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Showing posts from November, 2011

The Muppets

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“I’ve got a dream, too. But it’s about singing and dancing and making people happy. That’s the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with. And, well, I’ve found a whole bunch of friends who have the same dream. And it kind of makes us like a family.” That’s something Kermit the Frog says in The Muppet Movie when he’s facing down Doc Hopper, who’s been pursuing him throughout the movie. And that’s the essence of the Muppets, the part of the Muppets to which I respond most strongly. And so I’m pleased to report that writers Jason Segel and Nick Stoller and director James Bobin got it right with their Muppets reboot, The Muppets. (Bret McKenzie, from Flight of the Conchords, provides an assist as music supervisor.)As Segel had been saying in interviews leading up to the movie’s premiere, the inspiring aspect of the Muppets is that they’re not cynical and they remind us of the best versions of ourselves. That theme is wonderfully apparent in his movie. We see it in …

Media Morsels 11.25.11

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New Oscar Category?
Writer, director and producer Judd Apatow thinks the Academy Awards should have a comedy category. Noting that animated films got their own category in 2001, he asserts that it's high time his genre of film making got a little Oscar love. I tend to agree. While all comedic movies and performances are eligible for nomination in the current categories, they are often overlooked for "heftier" fare. But getting comedy right takes a whole separate set of finely honed skills than getting drama right. In fact, many believe comedy is harder, and so a knockout comedic performance, or a brilliantly funny screenplay, are all the more award-worthy. What do you think? Should comedy movies have their own category, like at the Golden Globes?


iPlays
Samuel French, one of the publishing and licensing houses from which you can purchase plays and librettos, recently launched an e-library. From iTunes, you can download over 80 titles for use on your iPhone, iPod and iPad. (…

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this day of Thanksgiving, here's a little something to remind us that life and beauty are all around us. Give thanks!

Life of flowers from VOROBYOFF PRODUCTION on Vimeo.

(I found this through NYC Ballet corps dancers, Justin Peck. Follow him on Twitter: @justin_peck.)

Seminar

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Playwright Theresa Rebeck often writes witty, smart dialogue and full, complex characters. Her latest, Seminar, is wonderfully true to form. I love writing and I love talking about writing, especially with other writers. (Talk to comedy writers about writing (and life) – you’ll get the funniest and most honest answers.) So it should come as no surprise that I delighted in Rebeck’s Seminar, a sharply observed look at the psychology behind writers. (One gem from early on in the play: “Writers, in their natural habitats, are like feral cats.”) What propels all the talk about writing is—wait for it—a seminar. Martin (Hamish Linklater), Kate (Lily Rabe), Izzy (Hettienne Park) and Douglas (Jerry O’Connell) have congregated at Kate’s spectacular Manhattan apartment for the first in a series of private writing seminars conducted by writer-turned-lecturer Leonard (Alan Rickman). As the action of the play (which is really a character study, at heart) moves forward, Leonard pontificates on good…

I'm so Happy that he Hosted SNL

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It finally happened, dear readers: Jason Segel hosted Saturday Night Live. And it was a great, thoroughly funny show. I was reminded of the episode two years ago (almost to the date) that Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted. In both cases, the show had a versatile host who committed to the show and was game for anything. The result? A funny episode.
The show got off to a great start with "Mitt Romney: Raw and Unleashed," easily SNL’s sharpest political satire of the season. They included little moments, like Romney unbuttoning his jacket, only to later say, “This is making me uncomfortable,” that make the sketch elicit a smarter, deeper laugh.
And then came the great opening monologue:


Later, in a sketch that used several cast members (rather than featuring one member in a one-joke impression/character...) "Kelly Ripa" was auditioning new co-hosts. I don't know if others will feel this way, but I now love Abbey Elliot for her Zooey Deschanel impression. She got exactly …

