Amazing Array of Enticing Theatrical Entertainment Awaits Easter Weekend Audiences
By: Ellis Nassour
What better Easter treat than a Broadway or Off Broadway show. New plays and musicals have been and are still opening by the dozens in the race to qualify for end-of-the-season nominations for the Tonys, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and Lortel Awards.
Looking forward, the Tonys are June 8 at Radio City hosted by Hugh Jackman, with nominations announced on April 29 by Lucy Liu and Jonathan Groff; the Drama Desk Awards are June 1, with the nominations announced on April 25. Off Broadway’s prestigious Obie Awards will be handed out on May 19.
The Tony, Drama Desk, and OCC race for Best Actress and Actor, Musical just got a lot harder to predict with Audra McDonald’s awesome and total transformation into Billie Holiday for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill; and Neil Patrick Harris’ awesome and total transformation for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, that has him channeling a bit of Garbo and Dietrich. These are two of the season’s stellar performances and should be at the top of your Must See List.
[Comment: Don’t miss creator Lannie Robertson’s note in the Lady Day... Playbill. With the elegant surroundings and seated audience surrounding the Circle in the Square stage, not to mention the stunning outfit for McDonald by Esosa (Motown, Porgy and Bess), you might forget that the actual performance in Phily in March 1959 was attended by less than 10 people – a sad statement on how this mesmerizing and trailblazing star had fallen in the public persona after her hit records and Carnegie Hall sell-out, due to vocal problems, arrests, a year’s imprisionment, and the effects of her unbeatable battle with substance abuse. Even sadder, she died less than five months after Phily. She was only 43.]
The field for new musical nominees on Broadway, including three adapted from films, has reached 11, more than any other recent season. Sadly, that means no Tony Best Musical nomination for at least half of the potential nominees.
They are Warren Carlyle and Jack Viertel’s song-packed dance-a-thon salute to the nights of Harlem’s Cotton Club After Midnight, now guest-starring Vanessa Williams through May 11, with the return of Fantasia May 13-June 8]; and Gerry Goffin and Douglas McGrath’s Beautiful, the Carol King story, and Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s ultra-contemporary If/Then.
Arriving film-to-stage are Disney’s animated smash Aladdin reconeived by original composer Alan Menken, lyricists Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, with book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin; Jason Robert Brown’s ultra-romantic The Bridges of Madison County; Woody Allen and Susan Stroman’s stage adaptation of Allen’s hilarious film Bullets over Broadway; Robert Friedman and Steven Lutvak laugh-a-second A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder; loosely based on a novel by Roy Horniman and the 1949 British film starring Dennis Price and Alec Guiness, Kind Hearts and Coronets; and Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens, Thomas Meehan, and Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky.
Also premiering on Broadway, after Off Broadway runs are Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell’s racous rocker Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Lanie Robertson’s Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill, which captures one night near the end of her death of powerful blues singer Billie Holiday; and Jeanine Tesori and BriaCrawley’s thought-provoking Violet.
Returning to Broadway are two classic musicals: Kander and Ebb’s much-acclaimed Cabaret; and the "newly reimagined" 25th anniversary production of is Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boubill, and Herbert Kretzmer’s brilliant adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic Les Miserables.
If you need to catch up, there are numerous hits from previous seasons still attracting audiences: The Book of Mormon, Chicago, Cinderella, Jersey Boys, last season’s Best Musical Kinky Boots, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Matilda, Motown, Newsies, Once, Pippin, The Phantom of the Opera, Rock of Ages, and Wicked. Innovative producers have recently done something that’s been popular on the West End for ages: Thursday matinees for their shows [Cinderella, Mamma Mia!, POTO].
There’re also plays and more plays. There’s Robert Schenkkan’s blistering recapturing of LBJ’s White House term, All the Way; James Lapine’s adaptation of Moss Hart’s acclaimed memoir Act One; Harvey Fierstein’s first play in over 30 years, a novel and revealing look at a little known bit of Catskill Mountains lore, Casa Valentina; the revival of Martin McDonah’s dark comedy The Cripple of Inishmaan; Terrence McNally’s poignant Mothers and Sons; the first Broadway production of Steinbeck’s powerful Of Mice and Men in over 40 years; the acclaimed revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun; a very strange concoction, indeed, Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses; and Eric Coble’s dramatic comedy The Velocity of Autumn.
The hits are not only on Broadway. Running on the Off circuit are Avenue Q, Blue Man Group, Buyer & Cellar, 50 Shades! [a musical parody of the kinky best-seller], Heathers, Murder for Two, Satchmo at the Waldorf, and Stomp.
There’re lots of new shows on the boards, so there’s cause for celebration with the return of a new edition of Gerard Alessandrini’s always-vastly-entertaining and all-in-fun muscal parody Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging,which will take some jabs at newcomers and recent shows.
Two must-see shows at The Public, on Lafayette Street in the East Village, make a downtown trip most rewarding: the return of the much-acclaimed interactive [audiences move with the quite mobile show and superb cast] danceable musical, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love, set against the backdrop of political upheaval in the Philippines and the persona of Imelda Marcus, the nation’s controversial former first lady; and Scott Z. Burns’ fiercely powerful The Library, about the aftermath and consequences of a school shooting, directed by noted film auteur Steven Soderbergh.
A unique entertainment bet for theaterlovers is the 28th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition fundraiser at the Minskoff Theatre, home to the long-running musical hit Disney’s The Lion King, on April 21 at 4:30 P.M. and April 22 at 2 P.M. It’s a two-day colorful and hilarious spectacular that celebrates six weeks of intensive BC/EFA fundraising efforts by Broadway, Off-Broadway, and national touring productions. Very much like the Gypsy of the Year fundraiser, there’ll be tons of surprises, the casts of numerous shows, and celebrity guests. Tickets are from $30, $50, $130, $250 (priority seating), and $375 (VIP) and available online at broadwaycares.org or by calling (212) 840-0770 X. 268.
Film Society Event Salutes Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway and Director/Choreographer Susan Stroman.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center hosts a one-night-only event, From Screen to Stage: Bullets over Broadway, on May 5 at 6:30PM at the Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center. In addition to a screening of Woody Allen’s rollicking 1994 Oscar-nominated jazz-age ensemble comedy Bullets over Broadway, there’ll be a conversation with five-time Tony-winning director/choreographer Susan Stroman and lead producers of the Broadway adaptation Letty Aronson and Julian Schlossberg.
New York Film Festival director Kent Jones will moderate the discussion and address the creative process of turning a movie into a musical – "the pleasures as well as the pitfalls," including plenty of backstage stories.
Following the discussion, there will be a reception in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery. The print is courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The event is being hosted by the Theatre Communications Group and producer Roy Furman.
Tickets are $13; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for Film Society members and are on sale now at the Reade and online at www.FilmLinc.com.