Christina Morningside

About Christina Morningside

Christina Morningside is a native New Yorker who grew up loving theater and writing for various periodicals on the subject including Playbill and BroadwayWorld. Christina is an alumna from Columbia University in the City of New York and serves on several historic preservation committees in the city. When Christina is not at a Broadway show she can be found outdoors in Vermont enjoying snowshoeing or skiing.

Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris Debuts on NBC

At 10PM EST on September 15, 2015, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris debuted on NBC. Best Time Ever is a live variety television show developed in the style of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, a British TV show that has been airing on the British channel ITV since 2002 where it achieved high very high ratings throughout its broadcast seasons. The new NBC show is a wacky and versatile take on the format and takes full advantage of the diverse talents of the host, Neil Patrick Harris. The show features A-list stars, performances, stunts, comedy skits, mini game shows, audience giveaways and hidden camera pranks.

Not unlike SNL’s first ever episode, Best Time Ever got off to slow start in its debut show, probably owing to tense nerves for the brand new, live, network TV show, but it wasn’t long before Neil Patrick Harris got everyone settled in and the show began ratcheting up the laughs. From this point forward, we will refer to Neil Patrick Harris as NPH and Best Time Ever as BTE, because without the acronyms, things can get a little wild, just like the show.

neil patrick harris in blue suit next to nicole scherzinger in green sparkly dressGuest Announcer Reese Witherspoon and Show Co-Host Nicole Scherzinger

Reese Witherspoon was the guest announcer for the debut show. Although it seemed that she wasn’t fully utilized, she still added some great fun moments to the show. Her announcing was hysterical and her involvement with the segments on the show were quite amusing. Unfortunately, in one segment, Witherspoon chose to do some rather lame comedy repartee bits with NPH that portrayed her as the “dumb blonde,” which seemed dated and totally missed the comedy mark. But she made up for it in her go-girl attitude when climbing up the massive American Ninja climbing frame, despite being visibly shaken by its height. Witherspoon missed many opportunites to be humorous on the show, but she is, after all, an accomplished actor and producer, not a comedian.

NPH’s official co-host was former Pussycat Doll, recording artist and dancer, Nicole Scherzinger. Nicole was dazzlingly gorgeous but her co-hosting ability took a back seat because the two-host format developed by Ant and Dec for the UK show did not take into account the powerhouse entertainer that is NPH. Harris has so much stage talent, such that he doesn’t really need anyone else to ad-lib or fill-in for him. When he can do everything on the show so well already, why divide the responsibility?

Neil Patrick Harris Provides Lots Of Entertaining Segments

In a segment called The Best Days of Your Life Neil brought up a couple from the audience as a segue from flirting with some audience members and asked some random questions (a play-off of the original British show Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway). He showed clips of stalking them across the country, even at their wedding! Because he’s the fun-loving Neil Patrick Harris, he gets away with it, with many great laughs.

Carson Daly was brought on as a guest to promote NBC’s The Voice and to talk about a hilarious skit where Neil went undercover on the TV show as an Austrian host of the Austrian version of The Voice. The hosts Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine had no idea this awkward foreign guy was actually Neil Patrick Harris in the flesh. Neil made his reveal on The Voice stage as he sang Dreamgirls’ “And I am Telling You,” in a flat, thick German accent. Hilariously, no judge turned around for him.

stunt with reese witherspoon and neil patrick harris on latter red and blue jumpsuits

Neil Patrick Harris and Reese Witherspoon

The surprise live karaoke segment, “Sing-Along Live” was clearly a total shock to the contestants, who at each reveal gave a deer-in-the-headlights look at their TV, not understanding what was going on, creating comedy gold. Kudos to the BTE production team, which managed to keep the contestants in the dark until the reveal. It’s a risky gambit for NBC to broadcast this show without a tape delay, but boy is it entertaining for the in-studio and TV audiences.

The fear during the stunt Reese and Neil pulled off together was felt both in the studio and throughout the nation. Everyone held their breaths until they both zip-lined down from that terrifying lattice, the in-studio audience cheered loudly for the champ, Neil, but were scared for the visibly shaken Witherspoon.

Gloria Gaynor Shines As First “Sing-Along Live” Surprise Guest

On BTE’s premiere night, 70’s disco queen, Gloria Gaynor was the singing star that appeared in the “Sing-Along Live” segment where some surprised viewers at home had to finish the song, where she left off. Gaynor belted out her female empowerment anthem “I Will Survive” to a raucous reception. Gaynor showed that she is still a powerhouse singer and can hit the high notes. Ricky Martin is anticipated to appear in the show’s first season.

best time ever end of the show showThe End-of-The-Show, Show

The intense stunt wasn’t the only moment where Harris showed off his brave talents. NPH ended the show with a bang, with a segment named The End-of-the-Show show. The stage was set up with Little NPH and Gloria Gaynor sitting at a bar. There were bartenders juggling bottles, then Neil popped up and started juggling along with them. Ant and Dec were also hanging out and having a beer. To up the ante, Neil brought out extreme pogo-stick riders and joined them and back flipped off his pogo-stick as Reese came downstage to join the party to the tune of Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop The Party.” But it wasn’t over! There was a huge blast of confetti while Little NPH got up on the bar and lip-synced, doing a little dance. After a parade of trumpets and drums. Scherzinger strut her stuff with dancers! This big finale was just a big giant party and had the audience on their feet dancing and screaming for more of everything! This is sure to be a very exciting season of Best Time Ever and will be a front-runner for ratings this fall, assuming that NPH can keep the momentum building.

