Friday, March 31, 2006
Note that in honor of the fact that they announced some honorees, Michael "Mikey" Borowski (who I usually listen to, sadly) wanted me to write all about the Drama League, but I don't feel like I know enough about the Drama League to attack it. I mean, I'm sure it is ridiculous, but I cannot speak about it knowledgeably. All I know is that they host a lunch and a bunch of actors sit around a huge table. It sounds endless. There we go--I'm tapped out of Drama League comments
Now I want to write about off-Broadway. What is it about off-Broadway that is failing so? Because there is something... The prevailing opinion among random people would seem to be that things off-Broadway don't make money because they are simply not as good. But, in reality, even well-received things that run for a while do not make money. I guess running costs are just too high. Unless there are some huge concessions, I really don't understand how all these theaters are going to stay lit. Sure, producers so far continue to try their hand, but in years to come I fear they will get wise. And that would be a loss because there are a lot of things I like that I consider off-Broadway pieces. I was happy Zanna, Don't! never transferred because that was a ridiculous aim for that show. I think Well would be playing better if it were still off-Broadway. Souvenir never should have been at the Lyceum, it should have been off-Broadway, but people know they can't make money there, so they take a leap and pray. Why? Is that better than not presenting the works at all? Maybe?
All this being said, I continue to be perplexed by how many misguided things are still done in theater in general, but especially off-Broadway where the rewards, even for hit productions, are not gigantic. Some people previously asked me about Burleigh Grime$ and I wrote below that I thought Marg Helgenberger was still happening. I was wrong, as I heard today it is actually Wendie Malik. Now, while I like Wendie well enough and she has a recognizable face (seen this morning co-hosting Regis & Kelly), she is not a huge draw. And they currently have no one else, with the possible exception of Ashley Williams, that has a familiar name. So is this show, which got poor reviews during a UK engagement, really going to fill a 499-seat theater? More importantly, even if it beats the odds and does, it will still be a long road to recoupment for an off-Broadway show with a cast of 6 or 7.
Things do cost less to produce off-Broadway though--there is considerable less risk, which is a positive. Plus I suppose things are done here sometimes just to have a marketable name. While Altar Boyz, which I endorse, may not recoup at Dodger Stages (where it currently continues to run successfully), it now has an identity and NY Times quote it can use on the road. That's something that will always be true--branding occurs in New York. It's possible that fact will keep off-Broadway alive. Of course I will also hope someone comes along with some brilliant business ideas.
Monday, March 27, 2006
The Special Theatrical Event Tony Award category is one of those Tony things that I believe has a good sentiment behind it, yet has suffered from poor execution. Before I deal with why people are wondering about it today, let me provide a little bit of background. This award was created in May of 2000 to, in theory, encompass everything from Contact (which a couple of weeks later was to win a controversial Best Musical Tony) to Dame Edna shows. It was first used in the 2000-2001 season, when Blast! was the only eligible show and the eventual winner. (The award does not necessarily need to be handed out each year and was not in 2004.) Decisions about just what is a Special Theatrical Event are left up to the Tony Administration Committee, which seems to handle all fuzzy matters. Producers may request that their show be considered a Special Theatrical Event, but it is the committee's decision.
Now on to why people are curious about it today. Both The Post and Variety have printed that Bridge & Tunnel is the only Special Theatrical Event of the season. Let me say, that decision has not been made. The Admin Committee will decide Bridge & Tunnel's eligibility during its April 20 meeting. So why are people assuming it will be Special Theatrical? Well, because the producers of the show have made it clear that they've asked for that and everyone pretty much gets what they request. The only show I can remember that requested the Special Theatrical moniker and got turned down was the Roundabout/Deaf West Big River production that featured both singing and signing.
