1pm: Irish Repertory Theatre: Meet the Makers John Douglas Thompson and Obi Abili on Breaking Barriers in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones
Eugene O’Neill evolved as the first major American playwright to address the problem of racism in the United States. He despised the discrepancies between the image America projected – a democracy based on equality and justice for all – and what he really saw as a racially divided land of gross inequality. At Irish Repertory Theatre, John Douglas Thompson and Obi Abili both memorably played the title role in O’Neill’s provocative and controversial play The Emperor Jones in separate productions. With director Ciarán O’Reilly, they discuss the complexities of exploring this 1920 play that exposed the painful truths that America is still grappling with 100 years later.
2pm: Amadeus National Theatre Lucian Msamati portrays the envious court composer Antonio Salieri who is envious of the obnoxious genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In this popular play by Peter Shaffer that was turned into an Oscar-winning film.
2pm: Bravehound Theater of War Dramatic reading of scenes of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes to catalyze guided discussions about the visible and invisible wounds of war. All events by Theater of War Productions (best known for Antigone in Ferguson) follow the same format: The actors will read the play. Four community panelists will kick off the discussion with their gut responses to what resonated with them across time
The discussion is opened to the audience, facilitated by artistic director Bryan Doerries.
3:30pm: Moment Matinee Presents Songs of the Decade: The Roaring Twenties Michael Lavine is presenting a special Webinar Zoominar benefit series: Moment Matinee Presents Songs of the Decade. The first of the three decades will be The Roaring Twenties, with live performances from Broadway and cabaret acclaimed artists as well as some premiere recordings.
This unique musical and informative program will feature Steven Brinberg, who will discuss the history of the song “My Man” and Fanny Brice and eventually Barbra Streisand’s performance of the song in the film Funny Girl; Jay Aubrey Jones will sing a little-known Gershwin song; Brian Gari will talk about his grandfather, Eddie Cantor, and his performance of the song “Makin’ Whoopee” and the show Whoopee.
Lavine will also be presenting the world premiere of two Broadway songs, sung by two Tony nominees, Rebecca Luker and Laura Osnes. Becca is singing “Dancing Honeymoon” from the 1923 Broadway musical Battling Butler, which played in 1922 on the West End before making it to Broadway. Laura is singing “In the Meantime,” which was written in 1927 for the musical Good News. Tickets are $25 – $60.
4pm–9:30pm: Marie’s Crisis Virtual Piano Bar Tonight’s scheduled pianists are Alex Barylski (@Alexander-Barylski) and Adam Michael Tilford (@Adam-Tilford-1).
6pm: Classic Conversations: George Takei Classic Stage Company continues its free, online version of their discussion series Classic Conversations, hosted by Artistic Director John Doyle. The series continues with George Takei (Allegiance, Star Trek), who starred in Doyle’s CSC 2017 production of Pacific Overtures.
6pm: The Living Room Plays Workshop By The Old Globe tune in to learn how to write, develop, design, direct, and present your own “living room”–inspired short plays in a final live-streamed, site-specific presentation.
6:30pm: BPN Town Hall: My Broadway Memory with guests Lauren Molina & Nick Cearley My Broadway Memory, a new live, visual podcast — a celebration of memorable experiences at the theatre with Broadway’s biggest names. During each episode, a guest will choose a Playbill from their collection at random and take a trip down memory lane. In addition to discussing the actual show, Michael, Brian, and guests will discuss the headshots, ads, and other traits that make a Playbill a time capsule of Broadway history. Michael and Brian are calling out to theatre fans everywhere to join in on the fun by creating their own My Broadway Memory videos and sharing them to Instagram or Facebook. Be sure to tag @MyBroadwayMemory and use use the hashtag #MyBroadwayMemory to have a chance at being featured on the Broadway Podcast Network site. For more information please visit http://bpn.fm/mbm #BroadwayPodcastNetwork #Broadway #MyBroadwayMemory
7pm: Quarantine Cabaret and Cocktails is produced and hosted by entertainer and LML Music founder, Lee Lessack, and actor and frequent SNL regular, Robert Bannon. The duo hosts a star-studded group of performers every week with laughs, music, and stories.
