Arcadia. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb but clearly “they” weren’t talking about Broadway theater. It’s like a twenty car pile-up of show openings out there, everyone trying to crash the party before the Tony eligibility deadline on April 28. Right now, there are overworked publicists surviving on nothing more than leftover pigs-in-a-blanket and fumes from their overheating blackberries. Pray for them. Here are a few bits and bobs to keep our energy up:
- The new play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo opens tonight for a limited 16 week run on Broadway. The critical reaction to Robin Williams’ performance should be interesting to watch (and I’ll chime in next week in April’s “To See or Not To See” round-up.)
- The box office results are in and it looks like people are responding to the fizzy (and slightly filthy) fellas of Priscilla Queen of the Desert as well as the revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. In a perfect world, Arcadia would be raking in Wicked-dough for years to come.
We’ve made it through our first month and I want to thank everybody for reading and commenting; this should be a conversation between friends so jump on in and let me know what you’d like to see more (or less) of. Keep up with posts by joining us on Facebook. And, finally, take a look back at some popular stories from March you may have missed:
When there’s a month with a fifth Wednesday, I’ll be heading Way-Off-Broadway for a look at theatrical happenings outside New York City. (Perhaps we should call it a journey to the Fifth Dimension and start singing “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine”.) First up, a quick trip down to Washington, D.C. to look at the new and improved Arena Stage…
Photo by Nick Lehoux courtesy of Bing Thom Architects
Regional theaters develop and produce the most adventurous and original theater in America today. (Did you hear that thunk? That was my gauntlet being thrown down.) Arena Stage, under the artistic direction of Molly Smith, is at the very front rank of these vibrant organizations, with an enviable track record of shepherding new plays and musicals, including the recent Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal. Now, with their newly-opened Mead Center for American Theater, they have a architectural home that matches their theatrical ambitions. Here’s what you need to know…
Photo by Carol Rosegg
The Transport Group’s revival of the sexually charged musical Hello Again by Michael John LaChiusa has been extended through Sunday, April 10. Like its inspiration La Ronde, the intimate piece follows a chain of lovers across multiple partners (and time periods), illuminating the seemingly insurmountable distance between people sharing the most intimate of acts. That awkwardness and intimacy is highlighted in this production by director Jack Cummings III’s choice to stage the piece environmentally; the audience sits as if at a supper club and the action of the play takes place around and on their tables. Yes, where your entrée should be, there are actors singing and simulating sex acts as if they were a particularly frisky rump roast.
With this in mind, there are two groups that will particularly enjoy the show: Music Theater Completists and Voyeurs/Tighty-Whitey Fetishists. Perhaps I should explain with the help of an illustrative image:
Photo by Ari Mintz
The always-charming Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter and Fill in the Blank) brought some movie star magic to Broadway last night for the official opening of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I’ll be catching the show soon—I can’t wait to see the wonderous Tammy Blanchard (Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows)—and will be sure to give a full round-up in next week’s “To See or Not to See” column.
Until then, the return of this 50 year old musical got me thinking about the business of revivals and which show should be given another chance at the spotlight. For years, I always said Little Shop of Horrors, one of the two or three scores that made me want to be a writer, but its big revival finally arrived in 2003—along with some complaints that it just didn’t belong in a large theater. Recapturing the magic of a classic piece can be a dangerous business.
So, let’s play a little Revival Roulette; which musical or play do you think has what it takes to make a winning return to Broadway? My vote is City of Angels: witty score by Cy Coleman and David Zippel, hilarious book by comic genius Larry Gelbart and a clever conceit–just think what they could do with projections to make the film noir sequences come to life.
The Book of Mormon, the new musical from Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) and Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) about missionaries in Africa, opened last night on Broadway. Judging by the reviews, this Mormon is ringing everyone’s bell.
One of the common threads in reviews is a wide-eyed surprise at how heartfelt and respectful the piece is toward classic musical theater—even in its foul-mouthed blasphemy—but take a look at some of the collaborators’ earliest work and you’ll see that this balance between shock and affection has always been present. Unless, perhaps, you’ve never heard about the time a certain green amphibian decided to go Shakespeare in Kermit, Prince of Denmark. Or maybe you missed the heartwarming and satisfying meal of Cannibal! The Musical. Well then, prepare yourself…
Long before they killed Kenny, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were serving up a plate of singing and dancing frontier-folk in their homemade film Cannibal! The Musical. Crude and slightly sickening (and I mean that as a compliment), “The Trapper Song” shows that these writers were always OK with their Oklahoma.
