Sunday, May 31, 2009

Barack and Michelle Take in a August Wilson Play

The First Couple spent a Saturday Evening out, like so many of us, at a play. Not since the Kennedy days have we seen a President and First Lady take so much interest in the arts.

POTUS and FLOTUS flew into New York, not on Air Force One, but on the more economical 12 passenger Gulfstream, in a smart move. They had dinner in the Village (at Blue Hill) before heading to the Belasco Theatre in Midtown to see August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, a drama about black America in the early 1900's. It tells the story about the residents of a run down boardinghouse who migrated from their Southern sharecropping existence to the promise of the industrialized North.

The cast only learned of the Presidential visit in the morning, and the audience arrived to extra security precautions, but took it all in stride. "When you go to the theatre, you are used to seeing famous people," commented one ticket buyer, "but yeah I'm totally going to stare at them," she said. Meryl Streep sat a few rows from the President, but nobody seemed to notice.

A night out for the First Couple

Obama said in a statement to the media that he had promised his wife "during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished."

As might be expected, The Republican National Committee put out a news release titled “Putting on a Show,” which chastised Obama for hopping up to New York for "a night on the town". Of course the RNC somehow forgot to mention the record of their own President Bush who used the far more expensive to operate Air Force One to fly back and forth to his "ranch" in Crawford more than 60 times.

Hardly anyone paid attention to their silly side show. Obama sprung for the theater tix out of his own pocket.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tap Dancing Nazis Plan to Take Pittsfield by Storm

Springtime for Hitler - Berlin succumbed last week, Pittsfield is next!

Last week The Producers - the musical - arrived at the Admiralspalast, Berlin, and the city surrendered to it. However, it was not without problems. The show lampoons both the Nazis and the Nazi insignia. However, in Berlin as in all of Germany, the swastika is a no-no because of its historic implications. Besides, Hitler himself sat in this very theatre, in the Führer's box, and so the twisted cross symbol was replaced with a verbogener logo, that of a twisted pretzel.

A pretzel replaced the swastika in Berlin

Now this show - the first collaboration between the Berksire's Colonial Theatre and C-R Productions (an arm of the Cohoes Music Hall) - will tap dance its way into the heart of the Berkshires as it arrives in Pittsfield. And what an undertaking it is!

500 Costumes, 70 wigs, 30 volunteers, 28 actors, 8 musicians, 4 fly operators, 2 spot lights all in one theatre for one show. This recipe makes the largest, most extravagant musical in C-R Productions six seasons. We have our fingers crossed that this is the start of a beautiful long-term marriage for those of us who are the audience.

C-R Productions brings its version of Mel Brooks’ The Producers to the Colonial in just a matter of days, since it opens on June 4th for four performances. Dates include: June 4 at 7:30PM, June 5th at 8PM and June 6th at 3PM and 8PM. Tickets for the performance are $25-45 and can be purchased in person at the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street Monday-Friday 10AM-5PM, performance Saturdays 10AM-2PM, by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at

Matt Wade played Leo Bloom in the National Company of The Producers 2007-8.

Jerry Christakos is hilarious as Roger DeBris.

Jen Davis has an enthusiastic local following.

David Beditz as Max Balystock

If you have been playing Rip Van Winkle, you might wonder what this strange show is about. Nazis? Well actually it's about two producers, named Bialystock and Bloom. Those names should strike terror and hysteria in anyone familiar with Mel Brooks' classic cult comedy film. Now as a big Broadway musical, The Producers once again sets the standard for modern, outrageous, in-your-face humor. It is a truly "boffo" hit, winning a record twelve Tony® Awards and wowing capacity crowds night after night. And it lampoons everything in site, from greedy producers to gay directors to elderly widows waiting to be fleeced.

