Mike Tyson’s One-Man Broadway Show Closes

After a brief bout with Broadway, Mike Tyson steps out of the ring today.  Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth started performances on July 31 and now concludes its very limited run at the Longacre Theatre.  Directed by Spike Lee and written by Kiki Tyson (Mike’s wife), Undisputed Truth was a one-man show in which the former heavyweight boxing champ recounted both his successes and the many controversies and low points in his life.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truthwas initially set for just a week-long run, but soon extended to two weeks.  The reviews were mostly mixed to negative, some citing the show’s structural clumsiness, Tyson’s hard-to-understand speech, and his vitriolic rants against people like ex-wife Robin Givens as particular problems.  But that hardly mattered, as the show managed to sell quite well on the strength of Mike Tyson’s celebrity, especially given the short run. In its last week, the show only sold 61.54% of available seats but had an average paid admission of $145.87, which is a record for shows performed at a Broadway Theatre.

Broadway was not actually the world premiere venue for Undisputed Truth.  Tyson unveiled the show in Las Vegas earlier this year.  Now that the Broadway engagement is over, it’s unclear was the next step for Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is.  A world tour might be a logical next move, but nothing has yet been announced
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Open Casting Call for Jersey Boys Film

A couple of significant developments have come about concerning the forthcoming film adaptation of the Broadway mega-hit musical Jersey Boys.  The movie, which already had assigned writer John Logan the task of penning the screenplay, now has a director: Actor-turned-successful director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) will helm the Jersey Boys film.

It has also been announced that the Jersey Boys movie is going to have an open casting call for the four lead parts:  Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Massi.  The casting calls will be held in Philadelphia on August 18 and in New York City on August 26.

If you were born to be one of the Four Seasons but can’t make one of these open calls, videotaped auditions are also being accepted through August 22.  Find out more at www.jerseyboysmoviecasting.com.

Will The Next Hit Broadway Musical be at the NYC Fringe!

There’s no guarantee you’ll actually be seeing a future Broadway success when you attend the New York City International Fringe Festival, which starts today.  In fact, it’s highly unlikely that will happen.  The Tony Award-nominated musical Urinetown, which transferred to Broadway in 2001, remains the festival’s only major Broadway success story.  But the festival has been an incubator for a number of Off-Broadway musicals (the current hit Silence the Musical! was once a Fringe show) and it continues to be a proving ground for young talent.

Looking through the 200+ show listings at www.fringenyc.org, Broadway fans will find several shows designed to appeal to their tastes.  The Hills Are Alive! is a parody of The Sound of Music, Hanafuda Denki offers a Japanese take on The Threepenny Opera, DOGS: A Biting Comedy presents a director’s attempt to create an Arab-Jewish musical version of Romeo & Juliet, Non-Equity The Musical charts the progress of struggling actors, and LOLPERA has “a libretto created entirely from captions of stupid cat pictures”.

Although this kind of silliness is par for the course when it comes to Fringe Festival musicals, there are more serious musicals in this year’s festival as well.  Dark Hollow is an Appalachian take on Woyzeck, PANORAMANIA dramatizes the life of painter John Banvard, and Paper Plane tells a Great Depression-era adventure story.

The NYC International Fringe Festival runs through August 26.  Buy your tickets at least 24 hours ahead of time and you’ll only pay $15, but it costs $18 at the door.  If you really want to indulge in several Fringe shows (the more you see, the more likely you are to find that diamond in the rough), there is a 5-show pass for $70 or a 10-show pass for $120.  If you really want to go nuts, get the $500 Lunatic Pass and devour every single show you can work into your schedule.

Cinderella Will Waltz Into the Broadway Theatre

Laura Osnes

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella will be enchanting Broadway this season when it begins performances at the Broadway Theatre on January 21, 2013.  Originally written for television, this lovely, comic 1957 musical will in fact be making its Broadway debut.  Rodgers & Hammerstein provide the memorable score, which includes such tunes as “In My Own Little Corner” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”.  Hammerstein originally wrote the show’s book, but this production will be using a new adaptation written by playwright Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, Lysistrata Jones).

Laura Osnes (who famously found Broadway stardom through the reality show Grease: You’re the One That I Want) will star as Cinderella, and Santino Fontana (The Importance of Being Earnest) will be her charming Prince.  The production will also include such well-loved Broadway veterans as Victoria Clark, Harriet Harris, Peter Barlett, and Ann Harada.

The original TV version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cindrella starred Julie Andrews.  A 1965 remake featured Lesley Ann Warren as the famed fairy tale character.  R&B pop singer Brandy took on the role in a 1997 television version that also featured Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother.  This new Broadway production will have its official opening night on February 21.

Can TV’s “The Glee Project” Change the Way That Broadway Shows Are Cast?

