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Entries in Stage Door (42)

Thursday
May182017

Stage Door: "Six Degrees of Separation" Revived

Stage Door bringing you intermittent theater reviews when we manage to get there. Here's Nathaniel R

It's so basic to binge plays during Tony season as opposed to a more sensible and committed once-a-month diet of live theater. Alas, just as the more familiar mainstream obsession of the Oscar circus encourages studios to backload their releases to the last quarter of the year, most of the "big" theater shows open as late as they can for Tony consideration. This makes April and May a madhouse of theater-going for those who care about such things. Because most of the musicals are too expensive, I've been catching up with the plays. We've already covered The Little Foxes (a must see) and the Pulitzer-winning economic tragedy Sweat. So let's talk Six Degrees of Separation nominated for 2 Tonys: Best Revival of a Play and Best Leading Actor (Corey Hawkins).

"Chaos, control. Chaos, control. You like, you like?"

That's Stockard Channing's most sweetly funny line reading (among thousands of exquisite ones) in the 1993 movie adaptation of this stage classic. That was also, roughly, my reaction to the Broadway revival with Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey, and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton), taking over the roles Channing, Donald Sutherland, and Will Smith played onscreen...

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Tuesday
May092017

Stage Door: "The Little Foxes" doubles The Lovely Laura Linney

Nathaniel R on one of the season's biggest Tony nominees and the most important for Actressexuals

Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes first debuted on the New York stage in 1939 with instantly classic characters, most notably the spiteful Regina Giddens and mousy drunk Birdie Hubbard, who Regina's brother married for her considerable fortune. The show was a hit and immediately scored a classic film version, released in 1941. In the intervening years the show seemed to disappear from the public consciousness a wee bit, despite being revived several times. It didn't help that the awesome 1941 film version was out of print for a long stretch. It's always a treat for fans of actresses since the roles are tailor made for starpower divas...

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Wednesday
Apr052017

Stage Door: Amélie, The Musical

By Dancin' Dan

Say what you will about the seemingly unending run of new Broadway musicals based on non-musical films, enough of them have been good enough that you write them off at your own risk. Kinky Boots and Waitress are just two recent examples of stage musicals that, if anything, improve on their source material. The just-opened Amélie, an adaptation of the 2001 Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, attempts to recreate the success of those two adaptations: An established, inventive director in Pam MacKinnon, music and lyrics by singer-songwriter Daniel Messé (of music group Hem) with some help from musical vet Nathan Tysen, and a book by the respected playwright Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss). And of course, a Broadway star on the rise in the lead role: the angel-voiced Philippa Soo, who stole hearts in Hamilton and the Off-Broadway incarnation of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.

Unfortunately, this new musical fails to reach the dizzying heights of Jeunet's purely cinematic film. But the way in which it fails that lofty goal is interesting...

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Friday
Mar172017

Stage Door: Sally Field in The Glass Menagerie

by Dancin' Dan

This is not your parents' Glass Menagerie.

It's not uncommon for theatrical "reinventions" to take place nowadays. Ivo van Howe has made it into a cottage industry of sorts, creating an intimate, visceral A View From the Bridge and a raw, elemental The Crucible in recent years. Sam Gold is of the same cloth. He made his name with an audacious revival of Look Back in Anger at the Roudabout in 2012, won the Tony in 2015 for his sensitive in-the-round staging of the musical Fun Home, and most recently directed a searing Othello with David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig off Broadway at the New York Theater Workshop.

But all those pieces benefit from a stripped back, in-some-cases radical rethinking. Tennessee Williams's memory play is a much more delicate thing, announcing as narrator Tom Wingfield does right at the start that this is a subjective work of art, a piece of memory that may or may not represent what actually happened. Productions of it generally take after the play's quietest character, the "crippled" Laura - they are generally fragile, gossamer things, as light and airy as a thought or memory hanging in the air in front of us...

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Monday
Nov212016

Stage Door: "Dead Poet's Society"

Andy Warhol's prescient statement 'in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes' has been requoted to death. If he had been even more specific in his prophesies he could have added '...and every movie made in the 80s and 90s movie will become a stage play.' The latest film to make the jump is Peter Weir's boy's school drama Dead Poet's Society which was a big hit with the public and Oscar in 1989. For those who've never seen it (I'm sure you're out there somewhere) Robin Williams plays an unconventional teacher who convinces high school boys to "carpe diem / seize the day!" but this inspirational message has unintended tragic consequences when one boy's dream (Robert Sean Leonard) clashes with his reality in the form of a disapproving father. In the new play film actors Jason Sudeikis and Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Stanford Prison Experiment) get those two marquee roles...

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Friday
Sep302016

Stage Door: Believing in Breaking the Waves, the Opera

Daniel here to discuss the latest transfer from big screen to live stage. 

Bess McNeill, the golden-hearted islander at the center of Breaking the Waves, is a woman of astonishing faith. It is the source of her resilience and it is her undoing, though the salacious facts of her downfall can distract from the strength of her conviction. However, the whirlwind of anonymous sex, medical trauma and social exclusion that characterize the second half of the film do not undo the romantic catechism of its first scene. 

Bess sits in church, beset by the stone-faced Calvinist elders of her community. They demand to know why she wishes to marry an outsider, an act they clearly interpret as a spiritual betrayal. She responds to their questions with an irrepressible joy. Her confidence in her own love, as well as that of her fiancé, is as compelling a testament of faith as has ever been put to film. 

Or, as the case may be, as has ever been put to music...

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Saturday
Sep102016

Stage Door: Toruk - The First Flight

Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Jose here. While worldwide audiences wait for the impending Avatar sequels, the folks at Cirque du Soleil are aiming to quench their thirst with a new spectacle called Toruk - The First Flight, which bills itself as being “inspired by” the James Cameron film, but feels more like just another chapter in what’s become a “universe”. Imagined for those who maybe don’t like video games, are too passive for amusement parks, and have deep admiration for the human body, the show is a two hour long arena extravaganza in which Pandora comes to life in “real life 3D”.

Avatar borrowed elements from films like Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, and to an extent some of Cameron’s own oeuvre (Aliens star Sigourney Weaver was two seats away from me and was always the first to applaud, during a particularly complex sequence she held both her hands near her face and sighed in relief when the acrobats gracefully pulled it off...

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Monday
Jun062016

Stage Door: Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"

In Stage Door we talk theater, usually making some form of movie connection because that's how we do things...

I don't know anything about Bluegrass music but I wouldn't have connected it to the Melodrama form. If I tried to tell you the plot of Steve Martin's Broadway show "Bright Star," you wouldn't even believe it, so I shan't. Let's just say that if the plot were a movie it would be a silent film with wild eyed pantomiming it's so BIG with oversized emotional rug-pulling. I was just crazy about the music but the book not so much. (On the night I attended it was all worth it because Steve Martin made a surprise appearance. There he was as the curtain raised for Act 2, playing on his banjo. He was loving it and so was the very very appreciative crowd. How lucky that he picked our night to show up!)

Aside from the Original Score which just won the Drama Desk Award, the show's MVP is its Tony nominated lead actress Carmen Cusack who plays her character, beautifully, at two separate ages as a gangly uninhibited teenager and a much stiffer heartbroken woman in her 30s; when she fuses their temperaments at the end into the same woman, it's divine. Her voice can soar gorgeously and crash down to earth with equal potency. The Original Cast Recording is now available which might be the best way to experience the otherwise uneven night of theater. The highlight of this particular lucky night out on Broadway was the surprise appearance of Steve Martin playing his banjo as Act 2 began. He was loving it and so were his appreciative surprised fans in the theater that night. I was lucky enough to be among them. 

Bright Star is up for 5 Tonys: Musical, Book of a Musical, Score, Actress, and Orchestrations. 

More Theater
54 Below Molly Pope is doing a one night show in July based on A Star is Born. She's a stunning live performer -it's pricey but I have to be there
NY Times An ode to Broadway replacements Heather Headley & Marin Mazzie
NY Post Michael Riedel predicts a mini Hamilton backlash at the Tonys. It will lose in at least a few categories 
Theater Mania Once frequent Oscar nominee Marsha Mason is directing a production of Steel Magnolias in Pennsylvania (now running through June 18th). Jessica Walter is playing Ouiser which is great casting, don't you think? 
Broadway Blog Cheyenne Jackson has a new album out "Renaissance"

 

 

P.S. Jason and I also caught American Psycho again the day before it closed and during intermission, while chatting with Pushing Daisies / Hannibal TV genius Bryan Fuller (who also enjoyed the show) we all met a crazy fan who was wearing an American Psycho dress . A second time through I'm even more convinced of its brilliance. The Tonys really stiffed it but at least it picked up 3 well deserved Drama Desk Awards (Lighting, Projections, Design)