Showing posts from October, 2014

Week in Review 10.31.14

Neil Patrick Harris to Host Variety Show
He's hosted the Tonys, the Emmys and magic shows, and he's set to host the Oscars in February. Now, it's been announced, the versatile Tony and Emmy Award winner Neil Patrick Harris (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) will host a weekly variety show for NBC. Based on the British sensation, Saturday Night Takeaway, the variety show will likely feature comedy sketches, musical numbers and magic segments, playing into Harris's talents. In a statement, Harris said, "Nothing like this has been done before, and its unique structure fits into my random skill set. I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and have some fun!" [Variety shows have been tried in recent years; in May, in fact, the insanely talented Maya Rudolph hosted a one-night-only variety show...on NBC.] The peacock network has ordered ten episodes of the untitled series. has more.

The Last Ship Opens
After about a month of previews, the terrific The Last Ship

The Real Thing

Music is a featured character in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, being given a terrific revival, directed by Sam Gold, by Roundabout Theatre Company. The title made the U2 song, "Even Better Than the Real Thing," get stuck in my head, and that's apropos given the subject matter. The song (not featured in the play) is about a person trying to win over his lover; the chorus proclaims, "you're the real thing // even better than the real thing." Stoppard's play is about relationships, the difference between art and "the real thing," trying to find the elusive real thing—whatever that looks like.

Stoppard (Arcadia) is an intelligent and eloquent writer, so you must pay attention to what the talented ensemble is saying; if you do, you'll find yourself fascinated by the way we interact with each other, by the differences between what we say, what we mean and what we mean to say. (What each character chooses to reveal and in what forum (partic…

The Last Ship

What've we got? It's not now't, that's for sure. The new, original musical, The Last Ship, has set sail on Broadway and I love it.

Conceived by Sting, the personal musical features a score by the rocker and a book by Brian Yorkey (If/Then, Next to Normal) and John Logan (Red). It tells the story of Gideon Fletcher (Michael Esper), who is returning to his working-class hometown of Wallsend (in the northeast of England) after turning his back 15 years ago. Wallsend is a blue-collar company town where the men build ships and everyone is family. Times are tough and the shipyard has closed; not knowing what to do with themselves, the men decide to build one last ship.

While the town is struggling to find its identity, Gideon is struggling to find his home. He rejected the notion of following in the footsteps of his father and his father's father and so on; he did not want to be a ship builder, and so he fled Wallsend, leaving behind his love, Meg Dawson (Rachel Tucker)…

Week in Review 10.24.14

(Scroll down for TWO Foo Fighters songs from Sonic Highways.)
Hand to God Coming to Broadway
After an acclaimed and extended run off-Broadway at MCC, Robert Askins's Hand to God will be produced on Broadway this spring. The play focuses on Jason, who finds "an outlet for his burgeoning creativity at the Christian Puppet Ministry..." Things take an interesting and provocative turn when Jason's puppet, Tyrone, "takes on a shocking and dangerously irreverent personality all its own." The Broadway bow will feature the MCC cast: Steven Boyer (Modern Terrorism) as Jason, and Geneva Carr, Marc Kudisch (On a Clear Day lab), Sarah Stiles (On a Clear Day) and Michael Oberholtzer in featured roles. Director Mortiz von Stuelpnagel will reprise his work for Broadway. Previews begin March 12, 2015, with opening night set for April 7. Hand to God will play the Booth Theatre. Playbill has more.

Casting News
Off-Broadway—I'm not Neil LaBute's biggest fan, but I am exci…


The US has a black president. We supposedly live in a post-racial society. If you're paying attention, though, you know that's not the case. On a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Girl) got into a heated argument with author Sam Harris and the show's host. They were debating religion, its effects on society and its adherents, and whether one religion was better or worse (or more damaging) than another. (They were talking, in particular, about Islam.) Just a couple of weeks later, professional bloviator Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly got in the ring (on The Daily Show) with Jon Stewart, and the two "discussed" the issue of white privilege. Stewart, being the sensible one, argued that, of course, it exists.

Clearly, we're not in a post-racial or post-religious society (the latter will never happen). There are still racists and prejudicial people by the score, many of them with a microphone. Yet we tend to sweep these t…

The Fortress of Solitude

I was enjoying The Fortress of Solitude as I was watching it. Actually, I was enjoying it before the performance began, looking at the tagged scrim that served as a curtain (scenic design by Eugene Lee) and at the cultural timeline provided in the Playbill. The show began and I was struck by the harmonies and different but blended songs the talented cast was singing (music direction by Kimberly Grigsby). I continued to be in awe of some of the performances, the natural dialogue (book by Itamar Moses), the terrific pastiche score (by Michael Friedman). But as the adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel, directed by Daniel Aukin (Bad Jews), came to an end and then once it was over, I thought, "That's all?" It wasn't so much that the ending came too quickly (although, it sort of did); rather, it was that the ending left too much unexplored. Though the creative team and the company made a valiant effort, it would appear that the parts are greater than their sum.

My guess…

Billy and Ray

Just a quick note about Mike Bencivenga's Billy and Ray, a new play at the Vineyard Theatre. Ostensibly, the play is about Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, and chronicles their collaboration on the classic film, Double Indemnity. Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) stars as Wilder and Larry Pine (Casa Valentina) is Raymond. They are accompanied by a secretary, Helen (Sophie von Haselberg, a dead ringer for her mother, Bette Midler), and a studio exec, Joe (Drew Gehling).

The night I saw the play, I stayed for a post-show discussion. (The playwright, Kartheiser and von Haselberg participated.) Bencivenga said he was inspired to write the play because he'd heard stories of Wilder and Chandler's rocky relationship, that they had great fights while writing their noir film. Bencivenga said he wanted to show that. I wish he had. Instead, he wrote a multi-tonal (and, therefore, cacophonous) first draft of a story that, as presented, has low stakes and little connection between the tw…

Wendy Whelan's Farewell Performance

What a delight to get to be one of the few to witness Wendy Whelan's farewell performance. She's as fine a dancer as we're likely to see in our lifetime, and, beyond that, she's a wonderful role model for dancers of all ages and stages of their careers. A generous performer and a patient teacher, Whelan is the paragon of the prima ballerina.

She came into the company at the start of a new era for New York City Ballet. George Balanchine passed away while Whelan was an apprentice, and she never got to study directly with the founding choreographer. She came of age at NYCB as Peter Martins was finding his voice as Ballet Master in Chief, and as he attempted to make NYCB a living Company, not a museum. While Whelan danced Balanchine beautifully and created roles in Robbins ballets, she came to prominence when she hooked up with emerging choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky. Whelan originated roles in almost all of Wheeldon's NYCB ballets (including …

Love Letters

(I saw the show again; scroll down for an update!)
The brief review of Love Letters: It's great to see two living legends on stage.

The slightly longer review of Love Letters: Over the course of a brisk 90 minutes, we get to know Melissa (Carol Burnett) and Andy (Brian Dennehy), but only from a certain perspective, and only a certain part of their lives. And that focus is actually what make this intriguing.

I saw this with my parents, and as we continued to discuss the play the following day, my mom commented that she wanted to know more about Melissa, and what happened to her in California. (The character writes to Andy saying she doesn't ever want to talk about California.) We realized that, even with just a glimpse into Melissa's and Andy's lives, we were so invested in these characters that we wanted to know more. We wanted a sequel (or prequel or whatever it would be—an addendum, maybe?), to fill in what was left out of the letters. (The play is also, if you'll…