Posts from — November 2011
Director Jeff Calhoun brings a new musical to life
For a director, the canvas of a new musical can be intimidatingly blank: There might be songs and scenes, but they need a world to exist in, a physical space to bring them to life. As Jeff Calhoun says, “A show has to look like something. Ideas are hard to come by when you’re working on new material, so when you do get something that you love, you have to hang onto it and go from there.”
And he should know: Calhoun is directing the new Broadway musical Bonnie & Clyde, which tells the story of the infamous American outlaws who became famous for their Depression-era crimes and their passionate love affair.
He also directed the show’s 2009 premiere at California’s La Jolla Playhouse, where he quickly seized on a concept for the set. “I said, ‘I would like the topography of the set to be as perilous as these times they’re living in,’” he recalls. “Nothing is easy. The platforms are at all different levels. You have to walk up to one and cross over to another and step over a gulley to another. I wanted it to be precarious.”
November 30, 2011 No Comments
The Kander-Ebb-McNally musical arrives tonight in New York
A few days after The Visit premiered in Chicago in September 2001, Terrence McNally remembers flying back to New York on a jumbo jet with composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb and just a handful of other passengers. America was reeling after the collapse of the Twin Towers, and a musical about retribution was a tough sell, even if it had a love story at its center.
Tonight The Visit makes its long-awaited debut in New York with a one-night benefit at the Ambassador Theater, co-sponsored by the Vineyard Theatre and The Actors Fund. Finally, the timing seems right.
“It’s a musical about financial disaster, and I think everyone can relate to that—the reasons for it and the price people are willing to pay to get out of it. It struck me as more relevant than ever,” says McNally, who wrote the show’s libretto.
November 30, 2011 No Comments
Director John Tiffany brings the hit indie film to the stage
The 2007 film Once charmingly blurs the line between reality and fiction. The stars, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, are indie musicians who dated in real life, so they’re natural on screen as struggling musicians who fall in love.
But how does Once work without them? That’s the question facing John Tiffany, who’s directing a stage musical adaptation at New York Theatre Workshop. Best known for innovative productions like Black Watch, he’s focusing not only on the story, but also on the story’s theatrical shape.
November 28, 2011 No Comments
Inside the fascinating structure of “Queen of the Mist”
During the first act of Michael John LaChiusa’s new musical Queen of the Mist, it’s tempting to think we understand the lead character. Anna “Annie” Edson Taylor, based on the real-life daredevil, seems like the classic brassy dame, charging through convention in the early 20th century as she tries to become the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She’s brash, charming, and fearless: The kind of gal it’s easy to admire, even if we’d never follow her into the water.
But then comes the second act. Annie (Mary Testa) survives the fall, and from the moment she climbs out of the barrel, the world around her changes. The musical, which is being staged by The Transport Group at The Gym at Judson Memorial Church, shifts from being reasonably realistic to being a dreamlike rumination. Time collapses, we zoom through the rest of Annie’s long life, and we soon find her sitting by the Falls as an old woman, blind and trying to sell memorabilia from her past. People come and speak to her, but are they real? There’s a soldier who shares her last name. There’s her sister, who ought to have died years ago. One by one, the specters sing to Annie, talk to her, and force her to face undiscovered parts of herself.
November 22, 2011 No Comments
The stars of “Lysistrata Jones” balance comedy and heart
Welcome to Building Character, TDF Stages’ ongoing series about actors and how they create their roles
There are roughly 5 trillion jokes in Lysistrata Jones, the new Broadway musical that transports the ancient Greek play Lysistrata to a modern-day college basketball court. With a book by Douglas Carter Beane and a score by Lewis Flinn, it cracks on everything from the perils of dating and the power of myths to Batman movies and dropped iPhone calls. As the gags whiz by, they create an atmosphere of breathless, fizzy fun.
But there’s heart beneath the humor. Lysistrata Jones (Patti Murin) convinces her fellow cheerleaders to stop sleeping with their basketball-team boyfriends until they finally win a game, which drives the boys crazy. That’s a breezy premise, but eventually, the characters realize their attitudes affect more than a basketball season. By accepting failure on the court or by forcing everyone to do what they say, these kids are short-circuiting their entire lives.
November 21, 2011 2 Comments