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Posts tagged ‘Patti LuPone’

“Bandstand” Another Great New Musical Arrives on Bway!

Broadway is just bursting with musicals as the season is quickly drawing to a close and the Drama Desk nominations have been announced (See post before this one.) And a marvelous surprise was awaiting me when I saw “Bandstand” last night. It’s one of the best! And in the year of “Natasha, Pierre…and the Great Comet”,”Come From Away” and “Hello Dolly” that is really saying something. I had heard nothing about it. Didn’t know what I was in for. But trust me. It’s a Wow! I know I just said that about “Hello Dolly,” but this is a NEW musical. Brand new, with an entirely new score set at the end of World War II, as the boys come home to…Cleveland.

I know that doesn’t sound like a great premise for a musical, but believe me, it was tremendous. Tremendously rewarding in its’ own sweet way. And it heralds the arrival of a sparkling new bunch of musical talent. Composer Richard Oberacker, who co-wrote the lyrics with Rod Taylor, has written a marvelously melodic, but also dramatic score with one terrific tune after the other.Written in what I guess you could call Swing time.

The band is made up of overseas warriors coming home to find no jobs in Cleveland.(Think “Best Years of Our Lives”) and no work.

Laura Osnes is the only previously known quantity as the leading lady. Formerly “Cinderella” herself, and of course, “Hamilton”s great Tony-winning choreographer, Andy Blackenbuehler, who here makes his stunning directorial debut and well as keeping the dancing GIs and snappy home girls as peppy as a gin fizz.

But the real find is their incredible young leading man, the charismatic Corey Cott, who opens the show and brings down the house in a wife-beater! Wailing a solo tune that bears his name “Donny Novitski.” The hairy-chested but wiry and very, very angry Cott howls up a storm about his plight and the war (and his Polish last name).

Corey Cott turns out to be the man of the hour from “Gigi”! He was the Louis Jourdan role in the delightful musical  of the classic movie, which played all too briefly last season on Bway. Coery Cott in Gigi 1

Cott’s got it all, and is allowed to show his great musical as well as emotional range here, as he returns from the war, truly scarred and troubled, whose only solace is playing his music.He convincingly morphs into ambitious band-leader D0nny Nova, who falls madly in love, natch, with the adorable Ms. Osnes. She is a local girl and a Gold Star war widow, and Danny was her late husband’s best friend. Julia, who has the unfortunate last name of Trojan. So she is Julia Trojan for most of “Bandstand”, and Osnes does her best work ever in this challenging, dramatic role, where she has to go from shy Sunday school church singer to swinging big band belter. And she does. And she’s been awarded a Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. This is in a year when her co-nominees are none other than Bette Midler, Patti LuPone,and Christine Ebersole. She and Cott sing their hearts out. And win ours in the process.

But I’m up in arms about the criminal overlooking of Corey Cott come awards time, which is upon us. Donny Novitsky a.k.a. Donny Nova is as equally challenging and demanding a role as Osnes’ Gloria Trojan. He should’ve been recognized. His vocal range is amazing and his sense of humor right on target. He sees Frank Sinatra as his competitor.  “He’s over-rated and he sings flat.”

I also have to say, I found “Bandstand”s book, funny and sharp, and amazingly well-written. And again it’s Oberacker and Taylor, who wrote it along with all the orginal music in the show. “Bandstand” is certainly a winner on all fronts. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. And the fact that the main music is being played onstage by “Bandstand”s centraI characters, gives the 1940’s inflected  music extra-snappy pizzazz, and oomph is another charming, jazzy plus. I hope audiences find it and embrace it the way Danny and Laura so romantically embrace each other in this tuneful war-time( and post-war) romance.
It’s at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on W.45th Street, right in the heart of Bway. And I hope Bway audiences take it to their hearts, too.

Best Supporting Actress- Pre-Festivals, Pre-TIFF

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 2012 -Pre-TIFF

This category was ceded by many, months ago, to Anne Hathaway’s heartbreaking, shattering performance in the trailer of “Les Miserables.” I have never seen a trailer to have such an impact on the Oscar Race, and so EARLY! Back in June. Or May even…And the film doesn’t come out til Christmas!

“The Dream Lives,” the trailer ends with these titles “This Christmas.” Well, I for one can hardly wait!

Why was Universal releasing this so early?

Well, it was superbly done, brilliantly edited, and plaintively sung by Hathaway. It contains the song “I Dreamed A Dream,” which is arguably one of the most famous songs from “Les Miz” that always pulls heart-strings, if it’s done right.

This is the song that made Susan Boyle an over-night sensation on “Britain’s Got Talent” a few years back. And Musical Comedys are NOT at all a sure-fire, can’t-miss genre these days. No matter how well they may be done. They released this that early to build buzz. And it has succeeded in that respect. And Anne Hathaway also scored as Catwoman in TDKR, too, this year.

Oscar Winner for Best Director for “The King’s Speech” is back again with “Les Miz” and he directs period pieces soooo well…just check out the Multi-Emmy-Award Winning TV series “John Adams.” That was one of the greatest TV series I’ve ever seen, and it could have been as dry as dust, instead it was riveting. And it won its two leads Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney Best Actor and Best Actress Emmys, too. As John and Abigail Adams respectively.

And Laura is back in the Best Actress hunt again this year. Her FOURTH nomination, if she gets one for “Hyde Park on the Hudson” which I already discussed in the previous post just below this one.

Which is to say that Hooper’s actors win awards, see Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech.”

