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Archive for the ‘Broadway’ Category

Viola Davis Wins Best Supp. Actress, Gets Another Standing O

viola-at-oscarsViola Davis, the most expected and predicted winner of the night Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.” In a beautiful red off-the-shoulder gown with a train, she looked like she was really levitating as she give one of the greatest speeches she has ever given. Again. She always gives great speeches. viola-davis-fences-1

Kimmel joked “She just won an Emmy for that speech.” She is a great, great actress, one of the greatest on this planet. I’m in awe of her. And she’s from Rhode Island, which is where my mother was from.

This was her third nomination. She’s the first woman of color in history to have three nominations.  She should’ve been in the lead category. I wish she hadn’t switched. It was her choice, they say. I think she would’ve won whatever category she was placed in.

“The Salesman” wins Best Foreign Film for Ashghar Farhadi. A woman accepting for the absent filmmaker, who is Iranian, who was not present, protesting the recent travel ban on people from his country.

Sting sings one of his songs, this one “The Empty Chair” for the documentary on the slain journalist James Foley. Very short, but touching. Very political evening.

And it’s important to note that for the first time two African-Americans have won both Best Supporting Acting Awards in the history of the Academy and it’s about time, too, isn’t it?

“Zootopia” wins Best Animated film. There’s been no surprises tonight, unless you want to say that Mahershala Ali was a surprise. Although just about everyone else predicted him.

“La La Land” FINALLY wins something its been nominated for Production Design.la-la-land-seine

Live Blogging the Oscars! First up, Lucas Hedges!

lucas-hedges-oscarlucas-hedges-shaved-headlucas-hedges-manchesterLive Blogging the Oscars has begun! I never start this early! It’s barely 6pm EST, but Supporting Nominee Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea” just gave the first speech of the evening to Sandy Kenyon of ABC.

Lucas was in full head-shaved mode for his hit Off Broadway play “Yen.” His trade-mark red-hair was completely gone. He was rocking an out-sized but chic, black bow-tie and traditional tux and he told Kenyon straight off “I don’t think I’m going to win.” But quickly added “The Nomination is the Win.” And compared it to riding on a roller-coaster and that his car had to go through three security/bomb searches on this way it. “They were all dressed up”(the Security men) like they were in Robo-Cop. It’s crazy.” And Kenyon wanted to know how it felt to be nominated for the Oscar at age 20. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m here.”

Newsflash! Not! Natalie Portman of “Jackie, up for Best Actress, isn’t coming tonight, “because of her pregnancy.” Which didn’t stop her from coming six years ago, when she was also pregnant, and nominated for “Black Swan” which she won. She probably knew she wasn’t going to win this time. Nothing’s going to stop Emma Stone in “La La Land.” So Portman didn’t want to show up,  pregnant, and lose.

She got to the Golden Globes alright. But she did look very large.natalie-portman-pregnant#Oscar Red Carpet

#Lucas Hedges

#Natalie Portman

Debbie Reynolds Dies One Day After Carrie Fisher “Brights Lights” both

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Hollywood’s heart is surely broken forever with the devastating news of Legend Debbie Reynolds death the day after her beloved daughter Carrie Fisher’s death. I’m sad. I’m reeling. I just saw them featured quite marvelously in “Bright Lights” a doc on their tangled lives at the NYFF. And the thing that struck me so much about “Bright Lights” by Fisher Stevens, was how much they loved each other. How much fun they had and what a joy and a treat this documentary was.

It’s supposed to air on HBO, now probably sooner rather than later, but don’t miss it. It now has an air of tragedy hanging about it, that both Fisher and Reynolds dispel completely by their constantly being “On.” And entertaining us mightily and forever. It’s a fitting tribute to them, as they always say.

And they don’t hold back. It’s like they just couldn’t. But they loved each other and clearly couldn’t live without each other as events have sadly born out.

When I heard Carrie had died, I just KNEW in my heart that her death would kill Debbie, too, and it did. Their houses adjoined each other more or less “up a steep hill” as Carrie put it in Hollywood. They collected endless memorabilia from the Golden Days, and now Debbie herself, one of the biggest symbols of Hollywood’s hey day that there ever was is gone.

