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A Free Man of Color
Written by John Guare
Directed by George C. Wolfe
Jeffrey Wright (Jacques Cornet), Mos (Cupidon Murmur and Toussaint Louverture), Reg Rogers (Zeus-Marie Pincepousse and Tallyrand), John McMartin (Thomas Jefferson), Paul Dano (Meriwether Lewis), Peter Bartlett (Mercure and Count Achille Creux), Veanne Cox (Mme. Mandragola and Dona Polissena), Triney Sandoval (Napoleon Bonaparte and Intendante Juan Ventura Morales)
By Nick Jones
Directed by Sam Gold
Jeremy Strong (Lucidus Culling), Richard Poe (Nathaniel Culling), Christopher Evan Welch (Henry Blaine), Steven Boyer (Robert Blithe), Stephen Ellis (Gavin Klaff), Kristen Schaal (Isabelle Dupree), Jarlath Conroy (Old Man, Egbert, Friedmont, Sir Derek Lanley), John Patrick Doherty (Finn, Earl of Dorchester, King’s Messenger)
Les Misérables at Paper Mill
Written by Claude-Michel Schönberg (book and music), Alain Boublil (book; and “original French text” with Jean-Marc Natel), Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics), James Fenton (additional text)
Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell
Lawrence Clayton/Ron Sharpe (Jean Valjean/Alternate), Andrew Varela (Javert), Betsy Morgan (Fantine), Justin Scott Brown (Marius), Jenny Latimer (Cosette), Chasten Harmon (Éponine), Michael Kostroff (Thénardier), Shawna M. Hamic (Mme. Thénardier), Jeremy Hays (Enjolras)
The first week of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
60 Minutes piece on the night of the first preview
Profile on Today Show
Creative team not enjoying late-night jabs
Foxwoods owner already looking for another tenant?
Two new musicals closing already
The Scottsboro Boys (December 12: 29 previews, 49 regular performances)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (January 2: 26 previews, 120 regular performances)
Gift guide: Best cast recording of the year — Scottsboro Boys
One Day More (Les Miserables – Complete Symphonic Recording)
The Heat is on in Saigon (Miss Saigon – 1995 Complete Symphonic Recording)
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Broadway Radio: This Week on Broadway for December 5, 2010: The Coward Could Be the Best
Transcribed by Courtney Rice
Peter Filichia: PF
James Marino: JM
Matthew Murray: MM
TIME – 00:00
JM: Hello and welcome to Broadway’s Radio’s: This Week on Broadway for Sunday, December 5, 2010. My name is James Marino, and on the call this morning, we have Matthew Murray and Peter Filichia. Peter can be found three times a week at TheatreMania.com, also writes for MasterWorks Broadway, as well as the Newark Star Ledger. Good morning, Peter. How are you?
PF: Hi, how are you?
JM: I’m very good, thank you. Also with us is Matthew Murray. Matthew is the chief theatre critic for TalkinBroadway.com and also writes for Broadway Stars. Good morning, Matthew.
MM: Hi James.
JM: So, um, we will get to the Spiderman discussion
(laughs from all)
JM (continued): because it seems to have really taken on a life of its own. It’s almost bigger than the show, just the discussion about the show. But first, let’s go over some other things that have happened on Broadway. The first thing that we want to do is let’s talk about the A Free Man of Color: John Guare’s play that just opened. And Matthew, why don’t you start us off there.
MM: Well, I want to start by saying that I’m really disappointed that we weren’t able to get to this last week because I thought it would have fit in really well after our discussion of Angels in America, because this play, like that one, originally was directed by George C. Wolfe, who certainly doesn’t have the problem that we’ve talked about with directors who don’t know how to approach material in a big theatrical way. George C. Wolfe is great at that. Some of our listeners may… some of our listeners may be aware of, and some- not James- may even agree that he was brilliant with The Wild Party and has certainly done very well on a number of other shows, and is also well-known as a playwright, as well. I think that it’s as a director that has been his lasting theatrical claim to fame, and I think he continues that with A Free Man of Color, which, unfortunately, is not really a great play, as I see it, but it’s a wonderful production. It’s all dressed up and designed to look like a late 18th century sort of pageantry-kind of play, so it has got absolutely gorgeous costumes by Anne Hould-Ward that are all, sort of the evolution of the French Renaissance; kind of French Revolution style. It takes place in America, but it’s very similar with the powdered wigs, and it’s got David Rockwell sets that really capture the nature of the theatre, because there is kind of a play within a play aspect to the show. But, very surprising, there’s one scene where the entire set just sort of vanishes and there’s some action on a pure white stage, with a pure white background and all that. So, really, it’s an amazing play to look at, but the problem with it, from my standpoint, is that it is two and a half hours and it doesn’t really say anything. Now, the problem with that could be related, unfortunately, to George C. Wolfe and his history with the Public Theatre because George C. Wolfe had originally commissioned this work for the Public Theatre back when he was the artistic director- I think eight years ago. And originally, my understanding is, A Free Man of Color was going to be five, five and a half hours, in which case it’s possible that the show we are seeing at Lincoln Center right now, at the Vivian Beaumont, is really just a shadow of its former self, because it’s a little of two and a half hours. So, I don’t know how much we really lost, how much of it was edited and how much of it was just chopped away, and how much, as a result, is not what/where it had originally intended. So, that’s a problem with the show. But, aside from that, I’m not sure it’s a particularly interesting overall story. The idea is that Jeffrey Wright plays someone named Jacques Cornet, who is a half-white, half-black man in New Orleans at the very beginning of the 19th century. It follows him as he beds a bunch of women and has, sort of, a bunch of adventures related to his status within the community, and as a map-maker… No, I’m sorry, as a map collector- and all of the various things that happen to him against the backdrop of the Louisiana Purchase. Thomas Jefferson is a character played by John McMartin. Napoleon Bonaparte is a character. Meriwether Lewis is a character in his expedition into the west is a major plot point. There are characters who are played by very well-known actors, like Peter Bartlett and Veanne Cox and Reg Rogers have roles in the play, but they are on for like five minutes and then they disappear for thirty, thirty-five minutes at a time and come back, and they’re playing somebody else…
TIME – 00:05
MM (continued): … It’s a very sweeping play. It’s a huge cast, it’s a relatively huge cast for a play: I think that there’s twenty-four people in it. As I mentioned, it’s a very big production that uses every inch of the Beaumont stage: lots of stuff that flies and comes about on the floor. But, it just didn’t add up to anything for me. I think the acting is, more or less, as good as it can be under the circumstances, but without sort of a central core, or really a well-defined point to rally around. It all just seemed kind of like Much Ado about Nothing to me, and that is too bad because it’s a wonderful play to look at and to me, it really is, sort of proof that, if you want to see plays be… if you want to see plays be the most that they can possibly be, unfortunately, most of the time you have to go to Lincoln Center or one of the other non… for profit theatres because they are the only places that are going to have the resources… and they’re going to have the resources to make plays look as big as they probably need to be. So, from that standpoint, I didn’t have any criticisms with A Free Man of Color, but I certainly wish that the play had been able to live up to the production it was given. I think that dealing with an aspect of race… the play deals with an aspect of race that isn’t one that we normally think of, and that was “what was it like in the quote-on-quote ‘free areas’ of the country before the Civil War? And how did the things that led up to the Civil War change what was constituted by freedom in certain areas of the country?” New Orleans is shown as being relatively free and that all members of society have different denominations in terms of what their make-up is: how much black ancestry they have, how much white ancestry they have – and that’s all a very interesting aspect of our culture that I didn’t know about. I think that had the play focused more on that and drawn a story a little bit more closely related to that, it would have been better, but it goes to some very familiar places after awhile and I found that much less fascinating and much less dramatically satisfying. So, I think that A Free Man of Color is a really intriguing idea, and some day I’d really like to read- maybe not see- but read the five and a half hour version and see if it answers a lot of questions I had about the play. But, the two and a half hour version is… it seems like kind of a hack job, unfortunately, and that’s too bad because John Guare is a great playwright, and William (nd), the great director… great things can happen, but they don’t right now at Lincoln Center.
