a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Lighting Design’

“Hughie” First Big Disaster of Bway Season. Not Surprised It’s Closing Early.

Hughie“Hughie” is the first big disaster of the Broadway season, closing early it will have lost its’ entire 3 million dollar investment. One wonders what they spent the money on? The set? Well the set was grand! Set and costume design by Christopher Oram, and kudos to him for one of the best, most evocative renderings of a Time Square hotel in sad, ghostly decline that I have ever seen. Oram is ably abetted in his decaying spookiness, by lighting designer Neil Austin. Can’t remember such a good use of green lighting and green neon to boot.

I wish I could say the same about actor Forest Whitaker’s embarassing, one-note performance. He wandered about the stage, and that was about all he did. Whitaker, Academy Award winner for “The Last King of Scotland,” seemingly has never appeared onstage before. And knowing that, I wondered about the wisdom, and hubris, of attacking what is basically a one-man show, as his Broadway debut.

And the one-act play of Eugene O’Neill’s is as barely there as Whitaker’s vaporous performance. O’Neill is not helping him at all and there’s no drama whatsoever. Flat, flat, flat.Erie Smith(Whittaker) is a small time gambler, down on his luck, and the late former night clerk, Hughie, was his only friend.

And poor Frank Wood, as the NEW night clerk of the decrepit hotel, is trapped there, seeming to fall visibly asleep, as he is stuck listening to Erie Smith’s(Whitaker) ENDLESS monologue of his late friend Hughie, who was the night clerk before Wood’s character got the job. I ended up feeling sorry for night clerks.

But that’s because Wood an esteemed Tony-winning stage actor is very, very good in the little he has to do. And you keep wishing the play was more about HIM. And the characters he’s seen in his life. He admits to being a lifetime night clerk. And the weariness and boredom of his job is palpable. Because he’s had to listen to one loser spilling his guts to him after another, midnight after midnight.

Basically, Erie Smith is a bore. And he bored me and obviously, he’s boring audiences, because they are not coming. And it’s closing early. That doesn’t happen much anymore on Broadway. Investors are so careful, if not parsimonious with what they sink their cash into that shows are previewed and tried out to death. Guess this one wasn’t.

It was barely an hour, but it felt like years. Stick to films, Forest. He’s a great film actor, but onstage, he’s a bore.

“Spiderman” Turn Off the Musak! Act One Sucks, Act Two Works

Ok, so FINALLY I saw it tonight…”Spiderman:Turn Off the Dark” or as I like to call it “Gag Me!” Although that isn’t exactly accurate since there is not ONE JOKE in the entire Two Hour and 45 minute spectacle. And the music is REALLY, REALLY bad! Shame on Bono and The Edge! They didn’t deserve this mega-gig. I wish Elton John had written the score THEN you might really have had something to sing about. The Sets, yes, AMAAAAZING sets by sure-fire Tony Winner for Best Scenic design next season, George Typsin. But sets do not a great musical make. It’s the music, stupid, and the music is stupid. What a shame! 70 million dollars spent on this drivel!

I loved comic books as a kid. I even wrote them. But Spidey was not one of my faves. I never understood his/its’ appeal. But there it is smack dab on Broadway, in the biggest house, now called the Foxwoods that Broadway has got. Last thing I saw in there was “Young Frankenstein” another unsatisfying near-mess.

If only “Spiderman” could live up to its INCREDIBLE sets!

So this is Julie Taymor’s great vision??? Sad. Well, I still loved the “Lion King” which is still running. Another cartoon, but she had a great book, a great story(OK, it’s Hamlet, but…) underneath and the great Peter Schneider reigning her in while he reigned at Disney.

Here…well, she was out of control. So they fired her and all her offending inserts like the now-gone Geek Chorus and the almost-gone and unnecessary Arachne(an OK T.V. Carpio) have been ironed out…Arachne could have gone completely and no one would’ve missed her. Most of the audience seemed mystified by her and just what she was doing there.

“Spiderman”begins with a lecture on the history of Greek goddesses and their myths. It starts wrong because it’s all about Arachne and not about Peter Parker, Spiderrman’s secret identity, whom the focus should’ve been upon since the lights went up.

