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Theater Review: A School-Massacre Story on a Severe Canvas, in Soderbergh's The Library

If you want a vivid example of how a director can shape (or reshape) a play, compare the author’s description of the set for The Library with what actually appears on the Public Theater’s Newman stage. In his script, Scott Z. Burns details the scene of a Columbine-like massacre with (among other naturalistic indicators) backpacks, bookshelves, books scattered everywhere, a charred sofa, fallen chairs, and bloodstains on the carpet. But what the director Steven Soderbergh (working with the designer Riccardo Hernandez) gives us instead is the antiseptic inside of a white lacquer box. It looks like the meditation room of a moon colony, with almost no props, let alone those bloodstains. Which is apt, I suppose; The Library is the chicest high-school mass-murder drama yet.

A chill descends. »

  • Posted 4/14/14 at 3:37 PM
  • Awards

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch Wins the Fiction Pulitzer

Donna Tartt’s much anticipated and then much acclaimed novel The Goldfinch has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Annie Baker's The Flick won the drama prize, Alan Taylor's The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 won the history prize, Megan Marshall's Margaret Fuller: A New American Life won the biography/autobiography prize, Vijay Seshadr's 3 Sections won the poetry prize, Don Fagin's Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation won the general nonfiction prize, and John Luther Adams's Become Ocean the music prize.

Theater Review: How Much Can Audra McDonald Sound Like Billie Holiday?

You will undoubtedly hear that what Audra McDonald is doing as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill is not an impersonation. It is, though. However much more it eventually becomes, it starts with capturing that eccentric, heartbreaking voice — and the capture is uncanny. Right from the first syllables of “I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone,” which opens the show, McDonald nails the pinched tone, side-mouth delivery, and precipitous register leaps of Holiday in her heyday. Consonants are negotiable: “love” is more like “luhw.” Final vowels become dramatic opportunities: “Hear my plea-uh and hurry home to me-uh!” Pitch is obscure or even absent; some notes sound fried in place yet remain part of the melody. McDonald’s Holiday doesn’t so much sing as play her voice, like a saxophone, with perfect confidence in (or indifference to) its expressive powers. 

Why it works. »

  • Posted 4/11/14 at 5:30 PM

Watch a Clip of Justin Peck and Sufjan Stevens’s New Ballet, Everywhere We Go

Two years ago, choreographer and New York City Ballet dancer Justin Peck needed someone to write the score for a new project and asked Sufjan Stevens — a musician with a penchant for flourescent stagewear, Hula-Hoops, and songs about Illinois. That collaboration resulted in Year of the Rabbit, showcasing the refreshingly youthful, inventive choreography that made Peck a wunderkind of the ballet world (and you can get a close-up look at his work process in Ballet 422, a highly anticipated documentary by Jody Lee Lipes debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival), with a rollicking all-string score by Stevens that was surprisingly well matched. Now they’ve put together a new piece, Everywhere We Go, which premieres May 8 at City Ballet, and it's an even more ambitious task for Stevens: a nine-movement orchestral score. For a sneak peek at both the dance and music, Lipes directed this short film, featuring principal dancers Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen, and Amar Ramasar.

Theater Review: Misfires in Bullets Over Broadway

Whatever musical comedy is, there hasn’t been much of it this season. We’ve seen plenty of musical drama, sure. A few revues and bio-jukeboxes. Even, God help us, a rock-star rabbi. But of the four new shows that could possibly be considered heirs to the once dominant Broadway category, one feels more like an operetta (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), one’s a Disney retread (Aladdin), and one (First Date) was basically a skit and died. That leaves only Bullets Over Broadway — Woody Allen’s stage adaptation of his charming 1994 movie, with Susan Stroman directing and choreographing — to hoist the pinstripes-and-marabou flag above midtown. Unfortunately, as musical comedy goes, it’s neither.

Polished problem-solving and a fun premise aren't enough. »

  • Posted 4/10/14 at 8:05 AM
  • Theater

Marin Mazzie on Holding Her Own in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway

If Marin Mazzie were to play herself in a hack Broadway show, she’d be the plucky, hardworking stage veteran finally landing the role of a lifetime at 53. But Woody Allen, whose Bullets Over Broadway—about a delusionally bad playwright and his mobster producer—is being remade as a Broadway musical, probably wouldn’t get many gags out of that. And if he could, Mazzie wouldn’t get a chance at her own star turn as the show’s relentlessly actressy Helen Sinclair, a character made famous by Dianne Wiest and her overwrought directive “Don’t speak!”

Mazzie has three Tony nominations, an enviable bod, and a rock-solid résumé of theater work. »

  • Posted 4/10/14 at 8:00 AM
  • Theater

The Tony Traffic Report: Insiders Analyze the Jockeying for Nominations

Shows opening late in the Broadway season tend to do better at the Tony awards—which is one big reason so many now make their debuts in April. Here, experts break down the odds.

Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical
The most commercially valuable award—Best Musical—is a real contest. Bullets Over Broadway and the already opened The Bridges of Madison County, After Midnight, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and If/Then are all competing for the four (or occasionally five) slots; Beautiful and Rocky, too, despite uneven reviews. But Violet and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, both of which have had substantial Off Broadway runs, are wild cards. If they are ruled eligible in the new-musicals category, either could knock one of the weaker titles off the list. If they’re revivals, they’ll be front-runners in a sparse category. As for who’ll win Best Musical, it’s still early, but Bullets is the kind of feel-good show voters like, and its buzz is good, apart from the Dylan Farrow factor.

Hollywood casting has jammed up best actor in a play. »

Michael Cera Headed to Broadway in This Is Our Youth

Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson will be making their Broadway debuts later this year in Kenneth Lonergan's 1996 play This Is Our Youth, the Chicago Tribune reports. The production will open at Chicago's Steppenwolf Upstairs Theater in June and move to New York in August. The show, set in 1982, follows three characters over the course of two nights: Cera will play Warren, the maladjusted 19-year-old who just stole $15,000 from his lingerie-magnate father; Culkin will play Dennis, the small-time drug dealer; and Gevinson, in her first stage role, will play Jessica, an antsy fashion student. Cera and Culkin were in an Australian production of the show in 2012, and Gevinson played an antsy high-school student in Enough Said, so everyone seems to be on familiar footing. Watch out, Regan-era hopelessness!

  • Posted 4/8/14 at 3:00 PM
  • Art

Saltz on George W. Bush's Painterly Promise Unfulfilled

When I look at the paintings of George W. Bush, it’s like seeing an incubus on America, as freakish and off-putting as his presidency was. Yet the art critic in me has to grant that if I stumbled on three or four of Bush's paintings in a flea market by an anonymous artist, I'd snap them right up. The first batch of his paintings we saw, in 2012, were of landscapes, churches, Bush himself in the bathtub, and other scenes, and I liked them for their sheer weird obliviousness, their zonked-out earnest attempts at figuration, the odd feel for form and space, light, color, and softly contoured edges. If I didn't know they were by Bush, I'd imagine they were made by a diligent high-school senior, maybe a beauty queen perfecting her talent, maybe a mischievous frat boy spying on his father, possibly an onanist. I liked these amateurish paintings for their perverted pictorial twists and psycho subject matter. Now Bush is having his first-ever solo exhibition of 30 of his new oil paintings, most of which are portraits of world leaders. It’s at his presidential library, with the bogus title "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy," and we are all considering Bush As Artist once again.

So is he an artist? »

9 Tidbits From Rob Lowe’s New Memoir, Love Life

Rob Lowe’s second memoir, Love Life, is more notable for what isn’t there than what is. For instance, there’s no mention in the just-published book of the infamous sex tape he filmed with an underage teen, the nanny lawsuits, or if he ever got anything in return for sending a nude photo of himself wrapped in a toy snake to Andy Warhol. What Rob Lowe, now 50, does want you to know, however, is that he’s older and wiser and loves his family — especially his wife, Sheryl — very, very much. At times, he seems a little bit like his character Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation: buoyantly optimistic with a belief that hard work and dedication are the ultimate determinants for success. Still, there are plenty of anecdotes from the 259-page memoir that Lowe fans will enjoy, including why he turned down Grey's Anatomy and behind-the-scenes tales from the set of the short-lived Lyons Den.

Jewel didn’t like kissing him. »

Bette Midler on Soph, Janis Joplin, and Her Early Years in New York City

In her 1980 book A View From a Broad (re-released last week), Bette Midler wrote what she hoped would be the last word on playing the Continental Baths, the infamous gay bathhouse where she got her New York beginnings: "I did not perform in the middle of a steam room, but in the poolside cafe next to the steam room ... And by the way, I never laid my eyes on a single penis, even though I was looking really hard." That being said, then, the Divine Miss M has a lot more to say about the less-explored early parts of her career, which she shared with Vulture during a recent conversation.

"Pirate Jenny," oh my God! That was the song I got all my jobs with. »

  • Posted 4/8/14 at 8:00 AM
  • Theater

The Newbie and the Emcee: Alan Cumming Welcomes Michelle Williams to Cabaret

Michelle Williams gasps: “I haven’t seen a bus with Cabaret on it, and we just drove past one,” she says from her car. “There’s no face on the bus, thank God. Oh, look—there’s a Jersey Boys bus. There’s a Newsies bus! I never noticed all these musical buses!” She’s headed to rehearsal for her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles (opening April 24), and this MTA moment is one of many novel ones she’s had lately. “Every time I rehearse, there’s a tiny bubble of a breakthrough,” she says. “And now those are happening in front of people.” She emits a nervous laugh. In her first previews, she says, she’s realized “how many things you can be thinking while you’re performing: There’s a thousand people out there … Oh, I really need to tack this slip to the dress, ’cause it’s getting stuck when I lift this … Didn’t really land that as well as I did the last time. And you’re singing and you’re dancing at the same time!”

