THIS WEEK @ JK's TheatreScene

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Summertime...Took a little vacation! Three reviews coming soon! Amazing Grace, Hand to God and Mamma Mia!

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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

REVIEW: Other Desert Cities

Review of the Saturday, February 25 matinee performance.  At the Booth Theatre in New York City.  Starring Stockard Channing, Rachel Griffiths, Stacy Keach, Judith Light and Justin Kirk.  A new play by Jon Robin Baitz.  Directed by Joe Mantello.  2 hours, 30 minutes including intermission.

Grade: A+


SPOILER ALERT: Given the nature of this play, I do not intend to give away any of the plot, but in discussing the performance, I may inadvertently do so.  If you have not seen the play and wish to see it cold (which I heartily recommend), you may wish to stop reading now. 


Jon Robin Baitz' Other Desert Cities is that increasingly rare Broadway commodity: a thought-provoking, funny, intensely emotional drama, featuring five tour-de-force performances of intelligence, surgeon-like precision and amazing subtlety, and a jaw-dropping plot twist that will have your mind spinning hours after the final curtain.

It is about opposing political views coming head-to-head.  It is about the difference in generations.  It is about parenting, family loyalty, family responsibility... family secrets. And it is about living one's life under a certain set of beliefs, then realizing everything you believed to be true isn't.

The Other Desert Cities Company

The visually stunning set designed by John Lee Beatty, on view as you wait for the show to start, is a study in contrasts.  A rounded great room in a tony Palm Springs home, the space is dominated by trendy stone walls, up lit to show the spectrum of beige rocks in use (designed by Kenneth Posner).  Within the space, there are overlapping circles - a huge, round fireplace, with a lone flame that calls to mind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; a round living space, dominated by three round furniture pieces - two single person chase lounges and a backless two person ottoman; and a round dining space with round table, 4 chairs, and a glass serving bar.  The only view of the outside comes from very high, thin windows that offer a glimpse of the very tops of palm trees.  The place looks like it cost a fortune and is as put together as a spread in Home and Garden.  Perfectly put together and perfectly off-putting.  There is no comfortable space to sit and certainly no place for conversation.  Even the place for meals can't fit the entire family of 5.  Mere seconds into the play, it becomes evident as to why the set is so brilliantly a part of the story.

Directing the play with a shrewd economy of chess-like movements, Joe Mantello creates a visual metaphor for this highly functional dysfunctional family.  Watch as they rarely touch each other (and when they do, it is at arm's length), choosing instead to circle each other like caged animals either ready to pounce or in all out defense mode.  There are frequent references to what a "good family" looks like and acts like.  In a family of actors turned politicos, it should be no surprise that they are a study in appearance vs. reality.

Justin Kirk as Trip Wyeth

Judith Light and Stockard Channing

The five actors assembled here are, as a company, brilliant in their give and take during scenes, and thrilling to watch as they coalesce right before your eyes into the exact family Baitz has written.  In a constant battle for dominance, they pace the floor, gesture with booze-filled glasses, and talk over each other sometimes, allowing long silences other times, and even occasionally leaving the room mid-thought. Scars and all, this family has been through it all - triumph, tragedy, public accolades and private hell.  Sure the tight script reveals all of this (and more), but these actors tell us wordlessly just how deep the pain and love is.  As great as they are as a company, though, they are individually amazing, each giving Tony-worthy performances.

Youngest brother Trip Wyeth, new generation Hollywood and a producer of a reality show, is played by Justin Kirk.  He is also the no nonsense voice of reason in a rising sea of hostility and family secrets revealed.  And even as we find out that he is the least regarded family member, Kirk manages to endear himself to us, with witty barbs and a certain dignity that keeps him from being that modern "cool bitchy" guy you might expect.  He is bitingly funny and, in act two especially, a strong presence.  Then there is the brilliant Judith Light as Aunt Silda, a woman long past her glory days as a Hollywood screen writer, who has found solace in the bottom of a bottle of bourbon.  Now recovering, she literally teeters around the room, perilously close to relapse, one argument, one terse comment, one hurtful gesture away from diving head first into the always present decanter set that she eyes hungrily.  Light could easily have made this role a blaring stereotype, but instead has given us subtle glimpses into the brave woman who is struggling underneath a pile of baggage, and has infused humor into her heartache.

