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Notes and links for the podcast.
Peter Filichia | [email protected] | Facebook
James Marino | [email protected] | Twitter | Facebook
Matthew Murray | [email protected] | Twitter
Michael Portantiere | [email protected] | Facebook
What we liked this year:
Peter: Johnny Baseball at ART
Matthew: The Language Archive at Roundabout
Michael: Porgy & Bess @ Newark
Peter: Old Settler @ Luna Stage in Orange NJ
Matthew: Nancy Anderson in Peter Pan @ Paper Mill
Matthew: Restoration @ NYTW
Michael: Marin Mazzie in Next To Normal
Peter: Scottsboro Boys
Matthew: Closer Than Ever @ Queens Theater in the Park
Matthew: Kelsey Grammer in La Cage
Matthew: With Glee @ Prospect Theater Company
Michael: Brief Encounter
James: Neil Berg working around the country producing, musical directing
Peter: Time Stands Still
Matthew: The Swearing Jar @ Fringe
Matthew: Clybourne Park
Matthew: Equivocation @ MTC
Matthew: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity @ Second Stage
Michael: Mistakes Were Made @ Barrow Street Theatre
Michael: Pee Wee Herman
What are you looking forward to in the spring?
Peter: Catch Me If You Can
Matthew: Book of Mormon
Michael: Neil Patrick Harris in Company with the New York Philharmonic
Numbers of shows this year?
Cherry Lane Theater Artistic Director to Leave and Sell Building
Spider-Man update, Christopher Tierney
Entrance Music: The Scottsboro Boys performed by the Original Off-Broadway Cast from the album The Scottsboro Boys
Exit Music: Goodbye performed by David Campbell from the album On Broadway
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Direct Link to MP3 File
Broadway Radio: This Week on Broadway for December 26, 2010: What We Liked in 2010
Transcribed by Courtney Rice
TIME – 00:00
JM: Good morning and welcome to Broadway Radio’s This Week on Broadway for Sunday, December 26, 2010. My name is James Marino, and on the call this morning we have our guests: Peter Filichia, Matthew Murray, and Michael Portantiere. Peter can be found three times a week at TheatreMania.com, writes for the Newark Star Ledger, also writes for Masterworks Broadway. Good morning, Peter.
JM: Matthew is the chief theatre critic for Talkin’Broadway.com, also is a columnist for BroadwayStars. Good morning, Matthew.
MM: Hey James, how are you doing today?
JM: I’m trying to end up the year steady-footed. Also with us is Michael Portantiere. Michael is a columnist for BroadwayStars.com, a photographer, as well. You can see him work at FollowSpotPhoto.com, has written a few books… one of them comes to mind is, he wrote one with Gerard Alessandrini on Forbidden Broadway and he has an upcoming book on Sweeney Todd. Morning, Michael.
MP: Morning and happy holidays.
JM: Happy holidays to everybody out there. It’s the day after Christmas, I wonder if there’s ever been a song about that, Peter?
PF: Nothing I know of, no, but it’s a good question. Well, that should inspire somebody to write something.
MM: Well, there have been a couple of boxing musicals
PF: But, that’s a very interesting… it sounds like a country song to me: The Day After Christmas… I just feel some sadness attached…
JM: It was cut from Pompoys (?)…
PF: Yeah, it probably was.
MP: I actually know of a song, it’s a parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” but it’s not a show tune.
JM: Oh, ok.
MP: So I guess it doesn’t count.
JM: Well it is a song, I asked for a song, not a song from a show. I’m sure that there are… our listeners have been pretty good about getting in touch the last couple of weeks, so hopefully somebody will listen to this and let us know next week and we can let everybody else know. The four of us are striking out here. So, we’re at the end of our calendar year and we’d like to talk about the things that we’ve liked, that we’ve seen in theatre, not necessarily Broadway, but have seen in the theatre in the last twelve months. It’s just going to be a general open discussion this morning, so Peter, why don’t you start us off? What have you liked this year?
PF: Uh, I’ll take us far afield and go to Cambridge, Massachusetts and talk about Johnny Baseball, a musical that Richard Dresser did with Willy and Robert Reale, the people who did Frog and Toad. Richard Dresser, um, did the book to Good Vibrations, and as he said to me, “after it opened, so many people called me in such a way that I thought I should get grief counseling,” but he’s a good playwright, he has a number of wonderful plays, Below the Belt being one of them, that he’s done off-Broadway and in regions. So, this was a musical about the Boston Red Sox, who for years and years and years, decades, decades, decades, did not do well, especially against the Yankees. They won a World Series in 1918 and, after that, had many tough times, a lot of people thought they were going to win it in 1986, but it didn’t happen. A lot of people thought they were going to win in 1946 and that didn’t happen. There was always one player, or one miscue, or one thing that always went wrong; it kept them from winning the championship, and a lot of people claimed the problem was that the owner, Harry Frazee, in the Twenties, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, making the Yankees the powerhouse that they were for all of those decades. So, this was actually a musical that took place at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play, at their darkest moment in history, or so it seems, when they were three games behind the Yankees, but ended up pulling it out, but Dresser’s concept was not… it hadn’t anything to do with Babe Ruth, whatsoever, but the fact that the Red Sox were a racist organization for a lot of years, in fact, it was the last team to integrate, even though it told Major Leagues terribly long to integrate: not until 1947 did it happen. The Red Sox did not have a black player on its team until 1959; it was the last of the…
TIME – 00:05
PF (continued): …sixteen major league teams to get one, so that was what he felt was wrong: that he had a fictional story involving a player in the ’20s who was very interested in a black woman that he met and they wanted to have a relationship, and they were discouraged from having a relationship by the Red Sox brass, at the time. It also took us into twenty years later when this man had found out that he had a son by this black woman, and now the son is trying to get into the Major Leagues and the Red Sox, again, are discouraging. I found it extraordinarily moving, I was in tears at the end and I liked it immeasurably, so I’m going to mention that one because I suspect that none of the three of you saw it, and James, I get the impression that you would not want to see it, being the big Yankee fan that you are but, nevertheless, I thought it was quality work. I don’t know if we’ll ever see it anywhere else, to be frank. It seemed to me to be very parochial in its appeal, that people in Boston would certainly be the target audience for it, and God bless Diane Paulus for giving it a chance out there… and it was well-received and, certainly, the night I was there, it was as packed as a Fenway Park game against the Yankees and the crowd was just as enthusiastic… so, Johnny Baseball is one I’ll mention.
JM: Peter, so you mentioned that you didn’t think that Johnny Baseball would play anywhere else and we talked about this, I guess over the summer, when you first saw it, we said that they would have to make a few changes in it to make it work. Do you think that it would have a life in the regions, that it could play in the northeast and find an audience?
PF: Well, that’s a good point. I guess I could see it long off, um, in New Haven or Hartford Stage, places like that because the Red Sox are New England’s team… maybe Trinity and Province could take it on too. But, as much as I liked it- and don’t forget, I do come from Boston- and while I was never a particular Red Sox fan, I have been a baseball fan, but I don’t see it really appealing to too many people. One can argue, and I’m sure the creators would, that this was really a story about integration, and all that; but it really is so tied into the fortunes of the Red Sox, that that is really the dominate story, whether they want to think so or not. So, but my hats off to them for doing great work, I just think that they may very well have invented a product that the market does not particularly want.
