The Cripple of Inishmaan Is Straight-Up Funny

What do you think would be funny about a cripple orphan, a remote town in Ireland and a Hollywood documentary?  If you’re thinking how I was thinking, then you’re answer is probably not very much.  But like me you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that my first thought was totally off the mark.   Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan is a total laugh riot.

top-7-largeMcDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan is a dark, delightful comedy, think of Peyton Place with razor blade roads.  This play is as twisted as Forrest Gump’s back before the braces.  Set in the small community of Inis Meáin off the western coast of Ireland circa 1934, McDonagh uses the real life filming of the documentary Man of Aran as the foundation of the play.   A Hollywood film crew arrives in the neighboring town of Inis Mór to make a film about life on the islands.   The news, carried by town gossip Johnnypateenmike, sets the town ablaze and gives Billy Claven or “Cripple Billy” as he is called by the townsfolk, the idea to finally escape the place that treats him like a poor orphaned outcast.  Billy finds out that local bully Helen McCormick has finagled Babbybobby Bennett, a boatman, to sail her and her henpecked brother Bartley over to Inis Mór for an audition. Billy conjures a heartbreaking tale to secure a seat on the voyage and winds up getting the opportunity to take part in a film in California.  Billy’s sudden departure puts his adopted aunts Kate and Eileen Osbourne into a tailspin.  Kate begins talking to a stone and Eileen devours all the sweets in their shop to try to avoid worrying about the fate of Billy.  But you know what they say about the grass being greener, missing home Cripple Billy returns to face the place he tried run from, the hurt that was left in his wake and the secrets that have haunted him no matter where he traveled.

top-4-largeThe Cripple of Inishmaan first opened December 12, 1996 at London’s Royal National Theatre.  In 1998 the play opened in NYC and L.A.  The play returned to London’s West End in 2013 with Michael Grandage at the helm directing and Daniel Radcliffe as Cripple Billy.  The production was a hit and fresh off the heels of its sold-out run across the pond, The Cripple of Inishmaan opened at the Cort Theatre on April 20 for a limited 14-week engagement.  And this is one engagement that is not to be missed.  This play is may be about a cripple, but there is nothing deficient about this production.  Daniel Radcliffe truly shines in this revival.  The more he sheds his Harry Potter skin the more we are able to witness how his talent has matured.  He is a wonder to watch live, whether he is singing and dancing or using a crutch, Mr. Radcliffe is rad!  In fact, the whole cast is exceptional.   An awesome ensemble, they authentically project the intimate bonds that are created in a small town.  Sarah Greene is a terror as Helen McCormick, but as frightening as she is, she is equally as charming.  Pádraic Delany radiates brooding appeal as Babbybobby.  Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna are equally delightful as Cripple Bobby’s smothering adopted aunts. The zingers delivered by June Watson and Pat Shortt, who play Johnnypateenmike and his alcoholic mom, are absolutely scandalous and some of the best shade (insult throwing for those of you who don’t know) that I’ve heard on stage in a long time.  The scene and costume designs created by Christopher Oram transported the audience to that 1930’s Ireland and aided in projecting a close-knit community aesthetic.

top-1-largeIrreverent in all the right ways, The Cripple of Inishmaan is a winner and with the support of a great cast, this production stands with the best that Broadway has to offer this season.

Photos: Johan Persson

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!

Gettin’ Muggle Wit It

Discovery Times Square is more like a time portal than an exhibition space.  With its knack for presenting shows that flawlessly harmonize history, culture and spectacle, Discovery Times Square allows New Yorkers to walk through ancient worlds and alternate universes without ever having to step into an airport.  On April 5 the world of muggles and wizards invaded the Big Apple as Harry Potter: The Exhibition opened at Discovery Times Square, marking its final North American Stop before the train to Hogwarts goes international. 

In June 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first in a series of seven novels written by British author J.K. Rowling, was released.  Its tremendous popularity spurred the ultimate 20th century homage – a film adaptation.  In 2001, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and the rest of the cast brought the characters to life onscreen and muggle-mania erupted.  In the last decade, fans of the series have watched these child actors grow into young adults and contributed to a franchise that is worth billions.  July 2011 signifies an end of an era as the last Harry Potter film will be released and the fates of the characters that have enraptured millions of devoted followers will be revealed.  Harry Potter: The Exhibition is an homage in its own right – a walk down memory lane, literally.

The exhibition is brought to fruition through the partnership of Global Experience Specialists (GES) and Warner Bros. Consumer Products.  GES is a leading provider of event, exhibition and retail marketing services.  Warner Bros. Consumer Products is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Entertainment Company and is one of the foremost global merchandising and licensing organizations. In 2009, the exhibition made its world premiere in Chicago; following its debut, it travelled to Boston, Toronto and Seattle.  The timing could not be more felicitous for Harry Potter: The Exhibition to be arriving in New York City; Daniel Radcliffe is blocks away at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre playing the lead character in the 50th anniversary revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Trying.  Like the other exhibits that have passed through Discovery Times Square, Harry Potter: The Exhibition scoops the visitors up and drops them off in the magical world created by the producers, set decorators, costume, graphic, prosthetics, make-up and props designers of the Harry Potter films.  Presented in nine connecting sections, the exhibit is an intricate, multifaceted exploration into the creative nuances of moviemaking. 

