Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's A Christmas Miracle

I exaggerate a little about the miracle part, but Norbert Leo Butz and Raul Esparza are going to be on the same Broadway stage. Sadly, neither of them will be singing, but I'll take what I can get. Jeremy Piven had to leave Speed-the-Plow due to illness and Butz is now taking over. Speed-the-Plow was one of my favorite shows of the year, but this will undoubtedly make it even better. I must get back to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and hope for a technical difficulty.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Year in Lists

I have no idea where the year went, but I do know that I lasted a year in New York City. Here are some of my favorites of 2008.

Top 5 Movies:
1) Wall-E: Pixar consistently makes the best and most original movies today. Wall-E is visually stunning and told a very sweet story. Plus, Wall-E and Eve are just so darn adorable.
2) Iron Man: I know Dark Knight was the superhero movie this summer, but Iron Man was more enjoyable. Robert Downey Jr. is my kind of superhero.
3) Milk: Not a weak link in the cast (I was especially impressed by James Franco) and very timely.
4) Prince Caspian: Though not as good as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it remains faithful to the series, except for that ridiculous Susan/Caspian romance.
5) Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist: Though the book was better, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, which is that rare teenage film where most of the teenagers are not annoying, yet still realistic.

Top 5 Albums:
1) 5to Piso, Ricardo Arjona: He's one of the few artists that I can buy a new album without hearing any of the songs and know I won't be disappointed, and so far, I haven't been. He's a brilliant storyteller as well as musician.
2) goddammed, Jay Brannan: His lyrics range from clever and biting to poignant, sometimes all in one song.
3) Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, The New Broadway Cast: Just because a show is great, doesn't necessarily mean the cast album will hold up, but this is one of the most well-done cast albums I own, perfectly capturing the magnificent orchestra and cast.
4) Hold On Now, Youngster..., Los Campesinos!: So much fun. And still better than We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, also released this year. The title of this blog post is taken from a song off this album.
5) Volume One, She & Him: I've loved Zooey Deschanel since Elf, and now I love M. Ward too.

Top 5 Concerts:
1) Ray Davies, Hammerstein Ballroom, Dec. 12: I actually saw him for the first time on March 29 at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, but this concert slightly topped that one because I was closer to the stage and he played three songs from The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, as well as "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," "Apeman," and "Father Christmas."
2) The Swell Season, Rumsey Playfield, Sept. 18: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova seem to love playing together and for an audience. Were it not for the strict rules in Central Park, they might have played all night.
3) REM with The National and Modest Mouse, Madison Square Garden, June 19: Not one, but two good opening acts, plus REM. Good deal. Although I would have liked a bit more variation in the set list from the 2004 show I saw, also at MSG.
4) Jay Brannan, Highline Ballroom, July 16: I wasn't too familiar with his work beforehand, but I loved everything he played. Plus, he had good stage banter, which I always enjoyed. After seeing him live, I bought his album, which as you can see, made my top album list as well.
5) A Spring Awakening Holiday Concert to Benefit SafePlace, Joe's Pub, December 15: I was debating whether to include this since I already come across enough as a Broadway fangirl without admitting that I went to this, but it really was amazing, especially the arrangements of classic Christmas songs done by Spring Awakening vocal arranger Ann Marie Milazzo. I loved the haunting harmonies in the big group numbers, but the highlight was this number (even though it's more of a Passover song), which showcased two ensemble members of the current cast, Morgan Karr and Zach Reiner-Harris:

Top 5 Broadway:
To narrow it down, I took this list from shows that opened this calendar year (not Broadway season) and am therefore excluding shows that I saw this year that opened last year, such as Xanadu and August: Osage County.
1) Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific: Beautiful production. A full orchestra. Perfect cast. Amazing score. This is the only show in recent memory for which I paid full price, and it was worth every penny.
2) Gypsy: Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines, and Laura Benanti deserved their Tony's. I know it's all about Lupone, but Benanti's transformation during the show is incredible to watch. It's really a shame that it's selling so poorly and will be closing in January (along with everything else on Broadway).
3) In The Heights: Although the book isn't perfect, the innovative rap/hip-hop infused score and dancing make up for it. Extra points for the best YouTube channel ever, usnavi.
4) Boeing Boeing: One of the funniest shows I've ever seen, thanks in large part to Mark Rylance, and I don't usually like farce.
5) Speed-the-Plow: It's hard to narrow down my favorites to 5. Maybe I should have included The Seagull instead or even [title of show], but I love Mamet, especially this one, and if Raul Esparza doesn't finally get a Tony, there is no justice.

Top 5 Off-Broadway:
Same rules as above, which is why I'm not including Speech and Debate.
1) Hair at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park: If you didn't know I was going to pick this, you haven't been paying attention, as this was one of my favorite productions ever. I just hope the Broadway production is able to capture at least some of what was created in the park last summer.
2) Black Watch at St. Anne's Warehouse: Didn't think it could live up to the hype, but it did.
3) The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island at The Vineyard: Talk about an original musical. The story was weird and the sets were made up of Ben Katchor's animation. I wish more people would have seen this or that there would have been a recording of some kind.
4) On The Town at New York City Centers: I'd never seen a City Center's Encores! production, but even from my awful seats, I loved it. I'm a sucker for big orchestras, dancing, Bernstein, and Tony Yazbeck.
5) Fifty Words at MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre: Norbert Leo Butz and Elizabeth Marvel gave two of the best and most realistic performances of the year in this two-person show about marriage.

Top 5 Books:
I have to cheat on this one because I don't know if I even read 5 books that came out this year, so I'm going to choose from the books I read this year. I'm currently reading What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell and The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which are both very good, but since I haven't finished them, won't make the list.
1) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Although Dickens is my favorite author, I hadn't read it yet, but I'm glad I finally got around to it. I hadn't read Dickens in a while and he had the ability to write descriptions and characters like nobody else.
2) Attack of The Theatre People by Marc Acito: The sequel to How I Paid For College and just as funny. I don't think you'd need to be a theatre nerd to enjoy the crazy situations Edward Zanni gets himself into, though you'd probably miss some of the references.
3) Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: For such a short book, it's pretty substantive, and Cohn and Levithan do an excellent job of getting into the mind of a teen.
4) Unaccostumed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: I usually prefer novels to short stories, but these stories were so well-crafted and each one fit together to form a larger picture.
5) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: O.K. I've since become disenchanted with the series and the fans kind of scare me, but when I read the first one, I was totally engrossed in the love story. Meyer is a repetitive writer, but she can weave a nice fairy tale.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Razzle Dazzle Episode of Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies's writers apparently love the underappreciated 1977 Disney movie Pete's Dragon as much as I do. Wednesday's episode, "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy," featured numerous references to the movie. At first I thought maybe it was just a coincidence that the lighthouse keeper's name was Nora like in the movie and her last name McQuoddy which sounds a lot like the town name Passamaquoddy. But then her son's name was Elliot, as in the name of the dragon. Plus they wore the same cute yellow raincoats and hats and then there was that a capella rendition of "Candle on the Water." Awesome. I'm glad I watched the movie when I was home over Thanksgiving, or I'd be really in the mood to watch it now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Is New Line Thinking?

