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04/19/2007


Woody Allen’s ‘Bullets Over Broadway’ Musical Starring Zach Braff Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

Bullets2710

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Of the many musicals to roll off Broadway’s assembly line of popular film adaptations, the arrival of Bullets Over Broadway at the St James Theatre on April 10 seems like a natural, if not exactly foregone conclusion. Written by Woody Allen with a buoyant musical score of standards from the 20s and 30s, the production helmed and choreographed by Susan Stroman spares no expense and radiates the sort of seductive visual glamour you’d expect from its creators. But the combo of Allen’s idiosyncratic style with musical theatre makes for a strange marriage.

Bullets2716Like the 1994 film, which Allen co-wrote with Douglas McGrath, the musical tells the story of hapless playwright David Shayne (Zach Braff), who gets his new play produced on Broadway by notorious mobster Nick Valenti (Vincent Pastore) on the condition that Nick’s birdbrained girlfriend Olive (Heléne York) play a part in the show. The cast comes together to rehearse, including its vain star Helen Sinclair (Marin Mazzie), the cloying Eden Brent (Karen Ziemba) with her puppy in tow, and perpetually hungry Walter Purcell (Brooks Ashmanskas). Olive’s bodyguard Cheech (Nick Cordero) pipes in with unsolicited changes to the script, eventually becoming David’s ghostwriter.

Allen’s comedy assembles a cast of classic New York archetypes (neurotic writer, tough guy, dimwitted blonde, aging diva, etc.), and the film’s stellar ensemble achieves a sublime sort of campy-chic, balancing over-the-top performances (theatre people are so dramatic) with enough vulnerability to ground their characters. The story would seem to lend itself well to a musical, where over-the-top is par for the course.

Bullets2712Stroman’s production fares best in its beautifully choreographed musical numbers, from Cotton Club-style showgirl acts and a back-alley gangster tap dance to a hilarious chorus of singing hot dogs (yes, really). In dance she captures the fun, frenetic energy of the era, while scenic design by Santo Loquasto and costumes by William Ivey Long create a remarkable feast for the eyes.

Yet the show resists the same level of camp in dialogue as it embraces in song, feeling more often like a straightforward Broadway musical rather than a satire of one. On screen Allen’s heady dialogue vacillates between subtle and bombastic, moving at the clipped pace for which his movies are known. While the book scenes are elevated enough here to make for typical musical theatre, they rarely reach the nuanced level of parody inherent to the story.

Bullets2708In his Broadway debut, Braff’s likability does him credit, though his presence remains somewhat subdued (in his rendition of “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” the refrain “I’m just rollin’ along” is maybe a bit too apt). Ms. Mazzie and Ms. York both shine in song, while Broadway vets Ashmanskas and Ziemba make the most of their roles, though they’re mostly confined to repeating one-note bits (gluttony and a frisky pup, respectively).

As the tough guy with a mind for playwriting, Cordero emerges as the show’s clear highlight. Just as Cheech takes over writing David’s play with an ear for what works on stage, Cordero creates the sort of grounded character here that works so well in the movie. Cheech might have done wonders were he tasked with setting the tone for this show, too.

Recent theatre features...
Denzel Washington Opens in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ On Broadway: REVIEW
Idina Menzel Opens In ‘If/Then’ On Broadway: REVIEW
Terrence McNally’s ‘Mothers and Sons’ Starring Tyne Daly Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
New Production of ‘Les Misérables’ Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
New Musical 'Rocky' Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:paul kolnik)


NYC Club Kid Founder And Murderer Michael Alig Will Leave Prison In May: VIDEO

Alig

According to Blackbook, on May 5th Michael Alig — the gay founder of the 1990s New York Club Kids scene — will get paroled from prison after serving 17 years for the murder and dismemberment of Andre “Angel” Melendez.

The now 47-year-old Alig began serving time on October 24, 1997 after pleading guilty to manslaughter. He and his accomplice Robert Riggs murdered Melendez during an argument over a drug debt. After Riggs hit Melendez with a hammer, the men forced Drano into Melendez’s body and put the corpse in a tub filled with ice to prevent its decomposition. A few days later, Alig dismembered the corpse and threw the remains in the garbage and the Hudson River. Alig claims to have been on so many drugs at the time that he does not clearly remember the ordeal.

In 2013, Blackbook said of Alig: “The mixing of his club kids with the ravers, the model crowd, the art crowd, and the hipsters at Tunnel and Palladium looked easy at the time, but is rarely duplicated today.”