The show begins with the Sorting Hat, the famed headpiece that proclaims which house the new arrivals at Hogwarts will be placed into.  Volunteers come forth, and like the movie the hat is placed on their heads, comes alive, assesses the individuals’ personality and assigns them to either Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin.  But the Sorting Hat does have a bit of assistance, before the dormant hat is placed on the volunteer’s head; the volunteer expresses which house they prefer.  Cute and witty, it is an appropriate introduction into the universe of Harry Potter and Hogwarts.  Next the group enters The Pre-Show, an eight screen montage of the Harry Potter films.  The video mosaic culminates with the whistle to the Hogwarts Express being heard and the wall of the Pre-Show rising to reveal a replica of the train that takes the students to Hogwarts. A colossal vision to behold, the replica along with the mist that accompanies it gives the audience the sense that they are about to embark on a journey of sight, sound and emotions. 

After the Pre-Show, the exhibition truly begins.  Guests are led past a gallery of portraits and the Fat Lady, the guardian of the Gryffindor area of the castle/school, into the third installment of the exhibition, the Gryffindor Common Room.   Gryffindor is the house that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, the series principle characters, belong to.  In this area the audience views the house colors (scarlet and gold), Harry’s glasses and wand, Ron’s monogrammed sweater and the Marauder’s Map.  Past the Gryffindor Common Room are the dormitories where the visitors can view more of the wardrobe and garner an understanding of the actors’ journey growing from children to young adults as the clothing shows their physical growth from the first film to the last.  The fourth set are the classrooms – displays of the props and costumes of the Potions, Divinations, Defense Against the Dark Arts as well as a recreation of the Herbology greenhouse.  This is one of three areas in which the touching of props is encouraged – visitors can pull a squealing Mandrake from its potted roots. 

Once out of the classroom area, the tour goes outside the grounds of Hogwarts into the Forbidden Forest – the audience can get up close and personal with the Hungarian Horntail Dragon, a Centaur and a Thestral.  Also displayed are Buckbeak the Hippogriff and additional costuming from the film.  The Forbidden Forest leads to Hagrid’s Hut, which is actually located on the outskirts of the forest in the book and film series.  This oversize room contains Hagrid’s clothing, the Monster Book of Monsters as well as a mammoth chair that visitors can sit in.   Quidditch is the sport of choice for wizards and is the next section of the exhibit complete with Quidditch equipment, a Nimbus 2000 broom, the Golden Snitch used in all the movies and uniforms from the different houses.  If a guest is feeling athletic, they are invited to toss a Quaffle around and try to score a point or two. The exhibit takes a dark turn as the next segment is dedicated to the darker elements of the films.  On display are the Angel of Death Statue, robes, costumes and masks of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.  The tour of the enchanting world of Hogwarts and its inhabitants ends in grand fashion with the Great Hall.  The Great Hall is a setting that plays a major role in the film, visitors will view props and costumes from the Yule Ball, Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore’s costumes and wands as well as Dobby, the house elf, and Fawkes, Professor Dumbledore’s phoenix.

The exhibitions build in excitement and education with each setting seemingly more fascinating and fabulous than the previous one.   The price for admission for Harry Potter: The Exhibition is $25.00 for adults and $19.50 for children ages 4-12; an audio tour is available for $7.00.  The items of the exhibit are labeled with numbers and information about the artifact, with the audio tour the visitor can learn more information about the prop by the people that actually manufactured it.  Both the price for admission and the audio tour are worth every penny.  This exhibit is a must see for anyone that is a fan of the Harry Potter series or anyone that is a true movie buff.  I have never read J.K. Rowling’s books and I have not watched the Harry Potter film series in its entirety, but I found Harry Potter: The Exhibition to be a very enriching experience.  The concern to make these fictional characters and settings believable and the attention to the minutest detail is amazing.  When I arrived at Discovery Times Square, I was a muggle novice; I left feeling as if I had known and grown with the cast (human and non-human) as well as any Harry Potter fan and will be eagerly anticipating seeing how it all ends when the last film is released in July.   Harry Potter: The Exhibition, leaves New York City September5, go and indulge the wizard in you.

Photos courtesy of


How to Win Fans and Change Your Persona

When stage lights dim at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and the spotlight shines on Daniel Radcliffe beaming from ear to ear, he knows that he has cajoled an unsuspecting pawn to move him around the corporate chessboard and into a higher ranking position.  The audience claps and screams with laughter and the scene resumes as if Radcliffe had not broken the fourth wall just a second before.   As I continued to watch Radcliffe on stage, I began to realize that perhaps it was not just J. Pierrepont Finch that wanted to transform himself, maybe the man playing him desired to do so as well.  

Daniel Radcliffe’s face is just as synonymous with tween and teen pop culture as Miley Cyrus.  Like Cyrus’ Hannah Montana, Radcliffe has become the living embodiment of a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  His face is synonymous with the character of Harry Potter, the protagonist in a series of books penned by J.K. Rowling, which were subsequently turned into hit films.  The complication that can come from an actor’s success being intricately tied to a specific role is that those ties can begin to strangle the actor’s career.  The character becomes larger than the actor – fans, directors, casting agents, producers only want to see the actor play in roles similar to the one that catapulted them to success.  A frustrating obstacle for any artist – especially one that has the added burden of trying to transition from a child star to an adult actor, enter the role of Alan Strang and a nude scene in the revival of Equus.  Add to the mix the end of the Harry Potter series and Radcliffe’s performance as the overly cute but connivingly ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch in the latest revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and I would say Radcliffe has concocted a spell for a new career path as an actor.

Before there was The Office or The Devil Wears Prada, there was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a 1952 satirical best-selling book by Shepherd Mead that morphed into a hit Broadway musical in 1961 with the help of a book written by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and choreography by Bob Fosse and Hugh Lambert.  How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying centers on the goings on at the World Wide Wicket Company and deals with themes of ruthless ambition, nepotism, sexism and the deportment gap.  Anyone who has ever waded in the shark-infested waters of any corporation can relate to the characters and wild scenarios that happen at World Wide Wicket.  J. Pierrepont Finch, the lead character, is a window washer determined to ascend to the summit of the corporate ladder no matter what the cost. With the assistance of an omnipresent voice and a how-to book, Finch is armed with all the ammunition he needs to scheme, lie, manipulate and BS his way up the corporate ladder.  Rosemary, a secretary and Finch’s eventual love interest, is equally bent to being an urban steno pool legend by marrying a young executive.  Finch immediately becomes her target.  J.B. Biggley is the President of the World Wide Wicket Company.  He procures jobs for his voluptuous, dim witted mistress Hedy LaRue and Bud Frump, his lazy nephew through marriage whom he would love to fire but keeps on for fear of hearing his wife complain. 

In Finch’s meteoric rise to becoming Vice President of Advertising, he manages to swindle personnel manager Mr. Bratt into believing he knows Biggley, which lands him a job in the mailroom.  After a swift promotion to junior executive from Bratt, Finch convinces Biggley that he is also a fellow alum of Old Ivy by singing a duet of the fight song.  This garners him the curvaceous Ms. LaRue as a secretary and an office.  Suspecting that Hedy is Biggley’s mistress, he uses his boss’ weakness for women against him and is once again promoted to the head of Plans and Systems.  During a reception for Benjamin Burton Daniel Ovington, the new Vice President of Advertising, Finch innocently exposes that the new VP graduated from Old Ivy’s arch rival, he is fired and Finch becomes head of Advertising.  Through all the stunts Finch pulls, Rosemary is faithfully by his side until he realizes that he that she is the woman for him.  Also never far behind is Bud Frump, Finch’s and Biggley’s nemesis.  Once Frump uncovers the affair between his uncle and Hedy, he uses blackmail to obtain a promotion.  He also gives Finch the idea that leads to the young window washer’s downfall.  But Finch’s nine lives are not completely consumed, by sweet talking   Wally Womper, the CEO of the World Wide Wicket Company; he saves everyone’s jobs and finally rids himself of Frump.

After its initial Broadway run, a film was made in 1967.  In 1995, a revival was staged at the Richard Rogers Theatre and starred Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullaly.  This revival marks How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’s golden anniversary and it is better than ever!  Daniel Radcliffe is not just trying to succeed, he is winning.  Who would have known that there was a song and dance man secretly hiding underneath all that muggle get up?  Radcliffe gives a valiant effort as J. Pierrepont Finch.  Instead of doing things “the company way” Finch does things his way and lands on the top of the heap, like Finch, Radcliffe does things his way and scores big.  John Larroquette makes his Broadway debut as Biggley.  To my generation Larroquette will always be known as the womanizing attorney Dan Fielding in the comedy series Night Court.  It was great to see Larroquette on stage reintroducing himself to a new generation; it was equally enjoyable to see that he has lost none of his superb comedic timing and wit.  Michael Park was song and dance man long before he was FBI agent turned Oakdale policeman Jack Snyder in As the World Turns, a CBS soap opera.  After the soap’s over 40-year run ended in 2010, Park returned to the stage.  He is a natural as Bert Bratt.  Rose Hemingway is as sweet as her namesake in the role of Rosemary.  Her voice inspires joy and the quirky chemistry between she and Radcliffe share on stage is perfect.  Christopher Hanke is a wicked bowl of laughs as Bud Frump and if not for Daniel Radcliffe, Tammy Blanchard would have stole the show as Hedy LaRue. 

The true star of this revival is Rob Ashford.  He brings the same light-hearted effervescence to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as he did to last year’s revival of Promises, Promises.  The sets are engaging and like the actors, transition very well.  The choreography is robust and physical, yet playful and really assist in elevating the music and lyrics.  Each musical number was better than the first and brought the best out of the actors.  My favorite number is “I Believe in You.”  As Finch and the other executives prepare for his big meeting, he looks into the mirror and earnestly sings himself a pep talk.  From what I witnessed, there is no more need for convincing – Ashford, Radcliffe, Larroquette and the rest of the cast made me a believer.

Photos:  Ari Mintz