Rachel Griffiths and Stacy Keach

Channing, Griffiths and Keach

Stacy Keach, a formidable physical presence, is convincing as both an aging former movie star and has-been politician.  His quiet, measured speech, coupled with a thoughtful detachment, reveals itself to be a thin veneer covering a man on the brink of collapse during a game changing explosion of a monologue in act two.  His distance from his family spills over into the audience, making the final moments of the play all the more shocking and powerful.  Baitz interpreter Rachel Griffiths (she starred in his TV series Brothers and Sisters for several seasons) is thoroughly at home in the cadences and nuances of Baitz' words.  As Brooke Wyeth, a daughter with a troubled history and a writing career that has, until recently, stalled, Griffiths' every movement, pause and inflection reveals pain, mistrust, shame and loss.  There is a lot of baggage that this character carries, and Ms. Griffiths addresses each and every bit of it.  Because there is so much there, it is to her credit that she never over does it.  Instead of a histrionic, all-over-the-map performance, she doles out the emotions of this complex woman with a control that slowly breaks down.  As she deteriorates before our eyes, we realize that the actress is completely lost inside the character.  Brava.

Stockard Channing as Polly Wyeth

As truly brilliant as the entire cast is, it is the once in a lifetime performance of Stockard Channing as matriarch Polly Wyeth that makes Other Desert Cities a don't miss theatrical event.  Every inch of her body and the complete depths of her considerable soul are on display here.  Hard as stone underneath an almost un-cracked veneer of Southern charm and Republican grace, Channing imbues this woman with just enough warmth that she isn't off putting, but also with enough "boozy bitch" self-righteousness to make you almost hate her.  She is funny, fierce and flawless.  It is a performance that ranks right up there with some of the greatest I have had the privilege to witness, and one that the theatre world will be talking about for years.

Channing and company are but five reasons to see Other Desert Cities.  And there is the brilliant script of Jon Robin Baitz and the tough, no holds barred direction of Joe Mantello. The thought-provoking plot and themes are what keep you pinned to your seat.  It is a dangerous roller coaster ride of a play, climaxing in a hairpin turn and dark tunnel you want to scream through at the very end of the play.  You will leave breathless and exhilarated.

(Photos by Joan Marcus)


NOTE: Rachel Griffiths' final performance will be March 4th.  Off-Broadway's original Brooke Wyeth, Elizabeth Marvel rejoins the company March 6th.


Jeff
3.183
jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com (E-mail), @jkstheatrescene (Twitter), "Comment" below (Blogger)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Behind the Scenes: GHOST: The Men Behind the Music, NEWSIES: Behind the Ensemble & a NICE WORK Nice Deal!


PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO VOTE IN ROUND 5 OF HOT/HOTTER!
AND YOU ONLY HAVE 1 DAY LEFT TO PICK 
BROADWAY'S MOST ROMANTIC COUPLE!
(LOOK TO YOUR LEFT AND CAST YOUR VOTES!)


Today's Blog:  (Scroll through to find the following)
  • Behind the music of Ghost: The Musical
  • Behind the Ensemble of Disney's Newsies
  • All the details of the grand opening of the box office for Nice Work If You Can Get It; and...
  • A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FOR JK'S THEATRESCENE READERS!

THE MEN BEHIND THE MUSIC OF GHOST THE MUSICAL
UPDATE: When the producers re-establish the link to the video below, I will re-post it!

