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Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

Cher Saves “Mamma Mia 2,” but It’s Hard to Resist


When Cher, yes, CHER, enters in the Final Act of “Mamma Mia 2,” she saves the film, and yes, kicks it upstairs into Gay Heaven, or at any rate, Camp Heaven with a good, swift  stilletto-heeled sureness, only a stage and screen legend like Cher could provide. Pow! All the dullness and wishy-washiness of her young co-stars vanished, and NOW we were in the midst of a glorious fun-filled summer musical romp. She was so good, I immediately re-wrote my mind’s middling review and began raving like a teenaged fan-girl. Which let’s face it, is a cheery place to be in these troubled times. I guess I ended up loving it, and wanting to see it again. No, really.
In spite of all good sense, I found myself totally abandoning myself to its epic silliness. And why not? I always loved ABBA as a guilty pleasure. Those original, now classic, tunes got me through some very dark times when I was a house-cleaner in London in the ’80s. I was trying to get my plays done and become a right, proper British actor in the grand tradition. And it was tough. But ABBA was so uplifting, it made me forget all the charring.

I was a “Super Trooper”, and now Cher is a Super Trooper, too. In fact, she climaxes this barely organized mish-mash with that song, as well as her much heralded “Fernando” duet. As she and Andy Garcia(yes, ANDY GARCIA!) tango and sing their hearts out, both Senior Citizens now, as fire-works explode behind them, like it was 1968. Or ’86. Or one of those years, or decades that Cher’s career spans and she’s still singing! She’s a goddess for the ages. And FINALLY makes up for Meryl Streep not being in this movie except as a ghost.

You see, “Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again” does not really have a center to it, until Cher appears at the end like the Deus Ex Machina that she is. “Here We Go Again” flips back and forth in time between two stories, both starring lovely young blondes, Amanda Seyfried and Downtown Abbey’s Lily James. They both have to carry half the film each.

It seems Meryl’s character has died a year before “Mamma Mia 2” starts and her cinematic daughter Sophie (Seyfried) has to carry on without her, trying to re-build her mother’s dream of a turning their Greek island into a perfect Aegean guest house. Meanwhile, the film flashes back in time to the ’70s, when Donna (Lily James) was a wild young thing cavorting all over the continent, shagging everybody in sight.

Thus explaining (or trying to) how three different men could have potentially been the father of the single Mom Meryl’s child. As played by a trio of young hunks, notably “War Horse”s Jeremy Irvine (who grows up to be Pierce Brosnan). They make the case quite clearly how and why the young Donna/Meryl couldn’t keep her hands off all of them, one after the other, in rapid succession.

I would say Josh Dylan, who is making his big screen debut here as the young yachtsman that one day would become Stellan Skarsgard, has the best chiseled bod. British actor Hugh Skinner, who plays the young Colin Firth, doesn’t really get enough foreshadowing that his character is in later life going to be gay. An interesting opportunity missed.

Though Firth does camp up a storm in his own reserved way as his grown up self, and Christine Baranski (and Julie Waters) are back supplying even more camp (as if this film needed it).Which goes to prove something I’ve always felt. There can never be too much of a muchness. Or too much camp. Camp makes you happy. And so will “Mamma Mia 2.”

And last but not least, the young British hunk of hunks Dominic Cooper is back again as Sky, Donna (Seyfried)’s hotter than hot love interest. Dominic was one of the many stars of my year’s Best Film of that year “My Week with Marilyn” playing Milton Green, Marilyn Monroe’s ex-lover and now exasperated agent. He was also one of the original “History Boys” on Broadway and in film, and has been on “The Stephen Holt Show” more times than just about any one else (in this movie).And he used to date Cher! He just told Stephen Colbert. So it must be true!

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Come Ride Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Wonderful, Rousing Revival of “Carousel” on Bway!

 

“Come ride away with me! And I will take you to heights you never dreamed of! ” beckons the plaintive/beautiful “Carousel Waltz” that opens Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic “Carousel” now being magnificently revived on Broadway, directed masterfully by Jack O’Brien. It stars, as the star-crossed lovers Julie Jordan and Billy Bigelow, Jessie Mueller (“Beautiful”) and Joshua Henry(“The Scottsboro Boys”).

And “Carousel” is sounding more blissfully like an opera than ever. with the largest, most opulently orchestrated orchestra (with a harp even!) I’ve ever heard on Broadway! Orchestrations by the great Jonathan Tunick and Musical Supervision by Andy Einhorn.

