Friday, November 30, 2012

HOT or NOT: A Christmas Story Edition

I know I said last week was the last HOT or NOT until after the holidays, but how could I leave out a big holiday show like A Christmas Story??  I'll be brief - you all know what to do by now!  A couple things to remember:

  1. There are 17 cast members to consider, so there are TWO polls to complete (I can only put 10 on each!).  CLICK "DONE" AT THE END OF EACH ONE!
  2. The poll program only gathers your answers, not ANY personal information.

Here are pictures of the cast, then the polls... keep scrolling!

John Bolton and Dan Lauria
Lead Actor

(Left) Erin Dilly - Lead Actress
(Right) Caroline O'Connor - Supporting Actress

Female Ensemble: Tia Altinay and Charissa Bertels

Lindsay O'Neill and Lara Seibert

Kirsten Wyatt


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Swings: Matthew DeGuzman and Mara Newbery

Male Ensemble: Andrew Cristi and Thay Floyd

Nick Gaswirth and Eddie Korbich

Mark Ledbetter and Jose Luaces

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Broadway Box Office: 2012 - 2013 Season: 2nd Quarter Stats

Time sure flies... last Sunday marked the end of the first half of the 2012-2013 Broadway season.  Here's how your favorite (and not-so-favorite) shows did during the second quarter.

But first, a few facts about the quarter:
  • There were a total of 39 different productions that played between August 27 and November 26, 2012.
  • 22 were musicals (16 original, 6 revivals); 15 were plays (8 original, 7 revivals); 2 were specials.
  • There were a total of 341 playing weeks in the second quarter.
Broadway Box Office
2nd Quarter of the 2012 - 2013 Season
August 27 - November 26, 2012
39 Productions; 341 Playing Weeks

Show Title # of 
1 1 The Book of Mormon 13
2 - Glengarry Glen Ross 8
3 2 Disney's The Lion King 13
4 4 Once 13
5 3 Wicked 13
6 7 Rock of Ages 13
7 8 Jersey Boys 13
8 5 Disney's Newsies 13
9 6 Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark 13
10 10 Evita 13
11 15 Nice Work If You Can Get It 13
12 - The Heiress 6
13 - Elf: The Musical 3
14 - Annie 8
15 17 Chicago 13
16 - A Christmas Story: The Musical 3
17 11 The Phantom of the Opera 13
18 19 War Horse 13
19 - The Anarchist 2
20 12 Mamma Mia! 13
21 14 Mary Poppins 13
22 - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 9
23 - Grace 11
24 - Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons 2
25 39 Chaplin 13
26 - Dead Accounts 3
27 - The Mystery of Edwin Drood 6
28 - Running on Empty 2
29 - Cyrano de Bergerac 11
30 18 Peter and the Starcatcher 13
31 - An Enemy of the People 11
32 22 Bring It On: The Musical 13
33 13 Gore Vidal's The Best Man 3
34 - The Performers 4
35 - Scandalous 7
36 23 The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess 4
37 - Golden Boy 3
38 9 One Man, Two Guvnors 1
39 21 Clybourne Park 1

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Broadway Box Office: Week 26: 11.19 - 11.25.2012

Week #26; 31 Productions
November 19 - 25, 2012

Dead Accounts

In Previews:
  • Dead Accounts - 8 previews
  • Glengarry Glen Ross - 5 previews
  • Golden Boy - 8 previews
  • The Anarchist - 8 previews

Opened This Week:
  • A Christmas Story - 9 performances
A Christmas Story

Closed This Week:
  • An Enemy of the People - 26 previews, 59 performances
  • Cyrano de Bergerac - 32 previews, 52 performances

Special Performance Schedule This Week:
  • A Christmas Story - 9 performances
  • Elf - 9 performances
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf - 7 performances

