a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Tony Award’

TONY Predictions 2017!


I am so in love with the idea that this year’s Tony Awards might heavily feature two of my all time favorite theatrical events. “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” the genre-busting pop-opera and “Little Foxes” which makes audiences (and critics) see double with the divine Laura Linney switching up with Cynthia Nixon. I admit to bias here, but I have the Drama Desks Awards this past Sunday to second my emotions.

Yes, I think “Natasha, Pierre…” will win many, many of its 10 nominations on TONY night, this coming Sunday. Including, I’m calling it now, Best Musical, Best Director of a Musical Rachel Chavkin, who won the DD on Sunday, Best Set of a Musical Mimi Lien, Best Lighting of a Musical, and Best Orchestrations Dave Malloy, who also wrote the incredibly, ketchy and thrilling  sung-through musical score, which may also get Malloy ANOTHER Tony in that hotly contested category.

I’m going to go with the more influential than ever Drama Desk Winner for Best Actor in a Musical and think that in a surprise Andy Karl will prevail in this category.He tore his ACL, and I’ve torn mine and trust me, it’s VERY, VERY painful, and takes a LONG time to heal, and Karl, formerly nominated as Bway’s “Rocky” overcame this excruciating experience to OPEN “GROUND HOG DAY” and continue on performing it, singing and dancing as he did before, turning it into a hit, where people are coming to see HIM as well as the show. He also won an Olivier Award in London for this performance. THAT counts bigly with Tony Voters.

And his HUGE, BLACK, frightening-looking knee brace is in full view the ELEVEN times he has to change into his clothes in front of the audience. And he’s clearly in pain doing all this. This counts heavily with the TONY voters, who know the show must go on, no matter what the pain level.

I think Broadway vet Karl wins this category over 23-year-old newcomer Ben Platt in “Dear Evan Hansen.” The TONY voters, I have to add, are older and more homogeneous than even the #Oscarssowhite Academy members. Yes, AMPAS is more diverse and forward thinking than the TONYs. And pain counts. Ben Platt will have other chances.

They’re not necessarily going to GET a musical about the Internet. Some of them DON’T EVEN HAVE INTERNET. So…It’s too young for TONY, but “Natasha, Pierre…” is a masterpiece based on a masterpiece, Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, so it’s just right. It’s got the most nominations. It’s right in the Tony voters comfort zone(s). Usually the show with the most nominations wins. Let’s see if that holds true this year on Sunday night when the awards are handed out at 8pm EST on CBS.

Surprisingly, “Natasha, Pierre…” won in EVERY CATEGORY for the Drama Desks that it was nominated for. And because it opened earlier Off-Off Bway, it was only eligible for the parts of it that were NEW to this production. And those category were Best Director of a Musical, Best Set of a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

Another category that I think “NPATGCO1812” will win is Best Featured Actor in a Musical. I think the TONYs will help the astonishing Lucas Steele along on his way to mega-stardom. It doesn’t hurt that though he’s cited as Supporting, he has a larger part than Pop Superstar Josh Groban, who is also nominated in the lead category, where he faces Karl AND Platt, unfortunately, or the award  handily would be his.

Lucas Steele is Anatole, Groban’s Pierre’s wayward, hedonistic brother-in-law, a very, complicated. LARGE part of the villain, as it were, of the extremely small section of “War and Peace” that has here been excerpted. He’s hot. He’s a little dumb. And he plays the violin. And he’s charismatic beyond belief and has been with “NPATGCO1812” for FIVE YEARS in all its’ growing and re-growing on its’ way to Bway. And he hits notes that are stratospheric, to say the least.

Bway vet Gavin Creel of “Hello, Dolly”, although he won the Drama Desk Award in this category, is funny, yes. But that’s about all there is to that part. , AND he was not up against his main competition, Lucas Steele that night.

Bette Midler, of course, even though she DIDN’T SHOW to pick up her Drama Desk win, as Best Actress in a Musical, will easily win in this category.

If I’m leaving out Best Play, it’s because “Oslo,” a play that bored me to death, has won every other Best Play award this year. And,yes, will probably devour the TONY, too. I wish my former guest Michael Aronov was going to win Best Featured Actor in a Play.

