Carly White

About Carly White

Carly graduated University Of Toronto, Theatre and Performance program. She has written for various publications including art-speaks, Pembroke Daily Observer, Toronto Star - Performing Arts Section, The Canadian Post and more recently the Village Voice and the New York Daily News. As a member As a member of the Barrow Group, her specialties include performance stage production and talent casting.

The Triple Crown At The TONY Awards®

The term “Triple Crown” is often used to describe the winning of three significant top honors in a given competition – for example, horse racing, motor racing, wrestling, and many other sports use this term to denote a particular string of accomplishments.  In the world of entertainment, this term is most commonly employed when referring to the “Triple Crown of Acting.”  This is a variant of the EGOT (one who has earned at least one each of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards), ascribed to those individuals who have won a singular (non-group/ensemble) Acting award in each of the Emmy, Oscar, and Tony Awards.

Over the course of history, only sevetriple crownnteen individuals have earned this prestigious title.  Those are: Jack Albertson, Anne Bancroft, Ingrid Bergman, Shirley Booth, Ellen Burstyn, Melvyn Douglas, Jeremy Irons, Thomas Mitchell, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Scofield, Maggie Smith, Maureen Stapleton, and Jessica Tandy.  In 1953, Thomas Mitchell became the first of these honorees, and in 2012, Christopher Plummer became the most recent to join their ranks.  Plummer also has the honor of being the oldest to do so, at age 82 with his Oscar win for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Beginners.

A theatre-specific, and also quite timely, version of the term “Triple Crown” is also sometimes utilized: that is, the “Tony Triple Crown.”  Referring to those musicals that win the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book, this Triple Crown truly shows far and wide appreciation from the Tony voters.  The most recent musical to earn this honor was, surprise surprise, The Book of Mormon, which earned all three honors in 2011.  Other titles to achieve this include Memphis (2010), Spring Awakening (2007), Avenue Q (2004), Hairspray (2003),and The Producers (2001).

Many musicals come close but not all the way.  In 2012, Once won the Award for Best Musical and Best Book, but not Best Score.  The same happened with Billy Elliot in 2009.  Last year, in 2013, Kinky Boots won for Best Musical and Best Score (with Cyndi Lauper becoming the first woman ever to win this award), but it did not win for Best Book.  The same occurred with In the Heights in 2008.  In 2002, Thoroughly Modern Millie won for Best Musical, but it earned neither award for Score or Book, though it did win for Best Actress for Sutton Foster, as well as Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.

This year, the four nominees for Best Musical are After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and A Gentleman’s Guide a gentleman's guide to love and murder a new musical comedyto Love and Murder.  Of these, only A Gentleman’s Guide and Aladdin have the potential to earn the title of Triple Crown.  After Midnight was not nominated for Best Score or Best Book, which makes one wonder what the Tony committee was thinking in nominating it for Best Musical.  Beautiful was nominated for Best Musical and Best Book, but not Best Score, but it was not eligible as the score was created prior to the conception of the show.  As A Gentleman’s Guide is leading the pack with ten nominations overall, it appears to be the best contender, if any, for this prestigious honor in 2014.

Barbara Walters Says Farewell to “The View”

Barbara Walters Winds Down Her Television Career

On May 13, 2013, Barbara Walters announced that she would be retiring from appearing on television in approximately one year.  As promised, her final appearance as co-host on The View occurred on May 16, 2014.  Her retirement comes after a long and successful career as a television journalist, and her decision to retire, she said, was purely her own.  She remains on a co-executive producer of The View along with Bill Geddie, and will continue to do so as long as the show is on the air.  Presently, the remaining hosts of The View are Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, and Jenny McCarthy.  In total, there have been eleven co-hosts of the show since its inception in 1997, and all of them appeared to celebrate Barbara Walters on the show the day before her retirement.

barbara waltersWalters’ Career Trajectory

Walters has been a co-host and contributor to ABC News since 1976.  Prior to that, she had worked as a writer and research for NBC’s The Today Show since 1961, soon becoming that show’s regular “Today Girl.”  She effectively became co-host of The Today Show within a year after that, but the show’s male host Frank McGee refused to allow her equal responsibilities.  She was finally named co-host in 1974, but soon left for ABC.  At ABC, she first served as an anchor for ABC Evening News for two years, and she became a co-host of the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 in 1979.  She became known for her “personality journalism” and “scoop interviews,” and her access to public figures soon became unparalleled.  She crossed the Bay of Pigs with Fidel Castro, and she asked Vladimir Putin outright if he had ever ordered anyone to be killed; his answer was no.

Her Health and Personal Life

At age 84, Barbara Walters is in admirable health.  In May 2010, she took a leave from The View to undergo open heart surgery, but she returned to work in September.  As for her personal life, she has been married four times to three different men, because she divorced and then remarried her most recent husband, Merv Adelson.  Her first marriage was annulled in under a year, and her second marriage – to theatre producer and theatre own Lee Guber – resulted in her only child, an adopted daughter named Jacqueline Dena Guber (born 1968).  Upon her retirement, she does not plan to climb another mountain or appear on another program; rather, she said, she wants to sit on a sunny field and admire the gifted women who will be taking her place.

Walters’ Legacy

Walters leaves an extraordinary legacy, particularly for young women aspiring to work in the television field.  She was inducted barbara walters whoopi goldberg sherri shepherd jenny mccarthy the viewinto the Television Hall of Fame in 1989, and she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.  She has also received numerous awards, including several Daytime and Prime Time Emmy Awards, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Women’s Agenda.  She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, presented at Lincoln Center.  Amongst her honors, many have been awarded for The View, including the 2003 Daytime Emmy Award for Best Talk Show, as well as the 2009 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host.  The View will perhaps be her most lasting and personal legacy.

Extraordinary Final Ratings

Her retirement may have been spurred by a lack of recognition of her achievements by young people, who no longer know who she is.  Like anyone getting on in age, eventually her relevance will fade, as will the advertisers’ interest in her programs.  However, the ratings for her final on-air week on The View reached a three year high.  4.1 million viewers tuned in to see Barbara Walters in her final week, and for the demographic of 18 to 49 year-old women, the week earned a one and a half year high, reaching 648,000 viewers in that group.  Still, the crowd did skew older, with 830,000 women aged 25-54 but only 204,000 of them aged 18-34; nevertheless, those numbers both reached one year highs.

Who Will Her Successor Be?

It is not yet certain who will replace Walters on The View.  Five ideas that have circulated in the press include Robin Roberts, Rachel Maddow, Megyn Kelly, Ellen DeGeneres, or Katie Couric.  Some even suggest that the seat could be filled by a man.  After all, no one could really take her place.

Annette Bening joins John Lithgow in “King Lear”

The Storied Past of Shakespeare in the Park

Ever since 1961, when theatrical impresario Joseph Papp famously convinced New York City parks commissioner Robert Moses to build an outdoor amphitheater in Central Park, the Public Theater has produced the annual New York Shakespeare Festival, also known as Shakespeare in the Park, at the Delacorte Theatre.  Renowned for its unusual combination of free tickets for all, as well as highly acclaimed productions often starring household names, this outdoor festival is a rare treat for New York theatregoers.  This year, the Festival has two productions: Much Ado about Nothing and King Lear.  Though the Festival does not always feature exclusively Shakespeare, it generally has two productions in the series, and this year they are both by the Bard.  The last time that King Lear was a production of this Festival was in 1973.  Much Ado about Nothing, on the other hand, has been staged at the Delacorte three times before, most recently in 2004.

shakespeare in the park delacorte theatreJohn Lithgow Headlines King Lear

It was announced several weeks ago that King Lear, which begins performances on July 22, 2014 and runs until August 17, 2014, will star John Lithgow in the title role.  Lithgow was last seen in Shakespeare in the Park in 1975, when he played Laertes in Hamlet.  He is also well known for his work on television shows such as 3rd Rock from the Sun and Dexter, andhisfilm performances in such movies as Shrek, The World According to Garp, and Terms of Endearment.  Furthermore, he has been seen on Broadway in plays including The Columnist, M. Butterfly, Requiem for a Heavyweight, and the 2008 revival of All My Sons.  At the same time as this lead casting announcement, it was publicized that King Lear will be directed by Daniel Sullivan, who has overseen several productions at Shakespeare in the Park including The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice, as well as Broadway shows such as Glengarry Glen Ross and The Snow Geese.

Annette Bening Joins The Cast

Recently, an exciting piece of casting news was announced for King Lear.  Annette Bening, who was last seen on Broadway in annette bening1987 in Coastal Disturbances, will play Lear’s eldest daughter Goneril.  Bening has been nominated for four Academy Awards: for her roles in The Grifters, Being Julia, American Beauty, and The Kids Are All Right.  She has also won Golden Globe Awards for her performances in Being Julia and The Kids Are All Right.  Though she has not been since on the New York stage in over 20 years, her career originated in the theatre.  She studied at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where she played roles including Lady Macbeth.  She also has been seen onstage at the Denver Center Theatre Company, and she has recently performed at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse.  She also received a Tony Award nomination for her role in the Broadway production of Coastal Disturbances.  The other two sisters in King Lear will be played by Jessica Hecht (Regan) and Jessica Collins (Cordelia).

King Lear Follows Much Ado About Nothing in Park Season

As for the first of the two productions in Shakespeare in the Park – Much Ado about Nothing – it will star Lily Rabe as Beatrice and Hamish Linklater as Benedick, and it will be directed by Jack O’Brien (The Nance, The Coast of Utopia, Macbeth).  Much Ado about Nothing will begin performances at the Delacorte on June 3, 2014 and will run for five weeks.

Broadway Fall 2014 Line-Up Falling into Place

This fall looks to be an exciting one on Broadway!  Let’s face it – every new season is pretty exciting.  But with the Tony Awards still a month away to commend the brilliant plays and musicals of the 2013-2014 season, announcements are already being made for shows to open next fall.

It was recently announced that Hugh Jackman will be returning to Broadway this fall in Jez Butterworth’s play The River.  Jez Butterworth’s work was last seen on Broadway with the 2011 production of Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance, directed by Ian Rickson, and prohugh jackmanduced by London-based powerhouse theatre production company Sonia Friedman Productions.  Sonia Friedman will be shepherding a Butterworth play once again, after having watched over its production at the Royal Court Theatre, where Jerusalem also premiered.  The partnership between Ian Rickson and Jez Butterworth also holds strong, as Rickson is on board to direct this play.  The River is about a loner on a remote island and the two women in his life, who will be played by British actresses Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo.  The River will begin performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre on October 31, 2014.  A favorite of the Great White Way, Hugh Jackman sold out his 2011 one-man show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, and he will host the Tony Awards this year for the fourth time.

In addition to the proven partnership between director Ian Rickson and playwright Jez Butterworth, another fall show will see the recurrence of a proven Broadway partnership, this time between two beloved actors.  Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who famously co-starred in 2001’s The Producers, will join forces this fall for a Terrence McNally play called It’s Only a Play, directed by Jack O’Brien.  Like The Producers, It’s Only a Play is also a comedy based in the world of show biz.  Having premiered at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1986, It’s Only a Play is the story of a nervous playwright (Broderick) at the opening night party for a play he has written, and his interactions with his backstabbing friend (Lane).  Produced by Tom Kirdahy, who is married to Terrence McNally, the play will begin performances in September at a theatre yet to be announced.

Producer Scott Rudin also has a starry play up his sleeve for this fall.  This Is Our Youth, written by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret, The Starry Messenger) first premiemichael cera kieran culkinred Off-Broadway in a production by The New Group in 1996.  The play centers on three aimless teenagers in New York City, and this Broadway production will star Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson.  Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (Motherf**ker with the Hat), the show will have an out-of-town pre-Broadway run at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago over the summer, and it will then transfer to Broadway’s Cort Theatre with performances beginning August 18, 2014.  Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin also appeared in their same roles in an Australian production of this play in 2012, directed by Mark Brokaw.

Further fall productions that have been announced include Simon Stephens’ play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is a transfer from London’s National Theatre via the West End.  The play will occupy the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with previews beginning September 15, 2014.  In addition, The Country House by Donald Margulies will star Blythe Danner at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, with previews beginning September 9, 2014 in a Manhattan Theatre Club production.  Finally, it has also been announced that a production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing will play at the American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, and Cynthia Nixon, and directed by Sam Gold.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as many more exciting shows are sure to be announced for the Broadway fall season in the coming months.

“Bullets Over Broadway” Opens at the St. James Theatre

Bullets over Broadway, the new musical based off the 1994 film of the same name, opened on April 10, 2014 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre.  With a book by Woody Allen based on the screenplay he wrote along with Douglas McGrath, the musical is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.  The story is a fitting one for Broadway, as it tells of a young playwright in 1929 named David Shayne who is desperately trying to get his first Broadway production.  In order to secure financing for the play, he agrees to hire the girlfriend of a gangster, in exchange for that gangster backing the production.  The actress’ gangster escort turns out to be a genius contributor to revising the play, but soon David is pretending that those ideas are his own.  Bad turns to worse, as David begins cheating on his girlfriend with the alcoholic leading lady, and the leading man, who is also a compulsive eater, begins to eye the gangster’s girlfriend.

The cast is led by actor-writer Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs) as David Shayne.  Though this is Braff’s Broadway debut, he is a familiar face on the Off-Broadway scene, not only as an actor but also as playwright; his play All New People played at New York’s Second Stage Theatre in 2011.  The cast bullets over broadway the musicalof Bullets over Broadway also includes Marin Mazzie as the leading lady Helen Sinclair, Helene Yorke as the gangster’s girlfriend Olive, and Nick Cordero as her escort Cheech.  Of all these actors, however, only Nick Cordero received a Tony nomination, for the category of Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

In total, the musical received six Tony Award nominations, also including those for Best Book of a Musical for Woody Allen, Best Scenic Design for Santo Loquasto, Best Costume Design for William Ivey Long, Best Choreography for Susan Stroman, and Best Orchestrations for Doug Besterman.  This may be considered a disappointment compared to what some theatre industry watchers were expecting, as the musical failed to be nominated in any of the major categories, such as Best New Musical, Best Director, or Best Score.  Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Woody Allen, for his first ever Tony nomination, will be competing against Douglas McGrath, who wrote the book for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Bullets over Broadway.

However, the biggest disappointment is that the musical received fairly negative reviews.  Ben Brantley of The New York Times called it “occasionally funny but mostly just loud.”  Ending his review on a perhaps prophetic note, Brantley then suggested that the authenticity-seeking Cheech take over direction of the musical, and the Tony nominating committee seemed to agrbullets over broadway dance numberee that this performance was one of the best things going for the show.  Furthermore, Marilyn Stasio of Variety remarked how the script was surprisingly few on laughs, and that several of the big dance numbers fall flat, most notably “The Hot Dog Song.”  The Hollywood Reporter also disliked the show, comparing it to a “watered-down champagne cocktail.”  Only NBC New York seemed to like it, even going so far as to call it the best new musical on Broadway this season.  Too bad the Tony committee did not agree.

Financially, the show has been staying afloat, if not exceedingly well.  In the week ending April 27, 2014, it grossed $956,227, and it did even a little bit better in the week preceding that.  In the first few weeks of performances, it did numbers in the 700 to 800,000 dollar range, which is still fairly decent.  Its audience capacity has been flitting between 86 to 92 percent, with an average ticket price around 70 or 80 dollars, which shows a normal amount of discounting for a show still trying to hit its stride.  All in all, the name value of this title will certainly help it find its audience, and the star power of Zach Braff shouldn’t hurt.  Still, with mediocre reviews and minimal Tony recognition, this musical may not ever become the hit that its producers hoped it would.

The 2014 Tony Nominations Are Announced

2014 tony awards

It is always a time of great anticipation.  The Tony Awards, the most prestigious awards ceremony for Broadway, mean a great deal to the fate of plays and musicals, often dictating tourist picks throughout the summer and certainly adding a measure of prestige for the award recipients.  This year, the Tony Awards ceremony will be held on June 8, 2014 at Radio City Music Hall.  The nominations were just announced.

The Nominations
Leading the list of shows with the highest number of nominations is the new musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which received 10 nominations.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch followed with a respectable 8, and four shows tied next with 7 nominations: After Midnight, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Twelfth Night, and The Glass Menagerie.  The Tony Nominating Committee adopted a new rule this winter, which allows each category to select up to five contenders, if deemed appropriate due to the votes being close enough in the final tally.  Despite this fact, several categories still have only four or three nominees, even when those supposed to be serious contenders were left out of the running.  For instance, the category of Best Musical includes only four nominees – After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – even while Bullets Over Broadway, If/Then, The Bridges of Madison County, and Rocky were all left out.

2014 tony awardsThe Snubs
You cannot make everyone happy all the time, but perhaps the most notable snub was Will Eno’s new play The Realistic Joneses, which did not receive any nominations.  Critics have hypothesized that this is because the nominating committee was turned off by the show’s unusual structure and provocative subject matter, while the plays that were selected were all more conventional, if significantly less moving or original.  These nominees for Best Play are Act One, All the Way, Casa Valentina, Mothers and Sons, and Outside Mullingar, most of which received moderate to mixed reviews.  The category for Best Revival of a Musical includes only three titles – Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Les Misérables, and Violet – though the only other contender, Cabaret, was blatantly left off the list.  The four titles chosen for Best Revival of a Play are The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Glass Menagerie, A Raisin in the Sun, and the all-male production of Twelfth Night.

Other Surprises
Not appearing on the Tony nomination list includes Daniel Radcliffe, who did not receive a nomination for Best Actor for his role in The Cripple of Inishmaan, despite having received magnificent reviews.  This marks the third time he has starred on Broadway yet failed to be nominated for a Tony Award, it seems that he cannot shake his Harry Potter persona, albeit in the eyes of the Tony Award committee.  Other actors who were astonishingly left out of the running include Denzel Washington for A Raisin in the Sun, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart who co-starred in the repertory productions of No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot, as well as Zachary Quinto who was the only star of The Glass Menagerie to be left off.  Other shows that did not receive any nominations – some to great surprise – are the box-office smash Betrayal, the big-budget musical Big Fish, and the musicals Soul Doctor, First Date, and the revival of Cabaret.

Interestingly, all the nominees for Best Director of a Play were for revivals, rather than new plays.  These are John Tiffanytony awards statue for The Glass Menagerie, Kenny Leon for A Raisin in the Sun, Tim Carroll for Twelfth Night, and Michael Grandage for The Cripple of Inishmaan.  Perhaps the nominating committee prefers to acknowledge the work of directors who revive older works, rather than those who create the first Broadway production of a new play.  They failed to recognize Bill Rauch for All the Way and James Lapine for Act One, both of whom worked magic with large casts.

Furthermore, it is notable that no women were nominated for play directing awards, and only one woman was nominated for directing a musical: Leigh Silverman for Violet.  What’s more, none of the ten new plays this season were written by women.  In fact, women were notably few amongst the nominees overall – with the clear exceptions of the Best Actress categories.  Patrick Healy of The New York Times postulated that this is because men in power often choose those with whom they have a friendly relationship for high-up positions in the theatre, so it often turns out that men serve these roles.

Stephen Colbert Takes Over Letterman in 2015

Exactly one week after David Letterman announced his retirement from The Late Show, a position he has held since 1993, CBS announced that his successor would be Stephen Colbert.  Colbert, who is now 49, has signed a 5 year agreement with CBS.  His premiere date is presently unclear, but it will likely be sometime in the first months of 2015.  The show will continue to be filmed in New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater.

stephen colbert late show david letterman cbs emmysColbert rose to prominence over the course of his comedy television career, and since 2005 he has hosted his own Comedy Central series The Colbert Report.  Where many had postulated that Letterman would be succeeded by others including Craig Ferguson, Ellen Degeneres, or Neil Patrick Harris, the consensus seems to be generally pleased with the network’s decision to select Colbert.  In fact, Colbert is so popular that the largest complaint from the public is bemoaning the loss of The Colbert Report, which is a show very different in tone and style than The Late Show has historically been.  Whereas The Late Show is a late-night talk show consisting of a standard monologue, guest interviews, and live musical performance, The Colbert Report stands out for its satirical tone, most notably due to Colbert’s adoption of an alter-ego persona for the duration of the tapings.

Colbert first began to develop his now-famous onscreen persona in 1996 when he appeared in seven episodes of ABC’s prime time sketch comedy show The Dana Carvey Show, honing his character of a deadpan anchor delivering the news.  From 1997 to 2005, Colbert was a regular correspondent on The Daily Show, which has been hosted by Jon Stewart since 1999.  Throughout this period, he developed his character into a blatantly ignorant correspondent, who is unaware of his own lack of knowledge on the subjects he discusses.  In this way, Colbert was able to strike a genius balance between mockery and deliverance of his true opinion, guarded by the shield of comedy.

With the inception of The Colbert Report in 2005, Colbert became notorious for this alternate persona, leading him to great fame including two Peabody Awards and 27 Emmy nominations, as well as the 2013 Emmy Award for outstanding variety series, among other wins.  He also authored several books in this character, including I Am America (And So Can You!) in 2007, and America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t in 2012.  With the announcement of Colbert’s assumption of Letterman’s position at The Late Show, it became clear that this meant the end of The Colbert Report, and many of the show’s over one million nightly viewers were less than pleased.

It is now clear that Colbert will officially retire his persona along with his Comedy Central series, and that he will adopt a more genuine voice as the host of The Late Show.  Many Colbert Report devotees will need to choose whether they maintain their devotion to the man behind the character, even when he is out of character.  As The Colbert Report offers a news alternative that is truly irreverent, Colbert will now need to finesse his new onscreen presence to satisfy The Late Show viewership along
with his longtime fans.

On this past Tuesday night, April 22, 2014, Stephen Colbert paid a visit to David Letterman as a guest on The Late Show.  Letterman welcomed him very good naturedly, and Colbert appeared in black-rimmed glasses that made it clear his persona was nowhere to be seen.  Unlike when Jay Leno was chosen to succeed Johnny Carson as host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, despite Carson’s clear preference of Letterman, this appears to be a case where the host is happily passing the mantle to his chosen successor.  To demonstrate just how supportive he is, Letterman and Colbert even took a selfie.

 

David Letterman and Steven Colbert Take Selfie

“Of Mice and Men” Opens on Broadway

John Steinbeck’s 1937 play Of Mice and Men, based on his 1937 novella of the same name, is presently being revived on Broadway for the second time.  On April 16, 2014, Anna D. Shapiro’s production of this classic story of two displaced migrant workers during the Great Depression opened at the Longacre Theatre.  This production has received a great deal of press, primarily because it stars James Franco, the ever-increasingly famous (with bouts of infamy) multi-hyphenate actor, writer, director, producer, author, teacher, and poet.  He stars alongside Chris O’Dowd and Leighton Meester, both also stars of the screen making their Broadway debuts.  As such, it has been selling considerably well at the box office, averaging around 96% capacity with an average ticket price of $101.76.  Therefore, though the production received mixed to positive reviews following its opening, this is unlikely to sway ticket-buyers who are more drawn by the star factor of the face on the marquis than by promises of quality.


Ben Brantley of The New York Times is by far New York’s most influential Broadway theatre critic.  Producers flaunt positive quotes with his byline, and they live in fear of his negative responses to their shows.  In an era where people are reading fewer newspapers than ever before, New York City has become a one-paper town, where Brantley rules the theatre section.  James Franco, though new to the Broadway scene, has clearly picked up on the sensitivity of this one man’s opinion to his show’s fate, and in the fashion of any egomaniac on a quest for world domination, he decided to publicly flaunt his distaste for Brantley’s less than positive review.  Of course, Franco’s medium of choice for this proclamation was none other than Instagram.  (Lest we forget, this is the same place that Franco made an utter fool of himself two weeks ago for blatantly hitting on a Scottish 17 year-old whom he had met outside of the Of Mice and Men stage door.)  After Brantley published a critical review of Franco’s stage demeanor and level of acting effort, Franco posted to Instagram a link to the positive Variety review, then commenting that Brantley is a “little bitch” whom the theatre community hates for good reason, as he is an “idiot”.  Though he has since taken down this post, it only further illustrates Franco’s lack of grace and dangerously swollen ego.

Other reviewers were more positive in their reviews of the play.  Variety, Time Out New York, NBC, and the Hollywood Reporter all praised the revival and Ms. Shapiro’s direction.  The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, was more in line with Brantley.  Charles McNulty reviewed Franco as being in “CliffsNotes mode,” which is not surprising as he is flying to L.A. to teach a class on his one day off, while also working on his innumerable other projects, when most other Broadway stars would be focused on their stage performance.  Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Franco’s success in merely dialing it in.  However, it is more likely that the greater world will continue to swoon for his celebrity, excusing his madness and even finding it endearing, and allowing him to take credit for wild success when his biggest achievement seems to be just showing up.  It is time we acknowledge that James Franco has become a brand.  We generally look for a soul in our Broadway performers, and it seems Franco’s has long been buried by his ever-growing success.

Of Mice and Men is scheduled to run until July 27, 2014.

‘The Realistic Joneses’ Opens on Broadway

It’s not an easy time for a new play to thrive on Broadway.  The Realistic Joneses, which opened on April 6, 2014 to largely positive reviews, is still struggling to stay afloat at the box office.  This is the Broadway debut for playwright Will Eno, who is known for his less accessible but equally quirky Off-Broadway works such as Thom Pain (based on nothing) and Middletown.  The play premiered in May 2012 at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.  Both the regional and Broadway productions are directed by Sam Gold, whose remarkable career rise has confirmed him as the go-to director for adventurous new plays, especially those that feature a casual, realistic writing style.  Of the four actors in the cast, only one has remained for the transfer – Tracy Letts, who is the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of August: Osage County as well as the Tony Award winning actor from last year’s revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Realistic Joneses on Broadway

The Realistic Joneses on Broadway

The other three roles are played by Toni Collette, who has been on Broadway once before in The Wild Party, Michael C. Hall, who has played Broadway musical leads in both Cabaret and Chicago, and Marisa Tomei, who has previously appeared in three Broadway plays: Top Girls, Salome, and Wait Until Dark.  Though all three actors are much better known for their film work, these names are by no means box office gold of the likes of Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, or James Franco, who are presently competing for audience attention on Broadway, also in straight plays.  Whereas musicals can often survive on Broadway without Hollywood stars, especially if they feature a familiar title, plays rarely enter the greater national consciousness without a special boost.

Although The New York Times critic Charles Isherwood gave the play an unqualified rave, marking it as a Critics’ Pick, the box office was actually worse for this past week than the one preceding it.  For the week ending in April 6, 2014, gross ticket sales were $410,334, down $51,902 from the previous week.  However, it must be noted that the week leading up to a show’s opening includes numerous performances designated as “press performances,” for which complimentary tickets are offered to critics from a wide array of publications.  This would partly explain the lower gross, especially in light of the fact that the average ticket price also went down that week to $67.88 from $82.62 the week before.

The play is scheduled to run until July 6, 2014.  Its producers, Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, often take gambles with shows that are not guaranteed slam dunks.  In this same season, they also are producing All the Way, a new play but with the box office support of its star Bryan Cranston, The Bridges of Madison County, a musical with a familiar title that is struggling to stay alive, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, which features Broadway favorite Audra McDonald as the timeless favorite Billie Holiday.  Though The Realistic Joneses may be this producing team’s most risky show on Broadway right now, they have made a habit of mounting shows by recognized playwrights, which may or may not have stars.  In any case, it is to their credit that they manage to support new writing in a climate where few dare to take such ventures, seeking to overcome the bias against plays without megastars.

“The Velocity of Autumn” Begins Previews

On April 1, 2014, previews began for The Velocity of Autumn, a new play by Eric Coble that also played in the fall of 2013 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.  The Broadway transfer was originally announced for last spring, but a lack of theatre availability necessitated the delay.  The play has now found a home at the intimate 780 seat Booth Theatre, one of the smallest houses on Broadway, which will allow the subtle performances to resonate with the audience.  The two-hander stars Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella, who both received strong notices from the Washington D.C. production.  Molly Smith, the artistic director of Arena Stage, serves as the director for the play.

Estelle Parsons, lively and witty at age 86, plays 79 year-old Alexandra, who barricades herself in her Brooklyn brownstone with explosives in response to her children’s plea that she leave her home.  When her estranged yet beloved son Christopher (Stephen Spinella) climbs a tree and hops in her window, they are forced to confront the issues at the heart of their family dilemma, as well as what it means to get older.  According to reviews from the Arena Stage production, the play is not as strong as the performances, but the slightly contrived set-up evolves into a touching story as the two actors brilliantly portray their characters.

Stephen Spinella won an Obie Award last year for his moving performance in the New York Theatre Workshop production of An Iliad, and he also appeared in the Public Theater’s 2011 production of Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures.  In addition, Spinella has won two Tony Awards for his role in Kushner’s Angels in America.  Estelle Parsons has been nominated for four Tony Awards, stemming back to her first nomination in 1968 for The Seven Descents of Myrtle, and she has recently appeared on Broadway in Nice Work if You Can Get It, August: Osage County, and Good People.  Furthermore, she won an Academy Award in 1967 for her role as Blanche in Bonnie and Clyde.

The Velocity of Autumn is produced by Larry Kaye of Hop Theatricals, in addition to Van Dean of the Broadway Consortium.  As for the creative team, scenic design is by Eugene Lee, costume design is by Linda Cho, lighting design is by Howell Binkley, and sound design is by Darron L. West.  The play has had several pre-Broadway runs, with its premiere at the Boise Contemporary Theater in Idaho in April 2011, and then a follow-up April 2012 production at Cleveland’s Beck Center for the Arts in Ohio, prior to the Washington D.C. run.  The capitalization amount of the Broadway production is reported to be $2.5 million, which is fairly low for a play due to its small cast.  Though this play may still have a tough time earning profits without top Hollywood names or a recognizable title, the producers may be gearing for Tony Award nominations for its actors, both of whom are awards favorites and were praised by critics for the Arena Stage production.