Betting on Broadway? #Stageworthy News of the Week

Will a Caesars Palace casino be put above the Minskoff Theater,  home to “The Lion King”?

Caesars and the landlord of 1515 Broadway, SL Green, have put in a bid with the New York State Gaming Commission for one of the three casino licenses for the New York City region that the state authorized earlier this year. 

The Broadway League opposes it (“The addition of a casino will overwhelm the already densely congested area and would jeopardize the entire neighborhood whose existence is dependent on the success of Broadway.”)

Actors Equity Association supports it (“The proposal from the developer for a Times Square casino would be a game changer that boosts security and safety in the Times Square neighborhood with increased security staff, more sanitation equipment and new cameras” — this last a reference to the promise by the bidders to use some of the gambling revenue to deploy surveillance drones.)

This is far from a done deal. As the New York Times explains, there is a competing proposal for a casino in Hudson Yards, and other bids in Queens and Brooklyn.

1515 Broadway is between 44th and 45th Street

A question this bid raises: How much is the possibility of betting on Broadway (the street) a sign that New York is not betting on Broadway (the industry?) The bid argues that a casino is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to once again solidify Times Square as the world’s greatest entertainment area.” — implying that Broadway is not enough.

It’s true that Broadway the industry is struggling to become the financial juggernaut it was before the pandemic.

But there are other reasons why Patti LuPone, for one, does not sound as if she’s betting on Broadway; it’s becoming too much like Las Vegas.

 LuPone is not retiring – in both senses of that word. She told Variety that she’s just taking a break from the stage. But she also decried the way Broadway has changed in the fifty years since she first got her Actors’ Equity card (which, she told us last week, she has given up: “that doesn’t mean I can’t perform onstage.”)The audience has been deliberately “dumbed down…And so the attention span of the majority of the audience, I think, is much less than it was in the past, and I don’t think plays are going to have long lives on Broadway; I feel as though it’s turning into Disneyland, a circus and Las Vegas.
“There’s still very intelligent audiences that support the theater, but the ticket price is outrageous. There’s so many obstacles that prevent theater from being the tool it should be in society, which is an education.”

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Topdog/Underdog 

The anachronism of the [Three-Card Monte] card game is not all that felt dated about this “Topdog/Underdog.” While Kenny Leon’s direction highlights some comic moments and drives home some poignant ones – and Lord knows neither American violence nor Black despair are out-of-date — there is little in the current production that feels urgent.

A key to appreciating “Topdog/Underdog” is understanding that it was never really here and now. The play is less a literal depiction of two down-and-out Black brothers than a smart, dark, often funny allegory, with subtle allusions to the Bible (Cain and Abel) and less subtle similarities to classic Theater of the Absurd. There is little linear story here but daily life shot through with layer after layer of metaphor.

Wuthering Heights 

Emma Rice’s jokey, sprawling musical adaptation of “Wuthering Heights” might befuddle anyone who associates the title with the 1939 movie…which adapts only half of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel… Emma Rice more or less restores Brontë’s profusion (and confusion) of characters and multigenerational (convoluted) plot. But at the same time, she completely changes the tone…[to] an enjoyable exercise in story theater, with puppetry and parody, song and dance, rock ‘n roll…These entertaining moments lighten a show with a three-hour running time. But they also made it more difficult for me to lose myself in the dark love story.

What Kind of Woman 

“What Kind of Woman,” playwright Abbe Tanenbaum tells us in a program note, was inspired by a cache of letters from women seeking abortion before Roe vs. Wade, which she discovered at the home of a client. 

Judging from the play she has written, however, her main inspiration actually came from the fact that her client was a hoarder, who hired Tanenbaum to be her “personal organizer” – somebody to help her clean up her cluttered apartment.

Abbe Tannenbaum herself portrays her stand-in, Anne, a personal organizer who is helping Nora (Virginia Wall Gruenert) declutter her Chelsea apartment. 

The Week in New York Theater News

Back to the Future the Musical will open on Broadway in the future — August 3, 2023. Based on the 1985 movie, it will star Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Hugh Coles as George McFly. (Casting of Marty McFly yet to be announced.)

Krysta Rodriguez and Erik Jensen going Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope in the cast of “The Collaboration,” opening Dec 20 on Broadway, Rodriguez as Jean-Michel Basquiat’s girlfriend Maya, Jensen as Bruno Bischofberger, art dealer who brings Andy Warhol and Basquiat together.

More trouble in Paradise: Broadway producer Garth Drabinsky sues Actors’ Equity for $50 million, claiming defamation and ‘blacklisting’ after ‘Paradise Square’ turmoil (Variety)

Isaac Mizrahi, the fashion designer who has designed costumes for three Broadway shows (and annually narrates Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim), will make his Broadway performing debut as Amos Hart in “Chicago” November 7 – 26.

Jonelle Procope, who has served as the president and chief executive of the Apollo Theater in Harlem for nearly 20 years, will step down in June (NY Times)

12 New Books* by Broadway Stars

Theater Blog Roundup: Theater Heals When Things are Grim

In Memoriam

(Sisters Lucy, Carly, Joanna Simon 1994)

Carly Simon’s two older sisters, both themselves musically gifted, died within a day of one another, both from cancer: Wednesday, Joanna Simon, 85, opera singer and arts correspondent for PBS’s “MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour,”;Thursday, Lucy Simon, 82, Broadway composer of The Secret Garden and Doctor Zhivago

Susan L Schulman, 72, theatrical press agent. “In 2013, Ms. Schulman published a memoir, Backstage Pass to Broadway, recounting the ups and downs of a life creating Broadway buzz. The book included anecdotes about working with Bacall, Fosse, Mary Martin, Robert Redford, David Merrick, Raúl Juliá, Zero Mostel, Vanessa Redgrave, Katharine Hepburn, Diana Ross, Henry Winkler, and many more.”

Jeffrey Weiss, 82, playwright and actor who was an important figure in New York’s downtown experimental theater scene who went on to perform in 13 plays on Broadway, from Shakespeare to Stoppard.

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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