JM: Alright, Matthew. It’s interesting that George Wolfe would go from one major non-profit, to directing at another major non-profit. Did you know of any workshops or anything that was done with A Free Man of Color, while he was at Shakespeare?
MM: I, unfortunately, don’t know anything about that. I just, I know that in his review in the Times… I know that when the Times reviewed it, there was a comment about this and I confirmed with someone else who has a familiarity with the history of the show when I was seeing another play yesterday. So, it’s out there. It’s apparently common knowledge, but the exact degree of it and how far the play got at the Public, I’m afraid I really can’t say.
JM: Alrighty, so the next thing we’re going to talk about is The Coward, by Nick Jones, which is off-Broadway, and Matthew, why don’t you start us off there.
MM: Well, The Coward actually takes place, a little bit in the same time period, a bit later, but it’s the same kind of costumed sort of a play, except it’s about as different as you could possibly be. It’s sort of a comedy of manners and miss-manners and all that, that is set in England, around the time when they were dueling each other and (nd) such battles as matters of honor, and the more you fought, the better person you were. Of course, the playwright, Nick Jones, wanted to use it as an opportunity to show how far we either have progressed, or haven’t, and as a result, he just sort of flips the entire idea on its end. The lead character is someone named Lucidus Culling and is played by Jeremy Strong, who is very, um… what’s a nice way to say this? Very effeminate, perhaps? Or…
MM: Yes, Peter that is a dandy way to put it. Dandy. He has a very falsetto-like voice and really, has no interest in fighting, whatsoever; he would much rather write, he would much rather pursue more mind-ly arts, but he’s being pushed by his father: Nathaniel, who is played by Richard Poe, into fighting duels, just to prove that he’s a man and worthy of honor and all that, and he’s just like his brothers, who seem to have died in their own duels…
TIME – 00:10
MM (continued): …But, no matter, that’s not really the point. And as a result, he goes out, he challenges this ancient guy, he’s like in his eighties or something, and can’t fight back because he believes that he’s making fun of him in the park, but he doesn’t know that the rules of society allow this old man to pass off the responsibility of dueling to someone younger, and he does, and, of course, Lucidus has absolutely no ability whatsoever to fight and no interest in doing it. So, he goes and he finds someone else to pretend to be him, and that’s Henry Blaine, played by Christopher Evan Welch, and that just sort of sets off this, really, sort of disastrous chain of events, that leads to deaths, and leads to really sort of an upending of what class and family mean in this English society at the time. And there were parts of this show that were just amazingly funny, I have not loved everything that I’ve seen Jeremy Strong do in the past, but this is really just a great role for him, and I think that the case could be made that if he played it, pun not intended, straight, that maybe it would be more effective if you saw him trying harder to live up to his father’s idea for him and that he just wasn’t able to do it, maybe that would be funnier, I don’t know. But, he gives a very committed performance as a young man who just isn’t able to be the sort of person that his father wants him to be, and that’s great. Richard Poe is terrific as the strong-willed father. Christopher Evan Welch as the guy who fights for him. There are a bunch of wonderful supporting characters. Stephen Boyer and Stephen Ellis play Lucidus’ friends, who are every bit as bad as he is, but a little bit more socially astute. And Kristen Schaal is extremely funny as this woman who represents where the female idea of society is at the time of the show and how her role sort of inter-tangles with Lucidus’, and what she wants to happen, with regards to marrying him and all that. So, there’s a lot of really great stuff here. Now, the thing is, if you read Charles Isherwood’s review in the Times, he talks a lot about how the play really, sort of overplays its hand, and probably goes too far in certain aspects of the way it treats the story. And I can’t actually disagree with that. I think that you’re either going to buy into the conceit of what Nick Jones is doing, or you’re not going to. And, I did, but, I can understand why it wouldn’t work for people, because it really is so out there and it is so over-the-top in some ways, that it could very well be seen as something that is not going to attract people. I think that there are a few problems with it, I think Nick Jones, at certain points, has a habit of injecting modern language and sensibilities into the show, that probably aren’t necessary. I admit that I don’t know the history of profanity, but there are a lot of times in the show, where it seems like they’re using swear words in modern contexts, or at least, in modern ways that I wouldn’t associate with this. And I think that the play as a whole would be funnier if it stuck more readily to the time period in which it’s set. But, even so, I think that there’s a lot of funny stuff in the play. I think that the second act doesn’t live up to the first; I think that the first act is really almost perfect in doing what it’s doing and the second act is a big let-down, but, overall, it’s really an extremely entertaining play, with a lot of very good performances in it, and I think it’s playing at Lincoln Center’s… I think it’s playing at the Duke on 42nd Street as part of the LCT3 series at least until the end of the month, I believe it got extended. So, it’s a wonderful little play, and I would recommend getting a chance to see it. Sam Gold, who has directed a number of the Annie Baker plays, has done, really, a very good job here at getting the subtle emotion out. But, it’s really much more of a comedy, than a lot of her plays. So, it’s a very well-done production, I’m not sure it’s an absolutely perfect play, but it’s certainly a very good time at the theatre and it doesn’t pretend to be very much else. So, I would consider it a success.
JM: Alright. Peter, you saw it; what do you think?
