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Posts Tagged ‘Revivals’

Inside the Casting of Broadway’s “Pippin”

June 6th, 2013 Comments off

Duncan Stewart (l) and Benton Whitley (r).

A handful of very fortunate (and talented) theater artisans are going to walk away with Tony Awards on Sunday night. But one category that does not receive nominations is that of Casting Director. With a keen eye for talent and social skills on par with a highly trained psychologist (have you ever been around theater people?), casting directors are responsible for helping to create the artistic vision for a show.

From A-list celebrities to chorus kids plucked right out of school, casting directors are a critical — and often overlooked — part of the creative process. The Broadway Blog sat down for an exclusive interview with Benton Whitley, Casting Director (CSA) and Partner at Duncan Stewart and Company. Known for their connections with high profile agents and managers, Duncan Stewart and Benton Whitley have been responsible for putting numerous stars, celebrities and international pop stars into theatrical productions including: Mary-Louise Parker, Kelsey Grammer, Christie Brinkley, Sofia Vergara, Harvey Fierstein and Liev Schreiber to name a few.

Their latest project is Pippin, the most nominated show of the year, including 10 Tony Award nominations, 11 Outer Critics nominations, 3 Drama League Nominations and 6 Drama Desk Nominations. We asked Whitley to share the company’s thoughts about casting its three nominated actors and here’s what he had to say:

The Broadway Blog:

Patina Miller as The Leading Player. (photo: Joan Marcus)

Patina Miller
Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.
Patina Miller as the Leading Player is, hands down, spectacular. Was it your concept from the beginning to cast a female or were you looking at all different types? She also has a captivating way of engaging the audience – almost as if they are another character in the show. Was this something you were specifically looking for?

Duncan Stewart and Company:
It was a huge priority in the casting of the role that the actor could break through that fourth wall and engage with the audience. Director Diane Paulus said, “I’m looking for an actor to ingratiate with the audience.”

Somehow this ringleader has the ability to reel you in, from a five-year-old to an 80-year-old man — and not be scared! We saw many actors that had a dominating presence, but didn’t have the heart. It was pivotal in our search.

[Diane] was open to the idea of a female. It was written for a male, the keys, the script, everything was geared toward a man. In auditions we saw men and women, ranging in age from 20- to 60-years-old. It’s our understanding that they’re not sold that Leading Players in the future needs to be an African American female.

By casting Patina, the role has become a showcase for her skill set. She had the edge over people. She’s sexy. She’s young. She’s gorgeous. And (which most people didn’t know) she’s a phenomenal dancer. If she had said no, the dancing would have been a lot more minimal. When it’s time to recast, it’s the bar that we’ll be try reach for, but we believe directors should not try to have actors fit into cookie cutter molds of the originating actors.

The Broadway Blog:

Andrea Martin at Berthe and Matthew James Thomas as Pippin. (photo: Joan Marcus)

Andrea Martin, nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical.

Andrea Martin as Berthe — come on! She received a standing ovation in the middle of the show the night that I saw it. Without giving too much away to readers who haven’t see it yet, how did you know that she would be able to ‘rise to the occasion’?

Duncan Stewart and Company:
It’s the beauty of creating an original cast and the time in the rehearsal room. Andrea was hired “offer only,” which means she didn’t have to audition. We knew that she was the right type and fit for the role and this production. She did have one stipulation. She said, “I’m only going to do this if you’re not going to make me the old granny that sits on the stool where everybody dances around me. I want to be shot out of a cannon.” Well, we got pretty damn close.

Now it’s a huge challenge for us moving forward. She’s contracted for a year but we’re already thinking about who could do what she does. There are few women in that age bracket who can do that, but the number has been shaped and we’ll do our best to maintain it.

The Broadway Blog:

Terrence Mann as Charles and Charlotte d'Amboise as Fastrada. (photo: Joan Marcus)

Terrence Mann, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical.
As King Charles, Terrence brings both gravitas and humor (along with his real-life wife, Charlotte d’Amboise, who recently one an Astaire Award for her performance) to the production. How did that all come about?

Duncan Stewart and Company:
He tackles it like Shakespeare. Terry is a classically trained actor and it shows onstage. He also understands the comedy of the show. So many guys came in and played it like a puppet, but he also instilled a sense of realness. When we were pulling the lists together the lightbulb came on. Charlotte was on the list for Fastrada (King Charles’ wife) and we thought the two of them together onstage would be a great combination. They have different representation and were clear that they were both interested in the project independent of one another.

Diane said — and we agree — that Pippin is the definition of musical theater: glorious music, glorious acting and glorious dancing.

