The Playgoer: June 2011

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why Sutton Foster Thanked her Dresser

NYT's Erik Piepenburg takes us backstage to the world of the "Star Dresser":

Depending on the size of the cast, a Broadway show can have anywhere from one to as many as 15 dressers, whose daily tasks — ironing costumes, sewing hems, repairing shoes — can take place in and around the dressing room up to 90 minutes before curtain time. Star dressers are usually assigned to oversee the costumes for one actor. (They may also dress stars for appearances in public or on television.) The typical weekly salary for a Broadway dresser ranges from $1,100 to $1,400 a week, depending on the amount of work, and all Broadway dressers are members of the Theatrical Wardrobe Union.

Once the actor is in costume, dressers “run” a show, meaning that they’re backstage to help actors quickly change costumes during the performance. In “Anything Goes” Mr. Havard greets Ms. Foster when she exits the stage and escorts her to her entrances to help her execute all 11 of her costume changes. He carries lozenges, throat sprays, water and other remedies that Ms. Foster, a big-throated tap machine, may need. 
Patti LuPone puts it best: "It’s like a pit crew for a Nascar race. I’m the driver; they’re the pit crew."

Photo of the Day

Kevin Spacey as Richard III, directed by Sam Mendes, now playing at London's Old Vic.

Part of the final season of Mendes' trans-Atlantic "Bridge Project," the production will come to BAM in NYC in January 2012.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The past decade may be noted in future theatre histories as the period video projection went mainstream in stage design. Theatermania's Solange de Santis profiles its use in current hits The Normal Heart and War Horse on Broadway.

Whatever the marvels and/or annoyances of projection are aesthetically, let's not understate the economic factor in the technology's rise. As physical scenery has become an increasingly expensive liability (especially when touring) we have already seen lighting and sound become more and more sophisticated in creating virtual "scenery" by suggestion. (The rise of innovative lighting and sound design in low-budget theatre is an untold success story.) These advances in digital imaging only bring the theatre's potential for "virtual reality" even closer.

I personally have been dazzled by truly creative video design recently in War Horse, All My Sons, 33 Variations, and the London Coast of Utopia, to name just a few shows. But good for pioneering designer Wendall Harrington to remind us, "If designers forget that theater is a live, real-time art form, if all we are doing are giving them movies and a constant stream of information, what do we have left? I understand cool and groovy stuff, but when I go to the theater, I want to be penetrated by something."

Below: A look at the surround-style setting of William Dudley's CGI design for the "ThreeSixty" Production of Peter Pan, which premiered in London's Kensington Gardens and is now touring the US. More here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dionysus in '69

Ever wanted to see DePalma's film of Richard Schechner's landmark Dionysus in 69 at the Performing Garage?

Well here it is online!

All 85 minutes. In case you're looking for something to do tonight...

(Dig the "X" rating up front!)

Hat Tip: Sherman

Backstage at the Delacorte

Fun video tour of the Public's Shakespeare in the Park venue, courtesy of the current season's actors, replete with mild Tom Foolery.

Interesting reminder that no matter how high the profile, summer outdoor theatre is always like outdoor theatre everywhere--i.e. you always need bugspray and Gatorade.

UPDATE: Further installments in the series now available at Playbill here and here.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Time Out's Upstaged introduces me to a new video web-series by the HERE folks:

This year HERE is marking the second season of its terrific online documentary series MADE HERE. At a time when it's hard enough to get media representation for mainstream arts, MADE HERE is that much more amazing and urgent. Through these attractively shot and edited videos and a useful interactive website, MADE HERE is building a unique record of the best of New York experimental theater. Generations from now, students and other artists will draw on this indispensible archive for inspiration and tips on how to make art and survive in a daunting economy.
BTW, Upstaged just also posted a closing notice, saying Cote & co. will continue some online coverage at the all-purpose Time Out NY blog, but that this separate theatre section will phase out. So another theatre blog bites the dust....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Post-Tony Bump (or not)

Via Playbill, here are the Broadway box office stats for the week following the Tonys (June 13-19) for all shows either awarded, nominated, or seen on the broadcast. (With comparisons to previous week.)

