Entries tagged "theatre"
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Theatre de la Jeune Lune to closeMinnesota's Theatre de la Jeune Lune to close next month. "... But the warning bells are ringing loud and clear across the nation. If Jeune Lune falls, who's next?"
Monday, June 16, 2008
Tony Awards: How they votedI went back and updated my post about who I'd vote for in the Tony Awards from last month to reflect the actual winners. I batted about .400 this year, in sync with the Tony voters on 10 of the 25 competitive awards. (I did slightly better last year.) I enjoyed the telecast a great deal, but even more, I enjoyed the company in which I watched and our eclectic buffet—including Chuck's "American Theatre Wings", Larry's spare-ribs and my eggrolls and "Little" lamb kebabs—along with a lot of wine.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Tony Awards: If I were votingThe nominations for the 62nd Annual Tony Awards were announced this morning and, like last year, I'm going to go ahead and weigh in with my picks. Please note that these are not predictions. I'm awful at those. These are the people and productions for which I'd vote given an opportunity.
Update, June 16: It's the morning after, and I've added the actual winners from the Tony Award's telecast in brackets below.
Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler gave In the Heights some really nice moments, and Rob Ashford's work on Cry-Baby was the best thing about the show, but my nod goes to Dan Knechtges for Xanadu. +1 difficulty for skates and a tiny stage. [Andy Blankenbuehler, In the Heights]
Orchestrations: A Catered Affair is a really sweet, gentle musical and Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations were lovely, but I'd vote for Jason Carr, whose work on Sunday in the Park with George let me hear a familiar, brilliant score in a refreshing new way. [Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, In the Heights]
Book of a Musical: Not a strong year for the new book musical. Points to Douglas Carter Beane for making soup from the bones of Xanadu, but my vote goes to Quiara Alegria Hudesa for In the Heights. [Stew, Passing Strange]
Original Score: A close one here, with Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights a strong favorite. Ultimately, though, I'll go with the surprising serendipity of Passing Strange by Heidi Rodewald and Stew. [In the Heights, Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda]
Scenic Design: (play) Todd Rosenthal's ginormous house and environs for August: Osage County was spectacular; (musical) I left Young Frankenstein humming Robin Wagner's scenery, but would vote for Sunday in the Park with George. The only misfire: Calling down the lights before we get a good look at the completed painting at the end of Act One. [Play: Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County; Musical: Micheal Yeargan, South Pacific]
Costume Design: (play) Katrina Lindsay's gorgeous work for Les Liaisons Dangereuses was tops in my book, although I didn't get to see Cyrano de Bergerac, which is usually a playground for a costumer; (musical) David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George. (Yes, I tend to favor showy period productions in this category.) [Play: Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses; Musical: Catherine Zuber, South Pacific]
Lighting Design: Tough choice this year, in which nothing really jumped out at me among the noms. Most everything seemed fine and workmanlike. (play) Howard Harrison's work on Macbeth was quite lovely; (musical) Howell Binkley, In the Heights. [Play: Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps; Musical: Donald Holder, South Pacific]
Sound Design: Same here. (play) Mic Pool, The 39 Steps; (musical) Acme Sound Partners, In the Heights. [Play: Mic Pool, The 39 Steps; Musical: Scott Lehrer, South Pacific]
Direction: (play) No question about this one: Anna Shapiro for August: Osage County. I enjoyed all four nominated productions, although I generally feel playwrights shouldn't direct their own work. Conor McPherson's guidance of his own script for The Seafarer was okay, but the play would have benefitted from a second voice. (musical) I'm kind of torn here between Sam Buntrock for Sunday in the Park with George and Bart Sher for South Pacific. Both helmed exquisite revival productions, but I'll give it to South Pacific by a hair. (Sorry Mr. Laurents. Gypsy was not your best work, and certainly not the best of the season.) [Play: Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County; Musical: Bartlett Sher, South Pacific]
Featured Actor, Play: I loved Bobby Cannavale in Mauritius, and that's about all I loved there, but my vote's with Conleth Hill for The Seafarer. [Jim Norton, The Seafarer]
Featured Actress, Play: An extremely strong field this year. Rondi Reed, Sinead Cusack and Martha Plimpton were all great, but the always-marvelous Laurie Metcalf stood out in the otherwise mediocre November. She gets my vote. [Rondi Reed, August: Osage County]
Featured Actor, Musical: All gave fine performances, but Christopher Fitzgerald was the only actor on stage in Young Frankenstein who seemed to remember he was in a musical comedy and thus rescued the otherwise dishwater evening for me. Nice to see him in a meatier role than Wicked's Boq, that's for sure. [Boyd Gaines, Gypsy]
