Advertisements

Trump’s Entire Arts Committee Resigns With Secret Message: RESIST

All 17 members of The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned today to protest President Trump’s comments on the events last weekend in Charlottesville, as The Washington Post reported this morning.  

John Lloyd Young

John Lloyd Young, Tony-winning actor, and one of the 17 who resigned.

Since the committee is “an official agency”, (former) member the actor Kal Penn pointed out on Twitter, “that makes this the 1st White House . department to resign.”

What neither Penn nor the Post mentioned was the coded message embedded in the five-paragraph letter (Scroll to the bottom if you can’t wait for the code):

August 18, 2017

Dear Mr. President:

Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions. We are members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The Committee was created in 1982 under President Reagan to advise the White House on cultural issues. We were hopeful that continuing to serve in the PCAH would allow us to focus on the important work the committee does with your federal partners and the private sector to address, initiate, and support key policies and programs in the arts and humanities for all Americans. Effective immediately, please accept our resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American. We have fought slavery, segregation, and internment. We must learn from our rich and often painful history. The unified fabric of America is made by patriotic individuals from backgrounds as vast as the nation is strong. In our service to the American people, we have experienced this first-hand as we traveled and built the Turnaround Arts education program, now in many urban and rural schools across the country from Florida to Wisconsin.

Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President. But it is our role as commissioners on the PCAH to do so. Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both. You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding. The Administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, filed an amicus brief undermining the Civil Rights Act, and attacked our brave trans service members. You have subverted equal protections, and are committed to banning Muslims and refugee women & children from our great country. This does not unify the nation we all love. We know the importance of open and free dialogue through our work in the cultural diplomacy realm, most recently with the first-ever US Government arts and culture delegation to Cuba, a country without the same First Amendment protections we enjoy here. Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed.

Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.

Thank you,

Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb, Vicki Kennedy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Kalpen Modi (Kal Penn), Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein, John Lloyd Young

The code: The first letter of each paragraph spells out RESIST.

Always artists!

George-C.-Wolfe

Theater artists George C. Wolfe was the 17th and last member of the President’s committee to resign

Advertisements

Broadway Poll: Favorite Fall 2017 Show?

Broadway Fall 2017 collageChoose the show that you are most looking forward to. The list below is for shows that have opening dates on Broadway from September 2017 to January 2018 as of this writing, and they are listed chronologically by opening date.
For more information about any of the shows, read my Broadway 2017-2018 Preview Guide.

Best of Broadway in Bryant Park 2017: Rachelle Ann Go, Andy Karl, Betsy Wolfe

Below are the six most popular videos I shot of the performances during the six weekly concerts this 17th summer of Broadway in Bryant Park.

The Boss on Broadway. RIP Barbara Cook. Bye Great Comet, Bandstand. Welcome Back Steve Martin, Lea Salonga.Week in NY Theater

 

This has been the week from Hell both in the larger world and in the world of New York theater, but for theater fans also a little bit of Heaven, with the announcements of new shows, new casts, Broadway debuts, some welcome returns — and a community standing together.

Enter contest here  to win two free tickets to Bandstand by answering: What was the most underrated show you’ve ever seen on a New York stage? 

Week in New York Theater Reviews

The Terms of My Surrender

“The Terms of My Surrender” is not just an anti-Trump screed. It is also an oddly eclectic mix of sharp stand-up comedy routine, sketchy sketch comedy, memoir, parody political rally, activist exhortation, parody game show, actual talk show, prank call show, even a strip-tease (don’t ask, I won’t tell – except to say that Moore has an un-credited supporting cast.)

In format, Michael Moore’s live show has little in common with his funny but focused documentaries about specific issues,…It’s more like a scattershot variety show…But the puckish sense of humor will be enough for most of his fans

The Government Inspector

The vain, reckless son of a rich man is suddenly thrust into power by a venal group of citizens marked by their “ugliness, stupidity, greed, cowardice, corruption and sheer unpleasantness.” That’s the premise, more or less, of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play “The Government Inspector,” as interpreted by Red Bull Theater’s broad, bawdy production.

What saves this play from a depressing relevance is the phenomenal physical clowning by Michael Urie

Week in New York Theater News

Barbara Cook, 89

 

Bruce Springsteen will make his Broadway debut this fall with “Springsteen on Broadway,” a solo show at the Walter Kerr Theater, for five performances a week from October 3 through November 26.

“I wanted to do some shows that were as personal and as intimate as possible. I chose Broadway for this project because it has the beautiful old theaters which seemed like the right setting for what I have in mind. In fact, with one or two exceptions, the 960 seats of the Walter Kerr Theatre is probably the smallest venue I’ve played in the last 40 years. My show is just me, the guitar, the piano and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung. It loosely follows the arc of my life and my work.”  He will read from his recently published autobiography, “Born to Run.”

