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Posts Tagged ‘Stockard Channing’

Review: It’s Only a Play

October 18th, 2014 Comments off
The cast of 'It's Only a Play' (photo: F. Scott Schafer via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘It’s Only a Play’ (photo: F. Scott Schafer via The Broadway Blog.)

Broadway is going meta and I wonder if producers are interested in plot lines that don’t involve a life in the theater. Earlier this month we saw the opening of The Country House by Donald Margulies, a new play about a family of actors ensconced in the Berkshires. This week Michael C. Hall stepped into the role of Hedwig, a star-turn performance about a gender-bending performance artist. And of course, we’ve still got Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams traipsing along in the revival of the revival of Cabaret. But none of them tackle the theme of a life on the boards with such biting humor as Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play. Dating back to 1978 and originally titled Broadway Broadway, the script has gotten a 21 century makeover with no additional writing credits, but I would guess that the playwright had some keen millennial eyes on the prize, as this latest version is peppered with references to Lady Gaga, One Direction and other chart-toppers.

Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane in 'It's Only a Play' (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane in ‘It’s Only a Play’ (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

The play centers on the opening night of Peter Austin’s (Matthew Broderick) new play as he and others gather at the home of lead producer Julia Budder (Megan Mullally) to await the reviews. Along for the ride are his longtime friend, James Wiker (Nathan Lane), who has returned from L.A. and a long TV stint to see his best friend’s work; leading lady Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing); critic Ira Drew (F. Murray Abraham), who has another agenda on his mind; British Wunderkind director Frank Finger (Rupert Grint) and a fresh-of-the-bus coat attendee, Micah Stock.

Together, the cast rattles through McNally’s script, which is packed with one-liners and smart commentary about the business. The audience seemed revved up for a Lane-Broderick reunion, as the team appeared so famously together in The Producers. Mr. Broderick also appeared opposite Ms. Mullally in the 1995 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. There’s a lot of history on that stage and when Mr. Lane entered for the first time, the audience burst into applause as if he was theater royalty. By the final curtain call (yes, there’s an actual curtain, along with a lux set by Scott Pask), he’s earned every last clap.

The supporting cast for the most part keeps up. Mr. Stock makes a charming Broadway debut as a naïve actor who has stepped into the world he’s dreamt about. Ms. Channing captures both the humor and gravitas of an actress of a certain age who can no longer rely on “pretty.” But Mr. Grint’s stomping and hair-pulling turn as the director desperate for a bad review is somewhat of a self-prophecy. It is an unwieldy performance untamed by director Jack O’Brien’s otherwise deft hand.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted night at the theater—about the theater—then head to the Gerald Schoenfeld where this cast of Broadway vets and their up-and-coming counterparts offer laughs, perhaps a swelling tear or two, and a gentle reminder that a play (even though it’s only a play) is a beautiful thing.

It’s Only a Play
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
Through January 4

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Stockard Channing in a scene from 'It's Only a Play' (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Stockard Channing in a scene from ‘It’s Only a Play’ (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog).

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…

Revisiting “Desert Cities” & the Greatest Soap Clip Ever

March 7th, 2012 Comments off

Judith Light in "Other Desert Cities". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Family. No matter how distanced or strained, the bond between family is a thin but neon-glowing thread, unmistakeable to anyone watching two family members interact. The bond between siblings or parents and children is so unspoken yet obvious that it is a particular challenge to recreate on stage with people who may have only known each other since rehearsals began.

So when I returned to see the Broadway production of Other Desert Cities, the tightly constructed and eminently satisfying play by Jon Robin Baitz I saw and enjoyed in its Off-Broadway incarnation last year, I was pleased to find that it had grown and deepened, mainly because the family dynamics felt more “right” with a new cast. Returning vets Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach have enriched their performances with an ease and specificity that is moving. Newest cast member Justin Kirk (Weeds) has slipped into his role as the truth-telling son with a world weariness that makes the character more likable and coherent than before. (I saw one of Rachel Griffiths‘ last performances as the daughter whose memoir unravels her family. The role is now being played by the Off-Broadway originator Elizabeth Marvel so it should be in equally compelling hands.)

But the real surprise (and the strongest source of that familial connection) turned out to be Judith Light, taking over the role of the alcoholic Aunt Silda. Linda Lavin, who originated the role at Lincoln Center, was hugely enjoyable in the role and, at first, Light doesn’t hit the laughs like Lavin (causing some concern)–but then you see that she’s up to something different. This Silda is more fragile, more wasted away and, tellingly, more clearly the sister of the tough as nails Polly, played by Channing. They feel like sisters. They feel like Texans (I hadn’t even noticed that they were from Texas the first time I saw the play.) They have history. Light finds a neediness and a despair under the laughs that enriches (and truly supports) Channing’s towering performance, while she also amplifies the core surprises of the play. It’s great work.

Light has always had the goods. She’s had a varied and impressive career in TV and theater beyond Who’s the Boss but, even better, I have to say that she appears in one of the greatest–if not the greatest–soap opera scenes of all time. Call it silliness, but I defy you to watch the following clip from One Life to Live without welling up with tears at the fierceness of Light’s performance. Sure, it’s beyond melodramatic and rife with barely rehearsed awkwardness, but darned if it isn’t spectacularly riveting. Watch as married good-girl Karen Wolek (played by Light in an Emmy-winning role) finally unravels on the stand at a murder trial, revealing what she’s really been doing on the street corners of Lanview. (If you can’t take the build up, start at 2:30 to get right to the suds.) Read more…

Stockard Channing’s Sitcom Past Exposed

February 27th, 2012 Comments off

Stockard Channing in "Other Desert Cities". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Celebrities must hate youtube. All it takes is a few clicks and we can see video proof of their most embarrassing moments. (To understand, imagine someone followed you around high school with a camera and then posted it online. Shudder…)

Well, the glorious Stockard Channing, currently giving an award-caliber performance on Broadway in Other Desert Cities, spent 1979 and 1980 in two short-lived television sitcoms (Stockard Channing in Just Friends and The Stockard Channing Show); given her name placement, Ms. Channing had a good agent at the time. Well, at least in terms of contract writing.

Someone has kindly edited together a montage of her “best” moments for the second effort in which she played an investigative reporter, going undercover each week in a new wacky (and often un-PC) disguise. Watch (I recommend skimming lightly) and discover what being in the blockbuster film Grease can do for your career… Read more…