Featured Actress, Musical: No doubt here, I give my nod to Laura Benanti in Gypsy, the best Louise I've ever seen on stage. [Laura Benanti, Gypsy]
Actor, Play: Patrick Stewart in Macbeth. Absolutely riveting. Make it so. [Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing]
Actress, Play: I missed Come Back, Little Sheba, but really, my choice comes down to the two leading ladies of August: Osage County. Deanna Dunagan was just fierce as the gritty matriarch, but in a squeaker, I'd vote for Amy Morton, whose work I've admired for years, as the suffering sister. [Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County]
Actor, Musical: Tough one! Paulo Szot gave one hell of a performance in South Pacific, but I was charmed by Lin-Manuel Miranda's Usnavi in In the Heights. He certainly wrote himself one hell of a Broadway debut role, then played it to the hilt. [Paulo Szot, South Pacific]
Actress, Musical: Another rough decision, really, and so I'm cheating with two votes. Patti LuPone in Gypsy and Kelli O'Hara in South Pacific. As far as I'm concerned, these two are tied for the most thrilling female performances on Broadway this year. (I do think Ms. LuPone will go home with the statuette, however.) [Patti LuPone, Gypsy]
Revival of a Play: Macbeth. The whole production was just perfect. [Boeing-Boeing]
Revival of a Musical: South Pacific. Ditto. Although the plane was a little much. Just because it's in the budget, Bart... [South Pacific]
Best Play: Tracy Letts' August: Osage County. Honorable mention to Rock 'n' Roll, which I kind of loved, but this isn't Stoppard's year. Mr. Letts deserves every accolade he's gotten for this grueling, gorgeous soaper. [August: Osage County]
Best Musical: Fresh but strangely conventional, my nod has to go to In the Heights. I had the best time overall here of the four nominated shows. [In the Heights]
I guess we'll see how tuned in to the Broadway pulse I am. The Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS next month, June 15.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Miss Birdseye, Miss LuPone and misplaced criticismA piece in the souvenir program for the current Broadway revival of Gypsy casts some aspersions on Ethel Merman's performance as Rose, attributing to Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim assertions that the Merm's acting wasn't up to snuff. (I heard Sondheim talk extensively about the original staging of "Rose's Turn" at the Jewish Book Fair here a few years ago, including the same sentiments that Merman was a rote actress.)
It's a shame that anyone feels the need to disparage a prior—and in this case iconic—performance in an attempt to promote a new one but in the end, these are simply opinions and shouldn't diminish the star's legacy. For my money (and I've spent a fair amount of it, seeing Patti LuPone in three different productions of Gypsy now), both Merman and LuPone were thrilling in the role. Different, yes, but thrilling nonetheless.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Not coming to Broadway this season…When you've got friends like mine...
Last Tuesday, we speculated about creating a new musical called The Little Merman, about a brassy Broadway belter who makes a bargain with a wicked queen to give up her big, big voice, in the hope of winning the love of a handsome prince named Ernest. (Hey, it couldn't be worse than what's on stage at the Lunt-Fontaine just now.)
Earlier today—and entirely sober, mind—we envisioned a musical set in a dystopian world where an evil monopolist named Cladwell sends a robotic Officer Lockstock back in time to kill a young boy named Bobby before he can grow up to foment a revolution against pay toilets. We call this one Urinator: The Josephine Strong Chronicles.
Of course, that's assuming the protocol Skynet uses is IP.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
links for 2007-08-02
Dennis Brown looks, curtain up to curtain call, at nine shows on one night in the St. Louis theatre world.
Friday, July 27, 2007
links for 2007-07-27
The winding road that brought High School Musical from TV to the legit stage, with stops in a few gymnasiums.
A great collection of photos from the Las Vegas museum that stows decommissioned neon signs. Where else would you find a neon graveyard but in Vegas?
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Why you shouldn’t use your phone at a concert
Friday, July 13, 2007
An American DaughterTonight I saw The Orange Girls' production of Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter; it was the last of a Wasserstein memorial trifecta in St. Louis this season, beginning with New Jewish Theatre's The Sisters Rosensweig and our The Heidi Chronicles.
These three plays, taken together, can be seen as something of a trilogy. Written over a decade, they're probably Wasserstein's most well-known works. For my money, An American Daughter is the weakest of the three; it was written last and feels a lot like a rehash of the themes, characters and political locales of the preceding two. The story concerns the nomination of a driven, privileged, family-oriented woman to be United States Surgeon General and the media-manufactured scandal that imperils her confirmation. The central question here, as in Heidi and Rosensweig: "Is it possible—or even desirable—for a woman to 'have it all'?"
