Media Morsels 7.16.10
- Bloody Bloody Great News!
With 100% of the precincts reporting, I’m ready to call this election: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is officially coming to Broadway – with its sexy charismatic star, Ben Walker, in tow! On Thursday, The Public announced that “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson just can’t be stopped.” That’s right, our seventh president is headed to the Jacobs Theatre (recent home to God of Carnage, which is possibly coming to a movie theatre near you). Performances will begin September 21, though an opening night date has not been announced. Tickets are not yet on sale but you can be bloody sure that when they are, I’ll be first in line!
- And the [Recorded, Synthesized] Band Played On
Several years ago, amid stalled negotiating sessions with producers, theatre musicians went on strike. Rather than play with canned music, the musicals went dark during the strike. (Or maybe this was just threatened. I wasn’t in New York then and my memory is fuzzy.) Now, it seems the thinking is changing. Paul Woodiel, a violinist who currently plays in the pit for the Broadway revival of West Side Story, wrote an Op-Ed in the NY Times rightly bemoaning West Side Story producers’ decision to cut five live violinists from the orchestra and replace them with a synthesizer and/or recorded music – all just to save a few bucks. Woodiel is outraged, so am I and you should be, too! One of the thrilling things about going to see a musical live on stage is the live orchestra. In recent years, the orchestra has been pared down as musical scores change. South Pacific, an old-time musical, has a 30-piece orchestra because that is what its score calls for. American Idiot, on the other hand, is a musical with a more contemporary score, and while its orchestrations are beautiful and rich (because Tom Kitt is a genius!) the band is comprised of only eight talented musicians because that's what its score calls for. This is okay because the music is being played the way it was meant to be played. But to take an extraordinary score – I may not love this production of West Side Story, but there’s no arguing that the musical, and particularly the score, is one of the greatest in the American Musical Theatre canon – and use a synthesizer to do the job of a human being with a violin is unconscionable. Woodiel suggests that instead of cutting musicians to cut costs, the producers should honor the show – score and all – and simply end the show on a high note…played by human violinists!
- Wicked Movie
Ever since Wicked became a smash hit on Broadway there have been talks about adapting it for the big screen. This week, rumors abounded about who would star in the film and who would direct. At the top of the list to play Elphaba is Lea Michele. This seems inevitable and, in my opinion, a good choice. Lea has an incredible voice and can do justice to the score, picking up where Tony winner Idina Menzel left off. For the role of Glinda, originated on stage by Tony winner Kristen Chenoweth, rumors say Amanda Seyfried is in the running. I haven’t heard her sing so I don’t know what she’d do with the role. No word yet on Fiyero, but I’d like to see Aaron Tveit take on the role. (He’s played the part on Broadway. And, I should note, though all the folks who originated the roles are very talented people, they’re now – and even were then – a little long in the tooth to play early-20s-aged characters.) To direct, it appears to be a toss-up between J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) and Glee creator Ryan Murphy, with Chicago’s Rob Marshall and Walk the Line’s James Mangold also being bandied about.
- Circle Mirror Transformation
Annie Baker’s beautiful and touching play, Circle Mirror Transformation, will get some regional exposure in late 2010 and early 2011. Playbill.com is reporting that the play will play in Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre from February 25-April 10. It will also be produced by DC’s Studio Theatre this fall and by California’s South Coast Rep in January 2011. If you’re in any of those areas at the same time as Circle Mirror Transformation, I urge you to go see this layered and affecting new play.
- Intellectual Property
On an early episode of Sports Night, Dan Rydell has “the intellectual property cops crawling up [his] butt”. You see, Dan sang “Happy Birthday” to his professional partner, Casey McCall, while on the air. Turns out, sisters Patty and Mildred Hill wrote and hold the rights to Happy Birthday and are fining CSC (the station that airs the fictional Sports Night) for copyright infringement. Dan then vows to, from here on out, only sing songs that are in the public domain, like “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers”. In a similar episode playing out in reality, composer Jason Robert Brown currently finds himself in the position of defending his intellectual property claims to his own sheet music. (Brown is a terrific composer, having written such cult favorites as Songs for a New World and, one of my favorites, The Last Five Years.) It seems there are several websites out there that connect users who illegally “trade” sheet music, while the publisher, composer, et al., never see a penny. Brown says this is wrong and I agree. Much like an argument I made months ago regarding paying for the newspaper, I believe that artists and the people who help them create and distribute said art deserve to be paid for the work they do. While some people seem to think it’s infantile for “well-off” (whatever that means) artists to complain about not receiving royalties (there were several of these complaints made of Metallica when they were fighting Napster a decade ago) and while the “well-off” may not need another $4 the way the man on the street might need another $4, the principle remains the same: If Jason Robert Brown did the work, he should be paid for it. (Moreover, we are in no position to judge who is and isn’t “well-off”, nor are we in a position to judge whether or not they “need” the $4. And that's not the point, anyway!) On his website, Brown posted an exchange he had with one of the people who was offering – for free and without authorization – his sheet music. You can read that here, then read his recent blog in the NY Times, which further drives home the point that artists deserve to be paid. What do you think about intellectual property laws? Do you download music, movies or sheet music for free from disreputable or unsanctioned sites?
- Catch Me If You Can Gets Normal
It was reported, though not confirmed, this week that Next to Normal writer Brian Yorkey will join the creative team of the Broadway-bound musical, Catch Me if You Can. Yorkey will contribute to the musical’s book. Just days before this rumor surfaced, Catch Me choreographer Jerry Mitchell confirmed to Broadwayworld.com that the show will definitely open on Broadway this season. I’m excited for this to have its public New York debut. I heard a song from it performed at a benefit last year and it moved me to tears – and that’s out of context! Plus, though no casting has been announced, both Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit have starred in the out of town try outs and industry readings, making them front runners for the roles when the show comes to the Great White Way. I’ll let you know when you can head to New York to “catch” this musical.
- Spring Awakening Tour
Ira Pittleman and Tom Hulce, producers of both American Idiot and Spring Awakening, announced this week that a second national Spring Awakening tour would launch this fall. The direction, staging and design would remain the same but the tour would enjoy an all-new cast. This tour will kick off in Illinois on October 15. Visit springawakening.com for more details.
- Glee Scoop
Glee will return to the airwaves for its second season on Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 8pm. It’s official so set your DVRs.
- Ms. McDonald (and Others!) Goes to Washington
Several theatre veterans will visit the White House on Monday, July 19, to perform for POTUS and FLOTUS. This is part of the White House’s “In Performance” series. The filmed concert will be broadcast on PBS on October 20 at 9pm. On hand for the concert will be Audra McDonald, Nathan Lane, Marvin Hamlisch, Chad Kimball, Idina Menzel and, fresh off his final performance in Next to Normal, Brian d’Arcy James.
- The Constitution v. F.C.C.
A federal court just rejected the F.C.C.’s appeal in a case regarding fleeting expletives during live broadcasts. You might remember that after Janet Jackson flashed her nipple for a millisecond during the Super Bowl half-time show in 2004, prudes across the country got up in arms. Subsequently, the F.C.C. began arbitrarily cracking down on such incidents, including occasions of celebrities blurting out one of the seven dirty words during a live broadcast. (One “offender”: Bono.) The recent court’s ruling says the F.C.C. rule and application is unconstitutional and moreover that it doesn’t specify exactly what is deemed inappropriate and how each offense will be handled. Since precedent is the mother’s milk of the legal system, it’s not surprising that the court would insist on such specification. Personally, I think the F.C.C. needs to stop deciding what is and is not appropriate for me to see or hear on television. And if parents are that concerned that their children will grow up to be pedophilic rapist murders because they once heard Bono drop an F-bomb on TV, well, they’ve got other problems.
- U2 Back on Stage
Speaking of Bono, U2 will be headed back on tour in 2011. Their recent 360 tour had to be postponed due to Bono’s emergency back surgery. In a video posted on Rolling Stone’s website, Bono apologized to fans, particularly those who had made travel plans to see the band. All 16 dates have been rescheduled for next summer at the same venues. Read the Rolling Stone article for all the details.
- The Social Network
Just weeks after the first teaser trailer for the Aaron Sorkin-penned movie The Social Network hit the ‘net, a second teaser trailer has been released. This one actually has some dialogue in it, giving us just a taste of Facebook in Sorkinese. It was also announced this week that Aaron Sorkin would write, direct (this would be his debut) and produce a film adaptation of the book The Politician. This book is Andrew Young’s first-hand account of life as Senator John Edwards’s aide. (In other trailer news, the first trailer for the movie Howl, recounting the obscenity trial over Allen Ginsberg’s eponymous poem, is now online. The movie has a great cast, including James Franco as Ginsberg, Aaron Tveit(!), Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn and Mary-Louise Parker. (Thanks to Melissa for pointing out this trailer!) Howl is set for a fall 2010 release after successfully opening at Sundance in January.)
- On a Clear Day You Can See Michael Mayer
Tony Award winning director Michael Mayer will return to the off-Broadway stage, namely the Vineyard Theatre, early next year with his re-imagining of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Mayer won’t say too much about the changes he’s making, but rumor has it he’s doing some gender-bending with the roles. He’s a great director with unparalleled vision so I’m definitely looking forward to this.
- Good Morning American Idiot
And lest we get through a week without talking about the amazing American Idiot, here’s video of their performance on Good Morning America this morning. Happy weekend, y'all!
- R.I.P., Mr. Steinbrenner
Baseball lost a big figure on Tuesday: George Steinbrenner, The Boss of the Yankees since 1973, died Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack. Later that day, Yankees players wore black armbands as they took the field for the All Star Game (which the National League team won – for the first time in 13 years – giving them home field advantage in the World Series). And throughout the week, several sports fans and commentators shared anecdotes about Mr. Steinbrenner. Here, Maureen Dowd recounts Mr. Steinbrenner’s reaction to his non-appearance on Seinfeld. And here, Playbill.com tells of Mr. Steinbrenner’s theatre connections. And here, my guy Matt Taibbi wonders how long we’ll all keep talking about the late head honcho.