<![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 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 07:24:59 -0400 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 07:24:59 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Review: The Public's "Fortress of Solitude"]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:25:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/FortressMain.jpg

Racial tension, comic book superheroes and, more than anything, music provide texture in “The Fortress of Solitude,” an absorbing new musical adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s best-selling novel and now receiving its world premiere at The Public’s Newman Theater.

In comic book lore, the Fortress of Solitude is where Superman retreats from the world. Here, it’s a metaphor for Dean Street, in 1970s Brooklyn, where Dylan Ebdus (Adam Chanler-Berat) is being reared by an emotionally shut-down artist father (Ken Barnett). Dylan’s mom has abandoned the family for the wilds of Berkeley, Calif.

In edgy Gowanus—this was before the term “Boerum Hill” was in fashion—Dylan, who is white, befriends Mingus Rude (Kyle Beltran), a young black boy and fellow motherless son who fills his days tagging any wall or rumbling subway car he can get near. Dylan is awed when he meets Mingus’ dad (the fantastic Kevin Mambo, of “Fela!”), a second-tier singer along the lines of Levi Stubbs. The elder Rude was one of his mom’s favorite crooners.

The boys, both named for their parents’ musical idols, form a bond that centers on a ring they imbue with magic powers.

Conceived and directed by Daniel Aukin, with music by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), the first act of “Fortress” transpires in a time when teens either got into one of the city’s elite high schools or suffered in neighborhood schools that were “like zoos”; in the second, set two decades later, Dylan is a renowned music journalist who returns east to reconnect with the characters of his youth.

Chanler-Berat (“Next to Normal,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”) has cornered the market on “nebbishy,” and puts the trait to engaging use as a boy whose life is shaped by his friendship with both Mingus and Mingus’s volatile dad, Barrett Rude Jr.

It's the three generations of the Rude family who provide crackle and fire throughout.

Early on, Beltran’s Mingus is an eager confidante to Dylan. Later, as their paths diverge, their relationship grows fraught. A sense that Dylan has somehow betrayed Mingus by decisions made in high school never seems fully sketched out, but Beltran is a magnetic performer, something we see to full effect during a second act montage of sorts that shows his progression through different levels of the New York State prison system.

Mambo, as a singer with The Subtle Distinctions, an ensemble often appearing in shadow throughout the production, gives an exceptionally human performance as a man straddling a line between making his art and succumbing to the world’s burdens.

One such burden is his father, “Senior” (Andre De Shields, pictured on milk crate, below), a Bible-thumper released from prison to the care of his son. De Shields—who made his mark as the title character in Broadway's "The Wiz," back around the same time the action in this newly constructed "Fortress" is set—is electric, beginning with his entrance, which establishes him as a man of passion and something of a lothario.

Supporting characters include Arthur (David Rossmer), who was smart enough to snatch up cheap brownstones. Kudos to whoever came up with this lyric from the “nerdy, neurotic” Jew’s big self-identification number: “You’ll never dress in age-appropriate clothing/You’ll never suppress your ingrained self-loathing.”

There’s also Robert, the neighborhood bully (Brian Tyree Henry), who cons money and other valuables from Dylan. Female roles, such as Dylan’s future wife (Rebecca Naomi Jones, of “Passing Strange”), sometimes feel like caricatures.

Music—its healing powers, and its ability to transport us to our own fortresses—is the vein running through Lethem’s 2003 novel, so much that the author curated a 2-CD mix of soul and funk that he circulated around the time “Fortress” was published. As such, Aukin, Friedman and librettist Itamar Moses (“Bach at Leipzig”) have arrived here with new pop songs that “never existed, but sound as if they should have,” as a recent New York Times piece put it.

Indeed, Friedman’s tingly compositions evoke David Byrne, Pink Floyd and Run D.M.C. “Liner Notes,” a tight second act segment, neatly summarizes Rude Jr.’s roller-coaster career; a song therein, “Bothered Blue,” feels as if it could have been a hit for Marvin Gaye, whose life is, in certain ways, evoked during the first-act climax.

Moses’s book stalls toward the conclusion, which is less plot-driven and more about predictable interactions between Dylan and the friends from his youth. Still, the compositions and performances are top-notch, and as a character-study, “The Fortress of Solitude” is nearly as engaging as the last piece of theater I saw in this space, “Fun Home.”

“The Fortress of Solitude,” through Nov. 2 at The Public’s Newman Theater, 425 Lafayette St. Tickets: $80 and up. Call 212-967-7555.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn
 



Photo Credit: Doug Hamilton; photo below by Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[“Orphan Black” Star Books LaBute Play]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:51:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/170290557CP00060_Broadcast_.jpg

Tatiana Maslany may be known for playing a dozen clones on the cult hit "Orphan Black," but this spring, she’ll be playing just one -- on stage.

Maslany make her New York City stage debut in the world premiere of Neil LaBute’s “The Way We Get By." The drama, about the morning-after of a hookup between two wedding guests, will begin its limited off-Broadway run at the Second Stage Theatre in March.

Thomas Sadoski, who stars on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” will join Maslany in the two-person play. This will be Sadoski’s first return to LaBute’s work after earning a 2009 Tony nomination for his role in LaBute’s "Reasons to be pretty."

Direction will come from Leigh Silverman, who was nominated for a Tony last season for her direction of “Violet," will run from May 12, 2015 through June 28. 



Photo Credit: Christopher Polk]]>
<![CDATA[Quiz: How Pumpkin Savvy Are You?]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:07:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pumpkin-177531910.jpg

With fall upon us and Halloween fast approaching, it's high season for all things pumpkin. You may sip pumpkin spice lattes with the best of them or carve a mean jack-o'-lantern, but how well do you really know the seasonal staple? Test your knowledge in this interactive quiz.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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<![CDATA[Review: "Nightmare: New York" May Cause Nightmares]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:42:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/Nightmare+Michael+Blase.jpg

It should be stated upfront that I scare incredibly easily. I’m the sort of person who loudly screams during horror films even when the action may not be that scary -- who still jumps when he sees a rat on the subway tracks. And yes, I sleep with a nightlight, thank you very much.

It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I did a whole lot of screaming while walking through “Nightmare,” the famed interactive Halloween attraction now in the midst of its annual run at the Clemente Center on the Lower East Side. But the scares are so incredibly well-done that even the biggest horror buffs will be jumping in fear.

Now celebrating its 11th season, “Nightmare” is the longest running Halloween attraction in the city, and the second largest Halloween event next to the Halloween Parade. Each year, creator and co-director Timothy Haskell and co-director John Harlacher choose a new theme to build the show's scares around, fully constructing a new experience to scare the life out of you.

While past themes include fairy tales gone wrong and notorious killers, this year, Haskell and Harlacher have chosen something a little close to home: New York City. The haunted house takes you through a chronological timeline of NYC's most terrifying urban legends — from the Native American settlers who cursed the island of Mannahattan, to the super-sized rats created by Sandy.

It’s a historical tour of NYC unlike any other that you’ll ever take, that’s for sure. And along the way, you’ll meet some frightening residents of the city’s past. Like Mary Mallon, a cook who infected 53 people with typhoid fever over the course of her career (you may know her as Typhoid Mary). Or Cropsey, the escaped mental patient on Staten Island who would snatch small children in the night.

You’ll also visit some of NYC’s most haunted locales. Like Brooklyn’s Melrose Hall, long-rumored to be haunted by the spirit of an Iroquois girl who was held hostage there by a colonel during the American Revolution. And The Dakota, a co-op on the Upper West Side where John Lennon was murdered and supposedly haunts the building. (Trust: he’s not just singing “Imagine” over and over again).

The entire time, you navigate the 13-section haunted house in a small isolated group, meandering through the cramped rooms and uneven spaces. The darkness is disillusioning -- the various strobe lights even more so -- and the sounds of screams from the groups behind you and in front of you only add to the feeling of paranoia. It’s like one big anxiety attack, with no Klonopin in sight.

But it’s the 38 actors employed at “Nightmare” who give the attraction its main bite. This highly-trained team gives you truly committed performances, designed to get the most out of each scare. Nothing feels forced or out-of-place. These artists know what they’re doing, and they’re not afraid to get in your face to bring your worst fears to life.

For me, the most terrifying interactions were the ones that felt all too real. Mole people and mental patients are scary and everything, but walking into a recreated 1980s subway car and meeting a drug-addicted resident with a gun and a bad temper? That’s the stuff nightmares are really made of. And as someone who grew up taking the subway in the 1980s, that’s one walk down memory lane I didn’t want to take.

“Nightmare” also offers a premium version of the attraction, for those of you who are brave enough to handle the extra scares. You’ll be marked with a blood-red X on your face, which will signal performers to turn up the terror. This scaredy-cat didn’t go for that experience, so if you’re looking for that review, look to some other poor journalist. Meanwhile, I’ll be curled up in a ball, wishing my nightmares about “Nightmare” would somehow stop.

“Nightmare: New York,” at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center, 107 Suffolk Street (between Rivington and Delancey). Tickets: $20-$60. Visit nightmarenyc.com.



Photo Credit: Michael Blase]]>
<![CDATA[NYCWFF Blue Moon Burger Bash 2014]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 09:16:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/burger+bash+21.jpg Lauren Scala heads to the NYCWFF's Blue Moon Burger Bash to find out what makes one burger better than the next.]]> <![CDATA[Review: One Helluva “Town”]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:07:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/869947.jpg

Living in New York City, day in and day out, it’s easy to forget the fun of experiencing it all for the first time. The wonder of looking up at the skyscrapers from the streets below. The excitement of being among the diversity of its residents. It’s the sort of childlike discovery that makes even a crowded subway seem like a magical place.

That unmitigated glee is alive and well at the Lyric Theatre, where the Broadway revival of the they-don’t-make-‘em-like-they-used-to musical “On the Town” is now open. Tony-winning director John Rando (“Urinetown”) has embraced the classic tale, about three American sailors on 24-hour shore leave in New York City during World War II, and staged a joyous production that’ll make you want to fall in love with the city — and musical theater — all over again.

“On the Town” began as a ballet by legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins (1944’s “Fancy Free”), which was set to the music of Leonard Bernstein (“West Side Story). The idea transformed into a Broadway musical that same year, with the songwriting team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green (“Wonderful Town,” “Peter Pan”) providing book and lyrics.

Fans of the 1949 film version, starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin, should be warned: that film dispensed most of the Broadway production’s songs and replaced them with new tunes by Roger Edens.

There are plenty of songs you’ll recognize regardless of your experience with the show — chief among them the infectious opener “New York, New York” (which made it to the movie), the jazz cabaret standard “I Can Cook, Too” (for which Bernstein also wrote the lyrics) and ballads like “Lonely Town” and “Some Other Time.” These songs have never sounded better either, with a superb 28-piece orchestra giving Bernstein’s complex score the fullness it deserves.

Leading the cast of 31 are our three sailors: the earnest romantic Gabey (Tony Yazbeck, “Gypsy”), the optimistic goofball Chip (Jay Armstrong Johnson, “Hands on a Hardbody”) and the sex-crazed ladies’ man Ozzie (Clyde Alves, “Bullets Over Broadway”). Together Yazbeck, Johnson and Alves give our trio of protagonists boundless energy and charm, making them loveable tour guides through this adventure.

They’re also each met with equally compelling love interests. Alysha Umphress, a standout in “American Idiot”, slays as Hildy, a no-nonsense cab driver who takes Chip under her wing. Umphress’ Hildy has just the perfect mixture of brass and sass, seen clearly in her smooth take on “I Can Cook, Too.” She makes an adorable team with Johnson, who brings the laughs (and the effervescent flips) during their duet, “Come Up to My Place.”

Elizabeth Stanley, known for her understated roles on Broadway in “Cry-Baby” and “Company,” lets loose as Claire De Loone, an anthropologist with a bit of a naughty side who quickly falls for Ozzie. Stanley has never sounded better, her soprano on full-display in numbers such as “Carried Away.” She’s also never committed to the absurd quite as flawlessly, and Alves’ Ozzie makes for a grounding partner.

In her Broadway debut, Megan Fairchild is an elegant Ivy Smith, the object of Gabey’s affections. Formerly a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, Fairchild puts her skills to good use in the “The Imaginary Coney Island” sequence, which she dances alongside Yazbeck. It’s a beautiful moment from two beautiful dancers, who make us fully believe their love connection.

Choreography (picture above) comes from the Emmy-winning Joshua Bergasse (“Smash”), who designs his movements in the spirit of Robbins’ original choreography, without literal recreation of Robbins’ work. Bergasse takes full advantage of the talent in his cast, giving intricate steps to our three leads that strongly establish character, while still allowing plenty of time to showcase the breadth of talent among the 20 ensemble members.

Rando has been with “On the Town” for nearly six years now, directing a 2008 Encores! concert production and a 2013 mounting at the Barrington Stage Company (from which most of the Broadway revival cast and creatives helm). His time with the piece has clearly been well spent, and his keen eye for pacing and comedy makes the often dated material and setups feel fresh and bright.

The show even opens with a collective singing of the national anthem — something wildly popular during wartime-entertainment, but something I’ve never experienced in my lifetime.

Kudos should also be given to the hilarious Jackie Hoffman (“Xanadu,” “The Addams Family”), clearly in her element here as she portrays multiple, wacky, scene-stealing women. One imagines Rando’s direction of Hoffman boiled down to one line: “Do your thing.” And boy, is she ever.

Sets and projections by Beowulf Boritt and costumes by Jess Goldstein color the stage with a modern elegance that perfectly matches the tone of the production. And the inventive puppet design by Matt Acheson gives “Carried Away” the bite it needs.

Of all the musicals of its generation, “On the Town” has never received the same level of praise as some of its contemporaries from, say, Cole Porter or Rodgers & Hammerstein. But 70 years after its premiere, Rando’s glorious revival reminds you just what a gem of a piece it is. This is one walk down memory lane you’ll want to take.

"On the Town," at the Lyric Theatre, 213 W. 42nd St. Tickets: $37-$157. Call 877-250-2929 or visit ticketmaster.com



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Al Pacino Returning to Broadway]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:05:23 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/509501135JL00001_The_Humbli.jpg

Al Pacino will return to the Great White Way in the fall of 2015 in the world premiere of a new David Mamet play, “China Doll.”

Pacino will play Mickey Ross, a billionaire with a young fiancee on the verge of semi-retirement who takes one last phone call before leaving for the day. Trouble, inevitably, ensues. David Mamet has said he wrote the play specifically for Pacino, who said he was excited about the role.

“For me over the years, the relationship and the collaboration with David Mamet has been one of the richest and most rewarding,” Pacino said in a statement. “We’ve done four projects together and the opportunity to create a new character in the David Mamet canon was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Pacino said he was "blown away" by the play, adding that it’s "one of the most daunting and challenging roles I’ve been given to explore onstage. It’s a special gift to originate a role in the theatre, especially written by such a formidable writer and I haven’t done that in a long, long time.”

The two-time Tony-winner was last seen on Broadway in another Mamet play -- 2012’s revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Glengarry Glen Ross." (Pacino played Shelly Levene). He also received a 2011 Tony nomination for his role in the revival of "The Merchant of Venice."

Pam MacKinnon, represented this season on the boards with the revival of Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance," will direct "China Doll." She won a 2013 Tony Award for her direction of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf," and also directed 2012's Tony-winning Best Play, "Clybourne Park."

“China Doll” will begin performances in October 2015 at a Shubert theatre to be announced. 



Photo Credit: Gareth Cattermole]]>
<![CDATA[Shia LaBeouf Discusses His Broadway Arrest]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 09:56:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/499713639RK005_SHIA_LABEOUF.jpg

Actor Shia LaBeouf has finally spoken out about his June arrest for disorderly conduct. And it seems there’s one thing to blame, the way he tells it: whiskey.

To refresh, LeBeouf was escorted out of the June 26 performance of Broadway’s “Cabaret” during intermission, after disrupting the first act of the show by smoking, yelling, and groping at least one of the performers (star Alan Cumming). He was later arrested amidst a slew of expletives and gay slurs directed towards police, and charged with two counts of trespassing, two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of harassment in the second degree.

LeBeouf pled guilty to charges on Sept. 10, in a deal that involved no jail time or probation. Terms of the deal state that the case will be dismissed if LaBeouf stays in treatment for at least three months and out of trouble for six.

On Monday, LaBeouf appeared on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote his new film with Brad Pitt, “Fury,” and explained the events that lead up to his arrest.

According to LaBeouf, he had been drinking whiskey all day at a nearby bar, watching the World Cup. During a cigarette break, LaBeouf met a dancer from “Cabaret” who invited the “Transformers” star to the show. And wanting to “turn it up a bit,” LaBeouf accepted.

From there, it appears, a very drunk LaBeouf was under the impression that he was attending a cabaret, not the “Cabaret.” Upon seeing the vibe of The Kit Kat Club at Studio 54, and the provocative performance of Alan Cumming’s Emcee, LaBeouf began loosening up himself. He smoked a cigarette, drank some more and even slapped Cumming’s derriere.

At Intermission, LaBeouf was told “there’s another party outside.” That party turned out to be the cops, who arrested LaBeouf.

Things didn’t get much better for LaBeouf at the station. Realizing he was not “made for this setup,” LaBeouf began acting out. “I’m ripping my shirt off, and doing pushups and I’m like, “Don’t mess with me — I’m crazy,” he told Kimmel.

To get out of the cell where he was being held with six other prisoners, LaBeouf decided to spit on an officer. “I spit on his shoe,” LaBeouf said, “and he put a Hannibal mask on me and a lead jacket and ushered me to my private dwelling where I sat for 25 hours. And then they gave me a McDonald’s egg sandwich.”

So does LaBeouf plan to make a trip to see “Cabaret” again soon? “I’m going to stay away from Broadway for a little bit,” he said.

And whiskey too, we hope.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Celebrating Oktoberfest in New York]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 09:12:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Oktoberfest4.jpg You don't have to travel to Germany to celebrate an amazing Oktoberfest. Lilliana Vazquez visited two New York eateries serving up some sausage, beer, and traditional favorites to get you in the spirit.

Photo Credit: New York Live]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Lane, Broderick Together Again in "It's Only a Play"]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 20:10:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/OnlyaPlayMain.jpg

“It’s Only a Play” makes for an exciting way to spend a night, but keep your expectations in check.

This season’s hottest ticket—it’s just opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre—is a behind-the-scenes Broadway satire starring a murderer’s row of talent, each in roles that hew closely to the parts that made us love them in the first place. See Mullally, Megan: Karen onWill & Grace.”

It’s also trying to be too many things to too many people, and occasionally tripping over itself in the process.

Playwright Terrence McNally has updated the jokes since “It’s Only a Play” first appeared Off-Off-Broadway in 1982, so James Franco and Shia LaBeouf are now punchlines; Linda Hunt and Charles Nelson Reilly are out. The barbs fly fast and furious, and many fall a notch below Borscht Belt levels: “New York without the theater is Newark,” opines frustrated playwright Peter Austin (Matthew Broderick, taking milquetoast to new heights).

Every kind of character in the vast Broadway Industrial Complex eats crow in McNally’s well-intentioned comedy of fragile egos, which takes place entirely in the boudoir of fledgling producer Julia Budder (Mullally, again playing a New Yorker with too much money on her hands).

Julia, along with her insecure playwright; his best friend, a TV star (Nathan Lane); the play’s leading lady (Stockard Channing, in an ankle bracelet); a theater critic (F. Murray Abraham); and the fresh-faced rent-a-butler (the talented Micah Stock) are on pins and needles (and the occasional quaalude) ahead of reviews for Peter’s new “American” play—wait for it—“The Golden Egg.”

Mullally’s hold-her-head-high producer has sass, but less edge than Karen Walker, of “Will & Grace.” I kept wishing for a sharpness that never materialized, particularly in McNally’s meandering second act.

As James Wicker, the TV star wooed back from L.A. to toast his friend Peter’s opening, Lane’s performance—he’s essentially playing himself—is the most consistently funny, particularly in an ongoing joke about the actor’s masculinity (Mullally and Lane are pictured, below).

Channing, as felonious actress Virginia Noyes, mugs her way through some pretty good one-liners as an old pro who hoped the show would rehab her reputation. Kudos to the sardonic stage vet, who’s doing the whole thing with an injured knee.

F. Murray Abraham seems to be having a swell time as snide critic Ira Drew, who has his own unprofessional agenda for the night—I dare you not to think of his Antonio Salieri! Also going along giddily is Rupert Grint, the one-time “Harry Potter” actor, as the wunderkind director who just once would really love … a flop. Grint makes a hilarious un-Ron Weasley-like entrance, and then tears through the rest of the production behaving like a cross between Billie Joe Armstrong and Richard Branson.

With these marquee stars, you might assume “It’s Only a Play” is aimed squarely at theatergoers looking for a safe night on the town. I guess the idea is to offer a smorgasbord of material and hope for the best, but I suspect most audience members will walk out having gotten perhaps half the jokes.

The piece name-drops Tommy Tune and Tovah Feldshuh and tosses in tired material about Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno; its nods to “A Delicate Balance” and “The Elephant Man” border on obscure. Are the folks lining up for another Lane-Broderick teaming going to follow a one-liner about "Moose Murders,” the 1983 play considered one of the Rialto’s greatest flops?

Theater insiders, on the other hand, will guffaw at the inside cracks about online Broadway chat rooms, but many will feel “It’s Only a Play” lazily misses its mark. Are the people who would get a “Moose Murders” joke going to find tolerable a bit that has Broderick’s playwright revealing the things he’d do for a “good” review: “Put a bag over your head and I’d f—- you, for one,” Peter says to Abraham’s infamous critic. Zoinks.

All that said, there’s also one other thing “It’s Only a Play” is: Review-proof. The comedy, directed by Jack O’Brien, will mint money for its myriad producers (“I am no longer part of the herd of investors who call themselves producers,” Julia says, in one of the play’s sharper observations about the changing industry: “When they call the Tony Award for Best Play, it will be just me going to the podium.”).

Indeed, we high-minded reviewer types will just have to sniff at the sometimes mediocre material … while counting our blessings at having scored free press tickets to the most in-demand show of the fall. In keeping with the self-deprecating spirit of “It’s Only a Play,” I offer this admission: There’s no reason theater reviewers shouldn’t be exposed for the occasionally freeloading louts we are.

“It’s Only a Play,” through Jan. 4, 2015 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St. Tickets: $72-$147. Call Tele-charge, 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[#Tailgate4NY: Your Football Photos]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:54:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/jets+5+crop.jpg NBC 4 New York viewers sent us these tailgating photos. Send us your photos to http://www.nbcnewyork.com/ugc/]]> <![CDATA[Hamptons International Film Festival]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:38:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/HIFF-300x200.png ]]> <![CDATA[Broadway Star Marian Seldes Dies at 86]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 16:55:13 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/60742931.jpg

Celebrated stage actress Marian Seldes died peacefully in her home on Oct. 6 after an extended illness. She was 86.

Marian Seldes made her Broadway debut in 1947, in Robinson Jeffers’ adaptation of “Medea.” She appeared in 24 productions, four of which were with playwright Edward Albee.

During her 60 year career on the boards, Seldes received five Tony nominations, taking home two awards — one in 1967 for Featured Actress in a Play for her role in Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance,” and another in 2010 for Lifetime Achievement.

Seldes is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “Most Durable Actress” — an honor she received after never missing a performance in the 1978 to 1982 run of Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap.”

She was last seen on Broadway in 2007, starring alongside Angela Lansbury in Terrence McNally’s “Deuce.”

In addition to her work on stage, Seldes was also a respected teacher, working at The Juilliard School from 1969 to 1992. Among her pupils: Viola Davis, Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, William Hurt, Mandy Patinkin, Kevin Spacey, Laura Linney and the late Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve.

Many members of the Broadway community paid their respects for Seldes on social media, including six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, who called Seldes “an amazing actress, teacher, and lady.”

“Hedwig” star Andrew Rannells said Seldes was “one of the nicest, most generous, most talented people I ever got to meet.” Cheyenne Jackson added that Seldes “went to every Broadway show, draped in her signature purple scarf, consistently sending love and words of wisdom to all of us treading the boards.”

The daughter of author Gilbert Seldes, Marian Seldes was twice married, both to playwrights. Her marriage to Julian Claman ended in divorce in 1961, while her second husband, Garson Kanin, died in 1999.

She is survived by her daughter, Katharine.

On Oct. 8 at 7:45 p.m., the marquees of Broadway theaters will be dimmed in Seldes’ memory.



Photo Credit: Andrew H. Walker]]>
<![CDATA[Review: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"]]> Sun, 05 Oct 2014 22:29:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/CuriousMain.jpg

Fans of Mark Haddon’s novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” will cherish the National Theatre production that has finally found its way to Broadway—but they may be in for a surprise, too. On stage, they’re getting a bolder, braver and happier Christopher Boone than the one evoked by the 2003 best-seller.

With Broadway newcomer and recent Juilliard grad Alex Sharp bringing the boy to life in the new production that has just opened at the Barrymore Theatre, Christopher is still “ill-equipped” to interpret everyday life, but he’s also far more assertive than the nervous teen of the novel, not to mention more capable of both holding a grudge and experiencing joy.

Director Marianne Elliott (“War Horse”) begins audaciously, depicting center-stage the bloody body of a dog, Wellington, with a “garden-fork” protruding from his side. The reveal transpires amid nearly seizure-spurring spasms of light, until we finally see Christopher frozen in place, confronted by Wellington’s owner, Mrs. Shears (Mercedes Herrero), demanding to know: “Holy f—-. What have you done?”

After Christopher falls under suspicion of killing Wellington, he embarks on a quest to learn the killer’s identity, but in doing so, uncovers a jarring family secret. The first act, largely narrated by his mentor, Siobhan (played gracefully by Francesca Fardinay of “The 39 Steps”), sets up the circumstances of the boy’s current living situation. The second is about the physical journey Christopher takes to get to the bottom of matters.

Ian Barford is solid as Ed, Christopher’s father and primary caretaker, a working-class Brit who could have walked out of “Billy Elliott,” except here, his problem isn’t Margaret Thatcher … it’s controlling himself enough to care for his son. Enid Graham gives a layered performance as Judy, Christopher’s mom, barely an adult herself, and a woman perhaps incapable of managing a child with her son’s needs.

We meet Judy in a memory Christopher recalls from a family vacation. She’s dressed provocatively and smoking a cigarette, encouraging her son to join her in the ocean: “There aren’t any sharks in Cornwall,” she’s pleading. I found it easy to understand the bond between this mother and child, even as I sympathized with Judy’s other, more selfish motivations.

It’s not spoiling anything to reveal that infidelities are at play with both mom and dad, and it was fun to walk out of the show and argue about which one of the two was the better parent. They’re both clearly drawn and ordinarily flawed human beings.

The greatest accomplishment in this superbly directed production (it’s been adapted for the stage by Haddon’s friend, playwright Simon Stephens) is its uncanny ability to make us experience Christopher’s emotional challenges, whatever you prefer to call them, from the inside out, both audibly and visually.

So, when Christopher descends into London’s Underground at the beginning of the second act, we experience, via clever use of the small ensemble and a lot of technical wizardry, how it must feel to be a boy who can explain the Pythagorean theorem, and be awfully cocky doing so—be sure to stick around for a brief coda after curtain—but who also becomes paralyzed if he’s around “yellow things or brown things.”

We don’t fully realize how important Sibohan’s role is in Christopher’s life until we hear her in voiceover, helping Christopher gain control over his mind when he’s in the crowded Tube.

The production design is electric, intricate, icy and certainly unprecedented—woe the Con Ed bill at the Barrymore. Rather than a customary set, the drama unfolds inside a digitized coordinate plane, a suitable environment for the “maths”-obsessed Christopher.

In the most dramatic moments, Christopher scales the set’s back wall, and then descends as it transforms into an escalator at London’s Paddington Station. Moments later, we’re leaning forward in our seats as the boy, unfamiliar with dangers of the Tube, chases his pet rat, Toby, onto what has quite frighteningly become a subway platform. It’s whiz-bang theater stuff that’s simply a thrill to behold.

We’d talk about Christopher today as falling “somewhere on the autism spectrum,” though Haddon would prefer we thought of him simply as “an outsider,” a stance that makes the story that much more of a relatable experience. This kid up on stage, as portrayed by the nimble Sharp? Well, he’s me. And my friends. And probably you, too, on any day when you feel overwhelmed, or more than a little obsessive-compulsive.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” with an open-ended run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St. Tickets: $27-$129. Call Telecharge, 212-239-6200.

--Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter @RobertKahn.



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Blythe Danner in “The Country House”]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 21:17:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/3071+2.jpg

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that a trip to the country is never quite as relaxing as it seems. Just ask Anton Chekhov, Terrence McNally, Stephen Sondheim, Noël Coward, Christopher Durang, David Ives, Theresa Rebeck, Laura Eason or Sharr White — all who have all put their characters through turmoil while staying in cozy locales far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It’s no surprise, then, that the quiet retreat at the center of Donald Margulies’ newest play, “The Country House,” is soon filled with fighting families, jealous lovers and enough hurt feelings to make even the Berkshires gloomy.

Regrettably, the action in the play, now open at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, is far too contrived to make much of an impact.

Esteemed actress Blythe Danner, last with MTC in “The Commons of Pensacola,” stars as fictional legendary actress Anna Patterson, the matriarch of our country house. Like many actors, she’s returned to her country house in Williamstown, Massachusetts (where our country house lives) for summer stock. But she’s also gathered her family together in memory of her 41-year-old daughter Kathy, who died a year prior.

Coming to the grief-fest is Kathy’s widower Walter (David Rasche, of TV’s “Sledge Hammer”), a famed stage director who’s moved on to blockbuster action film franchises, and a new girlfriend named Nell (Kate Jennings Grant, of “The Lyons” and “Proof”). That’s not sitting well with his wise-beyond-her-years daughter Susie (Sarah Steele, of TV’s “The Good Wife”). Or Kathy’s failed-actor-turned-playwright son Elliot (Eric Lange, of TV’s “Lost,” “Weeds”), who coincidentally fell in love with Nell when they worked together 11 years prior.

Oh, and if that weren’t enough, childhood friend and hotshot actor Michael Astor (Daniel Sunjata, of TV’s “Graceland”) has also swung by — and soon finds himself the object of lust for just about every female inhabitant around.

Margulies, supposedly, was heavily influenced by Chekhov, cutting and pasting characters and situations from “The Seagull” and “Uncle Vanya” to craft “The Country House.” Perhaps that explains why the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, of “Dinner with Friends” and “Time Stand Still,” is so muddled here. He seems bound by his device, not propelled by it.

The best moments in the play occur when Elliot debates the cause of his failed acting career with Walter and later, Anna. Discussions on talent versus ambition, fear versus ability and family obligation versus individual responsibility are where Margulies really shines, giving his actors intense emotions and meaty drama to chew on.

But those don’t come until late into the play’s third act, and by that point, you’ll have grown too tired of the cliché jokes about Hollywood or the multiple lightweight love-triangles to care. It’s as if the play would be successful if it could just get out of its own way. The foundation is there, but this “Country House” needs a renovation.

Despite a rocky structure, there are some winning performances. Danner is a treat as the steadfast and strong Anna, giving gravity and poise to a woman grieving the loss of her daughter and her youth. The venerable actress moves through much of the material here with ease, and you’ll be glad she’s leading the ship.

Steele makes an electric Broadway debut as Susie. The actress, who has been steadily working off-Broadway for the past few years, finds dry humor in Susie’s frankness and logic, while still remaining vulnerable. It’s the sort of performance that will make you wish she had more to do.

Lange does an excellent job embodying Elliot’s desperation and nastiness. But Margulies doesn’t give Elliot enough compassion to be anything but a villain. Instead, he comes off as an aggressive, bitter, lazy curmudgeon who feels betrayed by the world and everyone in it. “You practically insist that people hurt you,” Walter tells him in one scene. That’s a hard guy to like — and an even harder guy to understand and root for.

As for Rasche and Jennings Grant, well, they make a valiant effort, but their motivations aren’t often clear enough to keep us on their side. Sunjata, a Tony nominee for “Take Me Out,” seems the most lost with his dull character — a problem that was no doubt on his mind when he snuck outside to smoke a cigarette during intermission of the press performance I attended.

This is the tenth Margulies play MTC has produced, and the second director Daniel Sullivan has worked on (“Time Stands Still”). And while there are moments where all seem to be gelling properly, this is one country vacation that’s not worth the trouble.

"The Country House," at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St. Tickets: $67-$125. Call Telecharge, 212-239-6200.



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Q&A: Will Swenson on "Bull Durham," "Les Mis" and Audra McDonald]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 23:17:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/WillSwenson.jpg

Will Swenson has had a varied career on Broadway. From playing the charismatic ringleader hippie in “Hair” to the sensitive drag queen in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” to the steadfast Inspector Javert in “Les Misérables,” the 40-year-old star is one of the most versatile actors working in the industry today.

He’s also been absent from Broadway for the past 10 weeks, on a hiatus from “Les Mis” as he stars in the world premiere of the new musical “Bull Durham,” now open at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, GA. Based on the beloved 1988 film, Swenson plays Cash Davis, a veteran catcher playing out the last years of his career in the Minors. (It’s the Kevin Costner role from the film, though good luck finding traces of Costner in Swenson’s commanding performance).

On the heels of his return to “Les Mis,” Swenson speaks to NBC about “Bull Durham,” Javert and how his wife Audra McDonald prompts spontaneous bouts of sobs.

NBC 4 New York: What drew you to “Bull Durham”?
SWENSON: This is a man’s man show. It’s sexy. [Susan Werner’s] score has this southern rock feel to it that I haven’t heard in any musical before. And it’s thrilling to see how they’ve translated baseball on stage. It’s very masculine and different from what you’ve seen before. There’s always something super appealing about being able to do something brand new. You don’t have somebody else's bases to touch (so to speak).

NBC4NY: Cash is such an iconic character.
SWENSON: You watch Costner in that movie and he’s just so cool that you can’t help but want to be him. In the past, I’ve played these very flaily characters, from “Hair” to “Priscilla,” where I’ve had to be large and frenetic. But I really love Cash’s stillness. That’s been my lesson to learn this year, between Javert and this role; that I can stand still and still hold some power. It’s hard to do and hard to trust.

NBC4NY: Nowadays, it seems every out-of-town production of a new musical has the “Broadway-bound” tag attached to it. Do you feel pressure to deliver a hit?
SWENSONYou really just do yourself a disservice by putting that extra weight on your shoulders. It’s always hanging in the air, but all you can do is concentrate on the moment and try and make the best show you can.

NBC4NY: But the out-of-town experience has changed a lot in the past few years, hasn’t it?
SWENSON: Sadly. It isn’t nearly as under the radar as it used to be. Because [New York] critics are still coming out and reviewing. You have to let artists experiment and find a show before a negative vibe gets out there. Because it’s really hard to overcome. My hope is that as the information age continues, we’ll understand that we need to allow the art form to progress the way that it should. Keep the reviews local and let a show get ready to come into town.


(Photo by Michael Le Poer Trench)

NBC4NY: You’ll be coming back to “Les Misérables” Oct. 9. Was it hard to walk away?
SWENSON: It was always my dream to do “Les Mis” as a kid. And to get to do Javert is a thrill. I’m really proud of it. One of the frustrations of success on Broadway is the long runs. And it’s a double-edged sword. You’re on Broadway and you’re living your dreams, but there’s a redundancy with doing your long-running show. So you can get into a rut, creatively. Even though you’re doing great work, by your 500th performance you’re looking for any other creative outlet. “Les Mis” was generous enough to give me the hiatus, and flex some creative muscles.

NBC4NY: This revival of “Les Misérables” made some bold changes from the original production – to much success and acclaim.
SWENSON: With any standard that you do, you want to make it fresh and resonate. Much like Diane Paulus did with “Hair.” And that’s what our creative team on “Les Misérables” were able to accomplish. Reimagine and reinvent. They rethought the piece in a really story-oriented way. Most of them had been with the original company in London and had 25 years to just sit with the show and go “What if this scene was there? What if that?” They were really smart about it.

NBC4NY: You’re just approaching your two-year wedding anniversary with your wife, Audra McDonald. Tell me about life with a six-time Tony winner.
SWENSON: She blows my mind. I live my life next to her. We go about our daily routines, and we take our kids to school and we eat dinner. And I’ll go months at a time without seeing her perform. And then schedules will work out and I’ll be able to go see her in a show or go see one of her concerts. And I’ll just sob because I’m reminded of the power of this woman I’m married to. She’s just a force of nature unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She’s amazing.

“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.



Photo Credit: Will Swenson]]>
<![CDATA[Pumpkins: From "Food of Last Resort" to Fall Flavor King]]> Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:29:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/451601919.jpg

Fall is in full swing and so is the seasonal menu staple no one can escape: pumpkin spice.

The autumnal flavor, long found in pies, breads, and beers, experienced a boom in popularity in recent decades and is now found in everything from Oreos to dog treats. 

America’s love of the orange squash dates back to the New World, as historian and author Cindy Ott recounts in her book “Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon.” In an interview, Ott explained how the simple pumpkin went from being a “last resort” food to an American favorite. 

When did pumpkins become a part of American cuisine and culture?

Pumpkin is actually the oldest domesticated plant in the new world. It was domesticated in 10,000 BC in Mexico, so it’s older than corn and beans. Indians in America in precolonial times relied on pumpkin for daily sustenance and they had all kinds of special ceremonies — many of them did celebrate pumpkin. But for Europeans, it meant something much different. For them, it was associated with natural abundance like it was for Indians, but then it had connotations of being a symbol of wild nature and cultural backwater. So people ate it when they had to but then they preferred to eat European food, like potatoes and onions and cabbage, when they could.

When did pumpkin move from a food of “desperate times” to say, a seasonal treat?

First of all, all forms of squash and pumpkins are interchangeable, they’re botanically interchangeable—you can crossbreed a zucchini with a field pumpkin and get a mix. It wasn’t until the 19th century that people started distinguishing something as unique pumpkin and then these different stories started developing. Pumpkin was kept in production because it was cheap. Farmers used it for substitute for livestock feed. It was considered a food of last resort for people, associated with the small family farm that wasn’t a part of the big market economy. Just at that same time people aren’t really using it for practical reasons anymore, they’re moving into cities and Americans are getting nostalgic about this old-fashioned farm life. The pumpkin starts appearing in poetry in the mid-19th century and paintings. People start celebrating because they’re nostalgic for that old life of old times and the pumpkin in particular.

Its recent popularity and the obsession with pumpkin flavors has sparked a bit of a backlash. Has America’s love for pumpkin become a joke?

It’s always had these negative connotations. It’s just now because less people are living on the farm that those associations aren’t as negative as they were in the past. There’s a sense still you can make fun of someone for being [a country bumpkin] from rural areas. Ichabod Crane in the 19th century in “Sleepy Hollow,” he’s scared and he’s this silly character and he’s associated with the pumpkin. He thinks it’s this ghost coming to get him, but it’s really a pumpkin head. For a man, a pumpkin head is someone that’s pompous, that’s full of themselves and not so smart. It’s still used in political cartoons. You can see politicians being illustrated with pumpkin heads. 

Does this popularity help or hurt pumpkin producers?

I think it all ties into helping these small family farmers. It’s a niche market for small family farmers, so for example, many small family farmers pulled up their pigsties and put in a parking lot and pumpkin patches because they made more money six weeks out of the year instead of raising hogs.

 

But, why pumpkin? Sales for Starbucks' other seasonal beverages, like the Eggnog Latte, come nowhere close to the company’s sales of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Why the lack of nostalgia there?

There’s really no practical reason for this answer, right? There’s corn, apples, cherries in American culture that have strong folklore traditions but they also have this very practical use. There may be something great about a big apple, about 12 ounces or something, but that doesn’t compare to the world record of a 2,032-pound pumpkin. It’s a very American story. In Germany and France, you go into the markets and now they’re starting to have big slices of pumpkin out there, but there’s no sense of ceremony. It’s just shoved next to zucchini and lettuce.

What’s the most unusual pumpkin hybrid you’ve seen in your research?

There was a Tiffany’s crystal pumpkin key chain that was a pretty good mix of metaphors and association, so that was a pretty funny one. You can have a zumpkin, where you mix a zucchini and a field pumpkin and now there’s a lot of appreciation for these old-time varieties.

 

What’s your favorite pumpkin food?

Your basic Thanksgiving pumpkin pie is probably my favorite recipe. The first time it appeared was in 1796. The first cookbook, “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons, was first published in the U.S. That was the first time the pumpkin appeared as a pie and the first time the squash appeared as a vegetable. So I think in terms of flavor and tradition, it’s my favorite.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF
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<![CDATA[Pumpkin Spice Madness: Craziest Treats]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 09:41:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/pumpkin-spice-fatte-Ramsey-Mathew.jpg It seems like everyone is going crazy over pumpkin spice-flavored this and that. Take a look at the wackiest pumpkin-inspired culinary items that might be worth a try this season. ]]> <![CDATA[National Coffee Day Deals and Freebies]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 08:45:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/514727145.jpg

The start of the work week can be rough, but many coffee chains are offering free or inexpensive cups of coffee to celebrate National Coffee Day.

See where you can get a discount on a your daily dose of caffeine. 

Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts is offering a free medium cup of its new Dark Roast blend. 

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme is celebrating the day by offering free small coffees at participating shops.

McDonald's

You can visit McDonald's for a free small coffee during the chain’s breakfast hours.

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons will be selling $1 cup coffees, and some stores will also have hidden golden envelopes with “more than $9,000 in cash and gift cards.” CNN Money reported that the scavenger hunt will take place in Columbus, Ohio; Buffalo and Rochester, New York; and in Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

Wawa

Wawa is giving away a free 16-ounce coffee to customers who sign up for a coupon by email. The East Coast chain has convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Central Florida.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Review: James Earl Jones, Rose Byrne in "You Can't Take It With You"]]> Sun, 28 Sep 2014 20:02:12 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WithYouMain.jpg

James Earl Jones, more often a lion who roars, instead brings a soft steadiness to his role as the family patriarch in “You Can’t Take It With You,” the Moss Hart-George S. Kaufman comedy—a perennial favorite that first arrived during the Great Depression—now enjoying a revival at the Longacre Theatre.

“You Can’t Take It With You” still feels like the perfect escapist comedy for tough times, in spite of its creaky references to “the 48 states” and Eleanor Roosevelt. For that, you can thank a top-notch ensemble that includes Rose Byrne, in an impressive Broadway debut, as well as helmsman Scott Ellis (“Drood”), whose zippy direction brings the play’s three acts in at 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Byrne, a star of TV’s “Damages” and the foil to Kristen Wiig in “Bridesmaids,” is Alice, the only conventional member of the happy-go-lucky Sycamore clan. How the Sycamores pay for their magnificent house near Columbia University is anyone’s guess, because the family patriarch, Martin Vanderhof—or just “Grandpa” (Jones)—hasn’t worked in 35 years.

The story’s central conflict is set in motion when Alice becomes engaged to her boss, Tony Kirby (Fran Kranz), who hails from a proper Wall Street family.

Jones’s Grandpa, a gentle giant, quit his career because it wasn’t gratifying, and has spent his days raising snakes and generally sauntering through life as if he’d found the perfect combination of SSRIs and Abilify. Like every member of the family, he’s happy because he does what he wants, not what society says he “should do.” Thus, his home is filled with people practicing the xylophone, dancing, writing, painting, making fireworks and so forth.

Grandpa gets the most winning lines, brushing aside the IRS man who comes to find out why he’s never paid income tax, and continuously laying out fortune cookie wisdom as if it were a one-size-fits-all key to peace of mind: “Life is kind of beautiful if you let it come to you,” he explains to Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers, of “The Royal Family,” in a delightfully combustible performance), the ballet instructor who is almost always in the house.

It’s worth the price of admission alone to see the usually booming actor in a calming and comedic role. It makes matters all the more potent when Grandpa has to apologize after Mr. Kolenkhov slams the elder Mr. Kirby (Byron Jennings) on the floor in a misguided display of wrestling prowess: “Russians are inclined to look on the dark side,” Jones explains matter-of-factly, to howls from the house. I'm still not sure if we were responding to a joke about Russians, or connecting to his history as the voice of Darth Vader. 

Byrne’s role has the least flash, by definition, but she fits into the ensemble nicely, bringing just the right amount of kookiness to the role. She and Kranz (pictured below) make for a swell couple of sweethearts.

The real comic relief, though, comes from Annaleigh Ashford, as Alice’s sister, Essie, the hapless ballet student. Ashford is as on point here as she was in her Tony-nominated performance in “Kinky Boots,” clumsily pirouetting across the stage in time with the xylophone-music churned out by her nutty husband, Ed (an impressively elastic Will Brill).

Kristine Nielsen (“Vanya and Sonia …”) is enormous fun as Alice and Essie’s off-kilter mom, Penelope, a sometime-writer and sometime-painter who shakes her head at everything, whether in delight or in dismay. The venerable Elizabeth Ashley, a three-time Tony nominee (and winner, for 1962’s “Take Her, She’s Mine), makes the most of her scenery-chewing role as a Russian countess forced to wait tables in Times Square.

Julie Halston, recently seen in Charles Busch’s “The Tribute Artist,” again delights, this time as an actress who spends most of the play soused. At a press performance I attended, Halston brought down the house trying to make it up a flight of stairs.

David Rockwell’s turntable set is jammed with detail. Most of the action takes place in the wood-paneled living room of what appears to be an old Victorian, with a flight of stairs on one end, and the kitchen door on the other. Original music by Jason Robert Brown (“The Bridges of Madison County”) barely registered with me.

Happiness, this solid production insists, is far more important than money—that’s a position that easily resonates with audiences, and it’s a message that never gets old. I only wish I could travel back in time to see how a beleaguered and downtrodden Depression-era audience would have first experienced it. I'll bet they thrilled to every word even more than we do.

“You Can’t Take It With You,” through Jan. 4 at the Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St. Tickets: $37-$152. Call Telecharge, 212-239-6200.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn
 



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Neil LaBute's "The Money Shot"]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 18:40:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Gia_Crovatin__Fred_Weller__Callie_Thorne_and_Elizabeth_Reaser_in_a_scene_from_Neil_LaButes_THE_MONEY_SHOT_at_MCC_Theater_%28photo_by_Joan_Marcus%29.jpg

Playwright Neil LaBute has a history of creating characters prone to nastiness. In plays like “Fat Pig,” “In the Company of Men” and “reasons to be pretty," everyday people are darn mean to one another, and that’s earned him a reputation as a misanthrope.

In the past, the poisonous insults so associated with LaBute’s work have been met with a sense of unease. It’s hard to see people use other people for such despicable and cruel purposes. But as it turns out, the harshness becomes a much easier pill to swallow when the characters themselves are ripe for mocking.

Such is the case in “The Money Shot,” LaBute’s newest biting comedy, with direction from Terry Kinney, now playing at MCC Theater’s Lucille Lortel Theatre. Here, LaBute tackles Hollywood, celebrity and the extreme lengths actors will go to stay relevant in an industry where you’re only as good as your last project. The results? A hilarious must-see play with some great performances.

Fred Weller (“Mothers and Sons”) and Elizabeth Reaser (“The Twilight Saga”) play Steve and Karen, two aging movie stars with lead roles in a new film by a hot-shot European director. Said film features a risqué sex scene, so Steve and Karen meet together with their other halves at Karen’s home in the Hollywood Hills to discuss boundaries.

Steve’s aspiring-actress trophy wife Missy (Gia Crovatin, a LaBute vet) has nearly no reservations about seeing her spouse in the intimate scene. But Karen’s tough-as-nails partner Bev (Callie Thorne, of TV’s “Necessary Roughness”), a film editor, comes with some major concerns. The fun comes from watching the four get to know one another as they wrestle with their options and the (unexpected) outcome.

Much of the conflict in “The Money Shot” is driven by Bev, who has never met a battle she didn’t want to fight. Bev is a pushy, argumentative bully, but Thorne gives her a grounded, confident presence throughout. She’s the voice of reason, and New Yorkers will be on her side as she lashes out against the vapid Hollywood world. (It’s never stated, but I’d wager Bev is originally from the East Coast).

In Steve, Bev meets a willing (though unworthy) partner, who talks with prideful certainty despite having to look up almost everything he says later on his iPhone. Weller gives Steve just the right blend of stupidity and charm, and without naming names, he’ll likely remind you of a Hollywood A-lister or two.

The ditzy Missy is a character who could very easily go the stereotypical dumb blonde route if it weren’t for Crovatin, whose inspired delivery makes us feel that Missy’s in on the joke. And while given the least to say out of the four, Crovatin still finds ways to keep us laughing through well-placed physical comedy and scene-stealing background work.

But the real star of the show is Reaser, who delivers one of the greatest comedic performances I’ve seen on stage in years. Her Karen moves from bragging about her latest endorsement deal to screaming her head off at the traffic on the 101 to laughing about herself, all within minutes. It’s a delicate dance of manic emotions, and one that Reaser orchestrates flawlessly.

Watching Reaser’s Karen, I was reminded most of the sort of deluded and assured characters Amy Poehler often played during her time on “Saturday Night Live.” Reaser’s just as committed to the overly dramatic nature of her character as Poehler would be, but she’s able to give Karen more layers than we’d see in an “SNL” skit.

To my surprise, LaBute has embedded universal themes within “The Money Shot” that resonate beyond his surface-level attack of the Hollywood lifestyle like the relationship struggles that occur when one partner is more financially successful than the other, and the pressures one feels when living a life driven by fear of failure.

Yes, many of the characters reveal their true selves through horrible behavior. This is a LaBute play, after all. But what’s different here is that they’re not abusing one another for manipulation, revenge or dominance. They just trying to survive each other.

“The Money Shot” marks Neil LaBute’s ninth collaboration with MCC Theater as their playwright-in-residence. It’ll leave you looking forward to the tenth.

“The Money Shot” through Oct. 12 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St. Tickets: $69-$125. Call 212-352-3101, or visit www.mcctheater.org.



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA["The Voice" Winner Finds Home on Broadway]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:02:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/485516197VM021_NBC_s_The_Vo.jpg

While you were buying your favorite Broadway memorabilia at the 28th Annual Broadway Flea, here’s what was happening last week In the Wings.

Josh Kaufman, the season 6 winner of NBC’s “The Voice,” will join “Pippin” in the title role. The Team Usher player will make his Broadway debut in a limited engagement run from Nov. 4. to Jan. 4, 2015. Kyle Dean Massey, Broadway’s current Pippin, will remain in the role through Nov. 2. [More info]

The revival of “Pageant” has extended its Off-Broadway run through Jan. 4, 2015. Producers of the musical comedy beauty contest also recently announced that, with the help of crowdfunding, they will release the show's first ever cast album. "Pageant" first premiered Off-Broadway in 1991. [More info]

Still haven’t seen Tony-winning Jessie Mueller in “Beautiful — The Carole King Musical?" Well good news! Mueller has extended her contract and will remain with the show, which recently recouped, until March 6, 2015. Also sticking around are her Tony-nominated co-stars Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector. A national tour of “Beautiful”: will launch in Sept. 2015, and a West End production will begin in Feb. 2015. [More info]

Angela Lansbury will reprise her Tony-winning role in Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” for a new North American tour. The tour launches this December at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, and will continue on to theaters in San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Michael Blakemore, who directed the 2009 Broadway production and 2014 London production, will once again direct. [More info]

Many were disappointed when the Second Stage Theatre announced they will no longer be producing the new musical “American Psycho” this season. But will “Psycho” see the light of day on Broadway? That’s the rumor according to The New York Times, who reports that the Duncan Sheik musical, based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, will head directly to the Great White Way. No word whether Benjamin Walker will still remain in the lead role. [More info]

Speaking of murderous musicals, get your first look at Emma Thompson in PBS’s “Live from Lincoln Center’s telecast of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Thompson plays Mrs. Lovitt in the classic Stephen Sondheim/Hugh Wheeler musical. The clip below shows her performing the Act II opener “God, That’s Good!” “Sweeney Todd” airs on PBS on Sept. 26. 



Photo Credit: Valerie Macon]]>
<![CDATA[iPhone 6 Mania in NYC]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:12:15 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/iphone+mania+nyc.jpg Thousands of people lined up at Apple stores across New York City to get the iPhone 6. Sheldon Dutes reports on the mania.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Dennehy, Farrow Are Letter-Perfect in Gurney Revival]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:02:57 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/LoveLettersMain.jpg

To truly appreciate all that “Love Letters” has to offer, just sit there and listen.

A.R. Gurney’s 1988 drama, now enjoying a vibrant revival at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, has no set, so there’s not much in the way of distraction. Paired actors—Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow are up first, in a rotation of stars who will perform through winter—simply sit side-by-side at a table, reading from the playwright’s disarmingly funny script.

There’s little for an audience member to do but stay motionless, perhaps close his eyes, and get carried away. If the epistolary drama is done well, you should be silently reminiscing about your own closest relationships, present and past, in no time.

I’m happy to report that “Love Letters,” at least in the hands of these two seasoned pros, conquers all—and you’ll be particularly wowed by Farrow, who effortlessly ages 50 years in the play’s 90 minutes, transforming from a playful schoolgirl to a middle-aged woman, unraveling and full of regret.

The tale is a simple one. Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (or, “the turd,” as Melissa calls him in a moment of pique) exchange notes over a half-century, beginning in grade school. Each is a New England WASP, making her and his way down a sometimes-stifling path laid out by their parents: prep school, a European tour, etc.

She’s from a fabulously wealthy family. His folks are just well-off. Fortune will favor Andy over a half-century, but be less kind to Melissa. It is truly their love story, but not always in a traditional sense.

Dennehy and Farrow have chemistry in abundant supply. It surely helps that the venerable actor has read “Love Letters” before, more than two decades ago. So too is it useful that Gurney’s dialogue, sometimes uncannily, can feel as if it was written with the ethereal Farrow in mind: “We’re living in a carriage house in New Canaan close to the train station, and I’ve got a studio all of my own,” art student Melissa says, in one exchange.

The hulking, full-of-presence Dennehy wears a solid blazer, over a blue button-down. Farrow is in a black dress, wearing a necklace with a charm that enhances her delicate qualities. Their rhythms—the hurried back-and-forths in the heat of an argument, the pregnant pauses, when someone’s feelings have been injured—are a testament to strong direction by Gregory Mosher, the longtime Lincoln Center, Broadway and West End helmsman.

Some honesty? Offhand, it wouldn’t have been my first choice to see Farrow as Melissa, given some of the other actresses attached to “Love Letters” later this season (Carol Burnett! Next month!!). But what a performance I would have missed.

I thrilled at Farrow’s relief when Melissa hears from Andy after a prolonged absence. I felt the agony to my bones when Melissa realizes Andy has abandoned her, after enduring a particularly hateful onslaught of language about the “Japanese war bride” he’s taken (do with that what you will, tabloid readers…).

Dennehy, with his gruff mannerisms and scowl, is excellent in a role that is, in ways, the more complex. Andy proves partly responsible for Melissa’s descent—yet the play can only stay on solid ground if Andy is ultimately likable. He pulls it off with authority.

Dennehy and Farrow are simply well-matched. It helps that I’m a fan of Gurney’s particularly lucid and conversational style, also on exhibit now at Signature Center, where the far less well-known “The Wayside Motor Inn” is enjoying a solid staging. The Pulitzer-nominated “Love Letters,” by comparison, is a near-classic.

Clearly, no two pairings will offer the same takeaway. Dennehy will read Andy a month from now opposite Burnett, in what promises to be an entirely different experience. Afterward, Alan Alda teams with Candice Bergen, Stacy Keach appears with Diana Rigg, and Anjelica Huston reads opposite Martin Sheen.

Meanwhile, Dennehy and Farrow do a beautiful job of depicting the volatility and fragility of human relationships.

“Love Letters,” through Feb. 1, 2015 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St. Tickets: $52-$127. Call 800-745-3000, or visit Ticketmaster.com.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn



Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg]]>
<![CDATA[Southwestern-Inspired Style]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:09:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Southwestern+Style.jpg Southwestern-inspired style is one of fall's must-try trends, and the good news is that it's easy to incorporate a little South-of-the-Border styling into any wardrobe. Lucky's style editor, Laurel Pantin, is here to show us how. ]]> <![CDATA[Not Your Average Ice Cream Sandwich]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:58:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/207*120/ice+cream+sandwiches.png Lauren Scala investigates three ice cream sandwiches that knock the socks off your favorite childhood treat.]]> <![CDATA[Elisabeth Moss to Star in “Heidi Chronicles” Revival ]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:45:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/505528985AR00084_Premiere_O.jpg

Peggy Olson, meet Heidi Holland.

Elisabeth Moss, who has spent seven seasons as Peggy Olson on AMC’s hit series “Mad Men,” will return to Broadway this winter in the title role of Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The Heidi Chronicles.”

Moss was last seen on Broadway in a 2008 revival of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow.” She’ll be joined in “The Heidi Chronicles” by “Orange Is The New Black” and “American Pie” star Jason Biggs, who returns to Broadway after over a decade-long absence.

Tony-nominee Bryce Pinkham (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) and Tracee Chimo (“Bad Jews”) will also star. Direction will come from Tony-winner Pam MacKinnon (“Clybourne Park,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”).

The limited engagement revival will begin performances in February 2015, with an opening planned for early March at a theatre to be announced.

“The Heidi Chronicles” follows the plight of feminist art historian Heidi Holland, over a 20-year period of her life (the 1960s to the 1980s). Biggs will play Scoop, a flirtatious writer with whom Holland has a contentious relationship. Pinkham will play Heidi’s gay best friend, Peter, with Chimo playing multiple female roles in the show.

The play premiered off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1988, and transferred to Broadway the following year. Moss and Biggs follow in the footsteps of a number of A-list stars who performed in the Off-Broadway and Broadway runs, including Joan Allen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Lahti, Mary McDonnell, David Hyde Pierce, Tony Shalhoub and Boyd Gaines. (Jamie Lee Curtis also starred in a 1995 TV movie of the play).

This will not only be the first Broadway revival for Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles,” but the first Broadway revival of any of the prolific playwright's works.

For more information, visit www.TheHeidiChroniclesOnBroadway.com.



Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Culkin, Cera, Gevinson in "Youth"]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:23:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/YouthMain.jpg

You can understand the urge to revive “This Is Our Youth,” the 1996 coming-of-age tale by Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) about three aimless young adults on the Upper West Side grappling with casual drug use, new love and a bag full of misbegotten money.

The comedy-drama has served as a superstar-incubator in previous incarnations, when it’s featured the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin. It’s also a play that, despite its setting at the dawn of the Reagan Era, promises themes—our transition into adulthood—that are timeless.

For this production, which has just opened at The Cort Theatre under the steady-handed direction of Anna D. Shapiro (“August: Osage County” and last season’s affecting take on “Of Mice and Men”), producers scored Kieran Culkin, Michael Cera and Tavi Gevinson as the overprivileged trio at the center of the story. All are making Broadway debuts.

“These three,” someone must’ve thought. "Ka-ching," right?

In spite of it all, I walked out of the two-acter curiously unfulfilled. The play rarely feels relatable, and I’m afraid it’s mostly an issue with Cera, the talented “Juno” and “Superbad” star who here steps into a role quite similar to that of George Michael, the awkward man-boy he played on “Arrested Development.” That’s the rub—I think Warren would be better cast with an actor who’s got more range.

Not a lot happens, though plenty sure gets talked about in Lonergan’s atmospheric drama, written when the playwright was 20 and being performed for the first time on the Main Stem after a couple of Off-Broadway runs in the ’90s.

Warren (Cera) is an idiosyncratic 19-year-old who’s just walked away with $15,000 in cash from his abusive dad, an emotionally distant lingerie tycoon. The action begins when he shows up at the rundown studio of his drug-dealer pal, Dennis (Culkin), with all the money, a suitcase full of childhood valuables and no plan.

Warren knows he ought to get the money back to his father, even as he foolishly spends chunks of it on luxuries. Jammed in here is also a muddled message about drugs, and the loss of innocence. And there's a love story, between Warren and Jessica (Gevinson), the blossoming fashion student who resides on some peripheral edge of the boys’ social network.

“This Is Our Youth” comes to life whenever Culkin—31, but playing a character a decade younger—is on stage. Dennis, the alpha, is abusive, caustic, violent and a crappy friend -- and yet, you absolutely care about him, because Culkin makes him human.

Pay heed to the magnetic actor’s voice as he talks to his estranged girlfriend on the phone while pal Warren is listening, then watch as the actor banishes his protege to the bathroom so he can speak in far more appeasing tones.

It makes sense that Culkin would move through Lonergan’s story with ease, because he played Warren in 2002 on the West End. Culkin brought the play to Cera’s attention when they co-starred in 2010’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” (Culkin and Cera previously acted in “Youth” in Sydney; Tevinson joined them for a pre-Broadway run at Steppenwolf this summer.)

As the sullen teen who has screwed everything up, Warren should be the center of the play. The trouble is that Cera’s performance doesn’t vary much from its baseline.

All three of these kids are screwed up in their own way—the boys in particular—but Culkin and Gevinson, by play’s end, make us believe their respective moral compasses have been pointed in a new direction. You never feel Warren wants to be any better than he is, and for that reason he fails to connect. I’m sure there was room within Lonergan’s dialogue for that to be different.

Gevinson (above), 18, a fashion blogger and burgeoning actress, does effective work making us see Jessica as a young woman trying to own her sexual identity. She evokes a young Deborah Harry in both fashion and countenance. Though she screeches as often as she speaks—and that is, often, what 18 year olds do—her performance is winning and mutli-dimensional. She not just an insecure kid, she's a confident woman -- often both at the same time.

Shapiro directs with her usual spot-on spontaneity and fluidity. Her steady hand is most evident in a casual if hostile football toss between Dennis and Warren early in the play, which wreaks havoc on the apartment.

Todd Rosenthal’s backdrop for Dennis’s dingy one-room studio—the fire escapes and exterior of the apartment building behind it—is so impressively scaled, you’ll be convinced they’ve knocked out the back wall of The Cort, and you’re looking across the street.

There is relatability here in small doses, such as when Warren tells Jessica about an idea to desert Manhattan for Wyoming. That said, the privileged Manhattan youth I know aren’t sitting around discussing speedballs—they’re taking nude selfies. If Cera had made me care more about Warren, I might have been willing to overlook the anachronisms. It may be a function of the characters, or this casting, but ultimately these don’t feel like our youth. They feel like someone else’s.

“This Is Our Youth,” through Jan. 4, 2015 at the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St. Tickets: $35-$135. Call 212-239-6200 or visit Telecharge.com.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn



Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe]]>
<![CDATA[“High School Musical” Star Graduates to Broadway]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:53:13 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/503446737QS00040_2014_Young.jpg

Vanessa Hudgens, known for her role as Gabriella in Disney’s hit film franchise “High School Musical,” will make her Broadway debut in the title role of a new revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s “Gigi.”

The 25-year-old actress has been playing the role in recent readings in New York, and will continue honing her performance during a pre-Broadway engagement at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., set for Jan. 16 through Feb. 12, 2015.

No Broadway dates have been set yet, but producers are aiming for 2015.

“I started performing in musicals from a young age, and it has always been my dream to be on Broadway,” said Hudgens in a statement. “I cannot wait to get back on stage, singing and dancing these songs and living in Gigi’s glamorous world.”

Hudgens has a long history performing in musicals. In addition to her singing work in “High School Musical” and its sequels, she’s been on stage since she was eight years old. In 2010, Hudgens played the role of Mimi in the Hollywood Bowl’s production of “Rent.”

“Gigi” first played Broadway in 1951, with a then-unknown Audrey Hepburn in the title role. The show was then adapted by Lerner and Loewe (“My Fair Lady”) into a a 1958 movie musical, which would go on to win nine Academy Awards including Best Picture.

The new Broadway production will be directed by Eric Schaeffer (“Follies”), and include a new book by British playwright Heidi Thomas -- known for television writing credits like “Call the Midwife” and “Upstairs, Downstairs.” The revival will feature classic “Gigi” numbers such as “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” and “I Remember it Well,” as well as songs incorporated from the film, including “The Parisians” and “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight.” Four songs written and added to the score by Lerner and Loewe in 1973 will also be included.

For more information on Gigi, visit www.GigiOnBroadway.com.



Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez]]>
<![CDATA[Ellen Previews New Season]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 10:57:28 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ellen+sibila.jpg Ellen DeGeneres has a lot in store for her upcoming season. She shares some of her plans with Sibila Vargas. ]]> <![CDATA[Beyond the Basic Bagel]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 08:57:09 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/215*120/Screen+Shot+2014-09-08+at+1.29.15+PM.png Bagels are getting weird - in the best way possible. Lauren Scala takes a tour of some of the most inventive flavors.]]> <![CDATA[Michael C. Hall Is Your New Hedwig]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 08:15:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Dexter-Finale.jpg

Michael C. Hall will return to the Broadway stage next month when he assumes the title role in the Tony-winning revival of John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” It will be Hall’s first Broadway musical role in a decade, having starred in productions of “Cabaret” and “Chicago.”

Hall will replace “Girls” and “Book of Mormon” star Andrew Rannells, who made his debut as the transgender rocker in August when Neil Patrick Harris departed the show. Rannells will remain with the production through the beginning of Hall’s limited engagement, which runs from Oct. 12 through Jan. 4, 2015.

Lena Hall, who, like Harris, won a Tony for her work in the show, will remain in the production as Hedwig’s husband, Yitzhak.

Hall was seen on Broadway last season in the ensemble comedy “The Realistic Joneses.” He most recently finished his eighth and final season in Showtime’s “Dexter” -- a role for which he won a Golden Globe in 2006.

Tickets for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” range from $47 - $142, and can be purchased by calling 212-239-6200, visiting Telecharge.com or visiting the Belasco Theatre Box Office (111 West 44th Street).



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The Best of Joan Rivers on New York Live]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:45:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/210*120/The+Best+of+Joan+Rivers+on+New+York+Live.png Take a look back at some of Joan River's most wild and crazy moments on New York Live.]]> <![CDATA[Review: "The Wayside Motor Inn," by A.R. Gurney]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 20:42:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/WaysideMain.jpg

Let’s christen this the autumn of A.R. Gurney.

New audiences are poised to discover the 83-year-old playwright, who delivers a one-two punch this season with “The Wayside Motor Inn”—the first offering of a year-long Signature Theatre residency—and the Broadway return of the heart-tugging, cast-rotating “Love Letters,” which begins performances later this month at the Brooks Atkinson.

“The Wayside Motor Inn” may not be as familiar a title as “Love Letters,” but the play, first produced here in 1977, is likely to gain fans thanks to a well-executed revival helmed by Brooklyn’s Lila Neugebauer, a recent Princess Grace Award winner.

“Wayside” sees six men and four women cast adrift at a homogenous motor inn just off a highway cloverleaf in suburban Boston. The guests on this evening include three couples of varying ages; a father and son; and a married salesman, traveling solo, but with his eye on the pretty waitress who brings him a burger, but warns him against eating it too close to the TV: “Gamma rays.”

Here’s what’s unusual: Though “Wayside” has 10 actors in five separate story lines, they’re often sharing the stage—and the set’s one room—at the same time. It’s a technique Gurney says was inspired at the time by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn. There is room for a whole bunch of folks at this inn.

To keep from getting in each other’s way, the performers generally stick to one part of the space (Andrew Lieberman’s set nicely evokes the schlocky Carter-era motel room, down to the orange bedspreads and walnut wall sconces).

Ray (Quincy Dunn-Baker), the salesman looking to seduce Sharon, the aimless room service attendant (Jenn Lyon, with a spot-on South Shore accent), prefers a chair at the foot of the TV. Phil and Sally (David McElwee and Ismenia Mendes), naive college kids looking for some private time away from their roommates, spend much of the second act in the tub.

I suspect it’s an enormous challenge for the actors to converse with their partners without interrupting dialogue in the other pairings, where other little dramas are unfolding just inches away. The 10 performers assembled here are wholly up to the task. 

I was partial to Jon DeVries (Richard Nelson’s Apple Family plays) and Lizbeth Mackay (LCT’s “Domesticated”) as Frank and Jessie, a longtime married couple using the Wayside as a base to visit with their daughter in nearby Sudbury.

Jessie is a doter who is nearly helpless without her husband—she can take care of Frank better than Frank can, but can’t open a sliding glass door or traverse a short drive on the turnpike without his help. Frank, meanwhile, gets annoyed being fussed over. But his frustrations are building just at a time when he needs a spouse most.

The couple have one exchange that seemed to characterize “Wayside’s” reason for being: “We’re all in this thing together … I believe the most important things in the world have to do with other people,” Jessie says, while trying to convince Frank they’d be better off moving here from wherever in New England they make their home in order to be closer to the kids.

Comes Frank’s reply: “We’re all on our own, in the end.” Simple? Yeah. But so graceful in the hands of these performers, who have terrific chemistry.

Vince and Mark are a working-class father and son staying for the night ahead of Mark’s interview at Harvard.

Like any dad, Vince (Tony-nominee Marc Kudisch, of “9 to 5”) wants his son to have the opportunities he never had, but Vince is blind to what his kid (Will Pullen), who likes to work on cars, really wants. Tensions arise when Mark tries to emerge from Vince’s shadow, and those scenes are among the play’s more poignant, even if it’s a story that’s been told a million times.

The final twosome checking in for the night are Andy and Ruth (Kelly AuCoin and Rebecca Henderson), a couple negotiating the terms of their divorce, trying to avoid hostilities, and failing miserably at it. It’s an obvious, yet effective, juxtaposition to have Phil and Sally, that young couple, discussing positions in “The Joy of Sex” just feet away while Andy and Ruth grapple with the end of their marriage.

Nothing gets wrapped up at the Wayside Motor Inn, so if you need your drama with resolutions, look elsewhere. What Gurney and Signature offer, compellingly, is a slice-of-life drama in which the mundane tasks of a day—going for a drive on the turnpike, stitching a torn shirt, or ordering a burger from room service—make for all the excitement we need.

“The Wayside Motor Inn,” through Sept. 28 at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. Tickets: $25-$75. Call 212-244-7529, or visit signaturetheatre.org.

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[NeNe Leakes is Cinderella’s Next Wicked Stepmother ]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:55:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/491314981AS128_2014_NBCUniv.jpg

“I have arrived… and the spotlight is on me, hunny,” says NeNe Leakes in her opening line on Bravo’s hit series, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

The spotlight will indeed be shining again on Leakes soon — this time, on the Great White Way!

The Atlanta housewife will make her Broadway debut in “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” on Nov. 25. She’ll play Madame, Cinderella’s stepmother — a part that doesn’t require much singing, but does require something Leakes has in spades: sass.

In the title role alongside Leakes will be “Akeelah and the Bee” star Keke Palmer, who, as previously reported, will make history on Sept. 9 as Broadway's youngest — and first African-American – Cinderella.

It will be the first time a “Real Housewife” has ever performed on Broadway.

Sadly, Leakes’ arrival in “Cinderella” will come at the end of the show’s run. The first Broadway production of the classic musical will close Jan. 3, 2015. At that time, it will have played 41 previews and 770 regular performances.

Leakes and Palmer will stay with the production through its closing. Leakes will replace Sherri Shepherd, who will perform the role Sept. 9 through Nov. 22.

Aside from her breakout turn in “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” NeNe Leakes has also been seen on a Bravo spin-off wedding series, "I Dream of NeNe," and two NBC shows: “The Celebrity Apprentice" and “The New Normal.” Last season, she appeared on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars," though was eliminted fifth. 

This summer, Leakes made her stage debut for a 10-show engagement in the long-running Las Vegas hit, “Zumanity, The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil.” Her turn in show marked the first time Cirque du Soleil had ever integrated a celebrity into one of its shows in the company’s 30-year history.

A cast member since its first season, Leakes is currently filming the seventh season of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," which is set to premiere on Bravo sometime in 2015. 



Photo Credit: Astrid Stawiarz]]>
<![CDATA[Carey Mulligan Taking “Skylight” to Broadway]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:22:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/76878358.jpg

Oscar nominated actress Carey Mulligan (“The Great Gatsby”) will return to Broadway this spring, reprising her role in the transfer of the London production of David Hare’s “Skylight.”

Joining Mulligan will be Bill Nighy (“Love Actually”) and Matthew Beard (“An Education”), who also co-starred with her in the play’s critically acclaimed (and sold-out) London run.

Tony-winning director Stephen Daldry will also return to direct the revival, which tells the story of two former lovers (played by Mulligan and Nighy) trying to rekindle their romance despite their many differences. The play originally opened on Broadway in 1996, transferring then from the National Theatre in London.

“Skylight” will play a limited 13-week engagement beginning March 16 at the John Golden Theatre. Opening night will be April 2, with a closing set for June 14.



Photo Credit: Stuart C. Wilson]]>
<![CDATA[See Allison Williams as Peter Pan]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:15:26 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AlisonWilliamsPeterPanCrop.jpeg

The first photo of Allison Williams as Peter Pan is here!

The 26-year-old “Girls” actress will play the title role in NBC’s upcoming “Peter Pan Live!” The live musical staging of the classical musical, which features a book by J.M. Barrie and a score by Mark “Moose” Charlap and Carolyn Lee, with additional songs by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, is NBC’s follow-up to last year’s hit “The Sound of Music Live!”

Williams has said playing Peter Pan is a “dream come true,” even sharing a photo on Instagram of her dressed in the part as a young child.

Here’s Williams, all grown up, in the role:

 

The photo was revealed in one of two interviews Williams gave on NBC’s “Today” show, where she also discussed why she decided to wear a wig for the role.

"I sort of very tentatively offered to cut my hair, I was like, 'You know, if it's a thing that would help I could cut my hair,'” she told “Today.” “And they were like, 'You're welcome to do that, we're still gonna put you in a wig.'"

Watch Williams first segment on “Today” here:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And catch a preview from “Peter Pan Live” in her second “Today” segment:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

“Peter Pan Live” will air Dec. 4 on NBC.



Photo Credit: NBC]]>
<![CDATA[Photos From the 2014 West Indian Day Parade]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 08:04:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/AP181744395290.jpg The annual West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn celebrates Caribbean culture and echoes traditional pre-Lenten Carnival festivities, with dancers wearing elaborate, feathered costumes.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[National Sandwich Month]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:37:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/best+sandwiches.jpg Joelle Garguilo celebrates National Sandwich Month with some of New York City's best sandwiches.]]> <![CDATA[Opinion: Initial Joan Rivers Snub Was Dim Move]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:45:21 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/164841825CD00035_Kinky_Liqu.jpg

After this opinion piece was published, The Broadway League reversed course and said it would dim theater marquee lights in honor of Joan Rivers. Below is the original piece condemning the initial snub. The updated news story is available here.

Can we talk? About what a tone deaf decision The Broadway League made when the respected trade group denied theater booster and sometime-stage star Joan Rivers one of the industry’s top honors?

Theater owners have a tradition of dimming marquee lights for one minute prior to curtain in order to recognize the passing of Rialto greats—a distinction recently bestowed on fellow comedian Robin Williams, who, unlike Rivers, never nabbed a Tony nomination.

In an interview Monday with The New York Times, Charlotte St. Martin, the League’s executive director, said the lights wouldn’t go down for Rivers, who died on Sept. 4, because the late comedian had not met the criteria for the time-honored tradition.

“People need to have been very active recently in the theater, or else be synonymous with Broadway — people who made their careers here, or kept it up,” St. Martin said, adding, “We love Joan — she was very supportive of Broadway and came to a lot of show openings — but she hasn’t acted on Broadway in 20 years.”

Martin, perhaps beginning to reconsider the League’s move, also curiously said the decision was made by “a small committee.”

Too small, we say. The League needs a broader perspective—especially when it comes to one tough-talking broad.

That’s clearly what Jordan Roth, the Jujamcyn president, was thinking when, in an unprecedented move, he got out ahead of the trade group and said his company, which manages five theaters, would dim its lights tonight to honor Rivers.

Disney Theatricals soon followed suit, saying that the New Amsterdam, which houses “Aladdin,” would do the same. The lights will lower, too, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, where “Rock of Ages” goes on.

In response to The Broadway League’s move late Monday, an online petition began, demanding Broadway “Dim the Lights for Joan Rivers.” As of Tuesday morning, the call to arms had nearly 5,000 signatures.

The movement also spread to Twitter, where the trending hashtag “#Dim4Joan” united theater fans and performers alike.

“Hey Broadway! Time to dim the lights for Joan Rivers queen of comedy. She loved Broadway and we love her,” Harvey Fierstein wrote.

“No disrespect meant to The Broadway League, but #Dim4Joan seems the respectful, honorable thing to do” wrote Donna Murphy.

The League, as it states clearly on their website, is “dedicated to fostering increased interest in Broadway theatre.” No one did that better than Rivers.

Rivers made her Broadway debut in 1972 in a play she co-wrote called “Fun City.” In the late ’80s, she was a replacement in Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound.” Rivers also earned a 1994 best actress Tony nomination for a play she co-wrote, “Sally Marr… and Her Escorts” (which, incidentally, went on at The Helen Hayes, whose owners have a long memory).

In addition to her time on stage, Rivers was also a staunch advocate for theater. A fixture at Broadway and off-Broadway openings, she spoke passionately about Broadway, most recently to New York Magazine:

“If I’m home in New York at night, I’m either at a Broadway or an Off Broadway show. We’re in the theater capital of the world, and if you don’t get it, you’re an idiot,” she said.

Broadway was also a big part of Rivers’ funeral, which was held Sept. 7 in New York City. Tony winners Audra McDonald and Hugh Jackman sang show tunes “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” and “Big Spender.”

While each case for the tradition is handled on an individual basis, many have called the League’s criteria into question, especially on the heels of its decision to dim lights for the recent passings of Williams, Lauren Bacall and even James Gandolfini.

Williams was never Tony-nominated, though had appeared on Broadway twice — in a 2002 one-man comedy special, and in 2011’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”

Bacall, a two-time Tony-winner, had a longer career on Broadway, starring in six Broadway shows. But she hadn’t appeared since 1999’s “Waiting in the Wings.”

Gandolfini was Tony-nominated for 2009’s “God of Carnage,” — his third, and last time on Broadway.

Man on Twitter wondered if the League's criteria would make Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand ineligible, should they die, as it’s been 19 years and 48 years, respectively, since either appeared on Broadway.

As of now, the League hasn’t responded to calls from NBC 4 New York asking if the group will reverse course. We have enormous respect for the League, which runs yearly events such as Kids’ Night on Broadway to bring theater to the masses. But this was just the wrong call.

What did the League have to lose by honoring Rivers? Is there no room for leeway in how these decisions are made? There ought to be.

Rob Kahn and Dave Quinn are both long-time New York theater critics.



Photo Credit: Bennett Raglin]]>
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Photo Credit: Zillow.com]]>
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Photo Credit: New York Live]]>