Here is where the poor execution comes in. It is not required that producers petition the Admin Committee if they have a Special Theatrical Event, the Admin Committee can use their own discretion and just say, "Hey--this is so Special man." But earlier this season, two shows that would have seemed Special Theatrical to the common observer, were not deemed as such. Latinologues was named a play and Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life was classified as a musical. Neither production wrote a letter to the committee requesting Special Theatrical status and neither got it. Now I realize Bridge & Tunnel is in the gray area--it could indeed be considered a Play or it could be a Special Theatrical Event--I don't personally have a preference about that. What I find troubling is that in a season where Latinologues is a "Play," Bridge & Tunnel may possibly be a Special Theatrical Event just because those producers submitted a letter. There is nothing that makes Bridge & Tunnel more legitimately qualified to be a Special Theatrical Event over Latinologues. So, if Bridge & Tunnel is indeed awarded Special Theatrical Event status (and, again, that has not happened yet), it's not really a decision based on the show, it's based on one piece of paper. (I won't even deal with the upcoming Well, which I personally believe is legitimately way more of a Special Theatrical Event than Bridge & Tunnel.) I'm fine with Bridge & Tunnel being a Special Theatrical Event and winning that category even, but I believe there must be some consistency among the rulings or at least clearer policies regarding the matter. Either get Admin members who use their own sense or make it clear that a letter to the committee is required if a show wants to be a Special Theatrical Event. If the latter happens, at least we won't have people running around confused, we'll know they skipped a required step.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
This blog is not so I can write reviews. Anyone who cares what I think of a given production, hears it from me directly... I began this just so I could write about industry things people ask me about--to save me repetitive talking time--or I think people should know.... And I am going to do a series of Tony posts in the next couple of weeks, which will get me back on track. But, for now, forgive me for detouring. I must write about a theatrical experience, that of Hedda Gabler at BAM, which I attended with my friend Kevin on Saturday. Sure the adaptation was banal and the direction misguided, but this was not a pedestrian production. This was designed around Cate Blanchett, who gave a performance so mesmerizing that I could have sat there watching her for eight more hours (though she surely would have passed out if there were even eight additional minutes).
Blanchett's performance is almost impossible to describe--she did about 46 different characters in the course of 2:30. She somehow managed to be part Kathleen Turner, part Nicolette Sheridan and part Katharine Hepburn. It is almost as if she decided to deliver a revue of different people she has observed/played. She also tackled someone and did a semi-swan dive. It was really the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Kevin and I of course lept to our feet afterwards, about 20 other audience members were similarly moved, the rest got guilted into standing after a while. (I cannot imagine why everyone wouldn't stand immediately--what else did they possible want her to do? Did they also want a little Teri Hatcher? Did they want some somersaults?) Kevin summed the whole thing up by saying: "It was a gay camp classic version of Hedda Gabler! I bet Heddatron [a recent robot-filled Hedda] wasn't this campy!"
Let me urge any readers of this blog, if this production is ever done again, go. You will not have a better time at the theater. Though, don't sit in the mezzanine. I don't think it would work from up there. (I had never been to BAM's Harvey before and I looked up at that very high mezz and felt the people there must be miserable...)
Saturday, March 25, 2006
(Kimberly passes. Jeff catches up to her.)
Uh, I said, excuse me. Are you following me?
I think you’re following me.
(Kimberly walks away)
No. Wait! Excuse me! You were just following me. I saw you.
I’m in front of you, how could I be following you?
What is this, the Literal Olympics? You’ve been behind me the last ten blocks, I saw you. I turned around on 31st Street, and you ducked behind a planter.
I dropped my comb.
(Kimberly takes out a comb, combs her hair)
On 35th, I turned around and you hid behind a mailbox.
I was mailing a letter. To my mother. Who told me never to talk to strangers.
What did she say about following them?
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen you either. I saw you last week. And the week before. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were stalking me.
Why would I stalk you? Are you famous?
Who are you?
I’m a playwright. Jeff Samuels.
Never heard of you. Sorry.
(Kimberly turns to walk away, Jeff sees something in her bag.)
