Don't Vote!, or: Avenue Q's Bad Idea Bears on the Election

Audra McDonald on, or: thank God I have two...

As you may or may not know, I'm a huge Audra McDonald fan. I would give my left testicle to see her in anything she does. Yeah, I said it.

Here's a brief interview from about her upcoming concert benefit Broadway Voices for Change for America Votes at the Al Hirshfeld Theatre.

I knew I loved her for good reason.

Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit, or: how her (my) birthday (Broadway) wish came true

Happy birthday to Sweeney goddess Angela Lansbury.

Lansbury has performed in some of the greatest musical roles of all time (Nellie Lovett and Mama Rose!). And she is returning to Broadway in the Spring in, not a musical, but a classic Noël Coward comedy, Blithe Spirit.

Lansbury will play psychic Madame Arcati in the revival of the ghostly comedy. She will join the previously announced Christine Ebersole as the ghostly Elvira and film star Rupert Everett, who will be making his Broadway debut. Michael Blakemore, who directed Lansbury in Deuce, will direct at a Shubert Theatre to be announced.

It may be her birthday, but it is us who will be getting the wish we all want.

All My Sons Opening Night, or: seminolishly classic Katie Holmes?

Opening tonight at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre is the third Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's classic American drama All My Sons, concerning a business man, his past choices and their consequences, and his family during post-World War II.

The production began previews (which have been playing to very full houses) at the Schoenfeld Sept. 18. With an official opening of Oct. 16, the limited engagement is currently scheduled to run through Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009.

The production is notable for its highly prolific cast. Tony Award winner John Lithgow (as Joe Keller), Oscar winner Dianne Weist (Kate Keller), Broadway and Hollywood actor Patrick Wilson (Chris Keller), and Mrs. Tom Cruise herself - film actress Katie Holmes (Ann Deever) in her Broadway debut co-star under the direction of Simon McBurney.

Also featured are Becky Ann Baker, Christian Camargo, Michael D'addario, Danielle Ferland, Jordan Gelber, Sherman Howard, Clark Jackson, Lizbeth MacKay, Christopher Grey Misa, Danielle Skraastad, and Damian Young.

The production's official website offers this synopsis: "As timely today as the day it was written, the play was inspired by a true story about a successful businessman who knowingly sold the government defective airplane parts during World War II. A middle-class couple, Joe and Kate Keller, have lost their younger son in the war, but Kate cannot give up believing that he is still alive. Chris, their surviving son, falls in love with his brother's fiancée Ann and brings her home to tell them of their new relationship and their plans to marry. In the confrontations that follow, cracks begin to appear in everyone's stories, lies are exposed, and a secret is revealed that could destroy them all."

Chris saw the show early in previews and was not impressed, citing premature direction, lots of screaming, and an ugly set. My good friend Byrd (read his Little House on the Prairie review here) just saw the show last night and said it was fantastic, and that Katie Holmes was surprisingly good. He said he was swept up in the high melodrama and was emotionally engaged.

Perhaps the show has tightened up and really benefited from previews. If only To Be Or Not To Be would have done the same... Reviews, or: No he most certainly did not! (To Be Or Not To Be)

To Be Or Not To Be, written by Nick Whitby and directed by Casey Nicholaw, opened last night at the at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Here is an assessment of reviews compiled from

NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW: "If the producers of the walking corpse of a comedy To Be or Not to Be are feeling unappreciated this morning — and it’s a safe bet that they are — here’s a consoling thought for them. It took years for the Ernst Lubitsch film that inspired this play to get any respect."

ASSOCIATED PRESS REVIEW: "The fall theater season is still young, but Nick Whitby's To Be or Not to Be may turn out to be the most unnecessary Broadway production of the year."

VARIETY REVIEW: "Film critics have tried for the past 80 years or so to define the magic of the Lubitsch touch. Urbane humor, visual wit, sophistication, innuendo and charm were all factors, but subtlety was surely the key component -- that incomparable touch was unvaryingly a light one. So one of the most disheartening things about British playwright Nick Whitby's lumbering stage adaptation of To Be or Not to Be is the heavy hand that's been brought to bear on the 1942 comedy about a Polish theater troupe outwitting the Nazis in occupied Warsaw."

