Tag Archives: Tony Award

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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Happy birthday George, Martha and James.

October 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of 3 very popular and famous characters – two on stage and one on screen.

George and Martha one of theatres most contentious married couples exploded on stage October 13, 1962 in Edward Albee’s masterpiece Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.  A week  earlier on October 5th the film premiere of Dr No and adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel introduced us to super spy James Bond.

A half a century later they are still going strong with the release of the latest Bond film Skyfall (number 23 in the franchise), and the opening of a new production of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf on Broadway.

Sean Connery played James Bond first back then and he is arguably the best. Recently the mantle was taken over by actor Daniel Craig and some would say he may be ever better, he returns in Skyfall and the film itself has received very positive reviews from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. It has a serious director at the helm in Sam Mendes and with cinematography by the great Roger Deakins and production design by Dennis Gassner it is sure to be the best looking Bond film ever. Also quite exciting is that the latest Bond villian is played by Javier Bardem sure to be a highlight amongst many. It opens in Australia in early November.

The latest Broadway incarnation of Albee’s classic play comes by way of an acclaimed production by Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Playing the dysfunctional couple this time are actor/playwright Tracey Letts as George and Amy Morton as Martha. Morton played a leading role in Lett’s Tony winning hit play August: Osage County a few seasons back. It opened at the Booth theatre on October 13 exactly 50 years after the first premiere. Of course there was cinemas famous George and Martha played to perfection by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in a 1966 film adaptation directed by Mike Nichols, who can ever forget them! Legendary acting teacher Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill originated the roles.

From L-R Hagen & Hill, Taylor & Burton, Morton & Letts

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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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Let’s go on with the shows…….

NEW YORK STORIES – The Shows Pt 1.

I was in New York for a total of 29 days and 28 nights. I managed to catch 21 productions in total. Some shows were brilliant, others downright stinkers. I was there whilst the Tony awards were being presented – live. Fun that I had seen a few of the productions that were nominated and honoured. I’ll give my opinion of them all in coming posts but let me  just say that Lloyd Webber & Rice musicals need good productions and that playwright Kenneth Lonergan should not write & direct he also needs a good script editor…………

The Tony awards red carpet

Stinker # 1

Don’t cry for me Ricky Martin.

Lonergan should begin again.

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Meryl you are a witch???

No I am not complaining about my disappointment in Meryl Streep’s Oscar win last week for “The Iron Lady“.

This post is much more of a delight.

Meryl Streep is rumoured to be cast as the Witch in a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Into The Woods”. The film is to be directed by Rob Marshall who brought “Chicago” to the screens successfully (in box office terms-not artistic) but we must remember he is also responsible for bringing “Nine” to the screen which was a disaster (box office and artistically!) I do love his TV remake of “Annie” that was a success in my own opinion.

But there is more rumour-mongering about Meryl as the Witch…..

The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare In The Park Festival are mounting an outdoor production of the Sondheim musical this July and rumoured to play the Witch is none other than the reigning Oscar Queen Meryl. Is this an audition?

I am a big fan of this show and was very very lucky to see the original Broadway production way back in 1987 – Bernadette Peters played the Witch and she was fabulous. Of the course the role to steal the show belongs to the Baker’s Wife. Who will be cast in that coveted role? Joanna Gleason won the Tony that year and she was also fabulous! I recall turning to my partner and said – “she will win the Tony, not Peters!”

Brilliant Bernadette Peters – the original Witch of the woods.

In the meanwhile…..

Sondheim has announced that he is collaborating on a new musical with playwright David Ives who is currently represented on Broadway with the hit show “Venus In Fur” – of which Babs has on his list of “shows to see” when he is in town in May.

He has apparently written 20-30 minutes of the piece and says of it – “Having spent the better part of four years writing two books [Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hat], I’m really rusty,” Sondheim humbly said of his process. “I sit at the piano and think, ‘Where’s middle C?’ Any muscles, as you know, atrophy when you don’t use them, and I haven’t been using my musical muscles.”

Who cares? Any thought of another Sondheim musical certainly gets my muscles into action. I am so excited about this.

And what does he say about Streep the Witch? Sondheim neither confirms nor denies the rumours. “We will see,” the composer said. “I think she’d be great.”

My hero Stephen Sondheim.

Nina Arianda & Hugh Dancy star in David Ive’s “Venus In Fur”.

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Don’t speak….Bullets headed for Broadway

I am very pleased with the news that Woody Allen’s brilliant comedy “Bullets Over Broadway” is coming to, where else?

Broadway.

