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The Break of Noon
Written by Neil LaBute
Directed by Jo Bonney
Designers: Neil Patel (sets), ESosa (costumes), David Weiner (lights), Justin Ellington (original music), Darron L. West (sound)
Starring: David Duchovny (John Smith), John Earl Jelks (Lawyer and Detective), Amanda Peet (Ginger and Jesse), Tracee Chimo (Jenny and Gigi)
Next production in LA:
Kevin Anderson and Catherine Dent announced for L.A. production of ‘The Break of Noon’ by Neil LaBute
The Magic Flute at the Met
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (music) and Emanuel Schikaneder (libretto)
Directed by Julie Taymor
Starring Nathan Gunn as Papageno
Spider-Man now opening February 7
Will it set a preview record?
Is there any conceivable way this thing can recoup?
The Scottsboro Boys campaign to come back
It played to 97.2%(!) capacity its final week
Thora Birch is out of Dracula, under weird circumstances
Stephen Sondheim on The Colbert Report
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Top 10 Most Performed Plays and Musicals in High Schools
New York Flop Becomes a Hit Everywhere Else By CARA JOY DAVID
Neil Simon’s Fools
Patti LuPone in Hello, Dolly!?
Cry-Baby being scaled down
Hath Not a Year Highlights? Even This One? By BEN BRANTLEY
The ticket to buy as a present:
Michael: In The Heights, Merchant of Venice
James: Neil Patrick Harris in Company with the New York Philharmonic
Opening: Take A Walk Through Bethlehem / Joy To The World performed by Karyn Quackenbush, Ric Ryder, LaChanze (A Christmas Survival Guide)
Closing: Christmas Eve performed by Marin Mazzie (A Christmas Survival Guide)
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Broadway Radio: This Week on Broadway for December 19, 2010: Amanda (re) Peet
Transcribed by Courtney Rice
Michael Portantiere: MP
TIME – 00:00
JM: Good morning and welcome to Broadway Radio’s This Week on Broadway for December 19th, 2010. My name is James Marino, and on the call this morning we have Michael Portantiere and Matthew Murray. Matthew is the chief theatre critic for Talkin’Broadway.com, and also writes for BroadwayStars. Good morning, Matthew.
MM: Hey James. How are you doing today?
JM: I’m doing well. Michael is a columnist for BroadwayStars.com, as well as a contributor to the NPR website, the Sondheim Review, and Arts America. He is the co-author of the book, Forbidden Broadway: Behind the Mylar Curtain, and is currently working on a book about Sweeney Todd. Michael is also a theatrical photographer, and you can sample his work and contact him at FollowSpotPhoto.com, and that will be linked on the show page. Good morning, Michael.
MP: Good morning.
JM: How’s everybody? Have you gotten all your shopping done?
MP: I went to Macy’s the other day.
JM: Why would you go to Macy’s right before Christmas?
MM: Why would you go to Macy’s period?
JM: I actually like Macy’s…
MM: I find it very overwhelming, but I find shopping, in general, overwhelming.
MP: Actually, everybody was very helpful. It wasn’t ridiculously overcrowded. The streets, however, were beyond ridiculous. It was like Blade Runner…
JM: Macy’s windows are getting better and better every year; I like the Macy’s windows. I love the wood escalators; those are my favorites at Macy’s. We are wrapping up the year and… we’re not wrapping up the season, we’re actually halfway through the Broadway season, coming up on a little break here, except for the Spiderman thing, eventually. But, let’s talk about…
MM: Emphasis on “eventually.”
JM: Emphasis on “eventually,” yes. Let’s talk about the off-Broadway show, The Break of Noon. So, Michael, why don’t you get us started on that?
MP: Well, I believe you guys discussed it previously, right?
MM: Yeah, Michael, I had talked about it a few weeks ago, when we had had so much trouble getting to the off-Broadway shows because there was so much stuff going on. Yeah, I’ll chime in a little bit, but I’d love to hear what you think about it.
MP: Well, I probably don’t have too much to add, except to say, I was very disappointed. To me, I guess, it was the least well-written of all Neil LaBute’s plays that I’ve seen because… and it occurs to me, there was so much plot in it, you know, there were so many twists and turns and convolutions, and things like that, and I’m thinking in terms of his other plays: they’re all so wonderfully simple and they all, kind of, had… what do they call them? Not hooks, what is that thing where you go into a meeting and you pitch something in one sentence, and that’s supposed to be a good thing?
JM: Maybe elevator pitch? It’s called an elevator pitch because it’s supposed to be something you can say as the elevator doors are closing, to get them to open up the elevator doors and give you money.
MP: Right, right. And I think it’s usually used in the screen world, and maybe it’s not, necessarily, a good thing for theatre, which is more complex. But, to me, this play was very, kind of, convoluted and contrived, as opposed to his other plays, which are so wonderfully simple. Like Fat Pig is about a very handsome man who falls in love with a very obese young woman, and then it’s about how, basically, that relationship is destroyed by his friend’s reaction. And um, what was- I’m so sorry- what was the name of the Broadway play? I can’t…
MM: Reasons to Be Pretty.
MP: Thank you. I just could not get it in my mind. That was about a young man who, unfortunately, makes a remark about his girlfriend, which is interpreted by her, as meaning that he doesn’t think she is pretty, and that leads to all kinds of amazing angst and stuff. But, this play is about a man who is involved in… The Break of Noon is about a man who is involved in an office shooting, and how he survives that, and why he survives that, and he turns to God because of it. And then there’s all this stuff about whether things actually happened the way he said they did, and it just, to me, was really, kind of, more of a mess than it could’ve been. But, I will say that… I thought, also, that…
TIME – 00:05
MP (continued): …David Duchovny- he’s the big star here, and he can hold himself pretty well onstage, but not in this role. He’s wonderful at playing just, kind of, regular guy parts and not this person who’s supposed to have this life-altering thing happen to him. So, I think maybe this wasn’t the best choice for his New York stage debut. But, the other people in it were quite wonderful: John Earl Jelks, who played a double role of the lawyer and the detective; Amanda Peet, who, I believe, we haven’t seen since Barefoot in the Park; and, then, Tracee Chimo played two roles, one of which was a television interviewer, and I thought she just, really, knocked it out of the park, she did a really great job with that role. So, it certainly has its pleasures. It’s at the Lucille Lortel, I don’t think there’s much left of the run, but I would see it for those reasons, if anyone wants to check it out.
JM: Well, I’ve seen it about seven or eight times for Amanda Peet, alone. Oh, was the microphone on? Sorry! Anyway, so Michael, is this something that… it doesn’t sound like something that would make your top ten list.
MP: No, no.
MM: Well, James, I have to say, I liked it more than Michael did, but I don’t think it would make my top ten list of the year, either. I think… it’s kind of interesting that Michael says that he thought it was convoluted, because I didn’t think it was convoluted. I agree it might have a bit more plot than some of Neil LaBute’s usual plays, but, really, it’s quite simple: a guy in an office shooting thinks he sees God, does he? And that’s the question of the play; everything else is, really, an extrapolation of that. It didn’t bother me from the plot standpoint, but I think that it’s not, probably, the wonderfully polished, finished product that we would all hope for from Neil LaBute. And I disagree that Duchovny doesn’t come across as a regular guy, I think he does, and, I think, in that aspect of it, it’s good casting, but I don’t think he pulls off the other side of it, the prophet side of it who goes around trying to convert everybody.
MP: Oh no, I’m sorry, Matthew, that’s exactly what I meant to say.
MM: Oh, ok. Alright, well, sorry.
JM: Our listeners don’t like it when you agree.
MP: Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll keep that in mind.
MM: But, yeah. I don’t think it will go down as one of Neil LaBute’s best plays, but I have yet to see from him anything that isn’t interesting and thought-provoking. So, I was happy for that, at least; it’s not just the bland, vanilla playwriting, there’s interesting stuff there, but not as much as you might get in some of his others…
JM: I don’t know if both of you will know the answer to this question: is this Neil LaBute’s first foray into religion onstage?
MP: As far as I know, I can’t think of anything else that dealt with it.
MM: I can’t either. I, again, to me, the religion aspect of the story seems very, sort of, tangential. It’s more about the guy and the way we think about religion in the public mindset, and all that, so I didn’t think about it in those terms. But, yeah, I can’t think of another one off the top of my head.
