(Dominic Cavendish's article appeared in the Telegraph, 4/29.)
No beating about Shepherd’s Bush, this HammersmithBugsy Malone is a blast – a triumphant return for the stage version of Alan Parker’s adored 1976 film-musical, which braved ridicule and broke the mould by planting children in the roles of Prohibition-era mobsters, their molls and those caught in the “splurge-gun” cross-fire – conjuring a world in which life’s as throwaway as a lollipop.
Reopening the renovated theatre, director Sean Holmes could have ended up with egg (or should that be custard-pie, the other weapon of choice here?) all over his face.
The mind boggles at the logistical challenges involved in bringing a 35-strong company, aged nine to 22 (with the leads, in general the youngest, performing in repertoire), to the peak of razzmatazz perfection
(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Time, 4/26.)
Here’s some unusual tabloid fodder: Anne Hathaway has joined the Air Force!
Well, no, not really. But that Oscar-winning actor gives a fiercely good performance as a cocky pilot raining bombs down on Iraq and Afghanistan in the solo play “Grounded,” by George Brant. Nor is Ms. Hathaway the only A-lister involved in the production, which opened on Sunday at the Public Theater. The show has been staged by Julie Taymor, the Tony-winning film and theater director whose reputation has latterly been somewhat dented by the folly that was “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”
(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/25; via Pam Green.)
About that closing of “The Fantasticks”: Never mind.
The producers of the long-running Off-Broadway staple, who announced last month that they would close the show in early May, said on Saturday that two unnamed fans had contributed enough money to keep it open indefinitely.
“The Fantasticks” has had near-death experiences before – in 2002, it closed, after 17,162 performances over 42 years, only to reopen in 2006.
The lead producer, Catherine Russell, said last month, “It has become increasingly challenging to sell lots of tickets consistently – we are either incredibly busy and selling out or selling fewer tickets that we have been in previous years.”
(Alexandra Alter’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/23; via Pam Green.)
The actress Reese Witherspoon will narrate the audiobook for Harper Lee’s second novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” which comes out on July 14, HarperCollins announced on Thursday.
The novel, which Ms. Lee finished in the mid-1950s before she wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird,” takes place some 20 years after “Mockingbird,” and features a grown-up Scout and her aging father Atticus. Ms. Lee’s publisher and literary agent say that the story is distinct from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” though the two novels share the same setting and characters. HarperCollins is planning a huge two million copy first printing.
Austin Pendleton’s modern-dress Hamlet, playing at the Classic Stage Company through May 10, is daringly cast with an older Gertrude (Penelope Allen), hipster Hamlet (Peter Sarsgaard), and a ghost who remains in the ether. The director also presents formidable talents, such as Harris Yulin (Claudius) and Stephen Spinella (Polonius)—and his Ophelia is quirky and with tics enough to challenge a young Faye Dunaway (Lisa Joyce). Pendleton appreciates the virtuosity of these actors, but he never really pushes them into harm’s way. His intimate Hamlet is rarely dangerous physically or emotionally (an exception is Allen’s and Sarsgaard’s confrontation in Gertrude’s closet), and the black grandeur of the play goes missing. If somewhere along the line, Pendleton realized that Hamlet was undirectable, he wouldn’t be the first to do so—his work presents as a German avant-garde production that is soft on the inside; really this is more of a favorite actors’ showcase, which the audience can snooze through. Unfortunately, tired New Yorkers did, on the evening I saw it. A windy Polonius helps this along (no fault of Spinella, though) along with a very dark theatre and unfortunate electronic music, which sets the mood, but also puts everyone into delta. It seems a mistake to cut the ghost’s lurid speech, which, early in the play, can act as a kick from the supernatural (and give important backstory). As I recall, Ingmar Bergman’s production was very aware of pacing, and used an early sex scene, highlighting the depravity of the Danish court—needless to say, everyone stayed awake. The present version seems to use an idea from that production by having Ophelia appear at her own burial.
(Pat Cerasaro’s article appeared on Broadway.com, 4/27.)
Too sick to perform in ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, but still sharing the love on social media!
The brand new Broadway revival of ON THE 20TH CENTURY starring Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher opened recently to rave reviews and Chenoweth recently had to take some performances off due to a sudden illness, though she mustered the energy to provide some social media updates earlier today about her current condition.
(Michael Pollak’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/27.)
Jayne Meadows, a glamorous redheaded actress who starred on Broadway, in the movies and on television, but who was probably best known for her 46-year role as Steve Allen’s wife, business partner and frequent co-star, died on Sunday at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 95.
Her son, Bill Allen, confirmed her death on Monday.
Ms. Meadows was never as well known as her younger sister, Audrey, who played Alice Kramden on the now-classic Jackie Gleason sitcom “The Honeymooners.” But she was a versatile and accomplished actress in her own right and a familiar presence on television for years, in dramatic productions, prime-time series and game shows.
We went yesterday and were extremely disappointed. The play lists two actors–Matthew Zajac and Aidan O'Rourke, but it's actually a one man show written by Matthew, with Aidan accompanying on the violin. It would have been better with another actor or actress involved. Matthew tells the story of how his father came to be a tailor in Inverness, and his struggle to survive in Poland during WWII. The script contains fascinating material and it's a true story of the brutality in the area among the Russians, Ukrainians, Poles and Nazis, but that doesn't mean that atrocities can be merely mentioned without an artful way to make them convey the moral depravity of the participants. There's also much unpleasant repetition about being chased by wolves, to no effect. In several sequences, Matthew attempts to dance and sing, and it's surprising that no one attempted to correct his clumsy waltz steps that are too big. What's amazing is that this play received rave reviews in the UK.
(Andy Webster’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/24; via Pam Green.)
Just before Nate Rufus Edelman’s winning drama “The Belle of Belfast” begins, the buzz saw intensity of Stiff Little Fingers’ republican anthem “Alternative Ulster” and John McDermott’s set — an imposing exposed-brick wall covered with graffiti and topped with barbed wire — signal that you’re in the caldron of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1985. Add John Larson’s black-and-white projections from the bloodstained history of the Troubles, and throw in the hormones and caustic temperament of a 17-year-old live wire, and you’re in a pressure cooker at steam heat.