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REPOST: All The Way: Bryan Cranston to make Broadway debut

The Breaking Bad actor, Bryan Cranston is set to hit the stage as Lyndon B. Johnson of “All the Way.” Read more about this much-awaited debut from this NewYorkTheatreGuide.com article:

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Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston will make his Broadway debut starring as ‘Lyndon B. Johnson’ in the American Repertory theater’s Broadway transfer of the Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way, directed by Bill Rauch, opening at the Neil Simon Theatre on 06 Mar 2014, following previews from 10 Feb 2014.

Joining Cranston will be Michael McKean as ‘J. Edgar Hoover’ and Brandon J. Dirden as ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’ All three actors originated their roles at the American Repertory Theatre, where the show ran from 13 Sep to 12 Oct 2013.

Bryan Cranston has won four Prime Time Emmy Awards for his role as “Walter White,” in the TV series “Breaking Bad.” Michael McKean stars as “Keith Chadwick” in the TV series “Family Tree,” he last appeared on Broadway in ‘Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.’ Brandon J. Dirden won a 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for his role as ‘Boy Willie’ in ‘The Piano Lesson,’ he last appeared on Broadway in ‘Clybourne Park.’

Cranston, McKean and Dirden will be joined by an ensemble cast, still to be announced, playing additional roles such as ‘Hubert Humphrey,’ ‘Richard Russell,’ ‘Robert McNamara,’ ‘Coretta Scott King,’ ‘Lady Bird Johnson,’ ‘Bob Moses,’ ‘Roy Wilkins,’ ‘Lurleen Wallace,’ ‘Stokely Carmichael,’ ‘Walter Jenkins,’ ‘Stanley Levison,’ ‘George Wallace,’ ‘Ralph Abernathy’ and ‘Judge Smith.’

All The Way: It is 1963, and an assassin’s bullet catapults Lyndon B. Johnson into the presidency. A Shakespearean figure of towering ambition and appetite, this charismatic, conflicted Texan hurls himself into the Civil Rights Act, a tinderbox issue emblematic of a divided America.

The creative team features set design is by Christopher Acebo, costume design by Deborah M. Dryden, lighting design by Jane Cox, composition and sound design by Paul James Prendergast, video projections by Shawn Sagady and the projection design consultant is Wendall K. Harrington.

All The Way will be produced on Broadway by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Louise Gund, Stephanie P. McClelland, Double Gemini Productions, Rebecca Gold, Scott M. Delman, Barbara H. Freitag, Harvey Weinstein, Gene Korf, William Berlind, Luigi Caiola, Gutterman Chernoff, Jam Theatricals, Gabrielle Palitz, Cheryl Wiesenfeld and Will Trice.

All The Way was commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle and premiered at OSF in 2012. It then went on to play a sold-out and critically acclaimed run at the A.R.T. from September 13-October 12, 2013 starringCranston. The play was awarded the 2013 inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History, established through Columbia University in honor of the late Senator Kennedy, honoring new plays or musicals exploring US history and issues of the day.

All The Way will be the third American Repertory Theatre production to transfer to Broadway. They have already successfully transferred ‘Pippin’ and ‘ The Glass Menagerie’ – with both productions currently playing on Broadway.

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REPOST: They, Like, Know the Lines ‘Bayside! The Musical!,’ a Parody From Bob and Tobly McSmith

Bayside! The Musical!” offers some familiar humor for fans of the TV series “Saved by the Bell.” Read more in this New York Times article.

Along with a love of Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers and slap bracelets, Gen Y-ers share an almost aggressive nostalgia for the harebrained sitcom “Saved by the Bell.”

So perhaps it was inevitable: “Bayside! The Musical!” — a bawdy, ridiculous, unauthorized parody of the show — is now playing to feverishly enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowds in the East Village.

Attending “Bayside!” can seem like a midnight screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: there are many inside jokes and familiar call-and-response cues. And plenty of audience members dress up like their favorite characters. (Though the sartorial twinning at “Bayside!” is more likely a result of the ’90s fashion now rocking the racks at Urban Outfitters.)

But unlike “Rocky Horror,” “Bayside!” doesn’t rely on repeat audiences who already know the musical.

Instead, “Bayside!” acts like the sitcom’s second skin, utterly recognizable to every fan of the TV series. (And every audience member seems to have each episode fully memorized.)

Half the humor comes from merely cramming every ludicrous plot twist and trope into a two-hour musical: Zack’s inexplicable ability to stop time; the unlimited number of proms; moneymaking schemes involving spaghetti sauce or beauty pageants; Becky the Duck.

