Monday, July 30, 2007

I suck. I admit it.

You know how I wrote maybe there would be a better post today? Well, it's lucky I put a qualification on it, because I'm too busy to write a real post right now. Alas.

In my absence, I want everyone to look at the genius fake art in this Variety story:

And this video:

Oh, and, if you haven't read Joan Collins' blaming Legends on Linda Evans, it's a must:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Putting It Together

So, as I write this, I’m not in my apartment. (For those of you who don’t know me, you can conjure up the mental image that I usually write to you in a t-shirt and pajama pants with cows on them from within my studio apartment, which has bright yellow walls, a Tassimo machine and a sad little wall kitchen.) I therefore can’t really write a lot. Alas. There will be a better post on Sunday… Maybe.

Anyway, I will say that I just finished watching Damages and it got me thinking… What happened to A Little Night Music? For that matter—what happened to Glenn Close in general? If you painted her green and stuck silver dots on her neck, she could totally play Frankenstein. This all led me to revive in my mind the oft-debated question of whether non-singers should really be picked to headline musicals. Certain show queens I know feel VERY strongly about this subject, but I actually go back and forth. Jennifer Jason Leigh was one of my favorite Sally Bowles and she may have sung worse than any of the others. So does singing matter? It seems a ridiculous question—this is a musical after all—but it is one to be asked in certain cases. Of course I mean this question to be relevant in only very limited instances—I don’t want to see Jennifer Jason Leigh in Sunday in the Park With George. And, also, the question itself has to be phrased in terms of degree: certainly you don’t want to go see a musical and have someone tone deaf sing 7 songs. You might lose your pre-theater meal. But, with average singing, people win Tonys for starring in musicals (and I’m not talking Harvey Fierstein). Is that reasonable? Hmm…

OK, I have to go watch a movie and return a phone call I just received asking me what I knew about a possible Broadway production of Stormy Weather. I love how people ridiculously can’t wait until the off-Broadway production opens and gets reviewed (or is even announced) before calling and asking things like that. That’s how we get stories with a Broadway theater for Radiant Baby.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gonna Party Like It's 2002!

You know those movies/tv series/comic books/novels where people go back in time? I feel like I'm relieving the summer of 2002. In that summer, on my schedule for the 2002-2003 Broadway season, were a revival of Pal Joey and a Broadway mounting of Lone Star Love. And they were actually on my schedule for years after that. Somewhere along the line, beaten-down by many false-starts, I crossed them off. That's why, when I heard casting rumors and theaters for each of them, I refused to believe the hype. Now the casting rumors have been reported as firm news and a theater and dates have been announced for one of the shows, so it's looking more and more like they are both going to happen, yet I feel myself still in doubt, though I know I shouldn't be.

For a couple of years there was talk of a Pal Joey revival, but it wasn't until January 2003 when it looked like it was coming together. That was when the Weisslers had a big reading of Pal Joey. Does anyone remember that? John Stamos was Joey. He wasn't their first choice, but that's who they got. Donna Murphy, Laura Benanti and Faith Prince were also in it. (Additionally, I have a recollection that Jessica Stone--who I always thought should have received rave reviews for Chris Ashley's last show at the Helen Hayes--was in it, though I have zero idea what she played. I only bring this up because she is a big Joe Mantello favorite, so maybe we'll see her in this one.) Then nothing, until we heard the Weisslers started talking to Robert Altman in the fall of 2003. Then, for a few years, after, casting rumors abounded. I think my favorite one was Antonio Banderas, but there were loads more. But, again, nothing concrete. Then the news that the Weisslers were out and Marc Platt was in and so was Joe Mantello. And nothing for a while after that... So it is any surprise I doubted we'd ever see it? But, of course, just when I give up...

