The Glorious Corner
THE TROUBLE WITH ELLEN — By now you’ve surely heard that Warner Media is conducting a serious investigation into allegations made from staffers at the Ellen DeGeneres Show. I have a good friend who works for one of the largest retail stores still around, and he told years back that he and his team had a meeting with Ellen about launching a clothing line. He didn’t say much other than that she came off as one of the rudest people he had ever crossed paths with; and, believe me, this man has met with some of the biggest of the best. He also said that the pre-meeting rituals were extraordinary; that he couldn’tdo this and, he couldn’t do that. I also have known one of the show producers (now terminated) who started off as a good guy … but, the revelations that have come forth have been almost unbelievable. If you saw The Morning Showon Apple TV, Mark Duplas’ role as executive producer Chip Black was tough … now, multiply that by 10. It is really that difficult. It’s hard enough when you run a show; but, when you run a hit show, the pressure is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. The Ellen show is no longer generating the degree of profit it used to – as Ellen gets the biggest and best money-package. The more she gets; the less the show makes, so I’m going to predict that Ellen herself will step aide. There are already rumblings that this just night happen … but, with a BIG payout to Ellen. There are already rumors this morning that James Corden is in line to replace her. You might wonder where are all of Ellen’s famous celebrity fans. Why have they not stepped up and said something? Ironically, the only people who have stepped forward are actors Brad Garrett and Lea Thompson (Back To The Future) and said it’s all true! Lea Thompson is an odd voice for sure, right? I was never a big fan of Ellen, or the show, and I must admit, I never would have believed her talk-show would have gotten so big. Still, these days, a rampant dictatorship just doesn’t fly.
BRUCIE & STERN — Our radio inside-man (Tommy on the Radio) insists that Bruce Morrow, Cousin Brucie, who Saturday night officially stepped away from SiriusXM will quickly return to the airwaves. I sure hope so, as Bruce is a national treasure. Even at 84, the man’s a dynamo. Musicbiz Worldwide ran an article this week claiming Top 40 radio is officially over – although we’ve been aware of that for years – I hope legacy-stations are not next. I mean, where else can one hear Tommy James; The Monkees; Fifth Dimension; and, The Carpenters?
News came this week that the satcaster is in serious talks with Howard Stern to extend his current contract.Howard’s three-day-a-week show, done from home these days, is still brilliant listening, Although his selection of guests has certainly been ungraded – less adult-film actresses and more A-level guests – still, Howard just may be tired. He’s been broadcasting for years. Stay tuned! And, just for the record, side-kick Robin Quivers rocks!
SHORT TAKES — Brilliant Forbes piece (by James M. Clash) on Micky Dolenz and just how the heck Jimi Hendrix ended up opening for The Monkees way back when. Check it out here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimclash/2020/07/30/how-jimi-hendrix-came-to-open-for-the-monkees/#657bd92c6a0e … Tyrone Biljan get better! Stay strong my friend! …
We just got the Liberty DeVitto book, Liberty, and really loved it. For someone who grew up in Long Island, as did both Liberty and I, I actually knew each-and-every-single place he referenced (the original Sam Ash in Hempstead for example). For someone not from the Island, it could be a bit disconcerting, but it’s all verifiable. Liberty made his bones playing with Billy Joel (for 30 years), but also played for a number of other acts, including Mitch Ryder and Richard Supa. Joel and he had a famous falling-out years ago, but they sucked it up and Joel delivers a terrific forward. Truth be told, Joel comes off as shaky as Liberty does at times. Great tales and a great book. No question … btw: No new Molly Ellis intel (or, aide Mary Vanakin) from Macmillan. Still very sad that a brilliant company has such an obviously hole-in-the-wall-PR department …
We just finished the mini-series The Eddy on Netflix. It was from the creative hand of LaLa Land’s Damien Chazelle and started off great. The music parts were exemplary … but, then turned into a murder-mystery. The last episode, entitled The Eddy, was great and set-up a second season, though I bet Netflix will take a pass. The music was extraordinarily good … HBO’s Perry Mason has been renewed by the network. This show, which started off as different as possible in creating Perry, ironically grew on me as it progressed. In the penultimate episode, Mason becomes a lawyer and you finally hear an updated version of the classic-theme song. Immensely satisfying. Bravo! … Wonder what the New York Post’s Michael Starr (who wrote a book on Raymond Burr called Hiding In Plain Sight) thinks … Romeo Delight looks to headline a show at NYC’s Bowery Electric as soon as it opens … And, RIP Director Alan Parker (Mississippi Burning; Angel Heart; Midnight Express). Brilliant director; Alive ‘n Kicking’s Pepe Cardona; and, Wilford Brimley, so excellent in Ron Howard’s Cocoon and The China Syndrome … especially when he said to the Jack Lemmon character: it’s the right thing to do!
