Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Anyway, this is the post about The Little Mermaid, the musical I was most looking forward to this year. What upsets me most is that people think it's ugly. I mean, it doesn't upset me because I think it is pretty, I had to cancel my trip to Denver, so I have not seen it. But it upsets me because I had faith in Zambello and her team to at least make it striking... So when I hear of random corkscrews on the stage, I think "alas."
What happened to my underwater dream? All week I've heard rumors that new folks might be coming in--that we would have another Aida. That High School Musical might take the theater instead, giving Mermaid time to retool. But, I do not believe this to be the case. At all. We will see some form of this Little Mermaid--but will it be good?
When Zambello was announced, I was of course thinking "who?" I follow opera not at all. I've never even seen an opera. (I've also never seen A Perfect Crime, but I've made it my mission to rectify that.) So I researched and researched. I sadly believe I spent about four hours on this. And then I got hopeful. It seemed like her productions had some spark. Was my faith misplaced? Did the Disney dream and her vision just not mesh? It's really unclear.
I sense the script needs some jokes--everyone I know says it is just not funny. That seems like an easy fix. The design concept is not an easy fix. Yes, Seussical changed in costumes. Shows remove/change certain set pieces all the times. (Did you know I saw In My Life without the lemon at the end and then with it?) Maybe Mermaid can do away with the lizard outfits and the corkscrews. But to transform something people find ugly and open on schedule, it's going to take a lot of Disney magic. Maybe more than is available. Is the entire Disney machine really backing Tom Schumacher in this process? I am not sold on that.
We'll see. I hear there is some freaking out being done and I usually take that as a good sign, a sign people know change is needed. I get worried when I see iffy things and I hear that the team thinks the show is great. If I hear about freaking, I feel change is in the air. Changing bad things is usually a good thing. The seaweed is always greener in somebody else's lake.
I hope they can save my beloved Little Mermaid. I will be rooting for it.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Ok, that was enough. You may ask--why does Cara think the closing of The Year of Magical Thinking is that important? Will she missed the falling backdrops? In fact, I believe the closing was important because, without Magical Thinking, there are no plays on Broadway. Musicals are all that you'll find on Broadway today. This will be true until mid-September.
In response to my Fringe post, someone commented that I am a Broadway baby. There is a point there, though I do go see tons of off-Broadway and one of my good friends is Bradford Louryk, which automatically should give me some non-Broadway cred. (And I have indeed enjoyed Fringe shows in the past, as I noted.) But even more than being a Broadway baby, I'm a musical girl. I like me some singing. That being said, I also enjoy straight plays and I believe it is important to keep a mix at all times. So I'm sad that there are no plays on the Great White Way currently.
Of course for years we've been hearing that long-running musicals are killing the business for plays. As costs increase, each show must rely heavily on tourists and most tourists seemingly prefer musicals. This makes is a tough road for any straight play. But, it's important to note, we can't blame the musicals totally this time around. We have to focus on the fact that many of last season's plays were mediocre. Plus, a lot of them were limited--Utopia could have run longer (though if it were in a commercial house, making money would have been a really, really difficult trick) and possibly others. But, actually, I still contend that a lot of it was them being mediocre. If Inheret The Wind was a huge smash, would there not have been an attempt to recast? Duh. But it wasn't. The new plays fared worse. Vertical Hour? Doesn't it seem like 4 seasons ago? And I really feel like Little Dog was at least two years ago. I know people are going to taught the failure of Journey's End, which critics loved, as evidence that it's not the show, it's the audience (or lack thereof). But I consider Journey's End, because of it's subject matter, a hard sell even if there were only plays running. That to me is an exception.
So are we getting less plays than we used to get? Yes. Are musicals taking a large portion of the audience? Yes. Those are points that undoubtedly contribute to the fact that we currently have no Broadway plays. Yet the quality and appealability (that's my new fake word--billy, i expect it in a play) of the plays that we do have, must be considered in this discussion.
