Monthly Archives: September 2010

A starry lineup for the house.

Edie Falco at the Vanity Fair kickoff part for...

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Deadline Hollywood has just announced that a new revival of John Guare‘s play “The House Of Blue Leaves” will be opening on Broadway in the first quarter of 2011.

Starring in the acclaimed play will be my favorite nurse, Edie Falco and Ben Stiller.

I would so love to see Edie Falco perform on stage.

Guare’s play is set in a Queens household in 1965, on the day that Pope Paul IV is visiting New York. It is a black comedy that features nuns, a political bombing, a soldier heading for Vietnam, a zookeeper with dreams of becoming a songwriter, and his wife Bananas who is a schizophrenic  and headed for a mental institution – the house of blue leaves.

Stiller will play the zookeeper and Falco his mad wife.

The play has previously had productions off- Broadway in 1971 and was revived in 1986 at the Lincoln Centre. It then transfered to a Broadway house where it won the Tony for Best Revival. Ben Stiller made his Broadway debut in the 1986 production playing the part of the zookeeper’s son. Stiller’s mother Anne Meara was in the original 71 off-Broadway cast.

Look at some of the cast members in past productions.

1971 – Frank Converse & Katherine Hellmond (Soap).

1986 – John Mahoney, Swoosie Kurtz, Stockard Channing, Danny Aiello. Replacement casts included Christine Baranski & Patricia Clarkson.

It certainly attracts wonderful performers.

John Guare also wrote “Six Degrees Of Separation” and his new play “A Free Man Of Color” opens in November at the Lincoln Centre with a cast that includes Jeffrey Wright (Angels In America, Basquiat). He was responsible for the superb screenplay to Louis Malle’s film “Atlantic City” which earned him  an Oscar nomination.

Scott Rudin is producing and no director has been announced yet.

This Broadway season is certainly shaping up to be one of the the best in years.


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Merrily on a Monday

Merrily We Roll Along (musical)

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Well last night was part 2 of the Stephen Sondheim Triptyche presented by Magnormos Productions. “Merrily We Roll Along” in concert. What a splendid night it was.

After the delights of “Saturday Night” last week my expectations were high and I wasn’t disappointed.

Merrily is one of my favorite Sondheim scores and I really love the show as well.

It was a big flop when it premiered on Broadway back in 1981, it played only 16 performances after a whopping 52 previews. It also marked the end of the famed Harold Prince-Sondheim collaboration. (They reunited for Bounce in 2003). The show was revised in 1994 and it is this version that Magnormos have chosen to present.

It has a book by George Furth and is based on a 1934 play by George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart. Furth previously wrote the book for Sondheim’s Company.

The musical has an unusual structure as the story is told in reverse order. Starting out in the year 1976 and ending in 1954. It tells the story of 3 best friends, Franklin Shepherd – a successful Broadway composer, Charley – his collaborator/ lyricist and Mary – a successful novelist.

How did they get there from here?

At the beginning of the show we find that Franklin is a hugely successful film producer, having abandoned his friends Charley & Mary and his songwriting career.  As the story rolls backward the show ends with the three young idealistic friends watching the arrival of sputnik with dreams of a bright future. Along the way we see snapshots of important moments in Franklin’s life, showing us what shaped the man he is today.

I find the structure fascinating, very powerful and moving, and Sondheim’s remarkable score is possibly the reason the show is such a success for me. Others might find it challenging as the leading character is not such a nice guy, although by the end of the show, which is really the beginning, we see that he was once was a nice guy. The message of the price to be paid for success at all costs is kinda depressing – but oh so true.

So onto the Magnormos concert. While not as tightly directed as last weeks presentation of Saturday Night, it was very well sung and acted. My there is some hot talent out there in the Australian theatre world. Chris Parker as Franklin while at first seemed a little one dimensional (hard to play an asshole), certainly improved in the second act where he was more innocent and idealistic – he captured this so well. Stephen Wheat as the downtrodden Charley was a standout, his big “meltdown” number “Franklin Shepherd Inc”. had just the right amount of anger, frustration and disappointment – it was the highlight for me. Laura Fitzpatrick as Mary gave a wonderful entertaining, cynical (not bitter), funny and very moving performance. The secondary characters of Beth (Franklin’s wife), Gussie (Franklin’s mistress – then wife), and Joe (his producer), were all so very good. The rest of the ensemble all had their moments.

