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Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

The Great Barbara Cook Passes at 89

The great, legendary chanteuse Barbara Cook has just passed at 89. The news also came yesterday that “Rhinestone Cowboy” Glen Campbell passed away the same day. And I am equally saddened to report that none of the New York Television News Programs reported on her death, while they sure reported on his. But we, her fans, and they are legion, will never forget Barbara Cook, and her lilting, great coloratura soprano. She brightened many lives…

Coming back in mid-life to a monumental career as a solo singer, Barbara Cook was a symbol of her surviving her
own demons, even her constant battles with the bottle and her weight. In mid-life, she began to live.

Originally known as the Broadway ingénue to end all ingenues in the 1950s, I did not realize for quite a while that she was that same, slim person, who  immortalized Marian in the Librarian in 1957 and won a Tony too.

The Music Man” had a huge impact on my life because it was the first Broadway show I ever saw. And I can remember every single minute of it to this day. It was branded into my mind. It was unforgettable. And Marian’s solos “Til There Was You,” “My White Knight,” “Being in Love” were just the sine qua non of romance. That’s what I thought life was going to be like.

Of course, the great lie of “The Music Man” was that love was nothing like that, but the fantasy of this romance has stayed with me forever.Barbara Cook 2

Barbara Cook’s triumphant return career symbolizes all that. She sang those signature songs in later life, and showed that her heart was broken by them too.

I saw her concertize more times than I can recall, but each performance was a jewel, and very, very touching. Coming back as she did right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic and coming to symbolize to so many who survived it, all their loved ones who were gone, was something I think she was very proud of.She became an icon to the AIDS-ravaged GLBT community.

Barbara Cook and her great beautiful all-encompassing voice and soul will be sorely missed. R.I.P. Barbara.

#Barbara Cook, #The Music Man

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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.”

 

 

 

 

Hollywood Reporter Says That Casting Conflab May Cause “Natasha, Pierre…” to Close

The esteemed Hollywood Reporter has now weighed in on the “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” casting controversy. As I feared in the last post, the Hollywood Reporter says “Casting Controversy May Cause ‘The Great Comet’ to Close Early.” http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/will-casting-controversy-hasten-closing-broadways-great-comet-1025196?utm_source=twitter

I was really afraid of this. Tragic. I feel terrible for all involved.

Casting Brouhaha Embroils “Natasha, Pierre…”

Much to my surprise there was a tweet in my in-box this morning from Josh Groban! I have to say that all his fans got this tweet, too, and it was all about “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”, the great show that he just departed on July 2. I read the whole twitter feed before I could get a handle on what happened. It’s very confusing. I’ve read Playbill.com now and Theatermania.com and you can, too, of course, and track this complicated story.

Seems that his replacement the actor whose nick name is Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan” of “Hamilton” was going to be replacing him in the role, but I did notice an ad touting Broadway veteran Mandy Patinkin’s taking it over for three weeks in August. And now it seems, he’s not. He’s backed out of it. There was “a social media uproar,” which I didn’t hear anything about until I got that frantic email from Josh himself. What was going on? Josh said, and you can read this on Twitter “It was handled poorly.”

Which I guess means that they, the producers, didn’t tell “Oak” that Patinkin was replacing him! And so soon.

And he took it rather badly, and announced, also on Twitter that he is now only performing the role of Pierre til the date Patinkin was supposed to take over. Except he’s not, Patinkin decided. Anyway, he’s leaving. “Oak” that is. In the meantime, composer David Malloy, who is perfectly adequate as Pierre, has been stepping in when needed, as has the perfectly acceptable understudy. They’re fine, but neither of them is Josh.

Long story short, I guess he wasn’t told about Patinkin’s coming in. And so soon. Makes me think that Groban leaving this expensive, huge, lavish show has been reflected at the box-office, so the producer’s thought “We need a star.”

Well, now this has caused such a Broadway brouhaha, I wonder if they’ll ever find ANYONE to step into Oak’s place. Nobody wants to  replace in a mess like this. I knew that there would be trouble when recording mega-star Groban left the show. But I didn’t think it would reach these proportions. This saddens me all ’round. And clearly Josh is sad about this, too  Josh was in the show for nearly a year. He fulfilled his contract. He won a Tony nomination for Best Actor and now he’s moving on. He’s never gotten any negative publicity like this before, to my knowledge.

