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Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Color Of Bollywood The much-hyped $14 million Bombay Dreams finally opens on Broadway. Ben Brantley finds it colorful but familiar: "Such is the perverse spell cast by this friendly, flat and finally unengaging tale of glamorous movie folk and lovable untouchables that everything seems to melt into one neutral blur before your eyes, like a monochromatic symphony in the key of beige. Advertisements for the show may tout it as a voyage to "somewhere you've never been before." But even theatergoers who have never seen a sari or eaten papadum are likely to find "Bombay Dreams" as familiar as this morning's breakfast. It takes more than color, evidently, to be colorful." The New York Times 04/30/04

Wicked Cops Drama Desk Noms "Wicked," the Broadway musical inspired by "The Wizard of Oz," has swept the 49th annual Drama Desk Award nominations today with 11 nominations. Two shows about politics and betrayal, Steven Sondheim's "Assassins" and the Lincoln Center Theater production of Shakespeare's "Henry IV," tied for second place with seven. The New York Times 04/30/04

Beijing Theatre Delay Beijing's US$324.6 million National Grand Theatre of China has been under construction since 2001. "The futuristic design of the theatre, by French architect Paul Andreu, features a titanium and glass dome set in the centre of an artificial lake. Andreu's concept beat 68 other candidates in an international bidding process, but sparked criticism because it doesn't complement the solemn atmosphere of Tian'anmen Square. But as the dewdrop-like design emerges ever more clearly with each passing day, old concerns about the look have been replaced by new worries about the theatre's operation." The theatres was to open in July, but the most optimistic opening is now predicted for late 2005. China Daily 04/29/04

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Atlantic Theatre Festival Cancels Season Nova Scotia's Atlantic Theatre Festival has canceled its 2004 season. "Not enough money put our organization into a tailspin of not being sure where we stood. We didn't have funds to pay staff, to pay the artistic community, and putting it all together -- morally and from a fiscally responsible point of view -- we could not proceed." CBC 04/28/04

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Scottish Theatres Get Their Funding Back The Scottish government has changed its mind and decided to refund the country's theatres. "Only months ago the groups were told their core grants from the SAC would end in 2005 and they would have to re-apply for money from a greatly reduced pot. The change now means the companies will effectively be guaranteed funding from 2005 to 2006. There are no guarantees beyond then." Glasgow Herald 04/28/04

Monday, April 26, 2004

Spacey Takes On The Old Vic Kevin Spacey is a big-time Hollywood actor. So why is he running the Old Vic? "After spending an hour and a half in Spacey’s company, I emerged from the Old Vic convinced that he is a man who means business, is in it for the long haul, and could be just the chap to restore the theatre to its former glories. It’s the first time so high-profile an actor has doubled as a theatre’s director since Olivier ran the National Theatre company at the same address in the ’60s and early ’70s." The Telegraph (UK) 04/27/04

Broadway Buys American "After years (some might say decades) of Broadway surrendering any cultural identity of its own to the British, the New York theatre these days couldn't be more American." The Guardian (UK) 04/25/04

PuppetMaster "Ronnie Burkett is the first to see the potential absurdity in 'a grown man who spends his nights jiggling jointed dolls'. Recognising not just the theatre's but most of the western world's antipathy for puppets, he even admits: 'It's ridiculous - I wouldn't pay to see it.' None the less, his Memory Dress Trilogy has won him a reputation as one of the great theatre artists of the world." The Guardian (UK) 04/27/04

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Bombay Dreams Goes For An Asian Broadway Audience The $14 million Bombay Dreams is about to hit Broadway, and producers have been out wooing the Asian community. "Bombay Dreams, after all, is essentially a staged version of a Bollywood film, the immensely popular kind of musical melodramas, produced in Mumbai (as Bombay is now called), that draws huge audiences from all across the Indian subcontinent. And the best estimates say that there are more than 500,000 South Asians living in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut." The New York Times 04/25/04