Off Camera Hi-Jinks

Off-camera, NPH made the audience feel very comfortable, joked and often took the mic away from the warm-up comedian RC Smith who was trying his best to interact with the audience. After the show ended, Neil hugged his husband, David Burtka in celebration and quickly chatted to Perez Hilton, who was also in the audience. For full disclosure, not every moment was live last night. There were a few pre-recorded portions of the show, but both the in-studio and at-home audience felt the exciting and spontaneous elements of the entire hour, which ripped through at a rapid pace.

In Studio Audience Experience Different From TV

During the taping (can you say that when it is live?), the show pace appeared to be just-too-much for the director, Glenn Weiss, to handle. Weiss has previous live TV experience with Peter Pan Live and the 67th Annual Tony Awards, but on this show he missed many on-camera jokes that the live studio audience laughed at and the at-home TV audience missed  – and were then left scratching their heads wondering what was going on. This happened with all three live Karoake contests, where the cut-away was too soon. Weiss also missed NPH’s zipline crash through the finish line banner. All these scenes were missed by the at-home viewers but seen by the studio audience who reacted accordingly with laughs and clapping. When Gloria Gaynor belted out “I Will Survive” with the background dancers and a roller-skating couple, key elements of the segment were also missed. It is anticipated that adjustments will be made to the production that allows for these comedy-gold moments to be captured more appropriately. It would have also been nice to see an unannounced audio cut to Reese Witherspoon actually singing the Gloria Gaynor song, “I Will Survive” (she sounded great to the in-studio audience, but her was audio cut) or incorporating her into the quiz show segment, where she could have mimed the answers to the contestant, which could have been hilarious.

Show Broadcast Live From Kaufman Astoria Studios ineil patrick harris in front of Kaufman Astoria Studiosn Queens, New York

Best Time Ever with NPH is taped at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, NY. This area is a strange location for a TV show of this magnitude, but it works! If the in-studio audience is driving to the show, parking is easy to find and if they use public transportation, the subway is just a couple blocks away. The audience seemed at home in this neighborhood and after the show, although late at night, the streets were still safe. Aside from this, restaurants like UNO bar, Beer Garden and the locals’ favorite: Mama’s Empanadas are near and open, so after the show, the audience and crew found some good late night eats!

Harris recently starred on Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. He is also very well known for his television starring roles in such shows as How I Met Your Mother from 2005 to 2014, and Doogie Howser, M.D. from 1989 to 1993. He has won 5 Emmy Awards for his work hosting the Tony Awards, and for his work on “Glee.” He has also been nominated for his role on “How I Met Your Mother. In Best Time Ever, one of the many aspects of the show is song and dance, allowing Harris to demonstrate his charm in a musical fashion. Furthermore, the segments include game show bits, character impersonations, A-list celebrity appearances, stunts, performances, pranks, and audience giveaways.

Show Ratings and Demographic

For BTE’s debut episode, the preliminary ratings showed that 6.8 million viewers of adults aged 18 to 49 tuned in to see Harris’ premiere. The studio audience demographic skewed older than the at-home viewers and the curve for 18-45 years old was bottom heavy, which is a positive for advertisers.

Promotion Of NBC’s Other Shows on BTE

NBC Executives must have pushed the producers to promote other NBC shows in the debut of NPH’s BTE. The Voice featured heavily in the undercover segment featuring a fake Austrian The Voice host, Jurgen Vollmer (actually NPH) and the American Ninja host Matt Iseman. The American Ninja apparatus into which NPH and Witherspoon so courageously climbed in the second segment promoted NBC’s American Ninja TV Show. The demographic of these other shows skew quite differently to BTE, as does the lead-in to the show, America’s Got Talent, whose demographic is wildly different. NBC’s current stable of shows seem to be all over the shop, in terms of demographic.

Comparison To Fox’s Knock Knock Live:

Best Time Ever is the live TV show format that the upstart-challenger on the Fox channel, in the form of Ryan Seacrest’s Knock Knock Live, tried to achieve in July 2015. In a bid to steal the format from NBC, Seacrest’s show failed miserably and was cancelled after only two shows due to low ratings, even with the endorsement and participation of big celebrities and large amounts of money being given away. The problem with that format was that there was no real entertainment value, other than rather boring back-stories, that Seacrest gambled on and lost. BTE, on the other hand, was entertaining from start to finish. No need for back-stories here, this is fun!

Tuesday Live Shows For The Next 8 weeks

Neil Patrick Harris’ Best Time Ever is scheduled to broadcast on NBC for the next seven weeks and they will try to raise the ante on each show. The out-of-the-gate momentum is strong, and the show will move to an earlier time slot at 8PM beginning on 9/29. The new time slot will change the viewer demographic considerably and may mean an increase in the market penetration, for this funny and irreverent vehicle for Neil Patrick Harris’ talents.

