The big problem in writing great musicals is not the difficulty of writing great songs. The big problem is that the songs, great or not, are cannibals, picking the stories clean and leaving a pile of bones. It’s a zero-sum system. In musical dramas the problem is even worse, as innumerable failed adaptations of huge 18th-century novels have proved. (They often seem like CliffsNotes of CliffsNotes.) But when a musical drama clicks, an amazing fusion event occurs: The songs and the story enlarge each other in the process of becoming inseparable. Think of Sweeney Todd or, more intimately, Fun Home. And now add to the list Dear Evan Hansen, which opened tonight in a production beautifully directed by Michael Greif. I called the Off Broadway production at Second Stage this May “the feel-anxious musical of the season.” But it is even better on Broadway, so fine in its craft and rich in its gathering of themes that, like the best works of any genre, it rewards being seen again — and again.
Questlove Reveals How Lin-Manuel Miranda Would Don a Disguise to Watch Celebrities in the Hamilton AudienceBy Halle Kiefer
As it turns out, that weird guy you saw in the bright blonde wig, coke-bottle glasses, and fake handlebar mustache staring at President Obama throughout the entirety of Hamilton was not, as you assumed, a potential security threat. It was Lin-Manuel Miranda! Hope the musical's creator and former leading man was okay with Questlove just absolutely blowing up his spot, because now the world knows Lin-Manuel Miranda used to purposely invite celebrity guests to Hamilton so he could watch their reaction to the show ... while in disguise. As Questlove told Entertainment Weekly :
“Whenever a high-profile celebrity would come, or someone of Obama’s caliber, Lin would not do Hamilton. So there’s a whole bunch of high-profile people like the president, and Oprah, [where] Lin would rather watch them watch the show. Obama’s never seen Lin as Hamilton, which is crazy to me. Lin sat in disguise. That’s how much of a nerd and dweeb Lin is. He kept tabs on everyone who watched — who got the jokes, who laughed the most, who didn’t get the jokes. Even the one high-profile celebrity that was on their phone more than they were watching the whole play. I would never name that because that person is very close to me. I don’t want to air them out! For real, he was like, 'This one yawned at this part. This one was sleepy but I forgave them because I knew they were on a long flight. This one gave it three standing ovations.' I’m like, 'Yo. Are you trying to tell me that every time somebody important was in the audience, you had your stand-in do it?' He’s like, 'Yep. Exactly.'"
So congratulations, Questlove. Looks like we know who will be serving as the Aaron Burr in Miranda the musical.
There’s a good reason Broadway musicals traditionally leave the gangsters backstage. Except when handled with the greatest skill — as in, say, Guys and Dolls — stories that include mob hits or street violence or sadistic shakedowns are always going to conflict with the chipper razzmatazz that characterizes the form. Perhaps the authors of A Bronx Tale, which opened tonight at the Longacre, felt they could finesse that problem by splitting the difference between very dark works like West Side Story and very silly ones like Bullets Over Broadway. But no: For all the craft and polish applied, this musical winds up right in the middle of the wrong place. It’s an unmoving target.
If you’re a die-hard Harry Potter fan but haven’t been able to make it all the way to London’s Palace Theater to see The Cursed Child, then 2018 might be the year your dreams come true. The show’s producers have confirmed to Pottermore that they are in late-stage negotiations to take up residency at Broadway’s Lyric Theater. The Lyric is currently housing Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever Broadway-specific production, Paramour, but Deadline reports that the show will conclude its run in April to make way for massive theater renovations. “We’re not closing because business is bad,” Cirque du Soleil Theatricals CEO Scott Zeiger told Deadline. “They have a timeline for the work they want to do, and made the request. We had a friendly negotiation, and they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.”
