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Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

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!

CD of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet…”A Masterpiece Recording of a Masterpiece Musical!

The soon-to-be-released 2-disc CD of the Original Broadway Cast of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” is a masterpiece of recording of a masterpiece musical. I’m sorry, I just can’t stop the superlatives when talking about “Natasha, Pierre..” or as some call it “The Great Comet.” But whatever you call it, I predict it’s going to land like a bomb in the middle of TONY awards season. It’s due out May 19 and it will be flying off the shelves, like, well, like the great comet that it memorializes forever in this dazzling pop-opera spectacle that I’ve seen FOUR times and I can’t wait to see again!

Natasha, Pierre 22And yes, the magnificent lyric baritone of the legendary Josh Groban pierces through the massive ensemble and breaks your heart, with a vocal range we have barely heard him use before, especially thrilling in the darker, almost guttural, lower tones. Groban is turning into a consummate actor-singer right before our very eyes, and he has been selling out Broadway with this fiery, very avant-garde opera that challenge him at every step he takes and every note he sings and he meets the challenges magnificently..

And yes, I could see him singing at the Met one of these years. His voice just grows in depth and resonance in this incredible recording, as his performance as Pierre Bezukov has grown, too, since I first saw it. “Poor, bewildered Pierre, a warm-hearted Russian of the old school” sings the full-throated chorus, masterfully orchestrated by composer Dave Malloy. He was nominated for TWO Tonys, for his score and his orchestrations of it.

Natasha, Pierre 20Groban has two stunning solo numbers “Dust and Ashes” which ends his Act One and the title song, which ends the show. He is also singing throughout the entire score, with that pure, moving voice that is sometimes here almost a rock rasp. “What? What? WHAT?” he wails as his cousin Maria Demitryevka (the frightening Grace McLean) tells him some very alarming news indeed regarding his unrequited love, beautiful, young Natasha.

His Pierre is angry, frustrated, and almost always reading or drunk. He is married to “a bad wife”, the slinky, sensual Amber Grey as Helene.


She continues with this sensational role of “the slut”, wailing like a blues singer, belting out “Charmante,” wearing green furs and sequins, and sounding for all the world like a Russian Billy Holliday. As she helps seduce innocent Natasha, a better-than-ever Denee Benton, for her dissolute brother Anatole.Denee Benton 1

He is played to the hilt and beyond by Lucas Steele, who has also been with the show through all the years of its’ many peregrinations as has Amber Grey, McLean and many others. He actually has a larger role than Groban!Josh and Lucas

“Natasha, Pierre…” has had a grueling five year journey From the tiny Ars Nova theater Off-Off Broadway to the festive circus tent in the meat-packing district, where I first saw it. where they served dinner! They also went to Boston to the ART theater there. All the while under the stupendously inventive guidance of  director Rachel Chavkin. who is herself nominated for a Tony, too.

“Natasha, Pierre…” has now been nominated for TWELVE Tony Awards and I hope it wins all of them. Groban, Benton and Steele have all been nominated in their categories, but only Lucas Steele of the actors has won an award for the evil Anatole so far. He scored a prestigious Lucille Lortel Award.Lucas Steele 1Lucas Steele Lucille Lortel Award 1

In his category, Best Featured Actor in a Musical, he’s up against Broadway veteran Gavin Creel, who is a riot in “Hello, Dolly!” Both shows are mega-hits, but Steele’s Anatole is so dastardly, and also so devilishly handsome and sexy AND he plays the violin, having a wild solo as he fiddles away, preparing his plans to abduct the underage Natasha. He’s married already, and it’s a crime that he’s about to perpetrate. Yes, even in 1812 Moscow, he would be considered a criminal. and yes, this is all out of a tiny sliver of the 1000+plus-paged novel “War and Peace” from which this epic is adapted by the uber-talented Malloy.

This sliver is so epic…you can only imagine what the rest of Tolstoy’s classic novel is like. Believe it or not, I read it in the 8th grade. The other kids in the Bronx Catholic boys school I was doomed to,  made fun of me carrying his huge tome around with me for a year.

“Are you really reading all that?”

Yes, I was and I did, and I’m so glad now that I can say that I felt every inch a genuine Russian after reading it and especially seeing “Natasha, Pierre” FOUR times! And now this extraordinarily beautiful, tuneful, masterfully recorded treasure of a CD is coming soon! May 19! Remember that date!

I saw “NPATGCOE,” as the Internet might abbreviate, this last time, seated RIGHT ON THE STAGE! Every time you see it sitting in a different place in the wildly re-devised Imperial theatre,  it’s like seeing a different play! When you’re sitting on the stage itself, you feel like you are IN the play! The stage actually vibrates with the bass notes of the synthesizer that sometimes Josh Groban himself is playing in the pit of the orchestra. Which is stage center and completely unhidden.Natasha, Pierre Marquis

In fact, from his first entrance in front of a blinding blaze of  white lights, he is playing the accordion himself, and he rarely if ever leaves the stage.  Bespectacled Pierre is Tolstoy’s alter-ego. He is one of the first, modern anti-heroes. He is thoroughly depressive, a big Russian,
beaten-up bear of a character. And yes, he’s the hero of “War and Peace.”  Groban to his everlasting credit has totally immersed himself to the point of unrecognizability in his heroic, vanity free performance. He is wearing a fat suit. He now lumbers and growls and shuffles his considerable weight as a middle-aged man would. His long, thin fingers shake with what may be delirium tremens as in a man who drinks Way too much. His young brow is now furrowed, without any make-up.

You can hear this bear of a character that he is so perfectly portraying growling through the CD like a wounded animal. But like the maestro he is, Pierre’s voice, his howl of pain, is always also modulated and very, very beautiful.  And moving.Natasha, Pierre Broadway SetYou must hurry and buy it. I predict it will be a best seller, the first Broadway recording and the best maybe ever. It could go platinum in five minutes. And go see Groban live and onstage before he leaves the show forever in July. He’s entitled. He’s been packing them in on Broadway, for nearly a year, revitalizing it and don’t even get me started on Mimi Lien’s transformative set and the wild, magnificent lighting of Bradley King! Both also nominated for Tonys. I hope they all win!

I also have to add that there seems to be a thousand-voiced choir, an epic number of voices that call themselves “The Great Comet Singers” who are pictured in the CD program and contribute to the amazing sound and rhythm of “Balaga” and “The Abduction.” They are also credited as “Shakers.” Because the audience was all given egg-shaped shakers to increase the beat of the delirious troika ride to end all troika rides in Act Two. Yes, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet” of 1812 will abduct you, too. Your heart, I mean. You’ll never think of musicals the same way again.

Lucas Steele & Denee Benton 1
#Natasha, Pierre, # The Great Comet of 1812, #Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 # Josh Groban, #Lucas Steele, #Tony Awards, #Denee Benton, #Russia, #War and Peace

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

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
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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