Monday, December 17, 2007

Fact & Fiction

Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria in The Farnsworth Invention.

At the risk of sounding like a puritanical theatrical evangelist, I must confess to feeling a bit manipulated by two plays from a couple of top-notch dramatists. I understand there's a difference between fact and fiction, but what are the rules when you intertwine the two?

Although I mostly enjoyed Aaron Sorkin's sweeping saga The Farnsworth Invention, I felt cheated by the denouement, in which small-time inventor Philo Farnsworth squares off against RCA honcho David Sarnoff in a patent lawsuit that would lead to the creation of television. It's a pivotal plot point, and in the play Goliath defeats David. But in real life, just the opposite happened. Farnsworth won and was paid royalties for his invention, though he didn't make big bucks.

In the play, when Farnsworth loses the case, he and Sarnoff share their only scene together, and afterward Sarnoff makes a point of telling the audience that their conversation never really happened. Why, I wonder, are we told that moment was fictionalized but not that the outcome of the lawsuit was completely changed?

David Henry Hwang mixes real people and actual events with fictional ones in the hilarious Yellow Face — I laughed more in the first act alone than I did during all of Is He Dead? — and I give him much credit for not being afraid to make a character based on himself look like an idiot a great deal of the time. For the most part I'm with him when he sticks to the facts, and that's why the plotline involving a fictional white actor named Marcus whom his playwright character mistakenly casts as an Asian in Face Value, an ill-reviewed farce he wrote in response to the casting of Jonathan Pryce as a Eurasian in Miss Saigon, doesn't quite work.

It's never adequately explained how the casting director could have thought that Marcus was Asian. (And Don Shirley of Los Angeles City Beat agrees with me on this point.) Had that actually happened, I don't think it would have bothered me as much. But I think in fiction or drama writers have a greater responsibility to connect the dots.

I remember talking to a novelist who was complaining that a mediocre review she received criticized her for not creating a believable child character. "That's exactly how my niece behaves," she said. I didn't know her well enough to point out that just because someone behaves a certain way in real life doesn't mean you can put those qualities on the page and instantly have a convincing fictional character.

That said, I liked both Yellow Face and Farnsworth — the former a little more — and hope the audiences will come. And I hope they'll bring the same critical eye to them that they would to a presidential candidates promises.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Gun and a Prayer

An SUV parked on my block had this saying on its front license plate: "Life is fragile, handle with prayer."

Syrupy, I know, but still a nice sentiment, especially during the holiday season, I thought. Then I noticed the NRA sticker on the passenger-side window! And as I continued down the block, I checked out the rear license plate and saw that it was from North Carolina!

It's so nice when people live up to their stereotypes so that I can keep my prejeudices intact.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Busking + Musical Comedy = Disater

My anglophile pal Amy loves to scour British newspapers for for interesting and offbeat stories that she then shares with friends.

One of her recent e-mails included this review of The Sundowe, a musical about Edinburgh buskers that the critic compares to Springtime for Hitler.

With the ill-fated Busker Alley threatening to finally come to Broadway next year, perhaps buskers will become the new vampires of musical theater.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Swell Sweeney

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd.

The hottest ticket in Times Square yesterday wasn't for any Broadway show — it was for a special Sweeney Todd screening for the theater community. In addition to the scores of press people, I spied former Jersey Boys star John Lloyd Young, Richard Kind, Roger Rees and his partner, Rick Elice (one of the authors of Jersey Boys), who told me that as a graduate student in 1979 he invested in the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd. He scraped together the minimum you could contribte ($5,600) and to this day has only made back $5,200.

Oh yeah, Stephen Sondheim was there to introduce the film, and he made a point of saying that it's a film based on a musical, not a movie version of the show, no doubt concerned that Monday morning's All That Chat message board would be filled with posts bitching about cut songs and changed lyrics. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp also put in appearances and gave the crowd a quick wave. "If you don't like the movie, blame us," Burton quipped.

I don't think he'll have to worry. It's a stunning film. I've had most of the libretto memorized since I was 11, and goodness knows I'm not one of those people who adapts to change very well, but even I thought the minor cuts and adjustments were gently and carefully done and enhanced the story for this more visual medium. I did miss the patrons of Mrs. Lovett's meat pie shop punctuating their meals with a resounding shout of "God, That's Good," and I was hoping Alan Rickman would get to perform the judge's version of "Johanna," which reveals his inner conflict.

But his Judge Turpin doesn't have any redeeming qualities, which is great, in part because they've added a couple of short but memorable scenes with Anthony and Johanna. And how interesting to see Tobias played by an actual boy instead of a young man with a boyish face. It makes Pirelli's brutality toward him and the final scene especially disturbing.

Sondheim's and Burton's sensibilities mesh wonderfully. The rats scurrying through the streets of London and the roaches crawling in and out of Mrs. Lovett's meat pies are a nice touch. And the way Sweeney disposes of his victims is wonderfully depicted. When he sends them down the chute from his barber chair to the bakehouse, they smack down headfirst on the hard floor. Not something you can have actors do eight times a week onstage unless you have a very good insurance policy.

Burton has great fun with charming numbers like "By the Sea," creating the whole fantasy sequence that Mrs. Lovett describes, and "A Little Priest." Despite looking considerably younger than every other Sweeney Todd's/Mrs. Lovett's I've seen, Depp and Helena Bonham Carter do a bang-up job with their roles. I'm listening to the soundtrack now, and while I doubt it will get as much playtime as the original cast recording or recent John Doyle revival (which I'm writing about for the Ahmanson Theater's program as the tour heads to L.A.), I hope it will introduce scores to newbies to this wonderful score. And I would love to go back and see the movie in a theater filled with patrons who don't know what to expect to gauge their reaction.

As if all this weren't enough, walking out of the theater I spied a poster for Harold and Kumar 2 that shows Neil Patrick Harris riding a unicorn. So nice to have something to look forward to in the new year!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Young Frankenstein & Old Friends

Roger Bart and Christopher Fitzgerald in Young Frankenstein.
Tell me Me Brooks isn't one of the luckiest bastards around. The day after his Young Frankenstein opens to mixed-to-negative reviews, the Broadway stagehands go on strike and his show becomes one of eight still standing. Here's my review of Young Frankenstein.

On the unlucky front, four days earlier Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll opened to rave reviews, and after five post-opening performances has been completely shut down by the strike. I'm very glad I got to see it on its last — but hopefully not final — night. Having been rather nonplussed by the Coast of Utopia trilogy, I thought Stoppard was back on track with the sort of wistful intellectualism he does best and was terribly moved the performances of Rufus Sewell and Sinead Cusack. (Incidentally, we spotted them along with Brian Cox at Angus McIndoe the night we went to Young Frankenstein a week and a half ago. See how this post is coming full circle?)

I numbed the pain of that first day back at work after a long holiday weekend by finally breaking the seal on the digitally remastered Merrily We Roll Along CD that my friend Brian gifted me with sometime ago, and I don't know what took me so long. The score ranks right up there with Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music as one of Sondheim's best. There isn't a clunker of a song in the bunch. My only complaint: No lyrics or plot synopsis in the liner notes, which the original cast album had. Yes, the history of the show in its various incarnations is interesting, but seeing the Sondheim's lyrics laid out before your eyes is the best way to appreciate them — and learn some new vocabulary words in the process.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

If He Only Had a Heart

I haven't spent much time on the Gawker boards lately, but their take on Jon Robin Baitz's rant against Charles Isherwood on The Huffington Post won me back. (I now have this image in my head of Ben Brantley penning boy-band profiles for Tiger Beat.)

But I don't understand Baitz's complaint about theater critics being advocates for consumers, especially when one mediorce show is selling tickets for $450. He seems to be saying that critics and reviewers should be an extension of the arts community, which I think we are to some extent, but we are and should be journalists first.

And how ironic that Frank Rich, much maligned during his tenure as Times theater critic, is now so wistfully remembered.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It Sucks to Be Shakespeare

Strolling past the TKTS booth at 6:30 Saturday night, I took a peek at the Broadway board to see if any of the eight shows not affected by the stagehands strike still had seats available. Wouldn't ya know, Cymbeline at Lincoln Center still had half-price seats! Even when more than two-thirds of all the shows on Broadway aren't performing, Shakespeare has trouble selling out. Thanks heavens he doesn't have to live off royalties.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pain in Spain

Annabella Sciorra and Michael Aronov in Spain

The quirky premise held promise — I can certainly appreciate a good Diana Gabaldon time-travel romance — but Spain relies too heavily on symbolism instead of simple human interaction. Not much of a vacation. My review.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Druken Family Fun

Harvey defends Fred Flintstone

The DirecTV listing for the finale of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law:

"Harvey falls into a drunken depression. Kids & Family."