If Zack, spaghetti sauce and Becky the Duck mean nothing to you, fear not: Much of the humor is just good old-fashioned raunch, usually playing up all the horrifying ways to reinterpret a squeaky-clean children’s show.

The cast members are not all strong singers, but most are fabulous physical comedians. April Kidwell is particularly gifted as the high-strung pill-popper Jessie Spano. (This is a second Elizabeth Berkley parody role created for her by the “Bayside!” writing and directing team, Bob and Tobly McSmith; the other role was the lead in a “Showgirls” musical.)

“Saved by the Bell” doesn’t require a whole lot of elaboration — or exaggeration — to produce absurdity in abundance, but thankfully the McSmiths have given Ms. Kidwell a long leash to do some crazy, crazy things all the same.

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REPOST: ‘Enrique VIII’ at the Broad Stage gives voice to Spanish perspective

Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VIII’  have been retold from the Spanish perspective  by Madrid’s Rakata. Read more in this Los Angeles Times article.

 

"Henry VIII / Enrique VIII"

Image Source: latimes.com

As long as back-stabbing colleagues, flattering minions and starter wives exist, pop culture is likely to maintain its infatuation with Henry VIII.

Anglophone audiences seemingly can’t get enough of the English monarch’s political and romantic intrigues, especially his divorce from his first wife, Spain’s Catherine of Aragón, and his dalliances with the second Mrs. Tudor, Anne Boleyn.

Beginning with Shakespeare’s drama “Henry VIII,” dozens of stage dramas, movies, TV series and books such as Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning “Wolf Hall” have exhumed these historic episodes. But one part of the story has remained steady: It’s nearly always told from the English point of view.at

This week at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, the Madrid theater company Rakatá will give voice to the Spanish perspective on the Tudor-Aragón split when it presents “Henry VIII/Enrique VIII,” a condensed, Spanish-language version of Shakespeare’s work.

Speaking in Spanish by phone from Madrid, Rodrigo Arribas, founder and producer of Rakatá with Alejandra Mayo, says that “Enrique VIII” allows Henry’s long-suffering queen of 20-plus years, played by Elena González, to emerge from the shadow cast by her oversize spouse, played by Fernando Gil.

The production also seeks to get beyond the usual litany of beheadings and bodice-rippings to lay bare the Machiavellian 16th-century power plays between church and state, and between England and its continental rivals, Spain and France, that often affected what went on in the royal bedchamber, and vice versa.

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“I believe that basically, like today, everything was grounded in the economic time in which these two countries lived,” Arribas says. “They were living in a time in which there was a struggle in Europe for political and economic predominance between nations.”

But the intermission-less, subtitled, 100-minute production, directed by Ernesto Arias, also doesn’t skimp on the sort of flourishes that modern audiences tend to expect when they’re submitting to several acts’ worth of iambic pentameter. “Enrique VIII” includes lively interludes of music and dancing at a lavish costume party at the house of the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, where Anne Boleyn, a noblewoman and handmaiden to Catherine, catches Henry’s roving eye.

Both the exact date and the authorship of the work, first performed in 1613, have long been in dispute. It is believed to have been co-authored by John Fletcher, and its pro-Tudor slant suggests it was written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Mindful of who was putting bread on his table — and who might put a noose around his neck — Shakespeare and/or Fletcher made sure that “Henry VIII” fully justified the English sovereign’s ruthless decision not only to divorce Catherine, but also to separate England from the Roman Catholic church. Hardly equal in poetry or plotting to the Bard’s greatest history plays, it’s a notable study in nationalistic propaganda.

Yet it also exhibits certain Shakespearean signatures.”The mastery of Shakespeare comes through in the verbal precision, and in the emotional depiction of characters like Catherine,” Arribas says.

Making 500-year-old classics speak to modern times is the forte of Rakatá, which specializes in works by Félix Arturo Lope de Vega, Pedro Calderón de la Barca and other exemplars of Spain’s literary golden age.

“These authors have a way of demonstrating that the desires, the needs, the anguish, the ambitions of human beings of many years ago are the same as those of today,” Arribas says. Indeed, he notes, Spanish-English political tensions lately were re-stoked by the latest border dispute over Gibraltar, the Mediterranean territory claimed by both European Union countries.

Performed last summer at Shakespeare’s Globe theater as part of London’s cultural festivities celebrating the Olympic Games, “Enrique VIII” impressed hard-to-please British critics. “A supremely accomplished retelling of this most notorious episode in English history,” wrote a reviewer for the Guardian.