PF: Oh, I thought it was the best comedy of the year, by far. I enjoyed it immeasurably. Let me just augment some of the things that Matthew has said, and I’m almost in total agreement with him. The first comment that sets this in motion that upsets the father, Nathaniel, that makes him want Lucidus to duel is that someone has called Lucidus’ horse…
TIME – 00:15
PF (continued): …fat. I mean, really, if we’re talking about insulting horses… on what level are we talking about here? That’s pretty ridiculous. Jeremy Strong, I thought was marvelous; he even has a cowlick, which I thought was very funny. And the way he walks, you really get the impression… you know, like in those carnivals where you go into these strange structures- not quite a room- where you’re walking on air? There’s just a flat piece of, not quite canvas, plastic, I think it is- and there’s air blowing up from it, and you have to walk gingerly? Well, that’s the way Lucidus walks and it’s really quite funny. And when he sits, his feet are constantly in motion: one is going up, while the other is going down and then it reverses itself. It really is a very funny performance, he is who he is. He is perfectly content with who he is, and that’s what’s very interesting. He even considers himself heterosexual; he hasn’t even given a thought to anything else because that’s what you do: you’re a heterosexual in those days, and that’s all there is to it. So, that’s very interesting to me as well. I would elaborate that the old man that he challenges also mentions that he’s blind. So, he wasn’t looking at him funny because he couldn’t even see him, so that was a nice little detail. Now, what’s really good is that it makes us wonder about how dueling was ever thought to be a good idea in the first place, especially over such trivial issues. And that’s one of the strengths of the play: making us wonder, “hey… when did this start? When did this stop? Why did it stop?” And some of those answers are given in this play, so I thought that was good. I also thought it was fascinating that when Lucidus goes into a bar looking for some rough-and-tumble guy- he’s with his friend now- so, two of them walk in, and he approaches Henry Blaine and says, “I have a business proposition for you,” Henry, matter of factly, assumes that they want sex- and he’s willing to give it to them too, at a price. And it’s so matter of fact, that I thought it was quite quite quite different. I didn’t see that coming at all. But, Lucidis is a coward to a certain degree, but, he does stand up for himself, and that’s something that I think is a real depth of character. Henry shows up at his house and says, “alright, I’ve decided I’m going to do this;” and Lucidus is over his head and thinks, “no, I’m not going to do this,” and he keeps on saying, “I asked you to leave.” You know, that’s pretty brave of this guy to speak to a rich guy like… “I’ve asked you to leave.” He’s not really a coward, he just isn’t good at fighting, but he does stand up for himself and I think that’s very very nice. So, I like that quite a bit. But, the father, Richard Poe, is marvelous because one thing that doesn’t quite happen in this play that one expects to is that the father has no contempt for his foppish son. He accepts him as his son. Later in the play, I will grant you something happens to suggest he doesn’t hold him near and dear to his heart, but he doesn’t have the type of contempt that many fathers do for their foppish sons, and I like that immeasurably because you never see that. And there are funny lines, like “if you live,” the father tells the boy, “you will be respected, if you die, you’ll be more respected.” And the day that the duel comes, “my sons big day!” he says proudly. So, it’s not that he loves the kid less, he just loves his family’s honor more, and that’s what this is all about: what is considered to be honor, that you’re not supposed to be insulted. Today, of course, we call it being ‘dissed’ and people do still get into fights, if not duels, over this, which does bring up the point that Matthew made about “how far have we come?” I also agree with him that there are contemporary lines in this play that do stick out and they’re not necessary. Some of them are profane; I’m not going to say them… But, I’ll tell you, as good a job as Sam Gold has done at directing, I wish that he had caught Jeremy Strong at one point saying, “oh my Gawwwd,” in a contemporary fashion. I will admit that “oh my God” has been said for time immemorial, but the way that Jeremy says, “oh my Gawwwd,” at one point, sounded much too ‘at these times’ for me, so I felt that too. But, boy! Let me also say that Kristen Schaal, whoever this young woman is, she is so funny as Isabelle. Now, Isabelle is a person that Lucidus has been writing and he wants her, but she isn’t answering his letters, and, of course, one look at the young man and we can tell why she’s not deeply…
TIME – 00:20
PF (continued): …in love. However, once he seems to have success in the duel- such as it is, there’s a lot behind that- now she’s suddenly interested. And she comes on, and she just thinks she is the sun and the moon and the stars because she comes from a good family and she speaks about herself in the third person, she tosses her head when she gives out her name, “Isabelle DuPree,” as like it’s one of the most significant names in the history of mankind. Talks about how beautiful she is, which I think is rather funny because she resembles Austin Pendleton. She talks to people looking at her breasts, and she’s as close to flat-chested as a woman can be. I’d say that, really, about fifty percent of the time she spoke, I was laughing, and that’s a pretty high average for me. And not only that, this is… this also struck me as one of those reasons that when agents go to the theatre looking for new clients, that they don’t leave until they’ve seen every one of the actors; no matter how bad the play is, they want to see every one of the actors, and this is one of the reasons why. She doesn’t come in until the second act, but, boy, is she worth waiting for. So, I thought this was the best comedy of the year, the best comic performance of the year by Jeremy Strong, the best supporting comic performance of the year by Richard Poe, and certainly the best comic female featured performance of the year by Kristen Schaal. I’m delighted to hear that it’s extended; I want it to run forever. And while, yes, indeed, I see Matthew’s nit-picks, and I agree with them entirely, there is so much originality, so much wit, and so much nice deep characterization in this play that I wish it very well.
JM: Alright. Peter, down in the Jersey neck of the woods, in the little playhouse they call Paper Mill
JM: There’s a show that some people might have heard about that… can we call it a revival? A revisal? And, of course, I’m speaking about the… is it the launch of the tour of the new Les Miserables?
PF: It is, it’s the American launch, yes. This is the first place where Les Mis will play, for the next ten months it will be on the road. It’s a very very good production. Now, one thing I want to reference about Paper Mill is, some years ago they did a production of Miss Saigon and nobody came. It’s hard for Paper Mill. In the old days- Paper Mill has been around since the 30’s- in the old days, a show like Silk Stockings would appear on Broadway for a year, and people from New jersey just didn’t have time to get to it, and suddenly, it was at Paper Mill, and great, you could finally see Silk Stockings and everybody went in Jersey, and everybody had a good time. By the time Miss Saigon got to Paper Mill, ten years had passed, and ten years is… ten times is a year… and as a result, a lot of people had got enough time to go see Miss Saigon on Broadway, and as a result, they weren’t interested in seeing it again. Well, what is this boat for Les Mis? After all, Les Mis played substantially longer, half as long, again, on Broadway… and, of course, there was a recent revival. So, obviously, there’s going to be less interest in seeing Les Mis replicated. So, as a result, Cameron Mackintosh did not replicate the production. Usually, when you get directors of touring productions, they meticulously and unimaginatively recreate the original director’s staging. And, in a way, that’s good for people who have never seen the show before, but, we’re banking here that people have seen Les Mis before, so now it’s time for something different. It starts off very differently because it starts off on a ship, which I will admit is a bit of a problem later, because there’s a lyric about the chain gang that wasn’t changed and it should have been. But, anyways, they’re on a galley ship and they’re rowing in the beginning, and some of the effects are really fascinating. There’s a spray of water, that when you first see it come up, you really do think it is real water, but it’s not, it’s a projection, but it’s a very very effective projection. And it’s a nice metaphor for what’s going on because this production does make a big splash. One of the nice things about it, is that there are plenty of backdrops that replicate Victor Hugo’s paintings and drawings. Many might not know that Victor Hugo spent time as an artist, and here are his drawings which really had a nice nice feel to them; they’re very pretty, they’re beautifully replicated, so that’s very nice too. So, almost every number is staged in a different way… almost, not all. Certainly, ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ is not set at a place where there are empty chairs and empty tables, and you find out, ehh you don’t need those. He can be having that same thought…
TIME – 00:25
PF (continued): …while walking down the street, and he does. It’s very well performed… one exception, but very well performed. Lawrence Clayton, an African American actor, plays Valjean and he really has a seriousness of purpose that is marvelous. Also, on opening night when he sang ‘Bring Him Home,’ the audience could not wait for him to finish while he was holding that long note at the end, they just had to start before he was even done because they were so impressed by what he was doing. So, he was really really marvelous. Andrew Varela, as Javert, may be the finest Javert I’ve ever seen. I think I’ve seen five different productions of Les Mis now, and again, there’s that seriousness of purpose. Here’s a guy that will not be swayed. We know people like this, people who are intractable, who have their opinions, they will not be swayed, they want the guilty punished under all circumstances, he’s true to himself, and when he sings his ‘Stars’ song, it’s just magnificent. That’s the only word for it magnificent, he really is so good. Fascinating that I had to see an understudy because Justin Scott Brown was ill, and playing Marius was a young man named John Fletcher, who you would swear had the role from day one because he was really a lovely Marius, wonderfully effective there too. Betsy Morgan plays Fantine, and I’ll tell you, the high notes that she has to sing reminded me of Steel Shaving’s Attracted to a Magnet, they just came to her like that and I thought that was really, very effective.
