Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tidbits! (05/31/07)

Former American Idol Carrie Underwood has apparently been put on the sidelines by boyfriend/NFL star (Cowboys QB) Tony Romo (yum).

"Carrie thought that they were moving closer to a more committed relationship," a source told the [National Enquirer]. (Source)

Poor Carrie! She is by far my favorite person to come out of Idol, so I'm really kinda bummed to hear this. She's had such a great year, and this totally sucks for her. And I'm sorry, but I don't know what is wrong with Romo. Your girlfriend has won more awards than any other female musician this year, is more popular than Jesus, and much hotter than…well, anyone!

A word to Tony… Mr. Romo, you better be careful with this one. Do NOT irk her or treat her badly. I mean, did you not SEE this video?!

In other Idol related tidbits, last night Tamyra Gray made her RENT debut as Broadway's favorite heroin addict, Mimi Marquez. It's a new look for "Mimi", who is usually played by someone a bit more Latina with a bit longer hair. I'm sure she rocks at it though. And I'm guessing that her contract is long enough that she'll still be doing the part when Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal rejoin the production this summer! View pics of Tamyra here...

Also last night, First Lady Laura Bush attended GREY GARDENS with her daughter. I'm guessing she didn't like it very much. There is a line in the show that pokes fun at Republicans:
"They can get you in East Hampton for wearing red shoes on a Thursday. They can get you for almost anything. It’s a mean, nasty Republican town."
Apparently Lady Bush wasn't amused. After the show she reportedly bolted from the theater. It's very unusual for high-profile people to attend as VIP's and then not stick around for photo opps, especially when the show and it's stars are all Tony-nominated… Stupid Republicans...

York Theatre Company is going to be putting on "It's a Bird… It's a Plane… It's Superman!" The show recently ran to surprisingly good reviews in LA at the UCLA Freud Playhouse. That production starred Cheyenne Jackson (mm hmmm! at left) and Shoshana Bean, both of whom will be appearing in the NYC transplant. I did a little searching, and here's a video from the TV version show from way back in 1975.

Yah-Ikes! Is it absurdly awful, or painfully wonderful?! Regardless, I'm definitely putting it on my agenda to catch while it is here. I actually volunteered with York. I haven't heard back yet, but I'm hoping that they let me usher the show. I'd love to see what kind of people pay to see this production. I mean besides me…

I think that if Shoshana weren't in it I wouldn't be so enthused. My best friend Brian (who has taken my lead and is now blogging here) introduced me to her back in Utah with a video of her singing in "Wicked". This video has a vocal on it from her singing "No Good Deed". There isn't video, just pictures; but watch it anyway and listen to her.

AMAZINGLY emotional. Apparently, her boyfriend had died in a car accident not long before this, and you can hear her on the verge of breaking down in a few parts. It makes it so raw...

I had a good night last night. Scottie's flight was delayed, so I was able to go hang out before he had to catch the PATH to NJ. He and his partner, Jerome, had a great time. I'm really hoping they move out here! It would be so nice having both of them around.

After I said goodbye, I went home and ordered some sushi, watched "So You Think You Can Dance" and my new favorite show, "Traveler".

If you aren't watching it yet, I would highly suggest giong to and catching up on it! It's got some seriously hot boys (from Left: Off-Broadway star and 2004 Drama Desk Winner Logan Marshall-Green; X-Men star Aaron Stanford; and theater and soap star Matthew Bomer, who in 1998 starred in "Romeo & Juliet" and "Joseph…" at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, where I went to college!) In addition to a yummy cast, it's got the kind of on-the-edge-of-your-seat pace that reminisces the first and fifth seasons of "24". Very good and highly recommended TV!

Tonight, Katie and I are going to see a production of "Loves Labour's Lost". It is being done in Central Park. I guess there is no stage for the production, and you follow the performers as they go through the show. It should be a very cool experience!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tidbits! (05/30/07)

Hillary Clinton has been running a campaign song competition. A week or so ago, I received an email from Hils saying that I could vote, and naturally I was all about it! Of course, now I can't remember what i had voted for... Anyway, Hils and her peeps are apparently getting a TON of response to the vote. She posted this video on YouTube...

It's good to see a lighter side of her! She can get so stiff sometimes in debates and what not. And who knew that she had a sense of humor? GO HILS! (Vote for your favorite campaign song here!)

There has been some controversy this year about who and what will get to perform at the Tony Awards. It is tradition that performance time is given to the top nominated musicals in both the New and Revival categories. There was early talk that in addition to those shows, other big well-publicized productions were going to get the chance to be featured as well, like Legally Blonde and The Pirate Queen. I can understand that the producers would want to feature those shows to draw a larger audience to the broadcast, but I definitely side with the theater community on this one. If your show is crap (Pirate Queen, you listenin'?!) then you have no right to perform in a ceremony that honors outstanding achievement. The only outstanding thing about The Pirate Queen is that it is still open. And it would've been fun to see Laura Bell Bundy perform because she is nominated for Best Actress. But then, wouldn't you have to let Donna Murphy perform too? NO THANKS. I'm looking forward to an award show without her…

The big surprise, and the apparent compromise, is that Fantasia will be doing a special performance. She has been getting RAVE reviews for her Broadway debut in "The Color Purple". I guess since "Purple" isn't nominated for anything, and neither is Fantasia, that it's ok. It doesn't really build up any precedents. But can I make a request? If a big star like Fantasia can perform for a role she has taken over, can we get Lea Solonga to come sing "I Dreamed a Dream"?

