Before there was the bawdy and delicious Bridgett Everett or the foul-mouthed Pam Ann, there was the witty and purposefully irreverent Sandra Bernhard. The inimitable performer returns to Joe’s Pub at The Public with her all new show, Sandra Bernhard is #blessed, for her annual year-end residency, which starts December 26 and leads up to her New Year’s Eve spectacle.
The new show will contain Bernhard’s unique, sharp blend of hysterical insight and outspoken views, with rock-n-roll, cabaret, stand-up and a little burlesque. Sandra Bernhard is #blessed also features Bernhard’s band The Flawless Zircons, who perform with her at sold out venues in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and all points in between.
Of last year’s shows at Joe’s Pub, The New York Times wrote, “Just below the surface, you sense the same roving critical eye that misses nothing and the same sensibility compelled to puncture fantasies And, Ms. Bernhard’s ear is as perfectly attuned as ever to music that you’re embarrassed to admit you might like.”
The always entertaining Bernhard has been wowing, and sometimes shocking, audiences since starting her career at LA’s famed Comedy Store in the 1970s, going on to become a favorite on the live-show comedy circuit nationally, while also forging a career in film, television and on Broadway. She is also now guest starring on episodes of Fox TV‘s Brooklyn Nine-Nine as the character Gina’s “eccentric” and “offbeat” mother, Darlene Linetti.
Bernhard made television history as the first openly gay character on a network sitcom (Roseanne), and has more recently appeared on the TV Land comedy Hot in Cleveland, on Logo’s DTLA, CBS’s The New Adventures of Old Christine, FOX TV’s American Dad, NBC’s Crossing Jordan, The L Word, etc. and has appeared more than 30 times on Late Night with David Letterman.
In addition to her numerous television and film appearances, audiences have raved about her work on the Broadway stage, including the critically acclaimed I’m Still Here… Dammit!, which opened Off-Broadway in 1997, moved to Broadway a year later, and was filmed for an HBO special. In 2006, Bernhard’s Everything Bad and Beautiful also opened to rave reviews. Her most recent show, I Love Being Me, Don’t You? played to sold-out crowds for an extended run last summer in Los Angeles. The album version of the show was released on Rooftop Records last fall, and she has since been touring almost non-stop.
The upcoming run at Joe’s Pub is a rare opportunity to see this comedy legend as she continues to tell it like it is. Hashtag #fabulous.
Sandra Bernhard is #blessed
Joe’s Pub at The Public
December 26 – December 31
Writer Marcus Scott has a kiki with gay power couple Anthony Wayne and Kendrell Bowman of Mighty Real. Don’t worry, no shade was thrown.
Meeting outside of a dimly lit Bouchon Bakery overlooking Central Park, hoards of people whizzing around the Columbus Circle roundabout, Anthony Wayne and Kendrell Bowman sat down at an intimate table glowing with Kodak smiles in lax summer attire. At first sight, Wayne was quite alluring: strapping, yet svelte with a black gold complexion and feline eyes. This contradicted the charming Bowman, whose brawny physique, wide eyes and half moon grin inspired warmth. At this point in time, the two men were enduring the dizzying vertigo affect of showbiz, jotting from dress fitting to band rehearsals and another promotion tour. For all intents and purposes, this was their downtime, the moment of the day where they weren’t waiting to exhale and gorging on caffeine seemed ideal.
Since our meeting in last August, things have certainly changed for Bowman and Wayne, who landed on a September cover of New York’s premier LGBT zine Next. In December, the off-Broadway darling was featured as disco queen Sylvester in the 20th Annual Out 100, listed alongside Gregg Araki, Ellen Page, Zachary Quinto, Neil Patrick Harris and the creators of “Hedwig and The Angry Inch,” Larry Kramer, Terrence McNally and others. Not bad for an actor, whom until last year was waved away as just another chorus boy on the Great White Way known for his small parts in Pippin and Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert. The same could be said of co-director Bowman, who’s detailed vintage costume design has only boasted his clientele that include Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Ashanti and Dawn Richard.
The warm reception at Off-Broadway’s Theatre at St. Clement’s has since inspired the show’s return, which receives a one-night only performance at New York’s Gramercy Theater, January 18, 2015 and a limited engagement at San Francisco’s Brava Theater Center in February 2015. Writer Marcus Scott sat down with the power couple to talk about their hit show Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical (co-produced by Dreamgirls’ Sheryl Lee Ralph) and the man behind the the music and mascara.
Marcus Scott: So, how did this working relationship begin with Mighty Real?
