Friday, April 22, 2011

"Sweet silver angels over the sea, please come down flyin' low for me. One time I trusted a stranger, 'cause I heard his sweet song. And it was gently enticin' me, though there was somethin' wrong, but when I turned he was gone. Blindin' me, his song remains remindin' me, he's a bandit and a heart breaker. Oh, but Jesus was a cross maker." ~judee sill

The version posted above is a cover by The Hollies.

This is another Broadway post. I've been lucky enough to see quite a few shows recently. This is the busiest time of year for theater. It's Tony season, which means all the best shows are opening now, and I'm trying to see as many as possible. It's a really strong season for theater in my opinion (at least for plays).

I went to a Cake concert last night and I'll blog about that later, but I'm just focusing on theater in this post.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Daniel Radcliffe is just charming enough to pull this off. The production isn't anything groundbreaking, but it's fun. I loved seeing John Larroquette onstage (although all I could think of was Roan Montgomery, his character on Chuck). I really admire Daniel Radcliffe's work ethic. You can tell he's putting all of his energy into his character. He dances well, he's not a bad singer, and he's taking his job seriously. I enjoyed the show.

The Motherf**cker With the Hat
Based on it's title and the fact that Chris Rock is one of the stars, you might be skeptical of this play, but it would probably surprise you. I was mostly interested in it because of Bobby Cannavale. I love him. I've seen him onstage a number of times and he's always fabulous. He's also done some great movies, most recently Win Win (I posted about that one recently) and most notably The Station Agent (such a great film). I'll see anything he's in. This play is very good, and not just because of Bobby Cannavale (though of course his performance is amazing). The whole ensemble, including Chris Rock, is strong, and the play is deep and thoughtful and sad and funny.

I'm going to share with you the words of someone more well-spoken than I: Ben Brantley gave it a rave in the New York Times, and it's even one of his two recommended shows, alongside Jerusalem. Snippets of his review:
"The play that dare not speak its name turns out to have a lot to say. Stephen Adly Guirgis’s vibrant and surprisingly serious new comedy opened on Monday night at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater under a title that cannot be printed in most daily newspapers or mentioned on network television....

The characters portrayed by a marvelous, intensely focused five-member ensemble — including the stand-up comic Chris Rock, in a solid Broadway debut, and a blazingly good Bobby Cannavale — are always striving for a mot juste to explain their less than clear-cut feelings....

You could even say that “Hat,” directed with fire and tenderness by Anna D. Shapiro (“August: Osage County”), is about both the inadequacy and necessity of language, which here includes assaultive bombardments of insults, the zippy slogans of television commercials and the orotund pronouncements of self-help manuals....

But the broken, jagged heart of this production belongs to Ms. Rodriguez and Mr. Cannavale, who turn their characters’ relationship into a bruising, tragicomic apache dance of love, betrayal and indecision."

I saw John Lithgow and Peter Dinklage in the audience; I was really happy to see Peter Dinklage supporting his costar from The Station Agent. Go see that movie if you haven't, by the way.

I wrote about Jerusalem already, but now that it's officially opened I feel like I ought to share snippets from Brantley's review of that show as well. Again, it's one of his two recommended picks. This is an all-out rave if I've ever seen one, and I believe it's well-deserved.
"A thundery whisper, like a premonition of earthquakes, fills the air every time someone looks deep, but really deep, into the eyes of Johnny Byron. And since Johnny Byron is portrayed by Mark Rylance, in a seismic performance that threatens to level the old Music Box Theater, this registers as utterly natural cause and effect.....

“Jerusalem” could have been written in almost any year from the 1920s onward. Yet this work takes you places — distant, out-of-time places — that well-made plays seldom do. And it thinks big — transcendently big — in ways contemporary drama seldom dares....

Mr. Rylance also captures — to a degree I can imagine no other contemporary actor doing — Johnny’s vast, vital, Falstaffian appetite for pleasure, for independence, for life itself. Mr. Rylance has already dazzled Broadway this season with his portrayal of the inexhaustibly obnoxious title character of “La BĂȘte.” But his Johnny Byron is truly a performance for the ages.