Sounds just like the holidays at home!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Star-Crossed Brooklyn

Clayton Dean Smith and Jenny Fellner in Crossing Brooklyn

I enjoyed the Transport Group's fun little musical The Audience a couple of years ago. Not so much their current project Crossing Brooklyn.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Shaw Must Go On

Jefferson Mays and Claire Danes in Pygmalion.
Overheard in the ladies' room line at Pygmalion the other night: "So the plot is similar to My Fair Lady?"

Oh well, at least she won't be comparing the play to its more renowned musical version. Here are my thoughts.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Stamp of Approval

Alison Pill and Bobby Cannavale in Mauritius

She wrote for one of my favorite current TV series, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but I'm glad she's back writing for the stage. My review of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Watch on the Hudson

Black Watch at St. Ann's Warehouse

Between BAM and St. Ann's Warehouse, it seems like the most provocative and innovative theater is happening in Brooklyn these days. I can't wait to see the full production of Black Watch, a National Theatre of Scotland transport about the Iraq War that arrives at St. Ann's this weekend. Despite a frequent inability to comprehend the Scottish accent, I had a nice chat with playwright Gregory Burke, who's excited about visiting New York for the first time. The story's in this week's Time Out.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Zoo Story



If you're going to go to the Bronx Zoo, I recommend going with a child and someone who works there as a guide. Fortunately, I had both when I went there on Saturday. Our unofficial "guide" was my friend Amy, who steered us around and shared lots of interesting tidbits about giraffes, gorillas and African wild dogs. (And as you can see from this photo op at the bug carousel, she also young at heart.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Walmartopia

The creators of Off Broadway's Walmartopia

My interview, with the creators of Walmartopia is in the new issue of Time Out.

I'm so glad I live in a city that's Wal-Mart free — and I pray that nobody uncovers anything too distressing about Target!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pained Jane

Hathaway in Becoming Jane

I can't believe how utterly dull I found Becoming Jane, the new film starring Anne Hathaway that purports to tell of Ms. Austen's romance with a young Irishman. It's fiction based on what little facts are known about her life, but the filmmakers don't seem to understand why Austen's novels are still so popular nearly two centuries after they were written.

They're charming, witty and utterly passionate, and this film isn't any of those things. And I'm not usually that hard to please when it comes to period dramas. Put some appealing actors in frilly costumes and I'll probably be happy. But they try too hard to make Jane seem independent and spirited, and she comes across as a sullen sourpuss instead. It's filled with bad romance-novel cliches, something her books never were.

Incidentally, the film was playing in the big theater at Village East, and the Tuesday night 7:30 showing drew no more than 20 people — and there wasn't a single man in the audience. I like to think that women are usually smarter than men, but in this case the guys who stayed home to watch the Yankees–Red Sox game made the right choice.

Monday, August 27, 2007

End-of-Summer Joys

Roger Rees, Rob Campbell and Mark Blum in The Physicists

When I have more time I'll do a full wrap-up of my four-day trip to the Berkshires two weekends ago. We stayed at the lovely Willows Motel, where not only are the moring coffee and doughnuts complimentary, so are massive amounts of chocolate bars. (Diabetics, beware!)

But the sweetest part of the whole trip was seeing some wonderful theater. (How's that for a transition?) I adored Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey, Elizabeth Franz and the wonderful cast of The Autumn Garden, and I was intrigued if underwhelmed by Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt's The Physicists, featuring Roger Rees and Brenda Wehle.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thanks for the Memories

Marian Seldes and Angela Lansbury in Deuce

I'm so glad I had a chance to catch up with Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes before Deuce bid goodbye to Broadway on Sunday. I don't know how much more theater these two grande dames have left in them -- Lansbury is 81 and Seldes turns 79 on Thursday -- but if that's their last hurrah, I think they left their fans satisfied.

So many critics focused on the play's weaknesses -- and there are quite a few. But who cares? At this stage in their careers I'm not sure audiences would have wanted these two to lose themselves in characters as much as play variations on their personas -- or at least what we perceive their personas to be. Angela can say so much with just her eyes, and the way Marian moves her long, gangly body, even when she's just shrugging, is graceful and memorable.

I believe the last line of the play, uttered by a fan of their tennis pro characters, is "Really look at them. You will never see their likes again." I know I'm a sap, but at that point I was fighting back tears. Until then, I'd been so concerned with just finding time to see the show before it closed that I hadn't really thought about what these two actresses meant to me and how far back my "history" with them goes.

