a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘James Earl Jones’

Comic Diva Julie Halston Camps Up a Storm at the Drama Desk

Julie HalstonLegendary Comic Diva Julie Halston camps up a storm as usual at the Drama Desk Nominee Press Reception where she was nominated for her hilarious turn as a falling-down-drunk Gay Wellington. In Kaufman & Hart’s 1930s comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” which was revived this past season starring James Earl Jones.

Camera ~ Jason Bohbot

Magnificent August Wilson Doc on PBS tonite at 9!

August WilsonDon’t miss the superb American Masters doc on the late playwright August Wilson tonight on PBS at 9pm! It’s one of their best ever, and they are always good, and usually better than good. But this one really lives up to the Masters title.

And I knew August. And saw him constantly in my days up at the Yale Rep when I was filming my TV show “The Stephen Holt Show” which in those days had the sub-heading “Onstage, America!” because we traveled at the time to Regional Theaters all over the country. And still do.

I always ran into August backstage in the Green Room of the Yale Repertory Theater, and he was always smiling. The happiest, widest smiles, with dark eyes that danced. He seemed in those moments one of the happiest men I’ve ever met.

And why shouldn’t he have been? His plays were being done, one right after the other under the direction of the legendary director Lloyd Williams, who was also the artistic director of the Yale Rep and Dean of the Yale School of Drama at that time.

I never saw him in less than an upbeat moment. And when he was first pointed out to me, that THAT indeed was the great African-American playwright, I couldn’t believe it, because he didn’t look black at all, and also he looked like a journalist or a producer.

This great documentary American Masters — August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand — is premiering nationwide tonight, this Friday, February 20 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) in honor of the 70th anniversary of Wilson’s birth, 10th anniversary of his death and Black History Month, and available on DVD February 24 from PBS Distribution.

Directed by Emmy and Peabody-winner Sam Pollard (When the Levees Broke; Slavery by Another Name), the first documentary about the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning playwright who chronicled the 20th-century black experience explores his life and legacy. James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne, Viola Davis, Charles Dutton, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, new dramatic readings and rare footage tell the story of “America’s Shakespeare.”

The scenes from Wilson’s 100 year cycle of American plays, one for each decade are marvelously well represented here by all parties. I’d seen most of them, eight of the ten to be exact either on Broadway or at the Yale Rep when they were on their way to Broadway.

And I was very, very fortunate to have the late Lloyd Richards as my acting teacher one summer at the Univeristy of Rhode Island, so I felt particularly effected seeing him live again through his work and discovery of August, his great protegee, and this doc reveals for the first time, I think, just why this great creative team ruptured.

And director Sam Pollard doesn’t flinch with the hard-hitting details. I was riveted from start to finish, and particularly was moved by Phylicia Rashad’s portrayal of the 300-hundred-year old African-America woman who symbolized slavery in a monologue of “Gem of the Ocean.”

This high school drop out wrote many, many great plays in a life that was ended by cancer, just like my friend David Carr, in his 50’s and too soon, too soon.

DON’T MISS IT!

Second Half of Live-Blogging the Tonys!

9pm- The Second Half of the Tonys. They’ve hardly given out any awards and all the musical numbers have really, embarrassingly tanked. Oh, except Neil Patrick Harris’ Opening Number.

Best Featured Actress in a Musical! Nikki M. James! She’s hysterical crying!I am so THRILLED for her! She became a true star in that moment and this incredible, tearful speech!  The crowd! Goes! Wild! NOW SHE’s the WINNER of the night! Totally Surprised, she couldn’t stop crying! Very moving! I’m over the moon for her! I told her she would win! The Oscar messenger strikes again! You can go to see me telling her so  at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Andrew Rannells brings down the house with “Book of Mormon’s “I Believe!” a wise choice, because it’s just a solo, so no crowded chorus bumping into each other. Rannells was better tonight than he even was in the show! And they said “Fuck” at one point! And of course it got bleeped! But they said it! IOW, they did the show as it was actually performed. The Melissa Leo effect.

9:18 PM – Brooke Shields got bleeped ! John Larroquette! Wins Best Featured Actor in a Musical!

9:21 Now, Bono and the Edge. What are THEY going to do??? Bono “We used to be members U2” Yikes! They mention the NY Post! Michael Riedel must’ve just jumped through the roof of the press room! “We just wanted to keep the excitement level high at the New York Post!” Lolol…Longest intro of the night! They sound apologetic. OH NO! They are going to do a number from “Spiderman” Oy!…Boring…OMG! The number was as boring as their intro! I haven’t seen it yet, but that’s their best number? At least it was just a duet, so no stumbling. No bodies falling. That was a very bad song, not well done. Ugh! I’m not looking forward to seeing this monstrosity. “Inept” is what Michael Riedel kept saying on “TheaterTalk” and yes, that’s exactly what that number was…”If theWorld Should End” If only that song would end. Oh! It finally did.

My battery ran out.

But I’m back ~ 10:04 ~ “War Horse” just won Best Play. 😦

Wish a play with great PLAYWRITING in it had won…My Tony Predictors Scott Siegel and Sherry Eaker got this right on my TV show. We also got Best Revival of a Play, “Normal Heart” right. “The Motherfucker With A Hat” which hasn’t won anything so far, was robbed.

Larry Kramer moved me to tears with his beautiful SHORT speech. “Our day will come”….He really did the right thing. Short, sweet. Memorable. I’ll never forget it.

The musical numbers have been getting better.

10:11pm- “Anything Goes” probably just won the remaining awards with their concluding tap number that was very well done. Nobody bumped into each other.

But it’s now heading towards the 45 min. mark. Time left, I mean. I can’t believe I’m counting the time til it’s over.

Patina Miller shined it on with her choir of jiving and jumping nuns….They’ve really set up Sutton Foster to win…:( Still thinks she’s miscast as Reeno Sweeney, the bawdy barfly who’s the famous lead in “Anything Goes.” Ethel Merman haunts that role, those songs, those long-held notes. Patti Lu Pone was DIVINE in the ’80s revival at Lincoln Center, when it wasn’t THREE EFFING hours long, as it is now!

Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones just got a standing ovation. What are they doing here tonight? Oh, introducing an embarrassingly fast montage of scenes from EVERY SINGLE PLAY that opened on Broadway this year! Even “Elling”!?!?

10:24pm ~ Neil Patrick Harris does a VERY good rendition of “Company/Side by Side” with Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert and Martha Plimpton in his chorus! Embarassing for Patti…

Best Revival of a Musical “Anything Goes” Boo! I enjoyed “How to Succeed” MUCH better. It was simply better done. “The truly magnificent Sutton Foster”…???? The passable, just OK Sutton Foster is more like it. Sheesh! Poor Patina!

Best Actress in a Play! Frances McDormand! In a jean jacket! I predicted this and so did Sherry Eaker. “I love my work!” No make-up a red-and-black striped dress under the jean jacket. I always heard she was a biker. This is her in her no bull-shit biker chick mode. She names and thanks every single member of her cast. Sincere. She burns a serious hole in the screen. Good for her. And she didn’t say “F**k” to do it, Melissa…

And Sutton Foster wins Best Actress, as expected and she reveals she’s going out with Bobby Cannavale! OMG! She breaks out crying thanking her dresser, “who’s leaving me” cries, sobs “AND IT’S A GOOD THING!” Well, if she’s with BC now…I’ll have to hold out hope for her, as an actress. I did totally like her in “The Drowsy Chaperone” and also “Young Frankenstein” but her Reeno Sweeny is more like Judy Moody.

God! What if it’s Bobby who wins Best Actor? As I predicted! Then they would be the first couple to win Tonys in the Same Night? Bobby has been right, front and center all night in the shots and cut-aways and he talked about “The Motherfucker with a Hat.” He’s a great actor. Period.

Paul Shaeffer of the David Letterman show introduced the original songstress of “It’s Raining Men” which he, I forgot, wrote. He comes out and this leads in to FINALLY a number from “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” which FINALLY won one award, Best Costumes, for the same two dazzling designed who won an Oscar for the same category.

Mark Rylance wins Best Actor in a Play. An incoherent speech about walking through walls.  Yuck. Sherry Eaker got this right, too! Bobby Cannavale and Al Pacino and Joe Mantello both lost to this jerk. Why? Why? Why? He’s not even the most famous person in this category. I guess his earlier performance in “La Bete” impressed the Tony Voters. That was earlier this season.

Norbert Leo Butz wins Best Actor in a Musical. Sherry Eaker and Scott Siegel BOTH got this right, too. Nice speech. Norbert’s second Tony. Also the second Tony in recent memory for Mark Rylance. Guess the Tonys just do NOT vote like the Oscar voters do, and take previous wins into account AGAINST the nominee. Like for instance, this year with Geoffrey Rush losing for “The King’s Speech” basically, I think, because he already won in the Best Actor category for “Shine!”

Chris Rock says that “Best Musical is like taking a hooker to dinner” LOLOL…Best line of the evening. Book of Mormon wins! Well, I got that one right. Josh Gad is nowhere to be seen.

It ran over by four minutes, according to my computer. See ya next year! I’m going away for awhile. Or rather next week! Give me the Oscars any day.

Vanessa Redgrave & James Earl Jones Magnificent “Daisy”!

Just when you think this terrific, multitudinous Broadway season couldn’t get any more bountiful – Suddenly! There are two of the greatest actors of our time the hitting never-dreamed-of theatrical heights in “Driving Miss Daisy.” That would be Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in what is surely going to be considered one of the highpoints of their already legendary careers.

This is great acting of the highest order. The likes of which we rarely if ever see on Broadway. And how do they accomplish this amazing, but not wholly unexpected feat? Well, Vanessa Redgrave does it by utterly underplaying the sour, snippy, uppity, totally self-righteous Miss Daisy, who is a spritely 72 when the play starts in 1948.

Miss Daisy has crashed her car into her neighbors’ garage and now is no longer allowed to drive. And her doting son, Boolie (Boyd Gaines, who is just serviceable here) insists that she get a “colored” chauffeur to make sure she gets from point A to point B without catastrophe. And thereby hangs quite a tale and a play that proves itself here to be a durable American classic.

Miss Daisy  Wertham is Jewish and rich, but she’s the type who can pinch a penny until it screams. She comes from an impoverished background herself, and climbed to freedom and respectabilty through education,  becoming a school teacher  and eventually marrying her rich (now late) husband, the father of Mr.Gaines’ character.

“We had NOTHING!” Redgrave’s voice rises for one of the few times in the Alfred Uhry’s 1987 Pulitizer Prize-Winning play, “NOTHING!” But she does it all with a control and a simplicity that is startling, in that it renders this very familiar play, fresh as…well, a daisy!

Miss Redgrave only lets the gestures fly or her voice ring when she’s onstage with her son Boolie( Mr. Gaines), as his less-than-doting mother. Miss Daisy’s maternal instincts run to the nasty, the snide put-downs of her ever-helpful, ernestly do-gooding son. She’s quite insufferable as a mother.

HOWEVER,  when James Earl Jones finally enters the play (it seemed like it took forever to get them into their famous car-ride together) Redgrave hands the play totally over to him. On a veritable silver platter of well-seasoned acting chops. She gets very, very simple and true, and just let’s James Earl Jones rip the roof off the Golden Theater.

Jones, when we first see him is a shockingly-aged figure. White hair, he’s almost bent over double, with what one hopes is a character choice and not osteoporosis. He seems eager to make some extra money, desperate almost for a job. Especially driving a white lady of “means.” As if to make double-sure, he shuffles and “Yes’M”s and “No,’M”s drip from his lips, shockingly often, and in Jones’ sonorous voice, here controlled like I’ve never seen him before, they sound like honey, and fall throughout the play as naturally as Southern rain. The naturalness of their frequency locks Hoke into his subservient role, like a vise.

And when the Two Greats get together, the sparks fly. And how do they soar so? By absolutely, completely disappearing into their characters in this play that has NEVER,  ever been done on Broadway. Ever. After this magnificent revival, it will be done all the time now.

This theatrical power couple par excellence banish thoughts of the great 1989 cinematic version, which won the Oscar for Best Picture that year and Jessica Tandy was named Best Actress. Making her the oldest Best Actress recipient ever. Morgan Freeman, who also originated the role in the stage play, Off-Broadway, was nominated, but didn’t win.Though he did eventually garner a Supporting Actor Oscar for “Million Dollar Baby.”

Jones, who’s never won an Oscar, but has Two Tonys to his credit for “The Great White Hope” and “Fences,” just takes the part of Hoke and runs with it. Or drives with it, right into the theatrical firmament. And our hearts. And memories.

It’s one of his greatest performances, and hers, too. Taking his cue from her, Jones is also totally without frills and simple, simple, simple.  And as the times change (“Miss Daisy” starts in 1948 and goes on through the tumultous civil right area and into the ’70s) the power shifts from the back seat to the front seat. And when Miss Daisy’s synagogue is bombed, Jones’ Hoke is all protection and help for the distraught, disbelieving Miss Daisy.

You know he knows just how ugly Southern racism of that time can be. Whether it’s directed at Jews or at Blacks, it’s all the same thing, the playwright is saying.

When Hoke describes the lynching of a relative he witnessed as a young boy to the thunderstruck Miss Daisy, Jones is simplicity and quiet, heart-rending eloquence itself. He is also echoing a similarly, frighteningly effecting scene in the “Scottsboro Boys.” The Kander & Ebb musical, playing two blocks away, on the other side of Broadway and it chronicles the horrors and  the injustices 1920s & 30s South. And in the South of Miss Daisy’s 1940s & 50s world it is alive still. Hoke can’t eat at the restaurants Miss Daisy does. And he has to go in, always, by the back door.

Playwright Alfred Uhry, who never again reached the theatrical heights with anything else he ever wrote for the stage (though I did enjoy his “Last Night at Ballyhoo.”) surprises here, too. Because instead of being lost in a big, Broadway house, his “Driving Miss Daisy” OWNS it and fills the space,  and now in Vanessa Redgrave’s and James Earl Jones’ caring hands, we see that his characters are immortal.

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