But I think that award, like it did at the Drama Desks, will go to Danny DeVito for “The Price.”LITTLE fOXES 3lITTLE FOXES 14

And as far as the Supporting or Featured Actresses are concerned, I think, like the Drama Desk it will go to Jenn Collela for “Come From Away.” And Best Featured Actress in a Play will be Cynthia Nixon. Pairing up for a win with her co-star Laura Linney, giving the performance(s) of their careers in the brilliantly double cast “Little Foxes.”  What a theatrical event! And this was all Laura’s IDEA! And the Tony Voters know it and she’s never won.</a
And Best Actor in a Play? Oops, I almost forgot. Kevin Kline in “Present Laughter” and yes, he won the Drama Desk, too.

#Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, #Josh Groban, #Lucas Steele, #Bette Midler # Hello, Dolly, #Gavin Creel, #Dear Evan Hansen, #Ben Platt, #Andy Karl, #Groundhog Day, #Kevin Kline, #Present Laughter #Rachel Chavkin, #Laura Linney, #Little Foxes, # Cynthia Nixon

“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.

Will Drama Desk Winners Repeat at the TONYs?

Jessica & Cynthia 1Will Drama Desk Winners repeat their triumphs at the TONYS? Probably. This year, especially. I think so. Above are pictured the two Best Actress winners. Jessica Lange for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and British newcomer Cynthia Erivo who is starring in “The Color People.” Lange won for Best Actress in a play and Erivo won for Best Actress in a Musical. I think these two ladies are Won and Done. At the Tonys.

Also poised to repeat at the TONYs are their two male counterparts in Drama Desk triumph Danny Burstein in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Frank Langella in the French play about an Alzheimer’s victim “The Father.”

I think all four of these powerhouse thespians can rest assured the Tony Voters will like them, really like them,too. The Tony Voters  do look increasingly to the Drama Desk winners to narrow their playing field, as it were.

This year, though, the theatrical phenom “Hamilton” is nominated for more TONYs than any other production in Broadway history. But in these four leading categories I don’t think it will register as it is likely to do in others. “Hamilton” won nearly every award in the book LAST year when it was eligible for the Drama Desks(and also the Outer Critics Circle and the Obies) because it played Off Broadway first at its’ historic run at the Public that launched it to Broadway.

And although two of its’ leading men author/actor Lin Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odon are both nominated for Best Actor in a Musical, I think they will cancel each other out, leaving the way for the popular veteran Danny Burstein to triumph for his joyous Tevye in “Fiddler.”

In other news, I think juggernaut “Hamilton” may find itself stopped at the TONYS. Although it was nominated for a historic 16 awards, I think it’s going to register much, much less than that.

The only acting award I think is a surefire win for “Hamilton” is the charming young African-American actress Renee Elise Goldsberry, who won the Drama Desk last year for Best Featured(or Supporting) Actress in a Musical.Renee Rlise Goldsberry 1

And on the Drama side, the powerful performance of veteran Jayne Howdeyshell from the Best Play Drama Desk winner “The Humans” could score in Supporting, which is where the TONYS put her and co-star Reed Birney, although they are both leads. “The Humans” also won for Best Ensemble at the Drama Desks, a special category that the DDs always give, but the TONYs do not.Jayne Houdyshell Humans 1

“Hamilton” will win Best Musical for sure. But the TONY voters are notorious for spreading the wealth around, and I think they will do that this year, too, in spite of “Hamilton” perceived dominance.

#Drama Desk Awards, # Hamilton, # Tonys, #Jessica Lange, #Cynthia Arivo, #A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, #Color Purple, #Best Actress in a Leading Role, #Danny Burstein, #Frank Langella, #Fiddler on the Roof, #The Father, #Lyn-Manuel Miranda, #Renee Elise Goldsberry,#Jayne HowdyShell #The Humans

First Tony Casualty “The Visit to Close

Chita 2Just shows you what a blood sport Broadway and the TONYs are. You don’t win any TONYs even if you ARE Chita Rivera and written by Kander and Ebb, you close prematurely. Read it and weep.

