Broadway's latest casualty, Shrek the Musical: the green didn't extend to box-office grosses.
By Lee Pfeiffer
Noel Coward once asked rhetorically, "Why must the show go on?" It's a question investors might well have been asking over the decades. It's a well known fact that, if you want a good return on your investment, stay far away from Broadway shows. Generally, investors are motivated by the glitz and glamor of being part of a major production - but relatively few pay off big and most don't even return the backer's initial investment. The cost of producing a play on Broadway is now so great that a show often has to run for years just to break even. However, investors are benefiting from a source of income generally looked upon with disdain by the lifted pinky crowd in New York City: stock company productions. As Variety reports, shows that bomb spectacularly on Broadway can end up turning major profits over a period of years in out-of-town productions that even include high school performances. Unburdened by massive salaries and production costs, local stage productions can pack in "regular folks" at reasonable prices, even as Broadway's $125+ seats remain empty. For more click here
You can't swing a cat on the Great White Way lately without hitting a major star. Add Scarlett Johansson to the mix, as the blonde beauty is coming to Broadway in a revival of Arthur Miller's drama A View From the Bridge co-starring Liev Schreiber. The play is going into previews in December with the formal opening next January. Meanwhile, we'll use this article as an excuse to run a gratuitously sexy photo of Ms. Johansson that has nothing to do with Arthur Miller's writings. Click here for more.
Matthew Broderick has long indulged in the practice of waiting until very late in the game before rehearsing for a play. The habit lead to a disastrous performance of his new play The Starry Messenger in New York. While the play is still in rehearsals and audience members can expect some rough spots, some were outraged over what they felt was Broderick's unpreparedness for his performance. On several occasions he forgot his lines and had to ask for them to be fed to him. There were other screw-ups as well, according to Gatecrasher column of the Daily News. The poor response to Broderick's performance is already all the talk of the Broadway gossip mill. Click here to read.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is undoubtedly one of the very best contemporary actors, but even he can make missteps. His starring role in an NYU production of Othello resulted in most of the audience walking out at intermission. Shades of Moose Murders, the notorious Broadway flop that closed after one performance. Ever the pro, Hoffman continued to perform, even as director Peter Sellars urged the remaining audience members to move closer to the stage by occupying the abandoned seats. For more click here
A Steady Rain starring Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman had its official New York opening last night. Among the celebs attending: Jerry Seinfeld, Matthew Broderick and Harvey Weinstein. Click here for coverage
The blockbuster pairing of Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman in the Broadway production of A Steady Rain has audiences riveted and the play looks to be one of the top-grossers of the season. This is no mean feat, as Broadway success is generally relegated to big budget musicals. James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, who is also one of the producers of the play, is said to have purchased film rights to the show. For more click here
Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman were performing their hit play A Steady Rain in New York the other night when an audience member's mobile phone went off. The play is a searing, two-man drama and the disruption clearly interrupted the actor's thought processes. When the phone went off a second time, the two macho men took on the culprit, while still staying in character. To view click here
Leslie Caron was once the toast of Hollywood, but for the last fifteen years she has been operating her own bed and breakfast in France. She will be returning to the Paris stage in an English language production of A Little Night Music and will finally publish her memoirs later this year. In a recent interview, she also discusses how she helped bring her greatest triumph Gigi to the screen. Click here to read
Jude Law is taking the treacherous path that so many sex symbols have taken to prove he's not just another pretty face: he's prepping his production of Hamlet for the Broadway stage. Rehearsals begin next week and the risk is considerable for any actor's reputation who takes on the Bard's most legendary role. However, Law is riding on a wave of acclaim following his recent production of the play in London and his presence on Broadway is certain to give ticket sales a much-needed boost. For a New York Times interview with Law click here
On September 5, the bang. comedy theater in Los Angeles will feature Streeptease, a stage re-enactment of classic dialogue from the films of Meryl Streep. The caveat here is that it is performed by an all-male cast. Hmm..the love scenes from The Bridges of Madison County should be particularly interesting with a male actor speaking in an Italian accent expressing his love for Clint Eastwood, who isn't even there. Now if they can only induce Ernest Borgnine to star in our long-planned one-man tribute to Ethel Merman! For info click here
Barbra Streisand will make a one night appearance at New York's Village Vanguard next month to sing songs from her new CD Love is the Answer. Streisand last performed there in 1961 as the opening act for Miles Davis. Fans can enter a free sweepstakes to win tickets to the event. For details click here
Spencer Tracy and Frederic March were adversaries on both sides of the evolution debate in Stanley Kramer's superb 1960 film adaptation of Inherit the Wind.