7pm: Reunion Reading: The True by Sharr White stars Edie Falco as Dorothea “Polly” Noonan, the blunt, profane, decades-long defender of Albany’s Democratic Party machine. When it comes to Polly, politics is only personal, especially now that her hero, “mayor for life” Erastus Corning II (Michael McKean), is battling for party control while at the same time fighting the fiercest primary challenge of his life. The True is an intimate portrait of the bounds of love, loyalty, and female power in the male-dominated world of 1977 patronage politics. Written by Sharr White, directed by Scott Elliott and featuring the original 2018 cast including Austin Cauldwell (Intimacy), Edie Falco (“The Sopranos”), Glenn Fitzgerald (Othello), Michael McKean (The Little Foxes), John Pankow (Kiss Me Kate), Peter Scolari (Hairspray), Tracy Shayne (Chicago). The True enjoyed a critically acclaimed world premiere as part of The New Group’s 2018-2019 Season.
$10 for the first 100 tickets
$25 for all other tickets
7pm: We’re Still Here: A Virtual Cabaret by Alliance Theater a free variety show featuring Broadway stars Terry Burrell (Ethel) and Courtenay Collins (The Prom).Burrell and Collins will alternate as hostess, as they entertain audiences from home with songs, stories, special cocktails, and maybe a surprise guest or two.
7pm: Good As New MCC Theater Julianne Moore and Kaitlyn Dever star in this benefit rating of Peter Hedges’ about a young woman learning to drive who comes face-to-face with the mother she thinks has let her down. Tickets start at $5
7pm: LAO at Home: Living Room Recital One of the world’s foremost tenors, Lawrence Brownlee, made his company debut as Tamino in The Magic Flute in 2013. He partners with pianist Myra Huang for a special online recital featuring bel canto arias and songs from Schubert to the present day, including one written for him: Tyshawn Sorey’s “Inhale, Exhale.”
7pm: Humanities Symposium Series: From Page to Stage From Paper Mill Playhouse on the set of the 1997 production of Man of La Mancha where we take a look at classic novels turned into musicals. See performances by Cheryl Allison, Michelle Dawson, Veryl Jones, James A. Rocco, Susie Speidel, and John Stewart.
7pm: Ailey All Access: City of Rain Camille A. Brown’s City of Rain – a quietly lyrical ballet honoring a close friend that passed away due to an illness that paralyzed him from the waist down.
7:30: Berg’s Wozzeck A brutal yet captivating piece of music and theater, Wozzeck is based on Georg Büchner’s groundbreaking play Woyzeck, a searing, shockingly modern drama that was written in the 1830s but first saw the stage some 80 years later as the First World War inexorably approached. It is the harrowing tale of a hapless soldier driven by humiliation and jealousy to murder his lover, and Berg only amplifies the suffering and horror with his brilliantly thorny, overwhelmingly powerful score—the ultimate musical depiction of a mind’s descent into madness.
7:30: The 22nd installment of Broadway Barks, the annual dog and cat adoption event co-founded by Bernadette Peters and the late Mary Tyler Moore, will be held virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Participating celebrities include Alec Baldwin, Carol Burnett, Betty Buckley, Danny Burstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Victoria Clark, Alan Cumming, Ted Danson, Ariana DeBose, Raúl Esparza, Gloria Estefan, Sutton Foster, Victor Garber, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Joel Grey, Josh Groban, Jake Gyllenhaal, Julie Halston, Jon Hamm, Emmylou Harris, Sean Hayes, Hugh Jackman, Nathan Lane, Laura Linney, Rebecca Luker, Audra McDonald, Malcolm McDowell, Laurie Metcalf, Bette Midler, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Rita Moreno, Bebe Neuwirth, Alex Newell, Mandy Patinkin, Randy Rainbow, Andrew Rannells, John Stamos, Mary Steenburgen, Will Swenson, Michael Urie, Nia Vardalos, Adrienne Warren, and Vanessa Williams.
Participating shelters include 1 Love For Animals, Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Adopt–A–Boxer, Adopt–A-Dog, Animal Care Centers Of NYC, Animal Haven, Anjellicle Cats, ARF (Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons), ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society of Los Angeles, Best Friends NYC, Bide-A-Wee, Bobbi and the Strays, Bonapartes Retreat Dog Rescue, City Critters, Dawgs N Texas, Francis’ Friends, Humane Society of New York, Husky House, Little Shelter Animal, Rescue and Adoption Center, Long Island Bulldog, Manhattan Valley Cat Rescue, Metropolitan Maltese Rescue, Mid-Atlantic Great Danes, Pet-I-Care, Pet-Res-Q, Sean Casey Animal Rescue, SPARC (Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center), SPCA of Westchester, Tetan Valley Community Animal Shelter, and Urban Cat League.
