Sound of Music Snark. The Laugh Police. Off-Off Broadway Groundbreaking. The Week in New York Theater

LauraBenantionTVSoundofMusic2Let’s face it, the live TV broadcast of The Sound of Music overshadowed whatever exciting news about Broadway itself this week–  new leads for Bullets Over Broadway and Act One; the Grammy nominees for Best Musical Theater Album; firmed up dates for several shows — and even some literally groundbreaking news about Off-Off Broadway.

Below: recap (review) and some of the snarky Tweets during the show. Also: a spirited debate about theater etiquette.

Week in New York Theater Dec 2 to 8, 2013

Monday, December 2

Tyne Daly returns to Broadway in Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons, at John Golden Theater. Previews begin Feb 23; opens March 24. Daly plays a mother who, 20 years after her son’s death from AIDS, travels from Texas to New York to see her son’s former lover.

Are you bored by whole passages of Shakespeare plays? Don’t feel guilty. That might be part of what makes them great.

Is this a Golden Age of Shakespeare? Or is the Bard a bully, crowding out others?

Aladdin marquee

Opened today: The New Amsterdam Theatre box office, for tickets to Aladdin, which arrives on Broadway Feb. 26

Pippin 9

Pippin recoups its  $8.5 million investment


Postscript to Kinky Boots attack: It had its best week ever, with more than 100% attendance & record-breaking $1.9 million at the box office.


In the documentary Six by Sondheim: James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim,  Jackie Hoffman, America Ferrera, Darren Criss, Laura Osnes, and Jeremy Jordan

In the documentary Six by Sondheim: James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim, Jackie Hoffman, America Ferrera, Darren Criss, Laura Osnes, and Jeremy Jordan

Six By Sondheim debuts on HBO Monday. Watch video excerpt: Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan and America Ferrera sing “Opening Doors” from Merrily We Roll Along.

Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night on Broadway

Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night on Broadway

Producers, please note: Twelfth Night and Richard III did great at the box office even though they sell 2,000 seats per week at just $25.


Most of the stars of Kinky Boots will be departing the show early next year but Billy Porter will remain at least through July 2014.

The Supremes

The Supremes

All evening performances of Motown the Musical will now be at 7:30.

Alexandra Silber, so terrific in Caramoor’s She Loves Me, will play a GI’s wife in new musical Arlington at the Vineyard Theater, opening in March.

Feel shut out of 700 Sundays on Broadway by its high prices? HBO is planning to film it.

MarySchmidtCampbellArts education makes a difference, says NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts departing dean Mary Schmidt Campbell: If you put well-designed arts programs into the schools… you can raise the performance in reading, math & science.

Good news: Twelfth Night and Richard III extended to Feb 16.

More great news: Fun Home, top of my top 10 list, extends once again at the Public Theater, to Jan 12.

The Rockettes in the "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" in the Radi

Christmas Theater

Christmas cheer is a cut-throat business, something I learned from the composer of Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, Johnny Marks, who pointed out to me that the success of his little ditty and others such as Jingle Bells filled the airwaves every December, making it nearly impossible to get airtime for new Christmas songs, including his own.

Does this work the same for Christmas theater?

Full article, listing the shows

Do the theater etiquette police ever make you wish you had stayed home?

Joy Meads ‏@capnjoy4  I regularly get glared at because I have a loud laugh. (Never disrespectful, in the wrong place, just loud.) I hate it.
I had one woman tell me I didn’t know how to attend theater. I said “ma’am, I’m the literary manager of Steppenwolf Theatre”
For the record, I’m a very respectful audience member. I think it’s about perceived class
 Jonathan Mandell: How did she react?
Joy Meads: just huffed and walked away. What could she say? Drove me crazy because she and her husband talked during the play. Come on.
Zena ‏@scarletseas4 no bc I’m usually one of them!
Jonathan Mandell: I hope you’re at least polite police. Rudeness is its own violation of theater etiquette
Zena: agreed – remember in cinema man shushed me when I was telling MD sis what happened as she had gone out to answer her pager!
Iana Brownstein ‏@bostonturgy Surly British woman waited til quiet moment of ART in West End, turned & yelled at me: “You have the MOST annoying laugh!”
Raymond McNeel ‏@RaymondMcNeel  The second most important reason the under 30 crowd stays home.
Danielle Pashun ‏@DanielleP3214  I think we need more of them! Ppl think when a scene ends that means “commercial break” which means “lets have a convo” :/
KatieGonzo ‏@KatieGonzo Depends. Are they quietly raising a hand to still the water-torture of someone unwrapping a candy?
On the other hand, some old biddy subscribers once chastised my students for “laughing too much”- *at the jokes*.

Joy Meads: Down with the laugh police!


