And the 69th Annual Tony Award Nominees Are…

As you can tell, I’ve been too busy to update this blog!!!!! RAAAAAAR!

*smashes computer*

*smashes buildings*

*sits panting, admiring the wreckage, contemplating life*

But here’s why:

Fun Home

‘Fun Home’ is the greatest piece of musical theater in decades

I’m going to do a quick rundown of all the shows I’ve covered in some way for Backstage, which double as my NYC theater recommendations. If you can, do yourself a favor and check out some of this year’s extraordinary shows, many of which were just nominated for Tony Awards.

Hand to God: If you miss it, you’re committing blasphemy. Playwright Rob Askins and director Moritz von Stuelpnagel are geniuses, check out my interview with them. The show deserves all the awards.

Fun Home: I cried so much during this musical, I was dehydrated. Possibly the most affecting, cathartic, brilliant, gorgeous, and wondrously personal show anyone could see. A lot has been written about its creators Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, here’s my humble addition to that.

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Elisabeth Moss Finds Her 10

Even the briefest skim of my Mad Men coverage on this blog will reveal my undying love for all things Peggy Olson. You can imagine my delight at being able to sit with the actress who plays her and chat about The Heidi Chronicles, a thoughtful Broadway revival of a thought-provoking feminist play. Assuage your grief over the imminent end of Mad Men by checking out my Backstage cover story featuring Elisabeth Moss! She’s just the best.

Elisabeth Moss

Photo Source: Chad Griffith

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Smart Reads: Jack Smart Edition #4

It’s almost 2015, bitches. Let’s do this.

Jenny Slate

“Guess why I smile? Uh, because it’s worth it.” – Marcel the Shell

Famous people:

  • “I have arms. I’m a pretty good fighter.” – Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard.
  • “You have to have Darth Vader, you can’t just have Obi-Wan Kenobi.” – Inherent Vice scene stealer Josh Brolin!
  • “I can’t look at myself in the mirror if [my] standup sucks; that’s like being a chef and cooking a fake cake or something.” – my longtime hero Jenny Slate, whose fantastic performance in Obvious Child would have my vote for Best Actress.
  • “He’s just a totally fucked-up mess for the rest of his life. But a strong one.” – Logan Lerman on his character in the WWII thriller Fury.
  • “Until I can find the emotional truth of the character, by sitting with people and hearing their experience—that’s the only way I can find how to emotionally connect.” – the faaabulous Michelle Monaghan (just Golden Globe-nominated for her work on True Detective) on her indie showcase Fort Bliss.

Industry pros:

  • Director JV Mercanti offered some useful advice I’d never heard before…
  • Eric Tucker of up-and-coming theater company Bedlam is making some truly tremendous theater to get himself and his friends on the map…
  • Micah Stock gets to share a stage with Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing every night in It’s Only a Play
  • Curious about how some of 2014’s best movies were cast? Check out The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Douglas Aibel, Pride‘s Fiona Weir, Interstellar‘s John Papsidera, A Most Violent Year‘s Tiffany Little Canfield, & Selma‘s Aisha Coley…
  • And most importantly, 33 pieces of advice from actors who chatted with Backstage this year!

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Smart Review: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

I reviewed Broadway’s newest hit! And I liked it. Check it out below or over at TheatreIsEasy.com!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Helen Carey, Mercedes Herrero, Jocelyn Bioh, Alex Sharp, Richard Hollis, David Manis, and Ben Horner in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Photo by Joan Marcus.

BOTTOM LINE: Powerful visual language turns an idiosyncratic perspective into a stirring and imaginative theatrical adaptation.

Christopher, the 15-year old narrator of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, does not see the world the way most people see it. The book’s first-person perspective allows readers an intimate glimpse into the mind of someone who would in diagnostic terms be dubbed a high-functioning autistic teenager. How lucky — and how extraordinary — that the stage can transport an entire audience into that visceral, chaotic, and incredibly distinct mindset, and challenge not only our awareness of such disorders, but also the limits of theater itself.

Most responsible for the power of Curious Incident’s stage adaptation, opening October 5th in a Broadway transfer from London’s National Theatre, are surely its designers. Paule Constable’s lighting and Finn Ross’ video design in particular offer proof that theater and visual technology can together elevate a story to dazzling heights. Three towering walls depicting a mathematician’s grid double as a kind of LED grid on steroids, projecting the multitudinous contents of Christopher’s brain everywhere; constellations, diagrams, and maps materialize above and around the actors. For those of us accustomed to high-concept designs involving little more than an impeccably detailed set or elaborate costumes, this show’s breathtaking effects never get old. This is particularly true during Christopher’s harrowing journey on the London Underground. You may never carelessly step into a subway car again.

Playwright Simon Stephens includes most of the elements from Haddon’s book, which, other than said Underground journey and the garden fork-skewered pooch referenced in the title, offer little in the way of plot. Christopher (Alex Sharp, in a staggering Broadway debut) spends the first act trying to solve the mystery of Wellington the dog’s murder, and the second enmeshed in domestic disputes he can’t comprehend. As someone who decries metaphor (“I think it should be called a lie, because a pig is not like a day and people do not have skeletons in their cupboards”), and who cannot process stimuli in a cursory, big-picture manner, our hero is aware of — but not fully attuned to — the grown-up issues and secrets surrounding him. Continue reading

Fanmail: “If/Then” Star LaChanze As Theatre Gateway Drug

This is a big one, folks. It is straight-up miraculous I’ve never used this blog to broadcast my bizarrely intense obsession with The Color Purple. I recently got to write “Fanmail” over at TDF Stages about LaChanze, the actress who solidified that obsession into a crucial cornerstone of my teenage years. Check it out!

 

If/Then

LaChanze and Anthony Rapp in ‘If/Then’

As a small white boy from Honolulu, I always had difficulty explaining my obsession with The Color Purple. I suppose it started with Alice Walker’s graceful writing in the book, and intensified when I watched Whoopi Goldberg’s and Oprah Winfrey’s powerful performances in the movie. But my fervor truly ignited when, on a rare trip to New York City, I saw the Broadway musical The Color Purple with my father and grandfather. And it was LaChanze, lighting up the stage in her Tony Award-winning role as the downtrodden Celie, who captivated my 16-year-old soul completely.

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Some Random Pre-Tony Nominations Announcement Predictions

The Tony Nominations Announcement is tomorrow! Everybody gets free ham!!

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ is a contender for the 2014 Tony Awards

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is the most original piece of musical theater I’ve seen in years. In a sea of movie adaptations and movie stars, this irresistible little musical that could is Broadway’s lifeboat. Sweeney Todd by way of Gilbert and Sullivan, the lyrics are chock-full of witticisms so charming it’s impossible not to root its deliciously wicked characters. I enjoyed the show immensely (and have admired their equally unique marketing campaign!) and dearly hope lead actor Jefferson Mays, costumer Linda Cho, and especially Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak’s frolicsome book and lyrics are recognized tomorrow. If Aladdin and Rocky dominate the Best Musical categories, all hope is lost.

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Smart Review: THE GLASS MENAGERIE

(A version of this review was published on playstosee.com, a theater criticism website based in the UK.)

The Glass Menagerie at the Booth Theatre

The Glass Menagerie at the Booth Theatre

John Tiffany is a magician. His powers of enchantment as a theater director can leave an audience spellbound. He can conjure thoughts, ideas, even people, out of thin air. His sleight-of-hand can make you think you’re revisiting a Tennessee Williams play you know better than all those other high school drama assignments. And then with a slight flourish, he takes your breath away.

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