The legendary lyric soprano Renee Fleming is on hand, too. To make the point even more clearly that Rodgers and Hammerstein meant to break your broken heart even further with a celestial, moving “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

You can’t miss this one! All you musical  theatre romantics out there!. It will make you cry from the first chords of the wordless, long, lush overture that opens with the “Carousel Waltz ” as Santo Loquasto’s glittering cup-cake-like tiara of a shimmering crown descends to represent the top of this dizzying merry-go round, as Tony-winning choreographer, Justin Peck keeps his dancers flying, spinning through the air. You MUST ride their joyous Carousel with all these wonderful artists on it! It’s a joy ride of a revival that surprises and startles and blows you away over and over again. especially musically. Particularly if you think this is an over-familiar chestnut of a  score that has no surprises left to find. You’ll never be able to forget the sounds this magical musical makes..


As perfectly classical as this “Carousel” is in every respect, it is breaking ground thoroughly too with its casting of African-American Joshua Henry, who proves beyond a doubt that he is one of the best great baritones Broadway now has, but that also director Jack O’Brien’s color-blind casting gives this masterpiece even more depth and timeliness that it’s ever had.

Joshua Henry’s reluctant wooing of white Jessie Mueller seems a perfect match, and gives credence to the other small town New Englanders giving vent to their small-town New England prejudicial warnings to Julie Jordan(Mueller). Their constant put-downs of Billy Bigelow(Henry) now seems justified from the 19th century point of view. It reminds us that their admonishments of an inter-racial romance’s “ending will be sad” prove true  as the (spoiler alert) Second Act turns tragic.

Billy never thinks he’s good enough for Julie and events bare him out.

Joshua Henry brings down the house with a rage-full “Soliloquy,” turning it more powerfully dark than I’ve ever remembered it. When he sings he doesn’t want his unborn daughter “to be dragged up in slums with a lot of bums like me,” it is coming from a place of pain that Rodgers and Hammerstein never envisioned.

And Jessie Mueller is a revelation too, singing in a sweet coloratura soprano that we’ve never heard her use before. She’s always been a Broadway belting baby utilizing her killer voice in the lower veiled registers. She now shows that her vocal and emotional range is limitless. She also doesn’t shy away from the passion Julie is feeling that propels her to Billy. “What’s the Use of Wond’ring” which is often just a throw away, here becomes a life lesson. 

It is foreshadowing as she is joined in its sad, resigned tones as Mueller proves to be a true relation of Renee Fleming, who joins her in the song and agrees with her. And then on Billy’s horrifying death, a bloody one this time, when Fleming tells Mueller over Billy’s dying body “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” she shakes the heavens as well as the rafters with the celestial perfection of her legendarily, thrilling voice.

My only disappointment, and it was a big one, was that Tony Winner Lindsey Mendes was out the night I saw it. She was replaced by a very bland, super-white, uptight college girl, which is not what Carrie Pipperidge’s character is supposed to be at all. I disliked her so much I won’t even mention her name.

And SHE won the Tony? In THAT part? Ms. Mendes must’ve been terrific, because the massive achievements of Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller and Renee Fleming were world-class, unforgettable.

The excited audience applauded everything. The opening carousel appearance, and stopped almost every single number with rounds of applause also, WITHIN the song. I’ve never seen anything like it.

And last but not lost, Method Actress Margaret Colin proves that tasty, tacky, businesswoman/owner of the carousel, Mrs. Mullins demands and commands every single second of her stage time. She makes one wish she had more to do and even makes you think that SHE should have had a rousing song, too. I’ve never seen a “Carousel” with such a strong Mrs.Mullins. In Ann Roth’s flouncy, bouncy costumes, Colin’s virago becomes a diva.

I could see this “Carousel” over and over and over again, and I can’t wait til the next time I do!

Golden Globe Winner Sam Rockwell Rocks SNL!

Talk about timing! As the NBC promos all night were announcing before the show came on at 11:30 pm, that “red-hot Sam Rockwell” was hosting tonight’s show. Fresh off his surprise win at the Golden Globes on Sunday night, his garnering their Best Supporting Actor Award for “Three Billboards Outside Redding Missouri” was mentioned to maximum effect.