JM: What was the….. I’m sorry, Michael, go ahead.
MP: Oh, yeah, just maybe convoluted was not the best word. It just, to me, it seemed like it wasn’t as focused as his other plays and the very fact that… I mean, if it was just about whether he saw God, or not, that’s fine, but then it gets into all of these questions about how much of his story is actually true and, I don’t know, it just seemed a little diffused to me, but I do agree that everything he writes is far more interesting than a lot of stuff we see.
MM: But, see, Michael, I think that the question of whether things actually happened in the way he said they did is related to whether he saw God because he’s positioning himself as this prophet who wants to bring God’s word to the people and, yet, he has this very checkered past and, apparently, a checkered present, so that, sort of, raises, for me, what the central question is: can anyone be transformed from an ordinary person into a Godly person, or, is it really like what you are, you are, and you have to deal with that? To me, that was really what the play was about, and everything, sort of, fed into that.
MP: I got you.
JM: The way in which both of you are describing this show, sort of makes me think that Duchovny is…
TIME – 00:10
JM (continued): …extending his character of Fox Mulder, where, you know, everybody questions what he sees, but he’s got the conviction of a zealot.
MP: Well, that’s a good point.
JM: Is it possible that he was brought in post this show, or was it written for him, what do you think?
MP: Well, I will tell you that, some years ago, I went to see a LaBute play at the Public and I sat next to Mr. Duchovny, and we started talking because it seemed unnatural to sit there and pretend he wasn’t there, and he had just directed a film that, I believe, was called the House of D, it was about the women’s house of detention in the Village that used to be there. At any rate, I got the impression that he was already acquainted with LaBute and, I believe,-I’m sorry, was it Ben Stiller?
MM: If you’re thinking about… oh man! I’ll have to look it up.
MP: Yeah, it was Ben Stiller. Anyway, what I’m saying is, I guess their relationship goes back just a few years, so I don’t know if this play was written for him, but it’s quite possible that it was.
JM: I see that The Break of Noon is going to jump to the west coast and play at the Geffen Playhouse. That was reported by the Los Angeles Times and Kevin Anderson is going to do the role. It’s a…
MM: I think it sounds like a really good casting.
JM: Yeah, well Kevin Anderson and really good casting usually goes well… hand in hand together, in my opinion.
MM: Yeah, I agree with you James, but I think for this role that he would probably be able to do both, the everyman kind of stuff and the elevated guy kind of stuff, in a way that David Duchovny had trouble with. It would encourage people on the west coast to go see it. David Duchovny was, really, my biggest problem with the play, and I think with Kevin Anderson, we might see something a little bit different than what we saw here.
MP: Interesting that David will not be doing it in LA.
JM: Yeah, cause he’s…
MP: Yeah, exactly…
JM: …made a jump over here to do that, whereas, Amanda Peet lives in New York, in the West Village.
MP: Oh, you know that, huh?
JM: In the West Village, off of Bleaker.
MM: So, moving along…
JM: It’s a creepy pre-Christmas episode here on Broadway Radio. Alright, Michael, you got a chance to see The Magic Flute at the Met, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?
MP: No, I’m sorry, I have not seen it, but I just was aware that they are doing it again, and, actually, I saw it when it was televised a few years ago, and I wanted to point it out to people because if you’re a Julie Taymor fan and, perhaps you want to see her at her best, rather than maybe in not at her best in Spiderman, you should definitely consider checking out The Magic Flute because it’s a highly praised production that she did several years ago and, not only that, but this is a one hundred minute English language version that the Met is doing, so it’s more friendly for people who are, maybe, not terribly into opera in that respect. Then, on top of that, it has Nathan Gunn in the lead, who some of you may know from his really terrific performance as Lancelot, in an otherwise, really, kind of very problematic production of Camelot that the New York Philharmonic did a couple of years ago. So, check out The Magic Flute if you’d like to see Julie Taymor do what she does really well.
JM: Um, so, Michael, for me and the other listeners who are not as well-versed in opera, as maybe others are, you don’t mean that Julie’s going to go out and restage this in the middle of Spiderman, do you?
MP: No, no, that’s not how it works in opera. The director, who, actually, is not… they’re not actually called that in opera, oddly enough, I guess maybe now they are, but they’re called… it’s the Julie Taymor production of The Magic Flute is what…
JM: Oh, ok.
MP: And so she directed it several years ago, and then they keep the direction, but it’s sort of recreated by assistant directors, or…
MP: Yeah, yeah.
JM: Alright, excellent. Yeah, that would cause us a whole new cycle of news, wouldn’t it now?
MP: If she was leaving Spiderman, yes.
TIME – 00:15
JM: I’ll be back in a couple days, you guys just keep going. Speaking of which, our little Spidey friend is no longer scheduled to open in January, but rather scheduled to open on February 7th, as reported by many media outlets, but we’re referring here to the New York Times that has confirmed this, as well. What do you guys think about the elongated preview process?
MM: Well, I have a couple of things. First of all, I honestly thought it would never happen. I thought they were going to open January 11th, come hell or high water, and just take whatever slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that people shot at them. But, on one hand, I really appreciate and admire that fact that they’re saying, “listen, the show isn’t ready; we haven’t had time to work out all of these problems because of the technical issues, and we want to make sure the show is as good as it can be.” I like that; that’s really good show business and theatre thinking, but what I don’t like is what was reported in a couple of the stories, and which is that Bono and The Edge, who wrote the score for the show, have been touring and have not even seen a single performance of it yet. So, they have not been working on this show that has been talked about from the very beginning, as having major problems with its writing, and I think that that’s really, that’s really bad. Now, I admit that it’s possible that the tour they’re on, could have had its genesis a long time ago and that when they scheduled it, they might have thought, “ok, Spiderman’s going to be up and running next year and there’s no way that we’ll still need to be working on the show at this time,” and then all of the delays happened and stuff. So, yeah, I would love to give them the benefit of the doubt in that way, but if they haven’t seen the show, if they’re not writing the show, if they’re not actively trying to fix the show now, I feel like there’s a whole lot of necessary work that can’t be done… a lot of the stories are saying, “well they might start writing some new stories when they get back to New York in late December, and they have to leave again by late January again, before the show opens, so I feel like, on one hand I think it’s great that Julie Taymor and the producers are saying, “yeah, we need more time to work out the kinks of the show,” but when half of the writing team isn’t there, only so many kinks are going to get worked out. So, this is really a mixed blessing, I think. I hope that they’re able to get it together, but I get really tired of pop stars writing musicals and not being on-hand to fix them when they’re broken. So, I really hope that Bono and The Edge will be able to get things working once they finally get back in town.
JM: One of the things, that… I appreciate your point, Matthew, and I agree with you. I think that as we delve back into our history of Spiderman, it is about a year later or so, and these U2 concerts are scheduled many many years in advance.
MM: Oh, yeah, I want to be fair about that. I understand that that’s an issue, but then I, sort of, feel like they should be on the phone everyday…
JM: Well, that was my next point
MM: …back and forth, etc., so…
JM: Phone and faxing? What are you from, the 90’s? I am pretty sure that they’re getting videotapes of the show every couple of days, if not streamed to them over the internet. I’m 99% sure of that. Something else I was going to say about this, the New York Times talked about how Spiderman is going to break the record for the most preview performances, and also, it’s a very hard ticket to get now. They’ve been selling pretty well. So, they’re at least starting to cover some expenses, I don’t know, make any money back is a hard thing to say, but the New York Times also ran in their economic section, the financial section, how the show would recoup and if it’s possible, we’re going to link to it in the show notes, but it’s a… it’s pretty hard to say that they would recoup, unless something extraordinary happened with this show.
MP: Well, recoup in what time period, James?
JM: I think the recoup period for sell outs was, if you sold out every ticket, was a couple of years… in a reasonable fashion, if you don’t sell out every performance, and it keeps running at good capacity, then it will be about a five year turn.
MM: James, I believe that the conclusion of the story was that if they sell out 94% of the house, every week, at a top ticket price of $112, that it would take them between two and a half, and four years…
TIME – 00:20
MM (continued): …to recoup the investment.
MP: Where does that $112 come from?
MM: Michael, you and the rest of our listeners should read the New York Times story, they go through all this. That was the average ticket price or something, I don’t remember exactly.
JM: Yeah, it was the average ticket price that they were using, based upon first week sales.
