Poll: Best Broadway Show Adapted From A Movie?

What is the best Broadway show adapted from a movie? Choose from the two dozen below, listed alphabetically, or add one that’s not on the list.

It wasn’t until 1970 that a Broadway show based on a movie won the Tony for best musical. Fittingly, the musical was Applause, inspired by All About Eve, a movie about the theater. Now every major Hollywood studio has a theatrical division, looking to create shows for Broadway, and every Broadway season includes a number of musicals that are based on movies. Next month alone, four new shows will open on Broadway based on original  movies (whose movie posters are picured above.) Add  to these the seven screen-to-stage adaptations already currently on Broadway.

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How to Transcend a Happy Marriage Review: Sarah Ruhl’s Spiritual Orgy Play with Marisa Tomei and Lena Hall

In Sarah Ruhl’s new play, “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage,” two middle-aged married couples, long-time friends, find themselves fascinated with a young woman nicknamed Pip ( Lena Hall, Tony winner for Hedwig and the Angry Inch) who lives and loves with two men, in what they call a polyamorous relationship, or a throuple, or a triad. The two couples decide to invite the throuple to a New Year’s Eve party.

“And our lives would change forever,” George (short for Georgia), portrayed by Marisa Tomei, says to the theatergoers sitting politely at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater.

It’s not actually clear that their lives do change forever. But ours certainly don’t.

The New Year’s Eve party ends in an orgy, right before intermission. In Act II, Ruhl’s play takes a series of surreal turns, in an apparent but by no means straightforward attempt to tell us something about love and marriage; and the spirit and the flesh; and the conflict between our animal desires and our human duties, as well as our efforts to reconcile these two natures.

Ruhl is a lovely writer, capable of witty aphorisms, sophisticated dialogue, humorous set-ups, and a theatrical sense of wonder. She also has a tendency towards the twee. All this is on display in “How To Transcend a Happy Marriage,” but this play doesn’t come together as effectively as some of her previous theater that touches on similar territory. She has written about love and marriage in my favorite of her plays, “Stage Kiss “; about spiritual matters, in “The Oldest Boy” ; and, in her only play on Broadway so far, “In The Next Room, or the Vibrator Play,” she has written satirically about the conflict between our animal desires and our bourgeois habits.

The strength of “Happy Marriage” is in the characterization of Lena Hall’s Pip, who isn’t just polyamorous. She is a free spirit who slaughters animals when she wants to eat meat, seeing it as the only ethical way to be a meat-eater. She is also taking pole dancing classes. And she is something of a shape-shifter. Hall, best-known for her rock personas, seems the exact right performer for the role.

One problem is that, as reliable and appealing as the rest of the cast is, they are portraying characters that seem deliberately…bland. This even includes Pip’s boyfriends, a mathematician named David (Austin Smith), who talks about Pythagoras, and Freddie (David McElwee), who doesn’t have a job: “It’s kind of a philosophy. I think, I walk. I try not to leave any imprint. Or footprint…I went to Harvard.”

Pip’s liveliness contrasts with the two couples’ banal bourgeois existence. Pip makes a living as a temp at a legal aid office; this is where she met Jane (Robin Weigert ), who works there as a litigator. Her husband Michael (Brian Hutchison) writes jingles. I don’t even remember what the other couple do for a living, except that Marissa Tomei’s George is assigned narrator duties and also gets long ruminative monologues. These sound as if they might be perceptive, but they existed in a spiritual realm somewhere above my head.

Here is what might be a typical exchange during the New Year’s Eve Party, an example of the ways in which “How to Transcend A Happy Marriage” manages to be simultaneously entertaining and tedious:

Pip: The thing about being bisexual that’s tedious is you constantly have to announce yourself. It’s like, if you decide to be a vegetarian, you don’t go around reminding people, well I’m technically an omnivore. You know?

Paul:So if you’re a monogamous bisexual, does that make you a liar all the time?

David: I sort of think so. But monogamy is a construct that will seem passé in the next century. So will race. The whole world will be like Brazil.

George: I love Brazil.

Michael: Pistachios?

Freddie: Yes, please. I love pistachios at a party. Gives you something to do with your hands. I never know what to do with my hands while I make small talk.

All this is before the fanciful twists of the second act, which I shouldn’t describe, although it wouldn’t matter much if I did. I’ll only say they take place in a forest, a jail cell, and in Michael and Jane’s home, and involve woodland creatures, and a teenage daughter, and snow, and lots of hugging.