One of the nice things about having an established (and thanks to you) successful theatre blog is that you get to meet lots of great people who share your love and curiosity about theatre. Among those that I've met are some terrific PR people who want nothing more than to get the word out there about their show.  Such is the case with the video below.

The people behind Ghost: The Musical have been kind enough to allow me to be one of just a handful of bloggers to gain access to a series of videos about the making of this new Broadway musical.  And so I am thrilled to be able to post for you a brief behind-the-scenes look at the two men responsible for the music and lyrics of this movie-turned-stage show.  And they are some pretty heavy hitters in the world of popular music.  David Stewart is probably best known as the man playing instruments behind Annie Lennox  when together they were known as Eurythmics.  A child of the 80's, I knew something of Stewart.  But I had no idea just how influential Glen Ballard is!  I mean he wrote "The Man in the Mirror," worked on Thriller, and has written, performed and/or produced such acts as Wilson Philips, Van Halen, No Doubt, Alanis Morissette and the Dave Matthews Band, among others.  While certainly not a Broadway guarantee, with a pedigree like this, the score - recorded and live - should be an awesome ear experience.





BEHIND THE SCENES WITH NEWSIES' ENSEMBLE!

The undisputed kings of PR - Disney in any of its incarnations - are playing this one VERY close to the vest. Doling out teeny tiny bits of stuff about Newsies.  And just how smart is that?  BRILLIANT, I say.  It is the talk of the town - not bad for a flop film turned stage show.  With the tickets going faster than the Ozone layer, and the (inevitable) announcement that the limited engagement will be less limited still not made, there is a sense of urgency.  It is the don't miss it show of 2012.

One of the side benefits of doling everything out in small pieces, even the stuff that usually gets ignored (like the ensemble) finds itself in the spotlight.  Enjoy!



IT'S A'''S'WONDERFUL" BOX OFFICE OPENING FOR NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT 





Thursday, March 1st at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre

Featuring Special Prizes & Giveaways!

The producers of the new Broadway musical comedy NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT are pleased to announce a “‘S Wonderful” box office opening on Thursday, March 1st beginning at 10 a.m. at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street).

From 10 a.m. to noon, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT fans can win tickets to preview performances, gift certificates, signed items, and other treats through surprise giveaways and by answering trivia questions about the show's stars and songs.

o   Sprinkles Cupcakes, New York City’s newest gourmet cupcake bakery, will provide complimentary cupcakes for the first 100 people in line.

o   Broadway Dance Center, New York’s ultimate destination for dance classes in the heart of Times Square, will provide five free classes and one lucky winner will go home with a Broadway Dance Center workout top and pants.

o   Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, “The Nightclub of New York,” will provide five pairs of tickets to “The Broadway Hootenanny.” This one hour musical revue on Thursday nights at 11 p.m. features new stars and new songs each week.

o   Fishs Eddy, New York’s favorite dish and glassware shop, will provide a pair of its famous NYC skyline “212” glasses for five winners.

o   The Empire Room Cocktail Lounge, located in the Empire State Building, will provide $25 gift certificates to eight special winners.

o   Tony’s DiNapoli, New York City’s famed family-style Italian restaurant, will provide five “dinner for two” gift certificates.

Two-time Tony Award-winner Matthew Broderick and three-time Tony Award nominee Kelli O’Hara in NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, featuring music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, will begin performances on Broadway on Thursday, March 29, 2012 and officially open on Tuesday, April 24, 2012. The production is directed & choreographed by three-time Tony Award-winner Kathleen Marshall and features a book by two-time Tony Award-winner Joe DiPietro.

In addition to Matthew Broderick as Jimmy Winter and Kelli O’Hara as Billie Bendix, the production also stars Academy Award-winner Estelle Parsons as Millicent Winter, Tony Award-winner Judy Kaye as Estonia Dulworth, Tony Award nominee Michael McGrath as Cookie McGee, Tony Award nominee Jennifer Laura Thompson as Eileen Evergreen, Chris Sullivan as Duke Mahoney, Robyn Hurder as Jeannie Muldoon, Stanley Wayne Mathis as Chief Berry and Terry Beaver as Senator Max Evergreen.

