LOG IN | REGISTER NOW!
Showtime! features reviews, commentary and
assorted theatrical musings from Michael Dale,
BroadwayWorld.com's Chief Theatre Critic. To submit
amusing backstage banter, absurd audience observations
or noteworthy links to Showtime!, click here. Anonymity's guaranteed.
My not taking credit for your clever remark isn't. Subscribe to RSS Feed
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/24/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
“If there is a single driving force which characterizes the New York Shakespeare Festival, it is its continual confrontation with the wall that separates vast numbers of people from the arts."
-- Joseph Papp
The grosses are out for the week ending 6/24/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: GODSPELL (18.8%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (17.5%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (12.8%), THE LYONS (4.6%), CHICAGO (4.0%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (3.7%), MEMPHIS (2.7%), ANYTHING GOES (1.7%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (0.9%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (0.8%), ROCK OF AGES (0.7%), JERSEY BOYS (0.4%), THE COLUMNIST (0.2%), HARVEY (0.1%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE(0.1%),
Down for the week was: PORGY AND BESS (-17.2%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-6.2%), GHOST (-3.5%), WAR HORSE (-3.2%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-1.6%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-1.6%), MAMMA MIA! (-1.4%), SISTER ACT (-1.4%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-1.3%), MARY POPPINS (-0.7%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-0.5%), ONCE (-0.4%), WICKED (-0.3%), EVITA (-0.3%), NEWSIES (-0.1%),
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 04:18 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Closer Than Ever: Opening Doors
Though the team of Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics) and David Shire (music) hasn’t had much luck when it comes to book musicals (Baby and Big, despite their admirers, struggled through disappointing Broadway runs.) when it comes to Off-Broadway musical revues, the boys are two-time champs. Their 1970s hit, Starting Here, Starting Now, was topped in 1989 by a 300+ performance run of Closer Than Ever, which is now getting a sparkling revival at the York.
Like its predecessor, Closer Than Ever is an intimate revue; a bookless collection of sharp, witty and incisive songs that stress strong storytelling and vivid characters. Though no specific location is mentioned, in spirit and tone you might find yourself reminded of the late 80s/early 90s middle-class urban landscape (For our younger readers, think less Seinfeld reruns and more Mad About You reruns.) as the evening takes a hip, literate look at getting through being a grown-up, with a focus on the big events we expect to change our lives and the little events that unexpectedly do the same.
Directed by Maltby and with music direction by on-stage pianist Andrew Gerle, the brisk evening features four familiar musical theatre faces, all sporting fine voices and intelligent lyric interpreting skills.
Christiane Noll beautifully handles the show’s more introspective and dramatic moments with textured performances of “Life Story,” about a woman who fought in the trenches for gender equality, later to find doors slammed in her face by the younger women who owed her their chances to succeed, and “Patterns” (cut from Baby, but put back in when the show was revised), where a wife musses over the mundane routines putting stress on her marriage.
Jenn Colella is at her steamy best when flirting with bassist Danny Meyer in “Back On Base,” a vampy number about a woman finding the perfect antidote for her case of the drearies, and gets to stretch her generally underutilized comic chops in “Miss Byrd,” a song that reminds us that the ordinary person you see every day may be a tigress when she's out of her office cubical, and "You Wanna Be My Friend," an angry retort at a lover's attempt to let her down easy.
The richly-voiced George Dvorsky brings the evening to an emotional height with “If I Sing,” a son’s heartfelt tribute to the gifts he received from his musician dad, and is charmingly comic in “What Am I Doin’?,” where a would-be lover stops to consider if his actions constitute stalking.
Sal Viviano gives an endearing performance of “One Of The Good Guys,” where a happily married man ponders what he might have missed by turning down offers to be unfaithful, and in duet with Colella, “Another Wedding Song,” where a couple consider the special joys of second marriages. A terrific comic number, “Fandango,” has Viviano and Noll performing the morning dance of a married couple of corporate go-getters when the sitter cancels and each needs the other to watch the baby.
James Morgan’s set features numerous doors and a pretty blue sky with fluffy white clouds, indicative of an optimistic view of life’s numerous opportunities. The right door can always be closer than ever.
Photos by Carol Rosegg: Top: George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano and Jenn Colella; Bottom: Jenn Colella and Danny Meyer.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 02:40 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
As You Like It: Into The Backwoods
Backwoods 1800s America proves an unlikely, but ideal setting for Shakespeare’s As You Like It in director Daniel Sullivan’s enormously entertaining Delacorte production that mixes dexterous wordplay with rowdy comedy.
The audience enters to the sight of the exterior of a tall wooden fort with a rifle-toting lookout standing guard. Below is a boisterous bluegrass band plucking and bowing out twangy tunes by Steve Martin. Foreshadowing the wresting aspect of the plot, a poster tacked to a tree displays a hulking fellow grappling with a bear.
The complicated story of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy involves family rivalries, banished lovers, highbrow banter, lowbrow antics and the obligatory leading lady who, for some reason or another, must disguise herself as male in order to win her mate.
That obligation is met triumphantly by Lily Rabe, intoxicatingly masterful at verbal wit and subtle reaction, who, as Rosalind, ventures into the forest with her cousin, Celia (a perky and game Renee Elise Goldsberry) in search of her beloved Orlando (nobly played by David Furr), who she first laid eyes on while watching him getting pummeled in a wrestling match.
Although Orlando’s match against the brawny brute Charles (a terrific Brendan Averett) is choreographed by Rick Sordelet with all the fake-violent humor of a good WWE event, I do have to quibble who whoever made the decision to have Orlando win by kicking his opponent in the groin several times, as the move is traditionally considered a villainous cheap shot; especially after Charles is shown to be the kind of gentlemanly sportsman who chooses not inflict further punishment on his opponent when he is defenselessly battered.
Andre Braugher ably doubles as a ruthless duke and the kindly brother he has banished into the forest; thick with trees that set designer John Lee Beatty cleverly provides with hiding places. When Stephen Spinella, hilariously dour as the melancholy Jacques (pronounced “Jake” for this version), beautifully recites the “All the world’s a stage…” speech, it’s done as a campfire story on a peaceful evening.
Oliver Platt is suitably wry as the jester, Touchstone, and Donna Lynne Champlin, who gets a chance to demonstrate her clogging skills, is very funny as the dumb but lusty goatherd who captures his attention. Beloved character actor MacIntyre Dixon is touching as an elderly servant and Will Rogers and Susannah Flood add humor as a love-struck shepherd and the snarky shepherdess who continually rejects him.
With catchy tunes throughout and a hoedown finale, this As You Like It is a merry romp from start to finish.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: David Furr, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Lily Rabe; Bottom: Jordan Tice and Stephen Spinella.
Posted on: Saturday, June 23, 2012 @ 07:32 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Love Goes To Press
By the third act of Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles’ 1946 romantic comedy, Love Goes To Press, one of the play’s leading characters, a female war correspondent considered tops in her field, begins discussing marriage with the handsome soldier who has captured her heart. When the stuffy British Major speaks romantically of how his love will, naturally, give up her career and go to Yorkshire to stay with his mother until they get married, the 2012 audience members around me, naturally, smirked and guffawed at the absurdity of his antiquated assumptions.