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" is bringing on SNL's Darrell Hammond in the role of the Vice Principal. The show hasn't been doing so well, so I think that the producers are hoping to boost sales. All I have to say is…why could they not pick someone more entertaining? I like SNL, but it's comedians like Hammond that are making the show less and less popular. I just don't think he's funny at all. Alternative Casting? How about Seth Meyers, Luke Wilson, or Jeremy Piven? They're funny, and carry much more appeal and, if you ask me, MUCH more clout.
Last week, Broadway actor and Film Star Partick Wilson showed up at the Broadway Show League on team Pirate Queen. Although he's not currently performing on Broadway, I'm sure everyone was thrilled to have him there. Especially the Irish-dancing homos from Priate Queen. He would make it so hard to keep my eye on the ball…

Jane Krakowski, Abigail Breslin, Stanley Tucci, and Chris O'Donnell are all set to star in the film "American Girl", which is the first of an apparent series based on the American Doll Collections. Breslin will play the lead, a young girl who helps her mother run an orphanage or something during the Great Depression after her father (played by O'Donnell) finds himself out of work.

Now, this isn't the kind of show that I'll be running to see. I am just excited about the cast is all. I LOVE me some Chris O'Donnell. When I was 14 I printed a picture of him off the internet and put it in my journal, saying that he had beautiful eyes or something. Yeah, I was that gay back then… And Tucci has that whole hot-older-guy thing goin' on. Love him! (Source)

Newly crowned American Idol Jordin Sparks is getting some negative press. Our God-fearing young diva is being called out on an apparent lie. During the show, she was asked if she had ever had any formal training. She said that she hadn't, but apparently that wasn't completely true…

It's amazing how quickly the little people start coming out of the woodwork...
I'm sorry, but as a singer, 30 minutes a week doesn't do jack! Good lord, it's barely enough time for a proper warm up! I don't think this can qualify as "formal training".

I've worked with vocal coaches before in similar situations, and I don't consider myself as someone with formal training either. So if I ever get a break into music, I would like to right now take the opportunity to thank Jana Lee Hess for our once-per-week 30-minute sessions back when I was 15 for those wonderful 3 months. You taught me what a diaphram is, and for that I am grateful. But only informally so…
So last night I totally fell asleep at like 9:30pm and didn't wake up until about 3:00 this morning. I'm a bad friend - I was supposed to meet up with Scottie for his last night in town after he saw "Inherit The Wind". I'm totally bummed that I've missed him. Hopefully I can maybe see him today before he leaves…

Other than that, I've got no plans. I want to watch "So You Think You Can Dance", but then I may call it an early night again. I gotta admit… 8+ hours of sleep feels pretty damn good!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tidbits! (Memorial Day Weekend)

Over the weekend, PBS aired the 2007 Drama Desk Awards. I recorded them and watched about half. The other half I fast forwarded through. The show was hosted by Kristen Chenoweth, who I love. I'll be honest though, I didn't think she was all that funny. Don't get me wrong, I had some good chuckles at a few of her jokes. I even laughed outright at a few. The trouble was that I was watching with my family and no one else was laughing. I had to keep pausing the show to explain why what she was doing was comical.

The main reason I recorded the show was so that I could watch two of the performances: Raul Esparza singing "Marry Me a Little" from COMPANY; and the girls of SPRING AWAKENING singing "Mama Who Bore Me". Both performances were pretty good.
I couldn't find a video or Raul's performance from the Awards, but here's one of him singing the same song in the actual show at the close of the first act.

This is the actual performance from the Awards of "Mama Who Bore Me". The girl with no shoes and long hair is Lauren Pritchard (Isle) and YES, she was just that annoying in the actual show...

Last night, Melissa Errico returned to Birdland in "Lullabyes N' Broadway". She is a Tony-nominated actress (Amour) with fantastic vocal chops! Her good friend Raul Esparza was on hand to watch her perform.

The two were featured together in the 2005 benefit "Children and Art". It was a Broadway-Star Studded night featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim. There were many A-List performers, including Bernadette Peters, Barbara Cook, and Brian Stokes Mitchell to only name a few. Raul and Melissa sang "Move On" and "Sunday" from Sunday in the Park With George.

Last week we saw a whole lot of T.R. Knight. Over the weekend his co-star and TV-wife Sara Ramirez (who won a Tony for her role in Spamalot) visited friend Janine LaManna backstage at the Marquis Theater. Apparently the two had a stint in summer stock together.

This was long before Sara Ramirez got her big Broadway break playing "Lady of the Lake" in Spamalot, and before she got to pick a show to be on ABC and chose Grey's Anatomy. Janine is currently playing "Janet Van de Graff" in The Drowsy Chaperone. She's not very good.
Boy, I would hate to not be very talented and be friends with someone as talented as Sara….

