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  • Posted 8/20/14 at 3:15 PM
  • Opera

The Metropolitan Opera Has Solved Its Labor Crisis, But There Are Still Rumblings in Valhalla

The Met’s labor crisis is over; the spiritual crisis goes on. There’s a lot to be thankful for in the way contract negotiations unfolded. All through a treacherous summer, rehearsals never stopped. Costumes kept being fitted, lighting adjusted, blocking practiced, and props assembled. Stagehands continued the colossal task of figuring out how to jump between centuries and continents in a matter of hours. As a result of all this coordinated effort, chandeliers will rise and necklines will drop on opening night, just as they do every year. James Levine will conduct the National Anthem, and, as always, a few retired sopranos in the audience will holler through the 3,800-person choir — their annual opportunity to be heard at the Met.

But there are still rumblings in Valhalla. »

  • Posted 8/20/14 at 12:53 AM
  • Theater

Peter Dinklage and Taylor Schilling to Star in Off-Broadway Play

Emmy nominees Peter Dinklage and Taylor Schilling are heading to the stage together. The prestige TV dream-team will star in Ivan Turgenev's 19th-century comedy of manners A Month in the Country, starring Schilling as a bored Russian wife named Natalya who falls in love with her son's tutor, much to the annoyance of her unrequited admirer Rakitin (Dinklage). Dinklage's wife, Erica Schmidt, is directing the play, which will run for a month in early 2015 at the East Village's Classic Stage Company. And then it's straight back to TV, right, guys? Promise?

  • Posted 8/17/14 at 8:00 PM

Poor Behavior Tries to Seduce With Words But Comes Off As a Lecture

Two couples, a pleasant house, plenty of wine, and some arcing sexual current: Could there be a theatrical vehicle with a more interchangeable set of parts? Theresa Rebeck keeps squirting dramaturgical WD40 into her whirring contraption of a play Poor Behavior and, for a while, it works. Unctuously clever dialogue oozes out of Ian, the cynical Irishman (Brian Avers). His wife, the mercurial Maureen (Heidi Armbruster), careens into wittily unhinged rants. Marital arguments click smoothly along fixed tracks. It’s always entertaining to watch a weekend in the country speed so efficiently toward disaster. Soon enough, though, the machine starts to creak, giving off a clangor of whys and whines and reproaches that you can hear rumbling toward a huffy exit from ten minutes away.

A weekend at a house owned by a comfortably smug couple turns semi-amusingly disastrous. »

This Is How the Cast of Broadway’s Aladdin Honored Robin Williams

Tonight, Broadway dimmed its marquee lights for one minute in honor of Robin Williams. And at last night's performance of Aladdin on Broadway, Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Genie in the musical, gave his own fitting tribute to the late great star, leading the audience in a sing-along of the Genie's iconic song "Friend Like Me." It was very sweet.

  • Posted 8/14/14 at 12:22 AM
  • Theater

Finding Neverland Is Coming to Broadway

We're getting even more Peter Pan! The New York Times reports that Finding Neverland, a musical based on the 2004 film about Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp), will open for the first time on Broadway this March.

The high-profile musical marks Harvey Weinstein's first time as lead producer on a theatrical project, and it has been in the works for some time: After a tryout production drew mixed reviews back in 2012, Weinstein scrapped an earlier version of the script and hired a new team, helmed by Tony-winning director Diane Paulus (Pippin, Hair), to rework it. This is the first time a firm Broadway date has been announced, although many were predicting it after Jennifer Hudson performed a song from the production at this year's Tony Awards.

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You Might Get to See Emma Stone Sing, Dance, and Act in Person Soon!

Emma Stone is in talks to make her Broadway debut, playing Sally Bowles in the revival of Cabaret that is currently running at Studio 54. While the rest of the cast is staying on, the New York Times reports Stone would replace Michelle Williams when she leaves the show on November 9. Stone was actually slotted for the role before Williams, but had to drop out for scheduling reasons. Of course, she did some stage acting as a kid, but as a working Hollywood actress since her teens, she hasn’t had any major stage experience. However, she is Emma Stone. She could lip-synch the musical and still get roses thrown at her every night.

Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert Star in a ‘Superb Production’ of Genet’s The Maids

Most contemporary plays, or at least the ones that make it to New York’s big stages, can be categorized as Realism Lite: recognizable people doing recognizable things, perhaps with a powder coat of stylization for sheen. Actual absurdism, the hope of the 1960s, is dead; the theater today aspires to the condition of Mad Men.

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Theater Review: Has No One Associated With Phoenix Ever Seen a Play Before?