Hey. Wait a second. What’s that?
(knows she’s caught) What?
That. In your bag.
(before she can resist, Jeff grabs a book out of her bag)
(Jeff holds up a copy of one of his plays aloft in victory.)
Ah-ha! Never heard of me, huh?
(Kimberly takes out a camera, takes his picture)
(reacting to the flash in his eyes) Ow.
You know, having a stalker has its upside. Companionship. And attention. Don’t you like attention?
So you are stalking me.
Let’s just say… What if I were… pursuing you? In a very persistent manner. What if I
were persistently pursuing you? Would that be so bad? Am I so hideous that even the thought of seeing me now and again when I’m a little off my game, is that so awful? Hath not a stalker eyes? If you prick us, do we not bleed? Stalkers have bad days too, you know.
Right. I didn’t have to pick you. Robert Altman lives right down the block from me. He’s in the movie business, I could have picked him. I’m sure he’d love to have a stalker.
I- You know what? Knock yourself out. Stalk me. Stalk away.
I’m not stalking you! Haven’t you been listening?
OK. OK. Calm down. Maybe I confused you with someone else.
Oh, so now I’m so ordinary I’m easily interchangeable?
What’s your name?
Kimberly. I love your work. Your plays really speak to me. Your last play- Oh… That awful Times critic, I could kill him! Really, I could! After what he wrote about you… To call you a commercial sell-out AND a pretentious bore- If I ever get my hands on him…
I’m sure he’d be very much the worse for wear.
You can say that again. (holding up a key) This is the key to his apartment.
You’re kidding, right?
I’ll be better, I promise. You won’t see hide nor hair of me. Oh, duh. I used nor without preceding it by neither, in front of you! Bad, Kimberly, bad, bad! (slaps her own wrists)
I promise not to look back, how about that?
(Jeff slowly exits as she babbles on)
I like to believe that when one goes to the theater, one is in for a pleasant evening. People spend a lot of money to enter a Broadway house—the staff at the house should be nice to those people. Recently though, I’ve overheard many box office staff members speaking in a rude manner to patrons. Then, this week, it happened to me.
I was set to interview a member of the WELL cast on Friday and thus was going to show on Thursday in preparation for the interview. My tickets were not at the box office as they should have been. After telling me my tickets were not there, a gray-haired man at the Longacre box office got on the phone for 4 minutes (while an entire line was waiting) and I assumed he was calling the press agent. Then he got back and said: "You're still here? I don't have your tickets." I explained to him that I was interviewing one of the stars first thing in the morning and that the tickets were confirmed by the press agent. I asked him nicely to call one of the press agents and he refused, saying: "You can talk to them tomorrow and come back another day." Again I explained that I could not do that and I requested he please make a call. His reply was: "I cannot do that. I have to get all these people in the theater right now. Do you think you are more important than the other people here?" I was in shock. Really. And I wasn’t moving, so he said to some woman back there, "You have to deal with this girl." Soon enough the guy pushed me over tickets. So why am I upset?
My point to this story is—box office personnel should be polite. Of course I think everyone should be polite, but these people should be at their best behavior more than someone who, say, works at Duane Read. Box office staff members are paid well, they aren’t making minimum wage. And, let’s face it, they are not working plowing fields. Plus they are dealing with people who spent hundreds of dollars so they could have a rockin’ evening. Someone should remind them of all this. Sensitivity training maybe? Anyone?
Please add (in your mind if you're not actually keeping track in text form like a crazy person) Spamalot's Harry Groener, Martin Moran and Steve Kazee to the list of possible Tony Replacement winners. Now, of course, like Rent, Spamalot will have to diss one of its people in keeping with the "you can only propose two people" crap. I'm torn as to who will be knocked out--My first reaction was Kazee because no one knows who the hell he is and people in the community like Moran. However Hank Azaria got nominated for his role (the one Kazee will have) and David Hyde Pierce (the Moran predecessor) got snubbed, so...
Oh, wait, Jonathan Pryce is almost surely winning so this probably will not matter. Thank god, I was getting bored with the tedious nature of it all.
When certain shows are announced for Broadway, I chuckle a little bit. I admit it. Some of the productions I question actually occur (Urban Cowboy), but more often they disappear. This revue seems to have just gone bye bye. I listened to Florence Hederson on Martha in hope she would mention it, but, alas, after 20 minutes I only came out with a lesson on how to cook salmon (which, being a vegetarian, will not be very useful in my life).
When this was announced, I completely believed it would occur. It had a star (Laurence Fishburne), a director (Daniel Sullivan) and well-known producer (though I can't remember who). Then it was never heard from again. It was not delayed, it vanished. Maybe with Glengarry winning the Tony Award American Buffalo will resurface? Think—Fishburne was reported for A Raisin in the Sun a few years before that revival happened. Though, while it could indeed be on its way, there are no plans to indicate American Buffalo will be on Broadway anytime soon.
When whoever was originally supposed to produce it (Barry Brown?) moved to another country, many thought Sister Act was dead, but this one is actually happening. It is set to premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse in October and then head to Atlanta's Alliance Theater in January 2007.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love?
Wayne Cilento directing and choreographing a musical of this film, based on the life of Frankie Lymon, never seemed very promising to me, but it was announced for a run a few years back at the Pasadena Playhouse. The money simply fell through well before the show ever premiered. Haven't heard anything about it since.
The Flight of the Lawnchair Man
Many New York hotshots (and I) headed to Goodspeed to see this show in the summer of 2005, with rumors of a Gotham run quickly surfacing. I thought it was very sweet and crowd-pleasing, but needed a lot of tightening. I also was a little unsure it could play in a Broadway house, yet I knew it was unlikely to make money in an off-Broadway space. Producers seem to have shared my concerns, though the project is still very much alive and could indeed make it. I hope it happens here because, as anyone who knows me is aware, I believe this show to possess the Donna Lynne Champlin Tony role. She is just that good in it.
Ricki Lake's Musical Theater Career
Remember how we heard her for Cabaret? And then Chicago? Was it too much to hope for? I guess? Okay, enough with the questions. I honestly don't know why neither of these things came to be. I feel like Chicago would definitely hire her now if she actually wanted to do it, but I guess she currently does not. It just might be that the closest she gets to the theater are Hairspray openings…
I didn't know how Cry Baby would sell to the masses, but I was really looking forward to it coming. I love the movie, I was intrigued by the team assembled, I heard the reading was better than the reading of The Wedding Singer… I am aware that very little has been heard about it for a very long while. Nevertheless I believe it is still going to happen, out-of-town at the very least. If it doesn't premiere in the summer, look for it in the fall or winter. I'm psyched to see it.
Scorned Women: Fran Drescher, Brooke Smith, Judy Reyes and Maura Tierney
Macho Man: Eric McCormack
Kevin Manganaro quote about the whole thing: "Is their whole casting 'angle' that Eric McCormack is the only biological woman in the cast?"
You all know, I love musical theater. And I’m all for finding fresh voices to invigorate the art form. If “It's Hard Out There For A Pimp” can win an Oscar, “Helen’s In Skin Flicks Now” can make it to the stage.
Here is what I think happened:
All of the Stage whatever people that now own the theaters were sitting there in a meeting going over lists of names. Nothing called to them, so they decided to take a break and go get a drink and possibly a bite to eat at the place across the plaza. One of them looks at the menu, sees the New World Grill title treatment, and “inspiration” hits. The rest is history.