Marin Mazzie cast in Bullets Over Broadway’s much-sought role of drunk leading lady Helen Sinclair (played by Dianne Wiest in the film)

The arts and culture contribute $500 billion to GDP, more than travel & tourism, in first-ever (!) measure of their economic value. The new index meets longtime challenge… of determining the arts’ value, says National Endowment for the Art research director.

The problem with putting a dollar figure on the arts and culture is that no matter how high, dollars don’t get at the arts’ full value.

Details on Big Fish’s album: released digitally Feb. 7, 2014, in stores, Feb. 11 from Broadway Records.

Why Spider-man move to Vegas isn’t sign of failure: Defensive rant about NY snobs from Las Vegas Weekly. “Vegas can do NY theater successfully, but NY still hasn’t figured out how to do much that’s Vegas-worthy.”
Nella Vera ‏@spinstripes And thank god for that!
Terry Teachout  Is that a good thing or a bad thing
Kate O’Phalen ‏@KateOPhalen Man, does that article miss the mark *and* reek of the same snideness it accuses NY of. Just because you can import watered down bway show, doesn’t mean you can do NY theatre.
Sierra Rein ‏@SierraRein Author writes “I don’t know if Spider-Man is crap. It might be” = ignorance. It was a mess.
Kate O’Phalen: Also agreed on that. I’ve seen Vegas-style shows, and Spider-Man was not up to par.

“When is it censorship, and when is it simply saying no thanks?”Clayton Lord writes about Mormon love of art and the Trumbull high school principal’s banning of the musical Rent in order to conclude: Some works of art “might just not fit into the values, mores, and beliefs of a particular group of people” Interesting to read the comments at the bottom.

The Sound of Music

SoundofMusicMariaandkidsI wrote what I called a recap of The Sound of Music (really a review) but there was a whole different entertainment going on during the show – “live-Tweeting it.” One person’s sample:


The Sound of Music Recap

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.



The Sound of Music

My Favorite Things


Sixteen Going on Seventeen

The Lonely Goatherd

How Can Love Survive?

Reprise: The Sound of Music

he Grand Waltz


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.

Wicked at 10. Rachel Weisz Betrays Daniel Craig. Baseball on Broadway. The Week in New York Theater

RachelWeiszDanielCraigRafeSpall“The world is a better place when people are doing things rather than having things.“~Damian Bazadona, founder of Situation Interactive

“Art is dangerous….” ~ Duke Ellington

From Wicked’s tenth anniversary celebrations to the opening of a show about adultery where Broadway newbie Rachel Weisz betrays husband Daniel Craig, to the news that The Mutilated by Tennessee Williams will star Warhol and John Waters cult actresses; from one-minute plays and 24-hour plays (plays conceived, written all in one day) —  New York theater has it all.

And it’s always changing — not always a good thing. (See “What’s so great about innovation” below) Baseball’s moving to Broadway, Mamma Mia’s making room for Rocky, King Kong is scouting theaters in New York, a brand new theater opens in Brooklyn.  Les Miz has found its man — men and women leads. Mary-Louise has return to Broadway (see review of The Snow Geese below), Nina Arianda announces her return to a New York stage, Isabella Rossellini is going to BAM for a show about sex.

The Week in New York Theater

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lou Gehrig, played by John Wernke, in Bronx Bombers, a play about the Yankees

Lou Gehrig, played by John Wernke, in Bronx Bombers, a play about the Yankees

The Bronx Bombers, about the New York Yankees, is transferring to Broadway in January.


The mayor invited New Yorkers to “move up town and enjoy the pure, clean air.”  This was in 1836, and he meant 42nd Street. From Spotlight on Broadway, the new website from New York City.

What’s so great about innovation?

Todd London of the New Dramatists was one of the speakers in something called the National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture

“I’ve come to bury innovation, not to praise it,” he said, decrying donors’ obsession with the word.

“We make home for fifty playwrights in a world of their words. Words discovered and discarded, considered, blown apart, and put back together. Maybe this explains the deep offense I take at the jargon of corporate America that floats the innovation boat….

“We’ve learned to talk about marketing as though it were community engagement. And now we are challenged to add innovation to the list of empty phrases to live by.…

“Why fetishize innovation? Why not excavation, elaboration, celebration? Not all artistic enterprises, not all historical moments, demand radical departure. More often than not, the new is actually something old, something other, that we’ve previously refused to hear …”

His full speech is in this video starting at 33 minutes. An edited transcript is here.

 Foundry Theatre partners with social justice organizations to effect change in New York, writes RJ Maccani, who explains how

King Kong in New York? Not on the Empire State Building this time. The Australian musical, aims for Broadway within 2 years

Michael Kimmel ‏‪(@mkimml): I was waiting for a joke about bringing him to NYC!!

‪Jonathan Mandell: And did I deliver? Or are you still waiting?

