Working on a play about
the Third Reich, the actors begin arguing about whether what
they're doing is a good idea or not. Even though the play is
based on a well-presented book, putting Nazis onstage transforms
it. "Like a British courtroom, a play tends to the adversarial,
demanding that the jury identify with one side." The
Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney
Todd" - music theater or modern opera? Composer Ned Rorem
sits down with Sondheim to debate the issue.
York Times 04/30/00
registration required for entry)
Composer Frank Wildhorn
is the first American musical-theater composer in 22 years to
have three shows running simultaneously on Broadway. He's been
called the American Andrew Lloyd Webber, but while his loyal
fans are fanatical in their love of his work, the critics haven't
been kind. "Six million people have seen my stuff. I make
no apologies for what I write. I just want to appeal to my generation.
Look, if you're 45 or 50 years old, that means in the early
'70s you were listening to the Stones or John Denver or Jim
Croce. If nothing else, I represent the era I grew up in. I
still write for pop artists all the time. I feel it's important
to speak to audiences in a vocabulary that's comfortable to
their ear." Orange
County Register 04/30/00
CURTAIN: First it was "Cats." Now "Miss Saigon"
is calling it quits on Broadway, after a nine-year run. The
big mega-musicals are in decline.
New York Times 04/28/00 (one-time
registration required for entry)
MERRICK: Producer David Merrick, who died this week, was
a producer to be reckoned with. "Merrick is the Bermuda
Triangle in a Brooks Brothers suit. He lures writers and playwrights
in like naval air squadrons, never to be seen or heard from
again," said the writer and comic Stan Freberg, a survivor
of a Merrick flirtation with one of his plays. Washington
OF THE TIMES:
The use of British Sign
Language has become increasingly popular and more widespread
in English theaters in the past few years. But it's not just
a matter of translating words and sentences - the grammar of
sign is different. The translation becomes part of the performance.
Times (London) 04/28/00
Ownership of London's West
End theaters have been changing hands at a frantic rate this year.
Another case of Big Bad Business Consolidation - with all the
predictable corporate blandishments to follow? Surprisingly not,
reports one critic. The changes seem to be for the better.
Who in London's theater ownership sweepstakes.
The Times (London) 04/25/00
MADNESS BEATS YOUR MADNESS: A hundred years ago mad King
Ludwig II of Bavaria built an insanely expensive castle whose
opulence was so frivolous, his ministers murdered him and dumped
him into a lake. "Eleven
decades later, another "madness" as great as Ludwig's
has been built. Rising up from the shores of the Starnberger
lake, beside Neuschwanstein castle, an entire theatre has been
constructed for the sole purpose of staging 'Ludwig II, The
Musical.' At a cost of £26 million, it is the most expensive
musical in the world. Sunday
Times (London) 04/23/00
OF THE NEW: As the saying goes, the theater is always perfect
before the curtain goes up. This spring, three visionary producers
take a look at reinventing San Francisco theater. San
Francisco Chronicle 04/23/00
UTILITY: For most of us, watching live performers act and
sing is an infrequent luxury. Theater, like many of the other
performing arts, long ago broke with its proletarian roots and
assumed the gilded mantle of "culture." In an era
of instant entertainment on the TV and the Internet, attending
a play or a musical has become a special event, identified (unfairly,
some might argue) with formality, cultural literacy, seriousness
and, above all, disposable income. But
theater, by its very nature, is about emotional outreach. Orange
County Register 04/23/00
GOT MUSIC, BUT IS IT A MUSICAL?
A musician’s union is protesting the eligibility of the hit
dance show “Contact” to compete for the Tony Award for best
musical. The show uses all recorded music instead of live musicians.
York Post 04/19/00
A LITTLE FLESH: What does it take to shock people in the
theater these days? Nudity? Certainly not. But celebrity nudity?
That's another matter, as Kathleen Turner's brief turn in "The
Graduate" in London is proving. "It is mystifying
that, with the amount of public nudity there is, so many people
would really think it worth their time and money for a quick
glimpse of unclothed flesh glimmering out from the wings."
Toronto Globe and Mail 04/20/00
EXPECTATIONS: What's up with London's National Theatre?
"The National should be at the centre of the debate about
what kind of society we are. It should also be dangerous and
controversial." Sure it's produced some decent productions
of late. But shouldn't it be "offering us blood, risk and
adventure, and an inspirational lead to a theatre already sufficiently
mired in caution?" The
LUDDITE ART: "As theater artists
ponder the future of their form, they return again and again
to the idea of longing - and to language that seems to have
more to do with the bedroom than the stage. Technology, which
promises to bring drastic changes to the arts in terms of style
and substance, will affect theater, too, of course. But at root,
theater is a Luddite art, one that rests on the same equation
as in the days of Sophocles: The theatrical relationship between
performer and audience, like the relationship of lovers, depends
on being in the same place at the same time." St.
Louis Post-Dispatch 04/17/00
CIRCLE OF LIFE: For the future of American musical theater,
look at "The Lion King." For a long time Broadway
musicals were defined by a very narrow New York aesthetic. "What
Disney has astutely done is create a mythic story that is as
accessible in London as it is Tokyo and could be one day in
Toronto Globe and Mail 04/15/00
AFTER THE LION: Robert Brustein chats with Julie Taymor
about life after "The Lion King." Taymor's got a new
play opening this week on Broadway.
New York Times 04/16/00
(one-time registration required for entry)
CLASS COMPLAINTS: At a get-together in London to honor Michael
Caine, the actors in attendance moan that the British theater
is wracked with snooty class consciousness. Really? The
DAMES ALLOWED: Dame Edna - aka Aussie Barry Humphries -
has been snubbed by this year's Tony committee. The decision
not to allow "Dame Edna: the Royal Tour" to compete
in the two main categories - the season's best musical or best
play - comes as a blow to a show that has been hailed as one
of Broadway's more innovative offerings. It is also something
of a slap to Dame Edna, and her real-life alter ego, whose unexpected
success has been credited with breathing life into a sometimes
lackluster season on the Great White Way. The
Age (Melbourne) 04/14/00
NEGLECTED OR OUT OF DATE?
Berlin has struggled mightily to rebuild since the wall fell.
But some of the city's venerable arts institutions have felt
stiffed in the change. Bertolt Brecht's Berliner Ensemble, “once
proudly funded by the GDR, has gone through poverty and 11 directors
in less than ten years.” Decreased funding has caused ticket
prices to soar, and
as a result “the company lost its reputation as a theater of
the people.” London
Joe Penhall - one of the “angry young playwrights” who rejuvenated
British theater in the mid-90s - will have his latest play produced
at the Royal National Theatre. “There's a raging idealism at
play in 'Blue/Orange,' which should satisfy those who lament
the absence of political theater from the British stage.” The
friendly, beautiful, and have the world’s best beaches - now
the Aussies also have a reputation for exporting the best cabaret
singers in the business. On the eve of the MAC Awards (the cabaret
world’s Tonys), the notoriously insular New York cabaret scene
is rife with envy over the recent invasion of young Aussie performers.
Morning Herald 04/10/00
ART THOU? There's a struggle going on for the soul of the
American musical. Is it big, cartoonish and Elton? Or pseudo-operatic,
arty and Sondheim? Judging by recent track records, the
Disneyites have it. But what succeeds in the long run...
Boston Globe 04/09/00
THE FORMER - SUPERSTAR OR PASSING FANCY? For the moment,
the invasion of British musical theater on Broadway has subsided.
So let's take a whack at assessing Andrew Lloyd-Webber's influence
on the genre. His "wide popular appeal has never been matched
by high critical estimation. His music has been called derivative,
or worse. Today, he is more likely to be taken to task for purveying
middle-class sentimentalism (and sensationalism) at the expense
of genuine artistic insight. Nor is he personally popular on
Broadway, where he has long been seen as an unwelcome foreign
interloper. But his effect on Broadway has been enormous."
York Times 04/09/00
required for entry)
THE LATTER: Audra McDonald is considered one of the true
serious young theatrical artists, an actress and singer of equal
strength who is willing to pursue ambitious new work, including
operatic undertakings like LaChiusa's "Marie Christine,"
at a time when popular fare along the lines of Disney's new
Broadway "Aida" would probably give her more exposure.
Angeles Times 04/09/00
ON "OPRAH"... "At this year's Humana Festival
of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, four
out of the six mainstage offerings pivoted on incidents of gender
warfare and sexual violence. Are hungry playwrights simply aping
TV's lucrative obsession with these sociological phenomena?
Or genuinely hoping to cast more light on them in a less-commercialized
DEATH OF EXPERIMENTAL THEATER? San Francisco has a long
proud tradition of experimental theater. But "today, experimental
theater is a back-burner topic. The old guard of the avant-garde
no longer makes big waves, and a new generation of local innovators
has not emerged to make its own fresh marks in the sand."
San Francisco Chronicle 04/09/00
HOME: "Twenty-four years ago, John Jory created
the institution that would make him the messiah of writers for
the stage: the Humana Festival. Every year, it transforms Louisville
into the mecca of the theatrical universe. Through the years,
Humana has birthed more than 250 plays, including "The Gin
Game," "Crimes of the Heart," "Agnes of God"
and works by Lee Blessing, John Guare, Lanford Wilson, John Patrick
Shanley and Tony Kushner." Now he's leaving to go teach in
Plain Dealer 04/04/00
and adventurous fare at this year's Humana.
Los Angeles Times 04/04/00
With Elton John's "Aida" an audience hit, Disney currently
has the top three-grossing theater productions on Broadway.
Other than that, the Great White Way's ticket sales have sagged
a bit recently.