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#AChristmasStoryLive on Fox. Ranking Live TV Musicals

When A Christmas Story is broadcast live tonight on Fox (starting at 7 p.m. ET), a reworked version of the Broadway musical by Pasek and Paul, it’ll be the latest example of a trend that began four years ago, with NBC’s live broadcast of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood.

How has this new trend/tradition fared?

Below is a ranking of nine of these live musicals, with links to my recaps/ reviews (and/or features or photo galleries), and the shows’ scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

Update: Rotten Tomatoes has now included A Christmas Story, and it isn’t pretty. Preliminary reports also reveal the show had the lowest viewership of any of the live musicals since 2013.

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“Broadway 2017” on Jeopardy: Test Your Knowledge

Jeopardy boardJeopardy had the following answers in a “Broadway 2017” category during the Double Jeopardy Round of the Tournament of Champions earlier this week. Guess the questions:

$400 – COME FROM AWAY tells how Gander, Newfoundland hosted 7,000 airline passengers stranded due to this tragic event.

$800 – CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY features Christian Borle singing the following [“The Candyman”] as this character.

$1200 – Revived in 2017 and set during the final days of the Vietnam War, MISS SAIGON was inspired by this Puccini Opera.

$1600 – Ben Platt won the 2017 Tony for his performance as a high school senior coping with a classmate’s death in this musical.

$2000 – WAR PAINT stars Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden and this legendary performer as Helena Rubinstein.

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J.K. Rowling on Harry Potter Play on Broadway

After seven books and eight movies, J.K. Rowling thought she was done with Harry Potter. “I genuinely, I didn’t want Harry to go onstage,” Rowling said in the video below. “I felt that I was done.”

Nevertheless Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is set to open at Broadway’s Lyric Theater on April 22, 2018.
Watch CBS Sunday Morning segment
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2017 Emmy Winners (NY Theater Vets Highlighted)

Below is the list of Emmy winners, with Broadway veterans in red. (Off-Broadway vets in green.)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series – John Lithgow, The Crown
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series – Donald Glover, Atlanta
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series – Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series – Bruce Miller, The Handmaid’s Tale
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series – Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series or Movie – Jean-Marc Vallée, Big Little Lies
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series – Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series – Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series – Aziz Ansari & Lena Waithe, Master of None
Outstanding Reality Competition Program – The Voice
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series – Reed Morano, The Handmaid’s Tale
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie – Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series – Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Variety Talk Series – Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Donald Glover, Atlanta
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series – Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Outstanding Comedy Series – Veep
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie – Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie – Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Outstanding TV Movie – “San Junipero,” Black Mirror
Outstanding Limited Series – Big Little Lies
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series – Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series – Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Outstanding Drama Series – The Handmaid’s Tale

Complete list from the Academy

John Lithgow, the first winner of the night, is about to star in his 24th show on Broadway, “John Lithgow Stories of the Heart.”  He’s been nominated for the Tony Award six times, and won twice.

Laura Dern performed in “The Palace of Amateurs” at the Minetta Lane Theater in 1988.

Alec Baldwin has performed on Broadway five times, most recently in Orphans in 2013, and Off-Broadway four times, and was nominated for a Tony Award for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1992.

Ann Dowd is a veteran of three Broadway plays, and three Off-Broadway, most recently Night Is a Room in 2015.

Nicole Kidman starred in “The Blue Room” on Broadway in 1998-1999.

Sterling K. Brown has performed in five plays Off-Broadway, most recently Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Father Comes Home from the Wars” at the Public Theater in 2014.

Elisabeth Moss is a veteran of both Off-Broadway and Broadway most recently nominated for a Tony for The Heidi Chronicles in 2015.

 

(Jackie Hoffman is a veteran of five Broadway and four Off-Broadway shows; she’s currently in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

Watch Christopher Jackson sing Stevie Wonder’s “As” for the In Memoriam segment

Broadway’s Best on PBS This Fall

“She Loves Me,” “Falsettos,” “Noël Coward’s Present Laughter” “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn” and “Indecent” will all be broadcast on Friday nights this Fall on PBS, with the full episodes of each show streaming for free for two weeks after the broadcasts.