To his credit, Bradford Cover, the actor playing the stiff upper-lipper, spoke with the utmost of noble sincerity, as though he were Prince Charming granting Cinderella the life she had always dreamed of, making the scene that much funnier. But was it all that comical when Love Goes To Press premiered as a West End hit, when the women who had taken on nontraditional roles in the workforce during World War II were now faced with the assumption that they’d automatically go back to being housewives?
Part of the fun of attending Mint Theatre Company productions is getting immersed in the world of the audiences from long ago. The treasured Off-Broadway company specializes in plays that achieved some substantial degree of popularity – usually from the first half of the 20th Century – but became forgotten with the passing of time. Despite its London success, the only playwrighting effort of Gellhorn and Cowles, who based the work on their own experiences as respected war correspondents, lasted only four performances on Broadway.
Intended by the authors to be little more than a lark, Love Goes To Press, proves an enjoyable museum piece that cruises on its snappy dialogue but stumbles a bit because the story’s most interesting moments either take place in the past (showing up to cover a battle in a smart Schiaparelli number) or off-stage (a dim-witted entertainer being mistaken for a reporter and taken to the front lines).
Heidi Armbruster and Angela Pierce make for a swell pair of smart-talking adventurers as Annabelle Jones and Jane Mason, who are both revered for their skills at getting dangerous stories and resented for being women. They share the kind of camaraderie that comes with being the only people who know what each other is going through. Arriving separately at a battered Italian home serving as a press camp while Allied troops advance on Germany, both are plotting dangerous missions while being surprised by romantic encounters; Jane being courted by the British Major as bombs cause the building to shake and rain rubble on them and Annabelle being reunited with her ex-husband, Joe, the kind of writer whose idea of journalistic inspiration is to get drunk and write a think piece. (Their relationship was no doubt inspired by Gellhorn’s 5-year marriage to Ernest Hemingway.)
The colorful characters surrounding them include Joe’s ditzy fiancée, Daphne (Margot White in a good comical turn), and Jay Patterson and Curzon Dobell as a pair of reporters on the lookout for stories to steal between games of gin rummy and indulging in liquor rations.
Director Jerry Ruiz makes some odd shifts in tone, playing for realistic laughs most of the time but overplaying some of the romance, but it’s a handsome production, thanks to the excellent work of Steven C. Kemp (sets), Andrea Varga (costumes), Christian DeAngelis (lights) and Jane Shaw (sound). A frisky and entertaining evening that is, indeed, a lark.
Photos by Richard Termine: Top: Heidi Armbruster (above) and Angela Pierce; Bottom: Rob Breckenridge and Heidi Armbruster.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Thursday, June 21, 2012 @ 02:44 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/17/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly."
-- Mae West
The grosses are out for the week ending 6/17/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: OTHER DESERT CITIES (15.0%), GODSPELL (12.7%), VENUS IN FUR (11.8%), PORGY AND BESS (5.8%), MARY POPPINS (4.6%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (3.9%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (3.4%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (3.3%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (2.8%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (2.2%), ANYTHING GOES (2.0%), HARVEY (1.7%), JERSEY BOYS (1.5%), ONCE (1.5%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1.0%), NEWSIES (0.5%), ROCK OF AGES(0.3%),
Down for the week was: END OF THE RAINBOW (-13.4%), EVITA (-9.5%), GHOST (-5.9%), CHICAGO (-3.3%), MEMPHIS (-2.2%), MAMMA MIA! (-2.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-2.1%), THE COLUMNIST (-2.0%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-1.4%), WAR HORSE (-1.2%), WICKED (-1.0%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (-0.7%), SISTER ACT (-0.6%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-0.4%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-0.2%), THE LION KING (-0.1%),
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 @ 01:55 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
The Broadway Musicals of 1987 & Zarkana
The words, “Once upon a time…,” were followed by that familiar Sondheim vamp, and Danielle Ferland skipped onto the stage just as she had 25 years ago as the original Little Red Riding Hood in Into The Woods. Sure enough, there was a wolf there to greet her, but instead of encountering Granny, The Baker’s Wife and The Witch, Little Red found herself in a forest inhabited by a young French revolutionary, an elderly Holocaust survivor, a roller-skating duo and a former President of The United States.
The 1987 edition of Town Hall’s Broadway By The Year closed out Scott Siegel’s 12th season of concerts presenting a year-by-year analysis of Broadway’s songs, placing them in both historical and theatrical context. This was a year dominated by two musicals in particular, and naturally they dominated the evening’s program.
Aside from having Ferland on hand to present her more mature performances of ”I Know Things Now” and “No One Is Alone,” Kerry O’Malley brought back memories of her stint as The Baker’s Wife in the 2002 Into The Woods revival with “Moments In The Woods” and Marc Kudisch (who directed the concert) and Jeffrey Denman lent their robust voices and clowning skills to the princely duet, “Agony.”
Les Miserables was the year’s major blockbuster and with the newly formed Broadway By The Year Chorus – made up of recent college and music school graduates under the leadership of Scott Coulter – stirring renditions of full choral pieces like “One Day More” and “Do You Hear The People Sing?” were able to be included. There was superior dramatic solo work provided by O’Malley (“I Dreamed A Dream”), Kudisch (“Stars”), Ron Bohmer (“Bring Him Home”) and Janine DiVita (“On My Own”).
While the songs from Stardust certainly weren’t new in 1987, that revue of the lyrics of Mitchell Parish was, allowing for the inclusion of standards like “Moonlight Serenade” (romantically sung and danced by Denman and DiVita), “Volare” (Kudisch camping a mock seduction with the female ensemble) and the show’s title song, sung with airy tenderness by Coulter. The novelty number, “Syncopated Clock,” better known as the theme to television’s The Late Show, was an amusing instrumental for Ross Patterson’s Little Big Band.
The underappreciated Teddy and Alice, about President Roosevelt’s stormy relationship with his strong-willed daughter, was represented grandly by Bohmer’s “Can I Let Her Go?,” a sentimental ballad whose melody is an soft rendering of John Phillip Sousa’s “Washington Post March.” And though Roza had its troubles on Broadway, O’Mally’s hearty “Happiness Is” demonstrated the score at its best.
Stepping Out was a play about an amateur dance class and Denman, joined by Anna White and Kelley Sheehan, displayed some snazzy tapping in its title song.
At one point during the evening, Siegel referred to O’Malley, Denman and Kudisch as three of the finest entertainers you’ll see on New York’s stages. While Broadway audiences frequently pack theatres to see lesser-skilled celebrities try their hands at starring in Broadway musicals, for 12 years the Broadway By The Year series has been showcasing some of the highest caliber performers you’ll find in the demanding field of musical theatre.
Photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy: Top: Danielle Ferland; Bottom: Jeffry Denman and Marc Kudisch.
Does anybody ever really pay attention to the plots of Cirque du Soleil productions? Or the songs? Sure, their collection of world-class jugglers, balancers, acrobats and daredevils always provide eye-popping and gasp-inducing entertainment, but all too often the evening is loaded down with attempts to connect everything with some convoluted story about a search for serenity or world peace or whatever.
