When talking about the Kardashian family, a lot of adjectives come to mind, but fascinating is probably not high on the list. However, that is what Barbara Walters calls the E! stars, or as she brands them, “American Reality Royalty”. The semi-retired news interviewer features the Kardashians front-and-center on her list of the most fascinating people of 2011. And they are not the only odd choices on the list, which will be showcased at the 19th annual Barbara Walters Presents the 10 Most Fascinating People TV special on ABC. Frankly, Pippa Middleton, who captivated the world with her backside at the British royal wedding in May seems like the only legitimate entry. She is joined by Simon Cowell, whose return to American television with The X Factor fell way short of his and everyone’s expectations, and Derek Jeter, captain of the New York Yankees who were eliminated embarrassingly early this fall. No presidential candidate made the cut, but a person who decided not to run, Donald Trump, did. A couple of other honorees deserve to be on the list but the one from last year (Katy Perry, whose smash album, Teenage Dream, was released in August 2010) and even 2009 (Modern Family co-stars Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet). The No.1 most fascinating person is being kept under wraps until the TV special. The cast of Jersey Shore maybe?
While there is currently uncertainty over the status of the Paul Greengrass-directed Martin Luther King Jr film Memphis and the Lee Daniels-directed MLK film Selma, Samuel L. Jackson has just committed to playing the civil rights leader on Broadway in The Mountaintop. The move was long-rumored, but he will not be joined by Halle Berry, whose child-custody issues will keep her from joining Jackson. He becomes the latest film star to take a stage turn, and Broadway has been the better for it. Here’s the official announcement:
New York, NY – It was announced today that Samuel L. Jackson will make his Broadway debut starring as Dr. Martin Luther King in the Broadway production of the new play, The Mountaintop, by Katori Hall directed by Tony Award Nominee Kenny Leon (Fences, A Raisin in the Sun). The Mountaintop will begin performances on September 22, 2011, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street), with an official opening on Thursday, October 13, 2011. Tickets for The Mountaintop will go on sale at a later date.
The Mountaintop is produced by Jean Doumanian Productions, Sonia Friedman Productions, Ambassador Theatre Group, Jerry Frankel, Ted Snowdon, Bob Bartner, and Tom Wirtshafter.
In a joint statement, Ms. Doumanian and Ms. Friedman said, “The Mountaintop is a brilliantly conceived gem of a play. An ambitious work of fiction that is powerful, heartbreaking, humorous and exhilarating. We are thrilled to be bringing Katori Hall’s remarkable, Olivier-winning work to New York, and to present a singular new American voice to Broadway audiences. And we are honored to be presenting the Broadway debut of the great Samuel L. Jackson.”
Early this morning, Deadline ran a clip of Saturday Night Live’s fun commercial parody dealing with injury lawsuits suffered by cast an audience of Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. In case you missed it, it’s worth a watch:
With a foot of snow on my Long Island doorstep, it’s already easy to envy anyone in Los Angeles. Now, the original cast of Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play God of Carnage has agreed to reunite for a six-week run at the Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre from April 5 through May 15. Opening night is April 13. Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden will star. They were all nominated for Tonys when they opened the show on Broadway. Harden won and so did director Matthew Warchus, who’s also back with producers Stuart Thompson and Robert Fox. The show ended its Broadway run last June, with Dylan Baker, Daniels, Lucy Liu and Janet McTeer taking the final bows.
Roman Polanski is about to get underway with the feature adaptation in Paris. John C. Reilly stars with Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz in the drama about two sets of parents who meet after their kids brawl in the schoolyard, and get along worse than the kids.
Catherine Tate, who played Tennant’s mouthy companion Donna in the BBC sci-fi show, will play opposite the Doctor Who star in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It’s the first time the 2 have appeared on stage together, although they get on famously. On stage they will be playing lovers who are pretty much extensions of their Doctor Who roles: Benedick and Beatrice’s endless witty sparring threatens to keep them apart forever. Much Ado opens at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End on June 1. Tate can currently be seen in the Jack Black comedy Gulliver’s Travels.
It’s another dark night at Broadway’s Foxwood Theatre for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. After a cancelled performance Tuesday, previews were supposed to resume tonight but the stage crew and performers took an extra day to incorporate the extra safety procedures designed to eliminated the variables that led to an aerialist falling 30 feet into the orchestra pit. While some are speculating that the show shouldn’t open at all, it’s coming. At a projected $65 million budget, you don’t cancel. But this isn’t like Starlight Express. I remember seeing that musical, and after finding it to be a bore, watched wondering if performers would fall while buzzing around the rink on roller skates (several did). Accidents on this musical have already been more serious than a few skinned knees suffered in a roller rink mishap. It’s too bad that such an ambitious show has been defined by mishaps, but the wall crawler has prevailed against long odds before and audiences are packing preview performances.
While all the focus today is on the woes of the mega-budget Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, here’s a little positive stage news: the Broadway production of Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Driving Miss Daisy has recouped its $2.6 million investment in less than three months. It is the first play of the 2010-2011 Broadway season to make back its money. The David Esbjornson-directed play, which stars James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave and Boyd Gaines, opened October 25 at the Golden Theatre, and the run has been extended through April 9 with the original cast. The play first opened Off-Broadway in 1987.
