Sunday, December 31, 2006

Out with the old...

I doubt this week is going to be a big one in terms of blog reading, but I post nonetheless. Let me start out by wishing you all a joyous 2007. Actually, some of my readers are evil and to those people I wish a crappy 2007. But for the majority of you, I hope for you all the happiness possible.

Instead of continuing my list of stories of 2006, as I had planned to do originally, I am going to do something a little different. After all, you know the stories of 2006. So I want to discuss my answer to the question of 2006: Is the jukebox musical back?

With the success of Jersey Boys, all types of industry folks were heard saying "The jukebox musical is back." (They didn't stop saying this when Hot Feet and The Times They Are A-Changin' opened and closed because those were just considered crap.) This was odd for me to hear because, to the best of my knowledge, it never left. It's not like the movie musical. Jukebox musicals were never gone. Even as Good Vibrations and All Shook Up crashed and burned on Broadway, more were being announced and Mamma Mia! was still going strong. I am sure Jersey Boys made producers less nervous about their upcoming jukebox project, but to say the show had a huge effect on the industry is to give it too much credit. (Those who are going to post a comment or email and tell me that Jersey Boys opened on Broadway in 2005, please resist the urge. I know it opened in 2005, but its long-standing success was not 100% guaranteed until 2006.)

Even if 200 jukebox musicals fail in a row, someone will always be trying to create one, I fear. Because while it's easy to say every year, "Out with the old, in with the new," it's hard to create the new. And most people are lazy. They'll be that way in 2007 and forever.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bah, humbug!

As I have been out of touch, I don't have that much to say. But I do want to write about something that annoyed me this holiday season--The Grinch.

I love children's musicals, I really do. I saw Seussical multiple times even. But The Grinch disappointed me. I'm sure it's fun for kids, but so is Happy Feet and Happy Feet is a lot less money. It really, really bothers me that a ticket to The Grinch is so expensive because you are paying so much for so little.

The show is 70 minutes long and they didn't even have enough material to make it that long. So they added random plots and repeat some Whoville song. Basically people are paying for maybe 50 minutes tops (and i'm being very generous) of substantial material, which means a person in the orchestra is probably paying about $2 a minute. Again, they may think it is worth it for happy kids, but, please, Happy Feet in IMAX would also cause joy. (Penguins that sing!)

Yet The Grinch is a huge hit--toppling Wicked and other Broadway giants this holiday season. Now I try to wish every show success, so part of me is glad, but, part of me is also annoyed. This is not theater. And I fear people who are first-time theatregoers (which I'm sure many in the Hilton audience are) are going to think this is what Broadway shows are like. I mean, at least there is some vision behind Tarzan (however cloudy a vision that may be); The Grinch is all green spectacle and little else.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dear readers...

Cara here. I have internet access back! Yay! But sadly I don't have time to write a full post. I promise I'll do one on Wednesday.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I do not have internet access

Someone else is typing this for me. Thus, no blog post today. The person typing is refusing to transcribe more than this.

Monday, December 18, 2006

2007 Starts Soon

I was thinking of writing about watching Debbie Reynolds watch Carrie Fisher perform, but instead I will appeal to a broader base of my readers by starting my list of top 2006 theater news. This list is in no particular order and will be continued in later posts. Today's entry is just the start. I will not be including any deaths in the list because, well, I always hated writing obits or tributes. And I'm not doing any research for this list, so I am sure I will miss things. But these are the things that made a mark on me and it is my blog.

--Broadway producers are always trying to attract celebrities to appear in shows, yet the Broadway community isn't always very welcoming to them when they are here. Before Julia Roberts even started performances in Three Days of Rain, theater insiders were already balking and complaining about the traffic the stage door crowds would cause. Then she came, wasn't very good and didn't get a Tony nomination. Shortly after Three Days of Rain ended, it was sort of like it hadn't even happened. She sold tickets like crazy, but nothing about the show left a mark (even the performance of my beloved Bradley Cooper). So, goodbye, Julia, we hardly knew ya.

--Everyone I know who saw History Boys in London thought it was great, but too British (aka intellectual) to work in America. Then it came here, was a sold-out smash and won a lot of Tonys (though didn't break the record for a play, as had originally been reported by many). See--Americans do go see smart things. But please, no more Irish monologue plays.

--Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures was so gung-ho about their first Broadway show--they poured tons of money into it and had a general enthusiasm for the process. Too bad that first show had to be Lestat. Will they ever gamble that big again? On a related note, the last few seasons have brought us Dance of the Vampires, Dracula and Lestat. I believe we're done now.