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
Mitzi Newhouse Theater
Written by Sarah Ruhl. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. Set design by David Zinn, costume design by Susan Hilferty, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, sound design by Matt Hubbs
Cast: Lena Hall as Pip, Brian Hutchison as Michael, David McElwee as Freddie, Omar Metwally as Paul, Naian Gonzalez Norvind as Jenna, Austin Smith as David, Marisa Tomei as George, Robin Weigert as Jane
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission
Tickets: $87
Through May 7, 2017

 

Miss Saigon: Review, pics

The first Broadway revival of Miss Saigon is being marketed as the return of a classic. But, if the show has become an undeniable fan favorite, the production’s impressive visual spectacle, lively staging and crowd-pleasing vocal calisthenics cannot completely mask a script that leans heavily on emotional manipulation and one-dimensional storytelling.

Full review in DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Matthew Murphy or Michael Le Poer Trench to see it enlarged.

Happy Birthday Sondheim and Lloyd Webber: #BroadwayPersists. Trump vs. the Arts. Week in New York Theater

 


Today Stephen Sondheim turns 87 and Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 69. Each has more than one show currently running on New York stages — Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd; Lloyd Webber: Cats, Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, and Sunset Boulevard. Four days ago, John Kander celebrated his 90th birthday.

All three have helped inspire a new generation of theater makers.

In other words, theater persists, in the face of what many would characterize as nothing less than an attack on culture.

New York theatergoers looked to the government this past week for support of the arts – the government of Canada, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended “Come From Away” on Broadway, accompanied by some 600 friends and allies, mostly Canadian, but also a number of UN ambassadors, and Ivanka Trump.

Her father was invited as well, but according to an article in the Washington Post, he said “Absolutely not,” and flew to Nashville instead to visit the gravesite of Andrew Jackson.

That same day, the Ides of March, came news of Trump’s budget plan, which calls for “the elimination of of four independent cultural agencies” – the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (See 4-minute “Donald The Musical” below.)

 

Julie Andrews and daughter Emma Walton Hamilton: Rescue the arts from the budget chopping block

Without art, there is no empathy. Without empathy, there is no justice.~Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, speaking at the annual Hanks Lecture.

15 Great Books About The Theater

Julie Haydon as Laura in The Glass Menagerie, opened March 31, 1945. Its eighth Broadway production opened March 9, 2017.

Broadway Originals of this Season’s Revivals

Week in New York Theater Reviews

The Price

Danny DeVito, making his Broadway debut, gets the best deal out of The Price. Arthur Miller is not a playwright known for comically colorful characters, yet here’s DeVito as Gregory Solomon, a Jewish acrobat turned 89-year-old used furniture dealer who “smoked all my life, I drinked, and I loved every woman who would let me.”

DeVito’s character is the most enjoyable but not a central one in Miller’s sober family drama, now getting its fifth production on Broadway, in a cast that also includes Mark Ruffalo, Jessica Hecht and Tony Shalhoub. If none are at their absolute best here, that only means that all of them at one time or another have given performances that have left me in awe.

 

Week in New York Theater News

The Fantasticks is set to close June 4 after 4390 performances at Jerry Orbach Theater. (Previously it ran 17,162 at Sullivan St Playhouse, opening in 1960)

 

The New Jersey high school that put on “Ragtime” after a controversy over the N-word, wins the “Courage in Theatre” Award from Music Theatre International.

My look at the controversy: The N-Word on Stage

Joshua Harmon, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel, Lucas Hnath, and JT Rogers. (Photo by Chad Griffith)

 

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The First Theatrical Landmark of the Trump Era
Lynn Nottage’s play “Sweat” “opened at the Public Theatre last November, five days before the Presidential election, which gave the country a new fixation: the Rust Belt working class. Who were these people who had cast their lot with Donald Trump? Why had the media—and the Democrats—largely ignored their troubles? Nottage was an unlikely teller of the story: an Ivy League-educated black woman from Brooklyn. “One of the mantras I heard the steelworkers repeat over and over again was ‘We invested so many years in this factory, and they don’t see us. We’re invisible,’ ” Nottage said. “I think it profoundly hurt their feelings.”
…“Sweat” ’s transfer to Studio 54—it is Nottage’s Broadway début—may make it the first theatrical landmark of the Trump era: a tough yet empathetic portrait of the America that came undone. “Most folks think it’s the guilt or rage that destroys us,” one character says. “But I know from experience that it’s shame that eats us away until we disappear.” Nottage wasn’t prescient—she was as shocked as anyone by the election result. But what wasn’t shocking “was the extent of the pain,” she told me. “These were people who felt helpless, who felt like the American dream that they had so deeply invested in had been suddenly ripped away. I was sitting with these white men, and I thought, You sound like people of color in America.”