Playbill reports that New Line bought the screen rights to Rock of Ages, an off-Broadway musical playing at the New World Stages. I'm not in the film business, but this doesn't seem like a great idea, especially in these troubled times. This musical has a fan base, but it is by no means a well-known hit. It's also not very good, a weak and unoriginal story that's basically filler to showcase '80s songs. The audience members that enjoyed the show when I saw it seemed to be more into the alcohol (which can be ordered during the show right to your seat) than anything else. It's also a show that encourages audience participation, so I can't see how these aspects will be brought to the big screen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sad News Friday

I've been in a good mood lately. It's almost Thanksgiving. It's time for gingerbread and eggnog. But I'm sad about two things today:

Sorry for yet another post about Hair, but Playbill reports that Jonathan Groff will not be making the move with the show to Broadway. He was replaced during the extensions at the Delacorte run (due to a prior commitment) by Christopher J. Hanke. Hanke was good in the role, but I didn't think he connected to the material or cast the way Groff did. The real shame is that there wasn't a Delacorte cast recording. No casting announcements have been made yet, but I'm sure this will still be a production worth seeing.

I also read that the television show Pushing Daisies has been canceled, which is a real shame because it was an original concept with a good cast and endearing characters.

Of course, there are worse things that could happen, and I'm sure the cast and crew of Pushing Daisies will find other projects. Also, I think my blog has become too theatre-dominant since I moved to New York and I'll try to change that soon. In the meantime, here is something that I wrote that has nothing to do with theatre (unless Conor Oberst was in a regional production of West Side Story that I don't know about).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

3 War Shows, Just In Time For Veteran's Day

I didn't plan this, but in the 4 days before Veteran's Day, I saw 3 shows related to wars and military--The Roundabout Theatre production of Streamers, The National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch, and a York Theatre Company reading of Yank!.

This season, both on and off Broadway is all about the testosterone, with two Mamet shows and Billy Elliot, to name a few. Perhaps this is a reaction to last year's season of women, with shows like August: Osage County and Top Girls. The only woman in any of the three shows I saw was Nancy Anderson in Yank!, who played all the female roles. It's a boy's life, indeed.

Though very different in their approach, the three shows deal with questions about what it means to be a man. Streamers, directed by Scott Ellis and written by David Rabe in 1976, takes place during the Vietnam War. Though it is the only one in which the characters are not actually fighting, but waiting to go to go to war, it is the goriest of the three. Black Watch, directed by John Tiffany and Gregory Burke, is about members of the Black Watch regiment of the Scottish Army during the Iraq War. Although it is not a musical, the whole piece is beautifully choreographed. Yank!, directed by Igor Goldin with music by Joseph Zellnik and book and lyrics by David Zellnik, mostly focuses on the relationship between two men in the army during World War II.

It's sad how little has changed in the over 60-year time span during which the three shows take place. We're in a war with many similarities to Vietman. In Yank!, the main character wants homosexuality to become acceptable and makes a comment about how things will change probably by 1949 or 1950, which gets a laugh from the audience. In light of the passage of Proposition 8, there is still a long way to go.

I'm looking forward to seeing what change President-elect Barack Obama will bring in the future. For now, I think I'll take a break from all this heavy war stuff, at least until Prayer for My Enemy opens at Playwrights Horizons next month.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happy Election Day

Out of all the election-related videos on YouTube, I think this is my favorite because Mr. McFeely is awesome. Enjoy.

By the way, my polling station still used the lever machines and they did not have any "I Voted" stickers, which I'm still a little bitter about.

Friday, October 24, 2008

High School Musical Too

Nickelodeon is releasing its own teen musical movie, Spectacular!, to be released sometime in 2009. It sounds a lot like Disney's High School Musical, except instead of a basketball player who reluctantly joins the musical, it's about a rock star who reluctantly joins the show choir. It doesn't look very good, but I'm kind of hoping it does well, if only so I don't have to hear about those HSM kids anymore.

Monday, October 06, 2008

13 Creators Could Have Done a Little More Homework

Saturday night at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre was filled with teens, tweens, and even very young children with their families. It was the final preview of 13, a new Broadway musical by composer Jason Robert Brown. It's no wonder families would want to take their children, the show stars an all-teen cast, but those expecting High School Musical might be in for a surprise. The adult humor may go over some heads.

In 13, Evan Goldman (played on Saturday night by Corey J. Snide, but usually by Graham Phillips), has to move from New York City to Appleton, Indiana after his parents' divorce, and right after his bar mitzvah. He wants to have the best party, which means all the cool kids have to be there, but he might have to hurt his new neighbor Patrice (Allie Trimm) in order to make that happen.

Evan's struggle to fit in is realistic, as are many of the actions of the characters, but the dialogue in the book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn often doesn't ring true. I am not naive enough to think that girls of this age don't call each other sluts, but I don't think 13-year-olds would make as many jokes about inbreeding, terminal illnesses, and Judaism.

The show is 90 minutes long with no intermission, apparently cut down from two acts. Although I'm a fan of the tight one-act, in this case, the show may have benefitted from a little more time for the characters to develop. Archie (Aaron Simon Gross), the boy with the never fully explained terminal illness, is very clever, but we never get to see the pain that he must be going through.

The score is as hit-and-miss as the rest of the show. The standout song is "Bad Bad News," sung by Al Calderon, Malik Hammond, Joey La Varco, and easily the most talented in the cast with sadly one of the smallest roles, Eamon Foley.

Christopher Gattelli's choreography is energetic and fitting, but again, there isn't enough of it, which is a shame because dancing is clearly the strong suit for most of the cast. That might explain the tacked on number "Brand New You" after the curtain call, which serves no purpose other than to showcase the dancing skills of the cast and the excellent all-teen band.

It's easier to write about a show when it's truly awful or amazing, but this show was a little of both, and ultimately forgettable.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

If 9 People Read This Blog...

I don't know how many people read this blog, probably not many, but I want to do my part to help the lovely cast of [title of show] reach its dream of playing packed houses until the show closes (far too soon) on October 12. If you need convincing, watch the [title of show] show and don't forget to watch it through episode 10, which is a doozy of a cliffhanger.

A little backstory: [title of show] is a musical about writing and putting on a musical, written by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, who star as themselves in the show alongside their friends, Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell. Yes, it is very theatre insider-y, but you don't need to get the references to enjoy the show (I don't know anybody who understood every reference). Everybody can relate to the concept of vampires, but if you want to know more about that, you have to see the show. So go see it. Tell 9 people. Or 90.

After that, go see Xanadu, which is also set to close on the 12th (incidentally, I became more interested in seeing Xanadu after seeing Cheyenne Jackson on the [title of show] show). It'll be a sad day for musical theatre lovers.

Edit: Xanadu is closing on Sunday now.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Exciting Than a Hair Transfer

Read my interview with Hunter Parrish on*

I was able to see the show again (thanks Broadwayworld and Spring Awakening!) and was very impressed with Parrish. He and Alexandra Socha played Melchior and Wendla quite a bit differently than Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele, who originated the roles. They had great chemistry, as did Groff and Michele, but Socha came on much more aggressive, which worked, but made my question about whether the sex scene was a rape kind of a moot point (I had to submit my questions before I saw the show).

*That was kind of bossy. You don't have to read it if you don't want to.

Edit: I feel like a mini-celebrity now. I went to Barnes and Noble last night to see Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik speak about Spring Awakening and was recognized, so now there are more pictures of me on the site.

It's Official

So, I got to work a little early today and was checking because I'm a nerd, and it was finally announced--Hair is transferring to Broadway! The cast, theatre, and dates have yet to be announced, but I'm hoping the cast will be able to transfer. While I don't think the experience of seeing the show in the park can ever be recreated, I'm excited for a few reasons.
1) A cast album (I'm assuming).
2) Tony nominations (I'm assuming).
3) More people will be able to see this amazing production.
4) More exposure for the talented cast.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Goodbye, Love

I was around 13 or 14, visiting family in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was hanging out with my cousins at their house and they asked me if I heard of a new musical called RENT (the three of us were and still are musical theatre fans). I hadn't. They told me the plot of the show and the story of Jonathan Larson's tragic death and then played me the cast recording. I was blown away. My cousins had made a cassette tape for me of The Beatles Anthology 2, which I didn't have yet (we also share a love of the Beatles), and there was some room left at the end of the cassette, so they added a few RENT songs (I think they were "Rent," "One Song Glory," "Happy New Year," and "Seasons of Love"), which I listened to over and over again when I returned to California until I bought the complete album (I have also since bought the Beatles Anthology 2 on CD).

RENT will finally close this Sunday after a 12-year run, and I think it's time, but I can't help feeling a little emotional. Had I grown up in New York, I would probably have been a RENT-head, but I had to wait for the touring company before I was able to see the show and then I was blown away again. I felt like this show had been written for my generation, which seems a little silly now. What did I know then (or even to an extent now) about AIDS or loss or not having money to pay rent? Yet something about the show spoke to me. The characters felt so real to me. At that point, I had never met anyone who was openly gay, but the show made me sympathetic to gay rights. I loved the idea of no day but today.

I saw the show for a second and final time towards the end of high school with some friends, who used to sing RENT with me in between classes. I have never seen the show in New York and was considering going before it closed, but I am afraid that after such a long run, it won't be the same. I'd rather remember RENT when it was still new and groundbreaking. I can always listen to the soundtrack or watch the movie, which was a disappoint (how dare they live out "Christmas Bells"), but as close as I'd ever get to seeing the original cast. I'm glad RENT came around when it did, and I only hope they don't revive it in two years.

Friday, August 15, 2008

An Internal Struggle with the Twilight Series

Note: This blog post contains spoilers on the Twilight series, including Breaking Dawn.

I consider myself a fan of the Twilight series, but I always struggled with loving a series that romanticized what in many ways is an unhealthy relationship.

In Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Bella is human girl who moves to Forks, Washington, and falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen. In the first book, they fall hard for each other, but they are still testing each other, they tease each other, flirt playfully, and Bella still spends time with her human friends. They seemed to have the perfect relationship and I found myself joining the teenage girls crushing on the fictional Edward.

In the sequel, New Moon, Edward leaves for a long period in the book because he wants her to have a better life. She completely falls apart. It's described as something more than love. They need each other, they feel whole when they are together. What girl doesn't want to imagine herself with a guy who would do anything for her? Who only sees her? Yet, Edward also thirsts for her blood. He has to balance loving her, with the fact that he wants to kill her. He makes up for this by protecting her from everything. He never wants her out of her sight.

In Eclipse, he forbids her to see her best friend, Jacob Black. He goes so far as to stop her car from working and have his sister kidnap her (he has an unfair advantage, he can read minds and his sister can see the future). There is something wrong with this picture. It's not healthy for a teenager to spend all her time with her boyfriend and for him to demand that she stop seeing her other friends. He lightens up later in the book, but because Edward is seen as the perfect boyfriend, young adults might think this is acceptable and might mistake their own controlling boyfriends for just being protective and loving.

None of these books were particularly well written, but I was quick to overlook the faults because I was so invested in the story. I eagerly went to a midnight Breaking Dawn party, participating in a heated Team Edward/Team Jacob debate (I was one of the few on Team Jacob, but my reasons for that would be another post entirely). After reading the much-anticipated Breaking Dawn, though, I can no longer overlook the fact that Stephenie Meyer is a lazy writer.

It's not very fair to compare Meyer to J.K. Rowling, but since they both have such die-hard fans, comparisons are inevitable. I never thought Rowling was a great writer either, but she took her time with the series, whereas Meyer seems to be tackling a lot in a short amount of time--the Twilight series, as well as her first adult novel, The Host, and other projects she is apparently working on. As a fairly new writer who has said in interviews that she wants to improve as a writer, she should slow down. I guess it's a little too late for this series though.

I will admit that I was shocked about Bella's pregnancy, especially since I wrongly misinterpreted the fact that vampires could not have babies to assume that it also meant they could not have babies with humans. After that, however, the book went in far too predictable and easy directions. I was hoping that Bella would not become a vampire, but of course she did. At the core of the first three books is the story of a beautiful vampire in love with a clumsy ordinary girl. If she's also a vampire, it's just two vampires in love, and that's pretty boring. Plus, Bella got to be a vampire and didn't end up having to make any sacrifices. What's that about? She got to keep a relationship with her father. She got to stay best friends with Jacob and will eventually have him as a son-in-law (anyone else creeped out by the Oedipal implications in this, let alone the fact that he imprinted on a baby). Everyone wins, except the reader.

A novel has to have conflict, but the only conflicts in this book were forced as when Bella was sure that she and Edward were going to die and that Alice had actually left them. Plot devices like this only work if you believe them. I suspected early on that Stephenie Meyer was a happy ending writer and it was obvious throughout the book that nobody would die and everyone would be paired off (in some cases with no development as with Charlie and Sue). There was no suspense in the final confrontation with the Volturi and everything leading up to it.

The main reason I was quick to forgive the faults of the first three books was my love for the characters, who felt three-dimensional. In this book, many characters were barely in it (Alice, Emmett), and the others felt like their personalities were missing. Edward was always there, but not as much of a presence as in the other books. The only character who was consistent with the other books was Jacob and the chapters from his perspective were the most enjoyable to read.

I've been reading reactions to the book online and while many were unhappy, there are many "Twihards" or "Twilighters" who say that all the books are perfect. They call Stephenie Meyer a "genius." As I said before, I love it when books get teenagers so excited that they will wait in line at midnight, but I would hope that they would realize it's OK to love a book and be critical. They should want to engage in the books, think about and discuss them. I'm not saying that because I thought Breaking Dawn was bad, that everyone should, but I hope that for those that did love the book, they think about why they did.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What I Learned Last Week

As some of you may know, when my mom and sister come to town, it's always a Broadway extravaganza (I guess that's not that different from when they're not here, but at least when they come, I have an excuse to see a show every night).

We had a cramazing time and were lucky enough to see both South Pacific (totally worth paying full price) and Hair (totally worth waiting in line for), though sadly not In the Heights. I think the most important thing I learned is, Xanadu really is as good, silly, and fun as everyone says, and not just because of Cheyenne Jackson's short shorts.

But they do help.

In all honesty, though, the highlight of the week was Hair in Central Park. All three of us love the music and have always wanted to see it live. Seeing it with them, outside in the park, with such an amazing cast (especially the charismatic Will Swenson as Berger, the comic Bryce Ryness as Woof, and sweet-voiced Alison Case as Crissy), for free, and then dancing onstage at the end, was one of my favorite theatre memories ever, and I have a lot. I'm so happy it's getting the reviews it deserves. Congratulations, cast and crew of Hair.

I've always loved the music from Hair, but I'd always heard that the show didn't have much of a plot. I was surprised to find three-dimensional characters that greatly moved me.

What a piece of work is man.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How Far Would You Go For A Guest Spot in a Musical Video?

As much as I hate High School Musical, I was curious about the new ABC show High School Musical: Get in the Picture, a reality show in the style of American Idol. Young adults show off their vocal talents or lack thereof in the first audition to make it to the semi-finals. In the first five minutes, many hopefuls speak about how this is the most important audition of their lives, how they want this so bad. The coaches talk about how they will change someone's life. What do they win? A chance to sing in the new High School Musical film? A chance to star in the rumored High School Musical 4? No, they win a guest spot in a music video. As far as I can tell, the winner will not sing at all. So why all the drama? Maybe they just wanted to meet Zac Efron.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Week in Review

Monday: Ricky Gervais at the WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden: Hilarious, of course. His stand-up comedy performance is a little bit The Office's David Brent, in that he is politically incorrect, a little bit Extras' Andy Millman, in that he makes it seem as if he doesn't mean to be, the words are just coming out wrong. I was disappointed that there were no special guests (apparently last time David Bowie introduced Gervais). Maybe if he didn't spend the money on the big bright letters that spelled out RICKY. The show felt a little short for how much it cost, but still worth it.

Tuesday: Some Americans Abroad at the Second Stage Theatre, directed by Gordon Edelstein: The plot summary on the website mislead me into expecting a comedy about partying college students, but it was actually about the professors and the innerworkings of the English department and it wasn't that much of a comedy. I liked the play itself and some of the performances, but I wasn't a fan of the production. There wasn't so much a set as tables and chairs that would be moved to the back of the room after each scene, resulting in a cluttered mess at the end. I was very impressed with Tom Cavenaugh, who came into the production at the last minute, and gave a very compelling performance. I find Second Stage to be very hit or miss. See below for a hit.

Wednesday: Jay Brannan at the Highline Ballroom: Loved it. I'm reviewing this for

Thursday: Animals Out of Paper at the Second Stage Uptown, directed by Giovanna Sardelli: I wasn't a huge fan of the only other show I've seen at Second Stage Uptown, Len Asleep in Vynl, so I didn't have high hopes for this one. But, wow, this was the highlight of my week that included seeing my favorite comedian and an amazing concert. The play was both hilarious and moving and the characters were well-developed and likeable, despite their many faults. Kellie Overbey plays Ilana, an origami artist who just went through a divorce and lost her dog. A teacher named Andy, played by the hilarious and heartbreaking Jeremy Shamos, visits her unexpectedly and asks her to mentor his genius student, Suresh, played by Utkarsh Ambudkar, who brilliantly captured every nuance of his character.

Saturday: Mamma Mia! (the movie), directed by Phyllida Lloyd: Full disclosure: I really enjoy the stage musical. It may be cheesy, but it's a lot of fun, and never tries to be more than what it is, which is why I think it's the jukebox musical that succeeds most at being a jukebox musical. The movie was also fun and not as much of a disappointment as I thought it would be. Only a few songs were cut and only a few scenes changed. It works better on stage, in a movie it just looks too cheesy, but I was impressed that most of the actors pulled off their roles. I've never liked Meryl Streep (sorry A.O. Scott). I found that she overacts, but I didn't hate her in this. I found Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper to be charming.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why Didn't I Know About This?

Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Bendham director) is directing a film adaptation of one of the first book in one of my favorite teen series, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. The film will be called Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. The trailer doesn't look great. It seems to tone down the wit and craziness of the books, but it's hard to tell from a preview. I couldn't find anything about a U.S. release, but I must find a way to see this film.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tony Highlights

I have to say, I loved the Tony telecast this year. It was very entertaining, especially the acceptance speeches. My major complaint is the fact that they didn't televise a bunch of the major awards, including best revival of a play and best book of a musical. I really wanted to see Boeing Boeing and Stew win. I got 19/26correct as there were no major surprises this year. Here are some of my thoughts/favorite moments:

-Whoopi Goldberg did a good job as host, but I thought she could have done more with her appearing in scenes from musicals. Instead of just showing up and singing the word "Tony," she could have done spoofs on the shows themselves.

-Performances: I like medley performances the best. They allow for more actors to performs and gives the audience a better sense of the show. I wanted to see South Pacific and In the Heights before, but now I really want to see them. If Paulo Szot sounded that good on television, I can only imagine how he sounds live. I don't think the shows that weren't nominated (The Little Mermaid, A Catered Affair, and Young Frankenstein) should have performed. It only reminded me why those shows weren't nominated. Cry Baby chose a good number ("A Little Upset") to showcase the choreography (Rob Ashford should have won) and the ensemble, the two best things about the show. Sunday in the Park with George chose the wrong song, "Move On," from act two. Act one of the show is far superior. I loved seeing the RENT original cast, especially the ensemble, but where was Jesse L. Martin? I miss him. Daniel Evans from Sunday was totally rocking out.

-Acceptance speeches: There were so many good ones. Of course, the best speech has to go to Lin-Manuel Miranda who rapped his speech for best score. I really hope he didn't write any of that ahead of time. Best line--"Mr. Sondheim, look, I made a hat where there never was a hat. And it's a Latin hat at that." Brilliant. That speech alone would get me to buy tickets to his show. Runner-up goes to Patti LuPone for being such a diva, for being so unapologetic about it, and for telling the orchestra to shut up. I also loved Laura Benanti's heartfelt speech. She seemed genuinely moved that Arthur Laurents stood up for her. And finally, Mark Rylance, who totally deserved his win for one of the best comedic performance EVER, for totally confusing everyone in the audience by reciting prose by Louis Jenkins instead of thanking people. I have to add, yeah Boyd Gaines! I don't remember his speech too well, but I love him in general and as Herbie.

-Did anyone notice how when Mary-Lousie Parker presented the award for leading actor in a play, she rightly called Macbeth "the Scottish play," as it's bad luck to say the name in a theatre. Alec Baldwin, however, actually said the name. I guess that's the difference between theatre actors and movie actors.

-I don't really know where to put this, but I love how awkward Daniel Radcliffe is.

-Surprises: There weren't really any, but I did kind of think they'd give it to Raul Esparza because they felt bad about last year. I'm glad they didn't because it wasn't his best performance and I'm sure he'll have plenty more Tony-worthy performances ahead of him. I did think Sunday in the Park with George would win scenic design of a musical, but I haven't seen South Pacific yet.

Too Soon?

I was walking around Soho on my lunch break, when I noticed a poster for a new VH1 show, I Love the New Millenium. I'll admit, I was amused by I Love the '80s and would occasionally be sucked into the marathons. I thought it was a too early to have the right perspective for I Love the '90s, but now this is getting ridiculous. The decade isn't even over yet.

On a more positive note, in the fall, TopShop will open in Soho. It will be like having a little piece of London where I work.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Say Twilight You Say Rock

I must admit, I was late to the Twilight party, but I've been completely sucked in (if you'll excuse the lame vampire pun) to this vampire/human love story. My sister described this addiction nicely before she finished the series, "When I'm not reading, I'm thinking about when I can read." I've been so into these books, I almost forgot how much fun it is to be a Harry Potter fan until I went to a Harry and the Potters concert last week.

Since Twilight author Stephenie Meyer is being compared to J.K. Rowling, I got to wondering if Twilight rock would be the new wizard rock. So far, I've only found two Twilight theme bands. The Bella Cullen Project, a mellow all female trio, and the Mitch Hansen Band, a mellow one-man band. Neither of these bands are really doing it for me. I'd like to see something with a little more energy and wit. Maybe some bands that sing in character, as Harry and the Potters do. Jacob and the Blacks anyone? Edward and the Cullens? Or how about Stupid Shiny Volvo Owners? If anybody knows of any other Twilight bands, I'd love to hear about it. If you read the books, what would you name your Twilight band?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

There's No Business Like Show Business

It's that time of year again: Tony nominations. The biggest surprise was all the love for Cry-Baby. Best musical? Seriously? I would have liked more nominations for Is He Dead?, especially for Norbert Leo Butz, but at least David Pittu was nominated. And it closed a while ago so I wasn't really expecting it to do well. Here is the full list of nominees as well as some early predictions/thoughts. I haven't seen everything yet, but I'm hoping that will change before June 15.

Best Play:
August: Osage County
Rock 'n' Roll
The Seafarer
The 39 Steps

I think it's a pretty safe bet that August will win, deservedly so.

Best Musical:
In the Heights
Passing Strange

I have yet to see In the Heights, but considering it got the most noms this year (13), I think it might win. Maybe Passing Strange will take it (it did win the NY Drama Critics Circle Award), but I don't think there's a definite front runner yet.

Best Book of a Musical:
Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
In the Heights
Quiara Alegria Hudes
Passing Strange
Douglas Carter Beane

I hope Stew wins something, but I don't think it will be for book, because that was not the strongest part of the show. Maybe In the Heights, but from what I've heard about Xanadu (which I also have not seen yet), this might be its category.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre:
Cry Baby
Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger
In the Heights
Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Little Mermaid
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Passing Strange
Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald
Lyrics: Stew

Well, The Little Mermaid does have a great score, but how is this nominated for best original score? Anyway, it's not going to win. I think this is the category that Passing Strange is most likely to win. It's interesting that two of the big front runners this year in the new musical categories are off Broadway transfers starring the man who also wrote the music for the show (Miranda and Stew).

Best Revival of a Play:
The Homecoming
Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Tough category this year, but I hope Boeing-Boeing wins. I encourage everyone to see this play. I am usually not a huge fan of farce, but I don't know if I've ever laughed so hard in a theatre.

Best Revival of a Musical:
Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Sunday in the Park with George

This might be the most competitive category this year (except for Grease, how'd that get in there?). I haven't seen South Pacific, but I from what I heard about it, it will probably win over Gypsy.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play:
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing
Rufus Sewell, Rock 'n' Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth

Patrick Stewart doesn't have a Tony, so maybe it will go to him, but Mark Rylance, who is generally known as a Shakespearean actor, gave a brilliant comedic performance that deserves to be recognized. I've heard amazing things about Ben Daniels as well.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play:
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County

It's all about the August women, and they are both deserving, but I think Amy Morton might take it.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical:
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park with George
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
Paulo Szot, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair

I haven't seen either of these performances, but I believe it will be between Paulo Szot and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Stew's narration doesn't really seem like acting. I didn't care much for Evans and Wopat gave a good performance in an underwhelming musical.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Kelli O'Hara, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park with George

Another tough category. This really was a good year for Broadway overall. I'll be surprised if LuPone doesn't win, but you never know.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play:
Bobby Cannavale, Mauritius
Raul Esparza, The Homecoming
Conleth Hill, The Seafarer
Jim Norton, The Seafarer
David Pittu, Is He Dead?

Will they give it to Esparza as a sorry for last year gesture? I sort of hope so, even though this wasn't his strongest performance.

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play:
Sinead Cusack, Rock 'n' Roll
Mary McCormack, Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf, November
Martha Plimpton, Top Girls
Rondi Reed, August: Osage County

I'm so happy for Mary McCormack. I hope she wins.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical:
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Danny Burstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Robin De Jesus, In the Heights
Christopher Fitzgerald, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy

Patti LuPone gets most of the glory for Gypsy, but the rest of the cast is just as deserving, and Boyd Gaines should win.

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical:
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy
Andrea Martin, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz, In the Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

What I said about Gaines, but for Benanti.

Best Scenic Design of a Play:
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps
Scott Pask, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County
Anthony Ward, Macbeth


Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday in the Park with George
Anna Louizos, In the Heights
Robin Wagner, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Michael Yeargan, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific


Best Costume Design of a Play:
Gregory Gale, Cyrano de Bergerac
Rob Howell, Boeing-Boeing
Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps

I loved the costumes from Boeing-Boeing, but I haven't seen any of these other plays.

Best Costume Design of a Musical:
David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Paul Tazewell, In the Heights
Catherine Zuber, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

I'll totally have to guess on this one for now, but South Pacific or Sunday.

Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps
Howard Harrison, Macbeth
Donald Holder, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Ann G. Wrightson, August: Osage County

Macbeth, maybe. Or The 39 Steps because Kevin Adams is brilliant.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:
Ken Billington, Sunday in the Park with George
Howell Binkley, In the Heights
Donald Holder, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid

Sunday, maybe Mermaid, but probably Sunday.

Best Sound Design of a Play:
Simon Baker, Boeing-Boeing
Adam Cork, Macbeth
Ian Dickson, Rock 'n' Roll
Mic Pool, The 39 Steps

Macbeth, maybe, or The 39 Steps.

Best Sound Design of a Musical:
Acme Sound Partners, In the Heights
Sebastian Frost, Sunday in the Park With George
Scott Lehrer, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreier, Gypsy

I don't know too much about sound, so I won't even try to guess.

Best Direction of a Play:
Maria Aitken, The 39 Steps
Conor McPherson, The Seafarer
Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County
Matthew Warchus, Boeing-Boeing

Since I'm assuming August will win for best play, Anna D. Shapiro.

Best Direction of a Musical:
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
Bartlett Sher, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific

Considering Laurents already has a Tony for Gypsy, Bartlett Sher. Correction, Laurents has never won a Tony for Gypsy, but I still stand by my original prediction.

Best Choreography:
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights
Christopher Gattelli, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu

actually deserved this nomination. The choreography was really creative and the best part of the show, so hopefully Rob Ashford will win.

Best Orchestrations:
Jason Carr, Sunday in the Park with George
Alex Lacamoire & Bill Sherman, In The Heights
Stew & Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair

Is anyone still reading this? Maybe they'll be nice and give one award to A Catered Affair, but I kind of doubt it. Probably Sunday.

I'm very excited to see what happens. This is an interesting year and I think the winners will be all over the place, (see this New York Times article). Congrats to all the nominees.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Playbill just announced that the new musical, Glory Days, is closing after only one performance and 17 previews. The show was written by two 23-year-olds (one of who was also in Cry Baby, poor guy) and stars four young actors. I feel really bad for them, I hope their spirits aren't totally crushed by the negative reviews, and I do think they have potential (especially actor Jesse JP Johnson, who gives the most real and touching performance in the group), but I can't help but be excited. I saw this show on Saturday and it wasn't horrible, but definitely not Broadway material. The closing notice puts that Saturday afternoon in a new perspective because now I can say that I've seen a show that will be remembered for how quickly it closed (see: Carrie), and that kind of makes me happy.

And now a word from our sponsors...

OK. I feel guilty about using this blog for this, but I am participating in AIDS Walk New York and so far I've only raised $25, so I thought I'd turn to the blogosphere for help. For more information, you can visit my personal page. If you are not interested, please ignore this post, but if you have some extra cash lying around, feel free to donate. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Nothing is too Wonderful to be True

It's a little early to be excited about this, but reports that a Houdini musical is in the works, aiming to open on Broadway in the spring of 2010. Danny Elfman, one of my favorite film composers, is set to do the music and David Yazbek will write the lyrics. Yazbek wrote the music and lyrics for one of my favorite musicals in recent years, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The two seem to have a similar sense of humor and I'm excited to see the results of this brilliant partnership.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Linda Recommends

I haven't posted in a few weeks and it's a slow Friday, so I'm going to do a round-up post. Consider this sort of like my Must List (sorry EW):

Music: She & Him Volume One: Even though this album was released on Tuesday, I feel a little late to this party. Still, better late than never. She & Him is one of my favorite actresses, Zooey Deschanel and singer/songwriter M. Ward. Aside from the Beatles cover (or covers, depending on whether you consider "You Really Got a Hold on Me" a Beatles song), it's quite an endearing album--wistful, folk-y, with a hint of 60s girl groups. The best part, all the tracks are available on the duo's MySpace.

