Sangrit Malay

About Sangrit Malay

Sangrit loves working in New York City, he often writes advice columns on what to do for fun here. He is a frequent Broadway attendee and loves to write mostly about the intersection between art and commerce Favorite TV Talk Show: Late Night with Conan O'Brien

“An Act of God” Wraps Up Its Run

Jim Parsons Plays Final Performance on August 2, 2015

an act of godOn May 7, 2015, An Act of God began previews at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54 theatre, although the show is not a Roundabout production. An Act of God is written by David Javerbaum, directed by Joe Mantello, and stars Jim Parsons in the role of God. The producers include Jeffrey Finn and the Shubert Organization. The official opening night then took place on May 28, 2015. The show opened just too late to be considered for Tony Awards nominations this past year, although it will be eligible for the following year’s awards. However, the Tony committee generally has a fairly short term memory, with even shows that ran in the fall season given less notice than those from the spring season. Therefore, with this show opening and closing all within the summer of 2015, it may be difficult for the Tony committee to remember it as a competitive show for the nominations in June of 2016. In any case, An Act of God was a hit, at least from a financial perspective. On July 15, 2015, it was announced that the show had recouped its initial capitalization of $2.9 million, and is now running in profits. In addition, the show received fairly positive reviews after its opening on May 28th. Therefore, from almost all perspectives, the show is a critical and commercial hit.

Excellent Box Office from Day Oneact-of-god-broadway-jim-parsons

In the first partial week of performances for An Act of God, the show brought in 93.01% of its gross potential. Those numbers dipped slightly throughout the following weeks of preview performances, but in the weeks following the show’s opening, the numbers were back up in the range of 85 to 90% of the show’s gross potential. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending July 26, 2015, the show finally broke through the 100% mark of its gross potential, and in addition it brought in over $1 million at the box office for the first time. That week, the weekly gross was $1,011,538, which represents 100.37% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $349.00, the average paid admission was $130.47, also the highest average ticket sale in any week yet. In addition, the average audience capacity reached a peak of 96.3% average across the eight performances. With just one week left of box office figures to report, chances are these numbers will continue to creep upwards as ticket buyers realize this is their last chance to see Jim Parsons live on Broadway in the estimable role of God.

Jim Parsons: A Big Box Office Name on Broadway

If An Act of God demonstrated anything about the type of show that sells well on Broadway, it can be gleaned that Jim Parsons is a big box office name. The other factors involved in the production leave nothing particularly remarkable to conclude, such as the small cast led principally by one actor (often a difficult sell on Broadway), the playwright being a well regarded name within TV circles but one whose name doesn’t mean much to most Broadway ticket buyers, and a show that opened after it would be eligible for Tony Awards consideration. Jim Parsons also had a great chance to shine in his last lead performance at Studio 54, that time in the Roundabout Theatre Company production of Harvey. His only other performance on Broadway to date was a supporting role in The Normal Heart, where the lead role was played by Joe Mantello, who is also the director of An Act of God. When Parsons played that same role in the HBO film version of The Normal Heart, he was nominated for an Emmy Award. All in all, Parsons has won the hearts of America, and we are sure to see him again on Broadway as soon as he has a break in his busy television and film schedule.

“Amazing Grace” Begins Previews on Broadway

A Summer Opening and a Risky Financial Bet

amazing graceOn June 25, 2015, a new musical called Amazing Grace began previews at the Nederlander Theatre. It was given this slot following the closure of Honeymoon in Vegas, another new musical that ran only 4 months before shuttering. Amazing Grace has been in development for many years, and its creator is a first-time Broadway writer. Christopher Smith was a former cop when he began developing this show, for which he is the lyricist, composer, and co-bookwriter along with Arthur Giron. He was inspired by the original story of the writing of the song “Amazing Grace,” and henceforth sprang this show through years of trial productions and re-crafting to prepare it for the large and demanding audiences of Broadway. In choosing to begin previews in late June, the show’s producers have made it more difficult for the show to succeed financially. Traditionally, Broadway shows open in waves in two seasons: the fall and the spring. Then, the crucial factor of the Tony Awards in early June can make or break a show. In the warm summer season, producers expect the audience to be made up of a higher proportion of tourists, who tend to flock to the longer running established musicals, rather than an unknown show with no big names. Therefore, Amazing Grace will have a tough time standing out with all of these factors against it.

A Cast Reckoning With the Portrayal of Slaveryamazing grace

The founding story of the song “Amazing Grace” is indelibly tied to the history of slavery. The song’s writer John Newton was a slave trader who then had a crisis of faith and became a full-fledged abolitionist. This song, which is commonly known as having originated with the slave population, was actually written by a white man. Nevertheless, the cast is principally made up of black actors who are portraying slaves. In contemporary society which embraces more and more color-blind casting, and certainly frowns upon the idea that black actors can only portray slaves and house servants, this show walks a fine line between pride and shame. These actors are asked to go deep within themselves to find how it felt to be a slave, in order to make a larger point about equality and the struggle for freedom. This is a plea that still resonates very strongly today in our society, which sadly still wrought with outbreaks of racially motivated violence. In any case, the producers of this show hope to attract audiences that might not be the traditional Broadway demographic. They are conducting targeted outreach to church groups and African American groups, in order to bring this powerful story to a new group of Broadway theatregoers.

Initial Difficulty at the Box Office

In the show’s first partial week of performances, in which it played five shows, Amazing Grace brought in $200,392, which represents only 29.21% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $197.00, the average paid admission was $57.57. The audience was filled up to an average capacity of 59.9%. Though it is too early to determine the financial fate of this production, the early figures are not extremely promising. Of course, when the show opens on July 16, 2015, it will receive wide press coverage, and then the quality of the reviews may be able to make or break the show. However, in the hubbub of the summer season, it will still be difficult to break through, especially in targeting an untraditional Broadway audience. Nevertheless, the producers are holding out that their hard work will pay off, so that this show about hard work and faith will be an inspiration to Broadway audiences.

“The Visit” Closes on Broadway

The Last Collaboration Between John Kander and Fred Ebb

Visit-Broadway-Musical-Chita-Rivera-Tickets-176-012818On March 26, 2015, The Visit began previews at the Lyceum Theatre. This was the last collaboration by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who were also the creators of Chicago, Cabaret, and The Scottsboro Boys. Upon its official opening night on April 23, 2015, it received firmly mixed reviews, with some critics praising the musical but others being more on the fence. Like most musicals, the show began with an open-ended run, but it has now officially closed as of June 14, 2015. The musical was one of only four shows nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical, along with the victorious Fun Home as well as An American in Paris and Something Rotten! However, nobody really expected The Visit to win that award, as the box office grosses were dire from the beginning, never reaching beyond $250,000 in a given week. The show was also nominated for the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, honoring the 82 year-old Chita Rivera for her starring role. However, that award went to Kelli O’Hara for The King and I. Having won no Tony Awards, and performing poorly at the box office, the producers had no choice but to close this show, which had been on its last legs for a long time.

Struggles at the Box Officechita rivera roger rees

In the final week of its run, The Visit made its highest weekly gross of $274,465, which still only represented 35.99% of its gross potential. Its lowest week took place in the week ending May 31, 2015, when the show brought in only $149,032, representing 19.54% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $225.00, the average paid admission each week fluctuated between $34.45 and $59.50. Therefore, even in its best week there was a heavy amount of discounting to fill seats so that those audience members who had paid full price, or anything at all, for their tickets would feel that they were getting a fuller experience. The highest percentage of audience capacity was reached in the show’s first partial week of five performances, when the audience was filled up to an average of 79.5%. Still, on most weeks the audience was only 50% to 60% full. All productions have an agreement with the theatre landlord called a “stop clause,” whereby the landlord has a right to evict the production if its weekly gross is below a certain specified amount for a certain number of weeks in a row. With such low numbers, it is possible that The Visit was dangerously close to, if not in violation of, its stop clause, and perhaps the Shubert Organization allowed the show to remain in reverence to Fred Ebb, John Kander, and Chita Rivera, awaiting the Tony Award results. However, when the show received no awards, there was nothing left to hope for.

