Monday, March 31, 2008

Another star on Broadway

Well, Ms. Haubenstock was busy this past week. She didn't much care for CAT's 'Harvey,' seemed to have a grand time at RichShakes 'As You Like It,' and ended the weekend with an enjoyable Arts and Letter Live performance. Phew -- that's quite a variety to take in.

(Update: I missed the 'Greater Tuna' review initially and did you all also catch Theatre VCU's David Leong in the article about the New Works at Richmond Ballet? Man, that's a lot of theater-related press!)

Personally, I was staying out of the cold rain yesterday and catching up on gossip. Like, for instance, the story that Katie Holmes (aka Mrs. Tom Cruise) may be headed to Broadway. While the story didn't much surprise me (or even interest me), what caught my attention was the insanely nasty invective leveled against her in the comments section of this story. You'd have thought Katie had gone to these people's homes and strangled their puppies. What is it about some people that makes them want to spew hate at some random starlet? Even in my mid-40s, I cling to this notion that people are basically good at heart. Perusal of the comments on almost any entertainment website (or even worse, political website) takes a devastating toll on that naive idea...

(PS: I just found a story similar to the one I did in Style -- only longer -- about Granville Scott in 'Harvey' on the Collegiate website. Check it out if you want even more Granville!)

19 comments:

Jacquie said...

She also LOVED Greater Tuna (Sunday review).

Andrew Hamm said...

While I don't hold personal rancor for Ms. Holmes, I am increasingly disaffected by the Broadway pattern of the past two decades to require a household name be involved in every "significant" piece of theatre: either a revival of a household name show, an adaptation of a household name movie, or a household name star. I think it's some of this that bleeds into personal attacks on an actor placed in this situation.

I would rather see a group of dedicated local theatre artists create a new or seldom-seen work than a star of the screen in the musical adaptation of Hit Movie X any day of the week, and twice on Sundays. This is why I don't go to New York to see theatre.

Dave T said...

Oops -- I missed the Greater Tuna review. I'll have to look that up! Thanks for the catch, Jacquie!

Anonymous said...

Andrew, not all theatre in NY is Broadway. There is a huge amount of terrific and original work coming out of NY. If you're not going there to see theatre for that reason, then it's because you've dug your heels into a position. If you go to NY again let me know and I'll give a list of wonderful small-medium companies that are doing really interesting work.
As for Broadway, it's suffering. If you were running a Broadway theatre company, you'd be tempted to do the same method. The ancient theatre credo has always been the same: 'Bums on seats.' That is truer now more than ever in what is now a slowly dying art form. And yes, it is.

Not that it's a tactic exclusive to Broadway....

Remember a particular company in Richmond last summer pumping the hell out of a particular actor with a particular pedigree who was not particularly good? That person wasn't a household name, but he happened to work with someone who was. Is that not the exact same tactic?

James

Anonymous said...

wow. throw another stick onto that fire.

Frank Creasy said...

Wow James - lot of particulars without a lot of specifics there brother! Clearly more to that story, but probably one for you and Andrew to discuss offline, it seems...

But to balance out the two views, best as I can tell: I'm sure there's LOTS of great theatre off Broadway and off off Broadway. But seeing a Broadway show is part of New York's allure. I've seen hits and misses (but mostly hits), though REALLY now - if you're going to see a Broadway show and it's featuring, say, Fantasia Barrino...don't you know what you're getting before you flush your money on the ticket? Sad to say, but for some just the "thrill" of seeing Katie Holmes or someone else poorly suited to the Broadway stage IS the allure of going to those shows.

I clearly recall many years ago seeing a production in Columbus, Ohio of Barefoot in the Park featuring Robert Urich (may he rest in peace). No disrespect to the dead, but it was like watching a high school production where you cast the offensive tackle from the football team simply because he looked the part. So, I was broken from the appeal of "name" actors in a production long ago.

On the other hand - I know the local talents here well worth the pittance I pay to see their ample skills. I'm there time and again because I know they'll not disappoint.

But that Katie Holmes - well, she IS a cutie pie!

Dave T said...

I never saw Fantasia on Broadway but the New York Times called her "pretty terrific." (http://theater2.nytimes.com/2007/05/18/theater/reviews/18purp.html) I did see her during her season on American Idol and she did pack a lot of drama in a 2-minute version of "Summertime." Reviews for Clay Aiken in Spamalot -- as someone pointed out to me a while back -- were certainly not bad. And this is all interesting given that the version of "Rent" that opens here in a couple of days is being heavily promoted as starring two Idol veterans...

