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Tri-State Theater
Let's discuss upcoming shows, secrets behind the scenes, things you never knew about the theater and why live theater is so darn entertaining.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Last Summer for "The Little Mermaid"

The Associated Press is reporting that the Disney musical The Little Mermaid will end its Broadway run at the end of the summer.

I'm surprised - I thought it would run longer than a year-and-a-half, but perhaps the tough financial times are partly to blame.

Anyway, here's the story:
The Little Mermaid is set for its final Broadway swim.

The lavish musical based on the Disney animated film will close Aug. 30 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York after a run of 685 performances.

Producer Thomas Schumacher says a national tour is planned for fall 2010. It will be followed by overseas productions.

The Little Mermaid opened in January 2008.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Back in Town!

Sorry to have gone silent over the weekend, but I was off enjoying a short vacation up in Chicago.

But I was thinking of you, gentle readers, so I took in a show - Second City's production of Rod Blagojevich, Superstar (based on the bizarre life of the Illinois governor who was recently impeached).

I'm still recovering from the trip, so I'll try to get my review posted tomorrow. In the meantime, it's great to be home!

Friday, June 26, 2009

On Stage This Weekend - Lots of Shows!

Coming up this weekend:

- Guys and Dolls will be presented by the Portsmouth Little Theatre tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. You can purchase tickets online at www.pltlive.com.

- Curtains will be presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild June 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., and June 29 at 3 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater.

- All Shook Up will be presented June 27, 28 and 30 at Jenny Wiley State Park.

- Theatre West Virginia will present Hatfield and McCoys June 26, 28, 30 at 8:15 a.m.

- Willy Wonka will be presented at Chief Logan State Park through July 5 at 8:30 p.m.

- The Wiz will be presented by The Red Lion Theatre Company at Greenbo Lake State Park Amphitheatre tonight through Sunday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

So get out there and support your summer theatre!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

No Pants Benefit for Kanawha Players

Now this sounds like a fun evening - but just for grownups! My pal Tony Slack sends along this info:
The No Pants Players are doing a Benefit Show for Kanawha Players, with all proceeds going to KP.

This is a special show - not only is this a benefit for a great cause, but also, no one under 17 will be admitted! That's right, those No Pants guys, known for their family-friendly shows, are putting it all out for a rare "adult comedy" performance!

It will be no-holds barred, as WV's premiere improv comedy troupe brings the funny to make KP some money. Kanawha Players has a very special meaning to the NPP, due to the fact that it is where most of the troupe met each other.

The troupe has had many requests to do an adult comedy show since their last one, which was during Festivall two years ago.

The show will be June 27 at 10 p.m. at the Kanawha Players building. Tickets are $10 each.

Please help spread the word so we can make this show as successful as possible. Thank you for your time and support, and hope to see you all at the show... just leave the kids home for this one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On Stage This Weekend: "The Wiz"

My pal Levi sends along this information:
Red Lion present The Wiz by Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown at Greenbo Lake State Park Amphitheatre, on Thursday through Sunday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

The Wiz is a vibrant telling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, with a few twists!

In this tale, Oz is a world full of munchkins, kahlidahs, poppies, ozians, winkies, witches (both good and evil) and the wizard! So, come on out to this bright, family-friendly, colorful musical!

It stars Kameron Stambaugh as Dorothy, Kory Helmick as the Scarecrow, Tad Barker as the Tin Man, Roger Hagley as the Lion, and Drew Adams as the Wiz.

Check out redliontc.org for more information!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Laura Returns to Elle

According to this story in Playbill, Kentucky's own Laura Bell Bundy will reprise her role as Elle Woods as the touring show of Legally Blonde: The Musical visits Nashville this week.
Bundy, who is now a Nashville, TN, resident, will perform the role during the evening performances of Legally Blonde, which plays Jackson Hall June 23-28. Lauren Zakrin will portray Elle Woods at matinee performances. Bundy assumes the role while national tour leading actress Becky Gulsvig is on vacation.
Some upcoming touring shows that will bring Legally Blonde into our area (sorta) include:

Nashville - June 23-28
Atlanta - July 14-19
Hershey, Penn. - Dec. 8-13
Norfolk - Dec. 28, 2009 - Jan. 2, 2010
Indianapolis - May 4-9, 2010
Cincinnati - May 11-23, 2010
Louisville - June 8-13, 2010

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Cast of "Rent"

The Charleston Light Opera Guild will be staging Rent in late July and early August, and they've just announced the cast for the show - and there are some names familiar to audiences in Huntington.

Here 'tis:

Mark Cohen - Chris Conrad
Roger Davis - Ryan Hardiman
Mimi Marquez - Beth Winkler
Benny Coffin, III - D'laontie Lewis
Maureen Johnson - Mara Stewart
Joanne Jefferson - Nakeila Killing
Tom Collins - Michael Barnes
Angel Schunard - Nathan Mohebbi

Ensemble:
Mark's Mom - Ann McBurney
Mr. Jefferson - Christopher Corbett
Mrs. Jefferson - Madeline Gourevich
Restaurant Man - Michael Rose
"Seasons" soloist - Sarah Plata
"Seasons" soloist - Cameron Burford
The Man - Todd Griffith
Alexis Darling - Cassie Sorrells
Roger's Mom - Jessica Sensabaugh
Vendor 2 - Kristen Pennington
Mimi's Mom, Sue - Kristan Hebbard
Paul, Mr. Gray, Dancer - Paul Shannon
Pam - Cassia King
Vendor, Dancer - Megan Green
Squeegee Man - Nicholas Foster
Bag Lady - Jessica Gardner
Vendor, Dancer - Shakira Martin
Cop, Dancer - Kevin Swafford
Caroler, Dancer - Joanna Radow

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I've been running around this weekend, so I'm running late in saying this - but Happy Father's Day!