“Imagine the responsibility,” says Gil, the actor who portrays Henry, speaking by phone, “because you were incarnating one of the most important kings, who brought about a huge change in society.”

The Broad engagement will mark the production’s debut in the United States. Arribas believes that presenting the work in Southern California will bring a new dimension to Rakatá’s production. One element of the 16th-century rivalry between Spain and England, after all, was over control of New World colonies, he observes, and that legacy is still playing out today in bilingual Los Angeles.

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REPOST: Man Pleads Guilty in Plot to Defraud Broadway Producers

Here’s a report from the New York Times about one of the biggest scandals in modern Broadway: a fraudulent act that led to the derailed production of “Rebecca.”

A former Long Island stockbroker accused of bilking the producers of a planned Broadway musical production of “Rebecca” pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges on Monday, admitting that he had conjured up fictitious overseas investors and a phantom loan as part of a sham effort to rescue the financially troubled show.

The fraud — involving a plot federal authorities called “stranger than fiction” — led to the collapse of the production, when the former stockbroker, Mark C. Hotton, after reporting that one of the investors had died from malaria, failed to help secure a promised $1.1 million loan. But Mr. Hotton had created the investor, along with three others, out of whole cloth, complete with addresses in Australia and South Africa and fake e-mail correspondence and agreements suggesting they would provide $4.5 million for the show, a musical adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s psychological thriller.

Mr. Hotton, 47, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud before Judge John G. Koeltl in United States District Court in Manhattan. Each wire fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, was expected to recommend a sentence of between 33 and 41 months in prison, according to an agreement signed by prosecutors and Mr. Hotton.

One count stemmed from the “Rebecca” fraud and the other involved a separate scheme to defraud a Connecticut-based real estate company in which he used some of the same ruses he employed to deceive the Broadway producers.

The convoluted fraud that derailed “Rebecca” was among the most spectacular scandals in modern Broadway history, and it left the show’s lead producers, Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza, reeling. Mr. Sprecher had already raised several million dollars to mount the musical on Broadway — and had spent much of that money on preproduction costs, as is routine — when Mr. Hotton’s scheme was revealed and the show was indefinitely postponed.

In a separate case, Mr. Hotton was also charged by federal prosecutors on Long Island with securing $3.7 million by creating sham invoices and selling that debt at a discount to unsuspecting companies. He is expected to appear in United States District Court in Central Islip before Judge Joanna Seybert on Tuesday afternoon to plead guilty to a single count of money laundering conspiracy in that case.

Mr. Hotton’s lawyer, Ira D. London, did not respond to a telephone call and e-mail message seeking comment late on Monday. But in remarks to reporters outside court, he suggested there was more drama yet to come. “Mr. Hotton has asked me to say there is a chapter yet to be written in this saga,” Mr. London said, according to the Associated Press. He declined to elaborate, saying only, “When it will be written you will know.”

Mr. Bharara said in a news release announcing the disposition in the “Rebecca” case: “With his guilty plea today, the curtain is finally closing on Mark Hotton’s elaborately staged fraud. Though his lies and deceits were the stuff of fiction, they caused real harm to his victims, and now he faces real consequences as a result — the prospect of jail.”

Ronald G. Russo, a lawyer for Mr. Sprecher and Ms. Forlenza, said they were pleased by the outcome of the case. Last fall, Mr. Hotton had continued to deny the fraud in the face of mounting evidence, and pleaded not guilty when he was arrested in October.

Mr. Russo said: “The damage he did to ‘Rebecca’ was enormous. However, despite his criminal conduct, Ben Sprecher has every reason to believe that ‘Rebecca’ will open on Broadway next year.”

Still determined to bring “Rebecca” to Broadway, Mr. Sprecher has been working for months to try to raise the $4.5 million that Mr. Hotton had claimed to line up for the show, initially expected to cost about $12 million.

Salvaging “Rebecca” is important to Mr. Sprecher not only because he believes in the musical’s artistry and commercial potential — his producing company will be liable to “Rebecca” investors to return their money if the production does not open on Broadway in 2014.

The guilty plea by Mr. Hotton does not directly influence the chances of “Rebecca” still making it to Broadway, though Mr. Sprecher could conceivably cite Mr. Hotton’s admission of guilt in conversations with investors who are frustrated that the musical remains in limbo. Mr. Sprecher has said that the Broadway production budget for “Rebecca” would now most likely be higher than $12 million.

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REPOST: Broadway to celebrate Tony awards with NY street party

This article says that a New York street party will be held to celebrate the Tony awards.

