Debra Messing, Bradley Cooper, Glenn Close on Broadway! Broadway Responds to Gay Ban. The Week in New York Theater

Debra Messing, Bradley Cooper, Glenn Close, Jeremy Jordan and Jonathan Groff
Debra Messing, Bradley Cooper, Glenn Close, Jeremy Jordan and Jonathan Groff

It’s that time of year: trees thrown out, critics on overseas trips, snow covering cityscape, few shows opening – and ticket bargains! Now through Feb 6 — #BroadwayWeek.  Now through Feb 9: @20at20 discounts. Off-Broadway shows for just $20.

The week in New York theater included news of celebrity returns, and debates over “underwritten plays” and directors or actors changing a playwright’s script. The theater community responded to Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda” with a satirical video (see 23 below) and to a possible hate crime with a candlelight vigil (26)

The Week in New York Theater, Jan 20-26

Monday, January 20, 2014

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Live From Lincoln Center schedule:

Patina Miller – March 28

James Naughton Songs of Randy Newman April 4

Jason Isbell – April 11

Oscar Wilde’s first play, “Vera; or, The Nihilists” about Russian female assassin, will receive its first NYC revival since 1883 at Here Arts February 12 to 16



BradleyCooperin1998FringeShowIn the award-winning tradition of beautiful people playing ugly, Bradley Cooper says he’ll star in the Broadway revival of The Elephant Man. The last time he performed on Broadway (and the first time) was in 2006, in Three Days of Rain opposite Julia Roberts. But he debuted on the New York stage at the Fringe Festival, when he was 23.


Three-time Tony winner Glenn Close says she’s returning to the stage after 15 years, but she won’t say in what, just “a very complex play”


JanisJoplin6a“A Night With Janis Joplin” ends in February at the Lyceum (with hopes of starting up again the following month) to make room for The Realistic Joneses.  Will Eno’s maiden Broadway play now has an opening date (April 6th) AND a theater, the Lyceum, as well as a Twitter feed:  ‪@RealisticBway. It starts performances March 13, 2014.

Rebecca producers extend rights to musical through 2014 and aim for a “winter 2014” start. (Isn’t ‪#zombiemusical


New trend: industries fund plays about themselves: ‪Bronx Bombers (Major League Baseball), now  Craving for Travel (travel industry.) Let’s call this trend #underwrittenplays — because the plays are sponsored (underwritten) and because they so far tend to be poorly written.

Mark Kennedy ‪(@KennedyTwits) Also that play about AA funded by The Hazeldon Foundation kicking around

Timothy Stewart-Winter  (‏‪@timothysw) What’s  old is new again: industrial musicals were common in ’50s-70s & employed top talent

 Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater): But audiences for them were industry professionals, not  general public

Timothy Stewart-Winter: Yes – but is that a distinction without a difference? Given travel agencies buying blocks of tickets

Jonathan Mandell: These shows are in theaters with long tradition of legitimate plays, not #underwrittenplays. It potentially misleads public.

Timothy Stewart-Winter: But all produced plays are underwritten. Arguably these plays are *less* misleading.

Jonathan Mandell: Arguably by you. Do you believe corporate underwriting of Signature would persuade Tony Kushner to change a play? But a play about an industry developed in partnership with that industry, and funded by it, is beholden to it, and WOULD change if asked

 Jason Zinoman (@Zinoman): All plays are not sponsored by groups that the play is directly about. This is different. In a free market, people with money can do it. And people with voices can criticize. In the case of Lombardi, the NFL turned a good book into a commercial. So the evidence is not this is good for art.


Broadway and “the Blizzard” of 2014, Take 2


Billy Porter, performer, now playwright
Billy Porter, performer, now playwright

For its 30th season, Primary Stage will move to The Duke on 42nd St, with plays by David Ives, Theresa Rebeck, and Billy Porter.  Yes, Billy Porter has written a play: “While I Yet Live,” a coming-of–age tale set in Pittsburgh

Most cast recordings don’t make back their $400,000 cost. Without an album, though, a show dies Some cast albums do hit it big: Phantom of the Opera, 30 million copies sold!  Wicked, three million; Mamma Mia, 1.7 million; Jersey Boys, 1.5 million.

AngelaLansburyAngela Lansbury on how’s she still getting parts at age 88: Other actresses were cast because they were beautiful. She started playing older “when I was still terribly young.” (Angela Lansbury was only 37 when she played Laurence Harvey’s mother in Manchurian Candidate. Harvey was 34.) From four-minute interview with Angela Lansbury on BBC radio with brief audio clips from her career. 

Neurological studies: Great works of art trigger part of brain that shapes our sense of identity.


JeremyJordanandJonathanGroffBroadway Responds to Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ban

What's it All About? Bacharach Reinagined 2

 What’s It All About? Bacharach Reimagined has been extended  through February 16

 Spring 2014 schedule of  National Theater Live:  Corialanus, War Horse, King Lear, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, etc. 

The debate over broadcast/streaming of live theater, a thorough (long!) blog post.  

Why comic actors break character so much. “Villainous,” said Shakespeare,but modern audiences love it.  Breaking character, known in UK as corpsing, is a specialty of Jimmy Fallon; fellow sketch actors hate him for it.


Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame,music by Alan Menken (Newsies), lyrics by  Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) at La Jolla Playhouse, 2014-15. Then Broadway?

At 89, Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof) is working on FOUR new shows. “We writers never want to stop.”

Christopher Durang’s 1981 Beyond Therapy to be revived on Theatre Row, March 11-April 19


Asolo Rep changed  Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come without telling him. He demanded they restore it.

How free should theaters feel in changing the work of playwrights?

J. Holtham ‏ @Jholtham The guy thought he could get away with it. He knew it wasn’t right.

Taylor Mac ‏‪@TaylorMacNYC  I feel pretty conservative about this & think they shouldn’t feel free 2 change anything unless given permission.

Stephen Spotswood ‏‪@playwrightsteve If they have the conversation with the playwright beforehand and s/he is fine with it, than go to town. If they aren’t comfortable having that conversation with the playwright, maybe they shouldn’t be working in a collaborative art form

Raymond McNeel @‪RaymondMcNeel  Often theaters make cuts knowing most writers won’t risk offending their producer or can’t afford a lawyer.

 Stephen Spotswood: Let us make a list of those theaters and nail it to a post in the town square…Or put it online.

Raymond McNeel: I again make my plea for an online Yelp for playwrights to post their experiences with theaters and fests.

Peter Marks: How do you react when actors tinker with a line, because, for example, it sounds better to them? Let it slide?

Joe Zarrow ‏‪@jzarrow When an actor gets a line wrong over and over, and they’re not just being lazy, I find it’s usually because the way I originally wrote it was awkward. And besides, seeing my work filtered through actors’ instruments is the fun part!

Terry Teachout @terryteachout I listen VERY closely whenever John Douglas Thompson wants to reword a line in my play. ‪#scriptchanges Even if he accidentally misreads a line, I consider the possibility that his way is better. ‪ Most of the time I either say yes or come up with a mutually satisfactory alternative. He’s the actor–it’s got to sit comfortably on his tongue or it won’t work onstage

David J. Loehr ‏‪@dloehr It’s a matter of clarity. If a change improves it, I’m all for it. If it changes or obscures the story, then no.

Lucia Frangione ‏‪@LuciaFrangione  I spend seven years on a play and you “tinker” with a line after reading it three times? I fire your ass. Each country is different. In Canada, the U.S. and the U.K, it’s illegal. In Poland, the writer has no rights.  In Germany I think it’s commonly 20% allowed to change lines to suit director.



Ticket Giveaway: What play/scene has most defined love for you? Answer here   for two ticket to the movie of Orlando Bloom in Romeo and Juliet


Outside Mullingar Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

My review of Outside Mullingar 

If you didn’t speak English, or could somehow turn off the sound of
“Outside Mullingar,” John Patrick Shanley’s charming, wonderfully acted and overly weird romantic comedy, the final scene between Debra Messing, making her Broadway debut, and Brian F. O’Byrne, reliable Broadway veteran, would be a hugely satisfying mime show about two shy middle aged people finally revealing their love for one another: awkward squirming turning to tense confrontation melting into relieved embrace.

But, alas, we have to listen as well to the last 10 minutes of this otherwise carefully crafted 95-minute play. If Shanley’s premise is a wee implausible, his resolution is as loony as his characters are supposed to be, and far less appealing

Full review of Outside Mullingar


A candlelight vigil was held  for theater critic, journalist and artist Randy Gener on 54th Street and Seventh Avenue, where he was attacked on January 17 on his way home late at night. He is still at Roosevelt hospital, reportedly conscious and in stable condition, recovering after the first of two brain surgeries. Police are investigating and suspect it is a hate crime.

Campaign to raise funds for Randy Gener’s medical expenses. A remarkable $49,000 has already been raised for Randy, who has limited health insurance. (The Canadian Theatre Critics Association contributed $1,000 of that.)



SuspectinRandyGenerAttackSuspect’s description: Hispanic male, 20’s, approximately 6’0″ tall, weighing 160lbs., with short black hair. He was last seen wearing black jeans and a black jacket

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website atWWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM

Update: Article in the New York Times:  Midtown Attack Investigated as Hate Crime

“Ten days after being attacked, Randy Gener can talk again. He also now recognizes his husband and his sister, seated at his hospital bedside. But Mr. Gener, an openly gay Filipino journalist, remembers little of how he ended up there: the swift and vicious punch to the face as he walked home through Midtown Manhattan in the predawn hours.”

Wednesday, January 29 update:

WNBC News: “A 24-year-old Queens man has been accused of knocking a veteran arts journalist unconscious last week near Times Square, police say.  Leighton Jennings of Jamaica was charged with second-degree assault after Randy Gener was punched in the face at 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue while walking home from the after-party for a play Jan. 17, police say.”

The Daily News report says Jennings is from St. Alban’s, Queens

Best Musical Theater Album #Grammy: Kinky Boots.

Billy Porter: @TheeBillyPorter I got a Grammy Y’all. God is good!!.

Other nominees were Matilda and Motown

Cyndi Lauper at the Grammys, where her Kinky Boots won Best Musical Theater Album.
Cyndi Lauper at the Grammys, where her Kinky Boots won Best Musical Theater Album.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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