Kendrell Bowman: Well, Anthony watched Unsung on TV One, and he said was inspired by watching it. At first, it was never us saying “let’s do a business venture together.” We’re in a relationship together. But he pitched the idea, and I was like, “No.” He said that he thought that people would like it and I heard him sing in that range. I didn’t know at first because I thought people would get tired of hearing someone sing in falsetto for so long, it could get annoying to be honest.
MS: There seems to be a renaissance of an echelon of queer black artists making their way onto the NYC stage. With shows like Terrell Alvin McCraney’s Wig Out, Robert O’Hara’s Bootycandy, and now Mighty Real, for the first time there are outlets for the mainstream black gay audience. Why do you think this is?
Anthony Wayne: I think now we have the opportunity to be able to do that. I don’t think that was really afforded to us a while ago, you know? Thankfully for people like Sylvester and others that came after him, we are able to do these kinds of things. And not just gay, but we’re black and African-American, and we’re also men and we’re trying to tell a true story from an honest place, just because of who we are. Like now, we have the opportunity to say it, and people are hearing what we’re saying. Terrell is a very good friend of mine and seeing his stories and drive and what he’s been doing, I think we’ve been motivating each other. So, I think that’s what it is too. It’s about all of us, making it one cohesive movement.
MS: Anthony, what is it like getting into character? Both on stage and behind the scenes?
AW: You definitely have to share the load; you definitely have to be a team player. But getting to the part, it takes time. Even though we’ve done the show and continue to do that show, it will always be a continuing work process.
MS: Kendrell, what is it like working behind the scenes on costume design?
KB: For me, it’s all about business. It’s fun because my job is a stylist. I began as a stylist for Atlantic Records for artists. The research was there but it took me a long time, at least seven months to go and recreate these looks for the show. It was looking through all of Sylvester’s videos, speaking to Sylvester’s family, reading through articles, speaking to his friends and finding out the key iconic moments in his career that people will remember. I wanted to be as authentic as possible.
MS: Most people of this generation probably wouldn’t know this, but he began his career as a backup singer and entourage of The Cockettes. Did you use any material from this piece into the show?
KB: Everything. We tell you everything from being a child in the church to him passing away. So anything you could think of, it’s in the show.
AW: The Cockettes, The Disquotays, C.O.G.I.C. Singers, “Ruby Blue”—all of that.
KB: Church songs that he sang from when he was a boy; everything.
Take the leap for more Sylvester insights from Anthony Wayne and Kendrell Bowman.
Every third Wednesday of the month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out contributor Tom Mizer’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. Extra special thanks must go to Andrew Glaszek, who is not only a former buff himself, but the man who helps find our talented men each month. For December, we’ve got an extra-talented, extra-handsome, extra-special package to put under your Christmas tree…
Name: Charlie Williams
Hometown: Cary, North Carolina
The best & worst parts of doing Peter Pan Live on television were: The worst part was the commute. We filmed in a sound stage out in Bethpage, Long Island. It’s a little over an hour commute each way on the Long Island Railroad. That means a lot of early mornings in Penn Station and a lot of late nights on the train. I live in Hell’s Kitchen so I’m not used to such a long commute! The best part was definitely the people. We had such a special cast and I really feel like we all became true friends through the entire process. I miss them all!
When I was a performer at the Kennedy Center Honors (airing Tuesday, December 30th on CBS), I was most starstruck meeting: Pentatonix. I’m a huge Pentatonix fan and we were dancing backup for them on the honors this year! It was great meeting them and finding out that they’re just as cool and down to earth as they seem to be.
If I wasn’t a performer, I would be: I would love to own my own design firm and help facilitate the design and completion of artistic spaces. Or a fire fighter. Read more…
Compared to what probably goes on in actual bunkers where kidnapped victims of Muslim extremists are kept in an effort to extract ransom from their families or governments, the conditions depicted in Ayad Akhtar’s gripping The Invisible Hand seem downright cozy. Yes, the protagonist, an American banker named Nick Bright (Justin Kirk), is usually handcuffed (and later footcuffed), and yes, he’s often screamed at and humiliated. Nonetheless, his sometimes threatening, sometimes palsy Pakistani captors don’t physically torture him; when the possibility of beheading is raised, these guys say that, if the need arises, they’ll farm out the job to a group they refer to as “animals.” They disdain being called terrorists, declare that the Taliban hates them, and profess to have socially positive goals (water, roads, schools, etc.) for their people. So friendly does the relationship become between Nick and his assigned captor, Bashir (Usman Ally), that they even engage in boyish chatter about which of the girls in the comic book Archie is sexier, Veronica or Betty.
