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Archive for May, 2011

Stage Hits on the Big Screen? Why I Never!

May 16th, 2011 Comments off

"The Importance of Being Earnest". Photo by Joan Marcus.

In the olden days (you know, like maybe five years ago), the only way you could see the latest Broadway hit at the movies was in a high class adaptation, opened up to make it feel less stage-bound and cast with big stars on an Oscar hunt. Now, thanks to the Metropolitan Opera’s innovative and highly successful The Met: Live in HD program, theater producers are packaging special screenings of plays and musicals, filmed live and then shown for very limited engagements at movie theaters. Tickets cost a fraction of Broadway seats and the quality of the filming is highly accomplished; a friend of mine actually called a recent screening of Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, “live” from the National Theatre in London, his favorite theater experience of the year so far. So, ignore that slightly dubious feeling and grab your tickets now for these three blockbuster “stage to screen” engagements, currently scheduled for June:

  • The Tony-nominated revival of The Importance of Being Earnest, starring the glorious Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell, quips its way into digital movie theaters beginning June 2. Tossing in a little added value with the bon mots, the screenings will feature behind-the-scenes footage hosted by David Hyde Pierce and an expert’s take on Oscar Wilde during intermission.
  • "The Cherry Orchard". Photo by Jim Naughten.

    Did you get tickets to the star-crammed concert version of Company at the New York Philharmonic this spring? Neither did I. But now you can see Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone and more on the big screen and feel sorry/grateful for yourself. Sondheim’s boundary-pushing look at marriage and “being alive” beams into select movie theaters starting June 15.

  • London’s calling again with screenings of the National Theatre’s The Cherry Orchard beginning June 30. Starring Zoe Wanamaker in a new adaptation by Andrew Upton (that’s Mr. Cate Blanchett to cinema buffs), this production is sure to be worth a look.

Hands-On Broadway Experience with Broadway Classroom

May 16th, 2011 Comments off

Paul West (L) Joseph Pedro (Me) (R)

Last week, Marketing Manager Paul West and I traded our computers for buttons and our phones for costumes, as we participated in a hands-on experience called Broadway Classroom, a program that offers private workshops for groups. These mini lessons, conducted by Broadway vets, give participants an insider’s look into the inner workings of a Broadway show of your choice. The best part is, once you’re done in the classroom you go see the show that you just learned all about.

See what happens to Paul and I after the jump…

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And Now a Song from Our Sponsor…

May 13th, 2011 Comments off

http://youtu.be/oyd8-6lqdPE

Catch Me If You Can is sleek, sexy and cutting-edge. Well, not the show exactly (though it is certainly slick and entertaining); I’m talking about their new TV commercial. Employing actual special effects, fun camera work and an eye-catching design, the ad signals that the Broadway marketing agencies are finally upping their game, after years (let’s admit it) where show commercials had that “filmed between matinees by the high school AV club” look. Sure, there are still plenty of ads that slap a Ken Burn’s affect on publicity stills (How to Succeed) or fling a camera around the marquee and get audience testimonials (Baby It’s You), but there does seem to be a general turn toward more professional and innovative advertising.

But, just for old time’s sake, let’s look back at a few of my favorite wild and weird Broadway commercials from days gone by. Fire up the VCR…

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

May 12th, 2011 Comments off

"Lombardi". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Let’s take a quick look at the Broadway Scoreboard–and exhaust every sports metaphor I can dredge up from the sadly neglected locker room in my brain. (Let’s face it, the closest I got to playing football was singing along at a Chicago gay bar to “The Aggie Song” from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.)  But I digress…

  • A few shows took the expected post-Tony hit and are packing up their gear and going home. Even with a Tony nod for featured actress Judith Light, the football drama (and brave attempt at theatrical counter-programming) Lombardi posted a closing notice for May 22. The updated fairy-tale musical Wonderland, blizted with no nominations and rough reviews, will shutter this Sunday after 33 regular performances.
  • Boasting a title that might actually be heard on a ball field, The Motherf—er with the Hat announced it is heading into extra innings, extending for three weeks through July 17. Featuring a starry cast that includes Tony nominee Bobby Cannavale and comedian Chris Rock, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ comedy/drama about not so clean living seems to be hitting a home run with critics and audiences.
  • Down, but not out, (oooh, boxing) the long-shot (horse-racing!) musical Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark returns to the stage tonight for one more try at the brass ring (I have no idea what sport that might be). After closing down for an unprecedented rewrite and rehearsal process with a reconfigured creative team, the comic book musical will begin a new preview period working toward a June 14 opening night.
  • The Tony-awards have called a real pro out of the bullpen for the save; Neil Patrick Harris, a sitcom star with real music theater chops, will return to host this year’s awards telecast. Let’s do the wave in celebration!

