Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Guest blogger says...

Our blog mistress loves us, but she loves her family more (if you've ever met her genius of a mother, you'll understand why). So, while I'm sure she has many exciting tidbits to share about the looming lock-out, the collapse of 37 Arts, and the catastrophe that is Evi Quaid, we'll just have to wait until she's back in town. Until then, let's all "keep passing the open windows," one of my favorite John Irving turns of phrase, and a rare non-theatrical reference from my showtune addled mind.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Code of the West

So, today at the BC/EFA flea market, I'm flipping through the costume sketches at the United Scenic Artists booth and I see one from the Paper Mill Funny Girl. Attached is a note which says something to the effect of: "Leslie Kritzer is on the brink of a big Broadway career. Price this one slightly higher." Seriously.

You know, this week has been a really, really tough one in my life. I'm sort of like a walking zombie. I've leveled out at about 12% Cara. And yet I still felt the need to attend this event. As highlights I bring you that Kritzer thing, the fact that Blonde's Nikki Snelson stood there signing jump rope handles (an idea which, of course, rocks) and the fact that, as I was passing the auction booth, there was this announcement: "We have a brand new auction item. Kevin Chamberlain's Ipod! Signed!" (Oddly BroadwayWorld felt the need to do live video of this event, which apparently included some interviews, but mostly included video of a lot of people walking.)

Anyway, while I've been a walking zombie this week, it appears I didn't miss much in the theater world. Annette Bening was the big news and, eh, I have nothing to say about that. So I'll talk a little bit about the strike. I NEVER believe that a strike will actually happen. It always seems like everything will be worked out at the last minute. I felt this way before the 802 saga, but I was proved wrong. I felt that way before the Equity drama and there it was worked out. So what of this now? I think it's about 50/50. I still feel the strike won't happen, but I'm willing to accept it is a definite possibility. The League is hording money and trying to spin already. Union people are making strategic calls to journalists. And the thing about this strike is this union has much, much more power than either Equity or 802 because its members have alternative means of work and thus can hold out a lot longer.

The thing I want to say is it's really, really hard for people not in the negotiations to really know the truth of them. I remember during the Equity negotiations I wrote a story with some things the League wanted. I then got a nasty email and phone call from League reps saying it was irresponsible journalism and I printed false ridiculous statements. Except I was sitting with the League treatise, so I knew that they were indeed trying to prohibit actors from playing basketball. And I truly believe the League reps thought I was lying--even they didn't know the truth. So think of how hard it is for journalists or you as readers... Therefore it is nearly impossible to pick a side or speak as an expert based on what you read in the papers. I always say how journalists (myself included) rarely show all the parts of the puzzle, but here it is in a way excusable; only a special few can show a complete puzzle when it is nearly impossible to figure out how all the pieces fit. Thus I urge caution when choosing a flag to waive here.

If there is a strike, we're so going to be discussing show closings here. That's it for now. I'm sad no one posted comments on Wednesday, even though I begged. Alas. I am also sad I cannot really comment on the rumor that Lone Star Love is off because, well, I didn't research and tickets are still onsale. Thus, while I would totally not be surprised at all, I got nothing concrete because I'm plain old lazy. Another alas.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Show Off

I spent the majority of today at North Shore hospital, looking after my grandfather. It was not the happiest of days. Nevertheless, I brought back a story. For some reason the hall is decorated with laminated Broadway posters. Not from classics, but like from things that ran for a few years and closed 3-4 years ago.

My grandmother: "Cara, I noticed one of the posters was for Elton John in Aida. How could Elton John be in Aida? Was it a lot of years ago?"
Me: "No, it's his Aida, he wrote the music."
Her: "But Aida is an opera--it has music."

That was the only thing that made me smile all day. Because it's true. It made so much sense.

Oh, actually, I also smiled when I got home and heard about the regional premiere of In My Life. According to the press release description, Jenny has OCD. Except during rehearsals in NYC, that was eliminated. So... is this a revised script? One can only hope.

Anyway, so last night I was involved in an interesting discussion at the party for Playwrights Horizons latest. It was about whether theaters that receive government funding should primarily do American plays. Many people in the conversation, American playwrights (or aspiring ones), thought the answer was "yes." I have some difficulty with this. Don't we live in all one world? What makes someone American? Citizenship? What happens if the playwright is someone who has lived here her entire life, but was born in Australia and retains citizenship there. Should Roundabout not be allowed to producer her play? Or should there be a guideline that says if they produce her play, they then have to do plays of 50 people who have citizenship? I can totally see theaters wanting to support American playwrights--I do too--but this doesn't seem to me like something you could regulate. What do you think? I'd honestly like to know. (Oh, also last night, my friend abandoned me at that same party. Can you believe?)