You better work, work out an excuse to give your boss so you can watch this livestream without any distractions. In celebration of the release of The Hamilton Mixtape tomorrow, a very special Ham4Ham at the Richard Rodgers Theatre will be livestreamed beginning at 12:50 p.m. ET this afternoon. The Ham4Ham will feature a handful of artists from the mixtape — including the Roots, Ja Rule, Ashanti, and Regina Spektor — who will perform their respective songs in front of a live audience. Lin-Manuel Miranda's passion project has been in the works for years, with the mixtape featuring remixes, covers, and other songs inspired by the hit musical.
After a 502-performance run in three houses, The Humans is set to close out its time in New York. The 2016 Tony winner for Best Play will end its run at the Schoenfeld on January 15, as previously reported, and will not move on to yet another New York theater. However, this unusual play’s unusual life is hardly over: Producers Scott Rudin and Barry Diller announced today that the drama will launch a national tour in November 2017, starting at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, with a more complete schedule to be announced later on.
Ruin as many family vacations as you can between now and the end of January, scalpers who employ ticket bots. After that, it's on to the next grift. As of February 2017, the use of ticketing purchasing software, already illegal in New York State, is now punishable with jail time. Championed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Senator Chuck Schumer, and anyone who's tried to buy a ticket to anything, only to immediately find the show sold out and StubHub flooded with jacked-up prices, the bill (S.8123/A.10713) creates a "class A misdemeanor for using ticket bots, maintaining an interest in or control of 'bots,' and reselling tickets knowingly obtained with ticket bots." The punishment can include both fines and imprisonment. As Governor Cuomo said upon signing the bill on Monday, "These unscrupulous speculators and their underhanded tactics have manipulated the marketplace and often leave New Yorkers and visitors alike with little choice but to buy tickets on the secondary market at an exorbitant mark-up. It’s predatory, it’s wrong and, with this legislation, we are taking an important step towards restoring fairness and equity back to this multi-billion dollar industry.” Now let's be clear: You probably still aren't getting in to see Hamilton, but at least if you do, you won't have to sell your home and/or family in order to snag tickets.
It’s not impossible to find the right tone for a musical comedy about a gruesome subject: Look at Little Shop of Horrors, which both satirizes and honors the implications of its bloodthirsty-houseplant plot. But it’s very difficult — and anyway, one-off classics make poor examples. A sadly more typical case is that of Ride the Cyclone, a new–to–New York musical that opened tonight in a handsome MCC Theater production directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell. With its story about teenagers who find themselves in a kind of carny purgatory after dying in a roller-coaster derailment, it clearly wants to be both eerie and funny, as well as subversive, serious, touching, and great. As a result it’s a little bit of all of the above, except for the last. Indeed, you get the feeling that the show, which was in development in Canada for years before getting its American premiere in Chicago in 2015, has been rewritten so much that, like a corn dog, it has lost any sense of whatever it started out as.
The hotly anticipated Lin-Manuel Miranda episode of Drunk History finally aired last night on Comedy Central, where fans of Hamilton and history alike were treated to LMM’s honey-whiskey-infused narration of our new favorite Founding Father. The half-hour was filled with a bunch of delightful surprises, including unexpected cameos from Questlove and Hamilton original cast member Christopher Jackson, as well as some top-notch, definitely historically accurate commentary. (“Here comes sick ass Hamilton on a flaming ship. Your ass will never be the same!”) The full episode can be viewed here, and to celebrate this crowning historical achievement, we’ve went ahead and GIFed some of our favorite moments from the show.
“You are no Larry Kramer,” the Academic shouts at his boyfriend, the Writer, a hothead on a tear about homophobic violence.
“This isn’t Boys in the Band,” the Writer later snaps at the Academic, who sometimes dabbles in campy pronoun play.