Media Morsels 11.18.11

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More Muppet Moments
Continuing the countdown they began last week, this week Broadway.com brought us more Broadway-Muppet crossover moments, including Ethel Merman. Below, Ms. Merman and the Muppets perform a Broadway medley, including some of her signature Anything Goes songs. (Did you see the Muppets perform "Mahna Mahna" on Good Morning America this week? If not, watch online.)Even More Muppets
Jason Segel, who (you should know by now) co-wrote and is starring in The Muppets, which hits theaters on Wednesday, November 23, recently spoke to Indie Wire about the film and its possible sequels (and a possible The Muppet Show revival); what non-Muppet excitement is next for him, like Sex Tape with Reese Witherspoon; and the possibility of his Forgetting Sarah Marshall Dracula musical being fully realized. In the meantime, the funny man will host SNL this Saturday.

Seasons of Regis:

On a Clear Day You Can See Michael Mayer
The visionary director (who was at the helm of American Idio…

J. Edgar

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"What determines a man’s legacy is often what isn’t seen,” or so says J. Edgar Hoover in the new biopic, J. Edgar. Written by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk), directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this film traces Hoover’s rise to power, and along the way, reveals some parts of his legacy the man may have wished remained unseen. The story is told mostly through flashbacks, as Hoover is dictating his biography to a series of writers. This allows the storytellers (Black and Eastwood) to make leaps of time and logic without laborious exposition. Plus, it offers some interesting juxtaposition between young and old Hoover, showing off, ultimately, how little changes over the course of so many years. Also helping to tell the story are the colors, or lack thereof, of the film. The entire film is rife with shades of gray, suggesting the murky morality marsh that must be traversed when on assignment for the FBI. The color scheme also reflects the questionable d…

Suicide, Incorporated

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You would think that a play focusing on various aspects of suicide, and particularly writing the suicide note (i.e., figuring out the “why”) would elicit a strong, visceral reaction. It didn’t. It was good and interesting, but that’s all I can muster. In Suicide, Incorporated, Jason (Gabriel Ebert) is a guy in his late twenties who takes a job at the titular company. Rather than talk clients down from the ledge, at Suicide, Inc., Jason, Perry (Corey Hawkins) and their boss, Scott (Toby Leonard Moore), write their clients’ suicide notes. When a new client, Norm (James McMenamin), comes in, Jason’s conscience is haunted by his younger brother, Tommy (Jake O’Connor). (On occasion, a police officer (Mike DiSalvo) checks in with the fellows.) Andrew Hinderaker’s play is well written, with snappy, darkly funny dialogue, and director Jonathan Berry paces the action so that the play runs at a quick clip. (Some of the scene changes felt a little rushed, but it’s a small space and you can’t hol…

Media Morsels 11.11.11

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Aaron Tveit Wants to Make You a Drink
For a good cause, of course. The immensely talented actor (who was on this past week's episode of The Good Wife) will be joined by several other stars of stage and screen on November 16 at Hudson Station Bar and Grill. While there, Tveit (most recently seen on Broadway in Catch Me if You Can), John Benjamin Hickey (The Normal Heart), Jesse L. Martin (an original Rent cast member), Annie Parisse (Becky Shaw and Clybourne Park) and others will serve as bartenders from 7-11pm. All tips will be donated to Stockings with Care, which "grants the Christmas-morning wishes of children from families in crisis." Visit Playbill.com for more details about the event, and visit stockingswithcare.org for information about the charity.

Not sure what to ask Tveit, Hickey and others to make? Check out Virgin Media's list (with instructions!) of the ten coolest movie cocktails, including A Big Lebowski White Russian.

