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Real Treat for Hitchcock Fans! 2 Early Films w/Ivor Novello on Criterion

A luscious, real treat for fans of Alfred Hitchock and for those of you who adore the Silent Film star Ivor Novello! “The Lodger” and “Downhill” are both out and in stores on DVD and Blu-Ray, and as usual the Criterion Collection has done a marvelous job of putting together a 2 DVD Special Features Edition.

Ivor Novello was the British/Welsh Rudolph Valentino of his day. A heart-throb, a matinee idol and a silent film star, he was right up there as a composer, too. He wrote most famously “Keep the Home Fires Burning” as a World War I anthem and many, many more songs as well as  full-length musicals. He is even portrayed in Julian Fellowes’ “Gosford Park” by Jeremy Northam. Fellowes has also written a biography of him. He was gay but, of course, closeted, for those times didn’t allow him to say what he was, but he had a male lover Bobbie Andrews, who he lived with for all his life. And he had notorious liasons with Noel Coward, and even Winston Churchhill.

When asked what it was like Churchill supposedly replied, “Musical.”

None of this information of course, is included in the Criterion Collection, but I thought you all dear readers, dear cineastes, would like to know what all the fuss was about in the 1920s.

“The Lodger” was Hitchcock’s break-out movie in 1927 and Novello was its’ star. In audio interviews on the “Supplements” with Francois Truffaut(1962) and Peter Bogdonvich(1963 and ’72), Hitchcock makes no bones about how he felt working with Novello. As the biggest star of the day, Hitchcock, who was unknown at the time, HAD to use him, and use him he did.

Novello gives an uber-creepy portrayal of the lodger, who just might be Jack the Ripper. Because of Novello’s immense popularity at the time, he could not be a villain. So Hitchcock played it right on the knife-edge, where he was so often going to keep his audience for the rest of his career. Was he guilty or was he innocent? You don’t know til the end of the film.

And for those cinephiles who remember the famous opening close-up of Grace Kelly coming in to plant a big, wet, sloppy one on James Stewart in “Rear Window”, we see Novello in the same, intense, swoon-worthy pan into a frame (see above, top) where Novello seems to be about to kiss the audience. That zooming shot made me question if Hitchcock was not gay after all. Well, he certainly never acted it out. But in that shot, and how lovingly he treats Novello, though he was “stuck with him” in order to advance his career, it’s clear that he also had great affection for Novello’s helping making him (Hitchcock) a star-director with “The Lodger.”

And “Downhill,” the other included film, also from 1927, shows that Novello felt strongly enough about what Hitch was doing for HIM, that he let Hitch direct, this second film, which Novello also wrote, about a college boy, who is wrongly accused of a flirtation (or more) with a shop girl, and is expelled from his Eton-like school, and his life goes downhill from there. Included in “Downhill” which is not a thriller or a mystery, there’s a great shot of Novello descending an escalator on the London underground, going down, down, down.

The 2K digital restoration has a marvelous, eerie score by Neil Brand, performed by the Orchestra of St. Paul’s. And an informative interview of the challenges he faced creating the scores for both these silent films, which I’m so grateful to Criterion was presenting us with in this sparkling manner.

#Alfred Hitchcock, #Ivor Novello, #The Lodger, #Downhill, #Silent Film

Cynthia Nixon Wins Best Featured Actress in a Play for “Little Foxes”

Cynthia Nixon looked pretty in pink and she was lovely, moving, and angry, as she made the first political speech of the night, which surprised me, and was totally right on.

Poor Paula Vogel just got to make a short speech about her beautiful play “Indecent.” Wearing a shimmering, light blue tuxedo jacket, she matched Gavin Creel’s tux. But her outstanding Best Play Nominee deserved more than this brief sound bite.

The now closed “Falsettos” Best Revival of a Musical nominee strutted its’ stuff with a re-united original cast including the red-hot duo of Andrew Rannells and Christian Borle.

MICHAEL AR0NOV wins Best Featured Actor at the Tonys!

My former guest Michael Aronov just won his first Tony for “Oslo”. A total surprise! But my god, does he deserve it! And he used to live in my building! *faints* Very moving speech about this parents and his one-room apartment which if he entered by the door, he was “in danger of flying out the window.” TRUE STORY! Nobody predicted Michael but I want to link to my interview with him eight years ago where I said, “He was one of the great actors of his generation.” And now everybody knows I was right! http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I think this means “Oslo” now a lock to win Best Play.

Kevin Spacey sang AND danced an electric opening number spoofing all the nominated Best Musicals. Hysterical! The TONYS 2017 off to a good start! I’m amazed!

