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Shuffle Along: Review, Pics

“Shuffle Along is jazzy, tuneful, full of pep,” says one of the rave reviews from 1921 printed on the curtain during intermission at the Music Box Theater, where George C. Wolfe has mounted a revival of the all-black musical that deserves far more exuberant praise than “full of pep”: It is cataclysmically entertaining.
That, however, refers to the musical numbers. The full title of the show is the (tellingly) awkward “Shuffle Along Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,”….Wolfe’s ambition to tell the story behind the 1921 musical…quickly starts feeling as if he were a PhD student defending his thesis about the significance of this “sadly neglected” musical

Full review on D C Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Julieta Cervantes to see it enlarged.
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Broadway Divas and The #1 Song on Their Birthdays

What does it say that, on the day that Laura Benanti was born, the number one song was Bad Girls, and the number one movie was Dracula?
Probably nothing, but thanks to a #1 song database, and a #1 movie database, you can look up the song or movie that was number one on any date. I looked up the hit song on the birthdays of the most popular current Broadway divas. Consider it song astrology.

Laura Benanti

July 15, 1979

Bad Girls by Donna Summer

Kristin Chenoweth

July 24, 1968

Grazing in the Grass by Hugh Masekela

Sutton Foster

March 18, 1975

Black Water by The Doobie Brothers

Nikki M. James

June 3, 1981

Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Patti LuPone

April 21, 1949

Cruising Down the River by Blue Barron and His Orchestra

 

Audra McDonald

July 3, 1970

The Love You Save by The Jackson 5

Idina Menzel

May 30, 1971

Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones

 

Kelli O’Hara

April 16, 1976

Disco Lady by Johnnie Taylor

Bernadette Peters

February 28, 1948

I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover by Art Mooney and His Orchestra

Billy Porter

September 21, 1969

Sugar, Sugar by The Archies

 

Chita Rivera

January 23, 1933

 

Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin’ All the Time) by Ethel Waters

Favorite New York Stage Performances of 2014

“As an actor, you’re often the most visible part of a project while having the least amount of say over its final form,” James Franco said recently.  Although at the time he was making both his Broadway acting debut and his Off-Broadway directorial debut, he was talking about movie actors.  Stage actors have it better, artistically that is — not in monetary compensation or recognition.

So here are some of the New York stage performances in 2014 that deserve more recognition.

The individual performers are listed alphabetically, but let’s begin with some noteworthy ensembles.

Jose Joaquin Perez, Jason Bowen, Brian Quijada and Reza Salazar as busboys in "My Manana Comes"

Jose Joaquin Perez, Jason Bowen, Brian Quijada and Reza Salazar as busboys in “My Manana Comes”

The four actors who portrayed busboys at an Upper East Side restaurant in Elizabeth Irwin’s My Mañana Comes – Jason Bowen, Jose Joaquin Perez, Brian Quijada, Reza Salazar – achieved a level of synchronicity that was a pleasure to watch, while at the same time each performer communicated both his character’s particular struggles and the tensions among the group.

Liza Fernandez, Annie Henk and Lisa Ramirez working in the poultry plant

Liza Fernandez, Annie Henk and Lisa Ramirez working in the poultry plant

Similarly, the performers in Lisa Ramirez’s To The Bone, play characters who have attained a machine-line efficiency both in their jobs in an upstate chicken factory and in the house they share unhappily together, but they never let us lose sight of their individual humanity. As one character observes, there is an order “that is much like a heart- an artificial heart – borne out of necessity- but functioning nonetheless.” So kudos to Dan Domingues, Liza Fernandez, Annie Henk, Paola Lazaro-Munoz, Lisa Ramirez, Gerardo Rodriguez, Xochitl Romero, Haynes Thigpen

Zach Braff and Nick Cordero perform from Bullets Over Broadway in Bryant Park shortly before the show closes on Broadway

Zach Braff and Nick Cordero perform from Bullets Over Broadway in Bryant Park shortly before the show closes on Broadway

Nick Cordero, the best thing by far in Bullets Over Broadway, played Cheech, a 1920s thug who turns out to be a brilliant playwright. Cordero turned out to be a terrific song-and-dance man

Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow photo2 by Carol Rosegg

Appearing on a Broadway stage after an absence of 35 years, Mia Farrow felt ideally cast as Brian Dennehy’s half-century love interest in Love Letters. With her translucent beauty and educated diction, she seemed believably rooted in the upper crust enclave in which the character is raised, but which never serves her well. Farrow ranges from flighty to flirty to fragile, with a suggestion of great feeling – much of it all the more communicated, paradoxically, because it is not expressed on the surface.

James Iglehart in Aladdin

Whatever the billing, the star of “Aladdin” is its genie, James Monroe Iglehart, a worthy heir to a role originated on film by Robin Williams. A winner of a 2014 Tony Award for his performance, Iglehart morphs from showbiz master of ceremonies to carnival barker to infomercial huckster to game show host to Cab Calloway-like zoot-suiter to disco dj to hip-hopper in a Hawaiian shirt, to yes, a sparkling-suited magical genie who emerges amid smoke from a little lamp.

