Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bits and Pieces for 02.14.10

Happy Valentine's Day!  Don't forget to vote in this month's poll to determine Broadway's most romantic couple!



Last week I blogged about Next Fall getting Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish as producers.  I wondered then if they would be going the route of Fela! and producers Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith or The Color Purple  and producer Oprah, and make sure their names were over the title and prominently displayed in all advertising.  Or would they be going the low key way and just let it be (like Tom Hulce and American Idiot and Spring Awakening or Christina Applegate and Sweet Charity).  Both Hulce, a well-regarded actor on film and stage, and Applegate, beloved wherever she goes be it TV, film or stage, could have done their fair share of selling tickets with the prominent display of their names as producers, but chose not to and let the shows speak for themselves.  And its not like the days of David Merrick whose name above the title assured audiences of a certain quality of show - his sole occupation was theatre producer.  Similarly, today we have Disney whose name above the title signals to audiences that you are getting a certain type of show with all the assurances of the Disney brand (remember AIDA?  They did not advertise it as "Disney's AIDA."  Why?  Because their target audience wasn't the kids and parents who watch Disney videos every day.

Oprah, an icon of global proportions, used her name (and, it turns out, wisely) to sell The Color Purple to audiences for a few reasons - her beloved book club and her Alice Walker connection, and, of course, her connection to the film version.  The world is Oprah's potential audience.  If her name is attached everyone notices, period.  Then, too, she has championed the touring company of The Lion King and any number of  August Wilson plays.  You'd think the talk show queen who hop on the next to normal bus and chat about bipolar disorder.  Nah.  She'd leave that to her minion, Dr. Phil.  I'm not judging, just pointing out facts.

But, let's be honest (and, I suppose, politically incorrect) and call these latelest producing credits what they are: blatant attempts to court certain segments of the theatre-going (and non-theatre-going) public.  Yes, it makes perfect sense.  Ads for La Cage aux Folles will likely appear in Out Magazine, and Fela! ads probably appear regularly in Essence.  Smart advertising policies, and they would work with no names above the title.  But doesn't it seem a tad fishy that Jay-Z, known for his music career suddenly has theatre cred?  Will and Jada have fan appeal that crosses all demographics, so I can buy them a little more - and they both act (and very well). 

And isn't it just a wee bit calculated that as Playbill described them, "power couple" Elton John and David Furnish have their names all over the Next Fall ads?  (And notice that he doesn't trot out his royal title for this show, either.  Would the Queen take issue?)  I mean, clearly they aren't going for the same audience as John's The Lion King.  Oh, wait!  I bet there are people at every single performance of that show who are surprised that he wrote some of the score for the stage.  And it isn't like Elton John wrote Next Fall, like Elton John's AIDA.  I am gay, and I understand the need to support and publicize, but really?  I bet you could poll 100 gay men and less than a quarter of them would know who David Furnish is.  I'm just saying.


Speaking of advertising whoredom, the people over at Chicago wrote the book!  And while I'm sure the ads will pay up the fact that Matthew Settle is in the TV show Gossip Girl, I'll bet a ton of money that they won't put an ad for Chicago in Seventeen.  Still, it is always fun to see who they get next for that show, and this guy should prove to be a bump in the box office.  I mean just look at him!  Triton Gallery please commission a new window card for him.  I'll buy it.


One of my favorite BC/EFA charity drives is the annual Broadway Bears auction.  Each year, shows design teddy bears to look like characters in their shows, including replicas of actual costumes done by the designers, and signed by prominent cast and creative team members.  This year's include 9 to 5, A Steady Rain, and my favorite this year the Billy Elliot bear, designed after Mrs. Wilkinson, and signed by Sir Elton John (sans David Furnish), Stephen Daldry and Haydn Gwynne.  The Hair bear is also adorable!


STOP right here if you don't want to see the answers before to try the game.  Click here for the game first.

OK.  First, thank you to several readers who wrote with questions, answers of their own and especially David, who helped me clarify the rules.

