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The Obvious: Streaming Fleabag the Stage Show for our Unadulterated Pleasure

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I was in streaming heaven the other night, as one of my favorite television shows coming out of the UK in recent years, Fleabag entered itself into the world of steaming last Friday to raise money for some charities associated with COVID-19. Using our self-isolation as an incentive tool, I had the absolute pleasure of entrapping my Toronto flatmates into watching the television show version a few nights ago, both seasons over two nights. And that was really by reverse force, as everyone here loved Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the writer and performer behind Fleabag, so much, we could have easily downed the whole thing in one great Fleabag-filled night.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag at Soho Theatre in 2016. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Directed with a sharp wit and impeccable sense of timing by Vicky Jones, who is co-artistic director with Waller-Bridge of a new-writing theatre company DryWrite, Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought her hilarious one-person show to poignant life first at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013, and with the cooperation of Soho Theatre, DryWrite, and Annapurna Theatre, a performance from the Soho Theatre was filmed by National Theatre Live. That recorded performance is now being presented for our hungry and delightful consumption since last Friday for three weeks. It’s a steal, as the award-winning show is being offered for streaming through the Soho Theatre Direct website or through Amazon Prime for about $5 with the proceeds going to a few different charities (see below). How can one resist? One really, really shouldn’t.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Photo by Marilyn Kingwill.

After getting hooked, easily and quickly, by the BBC Three six-part two-season series, I couldn’t stop talking about the smart sharp show that she willfully exploded into our world. It was so well received and embraced that getting the opportunity to watch the seed that sprang to life blossoming into the multi-award-winning cult hit is really just a no-brainer.  The stage show won the Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, the first of many such awards, but the really interesting bit is that the idea of the character came simply from a challenge by a friend, where Waller-Bridge was challenged to create a sketch for a 10-minute section to be presented on a stand-up storytelling night, and the rest, as we say, is history.   

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge @ Soho Theatre. Directed by Vicky Jones.(Opening 7-12-16) ©Tristram Kenton 12/16 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag at Soho Theatre in 2016. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is all about a certain bold kind of woman that we know and love (and hate, from time to time). She’s the walking and strutting definition of trouble mixed with an equal but complicated dollop of fun, depending on the number of drinks you’ve had and your mood at the time. She has lots and lots of problems, mostly of her own selfish making, but she also has a quality that draws you in and makes you care. We see the pain under the offputting sneer. Her way of dealing with issues is to utilize her sharp wit coupled with a defensive shrug, but it’s her unique ability to find the humor in almost every twist and turn that is her saving grace. “I laugh, then I don’t laugh“, as the underlying truth of pain and fear is layered into every moment of storytelling, and that is something we can all dig into, with a knowing self-referential glance down to our drink. We know her, cause we’ve all been her at least a bit, here and there, from time to time. And if we never were her for even one moment, I don’t know what to think of you, cause where’s the fun in that?Powered by wordads.co

The complications pile up in her storytelling show, mostly revolving around the idea and her connection to sex and avoidance. She breaks up with her boyfriend, Harry, often, yet it never feels like sorrow or sadness that creeps in. She basically behaves throughout like a single highly sexualized woman, and the breakup is only viewed through the lens of something like a sexual holiday from monogamy, a concept that I am sure she doesn’t really think too much about, even when she’s inside that kind of relationship. She pulls us close with her candor, but we also are gifted with a tender insight into her impulses and bad behavior. Fear and death is a factor that surrounds her, and just as she easily makes us laugh, she also has the ability to stop us in our tracks with a quick authentic jab of honesty and pain. Her mother has died, but not recently. It’s the accidental suicide of her best friend, Boo that hangs over the proceedings most devastatingly. And just as we think we have found her pain, another twist is right around the corner waiting to make it even more complicated and smartly true.

Waller-Bridge sits on a high red stool and weaves through the stories of this particular moment in time when the Guinea Pig-themed cafe is close to financial ruin, and the tight-wire she’s been barely balancing on is started to dangerously wobble. Anyone who has watched the television series already knows about 70% of these stories, but the tales are as fascinating to hear again in this slightly different format as they are in the finely crafted television show. The differences are just enough to keep us completely engaged and curious, and even when we know the deal, we also want to revel in the framework looking for all the new pieces to a puzzle we thought we knew so well.  There is the gross funny story of Harry getting sick in a toilet, as well as all the quick one-line never heard before jokes that startle and sing perfectly. It’s powerfully intimate while also being filthy in its fun, “but he buys me a drink, so….” The skill of the show is in Waller-Bridge’s telling. She times each line to perfection, granting us access to her inner messy self, switching from one mood and moment to another with a grimace or a wink. It’s tender while also being sharp and hurtful to some, but the more we listen the more we forgive and engage. There’s always the feeling that she’s fending off reproach with a punchline as she readily admits within. She attempts, on advice from her sister, “to stop talking to people like I’m doing a stand-up routine” but do we, as her audience, really want that?

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge in “Fleabag” Season One.

Smoothly and directly self-conscious, this highly self-aware take on a modern-day sexualized woman flies fast and furious outward, trapping us quite happily in the speed of her expert writing and the pace of the side glances that envelopes her sense of self. The rapid-fire delivery of this commentary is matched within this carefully structured piece by Hooly Pigott’s simple design, Elliot Grigg’s spot-on lighting, and Isobel Waller-Bridge’s well-constructed sound design. The angular and defensive exterior is matched by the swift dive into her complicated heart, with the sound of orgasmic moans from porn and guinea pig squeals perfectly piped in for added impact. Even after watching both sessions twice through and this stage show, I wanted more, even with the repetition of some of the bits. That only enhanced the experience, giving me an invitation to dig in a bit deeper with each viewing. “Women are born with pain built-in” according to Belinda (Kristin Scott Thomas’s beautiful turn in Season 2), and Waller-Bridge lets us look directly into that pain, and embrace it on a cold self-isolating night, by watching either the stage show, or either season on Amazon Prime.

As the free-spirited and sexually active, angry and confused young woman strutting down the streets of London, Waller-Bridge delivers with each rendition of Fleabag. The fourth wall breaks constantly inside the television series, making us see the one-person show origin underneath the fine television production, but it also giving us the intimate feeling of being invited into her thought process, warts and all, that only we are privy to. That is until another soul in Season two surprises us with his innate ability to overhear and question the reason for her direct talk. The television show premiered in 2016 and concluded its second and final season in 2019. It received widespread acclaim from critics, particularly for its writing, acting, and the sharp directness of the title character. Waller-Bridge won the British Academy Television Award for Best Female Comedy Performance for the first season. The second received 11 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won six, with Waller-Bridge earning Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress, and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series; additional acting nominations were received by Clifford, Colman, and guest stars Fiona Shaw and Kristin Scott Thomas. The series received the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series and Best Actress for Waller-Bridge, and a nomination for Scott. And if that isn’t enough to make you want to tune in to every possible rendition of Fleabagthat is available to us, I don’t know what will.  Do yourself a favor, don’t “bank it for later“, but dive into the world of Waller-Bridge and her deviously dirty and fun Fleabag. “This is the best bit” yet.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag at Soho Playhouse, NYC. Photo: Joan Marcus.

From Soho Theatre Direct’s Website: For every rental of Fleabag, you’re contributing to charities dedicated to supporting those affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

On Soho Theatre On Demand, you’ll find five purchase options for Fleabag, each with a different price.

Please consider paying as much as you can, with the knowledge that our goal is to raise as much money as possible for these deserving organizations.

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

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

KNIVES OUT AGAIN — (Via Deadline) The next installment in the Knives Out series has its title. Writer/director Rian Johnson announced on social media this morning that the film will be called Wake Up Dead Man. It was also confirmed that the film would come out sometime in 2025 and that production would be under way soon with Daniel Craig returning to star.

