May 25, 2006

Movical Chairs

So Slate is covering theater, willy-nilly. Its latest piece, on the trend of movies being turned into stage musicals, mostly states the obvious: that musicals are devilishly hard to get right, and starting with proven source material is more than just box-office insurance or "branding." It's also practical and wise. After all, the best musicals were based on material that had a previous life, from My Fair Lady to Sweeney Todd. This is true even of great musicals cobbled together from sources other than well-made plays, like short stories or collections: Guys and Dolls, Cabaret, Fiddler. When I really think about it, I can't recall a truly great musical with an entirely original book. Some have pointed out to me The Music Man, but I'm not sure I'd put that in the top rank of musicals. Can you think of others?

May 24, 2006

Powers Pop

I'm so happy the LA Times finally has a pop music critic, Ann Powers, who writes about music, and whose explorations of lyrics and themes are not as literal- and simple-minded as a book report. It's about time.

May 18, 2006

Plotz Thickens

I'm hooked. Slate's David Plotz is blogging the Bible. But will he stick with it to the end?

May 17, 2006

Real Breaker


My review of Christopher Denham's cagelove is here.

May 16, 2006

Brion's Song


Just caught up with this marvelous LA Weekly piece on composer/arranger/polymath Jon Brion. The writer, John Payne, is a little too in love with his subject, and with himself, but what gems of insight. To wit:
I would not call what a lot of people do songs; there are a lot of things I would call performance pieces—it’s this guitar part with this drum part equals this performance piece. Led Zeppelin didn’t write songs; those are performance pieces, the lyrics and melody are almost secondary. You don’t wanna hear anybody else do it; you want to hear those particular people playing that arrangement, and you want to hear that recording of it, you don’t even want to hear the live version.

Exactly! And, along the same lines:
I find the attitude of rock musicians over the past 20 years kind of funny...the whole I’m-a-rebel stance. The truth of the matter is, most rock bands are classical musicians and they don’t know it. Because it’s ‘This song starts with this drumbeat, at this time; halfway through, the guitar comes in, playing this part, with all down strokes on the fifth, with a clean sound; at this point you turn on your distortion and you play the barre chord, and then it’s muted at this point...’ And every time they play the song, it’s the same thing. That’s classical music!

Someone needs to write a rock-pop update of Alec Wilder's seminal American Popular Song. I think Brion might be the man to do it.

Tony Tone

I thought I left L.A. to get away from awards shows. And I still think Daniel Okrent had it right. Still, it's today's news, and though I know you can get this info about 500 other places, here for the record are this year's Tony noms. (I'm pulling for Purple and History Boys from this lot, if you must know.)

Best Play
The History Boys
Author: Alan Bennett

The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Author: Martin McDonagh

Rabbit Hole
Author: David Lindsay-Abaire

Shining City
Author: Conor McPherson

Best Musical
The Color Purple
The Drowsy Chaperone
Jersey Boys
The Wedding Singer

Best Book of a Musical
The Color Purple
Marsha Norman

The Drowsy Chaperone
Bob Martin and Don McKellar

Jersey Boys
Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice

The Wedding Singer
Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics)
The Color Purple
Music & Lyrics: Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray

The Drowsy Chaperone
Music & Lyrics: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison

The Wedding Singer
Music: Matthew Sklar
Lyrics: Chad Beguelin

The Woman in White
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: David Zippel

Best Revival of a Play
Awake and Sing!
The Constant Wife
Edward Albee's Seascape
Faith Healer

Best Revival of a Musical
The Pajama Game
Sweeney Todd
The Threepenny Opera

Best Direction of a Play
Nicholas Hytner, The History Boys
Wilson Milam, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Bartlett Sher, Awake and Sing!
Daniel Sullivan, Rabbit Hole

Best Direction of a Musical
John Doyle, Sweeney Todd
Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game
Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys
Casey Nicholaw, The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, The Wedding Singer
Donald Byrd, The Color Purple
Kathleen Marshall, The Pajama Game
Casey Nicholaw, The Drowsy Chaperone

Best Orchestrations
Larry Blank, The Drowsy Chaperone
Dick Lieb and Danny Troob, The Pajama Game
Steve Orich, Jersey Boys
Sarah Travis, Sweeney Todd

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Ralph Fiennes, Faith Healer
Richard Griffiths, The History Boys
Zeljko Ivanek, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
Oliver Platt, Shining City
David Wilmot, The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Kate Burton, The Constant Wife
Judy Kaye, Souvenir
Lisa Kron, Well
Cynthia Nixon, Rabbit Hole
Lynn Redgrave, The Constant Wife

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, Sweeney Todd
Harry Connick Jr., The Pajama Game
Stephen Lynch, The Wedding Singer
Bob Martin, The Drowsy Chaperone
John Lloyd Young, Jersey Boys

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Sutton Foster, The Drowsy Chaperone
LaChanze, The Color Purple
Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd
Kelli O'Hara, The Pajama Game
Chita Rivera, Chita Rivera: The Dancer�s Life

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Samuel Barnett, The History Boys
Domhnall Gleeson, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Ian McDiarmid, Faith Healer
Mark Ruffalo, Awake and Sing!
Pablo Schreiber, Awake and Sing!

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Tyne Daly, Rabbit Hole
Frances de la Tour, The History Boys
Jayne Houdyshell, Well
Alison Pill, The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Zoe Wanamaker, Awake and Sing!

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Danny Burstein, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jim Dale, The Threepenny Opera
Brandon Victor Dixon, The Color Purple
Manoel Felciano, Sweeney Todd
Christian Hoff, Jersey Boys

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Carolee Carmello, Lestat
Felicia P. Fields, The Color Purple
Megan Lawrence, The Pajama Game
Beth Leavel, The Drowsy Chaperone
Elisabeth Withers-Mendes, The Color Purple

Best Scenic Design of a Play
John Lee Beatty, Rabbit Hole
Bob Crowley, The History Boys
Santo Loquasto, Three Days of Rain
Michael Yeargan, Awake and Sing!

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
John Lee Beatty, The Color Purple
David Gallo, The Drowsy Chaperone
Derek McLane, The Pajama Game
Klara Zieglerova, Jersey Boys

Best Costume Design of a Play
Michael Krass, The Constant Wife
Santo Loquasto, A Touch of the Poet
Catherine Zuber, Awake and Sing!
Catherine Zuber, Edward Albee�s Seascape

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, The Drowsy Chaperone
Susan Hilferty, Lestat
Martin Pakledinaz, The Pajama Game
Paul TazeWell, The Color Purple

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Awake and Sing!
Paul Gallo, Three Days of Rain
Mark Henderson, Faith Healer
Mark Henderson, The History Boys

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington and Brian Monahan, The Drowsy Chaperone
HoWell Binkley, Jersey Boys
Natasha Katz, Tarzan
Brian MacDevitt, The Color Purple

Special Tony Award
Sarah Jones for Bridge & Tunnel

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Harold Prince

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Intiman Theatre, Seattle, WA

May 15, 2006

Cue the Strings


One of the rewards of following an artist for a lifetime—"career" seems too small a word—is that you begin to feel you know the inside of his or her brain. I'm not talking about scary, personal, Mark David Chapman-like identification; nor do I mean quite the same thing as the definition of great literature given by Alan Bennett's History Boys ("The best moments in reading," the teacher Hector tells young Posner, "are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—which you had thought special and peculiar to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come and taken yours.") What I'm getting at is an intimate sense of the way they create, of their taste, of the way they hear or see the world, of their voice. That's as true of painters as it is of playwrights. And it's exactly how I've felt about Elvis Costello for as long as I've been a fan of his work: that I could hear him thinking by listening to his music. Or perhaps his music has helped to shape my thinking. In any case, whether on record or live I can often feel where he's going, what his choices are, what he might do with a vocal embellishment or a modulation or a rhyme, in a way I can't with any other artist.

What can go missing from this kind of symbiosis with an artist, though, is the element of surprise. Which is why I've been mostly gratified since Elvis has gone classical, first with the Brodsky Quartet, then with Anna Sofie Von Otter; if pop and jazz can be said to have classical masters, then you'd have to count his collaborations with Burt Bacharach and the Mingus Orchestra. These efforts haven't just freed him from the pop-song verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus format he can write in his sleep; they've liberated him to the point where he's practically created his own genre—the rock 'n' roll art song, you might call it, though that sounds dangerously like Yes or The Who (fine artists in their own rights, but not what I mean). Or perhaps it could be called neo-classical pop from an era that never was.

These were some of my thoughts after seeing him last week with the Brooklyn Philharmonic at BAM. I'm not a fan of the suite from his Midsummer ballet, Il Sogno (though I enjoyed it when it actually accompanied the ballet); it seems very much like a student effort, and the Brooklyn Phil didn't muster much enthusiasm for its foursquare pastiche. But the way he used the orchestra on arrangements of his own material, from "God Give Me Strength" to some of the lachrymose love songs from the album North, or on an old standard like "Watching the Detectives," proved invigorating, not least to his own range as a performer. I'm impressed by the degree to which he still gives his all to every lyric. And, with a voice that sounded a bit ragged and strained, it took some stones to step away from the mike for an unamplified rendition of the dark, bittersweet waltz "Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4," then lead the audience in the song's twisted "la la la" refrain, which spans a major seventh—not exactly "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The pleasure of following a brain like Costello's is that it's big and complicated, and—dare I say it—so is his heart.

A Quote for the Day

Road kill has its seasons
Just like anything
It's possums in the autumn
And it's farm cats in the spring

Tom Waits, "Murder in the Red Barn"

Minority Report


Most folks seem to love the Encores!' season closer, Of Thee I Sing. While I yield to no one in my admiration for the Gershwin brothers, who with Dubose Heyward wrote one of the great scores of all time in Porgy and Bess, this seems like pretty weak tea, though it's nicely served. My review here.

May 12, 2006

Another Brick in the Fourth Wall

Ken Bloom notices that actors are directly addressing the audience more these days.

Overheard at Angus

Since relocating to New York, I haven't quite found a theater hangout as definitive L.A.'s Evidence Room. The Zipper Theatre is certainly on the right track: funky bar, gritty space into which you're encouraged to take your drink, comfy seats repurposed from vans and buses (great idea), and Ars Nova seems to have a pretty cool scene going, as well.

But thanks to former Pasadena Playhouse macher Jayson Raitt, who moved to NY about a month after I did, I've discovered Angus, which is Broadway's post-show hangout of choice. Any night of the week, you won't not see at least someone you recognize there. Last night a gaggle of History Boys were hanging out in the smoking courtyard, girls all over them, like the rock stars they are.

You can also pick up a fair amount of juicy theater gossip. Here's a choice bit I heard last night: The lumbering Shuler Hensley, who plays Tarzan's reluctant adoptive father, the gorilla Kerchak (what is he, a Polish gorilla?), was supposed to deliver a moving speech (SPOILER ALERT) after he's shot by the evil white man. Hensley's reported retort: "I won a Tony. I'm not saying those words." And so there Kerchak lies, lookin' oh so peaceful and serene.

May 11, 2006

Beached


The Broadway season swings to a close with Disney's Tarzan. My take here.

Word

One of my day jobs is as Copy Editor for MediaPost Publications, namely, Media and OMMA magazines. For a recent issue on "nonlinear" marketing, I contributed this feature about the power of word-of-mouth marketing for the oldest entertainment medium around.

May 9, 2006

Meme Me

What Parabasis calls "the Teachout meme" has picked up some steam. It started with Terry Teachout essentially dismissing D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation as a historically important work that did its job for its time but isn't worth revisiting, and now there are several posts on Parabasis nominating films that should similarly be retired (Dazed and Confused? C'mon, man). As a former silent film buff myself, I've often wondered about this, too; how well does my youthful enthusiasm for Chaplin and Keaton really hold up? I've been almost afraid to revisit City Lights and The General for fear they won't live up to my sweet memory.

But I digress. Since this is nominally a theater-related blog, and so are About Last Night and Parabasis, I wondered: Why not apply the meme to plays? Are there plays we think aren't worth revisiting? (Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, anyone?) And then I recalled that my former colleague at Back Stage West, the estimable Scott Proudfit, once polled all the critics who wrote for the paper on just this question (and also what plays they'd like to see on the West Coast). I've posted the whole story here (and no, I don't mind that my filetrees are public there, thanks for asking). But I've taken the liberty of pasting the lists below. Keep in mind this is nearly four years old and was compiled from critics who covered West Coast theater for BSW at the time. I could make many snarky comments in hindsight, but I think they speak for themselves.
DON'T BOTHER

The following shows are among those plays that, as far as we're concerned, can be retired permanently.

Book musicals: Annie, Babes in Arms, Brigadoon, 42nd Street, Grease!, Happy End, Hello, Dolly!, Paint Your Wagon, Miss Saigon, On the Twentieth Century, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (come to think of it, any stage version of a musical film). Musical revues/ anthologies/etc.: Blame It on the Movies, Fosse, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The 1940s Radio Hour, any revues of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, or Noël Coward. Webber musicals (apparently our critics felt he deserved his own category): Evita, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera. Hoary chestnuts: Arsenic and Old Lace, Charley's Aunt, The Time of Your Life, 12 Angry Men. Contemporary chestnuts: The Boys Next Door, Bus Stop, Butterflies Are Free, Driving Miss Daisy, Escape From Happiness, Fortinbras, The Gin Game, A Life in the Theatre, Love Letters, On Golden Pond, Tracers, Whose Life Is It Anyway? Recent perennials: Art, Eastern Standard, Collected Stories, Fully Committed, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Two Rooms. Stunts/novelties: The Compleat Works of Shakespeare Abrgd., one-word specialty shows (Swing!, Blast!, Stomp!, Aeros, etc.). Neil Simon (again apparently deserving of his own category): Barefoot in the Park, California Suite, Come Blow Your Horn. Little seen, and keep it that way: Corpus Christi, Tennessee Williams' American Blues. Any "original comedy" about advertising, Hollywood, agents, politics, business or telemarketing, or any "searing drama" about any form of addiction, abuse, disability, or dysfunction. Pretty much any evening of one-acts.

SIT ON IT

The following shows are great, but give them a break for a year or four.

Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Merchant of Venice. Classics: All My Sons, Antigone, Blood Wedding, The Cherry Orchard, Doctor Faustus, The Glass Menagerie, The Importance of Being Earnest, Our Town, The Servant of Two Masters, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tartuffe, Uncle Vanya, The Crucible. Musicals: Annie Get Your Gun, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret, Carousel, A Chorus Line, The Fantasticks, Fiddler on the Roof, Forever Plaid, Godspell, Hair, The King and I, Mamma Mia!, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, The Threepenny Opera. Played-out recent plays: All in the Timing, Dinner With Friends, Master Harold… and the Boys, Old Wicked Songs, Over the River and Through the Woods, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Sisters Rosensweig, Skylight, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, Sylvia. Contemporary chestnuts: American Buffalo, Bent, Burn This, Equus, Glengarry Glen Ross, Golden Boy, The Hostage, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Maids, Marat/Sade, Noises Off, Oleanna, Savage in Limbo. Perennials: A Christmas Carol, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Odd Couple, Private Lives, You Can't Take It With You. Sam Shepard: Fool for Love, True West. Nun novelties: Late-Nite Catechism, Nunsense.

BRING 'EM ON

The following shows are ones we'd love to review ASAP. We've even provided certain playwrights' names to make it easier.

Welcome to L.A.: Anton in Show Business (Jane Martin), Be Aggressive (Annie Weisman), Betty's Summer Vacation (Christopher Durang), Fuddy Meers (David Lindsay-Abaire), Killer Joe (Tracy Letts), Passion (Lapine/Sondheim), Polaroid Stories (Naomi Iizuka), Shakespeare's R&J (Joe Calarco), Stop Kiss (Diana Son), Urinetown, the Musical, The Young Man From Atlanta (Horton Foote). For rescue and rediscovery: Adaptation/Next (Elaine May & Terrence McNally), Alice's Adventures Underground (Christopher Hampton), The Art of Dining (Tina Howe), The Bundle (Edward Bond), The Colored Museum (George C. Wolfe), The Comedians (Trevor Griffiths), The Chalk Garden (Enid Bagnold), Dear World (Jerry Herman), The Entertainer (John Osborne), Les Blancs (Lorraine Hansberry), Purlie Victorious (Ossie Davis), The Revengers' Comedies (Alan Ayckbourn), Safety (Sarah Morton), Three Postcards (Craig Lucas & Craig Carnelia), Thrillsville (Sarah Morton), Tom Cobb (W. S. Gilbert), Vampire (Snoo Wilson), Vilna's Got a Golem (Ernest Joselevitz), Visit to a Small Planet (Gore Vidal), The Waltz Invention (Vladimir Nabokov). Overdue revivals, classical division: Faust (Marlowe), Peer Gynt, She Stoops To Conquer. Overdue revivals, contemporary division: Awake and Sing, Cavalcade, The Country Girl, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Murder in the Cathedral, The Petrified Forest, Spring Awakening, Torch Song Trilogy, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, The Visit, Woyzeck, Zoot Suit. Overdue revivals, musical division: Applause, Boy Meets Boy, Goblin Market, Zorba. Bring 'em back, we can't get enough: The Adding Machine, Counsellor-at-Law, Design for Living, The Duchess of Malfi (as adapted by Brecht and Auden), Endgame, Habeus Corpus, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Homecoming, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Memorandum (Vaclav Havel), Rhinoceros, Sweeney Todd, Volpone. Edward Albee: The Play About the Baby, Seascape, Tiny Alice, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Bertolt Brecht: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Galileo, The Good Person of Setzuan, In the Jungle of the Cities, Mother Courage, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Caryl Churchill: Blue Heart, Hot Fudge, Serious Money, Vinegar Tom. Jean Genet: The Blacks, The Screens. Erik Ehn: anything. Lillian Hellman: anything. Suzan Lori-Parks: anything. Charles Mee: Big Love, Summertime. Eugene O'Neill: Desire Under the Elms, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Mourning Becomes Electra, Strange Interlude. Luigi Pirandello: Enrico IV, Six Characters in Search of an Author. Shakespeare: Anthony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Henry IV Part I (in fact, most of the histories), King John, Pericles, Richard II, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, The Winter's Tale. George Bernard Shaw: Heartbreak House, Man and Superman, Pygmalion, Saint Joan. Wallace Shawn: Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Designated Mourner, The Fever, Marie and Bruce. Tom Stoppard: Arcadia, Hapgood, The Invention of Love, Jumpers, The Real Thing, Travesties. August Strindberg: A Dream Play, The Ghost Sonata, Miss Julie. Mac Wellman: anything.

I should note, in a grain-of-salt spirit, that within a year of this list's appearance I was involved as a musician in fine productions of Vanya and Twelfth Night (both in the "sit on it" category), and I did review several in that column, and favorably (even Midsummer, believe it or not.

Totally Off-Topic

The silly controversy about "The Star-Spangled Banner" made me realize something. The original version seems to be in 3/4, not 4/4. So is England's "God Save the Queen." These tunes could be waltzes! What's up with that? Wouldn't you think national anthems would be marches? I remember how striking it was to hear Sondheim turn the presidential march "Hail to the Chief" into a lilting carny waltz for the opening of Assassins. Strange to think how close these hallowed national anthems already are to that form.
This sheet music has the signature as 6/4.

Sock It

I miss L.A. pranksters Burglars of Hamm—particularly since they're bringing back Easy Targets, the solo-show parody in which audiences are encouraged to throw socks at the performers. What piqued my interest is that they've roped in one of my favorite actors, Beth Kennedy, to perform the hilariously God-awful-sounding "Kiss Me I'm Irish." (Joe Foster's "Nam!" sounds delicious, too.) What won me over to the magic of BK is when I saw her, some years back, as a robotically feminine secretary in Jessica Kubzansky's brilliant production of The Memorandum, and then, what seemed like a week later, I saw her as a stilt-walking, moustachioed pirate Antonio in the Troubadour Theatre Company's Twelfth Dog Night. Wish I could be at the M Bar in Hollywood next week to toss some socks her way, though more in tribute than derision.

May 8, 2006

Ouch!

From the showfax.com website: How not to audition.

Not That Kind of Camp


My review of Sendak and Kushner's Brundibar is here. I hope that headline doesn't keep people away; it's a pretty delightful evening, and the seats are a steal. Not in the review: Across the aisle from me at the performance, laughing audibly, was Cal Arts' own Tamar Fortgang, in town for business and for a reading tonight of Murray Mednick's Clown Show With Bruno Schulz at Irish Rep. There's also a Holocaust backdrop in that play, but I don't think there are songs or anthropomorphic animals, alas.

Trial by Fizzle


My review of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial is here.

May 7, 2006

Say It Ain't So

Though I haven't found his New York affiliate since I've been here, it's still sad news to learn that Phil Hendrie will hang up his brilliant, twisted radio shtick. I can't think of a better multi-voice actor of his kind, apart from Harry Shearer or Stan Freberg. Hendrie takes it the level of spontaneous genius.

May 6, 2006

Groovy


Nice photo by Steven Osman with my Evidence Room piece. And a correction: Bart's final quote, attributed to Hamlet, should have been attributed to Shakespeare, and should have read "local habitation and name." The line delivered not by the gloomy Dane but by Midsummer's Theseus.

May 5, 2006

"Appalachian" Trail


An Appalachian Twelfth Night, an L.A. production I was proud to be part of a few years back, is getting ready to book a tour. Here's a promo page. There are some more tunes on this page. I'm not sure I can be part of the tour, but I'm bursting my buttons that I was part of the original cast (and that we made an original cast album, using that vestigial folk-art method, ProTools), and pleased as punch that the homespun charms of this little-production-that-could will have a new life on the road. To upend Feste: Thus the whirligig of time brings in his rewards.

A Mamet Musical?

And other L.A. news from Playbill. Happy to see Jason Robert Brown on In the Continuum on the CTG slate.

The Weight of Evidence


I take a pained, cautiously hopeful look at what's going on with L.A.'s irreplaceable Evidence Room here. Very strange to report this story from New York.

May 4, 2006

Trio for Voices


My review of Brian Friel's Faith Healer is here.

"Red Light" Wither

Just caught this hilarious report of the post-show Q&A at Red Light Winter's recent "blogger's night." (Hat tip: Diane Snyder, who also pointed out this very blunt capsule review.)

Word for Today

psy•cho•phant
noun

A person who takes ingratiating, self-aggrandizing flattery of others to the level of mental illness, often in uncontrollable bursts of effluvium that constitute a verbal form of repetitive motion disorder. Prevalent in but not confined to show business. Synonyms: See star f**ker, ass kisser, James Lipton.

May 3, 2006

Odds and Ends


- Saw LA Stage Alliance head Lee Melville while he was in town last week. He told me he'd run into Simon Levy, who was in town casting his Great Gatsby adaptation for the Guthrie's new season.

- Nearly 10 years ago a bright young composer/lyricist/librettest named Joseph Alan Drymala won the Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Competition with a brilliant little musical called Sky's End, which then went on to a full production at LA's Second Stage. I was gratified to find recently that Drymala, who just goes by Joe now, is still writing musicals, and from what I can tell, damn fine ones: Last week I attended Stuck in the Zipper, a benefit concert of songs by Drymala and Eric Svejcar (the accordion-wielding music director for the Zipper's Jacques Brel) from new musicals they're working on. In the years since I first saw the teenaged Drymala, he's had quite a career—he worked as a speechwriter for Howard Dean, for one. Here's a pretty thorough Q&A with Drymala and Svejcar; make sure to scroll down to Joe's comments about campaign chief Joe Trippi. Now, there's a musical theater character!

- I don't tend to see shows I'm not reviewing, due to factors of time and money. But I should mention that I recently caught Grey Gardens and had a marvelous time (though I think Feingold's review pretty much captures my feelings about it), and also Cirque du Soleil's new Corteo out on Randall's Island, which seemed much kinkier than I remember their shows being way back in the '80s on Santa Monica Pier (back when New Yorkers had no idea who Cirque du Soleil was—it was LA's secret), and a bit less funnier (I still miss the antics of David Shiner), but still resplendent and spectacular.

- Finally, making this list is an honor I hardly feel I deserve. Good company, indeed.

Blood Will Out

Zachary Pincus-Roth, a Newsday colleague, makes a case for more stage violence. Count me unconvinced, though I will second his Medea memory with my own recollection of Stefan Novinski's staging at the Boston Court last year: There was no spattering of gore but there was a harrowing moment in which the door behind which Medea was killing her kids suddenly popped open, and a kid's arm shot out pleadingly, before it slammed shut again. Cheesy but gripping.

Married, Marred


Years ago I was impressed with a production of Howard Brenton's Bloody Poetry at the L.A. Fringe Fest (if that's what it was called—also saw Ken Mars in a great little production of The Sum of Us). Brenton hasn't been seen much on these shores, and I'm afraid a new production of his Sore Throats won't do much to remedy that. My take here.

May 1, 2006