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Archive for the ‘Off Broadway’ Category

There’s Hardly Any Time Left Now! Trying to Save My Early Plays, TV shows


This logo pic was taken in 2009 on the rooftops of Provincetown.Boy, do I miss P-town! I wasn’t able to go again this year because this situation described below with my storage room has been happening and now as the days dwindle down, I grow more and more in despair that my life, well my early life, as a young gay playwright will be lost. I never thought this would happen to me. It’s like being cut-in-two. 

Here’s a link to my GoFundMe page ~ https://www.gofundme.com/save-my-early-plays-amp-tv-shows

I’ve paid all along every month since I had to move into there in 1996 when the rent was considerably lower than the $427 a month that it is now. And I still continue to pay it, but there was always a late fee accrued which they are now demanding and it’s 1500 and they want the whole amount. All my writings and early TV shows(1988 to 1996 are in there.

 

My writing dates back to the ’60’s when I started keeping a diary, which is also in there and my journals from the Warhol years and the many, many tapes I made about Candy Darling. Talking to hundreds of people after she died for a book that still has yet to be written (by me). A chronicle of the Warhol years, my life as a drag queen. Letters from when I acted with Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company, then went to try to be an actor and playwright in London for three and a half years. All this will be lost…

Please help.

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Happy Fourth of July!


Happy Fourth of July to all my dear readers, dear cineastes and lovers of theatre all! And now donors, too! Thank you! I’m at $575 still nowhere near the $1500 sum needed. Go to GoFundMe. com and type my name in the search box, and it all will com up. Thank you advance!

“Three Billboards…” Superlative, explosive, knockout, lots of Nominations, but Sam Rockwell may be its only winner.



“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” is one of the best films of this rich year. For once, the awards hype is justified. It’s a thrill ride through the unimaginable violence that plagues the small town of Ebbing, Missouri after a young girl is raped, as she is murdered, then set on fire. “Three Billboards…” is going to set the Awards season on fire, too. It will get many,many nominations.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are giving the performances of their careers, but I feel it’s Rockwell who’s going to carry home the gold. He’s been put in the category of Best Supporting Actor, though he’s arguably the co-lead. And he’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG award. As has Frances, as has McDonagh.

I’ve been following Sam’s career since he was an Off Broadway actor, and he’s certainly a veteran now and has a role that is thrilling in its range and demands. As a small town cop, he has to be funny. He has to be a bit of a stooge and a stumblebum. And when the film turns dark, he has to go there, too,Oscar Winner Frances McDormand ( For “Fargo”) deserves the accolades that have been accruing to her powerful Mildred Hayes, the mother of the murdered girl. In a totally vanity-free performance, she dominates the screen so powerfully that you’ll never forget that clenched teeth, firmly set jaw, that uncompromised stare as she tries to find out who killed her teenaged daughter.

She astonishes in this film as a woman who can’t smile. She puts up these three billboards in a part of town where her daughter was killed accusing the police of doing nothing to find her the killer. And grief is making her look like a death’s head herself.Everyone in this town seems cut from the cloth of the Confederacy to put it mildly. And any of them could have done it. Especially a member of the Police Force.

Woody Harrelson is once again on hand to provide a firm grounding in ominous white cracker-dom at the outset. His battle with terminal cancer forms the second plot line that I won’t spoil here. But he’s great, too. Both he and his co-hort Rockwell, are both headed to the Oscars, and so is McDormand.But I wonder if the totally de-glammed McDormand is going to be any match for the younger and more comely superstars like Soirse Ronan. Sally Jenkins of “The Shape of Water” is more sympathetic and she’s mute. So Frances has some fierce competition in that category. She’s uncompromising. She’s great. But she has an Oscar already and Saoirse and Sally and even Michelle Williams or Annette Bening are all Oscar free…so far…Three Bill Boards 10

But ah! There is that Oscar golden moment for Frances when she encounters a free-ranging doe when she is tending a flowerbox she has placed near her dead daughter’s billboards. The look they share, eye to eye, female to female animal, is one of the few moments we see Mildred smile in this corrosive movie, you will NOT be able to stop thinking about.

Also the thrilling depths and layers that McDonagh has given Rockwell to play. He starts out as a crispy-crème, donut-chomping bigot. But he CHANGES. I can’t say how, but in the creation of Dixon, a co-lead to McDormand’s angry Mildred, he matches her beat for beat in VERY unexpected and powerful ways. He lives at home with his mother, who is always drunk. The Dear Readers of this blog can infer more…But what a complicated, stupendous role he’s written for Rockwell, who has never had a part this good since he debuted to much acclaim in “Box of Moonlight” in 1996. Unbelievably this prince of American actors has never even been nominated for an Oscar. Yet.

