June 30, 2009

Livestrong

I love this new Livestrong commercial! (I may have even gotten a little teary-eyed.) The opening scenes brought back memories of my radiation treatments.

What a Piece of Work is Hair


Gavin Creel as Claude
Will Swenson as Berger
Kacie Sheik as Jeanie
Caissie Levy as Sheila
Kaitlin Kiyan, Tribe member

I'm gonna come right out and say it: I did not like Hair. THERE! It's out in the cosmos. I was prepared to love it because we're all so familiar with the songs (Age of Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sun Shine In). Instead, I found the music loud, unintelligible at times, the story unfocused. I was mentally and visually overstimulated by the third musical number. I did not like the cast members going into the audience. I'd tolerate an occasional break-down-the-fourth-wall-wink-wink-moment in a show, but not to the extent that this revival did. (Although strangely, I liked it when they had audience members climb up on stage for the finale.)

The (too) exuberant cast have lovely voices. Gavin Creel has an incredible voice. I don't understand though how his character (Claude) who wanted to be invisible, made the decision that he did. The plot eventually kind-of comes together at the end. The ending is very powerful. Although it was nice to see a piece of musical theatre history, it's not something I would want to see again. Maybe it's a cultural thing, or a generational thing. But I'm gonna wash this show right outta my hair.
June 29, 2009

Web Site Story



The brilliant folks at CollegeHumor.com present this updated version of you guessed it, West Side Story! My, my if Leonard Bernstein could see it now!

Are You Ready For The Carnage



That was the welcome we got from the usher when we entered the theatre to see God of Carnage. I thought it was amusing at the time, then the play started and literally it was like watching a high speed train wreck which took everyone (in this case, the cast) in it's path down. It's a treatise on how civility frays at it's seams and unravels into wreckage once touchy truths are exposed.

As Lani describe the show her post, the evening starts with 2 couples trying to work through an issue between their sons. Then the seemingly lovely evening turns into havoc. Sensitive nerves touched, issues exposed and husband and wife turn against each other. It's an intense evening at the theatre but the play is also peppered with funny yet sarcastic humor that as an audience member I was flipping from laughter from the hilarity and moments of discomfort. It's as if I was a fly on a wall in this home's living room.

The cast of four composed of Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden were perfectly casted. They are so tailored for their roles and complement each other's performance. And they're not afraid of going at each other's throats full throttle! I must say though that Marcia Gay Harden's role of Veronica, who's obsessed with having just everything right, is a lot of times the "catalyst" in this play. She and Hope Davis were tremendously funny in their physical comedy. James Gandolfini too was a revelation with his comedic timing while Jeff Daniels was great as the sharky smarmy lawyer he plays.

The set was a simple living room filled with books with the walls and carpet in red. Little did I know when I initially sat down on my seat that the hue was a foreboding sign of what was to ensue. I also loved the inclusion of long pauses of silence in the scenes when a character exposes a truth that hits a nerve. I'm not quite sure if that was from the direction or it was really written in the script but it just adds to the tension an audience member feels. That long pause of silence is even more prominent in the closing scene which left me with a feeling of being empty. Of being stripped. I don't mean that in a bad way but I think I was just experiencing what the characters were feeling after all the truths were exposed. A really intense yet enjoyable evening at the theatre.

Here are some of the photos from the theatre:







God of Carnage


Son of Alan (Jeff Daniels) and Annette (Hope Davis) hits son of Michael (James Gandolfini) and Veronica (Marcia Gay Harden) in playground. Alan and Annette visit Michael and Veronica to sort things out. They sip coffee, eat dessert, make small talk. They are polite. They start to disagree. Personal issues come out. Man turns on wife. Wife turns on husband. No more espresso---bring out the rum! Wives turn against husbands. Husbands turn against wives. Evening is ruined. Maybe the marriages are ruined.

