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The Luminous Parallel Worlds Inside the National Theatre’s Sensational Filming of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

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Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor star in the National Theatre’s “Romeo & Juliet,” airing as part of “Great Performances” Friday on PBS (check local listings).

I was quite thrilled but nervous last Friday night. Being in Canada, I wasn’t quite sure I would have access to the broadcast of the recently filmed version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that the National Theatre (one of my favorite theaters in the world) had put together under the weight of the pandemic. It sounded from the press release that outside of a few pre-determined countries, we, Canadians, might have to wait a bit for the production to become available here for streaming or viewing. But as luck (or a good cable subscription) would have it, I was anxious all for not, as I discovered quite easily that I could catch this dynamic pared down version of this classic on the PBS channel available to me.

Filmed completely on the Lyttelton stage (following, obviously, all the health guidelines that have been put in place) over seventeen (very busy) days, this wildly emotive presentation, flashing forward and back with a wise calculated a vengeance, made my heart ache for all that is lost within this deadly tragedy, and for all the loss we feel currently for not having live theatre available to us. The production broke my heart, surprisingly, as this is a tale told by many, over and over again, and although the star crossed story never ceases to amaze me in its sheer beauty and poetic genius, over the years, it has rarely found its way into my emotional heart. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but after numerous productions, regardless of their tactile beauty, the heartbreak sometimes stays a distant memory. But somewhere in this simplistic two-framed production, directed with an amazing clarity by Simon Godwin (NT’s Strange Interlude with Anne Marie Duff; followed by Man and Superman with Ralph Fiennes), the art and the pain stabbed itself deep and tugged at my sensibilities in a way that it hasn’t in, maybe, decades, and for that, I am eternally grateful to all involved, and to PBS for making it available for our consumption.

Originally, I am told, this modern-dress production was going to be staged as part of the National Theatre‘s regular theatrical season, but the pandemic had a different idea for this tale. So wisely and thoughtfully, Godwin and the National decided to not let this amazing opportunity fly away, but together they decided to find a way to reimagine this Shakespearean tragedy as a theatrical film. Played out on a bare stage, the team hoped to find within the construct, an honest and authentic vibration when they combined both mediums’ mindsets together. It was a gamble, I am sure, but parcelled out with little to no set or fanfare, the winning hand final product pays out in abundance. There, inside cinematographer Tim Sidell’s (2018’s “Two for Joy“) inventive eye, the creative team found all that is needed within, delivering forth a production that is tight, tense, and speedy, with a driven intensity that never wavers and falters. It finds ways of emotionally pulling you into its two parallel universes without too much flash or pretense, engaging in an unique energy that is compelling and swift.

Jessie Buckley in the National Theatre’s “Romeo & Juliet,” airing as part of “Great Performances” Friday on PBS (check local listings).

The cast of fourteen actors wanders in, dressed as if arriving for rehearsal. This is how it begins, as they sit in a circle on the stage surrounded by all the props they could need for a dry run of the play. It starts up with those iconic first lines, and the energy sizzles. This is the essence of theatre and Shakespeare, taking me back to those electric moments when poetry and words slam head first into pain and heartfelt emotions, and the excitement in what may be hangs in the air like heavy smoke. They start in, and the swordplay with wooden sticks sets the action moving forward. The ensemble, first watching with a simple edge of intrigue, dig into the madness as a real knife is pulled. The crowd swarms around the players, and the danger escalates as the quarreling intensifies. The camera dives inside, feeding on the chaotic energy as the visuals push the play forward and outward like a collective punch to the gutt. We are now all in it, without question. And we are never given a moment to step out. But why would we want to.

Josh O’Connor in the National Theatre’s “Romeo & Juliet,” airing as part of “Great Performances” Friday on PBS (check local listings).

The tightly wound reimagining is intent on maintaining its focus. Parallel universes only strengthen the undertones. Godwin and editor Nick Emerson have stripped the drama down, exposing the heart and blood with finesse. It flies itself forward and back, exposing all the elements of what did and will happen without a worry. The flashes, in and out, ignite the tension, and build on the dread that we all know. Without warning, intense sadness and fear came over me, even though we all know that no matter how much we’d like Romeo to have some patience in that one critical moment, or find a way to seek council with the Friar, the ending is a forgone conclusion, and we can only weep for the loss that is on the horizon.

Josh O’Connor, the well known actor who plays the troubled, brittle Prince Charles on The Crown, dives headfirst into a Romeo that is as complicated and engaging as one could hope for. He aches for the intense connection he unleashes inside himself and with his tender Juliet, played lovingly by Jessie Buckley (West End revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music). Their chemistry is sweet, dynamic, and stunningly believable, pushing that first kiss at the Capulets’ ball into something cinematically both intimate and grand. Something about the two, maybe because of the way their eyes smile at one another across the rehearsal room, drives the headstrong attachment forward with an urgency that is palpable. Stripped of so much surrounding textual chatter, the connection becomes more dangerous and intense with each meeting, making us fear for their emotional, yet immature, sanity. The two seem almost too eager to self inflict deadly wounds on themselves, forever trying unsuccessfully to balance love with a troubled desperation that is impossible to ignore. They are indeed in trouble, from that first impetuous kiss at the well crafted ball, but they speed forward, never looking long enough around them to take a breath, or avoid the crash that waits for them around the next corner.

Deborah Findlay in the National Theatre’s “Romeo & Juliet,” airing as part of “Great Performances” Friday on PBS (check local listings).

The play has been described by Godwin as a plot that balances destiny on the edge of disease. He states that the crucial delivery of that one particular message is delayed because of a quarantined town, with the outcome of that diseased hurdle being tragedy. It’s a construction that we can all embrace knowingly, as the production lets the pandemic sneak into the drama with a subtle power. Broadcasted as part of PBS‘s Great Performances, the production finds emotional engagement at almost every turn, especially in the unexpected, unscripted sexual tenderness between Benvolio (Shubham Saraf) and Mercutio (Fisayo Akinade), fumbling around in the alleyway to find the same fire that exists inside the titular characters’ hearts. To be surprised is a welcome addition with any Shakespeare, but to find myself fully invested inside every high-angled close-up or wide angled vision is just a joy to behold. It made my heart bleed for inner patience on Romeo’s banished part, pleading inside my soul for him to take pause for one more minute for an overall different outcome. Ridiculous, I know. With tears flowing down my face, I watched torturous love and separation play out its deadly, heartless game. The beautiful film has a luminous tender energy that creeps in and connects, especially during these days of pandemic seclusion. 

Tamsin Grieg in the National Theatre’s “Romeo & Juliet,” airing as part of “Great Performances” Friday on PBS (check local listings).

The sharp ninety-minute production isn’t worried about the world as much as it is about sexual energy and the ideas of love and electricity. Deborah Findlay’s (MTC’s The Children) delicious portrayal of the Nurse finds connection and intimacy easily and wisely, while Tamsin Grieg (NT’s Twelfth Night) defiantly adds a steely frost to her Lady Capulet that works (although I must admit I will never forget Diane Venora’s magnificent and battered turn at the same part in Baz Luhrmann’s epic film version, “Romeo + Juliet“, her damaged portrayal will live on in my soul forever). The only melting for Grieg’s Lady is when she tells her kinsman Tybalt, strongly portrayed by David Judge (ITV’s “The Bill“), to stand down. It has an erotic edge that coats much of this production. But speaking of Luhrmann’s film, Claire Danes turn on Juliet, Pete Postlethwaite’s Father Laurence, Mariam Margolyes’ Nurse, Brian Dennehy’s Montague, Paul Sorvino’s Capulet, and Paul Rudd’s Paris, still easily hold their own in my memory (God, the cast of that 1996 film was amazing) and I must admit it will take a lot to shake it out. O’Connor’s work though, easily accomplishes just that.