I first saw Marian Seldes onstage in the Broadway production of Deathtrap. The year was 1981, and by then she'd been doing the play for three years and had never missed a performance. Since then I've seen her play a number of larger-than-life characters in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows that were deserving of her talent (Three Tall Women, The Torch-Bearers, The Play About the Baby) and not so deserving (Ivanov, 45 Seconds From Broadway). I even had the pleasure of "escorting" her to a Drama Desk cocktail party, not because we were old acquaintances but because we happened to arrive at the hotel at the same time, and she looked a bit lost, so I helped her find where the festivities were.

Angela Lansbury, on the other hand, I'd never seen onstage before, but she was such a familiar face to me from all her wonderful filmed and recorded work that it felt like I was in the presence of an old friend. I had just started going to Saturday matinees with my mother in the early '80s when she went to Hollywood to do Murder, She Wrote, a show that was much loved in the Snyder/Kern household during my teen years. (Last week my mother and I were going through some of my late grandfather's old things. He didn't save much, but we found a local TV guide from the Sunday paper with Angela Lansbury on the cover that he's kept.)

Besides the 12-year run of Murder, She Wrote, I spent a considerable chunk of the '80s listening to her on the Mame and Sweeney Todd cast albums -- not to mention watching the videotaped performance of Sweeney Tood featuring her and George Hearn.

So thanks for the memories, ladies. I hold out hope that Deuce will not be the last of them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fallen Idol

Before most of the critics even had time to file their reviews Idol: The Musical is history. I can't say that I had much hope for a play about a bunch of Clay Aiken fanatics — and it's not a good sign when a show replaces its entire cast two weeks before opening night, which this one did — but it's so rare for anything to close on opening night these days that the news certainly took me by surprise.

Of the few reviews I saw, Michael Sommers' venom-spewing rant in the Star-Ledger is my favorite. His best line: "The pathetic little off-off-Broadway musical that opened yesterday at the 45th Street Theatre will soon perish of its own wretchedness without any help from the critics."

Me-ow! Too bad he wasn't around half a century ago to be a diaolgue writer for Bette Davis.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kitty Care

Oscar

Love this story out of Rhode Island about Oscar the cat, who's frighteningly accurate in predicting the deaths of nursing home residents. The best line? "The cat is said to do his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses at the home, but is not generally friendly to patients."

Based on my experiences with cats they can be extremely loving and sensitive creatures, but they can also be rather demanding and withholding of affection when they don't get whatthe want. Which makes me wonder if the cat isn't sneaking into rooms and offing the residents who refuse to feed him. Give him a treat, and you get to live another day!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Cigarettes and Crean


Oh, how far we've come in just a century. When Tom Crean, Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton were exploring Antarctica a hundred years ago, expeditions were multi-yeared and communication with the outside world practically nonexistent. You can learn more at Aidan Dooley's one-hander, Tom Crean -- Antarctic Explorer, which I reviewed for Time Out New York.

And I don't think I ever posted my last TONY review, of the Flea's Smoke and Mirrors. The program insert warned of "continuous smoking of herbal cigarettes," and of course my sinuses were already mass-producing phlegm when I took my seat, but I lived to write the review

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Luckiest Actor?



Without a doubt, it has to be Neil Patrick Harris. Of course it doesn't hurt that he's extremely talented as well. He's only 34, yet he's survived life as a child star, worked with Sondheim, played himself as a horny womanizer with ironic glee in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and now he gets to be a guest riffer with Mike Nelson on the RiffTrax sendup of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory .

And he has an adorable boyfriend in David Burtka, whom I spoke to briefly when he was appearing in The Opposite of Sex at the Williamstown Theatre Festival last year. At the time -- NPH had yet to officially out himself but it was pretty well known that they were a couple -- he mentioned that after the play ended he was heading out to L.A. to do a couple of episodes of How I Met Your Mother. I still pride myself on resisting the urge to say, "Who do you have to sleep with to get on that show?"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Black and Gold


Contrary to what some might think, Betty Shamieh's The Black Eyed isn't New York Theatre Workshop's apology for last summer's Rachel Cory debacle. But it is a much more thorough look at the lives of Palestinians through their own eyes. I only had a chance to read the play before interviewing her, but I look forward to seeing what director Sam Gold does in staging it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Give It Up for Relish!"

That was the quote of the weekend, and I heard it Sunday night at a Brooklyn Cyclones. baseball game. I've only been to one other game, and I think that was four summers ago, so I'd forgotten the many cutsie (or cheesy, depending on your point of view) promotions and contests they hauled out between innings to keep fans engrossed.

