There’s a New Dame In Town

Scott Mason as Dame EdnaDame Edna Everage has her Honorary Understudy, and his name is Scott Mason. The honor was bestowed upon Mason on Wednesday morning when he won a contest being held at Henry Miller’s Theatre, where Dame Edna’s new show All About Me is soon opening. Among the contest’s judges, which scored the participants on criteria such as make-up, costume, and accent, were Michael Musto and New York Post columnist Michael Riedel. Dame Edna herself (aka Barry Humphries) and All About Me co-star Michael Feinstein had their say as well, of course. Although he will receive a credit in the show’s Playbill, Scott Mason’s role as official understudy will be purely honorary (after all, there is only one Dame Edna Everage). However, Mason is no stranger to playing the good Dame – he has worked extensively as a professional Dame Edna impersonator.

The Wild Life Has Gotten Wilder in New York’s Parks

A raccoon in Central ParkHow do you vaccinate a raccoon?
Very, very carefully.
A plan to vaccinate raccoons in New York City’s Central Park, Riverside Park, and Morningside Park is underway.
Since December, more than three dozen documented cases of rabies among raccoons have been reported. A dog and two people have been bitten by rabid raccoons since the end of last year; all of those bitten received treatment. The raccoons have been sighted largely in Central Park and upper Manhattan.
The New York City Department of Health says the project is to protect both the raccoons and the community around them.
The raccoons will be caught (humanely) by wildlife experts. They will then be vaccinated, tagged, and released in the same location. (Unless, we hope, they were found wandering around a store on Broadway or some such place.)
The whole process will take four to eight weeks, and will be repeated next summer to vaccinate the raccoons born this spring.
Obviously, people, do not touch, pet, or in any way coo over a wild raccoon should you encounter one, whether it be shopping at the Food Emporium or strolling through the park.
And in other news documenting the fact that wildlife in New York is indeed getting wilder, a trio of coyotes was spotted at Columbia University earlier this month.
Coyotes have also been spotted in New York suburbs, proving that despite the many lures of the ‘burbs, a wildlife-free zone isn’t one of them.

It’s a Dog-Beat-Dog World at the Nation’s Top Dog Show

A Westminstr Dog Show PosterWho let the dogs in?
If they’re purebred, groomed to the hilt, and strutting their stuff in front of adoring fans at New York’s Madison Square Garden, then they’re there by invitation only, thank you very much, and they’re competing in the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
The show began last night and finishes up tonight with the all-important Best in Show award. (Rumor has it that a Scottie named Sadie is strongly favored.)
Last night, four groups competed: Hound (Whippets, Greyhounds) Toy (Poodles, Pekinese), Non-Sporting (Bulldogs, Chinese Shar-Pei) and Herding (Pulis, Bearded Collies). Tonight we’ll see the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, as well as Best in Show.
The event is limited to 2,500 dogs, with individual breed judging taking place between 8 am and 6 pm on both days.
Although records are fuzzy, the show has its origins possibly as early as 1876, when a group of gentlemen met regularly to talk, among other things, about their talented dogs. They form a group–and name it after their favorite hotel. A dog show is eventually held–and more than 130 years later; toy poodles with pink bows in their hair are flouncing across the floor of Madison Square Garden.
So if you couldn’t score tickets, never mind: tonight it will be televised on the USA network from 8-11 pm, and you’ll most definitely see a bump in interest in whatever breed wins.
So tear yourself away from men’s Olympic curling for one evening, and watch competitors of a furrier, cuddlier nature for just one night, pink bows and all.

Mary Poppins Broadway Show Review

Mary Poppins Broadway MusicalShow Summary
A very unusual nanny (who just so happens to be practically perfect in every way) helps two rambunctious children connect with their distracted and distant parents – and she shows them a bit of magic along the way. Disney’s Mary Poppins, now a Broadway musical, is based on the beloved P.L. Travers stories and the classic Disney movie of the same name.

Broadway Review
Fans of the books will be happy to see that this live action Broadway adaptation of Mary Poppins includes characters and adventures that the popular Disney film left out. Fans of the movie, on the other hand, may miss its simplicity (as well as a few of the songs). But everybody is sure to appreciate the wonderful cast and impressive sets. Be aware that there are a few darker moments in the show that might scare smaller children.

A Behanding in Spokane Begins on Broadway Tonight

A Behanding in Spokane Broadway ShowThe world premiere production of Martin McDonagh’s new play A Behanding in Spokane begins on Broadway tonight at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. This is the first time that one of McDonagh’s works, which usually take place in Ireland, is set in the United States, and it is also the first McDonagh play to premiere on Broadway. Directed by John Crowley, the intermission-less comedy stars Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Anthony Mackie, and Zoe Kazan. A Behanding in Spokane, which is sure to include its author’s signature mix of black humor and violence, is about a man looking for his missing hand, a couple of con artists out to make a score, and a curious hotel clerk. The play is set for a limited run of 16 weeks and will have its official Broadway opening on March 4.

