Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hollywood On Broadway

In an earlier post, we looked at Hollywood actors and actresses who got their start on Broadway.  Today we’re going to look at the reverse–entertainers who started in Hollywood and then tried their hand on stage.

Daniel Radcliffe

Having already received a warm reception from West End theater critics and audiences, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe arrived on Broadway with the all-important stamp of British approval. Broadway fans and critics embraced the young man as well, and Radcliffe has now officially earned his stripes as a legitimate adult actor with his performances in Equus in 2008 and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011.  In between the two shows, he still needed to complete the Harry Potter series.  But his decision to return to Broadway after filming was a good one.  Apparently, he can dance too!

Katie Holmes

With the stigma of being a Hollywood tabloid darling firmly attached,  Holmes had little chance of winning over Broadway die-hards, and it didn’t help that she couldn’t rise to the level of experienced co-stars John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Patrick Wilson. Lack of critical love notwithstanding, there were no shortage of fans at the stage door each night waiting to get photos of this Hollywood celebrity.  Holmes is best known for playing Joey Potter on six seasons of the popular teen drama Dawson’s Creek in the late ’90s. She made her Broadway debut in the 2008 revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and originated the role of Lorna in Dead Accounts.

Lauren Bacall

Bacall began her career as a model, before making her debut as a leading lady with Humphrey Bogart in the film To Have and Have Not in 1944. She continued in the film noir genre with appearances with Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948), and starred in the romantic comedies How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, as well as Designing Woman (1957) with Gregory Peck. She co-starred with John Wayne in his final film, The Shootist (1976), by Wayne’s personal request. Bacall also worked on Broadway in musicals, earning Tony Awards for Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year(1981), which I also saw as a kid!

Denzel Washington

Mostly known as an A lister among A listers in Hollywood, the charismatic film star packed in the crowds and gave them a hell of a performance in this revival of August Wilson’s drama Fences in 2010. Washington did an excellent job of navigating a difficult character, who is initially so likable and funny before he reveals his ugly side.  He will be returning to Broadway in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s classic work The Iceman Cometh in 2018.

Keifer Sutherland

The young movie star of the Brat Pack era went on to establish himself as a TV action hero with several seasons of 24 and as the President of the United States Tom Kirkman in his current role on the hit TV drama Designated Survivor. But in his Broadway debut in 2011, he co-starred in an ensemble cast of the Broadway revival of That Championship Season, which is a play about a group of guys reflecting on the 20th anniversary of their high school championship basketball season.  Sutherland plays a school principal who’s tired of being small.  Sutherland garnered positive reviews for being the best of the cast, which included Chris Noth, Jim Gaffigan, Jason Patric (his Lost Boys co-star), and Brian Cox.

Broadway Turned Hollywood

The focus of this post will be Hollywood stars who got their start on Broadway.  The list is surprisingly long even though most actors will tell you that doing both film and stage will make you a more well rounded performer.  Here are a few you may recognize.

Jason Alexander
Jason Alexander is probably best known as George Costanza, one of television’s most neurotic characters, but he was already a Broadway star when he landed his iconic role on Seinfeld, which ran from 1989-1998.  He made his Broadway debut starring as Joe in the Stephen Sondheim play Merrily We Roll Along in 1981.  In 1989, he won a Tony for the Jerome Robbins-directed review Broadway.  Even after his success on the small screen, Alexander never forgot his musical theater roots.  He returned  to the stage in 2003. Alexander was cast in a successful run, opposite Martin Short, in the Los Angeles production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.   Alexander also appeared with Kelsey Grammer in the 2004 musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, playing Jacob Marley to Grammer’s Ebenezer Scrooge.

Meryl Streep
Before her breakout film roles in The Deer Hunter and Manhattan, one of Meryl Streep’s first professional jobs in 1975 was at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference during which she acted in five plays over six weeks.  Streep moved to New York City in 1975, and was cast by Joseph Papp in a production of Trelawny of the Wells at the Public Theater, opposite Mandy Patinkin and John Lithgow.  She went on to appear in five more roles in her first year in New York, including in Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival productions of Henry VThe Taming of the Shrew with Raúl Juliá, and Measure for Measure opposite Sam Waterston and John Cazale.  She starred in the musical Happy End on Broadway, and won an Obie for her performance in the off-Broadway play Alice at the Palace.   Unfortunately, she hasn’t been seen on the Great White Way since 1977, but made a memorable turn as the title character in the 2006 revival of Mother Courage and Her Children at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.  Not that she’s been twiddling her thumbs. She has picked up a whopping 20 Oscar nominations and three awards since.

Taye Diggs
In 1996, Taye Diggs played the (slightly) villainous landlord Benjamin Coffin III in the  debut of Rent.  From there, he has gone from film to theater and back ever since, starting with a role on the soap opera The Guiding Light 1997, starring with Angela Bassett in How Stella Got Her Groove Back in 1998, playing the Bandleader in Rob Marshall’s 2002 movie adaptation of Chicago followed by a stint as Billy Flynn on Broadway later that year.  He played nice guy heartthrob Dr. Sam Bennett on Private Practice alongside fellow Broadway star Audra McDonald from 2007-2013, starred as Harper Stewart in the Best Man movie franchise, and was a lead in the cast of the tv series Murder in the First from 2014-2016.

Sarah Jessica Parker
Before making Manolo Blahnik a household name, the Sex and the City star had a long list of credits that stretch back to her teen years.  Parker and four siblings appeared in a production of The Sound of Music at the outdoor Municipal Theatre (Muny) in St. Louis, Missouri.   She was selected for a role in the new 1977–81 Broadway musical Annie: first in the small role of “July” and then succeeding Andrea McArdle and Shelley Bruce in the lead role of the Depression-era orphan, beginning March 1979.  Parker held the role for a year.  In 1982, Parker was cast as the co-lead of the CBS sitcom Square Pegs. The show lasted just one season.  In the three years that followed, she was cast in four films: the most significant being Footloose in 1984 and 1985’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, co-starring Helen Hunt.  While she hasn’t graced the Great White Way in some time, she starred opposite Blythe Danner in the premiere staging of Amanda Peet’s The Commons of Pensacola Off-Broadway in the fall of 2013 until February 2014.

Jerry Orbach
It would probably surprise millions of Law & Order fans that Orbach, who played curmudgeonly detective Lennie Briscoe for 13 years, was a song and dance man.  Orbach’s professional career began on the New York stage, both on and off-Broadway, where he created roles such as El Gallo in the original off-Broadway run of The Fantasticks (1960) and became the first performer to sing that show’s standard “Try To Remember”;  Billy Flynn in the original Chicago (1975–1977), and Julian Marsh in the original 42nd Street (1980–1985), which I saw as a kid!   Nominated for multiple Tony Awards, Orbach won for his performance as Chuck Baxter in Promises, Promises (1968–1972).  Later in his career, Orbach played supporting roles in films such as Prince of the City (1981), Dirty Dancing (1987), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) as the voice Lumiere.  He also made frequent guest appearances on television; including a recurring role on Murder, She Wrote (1985–1991) as private detective Harry McGraw.

The Difference Between Scrims, Cycloramas, and Backdrops

What exactly is the difference between a backdrop, scrim, and cyclorama?  These terms are used at times as if they are interchangeable.  That would be incorrect….and confusing to those who do understand the difference.

Scrim: A scrim will look like a solid curtain until you bring up the lighting behind it.  At that point, you will be able to see through it.  Scrims can also change appearance with different lighting techniques.  You can use it for front lighting and projections as well.  Scrims are typically made from what is called a sharkstooth weave, which is considered very durable for a scrim.  (We only carry sharkstooth scrims in black or white for rent).  Some of the other types of scrim are made from gauze and linen, which are much more delicate, but can be used in the same manner.  Scrims can also have painted scenes on them.  For example, a scrim with a forest painted on it can make it appear as people running through the woods.  It’s a simple, dramatic effect.

Cyclorama: A cyclorama–or “cyc” (pronounced “sike”)–is a plain curtain usually used to give the appearance of a “sky”.   Standard cycloramas are light blue in color although they are also made with white or natural muslin.  They are typically front lit with colored lighting to change the appearance of the stage. There’s no real difference between the functionality of the blue or white cyclorama other than the blue will mute colored lighting a little.  Seamless cycloramas are somewhat difficult to find as rentals and expensive to purchase.  A seamless cyclorama is useful for doing shadow effects with back lighting.  The seams will show when back lit, which is why seamless cycloramas are preferred.  Even with front lighting, a seamless cyclorama gives a more uniform appearance.  However, cycloramas with seams are just as effective.

