November 30, 2011

Occupy Broadway is on Friday

A different kind of movement will be descending on New York City this Friday. The Occupy Broadway movement isn't connected to the current Occupy Wall Street protests, but it aims to reclaim public spaces and make sure that they remain open to the public. The protest will start at 6 p.m. and feature nonstop free performances for 24 hours. Check out the petition here.

Queen of the Mist


Michael John LaChuisa's Queen of the Mist is currently playing at The Gym at Judson Memorial Church only until this Sunday, Dec 4th. The show was stated to close on Nov. 20th but was extended for two more weeks. After seeing the show on the eve of the 19th of November, I can see why it was extended.

Queen of the Mist centers on Anna Edson Taylor the first woman who successfully goes over the Niagara Falls in a barrel and survives. It's an unusual topic for a musical but Mr. LaChiusa proves that he is incredibly gifted as a musical writer. He manages to turn an unconventional topic into a compelling tale. His characters are layered and intriguing, plot line is intricate but most of all, melodious music prevails throughout the show.

The first act focuses on Anna's determination to find the greatness in her as she designs and builds this barrel and eventually goes over the falls. She foresees a more famous life after accomplishing this impossible task. It is in the aftermath of the fall from the falls (Second Act) that takes the audience into an unexpected direction. The public's attention, as always, is short and fickle. It is eventually revealed that Anna's life as she saw it, isn't life as it actually played out. She is robbed of her fame and spends the rest of her life dodging questions about what actually happened in the barrel. And when it is revealed towards the end, the staging and the acting makes it an incredibly moving scene.

The musical is stage in sort of an arena style with audience members seated in tiers on each side like in a gymnasium. All the scenes play in front of you and the night I saw it, I was seated in the front row. It was actually discomforting for me to be seated that close but as the show progressed I appreciated the intimacy of the occasion.

As the lead, Mary Testa is extraordinary. I know it's a superlative but it's true. I've been amazed by her performances since seeing her in See What I Wanna See (another LaChuisa work). Her Anna is a showcase of her talent. She is determined, steely and affecting. There is a scene where she's frozen on the bed coming to the realization that there is an incongruency between what she dreamt and what reality is. There's no movement, no dialogue, no gestures but she manages to convey her turmoil through her eyes. It is a portrayal of loss and disappointment that's so powerful. I still get goosebumps thinking about it as I write this.

Beautiful voiced Andrew Samonsky plays Frank Russell, Anna's manager. Julia Murney plays Carrie Nation who once shared a stage with Anna. I have to say it is so nice to see her in a show albeit a supporting role. She does get to sing a very lively number and gets to do a bit of comedy. Theresa McCarthy plays Jane, Anna's sister. Tally Sessions, Stanley Bahorek and DC Anderson round up this great cast.

I really enjoyed this unconventional musical. The night I saw it, Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of The Public Theater sat behind me. I am crossing my fingers that maybe this show gets another life after Dec 4th, in let's say.......The Public Theater?


Here are some of the photos I took:

The Queen of the Mist poster outside the theatre

Washington Square Park at night

I passed by Washington Square Park on Monday on my walk to Soho to take more pics:



Judson Memorial Church where The Gym at Judson is located

Beautiful day for a walk!
November 27, 2011

Muppetational!


The Muppets is Jason Segel's love letter to Jim Henson's creations. The old gang has to reunite to save their old theater from being demolished by an evil oil tycoon, the cleverly named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). They are assisted in their endeavor by Gary (Segel), his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams at her doe-eyed best, reminiscent of her Enchanted performance), and his muppet brother Walter (voiced by Peter Linz). (Look out for the funny yet touching duet from these two besties, "Man or Muppet", with a priceless cameo.)

Staying true to the Muppets' original concept, there are plenty of sight gags, zany puns, celebrity cameos, and musical numbers. Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords wrote most of the new songs, like "Life's a Happy Song". Try not to cry during Kermit's sentimental "Pictures in my Head", and the always heart-tugging "Rainbow Connection". I tell you---it's impossible. Of course, the film has to end with another classic Muppet song that will play in your head all day.


