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Tony Fallout. Bard Targeted. The Boss on Broadway? Week in NY and San Francisco Theater

Tony Epilogue

Within days of the Tony Awards (List of winners. Best moments) and the triumph of Dear Evan Hansen, three plays announced they were closing in June. Two of them – Indecent and Sweat (both closing June 25) – marked the Broadway debuts of two acclaimed, Pulitzer-prize winning women playwrights. (Sweat did not win any of the Tony for which it was nominated, but Indecent won two!)
Indecent playwright Paula Vogel blamed the co-chief critics of the New York Times

Sweat playwright Lynn Nottage seconded

I put some blame on the Tony Awards broadcast: If they would give straight plays the attention they deserve, Sweat, Indecent etc could find their audience.

Whatever the reasons, something is amiss.

New Broadway Season

If the Broadway season had a bittersweet epilogue, we are already in the prologue to the new season, which officially launches Thursday with the opening of 1984:

Broadway 2017-2018 Preview Guide

#FreeShakespeare 

After hammering criticism on social media by advocates on the political right, both Delta and Bank of America rescinded their funding for the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park, for depicting a Trump-like Caesar. Protesters subsequently interrupted the play.
The Public’s Julius Caesar ends its run today, but this is unlikely to stop the attacks. According to news reports, Shakespeare companies across the country are being targeted on social media for the Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar. Are the attackers confused, or doesn’t the distinction matter to them?

More on the Julius Caesar flap – photos, news reports, commentaries, reviews.

 

Week in New York Theater News

Preliminary rating for the Tony broadcast shows steep 31% decline from 2016 – a 4.7 rating, way down from 6.8 in 2016. The number of viewers will wind up being about six million.

The Pearl Theatre Co. filed for bankruptcy, and is closing after 33 years.

2017 summer schedule for free Broadway in Bryant Park lunchtime concerts (including Come From Away, Great Comet, Groundhog Day, and Anastasia.)

Cast completed for Frozen, headed to the St. James Broadway in Spring 2018

Week in San Francisco Theater

I spent the week in San Francisco, attending the annual American Theatre Critics Association conference.

I reviewed two shows aiming for Broadway:

Stephanie Styles and Drew Gehling

Roman Holiday

“Roman Holiday,” a musical running briefly at San Francisco’s Golden Theater in a traditional pre-Broadway tryout, grafts more than a dozen songs by Cole Porter onto the 1953 movie that turned Audrey Hepburn into a star….It’s tempting to call “Roman Holiday” an inefficient delivery system for Cole Porter’s hits. There’s [little] rationale for its existence.

(foreground) Kuhoo Verma (Aditi Verma) and Michael Maliakel (Hemant Rai); (background) Mahira Kakkar (Pimmi Verma), Rohan Gupta (Varun Verma), and Sharvari Deshpande (Ria Verma).

Monsoon Wedding

Mira Nair…is directing a musical adaptation of her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding that is currently on stage at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, with plans to move to Broadway.

Let’s hope it does. The story of the many family members who converge on Delhi for an arranged marriage is lively, colorful, and tuneful. It also has something to say

From this week’s American Theatre Critics Association panel discussions:

Bay Area designers

Choreographer Kimberly Richards: Choreography is not just the dancing; it’s all the movement. That’s often overlooked.

Scenic designer Nina Ball’s advice to critics: “Get to know what we work with — scale, harmony, line, space.”

Costume designer Abra Berman: My aim in modern dress shows is for costumes to so subtly enhance the characters that they’re not noticed –

Shakespeare: The Second 400 Years with five artistic directors of Shakespeare theater companies in the Bay Area.

William J. Brown, Arabian Shakespeare Festival; Leslie Schisgall Currier, Marin Shakespeare Company, , moderator Philippa Kelly, L. Peter Callender, African-American Shakespeare Company, Eric Ting, California Shakespeare Theater, Rebecca Ennals, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

John Simon said black people couldn’t do Shakespeare. I wanted my life to prove him wrong — L. Peter Callender, founding artistic director of the African-American Shakespeare Company.

There’s a distinction between theater and museums. We can’t separate what’s on stage from the issues affecting a present-day audience – Eric Ting, California Shakespeare Theater

We start teaching Shakespeare too late. We should be teaching it when kids are five and learning new words all the time. -Rebecca Ennals of San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

Perspectives on Criticism

Bay Area critics: Robert Hurwitt (retired from the San Francisco Chronicle), Karen D’Souza (San Jose Mercury News), Lily Janice (new critic at San Francisco Chronicle.)

