Archive for the Theatre Category

BROADWAY HONOURS ELIZABETH TAYLOR TONIGHT

Posted in Elizabeth Taylor, Theatre on March 25, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Broadway will honour ELIZABETH TAYLOR by dimming its lights this evening.

THE BROADWAY LEAGUE, the national trade association, said Thursday that theatre marquees will go dark at 8 PM for one minute in memory of the legendary superstar.

The actor died in Los Angeles on Wednesday at age 79.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR made her first appearance on Broadway in the 1981 revival of LILLIAN HELLMAN’S THE LITTLE FOXES and was nominated for a BEST ACTRESS TONY AWARD.

Ms. Taylor returned to Broadway in 1983 as producer and star of NOEL COWARD’S PRIVATE LIVES opposite her former husband RICHARD BURTON. She also produced THE CORN IS GREEN that year.

Known primarily as a film performer, Ms. Taylor did appear in movie adaptations of stage plays, such as TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ 1950s classic CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

KIM CATTRALL TO STAR IN PRIVATE LIVES

Posted in Theatre on February 10, 2011 by Miranda Wilding





FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS

KIM CATTRALL is thrilled to be returning to the stage in Canada for the first time in over 30 years.

The British Columbia raised actor will star as Amanda in the NOEL COWARD play PRIVATE LIVES in Toronto this fall, part of the newly announced Mirvish Productions 2011/2012 subscription season.

KIM, who played the same role in London’s West End last year, said she hasn’t done theatre in Canada since around 1976 when she costarred with MAURY CHAYKIN in a Martin Kinch play in Toronto.

“I’m thrilled — this has been a long time coming,” KIM, wearing a form fitting MICHAEL KORS dress and strappy heels, said in an interview after Tuesday’s splashy season unveiling at THE PRINCESS OF WALES THEATRE.

“To be involved with a show like Private Lives in the West End, which was such a big success with terrific audience support and to be so proud of that show and to bring it to Toronto and then on to New York is really a dream for me.”

PRIVATE LIVES, which hits Broadway after the Toronto run, is one of seven shows in the 2011/2011 Mirvish subscription lineup. KIM portrays Amanda, who reunites with her ex husband while on honeymoon in France with her new spouse.

NOEL COWARD debuted the play in 1930. KIM feels that her character represents women who yearned for independence during that era.

“This was a time when women had just gotten the right to vote so I think that she has a feminist spirit to her,” stated KIM, who starred as lusty publicist Samantha Jones on TV’s SEX & THE CITY for six seasons and played her in two franchise films.

“She’s a product of my experience. I consider myself a feminist and I live in a post feminist world. I fight many different issues that affect women, so I feel very much at home in this skin.”

KIM, who was born in Liverpool, got her start in theatre in New York before expanding to TV roles and films. She said she was inspired to get into theatre at age 10, when she saw JANET SUZMAN star in AS YOU LIKE IT at THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY.

“I literally fell in love. I just thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I never had dreams of being in movies or TV when I was a kid — I always had dreams about being in the theatre.”

While KIM has done theatre throughout her career (her other recent productions include WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? in London), she now has more time to devote to the stage since she’s no longer on a TV series.

Amanda, she asserted, is the type of character she wants to play more of on stage. “I like to play very strong, courageous women who take risks, as I do.”

“When I was a young actress here in Toronto, I did a film with Jack Lemmon and one of the things that I spoke to him about on one of the breaks between setups filming was, ‘How do you decide on material? How do you know?‘ and he said, ‘I read something and if it scares me and if it gets my blood going, that’s the reason to say yes because that’s where you learn and you get stronger in whatever you do.'”

CHRISTIE BRINKLEY TO PLAY ROXIE HART IN CHICAGO

Posted in Theatre on February 8, 2011 by Miranda Wilding





FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The TONY AWARD winning hit musical CHICAGO is getting a supermodel makeover — CHRISTIE BRINKLEY is joining the Broadway cast.

CHRISTIE will appear as the jailed killer ROXIE HART for an 11 week engagement – from APRIL 4 to JUNE 19 at THE AMBASSADOR THEATRE on 49th Street.

She made her acting debut in 1983 opposite CHEVY CHASE in NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION. She also appeared on NBC’s MAD ABOUT YOU and hosted LIFETIME TELEVISION’S INSTYLE CELEBRITY WEDDINGS.

CHRISTIE BRINKLEY is the latest to play ROXIE in the hit musical, now in its 15th year on Broadway.

Others include GRETCHEN MOL, ASHLEE SIMPSON, MELANIE GRIFFITH and MICHELLE WILLIAMS.

OLYMPIA DUKAKIS: A POWERFUL & LEGENDARY PRESENCE

Posted in Theatre on February 1, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

No one can fault OLYMPIA DUKAKIS with a lack of commitment to her roles.

The ACADEMY AWARD winner has a tendency to return again and again to the same plays and the same parts. By her count, she’s done EUGENE O’NEILL’S LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT three or four times, BERTOLD BRECHT’S MOTHER COURAGE & HER CHILDREN four times, TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ THE ROSE TATTOO five times, EURIPIDES’ HECUBA three times and several Chekhov plays “a bunch of times.”

“I love to go back to plays over and over again,” she said while taking a lunch break from rehearsing her latest project, an off Broadway production of TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ THE MILK TRAIN DOESN’T STOP HERE ANY MORE.

“You go back and there are new things that come up and other things that percolated and cooked. You get into it a little bit differently, in some ways deeper.”

OLYMPIA plays Flora Goforth, a fearsome but gloriously wealthy ill American who has buried four husbands and retired to an Italian villa high atop a mountain to furiously write her memoirs before she dies. Her work is interrupted by a mysteriously attractive younger man who offers his company in exchange for refuge.

“In spite of the fact of her being a monster – so to speak – there’s something so human about her that we all can connect to. None of us want to be defeated by age. We all want to feel passion in our lives.”

And, yes, she’s done the play before, too.

The Massachusetts born actor first played the challenging role in 1996 at THE WILLIAMSTOWN THEATER FESTIVAL and reprised it in 2008 at Hartford Stage under the direction of MICHAEL WILSON. THE ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY has brought both MICHAEL WILSON and OLYMPIA to its LAURA PELS THEATRE on 46th Street.

“She has dared to put the full force of her being and talent into this role,” said MICHAEL WILSON of his star.

“In order to do this, I think Olympia has had to throw vanity out the window, which she is not afraid to do. Not all actors of her stature and success and beauty are willing to do this.”

Considered to be a minor work from a playwright already on the decline, MILK TRAIN has been largely overlooked in the Williams cannon. This production, part of a celebration commemorating the centennial of the playwright’s birth, proves that even his lesser plays can be lyrically powerful.

“Sometimes it annoys critics that these plays are done,” remarked OLYMPIA, visibly exhausted and picking at a turkey burger.

“Sometimes they feel that it’s dated. I can’t see how this play is dated at all.”

MILK TRAIN had a somewhat cursed life on Broadway. It opened on January 16, 1963, during a newspaper strike — meaning no advertising or reviews — and closed after just 69 performances. TENNESSEE WILLIAMS revised his script and it opened again the following January, starring TALLULAH BANKHEAD and TAB HUNTER. It lasted only five performances. A film version was made called BOOM! in 1968 with ELIZABETH TAYLOR and RICHARD BURTON, which OLYMPIA dismissed as “stunning in its obtuseness.”

OLYMPIA is very familiar with TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, having been in productions of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, THE GLASS MENAGERIE, THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA and SUMMER & SMOKE, in addition to her five times aboard THE ROSE TATTOO.

“I’m drawn to him because it feels like there’s a truth that I understand and live with which is in the plays. I can be honest. It’s the honesty he keeps finding, the truth he keeps finding.”

OLYMPIA’S career has been steady and rewarding, highlighted by roles such as Clairee in STEEL MAGNOLIAS, the TV miniseries adaptation of ARMISTEAD MAUPIN’S TALES OF THE CITY and her OSCAR winning turn as CHER’S sardonic mother in MOONSTRUCK. For almost two decades she also ran her own theatre company with her husband of 48 years, actor LOUIS ZORICH, while they raised their three children.

She isn’t slowing down either, despite her 80th birthday coming up this summer.

After MILK TRAIN ends in April, there’s a movie and then she’s booked to be in MORRIS PANYCH’s VIGIL at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in November. In between, she’s set to perform ROSE in July at the birthplace of her parents when she attends The International Festival Of The Aegean in Greece in mid July.

And, yes, she’s done that play before, too.

The one person ROSE, written by playwright Martin Sherman, is essentially a two hour monologue by an 80 year old Holocaust survivor. OLYMPIA has played it in London and on Broadway in 2000, among other places.

Even though she’s intimately connected to the piece and has memorized it before in what critics called a tour de force, for the upcoming Greek production she’ll keep referring to the 67 page script on stage — she’s a little out of practice to do it off book.

“I’d have to be doing it every week. And I’d shoot somebody.”

ON LINE:

THE ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER LOVES PLAYING JOHN BARRYMORE

Posted in Theatre on January 27, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER never met legendary actor JOHN BARRYMORE, but said he has always felt a kinship with the stage and screen great.

“I felt I knew him…because I knew his daughter Diana very well,”
he said at a recent rehearsal for BARRYMORE at The Elgin Theatre.

“Through her, I got a whole feeling of not only (John) but Ethel and Lionel and everybody in the family. I didn’t have a clue I was going to do Barrymore then — I was 16 years old — but she furnished me with such a lot of material that when it came to doing it, I sort of felt I’d done my homework all ready.”

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER won a TONY AWARD for starring in BARRYMORE on Broadway 15 years ago. The latest incarnation of the show opens Thursday night.

Written by William Luce, BARRYMORE is set in 1942 and depicts one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time in the final year of his life.

The setting is the stage of a Broadway theatre, where JOHN BARRYMORE is struggling with the title role of SHAKESPEARE’S RICHARD III.

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, who earned his first OSCAR nomination last year for playing Russian novelist LEO TOLSTOY in THE LAST STATION is the only actor on stage throughout the play. A second actor, JOHN PLUMPIS, is heard off stage, playing a prompter helping JOHN BARRYMORE with his RICHARD III lines.

“I’ve played a lot more (Shakespeare roles) than Jack Barrymore has, but his were special, I think,” said the elegant actor, looking fit in a black zip up sweater and an unbuttoned black blazer.

“He worked so hard on his voice and it was a really quite beautiful voice. And his looks — he was astoundingly handsome and the most romantic of all the Hamlets, I would think, ever.”

The Toronto born performer, who has homes in Florida and Connecticut, first starred in BARRYMORE at THE STRATFORD SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL and toured with it in several American cities before opening on Broadway in 1997.

For the current revival of the show, he’s had to juggle rehearsals with filming in Sweden and Los Angeles for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, in which he plays the patriarch.

He said the globetrotting has been worth it as he gets to reunite with the original BARRYMORE creative team, including three time TONY AWARD winning director GENE SAKS.

“He’s wicked,” CHRISTOPHER said with a hearty chuckle in reference to Mr. Saks, who was behind eight NEIL SIMON hits.

“He comes up with some wonderful crusty old criticisms and I’m used to that and I love it. And he’s usually instinctively right. It’s terrific.”

JOHN BARRYMORE starred in more than 60 films, including GRAND HOTEL and TWENTIETH CENTURY.

He also hailed from a star studded family dynasty: His parents were performers MAURICE BARRYMORE and GEORGINA DREW BARRYMORE and his siblings were actors LIONEL BARRYMORE and ETHEL BARRYMORE.

JOHN BARRYMORE is also the paternal grandfather of film star DREW BARRYMORE.

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, who also has prominent lineage (his great grandfather was Prime Minister John Abbott), said that when he was young, JOHN BARRYMORE “was the ideal actor to emulate.”

“He was on top of the world for a while in the 20s. There was nobody who could touch him, classically — amazing because he only played three parts: Hamlet, Richard and Mercutio (in Romeo & Juliet) where he was mostly drunk throughout the whole thing. And I think he did a Sir Toby Belch somewhere. But that’s it.”

“He didn’t go on doing this wonderful work, which is sad.”

Indeed, the latter half of JOHN BARRYMORE’S life was tragic, with alcoholism leading to a decline in his health and career.

In BARRYMORE, he ruminates on his life while practising for his big comeback, at one point lashing out at his prompter Frank when he thinks he’s disrespected him.

“Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?” CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER (as JOHN BARRYMORE) shouted on stage during a recent rehearsal for members of the media.

“You, you miserable old ham!” Frank shouted back.

JOHN BARRYMORE then softened when Frank reminded him that he was great in RICHARD III and HAMLET, remarking: “Yeah? Well what happened to me?”

“I don’t think he liked himself very much,” said CHRISTOPHER.

“I think he sort of put all that on in a grand manner. But underneath he was a pussycat, you could push him anywhere and I think that’s another reason he drank so much.”

“He didn’t think he was terribly good.”

PAUL REUBENS: THE SECOND ACT IS SWEETER

Posted in Phenomenons, Theatre on November 2, 2010 by Miranda Wilding


FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The red bow tie is back. The white chunky loafers are as well. So is that tight grey suit.

The Secret Word today is: Comeback. Pee Wee has returned from exile.

PAUL REUBENS, who virtually abandoned the cult character he created nearly two decades ago following scandal, is making his Broadway debut with a reworking of the same theatrical show that started Pee Wee’s career in the late 1980s.

“I think it’s full circle. I view it even a little fuller, I guess. I feel that it’s full circle in that I can come back around to a really good place where I was. As opposed to having my career end on this sour note,” commented PAUL during an interview before a recent rehearsal.

“I absolutely feel like I want to redeem myself to a degree and this seemed like a really pure way to do it.”

PAUL has been soaking up the attention this time around. He has donned his Pee Wee suit and popped up all over New York to drum up attention for THE PEE WEE HERMAN SHOW, which officially opens NOVEMBER 11.

Everywhere he goes, people say: “Glad you’re back.”

“I really just never got any of this the first time around,” he remarked, getting a little teary.

“I feel really lucky and really blessed right now. I just feel like it’s my time. The stars are aligning for me.”

PAUL, who is as quiet and thoughtful in real life as Pee Wee is zany and high pitched, is still slim and boyish. He’s dressed for California on this chilly New York day — jacketless in jeans, a plaid shirt and a clunky digital watch. He’s pressed for time.

So much of it has been lost.

“I wasn’t feeling it for a long time. And then all of a sudden it became a long time. All of a sudden I was like, ‘Wow. How do you come back now out of this?’ And you know what the answer was? You just do it.”

“I didn’t feel like I needed anyone’s permission to come back. And what do I have to lose? Nothing really.”

Much of Pee Wee’s exile has been self imposed since PAUL’S July 1991 arrest for indecent exposure in Sarasota, Florida. He was handed a small fine but the damage to the character was incalculable.

“When I was arrested in 1991, offers poured in. All kinds. I mean, some of those offers weren’t things that I wanted to do and were taking advantage of the luridness of my situation, but I haven’t really had trouble working or existing or having a career. It just changed. Everything changed.”

For a performer who had spent a long time and a lot of energy tying to make people think Pee Wee was real, PAUL watched as the public unmasking put a cloud over his best known alter ego.

“It was one thing to say, ‘Paul Reubens, he’s this or that.’ But to move that into this work that I loved and that I thought was special and that I thought was important — that was extreme to me. That was something that the second it happened, I went, ‘Wow, that is so sad.'”

“And I can’t do anything about it.”

PAUL continued to act, playing characters other than Pee Wee and scoring successes in BATMAN RETURNS in 1992 and a 1995 EMMY nomination for a recurring guest role on MURPHY BROWN. He has also been on TV shows like 30 ROCK and the late lamented PUSHING DAISIES, as well as prominent roles in the films NAILED and LIFE DURING WARTIME.

In the years since the arrest, some could argue that PAUL got a raw deal, at least in comparison to other public figures who have almost instantly jumped back from controversy.

“I’ve become wise and mature. Not Pee Wee, but me. I’m absolutely a different person. All those cliches about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Somehow, I wound up being this evolved, wise person.”

Even in exile, he and Pee Wee had unfinished business. PAUL, who has several TV and movie scripts in his head starring his quirky nerd, wanted to bring him back.

“I didn’t see any reason to put Pee Wee away.”

So he went back to the beginning: a live show based on THE PEE WEE HERMAN SHOW that debuted in Los Angeles in 1981 and was a success with both kids during matinees and adults at a midnight show.

It inspired Tim Burton’s feature PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE in 1985 and another film BIG TOP PEE WEE three years later. His television series PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE ran for five seasons, earned 22 EMMYS and attracted not only children but adults to Saturday morning TV.

Both silly and subversive and championing nonconformity, the Pee Wee universe is a trippy place, populated by things such as a talking armchair and a friendly pterodactyl. The host, who is fond of secret words and loves fruit salad so much he once married it, is prone to lines like, “I know you are, but what am I?” and “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer.”

The act was a hit because it worked on multiple levels, even though PAUL insisted that that wasn’t the plan.

“It’s for kids. People have tried to get me for years to go, ‘It wasn’t really for kids, right?’ Even the original show was for kids. I always censored myself to have it be kid friendly.”

“The whole thing has been just a gut feeling from the beginning. That’s all it ever is and I think always ever be. Much as people want me to dissect it and explain it, I can’t. One, I don’t know and two, I don’t want to know and three, I feel like I’ll hex myself if I know.”

The new 11 actor show brings back many of the favourite characters in a plot centred on Pee Wee’s desire to fly. PAUL is the star, producer and cowriter, with renowned puppetry artist Basil Twist and director Alex Timbers also aboard.

“He’s terrific,” said Alex Timbers of PAUL.

“He’s very collaborative. He’s really funny. He’s a terrific actor. You’d think in a way that after doing a character for 30 years that he wouldn’t have a light hand, but he’s very open to new ideas.”

PAUL checks his watch. He knows it’s time to get back on stage and do a million things to tune up his show before opening night. This second bite of the apple seems that much sweeter.

“The future seems very bright and full of positivity…and I’m excited.”

ON LINE:

www.peewee.com/broadway

THE LEGENDARY ELAINE STRITCH: A TRUE ORIGINAL

Posted in Phenomenons, Theatre on October 19, 2010 by Miranda Wilding



FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ELAINE STRITCH has an off the wall anecdote to share. And when ELAINE STRITCH wants to tell a story, you listen.

“I have no secrets,” the 85 year old Broadway legend said by way of introduction as she sat at a makeup table getting her eyes done a few hours before a performance of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.

A few days ago, she began, she was at her Midtown hairdressers for a three hour appointment before a show when she realized she’d forgotten her teeth. Ms. Stritch, who calls herself “a brittle diabetic,” has two sets of dental implants – one for the stage and one for regular life. She didn’t have the ones for the theatre.

She had no time to waste: She called over to THE CARLYLE HOTEL, where she lives these days, to ask an assistant to find the stage teeth — they’d be in a little white container in the bathroom. She wanted them brought down to the front desk.

Then she tried to contact her hired limo driver, who was idling outside the salon. But she didn’t have his number and there was no time to get hold of the car service. So Ms. Stritch, in a bit of a panic by now, went out to find him.

“I run downstairs. I’ve got on the robe from the hairdressers.” And she leans into the window of the limo and bellows: You’ve got to drive up to The Carlyle and pick up my teeth!!!

“Suddenly, I’m standing in the middle of 57th Street. And there are about 20 people laughing,” she recalled with a sly smile.

“Publicity stunt? No way! No way. You don’t do publicity stunts like that. Not even I could do that unless it was really happening.”

Spend an hour with her and you’ll get a lot of stories like that — funny, self effacing and revealing. The woman seems to have an iron core: brassy and exacting and salty, but also accommodating and full of wit.

“I like anything I don’t know about,” she remarked at one point. “And I don’t like most of the things I do.”

At another point, she offers this: “The most horrible line in the English language for me is, ‘God, you haven’t changed a bit.’ It’s the worst thing you can say to anybody.”

STEPHEN R. BUNTROCK, her costar in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, has long admired the actor and has learned to stay on his toes around her.

“You have to bring your A game when you’re around her. If she senses any kind of weakness, she will dive in. And in her wonderful, strong personality way, draw it out of you.”

ELAINE STRITCH has become a sort of shorthand for acting longevity since she made her Broadway debut in LOCO in 1946. Since then, she’s performed in both musicals and dramas, from EDWARD ALBEE to NOEL COWARD to STEPHEN SONDHEIM. She’s appeared in numerous films (including two WOODY ALLEN movies: SEPTEMBER and SMALL TIME CROOKS) and on TV as the EMMY winning mother of ALEC BALDWIN in 30 ROCK.

Her one person show ELAINE STRITCH AT LIBERTY won her a second TONY in 2002 and her cabaret shows at THE CARLYLE HOTEL are legendary.

Each generation finds her relevant and hip. She was recently parodied on an episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Lisa Simpson attends a fancy performing arts camp. One class was on making wallets with ELAINE STRITCH and ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER.

She got an enormous kick out of it. “That’s worth being in the business for 150 years,” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Stritch has been getting standing ovations lately for her turn as Madame Armfeldt in a revival of STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. She and BERNADETTE PETERS replaced ANGELA LANSBURY and CATHERINE ZETA JONES over the summer and have agreed to stay on until JANUARY 9.

Ms. Stritch plays a wheelchair bound aristocrat who offers dry and hysterical pronouncements in her half dozen scenes and mourns the loss of standards in her big song LIAISONS, in which she looks back on her profitable sexual conquests of dukes and barons.

“Where is skill?” she asks. “Where’s passion in the art? Where’s craft?”

She is at an age — and with such goodwill built up — that simply appearing on stage will earn her bursts of applause. But she still tries to earn it every time with a heart tugging take on Madame Armfeldt.

“It’s a very hard part for me. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know why. Some parts just don’t blow me away. This one did. There’s a lot of new kind of emotions. You don’t want to go into that because an actor talking about how they do their stuff is more boring than anything I can ever think of.”

She calls the song LIAISONS interesting, intelligent and unusual. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“It can creep into meaning you’re getting close to leaving the building time at my age. There’s no sense not paying attention to it because it’s absolutely true.”

“You know where I’m at in age? I don’t need anything. That’s a little scary — when you know that the last two bras you bought are it. You won’t need any more. I’m not going to live long enough for any big new discovery at Victoria’s Secret.”

She has one issue she’d love to leave as her legacy: reducing the standard eight shows a week contract that performers sign.

“I wish I could leave the building with that having been accomplished — seven shows a week. Eight shows gets to be too much.”

When producers of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC asked her and the cast to do nine performances a week, she had a fit.

She gleefully displayed a letter she wrote demanding a change: “Try to understand our physical, emotional, physiological desperation,” it read. Producers soon backed down.

Ms. Stritch is already planning her future when this musical ends. She’s considering doing an evening of just ELTON JOHN songs.

“You don’t know what I can do with those songs,” she mused.

“It might be fun and unusual.”

ON LINE:

www.NightMusicOnBroadway.com

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