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Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

Wonderful, Important “Falsettos” is Back on Bway!

falsettos-1The most astonishing, important new musical on Broadway,  isn’t a new musical at all. It’s a revival of “Falsettos.” And in its execution and impact, it is absolutely overwhelming. In Act Two. In Act One, well, it left me wondering what all the fuss was about. It won Tonys back in its’ day,(1992) and the same Tony-winning team of composer William Finn and director James Lapine are both back, too. It’s cumulative effect however is devastating. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Mine among them. I could barely speak, either.

I didn’t know what was coming in Act Two, but most people know what it’s about. It is a damaged, damaging cry from the front-line of AIDS. And this revival of “Falsettos” is so fresh and new, especially in Act 2, as I’ve said, that it hits you like a ton of bricks as its’ horrible, inevitable denoument plays out.

And of course, it’s the character I loved the most, Whizzer, who gets sick and dies. He’s played by the admirable Andrew Rannells, who launched like a supernova as the lead in “Book of Mormon” six years or so ago. But here he surely has stepped into a kind of legend with this heart-wrenching portrayal, that does not once ask for self pity of any kind.

He’s starring opposite another Broadway legend of sorts of the most modern kind, the two time Tony winner, Christian Borle, who also astonishes and steps up his game big-time as Marvin.the bisexual love of Whizzer, who survives him. But suffers with his decline with an anguish and depth I didn’t think Borle was capable of. But he is and he makes you cry along with him as Whizzer slowly dies. One of their greatest love songs, “Two Unlikely Lovers.”

Their song ” What Would I Do(If I Hadn’t Met You)” is a love song that tops the show and makes you think and makes you cheer with pride, all at the same time. I wanted to give it a standing ovation, but was so emotionally devastated by its’ power and beauty, I could not stand. Just yell, hoarsely “Bravo”!

And if Mr.Rannell’s doesn’t get a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his “Everybody’s Gotta Die Sometime” as he expires…well, I don’t know what to say.

This show deserves all the accolades that will get thrown at it. Stephanie J. Block can reap a Supporting Actress nomination surely for her turn as  Trina.the ex-wife of Borle and the mother of their understandably confused child, twelve-year-old Jason( a fantastic Anthony Rosenthal. )She’s never been better than when slamming out the solo “I’m Breaking Down.” As she tries to describe the confusion a straight woman feels who is left by her husband for another man.falsettos-3

This is a limited run only through Jan. 8 however. It’s at the Walter Kerr, where “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”  ran for two and a half glorious years. And now it’s got another smash musical there “Falsettos.” I hope it runs forever.

 

#Falsettos

#Andrew Rannells

#Christian Borle

Nathan Lane at His Absolute Comic Peak in “The Front Page”

the-front-page-3The good news is that the great Nathan Lane is in great comic form in a hilarious, sharp and delightful revival of that old newspapering chestnut “The Front Page.” The bad news is that he doesn’t come onstage full throttle until the end of Act Two. Yes, this “Front Page” revival with crackerjack direction by Jack O’Brian is full frontal as well as full throttle. It contains ALL of the original’s THREE ACTS. So if you don’t like three act extravaganzas of wit and razor sharp hilarity, you can skip this one, But boy you’ll be missing something good!

Comic Genius like Nathan Lane’s is a rare thing. He hasn’t been this overwhelmingly funny since the original “Producers” on Broadway a while back but he’s here now and I must urge you to go see him and John Goodman(! of all people) playing supporting roles in which everyone in the two dozen ensemble is just spot on perfect. The other bad news is that the central character of the show, the famous Hildy Parks, is not up to the rest of the cast. We have an exhausted John Slattery from TV’s “Mad Men” losing his voice and not up to stage acting at all.

After all that time on television, Mr. Slattery has forgotten how to project from the stage, but nevermind the ensemble of cut-throat newspapermen is the star and there’s so many of them I  couldn’t do them all justice, except to tell them all that they are grand, grand, grand. Director O’Brian has really worked them all into a rat-a-tat frenzy that bouys you along until Nathan Lane makes his grand entrance in the nether reaches of Act Two.the-front-page-2

But Mr. Lane is glorious here and the Act we do have of him, is inspired. He’s playing the irascible publisher, Matthews, not a part that you would remember from any previous incarnation. The same with John Goodman’s tin-horn corrupt sheriff. They are all as foul-mouthed short-tempered and trash-talking as you’d think newspapermen of that era would be, but O’Brian makes you love each and every one of them. They’re the salt of the earth he, and authors Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur(Who was eventually Helen Hayes’ husband)want us all to know.

Their seedy digs are  smoke-filled, one big coffee stain of a Chicago office, that is marvelously re-created by Douglas Schmidt’s tatteredemalion set and Anne Roth’s just-right period costumes. This is time-traveling at its’ best, the era is so perfectly rendered. This office overlooks the local gallows, and yes, there’s a lot of gallows humor here, but it’s hysterical.