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Broadway is gearing up for the annual Tony theater awards on Sunday with a roster of top stars set to hit the red carpet and a simulcast slated for a mass viewing party in Times Square.

The 67th annual awards, Broadway’s highest honors, will be held at Radio City Music Hall and include appearances by nominee Tom Hanks and other stars including Scarlett Johansson, Sigourney Weaver, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, Zachary Quinto, Sally Field, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jon Cryer.

Hanks is the odds-on favorite to win best actor in a play for his Broadway debut in the late Nora Ephron’s “Lucky Guy.” Other top contenders are musicals “Matilda,” a British production based on a Raold Dahl novel, and “Kinky Boots,” which features songs by pop star Cyndi Lauper.

“There is nothing like celebrating Broadway’s most spectacular night, with Broadway’s biggest fans, right in the heart of Times Square,” said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, in a joint statement.

The awards ceremony, hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris, will be broadcast Sunday on CBS at 8 p.m. EDT. New York theater fans will be able to view a live simulcast of the program on two large screens in Duffy Square at West 46th Street and Broadway starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

At that event, there will also be live performances, trivia contests and a chance to win a pair of tickets to the awards ceremony held just blocks away and an after-party.

Forty-six new shows opened on Broadway during the 2012-2013 season which ended in May – 15 musicals including nine new productions, and a record 26 plays, including 14 new ones.

Grosses were slightly down from the previous year, likely owing to the devastating October storm Sandy, which shut theaters briefly and hobbled some shows that were just finding audiences.

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REPOST: And a Child Should Lead Them

This review of Matilda the Musical from the New York Times sings praises for the show and highlights the elements present in this Off Broadway production that seemed to be lacking in many Broadway shows. Read more about it here: 

Image source: http://theater.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/theater/theaterspecial/matilda-the-musical-offers-good-advice.html?ref=theaterspecial&pagewanted=all

Image source: theater.nytimes.com

In a season when Broadway often seemed to be losing its mind and its mojo, the wisest advice came from a 5-year-old: “If you’re stuck in your story and want to get out/You don’t have to cry and you don’t have to shout!”

Those calming words were uttered — or sung, to be exact — by the title character and all-conquering hero of “Matilda the Musical,” which opened at the Shubert Theater in April to ecstatic reviews and ticket sales to match. When we first meet her, Matilda Wormwood, who was born in a 1988 children’s novel by Roald Dahl, is indeed stuck in a lonely and loveless life, hounded by stupid parents and the evil headmistress of her school.

But Matilda, to whom adversity has taught stoicism, does not scream. Nor does she get all excited and throw her body around the stage in a frantic bid for attention. She doesn’t even sing one of those sympathy-demanding ballads of desperation that her older kin in conventional book musicals are prone to at such moments.

Instead, she determines to rewrite her life, to fix whatever is stupid and repellent and abrasive in it. And though it turns out she possesses telekinetic powers, like Stephen King’s Carrie, she doesn’t really need them. She has more powerful tools on her side, in which she trusts unconditionally: intelligence and imagination. The same might be said of the show in which she appears, a British import brought to life by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Many of the rest of the productions that opened on Broadway in the past year did not share Matilda’s faith in rationality and inventiveness. You might say that they were stuck in old claustrophobic stories that were choking the life out of them. These included cynical narratives in which the presence of a movie star (Jessica Chastain, Scarlett Johansson, Katie Holmes) is thought to guarantee a happy ending. Or tales (hello, “Pippin”!) in which an intrepid show slays ‘em in the aisles by making lots of noise and looks flashy.

In support of this point of view, allow me to introduce another of the resident philosophers in “Matilda.” That’s Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda’s mother and a trophy-winning competitive ballroom dancer. Here’s what she has to say, in a number entitled “Loud”: “The less you have to sell, the harder you sell it.” And: “What you know matters less/Than the volume with which what you don’t know’s expressed.”

Quite a nice little couplet, isn’t it? It’s courtesy of Tim Minchin, the show’s songwriter and the member of a team, which notably includes the director Matthew Warchus and the book writer Dennis Kelly, that steadily ignores Mrs. Wormwood’s counsel.

“Matilda” may occasionally suffer from the Broadway bête noire of overamplification (or so I’ve been told by several distressed theatergoing correspondents). But at heart it is anything but loud. Its components have been assembled with a quiet confidence rooted in the belief that nothing projects as clearly as an unswervingly sustained melody.

By that I don’t mean that “Matilda” lacks variety, musically or otherwise. On the contrary, it is always balancing light and darkness, sincerity and satire, reassurance and scariness. But at a moment when many Broadway shows seem to consist of jimmied-together mismatched parts, “Matilda” is remarkably of a piece. Designed by Rob Howell, with lighting by Hugh Vanstone, it lays out its elements of style for all to see from the beginning.