JM: Now, I know that this is not a podcast about sports or baseball, but just let me go off on a tangent for a second. When I go to Yankee games against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, there’s a considerable amount of Red Sox fans there. It seems that what they call the ‘Red Sox Nation’ has gone out of just the northeast and exists everywhere, similar to how the Yankees were America’s team in the ’70s, where you could, you know, go down to Alabama and find Yankee fans, or go down to New Mexico and find Yankee fans, as well. With all the pundits on the sports side of baseball saying that the Red Sox are the team to beat this year, as well as the Phillies. Between the Red Sox and the Phillies everybody feels that one of those two are going to win the World Series, if the Red Sox have a dynastic streak like the Yankees do, perhaps this could move somewhere else. I wanted to ask you a question Peter, or Matthew, or Michael, do you know of any regional plays that are wildly successful in a region, but not so much here in New York? And have either never come or come and failed in New York?
MM: Well, we talked about one last week, Almost Maine, which is the most like performed show in high schools, but didn’t last very long in New York.
MP: Yeah, but I think… well, I was going to say, I thought James maybe meant things that were never here and Shear Madness is one, right? Does that count?
PF: What you’re really thinking of, James, is something like, for example, If Indeed, a play about Chicago; it only played in Chicago and never went anywhere else…
JM: Yeah, exactly.
PF: …it had no other life, so… nothing comes to mind, to me. I’ve seen a lot of shows do well in places, when I was in St. Louis…
TIME – 00:10
PF (continued): …in the ’80s, I remember seeing a very nice musical about St. Louis, and it was terrific and the people were enthusiastic, but it didn’t run very long. The thing about people coming… that when you go to Yankee Stadium and you see a lot of Red Sox fans, I think that’s true, I think that happens more: that Red Sox fans come to New York, than New Yorkers go to Boston, don’t forget, too, that Fenway Park has a substantially smaller seating capacity than Yankee Stadium, as well. The season ticket holders are tremendously involved in Boston, and also, the thing is, what I’m really getting at too, is that people who like sports are not necessarily theatre goers, and vice versa, I think they may have a problem. But anyway, ENOUGH on this baseball thing, I want to hear what the guys have to say about their best of the year.
JM: Alright, so let’s move on. We’ll go to Matthew, Matthew what do you have to say as far as your best of the year?
MM: I don’t know if I can narrow it down to just one show that I liked, but I will mention one of the very very very very very few shows that I actually paid to go back to see, and that was actually a week ago today, as a matter of fact, and that was The Language Archive. I went back to the final performance to see it again, and to see if, maybe, I had misjudged it in the wake of the other reviews that it received, that were not exactly as complimentary as the one that Peter and I gave on this podcast, and I have to say that it still ranks up there with the best plays of the year to me. It’s a very unusual play by Julia Cho, about a guy who works at the language archive: preserving dead languages, getting people in to record them when they’re the last two speakers, or so, of that particular tongue, but he isn’t able to communicate with his own wife, there are barriers between him and his assistant at the archive, and each one of them has their own problems communicating and working with other people. I just think it’s, really, an amazing, tight, surprising little play. I’m not going to say that I think it’s perfect, I actually don’t think it’s perfect; I think the first act is a little bit lose, I think the second act is wonderful, it’s one of the rare shows where the second act is noticeably better than the first, and I think that this production suffered a bit from directing and acting issues that prevented it from, perhaps, being seen as a really really good play, which I think it is. But, I find it moving and just very insightful about the way it deals with how people talk to each other or, more precisely, don’t talk to each other. The husband and the wife are having communication problems; she’s walking around crying all of the time; she keeps writing him little notes that he finds in out-of-the-way places and then denies writing them; he says so many poetic, wonderful, beautiful things to her, but because he can’t actually say the words, “I love you,” she doesn’t hear the emotion behind them and that causes all sorts of problems in their marriage; and then when she leaves him, she goes and becomes a baker and then puts all of her feelings into bread, which then really starts impacting the way other people see the world, and so on. It’s a really very complex and a very strange and, in places, a very silly, little piece, but I think there is a lot of profundity it in and I was even more moved the second time, than I was the first time, by it, especially by the final scene when everything comes together, and I certainly hope that it’s a play that we’ll see more in the future, whether it’s in regional theatres… I think it’s, actually, a very good college piece, it could do very well in colleges, it’s a small cast, it’s five people and it’s very smart, very thoughtful play, and I certainly hope I get the chance to see it again someday. But, even if I don’t , I’m happy that I got to see it once in New York when I was reviewing and I was thrilled to be able to go back and see it again, even if I had to pay for it.
JM: Alright, Michael, what do you think about what your favorite one was this year or one of your favorite ones this year?
MP: Well, first of all, let me say, you have another ‘yeah’ here for The Language Archives, I guess everyone here really liked it.
PF: Isn’t that fascinating?
PF: Given the fact that the reviews were not good…
MP: Is it your impression that the reviews in general were not good?
MM: Yeah, it certainly is.
PF: And word of mouth was terrible.
MM: Oh, really?
MM: Oh, that’s not good. On StageGrade, I think it had a median grade of C-, with John Simon and I being the only regular reviewers who gave it As. But, you know, it’s interesting because I actually sent a number of people to it. Michael and Peter, I’m sure you have that experience all the time, with people saying, ‘well what should I see? What should I see?” This is the only play, really, all year that I felt comfortable in saying, ‘you really need to go see this because it’s very special’ and of the people who specifically asked me…
TIME – 00:15
MM (continued): …every one of them liked it, I don’t think they loved it, quite to the degree that I did, but no one came back and said, ‘what were you doing? That was terrible,’ no one said that. So, I think that it was one of the cases where the critics and the audiences weren’t exactly in agreement, but if Peter’s right and the word of mouth was terrible, maybe we’re just the outliers here, but whatever, I thought it was great. And Michael, I’m glad to hear that you liked it because we’ve never talked to you about it before.
MP: Yeah. No, the audience certainly seemed to enjoy it when I was there, I don’t understand. But anyway, I just wanted to mention that. I would pick as my best thing, I’m going to go far afield too, although not as far as Peter, to Newark, New Jersey, where I saw the New Jersey State Opera do just two… I think it was just a two performance run of Porgy and Bess, and it was actually… the sets were a touring production, but they put together their own cast. It was unbelievable, I am so glad I went; I don’t feel I will ever see Porgy and Bess under better circumstances and it’s one of my favorite works of all time. Also, Stephen Sondheim’s by the way, apparently. Um, because, the thing with Porgy and Bess is, it originally, as many people know, was performed on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre, now the Neil Simon, and I assume that it… I believe that it had an orchestra of about, probably, forty players when it played at the Alvin. Now, in subsequent productions it has almost always been done in opera houses and large houses, like Radio City Music Hall and large concert venues with orchestras of sometimes twice that number. And what happens is, for example, if you go to see Porgy and Bess at the Met, unfortunately- they haven’t done it in quite some time- you, literally, cannot hear the singers because the orchestration is so, when it’s played by eighty people, it is so heavy and so thick that it covers the singers because, again, it was not originally intended to be played by that many players. So, that is a huge problem, obviously, if you can’t hear the singers. On the other hand, if you go to see productions of Porgy and Bess where the singers are miced, you’re not hearing natural sound, so you lose something there. But in this case, at the Newark Symphony Hall, which is an incredible old venue, I’m not even sure how much they use it anymore, but the… it was completely natural sound, the orchestra, I’m not sure, but I’m guessing was probably about forty or fifty players and I suppose, I mean, it’s a very cavernous venue, but I was sitting quite close, so I had the benefit of that too. So, I heard this world-class cast of singers sing Porgy and Bess, unamplified, in a beautiful old theatre with a full orchestra, and I… it was like going to heaven. I don’t think I’ll ever hear anything like that again, I can’t imagine circumstances where it would happen again, and I’m just so glad I went, I’m only sorry I didn’t go to a second performance.
PF: Michael, by the way, are you aware that you are sitting in the theatre where Judy Garland’s Carnegie Hall recording was actually recorded, did you know that? Um, when Judy Garland appeared at Carnegie Hall in April of 1961, it was not recorded there; they didn’t know it was going to be so sensational a performance. The next night she was scheduled to play Newark and Capitol Records said, ‘wow, we better get this down,’ so they went to Newark and actually recorded it there, so what you’re hearing on that very famous album was actually recorded in the hall where you were sitting in when you saw Porgy and Bess. That’s one of those dirty little secrets about the recording industry.
MP: Oh, wow, are you sure Peter?
PF: Well, all I’ll say is, having worked in Newark a long time and worked at a newspaper that, when I started there, there were plenty of people who were still at the paper who were there when that happened and they were adamant that, indeed, that’s what happened, so, who knows. All I can is that it may be an urban legend, but so many of the people claimed they were there that night and that’s the story they told, so… We don’t have to believe it, I’ll grant you that; maybe it’s a question we’ll all ask God when we get to heaven, along with…
TIME – 00:20
PF (continued): …who really did shoot JFK. But, nevertheless, that is certainly what they maintained staunchly, they would not be swayed.
JM: I was going to ask God about the Carousal movie.
PF: That’s a good idea.
MP: What about it?
JM: Why? Why did they do that the way that they did that? I loved Carousal and that movie just makes me mad.
MP: Isn’t that a missed opportunity? But have you seen the… there’s quite a wonderful TV production that was done with Robert Goulet and Patricia Neway, the original Mother Abbess from The Sound of Music is Nettie Fowler, Pernell Roberts is Jigger and…
PF: Really, it’s good?
MP: I think so. I think it is. It’s done on sets, but it’s filmed very well. I mean, the keys are changed for him, you know, because he’s more of a baritone, but I think on balance it’s a much better representation of the show.
JM: I’ll have to check that out, thank you. I never… I don’t think it’s ever crossed my eyes. Alright, so let’s round back up to Peter. Peter, anything… any other shows you want to point out this year that you really enjoyed?
PF: Well, while we’re in New Jersey, I’m going to point out one there, a show that I’ve seen a number of times: first at the McCarter Theatre, then off-Broadway at that theatre the Primary Stagers used to use on 45th Street, close to 9th Avenue, and this is a play by John Henry Redwood, called The Old Settler. The ‘old settler’ was the term used in Harlem, once upon a time, for old maid, and it is about a woman who is getting on in years and she meets a young man and he seems to be extraordinarily interested in her because she’s a mentor to him, and he really encourages that they fall in love, and as often happens in cases like this, she falls harder than he does and, at the end, he winds up going off with a floozy and she’s left. I’ll tell you the show which was done in a small theatre in West Orange, New Jersey, called Luna Stage Company, which used to be in Montclair, they got evicted and they had… it took them a year to find a new space. They opened with this, and Susan Douglas, an actress you may know, she was fabulous in Carmen Jones in Musicals in Mufti, some years ago… this production made me think of Side Show, the musical Side Show, because I always felt that at the end of Side Show they made a tremendous mistake: at the end of Side Show, one of the two twins said to the man she loved, “you don’t have…”- this is paraphrasing, by the way- “you don’t have the guts to fall in love with a Siamese twin” and she told him off and, you know, falling in love with a Siamese twin is very difficult. It’s hard to go through life with being involved with one Siamese twin and not the other, so I don’t know how much we can really castigate him. And at the end of Old Settler, when the young man and she are supposed to go away, they’re going to move somewhere else and he just never shows up, and she waits all night long and she sits in a chair waiting for him, and what’s very interesting to me is having all night, she has plenty of time to prepare what she’s going to say to him, and when he comes in, she’s lovely, she says, “thank you for the wonderful times you gave me, I really appreciated it, you made me feel good,” you know, words to that effect. I always thought Side Show would be better off if, indeed the Siamese twin had said to Jeff McCarthy the same type of thing, you know, no hard feelings, I think there wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house, as opposed to getting angry at him. So, that’s one of the big strength of The Old Settler, a play that I liked at McCarter, a play that I liked off-Broadway, but a play that I loved here, and it was a terrific production by a director named Susan Kerner and my hats off to Luna Stage, and to those people who are listening who are looking for a very good drama, I would urge them to take a look at John Henry Redwood’s, The Old Settler. Tremendously moving and I think a lot of the audience can relate to it.
JM: Peter, um, I’m pretty sure that you don’t know that I did a bunch of production of Side Show where I played Terry
PF: Go on.
JM: Matthew saw one of them, as acknowledged by his laugh
MM: Absolutely brilliant, James! Some of your line deliveries were unparalleled in the annals of Side Show.
JM: Um, I might…
PF: But, really, do you think you should have been told off, you know, for not having the so-called guts to…
TIME – 00:25
PF (continued): …marry a Siamese twin?
JM: Well, I think that if you isolate that incident where she tells Terry off, I think that no, if you take that out of context, then no, but she had to tell Terry off in order to sing “I Will Never Leave You” next, in order to lead into the next song. And that’s just my take on it, but…
PF: I don’t think the audience can be on her side, I can’t imagine that there are very many people… I mean, Lord knows there have been Siamese twins where there has been a marriage, that a man has married one of two Siamese twins…
JM: Sure, I think those… the girls that Side Show is based on actually got married. You know, this is a fictionalized account of their life, but I think in their life they actually did get married.
MP: Yes, I believe that’s true.
PF: That said, I think it’s very hard for an audience to…
JM: Oh, absolutely, and I think that what she said was done for dramatic effect, in order to get into the next section of the show.
PF: Well, that may very well be, but I think they would have been well advised to have her forgive him, so…
JM: Well, there is this… there are rumors of Side Show coming back and…
PF: I love a lot of Side Show; I think it’s a very good musical in a lot of respects and it’s an album I play quite a bit…
MM: I also like Side Show a lot too, irrespective of James’ wonderful performance of Terry, but there were some rumor awhile back that Roundabout was working on a revisal that had made a number of changes and they had done readings and stuff; I haven’t heard about it in a couple of years, but…
MM: They were really hyping it up for awhile, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it from Roundabout or some other similar group.
PF: We’ll see Side Show again because there’s too much quality in it, for it not to surface.
JM: Yeah, I didn’t hear anything about Roundabout in the latest rumors, but I did hear rumors about three months ago that somebody was dusting it off and having folks in for readings of it, so, you know…
PF: The sooner, the better.
JM: We’ll see. Matthew, does it fall under the revival rule for you or did it close too soon to matter, or…?
MM: Oh, James, I don’t think we should get into that today.
JM: Yes, we’re going to end the year on a positive note.
PF: Well, to be fair to Matthew, he usually means that about long-running shows, so Side Show didn’t have that much of a chance, so it’s not like it’s over-saturated or anything like that.
JM: Alright, so Matthew, we’re back to you. Were we? Yeah, we’re back to Matthew. What other shows this year did you really like and, God forbid, pay for?
MM: Well, I want to just stay in New Jersey for a brief moment and hype up the few shows that I saw in that state this year, or not even so much the show itself, which is a show that many of us know and love, but a performance in that show, and that was Nancy Anderson in Peter Pan at PaperMill. We’ve all seen Peter Pan before, I’m sure we’ve all seen the Mary Martin video and I believe that at least two of the three of you saw the Sandy Duncan revival, which, unfortunately, I did not see, but Nancy Anderson was wonderful as Peter Pan. I’m a big fan of hers in general, but she really did a great job of capturing the tomboy aspects of it and making him very youthful and very irreverent and very fun and, also, incredibly moving. It’s one… it was so much more powerful than when Cathy Rigby did it a couple of years ago or a couple of years before that or a couple of years before that. I mean, you really felt that Peter had a lot at stake, that he understood what he didn’t understand, and that really added a lot of depth to a show that can easily be seen as- not always, you know, wrongfully so- as child entertainment and a bit flat, but Nancy Anderson was so great. Her flying was terrific and she really brought so much energy and life to that role; it’s probably the best live Peter Pan that I’ve ever seen and, I didn’t see Mary Martin live, obviously, but given what she did on that video, I think that Nancy Anderson was right up there with her. But, just to talk about another show, I want to, sort of, dovetail with something that Peter was saying about The Old Settler, and talk about the show with a kind of similar theme that played in New York Theatre Workshop earlier this year, called Restoration. It was by Claudia Shear about this old, middle-aged woman who is having relationship problems, and she is an art restorer and she goes to Italy to restore the Michelangelo statue…
TIME – 00:30
MM (continued): …of David for the unveiling or anniversary of some sort, I’m afraid I don’t remember the specific details, and it was just an absolutely wonderful, little ninety-minute, no intermission piece, that really explored the way people use art in their lives and how they put themselves into their work and what art gives them and what they give back to it, and how you can make small decisions that have big impacts on the world around you. I thought, it’s another one that I seemed to like a lot more than the general, critical populace, but I was really amazed and moved by that, as well. Completely different play from The Language Archives in some ways, much different in tone, but Claudia Shear is a wonderful playwright, we probably remember her very well from Dirty Blonde, and this is very different from that, but she was every bit as good, much more serious, it’s a much more serious play, but it’s still very funny. Jonathan Cake had a supporting role in it and he plays a security guard with a kind of unusual history with the David, and it was a very nice little production; the kind of thing that you don’t always see from New York Theatre Workshop, but it’s good to remember that they can do kind of traditional plays, as well as the experimental stuff that they have built their name on. So, I really… that’s another one: small cast, very good role for a lead woman that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see again sometime soon, I hope that regional theatres will pick that and Language Archive up and put it in their upcoming season because I would love to see that one again too.
PF: I went to Restoration the last week of the run, that was the first time I could get to it and my girlfriend went very reluctantly because she had heard the bad press and, boy, we both came out of there flying high, we thought it was terrific and I remember pointing a finger at my girlfriend and wagging it in a very pedantic manner, saying “see, see, you know, make your own decisions, don’t go by what other people tell you,” and we were really glad to be there, so I second Matthew’s emotion.
MP: You know, James, I know you said we’re not supposed to agree on podcasts because people don’t like it, but I also really liked Restoration, so…
PF: Well, we’re just not agreeing with the other people, so we’re agreeing…
MP: No, they’re not agreeing with us, Peter, that’s their problem, not ours.
PF: I see.
JM: I’m sorry, Cara Lockhart (?), we’ll work on this a little bit for next year, we need to be more disagreeable. So Michael, what’s next on your list? Do you have anything else that you want to say that you love this year?
MP: Yeah, I would also like to reiterate how much I absolutely loved Marin Mazzie in Next to Normal. I said at the time, and I will repeat, it’s one of the greatest musical theatre performances I’ve seen in forty years of theatre-going. She was so magnificent, both vocally and dramatically, and it was a privilege to really see the show. The only thing is that I was, actually, I was a little frightened by the fact that some people reacted negatively to the performance because they… Marin, you know, sang, or sings, much of it in a belt voice, as you would imagine, but there are several sections which she sings in a more, kind of, a mixed belt/soprano and sometimes at the top of her range it has a more soprano-ish, legit tone, not operatic in any way, but just more traditional musical comedy; and some people responded negatively to this, apparently feeling that when you sing that kind of music, you have to sing in a raw belt that sounds like your vocal chords are being damaged with every note that you sing. And I just, kind of, am upset at the fact that the more traditional kind of Broadway singing seems to be not appreciated by some people in the younger generation, and I hope that music education can address that fact because it’s a little; I think it’s, really, kind of upsetting.
PF: If there is any music education left in our schools.
MP: Well, yeah, and honestly, I hate to say it… I mean, I’ve expressed mixed emotions about Glee before and I don’t really watch it- I’ve seen clips of it- but I’m not sure that they ever really have any legit, you know, style singing on the show ever, hardly ever, I mean, maybe Kristin Chenoweth did something like that at one point. The focus is…
TIME – 00:35
MP (continued): …completely on the more modern, pop-rocky style of auto-tuned singing that doesn’t really have anything to do with the kind of singing you would have heard in Carousel or Oklahoma! or My Fair Lady or shows like that, back in the day. So, I hope, you know, I don’t know, I just think that sometimes there’s a lack of appreciation for history and the way that… you know, and the past and the styles that were perfectly… that served everyone perfectly well for sixty years or more. So, I hope that, you know, I’m a little worried about that.
JM: Michael, there’s a YouTube video waiting to be made, it’s the “If I Loved You” auto-tuned.
MP: Please, please let it keep waiting forever.
JM: Hey, did you guys hear that Kristin Chenoweth seems to have gotten a Glee type of spin-off show of her own?
(all): no, I didn’t know that (etc.)
JM: Yeah. I just heard that a couple of days ago, I think it got mixed in with all the news over the holiday and the end of Promises, Promises, but Broadway.com just launched a television show, did you guys know that?
JM: Um, and Kristin was the first guest and Paul Wontorek, the editorial director and vice president of content at Broadway.com, he interviewed her.
MP: When you say television, do you mean on the net or on television?
JM: No, off of their website, they built a television studio and are recording interviews and doing various… more and more television sort of, you know… similar, I guess, to Michael and Susan’s show on PBS, but just strictly over the internet.
JM: Alright, um, so next on the agenda… Peter, tell us, what else have you seen that you’d like to share?
PF: Well, it’s about time for somebody to mention the Scottsboro Boys and I’ll certainly do that. As I’ve said so many times, John Kander’s music: there was not a measure that I didn’t like, I thought it was the cast album of the year, as well. And while I have heard, as time goes on, that they took tremendous liberties with the historical facts of the story, they certainly made, for me, a riveting theatre piece. Yes, I know there was a lot of controversy involving the minstrel show format in telling the story of these nine men who were falsely accused of raping these women who, as the story tell us, anyway, were no better than prostitutes and wanted to get themselves out of a sticky situation by crying rape, and what these guys had to go through for the rest of their lives was pretty harrowing. But, it was the music that really carried it for me, as well as, um, I thought effective staging by Susan Stroman. So, I remember talking to friends in Boston, saying “oh, I wish I could get you up and see it, it’s just a bad time of year and it’s not running as long as I thought,” and I said to them “I could see Lyric Stage in Boston or SpeakEasy in Boston (two wonderful companies) doing it very shortly, so don’t worry about it, I think you’ll see it very soon.” And I do think it will resurface here and there, despite the minstrel show format, which may have helped to do them in because there was controversy about it. But, for me, this was the musical of the year.
JM: Alright, Matthew, what did you think?