When he appeared in “Memphis,” he had a relatively small part as an oversized janitor who becomes a sexy singing sensation (nods to Chubby Checkers.) Shaking and rocking it to the roof in a song called “Big Love,” he delivered a showstopper. It is too much to say he is the show in “Aladdin,” but he certainly gives – and deserves – some big love.

Red Velvet4AdrianLesterbyTristram_KentonIn honoring Adrian Lester‘s mesmerizing turn in “Red Velvet,” a play written by his wife Lolita Chakrabarti, we also pay homage to the real-life character he is portraying, Ira Aldridge, a native New Yorker who left the United States as a teenager in order to pursue a career on stage, becoming a successful actor throughout Europe, specializing in Shakespearean roles. To put this in perspective: When Aldridge played Othello in London, they were still debating whether it was a good thing to end slavery in the British colonies.
LadyDay4

Praising a stage performance by Audra McDonald – who won a record-breaking sixth competitive Tony Award for portraying Billie Holliday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill – is a bit like praising bread, or Meryl Streep. Still, she transformed what could have been another tiresome play about a self-destructive star into a precise study of character, and sang in a style totally unlike her own.Year of the Rooster 6  Delphi Harrington, Bobby Moreno, Thomas Lyons Credit Russ Kuhner

Bobby Moreno began the year 2014 portraying a touching love scene between poultry in The Year of the Rooster.  He was Odysseus Rex, a young rooster permanently crouched, an angry punk with a knife, who is charmed by genetically over-engineered top-heavy hen. At the end of the year, Moreno stood tall in Grand Concourse as Oscar, the maintenance man and security guard in a soup kitchen in the Bronx, who is an adorable lug. Streetwise, charming, good-hearted, well-meaning, he is also slightly awkward, especially in scenes with Emma, who teases, taunts and seduces him.

Over the past few years, Moreno has stood out in charismatic roles from the dog-like military veteran in Ethan Lipton’s “Luther” to an evil teenager in Robert Askins’s “Hand to God.” Will 2015 be the Year of the Bobby Moreno?

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, TheEthel Barrymore Theatre
As Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Alexander Sharp, a recent graduate of Juilliard, literally climbs a wall, and plays with a rat, and is thrown in the air and carried about by the other cast members.
His is a physically demanding role – all that getting lifted through the air. But it requires balancing of a different sort as well, offering a convincing portrait without condescension. Sharp nails the gestures, the lack of eye contact, the matter-of-fact tone.

It’s impossible to cap an appreciation of stage performances at only ten. So nods to Annaleigh Ashford in You Can’t Take It With You, Kieran Culkin in This Is Our Youth, Patricia Clark in The Elephant Man, the ensemble cast of Dinner With FriendsHeather Burns , Marin Hinkle, Darren Pettie and Jeremy Shamos; the ensemble cast of Casa ValentinaReed Birney, John Cullum, Gabriel Ebert, Lisa Emery, Tom McGowan, Patrick Page, Larry Pine, Nick Westrate, Mare Winningham. Ok, I’ll stop.

Bullets and Billie Holiday on Broadway. Tax Help for Artists. Spring Beefcake. The Week in New York Theater

WeekinNewYorkApril13Eight Broadway shows are opening in the next ten days. Two opened last week, Bullets Over Broadway and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.
It’s tax time, which may be why there is a special section on artists and money (see 13 below)

Also below: News about Michael Cera, Taylor Mac, Tommy Tune, Spring is Here beefcake section (shirtless Zac Efron, Neil Patrick Harris, James Franco)

The Week in New York Theater

Monday, April 7, 2014

Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, Idina Menzel, and LaChanze at  the If/Then recording session. Album will be out June 3

Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, Idina Menzel, and LaChanze at the If/Then recording session. Album will be out June 3

Mayor Bill de Blasio names Queens Museum’s Tom Finkelpearl to be commissioner of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs

 

Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner in the original Broadway production of The King and I

Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner in the original Broadway production of The King and I

The King and I will be on Broadway (at Lincoln Center) for the fifth time in 2015, says Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization’s Ted Chapin. They are in talks with Kelli O’Hara to star

Morgan Saylor (Dana Brody in Homeland) will play Cherry Jones’s daughter in MTC’s When We Were Young & Unafraid.Opens June 17

The disabled are US’s largest minority, yet invisible on our stages, says Christine Bruno of Inclusion Arts.

8This is our Youth Media Call

 

Michael Cera (Juno, Arrested Developmnet), Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down.) to co-star in Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth on Broadway. Opens Sept 11, Cort.

Cera will play the character of Warren, a young man who has stolen $15,000 from his father, and Culkin will play his self-absorbed drug-dealing friend, Dennis. It will also feature the Broadway debut of Tavi Gevinson.

BkxzSEkCIAACIiT110 years ago today, Long Acre Square was renamed Times Square. (Pictures of Times Square through the years in Museum of the City of New York collection.)

