Tag Archives: Theater

Sondheim Working on a Revised Version of ‘Company’

My first reaction was:  “Oh god, not yet another production of “Company”.  Then I read more….

This is intriguing….and with great people attached.

And I always thought Bobby was Gay anyway…

From the New York Times today…

 

The acclaimed composer Stephen Sondheim and the Tony Award-winning director John Tiffany (“Once”) are collaborating on a major revision of Mr. Sondheim’s celebrated 1970 musical “Company,” a project that Roundabout Theater Company is eyeing for a possible production, according to Mr. Sondheim and others involved.

The biggest change in this new “Company” would be the central character of Bobby. Whereas he has always been a straight man struggling with commitment issues and multiple girlfriends, he has been reconceived by Mr. Tiffany as a gay man with commitment issues and multiple boyfriends. And some characters have had gender reversals; the character of Joanne, who sings “The Ladies Who Lunch” and was originally played by Elaine Stritch on Broadway, is being played by the Tony winner Alan Cumming (“Cabaret”) in Mr. Tiffany’s reading of the work at Roundabout this week.

For years Mr. Sondheim and the musical’s book writer, George Furth, who died in 2008, batted back suggestions that Bobby was furtively intended to be a closeted gay man. But when Mr. Tiffany proposed actually making Bobby gay, Mr. Sondheim said in a telephone interview on Tuesday, the idea intrigued him.

“It’s still a musical about commitment, but marriage is seen as something very different in 2013 than it was in 1970,” Mr. Sondheim said. “We don’t deal with gay marriage as such, but this version lets us explore the issues of commitment in a fresh way.”

MORE:   Sondheim Working on a Revised Version of ‘Company’ – NYTimes.com.

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A Foggy Day in Londontown….

I’m thinking of London, one of my favorite cities, tonight…

I’ve been there about a half-dozen times and I felt at home there from the first moment I arrived.  Maybe its genetic memory…

As Samuel Johnson said:  “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

London is having a rough time right now with riots and violence in the streets….

And all I can do is wish her well, remember her fondly,  play a few songs and look forward to our next visit, whenever that may be….

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New York Diary: Part 2: Lysistrata Jones, A Motherf@cker, Diana Sands and Roses from Howard McGillin

I started my second day in New York on Fifth Avenue.  I had forgotten how much Fifth Avenue got on my nerves now…

Like most of Mid Town Manhattan, between 40th and 50th Streets, Fifth Avenue is now just like part of Branson, Missouri or Myrtle Beach South, Carolina.  It is tourist hell.

New York has become entirely too safe.  I really am starting to miss the days when the only time you saw teenagers in Times Square was if they were there to turn tricks or buy drugs.  That would be vastly preferable to slack jawed idiots who stop cold on the side walk to gape at the tall buildings.  Or families who leisurely stroll up the side walks four or six abreast.   It’s really country come to town time….

Broadway really is starting to reflect this more and more each season.  There’s just not a lot on Broadway that I want to see- or put up with the tourists to see.

Even though I loved “Catch Me If You Can”, I still had to put up with five or six cretinous teenage girls sitting behind us talking and periodically noisily unwrapping food through the whole show.  That’s why they are putting on junk shows like “Spiderman”, “The Adams Family”, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Sister Act”.  It’s all for this crowd.

There is a big difference in both the quality of the shows and the quality of the audience once you go off-Broadway.

That’s one of the reasons I loved seeing “Lysistrata Jones” down in the East Village Friday night.  It was in a Church Gym and had a real New York audience.  Real New York audiences don’t applaud the scenery and they loved “Lysistrata Jones”.  As did we.  It is a modern re-telling of the Greek play “Lysistrata” where the women withheld sex to stop the war.  In this version, cheerleaders withhold sex in order to get their slacker basketball player boyfriends to actually try to win a game.  It was a musical.  It was wonderful.  It reminded us of a mix of “Glee”, “Xanadu” and a touch of “Spring Awakening”.

Saturday was a full day with three shows.

First up was “The Motherf@cker with the Hat”.  This was nominated for multiple Tony Awards and deserved them all.  It was a comedy about addiction.  Addiction to drugs, addiction to sex, addiction to the past, addiction to people…Amazing performances.

Having not seen “Jerusalem”, I would have voted Bobby Cannavale the Best Actor Tony award.  He was amazing.  Chris Rock was very good.  The set was amazing.  The play was amazing.  I’m so glad we saw it.  It’s so rare to see a really good new play on Broadway…

We went from there to my partner Steve Willis’ play reading.  It was an almost sold out house for his play “Diana Sands”.  It was a new version of the play and it was very well received.  It was a great time.  Good people, good audience, good play.  We’ll see where it goes from here…

We cabbed it uptown from there  to see the off Broadway show “The Best is Yet to Come”, the new musical review of Cy Coleman’s songs.  Great cast of Broadway veterans including Lillias White, Howard McGillin, Rachel York, David Burnham, Natascia Diaz and Billy Stritch.  Great audience of New Yorkers and not tourists.