MP: I see.
JM: Whenever you’re creating a business model you have to make some assumptions; I think that most of the assumptions that are out there are very aggressive, and you know, I’m still looking at 65 million dollars and not imagining where that money is. I think…
MP: You mean where it came from?
JM: No, I know it came from investors and things like that, but I don’t know where they’re spending 65 million dollars. So, certainly, it could be that they have… because I don’t think they’ve confirmed or denied 65 million…
MP: I doubt it, but did you read the article on Julie Taymor in the New York Magazine, James?
MP: Cause that was, I mean, it indicated that… had a good deal of the reason for that much money being spent was the fact that she, really, just keeps trying things and then, if they don’t work, just throws them out.
JM: Yeah, but, you know, we had that with the Dodgers, you know, the Dodgers did that, as well, with Titanic and some of the other shows that they were in. 65 million dollars for, you know, even if you’re bringing in sets and new lighting and new flying things… I don’t know where you spend 65 million dollars, unless you’re really overpaying for some services, which is a possibility
MP: Well, does anyone recall that when Alan Cummings was associated with the project as the Green Goblin, there was printed, some ridiculous amount of money that he was supposed to be getting as his salary. Now, I can’t imagine that Patrick Page is necessarily getting the same but, if it’s anywhere near what they were going to pay Alan Cummings, it’s an indication of what they’re paying, in general, for some services, then that would also go a long way towards explaining the 65 million dollars.
JM: Oh, yeah.
MP: And then, also, as I think I brought up, I’m just guessing that the insurance costs must be through the roof, given what we already know about how dangerous the stunts are.
MM: Yeah, that wouldn’t surprise me at all.
JM: Michael, what was, uh… it’s just run out of my head… what was the movie that Julie Taymor directed that just came out?
MP: Um, The Tempest.
JM: The Tempest, that’s what it was, it was Shakespeare. I don’t think that her movie cost 65 million dollars.
MP: Well, maybe she has more people sitting on her when she does a film, I don’t know.
JM: So, it’s… so, I’m so interested in seeing how all of this comes to be, and the theatrical community being what it is, we should actually start finding out, you know, the actual story to everything after this opens. And, you know, confirming or not confirming that the numbers that we’re hearing are actually true, and we’ll see if it works. Again, we’ve said before, we don’t have any Schadenfreude here, it’s just, we’re very interested in this thing, and we would really rather that it succeeded and blew us all out of the water and the three of us on this phone call came back on February 8th and said, “wow, that’s some show! We really loved it.” You know, we’d all love to say that.
MP: Well, as you… I believe that the 65 million dollar figure is true, doesn’t that mean that the show is, at least, about six or seven times more expensive than any other Broadway show that’s ever been done before?
MM: Well, Michael, the number that’s being floated around out there is that it’s twice the cost of Shrek, which cost about 30, 31 million dollars, or something like that.
MP: Oh, ok, I guess I forgot about Shrek, I’m sorry.
MM: Oh, Michael, lots of people did, don’t worry about it.
JM: Shrek, and then we had the Mervous (?) production of Lord of the Rings, which never came to Broadway but, they spent an exorbitant amount of money on it so, there is basis for these things but, again, you know, I’ve looked at a lot of budgets in my time and I don’ know how you get to 65 million, unless you…
TIME – 00:25
JM (continued): … have a lot of money and contingency, and they are running a lot of television ads but, you know, and that costs money but, maybe they’re doing a lot of out of town promotion that I’m not seeing or something. But, anyway, speaking of money, the producers of the Scottsboro Boys are campaigning, is that the right word? To bring it back by… what are they doing with their audience members? Matthew…
MP: They’re trying to… oh, I’m sorry.
JM: No, Michael, please jump in.
MP: Well, I believe they’re trying to get people to commit to buying tickets at $99 each, if the show were to reopen in the spring right before the Tonys.
MM: That’s right, yes. And they have changed the show’s website to be that campaign, just saying that you’re sort of pledging to agree to buy tickets at this price, if the show comes back. I guess it’s an interesting idea, as I know, it’s never been tried before but, considering all the trouble they had getting people to buy tickets the first time, I think it’s very unlikely but, who knows?
JM: Well, we talk about things that have never been tried before, we have that Mark Kudisch concert that’s coming up, that people are offering a money-back guarantee on if they didn’t like it. Did you hear about this?
MM: No, what is this?
JM: Kudisch, I think he’s singing in a town hall, or something like that.
MP: Yes, right.
JM: And the producers are offering a money-back guarantee if you don’t like it. So, I guess, I guess people are trying to break the norms and produce out of the box but, I think that the Scottsboro Boys deserves a little bit better than that, than to, you know, come up with a gimmick because that’s what this is, there’s really no way to enforce what they’re doing and they should just, either, decide that it’s worth it and do it or don’t do it. You know, I guess it really comes down to one less beautiful garden in the background of your estate, brought in by the money from Chicago for (nd). You know, in this time of hearing about the richest people in the world getting together to pledge their money to charity, you know, Mark Zuckerberg, who’s twenty six years old, has said that he will give billions and billions away, already, to charity. And Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway, you know, they’ve all said they’re giving away 90 percent, 95 percent of their money. I don’t understand why… either you love the show Scottsboro Boys and you believe in it as a producer or you don’t but, you don’t take this middle of the road type of thing and say, “if the audience comes to see it, we’ll do this.”
MM: What I don’t understand is that this campaign seems to be aimed at the people who loved the show, but they couldn’t keep it open for longer than two months, so why do they think all of these people are going to A) have the money, and B) spend the money to see it again in the spring, when this was the core group that kept it open as long as it was. I don’t understand the logic there. I think, James, you’re completely right that it’s a gimmick and it’s all for publicity, I don’t even see how it could possibly work. It doesn’t seem to me that it’s aimed at creating new audiences, and that is what you have to do to get a show to come back and run again. And since they displayed, really, just no talent for bringing them in the first time, I don’t see them coming a second time, if they weren’t already a convert.
MP: It’s not creating new audiences, you’re right, and I believe, I mean, the only think that makes sense is, as you say, a publicity ploy and they are planning to bring it back anyway, and they just thought they would do this thing to get more attention for the show.
JM: You know, as I mentioned Fran Barry (?), who also produced Chicago, are producing Scottsboro Boys, and Fran Barry (?) are not new to bringing stars in and reviving a show and making sure that we get butts in the seats, and…
Time – 00:30
JM (continued): …I think that’s their specialty, that’s their forte, that’s what they’re known for and successful at doing. I don’t know why they don’t look at Scottsboro Boys in that way and try to make that work. You know, last week on the podcast, Peter, Matthew and I discussed about, you know, how there was no star power in the show and that’s nothing to say about the two gentlemen who had the leads in the off-Broadway and Broadway production, it’s just that they couldn’t bring anybody in and Michael, I’ll post it to you: do you think if they put Taye Diggs in that part, or even Norm Lewis, who doesn’t have as much power as Taye Diggs, if they put somebody really big into that lead role, would that change the fortunes of the play?
MP: Well, you know, it’s interesting you say that because I was just about to say that the problem is finding someone who would be a box office draw, who would also have the ability and talent to play any of those roles, and then you said Taye Diggs and I thought, “well there’s somebody.”
JM: Will Smith.
MP: Um, well can he sing?
JM: Yeah, Will Smith can sing, he’s a great singer.
MP: Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that. Well, gosh, Will Smith, really? Yeah, but these are serious musical theatre roles…
MP: But dancing and singing and really committed acting, I guess it would help but, boy, you know, just… there were so many problems with marketing this from the beginning because of the subject matter and because of people not… either not being able to understand how the minstrel show conceit would work or just rejecting that conceit out of hand. I would not have wanted to be the person in charge of marketing this show.
JM: Yeah, it’s a tough, it’s a tough tough thing, but you know… who is the… I’m totally blank today… who is the guy that did Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk? Savion…
MP: Savion Glover.
JM: Savion Glover. Is he… how old is he these days?
MP: His name just came up and my impression is that he’s just not very active anymore. I’m not sure if he’s semi-retired or he’s doing other things but, I don’t think he’s doing any kind of performing or choreographing anymore.
MM: Yeah, I don’t know that either but, James, I can’t see him doing this show, as far as I know he doesn’t sing at all, he’s strictly a dancer and the role of Haywood in Scottsboro Boys is one where you really have to be able to sing. I don’t think someone could just fake their way through that. I think that whoever suggested it last week, if it was Peter or you, James, but whoever came up with the idea of Taye Diggs, that’s terrific idea. I guess even someone like Jesse L. Martin, or someone.
MM: Yes. There are people out there who could do it and who could do it well but, I think that… well, I’m sorry, let me rephrase that. There are lots of people out there who could do this role as it’s written and not have to go the route of Savion Glover or find someone who is a big name but… and I’m nothing against Will Smith, he doesn’t strike me as a singer on the level of Taye Diggs or Jesse L. Martin, both of whom certainly have name value of their own. He might not… he might bring more people into the theatre but, I think that a compromise in that area, he would probably be okay but, I think that this is a case where, if they’re really bringing it back and they’re looking for some sort of name value, that if they don’t find someone who can actually sing it, that role would be… it would be very tough to get through because he’s got some very heavy songs and without a real singer… it would be a hard show to get through I think.
JM: You know, I can appreciate what you’re saying there. Thinking that Jesse L. Martin well, that would be a…
MP: Yeah, I think he’s a little too old.
MM: That’s the problem with Taye Diggs too, I think Jesse L. Martin and Taye Diggs are too old for it but, again, it probably wouldn’t really matter that much.
JM: And if it rules out Will Smith…
MM: I mean, you could bring in Usher if you wanted to. He has Broadway experience, he did Chicago didn’t he?
JM: Yeah, that’s right.
MM: There are all sorts of possibilities but, I’m going to chalk this up to the… as being part of the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ things. I really don’t think this is going to happen, I don’t think there will be enough interest to it…
TIME – 00:35
MM (continued): …I can’t believe Fran or Barry Weiss will think it’s a good choice financially, if they think that it’ll get Tony Awards. I don’t see the show’s fortunes as being that much different the second time around but, who knows?
MP: And I’ll say again, I cannot imagine why they ever thought it was a good idea to open the show in the fall, rather than the spring. If there ever was a show that you would think would need the perimeter of award nominations and, hopefully, awards themselves to make it run, that doesn’t have a star name, it is a very controversial subject matter, this is the show. So, maybe they thought there wasn’t going to be a theatre available in the spring. If there’s some other specific reason that they didn’t open it then, because as we all recall the initial plan was to open it last spring, right?
MP: Yeah. But, when that proved to be impossible, you know…
JM: They went out of town to fix it, didn’t they? They went to a regional theatre.
MP: I’m just very surprised that they didn’t realize how hard it would be to sell this show and that it would have been much better to open it in May of this coming year, right before the Tonys and, hopefully, get a whole bunch of nominations and, maybe, awards too.
MM: I wonder, Michael, if it could be a momentum thing? If it had transferred to Broadway this past spring instead, right when it had just come off of its, literally, sold out run at the Vineyard, where they kept extending it and they kept selling out before the tickets went on sale, if that had been able to carry over the excitement. I actually wrote something about this for Broadway Stars a few days ago. There was an eight month gap in between the time it opened off-Broadway and the time it opened on Broadway and that’s a lot of time for interest to dissipate.
MM: I mean, it really is. And my other issue with that gap, and it was alluded to a few seconds ago, they made so few changes to the show. They really, they changed almost nothing. They cut it a song, they rewrote a scene, and that was about the extent of it; there were other few lines here and there but, they didn’t do much fixing out of town and I don’t know if it would have made it a bigger difference if they had hunkered down and, maybe, taken a little bit more chances with what they had planned to bring to Broadway. But, I don’t think that helped either. I think that off-Broadway a lot of the critics had certain reservations about what they were seeing and when it came to Broadway, I don’t know why they thought the reception would be much different than what it was the first time. The only difference is when you’re at the Vineyard Theatre, which has 200 seats, a Kander and Ebb musical is going to, obviously, have a lot more pull than it is on Broadway in a theatre with 800 seats. So, there are a lot of issues here that I think aren’t really going to be solved by opening it in the spring, unless John Kander and David Thompson and Susan Stroman want to go back to the drawing board and say, “ok, this show didn’t run on Broadway. It’s coming back, we need to see if there’s anything else we can do to it,” because I feel like a lot of the extra work that, maybe, should have happened in all the time they had between off-Broadway and Broadway, during which, you said, they went to the Guthrie, I think, maybe, that still needs to happen, regardless of whether the show comes back or not; I don’t know if it will. There’s another story in our stack of stuff today, about how the creators of Cry Baby are, sort of, revisiting that show, and that closed two and a half years ago so, it’s certainly not too late for the Scottsboro Boys but, if it just comes back in the spring, I don’t think things are going to be any different. They might get a Tony Award out of it but, I don’ think that’s necessarily going to help its chances to make money on Broadway.
JM: Yeah, I agree with all of you and I, you know, sometimes it’s better to let it go and, hopefully, it shows up in encores in ten years and…
MP: Well, the thing is, I don’t think anyone needs to let go of the Scottsboro Boys because I think that whatever happens, whether they rewrite any part of it or whatever, they’re going to be regional theatres all over the country, community theatres all over the country that want to do this show. Now, granted, it’s an almost entirely black cast, so that’s going to impact where the show can be done but, there are certainly lots of theatres in major cities all over the country that will have a good, stable of talented African American actors who can do this and it is, certainly, going to be an audience pleasing show, in some ways. I mean, I think the score is really wonderful and, certainly, it’s going to be something that will attract regional theatres that have built-in subscription bases, as the Vineyard proved. Whether or not you’re going to be able to get people to pay a lot of money for tickets, if they’re not already interested in it and they’re not, necessarily…
TIME – 00:40
MP (continued): …big Kander and Ebb fans, I don’t know. But, I think that this is a show that will have a very healthy post Broadway life, regardless of what happens to it. So, I don’t think we have to feel too sorry for the show but, Broadway is as Broadway does, and Broadway did not do much for the Scottsboro Boys, unfortunately. And if they do do it again, maybe we can hope against hope that they will rewrite the ending of it to reflect more of what actually happened to the lead character…
MM: Oh, yeah, we got into a discussion about this on Facebook this week, about how a number of the characters in the show, all of whom are based on actual people to whom this stuff happened… the writers took considerable liberties with the actual histories in order to give the show’s ending a very different spin than the reality had. Now, of course, as we were talking about on Facebook, it is certainly the province of the writers to do that but, when you… it’s one thing to take liberties and to tweak a little bit of things when you’re telling a story but, in the epilogue, the writers made things noticeably and provably worse for the characters to give them a sadder ending than many of them actually had. And that really, sort of, brings up a question that a lot of people have been raising over the last couple of years, as we see more of these based on real life kinds of shows, that what’s the responsibilities of the writers to actually be telling the truth? And I’m going to leave it as an open question, something else that I’ve written about for Broadway Stars, inspired, in fact, by Adam Feldman, who got into a little bit of a feud with the writers and producers of Irena’s Vow, a play that was on Broadway last year. And, you know, I’m all for giving writers a chance but, when you go as far as David Thompson did to, sort of, stretch the truth to make a certain political point; I think that, probably, is going too far. But, again, the main issue I have with it is that David Thompson revamped that in a big way since off-Broadway. Off-Broadway it was not as dire and as exaggerated, I guess, as it is now. They really pointed that up and make that aspect of it, I think, not stronger, so, again, one of the things they changed, one of the very few things they changed, did not, necessarily, really change for the better.
JM: Alright, we’re going to move on here. We’re going to talk about Thora Birch being fired from Dracula under weird circumstances. Matthew, do you want to fill us in?
MM: Well, yeah, the Thora Birch thing is really weird. Supposedly, now, I didn’t know this but, supposedly, Thora Birch’s father is, apparently, a former pornographic actor…
MP: And also, apparently, her mother.
MM: Oh, really? That’s really bizarre.
MM: So, anyway, what apparently happened with Dracula is that her father threatened someone else in the cast, threatened to punch him out, or something, during a rehearsal on Thursday. Now, it’s supposed to start performances Tuesday night and so, they replaced her with her understudy, pretty much, literally, at the last minute and the New York Times story, which, I guess, we’ll link to, has an anecdote about what her father said to him, and all that. So, it’s very weird. I can’t remember the last time that an actress was fired from a show because of her father threatening violence, now, of course, the New York Times points out that there are two sides to the story and they don’t really agree on the details of what happened so, I certainly hope that this has been blown out of proportion and that this isn’t happening backstage at Dracula but, wow.
