Peter Filichia, Michael Portantiere and James Marino talk about Fig Leaves Are Falling, The Other Place, R.U.R. vs The Truth Quotient, and In Acting Shakespeare @ The Pearl Theatre Company
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PETER FILICHIA is a theater journalist and historian with a number of books, the most recent being
Broadway MVPs: 1960-2010 – The Most Valuable Players of the Past 50 Seasons. His columns appear at MTI, Kritzerland, Masterworks Broadway and many other places.
MICHAEL PORTANTIERE is a theater reviewer and essayist, whose work appears at The Sondheim Review and BroadwayStars. He is also a photographer whose work can be seen at FollowSpotPhoto.com and many other places on the internet.
Notes and links for the podcast.
MP + PF: Fig Leaves Are Falling @ Connelly Theater through Jan 26, 2013
MP: The Other Place at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
PF: The Resonance Ensemble @ The Beckett Theatre: R.U.R. vs The Truth Quotient
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, with music from Jason Robert Brown and a book from playwright Marsha Norman, will take a bow at Williamstown Theatre Festival this summer.
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Musical Diner Delays Broadway Opening Until the Fall by Andrew Gans and Kenneth Jones
The new Sheryl Crow-Barry Levinson musical Diner, which is based on the movie of the same name and had been scheduled to open on Broadway April 10, has been delayed until the fall, according…
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ArtsBeat: Maura Tierney and Courtney B. Vance Join the Cast of ‘Lucky Guy’ by Erik Piepenburg
The actors will star alongside Tom Hanks in the Nora Ephron play set to open on Broadway this spring.
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‘Lucky’ poster tomfoolery by Michael Riedel
What do you do when you have a star who should be selling like hot cakes selling like lukewarm cakes? Scream at the people who designed the poster! I’m told there’s been some shouting ma…
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ArtsBeat: Bette Midler to Play Superagent Sue Mengers on Broadway by Dave Itzkoff
Ms. Midler will star in the one-character play “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers,” about the powerful Hollywood agent whose clients included Barbra Streisand, Steve McQueen, Faye D…
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ArtsBeat: ‘Mary Poppins’ To Fly Off as ‘Aladdin’ Lands on Broadway by Patrick Healy
After the March 3 closing, the New Amsterdam Theater will be renovated over several months before “Aladdin” moves in.
LINKED FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Ghost stuck on the ‘Roof’ by Michael Riedel
It’s follow-up Wednesday, so here’s the latest on a couple of my Shubert Alley-shattering scoops. Our old football buddy, Ghost Skipper, is still, I regret to say, “haunting” directo…
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Musical Revue Cotton Club Parade Transferring to Broadway This Fall by Josh Ferri
Encores! production of the musical revue Cotton Club Parade will arrive on Broadway this fall. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle and conceived by Jack Viertel, the …
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Settlement Not Yet Reached Between SPIDER-MAN’s Producers and Director Julie Taymor; Trial Date Set for May 27 by BroadwayWorld
According to Reuters, a final settlement has still not been reached in the copyright infringement case between the producers of Broadway’s Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark and former director Ju…
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Film of Cabaret @ Ziegfield on Jan 31 reserve Jan 17th
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Chelsea Classics Sweet Charity Jan 17th
Get Tickets HERE!
Piano recordings from “Fig Leaves Are Falling” by Andrew Graham, courtesy of Unsung Musicals Co. Inc.
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Broadway Radio: This Week on Broadway for January 13, 2013: Fig Leaves Are Falling, The Other Place
Transcribed by Jared Goode
TIME – 00:00
JM: Coming up on Broadway Radio’s This Week on Broadway, we talk about The Fig Leaves Are Falling down at the Connelly; we talk about The Other Place at the Friedman that’s opening on Broadway today; the Resonance Ensemble has R.U.R.; The Truth Quotient; and Enacting Shakespeare at the Pearl Theatre Company. Please stay tuned. Hello and welcome to Broadway Radio’s This Week on Broadway for Sunday, January 13th, 2013. My name is James Marino and on the broadcast this afternoon, we have Peter Filichia and Michael Portantiere. Peter is a theatre journalist and historian, with a number of books to his credit, the most recent being The Broadway MVPs: 1960-2010 – The Most Valuable Players of the Past 50 Seasons. His columns appear at MTI, Kritzerland, Masterworks Broadway, and many other places. Good morning, Peter.
PF: Good day. How are you?
JM: Hello. Also with us is Michael Portantiere. Michael is a theatre reviewer and essayist whose work appears at The Sondheim Review and BroadwayStars. He’s also a photographer whose work can be seen at FollowSpotPhoto.com and other places around the internet. Good morning, Michael.
MP: Good morning.
JM: So, both of you had a chance to go see The Fig Leaves Are Falling. Peter, why don’t you start us off with that?
PF: This is a rewrite of a 1969 Broadway musical failure. It was written by Allan Sherman who was very famous earlier in the decade for writing parodies of songs, sort of Forbidden Broadway without any show affiliation. Just popular songs, taking “Frere Jacques,” “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?,” songs like that, and adapting them to comic situations. He really was a big deal in the early sixties, but by 1969, his star had somewhat faded and, not unlike movie stars whose stars have faded, he came to Broadway. Though he did have a good idea for a show, because he was going through his own, shall we say, middle-aged crisis. What was happening in his life is that he was, even though he was a portly and not a conventionally-attractive man, the fact remains that he was a successful man and a wealthy man, and as a result, when you have money and you have that type of fame, there are some women who are going to be interested in you. So, he adapted his own life situation to tell the story of Harry Stone, who’s a businessman who’s doing rather well and, as a result, everything’s fine in his life except the fact that his marriage, which is about 20 years old, is a little on the dull side now. Everybody’s used to each other. Well, this cute young thing in his office takes a shine to him, and he is tempted. No question, he’s tempted. However, he wants to do the right thing. And that’s what’s really smart about this show. He wants to do the right thing. So, he goes home and he says to his wife, “Honey, we’re going on a big trip. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be wonderful.” And she’s all, “Are you crazy? The dog, the kids, the PTA. I can’t go on a trip. Are you out of your mind?” And that’s what sets him off originally in the show. The show has been rewritten. It doesn’t quite happen that way now, but what we like about him is that he tried, that he avoided the forbidden fruit at the very beginning. A lesser writer would have had him give in right away. You know. Wow! Boy. Think of the guys in How to Succeed the moment they see Hedy LaRue. They’re barking, you know. Literally barking. So we like this guy. I didn’t see the original production. It only lasted a weekend. It’s famous for having Dorothy Loudon stop the show so much, that at one performance, they actually had her sing a song over again because the crowd was going crazy. She even got a Tony nomination, but this is not the same show now, for better or worse. This is an 85 minute version that Ben West has adapted and if it seems a little sketchy, it may very well be, because so much has been left out. That said, I do think this guy is a terrific director, and it’s funny because this show was originally directed by George Abbott, who was famous for being efficient; get ‘em on, get ‘em off, a real machine type of direction, and Ben West directs in that fashion. He really has everything in place. Things come on and off with speed and accuracy, so that’s really quite good. And not only that. We are in a situation here where we have…
TIME – 00:05
PF (continued): …somebody we know very well who’s appearing in Fig Leaves playing the wife Lillian, which makes her seem dowdy to begin with, and that’s that lovely lady who played Gary Coleman in Avenue Q, Natalie Belcon, so she really has the right feeling for what this role is. She loves this man still, she made the commitment years ago to love, and she is there for better or worse. And the fact that when he wants to make love after a party and she wants to clean up, because you can’t just leave the dishes on the table, those values that we hear so much, she’s very convincing and they’re very lucky to have someone of her stature down here on East 4th Street at the Connelly Theater. So, she’s quite good. And a newcomer named Morgan Weed, playing the young girl, is sensational beyond belief. She’s adorable, she’s pretty, when they’re doing the Ann-Margret story, if they’re doing it right now, sign her up, because she is very reminiscent of Ann-Margret in those Bye Bye Birdie years and I would very much like to have seen her Kim in high school. I’m not even sure she did it, but I bet she did, because she really is that type. Kim in Bye Bye Birdie is what I mean. So, this is something that I think is really quite endearing, and this Ben West, I’m telling you, he’s getting them on, he’s making them happy, and I think that’s really, really quite nice that he’s giving us a taste of these musicals of way back when. Now, some people will say after all that, “Why is he doing these shows if he’s going to rewrite them so seriously?” I think he has the best of intentions. Yes, there is a part of me that would like to see The Fig Leaves Are Falling as is, but maybe he’s doing us a favor and we don’t know it. But anyway, I had a very good time at this.