Show Title Show Type Theatre Rank
1 The Book of Mormon Musical O'Neill 2 +1
2 tie The Lion King Musical Minskoff 3 +1
2 tie Wicked Musical Gershwin 4 +2
4 Glengarry Glen Ross Play Revival Schoenfeld 1 -3
5 Once Musical Jacobs 5 Same
6 tie Newsies Musical Nederlander 6 Same
6 tie Annie Musical
Palace 12 +6
8 Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Musical Foxwoods 10 +2
9 Rock of Ages Musical Hayes 6 -3
10 Jersey Boys Musical Wilson 6 -4
11 The Phantom of the Opera Musical  Majestic 20 +9
12 A Christmas Story Musical Lunt-Fontanne 18 +6
13 tie War Horse PlayMusical Beaumont 15 +2
13 tie Mary Poppins Musical New Amsterdam 21 +8
13 tie Evita
Marquis 14 +1
16Chicago Musical 
Ambassador 23 +7
17 tieElfMusical 
Hirschfeld 19 +2
17 tie Nice Work If You Can Get It Musical Imperial 11 -6
19 Mamma Mia! Musical  Winter Garden 24 +5
20 Peter and the Starcatcher Play Atkinson 27 +7
21 Cyrano de Bergerac Play 
American Airlines 17 +4
22 The Heiress Play 
Kerr 9 -13
23 Bring It On: The Musical Musical St. James 26 +3
24 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Play 
Booth 16 -8
25  The Anarchist Play Golden 13 -12
26 The Mystery of Edwin Drood Musical 
Studio 54 22 -4
27 Dead Accounts Play Music Box 25 -2
28 Grace Play Cort 30 +2
29 Chaplin Musical Barrymore28 -1
30 Golden Boy
Belasco 33 +3
31 Scandalouss Musical Neil Simon 29 -2

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The 2012 OUT 100: The Broadway Connection, Part 2

The Covers
Well, it's the end of November, and at last the rest of the 18th Annual Out 100 list is out!  The initial roll out featured 8 gentlemen with Broadway connections (read about them HERE).  Here are 8 more - 16 out of 100, not bad!  And the rest of the list is equally full of veterans of the stage and the new generation of theatrical movers and shakers.  Best of all, though, these artists represent the very best of their craft, and as people who lead and live by example.  They are role models, envelope pushers, champions and heroes.  Together, they (and all of the 100) move us even closer to a day when we might celebrate the 100 greatest people of the year - gay, straight or whatever.

Here are the rest of the theatre people celebrated on this year's Out 100!

Jon Robin Baitz: Playwright

Theatre Connection:  Well, he writes plays (and TV that more resembles theatre than television).  Most recently, he stunned with Other Desert Cities, his first play to make it to Broadway.

Walter Bobbie: Actor, Director

Theatre Connection: There are those of us old enough to remember know Bobbie was in the original cast of Grease, and we were probably old enough to have actually seen him in the much-beloved 90's revival of Guys and Dolls.  But I can almost guarantee that if you are reading this you have probably seen his directorial work - last year, he made sure the stage was smoking hot with David Ives' erotic thriller, Venus in Fur.  And for as long as most of us can remember... a little show called Chicago.

Boy George: Singer, Song Writer, Actor (OUT Magazine's Legend of the Year)

Theatre Connection: It's been awhile, and we'd love to have him back!  He was the star, the composer and lyricist and subject of Taboo.

Simon Callow: Actor, Director

Theatre Connection: Though this Brit is a living legend in his native country, Broadway has had the pleasure of his company twice: as director of Shirley Valentine and as performer in The Mystery of Charles Dickens.  Come back soon, Simon!

Jane Lynch: Actress (OUT Magazine's Entertainer of the Year)

Theatre Connection: The former Love, Loss and What I Wore star is probably best known as Sue Sylvester, the terror of McKinley High in the theatre-friendly Glee, but a better friend to the arts would be hard to find in real life.

Andrew Rannells: Actor (OUT Magazine's Ingenue of the Year)

Theatre Connection: Hello!  The Tony-nominated star of The Book of Mormon is now wowing the country in the hit TV series The New Normal.  I hope we haven't lost him completely to Hollywood...

Michael Urie: Actor

Theatre Connection: Since his acclaimed stint in TV's Ugly Betty, Urie has been no stranger to the New York stage, including equally acclaimed turns in The Temperamentals and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Matthew Wilkas: Actor

Theatre Connection: This fine slice of beefcake (like you don't see it...) currently stars in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark as bad boy Flash, and several ensemble roles.  He also understudies the web-slinger himself, Peter Parker/Spider-Man!

To see the full 2012 OUT 100, click HERE.  All photos by M. Sharkley.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

REVIEW: Scandalous

Review of the Sunday, November 25 matinee performance at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York City, NY.  Starring Carolee Carmello, George Hearn, Candy Buckley, Andrew Samonsky, Edward Watts and Roz Ryan.  Book, Lyrics and Additional Music by Kathie Lee Gifford.  Music by David  Pomeranz and David Friedman.  Choreography by Lorin Latarro.  Direction by David Armstrong.  2 hours, 20 minutes, including 1 intermission.

Grade: F

This will sound harsh, but it is true: Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson is among the four or five worst Broadway musicals I've seen in nearly 30 years of attending shows.  The only reason I didn't leave at intermission was because I was comped and felt an obligation to see the whole show in order to give a full and fair review.  So here it goes.

There is exactly one moment in the entire production that offers a glimpse of what could have been.  The opening of Act Two, "Hollywood Aimee," offers a stylized, interesting staging with the only song in the score that sounds remotely different from the other 28 songs listed in the Playbill.  That's it for the positives.

Aimee Semple McPherson on trial

Oh, I know what you are thinking: "What about the great Carolee Carmello?"  The gal can belt out money notes like nobody's business, it's true - several of them got a hand all by themselves from a couple dozen of the maybe 300 of us in the house.  But let's face it.  She has no business playing a fifteen year old, and badly.  I literally blushed with embarrassment on Carmello's behalf.  Maybe it's time to reevaluate just where she sits in the hierarchy of Broadway divas.  She works way too hard to carry a show (even this one).  One would think, that with a list of credits like hers, she'd be able to handle all of the responsibilities of an above-the-title lead.  Her entire performance consists of that vacant, toothy grin and that determined-yet-also-vacant glint in the eye that all evangelists seem to have - charming and decidedly less than genuine.  Her movements seem limited to sprinting around the ice castle set and waving her arms more like a person who is on a skateboard for the very first time more than one moved to gesture toward Heaven.  By all accounts (including several mentions in the fact-filled, Weekly Reader-esque book) Sister Aimee had charisma to spare.  Ms. Carmello has very little of it.  Her much storied 7 minutes offstage were a welcome reprieve from her otherwise one-note, one intensity, shrill performance.

How she portrays the late Semple McPherson is ultimately not entirely up to her, and in defense of Ms. Carmello, it is important to recognize that she is not acting alone.  (There is irony in that statement, since the musical amounts to a one-woman show with the rest of the cast as scenery.)  This musical breaks what are, for me, three of the cardinal rules of musical theatre:

Set by Walter Spangler, lights by Natasha Katz and
costumes by Gregory A. Poplyk

1.  If you are offering up a concept, follow through with it 100%.  In this case, the show is framed as a trial (part of the too obvious double meaning behind the subtitle) with Aimee being called upon to answer for her alleged crimes against the people of Los Angeles.  Trials all by themselves are inherently dramatic and full of opportunities to create tense, theatrical moments.  But after a brief introduction at the start of the show, and revisiting it much later, the framework vanishes, and the show meanders aimlessly instead of being a cohesive, interesting whole.  Similarly, the design elements should support that concept; here they fail on their own since there is no concept to follow.  The most heinous design element here is the extremely poor sound design by Ken Travis, whose lack of concern about the balance between the orchestra and the singer (chiefly Carmello - no wonder she was put on vocal rest) is criminal.  The vast majority of lyrics in most of the songs is drowned out.  And if Tony Awards could be rescinded for future crimes against theatre, Natasha Katz should lose at least one for decorating Walt Spangler's dull set with tube lights - the kind people hang in dorm rooms or under shelves, and one for relying way too much on spotlights.  Back to Spangler's set - is it possible that all of it was cobbled together from its previous incarnations in Virginia and Seattle?   That's the only explanation I can think of to tell why the drops look like they were done by different artists, that the set pieces alternated between copiously detailed realism and art-deco suggestiveness.  And the costumes by Gregory A. Poplyk remind me more of my high school/college days spent trolling attics, thrift stores, and sewing costumes made from Simplicity Patterns to dress a cast, than of a Broadway caliber design.

