Friday, August 31, 2018

The Friday 5: 5 Neil Simon Memories

With the passing this week of Neil Simon, I thought I'd share my five favorite memories/shows by the prolific playwright. It was difficult to narrow it down to just five; I was a big fan. I take solace in the fact that his plays, musicals and films will remain with us even when he can't.

The Friday 5:
Neil Simon Shows
July 4, 1927 - August 26, 2018

5. Promises, Promises

There's always a lot said about the Bacarach/David score of Promises, Promises, and deservedly so. But there's something to be said for Simon's sharp, witty adaptation of The Apartment. A sort of How to Succeed... light, the book has a thing or two to say about sexism in the workplace, not to mention harassment and depression. And yet, the characters are still relatable and the show is funny.  After all, where else will an office Christmas party evolve into "Turkey Lurkey Time" and make sense?

4. The Goodbye Girl

This time, Simon adapted one of his movie to the stage, the Oscar-winning The Goodbye Girl, which is one of my favorite films, too. I personally loved this show, despite the fact that it flopped. Like Promises, Promises, the leading lady is down on her luck, and many didn't want to see a grumpy Bernadette Peters I guess. But a show that offers a chance to see Ms. Peters as a dancing plate of french fries (complete with a dollop of ketchup for a hat), a naked Martin Short playing guitar, and a precocious kid can't be that bad, can it?

3. Biloxi Blues

Of the three "B" plays, the middle one, Biloxi Blues, is my favorite. I have an affinity for World War II stories, and watching these young soldiers train together with an underlying feeling of fear and uncertainty over life and death adds emotional weight to this coming of age story. The script is equally comedic and dramatic and shows Simon near the peak of his powers as a serious playwright. Packed with moments - losing one's virginity, dealing with crazy authority, and even the discovery (and punishment) of a gay soldier - make this an edge-of-your-seat evening of theater.

2. Sweet Charity

One of my all-time favorite musicals, Sweet Charity is often thought of in terms of the Cy Coleman - Dorothy Fields score and the stagecraft and dance style of Bob Fosse. But it would be a mistake to overlook Simon's mod, fun look at mid-60's New York City. It's a bubbly and optimistic as its title character, and a sharp satire of city life at the same time. It doesn't get much better than this.

1. Lost in Yonkers


This warm, tender (and of course very funny) look at a broken family earned Simon his Pulitzer, and it was well-deserved. Full of tour-de-force performances from the entire cast, I laughed, cried and laughed some more. I don't think I'll ever forget the showdown between cast iron Grandma Kurnitz (Irene Worth) and the struggling Aunt Bella (Mercedes Ruehl). It was stunning.

Thank you, Doc.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

#TBT: Playbill: Blood Brothers: February 1994

I knew when I was going through my Playbill collection looking for a new #TBT subject, I had to include this one!

Blood Brothers is one of my all-time favorite shows. I saw it an embarrassing number of times, missing only one of the many leading ladies (Carole King). Probably my favorite cast, though, was the one headed by Petula Clark, David Cassidy and Shaun Cassidy. They were incredible, and so was the entire company. And i have an awesome stage door story involving them, but that's for another time! (Again, I apologize for my photos...)

Click to enlarge the pictures.

February 1994
Blood Brothers
The Music Box
13 previews, 840 performances
February 1994 Company: Petula Clark, David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, Adrian Zmed, Regina O'Malley, Shauna Hicks, Ivar Brogger, John Schiappa
Book, music and lyrics by Willy Russell. Direction by Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson

Notice Broadway debutante Kerry Butler (3rd row)

Victor Garber was on Broadway then,
and wasn't it nice of Joseph... to do TWO
Sunday matinees?

Is this 2018 or 1994? Angels in America, My Fair Lady 
played both years, and The Phantom of the Opera and
Blue Man Group haven't closed yet!

And my three favorite Blood Brothers stars...

Petula Clark
Mrs. Johnstone

David and Shaun Cassidy
Mickey and Eddie

Check out previous #TBT subjects by clicking the #TBT tab at the top! Have a suggestion or ideas for future posts? Contact us at the Twitter or email address above.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why Some Movies-To-Musicals Work (I Think)

What ingredients made Waitress a hit?
If we could define the perfect formula for guaranteeing that a musical will be a smash hit, we'd all be very wealthy, wouldn't we theater fans? I suppose it makes good business sense to try and replicate success. Because of that, we seem to live in a Broadway world where every producer is looking for the next Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys. That's why we have Escape to Margaritaville, On Your Feet and Summer. (Not to mention this season's Head Over Heels, The Cher Show and Ain't Too Proud...)

Musicals based on films have a much longer history. The 1970 Best Musical, Applause, is based on the film All About Eve, and the 1984 Best Musical, La Cage aux Folles, is based on a film of the same name. Both shows had stars in them. Both had huge production numbers. And both were updated from their source material. But for every Thoroughly Modern Millie there's a Ghost or Rocky; for every The Lion King there's a Tarzan.