There are some very good performances in this production, notably Jeff Wright as the conservative gay go-getter, Morrow; Monica Parks as accomplished and conflicted best friend Judith; and the wonderful Mary Schnitzler as the woman at the eye of the storm, Lyssa Dent Hughes. Scott DeBroux's set packs a lot of living room into the COCA black box, and Brian Beracha's sound design along with Daniel Lanier's lights complement it nicely.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Clearing the Cache: July 10, 2007Gay TV cable channel Logo will host a live presidential debate August 9. Candidates Clinton, Edwards and Obama are on board so far. Did you ever think you'd see such a thing? A gay cable TV channel, I mean?
Chris Jones shares trade secrets of a Chicago theatre critic. The really good ones, like where to park and get grub. However, as one commenter notes, nearly every theatre in Chicago is accessible by CTA trains or buses, so a great tip is to leave the car at home.
There's something that appeals to the obsessive and the transportation geek inside me about mileage running, but I have the impression it's something you don't mention you do at parties.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
“… we’ve relinquished … imagination to the marketplace.”Well worth a read to remind us of the importance of the arts—all of them—to our lives and society, these remarks by Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, at Stanford University's commencement. A snip:
The loss of recognition for artists, thinkers, and scientists has impoverished our culture in innumerable ways, but let me mention one. When virtually all of a culture's celebrated figures are in sports or entertainment, how few possible role models we offer the young.
There are so many other ways to lead a successful and meaningful life that are not denominated by money or fame. Adult life begins in a child's imagination, and we've relinquished that imagination to the marketplace.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
The 50(ish) percent solution…I was 12 for 25 with my hypothetical Tony Awards votes. If I had "voted" my gut instead of my heart, I'd probably have made 75 percent, at least.
I added the actual winners from last night's Tony Awards to my choices.
Success in AmericaActor Frank Langella, accepting his Best Actor in a Play honor, gave the best Tony Award speech earlier tonight, the best in several years of my recollection:
There's a line in Frost/Nixon which says, 'Success in America is unlike success anywhere else. That feeling when you're up...it's indescribable.' And I'm very grateful to the theatre community, to my colleagues in Frost/Nixon here and overseas, and to the New York theatregoing public for allowing me that feeling this season.Amen.
The line in the play then goes on to say, 'But there's another feeling when it's gone, to somewhere else, to someone else.' And I know that feeling. Everyone in this room knows it. I suppose we can't stop people from putting us into competition with one another, and once we're here, I suppose we all want to win. But I think we must honor the common bond in us, the struggle, the striving for success, because that's a race you simply can't lose.
I am very proud and very honored to work and live among you splendid people. Thank you. Thank you for giving me that indescribable feeling. I wish it for you all.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
The Tony Awards: If I had my way
Updated June 10: I've added the actual winners in brackets at the end of each of my choices.
While I'm loathe to turn down a request from a hottie reader, here's the thing. I don't do predictions. I suck at them. I mean really, really suck.
So half a bargain? Here's who and what would be taking home Tonys if I were king of the forest:
- Lighting Design: I'd give it to Chris Akerlind for 110 in the Shade; Chris always does wonderful work, but he really hit it out of the park here. It was just gorgeous. I'd give three trophies to Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Psner and Natasha Katz for The Coast of Utopia trilogy. [Musical: Kevin Adams, Spring Awakening; Play: The Coast of Utopia]
- Costume Design: William Ivey Long for Grey Gardens, and Ti Green and Melly Still for Coram Boy. [Musical: Grey Gardens; Play: Catherine Zuber, The Coast of Utopia]
- Scenic Design: Bob Crowley and Scott Pask for The Coast of Utopia; Christine Jones for Spring Awakening. [Musical: Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins; Play: The Coast of Utopia]
- Orchestrations: Jonathan Tunick for LoveMusik, closely followed by...Jonathan Tunick for 110 in the Shade. [Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening]
- Choreography: Kind of torn here, since I loved what Jerry Mitchell did with Legally Blonde, but I'd give the nod to Rob Ashford's work on Curtains. [Bill T. Jones, Spring Awakening]
- Direction of a Musical: John Doyle for Company. He really pulled the whole production together, and his conceit of actors-as-orchestra worked ideally here. [Michael Mayer, Spring Awakening]
- Direction of a Play: Another toughie, but my award goes to Michael Grandage for Frost/Nixon, a superlative production all around. [Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia]
- Featured Actress in a Musical: Karen Ziemba in Curtains. (As I noted before, I'd love to see her up for a leading lady Tony sometime soon.) [Mary Louise Wilson, Grey Gardens]
- Featured Actor in a Musical: John Gallagher Jr. for Spring Awakening, closely followed by Christian Borle in Legally Blonde. [John Gallagher Jr., Spring Awakening]
- Featured Actress in a Play: Jennifer Ehle in The Coast of Utopia. [Jennifer Ehle, The Coast of Utopia]
- Featured Actor in a Play: Stark Sands in Journey's End. [Billy Crudup, The Coast of Utopia]
- Leading Actress in a Musical: Man alive, this is the hardest category for me to choose, because each of the nominees gave performances that knocked me out, but I'll go with my first choice, which is Christine Ebersole in Grey Gardens. [Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens]
- Leading Actor in a Musical: Raúl Esparza in Company. Hands down, no contest. Best. Bobby. Ever. [David Hyde Pierce, Curtains]
- Leading Actress in a Play: I loved Eve Best in A Moon for the Misbegotten, but I really want the Tony to go to Julie White from The Little Dog Laughed. She split my sides. [Julie White, The Little Dog Laughed]
- Leading Actor in a Play: Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon. An amazing, mesmerizing performance. [Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon]
- Best Theatrical Event: Alas, I missed both nominees, but Kiki & Herb are my sentimental favorite. [Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!]
