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Kyle Beltran, Annaleigh Ashford,  Alex Hernandez

Kyle Beltran (Lysander); Annaleigh Ashford (Helena); Alex Hernandez (Demetrius); Photo by Joan Marcus.

Shakespeare in the Park is one of the true joys of being in New York City in the hot summer.  Last month, we were gifted with the glorious Julius Caesar, and regardless of your political persuasion, it was a thrilling night of theatre, even with the protesters yelling their silliness in the background.  I must admit, though, that another production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream didn’t excite me that much initially.  It’s a beautiful lovely play that is over-done in outdoor theaters across the nation and beyond.  It’s overly long, in my mind, and once the weddings take place, it should end, like the rest of Shakespeare comedies do.  But all that changed when I saw the casting notices.

Richard Poe,  Phylicia Rashad

Richard Poe (Oberon); Phylicia Rashad (Titania); Photo by Joan Marcus

Seeing the names of Kristine Nielsen and Annaleigh Ashford attached to the production altered it all. Both amazingly funny ladies, and in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, these two should help create a wildly funny and exciting night at the sublime Delacorte Theater in Central Park. As directed by Lear deBessonet (Encores!’s Big River), the production showcasing a proclivity for slapstick humor, mostly works in a funny charming  manner. It has an identity problem, though, that doesn’t quite know what kind of show this lot is putting on.  Mostly hilariously orchestrated, there are also many moments that are played too seriously or too regally to fit in together well. Lots of choices of casting and style are questionable, although brave for the most part, with some of the ideas working. And others don’t quite hit the sweet spot.
Kyle Beltran, Kristine Nielsen, Shalita Grant

Kyle Beltran (Lysander); Kristine Nielsen (Puck); Shalita Grant (Hermia); Photo by Joan Marcus

The most surprising is Nielsen’s Puck. She was the one I was most excited about. The casting of her as the sprite seemed like a genius move.  Anyone who saw her in last season’s Present Laughter had to believe that her Puck would be deliciously wacky and fun to watch, as the wicked Puck creates so much commotion in the forest for the four lovers and the fairy queen, Titania, who is beautifully played by the elegant and always regal Phylicia Rashad (Public’s Head of Passes). Nielsen has the gift of being able to wring a laugh out of almost anything. This ability is approaching legendary, as seen in her tremendously funny and authentic performances in HIR and Vanya and Sonya and Marsha and Spike. For that role, she won a Tony Award, but here under the stars, given the mischievous Puck to portray, Nielsen falters surprisingly. She finds herself mugging and shrugging her way through the moments on stage with her fairy king, Oberon, played with charm and regality by Richard Poe (Public’s Why Torture is Wrong).
De’Adre Aziza,  Richard Poe

De’Adre Aziza (Hippolyta); Richard Poe (Oberon); Photo by Joan Marcus.

It really is the battle between Oberon and Titania that drives Puck forward into the mischief she creates due to the disturbance of Nature caused by a fairy dispute. There isn’t enough heaviness in this dispute, with Nielsen’s Puck making it all a big silly joke rather then mischief in it’s essence. It doesn’t really add up to much in the end, playing far too broadly with gags and joke-shop props. Her silliness feels forced and out of place in her wildly uneven performance that almost rescues itself in the last ten minutes with her lovingly spoken monologues that wrap this play up.  Director deBessonet let Nielsen ride too easily on her trademark quirkiness while ignoring the Puck’s darkness. It appears that Nielsen needs a strong arm and a clearer vision to guide her through from beginning to end.

Phylicia Rashad, Danny Burstein

Phylicia Rashad (Titania); Danny Burstein (Nick Bottom); Photo by Joan Marcus.

