Friday, December 26, 2008

Top Videos of 2008

It is the day after Christmas and we are still recovering from the stupor of yesterday’s excitement. Realizing that there are only a handful of days left in the year, I felt the need to seize a few moments to throw another "best of" list up on the ol’ blog.

Today’s feature? The best videos of 2008…

The following videos are those that kept me entertained throughout the year but were not shot by me. There were so many great moments on YouTube that it was impossible to narrow it down to five, so you what have here a Top 10 list. In the case of video series, I will imbed the link to the first of the series. Videos that could not be imbedded are linked in the title.

President-Elect Barack Obama on Election Night
One of the most historical nights in American history and I am happy to say in unfolded in my lifetime. That’s hope, my friend. Hope.

This tribute to one of my favorite shows of 2008 is totally [tos]some. I loved seeing all the familiar faces and incredible support for this inspiring show. And, of course, you have to check out the [title of show] Show, which was instrumental in Hunter, Jeff, Heidi and Susan’s transfer to Broadway.

Legally Brown: The Search for the Next Piragua Guy
The star-studded series Legally Brown: The Search for the Next Piragua Guy from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Co. is so entertaining. I love how Broadway is embracing the YouTube phenomena and the folks at In The Heights do it some serious justice.

Merry Christmas, Nicholas
The heart and soul of In The Heights is that the cast and crew of the show have heart and soul. This video highlights the classiest move on Broadway this year, hands down.

The Battery’s Down
The trials and tribulations of the multi-talented Jake Wilson come to life in The Battery's Down. This theatre-centric online series comes cram-packed with Broadway guest stars and appeals to the drama geek in all of us. A man after my own heart, Wilson directs, writes, choreographs and stars in this online TV series which highlights some of the brightest composers on the horizon. Now if he could just land himself a big fancy Broadway job. But perhaps that will come in Season 2.

Prop 8: The Musical
The highs and extreme lows of the hate-fueled anti-marriage vote in California are given a musical twist by another star-studded cast. The musical theatre lover in me loves shit like this.

Cubby Bernstein
The vigorous 2007-2008 Tony race for Best Musical spawned the video campaign that unveiled Broadway wunderkind Cubby Bernstein. At the heart of the campaign was underdog Xanadu, the charming little musical that took residence at the Helen Hayes for a spell.

Frozen Grand Central
This video of an improv group Improv Everywhere unleashed on Grand Central Station. Simply amazing.

Old Mr. Drew
At Iconis’ Secret Show at the Beechman a couple months back, Joe sang a couple of tunes and several up-and-coming composers bearing his stamp of approval also performed. Molly Hager performed Michael R. Jackson’s “Old Mr. Drew” which just left me speechless. This video is from Michael’s show Dirty Laundry and is just mindblowing.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
What happens when a couple of Hollywood writers on strike are looking to kill some down time? Brilliance, that’s what.

The following videos are the fruits of my budding camera work and editing skills.

OSP Montage Video
In January 2008, the band formerly known as Old Springs Pike booked five shows at Joe’s Pub. I went to two of them and assembled this video from the January 4th footage. Days later, John Gallagher, Jr. and the band parted ways. OSP sans Gallagher is now known as The Spring Standards and Gallagher performs solo. While both musical acts are doing well in their own right and enjoying their own successes, I can’t say this montage doesn’t make me a little nostalgic.

Jason "SweetTooth" Williams et al - The Goodbye Song
I’ve been to several Iconis shows this year, an addiction that began with this song. A couple of my videos feature John Gallagher, Jr. performing the E.T.-inspired closer to Iconis shows. However, it is this simple version performed at The Secret Show that is is my favorite. Right before they performed this song, Joe invited anyone who knew the song to join him onstage. Believe me, I was tempted.

Isabelle’s Voting Results
South Street School had a mock election on the twins’ birthday. Isabelle first explains what she would like for her special birthday meal and then tells me who she voted for in the election.

Peter Pan Video
My summer was spent in Neverland with my family. I assembled this video for the cast and crew. It reminds me of how magical theatre can be sometimes.

The Bar Song
Another Iconis tune. For some reason, this song breaks my heart a little.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 5 Productions of 2008

So I’m sitting here on this cold, snowy December morning thinking about the New York theatre I saw in 2008, attempting to compartmentalize everything into a scant few Top 5 lists. Let me tell you – it has been a challenge. But I think I’ve done it.

So, without further ado…

The following Top 5 list is based on Broadway and Off-Broadway productions I personally saw in 2008. There were, in fact, a lot I did not see: Passing Strange because I was stupid, South Pacific because I had to make choices, Billy Elliot because I’m broke. I suspect this list would have been drastically different had I seen any of those shows.

1. August: Osage County
August: Osage County is widely known as the three-hour play that you want to last another three hours. And it has not earned that reputation without reason. It is a brilliant, character-driven story that propels you through a few tragic yet hysterical days in the Weston household. To put it simply, August: Osage County leaves you beautifully stunned. Tracy Letts’ subsequent Tony and Pulitzer are so well deserved. I saw the production early enough to see the entire original cast, including the author’s father, Dennis Letts, who was in the final days of his battle with lung cancer. To read my complete review, click here.

In September 2007 I slept on the line at the Delacorte to see the concert in Central Park. In August 2008 I did the same thing to see Diane Paulus’ fully realized production as part of The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park series. And in February 2009, I’ll trade in my sleeping bag for a $100 bill and will be able to see it in a big fancy Broadway house. Little will compare to that sultry summer evening in Central Park, seeing this moving and inspired production of Hair under the stars and in this political climate. The memory of rushing to the stage to dance to the final strains of “Let The Sunshine In” with this stellar cast will be forever cherished.

3. [title of show]
[title of show] touched a nerve, tickled my funny bone, made me cry and won my heart in 90 minutes. The “little show that could” chronicles its own move to Broadway in a way that speaks to all creative types battling those dreaded vampires. Rocking hard with only four chairs, Hunter, Jeff, Heidi and Susan proved that a small, original musical has just as much right to the Broadway stage as those big, splashy type musicals. Sadly, [title of show] was one of the many casualties of the bleak 2008-2009 season. Something, however, tells me that we haven’t seen the last of this incredible foursome or their original musical. And I certainly am one [tos]ser eager for their return.

