Susan Traherne had a terrific war. Just 17 when she was dropped behind enemy lines in Vichy France, she served valiantly as a member of England’s Special Operations Executive, part of a team carrying out harassment and sabotage missions in order to distract and demoralize German forces. The atmosphere of danger there intensified brief encounters into grand passions and reframed selfishness as patriotism to the point that no man, no occupation — and no self, for that matter — could ever afterward measure up. Postwar England was thus for Susan a profound disappointment even beyond its powdered eggs and cardboard shoes. It was a wasteland of lies, hypocrisy, anomie, and drift, not least her own.
In his August 1928 rave for The Front Page, Brooks Atkinson, of the Times, felt compelled to offer a warning that the Ben Hecht–Charles MacArthur dialogue “bruises the sensitive ear with a Rabelaisian vernacular unprecedented for its up-hill and down-dale blasphemy.” Our ears are not so sensitive 88 years later, and I can print words here that would have turned Rabelais red, but the fourth Broadway revival of the show, which opened last night in a top-notch production starring Nathan Lane, still gets to a man’s heart through his ears. Though it’s generically a farce, if a dark one, you can see why Atkinson called it a melodrama: The first act, which is mostly exposition, works like an orchestral tone poem, with the voices of a septet of Chicago newsmen entering fuguelike in various registers and taking their time to get to a climax. The slow build, like the play overall, is a masterpiece of construction, the kind that for a hundred reasons (including the cost of a 25-person cast) shouldn’t work today, but that under Jack O’Brien’s nervy direction undeniably does.
Trying to avoid the third presidential debate, I decided to watch a press screener of Fox TV’s version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show last night, thinking camp would be the perfect antidote to Trump. After all, the material has comforted and celebrated marginalized people in their struggle against implicit Republicans for more than 40 years. (The stage version premiered in London in 1973.) That it never made much sense seemed immaterial; its songs and story were always secondary to its electric, transgressive spirit, and that of its audience. Unfortunately, in this embalmed remake, neither was much in evidence: There was no live audience, of course, and no electricity, either.
The Beatles debuted “All You Need Is Love” on June 25, 1967, at the end of a television spectacular called Our World that was watched by hundreds of millions. We hear a bit of the song as broadcast live that day during the first act of Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love, which draws its ironic title from the lyrics. Kenneth, a 19-year-old Oxford wastrel, slumming in his brother’s grotty north London flat, sets out to enjoy on the telly the strange phenomenon of rebellious youth culture going mainstream. The brother, Henry, four years older, isn’t interested; he’s already been co-opted by the Establishment. (He wears a cardigan and tie beneath his leather jacket.) But, boy, is he pissed about it. For the first 20 minutes, the brothers’ enmity, and then the sexual struggle that takes over when Kenneth hooks up with Henry’s leggy mod girlfriend, makes it seem as if we’re in for a gloss on Joe Orton or John Osborne. No such luck. The tone of Love, Love, Love — which follows Kenneth and the girl, Sandra, over the next 44 years, as they marry, spawn, and destroy their offspring — is less Angry Young Man than snarky midlife crisis.
After making a bunch of people very rich and winning a whopping 11 Tony Awards, what comes next for Hamilton? This summer marked the end of act one for the smash Broadway hit: Unlike Alexander Hamilton himself, many of the people involved are taking a break from the production now that their yearlong contracts are up. With the change in administration, we thought this would be a good time to check in on the future of Hamilton, from cast departures to filmed versions to non-Broadway productions. Take a look below to see what you missed.
The story of tonight? Another one of Hamilton's original cast members is leaving the production. Anthony Ramos, who has been playing the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton since Hamilton's Off Broadway run at the Public Theater, will be performing for the last time on November 20. Ramos is leaving the production to film Spike Lee's upcoming Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It, in which he'll be a lead. Jordan Fisher, best known for his supporting role in Grease: Live , will serve as his replacement. The news of Ramos's departure comes a few days after the announcement that Christopher Jackson, who originated the role of George Washington, would be leaving the musical on November 13 to pursue other projects.
It’s probably not a coincidence that three of today’s best multi-character monologists — to coin a paradoxical job title — are women of color: Anna Deavere Smith, Nilaja Sun, and Sarah Jones. All are exemplary actors who must at some point have found that the parts available to them were nothing compared to the parts they could write for themselves. Sun’s No Child … , based on her experience as a visiting drama teacher in a Bronx high school, was a stunner in 2006; she gave herself not just one role but 16. Smith’s Fires in the Mirror (1992) vivisected the Crown Heights riots; her Let Me Down Easy (2009) the failures of the health-care system. (Notes From the Field, a new piece about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” opens next month at Second Stage.) And Jones’s Bridge & Tunnel, featuring a hilariously diverse gallery of participants in a hip-hop poetry slam, won a special Tony Award in 2006. Though the women, as performers, all turn themselves into human kaleidoscopes, as playwrights they approach their material quite differently. Smith’s work is taken verbatim from interviews, while Sun shapes and condenses real people and events into an impressionistic group portrait. Jones, the poppiest of the three, focused in Bridge & Tunnel on the individuality of her characters; the wholly invented story that contained them was deeply secondary.
Twenty-two hours into A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Taylor Mac, wearing a gown of gutted cassette tapes and a headpiece of skulls, guided the audience through a gradually softening refrain of Patti Smith’s song “People Have the Power,” until the packed theater at St. Ann’s Warehouse was filled with a breathless, omnipresent whisper: People have the power. When the final “r” softly died out, and the lights faded momentarily to black, the room was so quiet I might as well have been standing there alone, and yet I had never felt more profoundly connected to a group of fellow audience members.
Part of what keeps great plays great, age after age, is that they have so much in them: so much psychology, amusement, conflict, philosophy, politics, emotion, and linguistic pleasure. What keeps them alive is a related phenomenon: No amount of unpacking ever unpacks them. The greater they are the more they outstrip the ability of any one production to demonstrate that greatness; they are always tantalizing, rarely definitive. That has certainly been the case with The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov’s final play, from 1904, which in terms of dramatic technique — keeping all those balls, and 12 major characters, in the air at once — is not only a masterpiece but a paragon and a trap. It feels so complete and fully imagined in précis that you’d think it would just walk itself onstage and say Here I am. But as the ambitious and tentative Roundabout revival that opens tonight demonstrates, its vastness can just as well leave the drama seeming staticky and intermittent, a weak signal from a brilliant, distant source.
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton's George Washington, will soon be taking his final bow in the Broadway show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He'll perform the role, for which he was nominated for a Tony, one last time on November 13. Jackson is currently appearing on the CBS show Bull, and you'll hear his voice on the soundtrack for Moana, singing a number penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda. You can take the actor out of Hamilton, but you can't take the Hamilton out of the actor.
Perhaps it’s the uncertainty principle at work, but one of last year’s best dramas has somehow become one of this year’s best comedies. I’m referring to Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of Simon Stephens’s Heisenberg, which opened tonight on Broadway, following an acclaimed Off Broadway run in 2015. Oddly, not much has changed on the surface of what I originally called a liberating and scary new play: The two-person cast — Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt — is still terrific, with Parker doing her best stage work in years, and Arndt again a wonderful surprise to New York audiences. (He has spent most of his career on the West Coast.) The script, too, is all but unaltered. Parker is Georgie, a 42-year-old American expat in London: a self-consciously weird oversharer and possible grifter. Arndt is Alex, a 75-year-old butcher, originally from Ireland, who in response to a history of tragedy and solitude has developed a spectacularly vivid if mostly invisible inner life. (He calls himself at one point “a deranged septuagenarian Pooh bear.”) The unlikely pair meet halfway between cute and harassment, when Georgie comes upon Alex at a train station and impulsively kisses him on the back of his neck; the tale spins off into six weeks of their relationship from there.
Make sure to see the very busy Gary Busey doing his thing Off Broadway. The Oscar-nominated actor and star of Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens is joining the cast of Perfect Crime for a two-week engagement from November 21 to December 4 this year. He'll play Lionel McAuley, "The Baseball Bat Killer," in the whodunnit, which is also the longest-running Off Broadway play. Catherine Russell, who holds the world record for having never taken a sick or vacation day in the show's 30-year history, will star opposite Busey. She recently appeared on the Reply All podcast to discuss the history of Perfect Crime, which is known both for its longevity and its horrendously low Yelp reviews — though, of course, Busey might change that.
Jack Gleeson on Game of Thrones, the Time He Peed Himself on Set, and Why You Should Do Everything With PuppetsBy Nate Jones
Many of the actors who've died on Game of Thrones — and there are a lot of actors who have died on Game of Thrones — have moved onto Disney movies, superhero franchises, and prestige biopics. Not Jack Gleeson. Shortly after his King Joffrey was killed off, in 2014, the 24-year-old Irish actor decided to leave the world of big-budget film and TV work. Instead, he concentrated on his theater company Collapsing Horse, which he formed in 2011 alongside some friends from university. The troupe's Bears in Space, a comic puppet show about ... well, you can probably guess, recently finished a successful run Off Broadway, and in a packed convention hall at New York Comic Con, Vulture talked with the charming Gleeson about his career as a child actor, his time on GOT, and his complicated feelings toward fame.
