There is little new on Broadway that I have a yearning to see… even the new Tom Stoppard play, Leopoldstadt, is at least a month away from opening. I confess to dragging my feet regarding Steven Sondheim’s Company. Changing Bobby from a he to a she, as they have in this latest incarnation, had me questioning the wisdom of the creative team. Still, I had heard Sondheim himself loved the switch.
My wife saw it with some pals of hers, leaving me in the dark as to my primary question: Is it a guy who answers “Barcelona” when asked where’s he going? I may never know since the show has closed.
MJ: This multi–Tony Award winning entry is simply not my thing. I come from the wrong generation altogether, and in no way is this show designed to please this nearly 85-year-old guy. That said, the show has plenty of pyrotechnics and some imaginative staging even though the script fails to acknowledge that Mr. Jackson had sisters (including one who became rather famous) and legal problems (many of those becoming rather infamous).
Into The Woods: The virtue of presenting a Steven Sondheim show in such a minimalist fashion… few sets, props, costumes, choreography, etc., is that one must then rely on the actors AND the material. In this case that is an excellent choice. I have never enjoyed Into The Woods more I than did with this presentation… and that includes at least one prior Broadway incarnation and a movie starring James Corden.
The new title for Funny Girl might as well be The Four Faces of Fanny. Lea Michele is the latest incarnation (almost). Before she premiered, I had to see Beanie Feldstein’s understudy on whom more hype has been heaped than I have seen in years.
Not since then-newcomer Shirley MacLaine filled in for Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees have I heard and/or read more about an understudy than Julie Benko. She’s good… better than Ms. Feldstein… but not by enough. The bosses could have helped her more with costuming, make-up, hair dressing and proper miking but opted instead to give her a hand by planting paid cheerleaders in the audience to prompt our applause and (I guess) appreciation of a solid understudy who (let’s face it) will never be Shirley MacLaine… let alone Barbra Streisand.
We went back to the theatre for Ms. Michele’s opening night… barely making it to our seats before the curtain went up to reveal (you guessed it) understudy Julie Benko…again! Apparently, her contract calls for her to play the lead one night a week. My bad luck. With this much exposure to what is, at best, a modest production, it was the cheesy sets, the poor staging, and that mediocre, too-tiny- by-10 pit band that captured most of my attention, all but eclipsing the excellent addition to the cast of Tovah Feldshuh as the mother of Fanny Brice.
We sat through it all, then… still longing to see the much-publicized new Funny Girl lead from the Glee TV series… paid heavy scalper prices for tickets a few days down the line only to wake up that Sunday morning to the news that Lea Michele had COVID and would be out of the show for 10 days.
Honest, this old guy would like to be convinced that someone… besides Barbra Streisand… can play this role but I am not hanging around New York for over a week when I could be enjoying my Island paradise. If this gal is as good as some say, the show will still be around for my next trip north.
Meanwhile here is an update on what we have been streaming:
La Fortuna stars Stanley Tucci yet has absolutely nothing to do with Italy or food. It is a modest adventure/courtroom/romance mini-series from AMC+ requiring little from the viewer save for a modest suspension of disbelief. I am comfortable recommending this with a modicum of self-assurance that I will not be offending anyone by doing so.
House of Dragons: I am none too sure I can come up with something on this prequel to Game of Thrones that hasn’t already been explored by everyone from the old Gods to the new. And I am not all that confident (having viewed only one episode) in concluding that I just may be over this. Still…
There is no question that the production is big enough and worthy of its predecessor, that the special effects are special, and that the intensity of the action is… well… intense. I just don’t know that I give a damn anymore. I can tell you one thing… having cast just about every interesting actor in the United Kingdom in the original, I am none too sure where they will find enough interesting faces to populate this sequel to TV’s super-est of soaps. And, judging by what I saw in episode one, this is problem AND priority number one for the HBO showrunners who just might wind up knee deep in Dragon Doo Doo on this one.
Munich: Edge of War: An old-fashioned English drama dealing with a prequel to WW II and starring Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain. If you like this sort of thing, you might well love this take on a story you probably think you already know. It is a Netflix presentation and well worth the 2 hours you must invest to see it all.
Onward: I am a man in search of a transition from Munich… the world as it was… to the world as it is. Not an easy thing to contrive. The taking over of the news cycle by the death of the great and steadfast Queen Elizabeth, the brilliant eulogy given by her son… now King Charles III… brings about thoughts of finales in my own life, and fodder for this segue.
The first girl I ever kissed in college died the other day. That event preceded by a day or two the news that the redoubtable Carole R. Smith, my assistant for over 30 years, has also drawn her last breath. Their passing brought about a list of remembrances of women in my life who have passed on: my first leading lady (Patricia Blair on Daniel Boone), my first super star(Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels), my most important high school crush (Dottie Zimmerman), the first female writer I ever employed (Judith Barrows-Daniel Boone), the first female director ever hired by me (Ida Lupino-Daniel Boone), the co-creator of the characters in my first “hit” (Barbara Avedon-Cagney & Lacey), my first female boss (Kay Turley, sports editor of The Oiler at Montebello High School). Then there is my first wife… the mother of my children… still alive but with Alzheimer’s and, since I am in my eighth decade, I have (of course) long ago dealt with, and given proper sendoffs to, a mother, two grandmothers, and a pair of aunts.
Melancholy was altered by a text from granddaughter, Hailey (what can I say, she NEVER calls). She has recently returned from her summer in Greece and is now studying the language.
“I envy you,” I texted back. “Had I been able to deal with the stress of ordering an avocado in Greek, I would probably be living there by now.”
There was only the slightest of pauses before my phone lit up with her text response: “I hate to tell you this, Grandpa, but the Greek word for avocado is avocado.”
I cannot believe her mother never taught her that nobody likes a smart ass.
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