With its teen stars regularly bursting into fully-orchestrated song and busting out perfectly-choreographed moves, Fox’s TV hit Glee is not necessarily the most realistic take on the high school experience.  But Glee‘s sister show, the reality TV program The Glee Project, now in its second season on the Oxygen network, offers a real-life behind-the-scenes glimpse at how Glee takes talented youngsters and turns them into stars.  By featuring the show’s casting director Robert Ulrich and producer Ryan Murphy making important decisions, The Glee Project reveals the ins and outs of casting for musicals.

While Glee is of course a TV show and not a Broadway show, many of the same principles apply since, like your average Broadway musical, Glee is searching for triple-threat performers (i.e. people who can sing, dance, and act) who are charismatic and possess that “special something” that makes them uniquely interesting.  The first season of The Glee Project was largely successful, first gathering an impressive group of young talent via video auditions and then in-person auditions, and eventually whittling the finalists down to two winners who both co-starred on several episodes of Glee this past season.  The second season is currently airing now and working its way to finding a winner.

While it would not be cost effective for any Broadway show to take on such an elaborate form of casting, the success of The Glee Project could easily inspire Broadway casting agents to try more video auditioning.  Broadway casting is currently a rather insular process that often has an “outsiders need not apply” attitude.  While this is often a sensible strategy, since it keeps casting directors from having to sit through multitudes of auditions from talent-free wannabes, it can also unwittingly keep away potential undiscovered talent.

As The Glee Project has found, accepting video auditions is a good way of plucking under-the-radar talent out of obscurity.  If they can come up with an effective weeding-out process (which may just be as simple as hiring a couple of interns to pore through the submissions), Broadway casting directors may find this a worthwhile way of doing some of their casting, particularly when they are looking for young people who are not old enough to have moved to New York City to start pursuing their performing careers.  Broadway-bound Motown the Musical is trying this method, having recently established a website to accept video auditions during their search for a pre-teen to play the young Michael Jackson onstage.

While it remains to be seen if The Glee Project affects the Broadway casting process, it certainly offers would-be performers some valuable tips on what casting directors are looking for.  As The Glee Project reveals, it’s about more than just talent.  Contestants who have proved difficult to work with, unadventurous, and unwilling to take criticism or direction have all been shown the door.  So, aspiring Broadway babies, take note:  watching The Glee Project could prove to be very useful for audition preparation.

Holiday Shows Will Light Up Broadway This Christmas

It’s still summertime, but the Christmas holiday shows have already been announced and now is a good time to start thinking about getting tickets for these often popular, limited-run Broadway shows before they start selling out.

In past years, Broadway has seen such holiday entries as White Christmas and Cirque du Soleil’s Wintuk, but the main Christmas-themed Broadway show on this year’s schedule is a new kid in town, A Christmas Story. Based on the 1983 movie of the same name, which has become a TV mainstay during the holiday season, A Christmas Story follows the misadventures of young Ralphie, who desperately wants a BB gun for Christmas. A Christmas Story opens at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on November 19 and closes on December 30.

The stage musical incarnation of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas returns to town this winter season, playing the Theater at Madison Square Garden for a short run, December 13-30. Kids and adults who remember the classic Christmas book and the much-loved cartoon version will enjoy seeing the funny and moving story of a meanie who gains the Christmas spirit live onstage. Memorable songs from the cartoon such as “Welcome Christmas” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” are also in this Grinch-y stage show.

The most prominent Christmas show on the New York City theater scene remains the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which has delighted audiences at the famed Radio City Music Hall for over 50 years. The Radio City Christmas show shakes things up a bit each year, usually adding and subtracting segments of the multimedia spectacle, so even if you have already seen it, you will find something new in each year’s showing. There are a wide range of ticket prices available, so if you don’t mind sitting on one of the upper levels, this can be one of the more affordable options for a Christmas show for the family. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular opens on November 9, with a closing date of December 30.

For theater lovers looking for holiday entertainment that is off the beaten path, keep your eyes open for the Off-Off-Broadway listings. It’s a little early yet for schedules, but the Christmas season is always full of special holiday benefit concerts, multiple unique adaptations of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, children’s holiday shows, and other Christmas goodies.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales* w/e 8/05/2012

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers from the week ending August 5, 2012:

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPaidAdm
BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL $387,388 7,980 86.04% $48.54
CHICAGO $610,712 7,551 87.40% $80.88
CLYBOURNE PARK $393,487 5,303 69.70% $74.20
END OF THE RAINBOW $237,516 3,853 48.65% $61.64
EVITA $1,020,443 9,380 72.74% $108.79
FELA! $568,727 8,969 81.89% $63.41
GHOST $502,195 6,699 55.64% $74.97
GORE VIDAL’S THE BEST MAN $544,590 6,358 74.76% $85.65
HARVEY $707,136 9,291 102.82% $76.11
JERSEY BOYS $878,625 8,794 89.52% $99.91
MAMMA MIA! $862,888 10,060 83.95% $85.77
MARY POPPINS $1,002,816 12,747 88.67% $78.67
MEMPHIS $657,688 9,550 81.21% $68.87
MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH $624,496 5,183 80.21% $120.49
NEWSIES $1,047,401 9,736 101.84% $107.58
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT $767,075 7,860 68.28% $97.59
ONCE $1,059,285 8,524 100.71% $124.27
ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS $605,858 6,285 80.58% $96.40
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER $493,926 6,030 72.62% $81.91
PORGY AND BESS $532,547 6,100 57.12% $87.30
ROCK OF AGES $497,905 4,621 99.08% $107.75
SISTER ACT $723,936 9,915 70.62% $73.01
SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK $1,705,189 14,484 93.81% $117.73
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,633,673 8,752 102.63% $186.66
THE LION KING $2,013,943 13,419 100.02% $150.08
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $979,594 11,900 92.68% $82.32
WAR HORSE $474,389 5,109 59.74% $92.85
WICKED $2,013,559 14,030 96.95% $143.52
TOTAL $23,546,985 238,483 82.14% $95.60

*Broadway Grosses provided courtesy of The Broadway League

Memphis, Harvey, and Fela! Close on Broadway This Weekend

Three Broadway shows are closing this weekend, the long-running musical Memphis, the limited run hit Harvey, and the return engagement of Fela!

The Tony Award-winning Memphis has been playing at the Shubert Theatre since autumn of 2009, and has played well over 1,100 performances during the course of its run. Based on the true story of a DJ who shocked the segregated South by playing “black music” on the radio in the 1950s, Memphis has been a popular hit that never attained the sell-out status of a Jersey Boys, but nonetheless enjoyed a healthy run. The role of the charismatic DJ, Huey Calhoun, gave Chad Kimball a showy star part, but Adam Pascal (Rent, Aida) has been playing the role since last October, when Kimball left the show.

Harvey, on the other hand, has had a short run, but could have easily continued on for longer due to popular demand. However, star Jim Parsons was only able to do a limited engagement because of his filming schedule for the hit TV comedy The Big Bang Theory. Known by the largest number of people because of its famed film version starring Jimmy Stewart, Mary Chase’s Harvey began as a play first and held up surprisingly well in this Roundabout Theatre Company Broadway revival, despite it being over 65 years old.

Fela!, a very well-liked musical that played Broadway for over a year starting in late 2009, returned for a very brief engagement at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre from July 12 to August 4 as a part of its current world tour. Celebrating the life and music of activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, this lively musical features big name producers Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.

Henry Winkler Plays Porn Star in Broadway-Bound Play “The Performers”

Henry Winkler (last seen on Broadway in Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party in 2000 and still known as “The Fonz” to many for his iconic role in the TV show Happy Days) will play one of the adult film industry’s elder statesmen in the world premiere of the new Broadway play The Performers, opening at the Longacre Theatre on November 14. As is traditional in the porn industry, Winkler’s character boasts an evocative yet slightly silly “stage name” — in this case, “Chuck Wood”.

Written by David West Read and directed by Evan Cabnet, The Performers primarily concerns two other characters — played by Cheyenne Jackson (Broadway’s All Shook Up and Xanadu, TV’s 30 Rock) and Daniel Breaker (Broadway’s Passing Strange and Shrek the Musical) — who are old high school friends that meet up again in Las Vegas at the Adult Film Awards.  When both men find that their long-standing romantic relationships are challenged, Henry Winkler’s Chuck Wood helps them work out their difficulties.

Casting Continues For Film Version of Broadway Play August: Osage County

The forthcoming film version of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play August: Osage County has already amassed an impressive group of stars, and there are still many characters yet to be cast.  The Broadway hit, which began at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is a sprawling melodrama about a dysfunctional Midwestern family that is thrown into turmoil when the family patriarch goes missing.  Meryl Streep was among the first cast as the manipulative family matriarch, the pill-popping Violet Weston.

Julia Roberts is taking on the pivotal role of Barbara Weston, Violet’s take-charge daughter, and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) will be playing her daughter, Jean.  Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers, Cape Fear) has been chosen to play Barbara’s sister, Karen.

The most recent additions to the cast are a marvelous pair of character actors, Margo Martindale (Million Dollar Baby, TV’s Justified), playing Violet’s brash sister Mattie Fae, and Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity, American Beauty), who will take on the role of Mattie Fae’s husband Charles.

Fans of the play, which ran for a year and a half on Broadway before closing in June 2009, have reacted positively to most of the casting.  The choice that has created the greatest doubt is the casting of Julia Roberts in a role that was perfectly played by Amy Morton on Broadway.  But apparently none of the original Broadway cast was deemed famous enough, since so far the film is bringing in someone new for each role.

August: Osage County is being directed by John Wells, and George Clooney is serving as one of the film’s producers.