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Sunday, February 29, 2004

What's "Authentic" About Tevye? "With the arrival of a new production of "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway, some commentators have again assumed that the show's value lies in its authenticity. Early responses to the revival have gone so far as to count the Jewish names in the cast and crew, noting incredulously that even the role of Tevye is played by a non-Jewish actor, Alfred Molina. This is hardly surprising: the further removed we are from the Old World, the more we long to recapture it. But what is surprising is that the pseudo-klezmer tunes and schmaltz-laden accents in "Fiddler" were ever assumed to be the real thing." The New York Times 02/29/04

Friday, February 27, 2004

Monty Python's Spamalot Headed To Chicago, Then Broadway A musical is being made of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The movie, a spoof of the legend of King Arthur, did have a few songs -- most notably 'The Camelot Song,' which contained such famously dubious rhymes as 'We're Knights of the Round Table/We Dance Whene'r We're Able,' as well as the line that inspired the title of the musical spinoff: 'We Eat Ham and Jam and Spam a Lot'." Chicago Tribune 02/27/04

Thursday, February 26, 2004

A Shakespeare Company By Any Other Name... A Virginia Shakespeare company had a problem - people couldn't figure out its name (what IS "Vpstart", anyway?). So after struggling with it for a while (pity the poor marketing manager), the company has a new handle. "Most people couldn't spell the old name, much less figure out what it is we do by seeing it. And that's not helpful when you're trying to attract a wider, regional audience." Washington Post 02/26/04

A Gay Broadway A new wave of gay theatre is hitting Broadway. "We're not talking the odd little play here and there. No, we're talking mainstream hits, the hottest tickets on and off Broadway, what American audiences are cheering in a burst of spring fever even as the culture wars gear up for ugly battle in the presidential election next fall. Queer theater is everywhere, from opulent musicals to profound meditations on truth and beauty to outrageously funny comedies. Miami Herald 02/26/04

The Misunderstood Maestro Orchestra conductors are "among the most alluring humans on earth, but few among the general public understand what they do. As a result, they forever resist credible dramatization in popular culture..." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/22/04

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Fiddler - Handle With Care How do you freshen up a classic like Fiddler on the Roof without disturbing those finely etched images so many have of the show? One can "hardly ignore the special place the show holds in the public's affections. 'I told the whole team very early on that I wanted to take care of `Fiddler.' That's a phrase I've never used before. But there's already a vast audience that loves the piece, people who will be bringing their children to the theater, perhaps for the first time. And it's very important not to disappoint." The New York Times 02/26/04

Hall Sets Record For West End Performances Jerry Hall set a record by appearing in six West End theatre performances in one night. "In just under three and a half hours, the Texan supermodel graced the stage in Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Fame, Blood Brothers, Anything Goes and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Although she did not have any lines to learn - all were non-speaking roles and one lasted just 30 seconds - the performances last night earned her a place in the Guinness World Records." London Evening Standard 02/25/04

Worrying About The White Barn "Nearly five years after the death of Lucille Lortel, a clause in her will may determine whether the historic, 148-seat White Barn Theatre in the Cranbury area of Norwalk, Conn., a major summer-stock venue for over 50 years and a key part of her legacy, will be sold or razed, and whether cluster houses will rise on the 18 acres surrounding the site." Backstage 02/25/04

Shakespeare On Ice (Literally) "Several years ago, Rolf Degerlund, the director of the Ice Globe Theatre, had a vision. Returning to Sweden from London and a visit to the newly restored Globe, he thought, why not recreate the theater in snow and ice? 'What I imagined was actors playing Hamlet with clouds of frost coming from their mouths'." Slate 02/25/04

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Michael Crawford and Sir Andrew - Together Again Singer Michael Crawford and theatre composer/producer Andrew Lloyd Webber are reuniting for a new musical in London. "The connection made almost 20 years ago with Phantom of the Opera will be renewed in May in Lloyd Webber's semi-operatic musical The Woman in White when it replaces the 19-year run of Les Misérables at the Palace theatre in London." The Guardian (UK) 02/25/04

Miserable In Manhattan The Manhattan Theatre Club has had a terrible season "marked by backstage strife, artistic feuds and very public cast defections. The season's woes have also highlighted complaints from upset subscribers and upset artists." The New York Times 02/25/04