What hath Godot wrought? The pregnant, performative style of stage dialogue revolutionized by Beckett and honed by Pinter has, over the years, devolved into a cheap lingua franca used by playwrights as high-gloss varnish on their piddly dramedies and rom-coms. In the latter category is Scott Organ’s Phoenix, a two-hander featuring no existential dread, but plenty of dreadful conversations. These consist mostly of feints and gambits that curlicue endlessly around nothing:

You see everything coming from miles away. »

Larry David to Play Himself on Broadway

All the way back in January, we first heard that Larry David was working on a play, possibly for Jerry Seinfeld to star in. Well, it appears the Seinfeld part was off, but the New York Times reports David has in fact written a play, and that he will star in it himself on Broadway. Entitled Fish in the Dark, it will open on March 5 at a Shubert Theater. David wouldn't share any details about the play itself, other than that the character he is playing is “somebody very similar to Larry David — it might even be Larry David with a different name.” David says he wasn't planning on starring but was convinced by the show's megaproducer, Scott Rudin. Save his work pretending to be in The Producers on Curb Your Enthusiasm, David admits he hasn't acted onstage since the eighth grade. He was once a working stand-up, so that might help. But he was known for hating the audience and often just walking offstage mid-set, so maybe it won't. Either way, this all sounds pretty, pretty, pretty grand (it's theater, gotta class it up a little).

The Public Theater’s King Lear, Starring John Lithgow, Is Commendable But Vague

On a recent evening at the Delacorte in Central Park, a raccoon stopped by unticketed to watch a moment of the Public Theater’s new production of King Lear, starring John Lithgow. Following some other supernumeraries onto the outskirts of the stage, where it kept a respectful distance from the main action, the odd creature seemed briefly stunned by the doings of the other odd creatures. This was the early scene in which the elderly Lear awards portions of his kingdom to the winners of a kind of spontaneous poetry slam among his three daughters. After the older two, Goneril and Regan, played by Annette Bening and Jessica Hecht, offer slick words of fealty, and the youngest, Cordelia, played by Jessica Collins, remains mute because her love is “richer than her tongue,” the raccoon took off as Lear exploded in rage, Cordelia in tears. This is one of many Lear moments that manage to be both supremely moving and completely mystifying. What is the point of Lear’s idle contest? Why does Cordelia fail to explain herself better? Who cannot recognize the brazen falseness of the two entitled nasties? Perhaps I’m projecting, but I thought the raccoon was saying “Whaaaaat?” as it went.

The Public has presented six Lears since its founding. »

Broadway Is Getting Its First Black Cinderella

It's shaping up to be a banner year for diversity on Broadway. In addition to casting the first black Phantom of the Opera, it was announced today that that Keke Palmer will be Broadway's first black Cinderella, joining the production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at New York's Broadway Theater starting September 9. "It's honestly one of those things that I can't believe is really happening," Palmer told the AP. "I'm very excited. Very excited and nervous as well — a bunch of feelings all at once."

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  • Posted 8/1/14 at 1:05 PM
  • Theater

Theater Review: Between Riverside and Crazy Lies Excellence

Even on the rare occasions when they’re legible, the notes I take in the theater are generally useless — except in those cases where boredom causes them to mutate into to-do lists. I make no apology; there are plays to which a perfectly reasonable critical response may be “wash delicates” or “order Netflix.” In fact, it’s a lack of notes that’s most telling. After Between Riverside and Crazy last night, I checked my Gold Fibre Antique Ivory pad and found that once I’d gotten past my pre-show ritual of describing the set (an excellent revolving Upper West Side apartment by Walt Spangler), I’d written … nothing.  As soon as the first scene began, I was gone: lost in its world.

Stephen Adly Guirgis's mastery. »

  • Posted 7/30/14 at 9:00 PM
  • Theater

Theater Review: Sex With Strangers Has a Sitcom Touch, But a Good One

If you were trying to devise a light comedy for overheated August audiences (and theaters closing out their subscription seasons) you might do worse than a two-hander with a clickbait title and a chilly setting. Perhaps you’d have the curtain rise on an inn in Michigan as a March snowstorm casts cool blue light on a woman drinking a big glass of red wine while ice drips loudly off the eaves outside. Anyway, that’s what Laura Eason has done in Sex With Strangers, at Second Stage, making it seem, but only for the first few minutes, like part of the New York theater world’s late-summer ritual of dumping inventory too insubstantial for the rest of the year. For there is sexy Olivia, curled up in her stretchy separates, proofing the manuscript of her novel, for god’s sake. Is this a play or a travel ad at the back of The New York Review of Books?

Novelist v. Twitterer. »

Watch the Original Mary Martin Peter Pan and Think Lovely, Wonderful Thoughts

With this Allison Williams news upon us, let us be neither the first nor last to point you toward the original Peter Pan starring Mary Martin. It's a nostalgia fest for those of us who wore out the VHS, but also evidence that a woman could (and did!) play the most wonderful version of Peter Pan there ever was. Williams surely has big shoes to fill. (That is, if her version of Peter Pan wears shoes.)

