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

Monday, September 30, 2013

HOT or NOT: Round 4: A Night with Janis Joplin

If early reports coming out of the Lyceum Theatre are to be believed this little concert musical is on the verge of becoming a white hot smash.  The fourth musical of the season, A Night with Janis Joplin is truly a ladies' night, with the cast made up entirely of females, playing not only rock icon Joplin, but other legends like Aretha Franklin, Etta James and (for the second time this season!) Nina Simone.

For the fourth time this season, it is up to you to decide who moves on to the finals in our quest for THE HOTTEST MUSICAL CAST OF 2013 - 2014!  Objectifying, I guess, but really also just silly fun.  That said, let me remind you that "HOT" is not just based on beauty or matinee idol looks or a killer bod.  Also up for consideration is their performance, their "buzz-worthy-ness," and the trajectory of their career.  Is their role this time around a milestone or a misery?  Are the chat rooms a-buzz with delight or humming with impending doom?  HOT to look at isn't enough to make it into the finals - even the cutest can be a "NOT"!  To see who has already made the finals, click HERE.

Now, without further ado, here are the ladies of A Night with Janis Joplin!  To see their pics, scroll past the poll.  THIS POLL WILL CLOSE AT NOON ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6TH! (Be sure to click "Done" at the bottom of the poll to make your vote count!)

ON A SCALE OF 1 (ICE COLD) TO 10 (SMOKIN' HOT) 
WHO IS "HOT" AND WHO IS "NOT"?


Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.


THE CAST OF A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN


Mary Bridget Davies
Leading Actress
(1 nominee)

Taprena Michelle Augustine and de'Adre Aziza

Allison Blackwell and Nikki Kimbrough
Featured Actress
(4 nominees)

Kacee Clanton and Alison Cusano
Alternate/Swing
(2 nominees)

Jeff
5.019

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

FAREWELL: Jane Connell

It's funny how certain people, even people you don't know personally, come in and out of your life, attached to very specific memories.  For me, one of those people was Jane Connell.  The diminutive character actress (she was a giant personality in a 4'11" body) played important roles in seven shows I've seen.  And I am sad to say that when I think of those shows, she's not the very first thing I think about.  I say that I am sad because it is only with her passing yesterday at the age of 87, that I realize just what a role she played in my theatre-going life.

She was, of course, Agnes Gooch to Angela Lansbury's Mame in the show of the same title.  I remember buying the cast recording and laughing myself silly at "Gooch's Song" - the lyrics, the delivery, the strange, but powerful voice. And then, seeing the woman behind the voice was just one of the many thrills of seeing the 1983 revival, my first Broadway show some 30 years ago.  She was a riot.

One of her first Broadway roles
New Faces of 1956


Above two: The original cast of Mame


Above 3: Dear World

Then I saw her in Me and My Girl, another riot in a sea of musical comedy mayhem.  She was a small dynamo in a silver sparkly gown who managed to steal every scene she was in, no small fete considering the tour-de-force acting of Tony winner Robert Lindsay.  I wasn't alone in loving the little lady then - she got her first and only Tony nomination for her efforts.

Remembered in an Al Hirschfeld
drawing for Me and My Girl

In Lend Me a Tenor, it was my minor obsession with Victor Garber that got my butt in the seat for that show.  But Ms. Connell was a delightful bonus, chewing the scenery with some serious heavyweights including Ron Holgate and Philip Bosco.


Above 2: Lend Me a Tenor

Crazy for You, her next show, would have swallowed a lesser actress in a small, but pivotal role.  I mean, it was an extravaganza of scenery, costumes, chorus girls and a Gershwin score... not to mention Harry Groener and Jodi Benson.  And yet, all these years later, I remember Ms. Connell's biting delivery and signature larger-than-life presence.

Her third Ken Ludwig role in a row was another small, but important, role in Moon Over Buffalo.  I didn't even know she was in it until I opened my Playbill.  I was there, like so many others, to see one of my idols - Carol Burnett.  And another chance to see Philip Bosco was not to be missed.  Like always, Ms. Connell more than held her own and again, she was a scream.