Production            % Cap.     Last Week's %     % Change
Anything Goes      100.7%     100.3%             0.5%
Arcadia                 62.4%       51.7%              10.7%
Baby It's You!       77.6%       75.2%              2.4%
Bengal Tiger…     44.5%        43.2%              1.3%
Billy Elliot             88.9%        87.4%              1.5%
Born Yesterday     44.7%       46.1%             -1.4%
Catch Me…         92.4%       87.6%               4.8%
Ghetto Klown      69.8%        65.2%               4.7%
How to Succeed 100.5%       94.5%              6.0%
Jerusalem             73.1%         76.6%            -3.5%
Memphis             88.4%          83.0%             5.4%
Priscilla               68.2%          59.9%              8.3%
Sister Act            82.2%         80.9%              1.3%
Spider-Man       100.1%         97.4%              2.6%
Book of Mormon 102.6%     102.6%              0.0%
Blue Leaves           66.6%        67.0%            -0.4%
Importance…Earnest 68.4%    65.9%            2.5%
Mother w/ Hat      92.3%       85.4%            6.9%
Normal Heart       99.1%        89.8%           9.3%
People in the Picture 79.3%    57.6%           21.7%
War Horse             100.0%      100.0%            0.0%

Take-away: The Tony Broadcast does not help plays. Except for "The Normal Heart" (big time) and "Motherfucker" (wee bit).

Note "War Horse" (like "Book of Mormon") were already doing boffo pre-Tonys.

But otherwise, without any actual performance on air, even if you have Robin Williams (c.f. "Bengal Tiger"), you might as well stay home.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Arts Funding in Transition

Two interesting readings on the state of government arts funding, at home and abroad.

Sarah Lutman alerts us to potential changes in the charitable giving rules of the Federal Tax Code. To grasp how much this can effect arts orgs, consider this stat she cites: "Households with annual incomes under $100,000 give about one percent of their total donations to the arts, while those over $200,000 give 15 percent to the arts." Wow, no wonder we are dominated by "patrons."

And Michael Kaiser goes across the Atlantic and tells us some of the differences between our NEA and their Department of Culture, Media and Sport. (Nice combination there--almost as good as "Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms." And no two agencies highlight the differences between our two countries more, eh?)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Weekend Reading

-Mark Lawson, in the Guardian, says the war against cell phones and other noisy audience members is lost. Ruefully, I agree.

-Charles McNulty tells how working for years as a professional regional theatre dramaturg was the best possible preparation for a critic. Happily, I agree!

-Riedel offers a decent primer on the last four decades of Broadway history. (A must-read for any budding producers out there.)

And just out from tomorrow's Sunday Times...

-What the big B'way casting agents really think. (One interesting nugget: star casting is just about the raising of the money pre-opening than about ticket sales post-.)

-John Cullum, 81 and still at it: even two plays, eight shows a week, in the Park.

-And just when you thought David Mamet had already jumped the shark politically...have you seen his new book??? One "mugged liberal" reviews another in the Book Review, as Christopher Hitchens takes it on. Thankfully his very first sentence begins: "This is an extraordinarily irritating book..."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quote of the Day

"What an amazing and historic night on Broadway. New York has never seen anything like Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. And I am very proud of them for not giving up, it was fabulous."

- Former President Bill Clinton.

British Invasion: UK Perspective

"There is not a business model that says, 'Have War Horse, exploit War Horse, repeat.'"

- Nick Carr, Executive Director, Royal National Theatre.

Fascinating, and long, piece from Financial Times'

[One] profound change has been the decision of a generation of entrepreneurial managers in the subsidised sector to act more like their commercial peers and to take a leading role in bringing their shows to Broadway. Traditionally, subsidised theatres with a hit would hand it to a commercial producer for a royalty and a share of any profits when the play transferred to the West End or on to Broadway. Now, many are deciding to take the risk themselves, to stay involved both creatively and financially.