Making Actors Out Of Stars "Personal acting coaches are common in Hollywood, where rehearsal time is scarce and money is not. But on Broadway, though stars of musical theater often work with voice coaches, very few experienced theater actors hire an expert to help them prepare for a play. As more film and television stars moonlight in the theater, however, coaches are increasingly in demand."
The New York Times 04/25/04

The City Saved By Theater It might be hard to remember these days, but not so very long ago, the city of Chicago was a study in urban blight, rampant crime, and classic big-city stagnation. So what changed in the Second City between the bad old days of the 1980s and today, when Chicago is held up as a shining example of the Great American Metropolis? Much of the city's turnaround can be traced to the arrival in office of a mayor who was determined to rebuild the city as a cultural destination, and more specifically, as the theater capital of America. Toronto Star 04/24/04

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Shooting Presidents - A Hit? More than a decade after they first surfaced to critical shudders and head-scratching, the unhappy have-nots of "Assassins" — the glitteringly dark musical by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman about Americans who dream of killing their country's presidents — have finally made it to Broadway...The frightening title characters of "Assassins" are restating their demand to be noticed in the Roundabout Theater Company production, which opened last night at Studio 54. And under Joe Mantello's direction, they are doing so with an eloquence and an intensity that makes a compelling case for a misunderstood show." The New York Times 04/23/04

  • Barnes: Assassins Shoots Blanks Clive Barnes appreciates Assassins is Sondheim. But Assassins isn't necessarily good Sondheim: "There's more ironic style here than theatrical substance, and the total effect is like a master marksman shooting blanks." New York Post 04/23/04

  • Marks: A Sondheim Classic Does Assassins belong with other Sondheim classics? Peter Marks says yes: "Joe Mantello's spectacular production for the Roundabout Theatre Company reveals it at long last to be one of Stephen Sondheim's most original, disturbing and exquisitely scored shows." Washington Post 04/23/04

  • An Assassins Tony? They're already talking about "Assassins for a Tony. But will it be in the new musical category or revival? "If "Assassins" is ruled a revival, it is almost certain to snatch the award from "Wonderful Town," which is limping at the box office and will be sunk if it doesn't win. But if "Assassins" is deemed a new musical, it will elbow "Bombay Dreams" and "The Boy From Oz" out of the field of nominees - which, in addition to "Assassins," will surely be made up of "Wicked," "Caroline, or Change" and "Avenue Q." Sondheim will be eligible for his score, and will probably win." New York Post 04/23/04

Acting Students - Are There Jobs? What happens to the young acting students schools turn out each year? "It is an oft-quoted cliche that acting boasts a permanent 90% unemployment rate. And while David Cox, drama administrator at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, is at pains to insist that '90% of our students work professionally within 12 months of graduation', he does admit: It is very rare that they'll be able to make a living during the first year or two." The Guardian (UK) 04/23/04

Gypsy Closing On Broadway Producers of Broadway's "Gypsy" have decided to close the show. "Starring Bernadette Peters as the hard-driving stage mother Momma Rose, "Gypsy" posted a closing notice in early February, only to extend its run after sales improved. Part of that improvement might have been linked to warmer weather and heightened tourism, but cast members had also taken an active role in promoting the show with daily personal appearances outside TKTS, the half-price ticket booth, in Duffy Square." The New York Times 04/22/04

LA - Land Of Small Theatres Los Angeles is a hive of "almost 100 self-sustaining, not-for-profit, professional theater ensembles." It's a theatre community quite unlike that anywhere else, a decidedly un-New York. "These largely volunteer (often dues-based) organizations are quasi families — which are sometimes authoritarian, sometimes collaborative, sometimes bickering, often leaving, just as often returning — homes to thousands of actors lured by and often working in Hollywood while sustaining a legit-stage subculture." LA Weekly 04/22/04

