| Monday, March 18, 2019|
J.W.’s Postcard from NYC:
I was in New York City over the weekend for a business meeting and had the opportunity to squeeze in some theater and cabaret (well, a lot, actually). It was a memorable weekend and I wanted to share some thoughts:
The Cher Show
I went for the costumes and that’s pretty much what I got. The latest jukebox musical to hit Broadway—based on the life and works of, you guessed it, Cher—is a mixed bag in my humble opinion. The Bob Mackie costumes are just as stunning as we remember, but I’ve seen drag queens do slightly less campy imitations of Cher than the three leading ladies (including Stephanie J. Block). And why shell out $100 or more when you can see the real artist, who is out there on tour and probably will be for some time? Remember, the “farewell” tour nearly 20 years ago that lasted three whole years? For the music lovers, the show teases throughout with snippets of all those Cher classics, but rarely an entire song. < Audible sigh > The spring break crowds loved it and I’m sure it will do well on tour, too. I really wanted to love it, but will settle for a mild “like.”
I ventured Off Off Broadway to Bushwick, Queens for Bleach, Dan Ireland-Reeve’s gritty one-man show about a burned out young hustler who must sort out a trick gone horribly wrong. The performance was presented in “Tyler’s Basement,” an actual basement apartment in a grungy brownstone a block from the Wilson Ave. subway station. Only 10 tickets are available for each performance with the audience seated on couches and chairs around the room. The doorman asked all, “Do you mind if the performer touches you during the performance?” You can imagine where that was going, I’m sure. I hear South Florida producer Ronnie Larsen has already scouted out the show and is considering bringing it to Wilton Theater Factory this summer. The older, mostly gay Wilton Manors audiences should really get excited about this show, especially the full frontal nudity and that “touching” part.
Michael McKeever’s powerful drama, “After,” opened yesterday at 59E59 in Manhattan yesterday. I snagged a ticket to one of the last previews on Saturday afternoon (although I was almost late, trying to get around the mammoth St. Patrick’s Day parade plodding down 5th Ave.). South Florida audiences generally are treated to one or two McKeever premieres every season at Zoetic, Island City Stage and other local companies, but I was looking forward to experiencing one of his plays as interpreted and produced outside of our local community (director Joe Brancato, Penguin Rep and InProximity Productions) with a discerning NY audience. The production is handsome (the costumes and set are beautiful and expensive) and Mia Matthews recreates her Carbonell-winning role as a grieving mother, along with a first-rate cast. I was a fan before, but Matthews really blew me away! The audience responded enthusiastically to the play, the production and the performances—the Trifecta! I’m looking forward to the reviews, as they will certainly be positive.
My friend Sherry Eaker, former editor of Backstage magazine and producer of the Bistro Awards, invited me to Don’t Tell Mama after the play to hear one of her award winners, singer Marnie Klar, who was debuting a new show of Bobbie Gentry songs. Gentry’s story is so much more compelling than Cher’s (don’t hate me for admitting it) and would make a great show. Of course, she’s most famous for writing and recording Ode to Billy Joe and covering several Beatles hits, but she completely walked away from the business after just a little over a decade. A statuesque beauty with piercing brown eyes, Klar has star power (Sherry thinks she’s an Anne Hathaway doppelgänger) and a versatile voice that is comfortable with Gentry’s throaty Bayou blues AND Great American Songbook standards. I expect to hear more about her in the future.
Gotta Love those Lifetime Movies
Megan Hilty and Jessie Mueller to Take on Country Music Icons in New Lifetime Feature Movie, Patsy & Loretta From a Lifetime Television Press Release: Lifetime has given a green light for the new feature movie, Patsy & Loretta, set to star Megan Hilty (Smash, The Good Wife) as music legend Patsy Cline and Grammy winner Jessie Mueller (Broadway’s Waitress, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) as country icon Loretta Lynn. The movie, produced by Sony Pictures Television, is executive produced by Neil Meron, in his first solo project since the passing of longtime producing partner Craig Zadan. Debuting later this year, the movie will film on location this month in Nashville, helmed by award-winning director Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise, Nashville) from a script by Angelina Burnett (The Americans, Genius) Patsy & Loretta also marks a reunion for Meron and Hilty who worked together on the musical series, Smash. Patsy & Loretta is based on the untold true story of the friendship between two of country music’s greatest icons, Patsy Cline (Megan Hilty) and Loretta Lynn (Jessie Mueller). When they first met, Patsy was already one of the biggest stars in country music while Loretta was just a coal miner’s daughter, starting off with little to her name but a $17 guitar. Instead of seeing Loretta as competition, Patsy took Loretta under her wings to help her make it in Nashville. Soon, they became close friends, touring together, bonding over their husband troubles and commiserating on being females in the male-dominated music business. Then in 1963, the country music community was struck with a tragedy when at just age 30, Patsy died in a plane crash. Despite the devasting loss of her friend, Loretta continued on in the industry and is today, known as the First Lady of Country Music. To this day, Loretta remains grateful to Patsy for her mentorship and above all, friendship, as the country music trailblazer that paved the way for Loretta.
Patsy & Loretta is produced by Sony Pictures Television and Zadan/Meron Entertainment for Lifetime. Neil Meron serves as executive producer while Mark Nicholson, who runs development and production for Zadan/Meron Productions serves as co-EP. Co-producers are Loretta Lynn’s daughter Pasty Lynn Russell and Patsy Cline’s daughter Julie Fudge on behalf of Patsy Cline’s Estate. Oscar-winning writer Callie Khouri who also created the TV series Nashville, will direct from a script by Angelina Burnett.