The plot is simple: a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer and his mild-mannered accountant come up with a scheme to produce the most notorious flop in history thereby bilking their backers (all "little old ladies") out of millions of dollars. Only one thing goes awry: the show is a smash hit! The antics of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom as they maneuver their way irresponsibly through finding a show (the gloriously offensive Springtime For Hitler), hiring a director, raising the money and finally going to prison for their misdeeds is a lesson in broad comic construction. At the core of the insanely funny adventure is a poignant emotional journey of two very different men who become friends.

Make note of Ryan Lammer, a member of the ensemble, and a veteran of D.C.'s Arena Stage (we love that company!) where he was in I Love A Piano

The cast is filled with both familiar and unfamiliar singers, dancers and actors and is one of the youngest I can remember in these parts. My friend Gail Burns has told me to keep an eye out for David Beditz as Max Bailystock and Matthew Wade as obsessive-compulsive-depressive accountant Leo Bloom. She also reports that Jennifer Elise Davis is gorgeous as Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson. To quote a line from her Cohoes review, "No one seems to be having more fun in this show than Jerry Christakos as the ridiculously gay and completely incompetent director Roger De Bris. Whether he is charging around looking butch in a sequined gown and heels, or skipping about as a hopelessly effeminate Führer, he is hilarious."

I plan to go opening night and will write a report the next day for Berkshire Fine Arts.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Intense "Faith Healer" Opens 2009 Berkshire Theatre Festival

Actor Colin Lane in rehearsal at BTF.

Resist the impulse to pass on Faith Healer, just go! Sure, the thought of three actors, each on stage for extended soliloquies, sounds like a pretty chancy way to spend an evening at the theatre, but you just have to trust the playwright. Read all about the show in this full review at Berkshire Fine Arts.

Every word, every phrase, every movement is calculated to reach inside you and make you feel alive, to care for these characters, a preacher-healer, his wife (or is she his mistress?) and his manager. An unlikely trio of pals, but in the end, they are each others lives. Frank Hardy, the preacher, is a showman at heart, full of jocularity and bravado that is but a front for his feelings of humiliation and loss. His wife, Grace, lurches between resentment and wonder, and the manager tells the truth about the pair. Or does he? In the end, the play is more than a sum of its players, it stays with you. And resonates.

Ralph Fiennes undertook Faith Healer on Broadway a few years ago, and won many doubters over to the brilliance of Brian Friel's simple play.

Donal McCann, arguably Ireland's greatest actor, also took on Faith Healer, with extraordinary results.

The Berkshire Theatre Festival production is directed by Eric Hill with David Adkins, Colin Lane (making his BTF debut) and Keira Naughton. It plays at the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, MA through June 20th. Box Office 413.298.5576
Online Berkshire Theatre Festival

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bring a Friend for $25 to a Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas Show

The stage at KA goes from horizontal to vertical while incredibly complex acrobatics take place.

Cirque du Soleil's six resident shows in Las Vegas are more theatrical and elaborate than their touring offerings. But with the economy being soft, there have been some seats going unsold, and to help fill their houses, the Cirque has come up with a special "bring a friend" promotion which lets you buy one ticket at regular price, and another for only $25. Tickets are only sold in pairs with one ticket at standard price, the other at the $25.00. The offer is good for selected shows and seating areas through October 31, 2009. There are service charges on all ticket purchases.

To take advantage of this great deal, go to and enter the code "Summer" when ordering. You can also call 866-998-4830 and use the same code. Here is a rundown of the shows you can choose from:

Mystère is classic Cirque du Soleil, combining the powerful athleticism, high-energy acrobatics and inspiring imagery that has become the company's hallmark. Deemed a theatrical "flower in the desert," Mystère thrills generations of audiences with its exhilarating blend of whimsy, drama and the unimaginable brought to life on stage. Presented exclusively at Treasure Island, Mystère provides the ultimate discovery that life itself is a mystery. I have seen this show three times now, and although it is the longest running in Las Vegas, I discover new elements every time I see it.