Ashford (Sunday in the Park with George, Sylvia) on the other hand, although not the Helena one would imagine straight away, is absolutely pitch perfect and hysterical as the young lady desperately in love with Demetrius, played with a handsome strong charm by the always excellent Alex Hernandez (Kingdom Come). Her physical humor and silliness is nowhere near realistic, as was her spectacular portrayal of a terrible ballerina in You Can’t Take It With You which she won a Tony Award for, but realism is not what this production is going for. Her campy fawning and adoration of the sexy Demetrius is wildly out of control, but has a core of authenticity that makes it sing.  The other lady lover, Hermia, portrayed by the delicious Shalita Grant (Tony nominated for Vanya and Sonya and Marsha and Spike) needs to up her game a little as Ashford clearly steals the show away from all four of the young lovers.  Kyle Beltran (The Flick) matches Hernandez well in charm and spunk, but was most definitely more on Grant’s level than Ashford’s in the humor department. Not that this was a competition, as Helena definitely has the more hilarious part as written. But if it was…., we know who would be taking home the Gold.

Patrena Murray, Robert Joy,  Jeff Hiller, Danny Burstein

Patrena Murray (Snout); Robert Joy (Peter Quince); Jeff Hiller (Francis Flute); Danny Burstein (Nick Bottom); Photo by Joan Marcus.

The other surprise of the night, mainly because I had no idea when I arrived in Central Park, was that the amazing Danny Burstein (Fiddler on the Roof, Follies) would be playing the ham of all hams, Nick Bottom. What a delightful surprise to see him make his entrance, along side the wonderfully funny ‘Mechanicals’ that make up the troupe of terrible amateur actors that go to the woods to rehearse a play, “the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.”. Robert Joy as Peter Quince, Jeff Hiller as Francis Flute, Patrena Murray as Snout, Austin Durant as Snug, and Joe Tapper as Robin Starveling are all quirky and hilarious, having the time of their lives being terrible and brilliant all at the same time.  Hiller (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) is especially clever and jocular dressed in drag for the performance of their play for the wedding party of Theseus (Bhavesh Patel), the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta (De’Adre Aziza), Queen of the Amazons.

If this was like most of the other Shakespeare comedies, the play would usually end with a wedding.  This time there are three, but they in no way signal the ending.  I am forever surprised at that moment, that we still have the play within the play to be performed by the ‘Mechanicals’. Usually, as it was with the gloriously beautiful and artistically stunning production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Julie Taymor at TFANA a few years ago, when the weddings were over, I was ready for the show to wrap up and for me to head out into the night. This time, the gloriousness of the actor troupe made me excited to see their entertainment for the newly wedded couples. And it did not disappoint, as the play was performed with a droll and ridiculously silly edge by these amateur thespians leading us through a lovely and silly romantic tale of love and tragedy. This time, I was happy to hang out a wee bit longer.
The ending still sits with a dark circle around the idea of love. Regardless of the slapstick that brought about this happy ending, Hippolyta and Theseus are happily in love as they always were, married and celebrating while watching a play about the unfortunate lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe.  Helena and Demetrius are there too, toasting champagne to love and marriage, but the love they toast is not as real as the others. The two seem oblivious to the dark magic of their altered love, completely unaware that Puck has played a trick on their devotion. But Helena is pretty high-kicking happy (festive choreography by Chase Brock), as we are for her, so I guess all can be forgiven.
Central Park and the Delacorte is such a beautiful setting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be staged within. The set design by David Rockwell, with lighting by Tyler Micoleau work marvelously in the space, although I found the costumes by Clint Ramos to be a bit over the top and distracting.  Especially for the Duke and his betrothed, Hippolyta, who looked like garish versions of pop stars prancing down a fashion runway. Those two characters seem to be in a whole different universe than the one where the lovers reside. They are by far the least interesting of the group, strutting around the stage like Beyonce and friend.  They held as much interest as the decision to cast the fairies as adults of a certain age.  It doesn’t distract but it also doesn’t seem to enhance the scenarios.  Same with the live music (original music, music supervisor, orchestrations: Justin Levine) and the fairy singer, Marcelle Davies-Lashley.  Her song to put the Queen Fairy to sleep is simple astounding, expressively sung with a strong killer voice and amazing style, but that number would only rile me up, not put me to sleep. There is nothing drowsy about that song.  Glorious and well performed, the jazz styling of Davies-Lashley feels out of place as if it was coming from a different version of the play. More like A Midsummer Night’s Dreamgirls. The additions don’t add or subtract from the play, but the construction needs a tighter vision and a more clear eye.  What feels like four different productions, the slapstick lovers with a woopie cushioned Puck, the regal fairy land of elders, the jazzy dream girl with a song to sing, and Beyonce’s marriage to a Duke, needs to figure out where to lay its sleepy head, and stick with it. Although the four variations on a theme make the evening very entertaining, it’s a bit schizophrenic, regardless of the Shakespeare being performed. Where are the protesters for that? They are too busy laughing themselves silly.
So for more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Kelley Curran and Frank Wood

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We are so pleased to announce our guest this week are Kelley Curran and Frank Wood

Kelley Curran

Kelley can be seen, as Turner, in Julian Fellowes The Gilded Age for HBO. Prior to the intricate characters she will now tackle in The Meeting: The Interpreter, she appeared off-Broadway in Half-God of Rainfall at NYTW; at The Public Theater opposite Glenn Close in Mother of the Maid, and as Clytemnestra in Ellen McLaughlin’s world premiere of The Oresteia at The Shakespeare Theatre Company. Kelley has also appeared on Broadway in Present Laughter with Kevin Kline, and at The Signature Theatre, Classic Stage Company, Theatre For a New Audience, and LAByrinth Theatre Company, among others. She made her network television debut on NBC’s The Blacklist, and recently appeared on the CBS drama God Friended Me. In 2019 she made her feature film debut in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot.  Kelley was nominated for a SAG Award, won The Callaway Award, Emery Battis Award, NTC Emerging Professional Award, and in 2016 was nominated for a Drama League Award alongside Lupita Nyong’o, Michelle Williams and Lin Manuel-Miranda. She has also been nominated for both a Princess Grace and Helen Hayes Award.

Frank Wood

Frank Wood was first celebrated for his work on the Broadway production of Side Man, a performance that earned him both a Tony Award and a Drama League Award. His portrayal of Gene, a jazz musician grappling with personal and professional turmoil, highlighted his profound emotional depth and versatility. It’s a role that parallels the soul searching experience of The Interpreter in many profound ways. Wood has an impressive array of Broadway credits, including notable performances in The Great Society, Network, The Iceman Cometh, Clybourne Park, August: Osage County, Born Yesterday, and Hollywood Arms. Off-Broadway, he earned a Lucille Lortel nomination for Toros at Second Stage and has graced stages at Signature Theatre, Vineyard Theatre, Lincoln Center, Atlantic Theater Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Playwrights Horizons. His filmography includes roles in acclaimed films such as She Said, Joker, St. Vincent, Changeling, Dan in Real Life, Thirteen Days, In America, Down to You, and The Royal Tenenbaums. On TV, he appeared in series like Billions, The Blacklist, The Night Of, Mozart in the Jungle, The Newsroom, Girls, Flight of the Conchords, The Sopranos, and had a recurring role on

Law & Order: SVU.
These Two brilliant actors are starring in The Meeting: The Interpreter, a new play written by Catherine Gropper and directed by Brian Mertes, Previews begin Monday, July 29 with an opening night set for Sunday, August 4 at the Theatre at St. Clements 423 W 46th Street .

Set against the backdrop of the infamous Trump Tower Meeting of 2016, the play tells the story of an international interpreter thrown up against government systems of congressional and senate interrogations, catapulting him into circumstances beyond his control. “This man could be everyman … one of us,” says playwright Catherine Gropper.

This play is about the loss of individuality and privacy is based on actual events (a chance meeting between the playwright and an actual government interpreter). This two-person play supports a cast of thousands thanks to Mertes’ production scheme including puppetry, film sequences, projections, and intricate lighting and sound.

