Thursday, September 10, 2015

Broadway's Matilda: Shrilly, She Just Keeps Running!

We knew nothing about the musical, Matilda before we saw it.
Well, almost nothing.
We knew it had been a huge hit in England. We knew it was based on a book for "tweenagers" written by Raold Dahl, a widely-acclaimed author and the man who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Facory.
And we knew that Broadway's Matilda has been performing in front of packed houses for quite some time -- since April, 2013 to be exact.
On top of all that, the show is at the legendary Shubert Theatre, at the top of theatre row right on Shubert Alley. This is the place where A Chorus Line ran forever.
So, our expectations were fairly high.
We wish we could tell you that those expectations were fulfilled. They weren't.
As far as we're concerned, the show didn't even come close.
The US version of Matilda cost $16 million to produce. And, you will get some dazzle from the show: A confetti shower, darting lasers, fog machines and strobe lights. On top of that the actors run up and down the aisles and appear and disappear via pneumatic lifts.
The musical's narrative centers on Matilda, a precocious 5-year-old girl with the gift of telekinesis who loves reading, overcomes obstacles caused by her family and school, and helps her teacher to reclaim her life. It sounds relatively simple (for a quasi "children's tale") but it's actually a quite complicated and largely dismal story with cheap thrills and a deus ex machina ending.
The child actors in the show (and there are many of them) work very hard but, like Matilda, they are all loud and relentless. Plus, their heavy British street accents make them hard to understand. On top of all that, the show has no subtlety. It's all raucous, screechy and invasive.
The leading villain is the school headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. She's (played by a he) a huge, obstreperous, living gargoyle. There are some darkly funny moments when she's around but they're far too few and much of her activity borders on the sadistic.
This is a largely charmless show. The songs pretty much all sound the same and we were able to detect little or no melody.
We understand that British and American humor are not the same. We get it. And we're still able to enjoy the British idea of irony or farce or whatever as evident in shows such as Something Rotten and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, both of which we enjoyed.
And we've also seen some musicals revolving around the plight of children and/or pre-teens, such as Annie and Newsies, which we've also enjoyed very much.
But Matilda is not in that category. 
Matilda is just one huge, repetitive thwack on the die of the head as far as we're concerned.
Skip it.

Monday, September 7, 2015

New B'way Show Announces Opening Night Contest

Producers of A.R. Gurney’s SYLVIA are thrilled to announce Sylvia’s Opening Night Sweepstakes.

The grand prizewinner will receive an opening night package that includes:  
  • Two opening night tickets and party passes to SYLVIA on Broadway.
  • Overnight stay for two (plus canine friend) at the dog-friendly Loews Regency Hotel.
  • Dinner and drinks for two at The Palm Restaurant.
  • A one-year supply of Petsmile® Professional Pet Toothpaste.
  • A custom-made dog bed from Sit. Stay. Forever. in their choice of color and material, sized perfectly to fit their canine companion. All Sit. Stay. Forever. products are made in America from 100% certified toxin free, hypoallergenic material.
Ten additional winners will receive exclusive SYLVIA on Broadway merchandise.

Starting Tuesday, September 1, 2015, contestants can enter Sylvia’s Opening Night Sweepstakes by visiting the show’s Facebook page at or by visiting and signing in with either their Facebook or Twitter account. For every action contestants take, they earn additional entries into the sweepstakes. The sweepstakes will remain opening until Saturday, October 10, 2015, and the winners will be announced on Thursday, October 15, 2015.

For official sweepstakes rules and more information on how to enter visit

A.R. Gurney’s SYLVIA stars Tony Award-winner Matthew Broderick (Brighton Beach Memoirs, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), Tony Award-winner Julie White (The Little Dog Laughed, Airline Highway), Drama Desk Award-winner Robert Sella (Stuff Happens), and Tony Award-winner Annaleigh Ashford (You Can’t Take It With You, Kinky Boots). They will appear under the direction of Tony Award-winner Daniel Sullivan (Proof).

Performances will begin on Friday, October 2, 2015, and will hold its official opening night on Tuesday, October 27, 2015. Tickets for SYLVIA are available for purchase online at, by calling (212) 239-6200, or by going to the box office of the Cort Theatre.

The creative team will include scenic design by Tony Award-nominee David Rockwell (You Can’t Take It With YouOn the Twentieth Century), costume design by Academy Award-winner Ann Roth (The English Patient), lighting design by Tony Award-nominee Japhy Weideman (The Visit, Airline Highway)sound design by Peter Fitzgerald (Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow), and music by Greg Pliska (War Horse). Casting by Telsey + Company/William Cantler, CSA.

Paper Mill Announces Cast For New 'Bandstand' Musical

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director) is proud to open its 2015-2016 season with the world premiere musical The Bandstand. As previously announced, Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes (Rodgers + Hammerstein's CinderellaBonnie and Clyde), Corey Cott (Newsies, Gigi) and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone, 42nd Street) will star in The Bandstand.

