- Happy New Year!
Ring in the New Year with American Idiot! The cast will be performing on NBC's New Year's Eve with Caron Daly. (You may remember that the Tribe performed on a New Year's Eve special last year.) Also appearing on the show will be Bono and The Edge, who will chat with Daly about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Scroll down for the latest injury and casting updates.) After counting down to 2011 with the Idiots, why not start off the year right? On New Year's Day, Billie Joe begins his return engagement with the powerful show. He's only appearing for 50 performances, so catch him now.
- Casting News
I'm very excited to report that the multi-talented Raul Esparza (!) is joining Billy Crudup (!!) in the upcoming Broadway revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia!!! Crudup's return to the stage (and this work) was announced several weeks ago, but this week we learned that Esparza would join him and that the play will run at the Barrymore Theatre (home to the Esparza-starring Speed the Plow a few seasons ago). The play begins previews February 25 in anticipation of a March 17 opening. This limited engagement will run through June 19, barring any extensions. Read the announcement on Playbill.com for more casting details. (Side note: I guess that Esparza's run in Arcadia means Leap of Faith, in which he starred in LA this fall, isn't coming to NY this season.)
- The Last Five Years Movie
If you're a Jason Robert Brown fan, like musicals or just like good, compelling stories told in a fresh way, you'll be excited, as I am, to know that Brown announced he is in pre-production for a film adaptation of his beautiful two-hander musical, The Last Five Years. This musical tells the story of Cathy and Jamie. We take a look at their five year journey from two different perspectives: We meet Cathy on the day she and Jamie divorce ("Still Hurting") and we continue backwards on the journey with her, ending on the night of their first date. Simultaneously (the songs volley back and forth with regard to point of view), we meet Jamie on the day he meets Cathy ("Shiksa Goddess") and continue on his journey forward, to the divorce. Along the way, there are lovely, emotional songs. I never got to see this fully staged but I did catch the composer and Lauren Kennedy give a concert of the musical a couple of years ago. The cast recording, featuring Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott - both at the top of their games - is available from Sh-k-boom records. There's no IMDB listing for the film yet, so keep checking back here for updates.
- Jon Stewart is Our Hero
On The Daily Show, Al Gore once lauded Jon Stewart's societal role, saying that for ages, the jester got away with the most truth-telling remarks and that Stewart carries on that important tradition of speaking truth to power. This week, the NY Times took a look at America's jester and the impact his impassioned on-air editorials had on the passage of the 9/11 First Responders Health Care bill. In the article, Stewart is rightly put in the pantheon of great journalists like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, despite Stewart's continual protestations that he's a satirist, not a journalist. That which we call a journalist by any other name would present the news so honestly, and so Stewart does, though he is not journalist call'd.
- Spider-Man Update
Natalie Mendoza, the actress who plays Arachne and who suffered a concussion during the show's first preview performance, has left the show. The actress was out of the show for two weeks while she recovered from the concussion. She went on on December 20, the night that the recovering Christopher Tierney fell, and has not performed since. Spider-Man's producers confirmed this week that Mendoza is departing the show. Her replacement has not been announced. (Tierney, by the way, has been discharged from the hospital and is being treated at a New York City rehabilitation center. Tierney will be interviewed on the CBS evening news on January 3 at 11pm.)
- Andrew Garfield Interviewed
Speaking of Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, who will play Petey on screen in (500) Days of Summer's Marc Webb's reboot of the film franchise (which is on holiday but has begun shooting), was interviewed by the Guardian. The podcast is online and also includes an interview with director Edward Zwick, who was at the helm of the recent Love and Other Drugs and Leo's Blood Diamond. (Fast forward to about 28 minutes in for Garfield's interview.)
- Comings and Goings
This week we learned that Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown will close three weeks early, playing its final Broadway performance this Sunday, January 2. We also learned that John Leguizamo will return to Broadway with a new show called Ghetto Klown. This one-man show will play the Lyceum Theatre for 12 weeks this spring. Previews begin February 21 in anticipation of a March 22 opening.
Sadly, this January will see the closing of 15 Broadway shows. Some are ending limited engagements but many are closing due to lagging sales. I've already bemoaned waning artistry in favor of waxing profits, but as a final send off, I suggest taking a look at this NY Times article profiling five actors - including Benjamin Walker (BBAJ) and Adam Chanler-Berat (Next to Normal) - whose shows are closing in January.
- Kennedy Center Honors
The 33rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors were presented earlier this month and the gala performance was broadcast this past Tuesday night. This year's honorees were choreographer Bill T. Jones, country legend Merle Haggard, Oprah, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and Sir Paul McCartney. Of Sir Paul, Alec Baldwin said, "He married rock and roll to beauty and forever raised the bar for composers, musicians and fans." Several notables were on hand to pay tribute to the honorees, including Matthew Morrison, Sutton Foster, Dave Grohl, Claire Danes, James Taylor, Kid Rock, Chris Rock, Julia Roberts and Chita Rivera. (And West Wing alumna Mary-Louise Parker was in the audience just for fun!) Visit Playbill.com for photos and video, and visit Broadwayworld.com for more video fun. Rollingstone.com has video of No Doubt honoring Sir Paul.
