One of my favorite people to talk theater with is my dear friend Alex. We started following each other on Twitter a year or two ago and then ran into each other in person at my favorite Broadway event, the annual Flea Market. We hit it off instantly and knew our theater obsession would lead to a wonderful friendship. Today, I’m thrilled to present to you my guest blogger, Alex! If you like what you see (which, I know you will) check out his blog at http://www.nrnwtheater.com. Enjoy!

 

As we often do, your girl Broadway News and I are always discussing new Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Heck, we even see one, two or seven every now and then. And if there is one epiphany that we have had recently, it is this…THERE ARE, LIKE, 20 SHOWS OPENING THIS FALL.

 

Mind you, that’s a good thing. Especially in light of some 12 or 13 shows closing in the last three months (we miss Priscilla, *sniff*). Of the many shows opening, here’s a mere sampling of the who and what we have our eyes on. And we hope some discount and/or rush opportunities will avail themselves to us money-loving folk. Because we really do heart money, despite our penchant for spending it. A lot.

 

Detroit – Playwrights Horizons, Opens on September 18th 

 

Playwrights Horizons has been on role lately. They debuted Clybourne Park, which just went on to win “Best Play” at this year’s Tony Awards. Also, Broadway News and I loved the minimalist gem that was Leslye Headlund’s Assistance.

 

Detroit – a character study of what the term “neighbor” means in this day an age – has two names that stand out. David Schwimmer, whom as you know, Broadway News might even be a bigger F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan then me (*hint* she isn’t) [*he’s wrong. -BN] and Amy Ryan, a Tony and Oscar-nominee whom has made her mark in television and movies as a superb actress. Put it all together and I we will be putting my Playwright’s Horizons membership to good use.

 

If There Is, I Haven’t Found It Yet – The Laura Pels Theatre, Opens on September 20th

 

If There Is…, a story about a bullied, overweight teenager transferring to the school where her mother teaches just as her uncle comes into the picture, debuted to rave reviews around three years ago at the Bush Theater in England, going as far as to win the George Divine Award. Convinced yet? If that doesn’t moisten your lips, the talented Jake Gyllenhaal will be making his American-stage debut playing the corky uncle. Our tickets are already purchased (a rarity for us) and if you are interested, you might want to whip out the plastic right now.

 

Grace – Cort Theater, Opens on October 4th

 

Broadway News and I are comedy people and like the Cort Theater’s previous inhabitant, The Lyons, Grace is serving up dark comedy for dinner with a side of depth as we witness a couple running around Florida trying to open up a chain of gospel-motels. It also boosts one of the more interesting casts, with Paul Rudd at the helm alongside Kate Arrington, Michael Shannon and Ed Asner. For those of us under the age of 50, Asner was the voice of Carl Fredrickson from “Up.” You know what that means? We should give him balloons at the stage door.

 

Running on Empty – Richard Rodgers Theater, Opens on October 9th

 

Anyone in the mood for standup? Because Lewis Black, last seen on Broadway in Black on Broadway, is one hilarious comedian and he is taking his touring show to the Richard Rodgers Theater for a week. Known to dabble in government and politics, you know he has all the material in the world with the current presidential election. Not to be missed, for sure…

 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood – Studio 54, Opens on November 13th

 

Anyone else in the mood for murder mystery musical theater based on the Charles Dicken novel? How about a murder mystery musical production that has won Best Musical, Book and Score in the past? Pair that with a cast including Stephanie J. Block, Chita Rivera, Will Chase, Jessie Mueller, and Betsy Wolfe – you know, amongst others – and we have a trip to the Victorian era worth making.

 

Dead Accounts – Music Box Theater, Opens on November 29th

 

In the “one of these names is not like the other” game, we have a Theresa Rebeck-written show directed by Jack O’Brien starring Katie Holmes and Norbert Leo Butz. Don’t make me say it…because it is glaringly obvious. Broadway News and I took a huge liking to Rebeck’s last outing on Broadway, the fantastic Seminar. Jack O’Brien only has won like 3 Tonys or something, one of which being a musical you might have heard of, called Hairspray. Norbert Leo Butz is a Broadway staple churning out solid work season after season and even worked with O’Brien on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which non-coincidentally, gave Butz his first of two Tony awards. Hey, we’ll take the phenomenal with the Holmes…there, I said it.

 

Bare: A Pop Opera – New World Stages, Opens on December 9th

 

Of everything else coming out this Fall, Bare is probably what I am most excited for. The show has had a cult following since its debut in California over a decade ago.nAn opera with a rock musical score filled to the brim with timely, teenage issues and featuring a young, talented cast? Count us in…right in the mold of Spring Awakening and not a moment too soon.