Cirque du Soleil paints an aquatic masterpiece of surrealism and theatrical romance in the timeless production, "O". Inspired by the concept of infinity and the elegance of water's pure form, "O" pays tribute to the beauty of the theatre where anything is possible and where the drama of life plays itself out before your very eyes. I was lucky enough to see this show from the "splash" seats. Only at Bellagio, Las Vegas.

Zumanity, The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil, is a seductive twist on reality, making the provocative playful and the forbidden electrifying! Leave all inhibitions at the door and let loose as this adult-themed production takes you on a sexy thrill ride full of sensational acrobatics and naughty fun. Great for the straight set, but rather dull for my gay sensibility. Zumanity was created for adults 18 and over. Only at New York-New York Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas.

KÀ, the unprecedented, gravity-defying production by Cirque du Soleil takes adventure to an all new level. Be awed by a dynamic theatrical landscape, as an entire empire appears on KÀ's colossal stage and a captivating display of aerial acrobatics envelopes the audience. The theatre itself is worth a visit, the hydraulically operated stage is a wonder to behold as it moves up and down, and tilts like a gyroscope. Only at MGM Grand, Las Vegas.

With LOVE, Cirque du Soleil celebrates the musical legacy of The Beatles through enhanced versions of their timeless, original recordings. The exuberance of The Beatles is channeled through the youthful, urban energy of a cast of 60 international artists. With panoramic sound and visuals, audiences experience The Beatles as never before. A delightful trip into the past with the best music ever written. Only at The Mirage, Las Vegas.

CRISS ANGEL Believe from Cirque du Soleil is a haunting exploration deep inside the inventive mind of mystifier Criss Angel, as he hovers between the land of the living and a surreal world. This twisted tale is uniquely woven together by the distinctive imaginations of Criss Angel and Cirque du Soleil. Exclusively at Luxor Las Vegas. Please be advised: This dramatic production is not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Desire Under the Elms Closing Six Weeks Early: An Autopsy

I would have reshot this image to bring the couple's faces closer to each other, so it looked more emotional and less soft core porn.

The Goodman Theatre's production of Desire Under the Elms has a lot going for it. A classic story of a father and son both in love with the same woman. A great cast with Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino an Pablo Schreiber. Classy direction by Robert Falls, gorgeous sets, and a perfect venue, the St. James theatre close to Shubert Alley. Yet the show has announced it is closing early. What went wrong?

Mostly, I think it was the promotion. It simply sucked. Selling O'Neill is not an easy task, and you don't do it using the same photographs that served it in Chicago, and even worse, butchering the images to make the production look like something being put on by your local community theatre group. Then, there was the one page website, the lack of any attention to viral marketing, and pretty much total ignorance of the online world in their efforts. Looks to me like they hired their pr people on either the basis of the lowest bid or nepotism. Whatever it was, it really started this show off with a handicap.

This is supposed to sell tickets? Maybe fifty years ago.

The poster shown above is awful. Wrong colors, wrong typeface, wrong everything. No clue other than the suggestive pose as to what the show is about. Then there was the slap in the face by the Tony Award nominations - there were none. Zilch. So the show is not running to the July 4th weekend, it will last only to Memorial Day, and even the New York Times is flogging discount tickets to keep it going until then. I feel bad for the producers, including Jujamcyn Theatres which owns the St. James which sunk a quarter mil in it to bring it to Broadway.

In these tough economic times, the one budget you do not cut is marketing and promotion. Selling tickets is harder than ever, and you need real pros to be sure the whole investment doesn't go down the toilet. This show died from a lack of understanding just what motivates audiences. It could have gone down in the Broadway record book as a successful O'Neill revival.