Last year’s 2-act extravaganza, Zarkana, has returned to Radio City Music Hall just in time to push the Tony Awards to the Beacon Theatre once more and, thankfully, the storytelling aspect of writer/director Francois Girard’s "surreal acrobatic spectacle” – something about a magician, his lost love and a doggy duo named Hocus and Pocus – has been trimmed down considerably, allowing the show to clock in at a slick and entertaining 90 minutes. Even the bland English lyrics of the songs have been exorcised, replaced with a made-up language called “Cirquish,” which seems to emphasize dramatic vowel sounds.
But nothing upstages the troupe of aerialists, trapeze flyers and high-wire balancers when they let loose. A more meditative feature, and a real showstopper, is artist Erika Chen, who works from a glass table above a video camera so that the audience sees a projection of her swift hands creating ever-evolving portraits and scenes out of blue sand. Her time on stage is serenely captivating. Hand balancer Anatoly Zalevskiy wears a midriff-baring outfit that makes lovers of the male physique swoon and displays body-bending skills that no doubt set a few fantasies in motion.
But the most eye-popping act on display is Carlos Marin and Junior Delgado seriously seeming to risk their lives on the appropriately named Wheel of Death; two circular cages placed on opposite ends of spokes which spin on an axis thirty feet above the ground. The boys are continually in motion as they pop inside and outside the wheels even skipping rope while in perpetual motion. When finished, they take their bows like they’re the most macho guys in town and I, for one, wouldn’t argue the point.
Photos by Jeremy Daniel, Richard Termine: Top: Erika Chen Bottom: Wheel of Death.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2012 @ 05:05 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/10/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"I've been dieting all week. I can't wait to eat some freakin' pizza!"
-- Audra McDonald after winning her 5th Tony Award
The grosses are out for the week ending 6/10/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: VENUS IN FUR (17.8%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (15.5%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (14.4%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (14.2%), END OF THE RAINBOW (12.7%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (11.3%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (11.1%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (8.8%), GHOST (8.3%), PORGY AND BESS (8.0%), HARVEY (6.7%), SISTER ACT (6.2%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (5.9%), MARY POPPINS (5.6%), WAR HORSE (5.3%), JERSEY BOYS (4.7%), MAMMA MIA! (4.5%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (4.5%), MEMPHIS (4.4%), ROCK OF AGES (4.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (3.6%), EVITA (3.3%), THE LYONS (3.0%), CHICAGO (2.3%), ONCE (1.5%), ANYTHING GOES (1.0%), WICKED (0.2%), THE LION KING(0.1%),
Down for the week was: GODSPELL (-5.7%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (-3.5%), THE COLUMNIST (-3.5%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-3.5%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-1.5%), NEWSIES (-0.2%),
Posted on: Monday, June 11, 2012 @ 03:26 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Food and Fadwa
Fadwa Faranesh, a bright, engaging Palestinian woman living in Bethlehem, hosts a cooking program from her home kitchen, where she prepares delectable dishes like tabouli and baba ghanoush in the traditional manner the women of her culture have been preparing them for centuries. To her, food is an important connection between the past and the present.
However, the television cameraman she chats with isn’t really there. Neither is the camera or the loyal viewers tuning in every day. No, the central character of Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader’s Food and Fadwa is not delusional. She just needs an occasional escape from the realities of her West Bank life, which includes being delayed at numerous checkpoints wherever she goes, enduring sudden announcements of curfews where no one is allowed to leave their home and caring for her dementia-stricken elderly father.
As warmly and humorously portrayed by Issaq, Fadwa is a single woman who, with her mother deceased, has pushed her own needs aside become the sturdy support system for her extended family. Aside from her father, Baba, played with sincere pathos by Laith Nakli, there’s her sister Dalal (Maha Chehlaoui) excitedly preparing for her wedding to Emir (Arian Moayed).
Fadwa’s long distance boyfriend is Emir’s brother Youssif (Haaz Sleiman), who has been living in New York. He arrives for the wedding with her American cousin, Hayat (Heather Raffo), a successful restaurant owner and cookbook author. Hayat is quite oblivious to the conditions this side of the family lives under (Her complains that she was held at customs for a whopping 15 minutes is met with little sympathy.) and, among other things, Fadwa is particularly irked at Hayat’s practice of creating non-traditional variations of classic recipes.
The wedding ceremony is threatened when a suddenly announced curfew, where everyone is confined to their homes for an indefinite amount of time, has Emir unable to return from a trip to Jerusalem and, after many days, leaves the family running out of food, water and Baba’s medicine.
While the issues of Food and Fadwa might suggest a heavily political piece with angry speeches denouncing the Israeli government, Issaq, Kader and director Shana Gold take a lighter approach that might remind older viewers of the Norman Lear sitcoms of the 1970s like All In The Family and Good Times. Like those landmark programs, Food and Fadwa indirectly approaches controversial topics by using dark humor to show how the family is accustomed to dealing with oppressive restrictions. A comical highlight has Emir and Youssif smearing dollops of leftovers on the dinner table to create a map explaining the various restricted areas of the city, liberally shaking salt all over to represent the numerous checkpoints. Fadwa’s cooking show begins addressing subjects like food rationing and fasting. There’s even a nutty neighbor; Fadwa’s chain-smoking Aunt Samia (Kathryn Kates), whose lives for watching television episodes of Arab Idol. ("That girl from Kuwait was voted off last week. So sad.”)
With Andromache Chalfant’s large and highly detailed unit set looking not so different from a suburban American home, Food and Fadwa successfully emphasizes the similarities between the on-stage characters and the New York Theatre Workshop audience members; boiling down deeply complicated conflicts to how they affect perfectly nice people just trying to live their lives and preserve their culture. It’s a sweet and tasty evening.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Lameece Issaq; Bottom: Maha Chehlaoui, Arian Moayed, Haaz Sleiman and Heather Raffo.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Sunday, June 10, 2012 @ 01:30 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Once On This Island: The Story Goes On
Thomas Kail’s athletic and inventively theatrical directing chops (In The Heights, Lombardi, Magic/Bird) prove a perfect match for Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ Caribbean story-theatre musical Once On This Island. The beguiling new production gracing the Paper Mill stage is full of vibrant performances and colorful stagecraft.
Perhaps a bit overshadowed by large-scale productions like The Will Rogers Follies, Miss Saigon and The Secret Garden when it transferred to Broadway via Off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons in 1990 (The 1994 West End production did win the Olivier Award for Best Musical.), Once On This Island is a flavorful charmer suitable for the whole family.
The play within a play structure has an ensemble of villagers from the French Antilles distracting a frightened child (Courtney Harris) from a scary thunderstorm by acting out the story of Ti Moune (Syesha Mercado), an adopted girl from the peasant side of the island where the “black as night” natives live their lives controlled by the whims of the gods of Earth (Aurelia Williams), Water (Darius de Haas), Love (Saycon Sengbloh) and Death (Alan Mingo, Jr.).
Ti Moune’s prayers to find a purpose in life prompt an other-worldly bet to see which is stronger, love or death, and an encounter is arranged between her and the wealthy and handsome Daniel (Adam Jacobs) from the side of the island where lighter-skinned descendants of French planters live. Ti Moune’s love for Daniel tests the social restrictions that forbid a relationship between them and while the outcome of the story is realistic, it is also optimistic.
