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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Giles Worsley: A Golden Age Of Children's Theatre "We are entering a golden age of children's theatre. The impulse that has piled bookshops with brilliant novels for children, and packed cinemas with well-made, enticing movies, has swept across Britain's stages, filling them with more varied and attractive shows for young people than I can ever remember seeing there before." The Telegraph (UK) 11/30/05

Cleveland Public Looks To Alt-Theatre For Its New Chief Cleveland Public Theatre has tapped experimental theatre artist Raymond Bobgan to be its next artistic director, beginning next April. Bobgan is only 38, but has been the No. 2 administrator at the city's leading alternative theatre troupe for several years. He succeeds Randy Rollison, who resigned earlier this month. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 11/30/05

Wanna Rescue Your Broadway Show? Make A Lousy Movie. The movie version of the long-running theatrical hit, Rent, is not pulling much business by Hollywood standards, but the opening appears to have given a boost to the staged original, which last week had its best sales week ever. "The same thing happened last year with The Phantom of the Opera. The movie, which cost about $100 million to make, grossed just $150 million worldwide. But it lifted the fortunes of the Broadway show... As more and more stage shows are being adapted for the silver screen, theater producers are discovering that even if the movie isn't very good, the stage production benefits. The spike in ticket sales registers as soon as the trailer for the movie starts playing in theaters." New York Post 11/30/05

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Commercial Theatre Sweeps West End Theatre Awards "From Billy Elliot, winner in the best musical category, to Harriet Walter, winner of best actress for her role as Elizabeth I in Schiller's play Mary Stuart at the Donmar Warehouse, commercial theatre accounted for 18 nominations and all six of the major category wins at the ceremony at the Savoy Hotel in London." Non-commercial theatre, and the National Theatre in particular, were shut out. The Guardian (UK) 11/29/05

In Chicago: Rockettes And A Computer In New York, the idea of the Rockettes dancing to fake music hurts your teeth. But in Chicago? "Here in the Midwest, the leggy chorus line always has danced to a computer. The music was fake when this show first came to the Rosemont Theatre. Now it's back after a couple of years. And whadaya know, the music is fake again. The lack of live musicians in a colossal attraction that surely could afford them is an irritation because there's otherwise a lot to recommend this show as a holiday amusement." Chicago Tribune 11/29/05

Monday, November 28, 2005

Billy Elliot Wins The stage version of Billy Elliot won Best Musical at this year's Evening Standard Theatre Awards for London's West End. Brian Friel's The Home Place was named best play, while Michael Grandage took the best director title for Don Carlos. BBC 11/28/05

RSC Makes A Surplus The Royal Shakespeare Company records an operating surplus of £1.7 million for 2004/5. "The company has now more than eliminated the £2.8 million deficit inherited by Michael Boyd when he took over as artistic director in 2003." The Stage (UK) 11/25/05

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Who Will Succeed "The Most Powerful Man On Broadway"? Gerald Schoenfeld is by most accounts "the most powerful person in American theater. A round, wryly funny man whose formal manner seems held over from another era, Mr. Schoenfeld is the chairman of the Shubert Organization, the largest Broadway theater chain. He took over sole leadership of the organization in 1996, when Bernard B. Jacobs, its president, died at the age of 80. Now that Mr. Schoenfeld is in his 10th year in that role and his ninth decade on the planet, his succession and what it means for Broadway remains a dominant mystery in an industry famed for its uncertainties." The New York Times 11/27/05

The Long And Purple Road It's taken eight years for "The Color Purple" to get to Broadway. "Along the way, lead producer Scott Sanders had to replace the original playwright and choreographer, recast a pair of major roles, raise $10 million in capital, and revamp the adaptation in time for its Dec. 1 opening." Christian Science Monitor 11/25/05

Changing Values - Is It Right To Exorcise The Offensive? "If we consider it reasonable to apply a modern evaluation of what is offensive or prejudiced to a script written nearly 40 years ago, why is it so complex to apply it to a text written 400 years ago? Should we allow contemporary revivals of Shakespeare and Marlowe to repeat attitudes and language considered acceptable at the time of writing, but untenable now, or should we attempt more culturally sensitive rereadings?
The Observer (UK) 11/27/05