 

 

RIP Derek Walcott, 87, Nobel Laureate, poet, and playwright of more than 20 plays, including “Dream on Monkey Mountain, “which won an Obie; and “The Capeman,”  a collaboration with Paul Simon on Broadway. He founded Boston Playwrights’ Theatre as a showcase for new plays. ObituaryMore on his playwriting

15 Great Books About The Theater

The 50 best plays and 10 greatest musicals of the last century are all available as books to read, but what are the best books about the theater?

That’s the question I asked in giveaway contests for two books:

 

 

The Great Comet: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway
And


Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World’s Most Beloved Musical

Below are 15 books (one of them in two volumes) selected by the contestants, with some of their comments. Click on the the titles for links to a page where you can learn more about the book, read excerpts, and purchase a copy.

Act One: An Autobiography by Moss Hart

“I picked up the book after I saw the show at Lincoln Center, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Moss, or the show really, before I went in. I left the theatre feeling inspired and rejuvenated with my love for theatre. I read the book in two days and felt even stronger feelings upon finishing it. It’s incredible how vivid his stories are, especially from his childhood. And the book often feels like a novel, not a memoir, because the dialogue is so rich. Easily one of my favorite books about theatre for sure.”

Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim

This contains Stephen Sondheim’s two volumes of annotated lyrics, written separately, Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hat.
Stephen Sondheim has always been my favorite musical theatre composer/lyricist. His collection is an invaluable resource to any Sondheim fan/theatre lover. These books provide an insight of the process of song writing and creating a musical in general and give a brief history of how each of his shows came to be. The West Side Story and Sweeney Todd chapters were especially useful while I was working on productions of those shows for a better understanding of the original work.

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built by Jack Viertel

“It’s such an insightful and thorough look at the insides of the current American musical, and shows the start of such musicals from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim. It truly is a great read.”

“It wowed me earlier this year. I got the book over the holidays and devoured it – I was so impressed by how clearly and intelligently he dissected the American musical. Not only does it work as an analysis of the American musical, but it can serve as a guidebook for creating musicals – what the essential elements are (and how they exist in musicals) and why they work in the creation of a show. It’s a wonderful read, and while it may not be the BEST book (that would probably go to Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hate) but it certainly is one of the most interesting and entertaining I’ve read.”

 

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum

It’s just full of fascinating stories – sometimes the shows that DON’T work are more interesting than those that do, because there are just so many things that can go so terribly wrong…I love seeing the thought processes behind these “failures,” and of course for every so-called flop out there, there’s someone who actually cherishes that show for various reasons! It’s important to remember even Broadway’s mistakes, especially because they can hopefully help us all learn from them for next time

Broadway: The American Musical

“One of the best books written about the history of Broadway and it’s roots. It’s huge, has tons of cool photos and it is accompanied by great videos of each chapter. Bonus: it has an intro by Julie Andrews.”

Original Story: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood by Arthur Laurents

“It was incredibly honest about himself and the theatre folks he worked with over the years. Laurents was able to create a richly detailed tapestry of a story while not glossing over the moments that were challenging.”

The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate by Peter Brook

“The Empty Space” by Peter Brook. This book showed me more of what theatre can, could, and should be than any class I ever took in college. He takes theories and movements that I was familiar with and turned them into something I had never imagined, allowing me to grow as a director and artist.”

David Merrick – The Abominable Showman: The Unauthorized Biography  by Howard Kissel

“We can all learn how to be a creative genius/monster from the actions of David Merrick!”

THE SEASON A Candid Look At Broadway by William Goldman

“It is certainly dated in more than a couple of ways, but I can’t think of many more books that have impacted the way I think about the business and ecosystem of New York Theatre the way that that one has. From the flops to the hits, not only do you get to be jealous of the standard ticket prices of the shows in the late 60s, you learn about why certain shows connect with critics or audiences and other shows don’t. And the idea of “The Muscle” who is the chief driving creative force behind a production, is something I think about all the time in regards to both Broadway and Hollywood.”

 

Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama by Jordan Tannahill

Theatre of the Unimpressed by Jordan Tannahill. The book mostly functions as a diagnostic of the state of contemporary theatre in Canada and attempts to establish a standard for revitalization. Not everything is agreeable, and the book is more about problems than solutions, but it really gets the wheels in my head turning.