I don't actually know if it took me longer to give up on Pal Joey or Lone Star Love. The history of Lone Star Love is so long, I could write for hours on just what I remember and there would still be much more to tell (because I have a life and don't have room in my head for every detail, contrary to what you might think). Lone Star Love premiered before I hit my teens. Under the name The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas it debuted regionally in 1988. It happened a few more times regionally, but still needed more development. In the mid-90s, the new Lone Star Love had a workshop in New York and people said it was coming to Broadway. Nope. For years after, the rumors said it would appear. Nope. In the fall of 2001, it opened some festival somewhere. Keith Carradine was supposed to star. That didn't happen and, again, the show failed to transfer. Then, in late 2004, it had an off-Broadway run. I don't know if any of my readers attended the off-Broadway run, but they served free food onstage before the show. It was a cute gimmick, but they had the actors serve it in character and I found it embarrassing for Clarke Thorell to be on a stage offering me a mini-weeny (I don't know how else to put it). But, regardless, after that run, I continued to hear it for Broadway and every season it was always the Belasco that was to be its home. Now it's officially announced for there and has Randy Quaid, which I guess puts more weight on it. Of course, years ago I announced Randy Quaid to make his Broadway debut in a play opposite Timothy Hutton and that didn't happen, but I guess this is more concrete.

So maybe I'll just have to get over my reservations and embrace the long-delayed musicals. I do love a song and dance.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Like Sands Through The Hourglass...

I promised to answer questions today. And I keep my promises... But I have a two-part problem. Firstly, I'm speechless after seeing the genius of Lisa Rinna in living color in Chicago. Secondly, no one asked me good questions this time. Usually, I get casting questions. This time, I went to read the questions, and they were odd. My most commonly asked question (paraphrased) was "How is Ken Mandelbaum?" Well, it's not really my place to answer that. But I will say that Ken is alive and well and keeping busy and actually offered me invaluable support on one of my recent stories. There you go--there is your answer. The other questions sort of weren't coherent. Alas.

I leave you pointing you to the site of the musical Frankenstein, premiering at New World Stage this fall. Listen/see for yourself. I truly don't have the words.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Some People Aint Me

The ABC Family commercials promoting a re-airing of Beautiful Girl showed Marissa Jaret Winokur and said "Before she hit it big in Hairspray, she was a Beautiful Girl." I believe there is something wrong with that rendering of history. I feel like the error probably was the result of someone telling an ad-copy guy "She is from Hairspray" and the ad-copy guy taking that to mean the movie Hairspray. Just a guess.

Anyway, last week was sort of a slow week in theater. Boring rumors about Grey Gardens. Claire Danes was finally announced. Xanadu is more successful than anyone thought it would be. I read two stories on Seussical (a show I support in my heart). Variety also put up a few stories about advances, but I didn't read those because I never believe them.

I had tons of work to do between the time I last posted and now, so I didn't really chat with my insiders and I'm not up on any gossip. I did take a break from my stacks of notes yesterday and watch The Notorious Bettie Page. I share this with you because there are theater elements to it. It reminded me that John Cullum never stops working--a Tony nomination this year and he'll again be on Broadway in the fall in that Mark Twain play. It features Dallas Roberts and Sarah Paulson, who were supposed to be Glass Menagerie costars. Many of the other actors in it are theater people, also. But really I just bring it up just to tell you all that Gretchen Mol (who I frequently call "The IT girl that never was") was a great, great Roxie in Chicago. She was one of my favorites, if not my very favorite. I don't think I've ever said that here before.

So, I really have to go back to work, but I promise on Wednesday to answer some questions that have been emailed to me. For an end note, I need to say something about Gypsy. Those of you who know me, know that I almost always take my mother to musicals with me. (People have asked me why this is and there are many reasons, that I don't think any of you care about.) So she saw Gypsy with me. And I just spoke to her on the phone. The conversation included this line: "Cara, do you think he was drunk?" The "he" in that sentence is Ben Brantley. Now, often my mother and I disagree, but I share her puzzlement at the Gypsy review. Here is why: I often disagree with critics about whether shows/performances work, but I don't think I've ever read a review where I so thoroughly thought the critic was describing a different performance. I thought LuPone gave an earthy, grounded performance, which Brantley seems to say. But I thought her whole characterization created a Rose that was angry and not likable (which I personally thought was a valid take, that I wholeheartedly applaud, but that is a side point). He basically says the opposite about her take on the role. So both my mother and I will be confused for the night. She did offer a theory that "maybe Patti gives a different performance every night," which is something I often say about Jessica Boevers, not really about Patti LuPone, but I guess it's possible. Otherwise, I think we can just chalk it up to the fact that there is no objective standard on which to judge a performance. We all see different things in the same thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Let Me Entertain You

Have I ever discussed on this blog how working in a small industry is a double-edge sword? On the one hand, you know everyone and it's pretty easy to develop relationships. On the other hand, if you point out something to another industry person that person then goes and tells multiple other people that you know. So everything minor gets blown out of proportion. I hate that.

