THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

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Well, my "little vacation" ended up lasting two and a half years... funny how life steers your life in directions you weren't planning on. I'll start off with occasional posts, but I fully plan to resume this blog to full speed by the new year.

I hope you'll come back for frequent visits, to see new reviews, to share opinions, to take a survey (or two), and to celebrate the shows and show people that have made the TheatreScene!

Jeff

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bits and Pieces for 01.31.10

Warning:  This blog contains photos of pretty girls, drag queens, and Broadway Bares strippers.  While no one is fully naked, there are pictures that might not be work safe.
 
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THIS WEEK!



NEW DADS AT NEXT TO NORMAL!
 
Congratulations to both Michael Berry (above) and Louis Hobson (below) on the births of their new sons!  Mr. Berry is the understudy for the roles of Dan (played by J. Robert Spencer) and the doctors (played by Louis Hobson), and Mr. Hobson plays Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden.  
The Berry's (he and wife Sarah Uriarte Berry) welcomed twin boys earlier in the run of next to normal - they also have other children, while the Hobsons welcomed their new son (and second child) to the world week before last. 
 
For more specific details, check out Kyle Dean Massey's video blog, part 3, at Broadway.com.  If you haven't checked it out yet, you should!  Parts 1 - 4 have been very interesting and funny.  The most recent edition has Massey talking about the lighting of the show.  Even if you haven't seen next to normal, if you enjoy theatre, you'll enjoy this glimpse backstage at the pretty unglamorous running of a Broadway show.

TICKETMASTER MERGER

 
I'm not sure how to feel about the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger which was announced this week.  I mean, to date, Ticketmaster is probably the least user-friendly online ticket site - if you don't like the seats they choose, you have to try again much later to see other ones.  And don't get me started about the less than Jersey Shores quality of their live support!
On the other hand, maybe a merger with another company will make policy changes faster.  Didn't Ticketmaster promise easier seat selection for Broadway shows eons ago?  Then again, it is Live Nation, who runs theatres (or ran...maybe they got out of live theatre recently?) like an Army platoon.  Talk about bad service!  Have a complaint with Live Nation?  Keep it to yourself!  Like everything else, I hope for improvement, but it has been my experience that the bigger a company gets, the less they worry about us lowly consumers.

 
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS!

 
Yet another reason I wish I lived in New York: Broadway Bares events!  I think I mentioned in a previos blog that today, January 31, 2010, there will be a Broadway Bares event at Splash in NYC.  It is called Broadway Bares: Solo Strips and there are two shows: 8PM and 11PM.  Admission is first come, first served, and is $10.00.  Pretty cheap!  Seven of Broadway's hottest guys will be doing their thing: Joshua Buscher (West Side Story), John Carroll (A Chorus Line), Tony James (The Lion King), Nick Kenkel (Peep Show, Legally Blonde), Kenway Kua (Wicked), Anton Harrison LaMom (The Phantom of the Opera, Movin' Out), and Daniel Robinson (Hairspray).  Here's a little preview:

 
Top: Joshua Buscher, John Carrol
Bottom: Daniel Robinson

 
For much more information about the whole Broadway Bares organization go to their awesome site at http://www.broadwaybares.com/.
  

 
YOU GO GIRLS!
 
I am so pleased to hear that one of my favorite shows in recent years - Legally Blonde - is getting the reception it should have gotten here.  Too bad all of the huzzahs and B.O. lines are in London!  Seems Elle and company are the toast of the West End.  Critics admitted they loved it - apparently, they get the joke AND understand that musical comedy doesn't all have to be droll and self-congratulatory for its wityy urbane snootiness.  Shortly after it opened, the producers announced ticket sales into 2011!

 
And another show I can't wait to see here, and which is apparently Broadway-bound, is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.  I know, does Broadway really need more spandex, drag queen, 70's pop song musicals?  Probably not, but if you are tired of Mamma Mia!, and La Cage aux Folles  is too Jerry Herman for you, maybe you should think about hopping a ride on Priscilla!  That show also recently announced ticket sales into 2011 for its London engagement.  Let's hope the NY critics and theatre-goers alike get the joke on this one.  It sure looks like fun.

 
LA CAGE PREVIEW

 
 
Speaking of drag queens in general and La Cage aux Folles specifically.  They have finally released some press about the upcoming revival, starring Kelsey Grammer.  It is, simply a picture.  And here it is.  Douglas Hodge (London import) as ZaZa, looks pretty sexy - great legs, and Kelsey looks like, well, the only thing he seems to do well, Fraiser.  And an impatient, uncomfortable Fraiser at that.  Here's hoping the boys have more romantic chemistry than this picture shows.  Or is this part of the revival's reported "grit" factor?  Hmmm.  The logo, on the other hand, is fun, but also, dark and sexy... maybe that's the "grit"?  I can't wait to see how they dirty up a Jerry Herman musical!

 
 
BROADWAY BY THE NUMBERS
  • Fanny  will be Encores! 50th production since it started back in 1994.  Time sure flies!  And Chicago just keeps on going...
  • And happy birthday this past week to:  1/24: Neil Diamond (Fosse, Dancin'); 1/25: Dean Jones (Company); 1/26: Maria Augusta Trapp (the reason The Sound of Music exists); 1/27: Alan Cumming (Cabaret, Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark); 1/28: Joey Fatone (Little Shop of Horrors, RENT); 1/29: Oprah Winfrey (the reason The Color Purple: The Musical exists, or in her mind, the reason The Color Purple exists in any form); and 1/30: Norbert Leo Butz (Wicked, Thous Shalt Not, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Is He Dead?).
Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Play Preview: Lend Me a Tenor, The Miracle Worker and Next Fall

It may be cold, dreary winter out there (even in Florida this year), but things are starting to heat up for spring on Broadway.  Actually, both of these plays are getting their start in the winter, but with any luck, they will both be around this spring and beyond.

After confessing that I felt duped by the whole Ragtime press machine, I have to admit that I am still a sucker for the artwork and press photos that signal a new production.  It's like when I was little and the Sear's Christmas catalogue, with hundreds of pages of toys, came out each year.  You'd think after nearly 30 years of theatre-going, I wouldn't get excited every time a new marquee goes up or new logos and artwork are revealed.  And yet, here I am!  Just as excited as ever.

Both of these plays are on my "must see" list, and are part of my New Year's resolution to add more plays to my theatre diet.

LEND ME A TENOR

Still a bit off calendar-wise, Lend Me a Tenor will probably appear in another, similar blog as the show gets closer to opening.  But I saw this in The New York Times and couldn't resist commenting.  This is the poster artwork for the revival, soon to open at the Music Box Theatre.  It is by artist Robert Rodriguez, who you might know from his most famous piece - the updated version of the Quaker Oats guy.  Accoring to the Times article, Rodriguez took photos of the cast members and then did Norman Rockwell style "make overs" on them, adding character-ish costumes and setting it at a 30's era hotel, just like the play's setting.  Having seen the original, I can tell you that this really represents the fun and madcap farcical quality of the play.  Nice choice, producers!



THE MIRACLE WORKER

A play (and a movie) that I just love, The Miracle Worker, is getting a revival this winter/spring, starring two of my favorite actresses, Alison Pill (The Lieutenant of Inishmore) and film star and terrific actress Abigail Breslin.  I've really been taken by the artwork for this production - a vintage looking blue-toned sepia look.  I was amazed to find out that the photographer, John Dugdale is blind, and his assistant, Dan Levin helps him create each shot.  Yes, his blindness is appropriate for the content of the play, but it is amazing and admirable all at once.  And blind or not, the man takes an excellent picture.  For more on this, including a link to some video footage of the photoshoot, click here.

Outside the Circle in the Square Theatre


A sign in the breezeway at the Gershwin Theatre/Circle in the Square

(Marquee photos by Matthew Blank)

NEXT FALL

In a completely different vein - this play, I understand, is much more serious - Next Fall is really close to starting its Broadway run.  It starts previews in mid-February.  As you know, loyal readers, I love those new marquee photos from Playbill Online.  But recently, Broadway.com posted several rehearsal photos from the production, a few of which I've posted below.  Click here to see the full gallery of photos on Broadway.com.


The Logo on the Helen Hayes Theatre Marquee


A broader view of the Helen Hayes Theatre


Both the cast photo and logo together adorn the doors of the theatre


The original cast photo from its off-Broadway run, and used again for Broadway


Playwright Geoffrey Nauffts and director Sheryl Kaller discuss the show at rehearsal


Cast members Connie Ray and MaddieCorman in rehearsal


Connie Ray, Sean Dugan, Sheryl Kaller, Cotter Smith and Patrick Breen share a laugh

(Marquee photos by Matthew Blank; rehearsal photos by Jenny Anderson)

From the farce of Lend Me a Tenor, to the real-life drama of The Miracle Worker, to the comedy-drama of Next Fall, this season should be full of interesting and varied choices in plays.

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

Friday, January 29, 2010

UPDATE: American Idiot

Well, the exciting news about Broadway's (potentially) most exciting new show, American Idiot, just got more exciting!  First, it is really great that the show is tranferring at all; and that it is at the plumb St. James Theatre is icing on the cake.  Then, as if a score by Green Day, direction by Michael Mayer, and abook by Mayer and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong weren't enough, now the cast has been officially announced, and it is a strong one.



Most of the cast is transferring from the Berkley Rep world premiere last year.  The leads are fabulously talented: John Gallagher Jr. (Tony-winner for Spring Awakening) will star as Johnny with newcomer Stark Sands (Journey's End, Bonnie and Clyde: A New Musical) as Tunny, Michael Esper (The Four of Us, A Man For All Seasons) as Will, Rebecca Naomi Jones (Passing Strange) as Whatshername, Christina Sajous (The Wild Party) as The Extraordinary Girl, Mary Faber (my favorite Kate Monster in Avenue Q, Saved) as Heather and Tony Vincent (Jesus Christ Superstar - on Broadway & DVD) as St. Jimmy.


And the ensemble looks to have the depth of a World Series winning team: Declan Bennett (Rent), Andrew Call (Glory Days, Cry-Baby), Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening), Miguel Cervantes (Spelling Bee), Joshua Henry (In the Heights), Van Hughes (Saved, Hairspray), Brian Charles Johnson (Spring Awakening), Joshua Kobak (Rent), Lorin Latarro (Movin' Out), Omar Lopez-Cepero (North American tour of Evita), Leslie McDonel (Hairspray), Chase Peacock (Disney's High School Musical), Theo Stockman (Hair), Ben Thompson (Cyrano with Placido Domingo), Alysha Umphress (bare), Aspen Vincent (Dirty Dancing) and Libby Winters (White Noise).  Looks like these folks have the widest variey of musical experience out there!



It was also announced that the cast would be appearing on the Grammy Awards this Sunday with Green Day, to perform a special version of the group's Grammy-nominated song "21 Guns."  Set your DVRs!

Ugh, now if I can just get an American Express card for advance purchases!  Still, I think they might want to consider their audience when selling tickets and the scale of prices... not everyone in their teems to mid-20's is Gossip Girl rich.

PHOTOS: Top Group: John Gallagher, Jr. and Tony Vincent in American Idiot; Michael Esper in The Four of Us; and Stark Sands (with Laura Osnes) in Bonnie and Clyde.  Middle Group: Christina Sajous; Rebecca Naomi Jones (right, with Daniel Breaker) in Passing Strange; and Mary Faber (right, with Celia Keenan-Bolger) in Saved.  Bottom Group: Chase Peacock (center) in Disney's High School Musical; Lorin Latarro; and Gerard Canonico.

Comments?  Leave one here oremail to jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com
Jeff


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eating in New York: Dallas BBQ


Recently, I've gotten a few emails from readers asking me about the places I love to eat lunch or dinner when I'm in the city.  My love for the Edison Cafe is well-known to your regulars, and some time soon I'll blog about breakfast there...and lunch.  I also love Virgil's Barbeque, kitty corner from the Lyceum Theatre, John's Pizzaria, across the street from The Phantom of the Opera, and when I'm a little more flush with cash and feeling touristy, or I need a quick sandwich for the trip home, Junior's in Shubert Alley is a great choice.  Oh!  And the Tick Tock Diner, in the New Yorker Hotel, kitty corner from Madison Square Garden is also really good, and the portions are huge.  I stay away from most fast food places and TGIFridays and Applebees because you can get the same at home for A LOT less cash!

But the one place I seem to go back to over and over is Dallas BBQ on 42nd Street.  The place is huge - it must seat 500 or more, is always busy, and I have never had to wait for more than 5 minutes for a table.  And the fact that the place is so busy - and I mean BUSY - means that the food is fresh and not sitting around.  Here, the portions are humongous, which for a big guy like me (I've been known to put away a large cheese pizza all by myself) is saying something.  Sadly, I always leave a good amount on my plate.

The menu is extensive, so I'm going to stick with talking about what me and my friends always get.


STARTERS
If there are three or more of us, we ALWAYS order the onion loaf (left), which is huge, and could easily serve 6 people.  At $5.99, and served HOT and crispy, the onion loaf is cheap and tastes great with ketchup or the BBQ sauce that is in a bottle on the table.

If it is just me and a friend (or if one of us doesn't want the onion loaf) we usually order cups of the chili.  More sweet than spicy, $4.99 for a cup seems pricey, but the quality is outstanding and it comes with cheese, sour cream and green onion (on the side) and a HUGE square of cornbread, just the way I like it, sweet, but not too much so.


On the "Starters" part of the menu is an item I many times will order as my entree - the SMALL order of Texas Crispy Wings.  A small order ($7.99) is six and I usually leave at least one.  They are just a tad smaller than turkey wings - I'm not kidding!  I've tried them with the sticky sauce (right), which is excellent, but I'd suggest ording it on the side so you can hand dip.  They really mean it when they say it is sticky.  Otherwise, it comes with a dish of BBQ on the side.  (They just added Hennessey wings, which I can only imagine are just as good!)  Note:  Everytime I get them, they are so hot, I burn my fingers.

SANDWICHES
I've had the chargrilled cheeseburger ($9.99) which is probably 1/3 to 1/2 a pound, and it comes with generous fixings - lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and fries or rice.  They give you a TON of fries.


My friend swears by the smokehouse Texas Hot Dog - 1/2 pound! ($7.99) with baked beans and baked potato, fries or rice.  Another friend loves the Carolina pulled pork sandwich ($10.99) (left) with cole slaw and baked potato, fries or rice.  And they both swear by the Bar-B-Q Combo ($13.99), which has the Carolina pulled pork and choice of beef or brisket, with fries, rice or baked potato.

*** LUNCH SPECIAL: BEST DEAL IN NYC!
A fresh sliced roasted chicken breast, smothered in BBQ sauce on a grilled hard roll (poppy seed) with cole slaw and probably a pound of fries... $4.99!!!


CHICKEN AND RIBS
More often than not, though, we order the Chicken and Ribs Combo (right) ($11.99) which is a quarter chicken, 1/2 rack of ribs, cornbread, baked potato, fries or rice.  It's only a dollar more for white meat or special sauces on your chicken.

I have another friend who doesn't like ribs and gets the half chicken dinner ($7.99) and upsizes it to get double white meat for $2.00 more.  It includes rice, baked potato or fries and that yummy cornbread. (Below)

THE FROZEN DRINKS
My best buddy never goes there without ordering a Texas Sized Frozen Strawberry Margarita.  It is enormous and only $7.99.  I mean it is the size of 2 normal drinks!

THE DOWNFALLS
I guess there is no such thing as perfect.  At Dallas BBQ, there are two things that aren't so great.  First, there are no free refills on soft drinks or iced tea.  And a large drink is $2.50.  But it is very big.  The second thing is, there is no dessert!  Which I guess is ok, since we never eat everything we get, anyway.  And there is a Coldstone Creamery right next door!  Oh, and if you want quiet dining, this is not the place for you.  The music and the crowd's conversation are loud.

