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    1. Any theatre creatives in the house?

      Any stage actors, agents, designers, directors, managers, playwrights, producers, stage managers, etc. in the house? What are you working on right now? How's it going? Sincerely, A fellow theatre...

      Any stage actors, agents, designers, directors, managers, playwrights, producers, stage managers, etc. in the house?

      What are you working on right now? How's it going?

      A fellow theatre person

      24 votes
    2. 76th Tony Awards, 2023

      I'm following the New York Times' liveblog and list of winners; I'll try to update this post. Best Play: “Leopoldstadt” “Leopoldstadt,” a wrenching drama that explores the destructive toll of...

      I'm following the New York Times' liveblog and list of winners; I'll try to update this post.

      • Best Play: “Leopoldstadt”

      “Leopoldstadt,” a wrenching drama that explores the destructive toll of antisemitism by following a family of Viennese Jews through the first half of the 20th century, won the Tony Award for best play on Sunday night.

      The play is by Tom Stoppard, an 85-year-old British playwright who is widely regarded as among the greatest living dramatists, and who had already won the best play Tony Award more times than any other writer. This is his 19th production on Broadway since his debut in 1967, and his fifth Tony for best play, following “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” “Travesties,” “The Real Thing” and “The Coast of Utopia.”

      “Leopoldstadt” is an unusually personal work for Stoppard, prompted by his late-in-life reckoning with his Jewish roots, and the realization that many of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust. Stoppard was not yet 2 years old when his own family fled what was then Czechoslovakia, where he was born, to escape the Nazi invasion; he was raised in Britain and has said he only fully came to understand his family’s Jewish heritage when he was much older.

      “Leopoldstadt,” directed by Patrick Marber, was first staged in London, where it opened in 2020, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of theaters, and then resumed performances in the West End after theaters reopened in 2021. That production won the Olivier Award for best new play in 2020.

      The Broadway production began previews Sept. 14 and opened Oct. 2 at the Longacre Theater. The run is scheduled to end on July 2.

      The play, named for a historically Jewish section of Vienna, begins in 1899 in the living room of an affluent and assimilated Austrian Jewish family and continues until 1955, after much of the family has perished; some members of the family had mistakenly thought that their integration into Viennese society would somehow protect them.

      The show is quite large for a Broadway play, with a cast of 38, including several children. It was capitalized for up to $8.75 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

      The lead producer is Sonia Friedman, a prolific British producer who has notched an impressive set of wins on Broadway: She was also a lead producer of the best play Tony winners in 2020 (“The Inheritance,” which was granted the award at a pandemic-delayed ceremony in 2021), 2019 (“The Ferryman”) and 2018 (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”).

      • Best Musical: “Kimberly Akimbo”

      “Kimberly Akimbo,” a small-scale, big-hearted show about a teenage girl coping with a life-shortening genetic condition and a comically dysfunctional family, won the coveted Tony Award for best musical Sunday night.

      The musical is the smallest, and lowest-grossing, of the five nominees in the category, but it was also by far the best reviewed, with virtually unanimous acclaim from critics. (Nodding to the show’s anagram-loving subplot, New York Times critic Jesse Green presciently suggested one of his own last fall: “sublime cast = best musical.”)

      The show, set in 1999 in Bergen County, N.J., stars the 63-year-old Victoria Clark as Kimberly, a 15-going-on-16-year-old girl who has a rare condition that makes her age prematurely. Kimberly’s home life is a mess — dad’s a drunk, mom’s a hypochondriac, and aunt is a gleeful grifter — and her school life is complicated by her medical condition. But she befriends an anagram-obsessed classmate and learns to find joy where she can.

      “Kimberly Akimbo,” which opened at the Booth Theater in November, was written by the playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and the composer Jeanine Tesori, based on a play Lindsay-Abaire had written in 2003. The musical, directed by Jessica Stone, began its life with an Off Broadway production at the nonprofit Atlantic Theater Company in the fall of 2021.

      The musical, with just nine characters, was capitalized for up to $7 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission; that’s a low budget for a musical on Broadway these days, when a growing number of shows are costing more than $20 million to stage. The lead producer is David Stone, who, as a lead producer of “Wicked,” is one of Broadway’s most successful figures; this is the first time he has won a Tony Award for best musical.