JM: Alright, Michael, what did you think?
MP: Well, I definitely agree about the direction. I thought that the pacing was perfect and the style of the presentation, and I also really enjoyed the choreography by Richard J. Hinds. I thought the cast seemed pretty much perfect, although I’m just gonna acknowledge this and not go into it, for obvious reasons. Natalie Belcon — her full name is Natalie, her middle name is V-E-N-E-T-I-A, which I’m not sure if that’s Ve-nee-sha or Ve-nit-zia, and then her last name is B-E-L-C-O-N, which I’m not sure if it’s Bel-kin or Bel-cohn, but anyway– yeah, she’s been terrific in, most notably in Avenue Q and a few other shows I’ve seen, but she is an actress of color, and here she is playing a suburban, Westchester housewife to this white man in 1969, I guess. Now, you could say — well, you really can’t say, because yes, very much the point is made that the world is changing and the revolution, the sexual revolution and all kinds of civil rights revolutions, too, but I’m not sure what the point is of having the man’s wife, who’s supposed to represent the tradition and the regular status quo, be an actress of color. It ultimately didn’t make that much difference in this case, because the show is not presented in what I would say any kind of a realistic fashion, but I did still notice it, so I just thought that was something to point out. And that brings me to, as I said earlier, before we started recording, I have as many questions as answers about this production. So, Peter, I understand that the framing device of a TV show was not actually in the original production…
PF: Yeah, that’s Ben West’s invention, that there is a TV show existing that is called The Fig Leaves Are Falling. By the way, I think this is the most injurious title in Broadway history, because it is not inviting, it’s even confusing. The point is that what he means is that the fig leaves that cover the breasts and the genitals are no longer there because our inhibitions are falling with them. It’s a cumbersome title. It does have a kind of funky title song which, by the way, I think is done too fast in the show…
TIME – 00:10
PF (continued): …because Allan Sherman has a lot of funny observations to make, and they’re hard to understand at the tempo that the music director has chosen to do the–. It’s a song that repeats quite a bit. They do it about four or five times with different lyrics. A chorus comes out that represents the TV show, so I wish they’d slow it down so you could hear those lyrics, because Allan Sherman did make a couple of recordings of songs from the show and this was one of them, and it’s kind of fun to hear, even if the Albert Hague music starts off sounding like “It’s Raining, It’s Falling,” and even if there are four bars that sound exactly like “It Takes A Woman” in Hello, Dolly! But aside from that, yes, that framing device is Ben West, for better or worse.
MP: Well, parenthetically, yeah, I had a problem with understanding the lyrics. I noticed that I only had a problem understanding the lyrics when the ensemble was singing.
MP: And I kind of attribute it to, maybe, the acoustics in that theater. The Connelly Theater, which is lovely, but especially in this case, when they do these shows, they tend to have no set whatsoever…
MP: …so you tend to get a lot of echo and, for some reason, it seemed to me that yes, when like four or five people were singing at once, I really had to strain to hear the lyrics, and that’s too bad, because it seemed to me that there are some very, very clever lyrics.
PF: Yeah, he did his job well. He really did. He wrote the show that he wanted to write. And if we complain about Ben West doing the framing device, we also have to give him credit for dropping one of the most notorious things about this show. You know where I’m going, Michael, I guess. And that is that originally, there was something about raffling off a chicken to the audience in the show. Something like that. And that’s not there and I think it’s all for the best. But what is there that’s nice is the fact that many men who make jackasses out of themselves by going with younger women, eventually pay the price because they find out that now they have to hang out with the young person’s friends and they have to do things that make them feel much older and sillier, and that, by and large, this is generalization time, I’ll grant you. By and large, people are better off having people their own age as their mates, by and large. Because you have the same life experiences, you relate to things, you went through the same histories in the world and school and what have you, so it helps. It helps. But, yes, that is, to answer the question, Michael, yes, the TV device is Ben’s and not the original device.
MP: OK. But my question to you is: So the original device was that it was pretty much presented as a vaudeville?
PF: Yeah, I think I did hear that. This is a show I just don’t know very much about. The San Francisco cast album…
MP: Because how else would the title song fit in? I mean, it doesn’t seem like it would be–, it seems like a song that was written to comment on the whole situation.
MP: It doesn’t seem like…
PF: It does seem that. Yes.
MP: Yeah. So, you don’t know for sure.
PF: No! No. I mean, this is one that slipped through my fingers. You can’t see them all, you know.
MP: Well, I have to say, I don’t think that this framing device worked at all, and it made no sense to me, because they have this character named Charlie Montgomery, who’s the host of this TV variety slash talk show?
MP: Yeah. Sort of, maybe, like a Merv Griffin kind of a thing? Would you say?
PF: Yeah. That’s fine. Sure.
MP: Yeah. But the thing that didn’t make sense is that it’s presented that Harry Stone, the central character, is one of Charlie’s guests…
MP: …and that is the impetus for us seeing what happened to Harry and Lillian and the girl, the young girl, played out as musical numbers, but the thing is that Harry is not supposed to be–, he’s not famous, he’s not a movie star or anything, and in those days — I don’t know, maybe Ben West has watched too much Oprah and what’s his name?
PF: Jerry Springer?
MP: Jerry Springer, yeah. Because it didn’t used to be that people who were not famous got onto those shows. So that struck me as weird and confusing right from the beginning, and I have to say, it kind of took me out of it, because I was spending all this time…
TIME – 00:15
MP (continued): …trying to figure out what exactly was going on, and also, how the story was trying to fit into this TV show framework. I wasn’t sure if they were trying to tell us that–, are we seeing flashbacks of the actual events and they just happen to be done in musical form? Or are we seeing them acted out during the TV show? I didn’t get that.
PF: I think it’s a fair question. It didn’t occur to me because I just accepted that yes, indeed, this was a TV talk show and when we saw the incidents musicalized, that was simply because we were in a musical comedy.
PF: However, you do bring up a point that hadn’t occurred to me before. And that is the fact that after all, Charlie gets involved in this story, too, because he’s not just a TV host, but he is a good friend to them, as you said, and he has Lillian’s interests at heart. And because this starts off as a slick TV show; that he’s one of these smarmy type of hosts, it doesn’t quite reconcile with his feelings for Lillian, which are deep. He really cares about her. In fact, he was dating her way back when, too, when Harry kind of took her away from him. The other thing that just occurred to me is the fact that when Harry gets on this show, he has a very happy-go-lucky demeanor, as opposed to, “I went through this experience and I’m now a sadder but wiser man.”
MP: Right, right. Yes.
PF: So that’s a good point, too, that you spurred me to think of just now. Still, you know, as somebody who would like to see them all, in a way, I have now seen The Fig Leaves Are Falling and I accept the invitation to go to even revisals of musicals that I missed the first time around. And I imagine some of our listeners feel the same way. And if so, at least it’s slick, it’s professional, you do get some good songs, and did you like this Morgan Weed as much as I did? The young girl.
MP: I thought the entire cast was fantastic.
MP: I never heard…. Actually, Natalie’s voice had never impressed me so much. Not that I thought she didn’t sing well.
PF: Yeah, yeah.
MP: But, I just–, the type of material she had to sing here, I thought really showed her off tremendously well. I thought she sounded like a young Leslie Uggams.
PF: Uh huh, uh huh. That’s fair.
MP: And that’s the highest praise I can give. And yes, Morgan Weed was great, but see here again — this is so interesting, Peter — I mean, I understand what you’re saying. I guess I would feel more along… I would share your opinion more if there were a way, at least, to… an easy way to access the original, in terms of, maybe, the script and a recording, at least.
PF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
MP: So you could see what it was. But here, like, for example, to me, there’s a tremendous flaw in this show, aside from the framework device not working, which you’ve now explained to me was new, but there’s a tremendous flaw, but I don’t know if it was in the original writing or in the rewrite, because here you have the girl, the secretary, whose name is now Jenny Chapman — apparently she was originally named Pookie and they changed that because they just thought it…
PF: Yeah. He wanted us to take the girl more seriously. It’s also an homage to Jenny O’Hara, by the way, who’s the original girl who played it on Broadway. That’s Jill’s sister. Jill was having better luck at the time in Promises, Promises.
MP: At the same time.
PF: Indeed. Yeah, the show’s opened the same season, only a month apart.
MP: And, by the way, I wish I could remember, I’m sorry, but Jenny O’Hara is back in a play in the city and I can not remember which one it is.
PF: Oh, that’s nice to know.
MP: Yeah. I just got a press release the other day, so if people want to see Jenny O’Hara, you can see her. But anyway, yes, so this character, now Jenny, the first time we see her, she is the secretary and she is complaining to her boss about sexual harassment from a co-worker. And, you know, it’s perfectly valid. She’s complaining about how he’s making her bend over constantly to get… to file things in the lowest drawer, you know, so he can basically stare at her ass and get off. So, the boss, in response, switches her to another… to be someone else’s secretary and the other person is Harry. Alright, fine. Perfectly fine. Then, the next thing we see, Jenny is aggressively going after Harry, even though she knows he’s married…
TIME – 00:20
MP (continued): …and coming onto him sexually and telling him that he should loosen up and, you know, just mellow out and should be chill, you know, and have sex with her anyway, and what does it really matter? And then, they do eventually… that does happen. But then, at the end, Lillian.. I’m sorry, Jenny does another 180 degree turnaround and goes back in the other direction again. So, I don’t know what that was gonna be, but let me tell you, I hated that character, the way its written or rewritten here. So, I would really like to know if that was Allan Sherman who wrote it that way or Ben West, cuz whoever wrote it that way should really think about that some more… except it’s already done, so I don’t know what to say.
JM: I don’t think that we’ve mentioned it yet, but this is part of Unsung Musicals Company?
JM: And for those out there who aren’t familiar with them, you can go to UnsungMusicals.org. They’re “About Us” says that it’s a not-for-profit theatre company dedicated to the preservation of musical theatre through the restoration and presentation of obscure but artistically sound works, focusing primarily on overlooked projects from the Golden Age. UMC treats each property as a new musical, thereby providing a unique collaboration between the artist of today and those of the past, which is a really very interesting mission statement.
MP: I’m not sure…
PF: Yeah. And back in the fall, he did the thirties revue At Home Abroad at Symphony Space and that place was packed. I’m telling you…. So there is…. We’re not the only ones that are interested in seeing what musical theatre was like way back when. That one he didn’t play with very much because it was a revue. And, as a result, he pick and chose the sketches and songs that he thought were terrific and if he didn’t like something, he just let it go. But it was a fascinating night up there at Symphony Space in the fall, which is not a small venue and, I’ll tell you, seats were not easy to come by.
MP: Peter, did you have that problem that I had with the character of Jenny?
PF: No. I think people like that actually. That people do have their standards, and yet, when the right person comes along, those go by the wayside. And so, no, it struck me as very real. So, I see your point, I do.
MP: Well, to go from the first scene, complaining about sexual harassment and then turning it around and doing it herself in the second scene?
PF: I sort of think that that’s the point and it’s supposed to be funny. Whether or not we find it funny is a different matter, but I don’t think that’s a mistake in terms of the way human beings have been known to react to situations. It not only didn’t bother me, but I also felt that I’ve seen this type of thing happen when people preach one thing and then certainly turn out to be doing something very…
MP: Oh, absolutely. And I recently, not too long ago, worked with somebody like that and I wish I could tell that story, but…
JM: No, no. Please tell it.
MP: But what I’m saying is that, to me, it just made me really hate her. Especially when she is, you know…. She acknowledges in the first scene how wrong it is in an office situation to have any kind of sexual interaction between two people who work with each other and then she does the same thing in the next scene, almost as if, well, it’s OK because I’m the woman? No.
PF: Yes. On the other hand, your hating her is not particularly injurious to the show, because every show’s got to have a villain and she’s the one we’re not supposed to like.
MP: Well, alright. OK. Fair enough, if that’s true. But she had some lovely ballads that were really very nice.
PF: Oh, that brings up a point I’ve never liked about this show. People are going to say, “You never liked? You said you didn’t know it.” Actually, Ben West did a reading a year or so ago and I went to that, so this is essentially the second time I’m seeing it. And I realized at the time, one of the problems with the show is that Albert Hague wrote nice music for Harry, nice music for Lillian, but the wrong music for Pookie slash Jenny here, because she’s of a different generation. And her music sounded very much like the middle-aged music that these other characters had, because Albert Hague was a conventional, and I mean that in the best sense of the word, Broadway…
TIME – 00:25
PF (continued): …composer, writing such shows as Plain and Fancy and Redhead. A lot of good songs in those shows, don’t misunderstand me. However, the fact is, her music should have reflected 1969.