I have always loved the Muppets, especially Kermit the Frog (he had me at "Kermit the Frog here for Sesame Street News"), the awesome drummer Animal, Swedish Chef, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew with his hapless assistant, Beaker, and of course, Miss Piggy. Side note: The original diva has such lovely hair in this film. All the beloved characters get their screen time. But the film's strongest points are its lack of mean-spiritedness and cynicism, the absence of CGI, the silly but ever-entertaining gags, and the nostalgia it evoked in me. I hope this new generation of techie children will enjoy the simple pleasures of puppetry, wacky yet heart-"felt" (get it, felt? Wocka, wocka!) humor. Even Statler and Waldorf would have a hard time heckling this one.

(photo from EW)
November 26, 2011

A Legacy in One Word

It's perfect timing that the Princess Grace Exhibit is currently showing at the TIFF Lightbox here in Toronto until Jan. 22, 2012. My mom and I went to see it yesterday.

The exhibit presented a lot of her gowns and outfits particularly her famous Wedding dress, Engagement dress and the 1965 YSL mondrian dress. With everything she did, she simply exudes grace and elegance.

Photos are not allowed in the exhibit area but at least permitted in the TIFF lobby.

Other things shown in the exhibit were the posters of her movies as well as her scripts from films such as High Society and Rear Window. There were also letters from Alfred Hitchcock and Bing Crosby. The exhibit also contained theatre related articles including playbills from her shows. I recall seeing Damn Yankees and Gigi. But the most exciting thing for me was a letter from the Bucks County Playhouse confirming her contract with them in the play Torch Bearers where she was paid $50/week! Imagine that!

They also had her telegrams from friends and family congratulating her for her Oscar nomination as well as her Academy and SAG ID

Another highlight is her Oscar dress (as shown above) where she won for Country Girl as well as her Oscar statue. Also featured is her now famous Hermes Kelly bag, which started the trend that is still revered until now by fashionistas. Also very interesting to see is the dress she wore for a photo shoot in Monaco when she first met Prince Rainier. Indeed a pivotal moment in her life.

I wasn't aware that she was an avid artist and ventured in photography as well as press flower collage. There were numerous photos taken by her at the set of her movies as well as home movies of her kids and some of her friends. In fact, there was even one with Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas. It's an interesting look at the inner soul of an iconic woman.

The Grace Kelly merch at the gift shop

The TIFF lobby

November 25, 2011

Happy Evacuation Day!

One of my favorite authors is now The Daily Show's new Senior Historical Context Correspondent. Here's Sarah Vowell outwitting and "outfunny-ing" Jon Stewart. (Yes, I know that is not a word. Ms. Vowell would be ashamed of me.)


November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The cast of American Idiot performing at last year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. May you all have a blessed day with your family and friends.

November 23, 2011

Life's a Happy Song

The new Muppets movie opens today, 23 November. Here's Kermit singing a song from the film with music supervisor Bret McKenzie, who first caught our eye as Figwit in LOTR. Mr. McKenzie is one-half of the band Flight of the Conchords and starred in an HBO TV show of the same name.

November 22, 2011

Hal Prince Speaks



November 21, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

Really!?! with Seth and Kermit.

