19 May 2010


Earlier this year I caught the Emmy Award Winning special RAZZLE DAZZLE, THE SPECIAL YEARS, a sweet little documentary that is more or less a guided tour through Ms. Gaynor's gaudy and fabulous televisions specials of the 60s and 70s.  If you've been following, you may remember that I went on a variety-show kick over the summer (because what else is there to do when you're in Poughkeepsie with a mere 5 hours of rehearsal to ASM a day), so, naturally, the special was of particular interest.  Mitzi's specials were like uber-variety shows, featuring boatloads of the gayest dancing boys in Hollywood, reams of taffeta and crinoline and sequined anything, and Ms. Gaynor's fabulous legs.  I was delighted to become acquainted with this singing dancing Barbie-doll-for-gays (it's hard to believe there was any other audience for that type of entertainment), who is otherwise mostly known for playing Nellie Forbush in the unwatchable movie version of SOUTH PACIFIC.

Perhaps because of the success of this documentary, Ms. Gaynor has been touring the country (including a stop of dear ol' Muncie, IN, which was the brunt of more than a few jokes last night) with a one-woman career retrospective, "RAZZLE DAZZLE, MY LIFE BEHIND THE SEQUINS", which opened last night at Feinstein's at the Regency.  

Normally a cushy venue with a paradoxical blend of luxurious space for the audience and unparalled intimacy with the performer, the folks at Feisntein's decided to put Mitzi in a converted ballroom, as opposed to their traditional cabaret venue, to all more space for her to "move", change costumes (glamorous, sparkly, Bob Mackie costumes), and show video clips (to cover the costume changes).  The room was cramped, the stage and lighting rather hastily installed.  But from her first entrance, in "Honey Bun" sailor drag, Ms. Gaynor was luminous, gracious, bawdy, and an overall delight.  Though she did a fair amount of singing (especially for a 78 year old who isn't Barbara Cook), she spent just as much time regaling us with stories from her charmed career.  Despite the fact that her life has been seemingly devoid of any conflict or despair (the worst thing that happened to her was having a contract terminated), she made a compelling and hilarious evening from anecdotes about her famous friends--Howard Hughes, Ethel Merman--and subjects as potentially mundane as "getting dressed to go to the Duke of Windsor's birthday party".  So charming was Ms. Gaynor that her weak singing was not only forgivable, but endearing.  (I am not so forgiving about the horribly cheap synthesizer--had I access to it from my seat I would have unplugged it before he could finish the opening number). 

Also of note was the fact that I was seated among fellow Bloggers du Theatre, including: Kevin, the Theater AfficionadoThe Adventurous Sarah B; and Linda, the Pataphyiscal Scientist

In a season seemingly full of "old ladies", Mitzi may not be as revelatory as Angie or B Cook, but I have never seen a performer radiate so much warmth and love. 

07 May 2010

Fun with Free Theater: NEXT FALL

I had heard mixed things about NEXT FALL.  Brantley, who seems awfully arbitrary in his taste this year, acted like he had seen the best American play since DEATH OF A SALESMAN.   Friends responses ranged from "it's hysterical" to the more ambivalent "I liked it" to the vitriolic "I was offended".  

Just from reading the press materials, I admit I was not particularly intrigued, and probably would not have gone out of my way to see it if I had to pay full price, or even more than $30.  The central question "Can a devout Christian and an Atheist get along [if they're gay and dating and stuff, oh, and one's 15 years older than the other one]?" didn't interest me all that much.  "Yes", would be my answer.  End of play.  This is 2010, and unless someone is a crazy, Westboro Baptist style, fundamentalist, most people of faith learn how to live lives of faith in manner harmonious with a mostly secular society.  

And Luke, the central character of NEXT FALL, seems to fall in the more reasonable, latter, category.  So his atheist boyfriend's 4 year long inability to understand his boyfriend's faith never seemed convincing to me.  Most of the theology of the first act consisted of Adam being unable to comprehend the Christian idea that accepting Jesus into your heart, and not good deeds, is the secret of getting into Heaven--that Matthew Shepard would go to hell (if he did not have Jesus in his heart), but his killers could repent and go to heaven.  I agree, that is some major bullshit--if you believe in the Christian notion of a heaven and hell in the first place.  If Luke's thoughts about the afterlife affected his behavior towards those outside of his faith, I would buy that as an issue.  But it doesn't.  Luke, in fact, never brings it up unless goaded by Adam, whose arguments are awfully sophomoric for the educated 40+ year old writer/teacher we're supposed to believe he is.  

In the second act this "conflict" begins to show some signs of relevance as issues such as Luke's inner conflict with being gay and Christian, or Luke's inability of offer any solace in a time of loss that is not tinged in his faith are put on the table.  These issues affect behavior and are thus at least dramatically credible, but only lightly touched upon.

What made these dogmatic issues most frustrating to me was the fact that I think NEXT FALL is an otherwise excellent play--well paced, funny, and surprising with characters I genuinely cared for.  The execution was also top drawer--well directed, well designed, slick and professional and engaging throughout.  As long as the characters were talking about something else--ANYTHING else, candles even--other than the heart of the play.  I would, in fact, recommend you see it before it's inevitable closing.  Even the annoying Jesus-talk scenes flow by rather painlessly, and if you aren't prone to talking or thinking about theater after seeing it, you might not even be annoyed by them.  

Also, am I the only one who remembers The Torkelsons?  Because the mom on that, Connie May, is fabulous as Luke's mom.  

04 May 2010

2010 Tony Nominations

Okay Kids, here we go.  This was a weird year for Broadway.  WEIRD.  Let's look at how everything is going down.  As is "tradition" I will list the nominees, describe the "tizzy" (i.e. what the queens on ALL THAT CHAT are furious about), and make some preliminary guesses as to who will win.
Best Play
            In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play            Author: Sarah Ruhl
            Next Fall            Author: Geoffrey Nauffts
            Red            Author: John Logan
            Time Stands Still            Author: Donald Margulies

THE TIZZY: Superior Donuts, Race, and Enron were all shut out.  The first was well received, but shuttered quickly, the 2nd was not well received, but has done solid business and is still running, the 3rd is reviled by many for its perceived anti-Americanism.  I’m somewhat surprised to see Time Stands Still on the list, mostly because I forgot it happened, and sort of thought it was a revival even though it clearly wasn’t.  Oh, and Martin McDonough’s first direct-to-Broadway play, A Behanding in Spokane, was snubbed.

WHO WILL WIN:             It’s between Red and Next FallNext Fall is a “New American Play” and that alone could get it the win, as could the orgasmic reviews it got.  However, people I know who saw it HATED it, and Red is probably the better work.  And, as Reasons to be Pretty can attest, Tony voters never actually vote American because everyone assumes only British people can make plays.  Unless it’s Enron.

Best Musical
            American Idiot                       
            Million Dollar Quartet                       

THE TIZZY: Come Fly Away is not on the list, Million Dollar Quartet is.  Some probably thought Everyday Rapture would make it on the list, but I was dubious.  In general, Off-Broadway was the place for musical theater this year, and this is a sad lot of nominees with Memphis, which I simply did not enjoy, being the only musical in which a couple of writers sat down, created characters and a story, and then wrote songs for them to sing. 

WHO WILL WIN: I’m pretty sure it’s going to be American Idiot, even if no one is really all that excited about it, and Mayer was snubbed in the director category.  Fela! has it’s supporters, but most people thought it was--though stunning--confusing, long, and ultimately boring.  But what it has going for it—amazing choreography and a unique “experience”—could be enough in this dud of a season.  Million Dollar Quartet is a crowd pleaser, but not a serious contender.  Memphis could actually take home top honors, simply by virtue of its pure intentions, and because it’s been running since the fall and building some kind of an audience for itself.

Best Book of a Musical
            Everyday Rapture            Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott           
            Fela!            Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones           
            Memphis            Joe DiPietro           
            Million Dollar Quartet            Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux           

THE TIZZY: Adams Family, the only new book musical of the season was not nominated.  Probably because of that “everyone hates it” thing.  But you’d be hard pressed to show me what kind of book Fela! has.  Basically, there’s Memphis and filler.  And, as I said before, I didn’t like Memphis.

WHO WILL WIN: It kinda has to be Memphis, doesn’t it.  Though a win for Everyday Rapture is not out of the question, because everyone loves Sherie. 

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
            The Addams Family            Music & Lyrics: Andrew Lippa           
            Enron              Music: Adam Cork, Lyrics: Lucy Prebble           
            Fences              Music: Branford Marsalis           
            Memphis            Music: David Bryan, Lyrics: Joe DiPietro, David Bryan           

THE TIZZY: 2 plays are nominated in this category, because Broadway musicals sucked so hard this season. 

WHO WILL WIN: Memphis, again, for showing up. 

Best Revival of a Play
            Lend Me a Tenor                       
            The Royal Family                       
            A View from the Bridge                       

THE TIZZY:  That Jude Law Hamlet was overlooked, but, for the most part, these are the revivals people were talking about.  Well, these and Brighton Beach Memoirs, which was ineligible because of its short run, but deserved to win.

WHO WILL WIN: A View from the Bridge or Fences

Best Revival of a Musical
            Finian's Rainbow                       
            La Cage aux Folles                       
            A Little Night Music                       

THE TIZZY: Promises, Promises was snubbed in favor of the Ragtime revival (which I loved, but many thought was a week regional production). 

WHO WILL WIN: La Cage.  It was fresh, felt contemporary, and elevated the source material.  It is what a revival should be.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
            Jude Law                        Hamlet           
            Alfred Molina            Red           
            Liev Schreiber            A View from the Bridge           
            Christopher Walken            A Behanding in Spokane           
            Denzel Washington            Fences           

THE TIZZY: All of these nominees are already-famous movie stars.  And I’m sure they all deserve their nominations, but it’s not really celebrating and honoring the theater community—I expect this same bunch to be in competition for an Oscar somewhere down the line.

WHO WILL WIN: It’s probably between Liev and Denzel.  Alfred Molina will win.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
            Viola Davis                        Fences           
            Valerie Harper            Looped           
            Linda Lavin                        Collected Stories           
            Laura Linney                        Time Stands Still           
            Jan Maxwell                        The Royal Family           

THE TIZZY: So…there are apparently no roles for women this year, with Linney getting nominated more or less by default (and for being famous).  At first I thought Tovah Feldshuh was snubbed, then I realized she wasn’t in anything this season.

WHO WILL WIN: Jan Maxwell.  At least, she should.  Otherwise, she’ll keep getting nominated for everything she’s in until she does.  It’s called the Susan Sarandon factor.  Remember when she was nominated for The Client?  But Maxwell could win in featured, in which case, Lavin will win.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
            Kelsey Grammer            La Cage aux Folles           
            Sean Hayes                        Promises, Promises           
            Douglas Hodge            La Cage aux Folles           
            Chad Kimball            Memphis           
            Sahr Ngaujah            Fela!           

THE TIZZY: Kelsey Grammer couldn’t really sing the role when I saw it (though I imagine anyone would sound flat singing “Look Over There”).  John Gallagher Jr. was snubbed.  As was the guy in A Little Night Music.

WHO WILL WIN: It’s between Hodge—who was fantastic in La Cage—and Ngaujah.  If I had a vote, I would go with Hodge, but I think Ngaujah could walk away with it.  Only catch—he only does about half the shows a week.  Many Tony voters probably saw the understudy and doubtfully want to sit through the show again.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
            Kate Baldwin                        Finian's Rainbow           
            Sherie Rene Scott                        Everyday Rapture           
            Montego Glover                        Memphis           
            Christiane Noll                        Ragtime           
            Catherine Zeta-Jones            A Little Night Music           

THE TIZZY: Christiane Noll was nominted.  Kristen Chenoweth was not. 

WHO WILL WIN: Sherie.  Not only is she wonderful and he show poignant and honest, but she basically threw it on Broadway in 2 weeks after Megan Mullaly pulled out of Lips Together, Teeth Apart.  Kate Baldwin was the darling of the fall, and might win if Tony voters want to reward her for, you know, acting, which Sherie doesn’t exactly do, as she is playing herself. 

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
            David Alan Grier                                    Race           
            Stephen McKinley Henderson            Fences           
            Jon Michael Hill                                    Superior Donuts           
            Stephen Kunken                                    Enron           
            Eddie Redmayne                                    Red           

THE TIZZY: Maybe someone expected Tony Shaloub to get a nomination for Lend Me a Tenor?  And no one from Next Fall was nominated.  Otherwise, this category looks like a dumping ground for token nominations for otherwise overlooked plays.

WHO WILL WIN: The guy from Red won shit in London, but doesn’t this award always have to go to someone in a revival of an August Wilson play?

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
            Maria Dizzia                        In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play           
            Rosemary Harris            The Royal Family           
            Jessica Hecht                        A View from the Bridge           
            Scarlett Johansson            A View from the Bridge           
            Jan Maxwell                        Lend Me a Tenor           

THE TIZZY: Um, Maria Dizzia?  She was good, don’t get me wrong, but to be the only recognized performance from that show…that seems odd.  Also, this is randomly the most fiercely competitive category of the season. 

WHO WILL WIN: Jessica Hecht.  Unless Jan Maxwell wins this instead of Leading Actress.  Really, she should win both.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
            Kevin Chamberlin                        The Addams Family           
            Robin De Jesús                        La Cage aux Folles           
            Christopher Fitzgerald            Finian's Rainbow           
            Levi Kreis                                    Million Dollar Quartet           
            Bobby Steggert                        Ragtime           

THE TIZZY: Actually, this seems about right.  Maybe someone expected Euan Morton to get nominated, but I did not.

WHO WILL WIN: I personally think it should be Christopher Fitzgerald, but I actually think it will be Bobby Steggert.

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
            Barbara Cook            Sondheim on Sondheim           
            Katie Finneran            Promises, Promises           
            Angela Lansbury            A Little Night Music           
            Karine Plantadit            Come Fly Away           
            Lillias White                        Fela!           

THE TIZZY: Old lady catfight! 