The cast will also feature Cameron Adams, Clyde Alves, Kaitlyn Davidson, Jason DePinto, Kimberly Faure, Robert Hartwell, Stephanie Martignetti, Barrett Martin, Michael X. Martin, Adam Perry, Jeffrey Schecter, Jennifer Smith, Joey Sorge, Samantha SturmKristen Beth Williams and Candice Marie Woods.

The creative team includes scenic design by Derek McLane, costume design by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski and sound design by Brian Ronan. The music supervisor is David Chase and the music director Tom Murray.

This new musical features a veritable hit parade of iconic George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin songs as well as some unknown gems in their catalog, and a book by Joe DiPietroNICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT follows Billie Bendix (Kelli O'Hara), a bootlegger who meets wealthy playboy Jimmy Winter (Matthew Broderick) on the weekend of his nuptials. Mayhem ensues.

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT is produced on Broadway by Scott LandisRoger BerlindSonia Friedman ProductionsRoy FurmanStanding CO VationCandy SpellingFreddy DeMannRonald FrankelHarold NewmanJon B. PlattRaise The Roof 8,Takonkiet ViravanWilliam Berlind / Ed BurkeCarole L. Haber / Ellen CarusiJim Herbert/Scott MauroBarbara and Buddy Freitag / Sandy Robertson.

TICKET INFORMATION
Tickets for NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT are available through www.Telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200, and in person (beginning Thursday, March 1st) at the Imperial Theatre box office (249 West 45th Street). Tickets range in price from $136.50 to $46.50 (all prices include a $1.50 facility fee). Premium seating is available.

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE
March 29 – April 28: Tuesday - Saturday @ 8pm, Wednesday & Saturday @ 2pm

Beginning April 30: Tuesday @ 7pm, Wednesday @ 2pm & 8pm, Thursday @ 7pm, Friday @ 8pm, Saturday @ 2pm & 8pm, Sunday @ 3pm

There will be additional performances on Monday - April 9 @ 8pm, Monday - April 16 @ 8pm, Monday - April 23 @ 8pm. There will be no performances on Tuesday - April 10 @ 8pm, Wednesday - April 25 @ 2pm, Sunday - June 10 @ 3pm.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FOR JK'S THEATRESCENE READERS!

Mark your calendars!  At noon, on Monday, March 5th, a brand new contest for tickets to a brand new Broadway musical will begin at this very blog.  Not only that, but a special ticket discount will also be announced!  

REMEMBER: Monday, March 5 at NOON!

Jeff
3.184
jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com (e-mail); @jkstheatrescene (Twitter)

Monday, February 27, 2012

LOGOS: Peter and the Starcatcher

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO VOTE IN ROUND 5 OF HOT/HOTTER!
AND YOU ONLY HAVE 2 DAYS LEFT TO PICK 
BROADWAY'S MOST ROMANTIC COUPLE!
(LOOK TO YOUR LEFT AND CAST YOUR VOTES!)

Today: A close look at a new show logo, a short documentary of the creation of that logo, and a great trailer previewing the new play, Peter and the Starcatcher.

Childlike.  Simple.  Wonderful.  Nostalgic.  Ageless.  Am I talking about the logo for the new play Peter and the Starcatcher?  The legend of Peter Pan, upon which the play is based?  Or the strange, eye-catching and surprisingly emotional logo created for the Broadway production of the off-Broadway hit.  Actually, I'm talking about all three.


Peter Pan, a timeless myth that speaks to the wonder and innocence of childhood and an abundance of imagination, comes through in the image, and not just because of the title character.  The rustic use of antique wood makes the adult in me feel an instant sense of nostalgia.  The careful piecing together of the lettering and filling in of the letter "holes" is crude, but somehow honest.  I  look at that logo, and I go back in time to when, as a boy, a pile of wood blocks could be anything - a castle, a cave, a pirate ship.  Even the awkward star reminds me of hand-cutting stars out of construction paper and felt for a variety of elementary school projects.

