a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for May, 2018

Monumental Revival of “Angels in America” on Bway

A simply monumental two-part revival, a stunning production of “Angels in America” is now on Broadway and outdoes the original (production) by a mile. I didn’t like it then. I like it now. British director Maryanne Elliot has done the impossible, making the old new again. It’s been 25 years, unbelievable, but true, since the original “Angels” ravaged Broadway audiences and won a Tony AND a Pulitzer. And established itself as the primo play on AIDS. A play that could cross over to straight audiences and make them care and feel about a disease that they didn’t want to even admit WAS a disease.Movie star-turned-actor Andrew Garfield is turning in one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen on a stage. And Garfield’s pain as the dying Prior Walter is palpable. The original actor who played it won a Tony as likely the astounding Andrew will, too. But I didn’t like him. I’m not going to even mention his name.

Garfield’s pain as his frail body is savagely torn apart from this dreadful disease is almost unbearable to watch, but Garfield MAKES you watch it for four full hours that just fly by. His skill and power and the heights of dejectedness and horror are hard to watch, but impossible to forget and admire. Who knew that “Spider-Man” had it in him? His high-pitched screeches and guttural roars of anger and helplessness are moving beyond belief. But he’s funny, too. He lisps and swishes and throws shade with the best of them.

His lover even leaves him in Part One. He is totally abjectly alone. But somehow he finds the inner strength of one tough drag queen to survive. And we love him for it. His struggle is our struggle.

He is matched on the dark side of the human race by the despicable Donald Trump mentor lawyer Roy Cohn, who also becomes afflicted with AIDS(this part is true). The homophobic Cohn who participated in witch hunts during the McCarthy era, against Communists, AND homosexuals, now becomes sick with AIDS himself. And it gives bona fide Broadway superstar, Nathan Lane a chance to chew up the scenery and even move us in a very grand manner that may also give Lane yet another Tony.

Cohn is playwright Tony Kushner greatest creation, I feel. It’s the character of the dying, hateful Cohn, who rages and rages against the dying of his light in the grip of the strangulating Reagan era, that is truly the great coup de theatre of Kushner and Nathan Lane makes you hate him and love him in equal measure.AIDS was allowed to flourish Kushner reminds us, because then President Reagan denied its’ existence. Even though he had a gay son himself. Reagan’s presidency is  an equivalent metaphor to AIDS, the disease, unchecked, that was allowed to kill so many, many of my friends, nearly an entire generation of gay men was wiped out.It is in the culminating, overwhelming image that concludes Angels Pt. One that director Elliot’s stupendous work is most fully realized. A grotesque bag lady (Amanda Lawrence) transforms startlingly into not a beautiful angel one would expect to haunt our poor hero Prior on what seems to be his death-bed, but a human cockroach descending surrounded by other similar insects.

Garfield screams in wholly justified horror as this vision from hell  envelopes him with its dirty, frightening wings and hisses”The great work begins.”

And on Sunday I see Part Two.



“Harry Potter” & “My Fair Lady” Win Outer Critics Circle Awards

The Outer Critics Circle Award Winners have just been announced this morning and of all things “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” won Best New Broadway Play! I’d like to point out that Jamie Parker, who is playing the grown-up Harry, is familiar to Broadway audiences as one of the “History Boys” a few seasons back.

He’ll now be famous as Harry Potter forever. He’s nominated for a Tony for Best Actor in a Play, too. Best Actor in a Play for the Outer Critics was won by Andrew Garfield, formerly a filmic Spider-Man, in “Angels in America.”

Lauren Ambrose, a fan favorite for her series-long role as a troubled teen in “Six Feet Under” and a marvelous Juliet in Shakespeare in the Park several seasons back, won Best Actress in a Musical for “My Fair Lady.” Norbert Leo Butz also won for his Supporting Performance as Eliza Doolittle’s much-sauced dustman father Alfred P. Doolittle. Bartlett Sher also won for Best Director and “My Fair Lady” itself as Best Revival of a Musical.Lauren Ambrose 1


“Harry Potter” scored four times in the technical categories for lights, costumes, back-drop scenic effects and sound.