Michael Kimmel: It hit all the notes I was looking for!

Jonathan Mandell: Any Australian pals who’ve seen ‪@KingKongStage? As good as we’ve been told?

King Kong ‏‪@KingKongStage  We think so! 🙂 But don’t take our word for it – check out



They raised $10,000 at benefit for Spider-Man performer Daniel Curry, who made his first appearance since accident


The principal cast has been hired for the revival of Les Miserables on Broadway:

Ramin Karimloo

Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean

Will Swenson

Will Swenson as Javert


Caissie Levy as Fantine

nikki james

Nikki James as Eponine



Jeffrey Horowitz, artistic director of Theater For A New Audience

Congratulations to  Theater for a New Audience for its building opening in Fort Greene,  Polonsky Shakespeare Center I’ll miss them in MY neighborhood though.

Theater For A New Audience (‏@TheatreforaNewA) Thanks!  We hope you’ll visit us in Brooklyn!

I love Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowtiz’s corny speech welcoming them: “To be or not to be in Brooklyn was never a question.”

Kimberly Olstad ‏‪@kolstada:  It looks stunning. Can’t wait to visit!

Cody ‏‪@candrus68:  Saw it under construction. It is awe-inspiring.

Will trend towards broadcasting live performances wipe out small/regional arts organizations, Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center asks.

Sing a song, sing out loud,sing out….Broadway!

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jason Robert Brown and Tom Kitt are among the Broadway composers writing music for Sesame Street

“When I got the recording of Elmo,I could not have been more excited if it had been Frank Sinatra” — Jason Robert Brown.



Broadway veteran  Joel Grey, 81, (best-known as MC in Cabaret) will publish a memoir entitled Master of Ceremonies

Clever casting of “trans-genre artist” Justin V Bond (Kiki & Herb On Broadway) in Brecht’s A Man’s A Man at Classic Stage Company starting January 10, 2014.

Angela Lansbury,Tyne Daly and many more to celebrate  thelife of theater publicist Shirley Herz (1925-2013) 1:30, November 4 Samuel J Friedman Theater

DevinMojicaNineteen-year-old Devin Mojica is becoming a Broadway playwright! Winner of a competition, he’ll write for 24 Hour Plays on Broadway, mentored by Craig “muMs” Grant.
The six plays,  put together in one day and starring such luminaries as Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Zachary Levi, will be presented  on November 18th at American Airlines Theater.

NBC’s Sound of Music Dec 5 “like going to a Bway show, but you’re in your living room,” says star ‪Carrie Underwood ‪#ButNoPlaybill

Andrea Diaz ‏‪@Drea7886 Certain things can’t be remade… The Sound of Music is one such thing !

Two days before ‪NBC broadcasts Sound of Music December 5,‪ Sony Masterworks will release cast album, with Underwood, Auda McDonald, etc.

Kathryn Lurie ‏‪@kathrynlurie‬ 

I am not ok with this. ‪#purist
David Hyde Pierce stars in The Landing by his nephew Greg Pierce (music by John Kander of Cabaret and Chicago fame), opening tonight at the ‪Vineyard theatre. ‪
‘Never touched the diapers,” David Hyde Pierce. But he has been touching the plays, as mentor,show doctor, star


Dish from 15 who’ve played  the witch Elphaba in 10 years of ‪Wicked (eg Aaron Tveit best kisser)

Warhol’s ‪Penny Arcade and John Waters’ ‪Mink Stole star in Tennessee Williams’ The Mutilated, ‪at New Ohio Theatre November 1-24

Nina Arianda (Venus In Fur/BornYesterday) will play World War I widow in David Grimm’s Tales From Red Vienna. Opens March

Spike Lee on TV today: We might do Broadway musical of ‘Do the Right Thing.’ I’ll write and direct it but I’m too old to play Mookie


Christopher Fitzgerald (great as leprechaun in Finian’s Rainbow) assumes role of Mr. Cellophane in ‪Chicago as of October 28

Yes, ‪WICKED is turning 10, and has made billions of dollars. But now it’s hit the big time: On Monday, it’ll be an entire category on ‪Jeopardy

Ed Harris, Glenne Headly in The Jacksonians

Ed Harris, Glenne Headly in The Jacksonians

It doesn’t even begin performances until tomorrow, but ‪The New Group’s The Jacksonian, by Beth Henley, directed ‪by Robert Falls, starring Ed Harris Glenne Headly, Amy Madigan, Bill Pullman, extends to December 22

Isabella Rossellini’s 1-woman show “Green Porno” about mating rituals of insects (adapted from TV series) ‪Brooklyn Academy of Music, Jan 16-25

What is Audience Engagement?