When Harry Met Sally In The Theatre Why does anyone see the need to take a perfectly delightful movie - When Harry Met Sally - and turn it into stage play? "Why take a quintessentially 80s-America, middle-class masterpiece, a diffidently murmured poem to interpersonal navel-gazing, played out in close-up and tight two-shots, and whack it on one of the biggest stages the 21st-century West End has to offer? Why? Why?" The Scotsman 02/24/04

Papp Spirit Looms Over Public George Wolfe's resignation from the Public Theatre brings up nostalgia for the theatre's founding director Joseph Papp. "On one hand, it's only natural that the Public's founding spirit should loom large at a time when the institution is searching for its next leader. On the other, it's a sign of the trepidation many in the industry feel about the uncertain course of America's flagship theater when corporatizing trends are buffeting even Off-Broadway." Village Voice 02/24/04

Monday, February 23, 2004

Springer Wins Olivier Jerry Springer, the Opera has won four Olivier Awards in London. "Based on Jerry Springer's notorious television talk show, the production has music by Richard Thomas (news) and book and lyrics by Thomas and Stewart Lee." Yahoo! (AP) 02/23/04

Marathon Performance - Acting In Six Shows In One Night? Actress Jerry Hall is going to attempt to set a record for the most number of performances on London's West End in one night. She'll be appearing in at least half a dozen shows in a single evening. "The bid is part of One Amazing Week, a series of cultural events in London. The 47-year-old will have to dash across London's theatreland on foot and rickshaw to complete the feat." BBC 02/23/04

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The National's Hytner Team "Nicholas Hytner took over as artistic director last April and in less than a year has turned the sometimes recalcitrant South Bank complex into a house of hits of an order unmatched by his predecessors. Is Hytner's a one-man fiefdom? No, actually, and certainly not in the style of Trevor Nunn, his predecessor, whose five-and-a-half-year tenure was very much given over to none other than Nunn." The Observer (UK) 02/22/04

On Broadway - Enough Of The Fluff! "Be honest. Aren't you starting to overdose on escapism? Haven't you been experiencing cravings that "Mamma Mia!" and vicarious trips down the red carpet just aren't satisfying? Well, after an autumn of jaw-dropping silliness and thinness on Broadway (witches and drag queens and lounge acts, oh my!), the New York theater is poised to provide deliverance from the culture of triviality." The New York Times 02/22/04

Mr. Wolfe's Public George Wolfe is strongly identified with New York's Public Theatre. But what is Wolfe's legacy at the Public? "Mr. Wolfe the director shone brightly during his time at the Public. The Public Theater itself usually seemed to hang back in the shadows, like the timid offspring of a glamorous star." The New York Times 02/21/04

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Comedy Nation - It's The UK The comedy industry in Britain has grown enormously in the past decade with more than 150 new clubs opening. Now "with its top stars eyeing America and other overseas markets and its audiences more numerous and knowledgeable than ever before, live comedy can truly claim to be one of Britain's fastest-growing forms of entertainment." Christian Science Monitor 02/20/04

Theatre Development Fund Hid Deficit By Diverting Government Money The Ontario government has taken contral of a theatre development fund out of the hands of the Toronto Theatre Alliance "after an internal forensic audit revealed $161,000 had been diverted from the fund" into the TTA's budget to cover up a deficit. "The annual operating budget of the organization is $350,000, but for the past two years, roughly $90,000 per annum was siphoned into it from the Commercial Theatre Development Fund and the Dora Support Fund to make it appear the books balanced." Toronto Star 02/19/04

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Auditions Swamped With Kids For Mary Poppins There was an open audition for kids wanting to be in a new West End production of Mary Poppins. "By the time the doors of the Prince Edward theatre opened, the queue stretched twice around the block: the producers estimated that more than 1,000 children turned up." The Guardian (UK) 02/19/04

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Fashionable - What Plays, Why And When How is it that plays come in and out of fashion? "If consistent themes emerge in new plays, it must be for an underlying social reason. And if classic texts emerge in strange clusters or pairs, it can't be on purely pragmatic grounds." The Guardian (UK) 02/18/04

Playwrights: What's Wrong With Broadway Broadway is seriously broken, say a trio of playwrights. The business is hostile to new work, and the expense of production is out of hand. Terrence McNally: Today's Broadway is "a circus identified with smash hits, as opposed to plays that examine the human condition. The message is all wrong." Backstage 02/17/04