Damn shame, too. It could have been saved.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures

Kathleen Chalfant (Benedicta Immacolata Marcantonio [Bennie]) and Michael Cristofer (August Giuseppe Garibaldi Marcantonio [Gus]) in the world premiere of THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL’S GUIDE TO CAPITALISM AND SOCIALISM WITH A KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES, by Tony Kushner at the Guthrie Theater. Directed by Michael Greif, set design by Mark Wendland, costume design by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Kevin Adams. May 15 – June 28, 2009 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Photo credit: 2009 © Michal Daniel

Michael Esper (Eli Wolcott) and Stephen Spinella (Pier Luigi Marcantonio [Pill]).

There has been enormous interest in Tony Kushner's newest play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures now ready to open at the Guthrie in Minneapolis, directed by Michael Greif. We are pleased to run the fist pictures of this production. Kushner, of course, is the author of Angels in America the two part play (and movie, tv series and opera) which scooped all the 1993 awards on Broadway, from the Tony to the Pulitzer Prize.

ABOUT THE SHOW: The title of Tony Kushner’s new play is inspired by two 19th-century thinkers and their works -- George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism and Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The play looks at the life of a 20th-century thinker, retired longshoreman Gus Marcantonio, who’s feeling confused and defeated by the 21st century. In summer 2007, he invites his sister and his three children (who in turn bring along spouses, ex-spouses, lovers and more) to a most unusual family reunion in their Brooklyn brownstone. With humor and passion, the play examines the importance of connectedness and belonging – to a family, a community, a group, an ideology, a marriage – and what happens when those connections are lost.

Linda Emond (Maria Teresa Marcantonio [Empty])and Mark Benninghofen (Adam Butler)

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures begins performances May 15 and continues through June 28, 2009 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie. Single tickets are priced from $24 to $60. Tickets are now on sale through the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE and online at
The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures is presented as part of the Guthrie’s Kushner Celebration.

Michael Esper (Eli Wolcott) and Stephen Spinella (Pier Luigi Marcantonio [Pill]).

Kathleen Chalfant (Benedicta Immacolata Marcantonio [Bennie]), Stephen Spinella (Pier Luigi Marcantonio [Pill]), Linda Emond (Maria Teresa Marcantonio [Empty]) and Michael Cristofer (August Giuseppe Garibaldi Marcantonio [Gus]). All photos by Michal Daniel

Broadway's Guys and Dolls for $7.77 - Sort of...

"Nathan, no matter how terrible a fellow seems, you can never be sure that some girl won't go for him. Take us..." - Adelaide

Gays and Dolls is one of those classic shows that is revived time and again. So Frank Loesser's hilarious musical tale of two New York couples betting on love despite the odds - is back home on Broadway in a swingin' new production.

Leading the dynamite cast are Emmy® and Tony nominee OLIVER PLATT (Shining City, "Huff") and Golden Globe nominee LAUREN GRAHAM ("Gilmore Girls," Evan Almighty) as good ol' Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide. Tony nominee CRAIG BIERKO (The Music Man) and KATE JENNINGS GRANT (Proof) are Sky Masterson and his unlikely love, Sarah Brown.

With its score of unforgettable songs including "Luck Be a Lady" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat," Guys and Dolls is the quintessential Broadway experience. And this sexy new production promises to thrill fans and first-timers alike!

The great ticket deal we have found for you is simple. The first ticket is regular price, but the second ticket is just $7.77! Plus the usual ticket processing fees, of course. This offer is valid for all performances through September 27, 2009, subject to availability - it's a hot show so they often sell out. There are two ways to order your seats. Call 877-250-2929 and use code OX or go to and use the same code, OX.

Performances take place at the Nederlander Theatre, 208 West 41st Street. You must order by June 7, 2009. Full price tickets are $51.50 (Rear Mezz) and $126.50 (Orch /Front Mezz). With this offer, your 2-ticket total will be $59.27 or $134.27. Regularly $103 or $253. Limit 8 tickets per order. Now those are not bad odds.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poll: How important is technology, social networking to you?

Connecting with a new audience

Trying to reach broader audiences? Where are you putting your emphasis these days?

Here's an interesting poll you can take part in. It asks artists and administrators where they think the emphasis should be in the coming year. Performing and visual arts organizations are still in the process of experimentation with the digital realm. Some are fiercely focused on their "branding," others are seeking greater networking with a younger audience, and still others have rudimentary websites and still use hard tickets. Where are you? Where are you headed?

This poll demonstrates the current landscape. With many thanks to Mind the Gap blog at Arts Journal for creating it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Theatre Problem: Texting During Performances

Live theatre and concert managers have been running into another problem lately - patron complaints that their neighbors texting during the performance prevented them from fully enjoying the show.

Those that want to Tweet their opinions of course claim that they do it silently, and it doesn't bother anyone. Obviously they have not had to endure the jabs of the elbows when both hands are fully involved, or that intrusive glow, the rustling finding and returning the tortuous device itself, all virtually impossible to ignore by those close to the offending party.

Why even the New York Times has now reported the science that proves that a flashing or glowing light is almost impossible to ignore.

“People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,” she said. “Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering?"

So add a request to please, Please, PLEASE! do NOT text during a performance to the litany of etiquette reminders to turn off pagers, cellphones and the like, remember where the fire exits are, and also, can you spare a little change for our shrinking coffers.

Seems to me as you get a younger audience finally buying tickets, there has to be a more user-friendly way to do it. Any suggestions?

"Please feel free to text your glowing reviews during intermission, but not during the performance," might work.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Waiting for Godot with Nathan Lane, John Goodman, Bill Irwin, John Glover

Be still my heart. Nathan Lane, John Goodman and Bill Irwin star in Roundabout's Waiting for Godot. Photo Joan Marcus.

For many, this is the ultimate cast for Beckett's classic Waiting for Godot. They have given this classic enigma of a play a new lease on life, one we have been awaiting since last summer's incredible Godot at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA which featured Randy Harrison as Lucky. In the Roundabout Theatre's version, Lucky is played by John Glover, who we all know from his dual roles in Love, Valour, Compassion (Broadway and the film version) and of course, the series Smallville where he gets to play next to Tom Welling and Michal Rosenbaum.

Nathan Lane as Estragon and John Goodman as Pozzo in this stunning photo by Sara Krulwich of the New York Times.

As we always try to do, we have found a special deal on tickets for our frugal friends, so that you can see this great cast - the incredible Nathan Lane, the incomparable Bill Irwin, the sensational John Goodwin (who blew the critics away) and the always surprising John Glover.

Carrot or radish? Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin. Photo Joan Marcus.

We have also raided the Roundabout Theatre's website and press resources for some pretty stunning pictures of the production which we include here. Who can't resist seeing this classic play in which nothing happens. Twice. If you've been waiting for a great ticket deal wait no longer.

The discount ticket offer is valid through the end of this month only. The regular tickets, priced from $36.50 to $116.50 are available at $24.25 to $79.50 depending on the day of the week and the location at the Studio 54 Theatre, located at 254 W. 54th Street.

John Glover, Bill Irwin, Nathan Lane. and John Goodman in Waiting for Godot. Photo Joan Marcus.

To get this discount, you can call 212-719-1300 and use code WGTKW. Or go to the Roundabout Theatre ticket order page and enter code WGTKW. Limit 8 tickets per order, subject to availability and can not be combined with other discounts. Valid for perforamnces 4/7 to 4/29/09.

P.S. Waiting for Godot has received 5 Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations including Best Play Revival.

"Mr. Godot will not be coming today."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Steppenwolf's August Osage County Ticket Discounts Broadway

A vanished father. A pill-popping mother. Three sisters harboring shady little secrets. When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites after dad disappears, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. Mix in Violet, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you’ve got a major new Broadway play that unflinchingly – and uproariously – exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family.

Fresh from a thrilling, sold-out run at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, August: Osage County has audiences riveted and critics raving. This thrilling new Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts has earned 5 Tony Awards, including Best Play.

And we have discounts.

These ticket discounts are valid for performances through June 28, 2009 at the Music Box theatre, 239 W. 45th Street. The least expensive are $46.50 saving you up to 60% and are in the rear mezzanine, rows G-L. They are regularly $76.50 to $116.50 depending on the day. There are also Orchestra and Front Mezzanine tickets, Row A-F for Tuesday to Thursday at $59.50 which saves almost 50%. If you must go on the weekend, there are similar Orchestra/Front Mezzanine tickets Rows A-F for $66.50 which still saves 40%.

To order call 212-947-8844 and use code OCTW422. You can also go to and use the same code, OCTW422.

The Westons have secrets, shocks and surprises for each other.

The embedded You Tube promotional video above gives you a taste of the show, but this little gem I found on YouTube gives you not only a great sampling of the script, but introduces two gay You Tube actors, Michael Arden and Jeffery Self who have been producing some pretty funny stuff. If they were in the Berkshires, I would pair them with one of our resident theatres as social networking geniuses. They've got promise as actors, too. They have a future in their future.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Time to rethink the importance of ticket buyers?

The increasingly common pre-show appeal.

One of the most annoying things to run into after spending $100 or more on some tickets is to sit down in the theatre and be taken on a guilt trip.
"Your ticket purchase only covers 50% of the cost of this performance." the program insists, so "Contribute now!"

Well, "thank you for thanking me" for my support. For your information, I took the trouble to set an evening aside, arrange a baby sitter, dress up a bit, and drive 45 minutes to your theatre where I can then search for a parking spot, stumble around in the dark for a few minutes, and finally sit down and relax. And after all that I am greeted with a plea for more money.

I look around and see quite a few empty seats, especially if it is not a Saturday night, and wonder at the incongruity of the demand. Gee, maybe if you sold all those seats, you wouldn't have to be badgering me for yet more money. Then there is the increasingly common pre-curtain speech, asking again for money, reminding me of how tough the economy is.

Today, Douglas McLennan, publisher of the Arts Journal addressed this issue in his diacritical blog . He is the go-to person for much of the national arts media, and knows of what he speaks. It isn't that arts supporters are ignorant of the need for funds for our nonprofits, nor that we begrudge them either, but that the ticket buyer is so often treated as just another sheep to be sheared.

They are perhaps an even more valuable resource than most arts organizations realize. They deserve effusive praise, not badgering. Every theatre has a development department, one that specializes in fundraising, but audience development is a neglected art.
A ticket sold isn't just a ticket sold. One audience member isn't the same as another. Communities are hierarchical, and if you can identify the hierarchies and incentivize them you can push people up the ladder. Along the way they'll do things for you (and for themselves). People like to be rewarded for engaging with you.

Sure the performance should be enough reward, I know. But if word-of-mouth is the most powerful way of getting more people into the theatre, how do you promote that word-of-mouth? If you have an audience member who brings five friends, find a way to reward them. If they bring 10 friends, give them something more. - diacritical blog

Those empty seats are revenues lost forever.

When I joined founder E. Virginia Williams at the Boston Ballet a dozen years after it began, the company was generating about half their income through ticket sales and other "earned" income. By focusing on the little appreciated craft of audience development, we upped that to 90% in the space of two years. And drove the box office crazy because most of these were subscriptions, and that did not leave much room for single ticket sales. We lowered the costs of finding new ticket buyers as well, using the same budget that used to fill half a house to fill almost all the seats.

The key to our success was that everyone started thinking about the audience in a different way. It was a complex and often subtle series of changes that were made in the marketing and promotion. Two years later the audience had doubled. The development department was thrilled to have twice as many fundraising prospects, too. When the whole company - audience development and fundraising, artistic and administrative work from the same game plan the synergy is amazing.