gibson; dance and incidental music by David Krane; original musical coordinator, John Monaco; hair and wig design by Paul Huntley; makeup design by Angelina Avallone; dialect coach, Deborah Hecht; production stage manager, Arthur Gaffin; associate choreographer/choreography re-created by Cynthia Onrubia; associate director, B T McNicholl.
Cast: Alan Cumming (M.C.), Michelle Williams (Sally Bowles), Linda Emond (Fräulein Schneider), Danny Burstein (Herr Schultz), Bill Heck (Clifford Bradshaw), Aaron Krohn (Ernst Ludwig) and Gayle Rankin (Fritzie/Fräulein Kost).
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.
“Cabaret” is scheduled to run through January 4, 2015.

2014 Tony Award Nominations: A Gentleman’s Guide, Hedwig Lead

Tony Awards Statuette

Here are the nominations for the 68th annual Tony Awards.

Best Play

ACTONEposterAct One

Author:  James Lapine

Producers:  Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Adam Siegel, Hattie K. Jutagir

 

 

allthewaylogoAll The Way

Author:  Robert Schenkkan

Producers:  Jeffrey Richards, Louise Gund, Jerry Frankel, Stephanie P. McClelland, Double Gemini Productions, Rebecca Gold, Scott M. Delman, Barbara H. Freitag, Harvey Weinstein, Gene Korf, William Berlind, Caiola Productions, Gutterman Chernoff, Jam Theatricals, Gabrielle Palitz, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, Will Trice, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival,

American Repertory Theater

 

 

The cast of cross-dressers in Casa Valentina, l to r: Nick Westrate, Tom McGowan, Gabriel Ebert, Patrick Page, Reed Birney, John Cullum, Larry Pine,  (This is a publicity shot. No such scene is in the play.)

Casa Valentina

Author:  Harvey Fierstein

Producers:  Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Colin Callender, Robert Cole, Frederick Zollo, The Shubert Organization

 

MothersandSonslogoMothers and Sons

Author:  Terrence McNally

Producers:  Tom Kirdahy, Roy Furman, Paula Wagner & Debbie Bisno, Barbara Freitag & Loraine Alterman Boyle, Hunter Arnold, Paul Boskind, Ken Davenport, Lams Productions, Mark Lee & Ed Filipowski, Roberta Pereira/Brunish-Trinchero, Sanford Robertson, Tom Smedes & Peter Stern, Jack Thomas/Susan Dietz

 

outsidemullingarlogoOutside Mullingar

Author:  John Patrick Shanley

Producers:  Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove

 

Best Musical

 

After Midnight

After Midnight LogoProducers:  Scott Sanders Productions, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Furman, Candy Spelling, Starry Night Entertainment, Hal Newman, Allan S. Gordon/Adam S. Gordon, James L. Nederlander, Robert K. Kraft, Catherine and Fred Adler, Robert Appel, Jeffrey Bolton, Scott M. Delman, James Fantaci, Ted Liebowitz, Stephanie P. McClelland, Sandy Block, Carol Fineman, Marks-Moore-Turnbull Group, Stephen & Ruth Hendel, Tom Kirdahy

 

aladdinlogoAladdin

Producers:  Disney Theatrical Productions, Thomas Schumacher

 

 

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

beautifullogoProducers:  Paul Blake, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Jeffrey A. Sine, Richard A. Smith, Mike Bosner, Harriet N. Leve/Elaine Krauss, Terry Schnuck, Orin Wolf, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Roger Faxon, Larry Magid, Kit Seidel, Lawrence S. Toppall, Fakston Productions/Mary Solomon, William Court Cohen, John Gore, BarLor Productions, Matthew C. Blank, Tim Hogue, Joel Hyatt, Marianne Mills, Michael J. Moritz, Jr., StylesFour Productions, Brunish & Trinchero, Jeremiah J. Harris

 

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

LoveandMurder logoProducers:  Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson, 50 Church Street Productions, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Jay Alix & Una Jackman, Catherine & Fred Adler, Rhoda Herrick, Kathleen K. Johnson, Megan Savage, ShadowCatcher Entertainment, Ron Simons, True Love Productions, Jamie deRoy, Four Ladies & One Gent, John Arthur Pinckard, Greg Nobile, Stewart Lane & Bonnie Comley, Exeter Capital/Ted Snowdon, Ryan Hugh Mackey, Cricket-CTM Media/Mano-Horn Productions, Dennis Grimaldi/Margot Astrachan, Hello Entertainment/Jamie Bendell, Michael T. Cohen/Joe Sirola, Joseph & Carson Gleberman/William Megevick, Green State Productions, The Hartford Stage, The Old Globe