THEATERMANIA REVIEW: "In the Manhattan Theatre Club's production of To Be Or Not to Be, now at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, ham actor-turned-reluctant hero Josef Tura exclaims: "There is nothing an actor can not do! For the actor, everything is possible!" I hate to differ -- but there is at least one thing actors can not do. They cannot pull Nick Whitby's inadequate adaptation of the beloved 1942 Ernst Lubitsch-directed film out of the fire."

NY DAILY NEWS REVIEW: "Long before The Producers and Hogan's Heroes goofed on the Gestapo, Ernst Lubitsch turned the idea into screwball comedy in his 1942 film To Be or Not to Be. Six decades later, the comedy about plucky Polish actors who outwit Hitler's honchos arrives on Broadway in a Manhattan Theatre Club production. Unfortunately, most of the laughs seem lost in translation in the adaptation by British playwright Nick Whitby. Though the play strives to be fluffy, it's about as airy as cement pierogi - and a late turn toward heart-tugging feels tacked on."

Tag! I'm It, or: I hated being it as the little fat kid

Oh SarahB. I heart you. Even if it means I'm it. As a child, there was nothing worse than being picked last for the football team, or being the first one out of a cruel game of dodgeball, or (not to say the least) being 'it.'

But there was also nothing better than being an All-State tenor in the ridiculously competitive Texas high school UIL contests, or getting the biggest applause while taking my bows at my first school musical (where I wasn't the lead), or being selected as Thespian of the Year for my alum's local International Thespian Society chapter.

And I imagine, in some other life, if SarahB and I were to be in grade school together, we probably would have been happily married on the playground during recess.

So due to the binding commitment of marriage (not to mention my utter affection for the NYC/TX diva), I will not only happily play along, but I will with great enthusiasm bear the title of 'it' proudly.

The Rules
  1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog. My tagger was SarahB at Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment.
  2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.
  3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
  4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
  5. If you don't have 7 blog friends, or if someone else already took dibs, then tag some unsuspecting strangers.
The Facts
  1. I am a world karate champion. In 1996, I won the title of World Sparring Champion - Novice Division for ages 10 to 11 in Washington D.C. at the Sport Karate International (SKIL) Super Grands World Games 7. Yeah, I know. I'm a badass
  2. I own over 300 DVDs. And I haven't actively bought movies (I hate being poor) for about 2 years. I am also overly compulsive about them being in alphabetical order.
  3. Although I am not necessarily a devout (or even active) churchgoer, I have a very high respect for Catholicism and will probably always refer to myself as a Catholic (even though I haven't attended Mass in years and don't agree/believe a lot of the teachings).
  4. I've never owned a DVR (eek!). This will be remedied on Halloween morning. I will have three. Woot woot.
  5. My 2 best friends now live in New York, New York. Michael has been there for 2 years and Adrianna just moved there yesterday. When is it my turn?!
  6. I am an only child from a single parent home. My mother effing rocks. Like uber hard. Just writing that made me get teary-eyed.
  7. Will Parker (Oklahoma!) and the Cat (Honk!) are my favorite roles that I've played.
The Tagged Bloggers
  1. The up and coming Jess at The Resident Artist
  2. The always fabulous Joie at So Much To Deal With
  3. The always reliable (and I know he doesn't have the time for it becasue he's too busy saving the world) Steve at Steve On Broadway (SOB)
  4. The young and ambitious Katie at Theatreisms
  5. The uber intelligent (and I know he doesn't have the time for it because he's too busy educating the world - Jekyll does blow hard) Chris at Everything I Know I Learned from Musicals
  6. The sorely missed Eric at Man In Chair (please come back to the blog world when you're done being a human being)
  7. My Vex and SPP fellow castmate Allsion at The Latest Happenings of the Great You-Know-Who

To Be or Not To Be Opening Night, or: do we really need another movie remake?