If this sounds implausible, how about the central premise? Nick—mistakenly snatched instead of his boss—convinces his dangerously passive-aggressive abductors to let him use his outstanding stock trading skills by raising the millions they demand from Citibank before they’ll let him go. Farfetched as this seems on paper, Akhtar, through his believable characters and dialogue, creates a world in whose monetary machinations you find yourself acquiescing while remaining absorbed in Nick’s ultimate fate. Along the way, though, Akhtar provides so much background on economic theory and practice that the play only narrowly escapes the peril of morphing into a lesson on global financial practices. The title, in fact, comes from Adam Smith’s 18th century treatise, The Wealth of Nations, where, as Nick explains it: “The free market is guided by the confluence and conflict of everyone’s self-interest, like an invisible hand moving the market . . .” Greed is another word for self-interest, and it spreads like cancer even among the holier than thou.
Akhtar, whose Pulitzer Prize play, Disgraced, is presently on Broadway, reveals with The Invisible Hand that he’s no flash in the playwriting pan. He produces powerful dramatic situations from topical material and then creates ironically pointed twists and turns, with deft humor seasoning the atmosphere. Akhtar’s villains here are human beings, not stereotypes, and, while we may disagree with their actions, we’re absorbed by the clash of their ideas with those of their prisoner.
Most fascinating is the London-raised and Cockney-accented Bashir, an angry bloke whose initial ignorance of market methods is quickly overcome when—using a computer under Nick’s guidance—he becomes obsessed by his newly acquired monetary power. Bashir’s potentially violent temperament, combined with his knowledge of history and his newfound economic skills, make him a magnetic figure. Usman Ally’s seething intensity in the role is matched by Justin Kirk’s astuteness and desperation as the cash cow detainee. Dariush Kashani’s Imam Saleem, the religious leader in charge of the operation, has a pious dignity that sheathes a deadly ruthlessness made all the more frightening by being understated. Jameal Ali is Dar, the subservient guard Nick teaches how to profit from his potato harvest; the scene in which he must carry out a brutal order is a chilling highlight.
Ken Rus Schmidt’s taut direction—aided by Leah Gelpe’s brilliant percussive sound design—keeps the tension high throughout the play’s two hours. Set designer Riccardo Hernandez has provided two large prison cells, one of bare concrete, the other with tall metal walls under a shiny corrugated ceiling that hangs low over the audience early in the play and then rises to the rafters for Act 2. Finally, distinctive lighting by Tyler Micoleau and convincing costumes by ESOSA help bring The Invisible Hand to very visible life.
The Invisible Hand
New York Theatre Workshop
79 E. 4th Street, NYC
Through January 4
Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).
If you’ve grown tired of the old stand-by holiday tunes, be sure to add Broadway’s Carols for a Cure, Volume 16 to your collection. Now available on iTunes, the 21-track album of original and traditional holiday music features stars and casts from the current Broadway line-up, and benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. The entire album is available for $15.99, and includes a digital booklet with liner notes about each participating cast, designating soloists and session photos. Individual tracks also may be purchased for $.99 each.
Broadway’s Carols for a Cure, Vol. 16 includes Grammy-award winner Sting singing an original version of “Soul Cake” with the cast of “The Last Ship,” and features the voices of Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller and the cast of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical; Tony winner Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham with the cast from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder; Keke Palmer, Tony winner Judy Kaye and Sherri Shepherd with the cast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella; Carly Hughes and Kyle Dean Massey for Pippin; Ryan Shaw (Stevie Wonder) and cast members from Motown: The Musical; plus Jason Tam and the cast of If/Then; and celebrity blogger and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fan Perez Hilton singing David Friedman’s My Simple Christmas Wish.
CDs of Broadway’s Carols for a Cure, Volume 16 can still be ordered for $25 through BC/EFA at broadwaycares.org or by calling (212) 840-0770 x238 Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST. Volumes from previous seasons are available, too (check online or call for price).
To order on iTunes, click here.
The new production of Side Show, which was just named one of “The Best Musicals of 2014” by Charles Isherwood of The New York Times, will play its final performance on Broadway on Sunday, January 4, 2015, the show’s producers announced today. Discussions are currently underway for Side Show to make its London debut.
Side Show is currently playing at Broadway’s St. James Theatre, where it began performances on October 28, and officially opened on Monday, November 17, 2014 to mostly rave reviews. The production is directed by Academy Award®winner Bill Condon, making his theatrical directorial debut. For more information, please visit SideShowBroadway.com.
