Alan Cumming in "Broadway Backwards 2011". Photo by Peter James Zielinski.
If New York, New York is a town so nice they named it twice, then I like to think that the format for two upcoming benefits, Broadway Backwards and Broadway Miscast, is an idea so zen they thought it again. (I’ll work on that.)
My point is, at first blush, the two events sound remarkably similar. In both cases, popular Broadway stars sing songs that they would never get to sing in a show, all to benefit a great cause. However, on closer inspection, there are a few differences…
Roll out the red carpet and blow the trumpets, this week’s theater news round-up is flush with Broadway royalty…
Tony-winner Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) looks to be adding another jewel in her crown; she opened last night in the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Wit to a lovely review in the New York Times. I’m seeing it tonight so I’ll report back next week with a full look at reviews and my two cents.
Prince of Broadway, the new Harold “Hal” Prince tribute show, is foregoing a Toronto tryout and heading straight to the Great White Way in 2012. According to the press release, the decision is being made not because they are so confident in the quality of the piece, but instead because the show has grown so large that a pre-Broadway run is not financially feasible. And that, my Vegas friendly friends, is going all in.
Charles Busch in "The Divine Sister". Photo by David Rodgers.
The current Kings of Broadway and their court have decided to re-up their contracts and continue their reign. The entire principle cast of The Book of Mormon including Josh Gad, Andrew Rannells, Nikki M. James and Rory O’Malley, will continue with the blockbuster hit through February 2013. Do I smell a pay raise? Yeah, I think I smell a pay raise.
A possible new princess of the musical theater has had to abdicate her thrown, at least temporarily. The producers of the soon to open Rebecca announced that due to a lack of capitalization, they will not begin performances this spring as planned. Reports indicate that they hope to try again for the 2012-2013 season. Perhaps if those Mormon kids passed around a hat…
And last, but certainly not least, a true Queen of the theater is returning to reclaim her rightful place atop the New York scene. The delicious Charles Busch (Psycho Beach Party, The Divine Sister) will present a “limited premiere showcase engagement” of his new comedy Judith of Bethulia. Starting March 30 at Theater for a the New City, Busch will be the author and star of “an outrageous and bawdy celebration of the Hollywood Biblical epic.” I bow down before him.
Thank your agent, Mom and Harvey Weinstein because it’s Oscar nomination week. And just because we’re devoted to the “theatah,” it doesn’t mean we can’t get obsessed about the flickers, too; there are plenty of connections to be made between the two forms:
Jessica Chastain & Michelle Williams in Williamstown Theatre Festival's "The Cherry Orchard". Photo by Richard Feldman.
Remember that moment in your high school play when you looked over at a friend during a particularly compelling moment of The Crucible and said, “You and me, we’re going to be at the Oscars together.” Sure, it was a stretch (as was your 14 year-old, white friend playing “Tituba”) but for some people, it does actually come true. Look at that little old picture to the right. That’s Jessica Chastain (nominated for Best Supporting Actress in The Help) and Michelle Williams (nominated for Best Actress in My Week with Marilyn) playing opposite each other in a Williamstown Theatre Festival Production of The Cherry Orchard, circa 2004. At the time, Chastain was an unknown Julliard grad with some episodic TV on her resume and Williams was the other girl on Dawson’s Creek. What a difference a few years can make.
Extra! Extra! Get your EGOT here. (That’s an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony for those who don’t know their Rita Moreno history.) Among this year’s Oscar nominees that have a shot at building EGOTs are Tony-winners Glenn Close (3 Tony wins including Outstanding Actress in a Musical, Sunset Boulevard), Viola Davis (Outstanding Actress in a Play, Fences & Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play, King Hedley II), Christopher Plummer (Outstanding Actor in a Play, Barrymore & Play), Janet McTeer (Outstanding Actress in a Play, A Doll’s House), producer Scott Rudin (5 wins including Outstanding Musical, The Book of Mormon), and screenwriter John Logan (Outstanding Play, Red). If only Plummer recorded some house music, he’d have that Grammy, too.
How’s this for a sprint: if (and oddsmakers say it’s a whopper of an if) War Horsewere to win Best Picture, it would be the first time a property won the Best Play Tony Award and the top award for film within less than a year. Of course, Jessica Chastain could be the Joey of 2013; she’s up for an Oscar now and would be eligible for the Tony for the upcoming revival of The Heiress a little over a year later.
Meryl Streep was on Broadway and is nominated this year for The Iron Lady. I don’t have an interesting factoid; I just feel it is unseemly to talk Oscars and not to mention Meryl.
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. This month, we’re your friend with benefits…
The 2011 Broadway Beauty Pageant. Image via SymphonySpace.org.
One of the best ways to see the stars you love on stage is not a Broadway show. (Gasp!) Every week in New York there are benefits featuring top tier talent in readings, concerts and special events that allow you to see them up close and personal. Plus, these “off-script” affairs often let the performers show you a new side of their skills (or just a side they’ve kept hidden under their clothes). Let’s take a look at a round-up of some of the most popular and interesting upcoming benefits on the calendar…
The Broadway Beauty Pageant:You’ve heard of “Toddlers and Tiaras“; well, this is more “Speedos and Tiaras”. Four-time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh hosts a tongue in cheek competition March 19 featuring the most beautiful men of Broadway, judged on talent, interviews and swimsuits by a celebrity panel. Tickets are available now for as low as $25 and support the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth.
I haven’t seen the Stratford Festival/La Jolla Jesus Christ Superstar that is due to hit Broadway this spring, but I kind of hope it looks something like this. (If you’re in a rush, cut to 1:50 and watch for a minute…but really, don’t you want to savor this savior goodness?)
Dutch people rock. And don’t you know that somewhere, right now, John Doyle is trying to figure out if he can do a production of A Little Night Music with actors who play instruments AND ride unicycles. I’m just saying…
Over the weekend, the Hollywood Reporter broke casting news from the film adaptation of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s incendiary play about the early days of the AIDS crisis. The previously announced Mr. Ruffalo (as “Ned Weeks”) will be joined by Julia Roberts (in Ellen Barkin’s recent Tony-winning role as “Emma Brookner”), Alec Baldwin (as Weeks’ straight brother) and the criminally attractive Mr. Bomer (in John Benjamin Hickey’s Tony-winning role as Weeks’ tragically stricken boyfriend). The only holdover from the acclaimed Broadway revival will be Jim Parsons (TV’s Big Bang Theory and the upcoming revival of Harvey). I have my fingers crossed that my other fantasy boyfriend Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) has enough recognition to repeat his performance as well.
Original Film Poster for "Far From Heaven". Image via Google.
Classy adaptations aren’t just going from stage to screen; the Williamstown Theatre Festival released a preview of this summer’s schedule which included a musical version of Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes’ swooning film about an interracial romance and a closeted husband in 1950′s suburbia. The script is by Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out) with a score by composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie (Grey Gardens). I have to say, if it weren’t for that team, I’d be very nervous about this one. Conflicted housewife Cathy, played by Julianne Moore in the film, is a quiet, repressed character that doesn’t reveal herself often; she cries a lot but I don’t hear her singing. Color me curious (and the luscious magentas and ambers of the film.)
Since we’re talking casting today and they haven’t announced anyone for the musical yet, who would you hire? Off the top of my head, I’d cast Sherie Rene Scott as Cathy, the tormented housewife; I know she usually plays brassy but I’d love to see her get a shot at tremulous emotion. For the men in her life, I’d tap (tee hee) Patrick Wilson as the gay husband and Norm Lewis (so simple and decent in Porgy and Bess) as Raymond, the African American man she falls for. Your turn! Tell me who you’d cast in the comments…
"Peter and the Starcatcher" at NYTW. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re not just going to have a race for Best Play at this year’s Tonys, there’s going to be a multi-car pileup.