Jason Robert Brown (the composer and lyricist from The Last Five Years, Songs for a New World) is scheduled to have a new show on Broadway next season. "13" is about a young man who moves from New York to Indiana right before his 13th birthday and bar mitzvah. The show will feature a teen band and thirteen young performers.

Apparently Brown and his producers are trying to capitalize on what Spring Awakening made happen with their young cast. I don't mean to be a nay-sayer, but I hope they realize the biggest reason that show worked was because of Duncan Sheik's score. And don't get me wrong - I love JRB. But a night of songs by 13-year olds written by him? It makes me nervous…
Now for some personal notes!

Oh man, what a weekend!

Thursday night I met up with my good friend Scottie, who is in town from Houston, TX. We grabbed some dinner at Cilantro (I had the Mushroom Spinach and Goat Cheese Enchiladas - yum!) and took advantage of their awesome Happy Hour specials. After that, Scottie was a sport and went with me to my friend David's apartment, where he was hosting a small-ish roof top dinner party. That was a lot of fun. I had already eaten, but David informed me that it was rude to attend and not eat, so I had some of the shrimp pasta that was actually pretty great! Two bottles of wine later (they were shared…) I dragged myself home to meet my mom. She arrived at my apartment around midnight, and I was pretty tipsy. So we chatted for an hour or so and then I passed out.

Friday we went out to Connecticut. We barbequed and hung out and it was a lot of fun!
Saturday was the Annual Lime Rock racing event. We met up with the gang early in the morning for some quick breakfast and cocktails, and then raced up to the track. Lime Rock is 1.5 hours north of where we were in CT, and it was quite literally a race to the event. Our caravan consisted of multiple Porsche's and BMW's. I rode in the back of a convertible BMW M-3. I've never been in a car that fast, let alone with the top down! We topped out around 120 mph at a few points, and while I admit that there was a moment where I clutched the seat in fear, it was a total blast! I can't wait for next year now!

Everyone got really into it. Even the puppies dressed for days events.
And my nephew Jack is all about the race cars. This is him standing next to his Uncle DJ's red Porsche. That silver one behind it belongs to my brother-in-law, Doug.
Mandy and Doug rode together (naturally) on the race up to the races, and this is them passing us on the highway and blowing a kiss - It's amazing the pic isn't blurry!
Sunday was Jack's Birthday party. I can't believe he's 2. We spent the day down on the beach in Noroton Bay playing games and spending time with the family. We even had time to take the boat out for a bit.

Yesterday we went back out on the boat for a few hours before my mom had to catch her flight back to Utah. Mandy and I drove her to the airport, and then we went into the city to drop off my stuff and go to dinner.
Well, we got to my apartment, and I realized that I didn't have my keys. They had been put in a drawer in CT so that Jack wouldn't play with them. So we went to dinner, and then headed back to Huntington. I picked up my keys and then got on a train into the city. So the second half of my day was kinda rough.
Except for dinner with Mandy. We had sushi, and then went back to Cilantro (where I ate on Thursday with Scottie). The bartender there is very cute and Serbian. I have a little crush… So we had a few drinks before getting back on the road and that part was actually really fun! I love my sister…

Tonight is Scottie's last night here before going to SLC for the Utah Pride Festival this weekend. I'm going to try to catch up with him and spend some more time before he takes off.
I'm definitely planning on an early bedtime tonight though. This weekend has seriously wiped me out!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tidbits! (05/23/07)

American Idol crowned it's sixth winner last night, Jordin Sparks. I've been a huge Jordin fan for quite a while, and am thrilled that she has won. But I have to say, pitting her against Blake Lewis made the show seem really anti-climatic. It was so obvious that she was going to win that I didn't feel nervous at all for her! And that kinda made me sad. Part of the charm of Idol is that there are surprises. But the results last night were so apparent that I couldn't even be afraid of a potential upset. FOX let it's juggernaut show go over, so many people that I know had DVR's that missed the crowning moments. So, in case you missed it… here ya go!

Also on tap to perform last night were all but one of the people who've held the title in the past. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Hicks all graced the finale with their presence. And I'm sure Fantasia would've been there as well had she not been getting RAVE reviews for her Broadway debut in "The Color Purple".

Jennifer Hudson was in the audience of the awards. Now, this was probably the most confusing part of the night for me - Why was she not performing?! She flies out, sits through both shows, and doesn't do anything except appear on the red carpet? A total waste if you ask me. What were her publicists thinking???

Other stars on tap were Tony Bennett, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Gwen Stefani (albeit via satellite), and two gospel singers… Knight sang "Midnight Train To Georgia" which is one of my all time favorite songs! And Tony Bennett has become as important a fixture to AI as Simon Cowell's snarky remarks.

All in all, I thought it was a good finale. The "Jesus Singers" and Smokey Robinson I could've done without. But all in all I thought it was a nice ending to an admittedly lack-luster season.

Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselback really got into it on "The View" yesterday. Now, I'm not one to usually pay attention to the Rosie media frenzy, but this was pretty intense. (it gets good after about four and a half minutes…)

I totally see Rosie's point. I would want my friends to back me up as well if the media were spinning what I said to be used as some sort of pro-war republican propaganda. And I think Elisabeth should've backed her friend. I don't know that I would've called her a coward though. If I were friends with Rosie, I'd do everything I could do to stay out of her spotlight too!

