Tag Archives: Patti Lupone

Coming soon….my year of the diva!

From wikipedia:

diva is a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension in theatre, cinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna.

The word entered the English language in the late 19th century. It is derived from the Italian noun diva, a female deity.  The basic sense of the term is goddess.

(My definition includes actors, playwrights, novelists and any form of artistic expression.)

Jennifer Hudson

 

 

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Stinker Superstar, shrill Eva.

NEW YORK STORIES – The Shows Pt 2

1. Jesus Christ Superstar at the Neil Simon Theatre.

2. Evita at the Marquis Theatre.

I have decided to pair these two productions together for two reasons. Both are from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice team. and both are lacklustre second rate productions of ok musicals, well at least I used to think that they were ok. Perhaps I was wrong?

Jesus Christ Superstar came from an acclaimed sell out Canadian production and all I can say is that up there in Stratford Ontario they must not get out much. Of course this is not entirely true as it originated at the renowned Stratford Shakespeare theatre festival. I saw it on my first day at a matinee, and  I refuse to blame the jet lag for my lack of enthusiasm. I was wide awake in disbelief at how poor it was. It reminded me of musical moments on “Glee”, I am a fan of Glee but it is suited to the small screen and not a Broadway stage. Cheap sets, cheesy staging and two lead performances that were completely miscast or misconceived. Chilina Kennedy who plays Mary Magdalene couldn’t hit the notes and most of the time sounded out of tune, her acting was as mechanical as the set. I saw the understudy in the role of Jesus (Nick Cartell), his role was performed so boringly passive it made me aggressive!!! The only saving grace was Tony nominated Josh Young in the role of Judas, he is a fine actor and belted out his numbers with real conviction (it’s a great theatre role), unfortunately his costumes were very oddly fitting and cheap, along with the rest of the cast – the thrift shop suit Jesus wears in the final scenes looked like reject duds from a 70’s blaxploitation film, oversized on a small white man. The score was supposedly so loud they announced you did not have to switch off your cell phones as nobody would hear it. Well it wasn’t that loud and I found the orchestrations very dull and uninspired. A cheap production transported to the great white way, ripping off the tourists who most probably deserved it since they gave it their obligatory standing ovation. I sat put in my seat defiant!!  This Superstar was a stinker. Being my first production on this trip I was taken aback and feared for the worst. This week the producers have announced that if sales don’t pick up they will close the show on July 1st marking the production as a big flop as it should be. Perhaps there is a god after all?

Josh Young shines as Judas

Evita is another second hand production that originated in London quite a few years back. Acclaimed director Michael Grandage is responsible for the first ever revival of the hit musical from the late 70’s about the life of the infamous wife of an Argentine dictator. Originally it had star performances from Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin in the roles of Eva Peron and Che Guevara. This time we have dull performances from Elena Roger (recreating her London success) and pop star Ricky Martin who hardly registers at all in his role. This production has abandoned the high theatrics of the original clever Hal Prince staging and opted for a more realistic approach that unfortunately lays bare the tedium of the by the numbers biography elements of the show. Eva is bored in small town, Eva meets high powered politician and beds him, Eva wants power, Eva gets sick, Eva dies. It’s a bit like watching a Hallmark TV movie. Scary that I have compared both shows to television! Now back to the leading actress Elena Roger, she’s a pint sized dynamo in the first few scenes and well suited to the choreography (Rob Ashford doing a great job) they fling her up in the air countless times perhaps because they can. But she lacks the vocal chops that the role demands sounding so shrill it hurt my ears. The gimmick is that she is from Argentina therefore authentic, well unfortunately I didn’t understand very much of what she was singing, thankfully I knew the score. A lady sitting next to me was new to the whole show and was very confused and unimpressed. A saving grace was the standout performance by Michael Cerveris as Eva’s hubby the dictator Juan Peron. He gave the role soul and compassion and has a superb singing voice, very grateful that I got to see this fine performer live on stage. As for the rest of it well lets just say that I’m not crying for Argentina, I’m crying for Broadway mediocrity.

Michael Cerveris in his Tony nominated role as Juan Peron in Evita.

It is interesting that both productions have a standout supporting performer and that both leading ladies have vocal problems. Mr Lloyd Webber and Mr Rice sure have cashed in this year with lazy revivals of old hits. What I am fearing next is that Sir Andrew has a reconceived production of “Cats” waiting in the wings – this time performed on roller-skates with authentic cat fur costumes.

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Here she is boys…here comes Babs!

The other Babs, the more famous one!

RUMOUR has it (according to gossip monger and Spiderman the musical’s arch nemesis Michael Riedel of the NY Post) that Barbra Striesand is interested in producing, directing and starring in a new movie version of that great Broadway stage musical  “GYPSY”.

She is way too old, and too soft to play the part, in my own opinion. (soft in her screen persona of movie star – i bet she is a tough as nails). Rose needs to be tough, and a monster, without manicured fingernails, although with them she will be able to pick up egg rolls minus chopsticks, Mr Goldstone!

Arthur Laurents the book writer of the classic and arguably best ever Broadway book show has expressed his approval, he is an old, and I do mean old – aged 92 (possibly senile) old friend of Babs the diva beyond diva. So, hey old friends what do you say old friends? Please do not make this movie.

Here are a slew of grand divas who have performed, and (sometimes) perfected the grand old role of Momma Rose.

