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Toronto’s Hallmark-iest Hallmark Musical in Town, Chris, Mrs. a New Holiday Musical

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Hey Toronto! We’ve all been gifted, and it’s an original Canadian Hallmark Christmas musical, titled, somewhat awkwardly, Chris, Mrs. It’s as Hallmark-y a show as one could possibly be, barely missing one clue or frame from the network that has saturated the market with different movies with, basically, the same plot in repeat. And if it ain’t broken, like they say, why fix it. And the musical is, much to my surprise, pleasant and fun; cozy and tenderly written, right down to some of the more clumsy ingredients that either turn the treat into something too sweet to stomach, or something that leaves an awkward bitter, and somewhat grinchy taste in your mouth. But not always, and not in the end.

Danielle Wade (centre) and ensemble of Chris, Mrs. – A New Holiday Musical. Photo by Max Power Photography.

It’s not surprising that the new holiday-themed musical has billed itself, literally, as a Hallmark holiday movie musical version, made for the stage and filled with some of the brightest prettiest Canadian stage stars selling it strong to the masses. Not a terrible thing in the least, and if you are a lover of the Hallmark family entertainment onslaught, then this is all going to slide down your throat as happily as egg nog on a Christmas morning (I, on the other hand, might need an ounce or two of rum to make it taste great). It’s filled to the brim with enjoyable numbers, big dance numbers, a few adorable-looking children, and a holiday spirit that is forever overflowing into the gorgeous Winter Garden Theatre in downtown Toronto. It’s played straight at you, in a standardized Broadway blueprint fashion, with no surprises in the big numbers presented, beyond the leap of faith one has to take to follow the straightforward Hallmark blueprint style of storytelling that will make us all happy and filled with cheer on a cold December eve.

From the moment we meet widowed Ben Chris, played handsomely well by Liam Tobin (Broadway’s The Book of Mormon), we see where this is all going. He’s the standard big city corporate type who has lost his way and the connection he once had to the yuletide spirit, who has decided to spend this Christmas at a small town lodge that was owned by his parents but is now run, quite well, mind you, by his brother Charlie, lovingly played by Kale Penny (Mayfield’s Rock of Ages) who isn’t given much to do except play second (or maybe third) fiddle to his more dashing older brother.

Liam Tobin & Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane (centre) and ensemble of Chris, Mrs. – A New Holiday Musical. Photo by Max Power Photography.

But Ben is not going home to connect emotionally with any of the holiday festivities that the town is famous for. He, and his glamourous girlfriend, Vicki, played in a fabulously manipulative manner by Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane (Stratford’s Rent), are going there strictly to finalize a deal that will hopefully get him another high-powered promotion at the advertising firm, and will most likely guarantee that she will remain the influencer of the moment connected to one of their more family-friendly brands. That is if she can get Ben to propose to her this holiday season. All of this is laid out well and in true Broadway fashion with a big flashy opening number, “Just Another Jingle“, staged a bit too obviously and flat by director Katie Kerr (program director at The National Centre of New Musicals/Theatre Aquarius), who also wrote the music, book, and lyrics with the musical director, Matthew Stodolak (musical director at Canada’s Wonderland), trying their best to bring sparkle and big kicks to a formula that is already familiar to most of us.

The show, defying all odds, is definitely entertaining and forward-moving, with lots of sparkle and holiday spirit at every turn, embodied most wonderfully by Ben’s personal assistant, Candace Brown, played to perfection by the scene-stealing Sarah Lynn Strange (Rainbow Stage’s Sister Act) – who, by the way, should get her own holiday special if the world is truly giving out Christmas wishes. The trip to the country lodge is all planned, with Ben’s adorable-looking family, perfectly dressed in the holiday spirit by set and costume designer Cory Sincennes (Shaw’s Gypsy) coming along for the ride. Naturally, Ben’s children are picture-perfect, with two mischievous twins; Sam and Samantha, played on opening night by Lucien Duncan-Reid and Addison Wagman (alternates: Finn Cofell & Isaac Grates-Myers), and the secretly cute, bookish teenage daughter, Claire, played adorably by the talented AJ Bridel (Drayton’s Kinky Boots), who are told to behave, and play nice.