The big letdown for me was the choreography for the ensemble. It was third rate Fosse in it’s style and seemed inappropriate a lot of the time. Sometimes it came from nowhere and made me laugh for the wrong reasons. Still it is a minor quibble of an excellent presentation.

It is so good to see this show performed. Thank you Magnormos.

Next week – “Anyone Can Whistle”. I can’t wait!

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Her heart won’t go on

Vale Gloria Stuart

Film actress Gloria Stuart, who started out back in the early days of talkies and returned to become the oldest Oscar nominee in Academy Awards history in the blockbuster film “Titanic”  (age  87), has died in Los Angeles. She was 100 years old. Not a bad innings at all.

Playing the older Rose, the survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, she was nominated for supporting actress, as well as a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award,  she shared with Kim Basinger.

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I really got hot, when I saw Janette Scott……

First edition hardback cover

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….fight the Triffid that spits poison and kills.

Another remake of the classic John Wyndham sci-fi novel “The Day Of The Triffids” is on the way, this time in 3D, those stingers will be terrifying coming at ya!

What a tantalising story it is too. Triffids are an intelligent and aggressive plant species that come with a whip-like venomous sting, a plant that mankind is cultivating for its oils. When a meteor shower renders most of humanity blind, civilisation collapses and those few who can still see attempt to establish a colony in the countryside.

The story has been adapted 3 times previous. The film version was back in 1962 and starred Janette Scott. The BBC made a terrific mini-series back in 1981, and there was another mini made in 2009 it starred Dougray Scott, Eddie Izzard & Vanessa Redgrave (I have yet to see this one).

The previous adaptations were limited by technology to make the plants convincingly threatening, so the new producers are confident that with the new 3D technology available they will be able to capture the true dark horror and suspense elements of the novel.

As a child I remember being terrified seeing the original movie, probably saw it on The Deadly Ernest Show in the 70’s.

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Marilyn & Co.

Derek Jacobi on stage performing "A voyag...

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Further Casting news.

I recently blabbed on the new film about Marilyn Monroe & Laurence Olivier and the making of “The Prince And The Showgirl”.

The new film “My Week With Marilyn” has some new additions to the cast, it is shaping up to be a fine ensemble of British actors indeed.

Joining Michelle Williams (Marilyn), Kenneth Branagh (Olivier) and Judi Dench (Sybil Thorndike) are Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark the PA on who’s diary the film is based. Redmayne’s star is in on the rise at the moment. He won the Tony earlier this year for featured actor in “Red”, and is starring in the new Steven Spielberg adaptation of the acclaimed West End hit “The War Horse”. Emma Watson (Harry Potter’s delightful witch) is in negotations to play a wardrobe mistress who dates Clark. Others include Sir Derek Jacobi, Zoe Wanamaker and Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia).

I am very excited about this film, with such a great cast it will be irresistible.

Eddie Redmayne

Emma Watson

Dominic Cooper

Zoe Wanamaker

© Joseph Marzullo/Retna

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Musical Madrigal

The popular book & television series “Tales Of The City” is to become a musical.

Inspired by the novels “Tales of the City” and “More Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin, the musical looks at the lives of the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, in 1970s San Francisco.

The American Conservatory Theatre based in San Francisco will produce the world premiere in May 2011. But first it will have a second workshop.

Previously it had a developmental run at the O’Neill Center’s Musical Theater Conference in 2009.

The musical’s score is by Scissor Sisters band members Jason Sellards (lyrics) and John Garden (music), and it’s book is by Tony winner Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q).  Jason Moore (Avenue Q, Shrek), who staged the developmental run of the musical at the O’Neill Center’s Musical Theater Conference in 2009, will again direct.

Tony Award winner Betty Buckley (Cats) recently tweeted  that she will be playing marijuana-friendly landlady Anna Madrigal in the workshop. The role was brilliantly portrayed in the TV series by Olympia Dukakis. Great casting I say. No official casting has been announced, and cast from the workshop don’t necessarily go on to appear in the production.

I am a huge fan of the books and subsequent mini-series (3 were made). I do hope that they do a good job adapting it into a musical form.

Copyright © 2010,

Olympia Dukakis and Armistead Maupin. Credit: Randi Lynn Beach / For The LATimes


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Vale Eddie Fisher

Breaking News.

Eddie Fisher is dead!