Johnson returns as the writer and director of the series and will also produce the pic with his partner Ram Bergman. Plot details are unknown and as of now Craig is the only talent involved.

The most recent pic, Glass Onion, bowed in 2022 with Craig returning as world famous detective Benoit Blanc. The film premiered on Netflix after the streamer made a record setting $450 million deal for the two sequels with this being the third in the series.

SHORT TAKES — The trailer for Beverley Hills Cop 4 is out. Here it is:

Harold Faltermeyer

The theme for the movie sounds like a cheap re-working of “Alex F” an electronic instrumental track by German musician Harold Faltermeyer …

The Wallows

The Wallows, who I’ve never heard of, kicked off the Today Show Summer Concert series. When interviewed, each of them said they used to watch the show before they went to school. My, I wonder how that made the hosts feel? Even Carson Daly, who’s no kid either, must have batted an eye. Interesting band. Nothing special I saw, but good luck to them …

David Krumholtz

SIGHTING: David (Numbers) Krumholtz at the Factory Bar Friday for Trivia Night … (Via Theatermania) Grammy

Stephanie Mills

Award winner Stephanie Mills will return to Broadway to play Hermes in the Tony Award-winning musical Hadestown. Her first performance will be July 2, coinciding with the start dates of Maia Reficco and Yola. Mills takes over from Jon Jon Briones, who plays his final performance June 30. Mills originated the role of Dorothy in the first Broadway production of The Wiz in 1975. Her last appearance on Broadway was for a special concert in 1989 … The Washington Post will go full AI. Check out this story: https://futurism.com/washington-post-pivot-ai

Tracker

… A short Memorial Day-vacay in East Hampton was great. Checked out Sakura and was introduced to CBS’ Tracker with Justin Hartley. Smartly done and directed by Ken Olin from Thirtysomething. Impressed for sure …

Billy Joel

The Long Island Musical Hall of Fame abruptly canceled their June 7 event, honoring Billy Joel at Tilles Center.  Performers at the event were to be Run-DMC; Debbie Gibson; and Felix Cavaliere.  Joel said a family event would prevent him from attending …

RIP producer

Al Ruddy

. He produced The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby. Check out Deadline’s obit: https://deadline.com/2024/05/al-ruddy-dead-godfather-million-dollar-baby-1235942541/

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Marsha Stern; Jane Berk; Randy Jones; James Edstrom; Chuck Scarborough; Bill Adler; Dan Zelinski; Bobby Shaw; Mike Greenly; Mark Bego; Roy Trakin; Crispin Cioe; Steve Walter; Steve Paul; Lou Reed; Foreigner; Bobby Watman; Bobby Orlando; Adriana Kaegi; Thomas Silverman; Seymour Stein; Barry and Marissa Zelman; Dan Zelinski; and ZIGGY!

Images on this page have been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Backstage with Richie Ridge Presents

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Drama Desk and OCC member Richie Ridge, of Broadway World’s Backstage with Richie Ridge, will moderate a discussion with Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James, both Drama Desk nominees for Lead Performance in a Musical for Days of Wine and Roses, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29 at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Robin Williams Center (247 West 54th St., opposite Studio 54). Drama Desk members are invited. The doors will open at 1:30 p.m., and attendance is first come, first served. Latecomers may not be admitted.

Based on the 1964 movie about a couple falling in love in 1950s New York and struggling to maintain a family in the face of alcohol addiction, Days of Wine and Roses, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel and a book by Craig Lucas, opened at Studio 54 on Jan. 28, 2024. O’Hara and d’Arcy James are both Tony nominees as well.

SAG-AFTRA Foundation and BroadwayWorld have partnered for a filmed Conversations Q&A series to recognize and celebrate the vibrant theater community in New York City and the actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen.

If you would like to attend, please fill out the form here. Be sure to select the Non-member option.