I think one of the reasons the Peter Pan mythology (and, similarly, the fairy tale wonder of the Cinderella story) endures is because it is full of amazing flights of fantasy grounded by real human desires - in this case, the longing to stay young, play every day and face our fears without the added pressure of consequences.  Doesn't everyone wish they had ability to go back and relive some great childhood memories, but with the knowledge and wisdom of age?  Going back to Neverland is a welcome adventure in any form.

The play itself uses a variety of recycled and multi-purpose objects to create another world of wonder, where the cast and audience use their collective imaginations to create a ship, battles, chase scenes and and number of locations and exciting adventures.  The logo, which suggests imaginative use of the materials at hand, does just the same.  Peter and that star, it says, can take us on the adventure of a lifetime - and without technically perfect special effects afforded by computers.  These days, like the shows they represent, logos are just as computer generated.  It is kind of exciting and adventurous that Peter and the Starcatcher, on stage and on paper, is bucking that trend.

Grade: A!


Here is a short film on the actual creation of the artwork for the Peter and the Starcatcher logo:





Click HERE for The New York Times article and interview with logo designer and craftsman John W. Long.

And here's a taste of the whole show:





Jeff
3.183
jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com (E-mail)  @jkstheatrescene (Twitter) "Comment" below (Blogger)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

TheatreScene: February 26, 2012

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO VOTE IN ROUND 5 OF HOT/HOTTER!
AND YOU ONLY HAVE 3 DAYS LEFT TO PICK 
BROADWAY'S MOST ROMANTIC COUPLE!
(LOOK TO YOUR LEFT AND CAST YOUR VOTES!)

BROADWAY PICTURES OF THE WEEK


Clockwise from top left: Colin Cunliffe (Evita), Shannon D'Ornellas (Ghost: The Musical),
Ian Paget (Leap of Faith), Samantha Sturm (Nice Work If You Can Get It)

I've been bringing sexy back to Broadway blogging all week what with OUT Magazine's 100 Most Eligible Bachelors and not TWO but THREE Finches to vote for in "HOT and HOTTER Round 5"!  So why not end (or start, if you like) the week with a sample of Time Out New York's 20 hottest Broadway Chorus Boys and Girls.  Ghost, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Evita and Leap of Faith all suddenly look that much better, right?  Click HERE to see all 20!

BROADWAY ARTICLE OF THE WEEK:



In case you missed it, click HERE to read Betty Buckley's New York Times op/ed piece about her take on the "Too Broadway"/American Idol flap.  Well said, Ms. Buckley.  Well said.

BROADWAY OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS THIS WEEK



  • Stick Fly closes today at the Cort Theatre after 24 previews and 92 performances.
  • Death of a Salesman continues in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, with an opening night scheduled for March 15.
  • Once begins previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre February 28, with a opening night scheduled for March 18.
  • Jesus Christ Superstar begins previews at the Neil Simon Theatre March 1, with an opening night scheduled for March 22.
COMING UP THIS WEEK AT JK'S THEATRESCENE:
  • Monday: LOGOS: Peter and the Starcatcher - The man behind the logo + a first-look at the show!
  • Tuesday: Broadway Online: Ghost: The Musical - The men behind the music and Newsies - Behind the scenes with the Ensemble
  • Wednesday: REVIEW: Other Desert Cities
  • Thursday: Broadway Boys: Mr. March 2012
  • Friday: REVIEW: Silence! The Musical
  • Saturday: HOT and HOTTER: Round 6

Jeff
3.182

Saturday, February 25, 2012

JKTS INTERACTIVE: HOT and HOTTER Round 5: Fighting Finches

PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO VOTE IN THIS MONTH'S BROADWAY POLL 
(LOOK TO YOUR LEFT!)

