Singing Boxers and Epic Montages: Bringing Beloved Films to Broadway

Officially announced yesterday: ROCKY’s coming to the Great White Way.

Yes, everyone’s favorite “little boxer that could” is getting his chance to belt it out.

Skeptical? No need. The production got rave reviews over in Germany on its first tryout of the material. Features music from Ahrens and Flaherty (Ragtime, The Glorious Ones, Once on this Island) and what appears to be pretty thrilling direction from Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). 

How do you think Rocky will fare?

Join Along for the Road Trip

“Americans have always been eager for travel, that being how they got to the New World in the first place.”
– Otto Friedrich

Thrilled to be working on See Rock City and Other Destinations, a musical travelogue that tells the stories of folks across the U. S. of A. This show is made up of a set of short vignettes, small American plays that attempt to answer the questions of what are we seeking and what holds us back from realizing the things we want. It’s told through story songs and feels akin to a particularly good episode of This American Life on NPR.

Today we’ve started our Meet Rock City series to allow folks to meet the cast and wanted to share the fun with all y’all.

MeetRockCity(click to visit)

These folks are an incredibly talented bunch that are telling these honest stories in some inspiring ways. And while the show keeps up the pace with its humor, the takeaway seems to make us question our basic anxieties or fears – of connecting, of missing out, of seeking, of believing or no longer being able to believe.

Welcome to the journey. Glad to have you along for the ride.

The Eyes Have It

“No one can lie, no one can hide anything, when he looks directly into someone’s eyes.”
– Paulo Coelho 

Can you identify these posters by their eyes alone? Many iconic shows have taken to marketing themselves through a glimpse into the eyes of some of their shows’ central figures. A quick glance is all it takes to offer a memorable portrait of what lies ahead for the audience.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 

Red is Not Just Red – It’s Not That Simple

ROTHKO: What does ‘red’ mean to me? You mean scarlet? You mean crimson? You mean plum-mulberry-magenta-burgundy-salmon-carmine-carnelian-coral? Anything but ‘red’! What is ‘RED’?

KEN: Sunrise is red and red is sunrise… Red is a heart beat. Red is passion. Red wine. Red roses. Red lipstick. Beets. Tulips. Peppers.
ROTHKO: Arterial blood.
KEN: That too.
ROTHKO: Rust on the bike on the lawn.
KEN: And apples…And tomatoes.
ROTHKO: Dresden firestorm at night. The sun in Rousseau, the flag in Delacroix, the robe in El Greco.
KEN: A rabbit’s nose. An albino’s eye. A parakeet.
ROTHKO: Florentine marble. Atomic flash. Nick yourself shaving, blood in the Barbasol.
KEN: The Ruby Slippers. Technicolor. That phone to the Kremlin on the President’s desk.
ROTHKO: Russian flag, Nazi flag, Chinese flag.
KEN: Persimmons. Pomegranates. Red Light District. Red tape. Rouge.
ROTHKO: Lava. Lobsters. Scorpions.
KEN: Stop sign. Sports car. A blush.
ROTHKO: Viscera. Flame. Dead Fauvists.
KEN: Traffic lights. Titian hair.
ROTHKO: Slash your wrists. Blood in the sink.
KEN: Santa Claus.
ROTHKO: Satan.

ROTHKO: So…red.

Inspired by one reader’s astute observation regarding yesterday’s post, I thought it would be worthwhile to share one of my favorite moments from the recent Tony Winner for Best Play, Red. This passage comments on the specificity required of an artist. How a single color can mean a hundred things to one person and just one to another. But through finite definition we give a piece exactly what it requires. To paint only in broad strokes, whether it be in terms of vocabulary of whatever your artistic medium may be, results in messy work.

Reasons Why Alan Cumming is Winning at Life

And now in a little homage to the winner of “People I’d Most Like to Be Best Friends With,” may I present Mr. Alan Cumming. Endlessly versatile and extremely talented, this man has turned his life into a work of art. Curious as to why he’s won the title? Check out just a few of the reasons below.

He’s not afraid to wear:




 Or this (lil bit NSFW).

This Letter to a younger version of himself.  

He was Loki first (so what if it was in the otherwise terrible Son of the Mask?)

He’s not afraid to laugh at himself. 

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Awards They Should Have Given to the Tony Awards

An awesome evening punctuated by clever original songs sung by Neil Patrick Harris, mostly solid live performances from the shows, and some surprising wins for the young actors that usually have to defer to their more experienced (read: older) counterparts. Personally, I was thrilled that Christian Borle, Steve Kazee, and James Corden received nods for their impeccable work this season.

After the ceremony though, I couldn’t help but to feel like some additional accolades were necessary to crown the most heartwarming, awkward, and ridiculous moments in the telecast. And the award goes to…

Speech most likely to make you cry:  Steve Kazee

Best reaction to not winning in his category: James Earl Jones

Watching James Earl Jones’ face slowly turn from a calm smile into the masterpiece above was definitely award-worthy. This face was the result of Mr. Jones realizing that the “James” named Best Leading Male in a Play was James Corden ( One Man, Two Guvnors), not him.

Best random cameo: Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Neil Patrick Harris’  understudy

The Tony Awards opening number was a tongue-and-cheek and star-packed tribute that pondered the question “what if life was more like theatre?” As soon as NPH sang a lyric about calling your understudy on those days you’re feeling under the weather, JTFerg joined him in a matching outfit ready to take over as Tony host. Perfect, hilarious casting.

The “Why, God, Why” Award: A cruiseship company’s 10 minute long endorsement of their new theatre-on-the-sea ships

Harvey Fierstein tried his hardest, but you could see in his eyes that this was a tough sell. This trainwreck of a moment brought the show to a standstill and featured a cruise ship theatre with a bevy of empty seats. Great example of captivating those seafaring audiences, guys.

Most surprisingly un-diva-esque behavior from a Broadway Diva: Patti LuPone

Never thought we’d see the day that Patti would be okay at laughing at herself a little and playing along with others. In addition to strutting around with a lawnmower in the opening number, she gracefully duetted with Mandy Patinkin (without orchestral accompaniment!), singing a few lines before announcing an award. Bravo Patti.

Image Sources: 1 & 2

Neverland Never Gets Old

I love reinventions of classic stories – provided that the new piece enhances the original work rather than mar any memories of it. After a much-talked-about off-Broadway run, Peter and the Starcatcher is one such example. And it’s taking Broadway by storm. This production, aided by the brilliant direction of Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), explores the story of how Peter Pan became the boy as we know him. This show is another one that’s on my wish-list.

Take a look how the director utilizes minimal props and set to create an imaginative atmosphere – one formed mainly by characters doubling as seven roles or so, from monsters to pirates to trees, in order to create the world of Neverland.

Always nourish the child inside of you. It is the source of joy, creativity, and faith.  Shows such as this one are made possible by enabling that young spirit that lives in us all. When you, with childlike fervor, believe there are no limitations to what you can do, obstacles always become a little less daunting. Avenge those pirates and avast ye mateys!

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

The Hipsters Are Coming, The Hipsters Are Coming! How Repackaging Broadway May Be Its Saving Grace

Is this the new face of Broadway marketing? If so, I don’t mind a bit. Faux faded images, main characters walking the street, everyone donning enviable indie-wear – all the makings of a hipster-approved production. And it’s about time we look for ways to show that the Great White Way isn’t only for older and financially privileged audiences.

These gorgeous shots from the new musical Once can be used to entice an entirely different crowd. And if Broadway wants to survive over the next 100 years, that is exactly what it needs to do. Attract younger audiences – they have the power of social media on their side and if they like a piece, they make it known. The generation’s habit of oversharing will be free marketing for the show, and give it the chance to survive in the high-stakes theatrical market.

Of course this photography is informed by the source material, the breakout indie hit with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and aims to create that same honest and raw feeling as the film.  Now that story gets to come to life in a completely new way on stage.

And as much as I’m not a fan of the “hey-that-was-a-movie-let’s-turn-it-into-a-musical” trend, I have to admit that these images have been nudging me to get to New York and check out the show.

“Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ll make it now”

All of these beautiful instagram-esque images from the musical’s official site.

When Brecht Met Streep

Don’t you love when material that is decades old still holds up, and rings as true as the day it was first introduced to the world? This little moment comes from the Delacourte Theater’s production of Mother Courage and Her Children in 2006. Meryl Streep plays Mother Courage in this show, one of nine plays that Brecht wrote in an attempt to counter the rise of Fascism and Nazism.  Mother Courage is considered to be one of the greatest anti-war plays of all time and its message is one that still holds up today.