8pm: The Fosters Cast Reunion reuniting the cast of Freeform’s hit television show The Fosters will air on PEOPLE.com and EW.com. The event benefits The Actors Fund.
The reunion will feature original cast members, Teri Polo, Sherri Saum, Hayden Byerly, David Lambert, Maia Mitchell, Cierra Ramirez, Danny Nucci, and Noah Centineo. The livestream will also feature special guests Jay Ali, Alexandra Barreto, Madisen Beaty, Daffany Mcgaray Clark, Colby French, April Parker Jones, Adam Kang, and David Sullivan, with special appearances by Annie Potts, Lorraine Toussaint, Bailee Madison, Alex Saxon, Amanda Leighton, Tom Williamson, Rosie O’Donnell, and Ashley Argota.
The cast, directed by Michael Medico, will share a recorded Zoom table reading of the pilot episode of the drama that charts the ups and downs of an interracial lesbian couple and their multiethnic brood of biological, adopted and foster children.
Reading the stage directions is co-creator and executive producer Peter Paige, with an introduction by co-creator and executive producer Bradley Bredeweg and executive producer and co-creator of Good Trouble Joanna Johnson. Theme song sung live by composer Kari Kimmel.
8pm: BPN Town Hall: Rebuilding Broadway, a special 100th Episode for The Theatre Podcast with Alan Seales (http://bpn.fm/ttp).
In a special LIVE panel discussion, moderator Erika Alexander (Living Single, The Cosby Show, Get out, John Lewis: Good Trouble) will be guest hosting the 100th episode of The Theatre Podcast with Alan Seales. This panel, composed of prominent black actors from Broadway, will discuss how to educate and build up the theatre and Broadway community, as opposed to tearing it down. If the industry is torn down, there will be nowhere left to work. We must help create the world we want to live in. Erika Alexander is Color Farm Media Founder and ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’ producer. Panelists: – Tony-winner Karen Olivo (Moulin Rouge, West Side Story) – Tony-winner James Monroe Iglehart (Freestyle Love Supreme, Aladdin, Hamilton) – Nik Walker (Ain’t Too Proud, Motown, Hamilton) – Adrianna Hicks (The Color Purple, SIX) – Brittney Mack (SIX). What is The Theatre Podcast with Alan Seales? This is a podcast for theatre people by theater people. With over 2 decades of experience in film and theatre both as cast and creative, host Alan Seales speaks with Broadway and beyond’s biggest talents to learn more about not only how the world of theatre and performing operate, but also what makes it so real and human. In-depth, intimate, behind-the-scenes conversations will highlight special details of the industry that most people may not know exist, and will always find out what makes the guests love their craft, what makes them tick, and what truly inspires them. #BlackLivesMatter #Broadway
8pm: LAO at Home: The Ghosts of Versailles LA Opera’s 2015 “Figaro Trilogy” concludes with an audio stream of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, conducted by Music Director James Conlon and featuring Lucas Meachem as Figaro, Patricia Racette as Marie Antoinette, Christopher Maltman as Beaumarchais, and Patti LuPone as Samira.
8pm: Shakespeare on the Radio: Richard II Saheem Ali directs this radio adaptation of Richard II, the Bard’s take on how the title monarch lost his crown. licia Rashad as the Duchess of Gloucester.
9pm: Pass the Mic Festival a live-streamed event to amplify Black voices and raise funds for BLD PWR and Color of Change. The festival will be hosted by IAMA and AMMO company members Courtney Sauls (Dear White People) and Brandon Scott (13 Reasons Why, Dead to Me).
It will include five new plays written and directed by Black artists, including playwrights Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Malika Oyetimein, Larry Powell, Carolyn Ratteray and Daryl Watson and directors Cheyenne Barboza, Valerie Curtis-Newton, Keith Powell, Larry Powell and Keiana Richárd.
All of the plays were inspired by the current iteration of the movement for racial justice and equity. There will be a moderated post-show discussion with the artists.
The Glorious Corner
STRIKE END LOOMS — (Via Showbiz 411/Roger Friedman) All the studio chiefs met Wedneday with the Writers Guild and will continue negotiating tomorrow, according to a WGA post.
The sudden seriousness of the studios is welcomed as the deadline looms for the 2023-24 TV season. If the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes aren’t resolved by early October, my sources say it will be impossible to put on a season.
Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, Universal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav were present today for the negotiations, a sure sign that the studios are finally in panic mode.
