Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tony Follow Up - Part II (The Mormon Curse Against Black People is Removed)


There was some speculation leading up to the Tony Awards about what song the cast of The Book of Mormon would perform on the network where Janet Jackson had her wardrobe malfunction in 2004. In the end, Andrew Rannells who plays Elder Price performed I Believe and I think that I only heard one bleep during the performance. 

For days after the performance, I found myself humming I am a Mormon and dang it a Mormon just believes... which is strange since I know very little about this religion besides what I've seen in Angels in America primarily. I didn't quite get all the references in the song but I sure got the gist. But the one that kept me wondering is: 
In 1978, God changed his mind about black people!
What the heck does that really mean? 

Well, it seems that Mormons considered those with black skin to be the descendants of Cain and therefore cursed. Blacks were banned from the Mormon priesthood and temples. In the 1960s and 1970s, this ignited a bit of bad press for the LDS. But on June 8, 1978, the church president - Spencer W. Kimball - ended the ban. I don't know how true this is but after spending hours in the LDS temple, God removed the curse. 

Some 30 years later, a theater-loving black girl from Brooklyn hums a catchy tune from the hottest show on Broadway -  I am a Mormon and dang it a Mormon just believes...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tony Follow Up - Part I (A Tragic Murder)


At the end of  Norbert Leo Butz's acceptance speech for the 2011 Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, he says I love you Teresa; we remember you every night. 

I am not quite sure why this stuck in my mind, but I performed a web search and was deeply saddened to read the horrific, heart-wrenching story of Tersea Butz's death. Here is a summary according to seattlepi.com

 Butz, 36, and her partner were sleeping at there home in the 700 block of South Rose Street when, at about 1:30 a.m., police said they awoke to find Isaiah Kalebu standing over their bed. Investigators said he was naked and armed with a butcher's knife.
During the 90 minutes that followed, police contend that Kalebu sexually assaulted each of the women several times. As he did so, police say, the physical attacks on the women intensified as he began cutting more aggressively on the necks of both women.
The surviving victim began to lose large amounts of blood. Concerned, Butz rushed Kalebu, then broke out a bedroom window with a nightstand, police said.
Mortally injured, Butz dove through the window and her partner ran from the room, police said in court documents. Officers contend Kalebu then collected his clothing and ran from the home.
"Her strength," Satterberg said, referring to Butz, "in battling her attacker saved the life of her partner."
According to the Seattle Times, Isaiah Kalebu, who has a history of mental illness, is currently standing trial for "aggravated murder, first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first-degree rape and first-degree burglary in connection with the July 19, 2009, attack of the two women in their South Park home".

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Harvard's Secret Court to Eliminate "Unnatural Acts"

   
Cyril Wilcox, a young man from the class of 1922 on the brink of being kicked out of Harvard, breaks out in hives right before exams. He withdraws from Harvard due to illness, goes home to Fall River Massachusetts and commits suicide by gas in his bedroom.

Probably not an unusual story, right? So, why have two plays been written about it, and why couldn’t I wait to get home to read the original Crimson article from which the plays were based.

Well, here is where the story gets a bit more interesting. Before Cyril’s commits suicide, he comes out to his straight-laced older brother, who later finds two letters from Cyril’s classmates talking about an underground gay scene at Harvard. Pissed off, Cyril’s brother tracks down the man that Cyril had a homosexual relationship with in Boston and beats out the names of others from him. Cyril’s brother then confronts Harvard. Harvard in turn forms a five man secret court to identify other homosexuals and immediately expunges them from the university and Cambridge. Fourteen men are found guilty by the court. Shortly thereafter, another man commits suicide (this time by poison). Ten years later, another commits suicide by gas and another dies in single car crash. Some eighty years later, Harvard apologizes.  

The secret court files remained sealed until the story were revealed in early 2000s. Now, this story has been dramatized in two plays – Unnatural Acts and Veritas. Unnatural Acts is currently playing at the Classic Stage Company and a reading of Stan Richardson’s Veritas, a standout from the International Fringe Festival, was held at the Laurie Beechman Theatre last week. 

