Thursday, April 26, 2007

Put on a Happy Face

Roundabout Theatre Company had great success with the old-fashioned musical The Pajama Game last season. So now there is a rumor that they are turning their attention to another bright bouncy show, Bye Bye Birdie. Unlike Pajama, Birdie has never had a Broadway revival, and nothing says it is actually on its way.

Roundabout is indeed planning a workshop of Birdie, directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom, this summer. And I'm sure they are putting feelers out there to see if they can get a star. But this all doesn't mean we'll be seeing it. We might and we might not. Roundabout has done plenty of readings and workshops of shows we never saw there--I remember Baby most of all for some unknown reason.

If the production actually does happen, I hope it is in the American Airlines, I can't take many more 54 musicals and I don't think Birdie would fit there. Birdie needs a shiny theater to match its score. I also hope they get a great cast, the show doesn't hold up without one (see the Encores! mounting of a few years ago).

My head feels like it's ready to explode so that is it for today. More Sunday.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I'm Feeling Reflective... Bizarrely

In 1993 there was a big study released which said that, based on the previous 50 years, 76% of musicals and 80% of stage plays did not recoup their investment. Today we always say, 1 in 5 makes money, which is basically the same thing. However I worry that in 50 years when do this survey, we'll see that even fewer productions are recouping. Why? Many reasons... Of course I worry about increased productions costs outpacing inflation and ticket price increases (no matter how ridiculous those seem). But more than that, I believe that the loss of the old-school Broadway producer will one day soon be felt in ways more tangible than simply reduced show quality.

I was at a dinner party this week with a bunch of industry folks, many of whom are part of the new crop of investor-producers. Many of you not in the industry may not know/care anything about this, but in recent years we've seen less lead producers who dedicate their life to theater producing and run their shows like businesses. We've seen more of people who in the past might have been mere investors, now taking producer billing. A lot of these people are dabbling in theater--it's not their lives work or anything. Now, I'm all for anyone who wants to produce a Broadway show. We need those people--this is a risky business and without the people who are willing to take risks, there would be nothing on Broadway. (There is no sure thing.) But, the problem is, if these people don't surround themselves with veterans who are willing to speak up, it sort of ends up that there is no one steering the ship. These are people who believe in their project, but they can't really guide it, if guidance is required.

It's like, at this dinner party, I spoke to a producer about to have his first Broadway show. He has invested before, but never seen his name on the Playbill front page. He said he was very proud of a recent reading of his piece--everyone loved it. I asked who was there and it was a list of 40 friends. Enough said.

Now there are still people who run their shows as businesses--I have my opinions on this and feel free to leave yours--but a lot of it is going on love. I'm all for love. If you have the money (or know people who have the money) and you believe in something, I'd like to see it. As a matter of fact, I am all for seeing multiple versions of In My Life a season. I think I might be pretty much alone in that though. For those who are paying $125 a ticket, they want something that is a well thought out, cohesive product. To get that product shows frequently require a real producer. Without that element, I worry. Sure, attendance is up, but I fear it will not keep rising. How long before show quality effects the overall bottom line?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What the...

The Pulitzer is the biggest of the prestige awards. It sounds most exciting to people throughout the world. This year it was given to Rabbit Hole and there was much press about how that wasn't even nomination. How can something win an award it wasn't nominated for if there are in fact nominees? Well, thems the rules. My big question was not "How does that happen?" but rather "What the hell are these plays that were nominated?"

I shall share some basic info about each, as I'm sure 90% you people don't know anything about them either (though my friends Don and Billy saw one of them are very proud of that fact, so they are not in the 90%).

Orpheus X by Rinde Eckert
Had its world premiere at the American Repertory Theatre in Boston from March 25 through April 23 of last year. It's a modern reinterpretation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In this version, Orpheus in a famous singer. Apparently the show calls for a lot of music and video.

Bulrusher by Eisa Davis
Had its world premiere in our great city--under the auspices of Urban Stages. (I don't think I've ever seen an Urban Stages show and I admit that despite the fact that I know they have fans that probably read this blog.) The show, which ran from Mar 8-April 9, 2006, is a racial drama. It's about a girl that was found floating within a basin in a river. I'm serious.

Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Received its world premiere this January 2006 at The Culture Project. I gather it's about some guy who comes home from Iraq and has to come to terms with his life and the lives of family members. The young soldier's father and grandfather were also soliders. I think it's all done in monologue form, which doesn't sound so great to me, but I'm not a Pulitzer jury member.

On another note--I choose to think that no one is going to produce the Virginia Tech killer's plays, though I'm sure that is optimistic.

That's it. It's very late and I've partied too hard and I'm tired.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?

I strongly oppose the career of Avril Lavigne, the firing of Don Imus and the closing of Empire roller rink. I just had to get that off my chest. Moving on...

I love Tony eligibility meeting days--I always examine the decisions thoroughly, as anyone who reads this blog knows. This time around, as often happens, the press release from the Tony people didn't answer one of my major questions. That was: Will The Coast of Utopia score be eligible for a Best Original Score Tony? Now, I know, you readers out there who aren't Tony historians, are thinking "Wow, I thought Cara knew things, but, no, she doesn't even know that Coast of Utopia isn't a musical." In fact, plays have been nominated in the Best Score category. I think the most recent example was in 1999 when Jeanine Tesori's score for Twelfth Night was nominated. But, I checked, and Mark Bennett's music for The Coast of Utopia will in fact not be eligible. People I trust believe this is because the majority of the score is not performed live, the previous play nominees we can think of had live music. If this is in fact the reasoning behind its ineligibility--and I have no evidence it is--I have to wonder how long that reasoning will hold up. How long ago was it that the Tony committee argued about whether a show with prerecorded hits could be considered an actual musical? How many years until they debate whether a score--of either a play or musical--has to be performed live to be considered eligible? After all, we are living in the age of synthesizer machines--will music from them someday be considered live? Or maybe at least live enough to count? Things to ponder.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'm exhausted

I'm so tired I can hardly sit up. I'm like 10% Cara--very very far from full force.

I have these quick things of news:

Marsha Mason will come back to the New York stage again in Sarah Treem's play at Playwrights Horizons.

It appears that Signature is doing a season of Charles Mee plays starting with his take on Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis. (I don't think this has been announced, but it might have been... If it has, just ignore me.)

The next play at New World Stages' 499-seat Stage 1 will be Doug Grissom's Elvis People, a play about people influenced by Elvis. (I have no idea what that means exactly.) Starts in June.

OK--that's not much, I know... Two lame posts in a row... But stay tuned. Don't leave me now. I have things in my head--I just need to sleep more for them to come out of my head.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Lotta Locomotion

For my birthday this week, I received a big bouquet of balloons in the shape of flowers. They were almost the size of my apartment and they kept swaying and knocking things over. One of the things that was knocked over was a VHS of the Starlight Express B-Roll. I had never watched the whole thing, but I picked it up off the floor and finally did and it struck me how times had changed. It looks a joke now--some Saturday Night Live skit of a Broadway show.

Timing came up a lot this week, with people wondering if The Pirate Queen would have fared better if it had opened in the late 1980s or early 90s. I like to think not. I like to think it would have been seen as bad then, as well. For me, there is a difference between things being not of the time and things being incorrectly executed. (I went to see Room Service today at the Soho Playhouse and, while clearly of a certain time, it holds up because it was done well, but that is just a side note, only sort of related to my point.) Yes, there are certain things that play best at a certain time. For instance, we live in a cynical time where musical comedies delivered with a wink have a better shot at survival than old-fashioned earnest tuners. (And please don't write me that Drowsy Chaperone is evidence that old-fashioned musicals can be a success because that show is intentionally not earnest.) But I like to think there is a certain level of quality that rises above the tastes of a time.