There are no daytime or nighttime talk shows, no new material on TV, and actors can’t promote the fall and winter movies. The actors have already missed the Telluride, Venice, and Toronto Film Festivals. Now the New York Film Festival looms, as does the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
The so-called Fall TV Season has been decimated; the Emmy’s pushed back and just general chaos everywhere. The severity of the strike -142 days in- has hurt almost-every-single below-the-line sector, from caterers to limo drivers to costume houses. It’s reported that it will take up to 10-12 weeks to fully resume everything. That means early-November and let’s not forget come Thanksgiving, the holiday season officially starts. Stay tuned.
LOVE, BURT AT THE CUTTING ROOM — Monday night at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room was the presentation of Love, Burt – celebrating the majesty and memory of Burt Bacharach’s music.
The show really moved me and reminded me of the reason I do what … the music!
The show was just sumptuous – with the assembled group -led by Mike Visceglia- honoring and doing proper justice to a host of Bacharach songs – everything from “Baby, It’s You” to “One Less Bell To Answer,” The Look Of Love” and “Alfie” were all dutifully done. Especially poignant was their rendition of “A House Is Not A Home.”
The fact of the matter is that when these songs were recorded, they were embedded into everyone’s consciousness. These versions were good, but the originals remain standout. You hear a lot about the Great American Songbook, but these songs are the “new” Great American Songbook. Just luscious.
They ended the show was one of my favorite-Bacharach songs, from the 1988 album Burt recorded with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory. One of the album’s strongest cuts is “God Give Me Strength.” It was simply sensational. Spotted there were Benny Harrison and Maria Milito from Q1043.
The room was packed like never before; what a night!
SHORT TAKES — Micky Dolenz headlines the ACE Theatre Friday night in LA, and was a guest on KTLA Wednesday. Here’s a shot of him on-set with Sam Rubin who interviewed him with the KTLA-gang. Sam’s the second from left. Industry stalwarts at the ACE Theatre show include legendary-LA Times writer Randy Lewis; LA Magazine’sRoy Trakin and Goldmine’s Ken Sharp … Roger Friedman reported Wednesday that the pre-sales of Jann Wenner’s upcoming book Masters have been severely impacted by his New York Times interview. Take a read here: https://www.showbiz411.com/2023/09/20/jann-wenners-new-book-the-masters-drops-in-pre-sales-run-on-amazon-almost-off-the-top-2000-after-scandal-erupts And just last night his big presentation at NYC’s 92nd Y with Cameron Crowe was shuttered as well … SIGHTING: Alison Martino at NYC’s Algonquin Hotel …
When Apple TV’s The Morning Show debuted years ago (November 2019), created and run by Kerry Ehrin, it was a first-rate series certainly of The Sopranos-like and Mad Men-like caliber. Billy Crudup was astonishingly good as were Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. The second season was basically trash. Three episodes in on a third season -with a 4th already guaranteed- it’s kind of a mixed-bag. I did not care for the first two EPs, but the third was bordering on the edge of greatness – and Witherspoon wasn’t even in this one and there was no explanation why. Jon Hamm has joined the cast as sort of an Elon Musk-figure. To me, he’s still Don Draper, just with an updated wardrobe. Most of the production staff has been replaced and it seemed to me, they’re still finding their way. The trouble is, that with these 8 or so episode-runs, it gets really good at episode 6. Go figure …
Rupert Murdoch to retire per CNBC? More on this next column … Meg Ryan and David Duchovny in What Happens Later – looks cute and Ryan directed it – check out the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqTZqSglhZo … RIP Roger Whitaker
and Happy Bday David McCallum; Curtis Urbina; and Bill Murray!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Glenn Gretlund; Jodi Ritzen; Leonard Nimoy; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Scott Shannon; Zach Martin; Michelle Grant; Art Rutter; Maria Milito; Joe Lynch; Melinda Newman; Mandy Naylor; Kimberly Cornell; Sam Rudin; Jim Clash; Terry Jastrow; Randy Alexander; Bob Merlis; Andrew Sandoval; Art Rutter; and CHIP!
Theatre News: Wicked, The Wiz, Hypnotique, Female Troubles and Love In The Time Of Crazy
Broadway’s blockbuster Wicked, in partnership with National Day Calendar, has announced that October 30 will officially become National Wicked Day, in honor of the hit Broadway musical’s debut at the Gershwin Theatre (245 West 51st Street) on October 30, 2003.