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

November 14th, 2012 Comments off

The Cast of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood". Photo by Joan Marcus.

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD

Rupert Holmes’s tongue-in-cheek, tongue-twisting, Tony-winning musical with an audience-voted ending (based on Charles Dicken’s unfinished novel of vengeful passions) gets a Broadway revival starring Chita Rivera, Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase.

“The machinations of the mystery plot dance in dizzying rhythmic counterpoint to the story framing the musical…even as [the cast of characters] bicker and mug and tell hoary jokes to cajole the audience into a state of happy delirium.”  New York Times

…for a show doing triple duty as musical, choose-your-own-ending mystery and time-travel device, Drood is jolly good fun.”  New York Post

“…all the affectionately antiquated whimsy never quite adds up to robust entertainment.”  The Hollywood Reporter

Drood, ultimately, is not a complete show so much as an expandable playspace, and with performers of this caliber, an evening of yeasty, nudge-nudge-wink-wink British good humor is more or less guaranteed.”  New York Magazine

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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “The Heiress” (& “Glengarry” Delay)

November 7th, 2012 Comments off

Every first Wednesday of the month, get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents. This month, an old classic takes another turn around the square…

Jessica Chastain & Dan Stevens in "The Heiress". Photo by Joan Marcus.

THE HEIRESS

The classic adaptation of Henry James’ story of a plain rich girl preyed upon by a gold digger is revived with an all-star cast including Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain.

“Yes, it’s Masterpiece Theater on Broadway.” New York Times

“…the 1850-set story is built so sturdily that even a fitful revival like the one that opened last night still holds our attention.” New York Post

“…Moises Kaufman’s masterfully helmed production is everything you want from a Class A revival.” Variety

“[Chastain gives] a nuanced, compassionate performance that bodes well for the actress’ future, on stage and off.” USA Today Read more…

Hanks, Breakfast at Tiffany’s & More Hollywood on the Hudson

October 22nd, 2012 Comments off

It’s no surprise anymore when Broadway attempts to add some extra pizazz to the marquee by sprinkling some Hollywood stardust, whether through film star casting or name brand titles. But four recent news tidbits caught my eye as particularly covered in tinsel (town):

  • Emilia Clarke. Image via O+M.

    It’s official: two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is coming to Broadway April 2013 in Lucky Guy, a play by the late, beloved Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle). A tale of New York journalism during the 1970’s, this play adds additional cache with its director George C. Wolfe (The Normal Heart). I imagine tickets are already sold out before they go on sale but…a boy can dream.

  • If that’s not “old hollywood” enough for you, how about a new adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Truman Capote’s classic is getting a fresh (and supposedly more faithful than the Hepburn film) adaptation by Tony-winner Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out). Those who are more fantasy geek than Tiffany’s chic will also have reason to check it out; the February 2013 bow will star Game of ThronesEmilia Clarke.
  • Multiple Emmy-nominee Sarah Paulson (Game Change, American Horror Story) may not have above the title multiplex stardom, but to me she’s A-list. And now comes news that she is coming back to the stage to star in Roundabout’s revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Talley’s Folly. Paulson will be joined in the sweet love story by recent Broadway everyman Danny Burstein (Follies…perhaps he should do La Cage aux Folles next and continue the pattern?).
  • Don’t count out true Broadway glitter, though. The bigger than life new musical Giant, based on the Liz Taylor – Rock Hudson – James Dean classic, is heading to the Public starring Blog favorites Brian d’Arcy James (Smash) and Kate Baldwin (Finian’s Rainbow). Watch the video from their recent promo shoot (after the jump below) and tell me the Great White Way can’t be just as glamorous.

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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Enemy of the People” & “Through the Yellow Hour”

October 3rd, 2012 Comments off

Every first Wednesday of the month, get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents. This month, we have two shows that comment on current political realities from opposite ends of the time/space continuum…

Kathleen McNenny, Richard Thomas & Boyd Gaines in "An Enemy of the People". Photo by Joan Marcus.

AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE

A new adaptation of the Ibsen classic steps up onto the Broadway soapbox when the political turns very personal for a small town doctor who reveals that his community’s livelihood is derived from polluted water.