TONY Predictions 2017!


I am so in love with the idea that this year’s Tony Awards might heavily feature two of my all time favorite theatrical events. “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” the genre-busting pop-opera and “Little Foxes” which makes audiences (and critics) see double with the divine Laura Linney switching up with Cynthia Nixon. I admit to bias here, but I have the Drama Desks Awards this past Sunday to second my emotions.

Yes, I think “Natasha, Pierre…” will win many, many of its 10 nominations on TONY night, this coming Sunday. Including, I’m calling it now, Best Musical, Best Director of a Musical Rachel Chavkin, who won the DD on Sunday, Best Set of a Musical Mimi Lien, Best Lighting of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations Dave Malloy, who also wrote the incredibly, ketchy and thrilling  sung-through musical score, which may also get Malloy ANOTHER Tony in that hotly contested category.

I’m going to go with the more influential than ever Drama Desk Winner for Best Actor in a Musical and think that in a surprise Andy Karl will prevail in this category.He tore his ACL, and I’ve torn mine and trust me, it’s VERY, VERY painful, and takes a LONG time to heal, and Karl, formerly nominated as Bway’s “Rocky” overcame this excruciating experience to OPEN “GROUND HOG DAY” and continue on performing it, singing and dancing as he did before, turning it into a hit, where people are coming to see HIM as well as the show. He also won an Olivier Award in London for this performance. THAT counts bigly with Tony Voters.

And his HUGE, BLACK, frightening-looking knee brace is in full view the ELEVEN times he has to change into his clothes in front of the audience. And he’s clearly in pain doing all this. This counts heavily with the TONY voters, who know the show must go on, no matter what the pain level.

I think Broadway vet Karl wins this category over 23-year-old newcomer Ben Platt in “Dear Evan Hansen.” The TONY voters, I have to add, are older and more homogeneous than even the #Oscarssowhite Academy members. Yes, AMPAS is more diverse and forward thinking than the TONYs. And pain counts. Ben Platt will have other chances.

They’re not necessarily going to GET a musical about the Internet. Some of them DON’T EVEN HAVE INTERNET. So…It’s too young for TONY, but “Natasha, Pierre…” is a masterpiece based on a masterpiece, Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, so it’s just right. It’s got the most nominations. It’s right in the Tony voters comfort zone(s). Usually the show with the most nominations wins. Let’s see if that holds true this year on Sunday night when the awards are handed out at 8pm EST on CBS.

Surprisingly, “Natasha, Pierre…” won in EVERY CATEGORY for the Drama Desks that it was nominated for. And because it opened earlier Off-Off Bway, it was only eligible for the parts of it that were NEW to this production. And those category were Best Director of a Musical, Best Set of a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

Another category that I think “NPATGCO1812” will win is Best Featured Actor in a Musical. I think the TONYs will help the astonishing Lucas Steele along on his way to mega-stardom. It doesn’t hurt that though he’s cited as Supporting, he has a larger part than Pop Superstar Josh Groban, who is also nominated in the lead category, where he faces Karl AND Platt, unfortunately, or the award  handily would be his.

Lucas Steele is Anatole, Groban’s Pierre’s wayward, hedonistic brother-in-law, a very, complicated. LARGE part of the villain, as it were, of the extremely small section of “War and Peace” that has here been excerpted. He’s hot. He’s a little dumb. And he plays the violin. And he’s charismatic beyond belief and has been with “NPATGCO1812” for FIVE YEARS in all its’ growing and re-growing on its’ way to Bway. And he hits notes that are stratospheric, to say the least.

Bway vet Gavin Creel of “Hello, Dolly”, although he won the Drama Desk Award in this category, is funny, yes. But that’s about all there is to that part. , AND he was not up against his main competition, Lucas Steele that night.

Bette Midler, of course, even though she DIDN’T SHOW to pick up her Drama Desk win, as Best Actress in a Musical, will easily win in this category.

If I’m leaving out Best Play, it’s because “Oslo,” a play that bored me to death, has won every other Best Play award this year. And,yes, will probably devour the TONY, too. I wish my former guest Michael Aronov was going to win Best Featured Actor in a Play.

But I think that award, like it did at the Drama Desks, will go to Danny DeVito for “The Price.”LITTLE fOXES 3lITTLE FOXES 14

And as far as the Supporting or Featured Actresses are concerned, I think, like the Drama Desk it will go to Jenn Collela for “Come From Away.” And Best Featured Actress in a Play will be Cynthia Nixon. Pairing up for a win with her co-star Laura Linney, giving the performance(s) of their careers in the brilliantly double cast “Little Foxes.”  What a theatrical event! And this was all Laura’s IDEA! And the Tony Voters know it and she’s never won.</a
And Best Actor in a Play? Oops, I almost forgot. Kevin Kline in “Present Laughter” and yes, he won the Drama Desk, too.

#Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, #Josh Groban, #Lucas Steele, #Bette Midler # Hello, Dolly, #Gavin Creel, #Dear Evan Hansen, #Ben Platt, #Andy Karl, #Groundhog Day, #Kevin Kline, #Present Laughter #Rachel Chavkin, #Laura Linney, #Little Foxes, # Cynthia Nixon

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” Wonderful New Musical Off-Bway!

FOR MY LOVE, IT IS TIMELESS AND VAST AS THE SKIES
IT IS STRONG AS THE TIDE AND THE WAVES WHEN THEY RISE
IT IS I, ERNEST SHACKLETON, HERE IN COMMAND
AND I PROMISE MY DARLING WE’RE GONNA FIND LAND

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” is the most wildly inventive musical of the Off-Bway season. And if anyone would have told me I’d be raining superlatives over a two-person love story that’s set simultaneously in Brooklyn and Antartica (!) I wouldn’t’ve believed them! But it’s true! It’s all true! And 19th Century Arctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton has come back to life(Through a date searching app on the Internet) to make wild, theatrical magic love to a single 45-year-old Mom with a baby named Zach in an unheated apartment “far out” in Brooklyn, well, it just sounds preposterous.

But the theater exists to make the unbelievable, believable.And “Ernest Shackleton” amazingly does just that .Our heroineKat (the extraordinary singer/actress/musician Val Vigoda) is an experimental music composer, whose living room is filled with every kind of electronic musical device imaginable, including a red, heart-shaped electric violin, which she barely puts down and a set of amplified drums that she beats all her many frustrations out on. This assemblage of electronicaErnest Shackleton 2 is backed by a gigantic computer screen, behind the stage, on which we see her many, many wild fantasies play out on.

The frigidity of her (very) cold water flat and the stress of her life as an artist. “I gave my life to art!” she plaintively sings, sends her over the edge and into the imaginary arms of studly Arctic hero, Ernest Shackleton, who calls out to her romantically through the Internet dating site, “Katherine! Katherine!..”and then enters her own version of Antarctica, through (where else?) her refrigerator.

Wade McCollum and Val Vigoda are the star-crossed lovers linked by the heroic struggles both are going through. He, to reach his high-flown Arctic goals, and she, well, just to survive her life. Her baby never stops crying, her computer’s keyboard keeps re-looping the word “Alone,” and they spend “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” finding each other in the highly unromantic ice and snow, which the dauntless duo here turn into a winter wonderland.

The fiery Ms. Vigoda has also written the equally red-hot, heartfelt lyrics to go with Brendan Milburn’s Irish-inflected score.

There are a lot of sea shanties mixed in with the hard-rock and the love songs and the rock-solid book is by Joe DiPietro of “Memphis” fame, who really knows his way around a musical.  And underground there is massive musical amplification on  every kind of instrument imaginable by Sound Designer Rob Kaplowitz and Orchestrators Ryan O’Connell and Glen Milburn. And the super-skillful director Lisa Peterson makes the duo seem like a cast of thousands.

At no time do Kat and Shackleton strain our credulity, as the metaphor of his ice-bound ship, the Endurance, freezes over and sinks, stranding them and a crew of 22. This is based on a true story, which I won’t spoil here.(You can look it up. It’s a recorded fact.)And they had a videographer with them, too! As newsreel footage of Shackleton’s impossible dreams becomes all of our dreams of achievement, love and survival against all odds.“Ernest Shackleton’s motto was “Optimism is a form of moral courage.”
I left “Ernest Shackleton” filled with more optimism, and hope, yes, hope for the innovative American Musical than I’ve felt since well, since “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”
He sings “FOR MY LOVE, IT IS TIMELESS AND VAST AS THE SKIES
IT IS STRONG AS THE TIDE AND THE WAVES WHEN THEY RISE
IT IS I, ERNEST SHACKLETON, HERE IN COMMAND
AND I PROMISE MY DARLING WE’RE GONNA FIND LAND!”

#Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, # Ernest Shackleton, #Val Vigoda,#Wade McCollum,#Antartica, #Artic Explorer, #Endurance, # Electric Violin, # Single Mom

Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon BOTH Win Outer Critics, Bette Middler, Andy Karl, too

Present Laughter 3LIttle Foxes 16As I predicted only yesterday, BOTH Laura Linney AND Cynthia Nixon won awards for their unforgettable roles in the double cast “Little Foxes.” It was the Outer Critics Circle who first declared this double victory, which I think will be repeated at both the Drama Desk Awards AND the Tonys, if history is any indicator. But of course, this is an historic first, the double casting of female leads in one terrific show. Men have done this before but not women. Linney won for Best Actress for her Regina-with-a-heart, and Cynthia for the Supporting role of the sad Aunt Birdy. But the actresses both switch parts at alternating performances. So they really were BOTH being honored for BOTH parts, too. As well they should be!Bette Midler and “Hello Dolly” also won. As did Andy Karl for “Groundhog Day.” “”Come from Away” the Canadian Musical about 9/11 on for Best Musical . Jenn Collella, the only character with a song to herself in “Come From Away,” got best featured actress in a musical for her feisty pilot and Gavin Creel got Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his high-stepping Cornelius Hackl inAndy Karl Ground Hog Day 1“Hello, Dolly!” as I predicted he would. The Outer Critics Circle made up from critics whose reviews are read outside New York City are always the first to announce and often predict won the following awards, the Drama Desks, the Tonys, will go, especially in the Actors’ categories. Oh! And Danny DeVito in his Broadway debut as the kibbutzing  furniture appraiser in “The Price” won for Best Featured Actor in a Play, and Kevin Klein for “Present Laughter” as Best Actor in a Play.

For a complete List of winners go to OuterCritics.org.

Come From Away 1.PNG

TONY Noms Out!”Natasha, Pierre…” Got A Dozen! Topping Even “Hello Dolly”!

I’m thrilled to announce that my fave of faves “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” just landed 12, a solid dozen of the All-Important Tony Nominations this morning! It even beat “Hello Dolly” which came in second with 10.

Josh Groban, of course, got nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for his Pierre. He once said he never won awards. Well, now, he’s got a much-prized Tony Nomination in a very competitive year in a very competitive category.

Some musicals were left out altogether. “Amelie”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Believe it or not the revival of “Sunset Blvd.” and “Anatasia” got two nominations. One for Mary Beth Piel who is the very aristocratic grandmother and Linda Cho for Best Costumes.

Also not turning up much was “War Paint”. Patti Lu Pone & Christine Ebersole were nominated for Best Actress in a Musical, as expected. The incredible set and costumes by David Korins and Catherine Zuber, respectively, but nothing else.

The Tony nominating committee only had four slots per category and sometimes less. It was a busy year but a tough year.One of Broadway’s biggest ever. The grosses are up. And the talent is, too.

I haven’t seen two of the major players on the Best Play side yet, “Sweat” and “Doll’s House, Part two” but I’ll let you know what I think of their chances as soon as I do, within the next two weeks.

Best Play
A Doll’s House, Part 2
Indecent
Oslo
Sweat

Best Musical
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day The Musical
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Best Book of a Musical
Come From Away (Irene Sankoff and David Hein)
Dear Evan Hansen (Steven Levenson)
Groundhog Day The Musical (Danny Rubin)
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 (Dave Malloy)


Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Come From Away (Music and Lyrics: Irene Sankoff and David Hein)
Dear Evan Hansen (Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)
Groundhog Day The Musical (Music and Lyrics: Tim Minchin)
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 (Music and Lyrics: Dave Malloy)

Best Revival of a Play
August Wilson’s Jitney
Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Present Laughter
Six Degrees of Separation

Best Revival of a Musical
Falsettos
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Jefferson Mays, Oslo

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo
Danny DeVito, Arthur Miller’s The Price
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Richard Thomas, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson, August Wilson’s Jitney

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Johanna Day, Sweat
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Cynthia Nixon, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson, Sweat

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Best Scenic Design of a Play
David Gallo, August Wilson’s Jitney
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Michael Yeargan, Oslo

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Rob Howell, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Korins, War Paint
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jane Greenwood, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Toni-Leslie James, August Wilson’s Jitney
David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Catherine Zuber, War Paint

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Jane Cox, August Wilson’s Jitney
Donald Holder, Oslo
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Come From Away
Natasha Katz, Hello, Dolly!
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen

Best Direction of a Play
Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, August Wilson’s Jitney
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

Best Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day The Musical
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day The Musical
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Best Orchestrations
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly!
Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
James Earl Jones

Special Tony Award
Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, Sound Designers for The Encounter

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Dallas Theater Center,
Dallas, TX

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
Baayork Lee

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
Nina Lannan
Alan Wasser

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