Side Show includes new music by multiple Grammy Award® winner and Academy Award®, Golden Globe®, and Tony Award® nominee Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls), with book and lyrics by Tony Award® nominee Bill Russell and additional book material by Bill Condon, and choreography by Tony and Olivier Award® nominee Anthony Van Laast (Mamma Mia!).
Side Show is inspired by the remarkable true story of the Hilton twins, Daisy and Violet, who were legends in their time and the highest paid performers on the vaudeville circuit. Side Show is their heartwarming search for first love and acceptance amidst the spectacle of fame and scrutiny under the spotlight.
Those who have purchased tickets to a performance after January 4, 2015 should call Telecharge.com Customer Service at 212-239-6210 for exchange or refund. And for those of you who are a fan of cult favorites, it’s still not to late to catch one of the last performances!
Don’t let bad planning turn your Broadway experience into theater of the absurd. The holidays are a perfect time to see a show. During the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s weeks, some shows are changing their performance schedules. Alternate curtain times—including matinees and evening performances —provide a variety of opportunities to better accommodate the changing schedules of theatergoers throughout holiday weeks. Check Broadway.org to see the holiday performance schedules and easily find out where and when shows are playing.
Broadway performs every day of the week at multiple curtain times to accommodate every schedule, including holidays, so even if your original choice falls through, there is plenty to catch on the Great White Way!
“Celebrating the holiday season with a Broadway show is the perfect gift to family, friends, and yourself!” says Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League. “Broadway.org is a comprehensive resource for all Broadway shows in New York, across North America, and now internationally—in eight languages! Check weekly performance schedules to conveniently plan your holiday festivities.”
Are you looking for some holiday cheer in the form of Broadway talent and a visit to New York City’s iconic Carnegie Hall? Mark your calendar for December 19 and 20, when the New York Pops will present a concert at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage featuring Tony, Emmy and two-time Golden Globe nominee, Matthew Morrison, and five-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara. The orchestra will also be joined by Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA. Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke will lead the concert, which will include festive classics like “Carol of the Bells,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and “Winter Wonderland,” plus some of the Broadway’s most beloved musical numbers.
O’Hara recently appeared as Mrs. Darling in NBC’s live telecast of Peter Pan. She received her fifth Tony nomination—along with Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics award nominations—for her portrayal of Francesca in the musical adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County. On New Year’s Eve 2014, O’Hara will make her Metropolitan Opera debut in a production of The Merry Widow with Renée Fleming. This spring, she will return to Broadway in the Lincoln Center revival of The King and I opposite Ken Watanabe.
The Emmy, Tony, and Golden Globe-nominated star Matthew Morrison may have come to national prominence through his role as the perpetually optimistic high school teacher Will Schuester on Fox TV’s “Glee,” but the Southern California native was turning heads years earlier on the Great White Way.
After studying musical theater, vocal performance and dance at Tisch School of the Arts in New York, Morrison made his Broadway debut in Footloose, followed by The Rocky Horror Picture Show. However, it was his role as Link Larkin in the original cast of the Broadway production of Hairspray that served as his breakthrough and led to Morrison being cast in the critically acclaimed The Light in the Piazza. He return to Broadway this spring in the much-anticipated Finding Neverland.
“Our annual holiday program is one of our favorite traditions. It’s a time for loved ones to come together and celebrate the season through music,” says Reineke. “This year, we’re thrilled to be joined by two immensely talented friends—Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison—who will have their long-awaited reunion on one of New York’s most beloved stages. We couldn’t ask for a greater gift!”
The New York Pops will also perform a special holiday Family Concert on Sunday, December 22. Based on the iconic television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” this staged concert performance brings Rudolph, Santa and their friends to life through original choreography by director/choreographer Liza Gennaro, as performed by dancers from New York Theatre Ballet. In his debut with The New York Pops, Broadway actor John Bolton (Spamalot, Contact, Titanic) will narrate the classic Christmas tale, with additional characters voiced by Scot Cahoon, Rory Kulz, Bobby Underwood and students from TADA! Youth Theater. Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA will join The New York Pops to perform Johnny Marks’ beloved score.
The orchestra’s 32nd season continues on Friday, March 13, 2015, 8:00PM with One Night Only: Sutton Foster, with the two-time Tony Award-winning star of Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes in her solo debut at Carnegie Hall.
For more information about The New York Pops, click here.
Broadway fans will be clamoring for this perfect stocking-stuffer: Anika Larsen’s debut solo CD, Sing You to Sleep. Larsen currently stars on Broadway in Beautiful – The Carol King Musical. For her role as legendary songwriter Cynthia Weil, she was nominated for a 2014 Tony Award and won the Drama Desk Award. She has also appeared in Rent, All Shook Up, Xanadu and Avenue Q.
Sing you to Sleep is a tuneful and personal album for adults and children alike, which Larsen recorded with her nine siblings and fourteen nieces and nephews in mind. The twelve soulful songs are drawn from contemporary pop (“Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, “Fields of Gold” by Sting), legendary singer/songwriters (“Annie’s Song” by John Denver, “Make You Feel My Love” from Bob Dylan), musical theater (“Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, “Sleepy Man” from The Robber Bridegroom) and animated classics (the poignant “Baby Mine” from Dumbo) and An American Tail (a gently swinging version of “Somewhere Out There,” with lyrics by her Beautiful character Cynthia Weil). Jessie Mueller, who won the 2014 Tony Award winner for playing Carole King in Beautiful, is featured on the album in a duet with her co-star for James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes.”
“I’ve cared for a lot of little ones in my time, and I have sung all of them to sleep with some of my all-time favorite songs,” says Larson. “I am so thrilled to share this collection. Every song has a particular history with me, or is just so pretty that I haven’t been able to stop singing it over the years.”
“When I first heard Anika sing, I was captivated and needed to hear more,” says executive producer Dan Watt. “Besides her ability to belt out a song, I heard an amazing quality in her voice, and I wanted others to hear it too. Working with Anika has been an absolute dream and theses songs are pure perfection.”
Available for download on iTunes and Amazon.com.
If you’re looking for some magic to add sparkle to your holiday season, head to the Marriott Marquis Theatre for The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible, a jolting revue of seven of the world’s most dynamic variety performers. You might see some familiar faces, as Kevin James (The Inventor), Adam Trent (The Futurist), and Dan Sperry (The Anti-Conjuror) have appeared on America’s Got Talent. And in this case, they do. The live performance, which also includes Andrew Basso (The Escapologist), Aaron Crow (The Warrior), Jeff Hobson (The Trickster) and Yu Ho-Jin (The Manipulator), is a mash-up of trickery that appeals to audience members of all ages, though the littlest ones might freak out at Sperry’s Edward Scissorhands-like costume and make-up.
Each of the illusionists has a specialty and director/choreographer Neil Dorward along with creative director Jim Millan maximize not only their talents, but the cumulative ebb and flow of the evening.
Adam Trent as the boy-next-door Futurist is a likeable magician with standard fare card tricks and a high-tech sequence in the second act that incorporate digital video.
Aaron Crow as the Warrior makes one impactful appearance where he shoots an apple off of an audience member’s head while her husband holds the fruit on a tray precariously over her head. The young coupled either popped a Xanax before the trick or were perhaps pre-selected prior to the performance. In either case, they were oddly calm and seemed to have a knowing sense of what was to transpire.
Jeff Hobson as the Trickster brings a flamboyant flair to the evening. And while his card tricks and other slights of hand may seem like familiar party trick fare, his winning personality and bigger-than-life persona easily enrapture the audience.
Andrew Basso as the Escapologist also delivers one heart-stopping trick: a reinvention of the famed Houdini water torture escape. Only this time, there is no shrouded tank. The audience has full view as Basso miraculously holds his breath for nearly three minutes while he dangles from his ankles underwater, releasing himself only with the assistance of a bobby pin.
Kevin James as the Inventor makes several appearances. One cringing sequence involves sawing a man in half while the other captures the delicacy of levitation.
Dan Sperry also appears multiple times and is probably the only act that might benefit from Acting 101. His macabre stage persona suits him well, but when tasked with explaining a broken bottle trick, his rapid-fire vocal delivery leaves the audience in shards.
But it is Yu Ho-Jin, recently named Magician of the Year (2014) by the Academy of Magical Arts that exhibits entrancing star quality. Also working with a deck (make that dozens of decks) of cards, Ho-Jin lures the audience with subtle movement and smoky stares, revealing an ever-revolving array of cards that seem to magically transform color and suit and at one point, grow out of thin air.
You’re bound to see an interesting crowd of tourists and reality TV fans at The Illusionists, but that’s half the fun. Gasps and screams of glee echo throughout the evening, as well as several “Oh my God!” moments that remind us how invigorating live performance can be.
Through January 4, 2015