We had seen Lillias in her Tony Award winning performance in Cy Coleman’s “The Life” and it was great to see her recreate her  show stopping number again.  She’s an amazing performer.  Rachel York was beautiful and delivered some great moments.  The rest of the cast was delightful.

Howard McGillin has always been one of our favorites.  We love his CD/Album and play it frequently.  He’s spent most of the last 15 years going in and out of “Phantom of the Opera” where he’s played the lead more than any other actor.  Something like 17 million performances….

He’s much more than that…It was great to see him up close and personal from the third row of a very small theatre.  He is so good…and aging very well.

At the end of one song, he threw a rose into the audience.  It landed in my lap.  Several elderly New York women now hate me…

A rose from Howard McGillin is not a bad way to end a Saturday night in New York.

It’s even better ending the evening by going back to a comfortable hotel with Steve Willis and knowing there is more to do on Sunday, one of my favorite days in New York…

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New York City Diary: Part 1- Catch Me If You Can

I won’t be posting much the next few days because I am vacationing in New York.  We usually do at least 2 or 3 long weekends a year in the City and this is one of them…

I know you’re not supposed to tell people when you are out-of-town, but we have a house sitter and an alarm system, so I’m hoping the alarm will stop them, the pets will attach them and the house sitter will shoot them if anyone tries to break in…I’ll take the chance for some time in New York.

Let me start by saying, for once, the journey up on USAirways was relatively smooth- which is exceedingly rare nowadays.  Of course, my expectations are lowered.  As long as we get to the original destination within a couple of hours of the scheduled time, without crashing and with luggage, I accept that as the best-case scenario.

Given this, It didn’t faze me that before we left they told us the plane’s bathroom was broken, so if you had to go to the bathroom, go before you boarded.  I’m just surprised they didn’t use this as an excuse to cancel the flight.  But then, it was a full flight and they probably just wanted the money.  If it hadn’t been full, I’m sure they would have canceled.

My biggest issue was that at least a third of my fellow passengers were wearing flip-flops.  Those who read this blog know this is a pet peeve of mine- people who wear flip-flops on airplanes and in other inappropriate places.  Not to mention on an airplane on a flight to New York City.   Doesn’t get much more inappropriate than that- short of the White House.

Who in their right frigging mind would wear flip-flops in New York City?  That’s like walking barefoot down Broadway.  That’s just nasty, unsanitary and unsafe.

Don’t get me wrong, I love flip-flops, I own flip-flops, I wear flip-flops, but I know when and where to do so.  It’s inappropriate use of flip-flops that make me crazy.  If the plane crashed, do you want to try to escape through fire and hot metal wearing little pieces of rubber on your feet?  If they didn’t fall off on impact?  Talk about slack-jawed idiots.

And there are pages of articles on the web about how unsanitary and unsafe it is to wear flip-flops in New York.  Just Google “Flip Flops in New York City.”

I’ll rest my case and I’ll try to move on…

After a pleasant cab ride into the City, I got to the hotel and made my first of three attempts to check in.

First, the room wasn’t ready, so I went to lunch.  Since I was carrying my messenger bag crammed full of all my electronics:  iPod, Bose Headphones, 2 cell phones, MacBook Air and Kindle, I didn’t want to go far.  That was too much crap to schlepp all over town.

So, I had to break one of my rules and eat in Mid town.  Tourist trap food.  Over priced.  Not very good.  Mid town.

I ate at a trendy little place on 8th Avenue and ordered a Beet and Grilled Shrimp Salad.  It was 4 shrimp, 3 cubes of beets and a couple of lettuce leaves for $14.95.  Never eat in Mid town unless you know the place or it’s an old diner…..I paid for my sins.

Try two, I actually got my room, but no key cards.  The machine was broken so the bellman had to let me in.   This was after standing in line for 20 minutes just like the first time.  Anyway, I got my room, unpacked and went off to get theatre tickets.  I got great orchestra seats for us to “Catch Me If You Can” at the Neil Simon Theatre.  Once I got back to the hotel, they had finally fixed the key machine and after a third 20 minute wait in line, I finally had both a room and keys to it.

I settled in to wait for my partner Steve to get here from the East Village where he is wrapping up a seminar at NYU and once he arrived, it was off to the theatre.

I had read mixed reviews of “Catch Me If You Can”, but had seen some scenes on YouTube and the Tony’s broadcast, so we decided to give it a shot.  Especially since we had discount coupons.

Another rule:  Never pay full price for theatre.  Going to the theatre is like flying.  On the plane, everyone paid a different price for their seats.  Same in the theater.  If you know where to look, you can get in for less than the posted price.  It’s the only way we can see as many shows as we do.  We do have to miss some until they cool off- there are no discounts for “Book of Mormon” right now and we aren’t about to pay $375 for two tickets to a show with no stars.  Even we have limits…

Anyway, “Catch Me If you Can” was a delight.  We both thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a great homage to the spirit of hope and innocence of the early 1960’s.  It had a kind of Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin Rat Pack feel.  Great choreography.  Excellent music and lyrics playing to the various early 1960’s sounds.  And uniformly excellent performances- especially by Tony Award Winner Norbert Leo Butz, leading man Aaron Tveit, Tom Wopat and Kerry Butler.

