‘Mothers and Sons’ starring Tyne Daly opens on Broadway.

A Moving Tribute – Manhattan style

In Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons, Tyne Daly masterfully plays the lead as Katharine Gerard, a recently widowed woman who lost her only son Andre to AIDS 20 years ago.  In the opening scene, Katharine unexpectedly turns up at the Central Park West apartment of Andre’s former life partner, Cal Porter (played by Frederick Weller) .  Now alone in the world and still very much in denial about her son’s lifestyle choices, Katharine seeks solace from the one person closest to Andre prior to his untimely death.

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show tyne daly

It’s been nearly two decades since Katharine and Cal have last seen each other – at Andre’s funeral  – and the tension between them is palpable.  Katharine is resentful at Cal for taking her son away and living a lifestyle that she disapproves.  Cal is resentful at Katharine for shunning him at the funeral and refusing to acknowledge the pain he was suffering from losing Andre.

Secretly hoping that Cal has not moved on, Katharine instead finds that this once poor bohemian has become a successful money manager with a new husband (Bobby Steggert) and young son (Grayson Taylor).  Katharine cannot fathom why Cal’s life has improved so much since Andre’s death and hers has been in a steady decline.  She is angry and jealous.  They exchange bitter words.

And just when it appears these two couldn’t be further apart, secrets are revealed that not only highlight their similarities, but also brings them closer together.

The play pays tribute to the legions of gay men that were lost to the AIDS crisis in the late 20th century and shines a light on the pain of those who lived through this horrible epidemic.  When Katharine asks “When is someone going to write the next great American novel?”, Cal’s response is “It could have been Andre.”  It leaves you wondering what the world might have been like had this generation of bright and talented individuals survived.  This show is an obvious draw for gay couples from Chelsea, but should really seen by everyone because it’s a remembrance of a period in modern American history that has been largely overlooked.

Tyne Daly is believable in the role, at times you simultaneously want to hug her, shake some sense into her, and tell her she is not alone.  The subtle references to current New York City life and locations is a real treat and makes the story line even that much more enjoyable and believable.

Mothers and Sons is now playing at the Golden Theatre, located at 252 W. 45th Street in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district.

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.

A Night with Janis Joplin Rocks Broadway

A Night with Janis JoplinThe new Broadway production A Night with Janis Joplin, which began previews last month, officially opens at the Lyceum Theatre today. Originally known as One Night with Janis Joplin, the music revue played at several venues across the country prior to arriving on the Great White Way.

Mary Bridget Davies makes her Broadway debut in the iconic role of Janis Joplin, singing many of the songs that the rock legend made famous, including “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” and “Me and Bobby McGee”. She is joined by an onstage band. Written and directed by Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin is set for an open run on Broadway.

The show has had a pretty strong start in ticket sales. Last week, the Lyceum Theatre on 45th Street was at 84.50% capacity with 4,555 attending, which is impressive for a newer show. However, it had a lower than average $61.88 ticket resulting in total sales of $281,871. So will A Night with Janis Joplin turn into many nights on Broadway? We will have to see. If the Off-Broadway hit Love, Janis from several years ago and the positive response to the current production is any indication, then A Night may burn brightly for many months to come, if Mary Bridget Davies impressive voice can hold up to the harrowing schedule of eight shows a week.

The Trip to Bountiful on Broadway Closes Tonight

The Trip To Bountiful Broadway ShowThe Broadway revival of The Trip to Bountiful ends its run at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre today. The play first premiered on Broadway in 1953 in the very same spot, back when it was known as Henry Miller’s Theatre.

Written by the late Horton Foote, The Trip to Bountiful debuted as a televised play on NBC a few months before opening on Broadway. It is also well-known from its 1985 film version starring Geraldine Page, who won an Oscar for her performance.

This latest production starred Cicely Tyson as Carrie Watts, the elderly woman who slips away from her son and daughter-in-law’s cramped Houston home and takes a bus to see her beloved hometown of Bountiful one last time. When it opened, the production co-starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams, and Condola Rashad.

This production closed with a respectful $673,002 of ticket sales  in its last week, with over 87% of the theatre seats sold, totaling 6474 patrons paying an average of $103.95 per ticket. The show ran for 178 performances that opened on April 23 2013 following previews that began March 30 2013 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre at 124 West 43rd Street, New York City

The show was nominated for four Tony Awards, including:
Best Actress in a Play (Cicely Tyson),
Best Featured Actress in a Play (Condola Rashad),
Best Sound Design for a Play (John Gromada)
Best Revival of a Play.

Tyson won the Tony Award for her performance as Mother Carrie Watts.

Annie To Close on Broadway in January

Annie Broadway MusicalThe producers of the Broadway revival of Annie have announced that the production will close on January 5, 2014. Annie, which opened on Broadway in November of 2012, will close having played over 500 performances.

The original Broadway production of Annie opened in 1977, won seven Tony Awards, and played more than 2,000 performances. In addition to the current revival, there was also a revival in 1997.

Written by Charles Strouse (music), Martin Charnin (lyrics), and Thomas Meehan (book), Annie is a musical based on the famed comic strip about an orphan girl living in Depression-era New York City. It is best known for memorable songs such as “Tomorrow” and “It’s a Hard Knock Life”.

Broadway’s Motown the Musical Launches Casting Call

Motown the Musical Broadway ShowMotown the Musical, the new Broadway mega-hit, is launching a nationwide casting call for both the Broadway production and the forthcoming national tour. The show’s producers are in search of talented African-American performers to fill a variety of roles.

The first casting call, dubbed “Makin’ It Motown,” will be held at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York City on September 13 from 11am to 2pm. A second open call is scheduled for the Oriental Theatre in Chicago on September 14 at 11am to 2pm.

African-American women and men aged 20s to 40s with excellent singing voices are invited to audition, as are African-American boys (aged 8-13) for the role of young Michael Jackson. Theater experience is not necessary to audition.

Go to motownthemusical.com/casting to get more information, or email casting@motownthemusical.com for further details.

Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth Will Come To New York

Kenneth BranaghThe acclaimed Manchester International Festival production of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, starring Kenneth Branagh, will come to Park Avenue Armory in New York City next summer. Though Branagh has a great deal of experience on the English stage, this will mark the esteemed actor’s New York stage debut.

Featuring Kenneth Branagh in the title role and Alex Kingston (also making her debut on the NYC stage) as Lady Macbeth, the production has set and costume design by Christopher Oram, lighting by Neil Austin, sound design courtesy of Christopher Shutt, and music by frequent Branagh collaborator Patrick Doyle.

Referring to the Armory space where the production will be staged, Branagh stated that, “Utilizing the possibilities of the vast open space is a truly exciting prospect. I am delighted that we have the chance to recreate Macbeth in this epic setting.”

Tom Skerritt Joins Cast of Broadway’s A Time To Kill

Tom SkerrittEmmy-winning actor Tom Skerritt will make his Broadway debut this season, co-starring in the forthcoming drama A Time to Kill, based on The Firm author John Grisham’s first novel. Skerritt will play the role of Lucien Wilbanks.

M*A*S*H, Alien, Top Gun, Steel Magnolias, and A River Runs Through It are among Tom Skerritt’s film credits. However, he is equally well-known for his role on the acclaimed CBS TV program Picket Fences, for which he won his Emmy Award.

Tom Skerritt joins a cast that includes Sebastian Arcelus, Patrick Page, Tonya Pinkins, and Fred Dalton Thompson. Adapted by Rupert Holmes and directed by Ethan McSweeny, A Time To Kill is scheduled to start performances at the John Golden Theatre on September 28. Opening night is set for October 20.

The Nance Plays Final Performance on Broadway Today

The Nance Broadway ShowDouglas Carter Beane’s new play, The Nance, ends its run at the Lyceum Theatre today. The production began previews on March 21 and officially opened on April 15. Though it was scheduled for an open run and enjoyed respectable sales, presumably The Nance was not able to sell enough tickets (particularly during the summer months when kid-friendly fare thrives) to stay open any longer.

Set in 1937, the play starred Tony Award-winning Broadway favorite Nathan Lane in the role of Chauncey Miles, a well-loved New York burlesque performer. Though Chauncey plays a popular campy character type known as ‘the nance,’ he must keep his own true homosexuality a secret.

Directed by Jack O’Brien, the production also starred Andrea Burns, Cady Huffman, Jonny Orsini, Jenni Barber, Mylinda Hull, and Lewis J. Stadlen.

Magic Mike Broadway Musical in the Works

Magic Mike

Magic Mike

The Next to Normal team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (who also wrote the new Broadway-bound musical If/Then) will team up with Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to adapt the recent film Magic Mike into a Broadway musical.

Magic Mike director Steven Soderbergh and star Channing Tatum will serve as producers on the musical. The popular 2012 movie, which co-starred Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Alex Pettyfer and Matt Bomer, was inspired by Tatum’s experience as a male stripper.

Another of the show’s producers, Reid Carolin, previously spoke to USA Today about the Magic Mike musical, saying, “We are working on it as a Broadway show, which would be a different story, more of a romp, more of a fun night out at a club with a story. I’m almost more excited about that than the movie because I think it’s the perfect thing for women to go see on Broadway, to be participants in the show.”