Applause: HIT     Ghost: The Musical : FLOP

I think that a producer would stand a better chance of a hit musical based on a film if they go with small, independent (many times foreign) films. These film to stage musicals since 2001 were hits that recouped their investments, were critically acclaimed award-winners:

Hairspray : HIT

Billy Elliot: The Musical : HIT

  • The Full Monty (770 performances, 10 Tony nominations)
  • Hairspray (2642 performances, 13 Tony nominations, 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical)
  • Billy Elliot: The Musical (1312 performances, 15 Tony nominations, 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical)
  • Once (1168 performances, 11 Tony nominations, 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical)
  • Kinky Boots (2250 performances to date, 13 Tony nominations, 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical)
  • Waitress (977 performances, 4 Tony nominations)

Of course, for all of that success there were also such flops as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Hands on a Hardbody, and Amelie.

Amelie : FLOP

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown : FLOP

All of those hit shows have things in common: strong scores, solid book and directions, great production values. The same can be said, of course, for all great musicals, though. Other things they have in common are that creative ways were found to effectively musicalize non-musical material, and, perhaps most importantly, they aren't as heavily burdened with pre-conceived notions and expectations from a film's built-in fan base.

The Band's Visit : TBD

Truth is, there is no sure-fire hit musical formula. There's no accounting for public taste, and even the best constructed show can still flop (see anything by Sondheim). Still, if I were a betting man, The Band's Visit will ultimately be in the hit column. And we already know that this season will have its share of film adaptations - from Pretty Woman to Tootsie. What will hit and what will miss? Only time will tell.

Bet you dollars to donuts that some producer is reading every historical biography on the shelves looking for the next Hamilton

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Most Shows at One Theater (Part 2)

As we continue to celebrate the start of my 36th year of going to Broadway shows, let's take a look at more of the theaters where I've seen multiple distinct productions. Miss the first part? Click HERE. This week, I'll share the next 10 theaters where I saw 8 or 9 shows.

Favorite Production at that theater in bold.

9 Productions (2 theaters):

Image result for grand hotel martin beck theatre marquee

Al Hirschfeld/Martin Beck: Into the Woods, Grand Hotel, Moon Over Buffalo, The Wedding Singer, Curtains, Hair, Elf, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (revival), Kinky Boots

Image result for side show richard rodgers theatre marquee

Richard Rodgers: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (revival), Steel Pier, Side Show, Seussical, Tarzan, In the Heights, The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, If/Then, Hamilton

8 Productions (8 theaters):

Image result for once theatre marquee
Bernard B. Jacobs/Royale: Sweet Sue, An Inspector Calls, Triumph of Love, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 13, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Once, The Color Purple (revival)

Image result for promises promises theatre marquee
Broadway: Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Shrek: The Musical, Promises, Promises (revival), Sister Act, Cinderella, Doctor Zhivago, Fiddler on the Roof (revival)

Image result for fun home theatre marquee
Circle in the Square: The Rocky Horror Show, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Lombardi, Godspell, Soul Doctor, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Fun Home, Once on This Island

Image result for scottsboro boys theatre marquee
Lyceum: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Steel Magnolias, Is He Dead?, The Scottsboro Boys, Venus in Fur, The Nance, A Night with Janis Joplin, The Visit

Image result for music box theatre marquee
The Music Box: Blood Brothers, Swinging on a Star, State Fair, In My Life, Deuce, Lend Me a Tenor, One Man, Two Guvnors, Pippin

Nederlander: RENT, Million Dollar Quartet, Newsies: The Musical, Honeymoon in Vegas, Amazing Grace, Disaster!, War Paint, Pretty Woman: The Musical

Image result for a chorus line shubert theatre
Shubert: A Chorus Line, Crazy For You, Big: The Musical, Chicago (revival), Blithe Spirit (revival), Memphis, Matilda: The Musical, Hello, Dolly! (revival)

Image result for cabaret studio 54
Studio 54: Cabaret (revival), Sunday in the Park with George (revival), Sondheim on Sondheim, Brief Encounter, The People in the Picture, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (revival), Cabaret (revival), She Loves Me (revival)

Monday, August 27, 2018

BROADWAY HEAT: Pretty Woman Edition (Round 1)


HOT on Broadway (adj.): fierce, talented, big potential; has "buzz"; has "it" factor.

Last week, we announced the winner of BROADWAY HEAT: Gettin' the Band Back Together (HERE). All thanks to YOU of course! Now it's Pretty Woman: The Musical's turn! This week, we are going to narrow the cast down to The Big 8! Who will make it to the next round? Broadway favorites like Andy Karl or Orfeh? Broadway newcomers like Samantha Barks? Or a triple-threat ensemblist, like Allison Blackwell or Tommy Bracco? IT'S ALL UP TO YOU - SO VOTE NOW!!

  • This week's elimination round will determine The Big 8. Each week after that, you'll keep voting in rounds of pairs, until we are down to one pair. 
  • You have to pick ONE from EACH randomly selected group of three (no skipping!) AND click "FINISH SURVEY" at the end of the poll.
  • You don't have to have seen the show to vote! There are pictures of each cast member included!
  • I can't stress this enough: YOU MUST CLICK "FINISH SURVEY" AFTER YOU ANSWER EACH QUESTION. If you don't, your vote won't count. 

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