Mercado’s greatest strength as Ti Moune is a powerful belt that launches the money notes of her character-introducing song, “Waiting For Life.” She’s an appealing performer and Kail surrounds her with a company of well-seasoned musical theatre actors who each claim their moments to shine; particularly Kenita R. Miller and Kevin R. Free, who bring deep feelings and comical warmth to their roles as Ti Moune’s adoptive parents and Williams, completely enthralling in her robust rendition of “Mama Will Provide.”
Donyale Werle's do-it-yourself set pieces inspire a lively “little theatre” atmosphere, with Kenneth Posner's lights and Jessica Jahn's costumes providing the kind of colorful joy expressed through Bradley Rapier's choreography.
The production glides through its ninety minutes on waves of captivating performances, beautiful singing and material that teaches the importance of handing down the traditions and folklore of a community through story-telling. It’s a wonderful night out.
Photos by Jerry Dalia: Top: Darius de Haas, Saycon Sengbloh, Jerold E. Solomon, Kenita R. Miller, AureLia Williams, Alan Mingo Jr., Syesha Mercado and Courtney Reed; Bottom: Courtney Reed, Saycon Sengbloh, Adam Jacobs, Syesha Mercado, Alan Mingo, Jr., and AureLia Williams.
Posted on: Friday, June 08, 2012 @ 04:57 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/3/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
“I think it's, hopefully, liberating. The idea is that they'll walk out loving their body and wanting to eat ice cream.”
-- Eve Ensler, re: "The Good Body"
The grosses are out for the week ending 6/3/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: HARVEY (0.8%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN (0.4%), ONCE (0.4%), ANYTHING GOES(0.1%),
Down for the week was: MARY POPPINS (-15.8%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-15.7%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-14.1%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-14.1%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-13.2%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (-12.8%), PORGY AND BESS (-12.6%), WAR HORSE (-12.6%), GHOST (-12.6%), CHICAGO (-12.5%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-12.3%), SISTER ACT (-11.2%), EVITA (-10.1%), VENUS IN FUR (-10.0%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (-9.9%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (-9.5%), JERSEY BOYS (-9.2%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-8.3%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-7.2%), MEMPHIS (-6.1%), MAMMA MIA! (-5.7%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (-5.3%), GODSPELL (-4.8%), THE COLUMNIST (-4.6%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-4.5%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (-4.0%), ROCK OF AGES (-3.5%), WICKED (-1.3%), NEWSIES (-0.4%), THE LYONS (-0.3%),
Posted on: Monday, June 04, 2012 @ 03:41 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Potted Potter - The Unauthorized Harry Experience - A Parody by Dan and Jeff
When I first heard the title Potted Potter – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff, my American mind immediately thought of the slang term we use for inebriated and figured Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson’s two-person, 70-minute presentation would be some kind of irreverent adult spoof of J.K. Rowling's septet of Harry Potter novels. But no, “potted,” to our Brit friends, merely means abridged, and the show, which actually doesn't involve much parody, is really more of a wholesome family entertainment; not that there’s anything wrong with that, as we say on the Upper West Side.
I haven’t read any of the books nor seen any of their film adaptations, but despite the insistence of the show’s promotional material that you need not know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff to find yourself roaring with laughter, as insurance I invited a Harry Potter enthusiast who was very excited to see the show to be my guest, figuring she could fill me in on any insider references I wouldn’t get and to give me her perspective as a fan. However, her educated reaction seemed to mirror my novice one and the biggest compliment she could muster was that the boys were certainly “energetic.” But we both did notice that the children in the audience seemed to be very much into the show.
The evening begins with Turner, wearing those familiar round specs, sitting in a corner of the stage quietly reading while Clarkson glad-hands his way through the audience. It seems straight man Jeff claims to be the world’s foremost authority on all things Potter and plans an extravagant presentation summarizing the entire literary series, averaging ten minutes per book. However Dan, assigned as the goofy one, has foolishly wasted the budged on some less-than-appropriate set pieces and a costly dragon. The crux of the attempts at humor primarily stem from Turner’s frustration in Clarkson’s ignorance of the source material (“Dumbledore... Is he important?”), rather than deriving humor from the books themselves. Instead of cleverness, there’s a lot of frantic silliness as Clarkson plows his way through a multitude of characters, using makeshift props and costumes, while Turner remains the title wizard, a role that he concludes “is so boring!”
The marquee moment comes when a pair of young volunteers is plucked from the audience to assist in a game of Quidditch, which consists of a large inflatable ball being smacked across the auditorium by audience members while Clarkson complains about how poorly we’re playing. And while I did detect some mild enjoyment being had by my fellow viewers, Potted Potter had me wishing I’d stayed home with seven good books.
Photo of Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson by Carol Rosegg.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Monday, June 04, 2012 @ 03:34 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 5/27/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"I enjoyed the courtroom as just another stage but not so amusing as Broadway."
-- Mae West
The grosses are out for the week ending 5/27/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: MARY POPPINS (14.7%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (6.7%), VENUS IN FUR (4.7%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (4.4%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (4.2%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (4.2%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (2.2%), CLYBOURNE PARK (2.0%), WICKED (1.2%), ROCK OF AGES (0.6%), NEWSIES(0.6%),
Down for the week was: GODSPELL (-15.9%), PORGY AND BESS (-10.9%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (-10.3%), MEMPHIS (-10.0%), ANYTHING GOES (-9.6%), WAR HORSE (-8.8%), MAMMA MIA! (-6.2%), GHOST (-5.0%), SISTER ACT (-4.5%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-3.8%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-3.5%), END OF THE RAINBOW (-3.2%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (-2.8%), HARVEY (-2.7%), CHICAGO (-1.8%), JERSEY BOYS (-1.3%), EVITA (-1.1%), ONCE (-1.0%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (-0.8%), THE LYONS (-0.6%), THE COLUMNIST (-0.5%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN (-0.4%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (-0.2%),
Posted on: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 @ 04:42 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
My Sinatra & The Naked Truth
“Mensch” is not a word you might immediately think of to describe Frank Sinatra, but the label seems to fit Cary Hoffman quite snugly. And though his solo musical, My Sinatra, has the nice Jewish guy from Long Island singing fifteen Sinatra hits (“One For My Baby,” “”Summer Wind,” “Luck Be A Lady,” “The Lady Is A Tramp”… you know the rest.), it is not a celebrity impersonation show. It’s actually a very warm, enjoyable presentation of his lifelong obsession with the man who many would consider to be definitive male interpreter of American popular music.
Through photo slides and humorous patter, Hoffman tells the story of a boy who lost his father at an early age and was raised by his mom and a trio of professional musician uncles and eventually a step-father. But the biggest male influence in his life was someone he would meet only briefly, as an adult. It was through Sinatra’s voice and the songs he recorded that Hoffman found a role model for being a man. As a boy he copied the crooner’s singing style and discovered his own confidence by emulating his role model.
