Written by John Peurach
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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

image for Send Back The Tonys: Broadway Bound (and Gagged) GOING DOWN ON BROADWAY: Hold your horses, next stop, more cowbell.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Better get used to it Mr. and Mrs. First-Nighter. The same goes for you, too, all you old school legit theatre ships still out there, either lost at sea, or, for the moment anyway, trying like hell to stay reasonably afloat along what's left of the once-proud great white way.

Because based on what just went down at the most recent super festive, stars-in/balls-out, Tony Awards conclave, it's safe to assume that, due to necessary thought-to-be concerns far outside the customary cozy boundaries of the American Theatre Wing's carefully folded hands-on controls, someone deep inside the usual somewhere seems to have finally figured out the best way to officially fly the coop, jump the shark, AND, go for, if not the gold, then apparently, whatever there is to be currently found in the, as always, more readily available (and sometimes too good to be true) import-heavy, tinsel-friendly, sure to knock 'em dead department.

But wait, there's more! Or, wouldn't ya just know?

Because even with this go west, young man with plan posturing up and running and put into full throttle-like swing, there's still enough show-must-go-on, front row - center, wiggle room left over for some, as expected, temporary territorial insanity! (And not just in those pesky, must-give-out-during non-televised pre-show categories that only those with a ticket must however safely endure.)

Plus, at (hopefully) no extra cost to you the home viewer, at least, one long-lasting, still burning bright, certifiable big time Broadway-like legend, along with, as luck and a certain amount of just-try-and-rain-on-my-dream-parade-like-fate would have it, a young, dewy-eyed, bright lights/big city, new edition hopeful, belting out her seemingly "special performance" audition like, damn if she don't wanna be one soon, too! A center stage Broadway diva if ever there was one, that is. As in, just in time for…….tooooo-morrow, tomorrow, no, wait, that was so, well, so……..yesterday.

In other words……..cue, Green Day! On in two minutes, Miss Lansbury! And, oh what the hell, send in the "Glee" girl!!

I mean, how else to explain the somewhat awkward boat load of wide screen/small screen exiles from points way out west (as in, from everywhere beyond Jersey and any of its more regional and/or assorted rural-like fly-over cousins) washing up on shore all up and down the Hudson just in time to crash what has usually been a relatively more or less had-to-be-already-here clubhouse party of sorts?

You know, for any and all interested east of West End locals who know how to pick their teeth with a Playbill and still never miss a beat whenever it comes time to lead the applause following the initial first act showstopper.

In other words, forget Mamma Rose, these ain't your daddy's Antoinette Perry's any more.

Or, at least, they don't seem as such, what with so many previously associated high wattage out-of-towners (Scarlett Johanssen, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Denzel Washington) each walking off with a take home trophy. To say nothing of the whole bunch of other ready for their close-up H-Wood heavyweights (Jude Law and Christopher Walken) and talking head sitcom pros (Kelsey Grammer, David Alan Grier, Valerie Harper, Sean Hayes, and Linda Lavin) along for the altogether ride, and, no doubt, happy to have just been among those nominated so as to be (or not to be) momentarily placed within someone's (could-it-really-be-possible?) consideration.

Plus!!! As promised, an unusual suspect who's who of what-the-F others (Paula Abdul? Katie Holmes?? Raquel Welch??? - What, no Frieda Pinto? No Lady Gaga?? No Dr. Phil???) showing up to help dish out all the necessary face-time hardware, and, who knows, in the end maybe even be one of the few highly unlikely reasons why (hopefully) several more than the usual three viewers west of East McKeesport might decide to tune in before their 12-pack runs out and its time once again to wrap things up and call it another lost weekend somewhere out yon deep within the semi-wide-eyed open spaces of the cross river provinces.

And, even though such already well known worthwhile performing arts fence sitters such as Viola Davis, Laura Linney, Alfred Molina, and Liev Schreiber might seem like for sure worthy additions to this latest crossover bunch, things still seemed maybe a little too top heavy with obviously supposed to be big names (excluding, of course, Madame Angela, who, for reasons too many to rip into at the moment, needs no such extra-added defensive reconfiguring when it comes to making the pre-chosen cut in any sort of Tony Award field of play) during this latest pat-on-the-back bravo fest.

