The Abbott Touch

When you hear the name George Abbott you think of many things, but romantic isn't one of them.

Abbott was the dean of American showmen, an actor, director and author who was active in the theater from 1914 until 1995, when he died at the age of 107. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for writing Fiorello. He was praised for his timing and his efficiency. His demeanor was formal and hardly anyone thought of him as a romantic.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival's 2006 Southern Writers Project Transitions to its Roots

Alabama Shakespeare Festival's fourth annual Southern Writers' Project presented not only new plays, February 3-5, 2006, in Montgomery. With new directors of the ASF company and the SWP, the special weekend containing the Festival of New Plays didn't limit itself to presenting works by Southern writers, and there was a key second production. Yet the Project's aim to hew more closely to its original goal of writers in the Southern traditions illuminating Southern and especially African-American themes and heritage got near to fulfillment with one major production and four staged readings.

Alexander The Great

Like all great plays with universal themes, Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard speaks to each new generation in a very personal way. The central role of Madame Ranevsky remains high on the list of all great actors. Jane Alexander, a lauded actress of both stage and screen, is playing Ranevsky for New Jersey's McCarter Theater in a production (March 28-April 16) newly adapted and directed by the theater's artistic director, Emily Mann. If Mann has succeeded, we will see new life breathed into the Old World, and a clearer vision of Russian aristocracy.

Jane Alexander: From Broadway to Washington, And Back

On the occasion of her return to the Broadway stage in Honour, 1998 Tony nominee Jane Alexander spoke about her adventures and misadventures in Washington as the embattled head of the National Endowment for the Arts (1977-1993).

Getting Familiar

Production Notes:
Familiar is scheduled as part of The Riant Theatre's Strawberry One-Act (Summer 2002) Festival in July 2002.

The Real Hairspray Story

The biggest hit Broadway musical of 2002 is Hairspray, a fictional story about the racial integration of a teen dance program in television's early days. That TV show was based on "American Bandstand," the ABC network program which originated in Philadelphia as "Bandstand."

Coincidentally, "Bandstand" is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. But celebrating is a just a figure of speech. No one at ABC or its Philadelphia affiliate is saying anything about the 1952 birth of the show. There seems to be a desire to erase the program's early history.

Antoinette Perry Remembered

The silver medallions of the masks of comedy and tragedy, known as the Tony Award, are commercial theater's most prestigious and coveted prize. The 2002 Tonys are to be presented Sunday, June 2, 2002 on PBS and CBS. But, you may wonder, how in the world did a theater award get the name Tony? Who was this Tony, and what's his or her claim to theater history?

Sheffer's Letters Come to Dallas

Isaiah Sheffer is a man of many talents. Dallas audiences got a chance to see one of them on February 28, 2005 at the Dallas Museum of Art when Sheffer hosted "Arts and Letters Live." He was joined by Thomas Gibson in readings from three works of literature as part of the Texas Bound Series featuring the works of authors with Texas connections. Gibson is most familiar as the character of Greg, Jenna Elfman's TV husband, on the sitcom, "Dharma and Greg." He also played a doctor for several seasons on "Chicago Hope."

When the Music Stopped

The recent revival of Pal Joey in Philadelphia reminds us of one of the strangest episodes in the history of popular music in America. Strange, and fascinating. I'm speaking of the early-1940s dispute between broadcasters and the music establishment -- specifically, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Eileen Atkins' Woolfian Journey

The part-jest, part-conjecture that there are those who are, indeed, "Afraid of Virginia Woolf" certainly does not apply to either lauded British stage actress, playwright and adapter/screenwriter Eileen Atkins or to Princeton Rep executive producer Anne Reiss. Neither could have anticipated that their common passion for Woolf, which began and has continued over the years since their backstage meeting at McCarter Theater in 1992, would result eight years later with Atkins appearing at a benefit performance for the Princeton Rep Shakespeare Festival.

Annie Get Your Sensitivity Training

If ever a production invited controversy, it is the revival of Annie Get Your Gun at the Prince Theater in Philadelphia. Irving Berlin's hit includes a song that makes fun of Native- American names: "Just like Rising Moon, Falling Pants, Runny Nose, I'm an Indian too." That number seemed so tasteless to the producers of a 1999 Broadway revival, Fran and Barry Weissler, they removed the entire scene.

Bringing Up Baby Case

A shorter version of the first part of this story was written for Philadelphia City Paper in June 2000, during the first workshop.


Did you ever wonder what goes on at those workshops that have become such an important part of theater?

Kaye Ballard Goes Nightclubbing

"I'm still here," says Kaye Ballard, veteran star of TV, stage, recordings, revues and movies. "But only until June 3! Then, that's it."

Brent Barrett Bounds into the Phantom's Lair

Alternating star of Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, with his image plastered across hundreds of billboards. Yes, images of the Phantom abound just about everywhere, with a particularly huge one on a side of the faux St. Mark's Square tower on The Venetian Casino Resort Hotel (where P: TLVS plays), but the face is masked.

Boring Barrymores

Nearing the three-and-a-half hour mark at the Barrymore Awards, one presenter said: "Because of the time, let's forget the script and just get to the names." A good idea, but it was too late.
This October 23, 2006 ceremony was the most tedious Barrymore production ever, and was a half-hour longer than last year's.

Writer Pattern

When I tell playwright Neal Bell that I "enjoyed every micro-second" of his latest play, Splatter Pattern (or, How I Got Away With It), which is playing at Playwrights Horizons, he says he feels "blessed with the spectacular group of actors who were not only wonderful but nice as well, working under director Michael Greif's strong vision." Bell tells me he, "couldn't be happier."

The Best And Worst Of 1997 Theater In New York

he holiday season was drawing to a close. As anticipated, it was not home for the holidays for our dear friends Sally and Frank, and their two children Ted and Sara, now 17 and 10 respectively. For this intrepid, theater-struck, out-of-town family, the holidays entailed the annual trek down from their home on Prince Edward Island to New York City to see as many shows as possible during their 10-day break.

Those Unheard

We're taught nothing can be "most unique" It's impossible, say English teachers, because if something is unique, it's unique. Well, there's an exception to every rule and that exception will soon be at Roundabout Theater Company's American Airlines Theater [beginning Tuesday, July 1, 2004] in the form of the return of the award-winning family musical, Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Michael Blakemore: Aussie Sensibilities on an American Stage

Michael Blakemore, director of both 2000 Tony Award winners - Michael Frayn's Copenhagen (Best Play) and Kiss Me, Kate (Best Revival, Musical) - is experiencing deju vu. Ten years ago, he was director-nominated for Peter Shaffer's Lettice and Lovage and the film-noir musical City of Angels. (He won Drama Desk Awards for direction of both shows.)

The Distaff Dean

When Dr. Carole Brandt assumed the post as Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in 1994, she became the first distaff dean in the history of SMU in any of its six degree-granting colleges. Dean Brandt has her own history of blazing trails wherever she goes.

Brenda Braxton Takes the Long Road Home Off-Broadway

Brenda Braxton, a Tony-nominee for her roof-raising performance in Smokey Joe's Cafe, is helping give birth to a new Off-Broadway musical theater company. She's starring in the troupe's inaugural production, Long Road Home, a new, life-affirming musical, running through Dec. 17, 2001 at the Hudson Guild Theater.

Behind The Scenes With <I>Jekyll & Hyde</I> Lyricist, Leslie Bricusse

He is thrilled when the audience is hushed and listening to the lush lyrics of his popular hits "Someone Like You," "Letting Go," "This Is the Moment," "Once Upon A Dream," and
"A New Life." It was a rocky journey to Broadway for Leslie Bricusse,
the veteran book writer and lyricist, and composer Frank Wildhorn. But on the
road, their songs became the anthems of every lounge singer and beauty
contestant. And there's no revenge like success.

Sarah Brightman: Crossing From Theater to Classical Pop

Five years ago, she was all but written off, but Sarah Brightman has made a stunning comeback. She and her stunning lyric soprano voice arrive at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday, on the second leg of a 42-city tour. She's achieved a world-wide success no one could have imagine, with "La Luna," her latest Angel CD, about to hit the Platinum sales mark (one million copies).

The Battle Of Britain

A London Evening Standard reviewer wrote of a play with American actors, "Something must be done about this American refuse being dumped on our shore." That attitude, and British Equity's 1997 decision to disband its North American Artists Committee (citing it as "redundant"), led to bitter disappointment about lack of representation among North American members of the union.

The American Musical Documented by a Documentary

One hundred years of Broadway milestones and musicals will flash to life on the PBS-TV series, "Broadway: The American Musical." It brings alive the epic story of musical theater and its inextricable link to 20th-century American life through portraits of the creators and collaborators who toiled on and off stage to define and develop theater -- especially along "The Great White Way," in and around its centerpiece Times Square, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

How He Succeeds

Matthew Broderick is 36 but, conceivably, could pass for 17, the age at which he started acting. The son of actor James Broderick and artist-playwright Patricia Broderick, he once studied with Uta Hagen. Broderick, who received excellent notices in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, was brave enough to take the plunge back to the boards. He could also afford to. Though "Godzilla" received a critical drubbing the likes of which NAT will never see and did less than mega box-office in the U.S., it was a monster monster-movie abroad.

The Pied Piper of Puppetry

Kathy Burks is the pied piper of puppetry. As founder of the Kathy Burks Theater of Puppetry Arts, she is dedicated to entertaining children and adults alike. Of the kids she said: "Some people think, 'they're only children; we don't have to be so particular', but we don't feel that way; we want them to get the very best; they are our audience of tomorrow."

The Truth Behind the Lines

There's a secret script behind every show.


Charles Busch Turns Over A New Leaf

"I love melodrama " says Charles Busch, the popular Off-Broadway playwright (Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Psycho Beach Party, The Lady in Question, You Should Be So Lucky) and cross-dressing star, "whatever I write always comes out with a crazy storyline. A couple of double and triple crosses and lots of intrigue are just my trip." And that's just what Busch gives Manhattan Theater Club audiences in the new musical at the Variety Arts Theater, The Green Heart, for which he's written the book. Music and lyrics are by Rusty Magee.

Great Hair Days

Talking with the man seated next to me at a performance of The Allergist's Wife, I mentioned the name of the play's author, Charles Busch. "You're kidding," said the man. "Charles Busch does transvestites and drag queens. This play sounds like Neil Simon. It can't be the same man."

Mama Drama

Ellen Stewart is the much acclaimed and venerated founder and director of La MaMa E.T.C., which celebrates its 47th Anniversary in October. The company occupies a unique presence not only in the storied world of Off Off and Off Broadway but in international theatrical circles. Just as Stewart's name is synonymous with controversy and controversial productions, it ranks at the top of the list of daring and avant garde theater.

Alan Campbell Strides The <I>Boulevard</I>

Alan Campbell, Joe Gillis in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black's Sunset Boulevard, took a circuitous route to his Broadway debut. The son of a Florida tomato farmer sang in beach night spots, got his college degree, and journeyed to New York "to fulfill my dream to have the lead in a Broadway musical." Ten years later, frustrated, he headed west. There he was a band vocalist playing Vegas lounges and did regional theater before his break of a featured role in the hit sitcom "Three's A Crowd." He followed with five years on "Jake And The Fat Man."

Bringing Back Bette

Why are theater and film buffs still enamored by Bette Davis, whose career was in its heyday in the 1930s (1938 Oscar for "Jezebel") and had peaked by 1950 (Margo Channing in "All About Eve") although she continued to act until 1989, the year of her death?

One person who seeks to answer this question is L.A.-based playwright, Camilla Carr, with her one-woman bioplay, All About Bette, starring popular Dallas actress, Morgana Shaw. The show opened June 30, 2006 on Theater Three's downstairs stage.

Killer Charm

Could anyone play an aspiring Mr. Charm with a hidden agenda better than suave Maxwell Caulfield? He opened last night Off-Broadway at the Promenade as Victorian Age George Love in the American premiere of Tryst.

Breaking Out is Hard to Do

Avid musical fans know Michael Berresse as a dancer capable of unbelievable feats. Remember him as the love-struck Bill Calhoun bounding up and down that three-story set in the 2002 revival of Kiss Me, Kate; and as sexy, doomed gigolo Fred Casely in the 1996 revival of Chicago (like that TV battery bunny, still going and going)? Berresse was nominated for a 2000 Tony Award as Featured Actor/Musical for Kate and nabbed a 2002 Olivier Award for Supporting Actor/Musical for his performance in the West End production.