a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for the ‘Broadway’ Category

Impact of Election on Oscar Race

fences-6I was just about to write a rave review of the wonderful, important revival of “March of the Falsettos” and then The Election happened and turned the world, and my brain and everyone else’s upside down.

I tried to write about it but I couldn’t. I was in such deep shock. Like when you have a serious fall, as I did recently, and it wasn’t until hours later, or was it a day later, that the real pain kicked in, and I was reminded I had fallen backwards onto a fire-hydrant. It took four or five really strong women(In town for the marathon, I’m guessing) to pull me back up and set me on my feet.

Yes, my reaction to The Election was just as severe as that, as disappointed for anyone who voted for Hillary. I can’t believe it happened. I’m still processing it. And so is the country. It’s something that I can’t snap out of but just being depressed and angry isn’t constructive. Hillary Clinton had nothing but a positive message. Maybe there is something good inside Donald Trump. Well, first of all, he’s a native New Yorker. As I am. And that counts for something.

After coming out of a Whole Foods on Union Square, I ran into hundreds of protesting young people. I got on a bus. It took quite awhile for the big New York City Bus to get through the noisy crowd of protesters. They made me smile though. I knew what they were feeling. I had done this, too, in my youth. Protesting the Viet Nam War. Civil Rights. Free Nelson Mandella. Gay Rights. Aids. There’s been a lot to protest, always peacefully. Make your voice heard.I was happy to see them there.LGBY handsThis made me think of what a terrible day it was when Ronald Reagan got elected. I thought it was it the end of the world. It wasn’t. The same way when Bush after Bush after Bush entered the White House. Until Bill Clinton. Until Barack Obama.

I’ve been thinking of the night when “Brokeback Mountain” lost the Oscar to “Crash.” Sasha Stone and I were both disconsolate that night and so was everyone else on Oscarwatch. We thought we’d never get through it. I was never going to watch the Oscars again. But I did. We got through it because we were together.

Sasha did everything she could think of to help Hillary. I’m still shocked, and sickened, but she’s probably more shocked and more sick. She and Assistant Editor Ryan both added Rodham as their middle names.

But, as with “Brokeback”, she went back to work and felt back. I did, too. Over the years I’m happy to report that I developed a friendly relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway and Michelle s and Williams and now Ang Lee, who did win his first Oscar for “Brokeback” by the way. I loved his new “Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk.”

But all those disappointments and depressions and shocks were way worse than this. Maybe as much as I loved Hillary, and I still do, I just knew, I just KNEW that America was never going to elect a woman to the Oval Office.

And now this happened. Donald Trump may not have meant a lot of what he said. Was it Melania or Ivanka who said he was “saying all those things just to get elected”?

Melania Trump and Michele sitting down to have  tea, to chat and tour the White House. File it under a list of Things I Never Would Have Thought Ever To Have Happened.

And now the Oscar Race, how is this going to land with the very left wing Academy? I think this says goodbye to anything light and fluffy like “La La Land” and hello to something that can’t be denied like “Fences” or the very political “Jackie.”

viola-davis-fences-1jackie-1fences-3Gay Pride 2016 2

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.

Bryce Pinkham Heaven~Sent in Earth Bound “Holiday Inn”

holiday-inn-3The superlative Bryce Pinkham is the heart and soul of “Holiday Inn” on Broadway. He’s one of the great singing/acting talents we have today. They do not exactly abound on Broadway in 2016. And in this new revival of a “New Irving Berlin musical” “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54 he makes what should be as light as air seem to be floating through the night, whereas in reality it is really extremely earth-bound, if not stuck in cement.

It’s kind of a ridiculous show to revive anyway or try to resuscitate with a less than adept reshuffling of Irving Berlin standards. The songs of course, no matter how out-of-order they are, are divine. They’re classics and so is Bryce Pinkham who is more than up to the task of erasing Bing Crosby in the 1940’s movie version which Crosby teamed with Fred Astaire.