Tickets for “Springsteen on Broadway” will go on sale August 30 at 10am ET exclusively through Ticketmaster Verified Fan®. “This unique fan-first technology levels the playing field to combat bots and get real tickets into the hands of fans who intend to go to the event.”

The Great Comet to Close September 3. Could it have been saved?

.

Amy Schumer and Keegan-Michael Key will be making their Broadway debuts in a new play by Steve Martin, “Meteor Shower,” which will also star Laura Benanti and Alan Tudy, and open November 29th.

“It’s a hot night in Ojai, California, and Corky (Amy Schumer) and her husband Norm (Alan Tudyk) are having another couple over for dinner. But Laura (Laura Benanti) and Gerald (Keegan-Michael Key) aren’t looking for a casual evening of polite small talk with new friends. Eventually, the two couples find themselves in a marital free-fall matched in velocity and peril only by the smoldering space rocks tearing through the sky.”

Bandstand to Close September 17

Errol And Fidel

New York Musical Festival Awards for Excellence 2017

Freedom Riders

“Time and the Conways” will star Elizabeth McGovern as “Mrs. Conway,” Steven Boyer as “Ernest,” Anna Camp as “Hazel,” Gabriel Ebert as “Alan,” Charlotte Parry as “Kay,” and Matthew James Thomas as “Robin,” with Anna Baryshnikov as “Carol,” Brooke Bloom as “Madge,” Alfredo Narciso as “Gerald,” and Cara Ricketts as “Joan.”

In “Escape to Margaritaville,” the Jimmy Buffett musical, Paul Alexander Nolan will lead the company as Tully, and will be joined by Alison Luff as Rachel, Lisa Howard as Tammy, Eric Petersen as Brick, Rema Webb as Marley, Don Sparks as J.D, Andre Ward as Jamal, along with Matt Allen, Tessa Alves, Sara Andreas, Marjorie Failoni, Steven Good, Angela Grovey, Albert Guerzon, Keely Hutton, Justin Keats, Mike Millan, Justin Mortelliti, Ryann Redmond, Ian Michael Stuart, and Brett Thiele.

Theater for a New Audience presents Adrienne Kennedy’s first new play in 9 years, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, Jan 17–Feb 11 2018

Set in Georgia & NYC in 1941,
this new work braids together
the indignities of Jim Crow,
rising Nazism, sexual hypocrisy,
Christopher Marlowe,
and the lingering shadow of
a terrible crime.

 

 

 

Watch Bette Midler interview

 

 

 

The Government Inspector Review: Michael Urie Triumphs Once Again, as Venal Bureaucrat

 

The vain, reckless son of a rich man is suddenly thrust into power by a venal group of citizens marked by their “ugliness, stupidity, greed, cowardice, corruption and sheer unpleasantness.” That’s the premise, more or less, of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play “The Government Inspector,” as interpreted by Red Bull Theater’s broad, bawdy production.

What saves this play from a depressing relevance is the phenomenal physical clowning by Michael Urie.

Michael Urie entered into pop culture consciousness as the catty fashion editor’s assistant Marc St. James in the TV series Ugly Betty a decade ago, but the Juilliard graduate has proven with each successive New York stage role that he was born for theater — The Temperamentals, How to Succeed in Business, Homos or Everyone in America, Show for Days, and especially Buyer and Cellar, the play by Jonathan Tolin in which he plays every part, including that of Barbra Streisand.

Urie is certainly not by himself in “The Government Inspector.” Every one of the 14-member is positively vaudevillian in their portrayals, a testament not only to their own talents but to that of director Jesse Berger. But I was struck by Urie’s singular gift for physical comedy, which I don’t remember seeing from him before — gracefully and athletically bumbling around the stage drunk or suicidal, or full of lust or greed.

Urie portrays Ivan Alexandreyevich Hlestakov, a drunken, whoring wastrel who was fired from his job as a low-level bureaucrat and travels through two-bit towns in 19th century Russia spending his father’s money. The officials and administrators of the particular town in which he is at present visiting get the false intelligence that he is a Government Inspector rooting out corruption and incompetence. They do all they can to win his favor – they wine him, dine him and incessantly bribe him.

The school principal uses as bribe money what he was going to use to buy new books for the school board meeting, but he becomes philosophical: “They can burn old books just as easy.”

The townspeople are even dumber than they are corrupt – it’s a town, as the mayor’s wife points out, “where people eat soup with their hands.” The wife (portrayed by the extravagantly bedecked and hilarious Mary Testa) thinks herself above the rubes with whom she is forced to associate: “Mine was a very cultured upbringing. We had a book, and my mother whistled.”