Aaron Tveit should definitely been nominated for the Tony.  He carries the show.  Norbert Leo Butz, in what is really a supporting role, steals it.  Kerry Butler, with the 11 o’clock number stops it and Tom Wopat proves again how far he’s come from the “Dukes of Hazard” to being one of the most consistently excellent actors on Broadway.

The problem was the book.  It took a while to draw us in, but about a third of the way through the first act, it had us hooked.  There is lot’s of glitz in the first act, but in the second act, it finds its heart and soul.  That surprised me as so many shows fall apart in the second act.  But in this one, that’s the stronger act.

I really recommend you see this show if you come to New York and are looking for one new musical to see.  And if you miss it in New York, see it on tour.  This is better than the Critics led us to believe.  Just be prepared for a somewhat slow start, then hold on for a great ride in the theatre.  You won’t regret it once it gets going…It’s thoroughly engaging…

Here are some scenes, then I’ll sign off for now.

More to come..

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Oprah on Broadway

Somehow, I just can’t see the Big O doing 8 shows a week….

I’ll wish her well and give her credit for trying….

She will surely pack the houses….

And anything that brings attention to live theatre is a good thing….

Oprah Winfrey has long said she would love to return to acting. But as her iconic, Chicago-based talk show approaches its final episode, Winfrey clearly is moving quickly to turn her dream of appearing on Broadway into reality.

“I have a stack of plays in my bag right now that I am reading,” Winfrey said with great enthusiasm and determination last week as part of a frank and wide-ranging interview on her Chicago past and professional future that will appear May 22 in a special section of the Tribune. “And just this past weekend, I was in New York meeting with producers. We were just talking about what would be the best route to take. But yes, this is really going to happen. … Life is too short.

“I think,” Winfrey said, “that an ensemble production is the way I should go.”

Winfrey was very nearly already acting on Broadway. Kenny Leon, the director of the high-profile Broadway revivals of “Fences” and “A Raisin in the Sun,” came to Winfrey about two years ago and said he wanted her to appear in “Fences.” Talks, Winfrey said, progressed to a advanced and serious stage.

“I had always wanted to do “Fences,” Winfrey said. “I went through the idea of trying to take my show to New York, shoot a show during the daytime and appear on Broadway at night. But I couldn’t do it. And finally, Kenny said he couldn’t wait any longer.”

So that didn’t work out. But once “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has wrapped, Winfrey will have a lot more freedom.

via Oprah’s Broadway acting dream is on the express track – The Theater Loop.

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“Steel Magnolias” at Triad Stage

I just came in from seeing “Steel Magnolias” at Triad Stage here in Greensboro.  And it was good.

I know Triad Stage and other Regional Theatres need to do crowd pleasers like “Steel Magnolias”.  They bring in a large audience, that will hopefully come back again for other shows and help to build an audience for live theatre.  Shows like this also bring in a lot of cash.  But they also create an interesting experience for Season Ticket holders, like me, who would not have gone to see “Steel Magnolias”  if it were not part of the Season.  It gives us the chance revisit plays from our pasts. And sometimes these new visits surprise us.

As usual, at Triad Stage, the production values were wonderful and the acting was excellent- all that we expect from Triad Stage.

The problem, for me,  was the play.

I’ve probably seen “Steel Magnolias” too many times, both on stage and film, but it has been several years since I’ve seen it.  I’ve probably also heard the lines too many times, but in this production, there did seem to be some laugh lines that were missed.

And you know what?  It just wasn’t as good a play as I remembered from seeing it  years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of heart in this show, some memorable characters and some funny lines.  You can’t help but be drawn into the lives of and care about these upper middle class Louisiana women.  But don’t look too closely at the play itself.  The first scene, in particular, goes on way too long…

I was also surprised at how rooted “Steel Magnolias” was in the 1980’s and how dated it seemed now.  Times have changed so much more than I realized since the times in which this play was set.   I’m not sure the cultural references make sense to anyone under 40, but then that’s not “Steel Magnolias” audience.

And it was almost a full house on Easter Sunday.

If you love “Steel Magnolias”, go see this production.  Especially if you’ve never seen it on stage and only know it from the movie.  You won’t see a better production with so many fine actresses around here any time soon.  It’s definitely a pleasant evening in the theatre and it received a standing ovation at the end of tonight’s show.

Just don’t be too surprised, either,  if the magic just isn’t there.  It’s not that they don’t try and succeed, on so many levels, at Triad Stage.  It’s just that the play itself isn’t as good as I remembered it being all those years ago…

And that might be the adjustment that I’m struggling with…

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Happy Birthday, Patti Lupone

Broadway’s original Evita is 62 today….

Here are a couple of clips of her at her best….

Here she is in her first Tony Award winning performance in “Evita 32 years ago…

I won’t post her second Tony Award winning performance as Moma Rose in “Gypsy” because I just hated her performance….

She was on a total ego trip in that show….It was over the top and out of control.

But I have also seen her in concert and found her  quite charming…

But here is a taste of her in better form today…

Say what you will, the woman sure knows how to own the stage….

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