This marks the first time that a Broadway show will have its own official day in the National Day Calendar. With this inclusion, Wicked joins some of the most recognizable National Day celebrations, including National Barbie Day, National Star Trek Day, National Scrabble Day, National Winnie the Pooh Day, and National Teacher Appreciate Day, among others.
Read the official announcement HERE.
Currently Wicked 4th longest-running show in Broadway history, and will celebrate its 20th Anniversary on Broadway this October 30th.
The Broadway production of Wicked currently features Alyssa Fox as Elphaba, McKenzie Kurtz as Glinda, John Dossett as The Wizard, Michele Pawk as Madame Morrible, Jordan Litz as Fiyero, Jake Pedersen as Boq, Kimber Elayne Sprawl as Nessarose, and William Youmans as Doctor Dillamond.
Emmy Award®-winning music director and Grammy Award®-winning writer, Adam Blackstone, joins the creative team as Dance Music Arranger for the revival of The Wiz. The Wiz will launch a national tour on September 23, 2023 in Baltimore, MD before returning to Broadway for a limited engagement in the 2023/24 season.
“Joining The Wiz’s creative team has been a very surreal moment. I remember watching the film on VHS daily for years, wondering how it sounded so incredible, how MJ transformed into the Scarecrow, and the score and orchestrations truly told a story all of its own. Fast forward to today, I get to musically partner with Terence Vaughn and reunite with my brother, super choreographer and creative director JaQuel Knight, and explore our own interpretation for a revival of this masterpiece. I am excited and look forward to this body of work changing lives, just like it did for me in the 80’s!” stated Adam Blackstone.
The cast will include previously announced Wayne Brady to lead the production as the Wiz on Broadway in Spring of 2024, San Francisco (January 16 – February 11, 2024) at the Golden Gate Theatre, and Los Angeles (February 13 – March 3, 2024) at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Alan Mingo Jr. will star in the role of the Wiz in the following cities of The Wiz National Tour this fall, kicking off with the tour launch in Baltimore, including Cleveland, OH, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, PA, Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, Chicago, IL, Des Moines, IA, Tempe, AZ and San Diego, CA.
The cast will also feature Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy, Deborah Cox as Glinda and Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene, Kyle Ramar Freeman as the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson as the Tinman, and Avery Wilson as the Scarecrow. The Wiz ensemble includes Maya Bowles, Shayla Alayre Caldwell, Jay Copeland, Allyson Kaye Daniel, Judith Franklin, George, Collin Heyward, Amber Jackson, Jackson, Jones, Jones, Kindle, Mariah Lyttle, Kareem Marsh, Anthony Murphy, Rae, Matthew Sims Jr, Avilon Trust Tate, Keenan D. Washington, and Timothy Wilson.
The production will include ‘Everybody Rejoice’ music and lyrics by Luther Vandross, as well as the ‘Emerald City Ballet’ with music by Timothy Graphenreed.
The McKittrick Hotel (530 West 27th Street, NYC), home of Sleep No More, announced the opening of Hypnotique – A Late Night Sultry Spectacle. Performances have been extended on Friday and Saturday nights through October 14, 2023. The all-new Hypnotique revue offers a unique after-dark experience that envelops you. Audiences are captivated by spontaneous performances and mesmerizing dancers, accompanied by daring sonic soundscapes in a surreal ambiance in The Club Car.
The cast features Chloé Lexia Worthington, Courtney Sauls, Fabricio Seraphin, Haley Bjorn, Jacob Nahor, Jesseca Scott, Maurice Ivy, Maya Kitayama, Samantha Greenlund, Victoria Edwards, and swings Alex Sturtevant, Cameron Arnold, Kennedy Adams, and Stacey Badgett Jr..
Cocktails inspired by the experience, including the signature Hypnotonique (an electrifying punch made with cucumber-infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, and grapefruit juice), are available from The Club Car’s bar.
Performances are offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30PM. General Admission tickets with standing room are currently priced from $65 per person.
Two industry readings for Female Troubles, an original musical comedy, will happen next week at Open Jar Studios. Female Troubles is a completely original musical comedy featuring lyrics by two-time Tony Award nominated and Grammy Award nominated songwriter Amanda Green (Mr. Saturday Night, Hands On A Hardbody, Bring It On), music by three-time Emmy Award nominee Curtis Moore (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), book by Emmy Award-winning writers Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden (“Veep,” “Arrested Development,” “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons,” “HouseBroken”) and directed by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli (Disney’s Newsies, My Fair Lady, “Schmigadoon,” “Schmicago”).
The cast for the readings will includeKrystina Alabado, Kevin Del Aguila, Amanda Green, Lilli Cooper, Lillias White, Lesli Margherita, Ryann Redmond, Kate Rockwell, Matt Saldivar, Alanna Saunders, Trent Saunders, Jake Swain, Sav Souza, Rachel Stern and Frank Viveros.In Female Troubles, Elinor Benton finds herself surprisingly and undeniably “knocked up” — and, since she’s unmarried and this is 19th century England, she has a very big dilemma. Facing ruin, she and her girlfriends embark on a raucous journey to find the one notorious woman who can help them with their “female troubles.” Their misadventures change the course of each of their lives. This uproarious musical comedy asks the trenchant question “Can you believe this sh*t is still happening in 1810?”
I attended the reading of Love In The Time Of Crazy withbook and lyrics by Peter Kellogg (Outer Critics Winner for Desperate Measures), music by Stephen Weiner (two-time Richard Rodgers Award winner) and David Hancock Turner (orchestrator for Desperate Measures and Penelope), directed by Lauren Molina (Desperate Measures ). The cast stared Philippe Arroyo, Stephen DeRosa, Robin Dunavant, David Merino, Josh Lamon, Roe Hartrampf and Alexis Cofield .
Love in the Time of Crazy is a riot, but, you know, in a good way.
De Filippo’s “Grand Magic” Amazes in a Sharply Constructed Sleight of Hand at Canada’s Stratford Festival
The seagulls squawk and cry out overhead, drawing us down into the sunkissed scene of striped umbrellas and beach chairs. We bathe in its warm glow, happily, as we take in the lux surroundings of the beautiful seaside Hotel Metropole, waiting, alongside all the other well-heeled vacationers for the arrival of tonight’s entertainment. It’s Grand Magic that is about to arrive, but questions about the man at its center swirl around like those seagulls up above. Is it something far greater than some fancy card tricks? Or are we being misled; tricked down a fool’s road to believe or maybe imagine the unimaginable? Surrender to our instincts, we are instructed, but is that really the game or is there some other twist waiting for the applause multiplier to enliven the moment and the man?
Standing firm and unshakable (or so we at first believe), the arrogant and dismissive Calogero, played to perfection by the impressive Gordon S Miller (Crow’s A&R Angels), fights with that idea, at least in the beginning. Accompanied by his unhappy captive wife Marta, beautifully embodied by Beck Lloyd (Stratford’s R+J), Calogero barely can contain his disregard for the main magical attraction; but even more so for all those guests who gather, playing cards and gossiping about all that approaches and surrounds them.
Lucky for us all, we don’t have to wait too long for the main event; the grand magician, Otto Marvuglia, magically portrayed by Geraint Wyn Davies (LCT’s King Lear), to arrive. And with a flourish, he saunters in, dressed to impress, thanks to the talented work of costume designer Francesca Callow (Stratford’s Three Tall Women), flinging his hat and walking stick around like magical acrobats overhead. We can’t help ourselves. We must lean it, wondering what tricks Otto and his spectacularly feisty wife, Zaira, magnificently portrayed by Sarah Orenstein (Stratford’s Wolf Hall), have in store for us. But more so, will we be able to see the trick inside playwright Eduardo De Filippo’s gorgeously rendered Grand Magic at the Stratford Festival‘s intimate Tom Patterson Theatre.
Although unknown to me, playwright De Filippo is considered by many as one of the most important Italian artists and playwrights of the 20th century and the author of many theatrical dramas staged and directed by the man himself. La grande magia(1948), renamed Grand Magic by co-adaptors John Murrell and the play’s dramaturge Donato Santeramo, is the third of De Filippo’s plays that have been staged at the Stratford Festival by the artistic director, Antoni Cimolino (Stratford’s Macbeth) who digs, with grand determination, into the luminous artifice with a magic all his own. It breaks through the walls of our perception, as we watch with glee, playing with philosophical ideals of time and reality under a magician’s cloak of manipulation and deceit. It’s clever in its construction, and captivating in the ultimate unraveling, as we watch a fascinating game played perfectly to the highest level of inventiveness, or possible insanity, questioning faith and reality at every turn. But to what end?