Which, considering the alternative (or, at least any other one that might bring about a permanent relocation of the typically warhorse-like Tony Awards show broadcast to anything other than the traditionally preferred "free" network TV window), is how and why something other than the usual blip on the TV ratings scorecard was seemingly so hotly pursued and otherwise sought after for this season's big once around the park get togeth, and however it was allowed to unfold accordingly. Hopefully, before most of best after-parties high-kicked in, and, of course, any (once upon a time actually necessary) early journalistic editions swiftly began to arrive, just in time to spoil whatever in-progress hissy fits and/or un-welcomed, yet entirely deserved, soon-to-be-morning-after hangovers were either still going strong and/or on their full-speed way to total it-faced fruition.

(Would somebody please wake me whenever Regis and Kelly are through stepping all over each other's more or less completely incomplete tennis match of helplessly uttered, sub-verbal thoughts, suggestions, and/or publicly aired complaints about seems to have, only moments ago, transpired. Thank you.)

But seriously (or, as seriously as one wants, needs, or would like, to get around this here hot potato, hopefully without too much heat coming down from either Actor's Equity, assorted upper-level network honchos, and, of course, those professionally responsible for pursuing, establishing, and, maintaining worthwhile-like rating numbers for a wide assortment of late-night local news broadcasts, as cooked-up accordingly by the all-important up-and-down-the-line, bread & butter affiliates), not to sound too much like a would-be wanna-be Frank Rich; a just as (if not more so) venom-like John Simon honk; and/or an almost, but not quite, culturally slumming Manohla Dargis, up, as always, for an alley fight because there's only so much you can spit out about "Grown Ups" or "Knight and Day" before you run the risk of needing to start tuning-up any of the usual assorted thingamajigs involving the Hollywood Boy's Club all over again, just for the glory friggin' hell fun of it, this can't be a good thing. Or, is it?

In still other words……..alright, I won't; say nothing more, that is, except that, what the hey? It's the show, not the thought, that's supposed to count. Or, at least should, as in used to be once upon a time did, way before it came about, as required, that the only way to properly go past go on-with-the-show-this-it-wise was with either an already well-branded (fully bloated) blockbuster, an A-OK from a primary care physician (not already banking on the backend), and/or, as of late, a full roster of carefully constructed notes from whatever cuckoo-for-demographics network consulting firm might currently be unaware that even their nose in the air pose sometimes ain't exactly the best to tell which way any unavoidable ill winds is, for the time being, still out there blowing-like, big time.

And, well (since we're keeping score here) pretty much hasn't had time to stop (or properly time step) ever since Tommy tuned out, Carol and Chita sat down, Patti slowed down to a crawl, the need for too much VO5 went south (and mid-west) for the duration, and all ongoing thoughts of Q-ratings and Nielsen numbers began to somehow crowd out most of the happy, high-stepping, sugar plumb feet that traditionally liked to hoof it up accordingly in the hearts and minds of same page theatre-folk everywhere. Especially whenever it came time once again to honor so many of On-Broadway's own.

But then, I guess I just did; say what I meant to spray. Oh well, forget New Haven, we'll always have, if not Paris, then at least another miss-directed, unfocused, entirely self-serving, Act II.

Even so, despite the fact each of these chosen few noticeable names may have been brought in to help spark things up with their own unique brand of bring-(it on)-to-the-boards sizzle, and otherwise wow things up at this year's annual On-Broadway graduation exercises (and, sure, they sorta did, although maybe not as so pre-chewed envisioned, or primarily expected) and hopefully turn a few of the nearby heads not already totally scratched up in (or by) the process, the early indication final ratings for this year's telecast fell 8% from that which was beamed out last year to all the usual restless natives, and so-called ho-hum hicks in the sticks, who, by now, were supposedly believed to be stirring out there somewhere, waiting anxiously (better yet, breathlessly) for another chance to cut loose and let their "Glee"-freak flag fly, especially while the pit band played on, and so many carefully chosen familiar folks was paraded out, cut to, or forced to go deer-in-the-footlights, for everyone's Sunday night prime time amusement.