Finn Cofell & Isaac Grates-Myers in Chris, Mrs. – A New Holiday Musical. Photo by Max Power Photography.

All we need now are the two plot ingredients that this musical requires to make this all work as it should. The kids find a ring in Dad’s bag and assume it means that Ben is going to propose to Vicki, who is now coming along on this family sleigh ride to the country lodge. The kids, as mischievous as ever, decide they have to ask Santa to help them derail that romantic rendezvous, and in turn, find an alternative future wife for their widowed father, even though they haven’t been the best kids this year, as pointed out by older sister Claire. Santa will have to listen, as they plead their case to Claire. It’s an adorable set-up, one that would make Hallmark proud, especially with the ditty, “Dear Santa“, played out directly to warm our hearts by these rugrats. Now, I don’t want to be a mean Grinch or an Ebenezer Scrooge but these two kids, as cute as they are, are not the singers this show needs. They definitely look the part, filling out the demographics solidly, but when they are required to sing charmingly and wholeheartedly for their wish to be granted, the two, especially Duncan-Reid, struggle to stay on key and quite honestly fail to deliver the gift-wrapped goods strongly. It’s not a strong presentation by any means, especially for the opening night crowd.

Regardless of their lack of vocal strength, their wish is granted, sweet and kindly, by the white-haired older gentleman in sequined red, naturally named Nick, who reads the note that magically makes its way into his hands from the post box. Their request sets up the Christmas whirlwind that will hopefully take the non-maternal Vicki down and save these kids from the possible wicked stepmother syndrome that lurks just around the corner in black high heels. Nick, played joyously by Mark Weatherley (Here for Now’s The Wonder of It All), after flirting up a deliciously sweet storm with Candace, somehow, magically, delivers back to the lodge the wild and wandering seasonal worker, Holly Carmichael. Played gloriously well by the vocally gifted Danielle Wade (Stratford’s The Music Man) doing her best Anna Kendrick impression, Holly is destined, quite clearly, to be the one who destroys the competition with that high-wattage smile and killer vocals, with barely a battle scar to be had, at least on Holly. She’s the fresh, honest, caring woman, who will, obviously, save the day, even though she she reads too young – almost as young as daughter Clair, which is a bit of a visual attunement problem. She is also known by brother Charlie to run off at the first sign of trouble (and of love). But he hires her back anyway to help out, naturally, as he is understaffed at the well-run lodge. So we can all breathe a sigh of relief (not that we were holding our breath in any sense of the word because of plot tension). Because now, all the pieces of this sweet-natured Christmas puzzle are in place, and we can all sit back and relax, knowing exactly where this is all going to end up.

AJ Bridel & Andrew Broderick in Chris, Mrs. – A New Holiday Musical. Photo by Max Power Photography.

But the creative team of Stodolak and Kerr, feel the need to add another subplot into the mix, possibly to pull in a younger dynamic into the story. They play with a life-long crush by lodge employee, Tim, played strong by Henry Firmston (Stratford’s Spamalot), for the teenage Claire, but it’s not going to be easy. He bumbles along in that Hallmark kinda way, too nervous to state the obvious, especially when he sees that Claire has developed a mad-quick crush on the resident employee hottie and junior figure skating champion, Cole, played well by the talented Andrew Broderick (Canadian Stage’s Choir Boy). Cole is a great wingman for his buddy, Tim, helping him step up and into the game, while also doing double duty with his own best womanizing stance without getting all creepy on us. These three do a fantastically fun job navigating this silly triangle without ever losing its PG stance, even though they all look a bit too old to be playing teenage bumblers. Yet it works its way in, mainly because of the talent presented.

This is also the part where one of the not-so-great ingredients of a Hallmark movie comes flying out to hit us in the head. The musical is blessed with some snappy fun songs, breezy one-liners, a meaningful love alliance that happens faster than an applause break, and a seen-it-coming-from-the-heavens happy ending, but it also has some stereotypically casting choices where the people of colour are the ones who are literally standing in the way of the picture perfect white couple finally coming together in the end. With Sinclair-Brisbane’s Vicki getting the harshest end of the literal candy cane. Her part is a blast though, drenched in evil step-mother glamour vibes, played to the max, especially when she finally gets her big song and dance number, naturally named “Vicki’s Lament.” She finally gets to be in the star spotlight, just like she always wants to be, backed by a few gorgeously attired backup dancers who are as handsome and sexy as they are talented. That’s where she truly shines (as do those guys); not as a maternal figure trying to appease some children she obviously has no desire to deal with. You just know boarding school is one phone call away for Vicki if she, and her falsely twisted ankle, get their Christmas wish she is gaming for. Guess it got lost in the mail, or Nick decided not to read it.