Below is a list of the complete winner ~

Outstanding New Broadway Play
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Outstanding New Broadway Musical
SpongeBob SquarePants

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
Desperate Measures

Outstanding Book Of A Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Tina Fey, Mean Girls

Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, the Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants, T.I., David Bowie, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley, and Tom Kitt, SpongeBob SquarePants

Outstanding Revival Of A Play (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Angels in America

Outstanding Revival Of A Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
My Fair Lady

Outstanding Director Of A Play
John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Outstanding Director Of A Musical
Tina Landau, SpongeBob SquarePants
Bartlett Sher, My Fair Lady

Outstanding Choreographer
Justin Peck, Carousel

Outstanding Set Design (Play or Musical)
Christine Jones, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Outstanding Costume Design (Play or Musical)
Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady

Outstanding Lighting Design (Play or Musical)
Neil Austin, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Outstanding Projection Design (Play or Musical)
Finn Ross and Ash Woodward, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Outstanding Sound Design (Play or Musical)
Gareth Fry, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Outstanding Orchestrations
Jonathan Tunick, Carousel

Outstanding Actor In A Play
Andrew Garfield, Angels In America

Outstanding Actress In A Play
Glenda Jackson, Three Tall Women

Outstanding Actor In A Musical
Ethan Slater, Spongebob Squarepants

Outstanding Actress In A Musical
Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady

Outstanding Featured Actor In A Play
Nathan Lane, Angels In America

Outstanding Featured Actress In A Play
Laurie Metcalf, Three Tall Women

Outstanding Featured Actor In A Musical
Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady

Outstanding Featured Actress In A Musical
Lindsay Mendez, Carousel

Outstanding Solo Performance
Billy Crudup, Harry Clarke

John Gassner Award (Presented For An American Play, Preferably By A New Playwright)
Jocelyn Bioh, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play

“Travesties” Wild, Witty, Wonderful Wildean Thrill Ride Back on Bway

Travesties Cast Kick LineWhat an absolute pleasure it is to try to enumerate the many joys of Tom Stoppard’s early comic roundelay “Travesties!” It is joyously back on Broadway making the America Airlines Theater really Fly Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease. The sound of audiences laughing at this deft, daft, witty, reimaging of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, and the early meeting in 1917 of James Joyce, Lenin and Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara (self-portrait above)as related by the doddering British bureaucrat, Henry Carr, was music to my ears! How rare it is to NOT be talked down to on dumbed-down Broadway. What joy! What rapture unforeseen!

Stoppard sends all us dictionairists flying high into the sky of silly syllogisms, real and imagined. He loves words. He loves playing with words, and the first time I ever saw “Travesties,” I just hated it. I didn’t get it. It was praised to the skies in its’ initial iterations on Broadway and the West End, and I couldn’t make head  nor tail of it. What WERE the critics cheering about? It won the Tony for Best Play of 1975. It didn’t make any sense. But this time, I got it. It’s not supposed to. In any traditional sort of way.

For we are within the meandering mind of Henry Carr, a personage of absolutely NO importance, and now, as the play begins, slipping wordfully into his dotage. He can’t remember anything. Or rather, he can’t remember anything CORRECTLY.

Carr was a real person, and he was VERY well connected, and he really did know all these renowned luminaries in their heyday of 1917, when Zurich, Switzerland, became a sort serene Alpine Paris.

“White flag, pacific, civilian Switzerland – the miraculous neutrality of it” amidst the War to End All Wars, “blundered and wandered” Henry Carr, who now decades later, encouraged to be a memoirist, can barely remember his own name. And history barely remembers him. Except as a litigant against James Joyce, for slander and the price of a pair of trousers. Joyce won.Travesties Trio

You see, Carr, was Algernon Moncrief, in an amateur production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” directed in 1917 in Zurich by James Joyce, who is writing “Ulysses,” or as Carr, still angry at Joyce after all these year, calls “Elasticated Bloomers,” as he hurls a copy of that masterpiece across the stage hissing “THAT BOOK!”

You see Carr DIDN’T write that book. As Salieri never equaled Mozart. And he also doesn’t remember, more than he mis-rembers his young self and all the greats he DID know. Kinda. Sorta.

Sounds confusing, no? But never has the onset of dementia been portrayed as such an intellectual laugh-riot.

Set in the reading room of the Zurich library and Carr’s more humble flat(though he does have a manservant), Stoppard comes to the conclusion, I feel, that Joyce, Lenin and the entire thought of World War, were all Travesties, as the title says.

Stoppard’s early masterwork is being given a first-rate production under the hand of British playwright Patrick Marber. Tom Hollander is the peerless British character who is having the time of his life as he is losing his mind, as Carr. He’s been nominated for a Tony for Best Actor, and the play as Best Revival.

“Travesties” is another delicious gem of a transfer by the marvelous Menier Chocolate Factory of London. Even though Carr and Tom Hollander as a limerick-spouting, loutish Joyce, are the only two original cast members, Marber’s spot-on, mind-spinning direction is a joy to behold.

But at last I have to say that it is the Dadaist painter and bon vivant Tristan Tzara, as played with the greatest of skill and elan by American actor Seth Numrich, that playwright Stoppard is the most sympathetic to. His Tzara is another joy of acting. Loose-limbed, loose-lipped and simply louche, he is always wearing a monocle and a bright purple carvat., He’s outrageous and adorable all at the same time.

Tzara is first seen cutting Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” into a million pieces of paper, shuffling them around in his hat, and then dumping them all out-of-order on the floor. And declaring as if it was some magic trick that it’s “Da-da!”

Stoppard’s magic trick is analogous to that silly symbol of legerdemain and simply not to be missed! It is flying high at the American Airlines Theater at 227 W. 42nd St. until June 17.

“Spongebob, “Mean Girls” Tie for Top Tony Noms, “Angels in America” leads in Best Play

“Angels in America” tops the list of Best Play nominees for today’s just announced Tony Awards with eleven including Best Play Revival. Two musicals “SpongeBob Squarepants” and “Mean Girls” topped the Best Musical Category with 12 nominations each. And the much favored musical, which dominated the Drama Desk Awards when it was Off-Broadway last year, the critically acclaimed “The Band’s Visit” tied “Angels,” a serious play, with eleven. 


Best Play:
“The Children”
“Farinelli and The King”
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”
“Latin History for Morons”

Best Musical:
“The Band’s Visit”
“Mean Girls”
“SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical”

Best Revival of a Play:
“Angels in America”
“Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women”
“Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh”
“Lobby Hero”

Best Revival of a Musical:
“My Fair Lady”
“Once On This Island”
“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”

Best Book of a Musical:
“The Band’s Visit,” Itamar Moses
Frozen,” Jennifer Lee
“Mean Girls,” Tina Fey
“SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical,” Kyle Jarrow

Best Original Score:
“Angels in America”
“The Band’s Visit”
“Mean Girls”
“SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:
Andrew Garfield, “Angels in America”
Tom Hollander, “Travesties”
Jamie Parker, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”
Mark Rylance, “Farinelli and The King”
Denzel Washington, “Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play:
Glenda Jackson, “Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women”
Condola Rashad, “Saint Joan”
Lauren Ridloff, “Children of a Lesser God”
Amy Schumer, “Meteor Shower”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Harry Hadden-Paton, “My Fair Lady”
Joshua Henry, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”
Tony Shalhoub, “The Band’s Visit”
Ethan Slater, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Lauren Ambrose, “My Fair Lady”
Hailey Kilgore, “Once On This Island”
LaChanze, “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”
Katrina Lenk, “The Band’s Visit”
Taylor Louderman, “Mean Girls”
Jessie Mueller, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play”
Anthony Boyle, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”
Michael Cera, “Lobby Hero”
Brian Tyree Henry, “Lobby Hero”
Nathan Lane, “Angels in America”
David Morse, “Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:
Susan Brown, “Angels in America”
Noma Dumezweni, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”
Deborah Findlay, “The Children”
Denise Gough, “Angels in America”
Laurie Metcalf, “Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Norbert Leo Butz, “My Fair Lady”
Alexander Gemignani, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”
Grey Henson, “Mean Girls”
Gavin Lee, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical”
Ari’el Stachel, “The Band’s Visit”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Ariana DeBose, “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”
Renée Fleming, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”
Lindsay Mendez, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”
Ashley Park, “Mean Girls”
Diana Rigg, “My Fair Lady”

Best Scenic Design of a Play:
Miriam Buether, “Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women”
Jonathan Fensom, “Farinelli and The King”
Christine Jones, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”
Santo Loquasto, “Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh”
Ian MacNeil and Edward Pierce, “Angels in America”

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
Dane Laffrey, “Once On This Island”
Scott Pask, “The Band’s Visit”
Scott Pask, Finn Ross & Adam Young, “Mean Girls”
Michael Yeargan, “My Fair Lady”
David Zinn, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical”

Best Costume Design of a Play:
Jonathan Fensom, “Farinelli and The King”
Nicky Gillibrand, “Angels in America”
Katrina Lindsay, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”
Ann Roth, “Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women”
Ann Roth, “Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh”

Best Costume Design of a Musical:
Gregg Barnes, “Mean Girls”
Clint Ramos, “Once On This Island”
Ann Roth, “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel”
David Zinn, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical”
Catherine Zuber, “My Fair Lady”

Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Neil Austin, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”
Paule Constable, “Angels in America”
Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer, “Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh”
Paul Russell, “Farinelli and The King”
Ben Stanton, “Junk”

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