- Best Revival of a Musical: If Company wasn't in the running, this would be 110 in the Shade's award. But I gotta go with Mr. Sondheim's masterpiece under Mr. Doyle's direction. Almost perfect. [Company]
- Best Revival of a Play: Journey's End. [Journey's End]
- Best Original Score: Spring Awakening. [Duncan Sheik, Steven Sater, Spring Awakening]
- Best Book of a Musical: Spring Awakening. [Steven Sater, Spring Awakening]
- Best Musical: While acknowledging that Spring Awakening has the edge here, my award would go to Curtains for sheer fun. [Spring Awakening]
- Best Play: Mr. Stoppard's marathon The Coast of Utopia, trailed by Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon. [The Coast of Utopia]
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
The way I saw it
I've been trying to organize my thoughts about the theatre season just passed but they're about as jumbled as the stack of ticket stubs on my desk. I've spent more time in New York this season--on trips short and long--and since I seldom let a night in the city go by without seeing a show, that means I saw nearly everything worthwhile that opened on Broadway, a rare year for me. I got to see a lot of shows elsewhere too and, of course, we produced a few. Herewith some non-comprehensive notes:
- The very best things I saw on any stage this season were both limited-run, concert editions of favorite shows. I sat gleefully third row at Ravinia in August to see Patti LuPone as Rose and Jessica Boevers (now Bogart) in the title role of Gypsy. This was hardly a scaled-down production, however; for a "concert", it was pretty fully-mounted. It was simply thrilling, absolutely, and one of those nights in the theatre I'll treasure forever. (I strongly suspect it was an event that will become like Woodstock and, years in the future, thousands upon thousands will claim to have been in the park that night witnessing LuPone's "Rose's Turn".)
- Neither snow nor rain nor flesh-eating bacteria or any other unlikely fate that might have befallen me could have kept me from Encores! concert of Follies at City Center. I wrote a few lines about that show while still basking in its afterglow.
- Company: I first saw this show in Cincinnati with our pals at the Playhouse in the Park; I documented my thoughts on the production pretty well here at the time. I'm pleased to report that the show (which did, in fact, transfer to a Broadway run) held up to my expectations in New York. I saw an early preview and another performance a few weeks ago. It remains, of the many, many I've seen, my favorite production of the work and I am certainly pulling for Raul Esparza, the best damn Bobby I've ever seen, to take the Tony Award this weekend.
- Journey's End was the best drama I saw in New York this season, and The Little Dog Laughed was the most entertaining (if unevenly wrought) comedy. I also adored The Year of Magical Thinking, and Vanessa Redgrave's performance therein. Not forgetting, of course, The Coast of Utopia; I had seen Voyage in London several years ago and ran the marathon at Lincoln Center this spring. It's a sweeping drama in a class on its own.
- I also explored the fine line between pain and pleasure by sitting through an early performance of Terrance McNally's Deuce, easily one of the most poorly constructed plays I've ever seen. It was redeemed only by marvelous performances by Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes. Delightful as they were, they couldn't improve the material, but I consider my ticket price a worthwhile investment for the hug I received by Ms. Lansbury at the stage door while reminiscing about her performances at The Muny.