I can scarcely stand it. Debbie Reynolds played such a large role in my life, always the smiling, dancing teenager from “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Tammy” that song that never leaves your mind. And she was even nominated for an Oscar once for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Carrie had “Star Wars” a bigger hit financially than any of her mother’s films ever were. And her now iconic Princess Leia never really bowled me over. But her millions of fans disagree.

I loved her acerbic wit, which the film “Bright Lights” capitalizes on by starting with Carrie calling Debbie “tsu-Mommy,” but not to her face. When she enters the room with Debbie in it, it’s always “Mommy.” And the sweetness is not faked for the cameras.

With all her addictions and bipolar disorders, I always thought of Carrie as crashingly normal despite her upbringing and her surroundings. And so did she.

Debbie once said of Carrie “She’s genuine.” And she was. They both were.

We, the fans, are with them forever and are happy that they are together again in Hollywood Heaven. And we do have this great upcoming doc “Bright Lights” to watch over and over again as soon as it starts airing.

No Mommie Dearest relationship here. They truly loved each other. Don’t miss “Bright Lights.” Their bright lights will never go out.

#Debbie Reynolds Death

# Bright Lights doc

# Carrie Fisher Death

“La La Land” Sweeps Oscar Off His Feet. Emma Stone Will Win Best Actress!

la-la-land-1I must say, I resisted “La La Land” for the longest time imaginable. I, a musical comedy queen par excellence, just did not believe the hype, that this small scale musical(seems like there’s only two people in it) couldn’t with one fell swoop bring Musicals back to the movies? And go on to win Every Single Critics Best Picture Award in the book? And have a real shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar, too? And a singing and dancing Emma Stone was going to waltz her way to the Dobly Pavillion and dance off with her own Best Actress Oscar, too? Well, that’s exactly what happened. To this film with the ridiculous title. It’s winning everything.

And I finally saw it and I fell in love with it.

Hard.la-la-land-2

Starring two of the most beautiful people in the world, the aforementioned Emma Stone and the dazzlingly handsome Ryan Gosling, they not only sing their way into your heart, they dance there, too! And Ryan Gosling turns out to be an ace jazz piano player, and plays all the film’s musical numbers himself. Yes! With his own real hands! Brilliant 32- year- old director, a Hollywood wunderkind, if ever there was one. Damien Chazelle might be dancing with more than one Oscar in his hands come Awards Night.

He’s done the impossible. He’s single=handedly brought musicals back to the movies, and he did it last year, too, with the astounding debut film “Whiplash.”

la-la-land-3Which, for all its’ dramatics, was really a musical too. About Jazz, again. And both films are going to go down in Hollywood history as will Stone, Gosling, and Mandy Moore the brilliant choreographer. And yes, there is a third part in this film, too, J.T. Simmons, the sadist drum-teacher of “Whiplash,” which won him an Oscar last year. Here he’s a uber-nasty manager of the nightclub of sorts that our Hero Sebastian, (Gosling) has been reduced to playing Christmas ditties in.

“La La Land” is the perfect film. For this year. It’s total escapism, and that’s what we all need right now. It just seems impossibly wonderful and harks back to all the great Movie Musicals of the 1930 through ’50s.

Being a song and dance man myself (I’ve also written MANY musicals myself, way back when, and an opera, too), I know what Seb (as she calls Gosling) and Mia(Stone) are going through. And it’s total rejection almost all the time. That’s Show Biz. And that’s particularly LA, where I lived for one year, and wondered how the dreams were manufactured that got me there.

“La La Land” is a love poem to LA. And I have never seen it look so gorgeous. The cinematography is candy coated and Ms. Stone wears bold, single colored costumes. After a particularly brutal audition experience, she walks sadly down pinkish Hollywood streets in a royal  blue dress. She later wears a solid yellow. Redheads are NEVER supposed to wear yellow, but Stone does, and she’s forever going to be associated with the “little yellow dress” that she’s seen dancing with Gosling as he falls in love with her.la-la-land-4 la-la-land-5

Oh yes, Stone is playing the ultimate Aspiring LA Actress. She’s so frustrated, she starts writing her own play, a one woman show for herself. I can related. I’ve done that, too. And she doubles her despair by becoming a playwright/actress.

