What a Les Miz Reboot Should Look Like

I said not too long ago that I was done with Les Miz  and I saw no reason to see the show again until some one truly reinvents it. Well, if I were in Texas, I would go see this version of the show, actually, I’m a little upset that I’m not able to see this show. Yes, they’ve spliced together the best of clips, but it’s a pretty compelling clip. This is what happens when you kick over  the ant hill and see it rebuilt to the same purpose but in a different form. This is what Les Miz needs, a kick to the ant hill that is the entrenchment of the show’s current incarnation.

Bringing it into the modern time is a bit of a no brainer, certainly the themes of Les Miz are still relevant; the socio-cultural struggles of the characters are little different from what we deal with still today; the over bearing boss who makes the job you can’t afford lose a miserable one, the seemingly unbreached authority of a dis-compassionate government, women tearing each other down, the real criminals never getting punished, etc. etc. etc. (non sequitur – Lincoln Center mounting new production of the King and I, 2015)

I like most everything I see I this clip, there’s a real immediacy in the performances that really grabbed me. I really like the dread-lock sporting Theardier and the pseudo-geek Cossette; but apparently all Javerts need a large menacing overcoat. I was very excited to see Nehla Joshi, from our own Arena Stage rocking it as Valjean. (how did he end up in Texas?) I’m not totally sold on their high knee quick stepping during “One Day More” but that’s a minor quibble. Anyway, I love when region theater takes something and does it better than the big boys.  Good for you Dallas Theater Center.

Cabaret-Revival of the Revival #24

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This is the show that really started it all for me and the theater, the 1998 revival of Cabaret; the first truly exceptional show that I had ever seen; a show that was more than mere entertainment; the show that set the bar against which I have measured all other shows (which few have met and none have overcome) and the show that made me a fast, true and long term fan of one Mr. Alan Cumming. (He was “something” long before the “Good Wife” FYI). 16 years ago I chose this show to go see because I was familiar with it and I had always loved the movie version of Cabaret with Liza and Joel Gray. I was expecting to see some version of that performance and it was absolutely not what I got and I couldn’t have been happier to have my expectations dashed. They turned that dapper, crisp and shiny movie world into a dark, seedy and much more disturbing reality. The plot is still true to the original musical and even more true to what life likely was in Berlin during the Wiemar Republic. When the show was over, I walked out of the theater excited and enervated, we had just experienced something special; I had never had this reaction to a show ever before. Granted in those days I was doing good to see 4-5 shows a year so I din’t have much to compare it against but exceptional stands out regardless.

Needless to say when I heard that they were re-staging the show AND that Mr. Cumming would be reprising his role as the MC I was over the moon. I have for years been telling friends what a wonderful show they had missed and how they had taken an iconic show and and iconic role and redefined them and made them icons for a new generation and now…now they were finally going to get the chance to see the show! It did not take much arm twisting from me to get a group of friend to go with, I am not the only Cabaret/Alan Cumming around it seems.

cabaret01When I go see a show I try to go with as few expectations as possible, once I’ve selected a show I stay away from reviews and synopses of the show; I want an unbiased as possible experience; plus expectations often lead to disappointment. Unfortunately with this show I couldn’t not have expectations and even worse they had to live up to my memories of the show I saw 16 years ago; it’s almost impossible not to disappoint. Don’t worry this isn’t a build-up to an apocryphal statement like ” The show was awful!” Quite the opposite, the show was wonderful and Mr. Cumming delivers the goods. Joel Gray’s MC was, while quite dapper, I felt he secretly had a stash of corpses somewhere, very neatly stored corpses with perfectly made p faces. Mr. Cumming’s MC is no less creepy but more in a “weird guy you might meet on the subway at  2 am” kind of way. He is simultaneously sleazy and dirty but still kind of sexy, he’s the personification of that time in Germany where the decadent life he’s so enjoying is eventually going to lead to his destruction. I was a great show but for me the magic of the first time was not there, I really wasn’t expecting it to be. The memory of something wonderful is always going to outshine the attempt to recreate it. I am still very much of the opinion that if you haven’t seen the show, you should go see it,and you absolutely should go see it while Mr. Cumming is still in the role;  your fist time could be as magical as mine. (Okay, that came out a little dirty but not inappropriate for this show.)