War Horse, which opened in London in 2007, has been the most successful production in the National's history, making more than £2.5m a year, a significant level of profit for a subsidised theatre to earn from a show, according to Harbottle & Lewis, the entertainment law firm which advised on its New York transfer. When the Lincoln Center looked to bring the play to New York, the National decided for the first time to stay in as co-producer. Similarly, the Royal Court had never co-produced a Broadway transfer before Jerusalem, and in London is acting as lead producer for the first time on a transfer of Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris's Pulitzer Prize-winning satire on race and class, from its Sloane Square theatre to the West End, raising 60 per cent of the budget from investors.

...Patrick McKenna, chairman of the Young Vic. [says] financial pressures are a spur..."We also have to start thinking about how we're going to create new funding sources as government grants start to slow down. We have to be less dependent on the state."

However, while there's promise of greater return in USD, note how much higher the cost is of producing here:
[F]ar more travels from the UK to the US as London has a huge cost advantage over Broadway. When budgeting for a New York transfer, Friedman explains that she typically converts the British costs into dollars and then multiplies by three to account for higher theatre rents, bigger marketing budgets and tougher demands from unions. In Jerusalem's case, the production that had taken £350,000-£400,000 (about $600,000) to mount in London cost $3.1m in New York. (That is modest compared with War Horse, which cost a reported $6m in New York.)
And War Horse is at a nonprofit here! (Lincoln Center)

Notice, too, how the appeal of certain London transfers lies in that nexus where financial safety meets artistic experimentation and/or unorthodoxy:
US and UK producers stress that British theatre attracts American attention for artistic as well as financial reasons. Arts Council subsidies allow theatres from the Royal Shakespeare Company to the National to test risky new material with few of the pressures felt by a commercial West End theatre that must survive on ticket sales alone. "That means you can experiment, be bold, even be allowed to fail sometimes," says Elliott. "We look for the most interesting choices, not the safest. I can't tell you how liberating that is." Kate Horton, the Royal Court's executive director, is clear about where her priorities lie: "We're not here to produce hits. We're here to push tastes forward," she says. 
I like that phrase "pushing taste forward." (Even if it is partly PR b.s.) But here's the kicker.
Such innovation is welcome in the US where, as Nick Starr, the National's executive director, notes, the philanthropists who help finance productions at many smaller New York theatres may have more dyed-in-the-wool tastes. "Those donors, however brilliant they are in New York, tend to be lagging rather than leading indicators," he says tactfully. 
Oh, snap!  Actually I couldn't agree more. I often feel our nonprofit sector here may be artistically hipper than our Broadway culture (not saying much) but the work they produce often seems so conventional and middlebrow compared to what comes out of their counterparts in the UK.

Then again, keep in mind this is a British article so there is some tooting of their own horn going on...

(And are Jerusalem or War Horse really that risky or edgy?)

Other highlights and nuggets:

- Book of Mormon will play London in 2012.

-Jerusalem will recoup its investment by closing time in August.

-"In uncertain times, says Annette Niemtzow, who produced Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon on Broadway, 'Everyone tries to find as many outlets as possible for what they have. You're constantly measuring what kind of multiple you can create for the play. Can it become a movie? Will it do well in the regionals?'" "Multiples"? Ugh...

-With London box office sluggish and Broadway's booming, might we see their theatres start to cater to our "lagging" tastes a little more...?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tony Afterthoughts

Addendums, Corrections, and Reflections on Sunday night.

-Within the diminished expectations of the show in Television terms, the broadcast itself did surprisingly well--considering it was up against the final game of the NBA finals! Bad enough when it had to compete against the finale of The Sopranos a few years back. I guess that's what inevitably happens when you have to schedule the date so far in advance.

-Reckless of me on the blogcast to assume the big opening number ("It's Not Just for Gays Any More") was commissioned from Shaiman & Wittman. It was actually by Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum (the former of Fountains of Wayne, the latter of The Daily Show, and together, of the short-lived Cry-Baby musical.) I thought it was fab myself to "out," as it were all the nasty thoughts most Americans think about the legit stage. But I gather it rustled some feathers, too. Always a thin line between mocking stereotypes and reinforcing them, I guess. Irony is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

-As for the closing number, the specially composed up-to-the-minute rap was written by Lin Manuel (In the Heights) Miranda. According to Playbill: "While Harris was hosting throughout the night, Miranda watched the ceremony from the basement of the Beacon with In the Heights‘ director Thomas Kail to create the recap and film the experience."