“…high-intensity, high-volume production… Looking beyond the sometimes creaking dramaturgy, it is startling to discover how current the play’s ideas can feel.” New York Times

“…this trimmed-down adaptation moves just as fast, thanks to a new, punchy translation by the British playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz.” New York Post

“Purists may flinch at Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s bare-bones adaptation… But when Boyd Gaines and Richard Thomas square off for the Cain-and-Abel power play between brothers, we could be on the hustings.” Variety

“…Henrik Ibsen’s spitting-mad screed against political hypocrisy among polite small-towners, tackles more hot-button election-year issues than an average hour of MSNBC.” Entertainment Weekly

Mizer’s Two Cents: This is not your grandfather’s Ibsen. The original five act play has been distilled down to a very brisk production involving two acts/two hours. With this serious trim, you gain a headlong momentum; you lose, perhaps, a depth of motivation for the characters. As the man of principle suddenly under siege, a very entertaining Boyd Gaines makes bold acting choices, at first frisky and then ferocious, to match the careening adaptation. See this solid (if not definitive) revival for his performance, the enjoyable character actors giving brush stroke performances around him and, particularly, for the shockingly prescient dialogue about the “tyranny of the majority”. You will leave the theater talking…and checking your voter registration card.

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Gyllenhaal Is All Yours, Johannson Slips In & More Theater News

September 21st, 2012 Comments off

Annie Funke & Jake Gyllenhaal in "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet". Photo by Joan Marcus.

You’ve heard of friends with benefits? Well, this is a post with benefits so pucker up and get ready for this week’s theater news round-up…

  • Part theater geek garage sale and part outdoor fan convention, the annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction takes over Shubert Alley & Times Square this Sunday from 10am – 7pm. In addition to the popular autograph table (this year featuring the likes of Cheyenne Jackson, Bebe Neuwirth, Steve Kazee, Bernadette Peters, Jeremy Jordan and more), the marquee event is an auction of priceless memorabilia and events including lunch with Angela Lansbury…with all proceeds going to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Start bidding now!
  • Still jonesing for a big ticket reward? The Drama League is sponsoring an online auction of their own with some amazing items including tickets to see If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet including a VIP backstage photo with star Jake Gyllenhaal. Just keep your hands to yourself when you get that picture taken with my boyfriend.
  • David Schwimmer in "Detroit". Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

    There are lots of benefits (ouch, that transition gave me whiplash) to seeing shows beyond Broadway. Check out the glowing reviews for two big, starry Off-Broadway openings this week. First, David Schwimmer and Amy Ryan headline “the superb” new play about downward mobility Detroit at Playwrights Horizons. Then the transcript-based, wrongly accused prisoners docudrama The Exonerated, returns in a revival that “still has the power to unsettle” with its rotating cast including Stockard Channing and Brian Dennehy.

  • Broadway Cares isn’t done yet; they’ve got a benefit — that’s like butter — planned for October 12 titled Hello Gorgeous: A Salute to the Streisand Songbook. Performers scheduled to belt their tuches off include Lorna Luft (Grease 2 again!), Ann Hampton Callaway, Daisy Eagan (The Secret Garden), Nick Adams (Priscilla: Queen of the Desert) and Jim Caruso (“Cast Party” at Birdland).
  • The New York Times is reporting that Scarlett Johansson will slip out of her superhero leather and into a slip when she returns to Broadway as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof this winter. Her equally fetching, though perhaps not in a slip, co-stars will be Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson himself Benjamin Walker, Ciaran Hinds and Debra Monk.
  • Finally, start planning your Christmas Day trip to movie theaters now because the big budget adaption of Les Miserables has been moved back two weeks to December 25. Not sure if it will be goodies or coal in your stocking? After the jump, check out a juicy behind-the-scenes preview that made the rounds yesterday. Color me very, very impressed with how some of the singing, recorded live on the set, sounds…

Read more…

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: 2012 Fall Preview, The Plays

September 12th, 2012 Comments off

Steppenwolf's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Photo by Michael Brosilow.

If the fall season’s crop of musicals is a sparse and eccentrically planted lot, the roster of plays is lush with big ideas, big stars and must-see events (if a few too many “didn’t we just see that” revivals). So let’s dig into the harvest feast…

"Grace". Image via O+M Co.

An Enemy of the People (September 27): Henrik Ibsen’s sturdy study of personal pressure and politics kicks things off just in time for election season. Class acts Boyd Gaines and Richard Thomas play brothers, a mayor and a doctor, on opposite sides of an environmental disaster in the making. (Yeah, this was written when?)

Grace (October 4): As I’ve said before…Paul Rudd. I lerve him. Toss in the always magnetic Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and my interest is more than peaked for this surreal comedy-drama about a couple’s plans for religious-themed motels and their less than faithful neighbor.

Running on Empty (October 9): Comedian and professional ranter Lewis Black brings his stand-up to Broadway for a week of performances.

Cyrano de Bergerac (October 11): The French war horse (no, not that one) gets trotted out for another display of witty banter, actorly showmanship and much-needed rhinoplasty. Tony-winner Douglas Hodge (La Cage aux Folles) takes on the title role in a Roundabout Theatre revival.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (October 13): The revelatory Steppenwolf production starring playwright (and seriously accomplished actor) Tracy Letts and the incomparable Amy Morton finally makes it to Broadway. Check my review from when I saw it at Arena Stage last year and tell me you aren’t a wee bit excited to see the Albee classic again.

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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: Fall Preview 2012, The Musicals

September 5th, 2012 Comments off

The Cast of "Chaplin". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Buckle up, boys and girls! The theater season is about to get up and rolling so we’ve got a two part preview of the tunes and tears the Great White Way has to offer through the end of the year. Since the first show out of the gate post-Labor Day is a musical, let’s start with a closer look at the originals and revivals singing and dancing onto Broadway during the rest of 2012.

On a quick glance, the slate is…well…a bit like the island of misfit toys; a curiosity chest of pieces with unusual histories from less than name brand writers. But one never knows until the curtain goes up what we truly have in store; the oddest ducks (or Cats) can sometimes turn out to be blockbusters.

Chaplin (September 10): One of Hollywood’s first mega-stars gets the first slot of the season in what promises to be a splashy theatrical biography. The biggest news is that the lead is being played by a relative unknown (almost unheard of in these marquee driven times), Rob McClure. Also in the plus column, a book co-written by musical vet Thomas Meehan (Hairspray) and supporting turns from the recent Closer than Ever dynamic duo Jenn Colella and Christiane Noll…as well as our very own Theater Buff, Wayne Wilcox.

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“Harvey” Does Broadway, LuPone Does Time & More Theater News

June 15th, 2012 Comments off

Carol Kane & Jim Parsons in "Harvey". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Jonesing for more star power after getting a taste of glamour at the Tonys? Need a fame injection to get you through withdrawal? Well, this week’s theater news wrap-up is glittering with full-strength big names…

  • Emmy-winner Jim Parsons and the sublime Carol Kane are the first hit of the 2012-2013 season with the Roundabout revival of Harvey. Reviews are all over the place so it looks like we may have to check this one out ourselves to get the scoop.
  • Patti LuPone. Image via PlaybillVault.com.

    You want some staaaahhh quality, you can’t go wrong with the original Evita herself, Patti LuPone, back on Broadway and joined by acclaimed film actress (and Wonder Woman’s little sister) Debra Winger in Anarchist, a new two-hander by the legendary David Mamet. Set to open November 13, the play is set in a women’s prison — though don’t expect to see a ready for Cinemax shower fight with this pedigreed team.

  • Two stars not enough to satisfy your fix? The starry revival of The Best Man is dipping into the TV well to replace four departing cast members. Cybil Shepherd (Moonlighting), John Stamos (Uncle Jesse), Kristin Davis (Sex and the City) and Elizabeth Ashley (Evening Shade) will take over for Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, Kerri Butler and Angela Lansbury.  If this show lasts and the turnover picks up, I can’t wait to see Charo as the President of the United States. No, really, I’d love that.
  • Remember when I said that Vasser in the summer was like the cool kids’ table in the high school cafeteria? Check out who they just announced for their Powerhouse Summer Theatre: Greg Kinnear (Oscar-nominated for As Good As It Gets), Maura Tierney (ER and wonderful last summer at Williamstown) & Jennifer Westfeldt (Friends with Kids and Jon Hamm’s significant other). Yep, stars just doing a little summer theater between big gigs.
  • Finally, get out your score card, we’ve got some post-Tony openings and closings to discuss. Godspell, Other Desert Cities, Venus in Fur will shutter in the next two weeks, a Sutton Foster-less Anything Goes sails away August 5; the musical Fela is making a short return engagement to Broadway July 9 – August 4, and the Tony-winning Best Play Clybourne Park is adding an extension to its full house through September 2.

 

 

I Love Paul Rudd & More Theater News

June 8th, 2012 Comments off

Paul Rudd Makes the World Go Round on "Sesame Street". Image via YouTube.

Today’s theater news round-up is about Paul Rudd…and some other not as important theater people.

  • My imaginary boyfriend Paul Rudd (Broadway’s Last Night at Ballyhoo and Three Days of Rain) will be returning to the Great White Way this September in Grace, a new play described by producers as an “this enthralling Broadway premiere that asks: are we in control of our lives or is there something else at work?” It will also star Oscar-nominee Michael Shannon and Emmy-winner Ed Asner. But the important thing is Paul Rudd, whom I fell in love with when he played my favorite love object in world literature Mr. Knightley  (only translated from Jane Austen to Beverly Hills) in Clueless. Let’s relive that moment…

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