Advertisements

Spiegelworld : Empire

June 17, 2012

Last night I had the privilege of being invited to see Spiegelworld Empire. I’ve walked past their tent on 45th many times and have always been intrigued. Not at all your typical Broadway show, Empire brings thrills, laughs and moments where you forget to breathe.

What I loved about the experience before it even started, was the fact the place was flat out awesome. Funky on the outside, small and intimate on the inside. Show aside, I’d probably go there for drinks on any given night if it was just a bar. Any seat you get is perfect. They perform in the round, just a couple rows of chairs. The only off-putting aspect of it that kind of ruined it for me was before the show began. The performers would mill about all holding signs asking for money in some way – a dollar for a money tree, a quarter to ride a mechanical horse ride. I get that they are carnival-like performers trying to make a living but couldn’t they at least hold off asking for money until the end? With ticket prices over $60, let us see what you can do first.

The show features a couple different acts, mostly based on strength. Balance, contortion, roller skating [trust me on this one when I say, “wow”], ballet… the show has it all. I haven’t seen anything like it. I watched the acts in awe, one of the final balancing acts left me unable to breathe I was so nervous and captivated. Not only are these feats incredible and enthralling, the way it’s presented is visually stunning. The first act features an incredibly flexible woman in a giant bubble. Between the lighting and the actual bubbles blowing all around the room, it was beautiful. I have to say, the one “act” that I didn’t like, was the husband and wife duo that were basically the comedy relief – except they weren’t funny. They would come around between each act, do something stupid and/or crude to fill time. They really just weren’t my taste in humor and I dreaded every time I saw them coming back to the stage – I just sat and waited for it to be over.

The show runs about an hour and I think for the ticket price it’s worth it. You get to see a bunch of great acts, there’s a lovely woman that sings along with a killer one man band. You’ll laugh, you’ll be amazed, and you might get a lapdance. The show is a raunchy, ridiculous, good time.

Spiegelworld presents Empire plays at 265 West 45th street NYC. Tickets range from $59-$129, with $29 student rush. Check out  http://www.spiegelworld.com/ for more info.

On this eve before 2012 Tony nominations are announced, I wanted to share some of my opinions on this theater season. I’ve managed to see a lot of new shows this year but alas, there are some major ones that have escaped me [ie, Newsies and Porgy & Bess]. This list is just a lovenote to some amazing actors and productions…

For me, musicals fell short this year. Lots of forgetables. As much as I love Spiderman [Be quiet, I will defend that show for eternity.] and would love to see it win and get some positivity, there’s one show that will knock down all others. Every season there’s that one show that wins every category it’s nominated for. Think Memphis. Think Book of Mormon. This year, it’s Newsies.

Best revival of a musical is where it can get tricky. As much as I loved Godspell let’s be honest, next to Evita and Porgy and Bess it doesn’t stand a chance. While I haven’t seen either of those shows, I’ve heard great things about both. I do have a feeling the award will lean a little more towards the Gershwins.

This was a stellar year for plays and this is where I have issues picking a favorite. There’s no clear cut winner for me here. I can narrow it down to 4 – Seminar, The Lyons, Venus In Fur & Peter and The Starcatcher. I have a feeling Starcatcher will win – amazing cast, magical, inventive, a show with heart. I have yet to see their Broadway run but caught the show at NYTW a few times. If it wins, well deserved. …Seminar is a witty, funny, well cast show. I saw it once with the original cast and loved it. Saw it with the new cast, liked it. I did like the casting the second time around but for whatever reason, I was not as engaged as I was the first time around, I think the show needed Lily Rabe back. …The Lyons, I loved. Linda Lavin livessss in that show.  Sorry but, Kate Jennings Grant annoyed me from start to finish. Dick Latessa was great even though his part felt small. For me, aside from Linda, Michael Esper was the one who was shining the brightest. I thoroughly loved his performance and found him to be the one I would relate with the most in some slight way. …Last but certainly not least, Venus In Fur. This show has changed me, I am absolutely in love with it. I have been singing the praises of Nina Arianda for a while now and if she doesn’t win a Tony for her performance, be prepared for my wrath. Brilliantly acted, Nina and Hugh are the perfect pair.

Best revival of a play without a doubt has to go to Death of a Salesman. I have loved Philip Seymour Hoffman for most of my young life and always knew he was something special. I felt beyond privileged to be able to see him on stage. I had box seats and hovered over all the action like a spirit. To me, there was no one else in that audience, I was fixated on that family. You could hear a pin drop. People didn’t dare to even cough. That show was a masterclass in acting and human emotion. PSH was outstanding. Andrew Garfield abolutely blew me away. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him but watching him spar with Philip was something I’ll never forget.