Joined on stage by music director Alex Nelson at piano (there are also recorded big band arrangements), Hoffman sings with Sinatra’s phrasing and diction but is always his own likeable self on stage; a guy in a tuxedo who found a popular artist he can identify with, who gave him comfort and inspiration throughout his life.
And that’s the universal appeal of My Sinatra. It’s about how celebrities – the ones who really touch us – can be major influences in our lives. So even if your own personal obsession is with someone named Barbra or Judy or Michael, there’s something to relate to in Hoffman’s story.
Photo of Cary Hoffman by Stephen Sorokoff.
One of my favorite aspects of the neo-burlesque movement, which has been around for so long that they may as well drop the “neo,” is the tongue-in-cheek way in which crassness and vulgarity is often portrayed as a commentary on crassness and vulgarity. That seems to be the attitude behind The Naked Truth, the new burlesque game show at The Triad. Or maybe it’s just another gimmick to kick back with while enjoying drinks and watching attractive men and women strip. Either way works for me.
Co-producer Jonny Porkpie, known as the Burlesque Mayor of New York (He actually did run for the city’s highest office once; mostly as a protest against the candidacy of The Naked Cowboy, whose politics, he claimed, was not truly representative of New York’s naked community.), serves as the wise-cracking host. His clever quips are often one-upped by the show’s unseen announcer, Scott Rayow.
The night I attended, the burlesque end of evening included some of the more popular names in Gotham’s burley scene. Jo “Boobs” Weldon, who runs the New York School of Burlesque (where many local performers go to learn their craft), performed a novelty act where her lovely curves were topped by an enormous Godzilla head as she menaced stage kittens Buxom Bunny and Satira Sin while shedding her extra layers. Tigger, a major name in boylesque, performed a wild act as The Traumatized Clown, hesitantly removing the colorful garb covering his well-defined chest while asking the musical question, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”
More traditional strip teases out of evening gowns were elegantly (and a bit bawdily) offered by Tansy and The Maine Attraction. The previously mentioned kittens performed a cute double act where each tried upstaging the other and even Porkpie joined in the flesh exposing with his sardonically macho routine.
But The Naked Truth, as explained by our host, was created to discover, “What’s behind the behinds.” After each of the four guests’ performances, Porkpie wanders into the house to find appropriately enthused and/or drunk audience members to answer a very personal multiple choice question about the people we’ve all just seen twirling their tassels. (How many times a day do they like to have sex?, What is the most unusual place where they’ve had sex?...) Four correct responders get to win valuable sexually oriented prizes by being victorious in competitions like an erotic version of password and a condom-applying race. It’s all very silly and a lot of good-natured fun.
The Naked Truth is co-produced by Gary Beeber, who also brings some of New York’s best burlesque talent to The Triad with Gotham Burlesque; next seen on June 2nd, headlined by Danger Dame Veronica Varlow and featuring two of my favorite burlesque vocalists, Shelly Watson and Broadway Brassy.
Photo of Jo Weldon and Jonny Porkpie by Don Spiro.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Monday, May 28, 2012 @ 02:36 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Judge Me Paris
Snooty Manhattanites such as I generally have a short list of offerings that would lure us all the way out to Brooklyn. For some it’s a steak at Peter Lugar. For others, it’s the Rodins at the Brooklyn Museum. But the quickest way to get me aboard a Gowanus-bound F train is to say that director/choreographer Austin McCormick has got a new theatre/dance piece for his Company XIV.
Their current “Baroque Burlesque Opera” inspired by the mythical events setting off the Trojan War, Judge Me Paris, samples heavily from the 17th and 18th Century work of John Eccles, John Weldon, Antonio Vivaldi, Marin Marais and William Congreve and is produced in association with Morningside Opera and SIREN Baroque.
After being handed complimentary champagne upon entering, audience members observe the ensemble preparing before the performance, stretching and applying makeup touches at one of the mirrored walls. (We also get to take in the sexy period costumes by Olivera Gajic.) A prelude is played by three strings and a harpsichord followed by Jeff Takacs, as the gregariously comical Zeus, narrating the story of how three goddesses – Juno (Amber Youell), Venus (Brittany Palmer) and Pallas (Brett Umlauf) – each claim a golden apple intended for “the fairest.” Zeus sends the apple to the mortal Paris (Sean Gannon) via his messenger Mercury (Cailan Orn) and the two engage in a sensual dance as he learns he must decide who truly deserves it.
The three goddesses, all possessing dramatic soprano voices, individually sing of their worthiness as their images are projected across the wide and deep playing space with live video cameras. They also lure Paris with troupes of enticing dancers performing in steamy pageantry.
Finally, Venus offers the most beautiful of mortals, Helen, played by the most charismatic and dramatically interesting of Company XIV’s actor/dancers, Laura Careless. Unfortunately, the decision to give Helen a rather short and not very flashy dance moment, especially after giving her such a big buildup, ends the piece with a bit of a letdown.
But until that point, Judge Me Paris is full of opulent splendor, soft eroticism and moments of cheery playfulness. A lush and lovely fantasy.
Photos by Corey Tatarczuk: Top: Jeff Takacs, Sean Gannon and Amber Youell; Bottom: Company.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Friday, May 25, 2012 @ 02:28 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
February House: Brooklyn Lodgers
Carson McCullers, Erika Mann and Gypsy Rose Lee are sharing a house in Brooklyn. No, it’s not the theme for a costume ball at Sarah Lawrence. It’s a taste of February House, the heady new chamber musical at The Public (by way of Long Wharf) that may still be in need of some sharpening and editing to match its lofty ambitions, but still offers some refreshingly high-minded moments of musical theatre.
Seth Bockley’s book is based on the true story of how in 1940, Harper’s Bazaar fiction editor George Davis (Julian Fleisher) fell in love with a dilapidated old home in Brooklyn Heights and transformed it into an outer-boroughs artist colony where an eclectic group of prominent talents could cut themselves off from the troubles overseas and create.
The makeshift family, many of whom happened to have been born in February, includes composer Benjamin Britten (Stanley Bahorek) and poet W.H. Auden (Erik Lochtefeld), as they collaborate on writing an operetta about Paul Bunyan. Each is accompanied by his respective romantic partner, tenor Peter Pears (Ken Barnett) and student Chester Kallman (A.J. Shively). Novelist Carson McCullers (a captivatingly wide-eyed Kristen Sieh) is there, struggling through her second novel and also struggling through alcoholism, troubles with her husband (Ken Clark) and the sexual temptation of German cabaret singer and magazine editor Erika Mann (Stephanie Hayes). When money gets tight, strip-tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee (Kacie Sheik, nailing every innuendo), at the height of her fame and pay checks, contributes more than her share to join the retreat in order to finish her book, The G-String Murders.
But aside from the expected sequence of the group being formed, their achievement of notoriety and eventual disbanding, Bockley’s plotless snapshot approach to the characters isn’t enough to sustain the musical for its lengthy span of well over two and a half hours. There are concerns over the war in Europe – particularly distressing to the British characters – some musings about a bohemian paradise and the obligatory sexual openness, but while director Davis McCallum’s production is suitably atmospheric, the musical has its sluggish moments.
Composer/lyricist Gabriel Kahane offers some attractive songs, but his score would benefit from a fuller plot that would help dictate song placement and subject matter. Many of them exist in isolated moments that have little to do with anything that came before or will matter after; the low point being a mock operatic duet for Pears and Britten at their discovery of bedbugs. Faring far better are a confrontation about the purpose of art during wartime, a wistful fantasy of following one’s wanderlust and, for Gypsy Rose Lee, a bawdy performance number about getting turned on by a man’s brains. (It zips along nicely, if you know what I mean.)
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Julian Fleisher and Kristen Sieh; Bottom: Kacie Sheik.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Thursday, May 24, 2012 @ 08:05 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 5/20/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"I hold Broadway to a lower standard than I do Off-Broadway. Not in terms of polish but in terms of originality."
-- Ben Brantley
The grosses are out for the week ending 5/20/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (27.8%), PORGY AND BESS (23.4%), ANYTHING GOES (14.1%), WAR HORSE (13.0%), CHICAGO (12.5%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (12.2%), MAMMA MIA! (12.2%), MEMPHIS (11.2%), WICKED (11.0%), JERSEY BOYS (8.1%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (6.9%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (6.3%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (6.2%), VENUS IN FUR (5.6%), SISTER ACT (5.4%), END OF THE RAINBOW (3.8%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (3.6%), MARY POPPINS (3.4%), ROCK OF AGES (3.4%), ONCE (3.3%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (3.3%), EVITA (3.0%), GHOST (2.5%), GODSPELL (2.5%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (2.4%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (1.9%), THE COLUMNIST (0.4%), THE LION KING (0.3%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN (0.2%), NEWSIES(0.1%),
Down for the week was: NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-5.8%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (-5.1%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (-3.7%), THE LYONS (-1.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-0.8%),
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2012 @ 03:32 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Chlamydia Dell'Arte: A Sex Ed Burlesque & The Broadway Musicals of 1975
The admirable mission of Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams, writer/performers of Chlamydia Dell'Arte: A Sex Ed Burlesque, is to remove some of the awkwardness in open discussions about human sexuality by treating intimate issues with humor. Their modestly produced show, which just completed a week-long run at Los Kabayitos, is obviously built to travel, coming to Gotham via stints in Philly and DC, and the amiable pair pulls off their mission with endearing enthusiasm.
Twelve quick vignettes – sketches, songs and dance pieces – alternate with video segments of the two as stuffy schoolteachers and others of a group of women individually responding to questions addressing topics like their definition of sex, how they learned about sex and how they, as adults, have taught their children about sex.
With no director or choreographer credited, I would assumed that Naglak and Williams managed those task themselves, and perhaps the show would best be viewed as a promising work in progress that could use further guidance.
Much of their humor is of the sophomoric, one-joke variety. Naglak dances as a ballerina clad in white, who expresses joy and relief when her period visibly arrives. The two of them play cooking show hosts who, after a few too many glasses of wine, start demonstrating on a dildo their favorite way to eat chocolate frosting. Naglak, standing behind an artificial lower torso, discusses birth control options with her talking vagina. Sketches of this nature might seem a little crass coming from men, but perhaps women might find these lowbrow depths refreshing coming from other women.
But lowbrow is actually highbrow in another sketch where they play out Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene as two horny adolescents masturbating, a concept that makes complete sense when you figure that Shakespeare’s youthful lovers are more realistically a couple of kids who barely know each other at the beginnings of their sexual awareness. Another clever sketch begins with a slideshow detailing important information about STDs which is upstaged when the two start performing a strip-tease down to pasties and g-strings; a smart comment on how thoughts of sexual health get shoved to the side when encountering titillation.
Other vignettes include Williams’ monologue about a woman’s obsession with being perfectly shaved for a date, a song explaining the difference between transsexuals and transvestites and a fan dance performed by Naglak. Most were pleasant, but lacking in comedic sharpness beyond their initial ideas.
There was a talkback after the performances I attended, where Naglak and Williams chatted about their experiences regarding sex education and of the evolution of their show. Speaking off-the-cuff, their remarks were far more interesting and humorous than most of the material they performed. If the pair can inject the evening with more of the honest, realistic humor displayed in the talkback, Chlamydia Dell'Arte could prove more worthy of its admirable intentions.
Photo of Gigi Naglak and Meghann Williams by Lauren Schwarz.
Broadway musicals were in a crazy state of flux by 1975. That newfangled idea of attracting new audiences through well-produced television commercials was turning shows that might not have lasted long through traditional publicity into multi-year running hits (That year The Wiz was rescued from a quick closing by its commercial.), but the new audiences attending those shows were venturing into a theatre district overflowing with porno houses, hookers and three-card monte con artists. Those in the know knew it was dangerous to hang around Times Square after the shows let out, but good luck riding the subways at night.
Two of musical theatre’s most notable director/choreographers helmed their greatest achievements, though Michael Bennett’s optimistic salute to the unknowns who chase their dreams, A Chorus Line, was stealing headlines from Bob Fosse’s first post-heart attack creation, the comically cynical Chicago. Rock composers were trying to replicate the success of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, but The Rocky Horror Show failed to find an audience and theatre-goers preferred Shenandoah, a traditional book musical with an anti-war message, over The Lieutenant, a rock opera about the My Lai massacre that lasted a week on Broadway but was admired enough to pick up Tony nominations for its book and score. Goodtime Charley tried to replicate the success of Pippin with its stylistic telling of the story of Joan of Arc, but the decision to focus on the less interesting character, the dauphin Charles, doomed the effort of an attractive and clever Grossman and Hackady score.
The days of jukebox musicals were yet to come, but audiences seeking some fine old material were found at the revue Rodgers and Hart and the bio-musical, Me and Bessie (featuring songs made famous by Bessie Smith). And Scott Joplin’s score for his 1910 opera, Tremonisha, only recently discovered at the time, made its Broadway debut and even picked up a Tony nomination.
For the 1975 edition of Town Hall’s Broadway By The Year series, host and creator Scott Siegel concentrated on the more recognizable songs of the day; both those that were being heard on Broadway for the first time and those that were already American Songbook classics that lured audiences into new shows.
A new feature to the series was large chorus of performers made up primarily of talent in the early stages of their careers. The Broadway By The Year Chorus opened the show with two of the indispensible moments of 1975 Broadway, A Chorus Line’s “I Hope I Get It,” segueing into “One,” staged by the evening’s choreographer, Vibecke Dahle.
Speaking of A Chorus Line, there was quite a bit of chucking from the audience when it became apparent that Ashley Brown, known primarily as Broadway’s original Mary Poppins, was about to perform “Dance 10, Looks 3” as her first solo of the evening. Her saucy rendition of Marvin Hamlish and Ed Kleban’s tribute to the career-enhancing benefits of plastic surgery was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, as was her emphatic belting of “I Am My Own Best Friend” and her tender “Be A Lion.”
While I will always be opposed to using the watered-down radio lyrics for Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” over the overtly sexual ones written for Pal Joey, if it must be done that way it’s fortunate to have Lari White performing them; replacing the droll lustfulness of the original with luscious waves of lush romanticism. The Grammy-winning country artist – who has a real flair for musical theatre – was, of course, a natural for selections from Shenandoah, including a lovely “We Make A Beautiful Pair” and leading the chorus in a rousing “Freedom.”