To Be or Not To Be, the new stage version of Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 film comedy about Polish theatre troupers trying to outsmart the Nazis, opens tonight on Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (formerly the Biltmore).

The production, which was originally scheduled to begin previews on Sept. 11, and then Sept. 13, began previews Sept. 16. The limited engagement plays to Nov. 23. There were two principal cast changes since rehearsals began, necessitating extra rehearsal time.

Nick Whitby has provided the stage adaptation for the Casey Nicholaw directed play which features Peter Benson, Robert Dorfman, Steve Kazee, Peter Maloney, Jan Maxwell, Michael McCarty, Kristine Nielsen, Brandon Perler, David Rasche, Rocco Sisto, Jimmy Smagula, Marina Squerciati, and Mark J. Sullivan.

According to MTC,
At the Polski Theatre in 1939 Warsaw, Josef (Rasche) and Maria Tura (Maxwell) are about to open yet another smash with their theatrical troupe. As the German invasion gets underway, the theatre is closed by the censors, forcing the troupe to face desperate times. But when a handsome young bomber pilot enlists their help to catch a spy, what is a group of actors to do? This hilarious black comedy is an ingenious commentary on the World War II era and an inspired tribute to the timeless joys of the theatre.
Early reports have not been good for the production. Citing everything from bad writing, bad acting, and bad directing, Michael Riedel has some disheartening insider talk over at his column for the NY Post.

The film starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard is a complex and timely satire. Lubitsch is known for providing charming characters throughout all of his films. The approach lends itself well to his comedies and is known in film circles as "the Lubitsch touch."

This is particularly evident in his 1940 romantic comedy The Shop Around the Corner starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. This film is of special interest to musical theatre fans as it provides the first adaptation to the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, which in return provided the story for the wonderfully perfect musical comedy She Loves Me.

In the book Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise, Lubitsch called this film "the best picture I ever made in my life."

[title of show] closes, or: the night Heidi signed a Playbill "the Jonas Bros. suck ass."

So [title of show] is now over. At 8:30 my time I shed a little tear for Hunter, Jeffy, Susan , and my favorite Nationwide Insurance girl, Heidi. But even though I am incredibly sad, I am extremely happy for the cast and crew. Extremely proud. And I can't wait for the amateur rights to become available.

Here are some overdue pics from my trip to NYC this Summer and my journey to the stage door after a wonderful Monday night performance of [title of show].

This night the Jonas Brothers were right down the street along with a bunch of screaming tweens. Hundreds of them. Screaming. And here were the [tossers]; at most 15 of us, asking the cast to sign our Playbills: "The Jonas Bros. suck ass!"

And Heidi, being the badass she is, did. And she asked for it not to be posted on MySpace. And I promise you Heidi, I will not post that you wrote "the Jonas Bros. suck ass, love Heidi" on a Playbill on MySpace.

The Raping of Indiana Jones, or: South Park still makes me laugh

If anyone missed the season premiere of South Park last night, the best part of the show came when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg raped Indiana Jones in Stan's daydream. Literally.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes out this week. So thank you South Park for telling it like it is. That movie did rape Indiana Jones. Hard and rough.

Spring Awakening & In the Heights to Hit the Big Screen, or: film as film, and stage as stage

According to the Carnegie Hall website, "the Carnegie Hall Notables is a membership group specifically created for music enthusiasts in their 20s and 30s. The Notables program celebrates music through intimate discussions with musicians, concerts, private performances, and exclusive Notables-only social gatherings."

At the October 6 Revival: Broadway's Next Act panel discussion, films of both Tony winning musicals Spring Awakening and In the Heights were mentioned.

The panel discussion was moderated by Ana Gasteyer and featured Spring Awakening composer Duncan Sheik, Legally Blonde director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, creator-star of In the Heights Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hairspray film director Adam Shanknman, and original Rent star Anthony Rapp.
states that when the discussion of stage musicals crossing over into film came up, Miranda asked Sheik if there was a Spring Awakening picture in the works. Sheik declined to comment, but Shankman noted that the rights had already been acquired.

Shankman also mentioned Jennifer Lopez's interest in bringing In the Heights to the movie screen. Miranda, like Sheik, declined to comment on a movie version of his 2008 Best Musical and revealed that he will be leaving the show in February of 2009.

I've been dreaming of film adaptations of these two shows. In the Heights particularly seems well suited to transfer to celluloid. However, I've always mentioned that with the right director, Spring Awakening could make a fascinating film.

The real trick pony in Spring's award winning production was the direction by Michael Mayer. It utilized the presence of the stage and incorporated theater with live concert characteristics which worked to beautiful effect. The key to making an equally successful film is to really use the media that the source material is being adapted for. The live concert thing (pulling out mics, audience interaction) while working great on stage, would not have the same effect in a movie theater. Hopefully the director of the film can realize this and bring the musical into a true film-ic form.

Perhaps when the music starts, the editing and cinematography shifts from basic linear storytelling techniques to more contemporary music-video stylings - incorporating slow motion, odd camera angles, inter-cut crossfades and wipes, and metaphoric staging. Instead of pulling out a mic from the jacket pockets, when Melchior starts to sing "All That's Known," a shift in camera tone will allow the song to be presented in a more Nirvana's "Smell's Like Teen Spirit" filtered through a Michel Gondry lens of REM's "Losing My Religion."

The possibilities of the film format for Spring are exciting to ponder about. I just hope that once the project is greenlighted, that the producers and directors of the film be artistically engaged in the project as a film and not a filmed version of the stage show. The Producers we not need another. Sweeney Todd and Chicago adaptations, yes.

Even better, maybe the creative team behind Once could offer up some pointers on how to truly make a wonderful movie musical. Reviews, or: A Man for All Seasons Some Tastes

The first ever revival of Rober Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, starring consummate actor Frank Langella, arrived on the Great White Way last night. Here is an assessment of reviews compiled from

NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW: "Is it heresay to whisper that the sainted Thomas More is a bit of a bore? Even Frank Langella, an actor who can be counted on to put the pepper in mashed-potato parts, doesn't find much variety in the monolithic goodness of the title character of A Man For All Seasons."

AMNY REVIEW: "Decapitation: it's the fad of the fall of Broadway! Just as Sydney Carton mounts the guillotine in A Tale of Two Cities, Sir Thomas More is similarly led up the stairs to meet the axeman. But as it turns out, losing your head is not the equivalent of good theater."

NEWSDAY REVIEW: "With Broadway's first revival of A Man for All Seasons since its 1961 premiere, the Roundabout Theatre Company has tossed the hungry acting giant a big chunk of juicy sustenance. And Langella's gratitude becomes our own."

ASSOCIATED PRESS REVIEW: "Now, in the play's first Broadway revival, Frank Langella has assumed the mantle of Sir Thomas More, and it's a natural fit. With a strong, even mesmerizing physical presence, Langella slips easily into costume drama. And his fluid, mellifluous voice is perfect for the series of moral arguments he puts forth to justify his obedience to God, a duty that goes beyond his allegiance to King Henry VIII. The play itself doesn't wear as well in this stately, slow-paced revival, that the Roundabout Theatre Company opened Tuesday at its American Airlines Theatre."

VARIETY REVIEW: "The word "maverick" has been so thoroughly co-opted as a catchall credential by the Republican presidential campaign that it may be forever tied to that context. But for a true illustration of a staunchly independent dissenter worthy of that label, history is a better place to look -- for instance, to Robert Bolt's depiction of Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. The 1961 drama about the martyrdom of the chancellor of England under Henry VIII is not without windy preachiness. But the Roundabout staging becomes more gripping as it proceeds, driven by a performance from Frank Langella as measured and naturalistic as it is majestic."