It's a great day because of the attention I get from my two sons, and I also like to pause and remember my dad, Walt Minsker, who passed away a decade ago.

He was a great dad and a great friend. He was born and raised in Charleston, served in the Navy during World War II aboard a minesweeper in the Philippines, and returned home to build a life. He worked for almost four decades as a salesman for Appalachian Power and raised four boys. He was smart, a hard worker, was able to fix almost anything and had a terrific sense of humor. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of him and how much he meant to me.

To all you dads out there, I hope you had a great day, too!

Summer Shows Heat Up

Hey, if you're looking for information about the mob of community theatre shows being offered this summer, my pal Beth Hendricks recently assembled a comprehensive list for the Herald-Dispatch.

You can read the whole thing right here.

How's that for service?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Last Chance to Catch the New Works Festival

Tonight is the final performance in the New Works Festival 2009.

Best Imitation is a musical written by Jeremy Richter, and directed by my pal Bruce Rous (who also directed last night's show).

We asked Bruce to tell us about his experience working on the Festival, and here's what he had to say:
This is my first year to be involved, and it really is thrilling. I have the honor of directing Clint McElroy's show, and Jeremy Richter's.

I say "honor" because Jack Cirillo and Chair Julie Jackson graciously offered me these projects, and the playwrights have entrusted their work to me.

I told Dave Lavender I feel like its a big, artistic sandbox filled with all this amazing talent, and they've invited me to just come play. It's been fun, to say the least.

The writing is great, the casts are superb, and the collegial feeling of appreciation and team work at Marshall University's Department of Theatre are refreshing.

I've worked on new projects in the past including an ABC pilot and a few
musicals, but am really impressed with this Festival and what Jack and the rest have done to develop it.

It is yet another great thing I'm finding at MUT.
Thanks, Bruce!

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre of the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. For tickets or information, call 304-696-ARTS (2787). Tickets are priced at $12 or a full festival pass (all three nights) for $20.

It will be followed by a discussion/question and answer session with the playwright, director and cast. Participation is both welcome and encouraged.

All I can add is: highly recommended!

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Christmas Special in the Summer?

Only my pal Clint McElroy could dream up a Christmas Special to be presented at tonight's New Works Festival 2009 at Marshall University.

I hear the show is very funny (though probably not for little kids). Here's a quick e-interview with Clint about what you can expect:
Q: Tell us about your work that's being presented.

Clint: This year I have written a musical called The Pep Sturdley Family Christmas Special. It's a take-off on those old Christmas Specials that ran 24 hours a day on TV from Thanksgiving to December 25 when we were growing up.

My take is: What would happen if one of those old-time shows had guest stars with a somewhat more contemporary approach? It's about a very dysfunctional (but funny) family.

Q: Where did the idea for this show come from?

Clint: I actually got this idea from watching a special on PBS which had a clip from the Bing Crosby Christmas show where he sang a duet with David Bowie. That was such a surreal moment... it inspired this entire... surreal... play.

Q: How does a venue like this benefit a playwright?


Clint: With New Works I get to hear real live breathing people laugh at the jokes... hopefully. The "Q & A" afterwards is a huge help as well.

Q: This is the third year for the Festival - what's different this time around, and what hasn't changed?

Clint: The festival has gotten more and more elaborate, more sophisticated through the years. More Staging. More effects. Some of the material is a bit mature, so it might not be the cup of tea for the younger set.
The festival begins tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre of the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse.

For tickets or information, call 304-696-ARTS (2787). Tickets are priced at $12 per show or a full festival pass for $20.

Each evening’s readings will be followed by a discussion/question and answer session with the playwright, director and cast. Participation is both welcome and encouraged.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Shows Tonight at New Works Festival

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. the New Works Festival 2009 kicks off at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center with two short plays by local playwright Jonathan Joy.

I did an email interview with my pal Jon, and here's what he had to say:
Q: What is the New Works Festival?

Jon: It's a three-night festival of new plays presented by Marshall University Theatre Alliance and the Marshall University College of Fine Arts. It's an opportunity for artists and audience alike to take part in the playwriting process and to experience premieres of new comedy and drama that are "hot off the press."

Q: Tell us about your work that's being presented.

Jon: I have two new plays premiering Thursday night. Senate Idol is a satirical look at the Ohio senate race using the popular reality television show as a backdrop; contestants compete for one of the most important jobs in the state of Ohio, not in the polls, but by “phoning or texting.” The only thing that will ensure their place of a senate seat is the TV viewing audience.

Also, Fly By Night, a one-act comedy that asks the question: Is extraterrestrial life out there, and if there is, are the aliens interested in American politics, marital infidelity and life in southern Ohio?

In addition to my plays, which run about 25 minutes each, two short student-written productions will be presented. I got to see these Monday night at the tech rehearsal and I was impressed with the concepts and dialogue they have created in just a matter of weeks. This is a really talented group of students.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?

Jon: Senate Idol is loosely based on a play that I wrote in 2006 titled Just Another Day In November. That play was a political comedy based on the making of campaign commercials. I decided to take the concept one step further and put our cast of would-be politicians in a reality TV world where they must compete for votes in a very non-conventional way. After all, American Idol and Survivor are so popular. Why not pick our leaders the same way?

The idea for Fly By Night came out of a writing assignment that I have used with some of my students. We were working on details in descriptive writing and I asked them to imagine a conversation with a being from another world. How would you describe your life, job, neighborhood, etc. to someone with no basis for comparison? It prompted a pretty interesting discussion and I thought the concept had some nice comic possibilities. What I came up with is a short play with an alien interviewing a guy on his front porch one summer night. It's a simple concept, but I got some really interesting ideas from it.

Q: How does a venue like the New Works Festival benefit a playwright?


Jon: It's a valuable experience. As a playwright, the work created is meant to be performed in front of an audience. You get to hear the audience respond live and there is no more direct way to analyze what works and what doesn't. The "Q & A" period after the shows is helpful, too. It's interesting to hear thoughts, comments and suggestions from everybody in attendance. It always gives me something to think about when I go back to revise or when I start another project.

Q: This is the third year for the Festival - what's different this time around, and what hasn't changed?

Jon: In some ways it's very different. The Marshall University Theatre students have been more involved than ever. Both of my plays are cast entirely with students (under the direction of Jack Cirillo) and several new works written by the students will be presented.

In other ways, it feels very similar to the first two years. There are a lot of familiar faces from the community and the format for the plays and the "Q & A" period at the end of each night is basically the same as before.

I think an audience member whose been there before will see a familiar format with some nice surprising changes/additions.

Q: Why would you recommend the Festival to theatre fans out there?

Jon: It's a fun and interactive theatre experience. Audience members will get to see some great works in progress and add his/her input. These plays only premiere once. That makes it a really exciting and special event for me, and I believe, many of the actors involved and the audience present will feel the same. Audiences will laugh and have a great time, too. Additionally, in this case, the audience could even shape the future development of each play.

Q: Tell us the times, dates and location for the New Works Festival.

Jon: The three-night festival will present both staged and unstaged readings of four new plays over three consecutive evenings, June 18-20, 2009. All readings will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre of the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse.

For tickets or information, call 304-696-ARTS (2787). Tickets are priced at $12 per show or a full festival pass (all three nights) for $20.

Each evening’s readings will be followed by a discussion/question and answer session with the playwright, director and cast. Participation is both welcome and encouraged. The schedule of events is as follows:

Thursday, June 18 - two short comedies: Fly By Night and Senate Idol by Jonathan Joy

Friday, June 19 - new musical comedy: The Pep Sturdley Family Christmas Special by Clint McElroy

Saturday, June 20 - new musical drama: Best Imitation by Jeremy Richter

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Previewing the New Works Festival 2009

The driving force behind Marshall University's New Works Festival is my pal Jack Cirillo, who's a terrific instructor, director and actor (among his many talents).

I did a quick email interview with him about the festival (which starts tomorrow night), and here's what he had to say:
Q: This is the third year for the Festival - what's different this time around, and what hasn't changed?

Jack: This year we're adding a new element. We have a "resident company" of student theatre artists who have developed some original material - DEVISED WORK is the hep term for it. Over the course of the last month the student group - about 12 in all - have gathered regularly and have collaboratively worked to create several short (very short) scenes and monologues that will be featured throughout the festival as what we're calling "Interludes." They're all very innovative and are a very important contribution to this year's presentations.

Q: Why would you recommend the Festival to theatre fans out there?


Jack: This is the only theatre presentation in the area that invites the audience to not only witness the birth of a new play, but offers a forum to contribute to its development in the post-show discussion each of the three evenings. This kind of work is a staple to theatre communities in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and throughout the country and is the only one in our Tri-State Region.
Thanks, Jack!

The three-night festival will present both staged and unstaged readings of four new plays over three consecutive evenings, June 18-20, 2009. All readings will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre of the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse.

For tickets or information, call 304-696-ARTS (2787). Tickets are priced at $12 per show or a full festival pass (all three nights) for $20.

Don't miss it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Works Festival 2009

Thanks to my pal Jack Cirillo for sending along everything you need to know about the New Works Festival:
If you think there are no original ideas out there lately, then drop by Marshall University during The New Works Festival 2009 to see the premiere of four new plays by local and national playwrights, presented by Marshall University Theatre Alliance and the Marshall University College of Fine Arts.

The three-night festival will present both staged and unstaged readings of four new plays over three consecutive evenings, June 18-20, 2009. All readings will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Francis Booth Experimental Theatre of the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse.

Each evening’s readings will be followed by a discussion/question and answer session with the playwright, director and cast. Participation is both welcome and encouraged.

The schedule of events is as follows:

On Thursday, June 18, 2009, two new one-act plays by talented local/national playwright Jonathan Joy will be presented: Senate Idol, a satirical look at the Ohio senate race using the popular reality television show as a backdrop. Contestants compete for one of the most important jobs in the state of Ohio, not in the polls, but by “phoning or texting.” The only thing that will ensure their place of a senate seat is the TV viewing audience.

Fly By Night is a one-act comedy that asks the question: Is there extraterrestrial life out there, and if there is, are they interested in American politics, marital infidelity and life in southern Ohio?

On Friday, June 19, Clint McElroy’s new holiday comedy will be premiered: The Pep Sturdley Family Christmas Special. Pep is an American icon and his family gathers annually to celebrate the holidays with some good old-fashioned fun, song and humor. The problem is: Pep’s family dysfunction turns the hour-long live broadcast into a chaotic nightmare of epic proportions. Pep’s pain is our pleasure!

On Saturday, June 20, a new musical drama closes out the festival, [Best Imitation] by West Virginia playwright and Marshall University Theatre alumni Jeremy Richter. It's a contemporary twist on the “boy meets girl” musical genre. This is a dark and sensitive story that follows the strained relationships of mismatched couples looking for love and rarely finding it.

Tickets are now on sale. For further information or to purchase tickets, visit the Marshall University Theatre box office in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center or call 304-696-ARTS (2787). Box Office hours are Monday – Friday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets are priced at $12 per evening or a full festival pass (all three nights) at $20.
Let me just add that I attended the first two editions of the New Works Festival (in 2007 and 2008) and had a terrific time. Highly recommended!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Coming Up This Week: New Works Festival

Coming up next weekend is the third New Works Festival, which is presented every summer by the Marshall University Department of Theatre.

It's kind of a "rough cut" version of short plays, and they're presented with minimal sets, props or costumes. It offers an interesting and entertaining look inside the process of creating a show, and it presents some excellent works.

I'll have more about it in the days ahead, including (hopefully) interviews with some of the creative minds behind the festival.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Several Shows Closing on Broadway

The Tony Awards were last Sunday, and after that show it's not unusual for more than a few shows on Broadway to announce they're shutting down.

This season is no different, and tonight's performance is the last for several shows, including the revival of Guys and Dolls, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Reasons to Be Pretty and Exit the King.

But not to worry, there are lots of other shows waiting in the wings! For example, a revival of The Wiz has its official opening this week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Mamma Mia" Moves Up the List

The Broadway show Mamma Mia! is about to hit another milestone, as its June 27 performance will take it past Tobacco Road into 15th place on the list of all-time longest-running shows on Broadway.

The show will celebrate by offering discounted tickets and contests. And looking at the list, in the space of another year (assuming it continues) Mamma Mia will move up to 11th place. But it'll take a few more years to crack the top 10.

The most amazing number, of course, belongs to Phantom of the Opera, which is number one and still going strong.

Here are the numbers from May (the shows with a (*) next to it are still running):

1. The Phantom of the Opera 8859 (*)
2. Cats 7485
3. Les Misérables 6680
4. A Chorus Line 6137
5. Oh! Calcutta! (Revival) 5959
6. Beauty and the Beast 5461
7. Chicago (Revival) 5176 (*)
8. Rent 5124
9. The Lion King 4808 (*)
10. Miss Saigon 4097
11. 42nd Street 3486
12. Grease 3388
13. Fiddler on the Roof 3242
14. Life With Father 3224
15. Tobacco Road 3182
16. Mamma Mia! 3146 (*)

Friday, June 12, 2009

On Stage This Weekend: Four Shows

There are several shows to choose from this weekend, although you might have to do a little driving to see them.

Here are your choices:

- A Body of Water runs tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Kanawha Players Theater on Beauregard Street in Charleston.

- Smoke on the Mountain will be presented Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Jenny Wiley State Park.

- Theatre West Virginia will present Honey in the Rock Saturday at 8:15 p.m. and Hatfield and McCoys tonight and Sunday at 8:15 a.m.

So get out there and support your summer theatre!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tony Photos

One last note about the 63rd Annual Tony Awards: you can see a pile of photos from the show (including lots of backstage stuff) at the Herald-Dispatch photo gallery page right here.

This photo, for example, shows the crowd scene at the end of the opening medley of numbers that included the casts from all the nominated shows, including Sir Elton John at center stage. (Photo by Seth Wenig courtesy AP)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Standing Ovation

The amazing thing about satellite and cable television is the sheer number of channels available. There are hundreds of channels to choose from out there - and maybe that's why I've managed to completely overlook the Ovation Channel.

(Obviously I haven't been paying close enough attention - the channel has been around for two years.)

Located at Channel 274 on DirecTV, the channel is dedicated to the arts, and the emphasis of late has been on theatre.

For example, there's a two-hour special that tells the story of the original production of The Phantom of the Opera - it features loads of interesting behind-the-scenes stories. It includes interviews with the lead actors, the composers and many others involved in the creation of Broadway's longest-running show, and lots of clips from early productions and test runs of the show.

There's another special about the girls who starred in the original production of Annie, and the effect the show had on their lives.

And there are quite a few other shows worth checking out. If you're a theatre fan, you'll want to track down the Ovation Channel!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bret Michaels Takes His Lumps

I mentioned in the live blog that it looked like someone got hit by a backdrop at the end of a song last night at the Tonys.

It was Bret Michaels from Poison, and although in the show they said he was "fine," it looks like it was more serious than that.

Here's what the Associated Press said:
Bret Michaels performed at the Tony Awards, and all he got was a nose fracture — and a busted lip.

According to Michaels’ spokeswoman, the rock singer had X-rays taken after getting clocked in the head by a descending set piece at Sunday’s Radio City Music Hall ceremony.

Publicist Joann Mignano says Michaels, who performed with his 1980s hair-metal band Poison, fractured his nose and had to get three stitches in his lip. She says he was getting a CAT scan on Monday as a precaution, as he’s had a past neck injury.

Although he’s “pretty bruised up,” Mignano says, Michaels was in good spirits.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Our "Pick the Tonys" Winner Is...

... Denise LaCara!

For the second year in a row, Denise has shown she's the master of predictions, scoring 21 out of 27 correct, including a near-sweep of all the major categories - she only missed the Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. Amazing!

Placing a distant second was yours truly, with 16 out of 27 correct.

Barely edged into third place was Mark Hayes, who managed 15 out of 27 correct.

And finishing in last place, is Zach "wait'll next year" Davis, with 12 right.

Thanks to our small but courageous contestants for taking part in our fun little competition, and congrats again to Denise, who gets bragging rights for another year!

Will anyone ever wrest the crown from her? Only time will tell...

More Stuff about the Tonys

It's interesting to note that last night's Tony Awards was the highest-rated show in recent years.

According to the Associated Press:
Broadway's big night was seen by 7.45 million people. Nielsen Media Research says that's a 19 percent increase over last year's awards show, which had 6.27 million viewers.

Elton John's show Billy Eliot won the Tony Award for best musical, and the three young men who play the lead role will share the best actor prize. Neil Patrick Harris was the host of Sunday's show, which was held at Radio City Music Hall. Angela Lansbury, Marcia Gay Harden and Geoffrey Rush also took home trophies.

Nielsen said it was the biggest audience for the Tonys in three years, the second biggest since 2003.
Personally, I'm not sure why it did so well - the show didn't have any high profile shows to feature that might bring in the casual audience (like The Producers, for example).

Let's give the credit to host Neil Patrick Harris, if just because it'll make my pal Angela happy. And speaking of NPH, in case you missed it, here's his performance at the end of the show that brought the house down. Amazing that they got the lyrics ready to go so quickly. Perhaps they peeked at the winners? Here's the video:



And finally, here's the list of all the winners:

Best Play - God of Carnage, Author: Yasmina Reza

Best Musical - Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Book of a Musical - Billy Elliot, The Musical, Lee Hall

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre - Next to Normal, Music: Tom Kitt, Lyrics: Brian Yorkey

Best Revival of a Play - The Norman Conquests

Best Revival of a Musical - Hair

Best Special Theatrical Event - Liza's at The Palace

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play - Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play - Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical - David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical - Alice Ripley, Next to Normal

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play - Roger Robinson, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play - Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical - Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical - Karen Olivo, West Side Story

Best Direction of a Play - Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage

Best Direction of a Musical - Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Choreography - Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Orchestrations (tie) - Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical; and Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal

Best Scenic Design of a Play - Derek McLane, 33 Variations

Best Scenic Design of a Musical - Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Costume Design of a Play - Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

Best Costume Design of a Musical - Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical

Best Lighting Design of a Play - Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

Best Lighting Design of a Musical - Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Sound Design of a Play - Gregory Clarke, Equus

Best Sound Design of a Musical - Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Special Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre - Jerry Herman

Regional Theatre Tony Award® - Signature Theatre, Arlington, Va.

Isabelle Stevenson Award - Phyllis Newman

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre - Shirley Herz

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Tony Awards - Final Thoughts

So, overall a pretty good Tony Awards show. The focus was on performances, which is always a good idea, but it all just seemed too tame and controlled. Only two speeches were memorable, and the clips from the Best Play nominees were so short, they seemed to be wasted.

I love the idea of focusing on traveling shows, since it allow the inclusion of some more fun numbers (especially in a year that seemed to have a shortage of fun shows).

Neil was a good host, but they needed to give him more to do. The closing "Eleven O'Clock" number was great, though.

Tomorrow I'll tally up the numbers and announce the winner of our Pick the Winners contest (which I'm pretty sure I didn't win).

Thanks to all for reading along! Now go out there and see some live theatre - you'll be glad you did!

Tony Awards #12

Final segment!

Looks like they're running over this year - very unusual for the Tonys.

Liza Minelli comes out to present the Best Musical winner. Has to be Billy Elliot, right? Right! Someone ran off stage as the clips ended - I think she forgot the envelope. Tivo confirms it!

A crowd rushes the stage, including a pile of kids. Lots of names listed, with Elton John getting the final nod - and he commandeers the mic. He praises Next to Normal (but nothing for the other nominees. Elton, Elton).

Neil Patrick Harris finally gets a chance to do something - he sings a terrific recap of the awards, seemingly made up on the spot (to the tune of "Tonight's the Night"). Terrific and funny - they needed something like this much earlier in the show, but at least it ends on a strong note.

Back with some final thoughts in a minute.

Tony Awards #11

15 minutes to go! My fingers are numb, and the room is spinning. Will I make it to the end?

Ah, I'm just kidding. Glad to hear there's a number from Jersey Boys coming up in the next segment - it's one of my all-time favorite musicals.

David Hyde Pierce is here to present Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical - the winner (they seem to be moving fast here) - the winner, Alice Ripley, Next to Normal - the crowd is going wild. She quotes John F. Kennedy at the top of her lungs, praising art. The first vigorous speech I've heard yet.

Audra McDonald presents Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. The winner: the three young performers from Billy Elliot, the Musical. It's the first time in history that three actors have shared an award. They take turns saying "Wow, this is unbelievable." They recover and manage to get through it well. The crowd loves it.

Shaundra Wilson presents the touring show of Jersey Boys - with a difference. Five Frankie Vallis from different productions singing together. Cool. Great show!

Commercial!

Tony Awards #10

Back again!

I have to say, with about a half-hour to go, the show so far has been without any shocking moments - no ridiculous dresses, no absurd acceptance speeches. A few laughs, but that's about it. What's up with that?

AH, here's Angela Lansbury. Maybe she'll do something wild. Nah, she's presenting a Lifetime Achievement award to Jerry Herman. A nice retrospective from his amazing catalog of songs. A standing ovation. He gives a moving speech. "The best of times is now."

Anne Hathaway looks stunning (as always) as she intros a song from Hair. Greta performance, with the cast rushing into the audience to mess with the crowd. Fun stuff.

Kristin Chenoweth somehow takes the stage and presents the award for Best Revival for a Musical. The winner: Hair! Groovy! The stage is packed with an army of cast and crew. The producer accepting seems a bit crazed, but who can blame him?

Commercial!

Tony Awards #9

We're back, with about 45 minutes left. My pal ANgela will be glad she skipped the last half of the Tonys - she wanted to see Neil Patrick Harris, and he's been largely absent.

Gina Gershon brags about the great season Broadway had. (Really?) She intros a number from the touring show of Legally Blonde. Good stuff.

Harvey Fierstein walks out to present the Best Revival of a Play. The winner: The Norman Conquests. Ah, the whole cast and crew runs up on the stage.

Now, the Best Play award. The winner: God of Carnage. Ah, here comes another crowd. Harvey keeps muttering things to people, but I can't make out what he's saying. It's probably very funny. Nice acceptance speech.

Commercial!

Tony Awards #8

An hour to go!

They zip through more creative Tonys - looks like Billy Elliot is cleaning up.

Frank Langella is here to present Best Lead Actress in a Play (he gives a funny plug to his most recent show, which he was not nominated for). The winner: Macia Gay Harden, God of Carnage. She gives a nice, funny speech.

Another Best Play clip - Reasons to be Pretty.

Sir Elton John comes out to loud applause - he intros a number from Billy Elliot. Hmm. Intense, but if the idea was to convince me to go see the show, I'm not sure it succeeded. But I'm sure those who know more about dance (which is just about everyone out there) probably loved it.

Commercial!

Tony Awards #7

Back again!

Neil kicks it off with what must be an inside joke about eating sushi for energy when performing. Sorry, I don't get the reference.

Jessica Lange is here to present Lead Actor in a Play. The winner: Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King. It's his first Tony - how about that! He waves his light from the Rock of Ages song and observes that he's just one light among thousands on Broadway. Very funny speech.

Another Best Play clip, this one for Dividing the Estate.

Bebe Neuwirth intros the Memorial segment for those who passed this year. Nice segment, with vocalists singing "What I Did for Love," but I hate the "Applaud for the ones I know" syndrome - the same things happen at the Oscars, and it seems rude to those who weren't as well know. Ah well.

Commercial!

Tony Awards #6

Back for more!

At the halfway mark, and my fingers are hanging in there.

We're back with a bunch of the Creative Tonys, most of which seemed to go to Billy Elliot - though one of them was a tie, which must be a rare event. I'll have to recap those after the show.

We start off with a pitch about a forum, "Working in the Theatre," to learn about creating theatre from the pros. Neat.

Hey, it's John Stamos. Best Performance by a featured actor in a musical. The winner, Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot. (He plays the kid's dad.) He brings his wife on stage with him, and looks like the first candidate to cry during his acceptance speech. No, he holds it together. Good for him.

Now, Featured Actress in a Musical: the winner - Karen Olivo from West Side Story. She gives a great, emotional speech - and then cries. She's the first, but probably not the last.

Carrie Fisher introduces a song from Next to Normal. More sound problems, but mostly minor. Strong stuff!

Break!

Tony Awards #5

Back again!

I forgot to mention that Will Ferrell said that Billy Elliot won for Best Book for a Musical.

Glad to see an ad during the break for "Broadway In Charleston" - some great shows coming to the Clay Center next season!

Edie Falco is here for the Best Special Theatrical Event. The winner: to no one's surprise, Liza Minelli. "This is exquisite." Someone hands her a list. She's telling a long story. Will they cut her off? She is theatre royalty, of course. Here comes the music. She thanks her parents, and finishes before they cut her off. Nice.

Now they show a clip from another nominated play, God of Carnage. Another video.

Now another musical number, this one from the revival of "Guys and Dolls." Ah, my favorite number - "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat." More mic trouble. Someone runs a new mic to the singer. The sound guy is getting roasted after this show. Great number!

Commercial!

Tony Awards #4

We're back! About an hour into the show, and so far it's been pretty solid - lots of performances, minimal speeches.

Susan Sarandon is here to present Best Direction of a Play. The winner: Matthew Marchus for God of Carnage (he was nominated for two shows) - it's his first win! Nice speech. He also credits the cast of The Norman Conquest (his other show). Good on him.

Now she presents the Best Direction of a Musical. The winner: Stephen Daldry for Billy Elliot, the Musical.

Now we bust into another song from Rock of Ages. Constantine rocks the house. Looks like a great shop for fans of '80s rock!

Commercial!

Tony Awards #3

Back again! 40 minutes in, and they've handed out two awards.

Neil's doing a good job so far - funny but classy.

Now they're talking about Best Play - they show a clip from 33 Variations (what, no live performance?).

Will Ferrell comes out to present the award for Best Original Score (he doesn't mention his movie, Land of the Lost, which is struggling at the box office). The winner: Next to Normal. The audience seems shocked and delighted. An energetic acceptance speech, but they run long and get cut off. No running long on the Tonys, they have to finish on time (unlike the Oscars, which always runs long).

Now we see a number from the revival of West Side Story. A terrific dance number into a short song. Very nice!

Commercial time!

Tony Awards #2

And we're back! (By the way, Mark and Denise are tied for first place in our competition - good on them!)

It's a number from Shrek the Musical (no doubt so the leads can get out of that makeup). Pretty impressive, though I would have thought they'd have showcased a number starring the lead characters (who just delivered a few jokes at the top of the number).

Now it's time for the Best Featured Actress in a Play. The winner: Angela Lansbury! (Thank goodness, I got one right.) She's the first actress to win five Tonys - amazing!
She gets a well-deserved standing ovation. She gives a classy acceptance speech, natch.

Now they introduce a number from a touring show - it's Mamma Mia! That's a good way to inject some fun popular numbers into the show.

Commercial times!

Tony Awards #1

And here we go! The ads before the Tony Awards were promising a big surprise early on. What could it be?

Looks like we're starting with Billy Elliot - and Elton John's mic was dead for the first line. That's live theatre for you. Nice that they're using all three Billys.

Ah, it's a medley. More mic troubles. West Side Story, Guys and Dolls - a true medley of songs from the two shows. Very cool! Now here's Rock of Ages. Did he hit the drop as he exited? Now My Pal Joey and Next to Normal.

Now Shrek the Musical - then 9 to 5 - hey, it's Dolly Parton! And now Liza Minelli - pretty darned impressive.

Ah, and now the cast of Hair - and now everyone's on stage to bring it home. That was fun - a heckuvan exhuberant start to the show!

Tweleve minutes in, we finally see host Neil Patrick Harris. Apparently Brett Michaels actually did hit his head on the way offstage, but they say "He's fine."

A nice, heartfelt intro from him about the importance of the Tonys to those of us who live away from New York.

The first presenter - Jane Fonda. She's presenting Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play. The winner: Roger Robinson for Joe Turner's Come and Gone - it's his first Tony. He gives thanks to his 98-year-old Mom, who's walking at home. How cool is that?

Commercial time!

Getting Ready for the Tony Awards

Hi, theatre fans! Just a reminder that I'll be live-blogging Tony Awards, which start in about 30 minutes.

I'll probably post my comments during each commercial break - hey, I'm only human!

Something I forgot to mention is that my pal Angela Henderson has an interview with the show's host, Neil Patrick Harris, right here on her "Stay Tuned" blog.

Back soon with the start of the show!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Tony Awards - Chuck's Picks

At long last, it's time for yours truly to break down and list my picks for this year's Tony Awards.

I'll be live-blogging the awards tomorrow night, and there's still time to get into our "Pick the Tony Winners" competition - just send your entry in before the show starts Sunday night - and good luck!

Here are my wild guesses:

BEST PLAY: God of Carnage

BEST MUSICAL: Billy Elliot, The Musical In a season of not-so-overwhelming shows (which is not to say the nominees aren't good), this looks like the one that's going to run away with it.

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL: Billy Elliot, The Musical (See?)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE: Next to Normal But this one could be the sleeper hit.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY: The Norman Conquests

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL: West Side Story I just like the title of this category: "Best Revival." Like they strolled down to the graveyard and picked a dead show to bring back to life.

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT: Liza's at The Palace

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY: Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King Rush gets my vote in anything he does.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Hope Davis, God of Carnage

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Alice Ripley, Next to Normal

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY: John Glover, Waiting for Godot

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit Gotta lean toward theatre royalty.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Will Swenson, Hair

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY: Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY: Dale Ferguson, Exit the King

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY: David Lander, 33 Variations

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY: Gregory Clarke, Equus

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Brian Ronan, Next to Normal

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY: Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL: Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS: Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal

Friday, June 05, 2009

One More Show for June - "Guys and Dolls"

My pal Stephen Vance passes this along about another show this month I missed:
Portsmouth Little Theatre is doing Guys and Dolls June 19 and 26 at 7:30 p.m., and June 20 and 27 at 2:00 p.m.

The main reason I mention this show is because our good friend Mark Near will be playing the role of Nicely Nicely.
I'm so there! I can't wait to hear him singing "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat!"

A great show, highly recommended!

Tony Awards - Mark's Picks

My pal Mark sends along his choices for this year's Tony Winners with this note:
Haven't seen any of them, so this is a total shot in the dark; however, we just can't have Denise waltzing to the winner's circle unopposed!
It's on! Here are Mark's picks:

BEST PLAY: God of Carnage

BEST MUSICAL: Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL: Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE: 9 to 5: The Musical

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY: Waiting for Godot

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL: West Side Story

BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT: Liza's at The Palace

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY: James Gandolfini, God of Carnage

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Brian d'Arcy James, Shrek The Musical

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Stockard Channing, Pal Joey

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY: Roger Robinson, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: David Bologna, Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY: Derek McLane, 33 Variations

BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY: Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY: David Hersey, Equus

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Howell Binkley, West Side Story

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY: Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL: Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY: Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL: Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS: Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Thursday, June 04, 2009

This Weekend - the Tony Awards!

A reminder that the Tony Awards will be televised Sunday evening, and for the third year in a row, I'll be live-blogging the show.

That means I'll be posting live updates all through the evening, so feel free to follow along in the fun as we see if my typing fingers make it through the festivities!

There's still time to enter our "Pick the Tony Winners" contest. There's no actual prize other than bragging rights (we're on a tight budget here at ye olde Tri-State Theatre blog), but what more could you want?

You can send you choices in by clicking on the link at the bottom of this entry, or you can email them to me at TheMinskers@aol.com. The list of the nominees can be found at this link.

I plan to post my wild guesses - er, carefully chosen selections on Saturday. You can send in your entries anytime before the start of the show.

Good luck! (Oops, I mean, Break a leg!)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"Up" - A Review

The Pixar company has turned out 10 movies so far, and each one has been excellent.

The creative teams there have tapped into the real secret of making a great movie: first, have a really good story to tell. Add in clever and innovative animation, and the result is always going to be fun.

The company's newest movie is simply titled Up, and it tells a story you wouldn't expect to see in a "kid's" movie - and I use the quotes because I don't believe animated movies are automatically just for kids.

The central character is a grouchy old man who finds himself alone in his home, and construction is closing in around him. Before his time runs out, he wants to take one last great adventure - but he doesn't want to lose his home.

His solution to the problem is clever and stunning in its execution (though I wouldn't recommend trying it in the real world).

What follows is a unique adventure that moves into a lost world in South America, where encounters include some unique animals, a living legend and some difficult decisions.

There are a few scary scenes, so the movie might not be right for the youngest eyes (although all the best Disney movies have a scary moment or two in them, too). But there are some big laughs in there, too, and more than once I heard a child cheering during the show.

But it's a clever and truly touching film - those of us in the older category would be well advised to keep a hanky handy. You'll need it more than once.

I don't know if it's the best Pixar movie yet (that would be high praise indeed), but it's right up there - and it's the most emotional. I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

The 3-D was very effective (although I had a twinge of the traditional 3-D headache at the beginning, it quickly went away), and didn't detract from the film at all.

So what I'm saying is: recommended. Highly! (Ha! Get it?)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

More Shows in June

Oops! I missed a couple of outstanding theatre events coming up in June - the New Works Festival and Festiv-all!

Here's what to watch for:

- The Third Annual New Works Festival at Marshall University runs June 18, 19 and 20. Jonathan Joy will have two new plays presented, including Fly By Night and Senate Idol, both premiering June 18. Clint McElroy and Jeremy Richter have new pieces on the other two nights.

- And Jonanthan Joy's play Fly By Night will also be presented at the Clay Center as a part of the One Act Fest at Festiv-all June 27 at 8 p.m. Two other plays will be performed that same night. More information is available here: http://www.festivallcharleston.com/.

- Other plays will also be part of Charleston's Festiv-all, including How Cissy Grew featuring James Denton of Desperate Housewives and Charleston Stage Company's 10-minute play, The Crossing.

Again, more on Festiv-all as news develops (and I track it down).

Monday, June 01, 2009

Shows in June

There are a surprising number of shows coming up this month. Here's what we have to look forward to:

- A Body of Water runs June 11-13 at 8 p.m. and June 14 and June 21 at 2 p.m. at the Kanawha Players Theater on Beauregard Street in Charleston.

- Curtains will be presented by the Charleston Light Opera Guild June 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., and June 29 at 3 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater.

- Smoke on the Mountain will be presented June 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26 and All Shook Up will be presented June 27, 28, 30 at Jenny Wiley State Park .

- Theatre West Virginia will present Honey in the Rock June 9, 11, 13, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 at 8:15 p.m., and Hatfield and McCoys June 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30 at 8:15 a.m.

- Willy Wonka will be presented at Chief Logan State Park June 16 - July 5 at 8:30 p.m.

- The Odd Couple will be presented by Red Lion Theatre Company at Greenbo State Park June 4, 5, 6, 7 at 8:30 p.m.