Without a doubt the piece de resistance is the Hot Dog Race, in which Ketchup, Mustard and Relish leg it down the third base line amid cheers from the crowd. Essentially, it's three people in hot dogs suits with different colored capes to delineate their condiment. So utterly ridiculous that I absolutely loved it, especially when Relish won and the announcer, with complete deadpan seriousness, boomed, "Give it up for Relish!"

This little gem of a journal is fiction, but I think "Diary of a Brooklyn Cyclones Hot Dog" captures the tone and absurdity quite nicely.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Death to the Stage


Most of my journalistic pursuits these days involve mysteries and theater, but rarely do the two intersect. So you can imagine my surprise when I received word about a mystery play festival billed as "star-studded" that took place in Owensbro, Ky., last week, the International Mystery Writers' Festival.

Frankly, I would have loved to attend, in part to see Angela Lansbury receive the First Lady of Mystery Award (Murder, She Wrote has always been a guilty pleasure of mine), but also because one of my early Broadway experiences was seeing the play Deathtrap, then starring Farley Granger and always starring Marian Seldes, and I think it's a shame that the Broadway thriller has disappeared from the landscape. You can still find the occasional thriller elsewhere, though. Last summer I caught Roger Rees and Rick Elice's Double Double at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (although if Rees weren't the company's artistic director I'm not sure it would have been staged).

Here's hoping this new festival really does become an annual event. If it does, perhaps Columbo Takes the Rap will find its way to Broadway soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Garden of Barbra


Spent the weekend at the lovely country home of my friend David, who in addition to being a very generous friend, is also a local celebrity thanks to NY1. Beyond eating, drinking and catching up on second-rate reality TV, we did a bit of gardening (well, I did a bit, David did quite a lot, actually).

He had the task of digging up a pair of non-flowering rosebushes and replacing them with fresh ones -- and not just any rosebushes but ones that carry the Barbra Streisand seal of approval (see photo above).

So they're bushy, large, over 35 (in petal count) and "can nearly overpower you with strong sweet scent." I wonder what a Mandy Patinkin rose would look and smell like.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Life of Reilly



I'm terribly late in paying tribute to the wonderful Charles Nelson Reilly, a pivotal figure of my childhood (as were many of the Match Game panelists). (One of the many downsides to moving is that sometimes it takes a while to get basic services like the Internet up and running.)

But I was thinking about Charles as I watched part of the Game Show Network's Match Game marathon tribue on Saturday and perused YouTube for videos of him (including this very odd dinner visit to his house that somebody uploaded). I was even tempted to break out my old Skyscraper cast album for a listen, but my loyalty only goes so far!

Incidentally, I did have the privilege of interviewing him nine years ago for Back Stage West when he was directing a production of The Gin Game starring Julie Harris and Charles Durning. Initially it was supposed to be a dialogue between the two actors, but luckily for me Charles Durning doesn't do a lot press, so Reilly, who'd been a friend of Harris' ever since they co-starred in Skyscraper, filled in. The article doesn't contain even half of the wonderful anecdotes they share during our lenghty conversation, but I'm pretty sure I still have the full interview somewhere, and if I were more techno-savvy I'd find a way to upload it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Blonde Bombshell


I can't believe a cynical gal such as myself was so enanamored with a musical as fluffy, frivlous and just plain fun as Legally Blonde. While several notable critics insist its prime audience is perky teenage girls, I thought it was highly entertaining for slightly older gals and even -- gulp -- a bit empowering. It reminded me that some dreams can come true if you hang in there and keep believing.

Actually, I know snobby theatergoers will attack me for saying this, but the characters in Legally Blonde seemed more real to me than the characters in LoveMusik, even though those characters -- Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya -- were real. I was surprised at how easily I could relate to the struggles of the Legally Blonde characters, while the ones in LoveMusik rarely felt more than two-dimensional.

I could certainly identify with Elle's plight of not being taken seriously by her supposedly sophisticated Harvard Law School peers. When you're a journalist who's worked for magazines about soap operas and romance novels, you get used to it.

I could identify with Emmett because I too come from a working-class family, and when I see people my own age or younger buying apartments with downpayments that their parents gave or lent them, it both frustrates me and makes me determined to prove that I can do it on my own.

And I could identify with Paulette, the lovelorn hairdresser who's afraid to take another chance at love but ultimately dives right in.