“Hamilton” Opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

A Round Of Rave Reviews for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Masterpiece

hamiltonOn August 6, 2015, Hamilton played its opening night performance at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. It had been running in previews on Broadway since its first performance on July 13, 2015. Prior to this, Hamilton had an extremely successful run at Off-Broadway at the Public Theater from January 20, 2015 to May 3, 2015. After receiving universal acclaim in the smaller venue, buzz abounded and headlines soared about this new musical with book, lyrics, and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which also stars him in the title role. Along with producers Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, and Jill Furman, the Public Theater brought the show to Broadway. Like the Public run, this production is directed by Thomas Kail (Magic/Bird, Lombardi, In the Heights), and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler. The show is praised for its reimagining of the period in history in which our founding fathers began this country. Rather than focusing on the traditional hero George Washington, who also appears in the show, the heart of this tale is on Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Furthermore, instead of cast with traditional white males, this show features black and Latino performers singing musical styles ranging from rap to hip hop to R&B, as well as traditional musical theatre.

Strong Praise for the Production and the PerformersHAMILTON

Ben Brantley of The New York Times began his rave review with a single line: “Yes, it really is that good.” Admitting that he was among the critics to give the show universal praise in its previous incarnation, he said he had begun to wonder if the hype was really a match for the quality of the production. However, after seeing the enhanced version in the Broadway theatre, Brantley continued his praise and gave the show his blessing. At one point he even suggested that people should mortgage their houses in order to afford a ticket to this show, if only to reassure themselves that the American musical is still alive and well. The other major critics were no less appreciative. David Cote from Time Out New York called this show the greatest American musical in decades, proclaiming his love for this show in both simple and extravagant terms. Jeremy Gerard in Deadline called the show electrifying, stating that it is destined for the record books, and comparing it to both Rent and A Chorus Line from previous eras. Jesse Green from Vulture remarked on the incredible number of songs in the show – 34 – and concluded that the ambition and the scope of this show are a major breakthrough in the art form. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News said that Hamilton made Broadway officially the coolest place on the planet.

Bull’s Eye Box Office, and Somehow Increasing

In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending August 2, 2015, Hamilton brought in $1,490,816. This represents 111.67% of the show’s gross potential across the eight performances. This was the third full week of the run, although the first two weeks had just seven performances each. Still, with each progressive week, Hamilton has managed to increase its overall box office gross as well as the percentage reached of its gross potential. Granted, this past week the percentage of gross potential increased from 111.51% to 111.67%, which is a small increase, and yet it continues to show that people will pay top dollar and see this show however they can. Presently, the top ticket price is $275.00, but perhaps as the show continues to be a hot ticket, the producers may choose to practice dynamic pricing and also to raise the cost of premium tickets. This will enable to show to break even more quickly, entering profits so that the investors can make back more of their money sooner. For the ticketbuyer, this means that Hamilton will continue to be a very tough show to see. In order to see it, one must be resourceful – both in terms of finding a way to get a ticket, and in terms of affording one.

“Fish in the Dark” Concludes Its Run on Broadway

A Mega Box Office Hit That Took Broadway by Storm

fish-in-the-dark-logo-no-tix_300On August 1, 2015, Fish in the Dark will play its final performance on Broadway. The show began previews on February 2, 2015 at the Cort Theatre, and officially opened on March 5, 2015. Written by and originally starring Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, creator of Seinfeld), the show was a major box office draw from the first day. Before the show even began its first preview, it had brought in over $11 million at the box office. This was by far the highest advance of any show this spring season on Broadway. By the opening on March 5th, the advance was reported to be $13 million. On May 20, 2015, it was announced that the show had recouped its initial investment which was never revealed to the press, but was expected to be somewhere between $3 million and $4 million. The reason it took so long for the show to recoup despite such an extraordinary advance is due to the high cost of running the show, which in no small part is due to the high salary given to Larry David himself. When Jason Alexander took over for Larry David on June 9, 2015, the box office receipts dropped $400,000 for the week, and stayed fairly constant until the end of the run. However, Jason Alexander also earned a significantly lower salary, allowing the show to stay afloat despite this drop in ticket sales.

Mediocre Reviews and Poor Awards Recognitionjason alexander larry david

Despite this astounding box office success, the show received mediocre reviews upon its opening. The New York Times found the show to be an excuse to glorify the fame of Larry David, but that the comedy was not his best. Other critics were as impressed as ticket buyers, including David Cote from Time Out New York, David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter, and Matt Windman from AM New York. However, the overall critical response did nothing to dissuade ticket buyers, many of whom had already made their ticket purchases before the reviews came out. Furthermore, Fish in the Dark received no Tony Award nominations, further confirming that the show was not the best Broadway has seen by any stretch of the imagination. However, the producers of the Tony Awards ceremony did give a nod to Larry David’s impact of the Broadway industry this season, as he was given the chance to present the final award of the evening, that for Best Musical to Fun Home.

Jason Alexander Didn’t Hold a Candle to Larry David

When Alexander took over for David on June 9, 2015, the weekly box office gross dropped by $403,563. Whereas David’s final week brought in a weekly gross of $1,246,196, representing 119.73% of the show’s gross potential, Jason Alexander’s first week had a weekly gross of $842,633, which represented 80.97% of the gross potential. With very minor fluctuations, the gross through Alexander’s run has stayed constant, that is until the last reported week of box office figures: the week ending July 26, 2015. That week, the show’s weekly gross went down by $185,258 to a figure of $716,936, which represented only 68.89% of the show’s gross potential. This is by far the lowest weekly gross to date. However, chances are the sales will pick up in the final week ending August 1, 2015.

Ryan Seacrest’s “Knock Knock Live” Fails To Ignite

FOX TV’s Knock Knock Live Show Review

knock knock liveAt 9PM on July 21 2015, Ryan Seacrest’s new TV show Knock Knock Live beamed out , live, over the Fox broadcast airways for the very first time and now it all seems a blur. Knock Knock Live is Seacrest’s bid to remain on the broadcast air long after American Idol has died and gone to heaven, which will be in early 2016. The format of the show is basically a feel-good, let’s give away lots of sponsors prizes to people who are deserving by knocking on their doors and surprising them. The show roped in a couple of stars like the rapper Common and soccer star David Beckham. Kellie Pickler (from American Idol fame) co-hosted. The show consisted of hearing sappy back-stories of deserving families and then showing them being surprised by one of the celebrities with a easy challenge and then a big prize. Some of the people who nominated the families also got prizes. In a bid to keep the in-studio audience entertained, one of the families in the TV studio was also surprised.

Sponsors Galore

Knock Knock Live had an amazing slew of major sponsors that included Ford, Sprint and Meineke who gave away cars, iPhones and buses for teachers to pick up their students. The show often felt akin to when Oprah gave out all those cars (but later turned out that it was Chevy the gave away the cars). The same format played off here, with Seacrest giving away over half a million dollars worth of prizes of OPM (other peoples money). One such money giveaway was hilarious with Seacrest’s team spraying money into the street using a fan out the back of a truck and having the winner get on their hands and knees in the street to pick up the money in the dirt and grime and whatever else was there. The use of an armored truck is also hysterical, especially when the cash amount is only $25,000. Homeowners all over America will now be using armored trucks to take them to their condo closings as their bank checks are worth way more than $25k

ryan seacrest at knock knock liveThe Twitter Sphere Reacts

Twitter sphere was quick to react to the show with claims that all the “surprised” fans at home were all remarkably well dressed. Each man had on a shirt and tie and the women were wearing their Sunday best with full makeup – not one person was in their boxer shirts or covered with paint or sweat, indicating that all the families were tipped-off in some way prior to the “surprise”. Fox probably didn’t want anything to go wrong on the debut of a live show. With the sheen off the surprise, the show lacked any genuine surprises and many questionable moments appeared in the show. One obvious fake surprise came when one of the hosts came to the door of the neighbor who nominated someone else. That neighbor acted totally surprised, yet a veritable riot had been happening outside their house for the last thirty minutes with over 50 TV crew, 100 neighbors, four TV trucks and an armored truck. Every neighbors in the street had seen the show on TV or heard the noise and came out, how did the nominated neighbor not know anything? Clearly they did. It was the most obvious fake of all.

Seacrest is Charming Host But Lacks Comedic Skills

Ryan Seacrest is no stranger to fake-ality TV shows, especially given his mastermind of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Knock Knock Live may have landed in that genre given its less-than-honest surprises. There were many moments in the show that a more talented host could have used to comedic effect, but Seacrest is just not-that-kind-of-host and the show often came over as bland, if not banal. Kellie Pickler shone brightly in this show that gave her an outlet for her upbeat and winning personality. It was clear to all that while this show may not last, she just passed the interview for something bigger and better. Pickler had talked about doing The View with Whoopi Goldberg, but that seems a step down for this bright and talented star on the rise.

In-Studio Audience Experience

The In-Studio audience did not have much fun on this show as anticipated as all the action was either pre-recorded or shown live on the giant screens in the studio. Only Seacrest was in the TV studio with the audience, and he is not exactly an electric personality in person. The audience members described the experience as only slightly better than America’s Funniest Home Video’s, but at least each audience member was paid $40 for their six hour experience on the show debut. The audience was gathered by OnSet productions, who are considering raising the pay rate for the audience, as it was a stretch to get five hundred people to come to this show in the first place, where very little live-action happens. Even with the extra money, they do not anticipate on making the show any more interesting for the in-studio audience, so the whole project is difficult.

Back Story Format Lifted From American Idol

david beckhamThe “feel good” format of the show is unlikely to sustain good viewership over time as there was very little raw entertainment in the show, just one family back story after another – with each family getting a bunch of money at the end. The over-the-top attention on the back-story format grew so large on American Idol that many feel that is what ultimately did the show in. Other major networks have made the same mistake, with NBC and their prime time show AGT (America’s Got Talent).

If you cast your mind back to 2012, NBC’s Olympics coverage also has way too much back-story and they managed to make the Olympics slow-paced and bland. It’s amazing that NBC was able to add huge amounts of back-story and not even show the sports events live. They also cut out of opening ceremonies to, you guessed it, show some more back story, this time a
a Ryan Seacrest interview with Michael Phelps. Seacrest is certainly no stranger to messing up good formulas.

During the initial TV show pitch meeting for Knock Knock Live, it is reported that Fox executives often heard the terms “low brow bonanza” and ” feel good format” and they thoroughly bought into the concept. If the plan was to aim the show at individuals who think that “investing in your future” means buying a lottery ticket, then they hit that demographic perfectly. The problem is that advertisers do not necessarily want that demographic and once the sheen is off this show, they will depart, especially given that Neil Patrick Harris’s similar TV show, Best Time Ever is just around the corner and that is being produced by the masters in this genre,  ITV America who have had ten years of experience of developing a show like this.

Simon Cowell’s Suggestions Ignored

Simon Cowell had been asked for his informal input on the show and had been vocal about significant changes that would need to be made to make this show a long-term success. An insider indicated that Cowell stated that Seacrest just wants to be Mr Nice Guy, which after a little while, becomes boring and not edgy or interesting in any way. Cowell suggested that an additional character be introduced (perhaps he was referring to himself) who would arbitrarily decide whether or not the family could keep the money they just won. The reality would be that the family would get the money anyway, but on TV they would be denied just to see the reaction in some macabre They Shoot Horses Don’t They kind of way. “Seacrest needs a bad guy to counter his Mr Nice Guy persona, otherwise, he can be a bit boring” Cowell is quoted as saying. Cowell added “Where is Brian Dunkelman when you need him?”

Show Update: Show Cancelled

On July 29, 2015 Fox executives pulled the plug on this show directly after the ratings for the 2nd show were announced. Ratings that were already low in the 18-50 range for the premiere show, went down by another 17% in the 2nd show. The producers  pulled out all the stops on the 2nd show by bringing in singing sensation Justin Bieber to give a 16 year old girl a surprise. Executives figured that If Bieber was unable to turn this show around then nothing would. A summer launch of a new show is always risky, but this show ended up being a real doozy. The 2nd show was aired Jul 28 2015 and the show was cancelled on July 29 after the audience viewing figures were released.

New York TV Show Pilots On The Rise

Hollywood loves to add its own level of fanfare to its latest TV shows that are in the Pilot stage, but in the New York area, TV production companies like to keep the new TV shows in pilot-stage on the down-low. Sometimes the reasoning for the secrecy is because they do not want to the show to go off half-cocked if the show is picked up. Other times it is because the celebrity is doing something that is off-contract, or may be embarrassing (or damage) their e-score rating if it flops. It seems that well known celebrities do not like to advertise what projects they are working on when on the East Coast, but the second they are in LA, their PR people cannot wait to tell the world via their social media accounts.


al roker in black and white suit on red carpetAl Roker has been uber-busy. He has been working on a new show for NBC Universal, in between the gig he has at NBC on Today and the Wake Up With Al show, Roker has been developing The Al Roker Show that has filmed a number of episodes in the Stamford Media Center at 307 Atlantic Street in Stamford, CT. Al Roker’s self-titled new TV show uses a game show format and is similar to the likes of The Newlywed Game, The Pyramid Game  and Clue (All Born back in the 1970’s in Hollywood) in which couples ask questions and test their spouses knowledge about each other. Al Roker and his PR group has been tight lipped about the show that is under development but it is being exec-produced by Terence Gray (The creator of the New York Television Festival) The PR is being handled by Jon Harris at Jon Harris and Associates and the show producer is Tiffany Trigg. Audience management was provided by the LA based OnSet productions, that have scant New York TV shows to their credit. They had to resort to pay $60 to each audience member to make them go out to the Connecticut studios to watch them tape the show. Lord knows how cheap it is to tape a show in Stamford, CT – but when you have to bus-in a paid audience, all the economical value goes out of the window. Also the quality of a paid audience shifts the dynamic of the show. Now they are being paid to laugh, which, everyone knows, comes over the TV tube as closer to canned laughter than natural audience reaction.

Roker first made his name as a weather anchor in 1974, working for a CBS affiliate WHEN-TV in Syracuse, New York. Since 1996, he has been the weekday weather forecaster on NBC’s The Today Show, and since 2009 he has hosted an early morning show every weekday on The Weather Channel called Wake Up With Al. Al is beloved for his creative approaches to forecasting the weather, often done outside the studio, as well as his success as an actor and as book author.


knock knock liveLike a modern-day version of the Mad TV vs SNL ratings war in the 1990’s, Ryan Seacrest’s Knock Knock Live, currently in production in LA appears to be a straight copy of Neil Patrick Harris’s, yet to be shot, Best Time Ever on NBCSeacrest’s Knock Knock Live show debuts on Fox on July 21, 2015. This TV show dodged the whole pilot phase and went straight into production, beating Patrick-Harris and NBC by a solid eight weeks, which, in TV terms, can be an eternity. It is not clear how Fox got to use the trademark format owned by ITV productions for its British show Saturday Night Takeaway, but if the initial Knock Knock Live tapings are anything to go by, it uses exactly the same formula including the “live from your living room” format to surprise viewers at home. At this point it will be a surprise for some, but after a while, as both shows become established, the surprise may wear off and one of the shows will ultimately fail. With Seacrest lacking any on-stage talent other than show hosting and losing his American Idol gig in 2016, he will be desperate to make this work as he cannot live off Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s money (a show where he is the exec producer) for very long. Patrick Harris, on the other hand, may be coming to the party rather late, but he brings tremendous talent to his show, but with NBC calling the shots, they may over-produce the show and sabotage him with the content constraints they have put on other shows (Americas Got Talent being a great example of how they mess things up). If the NBC execs can keep their hands off the show, they may well have an SNL style winner. best time ever with neil patrick harrisFox’s TV ratings will be boosted tomorrow night by the amount of ITV and NBC executives who will be tuning in to see how good the show is and how many bits have been lifted from Patrick Harris’s show. It remains to be seen if anyone else will watch in the notoriously soft summer of viewership. Lacking creative originality, Seacrest has used some of the household names he helped create on the American Idol show namely Kellie Pickler and Adrienne Bailon, as co-hosts. Seacrest gets to be first on TV, Patrick Harris brings his stage talent later.TV viewers may tire quickly if Seacrest’s show just gives  Let the battle royale commence.

Knock Knock Live is produced by Dick Clark Productions and Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment. Seacrest, Fuller, Michael Herwick, Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan, Mark Bracco, Stijn Bakkers and Nicolle Yaron serve as executive producers. The new show series will premiere on Tuesday, July 21 at 9:00 p.m. on Fox and will be broadcast on the same night each week. Best Time Ever is produced by ITV Studios America and NBC Entertainment. Executive Producers on the show are Neil Patrick Harris, Orly Adelson, Siobhan Greene, Anthony McPartlin, Declan Donnelly and David A. Hurwitz. The latter three individuals are all producers of the British version of the show: Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.Glenn Weiss is directing the show.

“Gigi” Revival Opens on Broadway

Vanessa Hudgens and Victoria Clark Star

gigi vanessa hudgensOn April 8, 2015, Gigi opened at the Neil Simon Theatre. It had been running in previews since March 19, 2015. This musical is scheduled for an open-ended run at the moment. The show is produced by Jenna Segal, a first-time Broadway lead producer who has a background in television, and who has long loved this show and wanted to bring it to a new generation of audiences. In the lead role she found Vanessa Hudgens, the Disney star who has since ventured into more irreverent films such as Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, but here makes one of her life long dreams come true by appearing for the first time on Broadway. The original Broadway production premiered in 1973, based off of a novella of the same name by Colette, as well as a musical film that followed in 1958. Though the film was a hit, the original Broadway production had a disappointingly short run, although it walked away with the Tony Award for Best Score at that time. The musical has book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, and a score by Frederick Loewe. Vanessa Hudgens was not recognized by the Tony Award committee for her performance, although her much more experienced co-star Victoria Clark was nominated for the award for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. This is the only nomination the production received.

Mixed Response from Criticsgigi

When the reviews hit the press, some were in love with the revival, whereas just as many found it less than appetizing. Charles Isherwood from The New York Times was on the fence, did not approve of the way this revival, in an adaptation by Heidi Thomas, was scrubbed so squeaky clean, removing it of any naughtiness as well as intrigue. Likewise, Adam Feldman in Time Out New York did not either love or hate the show, agrees that it is inoffensive to a fault, as it refuses to address head on the complicated idea of a woman grooming herself to be a courtesan. David Rooney at the Hollywood Reporter was less generous, finding the musical deficient of charm although acknowledging it was pretty at best. David Finkle of the Huffington Post was equally unmoved by the revival, found the musical to be a cheap rendition of the successful film, remarking that cheap was used figuratively as a great deal of money was spent on the production, although to ill effect. On the other hand, Robert Kahn of NBC New York was happy with the show, praising Vanessa Hudgens’ performance for her verve and vivacity, as well as Victoria Clark’s glorious performance as her grandmother.

Box Office Struggling

With only one Tony nomination and mixed reviews, this show is not being pushed upwards at the box office. Though it began previews with signs that it might start to improve its weekly grosses as word of mouth spread, that word of mouth was too negative for it to be any help. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending May 10, 2015, the show brought in $434,201, which represents 32.38% of its box office potential. Furthermore, that is a decrease of $116,315 from the week before. In fact, it hasn’t earned such a low weekly gross at all in its first, with the exception of the first week when it only played four performances. With so much buzz going around for all the shows that were recognized by the Tony committee, it is only natural that Gigi would get lost in the fray. Once the finite pool of Vanessa Hudgens fans dries up, this show may not be around for much longer.

“Skylight” Opens on Broadway

A Lauded Revival of David Hare’s 1995 Play

skylightOn April 2, 2015, Skylight opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre. It had been running in previews since March 13, 2015. This revival of David Hare’s play is directed by Stephen Daldry, who is also helming the vastly successful play The Audience presently running this season. Daldry’s previous Broadway credits include Billy Elliot: The Musical, Via Dolorosa, and An Inspector Calls. This is in addition to his enormous list of British credits, including the previous incarnation of this production of Skylight, which prior to its Broadway run played in the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre, with the same cast. This three character play stars Carey Mulligan as Kyra Hollis, Bill Nighy as Tom Sergeant, and Matthew Beard as Edward Sergeant. Bill Nighy previously played this same role in the 1997 production of Skylight, which was directed by Richard Eyre at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. Carey Mulligan is a Hollywood star whose recent film credits include The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive, Shame, and Far from the Madding Crowd. This is her second Broadway credit, following The Seagull in 2008, for which she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. She was also seen Off-Broadway in 2011 in the New York Theatre Workshop production of Through a Glass Darkly.

Rave Reviews and Tony Nominationsskylight

The show received all around rave reviews from the major publications. Ben Brantley in the New York Times found the dynamic between Mulligan and Nighy to be magnetic, with their performances making their relationship seem meant to be despite the enormous gulf that exists between them in the circumstances of their lives. He also calls the play possibly David Hare’s best work, and definitely his tightest. David Cote in Time Out New York dubbed the play a Critics’ Pick, calling the actors deep-diving and fearless. David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter deemed Nighy as being in his top form, calling the first act terrific and the entire play riveting. Marilyn Stasio in Variety loved the fierce pas de deux, as she called it, relishing in the dreary portrait of human life at the very bottom of the social ladder. Robert Kahn in NBC New York also loved the play, calling it artfully performed. In addition to critical praise, the play was widely recognized by the Tony nominating committee. It received a remarkable seven Tony Award nominations, beat out by only one straight play in terms of number of nominations (Wolf Hall Parts One and Two received eight). The production was nominated for Best Revival of a Play, Bill Nighy was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, Carey Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, Matthew Beard was nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, Stephen Daldry was nominated for his direction (and interestingly for his play but not for The Audience), Bob Crowley was nominated for his scenic design, and Natasha Katz was nominated for her lighting design.

Ever Increasing at the Box Office

For a straight play, Skylight is not doing badly at the box office. Since the Tony nominations were announced, the figures have been increasing. In the last week of reported box office figures, the week ending May 3, 2015, it brought in $776,373, which represents 90.48% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $297.00, the average paid admission was $121.29, and the average audience capacity was 99.8%. That weekly gross is the highest yet, and it may even get higher as word of mouth continues to spread for this gloriously reviewed production.


“Airline Highway” Begins Broadway Performances

MTC Produces a Broadway Play by a Female Writer

airline highwayThe Manhattan Theatre Club has been receiving a lot of criticism for their failure to produce a play on Broadway by a female playwright over the past two years. For the first time, they broke that streak with the production of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway, which began previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on April 1, 2015. The show opened on April 23, 2015, and is scheduled to run until June 14, 2015. Lisa D’Amour is a renowned playwright, but this is the first time her work has been seen on Broadway. Her other plays include Nita & Zita, for which she received an Obie Award in 2003, Terrible Things, for which she received MAP Fund award in 2008, and Ten Thousand Things, for which she received the award for Best New Play from the Austin Critics’ Circle in 2002. Her play Detroit was scheduled to be produced on Broadway, but it was instead produced Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons in 2012-2013. This is therefore a great achievement for her work to finally be seen by a wider audience. Airline Highway is directed by Joe Mantello, whose many Broadway directing credits include An Act of God, The Last Ship, Casa Valentina, I’ll Eat You Last: A Conversation with Sue Mengers, and The Other Place.

A Gathering in a Run Down New Orleans Motelairline highway

Airline Highway takes place in New Orleans, where Lisa D’Amour was formerly a Carnival Queen. She utilizes her firsthand knowledge of the crazy range of characters in that town to craft this play. The concept of the play is an all-night party that the friends throw for their friend in honor of her death, before she has died. This pal is Miss Ruby, who lays upstairs on her deathbed, and then eventually makes it down to the parking lot party, with her bed in tow. She was a kind of maternal figure to all these tragic souls, and they are celebrating her life with a preemptive funeral. The other characters include Sissy Na Na, a wise and learned transvestite who will take on the matriarchal role once Miss Ruby has passed. We also meet the motel manager, a man who does odd jobs at the motel, and a variety of hippies and outcasts who form a tight knit community.

Difficulty Catching Hold at the Box Office

This little known play by a little known writer is having a tough time making tracks at the box office. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 26, 2015, the show only brought in $126,468, which represents 23.44% of its gross potential. In the week prior, the show reached its peak thus far with a weekly gross of $144,334, which represents 24.49% of the show’s gross potential. The average paid ticket has ranged between $29.08 and $37.42, showing a heavy amount of discounting. And yet they are still not managing to completely fill up the audience, as this last week had an average audience capacity of 86.7%. The peak in terms of audience capacity was the week before, at an average of 90.8%. Because this play is produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, it will likely survive this difficult string of box office losses, but it will still not be easy to last until June if sales don’t pick up.

“The Heidi Chronicles” Opens on Broadway

Elisabeth Moss Shines at the Music Box Theatre

heidi chroniclesOn March 19, 2015, The Heidi Chronicles opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. This play, originally produced in 1988, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1989. Written by Wendy Wasserstein (The Sisters Rosenweig, An American Daughter), this production is directed by Pam MacKinnon (A Delicate Balance, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park). Wendy Wasserstein, who passed away in 2006 due to lymphoma, is highly regarded as one of the great contemporary feminist playwrights of our time. This production has done justice to her legacy, with Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men,” Speed-the-Plow, London’s The Children’s Hour) playing the title role of Heidi Holland, a character who is semi autobiographical. Additional roles are played by Jason Biggs (“American Pie” franchise, The Play What I Wrote, The Graduate) and Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Ghost the Musical). It tells the story of a young woman named Heidi, spanning her life from childhood through more than 20 years of her life, dealing with themes of a woman’s independence, raising children, settling with a man, and building a career. The play is scheduled to run for a limited engagement until August 9, 2015.