Here’s the schedule, with links to my original reviews:

 

10/20 She Loves Me

10/27 Falsettos

11/3 Present Laughter

11/10 In The Heights documentary “Chasing Broadway Dreams”

11/17 Indecent

11/24 Holiday Inn

Will on TNT: Shakespeare in A Punk TV Series

“Who will want a play by William Shakespeare?” his wife Ann asks him, unkindly, in their home in the hick town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, as he is about to depart for London in 1589 to become a playwright. It’s a crafty first line in “Will,” a TV series that launches tonight on the TNT cable network: The show is clearly banking on the hope that, since almost everybody four centuries later wants a play by William Shakespeare, there will be an audience for a speculative TV series about his early career in London.
“I can’t spend the rest of my life making gloves,” Will tells Ann.
“We have three children,” she says in rebuttal.
But it’s no use. Off goes the 25-year-old William Shakespeare (portrayed by the 24-year-old Laurie Davidson) in the first of ten episodes in the series — a series that features, among other attributes, a cast of soap opera-level hunks and beauties in some extremely graphic scenes of torture, slightly more demure humping, and the first rap battle in iambic pentameter.

“Will” was conceived by Craig Pearce, an Australian screenwriter and actor who is a frequent collaborator with Baz Luhrman – on Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge, the 2013 film of The Great Gatsby, and even Romeo + Juliet. That film’s 1970s punk treatment of Shakespeare’s tale of doomed lovers offers a hint at the tone taken with Will, which uses a punk score. On his departure to make his career, we hear The Clash’s “London Calling.”

But the actors wear Elizabethan costumes, both the exteriors and the interiors are persuasively detailed re-creations of the period, and there are some clever almost-Shakespearean lines that one could take as the early stirrings of the future full-fledged poet genius.  Since so little is known about the young Shakespeare, one can more or less accept the scenes in the first episode of “Will” that lead to his first London production. We see Will seeking out the home of James Burbage (Colm Meaney) with a play in hand for Burbage’s theater company. But his son Richard Burbage (Mattias Inwood), when discovering this rustic at the threshold, laughs in his face, and shuts the door in his face. Will is saved by Burbage’s daughter Alice (Olivia DeJonge), who takes a liking to him – and maybe more than a liking? — and escorts him to her father’s theater, where James is right at that moment desperate for a play.

“I have a play,” Will shouts out. It’s about a heroic English king, Edward III (Shakespeare did in fact write Edward III, and some scholars speculate that it was produced as early as 1589, though most think not.) “There’s love, war, death and betrayal,” Will says.
“Does it have any comedy?”
“The Scottish characters are quite funny.”

The reason why Burbage was stuck for a play is that the hugely popular Christopher Marlowe won’t do any more plays for him; Marlowe is being paid more by a Burbage rival not to write..
There is something seductively evil about Marlowe – helped along by his portrayal by hot punkish Jamie Campbell Bower

But Marlowe figures in a plot that drives much of the non-Shakespearean aspects of “Will.” Will is a Catholic who has been asked to bring a letter to his cousin, the Jesuit Robert Southwell (Max Bennett), who is in hiding from the authorities, in particular the queen’s chief inquisitor, Richard Topcliffe (Ewen Bremner.) It is illegal to be Catholic in England in 1589 (hence the scenes of torture), and Will’s letter falls into Topcliffe’s hands, thus setting up what will obviously provide some tension for the series. Will Will be unmasked as a Catholic; will Topcliffe capture and torture him? And what of Alice?

Since history doesn’t reveal for sure that Shakespeare was ever Catholic, much less involved in the Catholic resistance — among much else presented in “Will” —  theater lovers who are enticed into the journey through this cable TVland biography should be prepared to leave the Bard behind.

“Will” is on TNT Mondays at 9 p.m. ET

Best Moments on 2017 Tonys, Seen and Unseen

Many moments in the three hours of the 71st annual Tony Awards (complete list of winners) were worth experiencing just once, if that — Bette Midler NOT singing, yet rambling endlessly during her acceptance speech,  telling the orchestra  trying to nudge her off to “Shut that crap off.”