KANDER & EBB’S FINAL MUSICAL

“THE VISIT”

STARRING CHITA RIVERA

 

WILL PLAY FINAL PERFORMANCE

SUNDAY, JUNE 14TH

 

 

New York (June 8, 2015) – Producers announced today that The Visit starring Chita Rivera will play its final performance on Sunday, June 14th (3 PM).  Previews began on March 26th and opening night was April 23, 2015.  The Visit is at the Lyceum Theatre   (149 West 45th Street).

 

The Visit was nominated for 5 Tony Award® nominations including Best Musical.  It is the final collaboration of John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics). Book is by Terrence McNally and it is directed by John Doyle with choreography by Graciela Daniele.

 

Speaking on behalf of the production, lead producer Tom Kirdahy  said “The Visit has created a sensation on Broadway and generated interest in productions around the world.  We are eager for the release of the original recording of our CD and look forward to future productions across the globe.  It has been our great privilege to present the legendary Chita Rivera in the final Kander and Ebb musical.  This has been one for the history books”.

 

The cast is led by Tony Award® winner and 2015 nominee Chita Rivera as Claire Zachanassian.  Ms. Rivera received the 2015 Drama League Award for Outstanding Performance of the Year for her role.  The Broadway cast also features Tom Nelis as Anton Schell,  George Abud as Karl, Jason Danieley as Frederich Kuhn, Matthew Deming as Louis Perch, Diana Dimarzio as Annie Dummermut,  David Garrison as Peter Dummermut, Rick Holmes as Father Josef, Ken Krugman as Rudi, Chris Newcomer as Jacob Chicken, Mary Beth Peil as Matilde Schell, Aaron Ramey as Otto Hahnke, Elena Shadow as Ottilie, Timothy Shew as Hans Nusselin, with John Riddle and Michelle Veintimilla.

 

Final performances are Tuesday , Wednesday and Thursday at 7 pm.  Friday and Saturday at 8 pm with matinees on Saturday at 2 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets can be purchased at Telecharge.com (212 239-6200).

 

Final Casting of Chita Rivera’s “The Visit” Announced, Kander & Ebb’s last musical

Visit 1

ADDITIONAL BROADWAY CASTING ANNOUNCED FOR

 

KANDER AND EBB’S

FINAL MUSICAL

“T H E   V I S I T”

 

STARRING

C H I T A   R I V E R A

AND

R O G E R   R E E S

 

New York (January 30, 2015) – Additional Broadway casting was announced today for the highly anticipated musical,The Visit, soon to open on Broadway. The Visit will begin performances at the Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45thStreet) on Thursday, March 26 with an Opening Night set for Thursday, April 23. General on sale will begin on January 31, 2015.

 

Joining the previously announced Tony Award® Winners Chita Rivera and Roger Rees, will be Jason Danieley,Matthew Deming, Diana Dimarzio, David Garrison, Rick Holmes, Tom Nelis, Chris Newcomer, Aaron Ramey,Timothy Shew, and Michelle Veintimilla.

 

Based on the satirical play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt as adapted by Maurice Valency, The Visit features music and lyrics by the Tony Award® winning team John Kander & Fred Ebb, book by four-time Tony Award® winning playwright Terrence McNally. It will open on Broadway this spring, starring two-time Tony Award® winning Broadway legend Chita Rivera and Tony Award® winner Roger Rees.  Helmed by Tony Award® winning director John Doyleand choreographed by Tony Award® nominee Graciela Daniele. Tickets will be available on Telecharge.combeginning January 31.

 

In her juiciest role yet, Chita Rivera is Claire Zachannassian, the world’s wealthiest woman, who returns home to Anton (Roger Rees) who captured her heart then shattered her dreams. What she does next shocks the town and makes for the most thrilling and intriguing musical in years.   From the team that brought you “Cabaret”, “Chicago”, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, this tale of romance, seduction and betrayal proves that revenge is the best revenge.