Matthew Stodolak and Katie Kerr do a pretty solid job with the music and lyrics, finding festive flavor in the playfulness of the wordplay. It sounds good, especially when the musical hands over the reigns to its adult leads, letting them sing out strong and true stage center. The rhymes and rhythms of the Christmas jingle and joyfulness are clever and play well to the crowd, along with the festive choreography by Sarah Vance, who delivers flip after flip from the pros she is working with.

Chris, Mrs. fulfills the wish for providing festive cheer and confection-laden entertainment. It’s pure Hallmark fluff, delivered well in a breezy cheesy kind of way. The actors all find festive cheer in every gift unwrapped, especially Strange who personally lights up the stage with every gloriously gifted laugh she delivers. Strange’s Christmas chemistry with Weatherley’s Nick is just one of many fun bows on this well-wrapped Christmas present, just like the handsome Tobin as the musical’s main bah-humbugger, who needs that mistletoe shift that only a trip to a snow-covered country lodge can do. He finally gets his moment to truly shine with the tenderly encrypted song, “The Great Snowy Owl“, showcasing not just a handsome face and physique, but an awkward Dad trying hard to connect to his children after losing, not too long ago, their mother/his wife, who he met and fell in love with at this very lodge. We see it all clearly from the corporate holiday party to the ending around the town’s big Christmas tree. I half expected a White Christmas moment with snow and a grand opening of the doors to show a sleigh drawn by a horse (or even a reindeer). Followed by a sing-along of a Christmas classic. Lucky for us that only played out in my head.

The Holly character is as much of a staple to this genre as the hard-hearted big-city corporate guy (or sometimes girl, or gay guy, depending on the demographic Hallmark is trying to hit). But as embodied by Wade, Holly is exactly what Ben and this musical need to make it shine. Their instant attraction and quick fall into love is as formulaic as it sounds, happening so fast, possibly too fast and furious, because of all the secondary plots getting in the way. But we just have to accept it, without really getting to see how or why. Their required love/fight near the end feels as inauthentic as you can imagine, Mainly because we never saw them truly come together enough to say those things to one another. Still, it’s Christmas, ya know, so we just take it in and believe that they are destined to be together – and we also must try to ignore the idea that Holly loves and is more connected to the kids than to their father, who she hardly has been given any time to interact with, let alone one-on-one romantic bonding time.

Yet, full of mischief and mistletoe, Chris, Mrs. is all about the suspension of disbelief and enjoying the sleight ride to happiness and love. I would be curious to see what a different director who was not so attached to the creation of the music, book, and lyrics would do with this show, as I think it needs a sharper eye and a clearer directorial perspective. The set needs a bit of constructual stabilization, as does the big city vs small town vibe and holiday sensibility judgment. But let’s put that all behind us, and enjoy the coming together of two picture-perfect people who barely know one another, but who the whole town seems to be trying to bring together just in time for the lighting of the tree. Do I sound a big bah-humbuggy? Well, maybe I do need a trip to a winter country lodge to find my true love and gain some holiday spirit. But if you are already there, wanting a big splashy holiday-themed musical that feels like a Hallmark movie, you have found it in Boldly Productions‘ Chris, Mrs. – A New Holiday Musical, now playing at the Winter Garden Theatre. It delivers just as promised, without guilt or regret.

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

Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

LET IT BE AGAIN — (Via SHOWBIZ 411) I told you yesterday the Beatles are releasing a restored version of “Let it Be,” the film, on Disney Plus. Peter Jackson, who made the “Get Back” series, did the work with his lab of mad scientists. “Let it Be” will begin streaming on May 8th.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot all the footage in 1969 and then made the final film. It played in theaters briefly, then disappeared. The rumor always was that Paul McCartney didn’t like the film. But when Jackson released “Get Back,” those reasons didn’t make sense.

