‘S Wonderful Max von Essen

Kevin Fallon conducted a great interview with Max von Essen for The Daily Beast and I think you should read it.

Von Essen stars in the new Broadway show, An American in Paris, by all accounts a lush new show with a Gershwin score full of standards to die for. (Perhaps obviously, it’s based on the 1951 Gene Kelly/Leslie Caron picture, only with a new book by Craig Lucas.) Von Essen’s not new to the table — I still regret not being able to see him in Evita — but he’s one of those solid performers that you can always depend on. You may not instantly remember his name, but hardcore theatre-goers certainly do. Maybe that will change now.

Anyhow, from Fallon’s interview:

Interestingly enough, one of the first facts listed about von Essen on his Wikipedia page is that he is openly gay, something that he laughs about, but clearly doesn’t mind.

“If I don’t get a TV show next year because someone looks up my Wikipedia and it says ‘openly gay,’ then it’s worth the risk because I’ve had so many years being openly gay and proud of myself as a role model.”

“Especially for me on Broadway, of all places, I know people who are gay but living a bit of a lie in my own community,” he says. “And I’m thinking, ‘You’re on Broadway! You do musical theater! Of all places to hide yourself? Are you kidding? Enjoy. Be yourself.’”

Bravo, sir, bravo.

You can see von Essen in the hilarious web series Submissions Only. He has delightful comic timing — and he’s easy on the eyes. What’s not to love?

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Max von Essen, far left, played Cameron Dante, the boyfriend of Steven Bienskie’s Stephen Ferrell (third from left, in tie) in the delightful comedy about the other side of theatre, Submissions Only. Also pictured are Anne L. Nathan, creators Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead, Colin Hanlon, Wade McCollum and Lindsay Nicole Chambers.|Image: Curtis Brown/Broadway World

 

How “A Christmas Story” Kept Peter Billingsley Normal

How “A Christmas Story” Kept Peter Billingsley Normal.

A great piece on Billingsley, who, as an adult never went all Dana Plato at it. Also, it’s nice to see him embrace this iconic role. More than embrace it, he’s been a producer on the successful musical that has played on Broadway and across the country over the last several years.

For the record, I’ve seen the musical version twice — in 2012 on Broadway and in 2013 at Madison Square Garden. I love every bit of it.

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Peter Billingsley. |Image: Ramona Rosales/BuzzFeed

Catching Up With The Multi-Talented Billy Magnussen

InDepth InterView: Billy Magnussen Talks Reserved For Rondee UK Gigs, INTO THE WOODS Movie, VANYA, 50 SHADES & More.

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Billy Magnussen brilliantly played the dim Spike in a Tony-nominated turn on Broadway earlier this year. He played Signourney Weaver’s love interest. Some gals have all the luck! | Image: broadwayworld.com

Good in-depth interview by Pat Cerasaro on Broadway World with Billy Magnussen. He’s one of my favorite interview subjects of late because he comes across as completely genuine — and more than a little bit quirky.

He’s shooting the new Into The Woods movie right now and he’s hot off his Tony-nominated turn in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Christopher Durang’s exceptional play and one of the funniest afternoons I’ve ever spent at the theatre.

Magnussen is certainly easy on the eyes — just as he was back in the day when he played Casey Hughes on As The World Turns where I first ran across him — but he’s more than just another pretty face. His band is damn good, too. Here’s a link to the iTunes pages for Reserved For Rondee.

The Next Tenant at 221B Baker Street: Sir Ian McKellen

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Sir Ian McKellen at the U.K. premiere of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” |Image via aceshowbiz.com.

My old pal, Sir Ian McKellen, also known as Sir Patrick Stewart’s BFF/X Men nemesis/fellow  waiter for Godot — also Gandalf — is slated to be the next actor to carry the mantle of Sherlock Holmes at the movies. Sorry, the cinema.

The 74-year-old McKellen will play a retired Sherlock who decides to have a crack at one last case. Sir Ian, one of the top actors in the world, is also a cracking nice chap. At least that’s my experience.

No word if there’ll be any Cumberbatch cameos!

‘Vanya and Sonia’ to Get a New Masha in B’way Extension

‘Vanya and Sonia’ Will Get a New Masha When Broadway Run Extends – NYTimes.com.

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Julie White, Durang’s new Masha during the extension of his Tony Award-winning Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. |Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images/nytimes.com

Christopher Durang’s latest is ‘fantabulous,’ as a friend of mine used to say. Shalita Grant deserved the supporting actress Tony, I thought. It was an unexpectedly brilliant few hours in the theatre and I’m so glad I saw it. If you’re in the Big Apple and can snag a ticket, do go. It’s marvelous.

“Submissions Only” – How’d I Miss This Great Web Series Until Now??

I am completely late to the table on this one, but if you are at all interested in backstage shenanigans, watch Submissions Only, the Web series created by Kate Wetherhead and Andrew Keenan-Bolger.

“Backstage shenanigans” really doesn’t do this series justice in the slightest. It’s ostensibly about a struggling casting agent and his friend, a struggling actress, but it’s a warm, witty, often laugh-out-loud funny look at the relationships — and indignities — that occur backstage and in the wings.

For any of us who are, or have been, “in the business,” you know every one of these people. The last show like this, for me, was the Canadian series Slings & Arrows. For those amongst us who have not spent any time backstage, watch it for the cameos and great writing. There’s hardly a Broadway name that doesn’t get a couple of minutes of face time. I mean, they got Chita Rivera, Harvey Fierstein and Beth Leavel, for God’s sakes!

Wetherhead and Keenan-Bolger are no slouches as Broadway names either. You may have seen her in Legally Blonde or The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee or him in Mary Poppins, Seussical or until recently as Crutchie in Newsies. The “sizzle reel” below is linked straight to YouTube. Watch the entire series at www.submissionsonly.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Alec Baldwin Sure Does Hate Ben Brantley

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Photo: from Vulture. Ben Gabbe | Getty Images

Alec Baldwin Sure Does Hate Ben Brantley — Vulture.

Baldwin writes that a critic should “never say ‘why bother?'” about something he or she is reviewing, and that “[in] the case of Orphans, Brantley wrote ‘Why bother?'” Actually, Brantley didn’t — though he did call Baldwin’s performance “a mutating cartoon … with only hints of the requisite menace” and said the production was “dispiritingly pallid.”

Okay, this is probably a way for Baldwin to vent his spleen a little, but, you know what? When you strip away all the vitriol from both sides, Baldwin is dead right.

Look, critics have way too much power.

Critics who are looking for a way to tear down a performer or a performance sadly outnumber those who are offering legit criticism.

If theatre marketers were doing their jobs correctly — and I say this with impunity because I was one for years and years — you can make your shows immune in critics. Of course, doing so requires changing your business model and investing more money in marketing, so I’m pretty certain that’s not going to happen anytime soon.