 

 

 

 

###

http://www.TheVisitMusical.com

“Into the Woods” is 4D. Drab, Disappointing, Depressing & Disneyfied

Woods PrincesInto the Woods 1Yes, that’s right “Into the Woods” is in 4D. Not 3D. The D’s being Drab, Disappointing,  Depressing, and yes, Disneyfied. What a great waste of a Great What-Might-Have-Been. A golden opportunity squandered and cheapened like the Golden Egg that the Giant’s Golden Goose lays (off-screen in Giantland) and that Jack (of Beanstalk fame) steals. It looks more like a giant basketball, than an egg. But it serves as a metaphor to represent what the makers of this mess have turned a great musical into. A Golden Basketball. Or something that the whole family can use and bounce around, hurting or offending no one.

Except perhaps those of us who saw the ORIGINAL Broadway production in the ’80s. I can barely describe the power it had in that first incarnation.

The niftiness( and shiftiness) of combining all those great Grimm fairy-tales of childhood lore into one complicated Jungian mash-up.

And then, and THEN, because all these presumptuous fairy tale characters, Jack main among them, have caused the death of the giant, his wife, a giantess, descends to stalk the land and squishes half of the cast to death.

Believe it or not, this was a musical that I always felt was Stephen Sondheim’s reflection of the AIDS crisis, which was at its’ fever peak, at the time of the original Broadway production. Suddenly, for almost no reason, half the characters we had come to like, some of them a lot, like the Baker’s Wife, just DIED.

And this was a metaphor for the AIDS crisis. Half or more of all the people I knew, mostly gay, although some not, phfft, were gone never to return.

So in that sense the original ’80s “Woods” was heart-breaking, soul-searing and profound and when Cinderella, beautiful beyond description, sang “No One Is Alone” to the survivors of the Giantess’ wrathful apocalypse, it was utterly moving and I remember it to this day, a jewel-like, ineffable Broadway musical moment. It was cathartic.

I was waiting to feel SOMEthing like that in this facockta movie version. But no. I didn’t get it. Although they had the super, sharp Anna Kendrick sing it. Not a traditional beauty with her hawk-like, aquiline features, she radiates intelligence, which is all to the good and she sings beautifully, but THEY KEPT CUTTING AWAY FROM HER!?! Which in this case ruined the impact of the iconic song and the film’s climatic moment utterly diluted and lost.

This is just one small example I can pull from MANY in this film, trying to illustrate just how watered-down, and MILD. Nearly pure pablum this disappointing Disneyfication is.

What a shame!

The death of one of the central characters was absolutely pivotal to the original and her death by gigantic squashing was traumatic in the original because she was the one really decent character (spoiler alert!) the Baker’s Wife, who you really cared about. The role was considered a lead and won Johanna Gleeson a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, no mean feat, in any year.

Here played by Emily Blunt, the part seems curtailed, and well, blunt-er. And certainly her death is. She sort of falls out of frame, slowly, like she was simply, well, falling. A little girl in the row where I sat said “Mommy, what’s happened to her?” In fact, the child kept voicing simply confusions all the way through the movie.

Emily Blunt’s part has been curtailed in its’ impact to feature more of her co-star Meryl Streep as the Wicked Witch. And thank goodness they have Meryl in this movie! SHE’S terrific in it. She sings and screams and cackles up a storm, and casts spells with the help of perfectly executed special effects. Her performance seems larger than life and it is! It should be. And she’ll get her 19th Oscar nomination and then lose to Patricia Arquette for “Boyhood.”

But as good as she is when she’s all made up in horror garb and face-to-give-you-nightmares, when she transforms into the beauty she once was about half-way through the film (and of course, loses all her magical powers), she plays it as a blue-and-green version of Kim Kardashian, which makes her not at all the heroine she turns into in the stage version. She’s a reality show joke. So the film loses its’ moral compass there, too.

British comedian James Corden is mis-used too as the Baker. He seems ten years too young to be Blunt’s hubby, and he just over does or over-bakes all that he has to do. He’s too much of a muchness. Whereas Blunt in what should be the leading role, is just not enough.

There are high-points, though. Main among, the surprisingly comic duet of the two Princes, Cinderella’s Prince, and Rupunzel’s Prince, wailing about “Agony” on the rocky outcroppings of a stream. Chris Pine, as the really sleazy Prince Charming, shows you just why Cinderella keeps running away from him, couldn’t be better in this scene. And Broadway’s Billy Magnusson matches him beat for bare-bresting bro beat, as they keep trying to out do, or out-complain or out-splash each other, as each claims to have the greater “Agony”, and they both end up soaking wet! Hilarious. Billy for those who don’t know was Spike in Christopher Durang’s Tony-Winning play “Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike.”