George Hearn and Roz Ryan

Carolee Carmello and Edward Watts

2.  Give your talent something to work with and accentuate their gifts.   Why on Earth would George Hearn take a job that barely allows him to sing or act?  He gets two notes to play - the bland as oatmeal good guy and the sharp-tongued self-righteous rival evangelist.  Why would Roz Ryan agree to play a role that perpetuates that tired stereotype of step'n fetchit sidekick whose true wisdom is tempered by sharp-witted bon mots?  And what does it say about a show when there are TWO romantic interests and neither shows a second of charm, sex appeal or charisma.  Sorry, Edward Watts, you may have 8 cans in your 6 pack, but a bare chest and toothy grin does not a character make.  (I will admit he was better in Act One as Robert Semple, but not by much.)  And how about poor Andrew Samonsky whose one role consists of a walk across the stage and a bare arm exposed from under the covers of a bed (I can't even confirm it was actually him in the bed), and his second role is so hastily explained I'm not entirely sure why he gets kicked to the curb along Watts' character. Leave it to the always underrated Candy Buckley to lift a one note bad mother into a two note bad mom with a caring streak. One imagines she defied the powers that be to leave just to do more than the Wicked Witch of the West scowl she was stuck with in Act One, just to add a layer in Act Two.

Andrew Samonsky and Carolee Carmello

Candy Buckley, Edward Watts and Carolee Carmello

3.  SHOW US, DON'T TELL US!  I blame nearly every flaw in this "piece" squarely on its creators.  I hope that all of the accolades earned by director David Armstrong in Seattle were for more than what he's done here: Aimee center, everything else on steps to the side, everyone facing forward to yell out facts or sing loudly.  And I hope that the next time that Lorin Latarro choreographs a show she comes up with more than more-gymnastic-than-sexy splits for hookers and reporters fanning themselves in unison to a beat plunked out the string section.  But the whole cast could sit on black chairs and do nothing if the script they read and the songs they sang had something to say.  The book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford are alternately a list of factoids and banal platitudes.  Nearly every opportunity to show us what a remarkable woman Ms. Semple McPherson was, and what a crazy life she led are told to us, tossed off in a line or two, rather than shown to us.  Two pivotal, life-changing moments in her saga are mentioned, not acted out.  First,  the love of her life is felled by malaria while doing mission work in China.  But what does Gifford give us?  A throw away number on the slow boat to China done by inappropriately stereotypical Irish folk who dance a jig while rhyming "Lassie" with "a nice assie" (how smugly Kathie Lee must have giggled when she penned that gem...).  Or how about the mini-soap scene we got to hear where, after nearly bleeding to death giving birth, Aimee hears the voice of God, which ultimately causes her to create the Four Square Church, which still exists today.  A monumental moment is reduced to a quick bit of dialogue during an onstage costume change. And the entire reason she's on trial - an alleged fake kidnapping which calls into question the running of her church is told to us as a series of newspaper headlines.  How she gets out of it is equally undramatic - two confrontations that pit the holier than thou women (not Aimee herself) against two every-man-is-a-lying-cheating-dog guys.  Again, we see nothing, we just hear about it.  The last time Gifford dips into that overused well is meant to sear us with its intensity and move us to tears, as the people in Semple's past tell us the facts surrounding her death and continued triumph as a soon-to-be saint.  (Kathie Lee, Evita did it first and much better - a body missing for 15 years trumps being buried on your birthday every time.)  Gifford's lyrics are as clever as Gifford thinks she is.  That is to say they rhyme, pretend occasionally to be naughty, and, when in doubt, become so sanctimonious and faux sincere as to cause nausea.  Like Aimee, Kathie Lee has her followers; both groups thrive on simplistic banalities wrapped up in insincere Godliness and cheap theatrics with the faintest whiff of sleaziness.  The best I can say for the musical aspect of the score is that the three, yes, three  composers (Gifford, David Friedman and David Pomeranz) have truly nailed the gospel number style.  Unfortunately, all of the numbers sound exactly the same - and not in that way that you can tell a Sondheim song or a Herman production number.