So, after all that was said and done, in (presumably, more or less) who knew fun, what really gives, huh?

Well, conscious or not, much of what apparently seemed to have fueled the big group-think/reach-for-the-brass-ring approach required to both set up and ultimately pulling off this year's latest Tony give-away model, can somewhat safely now be read between the lines of whatever current American Theatre Wingman, Nelson Charles-Reilly, had bouncing around his sideline mind once he finally found the time to speak up to a roomful of Broadway scribes, otherwise then doing there best to hang loose in the Robards Room at nearby Stage Door Johnny's, with apparently nothing better to do than to pick some more at the subsequent scab that has quickly developed as a result of what indeed went down with the up that, this time around anyway, essentially crashed and burned, despite the aggressive efforts of the Tony people to once again court so much help from the most obvious still up and running well of uncapped entertainment talent still within our semi-protected, nationally unconscious borders.

Namely, L.A. and, of course, its central casting backlog of carpetbagging show-biz happy wanderers. Many of whose present tense hopes and dreams for expanded creative-like outlooks are (and have been, for years now) mutually managed by people who, for better or worse, wouldn't know a "Cats" suit from any one of the supposed to be equal price better ones currently being foisted on an unsuspecting West Side La-La Land public, via their somewhat suspiciously highly regarded Barney's in beautiful downtown Bev Hills.

"Although certainly bleak, I'm sure things may have just looked worse than they actually might have sounded. Then again, so much of that depends on anyone out there who's either still listening, or pretending to know someone who once did," Charles-Reilly cautioned, utilizing a twisted sort of logic that would make the good ol' BP boys mighty proud. "But, even then, there's only so much we can be expected to do, since prior to, well - who even remembers now - it was, of course, just a matter of what not, rather than next, to do, once that friggin' chandelier came crashing down for good, the kitties stopped their screeching, and both Doc and Mel felt the need to put their pencils down and essentially gave up looking for the perfectly, well-crafted, how-to, snappy come back, and, along with that, an evermore entertainingly way to, well, continuously strip mine their rather gorgeously golden egg pasts, without too much, you know, heavy lifting, or undue strain on their collective bonapartes. .

Huh? Sadly, that wasn't all this Charles-Reilly dude was determined to go on and on about.

"I mean, look, it's a dog eat dog & pony show out there. Everybody knows as much. And, if for some reason they don't already, hell, its probably high time they did. So, where's the big rub-a-dub, hmmmm?" Charles-Reilly said with a certain amount of carelessly constructed verbal oomph, that, in the process, accidentally appeared to cause several of those among the swirling well of professional media onlookers to suddenly perk up some, thereby unintentionally revealing themselves to be rather noticeably concerned that someone other than a typically non-bashful muscular fellow in a towel might somehow be unreasonably aware of one (or both) of the more specially designated personal pet names they have (for years now) chosen to be known as during their usual mix and match assortment of wayward summer weekends spent on a variety of nearby northeastern shore islands.

"Besides," Charles-Reilly quickly continued, "its really not anywhere close to being any of our particular to-do to, well…..do anything that might, once again, force the likes of either Lane, Neuwirth, Chenoweth, Ebersole, Patinkin, or worse yet, a whole sizable enough gang of no name/new faces, down the eyes, ears, nose, and, yes, throats of a specifically-minded public, not otherwise already well on board, and, like totally with us from the start, no matter how talented and special these, and so many others in our recurring recycled roster of safety valve regulars indeed are, and for some time now, have been. That is, of course, whenever they aren't already off somewhere either doing 'Law and Order" - is that thing even still on? - or, maybe trying out for something in the latest Woody Allen film starring anybody other than himself, or the self he insists hasn't been there all along, only shorter."

Uh, yeah. I guess.

