Coming off the heels of the flop that was Banana Shpeel, which ran just over a month at the Beacon Theatre last year, the Cirque du Soleil company would not want to see the performers of their highly-anticipated new production flopping on safety nets. Yet that is what happened at a press preview Tuesday at Radio City Music Hall for the new show Zarkana. Four times, performers in the acrobatic-heavy show fell off their trapeze and onto the net below.
“We all have bad days,” Zarkana’s creative director Line Tremblay said when she took the stage for a set of scheduled announcements from the Cirque du Soleil creative team. Tremblay appeared visibly embarrassed by the four falls, but writer/director Francois Girard followed her more confidently. “A few drops in the net is not going to stop us from showing you the best trapeze act,” Girard said.
The production still has some time to tighten its act—previews begin June 9 with the show set to open June 29. It is scheduled to run through October 8.
Aside from the four tumbles, which created a palpable awkwardness in the bowels of Radio City’s house, the sneak preview pf Cirque du Soleil’s newest creation was mildly exciting. When they weren’t falling, the acrobats made my stomach churn with their great leaps high above the stage. (It did no favors to my tummy, however, when they fell.) Read more
Douglas Hodge can’t get enough of New York. And why shouldn’t he? Last April, the Brit made his Broadway debut as Albin in La Cage aux Folles and ran away with a Tony for the role two months later. Last month, Hodge played his final performance in the show, and after a short return to the UK, he’s back in New York and making his cabaret debut at Café Carlyle. In his opening performance Tuesday night, Hodge burned his way through 17 songs in an hour of blues, folk, and musical theater.
Hodge’s English accent melted away during his opening number of Frank Sinatra’s “The Best Is Yet To Come,” sounding surprisingly like Ol’ Blue Eyes. He excellently merged the Sinatra standard with “The Best of Times” from La Cage, the two songs sounding as if they were meant to be together. Hodge then jubilantly welcomed the audience and introduced his band saying, “Tonight, we’re going to play as we’ve never played before… together.”
Before beginning his next song, Hodge spoke about his last gig—La Cage—and returning home for a short vacation. “I just returned from England, where some people still remember me as a man,” Hodge quipped. He then took to the piano and sang Stevie Wonder’s “All In Love Is Fair” with great soul. Read more
Comedians have been making their way to Broadway recently, with Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo and Dane Cook in Fat Pig this season. Even Saturday Night Live alumni like Will Ferrell and Chris Rock have made their debuts—Rock in this season’s The Motherf**ker With The Hat. Soon, another SNL name could be seen on a Broadway marquee, but as the play’s subject rather than as a cast member—the late Chris Farley.
A reading of the new play The Fatman Cometh: The Life and Death of Chris Farley held an industry reading on February 28 at The Players Theatre. The play, which is a work in progress, depicts conversations between Farley and his manager in his dressing room at SNL during his final months as a cast member.
The play, which ran approximately for an hour, needs to be fleshed out, but there is potential to find an audience among nostalgic comedy fans and fervent Farley followers. The play is funny, which is a necessary factor, given Farley’s outrageous humor. Alan Pagano’s portrayal of Farley is a physically accurate performance without being a full-out imitation. The script is peppered with real accounts of Farley’s pranks and public buffoonery (such as sticking his naked behind out of a car window), references to SNL stars Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and John Belushi, and Farley’s cult films. The character of Farley’s fictional manager Kip Kaplan gets lots of punch lines, as he brushes his client off with stereotypical Hollywood cynicism. Read more
Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Angels In America, can’t seem to get enough of director Michael Greif. Or is it vice versa? The two paired for the revival of Angels, still playing at the Signature Theatre, and are now in rehearsals for the New York debut of Kushner’s latest play—are you ready for it?—The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. Beginning performances March 22 at the Public Theater, the play is a family drama using the themes of labor unions, relationships, and death.
Kushner, Greif, and cast members Steven Pasquale, Michael Esper, and Linda Emond sat down with Stage Rush to talk about long titles, supposed crank phone calls from Kushner, and the challenges of his work.