JM: You mean in a good way?
PF: Oh yeah!
JM: Ok, I wasn’t sure if you meant in a good way or not…
PF: I understand that metaphor is a metaphor, so I’m all with you on that. And, you know, it’s funny, I’ve seen so many people play Cosette, the older Cosette, as one dimensional and I think that’s an easy thing to do, that’s the way this part is written, but, somehow, Jenny Latimer brought more to it, so I thought that was good. The only one I really didn’t like was Eponine, a woman named Chasten Harmon, very much American Idol, wanting to show off her voice and not the character, so I didn’t like her at all. I will admit that somebody has written me and said, “you’re crazy, she’s magnificent,” some Paper Mill patron, but, nevertheless, I didn’t feel that way. But, it was so nice to see a different look. I’m not saying amazedly different, but markedly different, and as a result, just seeing this variation on the theme set wise and orchestration wise, was enough to make it seem fresh. And those people who have always loved Les Mis, will certainly enjoy seeing this variation on a theme and I think it’s going to be a very successful tour, even though, lord knows, the show has been out there in the country many many times. So, I don’t know if they’re going to cities they’ve been to a number of times, so many of these mega musicals, during the 80’s and 90’s made plenty of trips to these cities; so, I know they’re going places like Tempe, Arizona and Birmingham, Alabama, which I don’t think… my guess would be, and that’s all it is, is a guess, but I do think that these people have quite quite a lovely time in store for them. By the way, it’s the version that wound up after they cut it a little, back in the Broadway days when they were worried about overtime- you know, if you go over three hours, you have to pay everybody overtime and that’s expensive. So, there are those nips and tucks there, but, basically, it’s still Les Mis. And I have to say, Les Mis was one of the first CDs I ever got, and it took me about two months to get through it, because I kept repeating some of the songs over and over because I couldn’t believe how wonderful they were. And I really do believe that this is one of the greatest scores I have ever heard in almost fifty years of going to the theatre. My friend, John Harrison, smartly remarked once, that, “you know, there’s a spirituality in this musical,” and I agree with him there, entirely. I think it’s a great point, and so, if you like it, make sure you go.
JM: I am a very big fan of Les Mis…
PF: oh, good.
JM: …and my wife hates it.
PF: yeah, I know a lot of people that do.
JM: So, I’m going to have to find a buddy to go out and see it. Interesting, Boublil and Schonberg, who wrote Les Mis, I’m sort of thinking they’ve kind of disappeared after Martin Guerre, unless I’m not remembering something correctly…
PF: well, The Pirate Queen
JM: Yeah, that’s right.
MM: The Pirate Queen…
TIME – 00:30
MM (continued): …Martin Guerre was terrible. I thought that The Pirate Queen was a lot better than Martin Guerre, but…
JM: I liked Pirate Queen
PF: I like the beginning.
JM: Yeah, yeah, that’s true.
PF: But, yes, Matthew is one of the few people I know who saw Martin Guerre, so…
MM: No, no, no, no, Peter. I’m only one of the few people who saw it who will admit to it. Totally different.
PF: Oh, I disagree with that entirely. I think all of us who have seen these obscure shows admit to them right away, it’s a badge of honor.
MM: You only say that because you didn’t see Martin Guerre, Peter.
JM: Where did you see it?
MM: I saw it in Seattle.
PF: Oh, I can trump that ace millions of times.
MM: No, please. I’m not saying you haven’t seen worse shows, but Martin Guerre was, to me, an embarrassment, especially after Les Mis and Miss Saigon- coming so hot on the heels of those. I saw it in 1999 and those shows were still really big deals back then, so…
PF: Of course, but, I mean, (nd) Central Park, Doctor Jazz…
JM: Me as Lancelot.
PF: Oh, yeah? Oh! I bet you were good!
JM: Oh, I want to tell you with absolute certainty that… I think it was just the fiftieth anniversary of Camelot, wasn’t it?
PF: Yeah, indeed, December 3rd.
JM: I just read that somewhere. Was it your column, Peter, that I read that?
PF: It could be, but December 3rd was definitely the fiftieth anniversary.
M: And I’m pretty sure in the last fifty years, bar none, that I was the worst Lancelot ever to walk the stage, I’m pretty sure
PF: Let me say this, did you see the movie, James? A friend of mine is a very heavy-set actor, and he was talking to somebody once and somebody said to him, “oh God, I saw a production of Camelot once where there was the fattest Lancelot I’ve ever seen,” and the guy had to say, “that was I,” so, I don’t think you set the record, James.
JM: Well, I’m not saying that I was the heaviest Lancelot, I’m saying…
PF: Oh, I know, I know.
JM: Anyways, getting back to the point was, I wanted to ask you two, were you two fans of Miss Saigon?
PF: I liked Miss Saigon. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. I respected it, and it wasn’t, to me, as great a follow-up to Les Mis, and that made sense to me because the music of Miss Saigon took place in a very different era, in a less romantic era, so, I remember when I got the album and I heard, ‘The Heat is On in Saigon,’ I thought it was a terrific number, but, then, it was a letdown for me after that. But, I thought it was good, it was a good show. I begrudge it none of its success.
MM: I think that Miss Saigon… I think it’s very difficult because, personally, I think it’s a better show than Les Mis is, but I think Les Mis has the better score. And when shows are completely sung through the way those shows are, I realize that that’s a really thin line to draw, but I think what Nicholas Hytner did with Miss Saigon, brought out much… a deeper and much more exciting theatricality, than Les Mis got. But, you know, as much as I like certain songs in Miss Saigon, I don’t think there’s any question… I wouldn’t go as far as Peter to say that it’s one of the greatest Broadway scores of the last fifty years, or whatever, but I think there are just some terrific songs in Les Mis, that have even no remote equal in Miss Saigon. It’s difficult; I like both of the shows for very different reasons.
JM: How do you guys feel about Richard Maltby’s contribution to Miss Saigon?
PF: I don’t know how much he really did, in terms of how close those lyrics are to the original ones.
MM: Peter, you didn’t see Miss Saigon in London, did you?
PF: No, only here. No, it’s hard to say.