Jane Greenwood, who’s been designing costumes for Broadway since 1963, will get a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement

2014-15 New York Theater Workshop season will include: 1. Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, adapted. 2. The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar (Pulitzer winner), about kidnapped stockbroker

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JoanMarcus2014 Tony Awards for Excellence: The Actors Fund’s Joe Benincasa, photographer Joan Marcus, general manager Charlotte Wilcox

It was set to reopen tomorrow Off-Broadway, but A Night With Janis Joplin “will postpone its opening indefinitely due to production issues.”

Yes, accessible theater IS possible. third in Howlround series on disability. Q & A with Charles Baldwin of Wheelock Family Theater.

 

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Even people who don’t care for a particular Broadway show give it a standing ovation, survey by Ken Davenport found.

Meh to show but standing ovations:

41 percent: “I liked the actors, just not the show.”

36 percent: “Everyone else was standing, so I did too.”

My reasons for standing during a standing ovation:

1. I can’t see the performers bowing otherwise

2. I need to put on my coat.

taylormac1

TaylorMac2

Theater should do what fashion does: Make avant-garde seem exciting, even if you don’t want to wear it ~  Taylor Mac in interview with Bomb Magazine. “My outsiderness gave me a way inside to something else.”

NINE-time Tony winner Tommy Tune in “More Taps,Tunes and Tall Tales” his #CafeCarlyle cabaret debut April 22-May 3

 

RyanMcCartan

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PhyllisFrelich

RIP Phyllis Frelich,Tony-winning deaf actress (Children of a Lesser God), co-founder of the National Theater for the Deaf, age 70.

Those who love him forgive his syphilis jokes. Drama Desk panel on Shakespeare 

EstelleParsonsTheVelocityofAutumn

“Most of my plays begin as questions,” says Cleveland’s Eric Coble, making his Broadway playwriting debut with The Velocity of Autumn.

What are your dream roles?

Ben Platt: Bobby in Company.

Nic Rouleau: I’m playing mine right now. Book of Mormon #BOMCHAT

The Obamas attended A Raisin in the Sun. At intermission, Michelle Obama gave A Raisin in the Sun actor Stephen McKinley Henderson a hug: “I’ll never be the same”

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Theater Artists and Money

Haven’t done your taxes yet? Tax guide for freelancers (e.g. artists) from Freelancers Union

The theater is “built on the backs of unpaid young people”  writes Greg Redlawsk, who was one of them. Why unpaid internships are wrong.

They are also illegal: For an unpaid internship to be legal, it must be “for the benefit of the intern” not the employer, says the Department of Labor.

“Real artists have day jobs..The biggest myth we’re fed is that we need to sustain ourselves solely on our art”~ Sara J. Benincasa

Instead of unpaid internships, Americans need more paid apprenticeships . U.S. Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey is co-sponsoring a bill to create them.

In Mexico, artists can pay taxes with artwork  Can actors pay with performances?

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LadyDay4

BHlast

My review of Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill

Audra McDonald is the same age as the Billie Holiday she is depicting in the first Broadway production of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a remarkable performance that transcends the two singers’ differences…ust looking at the photographs of Holiday in the period of the play show the challenge that a clean liver and radiant beauty like McDonald would have in depicting her. McDonald meets that challenge successfully — but a question remains: Why?

Full review of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill

 

Spring Is Here

Zac Efron at MTV Awards

Zac Efron at MTV Awards

Neil Patrick Harris with a snake, apparently promoting Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Neil Patrick Harris with a snake, apparently promoting Hedwig and the Angry Inch

 

James Franco promoting Of Mice and Men without ever leaving home.

James Franco promoting Of Mice and Men without ever leaving home.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill Review: Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday

click on any photo to see it enlarged

Audra McDonald is the same age as the Billie Holiday she is depicting in the first Broadway production of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a remarkable performance that transcends the two singers’ differences, which far outweigh such superficial similarities as age and race.

In her early 40’s, McDonald — the offspring of a solidly middle class family (both her parents educators) who became a Juilliard-trained opera soprano — has an ever-ascending career, with five Tony Awards (a number matched only by the 88-year-old Angela Lansbury and the late Julie Harris) and two Grammys.  She is embraced for her performances on stage, on screen, in the concert hall, on iTunes.

At the same age, Holiday, often called the world’s greatest jazz singer,  was appearing in a dive in North Philadelphia, strung out on drugs and all but abandoned by the public, a few months before she died in 1959. Only seven people reportedly attended the actual club performance that inspired playwright Lanie Robertson to write the play “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” almost three decades ago.

Just looking at the photographs of Holiday in the period of the play show the challenge that a clean liver and radiant beauty like McDonald would have in depicting her. McDonald meets that challenge successfully — but a question remains: Why?

billie holiday 25

Billie Holiday near the end of her life

Over 90 intermission-less minutes, McDonald sings 15 of Holiday’s songs in Holiday’s distinctive style. Although she had no formal training as a singer, and had a limited vocal range of little more than an octave, Holiday, the abandoned daughter of jazz guitarist Clarence Holiday, had an innovative ear that turned her voice into a jazz instrument. Influenced equally by the Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith records she heard as a child, she in turn influenced generations of singers that came after her. For this role, McDonald has adjusted her very different singing voice to resemble Holiday’s to an impressive degree.