That’s it. That’s all I think about that. Oh, and as for Burleigh Grime$, yes, I do think it is still happening. I don’t know why no casting has been announced yet—I do think Marg Helgenberger is still in, but she may have a movie conflict. Maybe they are still begging Peter Gallagher? Maybe even the Arkin back-up plan has failed? Maybe they decided that the play’s name is just dumb? I just honestly don’t know. If I knew EVERYTHING, I’d have my own Billy Finnegan play series. As it is, I am just a featured character in one tiny comedy.
Now I've also heard from many of you (well maybe 3 of you) that I may also be wrong about Trip Cullman. I'm not saying that quite yet... but I do hope he proves me wrong with his next show. I look forward to seeing it. See--I am open-minded.
I understand that the name Zooey Deschanel may not sell tons of tickets, but she is well-liked by many and would probably get some press. Plus she can sing and act. I mean she may not be GENIUS on either front, but, she can compete with most. When is the last time you saw a GENIUS musical theater leading lady?
2) Why does Trip Cullman continue to get work?
I’m all for giving new directors a chance. I’m also all for casting random celebrities in shows. Nevertheless I am not for Trip Cullman. Nothing he has done has ever been well-directed and yet he continues to get jobs. Anyone out there care to explain? Please? I'm willing to listen... Just don't say because his family is rich...
3) What’s with RING OF FIRE?
I ask that seriously. This is a show that many respected New York theater figures went to see in Buffalo and sort of liked it. The Shuberts gave it an in-demand theater. Now that it is here, I haven’t heard one nice thing about it. Did they spike the pre-show punch at the Studio Arena Theater? I just don’t get it.
I wish people would stop asking me if Rosie O’Donnell or Diana DeGarmo could win Tony gold this year. (No, seriously, that is the kind of thing people ask me.) I want to state clearly—in order to be eligible, you need to be in a show six months and you need to be in a leading role (as far as the Tony committee is concerned). These ladies are screwed on each of these two counts. O’Donnell wasn’t in FIDDLER for six months and DeGarmo unfortunately won’t stay in HAIRSPRAY the required minimum. Plus both are in roles that were considered by the Tony folks to be supporting when their productions opened. Let’s face it—does anyone think Penny Pingleton is a leading role? I mean I like the ‘Now I’ve tasted chocolate line’ as much as the next person, but…
Now I offer you a complete list of everyone who might possibly be eligible for the big award:
Simon Russell Beale
John Treacy Egan
*Indicate people who may not be eligible for various reasons
RENT is the only show that is going to have to make a big choice come consideration time. See each show can only propose two people to the committee. RENT is the only show that has three people who could possibly win. Who will be cut? I’d say Matt Caplan, a longtime cast member, is definitely on the list of contenders. So that leaves Tim Howar and Antonique Smith fighting it out for the final RENT slot—who will get it? Well, considering neither have a real chance anyway, it does not much matter.
The thing I still don’t understand is how the application process is going to work. Members of the eligibility committee, who choose this Tony, all must see a show before the last eligibility meeting on May 11. And they have to come in waves—first three members come and then, if those three like a performance, all the members must come. One major hitch I see in this—there is no deadline as to when productions have to submit their people for the award. So what happens if everyone sends their letters at the end of April? How will all committee members possibly be able to see all of the performances needed to fairly vote on this award? I feel like there needs to be a submission deadline, but, there is not. Anyone for chaos? Seems like it is inevitable.
So now this is sort of theater-related... I'm watching THE WEDDING SINGER (because it is on, not because I own it or have it Tivo-d, not that it would be bad if I did own it or have it Tivo-d, but I don't) and it is the end part with Billy Idol and I'm wondering... What ever happened to the idea that the Broadway musical version would have random guests do that part? Did I dream that? Because, if I did, that's a good idea and I am indeed a genius. But I don't think I did... and, thus, I wonder what became of it. Those pictures from Seattle with the 80s impersonators were, um, oy.
OK, I'm going to rest now. I hate to waste time when the computer is actually functioning but the world is beginning to spin. And the point of this column was really that I could answer questions here that people keep calling me about and this, this isn't that, this is rambling.