Remembering Ellen Stewart, Founder of La MaMa Etc. By Ellis Nassour
Off Off and Off Bway pioneer and champion Ellen Stewart, 91 and the founder/director of La MaMa E.T.C., the theatre that began in 1961 and became a major multicultural force of performance art and avant-garde theater, died Thursday at Beth Israel Hospital of natural causes after an extended heart-related illness.
In the midst of the Holiday stretch of the 2010/2011 Broadway season there are no break out hits and with January just around the corner, this looks like your last chance to catch some of the best shows on the Great White Way, while they are still running. More than a dozen terrific Broadway shows will be closing before the end of the next month, many long running hits, as well some of this season’s finest are still available, but not for long.
The heartbreaking news is the two best musicals of the new season, The Scottsboro Boys and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, both transfers from Off-Broadway recently posted closing notices despite strong reviews.
Richard Dreyfuss Retired from Acting? By Ellis Nassour Can it be true that the last time we’ll see Richard Dreyfuss onstage will be Culture Project’s concert reading of Colin Greer’s Imagining Heschel?
The Brooklyn native, absent from Bway since the short-lived revival of Larry Gelbart’s Sly Fox and not seen Off Bway since he participated in Christopher Trumbo’s powerful play about his screenwriter father, Trumbo: Red, White, and Blacklisted, and in C.P.’s The Exonerated, says that though he never made an official announcement, "because I don’t like to make absolute statements, I’ve retired as an actor.
John Kander Settles the Score on “The Scottsboro Boys” By Isa Goldberg
“Tomorrow Belongs To Me” may not be a lyric you recognize, but the infectiously haunting tune is one you will. Remember the Nazi anthem in the musical “Cabaret”? “It’s absolutely angelic the first time you hear it,” the composer John Kander humbly, but wryly imparts. “And later when you hear the same song and you realize what it means, you suddenly feel betrayed, guilty, or ashamed to see yourself as one of those people.”
Who would have imagined that a simple, three-person play with fairly modest staging would be the hottest ticket on Broadway? But this season “Driving Miss Daisy” starring Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and four-time Tony-winner Boyd Gaines is one of the hardest tickets to get. On October 6th, the day before previews had even begun, Variety reported advance sales of $4.5 million.
Broadway’s New Season Is Off and Running By Ellis Nassour It’s the season to be merry! A new theater season; another opening of another show; actually, Openings…Shows. From those that have opened and those to come, it appears to be another star-studded, blockbuster, audience-pleasing one.
One of the prime reasons to celebrate is the return of Cherry Jones to the boards after an absence of over four years [Faith Healer and before that her award-winning Doubt] during which she portrayed the president of the United States on Fox-TV’s megahit thriller 24, winning an Emmy Award.
Peter Filichia Chronicles 50 Years of Broadway Hits and Flops by Ellis Nassour
There’s a huge problem in reading theater historian and critic Peter Filichia’s Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit & the Biggest Flop of the Season, 1959 to 2009 [Applause Books; 277 pages; trade softcover; SRP $20]. It’s all but impossible to get past the table of contents.
Anyone who loves theater reads Filichia’s columns on Theatermania.com is aware of his amazing knowledge, always presented in an engaging way, of everything theater and his witty way with words.
Dorothy Fields: The Pioneering Female Lyricist of Countless Musicals by Ellis Nassour
Pick Yourself Up: Dorothy Fields and the American Musical by Charlotte Greenspan [Oxford University Press, Broadway Legacy Series; 298 pages; 16 pages of vintage photos; Index, Song index, 17-page section of source notes; SRP $28] is a lively biography of one of the most prolific and pioneering lyricists in American popular music history.
Dorothy Fields penned the words to more than 400 songs, among them mega-hits such as "Big Spender," "Hooray for Love," "I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, " "If My Friends Could See Me Now," "Make the Man Love Me," "Nobody Does It Like Me," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "It’s Not Where You Start," and "The Way You Look Tonight."
Turning Pages with Patti Lupone By Ellis Nassour In Patti LuPone: A Memoir [Crown Archetype; Hardcover, 336 pages; 100 photographs, including an eight-page four-color insert, Index; SRP $26; Kindle version, SRP $14], Bway’s ultimate and most colorful star takes readers on a blistering journey through her mostly acclaimed career.
LuPone, with the characteristic bluntness, passion, and self-depreciating humor you would expect from our musical theater treasure and a musical theater diva, and with the help of veteran writer Digby Diehl, recounts her not always pleasant journey to stardom. She’s the consummate artist; however, not to be fooled, everything, she admits, wasn’t always coming up roses.
Turning Pages with Elaine Paige By Ellis Nassour Memories, Celebrating 40 Years in the Theatre, a sort of career memoir, not autobiography, by the U.K.’s First Lady of Musical Theater, is keeping Elaine Paige busy on these shores with the U.S. publication. Celebrating more than 40 years in show business, Paige on Wednesday sat with theater’s most knowledgeable host, Peter Felichia [author of the new book Broadway Musicals, critic, and TM contributor], at B&N Lincoln Square to expand on what’s in the book.
Artist Amy Zerner brought her line of “spiritual couture” to the Rubin Museum on West 17th Street for a trunk show of her fabulous “one of a kind” designs. Her jackets, coats, and caftans are sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and are in the collection of such renowned personalities as Elizabeth Taylor, Oprah Winfrey, Patti La Belle, and Shirley MacLaine. Zerner with her husband Monte Farber has authored numerous spiritual self help books for the past 35 years and they have an entire shelf devoted to their works at Barnes and Noble.
By Patrick Christiano The Drama League honored film and theater star Alfred Molina with their coveted Distinguished Performance Award for his “dazzling portrayal of the artist Mark Rothko” in the acclaimed Broadway production of RED. Molina’s work was selected over 60 outstanding performances nominated from the 2009/2010 season. Accepting his award at the 76th annual luncheon from past recipient Liev Schreiber Molina said, “This is so fantastic I can’t tell you. I’m Italian, I’m going to cry.” He followed with a story in a very proper English accent about his wife reading the list of illustrious nominees and telling him if he wins ‘Don’t go English’ and suddenly pumped his arm with a clinched fist and said “YES!”
Broadway: The American Musical Updated By Ellis Nassour The lavishly illustrated Broadway: The American Musical [Applause Books; 498 pages, Updated edition; softbound, Show chronology; Bibliography; Theatre Districk maps 1928/2010; Index; Foreword by Julie Andrews; SRP $35], co-authored by Michael Kantor and NYU professor/theater historian Laurence Maslon and based on Kantor’s 2004 documentary [originally a companion to the six-part PBS series] is the first comprehensive history of the musical, from its early 20th Century roots and into the new millennium.
South Pacific ~ Last Weeks Onstage, Telecast, Movie, & New Book By Eiils Nassour On August 18, four days before the final performance of its nearly two-and-a-half-year run, Lincoln Center Theatre’s Tony and Drama Desk-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammer’s South Pacific will be presented in a live three-hour telecast from the Vivian Beaumont Theatre on PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center. The musical’s Tony and DD-winning director Bartlett Sher will helm with the show’s choreographer Christopher Gattelli assisting on the musical staging.