OK, I just had to get that off my chest. Moving on... This blog post was inspired by a Team Cara member (it's an elite group so they get to inspire blog posts). And the topic is... drum roll... Could the Encores! Gypsy be Tony eligible (without a transfer)?

Well... I have not heard that they are going to try for that, but let's break it down.

The production is a "legitimate theatrical production" (which is wording in the rulebook that I've never understood) and it is officially opening.

City Center is not currently on the list of Tony eligible theaters. However things at the theater used to be eligible. Doesn't everyone remember Bob Fosse playing Joey in Pal Joey at City Center in 1963? No? Maybe you, like me, weren't born yet... But it happened. I'm sure Ken Mandelbaum was there. And, most importantly for this discussion, Fosse was nominated for a Tony Award for that production. There are more examples as well, but I thought this one was fun. It would seem that what was once Tony eligible can be Tony eligible again. There is one sticking point--technically to be an eligible theater, the theater must "be used principally for the presentation of legitimate theatrical productions." City Center is home to a lot of dance--I'm not sure that dance events would be counted as "legitimate theatrical productions," but it's arguable. There is a discussion to be had there.

Tony eligible shows must perform on a "reasonably conventional playing schedule." This is very vague and there is some petitioning that can be done here. (Actually, I have always believed Patti's solo show at LCT may have been deemed eligible if LCT had petitioned, though my friend who worked at LCT at the time insisted they would have lost the fight due to the "Sunday and Monday only" playing schedule. I just felt at the time that the administration committee wouldn't have wanted to snub Patti, but, that's a whole different subject.) In the case of Gypsy, the show is playing eight performances a week, which is perfectly normal. The run is limited, but that shouldn't be a big problem.

Now, here is the key, they have to invite all Tony voters in a "timely manner." They haven't. And I doubt they could fit in all the Tony voters now. However, if a little time was added, I suppose it would be possible. (There is some sub-rule about the production having to give voters like eight performances to choose from or something, but I'm not an expert on that one.)

That's all the main points, I think. If you are a Tony expert out there and I'm missing something in my analysis, let me know. I like corrections/additions!

Monday, July 09, 2007

This weekend was very 1980s for me. Yesterday I had a story about Xanadu published and I went to see the show Xanadu. I also watched a lot of Live Earth footage of bands most popular in the 1980s. AND, to top it off, I got into a discussion about how musicals have changed since the 1980s. Have I ever said on this blog that I believe Jane Eyre might have run if it opened in the 1980s? I do not believe the same is not true of Pirate Queen. (Oh--also--for those blog readers who know me personally, please know that today I gave my roller-sneakers a test run and I am all in one piece as I write this.)

Moving on… Often I don't notice blog comments, so there were some comments below that I did not respond to in a timely manner. I tried to remedy that by responding to the two most recent comments. Let me say, I also got a lot of emails about both of those posts. Esteemed Time Out theater guy David Cote posted a comment in response to my Old Acquaintance post and his sentiments were pretty much echoed in the emails I received. I still contend, as you see in my response below, that theater companies should not need to explain their choices. I believe this even though I do not agree with many of their choices. Also, I received an anonymous three-page email defending Philip Boroff. Draw your own conclusions from that, but note that I did not mean my post about that piece to be a personal attack on Boroff. I have said here multiple times that it is hard to know what the writer intended by looking at a finished piece. (That being said, I do not believe writers can be consistently absolved of all guilt, but that is a matter for another time.)

Anyway, since Wednesday basically no one in theater was around and not much happened. Lance Bass was announced. While it doesn’t make sense to me that he would want to play Corny Collins, it does make sense that Hairspray would grab him. However I am having a hard time grasping the hiring of Ashley Spencer to play Amber. Now, if she is going to be just announcer random Amber, ok, fine. But if they are going to try to promote her as “from Grease: You’re the One that I Want” or whatever, I think they are sort of crazy. I mean, this is a show no one watched. It’s also a show that had two Ashleys that no one could keep straight. I’m just saying…

And now I’m out of interesting things to say. I could have written a big stagehands union thing, but that seems to serious for the end of the holiday time.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Those You've Known

I have a guest now and we're just about to watch Notes on a Scandal, so there will be no long post today. I do want to comment on a random story I read today by Philip Boroff of Bloomberg. You know I have said before (maybe not here but verbally) that I often don't get certain aspects of his stories, but, this one, really puzzled me overall.

It's a story about last season. OK. Fine. He starts by talking about Grey Gardens. He calls it "a season that was great for art but brutal for investors." Well, ok... but then he goes right on to talk about Pirate Queen, The Times They Are A-Changin' and High Fidelity. Umm... Are those shows part of his season of great art?

Then--this is my favorite passage--"While overall Broadway attendance was up 2.6 percent from a year ago, the season was especially hard on musicals, which account for $4 out of every $5 spent on Broadway. Moreoever, attendance for plays fell 23 percent to 1.48 million, the lowest since at least 1984-85. "

Well... follow my reasoning here... If Broadway attendance is up and play attendance is down, musical attendance must be up. But he said it was a hard season for musicals. Is anyone else confused by that reasoning? Did he mean to say "new" musicals? Well, he didn't. And, actually, that wouldn't have gone with his "$4 out of every $5" fun fact. So I just don't know.

Then there is a whole subsection within the story about "Advertising Costs" that doesn't mention how much any show is actually paying for advertising. It does contain one small thing about Curtains spending a lot on advertising, but that's pretty much it. Nothing else related to advertising costs.

So, yeah, I'm not getting this story. We all have errors in stories (I certainly have), but this story overall is just like "huh?" There are a lot of facts, but...

OK, time to watch Blanchett and Dench get campy.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I Ate The Cake I Had

Well, since I left you, a lot of odd things have happened. I'll talk about just a couple.

So this premium vs. premier seats thing. I was trying to convey this week to a fellow journalist why I thought these names, and the way they are being applied, dumb and I didn't quite make my point, so I am going to try to here. They sound too much alike. That's the first point. But, even if you wanted to use those names, "premium" should be the more expensive ones. And here is why: I have friends that work at ticketing agencies and rich people call and just say, "Give me the premium seats for..." They do this because they don't care about money and they think, from past experience, the premium seats are the best. Except, in the case of Young Frankenstein, the premium ones aren't the best. So you are going to have people calling asking for "premium" seats and getting what they think are the best seats in the house and then later on maybe finding out that they could have actually gotten even better seats because "premium" is no longer where it is at. And, let me tell you, I'm not sure the ticketing people are really going to be great about explaining this whole thing.

Of course, most industry folks were all up in arms about the high ticket price and the arrogance it showed (not to mention the fact that they are barely reserving any seats for groups, ticket-buyers who are usually in-demand), but I am never shocked by greed. That is to be expected, it's a business--I know because Debra Monk sings a song about it in Curtains. I'm just surprised that it's not being done in a more clever way. Instead of "premier" they so could have used "realm of genius" and those tickets could have been the cheaper of the outrageously expensive tickets. I'm just saying.

Moving on... So Grey Gardens announces that Mary Louise Wilson is leaving on July 29. OK. I'm with them so far. Then, a few days later the press office sends out a release (which I did not personally receive, but read online), using the term "open-ended run," essentially just to say (though not in the following words): "We're not closing, we're replacing Mary Louise Wilson. That's right, Christine Ebersole will continue with a new Edith. Really." Now, alone that was a tiny bit bizarre, but, not unheard of, so I'll give them that. What pushes this over the edge of weirdness is right as that release was going out, the producers took tickets off-sale past July 29. So, in other words, "I am telling you, we're not going" turned immediately into "We're not living without you, Mary Louise."

It strikes me as a little ridiculous. A huge sign of mismanagement. Now, I truly love the Grey Gardens press agent (who has done an amazing, amazing job, a fact no one should or could ever doubt) and I have not discussed this with him at all, but I'm fairly sure, just based on my knowledge of press agents in general, he wouldn't have asked to send out the release mentioned above. So the production must have wanted it, which pretty much means they weren't thinking. Because, you see, if they had waited and announced "Hey, we don't think we can go on without both of the ladies," many people would have thought they were spewing bullshit, but there would have been those that believed it. By doing what they did, it essentially says plainly "Well, we don't care about how good our Tony winners are, it's actually just that we're not selling any tickets." Which is of course basically the truth (minus some inside details), but, you know, producers don't usually do things that lay it out there. In this case, it's just embarrassing.

I have more oddities, but I'll save them for Wednesday. This is enough for today.