a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Laura Benanti’

So much has happened! So busy! Esp. w/the Drama Desk!

While you may have missed me, dear cineastes, dear readers, dear theater-lovers, there’s a very easy way to catch up with what I’ve been doing.

This busy awards season. No, not the Oscars! Though there already twinkles in Oscar’s eyes whose gaze is directed at Cannes…which is happening right now.

But I’m still here in NYC, having to see literally a play a night, in order to vote this week on my beloved Drama Desk Awards.

So here’s the way to catch up with me, if you don’t see new posts here ~ Go to You Tube!

www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

And you’ll see QUITE a batch of Drama Desk nominees, and some of whom, got nominated for a Tony, too!

It all sounds quite perverse and unreasonable, why some are nominated for Drama Desk Awards and then not the Tonys, too. But realize dear readers that these groups are two entirely different groups of people. While there is SOME overlap, mostly they are thinking about different things.

The Tonys threw out almost all of New York’s theater-going press (the revered first night list-ers, the A-list of theater critics and journos) last year, the Drama Desk is ALLLLL press, and supposedly, therefore, more objective.

But there are WTFs?! Like why Tammy Blanchard’s luminous, funny, sexy, moving turn in “How to Succeed…” as the supposedly dumb bimbo(who really isn’t) got a Tony nomination for her dazzling turn as Hedy La Rue, and yet the Drama Desk(DD from here on in) and the Outer Critics Circle ignored her completely. Does that means she doesn’t have the requisite support to win a Tony? No. Not at all.

Her never-having-won a Tony before, and her snagging a Tony nod for the never-before-nominated character of Hedy(there were two other Broadway manifestations of H2S) and her being an Emmy Winner ~ for playing the young Judy Garland, no less, on TV, and her also being a previous Tony nominee for playing the title role in Bernadette Peters’ ill-received Gypsy, AND a Theater World award-winning for that role, too, all give Tammy the sufficient awards gravitas to perhaps get her a win. She’s “due”. She’s a Broadway vet now, and playing the beloved whore -with-a-heart-of-gold character, always a Voter favorite….

Or will she be beaten by the steam-roller that seems to “Book of Mormon” and it’s teenage African virgin, Nabalungi, played so movingly by Nikki M. James(think Anika Noni Rose). That’s her main competition.

In the category of Best Featured Actress in a Musical. It’s Tammy v. Nikki in that race, I’m so sure.

Meanwhile, the NYTimes theater critics think the lovely Laura Benanti will win for her dipsy, daffodil Candela in the long-closed “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” But I think they’re wrong.

You see, dear readers, one thing the Tony Voters take into serious consideration, is a criteria that the Oscar voters don’t have to ~ Is the Show still running? If it isn’t. Like “Breakdown” they are much more likely 90% more likely, I’d say to give it to an actress in a show that’s a success and that’s still running, like “How to Succeed…” and “Book of Mormon.”

Also the beauteous Laura has only recently won a Tony, for playing Gypsy in “Gypsy” opposite Patti LuPone’s Mama Rose, who also won for that category a few seasons back. So in that they ARE like the Oscar Voters. Previous wins will be held against you.

And you can see BOTH Tammy(pts.1 and pts.2) and Nikki on my You Tube channel again ~ www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

More theater awards soon! And reviews! And news! I promise!

Camp Classic Suffers Nervous Breakdown on Bway

I have heard the WORST buzz on any show this season on “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” the musical version of Pedro Almodovar’s Camp Classic, with two Capital Cs. This is an important even seminal work in the worldwide gay ouevre. And Pedro Almodovar is my personal gay god.

It was Almodovar’s breakthough film internationally. But here, in this version, at the Belasco, well, if you want to see a show having a nervous breakdown right in front of you. and all these talented people with it, run, don’t walk to the Belasco, because I fear it’s not going to be around for very long.

How could you take this hilarious movie and make a musical that is NOT FUNNY?!? There is no wit visisble in “Women on the Verge…”Every line seemed to land with a thud. And, and it’s just not well, gay, enough. I’ll be surprised if it’s still open by the time I finish typing this sentence.