True, this was followed by Kevin Spacey, appearing as President Frank Underwood from “House of Cards,” as he handed the best musical envelope to presenter Lin-Manuel Miranda, saying: “I want to get the hell out of here before Bette Midler thanks anyone else.”

But there were some moments worth savoring.

Performances

Waving through a Window from Dear Evan Hansen

Welcome to the Rock from Come From Away

“Dust and Ashes” and “The Abduction” from Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

Opening number

 

Politics

There was surprisingly little politics for an awards ceremony being held during the Trump presidency, but there were  a few such moments:

Cynthia Nixon,  while accepting the award as best featured actress for “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.”  quoted a famous line from the play  ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it, other people who just stand around and watch them do it,” She then added: “My love, my gratitude and my undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”

At the end of his acceptance speech, Kevin Kline gave a shout-out to two federal arts agencies that President Trump wants to eliminate: “I’d like to thank a couple of organizations without which maybe half the people in this room would not be here: that would be the National Endowment for the Arts] and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

In her acceptance speech  for her (well-deserved) Tony for best direction of a play, for Indecent, Rebecca Taichman said: “This is about making art when one is in great danger.”

Stephen Colbert as a presenter  injected the most bluntly political remarks.

“It is my honor to be here presenting the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. And it’s been a great year for revivals in general, especially that one they revived down in Washington D.C. It started off-Broadway in the ‘80s, way off-Broadway, over on 5th Avenue. Huge production values. A couple of problems. The main character is totally unbelievable, and the hair and makeup, yeesh.

“This D.C. production is supposed to have a four-year run, but the reviews have not been kind. Could close early, we don’t know, best of luck to everyone involved.”

He then called “Miss Saigon,” one of the nominated revivals,  “the only pageant whose locker room our president hasn’t walked in on.” and  greeted the groans with “Lot of Trump fans here tonight, evidently,”

Dramatists Rule

The four playwrights who were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play — all Americans — were given time on stage of the 71st annual Tony Awards to describe their plays — J.T. Rogers on Oslo (which won); Lucas Hnath on A Doll’s House, Part 2, Paula Vogel on Indecent; Lynn Nottage on Sweat,

“We are in a golden age of American playwriting,” Lincoln Center Theater producer Andre Bishop said as he accepted the “Oslo” award with Rogers. When will the Tony Award broadcast fully realize this?

 

Heartfelt Thanks to Their Parents

Ben Platt, best lead actor in a musical, Dear Evan Hansen:

“I want to thank my parents, who are my heroes, Julie Platt and Marc Platt, the greatest people I’ve ever met. Everybody always says that about their parents, but it’s true, I will fight you. They are the best people in the world. Dad, you’re my hero, you taught me that you have to be a decent human being to be a decent artist, and I love you for it. And finally to all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful. Thank you.”

Michael Aronov, best  featured actor in a play, Oslo

“My aunt and uncle and their two kids in New Jersey opened their hearts and home to me about 20 years ago when I first moved to New York to try to be an actor. They took me in and treated me like I was their son. I would have about five sets of keys in my bag at all times because when I missed the bus from doing shows in the city I had friends, rare and remarkable ones, that kept their doors open to me at any hour of the night. I finally was able to save up a couple of dollars and move into the city, a tiny, tiny studio apartment where if you walked in too fast you’d fly out the window. My mom and dad didn’t know that I was living off of pasta and cheese and rice pudding to be a frugal actor, because it would break their hearts and they’d try to turn the world upside down to help me be O.K. Because when I hurt they hurt more. and when I smile and soar they’re able to breathe. Thanks to Bart and J.T., this is the biggest honor of my life — but mainly because my mom and dad are here with me tonight. Solomon and Anna Aronov, you’ve always had my back more than anybody else in the world and you love me and Greg more than you love yourselves. My victories mean nothing to me unless I’m sharing them with you. Thank you.”

Awards and Acceptance Speeches Not Broadcast

Best Book of a Musical

 

Best Choreography

James Earl Jones speech accepting his Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement

In Memorium