Category Archives: Theatre

…And If Opera Isn’t Your Thing, How about High School Musicals?

The Metropolitan Opera isn’t the only great musical institution that has been shut down by this rotten virus. The pandemic hit the US just as high schools around the country were preparing to stage their Spring musicals. The resulting cancellations have broken the hearts of thousands of drama club kids who have worked for months on what should have been one of their happiest and most memorable high school experiences.

Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti* did something to make things a little better.

The response was huge. You can watch some of the videos and read encouraging tweets from dozens of theatre people on her Twitter feed. You’ll find even more snippets at #SunshineSongs.

Nicely done, Ms Benanti!


*She also won the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. Twice. Each.

If you haven’t seen her on stage, you probably know her from her spot-on imitation of Melania Trump on late-night TV.

Peter Pan and Wendy at the Shakespeare Theatre in DC

This is the last weekend to catch Peter Pan and Wendy at the Shakespeare Theatre here in Washington, but tickets are still available for all remaining performances.

This being the 21st century, the show is notable for its non-traditional casting. Not only is Tinkerbell played by an actress, rather than by the usual flashlight beam or laser pointer, but Nana the dog is actually played by a dog, instead of by a man in a dog suit! Peter Pan and Wendy are given equal billing in the title. Most transgressive of all, Peter Pan is played by a young male, instead of by a mature lady!  Pretty woke, eh?

Here are some images from the show’s website:

The Darling Children's Bedroom

The Darling Children’s Bedroom

Pirates!

Pirates!

Yes, Pirates! And smart pirates, too. Not a one of them is smiling at that crocodile.

The Pirate Ship

The Pirate Ship

Tinkerbell

Tinkerbell

Wendy and Peter

Wendy and Peter


A Memorable Performance

Peter Pan has been performed on stage for more than a hundred years, but only rarely has a production been more memorable than the one that has become known as the “Greenport (Long Island) High School Peter Pan Fiasco of 2007”.

And cheers to the young cast, who kept their heads through all the chaos, knowing that The Show Must Go On.


Playing Peter Pan

In the Elizabethan Age, women were barred by law from appearing on stage, and female roles were played by men. In theatrical versions of Peter Pan, on the other hand, the role of Peter Pan, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, was traditionally played by a mature woman.

Some examples:

Jean Arthur was almost 50 years old when she played the role in the1950 Broadway production, and she was such a brilliant actress that she made it work. The show had music by Leonard Bernstein, and Boris Karloff playing the Captain Hook/George Darling roles

Mary Martin, 41, won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in the 1954 Broadway version. After the show had closed, the cast reunited for a live broadcast of the production on NBC TV. It attracted 65 million viewers, which, at the time, was the biggest audience ever for a TV show.

Cathy Rigby was only 20 when she first played the role in 1974, but she starred in the musical’s 1990 Broadway revival, and then toured the show. She played Peter Pan into her 60s, retiring in 2013.

Adam Rippon + Joni Mitchell + Ben Platt = Serene Beauty in an Ugly Time

Olympian  Adam Rippon turned 30 on Monday, and flipped the usual tradition on its head by giving a present to everyone else. You don’t get to be “America’s Sweetheart”, as he once described himself, without occasionally doing something really wonderful.

“Today is my 30th birthday. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything and everyone in my life. Thank you for always sending love and positive energy my way. I hope I’m always able to do the same for you.”

He skated to a cover version of “River”, by Joni Mitchell, one of the indisputably greatest singer-songwriters of the 20th century.  The song’s lyrics made it a perfect choice.

This version of “River” was sung by Ben Platt, Evan Hansen himself, who won the Tony and pretty much every other Best Actor in a Musical award, for his 2017 performance in Dear Evan Hansen.


So there it is. No theatrics, no dazzle, just a simple little performance bringing together the works of three masters of their arts to create something beautiful.

Gwendoline Christie in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Live from London

Gwendoline Christie as Titiana in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Gwendoline Christie as Titiana in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

National Theatre Live, which brings the best of British theatre to movie screens around the world, will broadcast a live performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to cinemas on Thursday, 17 October 2019. The Bridge Theatre’s immersive, gender-bending staging of the play has won near-universal raves.

Playing Titiana is Brienne of Tarth herself, Gwendoline Christie.

Check here to see if this production is playing near you, and to buy tickets. The live version is one night only, but many sites are offering encore screenings.


Bonus

As she tends to do, Christie absolutely rocks a red carpet appearance.

The Cats Trailer We Need. The Cats Trailer We Deserve

When the grotesque trailer for the movie version of Cats was released a few weeks ago, the reaction was near-universal horror. Remember that scene in The Producers when the theatre audience responds to the first song from the musical Springtime for Hitler with stunned disbelief? It was like that.

For anyone who has (understandably) suppressed their, uh, memories of the disaster, here it is again:

YouTube to the rescue. A YouTuber mashed up shots from the trailer with clips from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, and has given us a trailer for Stephen King’s Cats:

Vast improvement, isn’t it?

King himself has tweeted his approval.

North Bergen High School’s Alien. The Story Just Keeps Getting Better

Remember the North Bergen (New Jersey) High School production of Alien that went viral last month? After audience members posted a few key scenes from the play to YouTube, it was praised by everyone from Phil Murphy, the Governor of New Jersey, to Ridley Scott, director of the original film, and Sigourney Weaver, who starred as Ripley in the Aliens movies. Scott was so impressed that he donated $5,000 so that the North Bergen kids could stage it again for a limited run. The encore production opened Friday night.

Guess who showed up to surprise the cast and crew, and to introduce the performance.


Redditor Gato1980 posted this video of Friday’s full performance:

Gato1980 also posted the timestamps for key scenes: The Face-hugger scene is at 29:00, the Chest-burster scene is at 48:30, the alien reveal is at 54:08, the alien attack scene is at 1:10:45, and Sigourney outro is at 1:24:50.

Beach Blanket Babylon Closing in San Francisco After a 45-Year Run

Those hats! Those huge, wonderful, silly hats, each larger than the last.

Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest-running musical review, is as much a part of the San Francisco mythos as cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and beautifully painted Victorian houses. But after 45 years and 17,216 performances, the show will close with 2019’s New Year’s Eve finale.

The ever-evolving show uses modified lyrics from popular songs to poke mildly racy fun at celebrities and politicians, many of whom, like Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in the picture below, turn up in the audience sooner or later. (Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had already seen an abbreviated performance of the review in 1983.)

The show could probably have run forever, since it had become a sure-fire way for San Franciscans to entertain out-of-town visitors.

Every performance ended with the audience joining the cast in singing a rousing and joyous rendition of “San Francisco”—the real, Jeanette MacDonald “San Francisco”, from the 1936 movie of the same name.


New Year’s Eve at Beach Blanket Babylon

The Beach Blanket Babylon website has an excellent collection of pictures from the show, including one gallery dedicated exclusively to those giant hats. It also includes videos of selections from the show’s New Year’s Eve performances. Here’s the one from 2018:

(All photos found on the Web.)