The game begins with an outward deliberate flourish of gifts and refreshments, and an internal deceptive dance led by a few pretend-hotel-guest accomplices, portrayed purposefully by the always good Steve Ross (Stratford’s Chicago) as Gervasio; and a father and daughter team, Arturo and Amelia Tuddei, played a bit too dramatically by David Collins (Stratford’s The Tempest) and Qianna MacGilchrist (Stratford’s Hamlet-911) [in a part usually portrayed by Germaine Konji]. But the core of the ultimate con is dispatched more privately, out of sight, in the financial arrangement between the strapped and desperate magician, Otto, and Marta’s determined secret paramour Mariano, dutifully portrayed by Jordin Hall (Driftwood’s Othello) who’s dying to get the unhappily married and pseudo caged Marta away from her jealous husband. Even for fifteen minutes. Or more.
Calogero, as played most miraculously by Miller, is thrown off balance in a heartbeat by the disappearance, but more so because of his own lack of faith; in his wife and his heart. Somehow in that boxed-up struggle, he is caught in a magnificent trap of construction and deception, thanks to the magnificent phrasing of this illustrious playwright. Questioned and challenged by the desperate magician, who sees his own cage’s ceiling dropping fast if he doesn’t think even faster, Calogero becomes enlisted and entangled in a head-tripping construct that plays with his, and our own heads in the most captivating way. It’s a wordplay of formulations, juggling with ideas of time and reality, after Calogero’s wife, Marta, in a trick of corrupted theatricality, somewhat lazily crafted by set and lighting designer Lorenzo Savoini (Soulpepper’s Mother’s Daughter), disappears into the night.
The sets are exacting, beautifully crafted, and expertly designed, don’t get me wrong, with a strong sound design by Ranil Sonnadera (Theatre Aquarius’ The Extinction Therapist) and musical composition by Wayne Kelso (Stratford’s The Rez Sisters) adding to the appeal of the seaside, but I guess I was hoping for a bit more actual magic here, and throughout the play from magic consultant, David Ben. Not just the emotional fragrance of magic. But real awe-inspiring magic. Marta steps out from inside the locked trick, clear as day, void of any vanishing flash, leaving the sarcophagus, the hotel, and her husband all behind in a hilariously played-out boat ride to Venice with her pleased lover. But what she leaves behind is a complication, worthy of some intellectual magic to make right. Otto hears the boat motoring off into the distance and realizes, quite rightly, that he has to play an instantaneous game of dangerous deception. Or else something more dangerous could happen, so he has to play it well and for the long haul. He has no choice, but maybe, somehow, it will help him rise up out of his financial troubles, at least until he can manipulate his way out the other side of his own personal sarcophagus.
Otto, as played most spectacularly by Wyn Davies, in a mad creation of metaphysical wordplay, convinces Calogero that Marta, after vanishing, has been caught, trapped within an adorned small box waiting for her release, very much like the marital enclosed space she just ran away where she was literally locked up in her room inside a marriage by her husband. Otto tells Calogero that Marta will only be released and returned to him if he opens the box with a strong believing heart and soul in her fidelity and faith. A clutched aspect and angle that takes the jealous husband by surprise and gives him pause. A pause that lasts years and years in tortured psychic constipation.
De Filippo’s Grand Magic doesn’t disappoint, even with its tiny amount of actual magic being performed. It is filled to the brim with clever manipulations and some very entertaining characters and complications unpacking roundabout ideas that captivate and enliven the material. In particular, one sharply performed roll of the dice enhances the momentum with astounding efficiency in the form of a strongly enacted policeman, hilariously portrayed by the amazing Emilio Vieira (RMTC’s The Three Musketeers) who arrives in a fantastically funny flurry, giving clever depth and delivering delight to the magician and all those who might accuse. Otto’s wife, as portrayed by Orenstein, is also a hat trick of the highest order, delivering lusty and withering lines that invigorate the air around her, and give greater depth to a part that could have easily vanished into thin air.
But these are just two fine examples in a cast overflowing with daft and delicious frivolity, giving the utmost entertaining pleasure to all that stay tuned into the way we all can deceive our own selves if it serves us. The play overflows with frameworks and angles to appreciate all that stride across the stage, even when some of those scenarios, especially the sad sick tale of Arturo’s young daughter, and her love of little purple flowers, feel somewhat unneeded and overstuffed. Much like the arrival of Calogero’s intruding greedy family.
Grand Magic is being performed at Stratford Festival’s Tom Patterson Theatreuntil 29 September. The Festival runs until 29 October.
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Beatles Brunch at City Winery Where Strawberry Fields Lives Forever
I was taken to City Winery by Eli Marcus for the Beatles Brunch with Strawberry Fields.