Her co-star Alan Cumming is, by comparison, an old Broadway hand. »

  • Posted 4/6/14 at 10:00 PM

Theater Review: The Realistic Joneses Are All Talk

Is Will Eno the absurdist Neil Simon? The 49-year-old playwright, a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 for Thom Pain (based on nothing), certainly has a gift for metaphysical one-liners, especially paraprosdokians, those jack-in-the-box epigrams that seem to lead one way before feinting another. Alas, in his first Broadway outing, it’s a gift he keeps giving till it hurts: The Realistic Joneses is a four-character play in which everyone talks like the deadpan comic Steven Wright. 

And jokes, even absurd ones, aren't quite enough. »

Life in Pictures: Jackie Collins

For the latest edition of "Life in Pictures," photographer Tim Hailand followed 76-year-old romance novelist Jackie Collins for seven hours in Beverly Hills (during which she wore four different blazers). Click through the gallery ahead for a day filled with drugstore splurges, gossipy lunches, and shirtless men.

Read More  »

  • Posted 4/4/14 at 5:30 PM
  • Books

There’s a New Kazuo Ishiguro Novel Coming in 2015

It's called The Buried Giant, and plot details are scarce (it's "something of a departure," says Knopf — illuminating). But anyway, Kazuo Ishiguro's first novel since 2005's Never Let Me Go will be published in spring 2015. Don't forget how to read before then.

Who Taught Denzel Washington How to Play Drunk?

There's a great moment in the middle of Broadway's A Raisin in the Sun where Denzel Washington gets up on a table and dances. His character, Walter Lee Younger, has already knocked back a few when he walks in on his sister in their shared Chicago apartment as she's celebrating her African roots with a Nigerian tribal dance. In his deliriously drunk stupor, he goes all in. "I am much warrior!" he proclaims. "Flaming spear! The lion is waking!" The moment, as our reviewer already noted, is priceless. 

Read More  »

Seeing Out Loud: Jerry Saltz on Nate Lowman, a Millennial Art Star Who’s Starting to Grow Up

How does an early-aughts quasi-slacker art star making millions — one who was a big voice, back then, in the hip new academy of derivative artists painting gritty images based on stock ideas about mass culture and appropriation — transition to being just another 35-year-old painter trying to make good work without hype and buzz? The answer shows up in Nate Lowman's new show at Maccarone. In this same gallery, in 2008, Lowman and his fellow art-star buddy Dan Colen created a cheeky self-conscious mash of Warhol, Richard Prince, Cady Noland, and a few other usual suspects, giving us a smashed-up 1971 Jaguar, paintings on beach towels, pictures of crack pipes, and the like. Collectors ate it up. Four years later, Lowman did a huge show for the collector and media mogul Peter Brandt at his Greenwich space that included a zillion paintings of Richard Prince-y pictures of a de Kooning Woman painting, riots in Cancun, women in bikinis, bullet holes, a figure falling out of the World Trade Center, and other scenes of neo-punk sex and death.

(Almost) no more dots. »

The Complete Works: Ranking All 64 Stephen King Books

To mark the 40th anniversary of Carrie, Stephen King's first novel, published on April 5, 1974, Vulture is re-running our comprehensive ranking.

This week, Stephen King releases his latest novel, Doctor Sleep, the sequel to his third novel, The Shining. It is his 64th book, if you count novels, nonfiction, and short-story collections, and we are using its publication as an excuse to look back over nearly 40 years' worth of his work and make the tough, ruthless calls to rank them all — no cop-out ties allowed. Read on to see our choices, and then weigh in with your own rankings below.

Theater Review: A Raisin in the Sun, With a Star Who Knows What to Do in the Role

Everyone’s moaning about Denzel Washington’s age: How can a man who’s 59 play the 35-year-old Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, a character whose very name suggests the drama of coming into manhood? And if Walter’s that old, how can his mother, Lena, be played by an actress — LaTanya Richardson Jackson — who is just 64? Did she give birth to him as a tot?

Why that's not a problem. »

Theater Review: The Happy Return of The Most Happy Fella

Three years ago, when a panel convened by New York Magazine set out to pick the greatest musicals ever, our only discussion of The Most Happy Fella concerned whether it should be categorized as an opera, and thus outside our purview. It certainly feels like one in its scope and depth and color, and it demands, in certain roles, classically trained voices. The title character is even Italian. But Frank Loesser, who wrote the whole damn thing, score and libretto and fascinating stage directions, resisted the high-tone label, even as he poured on the Puccini. He considered The Most Happy Fella a musical with a lot of music.

And it is, at least, one of the best. »

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