NAMES IN THE NEWS: James Ryan; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Mike Greenly; Cindy Adams; Regis Philbin; Victoria Lang; Jane Blunkell; Jeff Smith;Steve Walter; Peter Shendell; Barry Fisch; David Criblez; Roy Trakin; Joel Diamond; Rebecca Holden; and, ZIGGY!
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim birthday was March 22nd and somehow I missed it. His masterpiece Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway originally March 1, 1979, at the Uris Theatre (now the Gershwin). His newest revival opened Sunday, March 26th at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. So here’s to you Steve.
Broadway’s Parade, a Masterpiece and Master Class, Not to be Missed.
With a blast of bright white light, the Broadway revival of Parade marches itself forcibly onto the stage, surging from the sidelines once the love-making center stage comes to an end. It’s a compelling beginning, one that, as it turns out, doesn’t really add a whole lot to the proceedings. But the show finds its strong footing soon after. No doubt about it. I didn’t really understand the full need for the sexual interaction between the young soldier (Charlie Webb) and his pretty young companion (Ashlyn Maddox) that takes place in those first few moments, as well as the consistent reappearing of that same soldier, 50 years later, as an old man (Howard McGillin) throughout, other than to remind us that the old Confederate way of thinking still flies its flag strong and true. Even if the flags they are waving in this production of Parade make us feel uneasy and unsure.
Overall, the compounding effect is captivating and intense, as this musical, with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy), music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Songs for a New World; The Last Five Years), and originally co-conceived by Harold Prince (West Side Story), stands strong, taking on race, antisemitism, and prejudice in “The Old Red Hills of Home” South. It dutifully dramatizes the disturbing but true story of a 1913 trial of a Jewish factory manager who was wrongly accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old young girl and employee of the factory. The musical revival is as timely as can be, and as surefooted as one could hope for. And as directed carefully and artistically by Michael Arden (Broadway/Deaf West’s Spring Awakening), Parade delivers on all fronts.
After a well-received short run as part of New York City Center’s Encores! series, this tense and sharp musical finally has made its way back. I didn’t really know much about this musical, but I was surprised to hear that it first premiered on Broadway in December 1998 starring Brent Carver and Carolee Carmello in the two lead roles. It won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score (out of nine nominations), not surprisingly, and six Drama Desk Awards. And I’m guessing the accolades will come pouring in once again when the Tony Award nominations are announced.
Portraying that doomed factory manager, Leo Frank, Ben Platt (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen) once again finds power and passion in abundance, striding back onto the Broadway stage both sheepishly and strongly. He grabs hold of the part, demanding justice and the truth for the man who tried his imperfect best to live a dutiful life. Married to his loving wife, Lucille, played spectacularly by Micaela Diamond (Broadway’s The Cher Show), the pair seems well-matched, both in their characterizations and their vocal expertise. Their singing and emotionality soar, especially in Lucille’s “You Don’t Know This Man” and Leo’s captivating Statement, “It’s Hard to Speak my Heart“, as the piece gets darker and darker, breaking apart our collective hearts as it marches to the end. We all know this is not going to end well for this innocent man, but we are drawn in completely as the two begin, quite quietly, finding a simple and tender, yet complicated connection in their marriage.
We feel their bond as Leo gets ready and makes his way to the office on this odd day of celebration in Atlanta. He sidesteps the parade, which is oddly celebrating the confederacy and a war lost, leaving his wife to picnic alone. We collectively wish he’d stay home, giving in to the gentle pleas of his wife. Things might have turned out so differently if he had. But this is the tale that must be told, to be witness to, as we are simultaneously given a glimpse into the soon-to-be shortened life of Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle), being flirted with by a young boy (Jake Pedersen) about “The Picture Show“, as she rides a trolley car on her way to the factory to collect her wages, at ten cents an hour. The white balloon floats above her head, just like her spirit, simple and buoyant, until it escapes her hand, and floats away from her into the heavens above.
Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
For a revival to find its footing, it has to have a point of view or a sense of purpose far beyond an actor’s desire to perform a part, whether it suits them or not. It needs to radiate an idea that will make us want to sit up and pay attention. To feel its need to exist. And on one particular day in March, I was blessed with the opportunity to see not just one grande revival, but two. One was a detailed pulled-apart revolutionary revival of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that astounded. The other, unfortunately, was a clumsy revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that fell lazily from that high-wired peak – not for a lack of trying, but from a formulation that never found its purpose.
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