McDonald doesn’t stop there. She effectively alters her speaking voice, even her posture, while presenting the monologues about Holiday’s life story that are presented to the audience as if random, rambling patter in-between the songs.

In turn witty, coarse, playful, angry, or matter of fact – and BHlastalways in a haze and a daze brought on by alcohol and drugs — McDonald’s Holiday tells us as if in passing about her rape at age 10; her prostitution at 13; the abusiveness of her first husband, trombonist Jimmy “Sonny” Monroe, who turned her on to heroin and her subsequent life-long/life-ending addiction; her imprisonment on drug charges; her cruel banning from New York City nightclubs because her felony conviction prevented her from acquiring the required “cabaret card.”  Even her successes as an artist provoke sad stories. One of her longest is about the bigotry she encountered while touring as the first African-American singer in an otherwise all-white big band, Artie Shaw’s; she talks of a maitress d’ in the South refusing to allow her to use the restaurant’s rest room, and calling her Miss Day. “Listen, honey, you have me confused.  I’m not Doris Day.  I’m Billie Holiday.  Lots of folks has said she and me resembles each other….”

Not all of what we hear is reliable information. Billie Holiday stopped touring with Artie Shaw in 1938, and Doris Day wasn’t well-known until 1945. One can charitably chalk up some of the insignificant errors in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” to the character Billie Holiday’s drug-addled memory, or to the real Holiday’s penchant for fabrication, as in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, but this one rests squarely with the playwright.

BillieHolidayinherprime

Billie Holiday during her prime

Only the producers can answer why this play is being revived now, just a few months after Dee Dee Bridgewater’s portrayal of Holiday in Stephen Stahl’s similar play “Lady Day” Off-Broadway, and it would probably take a sociologist to explain why so many shows continue to be built around the sad ends of great talents, such as the nearly unwatchable performance of Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow on Broadway just two years ago.

McDonald is more watchable, although she deteriorates before our eyes, because “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” is much more of a genuine cabaret concert. She is backed by a competent trio:  Shelton Becton at piano, Clayton Craddock on drums and George Farmer on bass. Only Becton has a speaking role, portraying Holiday’s music director and fiancé Jimmy Powers. James Noone’s set attempts, unsuccessfully, to turn the huge, 700-plus-seat Circle in the Square into an intimate club,  placing some two dozen small tables around the small stage. But little of this matters, when McDonald is singing. She shares with her subject the ability to translate feeling — even feelings of misery — into something glorious.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
Circle in the Square
By Lanie Robertson
Directed by Lonyy Price
Scenic design by James Noone, costume design by Esosa, lighting design by Robert Wierzel, sound design by Steve Canyon Kennedy, animal training William Berloni, musical arrangements by Tim Weil.
Cast: Audra McDonald, SheltonBecton, Roxie (that’s a dog.)

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill is set to run through August 10, 2014.
Musical numbers:
I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone
When A Woman Loves a Man
What a Little Moonlight Can Do
Crazy He Calls Me
Pig Foot (And A Bottle of Beer)
Baby Doll
God  Bless The Child
Foolin’ Myself
Somebody’s On My Mind
Easy Livin’
Stange Fruit
Blues Break
T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I do
Don’t Explain/What a Little Moonlight Can Do
Deep Song

LadyDaysign

Audra McDonald Back on Broadway as Billie Holliday

LadyDAy

Here is the poster for a newly announced show on Broadway. Five-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald will play Billie Holiday, for a 10-week limited engagement, in Lanie Robertson’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, directed by Lonnie Price. Previews begin March 25 at Circle in the Square, with an opening set for April 13, 2014.
The songs McDonald will sing include: “God Bless the Child,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Strange Fruit” and “Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness.”

The Sound of Music Recap

AudraMcDonaldSoundofMusic
Update: See the entire show below

Does this sound like The Sound of Music to you?

The Sound of Music is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with no overture. Instead there is the first of 22 songs (see song list at bottom) — and it’s not one you’ve hummed a thousand times, like Do-Re-Me (Do a deer, a female deer, re, a drop of golden sun…”), or The Sound of Music (The hills are alive with …). It’s called  Preludium, and it’s sung in Latin….and in a convent. Yet, thanks to Audra McDonald, it turned out to be a great start — even a highlight.

Another highlight: Audra McDonald singing Climb Ev’ry Mountain. Here’s a video of her doing it earlier at Rockefeller Center. Believe it or not, her live performance in the musical tonight was even more moving and powerful.

McDonald played Mother Abbess, which demonstrates what a person of such talent as McDonald can make out of a usually thankless role.

What about the rest of the Sound of Music, the three hour special on NBC?

The idea for a live, stage-version production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, based on the true story of the von Trapp family, came from the two creators of “Smash,”  Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. They recalled from their childhood the memorable live television events of Mary Martin performing in Peter Pan and Julie Andrews in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. And there is no question there was anticipation and excitement in the idea of such an event, even a manufactured one — enhanced rather than undermined by the opportunity to share the experience through Twitter. (The cast did have the unfortunate timing of having to perform just a few hours after the major downer of an actual event.)

