Thursday, November 30, 2006


I’m a little too swamped to write a full force post tonight. I mean, my head is about to combust. It’s part stress from my day and part the fact that I’m very confused by the Company reviews (other than the AP one)…. But, moving on.

Now that a second Claire Danes/Tamar Ragoff PS122 dance piece has been announced, I need to take a moment to reflect on the first one. I will be talking about it for the rest of my life, assuming people still know who Claire Danes is when I’m 80. Each time someone at the Kornberg office (which reps PS122) asks me to go to something there I say: “Does it feature Claire Danes with her feet bleeding?” I sat in the second row the last time and poor Claire’s feet actually did bleed as she continually ran around in circles and into a curtain and then around in circles again. The show also featured a video of her crawling across the street and up the PS122 stairs. Uh, huh. And this one, entitled Edith & Jenny, sounds better. Somehow about film debuts (the “Edith” in the title refers to Danes’ character Edith in her film debut, Dreams of Love) and it features two people—the other one is Ragoff’s daughter, a lifelong friend of Danes’ named Ariel Flavin. Now, apparently, the other girl is an actress who was in the movie Coyote Mountain and played a character named Jenny. But, there aren’t any IMDB or Google mentions of her or it, so, moving on.

I also want to say that there seems to be some confusion about the title of one of my previous posts. I feared not many people would get it and, indeed, that was a problem. “Like most intellectuals, he's intensely stupid...”=my favorite line from the movie Dangerous Liasons. It has nothing to do with Michael Borowski, who I spoke about in that post. Mikey is one of my favorite people, so I would never call him stupid in a public forum. I also wouldn’t really call anyone I’m close with an intellectual (despite their esteemed educations), so, there you go. Speaking of Dangerous Liasons, and, thus, Les Liasons Dangereuses, I’ve heard a couple of things about the Roundabout. I haven't really cared enough to check any of them out and I actually forgot I knew them until mid-writing of this. I heard a rumor about Prelude to a Kiss this season… I also heard that they are thinking of reviving Applause at some point. I'd like to see that. But, they were also at one point thinking of reviving On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and countless other shows, so, moving on.

Actually, that’s it. I will say that my mother will be so very happy that a Times story in theory about The Big Voice: God or Merman? focused on the history of a temple. I mean, those of you who know her, know that’s going to make her day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

What's with my feet? They're happy!

I don't know how many of you readers out there know this, but the three final names mentioned for this last revival of Sweet Charity were Christina Applegate, Brittany Murphy and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Applegate of course was the one who ended up in the show. But, recently, while I was listening to Murphy sing during Happy Feet (which I rushed to see in IMAX), I began wondering what her Charity would have been like. Then I jumped to a more important topic—would her name have sold more tickets than Applegate’s name did? Now, I’m not talking about after reviews, I’m talking advance.

I have a feeling, out of those three people, the name Christina Applegate probably sold more tickets to people who would buy Sweet Charity tickets than the names Brittany Murphy or Maggie Gyllenhaal would have. (And, before anyone points this out, I am aware that the name Christina Applegate did not sell many tickets.) I think this because Applegate had been getting a lot of press for Friends and that show had tons of fans of all ages. Whereas, my mother (who always serves as my litmus test for the ticket-buying suburban audience) probably couldn’t spot Brittany Murphy or Maggie Gyllenhaal out in a lineup. This is all speculative on my part—I haven’t run any focus groups on the matter.

But this thinking led me to an even more important topic… How big a star does one have to be to really sell tons of tickets to a Broadway show? Now, any of the three above mentioned actresses would get a bunch of press, which is helpful to a show. And if they sold 200 tickets to fans, that’s sadly probably 170 more tickets than an actress known primarily for her theater work would sell to her fans. So I see the advantage of having any one of them in a show, but I also know none of them would make tickets fly out of the box office. I mean, I’ve long thought it would be great to lure Murphy back to the stage, but I accept the fact that that would mean nothing to the majority of Americans.

So how big a star does a show need to guarantee a healthy advance? It depends on the project and a host of other issues, I know, but, I ask this question with the assumption that all other things are equal. Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise… those are names that are sure to sell. But what happens when you step down a level? Sure Jake Gyllenhaal would sell more tickets than Patrick Wilson, but would a Broadway show with him be an automatic smash? If Josh Harnett had taken Journey’s End would that have made it instantly huge? I’m not convinced. We know Hilary Swank didn’t sell The Miracle Worker

OK, I’m really, really tired, but I want everyone to think on this, as I shall. On another topic--I have heard a bunch of shows for the replacement Roundabout slot. I think I know the correct one, but, as I am not 100% sure, I’ll wait for the actual announcement like a good little girl. I think it’s coming very soon. Though, if they don’t make it in the next few days, I may grow impatient. Right now I’m too tired to be impatient.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Like most intellectuals, he's intensely stupid...

