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Kristine Nielsen, Kate Burton, Kevin Kline

Kristine Nielsen, Kate Burton, Kevin Kline. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Kevin Kline was made for this kind of thing. He has the presence and the comic timing that work so well with Noël Coward. He has the ability to elevate it from the droll to the hilarious. Effortlessly. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see him star as the egotistical and charming Garry Essendine, the centerpiece character in Present Laughter.  Written in 1939, the show wasn’t actually staged until 1942 as part of an English tour along side Coward’s domestic drama, The Happy Breed, and eventually Blithe Spirit (you know how I love some good theatre history trivia).

Cobie Smulders, Kevin Kline

Cobie Smulders, Kevin Kline. Photo by Joan Marcus. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But once I arrived at the theatre, I noticed, much to my glee, that this classic comedy also stars Kristine Nielsen, who is quickly becoming one of my all time favorite comic actors to watch on the stage. She manages, somehow magically, to invest her characters with such humanity and depth while bordering on the hysterical. She has a unique ability to drag every humorous ounce out of a line of dialogue that don’t necessarily seem all that funny to begin with. This quality is most evident in such breathtakingly funny performances as You Can’t Take It With You, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and Hir (I only wish I had the chance to see her at the Public Theater a few years back with Laura Benanti in Christopher Durang’s Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them). Here, she plays with an amazing level of hilarity, Monica, his faithful and sarcastic secretary. Joining Nielsen in the featured actress department is also Kate Burton, who graces every show she appears in (namely Some Americans Abroad, Hedda Gabler, and The Constant Wife). She portrays Liz Essendine, the one true and constant protector of Garry, the famed ex-wife. Liz is more importantly part of the tight knit professional family that surrounds the oblivious and self-centered Garry, as he indulges in his quest for the admiration of all sorts of women and his affection for sleeping as late as he desires.
Kevin Kline, Kate Burton

Kevin Kline, Kate Burton. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Not to take your attention away from Kline, but making their Broadway debuts, we have the lovely Cobie Smulders (Love, Loss, and What I Wore) as the smoldering Joanna Lyppiatt, chewing up all that she deserves.  She’s an equal match for Kline’s self obsessed Garry, one that he is challenged to ignore. Playing Daphne Stillington, the younger and less confident admirer of the ‘great’ actor, Tedra Millan makes a fun and feisty first go on the Broadway stage after being so impressive in her run as #46 in The Wolves at The Duke on 42nd. She throws herself gleefully into the giddy part, almost with too much pizzazz. All the women are in love with Kline’s Garry, and although that fact maybe a little hard to take, it’s just the way Garry likes it.

Kevin Kline

Kevin Kline. Photo by Joan Marcus

Rounding out this stellar cast of scenery chewers, is the solid Peter Francis James (The Public’s Stuff Happens) as Joanna’s husband, Henry Lyppiatt, and part of Garry’s team of theater enablers, his producer, and the esteemed Reg Rogers (You Can’t Take It With You, Privacy) as the good friend and manager, Morris Dixon, who hams it up a bit too much at numerous moments of faux-drama. The very funny Bhavesh Patel (Indian Ink) as the pushy and preposterous playwright, Roland Maule, giggles and forces his way into the room, sometimes with a bit too much volume.  It’s a tad distracting, to say the least, but in some ways it fits in with the other members of this eccentric group that populate Garry’s world, much like his odd housekeeper, Miss Erikson (the delightfully deadpanned Ellen Harvey) and his faithful butler, Fred (the charming Matt Bittner).  They all take the madcap descriptive of Present Laughter very seriously. Maybe a bit too over-the-top seriously.

But does it make for a great night at the theatre? Or a hilarious one? I wouldn’t say that.  It is quite good though, without a doubt, funny, but somehow the piece overall is lacking. The play is perfectly staged by director, Moritz Von Stuelpnagel, who does a lovely job keeping the action rolling along although a few gags are repeated and repeated a bit too often. It’s beautifully designed by set designer, David Zinn, who has done an utterly charming job creating the London residence of actor/star, Garry Essendine, and it’s lovingly created (costume designer, Susan Hilferty and lighting designer, Justin Townsend have both filled the stage with beauty from their perspective fields). Kline nails his role as the self-centered actor that everyone seems to center his or her life around and love on. He joyfully prances, stutters, elocutes, and (over) acts out a multitude of hilarious responses. The self-referential jokes fly one after the other, with some of the bits becoming repetitive. Nielsen gets the balance just right, along with the formidable Burton’s grounded comic turn. The others never fall off the witty tightrope but their step isn’t as steady. All the deliciously appealing lines are delivered with a firm grasp of timing and wit with charming high-end accents. I found myself laughing appropriately, and enjoying myself, mildly. Which I must say, was a bit of a disappointment. This troupe of pros doles out all of Coward’s charming dialogue with finesse, but the madcap fun or hilarity found in other Broadway theaters this spring (The Play That Goes Wrong) isn’t quite there. Maybe Coward is not quite brave enough for this modern time. It might just be a bit too dusty.

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

Broadway

We Say Good Bye To Costume Designer Extraordinaire Carrie Robbins

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I met Carrie Robbins at an art gallery with Louise St Louis, Baayork Lee and Judy Jacksina. The four of us stayed well into the morning talking, laughing and having a fabulous time. Carrie and I bonded after that as she turned to playwriting. It broke my heart to learn that on the evening of April 12, 2024 Costume Designer extraordinaire Carrie Robbins passed away.

Carrie’s work has been featured in over 30+ Broadway shows, including Class Act, Grease (original), Agnes of God, Yentl, Octette Bridge Club, Sweet Bird of Youth (Lauren Bacall), Frankenstein, Happy End (Mary Streep), Boys of Winter, Cyrano (Frank Langella), & Shadow Box (Mercedes Ruehl).

Her awards and nominations included: 2012 recipient of the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Theatre Development Fund & the tdf/Costume Collection with the support of the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund. 2 Tony (Noms.), 5 Drama Desks, Maharam, USITT/Prague International, L.A. Dramalogue, Henry Hughes, F.I.T-Surface Design, & Audelco, among others.

Robbins’ costumes for the Irving Berlin musical White Christmas played major cities in the USA, Broadway, and Great Britain. Her regional work included M. Butterfly and On the Verge, for director Tazewell Thompson (Arena Stage) and the Gershwin musical American in Paris by Ken Ludwig for director Gregory Boyd (Alley Theatre, Houston) as well as The Tempest (Anthony Hopkins as Prospero) & Flea in Her Ear (director Tom Moore at Mark Taper Forum), many productions for the Guthrie (MN), Williamstown, and many others from Alaska to Buffalo.


Locally, in NYC, Robbins designed for many productions for The Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, Chelsea Theatre at BAM, Acting Company at Juilliard and NY Shakespeare Festival.

She also designed for the Opera and they included Death in Venice for Glimmerglass (’08 Prague International Design Exhibit), Samson et Dalila (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand, more), and many productions for Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston. Her work has also been seen at the Hamburg StatsOper.

For film Robbins designed the movie “In The Spirit” (Elaine May, Peter Falk, Marlo Thomas); TV design included: Saturday Nite Live, PBS Arts in America, & several unseen pilots.

Robbins has designed clothes for several seasons of Queen Esther Marrow and The Harlem Gospel Singers’ European Tour. She also did the designs for The Cincinnati Ballet’s new Nutcracker, in December of 2011

Robbins was an MFA grad from the Yale School of Drama and was Master Teacher of Costume Design at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts for many years. She is extremely proud of the extraordinary number of award-winning, successful young costume designers and costume teachers across the country who came out of her classes.

Besides being a costume designer Carrie also was a playwright. In August 2010, her play, The Death & Life of Dr. Cutter, a Vaudeville, based on the true stories told by her husband Dr. R.D.Robbins, had its 4th reading at the Snapple Theatre Center; it was chosen by Abingdon Theatre Co, NYC, to be part of its First Readings Series in Fall, 2009. In 2011-12 the  League of Professional Theatre Women chose The Dragon Quartet as part of its 30th year anniversary celebration. In 2012-13, La MaMa (oldest off-off-Broadway theater in NYC at 51 years) chose The Diamond Eater for its “Concert Reading Series”. In 2013: TACT (The Actors Company Theatre, chose Sawbones for part of its newTACTics New Play Festival. In 2014 both The Diamond Eater and Sawbones  received 6 Nominations from N.Y. Innovative Theatre Awards (the most nominations given out in the 2014 season). In 2015, Le Wedding Dress, was a semi-finalist in NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016: Obsessions Of An Art Student chosen by NYNewWorks Theatre Festival. In 2016, The Actress, was a finalist in NY Thespis Summer Festival. In 2017, My Swollen Feet, chosen by NY Summerfest Theatre Festival/ Hudson Guild Theatre. In 2018 The Diamond Eater , semi-finalist at the 14th St. Y competition War + Peace/2018/19 season and The Dragon Griswynd, was chosen by Theater for the New City for its “Dream-Up Festival” In 2019 Pie Lessons, was invited by Crystal Field, Exec. Artistic Director of Theater for the New City, to be part of “Scratch Night at TNC”.