Unlike that starry, overly-produced film (that I love), this Romeo and Juliet finds their pure authenticity in its less showy forms and formulas, deepening the connection without all those high voltage gimmicks and excesses of which that Luhrmann film happily embraced. The National Theatre production runs fast and furious, though, pushing the tragedy forward at an epic speed, shedding of all Shakespeare’s side talk with a wise grace. Their focus is on the wild-ride drive and passion that is on fire within these two magnificent performances, as they fling themselves forward and backwards through parallel universes of passion and intent. The structural balance sits perfectly inside the theatrically staged space, making this 500-year-old play sizzle with an achingly sad energy that made it impossible to look away from or not feel in your very bones. For a play that I’ve seen countless times ove, this Romeo and Juliet, courtesy of London’s National Theatre, has delivered a gorgeous filming that is worthy of my continued devotion and extreme love. 

Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet will be on PBS starting Friday, April 23.

For more from Ross click here

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

Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

A JON BON SURPRISE — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Jon Bon Jovi played a surprise five-song set in Nashville on Friday, June 7.

The intimate performance celebrated the grand opening of JBJ’s, the new rooftop bar and restaurant owned by Jon Bon Jovi. It also came on the day Bon Jovi released their sixteenth studio album, Forever.

The show was notable considering the lingering uncertainty surrounding Jon Bon Jovi’s voice. The singer underwent vocal surgery in 2022 and has been enduring a long road to recovery ever since. The frontman recently confirmed he’ll be unable to tour in support of his new album, noting that he’s “more than capable of singing again,” but that “two and a half hours a night, four nights a week” would not be possible.

The frontman’s voice appeared pitchy but strong during the Nashville club set. Bon Jovi showcased plenty of his trademark energy during the gig, dancing on the small stage and engaging fans to sing along with him.

The performance opened with “Blood on Blood,” the stirring album cut from Bon Jovi’s classic 1988 LP New Jersey. According to Ssetlist.fm, this marked the first time “Blood on Blood” has been performed in concert since 2019.

Later, the singer addressed his absence from performing.

“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been up on a stage with some people in the house,” Bon Jovi declared midway through the set. “Too long, too long. Yeah, it feels good. I hope it sounds good, because it feels good.”

Bon Jovi also acknowledged Nashville’s importance in his band’s history, noting that they’d spent “so much time” writing and recording in the town. “I always jokingly say, Nashville, this is my people.”

Motley Crue singer Vince Neil. Jelly Roll and Big Kenny from Big and Rich were among the celebrities on hand for Bon Jovi’s club gig. Other highlights on the night included a rousing rendition of “You Give Love a Bad Name” and the lead single from Forever, “Legendary.”

See the complete set list below, along with video of the entire performance.

Bon Jovi, 6/7/24, JBJ’s, Nashville, Set List

1.  “Blood on Blood”
2. “We Weren’t Born to Follow”
3. “You Give Love a Bad Name”
4. “Born to Be My Baby”
5. “Legendary”

Jon’s been very, very visible of late. From his Hulu-four-part show to stints on everything from Kelly Clarkson to Jimmy Kimmel and it seems to me he’s been a tad overexposed. Sure, he’s got a new album to sell as well as the cable-series, but his logline seems to be over whether he can tour … or not.  And, apparently, he can’t.

Honestly, that’s gotten bigger play than his rumored feud with Richie Sambora. I know Jon and he’s smart as a fox. He and his PR-person, which I believe is Brad Cafarelli, have done a stellar job.

This Nashville-appearance was after he may the ‘I can’t tour’ announcement, so what gives?

I’d love to know who he played with in Nashville. Was it some of the Bon Jovi-band or just some Nashville-players? Maybe we should ask Brad.