The Tony-nominated cast are all up for the challenge, and they are fun to watch, especially James Gandolfini. But I wasn't quite sure how to interpret God of Carnage. Was it trying to say that underneath the civility, the artfully decorated apartments and homes, the seemingly perfect marriages and successful careers, lies a bed of hypocrisy and discontent? Was Yasmina Reza agreeing with whoever said that "Society is like bright paint applied on top of rotted wood"? Was she trying to say that our children are the way they are because of the kind of people the parents are? There are hilarious lines in the play, at times very savage dialogue. The ending left me wanting though. I guess there was no easy way to end a night of brutality and unkindness. I suppose that just reinforces the complexity of society and human relationships. Maybe it just means that we are individuals after all, and there can be no one universal truth or experience.
June 28, 2009

Bad summer blockbuster movie detected: Commence Termination!



Sometimes, the sequel can be better than the original (case in point: Spiderman 2). Not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The first film was at least fun. In the 2nd installment, the humor is forced, the plot uninteresting. I was frankly falling asleep even during the intense action scenes. Shia Labeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Julie White, Kevin Dunn and John Turturro are back for this too-long, noisy sequel. John Benjamin Hickey (we saw him recently as the Earl of Leicester in the play Mary Stuart) is the usual government bad guy who just won't let our leads do what they're supposed to do. The new twin autobots Mudflap and Skids are the Jar Jar Binks of this movie.

Any pluses? I still love the actors who voiced the robots (Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and Hugo Weaving as Megatron), the idea of an aging defector Decepticon (Jetfire) complete with beard and walking stick. And now I can tell the Autobots and Decepticons apart during their fight scenes. It's still cool to see the Transformers umm..transform.

Despite its faults, I'm sure it will continue to make money. And Michael Bay can continue doing what he does best: blow up stuff and make plenty of noise.

And now a word from our sponsor...


We interrupt this blog for a shameless plug. If you live in the Tri-State/New England area and in need of a photographer, for your consideration: Red Caramel Photos
June 27, 2009

A Seth-Julia Duet

Seth Rudetsky and Julia Murney sing Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. Great to hear Seth's voice and but check out Julia Murney's Ellen Greene-ish Audrey character voice then she goes to her full belt towards the end.

June 26, 2009

God Save The Queen





Well, I guess in this case, which one?

Mary Stuart which I saw last Saturday with Tom and Lani is a play by Freidrich Schiller which centers on the prisoned life of Mary Queen of Scots. Cousin to Queen Elizabeth I, she was imprissoned due to murder of her husband but the real reason was because she was a threat to Elizabeth's crown. The play explores how Mary pleas with her cousin Elizabeth for reprieve while her cousin the Queen is in turmoil because of the political and religious pressure on her to eliminate Mary. It has intrigue and betrayal perfect combination for a play.

Janet McTeer who plays Mary earned a Tony nomination for her work. Her Mary is strong, fiesty yet vulnerable and elegant. She is matched onstage by Harriet Walter who plays Elizabeth I (also nominated for a Tony). Her Elizabeth is regal and smart but it was really great to see a more exposed side of Elizabeth that I don't think I've seen in portrayals from films.

There's this powerful scene where the two queens meet. Mary enjoys the small freedom she gets by going outside into the castle yard and lets herself soak in the rain. Mind you it's ACTUAL rain on stage! And not just drops but a downpour. In contrast, Elizabeth enters fully protected from the rain with umbrellas and coats. It's a great showdown of these two strong women. One, stripped of her nobility, asking to be freed while the other with all the control and power. And yet the one who "wins" the scene is Mary with Elizabeth visibly shaken. It's a great great scene.

I also particularly enjoyed the choice of having the men in court wear modern Men's suits while the women were in period costumes. It gives a feeling of the constraint these two women feel by being surrounded by men trying to pressure them.

The play in on a limited run so make sure to catch it while it's here.

Check out the stagedoor photo and the playbill:


Harriet Walter - I found it really interesting that she asked us how we heard of the play

June 25, 2009

It comes in Threes




Our condolences to the family, friends and fans of these legendary talents that we lost this week.
June 23, 2009

The Best Is Yet To Come



Julia Murney mentioned at her show in Feinstein's last May that she was going to be in a Cy Coleman show in California. Yes, the composer of City of Angels, Sweet Charity, Barnum, The Life and Will Rogers Follies! Well, now the official announcement has been posted!

The Best is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman celebrates the composer's works with a great cast that includes Lillias White, Jason Graae, David Burnham, Sally Mayes, Billy Stritch and Julia Murney. Produced by the Rubicon Theatre, the revue will be from July 9 to Aug. 2, 2009. For information and tickets click on the link above.

(photo fr. RubiconTheatre.org)

The Wrath of Rose



She did it again! Patti Lupone stopped her show Gypsy On My Mind, June 21 when she was distracted by an audience member texting. You go La Lupone! Some people need to learn about theatre etiquette. So don't get LuPwned and read about it here.

Addendum (6/23 10:51 am): read about Ms. Lupone's statement about the incident here. And to read about the atrocious audience behaviours (I mean common! Eating chicken in the front row!) that she was talking about, click here.

(photo fr. Broadwayworld.com)
June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

To all the fathers out there!

June 20, 2009

Broadway Actor in TV Commercial: Chryssie Whitehead

Chryssie Whitehead played Kristine (the one who can never really singggg!) in 2006 revival of A Chorus Line. She's also featured in the ACL movie Every Little Step. Here she is in a Country Inn & Suites commercial.

June 19, 2009

I Am Vader

From Brit comic Eddie Izzard's comedy, someone animated this sketch in Lego! In a galaxy far far away.........at the canteen inside the Death Star........Darth Vader encouters some issues. Clearly the force wasn't on his side that day. It's very amusing.

June 14, 2009

Commercial Break At The Tonys

During the commercial breaks, Tony audiences at Radio City Hall were treated to magic tricks by Neil Patrick Harris and some humorous videos. Here's one made by the cast members of Shrek. It's an audition tape by the fairy tale characters in the show. HILARIOUS! I wished we got to see them instead of the actual tv commercials.

June 8, 2009

Tonight, Tonight.....an Awesome TONY Night!



Well, last night was the Superbowl for theatre geeks like me......the Tony Awards! And it was a great and efficient show! We also had a great Tony party but that's another story.

I started watching the show online which had the Creative Arts Tony Awards. It started with a surprise!. For the first time in Tony history, Next To Normal and Billy Elliot tied for the Best Orchestration award. What a great way to start the night! It was great to see and hear loud cheers for Hunter Bell (Title Of Show) when the nominees for Best Book were announced. And he had co-creator Jeff Bowen right beside him! I was actually hoping he would win but alas Lee Hall of Billy Elliot did. Tony Award winner last year, Laura Benanti was the co-host for the Creative Arts awards and she was really funny. Even referencing bad audience behavior and what might happen to you (clearly referencing the Patti Lupone incident last year when she stopped the show because someone in the audience was taking flash photography). Too bad TV viewers didn't get to see that.

The broadcast then moved to CBS. They had a glittering opening number (see above)! It stretched for 11 minutes with every nominated show featured as well as well known performers like Elton John, Dolly Parton and Poison. It makes you want to see a show doesn't it?

For the presentation of the awards, I love Frank Langella's candid musings about not being nominated complete with print ad of Man for All Seasons! And I had heard that he did that off prompter! Amazing! It was really touching to see Broadway royalty Angela Lansbury win her 5th Tony for Blithe Spirit. She was so classy and visibly overwhelmed with the win. I digress but wasn't it amusing to see Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey sitting behind her? Karen Olivo's emotional speech was also poignant. And I must say I like her dress! It was also so charming to see the very talented boys from Billy Elliot speechless after they won. It was so adorable! I was so glad for Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's win for Best Score in Next To Normal as well as a Best Actress award for Alice Ripley. Her speech, although with a great message...... kinda scared me a bit ha ha! I still think she was great though.

I loved the production numbers but the best was from Next To Normal who sang You Don't Know. I didn't think that would translate well on TV but it did! It was so intense and emotional but what great music! Aaron Tveit has such a beautiful voice. I was dissappointed with the choice from Billy Elliot which was Angry Dance. If I hadn't seen the show yet I would have just thought the boy had tantrums. It didn't showcase the show well, although, Trent Kowalik, as the Billy was wonderful. I wished they did Solidarity instead. I also loved West Side Story's Dance at the Gym. It featured the intricate choreography of the show. Very energetic! Though I haven't seen it yet, Hair's number made me excited that I'll be seeing it soon!