In a kind of “How dare they?” situation, only Pinkham is up to the challenge. He shines, shines, shines and sings like there is no tomorrow. It is a great pleasure to here his plangent tenor ring out with not only the inevitable “White Christmas”, but “Blue Skies”, “It’s a Lovely Day Today”, “Happy Holiday”, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”, “Easter Parade” and on and on and on. It was pleasure personified. I wanted to close my eyes and just listen to that wonderful, melodic voice of his sing all night. Which I more or less did.

Because when I opened my eyes, I could see with horror just what a mediocre bus and truck version of “Holiday Inn” brilliant Bryce is stuck in. It’s about an Inn in Connecticut that makes its, hay(Literally) by doing festive numbers on the holidays. In the movie Crosby and Astaire could make this hoary premise fly, but here, if not for Pinkham’s great presence, it crashes.

Corbin Bleu is no Fred Astaire and the ingenues were all so forgettable and interchangeable, I’ve forgotten them. It’s like seeing a Grade C Summer Stock company actually DO summer stock, right on Broadway. The nerve! But then of course it’s the Roundabout who almost always gets it wrong, but at least they put Bryce Pinkham in a starring role where his magical voice and charm get to soar through the night sky.

Pinkham has had a very unusual Broadway career being known mainly for playing villanous roles, like he did in “Ghost” or murderous ones like he did in his Tony-nominated “Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” which I saw four times! He’s very good at being bad, and he’s very, very funny.

So hooray for him, for landing his first major matinée idol role, where he’s not killing anyone. I cannot praise him highly enough. And it’s Pinkham’s high spirits that carry “Holiday Inn” as far as its’ stunted, cow-like legs will allow him to  carry them. It’s like he’s acting for 36 people, none of them worth watching.

But Bryce! Ah! Bryce! See it for his heavenly performing and singing, if nothing else. And those great Berlin tunes! I guess that’s a recommendation. His “White Christmas” in a horizontally striped robin’s egg blue sweater was worth the price of admission. It was simple and sumptuous at the same time. Bing Crosby, eat your heart out! Give that boy a decent show!

#Bryce Pinkham

#Holiday Inn

#White Christmas

#Bing Crosby

#Broadwayholiday-inn-2

Edward Albee Dies at 88

In trying to  figure out the best way to  sum up the great American playwright Edward Albee, I am showing you, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre, a  portion of an interview I did with two women who REALLY knew him.

Leila Robbins and Catherine Curtin were in his “Lady from Dubuque” at the Signature Theater about four years ago, and they share some absolutely charming memories of working with him.

I knew him as someone who was always standing very erect in a corner, glowering at everyone and everything. And yes, he never said much, and I was too afraid of his intense stare to talk to him. He was an intimidating character. And I’m so glad Leila and Cathy shared happy memories and moments of him here. R.I.P. Edward Albee.

Surprised to be Loving “Cats”

cats-2Much to my great surprise, I really enjoyed the hearty  new revival of “Cats” that opened at the Neil Simon Theater on Broadway. I can’t be THIS moved by this pile of furry kitsch which has been disdained through the ages, can I? Well, I was particularly by the first act. And it was the MUSIC. Yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber just did me in with his sweeping, weeping synthesizer-based, semi-operatic score, which has held up remarkably well, and is being beautifully played and sung here.

What “Cats” has got that I hadn’t counted on was memory. And not just the song “Memory” which I saw for the first time in 1996 with an old boyfriend, who was then new, and both of us had never seen it before. And we were both more swept away than I remembered, but especially by Liz Callaway’s heart-rending rendition of “Memory.” Which you can see  at the top of this page. We were sitting in the nearly the front row of the Winter Garden, and Callaway looked me right in the eyes and held my gaze as she sang it. It was earth-shattering. Like she was saying, “I know what this song means to you.” And she was right.

And watching that very complete performance on Vimeo, yes, she did it to me again. With a full orchestra yet.