Her husband the mayor (Michael McGrath at the performance I saw, since replaced) is certainly dumb – given the ceremonial hat to wear, he puts on the hatbox instead – but he may be the only one even more cruel and corrupt. Before he curries favor with the false inspector, his calendar for the day (as read by a minion) consisted of: “Evicted the corporal’s widow. Had the corporal’s widow jailed for vagrancy. Flogged the corporal’s widow.”

Their daughter Marya, as Hlestakov puts it, “talks like she wears a chastity belt, but she acts like she knows a lot of locksmiths.” Her mother chastises her for her blunt language. “Men don’t like a woman with a tongue like yours” she says.

“Oh, really? Ask around.”

Such banter is courtesy of the 2008 adaptation by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, which is so consistently funny that he’s excused for adding a twist at the end that doesn’t make very much sense. After all, so little in the world makes much sense these days that The Government Inspector feels almost as much documentary as farce.

The Government Inspector is on stage until August 20, 2017.

Tickets and details

Ticket Giveaway: Bandstand

Bandstand 11

Win two tickets to see Bandstand for free.  I liked this show, about a 1940’s swing band made up of World War II veterans, for its thrilling choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, who won his third Tony for it (after In The Heights and Hamilton); its catchy, beat-happy original score that pays homage to the big band era of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington; and for its pitch-perfect cast, led by Corey Cott and Laura Osnes, many of whom play their own musical instruments, backed by a swinging 13-member band.

They announced earlier this week that the musical will close on September 17, 2017, having played 24 previews and 166 regular performances  I think the show was underrated, and I am delighted to be able to offer a pair of tickets to it.

Update: Samantha Sheets, the 21st to reply and chose Spring Awakening, won the random drawing for the two tickets.

To enter the contest for the tickets, just answer this question:

What was the most underrated show you’ve ever seen on a New York stage? 

How was it underrated…and why?

The Rules

  1. Please put your answer in the comments at the bottom of this blog post, because I will choose the winner at random, using Random.org, based on the order of your reply, not its content.
  2.  But you must answer the question, complete with explanation and description, or your entry will not be approved for submission.
  3. This contest ends Wednesday August 16, 2017 at midnight Eastern Time, and I will make the drawing no later than noon the next day. You must respond within 12 hours or I will pick another winner.’

Update: You must pick an underrated show.  Please explain how it’s been underrated, not just why you liked it.

The winner will be given two tickets to a weeknight performance of their choosing, subject to availability.

Please sign up to my New York Theater Facebook page

Michael Moore The Terms of My Surrender: Review, Pics, Videos

“The only hope until we kick him out of office is to discombobulate him,” Michael Moore says near the beginning of his playful, pointed and partisan one-man show

..“The Terms of My Surrender” is not just an anti-Trump screed. It is also an oddly eclectic mix of sharp stand-up comedy routine, sketchy sketch comedy, memoir, parody political rally, activist exhortation, parody game show, actual talk show, prank call show, even a strip-tease (don’t ask, I won’t tell – except to say that Moore has an un-credited supporting cast.)

In format, Michael Moore’s live show has little in common with his funny but focused documentaries about specific issues,…It’s more like a scattershot variety show…But the puckish sense of humor will be enough for most of his fans

Read the full review on DC Theatre Scene

 

Four brief excerpts from the show:

 

 

 

 

 

Great Comet to Close September 3. Could It Have Been Saved?

“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” will close September 3, 2017 on Broadway, having played 32 previews and 336 regular performances — a journey that began at the small, experimental Off Broadway theater Ars Nova in 2012, and traveled to site-specific tents before graduating to the Great White Way.

Plans are afoot for a national tour, during 2019 at the earliest

The timing of the announcement provokes some tough questions:

Could the casting of Mandy Patinkin have saved it?

Did the backlash over his casting in support of doom the show?

How essential is a star for an innovative show to survive on Broadway?

Click on any photographs by Chad Batka or Jonathan Mandell to see them enlarged.

 

After Josh Groban left his starring role as Pierre in The Great Comet in July, the producers cast Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, one of the original cast members of Hamilton, to take on the role. Ticket sales went down. In the last week in which Josh Groban performed, ticket grosses exceeded $1.4 million; in the week after, under $900,000; it rose only slightly after Oak took over on July 11th.  This is still more than the show costs each week, but not enough to pay back investors. In response, two weeks later,  Mandy Patinkin was asked to assume the role for three weeks,  cutting Oak’s run to August 13th — but reportedly with the understanding that he would return after Patinkin’s run.

Most publications hurrahed Patinkin’s return to Broadway after 17 years. But Broadway Black observed: “…the abrupt replacement of [Oak’s} role to boost ticket sales raises questions about how Black actors are valued and supported within Broadway.”