George Harrison

GO GEORGE — We loved this story from Far Out Magazine about George Harrison and Phil Collins:

The seed for his prank on the Genesis drummer began back in 1970 when Collins was a teenage session musician who grew up in absolute awe of everything Beatles related.

At the time, Collins was in his former band Flaming Youth and wouldn’t audition to join Genesis until later on in the same year.

“Our manager got a call from Ringo Starr’s chauffeur, who said they needed a percussionist, and he suggested me,” said Phil.

“So I went down to Abbey Road, and Harrison was there and Ringo and Billy Preston and Klaus Voormann and Phil Spector, and we started routing the song.”

George was recording his debut solo album, All Things Must Pass.

“No one told me what to play, and every time they started the song, Phil Spector would say, ‘Let’s hear guitar and drums,’ or ‘Let’s hear bass and drums.’ I’m not a conga player, so my hands are starting to bleed. And I’m cadging cigarettes off Ringo – I don’t even smoke, I just felt nervous. Anyway, after about two hours of this, Phil Spector says, ‘Okay congas, you play this time.’ And I’d had my mic off, so everybody laughed, but my hands were shot.”

“After that they all disappeared – someone said they were watching TV or something – and I was told I could go. A few months later, I buy the album from my local record shop, look at the sleeve notes, and I’m not there. And I’m thinking, ‘There must be some mistake!’ But it’s a different version of the song, and I’m not on it.”

Once Collins would become a world-famous star in his own right, he and George were back in contact.

“Cut to years later,” Collins added. “I bought [former Formula 1 driver] Jackie Stewart’s house. Harrison was a friend of Jackie’s, and Jackie told me George was remixing All Things Must Pass.

“He said, ‘You were on it, weren’t you?’ And I said, ‘Well I was there.’ Two days later a tape’s delivered from George Harrison with a note saying: ‘Could this be you? Suddenly the congas come in – too loud and just awful. At the end of the tape you hear George Harrison saying, ‘Hey, Phil, can we try another without the conga player?’

“So now I know, they didn’t go off to watch TV, they went somewhere and said, ‘Get rid of him,’ cos I was playing so badly. Then Jackie rings and says, ‘I’ve got someone here to speak to you,’ and puts George on and he says, ‘Did you get the tape?’ and I said, ‘I now realise I was fired by a Beatle.’ He says, ‘Don’t worry, it was a piss-take. I got Ray Cooper to play really badly, and we dubbed it on. Thought you’d like it!’ I said, ‘You f**king bastard!’”, Collins then reminisced in hindsight, “It was lovely, wasn’t it?”

Yes, George went out of his way to pay a whole band to spend a day in the studio with him just so he could pull a joke on Phil Collins.

The Killers

SHORT TAKES — Our spy at the weekend’s Governor’s Ball said The Killers were spectacular. They played “Mr. Brightside” and “Andy, You’re A Star” (first time in seven years). One of my favorite bands, ever! Great to hear this …

Dick Van Dyke

Congrats to Dick Van Dyke at 98 winning an Emmy for his stint on Days of Our Lives. Bravo! …

This Thursday at the Landis Theatre in Vineland, New Jersey, is a special screening of The Zombie Wedding. Based on the hit interactive play (which premiered in 2015). The first-ever wedding between a Human Bride and a Zombie Groom; starring Heather Matarazzzo; Kevin Chamberlin; Vincent Pastore and Micky Dolenz.

Details to follow from producer Robert Dragotta … Watched Michael Mann’s Ferrari over the weekend and just loved it. Adam Driver; Penelope Cruz and Shailene Woodley were just extraordinary. Not your typical Mann-pic either. A must-see for sure …

And also caught Netflix’s Hitman with Glen Powell-the man-of-the-moment in film. He’s great, sort of a George Clooney-in the making. Directed by Richard Linklater – a surprise. Kind of a silly premise, but he carries it admirably and does his love-interest, the sultry Adria Arjona – who makes a rather memorable debut.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Jane Blunkell; Dan Zelinski; Jane Berk; Howard Bloom; Peter Lubin; Stu Taub; Roy Trakin; David Adelson; Michael Nice; Joel Diamond; Mark Bego; Jimmy Fallon; Julie Gurovitsch; Vince Napolitano; Obi Steinman; Peter Abraham; David Sanborn; Craig Zisk; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Brad Balfour; Jill Christiansen; Anni Bella; Lush Ice; Markos Papadatos; and Bella.

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Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents David Zayas Jr.

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We are so pleased to announce our guest this week is David Zayas Jr.

David Zayas Jr. is making his Off-Broadway directorial debut with Simpatico at The Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th Street 3rd Fl. Simpatico plays until June 29th. David most recently directed the Jesus Hopped the A Train staged reading starring Common, John Ortiz, and David Zayas. David also directed LABs 30th Anniversary and the Barn Series, which included three New Works in progress by Stephen Adly Gurgis. A Bronx Native, theater and film Director, Actor, and Photographer, David is a member of The Actors Studio’s Playwright/Directors Unit and LAByrinth Theater Company. He has directed with Planet Connections, Actors Theatre of NY, NY Theater Festival, Samuel French OOB Festival, and Chain Theatre along with award winning films in over 20 festivals.

“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 and 18th here.

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Celebrities

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

TRAINOR’S TODAY — She first hit the airwaves a decade ago with “All About That Bass” and has managed to remain a headliner since. A new album Timeless dropped Friday and though she was pretty great on the Today Show; she’s certainly not in the same atmosphere as Beyonce or Cardi B or Janelle Monae. Why? Her performance on Today was without a band; with backing tracks; and six dancers. Corny? Perhaps.

Her whole allure seems to be somewhere on the Peggy Lee-spectrum, which if memory serves, was cute, but a tad boring.

As to her backing tracks, veteran PR-man David Salidor (who has worked with everyone from Madonna to Debbie Gibson) says, “It’s ironic, because if an artist used backing tracks in the 80’s, it was widely criticized and looked down upon. I think the audiences today don’t really care and it’s a shame because there’s a real artistry in having a band, Sadly, these audiences are missing that and they don’t even know it. I bet if they knew what they were missing, they’d demand it.

MORE BEACH BOYS — No doubt about it, this Disney doc has ignited opinions both pro and con.

The Brian Wilson-fans said since Brian couldn’t really be interviewed, the opinions were somewhat one sided, while fans of The Beach Boys loved it. Variety’s Roy Trakin perhaps said it best: Survivors get to tell the story. This is more hagiography and tribute than biopic but the music saves it. Beach Boys 101. Nothing new to see here. But it did look good in IMAX.

The last hour was quickly wrapping up all the pieces – perhaps a tad too quickly. Love’ s suit against Brian claimed to be about the publishing rights, which father-Murray sold years ago for peanuts, figuring they’d never be worth anything.

Dennis Wilson

“Kokomo” which was a big hit isn’t spoken about at all, instead used as a closing theme. and, Dennis’ death hardly mentioned. Pacific Ocean Blue not mentioned either.

As with most of these docs .. they leave you wanting more … and I did with this one.

Benny Harrison

SHORT TAKES — What ever chapped to Benny Harrison’s Back To Front series. This was to be a show featuring the backing musicians and studios that go into making a show. Great idea but apparently Harrison couldn’t find the right producers. There’s another show very similar out right (featuring The Power Station studio now owned by Berklee) now and that probably didn’t help … Eminem and Jellyroll dueted on “Sing For The Moment” for this week’s Detroit-concert. celebrating the re-opening of Michigan Central Station. They sounded great together. Also, there Diana Ross; Melissa Etheridge and Jack White …

New Eels album out- titled Eels Time ... Carol Klenfner was married to industry magnet Michael Klenfner. Here’s what she’s up to now: https://w42st.com/post/carol-klenfner-west-side-story-ping-pong/?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAR2qx06-OGVRqdQ-Uq_5Vban37FBUlmbINGjXI45lSRt2yDropCNpBIg9lU_aem_AUwj8G9hZ961orkpaRbod2lsomw3aHTWWS6h7ymamZxSKBXHozIvFkracqZg2NLQ4eHi-c_jC7H7zc6Pl1u0kRaL

Cheap Trick/John Lennon

Did you ever take a look at the John Lennon video with Cheap Trick doing his “I’m Losing You?” It was producer Jack Douglas’ idea. Brilliant if you ask me. Take a look: https://www.loudersound.com/features/cheap-trick-rick-nielsen-john-lennon-double-fantasy

… Great Neil Finn tale of how he joined Fleetwood Mac in Mojo:https://www.mojo4music.com/articles/stories/neil-finn-on-joining-fleetwood-mac/HBO/MAXjust canceled Toyko Vice after 2 seasons. I loved it … Happy Bday London Records’ John Boulos!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Ed Steinberg; Vinny Rich; Adrian Niles; Anni Bella; Nicole Nirvana; Lucy Woodward; Robert Miller; Alan Rothstein; Kneecap; Tony King; Jane Ayer; Pete Gidion; Ray Free; Ron Alexenburg; Herbie Rosen; Juggy Gayles; Jerry Lembo; Wayne Rosso; Tone Scott; Dan Zelinski; and ZIGGY!

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Broadway

Theatre News: Dolly Parton, Reunion in Bartersville, The Broadway Collection, Obama Musical, Magdalene

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Dolly Parton announced from the stage of the CMA Fest in Nashville, that she will partner with ATG Productions to bring a new musical inspired by her life and trailblazing career titled Hello, I’m Dolly to Broadway in 2026.

Photo by Jim Wright

Hello, I’m Dolly will feature a score by Parton that will include some of her biggest hits as well as new songs she has written especially for the musical, and a book by Parton and Maria S. Schlatter. Additional members of the creative team and casting will be announced at a later date.

For news and updates on Hello, I’m Dolly, please sign up at www.helloimdolly.com

LaChanze Productions is thrilled to announce casting for an industry reading on June 13 at Pershing Square Signature Center (480 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036) of Reunion in Bartersville, written by acclaimed playwright Celeste Bedford Walker.

The reading will feature Charlotte d’Amboise (Chicago) as Liz, Clifton Davis (Wicked)as Perry, Marchánt Davis (Ain’t No Mo’) as Ronnie, Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Castle”) as AJ, Larry Marshall (Waitress) as Cous, Lizan Mitchell (The Preacher’s Wife) as Janie Mae and Lillias White (Hadestown) as Pollina. Lakisha May (Skeleton Crew) will be reading stage directions. Jerry Dixon (If/Then) will direct. Norman Anthony Small (Leopoldstadt) will be stage manager and Nzinga Williams (Fat Ham) will serve as General Manager.

Reunion in Barterville is a whodunnit set within a group of senior citizens who come together for their 50th High School Class reunion. Walker has written over 40 plays and won the National Black Theatre Festival’s August Wilson Playwriting Award, the NAACP Theatre Award for Best Play and the AUDELCO Award for Best Playwright.

Tony Award-winning producer LaChanze (Kimberly Akimbo, Topdog/Underdog) recently announced the launch of her new multimedia production company, LaChanze Productions. LCP is focused on producing original works that will attract contemporary audiences by bringing new voices to center stage. LCP aims to reimagine traditional theatrical concepts and revitalize commercial theatre, making it exciting and accessible for all. LaChanze serves as Producer and Managing Director of the new entity.