Meanwhile, rather than attempting to determine (or defend) how things may have/might have gotten us here (or further blame whoever, for just the same), the real question, more importantly is, where, oh where, will this not-so-all-of-a-sudden-upon-us third act take us now that the line in the sand (from numerous no longer needed lobby ashtray stands) has been decidedly breeched, if not all so recklessly crossed, without, generally speaking, an easy to stomach, wink and a smile?

Well, as has been promised on at least one other rather well known noteworthy occasion, "You ain't seen nuthin' yet!"

First off, with the rumors of Bernadette Peters replacing Catherine Zeta-Jones in "A Little Night Music" now confirmed, expect to see a quick exodus of many of the more pre-occupied top-billed spear carriers who might, at this time, be up (as advised) for something easier to do with their time this summer. Although, be prepared, just in case the fix is in, and either Doris Roberts or Betty White is called in to sub for Angela, all because another stiff just got fished out of the creek in Cabot Cove.

And, of course, don't forget to run for cover (if not Bayonne) if, as certainly speculated in the past, Chris Tucker (and not Clifton Powell) finally gets the call to wear the hat, fill the shoes, and do the does, currently being done so well by Mr. Award-Winning Denzel.

Then again, based on the better than 50/50 chance that Bill Shatner is eager to tuck it in long enough to provide some heads-up commotion over at "La Cage aux Folles" once Kelsey bounces back to the coast, you better hop on the Staten Island Ferry for a clean, crisp getaway, since just about everybody else is, or will all be up on deck there, too.

And then, there are (or, soon enough, will be) the inevitable, and, oh so nessesary, revivals. Plus, a few not yet locked and loaded, hoped-to-soon-be-big-Broadway-dogs, earmarked for next season's may-the-mayhem-ensue mid-town steel cage match, of sorts.

"THE ICEMAN COMETH" - Longtime comedy maven Maria Schlatter and super-confident Shaiman clone Glenn Roven it-can their collective "Pandora's Box" experiment, and finally go with what got them here. Namely, a yuk-yuk, hardy-har-har retake of O'Neill's epic, belt 'em back, anything-but-watered-down, back room/barroom pipe dream nightmare, that - hold onto your bust-a-gut sides - this time out showcases an entire gaggle of comical who dat's from pretty much every corner of the good humor galaxy. That's right, boys and girls, moms and dads, and all shaggy-dog/last comic standings of all ages, get ready for Will Ferrell as Hickey, Lewis Black as Larry Slade, Robert Klein as Harry Hope, Ben Stiller as Willie Oman, George Wallace as Joe Mott, Bill Murray as The General, Seymour Cassel as Hugo Kalmar, Martin Short as Jimmy Tomorrow, Carole Montgomery as Margie, Rita Rudner as Cora, and Dane Cook as Don Parritt. Plus, for all the usual obvious reasons, Todd Barry, Bobcat Goldthwait, Gilbert Gottfried, Jon Lovitz, Jerry Stiller, and Judy Tenuta each getting down and squirming all around somewhere on stage in hopes that there's still enough top banana left around once Will and the rest of the company get through peeling (and tripping their brains out) all over it. Needless to say, things haven't been this funny since David Merrick's (Oh, my God!) attempt to pull off a musical re-do hatch job of "The Pawnbroker" with Richard Dreyfuss, somewhere back in the (Don't mind me, cause my mind's blown, too, ya know?) anything goes, mid-80s.

"THE ME NOBODY KNOWS" - Uh-oh. Angela Bassett, Penelope Cruz, Susie Essman, William Fichtner, Jada Fire, Dan Fogler, Pam Grier, Jonah Hill, Parker Posey, Rosie Perez, Sara Ramirez, Michael Richards, Maya Rudolph, Jaden Smith, and Tamara Tunie, each channeling the used to be lost little undiscovered person soul within them. Although to be fair, Smith won't really be breaking too much of a sweat here, to the contrary, but give him time, he'll learn. In any case, it definitely looks like the holidays are sure going to be a whole lot more special when they start creeping us out again, later on this year. On the more IS less bright side, look for the Jonah Hill balloon to be the highlight of this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day death-like march to the still doing it department store's landmark winter wonderland at Broadway and 34th, while anything new bearing images of Ms. Fire (preferably hand-held) will indeed be hard to find soon enough, no matter what.

