Monday, February 26, 2007


Excuse me if this is jumbled, I'm a little confused by some of the Academy Award choices tonight. And I'm also in the midst of my hours upon hours of Tivo-d post-show coverage (Jimmy Kimmel just picked on Jennifer Holliday as I type this).

I want to use this post to promote two things. The first is Campbell Robertson's New York Times story on "urban theatre" -- . It's very rare people who cover Broadway write about works such as these. And I'm in total favor of it. I've long been fascinated by the separation that exists between these worlds. Years ago I wrote about a show called Love Makes Things Happen, a Babyface musical starring En Vogue's Dawn Robinson, that played the Beacon Theatre and I actually got emails questioning why I would cover such a thing. Of course I was like "Umm... Babyface. Dawn Robinson. Duh." Apparently other people just don't understand the genius of a theatrical piece that combines those two names. Or maybe they just don't consider these things real theatrical pieces--that might be a substantial part of the problem. I have to admit that when the movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman came out, and journalists said it was based on an off-Broadway play, I was clueless. I had never heard of it. So I'm not the expert on this topic, but I have always been interested in it. How do these producers attract their target audience? Is it about the title? Casting? Campiness? This story doesn't really provide an in depth examination of the possible answers to these questions, but it is a good introduction to a touring theater business that many Broadway types might not be familiar with.

Now, for my second order of business, I need to promote Joe Iconis yet again. He has a show on March 4 at Joe's Pub and he is going to be singing some of his own stuff. I personally hope he sings his song "Helen" himself, but he has some special guests lined up (including Annie Golden and Celia Keenan-Bolger), so I have a feeling I may be out of luck. Don't let that discourage you though--I'm sure it will rock. He may even talk to the audience, so if you've been to his past Things to Ruin shows, where he never talks, that might be a special bonus for you.

Oh, just so you know, I didn't forget Frenchie in my Americal Idol analysis, I just got lazy. I mean, she has come and gone more than once... and I have no idea when... My friends involved in Rent say tons of people come just to see her, but, I honestly am not looking at the numbers.

I think it's time to erase Kimmel and go to my E! recording. Adios.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I'm tired tonight, but I promised an American Idol analysis and an American Idol analysis there shall be. We hear a lot about AI alums being recruited by Broadway producers, as if them signing on means instant box office. But does it?

Tamyra Gray entered Bombay Dreams on November 9, 2004 for a 12-week stint, except the show didn't even last that long. Is that her fault? No, the show was on its way out before she joined the cast, but clearly they were thinking her addition would spark a huge ticket bump and it did not. A few weeks before she joined the cast, the show was up to around $543,000, but the week prior to her arrival it was at approximately $399,192. The week she joined, the musical shot up about $70,000, so it appeared Tamyra was the ticket. But then it fell back down. And while it had stellar holiday weeks during her reign, you can't really say her joining the cast was a huge silver bullet.

Hairspray seems to have had more success with Diana DeGarmo. Until mid-January of 2006, Hairspray was rolling in the low-to-mid $600,000 range, but then it began to fall into its inevitable winter slump. The week before DeGarmo joined the cast, the show made just $462,775. Her first week, it was up to $530,619. But the amazing thing is for the rest of February, when everyone in the industry thought it would be dead, it generally took in around $650,000 a week. Now that is not to say that casting DeGarmo consistently made Hairspray a top seller--I'm not blind, I know the show has struggled periodically over the last year even when she was there--but she does seem to have made an impact.

That brings me to Mr. Cool, Constantine Maroulis (I don't use that title in a kind way). It is particularly difficult to judge his impact on The Wedding Singer. This is because of the timing of his start. He began his run on September 8, 2006, that is just as tourists have headed home and shows generally enter a lull. His first full week, the show shot up a whopping $148,074 to $515,159, so go Constantine, except, the next week it was down at $433,503. It then went back up later in the fall, but it is really hard to place his impact. He does not seem to have had a big one, but we can't really say he had none, as we we don't know if the show would have done worse without him.

Now, before anyone sends complaint emails to me, I know these numbers don't tell the whole story. There are other factors that could effect the gross figures quoted above. Like, maybe one of these weeks mentioned, there was a bad storm that caused grosses to drop. Also, who knows if there were absences any of the time periods mentioned?!? I don't remember that crap years later. And there are a whole bunch of other points I'm sure people could raise, but, I can only account for so much in this forum.