Cabaret artist Carole J. Bufford has quickly become a rising star among the nightlife set and her ravishing interpretations of “Blue Moon” and the Bessie Smith standards, “You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon” and “After You’ve Gone” display captivating interpretive skills and a professional polish well above what would be expected for her youth.
The above three ladies united for “At The Ballet,” demonstrating Kleban’s extraordinary character-developing skills.
Bob Stillman’s airy vocals gave a period feel to “All I Care About” and warm sentimentality to “The Only Home I Know.” The difference between his voice and the deep dramatics of Patrick Page’s enhanced the already sharp comedy of Kander and Ebb’s “Class.” Page’s grave earnestness was put to fine use for the year’s most controversial song, Shenandoah’s anti-war anthem, “I’ve Heard It All Before” and the fun campy quality he brings to his current gig as Spider-Man’s Green Goblin cropped up when he donned a corset and feather boa to lead the chorus in a pairing of “Sweet Transvestite” and “Time Warp.”
The concert’s director, Scott Coulter, made a solid guest appearance for an inspiring “If You Believe,” as did Kristin Beth Williams for “All That Jazz” and Nadine Iseneggar, performing Michael Bennett’s original choreography for “The Music And The Mirror.”
With Ross Patterson in his usual position leading his Little Big Band, the evening ended with the full company’s “What I Did For Love.”
Photos by Genevieve Rafter Keddy: Top: Carole J. Bufford; Bottom: Oakley Boycott, Patrick Page and Emily Iaquinta.
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2012 @ 07:49 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 5/13/12 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"They still had the Lord Chamberlain, so we had this idiotic censorship. We were allowed three Jesus Christs instead of 10. Why three were OK, I don't know."
-- Uta Hagan
The grosses are out for the week ending 5/13/2012 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: GODSPELL (17.9%), MAGIC/BIRD (14.6%), A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (12.0%), HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (11.1%), SISTER ACT (8.4%), PORGY AND BESS (7.2%), GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN (6.8%), ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS (5.7%), ANYTHING GOES (5.0%), END OF THE RAINBOW (3.8%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (3.8%), OTHER DESERT CITIES (3.2%), GHOST (2.6%), ROCK OF AGES (2.4%), THE COLUMNIST (2.3%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (2.2%), ONCE (2.2%), NEWSIES (1.6%), MEMPHIS (1.5%), LEAP OF FAITH (1.2%), JERSEY BOYS (0.7%), DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (0.7%), WAR HORSE (0.4%), DEATH OF A SALESMAN(0.1%),
Down for the week was: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-8.9%), MAMMA MIA! (-7.6%), WICKED (-4.8%), MARY POPPINS (-4.2%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-3.1%), CLYBOURNE PARK (-2.4%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (-2.0%), EVITA (-1.2%), THE LYONS (-0.8%), VENUS IN FUR (-0.8%), CHICAGO (-0.8%), JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (-0.2%),
Posted on: Monday, May 14, 2012 @ 03:47 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Triumphant Baby & The Columnist
Match.com ain’t got nuthin’ on New York’s cabaret scene, where composers, lyricists and performers are constantly on the lookout for perfect mates; whether for a lifetime commitment or just a brief, but mutually satisfying, fling.
Back in 2006, musical theatre collaborators Joe Iconis and Robert Maddock had some highly successful dates with singer/actress Lorinda Lisitza. And while the trio hasn’t been exclusive in the ensuing years, their affair, a fascinatingly diverse song cycle called Triumphant Baby, was remembered by voters who presented the show with a Nightlife Award (for the performer) and a Bistro Award (for the writers).
And if there were awards for revivals of cabaret shows, I’m sure Triumphant Baby’s return engagement at the Metropolitan Room would be in the running for a couple of more trophies. Iconis’ broad-ranging styles of music and Maddock’s colorful, poignant and character-specific lyrics vividly architect 13 diverse ladies – some comic, some tragic, often maddening – which the chameleon-like Lisitza, under Brad Oscar’s direction, brings to life in a musical theatre acting tutorial that charms and thrills.
Perhaps the signature tune of the show, thanks to YouTube exposure, is “Yolanda At The Bottom Of The Stairs,” a folksy, Eastern-European number where Lisitza plays a woman taking revenge on the tart who messed with her man with goulish expressions and a goulash accent. (“I settled the score with one little shove / And sending you to kingdom come is what I did for love.”) The comic number is perfectly placed at the end of a musical triptych that begins with the singer’s husky country vocals for “Almost,” about a woman’s disappointment in never getting quite what she needed from her relationship and segues into a fragile-to-brassy performance of “One Step Closer To Crazy.”
She switches to the kind of airy head voice typical of ingénues in early movie musicals for the devastating ballad, “The Kind That Falls,” where Lisitza chillingly portrays the 1930s wannabe starlet Peg Entwhistle, who jumped off the Hollywood sign to her death instead of facing her failed movie career.
The show’s title song is an immensely catchy bubblegum anthem where the singer cheerfully tries to pick up the spirits of a loved one (“You’ve got crippled viewpoints and morbid quotes / But I’m coming at ya with root beer floats.”) and while Iconis pens another hummable hook for “Popular Opinion,” Maddock supplies a harsh commentary on the public’s yearning for dirt on the people they’ve lifted into celebrity.
Other highlights include the mischievously sexy “Just As Long As You And I Are In Cahoots,” “Eddie Got A Color T.V.” (a comical ditty about a wife trying to seduce her husband away from the tube) and “Camden County Penitentiary,” sung from the perspective of a woman who suddenly has no idea where her life is going because her husband is never getting out of jail.
With the composer at piano, Mike Perry on guitar and mandolin, Matt Wigton on double bass and background vocals by Tanya Holt and Liz Lark Brown the evening’s spirited arrangements are just as diverse as the material. Triumphant Baby is a classy, ebullient affair matching exceptional material with an exceptional singer/actress.
I guess there’s something about John Lithgow that smells of fresh newsprint. After playing fictional gossip columnists in both Sweet Smell of Success and Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, he now takes a crack at the real thing in David Auburn’s portrait of the powerful Washington journalist Joseph Alsop, The Columnist.
It’s a lifetime thick with newsworthy material. A Washington bon vivant and closeted homosexual, Alsop was a champion of FDR’s New Deal, an enemy of both McCarthy and the Communists and a close friend of JFK, but his support of Nixon’s aggressive policies in conducting the Vietnam War made him seem out of touch by the 1970s. But Auburn’s episodic approach makes the evening more of a highlight reel. Though his dialogue is sharp and his scenes provide punch, they never coalesce into a satisfying play.
But it’s the kind of role that Lithgow can devour with relish and his excellent performance – boastfully dapper and elegant, hiding a fragile, suspicious interior – keeps the evening humming. And electric sparks do fly when his uneasy relationship with his sometimes-partner journalist brother (the also excellent Boyd Gaines, making the most of a second banana role) starts boiling over.
Director Dan Sullivan’s sturdy production has some fine supporting work by Margaret Colin, as the woman who agrees to play beard and be his wife, Grace Gummer as the rebellious stepdaughter he tries to mold in his image and Brian J. Smith as an attractive young Communist whose one-nighter with Alsop threatens the journalist’s career.