"THE ROSE TATTOO" - The perfect way for Nia Vardalos and Vince Vaughn to each show the Gotham faithfull that sometimes even the most unlikely folks can get together for something special that doesn't otherwise require a soundstage of smoke and mirrors, and, of course, whatever CGI hooey the little boys in the back room can muster up after a good cry, a walk with the dog (so to speak), and a quality nap following yet another Mountain Dew crash and burn afternoon.

"THE ROTHCHILDS" - As usual, money talks. But, this time around it's probably best just to keep running. Especially with Seth Rogen, Alex Borstein, Matthew Broderick, Debra Messing, Zac Efron, and Sandra Bernhard all teaming up to pick pockets, amass fortunes, highjack art, deny till they die, and, of course, never pick up a check, yet, still look every other way (except the right one), while going from there to here, here to there, and then back again several times over, without too much of a worthy, or even noticeable, strain, except for in a variety of unavoidable cross-cultural areas that already required them to have a conveniently accurate good case of bad taste whenever any high-powered interest rates are called upon to just keep going up, and up, and up…..till, well let's just say before anymore mud is used to further bury bad boy Bernie, give this tuneful romp across the bottom line a second, or third look see, and then just try and tell any sort of too-good-to-be-true pyramid pal of yours that you too can't find (or figure) out whatever become of your (hopefully not too) dried-up cash family flow, and still expect to have your parking validated. Better yet, give Charles Schwab a call when you can, and then be prepared to kiss what you can afford goodbye, hopefully before this diamond in the rough goes all the way out on it's, as expected, full-swing roadshow tour.

"1776" - Once again, as timely as this week's (not exactly) bloodless coup, yesterday's terrorist attack cover-up, today's oil spill blame game, tomorrow's battle at the borders, and, of course, some day's eventual environmental endgame meltdown (except with funnier clothes, and, occasionally, even a melodic verse, or two, that isn't otherwise totally dependent on something rhyming with either declaration, independence, and/or Braintree, Massachusetts). In any case, look for Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Cusack, Melina Kanakaredes, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Clay Aiken, Bo Bice, Taylor Hicks, Oz Perkins, and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to have an all-righteous blast turning this thing all the way up to eleven, and counting.

"HUSBANDS" - In what must certainly rank as the first Alma since Patricia Neal in "Hud" to actually really mater, a wall-to-wall upper classroom of used to be Emerson College students: Denis Leary, Mario Cantone, Eddie Brill, Arleen Sorkin, Maria Menounos, and Jennifer Coolidge, have banded together to pick-up where Jim Jarmusch and Nick Cave were recently forced to drop things once "Lee," their long planned, one-man, bare-knuckle celebratory revue of super tough guy Lee Marvin, featuring Mickey Rourke (showing just how and why he's still got all the, right to fight, bad ass moves), was finally given a firm go-ahead by Frederick Zollo and Renata Nederlander for a kick out the jams, hit the boards blast-off this October. Meanwhile, with America's Funniest Videos guru Vin DiBona now steering the ship, and Broadway first-timers Jack Gantos and Adam Roth kicking things out back, book and music-wise, be ready for just about everything, once this old gang of Beantown high-achievers gets itself together to breathe some well schooled high life (plus, several sets of new and improved glad-to-be-unhappy two left feet) into this cold, foreboding, three-headed downward spiral from the late, great, John Cassavetes. Rumor has it that once this almost done deal really gets cooking, anything inside the first ten rows is sure as shootin' going to be the hottest ticket get in town, due to Brill and Cantone's almost Gallagher-like nightly vomit-a-thon, during the show's gut wrenching, 100 proof, second act barroom free-for-all. So, be advised, and, of course, be on the look-out for any last minute scalpers, as well as any soon-to-be available official "Husbands" ponchos or drop-cloths. As they most likely will make great stocking-stuffers, just in time for you know who, you know when.

"NO, NO, LAURETTE" - With any luck this here deal should most definitely be the hoot of all hoots this upcoming season. And, as such, anything but a strange-but-true curio about Laurette Taylor and Spencer Tracy, two of the old school show biz world's least likely (yet legendary) booze swilling love birds. Although, bringing up this particular "L" word to help describe anything pertaining to these two well-oiled thespians, other than, say, their collective taste for lengthy solo shots, courtesy of any sort of free-flowing hooch, may in fact be stretching things a tad. Especially with regards to anything that may have come out of hiding between them in their all-important, but certainly questionable, romance department. But, be that as it may (or, may not, depending on who's still alive and swell and in the mood to tell), audiences are sure to love the highball low-wire antics of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Russell Crowe, locking eyes and bending elbows as Laurette and Spence, during one of this duos more adventurous under-the-radar drinking binges, which found them reportedly attempting to bar hop their way back to New York following a disastrous mid-week show try-out that apparently closed in Philadelphia back in December of 1941, just several days before Japan when to work on Pearl Harbor.

As playfully documented, via the late George Furth's (till now) somewhat underground partial speculation about what may have occurred during Taylor and Tracy's north by northeast adventure, "No, No, Laurette" spins a yarn that can't help but raise the knockabout bar to almost Preston Sturges-like farcical proportions. The bones of which, in a never last call nutshell, follows Mr. and Mrs. Frickenfrac, as they insist on calling themselves, after their '34 Hudson breaks down in Trenton, which causes their retreat back to the Big Apple to take maybe one too many entirely twisted side roads once they thumb themselves into Princeton, only to then hook up with a momentarily had-it-up-to-here-already Albert Einstein, who does what he can to help make it a dynamic threesome (relatively speaking) the rest of the way, until, that is, this triple play trio crosses paths with an extra-bright and youthful Philip Roth (already then in the early stages of his well documented Mr. Big Kidstuff routine) who, along with his suspiciously thoughtful family, are somewhere in the middle of taking the long way back home to Newark after getting lost, following a somewhat miss-judged two-day family car excursion down the shore.

As perfectly set-up by producer Harold Prince, and expertly ushered along, both hard and fast, by director John Rando, there's little fear that "No, No, Laurette" will fall flat once it finally gets its you-really-gotta-see-it rubber legs in gear. Which, in the end, only stands to reason, what with the sparkling Dreyfus and Crowe connection, and George Segal, as Einstein, David Steinberg and Amy Aquino as Mr. and Mrs. Roth, and young, whip-smart, Ira Marshall Horowitz ("The Prince of Huntington Woods") pulling things along as fine young man, Philip, rounding out a stellar cast for next year's Tony people to surely have fun picking and choosing from.

As always, it helps, of course, that a whole batch of tunes from the Sherman brothers, plus, some extra added material from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Black Francis, and, Tom Waits, helps to keep things rolling right along, ditches, chicken coops, noted university libraries, and, poorly maintained highway sanitation facilities, notwithstanding. In other words, you'll be humming this stuff all the way home, from here to eternity. Or, at least Short Hills, if that's where you decide to jump off.

Meanwhile, expect to see (and hear) some major fireworks once someone (Paging Mr. Musto!) makes the mistake to start quizzing everyone's occasionally awful behaving Aussie about his wide awake dead-on Tracy accent.

Anyway, that there's a little bit of the upcoming down-the-pike stuff to chew on for all you theatre buffs still out there hoping to get a jumpstart on what remains to be seen later on this year, and well into early next.

So, happy hunting one and all. And, for anyone else wishing to keep on digging even further, if all else fails, you might want to start now to get in line and wait your turn for maybe two together for Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in the latest top-shelf incarnation of "Driving Miss Daisy," set to wheel out in October.

Not too shabby, I'm sure, but who knows what kind of wicked magic might have happened, had the second team on everyone's short list - Eva Marie Saint and Dave Chappelle - been allowed the chance to fully go where no one seems to (even now) have the same exact change fare to follow.

Oh well. There's always "The Gin Game" once Arte Johnson and Ruth Buzzi figure out a way to finally cut the cards on that one.

-30-

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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