Live Music: Juanes La Vida Tour. You can read a review I wrote of his album on the middle of this page. He really knows how to get a crowd going.

Television: Since I don't have a TV yet, I'm addicted to, a website which offers full-length television episodes and films for free. I'm currently on the first season of Doogie Howser, M.D. I watched it sometimes when I was younger, but I think a lot of it went over my head, and it's much better than I remember. And thanks to the internet, I was able to watch the return of How I Met Your Mother, which included a brilliant line that probably only I enjoyed, "That's not so Raven."

Theatre: Macbeth is transferring to Broadway and I was lucky enough to see it at BAM. There's nothing I can say that the rave reviews haven't said, except seeing Patrick Stewart live is almost as cool as seeing him in Extras.

Food: For breakfast, I'm addicted to Nature's Path Organic Toaster Pastries, especially the Cherry Pomegran™. So much better (and better for you) than Pop-Tarts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Next to Mediocre

As a former volunteer usher for the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center (home to the Civic Light Opera), I was excited to hear that it would be the location of the world premiere of the new musical Twice Upon a Time, slated to open at some point in the West End and possibly Broadway. Although after seeing the show, I'm not sure I should get my hopes up about being able to brag that I saw a show in my little corner of California before it went to London.

Previews began on Feb. 13 and opening night was Feb. 16 (the night I saw it). The show is set to close on March 2. The show is written and directed by Ray Cooney with music by Chris Walker and lyrics by Mary Stewart-David. I know workshops are a work in progress, but I was expecting something that I could at least picture eventually making its way to London, especially since Cooney is already a well-established British playwright.

The flimsy plot is centered around Steven (Brandon Michael Perkins), who lives in London and is a successful lawyer with a smoking problem. At his boss's insistence, he goes to a psychiatrist who uses hypnosis to get Steven to quit. His methods send Steven back to a former life as a Chicago gangster named Johnny. From then on, any wave of an object can send Steven back to Chicago and each time we have to deal with nauseating light flashes and echoes of the last dialogue he hears. This is where it gets confusing. Is he watching his old life? Is he a part of it? Can he actually change the course of Johnny's history? I still don't know the answer to these questions. In any case, Johnny falls in love with his mob boss' girlfriend Ruby (Misty Cotton), but in the present Steven is in engaged to Barbara (Jennifer Malenke), his boss's daughter. It is hard to get attached to any of the characters because we are never with them for long enough to really grasp what's going on or why they feel the they do for each other.

The show has an old-fashioned feel, which pays homage to Guys and Dolls with its gangsters singing and dancing routines. One could argue that a great storyline is not necessary. In how many shows does the love story show any real development? But usually those musicals, like say Anything Goes, have scores written by brilliant songwriters, like say Cole Porter. The score here, while enjoyable, especially the lovely ballad "The Truth About Ruby," is not enough to sustain the show.

Neither are the individual great scenes, which don't really tie together as a whole. These include an especially hilarious trip to the wedding caterers and an adorable dance number with Millicent Martin (whose character is pretty extraneous, but fun to watch).

Overall, the cast is strong. Perkins is charming in his double duty, but I still do not understand the appeal of Cotton, who stars in almost every Civic Light Opera production. Her voice is nothing special and her acting is cold. (Full disclosure: There are a few critically acclaimed actors that I've never understood the appeal of, like Bernadette Peters, so I might be missing something here.) The ensemble numbers are very well done, and a few supporting characters were particularly talented--Danny Bolero as Dr. Patel for his vocal work and Matt Bezmarevich as the catering manager for his comedic work.

This show may never be a smash hit, but with some plot changes and tightening and a new leading lady, it could be decent. On second thought, it might make it to London. After all, Starlight Express did well over there.

On the opposite coast, Next to Normal is another show with rumors of an eventual Broadway transfer. The off-Broadway show already has a cult following and got decent reviews, even after various workshops under the title Feeling Electric, it's still a mess.

This latest incarnation, directed by Michael Greif, who has a good track record with RENT and Grey Gardens, officially opened at the Second Stage Theatre on Feb. 13 and is set to close on March 16.

Dan (Brian d'Arcy James) and Diana (Alice Ripley) are parents to Natalie (Jennifer Damiano) and Gabe (Aaron Tveit). Natalie is dating Henry (Adam Chandler-Berat) and their relationship often mirrors that of her parents. Although Henry is the most endearing character, his presence takes away from getting too deep into other relationships, which are the heart of the story. I can't talk much about the plot without giving too much away, which is exactly the problem--it's too gimmicky. If you want to tell a story about manic-depression and how it affects a family, just do it without relying on cliche plot surprises and ridiculous musical numbers.

There is a lot about this show to like, which is what makes it so frustrating to watch. I so wanted it to be better. Kevin Adams lighting combined with Mark Wendland's three-tiered set is visually stunning. Tom Kitt's adrenaline-pumping rock score is strong, if only it wasn't undercut by Brian Yorkey's often insufferable lyrics. James does stupendous vocal work as always and he gives his character as much depth as he can in the scenes he is in. Having never seen Ripley, but having heard of her talent, I was disappointed with her voice, which was often nasally, but her acting made up for it. The young actors are also talented in the vocal department, but the acting is sometimes too over-the-top. Tveit is probably going to be a Broadway teen heartthrob a la the Spring Awakening kids, but his moves sometimes make Zac Efron's "Bet on It" look subtle. Damiano is also prone to this kind of arm flailing. Chandler-Berat was the most real on stage, however unnecessary his role.

A Broadway-transfer wouldn't be the worst thing, but before then, this show needs to decide what it wants to be. A few friends of mine were commenting on the sincerity of the musical Spring Awakening. I actually found the sincerity of that show refreshing, but in Next to Normal, some of the scenes are so earnest and then it will turn to satire with a Costco musical number. I'm all for a musical that deals with manic depression, but all those involved need to have more confidence in the story they are telling. And please, don't ever think that shock therapy should be put to music.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some West Coast Competition for Magnolia

Too often, quality and/or popular food means giving up the customer experience. At Sprinkles Cupcakes in Los Angeles, customers wait outside, only to be herded in and out with no time to make a decision. BabyCakes Baking Company in Torrance, CA rivals every cupcake bakery on both coasts, plus the husband/wife team who own it make every customer feel welcome.