-Yes, Mark Rylance's acceptance speech was once again an unexplained recitation of verse from the same contemporary Minnesota poet  he quoted at his last Tony speech in '08.  One of the most surprising things about this already very weird genius actor is that he was actually raised in Wisconsin for most of his childhood between being born and returning to the UK.

-No word yet on whose box office boosted best post-telecast. But we do know Book of Mormon will be raking in even more bucks than they have since they took the opportunity of their victory to raise the ticket prices! Top orchestra tix are now $155. A first, I think for non-"premium" (and non-holiday spiking) pricing.

-About the broadcast itself: I may be no TV director, but looking at some of the production numbers again, I had to wonder if the CBS team covering this had ever done a live concert-performance before. The cutting was all over the place, tons of important bits were out of frame, dancers' feet were often cut off... Maybe they're from the MTV-style school of camerawork, but they sure could use some lessons from, say, the PBS folks who do ballet, or the master-videographers for NT Live.

-And finally: I've said it before, I'll say it again.  The Tonys are now not really a broadcast of the American Theatre Wing's Antoinette Perry awards for that season's achievements. They are a three-hour infomercial for the Broadway brand. (The bailiwick of ATW's co-producers, the Broadway League.) The most irritating sign of this was the increased marginalization (if that was even possible) of several important award categories by not only not putting them on CBS tv, but not airing them on another station (like NY1) or not even bothering to stream the video to their own website. Maybe it's a contractual/exclusivity issue with CBS, I don't know. But for god's sake, if you can't spare time on a program about theatre excellence to let Athol Fugard get his due, then what good is it. (Not to mention all the designers and the Regional winner, Lookingglass Theatre Company.).... As the Times' Dave Itzikoff live-blogged in response to pointless numbers by Memphis, Company and Spider-Man: " I truly can't understand why they had to shunt half the awards out of the broadcast, yet seem to be scrambling to fill airtime with any musical number they can think up."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tonys 2011: The Playgoer Blogcast

11:05 Another great closing number from NPH like last time he hosted...but will the Tony producers ever tell CBS they're showing slides???

11:02 Who would have thunk it: South Park's Trey Parker was the classiest act of them all. (Shout out to The Prophet Joseph Smith extra credit.)

10:59 How does it make sense to waste so much time during the broadcast so that the really "important" awards (Best Actor/Actress, Best Musical, etc.) have to be so rushed...... And, Chris Rock: a dig at Nathan Lane? Really?... Funny to describe waiting to give the Best Musical award to Book of Mormon as like "taking a prostitute to dinner"... but, man, that would have been awkward if it went another way, wouldn't it?

10:56 Notice how they're saving time by having one presenter present for Best Actor/Actress in both play and musical.

10:53 Wow, a surprise!  Mark Rylance upsets Joe Mantello. Both were truly great. But this does give away B'way's Brit Bias.... But at least we get to hear another wacky Rylance speech.

Oh, during commercial Lighting went to Mormon (musical) and War Horse (play)

10:50 Does anyone know what Paul Schaeffer is doing? Oh, introducing Priscilla. He wrote "It's Raining Men"? That and being on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman will get you on the Tonys.

10:44 Does that jean jacket mean you're in character, Frances McDormand?

10:35 Yay for Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company (home to Mary Zimmerman among others), winner of the Regional Tony.

For a moment, after's James Earl & Vanessa R.'s stately intro, I thought, Ahh Here Are the Plays.... But then we got a ragtag montage (with awful music) of "plays" including, inexplicably Colin Quinn and Pee-wee Herman. What was that?

And now, Broadway's idea of a star: washed up super-model and Billy Joel ex-wife Christie Brinkley? (Just because she's in Chicago right now. Who isn't.)

Now, ok: I balked at the Spider-Man promo. I mocked the Memphis reprise. But what possible justification is there for showcasing the New York Philharmonic concert-presentation of Company? Not only is it not running anymore--it barely ran. And it wasn't even a fully staged production. (And, needless to say, it wasn't in any sense "On Broadway.") Yes, the video of the concert will air in select cinemas next week, but....huh? And they made all those actors--including the under-used Patti LuPone--rehearse again, months later, for this?