JM: Really, Dracula? Really?
MP: What do you mean? You mean the whole thing is so weird that anything that happens is…
JM: Well, I had absolutely no interest in going to see, yet another, production about Dracula but, given this story, I’m like, “well maybe it’ll be interesting enough to go see it, maybe this…”
MP: This is, of course, the original Dracula play. This is not a new play.
MM: It’s not a musical. I mean, this is the original one that (nd) was in, once upon a time, it’s the same actual play so, it’s going to be, kind of, interesting from a history standpoint. I don’t know the play at all. Michael, did you see the Frank Langella production when they did it?
MP: No, but I saw him the other night at an event and I asked him, “did you see that they’re doing Dracula again?” and he said, “yes” and I asked him “is it the same version of the script?” and he said, “yes, yes it is.”
JM: And George Hearn is in it, is that correct or am I making that up?
TIME – 00:45
MM: Yes, he’s in it.
JM (continued): …George Hearn is in it. So, but, please, find something new to do, you know.
MM: Well, you know, that brings up an interesting point, James, and not to get deeply into it but, it’s been suggested that this seems to be some kind of a vanity production, if that’s the proper word to use, because first of all, it’s in the little Schubert Theatre, which is almost always empty and, apparently, one of the reasons it’s almost always empty is because rental costs are through the roof. Secondly, it does not, well, I mean, it’s built around this guy named Michelle Alterie (sp?), who, apparently, is famous in Italy as an actor and a model but, has no real name here, as far as I know, so I’m thinking…
MP: I’ve never heard of him before.
MM: So, I’m thinking maybe, possibly, it was done as a vehicle for him, I mean, I don’t think it was done as a vehicle for George Hearn. So, there does seem to be… it doesn’t seem that it was done because they said, “well, let’s do Dracula and make money, you know, with…” and I think it’s only scheduled for two and a half month run, which everyone knows that it’s impossible to make back the cost of a show in that kind of run. So, I don’t… there’s a lot of questions involved in the production and it is very, kind of interesting and strange.
JM: Huh, well, I guess we’ll see. Are you guys scheduled to go see it?
MM: They haven’t invited yet, as far as I know.
MP: Yeah, I haven’t gotten an invitation yet but, I wouldn’t miss this. Now that Spiderman isn’t opening that week, I have to find something else to see.
MM: I also wonder… I wonder why didn’t they just say, “well, let’s bar the father from the rehearsals,” which, I guess, he shouldn’t have been there anyway…
MP: He’s their manager.
MM: He’s their manager but, managers don’t normally get (nd), so, but maybe they felt he was so threatening that…
JM: This is a clash of cultures between, you know, New York culture and L.A. culture, where agents and managers show up on the set to watch the work. It’s… it doesn’t make much sense but, the more information that you’ve given us about this actor and the possibility of this being a vanity production, it makes a lot more sense.
MP: Well, I’m just speculating because, you know, I don’t know what other explanation there would be.
JM: Well, it’s pieces of a puzzle and everybody puts the puzzle together differently and but, I think that that’s certainly a possibility. Little Schubert’s got 499 seats and, certainly, thirteen weeks… that’d be… and to bring, not only, Geoge Hearn as a star but, Thora Birch, who was working for a good deal of money, I believe they’d have to run it more than thirteen weeks to just make back your money.
JM: So, it just doesn’t make any sense.
MP: And before we leave it, we should point out in case people aren’t aware of it, it’s very interesting because the part that Thora Birch was playing, now is being played by Emily Bridges, who had been the understudy, and Emily Bridges is the daughter of Bow Bridges, the actor. And now, I believe…
JM: Who has been in a production with Kevin, no, no that’s not the thing we’re doing.
MP: No. But, now, new to the production entirely, apparently, is Katharine Luckinbill, who is the daughter of Lucy Arnaz and Laurence Luckinbill so, there are all these celebrity offspring, I guess, around in shows and movies these days.
JM: Alright, I guess we should move on. Did I mention before that when we were talking about Scottsboro Boys and Will Smith, that Will’s got a bunch of Grammys? He’s won a bunch of Grammys.
MM: Well, James, I think that we’re familiar with this recording but, I, personally, thought that he was merely a rap artist. I mean, does he actually sing? I have lots of knowledge of Will Smith as a rapper but, I’ve never actually heard him sing, I don’t think.
JM: Speaking of people that we don’t know if they sing or not, this guy… this publicity whore… do you know this publicity whore we’re talking about?
TIME – 00:50
JM (continued): …Either one of you guys?
MP: Which one?
JM: That Stephen Sondheim publicity whore? I tell you, was it Elizabeth Vincent Telly (?) a couple weeks ago, was like, “I’ve had enough of Stephen Sondheim” and he will not, you’re eighty years old, dude, slow down.
MP: So, you know what’s interesting is he, um… it’s kind of wonderful in a way, he used to be, really, kind of inaccessible, I would say…
JM: Yeah, an old cranky man, he didn’t want to talk to anybody in the media, you know, and he was on the Colbert Report this week and I watched the video. Did you guys watch the video?
MP: Yeah, it was great.
JM: He was wonderful.
MP: He was fantastic!
JM: Matthew, did you see it?
MM: Um, I actually didn’t see it, I’m sorry.
JM: Oh, ok. Well, I got to the New York Times website and it was posted on BroadwayStars.com
MP: Oh, yeah, that’s a much better website than the New York Times, much!
JM: So, we posted it on Broadway Stars the other day, the morning after it ran, and it got a lot of traffic. Stephen Sondheim, you know, hamming it up with Stephen Colbert and having a great time and, who knew that Colbert was such a musical theatre file there? He seems to know quite a lot about Stephen Sondheim and it was, it was nice to bring… talk there, there’s your audience development right there. If you…
MM: And what show is he developing an audience for, James? I forget.
JM: Well, I mean, if… Michael got it. I just…
MP: You mean, what specific show is he doing? … Around about the next five seasons, other than… but, I mean, I’m assuming he’s doing it to drum up interest in his book…
JM: Oh, absolutely. It’s totally part of the book tour, in fact, he mentioned that this is only book one of a multi-book series, on the report he mentioned that. But, um, it’s very, you know, Stephen Sondheim is, you know, it’s kind of like Nixon in the 90’s: he’s tan, he’s rested, he’s ready, you know? It’s all of a sound, Stephen Sondheim is, you know, bouncing back from Gold Rush, or whatever that show was.
MP: Gold Rush.
MP: That show, James, that was not the final name of it.
JM: Was it ever Gold Rush?
MP: It was Gold, at one point, yes.
JM: I saw it a few times and wow. So…
MP: Well, yeah, and people who have not watched the video, you really should watch it. It’s incredibly delightful and, especially, the part where Colbert sings a parody of “Send in the Clowns,” that he himself wrote. It’s beyond… it’s so charming and hilarious, and Sondheim is, obviously, loving it, it’s… you’ve got to see it.
JM: I’ll link to it on the show page, which you can find at BroadwayStars.com/BroadwayRadio, but um, we’ll link to it right there so you don’t have to hunt it down. But, it was great and back to the point I was saying: Colbert’s got an audience that I wouldn’t imagine is going to see the theatre a lot, and if this can generate just a little bit of thought because I think that as we saw with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell yesterday, and the embracing of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by the general public, that the public is… has a much more progressive thought on social issues and, maybe, this type of an audience that Colbert has, and John Steward has, in fact, would be interested in seeing something like the Scottsboro Boys and other types of… I would call that….
MP: But, James, they won’t. They didn’t go to see the Scottsboro Boys…
JM: That’s because they didn’t know about it. They think of Broadway as being, you know, not cool, or not intriguing, or not interesting, or not worth it and, in essence, at the end of the day it is not worth it, whether it be worth it in their time or worth it in their money that they put down, to go see this show, and that’s… whenever you’re selling a consumer anything, whether it be a pair of shoes, a shirt, a Broadway show, making them watch a television show, you’re asking the consumer to give up either time or money, and…
MP: Or both.