I did like it that the plays, and there were a lot of critically acclaimed ones this season, were featured too! Scenes from each play were shown with the cast introducing them. Nice way to honor them.

The In Memoriam segment introduced by Bebe Neuwirth with the Broadway Inspirational Voices singing What I Did For Love was lovely. It reminded me how much great talent theatre has lost this year.......Natasha Richardson, Bea Arthur, Paul Newman, Estelle Getty and Ertha Kitt just to name a few. It was beautifully done.

As much as I enjoyed the show's production, I was so frustrated with the CBS TV broadcast. There were horrendous audio problems specially during the opening number and some performances. I mean not hearing lyrics but instead hearing people talking backstage??!!! Plus you couldn't hear the Jets and the Sharks facing off nor Trent's taps during Angry Dance. For a network that has produced the show before, I mean, common CBS this it the Tonys! How can you have horrible sound during the musical numbers! The camera angles and shots too were dizzying! It also didn't help that they had touring shows like Mamma Mia, Legally Blonde and Jersey Boys perform individual numbers. Those were just stale for me. I could have done without that. Plus it took time off from the last few award presentations which were major awards! The presentors had to hurry off reading the nominees list!

And last but not the least, the gem of the evening, Neil Patrick Harris! He was a great host! He was witty, acerbic and just plain charming. I love his sushi-gate dig at Jeremy Piven! As he said in an earlier interview, he didn't want to take anything away from the featured shows but his main role would just be a facilitator. I hope they get him as a host again. His show stopping closer was one of the highlights of the night (see video below)! Kudos to Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman of Hairspray fame for last minute lyric switches! It was.......wait for it........LEGENDARY! Read about how they did it here.

What a great season! For a full list of winners, click here. Now I'm off again to watch my DVD of the broadcast. So get out there and go see a Broadway Show!




June 7, 2009

WSS will live-tweet the Tonys tonight!

The cast of West Side Story will be live-tweeting the Tonys tonight! Follow them on www.twitter.com/westsidestry

The One Director


"A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to." The New York Times reports that LOTR director Peter Jackson is finally coming to San Diego's Comic-Con International this July! The convention runs from 23-26 July but unfortunately, completely sold out. Thankfully, The One Ring will be there to keep us posted.

(photo from The One Ring)
June 6, 2009

The truth about Food

The documentary Food, Inc. is opening in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco on 12 June. Here's Stephen Colbert interviewing one of the film's producers Eric Schlosser. (Mr. Schlosser is also the author of Fast Food Nation.)

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Eric Schlosser
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorKeyboard Cat

NPH: Top 10 Signs You Hired A Bad TONY Host

Neil Patrick Harris did Letterman's Top 10 Thursday night. It actually starts at minute 4 but I did bust out laughing when he mentioned # 3!

June 5, 2009

Goodbye Grasshopper


One of my earliest childhood memories was watching Kung Fu with my family. Even back then I wanted to become a Shaolin Master with Kwai Chang Caine's wisdom and calm.

I am saddened to hear about the passing of David Carradine.
June 4, 2009

Menu For A Tony Party



I usually host a Tony party every year and have a few friends over. Last year I decided to have a theme to honor a certain show........it was Gypsy........so we had Chinese food! This year, I wanted to choose food for each show but it might turn out to be a mish mash. I'm not sure yet if I'm going through with it but it was sure fun coming up with them. Here, just check it out:

Title of Show - [tos]sed salad (ha ha!)
Billy Elliot - pasty
Hair - brownies
West Side Story - mofongo
Shrek - ginger bread cookies
Next To Normal - sandwiches (in brown paper bags)
33 Variations - pigs knuckles
9 to 5 - coffee

Of course, there would be an assortment of Blithe spirits! Ha Ha! Any other suggestions out there?

(photo from TonyAwards.com)

New York's gonna party like it's 1609!

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the Englishman Henry Hudson's voyage up the river that now bears his name. He was searching for a shorter route to the Orient under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company. His exploration led to the Dutch colonization of New York.
This year also happens to be the quadricentennial of Samuel de Champlain's voyage. The Frenchman (who also founded Quebec) was the first European to encounter the lake that was later named after him.