--So many people assumed that Tharp could fix the problems with The Times They Are A-Changin' before it came to New York. I kept hearing "Movin' Out was in worse shape and looked what happened to that." But, um, Times was no Movin' Out (which I loved). An odd concept and bizarre execution of that concept buried the show. I am all for people trying to do new things, but if you have clowns taking attention away from your main actors, you have a problem. One of the many problems she could not fix. So, sorry Twyla isn't magic, but hopefully she'll try again. Without it being a circus.

--I am the first person to say that I thought Drowsy Chaperone would bomb. I saw it in LA and pictured it crashing and burning on the Great White Way. It wasn't the name really, it was more the subject matter. I saw it in LA and simply didn't buy the whole "it's about any collector anywhere" crap--it seemed to me to be for people who really, truly love old-fashioned musical theater and that group ain't big enough to fill the Marquis for even one night. Also, I thought the music wasn't great enough to engage anyone and... well, there is more... But this isn't a review, this is a story of success. The Drowsy Chaperone is a big hit, despite no stars and an odd name. It gives others hope and that is a great, great thing. I applaud the people that were smarter than me and brought this show in.

That's it for tonight. More someday soon... And if you have something that struck you this year, post or email away.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A 9% Chance of Success...

I'm really tired tonight. VERY exhausted. So a long post would just fall into rambling...

But I do want to post a short thing about High Fidelity. It caught me by surprise on Monday when I heard posting this week was an inevitability. I assumed the show would try to last through the holiday weeks, as most do. I was taking odds on a January 7 closing. I really can't remember the last time something opened in December and closed before New Year's (other than a holiday concert or special event).

Is it again in vogue to actually close things that should be closed? For a while it was all about hanging on--even if some sad producer had to mortgage his/her house. But this season has seen two things open and close quickly. I for one hope that producers have again realized, usually, things don't miraculously get better for faltering shows post-opening. I always hate when people involved with a show at like 32% capacity each week justify staying open by saying "People love it." Ok, even if that is true, it doesn't matter unless they love it enough to get many other people in there. Once you look at the advance and know that that 32% hasn't referred all their nearest and dearest, pull the plug. So, even though I can't admire High Fidelity's producers for putting the show on Broadway without having the main character go visit his ex-girlfriends and with a song about his latest conquest sleeping with Lyle Lovett, I can admire them for making a smart decision now.

Monday, December 11, 2006

In my crystal ball...

First I tackled Best Actress in a Musical and now… drumroll… Best Actress in a Play.

So let’s break ‘em down:

Swoosie Kurtz, Heartbreak House
---I loved Swoosie in Heartbreak House because I swear she was channeling Anne Heche. I might have been the only one who saw it, but it was there. I actually thought that she’d get a bunch of bad reviews for it, but she was well received in the role (yay). Despite her good notices, she doesn’t really have a chance at a nomination. The show will be long gone and this season, unlike last season, is a very tough one for leading ladies.

Julie White, The Little Dog Laughed
--Julie White deserves the momentum Christine Ebersole has going into the tough months ahead, but she sadly doesn’t have it. She has a well-deserved nomination on the way, it is just that she faces tough competition from esteemed stage veterans. (Does anyone want to go up against Angela Lansbury, Marian Seldes and Vanessa Redgrave?!?!) But I personally hope she has a chance at the win. It’s time for everyone to catch the Julie White fever. I know a lot of you have it, but we need more, more, more. I thought everyone should catch it back when Bad Dates was here, so I am hoping the rest of you are simply a few years behind.

Julianne Moore, The Vertical Hour
--I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again, I’m a Julianne Moore fan. I was excited to see her onstage and I was thrilled when, in Act II, she did her trademark big cry. Some critics went for her, some didn’t. I myself have to admit she wasn’t amazing or anything, but, if it was last season, she’d still have a shot of being nominated. Sadly it’s 2006-2007 and she has very, very little chance of getting a plaque.

Vanessa Redgrave, The Year of Magical Thinking
--I never read the book, but I know there is a lot of material here to go crazy, cry and show emotional depth. These are things that Redgrave is good at. If it wasn’t for Lansbury, she’d be the front-runner. As it is now, they are very close to the top position with Redgrave a little behind in the odds.

Eve Best, A Moon for the Misbegotten
--If I had to put money down now, I’d say she has a nomination. I’d also say she has very little chance of winning. She got really good reviews in London and I’m sure she will here too, but it won’t be enough this year.