This story is so interesting that either play is worth seeing. However, Unnatural Acts does a far superior job at dramatizing the events and introducing us to and humanizing the young men who were kicked out of Harvard for homosexual acts in the prohibition era 1920s.

While discussing Veritas at a tight table of men and women at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, a gentleman sporting a Yale baseball cap asked what were the themes in Unnatural Acts (which I recommended that he see as soon as possible). I am not sure that you need themes when portraying true abhorrent events. 

But here is a stab at a few themes.

  • Homophobia.
  • The ugly parts of our nation’s history. Also check out The Scottsboro Boys incident, which takes place only 10 years after the Harvard trials and shortly before two of the Harvard men most likely took their lives. By the way, the boys were the 9 black teenagers falsely accused and imprisoned for gang raping 2 white girls on a freight train.
  • How fear and self loathing makes you rat out your friends and even take your life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Snub That Took Me Back to 1985


 
After The Scottboro Boys did not take home a Tony even though the show was nominated for 12 awards, I felt like I was back in 1985 when the amazing film The Color Purple, also about the trials of African-Americans in this country, was snubbed at the Academy Awards. 

Hey, I get that this is the year of The Book of Mormon; even I have been drooling to see this hot production at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre. However,  I did see Norbert Leo Butz in Catch Me if You Can and while his energetic number in the first act was fun to watch, I would be quite ready for a healthy debate about which actor gave the better performance. I did not see John Larroquette's performance; however, here is what the NY Times and USA Today had to say:
John Larroquette's Biggley is less of an instant hit, showing even more of a tendency to rush through lines than Radcliffe does, though with less obvious character-based incentive. But Larroquette grows funnier and more lovable as the show progresses, and manages an endearing chemistry with the considerably younger (and shorter) leading man.
Most of the supporting cast is passable and generic. As J. B. Biggley, the head of World Wide Wicket, John Larroquette (best known for television’s “Night Court”) provides some funny throwaway line readings, though he also frequently throws away clear diction. 
While I was excited that I made it through the Tony telecast, this is a clear example of where favoritism and marketing moreso than art appear to drive Tony votes in award season


Tony categories that The Scottsboro Boys was nominated in:

Tony Category
2011 Tony Nominees and Winner
1.   Best Musical
  • The Book of Mormon
  • Catch Me If You Can
  • The Scottsboro Boys
  • Sister Act
2.   Best Book of a Musical
  • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Alex Timbers
  • The Book of Mormon Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
  • The Scottsboro Boys David Thompson
  • Sister Act Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane
3.   Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the
  • The Book of Mormon Music & Lyrics: Trey Parker,  Robert Lopez and Matt Stone
  • The Scottsboro Boys Music & Lyrics: John Kander and Fred Ebb
  • Sister Act Music: Alan Menken; Lyrics: Glenn Slater
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
    Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek
4.   Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
  • Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can\
  • Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon
  • Joshua Henry, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon
  • Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
5.   Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
  • Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Adam Godley, Anything Goes
  • John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Forrest McClendon, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Rory O'Malley, The Book of Mormon
6.   Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
  • Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Adam Godley, Anything Goes
  • John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Forrest McClendon, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Rory O'Malley, The Book of Mormon
7.   Best Direction of a Musical
  • Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
  • Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon
  • Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys
8. Best Choreography
  • Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
  • Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon
  • Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys
9.  Best Orchestrations
  • Doug Besterman, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Larry Hochman, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus, The Book of Mormon
  • Marc Shaiman & Larry Blank, Catch Me If You Can
10. Best Scenic Design of a Musical
  • Beowulf Boritt, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Derek McLane, Anything Goes
  • Scott Pask, The Book of Mormon
  • Donyale Werle, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
11. Best Lighting Design of a Musical
  • Ken Billington, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Howell Binkley, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • Peter Kaczorowski, Anything Goes
  • Brian MacDevitt, The Book of Mormon
12. Best Sound Design of a Musical  
  • Peter Hylenski, The Scottsboro Boys
  • Steve Canyon Kennedy, Catch Me If You Can
  • Brian Ronan, Anything Goes
  • Brian Ronan, The Book of Mormon



Friday, June 24, 2011

"Catch Me if You Can" vs. "Baby It’s You" - Part II


So during Part I of this series, an unseen gentleman in the mezzanine section of a recent performance of Catch Me if You Can selected Baby It's You! as the worse production when comparing Catch Me if You Can and Baby It's You!.