River Day starts on 06 June, with the flotilla leaving the Statue of Liberty and making its way to Albany by 13 June. To learn more about events commemorating these twin anniversaries, go to Explore NewYork 400 or Hudson 400.

(photos courtesy of Cecile)
June 3, 2009

Libertango

If you're wondering about the title, well, it's the youtube video of Josefina Scaglione which got her an audition with Arthur Laurents for the current revival of West Side Story. Now, she's a Tony nominee for the role of Maria! Read more about her Broadway journey here.

June 2, 2009

The Chance To Dance For You




I saw this documentary over the weekend and really loved it! Every Little Step is a behind the scenes look at the casting and audition process of the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line. I love watching behind the scenes documentaries like this because it gives you a different perspective of how difficult it is to put up a show. In this particular case, I had seen the revival and knew who got casted in the show, but I found myself invested with the dancers who were auditioning and felt really devastated for those who didn't make it. I have a new degree of respect and admiration for these talented people who put themselves out there. It takes a very special person to go through it and survive.


It was really engrossing to hear the Michael Bennet tapes interviewing the original dancers who were the basis of the show. As were the interviews of Donna McKechnie (original Cassie) about her Cassie experience. It was exciting to see Baayork Lee (original Connie) teach the opening sequence to the dancers. What energy and passion!

Among the audition scenes, I have my favs. One of them was the casting of Val. Seeing recognizable Broadway people like Nikki Snelson (Legally Blonde), Rachelle Rak (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and Meredith Patterson (White Christmas) vying for the role. But eventually it was newbie, Jessica Lee Goldyn who was so ON the whole time during her audition that got the part. It was really poignant. Jason Tam's audition for Paul was so heartbreaking that he even made director Bob Avian cry. A moving moment that also had me in tears. Scenes with Natascia Diaz and Charlotte D'Amboise learning the Cassie choreography were precious. And how endearing is Chrissie Whitehead when she learned that she got the part of Kristine? It was great seeing the auditioners for Maggie placed side by side on screen as they tried to belt that last At The Ballet note......and failed......until you see Mara Davi who was perfect and soaring. Loved these raw moments. My only disappointment was that there was not much reference to lyricist Ed Kleban who's great lyrics I think contributed to this amazing show.

Try to catch the movie.......it's a must for a theatre geek.

(photo from IMDB.com)
June 1, 2009

Don't Rush the King's Exit




I couldn't pass up the chance to see double Oscar winners, the great Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon in their Broadway debuts. Eugene Ionesco's merciless and potentially mirthless treatise on death and dying Exit the King has been expertly and joyously translated by its star Mr. Rush and its director Neil Armfield. The result is an uproarious and rollicking fun time at the theatre, while pulling you back to the somber reality of our mortality.

King Berenger is at death's door, (After all, he is at least 400 years old), but totally unwilling to step over the threshold. So his first wife, the cold-hearted and acerbic Queen Marguerite (Ms. Sarandon) and the Doctor (William Sadler) are on hand to make the sovereign accept his fate and relinquish power. His younger second wife, the overly-emotional Queen Marie (Lauren Ambrose) is trying to do the complete opposite---denying His Majesty's impending demise.

Mr. Rush's Tony-nominated performance is a riot and a scream. His gravity-defying antics serve to illustrate how much he is physically fighting off death. (And can anyone tell me how he changed his hair?) Andrea Martin as Juliette (nurse, maid, all-around royal servant) is her usual comical and scene-stealing self. Brian Hutchison who plays the loyal Guard, provides many laughs as well. Ms. Sarandon plays her role quietly, sardonically, but eventually, with great compassion. I wasn't too impressed with Ms. Ambrose's histrionics.

Two people behind me left during intermission. I overheard them sarcastically say that this play was SO inspiring and uplifting. Well this play was written as a lesson in dying, how us mortals resist or postpone the ends of our lives, and how we should go gently into that quiet night. Too bad they missed the more serious and moving second act. Because that's where the best lessons were to be had.

The show is closing its limited run on 14 June 2009.

Q & A with Alice Ripley

This is courtesy of Broadway.com

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