ClubkidsIn another 2013 article, Alig’s friend Steve Lewis told Blackbook, “[Alig] believed that those who surrounded us were ready to break out into mainstream America. He saw them as the future fashion designers, photographers, artists, stylists, etc.” Lewis added that Alig brought current drag luminaries like RuPaul and Lady Bunny into the limelight and that Alig worked as if he were the creative descendant of Andy Warhol.

Lewis most recently told Blackbook about what Alig might do after leaving prison:

“[Alig] will be staying with a close friend, and has been recruited for creative jobs by many. His transition to the real world will be eased by a support group who, for the most part, have stuck by him for more than a decade and a half. Michael has never used a computer or cellphone but he has remained keenly aware of the world we live in. There is no chance that he will return to clubs as a way of life, but he will paint and write, and as always, try to impact the way we think.

… during my visits to him in prison I observed the Michael Alig that I loved—the Alig prior the downfall. I believe he is ready to enter the world, and that reentering will be a good thing. No one, no act, no time, no hatred will bring back Angel, but Michael has served a great deal of his adult life in a bad place. I believe he has been rehabilitated. I believe he is forever remorseful and I look forward to his redux. To those who say nay, I respect that, but hope chances are given, and that we can move on. It is a time to remember Angel and reflect on the meaning of life. For me, forgiveness is part of it.”

Alig’s rise and fall among the NYC club scene has been examined in the 1998 documentary Party Monster: The Shockumentary, James St. James’ 1999 memoir Disco Bloodbath: A Fabulous but True Tale of Murder in Clubland as well as the 2003 movie Party Monster in which Macaulay Culkin played Alig.

You can watch Alig’s 1993 interview with Joan Rivers and the trailer for Party Monster AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "NYC Club Kid Founder And Murderer Michael Alig Will Leave Prison In May: VIDEO" »


NOM's Brian Brown is Furious That a City Councilman Told Bigots to Stay Out of NYC

Brown

Commenting on Chick-fil-A's recent announcements that it is planning a big expansion nationwide including a move into NYC, City Councilman Daniel Dromm had some tough remarks for the anti-gay chicken chain:

Dromm“We don’t need bigots coming to New York City,” Councilman Daniel Dromm (right), who is openly gay, told HuffPost. “They are not welcome here unless they can embrace all of New York’s diverse community, including the LGBT community.” ... “We don’t need bigoted people even keeping their opinions to themselves,” he said. “They need to wake up and see reality.”

Dromm's remarks set NOM President Brian Brown on the warpath:

Brian Brown, NOM's President responded to the comments with condemnation. "These remarks are outrageous and intolerant, and sadly seem to be part of a trend developing in the public debate surrounding this issue," Brown said. "When Dan Cathy's pro-marriage views were first reported in 2012, we saw mayors and city councils saying similar things—it was a disgraceful circus then, and it is now."

But Brown said that Dromm's remarks go even further than previous attempts to punish Chick-fil-A for its CEO's personal views.

"What Dromm has effectively said here is that anyone who believes in marriage as the union of a man and a woman is unwelcome in New York City," Brown noted. "His remarks, coming amidst a climate of such unseemly attacks on pro-marriage people as we saw with the Mozilla controversy last week, simply reinforce a growing manifestation of hostility and intimidation in the public square toward folks with traditional values. Christians and others are now, it seems, going to be considered guilty of 'thought-crimes' and threatened with all manner of reprisals simply for holding their beliefs."

Brown wants the City Council to condemn Dromm's remarks and issue a formal apology to bigot New Yorkers.

"Mr. Dromm has alienated and insulted millions of New Yorkers and made them feel like they don't belong in their own home city. The Council should correct this and extend an apology immediately and undo the hurt and wrong that's been done."


NYC School Forbids Student to Attend Prom with Transgender Date: VIDEO

Transprom

Martin Luther High School, a Lutheran school in Maspeth, Queens, NYC, is forbidding one of its students, Anais Celini, from coming to prom with her boyfriend Nathaniel Baez because he is transgender, WPIX reports:

“The school said to me that his transition is unconventional and it’s not what he feels beneficial to letting him come to prom,” Celini told PIX11 News exclusively.

Baez said he feels bad for his girlfriend. “It’s hard because I really wanted her to be able to go to prom with her friends and me, as well,” Baez said. “It is one of the stepping stones in high school.” Baez said even if they’re barred from the May 22 dance, he will plan his own private prom weekend for his girlfriend.

Watch the couple's interview with WPIX, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "NYC School Forbids Student to Attend Prom with Transgender Date: VIDEO" »


Denzel Washington Opens in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ On Broadway: REVIEW

A RAISIN IN THE SUN cap1267_A_crop

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Just before the curtain rises on a beautifully acted production of A Raisin in the Sun, which opened on Broadway April 3 at the Barrymore Theatre, a recorded interview with Lorraine Hansberry pipes through the darkened house, the playwright advocating for broader audiences and greater accessibility in American theatre. The irony will be lost on no one who’s managed to snag a ticket to see the starry ensemble, led by Denzel Washington.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN 1960AcapHansberry’s 1959 drama, last on Broadway just ten years ago in a revival headlined by Sean Combs (aka P Diddy), is as much a chronicle of mid-century black experience in America as it is an uncluttered family portrait. Set on Chicago’s south side, the story looks in on the Younger family in their small, shabby apartment housing three generations under one roof. Grandfather Younger has recently passed, and a life insurance check is en route to his widow Lena (a sublime LaTanya Richardson Jackson).

Her son Walter Lee (Mr. Washington) has his mind set on using the cash to buy and run a liquor store. His sister Beneatha (Anika Noni Rose) could use some of the money to follow her dream of going to medical school. And Walter’s wife Ruth (Sophie Okonedo) shares Lena’s wish to move the family to a larger house where Ruth and Walter’s son Travis (Bryce Clyde Jenkins) can have a room of his own.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN cap1052_A_cropThe play’s relatively straightforward plot functions as a vehicle for Hansberry’s revelatory account of pre-Civil Rights black experience in all its particulars. Some of her talking points feel more seamlessly integrated than others, but the uniformly stellar cast draws us into their story from its first moments. Like every family, this Younger clan has its own practiced rhythms and ways of relating, and together the company creates a captivating alchemy it’s hard to look away from.

A master of the wordless glance, Ms. Jackson’s Lena balances quiet wisdom with a glorious and equally commanding bluntness. Ms. Rose is wonderful as the young, ambitious Beneatha, the vulnerability beneath her character’s idealism always coursing close to the surface. Rounding out remarkable performances by the show’s leading women, Okonedo (Oscar nominated for Hotel Rwanda) dams up a precarious swell of feeling behind Ruth’s firm exterior.

Washington, a Tony winner for his performance in August Wilson’s Fences, has a star-powered stage presence that translates into palpable command of audience sympathy. His Walter Lee carries an easy charm that makes it difficult to resent his follies for long, so he’s likable even at his most despicable. Though he doesn’t tread a difficult path to redemption, Washington’s interpretation is no less believable and moving for it.  

Director Kenny Leon, who also helmed the 2004 revival, maintains focus on drawing out fine performances from the talented company and forging an engaging, accessible family dynamic. If the drama feels more peppered with casual humor even at its most serious, moments of levity keep the pacing brisk and make the play that much more enjoyable to watch.

Recent theatre features...
Idina Menzel Opens In ‘If/Then’ On Broadway: REVIEW
Terrence McNally’s ‘Mothers and Sons’ Starring Tyne Daly Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
New Production of ‘Les Misérables’ Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
New Musical 'Rocky' Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
Bryan Cranston Goes ‘All the Way’ On Broadway As Lyndon B. Johnson: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:brigitte lacombe)


Glenn Greenwald Enters Country for First Time Since NSA Leaks

Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras entered the United States for the first time since reporting on NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, according to a tweet from AP reporter Ted Shaffrey. Accompanying Greenwald was his partner David Miranda.

GreenwaldGreenwald and Poitras are in the country to attend Friday’s Polk Awards ceremony in New York City according to the HuffPost:

The two journalists are sharing the prestigious journalism award with The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill and with Barton Gellman, who has led The Washington Post’s reporting on the NSA documents. Greenwald and Poitras interviewed Snowden last June in Hong Kong as he first revealed himself.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Greenwald said he’s motivated to return because “certain factions in the U.S. government have deliberately intensified the threatening climate for journalists.”

“It’s just the principle that I shouldn’t allow those tactics to stop me from returning to my own country,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald suggested government officials and members of Congress have used the language of criminalization as a tactic to chill investigative journalism.

Greenwald told the HuffPost his legal counsel has not been informed "whether or not he could face any potential charges, or if he's been named in any grand jury investigation tied to the NSA disclosures."


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