Thursday, January 22, 2009

Broadway Can Kick Your Ass

Thanks to Moxie the Maven for posting this one. Hey - we've all had our fair share of laughs and chortles at Jeremy Piven's expense so why should Kristin Chenoweth be an exception?

Yes, ye Hollywood types who dare tread the boards, Broadway can kick your ass! It's haarrrd!

Kristin Chenoweth's Advice to Jeremy Piven


Monday, January 12, 2009

Save Broadway

The lights on Broadway may be a little dimmer these days but thankfully there are people like Neil Patrick Harris (and the cast of SNL) to remind us that even in the darkest days a little laugh can go a long way.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Top 5 Performances of 2008


#1. Deanna Dunagan
I have not experienced a performance as engaging, intricate and complex as Deanna Dunagan’s interpretation of acid-tongued Violet Weston in August: Osage County. We saw the Pulitzer Prize winning show fairly early on its run but by then the buzz about Dunagan’s performance was loud and the expectations were high. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

#2. Lin-Manuel Miranda
The exuberance with which Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted his Tony for Best Score speaks volumes about what he has assembled onstage at the Richard Rodgers. The young and talented star of In The Heights takes the American dream and those universal yearnings for success, for wealth and for love and brings a vivid story of family and belonging to Broadway. To see him perform that story was truly an experience to behold and I am happy that I had that opportunity.

#3. Amy Morton
August: Osage County is a masterfully written ensemble piece with solid performances throughout. However, to not single out Amy Morton’s performance would be a significant oversight. As Vi’s daughter Barbara Fordham, Tony nominated Amy Morton navigated her way through Letts’ tour-de-force and didn’t miss a beat. Not only did she navigate, she took you for a thrilling ride. After a brief stop back at Steppenwolf to direct Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol, Morton reprised her role with most of the original cast in London. Yeah. It’s been a pretty awesome year for Ms. Morton.

#4. Cheyenne Jackson
I was certainly very late jumping on the Cheyenne Jackson train. But I’m glad I’m aboard. I had seen him in United 93 and thought he was very good. I never made the connection that that same actor was Sonny Malone in the unexpected hit of the season, Xanadu. I have since seen Cheyenne in Damn Yankees and in episodes of several YouTube series including [title of show] show, The Battery’s Down, Legally Brown – The Search for the Next Piragua Guy and, of course, the Cubby Bernstein videos. I look forward to whatever he does next. A class act and a stellar talent indeed.

#5. Daniel Radcliffe
Of all of the Broadway shows that I saw in 2008, I would have to say that Equus is the one that I anticipated the most. I never really posted a proper review of this production. Largely because I was insanely busy. Partly because I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. However, one thing that delivered as expected was Daniel Radcliffe. His Alan Strang was subtle, complex and passionate. I hope that he continues filling his down time from Hollywood with stage work.


#1. Jim Norton
It was his performance in Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer that earned him the Tony but it was his turn in The Atlantic Theater Company’s production of McPherson’s Port Authority that captured my heart. His simple and sad portrayal of Joe was heartbreaking. McPherson wrote a beautiful role and upon seeing Norton in Port Authority it became clear why he is frequently entrusted with roles in McPherson’s plays. It is because he is an actor that knows how to lovingly and masterfully bring those characters and that gorgeous language to life.

#2. Nick Blaemire
I saw Nick Blaemire perform in a lot of things last year, one of the reasons that he is also on my forthcoming Top 5 Discoveries of 2008 list. It is difficult to single out one performance, as they were all good. But I would have to say that it was in Joe Iconis’ The Black Suits that I was first won over. Nick is an energetic performer with an impressive vocal agility and a natural gift for musical comedy, qualities that were well showcased in Iconis’ rock musical.

#3. John Gallagher, Jr.
Last winter was one of transition for John Gallagher, Jr. He left Spring Awakening, he parted ways with Old Springs Pike and he landed a small role in Woody Allen’s new film. He also appeared in two productions at The Atlantic Theatre Company, Farragut North, which was touted as one of the best in 2008 by Time magazine. The other, the simple monologue play Port Authority. Gallagher’s sensitive performance, complete with a spot-on Irish brogue, proved once again why he is and will remain one of my favorite performers.

#4. Will Swenson
Charismatic actor Will Swenson, who played George Berger in last year’s concert in Central Park, reprised the role in The Public’s 2008 summer production of Hair. His boundless energy, powerful voice and infectious delivery explain why this performer is one to watch. It is also why he is in the fortunate position to be choosing between two 2009 Broadway transfers: Hair and Rock of Ages. Rumor has it that he has favored the 60s rock musical over the 80s one. I, for one, am happy with that choice.

#5. Sam Waterston
OK – I’m sure I’ll get slapped silly for saying this – but I am not a fan of Shakespeare. I have tried numerous times to appreciate his work, each time hoping that I will get caught up in his spell, but alas to no avail. This summer I once again made the attempt with Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Hamlet. I have to say that this was the most engaged I have ever been and that is largely due to Waterston’s interpretation of the meddlesome Polonius. The mixture of humor and pathos with which Waterston played the character has definitely proven him worthy of his espoused reputation among Shakespearean troupes. Who knows, perhaps I will give the bard another whirl if Waterston is at the helm.

Honorable Mentions
These “best of” lists are limited to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows of 2008. However, I wanted to venture beyond that parameter to cite two stellar performances: one from community theatre and one from college theatre.

Noel Desiato’s performance as Katherine Hepburn in Theatreworks New Milford’s Tea At Five was positively mesmerizing. Never before have I seen an actress embody a character more expertly or more believably than in this one-woman show about the legendary actress. Desiato proves that you don’t have to go to New York to see a gifted actress perform. I look forward to producing Tea At Five in 2009 at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, where Desiato will reprise her star-quality performance.

2008 also saw the performance of Caitlyn Caughell in Jeanine Tesori’s rarely produced gem Violet. In the titular role, Caughell was earthy and sincere with a voice that masterfully navigated the challenging score. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Tesori, who saw NYU’s production, has invited Caughell to sing at The Kennedy Center later this month. Without a doubt, Caughell is a force to be reckoned with, and it won’t be long before she takes up residence on the Great White Way.