It's interesting to think about these numbers because it is curious to think about what makes star casting effective. Is it just the star? Probably only in the case of Julia Roberts or someone like that. Is it the combination of star and show? That is more like it. Take Tamyra and Diana. As far as solo careers go, Tamyra has I believe been more successful than Diana (though Diana placed higher in AI and neither of them have proved to be pop stars by any means), but she seems to have made less of an impact for the show she joined. Could that be simply because her season of Idol was less-watched than Diana's season? Is it Tamyra's fault? Well... Tamyra Gray, who isn't Indian, entered a show about Indians that was known to be sort of a joke. Maybe Alicia Keys could have made it a blockbuster, but... Whereas Diana was seen as a cute lovable youngster and she entered a candy-colored musical that was known as a hit. That's more of a can't-miss combo.

This all leads to Fantasia, but I'm too tired to go there. Maybe next week. Also next week, maybe an examination of why The Producers will not last beyond April 2007.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ticky Ticky Tock

When I first heard about Fantasia being in negotiations for The Color Purple (three weeks ago or so), I heard the teams were so far apart in terms of money, that the deal would likely never happen. So today, now that there are reports that the casting is happening, I was going to examine how much Fantasia will be worth to The Color Purple, if the deal is finalized. But that is going to have to wait for Wednesday because something so ridiculous happened to me at the theater on Friday, it deserves it's own blog post.

The scene: Adrift in Macao. I'm sitting in the third row up--I have two seats on the aisle, but I give the aisle seat to my friend Al, so I am one off the aisle. Sitting in front of Al, who is not tiny, is an old woman in a fur coat. To give you an idea of what she looks like, Al will later refer to her as Edith Beale, which is a pretty accurate moniker. I sit down about 7 minutes before the show starts. Al sits down about 4 minutes before the show will begin. For the purpose of this discussion, we will in fact call this old frail woman Edith.

Edith (turning around and facing Al): Stop kicking my seat! We're in the theater! Stop kicking my seat! In a movie theater downtown, there is a sign that says "please don't kick the seats," maybe you should go read it.

Al: I didn't do anything.

Me: He didn't kick your seat. He just sat down.

Edith: You're not theater people are you?

Me (laughing a little): Umm... trust me, we're theater people.

Al: You think you're a theater person because you have a fur?

Edith: It's not about the fur. I'm a depression era kid. That's what the fur is about. But stop kicking my seat! You kick my seat one more time, I'll break your arm.

Al: Oh, you will? Ok.... I'll call PETA.

Edith: Call whoever you want. Someone once said to me "I'll call the police," well fine, call them. I know what I'm saying. You're kicking me. I'm sitting on the edge here. Am I supposed to know who you are? Are you a star? Are you someone I should be scared of?

Now, this goes on and on. Edith stops for a second and then starts up again. Al is ignoring. I'm trying to ignore. It goes on about until curtain time. The woman next to me says: "I thought she was joking at first..." The show starts, we get about 30 minutes into it. Those of you who know me know I abhor anything that makes noise while a show is going on. So I do note every shift, every cough, everything. Al has not moved.

Edith (loudly, in the middle of a scene on a stage that, let me state again, we are three rows from): Stop kicking my seat! I can't sit like this! Stop kicking me! I'm gonna get someone.

Me (out loud and angrily, despite myself): He didn't move, Ma'am.

Woman next to me (grabbbing my arm): Just ignore her.

Fast forward about 2 minutes. An usher, heads to the woman to see the problem. He touches her from the side. Thinking it is Al, she turns around to her other side (thus not seeing the usher) and slaps his knee as hard as she possibly can with her glove saying something as she does it. I'm serious. She HIT him. Half the audience was watching--these people had no idea what was going on onstage for that period (if they had any idea beforehand), their attention was focused on crazy Edith. Now, I have no idea what the usher said to her or what she said, I was in shock. But she didn't bother us for the rest of the show. However, after the show, when we were standing upstairs waiting for a cast member, she started in again, talking about her fur and how she had a right to it. We chose to ignore. That was wise, I believe.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Just a little bit ago, I was on 23rd street waiting for the light to change. It did and the mass of people who were standing with me started walking. There was a woman walking with a cane in the slush and I saw her begin to fall. Trying to be nice, I went to catch her. Do any of you out there think I am physically strong or have some body heft? If so, you're wrong. No good deed goes unpunished. The woman still fell and so did I. And so I am in a tad bit of pain right now and not really in the mood to post, so this will be brief.

