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Friday, September 30, 2005

Broadway's Hottest Couple Sells Out Want a ticket to see Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in the new Broadway revival of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple? Well, you should have thought of that weeks ago. The show is sold out through the end of its planned run, and the producer recently came to the dual realizations that a) he no longer has to care what the critics will say, and b) it would be dishonest for him to place any ads for the show, since he has no tickets to sell. Of course, if you're truly desperate for your Broderick-Lane fix, you could always try the ticket brokers, but bring plenty of cash: a decent seat is going for as much as $1000. New York Post 09/30/05

The Power of Five A group of regional performing arts centers in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Hartford, and St. Paul have banded together to form a new production company, with the intention of developing new touring shows which can play profitably at the centers, and also creating larger shows which could be of interest to Broadway. The five centers will share production costs and profits, and all will have equal rights to shows developed by the new partnership. St. Paul Pioneer Press 09/30/05

Thursday, September 29, 2005

From Folsom Prison To The Great White Way Johnny Cash, who died in 2003, will become the latest musical legend to have his material tried out on theatre's biggest stage when a show featuring his music moves to Broadway next year. "More than 35 of the country star's songs will performed in Ring of Fire, although no actor will actually portray Johnny Cash. The show, directed by Tony winner Richard Maltby, has received favourable reviews during its short preview run in Buffalo, New York... Cash had given his approval for the musical before his death, having previously rejected several projects." BBC 09/29/05

Radio City Musicians Threaten A Strike Musicians at New York's famed Radio City Music Hall are threatening to strike over the issue of overtime pay for the venue's popular Christmas Spectacular. (Yeah, that's the one with the Rockettes.) A strike could jeopardize the show, which draws huge numbers of tourists and is a New York institution, but Cablevision, which owns Radio City, has issued a statement saying that it "fully expects" to reach an agreement with the musicians before the show opens for the year. Newsday (AP) 09/29/05

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rise Of The "Movical" Broadway shows based on movies - "movicals" - are hot these days. "In an era that has few big name songwriters of the ilk of Cole Porter, or Rodgers and Hammerstein, the stage must increasingly rely on other familiar brands. Lord of the Rings is the latest hit film bound for the stage, though one could argue that the production is based on JRR Tolkien's trilogy - not the Peter Jackson films. But coming hot on the heels of Jackson's Oscar success, the musical will undoubtedly benefit from the book's big screen adaptation." BBC 09/28/05

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Night Of Free Theatre For All Are ticket prices a deterrent to going to the theatre? October 20 has been declared National Free Night of Theatre day and the Bay Area is one of three cities testing out the idea. "The idea is to attract new audiences and to reward the curious and faithful as well. Participants cover the spectrum from the highest-profile companies to a host of midsize and small groups. Theatre Bay Area, affectionately known as TBA (for obvious reasons), has announced the availability of more than 4,000 free seats that evening at more than 70 large and small companies." San Francisco Chronicle 09/27/05

Monday, September 26, 2005

The End Of The (Brief) Era Of Juke-Box Musicals? Juke-box musicals, those shows built around the pop songs of this or that band or performer seems to be dying as a genre. "With the departure of the King from Broadway's Palace Theater when All Shook Up closes on Sunday, it looks increasingly as if the era of the tribute musical may be coming to an end. Between them, the Beach Boys show, the Lennon show and All Shook Up have lost $30m." BBC 09/26/05

Oprah Gets In On Color Purple, The Musical "The move is likely to immediately expand the box-office potential of a show that has been extensively revised since receiving mixed reviews in its initial performances in Atlanta last year. Now titled "Oprah Winfrey Presents: 'The Color Purple,' " the musical will begin previews at the Broadway Theater on Nov. 1 and open on Dec. 1. In what is her first Broadway venture, Ms. Winfrey will contribute more than $1 million of the musical's $10 million production cost." The New York Times 09/26/05

San Diego's Old Globe Theatre Gets A $10 Million Boost "The Old Globe Theatre has received a $10 million gift – the largest in the company's 70-year history – from Conrad Prebys, a former pizzeria owner who came to San Diego almost penniless 40 years ago." San Diego Union-Tribune 09/21/05

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Peter Hall: What Shakespeare Intended "We cannot be sure of Shakespeare's intentions. Indeed, some would say we can't be sure of anything about Shakespeare. Who was he? Did he really write the plays? We are living through a time when a barrage of nonsense is making the rounds about Shakespeare's supposed or hidden identity. Shakespeare, whose genius uncovers every aspect of the human condition, has been identified as a dry essayist moonlighting as a playwright, or as one or another of a couple of extraordinarily privileged aristocrats, who, for some reason (which varies according to their proponents), could never reveal their involvement in such a lower-class pastime as the theatre. It is true that we don't know very much detail about Shakespeare's life, or his theatre, and therefore what he expressed as his intentions." But, it turns out, there is quite a lot we do know... The Guardian (UK) 09/25/05