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

RSC Takes On New Work The Royal Shakespeare Festival is producing a festival of new works, its first serious new work at Stratford since 2001. "The recommitment to new writing signals a return to the RSC's traditional values, widely seen as having been dismantled by Boyd's predecessor, Adrian Noble, who moved the company out of its London base at the Barbican, and threatened to bulldoze the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) in Stratford." The Guardian (UK) 04/22/04

How Can West End Theatres Justify Ticket Prices? "To many, the West End feels like the airline industry in the days before Easyjet and Ryanair arrived: prices always rise faster than inflation, but the product never really improves. Sure, some of the stuff on stage is superb, but the customer service is terrible. The seats are generally cramped, the toilets are tiny and the bars are usually worse." The Guardian (UK) 04/22/04

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Recreating A Shakespeare Experience (With Critical Success) Mark Rylance has made a big success of the Globe Theatre in London. "In the mid-'90s, the whole Globe experience - building and costumes made by 16th-century methods; no scenery, lighting or assisted sound for actors, productions as close as possible to Shakespeare's directions - smacked, many said, of an Olde England "theatre experience". But Rylance has proved his critics wrong and pulled off a remarkable success story. Most of the Globe's productions have met critical acclaim, and it sells an astonishing 90 per cent of its seats during its summer-only season." London Telegraph 04/21/04

Monday, April 19, 2004

Two Decades Of AIDS And Theatre In the past 20 years an astonishing number of plays have been influenced by the AIDS epidemic. "With all the loss, it would be a mistake to ignore the astonishing theater that has grown in the dark soil of cataclysm. We can almost put our arms around a definable body of AIDS dramatic literature that has energized the theater in the years between the first "Normal Heart" and this one." Newsday 04/18/04

Sunday, April 18, 2004

A Play About The Great Critic Kenneth Tynan was one of the great theatre critics of the 20th Century. "Now Tynan, the brilliant writer who made his name on The Observer in the 1950s and helped to launch a new tradition of stagecraft in Britain, is about to become the subject of a Royal Shakespeare Company play." The Observer (UK) 04/18/04

Getting Off On Off-Broadway Where's the interesting theatre in New York? "Everyone knows that 99 percent of the most interesting work is happening someplace other than on Broadway. Indeed, on any given night, more than 40,000 people are attending the theater somewhere in New York City, and about 14,000 of them are parked at one of New York's nearly 300 off-Broadway playhouses." Denver Post 04/18/04

Makeover - Bombay Dreams Gets The Works Before Broadway Though Bombay Dreams was a hit in London, it was not a big critical success. So before it comes to Broadway, the show has been extensively remade. "Though it is typical to tweak London imports like "Mamma Mia!" for Broadway, the "Bombay Dreams" revision is one of the most drastic in recent memory, along with the Broadway flop "Taboo" this season. Andrew Lloyd Webber, who produced the London production, has announced that the Broadway version is such an improvement that he will close the London version on June 13 and reopen it next year, in a different London theater, with the Broadway revisions in place." The New York Times 04/18/04

Thursday, April 15, 2004

No Sale For Hamlet "A rare copy of Shakespeare's Hamlet failed to sell on Wednesday because no one was willing to pay the minimum price set by the seller's estate. Christie's had estimated the 1611 edition of the classic tragedy -- the last such copy in private hands -- would fetch $1.5 million to $2 million." Backstage 04/15/04

Broadway Producers: Actors Should Make Less For Road Tours Broadway producers have proposed to actors that they lower their pay in national touring companies. "Over the last several years, the road has changed dramatically. Today, low-cost non-Equity and nonunion touring companies and alternatives to theatre such as 'Riverdance,' etc. are everywhere. This competition has meant fewer opportunities for us, league producers, to produce. That's why there are fewer jobs and fewer workweeks for Equity members. If we cannot produce, you cannot work." Backstage 04/15/04

