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He Says: The Glass Menagerie: The Fragile Heart of the Matter

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Sally Fields, Joe Montello
Madison Ferris, Sally Fields, Joe Montello

Madison Ferris, Sally Fields, Joe Montello Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

It’s the starkest of the stark. The most bare stage set-up that I’ve seen in a long time. It could be a rehearsal of a first table reading, with a shelf filled with the props, on an empty stage. A cast of three is introduced to us, one by one, by the narrator who will also be the fourth character in this memory play. We are feed the scenario of The Glass Menagerie as most beautifully and uniquely written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Sam Gold (Fun HomeOthello at the NYTW).  A director known for his simplifying and focusing in. And so it begins. Like a flip of a switch. We are asked to see past the barrenness and into the prison the three members of the Wingfield family find themselves. Ignore the grey box  this will be acted out for us in (a talented design team- scenic: Andrew Lieberman; costume: Wojciech Dziedzic; lighting: Adam Silverman). Think of the space as if it’s a large grey mass like the narrator’s brain where his personal and very private memories are about to be played out for us, where details blur and disappear into the background, and only the heart of the matter, or should I say, the pain of the situation is remembered and repeated, over and over agin. The details fade away into the grey, and he, and we, are left with this.

Sally Fields, Joe Montello

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Joe Montello, the actor (The Normal Heart on Broadway and on HBO) and director (The Humans), is the first to appear on the stage as the grown up version of the young Tom Wingfield that we will soon see. He will enacting out the memory of the disastrous ending of his relationship with his mother, Amanda (the surprisingly moving Sally Field) and in turn, his sister, Laura (the devastatingly good Madison Ferris). His story is etched in guilt and shame about what he did in order to survive his life. Montello does a fine job as both the narrator and as the young man caught between living life and embracing responsibility.  His frustration with his mother is exacting, but in this production, he is the least captivating of the family of three. Or at least on par with everyone else. He is engaging but feels minor and a bit out of place in this family that feels much more southern than this New York-sounding man.  Older Tom is not proud of this moment in his life, and maybe that is why he needs to keep rehashing those evenings and the moment that finally pushes him to act as he did that one rainy night when the gentleman caller came for dinner.

Joe Montello, Sally Fields, Finn Wittrock

Joe Montello, Sally Fields, Finn Wittrock Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The effervescent Sally Field as the desperate mother, abandoned by her traveling charmer of a husband, is astounding in her simplicity, frustration, and frailty. She is lost in her own memories of gentlemen callers and southern charms, a world that seems so long ago and so out of reach of this disappointed woman. Field (last seen on Broadway in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in 2002) is an actress that I’m always surprised by.  She seems to be one type of person, but is able to utilize her image against us, drawing all the attention of the house by her unleashed fire. That is what makes her so memorable in moments like that iconic scene in the graveyard in the film, Steel Magnolias. Here, as the matriarch of this collapsing family, she reels us in with her insistence and need, while crippling us with her fury. It’s a shockingly powerful performance, one that I didn’t expect from the soft-spoken gentile actress, and actress I always underestimate.

Madison Ferris, Sally Fields

Madison Ferris, Sally Fields Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

That being said, unlike any other production I have seen before, the true power of this unique production is placed firmly on the shoulders of what is usually considered the secondary characters. The sister/daughter, Amanda and the gentleman caller, Jim O’Connor. When Cherry Jones lead the most recent revival back in 2013 with Zachary Quinto, those two supporting characters were lovely and touching (Celia Keenan-Bolger and Brian J. Smith) but over-shadowed by the strength of the two leads and their exciting chemistry. Generally speaking, this is how most productions pan out, the shy girl and the polite man do their parts, but we are more focused on the powerful mother and the desperate son. Here, these two strike a much stronger presence then I’ve seen before. Madison Ferris creates a Laura that is without a doubt the least shy one of the lot.  She has taken on the descriptive, not because of that word truly suiting her, but because her disabilities, through the insistence from her mother, has attached that personification on to her. The word ‘cripple’ isn’t allowed in that household, so ‘shy’ is the word applied by mother on to daughter. Laura may even believe it herself at times of social interaction, but the reality of her situation (as Laura and as the actress herself) makes just leaving the Wingfield apartment for milk an act of courage and strength. It’s interesting to think about this actress playing the role, not ‘acting’ crippled, but just being. That seems to change the whole dynamic shoving that scene and that character to greater prominence and power. The unicorn becoming just a normal horse never rang more deeply than here.

Finn Wittrock, Madison Ferris

Finn Wittrock, Madison Ferris Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Finn Wittrock (last seen in NYTW’s Othello) does another stellar job, creating an unstoppable force to be reckoned with as the gentleman caller, Jim. He is everything that is first described of him in the opening monologue by Tom, but on the night of his visit, Jim is so much more.  As depicted by Wittrock, Jim is confident and a bit too loud, boistress while also allowing a confused unsure quality to seep out. He has a disillusioned teenage boy trapped inside that brings out a great need in him to be seen as he was, grinning and confident, and not as he is right now. His flirty scene with Amanda, laughing and charming at the table, play off the quieter scenes with Laura beautifully.  He woos them both, for the fun, and for the greater need, until at one point he realizes he has gone too far, and let his selfishness play havoc on someone else.  It’s a devastating moment that transpires between the two. And as the set and staging effectively depicts, it pulls these normally ‘in the background’ parts to the forefront, and the two leads are at the dining table in the background. Making this a play of four, rather than two and two.

