Tag Archives: City Center

The (T.V.) Guide Of Casting


It’s late July and the first whispers of Broadway’s 2013-2014 season can be heard. Unlike a sighting of back-to-school displays, this prematurity is welcome. Even if one loves the summer and is ensconced in a villa or beach hideaway, paradise can get a bit tedious. And if you’re of the school that there is never enough sand, seafood and sangria it’s nice to think of how you will assuage yourself once the leaves turn. And let’s face it, anticipation is more than half the fun.

If you’re a lover of (what I call) main stage Broadway and swoon at all things Llyod Weber, there’s almost always something to look forward. It’s also almost a sure bet that revival lovers will be happy. But what’s more of a gamble, and therefore a bit exciting, is news of new works, fabulous directors or stellar stage performers. Both camps of theatregoers; main stage and not-so-main stage often experience FOMO (fear of missing out) in extreme form. The line for the cronut is nothing compared to the virtual line for an “insert celebrity name here” show, jukebox musical, or made from TV, or film show. Nothing creates buzz like buzz, and most main stage shows have a marketing machine to beat the band. A quieter, no more attractive frenzy occurs over the not-so-main stage offerings as well. The bragging rights are comparable as well. In brownstones, penthouses and rent control classic sixes, you can hear any of the following; “Cumming’s Macbeth? We saw it before it went to Broadway. Of course Patti was great in Gypsy, but the Encores! production was quite different. You wanna see flying? You MUST see Peter and the Starcatcher.” (Somewhere in apartments we couldn’t afford or dare to enter there are similar conversations of theatre so obscure & avant-garde that knowing their titles is as good as seeing them.)

John Patrick Shanley (Doubt, Defiance), James Lapine (Sunday In The Park With George, Into The Woods), Doug Hughes (Inherit The Wind, Mauritius, A Man For All Seasons) will be collaborating in various configurations at The Manhattan Theatre Club. These names are guaranteed to perk the imagination of any theatre lover. The Manhattan Theatre Club often achieves a delicate balance of risk and sure thing. They produce new work and attract stellar performers. The new work is often very good and the performers are often well cast. (Hardly minor points!) It’s not surprising then that the casting for Mr. Shanley’s new play evoked in me a Scooby-Doo type response. The new work will star Brian O’Byrne (Doubt, Defiance, The Beauty Queen of Leenane) and Debra Messing (television star). Now there are plenty of accomplished stage actors who found fame in sitcoms, but (according to her resume) Ms. Messing doesn’t seem to be one of them. Acting on camera is an entirely different endeavor than acting on stage. (You can test this at home by pulling up the one live show of Will & Grace. While it is still edited it is raw enough to discern where each actor’s comfort zone lies.) This is not to suggest that people can’t surprise us in the most delightful way. I love nothing more than hearing the voice in my head shout; “Crikey, would you look at that! He/she is GOOD!” And (for the right price) I’m willing to give any performer (within reason) the benefit of the doubt. But this casting does have me wondering.

I would love to be a fly (or a less disgusting insect) on the wall during the creative meetings. I’d also love to eavesdrop on the editorial meetings in which celebrity opinion pieces are chosen over journalism. What can I say; I love to witness verbal jousting! I’m absolutely certain (she says while adjusting her rose colored glasses) that at least one person pipes up in these meetings; “Do we really need to go the celebrity route?” before being pelted with cronuts.

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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Media/Marketing


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Cotton Club Parade – Review

Last night I stepped into a magical way-back machine and found myself at The Cotton Club in the 1930s.  The Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club Parade is a phenomenal collaboration of Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) and City Center Encores.  These two organizations, on their own, produce some of the finest arts experiences in New York City.  Together, they have created an astounding evening.

The newly renovated N.Y. City Center was a packed house dotted with celebrities and what appeared to be audience members from the actual Cotton Club’s opening night.  The crowd’s reaction was equal parts stunned silence and pounding ovation.  Warren Carlyle directed the evening, with an old fashioned show biz sensibility.  Two dozen numbers were performed by the Wynton Marsalis Orchestra and a powerhouse cast of singers and dancers.  Lighting and one portable set of five steps were the only devices in play.  The voices were pure and perfect and the dancing was simply not to be believed.  I relished my fourth row view of tap dancing feet, which reinforced that yes, these men really were defying the laws of physics.

All the numbers had Mr. Ellington’s fingerprints on them (either through composition or arrangement) and some were recognizable classics.  Even more enjoyable however, were the new (to my ears) numbers that rarely receive play anymore.  The interplay between orchestra, singers and dancers was lovely and organic.  I was at times reminded of the show Black and Blue (1989) a revue of the music of Paris in the 1930s.  From the very first note, I longed to be seated at a cabaret table sipping champagne.  My feet tapped the rhythm uncontrollably and my fingers drummed the melody as I itched to bound onto a dance floor.

Like all Encores productions, Cotton Club Parade has a very limited run.  There is a bitter-sweetness about seeing this production.  It is a jarring reminder that excellent theatrical experiences can be created, if people so chose.  Shows with nary a gimmick, a video projection, an engineered voice or a television personality can sell out and be enthusiastically received.  I do hope that this JALC and Encores collaboration is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


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