Monthly Archives: January 2017


(Adam Hetrick’s article appeared in Playbill, 1/27; via Pam Green.)

The creatives of The Phantom of the Opera share secrets and cool Phantom-facts from the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Do you know all of these?
The New York production cost a record $8 million in 1988. The same production today would cost $20 million.

The creative team originally wanted the conductor of Phantom in the pit to wear a white wig during the gala performance of Hannibal while Christine sang “Think of Me,” so that he or she matched the conductor that appears onstage in the moment after the gala when Christine takes her bow facing upstage through the reverse tab curtains.

Over 400 actors have appeared in the New York production.

But, 15 actors have been cast as The Phantom on Broadway: Michael Crawford, Timothy Nolen, Cris Groenendaal, Steve Barton, Kevin Gray, Mark Jacoby, Marcus Lovett, Davis Gaines, Thomas James O’Leary, Hugh PanaroHoward McGillin, John Cudia, Peter Jöback, Norm Lewis and James Barbour. (There have also been five additional temporary replacements: Jeff Keller, Ted Keegan, Brad Little, Gary Mauer and Laird Mackintosh.)

With over 2,500 performances, McGillin holds the record for playing the title role on Broadway more than any other performer.

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(Raf Casert’s article appeared in the Associated Press, 1/27.)

BRUSSELS (AP) — A struggling child with a blade to his neck awaiting slaughter. A gutted body hanging upside down as blood seeps out. In Brussels these days, it’s called street art — and names far less flattering.

“Hellish and awful,” Nicole Brisard grumbled as she walked her dog, Max, past the bleeding corpse rendered in paint on seven stories of a low-rent apartment building. “And all we wish for is to have something better, out of respect for the people.”

The two murals that appeared last weekend have made their anonymous artist the talk of the European capital, posing a familiar question about art expressly created to provoke: how far can it go before the outrage becomes unacceptable?

Both the wall painting eliciting Brisard’s ire and the companion mural across town of a child facing death are oversized adaptations of details from well-known 17th century art works, “The Corpses of the De Witt Brothers” by Dutch master Jan de Baen and Caravaggio’s “Sacrifice of Isaac.”

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(from the Guardian staff, 1/26)

Elton John has been tapped to write the music for the Broadway adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada.

The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter will work with playwright Paul Rudnick on the production. John has great experience within the genre, having worked on hits The Lion King and Billy Elliot in the past. Rudnick’s plays include Jeffrey and I Hate Hamlet and his screen work includes Addams Family Values.

“Re-imagining The Devil Wears Prada for the musical theatre is super exciting,” John said in a statement. “I’m a huge fan of both the book and the feature film and a huge aficionado of the fashion world. I can’t wait to sink my musical teeth into this hunk of popular culture.”

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(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, 1/19.)

Time and space. The abstraction and reality of mathematics. The complexity of patterns. Universal connectivity. Creativity. Cultural dissonance. Immortality. Infinity.

How’s that for a list of some of the biggest ideas to bedevil the human mind?

Now imagine this: A brilliant theatrical venture that not only illuminates each and every one of these notions in the most rigorous yet accessible way, but does so by unspooling a superbly multi-layered, deeply human story laced with immense emotional depth, great bursts of humor, a magical infusion of musical and choreographic accents, and such compelling performances that you have no doubt the actors could pass the most challenging exams even without the aid of their scripts.

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(Alexis Soloski’s article appeared in the New York Times, 1/25; via Pam Green; the above clip is from the London production.)

An autocratic leader has won the vote. He has charm, yes, and smarts of a kind, but also a cruel streak. Beatings are frequent, and assassination — foreign and domestic — has become commonplace. His cultural pronouncements have had a chilling effect on the arts, theater in particular.

Take your seat for “Evening at the Talk House,” an ultra-dark comedy by the playwright and actor Wallace Shawn (“The Designated Mourner,” “Aunt Dan and Lemon”) for the New Group that begins performances at the Signature Center on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Though written years before Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy, and first produced in London in the fall of 2015, the play may strike some as oddly prescient.

Set in the course of one night, it eavesdrops on several people who worked together on “Midnight in a Clearing With Moon and Stars,” a fictitious flop from a decade ago. They have gathered for a reunion at a rundown club. As they snack and sip and reminisce, they reveal the brutality of the world outside and the ways that artists can abet it, resist it and ignore it.

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(Carmel Dagan’s article appeared in Variety, 1/25; via Pam Green.)

Television great Mary Tyler Moore, the beloved star of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died Wednesday in Connecticut, her publicist confirmed. She was 80.

“Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine,” read the statement from Mara Buxbaum, her longtime rep. “A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.”

The vivacious brunette performer transformed the image of women on television first as Van Dyke’s sexy, vulnerable wife Laura Petrie and then as single career girl Mary Richards in her own series. Her work in the two series brought Moore five Emmy Awards, in 1965, 1966, 1973, 1974 and 1976. She won another Emmy for 1993 TV special “Stolen Babies.”

Moore was also a powerhouse producer via her MTM production company with then-husband Grant Tinker, producing her own series as well as “The Bob Newhart Show” and spinoff series “Rhoda” and “Lou Grant,” among others.

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(Jonathan Stempel’s article appeared on Yahoo News, 1/24.)

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The producer of “Hamilton” has been sued by a blind theatergoer who claimed that the blockbuster Broadway musical violates federal law by failing to offer services to help blind and visually impaired people enjoy the show.

In his complaint on Monday, Denver resident Mark Lasser said Hamilton Uptown LLC and Nederlander Organization, which runs the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Manhattan where “Hamilton” is performed, could easily provide live audio narratives to help visually impaired people follow stage action between songs.

But Lasser said the theater refuses to offer such narratives, which can be listened to with headphones so other patrons will not be disturbed.

He said this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, and “will continue to deter blind and visually impaired people from attending musicals.”

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(Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 1/20.)

When today’s world gets especially stressful — as it definitely is just now — my mind wanders back to older and happier times. So during these recent agonizing months, I’ve naturally been thinking about ancient Greece. And particularly about the time of Cleon.

You may or may not remember Cleon. He essentially controlled Athenian politics after the death of Pericles, from around 429 B.C. until his own death in 422. Some modern scholars have tried to make a case for Cleon, but he generally seems not to have been, by anybody’s standards, an honest guy. Under his sway, Athens got more and more deeply embroiled in a messy and endlessly prolonged war with Sparta in the Peloponnesus. Meanwhile the city’s economy went downhill along with its political principles and its ethical values. By the end of Cleon’s time, Athens was heading to the bedraggled finale of its great cultural era. Its fame as the cradle of democracy, the glorious home of poets and thinkers, was starting to fade. The military quagmire into which Cleon and his supporters had helped to drag it would, by the end of the fourth century, leave it easy prey for conquest.

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(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in the New York Times, 1/19.)

Conversation sings and swings, bends and bounces and hits heaven smack in the clouds, in the glorious new production of August Wilson’s “Jitney,” which opened on Thursday night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater. In Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s vital revival of a 1982 play only now making its Broadway debut, words take on the shimmer of molten-gold notes from the trumpets of Louis and Miles.

How sweet the sound. And how sorrowful and jubilant, as life in a storefront taxi company in an African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh comes to feel like a free-form urban concerto, shaped by the quick-witted, improvisatory spirit that makes jazz soar.

Acted by an impeccably tuned ensemble, this early work from an American master makes you realize how much the New York theater has missed the voice of Wilson, who died in 2005. And it feels somehow fitting that this play — part of one of the great cycles of modern drama — should open on the eve of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.

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(Susannah Clapp’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/22.)

When Joan Lindsay wrote Picnic at Hanging Rock in 1967, she created a myth. A foreword encouraged readers to believe that her story about schoolgirls disappearing on a trip to a volcanic Australian landmark might be based on documentary evidence. It was not – it was fiction – but the plot is so resonant with actual anxieties that people continue to think it fact. Set on St Valentine’s Day, 1900, it conjures up uncertainty and dissolving boundaries. A century of Victorian propriety about to give way to a less corseted age. Girls, transfixed by romance, on the brink of becoming sexual beings. Nature about to erupt. Time in a trance. Fascination.

Tom Wright’s adaptation, for Australia’s Malthouse theatre and Black Swan State Theatre Company, hints at much of this. The emphasis is utterly different from Peter Weir’s swoony 1975 movie, with the girls dressed in rippable white muslin. Much more apparent here is a country squirming under colonial shackles, and a series of narrators trying to piece a story together.

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