2ND UPDATE: A spokesman for the musical said that preview performances will resume tomorrow night. “Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Actors Equity and the New York State Department of Labor have met with the Spider-Man company today to discuss additional safety protocols. It was agreed that these measures would be enacted immediately. Tomorrow’s matinee has been postponed and will be rescheduled. Tomorrow evening’s, and all subsequent performances will proceed as scheduled.” Inspectors cited “human error” as the explanation for the latest mishap.
UPDATE: New York Post columnist Michael Riedel has now confirmed that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was shut down today following the fourth injury suffered during preview performances. Actors Equity confirmed that State Department of Labor investigators are once again scrutinizing whether the show can be performed safely.
EARLIER: Another preview of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark ended last night with yet another cast member injured. This time, an actor fell into the orchestra pit, and the performance was halted just short of completion. That makes four performers injured during the early preview performances of a musical directed by Julie Taymor with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. Accidents on action-laden feature films sometimes happen–an extra was left disabled and disfigured in an accident on the set of Transformers 3 earlier this year–but how long before Spidey’s creatives think about toning down the sophisticated acrobatics and onstage stunts before …
As expected, the much-troubled Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night from January 11, 2011 to Monday, February 7. The $65 million musical, which has found itself more under a microscope than just about any Broadway-bound musical because of the record price tag and star creatives, has been plagued by injuries to cast members taking part in acrobatics scenes. The Lion King‘s Julie Taymor is directing a book she wrote with Glen Berger, with music and lyrics by U2′s Bono and The Edge. Preview performances will continue at the Foxwoods Theater on 42nd Street, but the creatives continue to tweak both the songs and the book, per The New York Times. Pushing until they’re absolutely ready is smart; beyond Spider-Man, only a musical like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s delayed Phantom of the Opera sequel Love Never Dies will be welcomed with such an intense level of media and critical scrutiny.
Here is the official release:
New York, NY – Lead producer Michael Cohl announced today that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night (previously set for January 11, 2011) to Monday, February 7. Directed by Julie Taymor and featuring a book by Julie Taymor and Glen Berger, and new music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark is now in previews at Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre (213 West 42nd Street). All performances prior to the new opening night
Jennifer Jason Leigh has been set to join Ben Stiller and Edie Falco in the Broadway revival of The House Of Blue Leaves, the John Guare play that will be directed by David Cromer. Scott Rudin is producing, with previews to begin April 4 and opening night is April 25 at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. Leigh, who made her Broadway debut in Cabaret and also starred in Proof, will play Bunny Flingus the mistress of Artie Shaughnessy (Stiller). Cromer is coming off Our Town…
While The Scottsboro Boys ends its Broadway run on December 12 at the Lyceum Theatre, there are flickers of hope that the last collaboration between songwriting legends John Kander and Fred Ebb will have a feature future. I’m told that Oscar-nominated Precious director Lee Daniels has seen the show several times and is in early conversations to develop it. Now, Daniels is in hot demand, and he has been focusing on The Butler for Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Laura Ziskin-produced drama about Eugene Allen, an African American servant in the White House over 34 years, who had a unique perspective on the civil rights struggle and was invited back after retirement to witness the inauguration of the first African American president, Barack Obama. Daniels has been rewriting a script by Recount‘s Danny Strong, and wants Denzel Washington to play the title role. Daniels has had …
American Beauty‘s Kevin Spacey and Sam Mendes have formalized their plans to re-team in a stage production of Richard III, which will premiere at Spacey’s haunt The Old Vic June 29, 2011 and transplant to the Brooklyn Academy of Music the following January. Here’s the official release:
The final season of The Bridge Project starring Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of The Old Vic, in the title role of Richard III, will open at The Old Vic in London on June 29, 2011. The Bridge Project will then embark on an international tour, arriving at BAM’s Harvey Theater in New York in January 2012. The Bridge Project will again be directed by Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes with whom Spacey worked on the film American Beauty, for which they both won BAFTA and Academy Awards.
The Bridge Project is a unique three-year series of co-productions by The Old Vic, BAM and Neal Street, devoted to producing large-scale, classical theatre for international audiences.
The full company will again be drawn from leading American and British actors, with complete casting and international dates to be announced. Tickets will go on sale at The Old Vic from January 31, 2011 and at BAM in Fall 2011.
Commenting on the final season, Sam Mendes says:
“I am absolutely delighted to be working with Kevin again for the first time since American Beauty, and I am doubly thrilled that he will be leading year three of The Bridge Project. Richard
Harvey Fierstein, who won the 1984 Tony Award for writing the book for the musical La Cage Aux Folles, is taking a lead in the show for the very first time. The Tony-winning revival’s leads, Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge, are exiting stage left on February 13. Fierstein will replace Hodge in the role of Albin, beginning February 15 at the Longacre Theatre. The producers are zeroing in on Grammer’s replacement. The songs are by Jerry Herman and the Terry Johnson won a 2010 Tony for directing, with Lynn Page the choreographer…up and coming actress Nina Arianda was named winner of the first Clive Barnes Awards, as was New York City Ballet dancer Chase Finlay. Arianda was honored for starring alongside Wes Bentley in Venus in Fur. Other finalists for that prize were Jon Michael Hill for Superior Donuts, Kendrick Jones for Scottsboro Boys, and Noah Robbins for Secrets of the Trade. Finalists for dance were: Aaron Carr of Keigwin + Company, Ghrai DeVote of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Hee Seo and Leann Underwood from American Ballet Theatre.