- Repeat performances: I made another trip to see The Drowsy Chaperone, since I'd missed Sutton Foster on an earlier visit. Bob Martin's performance at the Man in the Chair was as witty as ever, but the show as a whole doesn't hold up terribly well on repeated viewings. I also dropped in again on the New York production of Altar Boyz; call it field research.
- After I saw Spring Awakening, a friend asked for my impression and I said what I've repeated often since: "I'm not in the target demographic." That said, I enjoyed the heck out of the show (probably helps that I'm a Duncan Sheik fan) and was delighted to see a younger audience in attendance than at any other production all season. I've had the cast album in my car stereo for weeks. It's not revolutionary (as it occasionally has been hailed), it's not a Rent or a Hair in either its ambition or its realization, but it is a great evening of theatre very well-performed.
- I suppose I am in the demo for Legally Blonde, aimed as it is squarely at teen/tween girls and gay men, and I have to say I had a great time with it. The whole show starts at a sprint and never slows down, the music is bouncy, some of the choreography is amazing and all in all, the show is a lot of fun. What it doesn't do--unlike, say, Hairspray--is reveal anything particularly new about the material; if you've seen the Reese Witherspoon movie, there's nothing here to surprise you. I certainly wasn't surprised about one other thing: Laura Bell Bundy's performance as Elle Woods. She is fierce. Snaps to her.
- I loved Grey Gardens, and will not be at all surprised or disappointed if Christine Ebersole takes the Tony Award for her dual role at big and little Edies. The show isn't for everyone and I have some questions about how well it will tour, but I found the show--especially Act Two--astonishing.
- Likewise, as a Kurt Weill fan, I thoroughly enjoyed LoveMusik, which I saw at an early preview and hope to revisit now that it's more settled. Donna Murphy and Michael Cerveris give--surprise, surprise--amazing performances. Murphy, in particular, just disappears into Lotte Lenya. It's another show that is not particularly commercial and probably wouldn't survive outside the rarified world of non-profit theatre, but I'm so glad I saw it.
- I saw two revivals at the Roundabout this year, The Apple Tree and 110 in the Shade. This was the third production of The Apple Tree I've seen in the past few years and while I enjoyed Kristin Chenoweth's performance, I don't need to see another one for a great while, I think. 110 in the Shade, on the other hand, was a joy. New pal Bobby Steggert (who was in our production of Shakespeare's R&J last season) is going to be a big star, mark my words. Audra McDonald was perfection as Lizzie. Forget the naysayers who opine that she's too beautiful to play a plain old maid. Lizzie isn't necessarily actually plain, she just needs to believe that she is. McDonald makes you believe she believes and, of course, she sings the hell out of the role. I had some goose bumps.
- I've saved the best for last. A few years ago, when I first saw Hairspray, folks asked my opinion of it and I honestly said it wasn't the best musical I'd ever seen but it was, hands down, the most fun I'd had in the theatre in a long time. I am now saying the same thing about Curtains, the Kander and Ebb (and Holmes et al) musical at the Hirschfeld. If you're a fan of musical comedy--a real, diehard, dyed in the cotton musical theatre fan--hie thee to Telecharge and get the best seat you can. The songs, the jokes, the production numbers, the inside jokes...it all added up for me. I left dancing onto 45th Street and wishing I could see it again right away. David Hyde Pierce, Debra Monk and Karen Ziemba (someone get this gal a lead, please!) deserve all the awards they can carry. I'm gushing? So kill me. This show did.
I'm leaving out of a ton of things I saw and, to varying degrees, enjoyed, but that'll have to do for now. Perhaps I'll roundup some favorites from the day job and other local theatres in a day or so.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I’m so glad I came
I've been to a marvelous party with the Weismann Girls. Follies last night at City Center was a performance I'm going to remember for a long time, and was certainly the best damned Encores! production I've ever seen.
One of the reviews I read said something to the effect that even if the cast had performed only the last four numbers, it would still have been an outstanding production, and that's so true. Michael McGrath as Buddy doing "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues", Victoria Clark as Sally singing "Losing My Mind", Donna Murphy and the men's ensemble tearing up "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" and Victor Garber breaking down "Live, Laugh, Love"...I don't think I've had a more thrilling 20 minutes or so in the theatre in years.
Being closing night with a lot of repeat guests, every number was greeted with thunderous and mostly deserved applause. After Arthur Rubin, who has still got amazing pipes, brought on the cast with "Beautiful Girls", I really thought the show would run an hour longer just for the ovations. By the time Anne Rogers and Robert Fitch did their first dance specialty with "Rain on the Roof", I had a smile on my face that didn't fade all night.