Why is Baby It's You! worse? 



When you look at the montage on youtube.com, the production looks like a good time. In fact, the singing is very good and all of the songs are hits. Heck, I am still humming a few of them.

If this production is marketed as a musical tribute or concert, audiences would know what they are going to see and would walk away pretty satisfied with exception of perhaps the price. I mean why should someone pay Broadway prices when venues such as BB King's club in Times Square showcases enjoyable musical tributes all the time at a better price.

However, the production was marketed as the inspiring story of Florence Greenberg who became the music industry's first female powerhouse. This just sounds like it has the makings of a great piece of theater. Instead, what audiences received (including that unseen gentleman and me) is a series of costume changes and brief lines crammed into The Shirelle's and other repertoire of the time.

By the middle of the second act, I personally found this very annoying and wondered where is the story? Where is the powerhouse? Where is the drama?

So, I will have to agree with the unseen gentleman. Baby It's You is far worse and if forced to choose, I would go to see Catch Me if You Can for its plot, character development and original music.

Link to review of Baby It's You! on Broadway.
Link to review of Catch Me if You Can on Broadway.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

You May Not Want to Get Married After Seeing "Side Effects"


I recently went to see Side Effects, the last installation in Michael Weller’s Loving, Longing and Leaving trilogy of two-character plays.

After sitting down in the rear of The Lucille Lortel Theatre, two ladies next to me asked whether I had seen Fifty Words, the second installation of this trilogy which played to rave reviews back in 2008. I noted that I had not, but that was okay; I would not be at a lost, because I read on a blog earlier that day that it was not necessary to see Fifty Words in order to understand and appreciate Side Effects

As a middle aged couple startled to see that they were not sitting right next to each other sat down in the two rows right in front of me, the ladies expressed excitement to see what happens after the famous phone call which ended Fifty Words. 

The ensuing 100 minutes represented marital chaos played all right by Joely Richardson as the bipolar Lindy and Cotter Smith as the ex-banker turn political candidate Hugh. The call referenced by the two ladies was made desperately by Adam at the end of Fifty Words to Lindy in Side Effects. Several clandestine calls takes place between Adam and Lindy; however, I could not help but think how secret does Lindy believe the calls are since Hugh is right in the next room.

Throughout the performance, the gentleman in front of me repeatedly and annoyingly reached in front and kissed the woman he came with as if to reassure her that the events playing out on the stage would never happen to them.

At the end of the performance, the two ladies looked a bit shell shocked. One asked hesitantly if I like the play. I noted that the acting was okay; however, it is difficult to spend your Friday evening observing marital un-bliss, with no offering of tips or solutions.

Yes, they agreed, the topic was a difficult one.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Solo Acts - "No Child" and "Ghetto Klown"

Nilaja Sun is Fierce

Having recently watched the film Waiting for Superman, I immediately purchased a ticket for Nilaja Sun's No Child as I browsed through the theater selections available at goldstar.com

 

Oh what a wise decision because it was a joy to watch Ms. Sun as she dramatizes her experiences as a teacher-artist and her attempts to get a class of Bronx high school inner city kids to put on a play. She inhabits 15 or so characters - teachers, principal, students, security guards, janitor and of course herself.

 

At the end of the performance, I overheard an audience member at the Barrow Street Theatre comment to another that Ms. Sun is fierce. Indeed, she is. She is definitely a fine addition to that distinguished group of solo performers, including the great Anna Deavere Smith and Sarah Jones (who I hope we will see again soon on the NYC stage).



John Leguizamo is Funny
While I did not find Ghetto Klown as thought-provoking as some of Mr. Leguizamo’s earlier works, it sure was a lot of fun to watch.

I could not help but giggle throughout the performance as the energetic Mr. Leguizamo told tales about his entrance into acting, his agent, his competition, A list actors on the set of the films he appeared in, his romantic relationships, (grand)parents and writing his five one man autobiographical shows. The break dancing, subway rides, even attending Murray Bergtrum took me back.