Now the general public will see the film. (I saw it back in the day.) It should be exciting.

“Let It Be” contains footage not featured in the “Get Back” docuseries, bringing viewers into the studio and onto Apple Corps’ London rooftop in January 1969 as The Beatles, joined by Billy Preston, write and record their GRAMMY Award®-winning album Let It Be, with its Academy Award®-winning title song, and perform live for the final time as a group.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Michael Lindsay-Hogg says, “’How often do you get to see artists of this stature working together to make what they hear in their heads into songs. And then you get to the roof and you see their excitement, camaraderie and sheer joy in playing together again as a group” …“I was knocked out by what Peter was able to do with ‘Get Back,’ using all the footage I’d shot 50 years previously.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled that Michael’s movie, ‘Let It Be,’ has been restored and is finally being re-released after being unavailable for decades,” says Peter Jackson. “Over three parts, we showed Michael and The Beatles filming a groundbreaking new documentary, and ‘Let It Be’ is that documentary – the movie they released in 1970.”…“I now think of it all as one epic story, finally completed after five decades. The two projects support and enhance each other: ‘Let It Be’ is the climax of ‘Get Back,’ while ‘Get Back’ provides a vital missing context for ‘Let It Be.’

As much as I liked the Peter Jackson-version, the original still burns in my head. I well remember when it came out – with a greatphoto book I still have on my shelf. When all the chatter began about how much fun they really had come out; I sort of didn’t believe it. Face it, if the Fab Four didn’t like Hogg’s version back then … it never would have come out.

I think there was a backlash of sorts and that’s why the original is finally coming out again, though Jackson ‘s involvement is curious. The first time in 50 years no less!  If you want to see it unvarnished and how it really was … watch it.

DON IS BACK — (Via Deadline) Don Johnson is set to star opposite Joshua Jackson in Dr. Odyssey, a new ABC drama series from Ryan Murphy, which is targeting a fall launch. It hails from 20th Television in association with Ryan Murphy Television.

As is the case with any Ryan Murphy series, no details about the premise are being revealed. As the title suggests, Dr. Odyssey is believed to be a medical procedural. According to sources, it is set on a cruise ship.

Details about Johnson’s character are being kept under wraps.

Dr. Odyssey is written, and executive produced by Murphy, Jon Robin Baitz and Joe Baken. Paris Barclay is directing and executive producing. Eric Paquette, Alexis Martin Woodall, Eric Kovtun, Scott Robertson and Nissa Diederich also executive produce alongside Jackson.

Johnson is known for his roles as Det. Sonny Crockett on the classic 1980s NBC series Miami Vice and as the title character in the 1996 CBS series Nash Bridges, which he also reprised in the 2021 Nash Bridges movie for USA. Recent credits include the Emmy-winning HBO limited series Watchmen, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out and the Book Club feature franchise. He has coming up Book Club 2: The Next Chapter and Rebel Ridge.

Tokyo Vice

SHORT TAKES — Watched the second season of MAX’s Tokyo Vice-toplining Ansel Elgort; Ken Watanabe and Rachel Keller. Was a great run, though the ending seemed somewhat somber. Sure the bad-guy was offed, but it was his wife who did the most damage. Great show. Michael Mann is one of the Executive Producers and you can see his hands on everything … Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals at SONY Hall on May 17 …

(Via Deadline) Financier and producer Participant is shuttering after 20 years. Founder Jeff Skoll alerted staff at 10:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday, Deadline has confirmed. Sources say Skoll did an audit of the company and wanted to pivot from entertainment. We understand that most of the 100-person staff is being let go except for core employees who will settle out remaining productions and oversee outstanding commitments to the catalog. Participant’s m.o. was to bring content to the world that was socially conscious, read its Oscar Best Picture winners Spotlight from Open Road and Universal’s Green Book, as well as DreamWorks’ Oscar winner Lincoln. All in, Participant counts 135 films, five series, 21 Oscars — including the two Best Pictures, four Best Documentaries and two Best International Features — 18 Primetime Emmys and north of $3.3 billion in global box office