I did want to point out something about this Tales of the City musical. Playbill put up something about it on February 9, but the story now seems to be gone, which I find very odd. Regardless, it was about how Jeff Whitty and Jason Moore (Avenue Q's librettist and director team) are developing a musical based on Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. It spoke about the Avenue Q producers securing the rights right now. The story made no mention of the fact that this is not the first time we've heard about a Tales of the City musical. It was about 4 years ago when news was first reported about such a project. At that point, the Goodman Theatre had already secured the rights and David Petrarca was to direct. No details were ever announced, but Rufus Wainwright and Elvis Costello were the two people I heard mentioned most often to write the score. That sounded interesting to me, but, alas, I guess it is not gonna happen.

And on that note, I'm off to put some ice on my ankle.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

This post is a little different; I'm feeling reflective

I know a girl, someone I used to work with, who spends some time making out with gay men. This would be fine if she was just all for making out and grabbed the closest thing, but, sadly, I believe she invests some emotion into these encounters. A couple of years ago, when we were on friendly terms and she was very drunk, I witnessed one of these encounters and her breakdown shortly after. She said something about her life to me, asked me my opinion and I said something about this habit and she said: "Cara, don't you think there are some topics you should just lie about?"

The truthful answer to that question is "no." When I feel strongly about something, I say it. Honestly. Some people think that is a bad aspect of my personality, maybe it is, but that is me. Some times I keep my mouth shut, but if I open it, you always get the response I believe in. Who respects a dishonest person? And who is afraid to speak the truth?

In the last few weeks, I have been reminded that the world has very definite notions about things you cannot speak about. I have a friend who is an editor at a soap opera magazine. Now, I'm a soap kid, so I would be qualified to write a piece for her magazine. Her particular magazine has, in the past, had guest editorials. I called her and asked her if I could do one. She immediately answered "yes, of course," but then asked me about the topic of my piece. I said I wanted to write about how I hate All My Children's transgender storyline. She quickly changed her answer to "no," not because she so loves the storyline and wants to protect it, but because she feels speaking out against it is un-PC. "You, with all your gay friends, should know better than this," she said. I was a little perplexed by this response and thought she might be crazy, but I asked others and they concurred with her. Why?!? I am not against there being a transgender storyline, I just believe this particular one is being handled in a moronic fashion. If that is construed as me being prejudice is anyway, the people who are interpreting it that way are stupid. Why is it that a publication should be that scared of something like this?

Today, on the way home from a business brunch, I ran into a theater critic who had recently given a good review to In the Heights. Now there were people I know who loved In the Heights, but I had spoken to this particular critic shortly after he had seen the show and I knew he didn't really like it. So, I was surprised to read his review on Thursday night, but just let it go. There are sometimes when shows grow on you, though this he saw two days before opening, so it was not like a fond memory. As he was standing in front of me, questioning me about a story I had published yesterday, I could not resist the urge to question him. Had the show indeed grown on him in retrospect? He stumbled on the answer. Then he gave some crap line about wanting to encourage young writers of different ethnicities and voices. Is that a reason to praise parts of a show you did not actually like? Is that cause enough to slant your views?

I just don't get it. Sadly it happens a lot--people afraid to speak out against things because they feel some sense of responsibility to support something or other. It's a phenomenon I don't understand because once you slant a perspective in the name of politics, you're in danger of becoming a marketing outlet, not one that fosters journalism.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

(Ohmigod) you guys!

I am so happy Legally Blonde did well with critics. I heard insider rumblings that the show wasn't quite there AND I watched the video footage and got very worried for it (those costumes, which got good reviews, looked horrible to me), but, it is now an out-of-town hit. Yay. I've been a fan of this songwriting team for a long time, so I am happy for them in particular. But mostly I'm just happy I am not going to have to sit through another show this spring with bomb written all over it. I mean, sure, those are campy for about a second, but then... Now out-of-town positive notices do not necessarily spell Broadway success--Urban Cowboy people--but the show is one step closer.