But gays are the audience for this, if indeed there is any audience at all. And you have some of the best musical comedy actresses of our time, including Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Sherrie Rene Scott and make them ALLLL not funny? Well, director Bartlett Sher and composer David Yazbeck have done just that.And Jeffrey Lane the book writer has to take a lot of the blame, too. For this brightly-hued mess.

At one point, towards the end of the painful first act, all these uber-talented women were STARING at each other, with “What the hell are we doing here?” looks on their faces. And I’m sure much of the audience was thinking the same thing.

It sure is colorful enough. In fact, director Sher seems to have spent all his time and energy on the extremely overwhelming, but colorful projected backdrops, that display more excitement than the actors do. Which is a shame.

 In fact, the never-for-a-moment-still projections by Sven Ortel, overwhelm most of the actors, and you watch them instead of the mere mortals trying valiantly to hold up their ends of the bargain. Sher obviously wants to direct a movie. But this isn’t A MOVIE! It’s a Broadway musical! Now, he did just fine with “Light in the Piazza” but that had a magnificently lush and romantic score by Adam Guettel. Here the score is just thumpingly serviceable. The music should make it fly, not give you a nervous breakdown.

Wasn’t this the show that was a hit in London and that’s why they brought it here? Can’t be the same production. It’s certainly not a British cast, for a change.

There’s been soooo many British shows and British actors on Broadway this year I thought I had moved to England.

What’s missing is the light-hearted , De-LIGHT-ful light touch that camp needs to succeed. It needed a homosexual writing the score, I’m afraid, and David Yazbeck who is talented and has succeeded on Bway with shows based on movies like “The Full Monty” and “Dirty Rotten Soundrels” has come a cropper with “Breakdown.” His score is thumpingly straight and frankly too serious for a delicate, camp subject like this.

He and Sher, both heterosexuals, married with children, just don’t get it. And they’ve ruined what should have been a sublimely frothy show into something shrill and almost unbearable. Y’know, like A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. It made me want to watch the movie again. But not this musical. Life is too short.

And what a shame it is to see the great Patti LuPone wasted like this!

However she and Danny Burstein, are the only two performaners here who seems to hit just the right high notes as a crazy Madrid cab-driver with peroxided blond hair. They are the shows bright spots. And it does have them. And Burstein has the entire opening number to himself called “Madrid Is My Mother” and I thought, Wow! This really might be something! And to hell with all the bad buzz, then as the show wore on and on and only brightened when La LuPone crossed the stage in a parade of outrageous ’60s hats and costumes, or when she sang, did it sputter to life. She has one solo number called “Invisible” and she stops the show. And it needed stopping.

The shows creators never seem to find the CHARM and the warmth of Almodovar’s world, except when Patti or Burstein were center stage.

And a lot of this also has to be laid at the doors of Sherrie Rene Scott, who is the leading lady here, in her first serious acting role. And she was never known for her serious acting. She has to anchor the whole show. Not BE an anchor. It’s like she’s this dead-weight the musical has to keep dragging back on stage. She seems to be playing depressed. And it’s depressing as opposed to comical.

 And Laura Benanti, who won a Tony for her performance as Gypsy in “Gypsy,” is simply strident and hysterical, but not funny- hysterical, just hysterical- hysterical. Like as in annoying.

Carmen Maura, if memory serves, was just instantly lovable as Pepa, the lead in the movie version. You were instantly on her side. You wanted her to succeed in all the crazy attempts she makes to NOT have a nervous breakdown. She had warmth. She had charm. She had style. She had class. She had humor. It was the greatest FUN to watch her try NOT to have a nervous breakdown. Whereas poor Sherie Rene Scott seems to actually be clinically depressed.

And the subtitles in the movie were funnier than the lines in this play. Maybe it should’ve been all in Spanish with subtitles. So sad, so sad.

Luis Salgado who was in the chorus of “In the Heights” here gets an actual memorable role as the non-speaking Malik  the terrorist who is the amour of Laura Benanti’s character. He gets to be nude upstage of Benanti getting out of bed, and then dresses and comes back later clad only in a towel. Now THAT’S Almodovarian! And I’m sure Pedro would agree.

O Dios Mio! Oh! And Brian Stokes Mitchell is in this too as the man all the women are obsessing over. And that makes some kind of sense. But since he’s wasted with mediocre songs and lines, too. He barely registers.

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