You can always count on Mr. Leguizamo, born in Columbia but grew up right here in our backyard Queens, for an entertaining evening at the theater.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wait, Don't Go!!

(jakeliefer/flickr)
While we are on the topic of peeves, it was not until I was reading The Curtain Call Criminals by The Redheaded Actress at The Green Room Blog that I remembered yet another pet peeve of mine. This one extends to concerts, theater and other live events - walking (sometimes running) out of the theater before the performer(s) have had a proper opportunity to bow, acknowledge the orchestra or other performers and officially end the show. Oh, how could I have forgotten this one?

I once went to a jazz event where Esperanza Spalding (before she became a Grammy Best New Artist and Bieber fans went loco loco) was being interviewed. She spoke fondly and passionately about a special connection between an artist and the audience (especially during a performance). Well, the way some audience members hightail it out of NYC theaters, you would never think there was anything special at all about the experience. 

Honestly, will an extra 5-10 minutes hurt when you have chosen to invest your time and money into seeing a show?

Monday, June 20, 2011

When Famous Theater Actors Strike Back

My theater pet peeves include talking, emailing, texting and any other rude voluntary action which interrupts or distracts from the performance. While announcements are made before the show, there is always some sort of interruption at the vast majority of shows I attend. 

Since Ms. McDormand continues to be on my mind days after her Tony get up and speech, I cannot help but recall a recent incident I read about where she called out an audience member who took a cell phone call during a performance of Good People. Here is the write up from the NY Post:
A ringing cellphone stepped on Frances McDormand's lines at a climactic moment in Broadway's "Good People" the other night. The ring echoed from the balcony, drawing gasps from the audience, which included Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. Incredibly, the woman with the phone took the call, saying, "Hello." McDormand said, sternly, from the stage, "When you're done, we'll resume." She continued when the rude playgoer stowed the phone.
Ms. McDormand is not the only famous actor to strike back by interrupting a performance and confronting the culprit. According to a NY Times interview, here is an incident described by Denzel Washington during a performance of Fences last year. 
There are all these women coming to see me, to see this actor they like, and I appreciate that,” he said. “But at some shows, women are carrying on and snickering too much. Like at our Mother’s Day performance. Some audience members wouldn’t stop talking during an Act II speech. So I walked down to the front of the stage and stared at them, silently, for 30 seconds. They stopped, and I went on.”
Hugh Jackman called out an audience member during previews of A Steady Rain, according to a Crain's article
It [crude video shot by audience member] shows Mr. Jackman breaking character to tell the owner of the ringing cell phone, "You want to get that?" as the audience erupts in cheers. As the ringing persists, Mr. Jackman pleads: "Come on, just turn it off." He then paces the stage of the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, waits about a minute for the ringing to stop and the play resumes.
But the best has to be when Broadway diva Patti LuPone berated an audience member for taking pictures during a performance of Gypsy. Here is an account of the incident captured in all its glory on youtube.com

 

Whether you believe an actor interrupting the performance is professional or not, I can only sympathize with those who have to tolerate these interruptions night after night, performance after performance. 

As an audience member, it is a no win situation. If you try and ask the culprit to stop, then you too begin to add to the disturbance and furthermore risk a confrontation. If you are a famous performer like Ms. McDormand, Mr. Washington, Mr. Jackman or Ms. LuPone, then I guess that you can strike back and hopefully teach the culprit a lesson.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Frances McDormand's Get Up at the Tony Awards

Many years ago, I attended a wedding and one of the guests casually arrived in jeans and boots. Everyone at my table (including me) spoke about the ill-dressed guest. My take was that the guest did not respect and take the occasion seriously by not bothering to be presentable.  

As I was watched Frances McDormand's acceptance speech at Sunday's Tony Awards, I was surprised at how disheveled she looked. Like the guest from that wedding many years ago, I felt that she did not respect the occasion. So, while not good, this made my list of memorable moments from the telecast and not surprising, the ungroomed Frances McDormand donning a denim jacket was the subject of many articles and comments the following day


I performed a quick search to see if she dressed like this at other award ceremonies such as when she won the academy award for Fargo. She did not; she was rather elegant and coherent. 
 