His best segment was his Opening Monologue which turned into a song and dance number ( yes, he can do both, and he’s a terrific dancer, too ) about how his award this week,( and by implication, his double win at the Critics Choice Award on Thursday night )  he sang how he’s  now gone from “A character actor to a leading man.” And this number hit just the right note of self-satire, and also  SNL’s clear championing of him in this happy moment of transition. He’ll no doubt be back there to host many, many more shows. And hooray for that!

I knew audiences knew he could play anything, act anything, and in “Three Billboards” he practically does.

But I’m sure he surprised many by singing and dancing and busting a move, as they say. Grabbing a top hat and cane and tapping off the tiny SNL stage into the audience, down the aisle and into the off-stage areas of NBC hallways, who have the room for all this action.

It concluded with him jumping on a camera crane and being hoisted aloft above the cheering, delighted crowd, as literally we all saw his star rising before us. It’s like SNL was determined to hand him an Oscar onstage. Which, by setting him up this way on the show as the host who was about to become a star, he BECAME a star literally right before our eyes. Bravo! Well done by all!

And good luck on next Sunday, Jan.21 at the SAG Awards where he again is up for his extraordinary performance in this extraordinary film.

Sam Rockwell 2

“Three Billboards” is also up for Best Ensemble and so he could actually win TWO SAG awards a week from Sunday night. It’s feeling like a coronation and I think it is.

Annette Bening’s Greatest Performance Yet in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”

Annette Bening, one of our most enduring film stars, is better than she’s ever been  in “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool” and in any other year the Oscar-less also ran would be awarded the Best Actress trophy for her astonishing portrayal of dying film star Glorida Graham.

Graham was a handful by all contemporary accounts, and was as tempestuous in real life as the characters she played in the movies. And she drank. She wasn’t Marilyn Monroe, a rival, but she did have her own Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “The Bad and the Beautiful.”What Annette Bening does here in this straightforward biopic is to bring us into Graham’s vulnerability as well as her thwarted talent, as the chain smoking she has been doing all her life begins to take its awful toll.

It’s in her last years that she begins to take on a May-December flirtation with this young, YOUNG man, the now-hunky and all grown-up “Billy Elliot” star Jamie Bell.

The setting is Liverpool, where my father and grandparents were from, and Annette as Gloria gets more and more involved with Bell to the point where he invites her home to his humble Liverpudlian abode where he introduces her to his caring, no-nonsense parents. His mother is played by the tremendous Julie Walter, who played the ballet teacher so memorably in “Billy Elliot.”

She and Gloria develop quite a warm friendship and Graham’s twenty year plus age difference doesn’t bother either of them, as it doesn’t matter to Bell.And this is all a true story! Based on the book by the actual young actor himself. Very “My Week with Marilyn,”

And then Gloria gets lung cancer and the film turns dark. And very moving as events build to their tragic inevitable climax.

Bening is convincing in every aspect of the doomed Graham’s life. It is her greatest performance, and in any other year, she would be finally awarded the Best Actress Oscar that has eluded her all her life. She’s been nominated four times!

This year, however, has seen a plethora of brilliant actresses storming the gates of AMPAS and there’s only five slots. Which seem destined to be taken by Sairose Ronan( Lady Bird),  Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Meryl Streep (The Post).

There’s that elusive fifth slot that Bening USUALLY would slide inevitably into but this year there are great performances like Kate Winslet’s in “Wonder Wheel” that might not make it. Margot Robbie of “I, Tonya” is supposed to be the fifth nominee, but I wonder…

Manola Dargis of “The New York Times” slammed her five ways to Sunday just today, so there MAY be room for Bening if Kate Winslet doesn’t slip into Fifth Position..

But if Annette Bening does get in here, her performance as Gloria Grahame, in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” is her best ever, she COULD win. There’s a great positive sentiment surrounding Bening. She’s made a success of her long-term marriage to Warren Beatty. That ALONE is worthy of a major award. AND she’s now President of the Academy itself. That could cut both ways. But Annette completely won me over. You’ll never be able to look at a Gloria Grahame film again without bursting into tears. As I did.

 

Exquisite “Indecent” Reprieved & Extended Through Summer!