Prominent voices such as Cynthia Errivo agreed on social media, and two days later, Patinkin backed out of the show, saying  “I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor.”  But Oak said he would keep the new date of August 13th as his final performance.

“So sorry to have missed the racial optics of it,” Great Comet creator Dave Malloy wrote. But he said sales were “catastrophically low.”

Insiders maintain that the controversy killed the chance of getting a star replacement — who would want to get tainted by the racial politics? — and argued that Malloy’s comment about low ticket sales kept theatergoers from buying any.

Understudy Scott Stangland will assume the role of Pierre after Oak leaves, followed by Dave Malloy for the final two weeks.

RIP Barbara Cook, 89

Barbara Cook, the self-proclaimed poor, naive Southern Belle who became the reigning soprano in the Golden Age of Broadway and then a cabaret and concert hall star of the first magnitude, has died at age 89.

Broadway will dim its lights in her honor on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m.

Read my review of her memoir published just last year., about a life full of 19 Broadway shows, 45 albums, 40 yrs of sobriety — and one glorious golden voice that never failed her.

She would tell students: “Concentrate on what you’re trying to say with this song; the words have to matter.”

 

Barbara Cook in Mostly Sondheim

NYMF Awards for Excellence 2017

Errol and Fidel, Generation Me, and Georama were among the big winners of the 2017 New York Musical Festival Awards for Excellence. Freedom Riders won for both outstanding music and “social relevance and impact.”

The complete list below:

OUTSTANDING MUSIC
Winner: Richard Allen and Taran Gray, Freedom Riders

OUTSTANDING BOOK
Winner: Julie Soto, Generation Me

OUTSTANDING LYRICS
Winner: Matt Schatz with Additional Lyrics by Jack Herrick, Georama: An American Panorama Told on 3 Miles of Canvas

OUTSTANDING OVERALL DESIGN
Winner: Jason H. Thompson, Whitney Locher, Scott Neale, Ann Wrightson, Georama: An American Panorama Told On 3 Miles Of Canvas

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS AND ORCHESTRATIONS
Winner: Doug Oberhamer, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY
Winner: Justin Boccitto, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A LEADING ROLE
Nancy Anderson, THE FOURTH MESSENGER
Milo Manheim, GENERATION ME

Brian Charles Rooney, MISS BLANCHE TELLS IT ALLOUTSTANDING

PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Randy Blair, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
George Psomas, ERROL AND FIDEL
Nattalyee Randall, THE GOREE ALL-GIRL STRING BAND

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE
GENERATION ME. Cast includes Addyson Bell, Jenna Bergman, Laila Drew, Ian Ferrell, Mateo Gonzales, Brett Hargrave, Celia Hottenstein, Milo Manheim, Will Meyers, Julia Nightingale, Anthony Norman, Dante Palminteri, Oscar Revelins, Anabella Ronson-Benenati, Deandre Sevon

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION
West Hyler, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS

BEST MUSICAL SPONSORED BY PLAY-BY-PLAY
GENERATION ME –Book by Julie Soto; Music by Will Finan; Lyrics by Julie Soto; Story by Julie Soto & Ryan Warren

OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE AWARDS:
Janet Aldrich, BEN, VIRGINIA, AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL)
Sydia Cedeño, ERROL AND FIDEL
Ian Ferrell, GENERATION ME
Julia Nightingale, GENERATION ME
Anabella Ronson-Benenati, GENERATION ME
PJ Griffith, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
Harriet D. Foy, MOTHERFREAKINGHOOD! (MATERNAL DISCRETION ADVISED)
Tara Martinez, NIGHT TIDE
Sharon Sachs, NUMBERS NERDS
Carrie Berk, PEACE, LOVE, AND CUPCAKES
Zoe Wilson, PLAY LIKE A WINNER

SPECIAL CITATIONS:
Building a Movement Through Musical Theater: Sheryl Berk, Carrie Berk, Jill Jaysen, and Rick Hip-Flores of PEACE, LOVE, AND CUPCAKES for their partnership with NoBully.org

Theatre for Young Audiences: Matthew McElligott, Tuxbury, Brian Sheldon, and Michael Musial, BACKBEARD

Extraordinary Festival Costume Design: Kurt Alger for BEN, VIRGINIA AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL)

Social Relevance and Impact: Richard Allen and Taran Gray, FREEDOM RIDERS

Festival Achievement in Projection Design: Kevan Loney for his work on BEN, VIRGINIA AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL); GENERATION ME; NUMBERS NERDS; and THE CADAVER SYNOD

 

Check out my preview of the 14th annual New York Musical Festival