R.I.P. Eddie Fisher.


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Baz Luhrmann to adapt Strictly Ballroom

Strictly Ballroom Poster art

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Baz Luhrmann has announced that he is to adapt his hit 1992 film Strictly Ballroom into a stage musical. Luhrmann, who will direct, “will commence a creative workshop of the book, text, and music in December 2010 in Sydney, Australia,” according to a Sept. 23 announcement. “The full production schedule and location of the premiere will be announced at a later date.”

Strictly Ballroom the film was co-written (with Craig Pearce) and directed by Luhrmann. It was based on a play he conceived, co-wrote and directed as a student at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney.

The film was a big hit at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Prix de le Jeunesse. Produced for less than $5 million, the film spent many weeks in the number one spot in the U.K. and Australia and earned more than $80 million. It was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Picture, Comedy or Musical category and won three BAFTA awards.

Strictly Ballroom will be produced for Global Creatures by Carmen Pavlovic and Rob Brookman in partnership with Bazmark productions.Oscar and Tony Award-winning designer Catherine Martin (Luhrmann’s wife) will, of course, be designing Strictly Ballroom for the stage.

The film seems ripe for a musical treatment, with the huge popularity of the TVseries Dancing With The Stars there should be an audience out there wanting to see ballroom dancing on the stage.

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Saturday Night on a Monday night.

The Magnormos Musical Theatre company have joined other worldwide companies in celebrating composer Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday year. He became an octogenarian on March 22.

Magnormos decided to present a Sondheim Triptyche – 3 concert productions of lesser known musicals composed by Sondheim. All performed in the Melbourne Recital hall.

The 3 chosen musicals being:

1. Saturday Night (1954)

2. Merrily We Roll Along (1981)

3. Anyone Can Whistle (1964)

So off I went on Monday night to see the first presentation “Saturday Night”.

I have seen most productions of Sondheim musicals in some form, whether professional, amateur or in concert form over the years. I had never seen a production of Saturday Night, so a real first for me. And what a treat it was.

Saturday Night was supposed to be Sondheim’s first ever Broadway show, but when it was due to be performed back in 1954 the shows producer died and the show was shelved. It finally was performed in New York, off Broadway in 2000. Some of the songs have appeared in revues and tribute albums – I recognized “So Many People” and “What More Do I Need”, 2 terrific tunes. Sondheim has a fondness for the musical, but he has said it is his baby show, and he is embarrassed by some of the corny gags and lyrics. I thought that was part of it’s great charm.

It is very old fashioned but you can see the formation of a great composer in it’s score. The book was written by Julius J. Epstein, based on the play “Front Porch in Flatbush”. written by Julius and his brother Phillip G. Epstein who both wrote the screenplay for “Casablanca”, which won them an Oscar.

This is the plot. In 1929 inBrooklyn, New York, a group of  bachelor friends are restless on several Saturday nights because they have no dates. Gene, who works in a minor job in a Wall Street firm, has dreams of the exciting society life to be found in Manhattan, across the bridge,  while his friends are content to stay in the neighborhood. Gene meets Helen, who is crashing a party at the Plaza Hotel (as is Gene). He schemes to “get rich quick”, but his plan backfires and he barely escapes jail.

The wonderful Magnormos cast did a fine job – presented as a concert with scripts in hand, and projections to help give you a sense of place. They sang well, had excellent comic timing, they really didn’t put a foot wrong. With very good direction and choreography it was a fun show. I guess the only thing was that there were no mikes, as it was presented in the recital hall with excellent acoustics.This sometimes made it a bit of a struggle to hear some of the lyrics, but once you got used to it, the charms of the show took over. Sing out Louise!  Singers nowadays have very little training in projection, such a shame. Where’s Ethel & Patti when you need them 🙂

I am very excited to see next Monday’s presentation of “Merrily We Roll Along”, it is one of my favorite Sondheim scores. Will blab about it next week.

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The ups and down of modern life

I am currently on a tram to visit the Apple store. I thought it would be a good time to test out blogging from my iPhone. The upside of modern life – blogging on the go.
Why am I visiting the Apple store you may ask? Well my computer was starting to act strange. The “spinning wheel of death” appearing way too much for my liking. It turns out I needed a new hard drive – the downside of modern life. All is well thankfully. A new hard drive has been installed and I have a complete back up ready to load. Phew!

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