Extra! Extra! I’ve got my little newsboy cap on today (and darned if it’s not fetching) with a trio of headline making theater stories. Perhaps I should audition for the upcoming Paper Mill Playhouse adaptation of the film Newsies–with a new book by Harvey Fierstein, fascinatingly enough. If they put some filters on the lights, I could look dewy fresh and yet still hungry and hardscrabble enough. But I digress. Let’s get to the scoop:
The Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which I raved about after seeing it at Arena Stage in D.C., is headed for Broadway with its entire original cast, including Amy Morton and Tracy Letts. Don’t start lining up for tickets, though; it’s not scheduled to hit the boards until October 13, 2012, exactly 50 years after the play’s original Broadway opening. Look at it this way, you’ve got something to look forward to next year other than the Mayan-predicted end of the world.
Speaking of the grim reaper (I’m on fire today), Roundabout announced the full company for their upcoming world premiere of Death Take a Holiday, a new musical with book by Peter Stone (1776) & Thomas Meehan (Annie), music and lyrics by Maury Yeston (Nine). Previews begin June
Image via Google.
10 with a cast that includes some seasoned Broadway pros like Rebecca Luker (Mary Poppins), Simon Jones (The Real Thing), Matt Cavenaugh (West Side Story), Jill Paice (Curtains) and Max Von Essen (the recent revival of Hello Again). Sounds like something worth living for.
The intel on a new musical headed for the West End called Viva Forever reads like one of those good news/bad news situations, but darned if I can tell which is which. Make up your own mind as I tick off the players. It’s a jukebox musical featuring the music of The Spice Girls; written by Jennifer Saunders, the genius behind Absolutely Fabulous; produced by Judy Craymer, the mastermind behind Mamma Mia; and (per a recent press release) to be directed by Marianne Elliot, co-director of the gorgeously staged, current Broadway smash War Horse. Would you pay to see a 10-foot tall, Victoria Beckham puppet wearing some Lacroix, Sweetie?
A final note: The star-studded revival of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s scorching manifesto about the beginnings of the AIDS crisis, opened last night on Broadway. I’ll have coverage of the reviews and my full response next week in the “See or Not to See” column, but until then let me say that it is frighteningly timely and overflowing with passionate performances. While I’ve heard some people question its dramaturgical merits, the play feels absolutely necessary; it is a voice crying out to be heard. Now it will be heard, loud and clear.
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.
Cheap seats for "Jersey Boys"? Photo by Joan Marcus.
If you’re scrolling through this column then I suppose you already know about them newfangled computer things the kids are talking about. (Look, Madge, you’re reading on it.) I’ll save the “wonders of the web” speech for my Mother and her blinking VCR and cut to the chase: far too many people still pay full price for theater tickets when the internet offers lots of easy ways to get Broadway at a discount. Here are three sites—an innovator, a wild card and a classic—that will have you singing a new tune about sky-high musical prices.
One caveat: there is no silver bullet-point in my list that will get you cheap tickets to that new sold-out, high-demand show; it just won’t happen even in the wonderland of the web. With that in mind, let’s start clicking and saving…
The 2010-2011 awards season is beginning to take shape with the announcement of the Outer Critics Circle Award nominations today. On the musical side, the biggest news is the field-best tally of nine nominations for Sister Act (beating out the six nominations for perceived steamroller The Book of Mormon), as well as a surprisingly strong showing for the much maligned Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown (Laura Benanti’s performance was a true wonder so I’m glad she’s still in the mix.) On the play side, the best actor category is a blockbuster with four performances, Al Pacino (The Merchant of Venice), Mark Rylance(Jerusalem), Joe Mantello (The Normal Heart) and Bobby Cannavale (The Mother… With the Hat), that would all seem to be clear winners in other years. On the other end of the spectrum, the acclaimed revival of Arcadia was completely snubbed, receiving no nominations.
One note: The Outer Critics mix Broadway and Off-Broadway so the list can be a bit skewed. Shows like Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson weren’t eligible here because of prior Off-Broadway runs, but they will be eligible for Tonys. However, one can’t help but notice that this season is stuffed with quality shows in categories that are often sparse; this could be an unusually exciting race.
Born Yesterday's Nina Arianda. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Nina Arianda. She made her Broadway debut last night in the revival of the classic Garson Kanin comedy Born Yesterday and, cue the trumpets and flashbulbs, a star is born. (Why does writing about theater make me sound like I’m wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar?)
Fresh from NYU, Arianda won raves last year for her role in the Off-Broadway play Venus in Fur,but this performance should kick her into the stratosphere. As the smarter-than-she knows gangster moll with a yen for gin (bottled and shuffled), Arianda is brash and funny yet also surprisingly touching, all while following in the incredibly daunting footsteps of the role’s originator, the Tony and Oscar-winning Judy Holliday. Ably supported by Robert Sean Leonard as the man charged with classing her up for the D.C. political scene, she is wonderfully present and alive in what could be just an extended dumb blonde joke. Whether off-handedly discovering her lingerie has a train (like a puppy startled by her shadow) or welling up at the thought of her hard-working father, she creates magic within this solidly entertaining though certainly old-fashioned play.
The Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Filming theater is like going to get your picture taken with a mall Santa; while it might make a lovely memory, you’re just as likely to discover that the beard is fake. Stage videos just don’t capture the magic and, in our click and watch world, that can make sharing a show difficult. However, here are some recent clips from the internet that showcase Broadway in creative, informative or just plain ear-popping ways:
Everything is better with an English accent. Need proof? See what happens when Oscar Wilde meets transcripts from MTV’s “Jersey Shore” in this hysterical (and raunchy) series of videos produced for Playbill.com by Santino Fontana and David Furr of Roundabout’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Make sure you have your mind condom.
Arcadia's Billy Crudup. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Thank God for Charlie Rose. He manages to have in depth conversations with stage creatives that get beyond the same sound bites and treat theater like a vibrant part of the artistic world. He also seems like he might dish on his big wig guests (and BFF’s) if you got him liquored up on Scotch. Perhaps that’s just me. In any case, he recently recorded two great interviews about current Broadway hits: Arcadia with Raul Esparza & Billy Crudup and The Book of Mormon with Trey Parker & Matt Stone. Crudup’s horrified response to watching video of a recent performance is worth the click alone (and is better than any joke some hack blogger can come up with about taping theater.)
I’m so glad that youtube did not exist when I was a child singing alone in my bedroom; I would never live down my version of The Carpenters’ “Rainy Days and Mondays.” (Though Karen did sing in a good key for a 10 year old boy.) One expressive young man has become a bit of a web sensation with his rendition of a song from Legally Blonde. Phlegm can’t keep this burgeoning belter down. Well, he’s back with a, shall we say, even more non-traditionally cast follow-up; can “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” be far behind? Watch the video after the jump…
With shows opening and closing like flashy tropical blooms, Broadway seems to be a little less about Dancin’ and a little more about Darwin. Survival of the Fittest. The Circle of Life. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night. Whatever the cliche, it’s a jungle out there. Let’s take a quick survey of the situation:
Yesterday, one of the last big musicals to open in time for Tony consideration entered the fray: Sister Act. Based on the blockbuster Whoopi Goldberg film about a lounge singer hiding out in a convent, the new tuner was written by multiple-award winners Alan Menkin(Little Shop of Horrors), Glenn Slater (The Little Mermaid), and Cheri and Bill Steinkellner (Cheers)–with a last minute assist on the script from Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed). With reviews coming in mixed to great, word is that the lead performance by Patina Miller is a winner and the motown-infused score is infectious. And nuns are funny. Especially nuns on bikes…but that’s another story.
Hanging tough and flexing their muscles, a number of shows stated their claims to be King of the Jungle. War Horse, the Lincoln Center smash with the jaw-dropping stagecraft and the awe-inspiring reviews, settled in for an open-ended run. Meanwhile, three smaller productions, including the voyeuristic house tour Sleep No More,announced extensions.
Finally, Kathleen Turner’s star turn in the new play High became the first major kill of the Spring. After 28 previews and 8 regular performances, the addiction drama will close Sunday. It would seem that Turner’s praised performance and the publicity warning of “Full Male Nudity” were not enough to goose ticket sales in this highly competitive season.
Every third Wednesday (hump day of the hump week), a fabulous actor/singer/dancer currently on Broadway will fill out my nosey little questionnaire and offer a glimpse of what they look like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. And Mr. April is…
The best part of the show I’m in now is: It has some beautiful power ballads that will give you chills and make you feel some genuine emotions about love, life, and regret. 2nd best: When I go on I get to be a handsome dancing man and not a cartoon, animal, or glorified prop.
The worst job in show business I ever had was: I danced for two Bat Mitzfah parties …and swore never again. Got tricked into doing another one last Halloween damnit.
If I wasn’t an actor, I would be: An accountant. I was an accountant before; a C.P.A for Arthur Andersen before the Enron scandal took down the firm. Thank God, for opportunities that present themselves to pursue your dreams!
Cape, mask or spandex tights? Cape, I wanted to fly when I was a kid.
What’s the stars’ secret for keeping beautiful? Lighting? Make-up? The blood of virgins? Legendary Rodgers and Hammerstein ingenue Shirley Jones has the answer in this grenade of a video, tossed during the exercise tape wars of the 1980′s. (I know, I’m obsessed now, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving.)
From what I can tell after watching this soft focus gem, the secret involves a Stepford-like visit to The Palms (a high-end spa or cult compound, hard to tell), brain-constricting headbands and chair exercises that allow you to firm up your posterior–or unobtrusively break wind. And somewhere just after the 3 minute mark, you’ll see something that will make it impossible for you to watch Shirley driving the Partridge Family bus ever again. I think I love you, indeed.
So continue after the jump to see the video, “After all, we’re all guests at The Palms today.”
The 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded today to Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris. Cited as “a powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America’s sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness,” the play (itself a riff on the legendary drama A Raisin in the Sun) premiered at Playwright’s Horizon last year and recently took the Olivier Award as Best New Play for its London production.
The committee also singled out Detroit by Lisa D’Amour and A Free Man of Color by John Guare as finalists for the Drama Prize. Check out the Pulitzer website for a complete list of award winners and finalists.