a theatre, film & pop culture review
Now that we’re officially embarking upon the 2012-2013 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 revival of the German megamusical/pop opera, but perhaps we possess mutual admiration of Pacino’s stunning ability to chew some scenery.
1. We’re Gonna Die: Because Young Jean Lee, the Korean-American playwright hailed by the Times as “one of the most adventurous new playwrights to emerge on the New York scene in the last decade,” doesn’t simply push boundaries — she cleverly dismantles, examines, ravages and then reconstructs them in a way you couldn’t even anticipate. Because this sold-out limited engagement at Lincoln Center, in true YJL fashion, is unlike any of her previous works: a life-affirming cabaret about what everyone has in common… Because we’re all gonna die.
2. Through the Yellow Hour: Because even though Adam Rapp’s Albee-esque upper-class takedown Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling disappointed last season at CSC, the prolific playwright appears to be returning to his darker, dystopian roots at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. And because it’s just not an Adam Rapp play if someone isn’t naked/mutilated/hiding in a damp, dark basement — and because, frankly, that’s what we love about him. (Though we wouldn’t necessarily mind it if he let someone else direct his work.)
3. Dead Accounts: Because even though we don’t really care about the newest indistinguishable comedy from Theresa Rebeck (am I right?) — though surely that Tony snub last year for Seminar stung something fierce — we do care about the obscenely charming Norbert Leo Butz who’s never less than impeccable no matter what dreck he manages to keep running for far longer than it ever should. And because even though she’s the ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise, we’ll always have a soft spot for the girl from the Creek — even if, as in her stage debut in the 2008 Broadway revival of All My Sons, she screams through all her lines… Because no one’s too good for a vocal coach.
4. Glengarry Glen Ross / The Anarchist: Because one David Mamet show per season just isn’t enough. Because how do you choose between Al Pacino (now playing the Jack Lemon role) and Bobby Cannavale (playing the Al Pacino role) as sparring real estate agents and Patti LuPone (!) and Debra Winger (in her Broadway debut!) as warden and prisoner. Because director Daniel Sullivan (Good People, Twelfth Night) is going to kill it with the Pulitzer Prize- winning play; and because newly-minted über-conservative playwright-director Mamet is going to kill it in a whole other way with the Weather Underground-like radical group play. And because Mamet writes women real good.
5. Giant: Because even with potentially static direction by Michael Greif (Next to Normal, Angels in America), a musical adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel — adapted into the Oscar-winning 1956 film starring Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Rock Hudson and Dennis Hopper — seems like a grand, strange and wonderful idea. Because we can’t wait to see how composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa, known for his offbeat and discordant works like The Wild Party and Queen of the Mist, interprets the sprawling, epic story about greed, bigotry and, well, cattlemen. And because as this co-production between The Public Theater and the Dallas Theater Center suggests, everything’s bigger — and better? — in Texas.
6. Rebecca: Because it’s been delayed almost as many times as Spider-Man. 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.
7. Passion: Because Classic Stage Company’s production is the first fully mounted revival of the rarely performed Sondheim period piece. Because, based on the Italian flick, Passione d’amore, it’s essentially the story of not-so-attractive woman who obsessively loves (aka stalks) a soldier. Because though you can’t really do better than Donna Murphy and Marin Mazzie, you can do pretty damn well with Judy Kuhn and Melissa Errico. And because John Doyle is directing, and because I really, really hope he’s gonna make Judy Kuhn play a tuba.
8. Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson: Because its books and lyrics are by KATHIE LEE GIFFORD. And because it’s about a real-life superstar evangelist in the ’20s played by Carolee Carmello (Parade!). But, really, really, because its book and lyrics are by KATHIE LEE GIFFORD. Because, believe it or not, this ain’t her first musical, folks.
9. Matilda: Because Matilda is essentially a family-friendly version of Carrie. Because every little girl who’s now of a certain age (ahem) voraciously tore through the Roald Dahl collection — The Witches, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — and this tale of the tiny outcast with the astonishing wit and the psychokinetic powers was always the favorite, striking a familial yet fantastic chord. Because a crazy-looking Australian comedian-writer-performer composed the score. Because the Brits loved it. Because, when you think about it, why hasn’t a Roald Dahl novel been adapted into a stage musical before now?
10. The Flick: Because Annie Baker has a quiet charm and an impeccable ear for natural dialogue that is unmatched in theatre today. Because it sounds just like The Aliens, but set in a desolate movie theater as opposed to a desolate back patio of a coffee shop. Because we really like The Aliens.
11. Water by the Spoonful: Because Quiara Alegría Hudes is the first Latina to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (and who also wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning In the Heights). Because she writes about Iraq without writing about Iraq. Because her musical training creates a rhythm and language that is haunting and lyrical, because her characters are damaged and real and wonderful, and because hers is an original female voice in the American theatre.
12. The Last Five Years: Because though it’s no Parade (ahem), this semi-autobiographical musical two-hander about the rise and demise of twenty-something couple’s five-year relationship packs one helluva emotional punch and some fantastically crafted songs. Because I haven’t seen the show since its world premiere at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre eleven years ago. Because I not-so-secretly wish this could be a middle-aged cast revival so that Norbert Leo Butz could reprise the role of the self-obsessed novelist Jamie. Because it’ll be interesting to see, as directed by the writer, if the show really is biased toward Jamie… or if Norbert was just that good.