Posted in Daily Prompt, dysfunction, farce

Not my favorite kinda theater

via Daily Prompt: Farce

3494The farce has a time-honored tradition. It’s as old as the hills in art-form years. So why my personal distaste for it. Too much chaos and running about is the only thing I can point a finger at with any certainty.

  • It makes fun of convention. (✔, that works for me.)
  • It is an irritant, using comedy to point out foibles. (✔ also good as above.)
  • It can be very confusing but in a way to make you think. (✔ thinking, okay!)
  • There is always a lot of action in a farce. (✔, nothing wrong with that, either.)\
  • The average farce puts a lot of value in silliness. (✔, not an essential for me, but ok.)
  • Silliness rather than gravity or satire is the main point of farce. (X this does not attract me, particularly to slapstick or farce.)
  • They run in and out of doors, sometimes carrying sardines. (That’s it. I am not fond of that, even though RTC’s not so recent production of Noises Off was rather fun.)
  • The slamming doors thing is something I like to see reserved for household tiffs.

All that said, the farce is sometimes irrestible. Take for instance, Something Rotten!, underappreciated by the Tony voters, but valiantly drawing laughter long after the ceremonies. I loved it! In truth, it may not really be so much farce as send up. The trilogy of House and Garden brought us in, eagerly, to see all three pieces, slamming doors and all. Lend Me A Tenor is reliably as delightfully foolish as Fortune’s Fool, for instance. It Shoulda Been You is another example of the farcical theater that was marginally entertaining, and featured a fan fave of ours, Tyne Daly.

Of course, when we call something a farce, we are denigrating it, to some extent. We mean it’s ridiculous. it’s just that at the theater, the ridiculous can, so often, transcend!

 

 

 

 

Posted in musical theater, theater, Uncategorized

Closing soon–or still playing– at a theatre near you

Ana Villafañe and the cast of On Your Feet! --one of few still standing even after a poor Tony showing.(c) Matthew Murphy
Ana Villafañe and the cast of On Your Feet! –one of few still standing even after a poor Tony showing.(c) Matthew Murphy

Among the end of summer rituals is the revving up of the theater season. New plays will open at the subscription houses, Broadway will host revivals and original productions; the fall will be the time to re-start.

Just as the fall brings new plays to our attention, so the summer sees old ones run their course. Here’s a list of what you need to catch up on before school starts:

Finding Neverland fits one of my favorite themes. It is another example of a musical undaunted by Tony denial. The production wasn’t even nominated and they survived well over a year! That is about to come to an end, and soon, when the show closes at the Lunt-Fontaine on Sunday, August 21st. It sets off for a national tour, beginning October 11th inm Buffalo.

Also nearing the end of its Broadway tenancy is the highly original and charming Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which shuts its light effects at the Ethel Barrymore on September 4th.

That day, the 4th of September, will also be the last performance of the Les Miz production currently at the Imperial Theatre. The epic Les Miserables will be missed, but we know we’ll raise a glass to its return.

Fun Home will depart Circle in the Square after its final performance on September 10th.

Meanwhile, Cats has slinked into the Neil Simon, opening for a limited run through January 15th. Jogs the “Memory,” when some 40 years ago, I sat on the stage of the Winter Garden to watch T.S. Eliot’s poetry turned to motion in the original Broadway production.

The ever bouyant and dramatic Phantom, another Andrew Lloyd Webber invention, continues to startle in its long-term home at the Majestic.

Among the more resilient musicals around is still Something Rotten!, which tall-tells the history of all musicals nightly (and twice on Wednesday and Saturdays) at the St. James.The musical, which was also light on TONY recognition in 2015 when it opened, is holding ticket lotteries even as we write.

Sort of like Hamilton, but… tix for the Perfect $10 are still a lot harder to score.

 

Posted in theater, Tony Awards, Tony winner

TONY (W)rap

I was wrong
Hamilton came on strong

Not seven
But eleven

Statuettes for lighting,
Orchestrations, and fighting

Cast and Lin
All win

Hamilton‘s got a token
Record’s still unbroken

Hamilton– 16 nods, 11 wins– trails
The Producers– winning 12– prevails

Their twelve wins no one’s topped
Even with just 11, Ham can’t be stopped

Try and get a ticket to see it, now– no!
That’s okay, it’ll still be there when you do go


It’s an annual ritual at VevlynsPen.com to have me flail around guessing who the winner will be on TONY’s big night. I am often wrong, and occassionally right. Congratulations, for instance, to Roundabout’s She Loves Me for a best for sets designed by David Rockwell.

But the business of TONY is a double-edged sword. The awards celebration attracts audiences– Hamilton, we might point out, did not need the boost– andthose not getting an award are dubbed TONY losers. Yes, I know, a TONY nominee is not a loser, but if you don’t win it…. well you know. It is in the musical category that productions are particularly vulnerable. (Plays are on their own time-table; very rarely would one last even 500 performances, although it may find a revival every few years.)

Not every musical is as resilient as Something Rotten! which chugs along with only the one lonely TONY winner, Christian Borle, in its cast. From this year’s crop, On Your Feet!, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical, has its own special appeal, and is selling tickets through next April.

American Psycho The Musical succumbed before awards night. The luminous Bright Star is closing before the July 4th holiday on June 26th; as CBS news confirms, it did not win the awards needed to keep the public’s interest. Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Broadway Sensation of 1921, and all that Followed is telling its story through October 9th at this point. We’ll see if it gets a second wind if and when Audra McDonald returns from her intermission from the show.

Since I mentioned plays, aka non-musical ones, earlier, it is good to remember that Eclipsed might have had a longer run had it gotten more love from TONY. The Father, which won a TONY for Frank Langella’s star turn, closed on schedule on father’s day.The Humans, this year’s best play will stay open at least through the end of the year at the Helen Hayes.

What can the TONYs do to help Broadway more? Should we all ease up a little on thinking of a TONY win as the pinnacle of a production’s success? In other, maybe TONY should matter less and the play be the thing…..

Posted in comedy, drama, musical theater, theater, Tony Awards

TONY Business

Bringing home the TONY can mean the difference between shuttering a show and extending a run.

There are exceptions, notably, Something Rotten, which despite not being TONY’s BEST Musical of 2015, persists in entertaining audiences well into 2016.

There are plenty of other awards, keeping casts and creatives out late on school nights all through the spring each year. The Drama Desk and the Outer Critics add lustre to an artist’s or a show’s resume, but TONY is the ultimate Broadway party.

Tim Pigott-Smith & The Cast of King Charles III © Joan Marcus
Tim Pigott-Smith & The Cast of King Charles III © Joan Marcus

One Sunday in June–this year it’s the 12th, 8/7C televised on CBS and live from the Beacon Theatre— the theatrical community dresses up to cheer each other on. The Tony Awards celebration is Broadway’s Oscar night.

The five people and shows nominated in each TONY category are each a defacto winner, and will perpetually be labelled a Tony nominee. Anyone winning is, well, truly a winner.

Everyone loves a winner

Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, Sarah Steele, Cassie Beck in a scene from The Humans. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe
Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, Sarah Steele, Cassie Beck in a scene from The Humans. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

TONY is the big get for producers, as well as for stars and the creative team. Having a Tony enhances your star power and can take your show into the next year. Subscription houses can turn a TONY into a larger patron base and the sale of additional regularly priced tickets.

The most coveted prizes in the TONY panoply are for BEST Musical, BEST Musical Revival, then for BEST Play or Revival. When a production snags one of these, it’s the producers– not the author, actors, crew or director– who take the bow, and make the speeches. The investors have had the foresight to back a winner.

Without at least a TONY nomination, shows fold their tents and make untimely exits from the Great White Way.

How long can a mere shadow mimic life or fill a Bway house?

Alex Brightman and the kid band from School of Rock - The Musical Photo by Matthew Murphy
Alex Brightman and the kid band from School of Rock – The Musical Photo by Matthew Murphy

Straight plays are less likely to fill 500 seats over the long-run, the way a musical can do. TONY is here to help, but it can only go so far. August Osage County lives on in a film version, as does Driving Miss Daisy, for instance, but how many plays have the years of success like the musicals Phantom or Chicago? For playgoers, and those involved in putting on the shows, the TONY for BEST Play and BEST Revival of a Play are still much anticipated.

All The Way, the 2014 winning BEST Play, which also won Bryan Cranston the lead actor Tony, has been turned into a much-anicipated HBO film, premiering on May 21st.

Who will win?

Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong'o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira's Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong’o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Your guess may prove better than mine, but I have made some predictions and invite you to compare notes now, and then again on TONY’s night, to see how I did, and how you did. Also, follow along on VevlynsPen.com to see what I think the contest will look like. That story will be up soon.

For now, get the nominee list for the 70th Annual Tony Awards from http://www.tonyawards.com/.

 

 

 

 

Posted in comedy, dining, dinner, drama, musical theater, theater

Dinner and a show

Book dinner and a show for ridiculous prices– no not those ridiculous prices, the ones that are considered moderate in this town!

Winter 2016 Restaurant Week and Broadway 2-for-1 coincide this season. The latter starts on January 19th and runs to February 5th, while Restaurant Week gives you an extra day to get ready on January 18th.