OK, that's it for me. I had wanted to talk about why I think Annaleigh Ashford is going to make a good Glinda, based on her performance in Joe Iconis' The Black Suits (though I have trouble picturing her and the pirate queen in the same school class), but it doesn't seem to go with this discussion, so, eh, maybe Wednesday.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
So, this week, my full force week, I had a debate with Don Summa, famous press agent of Rent and Hairspray, and I was right and he was wrong and he refused to believe it. Here was what the debate was about: I got a release about the Caesar and Cleopatra at Stratford and Christopher Plummer was in the headline and somewhere buried in the middle of the release was Anika Noni Rose. My opinion was that Anika should also be in the headline because more American publications, like ones that follow more than theater, would care about her than would care about Christopher Plummer (I was not arguing that this is how it should be, but, rather, just that this was in fact the case). Don disagreed. I feel my readers should back me up here. Again, I am not arguing that Anika is a bigger star or more talented or anything like that, I am just saying that, as she is in the middle of shooting a big movie and is also voicing The Princess in The Princess and the Frog, the fact that she is returning to the stage might garner more ink among mainstream publications than yet another Christopher Plummer performance. (I sense I am going to get hate mail for this... please stop yourself. I am willing to hear well-reasoned opinions, but I'll likely always think I'm correct.)
Ok, now that that is off my chest... Let's talk about what is wrong with the Fringe. Anyone? I don't get it. Why do people want to go to European Fringe festivals and yet dread going to ours? As years have past, the campy stuff is what gets progressively more attention at our Fringe. Is that the problem? Should Fringe be more for daring things and less the home of musicals about aliens taking over farms? Is there anyway to turn Fringe around? Do we care? Today I went to a Fringe show... and then I got home and I read the big Village Voice thing on how Fringe can be improved (as two Playwrights Horizons employees insisted to me it was genius). And I realized, I could just forget about the Fringe entirely and not be any the worse for it. Is that sad? Eh.
I personally am one of those that decides what Fringe shows she is going to by the art on the postcards. I choose like 6 postcards and then I end up going to like 3 things tops. Because nothing sounds that fascinating. So there has never been a Fringe show that I thought "Wow, I can't miss this." There have been ones I really enjoyed, but, nothing so amazingly special. You know, before I started in this business, I always thought things at the Fringe were things that were produced there because they were edgy and couldn't have a commercial life anywhere. Then, when I started working in this business, I realized that most of it is just marginal entertainment. And, I don't know, maybe it's all about giving little things a shot. I'm all for that. Is that what our Fringe stands for? Is that what all of them do? If there is a way to save this Fringe, I would think it would be to do less Urinetown-esque musicals. But is that what everyone wants to see? I mean, those 3 I see are generally musicals. So, in all, I think it's just fairly impossible to come up with a plan at this point. John Clancy suggested in The Voice doing away with the judging system and just letting anything be part of Fringe... That to me just smells trouble. I don't think downtown theater owners are more capable of judging works than the Fringe people--so I don't really think that will help and I also think a little pandemonium might ensue. Then the guy from Philly said something about having two festivals at the same time--PLEASE--NO MORE FESTIVALS. I want the proliferation of festivals to stop as much as I want Kimberly Grigsby's dance conducting to stop (which is to say a lot). So, yeah, I'm against both those plans. But I offer nothing in place of them... I genuinely don't know what could turn the Fringe around. And, also, the more I think about it, I also don't know whether it matters that much. I think that is something to think about.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Now... The story of the night... Grease. All day I have been saying to people "Grease is the word." Now, if I only spoke to theater people, maybe I could get away with that, but, with regular people, the only result is a silence. Anyway... I so don't care.
I want to write about Grease, but not about its quality (they'll have quite enough of that tonight). I want to muse about what I believe is a common misconception--that the advance of this Grease is related to the following its stars developed via reality television.
Firstly, let me say something I believe I've said on here before--95% (and I'm being generous) of reports you read on a show's advance are crap. Lies, I tell you, lies. There is no way to verify them and yet reporters print them. And, as I have said many times before, it's one thing to print them and then attribute them to someone, but, mostly they are just printed as fact... and they so rarely are. (It's also important to note that large advances, if real, are a good sign for a show, but said show can still fail fairly easily. Remember Saturday Night Fever's big advance? Even Dance of the Vampires had money in the bank before opening.... That has nothing to do with this post, it's just good to keep in mind even if you believe with 100% certainty that an advance figure is real.)
OK, so back to Grease. I believe Grease does have a nice size advance (not what they said, but, still). I just question that it is based on Max and Laura. Do I think some people bought tickets because they liked one or both of them on You're The One That I Want? Yes. Do I think we can say the majority of the advance is based on that? Nope. I think the thing to focus on is the other side--the fact that the reality show was all about advertising.