This week producers announced that two plays rumored to be opening would in fact make their premieres in the 2011-2012 Broadway theater season. The Pulitzer-winning Clybourne Parkwill make it’s Broadway bow April 12 at the Walter Kerr and the prequel adventures in Neverland of Peter and the Starcatcherwill follow closely behind (and onward til morning) April 15 at the Brooks Atkinson.
Beyond having two very exciting and previously acclaimed shows to see on the Great White Way, it means that this year’s Tony for Best Play (as well as all awards associated with Plays) will be hotly contested. Depending on the eligibility of a few plays (will they rule that Wit and The Road to Mecca are new?), there are a whopping sixteen eligible nominees by my (admittedly quick) count. Of those, I see only one that leaps out as highly unlikely to be in the race: the recently closed triptych of short plays Relatively Speaking. Let’s break the rest down…
Director Sam Mendes‘ multi-year, globe-circling Bridge Project, devoted to cross-Atlantic collaborations on classic plays, makes its final stop with Kevin Spacey starring in Shakespeare’s thriller-like, historical bloodbath.
“Mr. Spacey…dares to evoke the barnstorming actor-managers of a century ago. And though I’m just as happy that this tradition has died out, it’s a hoot to watch someone of Mr. Spacey’s skill revive it with such blazing brazenness and force of will.”New York Times
“…this final installment of the trans-Atlantic Bridge Project follows a well-trodden path, down to the clichéd use of Nazi-like uniforms.”New York Post
“No matter that Shakespeare wrote the play in the 1590s…this history is as fresh and provocative as a slap in the face…”USA Today
“…the actor plays a kind of über-Spacey. It’s an old-fashioned star turn with undeniable showmanship. Subtlety, however, is in short supply.” Entertainment Weekly
Every third Wednesday, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer will fill out my nosey little questionnaire and offer a glimpse of what they look like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. For January, we’ve got a young man worth making some noise about…
The best part of Silence! The Musical is: the spontaneity of the show. There are several parts of the show that are ad-libbed every night. It keeps the show so fresh and exciting. I look forward to every performance because I love seeing what new and hilarious things my insanely talented cast will come up with. Often times my fellow cast mates and I will be laughing just as hard backstage as the patrons in the audience.
The most challenging job in show business I ever had was: learning and performing 5 new shows in 10 weeks at summer stock. It was my most recent summer at Pittsburgh CLO and I was cast in Oliver, Curtains, The Producers, Hairspray, and The Student Prince. While we were performing 8 shows a week of one show, we would rehearse our next show during the day. And none of these shows are what people consider easy. It was extremely exhausting both mentally and physically. It was also tons of fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
If I wasn’t an actor, I would be: A host on an HGTV show. As of late I have a minor obsession with HGTV. My show would be called something like “More For Less” or “Broadway Budget”, and I would for sure slap on a thick Canadian accent.
Love is in the air (and never dies, it would seem) with a number of starry Broadway couples announcing their engagements. Most recently Sierra Boggess & Tam Mutu, former Love Never Diescast mates and co-leads for the upcoming new musical Rebecca, revealed that they are planning to wed later this year. Although anyone familiar with the source material knows that Rebecca will set the theater ablaze (or at least a portion of the set), it will be interesting to see if romantic sparks fly between the leads given their off-stage relationship.
All this talk of actors in love got me thinking about my favorite singing sweethearts of the stage. It’s actually surprising how many wonderful Broadway duos there are: Matt Cavenaugh (West Side Story) & Jenny Powers (Grease), Danny Burstein (Follies) & Rebecca Luker (Death Takes a Holiday), Carolee Carmello (Sister Act) & Greg Edelman (1776) are all married in real life and big-voiced players in the world of music theater. But, just for fun, here are three of my favorite web video performances by couples of the stage; prepare to swoon…