November 20, 2011

Seminar with Alan Rickman

Seminar stars Alan Rickman as Leonard, a (once)famous novelist who now holds private classes for aspiring authors. He is also a freelance editor and writer, and one of my favorite moments from the play is when he gives a bitter and impassioned monologue about a writer's career trajectory.
Theresa Rebeck's acerbic comedy is like Tyne Daly's Master Class combined with God of Carnage. Leonard is obviously brilliant but his teaching methods are unconventional; his criticism brutal. When he's not chewing out his students, he goes off on tangents, telling anecdotes about his world travels. He is unflinching, even malicious. But he is correct in saying that for budding writers---or any artists for that matter---one must be prepared to hear the truth.
Hettienne Park as sexual dynamo Izzy. Was she actually any good as a writer? We will never know.
Hamish Linklater as Martin, the insecure yet talented writer. The perfect target for Leonard's vitriol.
Sting and wife Trudie Styler were fellow audience members at the preview performance that I saw.
Mr. Rickman's performance is---shall we say? Magically delicious? (Sorry, I couldn't resist. I did see flashes of Professor Snape when he castigated one of his students.) His comedic timing is impeccable. And yet when we learn more about his character's history, his arrogant countenance adeptly switches to surprise, pain, anger. All in nanoseconds.
My sisters and I were supposed to see this show on 29 October, but the snowstorm prevented us from doing so. Thankfully, Telecharge allows you to call at 11 AM every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to see if shows are past-seating (or past-dating) for that evening's performance. All you need is time and patience, and a little bit of luck. I actually got an orchestra seat instead of the mezzanine seats that I bought. (Unfortunately, my sisters were unable to join me.)
Although I had qualms about 2 main characters' story arcs, AND accurately predicted how the play was going to end, it was still an enjoyable journey. As a fan of good writing (being obviously a frustrated writer myself), the show provides candid insight about this beautiful art and craft. Words strung together, done right, have the power to entertain, provoke, and inspire.
Lily Rabe as Kate, who lives in the Upper West Side apartment where the seminars are held. She has been working on her novel for years, and Leonard's disdain for her skills are matched by her contempt for him.
Jerry O'Connell as Douglas: privileged, affected, well-connected, priggish. He is not spared from Leonard's vicious critique.
Class is in session, starting today, the 20th of November.

Dear Frankie



I am always brought to tears watching this movie. It's such an endearing story about a deaf boy and his mother and the lengths a mother would go through to protect her son.

Having been on a constant move ever since he can remember, Frankie (Jack McElhone) lives with his single mum Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) and his Grandmother. They have recently just moved into a Scottish seaside town. Frankie has also been writing letters to his absentee father who works on board a ship called HMS ACCRA. As he writes his letter, Frankie also tracks his father's ship across the globe until one day he learns that the said ship will be docking in their Scottish town in a few days. Here in lies the conflict, because unbeknownst to him, his mum Lizzie is actually the one writing back to him. It is the only way for her to hear his voice. And so, Lizzie's created fantasy world comes to crumble. She must now make a choice, tell Frankie the truth or find a stranger to play Frankie's dad for a day.

The film has a fantastic cast which also includes a then little known Gerard Butler (The Stranger) and Sharon Small, as Marie their neighbor who owns a chip shop. As the single mum Lizzie who gives her all for her son, Emily Mortimer is heartbreaking in this role. She manages to convey all her character's emotion and yet avoid melodrama. Jack McElhone is endearing as a deaf boy trying to connect with a father figure and his friends. The story line is well written and is incredibly moving. There is a powerful scene between the stranger and Lizzie at the doorway with no dialogue. It is a testament to good writing and directing because that scene just needed to be played out without words. Very simple and it stays with you a bit after a while. Go check it out but make sure you have a tissue box handy!
November 19, 2011

Comedy at the Beacon

I finally got to go to the New York Comedy Festival this year. It was great to see Louis C.K. and Bill Maher live. It was also my first time at the famous Beacon Theatre. Here are some photos of this beautiful and historic theatre.






The stage during Louis C.K.'s show. It was recorded and I am looking forward to seeing it again, most likely on Comedy Central.

The stage during Bill Maher's show.