4. In The Heights
In June, being caught up in the delightful frenzy of Ms. Antoinette Perry’s company, a friend and I agreed to get tickets for In The Heights for September just moments before it won the Tony for Best Musical. Of course, I was foolishly thinking I’d have the money to afford a full-price orchestra seat by then. After selling about $150 worth of CDs, I raised the money and despite the looming threat of Hurricane Hanna’s aftermath, I headed to NYC to see In The Heights. And the adventure begins there. I missed my train and arrived in GCT with 10 minutes until curtain. I grabbed a cab and was dropped off in a torrential downpour two blocks away from the Richard Rodgers. As soon as I got out of the cab, I realized that I was missing my wallet along with my train ticket, credit cards, ID and $200 cash (to pay my friend back for the aforementioned unaffordable ticket). I ran through the pouring rain to get to the theatre, picked up my ticket at the box office and rushed down to the 2nd row. Just as soon as I announced, “My wallet is gone!” the house lights dimmed and the show began.

During the whole opening number of In The Heights, my mind was racing with worry. Even still, it didn’t take long for this invigorating and heartfelt production to reel me away from those worries for a couple of hours. In The Heights is an exuberantly performed show that inspires on so many levels. And,
like [title of show], I heart Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of In The Heights, too.

5. Port Authority
One of my personal favorite actors, Tony winner John Gallagher, Jr., made two post-Spring Awakening appearances on the Atlantic Theater Company’s stage in 2008. Most recently he appeared in the much touted Farragut North, which I unfortunately had to miss. Earlier in the year, however, he appeared in Conor McPherson’s beautiful monologue play Port Authority, which I did have the good fortune to see. Alongside the brilliant Jim Norton and the masterful Brian d’Arcy James, Gallagher’s vulnerable and heartbreaking turn as a young Irishman helped to create one of 2008’s most pleasant surprises and a memorable evening of theatre to behold.

[title of show], August: Osage County, Cry-Baby, Equus, Hairspray, In the Heights, Spring Awakening (2x) and Xanadu; Off-Broadway: Damn Yankees, Green Eyes, Queen Esther, Hair, Hamlet, Port Authority, The Black Suits and The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Two Videos You Must See!

OK – November was a busy month. And I lived through it. December is busy, too. A different kind of busy but busy nonetheless. Now I’m just seeing how many times I can used the word busy in one paragraph. Ooops! I did it again!

So basically that is why posts have been sparse. I’ve been busy. But not so much that I am not able to spend a few moments to share two am-AH-zing videos with you. The first is a star-studded musical video,
Proposition 8 – The Musical, in response to the embarrassing and hateful gay marriage vote in California. I now have one more reason to love Allison Janney and dear ol’ Doogie himself, Neil Patrick Harris. Also featured are Jack Black as Jesus Christ and Sarah Chalke, Margaret Cho, Barrett Foa, Nicole Parker, John C. Reilly, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph and Kathy Najimy. It is fucking brilliant!

And a shout-out to the incredibly awesome
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast and crew of In The Heights. The video speaks for itself.

Yes, Nicholas, there is a Santa Claus. And he owns a bodega in Washington Heights.

Click here to read the whole story behind 10-year-old Nicholas Dayton and his YouTube video that earned him the chance to perform the Finale with Lin and the entire cast and crew in between a matinee and evening performance. Nicholas’ performances sort of remind me of that time when, with Fireside Theatre script in hand and my OBC LP spinning on the ol’ Fisher Price, I acted and sang the entire production of Pippin in my bedroom. If only they had computers with cameras then. No wait, perhaps not.

So enjoy those little video treats while work on my Top 5 Lists for 2008, which will include Top 5 Shows, Top 5 Performances, Top 5 Discoveries and Top 5 Videos. I might also ruminate on the Top 5 Posts and/or Keywords from my blog.
But that all depends on how busy I get.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Broken Foot

Despite the fact I had been around the theatre practically since birth, it wasn’t until 1979 that I first acted before an audience that wasn’t assembled in my living room. It was in a children’s play called Once Upon A Clothesline and I portrayed the pivotal role of Dr. Beetle who aids the unfortunate clothespin Pinette, who has fallen from the clothesline.

We rehearsed at the
YMCA in whichever room was available to accommodate our tween-aged thespian troupe. On one particular afternoon we rehearsed in the gym amidst the gymnastics equipment. Like most 10-year-old girls who had been swept up in the whirlwind of Nadia Comaneci’s 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, I took gymnastics. And having taken two years of gymnastics classes at that very same Y, I fancied myself a gymnast. One wintry afternoon, during my offstage time, I found myself wandering over to the balance beam and performing a round-off dismount that ended in a very un-Comanecilike landing.

The next morning my swollen and purple foot prompted a visit to the doctor’s office. Upon further examination, the doctor suspected that the foot might be broken and put my foot in a temporary splint that would stabilize it until we got to the hospital to have it x-rayed. As he was wrapping my foot, I remember crying. Not because my foot hurt, although it did, but because I was going to miss out on my big acting debut.

A broken growth plate, a foot cast and a set of crutches later, the accommodating creative team rallied and I was still able to make my acting debut. In fact, the doctor that made her entrance on crutches was cause for a bit of a chortle. So, despite the drama and the tears, the show still went on and I with it.

Throughout the years, many of my acting experiences have had a “broken foot” that I’ve had to work through alongside the performance: my aunt’s suicide, the death of my grandfather, my sister’s near fatal accident, my father’s cancer diagnosis. In many ways, having a show to focus on has helped me work through those difficult times. It is probably one of the many reasons that I have such a passion for theatre and why I repeatedly refer to it as my one true constant.

Nowadays, after having dallied in many of the theatre’s disciplines – acting, writing, directing, design, stage management, choreography and crew – I find myself opting for directing projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love acting but because I have to be more discretionary with how I select my theatre projects I usually opt for directing projects. In most cases I am more passionate about the shows that I have the opportunity to direct than the ones that I would be interested in auditioning for.