This week's round of HOT and HOTTER probably should called HOT, HOTTER and HOTTEST.  Why?  Because this week all three of How to Succeed's J. Pierrepont Finches are facing off against each other for a spot in the quarter finals!

First, let me clarify something about these "competitions": the idea is that we are celebrating the Broadway male form in all of its varieties.  To that end, consider that ALL of the guys in each round are HOT!  You are deciding which is HOT and which is HOTTER (or in this week's case, hot, hotter and hottest)!

REMEMBER: You are NOT voting for who gives the best performance as the ladder climbing imp!  Though his performance might play a part in your choices, you are looking simply at his relative sexiness!


Please rate EACH of the THREE candidates.  (Need help deciding?  Scroll down and check out some photos of Daniel, Darren and Nick!)



"PHOTO ALBUM" ARRANGED IN ABC ORDER: CRISS, JONAS, RADCLIFFE

HEAD SHOTS





CANDIDS







ON THE RED CARPET FOR HOW TO SUCCEED





IN PERFORMANCE


Darren Criss: As Blaine in Glee

Nick Jonas: As Link Larkin in Hairspray

Daniel Radcliffe: As Finch in How to Succeed
SHIRTLESS (HOW COULD I RESIST?)






 DON'T FORGET TO RATE ALL THREE "FINCHES"!





(Photos from Joan Marcus, Playbill Online and Getty Images)



Jeff
3.181

Friday, February 24, 2012

OUT Magazine's Most Eligible Bachelors: The Broadway Boys


PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO VOTE IN THIS MONTH'S BROADWAY POLL
AND IN THIS WEEK'S ROUND OF "HOT AND HOTTER."  
LOOK TO YOUR LEFT FOR ACCESS TO BOTH!



OUT Magazine has come up with its list of the 100 most eligible bachelors.  It probably isn't too big of a shock to know that the New York theatre scene is well-represented on this list of gay celebrities.  But I have to admit that I am shocked at some of the guys on this list.  Why are they "eligible"??!!   (Note to Wesley, Kyle Dean, Jonathan, Nick and Rory: I'd be thrilled to have even one date... you don't have to marry me!)


The full list can be found HERE.  And vote for your favorite bachelor by clicking the "VOTE NOW" link on any of the 100 pictures!

Here are some of the Broadway guys on the list:

Nick Adams (A Chorus Line, Priscilla Queen of the Desert)
Clay Aiken (Monty Python's Spamalot)


Gavin Creel (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hair)
Matt Doyle (Spring Awakening, Bye Bye Birdie, War Horse)

Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening, The Submission)
John Benjamin Hickey (The Normal Heart, Love! Valour! Compassion!)

TR Knight (Noises Off, A Life in the Theatre)
Tom Lenk (Rock of Ages)

Seth MacFarlane (The Normal Heart)
Kyle Dean Massey (Xanadu, next to normal, Lucky Guy)

John Cameron Mitchell (Hello, Again, The Secret Garden, Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
Rory O'Malley (The Book of Mormon, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee)

Wesley Taylor (The Addams Family, Rock of Ages)
Zachary Quinto (8, Angels in America)

Other Broadway Boys not pictured: John Waters (Hairspray, Cry-Baby), Lance Bass (Hairspray), Mo Rocca (Spelling Bee, Don't Quit Your Night Job), Patrick Healy (Theatre reporter for The New York Times), Russell Tovey (The History Boys) and Randy Harrison (Wicked)

As of 8PM on February 23, 6 of the top 10 vote getters are Broadway Boys!  #2: Clay Aiken, #4: Nick Adams, #5: Randy Harrison, #6: Zachary Quinto, #8: Jonathan Groff, and #10 Tom Lenk.

I wonder if Wesley and Kyle Dean would do better with these pictures:

   

I'm just sayin'...

Jeff
3.180

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