Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Musical Theatre Hosannah Moment

There are times in our lives when we stumble pleasantly upon great performances such as this. This is a clip posted by the am-AH-zing Seth Rudetsky on his YouTube channel, which is a must-have subscription for any theatre fan worth their salt. It is of Tom Andersen singing his award-winning song "Yard Sale" for the BC/EFA Leading Men III benefit concert. It is a simple and deeply moving song about an experience he had whilst living in San Francisco in the 80s.

If you have the means, please give to this worthy cause. However small, you have the ability to impact so many talented lives with your donation.


Parenting 101

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably seen reports of the recent brouhaha related to Miley Cyrus and her racy photos appearing in June's Vanity Fair magazine. When the news first broke, my husband was instantly outraged, since all three of our girls are big Hannah/Miley fans. His first complaints related to what drove her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, to allow those photos to be taken. Poor judgment? Greed? And did Disney have any input about their “brand” when these photos were approved? When I discovered that Annie Leibovitz was the photographer, it somehow seemed to soften the blow a little. But, really, why? Because she is one of the greatest photographers of our time? Probably... But at what point do you the cross line into the land of "this has gone too far"? Artistic or not, the sexy photos of Miley draped across her father’s lap are a tad creepy...

While my husband was bemoaning how Miley is headed in the same direction as Lindsay and Britney, it brought to mind questions I've had related to Spring Awakening. Loyal readers know how I feel about this Tony Award-winning production but I've often questioned how a mother could let her young daughter take on a
role such as Wendla. Years ago, when a then 14-year-old Lea Michele first got involved with Spring, what went through her parents' minds when they were told that the role would involve nudity and simulating sex acts on stage?

My oldest daughter is 8 - and in 6 years' time I honestly don't think I would allow her to do either. And I know for a fact that my husband wouldn't let her. She's got her whole life to be sexy and deal with adult issues, why do we need to accelerate the arrival of those milestones?

Have any of you thought about or been concerned by this? Parents or not, I'd be interested in hearing your opinions and insight. When it comes to mixing teenagers, sexuality and art where does that fine line between creative expression, censorship and good parenting exist?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anticipating A Summer Of Awesome Theatre

In just under two weeks I will be back in the director’s chair, which is truly one of my favorite places to be. This time I’ll be bringing the timeless musical classic Peter Pan to the boards at TBTA. When I direct a show, however, some things in the ol’ schedule have to give. Basically, you can expect a reduced presence here on my blog and not quite as many adventures in NYC.

Once the show opens in July, however, I will be making up for lost time, taking in some of the theatre that is currently my “most anticipated” list:
  • [title of show], having mastered the art of viral marketing, got their sought after Broadway opening at the Lyceum Theatre on July 17th. I did not see the show during its Off-Broadway run but the YouTube [tos]casts and peer reviews have earned it a spot on my dance card.
  • Joe IconisThe Plant That Ate Dirty Socks will open in July at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Finally an Iconis show I can bring the kids to.
  • Damn Yankees returns to NYC with Jane Krakowski as Lola and Sean Hayes as Applegate in City Center Encores! Production opening July 10th. This show has always been a personal favorite of mine and I’m definitely ready for Sean Hayes to make his theatrical debut.
  • In August, Hair makes its return to the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park as part of the Shakespeare in the Park series. The fully-realized production of the September 2007 production opens July 22nd and runs through August 17th.
  • After Labor Day, Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe will be transplanting the West End production of Peter Shaffer’s Equus. My father directed the Pennsylvania premiere of this riveting play in the 70s, giving me an early exposure to and appreciation for this show. I’ve seen my father play the role of Dysart in two separate productions and am really looking forward to seeing the Broadway production at his side. Equus opens on September 25th and will be a limited engagement running through February 8th, 2009.
  • Finally, amid the buzz of the forthcoming Sheik/Sater projects The Nightingale and Nero, is the Duncan Sheik project Whisper House. This less publicized work is making its debut in my back yard at The Stamford Center for the Arts. All indicators point to a Fall 2008 opening for the musical about an orphan living with his aunt and a Japanese man in a Connecticut lighthouse during World War II. The boy thinks he sees ghosts that are telling him not to trust the Japanese man because he might be the enemy. 30 Rock’s Keith Powell will be directing the musical and states, “It's about this boy's loyalty and overcoming his fears and really trying to do what's right when all of the world is in turmoil. It's -- of course -- a metaphor in a way for what's happening in today's politics."

Yes, it will definitely be a busy summer, filled with the lifeblood that courses through my veins: theatre. Hope to see you at the show!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Are Mellencamp & King's Ghost Brothers Broadway Bound?