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Towards A New National Black Theatre Nationwide, black theatre companies have "cut programming and reduced staff. Some troupes have had to cancel shows or suspend production in recent years. Other respected companies, like the Freedom Theater in Philadelphia and the New Jomandi in Atlanta, have struggled financially as public and private support continues to dwindle." But one hardy soul is traing to "establish something almost unheard of since the heyday of the black theater movement in the 1960's and 70's: a national black theater company." The New York Times 04/14/04

NY Fringe Fest Roars Back The New York Fringe Festival has shaken off its financial misfortunes and says that more than "800 applications were received this year, a better than 10% jump over the 2003 total of 716. This was the first year artists could submit applications online; if one includes incomplete and late submissions (which are not adjudicated), that figure rises to over 900. The total two years ago was 585." Backstage 04/14/04

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Virtually Yours - Off-B'Way Stage Can Use Virtual Orchestra The New York musicians union has made an agreement with an Off-Broadway theatre to allow use of a virtual orchestra. "The deal will allow shows at the theater to use the machine, which can closely replicate the sound of musicians, but only with union consent. No other Off Broadway theater currently has such an agreement with the union; Broadway producers are banned from using the machine." The New York Times 04/14/04

Virtual Orchestra Off-Broadway A show coming to Off-Broadway is using a "virtual orchestra" and the musicians union is protesting. But the show's composer says he isn't replacing any musicians with the device - he likes the sound he gets from it. In previous productions, the show used three musicians, and it does now as well. Newsday (AP) 04/13/04

Monday, April 12, 2004

Portland's New Theatre Project Draws Critics Portland Center Stage is getting a new, state-of-the-art home, one that will "put its facilities on a par with the country's best regional theater venues in such cities as Chicago, Minneapolis and Dallas. It also will bring back to life one of the city's oldest buildings, the 1891 Oregon National Guard Armory at Northwest Davis Street and 10th Avenue. And it is vying to be the most ecologically sound building so far completed in the Northwest. Sounds pretty good. What's not to like?" So why so many critics of the project? The Oregonian 04/11/04

Going Young At Humana Just how are plays chosen for inclusion at the Festival of New American Plays in Louisville? This year, five of the six full plays presented were by women. And they were also young. "This time the plays we liked happened to be mostly by younger writers. We just felt the writing was interesting and strong and worthy of production." Seattle Times 04/11/04

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Humana Fest - Emphasis On Women "Five of the six new full-length works at this year's buzz-generating Humana Festival of New American Plays were written by women. Coincidence? Miami Herald 04/11/04

Making The Sausage Theater people love to talk about "process," whether it be the actor's process of developing a character or the director's process of fashioning a cast, crew, and set into a believable story. But the behind-the-scenes process that goes into creating a single theater season may be the most fascinating process of them all, and for the people who run Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage, it's a study in compromise and a careful balance between challenging the audience and satisfying the ever-present demand for the familiar. Washington Post 04/11/04

The Terrorist On Broadway "Broadway has always been an incubator of lunatic dreams, but these days, with the outrageous expense of putting on a production, and a theater marketplace ever more reliant on the credit cards of out-of-towners, a lot of the adventurousness has gone out of producing." So for Rocco Landesman to be seriously pitching a play featuring a suicide bomber as a sympathetic character to the Broadway poobahs is, well, something of a noticable display of hubris. In fact, most of Landesman's usual New York investors had closed the door before he even got the pitch out of his mouth. Washington Post 04/10/04

Friday, April 9, 2004

"Wife" - In For A Pulitzer Bounce? Doug Wright's "I Am My Own Wife" won the Pulitzer for drama last week, and the question is how much the award will have an impact on its commercial prospects. "In the last decade only two plays have won the Pulitzer while running on Broadway, and both eventually made back their investments. But this evidence is by no means conclusive. The 2002 winner, "Topdog/Underdog," opened the same week it won the award, so it is difficult to discern the effect the prize had on sales. And in 2001 "Proof" received only a slight bump." The New York Times 04/09/04