You know, CBS, this doesn't have to be a three-hour show.

10:15 During commercial, in the In Case You Care department...War Horse  and Book of Mormon won Best Set Design... (Actually I thought Mormon's set was the least impressive thing about it , but it served the show, I guess..)

10:07 Most compelling political comment of the night: Google buying commercial time on the Tonys for their ad featuring Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" project.

You know, having just reflected on Larry Kramer's speech, I realize now how depressing it is that "shocking" statements advocating gay rights on the Tonys go back to Harvey Firestein in the early 80s (if not earlier). The fact that this is still pushing the envelope is pretty sad.

Unlrelated: A Memphis number? Reallly??? I thought the Spider-Man preview was pushing it (and thank you Commenter Tom Shea for indeed elucidating precedent) but here's a show that already won a Best Musical Tony getting yet another chance--and they use some random school-kids visit to justify it? Weird.

10:00 Omigod: They are pretending the Gurgis play really is called "The Mother with the Hat"--even Cannivale has to say it and that's what CBS shows the title as on screen. (No, not "Mother (Blank)," just "Mother"!).

Big boost to War Horse for NPH to ride "Joey" onto the stage himself. To compete with that, the competitor should at least be able to say "Motherfucker" on the air...

Normal Heart wind Best Play Revival. It truly is electric, see it. (Daryl Roth is even saying thanks to Joel Grey but "now under the leadership of George C. Wolfe.") Larry Kramer impressively concise!  "Our Day Will Come" a nice political jab to complement the more self-effacing opening number.

9:48 Joke of the night does go to the pro: "The only beard in this room is mine"--Robin Williams. (Too bad CBS sounds failed on his Spider-Man joke. Is it just my cheap cable service or is CBS sounds going out all over the place?!?)

Thank you, Whoopi Goldberg for reminding us that Sister Act is only one musical adapted from your movies. (And that Ghost is coming.  Brr.....)

And about those Best Play spots... Is it really more telegenic to watch actors (even actors as entertaining as Mark Rylance) read cue-cards summarizing their plays than to actually watch them perform 30 seconds of the play???

9:35 In case you care(!) they handed out Best Costumes (Musical) to Priscilla and Best Costumes (Play) to Earnest and Best Set (play) to War Horse ... all were handed out during commercial.

9:30 So. 6 minutes devoted to Spider-Man. (Bono & Edge plus number.) A show not only not-nominated, but hasn't even opened yet. Any precedent for this on the Tonys? Also interesting: is this the Broadway Establishment's way of kissing & making up with Spider-Man, and acknowledging that after all the mishigas, it's still the only Broadway show most of the country's hear of? They're clearly investing now on this being The Great White Hit!

9:23 re: the NPH-Hugh Jackman duet... Thank God the Tonys are having fun this year! That's why the tone set by the opening number was so fresh. An improvement... and I credit Neil Patrick Harris.

John La Roquette is very, very good in How to Succeed. A natural stage actor, who knew? Well deserved.

Brooke Shields is going into The Addams Family?...And she just cursed but the sound was out anyway! (or was that preemptive bleeping?)

9:10 Colbert!  Is he introducing Book of Mormon because he's on Comedy Central, or because he's so white.

First, Nikki James' Tony, then Andrew Rannells ' song... you see how what makes The Book of Mormon is not just its hilarious writing, but fantastic, top-of-of-their game performing talent.

By the way, with all the Mormons out there watching this for the first time, this number ("I Believe!") will either stir huge controversy or become completely viral!

Interesting gossip, btw, on how the Mormon folk didn't know what number they could get away with on the broadcast. "Turn it Off" (the tribute to life in the closet) would have been my choice, but I guess Neil Patrick Harris already pushed the gay envelope for the evening....

8:52 Wow, that Scottsboro Boys seems like such an upbeat musical! Why or why didn't it succeed.... Seriously I was just glad they didn't only do the Minstrel number--because whatever side of that controversy you took, you gotta admit, out of context, that doesn't look good... That Joshua Henry is great, though, isn't he?