LCP will discover, develop, and deliver groundbreaking Broadway and commercial entertainment projects. With a mission to nurture untapped talent both on and off stage, prioritize inclusivity and create productions that inspire and reflect the human condition, LCP aims to usher in a new era of entertainment. While current projects in development are plays and musicals, LCP plans to expand into film and television as well. Please visit lachanzeproductions.com for additional information.The Broadway Collection has released a high energy, educational documentary short film, aimed at the travel industry and those interested in traveling to NYC. The new film highlights the importance of seeing a show during a trip to New York City, as no visit is complete without Broadway.

The Broadway Collection, a division of The Shubert Organization focused on helping visitors to NYC discover Broadway. “Produced and directed by two-time Emmy-nominated Jonathan Theodore Baker, this video is the first in what is planned to be an ongoing video series. Featuring Tony® and Olivier Award-winning Broadway star Gavin Creel.

The video features a roundtable with Creel and some special guests: composer and performer Sara Bareilles (Waitress), Tony-nominated actress Eva Noblezada (Hadestown, The Great Gatsby), director Sammi Cannold (How to Dance in Ohio), and actress/singer Jacqueline Arnold (Moulin Rouge!) about the current state of Broadway in 2024.  

The ten-minute documentary short is available for distribution through the professional travel industry, and anyone interested can watch on The Broadway Collection’s website and YouTube channel, @BroadwayCollection. Watch the documentary here.

44 – The (un)Official, (un)Sanctioned Obama Musical, which played three sold-out, critically acclaimed engagements in Los Angeles, will have its New York premiere with four invitation-only showcase performances on Monday, June 24 at 7 PM; Tuesday, June 25 at 7 PM;  and Wednesday, June 26 at 2 PM and 7:30 PM at Racket NYC (431 West 16th Street). 

Writer and director Eli Bauman said, “Soon Presidents 45 and 46 will share the stage for what promises to be a rational, civil, and refreshingly youthful debate.

44 will feature members of the acclaimed Los Angeles cast: T. J. Wilkins as ‘Barack Obama,’ Shanice as ‘Michelle Obama,’ and Chad Doreck as ‘Joe Biden.’ They will be joined by Kevin Bailey as ‘John Boehner, Larry Cedar as ‘Mitch McConnell,’ Marqell Edward Clayton as ‘Brother Abe Lincoln,’ Kelley Dorney as ‘Hillary Clinton,’ Summer Nicole Greer as ‘Voice of the People,’ Jane Papageorge as ‘Sarah Palin,’ Dino Shorté as ‘Herman Cain,’ Jeff Sumner as ‘Lindsey Graham,’ and Michael Uribes as ‘Ted Cruz.’ Celeste Butler is the understudy for the roles of ‘Voice of the People’ and ‘Michelle Obama,’ Ally Dixon understudies ‘Hillary Clinton’ and ‘Sarah Palin,’ and Scott Kruse understudies ‘Joe Biden,’ ‘Mitch McConnell,’ ‘Lindsey Graham,’ and ‘Ted Cruz.’ 

44 will feature legendary L.A. band, House of Vibe as “The Andrew Jackson Five” with Anthony “Brew” Brewster(keyboards), Phillip “Fish” Fisher (drums), Corey Cofield (bass), Conrad Bauer (guitar), and Greg Raymond(keyboards).

Magdalene: I am the utterance of my name, a new work of music-theater by playwright, director, and actor Sylvia Milo alongside composer and percussionist Nathan Davis is set to run June 13 – 30, 2024, at HERE (145 Sixth Avenue, Manhattan). The production, is from the creators of The Other Mozart, is set to open on Sunday, June 16. Tickets are now on sale at www.here.org.

Silenced as an apostle, framed as a prostitute, exalted as Goddess, Mary Magdalene has always been controversial and dangerous to the status quo.

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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on

G.H. Harding

BEACH BOYS DISNEY DOC —I’m not a huge fan of these music-docs that now seem to come up inmultiples every week. Sure, Bohemian Rhapsody was good, although many of the facts were fudged a tad, but most of these others reconstitute old photos and recordings and talk about how it was back then.