MM: I guess I didn’t have a single musical of the year. I was looking through my reviews and my list of shows as I was preparing for the podcast, and I didn’t have one particular show that I thought really stood out in any significant way, unfortunately. So, I’ll just put in a couple of good words for the revival of Closer Than Ever that was in Flushing, back last spring with two members of the original cast: Sally Mayes and Lynne Wintersteller, along with Sal Viviano and George Dvorsky, it was a wonderful experience; it was probably my most satisfying overall musical experience of the year. It’s a wonderful and I am getting to the age now, where it’s starting to be more closely about my life and all that, and I guess I related to it in a way that I didn’t the first time I was exposed to it in the mid-90’s. But, it’s a wonderful show, I just… so many great songs in it, especially Lynne Wintersteller doing “Life Story” and “The Bear, The Tiger, The Hamster and The Mole,” really just kind of wonderful, classic musical theatre performances with a modern twist, I guess, on relationships and life and death and other things that people experience as they approach middle-age. So, I was really taken with that. I liked Maltby and Shire for a long time, but that’s one of the few times that what they did…
TIME – 00:40
MM (continued): …really, kind of, was arresting to me. And another musical thing I would like to put out there… well, I’ll just put out another musical comment really quick. First of all, Kelsey Grammer was terrific in La Cage Aux Folles, Douglas Hodge got a lot of the press and got the Tony Award, but I thought Kelsey Grammer was even better. I thought he really sang it beautifully and created a fascinating character of Georges, the owner of the club, and how he has to deal with his ungrateful son and his temperamental partner and the political folks who are trying to shut them down and all that, I was very impressed with that. I like Kelsey Grammer, in general, but I’ve never been that tremendously impressed with his musical abilities before, but I thought that he was perfectly cast in this, and just incredibly compelling, and the centerpiece of a decent production of that show; he really elevated it and made it even better. And the other thing I just want to give a quick shout-out to is with With Glee, which appeared off-Broadway, I really hope that this counts because, technically, it’s the first time we’ve seen it in New York, it was at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2007, but the Prospect Theatre Company did it off-Broadway this year and it just has a wonderful score by John Gregor that really captures that adolescent energy and excitement of what this group of boys at a boarding school are going through and, just a couple of songs in it that are so good, I really think it’s a shame that we don’t have a cast recording and won’t be able to readily hear them again anytime soon but, really, that was probably, for me, one of the best overall scores of the year that was not the Scottsboro Boys. Peter is absolutely right that that’s a terrific score, but of kind of the (nd), such as it were, I would definitely say that if With Glee counts for 2010 and not for 2007 that it is really an outstanding composition and something that deserves to be heard and seen again, if not in New York, than elsewhere, and I certainly hope that it will get that chance.
JM: Great. Michael, have you got something else that you want to give props to?
MP: Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on today, it’s got to stop, I’m agreeing with everything that everyone is saying.
JM: Well, aren’t you Polly Positive?
MP: Um, yes, With Glee I really enjoyed, and I’m certainly with Peter on Scottsboro, I think it’s one of the great musicals of our time, I’m very very sorry that it didn’t find an audience for whatever reason. But, you know, it’s interesting, one thing I will say, just to add a note of disagreement, I believe that I was much more positive on Brief Encounter than Peter and Matthew and I guess that’s an example of how, I mean, presumably we saw the same production, and how things can be perceived very differently. In the case of Brief Encounter I think it’s fair to say that Peter and Matthew felt that the devices, the theatrical devices, that were used did not help the story about these two people falling in love and not being able to be together and that it came across to them, I believe, as almost, sort of, spoofing that kind of falling in love feeling, rather than, you know, amplifying it. In the same way that, apparently, although it’s hard for me to imagine, some people went to Scottsboro and saw the use of the minstrel show as being racist, which, you know, I believe it’s clear to the rest of us that that was actually done with the opposite intention. So, it is very interesting how people can see the same thing and come across with… come through with diametrically different reactions to it.
PF: I always enjoy when people call me up at the paper and say, “did we see the same show?” and they really do believe that that is the ultimate zinger, and I matter-of-factly say, “yes, we just had different reactions to it,” and that’s exactly what it comes down to.
JM: Matthew, I neglected to mention before when you were talking about Closer Than Ever, did you realize that that was a Neil Berg production?
MM: I had forgotten about that, James, thank you for reminding me.
JM: Yeah. Neil is a writer, a musical theatre writer and pop song writer, and he is taken on a, kind of, a creating a whole industry of a lot of work for a lot of actors, and he’s producing and musical directing and doing lots of things all over the country, in fact all over the world…
TIME – 00:45
JM (continued): …in both corporate theatre and regional theatre, alike, so, I think that we’re going to see a lot more of Neil Berg and his productions in the future, which, I think, he’s currently at the Laguna Playhouse doing a musical review that he does for a lot of corporate parties and things like this, but he took one out to the public and he’s keeping a lot of people that we know and love employed, so that’s a great thing for… Neil’s really been doing wonderful things in the last couple of years. Peter, have you got something else that you want to talk about?
PF: Time Stands Still, um, which had two Broadway airings, one at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Friedman Theatre, and then it showed up later at the Court Theatre, which is one of those rare times when they claim that something is going to come back and it actually does. So, the difference was that we first had Alicia Silverstone in the small part and then Christina Ricci took over, but the rest of the cast, with Laura Linney and Eric Bogosian and Brian d’Arcy James were intact. So, this was Donald Margulies play, a great playwright of our time, he asks questions that seem to have easy answers, but not quite. Laura Linney played a photographer who’s severally hurt in the war- I don’t think Iraq was specifically mentioned, I think that was kept purposefully oblique- but, she was severally injured and now, to add insult, literally, to injury, her boss’s girlfriend- and that was the Silverstone/Ricci part- criticized her for taking pictures instead of helping the wounded, and Linney had to rebut that: how she was there to do a certain job and nothing else. And it really brought up some very good points that made us think about the war, in general. I thought it was a powerful piece; I loved Laura Linney, who had to create an arch of somebody who was slowly, but steadily, recovering and it was nice to see her go from somebody who was limping and needed tremendous help to get from here to there, to walking around. Of course, while her body was recovering, her relationship with the Brian d’Arcy James character was not and the toll that this experience took on them was certainly well handled, as well. Very nicely, especially, in the very surprising last scene, where Margulies sets it up in a way that makes you think that it’s going to be a happy ending, and it’s not quite what you expect. So, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Time Stands Still and when it was announced that it was coming back, I hoped it would, because I wanted to see it again and I was very glad to go and see that my feelings were the same the second time around.
MM: I am in complete agreement with Peter, there. It was great to see it again, and I liked seeing the two interpretations of the role by Alicia Silverstone and Christina Ricci, it’s a very strong play. I think it’s only running to the end of January or so, when the current stars’ contracts are up, but if you’re in the area and you haven’t had a chance to see it yet… it’s kind of surprising, I mean, it’s certainly more of a traditional play than some of the other ones we’ve talked about, but it’s a wonderful couple of hours in the theatre, and I would recommend it highly to anyone.
JM: Matthew, what else have you got for us?
MM: So, um, I guess we’re about wrapping up here, so I just want to throw out a couple of additional things there that I came up with. I’m going to start with one, I don’t think anyone else here, and probably no one else listening saw, and that was a play at the French Festival called the Swearing Jar, by Kate Hewlett, who also starred in it, and gave, what I thought, was one of the best performances of the year. It was a very short- like sixty-five minutes tops, it might have been even shorter than that- play that had won a big award, too, I think at the Toronto Fringe Festival, and I was astonished at how good it was and how much was packed into that hour. It’s about this woman who’s putting on a fortieth birthday party for her husband and… I guess it’s a play with music, there are some songs in there because her husband is a songwriter, but it’s just an incredibly smart and funny and moving piece about this woman who experiences a tragedy and has to deal with it, with regards to her husband and their unborn baby, and this guy that she meets, and the husband’s mother, and they all interact with each other in ways that you don’t always understand at first, but they really come together to really say a lot about how we, again, how we deal with other people and how we, sort of, see what the world gives us and what we make of it. I was just incredibly taken with it, I… it’s the kind of play, I think, that needs to be paired with another short work, in sort of an evening…
TIME – 00:50
MM (continued): …that would really be more than you would get out of either play alone. Listen, I don’t mind short theatre, and I think sixty minutes is a bit short to expect anyone to pay ticket prices for, if it’s not at the Fringe Festival, so I’d love to see it paired with something else. But, if this play gets done anywhere else, I can’t recommend it highly enough, and if the author, again, Kate Hewlett, is in it, really run and don’t walk to get your tickets because it’s really terrific the way that she does it, and it’s an example of one of those times where it’s a real play, it’s not just a one person show, and it’s very powerful and I just loved it so much. It’s worth going to the Connelly Theatre on the Lower East Side for. A few other plays that I just want to speak up for: Clybourne Park, which was Bruce Norris’s, sort of, riff on A Raisin in the Sun, told from the perspective of the white people that move into the house and the descendants, a few decades later. Equivocation, which was a play at Manhattan Club about Shakespeare, sort of, and what happened surrounding the creation of Macbeth and Othello and… really fascinating work that, kind of, looked at, you know, the question of the creation of theatre and, you know, controversies surrounding it and the relationship between art and politics, in ways that I don’t normally see very often. Michael had talked a little bit about Next to Normal already earlier and, you know, one of the big things this year was that Next to Normal had won the Pulitzer Prize, even though it had first appeared off-Broadway a year before, and there was a lot of issues surrounding it: is it eligible? Should that have happened? One of the other shows that I loved this year was The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, which was one of the finalists this year for the Pulitzer Prize that Next to Normal won. It was intensely theatrical, set in a wrestling ring and on a wrestling television series and it was about wrestlers; it had come directly from Chicago and it was really, it was a great look at America and show business, again, with a political angle thrown in, in the way that entertainment and media can trivialize certain aspects of life and hype others in ways that they don’t actually deserve. Regardless of whether you think Next to Normal should have won the Pulitzer Prize, this was certainly Pulitzer Prize-worthy material and I was really happy to get a chance to see it at Second Stage. But, overall, I’m convinced that this was really a strong year for plays and I’m glad that I got to see some of the great ones that I did, and I certainly hope that the other theatre-goers had good luck in that department, as well.
JM: So, Michael, have you got anything left that you would like to talk about?
MP: Yeah, there are a couple of things I’d like to note. Mistake were Made, by Craig Wright, at the Barrow Street Theatre was a really terrific play about a producer trying to desperately to hold this project together while everything possible is going wrong, and Michael Shannon just gave it a tour-de-force performance, so that was really amazing. It was actually a film project that he was trying to pull together, but it was still… I think that theatrical producers could relate to it, as well, and that was a definite highlight of the year. Also, La Bete, you had an amazing performance by Mark Rylance, and also great work by David Hyde Pierce and the rest of the cast. Pee-Wee Herman was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve ever seen, you know, maybe not deathless in terms of content, but incredibly funny and enjoyable, and I’m happy to hear that it’s going to be televised… is it HBO…?
MP: So, if you missed it or if you miss it, you will be able to catch it there. Let’s see… oh, you know, I’d also like to say some nice things about Lombardi because I anticipate the worst, it sounded like it might have been a very clichéd, trite, type of bio-play, but it really, I thought that the writing was excellent and the performances were great; I thoroughly enjoyed it. I do think it brought a new audience to Broadway. I believe on our last podcast, James was mentioning how… what did you say, like an entire team… which team was it that went to see the show, James?
JM: It was the Miami Dolphins that came into town to play
TIME – 00:55
JM (continued): …the Jets and they, uh, saw the show.
MP: Yeah, so there was a lot of that kind of stuff going on… like theatre parties of people from, you know, sports teams and groups, so I think that one was definitely a win-win all around, and I’m definitely glad that Lombardi came to Circle in the Square.
PF: Wow, here we are, we’ve had a show about baseball, a show about football, and one about wrestling, each from one of us, so I mean, we’re pretty butch today, no question about it.
MP: If only radio golf were…
PF: Yeah, that’s right.
JM: Alright, so let me ask all of you a few questions. If you had to, you know, pick one show that’s coming in this spring that you’re excited about, what is it? Peter?
PF: Uh, I’ll be interested to see Catch Me If You Can. That may be the one that I’m looking forward to the most. I know that so many shows have sophomore jinxes attached to them and it’s possible that a lot of people will not be as enthusiastic about Catch Me If You Can because it’s no Hairspray, you know, that type of thing. I can smell that coming down the road, but I’m still up for it and I hope it’s wonderful.
JM: Matthew, what do you think, what are you excited about coming in this spring?
MM: I guess if I had to pick one, I’d pick the Book of Mormon, which is the Matt Stone, Trey Parker, Robert Lopez musical. I am a huge fan of South Park and Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s work, such as Team America and some of their other movies. I think that they’re two of the most talented and best in-tune people with comedy in Hollywood and I realize, of course, that that doesn’t automatically translate to the stage but, again, if you’ve got Robert Lopez who certainly knows a fair amount about theatre and, you know, Trey Parker is no slouch either, he’s an established song-writer and written some terrific songs for South Park, the TV show, as well as the movie with Mark Shaiman, of course, so, really, they have serious bona-fides, I think that there’s an excellent chance that it will translate to Book of Mormon. Now, of course, this is going to be a show along the line of The Producers, in terms of its overall comedy aesthetic, and I realize that that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but if it’s up to their usual standards of work I think it will be smarter and more incisive and, perhaps, even funnier than some of the other shows along this line. So, that’s probably the one above all the others that I can’t wait to see.
JM: Alright, Michael, what do you think?
MP: Well, I’m definitely looking forward to both of those shows and I will say, as I may have said, if the entire score to Catch Me If You Can is like the one song that I’ve heard, I think we’re in for a tremendous hit. There’s a song called “Goodbye” that’s sung by the Frank Abagnale (if that’s how you pronounce his name) character, the Leo DiCaprio character from the film, and it’s on David Campbell’s recently released CD of Broadway stuff, and it’s absolutely one of the best songs I’ve heard in years; so really looking forward to that. I’m a big fan of Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman, so very hopeful. Book of Mormon sounds like it’s going to be amazing and incredibly envelope-pushing and I can’t wait to see it. I’m also looking forward to, this is not a Broadway production, but the New York Philharmonic production of Company with Neil Patrick Harris in the lead and the original Jonathan Tunick orchestrations being played by the Philharmonic orchestra, which is going to be un-missable, as far as I’m concerned.
JM: Ok, great.
MP: Oh, by the way, James, I’m sorry, I just misspoke earlier, I don’t know why I said this, but when we were talking about Mistakes Were Made, it is a theatrical project that the producer in the play is working on, so there are a lot of jokes that people who go to the theatre a lot will respond to, and you should definitely catch that show if you find a production of it in your neck of the woods at some point.
MM: In other words, ‘catch it if you can.’
JM: Excellent, that’s clever. So, um, just let’s throw out some numbers here. Peter, how many shows have you seen in this year?
PF: Um, well, I go by season, so I start on June 1st, and so far this season, I have seen 211 shows. I don’t think I’m on track to see 422, but nevertheless, that’s what it’s been so far this year.
MM: James, I didn’t count this year…
TIME – 1:00
MM (continued): …but I believe that I am probably hovering at, or around, perhaps 200.
MP: Well, even in a good year for me I’m never anywhere near these other two guys…
JM: No, these are the marathon runners
MP: You know, I was just thinking, I was not invited to see Donny & Marie on Broadway.
PF: None of us were.
MM: Yeah, Michael, I wasn’t either.