Image via Google
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson passed away yesterday at the age of 73. For a comprehensive look at his life and career, check out the New York Times tribute.
I remember seeing local productions of both Talley’s Folly and Burn This (what I wouldn’t give to have been able to see the original production with John Malkovich and Joan Allen) in my teens and thinking, this is what a play is supposed to be: simple, humane and highly realistic. Though my sense of what’s possible on stage has broadened since, I still recall seeing these shows and feeling like I hadn’t just been to a play, but I had gotten to know and fall in love with some new friends, his characters.
Image via Youtube
‘Tis the Season! Well, not that season—though there will be bells jingled. No, ‘tis the season for stripping or so it would seem from all the fundraisers planned in the run-up to Broadway Bares: Masterpiece, the annual burlesque-style charity event coming this June 19. The first package being unwrapped is a night of teases by some of the fittest—and bravest—men of the Great White Way called Broadway Bares: Solo Strips. Bring your dollar bills (it’s for charity—make ‘em tens) to Splash on Sunday, April 3 at either 8 or 10pm and catch cast members from Memphis, Spider-Man, Catch Me If You Can and more showing off their dance moves and their dance belts. In a sense, it’s a nostalgic return to 1992 and the very origins of Broadway Bares, when Tony-winner Jerry Mitchell and six friends climbed up on the bar at Splash to raise money. Or it’s just a reason to see sexy guys get almost naked. Either way, everybody—including the amazing programs of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—wins.
After the jump, see a video from last year’s Solo Strips but be warned: unless you’re a scout for Playgirl Magazine, this is not safe viewing for work.
Image via google
Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died today at the age of 79. The world has lost not only one of the last golden-era movie stars, but also a theatrical icon. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that she was a stage actress in the most literal sense, although she did attempt a Broadway-fueled resurgence in the early 1980’s including a Tony-nominated performance in The Little Foxes. What does strike me in the outpouring of coverage is that much of Taylor’s greatest work came in film adaptations of plays. We can never go back and see Barbara Bel Geddes in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but we will always have Taylor’s sultry, emotionally bare performance in the film version. She will forever be the celluloid face of Maggie the Cat and Catherine (Suddenly, Last Summer) and, most impressively, Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. For all the talk of her beauty, eyes, marriages, perfumes and causes, watching this fiercely committed, unapologetic performance reminds us what she was most of all—a gifted actress.
Watch one amazing scene from Virginia Woolf after the jump.
Every fourth Wednesday of the month, the “VIP Access” column will serve up advice on how to make your theater-going experiences cheaper, easier and more fulfilling with inside scoop from the experts. For our inaugural column, let’s head to Times Square and reveal some secrets about those discount TKTS booths.
Image via tdf.org
TDF, the Theatre Development Fund, may sound like some obscure government program providing affordable housing and job training to Spider-Man investors, but it’s actual your best ally in getting discounted Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets. Created in 1968 to encourage live performance and nurture audiences in New York City, TDF’s most visible outreach program is their Times Square TKTS booth (say the letters like “USA” instead of making a word out of it like “NASA”) offering unsold, same-day tickets to plays and musicals at sale prices. However, if you want to be a real insider, here are three lesser-known TDF offerings that can get you to the head of the line.
Sondheim! The Birthday Concert (Photo by Richard Termine)
During this just-completed, year-long celebration of music theater legend Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday, there have been glorious concerts, numerous revivals and so many versions of “Send in the Clowns” it’s a wonder even he didn’t rise from his seat on the aisle and shout, “They’re here! They’re here, already!” On this his 81st birthday, however, something tells me there won’t be trumpets—and I couldn’t be happier.
It’s not because he shouldn’t be honored; he remains the undisputed modern master of the form who, alongside his collaborators, has created multiple masterpieces that continue to illuminate and inspire. What this “quiet” affords us is the chance to back away from the razzle dazzle of the celebrations and think about the moments that resonate personally. Sondheim, more than anyone else in the music theater, rewards those who take a second look, who go back and listen again with fresh—though perhaps not innocent—ears.
In honor of my idol’s 81st birthday, here are 8 + 1 things I’m grateful for in the life and work of Stephen Sondheim: Read more…