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Tilda Swinton Answers an Add on Craigslist

I’ve only been to the Laura Beechman Theatre on 42nd Street and 9th one other time, and that was for a private cabaret birthday party, so I can’t really count on that to inform me of anything. But I can tell you this: that I was not really prepared for on that cold wintery night in Hell’s Kitchen. It felt like I had entered into a fun, handsome-gay-man-filled cabaret bar, and not just in the way that one feels on numerous occasions at the theatre when a play like Angels in America or Boys in the Band is on stage (PS: I can’t wait for these two!). For this production of Tilda Swinton Answers An Ad on Craigslist, the audience reminded me of the crowd that might gather at a weekly drag show, something like Mona Foot’s Star Search (and I’m totally aging myself now just by naming that night, as she hasn’t set foot in the Barracuda Bar in ages). I slowly figured out that this theatre, the small intimate cabaret lounge downstairs from the West Bank Cafe, was the home of numerous drag themed shows that nightly graced the stage like LeScandal, Distorted Dizney, and Battle of the Bitches! starring Jackie Beat and Sherry Vine, and this was their core and adoring audience of regulars. They had all gathered to see this absurd and very funny comedy that I was told may be more to my liking after seeing the foul-mouthed comedy, Koalas are Dicks in the East Village a few months ago.

And I have to say, the man spoke the truth.  Koalas are Dicks is a stupid fratboy dirty-mouthed version of the movie, “Ted” (a film that I had never seen, nor do I want to) starring a talking TV star Koala that definitely had a substance-abuse problem and a very bad attitude. Neither of these tales, made up of adolescent humor and ridiculousness are my cup of tea, nor was I their intended audience, but this one, Tilda Swinton…(for short) was a bit more up my alley. It’s ridiculous, most definitely, but in the best way possible; (almost) smart as a whip, crackling with often silly jokes but inventive set-ups, anchored with solidly thoughtful and ludicrous comical performances by a cast of seriously funny actors, that know that the biggest laughs come from something deeper than a dirty stupid joke. Most of the time.

Tilda1_BryanCarpender
Bryon Lane, Tom Lenk. Photo by Bryan Carpender.

Cutie pants Bryon Lane, the smart and funny playwright of Tilda Swinton…, stars as sad-sack Walt, who finds himself sitting alone in an apartment that once was home to him and his now ex-boyfriend Bobby, played with oblivious sexy but obnoxious charm by the very good Mark Jude Sullivan (Pan Am).  His food delivery is all wrong, just like his life that is collapsing down around him, and the only thing left for him to do is to end it all… just after he gets off the phone with Wanda, a wonderful Jayne Entwistle (“Feud“), about the disgusting pickles on his just-arrived burger.

A bottle of pills await him, as he shuffles around feeling sorry for himself, and then with a screech of “Hello? Hello? Doorbell sounds! Knocking sounds! Boredom, confusion, grinding of teeth!” in flows Tilda Fucking Swinton, played to the max by the terrific Tom Lenk (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer“, Broadway’s Rock of Ages); wise beyond her 56 years of age, with shocking, bleached-blonde spiky short hair and wearing an all white ensemble with a stunning, flowing coat that pops with every turn on her heel. She’s carrying a giant fluffy designer bag that is just like that ‘fabulous solver of all problems that could possibly exist in the world for any Jane or Michael’. She is the legendary Mary Poppins. But she is no Julie Andrews (or even the 2018’s version, Emily Blunt), Swinton is the off-centered Mary Poppins channeled by the iconic Oscar-winning actress, fiercely talented and much admired by an eclectic audience hungry for her particular brand of brave and often strange performances. This is Walt’s Mary Poppins (Not the Walt of Disney’s), the one that has answered an ad placed on Craigslist for a roommate, and although unbeknownst to Walt, she has arrived to claim her space. So with an iconic ‘snap’ and a swift slap of some not-very-common sense, Swinton is here to clean this mess up, hilariously, but not with a pretty song or magic trick, but with some hard-ass truths and ridiculous method acting-styled examination and dissection of his sad pathetic life.  Swinton has decided that she is going to play Walt in her next big movie. “I’m impressed by your glumness, irritability, profound worthlessness. The only thing that would make you a better character for me to study is if you were suicidal.” This gender bending portrayal of the type she is known for, is going to give her that second Oscar, so she may rise above the ranks of those other ‘Single Oscar Winning’ Actresses (Yes, we are looking at you Monique) and join the ranks of the Two. A much deserved honor, one that she can’t quite believe hasn’t happened already. So, in the immortal words of Poppins; “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! the job’s a game“.

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Tom Lenk, Bryon Lane. Photo by Bryan Carpender.

And what fun this game is. All the other characters that make up Walt’s little aimless and isolated world swing by the apartment, each for their own reasons, unaware that the grande dame Swinton will be there to put them into their place with a comic jab and twist. Entwistle and Sullivan are both on hand to play numerous roles that flit in and out of that busy apartment, each expanding Swinton’s study of Walt, and making more and more sense of his predicament.  It’s a smart and sassy interrogation that is hysterically and surprisingly cathartic, and even when it starts to feel repetitive and possibly over the top ridiculous, the sense of fun and adventure never quite seems to go too far away.

As directed by Tom DeTrinis, Tilda Swinton…, a show that was originally produced at the magnificent Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles by DeTrinis, Jay Marcus, Nathan Frizzell and Lenk, is just the kind of fun you’d like to have on a cold winter Sunday night in Hell’s Kitchen.  And they even serve food and drinks, for you and for the hungry and very thirsty star as well.  So kick back, order a drink, and enjoy the ride. This is no Shakespeare, or even an inspired “Orlando“, but you’ll be touched both in your heart and your funny bone. It’s just a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine (of life) go down in a most delightful way.

TomLenk_as_TildaSwinton_by_BryanCarpender
Tom Lenk. Photo by Bryan Carpender.
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

Cabaret

Norm Lewis, Stephen Schwartz Made For a Fabulous Summertime at 54 Below

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Norm Lewis is presenting “SUMMERTIME (Special Tony Edition)” from June 6-13, 2024 at 54 Below.

Stephen Schwartz

The night of June 7, Mr. Lewis was joined on stage by composer Stephen Schwartz and Bobby Lewis ( Mr. Lewis’ cousin). The show was directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, musical direction and piano Joseph Joubert, drums – Perry Cavari and on Bass -Dylan Shamat.

Norm began the evening by entering through the audience greeting the enthusiastic crowd singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (Julie Stone/Bob Merrill).’

Norm Lewis

At one point While he left the stage for wardrobe change his special guest Stephen Schwartz took to the piano to sing “The Hardest Part of Love” from his musical Children of Eden.

Norm and Bobby Lewis

Mr. Lewis left the stage one more time to give the moment to Bobby Lewis singing ”One Song Glory ” from Rent (music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson.

Lee Roy Reams, Marilyn Maye

Before leaving the stage Mr Lewis joined  his cousin Bobby Lewis in a duet singing “For Good” from Wicked (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.
Each night of the run will feature surprise guest .
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Cabaret

My View: SUMMERTIME Starring Norm Lewis Just Keeps Getting HOTTER!