Now, I have to say up front: there are probably MANY ways to get from one end of the puzzle to the other.  These are just my way of getting there.

1.  Spring Awakening to American Idiot:  Spring Awakening stars John Gallagher, Jr.  John Gallagher, Jr. stars in American Idiot.  There are similar connections with the director, Michael Mayer and members of the design team.

2.  Billy Elliot to Victor/Victoria:  Billy Eliot starred Gregory Jbara.  Gregory Jbara starred in Victor/Victoria.

3.  Pippin to Sweet Charity (original production): Pippin was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.  Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the original production of Sweet Charity.  Similar connections can be made with Kathryn Doby and Gene Foote, both of whom were in the original casts of both shows.

4.  Angela Lansbury to Matt Cavenaugh: Angela Lansbury stars in A Little Night Music.  A Little Night Music plays at the Walter Kerr.  The Walter Kerr was home to Grey Gardens.  Grey Gardens co-starred Matt Cavenaugh.  You could also connect Lansbury to Sondheim to West Side Story to Cavenaugh.

5.  Twyla Tharp to the revival of Big River: Twyla Tharp directed The Times They Are A-Changin'.  The Times They Are A-Changin' starred Michael Arden.  Michael Arden played Tom Sawyer in the revival of Big River.

6.  Barbara Walsh to Xanadu: Barbara Walsh was in Blood Brothers.  Blood Brothers also featured Kerry Butler.  Kerry Butler starred in Xanadu.

7.  The Will Rogers Follies to Mary Stuart Masterson: The Will Rogers Follies was directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune.  Tommy Tune also directed and choreographed Grand Hotel.  Grand Hotel starred Jane Krakowski.  Jane Kralowski starred in the revival of Nine.  The revival of Nine also starred Mary Stuart Masterson.  (Before you write, I know Tune directed the original Nine, but he had nothing to do with the revival.  No leap there.)

8.  Shrek to Beauty and the Beast:  OK, turns out there is one degree here.  Danny Troob orchestrated both shows.  A more complicated way is this: Shrek starred Sutton Foster.  Sutton Foster was in Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Thoroughly Modern Millie starred Gavin Creel.  Gavin Creel was in the revival of La Cage aux Folles.  The revival of La Cage aux Folles starred Gary Beach.  Gary Beach was in Beauty and the Beast.  There were many ways this could have worked.

9.  Rosie O'Donnell to Rock of Ages: Rosie O'Donnell produced Taboo.  Taboo featured Curtis Holbrook.  Curtis Holbrook was in Xanadu.  Xanadu featured Andre Ward.  Andre Ward is in Rock of Ages.

10.  Jerry Orbach to the 2007 revival of Company: Turns out this one wasn't as hard as I thought.  Thank you to all of you who showed me the easier way (my original had more than 6 degrees!).  One way:  Jerry Orbach starred in Promises, Promises.  Promises, Promises opened at the Shubert Theatre.  The Shubert Theatre was home to Big.  Big starred Barbara Walsh.  Barbara Walsh starred in the 2007 revival of Company.  Another way:  Jerry Orbach starred in Chicago.  Chicago played at the 46th Street Theatre.  The 46th Street Theatre became the Richard Rodgers Theatre.  The Richard Rodgers Theatre was home to the recent revival of Cyrano de Bergerac.  The recent revival of Cyrano de Bergerac featured both Fred Rose and Leenya Rideout.  Both Fred Rose and Leenya Rideout were in the 2007 revival of Company.

Send in your solutions and PLEASE send in suggestions for the next round of 6 Degrees of Broadway!


Happy Birthday last week to:
2/7: Matthew Gumley
2/8: Sherie Rene Scott
2/9: Alice Walker
2/10: the late Peter Allen
2/11: Burt Reynolds (yes, he has a Broadway credit!)
2/12: the late Patrick Quinn
2/13: Stockard Channing

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