Joseph Alsop’s life and career provides enough fodder to make The Columnist interesting, but Auburn adds little more to make it work as drama.
Photo of John Lithgow by Joan Marcus.
Posted on: Monday, May 14, 2012 @ 02:31 AM Posted by: Michael Dale
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: It's Delightful Down At City Center
Any lingering suspicions that the rarely revived Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is just some dusty old relic with little to offer modern audiences but a few classic songs and the novelty of being the vehicle that turned a little-known Carol Channing into an overnight sensation can be trampled into dust – preferably by choreographer Randy Skinner’s frenetically Charlestoning ensemble – by director John Rando’s simply sensational Encores! concert staging; a dizzy whirl of highly polished musical comedy hijinks packed with show-biz savvy performances.
There were certainly more sophisticated musicals on Broadway when Gents opened in December of 1949 (South Pacific and Kiss Me, Kate to name a pair), but this was an era when talented writers took mindless fun seriously. Based on Anita Loos’ novel chronicling the 1920s gold-digging adventures of Miss Lorelei Lee, the book (presented here in David Ives’ concert adaptation) is collaboration between the source’s author and the prolific Joseph Fields. After making his Broadway debut with the period piece, High Button Shoes, Jule Styne’s sophomore effort was full of the brassy verve the composer would be known for, and Don Walker’s colorful and energetic orchestrations sparkle under Rob Berman’s baton. Leo Robin contributed abundantly clever, sometimes playfully naughty lyrics; not just for evergreens like “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” “Bye Bye, Baby” and “I’m Just A Little Girl From Little Rock,” but for novelty gems like “Keeping Cool with Coolidge,” “It’s Delightful Down in Chile” and the health-nut anthem, “I'm A'tingle, I'm A'glow.”
“How are you going to replace such-and-such?” is the cry heard whenever a show so closely associated with a star performance is planned for a remounting, and anyone starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes not only gets (unfairly, of course) compared with Carol Channing’s legendary spoof of kewpie doll cuteness, but with Marilyn Monroe’s steamier version of the character in the film version.
But Megan Hilty, aside from having established herself as a cracker-jack singing stage actress, is also a closer to fit to the Lorelei Lee Loos had written to begin with. While certainly curvier than the classic flapper, Hilty’s diminutive height and sweet, apple-pie looks serve as Lorelei’s weapons of choice for catching presumptuous businessmen off-guard until they’re deluded into thinking it was their idea to shower her with expensive jewelry and tokens of devotion.
The plot, in case such things matter to you, has the lovely Miss Lee on a cross-Atlantic cruise with her dear friend Dorothy, a flirty flapper who doesn’t give a fig for a guy’s bank account. While Dorothy is rather regulated to feeding the star straight lines for much of the show, Rachel York displays irresistible jazz-age ebullience whenever she’s plunked in the middle of Skinner’s dancers to belt out a number while surrounded by some of the best choreography in town; particularly when those dancers are an ensemble of stripped-down fellas playing U.S. Olympic athletes on their way to the games in Paris.
Though Lorelei is engaged to Gus Esmond Jr. (a finely mellow-voiced Clarke Thorell) , the heir to a button-manufacturing fortune, she fears that he’s dumped her after finding out about her semi-sordid past in Little Rock. (Makes you wonder if she ever babysat for little Nellie Forbush.) Using her own twisted logic to conclude she’s been jilted, Lorelei sets her charms on a rising zipper manufacturer and physical fitness fanatic (a hilariously energetic Stephen R. Buntrock).
The simple, uncomplicated plot leaves lots of room for terrific supporting performances. There’s the beautifully singing Aaron Lazar playing a potential mate for Dorothy who unsuccessfully tries to keep his champagne-loving mom (Deborah Rush) sober, Simon Jones and Sandra Shipley as a fun-loving codger and his stern wife and Stephen Boyer and Brennan Brown as thickly-accented French lawyers.
The knockout specialty act comes in the second half in one of those plot twists that leaves the characters watching a nightclub floor show. Phillip Attmore and Jared Grimes exude period Harlem elegance as a tap-dancing pair performing gasp-inducing footwork to “Mamie is Mimi.” When they’re joined by Megan Sikora, as an up-and-coming showgirl, the place goes nuts with excitement.
With so many dynamic supporting turns, a less-than-stellar star could get lost in the shuffle, but Hilty firmly dominates every moment she’s on, playing Lorelei more realistically than Channing and earning big laughs with thoughtful deliveries of lines like, “Arkansas is where I was reared.”
The trick comes when she has moments “in one” and lets her guard down by confiding in the audience as a hip-swiveling, curve-wiggling doll. Costume designer David C. Woolard pours her into a sparkly number for the signature tune, “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” which she delivers with the kind of panache that turns a musical moment into an intimate expression of joy between performer and audience. What Hilty communicates, by solidly taking center stage in determination to “be a star,” is that the song is not just a funny celebration of wealth, but a sincere message that, with a little guts and confidence, a kid from nowhere can reinvent herself as anything she wants. This weekend, Megan Hilty might just be reinventing herself from a dependable musical theatre professional, to a glittering Broadway star.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Clarke Thorell and Megan Hilty; Bottom: Rachel York and Company.
Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.
Posted on: Friday, May 11, 2012 @ 07:15 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
STAGE TUBE: Inside Opening Night of the Muny's 2013 Summer Season- Plus Highlights from John O'Hurley in SPAMALOTBWW TV Exclusive: Director to Director! Jack O'Brien Talks His New Memoir- 'Jack Be Nimble' with Richard Jay-Alexander; Plus Scoop on HOUDINI, THE NANCE & MoreVIDEO: Cast of KINKY BOOTS Performs on 'Today'STAGE TUBE: Behind-the-Scenes with Tyne Daly, Terrence McNally and More in MOTHERS AND SONSSTAGE TUBE: KING KONG Thunders Into Melbourne - Media Call, Premiere, Extended Footage and More!STAGE TUBE: KING KONG's Adam Lyon Chats at Premiere After PartyVIDEO: Fantasia Barrino to Join COTTON CLUB PARADE; Announces Plans on TODAY!STAGE TUBE: ONCE's Arthur Darvill Sings 'On Raglan Road'STAGE TUBE: Mykal Kilgore Sings Lyons & Pakchar's 'Crush' at New York Theatre BarnBWW TV: SPIDER-MAN Celebrates Father's Day!STAGE TUBE: Watch Lea Salonga in the Judge's Chair for THE VOICE PHILIPPINESSTAGE TUBE: First Look at John Bolton, Leslie McKinnell, Brad Nacht and More in Gateway's YOUNG FRANKENSTEINSTAGE TUBE: ENTRANCES, EXITS, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN with Patti LuPone- Episode 5BWW TV: Laura Osnes, Victoria Clark, Santino Fontana & CINDERELLA Cast Sign Albums at Barnes & Noble- Plus the Performances!BWW TV Exclusive: Talking to the 2013 Tony Winners - Pam MacKinnonBWW TV Exclusive: Talking to the 2013 Tony Winners - Gabriel Ebert