Saturday, December 27, 2008


Wow, it's been quite a time for things I love in theater. Really. There is so much to talk about.

My favorite thing of the last few weeks was the Vanities delay statement. It was great to hear that the production was "being rescheduled for later this season out of responsibility to the investors at this complicated economic time, which makes it very hard to support a new musical on Broadway." I would have preferred: "due to the fact that, currently, while it is fun, this doesn't seem like a Broadway show, we've decided to hope and pray and then maybe we will come to realize that this is an off-Broadway show if a musical other than Altar Boyz or Forbidden Broadway could exist off-Broadway, but, since it is virtually impossible to survive off-Broadway, we'll probably scrap the whole idea." As someone who has seen it, that would have been my dream statement (well, a better written, more coherent version of that), but, alas, maybe we will see it, though hopefully the writing will be tighter than when I saw it previously.

Not since A Class Act.... Rock of Ages. 'nuff said. Actually, I'll say this: I wish everything success, so I hope it has a low running cost.

Pal Joey is a good show. And I appreciate the critics mentioning that. I often think people blame the show when it is the production's fault--I thought that a lot about the recent Sweet Charity, (though I loved Applegate) the production made the show seem worse than it is and so people said the show was just out-dated. I disagree. So I do like critics talking about an underlying show in a positive light. But... umm... poor Roundabout... "Glorious songs" (or whatever) only sells to people who would have been attending anyway.

I understand that theater shows need to attract all kinds of audiences, but I wish some of them would pick a tone, a style and, I don't know, maybe really focus in on main characters. There are so many random things going on in Shrek, I walked out thinking the creatives must have been high. And--is there any need for Broadway jokes coming out of the mouth of a small town kid from Indiana in 13? (That is where he moves, right? Indiana?) I mean, I personally love randomness in life in general (I use the word "random" all the time--my mother even used it in her post as sort of an ode to me), but I think it takes away something from the quality of a show. Would In My Life have been better without the lemon subplot? I don't know... when your show is going to be ridiculous no matter what, you might as well go all out... but, in general, some judicious editing is often wise.

Can they just stop giving these? Please? And, of course, Aiken is not nearly the worst of them, but he was the last straw in my mind. Can there be criteria beyond performing once on a stage and eating/drinking there? I mean, it's there place, so they totally should hang up their patrons, as they please, but, maybe I just want no coverage of it whatsoever. Because, when people cover it, it somehow makes it seem like a respectable honor. I think it used to be actually. Ah, how times have changed.

I am actually going to stop now because I want to sleep. Next week I am going to write a happier post (I hope). Meanwhile, two closings things... First, please go see Striking 12 if you never have. Lastly I want to take a moment to say something about the passing of Eartha Kitt, who was one of my father's very favorite performers. Eartha was one of those people who was exactly what you thought she would be like--a real personality. She was always very nice to me, even when I bombarded her with news questions. And she had such a presence on stage, even when she was not actually doing very much. You never lost Eartha on a stage. Of course, the news was mainly about Pinter this week (and, you know, that little holiday we had), but the loss of Eartha is a significant one in many ways. She was an old time perfomer--always giving the audience what they wanted. She never wanted to move on from the purring, she knew what people came to see.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mama's Talkin' Loud

I have much to write about some of the happenings in the last few weeks… But that will wait until I post again later this week. (The delay will be good because I have yet to see Shrek and I will probably want to comment on the reviews/show.) Right now I am going to turn over the blog to my mother. This may be the only time this ever happens, so let me introduce her to those of you who do not know her. I have a Jewish mother (complete with baking skills) who lives in the suburbs and loves theater. An example of how this played itself out in my childhood: I was raised to believe Harvey Fierstein was really, really famous and amazing. You get the idea. In many ways she is my litmus test for how the non-tourist audience of her ilk will react to something. I take her to almost all Broadway shows; she knows virtually every press agent by face. And she loves to talk about the theater—my friends want her to start her own blog! Based on what I have said about her, you might imagine that she is a big Mandy Patinkin fan. So when I was invited to see one of his shows at the Public, I knew she would be the one who would have to comment on it. We saw Dress Casual on Saturday night (it is playing in rep. with two other Patinkin concerts: Mamaloshen and Celebrating Sondheim). I will say that, in my opinion, if you like Mandy, this is definitely for you, if you don’t, you will likely not be converted. But I will let her say the rest on this topic and, as a special bonus, she will also discuss Billy Elliot just because she wanted to do so. (My disclaimer is of course that the thoughts below are not my thoughts and I do not endorse them, I'm just giving them space.)

Jill David speaks:
“I must start by saying that I am a huge Mandy Patinkin fan so there is definitely some prejudice involved here. Going to the Public is always somewhat of an experience because their organization is somewhat sporadic. For example, the ushers seemed to have no idea of the seat locations so people were put in the wrong seats and then had to move climbing over many more people than necessary

To the show. Dress Casual was the one show out of the three that has no song list because, we are told in the playbill, it changes all the time.

Lights fade, stage black. Lights come back on to reveal the star in the middle of the stage in black t-shirt slacks. He immediately launches into song – “Children and Art” - from Sunday in the Park with George, with Mandy playing all the parts in different voices. It seems to go on forever. But his immense talent is evident. The show continues and the pace picks up, thank G-d. The songs are interspersed with amusing anecdotes from the past. He tells a story about Joseph Papp and launches into a Yiddish song, "Yossela,Yossela," that, as far as I am concerned, would be worth the price of admission. Mr. Patinkin is not only a singer with an unbelievable range, but a wonderful actor. He not only sings the songs but acts them out. The show lasts over 2 hours without an intermission but you will not get bored (if you make it through the first song). Take my advice and do not miss it.

A show you can and should miss is Billy Elliot. If this is the Broadway musical of the season, Broadway is in really big trouble (having nothing to do with the economy). The book, adapted from the hit movie Billy Elliot, has potential. The score is totally non-memorable. The first act is interminable and totally random. The second act is better, perhaps because it is so much shorter. I know that the critics gave this show good reviews. I don’t get it. Maybe they think that if something is a hit in England it has to be good. NOT.”

Monday, December 01, 2008


Did anyone else not understand Michael Riedel's Friday column? I mean, I am the queen of not believing the reasons given in press statements for actors being out, shows being delayed, shows being cancelled, etc. So I am all for his sentence about the theater press buying things too easily -- though for me the problem is less things being accepted too easily and more reporters printing things whether they accept them or not--but that isn't relevant here.

What I am saying is his whole claim in the first few sentences is that it wasn't the economy that torpedoed Guare's play at the Public and so it's stupid that people printed it was. Then later on he says it was the economy. See, here is the issue, yeah, they pissed off Carole Shorenstein Hays, which, well, isn't smart. BUT, in another economic climate, they would have gotten away with it. Just like there are randomly people who want to produce August Wilson plays (a fact I often don't get), there are usually people that love George Wolfe enough to support his stuff. Just not now. So, okay, while they didn't lose Hays because of the economy--I am sure she has lost some of her money recently but nowhere near enough that this would put a dent in her savings--the economy did in fact screw them in the end.