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Mamet: The Lowly, Slimy Producer David Mamet doesn't have a high opinion of producers: "They watch while the lowly make bricks and suggest, at regular intervals, that the brick-makers begin to gather their own straw. And they propound heresy. They sell all parts of the pig but the squeal. And then they sell the squeal." The Guardian (UK) 04/09/04

London's Two New Theatres London is getting two new theatres (in one). "The old Whitehall Theatre near Trafalgar Square will house a 100-seat and a 400-seat space to create the Trafalgar Studios. The theatre first opened in 1930 and is owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group." The smaller spaces are intended to attract younger audiences, and the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic have signed up to produce there. BBC 04/07/04

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

NLRB Ruling On Live Broadway Music A new ruling by the National Labor Relations Board is being hailed by the American musicians union as supporting the union's fight to keep live music on Broadway... Backstage 04/07/04

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Playwright Cancels Because Of Winnipeg Smoking Laws English playwright Ronald Harwood has pulled out of a planned production of his "The Dresser" in Winnipeg because of the city's smoking laws. “The reason for going back on my word is that I am a cigarette smoker. I have recently visited Canada and had to suffer the most draconian anti-smoking regulations in restaurants and public buildings. I had no intention of allowing myself to be forced out into the street in winter to partake of one of my great pleasures.” The Scotsman (AP) 04/06/04

Monday, April 5, 2004

In Search Of The Next Great Play Where are the next great plays coming from? "There always seems to be a stratum of plays just below the surface, waiting their turn in an environment that can economically accommodate a limited number of new works. Ask the question one way — Are there a lot of good plays out there that are not being produced? — and the answer from many people is a vigorous yes. But the situation is a bit more complicated." The New York Times 04/06/04

Lane And Broderick Finish Producers Run Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick have finished their second run in Broadway's "The Producers." "From its debut in April 2001 until Lane and Broderick left in March 2002, the Mel Brooks show was a perpetual sellout - despite record ticket prices. Sales lagged before the two actors returned late last year as the highest-paid actors in Broadway history. Once again, seats were hard to come by for the show that won a record 12 Tony Awards in June 2001, including Lane as Best Leading Actor in a Musical." New York Daily News 04/05/04

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Mamma Mia! It's A Hit! When it opened in London in 1999, Mamma Mia was considered a small "filler" show. But it's become a huge hit. "Currently generating more than $8 million a week in ticket sales, "Mamma Mia!" has grossed more than $750 million worldwide, including $200 million on the West End and $150 million in New York. If the current box office activity continues, the show should easily pass the billion-dollar mark set by "The Phantom of the Opera."Mamma Mia!" has yet to open in a city or country where it hasn't clicked, whether you're talking Korea, the Netherlands, or Australia. The show claims to have been seen by almost one in every 10 Australians." Backstage 04/04/04

Where Have The Blockbuster Touring Shows Gone? "We are coming off what I call the 15-year feast, which basically started with the British Invasion - Cats, Les Miz, Phantom (of the Opera), Miss Saigon - segueing into Lion King. That period of time built the subscriptions up, it built buildings up all over the country in these 2,500- to 5,000-seat theaters. Now where are the shows to fill these barns, and what do you do?" Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 04/04/04

Virtual Orchestra Wins The Road Broadway musicians are fighting against the "virtual orchestra." But "the war has already been won (or lost, depending on your point of view) on the road. Almost all touring shows, whether union or nonunion, travel with fewer musicians than the composer intended. If you've been to a musical in the past few years, undoubtedly you've heard synthesizers, samplers or even a Sinfonia in place of strings, woodwinds and other instruments." Orange County Register 04/04/04

Beware: We're Not On Broadway Anymore "Some shows that are part of a "Broadway" series have as much to do with Broadway as Velveeta has to do with cheese. Blinded by the "Broadway" moniker, familiar logos and memories of past performances, theater goers can easily be duped into thinking the show they will be getting is straight from Broadway. Many are knock-offs, cheap shows that reflect little of the original production. Look at their programs, and in the actors' bios you'll find they are just-out-of-school kids in starring parts whose major credits include work on cruise ships, theme parks and university productions." Hartford Courant 04/04/04