Sunday, November 20, 2005

'Phantom' To Break Longest-Running Record On January 9, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" will become the longest running show in Broadway history. "The performance will be number 7,486 -- surpassing the current champion Cats, which held at 7,485 shows and was also written by Webber." Backstage 11/20/05

'Rent' - From Stage To Screen Taking the Broadway hit to the screen is a tricky thing. "Rent is the eighth-longest-running show in Broadway history, and since 1996 has grossed $460 million from its various North American productions. And Rentheads attending early film screenings are having a go at the movie online, parsing all 2 hours 10 minutes of it, song by song by song." Washington Post 11/20/05

Movin' Out On A High Note "Three years can be a long time in the life of a Broadway musical. Dialogue that once sparkled dims with routine. Performances grow soggy. Cast changes alter the chemistry that once made a show more than the sum of its parts. Even musicals forced into retirement well before a third anniversary can look prematurely aged by the time the last curtain falls. But as it approaches the end of its run on Dec. 11, after more than three years on Broadway, the Twyla Tharp-Billy Joel musical Movin' Out is an improved model of the sleek, speeding convertible that vroomed onto the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theater in the fall of 2002, to become the most accomplished and most rewarding of the back-catalog musicals that have been washing up on New York stages like so much gaudy flotsam since the Abba gold mine Mamma Mia!" The New York Times 11/20/05

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Challenges Of NY's Non-Profit Theatres "The overarching challenge facing New York City's not-for-profit theatres is the fact that available funding from government and institutional sectors has failed to keep pace with the incredible explosion of not-for-profit companies," Louloudes stated. "This is a national problem, and the reasons behind it are far more complex than can be presented in a three-minute testimony."
Backstage 11/17/05

Radio City Makes Deal With Musicians Radio City Music Hall has reached a deal with musicians for the Rockettes Christmas Show. "The parties had been working with a mediator to try to resolve the conflict, which came to a head Nov. 2 when the musicians went on strike and two preseason shows were canceled. Since then, the show has gone on with recorded music." Yahoo! (AP) 11/17/05

It Can't Really Be Any Less Legit Than Cats, Can It? An effort to build a permanent home in New York City for the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil has stalled after opponents objected to the location and questioned whether the project was an appropriate use for civic money designed to prop up struggling local companies. One state assemblyman went so far as to declare that Cirque, which puts on shows around the world, is not 'legitimate' theatre. Organizers "originally planned to [build] a classical music center that would have been overseen by the Orchestra of St. Luke's. But the developer instead decided to create space for House of Blues, a large nightclub and music hall. When that proposal ran into opposition at the City Planning Department and Community Board 4, [planners] turned to the idea of Cirque." The New York Times 11/17/05

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Best Of Southern Cal Theatre The Ovation Awards honor Southern California theatre, and this year's honors were bestowed Monday. With 24 nominations, Center Theatre Group, encompassing the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre, led the pack when the nominees were announced in September. In the end, CTG took only five awards, including best world premiere play for Jon Robin Baitz's "The Paris Letter" and best play in a larger theater for Edward Albee's "The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?" Los Angeles Times 11/16/05

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

BBC Shakespeare Audience Plummets "The updating of the classic play, which saw Macbeth become a top chef, was seen by 3.4m viewers, down 1.2m on the previous week's Much Ado about Nothing. Coronation Street and drama Walk Away and I Stumble, which were shown on ITV1 against the drama, got 11.4m and 7.9m viewers respectively. The BBC has made four dramas for the series celebrating Shakespeare's life." BBC 11/15/05

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mary Poppins Coming To Broadway "The show, which will continue its record-breaking run at the Prince Edward Theatre in the West End, is based on the PL Travers series of books, and the 1964 film. In London, it was recently nominated for three Evening Standard Awards, for best musical, best director and best design. The musical will begin performances at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre on October 14, 2006, with an opening date of November 16." The Stage 11/14/05

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Three Small DC Theatres That Rock Three small Washington DC theatres are making names for themselves. "What distinguishes Catalyst, Rorschach and Theater Alliance from the dozens of other upstart troupes is not only a certain consistency but also the sense that these three companies have broken through. In the choice of projects -- whether an experimental twist on a classic, a resurrection of an obscure, centuries-old play or the first American presentation of a modern work by a foreign writer -- there's a level of daring in their offerings. The nerviness of some selections reflects an effort to challenge as well as to entertain." Washington Post 11/13/05