Almost as fun as relishing the shows that are already running is anticipating the ones that are to come.

The other day my dad and I were talking and John Mellencamp, recent Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee, came up in conversation. He then asked me what I knew about his upcoming musical. The answer? Nothing. And then he said, "He's writing it with someone big." My interest was peaked and I made a mental note to Google this factoid.

Well, "not since Carrie" has a Stephen King story been adapted for the stage. And that holds true until April 2009 when the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta will produce the out-of-town tryout of King & Mellencamp's Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. From Alliance's Web site:

In 1957, in the tiny town of Lake Belle Reve, Mississippi, a terrible tragedy took the lives of two brothers and a beautiful young girl. During the next forty years, the events of that night became a local legend. But legend is often just another word for lie. Joe McCandless knows what really happened; he saw it all. The question is whether or not he can bring himself to tell the truth in order to save his own troubled sons, and whether the ghosts left behind by an act of violence will help him...or tear the McCandless family apart forever.

Stephen King’s script brings the power of suspense and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp brings a gritty rock and zydeco score to this World Premiere musical that’s certain to send chills up your spine.

Ghost Brothers' guitar-driven score is in the hands of two accoustic guitars, a fiddle and an accordion and early response to both the music and story seems pretty positive. At the helm is director Peter Askin, who directed Eve Ensler's The Good Body on Broadway and the Off-Broadway cult favorite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I'm also guessing that King's direct involvement, which was absent from the infamous musical flop that was Carrie, will work very much in this production's favor.

I'm hoping that my globetrotting friend Steve over at SOB works in a trip to Atlanta to see this one. I'm anxious to see if it is as good in reality as it is in concept. If all goes well, a Fall 2009 move to Broadway is planned, an event that I am keeping my fingers crossed will happen.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sunday In The Park With George: The Dot Project

Clever marketing venture from "my beloved Roundabout Theatre" (that's what they call themselves when they call me to re-up my subscription)...
Click on the photo and create your own "audience member" dot...

Cry-Baby (Or "What I Become When A Musical Doesn't Have A Story")

Despite the brouhaha-inducing potential of making critical commentary before a show has opened, I feel that there are instances when protocol can be broken. In a struggling economy where our hard-earned dollar can be spent on any number of stellar shows currently running on Broadway, I feel fair warning is justified. Besides, if Michael Riedel can do it, why can’t I?

The musical adaptation of
John Waters’ 1990 film Cry-Baby, currently in week three of a six-week preview cycle, has been highly anticipated by fans of his films and/or its Tony and Olivier Award-winning predecessor Hairspray. While I enjoyed Hairspray, I don’t know if I would have feverishly pursued the ticket to Cry-Baby based solely Hairspray's success. Were it not for the coinciding opportunity to meet fellow theatre bloggers, I probably would not have seen Waters’ sophomore Broadway offering. But I did – and I wasn’t crazy about it.

Set against the backdrop of 1954 Baltimore, Cry-Baby tells the tale of bad boy Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker and the mutual attraction he has with good girl Allison Vernon-Williams. Oft compared to
Grease, this musical lacks focus and, more importantly, a compelling story. Unlike Hairspray’s very serious subplot of racial equality, Cry-Baby struggles to find a single story arc, let alone one or more B stories.

Despite this critical flaw, every effort is made to provide an entertaining piece of musical theatre.
Schlesinger and Javerbaum’s score, bouncy but forgettable, serves as the footing for intermittently clever lyrics and Rob Ashford’s choreography, which is arguably the best element of the show. Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book is chock full of one-liners/groaners but none so clever that I will be quoting Cry-Baby anytime soon.

Admittedly, I was pulling for newcomer
James Snyder, whose work I’ve enjoyed immensely on the definitive recording of bare: the musical. While he does an admirable job with the title role, I wouldn’t say that I was blown away. I fault the material in this particular case, not the performer. But I might be a little biased…

The remainder of the cast also performs admirably, pumping every ounce of their energy into the production, but to no great avail.
Elizabeth Stanley, most noted for her turn as April in the recent revival of Company, is charming and Harriet Harris is well-cast as the Donna Reed-esque grandmother. However, both roles do the corresponding talent a disservice. In fact, the only character that truly stands out is Alli Mauzey’s Lenora, whose “Screw Loose” is a highlight of the show.

All in all, Cry-Baby is entertaining, in a fluffy, “
thank God I paid half-price for that” sort of way. From what I understand, the last two weeks of previews have put Cry-Baby through several changes. Judging from John Waters’ post-show appearance at Angus McIndoe with notebook in hand, I’m certain more are to come. And maybe those changes will help see Cry-Baby through the summer months. Maybe.