ARF Stroll to the Sea Virtual Dog Walk

October 3 to October 11, 2020

September 18, 2020: East Hampton, N.Y., The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc. (ARF) announces that its annual “Stroll to the Sea” Dog Walk presented by Chaser and The Corcoran Group will be a VIRTUAL walk this year due to COVID-19. The event, now in its 27th year, will still be a fun, family outing that is intended to promote responsible dog ownership and awareness of ARF while raising important funds for the cats and dogs.  

October 3 to October 11, 2020

September 18, 2020: East Hampton, N.Y., The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc. (ARF) announces that its annual “Stroll to the Sea” Dog Walk presented by Chaser and The Corcoran Group will be a VIRTUAL walk this year due to COVID-19. The event, now in its 27th year, will still be a fun, family outing that is intended to promote responsible dog ownership and awareness of ARF while raising important funds for the cats and dogs.  

Take a walk with your dog to the ocean – or anywhere – and back, on any day from Saturday, October 3 to Sunday, October 11. You can walk whenever it is convenient – you just need to walk in support of ARF. Dog walkers can register at give.arfhamptons.org/DogWalk. The registration fee is $30, and children 10 and under can register for just $10. Event tee shirts are included with registration and should be worn while walking

This year’s tee shirt once again features artwork by designer ISAAC MIZRAHI and will be manufactured by event sponsor Chaser.  Tee shirts will be mailed to participants in advance or participants can picked them up at a drive through station at the ARF Adoption Center in East Hampton on Saturday, October 3, between 10 AM and 1 PM. 

It is easy to raise money and collect pledges by going to give.arfhamptons.org/DogWalk. Set up your own personal fundraising page or join a team. The prizes for top fundraisers include: a summer share for the 2021 season at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, an 8” x 10” acrylic portrait of your pet by artist Ellen Silverberg, and a photo shoot with Dee McMeekan of dee is for dogs

Prizes will also be awarded to the most spirited participants. Being that the event is virtual this year, walkers will be asked to post photos and videos of their walk while wearing their event tee shirt on social media and tag @arfhamptons. Those who show the most enthusiasm and creativity when they walk between October 3 to October 11, and tag @arfhamptons #ARFpride #ARFDogWalk, will be in the running for great gifts from local businesses.

This year’s presenting sponsors are Chaser and The Corcoran Group.  Supporting sponsors include Lexus of Southampton and Mercedes Benz of Southampton. 

Founded in 1974, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons is one of the leading animal welfare organization on Long Island.  Each year we take in over 1,000 cats and dogs and provide food, exercise, a warm place to sleep and excellent veterinary care in our state-of-the-art Adoption Center.   Since inception ARF has found homes for over 29,000 dogs and cats.  ARF is dedicated to finding loving homes for our precious pets not only to improve their lives but also the lives of the families who adopt them.  The ARF Adoption Center is located at 124 Daniels Hole Road in East Hampton, next to the East Hampton Airport. 

ARF Stroll to the Sea Virtual Dog Walk

October 3 to October 11, 2020

ARF’s Annual Stroll to the Sea is going virtual this year due to COVID-19. ARF announces the 2020 Stroll to the Sea VIRTUAL Dog Walk. Though we will not be able to gather in person at Mulford Farm in East Hampton for coffee and donuts this year, you can still walk for ARF! You can join no matter where you are. Take a walk to the ocean – or anywhere – and back to show your support for the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and mark your participation on social media by tagging @arfhamptons. Walk any day from Saturday, October 3 – Sunday, October 11. Registration starts at $30. Register now at arfhamptons.org and start collecting pledges from friends and family to win great prizes. Thank you to our presenting sponsors Chaser Brand and the Corcoran Group.

October 3 to October 11, 2020

ARF’s Annual Stroll to the Sea is going virtual this year due to COVID-19. ARF announces the 2020 Stroll to the Sea VIRTUAL Dog Walk. Though we will not be able to gather in person at Mulford Farm in East Hampton for coffee and donuts this year, you can still walk for ARF! You can join no matter where you are. Take a walk to the ocean – or anywhere – and back to show your support for the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and mark your participation on social media by tagging @arfhamptons. Walk any day from Saturday, October 3 – Sunday, October 11. Registration starts at $30. Register now at arfhamptons.org and start collecting pledges from friends and family to win great prizes. Thank you to our presenting sponsors Chaser Brand and the Corcoran Group.

BC/EFA Flea Market & Grand Auction Goes Online 9/20

By: Ellis Nassour 

September 19, 2020: Unique Flea Market finds, one-on-one video meet-and-greets with stars, stars, stars, and prized items and one-of-a-kind experiences will be available to Broadway fans everywhere when the annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auctiongoes live online for the first time Sunday, September 20, 2020 The event is produced by and benefits the multitude of programs of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS not only in New York but across the nation. 

By: Ellis Nassour 

September 19, 2020: Unique Flea Market finds, one-on-one video meet-and-greets with stars, stars, stars, and prized items and one-of-a-kind experiences will be available to Broadway fans everywhere when the annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auctiongoes live online for the first time Sunday, September 20, 2020 The event is produced by and benefits the multitude of programs of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS not only in New York but across the nation. 

The incredible array of available items for purchase can be found at broadwaycares.org/flea.

There won’t be an ocean of show tables lining the streets around Shubert Alley. This year, due to circumstances forced by the Covid 19 pandemic, “Flea Market finds” will be available online. You can shop the world of Broadway theater from anywhere with your smart phone and computer.

Every dollar donated during the virtual event will aid those across the country affected by HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other critical illnesses receive healthy meals, lifesaving medication, emergency financial assistance, housing, counseling and more. Donations also support organizations focused on social justice and anti-racis

There’ll be souvenir bundles from the newest shows and many from the storied past. Participating shows include Beetlejuice, Dear Evan Hansen, Frozen, Hadestown, HamiltonJagged Little PillMoulin Rouge!Six, and Wicked. Special packages of opening night gifts from Freestyle Love SupremeFun Home, and Mary Poppins will be available.

There’ll be more stars than any Broadway stage could possibly hold with Private Chats, live video meet-and-greets offering the virtual equivalent of one of the annual Flea’s most popular items: the Photo Booth. These video chats, similar to FaceTime calls and handled through the Looped app, will take place between Noon and 5 pm Eastern. Purchase as many chat slots as you’d like at broadwaycares.org/flea.

Those scheduled to participate are include: Alex Brightman (Beetlejuice), Lilli Cooper (Tootsie), DeMarius Copes (Mean Girls), Gavin Creel (Hello, Dolly!), Colin Donnell (Anything Goes, TV’s Arrow), Andrew Barth Feldman (Dear Evan Hansen), Karla Puno Garcia (Hamilton), Celia Rose Gooding (Jagged Little Pill), Adrianna Hicks (Six), Taylor Louderman (Mean Girls), Lesli Margherita (Matilda), Isabelle McCalla (The Prom), Ryan McCartan (Frozen, TV’s Liv and Maddie), Rob McClure (Mrs. Doubtfire), Abby Mueller (Six), Patti Murin (Frozen), Eva Noblezada (Hadestown), Samantha Pauly (Six), Andrew Rannells (Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band [Broadway cast] and The Prom – telecasting soon on Netflix), Jelani Remy (Ain’t Too Proud – The Life  and Times of The Temptations), Krysta Rodriguez (from last summer’s Public Works’ 
Hercule
s in Central Park), Kyle Selig (Mean Girls), Jenna Ushkowitz (Waitress, TV’s Glee), Marisha Wallace (The West End’s Waitress), Adrienne Warren (Tina), and Patrick Wilson (2002 Oklahoma! revival, TV’s Fargo).

Not enough to entice a bid to support the work of BC/EFA? How about such collector items as opening night and party tickets to American BuffaloThe MinutesMJ The MusicalThe Music Ma,n and Plaza Suite; and, this rarity: the first page of the “New York State of Mind” score from Barbra Streisand‘s acclaimed 2014 album Partners signed by Streisand and duet partner and songwriter Billy Joel.

Silent auction items will be up for bid until 5pm Eastern Sunday.  Among the 85 lots of theatrical treasures are signed musical phrases from HadestownOnce on This IslandRocky, and Waitress. In addition, there’ll be items from Kristin Chenoweth, Charlie Cox, Bryan Cranston, Andrew Garfield, Cynthia Erivo, Harvey Fierstein, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hiddleston, Larry Kramer, Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, and, among so many others Lin-Manuel Miranda and Stephen Sondheim. 

Early bidding is underway on silent and live auction items at broadwaycares.org/flea. Live auction lots up for bidding online include 20-minute Zoom conversations with Sutton Foster, Jonathan Groff, Patti LuPone, Bette Midler and David Hyde Pierce together, Bernadette Peters, Ben Platt, and Aaron Tveit.

Live online bidding switches to a live Zoom-room bidding battle at 5 pm Eastern Sunday, Among participating theatrical organizations will be ATPAM (Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers), Broadway Green Alliance, Broadway Makers Alliance, Broadway Pins, and United Scenic Artists.

Last year’s Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction raised $870,167. Since 1987, the 33 editions of this always highly anticipated annual event have raised $15.4 million.

BC/EFA is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit fundraising organizations. It awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., providing essential services, such as lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling, and emergency assistance, for people with HIV/AIDS, and other critical illnesses.

Drawing upon the talents, resources, and the generosity of the American theater community and audiences across the nation since 1998 BC/EFA’s Red Bucket Brigade has raised more than $300 million In addition, this year BC/EFA immediately came to the aid of those struggling with COVID-19.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, and the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts.

For more information, visit broadwaycares.org, at facebook.com/BCEFA, at instagram.com/BCEFA, at twitter.com/BCEFA, and at youtube.com/BCEFA .

Incidental Moments ****

Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom

By: David Sheward

September 15, 2020: Dr. Anthony Fauci recently predicted we may not be able to sit safely in theaters until the end of 2021. If that is the case, we’ll have to make due with the new hybrid form of theater, the Zoom play of which Richard Nelson has become the main practitioner. His latest piece Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom is his deepest and most profound of a Zoom trilogy, examining the impact of national social currents without descending into political propaganda or overt symbolism. We are listening in on the achingly real dialogue of believable people wrestling with the overwhelming polarization of their country, with no concrete solutions, only questions and anxiety.

Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom

By: David Sheward

September 15, 2020: Dr. Anthony Fauci recently predicted we may not be able to sit safely in theaters until the end of 2021. If that is the case, we’ll have to make due with the new hybrid form of theater, the Zoom play of which Richard Nelson has become the main practitioner. His latest piece Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom is his deepest and most profound of a Zoom trilogy, examining the impact of national social currents without descending into political propaganda or overt symbolism. We are listening in on the achingly real dialogue of believable people wrestling with the overwhelming polarization of their country, with no concrete solutions, only questions and anxiety.

Back in the spring when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us all inside, Nelson began chronicling the digital travails of his Apple family with What Do We Need to Talk About? and continued in July with And So We Come Forth. These four adult siblings and the boyfriend of one sister from the upstate NY village of Rhinebeck were first brought to life in 2010 on the Public Theater stage in four revealing, insightful pieces. Each was set in real time during a day of political significance (a primary or national election, the anniversary of 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination). Nelson also gave us three plays about the neighboring Gabriels and one about the Michaels. The latter two clans are brought into the mix in this current Apple Zoom play, available on YouTube through Nov. 5. (One character from the Gabriels is mentioned and another from the Michaels makes an appearance.)

As with the previous works in the cycle, there is not too much in the way of plot, but larger issues are discussed and the mood of the country is subtly dissected. The characters reveal their uncertainty, sorrow, and trepidation about the precarious future through Nelson’s indirect dialogue and the voluminous unspoken subtext brought out by the sensitive acting of the ensemble. 

The time is early September and the Apples are beginning to move out of their quarantine and into a new normal. Marian is out on a date, her first time at a restaurant since the pandemic began. In the last play she mourned not having touched another human for months. Jane and her partner Tim are at an impasse in their relationship as Tim now has custody of his teenage daughter from a previous marriage and her displaced friend. Brother and sister Richard and Barbara have been living together while he has been searching for a new home after his divorce and she has been recovering from COVIID. But now Richard has found a new girlfriend along with a house of his own. Barbara fears her connection to her brother, the closest one in her life, will suffer, and she will be truly alone.

These are the undercurrents coursing through the dialogue as the family takes on the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, racial reckoning, historical parallels with the current election (Trump is only given a cursory mention), and the importance of small joys and large art in our every day lives. These last two strains come together as Tim describes an art exhibition depicting the ordinary moments of life and a journal left by his mother describing the seemingly mundane events of her day as she gradually succumbs to senility. The art and journal entries record the beauty of the ordinary which the Apples are striving to celebrate. Art is also celebrated by a surprise visit from Lucy, a character from The Michaels and former high school student of Barbara’s. Lucy is on a dance fellowship in France, and performs via Zoom, the quirky piece she did in her play. Set to Scott Joplin’s jaunty rag music, the short work is a burst of eccentric joy, defying the confines of the tiny computer screen, performed with wit by Charlotte Bydwell.

The company have played their characters in various incarnations, some dating back to the first Apple play in 2010, and they have perfected conveying the unspoken tensions within the family. Maryann Plunkett’s Barbara and Sally Murphy’s Jane are particularly sensitive in their pauses and hesitations, expressing the sisters’ fear and insecurities through side glances and interrupted sentences. Jay O. Sanders’ Richard and Stephen Kunken’s Tim subtly search for connection as does Laila Robbins who appears briefly as Marian at the play’s end.

Incidental Moments is billed as the last play in Nelson’s Zoom series, but hopefully we will see more of the Apples. We will especially need them if Dr. Fauci’s grim prognostication comes true.

Photos: Jason Ardizzone-West
Jay O. Sanders, Maryann Plunkett, Charlotte Bydwell, and Stephen Kunken in Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom

On This Day in New York Theater: September 12 in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s

(No. 14 in the series)

By: Samuel L. Leiter

As readers of “On This Day in New York Theater” know, this series seeks to survey the most productive days for theatrical production for our inclusive decades. Our last installment having looked at August 31, we now rush into September, which, with summer’s heat gradually backing off and milder temperatures arriving, has always signaled a natural increase in the number of new openings. While that was true, overall, for the twenties, thirties, and forties, it wasn’t the mad rush of shows one might have expected. Still, September 12, the most prolific of days during those three decades, provides us with 17 openings, too many too cover here. Thus, what follows remains rooted in the twenties, with a brief overview at the end of the next two decades.

(No. 14 in the series)

By: Samuel L. Leiter

As readers of “On This Day in New York Theater” know, this series seeks to survey the most productive days for theatrical production for our inclusive decades. Our last installment having looked at August 31, we now rush into September, which, with summer’s heat gradually backing off and milder temperatures arriving, has always signaled a natural increase in the number of new openings. While that was true, overall, for the twenties, thirties, and forties, it wasn’t the mad rush of shows one might have expected. Still, September 12, the most prolific of days during those three decades, provides us with 17 openings, too many too cover here. Thus, what follows remains rooted in the twenties, with a brief overview at the end of the next two decades.

 John Drew and Mrs. Leslie Carter in “The Circle

Starting things off, in 1921, is W. Somerset Maugham’s British drawing-room comedy, The Circle (Selwyn Theatre, 175). It was, in fact, one of three plays that opened the same night, something not uncommon back in the Twinkling Twenties. A Burns Mantle selection for his Ten Best of the season, The Circle was called by Alexander Woollcott “a searching, malicious and richly entertaining” contribution in which Time, ever repeating itself in circular fashion, plays the principal role.

Maugham’s ironic offering brought back to Broadway the seasoned Mrs. Leslie Carter, who had not been seen on a New York stage in years, and paired her with one of Broadway’s grand old men, John Drew. This veteran duo played Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney and her lover of more than 30 years, Lord Porteus, a couple who eloped in their youth, leaving only a note on a pincushion for the lady’s unhappy husband (Ernest Lawson). No longer avid lovers, the pair yap at each other like the aging spouses they indeed are. 

Bert Savoy and John Brennan in “Greenwich Village Follies of 1922

When they pay a surprise visit to the lady’s son (Robert Rendel), whom she has not seen in lo these many years, they learn that his young wife, Elizabeth (Estelle Winwood), is planning just as they did to run off with someone else (John Halliday). Lady Champion-Cheney and Lord Porteus do their best to dissuade Elizabeth and her lover from their planned elopement, but even the tale of their own woes can do nothing to cool the pair’s ardor, and they depart, much to the scandalous pleasure of the 1921 audience.

Arthur Hornblow said the play contained “sparkling lines, keen satire, distinguished acting, added to an absorbing story.” No wonder that it remained a part of the British and American repertory for many years. Five months after it opened, The Circle rolled along to the Fulton Theatre.

  “Georgette” sheet music from Greenwich Village Follies of 1922

Love was also the subject of Launcelot and Elaine (Greenwich Village Theatre, 32), a period piece by Edwin Milton Royle set in the mythical English past and based on Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King.” It was considered a respectable adaptation, with Royle doing his work “in a manner which is at once scholarly, faithful to the original poetic conception, and finally impressive,” as Hornblow praised it. The poetic drama was staged Off Broadway in a widely admired mounting that offered Royle’s two actress daughters, Selena and Josephine, a fine opportunity for their professional debuts.

 “Sweetheart Lane” scene in Greenwich Village Follies of 1922

Royle borrowed liberal portions of Tennyson’s blank-verse dialogue, resulting in a long, literary, but often touching piece about the unrequited love of Elaine (Josephine) for the sad knight who suffers inwardly for his illicit love affair with King Arthur’s queen, the beauteous Guinivere (Selena). The loveliest and most moving part of the presentation was the arrival near the end of a funeral barge bearing the white body of Elaine to Camelot. 

Ten years later, in 1930, the play was revived with the Royle sisters on Broadway. It now seemed a pompous bore.

The final offering of September 12, 1921, was a comedy by Augustin McHugh called True to Form (Bramhall Playhouse, 15), also Off Broadway. It was a flop only a few moments of which had any value, the rest being “a disappointing work,” in the Times’s opinion, one that frittered away what little promise it had. 

True to Form looks at the problems created by a narrow-minded, inflexible old couple (Eugenie Blair and George Graham), who exert undue influence on the lifestyles of their daughter and son-in-law (Verna Wilkens and John Warner), the latter choosing to rebel against their conservatism. The young couple experiences marital problems as a result, and these are exacerbated by the appearance of a platitudinous, half-cocked philosopher (Edwin Nicander), who harangues others with his drink-inspired theories. His ideas cause trouble between the young marrieds, but all gets ironed out before the final curtain.

A year later, September 12, 1922, also witnessed three openings: the fourth edition of The Greenwich Village Follies, Why Men Leave Home, and Dreams for Sale

 “Nightingale and the Rose” scene in Greenwich Village Follies of 1922

The Follies, no longer in Greenwich Village but now at the Shubert Theatre (209), continued under the direction of the revue series’ founder, John Murray Anderson. With exquisite curtain, scene, and costume designs (by Reginald Marsh, Cleon Throckmorton, Howard Greer, James Reynolds, Erté, Ingeborg Hansell, Early Payne Frank, Blanding Sloane, Alice O’Neill, Georgianna Brown, Dorothy Armstrong, and Pieter Myer), the 1922 edition was a visual knockout. From the moment the audience entered to witness Marsh’s show curtain depicting famous Villagers of the day, like Donald Ogden Stuart, John Dos Passos, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, they knew they were in for a feast of “pictures brilliant, flashing and bizarre,” as Woollcott observed.

Evelyn Herbert and Nathaniel Wagner in My Maryland

Dancing was a vital part of the show’s success, with Ula Sharon, Marjorie Peterson, and Alexander Yakoleff competing for terpsichorean honors. The highlight—and the gorgeous centerpiece of the program—was the Ballet Ballad, the first example of an item found regularly in later editions. It was an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s poem, “The Nightingale and the Rose,” interpreted by Sharon and Yakoleff. 

The comic partnership of Bert Savoy and Jay Brennan struck gold with naughty antics in which Savoy, a blatantly swishy female impersonator, told risqué, limp-wristed anecdotes about his friend Margie. Nothing else was as hilarious.

Tableaux and spectacles were represented by one picturing a famous mezzotint, accompanied by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Another featured dolls in movement. “Sweetheart Lane” was set in Washington Square Park. And “You Are My Rainbow,” a lush Louis M. Hirsch ballad, supported a colorful ballet. The show’s best-known song was an interpolation by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson called “Georgette,” heard here in a Ted Lewis interpretation.

Lobby card for film version of Why Men Leave Home.

Avery Hopwood was a popular playwright of bedroom, and his Why Men Leave Home (Morosco Theatre, 138) had a solid enough run. It also was the source of a 1924 silent movie. In fact, it had recently been announced that his plays had earned him more than a million and a quarter dollars. This one went a little too far for some, Kenneth Macgowan calling it “salacious,” “made worthless by wholly superfluous, distasteful, and puerile execrescences.” This was the kind of critical verbiage one usually associates with 19th-century puritanism, not the decadent twenties. Even the Morosco Theatre’s cat expressed its displeasure when it sauntered on stage on opening night during the Act Two seduction scene, crawled over the footlights into the house, and hid under someone’s seat. 

The subject was the rebellion of three men against their wives, who annually leave their menfolk behind in order to travel freely about in Europe. When Tom (John McFarlane) tells Fifi (Florence Shirley) that he’s finished with her gallivanting around, she attempts to seduce him in a set consisting of “an enticing chamber with a soft brooch of beds and couches,” while wearing a new, guaranteed-to-please negligee, as the critic signed B.F. observed. By the end, when the wives have been brought into line by the fear that their husbands will divorce them, all falls into place.

Q.M. said it was “extremely funny at times and . . . a well-made play throughout,” but the Times labeled it “a distinctly commonplace piece of work.” 

The third show opening that night in 1922 was Dreams for Sale (Playhouse Theatre, 13) a weak comedy by the prolific Owen Davis. The only light in the gloom emanating from this “well-meaning little fiasco,” as Lawrence Reamer called it, was the appearance of Helen Gahagan, just beginning the exceptional career that would lead to stardom, the House of Representatives, and marriage to leading actor Melvyn Douglas. 

 Helen Gahagan (Douglas) 

This is a New England play involving a pair of feuding families, with rival forests and pulp mills a motivating force. There is also a romantic plot involving Ann Baldwin (Gahagan), Arthur Nash’s (John Bohn) girlfriend, in love with Jim Griswold (Donald Cameron). Ann only realizes how much Jim means to her after she shoots him. Following this and other explosive situations, all ends happily.

Romance, melodrama, comedy, and farce banged noisily together in what Woollcott snubbed as a “rickety” construction. The Telegram laughed at this “most disastrous production of this and many another season.” 

We move on to September 12, 1925, for Kenneth Matthews’s Courting (Forty-ninth Street Theatre, 4), a quaint Scottish Cinderella comedy brought to New York with its London company. It was an “amusing, simple, clean little play [that came] like a breath of Spring bearing the fragrance of a field of heather,” thought Hornblow. John Anderson added, “It is charming, wistful at times, but much too slight.”

Courting is the familiar tale of a Scotch farm family ruled by a stiff-necked, Bible-fearing patriarch (J. Nelson Ramsey). He heeds the preachments of his preacher (John Duncan) and attempts to stifle the amorous yearnings of his son (Kenneth Grant) and daughter (Jean Clyde). The daughter disobeys her pa and goes to the Laird’s ball, where the young English boarder (Vernon Sylvaine) has taken someone else, but she and the Brit are eventually united in romantic bliss.

The year 1927 provided not three but four plays opening on September 12, Baby Cyclone, Half a Widow, My Maryland, and Revelry. Two were hits, two were misses, but even the latter had interesting things to remember about them. 

 Grant Mitchell and Spencer Tracy in The Baby Cyclone.

Baby Cyclone (Henry Miller’s Theatre, 187) was a George M. Cohan comedy, its title referring to an adorable Pekingese dog belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Hurley (Spencer Tracy and Nan Sunderland) of New York. In Mr. Hurley’s eyes, the pooch is far too much his mate’s preoccupation. He sells her to a lady in the street for five dollars, leading to a tiff with the missus and the interference on her part of a stranger, Joseph Meadows (Grant Mitchell), who takes Baby Cyclone home with him. Mr. Hurley arrives to straighten matters out, but Mr. Meadows’s fiancée (Natalie Moorehead) walks in and turns out to be the Peke’s purchaser. Various complications follow regarding the pup’s ownership until all is amicably resolved.

The critics were amazed at how nimbly Cohan could spin his tenuous tale to sustain an audience through a full evening’s enjoyment. (Well enough, apparently, for the play to have been adapted for a 1928 silent film.) Joseph Wood Krutch asserted that “extraordinarily expert writing keeps it continuously funny,” and the Times found it “amusing, workmanlike and interesting.” Grant Mitchell, the star, was admirable, but Spencer Tracy, in his first principal role (specifically written for him), stole the show. Richard Dana Skinner said, “Spencer Tracy’s masterly delineation . . . is quite the best piece of acting of its kind I have seen in many months. He is not only convincingly at ease at all times, but the variety and sincerity of his facial expressions add sumptuously to the force of every line.” Sounds like he might have had a great career looming.

Half a Widow (Waldorf Theatre, 16), on the other hand, had nothing comparable to offer, albeit it was a rare musical of the day about World War I, with a book and lyrics by Harry B. Smith and Frank Dupree and a score by Shep Camp. It took 10 years to bring it to Broadway, with its story about a wartime romance between an American soldier and a French girl. Interest in it after it opened was minimal as that preceding it. George Jean Nathan decided it was “a deadly stupid hoof and yodel show.”

Its plot, bearing some resemblance to the hit World War I play, What Price Glory?, concerns an Army captain (Halfred Young) in love with Babette (Gertrude Lang), whom he marries before leaving for the front, where he expects to be killed. His money will go to her, and she can then marry the French lad she loves. But the officer survives, of course, and Babette chooses to wed him on his return. 

Much closer to a high water mark was another musical, My Maryland (Jolson’s Fifty-ninth Street Theatre, 312), book and lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly, music by Sigmund Romberg, and a story based on Clyde Fitch’s 1899 play Barbara Frietchie. The legend of this woman, first made famous in Whittier’s poem, takes place during the Civil War, and concerns the love of young Barbara (Evelyn Herbert), a Southerner, for Northern officer Captain Trumbull (Nathaniel Wagner). (In fact, the real Barbara was 96 at the time of the events depicted.) Barbara defiantly waves the Union flag in the path of Southern General Stonewall Jackson (James Ellis), although the captain lies wounded in her own bedroom. Moved by her valor, the general commands his men to “March on.”

Despite its stirring premise, the book (Donnelly’s last before she died) was no more than a hokey heart thumper, and the Times wrote that it as “notable rather for theatrical competence than for wit or taste.” Time declared that “the melodramatics are so naïve that a rousing march song by Sigmund Romberg, accompanied by stagy gestures, failed of the usual operatic magic.” Actually, Romberg’s score was the saving grace, and the songs “Won’t You Marry Me,” “Silver Moon,” “Mother,” and, especially,” “Your Land and My Land,” were accorded thunderous applause. 

Regardless of its title, there was little revelry surrounding Revelry (Theatre Masque, 49), a crime drama by Maurine Watkins, the courtroom journalist best known as the author of another crime play, Chicago (before it became a musical). Based on the novel of the same name by Samuel Hopkins Adams, it was a poorly conceived play on a significant theme, corruption in the White House. Intended as a thinly disguised attack on the administration of Warren Harding, the “choppy, disjointed” drama, as Brooks Atkinson called it, told of the genial poker- and booze-loving President Willis Markham (Berton Churchill), whose political cronies are crooked grafters. He, however, for all of his loose ways, is basically honest. When, through certain implausible developments, he comes to learn of just how crooked his administration has been, he poisons himself. 

Churchill was made up to look like Harding in what Atkinson termed a “flimsy and amateurish drama,” but which several others saw as an apt dramatization of the muckraking book from which it was drawn. Stark Young, disappointed by its flaws, nevertheless saw a striking image of a powerful figure’s confrontation with the insidious nature of his position.

Maurine Watkins, author of Revelry

Revelry had run into considerable legal trouble in Philadelphia before opening in New York. An injunction was sought to close it down because of its ridicule of the federal government. The injunction was not granted, and the surrounding controversy did little to stir interest at its box office. For all that, the play became the pre-code 1930 movie, The Woman Racket, with Blanche Sweet as Julia.

We put this installment of “On This Day in New York Theater” to bed in 1928 with Night Hostess (Martin Beck Theatre, 119), a crime comedy by Philip Dunning, who co-wrote the smash twenties’ hit Broadway, which bore some resemblances to his new offering. The milieu is that of an illegal New York gambling casino, but even under the estimable directorial talents of Winchell Smith, the play was assailed for copy-catism and shopworn methods. Joseph Wood Krutch, for example, discovered in it “the same melodramatic incidents recounted in the same jazz rhythm.” Brooks Atkinson averred, “Heavily decorated in the lavish, baroque style of its environment, fairly crawling with hostesses, tipplers, gamblers and victims, saturated in cigar smoke, ‘Night Hostess’ still lacks the centrifugal speed that kept ‘Broadway’ spinning.”

Poster for The Woman Racket, film version of Revelry.

As in Broadway, a killing is at the core, this one the suffocation with a napkin by casino manager Chris Miller (Averell Harris) of a discarded mistress, Julia (Gail De Hart), both to shut her up about what she knows of a murder he committed and to allow him the freedom to seduce virginal casino hostess Buddy Miles (Ruth Lyons), herself in love with piano player/barkeep Rags Conway (Norman Foster). The body is in a trunk ready to be shipped to Chicago, but the foul deed is uncovered by Rags and the cops. Miller dies when he steps into an open elevator shaft. 

And thus completes our survey of September 12 openings in the 1920s. Anyone curious about what followed in the thirties and forties might enjoy knowing that the former provided two openings, both curiously interesting, plus the 1932 return engagement of Elmer Rice’s hit legal drama of 1931, Counsellor-at-Law of 1931. 

One of the new plays was Rice’s anti-Nazi Judgment Day (1934), the other Murder at the Vanities (1933), a musical combining elements of an Earl Carroll’s Vanities revue with a murder mystery. Less interest accrued to the three 1940s plays opening on our date: 1941’s Brother Cain, about family troubles, a coal mine tragedy, and legal issues; 1944’s Star Time, a vaudevillian revue emceed by Lou Holtz; and 1945’s Devil’s Galore, a flop about a skyscraper crime and a Faustian bargain with one of Satan’s henchmen—its lesson being that hell has nothing on the devilish behavior of New Yorkers. 

This New Yorker will continue to dig, come hell or high water, for a suitable date with which to continue this series. Let’s make a date to get together then.

Click Here for #1 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 14 IN THE 1920’S

Click Here for #2 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 19 in the 1930’s

Click Here for #3 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 24 IN THE 1920’S AND 1930’S

Click Here for #4 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 29 in the 1920’S, 1930’S and 1940’S

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Click Here for #13 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: August 31 in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s

The 68 Cent Crew Theatre

By: Isa Goldberg

September 10,2020: While I’m a veteran contributor to theaterlife.com, many moons have passed since I’ve covered live theater or experienced it. Pandemic-wise, it’s been quite a change of life for all of us. 

Fortunately, I had the fun of joining a theater troupe, The 68 Cent Crew Theatre, that I discovered a couple of years ago. Currently we’re performing our 9th Annual One-Acts Festival (www.youtube.com/68centcrewtheatre) with a wham bam burst of boldness and creativity. 

By: Isa Goldberg

September 10,2020: While I’m a veteran contributor to theaterlife.com, many moons have passed since I’ve covered live theater or experienced it. Pandemic-wise, it’s been quite a change of life for all of us. 

Fortunately, I had the fun of joining a theater troupe, The 68 Cent Crew Theatre, that I discovered a couple of years ago. Currently we’re performing our 9th Annual One-Acts Festival (www.youtube.com/68centcrewtheatre) with a wham bam burst of boldness and creativity. 

Each of the seven one-acts is written, directed and performed by company members. Originally conceived for the stage, each employs Zoom technology to explore visual puns and virtual interplay that extends the theatrical format onto the screen. Each play performs one night a week with a double header on Friday nights.

Doomed to Live” Louis Politan (right) John Varina (left)

Even with titles, such as “Doomed to Live,” these short plays are primarily light, quick and fun. In fact, “Doomed” Maria Figueredo Kirke’s noir, absurdist comedy, directed by Annie Lanzillotto, sports a novel use of Zoom technology to achieve surprising production values. From costumes and sets, to the use of cameras and the virtual exchange of deadly objects, Kirke’s 10-minute play makes for jaw dropping entertainment. 

And for the actors, it’s a tour de force. Threatening suicidal lover (John Varina) and the woman he loves (Snezhana Chernyavskaya), triggered by an interloper (Louis Politan), pull off crazy stunts that lead to near misses before landing with an on-screen kiss.

Christian Leadley’s dark comedy, “Fear and Loathing In The Creative Process,” speaks to the festival’s theme, “primal instincts.” Here, the indomitable Hunter S. Thompson, played by the equally indomitable Marty Grabstein, opines, “Sometimes you have to make yourself dirty and ugly to expose the ugliness you see around you.”

It’s that expression of empathy which Leadley calls a basic primal instinct, and the quality that drew him to write about the famed journalist/novelist. From my point of view, as the actor who plays opposite Grabstein, some of those behaviors – lots of drug taking and gun tossing – can get “hard to watch.”  

 “The Hooking Place” Megan Magee (right) and Jordan Elizabeth Gelber (left

Still, miles away from Thompson’s cabin in Woody Creek, Colorado in the one-act, “Carnivorous,” by Megan Magee, conflicts over diet drive a young married couple to seek counseling. The wife (Samantha Bowen), a vegetarian, confronts her husband, the titular carnivore, played by Christian Leadley, in their therapist Leslie’s office.  

In this role, Alan Braunstein, an actor who more resembles the comedian Larry David than a beatific Zen therapist, embraces the audience with blissful calm. To build this character, “he drew on teachers and mentors who exuded a sense of serenity,” he said. “I remembered they would speak deliberately and slowly at a lower volume but still with energy and purpose. So, I made that choice. Chanting and deep breathing further grounded me in my character. And finally, my wardrobe of a white robe and jeweled pendant made me feel as if I could rise above any conflict.”

As actor/writer and Zoom Master for the festival Samantha Bowen puts it, “it’s really magical when we call places and go dark. As everyone’s videos turn off at the start of the show, it is almost as if we are backstage of our theatre or about to call action on a film. Of course, there is that sense of uncertainty about whether the live stream will work the way I want it to or not. No true live show would go off without a hitch at one moment or another. But that is the beauty of it.”

We’re easy to find. www.youtube.com/68centcrewtheatre , Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm. Each show runs 10-15 minutes, followed by a live talk back. Just sit back and watch from the orchestra of your own home. 

BroadwayHD Debuts Happy Birthday Doug

Hilarious Off-Broadway Comedy, Happy Birthday Doug, begins streaming on BroadwayHD September 24th

September 2, 2020:  BroadwayHD, the premier streaming service for theater fans, announced that they are bringing Happy Birthday Doug, from producer Michael Urie, exclusively to their platform. The hilarious hit comedy had a brief, but successful run at SoHo Playhouse that ended prematurely due to the Pandemic.  The acclaimed production was written and performed by Drew Droege (the Internet’s “Chloë,” “Drunk History,” “Bob’s Burgers,” RuPaul’s “AJ and the Queen” on Netflix) and directed by Tom DeTrinis.  The comedy was filmed during quarantine in an effort to bring theater to audiences during this unprecedented time. Jim Hansen directed and edited the film that was produced in association with Zach Laks.

Hilarious Off-Broadway Comedy, Happy Birthday Doug, begins streaming on BroadwayHD September 24th

September 2, 2020:  BroadwayHD, the premier streaming service for theater fans, announced that they are bringing Happy Birthday Doug, from producer Michael Urie, exclusively to their platform. The hilarious hit comedy had a brief, but successful run at SoHo Playhouse that ended prematurely due to the Pandemic.  The acclaimed production was written and performed by Drew Droege (the Internet’s “Chloë,” “Drunk History,” “Bob’s Burgers,” RuPaul’s “AJ and the Queen” on Netflix) and directed by Tom DeTrinis.  The comedy was filmed during quarantine in an effort to bring theater to audiences during this unprecedented time. Jim Hansen directed and edited the film that was produced in association with Zach Laks.

Happy Birthday Doug is a follow-up to Bright Colors And Bold Patterns, Droege’s hit hailed as “scorchingly funny” by the New York Times, which enjoyed a celebrated five-month run at SoHo Playhouse and is also available on BroadwayHD.  By bringing Happy Birthday Doug to the streaming service, the team at BroadwayHD is looking to extend the life of this great piece of theater so that many more theater fans have the opportunity to discover it.  Read the review from TheaterLife by Patrick Christiano at  http://theaterlife.com/happy-birthday-doug/

Drew Droege

Happy Birthday Doug is a one man play that visits with Doug as he celebrates his 41st birthday in a wine bar.  His favorite, and least favorite gay men have made the invite list: friends, exes, nightmares, tricks, and even a ghost.  Happy Birthday Doug is a wicked and wild hour-long celebration of modern gay culture with tons of wine.  Consider this your cordial invitation.

Michael Urie said, “As if I could be any more impressed by Drew Droege, he goes and achieves something phenomenal with Tom Detrinis and Jim Hansen, turning Happy Birthday Doug into a movie. I’m so proud to premiere the movie on BroadwayHD where Drew’s Bright Colors And Bold Patterns lives – two truthful, hilarious tours de force. I recommend a double feature!”

Michael Urie

Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, co-founders of BroadwayHD said, “So many great productions did not have the opportunity to finish their runs this past spring, and we are glad that we are able to bring Happy Birthday Doug back to the stage, if only virtually.  It’s an excellent piece of theater that we are sure that our subscribers will love and a great addition to the diverse line-up of LGBTQ+ titles already available on the service.”

Happy Birthday Doug and Bright Colors And Bold Patterns are only two of the many LGBTQ+ titles available in BroadwayHD’s vast library, which also includes Kinky Boots, Indecent, and Falsettos among other shows.  BroadwayHD puts a big focus on acquiring titles for the service that are representative of the global diversity of their audience, and in addition to the LGBTQ+ titles in their collection they also prioritize bringing to the service titles that are directed by and star women and people of color.

BroadwayHD introduces award-winning theater from across the globe with both classic and modern productions. Fans can expect to see the full works of Shakespeare, awe-inspiring performances from Cirque du Soleil and a selection of the world’s greatest musical including Kinky BootsCats42nd Street, She Loves MeThe Phantom of The Opera, The King and I, The Sound of Music, and An American in Paris. All performances are adapted specifically for streaming audiences to maximize the entertainment experience.   To learn more about BroadwayHD, visit www.broadwayhd.com

On This Day In New York Theater: August 31 in the 1920/s, 1930’s and 1940’s

By : Samuel L. Leiter

(No. 13 in the series)

August 31, 2020: A survey of the most active dates for theater openings in late August during the twenties, thirties, and forties turns our attention to the last three days of the month. As noted in previous installments of this column, August was the weakest of each season’s months during our focal decades, July being a close second. In fact, there were years, like 1938, 1939, and 1947, in which only one show opened in August; even more shockingly, not a single August show opened in 1940, 1941, 1945, or 1946. Wherever people were spending their sizzling summers—traveling, the country, or the beach—it wasn’t at un-air-conditioned theaters. 

By : Samuel L. Leiter

(No. 13 in the series)

August 31, 2020: A survey of the most active dates for theater openings in late August during the twenties, thirties, and forties turns our attention to the last three days of the month. As noted in previous installments of this column, August was the weakest of each season’s months during our focal decades, July being a close second. In fact, there were years, like 1938, 1939, and 1947, in which only one show opened in August; even more shockingly, not a single August show opened in 1940, 1941, 1945, or 1946. Wherever people were spending their sizzling summers—traveling, the country, or the beach—it wasn’t at un-air-conditioned theaters. 

Over the thirty years covered by this column, only three late August days—8/29, 8/30, and 8/31—had as many as a dozen openings; in a few cases, these were not true premieres but the beginning of return engagements or of a move from Off to on Broadway. And, while none of these shows came close to having the impact of The Front Page, a mid-August show noted in our last installment, there were definitely a few of more than passing interest, even if only because some household name revered by entertainment buffs—like Ruth Gordon or George M. Cohan—was involved in the proceedings.

Ruth Gordon

The date I’ve chosen—mostly for arbitrary reasons, like the fact that at least one show opened on it during each of our decades—is August 31. As with each of the dates I’ve mentioned, the bulk of that day’s offerings was in the twenties, with just a sprinkling later on. And, as with our first examples, more than one show sometimes opened on the same day despite the many days lacking even a single offering. 

This was the case with Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting and the Greenwich Village Follies of 1921, both born on August 31, 1921. After those examples are dispensed with, we’ll also look at Her Temporary Husband, The Fall of Eve, Potash and Perlmutter, Detectives, She Couldn’t Say No, Such Is Life, Friendship, I Killed the Count, and Sleep No More. Honestly, how many have you heard of?

Stills from the movie version of Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting

Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (Plymouth Theatre, 129) was by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Zoë Akins, one of the small number of highly respected female playwrights of the era. Directed and produced by the eminent Arthur Hopkins, and designed by the equally eminent Robert Edmond Jones, it was an intensely promising, but incompletely fulfilled, marital drama about a poor young couple. The husband (Frank Conroy) tries to shed his family obligations so he can pursue his artistic goals. The wife (Marjorie Rambeau) turns to another man (Lee Baker). Five years later, the husband returns to be near his dying child, but remains true to his vision and will not rekindle his marital relationship.

Zoe Akins

Some of the reviews reveal how powerfully and directly Akins’s writing had broken new ground in its truthfulness and integrity to the people it portrayed. Alexander Woollcott thought this “finely wrought and distinguished play,” so similar in outline to many conventional dramas, was unique to itself, “so distinctive is the thought and expression” of the writer. But Ludwig Lewisohn was sorely irked by the sentimental deathbed contrivances of the final act. Still, he admired Akins’s “peculiar grace” in avoiding a happy ending. In 1925, the play was adapted as a film, stills of which can be seen here.

Happier times were had at the third edition of the Greenwich Village Follies (Shubert Theatre, 167), the serial brainchild of producer-director John Murray Anderson, which, after its 1919 inception in its eponymous Off-Broadway neighborhood, was now beginning its tenure as a Broadway occupant. Having already covered this show in a column for “Theater Pizzazz,” however, I will save myself both time and space by referring you to those comments, which you can study here

Poster for the movie version of Her Temporary Husband

On August 31, 1922, an ephemeral bauble called Her Temporary Husband (Frazee Theatre, 95), by Edward A. Paulton, was deemed by Alexander Woollcott “the kind of reckless and infrequently incredible piece we used to see oftener in the early nineties than in these later seasons.” It was activated by a conventional plot device of the time, a will, in this case one that cautions a young heiress (Ann Andrews) that she will forfeit her inheritance if she weds one Clarence Topping (Henry Mortimer).

Hoping to outfox the will maker, she decides to marry some decrepit senior citizen, get the money, and then, when he kicks the bucket, move in with old Clarence as she had wanted to do in the first place. However, young Tom Burton (William Courtleigh) learns of her scheme, makes himself up as a senile fogey, and weds the girl, only to then reveal himself and attempt to win her on his own—which he does.

Despite its mediocre showing, Her Temporary Husband was adapted as a film in 1923, one of its stars being Sydney Chaplin.

Three years passed before another August 31 opening arrived, in 1925. It was a flabby marriage comedy titled The Fall of Eve (Booth Theatre, 48), by John Emerson and the redoubtable Anita Loos, best known for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with a cast led by an equally redoubtable star. There was little dissension from Joseph Wood Krutch’s assessment that “the irresistibly amusing Ruth Gordon takes complete charge of a poor play . . . and makes it very funny in spite of itself.”

Movie poster for the movie version of The Fall of Eve

Gordon portrayed Eva Hutton, the wife of young lawyer Ted (Arthur Albertson), whose business relationship with a beautiful actress from whom he has been working as a tax consultant leads, via the agency of a rumor-mongering spinster (Cora Witherspoon), to Eva’s great jealousy. However, when she gets drunk and finds herself having spent the night at the home of two bachelor friends of Ted’s, she believes she has betrayed him. Of course, her fears are unfounded, the bachelors never touched her, and her spouse is completely innocent. 

Objections were typified by Richard Dana Skinner, who censured the unoriginal story, lack of subtlety, “artificial thesis, . . . cumbersome exposition and situations that are far from exalted.” A movie adaptation appeared in 1929.

A year later, 1926, almost as if to make up for lost time, there were THREE openings on August 31. (There would be only three more August 31 shows over the next two decades.) One of the 1926 trio was Potash and Perlmutter, Detectives (Ritz Theatre, 48), the last in a successful (until now) series of comedies featuring the two Jewish immigrant partners of the title. The pair, whose first names were Abe and Mawruss, had benefited from the performance of Abe by dialect comedian Barney Bernard, whose recent death did not deter producer Al Woods from this final offering in the beloved series. Yiddish theatre actor Ludwig Satz assumed the Abe Potash role, his first in English. There was also a new Mawruss Perlmutter in the person of Robert Leonard, replacing the popular Alexander Carr.

In their present low comedy incarnation, subtitled Poisoned by Pictures, Potash and Perlmutter were farcical sleuths who take on their duties when named as executors of a private detective agency. Pursuit of a purloined jewel case lands the “schlemiels” in the clink, various amusing circumstances are whipped up, dialect yocks bounce around, moments of tear-jerking pathos intrude, and everyone goes home happier than when they came in.

Saltz and Leonard did not succeed in replacing Bernard and Carr in the affection of audiences, nor was their vehicle, by Montagu Glass and Jules Eckert Goodman, as sturdy as its predecessors. One of the more acidulous notices, by Arthur Hornblow, said the play was “so utterly puerile and so foreign to the spirit in which these two Hebraic characters were originally conceived that it has no excuse for being.”

Plays whose titles started with “She” were rather common in the twenties—She Couldn’t Say No, She Knew What She Wanted, She Had to Know, and that old chestnut, She Stoops to Conquer. Our example is the first of these, a farce of small town life by A.B. Kaye (Booth Theatre, 72). Hornblow called it “little more than a vaudeville sketch, elongated,” but it enjoyed a tour de force performance by comedienne Florence Moore that made a visit worth one’s while. 

Ralph Kellard and Florence Moore in She Couldn’t Say No

The story was illogical, implausible, and impossible, but such objections meant nothing to those who laughed their heads off. The Times compared the star to Groucho Marx in her comic inventiveness, and reviewer Charles Belmont Davis suggested that she improvised many of her gags. 

It tells of a stenographer (Moore) in love with her poor lawyer boss (Ralph Kellard). She takes on a breach of promise suit in an upstate small-town court and assumes the role of an attorney from New York City, her comic foils being the local yokels.

Brooks Atkinson described Moore’s shenanigans during the trial: “She invents tricks with two hats, wields a golf club, plays a tune on the brass checks of the hotel keys, looks through the back of a chair as though the bars were prison cell, and bounces around the stage good-naturedly from start to finish.”

The last example from 1926, and the decade itself, was a drama called Such Is Life (Morosco Theatre, 22), by Peter Glenny and Marie Armstrong Hecht, in which Noel Gignon (Ralph Sprague) has married Barbara Sterling (Sydney Shields) but run off with her sister Agatha to Paris. Both sisters have a child by him about the same time, and Barbara raises them as her “twins.” Two decades later, Noel returns and asks Agatha and her hunchbacked son (Hardie Albright) to come back to him. He is soon sent packing, however, as a bigamist and scoundrel.

The play concentrates on the relationships of Barbara, Agatha, and two spinster sisters of theirs who reside with them and get on one another’s nerves.

“The play has solid merit in spite of certain crudities,” acknowledged Joseph Wood Krutch, while the Times, noting its portentous stabs at symbolism, claimed that if it turned “out to be no more than a showy play . . . , sputtering with vague emotions and seldom coming into sharp focus, the rag-bag method of playwriting must bear the blame.”

Only something called Friendship (Fulton Theatre, 14), by the onetime Broadway superman, George M. Cohan, found its way to a stage on an August 31 in the thirties, 1931 to be precise. Rumor had it that Friendship was the first Cohan play to be fully written before rehearsals commenced. Some questioned whether this might not have been the reason it seemed, for all its actability, to lack the insistent freshness and theatricality of the showman’s earlier work. Brooks Atkinson called it “a slight play, not a little monotonous, somewhat confusing, and thoroughly conventional in pattern and idea.”

Playbill for Friendship, with Minor Watson

Several critics used the phrase “morality play” to describe what Richard Dana Skinner described as a three-act diatribe against the “consummate self-centeredness and amoral philosophy of the younger generation.” Cohan played Joe Townsend, middle-aged keeper of a mistress named Louise (Lee Patrick), whom he took from a nightclub job and spent three years improving culturally and educationally (shades of Pygmalion). 

The plot observes Joe’s efforts to get her back after she decides to become a novelist, leave Joe, and marry a conceited writer named Cecil (Clifford Jones), the target of much of Joe’s anti-youth disgust. In the end, Louise returns to Joe and the promise of marriage.

Playbill for I Killed the Count

Closing out this August 31 survey are two shows from the forties, I Killed the Count and Sleep No More. The former (Cort Theatre, 29), by Australian writer Alec Coppel, arrived in 1942, being a comic British murder mystery dating back to its London production in 1937 and a British film of 1939. Seen Stateside at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse before venturing to Broadway, it proved a wasted effort, one the Variety critic signed as Ibee. attacked as “repetitious to a degree and quite incredible.” 

The body of a slain foreign nobleman, Count Victor Mattoni (Rafael Corio) is found in his London flat. Divisional inspector Davidson (Louis Hector) questions the three prime suspects (Robert Allen, Guy Spaull, and A.J. Herbert), one by one. Each confesses, and each confession is followed by a fadeout and the reenactment of the crime before the Scotland Yard detective and his assistant (Bertram Tanswell). The examinations are all plausible and supported by circumstantial evidence, which is corroborated by Samuel Diamond (Clarence Derwent), resident of a nearby flat. The grumpy Davidson’s frustration grows greater when a woman (Louise Rogers) also confesses. 

All becomes clear upon the eventual revelation that the multiple confessions are part of a plot to get rid of the dastardly count by a conspiracy wherein no single individual is identified as the killer. Actually, it was the woman who did it, but neither she nor anyone else can be arrested because of a loophole in the law about charging more than one person for a crime known to have been perpetrated by a single person.

Pointing to the dramatis personae of conventional types, Atkinson asserted, “Mr. Coppel goes about the writing job as if he were making out a laundry list. The organization . . . is routine. The dialogue is commonplace. The plot would be suitable for a clever charade of bored week-end guests who have rad all the crime fiction on their bedside tables.” I Killed the Count didn’t totally die with this showing. It was resurrected as a TV movie in 1948 and, among other video versions, an episode of TV’s “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in 1957.

 Louis Hector and Doris Dalton in I Killed the Count

I sense you’re getting weary so I’ll wrap it up with Sleep No More (Cort Theatre, 7), a flop by Lee Loeb and Arthur Strawn, Hollywood scriptwriters who struggled to keep their audience awake despite a breakneck farce jam-packed with familiar gags, many of them sexually suggestive. 

Its plot tells of a shady promoter named Clifford Gates (Robert Armstrong) threatened by a woman demanding her money back for one of his phony products. Gates and a trio of larcenous barbers promote a pill invented by druggist William Jennings Brown (George Offerman, Jr.) that kills sleep so you can be active 24 hours a day. Brown marries his sweetheart (Patricia Ryan) but, because the pill needs testing, he takes it for six days, getting no sleep at all. When a mattress manufacturer (Ed Latimer), fearful that his product will become useless, tries to buy the formula, Brown sinks into a deep snooze. Complications ensue. Brown’s snooze turns out to be caused by punctured eardrums; the pills actually can cure dogs of worms; Brown earns big bucks; and the cash is diverted into another invention. 

Sleep No More has a central situation which inspires laughter, but it has been treated in a yawning manner,” sighed Howard Barnes. 

The dog days of summer now being just about over, we look forward to more abundant offerings as September and the reawakening of theatre activity roll into view. If only that were also true in 2020. 

Click Here for #1 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 14 IN THE 1920’S

Click Here for #2 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 19 in the 1930’s

Click Here for #3 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 24 IN THE 1920’S AND 1930’S

Click Here for #4 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: MAY 29 in the 1920’S, 1930’S and 1940’S

Click Here for #5 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: JUNE 3 in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s

Click Here for #6 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: June 13 in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s

Click Here for #7 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: June 20 in the 1920’a, 1930’s and 1940’s

Click Here for #8 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: June 26 in the 1920’a, 1930’s and 1940’s

Click Here for #9 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: July 6 in the 1920’a, 1930’s and 1940’s

Click Here for #10 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: July 15 in the 1920’a, 1930’s and 1940’s

Click Here for #11 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: July 27 in the 1920’a, 1930’s and 1940’s

Click Here for #12 in the Series ON THIS DAY IN NEW YORK THEATER: August 14 in the 1920’a, 1930’s and 1940’s

Murder at River Crossing Book Club *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 30, 2020: One of the promising developments in the entertainment industry during the pandemic is the many creative ways companies have met the challenge of not having a live audience in a theater. Not least of these innovations is Live in Theater’s series of interactive Zoom experiences. The series uses Zoom technology to bring interactive theater into the homes of audiences. The first show in the series is Murder at River Crossing Book Club. created by Carlo D’Amore, Collin Blackard, Phoebe Dunn, Natalia Yandyganova; and written and directed by D’Amore.

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 30, 2020: One of the promising developments in the entertainment industry during the pandemic is the many creative ways companies have met the challenge of not having a live audience in a theater. Not least of these innovations is Live in Theater’s series of interactive Zoom experiences. The series uses Zoom technology to bring interactive theater into the homes of audiences. The first show in the series is Murder at River Crossing Book Club. created by Carlo D’Amore, Collin Blackard, Phoebe Dunn, Natalia Yandyganova; and written and directed by D’Amore.

In the small southern town, River Crossing, Ursula Fitzroy reigns supreme as the local socialite and the last descendent of the town’s wealthiest family. She’s also the founder of the town book club, which she governs with an iron hand. The drama begins after she is found dead in her home at the bottom of a staircase shortly after the book club has disbanded for the night. The evening had been contentious, with several arguments centering around the reading and enactment of Gone with the Wind.

This is a gothic setup anyone who’s read a Faulkner novel or watched The Vampire Diarieswill recognize immediately. The women are flirts or self-righteous spinsters. The men are liars, drunks and philanderers. And the Civil War is, of course, the War of Northern Aggression.

First Ricarda Pissum, MD (Phoebe Dunn) provides all the available information, including the police report (evidence includes two one-way tickets to Chicago found in a purse, a torn veil, and drugs and alcohol in the victim’s blood) and the list of suspects: Too Much Charlie (Collin Blackard); Thomas, Ursala’s husband and the town’s judge (Chris Enright); Mullet, the bartender (Lemond Hayes), Miss Tilsen, a teacher at the school the Fitzroys founded (Olivia Jimenez); and Abigail, Ursula’s best friend (Sarah Sutliff). 

Once the ball starts rolling, it can end up in anyone’s park. The Zoom audience is grouped into different breakout rooms, where they will compete to discover who committed the dastardly act. Each of the suspects appears in the breakout rooms to be interviewed by the sleuths. Their protests of innocence and rectitude are carefully contrived to make every one of them seem guilty. 

This requires actors who can both follow a script and improvise. I am happy to report that the night I participated these actors were more than up to the task. They were outrageous, funny and every one of them a possible murderer. What delicious fun.

Unfortunately, my group chose the wrong suspect. But that was only because my colleagues did not listen to my sound advice. 

For more information visit liveintheater.com.

Tonys, Mart Crowley’s BOYS Will Stream, HEIGHTS Soars

The 74th Tony Awards Will Be Televised

By: Ellis Nassour

August 23, 2020: Such great news, as excellently reported here by our David Sheward, that Fall will bring a televised 74th annual Tony Awards, honoring the 2019-2020 season, which was sadly cut short by Covid 19. The American Theater Wing and Broadway League — co-presenters of the Awards, announced that 18 of the 20 shows that opened before the March 13 shutdown will be eligible for nominations. Additional details will be released soon. 

The 74th Tony Awards Will Be Televised

By: Ellis Nassour

August 23, 2020: Such great news, as excellently reported here by our David Sheward, that Fall will bring a televised 74th annual Tony Awards, honoring the 2019-2020 season, which was sadly cut short by Covid 19. The American Theater Wing and Broadway League — co-presenters of the Awards, announced that 18 of the 20 shows that opened before the March 13 shutdown will be eligible for nominations. Additional details will be released soon. 

The Wing and League decided it would be unfair to combine nominations from this season with those that, hopefully, will follow next season after theatres, hopefully, reopen in March and April with quite a stellar line-up of shows, that’ll include a spectacular musical about King of Pop Michael Jackson and featuring his music archive; and stars – which include Matthew Broderick, Danny Burstein, Sutton Foster, Hugh Jackson, Katrina Lenk, Patti LuPone, Karen Olivo, and Sarah Jessica Parker.  

The orgs issued a joint statement: “Though unprecedented events cut the 2019-2020 Broadway season short, it was a year full of extraordinary work that deserves to be recognized. We’re thrilled to have found a way to properly celebrate our artists’ incredible achievements this season … The show must go on, no matter what — and it will.”

Only productions on the boards prior to February 19 will be eligible for 2019-2020 nominations. They include Harold Pinter’s Betrayal revival, Darren Brown: Secret; David Byrne’s American Utopia; Freestyle Love Supreme;Beth Wohl’s Grand Horizons; Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society; Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance; Alanis Morissetteand Glen Ballard’s Jagged Little Pill; Joe Tracz and Rob Rokicki’s The Lightning Thief; Tracy Letts’ Linda Vista; Elizabeth Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton;John Logan’s Moulin Rouge!, Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo revival, Adam Rapp’s The Sound Inside; and  Katori Hall / Frank Ketelaar / Kees Prins’ Tina.

Sondheim/Bernstein’s West Side Story revival, which was very long in previews prior to finally opening February 20 [a day after Wing/League cutoff; and Girl from the North Country, featuring music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, which debuted March 5, have been deemed ineligible for 2019-2020 consideration due to the fact that too few members of the huge Tony Nomination Committee were able to see them prior to the shutdown. They’ll be eligible in 2020-2021 season.

Productions in previews coming back include Sondheim’s Company revival, starring Tony winners Lenk and LuPone; Diana, following its March premiere as a streaming Netflix special; Lincoln Center Theater’s musical, Flying Over Sunset; Broadway debut revival of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive; revival of Neil Simon’s comedy Plaza Suite, starring Parker and Tony winner Broderick; Gary Clark / John Carney / Edna Walsh’s Sing Street; and Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ Six. 

Also set to arrive are a revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo; the National’s Theatre’s The Lehman Trilogy; Letts’ The Minutes; MJ [Michael Jackson], which will reopen the stunning multi-million dollar renovated and restored Neil Simon [boasting larger seats]; Karey Kirpatrick and John O’Farrell’s Mrs. Doubtfire; revival of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, starring Tony winners Jackman, Foster, and Shuler Hensley; and Roundabout revivals of the musicals 1776 and Caroline, or Change.

Broadway Revival of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band Will Stream on Netflix Beginning September 30

The film of Mart Crowley’s 2018 Tony-winning revival of The Boys in the Band – making its Broadway debut after 50 years of productions Off Broadway and world-wide, is directed by two-time Tony-winner Joe Mantello, who helmed the Broadway production The screenplay is by Crowley and Ned Martel. As Crowley insisted with the first film of his original1968 production, the film features its original cast: Michael Benjamin, Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee Matt Bomer, Charlie Carver, two-time Tony nominee Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchinson, Golden Globe and four-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Tony-nominee Andrew Rannells, and Tuc Watkins.

Co-producers are Murphy, Mantello, Martel, David Stone, and Alexis Martin Woodall. The film was shot in L.A., beginning July 2019. Before his death at 83 in March, Crowley not only visited with the production but was able to see the final edit.  

When The Boys in the Band opened Off-Broadway, it soon became a sensation, and one of the longest-running Off Broadway shows (just short of 18 months; 1001 performances). An Associated Press blurb read: “One of the few plays that can honestly claim to have helped spark a social revolution.”

Soon after the praise for the blistering portrayal of his nine diverse characters, the play opened a powder keg of emotions just as America’s gay pride and identity movement opened another powder keg after the Stonewall Inn arrests. The onset of the fateful AIDS crisis came next. Gays fought for research funding and a better portrayal of themselves. Crowley’s play was considered divisive, too-stereotypical.

Crowley said, “I never imagined the play or I would be targeted and so reviled. It’s not intended to be a sermon. It’s not my intention to give anyone advice. What do I know about social causes? I had no hidden agenda. If anything, my agenda was writing for personal fulfillment and for my own survival after years of frustration and failure. It all came onto the page, maybe even boiled over, rather quickly and easily.”

As things calmed, there were cheers. The play, one of the first homosexual-themed plays to reach mainstream audiences, is considered a landmark and a landmark of gay cinema. With thousands of productions regional and worldwide and a film, it is one of theater’s most produced plays.

Crowley admitted, “There’s a little of me in some of the characters, and a lot of many people I’ve known, but the black comedy is not a confession, nor is it autobiographical – although there’s some dialogue that draws a number of personal parallels.”

With Murphy and Stone, along with Scott Rudin, bringing the play to Broadway in 2018, Crowley crowed, “I’m back! The band is still playing. Who in the world would ever believe this would happen? I’m extremely blessed for all the good fortune at this time in my life.”

That night, with longtime friends, he stood across the street from the Booth in pouring rain as the giant sign high atop the theatre blazed the play’s title in lights over the Theatre District; and he beamed with pride as the marquee was lit.

New York’s “Quintessential, Vibrant: New York Musical In the Heights Gets the Luxe Treatment

Ghostlight Records is releasing the original Broadway cast recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights in a luxe three-LP box with discs in red, white, and blue – a tribute to Puerto Rico September 4. This new edition of the Grammy-winning-album will be a Barnes & Noble exclusive to help celebrate Vinyl Weekend, September 4-6.

Fans can pre-order the new limited-time edition, with 16-page booklet and 23 tracks/21 tunes, at ghostlightrecords.lnk.to/intheheights_specialvinyl.

The album has been a best-seller since 2008. The discs feature 90 minutes of remastered music. The booklet contains lyrics, original show photos, and synopsis, and notes from Tony-winning director Thomas Kail (Hamilton). A MP3 download card is included.  A remastered original cast CD is also available.

In the Heights won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The score is set to Latin, Salsa and Hip-Hop-infused music, conceived byMiranda with book by Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes. The show was and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler; with Alex Lacamoire music directing. 

The original cast includes Pulitzer Prize and Tony nominee  Miranda, Andrèa Burns, Janet Dacal, two-time Tony-nominee Robin de Jesús, Carlos Gomez, Mandy Gonzalez, three-time Tony nominee Joshua Henry, Christopher Jackson, Tony-winner Priscilla Lopez, Doreen Montalvo, Tony-winner Karen Olivo, and Krysta Rodriguez.

PBS is streaming the acclaimed documentary, Inthe Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams as part ofitsGreat Performances: Broadway at Home series. 

The Warner Bros. release of the musical’s film adaptation, delayed due to the Covid 19 crisis, is set for June, directed by Jon Chu (Crazy Rich Asians).

Theater Update: 2020 Digital Tonys; NBC Special; New Apples

Theater Update: 2020 Digital Tonys; NBC Special; New Apples

By: David Sheward

August 22, 2020: Like a child late to a birthday party, the Tony Awards are finally arriving at the accolade-dispensing festivities. The 74th annual Tonys will be presented digitally in the fall. There were no specific dates or details on the platform in the press release issued by the Broadway League, the organization of theater owners and producers which co-presents the ceremony with the American Theater Wing. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters closed, cutting short the season and the number of shows eligible for prizes. While all the other NYC theater awards including the Drama Desks, Outer Critics Circle, Obies, and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, presented their trophies either online or by press announcements through May and June, the Tonys stayed mum. 

Theater Update: 2020 Digital Tonys; NBC Special; New Apples

By: David Sheward

August 22, 2020: Like a child late to a birthday party, the Tony Awards are finally arriving at the accolade-dispensing festivities. The 74th annual Tonys will be presented digitally in the fall. There were no specific dates or details on the platform in the press release issued by the Broadway League, the organization of theater owners and producers which co-presents the ceremony with the American Theater Wing. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters closed, cutting short the season and the number of shows eligible for prizes. While all the other NYC theater awards including the Drama Desks, Outer Critics Circle, Obies, and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, presented their trophies either online or by press announcements through May and June, the Tonys stayed mum. 

The question now is how will the Tony voters will be able to make fair and accurate judgments. Many Tony voters are out-of-town road producers who don’t see all the nominees until after the nominations are announced in early May. Since the shows are all closed many of the electorate won’t even be able to view all the candidates. At the time of the pandemic shutdown, only a handful of new musicals and one musical revival (West Side Story) had opened. Of the five new musicals, one (Girl from the North Country) had only just opened. The other four are Jagged Little Pill, Lightning Thief, Moulin Rouge and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. David Bryne’s American Utopia did not invite Tony voters and was not eligible. There is more variety and scope in the play division with ten possible new candidates and four revivals. Of the new play potential nominees, none were running at the time of the shutdown. Only The Inheritance had been playing relatively soon before the shutdown. Matthew Lopez’s two-part update of Howard’s End closed on March 11 and the theaters all went dark on the very next night. There is speculation West Side Story and Girl will not be eligible since they opened so close to the shutdown and not many voters got to see them. (See the list below for a complete list of the truncated 2019-20 Broadway season).

In other news, the New York Post‘s Page Six announces that NBC will be broadcasting a big splashy special touting the shuttered Broadway productions in October. The paper reports the network has reached out to all the Broadway shows running at the time of the shutdown to have excerpts performed live. But reactions have been varied. Some financially-strapped producers are cautious about spending the necessary cash to mount the numbers from the shows. In addition, cast members are scattered across the country and will require rehearsals and possible new costumes since they may have gained weight during the lockdown (I know I have). The TV special’s objective appears to be to say “Don’t forget Broadway, America. It will still be here when this pandemic is over.” But theaters probably won’t be re-opening until at least March 2021 when the first shows have announced previews. Many insiders speculate the re-opening will be even later if a vaccine or treatment is not discovered. Will America remember after a stretch of several months?

While the stages are dark, theater has gone on Zoom. One of the most popular digital productions have been Richard Nelson’s two Zoom-based plays about the Apple Family, What Do We Need to Talk About? and And So We Come Forth, presented in April and July respectively. Now a third work about the clan in upstate New York will complete the trilogy. Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom will premiere on Sept. 10 on YouTube at 7:30pm and will be available until Nov. 5. Jay O. Sanders, Maryann Plunkett, Sally Murphy, Laila Robbins and Stephen Kunken will reprise their roles along with new cast member Charlotte Bydwell.

2019-20 Broadway Season

New Plays

A Christmas Carol

Grand Horizons

The Great Society

The Height of the Storm

The Inheritance, Parts One and Two

Linda Vista

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Sea Wall/A Life (Off-Broadway transfer)

Slave Play (Off-Broadway transfer)

The Sound Inside

New Musicals

David Byrne’s American Utopia

Girl from the North Country (transfer from Off-Broadway)

Jagged Little Pill

Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical (previously presented Off-Broadway)

Moulin Rouge

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

Play Revivals

Betrayal

Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune

The Rose Tattoo

A Soldier’s Play

Musical Revivals

West Side Story

Specialties

Barry Manilow

Derren Brown: Secret

Harry Connick Jr.–A Celebration of Cole Porter

The Illusionists: Magic of the Holidays

Kristin Chenoweth: For the Girls

Slava’s Snowshow (revival)

Originally Posted on The David Desk 2 on 8-22-20

Howell Binkley (1956-2020)

The Theater Community mourns a beloved colleague, Howell Binkley, the Tony Award winning lighting designer of Hamilton and Jersey Boys.

August 16, 2020: One of Broadway’s most prominent and well liked lighting designers, Howell Binkley, a two-time Tony winner died on August 14 at the age of 64 after a long battle with lung cancer. His wife, Joyce Storey, confirmed the news. His designs included the Broadway productions of Jersey Boys and Hamilton, both of which earned him Tony Awards. The first award came in 2006 and the second 10 years later in 2016.  He also won the Olivier Award for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s staging of the musical Hamilton in London’s West End. The awards were merely the icing on an illustrious Broadway career that was already well established by the mid1990s. In total Mr. Binkley designed lighting for 52 Broadway shows.

The Theater Community mourns a beloved colleague, Howell Binkley, the Tony Award winning lighting designer of Hamilton and Jersey Boys.

August 16, 2020: One of Broadway’s most prominent and well liked lighting designers, Howell Binkley, a two-time Tony winner died on August 14 at the age of 64 after a long battle with lung cancer. His wife, Joyce Storey, confirmed the news. His designs included the Broadway productions of Jersey Boys and Hamilton, both of which earned him Tony Awards. The first award came in 2006 and the second 10 years later in 2016.  He also won the Olivier Award for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s staging of the musical Hamilton in London’s West End. The awards were merely the icing on an illustrious Broadway career that was already well established by the mid1990s. In total Mr. Binkley designed lighting for 52 Broadway shows.

Howell Binkley, Paul Tazewell Best Lighting and Costume Design for a Musical “Hamilton” 2016 Tony Awards, Photo: Barry Gordin

He made his Broadway debut as the lighting designer for Kiss of a Spider-Woman in 1993, earning a Tony nomination for his work on the John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally musical set in an Argentine prison. Other Broadway credits include Avenue Q, In the Heights, Come From Away, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, all of which earned Tony nominations. He received a total of 9 Tony nominations.

Born in Winston-Salem, Mr. Binkley attended East Carolina University before moving to New York City in 1978. In 1985, choreographer David Parsons and Mr. Binkley founded the Parsons Dance Company, a modern company that has toured all over the world.

In addition to his work in NYC, Binkley did the national tours of Applause in 1996; tick, tick…BOOM! in 2003; and Flashdance in 2012. His work was most recently seen earlier this year in the world premiere of Fly at La Jolla Playhouse.

When news of his death broke, the theater community flooded social media with beloved remembrances of working with him.

On This Day In New York Theater: August 14 in the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s

By: Samuel L. Leiter

(No. 12 in the series)

August 14, 2020: Round and round she goes, and where she stops for this installment of “On This Day in New York Theater” is August 14, the most active August date over the course of the three decades covered by this series. For the thirties and forties, August beat time on the doldrums, sometimes nearly standing as still as the ship in Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with theatres, theatres everywhere, but very few that blinked. 

By: Samuel L. Leiter

(No. 12 in the series)

August 14, 2020: Round and round she goes, and where she stops for this installment of “On This Day in New York Theater” is August 14, the most active August date over the course of the three decades covered by this series. For the thirties and forties, August beat time on the doldrums, sometimes nearly standing as still as the ship in Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with theatres, theatres everywhere, but very few that blinked. 

The twinkling twenties were the most active, with five shows on August 14 alone, although only one is likely to mean anything today. Those least likely to stir your pot were Lights Out, The Good Old Days, and Easy Street. See what I mean? Buffs of old-time revues, however, are far more likely to recognize the title of Murray Anderson’s Almanac, while a much broader swath of fans will need little prodding to recall The Front Page. All the threatening thirties had to say for themselves on the 14th day of August was—apart from something in Bulgarian (I kid you not)—was a so-so revival of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. The fighting forties offered nothing but the reopening of The Two Mrs. Carrolls, a long-running drama that had closed for a summer break.

Violet Barney, Vincent York, Allen Jenkins, Tammany Young, and Willard Robertson.in “The Front Page“.

The producer of Lights Out (Vanderbilt Theatre, 8/14/22, 12) chose the hottest night of the summer to open what the Times labeled a “moderately amusing” comedy-melodrama that lingered little more than a week. The critic for Variety correctly guessed that “The high-brows won’t like it,” but he was dead wrong when he assumed it would go over with the masses, who would savor its “neat love story, . . . mystery, . . . corking crook angle and . . . touch of the motion picture stuff.”

When a band of thieves learns that the satchel they wish to steal from would-be writer Egbert Winslow (Robert Ames) contains film scenarios, they hatch a scheme whereby Egbert will create scripts based on their real-life adventures. One such piece, designed to expose another crook (C. Henry Gordon), is produced, leading to the crook’s capture and Egbert’s landing the daughter of the bank president, who is cleared of suspicion for the crime.

The Good Old Days (Broadhurst Theatre, 8/14,23, 71), an A.H. Woods production, did a bit better, lasting two months with its script by Aaron Hoffman, directed by Hoffman and Howard Lindsay in his pre-Life with Father period. Kidding the Volstead Act, this comedy (originally called Light Wine and Beer) featured two saloon keepers whose friendship is tested by Prohibition. Nick (George Bickel) becomes a bootlegger, but Rudolph (Charles Winninger) is converted at Madison Square Garden by famed evangelist Billy Sunday and becomes an enforcement officer. After several skirmishes, Rudolph decides he was wrong and frees his daughter to marry Nick’s nephew with his blessing.

“A good deal the sort of farce at which you are likely to laugh in haste and repent at leisure,” judged Burns Mantle. Percy Hammond thought, “This is a good example of the hot-dog drama, providing, as it does, much mental nutrition for those whose thoughts are of ice-cream cones and all-day suckers.”

In 1924, the play that opened on August 14 was another clunker, a drama by Ralph Thomas Kettering called Easy Street (Thirty-ninth Street Theatre, 8/14/24, 12). It was, in fact, on easy street during its 19-week pre-Broadway run in Chicago, but met with horse laughs and raspberries from the New York community. An uneven work that veered radically from melodrama to domestic comedy, Easy Street was about a narrow-minded suburban husband (Ralph Kellard), who suspects his wife’s (Mary Newcomb) motives in frequently going into town. Although he thinks she’s having an affair, she has actually been working to supplement the family income but has not told him because of fear of wounding his pride. He tells her to leave; she packs; he looks inside her bag and finds a baby’s garment. “Darling, can this be true?” he asks. Reconciliation and . . . curtain. 

Easy Street is amateurish, dull and absurd throughout,” carped the Times.

Osgood Perkins in ” The Front Page“.

We get to something really first-class only when the curtain rises on Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Front Page (Times Square Theatre, 8/14/28, 281), a now classic hit comedy epitomizing the rough and tumble of newspaper crime reporting. For all its ostensibly dated atmosphere and circumstances, it remains a popular standby, including several terrific movie versions, one—His Girl Fridaywith a clever gender switch in which a leading male becomes a leading female. 

It was commonly believed among critics that stories about newspaper life didn’t make good plays, but The Front Page was a groundbreaking example that stopped the presses as the exception that proved the rule. Ward Morehouse’s Gentlemen of the Press, another heralded play about the fourth estate, opened only 13 days later. With 128 performances, it was what then constituted a modest success and further demonstrated that an effective script could make journalists and their world both entertaining and profitable.

The Front Page, one of Burns Mantle’s Ten Best Plays of the Year, is a side-splitting comedy about rough-edged Chicago crime reporters written by two former Chicago newspaper men. Its juicy dialogue was considered pungent and honestly expressive of the salty speech native to its milieu, and the tag line, “The son-of-a-bitch stole my watch,” became one of Broadway’s favorites. 

The play’s inside look at the profane behavior and dedicated professionalism of its subjects gained it a reputation for honesty, while offering audiences a group of characters and a number of situations that kept them continuously engaged. “Most admirably directed by George S. Kaufmann [sic], The Front Page simply swept along and swept its audience off its feet with its speed, boisterousness, veracity and that quintessential hokum which is ‘good theatre’,” wrote one critic. Lee Tracy, Osgood Perkins, and Dorothy Stickney gave what were considered among the sharpest portrayals of their careers.

Set in the press room of the Chicago Criminal Courts Building, it gathers together a motley crew of vulgar, card-playing, unkempt, wise-cracking reporters, placing them in the midst of a plot in which reporter Hildy Johnson (Tracy) wants to quit the HeraldExaminer to marry Peggy Grant (Frances Fuller), much to the chagrin of his hardboiled editor, Walter Burns (Perkins), who schemes to stop him. 

Meanwhile, Earl Williams (George Leach), condemned murderer, escapes his captors and, wounded, hides out in the press room’s rolltop desk. To Burns’s delight, Hildy is drawn into covering the case while the bride waits at the station. Once all is resolved, in a swirl of cops, politicians, and the gunman’s hooker girlfriend (Stickney), Hildy leaves, but Burns manages to put one last obstacle in the path to his departure. 

Richard Dana Skinner and a few others argued that the play’s success was owing strictly to its brilliant staging and acting. As writing, he said it was “a hodgepodge of plot mechanics, vast improbabilities, deliberate hokum and faked sentimentalities.” But Robert Littell maintained that “The Front Page, farcical and improbable as it may seem when you take a second look at its framework, at the time of seeing it first has the sharp taste of novelty and the tumultuous unexpected surprises of real life.”

Lee Tracy in “The Front Page“.

It should, perhaps, be added that producer Jed Harris claimed in his memoir A Dance on the High Wire that he was responsible for much of the plotting. He also noted that director Kaufman oversaw much of the writing and came up with the title. Harris declared that the play was based on real Chicago journalists. “It was one of the marvels of The Front Page that although all the characters were actual people, nobody ever thought of suing us for invasion of privacy. 

Indeed they all turned up for the opening night in Chicago and simply wallowed in delight. When the curtain fell at the end of the first act, the roar that rose from the auditorium sounded like the bellowing of a herd of wild animals. . . . Above the din one great monster of a voice could be heard: MAKE IT MORE PERSONAL!”

Dorothy Stickney, who played the tart Molly Malloy had a scene where she had to jump out of a window to her death. To accomplish this, a hole was created in the stage floor outside the setting window. The actress dove onto a mattress in the basement. On the dress rehearsal night, she banged her elbow in the process and didn’t realize until three days later that she had chipped the bone. She had to play for three weeks in a cast with her arm in a sling matching her black lace dress.

The Front Page was the first play for which Kaufman received sole directing credit. He went on to become one of Broadway’s greatest comedy directors as well as one of its most successful playwrights, although always except for 1928’s The Butter and Egg Man in collaboration with others. A major problem he had in The Front Page concerned Stickney’s reluctance to speak her entrance line: “I’ve been looking for you bastards,” a rather coarse one in those linguistically cautious days. According to Howard Teichman’s George S. Kaufman, the director got the prim actress to speak the line by taking her aside and telling her that the words were “inserted solely for the purposes of arousing sympathy for the character she was playing.”

The final August 14 show of the twenties, and the last about which I’ll offer any details, was Murray Anderson’s Almanac (Erlanger’s Theatre, 8/14/29, 69). It was the brainchild of John Murray Anderson, progenitor of the Greenwich Village Follies series, which had come to an end by 1929, when Anderson replaced it with this new show. Unfortunately, aside from a 1953 show with the same title, this was its only edition. 

 ” The Front Page”.

Anderson’s “revusical of yesterday, today, tomorrow” failed to do business despite its novel magazine format covering the half-century from 1880-1930. Numerous top talents—the writers included Noël Coward, Peter Arno, Rube Goldberg, and Harry Ruskin, among others—contributed to its writing and design. Tin Pan Alley perennial was first showcased here: Milton Ager and Henry Sullivan’s “I May Be Wrong,” introduced by Jimmy Savo and Trixie Friganza. Here it is, sung here by contemporary singing star Libby Holman, in her very distinctive way.

A Reginald Marsh show-curtain highlighted theatre history during the theme period; vaudeville clown Savo shot into stellar prominence as a comic to be reckoned with; comedienne Eleanor Shaler, with her Bea Lillie-like humor, could have used more material; Jack Powell did a first-rate blackface routine—not easy when blackface was so common and rarely criticized as racist—making music with a pair of drumsticks on miscellaneous objects; magician Fred Keating served as a clever M.C.; an Oscar Wilde story, “The Happy Prince,” was transformed into a Ballet Ballad; and an assortment of other sketches and routines scored high and low. 

Still, it all failed to coalesce. “[S]omehow,” sighed Brooks Atkinson, “its mixture of the good with the mediocre leaves you lacking a little in enthusiasm for it.”

Apart from a tiny exception, which I’ll note in a moment, the sole August 14 offering of the thirties was a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1888 The Yeoman of the Guard (Majestic Theatre, 8/14/33, 8), part of a G&S repertory directed and produced by Milton Aborn, a regular part of the era’s offerings. This just passable staging was actually a return engagement of a production that had given eight showings from May 1, 1933, at the St. James Theatre. 

The exception I hinted at—and which I mention here for no other reason than completeness—was Ivan Vazof’s The Rebels (Heckscher Theatre, 8/14/3, 3), part of a three-play repertory shown Off Broadway by the touring Bulgarian National Theatre of Sofia. Also along for the visit were their productions of The Cricket on the Hearth and Racho Stoyanov’s The Masters. Language and cultural barriers kept the critics at bay, so there is nothing left to report.

Potentially more worthy of remembrance was The Two Mrs. Carrolls, a thriller best known today for its 1947 movie version starring Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, and Alexis Smith. Unfortunately, this British import, whose Broadway version starred Victor Jory, Viennese actress Elisabeth Bergner, and Vera Allen, with Irene Worth making her strong Broadway debut in a secondary role, actually had opened at the Booth Theatre on August 3, 1943. Despite mediocre reviews, it was a hit that ran nearly for 585 performances, allowing it to go on vacation in July and August 1944. August 14 was the date of its reopening, so we’ll save space here by abandoning the title characters to their fate. 

The search now begins to find a date in late August of the twenties, thirties, and forties worthy of being a memorable day in New York theatre. If only one show as good  as The Front Page turns up, the search will have been worth the effort.

Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noel Coward ***

By: David Sheward

August 13, 2020: The intimate environs of cabaret will probably be the last aspect of the entertainment industry to return to normal in this COVID world. Patrons squeezed shoulder to shoulder at tiny tables, mere inches away from performers projecting potentially infectious air particles is a scary atmosphere these days. Until a reliable vaccine becomes available, we will probably not be enjoying this unique, direct art form. Fortunately, the Irish Repertory Theatre has translated a delightful gem of a cabaret piece to the digital medium for a brief stay. Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noel Coward, devised by Barry Day, assembles a sparkling sampling of the witty correspondence and the 300 songs by the brilliant polymath Coward. One of the great entertainers of the 20th century, Coward wrote some of the most durable light comedies of the repertoire (Blithe Spirit, Private Lives, Hay Fever, Present Laughter), composed heartfelt and fizzy songs, and dazzled audiences as an actor and singer on stage, film, television, and the cabaret and concert stage. Pianist Steve Ross and singer KT Sullivan are the amiable hosts of this marvelous party. Director Charlotte Moore smoothly paces this delightful pastiche of Coward’s martini-dry wit and throbbing sentiment in the elegant Players Club amid the memorabilia of centuries of show business.

By: David Sheward

August 13, 2020: The intimate environs of cabaret will probably be the last aspect of the entertainment industry to return to normal in this COVID world. Patrons squeezed shoulder to shoulder at tiny tables, mere inches away from performers projecting potentially infectious air particles is a scary atmosphere these days. Until a reliable vaccine becomes available, we will probably not be enjoying this unique, direct art form. Fortunately, the Irish Repertory Theatre has translated a delightful gem of a cabaret piece to the digital medium for a brief stay. Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noel Coward, devised by Barry Day, assembles a sparkling sampling of the witty correspondence and the 300 songs by the brilliant polymath Coward. One of the great entertainers of the 20th century, Coward wrote some of the most durable light comedies of the repertoire (Blithe Spirit, Private Lives, Hay Fever, Present Laughter), composed heartfelt and fizzy songs, and dazzled audiences as an actor and singer on stage, film, television, and the cabaret and concert stage. Pianist Steve Ross and singer KT Sullivan are the amiable hosts of this marvelous party. Director Charlotte Moore smoothly paces this delightful pastiche of Coward’s martini-dry wit and throbbing sentiment in the elegant Players Club amid the memorabilia of centuries of show business.

KT Sullivan

Sullivan delivers a passionate, aching version of Coward’s most popular song, “Mad About the Boy” and is deliciously versatile delivering imitations of the Master’s many leading ladies and female chums such as Gertrude Lawrence, Beatrice Lille, Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo. The spoken exchanges of letters provides a treasure trove of gossip. There is one sinfully scintillating letter exchange from the last-named diva where she proposed to the gay Coward (coyly asking him to be her “bride”) and you don’t know if she’s joking or not. Dietrich pleads for solace from Coward over her busted love affair with Yul Brynner and he scandalized when Mary Martin blithely bids Princess Margaret to say hello her sister Queen Elizabeth.

Sreve Ross

In addition to his sensitive piano accompaniment, Ross provides a superb limning of Coward. His is more of a tribute than an impersonation, capturing the essence of the subject’s light touch and joy in entertaining. He archly puts across the alternative verse to “Mad About the Boy,” sung by a repressed businessman. (This version was written for the revue Words and Music, but cut for being to too daring and open about homosexuality.) Ross has just the right touch to convey the intricate, interlocking lyrics of rare curios such as “I Like America” which includes a catalogue of the sexual habits of the inhabitants by state (“New Jersey dames/Go up in flames/If someone mentions bed/In Chicago, Illinois/When a girl meets a boy/She giggles and shoots him dead.”)

In the small space of the club, the pair occasionally play the delicate Coward material too big. Sullivan’s version of Elaine Stritch is a tad overblown as she hammers each gag line in “Why Do the Wrong People Travel?” from Sail Away. Likewise, she and Ross pound the joke of a seemingly blissful long-married couple actually despising each other in “The Bronxville Darby and Joan” from the same show.

But these are the only flaws in an otherwise scrumptious concoction that affords memorable interpretations of such evocative Coward favorites as “I’ll See You Again” and “Someday I’ll Find You.” Hearing both of these wistful masterpieces sung with such melancholy sweetness makes one yearn for the day when we can once again gather in small, intimate spaces and listen to great music.

Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noel Coward is available until Aug. 15.