JoAnne Worley as Stella was a scream (literally!), and lord, lord, lord, lord, lord, that woman and all the Weismann girls danced the hell out of "Who's That Woman". Donna Murphy lost a shoe midway through the number and kept right on tapping with one, then reclaimed it and held it over her head triumphantly come the final break.
I've heard a lot against Christine Baranski as Carlotta but I have to say, she created a perfectly consistent portrayal of a woman getting by the best she can with what she's got and what life dealt her. If she didn't exactly hit the final note of "I'm Still Here", I wouldn't have expected her Carlotta to do so. Yvonne Constant (Solange) and Mimi Hines (Hattie) were perfect, and I don't believe I've heard any old and young Heidi (Lucine Amara and Leena Chopra) blend better singing "One More Kiss".
From top to bottom, though, the show belonged to Clark and Murphy. I'm so sad the production wasn't recorded, because I'll have only my memory of their fantastic performances of "Could I Leave You?", "In Buddy's Eyes" and their two 11 o'clock numbers. But what a memory!
The house Monday night was sold out to the rafters, and the show began about 20 minutes late because of a will-call line that stretched all the way down 55th. There were even more stars in the audience than on stage; I spied Fred Willard, Bernadette Peters, Martin Short, Nathan Lane, Alfred Molina, and Matt Cavanaugh, as well as Paul Rudnick, John Doyle and, of course, Mr. Sondheim himself, who was all smiles. At the intermission, Sarah Jessica Parker, with Matt Broderick in tow, came up to me on the sidewalk to ask for a light. Of course, it was fun sitting with my pal Hunter and what seemed like most of the cast of [title of show]
As I was leaving, I spotted Donna McKechnie and Barbara Cook chatting and both looking radiant. Seeing those two former Sallys together was the perfect coda to my evening. And like Sally, I'm so glad I came.
Sunday, April 2, 2006
Phone rings, door chimes…I scooted over to Cincinnati last Thursday to see Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's production of Stephen Sondheim's Company, my second-favorite Sondheim show. (My first, for entirely sentimental reasons, is Merrily We Roll Along. No one else I know counts it in their top five.)
One of the things that distinguishes live theatre from the movies is that our relationship to shows can change in two dimensions: either as a factor of a different production that changes some aspect of the play or of the fact that we're the ones who have changed since first seeing it or, for that matter, both. Movies are static and unchanging; our estimation of them changes only if we acknowledge a change in ourselves (age, experience, whatever).
My relationship with Company changes every time I see it, and this was no exception. I last saw the show four years ago at the Kennedy Center, with John Barrowman as Bobby and Lynn Redgrave as Joanne. I said at the time it was the best production I was likely to see for a while; the Cincinnati production now holds that distinction. I'm also a few years older. Joanne's line late in act two about their set being "too young for the old people and too old for the young people" seems a little more apt to me now. That's certainly how I've been feeling lately.
As for the production itself, I can't improve on the praise the many regional and national reviews have piled on it. It just works, and certainly better that director John Doyle's current New York production of Sweeney Todd that employs the same conceit (the actors accompanying themselves as the orchestra), which I enjoyed but didn't love. Company just works better this way, and the necessary compression of the score and reduction of the stage business reinvents the show as more of a chamber piece, boiling it down to the essence.
Short takes: Raul Esparza, who I like more every time I see him, is hands-down the best Bobby I've ever seen. He sings the hell out of—and means every word of—"Being Alive". I'd never seen a production that interpolated "Marry Me a Little"; here it ends the first act and, rather than diminish the finale as I'd feared, it actually enhances it. When Bobby gets to "Being Alive", you realize "Marry Me a Little" was a perfectly logical, perfectly appropriate stop on his emotional journey. "Barcelona" doesn't work as well when April and Bobby aren't naked and in bed, but I sure don't miss the "Tick-Tock" ballet. Barbara Walsh is fierce as Joanne, the least self-deluded and most honest character in the piece. David Gallo's minimalist set looks great in the Marx space, aided by Tom Hase's lighting, and $30,000 worth of designer clothes look fantastic on the cast in stark black and white. The rest of the company was superb, particularly Matt Castle (hubba hubba) as Peter and Heather Laws as Amy. There were a few places where I thought the sound could have been better, but that may have been a consequence of where I was sitting in the fourth row. Some friends seated in the last row on the floor said the vocal/music mix was fine.
The production continues through April 14 and, although it is substantially sold out, I encourage you to see it if you can. Despite the optimism of my friends at the Playhouse, who have seen a parade of New York producers and potential backers in the audience over the past few weeks, I will be very surprised if this particular production has a life outside Ohio.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
PitfallsThe Intermission Escape Artist
Or, How One Lifelong Theater Devotee Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate the Form.
