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04/19/2007


Idina Menzel Opens In ‘If/Then’ On Broadway: REVIEW

Idina Menzel in If Then photo by Joan Marcus 0299r

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

After a nearly ten-year absence, Idina Menzel returns to Broadway in If/Then, an original yet hackneyed musical from Next to Normal writing team Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) that opened March 30 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. While fans of the Wicked star’s sonorous belt may be delighted to learn that Ms. Menzel does double duty—playing two versions of the story’s heroine as her life fatefully unfolds down divergent paths—its generic rom com stakes rarely justify her volume.

Idina Menzel and IF THEN Cast Photo By Joan MarcusIt’s not exactly source material, but those familiar with Peter Howitt’s 1998 film Sliding Doors may be hip to the concept here. A single event (i.e. whether Gwyneth Paltrow makes the train) dramatically affects the path her life takes from there, so we follow her through a pair of ‘if/then’ scenarios. In Elizabeth’s case, it’s her decision whether to hang out with one friend or another on what, as one of them describes in the musical’s opening line, “feels like a fateful day.”

From her first number “What If?,” it’s clear Elizabeth is feeling particularly indecisive lately. She’s just returned to New York City after over a decade living in Phoenix, where her soured marriage to a grad school sweetheart has caused her to question her judgment. She’s already made fast friends with her free-spirited neighbor Kate (LaChanze, a clear highlight) and reconnected with her old Vassar chum Lucas (Anthony Rapp).

Idina Menzel and James Snyder in If Then photo by Joan Marcus  40rWhen she accompanies her new pal to a concert in Brooklyn, she goes by Kate’s preferred nickname of ‘Liz,’ meets her leading man Josh (a charming James Snyder), misses an important call, and quickly dons a new pair of black-framed glasses to differentiate herself. When she decides to attend a housing activists’ event with Lucas, she goes by ‘Beth,’ takes the important call from another former grad-school flame (who offers her a primo job with the city), and predictably falls into ill-advised romantic encounters with both.

Elizabeth’s vocation as an urban planner is just one of the plot’s overdetermined elements, which include Lucas being bisexual (and in pursuit of a different sex in each plot), and a dual incidence of the typical surprise in any story about a woman (hint: it happened to Gwyneth’s character too).

LaChanze and Anthony Rapp in IF THEN photo by Joan Marcus 801Director Michael Grief (Rent, Next to Normal) brings his usual geometry to bear on Mark Wendland’s spick-and-span set, which more readily resembles an expressively lit yoga studio than the streets of New York City (a giant suspended mirror with obvious symbolic significance also seems an attempt to add visual interest).

For all its questioning of fate, actions and reactions, If/Then neatly fills in the blanks implied by its title: If a woman wants to have a successful, fulfilling career, then she’ll be hapless in love and generally rather joyless. The opposite is also true: If she compromises her career goals, she can more readily dedicate herself to her family and friends. Fortunately, it need not be a conscious decision—fate (or the men in her life) can make the choice for her just as well.  

Recent theatre features...
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
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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)


NYC West Village's Manatus Diner Closes

Manatus

Some unfortunate news from Vanishing New York:

This is a sad day for the Village. Manatus has been in business since the mid-1980s, catering to the local LGBT clientele, and it is the last affordable, down-to-earth place to eat in that hyper-gentrified plastic part of town. I had my last meal there a couple months ago and didn't know it.

If the original rumor is completely true, then a Calvin Klein store is taking Manatus' place.


Carole King Shocks the Cast of the Broadway Musical About Her When She Shows Up, Sings: VIDEO

King

Back in January you may remember our review of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

The show has been playing for months yet King herself has never come to see it. The reason why has "become a confounding mystery of the Broadway season," according to the NYT.

Turns out King had to work herself up emotionally to see such a personal show in a public setting and came to do so Thursday night, in disguise:

Ms. King said she wanted to support the cast and crew, people like Jessie Mueller, who has been playing her to great acclaim. “I did it for them, because they wanted me to be here so much,” she said. “I had to work up to it.”

She also figured out a way to see the show incognito and insisted on complete secrecy; only a necessary few were informed.

“She had a whole scenario for how she wanted it to play out,” Mr. Blake said. “If we’d asked her to do it, it never would have happened. She had to do it when she was ready.”

Having watched the show with Ms. Kondor in the theater’s orchestra section, Ms. King slipped backstage after “Natural Woman” and before the final song, “Beautiful.”

Then, after the curtain call, as the cast began its twice-yearly appeal for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Ms. King came out onstage with a hand-held microphone.

Watch what happens, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Carole King Shocks the Cast of the Broadway Musical About Her When She Shows Up, Sings: VIDEO" »


Thursday Morning Speed Read: Mississippi, Lesbian Chef, Tammy Baldwin, New Mexico, Scrutiny Rehearing

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

MississippiLGBT RALLY FOR VETO:

LGBT groups will hold a rally on the lawn of the State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, at noon CDT today, in protest over the passage of a religious bias bill by the state legislature Tuesday. The groups, which include the national Human Rights Campaign, Equality Mississippi, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Center, among others, will also hold a candlelight vigil this evening. As of Wednesday night, Republican Governor Phil Bryant has said he will sign the bill.

COURT UPHOLDS LARGE AWARD:

A state appeals court in New York on March 20 upheld a $1.6 million award to a lesbian chef whose boss who made repeated anti-gay statements, including saying all gay people were going to hell. A lower court judge granted the award for Mirella Salemi in 2012 against Edward Globokar, who owned the Manhattan restaurant at which she worked. The appeals panel said Globokar’s actions violated the New York City Human Rights Law by staging mandatory prayer meetings at work and “subjecting [Salemi] to an incessant barrage of offensive anti-homosexual invective.”

BaldwinBALDWIN INTROS FAIR EMPLOYMENT BILL:

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin also introduced the Fair Employment Protection Act (FEPA) March 13, to improve the law for the victims of workplace harassment. FEPA is specifically aimed at expanding an employer’s liability for workplace harassment. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, an employer’s liability for harassment perpetrated by a supervisor is greater than if perpetrated by another employee. But last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that for a court to consider an employee a supervisor, the employee authorized to take tangible actions against an harassment victim. If the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is ever passed, LGBT workers would be able to benefit from the anti-harassment laws strengthened by FEPA.

NewmexicoNEW MEXICO BLASÉ:

A Public Policy Polling survey of 674 registered voters in New Mexico between March 20 and 23 found that 76 percent said the legalizing of marriage for same-sex couples has had either no impact or a positive impact on their lives. The poll also found voters closely split on whether they support (47 percent) or oppose (45 percent) allowing same-sex couples to marry. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percent.

SCRUTINY DECISION RE-HEARING?:

At least one judge on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals bench has asked the full appeals court to review an historic panel ruling in January that said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck the Defense of Marriage Act, “requires that heightened scrutiny be applied to equal protection claims involving sexual orientation.” The court last week asked both parties in SmithKline v. Abbott to submit briefs on whether the case should be reheard by the full court. But Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, he seriously doubts a majority of the Ninth Circuit would vote to rehear the case.


Former Barclays Center Staffer Accuses Houston Rockets of Taunting Him with Anti-Gay Slurs

A Barclays Center food serve says in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that members of the Houston Rockets taunted him with anti-gay slurs before a 2013 game against the Nets, the NY Post reports:

RocketsRasean Tate, 28, of Brooklyn, is suing the Rockets and the company that handles catering at Barclays, Levy Restaurant Holdings, for a slew of civil rights violations and anti-gay discrimination.

Tate claims that he was setting up a buffet in the visiting Rockets locker room before a game on Feb. 22, 2013, when he was all but chased from the area because he was gay.