The stars were out Monday at the opening night of Oh, Hello on Broadway, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney's latest version of their stage show about two Upper West Side schmucks — Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, respectively. In the lobby was a who's who of famous people who live in New York — your SNL cast members, your Michael Emersons — and their agents. Jimmy Fallon was there. As was Jon Hamm, who is listed with John Slattery as an understudy for the show. But the most important person there, by far, was Mr. Alan Alda — because without him there would be no show.
A Stage Adaptation of Clue Is Coming to the Conservatory — No, Wait, Ballroom — No, Wait, Regional TheaterBy Jackson McHenry
All your generic dinner theater murder mysteries are going to be so jealous, because Clue is getting an official stage adaptation. Variety reports that Jonathan Lynn, who wrote and directed the 1985 film based on the classic Hasbro board game, is writing the script of a stage version of Clue, set to open in May at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania before a national tour. The production is not currently targeted for Broadway and is rather "developed with an eye toward the theatrical licensing market for regional and amateur troupes," so basically, community theaters everywhere are going to start fighting about who gets to be Professor Plum. A film remake of Clue is also in the works at Fox, while a Monopoly musical is coming to Broadway. We are not looking forward to the inevitable immersive theater take on Battleship.
When Broadway isn’t busy being a temple of high art, it’s more of a transient hotel, with the oddest characters showing up for short stays. The Lyceum seems to attract a lot of these marginal types, and few of its tenants have been as marginal as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, two Upper West Side geezers who opened there tonight in a play-cum-comedy-act called Oh, Hello on Broadway. Faizon is the short one, in dark-green corduroy trousers with the tail of his Hawaiian shirt poking through the fly; he’s also wearing a distressed-to-the-point-of-inconsolable leather jacket, an “I voted” sticker, a chai chain, and open-toe sandals with white socks. He describes himself as “a Tony-award-viewing actor” and is every bit as annoying as that sounds. “Whether I live in your building or not,” he says, “I’m somehow on your co-op board.” St. Geegland is the tall one, in olive cords, a turtleneck and cardigan and plaid blazer, with accoutrements that include a hospital bracelet and glasses on Croakies. “I am neither Jewish nor a woman,” this supposed playwright explains, “but like many older men over 70, I have reached the age where I am somehow both.”
Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper Will Bring Nora’s Future to Broadway in Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2By Jackson McHenry
Nora leaves Torvald, her family, and the stage, at the end of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; but Lucas Hnath, in his latest play, and Broadway debut, has decided to bring her back. It’s a gutsy move, made gutsier by the fact that A Doll’s House, Part 2, as Hnath calls the new work, was picked up for Broadway by producer Scott Rudin, not after a stint Off Broadway or at a regional theater but on the merits of its script alone.
In 1914, Irving Berlin, already world-famous for “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” became a charter member of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Arrangers and Publishers. Until then, holders of copyrights on songs were compensated only haphazardly for the use of their work; Stephen Foster, the most popular American songwriter of the previous century, died in 1864 with three cents and some Civil War scrip in his wallet. ASCAP’s monitoring and payment system allowed Berlin and his heirs (his three daughters are still alive) to prosper from his output, which was astonishing in its size and has proved even more so in its durability. He wrote at least 1,200 songs, of which perhaps 100 are still instantly recognizable, at the heart of American music.
On October 3, he asked me what day it was, and told me about the latest developments in the staging of the Mean Girls musical. Earlier this year Tina Fey teased that she was "working on the musical adaptation" of the teen movie in the summer months while Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was on hiatus, and now we have some definitive information about its progress — the musical will be debuting at an undisclosed date and theater in Washington, D.C., this fall. Along with Fey, her composer husband, Jeff Richmond, and lyricist Nell Benjamin have been collaborating on the stage adaption. Further information, including the cast, will be revealed at a later date. Grool!
The New Trailer for PBS’s Hamilton Documentary Will Take You to the Room Where It Happens, Without the $500 Price TagBy Devon Ivie
No need to make a pilgrimage to the Richard Rodgers Theatre to fulfill all of your Hamilton needs anymore. (Although, yes, that would certainly be wonderful, and all of your friends and family would still envy you for all eternity.) The two trailers for PBS's Hamilton documentary, titled Hamilton's America, have arrived, and the 90-minute special will explore and chart the history of the revolutionary musical. As previously reported, the doc will include interviews with subjects such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama, , and Questlove, as well as feature exclusive access of the show's beloved creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. (As the maestro himself eloquently puts it in the commentary: "I feel like Hamilton reached out of history and wouldn't let me go until I told his story.") Willing to wait for it until October 21?
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