Pam Anderson joins Liam Neeson in a Naked Gun re-boot? Yes indeed …

Ripley

Steve Zaillian’s Ripley on Netflix is a staggeringly spellbinding take on Ripley; the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Not quite the often comedic-romp that was Matt Damon’s take, but rather a very stylish re-construction. Michael Scott as Ripley is pretty awesome and shot in black-and-white, the images are stunning. After the first few episodes that meandered a bit, I’m definitely into it. Very much recommended.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — John Boulos; Manny’s; Al Roker; Roger Friedman; Roy Trakin; Alec Baldwin; Ken Sharp; Surf Ballroom; My Father’s Place; Eppy; Chuck Pulin; Joel Diamond; Billy Amato; Ray Free; Al Teller; Joel Diamond; Robey; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Glenn Friscia; and SADIE!

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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Kjersti Long (David Kaptein)

G.H. Harding

GO LONG —- We’ve spoken before of 17-year-old Kjersti Long – on Origin Entertainment/ModSquad (ADA) Records. Her latest single “Sad Song” has become a digital-hit and a new album (her second) is in the works.

She’ll also be in NYC for June’s Tribeca Festival and a prominent agency is stepping up to rep her and her play Relative Space is prepping for an opening in the West End.

Said NEW HD’s Zach Martin: “Kjersti Long, at just 17, stands as a beacon of talent and ambition in the music industry. Her journey from a prodigious debut at the tender age of 11 with the album “Stronger Than You Think I Am” on Broadway Records to becoming a significant influencer on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, Kjersti’s career trajectory is nothing short of remarkable​​. Her engagement with her fans and the music community through platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where she has garnered over 50 million views and more than 160,000 new followers, underscores her magnetic appeal and the resonant connection she forges through her music​​.”

She also has a song on the new Vanessa Williams album, “Legs.” Williams’ official video will be out April 26, but here’s an update on her from LifeMinute TV:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD-Okb_T8CM

www.kjerstilong.com


RASCAL-ING AROUND —
(Via Forgotten Hits) Look for a new Rascals box set coming out May 31st.

The 7-disc set encompasses their entire recorded output with Atlantic Records, 1965 – 1971, including mono and stereo copies of their albums, special singles mixes and some previously unreleased tracks.  (I remember shelling out big bucks for an earlier CD edition of this set … but I’ve gotta tell you, this one has got the COOLEST looking cover!!!).

“The Rascals:  It’s Wonderful: The Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings features 152 remastered songs, including 14 previously unreleased tracks. The first four albums are presented in both stereo and mono, along with significant single edits and foreign language versions. The collection includes a 60-page booklet with detailed notes and rare illustrations from The Rascals archives.

Amazon’s got it for $69.99 (I paid 2 ½ times that much way back when for the original!) so pre-order now.  This is quite the collection!

Interesting that this box set is from the UK-based Cherry Red Records. Founded by Iain McNay in 1978, Cherry Red Records has continued to uphold the same fiercely independent values since day one. Check them out here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/about

And don’t forget about Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish and The Rascals at SONY Hall on May 17.

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Atlantic-Recordings-Rascals/dp/B0CZ3NHLGG?crid=3S8UG8TZCIC3M&dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.fcz-QxVsrVNGCoS-EbSPkg.htVhtZLFLUN8n9NrR1H-6rJi5fsjLvQexjIPS6c2Ges&dib_tag=se&keywords=B0CZ3NHLGG&qid=1712320481&s=music&

Micky Dolenz at Troubadour (Stevo Rood)

SHORT TAKES — Check out Tone Scott’s review of Micky Dolenz at LA’s Troubadour in Goldmine: https://www.goldminemag.com/columns/micky-dolenz-songs-and-stories-raises-the-roof-off-the-troubadour-all-for-make-a-wish#gid=ci02dac725a00025c5&pid=thumbnail-3

RIP Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola at 87. Years ago, I was at a screening of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind Of Charles Swan with Charlie Sheen. I loved the movie and at a post-screening event, I met Francis Ford Coppola, who could not have been more approachable.