Remember how the stage Phantom was helped tremendously by the movie because that mask was everywhere? Same deal here. The show was publicity, the commercials advertising the show were publicity. What Broadway show has that many nationwide commercials? Umm... none. If Lone Star Love had that much network airtime to promote it, even without a reality show, I bet that show would have a big advance too. Though, of course, in this case, it didn't hurt that the title was Grease. That made this particular show an easy beneficiary of all that hype. After all, Grease is the word. Everyone knows that.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Anyway, I've decided to try and make this post shorter, because I know you have lives and I had my eyes checked today and my pupils are a little dilated still. I am going to try and name the five nominees for all the acting categories for next year's Tonys - featured, too. THIS can be especially fun to look back on, to see all the promising ideas that when realized - or not so realized - fizzled like those Pop Rocks that allegedly killed Mikey of Mikey Likes It fame when he mixed them with soda. Now THAT would make a good Fringe show, the story of Mikey from those Life cereal commercials, THAT would be a hit. I'm enjoying caps-for-emphasis tonight. Caps-for-emphasis, now THAT'S fun. Now that's FUN. NOW, that's fun. No, that last one doesn't work.
(*) Denotes predicted winners
BEST ACTOR - Play
*Morgan Freeman, The Country Girl
-Kevin Kline, Cyrano de Bergerac
-Jefferson Mays, Pygmalion - Kline and Mays do battle again!!!!! This is huge!!!!!
-Someone with an accent, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
-Rufus Sewell, Rock N Roll
No, I don't think Harry Potter's going to get the nod if Equus comes. And I don't think Richard Griffiths will either. He has a big belly though!
BEST ACTRESS - Play
-Annette Bening, The Female of the Species
-Laura Linney (?), Les Liaisons Dangereuses
*A Chicago Actress, August: Osage County
-Frances McDormand, The Country Girl
-S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
at last, Best Actress in a Play will be a race again! I think it's between A Chicago Actress and Sepatha. I bet the Chicago actress beats all the Hollywood glamour pusses. Wait, I'm just picturing Frances McDormand accepting her Oscar for Fargo with no make-up on. Ah, the glamour. Poor Annette Bening, she can't even win a Tony! Maybe Rosie Perez will sneak in here. She's fun. And Rita Moreno won the Tony with that part. Featured, but she won.
BEST ACTOR - Musical
-Roger Bart, Young Frankenstein
-Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park with George
*Brian Stokes Mitchell, South Pacific - Don't you think it's just gonna be him? I'm already asleep.
-Sky Masterson, Guys and Dolls
-Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
BEST ACTRESS - Musical
-Kelli O'Hara, South Pacific - And I mean, come on, it's gonna be her, let's just all face the boring facts.
-Boring English Girl whose name I refuse to remember because she's so boring and I'm not going anyway because this was the one time that Bernadette actually WAS amazing (more fun with caps lock), Sunday in the Park With George
-Miss Adelaide I'm assuming Jane Krakowski, Guys and Dolls
-Sutton Foster, Young Frankenstein - This gal's great, she's got a Tony nod every two years since 2002, and I love calling her a gal.
-Megan Mullally, Young Frankenstein
I think Kerry Butler might be remembered, but she's a long shot. This might actually be a competitive category, with the Sarah Brown from Guys and Dolls and The Little Mermaid though she won't be nominated and Faith Prince. Remember how good Faith Prince used to be? What happened? Does anyone know?
BEST FEATURED ACTOR - Play
-Raul Esparza, The Homecoming - I'm laughing just typing this!
-Schlubbola #5, Come Back, Little Sheba
-A Chicago actor, August: Osage County
-Someone from Stalag 17 which I can't imagine will happen but..., Stalag 17
*Jim Norton, The Seafarer - Is he in it? I think he is. He must be. God, that play is gonna zzzzzzzzzzz.
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS - Play
Some Frump, Top Girls
*Some Other Frump, Top Girls
Another Frump but this one is from Chicago, August: Osage County
Martha Plimpton, Cymbeline
Mary Louise Burke, Is He Dead?
Not sure where this category's going at all, but I took a stab at it. And I'm happy as always to promote Martha Plimpton. And Mary Louise Burke, for that matter. She's a genius.
BEST FEATURED ACTOR - Musical
-Some kid, 13
-Someone in In the Heights, In the Heights
*Harvey Fierstein, A Catered Affair - A Fifth Tony! In a Fifth Category! Watch out Tommy Tune, you're goin' down!
-Shuler Hensley, Young Frankenstein - not to get too serious, but I assume they'll juggle categories with these people and I feel like he might get bumped down. Or he might stay up above the title and someone like Christopher Fitzgerald will be in this spot, but someone will be in this spot from this show.
-Some cute boy with a pretty voice, South Pacific
BEST FEATURED ACTRESS - Musical
-Leslie Kritzer, A Catered Affair
-Priscilla Lopez, In the Heights
-Andrea Martin, Young Frankenstein
*Some girl kid, 13 - remember Daisy Eagan? OK, no jokes please.
-Sherie Rene Scott, The Little Mermaid
And I didn't even mention the Bloody Mary! You know SHE'S gonna find a way in here!
Final fun with caps lock, end of post. See you in May!
Sorry, this one was long too...
Sunday, August 12, 2007
But enough about Kristin Chenoweth, It's August and while to some that means humidity, back to school supplies and the wimpering remains of Hollywood blockbusters (The Invasion, anyone? Anyone?), to me that means only one thing: who's gonna win the 2008 Tony Awards! Yes, it does seem like just yesterday that I watched Raul Esparza lose to David Hyde Pierce, probably because it was just yesterday that I watched Raul Esparaza lose to David Hyde Pierece. I try and watch it everyday, my DVR has had quite a work-out. But as the 2007-2008 season shapes up, so do next year's Tony races, so here's some early, half-informed, half-assed prognosticating, something I love to do this time of year.
As I predicted last August when I was predicting that The Coast of Utopia would win Best Play this year, Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll is comin' our way, and it will most likely be comin' to that botched Best Play nominees clip montage come next June. Heralded in London and by the man himself, it's only liability is that it is apparently just a limited season, gone by Tony time. Probably means it can't win, but it should be remembered.
Oh, good. Another Conor McPherson play, The Seafarer, opening at the Booth Theatre this fall. It's not that I think zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz It's not that I think that Conor Mczzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Conor McPherson, he's not that bad. It's just that he really tends to put me to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. He's in.
I'm dubious about The Farnsworth Invention. I don't see it having a great run, and I don't really see it being nominated for Best Play. Aaron Sorkin is a big star now though, and even though he was not nominated for A Few Good Men, he will definitely be on Tony's radar this time. It's got a shot, but I somehow don't see it. But it is has a shot. But only if it runs.
I'm even more dubious about November. Nathan Lane as the President of the United States? Don't see it. I think November will do OK at the box office, but I'm not sure that it will get a nod for Best Play. The Old Neighborhood didn't, and that had Patti LuPone giving a very good, quiet and understated performance. Oh, note to Patti: quiet and understated, you can do that. Style and comedy, yeah, not so good.
Is He Dead?, the new Mark Twain play, will present a curious challenge for the already challenged enough Tony Administration Committee. It has never been done before, so it can't really be grandfathered in as a revival under the classics rule. But Mark Twain IS a classic, so they might try to. But I would push for it as Best Play, because I think it might actually have a shot, for a nod at least. It might be horrific though, this one could go either way. But I could see ticketbuyers being attracted to its Twain-ness, and perhaps the Tony nominators as well.
I think the third and fourth nominees are most likely to be plays that haven't been announced or rumored yet. I don't see The Female of the Species getting a Best Play nod. Best Actress for Annette Bening, yes, but not Best Play. There must be something a-brewin' in London or off-Broadway that's still to come. Stay tuned. Someone might be thinking, hey, you forgot about Theresa Rebeck's new play, Mauritius. Yeah, I didn't forget. Snap!
I'd like to say a word here for Blackbird, a play with endless stunt casting possibilities that should have moved to Broadway this fall. That play screamed commercial transfer, I don't know what all these rich lazy transferrers were thinking not transferring it. Instant Tony nod, instant recoupment. Alas, it's apparently not meant to be. But come on, Natalie Portman and Liam Neeson for six weeks? The Star Wars fans alone would sell it out.
The early chat from Seattle seems to say that Young Frankenstein is a contender. It was a contender even if it completely crapped up the crappy Hilton Center for the Ford Performing Arts, though perhaps I shouldn't hint at crap in Broadway theatres considering what is rumored to have happened in the orchestra section of the Broadhurst Theatre last week. And for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, no, Lea Salonga did not fly off the turntable. Anyway, Young Frankenstein is in.
In the Heights is clearly moving to Broadway hoping to be this year's Urinetown/Avenue Q/Spring Awakening, i.e., the quality show that should win. It's even doing the smart thing and not reopening until the spring, choosing to skip the surely-would-be-difficult winter. It will definitely be nominated for Best Musical, though I don't know if it will definitely win. That is because there are other shows vying for the quality show title: A Catered Affair and Jason Robert Brown's 13, which I think is going to come in this spring. I definitely have my eye on 13 as the third nominee. A Catered Affair, the jury's still out on that one. I can't annoint it now. But I have my hopes up.
The Little Mermaid? I smell disaster. I'm hearing rumors of roller-skates and boredom. I think this one's gonna make Mary Poppins seem like My Fair Lady. No Tony nod for you! Cry Baby? Definitely has a shot, it should be better than The Wedding Singer and that got invited to Radio City. But it should also be better than Legally Blonde, and that didn't. And then there's the darkhorse of all darkhorses, Xanadu, a show I dreaded seeing but had a very good time at. Tony nominators will probably feel the same way. But will they nominate it?
So, at this point, I'm seeing, in alphabetical order, A Catered Affair, In the Heights, 13, Young Frankenstein, with Catered Affair most vulnerable to Cry Baby or Xanadu.
We shall see, we shall see! But for now, cue up the DVR. Raul's got some losin' to do. And do. And do. And do!
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Does no one else remember that? None of the stories I read mentioned it... Clear Channel was supposed to produce it--I think it was a full-fledged musical, though it may have been a "play with music" (I really don't remember). John Lloyd Young and Julia Murney were in the reading with Palminteri. Michael Greif directed. It disappeared. Today, for one bright moment, I thought it was resurrected, but, alas. I suppose every season needs some one-person shows.
Back by popular demand on Sunday/Wednesday--guest blogger Tony predictions! An annual tradition!
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I guess the argument for it would be that any West End Rent is a good Rent. Plus, there is the quick money aspect to it.
But my argument against it is as follows--if that production gets rave reviews, isn't the New York production going to look the worse in comparison? And does this Rent need another hit? Also, purely on the direct financial side, I assume if there is, let's say, a Tokyo production of this new Rent, then the NY producers would get less money than if there was a Tokyo production of original Rent. Now, again, under the 'any Rent is a good Rent' umbrella, it could be argued that without a new well-received Rent, there wouldn't be any Tokyo production so that is an upside to this new production. However, I am of the belief that international productions of Rent have still not wained, so there would be a Tokyo production regardless. Thus this new version just has the potential to cost the NY people cash. This is all not to mention that having a new production of such prominence basically will amount to a bunch of articles alleging there is a need for a new Rent--that the old Rent isn't good enough anymore...
So, yeah, I don't get it. Why did no one get a quote from the NY producers about it? That would be something at least.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Of course that is generally no longer a problem for me. But, well, today Riedel had what I was going to write about, which was Kevin Kline in Cyrano. I mean, that was going to be my genius post, but, alas, scoop gone.... I will talk about this aspect of it--the fact that I assume this means Roundabout won't be doing its planned production of Cyrano, adaptation by David Grimm. I remember one other time in recent memory something similar happened to the theater company--it was planning to mount Our Town before the Paul Newman production announced it would be coming in. This is a similar situation--a big star wants to do it with commercial producers and no more Roundabout. Personally I don't know why Cyrano is so hot all of a sudden... but... okay. Also, personally, I'd like to see Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah do it.
Who knew the details of that Mark Twain play weren't announced yet? I had no idea. I thought it was all announced! I think I wrote John Cullum here before, Jenn Gambatese and Marylouise Burke were have also been mentioned to me.
Can someone explain to me why Joe Mantello for 9 to 5? I've been thinking about it more and more and I don't get it. Does he seem like a musical comedy genius? I mean, I think he's done a great job on a lot of things, but I'm not sure I'd think "Wow, this is the guy we need to direct a Dolly Parton musical." I guess we'll see... If all goes as planned and 9 to 5 hits the Ahmanson next fall, I'm totally going to book a trip. I like the Ahmanson. And I can completely picture Dolly standing outside holding court.
I leave you with a conversation my friend Al told me of... (It reminded me how when I went to see the tour of Saturday Night Fever it was totally without curses and with just a vague reference to Annette's drama.)
One guy: "It's like Grease-lite."
Other guy: "It's Grease! What's not light about Grease to start with?"