Mormon directors. Trey Parker finally gets on tv! (and thanks South Park fans?) And I can't believe Casey Nicholaw is a first-time winner. Between Spamalot choreography and the Encores Follies he is the musical comedy director of the moment as far as I'm concerned.

War Horse directors: First, both musical and play have co-directors? a trend? (not to mention Normal Heart). Second, it's true that War Horse is a better production that a play, per se (i.e. to read). But, hey, that's theatre, right? Yay, Royal National Theatre! (It's quite theatrical, believe me.)

8:36 It's official: The Tony-Approved name for Stephen Adly Guirgis's play is "The Mother with the Hat." Yep, those moms love to wear hats!

Catch Me number: Butz is the best, isn't he? Too bad the sound went out for 10 seconds. Is that show any good? Haven't seen it... With this and How to Succeed back to back, though, you realize how male-heavy this season indeed was!  And Priscilla is still to come. We'll get all-women with Sister Act...but they're nuns!  They could have had a number with average, sensual women with Women on the Verge, but no.
8:26 An Equus joke? Man, NPH is out there tonight.... Why is John Leguizamo doing excerpts from his closed stand-up show? Especially if no one told CBS that he's showing slides upstage...I guess he's the warm up comedian. But the show already started!... Oh, I see it's a "Broadway Moment." Ugh, will there be more?

By the way, for those of you outside of NYC, do note that the proceedings tonight may technically be happening on Broadway & 74th st, it's not really happening "On Broadway" (i.e. the theatre district) as NPH claimed.

8:20 "Brotherhood of Man" was indeed the highlight of that show. Was so great in the theatre that I can't help thinking it disappointed on tv, but maybe not. Harry Potter looking pretty good! He's not so terrible on stage--sure he can't really sing, but he gets by on charm. (And tweeny cheers in the audience.)

(BTW: Playgoer's Twitter feed will probably not update each time I post here tonight. But for those Twits out there, I will try to toss out some extras.)

8:12 Dynamite speech by Ellen Barkin. First of probably many shout-outs to Larry Kramer for the night....But notice she only mentioned George Wolfe and not the "co-director" Joel Grey. They've all fessed up now that Wolfe took over after Grey went into Anything Goes. But still, bit awkward...

8:06 Yes, Neil Patrick Harris just said "Sodomy" on the Tony Awards...

They went the Billy Crystal/Oscars route with a parody song--but it was brilliant. Probably written by the same team who wrote Crystal's numbers: Mark Shaiman & Scott Wittman.

Thank god they're embracing their marginalization ("It's not just for gays anymore"). Good for Harris & co. for outing the tension.....But bad idea, maybe to risk audience-stars singing on demand (Brooke Shields)

8:00 And they're off...

Welcome to the 65th Annual Tony Awards. Or, as it's known at CBS: not sweeps week.

The story so far: "Mormon" sweep is underway with not only Book & Score, but Orchestration. Anything Goes' Kathleen Marshall, though, did best Mormon's Casey Nickolaw for choreography.

I think there were others, too, but they haven't been tweeted yet.

By the way, CBS, ATW and Broadway League... you do know that Mormon is written by the South Park guys, right? Well they're famous and they just won a bunch of award, and you didn't put it on television.

7:49 Welcome to the blogcast.  The CBS broadcast of the awards show doesn't start for another 20 minutes. But the awarding is already underway.

For the last decade or so, the Tony peeps have had to hand out a bunch of awards off-air to keep the broadcast at three hours. These minor mentions--oh, you know, musical score, costumes, sets, etc.--have now been patronizingly called "The Creative Arts Awards!"  As if there's nothing creative about the rest of what we'll see.

So right now, in the Beacon Theatre, while there's still time before they're On the Air, Laura Benanti and Katie Finneran are hosting "the Creative Arts Tony Awards, presented by InterContinental Hotels and Resorts." Sponsorship? Bra-Vo, American Theatre Wing & Broadway League.

So, Athol Fugard's acceptance speech for Lifetime Achievement? Not gonna be on tv.

And unlike last year, is not video streaming this. And their twitter feed is far behind. Excuse me for being such a 21st century ADD blogger, but... what is going ON in there???