The song you will hear is Jeanine Tesori’s reworking of Bretcht’s words. She worked with each of the actors and composed for them specifically with their voices and performance styles in mind.

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Take Me Out to the Theatre

So Polyvore’s been around for a good long time now, and it’s proved itself to be one of the most entertaining ways to dabble with would-be fashion ideas. This post is a take on the threads you could wear for show-hopping some of the memorable musicals currently playing on the Great White Way.

Anything Goes
Anything Goes: Show off more than a glimpse of stocking with this little number.
Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon: The picture perfect outfit for proselytizing…or taking in the most talked about show of recent history. 
How to Succeed (In Business Without Really Trying)
How to Succeed (In Business Without Really Trying): You have the cool, clear/ Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;/ Yet there’s that upturned chin/ And that grin of impetuous youth. 
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Priscilla Queen of the Desert: Dare to be fabulous.
Sister Act
Sister Act: Raise your voice…and your height by at least 5 inches in those heels.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: The perfect outfit to watch the boy fall from the sky…Literally, he may end up in your lap. The audience has been warned.
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Some Things Get Better with Age

I can begin to explain how much I am obsessed with this video. Came across it recently and I honestly have no idea how a song that features Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett rapping about how they “still got it” doesn’t have a million and one views.

Get ready to see these ladies of the stage show off their best moves. Instead of some older female stars who try to dress decades younger than their age and pretend like the years haven’t flown by, these amazing women poke fun at growing older and what it really means to be a sexy mama.

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World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Czech Republic

Next up in the series on theatre trends from around the globe is the Czech Republic – specifically Prague.

I’ll never forget walking down the streets of the city and being taken aback when I thought I stumbled on an incredibly racist form of theatre.

Turns out all the signs I had been seeing for “Black Theatre” weren’t advertising some sort of event to rival the old World Fairs of the 1800s. “Black Theatre” is shorthand for “Black Light Theatre,” a theatrical style for which Prague has become famous.
Black Light Theatre performances are characterized by their use of a small black box theatre and…wait for it…black lights. That’s right ladies and gents: theatrical productions specifically done using glow-in-the-dark suits and black lights. In addition to the small, darkened stage, fluorescent costumes and fantastically flattering UV light, the technique is noted for its expressive artistry of dance, mime and acrobatics.

Little known fact: this form of theatre originated from Asia and can be found in a number of places around the world. It’s just become a specialty of Prague nowadays.

Now true story – when I was traveling through Prague with a friend of mine about four years ago, we passed by a small sign advertising “CATS- THE MUSICAL – BLACK THEATRE.” All in caps. Just like that. The sheer lack of subtlety (and my general intrigue as to how they were possibly going to pull off one of the world’s most tech-heavy shows in a theatre that could not have been bigger than a 7-11) led me to force my friend to buy a ticket with me so we could return to the theatre that evening to check it out.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried-laughed so much during a show in my entire life. Easily 90% of the show was meowing sounds and squiggly arm choreo. An ensemble of six lovingly butchered every memory I had of the musical prior to this performance. Each song was a variation of Webber’s version: sped up, melodies slightly altered, and accompanied by a blaring MIDI track that I’m pretty sure had been used since the show had first reached commercial fame in the early ’90s. The ladies wore white unitards that glowed brilliantly as they followed around the main “Tom Cat.”  A little taste of the lyrical genius: “Prague is the city of love/ and the end is full of dreams/ not to be a cat is unheard of!”

Now, I don’t know if we caught a show in one of the off-the-beaten-track theatres or what, but the historic tradition of beautiful “dance, mime and acrobatics” didn’t make it into this production. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the show.  I loved it. It was able to transcend its horrendous beginnings and reach that sort of  mystic level, when something gets so terribad you literally can’t look away. All you can do is declare it the best show you’ve ever seen. In a “Black Theatre.” In Prague.

Perhaps the “Tom Cat” said it best, when he closed the show with the line “Ladies and Gentlemen, there haven’t been any better show!”

Image Credit: J. Randall. More of his stuff here

The Best Onstage Cameo of All Time

In the midst of all the SOPA and Protect IP madness, I figured I would share a lil’ video pick-me-up to help you manage with the otherwise harrowing news about the future of the interwebs.

Ellen DeGeneres makes her Broadway debut in the most recent revival of Promises, Promises. While this was her first time on the Great White Way, I hope it’s not her last.