‘Submissions Only’ Returns March 3

BWW TV: SUBMISSIONS ONLY to Return to BroadwayWorld.com for Season 3 on March 3, Check out the New Trailer!|Broadway World

Okay, you know I have a handful of series that I am rabid about, but I think Submissions Only is special. I don’t know how well it plays for those who have never been in “the business,” but I’ve tested it with some “civilians” and I find that, as the old line goes, “funny is funny.”

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Subsmissions Only creators Kate Wetherhead and Andrew Keenan-Bolger.|Image: BroadwayWorld

But for anyone who has ever acted, directed, written, produced or watched theatre: this is so hilarious you might not realize that parts of it weren’t actually drawn from your own real life.

The last time I felt this strongly about a series that got the theatre business dead right, it was Slings and Arrows. (I swear that show contained actual tape recorded scenes of my life!!)

Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead are the responsible parties here. I am not-so-secretly in love with both of them! Watch and love!

Damon Intrabartolo, “Bare” Composer, Dead at 39

from Broadway World:

Damon Intrabartolo, composer of the hit off-Broadway musical Bare and a variety of film scores, died on August 13 in Phoenix, AZ. No cause of death has been reported. Intrabartolo was 39 years old.

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Jon Hartmere, Jr. (l), and Intrabartolo at an opening of “Bare.” |Image via broadwayworld.com

Intrabartolo wrote Bare, a musical about two gay Catholic school students grappling with their forbidden relationship, with co-book writer and lyricist Jon Hartmere. The musical originally premiered at the Hudson Theater in Los Angeles, CA, on October 14, 2000. It ran through February 25, 2001, before transferring to the American Theatre of Actors in New York City in the spring of 2004. A new, revamped version of the musical premiered at off-Broadway’s New World Stages on December 9, 2012, where it played through February 3, 2013.

A frequent collaborator with John Ottman, Intrabartolo was the orchestrator and conductor for many film scores, including In Good Company, American Dreamz, Bubble Boy, Pumpkin, Lake Placid, Halloween H20, Hide and Seek, Fantastic Four, Superman Returns, Eight Legged Freaks, X2: X-Men United, Gothika and Cellular. Intrabartolo also orchestrated and conducted the Dreamgirlsunderscore composed by Stephen Trask.

In addition to Bare, Intrabartolo composed the musicals Plop andOdyssey of the Bulimic Orphans. He was in the process of composing a new musical called Ride… a pop fable before his death.

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Jonah Platt and Payson Lewis star in the new Los Angeles production of “Bare,” set to open just after Labor Day 2013. |Promotional Image/glory|struck productions.

I must say, I was quite shocked by this news. I discovered him, like so many others, through the marvel that is Bare. I was so captivated by the original score that when Stafford Arima and Jon Hartmere reimagined it late last year Off-Broadway, I jumped at the chance to see it. Sadly, I did not like it very much, but was still glad that I got to be a part of it. A new production of Intrabartolo’s original concept is set to open next week in Los Angeles.

‘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.

John Lithgow, the National Theatre, and My Own Name-Dropping Memory of the Best New Year’s Ever

There are about 30 dressing rooms at the National. Some hold up to five people, and a few accommodate just one. They are arranged around a 60-foot-square air shaft, five stories high, at the very center of the building’s sprawling complex. All of the dressing room windows face in on one another. Look out any window at the half-hour call, and you stare right into the windows of dozens of other actors, all readying themselves for one of the three shows they are about to perform.

That cut is from a great article John Lithgow wrote for the New York Times. I’ll link to it at the bottom after I tell you my story about the dressing rooms at London’s National Theatre. Caution: serious name-dropping ahead!!

John Lithgow in his dressing room in London at the National Theater. Photo: Dave Corio/New York Times

John Lithgow in his dressing room in London at the National Theater. Photo: Dave Corio/New York Times

New Year’s Eve: 1997
Four friends of mine and I were in London for a mad week of theatre and touristy fun. One of my friends, an actor, was playing the dual role of Captain Hook/Mr. Darling in a production of Peter Pan in the States. We were going to see a production of the same adaptation in London at the National and the same role my friend was playing in the U.S. version was being assayed in London by Sir Ian McKellen.

And, as it happened, Sir Ian had a connection to the theatre where my friend was performing. On the flight over, my friend, let’s call him Steve, told me that his theatre had given him a press kit and wondered if I knew how we could get it to Sir Ian. (I was working as a theatrical press agent at the time — or as NPR’s Bob Mondello once referred to me in an article: “theatre flack Mark Blackmon.”)

I looked at the information; press kits being a particularly weird specialty of mine. I took out about half of the information and rearranged the rest of it. I handed it back to my friend.

“Do you want to meet Ian McKellen?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said. “How?”