Theater has openly flirted with suckiness since Thespis sassed back from the chorus line. The possibility of disaster is inherent in the form: Every great theatrical event requires harmonious excellence from an array of people, from playwright and director to the various designers; with actors and technicians, the requisite proficiency must also be simultaneous, and produced anew night after night after night. But the risk amps the reward: Yes, nothing sucks like bad theater, but nothing thrills like good theater, and the threat of the former only compounds the joy of the latter.
But beyond the suck potential brought by the high-wire aspect of the form, live theater faces other deadly risks�threats far more insidious than a dumbstruck actor, or a director whose vision consists of transposing The Two Gentlemen of Verona to the antebellum American South. The worst of these threats can abort even the possibility of real theater in utero, and the name of this most heinous threat is romance�specifically, the romanticization of the theatrical form.
Thursday, August 4, 2005
SwampedRehearsals start Tuesday for the season, a front-loaded whirlwind that includes seven openings in 12 weeks starting next month. (Get a glimpse of the madness: the mini-site for our new series—a site, incidentally, built in one manic day by yours truly and before anyone says a word, the splash page was not my idea—or see the whole shooting match on our mothership site.)
I just did my daily review of my to-do list for the next two weeks, and my calendar through December. There is not one free day, weekends included, until well into November. Fortunately, I'm too tired to cry.
And I've never had so much fun in my life.
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Assorted bookmarks and braindumps
- Battlestar Galactica icons from Iconfactory. Bring on the Cylonicons! (Of course, I guess they'd just look like regular icons now anyway.)
- Leapin' kitties! (Can a Toyota deal be far behind?)
- First look at an impressive QuarkXPress 7. I have a little trouble associating the words "impressive" and "Quark" these days.
- As such things go, the blog set up to build buzz for the movie Rent is pretty well-done.
- Movable Type wonkery: Random page banners, yearly archives, RSS customizations and custom static pages.
Thursday, October 2, 2003
Suffering through AlbeeSuffering? Well, Albee! Despite the fact that my body seems on the verge of succumbing to The Crud™ (some wicked combination of SARS and a head cold, it seems) that's felled several of my students and what seems like half my office, I've decided to extend this weekend's trip to Chicago by a day and catch the press preview of Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? at The Goodman Theatre on Monday night. Aside from the fact it's a remarkable work and that I'm curious to see what Robert Falls and his cast do with it, it'll also be good field research for my next few weeks at work.
And speaking of shows at my place, you've only a week or so left to see our production of Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses. I'm biased, of course, but it's a beautiful production and with no slight intended, I like our take on the show a good deal more than I did the Broadway production.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Sodomy Tour 2003Rogue trip: Sodomy Tour 2003. "Four Days. Four States. Four Infamous Crimes Against Nature."
On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding Texas'--and, by extension, three other states'--same-sex sodomy law, which criminalizes sexual activity between members of the same sex. The court will issue a ruling by the end of June.
In advance of the Supreme Court's decision, The Stranger sent David Schmader to tour the four states whose homo-only sodomy laws could soon be declared unconstitutional--and to commit some good old-fashioned illegal sodomy for perhaps the last time.
It depends on how you say it: Peter Filichia's theatre-related Tom Swifties.
"Wasn't what happened to Eddie in Blood Brothers awfully lucky?" Tom said transparently.
"On June 7, 1998, Lillias White, Chuck Cooper, and Pamela Isaacs were thrown out of work and Broadway lost a good musical," Tom said lifelessly.
"Ms. Henshall is no longer in Chicago," Tom said ruthlessly.
Cute crooner: Michael Bublé.
No small (travel) plans: I'll be hefting myself onto the big shoulders of Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend, one of three planned (so far) jaunts to the Second City in the next few months. If you'd like to lift a glass with me while I'm there, please be in touch.
Meta: Alas, L'il Gromit's LCD woes seem intractable so, for the near term at least, I'll just be coping with his fluky backlight by applying the "jiggle the handle" method to find the sweet spot where it snaps on. A replacement PowerBook is in my future but, given other near-term obligations, it may be several months off.
Tuesday, July 25, 2000
Give us this day…Today, we "soft-launch" a new feature here in The BradLands, a half-baked deli serving up slices of life on wry. It's called The Daily Brad, and it will — for the most part — supplant the wildly popular LIFE <META> bits that have been littering the weblog these past few months. Is it a journal? Something like that, but I prefer to think of it as a conversation over a cup of joe and a cruller. C'mon in, and let me know what you think.
