Sunday, July 30, 2006

In me you'll find things like guts and nerve...

I don’t have tons to say today or much time, so this is just a little random sharing post.

I am personally anti Encores! doing Follies (even though I love it), but I won’t spend time here railing against the selection. I mean, I believe that if you had to choose shows that celebrated the American musical revue for a series that was supposed to present rare works, presentations of Two on the Aisle or John Murray Anderson's Almanac would have been wiser; yet the choice was made and it is pointless to spend time here discussing it. I am all for looking towards the future.

With that future in mind, I am offering some things I'd like to see in coming Encores! seasons (just cause I can): I Can Get It For You Wholesale, I Do!, I Do!, It's a Bird, It's a Plane It's Superman, Paint Your Wagon, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes , Seesaw, High Button Shoes, New Girl in Town and Do I Hear a Waltz. Oh, and as Billy Finnegan said, "Jerry Herman, people!!!!" And he's right! I mean—hello—Mack and Mabel. Reprise! did it for a reason… Billy also suggested Dear World before moving on from Jerry Herman with the following suggestions: “Wildcat and Unsinkable Molly Brown—both good for Reba. How about Hazel Flagg (Jule Styne) and Henry Sweet Henry (Bob Merrill)?”

Okay, this post is very Ken Mandelbaum, so I must stop before I make a fool of myself. I respect Ken enough to know that I cannot speak about this stuff nearly as well as him. Why continue trying? Which reminds me, I’m all for people emailing me ( as I do need conversation topics, but sadly I can’t offer answers to questions on rare musical theater history. Again, I’m no Ken. I’m not even Jim Byk.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Don't you give up walking cause you gave up shoes...

I know I told people that starting this week I would try to post every Sunday and Wednesday night, but I’ve been feverish, so, you’ll all excuse me this slip.

I was waiting for about a month for The Wiz cast to be announced so I could write about it here and now I sort of don't remember what I wanted to say. Maybe someone else wants to comment on the dancer as Toto idea? It's very Milky White, right? If Chad Kimball was the "IT Bovine," Albert Blaise Cattafi can so become the "It Canine." I can see the EW spread now...

One of my readers said, in response to my last post, that she believed it might be against Equity policy to make changes on shows after opening. Maybe the rest of you were thinking similarly? And it sort of makes sense that it might be. So I tried to research it using the exciting online contract guidelines. It does not seem it is. To the best of my knowledge, nothing in the Equity guidelines (at least as they pertain to the Broadway Production Contract) says that changes cannot be made post-opening. Now those guidelines do state that the maximum amount of post-opening rehearsal time is eight hours a week (more for emergency replacements or understudies, I believe), which limits the amount of work one can actually get done, but, that is another matter. Again, I could be wrong, I’m not 100% confident because I didn’t read the entire handbook; all I can say is that rehearsal time-limit guideline is the only pertinent thing I found.

Now, that got me thinking that there could be some SSDC rule that says that directors/choreographers should cease working at a certain juncture. So I asked a friend of a friend of a friend who used to be involved with SSDC and that does not seem to be the case either. (The SSDC person noted that many times directors and choreographers MUST move on quickly because of scheduling, thus meaning they could not possibly continue to work on a given project, which is of course a valid point.)

There you go—we can hail Maurice Hines without fearing he broke some kind of union rule. Though I’m sure he broke some etiquette rule when he rambled long enough during his final curtain call speech that his leading lady had to grab the mike from him…. Oh, well, that is beside the point.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

After the Love is Gone

I've been following Hot Feet since workshop stage, never believing we'd ever see it on Broadway. Despite all my Hot Feet knowledge, I never actually knew how it really came to be, until I read the interesting New York Times story last week. I'm still not 100% sure what Susan Weaving was thinking. Was the William Morris vice president thinking: "Maurice Hines wants to do a musical Red Shoes and Maurice White wants to do something with the music of Earth, Wind & Fire--those two things would work so well together" (if she was, she was of course incorrect) OR was she actually just thinking: "Both of these people are named Maurice--I bet they'll get along"? (if she was, she was right). Whatever the story of its inception, Hot Feet will be remembered for some not so good things. But I want to take a moment to applaud something Maurice Hines did (snarky people, shut up).

Many of you may not know that, after critics went to the Hilton, Maurice Hines continued to work on Hot Feet. Why? I like to think it was because he wanted audience members to have the best experience possible. That is a rare thing in the theater--writers, directors and choreographers typically work until the reviewers see a production and then let it go. The product viewed by critics is typically the end product unless the show moves and downsizes (like Beauty and the Beast and its now 2 dancing forks) or something is shortened for costs (as the original Les Miz was). I've often heard creatives say: "I knew it was wrong, but I ran out of time to fix it, so it is what it is."

Hines, on the other hand, kept trying to perfect his vision. (I don't know why it took so many years to do so, but, that is beside the point right now.) He cut an entire number after most press had seen the show. He didn't do it for Ben Brantley--he did it for his musical. He did what he believed would make Hot Feet better for the people paying money to see it. So, on this sad day of Hot Feet's final dance, let's take a moment to appreciate that.

I want to encourage those in the business to follow Hines' lead, on just this one point. I only know three behind-the-scenes theater people who read this blog (a Drama Desk winner, "the future of musical theater" and a soon-to-be-big playwright) and I'm sure they'll listen--I hope everyone else does the same.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Big Wheel Keep on Turning

When will Roundabout announce what is going to be at Studio 54 in the fall? Come on, I'm getting bored with the speculation. I hope it's something that brings Anne Heche back to Broadway, but I guess her television series will make that an impossible dream. If it is canceled early (and, of course, I wish only the best for Anne Heche), maybe she can do something in the spring. I must plant those seeds.

Speaking of the season (forgive me for that segue), I got an email asking me if there was anything that I haven't mentioned on my list that could come to Broadway pre-Tonys. There is honestly no way of saying--there could be something genius in London, off-Broadway or at some regional theater that will come in and surprise us. That happens every season. There are two things that I do want to add to my possible list right now however--Fences and Nightingale.

I know this is a sacrilege to say, but I am not a HUGE August Wilson fan. I think some of his stuff is really good--I just have never thought his work is consistently amazing or anything. (And I would have so named a theater after Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams first, despite their stumbles.) That being said, I have never seen Fences and I am very excited about the Ike and Tina version at the Pasadena Playhouse this fall. I mean, honestly, Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne have a good track record together (especially Akeelah and the Bee people, Akeelah and the Bee). Plus, I've always heard Fences is superb. August Wilson is a hard sell, but if it gets good reviews out-of-town, this starry mounting could come in as early as the end of October.

Now Nightingale... I bet many of you don't know what that is. Nightingale is a one-person play Lynn Redgrave wrote, inspired by memories of her maternal grandmother, Beatrice Kempson. She actually wrote it for an actress by the name of Caroline John to star in (which happened overseas), but then she realized that she is much more famous that John (that is how I imagine it happened, at least), so now she herself is starring in it. It will be at the Taper in LA this fall and it very well could come here after it finishes out there in November. Now Vanessa Redgrave (who I consider the crazy one) is already scheduled to be on Broadway in a one-person show this spring. Will we hear of a bitter rivalry? Will there be a fight to the death? Alas, more impossible dreams.

Note that I'm not saying either of these things is going to come. And I am not even touching on where the hell they would possibly go (especially Nightingale, which would need one of the very popular small houses to survive), but, I offer more food for thought. Now I'm tired. I HATE the summer.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The 2008 Tony Hopeful

I sadly spent the weekend being briefed on the ATPAM off-Broadway contract negotiations, so I'm sort of too fried to write anything substantial. I did want to post a quick note though--I am glad everyone is catching Legends! fever after seeing the ad, but you should know that according to the Joan Collins website (my source for all information, of course) the tour doesn't end until May 6, so it doesn't look like the show or its stars could win 2007 Tonys. If it comes, we're probably looking at next summer. Though please join me in Philly in the fall for it--we can rent a yellow school van. I can lead a rollicking version of "The Wheels on the Bus," I'm sure.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Selling a Show

I forgot Sister Act on my list of possible 2006-2007 musicals. That’s right, I forgot something campy. I know, I’m surprised too, but, it happens. Additionally, I spaced by not putting Journey’s End on the revival play list. Oh, and also, Spring Awakening looks like it is happening on Broadway, thus adding another entry on the new tuner list (yay!).

This is not another post about 2006-2007 however, this is an entry about marketing. You know I often get calls from people talking about a given ad and how it appealed to them or failed to appeal to them. Advertising and marketing is so important to the survival of a show—those teams faltered on All Shook Up and that went from a seemingly easy sell to an impossible one in a matter of months.

Originally when I heard that Kiki and Herb’s Broadway engagement was announced by Fire Island flyering over July 4 weekend, I scoffed. What were they thinking? Then I realized it was actually sort of brilliant. Let the people who are going to support the show feel like they are being given an inside track. Why not? There is no big Friday Times column item to lose anymore—no press coverage is lost by doing things this way. And meanwhile you have tons of people who feel like they’ve discovered something, something they (possibly drunkenly) decide they are excited about.

Then there is the new Legends! video ad, which I love. Click here to see it:
Could it be even more brilliant? Of course, but it knows what it is selling. The product on the table is not the show Legends! (no offense to the theater queens who love spouting details of the show’s notorious original tour), it is two over-the-top television stars bitch slapping each other. This ad perfectly portrays that.

On the flip side, I have to talk about Burleigh Grime$. I’m not saying any advertising campaign, no matter how genius, could have saved this production, I’m just saying poor Wendie Malick. The audio ad for the show began: “Hi, this is Wendie Malick. That's right, Nina Van Horn from Just Shoot Me. Have you missed me? Well, I'm back and onstage in this sizzling new comedy…” Seriously, they designed their marketing campaign around people’s nostalgic feelings for Wendie Malick. Now I like Wendie Malick, I just don’t think anyone was aware she was missing. Wendie Malick was on Jake in Progress, which was on ABC as recently as earlier this year, meaning she wouldn’t exactly have turned up as part of an “Alive or Dead” web report (despite how few people ever saw Jake in Progress). Sadly the commercial just got worse after that bizarre start. Later on Ms. Malick actually delivered the line: “Enter the scotch-drinking, table-dancing backstabbing world of stocks and bonds” with tremendous gusto. Umm…. Does that sound good to anyone? Anyone? Five stock brokers out there? Hello?!