Of course, as fate often dictates, when it rains it pours. 2009 promises to be quite the theatrical year for me. I have received four offers to direct, two of which I have accepted. Furthermore, while official announcements won’t be made until January, there are a few other theatre-related endeavors that I will have a hand in. Naturally, amidst this flurry of theatrical activity, two dream roles that I would give my eye-teeth to audition for have surfaced. Given my love for theatre, all of this opportunity is akin to letting a kid loose in a candy store. And being the realist that I am, I have been waiting for a few months for the other shoe to drop.

And it has.

The shoe first dropped with the reminder that I need to be cognizant of the other responsibilities that I have in my life: my family, my marriage, my job. Regretfully, I never pursued my theatrical ambitions in earnest and, therefore, my love of the stage does not pay the bills. As such, there is no justification for my theatrical adventures outside of the happiness and personal fulfillment it brings me. Given the strain that it puts on the other aspects of my life and recognizing the selfishness of pursuing an unrealized dream is basically a dropping shoe that was both inevitable and justified.

However, unbeknownst to me at the time, that dropping shoe was falling off of a broken foot.

Last week I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. During tech week for Little Women and the week abroad that followed I was feeling a bit under the weather. I knew something was up and scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the Monday following my return from the UK. At the appointment I listed off my symptoms and the nurse asked me if I had history of diabetes in my family. After a couple of quick tests in the office, it was evident that I did, in fact, have diabetes. My doctor sent me to the pharmacy and I was put on insulin straight away. The next day, I went to the endocrinologist who explained to me that I had such high sugar and ketone levels that I narrowly escaped ketoacidosis and hospitalization. Another blood test later, it was revealed that I did indeed have type 1 diabetes and that I would be on insulin injections for the rest of my life.

Now, like any self-respecting theatre aficionado, I have seen
Steel Magnolias and, until now, that play/film had formed the basis for my knowledge of diabetes, specifically type 1 which Julia Roberts’ character Shelby has. When I tell people of my diagnosis, I can see in their faces whether or not they are replaying select scenes Steel Magnolias in their heads. And that’s okay. I have done it countless times, too.

There are times when I’m scared. There are times when I’m pissed off. There are times when I’m sad. There are times when I'm defiant. And those feelings will not go away, much like the disease responsible for generating them. I’m sure these emotions will grow more infrequent as I prepare for a lifetime of “managing” diabetes. It is just a matter of incorporating them, and it, into my now drastically altered life.

It is amazing what a person can learn in two weeks. Naturally, I am reading as much as I can about the disease and am doing my level best to get it under control. My life experiences have provided a pretty solid medical knowledge, so I’m learning the textbook side of things fairly easily and I've become a pro at injecting insulin into my now bruise-covered stomach. But in the past two weeks I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I have a passion for many things: my family, my friends and my art. I’ve also learned how difficult it is to balance so many loves. While it isn't a skill I've yet mastered, it is one I plan to hone. But as
Emerson says, art is a jealous mistress. Believe me, I recognize the priorities I’ve got at the moment but I also know that my mistress will wait only so long before she gets restless.

So here I am, left to steady my course and face the road ahead. Yes, I have a broken foot and, while it may slow me down for a bit, it will not stop me. So, despite the drama and the tears, the show will go on and I will go on with it.

Mark my words.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Burning The Candle At Both Ends

So I've been super busy lately - working the day job, devoting my evenings to rehearsal for Little Women, spending weekends with the family and just generally being crazed.

That said, if you live within a reasonable distance from Brookfield, Connecticut, get your tickets to see Little Women now. The cast is amazing, the voices are tremendous and its a classic story in the form of good, wholesome musical theatre. I'm pretty proud of this puppy, I must say.

LOCATION: The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts (TBTA)
ADDRESS: 182 Whisconier Road (Route 25) behind the Brookfield Library
DATES: November 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8:00pm and November 16th at 2:00pm
RESERVATIONS: 203-775-0023

In between rehearsals, I worked in two trips to NY to catch a couple shows. The first show being the much anticipated Equus featuring Richard Griffiths, Daniel Radcliffe and Kate Mulgrew. Now, I've seen two separate productions of this show in my lifetime, performed the stable scene in a Florida State Thespian competition and have read the play several times. So I think it's safe to say I'm familiar with the show. Daniel Radcliffe was quite good, Richard Griffiths was palatable but miscast I'm afraid and Kate Mulgrew was stiff and awkward. The actors playing Mr. and Mrs. Strang had horrible British accents and hardly came off as despicable as I think they should.

The set design had its good points and its bad. While the observation deck that hosted onstage spectators looked cool, I don't think anyone that paid full orchestra prices for those seats would say that they were optimal seating. It was very distracting to have the actors moving the boxes around to create the various locales. While I expect (and employ) this method in community theatre, I do not understand it on Broadway. And after the blinding scene, lowering the six wire horses heads from the ceiling was not only hokey but distracting.

So I guess you would say I was underwhelmed.

The other show that I took in was a Joe Iconis & Friends gig at The Laurie Beechman Theater. It was just the right jolt I needed to get me through to December or January. Several classic Iconis tunes were performed and Joe also invited some his favorite emerging composers to share the spotlight. Several of the artists that you see in the "Creative Types" sidebar (Gaby Alter, Nick Blaemire, Jason "SweetTooth" Williams, etc.) were there performing their stuff. There were also a few new ones (Rob Broadhurst, Mike Pettry, Ladystein, etc.). I was particularly struck by the very powerful song "Old Mr. Drew" by Michael R. Jackson. Here's a video from his recent show at ARS Nova:

Yeah - I pretty much fell out of my chair when Molly sang this at The Beech.

The opportunity to take in an Iconis show is becoming more and more available these days. You should check out Things To Ruin at The Zipper for a concert of Iconis tunes performed by some of the finest young talent around, on Broadway or off. Seriously. And if you're lookin' for a more musical theatre kind of venture, Urban Stages just announced the world premiere of Joe's newest mini-musical triple feature, ReWrite. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, see an Iconis show. You won't be disappointed.