Audiences arriving at the Shubert are greeted by an uncurtained stage filled with letter-bearing blocks, outsized versions of what you might find on a nursery floor, and a seeming infinity of bookcases. When I first saw “Matilda” in London last year, I was accompanied by a novelist who gasped when she first saw the set and murmured, “This is every writer’s dream.”

I know what she means. The set is a challenge and a teeming sea of potential, from which both the show’s creators and its leading character must extract meaning and substance. From letters come words, from which come sentences, from which come stories, which if you retain control of them can transform lives.

Manipulating stories, and giving them flesh (and song), is the task of both “Matilda” and Matilda, and their endeavors run parallel. Matilda (who is played in rotation by four young actresses) is a storyteller par excellence on several levels. She not only devises ingenious fibs to deflect browbeating grown-ups around her but also relates intricate narratives that turn her dreary life into rich fantasy.

These stories are folded into and propel the larger story that is “Matilda.” Throughout it, Matilda’s fellow students (who are choreographed with sly genius by Peter Darling) help push those building-block letters into scene-setting formations, so that the tellers and the tale become one. The fantasy stories that Matilda delivers (about a married pair of circus acrobats) to an enchanted local librarian are given increasingly elaborate life, from mere silhouettes to puppets to half-glimpsed people.

Matilda’s nemesis is Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of her school and the angry antithesis of the precocious little girl in her care. The Trunchbull, as her students refer to her, is a former hammer-throwing champion of Britain and a rigid fascist who believes in the power of might and circumscribing rules. In another show, she would most likely be rendered as a screeching, crowd-pandering caricature.

But in this production the Trunchbull is played by Bertie Carvel, a man who avoids every pitfall of drag performance. This hunched, sibilant giant has stepped straight out of children’s nightmares, dreamscapes in which quotidian fears assume monstrous forms.

The Trunchbull rarely raises her voice, by the way; she knows that far more menace can be packed into a calm caressing tone that verges on a whisper. “Matilda” intelligently accords a soupçon of sympathy to this devil, just enough to let grown-ups identify with her fleetingly, and shudder.

This show is also well aware that in the real world Trunchbulls usually aren’t sent packing; they continue to inhabit high perches of power in all professions. “Matilda” never pretends that this planet is other than a darker and scarier place than any child could imagine. Mr. Minchin’s music reflects that; even its perkiest numbers have a gothic undertow of anxiety.

I keep hearing from adults who say they cried during the show’s most conventionally pretty number. It is called “When I Grow Up,” and in it, Matilda’s schoolmates sing of a time when they’ll be strong enough to carry the burdens forced upon them and to flush out monsters from under the bed. Grown-ups know that some burdens crush even the broadest shoulders, that there will always some kind of monster to worry about, and that happy endings are at best only provisional.

“Matilda” allows us a glance of a darker and more realistic alternative to the conclusion it finally leaves us with. But it doesn’t linger on it.

The great advantage of being your own author is that you get to choose your own ending. If you’re talented enough, like the creators of “Matilda,” you can even make the rest of the world believe for one enchanted moment that happy endings come true.

Hi! I’m Loius P. Habash, an actor and a lover of the performing arts. I share more of my thoughts and the reviews I find interesting on this Facebook page.

REPOST: ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ on Broadway to close on Sunday

The current Broadway production “Breakfast at Tifanny’s” will finally close its curtain on Sunday. To know the details, here is the article of  Los Angeles Times:

 

Image Source: latimes.com

Image Source: latimes.com

 

In the wake of largely negative reviews and falling box-office receipts, the current Broadway production of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” starring “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke, will close on Sunday after opening on March 20 at New York’s Cort Theatre.

The early closure comes after much publicity hype surrounding Clarke’s Broadway debut. The actress has seen her television career soar thanks to HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” In a bit of showbiz synergy, “Thrones” debuted its third season shortly after “Breakfast” opened on Broadway.

This marks the second time that a stage adaptation of Truman Capote’s eternally popular novel has flopped on Broadway. In 1966, the Edward Albee-penned musical adaptation closed while still in preview performances. The new adaptation, which isn’t a musical, is by playwright Richard Greenberg.

“Breakfast” almost didn’t happen this season when an investor unexpectedly dropped out. But producers were able to secure the funds needed to open the show.

Many critics wrote that Clarke wasn’t convincing as the show’s heroine and that she failed to create a compelling character on stage.

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