UPDATE: The Shubert Organization has announced cast on this. Joining Kiefer Sutherland and Brian Cox will be Jim Gaffigan (playing George Sikowski), Chris Noth (playing Phil Romano), and Jason Patric (playing Tom Daley). They haven’t yet set a theater.
EARLIER: Last time Kiefer Sutherland was hanging around New York, he was here saving the world as Jack Bauer in the final season of the Fox series 24. Sutherland is coming back to town, this time to star in a revival of the Jason Miller play That Championship Season. He’ll star alongside Brian Cox, with Gregory Mosher directing. Rehearsals start in January for a February 10, 2011 opening. The play is about four guys who come for a reunion with their high school hoops coach 20 years after they won the state championship. The players have all stayed in touch the coach (Cox) but never really achieved their career goals in life. The reunion might be their last, and secrets spill. Sutherland will play the role of James Daley, a local junior high school principal. The original play debuted in 1972 and won both the Tony Award and Pulitizer Prize the following year.
Theaters will dim their lights on Thursday night for the man who penned the books to Fiddler on the Roof and Zorba. He died on Sunday at 98 years old. All Broadway marquees will be dimmed at 8:00 PM for 1 minute.
The revamp is set for the Lucille Lortel Theatre for 2011-2012, and director Stafford Arima (Ragtime and Altar Boyz) is promising new songs and material. But this MCC Theater announcement that it plans to retool and relaunch the musical Carrie makes me think there is still a chance for remakes of Ishtar and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Because Carrie was that big a flop, historic, losing $8 million. As a cub reporter at New York Newsday assigned to cover Broadway opening nights, I went to the 1988 opening of Carrie expecting big things because the Stephen King book is such a chilling coming of age tale and the movie wasn’t bad, either. The musical started out OK and, at intermission, I chatted up King, who was encouraged. But then we returned to our seats, the curtain rose, and the bad kids launched into Out For Blood. Meant to be a showstopper, the number cemented Carrie‘s rep as one of the worst ever musicals. Reviewers were merciless, and the musical closed after just 21 performances. Changing that second act opener seems a no-brainer.
EXCLUSIVE: The latest in a parade of major stars being drawn to the Broadway stage: Ben Stiller and Edie Falco are making deals to star on Broadway next spring in The House of Blue Leaves, a revival of John Guare’s seminal stage play. Mark your calendar for an opening date of next spring, at the Walter Kerr Theatre, with Scott Rudin producing. For Stiller in particular, the stage turn is a homecoming. He made his Broadway debut in the 1986 revival of The House of Blue Leaves, a play that originated off-Broadway in 1971. This time, he’ll play the male lead role of Artie Shaughnessy, a frustrated zookeeper who dreams of making it big as a songwriter. The play takes place in 1965 on a day that Pope Paul VI is visiting New York. Falco will play his wife, Bananas, a schizophrenic who is headed for a mental institution. The play takes place in their Queens home. It is a 60s-centric storyline, with political bombings and the Vietnam War among the plot developments, but the 1986 production won the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Revival.
BREAKING NEWS: Baz Luhrmann is refashioning his feature directing debut Strictly Ballroom into a stage musical. The original film was written and directed by Luhrmann based on a stage play he originally conceived and cowrote as a student at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art. It’s getting another go on the stage as Luhrmann will hold a creative workshop in December in Sydney, Australia. Sounds like this one will follow a fast track to the stage.
The songwriter is reteaming with screenwriter Lee Hall on a stage version of George Orwell’s classic Stalinist allegory, reports the Daily Mail. John and Hall worked together on the stage adaptation of Billy Elliot. It’s taken the pair two years to obtain all the necessary rights. The CIA was covertly involved in buying the film rights from Orwell’s widow Sonia, enabling Halas & Batchelor to make their 1954 cartoon. There’s no theatre producer attached yet. I imagine they’ll be falling over themselves.
Much as I love Orwell, I can’t help but feel Animal Farm is a bit tired around the edges. I’m picturing lots of masks and actors singing, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Animal Farm just doesn’t resonate in the way 1984 still does. I’d much rather see the stage musical David Bowie was planning of 1984 back in the 70s until Sonia Orwell blocked him. That score eventually became the basis for the album Diamond Dogs.
Jeremy Dyson, co-creator of cult BBC comedy The League of Gentlemen, won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize last night for The Cranes That Build Cranes. Ghost Stories, the sell-out play which Dyson co-wrote, is transferring to the West End following its sell-out run. Apparently, the play’s really scary. Dyson is represented by Simon Trewin at United Agents.