I'M BEYOND KAREN: If you only know actress Megan Mullaly from her wickedly funny portrayal of Karen on the sitcom Will & Grace, you don't know the half of it. This spirited gal got her start on Broadway and she's got the chops to be a major diva, in every good way that counts. Her new one woman shows are, by all reports, divine, and her website — well, let's just say it's a well-designed place to meet the dame behind the diva.
Monday, May 8, 2000
Wicked stageThe 1999 Tony Award nominations have been announced. Rather spare assortment of musicals this season, but we knew that going in. A special Tony for Dame Edna? Cool. (Speaking of Edna, Christine Lavin finally found a place for her story of Edna addiction. Congrats!)
Wednesday, August 11, 1999
Wild FrontierSORTA-META: I feel bad about not having updated ye olde weblogge recently, but I've been monster busy in The Big Room. Plus I'm learning some minimal Frontier website management stuff for other projects and, as a consequence, crafting this site in WYSIWYG tools just seems damned inelegant by comparison. Dear God, I'm still manually archiving things! And the glossary...the glossary rocks!
So...there may be longer lulls between entries hereabouts. I'm shooting for at least two updates a week, no schedule, so keep on comin' back if you're so inclined. I'm contemplating a back-end design tweak, and also trying to get the showtunes section up and running. Bear with me.
SOME QUICK HITS:
A pretty, new weblog: Whim & Vinegar
Every restaurant in the free world should immediately adopt the technology that makes this possible. I will brook no argument on this point. "Separate checks? Why, certainly sir! No trouble at all!" [Ask Tog]
I talked a little bit about the great musical revue "When Pigs Fly" last month (q.v. July 22, 1999), but this page is a lot better as an introduction to the show than the one I linked then, and the old page has succumbed to linkrot anyway. Meanwhile, the show is playing through August at (ugh!) Faces. It's an earnest effort, not bad for locally produced amateur theatre, but it could certainly benefit from a change of venue. Caveat theatregoer.
Some very nice Flash animations and narratives here.
Friday, July 30, 1999
La vie bohemeHEY SAILOR: Is that a Loose Cannon in your pants, or are you just happy to see me? ("Loose Cannon Boxers: For the man who has everything and doesn't want it tied down.")
R U ERUDITE? So your friends are dragging you to a Broadway show and you're concerned you might not grok all of the hip, pop culture references in the Life Cafe ("La Vie Boheme") scene of Rent? Never fear! A handy translation guide has been prepared for you.
Tuesday, July 14, 1998
Shuckin’ my duds for a PartyThere's no 'M' on MTV anymore. I think they took it out about the same time there stopped being 'N' on CNN.
Salon weighs in on the Tina Brown departure: Brown and out in New York.
During the decades-long editorship of the monkish William Shawn, the New Yorker had assumed the status of the summit of American letters, with all that "summit" entails — the immutability, the arid beauty, the dizziness and hypoxia after the long trek to the top of a Ved Mehta essay.A nice summation on alternative publishing, AKA the history of 'zines. [via Obscure Store]
OK, I promised the story: Yes, the rumors are accurate...your's truly will be returning to the stage in St. Louis this August. I've agreed to take a part in New Line Theatre's "Out of Line" production of David Dillon's Party.
It's the story of seven friends who get together one night to play a wild version of "Truth or Dare," and let's just say that both prospects get the best of them. In the process, they learn a great deal about one another, drink quite a few shots of liquor punch and end up dancing naked as the evening winds down.
I'll pause while you re-read that last paragraph and ponder the implications.
Good, you're back. So, for those of you quick on the uptake, that means that yes, in fact, I will be appearing nude on stage. Think very carefully before you choose to make wisecracks. I have already heard just about every variation of whatever joke you intend to tell. Believe me, I did not consent to take on the part without getting past my trepidation about proving the show-biz maxim, "There are no small roles, only small actors."
The fact is, while Party will not be mistaken for high art by any viewer with half a brain, it's a fun, fluffy way to spend a couple of hours and I think I've got a great part. I play Ray, the show-tune lovin', acerbic yet witty priest.
Again, a pause to consider that notion.
Ray and I have a lot in common, as those friends of mine who dare to come and see the show will attest. Except for the priest part.
So am I nervous about the show? You betcha! But my anxiety stems less from the fact that a (hopefully) packed house every night is gonna see my dangly bits paraded around on stage....frankly, I'm more concerned about flubbing one or more of the many lines I have to commit to memory in the next week.
Party runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in August at the St. Marcus Theatre. Tickets available through MetroTix. If you've been saying to yourself, "Gee, I just don't see enough of Brad these days...", well, here's your chance.
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