Barbie Has a New Career, Lego Comes Out to Play at Toy Fair

Toy Fair 2010Technically Barbie may be in her dotage, but this year she also has a new career as a TV news anchor (her 125th–she’s fickle, that girl.) She comes, of course, with the all-important desk and microphone.
The word comes from New York’s Toy Fair, which opened yesterday and runs through Wednesday, Feb. 17 at the Javits Center.
While the general public doesn’t have access to the show, many of the toys will become available by the end of the year. The event showcases the toys that are destined to be under the tree next Christmas, and presages the bestsellers throughout the year.
From Lego we’ll see new Duplo building blocks aimed at younger kids, as well as new Mindstorm robots.
And a new updated version of Chinese checkers is being released by toy company Pressman (what can they possibly do to it??). With the economy the way it is, more families are rediscovering game night, so their timing is canny.
More than 1,100 exhibiting toy manufacturers, distributors and agents set up shop at the event, which feeds into the $75 billion toy industry; almost 32,000 people from almost 100 countries are expected to attend. It’s the largest international toy trade show in the western hemisphere.
Programs throughout the week include such events as the “Toy Trends Tea”; a session on environmentalism and toys; and a guide to exporting.
So even if you can’t be there, the buzz will start soon–so avoid the hassle, parents, and pick up the toys as soon as they hit the market, rather than waiting furtively on line next Christmas Eve.

13th Edition of Broadway Bears Roars Into Town

Broadway BearsIt’s going to be a very cuddly Valentine’s Day for those attending “Broadway Bears VIII” today at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in the theater district. The annual event, which serves as a fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), features a myriad of teddy bears which have been fashioned and costumed to resemble characters from Broadway shows. Most of the bears that will be up for auction at the event represent current or recent Broadway shows, such as 9 to 5, 33 Variations, A Little Night Music, A Steady Rain, Billy Elliot, Exit the King, Hair, Liza’s at the Palace, Rock of Ages, and Wishful Drinking. But there are also bears representing older Broadway shows, such as M. Butterfly and Victor/Victoria. Most bears are actually autographed by the original person who played their character, and many also feature autographs from other people involved with the show as well. Tickets for “Broadway Bears”, which is hosted by John Bolton (Spamalot) and Sotheby’s auctioneer Lorna Kelly (and featuring a musical performance by Felicia Finley), are $35 or $150 for VIP tickets. If you want to bid on a bear, though, prepare to fork over a lot more cash. Last year’s top bear, a Spamalot bear signed by Clay Aiken, went for $16,000.

From Icy Hearts to Warm Ones, It’s a New York Valentine’s Day

Ice Heart in Times SquareHappy Valentine’s Day!
Whether you revel in this holiday, choose to ignore it, or haven’t even checked your calendar, New York certainly offers its share of events, from the romantic to the just plain…odd.
For starters, take a trip to Times Square (soon) where a 7,000-pound ice sculpture in the shape of a heart is slowly melting its way into viewers’ hearts–and onto the ground.
Designed by Robert and Granger Moorhead, two architects who also happen to be brothers, the sculpture was actually created to melt away in what they call a celebration of its temporary nature.
A commentary on love? Relationships? A way to while away the time? Who knows?
The 10-foot-tall heart, which was finished on Friday, is made of blocks of ice and is designed to act like a kaleidoscope, magnifying and refracting the lights of Times Square.
Over at the Empire State Building, the lights are red, pink and white in honor of the holiday, and 14 couples were married there yesterday, courtesy of wedding website theknot.com. (A heads up: Tomorrow the lights switch to red, white and blue in honor of President’s Day.) One couple was married at the 86th floor Observatory, while the others got hitched on the 61st floor.
More than 200 couples have been married in the building, which has been open for weddings since 1994. This is the only time of year that the building allows these ceremonies to take place.
So celebrate as you like-in New York, Valentine’s Day can be whatever you want.

Yes, Chairs in Times Square Will Be a Permanent State

Times Square Pedestrain MallLove the Pedestrian Mall in New York’s Times Square? Hate it? Completely indifferent to its presence? Well, whatever your feelings, it’s here to stay—at least for the foreseeable future.
An eight-month trial called Greenlight closed 42nd to 47th Streets to traffic. The trial was undertaken to see if getting rid of the three-way intersection where Broadway meets Seventh Avenue would speed up traffic.
Some business, drivers and even pedestrians preferred the old set-up, while many people hailed the plaza and the chance to hang out, read a book, and have lunch, especially during the warmer months.
Mayor Bloomberg announced this past Thursday at a news conference that traffic in the area is down as result of the changes; in addition, he claims that traffic speed increased by approximately seven percent.
(Many people disagree, and say that the function of the plaza is merely to increase tourism to the area, and that traffic flow has not been helped at all. A number of people wander over to see the set-up out of curiosity, and neighborhood restaurants have benefited by being able to send the overflow of customers to the additional outdoor seating.)
Safety conditions also improved, Mayor Bloomberg added, and public response, overall, appears to be favorable; tourists, New Yorkers and businesses were all polled for their reaction.
Now that the plaza is moving into more permanent residency, plans to put in new paving and redesign the space are afoot.

The Miracle Worker Begins Performances on Broadway

The Miracle Worker Broadway ShowThe new Broadway revival of the classic William Gibson play The Miracle Worker (based on the true story of Helen Keller) starts performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre today. The production features Alison Pill (most recently on Broadway in The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Off-Broadway in reasons to be pretty) as Annie Sullivan and Abigail Breslin (on film in Little Miss Sunshine and Zombieland) as her famous pupil, the blind and deaf Helen Keller. Jennifer Morrison (TV’s House), Matthew Modine (And the Band Played On), and Elizabeth Franz (on Broadway in Death of a Salesman and Morning’s at Seven) co-star in the drama, set in 1880s Alabama. The Miracle Worker, which is directed by Kate Whoriskey, will have its official opening on March 3.