Audra McDonald Sings Yahoo Answers on Fallon

On Wednesday, six-time-Tony-winner Audra McDonald returned to The Tonight Show to sing the transcripts from some ridiculous Yahoo Answers, accompanied on piano by Jimmy Fallon and The Good Wife's Josh Charles. If you enjoyed McDonald's Tony-winning performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, you'll love hearing her take on classic tracks like "How can I be the life of the party?," "Does vodka really kill bees and wasps?," and "I swallowed an ice cube last night and then it disappeared, and I'm wondering if it's stuck." Truly effervescent.

  • Posted 7/21/14 at 10:00 PM
  • Theater

Theater Review: Piece of My Heart Really Needed Some Brains

Jersey Boys, which should have been a cautionary tale, has become instead a how-to guide. (Half a billion in Broadway receipts will do that.) It has not only spawned an infestation of jukebox biomusicals but also codified the key elements of the genre. First among these is that there should be a baldly narrated framing device (a Carnegie Hall concert, a death, a reunion) from which the plot flashes back to the difficulties of the songwriter’s early life (an overprotective mother, the Holocaust). The intervening years should be précised as quickly and hysterically as possible — crises only — leaving plenty of room for songs whose necks have been twisted so their unlikely emergence in the narrative will elicit a gasp of surprise. (Optional: These songs should be plunked out on a piano by a Jewish shlemiel before a trio of bespangled black singers magically materializes to apply the shamalamadingdong.) Throughout, characters should use dialogue not to advance the plot but to provide information everyone onstage would already know. And all this must lead to a curtain-call sing-along of the musician’s catchiest hit. 

"A breakthrough in badness." »

  • Posted 7/17/14 at 7:32 PM
  • Obit

The Lady in Room 309: How Elaine Stritch Understood New Yorkers Who Secretly Feel Like Frauds

Elaine Stritch wasn’t the star of Company, but she sure as hell made herself the star of its making-of documentary. Dean Jones and the rest of the actors be damned; the drama of her failure to master her big number, “The Ladies Who Lunch,” all but commandeers D.A. Pennebaker’s 1970 chronicle of the marathon recording sessions for the musical’s cast album. Muttering and grimacing, and looking in her bucket hat like a geezer at the end of a weeklong fishing trip, she keeps tripping over the notes and especially the feelings of the Stephen Sondheim showstopper, as if she were just learning it. Then, having begged for and been granted an expensive extra day to record, she returns all coiffed and made up and totally nails it. Presto, the film has its arc and its climax.

Sophistication as a cloak, or a suit of armor. »

‘I Want to Be Original’: My Afternoon With Elaine Stritch

Ten months ago, I stumped Elaine Stritch. As we sat around her kitchen table, I mentioned that in her one-woman Broadway show, she had said she wished she had been able to write Noel Coward’s epitaph. Who, I wondered, would she want to write hers?

Much of my two hours with her was raucous. This moment was the only time she didn’t either cackle with glee over some joke or story or bark at me for some nettlesome question she didn’t like.

“I never thought of that,” she said with wide eyes. I waited for her reply, but it became clear she really hadn’t thought much about what happened to her after her death. “A logical question. A hard question.” I gave her a few more beats to consider a response. “I know a lot of people that I’m very fond of, who I’d like to know what they thought of me.”

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Remembering Elaine Stritch: A Reading List

Elaine Stritch, who passed away today at the age of 89, became famous — as actors and actresses do — for delivering lines on stages and screens. But many of Stritch's most memorable lines came off the stage, where she was known for her salty candor. In remembrance of the legendary actress, Vulture compiled New York's coverage of Stritch's life and career, including some of the best quotes about and by Stritch. Prepare to cackle, and maybe to cry a little, too. 

Read More  »

  • Posted 7/17/14 at 5:00 PM
  • Theater

Theater Review: The Cornpone Charms of Pump Boys and Dinettes Are Almost Enough

Can friendliness be baked into a song, the way peaches are in a pie? On the evidence of Pump Boys and Dinettes, the final presentation of the Encores! Off-Center series this summer, the answer is yes. More a country-music revue than a musical, Pump Boys offers a series of relentlessly ingratiating clap-alongs that melt sophistication as if it were a pat of butter on a steaming biscuit. Sorry for the grits-and-gravy imagery, but after sitting through the show’s 19 numbers — rockabilly paeans to roadside culture, a cappella hymns to catfishing, twangy odes to Mamaw, boot-scooting two-steps, and honkytonk declarations of a mostly notional ideal of female empowerment — my New York brain is basically Southern-fried.

"It would be a hard sell on today’s Broadway." »

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