PF: And it really didn’t. I will say that the orchestration here tried to jazz it up from the reading I had seen last year of it to make it sound a little more contemporary, but there’s only so much you can do. So, that is a big flaw in the show and while I never really like to see two different composers work on a show — I like one composer to be able to do everything — the fact is, I think this show might have profited by having some young songwriter in 1969 come in and write Jenny’s music. I think that would have helped immeasurably.
MP: By the way, before we go, we should probably mention — I think we left out — some of the names of the major cast. It’s Matt Walton is Charlie Montgomery, Jonathan Rayson is Harry Stone, as we said, Natalie Venetia Belcon is Lillian, Morgan Weed is Jenny Chapman, and the ensemble is Karen Hyland, Nathan Keen, Antuan Raimone, and Morgan Rose.
PF: Yeah, they’re all very game. There’s no question that, as you say, the choreography is very accomplished.
MP: And extensive.
PF: And extensive, indeed. I think this Ben West is really going to amount to something and I’m rooting for him.
JM: Before we run away, you had mentioned before that Jenny O’Hara was in something. She’s in LCT3’s Luck of the Irish.
MP: Oh, thank you, thank you.
JM: So, yeah, that’s coming up January 28 – March 10 and I’m sure that all three of us will see it and talk about it as it comes up closer.
MP: Well, one more thing…
PF: Another thing, too, is her mother…
PF: …is Edith O’Hara who has been running the 13th Street Playhouse for as long as I can remember.
PF: And certainly gave birth to such musicals as Boy Meets Boy and Touch. So, our hats off to Edith for certainly being around now and forever.
MP: Allan Sherman’s biggest hit, which I think Peter didn’t mention specifically…
MP: …was “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.”
MP: To the tune of the opera La Gioconda, of all things. But that was a tremendous hit. I remember it.
PF: And even spurred a show by that name, because back in the ‘90’s, the very talented Denis Markell and Doug Bernstein wrote a show that used Allan Sherman’s songs to create the story of a fictional hero who goes through life and it ended with a few songs from Fig Leaves, but that was an off-Broadway hit in the early ‘90’s and a very good show. It’s a shame that didn’t get an album, because I think it would get done more if it had an album, but it didn’t. I’m not surprised at all if many of our listeners have no idea who we’re talking about when we mention Allan Sherman, but believe me, there was a time when the entire country knew his name.
JM: Alright, so that’s The Fig Leaves Are Falling. It’s at the Connelly Theater by Unsung Musicals and the Connelly’s on East 4th Street. So, moving forward in our agenda, we’re going to talk about The Other Place at the Samuel Friedman Theater. Michael got a chance to see it. Peter’s going to be seeing it today, but we figured it’s a Broadway show and it’s opening today, so Michael, why don’t you give us the lowdown on it.
MP: Well, this is is a play called The Other Place by Sharr White, S-H-A-R-R White, of whom I hadn’t heard until I first saw this play done about a year and a half, two years ago, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. And one interesting thing is I just assumed that Sharr White was a woman. I just assumed that Sharr was some kind of a short version of a female name. But it turns out that it’s a guy, for whatever that’s worth. And it’s a very interesting, very beautiful play, I would say, about a woman who is in a medical crisis, and her name is Juliana Smithton and she’s played by Laurie Metcalf in a very, very moving, excellent, gripping performance that I think is going to figure very highly in all of the awards considerations. She, Juliana, is a biophysicist, was a biophysicist. Now she’s basically a pitch woman for a pharmaceutical company, and…
TIME – 00:30
MP (continued): …she is on the Virgin Islands at a convention giving a speech when we first see her giving her pitch. And then she starts to have this episode in which she becomes distracted by what she thinks she sees in the audience, which is a young woman in a yellow bikini. And then, eventually, she has what seems like a breakdown or a stroke and then we kind of go from there and we see through flashbacks, and also present day scenes, what her situation is, which is not necessarily what she tells us it is. This is very much a play about what is really happening and what is not. I think it’s fair to say it’s about dementia of one sort or another. I can not be too specific about the plot details without totally destroying it, and I don’t want to do that because I think that it’s really one of the better plays I’ve seen. I was so happy to hear that it was coming to Broadway. I was wondering, ever since I saw it at the Lortel, if it would have a further life, and I’m so glad that Manhattan Theatre Club has put it on Broadway at the Friedman. There is a lot of — I always feel silly even saying these things — but there is a lot of Tony buzz for Laurie Metcalf, and it’s perfectly understandable. The other roles, multiple roles, are played by Ms. Metcalf’s daughter, Zoe Perry, who is here billed as “The Woman.” Daniel Stern, whom many of us know from several films, plays a single role of Ian, Juliana’s husband. And then there’s one more cast member, John Schiappa plays “The Man.” That also entails multiple roles. Time and place is listed as “Boston, The Present,” and “Cape Cod, 10 Years Ago and The Present.” And it’s just really interesting. Sometimes a little confusing as you’re going along as to what the hell is happening, but it eventually comes together very beautifully, and I heard a lot of sniffling at the end, including my own. It was the case downtown, it was the case again here. Projections are used very well, especially in the very last moment of the play, to really get the tears going. I don’t need to make it sound manipulative, because it’s not at all. I would say, overall, very well directed by Joe Mantello, except there’s, to me, a completely unnecessary conceit used here, whereby Laurie Metcalf is preset, if you will. She is… as the audience enters, she is sitting in a chair, center stage, and basically looks like she is just waiting, looking at her nails, maybe opening a mirror every now and then, and, you know, if there was some purpose to that, that would be fine, but I can not figure out any purpose, because then it just…. The scene begins with her just starting to talk to us. It’s not as if she was actually waiting for someone. And I don’t get it and I don’t think there’s any point in doing that to the actress. Maybe she… maybe it was her idea. Or maybe they thought it was just impressive as sort of a, “Oh, look how committed she is to her art, that she’s sitting there for almost a half an hour while all these people walk in and maintaining her concentration. I don’t think it was necessary and I think that if they cut it, it wouldn’t hurt the play at all. There’s also… there is a lot of… there are places during the play where there’s a lot of raised voices, and I thought maybe, perhaps, that that was not tempered as well as it was when I saw it at the Lortel. That’s my memory, anyway. Sometimes, in a few places here, it seemed to get a little but out of hand, but those are really very minor quibbles. We do not get great plays on Broadway — new great plays on Broadway very much anymore. I think the odds are against them, so whatever caused this to be brought to Broadway, I’m just thrilled about it and really a big, big hand to Manhattan Theatre Club…
TIME – 00:35
MP (continued): …and I urge everyone to see it and I’m positive that you are going to be seeing Laurie Metcalf’s name on many of the lists of nominees for theatre awards in a few months from now.
JM: Alright, so that’s The Other Place at the Friedman.
JM: Peter is going to see it today, so we’ll talk about it again next week and get his take on it. But for right now, Peter went down to the Resonance Ensemble Theatre, where they do something very interesting. I don’t want to explain it, because I’ll let Peter explain it. Peter, why don’t you go ahead with that?
