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Posts tagged ‘Matilda’

It’s Only a Play is Very Funny and VERY Long

Tony 1It's Only 1“It’s Only a Play” is very funny and VERY long. Why this piece of fluff, of absolutely delicious whimsy had to be two hours AND  FORTY MINUTES, I had no idea! When I checked the time leaving the theater it was just before ten! And it had started at 7! However, I did have a good time. It’s breezy, bouncy and cheesy. But cheese of the most delicious, aromatic type.It’s a witchy, bitchy brew.

You’ll enjoy it, too, if you’re lucky enough to get tickets. It’s totally sold out it’s limited engagement! Limited! Only until January 4! It’s the biggest hit on Broadway! With all the star-power involved, you’d think they’d have more courage to just have it open-ended and sweep up every Tony in sight come June.

But no, it was only supposed to run til the beginning of January, and Nathan Lane’s leaving, and Martin Short’s coming in(see press release a few posts back) and the good news is it’s running now until March. And Nathan hasn’t been this good since “The Producers.” He’s really, really funny in this and actually I don’t think that Broadway has seen a show with this much fun and bounce SINCE “The Producers”!

I always think  of the great Terrence McNally who wrote(and re-wrote and re-wrote) “It’s Only a Play” since the ’70s, as a very genial sort.He’s no longer Mr. Nice Guy now!. The gloves are definitely off in “It’s Only a Play” so much so that it reminded me of wonderful Gerard Alessandrini’s much missed “Forbidden Broadway.” Everybody who’s anybody gets it in the teeth here. Liza Minelli is called a cunt. I’m not kidding. And Lane bemoans the Kardashians starring in “Three Sisters”. Here McNally has become an equal opportunity insulter. And the play is all the more timely and fun because of it.

And the worst review that Lane’s character gets is being compared(unfavorably) to Harvey Fierstein. Over and over and over. It’s funny. His exasperation and horror are truly hilarious as he keeps repeating “Harvey Fierstein!”

And every body in the stellar cast is very, very funny, with the exception of the somnambulist Matthew Broderick. Who has never got this theatrical mojo back since “The Producers.” He walks through this like a dead fish. Shame. Lots of jokes about Stockard Channing’s diva/actress character and her penchant for drugs. Specifically Valium.

Broderick’s performance is like that. Dead-eyed and dead-in-the-water,and he’s supposed to be the impassioned playwright,  but it matters not, because every body else has brought their A-Game.

It’s wonderful to see Lane at his level best. And he has joke after joke after joke, and actually never once leaves the stage, THANK GOD!

Lane states, “I don’t work with children, dogs or Frank Langella.”(!?!)

Channing has never been better as the leading actress Virginia Noyes(pronounced Noise) and she sports a cane because she’s got a police detector, an ankle bracelet on her ankle, which keeps going off at the most hilarious moments. She snorts coke and has to  report in to her parole officer every three hours. She’s described as a “female impersonator searching for a female to impersonate.”(!?!)

Her auburn hair is styled like Susan Hayward at her most flaming in the ’50s. Recalling her in “The Jane Froman Story,” and she makes the most of every comic line McNally has given her. She and Lane are a joy. But I bet it is Channing who gets the Tony come awards time. She, unlike Lane, is staying in the show.

The newly thin-esque Megan Mullaney, looks completely un-like her former TV self and is sporting a Southern drawl to go with her newly svelte figure. I didn’t even recognize her! She’s the play’s energetic and naive and very rich producer, Julia Budder. And she, too keeps the comic balls bouncing.

At one point, somebody throws a snow-ball through her town house(where the play is set, stunningly designed by Scott Pask), through her town house window, and she looks outside to see who did and she says “It’s the Cast of ‘Matilda’! And I can’t understand a word they’re saying!”

Also surprisingly expert at their comic chops are Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint, as a snotty British director, who HATES getting nothing but good reviews(and is a secret kleptomaniac) and F. Murray Abraham(also unrecognizable here, initially) as that dreaded creature THE THEATER CRITIC.

Stealing the show out from everyone in a brand new part which has just gone through a sex-change(the character as written originally was some one called Emma) is newcomer Micah Stock as the lanky/hunky, gay cater-waiter, Gus P. Head, who’s just gotten into town, in cowboy boots, no less, and who keeps wanting to sing “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” and eventually does so, to hilarious effect.

“They’re going to eat you alive!” Lane notes. Stock is so good audiences and critics are indeed eating him up. With delight.

“It’s Only a Play” is so good and so funny that you wonder why more rip-roaring comedies aren’t written like this and are on Broadway delighting millions. Well, when I read its’ history,  since THE SEVENTIES, which I’ll post below,  well, you’ll see what a long and tortuous road “It’s Only A Play” had on its’ way to Broadway, where quite frankly, it belongs, and I hope it runs for a million years!

History here below thanks to Wikipedia ~

It’s Only a Play is a play byTerrence McNally. The play ranOff-Off-Broadway in 1982, Off-Broadway in 1986, and Broadway in 2014. The producer, playwright, director, actors and friends eagerly wait for the opening night reviews of their Broadway play.

Productions

The play was revised from its 1978 version and produced off-off-Broadway by Manhattan Punch Line at the Actors and Directors Theatre, opening in November 1982.[1][2] Paul Benedict directed, with a cast that included Francis Cuka as Julia Budder, Richard Leighton as James Wicker, Paul Guilfoyle as Frank Finger, Ken Kliban as Ira Drew and Harriet Rogers as Emma.[3]

The play was produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club at its New York City Center Stage 1, running from December 17, 1985 (previews), officially January 11, 1986 to January 26, 1986. Directed by John Tillinger, the cast featured Christine Baranski (Julia Budder), Paul Benedict (Ira Drew),Mark Blum (Peter Austin), James Coco (James Wicker), David Garrison (Frank Finger), Joanna Gleason (Virginia Noyes) and Florence Stanley(Emma).[4] John Tillinger was nominated for the 1986 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play.[5]

A revised version was produced by the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson at the Doolittle Theatre, Los Angeles, California in April 1992. John Tillinger directed, with a cast that featured Eileen Brennan (Virginia Noyes), Sean O’Bryan (Gus, a waiter), Charles Nelson Reilly (James Wicker), David Hyde Pierce (Frank Finger), Dana Ivey (Julia Budder), Paul Benedict (Ira Drew),Zeljko Ivanek (Peter Austin) and Doris Roberts (Emma).[4][6]

The play began its Broadway premiere at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on August 28, 2014 (in previews) and officially on October 9, 2014. It was originally scheduled for a limited 18-week engagement, through January 4, 2015. Jack O’Brien directs, with a cast that stars Nathan Lane as James Wicker and Matthew Broderick as Peter Austin. Also featured in the cast areMegan Mullally as Julia Budder, Stockard Channing as Virginia Noyes, F. Murray Abraham as Ira Drew, Rupert Grint as Frank Finger, and Micah Stock as Gus.[7][8][9] In November 2014, it was announced that the play would extend its run, through January 18, 2015 at the Schoenfeld, and will then transfer to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in a run from January 23, 2015 to March 29, 2015. Martin Short will replace Lane in the role of “James Wicker” as of January 7, 2015.[10]

McNally has said that he has rewritten the play to bring it up-to-date.[1][11]

Background

The play was originally called Broadway, Broadway and had closed during tryouts in Philadelphia in 1978.[12] Geraldine Page and James Coco were in the Philadelphia cast, and the play was set to open on Broadway at theEugene O’Neill Theatre. However, the Philadelphia reviews were negative and the Broadway opening was cancelled.[13] In 1984, McNally said that afterBroadway, Broadway closed he was no longer confident, but finally realized that having a show close is not the worst thing that could happen.[14]

 

 

Drama Desk Award Winners! “Matilda”, “Vanya and Sonia…” and “Pippin”

Well, the Drama Desk Awards are FINALLY over! Just finished at Town Hall at an unbelievable four hours in length! That’s without commercials! 

That’s just how long it takes and its’ unfortunate that by the end of the fourth hour everybody and his mother are all getting very, very tired of the onstage band playing “Ask Me How Do I Feel?” over and over and over again until you could scream.

But since this is not a televised event(although this year you could watch live online at theatermania.com) nobody’s going to put the brakes on it. 

The last presenters, the always too= loud Beth Leavel and a sleepy looking Brian Stokes Mitchell, looked like they had just rolled out of bed to announce —wait for it—the last THREE winners! This was at like 10:45 pm or so EST. And it started at EIGHT! It’s as long as the Oscars!

