Yesterday, I watched a movie called Gimme Shelter on Netflix. I didn’t realize that Vanessa Hudgens was actually in the movie until I started it, and even then, I questioned whether or not it was her. Now, my only references to her work other than the High School Musical franchise, was Sucker Punch. That being said, I didn’t really have any high expectations. I’d heard of the movie briefly before, but didn’t get a chance to catch it when it was in theaters. That being said, Netflix is a wonderful invention. Based on a true story, Hudgens plays Agnes “Apple” Bailey, a pregnant runaway teen. The film co-stars Rosario Dawson as her drug-addled mother, Brendan Fraser as her well-to-do biological father, James Earl Jones as a compassionate priest, and character-actress, Ann Dowd as Kathy, the woman who runs a shelter for homeless, young mothers.

The role of Apple is a far cry from Hudgens’ current project as the title character in Gigi on Broadway. Her portrayal is riveting, raw and honest. She gave the role everything her talents could provide, had the dialect down, and was vanity-free.  She really shines and seems to leave the Disney star behind with this role. In a key scene in the hospital, Hudgens spars with James Earl Jones and holds her own against the industry veteran. That scene itself pretty much sealed the deal for me, giving me a new found respect for an actress who has often been simply labeled a teen star. Although the film could sometimes have the feeling of a Lifetime movie or even reminiscent of Precious, it is well executed and performances elevate it to a level that makes it worth a watch. It’s currently on Netflix and I am glad I stumbled upon a gripping tale with amazing performances.

Apparently, Die Hard action-star Bruce Willis, will be making his Broadway debut in the stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. The best-selling 1987 novel was already adapted for the screen with Kathy Bates and Jame Caan, so I’m wondering how they will adapt it, yet again, for the stage. Actress, Elizabeth Marvel (House of Cards) will step into the role of Annie Wilkes, which was originally portrayed by Bates and earned her an Academy Award. Personally,I think it would be interesting if Kathy Bates were given the chance to play her famed character onstage. I honestly think that even after twenty-five years, Bates could pull it off. Who knows? It’s still early in the process, so there might be a chance for her to win a Tony for the same role in which she won an Oscar. But, I’m interested to see what Marvel does with the role. The characters of Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes have become so iconic within the horror/thriller genre that I think an audience may have a tough time seeing anyone else but James Caan and Kathy Bates in those roles. The good news is, that many film-goers may not be aware of, that Willis has Off-Broadway stage experience. It’ll be very interesting to see him “back on the boards” after nearly thirty years. However, I don’t want to be too quick to assume its fate yet. We’ll just have to wait and see until the curtain goes up in the fall.

jamesgarner

Ask anyone of my generation or younger, and they’ll probably tell you that James Garner is “the guy from The Notebook.”  My response to that  is, “WHAT?!”  Seriously though, today we lost another great: actor, James Garner passed away at the age of 86. To many, he wasn’t just that guy from The Notebook. He was Bret Maverick, and Jim Rockford. He was the unlikely movie star  with two purple hearts  from the Korean War. He appeared on Broadway, once, in a non-speaking role in The Caine Mutiny Court Martial where he learned and honed his craft.  In the 50s and 60s, westerns were big on television, and James Garner turned the character of Bret Maverick into an icon. He found television success again in the 70s as another icon, Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files. Even with his numerous  television successes, including an Emmy for The Rockford Files, he managed to find fame on the big screen too. He starred in  The Great Escape, and  received a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1986 for Murphy’s Romance. In 1994, he starred in the film version of Maverick, with Mel Gibson stepping into the shoes of the famous gambler, and Garner as Marshall Zane Cooper. In his later years, he starred in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and yes, The Notebook. He was a versatile actor who needs to be recognized for his impressive career. Rest in Peace James Garner, you were my mom’s favorite actor.                                                              You were more than the guy from The Notebook: You were a Maverick.

This is a clip from Garner’s famed series, Maverick, with Clint Eastwood looking for some trouble:


elainestritchhat

Most people who aren’t theater buffs probably know Elaine Stritch, who passed away today at the age of 89, from her role as Alec Baldwin’s mother on 30 Rock. I’ve known who Elaine Stritch was since I was first introduced to the cast album of Stephen Sondheim’s Company as a teenager. The show contains many famous Broadway melodies, one of which became Stritch’s signature song, “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Starting her career at the age of 17 in New York City, Stritch knew everyone from Marlon Brando to Ben Gazzara to Kim Stanley and of course, composer, Stephen Sondheim. She was nominated for a Tony Award five times and won three Emmys, one of which was for 30 Rock. Her gutsy personality and unique talent will not be forgotten. She’s influential to many of those who make their livings in the theater nowadays. So, if you’re at a bar tonight, have a vodka stinger and raise your glass to a one of a kind woman: Elaine Stritch. I’ll drink to that.


 

bardybunchphotothread

 Picture it: Shakespeare, Partridge Family music, and Brady Bunch punchlines–in one show. That’s what happens in the musical,  The Bardy Bunch written by Stephen Garvey and directed by Jay Stern. Their tagline: In the summer of 1974, the Brady and Partridge Families, recently canceled by ABC and no longer under America’s watchful eye, met in a blood-soaked, passion-filled, vengeance-fueled, very special episode of Shakespearean proportions. 

Boy, is it Shakespearean– and musical in the best way possible.  Writer Stephen Garvey has managed to take two of the most popular shows of 1970s, and the most popular playwright of all time, and make a seamless musical theater experience. Broadway vets Sean McDermott (Miss Saigon/Grease/Starlight Express) , Lori Hammel (Mamma Mia!), and Kristy Cates (Elphaba in Wicked) lead the Brady and Partridge kids in a mash-up of Shakespeare’s classics (Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth, just to name a few) backed by groovy music like, “I Think I Love You” and “Sunshine Day” (complete with the best Brady bicycle sequence since the 1995 movie adaptation) and my personal favorite, “It’s One of Those Nights (Yes, Love.)” Young talents like Erik Keiser, Annie Watkins, Cali Elizabeth Moore, and Mitch McCarrell give stand-out performances. The show itself is so unique in concept and construct, that it must be seen and heard! Shakespeare would be proud. So, if you’re in the NYC area, groove on down to the Theatre at St. Clements for a serious nostalgia fix. 

The Bardy Bunch enjoyed its original run during the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival and opened March 20th, 2014 Off-Broadway. For ticket information and to learn more about the show, visit: http://www.thebardybunch.com.

And on a personal note: Stephen, yes, I am a groupie.


At about 4:oo in the morning, I was inspired by Vulture.com’s genius article about turning A League of Their Own into a musical, complete with a two-act songbook. It seriously needs to happen. And they weren’t joking when they mentioned that Rocky was being made into a musical. Auditions are scheduled in the next few weeks. Weird. Not to mention, Mean Girls, Clueless and Little Miss Sunshine have all been turned into musicals. Seriously.  That got me to thinking about other movies that should be musicals.

  1. Take note from 30 Rock, and make Mystic Pizza a musical. Seriously. You could even have a dance number with pizzas and waitresses. If performed at the St. James Theatre or Helen Hayes Theatre, John’s Pizzeria on 44th could even provide the pies.
  2. The Devil Wears Prada: Come on people. Anne Hathaway & Meryl Streep could even reprise their famous roles, and there could be dance number where they actually Vogue to the song, Vogue.
  3. Ghostbusters: Featuring your favorite 80s hits, including “Call Me” by Blondie.
  4. Home Alone: Kevin McAllister singing “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen during the film’s climax when he realizes that he misses his family. Marv & Harry sing, “Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers.
  5. The Shawshank Redemption: Andy & Red sing “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by the Animals among others.
  6. Iron Man: Robert Downey, Jr. actually has singing talent, and it could play across the street from Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark.  Think about that for a second. SPIDERMAN is ACTUALLY a MUSICAL. For REAL. Like currently…playing on BROADWAY.
  7. Scream: The killer with that creepy mask could sing Sting’s famous ballad, “Every Breath You Take” (I’ll Be Watching You.)
  8. Mrs. Doubtfire: The chorus could sing “Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Aerosmith. They could even write the rest of the music.
  9. Stand By Me: Come on, kids and musicals equal box-office GOLD. They could sing “Lean on Me”
  10. The Godfather: Featuring originals like “Take the Gun. Leave the Cannoli” and “I’ll Make Him an Offer He Can’t Refuse” and “Drop the Gun, Michael” during the shootout in the restaurant.

Special Bonus: The Sandlot. I mean, come on, “You’re Killin’ Me Smalls” would be the hit song!

Seriously people. Composers, lyricists, producers: take note. People want musicals of movies. Just a few suggestions with jumping off points, so get a move on! We got casting to do and opening nights to plan!

Jessica Hecht and 2013 Tony nominee, Judith Light, in “The Assembled Parties”

The nominations for the 67th Annual Tony Awards were announced this morning by Broadway veterans Sutton Foster (ABC Family’s Bunheads) and Jessie Tyler Ferguson (ABC’s Modern Family.) Among the nominees are your standard theater performers, who have yet to make themselves known to a wider audience, but there are a lot of familiar faces from television and film as well. The late Nora Ephron received a posthumous nomination for penning the play, Lucky Guy, which stars fellow nominee Tom Hanks (who starred in Ephron’s films Sleepless in Seattle & You’ve Got Mail.) Broadway and film vets Nathan Lane, Tracy Letts, David Hyde Pierce, and Tom Sturridge vie for top honors along with Hanks in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play category. In my humble opinion, Alan Cumming was snubbed for his tour de force performance in Macbeth.

For Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, television and film veterans fill a category where it’s clear they all started in the theater. It includes the stellar works of Laurie Metcalf (The Other Place) Amy Morton (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) and Cicely Tyson (A Trip to Bountiful.) The thing that I find most interesting about this category is the fact that Jessica Chastain was snubbed for her Broadway debut in The Heiress.

The most fun however, will come with the featured actors in plays (both male and female categories.) For the male category, it includes: Danny Burstein, Golden Boy, Richard Kind, The Big Knife, Billy Magnussen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy and Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy.  They are all theater veterans and well-known in television and film as well. For the female category it’s the battle of the Judiths with both Judith Light and Judith Ivey getting nominations. Carrie Coon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Judith Ivey, The Heiress, Judith Light, The Assembled Parties and Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful.

It will be interesting to see who wins in these categories considering most of them do theater, film and television. For a complete list of nominations you can go here.