The choreography of Lorin Latarro: From evangelists... ladies of the night.

Before you write to tell me how harsh and unforgiving I am with this review, consider this:  I have given 100% of my convictions that this is a bad show.  Whether you like what I have to say or not, I have given this as much thought as I do any show I rave about.  If the people behind Scandalous had given as much thought to their work and pushed the limits with whatever they were trying to say, I might still hate it, but I'd at least respect the effort.  As it is, the only thing scandalous about Scandalous is the fact that it is still running.  I felt the most for the cast at the curtain call, who, to a person, looked not only weary after the 8th show of the week, but as bored with the whole affair as I was.  (They were not fooled by a partial standing ovation led by Gifford herself.)  How about showing these nice people the same mercy Sister Aimee preached about and close this ungodly mess?

(Photos by Jeremy Daniel)

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

FACE OF THE FUTURE: A Christmas Story's Johnny Rabe

To be perfectly honest, I find the majority of child actors to be annoying with their overly cheesy smiles, over acting, and consistent mugging.  They are brats even when their role calls for a nice, everyday kid.  Lately, Broadway has been very fortunate to have a whole generation of kids who are anything but phony.  I'm thinking of the wonderful young lady in War Horse, the kid versions Bonnie and Clyde, most of the cast of 13.

Most recently, though, one young actor has set the bar for charming, effortless, and most importantly, realistic acting by the 8 - 12 set.  His name is Johnny Rabe, and he currently stars as Ralphie in A Christmas Story: The Musical.  There isn't a less than genuine moment in his entire performance.  That is really saying something considering that he's called upon to not only sing, dance and act, but play against some of Broadway's best pros, a couple of dogs, a kick line of sexy leg lamps, and a mountain of physical comedy during some truly outrageous fantasy sequences.

The many faces of Ralphie Parker

That he maintains a professional presence while still bursting with youthful energy is to his considerable credit.  His zeal and wide-eyed wonder is all that betrays his age.  He's having the time of his life, and we are all the better for it.  I have a feeling that this just the beginning of a long, successful career.

(Photos by Carol Rosegg)

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Broadway's Gone to the Dogs

There was a time not all that long ago when Cats ruled Broadway.  For the last 15 years, Broadway has been ruled by a certain Lion monarch.  But this season, another set of four-legged creatures has quietly taken over the hearts of Broadway fans.  No less than three shows on the Great White Way feature scene-stealing dogs.  What a treat for those of us who love a cuddle with a canine!

Best Exit by a Pup on Broadway: Macaco in The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54

His Performance: He practically steals the scene in which his scene-stealing owner, Miss Alice Nutting, is trying once again to upstage her fellow Thespians of the Music Hall Royale.  In real-life, Macaco is Stephanie J. Block (and Sebastian Arcelus)'s pet Yorkie/Maltese mix.

Macaco and His Owner, Stephanie J. Block,
make a grand exit in The Mystery of Edwin Drood
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Best Running (Literally) Joke by a Pair of Pups on Broadway: Pete and Lily as The Bumpus Hounds in A Christmas Story: The Musical at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

Their Performance:  The Old Man may be running in terror to get in the house before the Bumpus Hounds bite, but the audiences at A Christmas Story are "awww"-ing their heads off every time these two adorable Purebread Bloodhounds take the stage.  Broadway's own dog whisperer, Bill Berloni,  rescued these two from a Canadian shelter and we are all the better for it!

The Parkers meet Pete and Lily, aka
The Bumpus Hounds in A Christmas Story
(Photo by Carol Rosegg)

Best Partner in Crime on Broadway: Sunny as Sandy in Annie at the Palace Theatre

Her Performance:  Sunny recreates probably the most iconic Broadway role ever played by a pooch.  She was plucked from a Houston, Texsas shelter with less than 24 hours to go before her time was up by Bill Berloni.  As sweet as her "human," Annie, Sunny is a Sandy to be remembered!

Orphan Annie and Sandy:
Lilla Crawford and Sunny
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

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