Sep 29, 2005

Quotes for the Fall

"Sometimes I feel like my shadow's casting me."
—Warren Zevon, "Dirty Life and Times"

"I'd always liked the stage and even more so, the theater. It seemed like the most supreme craft of all craft. Whatever the environment, a ballroom or a sidewalk, the dirt of a country road, the action always took place in the eternal 'now.' "
Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Vol. 1

Sep 27, 2005

Sep 24, 2005

SLM the Indispensable

Context, circumspection, and craft. I knew I'd miss him personally when I moved East, but I didn't know how much I'd miss his writing. I haven't seen the show, so I can't say whether Steven Leigh Morris' take on Dead End is definitive. But this is real criticism. The rest of us are mere reviewers.

My New Favorite Critic

I'm fickle in my tastes, to be sure. But not since the first few chapters of Everything Is Illuminated have I found sentences as over-ambitious as this:
Man, I am to tell you that Stevern Segel is one for the much action to pack! I watch him on my to screen and he is bring to life the dramatic of hand for hand battle with the evil forces.

Or this:
Him the Smokey Bandit has the fast car to escape with courage from corrupt police captain. I much for enjoyed the many excitement of action and expert driving as pair of business men conduct negotiations with Smokey Bandit in restraunt business selling. But don't too much comfortable in your recline--Smokey Bandit may to drive out from your television with surprise and gusto!

These Netflix reviews by "HV from Duvall, WA" are almost too good, really. Faux-naif or the real thing? You decide.

I Wrote This Review on an iBook

For whatever that's worth. Here it is.

Sep 22, 2005

Give This Man a Column

Paul Rudnick, move over. Wenzel Jones weighs in on the most (unintentionally) entertaining section of Back Stage West: the student film casting notices.

Sep 20, 2005

Sep 19, 2005

Lighting a Candle on the Water

Shocked and sad to hear about the death of Variety's L.A. critic Joel Hirschhorn (pre-obit here). Joel was a sweet, thoughtful man I only got to know in the past year or so, since I joined the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. An accomplished, Oscar-winning and Tony-nominated songwriter, he was very supportive and friendly to me not only as a fellow critic but as a musician, as well. Indeed, he and I had been talking about writing a musical together; his idea was to do one based on the Vincent Price vehicle Theatre of Blood—that is, until a non-musical stage version recently popped up.

I always enjoyed reading his reviews and talking with him on a variety (no pun intended) of topics. My sympathies go to his wife, Jen. He will be missed. Will the LADCC, rocked by the deaths of a number of veteran critics in recent years, establish another special award in Joel's name? If they do, I suggest putting his name on an award honoring—what else?—new musicals.

I close with lyrics from a song I liked and learned long before I knew Joel, from the Disney film Pete's Dragon (starring, let's not forget, Helen Reddy and Mickey Rooney):
I’ll be your candle on the water,
’till ev’ry wave is warm and bright.
My soul is there beside you,
let this candle guide you.
Soon you’ll see a golden stream of light.

Sep 17, 2005

A "Flopera" and a Chamber Opera

Two reports from the New York Musical Theatre Festival: My reviews of Richard Cory and The Banger's Flopera.

Sep 15, 2005

Counting Blessings

It's not every day that you get to write about a favorite artist for the paper of record. My review of Belly of a Drunken Piano.

Sep 14, 2005

Full "Circle"

Two productions of Brecht's great fable, on either coast, seem to have disarmed critics in much the same way: here and here.

Puking at "Piazza"

...and other tales of audience, er, feedback in this entertaining and disturbing All That Chat thread.

Sep 13, 2005

Double Header

Here are my reviews of Holy Cross Sucks! (or, if you prefer, Holy Cross...!) and a strange little show with a premise that gave me Back Stage West flashbacks, called The Audition. Enjoy.

Sep 12, 2005

Legend for the Fall

Apologies for light blogging. I've got a bunch of NY Times reviews in the hopper; not sure when they're supposed to appear.

I was stunned but not surprised—is that possible?—by James C. Taylor's slam of the Ahmanson's Dead End. The folks at the Center Theatre Group must be counting the days until incoming LA Times critic Charlie McNulty alights on L.A. soil, as Taylor has been their bete noire for some time now. Oh, goodie: Mr. Fire and Rain will no doubt get to pronounce on whether this show is worth the hype. (While he's been very thorough in reporting on how L.A. productions fall short of their New York and London originals, he hasn't been as reliable a prognosticator of SoCal-to-Broadway fortunes, as his dismissal of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels proved.) For another point of view, there's Evan Henerson's far more upbeat review of Ritchie's bank-busting opening shot.

We know the Ahmanson's next musical, whose title is The Drowsy Chaperone, must be important because it made it into this otherwise (almost) entirely New York-centered fall preview listing in the NYT. My thoughts on the list (which also nods to the Canadian production of Lord of the Rings and to the Old Globe's Dylan-Tharp musical The Times They Are A-Changin'):

SHOWS WE ALREADY SAW IN SoCAL (and mostly at South Coast Rep)
The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at the Atlantic Theatre
The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World (part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival)
A Naked Girl on the Appian Way at the Roundabout
Latinologues at the Helen Hayers
4.48 Psychose at BAM; OK, technically SoCal hasn't seen it yet—but this French production of Sarah Kane's play is going to UCLA before it lands in Brooklyn, for whatever that's worth
Hell House; Les Freres Corbusier, who last brought L.A. A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant, either stole this idea from the folks behind last year's Hollywood Hell House or are collaborating with them on it somehow; all I know is that I noticed the connection when both were running in L.A.
Mr. Marmalade at the Roundabout
Three Days of Rain on Broadway; all right, I know this doesn't even begin to count, since this is a new, for-Broadway production starring that Pretty Woman gal, but I feel the need set straight reports, like this one, that the play was first produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club; sorry, folks, it premiered at South Coast Rep in early 1997, already starring the not-too-shabby Patricia Clarkson and Jon Tenney

Tipping my hand here:
Spirit, the newest from the Improbable Theatre (already got tickets)
Sweeney Todd (see below)
Karla, a play—not a musical, I believe—by Steve Earle, about Karla Faye Tucker (wonder what his take will be? Hmm)
The aforementioned 4.48 Pychose
Bach at Leipzig, a comedy about competing organists; sounds deliciously nerdy
Abigail's Party, the New Group's latest Mike Leigh revival, to star the endearingly slouchy Jennifer Jason Leigh (no relation, I'm told)
Brundibar & Comedy on the Bridge, vintage operas adapted by Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak; I'm very afraid but I'll be there
Pinter's Celebration & The Room at the Atlantic
Rabbit Hole, the newest from David Lindsay-Abaire
The House of Bernarda Alba, a new musicalization by LaChiusa and McNally that's bound to rival Brundibar for pretension
The Pajama Game; sorry, I've got a soft spot for this weirdly sunny musical about unionization, though my actually spending top dollar will depend on who they get for the female lead
Grey Gardens: A New Musical; again, I'm very afraid, as this is based on one of the most depressing, albeit fascinating, documentaries ever made
Hedda Gabler with Cate Blanchett? Oh yeah
The Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming? Double oh yeah

Sweeney Todd, which was a really stirring chamber musical with unknowns when I caught it last year (I mentioned it here) but whose life I fear for in the face of Broadway expectations; I can't wait to hear Michael Cerveris tear into the score, and to see how much of director John Doyle's downmarket concept has survived the transfer, but I'm planning on getting my ticket early

I'm sure there are other gems to come, but that's how the season looks to me. Now, if I could just find a comprehensive listing of Off-Off-Broadway, which is what I'll be most likely to cover.

Finally, I've had nothing to say about Katrina, since the words have failed me. And so I leave you with this fulsome image, no doubt already making the rounds, which is worth several thousand words at least.

Sep 7, 2005

Warms the Heart, It Does

I think Callas sang a lovely Norma
You prefer Robeson on "Deep River"

I knew there was a story behind this Rufus Wainwright lyric (in "Beauty Mark," a touching tribute to his mom, Kate McGarrigle). And there is. I haven't loved his last two records as much as the first two, but I'll listen again with new ears.

Sep 6, 2005

Ehn Again

My feature on Erik Ehn, playwright and new Cal Arts theatre dean, is in this month's edition of LA Stage. You can't read it online, but if you pick it up, look for a nice bit of NoCal slang, when Ehn refers to the Cal Arts faculty as "hecka busy." It's a pretty good issue all around, though the striking photo of Isabelle Huppert on the contents page (you can also see a much smaller version of it here) does not, alas, lead to an in-depth profile inside.

Sep 4, 2005

Big Willie Shakes

This Onion piece made me laugh, though for theatre-related pieces, nothing has yet topped this one.

Sep 3, 2005

That's Mr. Ron Kendt to You

My latest review in the New York Times originally came out with the wrong byline; it has been fixed. (Here you can see the original mistake.) Very disorienting, to say the least.

Is This a Compliment?

"You go to New York to be aggressive in the theater. You're under the burden of blowing the roof off — or what's the point? But in fact there are many points to hit before the roof is destroyed. Here, you don't feel you have to make the greatest artistic statement of the decade."

That's actor Stephen Spinella, discussing his directing debut, Speaking in Tongues, for L.A.'s Open Fist Theatre in the L.A. Times.

Sep 2, 2005

Classy and Not Classy

The terminally ill August Wilson will have a Broadway theatre named for him, though he's unlikely ever to see the new marquee. Wilson's announcement of his condition last week shocked most people, though this theatre blogger actually seemed skeptical of the news, saying that Wilson "has been an odd duck in interviews" and musing that the news "seems to come with the eerily perfect timing of the near completion of Radio Golf and the whole 10-play installment. Everyone, indeed, wondered what could Wilson do next." Apparently showbiz cynicism is not the exclusive territory of Hollywood.