JM: Or both and, um, and that is the goal of marketers and whether they’re marketing a Broadway show or something else, they need to convince the… they need to reach the audience and let them know that the product…
TIME – 00:55
JM (continued): …exists, and then they need to say, “this is so compelling that you need to give up X amount of dollars and X amount of your time to go see this,” and I think that’s where the failure of marketing in Broadway has been. We talked a little bit about last week, how the Broadway League’s demographics for the last season had come out and that, certainly, the Broadway marketers are reaching the easy market, which is these white women who are affluent by national standards. And that’s the easy audience because that’s always been the audience for Broadway and I think that marketing has failed in most other cases, with the exceptions of, maybe, In the Heights. In the Heights reached a different market, and there’s a handful of shows in the past that have reached a different market; Fela!, to some extent, has reached a different market than the white affluent woman in her thirties to fifties. I think that, for the most part, we have failed as an industry to reach out to different markets, who I think would be compelled to go see it. You know, Lombardi is flying under the radar. Nobody’s talking about Lombardi but, Lombardi is constantly in the mainstream press because last week they brought… the Miami Dolphins were in to play against the Jets, and the producers of Lombardi got the whole Miami team to come see the show…
JM: …and talk about it afterwards, and it didn’t get really picked up and trumpeted as well in Playbill or Broadway.com or BroadwayWorld or anything like that, it got mentions here and there but, it was in mainstream press, it was in the Wall Street Journal, it was in Sports Illustrated, it was in the places you don’t typically hear about Broadway so,… and they interviewed the players and they were saying how great it was to see a play that most of them had never seen a play before… they’re all millionaires that are at the top of their game and had not seen a play before so, I think that Broadway is failing, in some ways, to market themselves into the right audiences and that was part of what I was saying about Dracula being done off-Broadway, as well, it’s like, we keep… seem to be… falling back on what we are typically, or easily, supposed to do and that’s why I said, “why Dracula?” Come on, how many times has it been done? And is there really something compelling in this production… Alright, so we’ll leave the Stephen Sondheim and Colbert Report behind and we had a report here about the ten most performed plays and musicals in high school. Matthew, you want to give us an introduction on this?
MM: I am willing to bet that, even though most of our listeners are well-versed in the theatre, most of them did not see Almost, Maine when it played off-Broadway a few years ago. I actually did see it but, you know, most people in New York didn’t and, so, I bet a lot of people were surprised that when Dramatics Magazine came out, this week, with its list of the top ten most produced plays in high schools in North America, that it topped the list. It’s by John Cariani, whom some of you may remember from the revival of Fiddler on the Roof and it… he also did the revival of Two Gentlemen of Verona in the Park, the musical. But, yeah, that’s the most popular play in school. Now, having seen it, I can explain its popularity, it’s very gentle, it’s very quiet, it’s very sweet, it’s very sentimental, there’s almost nothing in it that’s controversial, it doesn’t take many chances, it’s just, sort of, a nice little story that’s told in chapters, it can be played by any number of actors, I think, from four to nineteen. So, it can adapt to any number of theatres and it, really, just, sort of, has a broad appeal that, to me, it makes complete sense that it would be popular but, I never would have thought of it as being the most produced play for high schools in the country. Now, a lot of the other nine plays in the top ten make a lot more sense. They are A Midsummer Night’s Dream, You Can’t Take it With You, Noises Off, Twelve Angry Men, Alice in Wonderland, The Crucible, Our Town, A Christmas Carol, and Neil Simon’s Fools, which I have to admit, I don’t know at all but, still, nine of those plays are very common and very famous, ones that high schools have been…
TIME – 1:00
MM (continued): …doing for a long time so, to have Almost, Maine, a very recent play, at the top of the list, that’s pretty impressive to me. Now, in terms of the musicals, it’s Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, Seussical, Grease, Into the Woods, Footloose, The Wizard of Oz, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, The Music Man, Once Upon a Mattress, and Thoroughly Modern Mille so, the musicals are a little bit more predictable, I guess, in that way but, Almost, Maine really, kind of, pulled it out of here. I thought it was nice when I saw it off-Broadway, you know, it’s not a groundbreaking theatre production, by any stretch of the imagination but, it’s a very, again, sweet, little play and I think it’s very interesting and it’s not too bad that it’s having a life beyond Broadway. We were talking about the Scottsboro Boys, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Scottsboro Boys on this list, or a list like it, eventually, again, I think the racial make-up of the cast might cause a couple of problems because, again, Almost, Maine doesn’t really specify the actors races, and all that and, in terms of Scottsboro Boys, it’s a little more clear cut but, yeah, it just goes to show you, you never know what’s going to happen to your play after it closes unsuccessfully in New York so, writers out there: whether you’re John Kander or David Thompson or someone that the rest of us haven’t heard of yet, you should remember that New York isn’t the end of anything, it’s only the beginning.
MP: Right. That, certainly, has proved true for Seussical, which is on the list here and it is so interesting, isn’t it? I believe Almost, Maine is very popular in community theatre and not just high school productions.
MM: Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised, yeah.
MP: But, Neil Simon’s Fools, how fascinating. Why would that particular Neil Simon play be…
MM: Michael, do you know it at all? I honestly have no knowledge of it, whatsoever.
MP: I know it vaguely. I guess it’s that kind of humor, that kind of humor like those movies like Dumb and Dumber, I believe that’s generally what the…
JM: Fools is… Fools is, excuse me. Fools is described as a “light-hearted romantic comedy, set in the small village of Kulyenchikov in Ukraine, during the late 19th century.”
MM: Well, James, in all seriousness then, it sounds, I mean, if that’s an accurate description of it, it sounds like Almost, Maine, which is a warm-hearted romantic comedy, set in the frozen north of the United States. I mean, there’s, obviously, kind of… no, I’m serious! There’s kind of a connection there, that people want feel-good plays that might not have urban settings, but have optimistic world views. That doesn’t surprise me at all, that a play like that, whether it’s by John Cariani or Neil Simon would attract people.
JM: Some other information, I wish we had Peter here; we’ll have to ask Peter about this. It says Fools, allegedly, was written as a result of the agreements Simon made with his wife during their divorce proceedings. She was promised profits to the next play so, he attempted to write something that would never land on Broadway, given that it closed after forty performances, he succeeded. With the permission of Simon, Fools was adapted into a 1990 musical, with the title, Kulyenchikov. It was produced in San Jose, California in November of that year. The revised libretto and lyrics were by San Francisco Bay Area playwright and composer Ted Koplos. In addition to the fourteen songs, an additional character was created Alexie, Leon’s con-artist uncle, who acted as an inadvertent love interest for Yenchenka and demonstrated how even the smartest of con men can be beaten at their own game by the stupidest of villagers.
MP: Yeah, it is about… yeah, it is, largely, about this stupidity of everyone in this town. The supposed stupidity so, I think, you know, maybe that’s an attraction for high school kids, like I said, the Dumb and Dumber thing. But, it’s just, you know, that play’s been around for quite some time, is it possible, maybe, that the amateur rights were just released, and so high school rights?
JM: Well, it’s possible. I don’t know, um, it seems like it’s a safe show to do. That there’s not going to be any sexual innuendo or bad language or anything like that, and a lot of school shows are chosen by safety, you know, we look at this list here: on the top ten, you know, Grease, where people always have to change lyrics in Grease because…
JM: community uprising, Footloose, as well. Into the Woods, the parents who would protest that really don’t understand Into the Woods so, I mean, these are all safe. Disney… Beauty and the Beast…
TIME – 1:05
JM (continued): … Seussical, Grease, Into the Woods, Footloose, Wizard of Oz, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Music Man, and Once Upon a Mattress, and Thoroughly Modern Millie, these are all very safe shows to do. Midsummer Night’s Dream, You Can’t Take it With You, Noises Off, Twelve Angry Men, Alice in Wonderland, The Crucible, Our Town, Neil Simon’s Fools, Christmas Carol, these are all very very safe titles to do in an educational setting, which very often happenings. It’s… one of the things that I’ve campaigned for in the past twenty years, or so, is trying to make sure that schools spend as much money as they do for football, as they do on the arts. So, if a high school has a football team and they spend X number of dollars, they should spend the same number of X dollars for putting on, you know, their band, their chorus, their theatrical programs, things like that, their chamber orchestras, because it’s been in my thought that more students are involved in the… these types of productions and arts programs, than there are in fielding a football team for a high school. I hope that this is happening, that it seems like lots… like every school doesn’t field large sports team but, every school seems to have some sort of play or musical or outlet… orchestra or band or a chorus, and this, I think, is where the next Broadway performers come from.
MP: Well, that would be wonderful James, and as much as my feelings about Glee are extremely mixed, I kind of think that might be making a major difference in…
MP: … just what you’re talking about.
JM: Yeah, so I think that that’s really important. More important is the news that Patti LuPone might be doing Hello, Dolly! and I know Matthew is so choked up about this that we should start with Michael.
MP: Well, maybe I’m only slightly less choked up than Matthew. I don’t know, I just don’t think that… I think that it should be Bernadette Peters, I mean, I think she would be better for the role in every respect. And another great person would be someone who wouldn’t, necessarily sell a lot of tickets but, it’s been brought up: Victoria Clark would be fantastic in that.
JM: Oh, yeah. That would be good.
MP: I mean, yeah, I don’t know if Patti LuPone needs to do every major role that’s…
MM: Oh, Michael, I know.
MM: I think I know. I think Patti LuPone, really, just sounds like a terrible idea. I’m not saying you need to find a Carol Channing type every time you play this role and, of course, I didn’t see the original production but, they found an astonishing array of very different actresses to play the role, from Carol Channing to Ginger Rodgers, to Ethel Merman- who it was written for- to Pearl Bailey to Bibi Osterwald; every major star that you could name… Mary Martin toured with it for forever… every major female star of the 1960’s got a chance to play the role and do really well with it but, they all had one thing in common: they were all warm, likeable people and Patti LuPone has a lot of virtues as a performer but, I have never seen her be warm onstage and if you have a Dolly that you don’t really care about and you don’t really love, the entire show falls apart, it really does. A few years ago at Paper Mill they did Hello, Dolly! with, uh…
MP: Tovah Feldshuh.
MM: Tovah Feldshuh, who, on paper, would actually be a good choice. I mean, she tried really hard and she has that kind of warmth, and even she couldn’t put it across. I think that Patti LuPone blaring through those songs without the, sort of, connection that Dolly needs, would be really disastrous, and I hope that Patti LuPone is able to pull out something that none of us have really seen before in her acting to really convince us, if indeed she does it. Michael, I completely agree with you, I think Bernadette Peters would be a much better choice, I have a hard time seeing Victoria Clark do it but, I think she would make a very intelligent Dolly Gallagher Levi but, I just can’t imagine, I can’t even begin to imagine Patti LuPone doing it…
TIME – 1:10
MM (continued): …at all.
MP: Well, just to be fair, I do think that she can be very funny onstage, I’ve seen Patti LuPone be very funny in several shows but, I just don’t think it’s the right type… she’s the right type but, as you pointed out Matthew, it’s been played by an incredible array of people. You left out Phyllis Diller… played the role to great, great critical acclaim.
MM: I couldn’t even begin to name all of the people who’ve played the role in productions but, it was huge names.
MP: Yeah, I, uh…
MM: Huge names. Biggest names in the country at the time.
MP: Eve Arden, everyone played it. Everyone played it. It doesn’t seem… and I also didn’t like the idea in the report that Miss LuPone is considering the role, you know, which made it sound like, “well, you know, maybe I’ll do it.” That’s how it came across to me, anyway.
JM: Yeah, usually when they’re considering the role it’s got more to do with considering the contract, more than the role.
JM: You know. So, we’ll see what happens there. Alrighty, a few more things before we wrap up: Matthew would you like to say something about Cry-Baby?
MM: Oh, sure.
JM: Ok, so tell us what’s happening with Cry-Baby these days.
MM: Well, Playbill online, that fine bastion of investigative journalism, posted a story the other day about how the writers of the Broadway musical Cry-Baby, which was on Broadway 2008, are scaling it down for Saint Louis and this reminds me of earlier this year, when the New York Times wrote a story that we discussed on the podcast and that I wrote about in extravagant length: about how shows like Aspects of Love and La Cage Aux Folles and Sweeney Todd, etc., are so much better once you remove all of the trappings of huge casts and the orchestras, you know, all those things that just get in the way of the incredibly complex and human story. So, of course, now that’s the line that’s being floated by David Javerbaum in Playbill online in, yet, another infuriating chapter of this… big musicals, they aren’t really any good, the only good musicals are small. So, what they’re doing is a reducing, I mean, I still cannot believe the enormous size of the original Cry-Baby cast, I mean, the Metropolitan Opera was on its knees weeping at the thought that you would have twenty-six whole people on the stage. Ok, well that was absolutely ridiculous. You can’t expect any musical ever to have twenty-six people on pay. So, they’re reducing it to sixteen, I mean, thank god, thank god. With twenty-six people you don’t know who to look at; they’re flying off the stage, you can’t possibly fit that many people on a Broadway stage. Obviously, they had to do that, that was vital. I want to point out that in the original Broadway production of Cry-Baby, sixteen people was the number of people in the ensemble; ten leads and sixteen chorus people, never mind that. And, thankfully, they’re also reducing the size of the orchestra. I mean, you know, the very idea that you have a Broadway musical with a full-size orchestra is just absolutely ridiculous. So, they are taking the wonderfully thoughtful, artistic brave chance of reducing the orchestration to six, and they are going to record it with six in a production that they are doing in Saint Louis sometime next year. I just… this is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the way that people treat Broadway musicals today. And, of course, it bears repeating that David Javerbaum is not, exactly, a real Broadway hand; he doesn’t have a whole ton of experience doing this. So, of course, he doesn’t really know that much about what Broadway is, and what its requirements are, and what makes sense to it. He used to be working on the Daily Show, and now he’s writing the music and lyrics for a musical, and he’s “oh it’s just too big of a show, we didn’t know what to do with it.” Ok, the problem with Cry-Baby had nothing to do with the fact that there were twenty-six people on the stage, ok? It was the fact that really bad adaptation of a chincy John Waters movie that was, really, paper thin to begin with. The problem is that the writing was dishonest, it was just an excuse to throw around a bunch of fifties-sounding songs without any thought about how they went together, it was poorly directed, it was… there were parts of the choreography that were exciting but, it was not really good choreography, overall. It was, really, just a show that had no reason for being, except to capitalize on John Waters and Hairspray and, to me, that’s, really, a bad reason to do anything. The show would have failed, even if the original Broadway production had been as brilliant with sixteen people in it and six people in the orchestra. So, this is yet another…
TIME – 1:15
MM (continued): …case of people spouting off at the mouth when they, really, shouldn’t be doing it; claiming that a problem with the show is something other than the fact that they don’t know how to write one because they’ve never written a Broadway musical before. And I, obviously, have very little patience for it and I have to say this: I have very little patience for publications like Playbill and the New York Times that give these people the time of day to badmouth the Broadway musical, as an artistic form that has outlived, and will continue to outlive, their pathetic impressions of what it is and what it is supposed to be. So, I think that David Javerbaum probably needs to stop working on Cry-Baby and, either A) write another musical or B) go back to the Daily Show, since that’s, probably, what he really wants to do anyway.
JM: Alright, so…
MM: Merry Christmas, everybody!
MP: And I would add, Matthew, that it’s such an insult to people’s intelligence whenever people say that, “oh, you know, it really is much better when it’s smaller because there was all that stuff there.” I mean, do they really think that people don’t understand that it’s just gibberish; they’re just saying it because it’s cheaper to do things cheaper and so, to imply that any new way of doing something is necessarily better….
MM: Yeah, Michael, I would have so much respect for these people… like if Playbill had interviewed… ok, in fairness, I’m kind of taking Playbill to task, I don’t think they should let these people voice these idiotic sentiments, I really don’t, but when Saint Louis is announcing that it’s doing these shows, that’s news and I can understand why Playbill might call David Javerbaum and say, “what’s going on with this?” and if he had said, “listen, we had a lot of people express interest in the show but, they can’t do it with the size of the orchestra we had on Broadway, they can’t do it with the size of the cast, we’re reducing it, we’re providing an option for people who want to do the show but, want to do it smaller,” I would have complete respect for that because that’s honest, and that’s bowing to economic responsibilities that are part of the country right now but, to claim that the show was too big, that people couldn’t follow the show, that the orchestra was just too enormous, and I don’t remember what the size of the Cry-Baby orchestra was, I’m guessing it was probably like eighteen pieces, or something, whatever the bare minimum is at the Marquis Theatre where it played; I hate hearing stuff like that, Michael, for exactly the reason that you said: it’s condescending, it’s ignorant, and it’s really…
MP: But, how stupid (nd) Broadway musical? How stupid do they think people are? I mean, do they really think that anyone actually believes that?
