Television and Stage Star Bea Arthur Dies at 86

Bea Arthur has sadly passed away at the age of 86. Younger generations know the tall, wryly funny actress from her role as Dorothy Zbornak on the NBC television sitcom Golden Girls, but older TV fans also know her from her earlier sitcom Maude (a spin-off born from her riotous guest turn on All in the Family). However, despite all of the TV success she found in her later years, Bea Arthur actually made her name on the New York stage. Her first significant role was playing Lucy Brown in the 1954 Off-Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera. Her first show on Broadway was Plain and Fancy, but the parts she is best remembered for are Yente in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof and as Vera Charles in Mame (she was also in the film version of the latter musical). Bea Arthur won two Emmy Awards (and many more Emmy nominations) and a Tony Award for her work. She is survived by two sons and her grandchildren.

Morton and Rashad Join Broadway’s August: Osage County In May

On May 26, the Broadway production of the play August: Osage County will get two very interesting additions to the cast. Amy Morton, who originated the role of Weston daughter Barbara (for which she received numerous awards and nominations), will return to the part that she made such an indelible mark on. On that same day, Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show, numerous Broadway productions including the recent Cat On A Hot Tin Roof revival) will take on the role of pill-popping Weston family matriarch Violet. Morton and Rashad, both formidable actresses, will give fans of the Broadway play a good excuse to go back and see it again. August: Osage County began at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago before coming to Broadway for what was supposed to be a limited run and soon turned into a long run that is already a year and a half strong. After receiving rave reviews, Tracy Letts’s dysfunctional family drama went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Off-Broadway Play "Ruined" Wins Pulitzer Prize For Drama

It’s official, Lynn Nottage’s play Ruined has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The speculation that Nottage’s excellent drama about women in the Congo might take the prize began as soon as it began Off-Broadway in its production at the Manhattan Theatre Club in January. Ruined had its premiere in the autumn of 2008 at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, which commissioned the play. Both productions were directed by Kate Whoriskey, who had a significant role in helping Nottage develop the play. With any luck, the Pulitzer Prize win will help raise the profile of Ruined, which is an important play that exposes many of the horrors that women in Africa are facing in war-torn lands where they frequently become victims of violence and sexual abuse. Part of Nottage’s triumph, though, is that she takes this grim subject matter and still manages to write a play full of humor and hope. Although the MTC production’s future is far from certain, there is a possibility that Ruined could move to Broadway now that it has landed this prestigious prize (and it’s likely to rack up a few more now that awards season is upon us).

Off-Broadway Play “Ruined” Wins Pulitzer Prize For Drama

It’s official, Lynn Nottage’s play Ruined has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The speculation that Nottage’s excellent drama about women in the Congo might take the prize began as soon as it began Off-Broadway in its production at the Manhattan Theatre Club in January. Ruined had its premiere in the autumn of 2008 at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, which commissioned the play. Both productions were directed by Kate Whoriskey, who had a significant role in helping Nottage develop the play. With any luck, the Pulitzer Prize win will help raise the profile of Ruined, which is an important play that exposes many of the horrors that women in Africa are facing in war-torn lands where they frequently become victims of violence and sexual abuse. Part of Nottage’s triumph, though, is that she takes this grim subject matter and still manages to write a play full of humor and hope. Although the MTC production’s future is far from certain, there is a possibility that Ruined could move to Broadway now that it has landed this prestigious prize (and it’s likely to rack up a few more now that awards season is upon us).

Dolly Parton To Appear on 9 To 5 Star Stephanie J. Block’s Solo Debut

For Broadway actress/singer Stephanie J. Block, her gig in the new Dolly Parton-penned Broadway musical 9 To 5 has paid off in more ways than one. Block, who has been working on her solo album debut, is getting the country music legend herself to appear on her new CD – the pair will duet on the 1974 classic “I Will Always Love You”. Also appearing on Block’s album, titled This Place I Know, will be an array of Broadway big shots, including Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz (accompanying Stephanie on piano for a recording of his song “Making Good”), A Chorus Line composer Marvin Hamlisch (arranging and accompanying on his song “Smart Women,” cut from the Broadway comedy Imaginary Friends), and Ragtime tunesmith Stephen Flaherty (the first recording of his song “Something Beautiful”). Considering Stephanie J. Block’s already impressive Broadway credits – The Boy From Oz, Wicked, and The Pirate Queen – it’s no wonder she was able to assemble such a team for her first solo outing. The album is due out on the PS Classics label on June 2, with a digital release on May 12.

Cirque du Soleil Extends Run Into June

Cirque du Soleil has just extended the run of its new show Kooza to June 7, giving audiences extra time to see this theatrical sensation. The show begins performances on April 16 under the Grand Chapiteau (i.e. the Big Top) at Randall’s Island Park. (Randall’s Island is part of Manhattan but actually located off the main island – and is reachable by driving, or through a combination of subway and bus). Directed by David Shiner, Kooza is the latest Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, full of music, beautiful visuals, and of course hilarious clowning and spectacular acrobatics. The story concerns a sad loner who is on a journey, searching for his place in the world, and comes into contact with a series of odd and interesting characters who help him find his way. Kooza is the latest of many touring Cirque shows to stop at Randall’s Island Park, the most recent being Corteo and Varekai.

The Philanthropist Begins On Broadway

The new Roundabout Theatre Company production of the 1970 play The Philanthropist, directed by David Grindley, starts performances at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway today, April 10. The production stars Matthew Broderick, who has appeared on Broadway in such shows as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Producers, and The Odd Couple. In The Philanthropist, which playwright Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) wrote as a response to Moliere’s classic The Misanthrope, Broderick plays a university professor oblivious to the chaos around him. Also starring in this production: Steven Weber, Jonathan Cake, Anna Madeley, Samantha Soule, Jennifer Mudge, and Tate Ellington. The Philanthropist will have its official Broadway opening at the American Airlines on April 26, and the play is scheduled to have a limited run through June 28. Discount tickets are available for the production, so if you want to see The Philanthropist for cheap, click here.

The Philanthropist Starring Matthew Broderick Begins On Broadway

The new Roundabout Theatre Company production of the 1970 play The Philanthropist, directed by David Grindley, starts performances at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway today, April 10. The production stars Matthew Broderick, who has appeared on Broadway in such shows as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The Producers, and The Odd Couple. In The Philanthropist, which playwright Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) wrote as a response to Moliere’s classic The Misanthrope, Broderick plays a university professor oblivious to the chaos around him. Also starring in this production are actors Steven Weber, Jonathan Cake, Anna Madeley, Samantha Soule, Jennifer Mudge, and Tate Ellington. The Philanthropist will have its official Broadway opening at the American Airlines on April 26, and the play is scheduled to have a limited run through June 28.

Reasons To Be Pretty Adds Monday Shows

The new Broadway play Reasons To Be Pretty is changing around its performance schedule a bit, now adding Monday night performances to the roster. This could be a smart move for the intimate four-person show, as it will have less competition with other Broadway shows and should therefore be able to bring in a bigger audience than it had been on Thursday nights (the Thursday night performance will be discontinued in favor of the new Monday night shows). Written by playwright Neil Labute, Reasons To Be Pretty started life Off-Broadway at the Lortel Theatre before transferring to the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. The play, starring Thomas Sadoski, Marin Ireland, Piper Perabo, and Steven Pasquale, was acclaimed Off-Broadway and was also greeted with largely good reviews when it opened on Broadway recently. Reasons To Be Pretty is Neil Labute’s latest play on the theme of beauty and how it affects our personal relationships – the previous two being The Shape of Things and Fat Pig. Although Labute has had numerous Off-Broadway and regional productions of his work, and he has written screenplays as well, this does in fact mark his debut on Broadway.

Rock of Ages Opens on Broadway

Rock of Ages, the new musical starring former American Idol contestant Constantine Maroulis, opens on Broadway. The rock musical featuring classic tunes by 1980s hair bands like Bon Jovi, Journey, Asia, and Whitesnake began Off-Broadway, but recently transferred to Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where it is set for an open run. The tuner is about an aspiring musician who arrives on L.A.’s Sunset Strip with dreams of making it big as a rocker.