If only Cary Grant had be around to play Hildy Parks in this production. But there are no Cary Grants around Broadway today. Nathan Lane when he was younger could have played this great part, transmorgrified in the movie into Rosalind Russell as “His Girl Friday”, a signature role of hers that I was never able to abide. Howard Hawks had her and yes, Cary Grant himself, speaking their lines so fast it always gave me a headache.

But here Hecht’s and MacArthur’s lines were music to my ears, it’s done so well by this terrific cast. Like newspapers themselves, it’s a kind of word-loving, witty, salty symphony that you never want to end. Go!front-page-1

Bewitching Janet Mc Teer in London-to-Bway “Les Liasions Dangereuses”

les-liaisons-dangereuses-1A great actress is bestriding Broadway at the moment. Janet McTeer walks among us, and we all must pay homage to this great, great stage actress in her latest triumph “Les Liasions Dangereuses” And bestride the stage she does, for she is exceedingly tall and inevitably dominates every other actor and every minute she appears before us ands burns up the stage she is standing on..She’s a one-woman conflagration.

Seen just this summer as of all characters Shakespeare’s Petruchio, in the all-female “Taming of the Shrew” in the Park this July, she was totally convincing as a lascivious man. Playing him as a drugged-out Stephen Tyler-type rock star manqué, in blue jeans and leather, I totally forgot she was a woman. A better female-to-male drag performance I have never seen.

And now, in “Les Laision Dangereues” she is all woman and totally dangereuses. And we must herald her being here on Broadway so soon and in such a different swoon-worthy role. While her Petruchio was a total roue, her Marquise de Merteuil is the embodiment of pure. perfect feminine evil. She smiles as she kills.les-liaisons-dangereuses-3

She is the bored aristocrat at the center of Choderlos de Laclos’ constantly revived French classic play from the early 1780s, depicting in extremis the debaucherie of the ancien regime. And explaining fully just what was leading up to the French revolution in which it is quite probable that the duplicitous Marquise would have been the first to lose her lovely head.

But then again, perhaps not. She’s far to smart for that. A fashionable widow who may have killed her first and only husband, she wants nothing to do with re-marriage, because marriage she proclaims “is being told what to do.” And instead of sex, she revels in playing games with the men(and it is implied) the women around her. The Marquise will do anything for what she terms “the game.”les-liaisons-dangereuses-2She entices her former lover the Vicomte de Valmont into a bet, which is really a dance of death, of who can seduce who, and faster, of the hapless country dupes that surround them. And she wants written proof, too, in the form of a tear-stained letter!

Janet McTeer’s main problem apart from being so overwhelming tall is that she is such a powerful actress she tends to  blow everyone else right off the stage. And in “Les Liasions…” she does so again.

Unfortunately I have to report that one of America’s foremost young actors Liev Schreiber is a mere nothing here. Uncomfortable in heels and 18th century wigs, frills, and hose, he is a virtual blank against the astounding, fiery Ms. McTeer’s blazing Marquise.

The two destructive seducers at the center of this viler than vile behavior need to be evenly matched, and they surprisingly are not. The six foot four Schrieber matches McTeer in height, but little else.

Though I have admired him since his days at the Yale School of Drama, he is totally at a loss here, and not convincing at all as the dissolute lothario he is meant to be. His usual charisma is dulled and he seems ill at ease and actually miscast as the supposed equally maleficent Valmont. He’s not sexy in the least. Worse, he seems to be phoning the Vicomte in. He is plodding as McTeer is magisterial. And on fire.

McTeer swoops and dives across her victims on the stage as Schreiber bores them all to death.

Only the Danish actress, Brigitte Hjort Sorensen holds her own against them in the supporting role of the doomed, puritanical Madame de Tourvel.

But any chance to catch the bewitching McTeer onstage live is well worth the price of admission and she is giving one of her greatest performances ever as the epitome of French perversion, all the while smiling, and simpering and dithering and consoling those she is destroying in the most aristocratic of British accents. Her Marquise de Merteuil is the greatest interpretation of this often revived role that you’ll ever see. McTeer is absolutely top drawer as she opens the drawer, withdraws the stiletto within and stabs you through the heart. She’s chilling and beguiling and not to be missed.

Oscar Noms f’sure for Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton for “Loving”!

loving-1Oscar nominations and many other accolades are coming f’sure at the beautiful Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton’s loving couple in “Loving.” Jeff Nichols’ amazing film is one of the quietest, almost unassuming Oscar-seeking films I’ve ever seen. Nichols is definitely in the Kelly Reichardt wheelhouse of less is more. Much, much less. The film is almost without dramatic dialogue or large movie moments. The brilliant Nichols is taking pains to emphasize the ordinariness, the reality, almost the hum-drumness of his characters’ simple lives.