Denver: Theatre's Closing A Story Of Broken Promises The Walden Family Playhouse suddenly closed in Denver. "Walden handled the news of its exit surreptitiously and disingenuously, prompting many to suspect that its recent one-year anniversary was tied to a planned exit strategy. But that would mean Walden had a strategy in the first place, which it apparently did not. By pulling the plug on the development of new work here and hitting the road where Walden can recycle everything it created here in cities across America, Walden proved it couldn't care less about the many broken promises made to the people of Denver." Denver Post 04/04/04

Seattle's ACT Theatre - A Year After The Crisis Just a year ago, Seattle's ACT Theatre was "fighting for its life after a severe financial meltdown threatened to end the company's nearly 40-year tenure as one of Seattle's major professional theaters. Given the relative suddenness of ACT's fiscal emergency and its need to raise $1.5 million fast to keep its Union Street operation going, survival was no sure thing. But along with restraint and realism, there's the breezy scent of hope circulating through ACT's staff offices and rehearsal halls." Seattle Times 04/04/04

Tiny Theatre, Tiny Town The tiny Opera House in the small town of Reedley, California has a stage that's only 14 feet wide. The 1903 theatre has been restored and a local theatre company has taken up residence. "Whether Reedley can get used to a year-round theater company in a town that isn't big enough to support a movie theater is the question. Think of it this way: To sell out a season, almost 10% of Reedley's population (pegged in the 2000 census as 20,700) would have to attend each show." Fresno Bee (California) 04/04/04

Shakespeare To The Masses The National Endowment for the Arts' Shakespeare tour is the largest tour of Shakespeare in American history. Since September, seven professional companies have been presenting five plays around the county, and will have been seen by audiences in 100 cities and towns, as well as on 16 military bases. "Later this month, the NEA will announce the addition of 21 professional nonprofit theater companies to the tour as part of Phase II. They will do a range of the Bard's plays. By the time both phases are complete, at the end of next year, 'We hope to have introduced 1 million children to Shakespeare'." Boston Globe 04/04/04

Tinkering With Edinburgh (It's What Makes It Great) Brian McMaster has been programming the Edinburgh Festival since 1992. He's constantly tinkering with ways to bring in unlikely audiences. "It is this engagement with the audience that makes the International Festival seem so alive. McMaster's tenure has coincided with increasing collaboration between all the festivals, so that there is growing self-assurance to the city. Once, almost every resident would meet August with a scowl, fleeing if they could, but now only the most curmudgeonly swears at the thesps on the high street. McMaster has brought us in, and without dumbing down." The Observer (UK) 04/04/04

The New Arab-American Playwrights A new generation of Arab-American women playwrights born in the 1960s and 70s is making its mark on New York stages. "Their religious roots vary: they are Christian, Muslim or Zoroastrian, and their national ancestry may be, to name a few, Iranian, Palestinian, Lebanese or Indian. But they are united by a commitment to take their hyphenated experiences to the New York stage, and by their perception that, although many of them are not Arab, that is how they often are seen in the United States at this tense moment in the country's history." The New York Times 04/04/04

Thursday, April 1, 2004

Cincy City Council Deletes Theatre Company From Grant The Cincinnati city council has taken a theatre company's name off a list of grants. Last summer the company staged a production of Terrence McNally's "Corpus Christie." No protesters appeared before City Council during recent discussions about the grant, but a local group -- the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati -- sent a mass e-mail entitled, 'Cincinnati City Council Subsidizing Blasphemy.' In the e-mail, CJC's leader, Nathaniel Livingston Jr., wrote: 'This is America, and everyone has a First Amendment right to free speech, even if the speech is offensive. There are, however, consequences to your actions. And there should be no reward for the producers of 'Corpus Christi'." Cincinnati Post 04/01/04

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