 However, I did notice that she wore the same unflattering dress sans denim jacket to the film premiere of "Burn After Reading" at the Venice Film Festival a few years ago.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Demographically, Who is the Typical Theatergoer??

I stumbled on this interesting bit of information on the Services section of the TheaterMania.com website:

TheaterMania audience members are educated, affluent and active consumers of all ages.
- Median household income of $97,000
-70% female
-60% under 50 years of age
-Over 50% have a 4-year college or advanced degree
-70% attend two or more live events a year and 40% attend six or more

After reading this, I began to wonder: Who is the typical theatergoer in NYC?

Not quite sure what percentage of ticket sales flow through TheaterMania, I turned to another source - The Broadway League. According to a December 8, 2010
Press Release issued by the League on Broadway demographics, for the 2009-2010 season:
-66.3% were Female. 75% were Caucasian (with Asian admissions increasing)
-Tourists were 63% of admissions (with international tourists representing 17%)
-Typical play-goer saw 7 plays in the past year; typical musical-goer saw 5 musicals
-Those who saw 15 or more represented 31% of admissions

Even with this information, I can't say for certain who the typical theatergoer is since I could not find much on Off Broadway attendance. However, based on these two pieces of data and my personal observation (that is, looking around the audience during intermission), I suspect that the typical Broadway audience member (or decision maker) is most likely a white female with a decent income.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Survived the Tony Telecast!

After spending the day chowing down excessive amounts of cue at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park, I drank an energy drink and challenged myself (after my May 1st blog entry) to sit through the telecast of the 65th Annual Tony Awards.


You know what. I did it!! Yes, I had wine, cheese and an iPad to help me through the telecast, but I made it. And while there were no real surprises, there were few memorable moments:
  • Neil Patrick Harris's opening. That's right, Broadway is no longer just for gays only.
  • Nikki James' emotional acceptance speech
  • Hugh Jackman (come on, who doesn't love him) and Neil Patrick Harris' number
  • Frances McDormand wearing what looks like a denim jacket. By the way, did she even bother to brush her hair?
  • The disco performance by Paul Shaffer, Martha Washington and the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (we are on to you Tony producers - trying to keep the audience's energy up with a bit of disco and drag)
  • Another strange acceptance speech by Mark Rylance
  • Chris Rock's delivery of Best Musical to SURPRISE The Book of Mormon (come on, the hooker joke was funny as well as the subsequent dedication to co-writer Joseph Smith)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What a Broadway Season!!!

Reading THE 2010-11 BROADWAY TIMELINE: From a Memphis Win to People in the Picture at playbill.com, I can't help but relive the past year on Broadway. And boy what a year it was!! Thanks to Playbill.com, here is a summary of openings on Broadway this past season.
  1. Harry Connick, Jr. in Concert on Broadway (Opens July 15, 2010)
  2. A Little Night Music (Reopens August 1, 2010)
  3. Brief Encounter (Opens September 28, 2010)
  4. The Pitmen Painters (Opens September 30, 2010)
  5. Mrs. Warren's Profession (Opens October 3, 2010)
  6. Time Stands Still (Reopens October 7, 2010)
  7. A Life in the Theatre (Opens October 12, 2010)
  8. Lombardi (Opens October 21, 2010)
  9. Driving Miss Daisy (Opens October 25, 2010)
  10. Rain - A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway (Opens October 26, 2010)
  11. The Scottsboro Boys (Opens October 31, 2010)
  12. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Opens November 4, 2010)
  13. Colin Quinn Long Story Short (Opens November 9, 2010)
  14. The Pee-wee Herman Show (Opens November 11, 2010)
  15. The Merchant of Venice (Opens November 14, 2010)
  16. Elf (Opens November 14, 2010)
  17. A Free Man of Color (Opens November 18, 2010)
  18. Elling (Opens November 21, 2010)
  19. Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (Previews begin November 28, 2010)
  20. Donny and Marie: A Broadway Christmas (Opens December 9. 2010)
  21. The Importance of Being Earnest (Opens January 13, 2011)
  22. Good People (Opens March 3, 2011)
  23. That Championship Season (Opens March 6, 2011)
  24. Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony (Opens March 11, 2011)
  25. Arcadia (Opens March 17, 2011)
  26. Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Opens March 20, 2011)
  27. Ghetto Klown (Opens March 22, 2011)
  28. The Book of Mormon (Opens March 24, 2011)
  29. How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Opens March 27, 2011)
  30. Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Opens March 31, 2001)
  31. Anything Goes (Opens April 7, 2011)
  32. Catch Me If You Can (Opens April 10, 2011)
  33. The Mother_____ with the Hat (Opens April 11, 2011)
  34. War Horse (Opens April 14, 2011)
  35. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Opens April 17, 2011)
  36. High (Opens April 19, 2011)
  37. Sister Act (Opens April 20, 2011)
  38. Jerusalem (Opens April 21, 2011)
  39. Born Yesterday (Opens April 24, 2011)
  40. The House of Blue Leaves (Opens April 25, 2011)
  41. Baby It's You! (Opens April 27, 2011)
  42. The Normal Heart (Opens April 27, 2011)
  43. The People in the Picture (Opens April 28, 2011)  
Looking forward, I am:
  • Curious to see which productions will win Tony awards tonight.
  • Happy to see that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will finally open this week.
  • Already placed The Mountaintop with Samuel Jackson on my Hot List.
  • Am completely looking forward to next season on the New York City stage.