Enough With The Shakespeare Already! Why the ongoing obsession with Shakespeare? His presence runs through every new theatre season. "Is it audiences that clamour for such well-worn tales or the powers that be? Are Mr Darcy, Anne Boleyn and Macbeth so much more interesting than what's going on today? In this turbulent time of war and money, of natural disasters and manmade destruction, are our contemporary stories so dull, so unfabulous, so irrelevant?" The Guardian (UK) 09/25/05

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Disney Does Stage Tarzan "Last week, in front of hundreds of group-sales executives, Disney unveiled plans for a $10 million (at least) stage version of its animated movie "Tarzan" that will open at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in May. Usually at these events, the sales people are treated to a few musical numbers, and, if you sneak into the theater, you can get a pretty good idea of whether the show's going to be a stinker or a hit. But "Tarzan" isn't even in rehearsal yet, so Tom Schumacher, the popular head of Disney's theater division, hosted what amounted to an informal chat show that might have been called Tom and Friends." New York Post 09/21/05

The Clairvoyant Kushner Tony Kushner has a knack for being ready with a play that fits the time. "Six years ago, he began writing a play about a remote Central Asian nation; by the time Homebody/Kabul opened in December 2001, the United States was fighting a war there. Now, amid the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, his 2003 musical Caroline, or Change seems even more eerily prescient. 'There ain’t no under ground in Louisiana,' run its newly harrowing opening lines. 'There is only under water'.” New York Magazine 09/19/05

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Needed: Rules For Child Actors New laws are needed in the UK to limit the hours that child actors work. "The old law stipulated a maximum of 80 days' paid work a year for performers under the age of 17, 40 days if they were under 13. Since 2000, however, the limit has been abolished, leaving the period to the discretion of each child's local educational authority." The Telegraph (UK) 09/21/05

Shakespeare, The Modern Subversive "Subversive theatre in the Arab world? Try Shakespeare. "Hidden within everything that is sometimes construed as tame, inoffensive and establishment about the Bard to the modern western sensibility lies - to the Arab theatre practitioner - a heaving underworld of illicit meanings, transgressive actions and contentious critique." The Guardian (UK) 09/22/05

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Connecticut Town Tries To Revive A Classic Theatre The town of Stratford, Connecticut is trying to revive the venerable American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Conn. in "a long-range, $50 million redevelopment plan intended to turn it into a 'prominent player in American drama and the entertainment industry.' The theatre fell on tough financial times during the late '60s and early '70s due to a slowdown in the economy and the loss of some key financial supporters. [It] struggled along into the 1980s, but when hoped-for success failed to follow 'Othello' in 1981, the theatre closed." Backstage 09/20/05

John Denver, The Musical? Oh God No! The show's getting a pre-Broadway tryout in San Francisco, and "it's the latest of the Broadway-bound popsicals, those songbook musicals that have been popping up like mushrooms all over the musical theater form." So how's it play? "Well, it's one John Denver tune after another, sung by a cast of six. Diehard Denver fans will miss his uniquely insistent timbre; some may be upset at the ways orchestrator Jeff Waxman has reframed old favorites. Those who consider Denver's voice akin to fingernails on a blackboard will be relieved by the variety of tones and tempos. But it's hard to see why they'd want to attend." San Francisco Chronicle 09/20/05

Sunday, September 18, 2005

August Wilson's Last Play August Wilson's spirit looms large in all of his works, but never more so than in this production at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. "Radio Golf," which examines the price of success for blacks in the '90s, is the long-awaited finale of his 10-part dramatic cycle about African American life. The project, which took nearly a quarter-century to complete, is seen as both a masterwork of the theater and a treasure of American social history. Celebration of the cycle's completion has been tempered by last month's announcement that the 60-year-old writer is battling liver cancer." Los Angeles Times 09/16/05

Lennon's Short & Winding Road Dead-Ends To the surprise of absolutely no one in the New York theatre scene, Lennon, the biographical musical focused on the enigmatic Beatle, is closing only a few weeks into its run. The production had been plagued by problems from the start, and a media report shortly before opening night suggested that the producers and cast were at their wits' end in dealing with Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. The Guardian (UK) 09/17/05

Reverse Course It used to be that America's East Coast-based stage actors toiled at their craft for little money and less recognition in the vague hope that their efforts would eventually earn them a trip to Hollywood, there to become true stars making real money. These days, the march of the actors seems to be going in the exact opposite direction, as many of Hollywood's biggest names beat a path to New York to "legitimize" themselves on Broadway stages. The Observer (UK) 09/18/05