And then the film settles down to its’ gobbledygook of a book. And the tedium layer in this lonnnng film gets higher and higher.

Broken thankfully, by Meryl, chewing as much scenery as she can fit in her green mouth, as she knocks both “The Last Midnight” and “Children Will Listen”(the other great Sondheim song) out of the ball-park, hitting high-notes you never thought were in her register. Such a shame that she never got to do “Evita” when she was the right age for it. And MADONNA got to do the screen version! What a sad story that turned out to be!

And yes, a lot of the Sondheim score is present and accounted for, but a lot also seems to be missing, replaced by even inane-er dialogue by James Lapine, who simply should be shot at dawn for participating in the tragic abortion of a film musical.

And they think THIS is going to appeal to a family audience?!?! It’s going to give little children nightmares. Like Lilla Crawford’s performance as Little Red Riding Hood will surely do for the rest of my life. For all the wrong reasons.

Johnny Depp is great in a VERY small part of the Big Bad Wolf. In this case, I WANTED him to devour Lilla Crawford completely. But no such luck, she is saved, and alas we have to endure looking at her and listening to her sing(flat) for the rest of this overlong, un-fulfilling movie.

So the dueling, vain Princes, and Meryl’s Witch-for-the-Ages, make the unbearable bearable.On my Top Ten List, it’s not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar Apple Cart Upset by Late-Breaking “Into The Woods?

Into the Woods 1Stephen Sondheim and movies of his work have never really clicked with the public. See Elizabeth Taylor in “A Little Night Music”, and of course, more recently “Sweeney Todd” with Johnny Depp. But Musicals are catnip to the Academy.

Depp is back again as the Big Bad Wolf whose  nemesis is Little Red Riding Hood, a very lethal Little Red Riding Hood. But the word from the screenings yesterday is that Meryl Streep is once again going to be back at the Dolby Pavillion for something like her 20th nomination. But which category will she be in? Could she win? She’s got three Oscars already.

The always excellent Emily Blunt has the Baker’s Wife role in the film and that’s the part that has historically won awards. Joanna Gleeson on Broadway won a Tony for Best Actress.  And pert, pretty Anna Kendrick is getting good  W.O.M.(word of mouth) as Cinderella. A former Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress for “Up In The Air” could she also be up again of her sparkling Cinderella?

And where does that put Meryl’s Wicked Witch? The Academy put her in lead last year for “August:Osage County” when many thought she’d be Supporting and Julia Roberts would be lead, but the categories were reversed.

That could happen to Emily Blunt, too. And she and Anna Kendrick could be up against the here-to-fore unstoppable Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood.” Would they knock her out of the leading contender spot? In Supporting.

Meryl’s Witch certainly could. The plot sickens.

 

“Twelfth Night” on Bway ~ One of the Best I’ve Ever Seen!

How can I begin to describe the joys of the impossibly wonderful “Twelfth Night” now on Broadway? It’s simply one of the best productions I’ve ever seen IN MY LIFE!

The two-time Tony Award winning genius Mark Rylance is probably on his way to another award (or awards) for his astounding performance as Olivia in “Twelfth Night.” Not usually considered a memorable role in Shakespeare’s comedy, which is usually played, as always by a woman, and as a sort of wan, sad, elegant lady,who is mourning the death of her brother. Olivia is usually the straight person in a cast of characters who are off-the-charts loony.

And here the masterstroke is Rylance plays Olivia as the looniest toon of the lot. He seemed to be channeling Margaret Dumont of the Marx Brothers movies. His  love-struck Olivia becomes the absolute center of this production, and the play, too, and it seems absolutely right. AND HILAROUSLY so.

The audience, some of whom were seated on the stage, was absolutely getting EVERY SINGLE Elizabethan joke and laughing so much, it made this marvelous “Twelfth Night” the longest “Twelfth Night” I’ve ever sat through.