Backdrops: A backdrop is actually a generic term used to refer to several different types of stage curtains including scrims and cycloramas. Most frequently, backdrops are used at the back of the stage or scene.  For our purposes, a backdrop is a hand painted, scenery of various themes.  In essence, we use the term “backdrop” to solely describe our painted scenes.

Stage Etiquette

Theater etiquette isn’t just important from an audience perspective, it is also important for actors and stage members to follow certain rules when in or around the stage. Aside from remembering your lines, stage etiquette comes a long way to everyone involved in the production as it helps to keep everything on track and helps make the production run smoothly each performing night.

Rehearsals – Rehearsals help everyone stay and remain on the same page, so always arrive on time for warm ups. Learn your lines, and follow along for tips and updates on a character.

Stick to the script – The script takes a long time to get it perfect and it is written the way it is for a reason. Unless you are doing improvisation, stick to it.

Before the Show – Stay off the stage and out of the theater once the house is open as it can spoil any surprises or part of the show. Especially avoid it when in costume, too.

Don’t talk backstage – Talking backstage can bring noise and distractions that the audience can pick up on. Instead, avoid speaking behind the scenes or while a play is happening. Avoid talking, whispering in the wings, or even noise in the dressing room. Sometimes a microphone can be left backstage leaving the audience to hear everything. If you wish to see the show backstage, instead hang out in the monitor or green room. It is also very important to stay out of the way for actors who will frequently be going in and out of the stage.

Food and drinks – Never eat behind the stage or near the wings. Instead, consume drinks and food in the Green Room. Things can spill and can possibly ruin costumes or create a trip/slip hazard for actors and production staff. It is also important to never put food, drinks or any object on a prop table.

The Tony Awards Winners!

 

The 71st annual Tony Awards premiered last night and it was a whirlwind! Kevin Spacey hosted the show, which aired on CBS from Radio City Music Hall in New York. Among many different shows throughout the night, “Hello, Dolly!” and “Dear Evan Hansen” were the biggest winners. For best musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” star Ben Platt won lead actor. Bette Midler however, won lead actress and best revival of a musical for “Hello, Dolly” giving a memorable speech after her win.

Check the list below to see if any of your favorites won?!

Best Play: “Oslo” (WINNER)

Best Musical: “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)

Best Book of a Musical: “Dear Evan Hansen” — Steven Levenson (WINNER)

Best Original Score: “Dear Evan Hansen” — Music & Lyrics: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (WINNER)

Best Revival of a Play: “August Wilson’s Jitney” (WINNER)

Best Revival of a Musical: “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Kevin Kline, “Present Laughter” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Ben Platt, “Dear Evan Hansen”(WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Bette Midler, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Michael Aronov, “Oslo” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Cynthia Nixon, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Gavin Creel, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Rachel Bay Jones, “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)

Best Scenic Design of a Play: Nigel Hook, “The Play That Goes Wrong” (WINNER)

Best Scenic Design of a Musical: Mimi Lien, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” (WINNER)

Best Costume Design of a Play: Jane Greenwood, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” (WINNER)

Best Costume Design of a Musical: Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Lighting Design of a Play: Christopher Akerlind, “Indecent” (WINNER)

Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Bradley King, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” (WINNER)

Best Direction of a Play: Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent” (WINNER)

Best Direction of a Musical: Christopher Ashley, “Come From Away” (WINNER)

Best Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler, “Bandstand” (WINNER)

Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire, “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre: James Earl Jones

Special Tony Award: Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, sound designers for “The Encounter”

Regional Theatre Tony Award: Dallas Theater Center in Dallas, Texas

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award: Baayork Lee

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre: Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser

Protecting Your Voice

A voice is a vital instrument and tool that is important to the theatre. A voice can carry a scene, can inspire goosebumps in the audience with a song, and it can be a huge different between an average to an outstanding show. However, with the talent and brilliance of a voice, also comes the responsibility of taking care of it.

Doing 5 to 10 week shows can be a strain to your voice, or cause an actor to get sick. There are several ways that a voice can be injured. Here are some tips to take to maintain your voice in good condition:

Warming up/Exercise – Vocal warm-ups and exercise are not only great voice lessons, but can also maintain the vocal chords strength. Always find time to warm up your voice and before every practice session, rehearsal and performance. Without the warm ups, you can physically harm your chords. Exercise has numerous amounts of benefits. Exercising regularly will strengthen and boost your immune system which can help reduce the chances of unwanted congestion, and strengthening your lungs.