He invited me to sit at his table with his wife Eleanor. Both were terrific. She’ll be much-missed by the film community as well. From Deadline: https://deadline.com/2024/04/eleanor-coppola-dead-hearts-of-darkness-francis-coppola-wife-1235883537/Happy Bday Brit Brashear.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Melinda Newman; Barry Fisch; Toby Rasmussen; Roy Trakin; Joel Diamond; Fred Armisen; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Richie Kaczor; Jim Burgess; Tom Scott; Steve Walter; Dan Zelinski; Herb Alpert; Hubert Laws; Eppy; Craig Newman; Jane Blunkell; John Billings; Lora Evans; Andrew Sandoval; Chris Carter; Wen Fernandez; and ZIGGY!

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Broadway

Patti LuPone Returns to Broadway and The Big Screen

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Three-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, who gave up her Equity card in 2022, will star opposite Mia Farrow in Jen Silverman’s new play, The Roommate. The production will be directed by Jack O’Brien and will begin previews at the Booth Theatre in August ahead of a September opening.

The Roommate tells the story of Sharon, in her mid-fifties, who is recently divorced and needs a roommate to share her Iowa home. Robyn, also in her mid-fifties, needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets, they encourage her own deep-seated desire to transform her life completely. A dark comedy about what it takes to re-route your life – and what happens when the wheels come off.

The Roommate premiered at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in March 2015, and has had several regional productions including at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2017.

Ms. LuPone will star in the upcoming Marvel series, WandaVision spinoff series Agatha: Coven of Chaos. She’s in a coven of witches, playing Lilia Calderu, who is hot, with a great body and hair. Calderu, first appeared in Marvel comics in 1973 as a 450-year-old Sicilian witch whose power is divination and whose trial is tarot. The other witches are Kathryn Hahn, Aubrey Plaza, and a familiar who is played by Joe Locke. Locke, is currently on Broadway in Sweeney Todd.

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Film

David Kramer Presents Jimi Hendrix – The Documentary/ The Review

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by John Muller ( Blue Notes and Conversations)

 “There’s so much misinformation out there in movies, documentaries and the internet, it’s as if there’s a deliberate campaign of disinformation to mislead in an attempt to rewrite history” says David Kramer. “The Hendrix-story has taken on urban myth-like proportions – stories abound that many people believe to be true but largely are not.”

I had the good fortune of seeing Emmy-Award winner David Kramer’s truly remarkable “Jimi Hendrix – The Documentary” at the Nyack International Film Festival. Hard for me to believe that the sensational 2-hour film that we were able to view is part of a much larger, even more extensive 12-plus hour, multi-part series covering the life and times of Jimi Hendrix. This is unauthorized, and that point was made by David at the screening on Saturday night, the Hendrix Estate legally trying to suppress the entire series, so far, thankfully unsuccessfully. It is a truly incredible slice of history, an amazing look into the life of Jimi Hendrix, without the hype and the canonization, without the beatification, leaving the legend behind so we get a deeper and closer look at the man himself. No bullshit – just the truth from those who knew him, performed with him, and were close to him.

Kramer has spent the last 30 years, with a small team, pulling together, unearthing, discovering hours of unseen Jimi Hendrix footage, well over 400 on-camera interviews, music clips and celebrating Jimi Hendrix – his joy, his humor, the tragedy, the mystery and all that surrounded Jim’s life and music.

I was fascinated by the segments presented on the screen, details many of which were unknown to me, a Jimi fan for decades. From the days when the Isley brothers auditioned an up and coming guitar player in the early 1960’s he already had quite a reputation for his unorthodox style of guitar work – left handed and upside down – onto the times Jimi spent living with the Isley Family in Teaneck, New Jersey; his performance at the Paterson Armory that had fellow musicians thunderstruck and amazed and the fans crazed with delight; his early days performing, including  a date with the Isley’s in West Nyack, New York at a battle-of-the-bands held outside on a flatbed truck. Those acid-dripping and alcohol-fueled performances at the legendary nightclub: The Scene, located in the basement of 301 West 46th Street where bands like The Animals, the Who, Young Rascals, Fleetwood Mac, Jeff Beck, Traffic, Muddy Waters, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Led Zeppelin, all performed nightly where jam sessions always followed. Jimi regularly jamming into the wee hours of the morning with folks like Janis Joplin, Stephen Stills, Jim Morrison. On one particularly wild night Morrison was deep into drugs and alcohol, his performance with Jimi incoherent as Morrison screamed into the mic, going so far as to try to sexually seduce Jimi on stage with bouncers dragging him out of the club, as Morrison continuing to howl like a banshee on the mic as he was dragged outside.

