Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ghetto Klown @ The Lyceum Theatre

John Leguizamo – a name that is known for high energy, comedy, mad acting chops, and hugely successful Broadway shows.  Well, he is back again with his next solo production Ghetto Klown, currently playing the Lyceum Theatre through July 10, 2011, only!  Filled with high emotion and non-stop humor, Leguizamo once again lights up the stage with a performance that is not to be missed!
In Ghetto Klown, Leguizamo “asks the audience to leave a piece of their soul in the theatre, while he leaves a piece of his soul on the stage.”  This release of souls is done while the audience is taken on a very special journey into the full life of Leguizamo – from birth to the present.  The audience is introduced right away to Alberto and Luz Leguizamo, his always fighting mother and father.  As his life moves forward, the audience is let in on the family struggles that faced Leguizamo with each passing year.  After one of his most successful shows, Sexaholix, his father and mother even go as far as threatening to sue him for using them as characters in the play.  Despite all of this, Leguizamo also lets the audience in on his strong relationship with his grandfather – whose parting words on earth encouraged Leguizamo to find the love of his life, settle down, and have two wonderful children.  From his early beginnings of doing standup on the Brooklyn subway to his five successful one-man-shows to his roller coaster of a film career to his struggles with life, love, and family, Leguizamo does exactly what he set out to do from moment one on the stage.  He leaves a little piece of his soul on that stage, and, in return, the audience cannot help but do the same.

John Leguizamo – known for Moulin Rouge! and Ice Age, along with stints on Miami Vice and ER – is, in one word, brilliant!  Ghetto Klown spins the tale of his rises and falls in the world of show business perfectly – mastering the arts of humor and grace.  Leguizamo has a skill for commanding the audience’s attention, which is a strong quality considering the diversity of the crowd he faces.  His audience packs in everything from the regular Broadway crowd to members of his ethnicity proud to hear stories of their culture to woman wanting a night out with strong content and humor to men who downed a beer earlier in the day and thought this sounded like a great idea.  Some actors might have a hard time trying to connect to such a diverse group; however, Leguizamo makes it look so easy – “acting is simply in his blood.”  Just as performing is something he needs to survive, writing is too.  The story of his life is crafted so perfectly that one cannot help but get wrapped up in his life story as he becomes not only himself, but other characters as well – including his parents, mentors, and fellow actors and directors.  Even with the minor rants in Spanish, that left some of the theatre wishing they paid more attention in their high school Spanish class, everyone in the audience supported Leguizamo one hundred percent.  Writing and performing a one-man-show is no easy feat; however, Leguizamo has no trouble at all keeping up energy (dancing through most of the show), connecting to the audience, and, ultimately, making the whole theatre fall in love with him.

While it is billed as a one-man-show, Leguizamo has a very talented crew of people working behind him to make Ghetto Klown the success that it truly is.  Director Fisher Stevens, co-founder of the theatre company Naked Angels, breathes life into this show by forming great moments of transition in the piece.  Each decade of Leguizamo’s life is broken down with smooth transitions of song and dance ripped right from his heritage.  Fisher gave Leguizamo the freedom to move around the space freely to create a cast of characters that came right from the life stories of Leguizamo himself.  The space around Leguizamo was designed by Happy Massee, Jen Schriever, and Aaron Gonzalez for scenic, lighting, and projection design respectfully.  Massee (feature film work includes Just A Kiss and Welcome to the Rileys) designed a space that looked like a photograph of Brooklyn, New York where Leguizamo grew up.  Complete with apartment fire escapes, street lamps, and a billboard used for projections, this set kept it simple, but left a big impact.  Schriever’s (associate design for Broadway’s Women on the Verge… and American Buffalo) light plot allowed the perfect ambiance to be set for this show – soft and dark like Leguizamo himself with crazy flashing lights every time the story would shift decades and Leguizamo would bust a move.  Gonzalez (served as ASM for Broadway’s Time Stands Still) created projections that created the perfect aid for Leguizamo’s mad story skills.  The projections let the audience into the crazy mind of Leguizamo – allowing all to see his family, mentors, and creative works on stage, screen, and television.  All of these technical elements joined forces with Leguizamo’s writing and acting to deliver a night a grade A story telling.

Ghetto Klown brings the brilliant John Leguizamo back to Broadway to continue the tales of his life.  With great humor and soul this is definitely a show to go check out! But hurry, it ends its limited run on July, 10, 2011!
Review By: Ryan Oliveti

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark @ The Foxwoods Theatre

“With great visually effects, comes poor story telling.”  This is quite simply the new phrase that Uncle Ben should tell his nephew Peter Parker – better known as Spider-Man.  After months of delays, several injuries, extreme budget expansions, and a new production team, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is now officially open on Broadway.  However, the question lingered, “Was it all worth it?”  And, the answer simply is “no” – that is unless you are a twelve-year-old boy!

While billed as an original story, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark basically tells the exact same story as the first mega-blockbuster hit movie.  Peter Parker is known throughout school as the science nerd who is hopeless in love with his next door neighbor Mary Jane Watson.  While on a field trip to the Osborn Labs – home of the famous chemist Norman Osborn – Peter is bit by a mutant spider.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Peter becomes Spider-Man, Norman transforms into the Green Goblin, Mary Jane becomes a Broadway actress, and all three meet in a life or death finally.  Along the way, some minor new details are placed into the show.  The mythological creature of Arachne spins through the story as Peter’s new conscience and several villains are added to test the skills of Spider-Man (The Lizard, Swiss Miss, and more).  In the end, can Spider-Man save both the city and those that he loves?  Well of course he can! He is still Spider-Man after all – just now complete with vocal chops.

Featuring one of the largest Broadway casts, this Marvel Comic Book musical has several leading players; unfortunately, many of them give performances that do not leap of the stage and grab the audience’s attention.  The cast is led by Reeve Carney, the lead singer of the group Carney and star of Julie Taymor’s The Tempest.  Carney delivers a likeable performance.  While the audience never fully commits to his character [which is a problem when playing the title character], Carney has a great rock voice that blends perfectly into the only two rememberable songs of the show – Rise Above and Boy Falls From the Sky.  With lackluster acting, his voice is truly the force driving his portrayal of the Amazing Spider-Man.  Opposite him is leading lady Mary Jane, portrayed by Jennifer Damiano of Next to Normal fame. With decent acting chops and strong vocals, Damiano does her best with a part that is written to work against her.  Weak songs and an underdeveloped character unfortunately left her to fend for herself – and she does a pretty darn good job!  The true talent and star of the show is the always brilliant Patrick Page (How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Lion King) as the Green Goblin.  Page delivers a truly remarkable performance – stopping the show several times due to huge laughs and/or gasps from the audience.  His ability to be hilarious one minute and downright scary the next is truly remarkable.  This talent leaves this version of the Green Goblin in the same category as Hades from Disney’s Hercules and Jack Nicholson’s the Joker from Batman.  If there is one reason to run out and see this musical, it is Patrick Page!  Also, while her role has been scaled back, T.V. Carpio (Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe) still shines as the spider goddess Arachne.  Great vocals and a stunning opening sequence that has her flying high in the shy amidst a self-woven human curtain, Carpio delivers a nice performance that had the audience connected from start to finish.  As stated before, this musical boots one of the largest cast sizes Broadway has ever seen.  Each one of these performers is high energy and gives 100% to a show that only offers the audience 50%.

With more creative minds than three shows combined should ever have, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark should be a flawless technical show; however, this is far from true.  When sitting through the show, one can get the sense that the audience, while enjoying the overall spectacle, is begging for more.  Songs that sound like they were written by a bad U2 cover band, direction that was torn between theatrical and storytelling, and a script that sound like a wanna-be comic book writer was behind it, all lead to the ultimate down fall of this musical.  Except for a choice few, the songs written by U2’s Bono and The Edge fall short of that classic U2 sound (an original U2 song was even added to boost Act II along).  The direction of both original creator Julie Taymor (The Lion King) and new advisor Philip McKinley (The Boy From Oz) still has huge gaps in between creative genius that is filled with, for lack of a better word, goop. Some scenes, however, do shine –the funeral scene for Uncle Ben set to the song Rise Above shows just how powerful this piece of theatre could have been; using wonderful pictures to create a scene that is truly breathtaking.  This particular scene as well as many others pop due to the stunning design work of George Tsypin (The Little Mermaid) and Eiko Ishioka (Academy Award winner for Bram Stoker’s Dracula).  Tsypin’s stunning scenic design looks as if pages were ripped straight out of a Spider-Man comic book.  They are high tech and probably led to some of the budget issues that the show faced; however, they were well worth it!  Ishioka’s costume design was bright and bold, fitting perfectly into the storybook world created by Taymor’s mask design and Tsypin’s scenic design.  It is a shame that this musical was not rehearsed a bit more before opening.  With some minor direction corrections, small edits to the script, and a slight overhaul on the music, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark could have been a truly spectacular show.  It, sorry to say, falls short of the razzle and dazzle it was expected to be.

Even with all of the negative in the review, it is hard to completely tell audiences to avoid this musical all together.  Here is what one needs to know before buying tickets.  If you are going for a great story and hit songs, Wicked might be more up you alley.  However, if you are a huge comic book fan or you simply want to see something that has never been done on Broadway before, then head out to go see this show.  With stunning flying stunts (and a dramatic fight battle high above the sky) and gorgeous scenic and visual elements, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is not all bad.  It will defiantly release your inner twelve-year-old boy!
Review By: Ryan Oliveti & Courtney Labbossiere

Thursday, June 16, 2011

2011 Tony Awards

Best Play
Good People: David Lindsay-Abaire
Jerusalem: Jez Butterworth
The Motherf**ker with the Hat: Stephen Adly Guirgis
** War Horse: Nick Stafford **

Best Musical
** The Book of Mormon **
Catch Me If You Can
The Scottsboro Boys
Sister Act

Best Book of a Musical
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Alex Timbers
** The Book of Mormon Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone **
The Scottsboro Boys David Thompson
Sister Act Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
** The Book of Mormon Music & Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone **
The Scottsboro Boys Music & Lyrics: John Kander & Fred Ebb
Sister Act Music: Alan Menken; Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek

Best Revival of a Play
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Merchant of Venice
** The Normal Heart **

Best Revival of a Musical
** Anything Goes **
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Brian Bedford, The Importance of Being Earnest
Bobby Cannavale, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Al Pacino, The Merchant of Venice
** Mark Rylance, Jerusalem **

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday
** Frances McDormand, Good People **

Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice
Vanessa Redgrave, Driving Miss Daisy
Hannah Yelland, Brief Encounter

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
** Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can **
Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon
Joshua Henry, The Scottsboro Boys
Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
** Sutton Foster, Anything Goes **
Beth Leavel, Baby It's You!
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Donna Murphy, The People in the Picture

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Mackenzie Crook, Jerusalem
Billy Crudup, Arcadia
** John Benjamin Hickey, The Normal Heart **

Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Yul Vázquez, The Motherf**ker with the Hat

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
** Ellen Barkin, The Normal Heart **
Edie Falco, The House of Blue Leaves
Judith Light, Lombardi
Joanna Lumley, La Bête
Elizabeth Rodriguez, The Motherf**ker with the Hat

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys
Adam Godley, Anything Goes
** John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying **

Forrest McClendon, The Scottsboro Boys
Rory O'Malley, The Book of Mormon

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Tammy Blanchard, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Victoria Clark, Sister Act
** Nikki M. James, The Book of Mormon **

Patti LuPone, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Todd Rosenthal, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
** Rae Smith, War Horse **

Ultz, Jerusalem
Mark Wendland, The Merchant of Venice

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Beowulf Boritt, The Scottsboro Boys
Derek McLane, Anything Goes
** Scott Pask, The Book of Mormon **

Donyale Werle, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jess Goldstein, The Merchant of Venice
** Desmond Heeley, The Importance of Being Earnest **

Mark Thompson, La Bête
Catherine Zuber, Born Yesterday

Best Costume Design of a Musical
** Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardiner, Priscilla Queen of the Desert **
Martin Pakledinaz, Anything Goes
Ann Roth, The Book of Mormon
Catherine Zuber, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Best Lighting Design of a Play
** Paule Constable, War Horse **
David Lander, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Kenneth Posner, The Merchant of Venice
Mimi Jordan Sherin, Jerusalem

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Ken Billington, The Scottsboro Boys
Howell Binkley, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Peter Kaczorowski, Anything Goes
** Brian MacDevitt, The Book of Mormon **

Best Sound Design of a Play
Acme Sound Partners and Cricket S. Myers, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Simon Baker, Brief Encounter
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Jerusalem
** Christopher Shutt, War Horse ** 

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Peter Hylenski, The Scottsboro Boys
Steve Canyon Kennedy, Catch Me If You Can
Brian Ronan, Anything Goes
** Brian Ronan, The Book of Mormon **

Best Direction of a Play
** Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, War Horse **
Joel Grey & George C. Wolfe, The Normal Heart
Anna D. Shapiro, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Daniel Sullivan, The Merchant of Venice

Best Direction of a Musical
Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
** Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon **

Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
** Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes **

Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

Best Orchestrations
Doug Besterman, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Larry Hochman, The Scottsboro Boys
** Larry Hochman & Stephen Oremus, The Book of Mormon **
Marc Shaiman & Larry Blank, Catch Me If You Can


Please Vist & for a complete list of winners from some of Broadway's other leading awards - including The Drama Desk Awards, Critics' Circle Awards, and more . . .


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

INTERVIEW: David Furr from The Importance of Being Earnest

1.      While you have had a widely successful career on the stage, you have also starred in several projects on the large and small screen, including three major daytime soaps.  Were you upset to hear about the cancelation of these shows – including the recent announcement of All My Children?

Well of course I never like to hear that ANYBODY is losing their jobs.  Especially these days.  I feel for the actors and crew that had been with these show for years, and think about the loss of such wonderful sources of jobs for other jobbed-in New York actors. It’s sad anytime long running institutions come to an end like that.  I’m not a soap watcher myself, so I don’t have that particular kind of connection to the shows, but it’s certainly sad, nonetheless.

2.      On a more positive note, you have had an extremely successful career on the New York stage – having the chance to work with greats such as David Hyde Pierce, Bill Irwin, Kathleen Turner, and Christopher Plummer.  What is like getting to work with all of these big names?  Have any of them ever taught you a valuable life lesson?

It’s been wonderful working with those names you mentioned.  I was able to work a bit more directly with Kathleen Turner, Bill Irwin and David Hyde Pierce than with Christopher Plummer, and I found them all to be incredibly generous people.  I think I was lucky that way.  Plus, being on stage with them is like playing a sport with someone better.  You raise your game, and it makes you better.   And Bill Irwin gave me a nice ukulele.  To me, that’s a treasure.

3.      You are currently starring in the Broadway smash The Importance of Being Earnest.  What has this experience been like – especially now with a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play?

EARNEST has been a wonderful experience.  It’s just such a wonderful play, and one that gives back in energy.  When we have nice responsive audiences, there is nothing like it.  It can be like a comic rock concert.  Plus I’ve enjoyed the people so much.  Meeting Sara Topham (original cast) and Jesse Austrian (current cast), working yet AGAIN with Charlotte Parry, Brian Murray, Paul O’Brien and Dana Ivey.  Meeting and watching Paxton Whitehead, Brian Bedford, Tim MacDonald, Amanda Leigh Cobb and Jayne Houdyshell.  And of course getting to play Jack and Algy with Santino has been a real treat.

4.      You play the title character Earnest (or Jack).  What did you do to prepare for such an iconic role?

Well, first, you try to not think of it as an iconic role.  I come from a Shakespearean background, which among other things teaches you that you have to try to let go of that aspect of a role.  If you worry too much about the performance tradition of, say, “To be or not to be”, then you’re doomed from the outset.

But I started with reading the play A LOT, seeing how all these moments struck me.  I looked at photos of the period, and of folks like Buster Keaton, who it struck me was going to be a relevant influence.  And really, I just tried to allow my own sensibilities and influences to express themselves.  That’s what we each have to bring to a role that nobody else has.  I thought a lot about Buster Keaton (expressive, but contained and deadpan), Jack Tripper (from Three’s Company; desperately trying to manage whatever web of lies he’d created), John Cleese (in terms of extreme comic passion) and other elements. 

And then, of course, there’s the language that you learn EVERYTHING from; and which gives you almost everything you need.  Such wonderful Wildean language.

5.      What was it like to work with legend Brian Bedford – both as a fellow cast member and as a director?

I often laugh about how strange it was to do the Lady Bracknell scenes, when Lady Bracknell is also your director.  Jack gets such immense disapproval from her, and at times in rehearsal, it was hard not to wonder if that disapproval was coming from the character or the director.

But Brian demands a lot in terms of lifting and using the language, and it was great to have that be such a vital element of the production.  I’d read about many productions where the language wasn’t given it’s due.

6.      Recently The Importance of Being Earnest was filmed in HD to be shown in movie theatres.  What was this experience like?  What were some of the differences during the filmed performances?

The filming was an interesting experience.  They weren't going to edit anything together, but rather just use one of the three filmed show in it's entirety.  That's a lot of pressure.  But the shows went wonderfully that weekend, and I understand the film turned out just fantastic.  I'm not sure if I'll watch it anytime soon, but I know my mom is excited :)

7.      You also recently shot a series of video blogs for that feature Jersey Shore lines presented in Oscar Wilde fashion?  How did the idea for these videos come about?

The idea for JERSEY SHORE GONE WILDE came about because Santino and our wardrobe assistant Lauren are huge Jersey Shore fans and would talk about it in our dressing room quite often.  Santino made the connection between the idle, entitled, trivial lifestyle of the Jersey Shore folks, and the idle, entitled, trivial lifestyle of our characters.  From there it was a very short leap to trying out a few choice quotes in character, which amused us to no end.  Our marketing people loved the idea and we shot the videos for PLAYBILL.COM to do a little promotion.  We were as surprised as anyone that they went viral they way they did.  But I think the parallel between the two worlds really works, and I think people recognize that, if not conciously, then unconciously.