With a half-hour pre-show added, wherein you get to see the actors get into their costumes and make-up right on stage and the musicians tune up their authentic, period instruments, this un-cut version was heading to the four-hour mark. But I didn’t mind one bit. I was in theatrical heaven!

One always wishes, if  one is a bardolator, that one could travel back in time to Elizabethan England, and see just what it was that made Shakespeare so great. And the brilliant thing that Rylance and his director of many productions, Tim Carroll have done is that they are so exact in a replication of how this comedy of Shakespeare’s was probably done, you absolutely believe you are in Elizabeth’s England, and that you’re discovering this great play for the first time and finding it  to be one of Shakespeare’s most enjoyable. In the hands of Rylance and co., all of whom are on their Elizabethan A-Game, “Twelfth Night” really ranks among one of Shakespeare’s greatest.

It’s an absolute delight from start to finish. All four hours of it.

And we, the press, were warned off coming to see it last night, because the light-board failed, and so we were not going to see it as it was meant to be performed, I was told, by the worried press agent. I decided to go anyway. And we discovered, when we entered, the stage was flooded with candle-light!

And that just made it magical! We were time-traveling!

There did seem as the play went on to be more and more stage lights focused on it, so perhaps the lighting board was being repaired as the show went on, but they were all white or a very pale blue lights

But of course, Shakespeare’s King’s Players DID perform by candle light.

And the stage at the Belasco was full of candles. There were six or eight chandeliers that were dropping candle wax on the actors, and an upstage set piece with more and more candles on it. sort of in the shape of a Christmas tree. So the stage was ablaze with honey-colored light. Which had a warming, charming, and totally disarming effect, which was just right.

And all the female parts are played, as they were in Shakespeare’s time, by men. Rylance’s Olivia dominating every scene, as we watch the character go from a very demure, lady-like, mournful royal in widow’s weeds atop a small tiara,  to a hyped-up matron who is hiking up her skirts and losing her beads, as she falls head-over-heels in love with the young Cesario, who is really a girl Viola, dressed, in disguise as a page-boy. Rylance,who usually blows everyone off the stage, he is such a strong performer, but here he is matched quite evenly by the great Samuel Barnett as Viola, equally convincing as a man or a woman. Tony Nominee and Drama Desk Winner, Barnett will be familiar to Broadway audiences from “The History Boys” a few years back.

I knew he had greatness in him, and the promise he showed in “History Boys” comes to full fruition as this glorious beautiful Viola/Cesario, who matches Rylance’s antic, love-crazed Lady Olivia, beat for comic beat.

And he’s not blowing the great Stephen Fry off the stage as Malvolio. Oh no! Making his American and Broadway stage debut, Fry a major stage, film and television star in England is simply magnificent as Lady Olivia’s simpering steward.

Fry is a towering figure. He’s a huge man, and he makes Rylance’s Lady Olivia seem dainty by comparison.

Also, the large and bosomy Maria of Paul Chahidi, a maid servant of Olivia’s, who is also daintiness personified, as well as the mischievous mischief-maker, who sets much of the plays comic stratagems in motion. Chahidi and Rylance, who are both wearing floor-length gowns, move with such humorously mincing small steps they seem to be floating across the stage, or on roller skates! Hysterical!

The men, who actually play men in this cross-dressed production are at a kind of comic disadvantage, you’d think, against Rylance’s Olivia, Barnett’s Viola, and Chahidi’s Maria(or Mariah or Mary as she’s variously called), but Rylance has wisely peopled the supporting cast with very strong character actors who are as funny as the “women.”

Colin Hurley is a pint-sized Falstaff as Sir Toby Belch, who has to play all manner of drunkeness throughout, and his extremely tall co-hort Sir Andrew Aguecheek is perfectly matched by Angus Wright. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria form the toxic trio of tormentors who want to bring down  the supercilious steward Malvolio, leaving a letter supposedly from Lady Olivia that tells him “Some are born great, Some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Well, “Twelfth Night” itself is having greatness thrust upon it by this astonishing, laugh-riot of a production. Sub-titled “Or What You Will,” which is the Shakespearen equivalent of saying “Whatever”, or “This play is just a trifle. Don’t pay any attention to it. Don’t take it seriously.” And “Twelfth Night,” or as the bill-boards are spelling it “Twelfe Night,” was a name just tacked on to it at the time, because it was performed for Queen Elizabeth I as part of the twelfth night after Christmas celebrations. As if Shakespeare didn’t know what to call it.