Angela Lansbury, Deuce
--It’s been over two decades since Angela Lansbury was on Broadway for an actual run in anything. Plus this four-time Tony winner is a pretty beloved figure. I don’t think I need to say any more.

Marian Seldes, Deuce
--People always love Seldes, but she is around so often, we’re all sort of used to her shtick. Unless she is more amazing that she has ever been, most people will probably spend the majority of their time focusing on Lansbury. That will amount to a Seldes nomination and that is about it.

Prelude to a Kiss lead TBA
--You know, I should have asked my sources who this was going to be, so I could better write these odds. But I’ve been busy. So, let’s just say, whoever it is, is going to have a tough time. If it’s White, Redgrave, Best, Lansbury and Seldes that is it. So the Prelude star will have to knock one of those people out--probably Best will be the most vulnerable—and that might be extremely challenging. Anything can happen, this lead could be amazing and others could falter, it is just not looking like it is going to be an easy nomination for this actress.

NOTE: I do not think Translations or Radio Golf have lead actresses, but, if I find out I am wrong, I will update you all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You better shape up; You better understand

With You’re The One That I Want gearing up, I thought it was a good time to look back at the last American reality show that promised to bring us a new theater star. Does no one else remember?

Fame, which was on NBC (home to You’re The One That I Want), was supposed to place its winner in Fame on 42nd Street, which had yet to begin at the Little Shubert Theatre. But then the guy who won was a 35-year-old bald guy, so clearly he was not going to be in Fame onstage. And thus the producers had to make some “Oh, the winner just had to be offered a role” type excuse to explain why Harlemm Lee would not be seen off-Broadway.

You may wonder why this is important and it’s not. But it is essential for people watching You’re The One That I Want to remember that it’s about casting Sandy and Danny. (They are also not casting from a totally unknown pool--I know an actress that was called about doing it--but that is another story.) Therefore no fat girl, no matter how great she sings, is going to be in it at the end. That’s completely sad (and very non-PC), but it’s true. This is a reality show that is not about finding the most talented singer or dancer, it’s about being right for one of two very specific roles.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Last season my friend Kevin Manganaro and I, both big Julianne Moore fans, were sitting at Junior’s in Brooklyn discussing how we wouldn’t likely see Ms. Moore on the stage anytime soon. See, Moore had often discussed in interviews how she didn’t like to do the same thing twice—multiple takes annoyed her; we reasoned that doing the same show eight times a week would be worse than doing three crying takes. A week later she was announced for The Vertical Hour.

I have never enjoyed any David Hare play I sat through or read. While I wasn’t bored by Stuff Happens, I felt it wasn’t really a play. And the rest of his canon has just generally made me want to sleep. So I wasn’t thinking I’d love it, but I thought that it would receive good reviews (The Times loves Hare, I naively reasoned) and I was semi-confident she would be somewhat well-received. I believed she would be rewarded for being better than Broadway’s last celebrity, Julia Roberts. This is of course all before The Vertical Hour started performances. I tend to think if Vertical Hour had opened right after Three Days of Rain, Moore would have received better reviews that she did when it opened last week. But, that’s not what happened. And, while she did receive some positive notices, her performance rightly won’t go down in the history books as much of anything. Even critics who liked Moore, spent more time focusing on the acclaimed performance of her co-star, Bill Nighy.

Was it a bad move for her to come to Broadway? And, more importantly, will others see her Broadway run as a bad move? I ask this last question because it has been a while since Antonio Banderas was lauded for Nine. The reception received by Denzel Washington, Roberts and Moore doesn’t exactly encourage celebrities to flock to the Great White Way. (I won't consider Hugh Jackman in this discussion because he was known to be a stage actor.) Indeed, I know of one major celebrity who was looking for a project for next season and is now being advised by agents to wait a little bit. Alas. (I refuse to answer those of you who respond to these sort of things by saying, “Good, more work for a real stage actor.” Because it must be understood that many worthy projects will simply never be produced or revived without a celebrity.)

I tend to think overall celebrities will do what they want—if they really want to come to Broadway, they are not going to care what was said of Julianne Moore in a snoozer play. Their agents might care for a minute, but, there is a “well, we can still rock it” egotism involved that often wins out. And, of course, critics should not go easy on celebrities just because it could mean a better chance of seeing Brad Pitt next season. But it is interesting to consider what current reviews do in fact mean to seemingly unrelated projects in development.

I just realized that the majority of you are probably bored by this. And it’s 7:49am and I haven’t been to bed yet, so, I’m done.