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Broadway

Backstage with Richie Ridge Presents The Outsiders

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Richie Ridge, of Broadway World’s Backstage with Richie Ridge, will moderate adiscussion with stars of the new Drama Desk– and Tony-nominated musical The Outsiders at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 31, at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Robin Williams Center (247 West 54th St., opposite Studio 54). Members of the Drama Desk are invited to attend. The doors will open at 1:30 p.m., and attendance is first come, first served. Latecomers may not be admitted.

Participants in the panel will be Drama Desk and Tony nominees director Danya Taymor and lead actor Brody Grant, along with Tony featured actor nominees Sky Lakota-Lynch and Joshua Boone. With music and lyrics by Justin Levine and a book by Levine and Adam Rapp, The Outsiders, is a nominee for both Drama Desk and Tony Awards for best musical, opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on April 11, 2024.

SAG-AFTRA Foundation and BroadwayWorld have partnered for a filmed Conversations Q&A series to recognize and celebrate the vibrant theater community in New York City and the actors who aspire to have a career on the stage and screen.

If you would like to attend, please fill out the form here. Be sure to select the Non-member option.

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Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Ashley Griffin and Danny Gardner

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We are so pleased to announce our guests this week are Director/ performer Ashley Griffin and Broadway’s Danny Gardner Join us Wednesday May 22nd at 5pm.

Ashley Griffin

Ashley Griffin is a Broadway writer/performer most well known as the first person in history to be nominated for a major award (New York Innovative Theater Award) for both playing and directing Hamlet (for a theatrical production.) As a writer Ashley’s work has been produced/developed at New World Stages, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons and more. Ashley received the WellLife Network Award and a county commendation for her Off-Broadway play Trial (directed by Lori Petty and heralded as “If this show were on Broadway it would win the Pulitzer” – Stagescore) which is currently in talks for a transfer. She has written extensively for film and T.V. and is the author of two bestselling novels, Blank Paige and The Spindle. As a performer, Ashley has appeared extensively on and Off-Broadway as well as in T.V. and film. Highlights include work at The Gershwin Theater, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizons, MTC and The Public Theater, as well as on The Greatest Showman and “Homeland.” She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has trained at RADA, the National Theater and the Boston Conservatory. www.ashleygriffinofficial.com

Danny Gardner

Danny Gardner starred io Broadway Flying Over Sunset, A Christmas Carol and Dames At Sea. City Center Encores!: Dick Trevor in Lady, Be Good! (Subsequent Album). Radio City Music Hall: Dad / George M. Cohan in The NY Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. His national tours include Here to Stay – The Gershwin Experience!, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and 42nd Street. Off-Broadway: Cheek To Cheek (The York Theater), Time Step (New Victory Theater), Room 17B and Everybody Gets Cake(59E59th Street Theaters). His regional theatre experience includes; Dial M For Murder (Geva Theater Center & Dallas Theatre Center), Bach At Leipzig (People’s Light and Theatre Company), Crazy For You (Signature Theatre), Singin’ in the Rain (Chicago’s Marriott Lincolnshire), Mary Poppins (Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (John W. Engeman Theater). @dannyjgnyc, www.danny-gardner.com

These two are staring in a limited three-week engagement of The Opposite of Love presented by NewYorkRep May 28 through June 15 at Royal Family Performing Arts Space (145 W. 46th Street, NYC). The Opposite of Love is an intimate story about a down on his luck hustler and a trust fund baby who form an unlikely bond when she hires him to help overcome her sexual trauma. Can this unexpected connection transcend their darker inclinations in a world where love is a commodity? Directed by Rachel Klein (The Gospel According to Heather). Opening night is Thursday May 30 at 7PM. Tickets are now on sale at EventBrite.com.

“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 and fifteenth here.

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Memorial Day Playlist

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As you lay out by the pool, the beach, Central Park or on the sidelines of a parade, T2C offers you music to celebrate and get you in the mood.

 

 

 

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