Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How'd We Do? Show Showdown Tony Predictions Wrap-Up 2016

Our correct predictions are highlighted.


Wendy
Sandra
Cameron
Liz
Best play: The Humans
The Humans
The Humans
The Humans
King Charles III
Best musical: Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Best revival of a play: A View From the Bridge
A View from the Bridge
A View from the Bridge
A View from the Bridge
The Crucible
Best revival of a musical: The Color Purple
The Color Purple
Fiddler on the Roof
The Color Purple
The Color Purple
Best book of a musical:  Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Best original score: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Hamilton
Leading actor in a play: Frank Langella, The Father
Mark Strong, A View from the Bridge
Mark Strong, A View from the Bridge
Frank Langella, The Father
Mark Strong or Frank Langella
(Liz gets ½ point here, since she guessed two.)
Leading actress in a play: Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey into Night
Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Sophie Okonedo,   
The Crucible
Leading actor in a musical: Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton
Leading actress in a musical: Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Cynthia Errivo, The Color Purple
Philippa Soo,
Hamilton
Cynthia Errivo, The Color Purple
Cynthia Errivo, The Color Purple
Featured actor in a play: Reed Birney, The Humans
Reed Birney, The Humans
Reed Birney, The Humans
Reed Birney, The Humans
Reed Birney, The Humans
Featured actress in a play: Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Featured actor in a musical: Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Daveed Diggs,        Hamilton
Daveed Diggs,   Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton
Daveed Diggs, or Christopher Jackson (Liz gets ½ point here, since she guessed two.)
Featured actress in a musical: Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Scenic design, play: David Zinn, The Humans
Jan Versweyveld A View from the Bridge
Jan Versweyveld A View from the Bridge
Christopher Oram,
Hughie
David Zinn, The Humans
Scenic design, musical: David Rockwell, She Loves Me
David Korins,
Hamilton
David Korins,
Hamilton
David Korins,
Hamilton
David Korins,
Hamilton
Costume design, play: Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Michael Krass, Noises Off
Jane Greenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jane Greenwood, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Clint Ramos, Eclipsed
Costume design, musical: Paul Tazewell, Hamiltom
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton
Paul Tazewell, Hamilton
Lighting, play: Natasha Katz, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Natasha Katz, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Jan Versweyveld, The Crucible
Jan Versweyveld, A View From the Bridge
Jan Versweyveld, The Crucible
Lighting, musical: Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Howell Binkley, Hamilton
Direction, play: Ivo Van Hove, A View From the Bridge
Ivo Van Hove, A View From the Bridge
Ivo Van Hove, A View From the Bridge
Ivo Van Hove, A View From the Bridge
Ivo Van Hove, A View From the Bridge
Direction, musical: Thomas Kail, Hamilton
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
Thomas Kail, Hamilton
Choreograpy: Andy Blanken-buehler, Hamilton
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton
Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Alex Lacamoire, Hamilton
Total correct
20/24 (83%)
16/24 (67%)
18/24 (75%)
17/24 (71%)


Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Color Purple

The Color Purple has been well-reviewed all over the place, and I generally agree that it is a strong production of a moving show. But I have a serious ax to grind.



In Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple, the protagonist Celie, who has been breathtakingly mistreated from birth, comes to life when she becomes lovers with the vibrant Shug. Shug helps Celie reclaim herself--and introduces her to what her body can do. She teaches Celie about her "button" and its magic orgasmic powers.

So, silly me, when I saw that the song list included "Push da Button," I happily anticipated a lovely lesbian love/sex song.

And instead got a song teaching women how to please their men!!!!

In this version of The Color Purple, Celie and Shug's relationship is underplayed almost to invisibility. While the heterosexual couples bump and grind, Celie and Shug hug. While Harpo and Sophia's relationship is highlighted, Celie and Shug's is lowlighted. It's truly infuriating!

When John Doyle famously pared The Color Purple to what the New York Times calls "its essence," he missed its soul.

Wendy Caster
(P14; tdf ticket)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Show Showdown's Tony Picks (Not All of Which Are "Hamilton")

If you are a reader of this blog, we probably don't have to tell you that early June means the annual Tony awards. Even if you are not a reader of this blog, we also probably don't have to tell you that Hamilton is up for a record-breaking 16 awards, and that it will very well end up getting most of them. But wait! That doesn't mean the broadcast will be dull! There have been some remarkable shows and performances on Broadway (and beyond) this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing excerpts on tv--and finding out who wins in some of the non-Hamilton categories. Plus, who knows? Major upsets happen sometimes, so it's not over 'til it's over--or at least 'til Burr takes deadly aim.
Without further ado, then, Show Showdown's humble contributors offer you our Tony predictions--and much, much more!---after the jump and this fetching picture of James Corden holding a Tony and maybe talking or singing to it.

Universal Robots

Stephen Hawking: The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence. A superintelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.
According to an interview in the New York Times, the exceptional playwright Mac Rogers would seem to disagree with Stephen Hawking. He says, “If you know how long it takes to get a robot to cross a room, the last thing you’re scared of is that they’re going to turn against you.”

Cheek, Howard
Photo: Deborah Alexander

And it's true that today's robots seem unlikely to rule the world; robotic salamanders and vacuum cleaners just aren't the stuff of nightmares. Yet in the wonderful Universal Robots, Rogers shows us how we could end up in the world of Stephen Hawking's fears (and Bill Gates's and Elon Musk's). How? Tiny innocent step by tiny innocent step.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Rizing

The setting is familiar: a 12-step-program-type support group. A woman stands, says, "Hello, my name is Mica, and I'm Z-positive," and everyone else says, "Hi, Mica." Does "Z-positive" perhaps remind you of "HIV-positive"? It's supposed to. The Z stands for zenoplasmosis, an infectious agent that turns people into zombies in "post-zombiepocalypse America." Does the "zeno" remind you of "xeno," as in "xenophobia"? It's supposed to.

Rahn, Lathon, Spielmann, Sanyal, Aulisi
Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum

Jason Tseng's Rizing, directed by Emily Hartford and presented by the fabulous Flux Theatre Ensemble, exists as both an entertaining zombie drama and a less successful allegory for the treatment of HIV-positive people and (from the playwright's note in the program) "other people marginalized and oppressed by our hegemonic society: communities of color, Muslims, immigrants and refugees..."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Random roundup: The Father, Turn Me Loose, The Crucible

The Father, Florian Zeller's very good play (in very good translation by Christopher Hampton) is worth seeing both for the tricks it plays on the audience and for Frank Langella's riveting, pitch-perfect performance. Often, plays about dementia don't just tug but rip at the heartstrings--about three years ago, Sharr White's The Other Place , which also ran at the Friedman Theater, hit me so hard that I found myself openly sobbing at the curtain call, which I can assure you doesn't happen all that often with me. Oh, except as a kid, I remember having about the same reaction to Driving Miss Daisy. 

I've had my fair share of experience with dementia: it afflicted both my grandmothers, one of whom lived with and gradually declined from the disease for the better part of a decade. Several extended family members had it, and my father-in-law has the honor now. I'm sure I'm hardly atypical in this respect, but anyway, plays about the subject almost always set me off. So while I was eager to see Langella onstage for once, I steeled myself for The Father to hit me hard--but it didn't. This is not a play that seems written or directed to kick one's emotions in the groin. Rather, The Father struck me as a remarkably accurate, almost clinical examination of Alzheimer's, which allows the audience to ponder the ways the disease works from the perspective of the afflicted. I very much appreciated the ways the production plunged the audience into the kinds of anxiety and confusion the titular character, named Andre, experiences over the course of 90 engaging minutes. I don't want to give any of the gimmicks away, but they are all creative, subtle, well-executed and appropriately disorienting. The Father doesn't aim to make clean, straightforward narrative sense; I remain unsure who some of the characters were, or whether they even existed beyond the fragmented mind of Andre, who, like many people with dementia, frequently shift rapidly between different time periods or exist in several at once, confusing one person or place or thing for another. The strengths of the production and its performances thus don't lie in character development and plot trajectory, but that doesn't mean there isn't an abundance of strengths to be found.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Shuffle Along

The...um....reconception? reconstruction? reconsideration?...of the 1921 hit show Shuffle Along, currently at the Music Box Theater (which, by the way, also opened in 1921), has some of the best dancing you'll see on a Broadway stage this season (or any), and a top-notch cast featuring some of the most well-known and beloved stars of the genre. There are some truly stunning production numbers, some laugh-out-loud gags, and a lot of warmth. I couldn't stop smiling through the entire first act, and while I struggled more with the second, I'd hardly call it a crashing bore by any stretch. I have studied the original show and thought enough about it that I think my reaction to the current production is tainted by my own ideas about what it should have been and what it should have focused on. Which is, in the end, my problem--a really weird occupational hazard befitting one with a really weird occupation--and hardly that of the production, which is fun and moving, maybe more so without preconceived notions.

Here's the thing: The original production of Shuffle Along is enormously important--a landmark musical that served, too, as a humbling reminder of just how hard it was for black artists to find success in overwhelmingly white entertainment realms (which at the time was basically every realm). While not the first Broadway show to feature an all-black cast and creative team (that was In Dahomey in 1903), it was certainly one of the biggest and most influential. Its enormous success was a bigger deal considering just how much it was up against. Shuffle Along was created and developed after Broadway's earliest black pioneers--a previous generation of performers and creative artists like Bert Williams, George Walker, Ida Overton Walker, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Will Marion Cook, Robert Cole, and James Rosamond Johnson--had died or quit Broadway, leaving behind a bunch of white producers who collectively decided, against ample and repeated evidence to the contrary, that all-black productions were not much worth backing, anyway, since the middle and upper-class whites who made up (and continue to make up) the majority of Broadway audiences wouldn't be interested in black productions.