Ambitious Plans For An American National Theatre "Today, no one doubts that Lincoln Center Theater is one of the most vital not-for-profit companies in the nation, but its status as a national theatre - indeed, the question of what a national theatre is - is open to debate. So at the dawn of the 21st century, and in the painful, soul-searching aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, a new national-theatre movement is underway." Backstage 02/17/04

Sunday, February 15, 2004

The Slide Of The Playbox Theatre "Why has Melbourne's Playbox, which was founded in 1976, seen such a slide in its fortunes recently? There are lots of theories - from inappropriate programming to poor production values, soaring ticket prices to careless marketing. These are real problems, but they are not the origin of the dilemma, only symptoms of it. The answer lies far deeper. Mainstream theatre has, lately, been swamped by competing interests." The Age (Melbourne) 02/15/04

Who Will Succeed Wolfe At Public Theatre? "Will the board stick with a New Yorker, or will it look around the country? (Oskar Eustis at Trinity Rep in Providence has the dynamic personality of a Joseph Papp, a commitment to new work and even a strong Kushner connection to boot.) Will the board look to England? (Not likely given the urban-driven identity of the Public.) It's been fairly quiet in the world of artistic-director job searches." Hartford Courant 02/15/04

Spanish Theatre Censored In Australia A Spanish theatre company was forced to censor part of its show in Australia. "The play opened to boos from the audience at its Australian premiere in Melbourne last week when it was announced that scenes had been censored to gain an R-rating from the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC). The scenes, depicting explicit sex acts, were pixelated or obscured by bright lights." Sydney Morning Herald 02/15/04

Making Lear Work For Christopher Plummer The Stratford (Canada) Festival production of King Lear is much anticipated on Broadway, where's it has sold $2 million worth of tickets before opening. But there was one big hurdle in making the show work in New York. She show stars Christopher Plummer, 76, who "is only able to perform the emotionally and physically taxing role of Lear for five shows a week. It's a real stretch to make revenues match expenses when the whole company is being paid for eight shows a week but only performing five. "It was very clear that Christopher was not in a position to do more than five performances a week. The advantage is that Christopher is at that rare moment when he's able to do Lear." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/15/04

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Les Miz Musicians To Be Replaced By Machine Almost half the musicians for Les Miz in London's West End will lose their jobs when the show moves to a smaller theatre next month. "Nine musicians out of 21 will be replaced by an electronic synthesiser, of a kind being used for the first time in the West End. US producers have said the Sinfonia synthesiser "gives more bangs to the buck than musicians". The Guardian (UK) 02/13/04

Urban Comes To Broadway Three new productions featuring African-Americans are coming to Broadway. "Theatergoers today typically have to go to venues well beyond the neon lights of Times Square to find plays that address modern cultural struggles and ideas that aren't set to music. The triptych of African-American tales spanning the post-World War II era to the present will temporarily add more color to Broadway's palette, but along the way may also prompt a discussion about what really constitutes diversity on US theater's most high-profile road." Christian Science Monitor 02/13/04

Broadway's Winter Blues Three more shows are closing on Broadway. "This month's closings will bring the total since the season began last fall to 11, making it one of the more disappointing sessions in recent Broadway history. 'No one in the Broadway community expected this traditionally challenging season to be so rough'." New York Daily News 02/12/04

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Gypsy Decides To Hang Around Ticket sales to Broadway's "Gypsy" have surged since producers announced that the show would close. So it's not going to... The New York Times (1st item) 02/12/04

Wolfe Leaving The Public George C. Wolfe is leaving the helm of New York's Public Theatre. "Mr. Wolfe has established something of a cult of personality at the Public, in the tradition of the legendary Joseph Papp. And as the leading black stage director in the country and an openly gay man, he embodied the Public's determination to reach diverse artists and audiences." The New York Times 02/12/04

The Theatre Of Factual Fiction On London stages, there are now plays devoted to true events. "The resurgence of the theatre of fact is perhaps suggestive of a deeper problem for writers, namely that modern life in its unimaginable complexity seems to defy invention itself. The convention-bound play, assembling representative characters in symbolic spaces to rehearse the concerns of the hour, looks as capable of capturing the zeitgeist as a fishing net is of landing a blue whale." The Guardian (UK) 02/12/04