This show plays every Sunday with an unlimited brunch buffet that includes coffee, tea and juice, starting at noon. A bottomless brunch cocktail package is also available and children get in free. Here tourists mingle with New Yorkers, eating scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, dried out French toast, spicy potatoes with onions and peppers, perfectly done chicken, salad and fresh fruit. What is so nice, is that everyone seems happy to to be here, to see and hear the Fab Four.
The show starts off without fan fare. The lights dim and four men enter, not quite looking like the originals. Tony Garofalo (John Lennon), Billy J. Ray (Paul McCartney), Ira Siegel (George Harrison), and Michael Bellusci (Ringo Starr) and their costumes and wigs have seen better days. Then the music starts. You can watch one of our video’s here.
From the early hits like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Ticket To Ride” “Eight Days A Week” and more the first act is nostalgia at it’s best. It was adorable to watch the audience, especially the young ones “Twist and Shout.”
After a break in came the Sergeant Pepper era, clothing and all. From that we got “Nowhere Man,” “My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “When I’m 64,” “Penny Lane” and songs that dig into your soul. They are done well and the Beatles live again. You can see our video here.
Then the later songs like “I Am The Walrus” and “Don’t Let Me Down” end a show that is almost two hour long of music, that is classic. I have to admit I wanted to hear “Blackbird” and “Norwegian Wood,” but what you get is a well rounded assortment of those songs that shaped several era’s.
Ira Siegel stands out with his guitar playing that is out of this world. I really loved all the songs he sang as well.
Michael Bellusci, gives Ringo a run for his money on the drums.
Tony Garofalo is the founder, creator and producer playing rhythm and lead guitar and singing lead vocals along with Alan LeBoeuf from the original Beatlemania playing bass guitar. Ray looks the most like the Beatle he is playing.
Strawberry Fields has been covering The Beatles for over three decades. They used to have a residency at B.B. Kings, but these days their home base is City Winery and it is definitely a great way to spend a Sunday. All four are consummate musicians and obviously have a love for what they do and that rubs off on their audience.
For a souvenir up a City Winery Strawberry Fields Rose Wine and have it signed by the cast. With its is its strawberry pink color, you get a combination of kiwi, watermelon and the taste of strawberry that lingers.
City Winery is right next to Little Island, Chelsea Market, The Highline, the Meatpacking district, Chelsea, and West Village. Everything is nearby to make a perfect outing for the whole day and this is one brunch where you definitely get your money’s worth. Click HERE for tickets
Arms and the Man Meet The Press
Gingold Theatrical Group next show is a new production of George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man.
The cast of Arms and the Man will feature Shanel Bailey (“Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies”)
Delphi Borich (Camelot)
Ben Davis (New York New York)
Keshav Moodliar (Queen)
Evan Zes (The Kite Runner),
Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba (Prince of Broadway).
Understudies for this production are Mazvita Chanakira (Gap Year)
René Thornton Jr (The Tempest)
and Matthew Zimmerman (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
Arms and the Man will be directed by David Staller.
The production will feature set design by Lindsay Genevieve Fuori
lighting design by Jamie Roderick
costume design by Tracy Christensen
and sound design by Julian Evans. Prop design is by Emmarose Campbell.
Production management is by Allie Posner. Hair design is by Cassie Williams, and Stephanie Yankwitt of tbd Casting Co. is the Casting Director.
Logan Gabrielle Schulman is the Assistant to the Director and Ariel Kregard is the Assistant to the Costume Designer.
The production stage manager is April Ann Kline and Jade Doina will serve as assistant stage manager.
Arms and the Man is one of Shaw’s most popular comedies. The plot follows a hunted soldier who, seeking refuge in a young lady’s boudoir, starts in motion a series of highly engaging and unlikely comedic events. His unusual philosophies about love, war and life in general open up a world of thought she’d never previously entertained–certainly not with her dashing war-hero fiancée who also arrives unexpectedly. This early work of Shaw’s is remarkably pithy.
The play’s title, Arms and the Man, references the first line of the epic Virgil poem, The Aeneid, in which we’re reminded of how foolish humans can be by fighting each other and struggling against the best of human nature: “Arms and the man I sing, who, forced by fate / And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate, / Expelled and exiled, left the Trojan shore.”
Arms and the Man will play Theater Two at Theatre Row (410 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036) from October 17 through November 18, 2023. Opening night is set for October 26. The performance schedule is Tuesday–Thursday at 7pm; Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2pm & 8pm; Sunday at 3pm. Cast and guest-moderated talkbacks will take place after each Sunday performance.
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