Two of the last awards of the lonnnng night, Best Lyrics and Best Musical went to “Matilda”! Yea! And Bertie Carvel also won for his frighteningly brilliant hammer-thrower from hell, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, in the Outstanding Featured Actor category. For the Tonys next month he’s in lead and he’ll win there, too, I’m predicting it right now!  Bertie FTW!

“Matilda” also won for Best Book. Playwright Terence McNally was a bit flummoxed when nobody accepted the award and was about to move on to the next one, when British director Matthew Warchus bounded up onstage to accept it for the absent Dennis Kelly, who is, of course, back home in Blighty. Ditto Best Set went to “Matilda” and that made by my count, five, and made “Matilda” the biggest winner of the evening. Warchus also accepted Best Lyrics for the absent Tim Minchin.

Warchus quipped “I have to keep accepting awards for every category and
not my own!” He surprisingly lost Best Director of a Muscial to Diane Paulus for the explosive combination of circus and music and dance that is “Pippin.”

So I’m happy for the “Matilda” crew. As you all know, dear readers, dear lovers of theater that I know you all are, that was my best of the best-ties this year.

I was also happy for the wonderful Jayne Houdyshell, who got a career achievement award, and gave a very touching, elegant acceptance speech. It seemed like she got a standing ovation. Well, it was a very LOUD,long ovation. 

Cicely Tyson who won Outstanding Actress in a Play, won for “The Trip to Bountiful” DID get a standing ovation. And she had to be helped on to the stage and then bowed low and graciously to the audience. Something I’d never seen before. And she certainly deserved it.

She thanked the late playwright Horton Foote, who is finally having the success on Broadway that eluded him all his life. 

“Pippin” came in second with four awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Director and Choreography, and the astounding Andrea Martin deservedly won Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” won Best Play for a white-haired Christopher Durang, who claimed “This was my OLD play.” and that the stairs leading up to the stage “were the most stairs I’ve climbed in ages.”

I am going to cut to the case and just say that in the coming days, you will be seeing on this blog the nominees who went on to win tonight. 

I can’t wait to bring you Michael Urie, who best solo performance over Bette Middler! No! I’m not kidding! And I loved Bette in “I’ll Eat You Last” but she’s going home with only a Drama Desk Nomination. She was famously snubbed by the Tonys.I have always ADORED Bette and I feel awful for her. She’s BRILLLLLIANT in “Eat You”

Also coming to you right here is Jayne Houdyshell, and also Laura Osnes who won Best Actress in a Musical for “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”(Yes, that’s the official title) and also Tim Michin who as I said won big tonight for “Matilda” and who was present and accounted for at the Drama Desk Nominee Reception, which is beginning to appear on my You Tube Channel as you’re reading this. You’ll also see winners Judith Light for “Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play”, “The Assembled Parties” and Richard Kind for “Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play,” “The Big Knife.”

My show is at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

And all the winners should soon be up on http://www.dramadeskawards.com and also on http://www.theatermania.com.

Stay tuned!

 

 

“Matilda” Blindingly Brilliant British Bway Blockbuster!

“Matilda”! What a beautiful name! I thought, exiting the blindingly brilliant British blockbuster of the same name that just hit the heights on Broadway. A generation of little girls will now be named after its’ stalwart, brainy, pint-sized heroine.

At a purported five years old, Matilda is speaking, but not talking down, to the conflicted little girl in all of us, and rafts of little ones are in for the treat of their lives, and their parents, too, when they see “Matilda: The Musical” And they will see it in hoardes. “Matilda” is something they will never forget.

It’s so thoroughly original. I felt like I had never seen anything like it in the theater and on Broadway, yet.Is Bway known for originality these days? No.

But this empowering, powerhouse of positivity just sends you out of the theater practically jumping for joy!

A hit show espousing, literacy! Reading! Books! Librarians! Libraries! Incredible!

I just realized that the closest thing I can compare it to is the brilliant film “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, last year’s indie film hit of hits that ended up with five Oscar nominations. “Matilda” is like “Beasts” in that they both so completely project a little girl’s eye view of the world.And it’s not always a pretty-in-pink world that they see. Scary, weird, frightening, horrifying is the world Matilda is confronted with.

