Category — Family
Nellie McKay adds zip to Bill Irwin’s “Old Hats”
Nellie McKay’s limbs might not be as nimble as those of Bill Irwin and David Shiner. (Whose are?) But her ukulele-strumming and piano-playing fingers, to say nothing of her deceptively barbed tongue, get every bit as much of a workout in the two men’s long-awaited reunion, Old Hats.
Irwin and Shiner shot to tandem fame in Fool Moon, which reached Broadway three separate times in the 1990s. That piece featured the old-timey musical shenanigans of the Red Clay Ramblers, and it is roughly this role that McKay and her four-piece band play in Old Hats, now at the Signature Center. When she’s not providing pastiche support for the two men as they cavort through everything from an inept magic act to a raucous political debate to a beloved Fool Moon routine, she herself takes center stage, singing a variety of wickedly witty ditties that suggest the Great American Songbook with a few shivs tossed in.
March 7, 2013 No Comments
How “Bunnicula” became family-friendly fabulousness
Are you surprised that Charles Busch has adapted the beloved children’s book Bunnicula into a family-friendly musical? That’s okay. He’s a little surprised, too.
Now at the DR2 Theatre in a production from TheatreworksUSA, the show follows Chester and Harold, a cat and dog who believe their human owners have adopted a vampire bunny. After all, something is draining the juice out of the vegetables every night, and Bunnicula was found at a movie theatre showing a vampire flick. Based on this evidence, Chester and Harold decide to save their family from an adorable monster.
February 22, 2013 2 Comments
Inside the world of a professional child guardian
This season, Broadway is practically a kiddie convention. There are currently eight Rialto shows featuring child actors, including Annie, The Lion King, and Once, and with the musicals Matilda and Pippin opening soon, there will be even more youngsters on the boards.
And behind every child actor, there’s at least one child guardian. Sometimes called “child wranglers,” they’re the professionals who oversee a young performer’s backstage life, making sure homework is done, entrances are made, and lines are memorized.
As a sign of how vital these people are, Actors’ Equity stipulates that Broadway producers must provide guardians for actors under 16, and the wranglers themselves officially unionized last summer.
But for all their responsibility, child guardians are typically unsung heroes. What does it take to work with kids backstage?
January 17, 2013 2 Comments
Inside the Autism-Friendly performance of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at San Diego’s Old Globe
One of the most emotional experiences I’ve had while working at TDF happened right after our first autism-friendly performance of The Lion King. After the show, all of the TDF staffers were wearing identifying name tags. While standing in the lobby, as the audience was leaving the Minskoff Theatre, I was overwhelmed as parent after parent came up to me and my colleagues, many in tears, thanking us for producing this event. Until that day they couldn’t imagine being able to take their children with autism to see a Broadway show. Several had tried in the past, but felt uncomfortable if their child had an outburst or fidgeted in their chair, feeling all eyes were on them. At this autism-friendly performance, they all felt like they were in ‘the same boat’ and shared in the feeling of universal love and acceptance. It took me some time to begin to process those feelings. A few days later, I spoke to a colleague from the New York Times who covered the show for an Artsbeat blog post, and he shared the same feelings I had—compassion, powerlessness, empathy.
December 29, 2012 5 Comments
Samuel Hunter tackles “The Whale”
Samuel D. Hunter is well aware of how audiences will react to the first image in his new play The Whale: As soon as the show begins, we see a 600-pound man who is barely able to take two steps without hurting himself.
“It’s not something that we like to see in the media all that much,” Hunter says of morbid obesity. “I wanted to set it up where the audience was keeping this character at arm’s length at first, and then gradually shrink that distance.”
Cetacean metaphors run throughout The Whale, which is now in previews at Playwrights Horizons. Moby-Dick (which actually has The Whale as its subtitle) and the Biblical story of Jonah both play significant roles in the emotional development of the characters, which include the protagonist, Charlie (a heavily paddded Shuler Hensley), and his furious, estranged daughter, Ellie (Reyna de Courcy).
But the play’s title obviously alludes to Charlie as well, who is nearly unable to move from his badly sagging living room couch. This gives him enormous trouble, and it also challenged his creator. “Shuler is very, very static because of his size, and so there were a lot of narrative pitfalls,” says Hunter, who gradually gave the character a bit more mobility through the use of a walker and a wheelchair. “A lot of the workshops have been devoted to letting the other characters’ journeys sort of sprout up around him.”
Those workshops had a permanent effect on the casting: All five current actors were part of the script’s early development, and after holding auditions for the Playwrights Horizons production, Hunter and director Davis McCallum eventually stuck with the original group.
October 31, 2012 No Comments