JM: Yeah, I wonder why they brought him in, because I’ve never heard any commentary about his contribution to Saigon, so I wanted to see if you guys had any insight into that. But anyway, we certainly have a lot to talk about on the podcast, so we don’t need to go off into yet another tangent that we do. Alrighty, so, last week, right after we recorded- a few hours after we recorded- was the first preview of Spiderman on Broadway, and all sorts of media that traditionally doesn’t cover Broadway came out to cover this, and they all pretty much said the same thing: that there were five stops during the show, and there was a heckler in the audience, and that people had their opinions about everything, and then there was second wave of, ‘how dare everybody review the show at a preview,’ and there was the rebuttal to that on, ‘how dare they dare…
TIME – 00:35
JM (continued): …them for reviewing because they charged $225 a ticket, so they should be able to review it.’ So, Peter, why don’t you weigh in on the spectacle of Spiderman and not really the show?
PF: Well, one thing that really affected me was that, when my alarm went off on Monday morning, it said to 10/10 (?) News, the first story was about the Spiderman preview. I would have never expected that, granted, Sunday is a slow news day, granted, if anything far more exciting than that had happened…
MM: Well, it’s like, the WikiLeaks happened this week.
PF: Sure, that’s true, but nothing had happened specifically on Sunday, but, for it to be the first story on 10/10 News astonished me. I have an observation about Spiderman that involves the two closings that were announced this week: The Scottsboro Boys and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson because both of those are very smalls shows, and notice that after Spiderman opened to controversy and chaos, that they sold one million dollars worth of tickets the next day. So, there is a curiosity factor for Spiderman that doesn’t seem to be there for Scottsboro Boys and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, two very very different shows, God knows; I like one, I don’t like the other, but they’re both small and intimate musicals that don’t rely, very much, at least, on set decoration on the stage. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson certainly spent a lot of money decorating its theatre, but nevertheless, on the stage it’s a very simple set and Scottsboro Boys is even simpler. Now, why is it that Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson has got a number of terrific reviews, terrific reviews, and I certainly know a lot of people love it dearly, has to give up after 120 performances? Scottsboro Boys, granted, did not get the raves that Andrew Jackson did, but, still, it’s a Kander and Ebb show and you think there’d be some interest there, but it’s awfully small and Beowulf Boritt’s set is modest. I’m sure he did the best he could, he’s an excellent designer; he did the best he could with the money he was given, but it’s basically a set of chairs. So, why is it that a show that gets rave reviews and decent reviews should struggle, when a show that was getting bad word of mouth, poisonous word of mouth, after one performance, people say, “oh, I’ve got to see that?” Why is that? And I do think we’re still in an age, you know, people talk about the chandeliers, and the helicopters, and the floating mansions, etc., etc. etc., but it does seem, especially in an era where we have home theatres that are tremendous, that people, if they’re going to go out and spend a lot of money, they want to see that money on the stage. And so, it does seem that the promise of spectacle is trumping any other problem that’s going on with Spiderman. Never mind that people say, “oh, I don’t think the score is very good… I don’t think the story makes sense,” all that stuff, but everybody who has been says, especially in the first act, that the effects are eye-popping, and people want their eyes popped.
JM: Matthew, what do you think about this?
MM: Ok, I really can’t disagree with much of what Peter said, but I want to just approach it from a different angle, and that is that…. Ok, again, I haven’t seen the show, I don’t really know that much about the story aside from the little snippets that have been talked about in the Times and in the Post, but so far, the consensus seems to be exactly what Peter said: that it looks terrific, and based on the 60 Minutes piece that was done on the night of the first preview- and James, I hope we’ll be able to link it from the show page- it does, it looks really amazing. There’s this one scene that they showed on 60 Minutes, where it looks like Mary Jane, played by Jennifer Damiano, is falling off a bridge or building or something, and Spiderman jumps off from a platform above her, falling under her, catches her, and then leaps up again. I looked at that and my mouth was literally hanging open, thinking, “wow, I can’t believe they did that on stage, that really looks terrific.” So, I think above anything else, they’re going to capture at least some part of what people expect out of Spiderman. The problem is, based off what I’ve read in the Times and the Post and all that, there are book problems, and I don’t begrudge any show book problems after a week of previews, and in the case of Spiderman, I think a week of previews is only four or five shows; they had a couple of days off when they didn’t perform, and…
TIME – 00:40
MM (continued): …so, fine. The show has trouble. You would think/hope that the creators, Julie Taymor and Glen Berger, whoever that is, would take the time to fix the show. The problem is, and I’m so disappointed in Michael Reito for bringing this up in his column the other day, because I hadn’t heard anyone else say this and I’ve been thinking it all week: that because the incredibly intense technical nature of the show, they probably can’t fix, really fix, anything that’s wrong with it. Because if they have these flying sequences that have to be inspected by outside companies to make sure that they’re safe before they are performed in public, if they have numbers that cover big technical changes, if they have songs that need to be replaced, but can’t be because Bono and The Edge are touring in Australia or some such thing, if they have all of these problems against the backdrop of a technical production that is so intense and so elaborate, that after weeks and months more time than anyone would have thought they needed, if they have a technical production that is so elaborate that even after weeks and months longer than anyone would have expected it would take them to get to the first preview, they still have this stuff. I mean, there’s a big problem there, and it’s cutting to the core of what’s wrong with musical theatre today, that once these shows get up on their feet, it doesn’t matter what they are, they are not going to be fixed because they cannot be fixed. As we’re recording this, Julie Taymor has exactly five weeks to get the show to a performable, well-oiled machine shape that is going to be ready for the critics and for audiences… the show opens on January 11th, and that’s not a lot of time with a show this complex to begin with, and if it also needs an extensive rewriting and a lot of other people to sing, and it does, how can it get the technical aspects of the show to work, and how can they change them? I don’t think they can, and if Bono and The Edge are not on-hand in rehearsals, the way composers and lyricists are supposed to be during the adorning months of a new musical, it’s not going to have a shot to begin with. That’s one problem. My other problem is that… ok, there was a story going around… the night of the first preview it was already getting around, people on facebook were talking about how there was a heckler at the performance who said that they thought the audience was being treated like a guinea pig, they said it looked like it was a dress rehearsal, and that, I think, really speaks to another serious issue with this, and that’s the idea of first previews being used as dress rehearsals, or my understanding is, first run-throughs, because I believe that Michael Reito had written that as of the week before the show started previews, it had not yet been run all the way through. What the audience was seeing that first night was not the best thing that the creators thought they could put before an audience at that point. And the fact that it stopped so long, that it ran three and a half hours, that it started twenty-five minutes late, suggests that it wasn’t even close to something that they thought was in performable shape yet; I have a huge problem with that. I think that artists have to be ready to put shows in front of the audience, so they can see what they have. If they spend the entire first week of previews, just fixing all the little technical snafus, and putting up with an actress who got a concussion offstage because of the way the scenery was moving and had to be replaced, they have no idea what they have yet, and it’s been performing for a week, and so they have even less time to “fix” anything that might be wrong. This, again, is a huge problem with the way musicals are done today. Originally, the wrote the show, they rehearsed the show, they made changes in rehearsals, they got everything polished, they got everything working and ready, they put it up in front of the audience thinking, “ok, this is the show at its farthest along point right now, let’s see how the audience reacts, and then they worked from there. But, Spiderman got to the point where it was playing in front of an audience, wasn’t ready to, and they probably cannot make substantial changes to the show between now and the time it opens. This is, to use a favorite phrase of Peter’s, “it’s a new world, Golda;” it’s a world where musical theatre goes up for paying audiences, when it’s not ready to be seen, even by friends and family, and it can change very little, if at all, between the time of that first preview and opening night. And I don’t think that’s a great way for musical theatre to go, I would love for Julie Taymor and the other creative people behind Spiderman to prove me wrong…
TIME – 00:45
MM (continued): …about this and deliver a show that is completely different on opening night, than it was at its first preview, that works, that has a wonderful book, that’s ready to go and no one can find any faults with, and that people who saw the first preview would say, “wow, they put so much time and work and effort into this, the new songs are great, etc.” I don’t think anyone actually thinks that’s going to happen, and that makes me really sad. I really am holding out hope that Spiderman is going to be terrific, and that the first preview reactions were marred by the fact that they weren’t actually ready to put it up in front of people, and that the technical glitches were preventing people from seeing how great the show was, but I have not seen any reason to believe that’s the case. But, I’m holding out hope and I’m reserving judgment on the show itself until I actually see it in about a month, but I just think this spells terrible things for the way Broadway business is done today, and I certainly hope that other shows will not follow in Spiderman’s footsteps here.