MM: I assume so.
MP: You know, let me hasten to add, I… sometimes, it seems to be… I do think that the current production of La Cage is better than either of the previous two but, I don’t think it’s necessarily because it’s a smaller production.
MM: Oh, I don’t think it has anything to do with that. I think the fact that it focuses on the characters and the concept is secure, is what makes it work, and if you had put a full orchestra… I don’t know how many, twenty-two, twenty-four pieces in this production, it would work just as well.
MM: You’re not losing anything but, again, with this production of La Cage, the orchestration is intelligent; they reduced it in such a way that it doesn’t sound like you’re giving anything up. I don’t care who you are, you cannot go from twenty pieces to six, and not sacrifice something and, again, the problem with Cry-Baby had nothing to do with the orchestrations, had nothing to do with the cast size. David Javerbaum says in that piece that he was satisfied with what they did, he wouldn’t go back and change anything creatively but, I don’t know of any critic or any audience members who thought that the problems with the show had to do with the cast size or the orchestra. Everyone said, “well, it’s not very well written. The songs are this, the songs are that; the book isn’t very good,” you know, that’s what people were saying. So, if you’re going back and you’re fixing something, fix what is wrong, don’t fix what is right… or come up with a different orchestration that will give people the chance to do it with six instruments, if they can’t scrape together twenty. Don’t just say the problem with the show was that it was too big, the problem with ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine percent of shows has to do with the writing and not the fact that it’s too big.
MP: That’s right.
MM: And if it is too big, it’s not because it had twenty-six people onstage and twenty people in the orchestra, that is not too big by any standards, at all.
MP: In the Playbill article, Matthew, did you feel that he was badmouthing Broadway in general? Or was it just in saying that, that these shows don’t…
MM: I think that when you say that… ok, this is his exact quote: “the changes we’re making are not, so much, about the material. We’re making a little bit smaller, and that’s fine. A lot of us felt that it might have been too big to begin with but, we all felt pretty good about the show creatively, we don’t look back creatively and think, ‘we should have done this, or that.'” So, he’s saying that there’s nothing wrong with the show as it’s written…
TIME – 1:20
MM (continue): … but, that it was too big. The problem with the show was not that it was too big, no show is every too big the way that these people describe it, at least, not any show that I’ve ever seen. Now, in fairness, I’ve only seen 2,200 plays over the course of my lifetime so, I’m sure, perhaps, number 2, 201 might be too big. Michael, I know that you’ve seen more than I have, Peter’s seen more than all of us put together, I’ve never heard anyone say, “yeah, that show, the orchestra was, really, too big for, yeah, there were just too many people singing and dancing onstage.” I’ve never heard that happen. The only time I’d ever hear it, is from writers and directors who are trying to sell the smaller versions of their shows to a public that might not, otherwise, be inclined to buy them. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
MP: If I could say something positive about Cry-Baby, in a way, I completely agree with you that the material was the problem. There were some people in the original production who managed to rise above it…
MM: Harriet Harris was terrific.
MP: Harriet Harris, Alli Mauzey
MM: Oh, she was great too. The (nd)
MP: And I’m very happy to hear, so happy to hear that Christopher J. Hanke, who played Baldwin in Cry-Baby, is going to be playing Bud Frump in the revival of How to Succeed because I thought that was a case where the actor took a part that was, really, not very well-written at all, and just threw his own talent and charisma, just built it into something that was a real… I think that was the high point of that show for me, his performance.
MM: Yeah, the problem was not even remotely with the cast. Frankly, if you’re going to have twenty-six people in the cast, I want the twenty-six people to be as good as they Broadway production of Cry-Baby was. I mean, the people were not even remotely the biggest issue with the show, for me. And, I mean, there were great… Spencer Liff, an enormously talented dancer, who was…
MP: Oh, sure.
MM: who was in the chorus, they had fantastic people in this show, twenty-six of them, in fact. You know, the more the merry I’d say; I’d rather have twenty-six good people, than sixteen good people.
JM: Alright, we are running long here so, let’s wrap up very quickly. I’m going to ask you if somebody is scrambling in the last moment to get a ticket for a Broadway lover, what show should they buy them a ticket to?
MP: I would say what I think I’ve been saying for the past two years, or so, In the Heights, if anyone has not seen that, it really should be seen. I would also add, if you can get a ticket to Merchant of Venice, then that’s pretty great. And I would have said Scottsboro Boys but, it’s too late, it’s closed.
JM: Alright, well, I want to throw in my two cents here and say that this spring, Thursday through Saturday, April 7th to the 9th, Neil Patrick Harris is going to be doing Sondheim’s Company with the New York Philharmonic and tickets just went on sale the other day, and they’re still available as we’re recording right now. I… ridiculously expensive; bottom ticket price is $65, top ticket price is $225, my understanding is that, you know, most of the tickets are, really, in the $175 and the above range. Let me click and look at this again… yeah, most of the tickets that are… orchestra is $115 to $225, and first tier is $175 to $225, the third tier is the $65 tickets so, really, it’s an expensive ticket. But, to see Neil Patrick Harris do Bobby in Company with an orchestra that is not too big, I might add, as we were talking before, the New York Philharmonic, it’s going to be amazing, at Avery Fisher Hall
MM: Paul Gemignani conducting, Lonny Price directing… Michael, calm down.
MP: And the original, and the original Jonathan Tunick orchestrations, you know… The Philharmonic had, actually, announced that they were going to do Company about, what, three years ago and then the Broadway revival happened- the John Doyle production- so, they… it was scrapped. So, I’ve been saying since then that I hoped that they would reschedule it so, I think it’s a really great thing. It’s going to be amazing to hear that orchestra play the complete orchestration; I’ve recently had the luck to hear, um, specific numbers played with the full orchestration, recently, the New York Pops did a Sondheim celebration concert and Aaron Lazar sang ‘Being Alive’ with the orchestra…
MM: Is that the best they could do, Micahel?
MP: Yeah, no, it was phenomenal.
TIME – 1:25
MP (continued): …It was incredible.
MM: Aaron Lazar is one of the best singers on Broadway right now, I cannot even begin to imagine how wonderful that must have sounded.
MP: It was great but, on top of that, to have an eighty piece orchestra- or sixty, sixty-five, seventy, something like that playing those orchestrations, it was absolutely breathtaking.
JM: And so, and you know that since this is only going to be a couple of nights, that if it’s a Broadway person that sees everything, that they won’t have seen this and it will be a good present for them. And, uh, so, I guess that’s going to wrap it up for us today. 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, right under that there is a subscribe button, that way each and every time we have a new episode of our podcast come out, you’ll get it automatically and won’t miss anything. You can also subscribe to This Week on Broadway and Broadway Radio through a bunch of different ways: through the Zune Marketplace, you can subscribe, you can also subscribe through Stitcher S-T-I-T-C-H-E-R Radio, which is an application that you can download to your smart phone, your Blackberry, your Android device, your iPhone and get it that way. You can also listen to us on Broadway World’s radio station; we’re on Wednesdays at noon, Thursdays at seven p.m., and Saturdays at two p.m. And, um, I think that’s it for finding us… yes, it is. Also, if you want to give us some feedback- we’ve gotten a lot of feedback recently- you can go to the front page of BroadwayStars.com and on the right side, in the upper right hand corner, there’s a contact form, that way you can send us an email. If you’d like to call and leave us a voicemail, our number is 646-873-7695 and if you do leave a voicemail, we may play it on the podcast. Last week, we started something kind of new and had said, you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you can find me at @JamesMarino and Facebook.com/JamesMarino, Matthew is @MMurrayonBway and all these things are at the show page, as well. Michael, do you want to… do you have a Twitter account or a Facebook account you want them to follow you on?
MP: I definitely have a Facebook account, yeah, just my name.
JM: Ok, so we’ll link to that at the show page, as well, if you want to connect with Michael, Matthew, and myself. Alright, and so, on behalf of Matthew Murray and Michael Portantiere, this is James Marino saying thanks so much for listening to This Week on Broadway. Bye bye.
MM: Bye everybody! Happy Holidays!
MP: Happy Holidays!