Overall Positive Reviews from Criticsheidi chronicles

In sum, the reviews were positive for The Heidi Chronicles. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times found the play resonant today despite being written 27 years ago. He praised Elisabeth Moss, calling her “superb” and remarking on her ability to portray innocence at the same time as cunning. Robert Kahn of NBC New York also loved the show, commenting that it did not seem dated as the issues at the heart of the play are definitely still important today, and the answers are just as uncomfortable, as our culture as a whole has not fully figured out the dilemma of women’s place in society. Furthermore, Linda Winer of Newsday was overwhelmed with sentiment following this revival, not only because it is the first major production of Wendy Wasserstein’s work following her death, but also because the play definitely stands up to its legacy. Adam Feldman of Time Out New York was less sold on the production, finding the heartbeat of the play to be less resounding than it was when first performed, although acknowledging that the play has always been historical in its perspective. In addition, David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter found the best thing about the play to be Ms. Moss’ performance, but he did not fully enjoy the construction of the narrative.

A Difficult Sell at the Box Office

Elisabeth Moss may be a hot name in Hollywood due to her fame from “Mad Men,” but perhaps she has not yet reached the heights of a star who can sell a Broadway show from her name alone. Furthermore, the play and the playwright have a serious pedigree among theatre circles, but in the wider community, and especially the tourist market, they may have little resonance. Therefore, the box office figures have not been outstanding thus far in the run, and even following the mostly positive reviews, the numbers have budged just barely upward. In the most recent week of reported box office, the week ending March 29, 2015, The Heidi Chronicles brought in $335,976, which represents 37.7% of its gross potential. In the five weeks of the run thus far, the show has been on a steady incline, although very slight. For instance, this past week it only went up by $6,974 from the week before, when it had increased by $7,025 from the week before that. Therefore, it may be difficult for this show to come close to breaking even, unless something dramatically different happens in these financial patterns.

“On the Twentieth Century” Opens

A Revival of a Screwball Musical Comedy

on the twentieth centuryOn March 15, 2015, On the Twentieth Century played its opening night performance at the American Airlines Theatre. Produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, this musical is a revival of the original produced in 1978, which in turn was based off a play from 1932 by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, which was based off an unpublished by Charles Bruce Millholland. Furthermore, a film entitled Twentieth Century was released in 1934 based off the Hecht and MacArthur play. This musical has book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singin’ in the Rain, Bells are Ringing, Wonderful Town), and a score by Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, City of Angels, The Will Rogers Follies, Barnum). Following its 1978 Broadway run, the show won the Tony Award for Best Book as well as the Tony Award for Best Original Score, and then transferred to the West End in 1980. With the exception of a smaller London production in 2010, this is the first major revival. Directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical stars Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher, Mary-Louise Wilson, Michael McGrath, Andy Karl, and Mark Linn-Baker.

Overall Positive ReviewsON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The reviews are in, and critics are generally laudatory of this production. Ben Brantley wore none of his sometime cynicism in writing that he was on cloud nine following this performance, praising the “over-the-moon” acting which is a level above over-acting. In this case, he believes the extravagant performances by Chenoweth and Gallagher, among others, served the material brilliantly, and furthermore he was delighted to see a musical revival that isn’t revived very often, in this case for the first time. Joe Dziemianowicz calls the show Broadway musical bliss, delighting in everything from David Rockwell’s art deco set of the locomotive train, to Chenoweth’s dynamite comedy and voice. Frank Scheck from the New York Post delights in the fact that they don’t make musicals, or write dialogue, like this anymore, and likewise calls the show theatrical bliss. Jesse Green in Vulture calls the revival delicious, acknowledging that there are a million reasons why the show shouldn’t work today, but that Chenoweth above all makes those reasons fall to the wayside, as the role of Lily Garland is perfectly suited to her natural gifts. David Rooney of The Hollywood Report was more on the fence, deeming that Scott Ellis is off his game and that the mock operetta style becomes tedious to watch.

Mediocre Box Office Performance

Despite these largely positive reviews, the show is still struggling at the box office. This is not surprising, because most of these critical responses were extravagantly positive especially because they did not expect to like it. The show’s title, description, and appearance seem to make it very dated, and this makes it a difficult sell at the box office. It doesn’t matter that the show defies expectations, because you have to buy a ticket to find that out. In the full week of performances following the release of these reviews, the show’s weekly gross went up by only $75,479, bringing it to a gross of $466,078 across eight performances. This is only 56.69% of the week’s gross potential. Still, the Roundabout is managing to fill many of its seats, as the show did average over 100% of audience capacity in the last two weeks. However, with a top ticket price of $229.00, the average paid admission was $80.30, showing a heavy amount of discounting. Fortunately, the Roundabout is equipped to handle these numbers as a not-for-profit theatre company.