Woody is adapting his 1994 movie as a musical, aiming for a New York opening in 2013.  The musical is being co-written with Douglas McGrath, from their original screenplay, and will feature period music from the Depression era.

It tells the story of a struggling writer David Shayne who agrees to cast a gangster’s girlfriend – Olive, in his new play in exchange for financing.

I think this is one of Woody’s best films and certainly one of his funniest. It features a superb cast (John Cusack, Jennifer Tilly, Jim Broadbent, Tracey Ullman amongst others) and it gave the divine Diane Wiest her second Oscar for her portrayal of stage diva Helen Sinclair, who utters the famous words “don’t speak” in moments of ecstasy! A true laugh out loud moment.

Dianne Wiest (Helen) and John Cusack (David) in a moment of pure art direction and stunning costume design from the film.

 

Here are a few bits of the very funny dialogue from the film, hopefully to remain intact for the stage version, why would one change a word?

*The coloured maid Venus and the gangsters moll Olive (Jennifer Tilly – hysterical in her Oscar nominated role) have an interaction over cocktails…..

Olive: Hey, didn’t I tell you to make “horse durves”?
Venus: I don’t make nothin’ out of horses, especially “horse durves”, ’cause I don’t know what they are, and neither do you.
Olive: Oh, aren’t you the big mouth since you hit your number!
[raising her voice]
Olive: And I said the imported stuff!
Venus: The imported stuff ate through the bottle! It’s gone!
Olive: A likely story!
[composing herself – to David]
Olive: It’s very hard to get good help these days.

Jennifer Tilly as Olive.

*Sid Loomis, Helen’s agent (Harvey Fierstein) accuses her of being a drunk….

Sid: You’re a star because you’re great and you are a great star, but let me tell you something, Helen. In the last couple of years you’re better known as an adulteress and a drunk. And I say this in all due respect.
Helen: Look, I haven’t had a drink since New Year’s Eve.
Sid: You’re talking Chinese New Year’s.
Helen: Naturally. Still, that’s two days, Sid! You know how long that is for me?

*When Helen has a drink at the bar with David….

Helen: Two martinis please, very dry.
David: How’d you know what I drank?
Helen: Oh, you want one too? Three.

*And of course Helen’s most famous line, as David asks her for a kiss…..

Helen: No, no, don’t speak. Don’t speak. Please don’t speak. Please don’t speak. No. No. No. Go. Go, gentle Scorpio, go. Your Pisces wishes you every happy return.
David: Just one…
Helen: Don’t speak.

I can’t wait to see who gets the role of Helen Sinclair, sure to be filled by a true Broadway diva. (Patti Lupone anyone?)


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Heaven sent.

There is a new musical on the horizon that I am quite excited about. The songwriters responsible for Grey Gardens – Scott Frankel and Michael Korie are returning to the Playwrights Horizons with their new musical Far From Heaven as part of the Off-Broadway company’s 2012-2013 season.

It is based on the film of the same name, Far From Heaven and the book has been written by Tony Award winner Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out). Michael Grief (Grey GardensRent, Next to Normal) is set to direct the production that will premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival this American summer.

Playwrights Horizons, have  commissioned the work, but they have not announced dates for the off-Broadway  production. Grey Gardens also premiered at Playwrights prior to the Broadway transfer. I am a big fan of Grey Gardens and absolutely adore the film  Far From Heaven so I have high hopes for this one.

The 2002 movie was directed by Todd Haynes and  starred Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert and Dennis Quaid and had a supporting cast that included the wonderful Patricia Clarkson who was always harping on about the catering – I smell a song for her character, and Oscar nominee Viola Davis once again playing the maid.

This is how the musical is being billed – “Cathy Whitaker seems to be the picture-perfect wife and mother in 1957 suburban Connecticut. But roiling beneath the surface, secret longings and forbidden desires cause her world to unravel––with incendiary consequences. With a lush score that is both jazz-inflected and hauntingly lyrical, Far From Heaven is a powerful story of romance, betrayal, intolerance and a woman grappling with her identity in a society on the verge of great upheaval.”

No casting has been announced but it will surely have a great role for a singer/actress to play the part of Cathy. And like the great performances created in the musical Grey Gardens perhaps it will lead to a Tony award if the piece is successful and transfers to the Great White Way. I am looking forward to the sets and costumes that will be created as the film had such a lush look that surely needs to be replicated in some creative way.

Here are some beautiful stills from the movie…

Viola Davis

Julianne Moore & Dennis Haysbert

Patricia Clarkson – “oh I must check with the caterers” & Julianne Moore


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