Ghost Light: A Memoir by Frank Rich

“It passionately describes how a love for musical theater is born out of both a need to escape into something beautiful and a desire to relate to characters in a range of emotional states. Personal and lovely”

How Does the Show Go On: an Introduction to the Theater by Thomas Schumacher

I love it because it’s geared towards kids and is written to excite a new generation of audience members and theatre artists

Unnaturally Green: One girl’s journey along a yellow brick road less traveled by Felicia Ricci.

“It’s a story of the actress who got to play Elphaba in Wicked, and it’s really wonderful because it goes through all the audition calls, the rehearsal process and the show itself. For the student actress as me, it’s one of the best resources to get more familiar with theatre work. I always wondered how it goes on Broadway, what happens after you get the role, is it any different from what I know… Felicia reveals just so many little details! I learned a lot of new things about American theatre while sitting in Russia and drinking my tea. That’s the magic. And that’s the theater.”

Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History by Glen Burger
“It goes into detail about the decline and fall of Turn Off the Dark. Understanding what makes a show with ‘everything going for it’ fail helps us recognize what is needed for a show to succeed.”

 

Hamilton: The Revolution

“Reading that book not only gave me insight to Lin Manuel Miranda’s world, but all of his collaborators as well. Reading Hamilton is much like reading other books, even though it is nonfiction there are still literary elements that spark imagination. When I read about Hamilton, I can’t help but feel an appreciation for art. Creating art is one of the most ambitious challenges anyone can face. To create art you have to become vulnerable, explore different styles, and above all show humanity. With automation in the 21st century it is difficult to find true human work in anything. Hamilton, the whole world of Hamilton, is unadulterated humanity, and that is why I love the book.”

Broadway Originals of This Season’s Revivals

Below are scenes from the original productions of the 11 Broadway plays and musicals that are being revived, for the second, fifth, or 16th time, this season on Broadway.

Click on any photograph below to learn details of each show, organized more or less chronologically by the opening date of the original production.

For details on the revivals, check out Broadway 2016-2017 Preview Guide

For St. Patricks Day: The Irish and How They Got That Way

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a reposting of my 2010 review;

Eleven U.S. presidents have been descendants of the Irish, including Barack Obama. An Irishman was the first to make a piano in America; take out an American appendix; start a fistfight on the floor of the United States Senate; jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. Indeed, an Irish monk was the first European to discover America, in the sixth century, according to “The Irish…and How They Got That Way,” a musical revue and history lesson that was put together by the retired schoolteacher Frank

McCourt in 1997, a year after his memoir “Angela’s Ashes” made him famous.

The Irish Repertory Theater is now reviving the show exactly a year after McCourt’s death. If it were far shorter than its two-hour length, “The Irish” would be close to ideal as a stage show on Ellis Island, filled as it is with an educational mix of quirky facts and trenchant cracks (mostly about the hated British), historical overview and anecdotes, sentiment and humor, period quotations and old-time melodies, from the familiar (“Yankee Doodle Dandy”) to the inevitable (“Oh Danny Boy”) to the unearthed (“No Irish Need Apply.”) This is not to suggest that it’s an expurgated version of Irish-American history. Though not the irreverent romp that the title suggests, it has its share of zingers: During the nineteenth century, “there were two types of people the Irish did not get along with” one cast member says. “The blacks and the whites.” “This is a dark, dark world,” another quotes Adlai Stevenson. “That’s why the Irish are always half lit.” The six cast members include two that were in the original production, and two who variously play violin, mandolin, bodran, piano and accordion. In a more or less chronological series of monologues, against a changing backdrop of old illustrations, they tell us harrowing stories about the Irish potato famine that killed a fourth of the population, and drove many of the rest to America; about the astounding discrimination to which the Irish immigrants were subjected; about the infamous role the Irish played in the Draft Riots during the Civil War; about the Irish domination of big city political machines and labor unions and their role in the building of America: On a map of the United States, “run your finger along the route of any canal or any railroad and you’ll be passing over the graves of thousands of Irishmen who died… It was a rare thing in America to see a gray-haired Irishman.” They also touch on the Irish involvement in show business. There are four songs by George M. Cohan and a wonderful tap-dance-with-jokes vaudeville routine. Together they suggest the broader entertainment that could have been fashioned out of this gently diverting collection of history and song.