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Are you a fan of Kushner’s, Rushers? Will you be seeing Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide? Did you enjoy Pasquale’s story of the surprise phone call from Kushner? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! And if you can’t get enough of these guys, Greif, Pasquale, and Esper will be appearing in Friday’s episode of Stage Rush TV!
Kathryn Stockett does not want her best-selling novel The Help to be adapted for Broadway. She shot down the notion during a post-show talkback at Driving Miss Daisy Wednesday night, citing playwright Alfred Uhry’s talents as a reason. “He knows how to say a lot in very few words, and I don’t. I would hate to be the one to write that adaptation,” Stockett said, noting the thickness of her novel. CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller, who served as moderator, asked Stockett if she would like to see The Help on Broadway if she wasn’t charged with adapting it. Stockett wittingly replied, “I don’t think so. I’m a little tired of the story.”
The Jackson, Mississippi native cited Uhry’s play as inspiration for her massively successful debut novel about the relationships between Southern black maids and their white employers during the Civil Rights Movement. “When I went backstage, James Earl Jones asked me if I copied the dialect [for The Help] and I said, ‘I sure did,’” Stockett said. “Uhry has an amazing way of capturing the turn of a word on paper. Writing it out the way it sounds in the ear. I absolutely read the play back and forth just to her the musicality of the dialogue.”
Stockett noted that the dialect is crucial in both Daisy and The Help and that she drew from the southern environment where she was raised. Revealing a parallel between The Help and her own life, Stockett said she idolized her family’s housekeeper and tried to mimic her “chocolatey, rich” voice. “I would try to imitate the way she talked and, of course, my parents would get very upset that this little white girl was trying to talk like a black person,” Stocket said. “When I was 30 and wanted to put those voices on the page [for The Help], of course I felt very conflicted, like I was doing something wrong. All those voices from my parents were coming back to me.”
Despite drastically changed social landscapes in other parts of the country, Stockett said she witnessed racism growing up in 1980s Mississippi. “I wrote a book that takes place in the 60s. People ask me how I knew what it was like then if I wasn’t born yet. And you know, I’m not that old. I tell them that not that much had changed in Mississippi by 1980. It’s very slow moving there and I think it’s still going on a lot.”
Because of her Southern upbringing, Daisy’s themes struck a chord with Stockett. “The play reminded me of all the intimate conversations that were going on in America during the past hundred years that people don’t talk about,” Stockett said. “These close-knit conversations that went on in kitchens and in homes around America. But this play really reminded me of the friendships that my family had that no one really pointed out. Just like Hoke says, he didn’t want to be seen as someone that crossed over that line. It was a nice trip back in time for me.”
The film version of The Help is set for an August release. Stockett spilled few details on the movie. She has seen it (she says it’s “beautiful”), and says it is currently in the sound mixing stage. The director, Tate Taylor, is a childhood friend whom Stockett handed over the film rights to, even though he had never made a movie. She sited her own repeated rejections and subsequent success as the reason for her trust. “I got 60-plus rejections for The Help—letter after letter telling me everything from, ‘This will never work,’ to, ‘Please, don’t write us again,’” Stockett said. She said Taylor experienced the same closed doors while shopping the film version, until one surprising moment. “One day, he got a phone call and it was Steven Spielberg. He said, ‘Let’s make a movie.’”
Produced by DreamWorks Pictures, the cast includes Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and Cicely Tyson. After gushing about her impressive cast, Stockett deadpanned, “I didn’t get a part.”
Do you see the parallels between Driving Miss Daisy and The Help, Rushers? What did you think about what Kathryn Stockett had to say about the play and writing a novel about Southern racism? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
The latest installment of the At This Performance concert series brought big laughs Sunday night. The concert that gives Broadway understudies and standbys the spotlight saw performers choosing hilarious song selections and telling stories of their careers that had the audience in stitches. Producing artistic director and host of the concert series Stephen DeAngelis noted the importance of understudies in theater, acknowledging their future star power. Speaking of what Broadway would be like without these actors, DeAngelis said, “They’d be dying Snooki green and putting a broom in her hand.”