PF: They didn’t invite critics.
MP: Oh, so just the major critics? The really major critics? That’s what I was… I was wondering about that.
JM: I’m a little bit country and I’m a little bit sad.
MP: Oh, man. Well, I liked Donny Osmond, I thought he was terrific…
MM: No, I like both of them. I asked to go see the show and was told that they weren’t inviting… so…
JM: I thought Donny was the best Joseph there ever was.
MP: Yes, he really was.
MM: James, wait, wait, wait! Better than you, really?
MM: No, I’m not joking, he played it.
JM: I didn’t see me, you know.
PF: I can see you in that part, James; I bet you were very good.
JM: Oh, I loved playing Joseph. That was some of the most fun I could do.
PF: Yes, I bet you were very winning, I bet you were very winning.
JM: I had, you know, I had a bunch of shows that I kept going back to. Enough about you, let’s talk about me.
MP: Oh, I have a little heart-warming Christmas story, if we have another minute or so.
JM: Oh, what is it? Tell me!
MP: I had directed a number of high school shows, back in the day, and we did a lot of… we did full shows, like How to Succeed, but we also did reviews where we would do two or three songs from a bunch of shows…
JM: Michael, get closer to the microphone or something, you’re fading out.
MP: Oh, ok. How’s that?
JM: Good, very good.
MP: I had directed a few high school shows, back in the day, and we did some full shows like How to Succeed, but we also did little Broadway music reviews, where we would do two or three songs from one show, and one year… one of the shows I picked, of all things, was Carmen Jones, which I don’t know if you all know that, it’s the Oscar and Hammerstein adaptation of Carmen that played on Broadway in 1944, I think.
PF: three , in fact, but, yeah…
MP: Oh, ok, I know it was right after Oklahoma! Anyway, and so, we did some numbers from that and I have old audiotapes of these shows that I’ve been transferring to digital domain and I’ve been putting them on my iPod. It just so happens that as I was coming home from Staten Island yesterday, I was on the train from Staten Island and I ran into the woman who was my Carmen Jones, and I said, “well, I have something that you might want to hear” because I had my iPod with me, and I put it on for her and she just flipped because she hadn’t heard it….
PF: Yeah, really.
MP: This was 1981. And she said some wonderful things about… “oh, it was so great that we did those shows and we got exposed to music that we probably wouldn’t have heard, otherwise,” and it was really wonderful. It made me… it did my heart good for Christmas, so I just wanted to share that.
PF: What a wonderful story, terrific coincidence. There’s nothing quite like them.
MM: Hey, Michael, out of curiosity, is she still performing?
MP: No, I mean, this was a case of someone who had a beautiful natural voice, I think she might have done some singing, some pop singing after that, and she certainly doesn’t sing now. She almost started to cry when she listened to it, she said, “you know, I always wondered if I was any good back then, and thank you for letting me hear this.”
JM: That’s a great story, Michael. It’s amazing that the timing of that all worked out and you had it with you, and yeah, that’s great.
MP: Yeah, you know, yay for iPods, but also, I mean, as Glee… again, I circle back to Glee, which is so funny because I don’t watch it, but there is such an impact that, obviously, can be made by people who direct and put together shows on a high school level, much like coaches, to continue the sports metaphor. But, the thing is, the people who do the shows and the glee clubs don’t necessarily get as much attention, or money, as Peter pointed out, as the coaches; so I hope that changes, I hope that, you know…
PF: Yeah, maybe it will. I’ll tell a very different type of Christmas story. Two weeks ago, no, last week, I was in New Hampshire where the Lake Winnipesaukee Playhouse was doing a reading of my new version of…
TIME – 1:05
PF (continued): …A Christmas Carol, it doesn’t sound like we need a new one, I’ll grant you, but this is a very different take on it. So, anyway, I don’t use the same names of the characters in the Dickens tale, but the man who was playing my Scrooge character, a guy named Willard Pront, when I got up there, was very cold and distant to me, I thought. I thought, alright, he’s the big star of this theatre, after all, he just played the lead in Dr. Cook’s Garden so, as a result, he’s not going to be impressed by the New Yorker coming up there, that type of thing, and that’s fine. Well, we do the reading and then we go out to dinner before the next one, and I’m sitting across from him and his wife and I said, “so, tell me about you, how long have you been married?” “Oh, forty-one years.” “Oh, that’s wonderful, do you have any children?” “Yes, we have a son and a daughter.” “Oh, what do they do?” And the wife said, “well, our son’s a lawyer and our daughter’s an actress.” And I said, “oh, have I ever seen her in anything?” And the father says, “yeah, you panned her in July in New Jersey Rep.” What are the odds in Laconia, New Hampshire that I would meet the father of an actress I panned in Long Branch, New Jersey. So, my Christmas story is very different from yours, Michael, and not heart-warming.
JM: Get your tongue off that pole, you know?
MP: I think that has happened to all of us, also.
JM: Yeah, I’ve got one of those that’s, you know. I did my undergraduate at Penn State and I actually studied economics, I did not study theatre, and I took a theatre class as an elective blow-off because, hey, I knew a ton about theatre and I was going to get an easy A in this class. My instructor was Professor Harriet Beechman and during the discussion in class one day, we talked about Broadway casts and replacement casts, and I talked about how the replacement cast of Cats wasn’t as good as the original cast of Cats. And those of you who know a little bit about theatre history, will know that Laurie Beechman, who was the Grizabella in Cats, was the daughter of my professor, which I didn’t get an A in that class. Yeah, that happens. Hey, just a few quick things on the news side before we wrap up here. We hear the sad news that Cherry Lane Theatre is closing. Peter, can you tell me… have you seen any great productions at Cherry Lane?
PF: Um, the first time I was in the Cherry Lane, I remember very vividly. It was November 30, 1967 because after I went to see a production of Fragments, two Mary (nd) plays there, I went to a pizza place that still exists right around the corner, and found out that the Red Sox had won their game that day and were still in it for the Pennant Race, which they wound up winning the next day. So, my first Cherry Lane was more than forty-three years ago. What’s so sad, of course, is that it’s so beautifully renovated and now it’s just one of the nicest places to see small productions. Given the fact that there was some sort of land-marking involving part of the building, I’m hoping that it’s going to stay a theatre, that somebody will step up to the plate and do something nice for it. It’s a wonderful place for a small theatre company to take the next step, to have a permanent home, and that’s what I’m hoping is going to happen. So, I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the end of the Cherry Lane; I’m really not terribly discouraged by what we’ve been hearing. I think there’s a chance that it will go on.
JM: I hoping that one of the major non-profits, you know, MTC, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Theatre Works, Roundabout, they will see that this theatre, you know, they’re not going to have to spend a lot of capitol on it to improve it…
JM: They can just start rolling something out right away in it and, hopefully, somebody will step up and do that. I think that the number is fifteen million that they’re asking for it, I don’t know if that’s a high or a low figure…
PF: I had heard twelve, but even so…
MP: Twelve is what I heard too.
PF: However, the recent renovations, and all that, didn’t nearly cost that much so, as a result, I think it is too high a price tag to ask, and I will be very surprised if they get that. And like every other real-estate deal, you always ask more than you think you’re going to get to begin with. Nevertheless, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the Cherry Lane, I think we’re going to see some up-and-coming company be able to move in there…
TIME – 1:10
PF (continued): …and take a nice step up and have their productions in a much nicer place than they had, so that’s my guess and hope.
JM: Well, Matthew, Michael, do you want to say anything about the Cherry Lane before we move on?