The bakery opened about two months ago. The pink and white decor gives the place an old-fashioned feel. The couple used to cater out of their house where she had time to perfect dozens of cupcake recipes. Every day, five signature cupcakes are offered and the rest vary from day to day.

We arrived about an hour before closing on a Saturday. They were running low on cupcakes, and they were out of her specialty, the vanilla with vanilla bean frosting. We said that was ok as you can get vanilla cupcakes anywhere, but the husband insisted that these were different, and she whipped us up one. While we were waiting, he gave us free samples (mini cupcakes which are sold for a dollar) of the chocolate mousse and the red velvet.

We purchased four cupcakes to split. I didn't try the lemon, but the strawberry cupcake with fresh strawberry buttercream was made with fresh strawberries which meant it was not too sweet. The banana with caramel frosting was good, although it tasted more like a muffin. But he was certainly right about the vanilla cupcake. The whipped cream center is a unique and delicious touch.

The bakery also sells cookies, muffins, and other pastries. The cupcakes cost $2.50 and the fresh ingredients and customer service definitely make it worth the price. I'm already looking forward to my next trip home when I can return for the sparkling pear cupcake made with champagne. And if they don't have it, I'll guess I'll just have to keep going back until they do.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spinal Tap Fans Unite!

On Friday, I attended a Q&A with the cast of The Homecoming at Borders. Afterwards, I had the cast sign a copy of the play (no matter how hard I try, I can't shake the fan girl out of me). I spoke to Michael McKean about a few things, including This Is Spinal Tap, and he encouraged me to write a letter to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame asking them to admit Spinal Tap, as the band is approaching its 25 year anniversary. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, "Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll." Nowhere does it say that fictitious bands are ineligible. I decided to take it upon myself to fight for this worthy cause and encourage others to do the same. Spinal Tap in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Things That Make Me Confused

If I were to write my own version of "My Favorite Things," two items that would probably be on the list are musical theatre and dessert, or maybe I'd break up dessert into two sub-categories, cupcakes and ice cream. But that doesn't mean that I'm excited about this. Or this.

I guess the Catered Affair wedding cupcake makes sense because the show is about a wedding, but what about Spring Awakening suggests an oversized ice cream sundae? I guess they left that part out of the play about teenagers in Germany in the 1890s hanging out at the local malt shop. And is the Broadway industry so desperate that shows now have to pimp themselves out to dessert companies?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Best Cure for the WGA Strike Blues

The rumor is that the WGA strike will end soon, but it will probably be a while before new episodes of non-reality shows air. In the meantime, you might want to check out The Battery's Down, a new web show about an actor trying to make it in New York City.

The two-part first episode premiered on February first and a new episode will be available on the website and on YouTube the first of every month.

The show was created by Jake Wilson, who also stars in it. He has a pretty impressive resume and some friends in the business, judging from the guest appearances on the show, but I wouldn't be surprised if this show gets him better offers.

Sometimes the show is a little too over-the-top, but it's meant to be. The catchy Avenue Q-like theme song and the Ferris Bueller musical are highlights (except for the fact that I fear some producer will see that and get an idea), but the selling point is the big musical number, "This Is Your Life," which squeezes as many theatre references as it can into a few minutes.

The show is obviously aimed at a very specific audience, so I'm guessing non-musical theatre junkies won't be too amused. But you might want to check it out anyway. It sure beats Celebrity Apprentice.*

* I've never actually seen that show.

Everybody's Gonna Love Today... Except Me

A fun little post for about my inability to get into a sold out show.

Monday, January 28, 2008

More Reasons to Love the Roundabout

As I said in the previous entry, I've been seeing tons of theatre lately. Some excellent ("Happy Days"), some good ("The Farnsworth Invention"), and some disappointing ("The Little Mermaid"), but I feel compelled to write about "Speech and Debate" because you are less likely to have heard about it.

I've loved the Roundabout Theatre Company since I saw Assassins at Studio 54 in 2004, which had one of the best ensemble casts I've seen in live theatre. Since then, I've never been disappointed in any of their productions. In the fall, the company introduced Access Roundabout, an initiative to encourage young adults to attend live theatre with discounted tickets to every performance, and Roundabout Underground at its new Black Box Theatre in the basement of the Laura Pels Theatre. The first of the productions is Speech and Debate by Stephen Karam. The play officially opened on October 29 and since then has been extended several times.

It is refreshing to see such an intimate theatre space just a block from Times Square. There is a cozy waiting area with couches and a bar for early arrivers. The theatre itself, which is general admission, seats about 60.

Three high school students with varying agendas who have secrets about themselves and their drama teacher form an alliance in, as you may have guessed, a speech and debate team. Solomon (Jason Fuchs) is an aspiring journalist, Howie (Gideon Glick) is a recent transfer who wants to start a gay-straight alliance, and Diwata (Sarah Steele) wants to star in the school musical and is also working on her own musical version of The Crucible. For a non-musical, this has some of the best musical numbers I've seen this season. From the sample of Crucible, one can only hope for a Speech and Debate sequel with the full scale version.

Susan Blackwell is the only "adult" in the show, and while she masters who two scenes, she lets her three young co-stars steal the show. Fuchs captures the anxieties and innocence of his character with little details like biting his thumb nail. Glick, is playing a teenager who came out at the age of ten, a far cry from the confused Ernst he played in Spring Awakening, but it would be a shame if he always gets typecast as the gay one. Still, he out of everyone feels most like a teenager in the way he can portray ultra-confidence and complete insecurity at the same time. Steele was Adam Sandler's sweet, chubby, smiling daughter in Spanglish, and one of the best parts of the movie, but who knew she could sing, dance, and bring so much humor and depth to a character? She's definitely one to watch.

The show is now set to close on Feb. 24. It would be nice if it would extend again so even more audiences could see it, but one can always look forward to the next Roundabout Underground show, if this is going to be the standard.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'm back.

To the few people who read my blog regularly (hi mom), I apologize for being so bad about updating. I recently started a new job and to be honest, I've been wondering whether it'd be worth it to keep this blog up. But lately I've been thinking, even though I do a lot of writing at my job, I should have an outlet for review writing, just for fun, whether or not people read it. So I will try and write more regularly. I've been seeing tons of theatre lately (more than I should probably admit to), so more on that to come.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I'm Down With OSP

You must check out Old Springs Pike. Here's the review I wrote on one of their shows for