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Hamilton won a record seven Olivier Awards 2018 at the Mastercard ceremony. They were nominated for a record-breaking thirteen nominations. Jez Butterworth, The Ferryman took home three as it heads to Broadway.Time’s Up pin, were worn at the Olivier Awards by Bryan Cranston, Sam Mendes, Michael Sheen, Imogen Poots, Ann-Marie Duff, Alfred Molina, Tom Fletcher, Michelle Collins, and Lesley Joseph.

And the winners are:

Michael Jibson, Hamilton

Michael Jibson

Best actor in a supporting role in a musical: Michael Jibson, Hamilton

Best actress in a supporting role in a musical: Sheila Atim, Girl from the North Country 

Outstanding achievement in music: Hamilton 

Best new dance production: Flight Pattern

Outstanding achievement in dance: Francesca Velicu, Le Sacre du Printemps 

Best entertainment and family: Dick Whittington 

Andy Blankenbuehler

Andy Blankenbuehler

Best theatre choreographer: Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton

Best musical revival: Follies

Best actor in a musical: Giles Terera, Hamilton

Best actress in a musical: Shirley Henderson, Girl from the North Country

Best revival: Angels in America

Best new comedy: Labour of Love

Outstanding achievement in affiliate theatre: Killology 

Best lighting design: Howell Binkley, Hamilton

Best sound design: Nevin Steinberg, Hamilton

Best costume design: Follies

Best set design: Bob Crowley, An American in Paris 

Best actor in a supporting role: Bertie Carvel, Ink

Best actress in a supporting role: Denise Gough for Angels in America

Best new opera production: Semiramide R

Outstanding achievement in opera: Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona, Semiramide

Best actor: Bryan Cranston, Network

Best actress: Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman

Best director: Sam Mendes, The Ferryman

Best new play: The Ferryman 

Best new musical: Hamilton

 

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Out of Town

“Player Kings” Shines in the West End With Ian McKellen at Falstaff

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I read that the first published book written about a Shakespearian character was focused not on the legendary Macbeth or Hamlet, but on the “dodgy, obese, cash-strapped, dissolute, self-interested” Falstaff, a larger-than-life antihero and cultural phenomenon, this time dutifully played in the new West End revival rich and tragic by McKellen (The Other Palace’s Frank and Percy; West End’s Ian McKellen on Stage).


Ian McKellen and Geoffrey Freshwater in Player Kings. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

His Falstaff is utterly dynamic and fascinating from the get-go, drawing us in with his grotesque drunkenness in a stained shirt. It’s flawless and funny, especially so as the character’s humor is delivered dry and philosophically portioned out for great effect, giving this slick modern-dressed production a thrilling brave heart and a solid foundation.

It’s a handsome, strongly staged production, not exactly centered around Ian McKellen’s great performance as one devilishly sharp Falstaff, but having that dynamic character involved lifts up the whole thing making the joined-together Player Kings a carnivalesque joy to witness. It’s a role he seemed destined to play, but unfortunately, he had a nasty fall from the stage in mid-June, forcing him to not only drop out of the play in the West End, but also from the tour that was created all around him playing this part. It’s a devastatingly sad turn but luckily for us, we were able to see him before his accident. And I’m hoping he will be back on his stage feet quickly so we all have the opportunity to take in his expert renderings for years to come.

Yet Player Kings, when I saw it in early June, had McKellen in full true form, creating this delivery as expertly as one could hope for. Surrounded by talent on all sides, the curtain is quickly pulled back in those first few moments, and all kinds of partying chaos flies forward in abundance. A bare-bottomed rendering destined to be king sends just the right energy into the air and we can’t help but lean into this expertly crafted production of the two Henry IV history plays combined into one, adapted and directed with strength and clarity by Robert Icke (Almeida/Park Avenue Armory’s The Doctor).

Toheeb Jimoh and Daniel Rabin in Player Kings. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

On a detailed, multidimensional set, incorporated with great intent by set and costume designer Hildegard Bechtler (Old Vic’s Mood Music), with sharply hewed slices of light by Lee Curran (Donmar’s Next to Normal) and a solid sound design by Gareth Fry (Donmar’s Macbeth), the brick and curtained crew of revelers and hang-abouts make playful use of the arena given. The cast is cleverly created for this sometimes complicated history concoction, a dual engagement that I have only seen once before, to a somewhat lesser effect. But with Toheeb Jimoh (“Ted Lasso“) as Prince Harry (or Hal) staggering about in his skivvies ready and willing to expose his true nature before us all, this Player Kings is destined to be remembered. And not only for McKellen giving it his all in a dream part.

But Hal’s difficult journey forward into the adulting royal circle, standing true and solidly performed, is just one of many contextual arrangements created with flair around the centripetal force that is Falstaff. Hal’s proxy-father relationship with Falstaff is balanced and pulled tight with tension by the hard-hearted King Henry, played with intensity by Richard Coyle (Almeida/Duke of York’s Ink). It unpacks layers of patriarchal complications that shuttle between coldness to death-bed loving attachment. It’s a compelling understanding delicately unfolding over the course of this fascinating adventure.

Samuel Edward-Cook in Player Kings. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Another tight-rope balancing act, this time between two different yet powerful worlds, Samuel Edward-Cook (Globe’s Titus Andronicus) finds compelling tones with his Hotspur, in suit and also donning fatigues, playing the modern dress unveiling with force, even with a few unclear contemporary connotations.

At just over three and a half hours, the tonal shifts of Player Kings between parts one and two are subtle yielding a suspenseful framing that leads into a less captivating battleground. But every moment of the complex condensed storytelling is well worth it, mainly to see McKellen living large inside a part that seems tailor-made for this expert thespian. The historical text is heavy lifting sometimes, not exactly created for those looking solely for light comic entertainment, but if Shakespeare is your thing, even the more complicated history plays, then Player King with McKellen feels like required viewing. I only hope that it has been recorded so those who unfortunately missed their chance, will have a further opportunity to take in his glory.


Sir Ian McKellen and cast at the curtain call during the press night performance on 11 April, 2024.

Player Kings was performed at Noël Coward Theatre, London, closing on 22 June, 2024.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Out of Town

Fringe Festival “86 Me: The Restaurant Play” Serves It Up Strong

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Grabbing a seat inside and a drink from the bar on a Saturday afternoon (don’t judge me), we are welcomed into Our Lady Kensington, a dive bar on the verge of being 86’d from the scene. That is until this evening when chaos and fires erupt, and a seemingly straight-laced young man enters the space. He has been sent by management to inspect the bar for efficiency and professionalism, but what he discovers about the space, the people in it, and himself is far more complicated and difficult to correct simply with a clipboard and pen. The qualities listed are obviously lacking in this forever empty establishment, and this band of misfits who ‘work’ here, who harass, flirt, break up, drink, and indulge themselves silly during their shift, don’t seem like they are the ones who could help. Or are they?

With a cast of wonderfully focused actors, namely Luke Kimball, Marianne McIsaac, Mia Hay, Ben Yoganathan, Carson Somanlall, Elizabeth Rodenburg, and Jeff Gruich, 86 Me: The Restaurant Play, currently playing to sold-out crowds at The Supermarket Bar and Variety as part of Toronto’s Fringe Festival, is deliciously fun and invigorating. The play, as written, is definitely overly complicated and sometimes distracting. It veers this way and that through the immersive space trying to connect while dodging the problems within the framework, but with a solid tightening of that waiter apron, the heart of the piece could live quite solidly within the space, and inside these strong-minded performances and their pre-wrapped set-up. The actors do their job well, working hard trying to get to the essence of their inner world and bring it into some sort of order, all the while engaging with the delivery of drink orders and their lines to each other and us.

The cast of 86 Me: The Restaurant Play at Toronto’s Fringe Festival.

The central force of the play runs true and compassionately focused, as the cast runs circles around us all, flinging drink orders into the air for others to catch, along with other antics that endear us to this motley crew. But the catalyst really lies in Luke Kimball (Mirvish’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and his portrayal of the socially awkward, young, but determined newbie, Zach, or as he is affectionately called, even by a member of the audience, the bar’s “little bitch boy”. And it sticks, mainly because of his focused portrayal of someone lost and looking for salvation, even if it seemingly is arriving thanks to “Mr. Fancy Pants“, played cleverly by Jeff Gruich as James “The Owner”.

There is a couple (Carson Somanlall & Elizabeth Rodenburg) who break up and quit each other more often than the number of times audience members bravely call out their drink orders to cast members who never break focus, even when the order comes at an impromptu moment. The drinks do make it to them, thanks to the staff of the actual bar, who keep the energy of the space filled and rolling, even as the drunk regular (Marianne McIsaac) preaches and yells at the staff from the back table wanting more of everything from anyone who will listen. An indulging host (Mia Hay) vapes and drinks in the corner waiting for connection, but ultimately looking for an escape, and a desperate server (Ben Yoganathan) cooly and constantly trying to use his French-ness as a ploy to get closer to the escape-artist host. It’s a lot, but it’s sold well, so we drink it all down, like a good tall Gin and Tonic on a hot day.

Directed and created by Jackson Doner, 86 Me: The Restaurant Play finds hilarity and some tender engagements within the chaos that lives and breathes in this dive bar on the verge of being 86’d out of existence. The talented crew and script offer up a problematic staffing situation that is completely out of control. Clearly, there is no one strong enough or focused enough on board to guide them through this tumultuous time, but maybe there is someone who can help, if only they can help themselves first. All this, while attempting to take care of a full bar of thirsty patrons and a father who doesn’t know how to really be there for his son. But even in all that chaos and wild shenanigans that transpire within this converted cabaret space, produced by Dead Raccoon Theatre, 86 Me keeps us tuned in and caring, while throwing coins in cups to show our appreciation.

Clockwise from top left: Carson Somanlall as Carson “The Supervisor”, Mia Hay as Eva “The Hostess”, Ben Yoganathan as Francois “The Server”, Elizabeth Rodenburg as Laurie “The Bartender”, Luke Kimball as Zach “The New Guy”, Jackson Doner, and Marianne McIsaac as Jasmine “The Regular” from 86 Me: The Restaurant Play at Toronto’s Fringe Festival. Photo by Ally Mackenzie.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Out of Town

The John W. Engeman Theater Presents Legally Blonde

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The John W. Engeman Theater celebrated the opening night of Legally Blonde.

The Cast and Creative of Legally Blonde

Choreographer Jay Gamboa joins with Sorority Members- Lara Hayhurst, Rebecca Murillo, Juliana Lamia, Emma Flynn Bespolka, Julianne Roberts, Emily Bacino Althaus, Bridget Carey, Amelia Burkhardt and Jessie J. Potter

The Musical is directed by Trey Compton (Engeman: Once, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder; Off-Broadway: Yank!, White Lies; Regional: Seattle 5th Avenue, Goodspeed, The Ogunquit Playhouse, The Fulton, Riverside, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Millbrook, Mac-Haydn, and Cortland Repertory) and choreographed by Jay Gamboa (Engeman: Mama Mia!; National Tour: PJ Masks, Hello Kitty; Regional: Stages St. Louis, Gateway Playhouse, San Diego Musical Theatre, East West Players; Film/TV: The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”).

Trey Compton (Director) and James D. Sasser

Elle Woods appears to have it all until her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend dumps her to attend Harvard. Determined to get him back, Elle charms her way into the prestigious law school. An award-winning musical based on the adored movie, Legally Blonde, The Musical, follows the transformation of Elle as she tackles stereotypes and scandal in pursuit of her dreams. Exploding with memorable songs and dances–this musical is so much fun, it should be illegal!

Emma Flynn Bespolka

Emma Flynn Bespolka

Quinn Corcoran

The cast of Legally Blonde, The Musical features Emma Flynn Bespolka as Elle Woods (UK Premiere: Clueless; Regional: Kinky Boots, South Pacific, Bye Bye Birdie, Grease)

Quinn Corcoran, Emma Flynn Bespolka

Quinn Corcoran

Quinn Corcoran as Emmett (Off-Broadway: James and the Giant Peach, Rescue Rue, Blue Man Group, Hair; Regional: Maltz-Jupiter Theatre, Sierra Repertory Theatre, Servant Stage, Mac-Haydn Theatre)

Chanel Edwards-Frederick

Chanel Edwards-Frederick as Paulette (West End: Hairspray; International Tour: The Book Of Mormon; Regional: The Royal Theatre, La Mirada Theatre, Repertory East Playhouse, Interlakes Theatre)

Nicole Fragala

Nicole Fragala, Emma Flynn Bespolka

Nicole Fragala as Vivienne (National Tour: Tootsie; Regional: Cmpac, The New School, Broadhollow Theater; TV/Film: “Pretty Little Liars: Summer School,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “The Prom”)

Nathan Haltiwanger

Nathan Haltiwanger, Emma Flynn Bespolka

Nathan Haltiwanger as Warner Huntington III (Regional: Sweeney Todd, Beauty and the Beast, My Fair Lady, Next to Normal, The Sound of Music)

Julianne Roberts

Julianne Roberts as Brooke Wyndham (Regional: Chicago, The Little Mermaid, Movin’ On, Catch Me If You Can)

James D. Sasser

James D Sasser as Callahan (Engeman: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Broadway: Riverdance; National Tour: Jesus Christ Superstar; Off-Broadway: Teeth; Regional: Theatre Under The Stars, Four Corners Musical Theatre, The Village Theatre, Berkeley Playhouse; TV/Film: “Madam Secretary,” “The Good Fight,” “Succession,” “The Bite”).

Sorority Members- Lara Hayhurst, Rebecca Murillo, Juliana Lamia, Emma Flynn Bespolka, Julianne Roberts, Emily Bacino Althaus, Bridget Carey, Amelia Burkhardt and Jessie J. Potter

Katelyn Harold

Terrence Bryce Sheldon

Amelia Burkhardt

Matt DeNoto,

Joshua James Crawford

Rebecca Murillo

Zunmy Mohammed

Juliana Lamia

Bridget Carey

Emily Bacino Althaus

Yash Ramanujam

Lara Hayhurst and Trey Compton with Little Ricky and Cha Cha

Lara Hayhurst

The Swings-Amelia Burkhardt, Terrence Bryce Sheldon, Joshua James Crawford and Katelyn Harold

James D. Sasser, Nathan Haltiwanger and Quinn Corcoran

James D. Sasser, Trey Compton Nathan Haltiwanger and Quinn Corcoran

Legally Blonde, The Musical will play the following performance schedule: Wednesdays at 7:00 pm, Thursdays at 8:00 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Tickets start at $80 and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, going online at engemantheater.com, or visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year-round professional theater company, casting actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, quality theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with a full bar.

For a complete show schedule and more information, contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit engemantheater.com.

The Cast and Creative of Legally Blonde

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Ken Fallin's Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway:​ Inspired By True Events A New Play by Ryan Spahn

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Off-Broadway’s Out of the Box Theatrics is presenting Inspired By True Events, a new play by Ryan Spahn.

In the green room of a community theater in Rochester, the Uptown Players are getting ready to play to a full house after opening to rave reviews the night before. When their star actor arrives in a dangerously unhinged state, they must improvise on and off stage in ways they could not have imagined. By turns hilarious, harrowing, and horrifying, Inspired By True Events follows a tenacious group of show people who must determine at what cost the show must go on.

Inspired By True Events received development workshops with New York Stage & Film, Vineyard Theatre and EST.

Knud Adams is directing, and the cast will feature Lou Liberatore, Jack DiFalco, Mallory Portnoy, and Dana Scurlock. The play opens July 17 at 154 Christopher Street (formerly the New Ohio Theatre). The play was developed by Michael Urie.

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Film

Gary Springer Remembers Shelley Duvall

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By Gary Springer

I loved Shelley Duvall. She very much changed my life and I am forever grateful. I was a young kid in NYC who luckily wound up in two movies – not that I wanted to be an actor – and decided I wanted to be a NY crew guy. Got cast in another film starring Shelley Duvall, Bud Cort, Dennis Christopher and Veronica Cartwright. Thought it was fun I still had the crew aspirations. Shelley became my instant best friend. She said ‘why don’t you come out to LA and stay with Patrick (Reynolds of tobacco fame) and me until you have to go back to school. I did. I spent 7 months living with Patrick and Shelley in a castle in the Hollywood Hills and then another 4 months rooming with Shelley until she called me one day from NY where she was filming “Annie Hall: and said, I think I’m going to sell the house and move in with Paul (Simon). I had to get my own place and spent the next nine years in LA as a working actor (including a television movie which also co-starred the editor of this publication). Shelley was my mentor, my love (platonically), my facilitator, my friend. I met so many people through her and experienced so much that I never would have. Her bringing me to LA for a couple of weeks changed my life completely. I quit acting and moved back to NY in 1982 to work with my dad, but Shelley and I stayed friends. She called me in 1984 and offered me a role in one of her Faerie Tale Theatre pieces (the last professional phone I had). We stayed friends. She moved to Texas and I visited. She had difficulties and I was her friend. I flew down to Texas bringing our friend Dennis Christopher last month to visit her and spoke to her twice last Sunday on her 75th birthday (one wonderful FaceTime). I loved Shelley Duvall and always will.

Shelley Alexis Duvall, inimitable actor, producer, and style icon, died in her sleep July 11, 2024  at her home in Blanco, Texas. She just turned 75 this past Sunday, July 7. Her longtime partner, Dan Gilroy was at her side. She is survived by Dan Gilroy and her three brothers her brothers Scott, Stewart and Shane.

“My dear, sweet, wonderful life, partner, and friend left us last night. Too much suffering lately, now she’s free. Fly away beautiful Shelley,” said Gilroy

She was born in Fort Worth on July 7, 1949, grew up in Houston, and returned to her Texas roots after successful decades in the Hollywood entertainment industry, Shelley was a brilliant and unique film actor and a visionary television producer.

She was first discovered in 1970 when she hosted a party to try and sell some of her husband, Bernard Sampson’s, paintings. Little did she know that crew members from a movie shoot in town were present and were captivated by her. Under the pretense of selling paintings, they brought her to meet the director, Robert Altman, and producer Lou Adler, who were blown away by her wonderfully quirky distinctiveness and cast her in the movie they were filming, “Brewster McCloud” opposite Bud Cort. In Shelley’s words: “I said, ‘don’t you want to buy any paintings?’ And they said: “No, we want you!’”

She continued working with Bob Altman on six more films such as Thieves Like Us, Nashville, Popeye, and Three Women, for which she won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Seeing her in that film inspired Stanley Kubrick to cast her in his film The Shining where Shelley’s harrowing performance is indelibly etched in film lore. Shelley had a one-of-a-kind look and manner—wide-eyed, toothy, skinny and gawky, but with her own beauty and elegance—that endeared her to industry pros and audiences alike. Beyond her striking looks, she was also a serious, dedicated, and admired dramatic and comedic actor. Shelley appeared in many other film and television roles from the 1970s, 80s, and into the 90s.

Behind the camera, Shelley also conceived and created groundbreaking TV fare through her Platypus Productions: she produced, hosted, and sometimes guest-starred in her Faerie Tale Theatre series, which also called upon the talents of her wide circle of notable actors, directors, and film veterans including Robin Williams, Eric Idle, Mick Jagger, Teri Garr, Jean Stapleton, Frank Zappa, Vincent Price, John Lithgow, Pam Dawber, James Earl Jones, Candy Clark, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Vadim, Tim Burton and so many more who would not usually have worked on a nascent cable channel show.

The Great American Tee Shirt book – with Paris wearing my Dog Day Afternoon shirt, with Dennis Christopher & Bud Cort

Faerie Tale Theatre’s one-hour adaptations of classic stories, followed up by her Tall Tales and Legends series, enchanted children and their elders through most of the 1980s (and live on to enchant in rerun heaven). She continued the streak with Nightmare Classics, Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, garnering two Emmy nominations for Producer over the years.

Gary Springer and Shelly in Bernice Bobs Her Hair

Shelley, who had been called ‘The Texas Twiggy’ and, from film critic Pauline Kael, “The Female Buster Keaton,” was a frequent host on Saturday Night Live and during those heady late 70s and 80s was also known for dating the likes of Paul Simon and Ringo Starr.

Gary and Shelly on her birthday this year

In the mid-90s, Shelley found herself retreating from Hollywood and retiring from active production; successful though she had been as a star actor and producer. Then, her three-acre home in Studio City, which hosted a menagerie of birds, dogs, and other pets, was heavily damaged in the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Shelley and her partner since 1989, actor and musician Dan Gilroy, moved back to Texas to the small town of Blanco, near Austin, where the couple became a beloved part of the protective community. In recent years, Shelley has reconnected with some old friends and admirers from her Hollywood days while living a peaceful and quiet life in the Texas Hill Country.

Dan Gilroy, her brothers Scott, Stewart and Shane, friends and colleagues, the town of Blanco, and legions of fans mourn the passing of Shelley Duvall.

 

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