      • Best Revival of a Play: "Topdog/Underdog"

      A new production of “Topdog/Underdog,” Suzan-Lori Parks’s tour de force about two Black brothers weighted down by history and circumstance, won the Tony Award for best play revival Sunday night.

      The play, first staged at the Public Theater in 2001, was already a widely hailed masterpiece: In 2002 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, making Parks the first African American woman awarded that prize, and in 2018 a panel of New York Times critics declared it the best American play of the previous quarter century.

      The new production, which ran from September 2022 through January 2023 at the John Golden Theater, was directed by Kenny Leon. It starred Corey Hawkins and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the two brothers, ominously named Lincoln and Booth.

      In the play, Lincoln works in whiteface as a Lincoln impersonator at an arcade, while Booth makes ends meet by shoplifting. They share a one-room apartment, a fondness for three-card monte, and a set of familial and societal burdens from which they cannot escape. “‘Topdog/Underdog’ is both a vivid, present-tense family portrait and an endlessly reverberating allegory,” the New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote in 2018.

      • Best Revival of a Musical: "Parade"

      “Parade,” a musical based on the early 20th century lynching of a Jewish businessman in Georgia, won the Tony Award for best musical revival Sunday night.

      The prize cements a remarkable rebirth for the show, which was not successful when it first opened on Broadway in 1998, but which is shaping up to be a hit this time, thanks to strong word-of-mouth and the popularity of its leading man, Ben Platt. It was one of several shows this season about antisemitism, as the number of reported incidents has been rising.

      The success of “Parade” is also a significant milestone for the musical’s composer, Jason Robert Brown, who is widely admired within the theater community but whose Broadway productions have struggled commercially. Brown wrote the music and lyrics for “Parade,” and the book is by Alfred Uhry; both men won Tony Awards for their work on the show in 1999.

      ... Audible groans here as Jason Robert Brown, the composer behind “Parade,” gets cut off at the microphone. He started to say something about Mary Phagan, the girl whose murder in Georgia set the Leo Frank trial in motion.

      • Best Leading Actor in a Play: Sean Hayes, “Good Night, Oscar”, as Oscar Levant

      Sean Hayes, who portrays the witty but troubled pianist Oscar Levant in “Good Night, Oscar,” won the Tony for best lead actor in play.

      Best known for his long-running role as Jack McFarland in the television series “Will & Grace,” Hayes received critical praise for his drastic transformation in this stage production, adopting the hunched posture, irritable scowl and anxious twitching of Levant, who channeled his neuroticism into crowd-pleasing radio and television banter.

      Hayes, 52, has also brought one of his lesser known talents to the stage for this performance: classical piano, which he started studying at age 5.

      Telling the story of one night in 1958 when Levant finagled his way out of psychiatric hospital to be interviewed on Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show,” the play focuses on the pianist’s idiosyncrasies, compulsions and struggles with opioid addiction as surrounding characters try desperately to manage him.

      This is Hayes’s first Tony Award. He was previously nominated for his Broadway debut in the 2010 revival of “Promises, Promises,” a musical adaptation of the Billy Wilder film “The Apartment.”

      • Best Leading Actress in a Play: Jodie Comer, "Prima Facie", as Tessa Ensler

      The leading actress in a play category this year was a face-off of extremes: Jodie Comer, who delivers a physically and emotionally exhausting performance in Suzie Miller’s one-woman legal thriller “Prima Facie,” versus Jessica Chastain, who scarcely stirs from her chair during the entirety of “A Doll’s House.”

      In the end, it was Comer who triumphed, for her tour-de-force solo turn as a lawyer who defends men accused of sexual assault. Jesse Green, the chief theater critic for The New York Times, described it as “a performance of tremendous skill and improbable stamina.”

      It was a remarkable win for the 30-year-old English actress, who is best known for playing the assassin Villanelle on the television show “Killing Eve.” She not only took home her first Tony Award on her first try; she won it for her first performance on a professional stage — ever.

      “It kind of felt unattainable,” she told The Times in April of the prospect of doing theater.