The words “Twelfth Night” are never mentioned throughout the play. But I did catch, I think it was Viola saying “What You Will”.

This historic production is a dream come true, and is thrusting a greatness upon “Twelfth Night” as one of the best comedies ever written. It will now always be referred to by all who attempt to match this magic. It’s an impossiblity.

“Hands on a Hard Body” a Warm-hearted Musical Hits Home

I really did enjoy the recently opened “Hands on a Hard Body” the surprising, innovative musical hit that just opened on Broadway starring one of my favorite Bway actor/singers Hunter Foster. Yes, THAT Hunter Foster, who is the very, very talented older brother of the much more famous Sutton Foster, she who has now two Tonys and Hunter doesn’t even have one!

Hunter does however have a Tony nomination for “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Perhaps the super-duper “Hands on a Hard Body” will change all that. Certainly, it COULD. Hunter has the role of his career here playing the much-older-than-he-is, bad-ass, red-neck lead Benny Perkins.

Based on a much-respected but little-seen real-life documentary of the same name, “Hands on a Hard Body” traces the journeys of its’ dozen or so working class Texan characters, who have accepted the daunting challenge of standing with their hands on the hard body of a brand spanking new, gleaming, red as rose Nissan pick-up truck. Whoever can last the longest, in this rather unbelievable, but true competition wins the truck. And hopefully a bigger piece of the American pie, than all of them presently have.

Yes, a cast of have-nots, singing their Country and Western hearts out, to the tune of our sluggish economy and the stagnant social mobility that used be the American Dream.

Contempo, yes, to the max. But I liked that. And I REALLY liked all these characters, and their elucidation musically by Trey Anatasio (of “Phish”) and Amanda Green. And literarily by Pultizer-Prize winning librettist Doug Wright. Who wrote “I Am My Own Wife”. I liked this MUCH better than “Wife”, and was so pleased that there were relatable characters of all ages, sizes and genders singing their hillbilly hearts out.

The way the Musical Numbers are listed in the maddening program, without the names of the characters or actors who are singing them, it’s hard to single out just who sang what. But I found much to my delight(and hopefully yours, too) that every song was a winner.

Hunter Foster really dominates here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did receive a Tony and/or Drama Desk nomination for his memorable meanie, whose big number was certainly “Hunt with the Big Dogs”, which ended the first act with a BANG! But he also sang many other terrific tunes, too.

Top-tapping music and amazingly interesting choreography by Sergio Trujillo kept “Hard Body” (and the red truck, too!) moving so much that you never noticed its’ seemingly static premise. Kudos are due, too, to its’ sharp director Neil Pepe.

Particularly so during Hawaiian belter Keala Settle’s roof-rasing “Joy of the Lord” which had the larger than life Ms. Settle pounding away on the truck until it turned it into a percussive instrument! Tony/Drama Desk and more nominations are CERTAINLY headed her way for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Giving her a run for her awards’ money in that category will be Dale Soules, whose Texas rasp, made me feel like she had just wandered in from the Grand Ole Opry, instead of an extensive career in theater.Her big number was “It’s a Fix!”

Also registering powerfully were Jon Rua as born-in-the-USA hispanic kid with a dream who wants to win the truck, so he can sell it and he can go to school and be a veterinarian. His soulful “Born in Loredo” is marvelously moving and mesmerizing. As is the Iraq war vet with PTSS, David Larsen,in his “Alone with Me” solo that also brings down the house. As do they all.

I love that a Broadway musical takes risks like “Hands on a Hard-Body” does. And reaches and fulfills them. I hope audiences find it as enjoyable and moving as I did!

Oscar Race Changes AGAIN ~ IN A DAY! With Leo as Gay J. Edgar!