A Future Beyond Broadway

Nevertheless, a Kander and Ebb musical is still a valuable property to own the rights to, even if the Broadway run was a disappointment. As memory fades, diehard theatre fans will continue to remember the piece, and the show will likely receive productions all over the country on a range of levels. Furthermore, the music will be used for theatre auditions and the scores will be sold in published form. There is still a way for the producers to continue to make some money on their investment. Still, it only made $1,963,656 throughout the entire run, which is certainly nowhere near its entire capitalization, especially when running costs are added to the mix. Therefore, the show will certainly go down in history as a financial loss, but not a complete failure due to its Tony Award nomination for Best Musical.

“Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Debuts Podcast

Gearing Up for September 8th Premiere on CBS

stephen colbertWhen Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report aired its last show on December 18, 2014, Stephen Colbert had played his conservative Colbert character for 1,447 episodes. On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, David Letterman said goodbye to late night television, airing his last episode of Late Show with David Letterman. Over the summer before the Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s September 8th premiere, CBS has filled the vacant slot with reruns of a range of CBS dramas, awaiting the moment when Stephen Colbert steps into Letterman’s very worthy shoes. Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert has also been preparing. Since he took a leave from television at the end of 2014, he has been doing many things, one of which was growing a beard. Since being discovered by fans, the beard has fondly been called “the Colbeard.” However, CBS made Colbert shave the beard prior to appearing back on television. Rather than doing this quietly, Colbert took the opportunity to make a funny video, shaving his salt and pepper facial hair in segments, mocking the various stages of unconventional facial hair that he could choose to rock. However, he inevitably ends up with a clean shaven face, but he gives us lots of laughs in the meantime. This video debuted on his new website ColbertLateShow.com, and he also launched an app called Colbr and a podcast, all meant to whet fans’ appetites during the summer break.

The Late Show Podcastcolbert letterman

In taking over Letterman’s slot, Colbert is doing more than sitting in the seat where Letterman once sat. The Ed Sullivan Theatre is getting a complete makeover, including widening the seats for “American asses” as Colbert jokes. Beyond this, the Late Show team is embracing online outlets more than ever before. Colbert now has a new website, ColbertLateShow.com, where fans can catch videos, podcasts, photos, and news. The podcast is a particularly fun addition to his slate. He reported that the internet is overrun with many comedy podcasts, so his podcast is in part an effort to curate these podcasts. The first few episodes of the podcast have dealt with the process of writing the comedy show. This is a way for the show’s writers and producers, many of whom Colbert brought over from The Colbert Report, to keep on top of their game during the summer hiatus. It is also a way for Colbert to shine a spotlight on some of comedy’s greatest talents, allowing a greater pool of fans to access their brilliance. Still, the podcast is not the only way the show’s writers are staying active. Colbert reports that they are writing all summer, even if the news on which they are reporting will not be relevant three months from now. In this way, they are shouting jokes into a sock, but Colbert deems this necessary for his writers to stay sharp.

Colbert without the Colbert Character?

As the first few episodes of the Late Show with Colbert podcast are making clear, Colbert is a comedic genius, with or without the shroud of his mock-conservative Colbert character made famous on The Colbert Report. Many devotees of the now retired Comedy Central show are skeptical that Colbert will be as hilarious without this device, but Colbert is determined to prove them wrong. His team of writers is figuring out how this will work as much as his fans are waiting to see how it will work. Still, one thing that is becoming clear is that Colbert’s “character” had many qualities such as bone dry irony and surreal humor that will transfer to the more “straight” Colbert himself, just without the layer of conservative pretending. In this way, America will get to know the “real” Colbert, and CBS is resolute to demonstrate that this Colbert is the same man we have grown to love.

David Letterman Retires from “Late Show” with Final Episode

Final Show Airs May 20, 2015 on CBS

david lettermanFor 22 years, David Letterman has been the host of the Late Show with David Letterman, airing five late nights a week on CBS. Including his previous tenure on a late night talk show on NBC, this represents the end of 32 year career for David Letterman as the king of late night. At age 68, he finally feels ready to step down and pass the mantle. On May 20, 2015, the final episode of the Late Show with David Letterman airs on CBS. He will be succeeded by Stephen Colbert, whose The Colbert Report has gained immense acclaim with American viewers, but the Late Show with Stephen Colbert will not begin until September 8, 2015, allowing a summer break for viewers to get accustomed to Letterman’s departure and become eager for the new premiere. David Letterman has influenced generations of comedians, setting the tone for an entire era of comedy that was way ahead of his time. Unlike Johnny Carson who preceded him on the late night landscape, Letterman was not afraid to point out artifice around him, bringing an anarchic quirkiness to television that has undoubtedly paved the way for Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, and Craig Ferguson.

Tom Hanks and Bill Murray Among Final Week Guestsdavid letterman bill murray

Among the guests to appear on the final week of the Late Show with David Letterman, Tom Hanks made his 60th appearance on a show hosted by Letterman. His first time appearing with David Letterman took place on April 4, 1984. For Monday night’s show, Tom Hanks sat on the couch one final time. Also on that show, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam performed, backed by Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra. For Tuesday night’s show, Bill Murray made his 44th appearance on a show hosted by Letterman. He was also a guest on the first ever Late Night in 1982, getting Letterman off to an excellent start with the undeniable chemistry between the duo. In a hilariously memorable moment, Murray walked on the stage in 1982 proclaiming that he had missed the beginning of the show, and asked what happened, and if it had been going well. In addition, for this penultimate episode, Bob Dylan was the musical guest. At age 73, Dylan hasn’t performed on a Letterman show in 22 years. The last time was in 1993, which was the first season the show played on CBS. As for the final show on May 20, the guests will be a slew of surprises, including a final Top Ten.

Changing the Landscape of Late Night Forever

With the departure of Letterman, late night viewers are awaiting the fall when Stephen Colbert will transition into this more serious role, a departure from his farcical portrayal as the faux conservative character he has played on The Colbert Report. This is not the only change taking late night by storm. In addition, Craig Ferguson completes his tenure on The Late Late Show also on CBS in December 2015. His replacement, the British comedian James Corden who starred on Broadway in One Man, Two Guvnors, will not begin until March 2016. It is unclear if there will be guest hosts in the interim between Letterman and Colbert, although CBS has announced that there will be guest hosts for The Late Late Show between Ferguson and Corden. In any case, the set for the Late Show with David Letterman will be torn down at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, making the way for Stephen Colbert to do his best to step into those very worthy shoes.

The Tony Nominations Have Been Announced!

Awards Ceremony Will Take Place June 7th at Radio City Music Hall

tony awardsOn June 7, 2015, the greatest stars and talents of the Broadway theatre community will gather at Radio City Music Hall for the 69th Annual Tony Awards ceremony. After great anticipation, the nominations have been announced by the Tony Nominating Committee. As the nominators are famously few, even in comparison to the privileged bunch who get to call themselves Tony voters, there is always a degree of subjectivity involved in these nominations. Sometimes very deserving candidates do not even get a chance to compete for awards that some might say they should have won, merely due to the choices of 50 theatre professionals. In comparison, there are approximately 868 individuals who are eligible to place a vote among these nominees. This year, it was a very competitive nomination process, as very few categories had obvious contenders. Arguably the most prestigious category is the award for Best Musical, as this can validate a show to be a long running hit, or even turn a hidden gem into a global brand name. For the 2015 Tony Awards, the nominees for Best Musical are An American in Paris, Fun Home, Something Rotten!, and The Visit. As for Best Play, the nominees are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Disgraced, Hand to God, and Wolf Hall Parts One and Two.

Revivals, Book Writers, Composers, Actors, and Actressesan american in paris

The nominees for Best Revival of a Play are The Elephant Man, Skylight, This is Our Youth, and You Can’t Take it With You. The contenders for the category of Best Revival of a Musical are The King and I, On the Town, and On the Twentieth Century. As for Best Book of a Musical, the nominees are An American in Paris by Craig Lucas, Fun Home by Lisa Kron, Something Rotten! by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, and The Visit by Terrence McNally. Hand in hand is the award for Best Original Score, the nominees for which are Fun Home with music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Lisa Kron, The Last Ship with music and lyrics by Sting, Something Rotten! with music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, and The Visit with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. As for the acting categories, the nominees for Best Lead Actor in a Play are Steven Boyer in Hand to God, Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man, Ben Miles in Wolf Hall Parts One and Two, Bill Nighy in Skylight, and Alex Sharp in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. The nominees for Best Lead Actress in a Play are Geneva Carr in Hand to God, Helen Mirren in The Audience, Elisabeth Moss in The Heidi Chronicles, Carey Mulligan in Skylight, and Ruth Wilson in Constellations. The nominees for Best Lead Actor in a Musical are Michael Cerveris in Fun Home, Robert Fairchild in An American in Paris, Brian d’Arcy James in Something Rotten!, Ken Watanabe in The King and I, and Tony Yazbeck in On the Town. The nominees for Best Lead Actress in a Musical are Kristin Chenoweth in Something Rotten!, Leanne Cope in An American in Paris, Beth Malone in Fun Home, Kelli O’Hara in The King and I, and Chita Rivera in The Visit.

Snubs and Surprises

finding neverlandThis year, there were quite a few shows that did not receive any nominations at all, some of which come as a major shock. One of the most obvious snubs was Harvey Weinstein’s first venture in Broadway producing, Finding Neverland, which received no nominations at all. Another show that can be considered a snub is Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, which has been selling marvelously at the box office but was a critical bust. Other shows that did not receive any nominations are The River, The Country House, Living on Love, The Real Thing, Doctor Zhivago, Side Show, Love Letters, A Delicate Balance, It Shoulda Been You, and Holler if Ya Hear Me. Some of these such as The River and A Delicate Balance sold very well, but received no nods by the Tony committee. For Living on Love, the lack of recognition was enough to persuade the producers to announce the closing date of the show as quickly as possible. As for positive surprises, the fact that An American in Paris received 12 nominations, tying only with Fun Home for the most of any show, was not expected by most. Though the reviews were generally positive, this dance heavy adaptation was a surprise sweep of the nominations. As for It’s Only a Play, which was a major box office hit, the show only received one nomination: for its newcomer Micah Stock. The other actors are major stars, and the play was received very warmly, but none of these individuals were recognized except the Supporting Actor.

2015 TONY AWARD NOMINEES # Of Awards
An American In Paris 12
Fun Home 12
Something Rotten! 10
The King and I 9
Wolf Hall 8
Skylight 7
The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-Time 6
Hand to God 5
On The Twentieth Century 5
The Visit 5
You Can’t Take It With You 5
Airline Highway 4
On The Town 4
The Elephant Man 4
The Audience 3
The Last Ship 2
Constellations 1
Disgraced 1
Gigi 1
Its Only A Play 1
The Heidi Chronicles 1
This is Our Youth 1

‘America’s Got Talent’ Faces Tough Time Filling Seats In NYC

For the May 2014 taping of season 9 of the NBC behemoth TV show, America’s Got Talent (AGT), Mariah Carey’s hubby, Nick Cannon and the various judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B are certainly a big draw for audiences to see the show in NYC, but producers have created confusion in the choice of varied tape dates and locations for the taping’s, leading to a shortage of audience members.

For what’s billed as “Judgment Week “, normally the AGT show would be sold out, but right now there are many empty seats to be had over the next few days and many “priority seating” options are left empty, which is quite rare. The timings of the taping’s are also pretty awful with two taping’s a day at 9 AM and 2:15 PM maintaining a rigorous and demanding taping schedule. Many New Yorker’s just aren’t getting up for this. It is expected that in order to keep the morning audience there for the afternoon that they will feed them lunch as a bribe, a classic Hollywood trick.

The latest taping location is at Pier 92/94 on the West Side Highway, which is normally a  trade show and special event venue that houses the Westminster dog show and various other corporate trade shows. It’s weird to see AGT relegated to such a meager environment, especially given the high quality of the previous taping locations . Pier 92/94 bills itself in the “heart of midtown”, but in reality it is located on the outskirts of Midtown Manhattan at 55th Street and the West Side Highway, with no subway and little public transportation going there, that doesn’t help audience members who want to see the show, and have to battle rush-hour traffic to get there. No doubt the celebrities on the show, will be able to use Howard Stern’s “Ronnie Mund” AKA ” Ronnie the limo driver” to take them out there, in the quiet comfort of his customized Audi A8 complete with a working AC petcock.

AGT americas got talent show datesIt’s widely know that the reason AGT is shot in NYC is due to Howard Stern’s demanding schedule with The Howard Stern Show at Sirius XM radio so it remains to be seen if this format of moving around NYC in search of shooting locations will work over time or Howard will get bored and move onto new TV projects. It seems like just only a few moments ago the show was stationed in the theater at Madison Square Garden and before that it was at the Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark NJ. It is not clear where the live shows will be taped in the summer of 2014, but given the constant go-around NYC, it could be pretty much anywhere in the tri-state area.

What also doesn’t help is that the show isn’t on our TV screens right now, so there is little interest in the public minds – out of sight, out of mind. All the footage from these current shows is recorded and then edited down to the bare minimum, so the feel of this kind of show is labored and somewhat less compelling than a “Live” show, where it seems like anything could happen. Audiences in Hollywood would often be paid to attend these kinds of shows, but the New York ones have to be run more cheaply as the cost of shooting these shows in NYC is about double the Californian rate. The taped show also take a lot longer to shoot, often two and a half hours, with re-shoots and lighting adjustments galore,  which makes the audience restless and often bored. So bored  in fact that they don’t come back, especially given the amount of boos that Nick Cannon received recently at Madison Square Garden, when he came to see the NY Knicks play. His AGT TV producers thought it would be a great idea to shoot an AGT promo at the game and for him to appear on the MSG Jumbotron and then do a trick shot (Throwing the ball behind his head, while someone else throws a ball into the basket) His appearance on the Jumbotron was met with loud crowd boos and then his failed trick shot added to the crowd torment and they started getting mean. After a 2nd, but successful, attempt Nick Cannon finally sat down and then left the stadium just ten minutes later as he appears to have little interest in the Knicks. New Yorker’s generally do not like Nick Cannon and clearly Knicks fans positively dislike him, and now he knows it  if he didn’t know already. NBC’s AGT producers are well known producers of “fakeality” TV Shows and are to expected to still use the negative footage recorded at MSG, remove the loud boos, overdub the audio and edit out the fans rude hand gestures and make it appear that Mr Cannon was in fact the darling of The Garden.

We look forward to see the live shows of AGT come back to NYC in July and it will be interesting to see if the public interest in seeing this show returns, but given the current nomadic spin on shooting locations, the show could end up in Danbury, Connecticut. The home of all the other NBC universal shows. If only Howard Stern would agree to the move.

For your information, the official address of this shooting location at Pier 92/94 is 711 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10019.

Newsies Still Packs Them In, a Year After Jeremy Jordan Departed

Newsies Broadway Musical

Newsies Broadway Musical

Encouraged by the New York newsboy strike of 1899, Disney’s cathartic production of Newsies the Musical first premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in the fall of 2011, quickly moving on to the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway in the spring of 2012.  Whether it is because the show has been running on Broadway for an extensive period of time or the show wrestles without an attention reeling name like Jeremy Jordan, this Disney musical has not been living up to its full potential this year, compared to the last. (Jeremy Jordan left Newsies on Sept 4 2012 to pursue his dream of TV fame in the musical drama TV series Smash which aired on NBC and ended its 2nd, and final, season on May 26, 2013)

When Newsies first opened on Broadway in the March of 2012, they were averaging 100.8% in ticket sales and were grossing an average of $937,788.92, in comparison to January of 2013. Up until now they have been averaging 95.6% in ticket sales and are grossing an average of $847,072.23, with a 97% of theatre seats sold on average every night.  Looking at this data, there was not a colossal loss, possibly because in the beginnings of this production, people were so anxious about this musical being an adaptation to the popular 1992 film, starring Christian Bale. Compared to the movie, the musical is much longer and more care and precision have been placed into it.

Recasting has always been a difficult task to execute and even though the show has fared critically in monetary terms, Jeremy Jordan’s replacement, Corey Cott, has been fairly up to par. The emotional build up for every number is not nearly as tantamount to what Jeremy set the standards for, but Corey manages to pull off an astounding performance with a voice similar to Jeremy’s, making up for many of the weak moments to the female lead’s, Kara Lindsay’s, singing. Albeit the humorous, witty journalistic jokes and snappy, energetic attitude, Kara lacks this sort of resilience and strength, for the most part; coming off seemingly reserved and as if she is holding herself back, teetering along the lines of the melody and not quite hitting all of her notes. (Maybe this is due to the exhausting eight-shows-a-week schedule.)