We theatergoers too are starved for a sense of the mythic, for performances we can talk about with glassy-eyed rapture in the years to come. Mr. Butterworth, Mr. Rickson and Mr. Rylance have provided us with that opportunity. Except in this case the mythic is no mere myth."

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Wouldn't it be nice if we were older? Then we wouldn't have to wait so long. And wouldn't it be nice to live together in the kind of world where we belong." ~the beach boys

The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced today. Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad won the prize for fiction. I've read the book and I enjoyed it very much (I'm crazy about Jennifer Egan's work), but I am surprised it won. It's an absolutely beautiful book, it just never occurred to me that it would win the Pulitzer. Anyway, I'm thrilled that it did. Ms. Egan is one of my favorite writers. I heard her speak a few years ago and loved just listening to her. Actually, it was four years ago (it doesn't seem that long ago); here's my blog post. So if you haven't read A Visit From the Goon Squad, go do so. And read The Keep while you're at it. That's another one of hers that I love.

The prize for drama went to Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, which is not surprising.

My mom sent me this video of my cousin soloing in his acapella group. I'm so proud of my kin. :D

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Baby, it's been a long day, baby. Things ain't been going my way. And now i need you here to clear my mind all the time." ~ray lamontagne

Time for new show reviews! I've seen these Broadway shows in the past week, and they're all really good productions.

Mark Rylance is amazing. He won a Tony in 2008 for his stellar performance in Boeing Boeing, and he has a good shot at another one this year (although I have a feeling Al Pacino will edge him out). His performance in Jerusalem is a tour de force. It's a long show (three hours), and he's onstage almost the entire time. His intensity is incredible. I enjoyed the play very much, but Rylance's performance really made it special. This play is a transfer from London and I've heard people question whether it works in America, but I entirely think it does. It's a human story that anyone can relate to. I loved the play a lot more than I expected to.

Born Yesterday

Nina Arianda is definitely the best thing about this production; it's worth seeing just for her performance. Jim Belushi and Robert Sean Leonard also star, and those are some pretty big names. Their performances are fine, but Nina Arianda steals the show in her Broadway debut. I liked the play (a 1940's comedy); it's a fun, refreshing change from the dramas I've been seeing lately.

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures

Yes, that's the full title. It's a mouthful, and it's length also reflects the length of the play (four hours long). I saw this because Nicole and I bought subscriptions to Signature Theater's Tony Kushner series this year (mostly for Angels in America). It's a good play, and it doesn't feel as long as it is (although I think it could use a teeny bit of trimming). It's a dark and heavy family drama about a man who wants to kill himself and gathers his family together to reach a consensus. It features a very strong ensemble cast Michael Cristofer, Linda Edmond, Michael Esper, Steven Pasquale, Stephen Spinella, and more). I think Tony Kushner is a brilliant guy and I'm glad to spend this season exploring some of his plays.

And, on a completely unrelated note, here's a fun giveaway contest online; Leslie Sarna (the dainty vegetarian) is giving away some popcorn, so check it out.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

"Sunday morning, I'm waking up. Can't even focus on a coffee cup. Don't even know who's bed I'm in. Where do I start? Where do I begin?" ~the chemical brothers

Although it's spring and not generally the best time for new movies, there are some new ones out now that are quite good. Here are five that I've seen in the past few months that I've enjoyed:

Saoirse Ronan is amazing in this visually beautiful thriller. In fact, all the performances are strong; Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett are also great as usual. The score (by The Chemical Brothers) is gorgeous, the cinematography is very impressive, and I enjoyed this modern fairy tale very, very much.

Win Win
I can't say enough good things about this film. Oh, Thomas McCarthy, how I love you. This charming movie won me over with some great performances (Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Alex Shaffer, and Melanie Lynskey make up the talented cast) and a perfect mix of humor and heart. Just go see this movie.

Source Code
Jake Gyllenhaal makes this worth seeing. It's like Groundhog Day turned into a thriller. It's well-paced and entertaining. The ending didn't make sense to me, and that took away from my enjoyment. Other than that, it's a well-made film.