We are so proud and thrilled that Variety Entertainment News named us one of Summer’s Best Picks in the category of Best Television, Radio, Podcasts.

Host Suzanna Bowling was also just named Most Engaging Hosts on TV, Radio and Podcasts on “The Daily Geek Report.” We are so grateful.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here, fourteenth here, fifteenth here , 16th here, 17th here, 18th here, 19th here, 20th here, 21st here and 22nd here.

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Broadway

Disney Broadway In Bryant Park Part Two

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106.7 LITE FM’s brought Disney to Broadway in Bryant Park. We brought you the video and now the pictures so you are there.

Tshidi Manye

Jackie Rene

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Gilbert Domally

Jackie Rene and Tshidi Manye

Jackie Rene and Tshidi Manye

Tshidi Manye and Gilbert Domally

Tshidi Manye and Gilbert Domally

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Jim Ferris, Gilbert Domally and Ben Jeffrey

Ben Jeffrey, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Gilbert Domally

Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Ben Jeffrey

The Lion King’s Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Jackie René, Ben Jeffrey and Gilbert Domally

Charissa Hogeland

Charissa Hogeland

Chad Burris

Frozen’s Charissa Hogeland and Chad Burris

Michael James Scott

Adi Roy

Adi Roy

Michael James Scott, Adi Roy

Michael James Scott, Adi Roy

Sonya Balsara

Sonya Balsara

Adi Roy, Sonya Balsara

Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy

Adi Roy, Sonya Balsara

from Aladdin‘s Michael James Scott, Sonya Balsara and Adi Roy

106.7 Lite FM’s Hosts-Paul Cubby Bryant and Christine Nagy

Paul Cubby Bryant and Christine Nagy

The hosts were Paul ‘Cubby’ Bryant and Christine Nagy.

Chad Burris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Jackie Rene, Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris and Gilbert Domally

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

Chad Burris, Gilbert Domally, Jackie Rene. Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Charissa Hogeland, Ben Jeffrey, Sonya Balsara, Adi Roy and Michael James Scott

 

 

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Entertainment

Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe applauds Infolist’s CEO Jeff Gund, even my friend E! TV-Founder Larry Namer joined this VIP event.

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H.H. Dr. Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe at Jeff Gund Infolist Red Carpet Event

One of the first people I met in Hollywood was Jeff Gund. He runs Infolist and is the secret superhero of the entertainment industry. His network connects actors with directors, casting agents with producers and production companies with networks. watching my friend Jeff working endlessly to make The Industry in Hollywood an awesome and connected place, I am always speechless how he rocks his Red-Carpet extravaganzas. He personally invited me to attend his Infolist.com Red Carpet Pre Comic-Con Bash and it was spectacular.

E! Television Founder Larry Namer and H.H. Dr. Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe

Having just messaged with my friend Larry Namer, the nicest of the uber-accomplished Hollywood Moguls  – he founded E! Television – I was happy to see him there and he was the indicator for a great Red-Carpet event. My parents Prince Waldemar and Princess Antonia zu Schaumburg-Lippe have attended an Infolist event with me years ago and its just great fun to see so many industry friends again and meet new ones like Colin Ford from The Hill, Jordan Roman or Leckie Roberts. And all those news: Gennadiy Photography has a new pageant event coming up at the Taglyan, where i opened LA Fashion Week. Silvia Masera is branching out her Gala Events to Europe. And many new celebrity shows popped up on the red carpet, with wonderful hosts.

Infolist CEO Jeff Gund with H.H. Dr. Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe

(more…)

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

24 BACK — (Via TV Line) The clock is ticking (again): A movie adaptation of the hit Fox drama 24  is in early development at 20th Century Studios, our sister site Variety reports.

Keifer Sutherland

Brian Grazer, who executive-produced the original series, teased the prospect of a film version in a June interview with MSNBC’s Squawk Box. In a discussion of different legacy IP brands at his production company Imagine Entertainment, Grazer mentioned a 24 movie in the works “that we’re going to do in a very interesting way with Disney and Fox.”

The project is still in the very early stages, though, so there’s no word yet if Keifer Sutherland will return to reprise his role as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer in the film. Sutherland starred as Bauer during 24′s original run, which aired for eight seasons on Fox beginning in 2001. The real-time thriller became a hit and won a number of awards, including Emmys for best drama series and for Sutherland as best lead actor in a drama. Sutherland returned as Bauer for the limited series 24: Live Another Day, which aired in 2014. Fox also tried a spinoff, 24: Legacy, in 2017 — with Corey Hawkins taking over the lead role — but that was scrapped after a single season.

The way I see if – and, as a longtime fan of both the show and Sutherland – is that if Keifer is not there, it’s not worth doing. Agreed?

Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford


SHORT TAKES — I watched an interview with Kathie Lee Gifford on Today Wednesday and didn’t even recognize her. Check out the clip here: https://www.today.com/health/news/kathie-lee-gifford-hip-surgery-rcna162079 … Great Micky Dolenz interview from the Monterey Country NOW by Dave FariesMicky Dolenz of The Monkees – and much more – still thrives on stage with songs and stories. | Music | montereycountynow.com

Brad Balfour (Film Festival Traveler) interviewed Steven J. Immerman on his In Search Of Pleasure Island tome this week… Home Depot loads in their Halloween-toys and treats this weekend. It may seem a bit early, but October will here before you know it. A PR-source of ours was about to work on a Halloween-movie coming out in September and had a co-promotion event with the store and the movie; then it all fell apart. Seems to me this would have been a superb tie-in … One of the great A&R men of them all Ed Rosneblatt passed this week in LA. From Peter Gabriel to Madonna to Neil Young; Eddie had a hand in it. Take a look at this story from Hits:https://hitsdailydouble.com/news&id=341939&title=EDDIE-ROSENBLATT-1934-2024 

Cameron Crowe

Meryl Streep is set to essay Joni Mitchell in a film by Cameron Crowe. Big news for sure. Crowe’s Almost Famous is a stone-called classic; as is Crowe …

Francis Ford Coppola

This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be awarded to director Francis Ford Coppola, rock band Grateful Dead, blues and rock singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt, jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval and the venue The Apollo. The ceremony will take place on Dec. 8, for broadcast on Dec. 23 …

We haven’t weighed in on Apple +’s Presumed Innocent; the re-working of Scott Turow’s book (in 1987) and movie (in 1990), but the finale is next week and the show’s just been renewed for a second season. Jake Gyllenhaal has been great, as has Bill Camp, but David E. Kelly’s words have been just off the charts. For me, it’s the best Kelly’s done since Big Little Lies. If you haven’t seen this series yet, watch all the 8 episodes. It’s a gift for sure. Stunningly good … Just received: NYC’s legendary West Bank Cafe will close …

Tom Viola (by Tristan Fuge)

After an extraordinary run of 36 years, Broadway Cares’ Tom Viola is leaving. Bravo Tom! … RIP Bob Newhart!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Hoda Kotb; Roseanna Scotto; Ray ‘Pinky’ Velazquez; Jim Burgess; Stephanie Shepherd; Monica Lynch; Robert Dragatta; Len Berman; Brad Balfour; Jim Milliot; Sue Simmons; Cindy Adams; Liz Smith; Claudia Cohen; Neal Travis; Richard Johnson; Howard Smiley; and SADIE!

 Images on this page have been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Broadway

Disney Broadway In Bryant Park

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106.7 LITE FM’s Broadway in Bryant Park brought Disney to its 2024 program. The Bryant Park stage is located at 6th Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets. Lawn seating is first come, first serve.

This weeks performances came from Aladdin‘s Michael James Scott, Sonya Balsara and Adi Roy

Frozen’s Charissa Hogeland and Chad Burris

And The Lion King’s Tshidi Manye, Jim Ferris, Jackie René, Ben Jeffrey and Gilbert Domally

The hosts were Paul ‘Cubby’ Bryant and Christine Nagy.

 

 

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