“Leave that part to me,” I said. “But if I get you in, you’re taking me with you.”

A few days later — the afternoon of the 31st — we were taking a tour of the National. I made sure my friend had the press kit with him. During the tour, I made him give it to me and dove out of line. Then I did the thing that always works in the movies: I kept looking at my watch, looked harried and confused and walked up to a lobby attendant.

“I’m terribly late for a meeting,” I lied, prominently holding the folder as if it contained life-altering information. “Can you point me to the stage door?” He did and I thanked him profusely. (Seriously, I don’t know why I don’t have a Tony Award for Ballsiness!)

I ran outside, around the building, and to the prominently marked stage entrance. Once inside, I thanked the gods that the desk attendant was a little old lady. I was always better at chatting up grandmas than I was at chatting up cute boys, I’m sorry to say! I told her my story, she promised to leave the material in Sir Ian’s dressing room and told me to return after the show and she’d let us know if we could go back to meet him.

That night after the show, Steve and I left our group as soon as curtain call began and ran around to the stage door. Oh, Ian would be delighted to meet us, I was told, just as soon as he dressed. An interminable 10 minutes later, someone came up and escorted us through the rabbit’s warren that is backstage at the National to Sir Ian McKellen’s dressing room.

I’ve met a lot of famous and near-famous folks over the years, but Ian remains in my Top 5 all-time nicest list. We spent about an hour backstage with him. He cracked open a bottle of wine, which the three of us consumed. He and Steve traded Peter Pan stories and Steve tried on Ian’s hook. Ian kept glancing out of the window — just as Lithgow described it — and finally apologized, telling us that it looked like an elderly actor was waiting to meet him in someone else’s dressing room. “I was secretly hoping he expired during the performance,” he said wryly.

We were shown the door and we giddily walked back up the Thames, crossed Waterloo Bridge and caught the Tube back to our hotel, arriving just in time to grab something overpriced from the mini-bar to toast the New Year and recount our adventures to the rest of our group.

Since that time, Sir Ian has starred in some of the biggest blockbuster motion pictures of all time. Often, when someone begins a conversation about Gandalf or Magneto, I’ll ask the question, “Have I ever told you about spending New Year’s Eve in Ian McKellen’s dressing room?”

Lithgow’s story in the New York Times

Christopher Plummer: Theatre Tickets Cost Too Much

Christopher Plummer, dismayed at theater tickets’ steep cost – Boston.com.

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“The young would be coming if the price was right,” actor Christopher Plummer says, arguing that the stiff price of theater tickets is a barrier. (Photo by Chad Batka for The New York Times)

Let’s put it this way: there are a lot of mitigating factors at play, but I spent a huge chunk of my career figuring out why people buy theatre tickets and I can tell you this: he’s not wrong.

Jason Hite Bare Broadway Buzz

Jason Hite plays one-half of the central couple in “Bare,” now playing at New World Stages. Image: Broadway.com

Teens have even approached him in tears after the show, saying, “This is my story.” Although Hite has a girlfriend in real life, it’s not hard for him to fall for his co-star Taylor Trensch every night. “I take the love I have for my girl and just copy and paste it onto Taylor,” he says. “It’s honest love. It doesn’t matter who the person is, it doesn’t matter what they are. Sometimes, love is just undeniable.”

via Jason Hite on Sharing a Dressing Room With 15 People and Getting Steamy With His Bare Co-Stars | Broadway Buzz | Broadway.com.

He is very good in this. As is Taylor Trensch. As are several other standouts in the cast. The problem: the script does not live up to them, I’m sorry to say.

My original thoughts here.

Cleveland Street Comes to Broadway in the Delightful “A Christmas Story, the Musical” [review]

“I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time!”

If you know that quote, you know A Christmas Story, the 1983 movie thats played for 24 hours straight on cable channel TBS every Christmas Eve. The movie is narrated by Jean Shepherd, whose stories of growing up in Northern Indiana form the backbone of the plot. The film was not a hit when it was released, but since TBS started showing it on repeat more than two decades ago, it’s become one of America’s most beloved holiday tales.

And now there’s a Broadway musical version.

John Bolton and Erin Dilly as the parents and Johnny Rabe and Zac Ballard as Ralphie and Randy in A Christmas Story, the Musical, now on Broadway.

John Bolton and Erin Dilly as the parents and Johnny Rabe and Zac Ballard as Ralphie and Randy in A Christmas Story, the Musical, now on Broadway.

What? Why? How on earth? Can anyone do The Old Man more justice than the late, great Darren McGavin? Can any kid best Peter Billingsley as protagonist Ralphie Parker? How can you create A Christmas Story without the ubiquitous voice of Shep, who passed away in 1999? Who would do such a thing? I had to find out.