Birth of a critic:”I was poor, I was in grad school, I couldn’t afford to go to theater” (free tix!) – Karen D’Souza

A lot of my career was pushing for more arts coverage –  Robert Hurwitt retired recently after ~40 years as a critic

I didn’t consider myself a journalist, but reporting is an important part of every review I write – Lily Janiak

 

 

A play is not complete until somebody weighs in who’s not part of the production. That’s part of theater – Lily Janiak

The Play’s The Thing: Critics and New Work.

Panel with five Bay Area playwrights: Aaron Loeb, Stuart Bousel, Christopher Chen, moderator Amy Mueller (director and producer), Michael Gene Sullivan, Lauren Gunderson.

Aaron Loeb sees critics as useful for “blowing on your ember” — which becomes a catchphrase for the hour. Loeb advice to critics: “Engage with what the thing is, not what you wish it was.” One critic said of one of his plays: “This should have been a musical.”

Critics are supportive of new plays because I think they have stake in establishing theater identity – Chris Chen

“Theater is the anti-technology. You have to show up at the same time, and listen to live human beings. It’s the opposite of our devices and computers.” – Lauren Gunderson.

 

AR Gurney

 

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Denzel, Menzel, Michael C. Hall. RIP Mickey Rooney. The Broadway Effect. NYC on Stage. Week in New York Theater

NewYorkTheaterWeekApril6

If/Then with Idina Menzel, A Raisin in the Sun with Denzel Washington and The Realistic Joneses  with Michael C. Hall opened on Broadway; Adrian Lester gives a star turn portraying the first African-American actor to play Othello in Red Velvet. The actor, Ira Aldridge, performed the role in London in 1833, but he was a native New Yorker.

New York is the setting for nearly half the shows of Broadway’s Spring 2014 season (See April 1 below, but it’s no joke.)

Of course, Broadway is not the only place for shows in April. Here is a list of April New York theater openings — more than one per day.

Also, check out the update Broadway 2013-2014 Season Guide: What’s closed, what’s opening; reviews,

 

The Week in New York Theater

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With a  few exceptions (shows with “rock” in the title), Broadway shows have trouble attracting men. Men now comprise just 32 percent of Broadway audiences. Men and women go in equal numbers to sports events, rock concerts, even movies. Why not theater?

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Neil Patrick Harris AS Hedwig, Complete With Blonde Wig, Custom Heels

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My review of Red Velvet

When Ira Aldridge played Othello in London, they were still debating whether it was a good thing to end slavery in the British colonies. Aldridge is the real-life African-American actor portrayed by Adrian Lester in “Red Velvet,” the fascinating play written by Lester’s wife Lolita Chakrabarti in a production by London’s exquisite Tricycle Theatre now opened at St. Ann’s Warehouse through April 20th. It manages not just to dramatize a little-known 19th century figure but provide insight into the art of acting and of theater.
Aldridge was 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.

Full review of Red Velvet

Idina Menzel

Idina Menzel

My review of If/Then

In “If/Then,” Idina Menzel portrays two different versions of the same character Elizabeth, and at the beginning of the musical, I was feeling like two versions of myself as well.  Elizabeth as Liz pursues love, and as Beth goes after a career as a city planner, in order to try to make a difference in the world.  I, Jonathan, initially felt both like Joe and Nathan – as Joe, irritated at the premise, and as Nathan, excited by the promise of entertainment from so much proven stage talent,  with various past successes in Next to Normal, Rent and Wicked.

By the end, we (I) could agree: The way the premise plays out is more intelligent than it at first seems. The entertainers themselves deliver on their promise. It is terrific to see (and hear) Idina Menzel back on Broadway after an absence of nine years.  She is employed wisely — on stage nearly all the time, she’s given songs that emphasize character as much as vocal gymnastics; we must wait for the occasional  full-steam pop arias like “Always Starting Over”; making them all the more flooring.

But this is a story that would have worked better as a novel, or perhaps a serial on Netflix.

Full review of If/Then

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March 2014 Theater Quiz

New York Theater March 2014 Quiz

Stars in the Alley, The Broadway League’s annual concert, returns to Shubert Alley 11 a.m. to 12:30 pm Wednesday, May 21

More on Maries Crisis, a theater piano bar where nobody knows your name, but they know Ethel Merman’s http://bit.ly/PcxY30

Theater artists, don’t give up! Expand your skills, redefine success, bond with your network, says Jennifer Lane.

How do YOU keep from giving up as a theater artist? (Or shouldn’t I ask this on a Monday morning?)

Harriet: @harriet75
I have given up on the dream if being on bway but now I find community theatre is my outlet.

 

Sinisha Evtimov ‏@SinishaEvtimov Just move to Europa… give it a try somewhere where it is truly appreciated

Aleisha Force ‏@aleishaforce  remembering that this is my work, not my entire life.