And she doesn’t understand or “get” jazz. So. of course, she’s at cross-purposes with Seb, because he’s the ultimate jazz aficionado, who wants to own his own jazz club some day. She wants to be a star. And somehow, through the magic of movies, they find each other and fall predictably in love, but not toooo predictably.la-la-land-6

“La La Land” starts with a massive traffic jam on a highway(some things never change. I hate cars. I hate smog. And I hated LA until I saw this lovely picture.) The entire stalled group of honking horns and frustrated drivers then inexplicably burst into song and dance. “Another Day of Sun,” which I found a bit much. Seb and Mia don’t sing and dance here. He honks his horn at her. She gives him the finger, and drives off. This I could relate to.la-la-land-7

But “La La Land” is a slow burn. It’s takes it’s time getting to where it wants to go, but boy, oh boy, when it gets there, it just KILLS you. I just couldn’t stop the tears. And in this last part of the movie, Emma Stone goes from being just Emma Stone, who we’ve now seen for years, the almost garden variety movie ingenue doing almost the same raspy-voiced, big-eyed schtick, suddenly transforms into the great Screen Goddess we all hoped she would be, and she turns into an actress of such unexpected depth and poignancy, as well as beauty, that glows like uranium, or more accurately Oscar gold.

She’s Hollywood’s new Princess. The envelope, please.la-la-land-8

E.T.A. “La La Land” just led the pack with SEVEN Golden Globe nominations! More on this later.

Josh Groban Makes Musical Theater History on Bway in Spectactular “Natasha, Pierre…”

Can you believe that schlump is  handsome rock star Josh Groban???

natasha-pierre-1How to describe what is certainly one of the best musical theater experiences I’ll ever have in my life? There are no words. Only superlatives, and they can’t even begin to do justice to the transformative, shocking, heart-breaking, bravura performance Josh Groban gives in the pop-opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comic of 1812” now on Broadway at the Imperial Theater. Former home to “Les Miserables” which ran there for decades and I’m predicting this will, too.

And win Josh Groban Best Actor in a Musical and every other Tony in the book. Move over “Hamilton” there’s a new masterpiece in town! (And it’s right next door to “Hamilton” too!)”Natasha, Pierre…” is a tiny sliver of Leo Tolstoy’s 1000 page epic Russian novel “War and Peace” and is as unlikely a musical comedy blockbuster as “Hamilton.” The War that’s “breaking out somewhere out there” is the Napoleonic War against Russia. But in Moscow, the decadent aristocracy is partying like it’s 2016.

They sing “Chandeliers and caviar! The war can’t touch us here!” But of course, it is, led by Napoleon. And  as it gets closer and closer the  aristocrats & the party crowd are becoming more and more frantic.

 

natasha-pierre-5Those who’ve been following the career of pop star Josh Groban will be stunned by the absolute 360 he’s done with “Natasha, Pierre…” which is as innovative and spectacular a musical, and risky, too, as the astounding performance Groban gives in it. You see, “Natasha, Pierre…” is not your ordinary musical comedy. It’s hardly a comedy at all, though you do feel like you’ve been in the midst of a drunken Russian party that turned into a wild, thumping troika ride.

As a handsome young man, who is now unbelievably only 35, one did wonder what Groban, a brilliant musician, lyricist and composer as well as a platinum selling recording artist with four world tours and seven albums under his belt, and millions of fans to boot. Sexy, and angelic at the same time, one wondered what he was going to do when his teenaged good looks and youth appeal began to wear off. Not that it has, but Groban was open-minded and daring enough to take on the completely incongruous and daunting role of Pierre Bezukov, Tolstoy’s depressive, over-weight, bespectacled alter-ego in “War and Peace.” It’s proving to be the role of his career.natasha-pierre-4

At first entrance, on to the stage, flanked by a blinding bank of rock star lighting (by Mimi Lien, whose contribution  is inestimable) Groban enters as Pierre with an accordion, then makes his way almost lumbering to center stage, down several stair cases (director Rachel Chavkin has carved up the Imperial into a brand-new, almost intimate cabaret-like space and puts the audience onstage, too!) and you think that middle-aged, almost-fat man CAN’T be Josh Groban, but it is! josh-groban

Heavily bearded with long-grown out, almost greasy, dark, curly locks, he looks nothing like any iteration we’ve seen of Josh Groban  before. He’s almost unrecognizable!  He’s totally transmogrified himself into this hulking Russian bear of a character, but that’s exactly what Tolstoy wrote his hero as. He’s the symbol of pre-Napoleonic Russian aristocracy.