Even writer-director Martin McDonagh has an Oscar for a short he did. He’s certainly going to get a double nomination for both directing and original screenplay, and he’s going to up against Girl-Of-the-Hour Greta Gerwig in both categories for “Lady Bird.”

It’s going to be a very suspenseful Oscar night indeed. But I feel “Three Billboards” is such an IMPORTANT film, that they are going to give it Something Big, and that Something may very well be Sam Rockwell. as the irascible, temperamental, complicated drunk of a cop. That’s just him in the FIRST half of “Three Billboards…” The twists are UNBELIEVABLE, and it’s Sam’s character who gets to play all that juicy jazz as the plot and his character’s place in it unravel. He’s all but unbeatable. What a range McDonagh has allowed him to show!

The ubiquitous and wonderful Lucas Hedges, Oscar nominee of “Manchester by the Sea” is here, too, as McDormand’s bewildered, but compassionate son. In a moment of peak at the breakfast table, she lobs Fruit Loops at him.

He’s in “Lady Bird,” too as Saoirse Ronan’s high school boyfriend. And Peter Dinklage perks up the last third of the film as the town’s only human, a small person who is not small inside,   a midget, who befriends and helps McDormand in her fight against the lacksadaisical,  if  not downright indifferent, police “force.”

 

Their dinner date is a superb piece of comic timing. Yes,”Three Billboards” is darkly funny, too. This tragic tale of loss and corruption has an excellent sense of humor, too. In fact, it made me feel like I was watching a new Coen Brothers movie. The resemblance to their black humor and influence is definitely wonderfully there.

Irish playwright par excellence McDonagh, has fully made the unbelievable transition to American crime filmmaker. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” thrilled me to my core with its wit, drama and intense originality.

Sam Shepherd Passes;I Debuted as an Actor in His “Melodrama Play” at LaMama

La Mama Ellen Stewart

I made my theatrical debut at La Mama in a Sam Shepherd play called “Melodrama Play.” It’s little known, and I’ve never seen another production of it. The late genius actor/director Seth Allen convinced Ellen Stewart, La Mama herself, to let him have his own company of actors at La Mama, in the heady early ’70s and he called it The Star Car. I was working the box-office at the time and became quite the La Mama fixture for a while.La Mama ext.1

Ellen was a legend even then. She had practically jump-started the Off-Off Broadway movement herself, with her Café La Mama in the ’60s. And Sam Shepherd was a main part of her early success. She adored him. He was one of her “babies.” And Seth Allen was, too.

Sam Shepherd was already a produced star and considered a major American playwright by the time I landed in “Melodrama Play” in 1971. With Seth Allen directing. It was as campy as all hell, and two go-go dancers in cages onstage and in and above the audience added to this outre effect ,and I sure did as Cisco, a hippie with my hair in a huge red-orange ‘fro ( I had hair then ). I was supposed to, per Seth’s direction giggle and laugh all the time. And yes, I was also in hot-pants, cut off jeans, and a skinny T-shirt. There’s a picture of this somewhere and I’ll publish it some day.

 

Young San Shepherd 1

It was the last thing in the world, I think, that Sam expected to see his play done like – this a transgender mini-extravaganza.

Seth had a history with it. He had toured Europe with La Mama E.T.C. in a VAN that was called “the star car” by its inhabitants, and I think Melodrama Play was one of the plays they did, hence Seth’s affection for it.

It was thrilling to do, and I remember meeting the EXTREMELY handsome young playwright at the cast party after opening night, and he looked at me a bit bewildered. He didn’t know what to say, initially. I don’t think he ever thought of this character as gay, but I certainly played it that way, and the audience loved it. It was quite the debut.

And Sam just looked at me with this perplexed expression and after a pause, said, “Good.”

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Susan Haskins & Theatertalk!

Now that’s it’s been publicly announced on the air on PBS tonight on Theater Talk, I can say congratulations to Susan Haskins for winning (her first) Emmy! And she graciously and generously thanked me for introducing her to “the brilliant and impossible Michael Riedel” and she called me a “Public Access Legend.” And the Susan Haskinsterm has stuck. Which has very kind of her.
I now wear a hat that a kind friend gave me for my birthday that says “Public Access Legend”.

