Tag Archive | Broadway Show

Shaggs: Philosophy of The World Comes to the Off Broadway Stage!

If I didn’t have a calendar in front of me I’d swear it was April Fools’ Day, because I just read about a new musical coming to off-Broadway which is based on the true story of the late sixties’ all female rock band, The Shaggs. For those unfamiliar with this pop cultural phenomenon, the band was composed of sisters Dorothy “Dot” Wiggin (vocals/lead guitar), Betty Wiggin (vocals/rhythm guitar), Helen Wiggin (drums), and later Rachel Wiggin (bass). The Shaggs were formed by Dot, Betty, and Helen in 1968 on the insistence of their father, Austin Wiggin, who believed that his mother foresaw the band’s rise to stardom. The Shaggs’ only studio album, Philosophy of the World, was released in 1969 and failed to garner attention, though the band continued to exist as a locally popular live act. The Shaggs disbanded in 1975 after their father’s death. Today, the band is primarily notable for their perceived ineptitude at playing conventional rock music; the band was described in one Rolling Stone article as “…sounding like lobotomized Trapp Family singers.” In some circles, however, The Shaggs are seen as a groundbreaking outsider music group, receiving praise from mainstream artists such as Kurt Cobain and also from Frank Zappa after he called the Shaggs “better than the Beatles.”

As art imitates life, the play tells the story of a working-class dad’s a vision of rock-n-roll destiny for his three talentless daughters, convinced that they are his family’s one-way ticket out of hardship and obscurity. Shaggs: Philosophy of the World is directed by John Langs, coproduced by New York Theatre Workshop and South Ark Stage. The book is by Joy Gregory, music by Gunnar Madsen, and lyrics by Gregory and Madsen. Personally, I can’t wait to see it.

For two evenings in April, curious Shaggs’ fans can sneak a peek of the new musical, prior to its May 2011 debut at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. On Sunday and Monday, April 17and 18, excerpts will be performed at the Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street) at 7:30 PM. Irwin Chusid will also moderate a discussion with members of the production’s creative team. It should be a good time. Tickets for this event are $30 General Public, $25 Guggenheim members and $10 for Students under 25 with valid ID. Click through to This Link to purchase.

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Must See Show: Spider-Man, Turn Off The Dark

Julie Taymor is an extremely literal-minded director. That much is in evidence if you’ve seen the film Across the Universe, a Taymor-directed 2006 release in which she visually interpreted, word-for-word, a cache of The Beatles’ most popular songs in order to tell the most simple-minded love story imaginable. Across the Universe, while visually stunning, was nevertheless mostly a critical and commercial bomb – a celebration of style over substance that failed to resonate with audiences despite its indelible tie to the Greatest Band Ever. Because, boring. It’s not all that surprising then that Taymor’s latest Broadway production, the now infamous Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark has become the most polarizing show currently gracing the Great White Way. Aside from the innumerable injuries to its actors, which have helped keep the show in previews for longer than any other stage production in history, Turn off the Dark is heavily flawed in ways that have earned it the distinction of being the Worst Reviewed Broadway Musical of All Time. How does that even happen?

This is an interesting case of negative publicity being good for business, as the show continues to sell out at each performance and gross millions of dollars weekly. Personally, the more bad press I read on the show, and the more that sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live parodied its pitfalls, the more I knew I just had to see it, which I finally did last night. And you know what? I absolutely loved it. Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark is a show with its visual “Oh My God! I Can’t Believe They Just Did That!” factor so far off the charts, unless you are in a coma, you almost can help but be entertained. When people tell you that this show has stuff in it that’s never been done before and that you won’t see anywhere else, they aren’t exaggerating. As far as the sets (which look like they’ve been lifted from films like Inception or Dark City), costumes (Grace Jones would be jealous), visual effects (Spider-Man goes to Hell, or something like that) and stunts (Assloads of Flying! Flying!), it’s by far the best stage production I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, drugs are completely unnecessary, because you will not even believe some of the jaw-dropping, perfectly amazing things you’ll see. I was so wildly entertained, I didn’t even (hardly) mind the really bad parts, which are described in the next paragraph.

When you buy your tickets to see Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (which you will, because you just have to see it), don’t expect much of a plot: the plotline is either confounding or non-existent. If you’ve seen the first Spider Man movie starring Toby McGuire, or if you know anything about Spider Man’s “creation story” at all, that’s all you need to know. Also be aware that there are some genuinely mind-numbingly boring parts in the first act. You will know when they are happening, because you will be all like “I wish they would fly around the theater again, because that was awesome!” Also, while the actor’s singing voices are all really top-shelf, despite its musical compositions being credited to U2’s Bono and The Edge, Turn off the Dark is perhaps unique for being a musical with zero memorable songs. I swear, the only hook that stayed in my head at all is the reoccurring, three chord electric guitar riff that indicates when Spider Man is about to kick someone’s ass; you know, it’s the bit used in every radio and TV advertisement for the play. Now, that’s an ear worm if there ever was one. It’s in my head right now, as a matter of fact. Spider Man!

Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, starring Reeve Carney, is currently in previews at the Foxwoods Theater on 42nd Street just West of 7th Avenue (steps from all the major subway lines). It is set to officially open on June 14th, but who knows if that will actually happen. I suggest you try to get tickets right now, before they close it down for a re-tool some time in April. I got tickets on Gold Star for $90 each including fees. It was totally worth it.


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Must See Show: The Pee-Wee Herman Show Opens on Broadway!

 

Pee-Wee-Herman-Show-Playbill-10-26

It seems so funny to think that these days, Pee-wee Herman, a character made famous by the gifted actor Paul Ruebens, is a household name. Most people know Pee-wee from the wonderfully infamous Saturday morning ‘children’s’ program, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but Pee-wee’s roots are a bit more ‘indie-based.’ Pee-wee’s vehicle for his eventual launch to international superstardom was The Pee-wee Herman Show, a 1981 stage play that became a wildly successful HBO special and thus spawned the entire Pee-wee Herman franchise, including films such as Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and, not long after, Pee-wee’s Playhouse. In January and February of this year, Ruebens revived The Pee-Wee Herman Show for a successful run at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, and the play has now moved to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on West 43rd Street, where it will make its home until January 2, 2011. The Pee-wee Herman Show officially opens today (November 11th) but Geoffrey and I were fortunate to catch the last night of previews and we had a total blast.

The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway remains extremely faithful to the original script, so if you’ve seen the HBO special, no matter how long ago that was, most of the show will be familiar to you. Pee-wee still consorts with many of the same characters, with just a few new ones added and others retired. Lynne Marie Stewart reprises her role as Miss Yvonne, “the most beautiful woman in Puppetland,” and John Paragon also returns as Jambi, the Genie in a Box. The only significant change in casting, though many probably won’t notice, as the lines of dialogue are identical, is the substitution of Cowboy Curtis (who made his debut on the Saturday morning show) for Captain Karl, originally played by the late Phil Hartman, as Miss Yvonne’s love interest.

Some jokes have also been updated and fresh pop culture references added to bring everything a bit more up to date. For example, in this show Pee-wee struggles with having the Internet installed in the Playhouse for the first time, wears an “Abstinence ring” and makes friends with a talking, flying Sham Wow. Returning characters include Mailman Mike and puppet favorites like Pterri the pterodactyl – who is awesome – Chairy, Clockey the USA wall-map/clock, Randy, Globey and Conkey the Robot. We also get to see the claymation cartoon, “Penny” and the vintage “Mr. Bungle” 1950s educational film about good manners, which is just insane. Geoffrey and I loved every minute of the performance, but my favorite part was at the very end, when Jambi grants Pee-wee’s wish to fly. Seeing Pee-wee, “The luckiest boy in the world,” fly through the air over the stage was hilarious.

It’s also worth noting that the Playhouse set is so vibrant, so colorful, and there is so much to take in visually at all times that when the curtain first rose and the lights hit the stage, I literally could not hold back a squeal. Geoffrey’s review, with some photos he took of Pee-wee after the show, is up now at this link.

Tickets for The Pee-wee Herman Show are pricey but worth it. Definitely see it if you can!

Must See Broadway Show: Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking!

Wishful Drinking Playbill Cover

Even though I live right in the heart of hustling, bustling Manhattan, I do not tend to see a lot of Broadway shows, particularly since being made to suffer the tortures of the damned that is Spring Awakening. But when Geoffrey came back from having seen Carrie Fisher’s one woman show, Wishful Drinking, with non-stop rave reviews, I knew I had to check it out. Because Geoffrey knows his funny. Knowing that my BFF Sue would be in town visiting me from LA this past weekend, I purchased a couple of tickets for us to see Wishful Drinking on Saturday evening. (BTW Goldstar Events has tickets for selected show dates on sale for half price, so I recommend checking that site first before going to the box office/Ticketmaster). Needless to say, we were not disappointed.

Wishful Drinking Geneology

In Wishful Drinking, Ms. Fisher, the actress best known to everyone as the iconic Princess Leia from Star Wars, candidly enthralls the audience with various excerpts from her recent autobiography of the same title. From the flow-chart-style examination of her convoluted “celebrity” family tree (her parents are actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher) to her “behind the scenes” tidbits about working with director George Lucas on Star Wars, to her marriages, bouts with drug rehab and ongoing treatment for Bipolar Disorder, Carrie takes a brutally frank approach to peeling back the layers of her darkly comic and extremely fascinating life. Mental illness was never so hilarious! Sue and I completely fell in love with Carrie while laughing our asses off. Immediately after the show ended, we ran around to the back of the theater and hovered briefly by the stage door, from which Carrie soon exited and cheerfully signed our Playbills! Yay for souvenirs! Trust me, even if you think Star Wars blows, this is one Broadway show you will not want to miss if at all humanly possible, because Carrie Fisher is awesome.

Wishful Drinking runs through January 3, 2010 at the Roundabout Theater (formerly Studio 54), 254 West 54th Street; (212) 719-1300. Running time: 2 hours & 20 minutes (including a 15 minute intermission).
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