PF: Resonance Ensemble. It’s at the Beckett Theatre, and what they do is they take a classic play and they take a new play that deals with a similar theme and they do them in repertory. So, I spent Saturday afternoon at the new play and Saturday night at the old play. The new play is The Truth Quotient and it is by Richard Manley and it’s directed by Eric Parness who’s one of the powers that be, the artistic director behind Resonance. And the other play is R.U.R. That’s not A-R-E, Y-O-U, A-R-E, that’s the initials R, period, U, period, R, period. And if you do crosswords, you’ve run into this title. 29 down, Capek play. C-A-P-E-K. Karel Capek, a Czech writer. And this is actually the play that gave the world the word “robot.” And that’s what R.U.R. is about. Robots, about the creation of robots. That there’s this company making robots, Rossum’s Universal Robots — hence the R.U.R. — and dealing with these wonderful beings that are helping us so much. That they’re doing all these wonderful jobs that none of us wants to do, and it’s extraordinarily interesting to see how much that the playwright really had on the ball in terms of predicting what was going on in — what he predicted would happen in the years to come — ‘cause this is a play from 1920. Now, granted, to be very fair about this, it has been adapted by Lee Erik Shackleford, so we’re not necessarily — this is Ben West all over again — we’re not necessarily seeing every word that Karel Capek wrote. It’s entirely possible that some of what we’re seeing here is a revisal, but nevertheless, the play does seem to be making the same point that happened then, that if you build them, they will come, yes. But what happens after the robots are around for awhile? And the more you make robots, and the better you make them, and the more intelligence you give them, how long will it be before that artificial intelligence becomes real intelligence? And then will the human race be in trouble? So, in a way it turns into a thriller and I have to say, I was tremendously impressed by Brad Makarowski who plays the real brains behind the robot operation, and Christine Bullen who plays a woman who’s very interested in what he’s doing and becomes interested in him, and they do become a couple. What’s also very nice, too, is the fact that, as fitting with these plays from the ‘20’s, there are a ton of characters in them. So, to do a play like this, you have to have 13 actors, and many theatre companies would say, “We can’t afford 13 actors. Are you crazy? We can’t do that.” But they did and there they are up there. And by and large, not completely, but by and large, the acting is really quite good under Valentina Fratti’s direction. So, it’s worthwhile seeing and it’s a handsome presentation, too. Simple, but there’s a handsome look to the set, so that’s quite good. The Truth Quotient. All right, now we’re in present day and a guy’s having a conversation with his parents about literature. It’s a nice heady conversation talking about Virginia Woolf’s work, and then he mentions George Eliot and they have no idea who he’s talking about. And then he mentions Charles Dickens and they have no idea who he’s talking about. So, he calls this service and says, “They don’t know anything about Dickens or George Eliot,” and she says, “Well, that’s because you bought the package for only 20th century literature.” So, these are computerized people who look like his mother and father, who have since died…
TIME – 00:40
PF (continued): …and he wanted to have this parents back, but he wanted them improved. He wanted them to be the parents he always wanted them to be. Now, I think this is a fabulous idea. I mean, frankly, I would love to have parents that we could discuss whether or not Lainie Kazan should have been fired in Detroit when Seesaw was trying out there, because I never had that experience with my parents. You know, I would love for them to say, “What theaters would you have liked to have been in that have since been torn down?” We never had those discussions back in Arlington, Massachusetts. So, I think this is a great idea, and, yes, my tongue is certainly in my cheek. Well, the problems arise because he really bonds with his parents so well that, to the exclusion of his genuine, real brother, who, indeed, is not taking to the situation at all. To him, you know, his parents are dead and there’s no way that they can be replaced and it’s too spooky for him to be seeing people who look exactly like his parents. And the play really goes into the detail of: Should we create our ideal family from computers or should we deal with our family that we really have? You know, warts and all. I mean, many of us have had problems with our relatives, god knows. Our brothers, our sisters. But, should we take them as they are because they are family? Is blood thicker than computer science? Those are the questions that it asks and what I think is very interesting about Eric Parness’ direction is that it is very sterile and very arid, and yet that fits the play, because we are in an era of artificiality here. So, I think that this is a… I like the fact that I saw them both in one day to compare and contrast. There’s, again, a part of me that wished we were seeing R.U.R. as is, because if the mission of the company is to show us old and new, I think we should see old and new and not old, but rewritten, and new. But, nevertheless, I’m thrilled that this company exists. I like that they’re… It’s a unique idea. I’ve never heard of anybody else doing this type of thing, and what a nice thing that it gives both new playwrights a chance to shine and also puts the spotlights on plays that have been neglected. So, I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor. The Beckett Theatre is right there on Theatre Row on 42nd Street. God bless that complex. It really… When you think of the dumps that used to be on that street and, again, thank God that they were there, because otherwise we wouldn’t have Theatre Row there now, but, I mean, really. I remember when I went to see On A Clear Day… at one of those theatres. At the beginning of the show, a little mouse — I hope it was a mouse, I hope it wasn’t a rat — ran in front of the stage and we don’t see that anymore on 42nd Street theatres on Theatre Row and I’m very grateful for that. So, under those circumstances, I do advise getting to see not one of these plays, but both of these plays, to compare and contrast.
JM: So, just as I did before for the other theatre company, I wanted to read their mission statement for Resonance Ensemble. It says, “Our mission statement is, ‘Resonance Ensemble is dedicated to producing groups of related theatrical presentations that resonate across countless times and cultures to confront universal themes and ideas significant to our audiences of today.’” So…
MP: One other thing about Theatre Row is, I do not know the details, but I assume they must have figured out a way to make those theatres relatively affordable.
MP: Because if you look at the kinds of shows that are playing there, it certainly doesn’t seem that most of them would have terrifically high budgets.
MP: And it’s also, if for no other reason, we love it because it’s now the new home of the Musicals Tonight! series…
MP: …which used to be in various different places, but never in the Theatre District. And this is its first… I’m sorry. They were briefly on 45th Street, but very briefly, I think. So that, yeah, so I share your pleasure with it, with the Theatre Row complex, and may it stand.
JM: So, moving on to our next thing is that Peter got a chance to see In Acting Shakespeare at The Pearl Theatre Company. So, Peter, why don’t you tell us about that.