- Best of 2010
2011 begins tomorrow and as is typical for this time of year, everyone's making year-end lists.
- Rollingstone.com rounded up all their best-of lists in one place. Here you'll find their picks for best album, best (The Social Network!) and worst movie and best Rolling Stone article, including a stellar Matt Taibbi piece.
- Broadway.com reminisced over its top five video clips, including Next to Normal's Kyle Dean's backstage vlog.
- Broadwayworld.com posted their favorite curtain call photos from 2010, including a shot of Billie Joe taking a bow, alongside a palpably giddy Michael Esper and John Gallagher, Jr., after making his Broadway debut. (See part two here.)
- The New York Times's two theatre critics chose their favorite moments of 2010. Ben Brantley's list includes Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Clybourne Park and Red, while Charles Isherwood's list includes American Idiot, The Aliens and Time Stands Still. (Find explanations of their choices on nytimes.com: Brantley and Isherwood)
- And I'll add my voice to the madding crowd. Here's my list of 11 amazing shows, films or other artistic moments of 2010. (I'm only choosing eleven items for this list (What? There's a law it's gotta come in fives and tens?), but there was plenty to celebrate or remember - like Next Fall and Raul Esparza and Sutton Foster together in Anyone Can Whistle - that didn't make the cut. Scroll through my archives on the right for a review of a year of reviewing.)
- American Idiot - Really everything about it. From the bliss of the show finding a home to the thrill of the first preview to the overwhelming excitement of opening night to the unparalleled energy of the audience as they embraced Billie Joe on Broadway. I am in love with this show and the 12 times I saw it in 2010 were 12 of the best moments of the year.
- The Social Network - Obviously, I was going to relish any chance to devour new Sorkinese. But I was equally as excited to see Charlie Wilson's War a few years ago and the results were no where near the same. The Social Network represents an almost impossible combination of perfect elements - script, direction, performances, scoring - and at the same time manages to fully capture the zeitgeist. It is as much a classic film as it is of-the-moment.
- "Estancia" - A brilliant and thrilling new ballet from modern legend Christopher Wheeldon. I happened to see it (for the first time) on its world premiere night this spring, which, without a doubt, added to the excitement. But I saw it again in the fall and without the fanfare still found it to be the best narrative ballet I've ever seen.
- Would Things Be Different Release Party - The Spring Standards called out to their fans to help produce their first full-length LP. So, as one of those fans, it was particularly exciting to be among those on hand this April at Le Poisson Rouge to help the uber-talented trio celebrate the release of that record.
- The Aliens + The Metal Children - I saw these on consecutive nights this May and was amazed at their greatness. The Aliens cemented Annie Baker's place as the playwright to follow and The Metal Children brought us an eloquent comment on artistry from Adam Rapp and a masterful performance by Billy Crudup.
- Rolling Stone - The venerable rock and roll magazine may be the last bastion of responsible print journalism. Through the power of unflinching, honest, analytical reporting, Rolling Stone articles felled a general and a coal magnate. And, contributing editor Matt Taibbi continued with his scathing reports on the bubble economy and the vampire squid that is Goldman Sachs in both the magazine and his brilliant new book, Griftopia. (Plus, movie critic Peter Travers couldn't stop gushing about The Social Network and there was a great profile of Leo (complete with some appealing photos) and an enthralling Bruce Springsteen interview.)
- Kathryn Bigelow Wins One for the Women - When Babs announced the winner for Oscar's Best Director, she said, "It's about time," before calling out Kathryn Bigelow's name, in recognition of her work on Best Picture, The Hurt Locker. It's a shame that it's noteworthy that a woman won in this category; even more shameful that it took this long (82 years), but it's wonderful that that ceiling has been shattered. (And that Bigelow beat her hubristic ex, to boot!)
- Joe Iconis - He's been tickling the ivories for a while, but this year he held several concerts, had a show produced at Ars Nova (Bloodsong of Love), enjoyed a staged reading of ReWrite at Joe's Pub and saw the cast recording of his song-cycle Things to Ruin released on Sh-k-boom Records. He's got "lots of things to do," and I'm so glad I'm along for the ride.
- Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson - "An original? On Broadway? Baby that is risky!" It is risky, but this dive bar musical that has roots at the Public (where I first saw it this spring) is a reminder of just how great musical theatre can be. It's thoroughly entertaining; it's poignant; it's funny; it holds a mirror up to society and teaches us something. It's one for the canon.
- Inception - I'll never dream the same again. The inventive Christopher Nolan created an enthralling dream-scape and filled it with top-notch actors, including Leo, for truly spectacular results.
- Ab-Ex at MoMA - The Abstract Expressionist exhibit at the MoMA was glorious. Many of the pieces in the exhibit are on view year round but to see them all together, to see the different styles of the painters, to go from a Pollock to a Rothko and back again was almost too much fun!
I leave you now with a New Year message from Reno Sweeney and the folks at Anything Goes: