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Archive for the ‘Broadway’ Category

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

 

New Mary Martin Bio “Some Enchanted Evenings” by David Kaufman

 

Mary Martin 1

Stephen Holt interviews author David Kaufman about his new controversial biography of the late stage star Mary Martin “Some Enchanted Evenings.”

Martin was one of the great stage stars of her day starring on Broadway in the legendary “South Pacific” and also Rogers and Hammerstein’s later work “The Sound of Music.”

This is part one of a two part interview, soon to air on  Friday, Sept. 9 at midnight on Ch.56 and Ch.1996 on Time Warner Cable in Manhattan and Ch.83 on RCN Cable and Ch.34 on Fios, also on Friday at midnight. In Manhattan Only, although it can be seen online at that time on http://www.mnn.org, click on Ch. 2, the Lifestyle channel.

Filmed in the yet-to-open new Theater District restaurant Diane Elizabeth.

Camera & Editing ~ Slava Rusakov

You Tube Editing ~ Kevin Teller

 

 

 

 

New Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen “Dianne Elizabeth”

Stephen Holt chats with Hell’s Kitchen restaurant entrepreneur Charlie Marshall about his new, about-to-open “Dianne Elizabeth.” It will be at 644 Tenth Avenue. Charlie is also the owner/operator/chef of the highly successful “The Marshal” just down the block from Diane Elizabeth.

http://www.the-marshal.com

Camera & Editing ~ Slava Rusakov

 

 

 

 

 

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