TEN MUST-SEE BROADWAY SHOWS THIS FALL!

You Can’t Take It With You

STARRING: James Earl Jones, Rose Byrne, Annaleigh Ashford, Kristine Nielsen, Fran Kranz, Elizabeth Ashley, Johanna Day, Byron Jennings, and Reg Rogers
WHEN: Now through January 4, 2015
WHERE: Longacre Theatre / youcanttakeitwithyoubroadway.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: In her dazzling Broadway debut, Rose Byrne (Damages) continues to show off the comedic chops she displayed in Bridesmaids and Neighbors. With a cast that includes screen and stage legend James Earl Jones (Star WarsThe Great White HopeFences), the always hilarious Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike), and a scene-stealing Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots), You Can’t Take It With You is a raucous comedy about an eccentric family that clashes with the conservative and rigid parents of the daughter’s fiancée when they come to dinner on the wrong night. This revival includes everything from snakes to fireworks to Russian royalty to prison sentences to ballet dancers – what more could you ask for?
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You Can’t Take It With You

This Is Our Youth

STARRING: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Tavi Gevinson
WHEN: Now through January 4, 2015
WHERE: Cort Theatre / thisisouryouthbroadway.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: Set in New York in 1982, this Kenneth Lonergan-written play chronicles 48 hours in the lives of three materialistic teenagers. Michael Cera (Arrested DevelopmentSuperbad) makes his Great White Way debut as Warren, a dejected 19-year-old who has just stolen $15,000 from his father, while Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down) plays his drug-dealing friend whose apartment acts as the show’s setting. Rookie Magazine founder and Editor-in-chief Tavi Gevinson rounds out the cast as Jessica, a fashion student that Warren tries to impress with his newfound cash. Tackling issues of adolescence against the backdrop of the Raegan era, This Is Our Youth has all the makings of a contemporary classic.
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This Is Our Youth

Hedwig & The Angry Inch

STARRING: Andrew Rannells (through October 12), Michael C. Hall (starting October 16), Lena Hall
WHEN: Now
WHERE: Belasco Theatre / hedwigbroadway.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: Winner of this year’s Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, the premiere Broadway production of this rock musical tells the story of a fictional rock and roll band fronted by a transgender woman from East Berlin. Hedwig tells her story in an extended monologue, recalling a romance that never came to fruition after a botched sex change operation tore the couple apart. A thought-provoking musical with a genius score, Hedwig stars Andrew Rannells (GirlsThe Book of Mormon) through October 12, at which point Michael C. Hall (Six Feet UnderDexter) will don the illustrious wig of the title role.
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Hedwig & The Angry Inch

Cabaret

STARRING: Alan Cumming, Michelle Williams (through November 9), Emma Stone (from November 11-February 1, 2015), Danny Burstein, Linda Emond
WHEN: Now through March 29, 2015
WHERE: Studio 54 / cabaretmusical.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: This fall, Alan Cumming will be on your TV screen as the neurotic and brilliantly manipulative Eli Gold on CBS’ The Good Wife and at your local bookstore with the release of his gripping new memoir, Not My Father’s Son. But you’re not truly a fan of Cumming’s until you’ve seen his career-best performance as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. Reprising his Tony Award-winning role from the 1998 production, Cumming is joined in the Kit Kat Klub by Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine; Brokeback Mountain) as the self-destructive Sally Bowles. And when Williams trades in her pink boa, it’ll be picked up by Emma Stone (The HelpEasy A) – who was originally rumored to play Bowles when this revival was first announced. With an unforgettable score by Kander and Ebb, Cabaret shines a spotlight on 1930’s Berlin when sex was rampant and the darkest period in Germany’s history was just around the corner.
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Cabaret

A Delicate Balance

STARRING: Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Martha Plimpton, Lindsay Duncan, Bob Balaban, Clare Higgins
WHEN: October 20 – February 22, 2015
WHERE: John Golden Theatre / adelicatebalancebroadway.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: Three-time Tony Award-winner Glenn Close (DamagesSunset Boulevard) makes her overdue return to the Broadway stage in this revival of Edward Albee’s exploration of a long-married couple during the course of a weekend when their daughter returns home after the dissolution of her fourth marriage. Meanwhile, their home also acts as a refuge for some of their friends and an alcoholic sister. And you thought your family reunions were dramatic.
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A Delicate Balance

It’s Only A Play

STARRING: Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally, Rupert Grint, F. Murray Abraham, Micah Stock 
WHEN: 
Now through January 4, 2015
WHERE: 
Schoenfeld Theatre / itsonlyaplay.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: 
Terrence McNally’s biting, hilarious satire on the world of theater makes its Broadway debut with an all-star cast. As a panicked playwright nervously awaits the reviews of the opening night of his new show, he shares his anxieties with the production’s drug-addled lead actress, a television star, a snide critic, a first-time producer, a young director, and the coat check guy. What ensues is a chaotic, and uproarious look at what it takes to put up a Broadway production.
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It’s Only A Play

The Elephant Man

STARRING: Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Alessandro Nivola, Anthony Heald, Scott Lowell, Kathryn Meisle, Henry Stram
WHEN: 
November 7 – February 15, 2015
WHERE: 
Booth Theatre / elephantmanbroadway.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: 
Set in 19th century England, The Elephant Man is based on the true story of Joseph Merrick, star of a traveling freak show. As Merrick’s popularity rises, he attracts the attention of a beautiful actress who’s fascinated by his story and profound intelligence. Cooper and Clarkson have both proven to be some of the most versatile screen actors around, so it’ll be exciting to see how that translates to the stage. Sorry Ryan Murphy, but this is the freak show we’re most excited about.
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The Elephant Man

Side Show

STARRING: Erin Davie, Emily Padgett, Ryan Silverman, David St. Louis, Matthew Hydzik
WHEN: October 28 – TBD
WHERE: St. James Theatre / sideshowbroadway.com
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: Academy Award-winning director Bill Condon (ChicagoDreamgirls) makes his Broadway debut with this retooled musical revival based on the incredible true story of twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Set in the 1920s and 30s, Side Show follows the sisters’ journey as they go from being vaudeville acts to glamorous Hollywood stars, all while looking for love and a sense of normalcy under the spotlight. The original 1997 production launched the careers of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, and based on what we’ve seen so far, Davie and Padgett seem to be on the same path.
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Side Show

Les Misérables

STARRING: Ramin Karimloo, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy, Nikki M. James, Andy Mientus
WHEN: Now – TBD
WHERE: Imperial Theatre / lesmis.com/broadway
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: Ramin Karimloo. Plain and simple, Karimloo is the most talented actor to ever take on the role of Jean Valjean. Making his Broadway debut after a successful career on the West End, Karimloo has a jaw dropping voice that makes this musical soar to breathtaking new heights (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s not upsetting to look at either). With this revival, Broadway has found a leading man who has the ability to not only make an old musical feel new and exciting again, but someone who will undoubtedly become one of the most revered stage actors of our time.
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Les Misérables

The Real Thing

STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cynthia Nixon
WHEN: 
Now through Jan 4, 2015
WHERE: 
American Airlines Theatre / roundabouttheatre.org
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: 
This revival of Tom Stoppard’s acclaimed play-within-a-play explores what happens when life starts imitating art. A playwright who’s unhappily married to the lead in his current play about a marriage that’s falling apart starts to have an affair with their mutual friend. But as their relationship progresses, he starts to wonder where the boundaries between truth and fiction lie. A complex look into married life, this production promises to pack a punch as powerful as the performances within.
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The Real Thing

Originally published on PopBytes

MARILYN STRIPPED BARE

A review of My Week With Marilyn
by ALEX NAGORSKI

It’s no wonder that Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous women of all time. She wasn’t just the star of such classics as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot. Monroe was an international symbol of femininity, sexuality and the American dream.

But as is the case with so many stars, the public Marilyn Monroe was very different from her tortured, fragile private persona. Her life followed the classic script about the Hollywood starlet whose life becomes overrun by fame, substance dependency and loneliness.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical when I first heard that a film about Monroe’s life was in the works. We’ve all seen Valley of the Dolls. We all watched as Britney Spears was forcibly removed from her home as a result of her mental instability. By now, we all understand that Hollywood has a reputation for building up its key players only to smirk as they crash and burn. So how was Monroe’s story going to be told without torturing a cliché or exploiting her legacy?

Simple. Instead of crafting a full biopic of the tragic star, My Week With Marilyn paints an honest portrait of Monroe by focusing (as the title states) on merely one week of her short life. By honing in on her daily struggles, the film provides the audience with pieces of a puzzle which, when put together, helps them understand this deeply troubled woman as a whole.

While Monroe is obviously the focal point of the film, My Week With Marilyn is equally the story of Colin Clark (played with fervor by Eddie Redmayne), an assistant on the 1956 British set of Monroe and Laurence Olivier’s co-starring vehicle, The Prince and the Showgirl. During the shooting of this film, Monroe’s then husband, Arthur Miller, left England to go work in America, resulting in her very brief affair with Clark.

To Monroe, Clark represents a type of innocence. He’s a boy who idolizes her for her celebrity status yet is also able to protect her from it by seeing past her façade. He hasn’t been corrupted by the pressures and politics of Hollywood and provides an alternate reality: one in which she can be free from the “Marilyn Monroe” mask she’s burdened with wearing. It’s a fantasy to which Monroe, self-aware as she is insecure, can briefly escape. Yet, despite Clark’s best efforts, she knows that it’s not one where she can stay.

As a result, Clark becomes Monroe’s puppet of sorts. He attempts to soothe her insecurities by providing her a level of attention that he witnessed Miller failing to give her. When she’s lonely, Clark is at her beck and call. He tells her that she’s the world’s greatest actress. He confesses how much he loves her. He tells her the truth about The Prince and the Showgirl, explaining that it isn’t the movie that’s going to launch her as the serious actress she so longs to be. He convinces her that he understands who she really is at the core. But to Monroe, Clark is nothing more than a hologram – a pretty illusion that acts as a projection of what she desires. Someone to fill the void until her real savior shows up.

It’s impossible, however, to continue writing about this cinematic achievement without discussing its extraordinary lead actress, Michelle Williams. The amount of rawness and passion that Williams brings to the role provides for such a razor-sharp foray into Monroe’s psyche that it’s hard to watch her and not feel intrusive. To not feel like you’re trespassing on a stranger’s innermost private moments.

As she did last year in the devastatingly gorgeous Blue Valentine, Williams demonstrates a firm grasp of her character, conveying an unsurpassed degree of truth. Even in a year of exceptionally strong female performances–Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia and Ellen Barkin in Another Happy Day–Williams soars above her awards season competition. She does so by channeling this real-life woman with such authenticity that even Monroe’s friends and companions are singing her praises.

Williams doesn’t even appear on screen until well into the film. Instead, director Simon Curtis brilliantly sets up Monroe’s arrival in England by showing the hype surrounding it, paving the path for the events to come. And it’s not until nearly half of the movie has gone by that Williams explicitly struggles with over-medicating or feelings of solitude.

Yet, even when she is first presented as the bubbly Marilyn we all know, Williams masterfully displays a subtle vulnerability that suggests we’re only seeing the surface of this incredibly complex character. She masters Monroe to such a degree that even her smallest facial expressions reveal to the audience that this was a woman in the midst of unraveling.

It’s interesting to think of Williams playing this despondent role. After all, Marilyn Monroe was a much deeper and more elaborate character than any part Monroe herself ever played. And where Williams shines brightest is by showing the juxtaposition of the real-life woman and the hollow character she tries to make into a believable person.

Another reason why My Week With Marilyn succeeds so well is that it is an actor’s movie. And I don’t just mean because of the phenomenal performances from Williams, Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Emma Watson. Similar to The Artist, one aspect of My Week with Marilyn I found to be especially fascinating was the narrative it employed about the tensions between “old” and “new” Hollywood – or rather classical vs. modern methods of acting.

In the movie, Olivier is portrayed as a classically trained actor struggling to adjust to a post-Stanislavski climate. Monroe, on the other hand, is the quintessential manifestation of the contemporary actress. She even has an acting coach on set to walk her through her beats and objectives as she attempts to understand Elsie, her seemingly one-dimensional The Prince and the Showgirl character.

During a particularly memorable moment of the film, Olivier becomes increasingly frustrated with Monroe with each failed take of a scene. Monroe is not able to understand her character’s motives, let alone agree with them. Therefore, she can’t bring herself to shoot the scene because it defies the idea of truth she believes acting is all about.

“Can’t you just be sexy? Isn’t that what you do?” Olivier barks at her in a fury. It is clear that Olivier, as both the director and co-star of The Prince and the Showgirl, is far less concerned with Monroe’s craft than he is with her spectacle.

To a woman who wishes nothing more than to be taken seriously, this is the cruelest directive to be given. It is made obvious that, even among her peers, Monroe was seen as nothing more than a toy to be objectified at the public’s disposal. Her happiness and health were irrelevant as long as she could remain the blonde bombshell who seductively pouted her lips and winked at the screen.

What makes the movie even sadder is that every viewer knows about Monroe’s eventual lethal overdose. A standard biopic would have documented all the specifics of Monroe’s downward spiral. My Week With Marilyn takes a different approach—and packs a more concentrated punch. Williams’ stellar performance, Curtis’ direction and Adrian Hodge’s script showcase just how depressed, misunderstood and frail a person Monroe really was. The result is a truly heartbreaking, beautiful, original piece of art that should be on every Academy voter’s radar this season.

My Week With Marilyn is playing in select cities now.

Originally published on PopBytes

 

Michelle Williams Releases Buzz Single, “Love Gun”

by Alex Nagorski

Yesterday was a big day for all of the ladies of Destiny’s Child.

Despite a flop (and totally misleading) single and mixed album reviews, Beyoncé’s latest record 4 premiered at the top of the Billboard album charts. Snippets of all the tracks on Kelly Rowland’s upcoming album Here I Am hit the interwebs. LeToya Luckett stayed at home petting her cats while Googling reasons to sue Mathew Knowles. And Michelle Williams released “Love Gun,” a buzz single in anticipation of her fourth solo record, slated to hit stores this fall.

If the Druski-produced “Love Gun” is truly an indication of the direction Michelle is going in, then her upcoming album is going to be nothing short of fiyah burnin’ on the dancefloor.

While Michelle flirted with dance/pop on her previous record, 2008’s Unexpected, “Love Gun” completely removes her from that raspy Fantasia-like R&B sound she often experimented with. Instead, she fully embraces her electro-pop side to kick off what’s expected to be a completely dance-oriented album.

Sidenote: Had former band member Kelly Rowland looked at how her previous solo attempts had been received (“When Love Takes Over,” “Commander”), she would have wisely gone the dance/pop route as well. Instead, those new, bland leaked clips left the six fans she had left drained with no motivation to even pretend to give her album a second listen. (See what I did there?)

As far as buzz singles go, nothing will ever be superior to Lindsay Lohan’s “Bossy.” (RIP Spirit In The Dark.) That being said, Michelle Williams truly serves up a refreshing dish of beats and sultry vocals that could have easily fit on Robyn’s Body Talk album.

In these David Guetta-over-Timbaland times we live in, “Love Gun” is far more mainstream and radio-ready than Michelle’s previous solo efforts. I wouldn’t be surprised if–for the first time since she did Beyonce’s back-ups–Michelle had a real Top 40 hit on her hands. Let’s just hope the rest of the album lives up to the bar she’s now raised for herself.

So to sum up: Beyonce = Rich but meh. Kelly Rowland = Just go home and try again. Michelle = YOU DO YOU, BABY. ALL ‘DEM OTHA BITCHES GETTIN’ SERVED.

Originally published on MuuMuse