The Virtual Theatre Stage "The Woman in White" is the first Broadway show in which "computer-animated images completely dominate the stage. Projections appear on six, 16½-foot-tall curved gray screens that move around the edge of the stage in a circle. Think of the computer animation in a Pixar movie like "Toy Story," with a more realistic, less cartoonish look. The setting can change instantly: as two characters tour an estate, the actors stay put as the background dissolves from one room to another. Or, the animation can take the audience through a three-dimensional environment, over fields, houses, churches and graveyards." The New York Times 11/13/05

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mamma Worldwide The ABBA compilation musical "Mamma Mia" has become a global phenomenon. There are now "11 productions in six languages around the world. The show has grossed more than $1.4 billion since it opened in London in April, 1999, and some 24 million people have seen it." BusinessWeek 11/11/05

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Chicago Theatre Online The League of Chicago Theatres is launching an online ticket service to serve its 183 members. "The league is considering using software that can capture and massage information about patrons and their theater-going preferences. Such data would be useful for theaters and could guide patrons to other plays they may be partial to, much as Amazon.com does with goods on its Web site." Chicago Tribune 11/10/05

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Guessing What's Ahead In Pittsburgh As Pittsburgh braces for the impact of the touring Radio City Christmas Spectacular to hit local arts groups, arts leaders are discovering that there's just no way to tell in advance what that impact will be. A holiday entertainment glut is a possibility, which might see ticketbuyers shunning the same old Nutcracker performances in favor of the shiny new Rockettes. But the expected 30% spike in winter heating costs could also cause sales slumps all around. In any case, the beleagured Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre doesn't need the new headache. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11/10/05

Ordway In The Black Again St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, which plays host to a range of traveling musicals as well as serving as the home base for Minnesota Opera and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, has balanced its budget for the third year in a row. "For the first time in three years, the center was able to draw funds — about $600,000 — from its endowment... And, buoyed by a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation, the Ordway saw contributions increase by 17 percent over last year. After three years of fiscal discipline and a half-million-dollar bailout from the city of St. Paul, the Ordway seems again ready to look forward." St. Paul Pioneer Press 11/09/05

Chicago Theatres To get Regulatory Break The City of Chicago is creating a new ordinance to ease licensing on theatres. "The new rules will cut much of the red tape associated with current applications for Public Place of Amusement licenses, whose guidelines would continue to govern larger theaters. "This will make it a lot less cumbersome for theaters to go through the licensing process. It is just much more sensible and user-friendly to look at small spaces in a different way from movie theaters, bowling alleys and nightclubs." In November 2003, inspectors from the city's Revenue Department abruptly closed down a number of off-Loop theaters and cited them for an array of previously unknown violations. Chicago Sun-Times 11/09/05

Will Buffalo Theatre Lose Its Funding? Buffalo artists are protesting a county funding plan that would cut loose one of the city's cultural biggies - the Studio Arena Theater. "The all-volunteer county Cultural Resources Advisory Board recently came out with that surprise decision. The plan offered by the committee - which after due deliberation makes recommendations on how much and who gets funds the county sets aside for cultural organizations - is for the $3.5 million tucked away for "the culturals" to be distributed among five prime institutions, instead of six that included Studio, which was the case in 2005." Buffalo News 11/09/05

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Juilliard Drama Icon To Step Down The Juilliard School's director of drama is stepping down to devote himself full-time to his other job, as head of the Washington, D.C.-based Shakespeare Theatre Company. The company is preparing to open a new 776-seat theatre in Washington, and Michael Kahn felt he could no longer juggle both jobs. "He has taught at Juilliard since 1968 and run the drama division since 1992... The list of actors Kahn has helped train includes Val Kilmer, Laura Linney, Frances Conroy, Mandy Patinkin, Patti LuPone, Christine Baranski, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Bradley Whitford and on and on." Washington Post 11/08/05