Anonymous said...

Now, now...
What was not specific?

Andrew said he doesn't go to NY to see theatre because he doesn't want to see household names in household productions. I am offering him some names of great smaller companies that have lots to offer. I would hate to think that a theatre practitioner won't go to see theatre in the country's largest theatre city based on an assumption that it is all commercial.

Yes, I was being a little tongue in cheek about RSF pumping the Prospero guy and dropping Gielgud's (household) name. And of course, they should have! But I was making a point about Broadway productions capitalizing on pedigree and/or star-power as much as any small company would. I agree whole-heartedly with him on the issue of Broadway. It's hard to see remounts and remakes and remounts of remakes. Do I really want to see 'Annie Get Your Gun or 'Legally Blonde', the musical? Not overly. But then, we do SHAKESPEARE. Talk about your remounts! He didn't come up with those stories either! He just happened to be a pretty swingin' writer and we dig it for the love of brilliant language, etc, but taste is taste and one thing has nothing to do with the other when trying to lure people in to buy your product - and that was my point.

I was simply putting into perspective 2 things:

1. There is a TON of theatre in NY that isn't a remount of a commercial product with some actor with a name trying to boost their career.
2. Almost no theatre is exempt from the basic business practice of using a name/pedigree to sell tickets. Including his.

And yes, Katie Holmes would be delicious on a cracker...

More specific?

I dunno, maybe I'm just bored because I've been sitting around the house and working from home all week...

James

Frank Creasy said...

I'll admit, Dave, that Fantasia's version of "Summertime" was the only time she truly impressed me. She has her fans, no doubt...but I watched about 10 minutes of her made-for-tv movie, and the woman couldn't even play HERSELF convincingly! Not since Pia Zadora have we seen acting sink to this level!

But hey - just my opinion. On the other hand, I was a big Clay Aiken fan during his Idol run!

Andrew Hamm said...

I should have written "Broadway" instead of "New York" in my initial post. I know there's great theatre off- and off-off; I was there not so long ago and I made some of it.

Your allegory is pointed, but not exactly fair since the individual in question was in fact not a household name but did in fact have a resume and pedigree consistent with the role he was cast in. Unlike, say, Washington Shakespeare's choice of Harry Hamlin to play King Henry V, one of the worst stage performances I've ever seen in my life. Or the famous Keanu Reeves Hamlet in Canada about ten years ago. I'm sure both sold tickets, though...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I saw that Hank. You're right Andrew, it was a turkey. However, now you're being unfair to old Harry - he studied at the American Conservatory Theatre in S.F. and did theatre before he went into screen work....
He was also in Clash of the Titans! I mean, come on! That's LIKE classical training, isn't it?

I forgot to reiterate the whole basis for my pointing this out in the first place. It's not to pick on Andrew. (Well, maybe a little) :) It was about Broadway struggling right now - like the rest of us. It sucks, but it's not enough for them to just put on great theatre and hope people will show - also like the rest of us. Many of these major companies are in serious financial trouble. I have a B-way producer friend who lamented this to me, but the reality is that theatre has a lot to compete with these days. And unless you're a teenage drama student, gay man or just dorks like us, people (who are pretty plugged into the world of screen actors) need a good reason to go see something live. Also it's hard for him to get backing from money who wants to know that they're plugging into something worth investing in. PLUS all this experimentation to find the next wave of popular theatre means a high turnover rate for shows and a lot of dark time for the theatres. And as my producer friend puts it 'money not earned is money lost.'

Patti Lupone? Who the hell is that?
Wait, the hot chick from 'Married With Children' is is playing Medea? I've always wanted to see that play! Cha-Ching!

I always wonder this myself:
What if, say, Ryan Phillipe wanted to be in my theatre company's production of 'Macbeth'. It's his dream role! He agrees to take Equity scale (as I believe Keanu did) and prepares the hell out of the role to the best of his ability. Knowing that he'd do a so-so job and probably butcher the verse, but also that I'd probably have to turn people away at the gates, extend the run, get huge publicity, make a killing off of merchandise and put my company in the black - would I hire him?
Would you?

Anonymous said...

There are links to 5 other articles in this post related to RICHMOND THEATRE. Yet the one that seems to have grabbed the most attention is the only one that has no relation to Richmond theatre whatsoever... hmmm... How ironic that there are so many comments about how "stars" on Broadway doesn't deserve all the hype & pubclicity, yet we continue to talk about them...

Jacquie said...

Can we trade out Mr. Phillipe for Mr. Depp? Then I am THERE!!!

Jacquie said...