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tony Season by Krulwich

To get you in the mood for tomorrow night, here's a glimpse at the big Tony nominees, as seen through the super-kinetic and hyper-expressive photography of the Times' Sara Krulwich.

Mark Rylance in Jerusalem
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The Book of Mormon
 Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Lia Williams and Billy Crudup in Arcadia
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

...and can't resist another 
 Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Joe Mantello & co. in The Normal Heart
 Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Mantello with John Benjamin Hickey
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Frances McDormand in Good People.
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Bobby Canivale and Chris Rock in The Motherfucker with the Hat
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

War Horse
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Friday, June 10, 2011

How Much is a Best Musical Tony Worth?

NYT's 538 blog sifts through the historical data:

On average, winners of the Tony for best musical saw their average weekly gross jump 48 percent, from $656,784 in the eight weeks before the ceremony to $972,006 in the eight weeks after. By contrast, the other nominees saw only a 21 percent increase in their weekly gross in the comparable time frames.
Then again:
Of the 11 winners during this period, seven were already hits. 
So are you a hit because of a Tony Award, or do you get a Tony because you're a hit?

Thursday, June 09, 2011


-Patrick Pacheco gives us the inns and outs of how musicals get their numbers on the Tony broadcast without being nominated. (Bonus Quote of the Day from an unnamed producer: "We may not win the Tony, but I think with Harry Potter singing and dancing his heart out we have the better shot at winning the telecast.")

-Today's Depressing News: the National Theatre Conservatory MFA program (at Denver's Center for the Performing Arts) is going out of business, and soon. Last class will graduate May 2012.

-Another show does the Downwardly Mobile Transfer: Million Dollar Quartet will end its B'way run and reopen soon at New World Stages in Off Broadway form. With the ballyhooed mini-Rent revival opening in the same complex, alongside another ex-B'way champion, Avenue Q, New World certainly is upping its profile in the Off Broadway landscape.

-Spider-Man has finally, officially been "frozen." No, not a dastardly plot by Mr. Freeze (different comics villain). It means that after six months of "previews" the producers have declare there will actually be no more changes.... Meanwhile, the directors' union, SDC, is coming to ex-Spidey helmer Julie Taymor and filing for arvitration on behalf of her claim for unpaid royalties.

-And, finally, the news you've all been waiting for....Playgoer 2011 Tony Blogcast is on!  Sunday 8pm EST. Be there. (That is, be here.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Online Open Call?

The people behind the (possibly) Broadway-bound revival of Funny Girl have announced they will actually encourage actresses around the nation to submit audition tapes online to vie for the lead role in the LA premiere of the show.

This was the production rumored to be tailored to Lea Michele (of Spring Awakening and, more important, Glee fame). But I guess they're going...another direction?

When I first saw the headline I was dismayed that even Bart Sher (who's directing) was going the reality show/contest route to pseudo-celebrity casting. But in fact, there will be no involvement of the greater public beyond the auditioning.

The talent firm Let It Cast is handling the online search for Fanny Brice, which will allow union and non-union actors to upload a 90-second musical audition on the website. The videos will not be made public, and will only be available for viewing by the Funny Girl creative team and producers. The deadline for submissions is July 15.

"Fanny Brice is an extraordinary role that requires an equally extraordinary actress," Sher said in a statement. "By adding this open and inclusive online audition system to our more traditional casting efforts we can, in essence, launch a nationwide search into every city and town in America. The ability to see the best talent from all over the country will be of enormous value in our wide-ranging search."
Well I guess if it's just a 21st century version of the Open Call, it can't hurt.  Then again, who will have to watch all those YouTube's...

Florida Stage Folds

Founded in 1987 (relatively recently for a major regional theatre) Palm Beach's Florida Stage dedicated itself to new writing, and made a good run at it.

Now they're bankrupt and shutting down . For good.

They're claiming Madoff fallout, but looks like they had other problems, too.

A nice appreciation of the company--and roundup of local reactions--on the blog, South Florida Theatre Scene.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Quote of the Day

"When you're done, we'll resume."

-Frances McDormand, addressing an audience member from the stage of the play, Good People. 

The spectator in question had not only let her phone ring, but answered it.

B'way Transfers: Blessing or Curse?