      • Best Leading Actor in a Musical: J. Harrison Ghee, "Some Like It Hot", as Jerry/Daphne

      J. Harrison Ghee, whose portrayal of a gender-questioning musician fleeing the mob in “Some Like It Hot” has charmed critics and audiences, won a Tony Award for best leading actor in a musical Sunday night, becoming the first out nonbinary actor to win that award.

      Ghee’s victory came shortly after Alex Newell, who is also nonbinary, won a Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical, becoming the first out nonbinary performer to win a Tony.

      The Tony Awards, like the Oscars, have only gendered categories for performers, and Ghee and Newell agreed to be considered eligible for awards as actors. (Another nonbinary performer this season, Justin David Sullivan of “& Juliet,” opted not to be considered for awards rather than compete in a gendered category.)

      Asked in a recent interview with The New York Times about having been nominated in a gendered category, Ghee said: “Wherever I am, I will show up as who I am. Someone’s compartmentalization of me doesn’t limit me in any way.

      “I hope for the industry we can remove the gender of it,” they added, “because we are creators and we should free ourselves beyond so many labels and let the work speak for itself.”

      At least two performers who later came out as nonbinary have previously won Tony Awards as best featured actress in a musical: Sara Ramirez, who won in 2005 for “Spamalot,” and Karen Olivo (also known as K O), who won in 2009 for a revival of “West Side Story.” Also: Last year, the Tony Award for best score went to Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss for “Six,” and Marlow is nonbinary.

      Ghee’s depiction of a main character in “Some Like It Hot” reflects the way views on gender have evolved since 1959, when the Billy Wilder film it was based on was released. In the movie Jack Lemmon plays a musician named Jerry who dresses as a woman named Daphne to flee the mob; in the musical Ghee plays the same character, but Jerry’s path to becoming Daphne becomes one of self-discovery, not disguise.

      The performance earned critical praise. Jesse Green, The Times’s chief theater critic, wrote that Ghee “carefully traces Jerry’s transformation into Daphne, and then the merging of the two identities into a third that takes us into territory that’s far more complex than jokey drag.”

      Ghee, 33, worked as a drag performer before finding success in musical theater, with key roles on Broadway in “Kinky Boots” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” before “Some Like It Hot.”

      • Best Leading Actress in a Musical: Victoria Clark, “Kimberly Akimbo”, as Kimberly Levaco

      Victoria Clark won the Tony for best leading actress in a musical on Sunday night for her role in “Kimberly Akimbo,” in which she plays a teenager with a rare disease that causes her to age rapidly.

      As unusual as Clark’s role has been as a sexagenarian playing a gawky teenager with a fatal diagnosis, critics pointed to the pedestrian subtlety with which she imbued her performance.

      “So remote is she from the bellowing divadom of those tourist-bait extravaganzas that I’m tempted to call what she does not singing at all, but acting on pitch,” wrote Jesse Green in his review of the musical for The Times.

      This is Clark’s second award in the category: In 2005, she won for “The Light in the Piazza,” a musical in which she played an American tourist traveling with her daughter — a performance that Ben Brantley of The Times praised as a rare reflection of a “real human being” in an American mainstream musical.

      A veteran stage actress, Clark, 63, has performed on Broadway since the 1980s, earning Tony nominations for featured roles in “Sister Act,” “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and “Gigi.”

      • Best Featured Actor in a Play: Brandon Uranowitz, “Leopoldstadt”, as Ludwig Jakobovicz and Nathan Fischbein

      Brandon Uranowitz, a four-time Tony nominee, won his first Tony Award on Sunday for performing a pair of featured roles in the critically acclaimed play “Leopoldstadt.”

      The play, by Tom Stoppard, follows an Austrian Jewish family — the Merzes — from 1899 to 1955. In the early days, the bourgeois family is comfortable and complacent, shown enjoying time together at holiday gatherings and family functions. But eventually the Nazis arrive, and their lives are upended and destroyed.

      “My impostor syndrome is on fire,” he said in accepting the award.

      “Thank you, Tom Stoppard, for writing a play about Jewish identity and antisemitism and the false promise of assimilation with the nuances and the complexities and the contradictions that they deserve,” he added. “My ancestors, many of whom did not make it out of Poland, also thank you.”

      • Best Featured Actor in a Musical: Alex Newell, "Shucked", as Lulu

      Alex Newell, a “Glee” alumnus who is bringing down the house nightly with a barn-burning number in “Shucked,” won the Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical Sunday night, becoming the first out nonbinary actor to win a Tony for performance.

      Newell, who identifies both as nonbinary and gender fluid, plays a fiercely self-reliant whiskey distiller in “Shucked,” which is a country-scored, pun-rich musical comedy about a small farming community whose corn crop begins mysteriously dying.

      “The standing ovation isn’t jarring as much as the consistency of it,” Newell told The New York Times last month. “I’m beside myself a lot of the time because I’m like, ‘Y’all are really still standing up.’”

      Newell agreed to be considered in the gendered actor category, explaining, “I look at the word ‘actor’ as one, my vocation, and two, genderless. We don’t say plumbess for plumber. We don’t say janitoress for janitor. We say plumber, we say janitor. That’s how I look at the word, and that’s how I chose my category.”

      • Best Featured Actress in a Play: Miriam Silverman, “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window”, as Mavis Parodus Bryson

      Miriam Silverman, the only acting nominee from “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” has been with this production since its Chicago debut. “I’m always more drawn to complicated, tricky, flawed characters,” she told the Times. “And not trying to make them likable, per se, but just trying to be inside of them in all of their humanity.”

      Alice Ghostley won a Tony for the same role when the play debuted in 1964.

      • Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Bonnie Milligan, “Kimberly Akimbo”, as Aunt Debra

      On Sunday night, Milligan, 39, took home her first Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical, for her scene-stealing performance as Debra, Kimberly’s scheming aunt.

      It was the first Tony nomination for Milligan, known for her vocal range and vocal belting, who made her Broadway debut in 2018 in “Head Over Heels,” a musical that combined a Renaissance pastoral romance with the music of the Go-Go’s.

      • Best Direction of a Play, Patrick Marber, “Leopoldstadt”

      Patrick Marber won his first Tony on Sunday for his direction of the harrowing, critically acclaimed Tom Stoppard play, “Leopoldstadt.”

      Marber, who was previously nominated for directing a 2018 revival of Stoppard’s “Travesties” has also written plays and worked as a stand-up comedian.

      “I’m thrilled to win this,” he said, calling Stoppard one of his heroes.

      • Best Direction of a Musical: Michael Arden, “Parade”

      “‘Parade’ tells the story of a life that was cut short at the hands of the belief that one group of people is more or less valuable than another and that they might be more deserving of justice,” he said in accepting his award. “This is a belief that is the core of antisemitism, of white supremacy, of homophobia, of transphobia and intolerance of any kind. We must come together. We must battle this. It is so, so important, or else we are doomed to repeat the horrors of our history.”

      Arden went on to recall how he had been called a homophobic slur — “the F-word,” he said — many times as a child. And he drew raucous cheers as he reclaimed the slur, making clear that he was now one with a Tony. “Keep raising your voices,” he said.

      One of the production’s most talked-about features is Platt’s wordless presence onstage during the entire 15-minute intermission. Arden recently told Michael Paulson that he “wanted to challenge the audience, when they’re getting their cocktail or texting their friends or talking about what they’re having for dinner, to look back and see Ben onstage, and to get a sense that while the world was turning, this man was sitting in a prison cell.”

      • Best Book of a Musical: David Lindsay-Abaire, "Kimberly Akimbo"

      A tough category this year, with fine work addressing daunting needs. David West Read somehow made a jukebox musical (“& Juliet”) witty. Robert Horn (“Shucked”) came up with more corn puns than anyone thought possible. Matthew López and Amber Ruffin revamped a classic farce (“Some Like It Hot”) as a contemporary exploration of race and gender. But David Lindsay-Abaire may have had the hardest job of all: turning his own play “Kimberly Akimbo” gently, cleverly, ruthlessly into a great musical.

      • Best Original Score: Jeanine Tesori (music) and David Lindsay-Abaire (lyrics), “Kimberly Akimbo”
      • Best Choreography: Casey Nicholaw, “Some Like It Hot”

      Casey Nicholaw won the Tony for best choreography for “Some Like It Hot,” a boisterous Prohibition-era musical with tapping, swing dancing and intricate staging.

      Nicholaw, who also directed the production, has been nominated in the category six times before, but this is his first win. In 2011, he shared the Tony for best direction of a musical with Trey Parker for “The Book of Mormon.”