Finn Wittrock, Madison Ferris

Finn Wittrock, Madison Ferris Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Amazingly, there have been 8 Broadway productions since (including the original) 1945, which tells you a lot about the fascination of this play for performers, directors, and audience members. I have seen numerous productions of The Glass Menagerie over the years, from the disastrous but interesting take on the classic story off-Broadway in 2010 starring Judith Ivey, the troubled 2005 production starring Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Christian Slater, and Josh Lucas, to the powerhouse production starring Jones and Quinto in 2013. This play seems to compel these artists to keep telling this memory story, much in the same way that Tom can’t let himself let go of this moment. It’s a gorgeously powerful story, and here, Gold has managed to give us more view of it from a unique vantage.  The rain does come to this memory as it tries hard to wash away the sins of those involved.  It cleanses our palate for this new production, and we take it in wholeheartedly.  Field isn’t Cherry Jones, but (and I’m surprised as anyone to say this) it doesn’t matter.  She makes it her own, and she is matched by her daughter and the gentleman caller. Jim O’Connor may have disappointed Amanda, but not us. And Laura may end up being the most sure footed of the lot.

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

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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Broadway

Annette Bening, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Hugh Jackman Introduce Entertainment Community Fund Campaign

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Last night at the Entertainment Community Fund, (formerly The Actors Fund) gala, they announced the $160 million ESSENTIALCampaign: a bold and comprehensive effort that will combine all of the organization’s fundraising, allowing the Fund to serve more people in more places. The campaign will support expanding and sustaining Fund services; growing the Emergency Relief Reserve Fund to allow the Fund to respond immediately to the next crisis that will impact the entertainment community; and support mission-critical capital projects.

Within these tentpoles, specific goals include tripling the number of people the Fund serves; executing an innovative digital engagement strategy that includes the roll-out of a new client portal funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Digital Accelerator Program; reaching more people in additional communities with services such as scholarships, mental health services, insurance and career counseling; complete construction of The Hollywood Arts Collective, a complex in the heart of Hollywood that combines 151 units of affordable housing with an arts building and a new home for the Fund’s Western Region offices; upgrading the Actors Fund Home, an assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation residence for seniors in New Jersey; modernize The Schermerhorn and The Dorothy Ross Friedman affordable housing residences in New York; and creating an Affordable Housing Catalyst Fund to stimulate investment in new projects.

Fundraising for the ESSENTIAL Campaign began in 2022, with contributions already made by individuals, foundations, corporations, unions and guilds. An additional $1.1 million was raised at the gala last night.

Led by Honorary Co-Chairs Annette Bening and Brian Stokes Mitchell, the ESSENTIAL Campaign Committee also includes Co-Chairs Hugh Jackman, Chris Keyser, Kenny Leon, Matthew Loeb, Shonda Rhimes and Robert Wankel. Committee members include Greg Berlanti, Janice Reals Ellig, Robert Greenblatt, David Henry Hwang, Sharon Karmazin, Brooke Kennedy, James L. Nederlander, Ruth Nerken, Laura Penn, David Rambo, Lauren Reid, Kate Shindle, Henry Tisch and Lisa Ann Walter.

This morning, Campaign Co-Chair Hugh Jackman shared this special message in celebration of the public launch that can be viewed

“The Entertainment Community Fund has been a longstanding cornerstone in our industry, lending support and meeting the unique needs of thousands of people. Still, more of our colleagues need help, and it will take all of us to support the transformative ESSENTIAL Campaign and ensure that the Fund reaches as many individuals who need these services as possible,” shared Committee Co-Chair Shonda Rhimes.

Bening and Mitchell added, “As Board Chairs for the Entertainment Community Fund and as Honorary Co-Chairs for the ESSENTIAL Campaign, we are tremendously grateful to everyone who has already supported this fundraising initiative and to those who will help us meet our goal. With significant campaign contributions already distributed to provide much-needed services to our community, the Fund is already impacting the lives of more people in more places.”

For more information and to learn how you can support the ESSENTIAL Campaign, please visit entertainmentcommunity.org/Essential.

In addition to announcing the exciting campaign, the evening celebrated Sonia Friedman CBE, Olivier and Tony Award-winning producer; Seth MacFarlane, Founder, Fuzzy Door and Award-winning writer, actor, director, producer and singer; and Warner Bros. Television Group, Emmy-winning producer of scripted, unscripted and animated programming, as they received the Entertainment Community Fund Medal of Honor.

Special guests, presenters and performers included Kelsey Anderson, Eric Bauza, Michael Evans Behling, Annette Bening, Melissa Benoist, Kola Bokinni, Holly Ann Butler, John Cardoza, Corey Cott, Hannah Cruz, Stephen Daldry, Cristo Fernández, Maria Friedman, Drew Gehling, Liz Gillies, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Hawley Gould, Joey Graziadei, Bonita Hamilton, Shanola Hampton, Brian d’Arcy James, Leslie Rodriguez Kreitzer, McKenzie Kurtz, Camryn Manheim, Julia Mattison, Allyson Tucker Mitchell, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Katherine Oliver, Greta Onieogou, Cassadee Pope, Dennis Stowe, L. Steven Taylor, Ryan Vasquez,Joy Woods, Chip Zien and more.

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