I was moved to tears in 1996, and my friend had to comfort me as Grizabella went to the Heavy Side Layer. So romantic. I could barely speak. And this time “Cats” did it to me again. But it was from the instant I heard those iconic bars of music at the beginning of the first act overture. They had me at “hello”. Or “meow”. And I don’t like cats as a species.

cats-3

Leona Lewis, who won a talent contest in England and has sold millions of records, just didn’t have the acting chops that Liz Callaway, and probably Betty Buckley, who I never saw do it, or Elaine Page, the original Grizabella in England more than 20 years ago, did. She can sing it, but she can’t act it. Grizabella, the tattered glamour cat needs both. She’s tragic.

But the first act! Before Leona Lewis “hesitated towards you” and threw “Memory” away, before THAT, I found “Cats” Act I absolutely delightful and moving.

You see, you have to toss all preconceptions of what a musical should be. It still doesn’t have a plot. But this time I thought, it didn’t need one. The first time I saw it in 1996, I missed the plot. There is no plot. There is just a string of poems by T.S. Eliot of all people set to music, and Act One is a series of reviews, vaudeville turns really, and this talented cast was up to it in spades.

The dancing this time is just terrific. “Hamilton”s Tony winner for Best Choreography Andy Blankenbuehler was outdone himself re-doing each number in his own very striking, stirring, purring way.

(A hilarious theatrical foot-note. My tap teacher from when I was a struggling young actor/playwright/char-woman in London in the, ahem, er, ’70s, ended being the original choreographer for “Cats.” And she’s now a dame. Dame Gillian Lynne.)

Blankenbuehler attacks “Cats” like he attacked the dancing in “Hamilton” and also “In the Heights.” He approached as if it were a new script entirely, so his take on the many Cats and their movement, is very fresh and strong.

Original director Trevor Nunn is still on board, so there is a sense of tradition in “Cats” too. But its’ just jammed with stunning new talent. Main among them is Andy Huntington Jones, who you can see at the top of the page as Munkustrap, who acts as the narrator. Not an easy job in this fur-filled ensemble. You’re also going to remember Christopher Gurr as Bustofer Jones in Act I “The St. James St. cat” and also Asparagus, the ancient theater cat in Act II. They touch you in ways that Leona Lewis can’t. I hear she’s leaving the show soon anyway. It seemed like she was half out the door already.cats-4

But a favorite among favorites was the tangled twosome of Munjojerrie and Rumpleteazer. Who are really Jess LeProtto and Shonica Gooden.

Tyler Hanes really rocked the place as Rum Tum Tugger, the Mick Jagger of cats.cats-5And Ricky Ubeda dazzled as the magical Mr. Mistoffelees, jumping,  summersaulting and pirouetting his way into the hearts of all. He seemed to be turning into a rainbow of colors to match his electrified suit.cats-7

And Quentin Earl Darrington as Old Deuteronomy, the oldest cat alive, was appropriately moving. Spoiler Alert! Especially as he as Grizebella, ascended to the Heavy Side Layer, and Leona Lewis woke up and finally started to act with him.

So yes, I teared up all over again. I’ve always felt that Andrew Lloyd Webber was a much better theater composer than anyone has ever given him credit for. Except the audiences who pack into his shows. “Cats” ran for 16 years the first time. “School of Rock” is at the Winter Garden, where “Cats” was originally and “Phantom of the Opera” is still running, too. With an astonishing three shows currently on Broadway, he’s obviously doing something right.

#Cats, #Andrew Lloyd Webber, #Broadway #Stephen Holt Show

#Leona Lewis, #Betty Buckley, # Liz Calloway, # Elaine Page

# Musicals

And Here’s Pt.2 of “Some Enchanted Evenings” About Mary Martin’s Closeted Gay Life

Mary Martin 1

I conclude my two part interview with biographer to the stars David Kaufman. We discuss his new book “Some Enchanted Evenings” about the late Broadway star Mary Martin who was, according to Kaufman, a very likely, but closeted lesbian. She had extended long time relationships with film stars Janet Gaynor and Jean Arthur. Filmed at the still yet-to-open, Hell’s Kitchen eaterie Diane Elizabeth.

Videography ~ Slava Rusakov

You Tube formatting ~ Kevin Teller

slavas@yahoo.com

#Mary Martin #David Kaufman# Stephen Holt Show #gay # Lesbianism #Peter Pan

 

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: