TIME Theater

Broadway Fall Preview: Revivals, Stars and Sting

Tavi Gevinson This Is Our Youth Michael Cera Broadway Cast NYC
Culkin, Gevinson and Cera will try to hold the stage Peter Hapak for TIME

High-wattage actors populate the high-profile shows opening this fall on Broadway

Big stars from movies and TV are hardly a novelty on Broadway anymore. But this fall may be some kind of high-water mark. Famous names will be plastered all over Broadway marquees — mostly in revivals, or in tony ensemble pieces rather than classic star turns. It’s only prudent. Few Hollywood stars want to risk facing the critics in an untried new play (as Katie Holmes did two seasons ago in the ill-fated Dead Accounts), or take on a demanding classic role where they’re likely to be judged against a long line of legendary predecessors (witness the tepid reviews for Scarlett Johansson’s recent turn as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof).

This Is Our Youth, Kenneth Lonergan’s critically praised off-Broadway comedy from the 1990s, seems like an ideal vehicle for the trio of stars headlining its Broadway debut (opening on Sept. 11). Michael Cera, known for his sweetly disaffected teens in movies like Superbad and Juno, plays a Manhattan rich kid who steals $15,000 from his father; Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down) is his manic, drug-dealing friend; and Tavi Gevenson (the 18-year-old fashion blogger who has just launched an acting career) rounds out the intriguing cast as Cera’s girlfriend.

Two more young stars making Broadway debuts, Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal, are the chief raison d’etre for a revival of The Real Thing, Tom Stoppard’s 1982 marital drama returning to Broadway for the third time (Oct. 30). Glenn Close (who co-starred in the original Broadway production of The Real Thing) and John Lithgow head the cast of A Delicate Balance, Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1967 drama (Nov. 20), last seen on Broadway in 1996. Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, stage pals from The Producers and The Odd Couple, will reunite — along with F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally and Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint — in the Broadway debut of Terrence McNally’s backstage theater comedy It’s Only a Play (Oct. 9). Bradley Cooper takes on the title role in a revival of Bernard Pomerance’s hit drama The Elephant Man. And James Earl Jones gets top billing in a new version of the Kaufman-Hart warhorse You Can’t Take It With You (Sept. 28).

Also returning to Broadway this fall is perhaps the ultimate star vehicle of them all: A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters, a showcase for two actors reading a series of letters that chronicle the ups and downs of a 50-year love affair. Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy will play the roles for the first month, followed by tag-team series of duos, including such age-appropriate stars as Carol Burnett, Candice Bergen, Alan Alda, Angelica Huston and Martin Sheen.

The only star of the sole new musical set to open this fall is the man behind the scenes: Sting. For his first Broadway musical, The Last Ship, (Oct. 26), the rock star has drawn on his own childhood experiences, setting the musical in an English seafaring town where the last shipyard is about to close down. After somewhat mixed reviews for a pre-Broadway run in Chicago (and a spotty record for rock stars trying to transition to Broadway), its prospects are uncertain. But for musical fans, it’s the only game in town this fall, aside from a couple of well-hyped revivals: On the Town, the Bernstein-Comden-Green perennial (Oct. 16), and Side Show, the 1996 musical about the Hilton sisters, Siamese twins who became a hit in vaudeville in the 1920s, which is returning a new production reconceived by director Bill Condon (Nov. 17).

Amid all the stars and revivals, is there any room left on Broadway for serious new plays? Yes, actually — three promising ones this fall.

The most anticipated is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Simon Stephens’ adaptation of the novel by Mark Haddon about a 15-year-old autistic genius who investigates the killing of a neighbor’s dog. The London production won critical raves and a record-tying seven Olivier awards, including one for Best Play and another for director Marianne Elliott, who is bringing her British production over here largely intact.

Another new British import is The River, the latest work from Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem), set in a remote cabin where a fisherman has an enigmatic encounter with two women. Originally staged at the Royal Court Theatre, the Broadway version will have the same director (Ian Rickson), plus an extra dose of star power: Hugh Jackman, one of Broadway’s most reliable boxoffice draws, plays the fisherman.

The lone new American play of the fall season is Disgraced, Ayad Akthar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a Muslim-American lawyer facing a clash between his religion and his work relationships. After successful productions off Broadway and in regional theaters, its arrival is proof that Broadway can still make room for serious works by homegrown playwrights about contemporary issues. Even without stars.

TIME Television

Snooki Who?: The Cool, Edgy, Other MTV You Didn’t Know Existed

Everett

MTV may have stopped airing arty, odd shows on TV a decade ago — but the network's original spirit lives on, online

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Tucked away underneath an elevated subway line in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, two frat boys named Josh are making butt jokes behind an unmarked steel door. The pair of horny bros with facial hair of dubious origin leans over the blueprint of a yoga studio, plotting how to situate their mats so they’ll be best able to attract women. One Josh points to the map with a Green Apple Dum-Dum sucker; other Josh leans in, eyes wide, and deadpans, “Tell me about these feet rugs!” Moments later, a Josh starts singing the chorus to “Old Man River,” which morphs into a Katy Perry mashup: “Old man river, you’re gonna hear me rooaaaaar.”

Josh and Josh’s entourage — the camera people, the director, the dude holding the boom mic — erupts in laughter. The Joshes are the alter egos of Kate Riley and Fran Gillespie, Upright Citizen’s Brigade regulars who have co-created a short series called, cannily, Two Guys Named Josh. The makeshift soundstage is an apartment near the Hewes Avenue JMZ stop, rented from some arty loft type whose painted brick walls are just rundown enough to be believable as the abode for two best friends whose main goals are boozing, broing and snagging babes. The confluence of UCB and YouTube has been so instrumental in propelling young comedians from the Internet to television or film fame — from Aubrey Plaza and the Lonely Island to Drunk History and Broad City — everybody knows online comedy is the way to score. But the difference is this time, MTV is footing the bill.

MORE: MTV VMAs: The Wildest Moments Ever, Ranked

For 15 years, MTV has been both reviled and applauded for its shift from emphasizing videos and music programs to reality-television shows that some deem exploitative. The annual Video Music Awards still remain a marquee event, but the airing of actual videos has been shoved off onto tentacle, extended-cable choices like MTV Jams and MTV Hits in favor of wildly popular shows like Catfish and 16 and Pregnant. Videos are much lamented, but that wasn’t all MTV cast off in favor of The Hills and Jersey Shore. Viewers also lost creative programming like Liquid Television, the block of animated series in the Nineties that led to successful, groundbreaking shows like Daria and Aeon Flux. (Full disclosure: I have written for Viacom/MTV, but never for the subcompany MTV Other.)

MTV Other was conceived in spring 2013 and launched that summer as a “laboratory for original video content,” according to Garth Bardsley, VP of Original Video for MTV’s Connected Content Group, who had stopped by to check in on the taping of Two Guys Named Josh, now in its second season. “The legacy of MTV was that back in the day, it was a home for creative people to have an outlet, right? It still is,” explains Bardsley. “But if you’re going to put something on TV, you’ve got to typically have an agent who’s going to call an executive. He’s going to get you a meeting. And you’re going to have a lot more meetings. And you’re going to talk through it all. And there’s going to be scripts and yadda yadda. We do some of that, but we’re also just looking across the web for content creators, and we’re able to turn projects around more quickly.”

MORE: 8 TV Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now

MTV Other’s tagline is “short shows, random weirdness,” and it acts as a hub for a resurrected Liquid TV, though roughly half of Other’s shows are live-action comedies and talk shows. Bardsley cites programs like the burger-joint comedy Fast Food Heights, created by Bridesmaids actor Greg Tuculescu, and a sketch called Teacher’s Lounge written by Morgan Evans, who also directs Two Guys, as the type of programming Other leans towards. “We want to find our own version of hits,” he says, sitting on a loveseat on the makeshift set. “A hit for us would be much smaller than what TV needs. But we want to keep looking for hits. Who’s going to break out and people want to see more of? And we want to have more creative people in the building who are feeding into higher things.” MTV Other bookends web oddballs with more established comedians (Eric Andre; Murray Hill) in conversation with musicians like the Beastie Boys and Har Mar Superstar. They even do service journalism, showcasing scenes in cities across America and weed-food tips.

In a sense, Other is a bit of MTV magic: If YouTube and Vimeo act as incubators for networks like Comedy Central, Other is MTV’s own in-house farm team, a place to groom talent and test out shows until they prove themselves. Or in the event that the reality-show template ever topples, MTV will have ready-made content to replace it, already tested on the Internet. Of course, that’s not Bardsley’s expressed goal (which is adamantly about developing creativity), but it’s a savvy move for a goliath in a climate that increasingly rewards shows and ideas that are agile. There’s certainly enough network crossover: Other has developed animated spin-offs narrated by popular MTV2 hosts Matt Pinfield and Charlemagne the God. But Bardsley insists the creativity comes first. “It’s not like we’re setting out to do a legacy play at all,” he says. “It’s just that there’s a history of doing this at MTV, which is kind of nice. We still basically want to play around and find audiences outside of television. I think if you look there, you will see things that are perhaps on the weird side.”

MORE: 12 TV Shows That Came Back from the Dead

Weird, in fact, is a good word for this shoot of Two Guys Named Josh. Stars Riley and Gillespie both have ample improv experience, so they keep repeating scenes with different lines, each odder, if not funnier, than the last. Their show is wildly hilarious — they portray their frat-dude Joshes quite literally (props include red dixie cups and bikini posters), but there is a tenderness to the characters that could attract both the bros they’re spoofing and the feminists who love to roll their eyes at them. (A high point in Season One, says Riley, was when they were written up by the websites Bro Bible and Jezebel in the same day.) Still in costume in popped-collar Polos, khakis and ridiculous facial hair, Riley describes the duo as a sort of Pinky & the Brain. The duo mines their family and friends’ experiences for inspiration. “I was home for Christmas,” explains Riley, “and I would be like, ‘I’m naming characters! Someone yell out something they call a frat brother!’ And [my brothers] were like, ‘Pootsie! Bowels! Shoes! Chicken Parm! Young Tit! Bozo!’ just all these names. Chicken Parm. You know why? All he ate was chicken parm. Real guy.”

Riley and Gillespie are clearly real talents — even the intro credits, featuring Josh and Josh gesticulating wildly at a curvaceous woman while a ridiculous dubstep beat plays, are a riot — which may be why in their case, MTV Other pursued them, rather than the other way around, through Riley’s agent. The developers, producers and Bardsley are often on-set during filming. “Sometimes when people from a network are there, you kind of feel your butt tighten,” says Gillespie, “but not with these people. And that’s great, because when we’re improvising, you can’t be in a headspace where you’re like, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this.'”

The duo also says it has control over the editing room, with the network censoring only when offensive terms — or brand names — make it to the mix. “This is for the web, so the production value is incredible, that we get to play with [this type of equipment] — it’s like Candyland for the creative department,” Gillespie says. Referring to the scene on set, she adds, “When you’re doing TV, it’s twice as many people and everyone’s staring at you!”

If the great MTV Other experiment finds its groove, there’ll be a whole lot more eyeballs on them soon.

MORE: TV’s Most Heart-stopping Moments

 

TIME Theater

Cate Blanchett in The Maids: Star Turnoff

The Maids
Cate Blanchett, left, and Isabelle Huppert, in a scene from the Sydney Theatre Company's production of "The Maids,"currently performing at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. Stephanie Berger—Lincoln Center Festival/AP

The Australian actress sinks her teeth into a coarse revival of Jean Genet's play

There are few hotter actresses in the world than Cate Blanchett. The regally blonde Australian beauty has had amassed a stellar resume of screen roles, ranging from classy impersonations (Queen Elizabeth I, Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator) to fantasy-movie icons (Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) to her Oscar-winning turn last year as a Wall Street wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.

Her work on stage has been equally impressive. Touring with the Sydney Theatre Company (where she serves as co-artistic director along with her husband, writer Andrew Upton), she has won critical raves in such classic roles as Hedda Gabler, Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and Yelena in Uncle Vanya. So formidable is her stage reputation that her latest venture—a new production of Jean Genet’s The Maids — has become the theater event of the New York summer.

Genet’s 1947 play is a fine vehicle for her. Written by one of the most notorious outlaw-artists of the postwar avant-garde theater, Genet’s spiky one-act is based on a real life murder case, in which two sisters were put on trial for killing the mistress they both served as maids. But the play is hardly a straightforward docudrama; rather, it’s an intricate dance of role-playing and identity confusion, exploring class hatreds and expressing an outsider’s profound sense of disaffection and existential pain.

Playing Claire, the younger of the two sisters, Blanchett has a showy role that she digs into with relish. As the play opens, she and her sister, Solange (French star Isabelle Huppert) are in the midst of a role-playing ritual: Claire impersonating their mistress, Solange taking the role of her sister. Blanchett flounces through the play-acting with gusto, parodying her mistress’s haughty airs, obsessing over her wads of makeup and lavish wardrobe, berating her sister with disdain that only barely disguises real hatred. With the arrival of their mistress (the tall and delicious Elizabeth Debicki) the fantasy ends and the drama gains more traction, as we learn that the sisters have turned in their mistress’s lover to the police and they proceed to hatch (and botch) a plan to murder her.

Blanchett is ravishingly watchable throughout. But the production around her seems out of kilter. One problem is Huppert, who is neither very convincing nor very compelling as her sister. Her small frame is overwhelmed by the tall, strapping, more charismatic Blanchett, and her heavily accented English simply does not bring out the nuance and naturalistic menace in Genet’s language.

That language, moreover, has been needlessly coarsened by the new translation concocted by Upton and director Benedict Andrews. You don’t have to be a Genet purist to be put off by the profanity-laden transformation. Here, for example — in Bernard Frechtman’s 1954 translation — is how Solange addresses her sister as she escorts her offstage in a key scene near the end:

Come. Lean on me. There. Walk gently. We’ll be better off there, in our flowered domain. I have such sure ways of putting an end to all suffering.

And here’s how she sounds in Upton and Andrews’ crass, tabloidy rewrite:

Too tired? Then I’ll go it alone, darling sister. Shut up. You had the whole thing prepared. You had her right here. And you stupid, gutless, f–king c–t. Put your head back and open your f–king mouth.

In a word: ick.

Also bothersome is Andrews’ fussy, tricked-up production, with its overdressed set (an acre of flowers and a long rack of color-coordinated dresses stretch across the expansive stage) and continuous video projections above the actors’ heads: still-life shots of the flowers, makeup cases and other props onstage, mixed in with live shots of the actors in close-up or at odd angles — from underneath a dressing table, say, or in long-shot profile from the wings. Andrews has justified all this thematically as a way of reinforcing Genet’s role-playing device. But moment to moment on stage, the video projections are distracting — not to mention unflattering, especially to the 61-year-old Huppert.

Blanchett and her Sydney company deserve cheers for tackling a challenging work by an important, seldom-revived playwright (in America at least) and creating a must-see theatrical event in the process. The sellout crowd at City Center on the night I attended was the best dressed I’ve encountered in a New York theater in ages. They applauded warmly, and even rose for an obligatory standing ovation when the actors drew out their curtain calls long enough. But it seemed like a strain.

TIME celebrity

Cast of Broadway’s Aladdin Pays a Special Musical Tribute to Robin Williams

Remembering Williams' classic role as the Genie in 1992

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On Wednesday, Broadway theaters across New York City dimmed their lights to honor to Robin Williams. But the previous night, one particular group of Broadway performers paid a much livelier tribute to the actor, who died Monday at 63.

After their performance, the cast of the musical version of Aladdin took a moment to pay their respects and then lead the audience in a singalong rendition of “Friend Like Me.” Williams, of course, sang this song when he played the Genie in the 1992 animated Disney movie.

James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Genie on Broadway, also spoke a bit about Williams’ incredible talent and influence, calling him “one of the greatest — not comedians — but one of the greatest entertainers of all time.”

 

TIME Theater

Finding Neverland Will Soar Onto Broadway Next March

The 68th Annual Tony Awards
Jennifer Hudson performs a song from the musical 'Finding Neverland' at the 68th Annual Tony Awards in New York in June 2014. CBS Photo Archive—CBS via Getty Images

The theatrical version comes a decade after the critically acclaimed film about Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie

Finding Neverland, the story of author J.M. Barrie as he sets off to write his opus Peter Pan, will open on Broadway in March 2015, a decade after the release of the critically acclaimed film.

The New York Times reports that the show, bankrolled by veteran producer Harvey Weinstein, received a trial run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Wednesday night — the culmination of a lengthy and highly public production process.

It is the first major theater project that Weinstein has directly tackled, though he is acquainted with Broadway: a 2012 story in the Times described him as a “passive investor” in such successful shows as The Producers and Billy Elliot.

The original film, which starred Johnny Depp as Barrie and received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Original Score, and others, was produced by Miramax Films, which Weinstein founded and runs with his brother Bob.

Much remains up in the air. The show’s creative team, headed by Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus, has yet to announce either a cast or a theater in New York where the show will play.

TIME celebrity

Who Was Lauren Bacall? 5 Things to Know

Lauren Bacall
Sunset Boulevard / Corbis

The film star has died at age 89

Lauren Bacall, one of Hollywood’s most legendary leading ladies, died Tuesday at age 89. For those unfamiliar with the award-winning actress or her decades-spanning career, here is a quick crash course:

She got her start as a model: Before she made her cinematic breakthrough, Bacall was getting by as a model in New York City, where she snagged the cover of Harper’s Bazaar at the age of 19. Slim Hawks, the wife of To Have and Have Not director Howard Hawks, saw her on the cover and suggested her husband bring Bacall in for a screen test. Because obviously–look at that smolder.

She delivered this famous film line: In 1944’s To Have and Have Not, Bacall’s character tells Humphrey Bogart’s character, “You do know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.” The line is ranked on the American Film Institute’s list of top movie quotes, coming in at No. 34.

She had some famous romances: Bacall and Bogart began their relationship while filming To Have and Have Not. They wed in 1945 when she was 20 and he was 45, had two children and remained married until 1957, when Bogart died of cancer. After his death, she was briefly engaged to Frank Sinatra, but the singer broke it off — to her eventual relief. “Frank did me a great favor,” she told People magazine in 1979. “He saved me from the complete disaster our marriage would have been. But the truth is that he behaved like a complete sh-t. Still, that was over 20 years. When I run into him now, we give each other a nice hello.” Bacall later married actor Jason Robards, Jr., and with him had another child, Sam Robards, who also became an actor.

She’s known for the Lauren Bacall “Look”: “I used to tremble from nerves so badly that the only way I could hold my head steady was to lower my chin practically to my chest and look up at Bogie,” she told People about the origins of her trademark. “That was the beginning of the Look. I still get the shakes from time to time.”

She later became a theater star: Following her Hollywood success, Bacall eventually transitioned to a career on Broadway, where she won Tony Awards for roles in Applause and Woman of the Year. Despite the mark she left on movie history, Bacall never won an Oscar for her work, though she did receive an honorary award from the Academy in 2009.

TIME Arts

Lion King Cast Surprises Subway Riders With A Cappella Performance of ‘The Circle of Life’

Some people appreciate it, but others are strangely indifferent

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Most New Yorkers just kind of sigh impatiently and bury their noses in a book or a smartphone when they see subway performers start to sing or dance, which is understandable. But it’s a different story when it’s actual BROADWAY PERFORMERS.

On an A train earlier this summer, members of the The Lion King cast surprised commuters with a beautiful a cappella performance of “The Circle of Life.” The singers were scattered around the car, initially blending in with the normals. But then, surprise! They’re actually Tony Award-winning Broadway actors launching into a spirited rendition of a classic tune.

Some riders get pretty into it, singing along and tapping their feet, while others act almost annoyed by the disruption. Some even keep their earbuds in! Like, seriously you guys? This is awesome and you should appreciate it.

If you’re hoping to catch one of these impromptu performances, it might happen again, since the Australian cast did something similar on a plane back in April. We just ask that you take off your headphones, put down your book, and actually enjoy the show.

TIME Theater

Larry David’s Next Act: Broadway

"Fed Up" - Los Angeles Premiere
Larry David attends the premiere of "Fed Up" at Pacfiic Design Center on May 8, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic / Getty Images

Forgive us: we're having difficulty curbing our enthusiasm about this

Your favorite curmudgeon Larry David is writing a Broadway play — and also plans to star in it, a person familiar with David’s plans confirmed to TIME.

Go on, allow yourself a moment to let this sink in: The comedic goldmine who brought us Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm is going to write and star in a production on Broadway.

According to Showbiz411.com, the play is titled Shiva, referring to the period of mourning following a Jewish funeral. Scott Rudin — known for producing plays like The Book of Mormon — is on board as producer, Showbiz411 reports.

Otherwise, details are pretty slim. We’ll update when we learn more.

TIME Theater

“Bullets Over Broadway” to Shut Down Next Month

"Bullets Over Broadway" Opening Night Celebration - Arrivals And Curtain Call
Brooks Ashmanskas, Nick Cordero, Zach Braff, Marin Mazzie and Helene Yorke during the Broadway opening night performance curtain call for ''Bullets Over Broadway" at the St. James Theatre on April 10, 2014 in New York City. Walter McBride/Getty Images

The musical is likely to take a $14 million hit

The curtains will close on “Bullets Over Broadway” next month. The show, about the struggles of pulling off a Broadway production whilst casting members of the mob, was the first Woody Allen film to be adapted into a stage musical.

Producers of “Bullets” announced on Tuesday that the final St. James Theatre show will be on Aug. 24.

While the film version was feted with seven Academy Award nominations, the musical adaption failed to impress critics and theatregoers. It was left empty handed at this year’s Tony Awards and audience attendance slumped following the April 10 opening – filling only 67 percent of the house seats.

The $14 million musical’s poor attendance and early exit is likely to cost most or all of its capitalization, reports the New York Times.

Lead producers, Letty Aronson (Woody Allen’s sister) and Julian Schlossberg, said in a statement on Tuesday, “We are tremendously proud of this show and every single person involved with it. It has been a true pleasure, and we know that ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ will have a long life in future productions to come.”

Zach Braff took on the lead role as David Shayne, the playwright who makes a deal with the mob to get his play produced. John Cusack played the on-screen version of the writer in the 1994 film.

[LA Times]

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