“You Can’t Take It With You” Begins Previews

A Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman Collaboration

you can't take it with youOn August 26, 2014, You Can’t Take It With You began previews at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre.  It will have its official opening on September 28, 2014, and is presently scheduled to run for a limited engagement until January 4, 2015.  Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman in 1936, You Can’t Take It With You is a comedic play in three acts.  Upon its premiere, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937.  Furthermore, a successful 1938 film adaptation directed by Frank Capra won the Academy Awards for Best Picture as well as Best Director.  A revival of the play was mounted in 1983; this will be the play’s second revival.  Directed by Scott Ellis (Twelve Angry Men, The Mystery of Edwin Drood), the show will star James Earl Jones (Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Fences) as Martin Vanderhof, along with Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, “Charmed”) making her Broadway debut in the role of Alice.  Further cast members include Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots), Elizabeth Ashley (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), and Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike).

In the Season Following “Act One”

This production will also feature original music written by Jason Robert Brown, a well-known composer for Parade, The Last Five Years, and The Bridges of Madison County.  It is produced by Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, who first announced the production in 2010, but it was postponed several times until this fall.  Fortunately, the decided production dates are timely, as last season Lincoln Center debuted a play called Act One written and directed by James Lapine, which dealt with the long collaborative relationship between Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.  In that production, Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) played George S. Kaufman as well as Moss Hart as an older man.  Santino Fontano (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella) played Moss Hart as a younger man.  That show will have whet the appetite of many audience members who are now eager to see a production of work by that great collaborative duo.  Now they will have a chance.

A Wacky Family Headed by James Earl Jones

The story of You Can’t Take It With You involves a wacky family called the Sycamores.  James Earl Jones plays the patriarch Grandpa james earl jonesVanderhof, and the rest of the family includes those who collect snakes, consider themselves revolutionaries, dance ballet, and build skyrockets.  The play takes place as the youngest daughter Alice (played by Rose Byrne) brings her fiancé (played by Fran Kranz, recently seen on Broadway in Death of a Salesman) and his parents over to meet her family, and hilarity incurs.  The play features a large cast, which will make its financial success difficult to achieve, but fortunately it features such a great team that it may very well succeed.  As for the non-human members of the cast, the producers have just announced that they have partnered with the Humane Society of New York to adopt the kittens that are used in the show.  As the kittens outgrow their roles, the production will help ensure that they find a happy family to adopt them.

“Of Mice and Men” Concludes Its Run

A Magnificent Financial Success

Of Mice and Men with James Franco and Chris O'DowdThis year’s revival of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, starring James Franco, Chris O’Dowd, and Leighton Meester, concluded performances this past Sunday, July 27, 2014. Having begun performances on March 19, 2014 at the Longacre Theatre, the play officially opened on April 16, 2014. Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (Motherf**ker with the Hat), this production received moderate to positive reviews, but it succeeded in becoming a record-breaking financial hit. With a budget of $3.8 million, the play recouped its capitalization in just 12 weeks of its 19 week run. With sales doing well but not extraordinarily throughout the bulk of the run, Of Mice and Men saw a huge upsurge in box office in its final week of performances, earning $1,038,106 over the course of 8 performances. With just over 100 seats, the Longacre Theatre has never seen a gross this high; in fact, it marks the first time a show in this theatre has broken the million dollar mark.

National Theatre Live

The production also locked down another notable achievement in its final weeks. The National Theatre Live series produced by the National Theatre in London, which films live performances to be screened to 500 movie theaters around the world, has chosen Of Mice and Men as the first ever Broadway production to be filmed for its series. In fact, this is the first time a non-British production has been chosen for this prestigious scheme allowing it to be seen so accessibly worldwide. So far, the National Theatre Live series has filmed and screened 40 productions. After the final public performance on Sunday, July 27, 2014, instead of loading out of the theatre on Monday, the crew loaded in the equipment of the National Theatre. On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, the cast performed the play once more to be filmed, this time for a select group of invited guests. Although this would generally break many union requirements, the show’s producers have come to agreement with all the relevant unions.

The Cult of James Franco

The play earned two Tony Award nominations – those for Best Leading Actor for Chris O’Dowd and for Japhy Weideman for james francoLighting Design – but it won neither. A notable snub was that James Franco was not nominated for an award, although the press surrounding the show is overwhelming in his regard. This is possibly because the theatre community resented Franco’s entitled egotism, which he displayed prominently on social media following a negative review by the most respected New York Times theatre critic, Ben Brantley. In any event, the show’s reviews did not seem to deter ticket buyers, as those who wanted to see the show would not be put off by some niche bad theatre press. After all, James Franco’s influence is gigantic and increasingly so, as he continues to expand into more and more domains. During the period in which he was performing in this Broadway show eight times a week, which is usually enough to occupy any actor, he also directed an Off-Broadway show at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre called The Long Shrift, not to mention his numerous other commitments ranging from teaching acting in Los Angeles, to running his film production outfit Rabbit Bandini, to performing and directing in numerous film projects. In this light, the cult of James Franco does not seem to be slowing its pace anytime soon, and Broadway is another box he can tick on his infinite list of achievements.

“Of Mice and Men” Opens on Broadway

John Steinbeck’s 1937 play Of Mice and Men, based on his 1937 novella of the same name, is presently being revived on Broadway for the second time.  On April 16, 2014, Anna D. Shapiro’s production of this classic story of two displaced migrant workers during the Great Depression opened at the Longacre Theatre.  This production has received a great deal of press, primarily because it stars James Franco, the ever-increasingly famous (with bouts of infamy) multi-hyphenate actor, writer, director, producer, author, teacher, and poet.  He stars alongside Chris O’Dowd and Leighton Meester, both also stars of the screen making their Broadway debuts.  As such, it has been selling considerably well at the box office, averaging around 96% capacity with an average ticket price of $101.76.  Therefore, though the production received mixed to positive reviews following its opening, this is unlikely to sway ticket-buyers who are more drawn by the star factor of the face on the marquis than by promises of quality.


Ben Brantley of The New York Times is by far New York’s most influential Broadway theatre critic.  Producers flaunt positive quotes with his byline, and they live in fear of his negative responses to their shows.  In an era where people are reading fewer newspapers than ever before, New York City has become a one-paper town, where Brantley rules the theatre section.  James Franco, though new to the Broadway scene, has clearly picked up on the sensitivity of this one man’s opinion to his show’s fate, and in the fashion of any egomaniac on a quest for world domination, he decided to publicly flaunt his distaste for Brantley’s less than positive review.  Of course, Franco’s medium of choice for this proclamation was none other than Instagram.  (Lest we forget, this is the same place that Franco made an utter fool of himself two weeks ago for blatantly hitting on a Scottish 17 year-old whom he had met outside of the Of Mice and Men stage door.)  After Brantley published a critical review of Franco’s stage demeanor and level of acting effort, Franco posted to Instagram a link to the positive Variety review, then commenting that Brantley is a “little bitch” whom the theatre community hates for good reason, as he is an “idiot”.  Though he has since taken down this post, it only further illustrates Franco’s lack of grace and dangerously swollen ego.

Other reviewers were more positive in their reviews of the play.  Variety, Time Out New York, NBC, and the Hollywood Reporter all praised the revival and Ms. Shapiro’s direction.  The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, was more in line with Brantley.  Charles McNulty reviewed Franco as being in “CliffsNotes mode,” which is not surprising as he is flying to L.A. to teach a class on his one day off, while also working on his innumerable other projects, when most other Broadway stars would be focused on their stage performance.  Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Franco’s success in merely dialing it in.  However, it is more likely that the greater world will continue to swoon for his celebrity, excusing his madness and even finding it endearing, and allowing him to take credit for wild success when his biggest achievement seems to be just showing up.  It is time we acknowledge that James Franco has become a brand.  We generally look for a soul in our Broadway performers, and it seems Franco’s has long been buried by his ever-growing success.

Of Mice and Men is scheduled to run until July 27, 2014.

Mike Tyson To Knock Out Broadway

Former heavyweight champion, frequent controversy stirrer, and occasional actor Mike Tyson is now making his Broadway debut. Tyson will star on Broadway in a one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, during a very limited run at the Longacre Theatre. Also making his Broadway debut is Spike Lee, who will serve as the show’s director.

“It’s about me being on stage and being pretty raw. Not necessarily raw in a vulgar sense … I’m just naked and vulnerable,” said Mike Tyson in a press conference about the show, which will cover everything from his boxing career to his financial woes and time in prison. Tyson already debuted the show in Las Vegas this past April during a week-long stint at the MGM Grand.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is scheduled to play just six nights, from July 31 to August 5.  Tickets range from $74.50 for balcony seats to $198.50 for orchestra center.  Big Mike Tyson fans may want to splurge on the VIP Tyson Meet & Greet Package, which, for $299.50, gets you an in-person meeting and photo with the boxing champ.