Friday, June 10, 2011

2011 New York City Stage Blog Awards

So, I figured that I would get my special selection of picks in before the Tony Awards airs the weekend. The population of candidates is my Theater Roll (i.e., productions experienced since the beginning of the calendar year). So, let's have some fun and the 2011 New York City Stage Blog awards go to...

  • Most Spooky: Hrach Titizian as the reprehensible Uday in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
  • Most Colorful: A tie between Yul Vaszquez as the sexually ambiguous Cousin Julio in The Mother_____with the Hat; and Jared Mason as a hillbilly Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet
  • Most Exotic Location: The Asmat tribe location of New Guinea in The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller
  • Most Rigid: A tie between Melvin Huffnagle as the overachieving Jeremiah in Back Angels Over Tuskegee and Michael Balderrama as the competent Officer Cooper in When I Come To Die
  • Best Stage Transition: The disco transition from the bedroom to the dinner party scene in Marie and Bruce.
  • Best Nun: Kathleen Turner as the foulmouthed Sister Jamison Connelly in High
  • Best Debate: The healthy debate scene in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark featuring Daniel Breaker as Herb Forrester; Kimberly Gregory as the scholarly Carmen Levy-Green; and Karen as the militant Afua Assata Ejobo

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mark Rylance Deserves Another Tony Award



I did not want to see Jez Butterworth's Jeruslaem on Broadway. When I looked at the marquee and saw an unshaven Mark Rylance in a filthy tank top guzzling some concoction, the show just seemed dirty and raucous experience. But after going through what is hot on Broadway, I couldn't not go. The reviews and buzz have been consistently great, and Mark Rylance's performance as Johnny "Rooster" Byron was the only performance I had not seen that was nominated for a Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

So, I headed over to the Music Box Theatre, secured a rush ticket in the "rooster" row of the theater and experienced the magic that is Mark Rylance for roughly three hours.

While I did not get all the references in this play which takes place in England, I simply could not take my eyes off Mark Rylance during this performance. Some say that it is easier to play over the top characters and some say that endurance should not be confused for quality. However, Mark Rylance owns and commands this role. He is magnetic. And without a doubt, he deserves the Tony for the 110% performance he delivers.

Link to review of Jerusalem on Broadway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Five Days of Theater


Last month, I took in five shows in a six day period. In order of preference, here they are:

The School For Lies
It took me a moment to warm up to this hilarious, well-done production. Once warmed up however, I was lost in this David Ives adaptation of Moliere's The Misanthrope. The production was great to watch and even more glorious to listen to. At the talk back after the performance, a gentleman in the audience declared that he has been a member of the Classic Stage Company for 25 years and The School for Lies was the only production that he saw twice. Overall, this production made me happy to discover the
Classic Stage Company.
 