“When the plaintiff’s back was turned to defendant Rockets players, he began to hear laughter and taunting voices saying ‘get this f—– out of here!’ ” according to the suit, and ” ‘He’s trying to catch a sneaky-peeky!’ “

The reeling server said that the jabs and snickering didn’t let up.

Individual players are not named in the suit, and though the worker says he was told that Nets players underwent "special sensitivity training" because of the incident. It does not say if the Rockets dealt with the situation.

Tate says his complaints were met with retaliation in which his pay and hours plummeted and he was moved off of certain duties, and eventually fired.

Rockets forward Francisco Garcia, who played on the Rockets last year also, said, “I don’t remember anyone saying anything to anybody last year, so I don’t have any comment on that.”

The Barclays Center and the Nets are not parties to the suit.

A Barclays Center spokesman declined to comment on the suit.


Terrence McNally’s ‘Mothers and Sons’ Starring Tyne Daly Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

MS_Bobby_Steggert_and_Frederick_Weller_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway_(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

In his new play Mothers and Sons, which opened on Broadway March 24 at the Golden Theatre, Terrence McNally offers a present snapshot of lives affected by the height of the AIDS crisis—a mother who lost her son in his prime, and the lover who survived him to eventually start his own family. While voicing a crucial chapter in LGBT history that bears repeating, the play feels more like a set of talking points about affluent gay male experience than a well-crafted drama.

MS_Frederick_Weller_and_Tyne_Daly_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway_(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)A wry, acerbic Tyne Daly is the play’s emotional center (and indisputable highlight) as Katharine Gerard, the stubbornly intolerant mother to Andre, who died 20 years before the show begins. She arrives unannounced on the doorstep of her son’s lover Cal (Frederick Weller), who cared for him until his death. Cal has a husband now, Will (Bobby Steggert), 15 years his junior, and a 6-year-old son Bud (Grayson Taylor).

Ensconced in a massive, tasteful apartment (designed by John Lee Beatty) with a sweeping view of Central Park, by all accounts the young family couldn’t be happier. Cal is a successful money manger, Will is a stay-at-home writer-cum-full-time father, and Bud is so utterly self-possessed he could be a poster child for This Gay American Life.

MS_Tyne_Daly_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway._(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)And so, of course, history comes knocking. Why Katharine stops by and what she wants remain something of a mystery throughout, but mostly it’s to drum up ghosts and open old wounds. Hers, it seems, have never healed, and she quickly resents Cal for moving on and starting a family with Will.

Ms. Daly is top notch, her dry wit and razor sharp delivery bringing to mind another Katharine — Hepburn, just past her prime fighting years. Her ability to draw out our sympathy for a prickly, somewhat bigoted and often bitter woman is impressive, especially given her role as the play’s antagonist in an argument for progress.

In all fairness to Katharine, that argument is mostly one-sided, as she becomes a sounding board with her stockings firmly planted on the wrong side of history. The evening’s bullet points fly at her from two directions—from Cal, who saw many of his peers die from AIDS, and Will, who grew up with a Millennial’s expectations of a gay life not much different from those of his straight peers.

MS_Bobby_Steggert,_Frederick_Weller,_Grayson_Taylor,_and_Tyne_Daly_in_a_scene_from_Terrence_McNallys_MOTHERS_AND_SONS_on_Broadway_(Photo_by_Joan_Marcus)Where Katharine’s arsenal is full of biting, amusing one-liners, Cal and Will speak as though life were a sort of elite cocktail party where being pedantic is part of the dress code. While we’re surely on board with most everything they say, it’s hard to really get behind them (except maybe to slip away and find someone less self-serious to mingle with).

For those, like Katharine, with a ways to go in opening their minds, McNally provides worthwhile, critical instruction. Though the play’s rallying cry for tolerance, and for respect to those we lost in our culture war’s most gruesome era would be that much more moving and persuasive were its gay characters a bit more flesh and blood. 

Recent theatre features...
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
Possessed Puppet Satire 'Hand to God' Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
New Musical 'The Bridges of Madison County' Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)


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