Vaulting Ahead Of The Competition, Thanks To Microsoft When a Microsoft research scientist offered the Oregon Shakespeare Festival free software along with his usual cash contribution a few years ago, festival officials jumped at the opportunity to boost their techno-capability. "The festival's technical staff put together a lengthy wish list of software, some of it basic operating system software, some of it more specialized, and far more expensive... New computers were purchased, and a wireless network was built. A small group of programmers at the festival was able to write customized software to cue lights, position scenery, keep track of props and costumes, project synchronized video, sell tickets and administer the database of members." There isn't a single aspect of the festival that hasn't been transformed by the new equipment. The New York Times 11/08/05

Monday, November 7, 2005

Out With The Old... "Scotland's oldest working theatre faces demolition after the trust that runs it submitted plans to build a new theatre complex, including a restaurant and studio. JM Barrie, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel have all trodden the boards at the Dumfries Theatre Royal, which was built from money raised in part by Robert Burns, Scotland's most famous poet. But the trust wants to raze it and build a new theatre." The Guardian (UK) 11/07/05

Going To War With The Critics Composer Joseph Brooks's newest musical, In My Life, has been running on Broadway for three weeks now, and judging from the terrible reviews and lackluster box office it has attracted, you might expect that it would shortly be folding up its tent and disappearing into the ether. But Brooks is apparently quite a determined sort, and he has taken the unique step of mounting a dizzying blitz of advertising designed to counteract the bad press and build buzz for a show which, to this point, has generated none on its own. Is the massive ad buy working? Well, that depends. Ticket sales are undeniably up, but the show is still losing money hand over fist. The New York Times 11/07/05

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Lloyd-Webber Buys Out Theatres Andrew Lloyd-Webber has decided to buy out his partners in owning several West End theatres. "Lloyd-Webber, 57, who co-owned the West End venues, has agreed to buy out his partners, equity group Bridgepoint, for an undisclosed sum. He immediately announced a £10m refurbishment programme for the buildings over the next five years." BBC 11/06/05

British Theatre In Sound The British Library has compiled a specatular trove of recordings of some of England's most important theatrical performances. "Encompassing stagings by all of the RSC's artistic directors to date, the track listings read like a roll-call of acting luminaries." The Telegraph (UK) 11/06/05

Radio City Exec Scuttled Deal With Apology Demand, Musicians Claim The striking (or locked out, depending on whom you ask) musicians at New York's Radio City Music Hall have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, saying that the musicians actually accepted the terms of a new contract on Friday, hours after the strike began, but that the head of Radio City's ownership group refused to implement the deal unless the union placed a newspaper ad saying that it had lied in its press statements leading up to the strike. Radio City isn't commenting directly on the charge, but it has issued a hotly worded statement blasting the musicians' union. Radio City's famous Christmas Spectacular performances have been continuing with recorded music in place of the 35-piece orchestra. The New York Times 11/05/05

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Where Is The UK's Cutting-Edge Theatre? Plymouth, that's where, as increasingly the Theatre Royal pushes the envelope. "Plymouth may be geographically isolated, but London theatre gets stuck in its own cultural ghettoes. Because we are not metropolitan and fashionable, we have to look very hard at what we can give artists, and one of the things we can offer and develop is a collaborative rather than a competitive culture. I think one of the reasons that writers and companies keep coming back is because we actually talk to them, discuss what they want and how we can help them do it. It is not about the vanity of creating the next big thing but about creating a culture where people can thrive." The Guardian (UK) 11/03/05

Strike Over, Radio City Locks Out Musicians A day after musicians went on strike against Radio City Music Hall, they decided to go back to work. But they were locked out as management replaced them with recorded music. "The musicians, their instruments in hand, pulled down their picket line and returned to work Thursday morning after a one-day strike. But they wound up stranded outside Radio City as thousands of ticket-holders streamed past to attend the first show of the season." Backstage 11/03/05

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

August Wilson On Writing A Play "Once you get the first scene done (or it might be the fourth scene in the play), then you can sort of begin to see other possibilities. Just like working in collages, you shift it around and organize it: This doesn't go here; that speech doesn't really belong to that person, it belongs to this person. So, very much like Romare Bearden, you move your stuff around on the pages until you have a composition that satisfies you, that expresses the idea of something and then—bingo—you have a play." American Theatre 11/05

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