The Hulu-Bon Jovi one was good as I was sort of on the inside there, but in reality, it could have been two-parts, not 4.

Phil Spector

This one is pretty good; if only for the music and the glimpses of Phil Spector – who was idolized by Brian Wilson when he first heard his productions. Face it, Brian Wilson’s genius has always been in the studio. Dennis predominantly liked pop and his first solo opus Pacific Ocean Blue remains a classic decades after its release in 1977.

Murray Wilson, the father, is benevolently trashed by Mike Love and Al Jardine. I didn’t know him, but the stories are horrendous. David Marks says that Murray would go onstage and lower his amp. After Murray left, Marks would go over and turn it back to where it was.

Still, having worked with kids and their parents, I know it ain’t easy. In fact, it never is.

They touch on Brian’s mental-health issues (and how he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1964) and how once he stopped touring (and Glen Campbell replaced him), brother Carl took control of the band. Brian stayed ensconced in the studio prepping for when his brothers came off touring.

Pet Sounds came next; then “Good Vibrations” followed and then Brian’s collaborations with Van Dyke Parks.

The song “Surf’s Up” remains my favorite Brian Wilson work. It’s a pretty above average doc although the appearance by Janelle Monae, Lindsey Buckingham (who looked terribly unhealthy), Ryan Tedder and Don Was (nee Fagenson) were odd choices too.

Definitely worth a look.

GOT TO GO DISCO — Watched Part One of the BBC’s Disco/Soundtrack of a Revolution, on PBS and while it was pretty good, they ignored the record companies and producers for the most part that really made the whole scene happen. I know as I was there for a lot of it.

Producer Tom Moulton is interviewed throughout, but DJ Nicky Siano was sort of the narrator. David DePino, from Paradise Garage, was there too, but he never really mentioned the club, or Larry Levan for that matter. I mean, where were Neil Bogart and Ray Caviano and Billy Smith? Also, most of the club owners (or, promoters) are not present either. Michael Fesco, Tony Martino or John Addison would have added an accuracy which is mush-missed.

Vince Aletti

Vince Aletti was there and spoke quite wonderfully about the whole movement. He was writing for Rolling Stone and the Village Voice back then and was always a reliable source.

Having lived through it, the show missed a whole lot! Let’s see what the rest looks like. Stay tuned.

SHORT TAKES — Wednesday’s Today Show celebrated 30 years on the Plaza. Hard to believe. For me, the memorable concerts include Ricky Martin, Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, Sting, Santana and Earth, Wind and Fire, who started it all. Scant coverage of Katie, Bryant and sadly, nothing of Matt, but there was a whisper-view of Willard Scott. Congrats … I sort of knew Alec Baldwin would do a reality show; I just didn’t know it’d be this soon. Check out Deadline’s take on it: https://deadline.com/2024/06/alec-baldwin-tlc-reality-series-1235958651/

Tony Bramwell

I never knew Apple Records’ Tony Bramwell. I knew who he was, but never met the man. He passed last week – one of the last Beatles-insiders, and I read this tribute to him which was quite wonderful. Check it out: https://webgrafikk.com/blog/news/goodbye-tony-bramwell/… Governor Hochul halted the Congestion Pricing in NYC due to start shortly; for now. Good move. Not to be overly political, but it will impact many. Personally, I was never for it … New Alien-sequel trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzY2r2JXsDM

… Adam Levine back on  NBC’s The Voice. Season 27! … Happy Bday Ed Steinberg!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Anni Bella; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Vinny Rich; William Schill; Anthony Noto; Tom Jones; Harvey Schmidt; Greg Porto; Dan Joseph; Sharon White; Matt Drudge; Roger Friedman; Bill Altman; Norah Jones; Michael Musto; Mark Bego; Randy Alexander; Lee Jeske; and CHIP!

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