April 1, 2014

Nearly one half of all Broadway shows in Spring 2014 are set in New York City.

“This is probably a sure way to get applause in New York, but I was born in Brooklyn,” Jessie Mueller as Carole King says from the stage of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre at the beginning of Beautiful.
These are the first spoken words in this Broadway musical, which is set in locations around New York City. The line about Brooklyn does get applause, without fail.
New Yorkers may be applauding a lot this season. Nearly half the shows opening on Broadway in spring 2014 are set wholly or mostly in New York City.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” says Brian Yorkey, who, with composer Tom Kitt, has written the book and lyrics for If/Then, which stars Idina Menzel as a city planner who moves to New York. “New York is our home, and it’s what we know, and what we love.” That’s true, he says, of many of the other writers of shows set in the city this season, from Woody Allen to James Lapine.

Full story: The Many New Yorks This Season on Broadway

Rosie O’Donnell to receive 2014 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for her commitment to arts education through her org Rosie’s Theater Kids

Touring stage productions that hold their tech rehearsals in upstate theaters to get tax break.

Noah Hinsdale, Griffin Birney, and Sydney Lucas

Noah Hinsdale, Griffin Birney, and Sydney Lucas in Fun Home

Nominations for 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards: Fun Home; Here Lies Love; Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 get the most nominations.

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Here Lies Love 4

Cast recording for Here Lies Love coming April 22, a week before show opens again at the Public Theater.

Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain

Courtney Love wants to see a Broadway musical about Kurt Cobain

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Artists are more educated and more unemployed than the general workforce. Sixty-five percent have BAs or higher (v. 32% overall). 7.1% are unemployed

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A preview of The Flea’s epic irreverent The Mysteries — 48 playwrights adapt tales from The Bible

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My review of A Raisin in the Sun

“… a masterpiece on just about every level…Much of the reaction from the moment this new production was announced concerned Denzel Washington’s age. He is 59; the character he is portraying, Walter Lee Younger Jr., is supposed to be 35…His age doesn’t bother me.  Consider it a new form of innovative casting — age-blind casting… Director Kenny Leon has rethought this play, in ways that work better, and perhaps a few ways that don’t work as well. Denzel Washington works better…”

Full review of A Raisin in the Sun

 

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The Broadway Effect

The musical Aladdin on Broadway has gotten rid of Abu, Aladdin’s trusted if mischievous monkey companion, as well as the pet tiger Rajah, both of whom were in Disney’s 1992 animated film. In Rocky on Broadway, you cannot see the real streets of Philadelphia, nor in Les Miserables on Broadway can you see the performers’ nostrils; both loomed large in the film versions.

About a third of the forty two new shows in the 2013-2014 Broadway season were either adapted from a movie or so closely associated with one that the film serves both to lure an audience into the musical, and to raise audience expectations—the former a godsend for the producers, the latter a terror for the creative team. How do you offer something both comforting and exciting, familiar and surprising; what can Broadway offer as compensation for the loss of Abu, Philadelphia and Hugh Jackman’s shapely nose?

The answer is what we can call The Broadway Effect

over the past few decades have entered the standard Broadway playbook of stage effects:

Stage smoke/fog

Confetti shot out of (on-stage or off-stage) cannons

Banks of bright lights shining directly in the audience’s eyes

Shimmering stars against a deep black night (I mean the celestial bodies, but of course celebrities are also now standard.)

Weather (usually rain), accompanied by somber black umbrellas or loud crashing noises.

Magically moving scenery (via computer automation)

Video projections

It’s not just such stage special effects that contribute to the Broadway Effect; one must include Broadway’s traditional elements that continue to thrive, such as massive synchronized ensemble tap-dancing.

Complete story on The Broadway Effect

 

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Times Square Billboard

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Paul Rudnick on straight men and theater: A straight guy’s ‘I want” song is “I want to leave at intermission”

ATCA New Play Award

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“I was a 13-year-old boy for 30 years” — Mickey Rooney, who has died at age 93. The movie star was on Broadway twice. Sugar Babies is said to have made him a star once again.

The Realistic Joneses Lyceum Theatre

 

My review of The Realistic Joneses

Ninety minutes and a dozen scenes after it began, this often comic, sometimes cosmic and thoroughly cryptic play by Will Eno, a downtown playwright making his Broadway debut, was over….Fans of Michael C. Hall expecting “Dexter”-like intrigue and plenty of plot, or those of Marisa Tomei hoping for a light comedy like “My Cousin Vinny” are likely to be disappointed, and baffled by “The Realistic Joneses.” Actually, most people are likely to be baffled by “The Realistic Joneses.” But not everybody will be disappointed. Those who know Will Eno’s work will be in familiar unfamiliar territory.

Full review of The Realistic Joneses