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Bullets Over Broadway Is A Shot To the Funny Bone

Woody Allen has been known to make a good film…or two…or three.  In fact, Cate Blanchet just snagged herself an Oscar playing the tragic protagonist in a Woody Allen film.  In 1994, Allen and Douglas McGrath penned a crime-comedy film titled Bullets Over Broadway.  The film starred John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri and Jennifer Tilly with Allen sitting in the director’s chair.  Bullets Over Broadway garnered seven Academy Awards; Wiest won for Best Supporting Actress, the second Academy Award win for her under Allen’s direction.

8.198889If you haven’t seen the film, the gist of the plot goes like this…set in the roaring twenties, a young, struggling playwright named David Shayne gets the break of a lifetime. His play will be produced on Broadway and he will direct it ensuring his vision will come to fruition.  Only problem is producer Julian Marx receives the funds to front the production from gangster Nick Valenti, and to get the money Valenti’s girlfriend, Olive Neal, must be cast in one of the roles.  Olive is no more than a second rate line dancer, but David casts her in the role of the psychiatrist in order secure the funds.  Also, he convinces Helen Sinclair, a legendary stage actress and lush, to play lead role and gets compulsive eater Warner Purcell to be the leading man.  Soon David realizes that getting a play on stage as its director isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  He also learns that he isn’t the great artist he thought he was as all his re-writes, which the cast adore, are written by Cheech, Olive’s bodyguard and Valenti’s hitman.

5.198890In 2012, plans for a musical adaptation were announced.  Allen adapted the film into a book and used songs from the American songbook for the musical numbers.  Susan Stroman was brought on as the director and choreographer.  The cast included Zach Braff as David Shayne, Marin Mazzie as Helen Sinclair, Vincent Pastore as Nick Valenti, Helen Yorke as Olive Neal and Nick Cordero as Cheech.

5.198888The minute the curtain rose at the St. James Theater and I saw the title being shot into the set I thought, “Well this is starting off with a bang, I hope it ends with one.”  What I would come to learn is that Bullets Over Broadway doesn’t overshoot in the laughs department.  It’s a cute comedy that lends itself to a family night at the theater.  The biggest laughs and smiles were delivered by Nick Cordero, Helen Yorke, Brooks Ahsmanskas, who played Warner Purnell and Mr. Woofles, the sweetest little pooch since Toto.  Marin Mazzie offered a good rendition of Helen Sinclair.  I’m sure any members of the audience who had seen the film were just anticipating her saying, “Don’t speak.”  That classic line didn’t fall into the silence of the air. Like the film, it was a hilarious bull’s-eye.

4.198885My complaint with most new musicals as of late is that they are all song and lack dance.  With Bullets Over Broadway, my gripe was the opposite.  Although the songs used in this musical were standards, the use of tunes were flat and was absent of the pop I like to hear, but the choreography, under the leadership of Susan Stroman, assisted in placing the musical numbers on an even-keel.

It seems as if Woody Allen has struck again.  If you want to a good giggle and some good hoofing then Bullets Over Broadway is musical for you.

Photos: Paul Kolnik

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Under My Skin Is On Stage at The Little Shubert Theatre

They say, and John Gray Ph.D. wrote, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  But how do we know that for sure unless we are willing to take a visit to each other’s planet, or to borrow another famous idiom, “walk a mile in someone shoes” or stilettos.

Husband and wife writing team Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser add another chapter to this ongoing debate with Under My Skin.  Sternin and Fraser are no strangers to the subject of the male/female relationship conundrum with shows like “Three’s Company” and “Who’s The Boss?” under their belts; Under My Skin takes that enigma and turns it into an out-of-body experience.

The prescription for this new comedy involves a CEO of America’s leading healthcare provider, a single mom from Staten Island and one big outrageous twist of fate.  Under My Skin is directed by Kristen Sanderson and stars Kerry Butler and Matt Walton.  Under My Skin began previews at The Little Shubert Theatre, located at 422 West 42nd Street, on April 5 and is scheduled to open on May 15. FAMERS be on the lookout for a ticket giveaway coming soon!

To learn more about the play click, www.undermyskintheplay.com.  Or click below to meet the cast!

