a theatre, film & pop culture review
Now that we’re officially embarking upon the 2011-2012 New York theatre season, I present to you my most highly anticipated productions (in no particular order). Of course, I don’t imagine many will share my enthusiasm for, say, the next Wildhornian masterpiece, but perhaps we possess mutual admiration of Sondheim’s favorite character-driven, goat-cart-less opera.
1. Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling: Because the Atlantic Theater Company‘s production promises the dinner-table drama of August: Osage County with the freaky absurdity of Hitchcockian Canadian Geese. And because it springs from the prolific, dark mind of Adam Rapp, who is many things, but boring is never, ever one of them.
2. The Mountaintop: Because, for Katori Hall’s reimagining of the events the night before the civil rights leader was assassinated, no one else could possibly play MLK — the man, not the activist — but Sam Motherfuckin’ Jackson. And because it’s his motherfuckin’ Broadway debut and he’s gonna motherfuckin’ kill it….motherfucker.
3. Porgy and Bess: Because Diane Paulus and Suzan-Lori Park’s controversial revamp has incensed Stephen Sondheim, and any show that can get the musical theatre legend to childishly retort, “Wow, who’d have thought there was a love story hiding in Porgy and Bess that just needed a group of visionaries to bring it out?” is a definite must-see… And because Norm Lewis has the voice of a god.
4. Bonnie & Clyde: Because with a score by Frank “Wonderland” Wildhorn, book by Ivan Menchell (whose only other musical credit is “additional material” for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and lyrics by Don Black (Dracula, Dance of the Vampires), this “new” musical, which overflows with schmaltzy, country-fried ballads like “Dyin’ Ain’t So Bad” (I can’t make this stuff up), is sure to be a hot, hot mess. But because I secretly hope it’s his next (delightful) The Scarlet Pimpernel.
5. Venus in Fur: Because comic goddess Nina Arianda, who elevates even the most unworthy of productions with grace, intelligence and the most infectious of giggles, reprises her star-making role as actress-seductress in the Broadway premiere of David Ives’s play. And because this time she’s upgraded her love interest from the handsome Wes Bentley to the even more desirable (and talented) Hugh Dancy.
6. An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin: Because with his lilting, otherworldly, crazy-town falsetto and her fierce, unmistakable belt, these two legends epitomize “Diva.” And because, according to Patinkin’s amazing(ly) (hyperbolic) website, the evening is “much more than a concert, [it] is a unique musical love story told entirely through a masterful selection of the greatest songs ever written for the stage” — and who isn’t a bit giddy at the prospect of an epic Evita reunion?
7. Rebecca: Because even though it’s the poor man’s Jane Eyre, it’s still an infinitely better idea than any musicalization of Pride & Prejudice. Because even though the “exclusive song” on the website sounds more like Martin Guerre (shudder) than Les Mis (guilty, gleeful pleasure), Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is a classic Gothic romance that begs to be sung. And because, with a score by Hungarian composer Sylvester Levay, Germans think it’s the next best thing since David Hasselhoff ditched his swim trunks, discovered his vocal chords and took their country by pop-music storm.
8. Close Up Space: Because if you like smart, quirky female writers — think Tina Fey, Annie Baker — then you’ll love Molly Smith Metzler. And because she’s wrangled an equally intelligent and hilarious cast for her off-Broadway debut at MTC about an obsessive book editor (David Hyde Pierce), his long-neglected, fiery daughter; hippie assistant (Michael Chernus); timid intern and temperamental, über-demanding author (Rosie Perez).
9. Asuncion: Because we all want to know if super-brainy The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg is as talented a writer as he is an actor in this Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production (which he also stars in), and because we all love when white people write about race(ism) (David Mamet).
10. Carrie: Because Ken Mandelbaum declared that this super-short-lived 1988 Broadway musical adaptation of the Stephen King novel “set a new standard, one to which all future musical flops will be compared and found wanting,” and because Frank Rich, appalled by its “uninhibited tastelessness,” noted derisively in his New York Times review that it “expires with fireworks like the Hindenburg.” Because it has reached extreme cult status among hardcore musical theatre aficionados as The one Broadway musical I’d give my left arm and/or unborn child to have seen! Because the pig slaughtering for the much-anticipated prom-scene blood equates to chanting, leather-clad high schoolers leaping and gyrating over troughs under flashing red disco lights. Because both Barbara Cook (London) and Betty Buckley (Broadway) killed it as the crazy-cruel matriarch, and because if anyone can fill those inestimable women’s shoes, it’s Marin Mazzie. Because MCC‘s revival is a “a newly reworked and fully re-imagined vision of this gripping tale” set in present-day Maine. Because it’s campy and sentimental and pulpy and ridiculous and sad and feminist and over-the-top and confusing and hilarious and ambitious and because it’s never exactly sure what it wants to be, but whatever it is, you can’t tear your eyes and ears away from it. And because I have not been this excited to see a show since The Donmar’s production of Parade.
11. Soho Rep’s season: Because it all looks awesome. Because if anyone’s going to make me enjoy Chekhov, it’s Annie Baker. And because I’ve been wondering where the controversial author of Neighbors has been hiding out, and here Branden Jacob-Jenkins resurfaces, further developing his scandalous, brilliant adaptation of The Octoroon — because, clearly, everyone needs a little black face in their lives.
12. Once: Because it’s a “musical” film that may actually translate quiet beautifully to the stage. Because it’s a lovely, quietly moving piece with gorgeous, Oscar-winning music by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová and book by idiosyncratic Irish playwright Enda Walsh. Because it’s emotionally subtle and surprisingly real — a refreshing divergence from the current musical theatre landscape.
13. Queen of the Mist: Because after Transport Group‘s fantastic revival of Hello, Again last spring, NYC realized how much it missed the composer/librettist of such dark, challenging works as The Wild Party and Bernarda Alba. Because only Michael John LaChiusa would tackle a musical retelling of the real-life story of daredevil Anna Edson Taylor, who to celebrate her 63rd birthday in 1901, hopped in a barrel and plunged over Niagra Falls and survived to tell the tale. And because he’s the only one who could possibly make such an odd idea work — and work brilliantly.