And finally - a recent event to be totally stoked about: being able to officially utter the words President Elect Barack Obama.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Second Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trailer

New Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince trailer is making its way around the Web...


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

600 Words + 600 Friends = [tos]some Video for 9pft

There is so much craziness in my life between now and the end of November that once I get past it I might well refer to this month as "The Zombie Month" until the end of my days.

But I just needed to share this with you because it is so incredibly [tos]some:

For a complete list of everyone in order of appearance, please visit:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

No Day But [tos]day

A couple of weeks ago I spent virtually the entire weekend sitting at my computer doing an analysis for work. Basically, this particular weekend sucked the life out of me and I’ve only just now barely recovered, although I'm still reeling from my 8-year-old asking me why I have to work all the time.

Last week, while sitting in my temporary cubicle at the office, the colleagues for whom I prepared this analysis presented me with a gift bag that, among other things, included a $100 Amex gift card that I was instructed to use on myself.

So, what does that mean? It means that I am going to see [title of show] today. It means that today, the vampires will come just a little bit closer to death.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

NYU Brings Tesori's Violet To Light

Have you ever heard the cast recording for a show and fallen in love with it without ever having seen the fully-realized production or read the script? I think there is something very special about a musical that captures your devotion purely based on the music. Some of my most passionate musical love affairs have started this way: Hair and Merrily We Roll Along immediately come to mind. As do some lesser known gems like Iconis’ The Black Suits and Tesori's Violet.

Even though I have had to limit my intake of theatre in 2008, I did have the opportunity to see all four of these productions professionally staged. And good ol’ Thespis did me a favor, too, and smiled on the price tag: I saw all shows for the total ticket price of $60. Yes, boys and girls, you can see quality theatre on a budget!

Basically, if you take these four shows and throw in Bare and a couple plays you’ve got my fantasy directing roster in your hands. Despite (or perhaps because of) my deep affinity for these shows, I have somehow managed to avoid reviewing any of them. Fearful, I suppose, that my own personal vision might cloud my judgment.

This aforementioned avoidance, however, ends here.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take in the NYU Steinhardt School’s production of Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s obscure Off-Broadway success Violet. Directed by NYU faculty wunderkind John Simpkins, this production is well-paced, deftly performed and visually exhilarating.

Based on Doris Betts’ novel, The Ugliest Pilgrim, this seldom-produced musical tells the tale of Violet’s journey to visit a faith healer in Oklahoma who she hopes will rid her of the disfiguring scar that she accidentally received from her father’s wayward axe. Along the way, she meets two soldiers who help her to understand the power of forgiveness, acceptance and the beauty we all hold within.

Set during the onset of the Civil Rights Movement, the story offers plenty of opportunity for poignant parallels between Violet’s isolation and that felt by African Americans during a volatile time in our country’s history. Violet also explores religious fanaticism and how the business of the church preys upon the faithful. In both instances, however, the book touches upon these moments all too topically and sometimes borders on the cliché. The dialogue in Violet serves primarily as a way to get from one song to another, which is where most of the storytelling is done.

Most theatre aficionados know Jeanine Tesori as the composer of Thoroughly Modern Millie or Caroline, or Change. These days, Ms. Tesori is working on bringing Dreamworks’ Shrek to the boards. However, it is through Violet’s Southern influenced score that I first got turned on to Tesori. The rousing “On My Way” is a cabaret favorite and the melodic “Lay Down Your Head” was recorded by the incomparable Audra McDonald on her solo album How Glory Goes. The music in this production is rich in gospel, country and blues flavors and, for me, that is music that is comfort food for the soul.

It is no secret that NYU breeds Broadway talent of the finest stock and the cast assembled by Mr. Simpkins only proves that fact. The ensemble of actors, which is comprised of Steinhardt Vocal Performance majors and Masters candidates, masterfully executes the rangy score under the musical direction of Stan Tucker, who also conducts.

In the title role, senior Caitlyn Caughell turns in a stunning performance. An Oklahoma native, she expertly slips into Violet’s country drawl and, despite the fact the scar is invisible to the audience’s eye, Ms Caughell makes you feel the pain of a scar that runs miles deep. The real treat, however, is when she sings and her voice fills the room. Whether sassy, robust or sweet, Ms. Caughell navigates each song with great skill and a big heart, particularly when she implores her father to look at her disfigured face in the aptly-titled “Look At Me”.

As the soldiers that accompany Violet on her journey, senior Gregory Williams (Flick) and junior Rich Krakowski (Monty) are as we want our leading men to be: strong yet gentle. Mr. Williams’ agile tenor voice brings down the house with “Let It Sing” and he delivers a moving performance in what I believe to be the most underwritten character in the play. Mr. Krakowski shines in “You’re Different” and when he implores Violet in “Promise Me, Violet” there is no question in your mind why she does.

The solid performance of senior Ryan Speakman as Violet’s father, the effervescence of junior Natalie Hinds as Young Vi and the sultry song stylings of junior Melanie Field as the Music Hall Singer/Mabel highlight what truly is a strong ensemble of actors with no weak link among them.

Simpkins’ direction and Jennifer Werner’s choreography guide the actors fluidly from scene to scene on a set that easily adapts to multiple locations. With the help of a few period style signs, some moveable furniture pieces and a woodshed, we easily "travel on" with Violet and her entourage. Most notable is the revolving wooden structure that serves as a mountain, a choir loft and a night club. I’ve seen several of Simpkins’ productions and once again he deftly uses levels, angles and multifunctional set pieces to conquer the challenge of musicals with multiple locales.

Violet is a gem that has been lovingly unearthed by NYU. And while she may be the wallflower when you’re looking at your dance card, taking Violet for a whirl at Frederick Loewe Theatre may just surprise you.

NYU’s Violet runs September 26-27, and October 2-4 at 8:00pm and September 28 and October 5 at 3:00pm at the Frederick Loewe Theatre at 35 West 4th Street. Tickets are $20 general admission and $5 with valid NYU ID. For more information and to make ticket reservations, call (212) 998-5281.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Need A Little More Time...

My schedule is complete madness right now. Of course, those of you who know me well know that my schedule is always madness. But sometimes there is a little more insanity than usual. This is one of those times.

Yesterday I had a wonderful, albeit brief, dinner with friends and then joined another group of friends downtown to see NYU's production of Violet. That would have been, of course, the optimal time to take in the matinee of [title of show] before it shutters on October 12th but my bank account, unfortunately, disagrees. I am hoping that Hunter, Jeff, Heidi and Susan's current campaign to save [tos] keeps it on the boards a little bit longer. If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition to get them on Ellen. You never know... If Ellen tells 999,000 people and those 999,000 tell 9 people...

Well, you do the math.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

You Can't See Everything

OK everyone, this economy is beginning to piss me off! Why? Because I can't afford to go to the theatre.

It angers and saddens me to hear and say these words. But it's true.

Despite the fact that all but one of the Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I've seen this year have been either heavily discounted, inexpensive (under $20), a gift or free, it is still a costly venture. When you figure in the price of getting into the City, parking and food, it can end up costing in the neighborhood of $100. Multiply that by a dozen shows and we're talking a significant chunk of change. Factor that in with the rising costs of gas, utilities and food and it's just not pretty.

Alicia's world with no theatre. Not pretty.

The other distressing effect this economy has is on the shows themselves. Several shows planned for the 2008-2009 season have been postponed or canceled, primarily due to issues of the money sort. Running shows have been taking the hit at the box office. This is the reason Rent closed. This is the reason I was not able to see Passing Strange before it closed. This is probably why I will not get to see [title of show] before it closes.

My bemoaning the fact that I had heard that [title of show] is papering heavily and is rumored to close very soon was met with this response from my husband: "You can't see everything."

So not pretty. I really wanted to tell Susan Blackwell that she is my hero.

Good thing we received an early anniversary gift from my father and will be seeing Equus in October. Because if I missed that it would get downright ugly.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Mamma Mia Oscar for Streep Is Doubtful

For those of you who belong to the faction that feels Meryl Streep should receive an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Donna Sheridan in the summer blockbuster Mamma Mia, I implore you to watch this.

Meryl Streep will assuredly garner a 2008 Oscar nod for her portayal of Sister Aloysius, the role for which Cherry Jones won the 2005 Best Actress Tony Award. While I would have preferred to see Cherry go head-to-head with Philip Seymour Hoffman, I am intrigued to see Streep's interpretation of the role.

And if Streep's portrayal of the flaky Donna Sheridan wins out over hard-nosed nun Sister Aloysius, you can expect to hear some loud protestations. And I mean loud!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Broadway's 2009 Season Continues to Beckon

The ridiculousness of my schedule right now has me literally standing in a room, spinning in circles before pointing myself in the direction of the next project that needs my attention. Very frustrating. Because I have a LOT to write about but no time to do it in.

That said, I had to stop in for a minute because I could not let these two litle tidbits pass my ever-faithful readers by:


First, there has recently been a lot of hoopla about the closing night of Rent. This hoopla is justified because Rent has, in my opinion, valiantly earned its place in musical theatre history for so many reasons. You can pretty much Google "Rent closing night" and read any of the aforementioned hoopla but I was struck by a paragraph with's hoopla that made me quite happy:

[Kevin McCollum] opens West Side Story Dec. 16 in Washington D.C.'s National Theatre, where it was originally launched in 1957, and will open on Broadway "at a theatre we're going to name in about three weeks. When Arthur called and said, 'I think it should also be bilingual,' I said, 'Okay, I'm in.' Even though it's a revival, it's a fresh take. I'm excited about that. We're talking to Lin-Manuel Miranda about translating Sondheim into Spanish. He has met with Arthur. He's going to meet with Stephen. It's just a consult right now. We're just asking him to contribute ideas, and we'll see what happens.

I just saw In The Heights on Saturday night and, while West Side Story was already very much on my radar, it is now an even brighter beeping beacon with the involvement of the infectiously charming and talented Lin-Manuel Miranda.

(SIDENOTE: I really hope that I can spend a few minutes to do a review of In The Heights but if you reference Paragraph #1 you will see that it is not coming any time soon.)


It has been officially announced that The Public's production of Hair is officially making the move to Broadway in 2009. Given the play's subject matter, I find it quite ironic and telling that this announcement was officially made on September 11th. I've seen this production evolve from its concert version in September 2007 and the Central Park staging in August 2008 and I am very much looking forward to the Broadway revival.

Beads. Flowers. Freedom. Happiness.

Much happiness.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sorkin "Friended" By Facebook for Biopic

Aaron Sorkin's newest writing project? A biopic about the creators of Facebook. Sorkin, a famed and sought after LA-based writer, has long had a fan in me. And I sure do love me some Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, creator of the social networking phenomenon, has turned down billion-dollar offers in order to remain independent. The many ownership debates, Facebook's remarkable growth and its presence in the media certainly makes for some good film fodder. And Sorkin definitely has a gift for eloquently turning fodder into though-provoking entertainment.

Sorkin got his start writing for the stage and was quickly swept off to Hollywood where he has penned several successful and critically-acclaimed films. His screenplay writing credits include A Few Good Men, Malice, The American President and Charlie Wilson's War. Sorkin is probably best-known and most-loved for creating and acting as head writer for three very popular TV series: Studio 60, The West Wing and Sports Night.

Last year saw Sorkin returning to Broadway as the author of the very mediocre The Farnsworth Invention. As I stated in my review, it seems as though the producers (which included Steven Spielberg) could not decide if Farnsworth was a film or a play and made the wrong choice. Perhaps the forthcoming film Flash of Genius, which also tells the story of an inventor who gets the shaft, will work better.

In addition to the Facebook film, Sorkin has been tapped for The Trial of the Chicago 7 and the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Follies. I have every confidence that Sorkin will deliver with a heavyhitting courtroom drama, as that is his sweet spot. I have reservations about how he will handle Follies. Hopefully he is more successful bringing stage to screen than he is trying to morph a screenplay to the stage.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Change Is Officially Imminent

Barack Obama has accepted the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. It is time for change, folks! Click here to read the transcript of his speech or watch it on YouTube (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4 and Pt 5).


Monday, August 25, 2008

The Simpsons Intro in Live Action - 2 Cool!

This video has amassed in excess of 2 million hits since it was added over 2 years ago. 2day, however, was the 1st time I saw it... And it was 2 good not 2 share! Enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where The Wild (And Talented) Things Are: 92nd Street Y

Oh, if only I could attend this little event up at the 92nd Street Y...

Several of the announced guests for this celebration/fundraiser are associated with the forthcoming film. This includes director Spike Jonze, Wild Thing Forest Whitaker, Catherine Keener and everyone's favorite Soprano James Gandolfini. Should that list not suffice, they've thrown in some Tony Kushner, Meryl Streep and Anika Noni Rose, among others, for good measure.

General sale tickets are sold out but benefit tickets to for special seats and a post-performance cocktail party are available by contacting Marissa Carty at 212-415-5488 or by e-mail. Funds are donated to Y-sponsored Education Outreach Intiatives that serve 8,000 kids each year.

That's a good thing folks. So if you'll be in NYC on September 15th, if you've got the cash for those special seats and want to part of something cool, I'm thinking this event will qualify.

Incidentally, the Warner Brothers film just wrapped an expensive reshoot in June and is listed on IMDb as being in post-production. A 2009 release date is anticipated though nothing definitive has been released from the studio since mid-July. I respect the fact that the studio is willing to invest time and money in order to give this classic story the artistic attention and integrity it deserves.

I, for one, can't wait...


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ethics of Reciprocity In Hollywood?

Call it what you will: karma, the Golden Rule or simply what comes around goes around. Whatever you call it, it is nice to see some of Hollywood's finest realize that it is there but for the grace of God and to take a moment to do unto Matilda.

Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law have reportedly donated salaries received for completing The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus to Heath Ledger's daughter, Matilda. Ledger was in the middle of filming Dr. Parnassus when he died of an accidental overdose in January 2008. Following his death, the three actors stepped into Ledger's role so that the film could be completed.

Kudos for a classy move, guys!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Never Neverland (Fly Away)

Well, it has been a month now since Peter Pan has closed. The project was a lot of work but it was also exceedingly rewarding. I believe we brought a good production to the community on a shoestring budget and exposed many kids and families to the wonderment of producing theatre. If we accomplished nothing else, it was that.

But we did accomplish more... In previous posts I have also mentioned The Heart Gallery exhibit that was being displayed in the theatre's Geissinger Annex Gallery during the run of Peter Pan. Every night after the show we would gather in the Annex among the faces of over 30 children searching for permanent homes through adoption. Words cannot express the feelings experienced when I learned that 4 of the children from that exhibit have now been placed in homes. Indeed, a little fairy dust was sprinkled on our unassuming theatre in Brookfield. And it is because of moments like that in life that I do believe.

So, I have left Neverland behind and have pointed my compass in the direction of Concord, NH. Beginning in September, I will be spending a few months at TBTA with Jo March and about as much estrogen as one show can muster. In many ways, Little Women will be the polar opposite of the musical about the boy who would not grow up. This is definitely a journey that I am eager to begin.

Beyond September, plans are in the works and announcements are forthcoming... So stay tuned.

"Never Neverland (Fly Away)" from Dreaming Wide Awake by Scott Alan

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Obama, Iconis & Sondheim

Wait! Barack Obama listens to Joe Iconis? When asked about late-period musical theatre, Obama replied thusly:

Despite the emergence of the Brown-Lippa-LaChiusa triptych and younger, DIY voices like Lopez/Marx and Joe Iconis and in the post-Larson era, no one writing today even approaches the emotional depth, harmonic complexity and the spiritual clarity evident in the work of the still-living legend Stephen Sondheim. Maybe Adam Guettel, but he supports drilling.

Of course, I think it is a bit unfair and premature to compare Joe Iconis to America's most revered living musical theatre composer, who happens to be 50 years Iconis' senior. I also have a hard time believing that Obama is rocking out to Iconis on his iPod... I'm just saying.

And since we're speaking of Sondheim...

FINALLY - some casting news for the much-anticipated revival of West Side Story: Matt Cavenaugh (A Catered Affair, Grey Gardens) will play the coveted role of Tony, a move guaranteed to catapult him to Broadway superstardom. The remaining casting decisions remain a mystery but, with a February opening, I suspect they will be announced soon.

The WSS announcement comes directly on the heels of The Public Theater announcing the Off-Broadway run of Sondheim's Road Show. The musical, whose previous incarnation under the title of Bounce, will be directed by Sondheim's staple director of late John Doyle. The production will star Michael Cerveris and Alexander Gemignani.

And in more solemn Sondheim news, George Furth, the librettist for Company and Merrily We Roll Along, passed away at the age of 75. Merrily is one of my favorite Sondheim musicals, one that is also rumored for revival. Strangely enough, in my quest to find a composer for my musical project, I received a resume from someone who recently worked with George and cited him as one of his references. Perhaps this is a sign. And you know how I am about signs...

Related Article: Barack Obama and John McCain Weigh In On Pop Culture

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Little Toast with Jam-boree

As usual, Iconis and his merry band of troubadours kicked some major ass at Joe's Pub this past Monday night. Take a gander at some highlights from the evening...

"The Whiskey Song" featuring Matt Hinkley, Lance Rubin, Joe Iconis & Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams

"The Answer" from The Black Suits performed by Krysta Rodriguez

"Vagabond" performed by Matt Hinkley

"Sorta Kinda Not So Bad" from The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks with Lance Rubin & Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams

"The Song" performed by Joe Iconis

"Helen's In Skin Flicks Now" performed by Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams

"The Bar Song" featuring Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams, Joe Iconis, Matt Hinkley and Lance Rubin

"The Goodbye Song" performed by John Gallagher, Jr.