Anne Hathaway’s part in “Les Miz” is the doomed prostitute Fantine, which also won Patti LuPone an Olivier Award, when she played that part in the original London production. So it’s an awards-magnet role. And Hathaway totally aces it in the trailer’s Oscar-y moment par excellence when she, sobbing and dirty, gets all her real hair cut off.  It’s a horrifying, but award-worthy moment. The song is MUCH longer than that,too And there is much more to her role in “Les Miz” although she does die early on.  But who’s to say if they might run her as Best Actress instead of Supporting?

They might. But then again the Academy’s Actor’s Branch voters are the ones who ultimately decide which category an actress, or an actor, is going to be in. The Studios and distributors can campaign all they want…but it’s Hathaway’s peers who will decide where to put her.

The many For Your Consideration ads are run by the Studios as a means of clue-ing the Actor’s Branch especially for who goes where.  They decided for instance that Kate Winslet should be considered for Best Actress for “The Reader” when no less an Oscar personage than Harvey Weinstein was running her as Supporting for that film. Which she did eventually win a Golden Globe for. And also, for Best Actress that year for “Revolutionary Road.” Her “I got TWO!” picture with a Golden Globe in each hand, flashed around the world.

I think this instance shows that the Academy doesn’t ALWAYS do as Harvey tells them.Or suggests to them, I should say.

Opposite Hathaway, it’s looking like Harvey’s main gal this season is going to be Amy Adams for “The Master”, but evidently some already say the part is too small, only three scenes.

Will Qu’venzhane Wallis the 8 year old in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”  get run in Supporting, instead of lead, where she belongs? However, the Academy is notoriously not partial to putting child actors in the lead category. Look what they did with that girl with the braids from “True Grit.” She ended up in Supporting, though she arguably, also had the lead female role in the Coen Bros. western. What was her name anyway? I’ve completely forgotten! Hallie something? That nomination was the beginning and end of her career.

There’s also the great female Brits in the runaway smash of the Indies this year “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” It boasts THREE great performances, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. Again Dame Judi is the lead here, but again, Fox Searchlight has got her down for Supporting, where she really shouldn’t be. The Academy could put her in lead, if they so deem fit…As I said in the last post, Best Actress is once again Back Up For Grabs this year…

Fox Searchlight has its’ hands full this year! Should Judi Dench go lead? Should Qu’venszhane? Decisions! Decisions!

And then there’s Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Won’t Back Down”, another Indie. But who is lead and who is Supporting? I don’t think that film is even at Toronto. Which says something.

And though after last year’s debacle with Davis predicted to win all over the place, she lost to Meryl Streep. The Academy was again accused of racism. And it is. Although they did give the Best Supporting Actress Oscar to Octavia Spenser for the controversial “The Help.” Could they try to make it up to her with ANOTHER nomination? If they did, she would then be the first African-American actress to get the most Oscar nominations ever. A total of three.

Or is “Don’t Back Down” even Oscar worthy? We don’t know yet. But its lack of Festival presence says something, I think.

To go back to “Hyde Park on Hudson” there are two British Olivias in Supporting roles. Olivia Williams as Eleanor Rossevelt and Olivia Coleman as the Queen of England, who is visiting the Roosevelts at Hyde Park, with her husband the stuttering King Edward VII.

AND there’s the Oscar perennial Bridesmaid multiple-timed nominee, Annette Bening playing against type as a gambling-obsessed Mom of Kristen Wiig in “Imogene.”  You can never count Bening out.

But judging by the competition she’s up against, IMHO, this category is Anne Hathaway’s to lose.

Bobby Cannavale Trimuphs at Drama Desk Awards!

I’m very happy this morning to report that that great underestimated(but not by me) actor Bobby Cannavale won the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Play for “The Motherfucker with a Hat.” It was richly deserved. Congratulations, Bobby!

And now on to the Tonys!

Also winning big was “Book of Mormon” with five wins, but none of them in the acting categories.

And now on to the Tonys!

Are the Drama Desks a bellweather for the Tonys? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I think this does help Norbert Leo Butz who won for “Catch Me If You Can” as the beleaguered good guy FBI agent Hanratty. Tom Hanks played him in the movie. This was the only award that “Catch Me” got…

Will the Tonys follow suit? Perhaps. But the fabulous Butz already has WON a Tony and recently for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Do the Tony voters take that into consideration? I think they do. But this does help him.

Another head-scratcher was the lovely Laura Benanti who won in the VERY competitive Best Featured Actress in a Musical category for the long-closed “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

I saw it and reviewed it, not favorably. It was a mess. But Laura was very, very good as the MOST nervous of all the Nervous women. The Drama Desk notably does not care if a show is closed or not. Laura is nominated for a Tony, too. Along the Patti LuPone from “Nervous.”

The Tonys DON’T usually give one of their most-prized awards(since they are seen on National television) to a show that’s closed. And Laura has also won, and recently, for “Gypsy.”  Tammy Blanchard, who was not nominated for a Drama Desk (for “How to Succeed…”) and Nikki M. James(“Book of Mormon”) was nominated for BOTH are all competing in that red hot category.

The patchy “Anything Goes” got five Drama Desk Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Choreography for director Kathleen Marshall.

More on all hoopla this later. I have to dash to the Waldorf to interview Christopher Plummer for HIS new movie “Beginners” which Focus is going to push hard for to get Plummer another nomination, and maybe his long-over due Oscar. We’ll see what category they put him in. A beautiful performance as a man coming out of the closet at 75, he could win in Supporting. We’ll see…

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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