 

Best Revival of a Play

 

The Cripple of Inishmaan

cripplelogoProducers:  Michael Grandage Company, Arielle Tepper Madover, L.T.D. Productions, Stacey Mindich, Starry Night Entertainment, Scott M. Delman, Martin McCallum, Stephanie P. McClelland, Zeilinger Productions, The Shubert Organization

 

 

The Glass Menagerie

glassmenagerie logoProducers:  Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart Jr.,  Jerry Frankel, Lou Spisto/Lucky VIII, INFINITY Stages, Scott M. Delman, Jam Theatricals, Mauro Taylor, Rebecca Gold, Michael Palitz, Charles E. Stone, Will Trice, GFour Productions, American Repertory Theater

 

 

 

A Raisin in the Sun

raisin3logoProducers:  Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Eli Bush, Jon B. Platt, Scott M. Delman, Roy Furman, Stephanie P. McClelland, Ruth Hendel, Sonia Friedman/Tulchin Bartner, The Araca Group, Heni Koenigsberg, Daryl Roth, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson

 

Twelfth Night

Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night on Broadway

Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night on Broadway

Producers:  Sonia Friedman Productions, Scott Landis, Roger Berlind, Glass Half Full Productions/Just for Laughs Theatricals, 1001 Nights Productions, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Jane Bergère, Paula Marie Black, Rupert Gavin, Stephanie P. McClelland, Shakespeare’s Globe Centre USA, Max Cooper, Tanya Link Productions, Shakespeare Road, Shakespeare’s Globe

 

Best Revival of a Musical

 

hedwigandtheangryinchlogoHedwig and the Angry Inch

Producers:  David Binder, Jayne Baron Sherman, Barbara Whitman, Latitude Link, Patrick Catullo, Raise the Roof, Paula Marie Black, Colin Callender, Ruth Hendel, Sharon Karmazin, Martian Entertainment, Stacey Mindich, Eric Schnall, The Shubert Organization

 

LesMislogoLes Misérables

Producer:  Cameron Mackintosh

 

 

 

violet logoViolet

Producers:  Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Harold Wolpert, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, David Mirvish, Barry and Fran Weissler, Elizabeth Armstrong, Mary Jo and Ted Shen

 

Best Book of a Musical

Aladdin

Chad Beguelin

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

Douglas McGrath

Bullets Over Broadway

Woody Allen

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Robert L. Freedman


Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Aladdin

Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin

The Bridges of Madison County

Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Music: Steven Lutvak
Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak

If/Then

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Chris O’Dowd, Of Mice and Men
Mark Rylance, Richard III
Tony Shalhoub, Act One


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
Andy Karl, Rocky
Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
Sutton Foster, Violet
Idina Menzel, If/Then
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Kelli O’Hara, The Bridges of Madison County


Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina


Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Danny Burstein, Cabaret
Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical


Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Linda Emond, Cabaret
Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Anika Larsen, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder


Best Scenic Design of a Play

Beowulf Boritt, Act One
Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
Es Devlin, Machinal
Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan


Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway


Best Costume Design of a Play

Jane Greenwood, Act One
Michael Krass, Machinal
Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night


Best Costume Design of a Musical

Linda Cho, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Isabel Toledo, After Midnight


Best Lighting Design of a Play

Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Jane Cox, Machinal
Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men


Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
Howell Binkley, After Midnight
Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County


Best Sound Design of a Play

Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
Matt Tierney, Machinal


Best Sound Design of a Musical

Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
Tim O’Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Mick Potter, Les Misérables
Brian Ronan, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical

 

Best Direction of a Play

Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie


Best Direction of a Musical

Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Leigh Silverman, Violet
Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder


Best Choreography

Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Steven Hoggett & Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin

Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

 

Best Orchestrations

Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Steve Sidwell, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

 

* * *

 

Recipients of Awards and Honors in Non-competitive Categories

 

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre

Jane Greenwood

 

Regional Theatre Award

Signature Theatre, New York, N.Y.