It’s now really for real November and we now really for real are in OSCAR SEASON! Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, November is the really hot-cha month when all the good stuff  starts happening. Or not…

Like this morning I started off the day with the beauteous and beneficient Kristen Scott Thomas calling me via satellite from Paris! Oui, oui, bien sur, mes amis! That’s where KST really lives most of the times, though she is of course, thoroughly English. And guess who? Harvey Weinstein is at it again, and this time he’s decided to throw an early season opener “Sarah’s Key” that sort of blipped by unnoticed by most (I knew it was there. I just didn’t get to it. Then it was gone.) Well, he’s putting “Sarah’s Key” back into some theaters and also releasing it on DVD and so Kristen Scott was calling me at a very early hour of the morning here where I am, but for her in Par-ee it was a comfortable middle of the day, a beautiful day to hear her tell it. And you will, and see her, too, coming up on my You Tube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow and also on my TV show.

The Best Actress race is really packed at the top this year already. There’s really no room with supposed locks – Meryl, Glenn Close(as a man!), Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, and Viola Davis for “The Help”. Lots of competitsh for that fifth slot. Although there’s always the Golden Globes with their ten slots and I think Kristen will fit very nicely in there. For “Sarah’s Key.” Yes, I’ll mention the name of the film again…

And meanwhile, back at the AFI opening in LA, Leonardo Di Caprio really did upend expectations with the(I knew it all along) very GAY J. Edgar, Or Gay Edgar, as I and many  people I know are calling it. Not necessarily derisively, either. This is the story that dared not speak its’ name in J. Edgar’s lifetime, and with Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, penning it. He won for “Milk.” What else COULD it be?

And Clint Eastwood has evidently told it quite while and Leo a great, great actor as well as star has never won an Oscar. Yes, ladies and gentle person’s, it’s true. And now that he’s evidently giving the performance of his career as this tormented closeted gay man of the ’30s & ’40’s. Oh, and the ‘6os and the ’70s, too, who could never come out of the closet. And neither could his supposed lover who took the name “very close friend” Clyde Tolson, here embodied by none-other than the super-hunky Winklevoss Twins themselves, Armie Hammer, and HE’S supposedly got a supporting Actor nomination in his future now, too.

So with Leo on board, I think it’s buh-bye for George O’Clooney’s Oscar hopes. He already has one. For “Syriana” for Supporting. But still…

Leo’s been nominated three times AT LEAST and never won and now it looks like with Clint Eastwood at 81 at the helm, we may finally see Leo’s Titanic Oscar ship finally pull into port…

And oh yes, the Academy has decided to honor Vanessa Redgrave, I’m not quite sure how. A dinner? A plaque? She’s already majorly in the Supporting Actress race for “Coriolanus” and now…well now, I think this is the Academy saying VOTE FOR HER! Forget her politics of the past. And let’s give her an Honorary One, or whatever it is they’re doing. And giving it to her. All her. Just her. In one Vanessa-filled night in London…well, if it’s not taking place in Hollywood itself, it really ISN’T rrrrreally official…but it’s the Academy’s way of saying “VOTE FOR HER!”

She’s 72 or 73 or 74 and her beautiful daughter Natasha died so tragically and young during the filming of “Coriolanus”…and she’s BRRRRRILLLIANT in it. And oh yes, who’s the Producer? Harvey Weinstein. Oh yes, him again. So yes, I think THAT category just got closed, today, too.

So right now King George has been de-throned by Prince Leo. And the Academy is giving Vanessa Redgrave their version of an honorary knighthood…”Sarah’s Key” is coming out AGAIN.

And “War Horse” was “sneaked” all over the country this week, and it seems people like it, they really like it.  So last week “The Descendants” was the front-runner, but now I think “War Horse” was galloped back on top.

You can see a very astute young You Tube film critic/star (y’know, like me *cough*cough*)over at www.awardsdaily.com and you can hear what he has to say about being lucky enough to have stumbled in to one of these “War Horse” sneaks…It’s a custom as old as the Academy itself. Showing a film to a surprised audience in the hinterlands…Even “Gone With the Wind” was introduced this way…”War Horse” is gonna be a tough one to beat. It’s STILL playing to sold-out houses in New York’s Lincoln Center, and it won the Tony for Best Play last year, though the writing was atrocious. I nearly left at the Intermission, but I stayed…and was amaaaazed by its’ powerful second act.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: