<![CDATA[NBC New York - The Scene]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/entertainment/the-scene http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:30:47 -0400 Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:30:47 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Review: Daniel Radcliffe, in "Inishmaan"]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:47:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/CrippleITW.jpg

Some existential energy was left behind at the Cort following the recent departure of “Waiting for Godot,” and it’s somehow been absorbed by the new production of Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” now enjoying a Broadway transfer with megastar Daniel Radcliffe as Billy, the damaged dreamer of the title.

McDonagh’s dark comedy, previously seen in 1998 at the Public, and a decade later at the Atlantic, has a plot that could be summarized this way: “Life sucks, and I'd probably be better off dead. But oh, a pretty girl may just like me, so perhaps I’ll stick around.” We’ve all had days that are as touch-and-go—certainly, Ian McKellen’s Gogo could relate, no?

“The Cripple of Inishmaan” is a coming-of-age comedy, and a very Irish one, so it’s not until after the deaths (Billy’s parents, and, perhaps, Billy himself) and the drinking (town gossip Johnnypateenmike is intent on doing in his 90-year-old mammy with whiskey) that it occurs to you: I’m laughing a frightful amount. I credit that to the top-notch cast, rather than the play, which is a collection of monologues and interactions characterizing states of despair more than it is any plot-driven narrative.

Indeed, everyone in Inishmaan has some hardship or another. Young Bartley McCormick (Conor MacNeill) is a target for older sister Helen (Olivier Award-nominee Sarah Greene, gleefully sadistic), a—pardon the completely fair cliche—fiery redhead so alluring that priests expose themselves to her with alarming regularity. Helen is also the unattainable object of Billy’s affections. Babbybobby (Padraic Delaney), who apparently owns the only boat in town, recently lost his wife to TB, an ailment that factors into the plot.

The most powerful man in Inishmaan, meanwhile, is that gabby Johnnypateenmike (Pat Shortt, terrific), whose news is sometimes reliable and sometimes not, but always comes with a price. The cast is intact from a West End run last summer, directed then as now by Michael Grandage.

Set in 1934, “Inishmaan” begins in a country shop run by Billy’s two adoptive aunts, one a cauldron of rage (Gillian Hanna, delightful in her dourness), the other a spacey, matronly figure who talks to stones (Ingrid Craigie). “Cripple Billy,” as everyone regrettably calls the young man, has picked up on word that a Hollywood director is filming on the neighboring island of Inishmore. (That crew is, in fact, making “Man of Aran,” a real 1934 British “ethnofiction” about life on the islands off the western shore of Ireland.)

Billy, whose self-loathing stems from a long-held belief that his parents committed suicide in an effort to avoid responsibility for him, concocts an insensitive and ultimately successful plan to meet the moviemakers. To the young man’s surprise, he’s whisked off to Hollywood for a screen test, leaving the townsfolk, and especially his fretful aunties, to spend months worrying over his fate. McDonagh toys with us quite a bit on that front, to different extremes.

Radcliffe is appealing in a role that must be extraordinarily uncomfortable to play. He’s constantly wheezing, and one damaged leg remains stuck out, straight as a board. For any movement around the stage, which includes climbing over walls in Christopher Oram’s evocative turntable set, he must oblige that impediment.

“How to Succeed…” and “Equus” reminded us that Broadway audiences will always be endeared to Radcliffe, who grew up before our eyes, and we support him unapologetically in his attempts to escape the bitter tedium of Inishmaan. He has no more stage time than the rest of this gaggle of misfits, and it struck me as a bit off that he took an individual bow at the curtain call—not quite British restraint, but an homage to the mere fact it takes his name to fill the house for this show.

The homespun and lyrical dialogue is vintage McDonagh. Watching the completed “Man of Aran,” newshound Johnny chimes in with one of the play’s running jokes: “Ireland mustn’t be such a bad place” … as in “Ireland mustn’t be such a bad place if sharks want to come to Ireland.”

McDonough is responsible for some of the darker material to appear on the Rialto in recent years (“The Pillowman” et al), and “Inishmaan” is considered a piece that shows he has “a sentimental side.” The play ends on a note that will make you question whether that’s true—we are reminded of life’s fragility going out, as we were going in. It’s not a play that will appeal to everyone, but you couldn’t ask for a more first-rate group of actors to join you for a couple of hours in a village full of eccentrics.

“The Cripple of Inishmaan,” through July 20 at The Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. Tickets: $27-$142. Call Tele-charge, 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn


Photo Credit: Johan Persson]]>
<![CDATA[“Lady Day” Extends]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:59:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/384m.jpg

While you were lashing out at Ben Brantley, James Franco, here's what was happening In the Wings. 

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” has extended its limited engagement through Aug. 10. The show stars five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday, and features McDonald interpreting more than a dozen of Holiday’s biggest hits, including “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit.” [More info]

“La Soirée” will close May 11 at New York’s Union Square Theatre. The acclaimed production, which combines cabaret, burlesque, a circus sideshow and a contemporary variety show into one wild experience, will begin a 10-day engagement in Buenos Aires, Argentina from May 15 at the Polo Circo International Festival. So if you want to see it without traveling to South America, go now! [More info]

“Soul Train” may be coming to the stage. Rights to the classic musical variety TV show have been acquired by Matthew Weaver (“Rock of Ages”), of MediaWeaver Entertainment. Weaver is now looking for a creative team for a possible stage production. “Soul Train” is the longest running first-run, nationally syndicated music program in television history, running for 35 years (1971-2006). [More info]

“The Book of Mormon” wins big at the 38th annual Olivier Awards. The show won four awards at England's version of the Tonys, including Best New Musical and Best Actor in a Musical for Gavin Creel. “Once” picked up two awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for Zrinka Cvitešic. Check out the full list of winners here.

The trailer for “Jersey Boys” is here. It’s been nearly a decade since the musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons opened on Broadway, winning four Tony awards. Since then, “Jersey Boys” has gone on to become the 13th longest-running show on Broadway. And now, Clint Eastwood has directed a film version of the show, which hits theaters June 20. John Lloyd Young, who won the Tony for his portrayal of Frankie Valli, reprises his role in the film, which also stars Christopher Walken. Check out the trailer: 

Photo Credit: Evgenia Eliseeva]]>
<![CDATA[Review: "Act One" Improves in Second Act ]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:10:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ActOne0110r+cap.jpg

Moss Hart's "Act One," which clung to The New York Times best-seller list for nearly a year after its 1959 publication, is one of the most revered theater memoirs of all time. The legendary playwright ("You Can't Take It With You"), screenwriter ("Gentleman's Agreement") and director ("My Fair Lady") wrote it at the height of his career, and only two years before his unexpected death. 

But audiences unfamiliar with Moss Hart’s legacy may have a hard time understanding his importance after watching James Lapine’s flat adaptation of “Act One” that just opened at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. Instead of an inspiring account of talent and tenacity, Lapine's “Act One” is a bland story that fails to put Hart’s life into perspective.

“Act One” concentrates on the first act of Hart’s career, chronicling his journey from his impoverished childhood and his early days working in the theater to his first flop and finally, his first collaboration with George S. Kaufman, 1930’s “Once in a Lifetime.” Lapine, who both wrote and directed “Act One,” constructs the story of the show in a linear fashion, narrated by an older version of Hart (Tony Shalhoub, “Golden Boy,” in one of three roles he plays) and a twentysomething version of Hart (Santino Fontana, “Cinderella”).

The problem with that device is that our narrators often tell us more about our character’s emotions than we get to see and feel. This especially becomes evident in the show’s problematic first act, which breezes over key moments in Hart’s life for the sake of moving the story along. The impact of Hart’s eccentric Aunt Kate (Tony winner Andrea Martin, “Pippin,” in one of three roles she plays) and Hart’s tough father (Shalhoub) seem especially sacrificed at the hands of this device. Just as we’re learning to care about these characters, they’re pushed aside for another set of characters and events in Hart’s life.

The timeline slows down considerably in the second act, and in turn, that’s where “Act One” begins to draw you in. We spend nearly all of our time with Hart and his new writing partner, George S. Kaufman (Shalhoub), as they begin their professional partnership. These scenes are filled with moments of tension and vulnerability -- not to mention passionate discussions about story and structure. You’ll feel engaged in how they craft “Once in a Lifetime,” but you may find yourself wondering what took Lapine so long to get to the good stuff.

You won’t find yourself bored by Beowulf Boritt’s stunning circular set, built on a revolving turntable. With each scene, Boritt’s set rotates anew, revealing more and more levels and layers and detail than we’d seen before. It’s a perfect metaphor for life, even if the play itself is lacking that depth.

Likeable performances will also keep you engaged throughout. Santino Fontana gives Hart a lightness and charm that’s impossible to root against. Shalhoub and Martin are great in their various roles, bringing uniqueness and distinction to their characters. Shalhoub is particularly effective as Kaufman, portraying him as a neurotic, twitchy, germaphobe genius, not unlike the character he played to great-acclaim (and three Emmy awards) on “Monk.” Martin brightens up the stage each time she steps foot on it, finding the laughs in all three of her roles, as expected. But it’s her tender take on Aunt Kate where you’ll really fall in love.

Regardless of how good Shalhoub and Martin are, though, one does have to question Lapine’s decision to have them each play three roles. For example, by casting Shalhoub as Hart’s father, Kaufman and an older Hart, I suppose we’re to understand that these two men helped influence and shape who Hart eventually became. Problem is, Hart shows little-to-no respect towards his father in the show, and never seems to connect with Kaufman beyond the work. So how much have they really shaped him?

I found myself thinking a lot about story structure while watching “Act One” -- especially during scenes where Kaufman and Hart revise “Once in a Lifetime.” I wish Lapine would have mimicked their process, stripping his story of unnecessary plot and allowing the audience to breath a bit more. Perhaps then, “Act One” would have served its source material justice.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[The Truth About Your Household Habits]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 06:31:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/206*120/HGTV+pic.JPG HGTV Magazine's contributing editor Colleen Sullivan explains the truth about some common household habits.

Photo Credit: NY Live]]>
<![CDATA[National Eggs Benedict Day]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 06:25:24 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/212*120/eggs+benedict+the+smith.png Joelle Garguilo celebrates National Eggs Benedict Day in the city with three spots going beyond the english muffin.]]> <![CDATA[Review: Franco, O'Dowd in "Of Mice and Men"]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:40:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/MiceITW.jpg

Celebrated director Anna D. Shapiro pulls no punches in her savage take on “Of Mice and Men,” the American lit classic about migrant farmhands in Depression-era California, now open at the Longacre Theatre. It certainly helps that she has two gifted performers as her leading men, James Franco and Chris O’Dowd, both making memorable debuts.

As matters get underway, George Milton (Franco) and Lennie Small (O’Dowd) are quarreling over the dead mouse Lennie has in his pocket. It’s soft, and it’s Lennie’s pet, and we see the sadness in O’Dowd’s eyes when Franco hurls the creature into a river.

That moment sends a clear signal: the prevalent theme in this staging is our need for companionship. We see it in the way a farmhand’s wife (Leighton Meester, of TV’s “Gossip Girl”) seeks attention in a room of rambunctious men, and in the symbiotic relationship between George and Lennie. But it’s most evident in the ways animals are worked into this production, the play’s first Broadway revival in four decades.

Witness the stillness that descends upon the audience when Carlson, a determined fieldworker (Joel Marsh Garland), separates the old one-armed farmhand (Jim Norton, a Tony-winner for “The Seafarer”) from his precious mutt, who “stinks like hell.” A good 30 seconds or so—it feels like forever—elapses between the time Carlson walks the dog outside, and the gunshot we know is coming. The moment here is played for all the tension Shapiro can wring out of it, and it foreshadows things to come for George, a savvy man of the world, and Lennie, a gentle giant with no sense of his strength.

It’s O’Dowd (the doughy Irish actor and comic, of “Bridesmaids”), as Lennie, who has the hardest job. We need only to see the easygoing way he cradles a newborn puppy to understand his characterization. His Lennie is a human being of emotional intelligence, whose overwhelming feelings often get the better of him. O’Dowd gives an endearing interpretation of a mentally addled man who wants nothing more than “to live off the fat of the land.”

Franco, the performer-director-writer-teacher—geez, he’s such a multitasker that he even appears in a Gucci ad on the back of the Playbill—is such a cult object that I feared his presence would throw the characters out of equilibrium. My fears were unwarranted, because he gives such an understated and natural performance.

Case in point, the way Franco’s George reacts when Lennie gets worked up about the still-imaginary rabbits they would one day have on their farm. Instead of calming his hysterical friend, Franco leans back on his chair and makes a noise, an imitation of a screeching cat. This George respects Lennie enough to engage in that most intimate of friendship rituals: teasing.

Meester also makes her Broadway debut, as “Curley’s wife,” a character so devoid of identity that she doesn’t warrant a first name. Dressed like a 1930s starlet, she is merely flirty when she pops in to the workers’ bunkhouse, “jus lookin’ for somebody to talk to.” But she reveals a sweetness and openness in the second act, sitting with Lennie in the barn, as she invites him to touch her hair.

A half-dozen supporting players are all distinguished, in particular Jim Parrack, as Slim, the even-keeled “jerkline skinner,” who understands the relationship between George and Lennie, and Ron Cephas Jones as Crooks, a black stablehand segregated from his coworkers, whose appearance in the first scene illustrates that financial woes weren’t the only themes Steinbeck explored in his 1937 work (the play was written alongside the novella).

The story’s two climactic gunshots—one at the end of each act—are so well-known that they’re in danger of being anticlimactic, but Shapiro knows how to draw out tension and play on the chemistry her characters have established to make them both utterly chilling. (Fans of “The Walking Dead” will discover a fascinating parallel here.) I left the theater desperately wishing things hadn’t gone as awry as they did.

“Of Mice and Men,” through July 27 at the Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St. Tickets: $42-$135. Call Telecharge, 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

Photo Credit: Richard Phibbs]]>
<![CDATA[Style Spotlight: Distressed Denim]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:45:43 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/distressed+denim.jpg Lucky Magazine's Hayley Phelan shows Lilliana four easy ways to try the distressed denim trend this spring.]]> <![CDATA[Nate Berkus on "American Dream Builders"]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:15:21 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/210*120/Nate+Berkus2.JPG Nate Berkus stops by the studio to talk about his new show "American Dream Builders."

Photo Credit: NY Live]]>
<![CDATA[NY Directors Debut Films at Tribeca]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:13:29 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/5+to+7+-+Still+1.jpg

The scene opens with the main characters walking down the sidewalk on the edge of Central Park. The two actors are reading their memorized lines perfectly and the camera crew is stationed about three blocks away, but is capturing all the action with a long lens.

“I am beside myself with joy—we are going to get it in one take!” director Victor Levin said. This scene from the film “5 to 7” was written as one long, continuous shot, so if something goes wrong, the crew would have to start over from the beginning.

All was going well until Levin, who is among a handful of New York-based filmmakers showcasing their work at the Tribeca Film Festival, saw an elderly bike rider enter the corner of the shot. The actors remained calm and tried to finish their dialogue, but the bicyclist barreled right toward them. Frightened for their safety, the actors jumped out of the way and the shot was ruined.

Levin was frustrated, but he knew there would be a lot of challenges shooting in a city as busy as New York. But there is something that draws many filmmakers to the Big Apple—whether it be the history, the buildings, or the beauty.

“New York is the most physically beautiful American city, in my opinion,” Levin said. “The most photogenic.”

Many directors, like Levin, who set their movies in the city, feel pride when their films premiere at Tribeca's annual celebration of film, starting Thursday.

“My dream when making and editing and producing the film was to premiere at Tribeca,” said Arian Moayed, director of “Day Ten.” “It’s a dream come true.”

“Day Ten” is a short film about the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, as New York fell “strangely silent,” when ambulances muted their sirens and people turned to prayer. Moayed incorporated iconic views of the city from obscure angles into the film, which he calls his “love letter to New York.”

It would have required over $400,000 to film in Manhattan, and that was unrealistic for the 10-minute short, Moayed said.

“The city does not shut down so that you can make your movie,” Levin said. “There is a lot of traffic and there are a lot of pedestrians. At our budget level, we couldn’t exactly shut down streets and keep every passer by out of the shot. That is the anxiety and the glory of it.”

While Levin battled the crowds in Manhattan, Moayed embarked on a “hunt of epic proportions,” to find a quiet filming location, and ended up in a peaceful, less-congested section of Brooklyn.

For Lloyd Handwerker, whose film "Famous Nathan" chronicles his family’s experience starting Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, filming in Brooklyn was a no-brainer, since his grandfather opened the first restaurant in Coney Island in 1916.

“This is my hometown—I was happy to be here,” Handwerker said. “It was exciting to film people who were living just a few blocks from the store.”

His grandfather, the original “Nathan,” passed away when Handwerker was just a teenager, so the director’s curiosity about his family’s history turned into a 30-year-long project creating this documentary. He used his older family members as sources, then discovered some of the original Nathan’s employees still lived in the area. Their interviews opened his eyes to what led the hot dog chain to become “the most popular restaurant in America” in the 1940s, he said.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to show the film than in New York at Tribeca—it’s a great honor,” he said.

Another New York-centric film debuting at Tribeca next week is “Ballet 422,” a documentary about the creation of a new performance of the New York Ballet.

“It’s a very old, very established New York institution,” director Jody Lee Lipes said. “It is set in its ways and has rules and is used to doing things a certain way. Finding a way to be able to shoot and not get in the way was challenging.”

It follows a young choreographer from the first day of rehearsal through the premiere at Lincoln Center. This is the first film to gain such unprecedented access in the Ballet’s 66 years, Lipes said, and he was thrilled to document the experience.

As opening night of Tribeca approaches, all the directors are eager to share their artistic creations with the world.

“It’s a little like bringing your child to college,” Levin said. “You move them into the dorm and at some time you have to drive away and say, ‘good luck make a lot of friends.’ It’s like that; very emotional.” 

Photo Credit: Photo by Walter Thomson]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Audra McDonald in "Lady Day"]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 14:20:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/LadyDayITW.jpg

It’s Audra McDonald’s world—we’re all still just living in it. For proof, swing by the Circle in the Square, where the reigning Queen of the Rialto holds court in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” a late addition to this season’s Broadway calendar that showcases McDonald as jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Over 90 minutes, McDonald interprets more than a dozen of the combustible artist’s recordings, among them “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit.” The setting, a theatrical conceit, is a small bar in South Philly during spring 1959, a few months before Holiday will succumb to cirrhosis and heart failure.

McDonald will turn 44 one month after this year's Tony Awards—that was Holiday’s age when she died, and it’s the most obvious thing the pair have in common. That, and their velvety voices. There’s no amount of makeup wizardry or fine acting that can make McDonald appear anything other than lustrous, or at least near the condition Holiday, a heroin user, presumably found herself in during that final stage of her life.

Nonetheless, most of us would pay just to hear McDonald recite availability on the TKTS board, and her recreation of Holiday’s voice was just swell to my ear. Indeed, casual Holiday fans might have difficulty distinguishing the two. In song, McDonald crinkles her eyes and seems to swirl an imaginary marble around her mouth, evoking a woman parched for booze … which happens to be at hand right across the room—and this Ms. Holiday does not wait for a bartender when she’s thirsty.

Delightful though the songs are (another treat is “Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” the early blues standard, also being heard in “Bullets Over Broadway”), the real pleasure in “Lady Day” is the patter, chronicling tales from Holiday’s life of evil men and bad breaks. It climaxes in a so-sad-it’s-funny story about touring with bandleader Artie Shaw in Alabama, when restaurants had segregated bathroom facilities (“I mean, my kidneys was almost to bust an' float me outta there right into the main dining room”).

The Circle’s stage is converted to a seating area filled with cabaret tables (the production design evokes past stagings of “Cabaret”). Theatergoers may find themselves forced into chivalry, as McDonald, feigning drunkenness, stumbles off her platform.

The five-time Tony winner is dressed in a strapless beaded gown and platform heels, with fingerless gloves to hide what would have been Holiday’s track marks. Her “accessories” include, at times, the gardenias Holiday would fasten in her hair, and a chihuahua, Pepi—a detail included by playwright Lainie Robertson, whose 1986 drama was informed by an actual performance Holiday gave in North Philly shortly before she died.

Lonny Price, McDonald’s frequent collaborator (“110 in the Shade”), directs. McDonald is joined on stage by a classic jazz trio, and she interacts throughout the night with accompanist Jimmy Powers (a genial and tolerant Shelton Becton, who bears the brunt of Holiday’s abuse). Ultimately, “Lady Day” should appeal to a broad cross-section of theatergoers—you don’t need a vast familiarity with Billie Holiday to enjoy the show, and McDonald gives another powerful and distinct performance.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” through June 1 at Circle in the Square, 235 W. 50th St. Tickets: $97-$250. Call Telecharge, 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

Photo Credit: Evgenia Eliseeva]]>
<![CDATA[“This Is Our Youth” To Star Cera, Culkin]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 11:35:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/168709810FB00167_The_Immigr.jpg

While you were Instagramming with James Franco, here’s what was happening this week In the Wings.

Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin will star in “This Is Our Youth” on Broadway. The Kenneth Longergan-play about three aimless youths living in NYC in the early ‘80s, will premiere in June at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago before transferring to Broadway’s Cort Theater this summer. The limited run begins previews on Aug. 18, opens Sept. 11 and runs through Jan. 4. Tavi Gevinson will also star. [More info]

Viola Davis will reunite with the original cast of the 2004 production of Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” for a special one-night-only benefit reading. Joining Davis will be Ariji Bareikis, Lynda Gravátt, Russell Hornsby, Corey Stoll and Lauren Vélez. The June 15-event will be put on by the Roundabout Theatre Company to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Daniel Sullivan will direct. Tickets are now on sale. [More info]

Meet the cast for the upcoming Tupac Shakur-musical “Holler If Ya Hear Me.” Award-winning slam poet, actor, singer and musician Saul Williams will star, and will be joined by Tony-winner Tonya Pinkins (“A Time to Kill”), Tony-nominee John Earl Jelks (“Radio Golf”), Christopher Jackson (“In the Heights”), Saycon Sengbloh (“Motown The Musical”) and Ben Thompson (“Matilda”), among other. “Holler If Ya Hear Me, ” which Shakur’s songs to explore an all new story about friendship and family in the toughest of circumstances, begins performance May 29 and opens June 19. [More info]

Greta Gerwig will star in the MCC Theater’s “The Village Bike.” The actress, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Noah Bambach’s “Frances Ha” and who’s leading the cast of the “How I Met Your Mother”-spinoff “How I Met Your Dad,” will make her stage debut in the production. It’ll also be the American premiere of Penelope Skinner’s celebrated play. Gerwig replaces Maggie Gyllenhaal, who had to drop out of the show due to scheduling conflicts. “The Village Bike” begins May 22 with an official opening on June 10. [More info]

Alan Cumming and the cast of “Cabaret” performed on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” The Roundabout Theatre Company’s limited-run production of “Cabaret,” now in previews with an official April 24 opening, took to the popular late night show to perform the classic “Cabaret”-opener, “Willkonmen.” Watching it, it’s hard to believe it was 16 years ago that Cumming first performed the role. Check out the performance and walkd down memory lane with us!

Photo Credit: Neilson Barnard]]>
<![CDATA[Shop Guide: Greenpoint Brooklyn]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 16:39:29 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Greenpointers.jpg Tell your cab driver to take you to Greenpoint Brooklyn, where you're sure to fall in love with the charming shops on Franklin Street. ]]> <![CDATA[$100 Grilled Cheese Makes Debut]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 06:40:33 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/deca+grilled+cheese.jpg

Gourmet may be an understatement when talking about this new grilled cheese menu item.

Deca Restaurant + Bar, located inside the Ritz-Carlton Chicago, debuted their own deluxe version of the sandwich staple in honor of National Grilled Cheese Month.

The “Zillion Dollar Grilled Cheese” sandwich features Spanish black iberico ham, Oregon white truffle aioli, heirloom tomatoes lightly drizzled with 100-year-old aged balsamic vinegar, foie gras, a sunny side up duck egg and Wisconsin white cheddar cheese “infused with 24k gold flakes,” according to a release from the restaurant.

It is enveloped in two slices of sourdough bread and served with a skillet of lobster mac.

The $100 sandwich takes “grilled cheese to the next level of decadence,” the company said in the release.

The “Zillion Dollar Grilled Cheese” special will be served at the restaurant through April 30.

Photo Credit: Deca Restaurant + Bar]]>
<![CDATA[Eyeliner for Spring]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 06:37:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/204*120/spring+eyeliner+looks.png Lilliana Vazquez meets up with Romi Soleimani from beauty.com to try three new eyeliner looks for spring.]]> <![CDATA[Tribeca Film Fest: Family-Friendly (and Free!) Events]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:04:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/167677543.jpg

The words "Tribeca" and "Film Festival" may go hand-in-hand, but that doesn't mean it's exclusive to film lovers only. There's plenty of fun for the whole family at Tribeca Film Festival's free community events -- check them out below.

Tribeca Drive-In Outdoor Screenings

Thursday-Saturday, April 17-19 (8:15 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m.) Brookfield Place

The Tribeca Drive-In movie series features three films over three days on the waterfront plaza at Brookfield Place. Bring the little ones for a 50th anniversary screening of the Disney classic "Mary Poppins" on Thursday, April 17, and celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Splash," starring Tom Hanks, John Candy and Daryl Hannah on Friday. On Saturday, be sure to view the world premiere screening of the soccer documentary "Next Goal Wins."

Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair

Saturday, April 26 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) Greenwich St. (between Chambers St. and Hubert St.)

Highlights of the eight-block-long Family Festival Street Fair include the Food Feast Stage where foodies can catch a glimpse of neighborhood chefs sautéing on a live show kitchen stage; the Games for Change Public Arcade where the whole family can play games centered around positive social change; and, the Tribeca Studios Backlot which is a street-long interactive movie set.

Also, let your creative juices flow in the Arts & Crafts pavilions, see special performances from current Broadway shows and try some of Tribeca's best eats!

Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day

Saturday, April 26 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) N. Moore St. (between Greenwich St. and West St.)

Sports fans of all ages are going to love the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day, which will be happening right around the block from the Street Fair. From sports-themed activities including baseball, sailing, golf and Frisbee, to meetings with New York sports stars and mascots, there's something for everyone!

Tribeca Family Screenings

Sunday, April 27 (3:30 p.m.) SVA Theatre, 333 W. 23rd St.

For the 11th year, the Tribeca Family Festival is presenting "Downtown Youth Behind the Camera," a program of short films made by elementary and middle school students in New York City. This popular program gives young emerging filmmakers an opportunity to showcase their creativity and encourage their passion for film.

Other family screenings include:

"The Wizard of Oz"
Saturday, April 26; 11 a.m.
BMCC/Tribeca Performing Arts Center (199 Chambers St.)

TFI Presents
Saturday, April 26; 1 p.m.
Tribeca Film Center (375 Greenwich St.)

StoryCorps: "Stories in Animation"
Saturday, April 26; 3 p.m.
Tribeca Film Center (375 Greenwich St.)

For a full list of family-friendly community events and attractions, click here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Zach Braff in "Bullets"]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:11:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/BulletsITW.jpg

A gangster appears at the start of “Bullets Over Broadway,” firing an automatic weapon into the curtain and slowly revealing the musical’s title in the brightly lit “bullet holes” he’s just carved out. It’s the first of countless attention-seizing moments in the terrific new screwball thriller from perfectionist duo Susan Stroman and Woody Allen.

Now open at the St. James Theatre, “Bullets Over Broadway” is a zany, old-fashioned spectacle that features the Broadway debut of actor-writer Zach Braff and a marvelous turn from three-time Tony nominee Marin Mazzie as an aging diva with a signature plea: “Don’t speak!”

While not without some curious choices, “Bullets” is certainly the best of the musicals to open on Broadway so far this season, though make note … it’s a new musical with old music.

Based on the screenplay Allen co-wrote with Douglas McGrath for his 1994 film, “Bullets” tells the story of aspiring playwright David Shayne (Braff), who has just arrived on Broadway in 1920s New York. After a string of failures, David is offered the chance to get his next play produced, but there’s a catch: mobster Nick Valenti (Vincent Pastore, of “The Sopranos”) insists on a part for his talentless girlfriend, Olive (Helene Yorke, from TV’s recent “Masters of Sex,” elevating cluelessness to an art form -- and sounding much like Jennifer Tilly, who played Olive in the movie).

The mark of director-choreographer Stroman (“The Producers” et al) is all over the deliciously escapist piece, which boasts showstoppers and glitzy costumes that would be right at home in a vaudeville revue. We see it in the first song, “Tiger Rag,” once, a hit for The Mills Brothers; here, sung by a chorus of tiger-tailed “Atta-Girls” at Nick’s nightclub. And we see it soon after, in the sexually explicit “I Want a Hot Dog for My Roll,” originally performed by the comic duo Butterbeans and Susie, and here performed in unfettered glory by a scene-stealing Yorke.

By now, you’ve deduced the hook -- if it’s an original score you’re looking for, it’s not to be found in “Bullets Over Broadway.” Allen, who has spoken of disliking the “contemporary music sound,” has instead hand-selected most of the vintage Jazz Age songs that crop up in “Bullets,” which get some added lyrics from Glen Kelly. Those songs include “Up a Lazy River,” by Hoagy Carmichael; “Let’s Misbehave,” from Cole Porter; and “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” first recorded by Anna Meyer and The Original Memphis Five.

“Scrubs” star and “Garden State” scribe Braff makes a charming Broadway debut as the playwright intent on sticking to his guns … er, protecting his work. Though he’s the Allen surrogate, Braff’s David is less a neurotic, and more just a fellow who is naive to the ways of business. Braff is very good, even if his performance is overshadowed by the crazier characters. I especially liked his second act duet with girlfriend Ellen (the fine Betsy Wolfe, of “The Last Five Years,” in another of the show’s less-flashy roles).

For the star of their play, David and his producer (the reliable Lenny Wolpe, of “The Drowsy Chaperone”) hope to cast the legendary Helen Sinclair (Mazzie, of “Kiss Me, Kate”), a boozy glamourpuss with shades of Norma Desmond. Mazzie wins our hearts, throwing herself unabashedly into the role that won Dianne Wiest an Oscar, and generating her own spit-takes along the way: “I made it myself,” she says, offering David a drink when they first meet in person: “If it tastes from lighter fluid, it’s because it’s lighter fluid.”

Nick Cordero, an actor who played “The Toxic Avenger” Off-Broadway, and whose last Rialto credit was as a replacement in “Rock of Ages,” is having a breakout moment as mob enforcer Cheech, the tap-dancing thug who has a thing or two to teach David about constructing a drama (for those of you keeping score at home, that’s “the Chazz Palminteri role”). His “Nobody’s Biz-ness” is yet another showstopper.

Equally appealing is Pastore, better known as Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, as the mobster who turns out to be a swell-song-and-dance man -- the actor last performed on Broadway as Amos Hart in “Chicago,” nearly two decades ago.

Brooks Ashmanskas chews scenery in the best possible way as Warner Purcell, the male lead in David’s developing play. In fact, Ashmanskas chews on everything, making googly eyes at drumsticks and danishes as pressure builds to make David’s show a hit. As supporting actress Eden Brent, the always-welcome Karen Ziemba (a Tony winner for Stroman’s “Contact”) arrives for rehearsals holding “Mr. Woofles,” an 8-pound Pomeranian with whom Broadway animal wrangler William Berloni has again worked his magic.

The production has a moody look created by designer Santo Loquasto, who has collaborated with Allen on 27 films, and the costumes are classic William Ivey Long. Most of the musical hews close to the movie, but the ending is tweaked. The finale here has the cast together for an elaborate production number done to a familiar and often-covered novelty song -- think Eddie Cantor, by way of Benny Goodman. While oodles of fun, it feels haphazardly tacked on and not much in keeping with the show’s earlier tone.

The weight of expectation hangs over “Bullets.” Stroman was last represented on Broadway with the poorly received “Big Fish,” while Allen has been engaged in another thrust-and-parry with the tabloid press --whatever your feelings about the director, there’s a great discussion in the first act about whether “the artist can be forgiven anything, if he produces great art.” What’s important here is this: Stroman’s brand of showmanship and Allen’s unparalleled wit go together, in the end, just like a hot dog and a roll.

“Bullets Over Broadway,” with an open-ended run at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St. Tickets: $52-$142. Call Telecharge, 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik]]>
<![CDATA[Jimmy Fallon Rocks With Stevie Nicks]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:30:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/fallon-+stevie.jpg Introduced by Nirvana’s Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Stevie Nicks and Fallon – portraying Tom Petty – performed the 1981 hit, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Fallon went so far as to recreate the original video2 while mimicking Petty’s onstage mannerisms.

Photo Credit: Theo Wargo/NBC]]>
<![CDATA[Beauty Buzz: Must-Try Buys]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 06:30:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/202*120/beauty+bucket+list+red+lipstick.JPG Sophia Panych, Beauty Editor at Allure Magazine, shows us the top beauty products that you should try at least once in your lifetime.

Photo Credit: NY Live]]>
<![CDATA[Review: "The Realistic Joneses," with Toni Collette]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 08:07:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ToniITW.jpg

“The Realistic Joneses,” a new comedy by playwright Will Eno, is one of those unbearable-lightness-of-being plays that ask: “What does it all mean, anyway?” In this case, the weighty questions of the universe are pondered by a top-notch cast: Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts and Marisa Tomei.

Now open at The Lyceum Theatre, the 90-minute, one-act piece is directed by Sam Gold, who has wowed us in the last year with “Fun Home” at The Public and with “Cradle Will Rock,” part of the City Center Encores! series.

Eno was a Pulitzer finalist a decade ago with “Thom Pain (based on nothing),” which reviewers hailed for its unconventional dialogue and called “a meditation on disappointment” and “an exercise in futility” that was far more “interesting” than most plays that season. Much the same could be said of “Joneses,” except that ultimately, “interesting” is in the mind of the beholder, and Eno doesn’t have much new to say here: life is hard, we can’t always control everything, let’s go out to dinner.

Literally a play about the people next door, “The Realistic Joneses” concerns two couples with the same last name, living in a smallish unnamed town somewhere, not far from some mountains. Bob and Jennifer Jones (Letts and Collette) are enjoying—well, that’s a strong word—a moonlit night on their patio, when their conversation is interrupted by the new set of Joneses, John and Pony (Hall and Tomei), who come bearing a bottle of foil-wrapped wine.

It ultimately becomes apparent both sets of Joneses are in town for the same purpose: there’s a doctor there, a specialist in a rare, fictional neurological disease that sounds as if it should be a comet. “Harriman Leavey Syndrome” causes sufferers to make absurd statements—something like Tourette’s, but not quite. The dialogue, unfolding across about a dozen scenes, asks us to consider truths we think we know about the characters and secrets they may be harboring. 

I enjoyed an early scene, where John begins drifting to Jennifer, admitting that he had been watching her in a supermarket parking lot: “You were on the phone, crying and eating a power bar. I thought, wow … that’s one sad, busy person.” The trouble was, all these funny parts—and the first 30 minutes do read like a buoyant collaboration between comic Steven Wright and Yogi Berra—don't eventually add up to much of a whole.

All members of the foursome give performances much in keeping with how we’ve experienced them before: Tomei is spacey, Letts wields defense mechanisms powerful enough to fend off an alien attack, and so on.

Collette, of “Little Miss Sunshine” and, more recently, Showtime’s “United States of Tara,” here plays a control freak who’s completely lost control. Her Jennifer Jones is trapped in a loveless marriage, bound by duty, with a martyr’s belief that the right amount of knowledge can unravel any dilemma. Her performance is interesting, until—and this is a function of the dialogue—it becomes repetitive.

As Bob Jones, Letts, a Tony winner for last year's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," is a man so overwhelmed by the circumstances of his life that he’s chosen simply to ignore them. He’s mostly the more narcissistic for it, though he displays glimmers of humanity from time to time: “You have a pretty smile,” he tells his wife, in one of those rare moments … then he turns off the lights and disappears before she can thank him for the compliment.

Bob seems grateful to Jennifer, but he also expects her to take care of him. Letts’s fine performance left me wondering just how far the bounds of “in sickness and in health” really go.
As John Jones, Hall suffers from a different kind of denial. The most youthful of the characters, he hasn’t succumbed yet to fatalism. He has no explicable bond with Pony, and in Jennifer sees the promise of stability. Hall brings the same intensity to John that he has to his past memorable TV characters, such as Dexter etc., but again, he’s working with some pretty frustrating material.

Tomei’s Pony is childish and juvenile. She owns a greeting card company—who sends those anymore?—and is looking for a daddy figure. Hence, the appeal of Letts’s Bob. Tomei provides plenty of comic relief, while offering a largely one-dimensional characterization.

Those who’ve suffered a loss of control involving their health will relate to the dysfunctional Joneses, who are here to illustrate that you can talk about your problems until you’re blue in the face, but your mundane existence, like the nettlesome squirrels in Bob and Jennifer’s yard, will still be there tomorrow.

Eno’s ultimately too-indulgent comedy is a gentle reminder that none of us know what we are really facing, and some of us are more acutely aware of that “unknown” than others. The trouble with “The Realistic Joneses” is that it’s more concerned with making the point over and over, rather than exploring anything new. 
“The Realistic Joneses,” through July 6 at The Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St. Tickets: $39-$135. Call Telecharge at 212-239-6200, or visit Telecharge.com.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn 


Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Carole King’s “Beautiful” Surprise ]]> Sat, 05 Apr 2014 18:00:32 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/482494495.jpg

While you were trying to get tickets to the all-star "Guys and Dolls” Carnegie Hall concert, here’s what was happening this week In the Wings.

Carole King surprised the cast of Broadway’s “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” with a curtain call-performance. The Grammy Award-winning icon watched the April 3 performance from the audience and took the stage afterwards to great the company and perform her hit song “You’ve Got a Friend.” It was also the first time King had seen the show; she previously stated she would not attend the musical due to the personal natures of the show, but later released a statement saying “It was so joyous to be there. I couldn't be more proud." This on top of what was alrady a big week for “Beautiful” -- their cast-recording debuted this week as the #1 cast-recording on iTunes as well. Watch King’s sweet appearance below:

A new North American tour of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” will launch this June with an all-star cast. The hit Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice-musical will stop in 50 cities this summer, starring Destiny Child’s Michelle Williams as Mary Magdalene, *NSYNC’s JC Chasez as Pontius Pilate, Incubus’s Brandon Boyd as Judas Iscariot and Sex Pistols’s John (Rotton) Little as King Herod. Ben Foster (“Orphans”) will lead this group of musical heavyweights, playing Jesus Christ. [More info]

Nominations for the 2014 Lucille Lortel Awards were announced. “Here Lies Love” and “Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” earned a record-breaking 11 nominations each. Other notable nominees include “Fun Home” (9 nominations), “Good Person of Szechwan” (5 nominations) and “Bad Jews,” “Hand to God,” “The Open House” and “What’s It All About,” which each got four nominations. Awards will be handed out May 4 in a ceremony hosted by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, both appearing in the upcoming Off Broadway opener “Annapurna.” [More info]

Jesse Tyler Ferguson will host the 80th Annual Drama League Awards. The Emmy-nominated star of “Modern Family” and Broadway veteran will lead the dais of nominated stars, all competing for the coveted “Distinguished Performance” award. The 80th Annual Drama League Awards will be held May 16 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. [More info]

The Atlantic Theater Company’s production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera” has extended by one week. The musical, adapted into English by Marc Blitztein and directed and choreographed by Martha Clarke, will open April 7 at the Linda Gross Theater and play through May 11. F. Murray Abraham, Mary Beth Peil, Laura Osnes, and Michael Park are among some of its stars. [More info]

New York State Legislature passed a theater production tax credit. New York is now the fourth jurisdiction in America to offer financial incentives to investors who originate live productions within New York State. The credit is effective for tax years commencing January 1, 2015. A program offering a 25% tax credit to producers who tech their shows in New York’s facilities is also included in the budget for the 2014-15 Fiscal Year. [More info]

Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin]]>
<![CDATA[Secrets from the Wardrobe Master of Cirque du Soleil]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 17:01:59 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/wardrobe-secrets.jpg News 4's Contessa Brewer takes us inside the wardrobe room of Cirque du Soleil: Amaluna with Larry Edwards, head of wardrobe. Learn the secrets of the costumes, how they wash them, and what to do about costume malfunctions.]]> <![CDATA[Choice Eats 2014]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 06:35:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/204*120/choice+eats.png The Village Voice's annual tasting event Choice Eats features over 84 local New York City restaurants under one roof. Lauren Scala tries some new spots.]]> <![CDATA[Review: "Raisin," Starring Denzel Washington]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:48:29 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/RaisinITW.jpg

Judging by the ubiquitous ads, Denzel Washington is the star attraction of “A Raisin in the Sun,” which has just opened for a 14-week run at the Barrymore Theatre. Perhaps so, but it’s the performances of the play’s three female leads—most notably LaTanya Richardson Jackson, a replacement for Diahann Carroll as matriarch of the struggling Younger clan—that lingered with me for days afterward.

Director Kenny Leon, who also helmed the 2004 “Raisin” revival with Sean Combs, is firing on all cylinders with his brisk new staging of Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, performed in the same venue where Sidney Poitier played combustible limousine driver Walter Lee Younger more than a half-century ago.

Set in the 1950s on Chicago’s South Side, “A Raisin in the Sun” follows the Youngers as they await an insurance check that may improve their lot—“Mama” (Richardson Jackson) dreams of moving to a better neighborhood, Walter (Washington) wants to buy a liquor store, and daughter Beneatha (Anika Noni Rose, of “Caroline, or Change”) plans to go to medical school.

Richardson Jackson, last seen on Broadway in the revival of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” is a stoic mother who loves God and her children, pretty much in that order. Initially hesitant to support Walter’s dubious business scheme, she acquiesces, deciding that what’s best is whatever makes her children happy, even if it’s a decision with disastrous consequences.

Though a late addition to the cast, I saw nothing hesitant in her choices. Rather, I was charmed by a multitude of them, even the way the actress focuses on her small houseplant, a “Raisin” character in its own right. Lena won’t let the movers touch it when they come to relocate the Youngers at the play’s conclusion—she’s going to carry that treasure herself. That plant is Lean’s love and Lena’s dreams, and it’s the only thing not always shifting underneath her feet.

Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda”) makes a moving and fully invested New York stage debut as Ruth Younger, Walter’s wife, who nurtures her husband, but without much enthusiasm (“Eat your eggs, Walter”). Okonedo offers the saddest characterization here, as a woman largely resigned to her life’s circumstances who only lights up at the proposition of escaping the family’s overcrowded and cockroach-infested rental.

Witness the brightness in Okonedo’s eyes when she shares with Beneatha her “find” at a local store, curtains she’s purchased for the new home Lena will buy, even though no one has so much as taken a window measurement: “They bound to fit something in the whole house!”

As Beneatha, the buoyant Rose tries on suitors the way she tries on hobbies, hairstyles and clothing, allowing herself to be simultaneously courted by her educated boyfriend and by a Nigerian medical student (a fantastic Sean Patrick Thomas, as Joseph Asagai) who shows the girl how she has been unwittingly assimilating herself into white American culture.

A favorite moment here comes as Rose’s Beneatha steps out of her bedroom in the colorful garb Asagai has brought for her, dancing to the African music on her turntable. It doesn’t hurt matters that Rose, 41, looks like a teenager.

There are solid supporting turns from veteran stage actor Stephen McKinley Henderson, as a sympathetic Bobo, Walter’s business associate, and David Cromer, as the oily head of a neighborhood “improvement” association offering cash to the Youngers if they won’t move to Clybourne Park. The understated manner in which Cromer refers to the Youngers as “You people” is chilling.

And then there’s Washington, a previous Tony winner for “Fences,” as Walter Lee, whose risky business venture jeopardizes Beneatha’s dreams of a medical school education.

Washington has such an easygoing way about him that it seems to transfer by osmosis to the other actors —we experience this in his first scenes on stage, where he seems to bring his own age down by a half-century, cavorting with son Travis (a very good Bryce Clyde Jenkins, in his Broadway debut) after they one-up Ruth over some small change Travis needs for school.

Washington switches just as easily to a man simmering with rage that he can’t amply provide for his family.

But here’s the thing: the actor, 59, plays a character on the cusp of 40—that age when we realize we might not accomplish all the things we dreamed of doing in our 20s. From the audience, the discrepancy makes a difference. I spent too much time thinking about how Washington is older than his character, and not enough time enjoying his performance.

The venerable movie star already has addressed this question, noting that what he does is, of course, “acting.” I get it. Still, it can be distracting. From a casting perspective, this “Raisin” is a star vehicle. Without Washington’s interest, it likely wouldn’t have happened at all. So there’s that to consider, as well. Ultimately—thankfully—the play doesn’t rise and fall on the age of the actor playing Walter … but it sure comes close.

“A Raisin in the Sun,” through June 15 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St. Tickets: $67-$149. Call Tele-charge at 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe]]>
<![CDATA[Q&A: Cheyenne Jackson on Sobriety and “The Most Happy Fella”]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:42:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/cheyenne+jackson1.jpg

It’s been a few years since New York City has seen Cheyenne Jackson in a musical. The 38-year-old actor has been busy, filming pilots and appearing on television ("30 Rock," "Glee," HBO's "Behind the Candelabra,") and in too many movies to mention since 2010’s Broadway production of “Finian’s Rainbow.” He’s also been living in Los Angeles, focusing on his solo music career while planning a wedding with fiancé Jason Landau.

Lucky for us, Jackson and his booming, beautiful voice have returned, this time to New York City Center Encores! production of Frank Loesser’s “The Most Happy Fella.” Tony winner Casey Nicholas (“The Book of Mormon,” “Aladdin”) directs the limited engagement (April 2-6), which also stars NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live”-breakout Laura Benanti.

We sat down with Cheyenne Jackson to talk about the show, songwriting and what he’s learned about himself in sobriety.

NBC4NY: This is your third Encores! show, after 2008’s “Damn Yankees” and 2009’s “Finian's Rainbow.” What keeps you coming back?
CJ: I like to work quickly, so the pace of it I really love. The rehearsal process of any project can often feel so bogged down. But here, we have no other choice than to move on. Some of the people who haven’t done it before are scared because it’s just so quick. And I’m like, “People in the audience know that coming in -- just get on the ride and go.”

NBC4NY: It’s been awhile since we’ve seen “The Most Happy Fella” at New York City Center Encores!. They last did a production in 1959!
CJ: I tell people it’s the best musical that no one has ever seen. And we’re presenting such a faithful retelling with a glorious cast and a giant orchestra. But the show’s really about letting go of expectations. When love doesn’t look like you think it’s suppose to, sometimes that’s exactly what it’s suppose to be. And this isn’t the usual protagonist, antagonist, good guy, bad guy sort of show. It’s about everybody looking for something. It’s old fashioned but it’s relevant because it so beautifully defines the human experience.

NBC4NY: Were you familiar with the show before?
CJ: I did this show a long time ago, in Seattle. I played the same part but reading the script, I didn’t remember any of it. I was young -- I didn’t understand the character, and I couldn’t sing it like it needed to be sung. So I’ve been working really hard on what I call “my big boy voice,” so that I can be heard, I have stamina and I can stay within the confides of what the show is about and not pop-it-up. To honor this music, you can have your own flare, but it has to be within reason.

NBC4NY: You released your own album last year ("I'm Blue, Skies"). As you work on your next album, what’s it been like to write your own music?
CJ: Liberating. I started to write really when I was going through a lot of transitions in my life: getting sober, reexamining relationships. So much was changing and I needed an outlet. Music’s been the best way for me to describe myself. I learned to really stay true to what I’m feeling. I’m naturally theatrical so I like to write in minor for drama. Some songs are light and fluffy and some are big and bombastic. The thing that holds it all together is me -- my voice.

NBC4NY: You mentioned sobriety. How has it informed your work?
CJ: It’s informed my life. I was a high-functioning alcoholic. Practically nobody knew, not even my parents. I always showed up, I knew my lines, I looked okay. But I knew I had reached my highest level of potential with the way I was living. I wanted more and I wasn’t going to get to the next level until I got up before noon; until I got up without having my food on the floor so I wouldn’t have the spins. And now I am clear. I’m more open, I’m more free, I’m less scared, I’m less anxious.

NBC4NY: And you have five more hours in a day than you used to!
CJ: Exactly. Waking up at 6am and doing yoga or spinning, I’m training for a triathlon -- these are things I never thought I would do. I couldn’t believe people got up at 6am to walk their dogs. I was so naive and self-centered. I was in my own little actor land world where things were very myopic.

NBC4NY: Was it an issue of confidence?
CJ: Partly. I always felt like I was missing out. That’s why I drank and did drugs. I always felt like there was a party I hadn’t been to, or “Oh, where is everybody going now?” And finally I realized: I’ve been to every party, met everybody I wanted to meet and done everything I wanted to do. It’s time to just grow up and be accountable and have some integrity.

NBC4NY: Easier said then done.
CJ: Yeah, not easy. Especially in the gay community, where most of our interactions involve bars and parties. I thought, “Now my social life is over so what am I going to do?” But I realized, I’m going to be more fun because I’ll do the same stuff but I’ll remember it. And coming out again -- coming out as an alcoholic -- helped me. I have no secrets about it. No shame.

NBC4NY: You had a short-lived Broadway stint in the 2012 play, “The Performers.” When will we have you back again?
CJ: I'm looking for the right show. I want something new. People say what’s your dream role, and I say, “I don’t think it’s been written yet.” I want something that’s really catered to my sensibility.

NBC4NY: Maybe you’ll just have to write it yourself!
CJ: Funny enough, I’ve been writing a lot and really getting into the groove. I want to write a musical. And I have some ideas. So that’ll probably be in my future.

“The Most Happy Fella,” through April 6 at New York City Center on West 55th Street. Tickets start at $30, and can be purchased at the New York City Center Box Office (West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues), through CityTix, at (212) 581-1212, or online at NYCityCenter.org.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stars Steppin' Out: Aguilera, Celebrities in Paris]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:28 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/485384611.jpg Celebrities are stepping out with style and sensibility on the red carpet.

Photo Credit: Alo Ceballos/GC Images/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Top Restaurant in the World]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:44:05 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/+Grant+Achatz1.jpg

Chef Grant Achatz has a new feather in his culinary cap.

For the third year in a row, Elite Traveler awarded Chicago's Alinea the top slot in its list of the best 100 restaurant in world.

The list was compiled from a reader survey. New York’s DANIEL restaurant took the second spot and UK restaurant The Fat Duck took third.

The Fat Duck's Heston Blumenthal was awarded Chef of the Year.

London and Paris tied for the most entries on the list, with eight restaurants apiece, and New York and Tokyo each had six.

France had 18 restaurants on the list, and the USA and UK each had 12 restaurants.

Click here to view the entire list.

Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Beware Secret Shopper Scams]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 06:13:02 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/176*120/baquerosecretshop.jpg Consumer Reporter Lynda Baquero has a warning about scams offering money to pose as a secret shopper.]]> <![CDATA[Review: "Heathers" Returns as a Musical]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 15:44:23 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/VeronicaITW.jpg

“Heathers,” a musical comedy based on the 1989 film about a clique of domineering high schoolers, is a pleasant confection with little of the edge or angst you remember from the movie. At best, this adaptation, now open at New World Stages, is a chance to relive dozens of memorable quips that gave the celluloid “Heathers” its anti-“Breakfast Club” street cred.

Writers Lawrence O’Keefe (“Legally Blonde”) and Kevin Murphy (“Reefer Madness”) cram in oodles of the biting phrases you’ve been quoting for a quarter-century, from “What’s your damage?” to “It’ll be very.” But their cast is so gee-willikers adorable that the story has evolved from a dark parable into something that borders on send-up and satire.

“Heathers” arrives in New York with its two leads intact from a 2013 Los Angeles premiere (a concert presentation was done in 2010 at Joe’s Pub, where an early version of one song, “My Dead Gay Son,” had an early audience). It’s directed by Andy Fickman, who also made the Billy Crystal film “Parental Guidance.”

An opening song, “Beautiful,” introduces us to the students of Westerburg High, which is ruled by a shoulder-padded junta of mean girls, who refer to themselves as Heathers. Just as in the film, the Heathers here comprise two blondes and a brunette (Jessica Keenan Wynn, Elle McLemore and Alice Lee). If this is your introduction to the story, sarcastic misfit Veronica Sawyer (Barrett Wilbert Weed) feels compelled to fit in with the evil trio at first, but then meets a brooding miscreant named J.D. (Ryan McCartan), who has his own plans in store for the threesome.

As Veronica, the talented Weed (“Lysistrata Jones”) transitions in the early moments of the musical from an ordinary high schooler, with friends such as poor overweight Martha Dunnstock (or, “Dumptruck,” to the jocks on the football team), into a lemming at the beck-and-call of the annoying Heathers.

Weed is an impressive singer, but don’t come in expecting a tribute to Winona Ryder, whom it’s almost impossible to separate from this endeavor, at least in my mind. Temperament-wise, Weed reminded me more of Cobie Smulders’ Robin Scherbatsky, on “How I Met Your Mother.” You never for a minute think she’s going to accompany gangly Jason “J.D.” Dean on his nefarious mission.

McCartan’s J.D. is a puppy dog-faced outsider, and while he’s not as strong a singer as his co-star, he’s got plenty of charisma. It seems odd that producers would lean toward a Disney actor for such a role (he’s Maddie’s love interest on TV’s “Liv and Maddie”), and it’s even more jarring to think there was a time we were entertained by the idea of an armed teenager wandering high school halls in a black trench coat.

Weed and McCartan share a ballad, “Seventeen,” that’s one of the sweet spots in the show.

As Heather Chandler—the alpha-Heather, as it were—Wynn (“Les Miserables”) is devilishly smug and catty. J.D. poisons her with drain cleaner, and we only wish there had been a breakaway glass table on stage to enhance her death scene as she moans “Corn Nuts” and then collapses. As weak-kneed Heather McNamara, actress McLemore displays impressive comedic chops, particularly as she chats with Veronica in a school bathroom amid a failed suicide attempt in the second act.

The high school jocks Ram and Kurt, played by Jon Eidson and Evan Todd, get the musical’s most memorable song, “Blue,” a tribute to sexual frustration. Here, the boys may have been falsely identified as gay by J.D. and Veronica, but it turns out their dads (Tony winner Anthony Crivello, of “Kiss of the Spider-Woman, and Daniel Cooney, of “Mamma Mia!) have a shared past no one knew about. “My Dead Gay Son” is the fathers’ second-act showstopper.

Indeed, it’s armchair entertainment to sit through “Heathers” and try to spot differences between the show and the movie: the party at which Veronica memorably upchucks onto Heather’s shoes doesn’t take place at a college. Also, here, even if you’re dead, you can still come back as a Greek chorus.

“Heathers” is a nostalgia trip with a decidedly more hopeful slant than its source material. There are lunchtime polls on stage … and Big Fun T-shirts for sale in the theater lobby. That great “chainsaw” line is sneaked in there, too, and it wins a boatload of laughs in the theater. You were expecting something pitch black and morbid in a musical about suicide, school shootings and hidden bombs? So what—did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?

“Heathers: The Musical,” through Sept. 7 at New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St. Tickets: $50-$95.50. Call Telecharge, 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

Photo Credit: Chad Batka]]>
<![CDATA[City Guide: Flushing Meadows Park]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 13:45:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Corona+Park+.jpg Flushing Meadows Corona Park is not just home to Citi Field and the U.S. Open, the largest park in Queens is also a cultural mecca. For more great finds follow Lauren @LaurenScala4NY on Twitter. ]]> <![CDATA[Ben Aaron Tries Weird Food]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 06:07:46 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/217*120/Food+Taco+2.JPG Ben Aaron tries some of the weirdest meals, including the Taco Bell Waffle Taco.

Photo Credit: NY Live]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Idina Menzel in “If/Then”]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 06:45:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Idina+Menzel+in+If+Then+photo+by+Joan+Marcus+0299r.jpg

If you’re buying a ticket to the new musical “If/Then,” which has just opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, then chances are you’re doing so to see the wickedly talented Idina Menzel. The 42-year-old Tony-winner’s career has been on an upswing lately, fueled by her powerhouse vocal performance in Disney’s animated blockbuster “Frozen” and her Oscar-winning, chart-topping hit “Let It Go.”

Audiences looking for their Menzel-fix in “If/Then” won’t be disappointed; she spends almost all of the two and a half-hour show onstage. But the show’s muddled plot might leave you wondering what the new musical, from the creators of “Next to Normal,” is trying to say.

Menzel plays Elizabeth, a 38-year-old divorcee who has just moved to New York City for a fresh start. Elizabeth is a pragmatist. She’s prudent and cautious and believes in choices. Yet Elizabeth is also a dreamer, plagued by self-doubt. And in a life of “what ifs,” Elizabeth can’t seem to move forward without wondering about the road not taken.

And that’s where the show’s gimmick kicks in. Faced with the choice of spending time with her sassy new friend Kate (LaChanze, of “The Color Purple”) or her stubborn old pal Lucas (Anthony Rapp, of “Rent”), Elizabeth envisions two alternate paths her life might go on. In one, she’s “Beth,” a career-oriented city planner who makes all the wrong choices in love. In the other, she’s “Liz,” a carefree teacher married to Josh (James Synder, of "Cry-Baby"), with two kids and an itch to do something more professionally satisfying.

“If/Then” reveals these paths simultaneously, switching between storylines from scene to scene, and sometimes even within the same scene. (Think “Sliding Doors: The Musical.”) To keep track of which Menzel is on stage at any given moment, one of her two personas wears a pair of glasses. Lighting designer Kenneth Posner has also lit each concurrent path differently: one in red, one in blue - and moments when they cross in purple.

The problem is, none of that really provides clarity, as it often takes a few moments into each scene to remember which version of Elizabeth we’re seeing. It doesn’t help that the supporting characters have different outcomes in each scenario, too. Lucas explores each side of his bisexuality in the dueling fates. It’s hard to keep everything straight.

To do that, Brian Yorkey’s ambitious-but-complicated book could use some major streamlining (especially one out-of-nowhere plane crash). His lyrics often read like they’re pulled from chapters in a self-help book, and his need to run through plot prevents his characters from having moments of true discovery and growth.

Still, there are exceptions--especially “I Hate You,” in which Menzel gives Elizabeth levels we hadn’t seen before: vulnerability, anger and neediness. Ultimately, Menzel is incredibly likable as Elizabeth, even in the face of some very unlikable actions. Her honest, dry line readings punctuate the well-needed lines of comedy, and she throws herself into every moment with full commitment.

Menzel’s also never sounded better. The songs of “If/Then” perfectly fit her voice, and the sweeping melodies and rock tones of Tom Kitt’s score bring out levels of Menzel’s earthy tone you won’t quite soon forget. When Menzel sings, all problems with the book simply disappear. She’s why you’re there, and it’s hard to imagine how the show would survive without her. Standing center stage at the show’s climatic number, “Always Starting Over,” Menzel’s voice will bring chills up your spine.

The supporting cast of “If/Then” is equally strong, especially Tony-winner LaChanze, whose boundless energy, spunk and positivity makes her character a breath of fresh air. Snyder is charming as Josh, Elizabeth’s love interest. A steadfast, sincere presence in the show, his first act duet with Menzel (“Here We Go”) is a tender, emotional highlight.

“Rent” fans will be most excited to see Menzel reunited on stage, 18 years later, with her co-star Anthony Rapp. Rapp’s Lucas is a clear evolution of his “Rent” character, Mark Cohen--down to his jagged dance moves. Lucas is a housing activist, squatting in-between barista shifts and political protests, though it’s often hard to swallow the noise he feeds us. “Aren’t you a little old to be living like this?” Beth asks him in one scene, as if to challenge the audience to move on from their “Rent” memories.

That may be harder to do, especially with director Michael Greif helming both projects. But if you’re looking for comparisons between the two rock musicals, you’ll be hard-pressed to find them beyond casting. “Rent” tackled the insecurities of life in NYC in your 20s by celebrating the freedom of possibility; “If/Then” tackles the insecurities of life in NYC in your 30s by embracing doubt and uncertainty. “La Vie Boheme” this is not.

“If/Then” begins with one version of Elizabeth thinking back upon the choices that she’s made. As we watch both of Elizabeth’s paths in flashback, we inevitably spend the whole show trying to decide which version of Elizabeth we met at the beginning--Liz or Beth. In the end, Yorkey and Kitt answer that, but they want us to focus less on which path is right, instead embracing the fact that each path is, simply, different. That may be all well and good, but that point gets clouded in confusing storylines.

"If/Then," with an open-ended run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 West 46th Street. To purchase tickets please visit ifthenthemusical.com or Ticketmaster.com or call 877-250-2929.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[“Newsies” Celebrate Second Anniversary ]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 16:04:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rsz_newsies_second_anniversary_cast_photo_by_greg_josken.jpg

While you were buying every copy of Idina Menzel's Billboard Magazine issue, here’s what was happening this week In the Wings.

A slew of shows celebrated their Broadway anniversaries. Celebrating this week: “Once” (three years), “Pippin” (one year) and “Newsies,” whose second year anniversary celebration has included a week-long free ticket lottery. Congratulations to all for making the Great White Way shine so bright. [More info]

Allison Case, Adam Chanler-Berat and Patti Murin will star in “Fly By night” at Playwrights Horizons. The new musical, which begins previous May 16 and opens June 10, is a darkly comic rock fable and ode to love set against the backdrop of the northeast blackout of 1965. [More info]

The Public Theater’s “A Second Chance” officially opens March 30. The new musical, with book, music and lyrics by Ted Shen, will run at The Public’s Shiva Theater through April 13. “A Second Chance” tells the story of a recent widower and divorcée who meet in New York in the midst of mid-life crises. [More info]

The Signature Theatre has announced their 2014-15 season. Eight productions will run next season, including new plays by residency playwrights A.R. Gurney and Naomi Wallace. That's right: two residency playwrights - a change from the Signature Theatre's past of only highlighting a season of plays by a single playwright. Ch-ch-ch-chaaanges! [More info]

Watch Kelli O’Hara cook Italian food. The four-time Tony nominated actress may be playing the Italian-born lead in “The Bridges of Madison County,” but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to cook. On April 14, she’ll join forces with world famous chef Lidia Bastianich for a special cooking demonstration. The event will take place at Eataly’s cooking school, La Scuola di Eataly (Bastianich is part owner), from 6:30-8pm. That’s one promo that sounds too delicious to pass up. [More info]

Photo Credit: Greg Josken]]>
<![CDATA[Thursday Matinees For "Cinderella," "Mamma Mia!" and "Phantom"]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 22:25:11 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/1339.jpg

Beginning April 3, a trio of hit Broadway musicals will add 2 p.m. Thursday matinees to their performance schedules. 

"Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," "Mamma Mia!" and "The Phantom of the Opera" are all adjusting their schedules this spring in an effort to meet their audience demand for more versatility.

Matinees are typically only offered on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Ticket stubs for these shows may also be redeemed at select restaurants, hotels and parking garages in the area. 

For a full list of performance times and participating businesses, visit www.thursdaymatinees.com.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Restauranter Pushes for Hot Dog Emoji]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 10:19:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/hot+dog+emoji.jpg

The dog days may soon be over in the world of emojis, thanks to Chicago hot dog restaurant Superdawg.

General Manager Laura Ustick began a campaign earlier this year to advocate for the creation of a hot dog emoji, and the campaign has attracted national attention. Emoji are the colorful pictures and icons used in electronic messages to communicate things, from feelings to food.

The current dictionary of emojis contains food symbols of all kinds, including pizza, sushi, French fries and ice cream. Somehow, the traditional American cuisine -- the hot dog -- has been left out.

Ustick noticed a demand for the emoji after witnessing Twitter discussions about the absence of a hot dog. Since then, she has joined the conversation and created a prototype for the emoji. She even launched a Change.org petition asking emoji creator Shigetaka Kurita to add a hotdog symbol -- without ketchup -- to the visual library.

"We take our hot dogs very seriously," Usick said.

Ustick's design for the hot dog is meant to appeal to hot dog lovers all over the world, but its lack of ketchup is a tribute to her Chicago roots.

In her appeal for the emoji, Usick has enlisted hot dog restaurants and food celebrities all over the country, including Vienna Beef, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council in D.C., Detroit's Singing Hot Dog Man and competitive eater Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti.

Ustick believes the hot dog emoji belongs with the rest of them, so she has been using social media sites like Twitter and the Facebook page "Hot Dog Emoji Coalition" to get the word out.

"The emoji is a universal language, and the hot dog is a universal food," she said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stewart & McKellen: Broadway's Best Bromance]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 00:58:40 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mckellen-stewart-pic-from-twtiter.jpg The duo play their final performances in "No Man's Land" and "Waiting for Godot" this week, but their friendship will live on forever. Their Twitter feed documents all the fun they've been having during their time in NYC. ]]> <![CDATA[PHOTOS: Gorilla Holds, Nurses Baby for First Time]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:10:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Imani+and+baby+gorilla_large.jpg

A reunion that is almost too sweet to bear: The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s newest gorilla mom Imani got to hold her baby for the first time Monday morning.

The 12-day-old female gorilla was placed on a soft hay pile, and Imani was let in to physically meet her daughter.

The mother took a close look at her baby, smelled her and eventually picked her up.

"Initially she was just carrying the baby, she never set the baby down," said Andrew Stallard, the park’s animal care supervisor. "About three hours in, she began nursing the baby.”

In about five minutes, the baby fell asleep in her mother’s arms, an exciting moment for the staff.

The tiny ape has been through a lot since her birth on March 12 through emergency C-section, a rare procedure for gorillas.

She was treated for a collapsed lung the day after her birth, and on March 18, the zoo announced she had been diagnosed with pneumonia.

But on Monday, Imani finally got some bonding time with the little one– who still does not have a name – and cradled her around the bedroom area, eventually letting the baby cling onto her back as she moved around.

After some one-on-one time, animal care staff let 5-year-old male gorilla Frank into the bedroom area. Zoo officials say Imani has a special bond with Frank, since she acted as his surrogate mother after he was born in the zoo in 2008.

Officials said staff will continue monitoring the infant gorilla to make sure she is getting the nutrition she needs.

This is Imani’s first baby and the 17th to be born at the Safari Park, where eight gorillas now live.

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park]]>
<![CDATA[On Trend: Bright Colors For Spring]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 06:22:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/spring+fashion.jpeg Get rid of the black and gray when dressing for the season - Spring is all about bright colors.]]> <![CDATA[Review: Tyne Daly, in "Mothers & Sons" ]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 14:19:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TyneMSITW.jpg

When we get our first glimpse of Tyne Daly in Terrence McNally’s new drama “Mothers & Sons,” she’s wrapped in a luxurious fur coat. It’s a nice garment, even if it was bought at a second-hand shop, but it isn’t going to protect her from the chill inside an apartment high above Central Park.

As the curtain rises on the playwright’s 20th Broadway show, Daly, as widowed Texan Katharine Gerard, is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Cal Porter (Frederick Weller). This is the first time Katharine and Cal have seen each other since the memorial service for Andre—her son, and Cal’s one-time partner—who died from AIDS complications 20 years earlier.

In the ensuing decades, Cal’s life has hurtled forward. He met Will, a man 15 years younger (Bobby Steggert, of “Big Fish”); they married, an option that didn’t exist when Cal and Andre were a couple; and they’re raising a child, a notion Katharine can’t wrap her head around. She remains mired in the past, unable to accept basic facts of her son’s life and weighed down by anger, at whoever infected Andre with HIV, and even at Cal, who she believes may somehow have turned her son gay.

Katharine has made an unscheduled stop at Cal and Will’s apartment to return Andre’s journal. Neither she nor Cal has ever had the composure to open it, and when they finally do, toward the end of McNally’s 90-minute play at the Golden Theatre, it makes for some haunting moments.

With “Mothers & Sons,” McNally (“Master Class,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!”) has again crafted a narrative that could not be more particular to time (the present) and location (the progressive Upper West Side). This time, it’s a story rooted in optimism, and one that manages to look simultaneously over its shoulder and straight ahead.

Daly gives an exquisite performance as a lonely, suicidal woman desperate to imagine a life her son might have led. She’s jolted when a nervous Cal returns from a hallway holding a poster of her son, from the time he performed “Hamlet,” because she is seeing a ghost. (“Mothers & Sons” is an expansion of McNally’s 1988 drama “Andre’s Mother.”)

Weller, the one-time regular on TV’s “In Plain Sight,” has fast become one of New York’s most useful stage actors, with underplayed turns in the past year at City Center (“I’m Getting My Act Together”) and Off-Broadway (“Reasons to Be Happy”). His Cal is a man who knows he dodged a bullet, and thus is all the more grateful for the gifts he’s been granted later in life.

Together, Daly and Weller have dynamic chemistry, lurching from moments of mutual respect to moments of accusation, and back. Katherine and Cal each have their own version of Andre, but they share a deep affection for him—here, Cal is the surrogate in a conversation that would, under better circumstances, have transpired directly between mother and son.

Katharine and Cal may be the heart of “Mothers & Sons,” but it falls to Will, an aspiring novelist, to underscore the reason we’re here. Arguing how future generations will one day look back on the final decades of the 20th century, Will says: “First it will be a chapter in a history book, then a paragraph, then a footnote. People will shake their heads and say, ‘What a terrible thing, how sad.’ It’s already started to happen. …”

Steggert is unapologetic and audacious throughout, in a fine portrait of a man who grew up in a world where the first question on a date wasn’t inevitably: “So, have you been tested?” 

His smarts aside, Will is largely unlikable. As portrayed by Steggert, he comes off as entitled, though come to think of it, perhaps that's the point. Will expects to be happy however he chooses, and can’t understand this interloper—his husband's ex-lover's mother, for lord's sake—with her backward ideas. Will’s inability to empathize with Katharine makes him unsympathetic as a person, but it also makes him the very embodiment of "positive change." As Weller’s Cal eloquently notes about the prospect of fatherhood: “I never expected to be a father. Will never expected not to be one.”

That child, incidentally, is Bud, played effusively by Grayson Taylor, whose innocence and frankness overwhelm Katharine, and help to defuse an otherwise tense afternoon. We’re left with a vague sense that Bud, who sees room in this family for a grandmother, may be the one who can help pull Katharine out of her emotional rut.

“Mothers & Sons” isn’t a melodramatic play about remembering the dead. Mostly, McNally captures a moment of hope and promise. It’s the first time a legally wed gay couple has been portrayed on Broadway. We’re here to remember the men who McNally has always chronicled in his plays, yes, but mostly to look forward from this singular turning point.

I thought “Mothers & Sons” was fantastic, for how effectively it locks down this unique period of time that is 2014, in New York City, amid the explosive progress of the gay rights movement in the last handful of years. I hope it finds a broad audience. If you’re under 30, “Mothers & Sons” is a history lesson; if you’re older, it may feel like the sun on your face.

“Mothers & Sons,” with an open-ended run at the John Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St. Tickets: $59-$137. Call 212-239-6200 or visit Telecharge.com.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Review: "Les Miz" Storms the Imperial ]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 20:05:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/MizITW.jpg

Who is he? Who is he?

He’s Ramin Karimloo, and as Jean Valjean, he’s the main reason to reacquaint yourself with the “newly reimagined” revival of “Les Miserables,” now open at the Imperial Theatre.

Sentimental? The Imperial is where “Les Miz” ran for the lion’s share of its original run, which ended just over a decade ago. Since then, it’s been hard to miss the epic story based on Victor Hugo’s novel, because it never really went away. “Les Miz” returned to Broadway in a slimmed-down 2006 revival, and hit big screens in 2012.

Why is “Les Miz” back on Broadway so soon? And should it be welcomed, like a street urchin invited to tag along with a gaggle of revolutionaries?

The answer to the latter is yes, absolutely. An answer to the former is more intricate. Producer Cameron Mackintosh launched this “Les Miz” four years ago, in recognition of the musical’s 25th anniversary in London. New orchestrations were added, and designs inspired by Hugo’s sketches were incorporated into the set—entering the Imperial, you’ll note the Parisian cityscape on the curtain bears Hugo’s signature.

At the same time, Susan Boyle’s 2009 star turn on “Britain’s Got Talent” helped introduce the Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg musical to a new audience. It’s this fine-tuned effort that inspired parts of Tom Hooper’s 2012 film. You’ll see the similarities in the scenery of Valjean’s Paris home, and as Javert (Will Swenson, of “Hair” and “Priscilla”) takes his death plunge into the swollen Seine.

But first, back to Prisoner 24601, the convict imprisoned for stealing bread to feed his sister’s children, and pursued for decades by the single-minded Inspector Javert. Karimloo is the Tehran-born, tattooed Mackintosh discovery who has played leads in the West End versions of “Phantom” and “Les Miz,” and starred there in “Love Never Dies,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom” sequel. He performed Valjean recently in Toronto, and makes a powerful impression in his Broadway debut.

This “Les Miz” has a sharply delineated prologue. Valjean receives his yellow ticket of leave, and then a backdrop introduces the musical’s title, but not before the brawny Karimloo rips open his shirt and boldly announces his transformation: “Jean Valjean is nothing now! Another story must begin!”

Make no mistake, this “Les Miz” is Karimloo’s story. I was awed by the actor’s soaring voice, particularly during the final notes of “Bring Him Home,” which seem to last blissfully forever. He’s captivating and charismatic.

Otherwise, this revival is a successful love-letter to the original, with some nifty tweaks. The male leads skew younger than they have in past productions (Karimloo is 35). Out is the familiar turntable, which once spun an enormous barricade; in is a video backdrop that transitions from a streetscape to the Paris sewers as Valjean rescues the gravely injured Marius (a fine Andy Mientus, late of “Smash”). The show just looks dynamite.

Judging by audience reaction at a recent press performance, there was great enthusiasm for Will Swenson’s Javert. I think Swenson is wonderful. His vocals are strong and even, and it’s hard to believe this is the same guy we just saw in the sleepy “Little Miss Sunshine.” 

Ultimately, the dynamic between his Javert and Karimloo’s Valjean feels a bit askew. How could anyone, really, possess the gravitas of this Valjean, and thus seem a suitable rival? Still, Swenson’s second act soliloquy, in which he pledges to escape from the world of Jean Valjean, is a high point.

Caissie Levy, who originated lead roles in “Ghost” and “Hair,” has frailty and a velvety-soft voice as the tragic Fantine, who sells her jewelry, her hair and her body to send money home to her young daughter. I was moved by “I Dreamed a Dream” in ways I haven’t been in years.

Nikki M. James, the Tony-winner for “The Book of Mormon,” has spunk as Eponine, whose unrequited love for Marius is so easily relatable. Samantha Hill, reprising a role she recently played in Toronto, makes for a pleasing, if unmemorable, adult Cosette.

Kyle Scatliffe is a commanding Enjolras in his Broadway debut, one you’d certainly follow into battle. Mientus has a nice balance of confidence and innocence in his Broadway debut, particularly during “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”

Tony-nominee Keala Settle (“Hands on a Hardbody”) is a scenery-chewing Madame Thenardier, particularly during “Master of the House,” as she rips apart a loaf of bread until it’s just a stub, singing of her husband: “Thinks he’s quite a lover, but there’s not much there.” As her sketchy spouse, Cliff Saunders seems to be emulating a particularly enraged Chucky doll.

It would be an omission to leave out the winning performance by young Gaten Matarazzo (he was also in “Priscilla”) as Gavroche, who here has a lisp that somehow makes him more multi-dimensional. I was never sure if it was part of the character, or how the child actor speaks, but he’s very good.

At the end of the third hour, the story resolves with a beautiful tableau: the departed Fantine, Eponine and Jean Valjean stand behind a kneeling Marius and Cosette. It’s an intense moment. I have a number of people in my life otherwise uninterested in musicals, but utterly taken with “Les Miz.” This production reinforces why: among all the well-played roles, it’s inevitable you’ll find someone who speaks to you.

“Les Miserables,” with an open-ended run at the Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St. Tickets: $57-$139. Call 212-239-6200, or visit Telecharge.com.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@Robert Kahn


Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy]]>
<![CDATA["Phantom" Casts Its First Black Lead]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 17:32:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rsz_466757871.jpg

While you were giving a standing ovation at "Aladdin" after “Friend Like Me," here’s what was happening this week In the Wings

Norm Lewis will make history as the first black lead in “Phantom of the Opera.” It’s only taken 26 years and nearly 11,000 performances, but it’s finally happened. Lewis will make his debut May 12, opposite Sierra Boggess as Christine. This isn’t the first time the two have worked together. Lewis played the King Triton to Boggess’s Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.” [More info]

Fantasia Barrino will return to “After Midnight” later this spring. The Grammy winner will reprise her critically acclaimed performance as “Special Guest Star” in the hit musical from May 13 through June 8. Now that’s something to sing about! [More info]

The new Rockettes’ show “Heart & Lights” has been postponed until next year. The new Radio City show was supposed to start performances this spring, but the show’s producers have said “additional work is needed to deliver the unforgettable experience our customers have come to expect from us.” Guess we’ll have to wait for that 26-foot tall Statue of Liberty puppet they’ve been talking about for so long. [More info]

The four Matildas pick March Madness Brackets. Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans’ recently announced a billion dollar prize for correctly picking the winners of all 63 NCAA men’s basketball tournament games. So The New York Times decided to consult three pundits: a sportswriter with a coin to flip, a mathematician and his students who are using a linear algebra program to make their picks, and the four actresses currently rotating the title role in “Matilda.” Genius. [More info]

If your last name is Jones, “The Realistic Joneses” has a party for you. The new play, starring Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Marisa Tomei, is hosting a contest to meet the Joneses. Those with a last name of Jones can enter to win two tickets to its April 6 opening night and the exclusive after party. You also get roundtrip transportation, provided by Uber. To enter, visit therealisticjoneses.com/sweepstakes. Now, how do you change your last name?

Photo Credit: Andrew H. Walker]]>
<![CDATA[Michelle Obama Style Guide]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 22:17:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/m110.jpg The first lady proves she's first in fashion.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ben Aaron's Take on Spring Cleaning]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 10:11:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/office+spring+cleaning.jpg Ben Aaron prepares for the warm weather by doing some spring cleaning in the office.]]> <![CDATA[Review: A Magical Ride In “Aladdin”]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 18:13:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/James_Monroe_Iglehart_Photo_by_Cylla_von_Tiedemann.jpg

Don’t be fooled by the title of Disney’s latest film-to-stage transfer. “Aladdin” may be named after its lead street urchin character, but the musical comedy that just opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre is all about one character: the Genie.

That’s due to the casting of the energetic James Monroe Iglehart, who all but erases the memory of Robin Williams, the voice of the Genie in the 1992 animated film. It’s rare that you see an actor playing a character he was born to play in a career-defining performance. Iglehart, last seen on Broadway in “Memphis,” uses his background in improv to create a comedic and charismatic Genie, who’s equal parts Fats Waller, Luther Vandross and Oprah Winfrey (“You get a wish! You get a wish!”).

Iglehart is so outstanding as Genie that his take on “Friend Like Me” stopped the performance I attended with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. It’s the number you’ll leave the theater talking about.

But Iglehart’s Genie is not the only thing worth talking about in “Aladdin.” Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon”) has done wonders staging “Aladdin.” From the opening “Arabian Nights” to Act II’s standout “Prince Ali,” Nicholaw uses his multicultural ensemble flawlessly, unraveling layers to each number that surprise and wonder. You’ll also marvel at Gregg Barnes’ stunning costumes, rich in jewel-tones, feathers and sparkle.

Fans of the film, which brought in half a billion dollars worldwide, will be pleased to see that most of Aladdin’s journey, based on the Middle Eastern folk tale from “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights,” remains unchanged. Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) still finds a magic lamp, is given three wishes from the Genie inside, and transforms himself into a prince to win the heart of the princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed).

Yet tweaks have been made. Book writer Chad Beguelin restored cut scenes, characters and songs from composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman’s early drafts of the film, assuring that this screen-to-stage transfer feels anything but copycat. What results is a fast-paced, quick-witted tale, punctuated with physical comedy and contemporary gags.

Not all these changes work for the best. Aladdin’s monkey Abu is now replaced by a slapstick trio of friends named Babkak, Omar and Kassim (Jonathan Schwartz, Brandon O’Neill and Bobby Pestka, all working well together), who share one characteristic rather than three singular, developed characters. (Though a nod to Abu does appear during "Prince Ali").

Other changes are welcomed. Our villain Jafar (the delightful Jonathan Freeman, who voiced the character in the film) has been downgraded from sinister sorcerer to silly schemer. His talking parrot Iago is now a human character (the winning Don Darryl Rivera), though Iago’s role as babbling sidekick is just as effective. Freeman and Rivera are pitch perfect together, having the right amount of fun making the right amount of trouble. Their chemistry will often have you rooting for them to win.

I wish the same could be said for Aladdin and Jasmine. As our two romantic leads, Jacobs (“The Lion King”) and Reed (“In the Heights”) certainly give the earnestness and edge each of their characters demand. But their performances are outshined by stronger supporting characters, and their chemistry during their iconic romantic magic carpet ride in “A Whole New World” is lost in the darkness of the number’s nighttime starscape staging. (Nicholaw’s only major misstep of the night; The Oscar-winning song may be out of this world, but setting it in outer space is a little too crazy).

Still, the song is there, and you’ll enjoy hearing it again, along with the rest of the show’s outstanding score by Menken and Ashman and Tim Rice. One of the restored songs, “Proud of Your Boy,” is so good, it’ll make you wonder how it got chopped in the first place. Menken’s four new songs, with lyrics by Beguelin, are a bit forgetful. But they move by so quickly, you won’t be able to dwell.

If I had one wish for “Aladdin,” it would be that that the final conflict with Jafar didn’t feel so rushed. In fairy tales, we automatically believe the stakes are high - it just would have been nice to have that threat feel a little more dire. But then again, this is a musical comedy, and in that sense, “Aladdin” is exactly what you wish for.

Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann]]>
<![CDATA[Lilliana Loves...New Picks for Spring]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 06:21:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/191*120/lilliana+loves.jpg Lilliana shares some of her favorite new accessories, beauty and style picks for spring.]]> <![CDATA[Rolling Out Ravioli]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 06:22:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/raviolo.jpg For National Ravioli Day, Lauren Scala heads to her hometown of Mineola to visit a ravioli institution - and make these delicious Italian eats.]]> <![CDATA[Ben Aaron's Take on Sexy Over 50]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 06:21:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sexy+over+50.jpg Ben Aaron looks at celebrities who are defying their age and looking sexier than ever.]]> <![CDATA[World's Top Beach Destinations]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 09:14:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Baia+do+Sancho+.jpg As the warm weather approaches, take a look at the world's best beaches, according to TripAdvisor. The top beaches were chosen based on millions of traveler reviews and opinions.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Robert Harding Worl]]>