The night kicked off with At This Performance’s youngest performer ever—11-year-old Logan Rowland from The Addams Family. He sang Pugsley’s solo “What If” with polish and confidence while his parents video taped and took pictures from the audience. Rowland told the story of his first time going on in the role—co-star Nathan Lane made an announcement to the audience during the show’s curtain call that they had just witnessed his Broadway debut. Rowland’s Addams co-stars Mo Brady and Lisa M. Karlin duetted with “Crazier Than You,” but didn’t live up to the chemistry displayed by Colin Cunliffe and Jessica Lea Patty when they sang the song last October.
Brady’s solo follow-up song was a song called “I Won’t Have To Anymore.” Easily the night’s most emotional performance, Brady sang the story of a young man preparing to flee the home of his verbally and physically abusive father. Showing great emotional depth and vocal range, Brady’s performance was among the night’s most memorable.
Video: The Addams Family‘s Mo Brady sings “I Won’t Have To Anymore”
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It was an evening that would make any performer green. Tony winner Idina Menzel, famed for her emerald-skinned turn as Elphaba in Wicked, made her New York Philharmonic debut Saturday night at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Yet in an environment of elegance and sophistication, Menzel was geeking out over her conductor. Well, in her defense, the conductor was Marvin Hamlisch.
The EGOT winner (30 Rock-speak for someone who has won all four Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards) and composer of A Chorus Line and many Barbra Streisand standards was on the receiving end of many gushings from Menzel throughout the concert. At one point, she asked for permission to climb up onto his conductor’s podium so that she may kiss him. Hamlisch obliged, and the embrace evoked a collective “Aww” from the sold-out house.
In addition to her songs, which included musical theater classics and selections from Rent and Wicked, Menzel was in great comedic spirit. Taking long breaks between songs, she told stories of her youth (her family’s most requested song of hers was “The Way We Were”), her life with husband Taye Diggs and 17-month-old son Walker (she and Diggs compose original lullabies and argue over who gets to vocally shine), and of her career (singing for Streisand at the Kennedy Center and being upstaged by Beyonce).
Menzel’s comedy was well received by the Lincoln Center audience, which can typically be an upturned-nose crowd. She embodied a jovial attitude that mixed well with her elegance. Menzel took the stage (barefoot) in an elegant and simple white dress with a thin black belt. Her radiance was a reflection of the night—a special achievement in her career. Read more
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- For Facebook Fan Day, Chicago fills the house for free
- Melissa Etheridge joins American Idiot cast for one week only
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Were you at Chicago‘s Facebook Fan Day? Do you think the event was a good idea? Do you think Chita Rivera is as adorable as I do? Did you catch Melissa Etheridge in American Idiot? How do you think she did? Leave your ideas and thoughts in the comments below! Tune in next week to a very special 50th-episode of Stage Rush TV!
John Leguizamo just can’t stop talking about himself. The outrageous actor is returning to Broadway in February in his fifth one-man show. Yet unlike his outings in Spic-O-Rama and Sexaholix, his new Ghetto Klown piece will turn the focus from his family and Queens upbringing to the famous Hollywood stars he’s worked with. Impersonations of Robert De Niro and Harrison Ford will provide what Leguizamo promises to be a no-holds-barred look into the goings on of the movie star world.
At a press conference last week for Ghetto Klown, Leguizamo spoke about contributing to mainstream Latino entertainment, why now is the right time for him to bring the show to Broadway, and what audiences can expect from his fifth solo show. Check out the video below.
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Ghetto Klown begins previews February 21 at the Lyceum Theatre. Are you excited for Leguizamo’s new show, Rushers? What’s your favorite movie or role he’s performed in? Tune into Stage Rush TV this Friday to see what Leguizamo has to say about his past films: Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, and Spawn.