MP: Well, just unfortunately, you know, for whatever reason, I think there’s a general perception now that theatres have to be in midtown, in the theatre district, for people to go to them. There have been a number of cases of theatres elsewhere closing, and I think that’s very unfortunate, but I think that may impact somewhat on the sale-ability of the Cherry Lane, but I certainly do hope, as Peter says, that maybe a company that is already off-off-Broadway somewhere, not already in the theatre district, will have, you know, a nicer home in the Village.
JM: Alright, we seem to not be able to get out of making a podcast without mentioning Spiderman. Between this week and last week, certainly, everybody’s heard the news of Christopher Tierney getting hurt at Spiderman. You guys have anything to say about the fallout of this? About the reaction…
MM: Fallout! James, interesting choice of words. You know, I feel, I’m kind of in the middle on this. In a way, I think it’s been blown out of proportion. I don’t want to minimize what happened to him because it was terrible and I guess he had surgery and is staring to be able to walk again, which is good, but whether he’ll be able to perform again or return to the show anytime soon, I don’t know. But, I don’t necessarily mind that accidents happen during the show, I think that Spiderman has been under a lot of scrutiny and I feel really bad about it from that standpoint, that they’re not able to work out these kinks without all this other stuff coming in. That said, in wake of all of this, a lot has been said about Julie Taymor in other shows like The Green Bird, and especially The Lion King, and problems that have arisen with actors as a result of those, and I think that, you know, maybe that’s worth examining and seeing if there’s a track record of this and, if so, is it really best for anyone and is her process really healthy? I mean physically healthy, rather than theatrically healthy, because I think that we would probably all agree that it is that. But, one of the things that really just kind of burned me up, was when I was reading the New York Times, when I was reading the first New York Times story about the accident, there were people who were saying, “oh, you know, it’s ok if this person gets hurt because what’s theatre if you don’t take risks?” and I don’t think anyone should ever risk the health or well-being or, God forbid, the life of an actor to put on a show, under any circumstances. I certainly hope that anyone out there who really cares about exciting theatre does understand the difference between, you know, putting someone and their life at risk, rather than pushing the boundaries in what people expect from musicals and stage acrobatics, because I think there’s a very important difference there and as long as everyone remembers what that is, whatever happens with Spiderman will be something that, you know, at least is going to be better for people, than going to a funeral for someone who died because they fell into an orchestra pit, or whatever. So, hopefully, that will all get straightened out and people will come to their senses there, but I want Spiderman to succeed. I think that it’s had a lot of problems and I feel bad that all of this terrible stuff has happened, but as much as I want it to succeed, I think that it’s much more important that the actors all end out as… all come out of it as well as they went into it. As long as that’s insured, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but I think a lot of people are already, kind of, past that point, so I don’t think we’re done with the fallout of this yet, and I’ll be interested to see what else happens between now and opening night, which is now February 7. So, yeah, anything can still happen and, hopefully, it won’t.
JM: You know, I’ve seen, I guess with Christopher Tierney, there has been reports that he is walking around and up and about and, you know, every situation is different, but… and I don’t know Christopher at all, so I can’t really tell you what his situation is, I’m just reading what I see on various news reports and message boards, but the fact that he’s up and walking is not really great news, it’s just news. I broke my back, which, in essence, ended my professional theatre career, it actually is how Broadway Stars got started, a lot of people don’t realize that…
TIME – 1:15
JM (continued): …I was laying flat in St. Luke’s Roosevelt with a broken back and I couldn’t walk, and I tried to figure out what was next in my career and I said, “well, let me start teaching myself this HTML thing because the Internet seems like it’s going to be interesting.” Broadway Stars was born in a bed in St. Luke’s Roosevelt on the upper west side of Manhattan. It sounds like from what I’m reading that Chris had a much more serious accident than what I did, and I needed two years of physical therapy, five days a week, to learn to walk again. So, you know, the fact is that right after back surgery, they do try to get you up and walking immediately, so that you’re, you know, they can get everything moving again and do an evaluation of you, and you can start to learn everything again and find out where there are problems- because the back is such an unknown thing. And the reports are that they did put… they did put various pieces of metal in his back to support his spine, that tells me that… I’d be, really, incredibly shocked if he was back on stage in the next couple of years. So, I think this is a much more serious episode than what we’re looking at here and I’m kind of mixed on the video that’s floating around about, you know, there’s some people who are very up-in-arms about how somebody was videotaping in the theatre, and on the flipside of it, we got, actually, to see what actually happened there and it wasn’t, you know… in the very beginning there, people were accusing the producers of smoothing this over by saying that this wasn’t a very serious accident, and without the videotape we wouldn’t have really known how serious this was, and this was a pretty serious fall that he took. So, again, I just want to reiterate what Matthew said, and what we’ve said over the last couple of weeks, we really hope that this production is successful, it’s just… every week there seems to be something else that the cards are not going in the right direction for them.
MP: By the way, I don’t know, I’m still confused about exactly what happened. I don’t know about you guys, because the video clearly shows him heading, like headfirst, or arms first, if you will, towards the pit. But, then Tierney’s brother, apparently, said… was quoted as saying that he landed on his feet because he’s a dancer, and if he hadn’t landed on his feet, he wouldn’t be here today. But, on the other hand, there are reports that his injuries included four broken ribs, a bruised lung, internal bleeding, etc. If those are accurate, so I’m not sure how he wound up landing on his feet if that’s true, and if that is true, then I’m not sure why the injuries were that serious. So, you know, I’m still a little confused about what specifically happened, although, ultimately, it doesn’t matter, the point is that he was seriously injured. And, also, you know, I guess it’s human nature, but man, the show is national news and, I mean, I was reading the local paper on Staten Island over Christmas and there was a big item on it in there, and they don’t usually cover Broadway in that way, let me tell you. So, it’s kind of dicey that… I hope it’s not like the gladiator aspect of it and people are…
PF: Yeah, ain’t that the truth?
JM: That’s very true and, you know, especially when the national media and media outlets that don’t typically cover Broadway come into write this story, I’ve seen lots of mistakes from: this accident happened and since this happened, they pushed the opening back, when the opening was pushed back a couple days, or a week, before the accident actually happened… and there’s a lot of assumptions that writers are making, and it’s very sad to see sloppy journalism, in that respect, because when they say things like that, I don’t know if I can trust the rest of the story about what actually happened to Christopher and how he’s doing and things along those lines. It’s important to get those details.
JM: What does (nd) say about details?
MP: Does she say ‘God is in the details’?
TIME – 1:20
JM: So, that’s about it. I think we should wrap it up for this week and, actually, for this year. You guys have anything left, anything else you want to say?
PF: Nope, we’ll see you next week, I guess.
JM: Yeah. Alrighty, so 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 BroadwayRadio logo, below that logo is a subscribe button. That way each and every time we have a new episode of This Week on Broadway, it will be automatically downloaded to iTunes and you can listen to it there. You can also listen to This Week on Broadway in many different ways. You can get it in the Zune Marketplace; you can listen to it on Android, through GoogleListen for Android; or Stitcher Radio, if you have a Blackberry. You can also listen to us on your computer at BroadwayWorldRadio on Wednesdays at noon, Thursdays at 7pm, and Saturdays at 2pm. You can get in touch with us by going to the front page of BroadwayStars.com, and on the right-hand side, there is a contact button and it can let us know if you have any feedback for us, or you can pick up a phone and call us at 646-873-7695 and leave us a voicemail, and if you leave us a voicemail, we may play it on the podcast. So, on behalf of Matthew Murray, Peter Filichia, and Michael Portantiere, this is James Marino saying thanks so much for listening to Broadway Radio’s This Week on Broadway. Bye Bye.
MM: Happy New Year everybody!
JM: Yeah, Happy New Year!