Beckett, George M Cohan, O’Neill, Shaw, Oscar Wilde

Postscript: Some of the world’s greatest dramatists were of Irish birth or heritage

Samuel Beckett

Sean O’Casey

Eugene O’Neill

George Bernard Shaw

Richard Sheridan

Oscar Wilde

The Price on Broadway With Danny DeVito: Pics, Review

Danny DeVito, making his Broadway debut, gets the best deal out of The Price. Arthur Miller is not a playwright known for comically colorful characters, yet here’s DeVito as Gregory Solomon, a Jewish acrobat turned 89-year-old used furniture dealer who “smoked all my life, I drinked, and I loved every woman who would let me.”

DeVito’s character is the most enjoyable but not a central one in Miller’s sober family drama, now getting its fifth production on Broadway, in a cast that also includes Mark Ruffalo, Jessica Hecht and Tony Shalhoub. If none are at their absolute best here, that only means that all of them at one time or another have given performances that have left me in awe.In the play — which is also not Miller’s absolute best — Shalhoub and Mark Ruffalo are estranged brothers who meet in their childhood home years after their parents’ death in order to sell off their old possessions before the building is torn down. The meeting turns into a confrontation, with secrets revealed, the past unearthed. The price is not just what Solomon will give them for the furniture but what the characters have paid for past choices and lost chances.

Full review at D.C. Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

 

Watch Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s Speech on Broadway

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked New York for making Canadians at home by supplying “snow banks,” during an address to the audience at Come From Away, after he and some 600 other Canadians and their guests (including more than 125 ambassadors to the United Nations)saw a performance of this musical created by  a Canadian couple about the generosity of the residents of Newfoundland towards the passengers and crew of 38 planes grounded during 9/11.

He praised such “an extraordinary crowd to celebrate this story of friendship during extraordinarily difficult times between individuals between countries” and spoke about “the close relationship between the United States and Canada” on this, Canada’s 150th anniversary.

“The world gets to see what it is to lean on each other and be there for each other,”

Behold The Ides of March. Week in New York Theater

It’s never a great day for Julius Caesar, thanks to Shakespeare, but March 15th is looking ok on Broadway, with the theatrically named blizzard Stella turning out to be less dramatic than expected (no Broadway shows closed yesterday nor will today);   Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visiting the Canadian-bred Broadway musical, Come From Away; the fifth Broadway “Hello, Dolly” having its first preview starring the 15th Broadway Dolly Levi Gallagher, Bette Midler, And the recent announcement that the original king will return to Hamilton.

Below, performance artist and composer Laurie Anderson becomes a Broadway critic –and not a kind one — while one of the nation’s most famous theater critics becomes a TV star.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Come from Away

“Come From Away” tells the story of the 9,000 residents of Gander, Newfoundland who took care of some 7,000 passengers and crew of 38 airplanes that were forced to land at the local airport because of the September 11, 2001 attacks…. focuses on the kindness of strangers, and how they ease the fear and inconvenience of the “plane people,” some 1,500 miles away from any real danger….This is not really a 9/11 musical, then…The question thus arises: Are we so battered by the trauma of actual events that the only stage depictions we welcome about them are feel-good entertainment? The answer seems to be yes,  judging by the enthusiastic embrace of this musical.  And Come From Away is certainly feel-good – also rhythmic, well staged, often funny.

The Glass Menagerie

Sam Gold, the innovative director who won a Tony for Fun Home, has cast Sally Field in a new Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie that doesn’t include a glass menagerie! And that’s among the least intrusive of Gold’s directorial choices, which theatergoers weaned on Williams must struggle to reconcile with the playwright’s beloved text….Sally Field is an angry, bitter and no-nonsense Amanda.

The Outer Space

Lipton narrates the funny, pointed, and strange story of the unnamed married couple who decide they’ve had it with Earth; they buy an old jalopy of a rocket ship and live in a space colony that orbits the planet Mercury, where 3,100 people live, work and shop in some 450 vessels, including a “one-dollar ship.” Half science fiction, half Moth-like shaggy dog tale involving a midlife crisis, half social satire, half a revue of unrelated songs in a mix of genres, “The Outer Space” doesn’t quite add up to a musical. But it does count as an almost unique entertainment..

Theater Book Review:

The Great Comet: The Journey of A New Musical To Broadway

Great Comet Giveaway Contest

Week in New York Theater News

 

The first theater critic to become a TV star? (surely the first who’s 8)
Iain Armitage, who became theater critics in the country when he began at age 5 to post his reviews on YouTube, will star in a TV series that’s a prequel to the Big Bang Theory, entitled “Young Sheldon.”

Eugene O’Neill’s 6-hour tragedy comes to ‪Target Margin Theater in Brooklyn

 

 

It’s boom time for older actors but how realistic are their roles?

 

40 under 40 connected to Broadway