I told Michael Borowski I would write an ode to him, but I can't remember why I said that and I honestly don't know what to write about him. Maybe the last drink erased my memory or maybe, just maybe, I'm too tired at 2:30am to truly think. I do love Mikey, so, I tried...

Moving on, I had been wondering why I hadn't heard any concrete casting news for the Roundabout revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Well today I found out the reason--there is no Roundabout revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. It appears to be off. Bye bye Christopher Hampton play. This leaves the Roundabout with two Broadway slots to be announced.

I can't say I'm surprised by this cancellation--every season there is a Roundabout revival that is called off. Maybe this one will resurface at the same time Roundabout finally does Fool For Love. Does anyone remember that planned revival? That one I sort of wanted to see. Oh, well.

OK, I am indeed exhausted and fuzzy now. And I have many a dish to prepare tomorrow... I hope someone understands the title to this entry, but, I can't worry about it now. So, happy holiday to all and to all a goodnight.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The answers my friends...

I feel like the season is halfway through. That’s not true actually, but I feel like since the Tonys I’ve lived through half a season or more, so, as far as I am concerned, I can do a mid-season column. Pretending that we’re about half done, I think this is a good time to look at those probably eligible for the Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award.

These comments are based on what I expect to take place. Shockingly not everything always works out as I think it will, so, much of it could be wrong. I actually get a kick out of being surprised, so I hope some of it indeed turns out to be incorrect...

And, now, on with the show:

Charlotte d’Amboise, A Chorus Line
-- D’Amboise is in the role that everyone roots for. But not everyone has embraced her performance, most noting that she is not nearly as good as Donna McKechnie (who won a Tony for playing Cassie in the original production). She could possibly squeak in with a nomination, but she’ll have tough competition.

Lisa Brescia, The Times They Are A-Changin'
--I’m even sure Brescia would be lead, they could leave her in featured. Either way, she won’t be nominated. I’m not saying she wasn’t good, I’m just saying no chance.

Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens
--Front-runner. Duh. Though, just as Julie White has Angela Lansbury coming up, Ebersole has some biggies in her way. (Though, Ebersole is facing biggies who frequently do theater, making them less intimidating than Jessica Fletcher.) Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald and Donna Murphy are all critical darlings and thus should be feared a tiny bit. But the Ebersole acclaim is unlike anything we’ve experience recently in the theater and it is likely to hold up come June.

Daphne Rubin-Vega, Les Misérables
--Will she be lead or featured? I know Patti was lead in London, but Graff wasn’t nominated and I certainly don’t remember what she was eligible for, so… I don’t know. I tend to think featured, but, either way, she is sadly unlikely to be picking up another Tony nomination plaque.

Ashley Brown, Mary Poppins
--Brown was practically perfect technically, but not transcendent in anyway. Many critics noted her big smile and the last time that happened, it involved Sutton Foster, who went on to win a Tony for Thoroughly Modern Millie. Of course teeth isn’t all there is to it. Brown could possibly get a nomination—she is in the maybe pile along with d’Amboise, Debra Monk and more—but she certainly is not in contention for the statuette.

Jenn Colella, High Fidelity
--Umm…. No. I remember liking Colella in Urban Cowboy, but her out-of-town reviews for this don’t exactly spell Tony nomination. I guess she could totally turn it around—it’s just unlikely. (Though I root for everyone!)

Lea Michele, Spring Awakening
--This is another one where I’m not quite sure which side of the lead/featured fence she will fall on. I tend to think, based on what I’ve heard, lead. Though I didn’t see it… If she is lead, she would be in the ‘maybe’ stack I would think. She received good notices off-Broadway, but she wasn’t really made a big deal about. She would need some buzz for the nominators to select her.

Kristin Chenoweth, The Apple Tree
--Kristin is basically a nomination shoe-in because 1) she is Kristin Chenoweth and 2) she already received rave reviews for her performance in this show at Encores!. It is of course doubtful she will win. To her disadvantage, the show will be long gone in June and she will probably already be back in LA making another unsuccessful movie.

Debra Monk, Curtains
--I’m not 100% sure she is lead, but I think she is and I hear she is great in this. We can definitely count on there being some support behind her because she is an industry favorite. The problem is, with Ebersole, Chenoweth, McDonald and Murphy, there isn’t much room. Of course one of them could fail, but, if not, Monk will find herself in tight competition for the fifth slot. I think she could very well be the one who gets it though.