      • Best Orchestrations: Charlie Rosen and Bryan Carter, “Some Like It Hot”

      Broadway World: In their visit to the press room, recently annointed Tony winners, Some Like It Hot orchestrators, Charlie Rosen and Bryan Carter discussed the timely and important subject of the need for Broadway-sized orchestras for Broadway shows.

      Bryan said, "Having an 18-piece orchestra is a luxury. We're hoping that the show inspires new companies to use large orchestras because orchestras really are the heartbeat of musical theatre."

      In discussing the challenges of bringing their larger-than-life orchestrations to life, Charlie shared, "The challenge of this show, in particular, was that I hold Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman in such high regard. They're such legends, I really thought twice, three times, four times, about every single note that I wrote on the page. I really wanted to do their score justice because they're so incredible and so prolific," Charlie added.

      • Best Scenic Design of a Play: Tim Hatley and Andrzej Goulding, “Life of Pi”

      NYTG: The Broadway transfer gave the cast and creative team the opportunity to make changes. "We were able to make some positive adjustments to the story based on the feedback from the West End," said director Max Webster, noting the first act was tightened.

      The move also gave the designers the opportunity to expand the design elements of the show. “It is always good to get the opportunity to work on a show for a second (or third, or fourth...) time,” said scenic and costume designer Tim Hatley. “In my experience designing for theatre and film over the past 30 years, I have never walked away from a production thinking I have managed to get it all right.”

      Most importantly, the design teams needed to adjust the scope and scale of the scenic design to fit the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York, which is wider and shallower than Wyndham’s. “This has, of course, had a knock-on effect, and video and lighting have had to adapt their designs to work with the new dimensions,” Hatley said.

      For his part, video designer Andrzej Goulding (co-nominated with Hatley in the scenic design category) upgraded the show’s simulations. He also worked with lighting designer Tim Lutkin to recolor some scenes for the Broadway run and blend his projections, which naturally light the set, with Lutkin's lighting of the actors. The designers also had to adjust certain visual elements to accommodate different sight lines.

      “The heart of the design is the ability to transition seamlessly from the hospital into Pi’s story, which is, for the most part, at sea,” said Hatley. The split-second transitions, which happen in full view of the audience, are integral to the narrative. “This was my challenge as the designer of the show, and I am pleased to have pulled it off.”

      • Best Scenic Design of a Musical: Beowulf Boritt, “New York, New York”
      • Best Costume Design of a Play: Brigitte Reiffenstuel, “Leopoldstadt”
      • Best Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, “Some Like It Hot”
      • Best Sound Design of a Play: Carolyn Downing, “Life of Pi”
      • Best Sound Design of a Musical: Nevin Steinberg, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
      • Best Lighting Design of a Play: Tim Lutkin, “Life of Pi”
      • Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Natasha Katz, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
      • Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement: Joel Grey and John Kander

      The actor and director Joel Grey, 91, will be honored for Lifetime Achievement at the Tony Awards this evening for his “everlasting impact” to the theater, said Heather Hitchens, president and chief executive of the American Theater Wing.

      • Isabelle Stevenson Award: Jerry Mitchell

      Parade: When Jerry Mitchell moved to New York City in 1980 to dance in his first Broadway show, Brigadoon, he'd inadvertently walked into one of the worst tragedies of American history. By 1985, he'd lost his first friend to AIDS. By 1990, he'd lost four more. As a gay dancer and choreographer performing in New York, he lived in the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic and felt helpless as his friends and colleagues died.

      That helplessness turned into action in the early '90s, after Mitchell was cast in The Will Rogers Follies, in which he was "dancing every night...practically naked" in a tribute to the Ziegfeld Follies. "I was really in great shape," he told me over coffee on a warm May afternoon in a park only a few blocks from Broadway. "I looked hot, and people were noticing...and so a friend of mine said, you should go dance at the Splash Bar on 17th St., which was this famous gay bar, and raise money for our fundraiser." The fundraiser in question was for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization founded in the theater community to fight back against the disease that ravaged their friends and loved ones.

      "A light bulb went off over my head. I called seven friends who were in Broadway shows who also, I knew, had great bodies, and I put together a strip show, a burlesque show on the bar. We made $8,000." And that was the birth of Broadway Bares.

      While Broadway Bares my have started as an eight-man strip show in a gay bar, its Chelsea nightclub days are long behind it. In total, the dancing/body-celebrating fundraiser has earned more than $22.5 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, with the burlesque dancers raking in nearly $1.9 million last year alone. The charity provides lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance to those in need due to HIV/AIDS and other illnesses.

      • Regional Theater Tony Award: Pasadena Playhouse

      LA Times: Pasadena Playhouse will receive the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award, becoming only the second Los Angeles institution to earn the honor and continuing its triumphant streak after years of turbulence.

      The prize, which includes a $25,000 grant sponsored by City National Bank, will be presented at the 76th Tony Awards on June 11 in New York.

      The Mark Taper Forum, in 1977, was the first L.A. theater to receive the Regional Theatre Tony. Other Southern California recipients include the Old Globe in 1984, South Coast Repertory in 1988 and La Jolla Playhouse in 1993.

      The award marks an astonishing turnaround for Pasadena Playhouse, which was on the verge of shutting down in 2010, when it laid off most of its staff, canceled the remainder of its season and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Rescued by the generosity of donors, the theater was back on shaky ground when producing artistic director Danny Feldman was appointed to succeed long-term artistic director Sheldon Epps in 2016.

      • Tony Award for Excellence in Theater Education: Jason Zembuch Young

      Jason Zembuch Young is the artistic director of the public South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla. He stages full-length musicals and a full-length plays in both voice and American Sign Language.

      Now, his efforts are being rewarded with a special Tony Award, granted each year in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to a U.S. educator who has “demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession.”

      • Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater: Lisa Dawn Cave, Victoria Bailey and Robert Fried

      Broadway will have an unusually busy summer

      There usually tends to be a lull in new Broadway shows between the Tony Awards eligibility deadline in late April and the start of the school year. But this season is shaping up to be different, with seven openings between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

      The first, a horror play called “Grey House” starring Laurie Metcalf, has already opened. Jesse Green had mixed feelings about it, describing it in his review as “so expertly assembled from spare parts by the playwright Levi Holloway and the director Joe Mantello that you may not notice, between the jump scares and the shivery pauses, how little it has on its mind.”

      Up next is “Once Upon a One More Time,” about the feminist awakening of fairy tale princesses set to the music of Britney Spears. That show will be followed by two other big musicals: “Here Lies Love,” about Imelda Marcos, a former first lady of the Philippines, with a score by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim; and “Back to the Future,” adapted from the hit film.

      Broadway’s summer openings will also feature a comedian, Alex Edelman, performing his acclaimed solo show, “Just for Us,” as well as two comedic plays, “The Cottage,” which is a contemporary version of an old-school farce, and “The Shark Is Broken,” which is about the backstage chaos that challenged the making of “Jaws.”

      16 votes
    3. Discussion thread for Hamilton's streaming/theatrical release

      I may or may not have stayed up all night watching it. I'd be interested in knowing what everyone's previous exposure / experience to Hamilton is, before seeing this version of it. I've listened...

      I may or may not have stayed up all night watching it.

      I'd be interested in knowing what everyone's previous exposure / experience to Hamilton is, before seeing this version of it.

      I've listened to the cast recording a million times, and saw the touring production once when it came to Seattle.

      I'm sure I'll have more cogent thoughts later, after sleeping on it / watching it a second time...one thing I noticed that stuck in my mind is that besides censoring the two "fucks" (previous discussion) they also edited it so that "she led me to her bed / let her legs spread..." wasn't terribly easy to understand if you didn't already know those lyrics.

      22 votes
    4. A review of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'By Jeeves'

      I watched the streamed version of 'By Jeeves' today. I have thoughts that I want to express. There’s a saying in show business: “If you have a good strong finish, they'll forgive anything.” (Well,...

      I watched the streamed version of 'By Jeeves' today. I have thoughts that I want to express.

      There’s a saying in show business: “If you have a good strong finish, they'll forgive anything.” (Well, maybe it’s only Rose in ‘Gypsy’ who says that, but it has wider applications.) This show was the opposite of that. I was going along with the badness of the adaptation, the absurdity of the plot, the silliness of the narrative framework, and the falseness of the characters – and then the ending came along and trumped everything else with its awfulness.

      For starters, the narrative framework was silly. Bertie Wooster is due to give a banjo recital at a local hall, but the banjo goes missing, so his valet Jeeves convinces Bertie to entertain the audience with a reminiscence. But rather than commit wholeheartedly to the story, Bertie and Jeeves keep popping out of it with references to bad props and lighting and music. At the times when the plot went along as normal, it was quite an enjoyable play, for what it was. Then Jeeves would appear with a car built from a sofa and some cardboard boxes, or a ladder going to nowhere, or a pig mask (more about that later), and destroy the mood. I wish the writer Alan Ayckbourn had committed to the plot, rather than framing it in this way. It felt silly. It set the wrong tone. P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories are comedies of manners, not farces (although they often contain farcical elements). The comedy is subtle, not broad.

      On the matter of tone, I noticed a distinct lack of the 30s slang which gave the original stories their flavour. Bertie spoke generic upper-class English in this play, rather than the lingo of his time and his culture.

      With regard to the story, I’m not sure where this plot came from. I don’t pretend to have read all the Jeeves and Wooster stories, but I do have the book that the setting for this play comes from: ‘The Code of the Woosters’. The backdrop of Totleigh Towers and most of the characters in the play come from this novel. But the plot is nothing like the book. It has elements that are reminiscent of Wodehouse’s stories, such as characters pretending to be each other (which was too over-the-top in this play), and Bertie having to steal something to create a diversion, but the plot itself is an invention of Ayckbourn’s (I assume).

      The scene near the end of the play with the whole household running around chasing a man in a pig mask, while singing about hunting and implying that they think it’s a real pig, was jarring. The pig mask came from the framing narrative, where Bertie’s trying to give a banjo recital but has to tell a story instead. Jeeves is stage-managing the story-telling, and produces a pig mask that he found in the back of the theatre for Bertie to wear when he acts out breaking into Totleigh Towers and pretending to steal a bag of swag because… who cares. He wears the mask as a prop to tell the story. But, in the story that Bertie is telling, the other people see a man wearing a pig mask, and start talking about a chauvinist pig, a real pig, and hunting wild boar. If the pig mask came from the theatre, then it wasn’t used in the original fake burglary, so the people wouldn’t have seen a man wearing a mask, so they wouldn’t have been singing “It’s a Pig!”

      I get the feeling that Alan Ayckbourn didn’t really understand the source material, and wrote his own play, using some names from the original stories.

      As evidence of this, Bertie Wooster himself was wrong. He was far too competent and intelligent. Situations kept happening to him, rather than being caused by him. He’s not supposed to be a sensible man surrounded by useless people; he’s supposed to be one of those useless people, but lacking the self-awareness to see himself as such. He’s supposed to be just as useless as his friends Gussie Fink-Nottle and Bingo Little. But he didn’t feel like that in this play. (I also wonder if the actor playing him wasn’t a bit too old for the role. Bertie seems like a man in his mid-20s to early 30s, whereas the actor seemed about a decade older than this.) I may be influenced by the fact that I’ve recently started re-watching the ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ television series: I think Hugh Laurie [actor] and Clive Exton [writer] had a great take on the character of Bertie, while this play missed it entirely.

      Other wrong moments in the play include the song “Half a Moment” which was far too romantic and sincere for this play, and the song “It’s a Pig!” which added a tone of absurdity (as mentioned before). And the song “What Have You Got To Say, Jeeves” was totally misjudged. Bertie turns on Jeeves, and accuses him of incompetence. That’s out of character for Bertie; he always knew that Jeeves was the smart one.

      Ah, Jeeves. Poor Jeeves. He might be the title character in this play, but it doesn’t do him justice.

      For one thing, where are his sartorial judgements? A running joke in the stories is that Bertie wants to wear a particular item of clothing, Jeeves advises against it, and Bertie wears it anyway. After the action is over, and Jeeves saves the day, Bertie stops wearing the item. It’s an indirect way of him acknowledging Jeeves’ intelligence and apologising to Jeeves for not paying attention to his advice. That never got a mention in this play.

      Then we get to the ending. The denouement was wrong. So very very wrong.

