So, what’s up for the hottest month? Not a hell of a lot.(Get it?) Never mind. So instead of roasting some turkeys( Hello, did someone mention “Old Aquaintance” at Roundabout?)…oops, I thought someone did. There’s not a lot to write about in August, except to look forward to the stuff to come this fall. We shouldn’t really mention how mediocre “Surface To Air” at Symphony Space was, even though director James Naughton did a terrific job breathing life into this awful, awfully written what-was-once-probably-a-teleplay-except-nobody-wanted-it sort of play that wasted a handful of truly fine actors and exposed the shortcomings of a few others. I would watch Lois Smith read the phone book (Hey, maybe she can do “Year Of Magical Thinking” when Encores revives it…sorry, a moment of silliness), but even Lois Smith had trouble breathing life into this stillborn effort. However, I must admit, the last 2 minutes of this play were OWNED by Smith as she made her last entrance smeared with her dead son’s remains…if I’ve lost you at this point, imagine how those of us in the audience felt.
The last performance of Disney’s “Beauty And The Beast” happened on July 29th, followed by a party at…well, I can’t say where, it wasn’t one of our restaurants…(Harry Cipriani’s on 42nd Street) The Lunt-Fontanne won’t be empty long, however, because another Disney musical, “The Little Mermaid” will start previews in October for a November opening, and what a cast this one has!! Broadway stalwarts all, including Norm Lewis,Eddie Korbich, Sherie Rene Scott, Sean Palmer, Tyler Maynard, and on and on…this Disney extravaganza has blockbuster writ large all over it. And the amazing Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatricals, is behind all of these screen to stage efforts. Let’s applaud his wherewithall..he’s keeping the Broadway musical ALIVE!
Speaking of “It’s Alive!”(oh, were we?), “Young Frankenstein” will also be opening this fall on Broadway. Allow me a few minutes to rant here. I was never a huge fan of “The Producers”, the musical. I thought the original movie was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. It was subversive, it was evil, it was waaaayyy ahead of its time. It had Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Dick Shawn, it even had William Hickey as a drunk in a bar! The musical had Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick(who was BRILLIANT as Leo Bloom), Roger Bart, Gary Beach…but most important, the musical had Susan Stroman. without her, it probably would never have been a mega-hit.As the director, Ms. Stroman made this piece crackle. Well, now comes “Young Frankenstein”. I remember seeing the movie during its original run at the Paramount, where Trump International Hotel And Tower sits now. I thought the movie was funny; not as funny as “Blazing Saddles”, not as funny as “The Producers”, but funny. The ending fell flat, but it had Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, and Cloris Leachman to keep things moving. I saw it again on cable recently, it’s still funny, but is it a 450 dollar a seat live on stage funny? Is anything THAT funny? I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of magic Susan Stroman, who will be directing, can work with the material, but did I just mention that $450 ticket price for prime seats in the orchestra? Who has that kind of money? Ah yes, big corporations who need to entertain out of town clients have that kind of money. I really have to wonder about the kind of thinking that shuts out the average theatregoer from prime seats to a new musical because it’s so important to recoup in as little time as possible. And I have to wonder, with all those $450 seats at every performance, are the actors sharing in that windfall, or are most of them getting scale? With all that money being spread around, I would certainly hope actors like Roger Bart, Sutton Foster, Megan Mullalley, Shuler Hensley, Andrea Martin and Chris Fitzgerald are getting their fair share of the pie, so to speak. There’s a huge pot of cash to be made, and I’d like to think it isn’t all going to Mel Brooks. Oh well, I can dream, can’t I? Rant over, and I thank you.
I’m looking forward to Kevin Chamberlin and Rosie Perez in “The Ritz” at Studio 54 in September. This play by Terrence McNally is still one of his best efforts, and with Joe Mantello directing, it should be a laugh riot. The original production appeared on Broadway in the 70’s, and starred Rita Moreno, Jerry Stiller and Jack Weston, and it’s about a garbageman from Queens, NY, who accidentally chooses a gay bathhouse to hide out in after his father-in-law puts a hit out on him. As you might imagine, complications ensue. Rita won a Tony as chanteuse Googie Gomez; Rosie Perez is an inspired choice for the role. Mr. Chamberlin is the natural successor to Jack Weston…Mr. Weston was the master of the slow burn…Kevin is one of my favorite actors, and his performance in “Dirty Blonde” several years ago still resonates as one of those great moments in theater! He will ROCK
Thank you all for reading…see you in September!