Natasha, Pierre 20It’s my favorite show on Broadway. I’ve seen it four times. I hope it continues despite all this.

Marcel Pagnol’s Incredible “Marseilles Trilogy” now Delicious Boxed Set on Criterion

What a delicious, French, binge-watching treat is ahead for all those Francophiles out there, cineastes all, who may not yet be familiar with one of the seminal works of French cinema! It’s the maestro of maestros Marcel Pagnol’s magnificent “Marseilles Trilogy”. Critierion is now issuing a delicieux boxed set of all three films, “Marius”, “Fanny” and “Cesar,” plus a hefty “Supplementaire” disc and book, so by the end of enjoying this summertime delight, you, too, can feel you really ARE on the French Riviera, albeit in the 1930s and in black and white.

Over the course of the three, two hour-plus films, we become enthralled with the star-crossed love story of Marius and Fanny, as their thwarted tempestuous amour fou echoes down the generations of this vivid-cross-section of French MIDI life.  The MIDI of France is the southern part. And the accents and the behavior of Les Marseilliase are VERY different from the Parisiens up north. Even a character, Monsieur Brun, who is from Lyon, gets the raspberries for being stuck up and too bourgoise for the VERY working class souls who frequent Cesar’s Cafe de la Marin, where much of the action takes place and his dreamer of a son, Marius works for him as a bartender/waiter.

The larger than life Cesar is played to perfection by the legendary Raimu, who Orson Welles described as “the greatest actor of our time.” Coming from the music halls and burlesque world of the MIDI, Pagnol really “discovered” him by making him the central character of the Trilogy, and also giving him one of the greatest roles of his, or anyone’s lifetime. Sort of a French Jackie Gleason, he mesmerizes whether he is shouting at his wayward son Marius (Pierre Fresnay) or trying to placate the confused young Fanny (Orane Demazis). He dominates all he surveys.

The dashing Fresnay ( he pronounced it “Fray-nay”) became quite the huge French movie star after the incredible success of “Marius.” The great Raimu was worried about him, as Marius, though, because he was the only lead actor from “the North.” He was Alsatian. But Fresnay was a total perfectionist and studied the quirky Marseilles accent for months.

When the cast was rehearsing, he was missing for three weeks, says Pagnol, in an interview, chuckling at the memory. Fresnay was working as a waiter at a sea-side bar in Marseilles, just like his romantic character, who is torn between his love for the sea and for his Fanny. His Marius is totally believable and moving in every aspect. “I knew he would be great in the role, and he was!” says Pagnol smiling.

And Fresnay’s accent is perfection. I couldn’t tell. Sir Alec Guiness called him his “Favorite Actor.”Marseilles Post Card

Pagnol was the great pioneer of location shooting, so we become VERY familiar with the grande charme of Marseilles, here depicted as a fishing town that is growing and growing into the thriving seaport it would become. That Pagnol loved his home town and the brilliant actors and technicians all from the South of France is evident in every frame. He is the one who revealed them all to the world for the first time. People were stunned that there were such good actors from “the South” and that not all the talent in France was concentrated in Paris!

I was lucky enough to be in La Belle Marseilles once myself. When in the early ’80s I was actually at the Cannes Film Festival with a movie I was actually IN with Divine.(I was Miss Bronx) It was Andrew Logan’s “Alternative Miss World” and still ranks as my only feature film.

ANYwho- I lost my passport and had to go to the American Embassy in Marseilles which was a delightful train ride along the Riveria. I still remember the beautiful sunshine and the smell of the sea. Marseilles is really the seaport town to end all seaport towns. I remember the subway stop having a fish-tank/aquarium set beautifully right into the blue mosaic-tiled wall of the subway station. I had bouillabaisse for lunch. And I still remember it as being the best bouillabaisse I ever ate! Bien sur! It was in Marseilles!

Though this 4-disc + booklet box of joy is complete in every aspect of Pagnol’s incredible work, and Fresay and Raimu both get more than their due, I thought it odd that the petite jeune fille, Orane Demazis who played the heroine , Fanny, in this tres masculine world, was all but completely ignored. Turns out she was Pagnol’s mistress who actually bore him a child during the making of “Marius” and “Fanny”! How totally French!Marseilles Trilogy 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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