Do Playwrights "Plunder" Other Cultures When They Write About Them? Playwright Lennie James went to New Zealand to write a play about teenagers there. But he encountered resistance. And it was brutal. "I mean, what is your deal, Lennie James? Are you going to travel the world stealing people's culture?" When I was thrown out of the club to avoid any more "trouble", Wiri followed me out, screaming my name at the sky and wishing me well in my quest to rob the "lesser" cultures of the world of their stories. "You go Lennie James! You go, bro!" The Guardian (UK) 01/12/04

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Manhattan Theatre Club's Terrible Season This was supposed to be a great year for the Manhattan Theatre Club. "The respected off-Broadway company was planning to have a year of celebration as it opened a second front, on Broadway. It had purchased and was restoring the long-abandoned Biltmore Theater. That project turned out brilliantly - the reopened theater is a small gem: intimate, comfortable, and a pleasure to behold. But everywhere else, the season has seemed to fall apart, as one actor after another left MTC productions." NorthJersey.com 02/08/04

Law - Helping Out The Young Vic Actor Jude Law lends his support for a £12.5 million makeover of London's Young Vic Theatre. "I remember being thrilled by the proximity of the actors and the versatility of the space. It was an important part of the dream I had to become an actor." The Guardian (UK) 02/10/04

Newly Restored Baltimore Theatre Makes A Bid For The Big Time The 1914 Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore is reopening after a $62 million makeover. Organizers of the project are "declaring their intention of making Baltimore once again a force in the world of live theater. The center's operators envision the new venue becoming an arts stadium of sorts, a live entertainment hub." Baltimore Sun 02/10/04

Monday, February 9, 2004

Shanghai Not Ready For Vagina Monologues This just in: "Shanghai has abruptly banned the U.S. play 'Vagina Monologues,' said the theater that had planned a one-month run beginning Tuesday, adding that conditions in China are 'not ripe' for the taboo-breaking drama." Backstage (AP) 02/09/04

RSC - Ready For A Turnaround? The Royal Shakespeare Company has faced nothing but problems over the past year. And yet, there are encouraging signs that the company is turing itself around... Backstage 02/09/04

  • Doran Is RSC White Knight Who's leading the Royal Shakespeare Company's revival? Gregory Doran. "It wouldn't be too strong to suggest that he has redeemed the RSC's battered reputation at a time when it was reeling from the sudden resignation of its former artistic director Adrian Noble and the crisis that followed the company's precipitate decision to quit the Barbican." The Telegraph (UK) 02/10/04

Saturday, February 7, 2004

Philadelphia Shakespeare Cuts Back Rather than run a deficit, and faced with a shortage of income, the "Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival has postponed the final production of the season and laid off three of its six employees." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/07/04

When Bodies In Seats Are More Important Than Selling Tickets... Broadway now has a couple of businesses that help "paper" shows that aren't selling well. "Subscribers to these services are permitted up to two tickets per performance, based on seating availability. While most tickets are for Off- and Off-Off-Broadway shows, seats for Broadway shows are not impossible to find. It's all left to the discretion of producers, who may give away 'comps' when shows are in previews, underpublicized, or expecting reviewers or celebrities in the house." Backstage 02/06/04

Thursday, February 5, 2004

The Undoing Of The Seattle Fringe What sank the Seattle Fringe Festival? "Between insurance and payroll taxes tripling and funding by pre-established grantors tumbling some 46% over the last year, the organization had very little breathing room to spare. The open letter additionally explains that, while efforts to reschedule the festival from spring to September heightened its 'artistic viability,' the event 'not only failed to draw additional audiences, but attendance actually declined." Backstage 02/05/04

  • Seattle Fringe Festival Folds The once-thriving Seattle Festival has declared bankruptcy and closed up shop. "The move was not unexpected. Last November, SFTP announced that it needed $120,000 to pay off debts from the September 2003 Fringe Festival and continue to survive, but had only about $21,000 in cash assets." Seattle Times 01/29/04

Here's A Career Boost - Get Boy George Mad At You New York Post theatre columnist Michael Riedel is grateful to Boy George. He really is. "By regularly attacking me in print, on TV and even on stage during his show, George has elevated me from obscure theatre reporter to, in the words of the Toronto Star, 'one of the most influential (and feared) media figures in Manhattan'." The Guardian (UK) 02/04/04