PF: Well, James DeVita was the work-a-day guy that came from a lower middle-class family, had no interaction with culture whatsoever, was pretty aimless in life, didn’t know what he was going to do with himself, and somehow, through a class trip, wound up seeing Ian McKellan’s…
TIME – 00:45
PF (continued): …Acting Shakespeare back in the 80’s, and, whoa, that changed his life. Suddenly, he wanted to be a classical actor. And what you’re watching in this one man show at the Pearl Theatre is his adventures in auditioning, in getting small parts, in working his way up, in being truly terrible, and he really does let you see what he was like once upon a time as an actor and it’s quite amusing. He’s a very endearing performer, too. So, in this two act, one person show, he takes us hither and everywhere when he was acting in Shakespeare festivals in Wisconsin and places like that. But what’s really nice is at the end, he delivers a Shakespearean soliloquy and you see how far he’s come, that he can do it now, that he’s really, really good. But we can all relate to being entranced by the theatre, wanting to be a part of it, trying our best, failing, hoping that the next time we’ll do better, and even those who, of course, never had such ambitions. We have all had these experiences in life. Whenever you found, you try, you hope, you make mistakes, one step backwards, two steps forward, and eventually you get to your goal. So, it was a nice, nice little evening of determination, of, yeah, that sticktoitiveness that we always hear about. And it’s nice to see somebody who did it. And it’s just nice to see a man succeed on his own terms. That it’s very inspiring. So, In Acting Shakespeare. And he says it’s freely adapted from Ian McKellan’s show. So, if you never saw Ian McKellan’s show, you’ll get a little taste of it, because he does many of the same soliloquies and scenes that Ian McKellan did in his show way back when. So, I recommend it.
JM: Great. So, let’s move on to the new section of our program. There’s a lot of announcements… Seemingly to me, there was a lot of announcements this week of just basic information of shows opening and casting and things like that, so we can go through that quickly, but I wanted to see what your take is on this one: Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County is going to be opening at Williamstown Theatre Festival, starring, of course, Kelli O’Hara. Kelli… So, what do you guys think about opening… Jason has his oars — is it oars? — his irons in a lot of fires…
JM: It’s not good to have oars in fires.
JM: So, what do you think about Jason and opening this thing up at Williamstown? Do things — new works, generally come from Williamstown that seem to have a trajectory towards Broadway?
MP: Well, lets’ see, has anything come from…?
PF: Far From Heaven is coming.
PF: And that was there last year.
MP: With Kelli O’Hara.
PF: Uh huh. I’m thrilled that Jason Robert Brown is doing Bridges of Madison County. It’s funny. It’s a title I just ran into last night while watching the marvelous Paul Rudnick movie In and Out, about the gay schoolteacher who has a tough time coming to terms with that, because at one point, people are really sharing their innermost feelings and a woman said, “I hated Bridges of Madison County.” And that’s a big scandal in Greenleaf, Indiana. But, no, I think it’s a nice enough story. I’m glad he got the rights to it. I’m very glad it’s happening. I think he’s one of our shining lights of the current generation, so…
PF: …so, I’m rooting for this to happen and, so, I’m delighted it’s happening. It certainly… I know this is a book that does make people do that unfortunate gesture where they open their mouth and stick their finger inside and make this unfortunate sound, but I think there’s validity to the story and I think this could really be something Jason could use, and that’s a real popular success.
MP: You know what will be interesting? To see how he handles the main female character, because she is supposed to have quite a thick Italian accent, so, I wonder how much… If this is gonna… some of it’s gonna end up sounding like The Light in the Piazza.
JM: I was just thinking that. Alright, next up is Sheryl Crow’s musical Diner seems to have been delayed until the fall.
TIME – 00:50
JM (continued): Lots of ups and downs with this thing, so we’re gonna have to put that back on the schedule for the fall, and we’ll see what happens there. There was a lot of… I want to call it news or scandal around Lucky Guy this week, mostly sparked by Mr. Riedel. Did you see these articles about…
JM: …advances are not so good. Only six million dollars in advances and the poster is not very good and… it’s very interesting how people start pointing fingers, which… A six million dollar advance lots of other people would be very excited about. But they don’t seem to be happy with this.
MP: I have a friend who’s an old time, old time press agent who just despised that article and felt that it was scurrilous and completely unnecessary and negative and it serves no purpose whatsoever, aside from the fact that it seemed to me that the points he was trying — desperately trying to make, don’t really apply. I mean, he’s comparing this advance sale to, first of all, some musicals like The Boy From Oz, which… there’s no way that there’s ever going to be any comparison to that. He also compares it to the show that Hugh Jackman was in with Daniel Craig, which I always get the title wrong, because… is it A Steady Rain?
JM: Steady Rain, yeah.
MP: Yeah. But that one, you know…
JM: And Three Days of Rain.
MP: Yeah. But that one had two big stars in it, you know, so… And then he also compared it to Three Days of Rain which had Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper and, wasn’t it, Paul Rudd?
MP: So, I don’t think… You know, I do think that two or three major stars is a big difference as compared to one. So, I don’t think any of those… any of the other things he used as a point of comparison are worth comparison. And not only that, but it’s been pointed out that it’s still how many weeks ‘till the first preview? Six…
JM: They just started rehearsals. Six weeks.
MP: Yeah. Six or seven weeks. The big publicity push has not really started yet. So, I don’t know what the point was. I guess it was a slow news week.
PF: Yeah, yeah. He’s got to write about something.
JM: They also pointed out that, in a different article in the New York Times, Erik Piepenburg pointed out that Maura Tierney and Courtney Vance are gonna join Lucky Guy and I think that, you know, we won’t be able to really…
JM: …tell anything about this until the actual event happens and I have faith in Mr. Hanks that it’s going to be very hard to get a ticket to this show.
MP: You know, and as more becomes known about the show, I mean, people, when they hear the name Mike McAlary, they might not know who that is, but when they hear more about the plot… For example, I think that one of the characters in the show is Abner Louima. Remember him?
PF: Sure, sure.
MP: So, you know, it sounds like it could be really, really interesting, aside from the fact that it’s Nora Ephron and Tom Hanks. And I just would be surprised if this does not wind up doing very well, unless, of course, it…
PF: It stinks. Yeah, right.
MP: Yeah. Hopefully not, hopefully not.
JM: Alright, Bette Midler…
JM: …coming back to Broadway. You know, a one character play, I’ll Eat You At Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers, about a powerful Hollywood agent whose clients include Barbra Streisand. This… I mean, it sounds like… it sounds like this could be quite a ticket, quite enjoyable between Bette Midler and all the dish that she can get there.
PF: Well, the other thing, too, if you want to know what Sue Mengers was like, I’m told the best way to do that is to watch the marvellous Stephen Sondheim, Anthony Perkins thriller/mystery, one of the great mysteries of all time, The Last of Sheila, in which she plays somebody based on Sue Mengers and I also remember vividly, though, an article in the New Yorker many moons after Sue Mengers was ruling the world, and how she was in the supermarket shopping and how she had just come down to nothing. That her star shone very brightly, but for a short period of time comparatively speaking.
TIME – 00:55
PF (continued): It seemed like she was poised to be one of the great, legendary agents — you know, the Swifty Lazar types — and yet, it just did not sustain itself. And maybe this play will tell us why. And that might be the most interesting part of it; the decline and fall as opposed to, “Babs and I were having lunch the other day….” So, this could really be a fascinating thing, but I do recommend — I imagine many of our listeners have seen The Last of Sheila, because, of course, it involves Stephen Sondheim — but, nevertheless, if you have not, I beg of you to watch this movie, because Dyan Cannon is so wonderful in this part, as this self-absorbed lady, but I also beg you never to take your eyes off the screen. I showed it to a friend one night and he took his eyes off the screen at a very important point and, therefore, missed something that he should have figured out or could’ve figured out. So, it is, by the way, the movie I have watched more than any other picture, so…
PF: …I’m well into my 40’s, having seen this picture. I enjoy it immeasurably and it’s not enough that Stephen Sondheim has written great musicals. To me, he’s written the best murder-mystery, too, with great characters in it, including Dyan Cannon as Sue Mengers type.