Kevin Spacey, who is the artistic director of London's fabled Old Vic Theatre, will go on the boards himself to star in a revival of the acclaimed play Inherit the Wind. Spacey will play the role of Henry Drummond, based on the real life lawyer Clarence Darrow in the story inspired by the famed Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s. That trial saw a school teacher, John Scopes, fighting his arrest for teaching the theory of evolution, a practice which violated the school system's insistence that only Biblical theories about the founding of the earth could be taught. Spencer Tracy and Frederic March starred in Stanley Kramer's classic 1960 version of the play. Spacey's co-star has not been announced, but chances are it will be a high-power name. For more click here
The troubled forthcoming Broadway musical adaptation of Spiderman is finally getting some positive buzz. Evan Rachel Wood has been cast as Peter Parker's girlfriend Mary Jane Watson and Tony Award winner Alan Cumming will play the villainous Green Goblin.The casting is good so far but still...Spiderman with music????
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber may be picking at the low hanging fruit by returning to his most successful musical, Phantom of the Opera, for a sequel. However, the planned opening for this fall has been delayed due to problems with the score. It is now anticipated the show will open in 2010, a development sure to cause distress in theaters that had been planning to book the potential blockbuster. At least Webber has changed the title from the dreadful Phantom of the Opera II to the somewhat less anemic Love Never Dies - but it still sounds like the title of one of those George Hamilton vampire spoofs from the 1970s. Now, if only they can persuade old Herbert Lom to put on the mask and play the title role...For more click here
Subscriber Frank Coronado alerts us to this exciting bit of news: British songwriter Robyn Hitchcock is preparing a stage musical based on the 1973 Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force. Frank says it shows Hitchcock never studied the film's best-remembered line: "A man's got to know his limitations." Still, since the show is obviously tongue-in-cheek, he may be on to something. We anxiously await the Celtic dance version of The Wild Bunch! For more click here
(L to R): James L. LaRocca, director of the performance, Eli Wallach, Peter Sabri and playwright Jeff Baron. (Photo copyright Lee Pfeiffer/Cinema Retro. All rights reserved).
By Lee Pfeiffer
It isn't every day you can see a legendary actor perform before an intimate audience, but last night afforded one such opportunity when Eli Wallach took to the stage at The Players, the legendary New York club dedicated to the performing arts. The one night performance was to benefit The Players Foundation for Theater Education, a newly-founded non-profit group that is dedicated to promoting theater history. Wallach was reviving a role he played more than a decade ago in writer Jeff Baron's acclaimed two-character play Visiting Mr. Green. Wallach and Peter Sabri performed a reading of the play in front of a packed house. The plot centers on Ross, a 30 year-old New York executive who has a mishap with his automobile that results in his hitting an 86 year-old widower, Mr. Green. The judge "sentences" Ross to visit Mr. Green one day a week and help him perform errands and odd jobs. When he arrives at Mr. Green's apartment, he finds the elderly Jewish man to be a cynic who seems to have lost his zest for life since the recent death of his wife of many years. Mr. Green is obstinate and abrasive - and makes it clear he does not want Ross's help. Nevertheless, the younger man is persistent and in the course of the play, an unlikely friendship develops between the two men - until it is threatened when a revelation by Ross causes their fragile relationship to be jeopardized.
Visiting Mr. Green is sentimental without being mawkish, as it explores how prejudice and intolerance often preclude relationships with people who would otherwise be fast friends. As the cantankerous Mr. Green, Wallach was in top form, mingling cringe-inducing insults with hilarious witticisms. Seeing Wallach perform was a genuine treat. I was transported back in time by the realization that I was watching the man who played Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Calvera in The Magnificent Seven, not to mention the last living member of The Misfits. At age 93, Wallach is as fiesty as his on-stage alter-ego, and he charmed the audience after the show by mingling and posing for photos. In terms of acting ability, however, Wallach should be looking over his shoulder because he was matched by Peter Sabri, who brought his complex and tortured character to life through a mesmerizing performance. If there's any justice in the New York theater community, we should be seeing a great deal more of this very talented performer.
In all, a wonderful night of entertainment that was made all the more enjoyable by the presence of Jeff Baron, who joined Wallach and Sabri for a post-show Q&A with the audience. Visiting Mr. Green is a true pleasure, made all the more entertaining when it is combined with visiting Mr. Wallach.
New York Post theater critic Michael Riedel has a moving salute to some Broadway legends who passed away in the last year. Among them are actors such as Paul Scofield, Suzanne Pleshette and Van Johnson, as well as the famed critic Clive Barnes. Riedel points out that Barnes had a unique ability to encapsulate his thoughts on any given production. For example, his entire review of a 1958 play called The Cupboard read: "Bare". Where is such wit today? To read the column click here
Daniel Radcliffe in Equus: won't be letting it all hang out much longer
The recession is taking a heavy toll on Broadway. Major shows are scheduled to close by January 4 including Young Frankenstein, Equus, Boeing-Boeing, Grease and Hairspray. The resurgence of the American dollar has made it expensive for foreigners to visit the US and Broadway relies heavily on this tourist trade. For example, until recent months, the American dollar was trading at $2 against the British pound. Today, it is $1.47 to the pound. This makes it an attractive proposition for Americans to visit Britain, but an expensive endeavor for Brits to visit the USA. Broadway has always been a street of big dreams and small profits. While there are occasional blockbusters, the staggering overhead of putting on live, multi-million dollar productions has made it possible for plays to run for years without showing a net profit. Incredibly, the only shows to show a profit this season were revivals of The Seagull and All My Sons. This is surprising because it is usually musicals and comedies that do well while dramas suffer to break even. One of the main reasons for the downturn is the extravagant ticket prices which skyrocketed during the boom years of the 1990s. Standard orchestra sets now sell for over $100 a ticket to top shows. To combat the downturn, most productions are having fire sale specials on ticket prices. To get E mail discount offers, such as two-for-one specials, sign up for newsletters at sites such as Playbill.com and Broadway.com . For more click here
The much-anticipated Broadway production of Spiderman is still in the formative stages, but according to The New York Post, it's already in more trouble than Doctor Octopus could cook up. Director Julie Taymor is alleged to be spending money like the federal government to ensure the show has top-notch production qualities. However, with a budget estimated to be at $35-$40 million, insiders say the production is destined to lose money no matter how popular it is - and that's before taking into consideration the financial meltdown that will surely impact Broadway in a big way. For the report click here
Pardon the pun, but we're breaking "Wind" news. Frankly, my dears, the audience just didn't give a damn. As Cinema Retro predicted, director Trevor Nunn's musical stage version of Margaret Mitchell's classic Gone With the Wind will close June 14, the victim of weak ticket sales and reviews that were devastating. We never take pleasure in the failure of any production. It affects the lives and careers of many talented people who work hard to make a show succeed. But this one was a waste of time and money that could have been spent nurturing other shows, especially given the fact that a 1970s attempt to produce the novel as a big budget musical also flopped - in London, yet! So why would anyone think such a scenario would work this time? It's like launching a mega budget sequel to Howard the Duck. The producer, Aldo Scrofani said, "Plans for a New York production are currently on hold but in the
meantime we are pursuing various options that have been presented to us
from interested parties worldwide." Various options? Scrofani must be such a master of understatement and spin that he would describe General Sherman's march through Atlanta as a social call. He has a perfect future running the campaigns of presidential candidates. - Lee Pfeiffer
The New York Post reports that a musical titled Bruce Lee: Journey to the West is to open on Broadway in 2010. The show will trace the iconic martial arts star's rise to fame and fortune and include Chinese pop and opera music. Lee might seem be an unlikely subject for a big budget musical, but the production has attracted some top talent. Personally, we're holding out for the Charles Bronson stage show which features the spectacular Death Wish singing and dancing production number!