Apparently Alicia Silverstone is on Rosie's side. After the fight she backhands Elisabeth by totally blowing her off. LOL - Womens Television RULES!!!

Fidelity Investments launched their new project, "FutureStages", yesterday at the Off-Broadway venue New World Stages. The project featured 10 one acts that were written and starred in by high schoolers without real programs or venues to present their work. BroadwayWorld has some video of the night if you'd like to see.

Raul Esparza was there as a guest speaker. The producers of "Company" are closely tied to the youth oriented production. In his younger days, Raul was involved in theater that would take the proceeds to the Dominican Republic and other "in need" areas, so this charitable event was close to his heart and his roots. Here are some pictures, featuring the dreamy golden-hearted Broadway star… (Source)

"In The Heights" producers announced that the show will be relocating to the Broadway stage for the 07-08 Season. The move was anticipated because of all the attention the show has been getting. From what I've heard it's pretty fantastic, and has some of the best music and choreography of any show in New York right now. It will play until July 15th at it's current location over on 37th Street, and then close to "brush up" for it's Broadway debut. Normally they would take it directly over, but the show's creator Lin-Manuel Miranda also stars in the production, so the show will be closed while they make necessary changes. No one has said whether or not casting will stay the same yet.

Most shows will do a trial run elsewhere in the country before opening on Broadway ("Little Mermaid" is in Denver and "Young Frankenstein" is in Seattle currently) but every now and then a show will do it's out-of-town trial while still in-town. Successful Off-Broadway transfers include "Avenue Q" and the current smash-hit "Spring Awakening".

Monday night, the Village Voice had it's Obie Awards ceremony. The show was hosted by T.R. Knight and Cynthia Nixon. (Source)

Last night T.R. appeared at the Zipper Factory in "Creation Nation", a spoofical talk show meets variety show featuring stand-up, comedy sketches, and celebrity guests. From the looks of it, good ole T.R. was having a blast! (Source)
Apparently the theater community is really loving on T.R. And rightly so. I mean, I love him and I'm kind of the quintessential theater geek, so I suppose it's natural for the rest of the community to feel that way. It's also really nice to see Cynthia out and about. And so blonde!

One of my co-workers recently talked to her at Penn Station and told me that she seemed more toe-headed. I can't decide if I like it though. I mean, it's fun. But I just hope she goes back to the fabulous red she sported on Sex and the City when they start filming the movie!

Tonight my friend David is having a "Meet my Long-Distance Boyfriend/Rooftop Pasta Party". Looks like the whole gang is going to make it out, so it should be good times! I also just heard from my old theater roomie and good friend Scottie. He's in town so I'll be meeting up with him after I get out of work - I'm so friggin' excited! I haven't seen that boy in what feels like forever.

Actually, now that I'm thinking about it…. I haven't seen him since New Year's 2006! Wow, that's a long time…

My mom is also flying in from Salt Lake City tonight to spend the weekend. She'll be staying at my place tonight, so at some point I'll have to finish cleaning my room… I sure didn't get it done last night!

Ugh, I just got a little overwhelmed...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tidbits! (05/22/07)

Favorite Leading Man Raul Esparza won this year's Drama Desk Award for his performance in "Company". Last night he was honored at Sardi's. They have added him to their wall of Broadway Celebrity caricatures, and here are a couple of photos from the event! (Source)

"American Idol" had it's final round of competition on Fox. This year has not been quite as good as past years, but I still couldn't resist the urge to follow it week to week. My early favorite is one of the two finalists, and I think that she really knocked it out of the park last night.

This season, the producers changed things up a bit by having a "song-writers competition", in which hopefuls could submit original music and lyrics to be featured as the Finale Song and the winner's first single. The winners were a pair from Seattle with a song entitled "This Is My Now". It was apparent that the two gentlemen were fans of the hit TV series, as their song was every bit as corny as the producer-picked songs from previous seasons. Regardless, the song really cinched the deal for Jordin Sparks, who made Blake Lewis look really amateur in the final round. Here is Jordin singing "This Is My Now", just in case you missed it...

I totally got choked up at the end of the song when she started to get teary. I'm a total boob. You would think that she has already won with all the waterworks. But let's be honest: She's got this in the bag!

Actor T.R. Knight was on hand on Sunday night at the Drama Desk Awards as a presenter. He arrived at the pre-party with "Coast of Utopia" actress Mia Barron. I didn't expect T.R. to show up with a woman on his arm...

Of course, I also didn't expect for him to be leaving Seattle Grace Hospital on last week's Season Finale of "Grey's Anatomy"...

Many of my favorite leading men were in attendance: Jonathan Groff, John Gallagher Jr., and Gavin Lee (who won an award...) to name a few!

Also on at the party was Brandon Ruckdashel, who I'm sure no one knows but he and I went to high school together. Apparently he starred in the Off-Broadway hit "Ascension".

Click here for more random pics of Brandon. There are some that are pretty scandalous... The role he played in "Ascension" was apparently really risque! (Source)

So now that I've pretty much seen all of the Broadway shows, I'm going to start doing more posts like these. Just random photos and snippets from what's going on. The only nominated show I have left to see is "Grey Gardens" which I'm attending next week.