I did my best to summarize below:

Dennis Harvey, Variety: "This fuchsia fluffsicle, socked over by choreographer-turned-director Jerry Mitchell, might not win over those opposed on principal to the Hollywoodization of Broadway. But its S.F. tryout is already a genuinely likable, splashy crowd-pleaser that could prove grumble-proof come its May Rialto launch... Bundy may not have Witherspoon's radiant warmth (who does?), but she engagingly makes the role her own even as she delivers a faithful reproduction of its originator's (nonsinging) character voice... So much of Legally Blonde is so smartly engineered, good looking, high energy and hilarious that it's easy to forgive those few moments sporting an earnestness this material can't easily support. (Much is lumped on Borle, though he manages to be funny when he can.) Among the show's many appealing aspects is how it manages to swim in broadly amusing shallows most of the time while avoiding heartlessness. The be true to yourself message is utterly by-the-numbers -- but such is the evening's charm that it doesn't seem fake."

Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle: "It's a buoyant blend of comic invention, captivating performances, bright design and knock-'em-dead dance numbers as staged and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. But it loses momentum at key moments, about two-thirds of the way through each of its two acts... David Rockwell's slick, restless sets -- pieces of sorority, Harvard Law and courtroom interiors and exteriors, shops, a palatial bathroom, forever sliding into place and rearranging themselves -- and Gregg Barnes' hot-pink and cool-gray costumes amplify the visual experience to cartoon level. Mitchell takes advantage of every opportunity to inject similarly animated production numbers, while keeping the plot and clever interchanges of Heather Hach's faithful book crystal clear... Broadway veteran Bundy isn't an outstanding dancer -- not in this company -- but she has a strong, attractive voice and is a radiantly beguiling, smart Elle. It would help her case if she weren't saddled with the show's least appealing songs."

Chad Jones, The Oakland Tribune: "For a just-hatched show, this Blonde is in awfully good shape, though (not to disparage blondes in any way) it doesn't have a whole lot going on in its pretty head. And that's OK. Sometimes you just want a musical to shake its sparkles at you and make you smile. Rather than feel guilty about that, if the musical is crafted with a degree of skill and intelligence, you can sit back and enjoy... [The score] treads the line of pleasant if unremarkable pop and disco with hints of R&B. Heather Hach's book attempts to make characters more interesting than they were in the 2001 movie, which, frankly, isn't much of a challenge... The hero in all of this is Jerry Mitchell... The romance between Elle and Harvard teaching assistant Emmett (the charming Christian Borle) is still a few flames short of a blaze... But then again, there are pleasures like Bundy's cute-as-a-button Elle, Orfeh as sassy hairdresser Paulette and Andy Karl as the UPS guy who steals Paulette's heart and nearly steals the show. Though they're more effective as valley-talking sorority sisters than as Elle's only-in-her-brain Greek chorus, Annaleigh Ashford, Leslie Kritzer and DeQuina Moore ratchet up the vivacious quotient whenever they're onstage. They rev up the feel-good, girl-power motor that keeps the musical buzzing along for more than 2 1/2 hours."

Pat Craig, The Contra Costa Times: "The Broadway-bound musical is a bounce of happy energy that explodes from the stage with bolts of cotton-candy-colored lightning... [The creators] have made Blonde a big, noisy Broadway show in the most traditional, and best, sense. It has been written as a contemporary piece with cultural references that have a very short shelf life (indeed, if the show has a long run on Broadway, which seems close to a certainty, there will have to be fairly frequent updating)... Director/Choreographer Jerry Mitchell has imbued the show with a sizzling pace that allows many of the supporting performers, particularly Blake, Borle, Annaleigh Ashford, Kate Shindle, Leslie Kritzer, DeQuina Moore and Orfeh, to shine in classic dance and comedy bits that give the piece a wonderfully nimble style."