Friday, September 16, 2005

Clear Channel To Get Out Of The Theatre Biz When media giant Clear Channel got into the live theatre business several years back, many in the business feared that the corporate monolith would shortly rule Broadway. But it hasn't worked out that way - Clear Channel's stock has been plummeting as its name has become synonymous with bullying tactics and monopolistic business practices - and this week, the company will announce plans to spin off its live entertainment unit. "The general view is that while the spinoff company (as yet unamed) will still have plenty of clout in the touring business (it still controls all those theaters), its presence and influence on Broadway will be greatly diminished." New York Post 09/16/05

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sheffield's Man On A Mission London's Sheffield Theatres has a new artistic director, and while Samuel West is best known for his boyish good looks and serious acting chops, but it may be his fierce commitment to cutting-edge interpretation of classic theatre, as well as his leftist politics, that speak the loudest in his new career. "Even if we're unlikely to see West in the pages of Hello magazine, he is self-evidently a man with a mission: a Botticelli cherub with balls." The Guardian (UK) 09/16/05

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Protests Over Play that Hasn't Opened Yet "A new play by Howard Brenton, author of the notorious work The Romans in Britain, has prompted 200 letters of complaint even before it is unveiled at the National Theatre later this month." The Guardian (UK) 09/14/05

Stars Pay Off For West End Theatre Hiring Broadway stars for London's West End seems to be a strategy that works big-time at the box office, says online ticket retailer latsminute.com. "Ticket purchases on the site have tripled in the last year, it said. 'Going to the theatre has become the in thing to do this year, according to our sales figures'." BBC 09/14/05

Monday, September 12, 2005

What Happened To Women In British Theatre? "At present, women artistic directors are less well represented in British theatres than at any point in the past 20 years. Moreover, last year there were 218 new plays staged in Britain - only 38 by women. In the light of these statistics, did women's companies make a difference?" The Guardian (UK) 09/10/05

Shakespeare How We Originally Heard It London's Globe Theatre is staging Shakespeare in its original pronunciation. "All this has a certain fascination, and, as “Troilus and Cressida” unfolds, the rolled “r”s, the elided pronouns, and the longer, tenser vowels give the audience a frisson of extra drama. The earthy regional sounds ruffle the familiar strut of Shakespeare’s eloquence and root the language more in the belly than in the larynx. As the antique idiom washes over the mostly roofless auditorium, the audience struggles to suss out the odd bouquet of sound, savoring the hints of Irish, Yorkshire, and Welsh, each with its own verbal spice.
Still, sound must also serve sense."
The New Yorker 09/12/05

Bee-ing Profitable "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" becomes the first show of the 2004-05 season on Broadway to become profitable. The show's producer said on Friday that he had returned his show's $3.5 million capitalization 18 weeks after opening on Broadway, a remarkably quick return for a new musical. For David Stone, who is also a producer of the hit musical "Wicked," the success of "Spelling Bee" is a testament to the power of word of mouth." The New York Times 09/12/05

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mike Leigh's New Play Opens "The preview of Two Thousand Years, Leigh's first foray into theatre for 12 years, was enthusiastically received at the National Theatre on Saturday night. With all 16,000 tickets for the entire 20-week run of the mystery play sold out, queues formed at 6am for 30 extra tickets. The play zipped across the political terrain of Israel, Iraq, withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and even the floods in New Orleans, as Leigh, 62, perhaps proved why the first performance was suddenly postponed last Thursday: it was clear the author of Abigail's Party and Secrets & Lies was still writing it." The Guardian (UK) 09/12/05

Wynn: Vegas Is The New Broadway Steve Wynn is out to make Las Vegas a theatre capital. He says he can envision a not-too-distant future in which Broadway-type musicals are nurtured in Vegas. "I see money and creativity gravitating here because of our importance and the possibility of a payoff. For a show to open here and then go to Broadway will someday seem like the most natural thing in the world." Los Angeles Times 09/11/05

Friday, September 9, 2005

One Singular Sensation Without A Home The glut of shows looking for homes on Broadway has gotten so bad that an $8 million revival of one of the Great White Way's biggest smash hits ever has been reduced to begging for performance space. A Chorus Line, which ran on Broadway for 15 years, is slated to open in fall 2006, but it hasn't even been able to get signed as a backup booking. In addition to the booking jam, "there is also the question of just how well A Chorus Line has held up over the years and whether audiences will flock to see a revival of a show that hasn't been gone all that long (it closed in 1990)." New York Post 09/09/05

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Shakespeare In Afghanistan Shakespeare's Love's Labor Lost is being performed in Kabul. "The William Shakespeare play is one of the first to be staged in the country since the fall of the Taleban in 2001. Theatre is much more popular than television. But during the Taleban's time it wasn't allowed." BBC 09/09/05