The original Rose – ETHEL MERMAN

ANGELA LANSBURY

ROSALIND RUSSELL

BETTE MIDLER

TYNE DALY

LINDA LAVIN (who I saw- a replacement for Tyne Daly, she was fabulous)

BERNADETTE PETERS

PATTI LUPONE (need I say more)

BABS ??? ( and those fingernails)

 

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Betty Blue Eyes

There are so many movies being made into musicals nowadays it is ridiculous.

Over the years there have been many, lately there have been way too many. Few hits, lots of misses.

Hits like “The Producers” , “Hairspray” & “The Lion King” can bring in the bucks and the audiences, but there are more often misses – or downright flops.

Most recently a musical adaptation of Pedro Almodovar’s hit film “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown” closed on Broadway earlier than its limited run! It was produced by a non-profit organization – The Lincoln Centre, had an all star Broadway cast (Patti Lupone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sherie Rene Scott & Laura Benati), still it flopped. The same composer had mini success with 2 other movie adaptations “The Full Monty” & “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” Not hits but they had decent enough runs.

“Legally Blonde” did ok, another John Water’s film adaptation “Cry Baby”, did not.  “9 to 5” flopped as did “High Fidelity”. “Xanadu” (soon to be seen in a tent production in Australia) was successful and “Mary Poppins” is a mega-hit. Even the cult documentary “Grey Gardens” managed a stage musical adaptation (semi successful).

Legally Blonde the musical

Stephanie Block, Allison Janney & Megan Hilty in the musical adaptation of “9 to 5”

Xanadu

Christine Ebersole & Mary Louise Wilson in their Tony winning roles in the musical of “Grey Gardens”

There are so many more to come…..

FAR FROM HEAVEN based on the brilliant Todd Hayne’s film.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE a US independent breakout hit and Oscar nominee (winner for Alan Arkin)

KINKY BOOTS a hit independent English film

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE a foreign language food film hit

TO DIE FOR the breakthrough performance that made Nicole Kidman’s name as a serious actress (if you want to call her that).

in London there is a stage production of the hit film “Ghost” premiering soon with music from The Eurythmic’s Dave Stewart no less.

the list goes on and on and on.

Julianne Moore in the film version of “Far From Heaven”

Of course the all time movie adaptation flop (also based on a book) – “Carrie The Musical”. Legendary in its failure, and about to be revived finally, off-Broadway in 2012. This is one musical I would kill to see.

I chanced upon a new musical opening on the West End in March, has apparently been on the cards for a while, but first heard about it this week. It is based on one of my all time favorite English comedies, written by the brilliant Alan Bennett and starring Maggie Smith, Michael Palin, Denholm Elliott and the wonderful Liz Smith (the first film to bring her to my attention/probably most famous as Gran in the brilliant UK comedy series “The Royle Family”). The movie is “A Private Function”. It is being produced on the West End at the Novello theatre in March. The stage musical adaptation is called “Betty Blue Eyes”.

For those not familiar, it tells the delightful story of Gilbert, a chirpodist and his social climbing wife Joyce as they try to settle into a Northern London village at the time of post war rationing and the announcement of the forthcoming wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. (Handy as this is the year of another Royal Wedding – William & Kate). Together with Joyce’s senile mother they attempt to swindle the towns leading businessmen and powers that be, who have planned a banquet in honour of the royal nuptials including an illegally bred pig – Betty. Hence the title of the musical (does Betty Windsor have blue eyes?). Producer is Cameron MacKintosh (no slouch when it comes to producing musical hits). The composers  had a hand in the new songs to beef up “Mary Poppins” amongst a lot of other projects. They have been championed by MacKintosh over the years.

I hope this one is a success, it is such a good film full of English eccentricities. I do wonder how they will manage a live pig on stage – “No Pig!” let’s hope not.

The wonderful Liz Smith.

 

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verge of a breakdown???

The musical version of “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown”  had its first audience preview in New York last night. The posts on the message board of broadwayworld.com indicate that the Broadway fans are not happy at all. Mind you it is the first preview, and it is coming in cold with no out of town try-out at all. I am sure there is a lot of work to do. I do hope they can pull it off, it has such promise. It will be interesting (to me) to follow the progress. These seasoned posters are a vicious opinionated bunch. If I had my way (and the money), I would love to sit in on every preview of a totally new Broadway musical, just to see how they shape it. Would be fascinating.

copywrite – Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

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meet the all new singing “Women On The Verge”.

Here is a first look glimpse at 3 Broadway divas who are in rehearsal for the upcoming Broadway musical “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown“. An adaptation of the 1988 Pedro Almodovar film. The musical goes into previews at the newly renovated Belasco theatre on Oct 2, with opening night scheduled for Nov 4. It appears to be a classy venture. Presented by the Lincoln Centre, it is being directed by Bartlett Sher, and designed by Michael Yeargan, the same creative team behind the hugely successful revival of South Pacific.

Composer-lyricist is David Yazbek and book writer is Jeffrey Lane, who collaborated on Broadway’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”.

Let’s hope it fares better than the recent stage adaptation of another Almodovar film – “All About My Mother”, of which I have previously posted.

[Fall_Theater]

left to right, Sherie Rene Scott, Patti Lupone and Laura Benanti

Also in the cast is Brian Stokes Mitchell & Danny Bernstein.

The original film cast.

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