Audra McDonald, 110 in the Shade
--I honestly know nothing about 110 in the Shade. But, I mean, it’s Audra McDonald, so, barring horrible incident, she’ll certainly get a nomination. She has a history of winning these gold things, so, even though I think the Ebersole train will be hard to derail, I can’t count her out.

Stephanie J. Block, The Pirate Queen
--Well… She’s supposedly good, but…. The Pirate Queen is a sinking ship. I’m sure she’ll float to the surface with the help of a life ring and come out unscathed, it’s just going to be hard to score a nomination amid tough competition unless the musical's rewritten book and new staging helps float the boat. I’m not counting her out though, with this show, we’ll have to wait and see.

Laura Bell Bundy, Legally Blonde
--This show is a huge break for Bundy, if she can really carry it off, she could be honored with a nomination (no more than that). But she is another one who is going to fall into the large maybe pile.

Donna Murphy, Love Musik
--I cannot really picture what they are going to do with the character of Lotte Lenya based on the differing things I’ve heard during this show’s development. It’s just that it’s Donna Murphy and she has received nominations for her last three Broadway performances (winning two). There is still some bad feeling in the community towards her because of her Wonderful Town absences, but it’s hard to imagine that she won’t be nominated for what is bound to be a tricky role in a challenging musical. Winning is really another issue, though she could be helped if Ebersole starts missing performances and Riedel gets on her…

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Where Do We Go From Here?

I had a very good intro written, I used the word “moron” in it and I do love that word, but my friend Billy read it and he told me it would cause too much trouble. Now, usually I like to cause trouble, but I’m too busy these days to spend time dealing with the aftermath, so… There goes my fun. I will now just get into the major news of this post:

I recently heard from multiple sources that the Harold Prince-helmed musical Love Musik, the one about Kurt Weill’s marriage to actress/singer Lotte Lenya, is headed for the Biltmore Theater under the auspices of Manhattan Theater Club. The tuner, which uses Weill’s music and has a book by Alfred Uhry, will allegedly star Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy in the main roles. (Now, when this show was first conceived I heard Sutton Foster for it, and, in my mind, Sutton Foster and Donna Murphy are not all that similar, but… that’s showbiz, I suppose.) Prince’s goal is probably to move it to a commercial house after this run is over. We’ll see about that.

There you go—I rarely do straight news, but, when I heard this, I figured you’d all want to know. I cannot verify the authenticity of the news—we’ll have to wait on the edge of our seats (uh huh) to see if MTC spokesperson Jim Byk announces it someday. (Off topic, Jim Byk has a huge mental archive regarding old shows, so if you know him or ever meet him, I encourage quizzing him. I mean quizzing most other press agents on such things might be funnier, because it is very possible they would just stare at you, but if you want to know answers, I’d go with Byk.) Anyway, I also cannot verify the authenticity of the following tidbit: apparently, in addition to everyone who has been posted on the message boards, Philip Bosco is in the Encores! mounting of Follies. And I was so hoping Chitty would be his last musical ever…

Meanwhile, in the last two minutes, three people have IMed me about what is supposedly Hunter Foster’s Talkin’ Broadway response to the Urinetown drama reported in The Times today. While I respect and agree with a lot of what Hunter is saying, I do wish he had mentioned that his wife, Jen Cody (another Urinetown original cast member), directed one of the productions in question. The omission of this fact naturally makes me think: “What else is missing?” That might be somewhat unfair of me, but I think it is sort of human nature. (NOTE: The TB post was removed shortly after I wrote this. In the post, the user, "blindspot," said, essentially, that he believed this action by the Urinetown team was ridiculous. He said certain shows always have certain things associated with them--for example, he noted, every dinner theater production of Fiddler uses a similar bottle dance--and so you should expect to see these elements in subsequent productions without considering legal action. He also said that he had seen the Ohio production and that he viewed it to be a "cousin" of the Broadway production, not a copy. Blindspot then went on to note that the John Rando/John Caraffa mounting of The Pajama Game featured a version of "Steam Heat" that had a nod to Fosse with the use of Bowler hats and some of the moves, but he doubted they were giving money to the Fosse estate. It just basically went on like that. It was very well thought out. If you want to read it in its entirety, it's floating around or you can email me at

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rest In Peace

When I woke up this afternoon, I was planning on writing a post with some theater news. Then I heard the news of Bob Fennell's passing and I decided this space would be better spent in tribute to him.

Those of you not in the industry, might not have known Bob personally or even of him. In 1996, after working at Boneau/Bryan-Brown, he co-founded the press agency The Publicity Office with Marc Thibodeau. He remained co-head of the office until his death. Shows he worked on there included Wicked, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Three Days of Rain, The Good Body, Man of La Mancha, Follies, Imaginary Friends, The Blonde in the Thunderbird, Jane Eyre, Swan Lake and more. (Also of note--at BBB his shows included Moon Over Buffalo and therefore he has a brief cameo in the Moon Over Broadway documentary.)

As a journalist, I work with tons of press agents, many of whom yearn to escape the industry. Bob was not like that--he genuinely loved the theater and was completely dedicated to his job. Often he worked at nights, on weekends and holidays. He never forgot anything and could offer stories on any show he ever worked on. He was also fiercely protective of his clients--he once spent 45 minutes trying to convince me I should not write that The Good Body was closing early in deference to Eve Ensler's feelings. While he had a temper, he never resorted to below-the-belt shots, even if someone deserved them. And, though he had a reserved look about him, he could be very exuberant.

He was so proud of Wicked, considering it his biggest accomplishment in this industry. About a month ago, after he had already been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, I got him on the phone at his office and he went on an on about how much he loved the current cast. Even in the face of illness, he was still confidently doing his job.

I could tell many stories involving him, but he was a private man and I don't think he'd want that. So I'll just leave it at the above. For those of you who knew him, a wake will be held Wednesday, November 15 and Thursday, November 16, 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM at The Whalen & Ball Funeral Home in Yonkers. A funeral service will be held on Friday, November 17 at 10:30 AM at The Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart, 110 Shonnard Place, Yonkers. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Robert A. Fennell Scholarship Fund at Brooklyn College (

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I just need to make one thing clear...

I don't have much to say, but I do have a clarification. I've gotten these: "Do you think there is ANY chance Orlando Bloom will do it?" emails. I blame myself for this because I didn't make the whole "no Orlando" thing clear. It's Hugh Dancy INSTEAD OF Orlando Bloom. Now, I guess if Hugh gets a movie and Orlando Bloom suddenly wants to do it and has nothing else to do, it could possibly happen... Never say "never," but, I'm thinking you can basically say "not gonna see it." Sorry I did not make that clear. Bloom was mentioned for Captain Stanhope and now Dancy is Captain Stanhope. I am happy they ended up with Dancy rather than a random actor I had never heard of in the sense that, if Journey's End is boring, I'm so just going to sit there picturing him lip syncing to "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" at the end of Ella Enchanted. Meanwhile, one of those Bloom emails asked me if I knew anything about what kind of character Jefferson Mays would play. In a review of the London production, Variety described the character I believe Mays will play, Mason, as: "the resident chef with an avidity for cutlets." So there that is. Now, again, note that none of this casting is confirmed. I am pretty confident about it, but I can't swear by any of it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's all in the details

So, in my previous post, I answered four of the five questions you readers emailed me last week. I had hoped to have the fifth answer today, but I don't think there really is one. The question asked whether I knew who the ladies of Encores! Follies were going to be. Now, I have a list of people who have been offered roles, but, beyond Victoria Clark (who has already been announced), I don't think any of them have accepted yet. Thus I honestly don't know who we'll see onstage at City Center. And I don't think anyone does. I could list you the people who have offers, but it would be a tiny bit ridiculous. It's like if I listed you everyone who had been offered Roxie Hart in Chicago, we'd be here for years.

Now onto something that really bothers me--that even some theater journalists seem to not know/care the difference between off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway. They are not the same thing. People who write about such things for a living should know that. To quote my guest blogger--enough I say! If you don't know what category a show falls into, just name the theater and don't say off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway. That's a good way to go. Because I know it's honestly confusing. If you are writing about a production at a 55-seat theater that is performing 3 performances a week for 3 weeks, it's a safe bet that it's off-off-Broadway. But, sometimes, productions at tiny houses have actors under off-Broadway contracts. (This typically happens after a show has been at the same house awhile.) So I understand the possibility that justifiably journalists could not know whether a show is off-Broadway or off-off-Broadway. I know there are times when I read a press release and have no idea which one the show in question is. But journalists have the ability of calling the show's press agent and asking. I've asked that question many a time. Sometimes even the press agent does not know and, in these cases, a journalist can either persist until a answer is found or, and here is a novel concept, they can just write something like "New York's In The Middle of Nowhere Theater [insert actual theater name and not my smart ass theater name]." Now, I know some people are going to think I'm crazy for caring because the difference is irrelevant to the majority of readers, but there is a difference. And it confuses things to label shows incorrectly.

OK, I am going to stop while three people in this industry are still speaking to me. I can't handle everyone thinking I'm a pompous jerk. As I did with the Cry Baby post (which I got nasty emails about), I will say, that I'm sure I have in the past been guilty of what I criticize. That does not mean I cannot know it's wrong. It's good to learn. I've grown. I make other stupid mistakes now--like printing a dead guy is on the Tony nominating committee. Now that's stellar journalism.