A Man for All Seasons Opening Night, or: Frankie is at it again

Tonight the curtain rises on the very first revival of Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons after starting previews September 12th.

The new Roundabout Theatre Company production at the American Airlines Theatre stars Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Fortune's Fool, Seascape, Dracula) as Sir Thomas More, the anti-Protestant Lord Chancellor of England during the time when King Henry — desperate for a male heir — sought to extricate himself from Queen Catherine to marry Anne Boleyn. The action of the two-act play is 1529-1535.

According to Roundabout, A Man for All Seasons "is a timeless exploration of politics, religion and power. Robert Bolt's classic drama is based on the fascinating true story of English Chancellor Sir Thomas More and his moral objection to King Henry VIII's plan to leave the Catholic Church."

The production will run through December 7th.

Frank Langella seems to be a busy man, what with this revival and his upcoming film version of Frost/Nixon. I hope he has a great end of the year.

Voter Registration, or: Rod, the next Elle Woods

For those of you who didn't register to vote by yesterday's date, shame on you. The 6th of October was the voter registration cut-off date. Early voting begins later this month. Just do it.

On a side note, the touring production of Avenue Q is making its way to San Antonio this week in the gorgeous Majestic Theatre. I have my tickets for Saturday night. Yay for puppet porn!

Tina Fey as Palin again, or: why SNL is only funny when Feylin is involved.

I can't get enough of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, or Feylin as some have coined her performance. I love when she uses the word 'maverick,' and I adore the way she winks and waves at the audience.

One of the subjects nailed by the sketch was the confusion over gay marriage from both candidates. Watch. Listen. Love.

Vice-Presidential Debate as Theatre, or: reason number 5,983,746,510 why I love the movie answer man

I love Roger Ebert for many reasons. His most recent blog entry is one of them. He talks of the vice-presidential debate last night and analyzes it based as theater and not as a political event.

He opens with this:
I have some observations about what we observed Thursday night. They are not political. They involve such matters as body language, facial expression and vocal tone. These are legitimate subjects for a film critic. As Patrick Goldstein wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times: "In some ways film critics are probably better equipped to assess the political theater of today's presidential campaigns, since our campaigns are -- as has surely been obvious for some time -- far more about theater and image creation than politics." I would like to discuss the vice presidential debate as theater.
He goes on to mention how Palin was, based on a theatrical point of view again, "understandably nervous," citing her rapid rate of speech and quite eloquently stating,
Listening to her voice, you could also sense when she felt she'd survived the deep waters of improvisation and was climbing onto the shore of talking points. When she was on familiar ground, she perked up, winked at the audience two of three times, and settled with relief into the folksiness that reminds me strangely of the characters in Fargo.

Palin is best in that persona. You want to smile with her and wink back[...]Palin was persuasive. But I felt a brightness that was not always convincing.
Ebert claims that "she wins high marks for emerging from the debate still standing and still smiling."

He continues with observations on unanticipated moments and improvisation:
One thing a critic of a live performance is sensitive to is any unanticipated moment. There was a famous moment at the National Theater in London when an actor pulled out an automatic pencil to make some notes. It contained no lead. He should have pretended it did. Instead, he said, "There is no lead in my pencil." Then, fatally, he paused to listen to what he had said, and the audience roared with laughter when they were certainly not intended to.

A very different sort of unanticipated moment took place during the debate. Biden said, "I know what it's like to be a single parent raising two children." He did not know if his sons would survive the auto accident that took his wife and daughter. For a moment, he lost his composure. Looking at the moment again I believe, as I did at the time, that it was genuine emotion, and not stagecraft.
Watch the clip and decide for yourself:

Ebert mentions:
It could not have been anticipated by Palin. The next camera angle was above and behind her. She paused. The silence seemed to anticipate words of sympathy and identification from her. But Biden had ended in a sentence using the word "change," and her response, reflecting no emotion at all, cued off that word and became a talking point about McCain. This felt to me, at worst, insensitive and callous. At best, that she had not fully heard Biden. In either event, her response troubled me. If a man had responded in that way to such a statement from a women, he would be called a heartless brute.
Interesting observations. And, like always, very eloquent in his writing. Read his whole post here.

Pushing Daisies & Private Practice Season Premieres, or: how Kristin and Audra come into my bedroom every Wednesday night

The best new show from last season makes its second season return to the little screen that is television. Pushing Daisies remains the freshest and most whimsical show out there on network television (network and cable as a matter of fact). It stars every theatre person's favorite pint sized coloratura with a belt, the adorable Kristin Chenoweth, who should have won an Emmy for her performance (same goes for Audra McDonald for her riveting performance in the made-for-tv version of A Raisin in the Sun).

One of the joys of watching Pushing Daisies is seeing guest appearances from some other favorite theatre actors such as Raúl Esparza and Ellen Greene. And one of my favorite moments from last season was when Ms. Chenoweth's Olive Snook and Ms. Greene's Vivian Charles sang together. It made my heart jump.

And then if that wasn't enough, after Pushing Daisies I get a little treat and get to watch perhaps my favorite actress, Audra McDonald, do her thing on the season premiere of Private Practice (a lesser show by far, but Audra is illuminating and never fails to captivate).

You bet your ass she's worth it.

Be sure to catch the season premiere of Pushing Daisies tonight at 8/7 central on ABC.

Blithe Spirit to Play Broadway in 2009, or: Ebersole vs. McDonald... round 2

As everyone else in the blog world has already posted, Noël Coward's 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit will be making its way back to the Broadway stage in Spring 2009. The production itself is reason enough to celebrate, but even more reason to is due to the casting of the magnanimous Christine Ebersole as the ethereal Elvira.

The 2007 Tony Award-winning actress, who played the dual roles of Little and Big Edie in the musical Grey Gardens, will be directed by Michael Blakemore (Deuce) at a Shubert Theatre to be announced. provides a blurb for the classic comedy of manners:
In Blithe Spirit, one of Coward's biggest successes, novelist Charles Condomine, living with his second wife, Ruth, invites a local medium, Madame Arcati, to his house. His intention is to do some research into the spirit world for his new book. But he gets more than he bargained for when Arcati conjures up the ghost of Charles first wife, Elvira. Caught between one live wife and one dead wife — both jealous of the other — Charles thinks matters couldn't be worse.
I fell in love with Blithe Spirit during my run as Dr. Bradford in my award-winning high school one-act competition production. I particularly enjoy the high antics towards the closing of the play with the medium Madame Arcati and objects flying off the walls and mantles of the Condomine's estate. The character of Madame Arcati was re-envisioned as a highly eccentric Asian gypsy with a short temper by my classmate Beeyah Ngyugen. And she was hilarious! After all of our competitive performances, every critique we had thoroughly expressed their joy and enthusiasm for that aspect of our production. I give credit to my high school theatre director April Cox for our success at a very challenging production (comedies of manners and high school actors hardly ever make for good entertainment). I still credit her for teaching me everything I know about acting and development. Thanks Mrs. Cox!

I doubt this new revival will have an Asian Arcati, but if rumors materialize into reality, we will have a real treat with goddess Angela Lansbury in the role. Apparently producer Jeffrey Richards is drooling over the idea. I don't blame him. Drooling is an understatement in my case.

Other casting dreams? I would love to see Audra McDonald as Ruth, Charles' current, insecure and temperate wife. McDonald holds a grace and elegance with her stage presence; and the chance to see her sparring with Christine Ebersole on the same stage would make for wondrous serendipity for me.

As I've previously written, I hold a dumb bias against the great Ebersole because she won the Tony for Grey Gardens over McDonald in 110 in the Shade. I still hold the belief that for once in history a tie would have been legit.

That casting won't happen (McDonald is far too busy with Private Practice [season premiere tonight]), but I can dream. And dream I will.

Any casting thoughts on the pivotal role of Charles?

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