‪ What is “audience engagement” and how does it differ from engaging audiences with, um, a good theater piece? ‪

Aaron Carter ‏‪@TechneMorph I define it specifically as interaction with audience outside of performance. You?

Erin Hopkins ‏‪@Hoppicans I think of lobby displays, audience activities; being aware of zeitgeist in communities

L. Nicol Cabe ‏‪@nicolthegreat‬ Yeah, “audience engagement” seems like extension of idea that we have to train audiences to view art. I find that a little insulting to audiences. If they “don’t get it” then maybe WE’RE doing it wrong. ‪

Aaron Carter ‏‪ Is it less insulting to think about offering multiple access points to art?

Jonathan Mandell: The best kind of audience engagement outside of performance is arguably online, e.g. ‪New York NeoFuturists and New Paradise Labs Nobody would mistake the weekly “Twitter plays” from ‪@nyneofuturists as nothing more than marketing.

The Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards  @ddpaa: Having audiences feel ownership/invested is key. Social media creates opportunities for direct participation with an organization.

NY Neo-Futurists ‏‪@nyneofuturists Theater functions best when it is a communal experience. Online forums broaden the community. That said, there is no substitute for being in the room where things happen.

New Paradise Labs ‏‪@NewParadiseLabs: Online engagement also invites in digital natives who may not be experienced with darkened room. We love the darkened room. We love the translucent room as well. Where things are not so medieval.

Jonathan Mandell: Whose idea was the Twitter feed of Next to Normal, which got about a million followers
Alli Houseworth ‏‪@AlliHouseworth It was ‪Situation Interactive, an interactive agency in NYC

Holly L. Derr @hld6oddblend Theater isn’t an app, It can’t always be configured to users’ tastes.

Eric Pfeffinger ‏ ‪@epfeffin Idea of spring boarding from theater’s mission & plays’ content into relevant community action is actually exciting.

(This conversation was an edited excerpt from a weekly Howlround chat on Twitter.)

The Snow GeeseSamuel J. Friedman Theatre

My review of The Snow Geese

Mary-Louise Parker, whose performance in White’s play marks her sixth time on Broadway, has said that “The Snow Geese”  feels like “a lost Chekhov” – and that’s about right, although not in the way she surely meant. It loses in the Chekhov competition to last season’s far more lively Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Yes, that play was ridiculous in some ways, a spoof as much as an homage. White’s play is more elegant, the allusions to the masterful Russian dramatist (slightly) more subtle. The snow geese of the title are a more useful recurring metaphor (for waste, for example; the family kills more than they can retrieve or eat) than Sonia’s “I am a wild turkey” refrain. But, despite Daniel Sullivan’s polished direction, an extraordinary cast, especially Danny Burstein and Victoria Clark; a beautiful and inventive set design by the reliable John Lee Beatty; Jane Greenwood’s as-usual spot-on costumes; and Japhy Weideman’s strikingly atmospheric lighting, “The Snow Geese” leaves you feeling at a loss as to what to make of the play.

Full review of The Snow Geese


Mamma Mia NY

Mamma Mia began after 9/11 and wasn’t expected to last. Five thousand performances and $622 million later, it’s moving ‪

industrialmusicalMusicals about tractors, utility companies, insurance firms? A new book explores the industrial musical . Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret) did one called “Go Fly A Kite” for electrical companies convention.

A drama degree is a waste of time and money for actors, says Paul Roseby, the artistic director of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. The head of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts ‪disagrees ‪

What effect do period costumes have on actors? The Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation ‪has given JoAnn Yeoman a George C Wolfe Fellowship to find out.

Marcia Polas ‏‪@polaspilates It would be interesting to look at this in relation to movement patterns and how they impact natural patterns.


Stephen Sondheim is getting ‪the Louis Auchincloss Prize from the Museum of the City of New York on November 19, given annually to an artist or writer whose work is inspired by and enhances New York City.

at the Gay Liberation statue by George Segal In Sheridan Square

at the Gay Liberation statue by George Segal In Sheridan Square

Been waiting for Godot? ‪Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Pinter’s No Man’s Land start performances in repertory today today. No more ‪more Sir Pat and Sir Ian on the town pics?

AfterMidnightArtisDangerous‪Dule Hill @DuleHill
“ART is Dangerous…It’s one of the attractions” – Duke Ellington, After Midnight

The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream
will reportedly return to Broadway’s Marquis Theater for 3 weeks starting December 16

Blythe Danner, Amanda Peet, Sarah Jessica Parker

Blythe Danner, Amanda Peet, Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker and Blythe Danner in Amanda Peet’s The Commons of Pensacola 16-second video

Rocky Marquee

This weird anybody out?


L.A.-based casting directors want to boycott the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills because they hired a NYC casting director,  to cast its first play play

Lou Reed, 1942-2013


Betrayal with Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall opens tonight. Here are nine photographs