Susan, born and bred in Chicago, attended to Sarah Lawrence college. After graduation, she went immediately to La Mama, where she became part of her two gay professors, John Braswell and Wilford Leach’s E.T.C. company, which did experimental musicals based on classics.

She appeared Off Broadway in their “Bar That Never Closes” at the Astor Place Theater, and in my first play “The Babs ‘n’ Judy Show” were I presciently cast her in the role of a TV Director.

Later in her career, she became a casting director, and was a regular book-reviewer and co-hostess on my long-running (30 years! and counting) cable access television show “The Stephen Holt Show.”
There’s almost no woman who. against all odds/ has done so much for American Theater. She’s been doing it for 25 Years.
Especially when there’s so little coverage of theater anymore in NYC. She’s doing what Ed Sullivan used to do. Congratulations, Susan!

 

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.

amber-grey

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

Rejoice! “Spamilton”s Sparklingly Funny CD Is Out! & The Show Is STILL running!

Rejoice, Musical Theater Lovers! And Haters, “Spamilton”s hilarious new CD is out! Yes! The Original cast in its’ entirety has been captured forever, affording devotees of the Maestro of Mirth Gerard Alessandrini, the ability to listen to his witticisms puncture that OTHER Maestro of the Musical Moment, Lin-Manuel Miranda & his monsterpiece “Hamilton” Things were so out of control last season that when the show opened , I mean, when “Spamilton” opened, and I saw it last fall, that other show “Hamilton”, it was literally eating Bway alive. Other shows were closing (“Shuffle Along” for one for instance) with lines of overnight campers-out literally littering W. 46th St. All hoping desperately to get a returned ticket. As is a  surprise character in the show is…but more on her later…

Things aren’t quite so desperate now. “Hello Dolly” is now the hottest ticket in town. And all of the original cast of “Hamilton” is gone off to Hollywood, or wherever, to be rich. Lin-Manuel himself is shooting “Mary Poppins” for Disney. I don’t know how that’s going to work out. Emily Blunt as Mary herself may save it.

We’ll see, Mary Dugan.

But in the meantime, if you STILL can’t get $800 tickets to “Hamilton” itself, “Spamilton” will do very nicely. And is a fraction of the price. It’s still at the snug Triad night club on W.72nd Street. And the CD is great! And even cheaper!  I can’t stop playing it! And laughing! Here’s a link to my original review from last fall.

https://stephenholtshow.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/spamilton-hilarious-brilliant-hamilton-spoof-off-broadway-at-the-triad/

It seems marvelously effusive in retrospect, but I still stand behind every superlative! And the cast has changed at the Triad. Only the wonderfully vermin-like Dan Rosales as Lin-Manuel and Chris Anthony Giles as the frustrated Leslie Odom as Aaron Burr(“I wanna be in the film, when it happens!) are still in it. But the new cast-members are just as hilariously versatile as the originals and they sing the range-y score magnificently.

Tristan J. Shuler as Daveed Diggs looks so much like the actor he replaced, I thought it was the same person! And he seems to just love rocking his jockeys off in “I Kill My Friends in My Underwear!” And Larry Owens is also a doppelgänger for his predecessor, playing Stephen Sondheim (yes, he’s in it, too) as Yoda. Sort of. And Ben Franklin. (Everybody in history is in this!)

I had the privilege of witnessing the performance of pint-sized Claudia Yanez playing ALLLLLL the females in the show, and I thought “Understudy! Uh-Oh!” But she was astounding, and fresh as a daisy. With a voice that could project all the way to Bayonne!

I’m also happy to report that the Playkill Program has been upgraded to allow me to include a strong mention that the amazingly adept and funny choreography on the dime-sized Triad stage is by Gerry McIntyre (“Thighs Up”!), and the just-right costumes are by Dustin Cross. Gina Kreiezermar is “Guest Diva”who does so well imitating Bernadette Peters, and Liza Minelli (among others) crying, disguised as a homeless woman who enters from the audience “Tickets. I need tickets! For a desperate diva!” to the music of the Beggar Woman from “Sweeney Todd.”

And I can now give fulsome credit to the zany, wonderful Glenn Bassett as the Queen of Broadway, who plays Jonathan Groff as the campy King George III to a T and remarks that his number is really the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” as he leads the audience in a rousing chorus of “Gay, gay, gay, GAY!”

Lin-Manuel himself has been to see it TWICE! And is quoted as saying,

“I laughed my brains out!”

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