On another note--I've decided January 6 for Drowsy closing, maybe before if there is indeed a lock-out. What do you think?

Look how I'm asking for comments! begging! pleading! I need to sleep.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Did anyone else learn today that Aida Turturro is going to play Mama in Chicago on Broadway? This means, in a matter of months, the same role will be played by Adriane Lenox, Kelly Osbourne and Aida Turturro. Think about that.

You know how I know off-Broadway is in trouble? It's not because of all the stories about the fact that it is in trouble (because I can't get through those anymore) and it's not because of the closings or the empty theaters... It's more because even people who really care about the theater have NO IDEA what is going on off-Broadway. Silence! announced an opening date and a theater--it was supposed to begin performances last week. They never said it was not starting last week, but, umm, it didn't. Money issues nixed it. And yet there were no splashy website reports of this. Apparently no one noticed. Celia, running at New World Stages, got rid of its director and, I think, it's choreographer. And, again, no one commented on it officially--no need--who cares?

Now I'm not saying people SHOULD care about this junk, but I think it shows something that even the people who really, really care about this business do not. I mean, these are people who care about ensemble changes at Wicked. Even those people aren't making a big deal about Silence! just disappearing. Which says to me no one cares. Even theater freaks don't care about off-Broadway... Why would ticket buyers?

On a completely unrelated closing note--I was at Broadway on Broadway today complaining about the lack of The Little Mermaid (scheduled to perform, but cancelled, supposedly because Sierra Boggess was too sick to perform)--which I was looking forward to seeing--and someone said to me: "Of course, Cara, with all your toys, you're the perfect Disney girl." Ummm... yeah. I really want to say here--once and for all--I'm actually not at all. I do wear shiny shoes and have many toys, but I'm not a huge Disney on Broadway supporter. I'm not anti-them by any means, but, I am not a big supporter either. A little while after I started in this business press agent Jim Byk (who I believe I'm mentioned on here before because of his mental musical theater history archive--I still think you should quiz him, if you know him and have the need) left the Richard Kornberg office to go work on Beauty and the Beast at Boneau/Bryan-Brown. I thought this was sad because a) the tiny Kornberg office has a special place in my heart and, especially, b) I thought it was sad that anyone would make a conscious choice to spend his career promoting that piece of crap. (Of course before Beauty I believe he was promoting Jekyll & Hyde, which... well, whatever, I'll leave that out of my commentary here. Let's just forget about that.) I mean, he went to go work on it. Purposely. And I really hated Beauty and the Beast. I just found it so schlocky. It ran and I'm happy when things are successful, but, I didn't get it. I mean, especially when they moved theaters and decreased cutlery size. I just... yeah. So I can't say I'm a huge Disney on Broadway supporter because I didn't like that.. or Aida... And while I said on here I got what I expected out of Tarzan, that is not saying much. Even the heavily lauded Lion King I think is all about the first 10 minutes (though I totally believe that 10 minutes is worth the price of admission as much as any show is). So, yeah, to sum up, I don't want to be known as a Disney on Broadway girl. I do want to be known as a big fan of The Little Mermaid movie, which is why I am indeed excited about the stage show, regardless of the out-of-town snarky remarks . The animated movies I own are The Little Mermaid and FernGully. Though I haven't seen FernGully in years. Maybe I'll go look for it now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hit Me Baby One More Time

A little administrative note—Wednesday night is a Jewish holiday and thus there will be no blog post. I know that ruins all of your weeks.

“It’s a distraction when you’re out of town and you get national criticism”—so said Disney's Thomas Schumacher to The New York Times. That’s my favorite quote of the week because it says so much. Firstly I read the use of the word “distraction,” in this sense, as meaning like “nuisance,” not something to be taken seriously. Ummm… That’s one way of looking at it. (He then went on to talk about Beauty and the Beast’s reviews and how they didn’t matter. Now, if I were him, I wouldn’t want to refer back to Beauty, knowing how crappy it was, but, ok...) Secondly, “national criticism” is bothersome, but, as per this, not local. So, basically, this is “I don’t care what those morons in Denver say, but it’s annoying that David Rooney attacked it.” Yeah.

Moving on… How many of you readers eagerly watched Britney Spears? There is so much to discuss about it. I watched because the thing you can always count on Britney for is some sort of real show. This wasn’t one. To start off, there is only a small section of the population that would have looked great in that outfit. Old Britney was part of that population, crazy, hazy Britney is not. And she didn’t have much to do and yet she looked confused doing it—she looked down at the dancers in order to tell how to walk. Plus, I love when performers stop lip-syncing somewhere in the middle of the song. Usually they just forget—this poor girl looked like she lost the energy to do it—but, whatever the reason, that always cracks me up. Why am I discussing this on this bog? Well, it’s my blog and I can do whatever the hell I damn well please. Joe Iconis I’m sure has songs about how we can all do whatever the hell we like.

Though, actually, I must admit there is a connection here. No, it’s not Britney’s Sweet Charity discussion. It’s the fact that watching the coverage of her VMA opener gave me an idea that would help theater, especially musicals, tremendously. Did you see how confused/bored the audience members were when the camera flashed to them? That tells you a lot—that could tell creative team members a lot. That is why I am suggesting videotaping of audience members.

In the film industry they sometimes put people in a small room and watch their reactions to a given film. (This gives a more honest, immediate read than focus group talks or comment sheets.) They use this to decide if there is some re-editing that needs to be done or even re-shooting. But people behind films can’t typically do that much after these things. It is often too expensive to re-shoot and, with re-editing, you can only do so much usually. Think of all the possibilities this would have in theater.

Often you have producers saying, in response to criticism, “well, the audience loves that part.” They are judging based on laughs and applause, I suppose. They could judge so much better if they could just watch the audience after particular lines. Sure, now they could glance around, but with video cameras the whole team could watch the whole audience together and adapt the show accordingly. This wouldn’t mean much with non-musical dramas, I guess, but with other shows it could be an indispensable tool.

There are so going to be people out there who cry artistic fowl and that we should not be tailoring art to the masses. I am with you there, to some degree. I don’t think we should use this to rule every decision. But the masses are your audience. You need them. You need them to tell their friends to go. Or else there will be no show. Do we want to stand on principle and end up with a shuttered show?

I’m all for this idea. It’s not a new concept, by any means, but it’s never been applied full force in this way. And I think it should be. If I was the director of a musical and I saw Chris Brown’s clueless face during one of my musical numbers, I’d want to change it.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Look at My Name in Black and White

Often I hear things and don't realize they are noteworthy. I'm telling you--it happens all the time. This Legally Blonde broadcast, I knew about forever ago. Last week, due to some Equity drama related to the actors signing on, it did develop some newsy edge. And, yet, still, I didn't think of it as really a big story. But, you know, when Riedel wrote it today, I saw that it was... somewhat... something. Truly. (I want to note that often I read things in the paper and still don't think they are noteworthy, but, here, I'm giving in to the print.)

Riedel notes that this is "unexpected"--I wasn't even surprised back when I first heard it. I think this might be a sign nothing interests me anymore. Though, I still say... A Perfect Crime... that is interesting.

But, regardless, moving on... The important question here is--will this broadcast mean something to Blonde? This musical did well this summer, but has been plagued by rumors of a dismal advance and desperate attempts at star casting. So they are looking for something, understandably. Is this it?

It can't hurt--I don't believe that it will have a detrimental effect. Though it may ward off some potential ticket buyers that don't like it on the screen, I firmly disagree with the assertion that if people can watch it on TV, they won't watch it in the theater. Riedel talks about this and uses High School Musical as an example of a successful tv movie/stage cross-over. That is a bad example in my mind because the show High School Musical is not EXACTLY the TV movie. It's a different cast, some different moves, etc. So the argument to see it onstage there is to see a new product based on a well-loved movie. If you love Blonde on TV, you are not seeing a related product if you head over to the Palace, you are seeing that EXACT product. Thus I find that comparison a little shaky. However I do believe there is an argument for seeing the exact product live--you want to be a part of it. End of story.

This "can it hurt" analysis assumes that the Legally Blonde broadcast will take off. But I'm not sold it will, so, let's get back to that. Even if Legally Blonde was the best musical ever and every MTV audience member who saw it at the Palace would love it, I still don't know if I'd sit here and say a MTV broadcast of it would be a tremendously effective tool. Because it's hard, unless you love stage musicals, to watch a broadcast of a musical and find it entertaining. Sure, we can usually enjoy a number or two, but, I, a proud musical theater lover, have trouble watching those PBS broadcasts. Even great bootlegs of shows I love bore me after 20 minutes--seriously, I watch them in doses. So I'm just not sure that many kids, even those who would love it if they did see it in the theater, are going to sit there and watch Legally Blonde.

That doesn't mean I don't think the producers are right for doing it--in a cost/benefit analysis I still believe it will work out. I just am not banking on this being a total savior type thing. Of course, I wish Broadway success in all outreach attempts, so I'll be rooting for this one. But then I think, in a few months, we may need to get back to the star casting. Scott Baio as Callahan? Anyone?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Darn Holidays

I'm not tired, I'm wide awake, but... I'm also not in New York and thus can't really sit down and muse for you. But, Wednesday, that will be a better day for such things. I'll be in my studio apartment then, ready to discuss something.

For those who have not been to Walmartopia, I leave you with this note. All tickets are stamped: "No affiliation w/ Walmar" Just like that.