Five year old Matilda Wormword is even younger than Qu’venzhane Wallis’ six year old Hushpuppy. A survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Matilda is a survivor of HER AWFUL PARENTS. And the cold, cruel adult world that is constantly threatening to destroy her. And take away her sole refuge, her books, and her love of reading…

Another writer that this Roald Dahl based, super-smart musical( book by Dennis Kelly, Music & Lyrics by Tim Minchin) reminded me of was Charles Dickens. But not “Oliver” the musical version of Oliver Twist, which seems treacly sweet compared to the dark creepiness of “Matilda.” Dickens found his greatest inspiration in the lives and point of view of orphans. David Copperfield’s opening sentence and proclamation “I am born”, is echoed in “Matilda”s first number “Miracle”. Which is about child-birth and most parents’ ecstatic reaction to their off-springs’ arrivals in this not-inviting world.

Matilda’s parents’ HATE her. Actively, passionately HATE her, and refuse to acknowledge their incredibly smart daughter’s amazing mind. Or even her gender. Her stupid, oafish father keeps calling her “son” but Matilda keeps insisting “I’m a girl!” This horrible trope keeps get repeated all night long, wearing poor Matilda down to a nub.

Her peroxided harridan of a Cockney-Mother-From-Hell, over-played to the hilt by Lesli Margherita, is shocking in her screechy “Looks! Not Books!” mantras of superficiality. Her solo is, of course, “Loud!” She is matched by the slightly more sympathetic(but really pathetic) sleazy, used-car salesman husband, Gabriel Ebert. The duo torment poor little Matilda to the point of child abuse. She torments her father back by dying his hair green and gluing his hat to his head.

Matilda’s only refuge from them is local public library and an earthy, interested librarian, the marvelously daffy but dignified Mrs. Phleps. Karen Aldredge should’ve had a big number herself. She would’ve brought down the house.

Instead, we get a bit too much of a focus on the super-sweet Miss Honey, who is one of the more, shakily drawn characters, in that she has toooo many musical numbers. Lauren Ward’s interpretation of the helpful, but timid school-teacher, who sees Matilda’s brilliance and wants it to develop, was so cloying, irritatingly sweet, I felt my diabetes acting up. She pretty much wore out her welcome in the first act, but did redeem herself in the second, where it’s touchingly revealed how poor she is in the number “My House.” She lives in a shack.

The dull, clanking sound you hear just when you think “Matilda” is just hopelessly child-centric is the entrance of the scary, villainess to end all villanesses, Miss Trunchbull. And that resounding clanking is also the sound of the endless awards that British comic Bertie Carvel,( yes, he’s a man, playing Miss Truchbull in bad, frightening, brown drag) hitting the stage at Mr. Carvel’s feet, as all the awards-giving bodies rise as one and just HURL Tonys, Drama Desks, and every other award in the theater world at him.

And he deserves them. With his hair in a tight-brown bun, a huge brown mole on his upper lip, his grotesquely large breasts, and his brown/grey skirt hiked quite high on his hairy legs (in sensible brown shoes), Mr. Carvel never lets you for a moment forget that he’s a man, playing a monster. And then humanizes the monstrous Ms. Trunchbull, too. Wow.

Carvel is not a one-note horror, he’s a layered delight. And his brown brogues kick “Matilda” upstairs, literally, as his astounding re-interpretation of the age-old British pantomime staple, the drag queen Dame, becomes in Carvel’s hands something bold, original, hilarious and in the number “A World Without Children” suddenly surprisingly touching, too. The British Gold Medal champion women’s hammer-thrower yearns for his/her glory days and at one point early in the proceedings hurls a hapless pig-tailed girl into the air. A coup-de-theatre followed by many, many more.

Main among them, the burping Bruce Bogtrotter, of the bold Jack Broderick, who it seems wants to devour all the chocolate cake in the world, and who is then made my Miss Truchbull to do so in the hilarious/scary “Bruce.” Broderick then gets to belt out the climatic anthem “Revolting Children.”

And Matilda herself? Well, there are four little girls who alternate in this super-demanding role of roles for a child actress, but I saw Milly Shapiro. Who had the face and power of a young Charles Laughton(I’m not kidding). As she forcefully puts her hand on her hip to face a threatening, creepy, lying, hostile universe AND HER PARENTS, you KNOW that this tiny Matilda is truly a genius and a warrior who will take on the whole world. And win!

“Matilda” may be the biggest Tony Award winner since “The Producers” and is settling into the Schubert for a long, long run.

Matilda! You GO, girl!

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