<![CDATA[NBC New York - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/entertainment/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Mon, 21 Apr 2014 06:35:25 -0400 Mon, 21 Apr 2014 06:35:25 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Review: “Violet” is Sutton Foster’s Gutsiest Role Yet]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:54:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/VioletBway0134r.jpg

Those expecting to see Sutton Foster belting and tap-dancing her way through her latest Broadway leading-role should be warned: the 39-year-old actress, who won Tonys for her turns in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Anything Goes,” provides a restrained, intricate performance in “Violet,” the Jeanine Tesori-Brian Crawley musical now open at the American Airlines Theatre.

It’s a startling turn from the Foster we’re used to seeing, but one that will transfix you all the same. Stripped of any glitzy costumes, wigs or makeup, Foster stands on stage in a plain sundress, her hair uncombed and pushed behind her ears, and breaths life into a complicated, flawed, hopeful character. You’ll feel as though you’re witnessing a star being reborn, 18 years into her career.

Foster stars as Violet, a stubborn young woman on a quest for personal healing. Violet was 13 when a rogue ax blade struck her in the face. The accident has left her with a ragged scar across her cheek and nose, and 12 years of being bullied and stared at has turned Violet into a shameful, angry and defensive person. Violet’s walls are so high, you’d need a crane to get over them.

We never do see the scar across Violet’s face, but there’s never a moment where Foster lets us forget about the pain it causes Violet. But within that pain is a beam of hope in the form of a televangelist (Ben Davis, of “A Little Night Music”) who Violet naïvely believes will make her “pretty.” So she travels via Greyhound Bus from North Carolina to Oklahoma to see him. And along the way meets two soldiers, Flinck and Monty (Joshua Henry and Colin Donnell, respectively), catalysts for more internal, authentic healing. After all, like any Oz-like pilgrimage, life’s more about what you learn on the journey than at the destination.

Set in 1964 and inspired by Doris Betts' short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim,” “Violet” premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 1997. It was revived in 2013 for a one-night only concert version for City Center Encores! Off-Center series, directed by Leigh Silverman and starring Foster. The Roundabout Theatre Company brings us this “Violet” (her first trip to Broadway), with Silverman again directing and much of the Encores! cast intact.

It’s hard to believe “Violet” was Testori’s first musical, as her score is rich with complex melodies and delicate themes. A blend of country, gospel, blues and bluegrass, Tesori’s music pay tribute to the best of the American roots. Crawley’s lyrics are pure poetry, utilizing the plain-spoken language of the time to create beautiful illustrations of the difference between perception and reality.

If you've seen a Tesori show before, you'll know she's fond of constructing songs performed by multiple actors playing the same character at different ages. It's a device she used in the song "I Know It's Today" in "Shrek the Musical" and in the entirety of "Fun Home." In "Violet," she repeats the trick (or, originates it, as it were). Scenes between a young Violet (Emerson Steele, in a strong Broadway debut) and her father (Alexander Gemignani, “Assassins”) are interjected throughout, to give context to some of Violet’s childhood pain.

But we really understand Violet’s pain through her interactions with Flint, who as an African-American is is well aware of what it feels like to be unfairly judged for one’s appearance. Joshua Henry is electric as Flint. In one of the show’s standout numbers, Henry sings "Let It Sing" from the depth of his soul, as if this song was born out of the actor's own personal struggle. His voice will bring chills up and down your spine. Henry was a standout in 2010’s "The Scottsboro Boys,” earning a Tony nomination, and it's hard to imagine he won't find similar acclaim here.

Colin Donnell’s Monty also allows us to see sides of Violet we hadn’t expected. Callous at first, once Monty begins to drop his guard, so does Violet, leading to her most tender moment in the show, the sweet lullaby “Lay Down Your Head.” Bravo to Donnell, Foster’s former “Anything Goes” co-star, for giving Monty the sincerity and affection we needed to see through the cockiness.

Praise should also be given to Rema Webb, an ensemble standout in an already strong ensemble. Webb brings the house down in “Raise Me Up,” a gospel revival number that will leave even the greatest of unbelievers saying “Amen.”

For Broadway, book writer Crawley has cut “Violet” from a two-act play into a one-act. At nearly two hours without intermission, Foster never leaves the stage. This is Violet’s story, and Violet wouldn’t dare let anyone else tell it. Which is good, because you'll fall in love with Foster so wholeheartedly, you won't want her to leave anytime soon.

“Violet” through Aug. 10 at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St. Tickets: $67-$142. Call 212-719-1300 or visit www.roundabouttheatre.org for tickets. 



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Late at Night on NBC]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 11:16:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP24762024125.jpg

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Latest Celeb Pics: Billie Joe Armstrong, Kevin Spacey]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 04:50:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/215*120/485570423.jpg Check out the latest photos of your favorite celebrities.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Coachella]]>
<![CDATA[Stars at Coachella: Katy Perry, Paris Hilton & More]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 20:14:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/coachella-katy-perry-credit-Frazer-Harrison.jpg Music fans weren't the only ones in attendance over the weekend at Coachella -- big-name celebrities joined in the action too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Coachella]]>
<![CDATA["The Voice"]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 11:59:12 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NUP_162906_1105.JPG

Photo Credit: Trae Patton/NBC]]>
<![CDATA[Discovery Channel Scuttles Everest Stunt After Tragedy]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 20:14:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mount+everest+climb.JPG

A televised stunt on Mount Everest that was supposed to have aired on the Discovery Channel next month has been canceled, days after an avalanche on the world's highest peak claimed the lives of at least 13 Sherpa guides.

Veteran climber Joby Ogwyn, a wing-suit flier and BASE jumper, had been planning to attempt the first wing-suit jump off the summit on May 11, a feat set to be aired live, NBC News reported. He said Saturday he had lost his Sherpa team in the Friday tragedy.

"In light of the overwhelming tragedy at Mt. Everest and respect for the families of the fallen, Discovery Channel will not be going forward with Everest Jump Live. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Sherpa community," Discovery spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said.

The avalanche that swept down the mountain's upper slope Friday was the deadliest disaster ever recorded on Everest.

]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Daniel Radcliffe, in "Inishmaan"]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:47:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/CrippleITW.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn

 



Photo Credit: Johan Persson]]>
<![CDATA[Photos: Royal Vacation]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:34:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP501109020810.jpg Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed home a baby boy on July 22. Click through for photos of the young family on their three-week tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Coachella Returns]]> Sun, 20 Apr 2014 06:17:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/181*120/cdd16.jpg 80,000 people are back in the desert -- taking in Weekend II of Coachella 2014 and seeing such artists as Bastille, Aloe Blacc and others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Evgenia Eliseeva]]>
<![CDATA[Professor's "Game of Thrones" Post Taken as a Threat]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 16:09:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/game-of-thrones-shirt-professor.jpg

A New Jersey college professor was placed on unpaid leave after posting online a photo of his 6-year-old daughter wearing a shirt with a quote from "Game of Thrones" that administrators took as a threat.

The shirt says "I will take what is mine with fire & blood," and the photo was posted on Google+ by the Bergen Community College professor, Francis Schmidt, in January, around the time HBO released a trailer for the new season of the show.

After a college dean saw the post, and perceived it as a "threatening email," Schmidt was ordered to meet with administrators and was then placed on unpaid leave. The dispute in January came to light this week after Inside Higher Ed referred to it in an online post.

Schmidt on Friday shared an email with NBC 4 New York that he said was from a human resources employee at the college at the time of the dispute.

"You are not to be on campus for any reason," the email says. "The safety of all of the members of the community is taken very seriously."

Schmidt was allowed to return to teaching later that month after he was cleared by a psychiatrist. He says he missed crucial time with students he was advising.

He says he can't imagine why anyone would think he's capable of violence.

"They claimed to have never heard of 'Game of Thrones,' and so I tried to explain it to them," he said Friday.

College spokesman Larry Hlavenka Jr. said in a statement that the matter was a private personnel issue, but added that the college takes seriously any perceived threats of violence.

"Since Jan. 1, 2014, 34 incidents of school shootings have occurred in the United States," Hlavenka said. "In following its safety and security procedures, the college investigates all situations where a member of its community – students, faculty, staff or local residents – expresses a safety or security concern."

Schmidt believes he was targeted because he filed a grievance against the school when he was not granted a sabbatical.

The faculty union has also been embroiled in contract negotiations with the college; last week the union cast a no-confidence vote in the school's president. 

--Jen Maxfield contributed to this story



Photo Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images]]>
<![CDATA[10 Great Easter Movies to Watch This Weekend]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:48:16 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/The+Bible+Mark+Burnett.jpg

Most people can easily list their favorite Christmas, Thanksgiving and other major holiday movies. But how many of us have a list of films we enjoy every Easter?

The holiest holiday of the Christian calendar has spawned numerous adaptions of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the early days of Hollywood (1953's "The Robe") to the recent spate of Christianity-based fare on offer at the cineplex (2014's "Son of God"), there's an Easter-themed movie sure to appeal.

Even those looking for lighter Easter-themed fare need only look to Fred Astaire and Judy Garland ("Easter Parade") and the Peanuts gang ("It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown") for something to view this weekend.

Here, in no particular order, a list of 10 of the best Easter movies:

"The Robe" (1953)

Richard Burton plays military tribune Marcellus Gallio who commands the Roman unit that crucifies Jesus. In a dice game, Gallio wins the robe Jesus wore and is told it will serve as a reminder of his first crucifixion. Haunted by nightmares of the act he has participated in, Gallio slowly begins to believe the robe is having an effect on his life. Over time he comes to understand what Jesus was trying to achieve, and eventually converts to Christianity - much to the disgust of his peers and his father, an important Roman Senator. "The Robe" was also the first film ever to be released featuring the wide screen process known as CinemaScope.

"Son of God" (2014)

Produced by reality television competition guru Mark Burnett ("Survivor," "The Voice") and his wife, actress Roma Downey, "Son of God" was adapted from the ten-hour miniseries "The Bible" which aired in 2013 on the History channel. As a feature film it both expands upon and abridges the Jesus-driven portions of the miniseries, from birth to resurrection. While making the movie Burnett says he couldn’t help but notice certain similarities to popular contemporary entertainment. "The feeling of the movie and the pace, it’s like 'House of Cards,' that political intrigue, the political drama," he said. "It’s a political thriller wrapped in an epic – and it’s pretty epic, the scale: hundreds and hundreds of extras and special effects with miracles."

"Jesus Christ Superstar" (1973)

Based on the Broadway musical of the same name created by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, this rock opera follows the final weeks of Jesus' life and features no spoken dialogue. Ted Neeley stars as Jesus, Carl Anderson as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. The film centers on the conflict between Judas and Jesus leading up to the crucifixion and features the hit song, "I Don't Know How to Love Him."

"Easter Parade" (1948)

Starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire and featuring music by Irving Berlin, "Easter Parade" definitely falls on the lighter end of the Easter movie spectrum. Astair stars as a dancer suddenly bereft of a partner when his former colleague (Ann Miller) departs the duo for a solo career. Astair's character finds a replacement in a chorus dancer who can not only move, but has a great singing voice (Garland). The movie features beloved numbers such as "It Only Happens When I Dance With You," "A Couple of Swells" and of course, "Easter Parade."

"Jesus of Nazareth" (1977)

Italian director Franco Zeffirelli's dramatic take on the life of Christ is a television mini-series produced in Britain. Robert Powell portrays Jesus alongside an all-star cast that includes Christopher Plummer, Anne Bancroft, Laurence Olivier, Claudia Cardinale, Ian McShane, Olivia Hussey, James Mason, Ian Holm and Anthony Quinn.

"Ben-Hur" (1959)

Charlton Heston is Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish merchant of noble blood in this sword-and-sandals historical epic that begins with the birth of Jesus and ends with the titular character witnessing the Crucifixion. Thanks to an act he did not commit, Ben-Hur ends up a slave who must fight his way back to the land and the woman he loves. One key scene involves Ben-Hur being denied water when his slave gang arrives at Nazareth. He collapses and a local carpenter (who is revealed to be Jesus) comes to his aid against the orders of the Roman guards. The nine-minute chariot battle featured in the movie became a hallmark of great cinematic moments and the film went on to win eleven Academy Awards including Best Picture.

"The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965)

Max Von Sydow portrays Jesus in this three-plus hour movie that also features Charlton Heston as John the Baptist and follows the life of Christ from Nativity to Resurrection. Other notable stars in the movie include Angela Lansbury, Jose Ferrer, Telly Savalas and Dorothy McGuire, and it marks the final film of Claude Rains.

"It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" (1974)

In this, the 12th prime-time television outing to feature the Peanuts gang, Linus tries to convince everyone the Easter Beagle will make the holiday a success when he arrives on Easter morning. After Linus' previous belief in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and co. don't buy in to his ideas. Even Sally has trouble keeping the faith in her "sweet baboo" following her previous disillusionment at Halloween. Of course, by the time Easter morning arrives so does the Easter Beagle (Snoopy), just in time to distribute eggs.

"The Last Temptation of Christ" (1988)

Directed by Martin Scorsese, it's one of the more controversial retellings of Jesus' life, with Willem Dafoe as Jesus, Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, David Bowie as Pontius Pilate, and Harry Dean Stanton as Paul. Throughout the film Jesus is tempted by the various sins he must overcome, including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust.

"The Passion of the Christ" (2004)

Directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus, the film covers the final 12 hours of Jesus' life and was controversial for its use of language and depiction of violence. The entire dialogue is performed in the ancient languages of Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew, with Jesus' arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion and resurrection shown in graphic detail. "The Passion of the Chris" is still the most successful non-English language film ever at the box office, grossing more than $600 million worldwide.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Celebrity Baby Bumps]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:53:00 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/olivia-wilde-485382807.jpg Celebrities can be nine months pregnant and still look amazing. Check out these stars and their baby bumps from all stages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Joan Marcus]]>
<![CDATA[Whoopi Goldberg Pens Column for the Cannabist]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:10:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP223328357635.jpg

Whoopi Goldberg loves her vape pen and wants everyone to know it.

A new column by "The View" co-host debuted Thursday on the Cannabist, the Denver Post's cannabis-focused news website covering legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado.

"My vape pen and I maintain a mostly private relationship. Sure, I’ll sometimes show my pen to a friend or share her with a close confidant," Goldberg, 58, writes in her premiere column. "But mostly it’s just she and I working through my pain. And her ability to help me live comfortably with glaucoma makes her one of the more important figures in my day to day."

Goldberg’s debut column focuses on using marijuana to find relief from glaucoma-induced headaches that she says "come on like freight trains."

"What kind of kush is in my vape pen at the moment?" she continues. "The indica-dominant Platinum OG, of course."

"The high is different, too. It feels like a gentle, warm breeze at the beach. It’s like someone undoing a vice grip, very slowly. It’s not overpowering — and I’m certainly not looking for that high high. I’m looking for relief."

Goldberg will write a column about every two months, Post owner Digital First Media announced in a press release. The idea for the article was developed after Ricardo Baca, Editor of the Cannabist, appeared on "The View." 

Baca says he and Goldberg "instantly connected" when he appeared on the daytime chat fest. "Whoopi's column provides a direct and personal perspective on marijuana use in this modern era," Baca said. "We're grateful that she is willing to add her voice to this conversation." 



Photo Credit: Carlo Allegri/Invision/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Star Spotting at the Tribeca Film Festival ]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 06:27:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tribeca-film-485175965.jpg Indie and Hollywood celebrities alike are congregating in New York to attend the Tribeca Film Festival. See photos from the star-studded film premieres.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for the 2014 Tribec]]>
<![CDATA[Salsa Singer Cheo Feliciano Killed in Crash]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:02:13 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP070907056835.jpg

Puerto Rican salsa and bolero singer Cheo Feliciano died in a car crash early Thursday morning, Telemundo Puerto Rico has confirmed. He was 78.

Jose Luis Feliciano Vega, better known as Cheo Feliciano,  was killed just after 4 a.m. when the Jaguar he was driving hit an electrical post in the Cupey area of San Juan, according to Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia.

Feliciano, the sole passenger in the vehicle, died on impact following the 4:13 a.m. crash on a road near the Universidad Metropolitana. A police inspector told the newspaper he was not wearing a seat belt. He is survived by his wife, Puerto Rican dancer Coco Prieto Leon Feliciano, and four sons.

Feliciano, one of the most recognized musicians of his genre, was credited as influencing other salsa stars, including Ruben Blades and Gilberto Santarosa. He produced a list of hits that includes "One in a Million," ''My Promise," and "I Learned with You," according to The Associated Press.

The musician, who was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, started his career as a percussionist in New York before joining the Joe Cuba Sextet as a singer. He recorded 17 albums with the band performing with top Latin artists of the era, before joining Fania Records' All-Stars ensemble and starting a successful solo career, according to a biography on Billboard.com.  He was honored with the Latin Grammy Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He was a vocal participant in anti-drug campaigns following his own battle with addiction, El Nueva Dia reported.

Feliciano had been diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer last year, but continued to make public appearances. According to El Nueva Dia, he was supposed to fly to Acapulco for a show with other salsa singers later this week.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Franco, O'Dowd in "Of Mice and Men"]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 22:40:10 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/MiceITW.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Robert Kahn on Twitter@RobertKahn
 



Photo Credit: Richard Phibbs]]>
<![CDATA[Season Finale a "Community" Service]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:09:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NUP_159232_0330.JPG

At the start of the most recent episode of "Community," all seems strangely quiet and happy for once at the crisis-ridden, surreal bin for the dysfunctional that is Greendale Community College. This freaks out Abed, the pop culture savant who serves as the show's meta narrator, like a twisted TV version of the Stage Manager from "Our Town."

"There's always a story!" Abed cries as he falls to his knees in the school's oddly quiet hallway, the past site of a massive blanket fort, paintball wars and a zombie attack. "Everything is a story!"

For Abed, his very being is predicated on frequent misadventures he can process in TV or movie terms. For fans of "Community," Abed's existential crisis marks a sign that we could be nearing the end of the story.

"Community" caps its fifth season on NBC Thursday as the characters wage a fight to save Greendale – and, perhaps, the show. It's a familiar position for a program a devoted, but modest fan base tunes into knowing every season finale could be the series finale.

"Community" debuted in 2009 with a mission to turn – or bounce, as in the episode featuring a hidden trampoline with a Prozac-like effect – TV storytelling upside down, constantly buffeting sitcom conventions.

The show survived lackluster ratings, cast departures (Chevy Chase and Donald Glover) and hiatuses to close in on the creative team's goal of "six seasons and a movie" – a message seen on a white board during the Season 4 finale.

The current season has proved even more self-referential, beginning with a debut episode called, “Repilot,” a nod to the characters’ post-graduation return to Greendale to rescue the school. It also might have been a nod to “Community” creator Dan Harmon’s return, after being ousted for a season, to save the show following an unfairly maligned fourth season.

Season 5 has yielded some vintage bizarrely entertaining episodes, including an epic Dungeons & Dragons game that revived the program's recurring theme of fathers clashing with sons. Harmon showed up in a recent installment animated in the style of the old “G.I. Joe” cartoon, featuring Abed as a character called “Fourth Wall.”

There’s nothing subtle about the name – or the plot that takes us to what could be the series’ final episode Thursday. Greendale, finally in good shape, gets taken over by the Subway sandwich chain, and is rechristened “Subway University” – offering product placement (and a cameo by Subway pitchman Jared Fogle) while mocking product placement.

Even worse, it looks like Greendale/Subway might be sold to developers. But there’s hope: Dean Pelton found a treasure map behind a portrait in his office that could save the day.

So Abed has a new story to dive into – but it might be his last. As we await what could be the final timeline for “Community,” check out a preview below:

Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.



Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Schumer's "Foodroom" Parodies "Newsroom"]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:38:22 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/inside+amy+schumer+the+foodroom.jpg

Fans of Aaron Sorkin's rapid-fire dialogue, self-reverential monologues and broadly drawn female protagonists will get every quip, demand, aside and traveling camera shot in comedian Amy Schumer's "Newsroom" parody clip, "The Foodroom."

The skit debuted Tuesday night on Comedy Central's "Inside Amy Schumer" and features all the hallmarks of a Sorkin show ("The West Wing," "Sport's Night," "The Newsroom") and even one alum: actor Josh Charles ("The Good Wife") starred as Dan Rydell in "Sports Night."

In “The Foodroom,” Charles plays J.J. MacAhoy, manager of a fast food establishment called McDalmond’s and Schumer plays his assistant/former lover. For the uninitiated, in "The Newsroom" Jeff Daniels plays cable news anchor Will McAvoy and Emily Mortimer plays his show producer who also happens to be an ex-girlfriend.

Like its inspiration, "The Foodroom" features walk and talks (from the back office to the front counter via the kitchen), lengthy speeches (at MacDalmond's it concerns fries vs. apple slices) and giving the people what you think they need, not necessarily what they want.

"No, today, I'm gonna give you 3,800 calories of the greatest Goddamn country in the world," Charles as MacAhoy tells a drive-thru customer whose order he disagrees with. Cue reverential nodding from Schumer.

Schumer, whose show is now in its second season on Comedy Central, regularly confronts gender politics in her sketches and "The Foodroom" doesn't disappoint. When quizzed about her return to the United States following a stint as a Sbarro employee in Tel Aviv, Schumer's character explains her reason thusly: "Then one day I'm stuffing couscous into a calzone and I realized, a woman’s life is worth nothing unless she’s making a great man greater."

Schumer rose to fame when she placed fourth on the fifth season of NBC's "Last Comic Standing" ahead of earning second place on Comedy Central's "Reality Bites Back." Before launching her own Comedy Central series in 2013, Schumer could be seen in a recurring role on the Adult Swim series "Delocated."

No word yet on whether Schumer's "Foodroom" parody has Sorkin smiling or smarting.

Watch the full clip of "The Foodroom" above.



Photo Credit: Comedy Central]]>
<![CDATA["The Voice" Gets Its Top 12 Contestants]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:20:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NUP_163514_1611.jpg

"The Voice" has gotten its top 12 contestants who will do vocal battle in the live rounds, as Usher wrapped up the playoffs Tuesday when he picked his soulful finals-bound team of three: Bria Kelly, T.J. Wilkins and Josh Kaufman.

Their success came at the expense of metalhead-turned-bluesman Stevie Jo and jazz-inflected pop singer Melissa Jimenez, who were eliminated from the team Tuesday.

T.J. earned his slot on the leaner, meaner Team Usher with his take on Chaka Khan and Rufus' "Tell Me Something Good," while Bria secured hers with a cover of the Rolling Stones' shambling, country-tinged ballad "Wild Horses" that showed, perhaps for the first time, a more vulnerable, nuanced side.

Josh, though, who as a recent Team Adam steal was perhaps the least secure on Team Usher, was the night's biggest hit. He dispelled his coach's concerns in rehearsals about the tall task he'd taken on with singing Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain" with a desperate-sounding, gospel-infused rendition that showed the ordinarily low-key soul singer's range.

The selection of those three singers to represent Team Usher heading into the live rounds on "The Voice" capped a tough few nights of playoffs.

On Monday night, Adam Levine and Shakira had had to make their own grueling decisions on whom to send on to the live rounds. For Adam, that meant sticking with Delvin Choice, Christina Grimmie and Kat Perkins. For Shakira, that meant Tess Boyer, Kristen Merlen and Dani Moz.

Last week, Blake Shelton whittled down his own team, and unsurprisingly, he left it heavy on the country. Joining veteran powerhouse Sisaundra Lewis are throwback country belter Audra McLaughlin and honkytonk-ready Texan 17-year-old Jake Worthington.

"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.



Photo Credit: Trae Patton/NBC]]>