WHO WILL WIN: Angela should have the edge, because she is acting and Babs is just singing songs we’ve heard her sing before.  But Angie won last year, and Babs hasn’t been up for nomination since She Loves Me or something.  But Katie Finneran could walk away with the award, like the originator of her role, for providing some merciful humor in Promises, Promises.

Best Direction of a Play
            Michael Grandage            Red           
            Sheryl Kaller                        Next Fall           
            Kenny Leon                        Fences           
            Gregory Mosher            A View from the Bridge           

THE TIZZY: I actually don’t think there are any major upsets here.  Well, perhaps people thought Rupert Good would get a nom for Enron.

Best Direction of a Musical
            Christopher Ashley                        Memphis           
            Marcia Milgrom Dodge            Ragtime           
            Terry Johnson                        La Cage aux Folles           
            Bill T. Jones                                    Fela!           

THE TIZZY: Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s nomination is probably getting a lot of WTFs.  Also, Michael Mayer—who is, ostensibly the only reason American Idiot is a show in the first place—was overlooked, which actually does not bode well for its chances of winning. 

WHO WILL WIN: Terry Johnson.

Best Choreography
            Rob Ashford            Promises, Promises           
            Bill T. Jones            Fela!           
            Lynne Page            La Cage aux Folles           
            Twyla Tharp            Come Fly Away           

THE TIZZY: Oh, that’s where Promises, Promises and Come Fly Away has been hiding.

WHO WILL WIN: Bill T Jones.  I mean, he has to.
Best Orchestrations
            Jason Carr            La Cage aux Folles           
            Aaron Johnson            Fela!           
            Jonathan Tunick            Promises, Promises           
            Daryl Waters & David Bryan            Memphis           

Below are the rest of the nominations, which I will not comment on.  I will say that I am so excited for The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, where I had the pleasure of working the past 2 summers, and its well deserved Tony Award for Best Regional Theater.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
            John Lee Beatty            The Royal Family           
            Alexander Dodge            Present Laughter           
            Santo Loquasto            Fences           
            Christopher Oram            Red           

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
            Marina Draghici            Fela!           
            Christine Jones            American Idiot           
            Derek McLane            Ragtime           
            Tim Shortall                        La Cage aux Folles           

Best Costume Design of a Play
            Martin Pakledinaz            Lend Me a Tenor           
            Constanza Romero            Fences           
            David Zinn                        In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play           
            Catherine Zuber            The Royal Family           

Best Costume Design of a Musical
            Marina Draghici            Fela!           
            Santo Loquasto            Ragtime           
            Paul Tazewell            Memphis           
            Matthew Wright            La Cage aux Folles           

Best Lighting Design of a Play
            Neil Austin                        Hamlet           
            Neil Austin                        Red           
            Mark Henderson            Enron           
            Brian MacDevitt            Fences           

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
            Kevin Adams            American Idiot           
            Donald Holder            Ragtime           
            Nick Richings            La Cage aux Folles           
            Robert Wierzel            Fela!           

Best Sound Design of a Play
            Acme Sound Partners            Fences           
            Adam Cork                                    Enron           
            Adam Cork                                    Red           
            Scott Lehrer                                    A View from the Bridge           

Best Sound Design of a Musical
            Jonathan Deans                                                La Cage aux Folles           
            Robert Kaplowitz                                                Fela!           
            Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen            A Little Night Music           
            Dan Moses Schreier                                                Sondheim on Sondheim           

Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
            Alan Ayckbourn                       
            Marian Seldes                       

Regional Theatre Tony Award®
            The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Connecticut                       

Isabelle Stevenson Award
            David Hyde Pierce                       

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
            Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York                       
            B.H. Barry                       
            Tom Viola                       

When you wake up an hour before the Tony Nominations are announced...

...you know you aren't going back to sleep--what if you sleep THROUGH the Tony Nominations?  So you turn to Facebook, and see that your friend posted a video from a concert she sang in, and you obsess and share it with your "readership". 

The concert was an evening of songs by Sam Carner and Derek Gregor.

Here is Sarah Corey singing "Shoulders Down", which is, I beleive, from Carner/Gregor's review, SING BUT DON'T TELL


And here is Sarah Corey and Jennifer Blood singing "Grown Up Now", which I presume to be from the same song cycle.

and now I only have 36 minutes to kill...

01 May 2010

You Don't Need a Reason for Audra

A great arrangement.  And, you know, the Audra thing.

It's May

Time for some clips from Amateur Productions of CAMELOT!

"The Scarborough Theatre Guild" Production.   Lisa Kulchycki sings it well, and I kinda dig the set.  Skip ahead to about 1m12s for the actual song.

The chorus on this one sounds good, and there's a lot of them.  Which means there's a lot of bored people sitting backstage for 2.5 hours.

And Marin Mazzie from the (mostly unwatchable) Philharmonic concert