 

Isabelle Stevenson Award

Rosie O’Donnell

 

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre

Joseph P. Benincasa

Joan Marcus

Charlotte Wilcox

 

* * *

 

Tony Nominations by Production

 

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder – 10

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – 8

After Midnight – 7

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – 7

The Glass Menagerie – 7

Twelfth Night – 7

Bullets Over Broadway – 6

The Cripple of Inishmaan – 6

Act One – 5

Aladdin – 5

A Raisin in the Sun – 5

The Bridges of Madison County – 4

Casa Valentina – 4

Machinal – 4

Rocky – 4

Violet – 4

Les Misérables – 3

All The Way – 2

Cabaret – 2

If/Then – 2

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill – 2

Mothers and Sons – 2

Of Mice and Men – 2

A Night with Janis Joplin – 1

Outside Mullingar – 1

Richard III – 1

The Velocity of Autumn – 1

#TonyAwards
http://www.TonyAwards.com

Here is the video of the announcement with surprise visit from Hugh Jackman, and announcement by Jonathan Groff and Lucy Liu

This is what the nominations announcement looked like last year:

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Review: Neil Patrick Harris Rules, and Rocks, and Licks.

As Hedwig, a bewigged, be-glittered and bewildered “internationally ignored song stylist,” the performer Neil Patrick Harris — who has been anything but ignored in a protean 25-year entertainment career – doesn’t just rock, and roll, and roar, and rule. He also licks…as a form of tribute — more than once.

Soon after he’s descended onto the stage in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Harris honors the storied history of Broadway’s Belasco Theater: He’s “being supported by the same groaning planks,” he shouts “that cradled Brando’s debut and Barrymore’s farewell; where Tim Curry cracked wise and Mark Rylance batted his eyes.” That’s when he leans down and licks the stage. “Tastes like Kathy Griffin,” he says.

But that’s not his last lick.  Later, he lasciviously licks his bandmate’s guitar.

And there we have, in two licks, what is so impressive about this first Broadway production of a show that began life 20 years ago in a downtown drag-punk club called Squeezebox.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a cleverly satirical, layered (and lewd) work of theater steeped in both popular culture and Western tradition (The song “Origin of Love” is based on Aristophanes’ speech from Plato’s Symposium.) But it is simultaneously a thrilling rock concert – exciting enough on its sequined surface to satisfy glam-rock fans (or Neil Patrick Harris fans) who don’t speak a word of English.

Everything works in concert here: Harris’s high-energy performance; playwright John Cameron Mitchell’s updated script; Stephen Trask’s 10 loud, tuneful, propulsive songs (see song list below); the inspired direction by Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening,” “American Idiot”); the trailer-park wigs and glam-punk makeup by Mike Potter; the sexy, silly, in-your-face costumes designed by Arianne Phillips, who is making her Broadway debut but did the costumes for the 2001 movie adaptation of “Hedwig” and – more to the point – is Madonna’s long-time stylist, putting together the look of her concert tours. Particular kudos go to Julian Crouch, Kevin Adams and Benjamin Pearcy – the set, lighting and projection designers, respectively – for brilliantly translating this initially intimate work for the Broadway stage.

I had the pleasure of seeing “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” when it premiered Off-Broadway in 1998 in the then deceptively named Jane Street Theater; it was really more a site specific performance in a flophouse of a hotel in the pre-chi-chi Meatpacking District. We sat just a few feet away from John Cameron Mitchell performing the character he had created, as he sang and spat out Hedwig’s sad/shocking/(deliberately absurd) story:

Born Hansel in East Berlin, he met an American military officer named Luther, who wanted to marry him and bring him home to the United States, if he underwent a sex change operation. It was botched — hence the “angry inch” – and soon Luther abandoned the newly-named Hedwig in Kansas. Divorced, scraping by, Hedwig worked as a baby sitter, which is how he met Tommy. “I had recently returned to my first love, music. I had tried singing once back in Berlin. They threw tomatoes. After the show I had a nice salad. But newly motivated, I bought a cheap electric piano.” Hedwig taught Tommy everything she knew about music. But Tommy, too, abandoned Hedwig, and became a big rock star using Hedwig’s melodies. Now Hedwig and his band, the Angry Inch, were performing in this dive of a hotel while at the same time, coincidentally, his former protégé was holding a giant concert at Giants Stadium (called his “Tour of Atonement,” for reasons you’ll have to see the show to find out.) Tommy’s concert was right across the river, and distinctly audible. The contrast was meant to be humiliating.

In the Broadway production, Hedwig and his band are no longer performing in a downtown dive but at the beautiful Belasco on Broadway, which opens up an opportunity for an elaborate and pretty good joke: They are able to perform at the Belasco because the evening before saw the opening of “Hurt Locker: The Musical,” which closed at intermission. (Parody Playbills of “Hurt Locker: The Musical” were scattered on the seats as we entered the theater.)  Hedwig and his band are performing on the set of the shut-down musical, which allows for Crouch’s stunning and hilarious opening tableau: a proscenium full of detritus hanging in the air as if an explosion had been captured by one of those state-of-the-art high-speed cameras.

