Arts Beat 2-6-13
Les Misérables – The Movie
The global stage sensation seen by over 60 million people is now a film. Following its premiere in London, Les Misérables opened on Broadway in 1987 – it won the Tony Award as best musical and ran until 2003, followed by a short lived revival a few years ago.
It is customary to record a soundtrack in advance and lip-synch while filming. Applying the truth to the melody, director Tom Hooper allowed his cast to act spontaneously while singing live. I would have preferred slightly better and more rhythmic singing, but was delighted the film was made.
On the edge of the abyss, Anne Hathaway’s interpretation of “I Dreamed a Dream” is at the top of the list of memorable moments. Hugh Jackman holds the film’s emotional weight as the central Jean Valjean.
Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean in London and on Broadway, shows up in a smaller role as the Bishop, but no one can mistake the voice of a true musical theater original. The mark of another fine Broadway voice is evident in Aaron Tveit’s portrayal of Enjolras, and Daniel Huttlestone’s precocious Gavroche is on the mark.
There are some plot additions and changes (many borrowed from the original source – Victor Hugo’s novel) that are brilliant, and others that are not as effective and sometimes problematic.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh announced that Les Misérables would be returning to Broadway in the 2013-2014 season, as he is bringing the critically acclaimed current National Tour back to the New York stage.
Chaplin – the Musical
Chaplin, a new Broadway musical depicting the life of film icon Charlie Chaplin, with music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis, book by Thomas Meehan and Christopher Curtis recently played its final performance at the Barrymore Theatre.
Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the production in its black-and-white Hollywoodland palette was sheer artistry and excellence. I returned to see it a second time – it was that good. With bouts of inventive dance scattered throughout, Chaplin’s biography is a big-story in its grand scope, and this ambitious tale was told in the language of the theater with form, structure and substance.
In the title role, Rob McClure – a physical actor with a genius for movement, gives a memorable, nuanced performance. Carlyle and McClure have executed one of the finest pieces of work in recent memory with a buoyant costume-closet dance—as the character of “The Tramp” is assembled and emerges.
From the slums of London to the heights of Hollywood, the 22-person musical reveals the man behind the legend, the undeniable genius that forever changed the way America went to the movies. The superb cast included Christiane Noll – touching as Chaplin’s mother; Jenn Colella as an acid Hedda Hopper; Hayley Podschun as the conniving first wife; Erin Mackey as the glowing final wife; and a heart-retching Zachary Unger as Young Charlie and the child actor, Jackie Coogan.
Look for the United States national tour of Chaplin, which will launch in the fall of 2014, with plans for an international world tour to follow. The show will also will be produced in São Paulo, Brazil at the Teatro Procópio Ferreira in April 2014. The Original Broadway Cast Recording is available digitally and in retail stores.
The Broadway drama, the laughter, and the tears – it’s all there for Smash Season 2, which premieres on February 5. Featuring new faces, old rivalries and lots of singing and dancing, the new season will have you jazzed for the Great White Way again. In addition to many returning regulars the show will feature Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Sean Hayes, Jesse L. Martin, the return of Bernadette Peters and a guest appearance by Liza Minnelli.
The Americans (FX)
Russian-born KGB agents are on a mission to infiltrate and destroy the U.S. government in the early 1980s, all under the cover of an average suburban couple raising kids on the outskirts of D.C. Their double lives are complicated when an FBI agent moves in across the street. This spy drama stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, with Polish actor Olek Krupa in a supporting role as a Soviet Colonel.
Downton Abbey (PBS)
The hit British period drama has returned on Sunday nights for its third season on American airwaves. The latest season promises to bring plenty of surprises for the show’s characters. One of the exciting new additions is the introduction of Shirley MacLaine as the American mother of Lord Grantham’s wife, Lady Cora.
Actors’ Equity Centennial Book
Performance of the Century – 100 Years of Actors’ Equity Association and the Rise of Professional American Theater, a coffee table book celebrating the centennial of the nation’s professional union for theater artists is now available in bookstores nationwide. Written by theatre journalist with a forward by AEA President Nick Wyman, it is must-have for anyone interested in the theater. The book compares the intensely demanding craft of the theatre in the words of Actors and Stage Managers offering both the allure and lore that so fascinates the public. Available through major bookstores, the book is also available at www.PlaybillStore.com.
“Dance Like No One Is Watching!”
It is refreshing to see a performance of such emotion and power as the performance art piece – An Attempt to Fail At Groundbreaking Art With Pina Arcade Smith performed by Antony Rizzi and Irene Klein at the Abrons Center in Manhattan.
Inspired by an unlikely encounter with a group of nuns in Rome, the performance is an uncanny ode to artistic role models. Rizzi draws on characters whose underground aesthetics reach for something deeper – fearless and different. The work is visceral, eclectically raw, honest, and often profound. “It may not be your theater, but it’s theater for someone,” states Rizzi. The culmination is a riveting movement solo – “dance like no one is watching!” The work will be performed in Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Pacific Northwest at City Center
For the first time since 1996, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s full company returns to New York and City Center on February 13 – 16. Under the direction of artistic director Peter Boal the company will present two programs: a mixed repertory of Balanchine and Jean-Christophe Maillot’s full-length Roméo et Juliette. www.nycitycenter.org.
Mary Poppins to Close
The Broadway musical Mary Poppins will close on March 3 at the New Amsterdam Theater to make way for extensive renovations of the Disney-owned house before its next tenant: a musical adaptation of the company’s 1992 animated film Aladdin. Based on the children’s books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, “Mary Poppins” opened in November 2006 and will have run more than 2,600 performances on Broadway when it closes.
Shofar to Tour
Shofar – a trio of three Polish musicians Raphael Roginski (electric guitar), Mikolaj Trzaska (saxophone, bass clarinet) and Macio Moretti (drums) will tour the United States from February 21 -March 3, playing New York, Chicago, Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Portland. The musicians began to experiment with Jewish music in 2006, in the context of a general revival of interest in Jewish culture in Poland. Many Poles explored their own Jewish family roots that had been suppressed under Communism. Shofar performs traditional Jewish music fused with contemporary avant-jazz and rock. The tour is presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York; for more information: www.PolishCulture-NYC.org.
Winter Burlesque for Charity
Warming up the cold souls of winter, Broadway Bares: Winter Burlesque played two performances at New York’s XL nightclub, and netted $35,428 for Broadway Cares/Equality Fights AIDS. The sizzling show, directed by Michael Lee Scott featured artistically choreographed stripteases, songs and dance routines from more than 25 amazing talents, including Steven Wenslawski and Andrew Glaszek, and was hosted by Broadway Bares favorite Jen Cody.
Documentary – The Guardian of the Past
The documentary The Guardian of the Past, about art historian Borys Voznytsky, who fought relentlessly under Soviet tyranny to preserve some twelve thousand works of Ukrainian and Polish sacred art, will be shown on February 17, 2:00 pm at The Ukrainian Museum in New York City. After the screening director Małgorzata Potocka will speak about the very special relationship she developed with this “Ukrainian hero” while filming her documentary, and about fundraising efforts to build a museum that could house a permanent exhibition of this trove of icons, portraits, sculptures, and paintings dating from the 16th through the 18th centuries. The event is presented by The Ukrainian Museum, the Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University, and The Polish Cultural Institute New York; for more information: www.ukrainianmuseum.org.