Staying healthy – Staying healthy is important for both, your vocal chords and body. The voice is a delicate instrument and it is easier to harm than one thinks. From getting a good nights sleep to eating well can make huge differences to your voice! Fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains should be a staple in your diet, which can boost your sail through the flu season without a single sniffle.

H2O – Water! Water! Water! Water has incredible benefits for your voice! It can maintain its proper functions and it is highly recommended to stay hydrated during cold and flu season. Certain beverages like caffeinated can cause your vocal chords to dry out, so maintain hydrated with water is key.

Having a theatre voice can be wonderful and important for every production, but, whatever the issue, remember to always keep your voice healthy and maintain its health with the best tips and tricks that are known in the business.

Movies That Turned Into Plays–Part I

We’ve already posted some plays that were made into movies, but what about the other way around?  Here are some movies that were made into plays for you to check out:

Aladdin

Aladdin is a musical based on the 1992 Disney animated film of the same name with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. Beguelin also wrote the book. The musical includes three songs written for the film by Ashman but not used.   There and four new songs written by Menken and Beguelin. The story follows the familiar tale of how a poor young man discovers a genie in a lamp and uses his wishes to marry the princess that he loves and to thwart the Sultan’s evil Grand Vizier.

Aladdin premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in 2011.  After several regional and international productions in 2012, the musical was given a Toronto tryout in 2013.  It opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20, 2014 to mostly warm reviews and was nominated for five Tony Awards.

Big

Big The Musical is a 1996 musical adaptation of the 1988 film starring Tom Hanks. It was directed by Mike Ockrent and featured music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., with choreography by Susan Stroman.  It involves Josh Baskin, a 12-year-old boy who grows up overnight after being granted a wish by a Zoltar Speaks machine at a carnival. With the aid of his best friend, Billy, he must cope with his new adulthood while finding the machine so that he can wish himself back and more.  The musical opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on April 28, 1996, and closed on October 13, 1996, after 193 performances.  Although it was nominated for five Tony Awards (Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Book, Score, and Choreography), it was one of Broadway’s costliest money-losers

La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage aux Folles is a musical with a book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman.  Based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, it focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when Georges’s son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents to meet them. La cage aux folles literally means “the cage of mad women”. However, folles is also a slang term for effeminate homosexuals (queens).

The original 1983 Broadway production received nine nominations for Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. The success of the musical spawned a West End production and several international runs. The 2004 Broadway revival won the Tony Award for Best Revival, the 2008 London revival garnered the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. The 2010 Broadway revival was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. La Cage aux Folles is the first musical which has won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice and the show that has won a Best Production Tony Award (Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical) for each of its Broadway productions.

 Footloose

Footloose is a 1998 musical based on the 1984 film of the same name. The music is by Tom Snow (among others), the lyrics by Dean Pitchford (with additional lyrics by Kenny Loggins), and the book is by Pitchford and Walter Bobbie.  It opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on October 22, 1998 with 737 performances.  It was nominated for several Tony Awards.  With its Oscar’-nominated hit score (the film soundtrack album has sold over 15 million copies world-wide), the celebrated film musical now bursts explosively onto the stage.  The production has developed a following since its original release being one of the most frequently performed school musicals in recent years.

The Top Theater Myths

Theatrical superstitions and myths are real. Among the superstitious actors, it’s important to know them before ever entering or participating in a show, whether as a cast member or as an audience.
Follow along for the most famous superstitions that still linger on stages today.