He’s depressive. He’s unattractive and he drinks and drinks and drinks.

“I drink and read and drink and read and drink,” he sings in a confused clarion of voice that is less than happy about this inactive plight.

He’s married to a completely inappropriate wife, the witchily attractive Helene, who is referred to in the opening number simply as “Helene’s a slut.” Amber Gray plays Helene with exactly the right blend of nastiness, sexuality and charm. as she sashays  her way through the night seductively telling our heroine, the virginal Natasha (Denee Benton) that she is “Charmante, Charmante.”amber-greyHer brother, who turns out to be a dastard of the first water, Anatole, is portrayed with a devil-ish  blend of blond good looks, rock star pompadour hair, and VERY tight military pants by Lucas Steele. “Anatole’s hot” the opening chorus sings. And who are we to disagree?natasha-pierre-2He’s out to elope, or basically kidnap, Natasha. He’s already married and clearly an irresistible and untrustworthy slime-ball. Anatole’s seduction of Natasha, who thinks he’s going to marry her, forms the plot that is as wildly complicated as the novel itself. But don’t be scared of Tolstoy. You can follow him.natasha-pierre-6

 

Dave Malloy, who I saw play Pierre originally three years ago, wrote the music, lyrics and adaptation. It is all sung-through, so yes, it is indeed an opera, but it’s only a tiny sliver of Tolstoy. Volume 2, Part 5, to be exact. I saw it first in a circus tent in the Meat Packing District of the West Village, where they served a Russian meal to you while seated at cabaret tables(see above.) It was dazzling, even then.

Phillipa Soo was astounding as Natasha, and went on to become a Broadway star as Eliza Hamilton in “Hamilton.” But Denee Benton, who plays Natasha now, just glows and glows and grows on you, too, the absolute picture of willful innocence and stubbornness as she falls in love with, then insists on her ill-advised elopement with bad boy Anatole.

A core of miraculously agile, vocally and physically, actors continued with the show from the tent  they called Kazino to Broadway, including Amber Gray, Brittain Ashford and Grace McLean. In that cast I first saw, Josh Canfield of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” fame, was equally charismatic as Anatole.

But it’s Groban that kicks this show upstairs and into theatrical history with his astonishing performance and perfect voice. To hear someone who has been called a choir boy for years with his perfect pitch and miraculous tenor, tear into the gutsy, difficult, challenging, sometimes discordant vocals of “Natasha, Pierre…” is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Drunken, depressed, over-weight, near-sighted and scruffy though his Pierre convincingly is, his golden tones ring out in the night(and twice weekly at matinees.) His respect for the other actors is evident as he also blends seamlessly into their tight ensemble.

Josh Groban, genius that he is, has perspicaciously plunged himself into the midst of an equally amazing group of fellow-artists, who are geniuses, too, in their own ways. Did I mention Mimi Lien’s lighting? She’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius grant. So it’s official. And of course, there’s a killer solo that composer Malloy newly wrote just for Groban that they call “Dust and Ashes”, but I would call “This is how I die?” as Pierre berates himself for his intellectual inaction as “there’s a war going on out there somewhere.”

I’ve seen “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” three times now and I can’t wait to see it again!

Groban has committed an entire year to staying in this historic production and helping it thrive. It’s been making a million dollars a week.

#Josh Groban

# Broadway musicals

#Natasha, Pierre…

#Tony Awards

# Broadway

 

 

Hysterical Comedy “Oh Hello” on Bway!

oh-hello-1

One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen on Broadway totally surprised me with its’ non-stop hilarity. It’s “Oh Hello” and there’s only two people in it! But they are the super superb sketch comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, who appear as their 70-something alter egos Gil Faison and George St. Geegland. Whether they are a gay couple or not is open to interpretation. The show was described as “very gay” to me, and it is, and it isn’t.