Tonight I am laying low. My mom is coming into town tomorrow, and I have to have a clean space for her to see! It's also the FINALE of "American Idol"... so it's not like I was going anywhere anyway!

Monday, May 21, 2007

2 for 1 Weekend: "110 In The Shade" & "Curtains"

It was a weekend of theater for me. I know… You're thinking "what's new, Spenc?"

I am currently on a mission: to see all of the Tony nominated shows and performances before the Awards air on June 10th. Working towards that objective, I took in 2 shows this weekend: "110 In The Shade" & "Curtains"

"110 In The Shade" is a revival of a show that reminisces an old-school quality that can be found in "Oklahoma" and "Carousel". It is the story of a young woman who is on the verge of ending up alone, when a dark stranger wanders into town and inspires her and many townsfolk to believe in themselves and the good things will come.

I know, corny sounding, right? The show is actually really good. Some of the musical numbers were a little chaotic, and some of the characters were a little obnoxious. Yet on the whole, "110" left me with a smile and warmth like does a Grilled Cheese sandwich and a cup of Tomato Soup on a cold day.

Audra McDonald carries the production as "Lizzie", the young plain Jane whose family (of all men) is worried that she will end up alone, and their fears are then projected onto her. It's a role and a show that could be very cliché and predictable, but Audra creates such a beautiful character. She becomes a girl that everyone knows, that hides her insecurities behind a broadly intellectual yet thinly confident façade. Even when she opens herself up, she is guarded in her attempted vulnerability.
The other major standout was Bobby Steggert in the role of "Jimmy", Lizzie's little brother. He is a cock-eyed optimist who is clumsy and passionate and deftly delivers some of the best comic timing in the production.

"110" is nominated for Best Revival, but in spite of it's phenomenal leading lady's performance (much like "The Apple Tree) just won't hold up to this season's "Company".
Audra McDonald is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical, and I think she's definitely a favorite to win. I have yet to see Christine Ebersole (I'll see her next week in "Grey Gardens") or Donna Murphy, but so far I think that Audra has delivered the most deserving performance.

"Curtains" is a new musical by the hit-writing team Kander and Ebb. The story revolves around a 1950-something theater whose new show "Robbin' Hood" is plagued by deaths and tragedies on the Opening Night, beginning when the leading lady drops dead during the bows. An investigator from the Boston Police holds all of the cast and creative team under quarantine inside the theater as he unravels the case. Being a musical theater fan, he proceeds to not only solve the murder, but fall in love and make changes to the musical at the same time.

David Hyde Pierce plays the neurotically quirky "Lieutenant Ciofi". Pierce has received rave reviews, and a Tony nomination for the performance in the Best Actor in a Musical category. While his comedic delivery is wonderful, his dialect kept switching between "Boston cop" and "Niles Crane". I think it is wonderful that he's been recognized for his superbly funny performance, but I would be shocked if he were to win.
The show also features former Tony winners and current Tony Nominee's Karen Ziemba and Debra Monk, in the roles of "Georgia - one half of the show-writing team" and "Carmen - the stage mom turned Producer" respectively. Both deliver great performances. I was actually surprised at the amount of talent that Debra Monk has. Debra is nominated in the Leading Actress category, but won't win. She is up against huge performances from McDonald and Ebersole and Murphy…and while Monk's performance was good, it didn't carry any emotional pay-off or dramatic layering. Ziemba may win her category (Featured Actress). She was incredible as the writer turned star. Her character required a lot of diversity in singing, dancing, and acting. It was very impressive. Her category is also not stocked with the kind of performances that Leading Actress is, so I think she has a wonderful chance of going home with another Tony this year (she previously won for "Contact" back in 2000).

All I have left to see are "Grey Gardens" and "LoveMusik" (which isn't nominated for Best Musical, but it's three leading characters did get nominations.) The Awards are only a few weeks away!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Broadway Babes! (The Nominee Luncheon)

On Tuesday, the nominees for the 2007 Tony Awards were announced. For me, there were not a lot of surprises in the nominations. Most everyone and everything that got a nod had been expected to receive one.

The biggest upsets this year were Kristen Chenoweth and Lea Michele both missing nominations for Best Actress in a Musical. Kristen starred in RoundaboutTheater's "The Apple Tree", and while the show itself was on the verge of painful, she was outstanding. Her performance was critically acclaimed, thus making it a surprise that she missed out this season. Lea Michele is the young female ingenue starring in "Spring Awakening". While two of her co-stars did deservedly get nominations, she was snubbed. It was surprising because I felt she was the strongest person on that stage. What isn't surprising about that category however is all the other women who did get nominations: newcomer Laura Bell Bundy (Legally Blonde), and legends Audra McDonald (110 In the Shade), Donna Murphy (LoveMusik), Debra Monk (Curtains), and Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens). This season was all about the leading ladies. And while there are people that deserved to be nominated, there can only be five.

This morning, the press had the opportunity to do lunch with all of the nominees. Here are some pictures of my Top 5 favorite male and female nominees!

First, of course, is the ladies.