You can be sure that Hamilton did not make this list of 2-fors, but there are still plenty of big-ticket performances to see. 

This is a perfect time to catch An American in Paris, or The Color Purple, The King and I, or Beautiful, On Your Feet!, Something Rotten!, School of RockThe Humans or Phantom— to name just a few of the productions featured in the 2-fers. Dine before the show at Aureole, one of a couple of Bobby Van’s or The View at the Marquis for $38pp. If you hit a matinee and grab lunch it’s just $25pp at places like Victor’s Cuban Cafe, The Capital Grille (Times Square) Steakhouse, Butter Midtown or Barbetta. The list could go on, but you get our drift.

Everyone loves a bargain, so plan ahead for a table and your seats!

Visit http://www.nycgo.com/broadway-week to see what you haven’t seen yet. Go to http://www.nycgo.com/restaurant-week to snag a place at the table of your choice. Atlantic Grill, the Lincoln Ristorante and Boulud Sud are also participating in this winter’s Restaurant Week.

Posted in musical theater

Somthing Rotten! Plays On

An ad for Something Rotten!
An ad for Something Rotten!

Somthing Rotten! makes (up) musical theater history! For the record, Somthing Rotten! did not win the 2015 Tony for Best New Musical. You can make it up to them:
Somthing Rotten! soldiers on at the St. James with its scrappy fairytale of the genesis of musical theater eight times a week. The idolized charismatic Shakespeare and his rivals the unsung Bottom brothers (they do sing, it’s a musical) are its center and its firmament. Catch up with Something Rotten!, again or for the first time now. It’s musical theatre history in the making.

For our review, click here.

Selling tickets through May at http://rottenbroadway.com/

Our Theater Blog: TandBOnTheAisle

Brian d’Arcy James is having the time of his life.

In the context of Something Rotten!, at the St. James Theatre for what is destined to be a very long run, his jubiliation seems unwarranted.

1. 3566Nick Bottom, the character James so winniningly inhabits, is a failed playwright, who has lost the patronage of Lord Clapham (Peter Bartlett.)  Nick’s deep envy of Will Shakespeare’s (Christian Borle) meteoric success gnaws at him.

To help with the family finances, Nick’s wife Bea (Heidi Blickenstaff) disguises herself as a boy in order to work at menial labor. She says woman should be allowed to work; “it’s the ’90s, soon it will be 1600; there’s a woman on the throne….” Nick’s writing partner is his brother, Nigel (John Criani), a talented young man who admires Shakespeare.

Something Rotten B-Roll

Nick is reduced to  paying a soothsayer, Nostradamus (Brad Oscar), for ideas from theatre-future. The result of the collaboration between Nick and…

View original post 201 more words

Posted in theater, year end bests

Making the lists

The Children Ensemble. Photo By Matthew Murphy.
The Children Ensemble. Photo By Matthew Murphy.

Looking back on the year about to pass is a time-honored activity. Critics make lists of the past year’s favorites and share them. Seems like a good time for us to do that, too.

We posted a couple of year end reviews and then realized that neither one was a LIST of our faves for 2015.

So, back to the drawing board for T and B On the Aisle it is:

10! is our number one pick- Hamilton 

9. Something Rotten! 

8. School of Rock- The Musical

7. Hir

6. The Humans

5. Clever Little Lies 

4. On Your Feet! 

3. Fool for Love

2. Dada Woof Papa Hot

and last but not least, Marjorie Prime

 

 

 

Posted in theater, year end bests

Year end review

Looking back on the year about to pass is a time-honored activity. Critics make lists of the past year’s favorites and share them. Seems like a good time for T and B On the Aisle to do that, too.

Okieriete Onaodowan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, and the company of Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Okieriete Onaodowan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, and the company of Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus.

While Hamilton remains my perfect 10 (it feels like I posted at least 10 reflections on it), I have a deep appreciation for the literate and show-bizy silliness that is Something Rotten! (which got more than a few mentions from me as well.)

And a new fave has hit town with the opening of the Broadway version of the Mike White-written Jack Black movie, School of Rock. team that brought it to Broadway includes Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber (music), Glenn Slater (lyrics) and Julian Fellowes (book) with choreography by Joann M. Hunter and scenic-costume designs by Ann Louizos. School of Rock-The Musical really rocks.

In the straight play category, there are several contenders for year’s best. Taylor Mac’s Hir and Stephen Karam’s The Humans are at the top of the list. (The latter is headed for Broadway in 2016.) Peter Parnell’s Dada Woof Papa Hot is an entertaining and well-devised show, as well.

More here…

 

Posted in comedy, dance, drama, musical theater, theater

Post Tonys: Double “Jeopardy®”** Part II

 Ken Watanabe and Kelli O'Hara in "The King and I"
Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara in “The King and I”

My streak continues, so handicapping the Tonys should definitely not be my day job. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time did get Tony attention and commendations I anticipated, including one for its superlative direction by Marianne Elliott. Likewise, I got it right when I predicted that LCT’s The King and I was the Best Musical Revival of 2015. For Kelli O’Hara, 6th time is the charm!

Here is my post-Tony Double Jeopardy (the run-up is here and here) column:

1. Christian Borle took one for the team.

  • How long will Something Rotten! contine its reign at the St James?
  • Was it wrong to wish this charmer of a musical would walk away with most of its 10 nods?
Oscar Williams, Zell Steele Marrow Sydney Lucas- photo credit Joan Marcus
Oscar Williams, Zell Steele Marrow Sydney Lucas in a scene from “Fun Home”- photo credit Joan Marcus.

2. I labelled it “the new kid on the block,” but never thought this Broadway transfer would run away with so many of the big prizes, including for Best Musical of 2015.

  • What is Fun Home?
  • How many Tonys did Fun Home win?
  • Answer to the answer: Didn’t you see it coming when Sam Gold won for Best Direction of a Musical, Lisa Kron got the Tony for the Best Book and Kron and Jeanine Tesori won for Best  Lyrics and Music?
  • Bonus #2: This win, for the Best Leading Actor in a Musical in Fun Home, is Michael Cerveris’s 2nd Tony. In which Roundabout production did Michael Cerveris win his first Tony?

3. Chita Rivera stars with Roger Rees in Kander & Ebb’s final collaboration, the adaptation of a wry Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s satire.

  • What is The Visit?
  • Can this dark musical win the hearts of Broadway audiences?
  • Bonus #1: Is an City Center Encores! production in its future?
  • 2nd Bonus: Will The Visit ever be a long-running Broadway staple, like say Kander & Ebb’s Chicago?

4. The Night They Invented Champagne is an anthem to celebratory cork popping.

  • What is Gigi at the Neil Simon Theatre?
  • Can putting its best foot forward, as the production of Gigi did on the Tony telecast, help this tuneful revival survive and perhaps thrive on Broadway?

5. A frequent contender for the Award, Kelli O’Hara had five nominations before her win for Best Leading Actress in a Musical on June 7, 2015, which was also a grand night for her co-star and the LCT production.

  • What is The King and I at the Beaumont?
  • Who is Ruthie Ann Miles?

6. Quirky and unusual themes were well-rewarded at the Tonys this year.

  • What is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?
  • For which other recent production did Marianne Elliott win a Tony for Best Direction?
  • Bonus answers: When did Alex Sharp, this year’s Best Leading Actor in a Play, graduate Julliard?
  • Additional Bonus referencing “quirky-themed”: See Fun Home, #2 above

7. The broadcast on CBS on June 7, 2015 joyously showcased New York’s major creative industry: Broadway, it’s synonymous with NYC.

  • What is the 69th Annual Tony Award television show?
  • Who are Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming?
FidgetyFeet from "An American in Paris"

8. Gene Kelly starred in the movie from which this original musical was created, and Christopher Wheeldon, who won the Best for his original choreography.

  • What is An American in Paris?
  • Is it destined for a long stay at the Palace?

9. In the end, it’s about the performances, the staging, the costumes, the content.

  • What is your favorite Broadway show, now and for all time?
  • How many of the current productions have you/will you see(n)?

**Jeopardy® is a trademark for a game show invented by Merv Griffin.

Posted in Tony Awards

Tony Double Jeopardy®**

 

3494He left the cast of Hamilton to star in this musical nominated for a Tony Best.

KevinDelAguila  and ChristianBorle Photo 1.(c)O&M Co.
KevinDelAguila and ChristianBorle Photo 1. (c)O&M Co.

He won a Tony for Peter and the Starcatcher and has a nomination for a supporting role in this Tony season.

He plays the Maurice Chevalier role to Victoria Clark’s Mamita now, but once upon a time, he was a “Phantom.”

He is a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and now is on stage at The Palace Theatre 8 shows a week.

Bomus Round:

This musical transferred from The Public Theater in time Tony nominations.

Second Bonus Round:

Kander and Ebb’s last collaboration finally reaches Broadway after taking a long circuitous route in out-of-town tryouts.

Find the answers at http://wp.me/p5jq0w-sQ

Watch the 2015 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 7th.

**Jeopardy® is a trademark for a game show invented by Merv Griffin.