Aside from the exciting dance numbers and character developments, there is exceptional use of the limited space on stage. The construction of the set, along with the essence of New York, is captured quite perfectly. A gate at the top of each moving staircase so that they can connect or detach from each other exacerbates the excitement of the chase-run scenes. The backdrop is tastefully modern, displaying shifting scenery or showing words from a typewriter whenever Kara’s character speaks what she is so furiously typing. Any seat in the house could clearly see what was going on, although being in the front few aisles definitely opens up your eyes to the deliberate sweat dripping and spit flying everywhere.

Even though Disney’s target market is for families of all ages, female fans of the Christian Bale movie of the same name, the audience demographic at this show seems to skew to an older, more mature crowd who may find solace in this hopeful musical because of the very pertinent modern day financial and social struggles.

With tattered corduroys and newsboy cap wearing orphan boys selling newspapers, desperate to make a living out on the cutthroat streets of New York, Newsies pulls at the heartstrings, bringing to mind the toil of making a living on Broadway, or simply the everyday strife that everybody trudges through. With no foul language or anything particularly scandalous to worry about, overall, this show is quite uplifting, entertaining, and sublime for families.

Henry Winkler and Cheyenne Jackson in “The Performers” – Broadway Show Review

Henry Winkler, Alicia Silverstone, Cheyenne Jackson, Daniel Breaker, Ari Graynor and Jenni Barber in the Performers on Broadway

The Performers on Broadway – Sara Krulwich

If you anticipate that Henry Winkler’s “Fonz” from Happy Days and Alicia Silverstone’s “Cher” from Clueless will turn up onstage at the Longacre Theatre for the Broadway production of The Performers, you may be disappointed.  But who does turn up are a wonderful ensemble of actors performing a funny yet poignant romantic comedy about two couples from very different backgrounds, both with relationship problems, thrust together against the unique backdrop of the Adult Film Awards in a Las Vegas hotel.

Cheyenne Jackson plays successful porn star Mandrew, who loves his work and is hoping to win this year’s coveted adult film award for best actor. He is married to a porn actress, Peeps, played by Ari Graynor, who is a needy, simple-minded, but lovable companion in dire need of a life rudder, which Jackson provides perfectly. Alicia Silverstone plays Sara, a plain schoolteacher who has lost her passion for her fiance Lee (Daniel Breaker), the only person she has ever slept with. Added into the mix is Winkler as Chuck Wood, Mandrew’s porn star adversary (who is also up for the same award), and porn actress Sundown LeMay, played by Jenni Barber, who manages to create amusing havoc along the way.

Although Mandrew anticipates winning a number of honors at the Adult Film Awards, the gods may have other plans for him as he circumnavigates his relationship with Peeps, tries to recapture his friendship with his high school friends Sara and Lee (who happen to be in town to write a piece about him for the New York Post), and attempts to defeat the aging Chuck Wood for the most coveted award.

With David West Read’s writing and Evan Cabnet’s direction, this hilarious play takes us on a comedic trip through the trials and tribulations of an adult film couple’s relationship when it crashes into a couple at the other end of the sexual spectrum. The comedy reminds us that adult film stars are not that different from the rest of us after all, albeit with their preference for close-up bukake action face shots.

Cheyenne Jackson provides an amazing performance and captures a handsome but dimwitted Adonis working in a industry that he loves. When out of his element, Mandrew becomes confused and often draws on his only frame of reference, the porn industry, delivering hysterically funny responses with perfect timing. Jackson’s performance is an ideal balance of funny and touching. Opposite Jackson, Ari Graynor plays a very similar character to the one she recently played in her movie For a Good Time, Call…  She delivers a sound performance as Peeps in this show, but it remains to be seen if she has the acting chops for anything outside the ditzy, confused simpleton. There were signs of hope when her character began to develop beyond the two-dimensional, but it appears that Cabnet’s direction may have stopped her character development in its tracks.