Having three lit candles onstage – Having three lit candles on stage can bring bad luck. It is said that whoever is nearest to the shortest candle will be next to marry or die. Today, this is nothing but a rumor. Today, stages are instead lit by electrical lights. Instead of bad luck, having lit candles on or around the stage around flammable fresh paint, dim lighting and busy people will only burn the theater down.
Saying ‘Macbeth’ – If the name, ‘Macbeth’, is mentioned in a theatre there is a cleansing ritual to rectify the mistake. The ritual requires the person who said the name to leave the theatre building, spit, curse and spin around three times, before begging to be allowed back in. Other tricks also include, reciting a line from another Shakespearean work, brushing oneself off or running around the theatre counterclockwise. It is believed that Shakespeare got the words from a coven of real witches, and by using the word placed a curse on the play so no one, other than him, could correctly direct the play.
Bad Dress, Good Opening – Many stage actors believe that a bad and terrible dress rehearsal means a great opening night will occur. Although the origin is unclear, the comforting concept still continues today.
“Break a Leg” – Always replace the phrase “good luck” with “break a leg.” The saying might have originated from the ancient Greek practice of stomping feet instead of applauding. Others believed it could’ve originated from understudies jokingly wishing actors would “break a leg” so that their standbys were able to perform.
Flowers before the performance – Receiving flowers and a beautiful bouquet before a performance or recital is believed to cause a lackluster show. Instead, old school and new actors today require their flowers after the curtain call and never before!
Mirrors – Breaking a mirror can bring seven years of bad luck. However, breaking a mirror on stage will cause seven years of bad luck to the theatre. It is also believed that reflections from mirrors are distracting for lights, audience members and actors.

What Is An Interactive Theater?

Interactive theatre is known as a presentational or theatrical form of work that breaks the “fourth wall” that traditionally separates the performer from the audience, physically and verbally.

Traditionally, theatre performance is limited to a designated stage area and the actions of the play unfolds within interplay with audience members, who function as observers.

Conversely, in interactive theatre, performance may happen amidst audience members, and often involves the audience in more active roles. They may be asked to hold props, supply performance suggestions (as in improvisational theatre), share the action’s real-world (non-theatrical) setting (as in Site specific theatre), or become characters in the performance. In addition, the audience may be asked to participate in altering the course of the play altogether by taking part in a collective vote to help steer the plot in a new direction, as with Augusto Boal’s forum theatre. In therapeutic and educational settings, the audience may even be invited to discuss pertinent issues with the performers.

Interactive theatre is an engaging, exhilarating and transcendent experience. Here are the top two tips that engage the audience in a new, complete and convincing world.

Being consistent is the most important rule that keeps interactive theatre together. Without consistency, it creates a no point of entry that confuses the audience. Regardless of what world you create, as long as it is consistent, the audience will love it.
Accurate ratio – It’s important to have an accurate number of actors as audience members instead of having an audience outnumber the actors. When the audience effectively contribute to the atmosphere, it works. Both actors and audience equally working together on performer energy.

Interactive theatre popularity has increased and will continue to increase as more creative shows come to the stage. Check if your city or town has any interactive theatre showings!

Attending Theater Etiquette

There are unspoken rules that any theater love must know. Learning the proper way to act in a theater not only increases your level of enjoyment, but also allows you to participate as a courteous audience member, giving you the full enjoyment of the theater.
Here are a few tips on what not to do:

Don’t Use Your Phone – Leave your electronic devices in your car or turn them off once the show has begun. Along with those sitting around you, actors can see when a phone is being used and they can specifically look in the audience and see who it is. It can be very distracting and cause several interruptions to production. Instead, be respectful of the actors and the rest of the audience and remain attentive to the show.

Leaving During A Show – Leaving during a performance is considered to be highly disrespectful. Unless there is an extreme emergency, it should never be done. Visiting restrooms and getting snacks before, after or during intermission is always highly recommended. It’s also important to always remember to never rush towards the exits after the performance. It is very rude to the actors.

Snacking – Do not eat or drink during the performance. It can be too distracting and out of consideration to the actors and your neighbors, save it for intermission.

Don’t Take Photos – Taking pictures, audio-taping and video-recording during a theater play is illegal. If caught, you’ll be asked to leave. Why? Flash photos can be dangerous to the actors, causing them to be temporarily dazzled by the flash and step off the stage. It also goes against copyright issues with taking of photos and videos. In most cases, performers are always available after the show in the lobby for autographs and pictures.

Don’t Mimic – Please do not sing along, hum, whistle or whisper during a performance.
Applause – Performers greatly appreciate enthusiastic applause, shouts of “Bravo” or “brava” and standing ovations. Applaud only after a well performed song or dance during a scene, after each scene or act and at curtain call.

Attending the theater is fun, but it does require perfect manners to ensure everyone’s good time. With the help of this list, you will optimize your chances of having a memorable experience.