Good, good news! What I think is the best play of the year “Indecent” is now being given a reprieve and an extension through Aug.2. A huge jump at the box-office made the producers decide to give it a run though the summer, hoping its’ two Tony Awards and great word of mouth will keeping reaping the rewards, it so justly deserved. And it was going to close on Sunday! Imagine its’ talented ensemble cast’s surprise! The two Tony awards,to Best Director of a Play, Rebecca Taichman and Best Lighting Design for the young lighting wizard Christopher Akerlind.

The Cort Theater on W.47th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue will continue to be where Rebecca Vogel’s masterpiece holds court.

Sadly “Indecent” Is First Tony Casualty

I’m so sad to report a play which I felt was one of the best of the year, if not THEE best, Paula Vogel’s beautiful lesbian musical play “Indecent” is closing on Sunday June 24.

It did win two Tonys, but it didn’t win the crucial Best Play of the Year Award.

Winner of two 2017 Tony Awards, INDECENT will play its final performance on Broadway on Sunday, June 25th at 3:00 PM at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.) At the time of closing, INDECENT will have played 79 performances and 15 previews. One of the most talked-about plays in the 2016-17 season following its debut last year at the Vineyard Theatre in NYC, INDECENT opened on Broadway April 18 and began previews on April 4. INDECENT marked the Broadway debuts of many of the artists involved in its creation, including playwright Paula Vogel, director Rebecca Taichman, choreographer David Dorfman and members of the cast and performing ensemble.

“We are so proud and honored to have had the opportunity to introduce Broadway to INDECENT and the remarkable talents of Paula Vogel, Rebecca Taichman and this exceptional company of actors and theater artists,” the play’s producers Daryl Roth, Elizabeth McCann and Cody Lassen state. “INDECENT has touched the hearts of theater-goers who have experienced the play’s magic at the Cort Theatre for the past three months, and we hope it will continue to do so as it is presented in theaters across in the U.S., Canada and overseas in the months ahead. INDECENT is story-telling in the theater at its very best, and we are grateful that this powerful story will live on.”

The production received Tony Awards for Rebecca Taichman, Best Director of a Play; and Christopher Akerlind, Best Lighting Design of a Play; along with the Outer Critics Circle Award and Obie Award for Outstanding Director of a Play (Rebecca Taichman) and the Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography (David Dorfman). Paula Vogel was honored with a Special Citation as playwright and mentor from the New York Drama Critics Circle, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Obie Awards. INDECENT has also been selected as Best Play by the Off-Broadway Alliance.

INDECENT will continue its life beyond Broadway as a number of theaters in the U.S. and internationally are scheduled to present licensed productions in their upcoming seasons, beginning with The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, this season, and The Huntington in Boston, and into next season with 20 productions anticipated at theaters in the following cities for 2018-2019:

Philadelphia, PA
Palm Beach, FL
Toronto, Canada
Kansas City, MO
Indianapolis, IN
St. Louis, MO
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Denver, CO
Montreal, Canada
Washington, DC
Seattle, WA
Sarasota, FL
Dallas, TX
Chicago, IL
Houston, TX
Portland, OR
Tucson, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Tel Aviv, Israel

A new play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive), created by Ms. Vogel and Rebecca Taichman, and directed by Ms. Taichman, INDECENT is about the love and passion to create theatre, even in the most difficult of circumstances. The play follows a troupe of actors, the cast of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, who risked their lives and careers against enormous challenges to perform a work in which they deeply believed, at a time when art, freedom and truth were on trial. It is a story told with compassion, honesty, but also with great theatricality, and joyous songs and dances.

The ensemble of INDECENT features Matt Darriau, Lisa Gutkin, Aaron Halva, Katrina Lenk, Mimi Lieber, Max Gordon Moore, Tom Nelis, Steven Rattazzi, Richard Topol and Adina Verson. The cast has – not unlike the theater troupe depicted in the play itself – been performing the play together for more than two years: during its development with the Sundance Theater Institute and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, followed by productions at Yale Rep, La Jolla Playhouse and the Vineyard Theatre, where INDECENT had its New York debut last summer.

The production also features Zoë Aqua, Ben Cherry, Andrea Goss, Eleanor Reissa, Uri Sharlin and Doug Wieselman.

INDECENT features music composed by Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva, who play onstage along with cast members throughout the show.

The production is choreographed by David Dorfman. Scenic design is by Riccardo Hernandez; costume design is by Emily Rebholz; lighting design is by Christopher Akerlind; sound design is by Matt Hubbs and projection design is by Tal Yarden.

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!

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