#5 - Xanthe Elbrick (Best Featured Actress in a Play)

Nominated for her work in "Coram Boy", Xanthe has received rave reviews both here on Broadway and across the pond in it's initial West End run. In the first act of the show she plays a young boy. Friends of mine who have already seen the production said that they were amazed when they looked over their playbills at intermission. Apparently this actress is so good that they were fooled into thinking that she really was a boy!
Luckily for Xanthe, she's not all that masculine in real life. She is very well put-together (in a very British sort of way) with perfect skin and a great smile. I can't wait to see "Coram Boy" and see for myself what everyone is talking about!

#4 - Angela Lansbury (Best Actress in a Play)

A few weeks ago I went and saw "The Drowsy Chaperone". After the show, I was walking up the street, past where "Deuce" is playing, and walked straight into Ms. Lansbury. It was a little bit surreal! I couldn't help but think - "Oh my god! It's Jessica Fletcher!"

Yes, she is older than dirt. But one can only dream of having the kind of career that she has been able to maintain over the last 150 years. And I must say, for such a very old wonderful woman, she still looks pretty great!

#3 - Julie White (Best Actress in a Play)
I don't know how many people are very familiar with Julie White. She's one of those Broadway actresses that we've seen here and there in TV and Film roles. She's never really done anything that stands out all that much or been the center of attention. To be honest, I don't know a whole lot about her.

A few months ago I was watching NY1's Breakfast with the Arts, and they had Julie, Swoosie Kurtz, and a couple other women on the show talking about the Broadway season. During the interview, they showed a few clips from her show "The Little Dog Laughed". From what I saw in those few short moments in her sharp wit and light-hearted charm, I became a big fan.

#2 - Audra McDonald (Best Actress in a Musical)

Everyone knows who Audra is. Or I suppose I should rephrase that...
Anyone who follows Broadway even just a little bit knows who Audra is! This is her sixth Tony nomination, and has already won four times for her roles in "Raisin in the Sun", "Ragtime", "Master Class", and "Carousel". I think she is one of the most elegant women I have ever seen. She is well-spoken, naturally beautiful, and MY GOD can she SING!

This Tony Nomination is for her work in RoundaboutTheater's "110 In The Shade", and is a little bitter-sweet for her having just lost her biggest fan: her father. Papa McDonald was in a plane crash a few weeks ago, and Audra took a few days away from the show to be with her family. And then she came right back to her home - The Stage!
I haven't seen the show yet (I'm seeing it this weekend) but I have heard that she is magical. And if her past work is anything to guess on, I'm sure she is!

#1 - Laura Bell Bundy (Legally Blonde)

OHMIGOD, YOU GUYS! Of all the nominees this year, I am the most happy for Laura Bell Bundy! Like I said before, this has been a big year for women on Broadway. This season has brought many past Tony winners and bright new stars to the Great White Way. Laura Bell is the only newcomer to get the Best Actress nod this year, and it is completely and wonderully deserved!

Her turn as the infamously blonde Elle Woods was amazing. She is this bright, bubbly, and completely believable POWER-HOUSE! "Legally Blonde" is a fast, young, and poppy show that could have been a big ole' bomb. Laura Bell carries the show (almost completely on her own...) and has made is a smash hit with Broadway audiences. I loved her in the show, and I am so SO happy that she is getting the recognition that she truly deserves for it!

And now, on to the gentlemen!
(And for the record, the following rankings are based more on the funny feelings in my tummy than their theatrical performances...)

#5 - Liev Schreiber (Best Actor in a Play)

A man that everyone can surely recognize. He has had numerous Film, Television, and Theatrical roles. In 2005, he won both the Tony and Drama Desk awards for his Featured Actor role in "Glengarry Glen Ross". This season, he returned to the Broadway stage in "Talk Radio", and has had one of the most talked about stage performances of the season.

He's got that hot-older guy thing going on. He's rugged, and while not traditionally "hot", there is something about him that just gives me butterflies. Perhaps it's the amazing talent that just seeps out of him...

#4 - Gavin Lee (Best Actor in a Musical)

Gavin Lee is an import to Broadway this season. He originated his role in "Mary Poppins" last year in London, and then came to New York to make a Broadway debut with the production.
He was by far one of the best things about the show. He created a character different from the one famously played by Dick Van Dyke, but just as (if not more) lovable! He is a charismatic performer, whether acting opposite children or dangling upside-down from the top of the giant proscenium while tapping and belting out a show-stopper!

It helps that he's got those thick-rimmed glasses that make him look sophisticated, approachable, and completely in a league all his own.

#3 - The Boys of Spring Awakening (Ok, so I'm cheating a little...)

"Spring Awakening" led the nominations with a total of 11 nods in different categories. The show was incredible and definitely the most deserving of all the nominations this year.
The show was scored by Duncan Shiek, who did an amazing job creating an emotionally haunting score that wasn't beyond the reach of the atypically young cast.

The show starred Jonathan Groff (Best Actor in a Musical) and John Gallagher, Jr. (Best Featured Actor in a Musical) and both were phenomenal. Groff plays the charming and mysteriously enticing Melchior, and twice exposes his bare behind in the show. Gallagher plays the troubled and darkly quirky best friend Moritz. These two characters carry most of the emotional weight in the show, which I think is the reason it has been able to create such a following. So my #3 gets to include all three of them.