Cradle and All
I liked this production about having children and was disappointed that the critics were mixed on it. I thought that the production and staging were clever, and the acting well-done. I was very entertained by this relevant production and the issues it explored about deciding to have child and then the effect of having a child on a couple's intimacy.

Through A Glass Darkly
Ms. Carey Mulligan (who I first noticed in the film An Education) is very good in the production. In fact, with the exception of perhaps the father played by Chris Sarandon, the cast is pretty good. I also thought that the staging was excellent. I really felt that we were transported to an old seaside house somewhere in Sweden. 

My only issue with this production is that Karin's descent is too rapid. I personally have not dealt with mental illness; therefore, my notions that a person's unraveling is a more gradual process might be misconceived. However, I would have like to see this play longer.

I've never seen the Ingmar Bergman film from which this 90 minute play was adapted. However, after seeing the Atlantic Theater Company's production, I've reserved it at my local library to see if I continue to feel the same way after the film 

Manipulation
When I read the description of this play, I had very high hopes. This play, which is set in Mexico City, delves into the manipulation of a woman by a series of men in her life and whether she will regain control of her life. Mihaela Mihut who plays the attractive Cristina puts a lot of effort into her role, but in the end this production simply lacked energy and falls flat - my high hopes gone.

Desperate Writers
A play that takes place in Hollywood. I should have known. However, I had some hope after seeing that Maddie Corman from Next Fall was in the play and was curious about Pauletta Washington's performance after seeing her in Love, Loss, and What I Wore. However, the plot was inane, and I could not wait for this sitcom like production to come to an end.


So, some hits and some misses in my five days of theater, but hey, that happens on the New York City stage.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Catch Me if You Can" vs. "Baby It’s You" - Part I


Shortly before the intermission ended at a recent performance of Catch Me If You Can, I overheard an interesting question between two unseen gentlemen sitting behind me in the mezzanine section of the theater. The question, which I am sure the producers of both musicals would not be happy with, was: Which show is worse – Catch Me If You Can or Baby It’s You?

At the time of the question, I had not seen Baby It’s You. However, since then, I have and find the question even more interesting. So, before I disclose the answer to the question, some background on the two musicals. 

Show
Inspiration
Actual events
Actual events
Background
Young fraudster and the FBI agent after him
Housewife discovers The Shirelles and creates Sceptor Records 
Heavyweights 
Norbert Leo Butz (as Carl Hanratty) and Aaron Tveit (as Frank Abagnale Jr.)
Beth Leavel (as Florence Greenberg)
Tony Nominations
3 – Musical, Performance by an Actor, Sound Design, Orchestration
1 – Best Performance by an Actress
Critics*
3 Mixed and 2 Bad
1 Mixed and 4 Bad
*Source: DidHeLikeIt.com

After expressing disbelief that the first act of Catch Me if You Can ended with a Christmas song, one of the gentleman declared that Baby It’s You was worse. The question was raised at intermission. So, whether the gentlemen recanted at the conclusion of the show, I do not know.

Somehow though, I suspect that he did not.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What's Hot Hot Hot on Broadway!!

As we move into the last phase of award season culminating into the grand poo-bah of them all - the Tony Awards - on Sunday June 12th, here is a list of what is hot on Broadway based on awards to date and buzz buzz buzz.  

Hottest Plays 

War Horse, a play on my own Hot List of productions to see, is described as a "galloping triumph" about the bond between man and horse. The Normal Heart is the play revival which left me unsettled. It reminds us of how the AIDS epidemic started in our country.

Hottest Musicals  

The Book of Mormon is a musical also on my Hot List. The pre-release stream on NPR (not for the faint at heart) had me bobbing my head and hungry to see a big musical. Anything Goes is a musical revival with consistently great toe-tapping reviews.

Hottest Actor

Mark Rylance seems to be one of the hardest working actors on Broadway these days. He stars in the critically acclaimed Jerusalem right on the back of La BĂȘte which only ended in January.

Hottest Actresses

Nina Arianda is the actress that I thought gave an impeccable performance in Born Yesterday. All I can say is what a Broadway debut and when do we get more. There is also quite a bit of buzz about Frances McDormand's performance in Good People. Ms. McDormand has already picked up Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle prizes.