It was interesting sitting in the audience because it was quite clear that a large portion were, like me, fans from the old days and everyone was happy to get a little boozed up and interactive. Normally I will be the person giving bitch face and shushing those who dare talk once the lights go down but this show, with its cabaret atmosphere encourages a bit more active participation and even I was moved to a little interactive hootin’ and hollerin’. It’s okay I did it with a German accent.

cabaret03Besides Mr. Cumming there are actually other people in the cast. Michelle Williams is one of the many Hollywood actors who is taking a turn treading the boards, it’s practically a right of passage for those who want to be taken “seriously.” Speaking of which have you heard that Bradley Cooper is coming to Broadway to take on the role of the Elephant Man? The role that all handsome actors take to remind people they’re not just a pretty face and a set of rock hard abs; I appreciate that but couldn’t you find a more original role to be ugly in? Any way, I wan’t particularly impressed by Michelle Williams as Sally Bowls; her English accent was a bit dodgy throughout and I found her Sally more annoying than anything else, is it bad that I felt good when Cliff finally slapped her? Her character certainly isn’t a good person but you’re still are supposed to like her at least a little bit and have some empathy for her. To her credit she killed on the “Cabaret” number, actually all her singing parts were well done, it was the speaking portions that she let down in.

cabaret02One of my favorite parts of the musical is one thing that was radically changed in the movie, the mid-life romance between Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz; the wonderful Linda Emond and Danny Burstein. Their relationship is as doomed as Sally and Cliff’s but it is actually more tragic ending. You never really expect Cliff and Sally to make it as a couple, they were eventually going to destroy themselves or each other, but Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz would have been happy were they not torn apart by society, politics and fear. But I will from now on think of pineapples as a romantic fruit. If  you don’t get that go see the show.

And this really made my trip…

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Tony Award 2014 Predictions!

tony awardI’m behind on the posts for the last three shows from Broadway week but those shows aren’t going anywhere but since the Tony Awards are tonight I feel the need to make predictions. Even with the week long Broadway Blitz there are quite a few that  I haven’t seen especially the play so some of the predictions are based on reviews and earlier awards. Bold items are my pick..

Best Play

  • Act One
  • All The Way – The new play about LBJ and the civil rights movement starring Bryan Cranston has been consistently winning all the “smaller” awards.
  • Casa Valentina
  • Mothers and Sons
  • Outside Mullingar

Best Musical

  • After Midnight
  • Aladdin
  • Beautiful: Carol King Musical
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and MurderEasily the best of the crop and the only one of the nominated shows that has an entirely original score.

Best Revival of a Play

  • The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • The Glass Menagerie
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • Twelfth NightI’m always rooting for Shakespeare!

Best Revival of a Musical

  • Hedwig and the Angry InchNo competition! It’s a given.
  • Les Misérables
  • Violet

Best Book of a Musical

  • Aladdin – Chad Beguelin
  • Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Douglas McGrath
  • Bullets Over Broadway – Woody Allen
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – Robert L. Freedman

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

  • Aladdin
    o   Music: Alan Menken
    o   Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
  • The Bridges of Madison County
    o   Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
    o   Music: Steven Lutvak
    o   Lyrics: Robert L. Freedman & Steven Lutvak
  • If/Then
    o   Music: Tom Kitt
    o   Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

  • Samuel Barnett, Twelfth Night
  • Bryan Cranston, All The Way
  • Chris O’Dowd, Of Mice and Men
  • Mark Rylance, Richard IIIIt’s probably going to be Bryan Cranston but I have a soft spot for Mr. Rylance
  • Tony Shalhoub, Act One

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

  • Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
  • LaTanya Richardson Jackson, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie Just saw her in another play and she was wonderful
  • Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
  • Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

  • Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry InchIf he doesn’t win I will be overwrought with disappointment, this was a seminal performance. (no disrespect to Mr.s Mays and Pinkham)
  • Ramin Karimloo, Les Misérables
  • Andy Karl, Rocky
  • Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

  • Mary Bridget Davies, A Night with Janis Joplin
  • Sutton Foster, Violet
  • Idina Menzel, If/Then
  • Jessie Mueller, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
  • Kelli O’Hara, The Bridges of Madison CountyShe’s long overdue for a Tony nod.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

  • Reed Birney, Casa Valentina
  • Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
  • Stephen Fry, Twelfth Night
  • Mark Rylance, Twelfth NightHow cool would it be for him to win best and featured actor in the same year. I wonder if he’s memorized two poems just in case.
  • Brian J. Smith, The Glass Menagerie

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

  • Sarah Greene, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie
  • Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Mare Winningham, Casa ValentinaTotal Guess

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

  • Danny Burstein, Cabaret
  • Nick Cordero, Bullets Over BroadwayHe was the only bright spot in an at best adequate show.
  • Joshua Henry, Violet
  • James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
  • Jarrod Spector, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

  • Linda Emond, Cabaret
  • Lena Hall, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
  • Adriane Lenox, After Midnight
  • Lauren Worsham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and MurderShe was wonderful and while I loved Lena Hall I’m going with who had more active performance time.

Best Scenic Design of a Play

  • Beowulf Boritt, Act One
  • Bob Crowley, The Glass Menagerie
  • Es Devlin, Machinal
  • Christopher Oram, The Cripple of Inishmaan

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

  • Christopher Barreca, RockyThey did some new and interesting things in the set design.
  • Julian Crouch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • Santo Loquasto, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Costume Design of a Play

  • Jane Greenwood, Act One
  • Michael Krass, Machinal
  • Rita Ryack, Casa Valentina
  • Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night

Best Costume Design of a Musical

  • Linda Cho, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
  • Arianne Phillips, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Isabel Toledo, After Midnight

Best Lighting Design of a Play

  • Paule Constable, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Jane Cox, Machinal
  • Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
  • Japhy Weideman, Of Mice and Men

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

  • Kevin Adams, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Christopher Akerlind, Rocky
  • Howell Binkley, After Midnight
  • Donald Holder, The Bridges of Madison County

Best Sound Design of a Play

  • Alex Baranowski, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
  • Dan Moses Schreier, Act One
  • Matt Tierney, Machinal

Best Sound Design of a Musical

  • Peter Hylenski, After Midnight
  • Tim O’Heir, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Mick Potter, Les Misérables
  • Brian Ronan, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Best Direction of a Play

  • Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
  • Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
  • Kenny Leon, A Raisin in the Sun
  • John Tiffany, The Glass Menagerie – Every show of his that I’ve seen I’ve loved.

Best Direction of a Musical

  • Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
  • Michael Mayer, Hedwig and the Angry InchI love his work but if Darko Tresnjak wont I wouldn’t be upset, plus I like his name.
  • Leigh Silverman, Violet
  • Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Best Choreography

  • Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
  • Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, Rocky
  • Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
  • Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway

Best Orchestrations

  • Doug Besterman, Bullets Over Broadway
  • Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
  • Steve Sidwell, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
  • Jonathan Tunick, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

 

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder #21

GG-0217M-BroadwayWorld-Graphic-680x200-v41.jpg.pagespeed.ce.B8o7KVrFYxWhen going to this musical don’t forget to put on your listening ears, the lyrics and dialog are fleet and swift of foot. This is a classical musical comedy in the genre of “Drowsy Chaperon” or “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” just with a much more murderous hero and a significantly higher body count. This is what Bullets over Broadway was trying to be, but didn’t quite achieve. And like a true musical most of the dialog is sung not spoken, the songs propel the plot.

GGtoM03The plot revolves around our hero, or anti-hero, I suppose, Monty Navarro who finds out, on the death of his mother , that he is actually a member of a very wealthy family, who cast off his mother for falling in love and running off with a Castilian musician (yes, I’m shocked as well) and only 8 people stand between him and becoming the 9th Earl of Highgate. To his credit his thoughts did not immediately turn to murder but his initial overtures towards his family are quite rudely rebuffed. And his first murder was more of an accident, really; is it murder if you fail to stop someone from falling from a steeple, that’s manslaughter right? Actually of the eight people who died to make him Earl he only actively murdered five of them, with one case of manslaughter, because really the number of people you murder is a signifier of character.

It’s a funny, witty show with clever songs and is incredibly well acted. Granted it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, it’s intentionally styled as a classic musical with a distinct touch of vaudeville but it’s a fun evening of theater. Would I call it the best musical of the year? This year, maybe so, it’s the only one of the shows that has and entirely original score and lyrics, both After Midnight and Beautiful are jukebox musicals and I’m just tired of the over produced juggernauts that are Disney musicals. And yes I haven’t seen the others but I have other sources of info.

GGtoM02Really, the actors make the show here, with lesser actors this could be a really tedious show. Do not try this at home these are trained professionals on a closed tracked. Bryce Pinkham, love that name, as our sometimes murderous leading man is entirely likable and plays the role with such earnestness that his actions seem plausible and sometimes even logical. He is luckily spared from having to make the decision to kill the one person who was kind to him thereby saving him from being truly evil, instead of murderously opportunistic or would it be opportunistically murderous? While Mr. Pinkham is the constant that weaves through the show, Jeffery Mays performance as ALL the people who die, is the unknown variable that keeps you on your toes and and that special quality that tips the show over into something special.

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The River – Broadway Fall 2014

HughJackmanNot that I ever need a reason to go to NYC to see a show but there are a few sure fire ways triggering the ticket hunt and trip planning. One of those triggers is Hugh Jackman returning to Broadway! He’s starring in a new play called The River, click here for the article in Playbill, by Jez Butterworth. No idea what it’s about, sometime it just doesn’t matter, there are those performer I go see just because I’m compelled to, Alan Cumming, is another one. If he’s on stage with-in driving distance I’m there! Previews start Oct. 31 and it’s a limited 13 week engagement, I’m going to be all over those tickets the second they go on sale.

This will actually time out perfectly with another play that’s opening in October, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, I’ve seen it performed once and wouldn’t mind seeing again performed by the caliber of actors that they’ve cast including Cynthia Nixon, Maggie Gyllenhaal and the oh so adorable Ewan McGregor making his Broadway debut.

15 Shows Not to Miss – D.C. ’14-15 Season

The majority of the local theaters have released their 2014-15 line up and after careful perusal I’ve come up with a list of, I won’t call it “must see” shows, let’s call them “shows of interest”. Don’t be fooled into thinking these 15 shows are the only ones I’m going to see, oh no, there are plenty more I will go see and others that will remain on my radar but having given myself the task of whittling the season down to a group of shows that I think have great potential this is what I’ve come up with. I pick the shows based on a variety of factors including of course personal taste, the actors, writers or directors attached to the project, or subject matter. Sometimes purely on a whim, so you can see it’s a very scientific quantitative process.

The shows are NOT in any order of preference, besides chronological, and if you want to see their full season offering for any of the theaters just click on their name, trust me there’s A  LOT I’m leaving out and quite a bit more probably worth seeing so you should explore a little on your own as well.
** means it’s a World Premier, we have more than a few.

  1. Sunday in the Park with GeorgeSignature Theatre
    August 5 – September 21, 2014 – Okay, this is one of those shows I’m going to go see because I feel I should. I have at best a rocky relationship with Mr. Sondheim, really his shows aren’t for everyone. Sometimes I like them, sometime I hate them, sometimes I just don’t get them. But Sondheim is kind of Signature’s groove and it’s kicking off their 25th anniversary season, so I’m betting they’re pulling out all the stops.

  2. TPTSA_-LittleDancer_400x400Little Dancer** – Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater
    October 25, 2014 – November 30, 2014 – Written by the Ton Award winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (think Ragtime, among many others) and directed and choreographed Susan Strohman. Yeah, I’m going to go see that. It’s a fictionalized account of the girl who posed for the iconic “Dancer” sculpture by Degas.

    3. A Festival of Radical New Theatre From Moscow – Woolly Mammoth October 25–November 9, 2014. Over 75 Russian artists will descend on Woolly Mammoth to present four new works from distinct companies representing the cutting edge of Moscow’s theatre scene. Sadly, just as I was getting ready to upload this post I learned that due to the current tensions between the US and Russia this production has been canceled. It does not look like the Moscow Theater companies are going to be able to get funding and permission to travel here. I’m terribly disappointed as this sounded like a unique opportunity.
  3. The TempestShakespeare Theatre Company
    December 2014 – This show wasn’t part of my original list simply because I’ve seen The Tempest more than a few times (as I am a STC subscriber I am seeing it regardless) but I am recommending it quite simply on the strength of the director Ethan McSweeny. His production of Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2012 is at damn near (if not at) the top of the list of all-time favorite shows at STC.
  4. Famous Puppet Death ScenesWoolly Mammoth Theatre Company
    December 9, 2014–January 4, 2015 – A collection of twenty-two scenes of famous puppet deaths; that is the description. I have no idea what’s it’s going to be like but the title is enough to tweak my interest.

  5. Diner**Signature Theatre
    December 9, 2014 – January 25, 2014 – Apparently Cheryl Crow has finally gotten the news that it’s cool for popular musicians to score musicals (if it’s good enough for Bono…) Yes, it’s based on a movie, which I generally revile but you throw in Barry Levinson and top it off with Kathleen Marshall directing. Yeah, I’m going to see that. Actually, that directors the caliber of Strohman and Marshall are here in DC for pre-Broadway tryouts is just plain cool.
  6. TPTSD_Gigi_400x400GiGiKennedy Center Eisenhower Theater
    January 17, 2015 – February 15, 2015
    Apparently in its 1973 Broadway run it ran for a disappointing 103 performance. I’m excited to see if the “reimagined” show can do better. Directed by our own Eric Shaffer, yet another pre-Broadway bow here in DC.
  7. King Hedley IIArena Stage
    February 6 – March 8, 2015
    I have not seen a play by August Wilson and I feel that is a major gap in my Theater CV, thankfully Arena Stage is allowing me correct that over site. I believe it’s part of his Pittsburgh cycle of plays. About a man trying to re-establish his life after being in prison.
  8. Kid Victory**Signature Theatre
    February 17 – March 22, 2015
    See, a lot of World Premiers and I assume this is also a pre-NYC try out. The now Ebb-less John Kander partners again with Greg Pierce. The premise of the show sounds a little bit odd, a boy who turns up after disappearing for a year and the drama that follows. For me if it’s a brand new never seen before show, I’m going to go see it, out of curiosity if nothing less.
  9. The MetromaniacsShakespeare Theatre Company
    Spring 2015 – This is the third and sadly last in the series plays that David Ives has translated for STC and I have yet to see anything with his name on it that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.  And last year’s Heir Apparent, ‘bout made me pee my pants it was so funny.
  10. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeArena Stage
    April 3 – May 3, 201 – This is one of those shows that got away, I missed it on Broadway and was so excited when I heard Arena was producing it. It is a satire of several of Chekovs work, the most obvious is Uncle Vanaya which I saw a few years ago so now I feel I would “get it;” plus it got great reviews and scored a small boat full of awards including a Tony.
  11. Zombie: The American**Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
    May 25–June 21, 2015 – It’s safe to say the WMT is doing its fair share in keeping the fringe alive. This play includes, a gay President, civil war, African invasion and Zombies in the white house. Who wouldn’t want to see that?!?
  12. Silence! The MusicalStudio Theatre
    It’s a satirical musical about the movie Silence of the Lambs. A satire about movies being turned into musicals. It’s practically tailor made for me.
  13. book of mormon 2The Book of Mormon  – Tour – Kennedy Center Opera House 
    Jun. 16 – Aug. 16, 2015 – If you didn’t get tickets last year it should be easier now that the blush a bit off the bloom. This is still a huge seller on Broadway and tickets must be purchased way in advance. The show is hilarious and funny and sweet and did I mention funny and under it all, kind of has a point to boot. Well worth the cost of the ticket. Go see it.
  14. Once – Tour – Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater
    Jul. 7 – Aug. 16, 2015 – This is a very grown up musical, no jazz hands, no 11 o’clock number, just some very good acting, singing and kind of grown-up story line. It’s sweet and funny and poignant and doesn’t at all have the ending you expect of a Tony Award winning musical. And the music beautiful.
  15. Synetic Theater –’14-15 Season
    I’m cheating here, I’m seeing all of their shows this year and I think you should too. If I had to pick I would say Much Ado About Nothing and Beauty and the Beat (non-Disney version I’m sure), but I’m kind of dying to see what Hunting Cockroaches is all about.

Bonus Show – Cabaret Signature Theater
This is one of those shows I’m always likely to go see, even though no production will ever measure up to the 1998 Revival starring Alan Cumming. But I’m curious to see what signature does with it.

 

Cabaret – Opens Tonight!

It was totally unplanned but it turns out the tickets I have to see Cabaret are exactly 30 days from the opening night! I know it’s a meaningless coincidence but I like those types of happy accidents. I will in the interim pay absolutely no attention to any reviews, it is my habit once I’ve bought tickets to a show to avoid other peoples opinions lest they start to tinge my own.

The best to the cast tonight!

Cabaret Sneak Peek!

Cabaret_Rehearsal06_605x329Tonight on the Tonight Show Alan Cumming and the cast of Cabaret are going to be performing the opening number from Cabaret! If you want a sneak peek tune in! I myself am a bit torn, I am staying away reviews and opinions on the show which is in previews now and will be opening shortly; it’s a personal preference, i really don’t want other peoples opinions impacting my enjoyment of the show in the moment. If I had any concerns that Mr. Cumming was going to be anything less than awesome the recent rehearsal photos allayed most of them.  Even with his natural gray and in a t-shirt he easily embodies the MC. I am now a scant 6 weeks away from Broadway Show-stravaganza 2014 and I’m very excited! More on that the other shows besides Cabaret I’m seeing.

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Camp David – Arena Stage #11

camp davidThere is a poignant moment in your life when you realize that what to you are memories are in fact significant historical events of sufficient age and import to merit being memorialized, in this case, in the form of a play. Then you realize that there are people in the audience watching the play to whom the subject matter is entirely new…they weren’t even born…then you realize these people aren’t even terribly young…they can drink and everything! Sigh.

But I digress, or in the case of this play regress, back to 1978 and the events that lead to the historic signing of the Camp David Accords, an event I distinctly recall, in that 1970’s grainy non-techni-color way, watching on TV. The play, commission by Arena Stage, attempts to recreate the political, religious, cultural, socioeconomic and personal and emotional hurdles that had to be overcome to win this small but historically significant foothold for peace.

One of the things that’s really cool about this play is that it brand new, never been seen before and is so fresh that the ink is barely dry. It is so new that when I saw it they were still adding scenes and dialog to the show. It is so new that they were still working out Jimmy Carter’s hair (devils in the details after all.) The play is billed at 90 minutes (no intermission) but it was closer to two hours. Not that I minded.

The short review is, I enjoyed the paly; it is a good balance between intellect, drama and humor. Perhaps a little too well balanced between the three? It seemed like every deep dramatic moment had almost a 1 for 1 humorous break, which has primarily Rosalyn’s role in the play. Serving tea and chiding the men that “Making peace, it’s such hard work.” Or “That’s what happens when you leave Billy in charge of the farm.” Not to belittle her character, you do get a sense that she really did act as a touch stone for Jimmy in all parts of life.

camp david 01The author, Lawrence Wright, is a journalist, which I think was good, because if you’re going to write a play about people who are still alive and can correct your work, you want to have your facts straight. What I really took away from the play was that this was a very personal mission for Jimmy Carter and was accomplished by sheer force of will. The other players in the process, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin arrive clearly viewing this as a futile effort, a pro-forma attempt at peace. The former came with a proposal so outlandish it would be rejected out of hand and the latter came with nothing all. Both were there simply because, you don’t say no to the President when an invitation like this is issued. There’s a great joke (which I hope is true) told in the play that involves calling God and America, which highlights the perception of American power in the world. It doesn’t work out of context; you’ll have to go see the play. There’s also a prescient moment in the play where Sadat casually noted that if he’s going to be killed it will not be for “half measures.” In making this peace Sadat did in effect sign his own death warrant.

The actors were all really great; this is a Broadway caliber cast and it shows. Richard Thomas does a pretty good Jimmy Carter, although I think his southern drawl tended to veer into Clinton territory pretty regularly. Hallie Foote (daughter of playwright Horton Foote) is about perfect as Rosalyn. The cast is rounded out with Ron Rifkin as Begin and Khaled Nabawy as Sadat and both are excellent. I like that they cast actors from all the faiths that the play portrays, I think it adds depth to the performances. The cultural and religious conflicts represented in the play haven’t changed much in 35 years. There’s a great scene in the play that starts with Sadat praying and segues to Begin praying, then Carter; it highlighted for me that as the Muslim Sabbath ends the Jewish Sabbath is beginning and as the Jewish Sabbath ends the Christian begins.

camp david 04Special kudos has to go to the make-up artist that transformed the prototypical tall dark and handsome, modern Omar Sharif (he’s actually a big star in Egypt) Mr. Nabawy into Anwar Sadat. That’s quite a transformation, really!

Camp DavidFinally little shout-out to the set design. The woods of Camp David are represented by large tree trunks that are raised and lowered to create the different setting. It’s a not so subtle metaphor for these men trying to find their way out of the woods and into a meaningful peace. At least I assume that was intentional.

The show was interesting enough that I’m tempted to see it again just to see how it’s changed. Because, really I’m not seeing enough theater right now.  It plays through May 4th at Arena Stage.

Musical to Movie Trend Continues

So I see this article in Playbill.com today bout Broadway musicals being translated to film and well…I’m simultaneously excited and dismayed. Some I knew about, some are news to me but here are some highlights and more importantly my opinion on them.

Opening this year:

Jersey Boys – Won’t go see, I’m still holding a grudge. Don’t ask.

quvenzaAnnie – Might go see it just be cause they’ve cast Quvenzhane Wallis (freaking adorable) but I’m so over Annie. Maybe I’ll take the nieces/nephews to see it.

Into the Woods – I’m enjoying the tradition of having a musical movie at Christmas time + Christine Baranski this I will definitely go see.

Of things in development:

My Fair Lady – with Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan AND screen play by Emma Thompson. This I would see but the last update was 2011 so I’m not holding my breath.

Guys and Dolls – Not really a favorite musical then you go and cast Channing Tatum? Really? I’m not sure the co-casting of Joseph-Gordon Levitt is enough to overcome that for me.

Gypsy – Directed and staring Barbara Streisand – I’m pretty sure I would be obligated to see this. We don’t like to be on Mrs. Brolin’s bad side, and really that’s kind of perfect casting.

Jekyll & Hyde – A pretty bad musical but if they cast David Hasselhoff again, I’d pay money to see that! I love a comedy.

hughjackmanOkay, here’s a big teaser again, they better no be jerking me around on this one. A new movie version of South Pacific starring Hugh Jackman. That is really, really good casting, I always had issues with darling Mr. Jackman as Valjean but I think he would make an awesome Emil De Becque, it’s a much better vocal range for him. Of course…of course then they have to go and propose Justin Timberlake as Lt. Cable, really? How about the oh so talented and adorable Aaron Tevit, tell me he wouldn’t be a great Cable?!?

Other notable possibilities include In the Heights, Wicked and Spring Awakening, three great shows I pray they don’t screw up! Click on the link for the full article.