Hendrix jamming with anyone, Johhny Winter among so many others mentioned in the film, and everyone who was lucky enough to make it inside the cramped and packed basement club on any given night of the week. Seemed like everyone wanted to outperform Jimi up on that dimly lit stage – and both the interview with, and video of Larry Coryell and Hendrix really illuminates the rivalry that many felt. The interviews with musicians who were there, those who performed with Hendrix, managers, friends and musicians, give a real keen insight into the real-life Jimi Hendrix, tossing aside the myths and the halo. He was a quiet, unassuming guy, who loved to perform, thrilled to play his guitar and have fun on that small basement stage, drinking his red wine, blending into the crazy scene of hangers-ons, groupies, friends, musicians, managers, cultural icons and lovers.

Sitting there watching the documentary I was transfixed by the interviews, by the footage and details from the “Isle of Wight” concert, the mysterious gentlemen who surrounded Jimi just before he was found dead in London, the reminiscences that were carefully compiled, interviews that came straight from the heart from so many who knew Jimi, performed with him, hung out with him, slept with him, and deeply cared about him – and many who were very worried about so many strange events that were part of Jimi’s life towards the end of his life.  The details about “The Monkees Party ” where Jimi was rescued by John Sebastian, a good friend, the infamous opening night party held at Electric Lady Studios where Japanese food was served spiked with acid unbeknownst to many, an event few remember, but those who do, say it was quite a trip!

As I sat there watching the film I could hear yells and cheers, cries from the audience as folks like Ginger Baker, Todd Rundgren, Jorma Kaukonen and Stephen Stills, to name but a few and many regional musicians from the New York area who were interviewed known to the audience as some were in attendance on Saturday night.

David Kramer Presents: Jimi Hendrix-The Documentary is a fascinating film, a project filled with enormous amounts of love and respect, dedication and perseverance. We get to see another side of Hendrix, stripping away the facade, hacking apart the legend, breaking down the walls of historical inaccuracies and legendary misinformation.

Jimi was a performer, a musician with other-worldly talent, who enjoyed playing the guitar, hanging out with friends, loved his women and up to a certain point in his life, was really enjoying himself as a regular person. We are welcomed into a world of intrigue, mistrust, free love, psychedelic-drug fueled jam sessions, explosive stage performances, explosive tirades, mafia influences, complete meltdowns, unbelievable guitar pyrotechnics and electrifying stage theatrics from a guy named James Marshal “Jimi” Hendrix.

A must-see for music fans worldwide. Seek this movie out immediately! I was captivated, mesmerized, and thoroughly entranced by the 2-hours that passed by as magically as the notes from “Purple Haze.” Outstanding achievement!

Rock guitarist, singer, composer, bandleader Jimi was gone by September 18, 1970 at the young age of 27.  He certainly lived a remarkable life.  Thanks so much David Kramer for giving us a chance to know Jimi a little bit better as a person, as a gifted and somewhat troubled human being, seeing him warts and all for the first time, a journey that was certainly worth the wait. What a trip!

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Broadway

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Pascale Roger-McKeever and Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. This particular episode was filmed in two parts at different times due to the weather and extenuating circumstances.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Pascale Roger-McKeever and Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton.
We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

Austin Pendleton, Suzanna Bowling

Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever

I am so grateful to my guests Pascale Roger-McKeever and Austin Pendleton. for joining me.

Austin Pendleton, Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling

Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

Austin Pendleton

Suzanna Bowling, Pascale Roger-McKeever, Craig J Horsley

Suzanna Bowling

Pascale Roger-McKeever will be starring in Fingers and Spoons directed by Tony Award nominee Austin Pendleton. Soho Playhouse 15 Vandam Street. starting on April 25th.

Roger Sichel, Austin Pendleton, Rommel Gopez, Suzanna Bowling

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

We hope to see you there on April 17th. We will be announcing our guests tonight.

All photo’s except for the picture with Roger are by Roger Sichel.

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