Meanwhile, now, instead of performing in Giants Stadium, Tommy is holding an outdoor concert in Times Square.  Quibblers have complained that this adjustment doesn’t make much sense – the Belasco is hardly a humiliatingly low-rent venue in contrast. But their complaints don’t make much sense to me, because the story makes no sense to begin with; it’s not supposed to make any sense: It’s satire that’s over the top and in your face, a kind of blunt performance art.

The creative team has smartly realized that the way to translate this subversive, foul-mouthed downtown show to Broadway is by turning it into a spectacle.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Neil Patrick Harris is singlehandedly responsible for the thrill of this show, overlooking the excellent Lena Hall as Hedwig’s drag-king husband Yithak, the terrific “Angry Inch” musicians, Kevin Adams’ pulsating light show, Spencer Liff’s sinuous choreography. That is because the wholesome child TV star of “Doogie Howser  MD” and adult star of “How I Met Your Mother,”  the charming host of Tony and Emmy Awards, the experienced Broadway veteran, last time on Broadway exactly ten years ago in Sondheim’s “Assassins,” seems, for the 90 minutes of this spectacular show, to have become Neil Patrick Hedwig.

 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Belasco Theater.

Book by John Cameron Mitchell; music and lyrics by Stephen Trask; directed by Michael Mayer; musical staging by Spencer Liff; sets by Julian Crouch; costumes by Arianne Phillips; lighting by Kevin Adams; wig and makeup design by Mike Potter; sound by Tim O’Heir; projections by Benjamin Pearcy for 59 Productions; dialect coach, Stephen Gabis; music supervisor/coordinator, Ethan Popp; music director, Justin Craig; vocal supervisor, Liz Caplan

Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig), Lena Hall (Yitzhak) and Justin Craig, Matt Duncan, Tim Mislock and Peter Yanowitz (the Angry Inch)

Tickets: $49.00 – $152.00

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is scheduled to run through August 17.

Song list:

Tear Me Down

The Origin of Love

Sugar Daddy

Angry Inch

Wig in a Box

Wicked Little Town

The Long Grift

Hedwig’s Lament

Exquisite Corpse

Wicked Little Town (Reprise)

Midnight Radio

 

Casa Valentina Review: Straight Men in Dresses On Broadway

It is no surprise that Harvey Fierstein is the one who authored “Casa Valentina,” a remarkably well-acted if overheated and under-cooked play about a 1960’s Catskills resort for heterosexual men who liked to wear dresses. In his Broadway debut 32 years ago, Fierstein wrote and starred in  “Torch Song Trilogy,” portraying a drag queen longing for the same three things everybody in New York wants – an affordable apartment, a job that’s bearable, and somebody to share it all with – as well as an implicit desire to be accepted as is.  Since then, Fierstein has helped turn his fascination with cross-dressers into something of an industry-wide trend – writing the book for the musicals  “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Kinky Boots,” and playing Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray.” He even portrayed Robin Williams’ brother, a makeup artist who transforms Williams into the title character of the film “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Most of his dress-wearing characters seem to have a different primary “want” than the original Arnold Beckoff in “Torch Song Trilogy” – above all, they want to entertain. But now, with his first non-musical Broadway play in three decades, Fierstein returns admirably to his first impulse – to acquaint theatergoers with precisely observed characters from a little-known world.

It is 1962, and a married couple run the Chevalier d’Eon Resort in the Catskills. George is portrayed by Patrick Page, the best thing about both Spider-Man and A Time To Kill , and his wife Rita is played by Mare Winningham, the former brat pack movie idol who has lately made a splash on the New York stage, in such works as Tribes, After The Revolution and Picnic. When George is dressed as a woman, her name becomes Valentina. One by one we meet their six guests, all married men here by themselves to relax as women for the weekend. Jonathon (Gabriel Ebert, who won a Tony playing Mr. Wormwood in Matilda) is a newbie. Most of the others are regulars. Tom McGowan plays short, stout Bessie, an Army Sergeant with three grown children who spouts Oscar Wilde and otherwise cracks wise. The handsome Nick Westrate portrays the beautiful Gloria. The accomplished veteran actors Reed Birney, John Cullum and Larry Pine each play distinctive and very different characters. The greatest strength of “Casa Valentina”  is how it defies the long tradition of cross-dressing as comic shtick  and implicitly asks us to respect these characters – some of whom, let’s face it, appear awkward and faintly ludicrous in costume designer Rita Ryack’s dresses. It is a testament to Fierstein’s writing, Joe Mantello’s direction and above all the acting by this terrific cast that we have no problem treating them seriously.

The play is engaging when we get glimpses into the lives of each man through their reminiscing and simply by seeing them changing from their male to their female identities. Jonathon explains how “Miranda” first emerged in his life when he was a young child, and how, on his wedding night, he put on his bride’s wedding dress. His wife caught him, and laughed, thinking he had done it as a joke, and grateful that her new husband finally showed that he had a sense of humor. Jonathon has not put on women’s clothes in front of her again, waiting until she is out of the house, and dressing only as Miranda in the windowless basement…until this weekend. The other guests offer makeup and other tips to Jonathon to turn him into Miranda

But the playwright clearly figured that such scenes were not enough for a full-length drama, and so injects some conflict…a plot…some melodrama.

The resort is going bankrupt, and Valentina hopes to have it rescued by Charlotte (Birney), who is the editor of a nation-wide movement magazine, with a readership of heterosexual cross-dressers who might flock to the resort upon Charlotte’s endorsement.  Charlotte is very taken with her own activism — “Not to toot my own horn, but there’s a Christ-like element to my journey.” This is just an early clue of what eventually becomes unavoidably clear: Charlotte is the villain. (Her resemblance to the cigarette-smoking Bette Davis of the later melodramas may not be coincidental.)

Charlotte insists that the members of this new East Coast chapter of her organization, The Sorority, publicly reveal their identities, and that they sign an affidavit affirming that they are not homosexual: “Our goal is to see the laws against cross dressing expunged for once and for all. As long as transvestite is synonymous with homosexual it will never happen. No decent society will ever welcome us.”

What ensues is a debate. The best line in the debate (albeit stacked), again from Charlotte: “Fifty years from now, when homosexuals are still scuttling about as the back-alley vermin of society, cross dressing will be as everyday as cigarette smoking.”

Theoretically such a discussion should be intriguing, but it goes on way too long; it’s as if the play had been hijacked for an organizational meeting or a  hearing. (Even Rita comments: “Are we running a resort or Congress?”)

Meanwhile, George/Valentina is also in legal trouble; a postal inspector has interrogated him about an envelope mailed to him full of cross-dressing, homosexual pornographic images – images meant for somebody else at the resort, although it is not clear who…initially. Charlotte’s villainy comes to full flower in the resolution of this melodrama, complete with blackmail, violence, emotional confrontation… .the end of Paradise (with many unsubtle allusions to the Garden of Eden.)

Notes in the program and at the end of the script by the playwright and the director make clear that “Casa Valentina” is based on an actual bungalow colony (which is now a summer camp for Hasidic families!) and that at least some of the characters were drawn from real people. The Sorority – officially Tri-Ess, the Society for the Second Self – is an actual organization that currently has 30 chapters. We are even offered the beginnings of a glossary: “The gentlemen in our play are not drag queens or female impersonators.” Much of this is interesting; some of it provokes more questions than it answers. None of it guarantees a satisfying work of theater.

 

Casa Valentina

Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, New York

Written by Harvey Fierstein

Directed by Joe Mantello

Set design by Scott Pask, lighting design by Justin Townsend, costume design by Rita Ryack, music and sound design by Fitz Patton, fight direction by Thomas Schall

Cast: Reed Birney, John Cullum, Gabriel Ebert, Lisa Emery, Tom McGowan, Patrick Page, Larry Pine, Nick Westrate, Mare Winningham

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, including an intermission.

Tickets: $67.00 – $125.00 

Casa Valentina is set to run through June 15

Of Mice and Men Review: James Franco, Chris O’Dowd Relive the Great Depression

There are more unemployed Americans now than there were when “Of Mice and Men” debuted on Broadway in 1937, making its third-ever production on Broadway something more than just an excuse to debate the performance of the multitalented, multitasking James Franco in his Broadway debut. Some, oddly, seem to dismiss the relevance of John Steinbeck’s work because it’s assigned regularly in high school, or because its two main characters, the itinerant, homeless farm workers George and Lennie, have become such familiar figures in our culture.
There is no denying that some elements of the play are an alienating reminder of outmoded values from the past, and other aspects seem not so much outdated as clunky or strange. But there is still power in this look at a desperate era, last seen on Broadway 40 years ago. Director Anna D. Shapiro has assembled a splendid design team and a competent 10-member cast, with a surprising, stand-out performance by Chris O’Dowd as Lennie.
We first see Lennie and his far smarter friend and protector George (Franco) out in the sandy bank of the Salinas River, with a spectacular setting sun (courtesy of lighting designer Japhy Weideman), that is somehow hemmed in both above and below by overhanging rock — the first of the solid sets by Todd Rosenthal that are both evocative and symbolic.
O’Dowd is impressively transformed – unrecognizable — as Lennie, a hulking giant of a man, mentally disabled, who doesn’t know his own strength; the two men are on the road again, in effect on the lam, because of his child-like attraction to beautiful things. As George later explains: “Dumb bastard like he is he wants to touch everything he likes. Jest wants to feel of it. So he reaches out to feel this red dress” – except a young woman was wearing it. It is a foreshadowing of the tragedy to come after they arrive at the ranch where they’ve been newly hired as hands.
George and Lennie have been friends since childhood, and their friendship is remarked upon as something unusual by nearly every other character in the play – as if Steinbeck were saying that isolation and loneliness are standard in tough times.
The hands “never seem to give a damn about nobody,” says Slim (Jim Parrack.)
The two friends share a dream – to get a little land of their own.
Crooks, one of the other ranch hands, at first dismisses it bitterly: “Everybody wants a little piece of land. Nobody gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.” But then he too wants in on their dream. Ron Cephas Jones is spot-on in his portrayal of Crooks, a resentful African-American man who is banned from the bunkhouse because of his race.
The attitude of the play towards Crooks is far less problematic for modern sensibilities than that towards Curley’s wife, credibly portrayed by Leighton Meester, best-known as the star of Gossip Girl. She, like Franco and O’Dowd, is making her Broadway debut. George and most of the other ranch hands at various times call her a bitch, a tart, and a tramp – which could be Steinbeck’s comment on the attitudes of George and the other men, except the woman is not even given a name: She’s just “Curley’s Wife.” Whatever the playwright’s intention, the director and the actress have chosen, wisely I think, to tilt us towards thinking the men all sexist by playing down the character’s sexuality.
The key to appreciating “Of Mice and Men” is in focusing on each individual character, and seeing how they illustrate the meaning behind the play’s title, which derives from a Scottish poem by Robert Burns in 1785:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley [often go wrong]
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Jim Norton is touching as old man Candy who lost a hand in an accident and now feels as ancient and useless as his dog, who was once a great sheepherder, but now stinks so badly the other hands want to shoot him. His predicament recalls
the popular song from the 1930’s:

Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

There might be something incongruous in the role of humorless, impatient George being taken on by the hip, mischievous actor James Franco — a star of the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks; of films as diverse as Milk , the Spider-Man franchise, 127 Hours, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes; and the star as well of many art projects and clever/misbegotten Instagrams. His performance in “Of Mice and Men” is ultimately disappointing; in the climactic scenes, he exhibits a screen presence, centered on stoic facial expressions, when what’s called for is a formidable stage presence: We need to see his entire body expressing the emotion of the moment. But this amounts to little more than a quibble for two reasons. His natural magnetism fits the character for the bulk of the play. And it is surely thanks to him and his adventurous spirit that this new worthwhile production of “Of Mice and Men” exists at all.

Of Mice and Men
At the Longacre Theater
By John Steinbeck; directed by Anna D. Shapiro; sets by Todd Rosenthal; costumes by Suttirat Larlarb; lighting by Japhy Weidman; sound by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen; music by David Singer; fight direction by Thomas Schall; hair and wig design by Charles G. Lapointe.
Cast: James Franco (George), Chris O’Dowd (Lennie), Leighton Meester (Curley’s Wife), Ron Cephas Jones (Crooks), Alex Morf (Curley), Joel Marsh Garland (Carlson), James McMenamin (Whit), Jim Ortlieb (the Boss), Jim Parrack (Slim) and Jim Norton (Candy).
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, including one intermission.
Tickets: $37.00 – $147.00
“Of Mice and Men” is scheduled to run until July 27, 2014

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Reviews and Photographs: Neil Patrick Harris Rocks Broadway In A Dress

Neil Patrick Harris stars as an “internationally ignored” East German transgender rock singer in the first Broadway production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask that began life 20 years ago in a downtown drag-punk club called Squeezebox.

The musical’s name is also the name of the band, whose lead singer, Hedwig (Harris), tells his over-the-top story in some dozen rock songs and the monologues in-between. Harris, best-known for his roles on the TV shows “Doogie Howser  MD” and “How I Met Your Mother” and for his hosting duties on the Tony and Emmy Awards, has performed in three previous Broadway productions.the last time in Sondheim’s “Assassins,” which opened April 22, 2004 ten years ago to the day that “Hedwig” is opening at the Belasco.

What did the critics think?

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater:  Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a cleverly satirical, layered (and lewd) work of theater steeped in both popular culture and Western tradition (The song “Origin of Love” is based on Aristophanes’ speech from Plato’s Symposium.) But it is simultaneously a thrilling rock concert – exciting enough on its sequined surface to satisfy glam-rock fans (or Neil Patrick Harris fans) who don’t speak a word of English. Everything works in concert here: Harris’s high-energy performance; playwright John Cameron Mitchell’s updated script; Stephen Trask’s 10 loud, tuneful, propulsive songs; the inspired direction by Michael Mayer…

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “a pile of toxic swill..pointless androgynous freak show …Mr. Harris has many talents, but I have no idea what attracted him to this creepfest, staged by Michael Mayer with a G-string sledgehammer.”

Ben Brantley, New York Times:  “Do not be alarmed by recent reports that Neil Patrick Harris, an irresistibly wholesome television presence, has fallen deeply and helplessly into the gap that separates men from women, East from West, and celebrity from notoriety. There’s no need to fear for his safety, much less his identity. Quite the contrary. Playing an “internationally ignored song stylist” of undefinable gender in“Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” Mr. Harris is in full command of who he is and, most excitingly, what he has become with this performance. That’s a bona fide Broadway star, the kind who can rule an audience with the blink of a sequined eyelid…while Mr. Harris may let you see him sweat as he struts, slithers and leaps through this shamelessly enjoyable show, rousingly directed by Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening,” “American Idiot”), he never makes it feel like heavy lifting.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Director Michael Mayer has been twice blessed. He has an undervalued score — some of the 10 songs here like “Wicked Little Town,” ”Origin of Love” and “Wig in a Box” deserve to be on iPods everywhere — and a stunning leading man who is willing to eat cigarettes and lick the stage ….Rarely does a role fit a performer so well. Harris is funny, twisted, poignant, outrageous, bizarre, silly and very, very human.”

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The screaming starts when a bespangled Neil Patrick Harris parachutes onstage in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and doesn’t stop until he’s back in his dressing room. That’s the kind of rock-star performance he gives in this spectacular revival… It’s astonishing how polished a physical performance Harris gives. Channeling his inner Rockette, along with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed by way of the Ramones, he carries off some advanced dance and acrobatic moves, while showing a lot of shapely leg.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: “Harris is beyond fabulous, holds nothing back and plays it any way but safe in Michael Mayer‘s exhilarating production…As to the other question of how the scrappy, subversive 1998 cult performance piece about gender identity, transformation and pop mythology would sit on Broadway, the show, its protagonist and her pulse-pounding band tear up the Belasco stage like they own it. If screaming rock concert-style veneration is not your thing, stay home.”

Elizabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: 3 out of 4 stars:  In cutoff denim shorts, teetering platforms and gigantic blond hair, he relentlessly prowls the stage, occasionally lunging into the audience for a lap dance or two. But it all feels a little too rehearsed, and Harris doesn’t look entirely comfortable clambering over the bombed-out set. Only when he finally clicks with the material — as on the heartbreaking “Wig in a Box,” about the process of becoming someone else — is the show suddenly worth the effort he’s poured into it.

Matthew Murray, Talkin’ Broadway: “With Hedwig less a has-been on the way out than a hasn’t-yet-been on the way up, the emotional surge that should drive the show is absent.. [Neil Patrick Harris's] aching sweetness and deft ad-libbing about everything from drum fills to David Belasco’s ghost draw you in….For what’s supposed to be an acquired taste, this time around [Hedwig is] certainly content with being as bland as her surroundings allow.”

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: A- “Purists may balk at Harris’ punk-lite vocals on Trask’s infectiously rockin’ score — he’s less Iggy, more pop — and his threats to ”cut you, bitch” come off with more of a wink than actual menace. But in a bravura performance, the actor proves the perfect instrument for Hedwig’s transition into world-class superstardom. He’s honed his showmanship on four Tony Awards gigs, of course. But he’s looser here, and lewder, more spontaneous and quick on his pumps.”

Matt Windham, AMNY, 3 1/2 stars out of four: “While no one can doubt Harris’ fierce theatricality, strong voice and expert handling of the comedy aspects, his Hedwig has yet to come together as a fully-developed, vulnerable character. But given the role’s extreme complexity and grueling physical demands, that’s more than understandable. Chances are that his performance will improve as the run continues. The new setting affects the show’s credibility. Would a strange, struggling performer really be invited to perform on a Broadway stage? But as it is, this remains a wildly enjoyable production of one of the most exciting and inventive rock musicals of all time.  

David Cote, Time Out New York, five stars out of five:  “Harris makes Broadway rock harder than it ever has before….”


Brendan Lemon, Financial Times, four stars out of five: “Audiences….have come to see Harris, a major American television star owing to How I Met Your Mother, give glam rock a workout. But the evening, even with the longueurs of its storytelling, manages to make us think about not just gender-based aspects of love but also the cold war, cheap American pop music, and the price of fame.

 

Here are photographs from the production. Click on any one to see it enlarged.

 

 

 

The Velocity of Autumn Review: Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella Fight, Age

With the best title of any Broadway play this season, two always-impressive actors as the cast, and a theme of loss and aging that hits close to home, “The Velocity of Autumn” is the sort of play you want to root for, even when its premise is preposterous, and its outcome predictable.
Estelle Parsons plays Alexandra, a 79-year-old painter who has barricaded herself in her Park Slope brownstone, and filled her parlor with Molotov Cocktails, holding her father’s ancient zippo lighter at the ready, although as Eric Coble’s play begins, she has fallen asleep.
Suddenly, we see a man, a pony-tailed aging hippie, climbing up the mammoth tree outside her home, and entering through the window.
Alexandra wakes up and screams.
“Hey mom,” the intruder greets her.
Chris (Stephen Spinella), who is also an artist (albeit working in a shoe store) and the youngest of Alexandra’s three children, has been estranged from the family for decades, but he has come for a visit, at the urging of his two siblings, to try to convince his mother to stop threatening to blow up the block.
She is doing so because her children are worried about her lapses, and wonder whether she might not be better off in a nursing home. If Alexandra is feeling old, it is all the more so because of the way her children treat her.
In the conversation that follows over 90 intermission-less minutes, we get some insights that feel spot-on about what it feels like to be aging – the indignities, the unexplained aches, the constant surprises, the hidden benefits that one could do without: “One of the few pleasures, I have to say, of growing old,” Alexandra says wryly at one point, “is that I can re-read some of my favorite mysteries and still have no idea who’s going to do it.”
In “The Velocity of Autumn,” we sense who’s not going to do it within the first few minutes. The playwright’s plot device can’t stand up to even a few seconds of scrutiny. But at his best, Coble, making his Broadway debut, offers a line or an exchange odd or intriguing enough to feel like just compensation for the missing dramatic tension. Chris’s being gay was not a “dealbreaker” to his father, the widow Alexandra explains. “It just made him uncomfortable. Like Gorgonzola cheese. … Your father was a big cheese fan. You must remember that. ‘Milk’s bid for immortality’. That’s what he used to say.” What follows is a long, loopy story about the father’s unfortunate encounters with Gorgonzola cheese.
“So my being gay was like distasteful cheese to him,” Chris says after a moment.
“I’d say so, yes.”
“I have no idea how to respond to that.”
Spinella, who made his remarkable Broadway debut as Prior Walter in Angels in America some two decades ago, is enough of a pro to make the most of Chris’s monologues full of yearning and regrets, and he seems the right choice to match up with Estelle Parsons, whose most indelible performances include her roles in the movie Bonnie and Clyde, and in the play August: Osage County, one of some 30 Broadway productions in which she’s appeared over more than half a century. She can turn any part into something worth watching, and she certainly can handle a woman who’s fighting to keep from falling apart. That indeed is the underlying irony behind “The Velocity of Autumn.” Parsons is actually older than her character by seven years, but we never quite believe she’s capable of falling apart.

The Velocity of Autumn

Booth Theater

by Eric Coble. Directed by Molly Smith. Scenic design by Eugene Lee. Costume design by Linda Cho. Lighting design by Rui Rita. Sound design by Darron L. West.
Cast: Estelle Parsons, Stephen Spinella
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: 65 to 135

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