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Showing posts from November, 2016

Nocturnal Animals

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This gritty drama, only writer/director Tom Ford's second film, features both style and substance, with striking aesthetics and intense drama.

Amy Adams plays Susan, an LA art dealer, who was once briefly married to writer Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). We will learn, through flashbacks, how Susan and Edward came together and fell apart (watch for a brief but indelible appearance by Laura Linney as Susan's mother), and that their time together still haunts them both. Susan's feelings are awakened when, after years of no communication, Edward sends her a novel he's written, Nocturnal Animals, and Susan recognizes themes of their past in the novel.

As Susan reads, Ford (A Single Man) takes us into the story within the story, with Gyllenhaal playing the novel's protagonist, Tony. He and his wife, Laura (Isla Fisher (The Great Gatsby), a ringer for Adams), and daughter, India (Ellie Bamber), are making their way through West Texas, driving on a deserted highway lat…

Sweet Charity

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They don't make them like Sutton Foster anymore. Her go for broke comedic skills make her quadruple threat, and even though I know Gwen Verdon famously created the role, I can't imagine anyone else playing Charity Hope Valentine, the "dance hostess" with the heart of gold.

Written by Neil Simon (book), Cy Coleman (music), and Dorothy Fields (lyrics), Sweet Charity centers on the titular showgirl who, though down on her luck, has optimism to spare. Charity (Foster) works at the Fandango Club alongside Nickie (Asmeret Ghebremichael), Helene (Emily Padgett), and other jaded dancers. She's been jilted by her lover, and is looking for something more. She thinks she finds it in Oscar (Shuler Hensley), a seemingly nice guy, who just might be her ticket out.

Of course, like many of the musicals of its time (the mid- to late-60s), it gets darker at the end (I mean, Charity is just this side of a prostitute, so I guess it starts fairly dark.), which can throw you for a bi…

Notes from the Field

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A quick note to praise Notes from the Field:

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., says, "Policies are the investments we make." The incomparable Anna Deavere Smith's Notes from the Field, which is comprised of verbatim interviews Smith conducted with teachers, students, parents, elected officials, and others, crystallizes the ways in which so many of the issues facing us are inextricably linked. The particular focus here is mass incarceration (the disproportionate incarceration of minorities, especially black men, to be particular) and the role of education (or lack thereof) in said challenge. Through Smith's interviews, we learn that education isn't just about reading, writing, and arithmetic; it's also about learning behavior, and how to respond to various situations, about teaching young people they have options. Another home run from Anna Deavere Smith.

(Notes from the Field also include…

Week in Review 11.18.16

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Coming to Broadway
Amelie—It's official: The new musical, Amelie, will be on Broadway this spring. Based on the [year] film, Amelie features a book by Craig Lucas (An American in Paris), and a score by Daniel Messe (music) and Nathan Tysen (lyrics), and is directed by Tony winnerPam MacKinnon (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). Amelie will play the Walter Kerr Theatre, with previews beginning March 9, 2017. Opening night is set for April 3, and the cast will be led by Tony nomineePhillipa Soo (Hamilton) and Adam Chanler-Berat (Next to Normal, The Fortress of Solitude).

The Play That Goes Wrong—The Olivier-winning play The Play That Goes Wrong will bow on Broadway this spring. Performances at the Lyceum Theatre begin March 9, 2017, with opening night set for April 2. Broadway.com has more. (Broadway World reports that through November 23, you can purchase $25 orchestra and mezzanine seats—and $15 balcony seats—for preview performances.)

Casting News
Tony nominees Norm Lewis (Porgy …

Party People

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A quick note to praise Party People, the revolutionary play with music at the Public.

Created by Universes (Steven Sapp, Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, and William Ruiz), this show asks: How do we fight now? There's just as much to speak out against and fight for as there was in the 60s, it can be difficult to know what to do. I happened to see this the Saturday after the election, with the wounds of Trump's Electoral College victory still fresh. It was exactly what I needed.