Altman, 80, Makes London Stage Debut Film director Robert Altman is making his London directing debut. "Altman, who turned 80 this year, will tackle one of the last plays written by Arthur Miller, Resurrection Blues, which he was rewriting in the months before his death in February. The director of Gosford Park and Short Cuts knew Miller as a friend and wanted to bring the production to London, a wish expressed by the late playwright himself." The Guardian (UK) 09/09/05

  • Are Directors London's Latest Hollywood Obsession? "Hollywood actors come over to the West End all the time, of course, attracted by a relatively short run, all-expenses-paid accommodation in a top hotel or apartment, bags of prestige - and they've often got a good deal of theatre experience to draw upon anyway. But will a Hollywood director find it quite the same congenial experience?" The Guardian (UK) 09/09/05

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Nobel's Play Is No Prizewinner A Stockholm theatre is preparing to raise the curtain on a long-forgotten play by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The patron of the Nobel Institute and its world-renowned prizes, Nobel was also an amateur poet, and penned his only dramatic work, Nemesis, in 1896, shortly before his death. Everyone involved in the production seems to agree that it is far from a good play (it mainly deals with torture, rape, incest, and Satan, and was condemned as blasphemous by the Swedish clergy shortly after its publication,) but the staging is being presented as a historical curiosity showing a different side of a revered figure in Sweden's history. The Guardian (UK) 09/08/05

New Mike Leigh Play Delayed In London "Tonight should see the unveiling of perhaps the most breathlessly awaited - and mysterious - theatrical event of the year. But, it turns out, audiences are going to have to wait another two nights to see the new play by Mike Leigh at [London's] National Theatre - because the dramatist and film-maker has yet to finish it." The show's initial run has been sold out for weeks, even though virtually nothing is known about the plot. (Even the title was only unveiled late last week.) "The play will be Leigh's first since 1993, and his first creative outing since the success of the film Vera Drake, which won the Golden Lion at last year's Venice film festival. His best-loved drama is 1977's Abigail's Party." The Guardian (UK) 09/08/05

Archiving American Theatre (Even The Non-New York Kind) "The purpose of The Best Plays Theater Yearbook series, founded by Burns Mantle, has been to create an 'armchair view' of the theatrical season. The challenge of the series has been to capture that ephemeral, elusive moment of connection between playwright, design team, actors and audience. The series now numbers some eighty-five volumes, having captured almost a century in American Theatre and in so doing, provided an encapsulated view of eighty-five years of American History through the eyes of its dramatists... The series has also expanded its reach to cover not only the theatrical world of New York, but around the entire country." Talkin' Broadway 09/05

Carping Before The Shows Even Open The new Broadway season is almost upon us, so how are New York's infamous theatre critics viewing the crop of hot new shows about to descend on the Big Apple? Well, as you might expect, they're hot for Chita Rivera, tired of Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, and just generally bitchy as all get-out... New York Post 09/07/05

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Direct This: Directors Pick Their Favorites We all have favorite artists, favorite composers, favorite writers. Some directors have favorite playwrights they delve into. What are the attractions? The Guardian (UK) 09/05/05

Monday, September 5, 2005

The West End's Hollywood Daze A Hollywood reputation has become one of the quickest ways to land a place on the British stage. "Over the past five years, London, especially during the tourist-rich summer months, has become the home to a new kind of production which could very easily be perceived as a hipper, higher-priced form of dinner theatre. Here's the formula for this commercial cocktail: Add a dash of reasonably high-profile celebrity in a smallish cast play for a limited run. Shake well to generate maximum publicity. Pray the critics don't chill it too thoroughly. Serve to an eager public." Toronto Star 09/05/05

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Ave. Q - Twice A Night On The Strip Avenue Q is about to open in its permanent home in Las Vegas. "While the theater, stage and puppets will probably impress, the show's success rests on the two Las Vegas casts that will perform twice a night, five days a week. Finding the right mix of actors who can dance, sing and work the puppets was an enormous challenge. It took a nationwide casting search more than a year to complete both companies." Backstage 09/04/05

A Pulitzer Finalist Gets Some Traction Sarah Ruhl's play "The Clean House," a comedy "about house cleaning and mortality," hasn't been seen yet in New York, but it's already been "(ahem) sweeping the country. Companies from coast to coast and beyond are putting this 2005 Pulitzer finalist on the boards, with the play's New York debut at Lincoln Center still a full year away." Washington Post 09/04/05

Friday, September 2, 2005

Broadway Theatre To Be Renamed For August Wilson Broadway's Jujamcyn theatre group says it will "change the name of the Virginia Theater, at 245 West 52nd Street, to the August Wilson Theater. The new marquee, with a giant neon sign bearing the writer's signature, is to be unveiled on Oct. 17. Mr. Wilson, 60, will be the first African-American for whom a Broadway theater is named. He will take his place beside such theatrical figures as the playwright Eugene O'Neill, the composer George Gershwin and the actress Helen Hayes." The New York Times 09/02/05

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