MP: I believe that another portrayal of Sue Mengers is reported to be Shelley Winters performance in S.O.B.
PF: Oh, really?
MP: Yeah. I kinda think that whenever, you know, women during that period…
MP: …got a role to play a very high-powered, aggressive, you know, if you’ll forgive the term “ball-busting”…
MP: …female agent, she seemed to be the… It seemed to be that Sue was the go-to.
PF: Uh huh. Yeah.
JM: So, the other high-powered, aggressive female on Broadway is Mary Poppins.
JM: And looks like she’s flying off.
PF: Frankly, I’ve always felt that Mary Poppins has a great deal in common with Sue Mengers. She’s a tough lady, actually, but that’s another story. But yeah, isn’t that something? You know, I thought there was more life in that show left, but I think they just really want to have that theatre available for their newest…
JM: That’s the other flip side, is that they say that Aladdin is coming in.
PF: You know what confused me when they talked about doing renovations. I mean, that place isn’t that old. Didn’t it open in like 1998? I mean, you know…
MP: That confused me, too, Peter, but I assume that they meant maybe renovations specifically for Aladdin.
PF: OK. Then I don’t know if the word “renovation” should have been used.
MP: No, no, no, no, no, yes.
PF: Gee. You know, I mean, if we want to talk about renovations, I can name plenty of other theatres that I think need it more than… ‘Cause I was just there, as you were, too, Michael…
PF: …for the Gypsy of the Year shindig. And looks nice to me! You know?
PF: Doesn’t look any worse for wear, so that was the surprise for me. But, yeah…
MP: I guess, yeah, if they’re talking about the technical… If they’re talking about the stage house — is that the term?
MP: And they’re… I suppose renovation is the correct term, I don’t know, for that. It’s just that they could have been more specific in their announcements.
JM: So, Aladdin started off at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle? Is that where the 5th Avenue is?
PF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
JM: And Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, Tim Rice wrote the score, so it’s gonna be interesting to see if they can… if Disney is really just moving properties around and…. I don’t know, is Mary Poppins out on national tour?
PF: Yeah. It’s on tour. Yeah.
MP: I… yeah.
JM: Yeah. So, perhaps, they can roll some of these…
MP: I wasn’t clear — were either of you? — if Aladdin is currently being revised before it comes to Broadway.
PF: You mean from what they did in Seattle and in St. Louis?
PF: I imagine so.
MP: But do we think that… I mean, how much do we know about what other songs have been or might be added and who wrote them? Is Tim Rice actively working on it?
PF: I may have more information on this because I’m going to be at the Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta next week where Alan Menken is receiving an award.
MP: Oh, OK.
PF: I’m gonna be spending some time with him. And so, we may learn more about Aladdin as a result of that. If he feels like talking about it.
JM: And don’t forget that additional lyrics and music were written by Chad Beguelin.
PF: Oh, right!
JM: Book and lyrics. Not music. Excuse me.
PF: Yeah, right.
MP: Oh, OK. So that answers part of my question.
TIME – 01:00
MP: One thing I heard that made me happy was that, I guess, in the Seattle version, that the character of Iago is no longer a parrot. it’s apparently a human foil or cohort to the villain Jafar, and I think that’s probably for the best. You know, it can be very difficult to put animals on stage, especially… You know, in The Lion King, for example, when everyone is supposed to be an animal, it’s one thing, but if you’re mixing them, I think that could be a little difficult. Obviously, everyone’s gonna be waiting to see how they do the flying carpet. That’s gonna be somethin’ to see.
JM: Alright. So, we… I went back and forth on whether we should talk about this or not, but we’ll just throw it out there. If you have nothing to say about it, let’s skip it, but…
JM: January 17th, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opens up and it’s in previews right now and Michael and Peter will see it and review it and I’ll probably see it. I probably won’t review it as much as Michael and Peter would, but Mr. Riedel has been talking about this… about the reinterpretation of this. Do we want to table this until you guys have seen this? Or… It’s changing so much…
JM: …in previews right now. There was music added and characters added and… it’s been changing.
PF: Frankly, I’m sorry that I’m not going to see what Rob Ashford’s original conception was, for better or worse. I mean, I just am sorry that it’s gone now without my having seen it. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not saying it was a good idea or a bad idea, but I would have liked to have seen it to make an informed decision on whether it was a good idea or a bad idea to bring Skipper, the friend of Brick, into the play. He didn’t say anything, as I understood it, he just stood around…
MP: He sung, he sang apparently.
JM: He had a song. Mr. Riedel is very funny. “Cats on a Hot Tin Roof.”
PF: Well, all that said, I’m sorry I’m missing that and I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have said, “Oh my god! Take it out immediately!” I’m just, it’s one of those perverse things where I wish I had been witness to, like, so many of those famous things that do get cut out of shows that you hear about. But I’m very interested in seeing Scarlett Johansson play this role, since she was so good in A View From the Bridge, as many awards have… came her way. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to and it is a good play.
JM: I think that the Tony Award category for Best Actor, Best Actress, are going to be very crowded with Hollywood folk this year. We’ll have to see…
PF: The difference is, you know… I’m working on this book about the 1963-64 season, for the 50th anniversary of that coming up, and I mention all the people who were there last week, which is really quite a roster. What was nice about it then, was the fact that they signed run-of-the-play contracts and what we have here is always limited engagements with these people. And it’s too bad there isn’t one who’s willing to say, “No, I’m going to do eight a week as long as business warrants.” So, that would be even better. But, yes, let’s take what we can get.
MP: As far as ghost Skipper, if I may take a lighthearted approach to it… I’m never going to see him, but I read that this is not a first for Rob Ashford, because apparently when he directed A Streetcar Named Desire, also by Tennessee Williams, in London, that he put into the play the character of Blanche’s young husband Allan, who kills himself. I don’t know exactly how it was staged, but Allan was played by someone on stage in a flashback, so maybe not a ghost in that sense, but kind of a similar thing. So, I’m wondering if, you know, what other plays… I was almost gonna write an article about…
MP: …what other plays Rob Ashford would put ghosts into. But it’s funny. It struck me that the other major, major Williams play is The Glass Menagerie. I don’t know if Rob Ashford has directed that yet, but in that, it would be a very obvious, though also horrendous,…
TIME – 01:05
MP: …terrible idea to put the father….
PF: Father, yeah.
MP: Yes, Amanda’s husband. Because he is very prominently indicated throughout the play by means of a large photograph hanging in the middle of one of the walls of their apartment, and they refer to him on several occasions. But, you know, that’s the way people did things in less literal times, before some director came along and said, “Oh, let’s play the subtext on the top and let’s put the ghost on stage.”