Crazy for You

Moon Over Buffalo

The Full Monty

The last time she and I shared space in the same room was when she took over the role of Jeanette in one of my favorite musicals ever, The Full Monty. Her spot on timing and huge presence was a comic balance to the heartfelt, but testosterone fueled craziness around her.  I will never forget her slow burns, gaping double-takes or her salty delivery of several sexual innuendos.  This would be her final Broadway appearance.

The film cast of Mame

Two more Ken Ludwig roles: Leading Ladies (regional) and
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Broadway)

A lot of people probably remember her from the Mame film, devouring one Lucille Ball in the process.  Or her legendary TV turns on Bewitched and M*A*S*H.  But I will always remember the tiny lady with the squeaky voice and the super human power to go head-to-head with some of the world's most famous scene stealers.

Thank you, Jane, for a lifetime of joy.  I won't forget you.

Jeff
5.018

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Broadway Ladies: Ms. September 2013: A Time to Kill's Tonya Pinkins

Ms. September 2013
Tonya Pinkins


WHY SHE'S MS. BROADWAY: She's getting ready to begin previews in the new legal thriller, A Time to Kill, and she is a 3-time Tony Award nominee - she won for Jelly's Last Jam.  Equally at home on stage in plays and musicals, she made her Broadway debut in Merrily We Roll Along, and has been in such varied musicals as Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Wild Party, and Play On!  One of her most acclaimed roles came with the fan favorite Caroline, or Change.  Her stage play roles include parts in Radio Golf, August Wilson's last play.  She's also a TV star, having played a role in All My Children for several years, along with roles in Criminal Minds, Law and Order and The Cosby Show among others.  Movie roles include parts in such films as Above the Rim and Enchanted.  But it seems that this month's honoree, Tonya Pinkins, always returns to the stage.  No wonder she's Ms. Broadway for September 2013!

INTERESTING FACTS:

  • She was born on May 30th, in Chicago, where she grew up.
  • She went to several colleges, including Columbia College, Carnegie Mellon, and... California Western School of Law.
  • She is an activist and author.


  • She had a major role on All My Children, playing Livia Frye from 1991 - 1995, and again in 2003 - 2006.
  • She has 3 children from three marriages.


IN PHOTOS:


Her book... her concert at Joe's Pub


Off-Broadway: Milk Like Sugar

August Wilson's Radio Golf

A Time to Kill

She appeared in all 3 of these on Broadway

Recording Jelly's Last Jam with
the late Gregory Hines

With the Broadway cast of The Wild Party


One of her most famous roles... in 
Caroline, or Change

Jeff
5.015



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CD Review: Aaron Tveit Live at 54 Below: The Radio in My Head

Aaron Tveit looks great.  He is, not to put too fine a point on it, sexy as Hell.  I've had the luxury of seeing him perform live in several shows, including next to normal and Catch Me If You Can, where his natural suavity and sexiness serve him well, and where both characters benefit from his also naturally cool detachment.  But what might have earned him a Tony nomination for the latter (and maybe even a decent run) would have been a lot more charm and charisma.  And to be completely honest, I'm pretty sure it was his total cuteness and slightly wooden ways that made him a better than decent Link Larkin in Hairspray.  Unfortunately, an audio CD of a live concert like this one takes away his sexy bod, killer smile and oh so hot chin dimple, and leaves only the singing and the between song patter.  Translation: The Radio in My Head reveals an uneven vocal quality (surprising for a vocal music student) and an awkward, cool and detached way of speaking to an audience clearly filled with his fan girls, and his fan boys, who get really quiet during his several songs about the ladies.

Grade: C-



Title: Aaron Tveit Live at 54 Below: The Radio in My Head
Artist: Aaron Tveit
Label: Broadway Records
Number: BR-CD548-006
Format: Single CD
Case: Single Jewel Case
Booklet: Full color cover/black and white pages, 6 pages.  Package design and layout by Van Dean.  Photos by Grace Rainer Long.  Liner notes by Aaron Tveit.  Album produced by Michael J. Moritz, Jr.  Executive Produced by Van Dean and Kenny Howard for  Broadway Records.


What really works here, not too surprisingly, are his renditions of songs from his original Broadway shows; "I'm Alive," which starts the show, and "Goodbye," which ends the show, are particularly excellent.  And his song choices are uniformly interesting - he draws from Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell and Garth Brooks/Bob Dylan.  And, especially with the latter, his interpretation shows that with some seasoning, he will be a decent singer without the net of a big splashy musical around him.

What doesn't really work is when he takes on songs from other shows that reveal his lack of maturity as a song stylist; both "If I Loved You" and "My Romance" are awkward and a bit embarrassing to listen to.  But he even struggles with the youthful "Something's Coming" and, believe it or not, "One Song Glory."  He cracks and goes flat throughout the disc, but nowhere is it more noticeable than during the West Side Story classic. (To be fair, the band, doing an uneasy jazzy version of the song, probably got him off on the wrong notes.) And despite his obvious love of the song, the RENT number comes across like he is trying too hard to sound edgy and all "rock 'n' roll."

But, and this is largely his lack of experience showing, even worse is the uninspired and often cringe-worthy patter.  The thread of the evening is that he's taking us through his career starting with high school through today, highlighting the important music that makes important life-moments clearer to him.  Sometimes it works - he sings the Dylan song via a Garth Brooks version to let us know how important music is to his father who convinced him to try for his dreams at such a young age.  Other times, as when he sings "I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You," as a tribute to friend and co-star Norbert Leo Butz, "because he sang the same song in his 54 Below concert," the connection to the theme is very weak.  And then there are the times when he abandons the theme altogether, as when he sings the very unfunny (I actually blushed in embarrassment as I listened) "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," because he "loves pop music" (insert fan girl 'whooo's here).  You can tell he thinks he's being funny here, as he giggles occasionally, much to the delight of his adoring minions.  He's not funny.  At all.  I will never ever play that track again.  And don't get me started on the all too inevitable The Last 5 Years selection.  I just don't get the appeal...


As I said, he is beautiful to look at (check out his arms on the CD cover), and I'm guessing that the eye helps the ear forgive a multitude of sins.  Concerts may not be Mr. Tveit's genre just yet; maybe after he's lived a little more, and successfully plays a few roles that require more emotional depth, which may improve his song stylings down the road, then he can try again.   Until then, I'll be happy with my shirtless Aaron Tveit as Gabe picture.

(Photos from the CD by Broadway Records)

Jeff
5.014

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Broadway Boys: Mr. September 2013: A Time to Kill's Rupert Holmes

Mr. September 2013
Rupert Holmes

WHY HE'S MR. BROADWAY: Let's face it, the past couple of years have been pretty good for Rupert Holmes in terms of theatre.  Last season, he had one of the most acclaimed revivals in years with the Roundabout production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  This season, he's adapted one of the most popular and acclaimed American novels of the late 20th Century into a stage play featuring an all-star cast, with John Grisham's A Time to Kill.  The there is his "pipeline." The Nutty Professor with the late Marvin Hamlisch, Secondhand Lions with  First Date's Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and still possible First Wives Club, Marty, Robin and the 7 Hoods.  That is quite a lot to look forward to!  Not one to rest on his laurels, the 5 time Tony nominee (2 for Drood, 1 for Say Goodnight, Gracie, and 2 for Curtains) is clearly one busy guy.  No wonder he's the first playwright and composer/lyricist to be Mr. Broadway.




FUN FACTS: 

  • Rupert was born in Norwich, Cheshire, UK, but is an American and British citizen.
  • He has three children - Wendy (who passed away in 1986), Nick and Timothy, with his wife, childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth.
  • He's written songs for Barry Manilow, Dolly Parton and The Partridge Family and has also been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Jr., The Jetts and Britney Spears.
  • Several of his songs are included in the classic Barbra Streisand film, A Star is Born.




  • He has written for not only the stage, but for television, too, including the acclaimed series Remember WENN, and he is an award-wining author of such novels as Swing, Where the Truth Lies and The McMaster's Guide to Homicide: Kill Your Employer.
  • He is probably most famous himself to the public at large for his two top 10 songs, "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" and "Him."



BROADWAY PROJECTS



















IN THE PIPELINE









Jeff
5.013

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