I was so excited to review The Public Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar. I happen to love this play, I adore Oskar Eustis’s work and love Shakespeare in the Park, however I was not prepared for the deconstruction of a play, that made me wonder, if I even knew this play at all. It is also hard to review, knowing you too could be verbally stabbed by people who read you. Being in a city where if you say one word for President Trump, you are the one who is assassinated. I know this, because when I spoke out about the treatment of Vice President elect Pence at Hamilton, my Facebook page was deluged by hate. I feel now as I felt then, only at a higher level. We can not sink down into the same depths of those who we despise. We need to take the higher ground. Like Kathy Griffin, this production, Oskar Eustis and the Public Theatre have gone too far.
Julius Caesar (well done by Gregg Henry) is Donald Trump. There is no way around this. His wife Calphurnia is Melania (the terrific Tina Benko) and the seven senators who murder him are US senators. Hello, what’s up with the American flag in the senate, even though we are in Rome?
Mr. Eustis states; “Those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic methods, pay a terrible price and destroy their republic,” but that is not the message you get when you see a resemblance of President Trump stabbed to death or naked. Also Mr. Eustis planned this production on election night. My guest who is not originally from America stated “This is not good for your county,” and he is right. Mr. Eustis added only three words to the text, but reduced it by a quarter, which takes on many different meanings. We are told before the play starts that the line was added “If Caesar had stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less” added “on Fifth Avenue.” What’s with the cheap shot?
Marc Antony (Elizabeth Marvel) is a women with a Southern accent. Completely weird, as she seems like Ivanka and again we are in Rome. The normally wonderful Corey Stoll plays Brutus like he’s on depressants, John Douglas Thompson as Cassius seems in a different play (and that is a good thing), Teagle F. Bougere as Casca seems like he is in a show based in the 60’s and Nikki M. James as Portia just meanders. The show is so muddled and I blame this on Mr. Eustis, as these are all winning and competent actors.
Mr. Eustis, has also gotten who Julius Caesar was, wrong. Caesar was a great war hero, a diplomate who created social and governmental reforms. He was killed because the corrupt senate was afraid he would have too much power.
David Rockwell’s set contains graffiti, a poster of the Muslim women dapped in the American flag, the preamble to the Constitution and a senate that looks like Lady Liberty’s head, that is then split. Paul Tazewell, dark suits and trench coats, federal lapel pins all resemble the FBI, pussy hats, masks that look like Anonymous and a couture Calpurnia, strut the stage. Jessica Paz’s sound design and Bray Poor’s soundscapes are well done.
I am not political and yet I am forced to speak out, for I do believe we need to make our voices heard. Mr. Eustis stands by what he has done, as does NEA The National Endowment For the Arts, Bank of America, Delta Airline, the countless audience goers who were left in shock and as do I. Violence begets violence and this was just in poor taste.
Julius Caesar: Public Theater – Delacorte Theater, 81 Central Park West. until June 18th.
My View: Clint Holmes Is In Town!
In the golden age of Manhattan night life top vocalists of the day would begin their engagements in venues like The Copa, Latin Quarter, Oak Room, Living Room, and similar glamorous nightspots. In the same month you might have Jack Jones at the Plaza’s Persian Room, Buddy Greco swinging in the Americana’s Royal Box and Vic Damone headlining the Rainbow Room. It all created a special kind of entertainment euphoria and excitement in New York City.
When the 54 Below advertisements came out heralding Clint Holmes’ engagement it rekindled that feeling for me. Clint’s talent and fame have been well established over decades and he’s just the type of performer who makes a town more exciting when he’s appearing in it. Seeing Clint’s extraordinary performance last night at 54 Below in his show celebrating Peter Allen, (back to back after being thrilled by Tom Jones at The Beacon and Barry Manilow at Radio City) brought me back to that era of New York’s glittering night life. What a joy to be in the audience and get that adrenaline rush from legendary performers whose artistry and charisma have not diminished, and are now communicating an even deeper expressiveness and musical eloquence than in their earlier years.
Here are photos from the closing night of Clint Holmes sensational run at 54 Below and an after party hosted by Producer Sunny Sessa saluting Director Will Nunziata, Music Director Michael Orland, guest artists Nikki Renee Daniels and Kelly Clinton- Holmes.
My View: “Because I Have A Story With Each And Every One Of You”…Richard Jay-Alexander
If you never heard of a restaurant/bar called Milady’s on Prince Street, you’ll know it now! That’s where Richard Jay-Alexander chose to celebrate his 70th Birthday and it was truly a WOWZA evening…the setting, the food, the peonies, the curated music PLAYLIST (assembled by longtime friend and assistant, Nellie Beavers), the craft cocktails and even a film crew (led by longtime pal, Brian Morgan) in the back, taping BRAVO-style “confessionals” with each guest, about the BIRTHDAY BOY. The guests in attendance ranged in age and interests, like a perfect jambalaya of an accomplished life. Even friends from his High School, in Solvay, NY! The most impressive part of who Richard is was quickly revealed in his post “blowing out the candles of his cake” moment when he looked around the room (clearly moved) and explained that the reason we were all there was, “because I have a story with each and every one of you.” Needless to say, there was much talent present throughout the room and plenty of legendary New Yorkers, raising a glass to a pretty special guy. In reality, it is he that entered into our lives and our stories and happily so. This is how you do it!
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: The World Says Good-Bye To Tina Turner
Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll has died, after a long illness at 83. Turner was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and underwent a kidney transplant in 2017.
Her life story was told in the 1993 smash film What’s Love Got to Do with It and in the 2019 Broadway musical Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, starring Adrienne Warren in a career-making performance.
Born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, TN, Turner became famous in the late 1960s as the singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Their major hits included: “River Deep – Mountain High” and “Proud Mary.”After leaving husband Ike Turner following years of physical and emotional abuse, she staged what remains one of the greatest comebacks in pop music history, scoring massive hits in the 1980s such as “What’s Love Got To Do With it”, “Private Dancer” and “The Best,” with an estimated 180 million albums sold worldwide, 12 Grammy Awards won and sold-out stadium tours around the world.
Turner scored another smash single in 1985 with “We Don’t Need Another Hero, from the Mel Gibson-George Miller threequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She played the ruthless leader of Bartertown in the movie and delivered the memorable line, “Welcome to another edition of Thunderdome!”
She returned to the Top 20 later that year with “It’s Only Love,” a duet with Bryan Adams from his Reckless album, and also was part of the global smash “We Are the World.” That 1985 famine-relief single — written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced by Quincy Jones and credited to USA for Africa.
Turner also appeared at the intercontinental charity concert Live Aid that summer, performing a raucous, sexually charged duet with Mick Jagger in Philadelphia on a medley of his solo single “State of Shock” and the Rolling Stones’ “It’ Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It).”
Turner’s status as a musical pioneer extended to 1980s television when she became a staple of MTV.
A private funeral ceremony is expected for family and close friends and family.
My View: It’s Richard Jay-Alexander’s Birthday!
If there’s anyone who deserves to be featured in TIMES SQUARE CHRONICLES, on this particular day, May 24, it would be this guy, Richard Jay-Alexander. Born in 1953, today he turns 70 years old, here in New York City. He has walked these city streets more than most, as he pursued and has enjoyed a 49 year career, working on Broadway, in most theaters, clubs and majestic musical institutions, such as Carnegie Hall and The MET. He’s touched many, many lives and has a passion for this business that continues to burn and just this past Sunday, he helmed a thrilling evening, celebrating BroadwayWorld.com‘s 20th Anniversary, at midtown’s historic Sony Hall. On the eve of his birthday, he attended his favorite Tuesday night happening, Susie Mosher’s The LINEUP at Birdland Theatre, and treated the audience to a couple stories, observations on this important birthday and then, with Billy Stritch at the piano, John Miller on Bass and Clint De Canon on drums, performed a moving and heartfelt (THEY LONG TO BE) CLOSE TO YOU by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Richard clearly has a gift and a passion for the stage and for music and we are all the better for it, on the receiving end.
Happy Birthday, Young Man! Here’s to many more.
My View: A Glamorous Celebrity Filled Night With Lorna Dallas at The Laurie Beechman Theatre
It was a celebrity filled audience last night and the glamor of Manhattan Cabaret nightlife was in abundance for Lorna Dallas and her show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre titled “Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days
Ms. Dallas returned to New York City with a wonderful new show. This was Ms. Dallas’ first appearance in this town since she performed at the Bistro awards prior to the lockdown of 2020. The three years respite has done nothing to dim the luster of Ms Dallas’ exceptional instrument. She stayed in fine voice all evening long. But she is more than just an excellent vocalist. She is also a compelling actress. Her show, skillfully crafted by director Barry Kleinbort, and sensitively accompanied by one of this city’s best musical directors, Christopher Denny, was a joy from start to finish. The star studded audience at the Laurie Beechman theater responded heartily to every one of Lorna’s numbers. Evening high points ran the gamut, from standards like “I Have Dreamed,” to “When the Sun Comes Out;” from an hilarious “By Strauss” by the Gershwin’s to a dramatic “Silent Spring” by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. She also premiered a new song written especially for her by Ann Hampton Callaway and Amanda McBroom, “In My Dreams,” which wowed the savvy New York crowd. Hopefully, Lorna Dallas will return to these shores on a more regular basis. Three years is too long a wait for this powerful soprano’s next appearance..
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