Silverstone’s whiny Clueless line delivery does creep into a few scenes as she fleshes out the plain, sexually bored teacher opposite Daniel Breaker’s Lee.  The infamous Howard Stern has often been quoted as saying that, “Actors who can only shine as retarded or drunk characters aren’t often strong enough actors to capture the nuances of real, more subtle, less caricature characters.”  This may be true of Silverstone’s performance. The only time in this show where Silverstone really only comes into her own is when she is playing the falling down drunk version of Sara and yells at Chuck Wood to “Get me a coffee, bitch!”

Daniel Breaker does, however, shine as the hapless reporter trying to keep his marriage together during a difficult, often turbulent time. His portrayal of Lee is developed perfectly as his character becomes better educated in the world of sex, something that Lee is clearly unfamiliar with and demonstrates to great comedic effect.

It appears that playwright David West Read hasn’t seen too many porn movies, nor actually met any porn actors, because his caricature of the talent is so far off the mark. With an “everyone in the industry is a moron” approach, it’s more pandering than a gross mis-characterization, but often straying into extreme stereotypes that don’t add any funny to the scenes and with so many missed opportunities. The show’s dialogue may give some insight into Read’s exposure to porn when Sara indicates that she knows about the porn industry from reading a paper during her work on her master’s degree. Methinks that David West Read is referring to himself.

Jenni Barber’s stage talent is virtually untapped in this show, with her portrayal of a one-dimensional dumb blonde porn actress, the epitome of the Hollywood bimbo. One key final scene with Winkler is squandered to tepid sexual humor, when Read could have written just one line, just one line in the whole show, that would have established that, maybe, Sundown LeMay was the genius and we were the bimbos.

The small disappointment in The Performers is Winkler as Chuck Wood. It appears that Winkler, a veritable national treasure, can only play two characters: The Fonz and Henry Winkler. It is Henry Winkler who shows up for this show, and although it is a great honor to be in his presence, he fails to bring any depth to Chuck Wood, an over-the-hill porn star who knows that his career is over and his demise is near, but cannot quite quit before he crashes into the wall, because porn is all he has. Winkler has some great opportunities with his scenes and delivers on a key monologue that contains heart and humor, but his performance overall ultimately falls flat as does his interaction with the other actors.

The Performers is a funny romantic comedy farce, with lots of heart, but ultimately a little disappointing. We anticipate it may go straight-to-video — right after the money shot.

Grace Broadway Show Review

Grace

Though Craig Wright’s Grace has already been seen in a few theaters around the country, it is just now making its Broadway debut at the Cort Theatre.  The play has a small but impressive cast, headed by film star Paul Rudd and TV legend Ed Asner (who makes a big impression with a relatively small role), along with indie film and TV actor Michael Shannon and Kate Arrington.  The quartet are uniformly excellent as they explore the relationships of Wright’s complex characters.

The actual plot of Grace may sound a bit off-beat (and it is).  It concerns a couple from Minnesota who leave their evangelical church community in St. Paul and move to Florida with the hopes of establishing a Gospel-themed hotel there.  Their lives become entwined with that of their neighbor, a reclusive astrophysicist who is recovering from a car accident that has disfigured him and left his fiancee dead.  Ed Asner plays a German-born exterminator who periodically comes to spray their homes for pests.

From the opening scene–which, intriguingly, plays out backwards–we see that Grace has serious undertones.  It addresses themes of redemption, predetermination, faith, loyalty, love, and what our place is in this world.  But it’s also very funny and well-observed, and seeing the culture clash between the well-meaning Christian Minnesotans and their new Florida friends is enjoyable.

Each of the four characters seem pretty set in their view of life at the beginning of the play, none more so than Rudd’s, whose initially certain faith sends him into a tailspin as soon as it is challenged by major setbacks in his marriage and work.  But the other characters too have emotional and spiritual experiences–subtly and convincingly rendered by the playwright–that leave them changed before the play’s dramatic conclusion.

Grace is a thought-provoking if brief (the running time is only 90 minutes) evening at the theater, and well worth seeing during its limited engagement, scheduled through January 6.