PF: Well, in a sense, we are talking about a (nd) diminishing returns in musical theatre. You’ve always had a bug-a-boo about Mamma Mia!, which certainly has its problems and it has enough to make the public happy these days. The Addams Family, while not a smash hit, has certainly done better than the bad reviews would have usually indicated. Usually a show that gets reviews like The Addams Family, doesn’t hang around for very long. But, people today are content to settle for less than you and I are Matthew, and as a result, I do think that if they go and they see the eye-popping special effects, they will go out satisfied. Yes, I don’t want a show where the composers/lyricists are not on hand, and I know what you’re saying about being painted into a corner because of the special effects, and how difficult it’s going to be to make changes, but given that the bad publicity got the one million dollars in ticket sales in one day, it’s not at all impossible that this will be a popular success, no matter how good, bad, or indifferent it is, simply because they’re delivering what people want to see: the spectacle. Looking at it in another way, Cirque du Soleil give spectacle, and it doesn’t offer any type of story, not really, they claim there’s a story to every one of them and….
MM: Peter, let me stop you for a second. How many Cirque du Soleil shows have been on Broadway?
PF: None that I know of.
MM: Yeah, that’s right.
PF: So, your point is what? I’m sorry.
MM: Well, the thing is that Cirque du Soleil shows don’t pretend to be something else. They don’t try to pass themselves off as musicals, and Spiderman, for whatever else may be right or wrong about it, is calling itself a musical. I mean, it is asking to be judged alongside musicals of Broadway’s past. It is, whether we want to or not, that’s the standard against which we have to hold it. When you see a Cirque du Soleil show, whether it’s at the WaMu Theatre, or at Madison Square Garden, or it’s at the Beacon Theatre, or somewhere else, they’re saying, “this is to be held at a different standard.” And what Julie Taymor, Bono, The Edge, everyone involved with Spiderman is saying is “this is to be held to the Broadway standard.” And if they don’t want to do that, maybe they need to build the Spiderman Theatre somewhere, not within the theatre district, and say, “ok, this show shouldn’t be considered Broadway, we’re not going to invite theatre critics, we’re going to do this as a large-scale Vegas style entertainment,” and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. But, it is a Broadway show, they’re calling it a musical, they’re hiring musical theatre talent to be in it, it’s got a book, it’s got a score, it’s not a Cirque du Soleil. If it were, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion…
PF: No, but I don’t think the public cares about that.
MM: I don’t care what the public cares about! It’s a question about the artist doing the best art…
PF: I understand that, I’m talking about ticket buyers and the future, and I think a lot of people who like Cirque du Soleil, might very well enjoy seeing Cirque du Soleil with a Bono score, with some sort of indication with Spiderman because they’ve seen the movies, and that that may very well please enough people, that’s all I’m saying. My gut feeling is that this is not going to be one of my favorite musicals, that’s my gut feeling, I would love to be proved wrong. But, I’ve seen tons of Cirque du Soleil shows because many of them come out to Jersey and spend time there, and it doesn’t interest me at all, anyone of them, because they’re tricks and I like to be emotionally involved when I go to the theatre…
TIME – 00:50
PF (continued): …I want to care about the people, I want to laugh and cry with them, and that doesn’t happen in Cirque du Soleil. You’re really applauding what people can do with their bodies, these stunts that they’ve practiced for years and years and years, and you’re applauding the culmination of all that time and effort, which is certainly impressive, I’m impressed at what they do, but it doesn’t get me emotionally. However, lord knows, Cirque du Soleil has been tremendously successful, and continues to be, and isn’t going anywhere. So, for people who like Cirque du Soleil, and like Bono, and have an interest in Spiderman, this just well may be enough, even if it doesn’t change an iota.
JM: I wanted to add a few things in there, I’m glad you brought up Cirque du Soleil because I was going to bring it up, as well. First of all, A) I hear Cirque du Soleil is trying to build a theatre in the theatre district.
PF: Right, it was supposed to be on 42nd Street and 10th Avenue.
JM: Yes, after you had mentioned that a few weeks ago, I had followed up with some folks in the real estate business, and they are looking for a place in the theatre district, 42nd to 59th Street, you know, 6th Avenue to 10th Avenue, they’re looking for a spot. The second thing is, I sort of feel that some of the scenes from Cats bordered on Cirque du Soleil. Skimble Shanks, the railway cat scene where they built the train and they did some acrobatics, high flying and things, it was kind of a predecessor to the Cirque du Soleil shows, and we saw the success of Cats.
PF: Yeah, and Matthew, while you say “how many Cirque du Soleil shows have been on Broadway?” I don’t think the public perceives it that way, I don’t think that they know that Cirque du Soleil isn’t Broadway.
JM: People think Radio City is Broadway.
PF: Sure, I think they just go to see shows, and if it’s live, they equate that with a Broadway show. I’m not saying they’re right, understand, I’m more on your side than you probably think I am on this, but, nevertheless, the John Q. Theatre-goer, this may not be as significant as it is to you and me. In terms of that first preview/dress rehearsal/run through, whatever it is, I can also understand how humiliating it would have been to have yet another postponement, and I can really understand where they would think it was the lesser of two evils to just get the damn thing up there and let’s see what we have.
JM: So, Peter, let me ask you something. If the 92nd Street Y was producing Spiderman, would they have returned all the money? (Peter laughs) Sorry, didn’t mean to kill you.
PF: Why don’t you explain what that means? That has a lot of…
JM: Steve Martin did a talk at the 92nd Street Y, where Steve Martin appeared free with Deborah Solomon, from the New York Times, they discussed Steve Martin’s new book on art; and the people who produced the show at the 92nd Street Y, first of all, didn’t tell Steve Martin that it was going to be simulcast all over the world as he was sitting with Deborah Solomon, he agreed to do this for free, and also, he didn’t know that they were going to be taking audience feedback during the show, and one of the producers, on the day of the show, in the middle of their discussion with Steve Martin and Deborah Solomon, somebody walked up on stage and handed Deborah Solomon a note in order to redirect the conversation because they didn’t feel it was compelling and interesting enough, and then at the end of it, the 92nd Street Y made a public apology to the audience and refunded their money, which was $50 a seat. Incredibly, incredibly insulting to Steve Martin, who- you don’t even need to describe who Steve Martin is, because he’s such a talent and a star- and Deborah Solomon, who is an incredible journalist. So, that was the comment that I made: maybe the 92nd Street Y producers would have returned the money to the first preview ticket holders, but alas, is probably not going to happen. The second thing… the third thing, actually, that I wanted to mention is that I don’t necessarily think that all the bad publicity got them to that million dollar mark, I would think that what really sold a lot of tickets were the television commercials, which are everywhere, they’re very impressive, and I understand that neither one of you has much time to watch TV, but they’re…
TIME – 00:55
JM (continued): …everywhere. The television commercials are everywhere. It was brilliant to take up, from an advertising and publicity standpoint, that all publicity is good publicity, and to control that message with a blitz of television ads, because it really paid off and they’ve sold a lot of tickets. Now…
MM: James, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I really think that that 60 Minutes piece probably had a big role to play in the million dollar selling…
MM: I talked to my mother earlier this week, and she said that one of her friends had seen the piece on 60 Minutes, and as soon as she saw it, said “ok, well we need to go to New York and see Spiderman,” and I think that that is probably something that happened with a lot of people. And as I said, the piece on Spiderman made it look terrific; they were very honest about the problems and some of the things that happened, but they really showed what you were going to get, and that, I think, was a good thing, it was a big part of why people bought the tickets.
JM: We also don’t know what dates they’re selling through. I mean, if people bought Spiderman tickets for May and June, or something like that, it’s not really much of a risk because either the show is going to be a hit, and they’ll have tickets to a hit on their hands, or the show is going to die and they’ll get a refund. There’s probably a lot of scalpers out there that account for a good portion of the million dollar tickets that were sold, because the scalpers know that if it’s not a big hit that’s going to close, people are going to be stuck with these tickets on their hands. We talked about Natalie Mendoza, she suffered a concussion during the, I guess first preview, of Spiderman, we talked about that.
MM: Yeah, and she apparently went on at the next performance.
JM: Yeah, she demanded to go on.
MM: Yeah, well, there’s some question about that. Should Julie Taymor and the other people have let her go on, and I remember on the New York Times website where the arts blog post was about this, a lot of people were sort of angry at the production, saying that “they just shouldn’t have let her” and all that, so I don’t know what the story is there, but I certainly hope she gets better; we’re seeing that she wouldn’t necessarily be able to return to the show for another couple of days, so hopefully everything will be okay.
JM: I mean, the NFL has gone through this, and we try not to derivate to sports very often, but the NFL is going through this: where players get concussions and they demand to keep playing, and the NFL has now got a system… a test for the players on the sidelines that they have to pass in order to go back into the game, or else they’re benched for the rest of the game, or even sent to the locker room.
PF: James, what kind of test? Is it like, say the alphabet?
JM: It’s similar to that. It’s a test that, basically, asks them if they know of their surroundings and awareness and asks them some basic questions that would necessitate deep memory recall; and a handful of NFL players have been sidelined in the last couple of weeks because concussions are becoming a very big topic in the NFL. It’s a shame they don’t do this to boxing matches because you see the great boxers…
PF: Well, it’s a shame there’s boxing.
JM: Yeah, that’s true. And it’s interesting the way boxing has changed, you know, in my dad’s day, he used to talk about going to the garden to see the fights, and that was the big Friday night thing to do, and it just doesn’t seem like it’s the same anymore.
MM: Peter, if it weren’t for boxing we wouldn’t have Golden Boy, okay? Some good things have come…
PF: Yeah, and as wonderful a score as Strouse and Adams wrote for Golden Boy, I would still prefer to have no boxing. You’re right James, believe me, I’m from a generation where every Friday night on NBC there was a fight. I also remember, vividly, the night I was watching TV in the early 60’s and Emile Griffith was fighting Benny ‘The Kid’ Paret, and frankly, I don’t remember who killed who, but one of them killed the other, and I thought, “my God. We have just seen a murder on TV,” and I think that’s where a lot of people… oh, yes, absolutely…
MM: I didn’t know about that, wow.
PF: Yes, early 60’s.
JM: Sounds like a good topic for a show. Peter, start writing that show. Write that show.
PF: But, under those circumstances, I think that was one of the things that really made boxing something, suddenly, to fear, as opposed to this sportsmanship, type of Marquis of Queensbury rules type of boxing thing. So, there was a time when everybody knew who the heavyweight champion of the world was, and I don’t think that’s true anymore.
JM: That’s true.
PF: I don’t.
JM: Also, late night television, as well late night comic, Saturday Night Live really took on Spiderman last night. I don’t know if you guys have had a chance to…
TIME – 01:00
JM (continued): …see it.
MM: I did not see Saturday Night Live last night. What did they do?
JM: Saturday Night Live, during the ‘Weekend Update’ section, brought in Spiderman hanging upside-down, and throughout the skit they made fun of the Spiderman woes and… I’ll see if it’s up on Hulu yet and I’ll try to link it to the show notes, so that folks can watch it for themselves. But, it seems that Spiderman has really made it into the collective and current culture, and its awareness of being on Broadway has permeated lots of people who don’t typically know what’s going on, on Broadway.
PF: Well, ten years ago, this week, we celebrated the anniversary of… ten years already, for Seussical, which seems surprising to me, that it’s already been ten years. But, when it was in Boston, its troubles became so well-known that Saturday Night Live took a swipe at that one. The actual line was, “we’ll work out the kinks, we’ll work out the glitches, we’ll work out the schneezles and beezles and switches,” so, that’s a quote from Saturday Night Live way back when, so this is not unprecedented. Of course Seussical didn’t do well on Broadway, but it certainly has done well subsequently, though I can’t imagine there’s going to be as many community theatre productions of Spiderman, than there will have been of Seussical.
JM: That’s true. So, the last thing to say about Spiderman is that the owner of the Foxwoods Theatre, where Spiderman is playing, is getting some bad press because they are allegedly looking for a new tenant, and I have to say to folks out there, that if you don’t think that the other thirty-five or so theatres on Broadway don’t have backup tenants for every show that’s in there, including the Gershwin, where Wicked is pulling two million dollars a week, you’re crazy because every single theatre on Broadway has two or three tenants waiting to come in and just the Foxwoods owner talking to other people is nothing more than a discussion that every single theatre on Broadway has. Let’s see, in other news, we’ve had a handful of announcements of closings; this is looking like a really… I don’t know, am I caught up in the media here? Peter, this looks like a really bad January, like, worse than normal. Scottsboro Boys is closing, as you mentioned; Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is closing; the other ones that have already announced seems like we’re going to have a lot of theatres will be empty…
PF: Oh, no question. We’ll see if your statement holds water about all of these backup shows because A Free Man of Color is going; Merchant of Venice is going, A Little Night Music is going; La Bete is going; Rain, I understand, may transfer, but we’ll see; Next to Normal is going; Woman on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, which was expected to go, of course, though if it had been a big hit it certainly would have stayed; Driving Miss Daisy is even going at the end of January, so… Colin Quinn’s show is going… so, yes.
JM: They talked about a rumor on All That Chat this morning about Rock of Ages transferring to the Hayes?
PF: Yeah, I wonder how true that is.
JM: How is that possible?
MM: Well, that’s a pretty big show…
PF: I agree, I agree. That’s one that I’ll believe when I see because it does seem to me too busy…
MM: I don’t see how they can make enough money, I really don’t see that.
JM: Well, if they cut the cast in half and do a consolidated version of it…
MM: Is that what they’re talking about?
JM: I don’t know, but…
JM: … they would have to do that if they went to the Hayes.
PF: I suppose they would.
JM: They would have to cut their running costs and, you know, maybe they still have an audience where they still feel that they can sell a couple of thousand tickets a week, but, maybe, you know, not ten thousand tickets a week. But, seriously, it looks like January, February, March, is going to be a lean month for a lot of people in Broadway industry: stage hands and general managers offices and actors and dressers and everybody else that’s involved in the process and working on Broadway, in publicity offices and advertising offices, a lot of jobs there. The other thing that Peter just mentioned, we do have lots of backup shows coming that are scheduled to come in, but one of the things that people don’t think about is the financing of a Broadway show. When you are investing in a Broadway show, you have to be what is called a credited investor. And a credited investor is somebody…
TIME – 01:05
JM (continued): …who’s got a net worth of over a million dollars, and that million dollars can’t be tied up… it has to be something like that can’t be tied up in long term investments, like your house or something like that. And as the market has turned… the stock market and other various financial markets have turned in the past year or so and lots of things are happening there. There are lots of people who have fallen off the edge of accreditation and with financial reform taking place, it might be harder for Broadway producers to find investors. So, although a show might be ready to come in, they might not have their finances totally in order; so it’s going to be interesting to see how Broadway producers react to this spring, and if there is going to be a… if only the stronger of the producers, the Barry Weisslers and the Schuberts and Nederlanders and Jujamcyns that can easily find people to finance a show can get that in. Peter, so, with that, House of Blue Leaves is going to be coming back to Broadway we hear, what do you think about that?
PF: I’m a little surprised. This property has had a great deal more resiliency than I would have expected it to. When it was first produced… again, John Guere’s reputation wasn’t that well established, at that point, I think this play dates back to 1971, so somewhere around there, it started off quietly… We’ve already had one revival of it and here it is again, so good luck to it. I’m delighted it’s coming back for those people who never caught it the first time around but, considering all the plays there are in the cannon, I’m very surprised that this one still gets interest. It does deal with a crazy family, it deals with a guy who wants to be a song writer, it deals with somebody who wants to hurt the Pope terribly much; so, even the act of terrorism factor in it makes me a little surprised that it’s getting done. We’ll see how it plays this time around, but it always does get good reviews and it’s a wacky show and good luck to it.
JM: Also, even with Next to Normal closing and Scottsboro Boys is closing, there has been some rumor that there are going to be movies made of these properties, which is interesting. Also, I read this morning that Enron, the play, is going to be made into a movie, starring George Clooney.
MM: What? Really? It was already a movie that was better than the play.
PF: Clearly… that documentary, The Smartest Guys in the Room?
MM: I don’t see how that’s going to be any sort of a… I’m shocked, I haven’t heard this.
PF: On the other hand, Million Dollar Baby, No Strings, Little Me, Wild Cat, I can think of all these movies that got announced, and even pretty far along and didn’t happen, so with all these movie musicals, we have to believe them when we sit down with our popcorn and our big soft drink and put the drink in our little armrest, that’s when we really believe that we’re seeing movie musicals. Anything can happen, of course, but, boy, the idea of a Scottsboro Boys movie, to me, is something that seems like an astonishingly long shot.
JM: So, I read this morning… I think Next to Normal could probably happen. It was Broadway.com reported that Rob Reiner was interested in it. But, I had to chuckle this morning when I read The Guardian that said that Enron was optioned by George Clooney and they termed it as the ‘smash stage success,’ and I went, “really?” It was in London.
PF: Yeah, sure, that’s fair.
MM: I think it’s still playing in London, isn’t it?
PF: No, I don’t think so. It wasn’t there when I was there in September, definitely.
JM: So, last week we talked about Angels in America and we announced that Angels in going to extend again, but get a new cast. So, if you were unable to catch it before and got shot out of tickets, please get on the phone and get to TicketMaster and get your tickets, or Telecharge, whoever carries…
PF: It’s a lot pricier now, it’s $85, which, I imagine, is the highest ticket for an off-Broadway show, isn’t it? Has anybody paid that high for an off-Broadway show? I can’t think of anything that has been that high.
MM: Well, while we’re talking about this, it hasn’t opened yet… I saw this yesterday, so I can’t actually say what I thought about it yet but, The Great Game: Afghanistan, which is a three-part, seven hour show…
TIME – 01:10
MM (continued): …off-Broadway; you can get tickets to all three shows together for $135, and that’s about the same amount of time as Angels in America, although this is three evenings, instead of the two that Angels in America is.
JM: Alright, the last thing we’re going to talk about before we close up is we’ve been asked to make some recommendations for some shows, cast recordings, books and things like that, so why don’t we start this week with cast recordings. If what was released in the last year that both of you guys are recommending are good presents. I’d say the Scottsboro Boys, it’s an album that I’ve really been addicted to since it came out. I’ve made the statement a number of times, probably even on this podcast, there is not a measure of music that I don’t like in it, so that’s my favorite cast recording of the year.
MM: I would agree with that, I think that it’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, the best Kander and Ebb score ever, but it’s really very good and if you didn’t get a chance to see the show, I think the cast recording is certainly a good way to get an idea of what you missed. And I certainly didn’t like the Scottsboro Boys as much Peter did, and I think that if you get rid of a lot of the book, you’d have an even better experience with it. So, I second Peter’s recommendation for Scottsboro.
JM: Alright, so that’s it for recordings. Next week we’ll do books, and the following week, we’ll do some tickets that you should get for your loved ones if you want to buy them a present,as well. I want to remind everybody that you can subscribe to these podcasts by going to the front page of BroadwayStars.com, and on the right-hand side there’s a Broadway Radio logo, and right below there is a subscribe button. That way, each time we have a new episode of Broadway Radio, it’ll be automatically downloaded to your iTunes library so you can listen to it on various different iPods, or on your computer, or iPhone, or whatever. Also, you can listen to us by going to the Zune Marketplace, or subscribing to these podcasts on Stitcher(?) Radio or Broadway World Radio, and if you’d like to give us some feedback about what we’re doing here, you can also reach us by going to the front page of BroadwayStars, right above the BroadwayRadio logo, there’s a contact form and that way you can send us an email or you can actually give us a call at 646-873-7695 and leave us a voicemail. If you do leave us a voicemail, we may play it on the podcast. So, on behalf of Peter Filichia and Matthew Murray, this is James Marino saying, thanks so much for listening to Broadway Radio’s: This Week on Broadway.
TIME – 01:13:30