The Lincoln Lawyer
I love Matthew McConaughey and Marisa Tomei, so I was excited about this one. It didn't disappoint. It was a good, solid thriller with a strong screenplay and a talented cast. It was nice to see McConaughey in a serious role again; it made me want to go home and watch A Time to Kill to see more of that side of him.

Jane Eyre
This is a solid adaptation of the classic novel. Mia Wasikowska is one of my favorite young actresses, and she makes a great Jane. It's a beautiful movie.

I'll be back soon with new Broadway show reviews.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

"New York, you're perfect, don't please don't change a thing. Your mild billionaire mayor's now convinced he's a king. So the boring collect - I mean all disrespect - in the neighborhood bars I'd once dreamt I would drink." ~lcd soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem played what is supposed to be their last concert ever last night. I'm hoping they come back. The show was at MSG, and I really wanted to go, but I couldn't get tickets. The lead singer of LCD Soundsystem tried for tickets when they went on sale out of curiosity, and he couldn't even get them. He was pretty pissed. So was I, because it would have been amazing to be there. I couldn't even get tickets to one of the added Terminal 5 shows. I've loved the band for awhile. "All My Friends" is one of my absolute favorite songs. They played it last night. It killed me to read about the show this morning. They unsurprisingly ended the show with "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" (posted above). Yeah, it kills me to think about it.

Wow, I haven't written in awhile. Now I don't even know where to start. I think show reviews is as good a place as any, so here goes. I've seen a few Broadway shows recently, so I'll talk about those.

The first was Catch Me If You Can. It was a fun night of theater. I think the show was a bit long and could use some trimming. Some cuts might help add some excitement to it; for a show all about a chase, I didn't really feel the sense of thrill that I was expecting. The score is fine but nothing all that special. The sets and costumes are atrocious. What stood out to me was the acting. As Frank Abagnale, Jr. (the Leo DiCaprio role), Aaron Tveit is wonderful. He's incredibly charming and he's perfectly cast. I've loved him since Next to Normal (he was the original Gabe on Broadway), and I'm so glad to see he's moved on to something else that showcases his talent. I won't be surprised if he wins the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical this year. Norbert Leo Butz plays Carl Hanratty (the Tom Hanks role), and he does a great job, too. He sounds like Tom Hanks. He has one big number and it sounds a whole lot like "Great Big Stuff" (one of his songs in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, for which he won a Tony). Kerry Butler doesn't have much to do, which is too bad because I love her. She's one of my favorite musical theater actresses. She knocks the park out of "Fly, Fly Away," her big number.

(Sidebar: I'm very glad that the original siblings from Broadway's Next to Normal are currently working on Broadway. Seeing Aaron in Catch Me If You Can and seeing his N2N sister, Jenn Damiano, in Spider-Man recently made me really miss N2N. It also made me feel bad that Jenn Damiano ended up in the criminally underused role of Mary Jane in a disaster of a musical. I'm sure it will be difficult for both of them to find shows as good as N2N, but I'm glad that Aaron has at least found this great role.)

Next up was The Book of Mormon. Where do I even start? This is the show of the season. It will clean house at the Tonys this year. It's gotten fabulous reviews all over the place, from The New York Times (Ben Brantley loved it) to Josh Schwartz (who tweeted: "Book of Mormon may be the best thing I've seen on Broadway... not to overhype..."). I respect Josh Schwartz's opinion immensely, so it was cool to see that. Anyway, this show is brilliant. First of all, it's from the creators of South Park, and it's hilarious. It's not as crude as I expected it to be, though. It's actually full of heart. It's smart and moving and I can't say enough good things about it. It's just wonderful. Go see it. I did standing room, and it was totally worth the two-hour wait (and the view from standing room is great).

Finally, I saw the play High, starring Kathleen Turner. I wasn't crazy about the play. It was too formulaic and yet also inconsistent in terms of character. I enjoyed seeing Kathleen Turner onstage, and Evan Jonigkeit is an incredibly talented young actor giving a fantastic performance, but I wouldn't recommend this one.