"Penny Dreadfuls" featuring Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams, Lance Rubin, Joe Iconis and Matt Hinkley

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Crazy Talented Cheyenne

How amazing is it to be Seth Rudetsky and constantly be around people as sick with talent as this? I'm guessing pretty fucking amazing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

August: Osage County Inches Closer To The Silver Screen

Tracy Letts' stellar ensemble play, which already boasts the Pulitzer and five Tonys, is getting closer to what will undoubtedly be a few Oscars.

According to Variety, Doumanian Productions and Steve Traxler, the Broadway production's lead producers, will executive produce the cinematic incarnation of dysfunctional tour-de-force written by Steppenwolf playwright Tracy Letts. No budget, schedule or cast has been set but every time a Hollywood A-list actor goes to see August: Osage County, rumors certainly fly. In fact, theatre bloggers have made great sport of predicting which Tinsel Town luminaries they'd like to see bring the Weston family to the big screen.

I realize that several of the original cast will have had the opportunity to perform this masterpiece in London and perhaps on the US tour. I also understand the allure that some of the best written roles in contemporary theatre hold for established film actors. But please, God, please, let the Steppenwolf actors have the opportunity to immortalize their brilliant performances for the public at large. A broader audience deserves to see those performances.

And I did say please.


Click here to play casting agent for August: Osage County in the Fantasy Casting poll.


Monday, August 04, 2008

The Dempster Girls Take In The Plants That Ate Dirty Socks

So apparently the most popular keywords currently driving traffic to my blog are (1) related to reviews of Joe Iconis' The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks or (2) my maiden name.

Well who am I to disappoint?

If you are searching under my maiden name, you probably know me from my college years or before. A lot has changed since then. I am now Alicia Dempster. Google that. Or friend me on Facebook.

Also, as it would happen, on a rainy Sunday afternoon last week my three daughters and I took the train to the City to see Plant, the second of the two fully-realized Iconis shows produced this summer. And, since it is what my readers want, I will write a review.

In its 20th season of offering free theatre to children, TheatreworksUSA's production of The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks continues the tradition of providing literature-based musicals featuring some of theatre's most promising talent. Iconis' one-hour family friendly rock musical is currently in production at the Lucille Lortel Theatre and is based on the first installment of Nancy McArthur's popular book series from the late 80s. A less-gory spin on another rock musical, Little Shop of Horrors, it is the story of two very different brothers who find common ground in their unusual plants.

Many of the titles in Joe's songbook are for mature audiences only, so several tracks get skipped when we're listening to Mommy's Iconis CD in the car. My girls have, however, heard "Plants Make Wonderful Pets" enough times that they were humming it well before they saw the show. In fact, we even incorporated the book into storytime, so they were aptly primed for our journey to see the musical adaptation.

Iconis' pulsating rock score and clever lyrics are appealing to both the primary audience for which they are intended and the parents seated at their side. Most notable are the jaunty and catchy "Plants Make Wonderful Pets" and "Welcome To My Room", although the one that my girls now keep screaming around the house is "I Saw It Suck Up A Sock!" Some of Iconis' best songs, in my opinion, are the ones with lilting melodies and simple sentiment, thus making "Sorta Kinda Not So Bad" my personal favorite (hey, I'm a sentimentalist).

Iconis' book solidly retells McArthur's story with only minor variances from the less-than-complex chapter book. Most of the changes, I presume, were made to keep the cast size small and its run-time under an hour thus increasing its tour appeal. While children's theatre may not be the genre one would dub as being in Iconis' comfort zone, he has certainly risen to the task with an infectious and entertaining production.

The at-odds brothers, portrayed by Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams and Lance Rubin, are energetic and endearing. Williams is wide-eyed and soulful as big brother Michael, a perfect compliment to Rubin's dorky yet comical Norman. Both manage the various song styles with the vocal power necessary to handle a loud, rock score but lend just the right amount of heart to ballads like the aforementioned "Sorta Kinda Not So Bad".

As the meddling neighbor kids, Lauren Marcus and Jeffery Omura have the opportunity to show off their pipes in their featured number, "Talk of the Town." Marcus is spirited and nasty as nosy-cheerleader-with-a-dark-side Patty Jenkins. Her bulldog scene with Lisitza is classic and, despite her tantrums, her character was a favorite with my girls. Doubling as egomanical 7th grade pal Jason and ratings-hungry telejournalist McKenzie, Jeffrey Omura creates characters that are appropriately loathesome. He also has 15 seconds in "Welcome To My Room" as the Mailman that delivers the mysterious sock-eating plant seeds. My eldest daughter was deeply concerned that he was not credited for this role in the Playbill. I believe she may have a future as an agent.

Lorinda Lisitza and Kilty Reidy play the boys' far-too-accomodating parents with cartoon character perfection. Since most of the songs are relegated to the kids characters, the only time we really got to hear Lorinda wail is during the riotous "Talk of the Town". But wail she does. For more wailing, click here. Lisitza and Reidy also show up at the science fair to chew the scenery a bit as Sanjay and the Judge respectively.

The eponymous plants are the brainchild of puppeteer designer Eric Wright and are manipulated by puppeteer Michael Shupbach. While I did see some kids hiding their eyes during the sock-slurping scenes, the plants are truly lovable, as is witnessed in a cute and humorous scene between Michael and his plant Stanley.

No strangers to Iconis material, director John Simpkins and choreographer Jennifer Werner stage a tight production. Michael Schweikardt's colorful set deftly set the stage, whether it is the boy's bedroom or the cafegymitorium, and it is highlighted by Tracy Christensen's youthful costumes and Chris Dallos' lighting design.

While I personally prefer my Iconis a little bloodier, Plant is a great introduction to the brilliantly damaged mind of Joe Iconis. I had a great afternoon at the theatre with my girls and, with all due to respect to the folks over at CityCenter, they said they liked it better than Damn Yankees.


The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks runs at the Lucille Lortell Theater in New York until August 22nd. For information, visit


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Half-Blood Prince vs. Half-Baked Stableboy

Not sure which Daniel Radcliffe project I'm looking forward to more...


I just know that I'm really looking forward to both of them. A lot.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

City Center Scores with Damn Yankees

There are some musicals that stand the test of time and therefore, I suppose, are called classic. The classic musical comedy Damn Yankees has been once revived on Broadway and yesterday ended its three week run as part of NY City Center Encores! Summer Stars series. I must say, of the many old school musicals that I've grown (sometimes kicking and screaming) to appreciate, this is one that I actually like.

My first introduction to Damn Yankees was via the 1958 film starring Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon, who both received the 1956 Tony for their peformances in the Broadway production. Even as a tween, before I had the good sense to revere Bob Fosse for the genius that he is, I fell in love with the choreography. By the time Broadway got around to reviving it in 1994, I was well-versed with Fosse's body of work and I was anxious to see the show staged.

The revival did not disappoint. I saw it twice - the first time with Victor Garber and Bebe Neuwirth and the second with their successors Jerry Lewis and Charlotte d'Amboise. Victor and Bebe were great, Jerry and Charlotte not so much. But despite his scenery gnawing and her bland performance, I still enjoyed it the second time around.

A couple of years ago, I stage managed a production of Damn Yankees. These days, stage managing is something I rarely do. However, if it is a show I really like or it gives me the opportunity to work with specific directors, I will dust off my stage manager's kit and take on the task. In this instance, both criteria applied.

When word hit the streets that Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski would be headlining in Damn Yankees at NY City Center, I rung up the director of the aforementioned production and an outing was planned. Uncle Brad, as many affectionately call my director friend, is someone whose work and creative mind commands my deepest respect. Being able to see the show with my husband and kids and then being able to deconstruct it with Uncle Brad was a delight in and of itself. The fact that it was a stellar production was simply the icing on the cake of an already great experience.

Sean Hayes, of course, is noted for his Emmy winning turn as Jack McFarland on the hit sitcom Will & Grace. His New York theatre debut as Mr. Applegate has certainly proven the actor worthy of a Broadway run some time in the future. Musical comedy is a genre he is unsurprisingly suited for and a transfer of Damn Yankees, much in the vain of City Center's Gypsy, would not surprise me (although it has not, as yet, been rumored).

Hayes is a solid actor and he used just the right dose of Jackisms in his Applegate. The hissy fits that we loved in Jack are perfectly suited for those had by Applegate. In this production it worked to crowd-pleasing effect. Hayes also proved himself vocally strong in his self-accompanied showstopping number "Those Were The Good Old Days". After an appreciative fan whistled from the crowd, Hayes, a classically trained pianist, took a beat, leaned out and whispered: "I'm really playing." And he was. To an audience that was loving every minute of it.

I've long been a fan of Jane Krakowski's and was pleased to see her team up with Hayes to take on the Herculean task of filling the role that was immortalized by Gwen Verdon. Jane's got some formidable vocal chops and comic skills - which I've known since her Ally McBeal days. Known most recently from her role as Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock, Krakowski is a decent enough dancer but I felt there was something off during her big dance numbers. During intermission, Uncle Brad told me that Fosse choreographed very distinctly for the body and that nowadays dancers are so waifish that some of it just doesn't work. Gwen Verdon had a little meat on her bones, so when she was jiggling and grinding it just suited her better (and I mean that in the nicest of ways). I would have to say that I agree with Uncle Brad on this one. Man that bastard is smart.

The below-the-title actors were no hacks either: Cheyenne Jackson, Randy Graff, Megan Gallagher (who replaced the injured Ana Gasteyer), Veanne Cox and Michael Mulheren. Not a bad supporting cast, eh?

Cheyenne Jackson was an amiable Young Joe Hardy and it was nice to see him have the opportunity to work with Krakowski (who vacated the role of Kira/Clio in Xanadu after her sitcom got picked up). He has a kick ass voice, is not a bad dancer and undeniably easy to look at (many in our party agreed that spending a little more time in his undershorts during the locker scene would have been all right with us).

Tony winner Randy Graff brings the right amount of heartbreak and devotion to Meg, the wife that's been left behind during his stint as a Washington Senators champion. Megan Gallagher's nosy reporter Gloria Thorpe lacked the necessary spunk that role needs to be endearing. Veanne Cox was perfection as Sister and Michael Mulheren's Coach Vanburen led the well-known "Heart" number to enthusiastic response. Veanne and Michael, however, shone the brightest at the stage door after the show.

My girls know Veanne from Disney's remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, in which she played one of Cinderella's stepsisters. My eldest told me later that when she met Veanne she felt like she was meeting a movie star! My husband and I mentioned how we had seen Cinderella many times and how much we loved it. Veanne was very appreciative of the permanence of film and at the same time a bit nostalgic about the fleetingness of theatre. She did affirm one of my pillar convictions: the importance of bringing children to theatre so that this art form does not die. She was definitely a cool chiquita banana!

Michael Mulheren also took the time to chat with the girls about the show and asked them where they were from. When they replied, he just looked at them and said, "Danbury! I've worked there!" And indeed he had... Apparently he did Pirates of Penzance at Candlewood Playhouse with my friend Kevin. Oh the theatre and its players comprise a small world indeed!

Having now seen professional productions of both the original and revival scripts of Damn Yankees, I have to say that there were things from the revival that I missed. I like the "Blooper Ballet" as a way of introducing the Washington Senators "in action". And, like my friend Brad, I prefer "Heart" to be sung by ALL of the ball players instead of just VanBuren and the Quartet. Finally, while I enjoyed seeing Fosse's beatnicky choreography performed by Jackson and Krakowski in "Two Lost Souls", I prefer that number to be performed by Applegate and Lola. It gives Applegate another song in the show (which I would have liked to have seen) and it allows Joe Hardy to maintain his devotion to Meg by eliminating the kiss between him and Lola.

Both versions of the musical, however, have the same strong story at its core. It is the story where good triumphs over evil, where the underdog team wins the prize and the boy gets the girl. Throw in a good Republican joke, a seductress in her underwear and a Fosse jig and you've got an All-American musical sure to please for years to come!

Related Articles:
New York Times: Selling His Soul For The Part
New York Daily News: Damn Yankees Had Some Great Runs Bottom of the Ninth: Damn Yankees Ends City Center Run July 27
New York Newsday Review: Damn Yankees At City Center Encores!