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I don’t usually post multiple photo essays of the same show/event, but, in this case, I simply must or I wouldn’t be doing my job of “reporting” here in Times Square Chronicles. The fact of the matter is that my wife, Eda, and I have been to Norm Lewis’s new show SUMMERTIME (Special Tony Edition) 3 times now and it has been “delivering” on a nightly basis more thrills and excitement than any other run of a show we have previously witnessed. The show is beautifully directed by the gifted Richard Jay-Alexander, with musical direction and arrangements from the equally gifted Joseph Joubert. What Norm and his artistic posse have put together is so satisfying that you get drawn in and forget you’ve already seen it. Add to this unexplainable phenomenon the array of Broadway Guests and each night has been a delight for so many different reasons. Because I live conveniently close, I am able to capture historic pairings of creative giants and I had to put this together so you could witness the kind of history that has already been made each of these nights at 54 Below. Norm has 4 more shows and many more Special Guests on June 10, 11, 12 and 13 and I can only heartily recommend you go see this man who is so comfortable in his stardom, that he easily seduces you into his world of music and Broadway. You will not be disappointed. I must also note that there has been as much star power in his audiences as there are on stage, adding extra excitement to every night.

( I couldn’t catch all the celebs in the audience but here are a few photo highlights)

NORM LEWIS & LEN CARIOU

NORM LEWIS (Sweeny Todd)

LEN CARIOU

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & WALTER MARKS

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ & NORM LEWIS

MARC SHAIMAN & NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS & MARC SHAIMAN

LEN CARIOU, NORM LEWIS, MARC SHAIMAN

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MALBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MARILYN MAYE & NORM LEWIS

MARILYN MAYE

LEE ROY REAMS & MARILYN MAYE

WALTER MARKS, JENNIFER HALLIE DIAMOND, ROBERT DIAMOND, founder/owner BROADWAYWORLD, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

NORM LEWIS, ROBERT DIAMOND, JENNIFER HALLIE DIAMOND

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, music director/conductor The New York Pops, ERIC GABBARD

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

LORNA DALLAS BROWN, LEE ROY REAMS, MARILYN MAYE

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

PASTOR BOBBY LEWIS (Norm’s cousin) & NORM LEWIS

JOSEPH JOUBERT, music director

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, NORM LEWIS, CATHERINE ADLER

JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER & RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

MARK SENDROFF, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, RICHARD SKIPPER

54 BELOW

MACON PRICKETT

CARLOS CLEMENZ & MARC SHAIMAN

NORM LEWIS

EDA SOROKOFF & CATHERINE ADLER

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Cabaret

My View: Norm Lewis Brings On The Summer Heat at 54 Below

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“The Heat is On” at 54 Below with a new show Norm Lewis is performing, called SUMMERTIME (Special TONY Edition). From his dazzling entrance to his beautiful “goodnight” the evening is wall-to wall Broadway treasure. Yes, summer arrived early ,last night, and whatever the kinship and connection between the star, his musical director Joseph Joubert and his director Richard Jay-Alexander, is, it bathed us in magic with stunning music, beautiful arrangements, humor, glamour, stories and vocals that are, quite honestly, beyond just having a powerful skill set. Norm is a sublime actor who happens to possess a magnificent voice and he uses every dimension of it.

During the run he will have special guests who are both friends and Broadway royalty. Last night, he “blew up” this concept by introducing us to the legendary TONY winner, Melba Moore. I don’t usually write about specific material, but when your brain can’t comprehend that Miss Moore tore into “Aquarius” and “Let The Sunshine In” from HAIR with Mr. Lewis, hearts were jumping and joy exploded in the room. Only to be followed by Melba singing “I Got Love” from PURLIE (wait for it) in the original key! The 3 piece band, led by Joubert, also consisted of Perry Cavari on drums and percussion and Dylan Shamat on both acoustic and electric bass. The sounds they made all night were as versatile as could be accomplished and have become a trademark, of sorts, for Norm. Don’t hesitate to get to 54 Below and start your summer early. This man brings the heat with him onto the stage. 

Norm Lewis

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE

MELBA MOORE

54 BELOW

54 BELOW

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NORM LEWIS

NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award

JOSEPH JOUBERT

54 BELOW

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

MELBA MOORE & NORM LEWIS

HUGH PANARO, EDA SOROKOFF, STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD

STEVEN REINEKE, ERIC GABBARD, NORM LEWIS

RICHARD SKIPPER, RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER, NORM LEWIS, MARK SENDROFF

CARLOS CLEMENZ & NORM LEWIS

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & NORM LEWIS

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Broadway

We Say Good-Bye To Janice Paige

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Janice Paige turned 100 was born on September 16, 2022, and died at her on June 2, 2024, at the age of 101. Paige was an American actress and singer. With a career spanning nearly 60 years, she was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Born in Tacoma, Washington, Paige began singing in local amateur shows at the age of five. After high school, she moved to Los Angeles, where she became a singer at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II, as well as posing as a pin-up model. This led to a film contract with Warner Bros. She later left the studio to pursue live theatre work, appearing in a number of Broadway shows. She continued to alternate between film and theatre work for much of her career. Beginning in the mid-1950s, she also made numerous television appearances, as well as starring in her own sitcom It’s Always Jan.

Paige began co-starring in low-budget musicals, often paired with Dennis Morgan or Jack Carson. She co-starred in Romance on the High Seas (1948), the film in which Doris Day made her movie debut. Paige later co-starred in adventures and dramas, in which she felt out of place. Following her role in Two Gals and a Guy (1951), she decided to leave Hollywood.

Paige appeared on Broadway in a 1951 comedy-mystery play Remains to Be Seen. She also toured successfully as a cabaret singer. 


Stardom came in 1954 with her role as Babe in the Broadway musical The Pajama Game.  For the screen version, the studio wanted one major movie star to guarantee the film’s success, so John Raitt’s role of Sid was offered to Frank Sinatra, who would have been paired with Paige. When Sinatra declined, the producers offered Paige’s role of Babe to Doris Day, who accepted and was paired with Raitt.

Paige returned to Hollywood in Silk Stockings (1957), which starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, the Doris Day/David Niven comedy Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960), and as a love-starved married neighbor in Bachelor in Paradise (1961) with Bob Hope. A rare dramatic role was as Marion, an institutionalized prostitute, in The Caretakers (1963).


Paige returned to Broadway in 1963 in the short-lived Here’s Love. In 1968, when after nearly two years Angela Lansbury left the Broadway production of the musical Mame to take the show on a limited U.S. tour, Paige was the star chosen to be the first Broadway replacement.

Paige appeared in touring productions of musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun, Applause, Sweet Charity, Ballroom, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, and Guys and Dolls. In 1984, back on Broadway in a nonmusical play, Alone Together


Paige made her live dramatic TV debut June 27, 1957 in “The Latch Key” on Lux Video Theatre. She appeared as troubadour Hallie Martin in The Fugitive episode “Ballad for a Ghost” (1964). She also had a recurring role as Auntie V, Tom Bradford’s sister, in Eight Is Enough. Paige appeared as a waitress named Denise in both the seventh and ninth seasons of All in the Family. In her first appearance, she has a flirtation with Archie Bunker that threatens to become serious.

Paige appeared on episodes of 87th Precinct; Trapper John, M.D.;Columbo; Night Court; Caroline in the City; and in the 1975 television movie John O’Hara’s Gibbsville (also known as The Turning Point of Jim Malloy). In 1982, she appeared on St. Elsewhere as a female flasher who stalked the hallways of the hospital to “cheer up” the male patients. She also appeared on a season 11 episode of Happy Days, as a roadside diner waitress named Angela who may or may not be Fonzie’s long lost mother; Fonzie has a heartfelt talk with Angela, and it is left up to the viewer to determine if she is his mother or not. In the 1980s and 1990s, she was seen on several soap operas, including Capitol (1987, as Sam Clegg’s first wife, Laureen), General Hospital(1989–1990, as Katharine Delafield’s flashy Aunt Iona, a lady counterfeiter), and Santa Barbara (1990–1993, replacing Dame Judith Anderson as matriarch Minx Lockridge).


Paige was given a star in the Motion Picture section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6624 Hollywood Boulevard on February 9, 1960.


In 2017, Paige wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter in which she stated that Alfred Bloomingdale had attempted to rape her when she was 22 years old. She alleges that she was sexually assaulted after being lured into Bloomingdale’s apartment under false pretenses.

Paige was married three times.

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Cabaret

My View: 54 Below At It’s Best…..The Staff Show

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I had no idea that 54 DOES 54 has been an annual event for many years, but I am so glad I was there on Sunday night to witness the range of talents and the performances from so many of the staff of the club and personnel from the offices upstairs of 54 Below. The legendary room was packed and you know it’s gonna be a big night when all 3 owners are there to cheer their “home team” on. The musical direction and the band were flying through all kinds of styles and tempos, never relenting in their power or rhythmic drive. That, alone, was truly amazing.

Now, I must say REMEMBER THESE NAMES: ALEX MARTINS, RU CABRALIS, KATIE O’DONNELL, SHANIA MUNDY, JAMES KLAPAK (their Executive Chef), DEJA-SIMONE CRUMPTON, GRETCHEN SCHNEIDER, GRACE FLAVIEN, ELIZABETH PRECIUS, HANNAH ROSE PICKLE, BRIANNA JUSTINE, MARK BEYER, ADELINA CORREA, GABRIEL GENERALLY, CASSI MIKAT,

LUIS PALOMINO, MACON PRICKETT and MANDISA BOXILL. On any given night, at 54 Below, this fantastic family of individuals are your Servers, Bartenders, Hosts, Guest Relations folks, Marketing Managers, Digital Marketing Associates, Back Servers, Guest Relations Managers, Maitre D’s, Assistant Programming Directors and, of course, General Manager. Also spotted in the room were the club’s Jennifer Ashley Tepper (with her mom) and Nella Vera, as well as drop-in regulars who work at 54 quite a bit – Mr. Lee Roy Reams, Mr. Richard Jay-Alexander and Mr. Ron Abel. On lights and sound, we saw Amanda Raymond & KJ Hardy, who are absolutely beloved by everyone who plays that room. Friends, family and fans brought the club, repeatedly, to a fever pitch, and the warmth, love and good will in the room were palpable. Plenty of showstoppers, plenty of surprises and some “specialties” that were unexpected. The room was so alive and it was a thrill to be there. But, I wouldn’t be fairly representing, with just my photos, if I didn’t tell you that they saved General Manager of 54 Below, Mandisa Boxill, for last, and it was no surprise why. Macon Prickett put the evening together and he told us everyone really worked hard over the month it took to put the show together, but, nothing could have prepared us for Ms. Boxill killing it with Beyoncés “Crazy In Love.” The place just exploded, like the finale in a fireworks display, when you know “this is it” you have hit the zenith. I am happy to share with you many photos here to “take you there” and this may have been my first time, but you can rest assured, I will be there next year, too! Congratulations to all! You should be really, really proud.

LOUIS PALOMNO, server

MACON PRICKETT, host/producer

ALEX MARTINS

RU CABRALIS

KATIE O’DONNELL

SHANIA MUNDY

JAMES KLAPAK

DEJA-SIMONE CRUMPTON

GRETCHEN SCHNEIDER

GRACE FLAVIEN

ELIZABETH PRECIUS

HANNAH ROSE PICKLE

BRIANNA JUSTINE

MARK BEYER

ADELINA CORREA

GABRIEL GENERALLY

CASSI MIKAT

LOUIS PALOMINO

MACON PRICKETT

MANDISA BOXILL

MANDISA BOXILL

MANDISA BOXILL

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER

JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPER

STEVE BARUCH, EDA BARUCH, RICHARD FRANKEL

RON ABEL, EDA SOROKOFF, RICHARD FRANKEL

MANDISA BOXILL

RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER & MANDISA BOXILL

STEPHEN SOROKOFF, EDA SOROKOFF, JENNIFER ASHLEY TEPPPER, MOM, RON ABEL

 

54 DOES 54

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