Broadway - Swimming To Irrelevance This has not been a good year for Broadway. The closing of Gypsy only underscores the problems. "The murderous economics of Broadway mean that people are prepared to pay high prices only for a copper-bottomed hit and that theatregoing has become an event rather than a habit. But I would go even further and say that Broadway has become a tawdry irrelevance in the larger scheme of American theatre. It is mostly a showcase for imported hits from London or the American non-profit sector." The Guardian (UK) 02/05/04

To Boldly Go Where The BBC Has Gone Before... The UK's National Theatre is leaping into the increasingly dangerous fray surrounding the country's role in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. "The NT's new season will culminate in September with a play by one of the war's fiercest critics, Sir David Hare." The play focuses on several "neoconservatives" within the Bush Administration, and argues that they intended to remove Saddam Hussein from power years before the 9/11 attacks which supposedly precipitated the American action. The title of the work, which is taken from a statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is "Stuff Happens." London Evening Standard 02/05/04

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Phantom Slides In To Second Tonight, Phantom of the Opera becomes the second-longest running show in Broadway history, sliding ahead of Les Miz. The show has gone on 6,681 times "through 11 Phantoms, beginning with Michael Crawford, but just one chandelier: that 900-pound, beaded monster that has since traveled 422 miles in its nightly plunge over its audience's heads." New York Post 02/04/04

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Broadway Gypsy To Close Running only since last May on Broadway, the musical Gypsy is closing, losing much of its investment. "The production, starring Bernadette Peters as the legendary stage mother Momma Rose, will have lost a little less than half of its $8 million capitalization." The New York Times 02/03/04

Monday, February 2, 2004

UK Circus Performers Protest Licenses Circus owners in the UK are protesting a new law that will require them to get licenses for every place that they perform. "Licences, which could cost up to £500 each, will be needed when the Licensing Act 2003 comes into force in April. The act is designed to ensure public safety and has already prompted outrage from other performers, including folk singers and Punch and Judy operators." The Guardian (UK) 02/03/04

West End Musicians Protest Virtual Orchestra The British musicians' union is protesting plans by producer Cameron Mackintosh to replace some musicians with a virtual orchestra. "Any fan of West End musicals will recognize that the orchestra is the beating heart of the production. Take the musicians away and you remove at a stroke one of the vital elements of the live theatre experience." Backstage 02/02/04

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Denver Theatre Needs Overhaul As Search Continues For New Leadership The Denver Center Theatre is looking for a new director. But the way it is going about it seems a bit narrow, writes Lisa Bornstein... Rocky Mountain News 02/01/04

Florida Students Thrown Out Of Theatre Competition For Cutting Up Flag "Students performing a play about the dangers of mindless political indoctrination were disqualified from a Broward County theater competition after cutting up an American flag, as judges questioned the legality and offensiveness of that act." Miami Herald (AP) 02/01/04

Valuing Live Theatre In A Digital World The art of theatre seems stubbornly rooted in the pre-digital age. But maybe that's not a bad thing. "Plenty of academics ... have argued that the communal experience of live performance will only get more attractive as technologized art grows in influence. Surely people will need and crave external escape from the isolating forces of a digital age that traps them for more and more hours in front of a two-dimensional screen." Chicago Tribune 02/01/04

Did Dickens Die From Performing? Charles Dickens was a wilfly popular performer. "As well as being our greatest novelist, Dickens developed a new, composite art form in his stage performances, acting out specially adapted passages from his own works and varying his expressions and speech patterns, so that it seemed as if he were becoming possessed by the characters he created. His reading tours won him huge popular acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. And in all probability they contributed to his premature death, from a stroke, in 1870." The Guardian (UK) 01/31/04

Theatre-Building In DC Washington DC is in the midst of a theatre building boom. "All over town, all over the region, theaters are hiring architects and raising millions and embarking on ambitious plans to move to spanking new homes or enlarge and refurbish existing ones. It's Act 1 in a period of monumental physical change for Washington theater, a building boom that is going to affect every major company - and even some less-than-major ones - in and around the city. By the time the boom is over, sometime around the end of the decade, the area's premier theaters will all have roomier accommodations and new looks." Washington Post 02/01/04

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