 

Photo and video courtesy of Serino Coyne

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F.A.M.E NYC’s St. Paddy’s Day Ticket Giveaway

Spring is near and if you weren’t already itching to get out of the house, let F.A.M.E NYC give you another reason.  Daniel Radcliffe is best known for conjuring magic on the big screen, but he has also been known to create some special moments on stage as well.  This spring Radcliffe is coming back to Broadway in THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMANAnd we want to give someone a pair of tickets to see Radcliffe in action.  All you have to do is riddle us this?

What school did Harry Potter attend?

Leave your answer in the Comment Box below for a chance to win.  

We will choose the winner on St. Patrick’s Day at 5 p.m.  May the luck of the Irish be with you!

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Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad Head to the Big Screen as Romeo and Juliet

Last fall Orlando Bloom made his Broadway debut playing opposite two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in “Romeo and Juliet”.  This month the production made its debut in movie theaters nationwide as part of Broadway HD.  Broadway HD combines the experience of The Great White Way with Hollywood, taking a live production and showing it in a different medium.

Filmed at the end of its Broadway run, “Romeo and Juliet” is playing a limited engagement in theaters, which ends on February 19.  Seeing this production when it first premiered at the Richard Rogers Theater, I felt the show was a bit comme ci comme ça, but after seeing this production in the theaters, I felt that it had come full circle.  Both Bloom and Rashad seemed more comfortable with the language.  The production in its entirety, which seemed to not be fully complete when I saw it, exhibited a richness that wasn’t present when I saw it last year.

Another aspect of this film version was the distinct difference of viewing “Romeo and Juliet” on stage as opposed to seeing it on the screen.  On Broadway the audience is part of the experience; the actors are performing for you.  Watching it on screen I got the sensation of a voyeur – a gate crasher sneaking through the side door who quietly watches the show unfold.  The excitement wasn’t as palpable; however it was still there.

If you ask me Broadway HD is a brilliant concept.  Not everyone has the luxury of living in New York City and those that do don’t always have the opportunity to see productions while they’re making their run.  Broadway HD allows Broadway to be accessible to everyone no matter if you are in Atlanta, Denver or Brooklyn.  I’m looking forward to watching future productions courtesy of this innovative series.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

 

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Masters at Work, The Ailey-Ellington Connection

When producers Kenny “Dope” Gonzales and Louie Vega formed Masters at Work in 1990, they proceeded to create a catalog that contains some of house music’s most recognizable classics.  Such is the case when two great creative minds come together to collaborate.  It seemed that from the time Alvin Ailey hit the streets of The Big Apple in 1954, he and Duke Ellington’s paths were destined to meet.  Both he and Ellington were born in different areas of the country but had come to New York City to pursue their art, although by the time young Ailey had arrived, Ellington had already cemented his legacy as a jazz virtuoso.  However, it didn’t take long for Ailey to begin to carve a name for himself in the world of dance.  With pieces like “Revelations” and “Blues Suite”, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which was formed in 1958, quickly became a sensation in the modern dance scene.  Like Ellington, Ailey was known for a unique style infusing ballet, Horton, jazz and African dance  techniques.  Also like Ellington, Ailey lifted his art above the grouping of race which allowed his work to be recognized as an American art form the world over.

AAADT's Demetia Hopkins in Alvin Ailey's The River.  Photo by Paul KolnikIn 1970, Alvin Ailey and Duke Ellington’s paths finally met.  American Ballet Theater commissioned Ailey to create “The River”.  The ballet was the first collaboration between Alvin Ailey and Duke Ellington.  Ailey would again refer to Ellington’s music when he created “Night Creature” in 1974 and “Pas de Duke” in 1976.  For the 2013 season, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater paid homage to these late geniuses and their collaborations by premiering new productions of “The River” and “Pas de Duke” at the New York City Center.  Along with the first season’s performance of “Night Creature” and Ailey’s most seminal work, “Revelations”, the debut of these works was an evening of remembrance, revelry and appreciation for beauty, physicality and style in motion.

AAADT weaves athleticism and artistry so seamlessly that it takes the medium of dance to another level.  Visually stunning and always breathtaking to behold, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater never fail to provide its audience with the most soul-stirring shows they will ever see.  It is where perfection and performance meet.  This sentiment simply radiates through “The River”, a work that utilizes the entire company and is as moving, fierce and romantic as its namesake.   With the accompaniment of Duke Ellington’s score driving this piece forward, the love Ailey had for dance is truly exhibited.  The way in which he carefully blended classical ballet elements together with modern techniques is nothing short of masterful.    “The River” is energetic; it rolls and sweeps the audience in its majesty.  It is a living example of the brilliance of these two men.

AAADT's Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Linda Celeste Sims in Alvin Ailey's Pas de Duke.  Photo by Paul Kolnik“Pas de Duke” was first created for Ailey’s muse Judith Jamison and ballet superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov. Black and white, modern versus ballet, Eve and Adam, “Pas de Duke” is witty, flirtatious, sophisticated and utterly charming.  Ailey must of thought of the song “Anything You Can Do” when he choreographed this piece.

Alvin_Ailey_American_Dance_Theater_in_Alvin_Ailey_s_Night_Creature._Photo_by_Krautbauer_2_As one of the children of the night, I have always had a fondness for those who skulk down sidewalks, saunter into nightclubs and compete with colored spotlights for the glory of a night filled with sweat and velocity. On many occasions, I have been one of them creating new realities on the dance floor.  Ellington said, “Night creatures, unlike stars, do not come out at night, they come on.”  I would say they come out to be alive, alive in a way they can’t be when the sun is shining.  Alvin Ailey’s “Night Creature” is overflowing with life.  The company slinks, leaps and struts with authority.  It defines the sumptuous nightlife that New York City is known for.

AAADT_in_Alvin_Ailey_s_Revelations._Photo_by_Christopher_DugganThere can be no better end to an evening with AAADT than “Revelations”.  It is the work that Alvin Ailey is most known for and definitely on the top my list. Seeing Alvin Ailey’s choreography paired with Duke Ellington’s music gave me a few revelations of my own.  There is no debate why the majority of their works are regarded as masterpieces.  I would liken the Ailey-Ellington collaborations to an artistic atom bomb – an explosion of epic scale whose far reaching effects have spanned over generations.

Photos: Paul Kolnik, Christopher Duggan, Gert Krautbauer

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERS

Mr. Tol E RAncE is Brilliant

I didn’t realized how rare it was to witness the emergence of a masterpiece before December 7, 2013.   “A Love Supreme”, “A Raisin in the Sun”, Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”, often times the works I regard as masterpieces were created before I was born, but the thing about a masterpiece is you know one when you see one.  It rocks your head back and socks you directly in the breadbasket.  After seeing Camille A. Brown’s “Mr. Tol E. Rance” my head has been popped up Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots style.

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERS

Camille A. Brown

Like “Revelations”, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” was born from choreographer Camille A. Brown’s personal experiences.  Frustrated with the game many artists must master in order gain recognition or make a living, Ms. Brown started on a journey that culminated in this powerful, introspective piece.  Through exploring her own emotions, Ms. Brown was also influenced by Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled”, Mel Watkins’ “On the Real Side” and the idea of the modern day minstrel.  Utilizing sketch comedy, live music and animation, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” presents a mirror to the audience allowing them to examine the influence that stereotypes have had on black culture and art.  The stereotype is the mask the artist wears to become successful, but what happens when one becomes imprisoned by it?

The Company in TOL... PC_Christopher.Duggan_166Hattie McDaniel was once quoted as saying she would rather make $700 a week playing a maid than make $7 a week being one.  This sentiment speaks to the first act of the production.  Beginning with photographs and videos of comedic actors and shows, the dance troupe then provides a blistering, rhythmic history lesson, sometimes acting out the gestures of famous black characters.  An episode of “The Twilight Zone” could best describe act two.  The particular one that comes to mind is titled “The Masks.”  Family members gather at the home of a wealthy family member whose dying. He demands the members to where masks he selected all night in order to obtain their inheritance.  They comply and when they are able to remove the mask, they realize that their face has contorted into the same shape as their mask.    As much as the first act reveals how stereotypes were used as a means of paving a way, the second act shows how stereotypes have become the main contributor to black culture and the road that was paved has lead black entertainers to a realm where minstrelsy is not only perpetuated but expected.

Waldean Nelson

Waldean Nelson

Mixing nostalgia with bitter truths, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” can brutal on the eyes and soul. The comedy and jiving lower our guards and lure us in, then without warning the rug is snatched from under your feet.  Suddenly, you realize the role you play in the perpetuation of today’s stereotypes.  As much as black entertainers wear a mask, we assist and often times insist on them wearing it.  Afterall, we are the ones that subscribe and purchase what these entertainers are peddling.  The penultimate section of act two contains two riveting solos by Waldean Nelson and Camille A. Brown, each struggling to break away from their masks.   The work ends with a dialogue between the dancers and the audience.  Explosive and extremely emotive this work barrels through the consciousness like a bullet shattering through panels of glass.  If works of art were required to be seen, this would be one of them.  It is the most telling piece of edutainment I have seen in a long time.  In short I could sum up “Mr. Tol E RAncE” in three syllables, tour de force.

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERSCamille A. Brown & Dancers performed “Mr. Tol E RAncE” at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts on December 6 and 7.   Some may always think of December 7 as a day that will live in infamy.  I will view it as a day of awakening.  There is no way you can sit down to view “Mr. Tol E RAncE” and walk out the same.  When this work is performed again I urge everyone who reads F.A.M.E NYC to see this seminal dance piece and witness this masterpiece with your own eyes, mind and spirit.

Photos: Christopher, Grant Halverson

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F.A.M.E NYC’S A TIME FOR BROADWAY TICKET GIVEAWAY

What does actor Samuel L. Jackson, Warner Bros., John Grisham and Wynwood Press have in common?

The answer: A TIME TO KILL

The September breeze brings with it a new season and on Broadway it means the start of the fall shows.  In October, A Time to Kill will make its Broadway debut, also marking the debut of an adaptation of a work from best-selling author John Grisham.  Adapted for the stage by Tony Award-winning playwright Rupert Holmes A Time to Kill stars fellow Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins and Emmy Award winner Tom Skerritt. In case you forgot, A Time to Kill tells the emotionally charged, now-iconic story of a young, idealistic lawyer, Jake Brigance, defending a black man, Carl Lee Hailey, for taking the law into his own hands following an unspeakable crime committed against his young daughter. Their small Mississippi town is thrown into upheaval, and Jake finds himself arguing against the formidable district attorney, Rufus Buckley, and under attack from both sides of a racially divided city. This drama is a thrilling courtroom battle where the true nature of what is right and what is moral are called into question.

NOW I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU FAMERS…DO YOU LIKE FREE TICKETS?

Of course you do.  And if you can finish this Carl Lee Hailey quote, then you could win yourself a pair of tickets to see A Time to Kill.

“Yes they deserve to die and I hope they burn in _________!”

Please leave your answer as a comment and your email address will be automatically entered to win the tickets.  Contest ends 5 p.m. September 27, 2013.  Don’t miss your opportunity to see this powerful story on stage, ENTER.  GOOD LUCK!

A Time to Kill begins previews at The John Golden Box Office (252 West 45th Street) on September 28 and opens on October 20.  To learn more about the show please visit:

Website: www.ATimeToKillOnBroadway.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ATimeToKillBway

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ATimeToKillBway

Instagram: www.instagram.com/ATimeToKillBway

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F.A.M.E NYC Romeo and Juliet Ticket Giveaway

You didn’t have to read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in high school to know that it is the most famous story of unrequited love to ever exist.  Countless renditions of this classic story have been told on stage and screen with 36 years passing since it’s been on Broadway, but this fall the story of the ill-fated lovers of Verona will be back on a Broadway stage once again.  Romeo and Juliet begins previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on August 24 and opens on September 19. This latest interpretation of Romeo and Juliet is directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux and stars film star Orlando Bloom, making his Broadway debut, and two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in the lead roles.  Shakespearean English will be spoken; however the setting will have a modern aesthetic.

As this iconic love story is first introduced to us in school, Tixs for Students is running a special promotion: A limited number of $20 tickets for each performance are available for college students. Tickets may be purchased in advance either at the box office with valid ID or online, exclusively through TIX4STUDENTS.COM. Limit of two tickets per order; price does not include facility fee. Educators can also purchase a limited number of $20 tickets for each performance are available for educators. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the box office with valid ID.  PLEASE NOTE: Educator tickets are only available for purchase at the box office. Limit of two tickets per order; price does not include facility fee.

BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE STUDENT TO WIN A FREE PAIR OF TICKETS TO SEE ROMEO AND JULIET!  All you have to do is leave a comment answering these two simple questions:

  1.  Who is Condola Rashads’ mother? (Hint:  She played Bill Cosby’s wife on an iconic ‘80s sitcom)
  2. Who played Orlando Bloom’s father in Kingdom of Heaven? (Hint:  He also played Zeus, father of the Gods, in the remake of Clash of the Titans and in the sequel Wrath of the Titans)

Comment as many times as you like to increase your chances of winning.  The winner will be announced on August 20 at 5 pm EST.  GOOD LUCK FAMERS!

To learn more about Romeo and Juliet, check out the following sites:

Website: www.RomeoAndJulietBroadway.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/RomeoJulietBway

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/RomeoJulietBway

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/RomeoJulietBway

Google+: Plus.google.com/+RomeoJulietBway

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MONTE/MULLER Made New York Live Arts Move

From June 20-22, Monte/Muller Move! played at New York Live Arts.  Monte/Muller Move! combined five works from choreographers Jennifer Muller and Elisa Monte and showcased the power and majesty of these two dance companies.

The first performance was the world premiere of Grass by Jennifer Muller.  Inspired by Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and featuring cellist Julia Kent, whose haunting solo truly captured the spirit of the ballet.  As people trample daily on a grassy knoll or a sector of a park, do did these dancers slide and thrust their bodies onto the blades of the astro turf stage.  Colliding, then separating again, emoting the thread of impermanence.

ELISA_MONTE_FULL-180The second, Unstable, premiered in 2012. Choreographed by Elise Monte, Unstable was a primal ritual with bodies rolling on the stage.  Slow and sensational, the imagery of the wall shadows created added another dimension.

Elise Monte’s Shattered premiered in 2000 and is a fast paced spectacle for the eye. Like lightning when it strikes the impact hits with a precision that only a force of nature can.  Explosive, this piece pumps with high-octane adrenaline.

Premeiring in 1996, Volkmann Suite was choreographed by Elise Monte and is a stunning display of beauty and strength.  The power lifts displayed throughout the piece complimented the dancers carved frames and reminded me of moving sculptures.

The last performance was also by Jennifer Muller and featured excerpts of the ballet Speed, which debuted in 1974.  Filled with fast changes, the piece was considered a tour de force when it first premiered.  MONTE/MULLER MOVE! at New York Live Arts was made possible through New York Live Arts’ Theater Access Program, a comprehensive subsidized rental program benefiting a diverse group of dance and theater companies and producing organizations.

Photos courtesy of Krizer Graber Communications, LLC

 

 

Orphans Coming To Broadway

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A couple of wayward children are about to make their way onto Broadway stage but they ain’t like the little girl with the auburn locks and her sassy crew crooning about a hard knock life.  These boys mean business and they plan to survive by any means necessary.

This spring Broadway gets a little dark and dirty with Orphans starring Alec Baldwin, Tom Sturridge and Shia LaBeouf.  To give you FAMERS a lil’ hint about the show, let me provide you with the “official” description:  Two orphaned brothers live in their decrepit North Philadelphia row house. They survive by petty thievery and a steady diet of tuna fish and daytime television until the violent older brother decides to kidnap Harold, a notorious Chicago gangster played by Alec Baldwin. Harold soon becomes the force that will forever change their lives.

Got your attention yet?  It sure has mine!  Written by Lyle Kessler and directed by Daniel Sullivan, Orphans is debuting on Broadway 30 years after its premiere.  La Beouf will also be making his Broadway debut as well.

I for one could never resist a Baldwin brother, so I’m super excited to see Alec Baldwin moving from 30 Rock to Times Square.  Orphans will be playing a limited 15 week engagement at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre and is scheduled to premiere on April 7.   Get ready to get your tickets and get naughty. 

To learn more about Orphans or purchase tickets, visit http://orphansonbroadway.com/.

 Photos:  Alec Baldwin: Mary Ellen Matthews, Shia LaBeouf: Nino Munoz/CPi Syndication, Tom Sturridge: Julian Broad/Contour by Getty Images