I like Tobey Maguire, but his presence was never enough to motivate me to see the “Spiderman” movies. And did I say this puppy is WAAAAAY overlong? They could’ve cut all the Arachne nonsense and saved at least half and hour.

The shorter a show like this is, the better. Cut to the spectacle. Cut to the flying. But they didn’t. More is not more in a muchness like this.

In Act One the aerial manoeuvres are minimal, if not measly, and the book, the dull, embarrassing,  plodding book is the focus. Julie Taymor, Glen Berger & even Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa(an out Gay playwright, who has real comic books in his resume, too) are too blame for boring us to death in Act One. Nothing is funny. Everything is flat. I kept longing for Douglas Carter Beane or a Charles Bussh to liven up this swampy scenario.

Jennifer Damiano, the world’s oldest, tiredest ingenue, as Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker’s love interest doesn’t help one bit. And Reeve Carney as Spiderman sorts of schemiel’s his way through Act One, too. It’s hard to work up any feeling for him.

Patrick Page as the science professor who is up to no good makes a stand on the side of “This show is a hit, goddamnit! And I’m going to play it to the hilt! This is my greatest role! My time to shine!” so he offers hope for the Second Act, when we know he’s going to go through a transformation of his own. He becomes the ghouls of ghouls the Green Goblin

And transform he does! His Green Goblin in Act Two really aces it, and kicks the whole show, and Reeve Carney’s Peter Parker, up a notch. Reeve now has something strong to play off of and the show becomes all about the scariest villain to terrorize New York vs. Our Hero Spiderman and guess what Act Two flies!

As well it should! As it must! And Act Two begins and SUDDENLY with the Green Goblin as now the central character, it actually picks up and has momentum that Act One sorely lacked. But it has to get over the hour and a half of a dry hump that was Act One. It takes time, too. But eventually everything this bloated, over-produced show should be kicks in. And it does become the Spectacle to end all Spectacles. Wish I guess is what it set out to be in the first place.

And then they bring on the much more successful special effects and all the aerial stunts that they’ve been saving for the big finale. And I’m surprised to say it works. The sets start working too! And doing stunts in forced perspective that I have never seen theatrical sets do. And there’s TONS of visual effects in Act Two, and all this combines to give Reeve Carney something to respond to. And he wakes up as an actor in Act Two and really begins to make you root for him, and want his whiny Spidey to succeed.

And his performance keeps rising and oh  yes, he and the aerialists who play the flying Spidey, really do indeed rise to the occasion. By the end of the show, Reeve’s Spidey is really kicking as his now invigorated Peter Parker does becomes the triumphant hero this show needs him to be.

And the audience was going wild. Haven’t they seen aerial effects before? Did they see “Mary Poppins” who flies, umbrella in hand, over the audience? Or Mary Martin in “Peter Pan”?

Or Idina Menzel in “Wicked”? Well, in any case, the Second Act brings the goods the audience wants to see, culminating in an in-air fight with Spiderman and the Green Goblin(or rather the aerialist who play them when they’re Up In The Air).

Reeve Carney really wakes up in Act Two and in the end makes you cheer for him. Especially when he himself does the flying stunts without the head-covering mask, but still in his Spidey suit. The audience was going wild at the curtain call especially for him and Page(the GG).

Carney does in the end save the show. You FINALLY feel he’s someone you can identify with and root for. It’s certainly isn’t the book, or the music. He and the Green Goblin seem equally matched foes and equally matched actors.

With the paltry number of new musicals coming in next season, “Spiderman” believe it or not, might also triumph at the Tonys, and certainly Reeve Carney and Patrick Page are going to get nominated, in the leading actor and supporting actor in a Musical categories. Ditto the stupefyingly magnificent sets of  George Typsin. Lighting(and lightening) designer, Donald Holder and the masterful/scary monstrosities of Academy Award winning costume desginer Eiko Ishioka.

And with the audience cheering the way it was last night, it may just make it’s 70 million dollars back.

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