Hey, it's my blog...

#2 - Jerry Mitchell (Best Choreography)

Jerry Mitchell is the man behind "Legally Blonde". He is both the Choreographer and Director of the show, but only got nominated in the one category. It's not surprising that he was passed over for the Director nom because of the other people in that category this season, like Michael Mayer and John Doyle. But at least he was able to get nominated in the Choreography category and not passed over completely.

He is one of the dreamiest men on this list, on Broadway, in this city! He's very tall, probably 6'2 or 6'3, has dark eyes, and is slightly greying. Oh, so sexy! He's the kind of man that make you weak in the knees by just looking at him! He photographs extremely well, and is just as yummy in person!

He's the kind of homo that all young homos want to be like, and be with. So to Mr. Mitchell I say "Congratulations!"...

And "call me!"...

#1 - Raul Esparza (Best Actor in a Musical)

Nominated for his role as Bobby in "Company", Raul Esparza tops my list!

This season has earned Raul rave reviews, like "...the best Bobby to ever be on Broadway" and "...the ultimate leading man!" I agree on all accounts.

He was phenomenal. He delivered the most complex and believable performance that I have seen in my life.

Yes, it helps that he's got those deep brooding eyes, that could look right into your soul. And the kind of good looks that are very much "the guy around the corner".

But more than good looks he is intelligent, composed, and un-freaking-believably talented! He is definitely my favorite to win in his category, and I will be really surprised if he doesn't. The other nominees were great, but he was phenomenal.

So that's my list! The Tony Awards will air on CBS on June 10th. I hope ya'll are as excited as I am!

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Company" Revival is Fantastic!

Last night, my friend Brad and I went to see the Broadway revival of Steven Sondheim's popular ensemble piece, "Company".

The musical is full of familiar and beloved numbers, like "Drive a Person Crazy", "Ladies Who Lunch", and most commonly known "Being Alive". I had seen these numbers performed before by Broadway legends like Alan Ball, Lea Solanga, Bernadette Peters, and Elaine Stritch, but this was my first encounter with the actual production.

It is said that, in regards to Sondheim, you either love him or you hate him. I have always leaned more towards the "love" side because of the way that he can write for a cast and not just a leading performer (like Steven Schwartz for example). After the production last night, I am firmly cemented in the "LOVE" category.

The show stars Raul Esparza as "Bobby": the last singleton in his verging upon middle-aged group of friends. The show is about Bobby's longing to be married, his confusion as to why he isn't already, and the journey into self-doubt and fear that must be taken before a person can be truly ready for a huge commitment like marriage.

The show spans two years, beginning and ending with "surprise" parties for Bobby. Everything in between is the interactions he has with the individual couples. He is looking to his friends for inspiration and guidance on and leading to marriage. Most of what he gets, however, is the reality that no marriage is perfect.

In a show where the music is so captivating and well-known, I was very surprised that the dialogue in the scenes and monologues were in fact the stand out aspect of the show. There are plenty of silent awkward moments throughout the show. Peter and Susan announce that they are (amicably) getting divorced. Harry and Sarah are respectively struggling with alcoholism and obsessive dieting. Paul and Amy are to be married, but Amy has a breakdown because she can't believe that someone could love her the way that Paul does. On the day of the wedding she announces that she won't be going through with it, breaking Paul's heart, only for her to turn around and go through with it anyway. And socialite Joanne and fourth husband Larry would appear to hate each other. She is a drunk. He cares more about his wealth.

The point of the story is that it will never look perfect. Love will never have a pretty bow on it and you will never NOT question it. But love is real, when you are ready for it.

Raul Esparza is phenomenal in this production. He is vulnerable, yet guarded. He is so certain of what he wants, but so completely lost in getting it. The sad but hopeful complexity that he gives to the role was something magical to see. He also has a very distinct voice (that normally I'm not a huge fan of) but he really showed so much control and power in his big numbers "Marry Me A Little" and the showstopping finale "Being Alive" (insert many tears here).

Other standouts were Barbara Walsh as "Joanne". Her version of famously drunk character was more complex than people familiar with the show would expect. Instead of light-hearted and drunk, she was angry and insecure (and still quite a bit drunk) Her version of "Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch" was wonderfully heart-breaking and pathetic. And absolutely phenomenal. Heather Laws was also sensational as "Amy". Her ultra-fast and sharp-tongued "Not Getting Married Today" was dead on and hilarious!

"Company" was directed by John Doyle. His direction was beautiful and complex in it's minimalism. The stage was set with a sleek baby Grande, a towering white pillar, and Plexiglas cubes of various sizes. There was no orchestra. Every member of the cast had an instrument, and many played multiple instruments throughout the production. At first I was worried that the instruments would take away from the acting, but I am happy to report that was not at all the case.

It was like a Black Box production of true Broadway caliber. I would highly recommend it to anyone that wants a moving, awe-inspiring, and non-cookie cutter Broadway experience.

Farewell, "Beauty and the Beast"

The three main women in my life in New York are quite different from each other. But one of the the things that they have in common is a favorite Broadway Show -- "Beauty and the Beast". So, for my sister's birthday, I got the four of us tickets to go see "Beauty and the Beast" just one more time before it takes it's final Broadway bow on July 29th.

I actually have never seen the show, so this was going to be a new experience for me.
The show is currently starring Disney Channel's "That's So Raven" star, Anneliese Van Der Pol. On that show, she plays the quirky (and more than slightly obnoxious) best friend of Raven Simone. So I went in being really nervous. Had Disney cast her just because of her ties with the corporation? I am pleased to say that I don't think so. I'm sure it helped, but the young leading lady had enough vocal and acting chops to really pull it off!

The music and design were wonderful. It's a BIG show. It's the show that set the standard for Disney's other HUGE productions, like "The Lion King" and "Mary Poppins". It's looming grandiosity takes you right back to your childhood. I remember seeing that movie, and from the moment the introductory melody began last Thursday night I remembered feeling that movie as well.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all magic and merriment. There were some very disappointing aspects of the production. The most disappointing this was the ensemble. The dancers were not together, which was seriously distracting from the illusion that they were flatware and plates. The character Lefou was slapstick, rehearsed, and completely annoying. Gaston was fine…but a little bit too…well, gay. He took self-admiration to a level only to be matched by the muscle queens in Chelsea. It was rather disconcerting.

When all was said and done, I was happy to have gone. I didn't want the show to leave the Broadway stage without ever having had the opportunity to see it.

But I assure you, after a little more than 13 years on the stage, the show is ready for retirement. It was fun, but there are newer, bigger, and better things to see now. So "Goodbye!" Beauty and the Beast... It's been fun!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

BFFs or Are They More?

Last night American Idol had it's gayest moment since Clay Aikin left the show. Having already announced that Phil had been voted off the island, it came down to Blake Lewis and Chris Richardson. There really was no suspense as to who was going to be going home, as Chris was the obviously weaker of the two remaining men. The brilliance of that final moment came when the two talked about how they are good friends.

Best friends, in fact.

They looked lovingly into each other eyes... and all of American pictured them getting it on. Well, all of the Americans that I know anyway.

I'm not one to go around blowing the homo-horn at anyone. Who's to say if they truly are or aren't.

But in my mind, they will always be the cutest couple on this season of American Idol.

In honor of the boys, here's a video showcasing their BFF-ishness… Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"The Drowsy Chaperone"

Last Friday night I went to see "The Drowsy Chaperone". For theater fans it's a familiar title, after winning Tony Awards for "Best Featured Actress" (Beth Leavel) and "Best Original Score", which are only two of the five Tony's that Chaperone took home at the 2006 Awards ceremony.
For theater also-rans, let me fill you in just a little bit on the premise of the show.

The lights go dark, and the show starts. The show begins in stark darkness, and the Narrator (otherwise known as The Man in the Chair played by John Glover) begins talking about being a part of an audience, and the anticipation you feel right before the Overture begins. Will this show be worth the money? What if it sucks? You are immediately light-hearted and in the right mind-set for the lights to come up and the show to really begin.

You join The Man in his apartment, a small seemingly Manhattan-esque studio. He talks about being lonely, and how when he is lonely he turns to his records. He then invites you on a trip through his favorite show recording, "The Drowsy Chaperone". He proceeds to walk you through the "album", giving you backstory on his experience with the show and the actors who portrayed the characters that you see coming to life inside of his head, and inside of his very small studio apartment.

The show he walks you through is about a Diva (Janine LaManna, originally played by Sutton Foster) who is giving up the stage to marry the charismatic Robert whom she barely knows (Troy Britton Johnson); a Chaperone (Beth Leavel) who is more concerned with keeping her martini glass full than watching her bridal charge; a producer (Lenny Wolpe) on a mission to stop the wedding and get his leading lady back; and an ensemble of colorful characters who all asemble to celebrate a wedding with their own motives in mind.

The stand out performers in this performance were without question Beth Leavel and Danny Burstein (the European cassanova, Adolpho), who both brought such an amazing charisma and character to the performance that they were not only in a league of their own within this production, but in all of Broadway. They both embodied such flawless commitment to their respective characters that I was in awe whenever they were on stage. And when they were on stage together? Well forget about it. I've never seen an entire audience rock with laughter like that. Ever.

The show is a fabulous comedy, but also has a real heart. The Man in the Chair takes you so far into the unreality of his record that you get wonderfully lost. And in the climax of the show, when the power goes out, it is heart wrenching. The Man has a near break-down. All he wanted was to share this beautiful thing with you and right as it was about to pay off, it's ruined. The moment is heart-breaking. In an instant that Man seems so pathetic, so alone that all you want to do is cry with him. Or rather, cry for him.

The show does end on a happy note though. When the power returns and he starts to sing a tune from the show, the "characters" break free of their world and pull him into it. He's so happy. And again, you want to cry for him but in a completely different way.

My only wish is that I could've seen Sutton Foster in this production. Janine LaManna was fine, but nothing amazing or standout the way that Sutton Foster captivates even the most skeptic Broadway-goer. The last time I saw Foster was in 2002 Tony winning performance as Millie Dillmount in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" on that same Marquis Theater stage. I guess I'll just have to wait for her next big show ("Young Frankenstein", rumored to be opening this coming Halloween on the Great White Way) to see her again!