      In the stories, Jeeves is subtle, even Machiavellian, in his manoeuvres. He solves problems by manipulating things and people quietly behind the scenes. He gets a letter delivered to the wrong person. He distracts someone with a new romantic interest. He plays on people’s character weaknesses. In this play, he spins a prop fountain to move Cyrus Budge into Bertie’s position. Not only does he break the fourth wall to implement his solution (in the story that Bertie is acting out, the fountain would have been real and not able to be spun), but that solution is very uncharacteristic of Jeeves.

      And that’s just the beginning of the bad ending. Suddenly, all three sets of star-crossed lovers couple up, without any resolution. They just... get together. They literally run across stage into each others' arms.

      And then… and then…

      … the replacement banjo arrives and the play goes totally off the rails.

      I have a feeling that Ayckbourn and Lloyd Webber thought they were creating the proverbial good strong finish, after which audiences would forgive them for butchering the Jeeves and Wooster stories. Instead, they were jumping up and down on the corpse of those stories.

      Jeeves gives Bertie a silent banjo and tricks him into thinking it’s playing music that everyone else can hear. Then Jeeves suggests a full chorus accompany Bertie – at which point the entire cast comes on stage wearing costumes from 'The Wizard of Oz'!

      This is just further evidence that Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber never really understood the nature of the material they were adapting. They put cheap laughs into a play that’s supposed to be a subtle satire on the wastrel upper class of the 1930s. Like I said before, the Jeeves and Wooster stories are a comedy of manners, rather than an open comedy. They’re subtle comedy, rather than broad comedy. You don’t laugh at a Wodehouse story, you smirk knowingly - or, at most, you chuckle quietly. And I don’t think the writers got that at all. They wrote this play to get laughs, rather than smirks.

      Also, the use of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is anachronistic. The Jeeves and Wooster stories are set firmly in the milieu of the 1920s and 1930s. In the framing narrative, everyone in the hall listening to Bertie is dressed in the fashions of the 1930s. However, the ‘Wizard of Oz’ movie wasn’t released until 1939. Yes, the books were published 30-40 years earlier, but the costumes used in this play are from the movie versions of the Oz characters. As the most obvious example, one person comes out dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West, complete with green make-up on her face, but the Wicked Witch did not have green skin in the orginal book: that only came from the movie.

      The ending is a shambolic climax to a play that didn’t know where it was going to begin with.

      Two minor notes to finish up with:

      • Someone needed to tell the actor playing Cyrus Budge how to pronounce his dialogue. It’s “stomach UPset”, not “stomach upSET” (that is, “upset” used as a noun, not an adjective). And “incandescence” might originally have been a French word, but it’s not pronounced in the French style.

      • It was a joy to see the actor who plays Paula in ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ as Honoria Glossop in this. She managed to upstage Bertie in the one scene she had with him, and it was a delight to watch.

      6 votes
    5. The 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Olga Tokarczuk, and the 2019 Prize to Peter Handke

      Short link. Probably more to follow. The Swedish Academy handed out two prizes this year, after they were forced to suspend the prize last year amid a metoo scandal which saw most of the Academy’s...

      Short link. Probably more to follow.

      The Swedish Academy handed out two prizes this year, after they were forced to suspend the prize last year amid a metoo scandal which saw most of the Academy’s members either resign voluntarily or be forced to resign. There’s been a lot of speculation about how they were going to restore their reputation this year, and they spent a long portion of the press conference explaining their new process, whereas in past years they haven’t felt compelled to do so.

      It was expected that at least one of the two prizes would go to a woman, with Margaret Atwood being one of the odds favorites (the bookmakers’ picks never win, so I don’t know whether we should put much stock in them, but they do reflect pre-award buzz). I’m not too familiar with either author, but it’s interesting that they chose Peter Handke. He’s one of Europe’s most controversial authors for his decades-long support of Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic’s actions during the Yugoslav Wars. He once compared Serbians to the Jews during WW2, visited Milosevic in prison when he was on trial for war crimes, and spoke at the man’s funeral. He’s also hailed as one of the greatest living German-language authors. It’s like the Academy decided to throw feminists a bone by awarding a woman the prize, but then couldn’t resist jumping headlong into controversy again right away.

      10 votes