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Posts tagged ‘Best Actress’

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

“La La Land” Wins Both Music Awards, “Manchester” wins Best Original Screenplay

city-of-stars“La La Land” wins two more making four so far. Best Song “City of Stars” and Best Score. And now Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are presenting Best Original Screenplay. I hope it’s “Manchester by the Sea”!

And It is!!!!!

casey-lucasTHRILLING!!!!

And “Moonlight” wins Best Adapted Screenplay.  Lots of Applause. A very popular choice. And it’s a Gay Movie. Who woulda thunk it?

It’s won two. The same as “Hacksaw Ridge”. Now the big awards are upon us.

Halle Berry, looking younger than ever, but with an awful Afro, giving out Best Director.

Damien Chazelle, the youngest Best Director in Oscar history, just won Best Director. So that’s five so far. It’s only going to win two more, if I’m right Actress and Picture.

First time an American director has won in YEARS, believe it or not.

 

 

Live Blogging the Oscars! First up, Lucas Hedges!

lucas-hedges-oscarlucas-hedges-shaved-headlucas-hedges-manchesterLive Blogging the Oscars has begun! I never start this early! It’s barely 6pm EST, but Supporting Nominee Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea” just gave the first speech of the evening to Sandy Kenyon of ABC.

Lucas was in full head-shaved mode for his hit Off Broadway play “Yen.” His trade-mark red-hair was completely gone. He was rocking an out-sized but chic, black bow-tie and traditional tux and he told Kenyon straight off “I don’t think I’m going to win.” But quickly added “The Nomination is the Win.” And compared it to riding on a roller-coaster and that his car had to go through three security/bomb searches on this way it. “They were all dressed up”(the Security men) like they were in Robo-Cop. It’s crazy.” And Kenyon wanted to know how it felt to be nominated for the Oscar at age 20. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m here.”

Newsflash! Not! Natalie Portman of “Jackie, up for Best Actress, isn’t coming tonight, “because of her pregnancy.” Which didn’t stop her from coming six years ago, when she was also pregnant, and nominated for “Black Swan” which she won. She probably knew she wasn’t going to win this time. Nothing’s going to stop Emma Stone in “La La Land.” So Portman didn’t want to show up,  pregnant, and lose.

She got to the Golden Globes alright. But she did look very large.natalie-portman-pregnant#Oscar Red Carpet

#Lucas Hedges

#Natalie Portman

Final Final Oscar Predictions. It’s All La La

emma-stoneThese are my final FINAL Oscar Predicitons in the major categories. It’s still “La La Land” and I know it bares repeating or maybe it doesn’t. It’s been as David Poland told Sasha Stone “an open and shut season.” It’s been “LLL” ever seen it was first seen at Telluride and Toronto. It’s seems only the extremely popular “Hidden Figures” could upset, if anything. But “La La” is going to win A LOT of awards come Sunday night. I might be live blogging it, but then again I might not. We’ll see.

But Emma Stone seems unstoppable as of course does Viola Davis. And if anyone is going to upset it’s Mashershala Ali of “Moonlight”, it’s the  surging Dev Patel of “Lion.” He won BAFTA. He could easily win here.

dev-patel-5

Damien Chazelle will win Best Director for “La La Land.” Like Viola Davis, he’s won everything else.

The real nail biter is going to be Best Actor between Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the  Sea” and Denzel Washington for “Fences.” It could go either way. Denzel won the Tony for this when he did it onstage on Broadway and also with Viola who won a Tony, too.

But he has two Oscars already. Are they ready to admit DW to the three time winners club which only has four people in it. Daniel Day Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Katherine Hepburn? I wonder.

I hope it’s Casey Affleck essaying a much more difficult and indelible part in “Manchester by the Sea.” He’s won 40 Best Actor Awards and has just won the BAFTA,  as did Emma, Viola and Dev. BAFTA is very influential. I’d vote for Casey, as I’ve said a million times this season.casey-on-boat-2

#Final Oscar Predictions

#Casey Affleck

#Dev Patel

#Emma Stone

#La La Land

#Manchester by the Sea

#Fences

#Dev Patel

#Lion

What the BAFTAs MAY do to Oscar 2016?

Sad BaftaBAFTAS 2016 1What will be the BAFTAS effect on Oscar this year? It may be more than ever. The nominations for BAFTA(the British Academy Awards equivalent) are fewer, only five, in the Best Picture race. And though the British themselves are trying to align their awards with ours, more and more each year, the EFFECT they have on wavering Oscar voters stateside is monumental….Sometimes…And sometimes it’s the undecided votes  that determine the winner, especially in a close year like this in the acting categories.

Of COURSE, “La La Land” is going to win Best Picture. It’s as popular there as here. So let’s table that discussion right now, shall we? The other nominees are the British film “I, Daniel Blake”(no), and the American films “Manchester by the Sea”, “Arrival” and “Moonlight” and I don’t see any of those upsetting LLL, as it’s known on the Interwebs.

oscars-2017-3There IS a overlap from BAFTAs membership to AMPAS, estimated at a voting block of about 600. This becomes a crucial indicator when there is a close-as-close-can-be race. Like this year’s Best Actor. Casey Affleck will win this. And what you say? Denzel Washington isn’t even nominated! Yes, that’s right. And so isn’t “Fences” whose sole nominee is Viola Davis in Supporting. And you heard it here first folks, remember that. VIOLA MAY NOT WIN HERE!naomie-harris-1

It may be Brit star Naomi Harris, who was so strong and touching as the drug-addicted mother in “Moonlight.” Brits win here. It’s their awards after all. And the same goes for “Moonlight”s Mahershala Ali, who is most definitely going to win the Oscar in the Supporting Category, but also, not necessarily in Britian. It may very well be British Indian actor Dev Patel who is nominated for the Weinstein Co.’s “Lion.”lion-2I still think that USA favorites Ali and Davis will prevail in Supporting states-side. But just watch what happens if wins for Naomi Harris and Dev Patel occur in London on Sunday. And Casey Affleck wins Best Actor there. As will Emma Stone in Best Actress(They love “La La”).

The complete absence of “Fences” at the BAFTAs (esp. if Viola Davis Loses!) may mess with the perceived momentum of that movie.

So with POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT-than-the-SAG winners, Harris and Patel and no Viola, and Denzel not even nominated, it just MAY, I say, MAY insure that the brilliant portrayal of Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” continues on to win his BIG ONE as pre-ordained by the NYFCC, the National Board of Review, The Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes and every other critics’ group awards across the country.

Denzel was brilliant on Broadway, but in the screen version, he directed himself, and that was his big mistake. The movie seemed LONNGGGER than the stage version. Why? Because he kept pausing and dragging out EVERY SINGLE SYLLABLE til yes, indeed Viola Davis’ Rose DID seem like a Supporting performance. Every line was had an exclamation point at the end of it. A nd every close-up of himself was just held too long. That’s what makes a picture extend itself in time and wears out its’ welcome.

So enjoy your trip to the London stage, Casey. You gave the better performance, the Best Performance of the year. BY A MILE. As a lonely alcoholic janitor, who is tortured by his tragic past, his Lee Chandler is indelible, unforgettable.

casey-affleck-ad

And once upon a time, he appeared in a Kenneth Lonergan play in London to great acclaim, so they love him already in Blighty.

And most important of all, after the BAFTAS occur on Sunday, on Monday, (at last!) the Oscar voting OPENS! And most people send in their ballots IMMEDIATELY, especially now that they can do it electronically.

#Casey Affleck, #BAFTA, #Manchester by the Sea, #Predictions # Denzel Washington # Fences # Viola Davis # Oscars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL SAG Predictions! Each Film Will Win ONE Award

manchester-by-the-sea-92-emma-stonesI have to get this out as soon as possible. It’s SUCH a cut and dried year that it’s almost like typing blindfold. OF COURSE, Casey Affleck is going to win Best Actor tomorrow night at the SAG Awards. He’s won everything else. And it IS a great affecting performance that stays with you. It is also the most courageous depiction of grief I’ve ever seen in a major motion picture. He’ll win here because I think the SAG ensemble prize is going elsewhere. No, it’s not the 14 time Oscar nominee “La La Land”. It wasn’t even nominated!

But I think it’s leading lady, Emma Stone will win Best Actress. If they like “La La Land” and evidently they do, Emma in Best Actress is the only place they can vote for LLL. The same with “Manchester”. Casey Affleck will win big, because it’s not possible to vote for him or “Manchester by the Sea” anywhere else in this group of Awards.

Also, remember it’s a VERY American voting body. It’s the Actor’s of America voting so foreigners need not apply.

Viola Davis is the most mortal of locks for Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.” She’ll repeat her Broadway triumph here.

It’s a little trickier as we go on. So far we have one for “Manchester by the Sea”, Casey Affleck and one for “La La Land” Emma Stone, We have one for “Fences” which will be Viola Davis.

Then we run into the problem so who will win Best Supporting Actor. Will it be Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” or Patel for “Lion”? Given that I think SAG is in a -spread-the-wealth mood. If Mahershala wins for his compassionate drug dealer then “Moonlight” won’t also win Best Ensemble. They might want to give “Moonlight” Best Ensemble(and it truly IS an ensemble). Then another actor of color would win Supporting which would be Dev Patel. If they liked “Lion” and the Weinsteins, this is the only category where they can vote for him.

So, if early in the evening, Patel wins in Supporting, then you can be sure that “Moonlight” will walk away with ensemble

But if it’s Mahershala Ali, who wins then the top award, their version of Best Picture, will go to another racially themed film, the box-office blockbuster “Hidden Figures” which has been surging during the voting period.

So therefore SAG will feel they’ve been fair to all. “Everyone has won and all  shall have prizes” cried the Dodo in “Alice Through the Looking Glass.

#SAG Awards #Final Predictions, #Casey Affleck, #Best Actor, # La La Land

 

 

 

 

Emma Stone Wins Best Actress Musical/Comedy!!!Gives Beautiful Another Beautiful Speech.

la-la-emma-1Emma Stone just won Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy/Musical for “La La Land” and gave ANOTHER beautiful speech about being creative and having hope, which she says is what “La La Land” is all about. And it is. She was utterly lovely and if that wasn’t a solid gold audition for an Oscar, I don’t know what is.

Not sure about that dress, though. Barely there on top, with an extremely plunging neckline, it was incredibly sparkly, as were most of tonight’s fashions, going by so fast, and with so much shine to them, all I can really remember is that Viola Davis was wearing yellow. And wearing it very well. Now the last big awards are coming up! At last!

#Golden Globes

#Emma Stone

#La La Land

#Best Picture Comedy/Musical

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