There has also been a lot of discussion in the industry as to whether Legally Blonde can take away some of Wicked's repeat teen visitors. Someone actually said to me this week: "If I were a producer of Wicked, I'd be scared." Um.... I wouldn't be. The difference is, the cult fans of Wicked identify with the green girl. People want to root for her because everyone has been teased at some point in their lives or felt like an outcast. That is why those girls go back time and again to that show. They may attend Legally Blonde, maybe even more than once, but Legally Blonde will never steal them away from Wicked. Legally Blonde has a heroine who very few people can identify with--she's rich and from Beverly Hills. Sure, you want her to triumph and you cheer when she does, but not many people are going to have the visceral connection to Elle Woods as they do to Elphaba. This has nothing to do with whether Legally Blonde will be a hit--I'm sure many teens will want to see it and so will their parents--I'm just saying the cult Wicked fans will likely stay put.

Anyway, I know many of you might think this post is lame and decidedly not juicy, but I'm tired and a little overwhelmed. Come back Wednesday for some gossip. I'll come up with something before then.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Who Are You Now?

I celebrate the first two days of Passover each year, so I haven't been around Broadway news much since the last post. I did, by the way, receive many emails about that last post. One of the comments left below (I had 3 whole comments!) and 6 of the emails were about how the news sites must have based their Daniel Everidge spelling on an incorrect press release. I do not believe that to be the case--both stories said their news was done in reaction to a video. So, there is the general answer to that.

On another front... Tonight, in addition to my blog emails, I had many notes about the Paper Mill Playhouse. Poor, poor Paper Mill. I have to say, I sort of blame Michael Gennaro, and not because he left and his departure affected this year's fundraising. But, because, while he was there, he showed a very limited knowledge of his audience. Gennaro came from Steppenwolf--which has a much more adventurous bunch of subscribers than Paper Mill. Paper Mill audiences like old traditional musicals--they don't like Baby and Harold and Maude (of course I'm not sure who would have liked that Harold and Maude, despite the fact that one of my favorite people was in it, but that's not the point). I know why Gennaro tried new things--he was afraid the NJPAC was taking away their old show business and he came from a place where new things are respected. I totally appreciate what he attempted--but it was always doomed. When he announced his first season, I was puzzled. So were many potential subscribers. In the end, his work alienated Paper Mill's core base. Paper Mill became a theater with an identity crisis. No one new what to expect from it and not in a "you have to run and catch it!" kind of way. And Gennaro, who is undoubtedly a smart guy, just didn't get it--I heard from countless people who worked there that he had no sense of where he was employed. He didn't get why Paper Mill couldn't attract big stars or more attention. When his reign was clearly going to go down as a disaster, he bailed. He left at a horrible time, which sucks for the theater, but what sucks more is he didn't leave earlier.

I for one have often liked my visits to Paper Mill, as cheesy as they may have been. Where else in the area could I have seen Funny Girl onstage? And, while I don't get why they choose Kiss Me, Kate and Little Shop, both of which have been seen recently on Broadway, I was looking forward to seeing Meet Me in St. Louis next season.

I hope the fundraising effort works and the theater survives. The board there clearly shares the blame with Gennero for what has happened--they didn't fund raise like they should and they backed him unwisely--but they don't deserve to be out of business. If you can, attend the fundraiser on Monday.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Rock N' Roll Party King

According to Playbill and Broadway World, Daniel Everedge is playing Roger in Grease. If you googled his name and didn't find anything, there is a reason. His name is actually Daniel Everidge. Both sites misspelled it. Now, it could have been that they both made the mistake naturally, but I would tend to believe one copied off of the other. (If I were to bet, I'd say Broadway World cheated off of Playbill because I have more faith in Andrew Gans that an anonymous Broadway World writer, but I don't even know if this was a stealing incident, so I certainly don't know who did what if it was.)

For those of you who care, Daniel Everidge received a BFA in musical theatre from Otterbein College. His biggest credit is spending a couple of years at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Also, oddly, he seems to have worked for Binder casting, the Grease casting agency. Check this out:
scroll down to "Stop, Drop & Roll: ProActive NY short film fest" and look at the middle picture second row down. Interesting, right? (That is, if you could apply the word "interesting" to anything about supporting Grease casting.)

That is it for tonight because I must go work. A zeisen pesach to those who celebrate.