Tony Award nominations will be announced May 1st at 8:30am eastern by Kristin Chenoweth and Jim Parsons. Watch the live webcast on tonyawards.com

 

Presenting… NBC’s Smash!

January 16, 2012

Finally there’s something on TV that gets me a weekly theater fix. And that would be NBC’s SMASH.

The buzz around this show has been steadily growing since its first whisperings and to garner fans early in the season, the pilot episode was released on iTunes and Amazon for a free download today. After just one episode, people are already declaring allegiance to either #teamIvy or #teamKaren. [I’m #teamIvy in case you wanted to know. Sorry Katharine McPhee, I don’t know what it is about you, but you really annoy me.]

I admit I liked Glee when it first started but after about 5 episodes, I was beyond over it – I feel like it’s so juvenile. I was so disappointed when the HBO pilot The Miraculous Year with a stellar cast was somehow passed over. HBO’s “reason” for not picking it up? There isn’t a big enough audience that would watch the show every week. SMASH just might be the show to change that opinion.

The premise is simple. There’s a new musical in the works and these two lovely young ladies both want the lead. You don’t need to love theater or even understand the inner-workings to follow that plot. But the thing I love about SMASH is that it knows it’s core audience. And that’s us. Those of us that understood the little jokes. Those of us who know who Michael Riedel is. Thanks for putting in those little bits that make theater dorks like me smile.

The thing that Smash has in its favor is familiar all-star faces mixed in with some of our favorite Broadway stars. Who doesn’t love Debra Messing? How could you not love Jack Davenport with that dreamy accent? [Commodore Norrington, oh how I adored thee] I’m sure the younger crowd will know Katharine McPhee [okay NBC, seriously, we don’t need to be “introduced” to her, everyone knows who she is.] And Anjelica Huston? No words. Mix that star power in with brilliant stage actors and actresses like Megan Hilty, Christian Borle, Brian d’Arcy James, Savannah Wise, the list goes on… the entire cast is phenomenal. [Expect cameos and recurring roles from Nick Adams, Norbert Leo Butz, Will Chase, Wesley Taylor…]

To be perfectly honest, the only thing I’m slightly on the fence about would be the music [yes I know there’s only been one episode]. They have to keep it fresh every week and not over-do it. That baseball number, not my cup of tea. Reminded me of Catch Me If You Can and how that “Pinstripes” song was one of my least favorite numbers in that show. However, that last duet with Megan and Katharine – love. That melody will definitely be in my head for the next few days.

I had pretty high expectations for this show based on all the chatter and the previews. This pilot definitely met those expectations and I cannot wait until there’s more episodes. The writing is brilliant and it’s obvious they are taking care to make it realistic. The staging is fantastic for the musical numbers. …And I’m begging you SMASH, don’t go the Glee route and go merch crazy. No need to make t-shirts, release a new cd of “Music from…” every other month – it’s not cute. Don’t ruin this for us NBC, you’ve got something amazing on your plate.

SMASH will officially premiere on NBC on February 6th, 10pm eastern. Download the pilot episode for free via iTunes or Amazon.com.

Frank Wildhorn deserves a fighting chance. Push Wonderland out of the picture for a moment and take in Bonnie & Clyde with an open mind. The show is full of musical gems, gorgeous solos, brilliant performances and beautiful orchestrations.

Laura Osnes delivers a spectacular performance as Bonnie Parker – a girl from a quiet town in Texas who wanted to be famous and adored. Osnes has a voice that is so flawless it could break your heart, especially in “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad”. My personal favorite? “How Bout A Dance” – just beautiful. She’s a superstar.

Jeremy Jordan tackles Clyde Barrow with power and authority. He oozes confidence and cockiness and has that charm that would make anyone weak at the knees. “Raise A Little Hell” is reminiscent of his days as a rocker in Rock Of Ages – loud, aggressive and commanding.

The standouts in the cast for me are Claybourne Elder and Melissa Van Der Schyff. Having played Buck and Blanche Barrow since the La Jolla run, you can tell the relationship they have on stage is rooted in a deep friendship and they play off each other so well. “You’re Goin’ Back To Jail” has to be one of my favorite numbers in the show.

The entire ensemble is impressive from Louis Hobson as Ted to Tad Wilson as Frank Hamer to the actors playing the younger versions of Bonnie and Clyde, Kelsey Fowler and Talon Ackerman.

Was the show perfect? Nope. Does it deserve this sudden close? Absolutely not. There are some major stand out performances in this show combined with an amazing score. A lot of times, shows close because people assume it will always be there and they don’t rush to buy tickets. No people in seats forces shows to have a short life. Do yourself a favor and catch Bonnie & Clyde before the show closes December 30th.