THE SERVICE
The waiters are very fast, very nice, and I've never had to ask to have my water refilled.  And everything comes so fast!  The place is clean, as the hustle/bustle keeps the tables turning over and wiped down.  I can't speak for the ladies' room, but the mens' room is very clean and smells good, not nasty or over disinfected, either.

When I choose a restaurant, the number one thing that gets me to come back is the quality/taste of the food.  Then, I consider portion sizes relative to the price.  And finally the service quality.  Dallas BBQ has all of that in spades.

HERE'S A SAMPLE BILL
There were three of us:

1 Onion Loaf ................................. $5.99
1 Cup of Chili ................................ $4.99
1 Small Texas Crispy Wings .......... $7.99
1 Bar-B-Q Combo ....................... $13.99
1 Chicken and Ribs Combo .......... $7.99
1 Double White Meat ................... $2.00
2 Iced Teas .................................. $5.00
1 Teaxs Strawberry Margarita ...... $7.99
Subtotal:                                       $ 55.94
NYC Tax (8.375%)                     $   4.69
Total:                                           $ 60.63
Tip (20% - she was great!)          $ 12.37
GRAND TOTAL                        $73.00

We split it evenly, after my friend paid for his drink separately  ($65.00) (Is this normal when not everyone has alcohol?  Let me know!)  So we each paid less than $22.00 each for dinner in New York.  That is cheap for anyplace these days!

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Broadway Theatres: The Old and the Beautiful, Part 1

Earlier this month, I was surprised, then curious to find out that the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre turned 100 years old!  I mean, we all complain about the cramped seats, especially at the older theatres, and you can tell the buildings have been around for ages, but when you put a number on it like 100 years old, it is still impressive.

So my curiosity got the best of me and I just had to find out which currently operating Broadway theatre was the oldest, the newest, etc.  Then, I got into which shows played where - finding out where the original production of A Streetcar Named Desire played was cool, after reading about 2 or 3 other revivals of it.  (Sometimes you forget a classic was brand new one day!)  And I found out that nearly every single theatre on Broadway has played host to a Shakespeare play and at least one production of The Mikado!

Along the way, I found that the Hilton Theatre has its own very cool and very interesting website (http://www.hiltontheatre.com/) where you can see pictures of the before and after as two theatres - the Lyric and the Apollo were combined to make one huge new showplace.  And I also found that the Shubert Theatres have a great place to see pictures and read up on the histories of their theatres at http://www.shubertorganization.com/.

Well, I thought I'd share my findings about the 40 (!) currently operating Broadway houses.  I've divided them into four separate blogs, which I'll space out over the coming weeks.  I've arranged them from newest theatre to oldest, and I've included the name they were first given if different, the show that opened the theatre, the current tenant, notable successes and notable less-than-successes.  I hope you find this as interesting as I did.


40.  The Hilton Theatre
  • Opened: January 18, 1998; a re-construction, joining the Lyric and Apollo Theatres; Originally The Ford Center for the Performing Arts; 42nd Street Entrance (above)
  • Opening Production: Ragtime
  • Current Tenant: Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark
  • Notable Productions: Ragtime, 42nd Street (Revival)
  • Notable Flops: The Pirate Queen, Hot Feet


39.  Marquis Theatre
  • Opened: July 9, 1986; BoxOffice and Times Square Marquee (above)
  • Opening Production: Shirley Bassey in Concert; Me and My Girl
  • Current Tenant: Come Fly Away
  • Notable Productions: Me and My Girl, Annie Get Your Gun (Revival; Bernadette Peters, Reba McIntyre), The Drowsy Chaperone, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Damn Yankees (Revival), Victor/Victoria
  • Notable Flops: Nick and Nora, Shogun: The Musical, The Goodbye Girl


38.  Minskoff Theatre
  • Opened: March 13, 1973; 45th Street Entrance (above)
  • Opening Production: Irene a musical starring Debbie Reynolds.
  • Current Tennant: The Lion King
  • Notable Productions: Sunset Boulevard, The Scarlet Pimpernel (1.0 and 2.0), Black and Blue, Sweet Charity (1986 Revival; Debbie Allen, Bebe Neuwirth)
  • Notable Flops: Metro, Teddy & Alice, Rockabye Hamlet, Got Tu Go Disco, Dance a Little Closer



37.  George Gershwin Theatre
  • Opened: November 28, 1972; Originally named the Uris Theatre; One Entrance (Top); The Breezeway and Lobby Entrance (above, bottom)
  • Opening Production: Via Galactica!
  • Current Tenant: Wicked
  • Notable Productions: Porgy and Bess (Revival), The King and I (1977 Revival - Yul Brynner's farewell), Sweeney Todd, Show Boat (Revival), Starlight Express, Oklahoma! (2002 revival)
  • Notable Flops: Mame (1983 Revival), Singin' in the Rain, The Red Shoes, Meet Me in St. Louis


36.  Circle in the Square Theatre
  • Opened: November 15, 1972; The Other Entrance (above)
  • Opening Production: Mourning Becomes Electra (Revival)
  • Current Tenant: The Miracle Worker
  • Notable Productions: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Rocky Horror Show (Revival), Frozen, Coastal Disturbances
  • Notable Flops: Glory Days, Anna Karenina: The Musical


35.  The Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center
  • Opened: October 21, 1965; Lincoln Center Promenade (above)
  • Opening Production: Danton's Death
  • Current Tenant: South Pacific (Revival)
  • Notable Productions: The Coast of Utopia, The Light in the Piazza, Contact, Arcadia, Carousel (Revival that introduced Audra Ann McDonald), Six Degrees of Separation, Anything Goes (1987 Revival; Patti LuPone, Howard McGillin)
  • Notable Flops: Marie Christine, Parade, The Frogs

NOTE: There are over 37 years between "New" Theatres!



34.  Ethel Barrymore Theatre
  • Opened: December 20, 1928; Exterior (Top); Interior (Bottom, above)
  • Opening Production: The Kingdom of God
  • Current Tenant: Race
  • Notable Productions: Speed-the-Plow (Revival). Company (Revival), The Life, Wait Until Dark, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Women
  • Notable Flops: Ring of Fire, Jezebel, Wife Insurance (A Comedy!)





33.  Neil Simon Theatre
  • Opened: November 22, 1927; Originally named the Alvin Theatre; 2005 - Hairspray (Top); circa 1970 - Company (Center); Interior (Bottom, above) - Is that the Brighton Beach Memoirs set?
  • Opening Production: Funny Face
  • Current Tenant: --
  • Notable Productions: Hairspray, The King and I (1996 Revival; Donna Murphy, Lou Diamond Phillips), Biloxi Blues, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Annie, Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anything Goes
  • Notable Flops: Cyrano: The Musical, Senator Joe, Into the Light, Little Johnny Jones, Merrily We Roll Along, Wildcat



32.  Studio 54
  • Opened: November 7, 1927; Originally The Gallo Opera House.  Renamed several times.  The Entrance (Top); The Lobby (Bottom, above)
  • Opening Production: La Boehme
  • Current Tenant: Sondheim on Sondheim
  • Notable Productions: Cabaret (1998 Revival), A Streetcar Named Desire (Revival with Natasha Richardson), Assassins
  • Notable Flops: Pal Joey, The Apple Tree (Both revivals)


31.  St. James Theatre
  • Opened: September 26, 1927; Originally The Erlanger Theater; The Exterior (above)
  • Opening Production: The Merry Malones (Written, directed and starring George M. Cohan)
  • Current Tenant: American Idiot
  • Notable Productions: Gypsy (Patti LuPone), The producers, The Who's Tommy, The Secret Garden, Gypsy (Tyne Daly), My One and Only, Barnum, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Hello, Dolly!, The King and I (Original Production), Oklahoma! (Original Production)
  • Notable Flops: The Civil War, High Society, Subways Are For Sleeping, Hello, Daddy!

Look for the next 10 oldest Broadway theatres soon!

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff
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