Except that Mildred and Bill Loving are anything but hum-drum. They’re historic. They are the first interracial couple to break the miscegenation laws that were on the books as the law of the land until they and the ACLU  decided to contest them. Married in Washington, D.C. in 1958.because a white man and a black woman couldn’t get married in their home state of Virginia,( the Lovings hailed from the not-far-away, rural outskirts in Virginia).Racially mixed couples could not be married or live together in VA, so they had to settle on Washington, D.C. where it was Ok and legal, but Mildred didn’t like living in the city of D.C., and who could blame her?

She wanted her children to grow up in the countryside she knew and loved so well. Bill was a bricklayer. He was white and she was black, and that’s the only really unusual thing about this very usual couple.loving-2Their love for each other is unabashed, simple and direct, and lasting. And except for the racial difference,they would have gone along on a very straight-as-an-arrow road, until Southern society wouldn’t let them just be.

Mildred is drug out of bed in the middle of the night and jailed while pregnant. They are forced to leave town. And years later in Washington, D.C., where they are forced to re-locate to sympathetic relatives’ homes, Mildred decides to write a hand-written letter to Robert F. Kennedy as she watches the ’60s unfold on black and white television. A female relation says, “You better get you some civil rights,” and she does.

Kennedy forwards her letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, and thus their saga goes national and into the history books. The Lovings made history.

And newcomer Ruth Negga’s and Joel Edgerton’s performances are so perfect and so moving that they both will be nominated for the Oscars, even though “Loving” is as small and simple and unadorned as any film could be. Negga. wordless for most of the beginning of the film, says everything with her large, dark, sad eyes. She’s surprisingly an Irish actress and Joel Edgerton, who has an even harder job, the character of Bill is so taciturn, turns out to be Australian! I would never have known it! Their Southern American accents are impeccable. Their intensity riveting and their devotion divine. You can’t see one without the other they are so perfectly matched.

All credit to young director Jeff Nichols who also wrote the original screenplay and is bound to get his own first Oscar nomination, for his original, heart-rending script.loving-3I was lucky enough to spend a week or so in 2007 at the Newport Film Festival with Jeff Nichols and the star of his first film Michael Shannon. “Shotgun Stories” was such an impressive debut that I knew I just knew that Jeff and Michael were going to be big stars, as has come to pass.

Both were completely unknown at the time, and I remember asking Jeff since we got to hang out A LOT at thisjeff-nichols, at the time, small, underpopulated film festival. just what he wanted to do with his life, and he said, “I want to make films about where I’m from Arkansas. Nobody’s done that yet. It’s a completely new terrain.” And with “Loving” though it’s set in rural Virginia, he’s done just that.

He told me that Michael Shannon was going to become one of America’s most famous actors, and he has. And that he planned to use him in every film he made.

And he’s done just that, too. With this time Shannon playing a small role as a Life magazine photographer. Bravo to all of them! “Loving” is a magnificent achievement, and one of the best films of the year.

“Jackie” Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard Oscar Bound

jackie-1jackie-2Very happy and proud to be raving about “Jackie,” a great new film, coming soon, and it will be up for MANY Oscars, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress(of course) the brilliant Natalie Portman, Best Supporting Actor Peter Sarsgaard and on and on. Best Costumes, Best Score, Best Art Direction, Best Set Decoration, and everything else you can think of!

It’s at Awardsdaily.com and you can go to it by clicking on this link

At NYFF, Natalie Portman in Heartbreaking, Historic “Jackie”

Thank you Sasha and  Ryan for your masterful editing and lay-out!

#Jackie #NataliePortman #PeterSarsgaard #Oscars #BestActress #BestSupportingActor #NYFF

NYFF Opens with “The 13th” by Ava DuVernay

angela-davis-1My review of the Opening of the 54th New York Film Festival with Ava DuVernay’s incredible doc, “The 13th” a veritable history of racism and descrimination in our country.

Here’s the link to the article at http://www.awardsdaily.com

http://bit.ly/2djnDC1

NYFF 2016 About to Open!

nyff-1Opening on Friday night, with Ava DuVernay’s new doc “The 13th” is the 54th edition of the New York Film Festival. I’m proud and happy to say that I’ll be covering it this year for Awardsdaily.com, with whom I’ve shared a working relationship as a contributing writer on film for over 10 years! More! I was there when it was Oscarwatch.

The great Sasha Stone is still doing the yeoman(or yeowoman) heavy lifting there, and now as the Oscar race begins to gear up big time. Or festival time, it DOES get heavy. Ably abetted and assisted by Ryan Adams. I’m thrilled to pieces to be doing this work for them, and hope I live up to their standards. They’ve set the bar so high!

It’s a pleasure and a privilege, absolutely!

Here’s a link to my first article http://bit.ly/2dsJmoA

Check it out!

And also “Brillo Box (3 cents off)” a great and funny doc about Andy Warhol & his creations is going to be seen in Feb., I think on HBO, if you miss it at the NYFF itself. As they say in Franch, Bon Cinema!

E.T.A. Ok so that link didn’t work. Trying this one.

54th NYFF Opening Friday: French Films and Racial Themes Dominate

This one works! Yay!

 

 

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