A Theatre Masterclass

(photo from Sydney Morning Herald)

Sydney Theatre Company's final offering for the year, Gross Und Klein by Botho Strauss opens today, Nov. 19, 2011. Between rehearsals, Elisa Blake interviews the director Benedict Andrews and leading lady Cate Blanchett. They give out great insight into theatre and acting:

Benedict, your work has sometimes divided audiences in the past. Do you think Australian audiences are becoming more adventurous?
BA: I think it's great if people have mixed feelings about work because it means the work is alive. I don't think theatre should always be easy to consume. It should be a difficult and delicious pleasure. It's an insult to the audience to think you should pander to them or make it easy.
We go to the theatre to get closer to people. I don't mean that in a touchy-feely way … We go to the theatre to understand people more, to get deeper into them and to be touched by them. Whether my work has been divisive or not, it should be judged on whether it does that. Did a theatrical event take place? Did it touch you? Did it make you laugh or cry? Did you get closer to someone? That's all I care about.

Benedict, do you remember the first production you saw Cate perform in?

BA: As a young theatre maker, I was struck by her access to her emotions and her ability to involve us in her thoughts. I think that's what great acting is: to let us know every single thing that person is thinking. That's very simple and f---ing difficult, and when it happens it's magic: to be involved in the thoughts of another human being. We should be in awe of actors. They show us naked life. We're too busy with our own lives to see ourselves.


Cate, what do you look for in a theatre director?
CB:
Richard Roxburgh and Hugo [Weaving] and I were saying when we were doing Uncle Vanya that once you've played a certain number of roles on stage, you can get mollycoddled a little bit. Directors just leave you alone to do that little wonderful thing you do, which is basically your bag of tricks, your habits. So it's really great to have big things and new things demanded of you. Tamas [Ascher, director of Uncle Vanya] did that and Beno does that. I think that's what happens with actor training. You come out thinking the director is going to tell you what to do. That's a cliche. It is not the director's job to connect the dots for you. The director makes a proposition and you complete the sentence - that's the actor's job.

For the full interview: Sydney Morning Herald

The photo is from rehearsal photos from Gross Und Klein courtesy of STC Blog. For more photos, please click here.



On a related note, here is Ms. Blanchett talking about her boys growing up backstage:

Are your kids interested in acting and performing?
They had a ball on the set of The Hobbit. They love the process of it. They’ve been backstage a lot. I think it’s great for them, because they actually see an actor being just a regular person, and then they see them drop into a role and walk on stage and come off. It sort of demystifies it in a way. We’re doing this education programme at work, and we were in a primary school just observing a drama class the other day, and you can see all the little girls thinking, “I’ve seen you in a movie.” And there was this girl who had drawn frocks and she made a little doll of me, so sweet, but I think they get enamoured with that sort of side. And the one thing about my kids – and maybe they’ll choose not to be actors because of it – [is that] they can see the work that goes into it. They can see it’s a very practical job in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of practical decision-making that goes into it, and I think that’s a wonderful thing for them, spending time in the theatre. They can see the construction of the sets. They can see what the stage manager does. They can see what the director does, and they can see that the actors are one part of that. They’re not princes and princesses.


Full interview: PrestigeHK
November 18, 2011

Maher vs. Hasselbeck




November 17, 2011

Frodo and Colbert

LOTR geek Stephen Colbert meets Elijah Wood. I am so jealous of what information they both have about The Hobbit movie.

Suites By Sondheim



Lea Salonga singing "Send In The Clown"s during the Suites by Sondheim show at Lincoln Center for the Philippine Development Foundation Gala held on Nov. 7, 2011. Below is a rehearsal footage for the show with Jose Llana singing "Company" from Company.

November 16, 2011

Extra! Extra!

After a sold out run at the Papermill Playhouse, it has just been announced that Newsies will be transferring to Broadway in 2012! The cult musical will play at the Nederlander Theatre starting March 15th with opening night scheduled on March 29th. Limited run show with have its final performance on June 10th. Read more about it here.

(photo from Playbill.com)
November 15, 2011

The Ides of March

Don't you just love that poster? I think it's one of the more brilliantly conceived movie posters lately. It's from the George Clooney helmed film The Ides of March that has recently been showing in the cinemas. The film is based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon last seen Off-Broadway in 2008 with Chris Noth and John Gallagher Jr.

The Ides of March is a political drama set during the democratic primary elections in Ohio and centers on Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) an idealistic campaign strategist working for the campaign of Mike Norris (George Clooney). It looks at the backdoor deals that take place in politics and examines the subject of intergrity. I am well aware that these backroom deals happen but it's a bit jolting when it plays out in front of you in the movie screen. Aside from Mr. Clooney and Mr. Gosling, the film has a stellar cast of talented actors including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Marissa Tomei, Jennifer Ehle, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright. It is however, Mr. Gosling's film and his transformation from an idealistic newbie to a calloused man is chilling.

Short Film of Epic Proportions

Totally stole this from Lynn :)  A sneak peek at Troll Bridge, a short film adaptation of Terry Pratchett's short story starring Cohen the Barbarian.  Oh New Zealand!  How I would love to visit your majestic landscapes!




November 14, 2011

Kids Night on Broadway 2012

The 16th annual Kids Night on Broadway 2012 will be from 05 February to the 9th.  Nick Jonas has been named the National Ambassador. KNOB 2012 will salute Givenik, the website where you can purchase tickets to a Broadway show and your favorite charity gets 5% of each ticket.

In this clip, Daisy Eagan talks about her experiences as a child stage actress.  She is the youngest female Tony Award winner to date.  I still remember watching that Tony Awards performance from the cast of The Secret Garden. I bought the cast album after that.

November 13, 2011

A Behind the Scenes Look at The Book of Mormon

Go backstage at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre with the cast of The Book of Mormon with Fox 5's Julie Chang.


Salonga in Carnage


Atlantis Productions will be presenting the Manila debut of Yasmina Reza's play God of Carnage. This four person play will star Tony winner Lea Salonga as Veronica. The play is set to open in July 2012 and further casting will be announced later on. Read more about it here.

(photo from BWW)
November 12, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

Stephen Colbert sings Lean on Me with Brian Eno and REM's Michael Stipe.

Cheyenne Jackson's Cocktail Hour

Mad about Mad Men era music AND Cheyenne Jackson?  He will be performing with the New York Pops on 18 November 2011 at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage.  Mr. Jackson will be singing songs from the 1950s and the 1960s.  Click here to buy tickets.

Actors Fund Q & A with Julia Murney

The Actors Fund recently asked fans to send in questions for Julia Murney to answer via Facebook. Here's the video of her Q and A:

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Part 4:
November 11, 2011

Billy's Back!


It has just been announced that the Oscars' favorite host, Billy Crystal will be hosting the 84th Academy Award next year. Read more about it here.

(photo from IMDB.com)

Seth and Stephen

Two of my favorite late night funnymen.  So funny to see them crack each other up!




November 10, 2011

History of Rap 3

Seth Deconstructs in Chicago


Broadway funnyman Seth Rudetsky was in town this past weekend for his Deconstruction show and an auditioning masterclass. I managed to catch the Deconstruction show with two of my friends Friday night (11/4) at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park.


Seth talked about his obsession with belting and belters with his fave, Patti Lupone and Betty Buckley. He also gave lessons on what to listen for to become proficient in "deconstruction".


The funniest bits were him comparing Ms. Lupone's Evita with Madonna's (gasp!) and the bit where he deconstructed Cher doing West Side Story.......as Maria, Tony, Anita as well as the Sharks and the Jets! By the end of the show, we were wiping tears of laughter off our faces! I've seen his Deconstruction show before at New World Stages in NYC but it's still pretty hilarious on second viewing (albeit not all the bits were the same). It was simply Ah-mazing!


I'd have to say that it was my first time at Mayne Stage and it is such a perfect venue! Not to small yet not too big but still very intimate. Plus they've got great sight lines from your seats and serve really good cheeseburgers! How can you go wrong?!!
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