Not only is A Christmas Story my favorite Christmas movie, Jean Shepherd was always a presence in our household when I was growing up. My dad had all of his books and since we lived too far south to hear Shep’s radio broadcasts on New York’s WOR, my uncle would tape them on reel-to-reel tapes and mail them to Dad. Listening to Shep make my dad laugh; that’s one of my cherished childhood memories.

So, when I decamped to New York last week with my business partner — we license our own Christmas show — to check out the competition, as it were, I was waiting for a train wreck of the first order.

Peter Billingsley then and now. The original Ralphie from the movie is one of Hollywood's behind-the-scenes big-wigs these days. He's also one of the producers of this musical.

Peter Billingsley then and now. The original Ralphie from the movie is one of Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes big-wigs these days. He’s also one of the producers of this musical.

And whaddaya know — I loved every second of A Christmas Story, the Musical! Every second!

From the first musical number through to the last note, this is a lovely, warm, frothy, funny treat. It’s sweet without being treacly, faithful to the source material without being hidebound, and perhaps best of all, it’s a love note to one of America’s all-time great master storytellers.

The music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul capture the characters wonderfully. There’s never a time when any of the children sing anything you wouldn’t expect a child to sing. For wunderkind, they’re quite refreshing because they are not trying to showcase themselves; they’re uniformly showcasing the material and the performers. One senses that Pasek & Paul are likely to join other American musical ampersands: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Kander & Ebb.

It’s hard to come up with a favorite number, but “Major Award” is a standout — as is Warren Carlyle’s inventive and hysterical choreography — and “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” featuring a jaw-dropping performance by a tap dancing China doll named Luke Spring — are two out-of-the-ballpark hits. A lovely closing number, “A Christmas Story,” is the bow on the present that is this heart-warming show.

It’s hard to cast a show full of kids if you want the show to be good, but it’s happened here. All of the children are wonderful performers, none of them mug too much, none of them are ever out of the moment. That’s a tribute to Stephanie Klapper’s casting as much as it is to John Rando’s note perfect direction.

Dan Lauria (as Jean Shepherd) is the glue that holds this concoction together. He’s a lovely, fatherly presence as he glides into and out of scenes to add Shep’s voice to the proceedings. John Bolton is a rubbery and fluid Old Man, warmer than Darren McGavin, but perhaps not as wry. It’s not a quibble; McGavin’s Old Man was sui generis, one of the epic cinematic characterizations of the later 20th century. That Bolton makes you forget McGavin from time to time is a testament to this fine performer.

Erin Dilly is a wise presence as Ralphie’s mother, a genuine benevolent presence in her sons’ lives, with just the right hint of wit. She’s particularly good when paired with Zac Ballard as Ralphie’s impish younger brother Randy, who completely captivated me.

Jeremy Shidler as Flick, Jack Mastrianni as Scut Farkas and John Babbo as Grover Dill are standouts among the children and Andrew Cristi has Broadway’s non-politically correct turn of the year as the hilarious singing waiter at the Parkers’ impromptu Christmas dinner in the Chinese restaurant.

Johnny Rabe belts it out while Dan Lauria looks on in this fantasy sequence from A Christmas Story, the Musical.

Johnny Rabe belts it out while Dan Lauria looks on in this fantasy sequence from A Christmas Story, the Musical.

But, if you don’t have a good Ralphie, you can hang it up. And Johnny Rabe was a letter-perfect, note-perfect Ralphie. It was lovely to watch as he tried to convince his parents’ that a Red Ryder BB gun would help them stave off the unsavory elements around fictional Hohman, Indiana. He’s a genuinely gifted young man — already a triple-threat — and it will be exciting to see him grow into a powerhouse performer as an adult. As it was, at his age, holding a Broadway show together well, that’s no mean feat.

Everything you love from the movie, every crazy little memory from the “pink nightmare” to the can of Simonize, from clinkers in the furnace to Lifebuoy soap, from the triple-dog dare to the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse, Victor, from the trip to Higbee’s department store to helping the Old Man change a flat tire — they’re all there — even a couple of Bumpass hounds, too!

John Rando, Pasek and Paul and this fine company realize that they’ve been given the stewardship of something special and they have set out to show that there is still room in the theatre for a feel-good and heartfelt cockle-warming retelling of one of America’s very best holiday stories. I hope there will be shouts of “You’ll shoot your eye out!” in the theatre for years to come.

NYPL to Open Charles Dickens Exhibit

New York Public Library to Open Charles Dickens Exhibit – GalleyCat.

I love Dickens. I’m not a Dickens freak, but I’ve been involved with Dickens adaptations in the theatre for more years than I can count.

Funny Dickens Christmas show : here

One-Man Dickens Christmas show script: here

Truth in advertising …. the first one is my company. The second one is written by a great friend — and was directed two years running by my business partner.

I’ve marketed both.