The last thing Carrie was working on was For The Lost Children Of Paris. This play was about how the Nazis, with help from the Vichy Government, collected French-Jewish schoolchildren and delivered them to Auschwitz. Excellent German record-keeping revealed 11,400 children were taken. At the liberation, only 200 were found alive. This is the story of one classroom’s collection day and its aftermath.

She did this play using puppets as the children.

Carrie had a voice that she used in a multiple of ways. She was a caring friend, a dedicated teacher, a prolific writer and costume designer, who always cared about others first. Carrie you will be missed.

 





 

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Patti LuPone Returns to Broadway and The Big Screen

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Three-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, who gave up her Equity card in 2022, will star opposite Mia Farrow in Jen Silverman’s new play, The Roommate. The production will be directed by Jack O’Brien and will begin previews at the Booth Theatre in August ahead of a September opening.

The Roommate tells the story of Sharon, in her mid-fifties, who is recently divorced and needs a roommate to share her Iowa home. Robyn, also in her mid-fifties, needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets, they encourage her own deep-seated desire to transform her life completely. A dark comedy about what it takes to re-route your life – and what happens when the wheels come off.

The Roommate premiered at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in March 2015, and has had several regional productions including at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2017.

Ms. LuPone will star in the upcoming Marvel series, WandaVision spinoff series Agatha: Coven of Chaos. She’s in a coven of witches, playing Lilia Calderu, who is hot, with a great body and hair. Calderu, first appeared in Marvel comics in 1973 as a 450-year-old Sicilian witch whose power is divination and whose trial is tarot. The other witches are Kathryn Hahn, Aubrey Plaza, and a familiar who is played by Joe Locke. Locke, is currently on Broadway in Sweeney Todd.

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Cabaret Celebrated Broadway Legend Joel Grey’s Birthday

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Last night, Eddie Redmayne currently in previews as the ‘Emcee’ in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club celebrated Broadway legend Joel Grey’s 92ndbirthday on stage at the August Wilson Theatre. Grey, who originated the role of the ‘Emcee’ on Broadway in 1966 and went on to star in the beloved film of Cabaret, took the stage as the entire cast, band, and creative team sang “Happy Birthday” while a custom cake, shaped like a giant pineapple, emerged from the stage.

 During his speech honoring Grey, Eddie Redmayne said, “Tonight is an extraordinarily special night for us because we are in the presence of an extraordinary human being without whom none of us would be here.” After thunderous applause, Redmayne continued “Your performance in this part changed my life and it was one of the things that made me want to be an actor.”

Joel Grey, Gayle Rankin, and Eddie Redmayne Photo by Jenny Anderson

The cast and Grey were also joined on stage by Cabaret composer John Kander.

Alongside Joel’s daughter Jennifer Grey and Kander, a star-studded crowd came out to fete the theater icon including Anderson Cooper, Candice Bergen, Jackie Hoffman, Jane Krakowski, Lin-Manuel Miranda, David Rockwell, and more. They were joined by numerous alum of Cabaret spanning the decades including Maude Apatow (Sally Bowles in London, 2023), Madeline Brewer (Sally Bowles in London, 2022), Joely Fisher (Sally Bowles on Broadway, 2000), Gina Gershon (Sally Bowles on Broadway, 2001), Mason Alexander Park (Emcee in London, 2023), Adam Pascal (Emcee on Broadway, 2003), Molly Ringwald (Sally Bowles on Broadway, 2002), Jake Shears (Emcee in London, 2023), and Brooke Shields (Sally Bowles on Broadway, 2001).

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club is now in previews on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre (245 West 52nd Street). The production, directed by Olivier Award winner Rebecca Frecknall and designed by Tony Award nominee and Evening Standard Award® winner Tom Scutt, will have decadent twin opening night gala celebrations starting Saturday, April 20 and continuing into the following night, with the official press opening on Sunday, April 21. Tickets are on sale now at www.kitkat.club or via Seat Geek HERE.

In addition to Redmayne, Cabaret also stars Gayle Rankin as the toast of Mayfair ‘Sally Bowles, two-time Tony Award winner Bebe Neuwirth as ‘Fraulein Schneider,’ Tony Award nominee Ato Blankson-Wood as ‘Clifford Bradshaw,’ Obie Award winner and Drama Desk Award® nominee Steven Skybell as ‘Herr Schultz,’ Henry Gottfried as ‘Ernst Ludwig,’ and three-time Helen Hayes Award winner Natascia Diaz as ‘Fritzie/Kost.’

The cast of Cabaret includes Gabi Campo as ‘Frenchie,’ Ayla Ciccone-Burton as ‘Helga,’ Colin Cunliffe as ‘Hans,’ Marty Lauter as ‘Victor,’ Loren Lester as‘Herman/Max,’ David Merino as ‘Lulu,’ Julian Ramos as ‘Bobby,’ MiMi Scardulla as ‘Texas,’ and Paige Smallwood as ‘Rosie.’ Swings include Hannah Florence, Pedro Garza, Christian Kidd, Corinne Munsch, Chloé Nadon-Enriquez, and Karl Skyler Urban.

The Prologue Company, the dancers and musicians that welcome audiences to the club, feature dancers Alaïa, IRON BRYAN, Will Ervin Jr., Sun Kim, Deja McNair and swings Ida Saki and Spencer James Weidie. The musicians of the Prologue are Brian Russell Carey (piano & bass), Francesca Dawis (violin), Keiji Ishiguri (dedicated substitute), Maeve Stier (accordion), and Michael Winograd (clarinet).

For this thrilling production of Cabaret, the creative team have transformed the August Wilson Theatre into the Kit Kat Club with an in-the-round auditorium and custom spaces which guests will be invited to explore during the Prologue, the production’s pre-show entertainment. After purchasing tickets, guests will receive a “club entry time” to allow them to take in the world of the club before the show starts.

Patrons can upgrade their experience at the Kit Kat Club with exclusive dining or drinks packages that allow them to soak up the pre-show atmosphere. These various upgrades offer unparalleled service and unique experiences in the heart of the Kit Kat Club. Drinks can be enjoyed before and during the show, while food will be cleared shortly before the performance begins, ensuring uninterrupted and unmissable views of Cabaret. For a complete menu and more information on the upgrade packages, please visit www.kitkat.club/upgrade.

The 2021 Original London Cast Recording of Cabaret featuring Eddie Redmayne and recorded during a live performance is available on Decca Records as a CD and to stream on all major platforms. To order the album or stream it, please visit https://cabaret.lnk.to/ListenNow

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Stephen Sondheim Memorabilia to be Auctioned Off

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Stephen Sondheim

Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers has announced the auction of the Collection of Stephen Sondheim on Tuesday, June 18 at 10am EDT. This landmark auction will offer over 200 lots of memorabilia, furnishings, antique puzzles and more from Mr. Sondheim’s Manhattan townhouse and his country home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Poster for the 2006 Broadway revival of Company signed by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth

The lyricist of West Side Story and Gypsy and composer/lyricist of Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods, among many others, Stephen Sondheim was the twentieth century’s most brilliant and influential contributor to American musical theater. Fans of Mr. Sondheim’s musicals and collectors alike will delight at the memorabilia within the auction, from his gold record for West Side Story to his custom-embroidered asylum coat from Sweeney Todd.

In addition to professional accomplishments, Mr. Sondheim was a sophisticated collector. He lived among antiques and curiosities of the Victorian and Edwardian eras and assembled an unparalleled collection of early puzzles, games, rebuses, coin-operated machines and ephemera that reflected his endlessly inquisitive mind.

The public is invited to the exhibition on view from June 14 through 17 at Doyle, located at 175 East 87th Street in New York. Select highlights will tour Doyle’s regional galleries during the month of May. The auction catalogue will be available on May 20. Learn more about the auction at Doyle.com

 

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Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Pascale Roger-McKeever and Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. This particular episode was filmed in two parts at different times due to the weather and extenuating circumstances.

 

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Pascale Roger-McKeever and Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton.
We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

Austin Pendleton, Suzanna Bowling

Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever

I am so grateful to my guests Pascale Roger-McKeever and Austin Pendleton. for joining me.

Austin Pendleton, Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling

Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

Austin Pendleton

Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever, Craig J Horsley

Suzanna Bowling

Pascale Roger-McKeever will be starring in Fingers and Spoons directed by Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton. Soho Playhouse 15 Vandam Street. starting on April 25th.

Roger Sichel, Austin Pendleton, Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

We hope to see you there on April 17th. We will be announcing our guests tonight.

All photo’s except for the picture with Roger are by Roger Sichel.

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