PF: Yeah, but credit due for the fact that there are many directors who would be wedded to a concept and would not give it up, no matter what. Now it is true, they may have said, “You’ll never work in this town again.” The producers may have threatened him terribly, but I’d like to think that what happened is that Rob Ashford himself said, “You know, it doesn’t work. I’m taking it out.” And if that’s the case, then credit where it’s due for trying something and admitting it doesn’t work and taking it out beforehand.
MP: If that’s the case, yes.
PF: If that’s the case. You know, for example, this brings to mind that Guys and Dolls revival of Des McAnuff a couple of years ago…
MP: Oh my god.
PF: Well, at the beginning of the show, it was really kind of interesting. I thought, “Ooh, this is interesting.” We’re watching Damon Runyon in his office doing some writing and going around and watching fights and seeing New York at its sleaziest. There’s a robbery that’s going on… it’s not quite one. But, anyway, this underworld type of thing — underbelly, I should say, more than underworld — but a little underworld, too. And so it was really a gritty beginning, and you thought, “Oh, this is very interesting,” but it failed because suddenly, “Here, I got the horse right here….” It was nice and cheery. So, it didn’t fit Guys and Dolls at all, and I was very disappointed that Des McAnuff didn’t, during rehearsals, say, “You know, it was kind of a good idea, I thought, to have Damon Runyon come into Guys and Dolls, but on the other hand, you know, to set up this gritty, gritty New York and then going into this more happy-go-lucky New York just doesn’t work. I’m gonna throw it out.” I would have thought he would have thrown it out as time went on, but he didn’t and Rob Ashford did, so at least that.
MP: And I was wondering if the fellow who was playing ghost Skipper… I haven’t been able to get anyone to… And actually, I didn’t get a chance to look it up. I’m wondering — I’m hoping that he is, also, maybe the understudy for Brick and that he won’t just be out of a job.
PF: I don’t believe he’s out of a job. I do believe I heard he’s in the production.
PF: So he was doubling. So…
PF: Yeah, that occurred to me, too, MIchael, and it would be sad for an actor to lose his salary, but the play’s the thing, right?
MP: That actor’s been doing quite well recently. Jordan Dean. He was Sky in Mamma Mia!, but he also did some Shakespeare down at — was it — CSC. So he, yeah, he seems to be doing really well.
JM: Excellent. So, the musical revue Cotton Club is transferring from Encores! to Broadway in the fall. What do you… Did you guys… I don’t remember us talking about Cotton Club Parade.
PF: I didn’t go this year. I went last year. It was a perfectly decent evening. I’m surprised. I didn’t expect this one remotely to have that much interest to transfer through producers who are rubbing their hands, and saying, “Let’s move it. We’ll get rich.” It… I think it’s going to be a bit of a hard sell.
MP: At the risk of stating the obvious, it seems that there are more empty theatres than people might have anticipated…
PF: Yes, indeed.
MP: …because certain things did not pan out…
MP: …and rather than have empty theatres, people are taking a chance. So, I wish them well. I thoroughly enjoyed it when I saw it. Like Peter, I saw the first edition, not the second one. But I imagine it’s pretty much the same.
PF: I do, too.
MP: And, yeah. So I think that’s the short answer as to why a lot of these shows are coming in.
JM: Also in the news is that there has been a trial date set for Julie Taymor vs. Spiderman for May 27th. The machinations of lawyers is more theatre than we ever see on Broadway, so let’s see if this is just a… this is kind of just an artificial deadline that they’ve set to try to finish up settlement talks and get this done, but I can’t believe that this is still showing up on our newsfeeds.
MP: Now, can you clarify? I believe, one…
TIME – 01:10
MP (continued): …aspect of the suit has already been settled, right? And then this is another thing? One was for directorial rights and one was for…
PF: Yes, one was settled.
MP: Yeah, OK. So, it gets a little confusing, I’m sure, to people, to hear that it’s still not been completely settled.
PF: It’s still pretty impressive, by the way, you know, lawsuits and all. Would any of us have thought, seriously, that 830 plus audiences would have been at that Foxwoods Theatre seeing this show? But that’s the reality of it. That really, despite, perhaps, the most negative press in the history of mankind, when it comes to Broadway, that a show can really be there 830 performances later, and I think it’ll be there for at least another year. I wouldn’t have predicted this.
MP: Me neither.
PF: Yeah. Nope.
JM: Alright. So, anything else you guys want to add into the mix before we wrap it up today?
MP: I’d like to end with a joke from our friend Michael Dale that he just posted on Facebook. Michael is always good for a laugh.
PF: You bet.
MP: He writes, “As the audience enters the theatre for The Other Place, Laurie Metcalf is already on stage, quietly sitting. I’ll give a dollar to the first one who yells out, ‘We loved you in Roseanne!’”
JM: We gotta get Michael back on the program. He’s so funny.
PF: He sure is. You bet.
JM: And aside from being funny, he’s so intelligent.
PF: You bet.
JM: He’s such a wonderful guy.
PF: I thoroughly agree.
JM: Oh, we’ll have to get him on. Alright, so I want to remind everybody that you can subscribe to these podcasts by going to the front page of BroadwayRadio.com. There’s a link there to subscribe, that way each and every time we have a new episode of This Week on Broadway it’ll be automatically downloaded to iTunes for you. You can also listen to us in Stitcher, which is an application for your Android or iPhone or Blackberry device, and if you go to BroadwayRadio.com, you can get contact information for Peter, Michael and me, as well. Weigh in there on all the things that we’ve talked about. You can also listen to us on Broadway World Radio, Wednesdays at noon, Thursdays at 7pm, and Saturdays at 2pm.
MP: The film of Cabaret is going to be screened by Turner Classic Movies on January 31st at the Ziegfeld, home of Les Miserables. And it’s… This is one of those free screenings that they do. You have to go online to get tickets, but they’re free, and apparently, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Michael York, and Marisa Berenson are all scheduled to be there, so I would urge you to go. I believe as of the 17th of January, you can actually go online to TCM — whatever their website is — and reserve your tickets. But if you do, the only thing is, I would advise you to get there really early, because they tend to, as you might imagine, have a huge response to this kind of thing. On the other hand, it’s the Ziegfeld, so it’s a lot bigger than places where they normally do them. But, I would advise that… This would be the restored print, version, I should say — it’s probably digital — that was shown in LA last year by Turner, and apparently it’s really quite something. That movie, because of who produced it and various other things, it has… it’s one of those movies that has not necessarily been very well maintained over the years, but I understand it’s been brilliantly restored and so you might want to check that out. And also on the 17th, the same day you can go to get tickets for Cabaret, the Chelsea Classics Series is down at the Chelsea Cinemas on 23rd Street, is showing Sweet Charity, so that’s another one to put on your…
PF: So, a good month for Bob Fosse.
MP: Yeah. Isn’t it, though?
JM: I also understand that scheduled to appear, other than Liza, is Michael Portantiere.
PF: Oh, is that true?
PF: Is that true, Michael?
JM: If I were to guess, I would assume Michael would be there, as well.
MP: Yeah, yeah. Appearing in the audience.
JM: Alright, so I will wrap it up here. So on behalf of Michael Portantiere and Peter Filichia, this is James Marino saying thanks so much for listening to Broadway Radio’s This Week on Broadway. Bye bye.
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