This is simply the story of two old men, who have lived together for over forty years in the same rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side ,”the coffee breathe of New York”, they call it. And they get an eviction notice in Act One. Except there is no intermission so there is no act one.

So much for the plot.

Their apartment, their domaine, as it were is high-ceilinged and so vast that they have spent a lifetime salvaging the sets of closed shows. Main among them the hair dressing salon of “Steel Magnolias”, and the staircase from “some Au-goost Williams” play that they can’t remember the name of. There is a front stoop from “The Cosby Show” on the opposite side of the stage. “We got that oh-hello-2because they were throwing it away and nobody wanted it.” Serena Williams and Tennessee Williams were brother and sister. And so it goes…

They are united in their love of theater and theater trivia. Gil claims to be a “multi-Tony Award viewer.” And tries, still, at his advanced age to be an actor, and go out on auditions, even though he has(we find out later in the play) an incontinence problem. They also are wearing white wigs to represent hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed in decades. Nor have their clothes. They are always waxing nostalgic for “That Great Decade, the 70s,.”which everything in their apparel and their apartment dates from(great design by the great Scott Pask, costume consultant Emily Rebholz.)

George sports wide wale corduroys that look like they were once brown, but are now sort of purplish with a shine. There’s no shine on his shoes because he is wearing sandals with not-so-white socks. They both look like they need a good bath, but there is no indoor plumbing visible or referred to. You can almost smell them from the front of house.

George is still trying to get his plays done. Largely to no avail, and he wouldn’t appear so preposterous a character, if he didn’t resemble Florence Foster Jenkins’ real life husband/companion in the recent Meryl Streep movie “Florence Foster Jenkins.” That foppish St. Clair Bayfield was played by Hugh Grant in the movie. A  real-life failed 1920s actor, he married money. But George St. Geegland and St.Clair Bayfield, they are cut from the same fading  theatrical cloth.

Except that George has no money and Gil has even less. You wonder how they manage at all at their advanced ages to pay their $75 a month rent. So the eviction notice heralds disaster .But they ARE spry, and as embodied by the 30-something comic geniuses of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, you love them to pieces.

There is not one comic beat that is missed. Their malapropisms are monumental. Broadway is pronounced “Brid-way,” a phone call is a “finn-call” and an homage is a “Home-page.” But they try and try to get into show business, still, and their constant rejection is our comic bonanza.

Their big “Brid-way”  break is just around the corner, and Nathan Lane is off-stage waiting to come on, they assure us. They have a favorite diner on the Upper West Side, but can’t remember its’ name, but they do remember that their menu has “fourteen plastic pages” and that one of the dishes is lobster.

“I was going to order that,” says Gil, “Just to see what would come out.” Mainly they venture outside to get throw aways from “Brid-way bombs. There’s so much to choose from.” The entire scrim from “Fiddler on the Roof”(which is still running BTW. How did they get it?) comes down, and they have to act through its’ gauziness towards the end of what would’ve been Act Two.

And their other culinary obsession is tuna. There seems to be Tuna everywhere on this set, but unlike Big and Little Edie Beale (of “Grey Gardens”fame), there are no visible cats. It’s like they’re the Collyer Brothers, with no piles of newspapers, but a trap-door from “The Diary of Anne Frank.”oh-hello-3

They also seem to have or have had a public access TV show called “All That Tuna.” And if this isn  ‘t enough to convince you to run right out and see it, every night, they pull an “unsuspecting” celebrity out of the audience, and make him sit down with them to a gigantic tower of tuna sandwich, delivered from the heavens with attached angel’s wings, which they assure us is from “Angels in America.”

Adam Driver (of “Star Wars:The Force Awakens”) was the celebrity guest the night I was there and I’m still shaking with laughter.  The theater was suddenly filled with screaming teenage girls in the second and  third balcony, and they wouldn’t stop shreiking as George, Gil and Adam sat down at their checkered red and white diner dining table for an interview. It got so bad, Gil just yelled at them “SHAD-DUP!” And they did.oh-hello-4Only slated at the moment to run through January, catch them now, while you can. It’s the perfect New York holiday show for misanthropes.

 

 

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

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