The Bandstand will be directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, Bring It On, In the Heights). The Bandstand features a book and lyrics by Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor and music by Richard Oberacker. The Bandstand begins performances Thursday, October 8, 2015, and runs through Sunday, November 8, 2015.  The official press opening night is Sunday, October 18, at 7:00pm. Paper Mill Playhouse's 2015-2016 Season is proudly sponsored by Investors Bank.

Set in 1945, The Bandstand tells the story of a mismatched band of military veterans who join together to compete in a national radio contest in New York City with a prize that will guarantee instant stardom to the winners. But with complicated relationships, the demands of the competition and the challenging after-effects of war, going all the way for a win in the contest seems like a dream that may break these musicians. The original score is strongly influenced by authentic 1940s swing music and much of it is played onstage by the characters who make up the band. The show races towards a “live on air” finale that has an emotionally charged and surprise twist ending that requires every ounce of talent, stamina and raw nerve that these musicians possess.

The Bandstand will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:30pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 8:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale now and range from $29 to $102. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680.  College students can order $20 rush tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office on the day of the performance.

"I’m thrilled that The Bandstand will receive its world premiere at Paper Mill Playhouse,” remarked director and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler.  “Like so many of us in the theatre, I feel it’s like being back at home.  The show follows a group of young musicians, having recently returned home from the war.  When this sizzling music and swing dancing explodes onto the stage, I know that the audiences are going to go wild.”

The Bandstand will star Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes as Julia Troy, Broadway favorite Corey Cott as Donny Novitski and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel as Mrs. Adams, Julia’s mother.

Two-For-One Tickets Now For 22 Broadway Shows!

The Broadway League and NYC&Co invite you to experience Broadway Week in New York City! Twenty-two Broadway shows are offering 2-for-1 ticket deals for selected performances September 7-20. 
Visit the Broadway Week page at to purchase your tickets and for important details and restrictions.

Shows participating in Broadway Week Fall 2015:*

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Amazing Grace
An American in Paris
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Finding Neverland
Fun Home
Hand to God
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Jersey Boys
The King and I
Kinky Boots
Les Miserables
The Lion King
Matilda the Musical
Old Times
The Phantom of the Opera
Something Rotten!
Spring Awakening

*Subject to availability. Blackout dates may apply.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Broadway Star Created Iconic Role In Landmark Musical

We're so sad to have to report the death of actor and singer Dean Jones. Jones was 84 and died from Parkinson's disease.
In 1970 Dean Jones originated the iconic role of Bobby, the enigmatic bachelor in Stephen Sondheim's landmark musical Company.
Shortly after opening night Jones bowed out of the role as he was apparently in the process of a messy divorce. Producer Hal Prince released Jones from his contract and he was replaced by Larry Kert who both looked and sounded like Jones.
Kert was so compelling in the role of Bobby that critics who re-reviewed the show praised him lavishly and he received a Tony nomination for his performance even though he didn't originate the role.
Still, it's the voice of Dean Jones that you hear on the original cast album of the show and it's Jones who gets to sing the big numbers in the memorable documentary of that recording session.
Dean Carroll Jones was born in Decatur, Alabama, to Andrew Guy Jones, a traveling construction worker, and Nolia Elizabeth White Jones. As a student at Decatur's Riverside High School Jones had his own local radio show, Dean Jones Sings.
Jones served in the Navy during the Korean War, and after his discharge worked at the Bird Cage Theater at Knott's Berry Farm in California.
Jones attended Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, as a member of its Class of 1953, but did not graduate. The university, however, awarded him an honorary degree in 2002, and he spoke at the ceremony for the dedication of Asbury's Andrew S. Miller Center for Communications Arts in 2011.
Jones made his film debut in the 1956 boxing film Somebody Up There Likes Me, which starred Paul Newman.
The next year he appeared in the Elvis Presley movie Jailhouse Rock.
He also starred on Broadway in such works as There Was a Little Girl, with Jane Fonda, and the hit Under the Yum-Yum Tree, also starring in the 1963 Jack Lemmon film.
But Jones probably had his greatest success as a Disney player, usually playing genial fathers or dumbfounded leading men.
His Disney debut came in That Darn Cat!, as an an FBI agent who solves a kidnapping with the help of the title character. He followed that with such films as Monkeys, Go Home! (1967), The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968) and the extremely popular The Love Bug (1969), about a Volkswagen with a mind of its own.
That film generated four sequels.
Dean Jones' personal story is inspiring.
Jones became a devout born-again Christian in 1973–1974, before his father's death in 1979. He had a history of suffering from depression. His wife Lory said, "One night he got down on his knees and prayed that God would free him from the miserable moods that he had always suffered. He told me that in an instant it was gone and he felt peace and joy flood into his heart." Jones has appeared in several Christian films.
In 1998 Jones founded the Christian Rescue Committee (CRC), an organization that helps provide a "way of escape to Jews, Christians, and others persecuted for their faith.
Jones is survived by his wife of 42 years, Lory Basham Jones, three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.