Well, all those bad metaphors have taken it out of me.  Time to hit the showers…with those Aggie boys. After the jump, relive the first stirrings of puberty (and music theater love) in one slightly NSFW clip from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

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SHOW FOLK: Cocktails with Bienskie, Gattelli and Hanlon

May 11th, 2011 Comments off

Once a month, a member of the theater community will pull up a chair to our cyber table and join us for a little conversation. I’ll edit the transcripts (removing the truly libelous parts) and post the results here every second Wednesday. For May, we’ve got a threesome…

Bienskie, Hanlon and Gattelli. Image via Hanlon.

From the beginning of this blog, I wanted to try to capture the sense of family that can exist in the theater community. I also wanted it to feel like a late night, fizzy conversation over cocktails with the gang. Well, no one combines booze and brotherhood better than three of the funniest friends in the business–as well as three of my favorite men of the stage–Colin Hanlon (Fiyero in the current Wicked tour), Christopher Gattelli (Tony-nominated choreographer of South Pacific, director of the upcoming Silence! The Musical) and, Christopher’s real-life partner, Stephen Bienskie (co-star of the hit web comedy Submissions Only). I recently popped the cork on a bottle of prosecco and corralled this boisterous trio for The Broadway Blog’s first ever triple play. Over a raucous hour of faux-insults and very real affection, we gabbed about the highs and lows of a life in theater, the challenge of having friends in the business and, of course, peeing your pants at auditions.

Warning: this interview contains some adults-only language. After reading, just imagine the even more horrible things that I had to cut out.

Where did you guys meet? How did this all begin?

Colin Hanlon: George Street.

Christopher Gattelli: At the George Street Playhouse, Tick Tick Boom.

All three of you?

Stephen Bienskie: Well, we [Christopher and Stephen] met doing Cats. The gayest story ever.

Which cats were you?

SB: Rum Tum Tugger and Mistoffelees.

CG: We had a number together.

CH: Messing up the make-up backstage.

CG: Colin!  (laughter) OK. It’s all fair game now.

SB: Here we go!

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Streisand’s “Heart” Break

May 10th, 2011 Comments off

"The Normal Heart". Photo by Joan Marcus.

As a revival of Larry Kramer’s fiery The Normal Heart rages on Broadway, a personal storm over the film version of the play has been blazing through the headlines as well. This past weekend, Entertainment Weekly filed a report detailing Kramer’s accusations that Barbra Streisand held the rights to direct a movie of his play for a decade but, because she was unhappy with his screenplay, it was never made. He suggested that the legendary singer/actress/director wanted the script rewritten to pump up her role and marginalize the gay characters.

Yesterday, Ms. Streisand finally responded to these attacks with a long post on her personal website.  It begins:

“I’ve endured Larry Kramer’s outbursts in the past, not wishing to dignify them with a response. But at a time when we are all pulling together to achieve such giant steps toward gay equality, it is anguishing to me to have my devotion to this cause so distorted.”

People who need people, indeed.

Fear not; a film version of the drama about the early days of the AIDS crisis is still being talked about given the universal acclaim and Tony nods for the Broadway revival–with Babs involved as an actress. An update to the ew.com report states, “The Oscar winner says she would consider playing Brookner [a fictionalized version of Dr. Linda Laubenstein, a physician who saw some of the earliest HIV cases in New York's gay community] in Glee creator Ryan Murphy’s planned adaptation starring Mark Ruffalo.”

Let’s Make a Deal

May 9th, 2011 Comments off

Oklahoma at Arena Stage. Photo by Suzanne Blue Star Boy

Theater ticket prices got you down? Finding it hard to decide between making your mortgage payment or buying two tickets to Wicked? Two news stories hit this weekend promising some relief for every musical-lover’s pocketbook.