McNulty in LAT nails it:

The obscene cost of Broadway tickets sets up expectations that artists who are following their own instincts (rather than the marketplace's) are going to have a hard time satisfying. (Thus the remedy of celebrity casting.) I'd like to think that producers who participated in the financial folly of moving "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" uptown from the Public Theater are helping to usher in a new Broadway sensibility. But I'm not sure how thrilled I would have been to cough up hundreds of dollars for orchestra seats for a show [Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo] that cost far less when it premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2008. Those most inclined to support innovation are the least likely to be able to afford it when it transfers to Broadway, and those who can shell out the requisite C-notes without batting an eye are apt to wonder why the scenery is so lacking and the emotional journey doesn't allow for a good cry.
The problem indeed is that plays that aren't suited to the mass-audience, big-theatre demands of Broadway still have to go there if they're going to garner proper recognition and financial reward to their playwrights.

Which leads to this challenge he offers:
what would really be encouraging is if our economically challenged alternative theaters — off-Broadway, the nonprofit regionals, local pocket stages everywhere — could somehow raise their game. This would offer the commercial theater more bounty to choose from and artists the opportunity to say, "Thanks, but no thanks" when big-shot producers come courting.
Yes, how can the regionals and the Off-Broadway nonprofits now "raise the game"?

Monday, June 06, 2011


-After three years, mega-director Des McAnuff has decided to call it quits as Artistic Director of his home turf Stratford Festival up north. He will serve through the 2012-2013 season, though. (Perhaps he's anticipating a Jersey Boys II?)

-It's not unusual for Edward Albee to say something eyebrow-raising, but he's getting more than usual flack the past week over remarks at the LAMDA awards about why he doesn't like being labelled a gay playwright.

-Introducing Lucky Guy, Off Broadway's first $2 million flop. (Yes, I said "Off-") Yet another nail in the coffin of commercial Off Broadway. (Or at least in the cursed Shubert Theatre.)

Saturday, June 04, 2011

St. Ann's, Post-Warehouse

Things are looking a wee bit dicey now for the future of St. Ann's Warehouse, that primo Brooklyn venue for hipster theatre and Euro imports:

Scheduled to lose its 14,000-square-foot home next May because of commercial development, St. Ann’s thought its long-term future was secure after the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation approved the theater’s plans to move across the street after renovating the old Tobacco Warehouse on the Dumbo neighborhood’s waterfront. But some Brooklyn civic groups oppose handing over that landmark ruin — a shell of a 19th-century building, mainly walls but no roof — to any single organization, and in April the groups won a court decision on a technical issue that probably will preserve the Tobacco Warehouse as an open neighborhood site for the next few years, at least....
After the artistic staff and board members of St. Ann’s fixed their sights last year on the Tobacco Warehouse, they gave up developing a Plan B for a future home. 

And what's with that mention in the article of PS122 potentially being in the same boat? True?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Boldface Name Scribes

Forget about actors--are celebrity playwrights now taking your jobs?

With prominent Off Broadway nonprofit slots next season going to Zach Braff and, now, Jesse Eisenberg, one has to wonder.

Proof will be in the pudding, I guess...

Thursday, June 02, 2011


-Today the Roundabout ventures into big-screen simulcasting with Importance of Being Earnest. Will others follow?

-Arena Stage's media man,  Chad Bauman, goes there in imagining a post-nonprofit theatre world.

-Riedel says Spider-Man may make it onto the Tony show after all--in the form of a U2 appearance.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Drink-Friendly Theatre

I just heard Charles Isherwood--on his weekly WQXR chat--say, "Theatre is becoming very drink friendly these days."

He's right. From Broadway houses, where the bars sell drinks in take-to-your-seat plastic sippy-cups, to downtown experimental fare, like "Sleep No More" (the specific show Isherwood was referencing) spectators are being increasingly allowed--nay, encouraged--to imbibe during the show.

I see two factors in play here.

One: concessions income! As every performance venue knows, you can make more at the bar than at the box office.

Two: making theatre more an event than a "performance" that implies audience showing up only to watch actors. Hence the handing out of free wine at New York Theatre Workshop's recent Three Pianos.

I don't think this is a bad trend, by the way. Do you?