All kidding aside, I have to pipe in with my 2 cents regarding the actor who played Prospero last summer. Yes, he did a stint with a big named actor (and I was ready to be impressed when I went to see the show…but nope. I thought he was not even half as good as Jack Parrish, or any of the leading men in Henry IV. Maybe I am bias because I worked with all of them. The home team still wins as far as I am concerned.

Anonymous said...

According to the Broadway League, Broadway saw more tickets sold in 2006-07 than ever before. It also took in more money than ever before. For the 06-07 season, there were 35 B'way openings, of which 12 were new, not revival, musicals, and 11 new, not revival, plays. This season's statistics will be down because of the stagehand's strike, but according to Variety, ticket sales are very strong, even during a traditionally slow period.

At the end of 3/23/08, 20 of the 30Bway shows were playing above 90% capacity.

Broadway has the audacity to use star power in the coming weeks by doing a revival of "you know what" by W.S. using that famous Trekie Patrick Stewart. I guess Andrew won't be seeing that show.

A Bway producer I know made money on his last two critically aclaimed, Tony Award winning Bway productions, that did not use movie star power.

I was fortunate enough to see Madonna (pop star) in her Bway debut in Mamet's Speed the Plow--- certainly a decision to use star power --- and she was good.

I was also fortunate to see Oliver Platt (TV and movie actor) do Shining City--- his second stage appearance. Pretty darn good. I challenge any local dedicated theatre artist to top his performance.

I also saw Richard Dreyfuss do Iago in Central Park (with Raul Julia) --- After seeing him there and Christopher Plummer do it on Bway opposite James Earl Jones, I really don't need to see a local dedicated theatre artist attack the role.

As far as Katie Holmes go, lets not judge too soon, I found her pretty good in Pieces of April. Not knowing the play she may be in, I will not judge a producer's decision on this one.

And yes, you would hire Ryan Phillipe if he meant SRO performances. Why? With your name attached to the show, you get success and you get more power. With your power, you get more opportunity to direct the plays you want to direct with your cast. After a while, your name becomes a draw. Then, you can direct your dream production of Lear with, oh I don't know, Andrew.

Whether you like it or not, Bway is the big leagues-- it is where the best of the best go to work---
Yeah, sure enough producers use star power--- and sometimes it is the right choice and sometimes its not. Just like in little old Richmond.

Don't fault the audiences for wanting to go to see a revival with a star--- I've heard too many stories of kids falling in love with theatre because of their first Bway experience (Gov. Kaine might fall into that group, I believe after I heard him talk about his Bway experience).

This August I took my 17 yr old niece to see Spring Awakening--- her first ever professional theatre experience---- needless to say, as she sat on the sixth row, her mouth was agape in joy and excitement for two solid hours--- she was blown away-- she did not want to leave the theatre. And the discussion afterwards had her head spinning. Will any local production have that effect on her?

So, provincal elitists can keep there local theatre--- its just fine. But in the words of George M. Cohan--- give my regards to Old Broadway.

Chris

Anonymous said...

Cool stats, Chris!
Thanks!

Wish I could have seen that Raul Julia Tempest...

James

Anonymous said...

I guess my B-way friend is not doing as well as your b-way friend, Chris...

J

Andrew Hamm said...

Spring Awakening, starring no one you've ever heard of, written by a one-hit wonder composer almost no one has ever heard of. Smash hit, magnificent show. Let's have more of that, please.

It's a bit odd how people are responding to my initial post as if I've insulted their mother. I choose to focus on local theatre as a practitioner and an audience member. Can you possibly ever forgive me for feeling like I have a mission and a vocation to serve Richmond? Or does that make me too much of a "provincial elitist?" which is, by the way, the silliest thing I have ever been called.

I reiterate that I've been in New York, lived there, worked there, and seen lots of theatre there, big and small. I personally feel a much greater attachment to the work that smaller local theatre companies are doing in smaller markets. So did such obscure little theatre practitioners as Grotowski and Meyerhold. That doesn't mean you have to agree, for crying out loud, and I didn't say "New York theatre sucks!" or anything like it.

Please stop responding to me as if my opinion is a personal affront to your aesthetic. I am more moved by the way smaller markets respond to the more personal nature of smaller theatre than by multi-million-dollar productions in a cynical, theatre-saturated market. That's just the way I feel. That's the driving force behind the way I make art; it doesn't have to affect your work or enjoyment of theatre in the slightest.

And I need to play Edmund before I play Lear, thank you.

Cynde said...

And I would not hire Ryan Phillipe jsut because he asked.
Cynde