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Archive for the ‘Broadway’ Category

“The Play That Goes Wrong” Explodes with Hilarity, on Bway!

“The Play That Goes Wrong” gets everything hilariously right on Broadway. This latest Brit import will keep you laughing long after it’s over. And watch out! It’s so stupendously funny it may run forever!

Right now it’s cracking up audiences at the Lyceum and everything about it is top drawer as the British say. Low comedy, high comedy, physical comedy, double and triple entendres, malapropisms, vaudevillian spit-takes… Every comic stop is pulled out and it’s a joy to watch the Cornley University Dramatic Society explode with inept hilarity as they try to stage a dreadful 1930’s style thriller “The Murder at Havisham Manor” well. And of course, they can’t. It’s seemingly impossible for them to do anything right.

A direct cousin of that other great Brit backstage farce “Noises Off”, ” The Play that Goes Wrong” is set entirely ON the stage, during a particularly horrendous performance of this Whodunit that has hoary, horrific dialogue and no suspense whatsoever. Think Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” as if written by the Mouse.

Yes, it’s snowing outside(scraps of large white pieces of paper thrown at the window from stage right) and the assembled have gathered for the engagement party of a lord, who, of course, is found dead (well, almost) as the curtain rises. Actually the incredibly lithe Greg Tannahill is found creeping into place as the dead man, as the curtain precipitously goes up. He’s the most hilariously active corpse I’ve ever seen in a play on Broadway, or anywhere, as everyone WILL keep stepping on his extended hand causing him to jump in pain as he tries to lie stock still . And all and sundry keep sitting on his prone figure sprawled on the chaise longue stage center.

I was quite taken particularly with Dave Hearn’s upper class twit and brother to the (almost) dead man. New to the stage, he keeps snickering to himself as he finds the audience applauding or laughing at his antics, and then starts bowing to them and applauding himself, as every other cast member keeps slapping his hands down to get him to stop. This is an ancient theatrical device known as the “Klaptrap”. No, I’m not kidding, and this is what actors in the 19th century up to and including Tallulah Bankhead would do to acknowledge the audience’s approval. Hence, the word “clap-trap.” And yes, there’s a lot of claptrap in “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Thank god! And I loved every minute of it!Also a particularly agile physical comedian, he doesn’t let one set-piece (or way ward prop) go by without tripping over it or slapping him in the face. He seems also always to be in danger of injuring himself, so much of his comedy is death-dying in its’ oafish, but perfectly-timed  hilarity.

It’s written by a comic trio sent from heaven to make us all split our sides in a way I didn’t think possible in this dark time. Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields have my undying admiration and gratitude for keeping us all bouncing in our seats til we think we can bounce no more. But we can! I was still bouncing in Act Two!

Lewis I thought was wearing a fat suit. Well, he either is or isn’t, and the fat jokes abound, particularly when he is caught on a collapsing second floor balcony. I didn’t think a person of his great size could move at that rate of speed. But he does.

Pint-sized Jonathan Sayer is paired with Lewis in most scenes as the malaproping, ancient butler who at first I thought was named Florence. He has all his multi-syllable words written on his hands and STILL he gets them wrong as he pronounces “façade,” as “fuck-aid.” Lewis is always seeming to be about to sit on him or squash him in various iterations.

Lastly, there is the John Cleese, stiff-upper-lip chap  Henry Shields as “The Inspector,” who is being played in hilarious dead pan by the Cornley Society’s Director, Chris Bean, who gets the proceedings rolling (or is it roiling?) by announcing that at the outset that he is making his “de-boo” and that the Cornley Dramatic Society has now increased its’ funding to the point where they don’t have to do “Roald Dahl’s James and the Peach” or “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cat.”

They are the new Monty Python-like comedy-theater group, who all as one seem to be claiming British drama school LAMDA as their alma mater. And this type of finely honed, precisely timed physical comic mayhem has not been seen in New York since the late Charles Ludlam’s Theater of the Ridiculous.

Calling themselves, appropriately, the Mischief Theatre, I feel that they are going to be around forever, so precious and unique is their gift of inspired laughter. “The Play That Goes Wrong” is STILL running in London and won this year’s Olivier award for Best New Comedy.The Play That Goes Wrong marquix

“The Price” on Bway Saved by Danny De Vito & Jessica Hecht

There is definitely a Tony Award in Danny DeVito’s future. This super-feisty 72-year-old(same age as Bette Middler in “Hello Dolly.” But more on that later) is making his Broadway debut in what is arguably Arthur Miller’s worst play, “The Price.” It’s as dusty as the old sheets covering the antique furniture, which is soon to be dispensed with. The dust from these items, including a harp, are what make the audience in the front row sneeze, when Mark Ruffalo’s put-upon cop enters and pulls the sheets off them, scattering their dust everywhere. It’s his parents un-used and abandoned apartment in a tumbling down building, which is an apt metaphor for this tumbling-down play.

Dust is what has settled on this barely-a-play at all. Dated it certainly is and it’s infuriatingly so. Because DeVito’s wise ole, funny ole furniture appraiser in Act One named Solomon, (yes, I said he was wise) disappears in Act Two, as so does our involvement in the play because everybody else in this star-studded cast of only four famous actors, just can’t hold our attention.The Price 1

And it’s not totally their faults. Jessica Hecht as Ruffalo’s clothes-conscious wife, gives a delicious performance, but is shunted to the side for most of the action, which concerns the clash of the two Frantz brothers, played by Ruffalo and Tony Shaloub.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed for two such famous actors in my life. But it’s not their faults. They are giving “The Price”s Act II their alls, but there is no writing beneath them to support their Herculean efforts to try to create something out of nothing. There is just not much there there, as Gertrude Stein once said about Hollywood.

Shaloub’s ass-hat doctor is the villain of the piece. Rich, successful, and supposedly friendless, he is recovering from a nervous breakdown which no one seems to have noticed.

And Ruffalo, poor guy, still seems to be learning his lines, as a last minute replacement for the exiting actor who quit during rehearsals and got out while the getting was good, I guess. So we’re stuck with a suffering and soldiering-on Ruffalo, who is playing the poor sap who gets stuck holding the family bag as it were, and who hasn’t spoken to his brother Shaloub in 16 years. This should be a monumental clash of the titans. The privileged v. the working class, and you KNOW that’s what Miller was probably aiming at, but he misses it by a lonnnnnng mile. Reams and reams and REAMS of dialogue with the two brother going at it hammer and tongs. But the text just isn’t there beneath. It’s sheer verbosity.

And you’re just dying for Danny DeVito to come back and enliven things. Or for Jessica Hecht to have more to do, but it just doesn’t happen.If only Act Two was as dramatic as the above picture ^. It isn’t.

#the Price, # Mark Ruffalo, # Danny DeVito, # Jessica Hecht

Best New Play on Bway “Significant Other”

“Significant Other” is a VERY significant play. In fact, it’s the best play I’ve seen so far this year ON BROADWAY. It’s significant, too, that it’s on Broadway. A play like this, about this topic, is something that has never been articulated on Broadway, and certainly not from the gay character’s point of view. It’s a drama. It’s not JUST a comedy, although that’s how they’re selling it, but young gay playwright Joshua Harmon has some very important points that he wants to make, and he makes them quite strongly. He’s not pulling his punches.

Nor is his ace director Trip Cullman, who is simply one of the best young directors of his generation. And yes, it’s the Millennial generation. That’s what this play is about, purportedly. It’s 20-something cast thinks nothing of living on their cell phone and their iPhones and their computers and texting, texting, texting. Instead of really just talking to each other. But they DO talk. They have to communicate with each other. This is a play after all, and we want to see them interact with each other, and they do and it gets quite ugly and violent, by the end.

But the feelings that are being articulated here are so important, I didn’t mind how harrowing “Significant Other” gets.  These things needed to be said, and playwright Harmon and director Cullman say them VERY well.“Significant Other” is a play about a young gay Jewish man named Jordan Berman, who surrounds himself with a bevy of girls, who he thinks are this friends. And as the play goes on and one by one each them leaves him to get married, until he’s left utterly alone, and we are as devastated by this climatic state of things as he is.

Gideon Glick as our soon-to-be-hapless hero will probably be nominated for Best Actor in a play as he turns from super-schlub to super-mensch. He is called upon to play a wide variety of comedy, and camp, but by the end he just breaks your heart with a violence that is quite unforgettable.

Because what “Significant Other” is about, really, is about loneliness, the only kind of loneliness many gay men will ever know. When his last BFF shatteringly leaves him, he is facing a life that is going to be lived without his (he thought) heterosexual besties. You can’t help but hate the three young women who are played so well here, the aptly named Sas Goldberg,(no, that’s her real first name), Rebecca Naomi Jones, and especially by the overweight girl, who he thought would NEVER get married, and leave him, too, Lindsay Mendes(in a beautiful, powerful performance).

The climax of the play articulates what I’ve never seen even mentioned in any gay play on Broadway or Off. Glick tears into the shocked Ms. Mendes in a tirade against heterosexual women and the institution of marriage. He realizes that this is never going to happen to him, and the love and life she has found is something that he, as a gay man, is never going to experience.

This play feels like it was written before Gay Marriage was on the table as a viable option, if that’s what you’re looking for, but it seems Gideon isn’t, not really. Not yet. He wants to hang on to his immaturity as long as possible that his life is just going to be one Bachelorette party after the other.

Of course, for balance, the trio of female characters also express their various dissatisfaction(s) with their marital states, but Gideon is just left bereft by what he sees as their betrayal of his kindness and good humor and generosity towards these women.  They are exploiting his good nature, he expresses in a vitriolic scene with Ms. Mendes that could lead them both to the Tony ceremony in June. And of course, Mr. Harmon and Mr. Cullman, too.

And lighting designer Kate Voyce has to be commended, also, for her astute use of multiple chandeliers overhanging the urban interiors below. Y’know, the kind of chandeliers that just scream “WEDDING.”  The institution of marriage and its’ concomitant inevitable promise of happy endings for everyone, is not the case here in “Significant Other.” It ultimately questions loneliness and leaves the gregarious Gideon Glick’s character Jordan Berman with it as his seemingly unavoidable option. And that is its’ power and greatness. Bravo to all involved in bringing this superb production to Broadway.

#Significant Other, #Gideon Glick, # Joshua Harmon, #Trip Cullman, # Broadway, # Best Play of the Year, # Tony Awards, #homosexuality

 

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

carroe-fisher-debbie-reynolds

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.

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