It was also smart to use the stage version, which differs from the movie in interesting ways — darker, with a couple of songs omitted from the movie — although only true aficionados might notice. The production also benefited from a luscious design — both the costumes by Catherine Zuber and the set by Derek McLane — and some first-rate players, most of whom had the good fortune of being both major theatrical talents and also familiar faces on television. Above all, besides Audra LauraBenantionTVMcDonald,  this meant Laura Benanti, who played Elsa, the elegant rival for Captain von Trapp’s affection — so fabulous in Zuber’s ensembles that you wondered why the Captain would leave her for the pig-tailed youngster.  But it was a treat as well to see such stage pros like Christian Borle (best-known for Smash but and eight-time veteran of Broadway, most recently in Peter and the Starcatcher) and Kristine Nielsen (who was so wonderful in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) work their magic through six sets captured in the moment by a dozen cameras.

Click on photographs to see them enlarged

But Meron and Zadan seemed to miss a major lesson from the 1950s shows they remembered so fondly. Those shows starred Mary Martin and Julie Andrews.

On NBC, Carrie Underwood, the American Idol winner and country singer, played the lead role of Maria, the would-be nun who becomes a governess to seven motherless and insufferably adorable children, introducing music into a saddened household and falling in love with their father and her employer, the Captain. When Underwood was announced for the role made famous by Mary Martin on Broadway and Julie Andrews in the movie, there was a lot of nay-saying and snark. But the nay-sayers turned out to be largely on target.

Granted, there were some songs Underwood handled well, such as “The Lonely Goatherd” with all the yodeling.

Indeed, her singing was not the problem. It was her acting; she was never believable as Maria. To put this charitably, as my colleague Kevin Daly did, Carrie Underwood might have been better served by a TV version of Annie Get Your Gun, which would have played more to her strengths.

The publicity machine surrounding this “Sound of Music” made sure to let us know that, though Stephen Moyer may be known only as a vampire on True Blood, he has an extensive background in the theater; he’ even sung on stage. This may be, but his Captain seemed to me like a petulant wooden soldier compared to the easy authority of Christopher Plummer in the part in the 1965 movie, even though I haven’t seen that Julie Andrews vehicle in decades.

Was “The Sound of Music” a success? Will it mark the return of live theater to television? That surely will depend on the Nielsen ratings, and I don’t mean Kristine’s.

I call this a recap rather than a review, because nobody reads theater reviews, and everybody seems to consume television recaps avidly.

Songlist:

Preludium

The Sound of Music

My Favorite Things

Do-Re-Mi

Sixteen Going on Seventeen

The Lonely Goatherd

How Can Love Survive?

Reprise: The Sound of Music

he Grand Waltz

Landler

So Long, Farewell

Climb Ev’ry Mountain

No Way To Stop It

Something Good

Processional and Maria (The Wedding)

Reprise: Sixteen Going on Seventeen

Reprise: Do-Re-Me (the Concert)

Edelweiss (The Concert)

Reprise: So Long, Farewell (The Concert)

Finale Ultimo: Climb Ev’ry Mountain

End Credits

Update: The Sound of Music dominated the ratings for the entire three hours it aired. Roughly 18.5 million people saw it — better than any three-hour period on NBC in almost 10 years — and about 50 percent more than the attendance at all shows on Broadway for an entire year.

The Sound of Music on NBC — video trailer

SoundOfMusicposter

 

Here is a 31-second video (not counting the 30-second ad) of Carrie Underwood in NBC’s production of Rodger and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, which will be broadcast on December 5, 2013. It includes a few seconds each of Carrie Underwood and Audra McDonald singing, and Christian Borle clowning around. Stephen Moyer might be in there too, but I didn’t spot Laura Benanti.

Chaplin Silenced, Anarchist Scolded, Dead Accounts Dead on Arrival

Katie Holmes, Ricky Martin, Chaplin, Patti LuPone, Debra Winger, Cicely Tyson all figure in this week in New York theater

Katie Holmes, Ricky Martin, Chaplin, Patti LuPone, Debra Winger, Cicely Tyson all figure in this week in New York theater

T’was not a great week to be jolly for many in New York theater, with stars leaving shows, closing announcements, and Broadway openings marred by pans.

On the other hand, there was some good news involving Cicely Tyson, Nathan Lane, playwright Amy Herzog and fans of The Lion King. Also below: a chance to weigh in on the worst Broadway show of 2012, and to test how well you were paying attention to theater news in November.

November 26, 2012

Holland Taylor as Ann Richards in "Ann"

Holland Taylor as Ann Richards in “Ann”

Holland Taylor will be starring on Broadway in the Lincoln Center Theater production of “Ann,”  about late Texas Gov Ann Richards, opening March 7

Quiz: What recent NYC show also featured Ann Richards?

Karen Wilson ‏(@akakarenwilson)” Pre-show speech at Urban Cowboy

Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater): Not what I was thinking, no

Patricia Milton ‏(@PatriciaMilton): Anna Deavere Smith played Ann Richards in “Let Me Down Easy” Off-B’way in 2009.

Scottish play, rainbow casting, ghost light. Know these theater terms? If not,check out TDF’s theater dictionary 

Tina Packer’s marathon “Women of Will” (about Shakespeare’s female characters) Jan-June 2013 at Gym at Judson 

Actor just starting out cast in what he discovers is incompetent unprofessional production asks: Should I quit? 

Daniel Bourque ‏@Danfrmbourque: Tough one early in career, especially for an actor. I’d say stick it out and then not go near company again.

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Stephen Sondheim and Nathan Lane

Stephen Sondheim and Nathan Lane

Ricky Martin, Elena Roger and Michael Cerveris will all leave Evita after Jan 26. Show continues with unannounced new cast. Who will they have to get to keep Evita going after its stars leave in January?

Lights will dim on Broadway tonight for producer Marty Richards (Sweeney Todd, etc),  co-founder of Broadway Care/Equity Fights AIDS, who died yesterday at age 80

After 18 months, the unexpected hit Silence: The Musical, a spoof of the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” will close December 30th at the Elektra Theater in Times Square.

Nathan Lane will be host of the Symphonic Sondheim at the New York Philharmonic January 29

Audra McDonald to be new host of “Live From Lincoln Center” on PBS

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, by Kathie Lee Gifford

Parishioner at Aimee Semple McPherson’s church who met Kathie Lee leaves comment on my review of Scandalous: Kathie Lee Gifford “said she felt the show needed to be done and that God would use it.”

Worst-performing show on Broadway last week, by most measures (e.g. attendance down more than 40%!) was Scandalous

BackStageBarbie ‏@barbiebackstage oh geez. I have comps to use for that show. Sounds like I better get on before it closes.

Why is Scandalous still playing when theater is 2/3rds empty? Amway millionaires Dick and Betsy DeVos covering losses in hopes of a miracle turnaround in audience attendance.

William Akers ‏@ouijum I should send them one of my scripts. Gotta love producers with blind faith and deep pockets.

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Do labels for artists “young” and “emerging” discriminate on basis of age and insult based on experience?

Kicked off Smash in March, Theresa Rebeck has a new play Dead Accounts opening Thursday. She talks about both Rebeck saw herself as the architect of Smash, she says; NBC saw her as the general contractor. “…you don’t fuck with the muse.

Government “invests” in manufacturing, says UK arts writer Louise Jury, but “subsidizes” the arts. “But both make things.”

TLK_988x238_102612Free Lion King exhibition this Saturday through Dec. 16. Mask-making etc

 

My Name Is Asher Lev: "You have a responsibility. Do you know what that responsibility is?" the art teacher (Mark Nelson) asks his student, an art prodigy who is also an Orthodox Jew (Ari Brand)

The arts teach kids creativity, confidence, problem-solving,perseverance, focus, collaboration, dedication

“To make theater, one must live in a state of crisis,” writes playwright & actor Michael Yichao http://bit.ly/Se66Zw  True?

My Name Is Asher Lev: What does it take to be an artist? What is the artist’s responsbility?

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark began performances for the paying public two years ago today. (It opened 6 1/2 months later.)

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August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson at Signature Theater is extending 3 weeks through January 13.

Crystal T. Johnson ‏@ArtsGift2Crys Yessss! I need tickets

DRG Records making cast recording of Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In studio: Dec 10. Available: Jan 29

In 8 videos on Sony Masterworks “Legends of Broadway,” Sondheim discusses Gypsy, Follies,Into the Woods

Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes in Dead Accounts on Broadway

Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes in Dead Accounts on Broadway

My review of Dead Accounts

After departing “Smash,” the television series she created that looks with fluttering heart at the making of a Broadway musical, Theresa Rebeck apparently has changed her mind about New York City, judging from her inconsequential and oddly hostile new comedy, “Dead Accounts.”

….What was most entertaining for me about “Dead Accounts” was the mystery behind Norbert Leo Butz’s character – and the teasing, intriguing clues Rebeck sprinkles in the first act, with little surprises leading up to the biggest surprise.

And then the big surprise turns out to be a dud.

Full review of Dead Accounts

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Neil LaBute is following up his Reasons to be Pretty with new play Reasons to Be Happy, which he will

ReasonstoBePretty direct for MCC Theater in 2013

Wendy Rosenfield ‏@WendyRosenfield Reason to be annoyed

David Robson ‏@davidrobsonplay Come on, you know you love him.

November2012TheaterQuiz

November 2012 New York Theater Quiz

Sample Q: In a review of what work did Isherwood use the word “Weltanschauung”? http://

December 1

The Worst Broadway Show of 2012? Vote in the poll:

Stage Acting Tips: e.g. keep a notebook, read the play out loud at least 3 times, don’t drink cold water 

Glenda Jackson: Acting is not about dressing up. Acting is about stripping bare

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Happy 87th birthday,Julie Harris,winner of 6 Tonys,veteran of 33 Broadway shows, co-star w/James Dean, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando

“Degrassi: The Next Generation” star Epstein to play Peter Parker/Spider-man in “Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark” Saturday and Sunday matinee performances beginning Dec. 8

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Patti LuPone and Debra Winger in David Mamet's "The Anarchist" on Broadway got reviews that will be difficult for the production to quote.

David Mamet will not be quoting reviews of The Anarchist in ads

“a wearying lecture”…”strangely gassy”…”restrained to the point of somnambulance”…”drone on and on”

CicelyTysoninTheCornIsGreenCicely Tyson returns to Broadway after 30 years in revival of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, opening April, 2013 Sondheim Theater. The last time she was on Broadway was in “The Corn Is Green” in 1983.

Amy Herzog has won fourth annual NY Times Outstanding Playwright Award for After the Revolution, about radical family,

Chaplin, starring Rob McClure, is closing

Chaplin, starring Rob McClure, is closing

Chaplin will close after 24 previews and 136 regular performances.

@ChaplinBway With heavy hearts, we announce our final perf, Jan 6.

The announcement that Chaplin is closing comes a day before its cast recording becomes downloadable, 5 days before CD available

Broadway audiences: 2/3rds female, almost 2/3rds tourists. Almost half buy tickets online., according to a new report from The Broadway League.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean sings Who Am I in Les Miserables Movie 

The Tony Awards: My Selections

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Audra McDonald, Clybourne Park, Death of A Salesman, Once are all worthy nominees at 2012 Tony Awards

Audra McDonald, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Once, Death of A Salesman, Clybourne Park are among my selections for 2012 Tony Awards

Nobody would argue that the Tony Awards are the most important awards for theater in America, but there is one reason for this: They are the only ones broadcast on national television. Although the ratings are so low as to be the butt of jokes, the truth is that the seven million or so viewers who tune in once a year represent more than half of all Broadway theater-goers for the entire year. (Last year, 12.13 million attended a Broadway show, according to the Broadway League.)

One could argue — although nobody does — that any number of the many other theater awards are just as worthy of attention. The Theatre World Awards are older and give a boost to performers making their New York state debuts, the Drama Desk Awards are more inclusive, welcoming Off-Broadway and even a few Off-Off Broadway shows, while the Tony Awards are limited to those shows that appeared in the season in one of the 40 Broadway theaters. (Does anybody believe that Broadway has a monopoly on quality plays and musicals in New York?)

Anyway, it’s nice to get caught up in Tony fever, so here is my two cents, followed by the views and predictions of others. I make no predictions: How can I get into the minds and hidden agendas of  hundreds of Tony voters? Here is who I would like to see win:

BEST PLAY

Nominees: Clybourne Park (Bruce Norris), Other Desert Cities (Jon Robin Baitz), Peter and the Starcatcher (Rick Elice), Venus in Fur (David Ives)

Should Win: Clybourne Park

It’s not a perfect play. I don’t think it will last, but it’s the best of the choices. Other Desert Cities is terrific, and I would have chosen this one – except for the ending.

BEST MUSICAL

Nominees: Leap of Faith, Newsies, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Once

Should Win: Once

Once stands out for its feeling of authenticity. All the other shows feel unusually synthetic – you could say fake – even for Broadway.           

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL

Nominees: Lysistrata Jones (Douglas Carter Beane), Newsies (Harvey Fierstein), Nice Work If You Can Get It (Joe DiPietro), Once (Enda Walsh)

Should Win: Once

I love Harvey Fierstein; this is far from his best writing. I guess you could also say that the book for Once is far from Enda Walsh’s best writing, but it’s better than any of the others in the category.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS)

Nominees: Bonnie & Clyde (Frank Wildhorn & Don Black), Newsies (Alan Menken & Jack Feldman), One Man, Two Guvnors (Grant Olding), Peter and the Starcatcher (Wayne Barker & Rick Elice)

Should Win: Newsies

Is nobody concerned that half the songs in Newsies were in a 20-year-old movie? How does that make them “original”? Another mystery of the Tony nominating process. Still, like it or not, the songs in Newsies are the catchiest.

 

BEST REVIVAL (PLAY):

Nominees: Death of a Salesman, The Best Man, Master Class, Wit

Should Win: Death of a Salesman

BEST REVIVAL (MUSICAL):

Nominees: Evita, Follies, Porgy and Bess, Jesus Christ Superstar

Should Win: Porgy and Bess

I’ll admit this is unlikely. Maybe Sondheim will take the opportunity during his acceptance speech for Follies to apologize for his unfair if witty attack on Porgy and Bess. Did he actually wind up seeing it? I did, and I thought they did a good job of adjusting the squirm-inducing aspects of a show that is beloved for its score, not for its outdated attitudes.

BEST PERFORMANCE, LEADING ACTOR, PLAY:

Nominees: James Corden, One Man, Two Guvnors; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Death of a Salesman; James Earl Jones, The Best Man; Frank Langella, Man and Boy; John Lithgow, The Columnist

Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman or John Lithgow

There’s some weirdness in the nominations here. Two don’t belong for different reasons. John Lithgow gives another one of his miraculous performances in a new play, turning an unpleasant character into someone we like watching. But, yes, Philip Seymour Hoffman is the master, taking charge of a classic play that remains so relevant and so moving.

 BEST PERFORMANCE, LEADING ACTRESS, PLAY:

Nominees: Nina Arianda, Venus in Fur; Tracie Bennett, End of the Rainbow; Stockard Channing, Other Desert Cities; Linda Lavin, The Lyons; Cynthia Nixon, Wit

 Should Win: Nina Arianda, Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin

 This is an impossible category. I can’t remember ever being so pleased by so many performers in one category. These three are completely wonderful in very different ways. I can only hope there is a three-way tie. Wouldn’t that be great?

BEST PERFORMANCE, LEADING ACTOR, MUSICAL:

Nominees: Danny Burstein, Follies; Jeremy Jordan, Newsies; Steve Kazee, Once; Norm Lewis, Porgy and Bess; Ron Raines, Follies

Should Win: Danny Burstein

A tough one, again, but not as tough.

BEST PERFORMANCE, LEADING ACTRESS, MUSICAL:

Nominees: Jan Maxwell, Follies; Audra McDonald, Porgy and Bess; Cristin Milioti, Once; Kelli O’Hara, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Laura Osnes, Bonnie & Clyde:

Should Win: Audra McDonald

Yes, Audra McDonald has won four Tonys. And yes, Jan Maxwell was a surprise and a delight in a musical, and deserves finally to win a Tony. But McDonald has never won for lead actress, and she’s just mesmerizing in this show.

Best Performance, Featured actor, Play

Nominees: Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher; Michael Cumpsty, End of the Rainbow; Tom Edden, One Man, Two Guvnors; Andrew Garfield, Death of a Salesman; Jeremy Shamos, Clybourne Park

 Should Win: Tom Edden

I don’t care if he had only three lines. He was the consummate physical comedian, and totally persuasive as an 87-year-old waiter, even though he’s about a third that age.

Best Performance, Featured Actress, Play

Nominees: Linda Emond, Death of a Salesman; Spencer Kayden, Don’t Dress for Dinner; Celia Keenan-Bolger, Peter and the Starcatcher; Judith Light, Other Desert Cities; Condola Rashad, Stick Fly

Should Win: Judith Light or Spencer Kayden

Judith Light was great as Linda Laven’s replacement, allowing us to see a new, equally credible take on the character. But that show could have worked well with another performer. Spencer Kayden, on the other hand, was the only thing worth watching in Don’t Dress for Dinner. She was hilarious. The mystery is why it took more than a decade after Urinetown for her to return to Broadway.

 Best Performance, featured actor, musical

Nominees: Phillip Boykin, Porgy and Bess; Michael Cerveris, Evita; David Alan Grier, Porgy and Bess; Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Josh Young, Jesus Christ Superstar

 Should Win: Michael McGrath.

 He’s a pro. If Judy Kaye wins – and she deserves to – it’s in part because of how well she and McGrath worked together.

I do think Phillip Boykin makes a wonderful villain.

Best Performance by, featured Actress, Musical

Nominees: Elizabeth A. Davis, Once; Jayne Houdyshell, Follies; Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Jessie Mueller, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ghost the Musical

 Should Win: Judy Kaye

She was splendid. But if Da’Vine Joy Randolph wins, I’ll cheer – it’ll be Da’Vine retribution for all the cynical naysaying critics of Ghost.

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY:

Nominees: Nicholas Hytner, One Man, Two Guvnors; Pam MacKinnon, Clybourne Park; Mike Nichols, Death of a Salesman; Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, Peter and the Starcatcher

 Mike Nichols

 It would be lovely for Pam MacKinnon to win, though. She did a good job, and it might end the knee-jerk free association of “female director” with “Julie Taymor”

 

 

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL:

Nominees: Jeff Calhoun, Newsies; Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It; Diane Paulus, Porgy and Bess; John Tiffany, Once

Should Win: John Tiffany

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY:

Nominees: Rob Ashford, Evita; Christopher Gattelli, Newsies; Steven Hoggett, Once; Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It

Should Win: Christopher Gattelli

 As I wrote in my review, the dancing in Newsies places it with Anything Goes and Memphis as the most exciting on Broadway.  (Why Kathleen Marshall wasn’t able to repeat her own excitement is one of those mysteries that make Broadway what it is.)

I think the dancing in “Once” is lovely, actually,  but on a different plane from the Newsies choreographic pyrotechnics. 

 

The New York Times take on the Tony Awards

The New York Post’s Michael Riedel predictions on the Tonys The obvious winners will be James Corden (“One Man, Two Guvnors”), Christian Borle (“Peter and the Starcatcher”), Audra McDonald (“Porgy”), Michael Cerveris (“Evita”), Judy Kaye (“Nice Work If You Can Get It”) and Judith Light (“Other Desert Cities”).

Stage Grade‘s poll of more than a dozen New York critics