The two nods to icons of gay theater encapsulate the concerns and the scale of Homos, or Everyone in America, a new comedy-drama by Jordan Seavey now getting a blisteringly fine world premiere from the Labyrinth Theater Company. Recalling both the furious politics of Kramer’s AIDS jeremiads and the sentimental pathos of Mart Crowley’s pre-Stonewall classic, Homos is as essential to our moment as those works were to theirs. Its portrait of a romance and what comes after — the men meet on a Friendster date in 2006 and break up on an L train platform two years later — brings our picture of gay life into a post-gay era of no-fault hookups, marriage equality, and self-outing teenagers. But with devastatingly pointed intelligence it also dramatizes the irony that despite having won so many of the battles of the Forty Years’ War for liberation, gay men remain as conflicted and as vulnerable to hatred — self- and otherwise — as they were in the bad old days.
When asked in a recent interview what inspired him to write This Day Forward, the playwright Nicky Silver immediately answered, “other writers’ successes.” If only any line of the play itself, which opened tonight at the Vineyard, were as sharp and funny. But this dry hump of a comedy, with affectations of tragedy stapled in, got me to laugh, or rather snort, only once: when a character asked his lover, before having sex, to “turn that picture of you with Hal Prince to the wall.” There was the old, absurd Nicky Silver! The rest of the time the audience and I sat dully absorbing the manic yet enervated and totally non-credible action as it attempted to gin up a Big Theme as justification.
I met Andy at a party in 1995. Soon afterward, he phoned the host, a mutual friend, to get my number so he could invite me to a play. As it happened, the mutual friend, hearing the description of Somewhere in the Pacific, a gay–World War II–sailor drama at Playwrights Horizons, grabbed the extra ticket for himself, so I didn’t go out with Andy until a couple of weeks later, and then only to a movie. But in the ensuing 21 years we’ve seen more than 1,000 shows together. It has often been my job to see them, but we would probably have gone anyway, or to as many of them as we could have afforded. Not just for the entertainment or enrichment; God knows, those have been spotty. But of all the places in the world where one may share important experiences in public — concert halls, natural monuments, political gatherings — the theater in New York is the only one that allows us to feel completely comfortable, as gay men of a certain vintage, holding hands. The theater, with its relatively small and fairly homogenous audience, has been a safe space, the safest space, for us.
But should it be?
Of course the home of Hamilton would turn out to be the room where it happened. The reignition of the culture wars, with the arts as the battlefield — a form of jousting so antiquated that many people thought it went out with the Brooklyn Museum elephant-dung controversies and Dan Quayle scolding Murphy Brown — was probably inevitable under President-Elect Trump, a man who started talking about how he would defund “gross” art if he were president as far back as 1999, and who frequently moonlights on Twitter as a TV critic. (Thumbs down: Saturday Night Live and Rosie O’Donnell. Thumbs up: Shows he’s on.)
Triple-threat Neil Patrick Harris, for one, doesn't think the Hamilton cast has anything to say sorry for. In an already-infamous controversy, the audience of Friday night's performance of Hamilton booed Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence, prompting the cast at curtain call to ask them to hold their boos and address an emotional plea (reportedly penned by show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda) for Pence to uphold "our inalienable rights" and "our American values." While Pence has stated that he was not offended by his reception, his running mate, President-Elect Trump, took to his favorite social-media platform to demand apologies from the cast and production and to say that theaters should be "a safe space."
Probably the strangest and least revivable Broadway genre is the midcentury hooker musical comedy. Shows like Irma La Douce (first produced in 1956), New Girl in Town (1957), and House of Flowers (1960), whatever their other merits, seem smarmy, or at best naïve, when seen from the other side of the feminist revolution. Their women — written by men and clearly designed for them — have very little agency in their own stories and don’t seem to mind. But by 1966, when Sweet Charity came along, something had begun to change, and the vehicle Bob Fosse created for Gwen Verdon, who was also his wife at the time, advanced the template somewhat. For one thing, Charity isn’t a prostitute; she’s a taxi dancer, her streetwalking roots having been disguised in translation from the 1957 Fellini film Nights of Cabiria. For another, she’s more complicated than jolly Irma, indomitable Anna, or dreamy Ottillie. Though she has no moral compunction about her trade — one of the other “hostesses” at the Fan-Dango Ballroom quips that they don’t so much dance as defend themselves to music — she wants more out of life than serial thug boyfriends and being groped lovelessly. “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This,” “Baby, Dream Your Dream,” and “Where Am I Going?” are the titles of three of the top-drawer Cy Coleman–Dorothy Fields songs.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence's fun Hamilton-filled weekend just got another chapter in the Windy City. As reported by Broadway World, during a Saturday evening performance of Hamilton at Chicago's PrivateBank Theatre, an "intoxicated" Trump-supporting audience member in the balcony interrupted the number "Dear Theodosia" by yelling: "We won! You lost! Get over it! Fuck you!" Other profane disturbances by the attendee allegedly began after "immigrants, we get the job done" from the song "Yorktown" was delivered a few minutes beforehand — many audience members cheered at the line — and quickly escalated to the "Dear Theodosia" outburst. The attendee was removed by venue staff, and although there was a "struggle with security," the person left without police involvement.
Despite Donald Trump having lots (and lots) of thoughts and feelings on why the cast of Hamilton should apologize to Mike Pence, the Vice-President-Elect is now saying that he "wasn't offended" by what was said during the impassioned curtain-call speech he received while attending a Friday evening performance of the musical, although he explains he'll "leave it to others whether that was the appropriate venue" to say it. "I know this is a very disappointing time for people that did not see their candidate win in this national election. I know that this is a very anxious time for some people," Pence said on Fox News Sunday. "And I just want to reassure people that what President-Elect said on Election Night he absolutely meant from the bottom of his heart — he is preparing to be the president of all of the people of the United States of America."
The saga of Mike Pence's boo-tastic visit to see Hamilton on Friday evening continues, with Donald Trump once again choosing to bash the Broadway musical for its supposed rudeness toward his Vice-President-Elect. At the conclusion of the performance Pence attended, the cast and crew used their curtain call to address the soon-to-be VP in a short speech written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and read by Brandon Victor Dixon. The statement urged Pence to "uphold our American values" and "work on behalf of all of us." Trump, not a fan of the cast's treatment, demanded that they promptly apologize to Pence and that the theater "must always be a safe and special place." Now, a day later, he's offering even more heated words.
Like the calm before the storm, we caught up with Hamilton's Brandon Victor Dixon (Aaron Burr) a few days before Mike Pence got booed by the Hamilton audience on Friday night, followed by Dixon delivering a Lin-Manuel Miranda–penned statement to the Vice-President-Elect during a special curtain call, followed by President-Elect Donald Trump tweeting that he wants Hamilton to apologize to Pence, which spurred social-media speculations it’s a distraction from his $25 million settlement over the Trump University fraud lawsuit. (Phew.) This prompted Dixon to publicly respond to Trump on Twitter: “conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @mike_pence for stopping to listen.”
From now on, it will be a little easier to make a living as a New York theater actor. After six months of negotiation, the Actors’ Equity Association and the League of Off-Broadway Theaters and Producers, which represents nonprofit and commercial theaters in New York between 100 and 499 seats, concluded negotiations on a new five-year contract for actors and stage managers who work at commercial and nonprofit theaters in New York. While the full details of the agreement haven’t been released, according to the New York Times, the agreement includes “hefty wage increases,” ranging from 32 to 81 percent over the five-year contract. Previously, the minimum contract paid $593 a week, which, after union fees, agents’ fees, and taxes, fell far below the cost of living in New York, according to many actors. “The wage increases will allow actors and stage managers to continue to do the work that we love Off-Broadway, while being able to support ourselves financially,” Actors’ Equity president Kate Shindle said in a statement. “We are thrilled with the result and overjoyed to be able to continue creating some of the most dynamic, exciting, and creative theater in the world, in partnership with our friends and producers Off Broadway.”
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