  • It used to be that if you wanted The Book of Mormon for free, you had to steal it from a hotel nightstand. Not anymore. Playbill.com reports that the producers of the smash musical about Mormon missionaries in Uganda are offering a free fan performance July 1. Pairs of tickets will be given out via a lottery made up of those who have entered the show’s daily ticket lotteries or checked into Foursquare using a code outside the theater. Additional details will be available on the show’s website and at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.
  • Speaking of great deals, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. today unveiled a new “Pay Your Age” ticket program. Beginning with this summer’s return of their acclaimed production of Oklahoma, theater patrons ages 5 to 30 can purchase one of a select number of seats at each performance at a discounted price that matches their age. Ah, to be 20 again. Tickets can be ordered via phone or in person but you’ll need to provide proof of your birthdate at the box office when you pick up the tickets–so Botox and good lighting aren’t going to cut it.

In Memory of Arthur Laurents

May 6th, 2011 Comments off

"West Side Story" Creative Team, Arthur Laurents second from left. Image via Google.

Legendary director and author Arthur Laurents died yesterday at the age of 93. The creative mind behind some of the greatest musicals of the 20th century, he continued to work voraciously when others had long decamped to Boca, even nominated for a Tony Award recently for his direction of the Gypsy revival starring Patti LuPone. If you spent any time around the theater, you discovered that everyone had a story to tell about Arthur Laurents–stories that ranged from creatively inspiring memories of a master to outrageously harrowing tales of “the meanest man in show business”. That’s not talking out of school; judging by his wonderful memoir, Original Story By, Laurents probably enjoyed his blunt reputation after years of fighting to be heard. And what amazing things he had to say. Along with Gypsy, he wrote the book for the sublime West Side Story and, for those movie romantics out there, the screenplay for the blockbuster Streisand/Redford classic, The Way We Were. Broadway and Hollywood have lost one of the true greats.

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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: The Normal Heart, War Horse and Anything Goes

May 6th, 2011 Comments off

The May reviewapalooza continues today with a look at three shows that are pulling out the big guns and taking Broadway by storm.

Photo by Joan Marcus.

THE NORMAL HEART

Larry Kramer’s flame-throwing, autobiographical play about the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City gets a starry revival directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe.

“More than a quarter of a century after it first scorched New York, “The Normal Heart” is breathing fire again.” New York Times

“It’s a snapshot of a city and era that feel long gone, and this production, co-directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, gives it a worthy frame.” New York Post

“…this is a spectacularly well-cast production in which every role has found its ideal interpreter.” Hollywood Reporter

“How does it hold up? Better than I expected, but not as well as I’d hoped.” Wall Street Journal

Mizer’s Two Cents: This is passionate, essential theater brought to life by top-tier actors working as a perfect ensemble. Larry Kramer can be a real pill and Joe Mantello’s central performance as Kramer’s stand-in Ned Weeks doesn’t shy away from the loud and off-putting aspects of the character, but he also manages to let us see the insecure, romantic beneath. John Benjamin Hickey is the key, allowing us to fall in love with Larry through his smart, unsentimental eyes. Yes, the play is political, lopsided and “sad;” but it is also timely, scathingly funny and stuffed with spoken arias that ring show-stopping applause from the audience. Plus, you walk out of the theater feeling like you want to kick some butt. It is unmissable for all serious, adult theatergoers.

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A Little Give and Take with Nick Adams

May 5th, 2011 Comments off

Photo by Joan Marcus.

They say it’s better to give than receive. Well, how about doing a little of both with Priscilla Queen of the Desert‘s impossibly buff and impishly charming Nick Adams?  Mr. Adams is raising money for this year’s AIDS walk New York by offering himself–as guide for a backstage tour–to anyone who bids $500 or more. There’s probably another couple bawdy jokes to be made about what you get to see on the tour, but I promise to rise above out of respect for the great cause he’s supporting. Judging by the photo, Nick, however, doesn’t seem to need any further support. (Well, that promise lasted half a sentence.)

In fact, from Mr. Adams’s generous offer to Larry Kramer’s pamphlet passing after performances of The Normal Heart ( as well as Broadway Bares fundraisers and Broadway Impact‘s grassroots organizing for marriage equality), there has been a vibrant cross-pollination between the theater world and LGBT activism of late. Two related stories recently caught my attention:

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