J. Edgar
Leonardo DiCaprio's new…

Venus in Fur

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“There can be nothing more sensuous than pain or more pleasurable than degradation.” At so it goes in this deliciously seductive power play. David Ives’s Venus in Fur is an adaptation of the eponymous German novel, penned by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the namesake of the term “masochism.” The term was coined and fashioned, actually, after the actions in Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Fur, and sexual politics and their inherent power struggle are further explored in this new play. Ives (who was recently represented off-Broadway with The School for Lies) structures the play using an old musical theatre device: a show within a show. In Ives’s Venus in Fur, Thomas (Hugh Dancy) is a playwright who has adapted Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Fur. Thomas keeps his adaptation set in the 1870s. Ives’s characters are interacting in present day. When we meet Thomas, he is exasperated after a day spent trying to find the right actress to play Vanda Dunayev, the pivotal goddess/temptress of Sacher-Masoch’s b…

Godspell

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“I’m obsessed,” my friend exclaimed during intermission at Godspell. I’m not obsessed, but I can’t stop thinking about the show and I’m in very strong like with the revival of this Stephen Schwartz musical.
This revival (which is playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre, right next to Schwartz’s mega-hit Wicked, prompting some theatre fans to dub the area the Schwartz Breezeway) is the first major New York production since the show originated in the 70s. So why bring it back now? That’s usually my first question when a revival pops up, and lead producer Ken Davenport answered it in his Day by Day: The Producer’s Perspective blog several months ago. After watching the debt ceiling negotiations break down over the summer, Davenport said,When I first met [composer] Stephen Schwartz and [director] Danny Goldstein…they described Godspell as the story of a group of people who, at the beginning of the show, can’t communicate… And then, through the course of the show and thanks to the leade…

Martha Marcy May Marlene

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After seeing writer/director Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But not in the way or for the reasons that usually excite me. Instead, I was thinking about the film because after sitting through a little over 90 minutes of an interesting, if a little creepy at times, well-acted character study, the end abruptly arrived and I had no idea what happened. I won’t say any more about what occurs (or doesn’t) at the end, but it left me feeling unsettled, confused and not just a little bit like I’d been duped.*

Martha Marcy May Marlene looks at what happens to Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) when she leaves the cult commune on which she’d been living for two years. She reenters the real world by staying with her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), and Lucy’s husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy). Interspersed with present-day goings on are flashbacks to Martha’s time in the cult, when she was called Marcy May. While there, we see Marcy May interact with the cult’s leader, Pa…

Media Morsels 11.4.11

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Jason Segel Makes Rolling Stone's Hot List
The talented and very funny puppet lover makes Rolling Stone's annual Hot List as the magazine (and I!) anticipate the release of The Muppets. (It opens November 23. Get thee to a theater.) In the short profile, Segel says he "just really appreciates puppetry as an art form," which, if you ask me, makes him the perfect choice to return the Muppets to their former glory. I can't wait to see the movie!!!

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
On the heels of Thespis's special day comes Thanksgiving, and with it the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I don't know about you, dear readers, but snuggling on the couch with loved ones is my favorite way to start my favorite holiday. Of course, my favorite part about the parade is the slate of performances from Broadway shows. This year, we'll see performances from How to Succeed, Priscilla, Sister Act and Spider-Man, in addition, of course, to the Rockettes, the Mup…

Other Desert Cities

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One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. That’s basically how I feel about Other Desert Cities, the Jon Robin Baitz play that is now on Broadway after an acclaimed run off-Broadway last season. It’s not that any of the characters are the rotten apple; rather, it’s an actor. When Other Desert Cities ran off-Broadway, the talented Elizabeth Marvel took on the role of leftie Brooke Wyeth. (I bet she did a fantastic job.) Unfortunately, Ms. Marvel is not on board for the Broadway transfer. Instead, Rachel Griffiths makes her Broadway debut, and I think the production is weaker for it. The Brooke character is basically the catalyst for everything that happens. Sure, there’s plenty of family history and a complex dynamic that help to propel the plot, but basically Brooke is at the center of things. Brooke, who lives in Sag Harbor, is the daughter of Polly and Lyman Wyeth (Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach), Palm Springs retirees who enjoyed a successful life in entertainment and politics. (…