ABC has announced that will play Kate Walsh's med school friend and colleague Naomi on the Grey's Anatomy spinoff, Private Practice. She'll be playing the role that we first saw played by Merrin Dungey.
I say good for Audra! I'm a little tired by the idea of her doing the classic musical theater roles, and look forward to seeing her in a contemporary, sexy setting. She's a versatile, fun actress whose career (though obviously incredibly successful) has always felt a little heavy and serious to me.
The pilot of Private Practice was tiresome and irritating, but I still think the show has potential, and could at least be silly and diverting. I see it as having a vibe of Ally McBeal meets Wings or Cheers, if its good. The talking elevator has got to go, though.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Spring Awakening has a bunch of new posters up post-Tonys, and I'm so happy to see that they're finally getting the artwork and marketing right. Here's the new billboard that went up yesterday:
Okay, it looks a little bit like it belongs in front of the Nederlander, but it's pretty cool, eh? Especially in comparison with the image we've all seen a million times of the stocking-clad legs. That image feels like it's trying to be sexy, it's saying that the show is racy, where this new billboard is bold and confident and actually makes the cast look as cool, hip, and interesting as they are.
I can't find a picture of it, but I also really love the new posters around town with the black and white photo of Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff. Again, instead of saying "this show contains sexuality, and teens!" the artwork is beautiful and intriguing - like the show. If anyone can find the image somewhere on the net, leave the link in the comments, s'il vous plait!
Update: Here's the other poster I like - thanks, Jeff!! There's also one of just Lea & Jon Groff that's pretty sizzlin', too.
Friday, June 22, 2007
"Celibacy is the only sane response to a world gone wild. My porno films feature fully clothed men making business deals."
I haven't had the mental capacity to post on anything too brainy recently. Work is busy and annoying, which unfortunately leaves me in a mood to post more about Travolta's embarassing antics than about the state of American Theater. However, I have to take a break from the fluffernutter to talk about my new favorite show, Passing Strange.
Comparisons between Passing Strange and Spring Awakening are kind of inevitable - they both are about youth, growing up, and challenging authority, they both have hot lighting by Kevin Adams, and they both not only have rock scores, but succeed in actually rocking.
However, where Spring Awakening is tight and purposeful, Passing Strange is loose, messy, and interpretive - and all the more engaging for it. The story follows an African-American teenager as he gets the hell out of Dodge (Dodge being beige-colored suburban LA), finds passion in music, and experiments with art, revolution, sex, music, and love. His search for love, understanding, and "the real" is set against the backdrop of Amsterdam and Berlin in the 1970's, when words like freedom and love and revolution were said with passion and without irony.
Daniel Breaker plays Youth, with a small ensemble representing everyone from his mother's conservative church friends, to the free thinkers of Amsterdam's hash bars, to the bizarre anarchists of Berlin's artistic underworld. The entire ensemble is really, really remarkable. They use different accents, movement, choreography, all kinds of stuff that could smack of grad-school interpretive acting class, and make it communicate in an completely authentic, never schticky way. Props also go to movement coordinator Karole Armitage who doubtless played an important role in keeping the movement organic and central to the storytelling.
The conducter of the train is Stew, the co-creator, narrator, and band front man who has the perspective needed to tell this story of his own youth with gravity, wisdom, charm, and humor. He also is a powerful performer who rallies the audience, transforming us from a room full of strangers into a community in a way that I've honestly never experienced in a theater.
As is sometimes the case with shows like this that evolve out of a non-theater idea, and take non-traditional routes with storytelling, the show is a bit patchy. The momentum chugs along, but is occasionally derailed by an extraneous plot turn or narration when there should be action. But between the poetry, depth, and humor of the piece, and the kick-ass cast, Passing Strange is pretty transcendent. Don't miss it.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Somebody stop John Travolta! The man is digging himself deeper and deeper into the crazitrench where Tom Cruise and friends have set up camp. First there was this, where he said, "I still think that if you analyze most of the school shootings, it is not gun control. It is psychotropic drugs at the bottom of it." Glad someone straightened that out for us.
But now, I'm starting to get really concerned for the Wild Hogs star. Apparently, while preparing to shoot Hairspray, he asked his Wild Hogs co-stars what kind of body type Edna Turnblad should have. I guess Tim Allen really is the go-to guy for such affairs, huh?
He tested prospective personae of his feminine self on the set of his recent buddy comedy Wild Hogs because, he says, he wanted to hear "from straight men how they would like to see a man be a woman." The Edna that eventually took shape might be described as a dancing elephant with a wasp waist.It doesn't get more classy than that, people. He needs to play what he wants to play! And finally:
"I said, 'If you give me a big waist, then I become Grandma... You can make her ass as big as you want, her tits as big as you want, but if you don't bring her in'"--here he mashes in his own solid middle with the heels of his hands--"'I can't play what I want to play.'
At the end of the interview, after the tape recorder has been turned off, he is posed one last question: Is he bothered by the rampant rumors about his sexuality, and does he think they've affected his career? "No and no," says Travolta casually. "What affects your career is the quality of the product." Besides, he adds with his typical confidence, "I don't think anyone can hurt me."And with product like this, what could go wrong?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
From Reidel's column today:
AT City Center last week, Harvey Fierstein, on a break from rehearsing "Broadway Bares," snuck into a nearby studio to watch Arthur Laurents rehearse Patti LuPone as Mama Rose in "Gypsy." (The revival will play City Center for three weeks next month.)
While Laurents was demonstrating a bit of stage business, Fierstein slipped into the director's chair. When Laurents turned round, Fierstein asked, "Can you see an older woman in the role?"
Not missing a beat, the 88-year-old Laurents replied: "Some people never give up. Leave your picture and résumé at the door."
Award season just ended, and already the Tony committee is releasing news of two new categories for next season: Best Sound Design of a Play, and Best Sound Design of a Musical. Looks like people were listening to Michae Mayer's acceptance speech. I'm all for more Tony awards. Theater is so collaborative, there are lots of creative roles that deserve recognition.
If they're adding two awards for Sound Design, I think a few more ought to be added, too. How about giving separate awards for music and lyrics? Best Ensemble awards would be interesting. On the other hand, for god's sake, don't let's lengthen the awards show even more. Thoughts?
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Neil LaBute should thank his lucky stars for Fred Weller. In lesser hands (cough-Jason Patrick!-ahem), In a Dark Dark House could be an exercise in the pointless, overwrought, and predictable. The incisive, electric performance from Weller (and the other two cast members) acts as a bonafide defibrillator, creating palpable excitement and intrigue whenever the script gets thin.
Here's MCC's summary of the proceedings:
On the grounds of a private psychiatric facility, two family members find themselves brought face to face with each other's involvement in their traumatic past. In court-ordered rehab, Drew calls on his brother, Terry, to corroborate his story of abuse. Drew's request releases barely-hidden animosities between the two; is he using these repressed memories to save himself while smearing the name of his brother's friend and mentor? In Neil LaBute's powerful new play, these siblings must struggle to come to grips with their troubled legacy, both inside and outside their dark family home.I'm quite of two minds about the show. It's an interesting set-up, and explores the ceaselessly relevant and scary topic of how exactly human monsters are made. Also, it's an interesting sort of cousin of Blackbird, telling the male side of the complexities of abuse, as Blackbird more directly explored a comparable story in which the victim was a girl. However, the "twists and turns" are often predictable from the moment of initial set-up. The interesting topic is articulated in a way that's too foggy and vague, and I admit that I'm generally not a fan of LaBute's tone. It kind of makes me feel dirty and unpleasant, which is doubtless what he's going for, but it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
But on the other hand, this cast totally rocks, and succeeds at making a clunky play kind of riveting. Ron Livingston carefully navigates a character who is both a self-interested, corrupt lawyer and a softie, pussyfooting younger brother, making Drew layered enough to be both compelling and condemnable. Louisa Krause is fantastic, playing 16-year-old Jennifer (aka "Buddy") with a rare and realistic combination of tough sophistication and naiveté. And Fred Weller's performance is unbelievably smart and agile, maneuvering each twinkle of the character's shifting motives with ease and incredible specificity. Watching the three of them is a pleasure, and they completely succeeded in making me enjoy the production, despite disliking the play. I also have to credit Carolyn Cantor, who created a physicality in this production that brings the tension between the characters to astronomical levels.
I'm a little late on this news, but it seems that the powers that be at ABC have come to their senses, and Isaiah Washington has been given the axe from Grey's Anatomy. Get a load of this, via People:
Howard Bragman, Washington's publicist, says Washington's option was not renewed, and released this statement from the actor: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more."Yikes!!! I'm hoping, for his sake, that the statement is nothing more than a really ill-considered joke. Could he possibly be serious??
Officials at ABC television studios have declined to comment, probably not wanting to admit that he was fired because of the homophobia/anger disaster earlier this season. At this point, they could always use the old "the story was going in a different direction, etc etc" BS, though it would be nice to hear the network give an honest, decisive answer that homophobia and hatred simply cannot be tolerated.
This news comes only a few weeks after Washington's PSA aired during episodes of Grey's. In case you missed it, his speech went something like, "Words have power. The power to express love, happiness and joy. They also have the power to heal." Uh huh. Watch the PSA here.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Among the zillion Tony articles, here's a fun one from Entertainment Weekly. Jason Clark writes, "Is it me, or does winning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) look like the South Park version of Jared from Subway?" I say they do indeed bear a resemblance, though Michael Mayer is an incredibly talented gentleman, while uber-annoying Jared elicits a banshee scream and a channel change every time his face appears on my telvision. What do you think?
Monday, June 11, 2007
"There's a line in Frost/Nixon which says, "Success in America is unlike success anywhere else. That feeling when you're up, it's indescribable." I'm very grateful to the theater community, to my colleagues in Frost/Nixon here and overseas and the New York theatergoing public for allowing me that feeling this season. The line in the play then goes on to say "But there's another feeling, when it's gone, to somewhere else, to someone else." And I know that feeling, everyone in this room knows it. I suppose we can't stop people from putting us into competition with one another, and once we're here, I suppose we all want to win, but I think we must honor the common bond in us, the struggle. The striving for success because that's a race we simply can't lose. I am very proud, very honored to work and live among you splendid people. Thank you. Thank you for giving me that indescribable feeling, I wish it for you all." - Frank Langella gives the best speeches, no?
"I didn't go to acting school, [but] I have been working in the theatre for 25 years. Over that time you learn by doing and you learn by watching wonderful people, and you learn by making dreadful, embarrassing mistakes! . . . I literally made my debut 20 years ago in Lucky Stiff — a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. I sang the dog song." - Julie White in the Tony press room, following her win (via the Playbill.com Tony Blog)
"Frank Wood, Mary McCann, Kerry Gartner, Jim Carnahan, all of our producers..." - John Gallagher Jr. thanked Frank Wood and Mary McCann, the only two actors who were replaced when Spring Awakening moved to Broadway.
"Not one audience shot of Les Moonves in the entire TONY broadcast. I thought, “Wait a minute. Is this not the TONYS?” And then a winner mentioned Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall and I knew I was in the right place." - Blogger and tv writer Ken Levine on the Tony telecast
"Of all the big awards shows, I find the Tonys the most reliably moving... Though the awards honor only a fraction of what makes up even New York theater, they nevertheless seem to stand for the art as a whole in a way that the Oscars, Grammys or Emmys don't — they represent a community rather than an industry." - Robert Lloyd of the LA Times , in his review of the telecast
"I did tell Jack O'Brien that if he wanted to a do a musical of this, I think 'Serfs Up' would be a good title." - Tom Stoppard
"Special thanks to music director Kim Grigsby, sound designer Brian Ronan, casting director Jim Carnahan because the Tonys aren't given for their categories, and I think they should be." - Michael Mayer thinks there should be a Tony for casting.
"That's the virus of the show... It starts with that young woman whose body is talking to her. I told them, 'Feel just the tips of your body. Feel all those gentle, tender places you would like to be kissed." - Spring Awakening choreographer Bill T. Jones (via Variety)
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Hey kids, in case you forgot, a little thing called the TONY AWARDS are happening tonight. The Tony website and NY1 have red carpet coverage beginning at 6:00pm, and at 7:15pm there's a webcast of the design awards, which the website is trying to spin as a cool thing, rather than the big ole shafting of designers that it actually is.
Most of the winners are pretty obvious, but here are my predictions. I might do some liveblogging, so those who really care can compare my predictions to the evening's turn of events. We'll see how well I do.
Spring Awakening. Duh.
Coast of Utopia. This category is a disappointment. Frost/Nixon, The Little Dog Laughed, and Radio Golf - all have merits, but none of them are genius plays. Even COU was most memorable for the performances, concept, and design than for the actual play(s).
REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Company. I haven't seen A Chorus Line, nor am I particularly interested. I think voters will right the wrong that was passing over Sweeney Todd for Pajama Game last year, and give Company the statue. There's nothing new about A Chorus Line, and giving it another award just doesn't feel right.
REVIVAL OF A PLAY
Journey's End, and well deserved. A stunning, shattering revival that met it's end too early.
LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
La Ebersole. Without question.
LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Raul Esparza. I'm going to go with Raul, though I do think that of any of the "given" categories, this is the one that the dark horse could snatch - David Hyde Pierce is so winning in his smart performance in Curtains, it's a possibility.
FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
John Gallagher Jr! Hoping that these Pittu dark horse whispers don't come to fruition. Spring Awakening's success is largely due to the total rockingness of Johnny's performance.
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Mary Louise Wilson. $10 says fiery Wilson tells Orfeh to shove it in her acceptance speech.
ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Julie White, baby! Her Iron Chef stint sealed the deal.
ACTOR IN A PLAY
Frank Langella, though I'd like to see it go to Boyd Gaines. Legendary Langella will take home the statue. I'm looking forward to his tux and his speech. What a dapper dan.
FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Billy Crudup. In the words of my boss, Coast of Utopia is best described in two words: "Billy Crudup".
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Jennifer Ehle. Martha Plimpton could take it, but Ehle's work was far more layered, nuanced, gentle and specific. I'll be happy to see either win.
Spring Awakening, duh.
Grey Gardens. Let's face it, Spring Awakening's book isn't it's selling point. "I'll teach you to say please"? Please. Grey Gardens' book lays the story at your feet in a beautiful, cohesive, and deeply moving way.
Spring Awakening. It's all about that band, especially the soulful, haunting cello combined with the rocking guitar licks.
Spring Awakening. Evocative, explosive, innovative.
BEST THEATRICAL EVENT
Jay Johnson, the Two and Only. Sorry, Kiki. Jay's story makes an unexpected subject moving and inspiring, and manages to be relatable to the child in all of us. It was just better theater than the cabaret-style antics of (fabulous) Kiki & Herb.
DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Michael Mayer, for Spring Awakening.
DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Jack O'Brien, for Coast of Utopia. I mean if that's not a directorial achievement...
Bill T. Jones for Spring Awakening, but only because they don't have competition from In The Heights, which will win next year.
LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Spring Awakening! Kevin Adams might be the most deserving winner of the whole night. I want to sleep with his designs.
SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Mary Poppins. Yeah, it's pretty cool. Fine. Whatever.
COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Grey Gardens. Not just for the leopard prints, either. Those one-piece jumpsuit things the ladies wear in act one are FABULOUS. The tuxedos, the robes, it's all just beautiful.
SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
Coast of Utopia. They won it in the first 30 seconds of the play, with the wave and Brien in the chair with the glove. That is THEATER, people!
COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Coast of Utopia again. Obviously.
LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Coast of Utopia. 9 hours to play with, and they kept it interesting throughout.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
"I'm so turned off by actors and comics because I think they're disgusting, and I am one, so I know. Anyone who has a headshot I don't want to have sex with." -Kathy Griffin (via Vulture)
Kathy Griffin is almost as good as Jan Maxwell when it comes to the snarky zingers!
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Two reasons: Disney, and the 80's. Well, sort of.
After the fracas over who should and should not be invited to perform at the Tonys, there's been a lot of debate over why nobody tunes into the show anymore. Some say it's because nobody cares about theater anymore. Others say it's because there aren't any stars, like the Oscars or the Grammys. Nobody outside the tristate area has seen most of these shows, or knows who these people are.
Here's my thing. Picture Mr. Average Joe sitting with his family in Idaho, or Delaware, or wherever on June 10th. Joe has no idea who Boyd Gaines or Raul Esparza are. Joe might recognize Frank Langella or Christine Ebersole when they see their faces. It's not that Joe doesn't care about theater, in fact, just the opposite. His daughter is in every school musical, and he enjoyed bringing the family to a Broadway show when they visited New York this past year. But here's the rub, kids - what show did Joe bring the family to? Take a look at the numbers. Odds are pretty good that they saw Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, or Phantom of the Opera.
These long-running-into-the-ground shows are invariably packed with people from all over the country. Few people from the tristate area is going to see this stuff at this point. The shows stay open solely thanks to the out-of-town audiences. If only these throngs of people were venturing into shows that were newer to Broadway, imagine how different things would be. Word of mouth would spread so much faster about the season's best new shows, and people would return to their home states spreading the word. Instead, we have "Well, three years ago Mrs. VanShnitzel saw Phantom, and she liked it, and said it had a really big chandelier, so let's see that." Why just last week, over eleven THOUSAND people saw Phantom. Think about how many have seen it over the seven hundred years it's been on Broadway. Imagine those numbers dispersed into the various newer, better, more interesting, more fun, exciting shows.
Yes, I know it's nothing more than a pipe dream, but wouldn't it be cool if the rest of America was interested in seeing new shows? While the original cast is still intact, while the star is still in it, while the chorus still gives a crap? If that could happen, there's no doubt that the Tonys would be the television event that they apparently used to be many moons ago. But, aside from restricting the length of a run, the way we restrict a presidential term (not such a terrible idea, actually), how do you get the midwesterner out of Phantom and into, say, Curtains?
Monday, June 04, 2007
Knocked Up was damn funny. Seth Rogen is spot-on as the hapless pothead who can't believe his luck when he manages to bed (and impregnate) Katherine Heigl, and she, in return, proves every bit the comic leading lady that she's always been, ever since My Father The Hero. (What? I'm serious.) I felt a bit innundated with the hype the movie's getting, maybe because I've been reading Vulture, which seems to dedicate about 1 in 5 posts to Knocked Up or Judd Apatow. It's not quite as shockingly funny or as unexpectedly sweet as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but it's a pretty great flick nonetheless.
HOWEVER. Ladies, beware. Once the chortles subsided, I found myself reacting to this movie as if it were Hostel II - this shit is scary, y'all! To be more specific, unplanned pregnancy is scary. My roommate and I nervously shuffled around the apartment after the movie, both vowing that from now on, we'll be even more extra-super-careful in our adventures in reproductive-behavior-land. I wonder how many other young women sat in the dark theater, fretting and worrying while their dates laughed their asses off.
I wonder which will be scarier, this, or Bug. Probably Bug. But this scared me pretty bad.