Taking a look at the history of the 60s Civil Rights movement, particularly the role of the Black Panthers and Young Lords, Party People juxtaposes history with the here and now. It shows that while the revolution looks different, the fight is the same. The fight for justice for ALL continues. How we fight is different, too. There's a moment in the show when today's young people are called armchair activists, with the veteran revolutionaries chiding them for thinking tweeting is activism.

There's more th…

The Great Comet

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The show starts when you walk in to the Imperial Theatre, with the entryway looking like a dive club. The walls are lined with posters for Russian bands. In the house, lively Russian music plays as the audience gets seated in the opulent Russian nightclub, outfitted with orbital and constellation–looking light fixtures. The design appears to continue in the mezzanine, with blood red curtains and portraits of notable Russians adorning the walls. Looking around, you can see that the playing area is everywhere, making this a fantastically immersive experience. I had a blast. (Be sure to check out all the seating options, including stage seating, to get the most out of the experience.)

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is inspired by a brief passage in the classic Leo Tolstoy doorstop novel, War and Peace. This portion is a soap opera, but one you care about when you're reading the full novel. In The Great Comet, the action centers on Natasha and Pierre (obviously). Natasha…

Week in Review 11.11.16

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As difficult as the week was, it wasn't all bad news. Here are some pieces of good news that you might have missed.
Casting News
Tony winnerCynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) and Tony winnerViola Davis (Fences) will star in the heist flick, Windows, written by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave). Variety has more.

Casting for the BBC adaptation of Mike Bartlett's future history play King Charles III has been announced. Reprising their roles from the stage version are Tim Pigott-Smith, Oliver Chris, Richard Goulding, and Margot Leicester. Deadline has details.

Tony nomineeBrandon Victor Dixon (Shuffle Along or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed) will appear in a recurring role in the Starz series, Power. Deadline has details. You can catch Dixon on stage as Aaron Burr in Hamilton.

Tony nomineeAlex Brightman (School of Rock) and Rosie O'Donnell have joined the cast of the Showtime pilot SMILF, an autobiographica…

Week in Review 11.4.16

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Hamilton Mixtape Details Announced, Available for Pre-Order
The highly-anticipated Hamilton Mixtape, which features covers and remixes of Hamilton songs, demos and cut songs, and original pieces inspired by the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning show, will be released December 2, and is now available for pre-order. You can view the full track and performer list on Broadway.com (and on Amazon, where you can place your order). Highlights include the cut song, "Congratulations," John Legend singing "History Has Its Eyes On You," Regina Spektor and Ben Folds's take on "Dear Theodosia," Lin-Manual Miranda's demo of the slavery rap battle, and Busta Rhymes and friends on a "My Shot" remix.

American Songbook
The Lincoln Center American Songbook season has been announced. Featured artists include two-time Tony Award winnerSutton Foster (Anything Goes), Tony nomineeSantino Fontana (Cinderella, Act One), recording artist India.Arie, and more. Concert…

Sweat

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I'm pleased to report on Lynn Nottage's keenly observed play, Sweat, which focuses on blue collar workers in Reading, Pennsylvania. We begin in 2008, with Jason (Will Pullen) and Chris (Khris Davis) talking (separately) to a social worker, Evan (Lance Coadie Williams). We then jump back to 2000, when most of the action takes place. In a neighborhood bar, we meet Cynthia (Michelle Wilson), Chris's mother; Tracey (Johanna Day), Jason's mother; Jessie (Miriam Shor), Cynthia and Tracey's colleague; bartender Stan (James Colby); and barback Oscar (Carlo Alban). Chris and Jason figure in the 2000 plot line, as well.

Everyone except Stan and Oscar work at a factory, as is the tradition in their part of town. (Cynthia's ex, Brucie (John Earl Jelks), has also worked in a factory, though a different one from the women and their sons.) It's 2000, and times are getting tough. Factory work is no longer the sure thing it used to be. Times are changing, and these people …