Karen D'Souza, San Jose Mercury News: "This is girl power gone wild. This is booty-shaking as self-help. This is arm candy as extreme sport. In its world premiere at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre (it's scheduled to bow on Broadway in April), this here is a vapid-and-lovin'-it guilty pleasure show that truly dares to bling it on. Props to Jerry Mitchell for some, dare we say, awesome dance routines... Bootylicious moves plus J-Lo-esque duds (Gregg Barnes' couture is so juicy it drips!) and rad Barbie dream house sets (kudos to David Rockwell for his use of a bat-pole onstage) well may make this musical a ka-ching magnet on the Great White Way. Still, in his directorial debut, Mitchell handles the whole character development thing with somewhat less agility. Despite a bubbly-meets-snarky book (by Heather Hach) and score (by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O'Keefe), Elle's journey from wannabe trophy wife to Harvard valedictorian doesn't really register on an emotional level."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hear Me Out

It seems like I've known about the musical In the Heights since I started in the theater business (which I'm sure isn't true, but you get the point). It was always buzzed about as the show that would help usher in a new era in musical theater, making it cooler and more attractive to young audiences. Thus I've been following it and knew the show well before I entered 37 Arts to see the full production this past Friday. Even though this isn't an official site, I will not write my opinions of the show pre-opening, that is not fair. What I will write about is the size of the show.

When I sat through a festival presentation of But I'm a Cheerleader a couple of years ago, I was shocked at how much I liked it. I was never a fan of the movie, but the show, while it needed tightening, worked. But I sat there wondering where it could possibly play. A few days later, it began receiving positive reviews and yet I still knew its future possibilities were limited. Its cast size was too big to have a financially viable off-Broadway run and it wasn't on Broadway material.

So I was shocked that producers chose to mount In The Heights with a full ensemble. I knew the goal was to have that big a cast, but I just assumed, as the ensemble isn't that essential, someone would require a cast trimming pre-production. But, no. There are over 20 cast members in the Playbill. It must be the most expensive off-Broadway musical I've ever seen. Sure, the producers partially own the theater complex the show is based in, so they are probably saving in rent, but still, it has to be costing a ridiculous amount of money to run this show. Plus, the initial capitalization must be sky-high for off-Broadway. All this for a show that is at 37 Arts, aka in the middle of nowhere.

To put this in perspective, Altar Boyz has seven cast members including the understudies, received a rave Times review and has been running at New World Stages (which has a better location than 37 Arts, though I still call it Dodger Stages, no matter how many times David Gersten tells me I'm wrong) for almost two years and hasn't recouped yet. Sure, it is in a theater with less seats that In The Heights and has a lower top-ticket price, but still... You have to think Altar Boyz, a musical about a boy bands, has a much more universal following that a musical about life in Washington Heights. I mean, I send all my random friends that come into town and want to do off-Broadway, instead of on, to Altar Boyz. Do tourists even know where/what Washington Heights is?

So, I'm just shocked at the financial planning behind a musical like In The Heights. The producers cannot think they will ever make money with it at its current location. I assume the theory is--mount it off-Broadway and if it is a hit, move it, and if it is not a hit, you haven't lost as much as you would by mounting it directly on Broadway. That must be it.

Speaking of possible off-Broadway to Broadway transfers, I've been trying to listen to a recording of Feeling Electric. I think the rumor first spread six months ago that this show was going to be getting the Spelling Bee treatment at Second Stage (complete with similar backing). Now, I saw it when it was at NYMF and I didn't think it was good. I've now been listening to the recording and don't get it. Can someone tell me what I'm missing? Please? I like to get things.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I am a little pressed for time tonight, but I don't like to miss a post. Firstly--I read some comments from a few posts ago and on one of them Moxie wisely pointed out that voters haven't been invited to Coast of Utopia yet. That is indeed true. They don't need to be invited before the eligibility decision, but it is interesting to point out that they have not been. I sort of figured voters would not be invited until all three parts started performances because I just figured LCT would want the voters to have the option of seeing them all within a short time frame. I myself can't imagine sitting through the marathon, but Moxie said people really want to, so good for them.

For a short second note, I just wanted to point something out with Evil Dead closing. I'm hearing about less upcoming off-Broadway musicals than I usually do by this time of year. Rock of Ages had money, lost money, had money and now doesn't again. Silence! is having some backers readings. Opposite of Sex is being mentioned again. And there are some more.... But usually I know of 12 gearing up for a big press and, this year, not so much. Have people finally gotten wise? Probably not. Maybe it's the weather.