Now I like Sondheim as much as the next musical theater geek, but I also love Jerry Herman. And I don't think that simply because his shows are upbeat and full of hope that they're any less significant theater pieces.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mandy Patinkin: A Special Breed of Singer

Got a press release for the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts 2006-07 season, and my eye immediately went to the March 15, 2008 event: "Mandy Patinkin in Concert."

It included this description: "He belongs to a special breed of singer who doesn't merely dramatize songs — he incorporates them into his very being."

That's putting it mildly. Still, I'm impressed that the top ticket is only $40, and that he's performing in a place as far from bright lights of Broadway as Midwood, Brooklyn. Given his TV star status, I'd think he could command more.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Lunt and Fontanne's Last Stand

One of the many reasons I enjoy spending time with Connie, who also blogs, and her husband, Ed, who doesn't but probably should, is that I always pick up great theater tidbits from Ed, who used to be the theater critic for the Detroit News.

Sunday, as we were strolling along the pier in Piermont, N.Y., we somehow got onto the subject of theater, and Ed recounted how he caught the great Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne on one of their final tours of the provinces, when he was a student in Cleveland on a class trip. They were starring in The Visit, and Ed recalled the teacher assuring the students that when they were older, they would look grateful they had the chance to see this pair.

He certainly is, and I'm glad to have been able to share in his memories.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Another Cancellation

When Grace O'Malley's father stepped onstage at the beginning of The Pirate Queen, my heart leapt up.

"Charles Keating, you're back on Broadway," I thought to myself, only to check my Playbill and realize that it was actually Jeff McCarthy, whom I used to see on the Metro North train in the days when I lived in Tarrytown. You have to admit the resemblance is uncanny.

At the time I thought that at least I could enjoy Mr. Keating's work as the villainous Carl Hutchins on the reruns of Another World that Soap Net has been airing. But yesterday a fellow AW fan, Retta (who's also a blogger), wrote to tell me that the network had replaced it on its afternoon lineup with The O.C. or One Tree Hill or some other such show for teeny boppers who should be in school at 1 pm anyway. For whatever good it will do, we've emailed our displeasure to the powers that be.

On Soap Net's web site, they suggest checking out the few AW episodes that are available on in2tv.com, but I'm just not that excited about watching lengthy videos on the Internet. Nevertheless, I'm not sure I'll be able to resist checking out the occasional episode of Edge of Night or Texas, which I can't believe are also available. Oh, to see the wonderful Beverlee McKinsey play Iris Cory again!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rita at 75

I'm very lucky to have good friends like Brian who, in addition to being a source of strength and support for me over the years, frequently takes me to cabaret shows at swanky joints like the Cafe Carlyle -- places that I would have a hard time getting into otherwise!

Last week, on one of the coldest nights of the year, we caught the fabulous Rita Moreno in her Carlyle debut. Oh, I hope to look as good as she does and have as much energy as she has when I'm 75!

She lent her voice to some beautiful lesser-known songs, including "But Alive" from Applause, a great number from an under-appreciated musical; and "New Ways to Dream" from Sunset Boulevard. Didn't know that she once played Norma Desmond in London.

But I think my favorite part of the evening was an anecdote she shared about riding the elevator with a fellow -- and much less sophisticated -- guest of the Carlyle. As Rita tells it, the woman saw her gold-sequin top and asked if she was going to the show downstairs. "I am the show downstairs!" she quipped. And when the woman asked her her name, she replied: "Chita Rivera."

Monday, January 8, 2007

Tony in TONY

Before the issue is yanked from newsstands, allow me to direct your attention to my interview with the wonderful Tony Shalhoub in the current issue of Time Out New York. And he was a great sport as we tried to cram our interview into a limited amount of time and space before a rehearsal for The Scene, the Off-Broadway show he's starring in with Patricia Heaton.

The first time I saw his work, he was appearing on Broadway in The Heidi Chronicles (with the woman who would become his wife, Brooke Adams), but I wouldn't say I became a fan of his until I started watching Monk, a show that one can quickly become, well, obsessed with. I owe the discovery to my mother, who was raving about it because she'd finally found a TV character she could identify with.

And while I often find myself having a "Monk moment," part of what makes the show such a joy to watch is that contrary to the title, it really is an ensemble show, and Shalhoub seems like a generous actor and executive producer. Sometimes when a star has his or her name affixed to the title of a series, the supporting characters exist only to bolster said star. But to Shalhoub's credit, many terribly funny moments on Monk have involved the back-and-forth banter between Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) and Lieutenant Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford).